Help Me Battle Ammonia

emtp123

I bought a 5 gallon tank for my Betta, feeling the 1 gal without a heater was bad. Went through the entire nitrogen cycle time and had my water tested at a local small specialty aquarium store that has been in business 30+ years. The owner talked me into getting some fish friends for him, but “you need to switch to live plants first”. I left with the plants, and after a few days my ammonia spiked over 4.0 and Reds fins burned off. The original store was closed for the day, and I went to a different store for some advice. I moved him back to the 1 gallon with no heater, but used “Betta water with good bacteria” and added some good bacteria to his 5 gallon. I was told the Betta water had bacteria in it so I didn’t need to test it, “just change it when it looks dirty”. I’ve been testing the water in the 5 gallon and the ammonia is back to zero, nitrite 0.5, nitrate 10, and ph 7.6. I was going to take a sample of water back to the original store for testing and get advice on re-introducing Red back to his Taj Mahal...but he was acting weird tonight before bed. I decided to test the water in his 1 gallon - just incase and guess what... ammonia somewhere between 2.0 and 4.0! I didn’t want his scales and fins to burn off again- they just started growing back. I put him in the 5 gallon with the ammonia at 0.0, Nitrite 0.5, Nitrates 10, and ph 7.6 for the night. What do I do tomorrow to keep my Babyboy Betta alive. This yo yo is driving me nuts.
 

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Burnout1620

When you say you went through the nitrogen cycle, what did you do exactly?
 

emtp123

Water change. Get Seachem Prime and your own AlpI master test kit .
I was doing water changes, frequently. Was told to stop I was doing it too much. ??? Isn’t seachem prime the bacteria? And the master test kit is how I’m testing. Since I’ve been doing these things, any more suggestions?

You could add Safestart also.
How much of the “good bacteria” is too much? I’ve added a lot of it.
 

Donthemon

Prime detoxifies amomonia. Safestart is bacteria.
 

Burnout1620

Seachem Prime is a water conditioner. It dechlorinates your water and detoxifies ammonia and nitrite (to a point). It doesn't have anything to do with your bacteria. There are products that allege they contain the bacteria, but there is some disagreement here as to whether they work or not.
 

emtp123

When you say you went through the nitrogen cycle, what did you do exactly?
I didn’t have a test kit at the time Red first went in, but the tank was up and running for about 2-3 weeks when he first seemed lethargic and I brought water to Petco and they tested it. That’s when I first learned about the nitrogen cycle and I was told to do frequent water changes for a while and slowly get back to 1-2x week. At the 6-7 week mark is when I took the water into that shop, had it tested and all levels were “right where it needs to be”. “Time to add live plants and a few Betta compatible fish friends”.

Seachem Prime is a water conditioner. It dechlorinates your water and detoxifies ammonia and nitrite (to a point). It doesn't have anything to do with your bacteria. There are products that allege they contain the bacteria, but there is some disagreement here as to whether they work or not.
I’m getting confused with all the different brands of things. For conditioners I was using Tetra brand Aqua Safe. For Bacteria the 2nd shop sold me “aquarium optimizer with live nitrifying bacteria” from tender living care- as I was told it was different from the API Quick Start (also with live nitrifying bacteria) that I already had at home. Plus I got suckered into buying the Activ-Betta Water with the same bacteria. He’s awful lucky he’s such a cute fish.
 

Burnout1620

Not sure if I'm understanding your first post completely. Did you put Red right into the 5 gallon tank after you got it up and running? It normally takes several weeks for the nitrogen cycle to get established. If you saw an ammonia spike within a few days of adding him that's probably what happened. The only thing you can really do at that point is keep a close eye on your ammonia levels and dose with Seachem Prime if it's under 1 ppm and do water changes if its above. Eventually the cycle will establish itself. By taking him out of the tank, you've removed the source of ammonia for the bacteria you're trying to build up.

Hopefully some of the Betta experts chime in. I'm curious what fish the pet store recommended for tankmates. Very few fish belong with them, let alone in a tank that small.

I’m getting confused with all the different brands of things. For conditioners I was using Tetra brand Aqua Safe. For Bacteria the 2nd shop sold me “aquarium optimizer with live nitrifying bacteria” from tender living care- as I was told it was different from the API Quick Start (also with live nitrifying bacteria) that I already had at home. Plus I got suckered into buying the Activ-Betta Water with the same bacteria. He’s awful lucky he’s such a cute fish.

For sure! There is a product for everything! I've looked up Aqua Safe. It appears to be basically a water conditioner. The additives that promote beneficial bacteria are probably more marketing than anything.

The one major advantage of Seachem Prime is that it detoxifies small amounts of ammonia which is a major advantage when you're cycling a tank with fish in it (as it seems you are doing).

