Help I Can't Get Rid Of My Ammonia, Despite Water Changes!

  • #1
I am new to this hobby. On 5/24/16 I started a 36 gallon bow front acrylic tank. Followed all start up instructions and choose the National Geographic substrate. Rinsed it as much as possible. I choose to do a fish less cycle, and put some live aquarium plants in there. It took until July 8th to finally have gone through the nitrogen cycle. Thrilled, I bought 4 corys, 2 Mollies, and 3Platys, little did I know some of my fish were pregnant! Now I do see a few fry surviving so far, it's been about a week. Here's my problem, from having no NH 3 on July 14th to 5.0 NH3 on JULY 16th. Just two days!, I do use the apI liquid NH3 andNO2- liquid drop kits. Sat the 16th I did a 25 % water change and added Seachem stability. I mistakenly thought changing out my filter and carbon media would help, so I did that too.I rum the Emporor 400 pump. Today, the 17th I check the levels, no nitrite but 5.0 Ammonia. Despite the water change. I added more stability ( bacterial supplement) today. I fear my little fry will not survive this. Any ideas?
  • #2
I would make sure that when you do the water change you are vacuuming the substrate very well as some fry could become trapped and decay in the substrate, as well as organic matter. Also never replace your bio-filter, and just rinse the filter in old tank water. Carbon is not necessary, but some use it and others don't. Water changes at matching tank temperature with dechlorinator will be the best way to fix the issue.
  • #3
Oh man mate you did about everything you could do to hurt the tank but chemicals will help to a degree and you can only trust 2 brands of that instant bacteria in a bottle, I can't remember their names but they are up here under the nitrogen cycle in the beginner section I would use one of those brands and do even larger water changes than 25% id do like 50% if you can then put the chemicals in every time til you get your reading down. You probably didn't completely start the nitrogen cycle over but by adding such a large bio load at once and then taking away the main colony of BB you seriously hindered the cycle. I hope it works out for you and the fish m8 its happened to me with platys I get them home and they turn out all girls and all pregnant. But all you can do now is water change, water change, water change and keep a close eye on those main 3 paramaters. Your tank might be large enough to let them survive a spike like this, if you had a little 10 gallon your fish would be in fishy heaven. Good luck, God speed. Keep us up to date
  • #4
Welcome to the forum

How did you cycle the tank before adding the fish? What was your ammonia source?

I agree the ammonia spike is probably due to adding too many fish all at once, most of which have high bioloads,

What are your nitrates? To fix the issue, you'll need to do at least a couple of back to back large water changes of at least 50% each to bring that ammonia down as close to zero. As long as you keep seeing the ammonia and/or nitrite get up to 1 and above, you'll need to do a 50% water change.

What do you use as a water conditioner? Most here would recommend Seachem Prime which will detoxify ammonia and nitrite up to 1ppm for 24 hrs. This will keep your fish safe from those toxic levels. If your ammonia/nitrite are <1ppm, you can safely dose Prime straight into the tank for the full volume of your tank size. I would also keep adding your dose of Stability until your beneficial bacteria catches up and gets your cycle back on track.

As you've realized, you'll never want to change out your filter media or rinse it in tap water as you're basically throwing out your beneficial bacteria when you do that. If you do need to replace it, just place the new media next to the old one for a couple of weeks before removing the old one. And always just rinse your media in removed tank water or dechlorinated tap water.
  • #5
Have you tested your tap water? May be ammonia in there.
Dario Carlos
  • #6
I have a 55 gallon tank and went a while before doing water changes which caused high ammonia spikes.
I was told by PetSmart staff to do a 50% water change. I did this and added ammonia lock, bacteria, stress coat. Ammonia was still high (off the chart) a week later. Desperate, I did a 75% water change with distilled water.
Hallelujah, it worked! But I then got high spikes in nitrates and nitrites.
Water changes once a week, 25% helped solve my problems. My aquarium has a lot of plants and a lot of small fish, so I have to stay on top of the water changes and avoid overfeeding.
  • #7
Sounds like your tank isn't cycled but is trying to. I recommend reading up on the nitrogen cycle (click on the words in blue) and doing water changes to keep the ammonia and nitrite levels low enough to neutralize with a good water conditioner. Prime is excellent.

In a cycled tank you want to see zero ammonia and nitrite and some amount of nitrate, which you keep under control with water changes.

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