Getting my aquarium going again - Ammonia question

  • #1
Hello all, just joined the forum after reading through a lot of interesting posts.

Had a question about ammonia. Some background; I ran an aquarium for many years but a LONG time ago (over 20 years). Decided to get it back up and running so am trying to do it the right way. It's a 30 gallon aquarium, I filled it with water this past Sunday. We have a whole-house water softener but I used the water from the tap that bypasses it. Heater is on in the tank (79 degrees) and I am using an Eheim 350 external filter.

I treated the water for chlorine/chloramine and then went to the LFS and bought the API Master Test kit as a lot of folks seem to recommend it.

Did my first test last night and the readings were: Ammonia 0.5, Nitrate 0.0, Nitrite 0.0, pH 8.0

My question is on the ammonia I expected it to be 0 along with the other readings but it definitely had a light green colour to it in the tube (not the yellow of zero). I wanted to get these readings as a 'base' and to try out using the kit. Now I did add a couple flakes of fish food on Monday morning, but I can't imagine they would cause any ammonia levels that quickly in a 30-gallon tank? Is it possible our tap water has a trace of ammonia?

  • #2
Welcome to Fishlore

It is possible that your tap water has ammonia. Can you test for that?

Once the the bacteria colonizes in your filter and on all surfaces of the tank, it should be able to process the ammonia.

Have you looked into using pure ammonia instead of the fish flakes to cycle your tank? It would be much easier to control the dosage and not messy like the flakes.

You could also use a bacterial supplement like Seachem Stability or Tetra SafeStart+ to help speed up your cycle.
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thanks for the welcome!

Good idea about testing the water. I will take some out of the bypass faucet and run a test on it.

Thanks for the links too .. will look into those products. I have read about using ammonia but thought I would try the fish food method first just to see if I make any headway with the readings in the tests.
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Okay I tested my tap water last night, had some in the clean bucket from the day before when filling the tank. Ammonia reading came out the same as in the tank at 0.5 ppm. So it appears it is in our tap water.

Interestingly the pH came out slightly higher than in the tank (8.5 vs 8.0 in the tank). Maybe something in the tank like the piece of driftwood is lowering it ...
  • #5
Don't worry about the ammonia reading. As mentioned, it will get processed once your bacteria gets established. What water conditioner do you use? Seachem Prime or Amquel Plus will detoxify ammonia and nitrite up to 1ppm for 24hrs making it safe for your fish.

pH will naturally be lowered over time. And I wouldn't worry about your pH. It's fine for most fish.

And as if you didn't have enough to read. lol But here are some good links for more info:
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thanks for the info. I enjoy reading up on this stuff so appreciate the links.

The only water conditioner I have used so far is from my LFS (Big Al's here in Ontario):
  • #7
Most conditioners like that one will remove chlorine and chloramines but doesn't detoxify ammonia and nitrite.

I'd look into getting Seachem Prime. It's a little more expensive up front but it's more concentrated so you get more per gallon (5ml per 50 gallons).
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Ahh, I see that now. So question ... is a product like this Seachem something you keep on hand for down the road if you get a high ammonia and/or nitrite reading and then add it to the tank? I would assume right now since I am trying to cycle the tank I would not want to add it as I am trying to get the ammonia levels increasing, yes?
  • #9
Seachem Prime, which is a water conditioner, is what you would add to your tank for each water change so you'll definitely use it! And you can use it in place of your current conditioner because it's doing the same thing but more.

And even after you're cycled, you can add it whenever you see a spike for whatever reason (up to 1ppm) in ammonia/nitrites. I think you can safely dose 5x the recommended dosage.

You can add it now after a water change but if you are going to use TSS+ to cycle your tank, you'll want to wait 24 hrs and then add the TSS. And then no water changes for 2 weeks.
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Thanks for the info on the Seachem Prime, will definitely get some.

Out of curiosity I contacted the water dept in my town to ask about the readings in our tap water (Ammonia=0.5 ppm and the pH = 8.0). A water tech just got back to me with this:

"The water in the town supply is disinfected by chloramination. This means that ammonia is added to the water along with chlorine to create chloramines. So you will see residual ammonia in the tap water. The pH of 8.0 is standard for this area."

So seems my readings are correct and expected.

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