I will suggest you get your advice from here on out here on the forums instead of your local fish store. There are a lot of knowledgeable people here that are very helpful.
 

emtp123

Yes, I did unfortunately put him right into the 5 gallon. But we got through the cycle with all the levels back to normal, after 6 weeks. Then I added the live plants and we started all over, only worse. I read posts about “feeding the empty tank” so I was lightly doing that to the 5 gallon while he was in the 1 gallon to “keep the bacteria fed”. The guy recommended Neon tetras, but I was seeing lots of posts and videos of Pigmy and Panda Corys with Bettas. I bought a 20 gallon tank to start preparing for them and Red, but that tank is sitting empty waiting for me to get Red going okay in the tank I started about 8-9 weeks ago now.
 

mattgirl

Run the tests on your tap water. If there is no ammonia in it then keep up with the water changes until the ammonia levels zero out. I wouldn't listen to another word from the person that told you to stop doing so many water changes.

The only thing you need to be adding to the tank is fresh dechlorinated water. Prime is a good water conditioner and is normally the first thing I recommend getting if there is an ammonia problem since it neutralizes low amounts of ammonia but as long as you keep the ammonia down to negligible levels the aqua safe will be alright.
 

emtp123

Run the tests on your tap water. If there is no ammonia in it then keep up with the water changes until the ammonia levels zero out. I wouldn't listen to another word from the person that told you to stop doing so many water changes.

The only thing you need to be adding to the tank is fresh dechlorinated water. Prime is a good water conditioner and is normally the first thing I recommend getting if there is an ammonia problem since it neutralizes low amounts of ammonia but as long as you keep the ammonia down to negligible levels the aqua safe will be alright.
Thank you, also. I have to use conditioner in the water and let it sit a day or 2 as I have city water. I haven’t tested it recently, but it WAS testing alright after the AquaSafe. Water changes and more time I guess... I was just hoping after almost 3 months this tank would regulate. I’ll check back on here tomorrow but my phone is almost dead! Thanks to all who have chimes in to help!
 

DuaneV

Listen to mattgirl. Beyond that, smaller tanks are actually harder to regulate as one little tiny thing can make a huge difference since there is so little water (adding new plants that started to melt could have caused the ammonia spike). People usually think its the other way around (smaller tank, easier care, larger tank, more care) but that's not true. Thinking it was cycled, adding different things you didnt understand, new plants melting, etc., is what went wrong. Water changes will NEVER hurt the fish, but ammonia and nitrites will, so keep up with those while the tank is cycling and be sure to add Prime as its a dechlorinator and will bind up ammonia, nitrites, nitrates for a day or so while your cycle works on them and you can do a water change, making them safe,
 

mattgirl

Thank you, also. I have to use conditioner in the water and let it sit a day or 2 as I have city water. I haven’t tested it recently, but it WAS testing alright after the AquaSafe. Water changes and more time I guess... I was just hoping after almost 3 months this tank would regulate. I’ll check back on here tomorrow but my phone is almost dead! Thanks to all who have chimes in to help!
You are very welcome. You don't have to let the water sit for a day of two as long as you are adding your water conditioner. They are designed to work almost instantly make the water safe.

I agree with DuaneV It is easier to control the perimeters in a big tank than a small one.. With so little water in a small tank it doesn't take much to throw it into a tailspin. I would be doing no less than 50% water changes every time. If I saw an ammonia reading every day I would be doing a water change every day.

Right now the health of your fish is much more important than the cycle.
 

ChrisGee

Just had a thought - are you cleaning your filter when you do the water changes - you don't want to rinse away your good bacteria - so a quick rinse in the tank water you remove from the tank is the only way you should clean whatever type of media you have in your filter. As far as how often you do that - mattgirl? Also - how much do you feed him and what do you feed him - from what I understand a betta's stomach is only as big as his eye. From what I've read, every time you add some fish it could spike your ammonia levels up - did you just add his new friends right before this spike? I use prime from all the good advice I've gotten here and nothing else. Also - not to bash your 30+ lfs - but they are in business to sell stuff - and they don't always give the best advice, not on purpose, but based on what they think is best and selling fish/supplies. The folks here are not trying to stay in business - they've got the best interest of the fish in mind. I think you are on the right track and this will all work out with the water changes, checking your parameters and Prime.
 

emtp123

Listen to mattgirl. Beyond that, smaller tanks are actually harder to regulate as one little tiny thing can make a huge difference since there is so little water (adding new plants that started to melt could have caused the ammonia spike). People usually think its the other way around (smaller tank, easier care, larger tank, more care) but that's not true. Thinking it was cycled, adding different things you didnt understand, new plants melting, etc., is what went wrong. Water changes will NEVER hurt the fish, but ammonia and nitrites will, so keep up with those while the tank is cycling and be sure to add Prime as its a dechlorinator and will bind up ammonia, nitrites, nitrates for a day or so while your cycle works on them and you can do a water change, making them safe,

Thank you! He spent the night in the 5 gal tank. I tested the water this afternoon and everything still good. Ammonia is still at zero, nitrites and nitrates low. I plan to test every day or every other day & do the partial water changes frequently, adding Prime and have the 1 gallon ready and waiting to pop him in quickly for a day or so if ammonia spikes to 4.0 again...while I work on getting it back down with the good bacteria and water change. But I read you should still “feed” an empty tank to keep the nitrogen cycle going. Hope that works for him. He’s at least happily swimming around and trying to be social tonight!

Just had a thought - are you cleaning your filter when you do the water changes - you don't want to rinse away your good bacteria - so a quick rinse in the tank water you remove from the tank is the only way you should clean whatever type of media you have in your filter. As far as how often you do that - mattgirl? Also - how much do you feed him and what do you feed him - from what I understand a betta's stomach is only as big as his eye. From what I've read, every time you add some fish it could spike your ammonia levels up - did you just add his new friends right before this spike? I use prime from all the good advice I've gotten here and nothing else. Also - not to bash your 30+ lfs - but they are in business to sell stuff - and they don't always give the best advice, not on purpose, but based on what they think is best and selling fish/supplies. The folks here are not trying to stay in business - they've got the best interest of the fish in mind. I think you are on the right track and this will all work out with the water changes, checking your parameters and Prime.

Thank you! I had read about not really “cleaning” the filter so I haven’t done that, thankfully. Red is still by himself, as I am trying to keep him alive and comfy before I can even think about trying to start a bigger tank for him and friends. I did add live plants, which I think may not have taken hold well. Although they were still green, some “leaves” were falling off. I only fed him a couple Betta flakes at a time, what he can eat in a min or two- 1-2x day. And I was, and am still, sucking up what he doesn’t eat each time with a baby bulb nasal aspirator (brand new). A couple flakes may fall before I can suck it up- because he knows that “Big White strange fish” steals his food and he tries to defend his food. Lol! He attacks the bulb syringe.

You are very welcome. You don't have to let the water sit for a day of two as long as you are adding your water conditioner. They are designed to work almost instantly make the water safe.

I agree with DuaneV It is easier to control the perimeters in a big tank than a small one.. With so little water in a small tank it doesn't take much to throw it into a tailspin. I would be doing no less than 50% water changes every time. If I saw an ammonia reading every day I would be doing a water change every day.

Right now the health of your fish is much more important than the cycle.

thank you! I’m going to be testing very frequently (every day, or every other at least- my work schedule makes me be gone for 36-48 hrs) and doing water changes frequently if needed! This afternoon levels were still good, after he was in it last night! I am a little discouraged I still only have my ONE little $2.99 baby boy Betta and $600 worth of unused fish tanks/supplies. We will get there, tho! He is my third Betta, and is so much more spoiled and personable than the previous 2 I had years ago!
 

DuaneV

Remember, nitrites are very poisonous too. You want them below 1 if you can, but 0 is better. Nitrates are okay under 100 for a day or two, but under 40 is much better.
 

emtp123

Remember, nitrites are very poisonous too. You want them below 1 if you can, but 0 is better. Nitrates are okay under 100 for a day or two, but under 40 is much better.

Thank you! Nitrites were 0.5, and I think Nitates were ?10??. I got the whole API Freshwater Kit. Ph was good too, I don’t remember the value tho. I have a couple gallons of conditioned water waiting for when they are needed, and plan to test again tomorrow night before I have to leave for work. I’ll do a water change if anything is elevated much more than it was today. Unfortunately I won’t be able to test on Saturday, but can again Sunday. Sunday I might just bite the bullet and start setting up the bigger tank, add conditioned water, bacteria, and some fish food to start cycling that so hopefully in 3-4 months it will be ready for Red and some pigmy or panda Corys.
 

emtp123

Thank you all for the recommendations. We are several more weeks in, Red is doing so well. His tank continues to show Ammonia at 0, Nitrites at 0, Nitrates holding about 10.
 

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Aqua Fan

He is looking so much better now. He is one lucky fish having you as a mommy
 

emtp123

He is looking so much better now. He is one lucky fish having you as a mommy
Thank you
 

ystrout

Just had a thought - are you cleaning your filter when you do the water changes - you don't want to rinse away your good bacteria - so a quick rinse in the tank water you remove from the tank is the only way you should clean whatever type of media you have in your filter. As far as how often you do that - mattgirl? Also - how much do you feed him and what do you feed him - from what I understand a betta's stomach is only as big as his eye. From what I've read, every time you add some fish it could spike your ammonia levels up - did you just add his new friends right before this spike? I use prime from all the good advice I've gotten here and nothing else. Also - not to bash your 30+ lfs - but they are in business to sell stuff - and they don't always give the best advice, not on purpose, but based on what they think is best and selling fish/supplies. The folks here are not trying to stay in business - they've got the best interest of the fish in mind. I think you are on the right track and this will all work out with the water changes, checking your parameters and Prime.
You should clean your filter with water changes. The frequency depends on the type of filter. You can't rinse away bacteria. Just make sure to rinse the filter media in tank water you sucked out of the tank, not chlorinated tap water.

I personally clean my HOB filter media every 2 weeks in my pea puffer tank (heavily planted) and every 3 weeks in my betta tank. I clean the canister filter media every 4 to 6 weeks for my 75 gallon tank.

And I agree with you on Prime. The stuff is amazing. It's basically the only "Chemical" I use. I sometimes put in stressguard to my pea puffer tank when they accidently bite each other going after food too aggressively, but that's it.
 

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