High Ammonia (>2ppm) For Three Months

gordonhtfu

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I need some advice about the high ammonia situation that I have tried to fix for the past two months.
I have read different solutions online but it does not seem to work. I have two blood parrot cichlids that are about 4 to 5 inches long.

Initial Tank Settings on Feb 1st:
-120 Gallon
-FX4 Filter with the default biorings and foam pad.
-Fluval Carbon, Fluval Zeocarb and Fluval Ammonia Remover
-No gravel
-Two decors
-Lighting
-Heat at 80 degrees
-With oxygen pump
-Applied API Quick Start as instructed on the bottle for two weeks

Feb 15, 2018 - Introduced two blood parrot cichlids (but I didn't check whether the nitrogen cycle started or not ... I assumed it did at that time but now I don't think it ever did) I did water change twice weekly (25% each time), with API Ammo Lock, API Quick Start, API Tap Water Conditioner and API Stress Coat as instructed in the bottle during water change. When I do water change, I do not get too much waste, just some.

Here is the water quality each time I measured before water change.
Ammonia - 1 to 2 ppm.
Nitrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate - 0 ppm
pH 7

Mar 15, 2018 - I introduced new gravel from Petco (hoping it would help with bacteria growth). Also around this time, the fish got some ich and they covered the fish in eyes, gills and fins. They almost died (floating sideways and rotting fins). I started adding ich medication (API Melafix and Microbe-lift Herbtana) and increase temperature to 86 to 88 degress for 2 weeks. The fish recovered and able to swim normal but their scale color remains pale and I returned the temperature back to 82 degrees. I started to increase water change more frequently from twice a week (@25%) to once two days (20%) with double the API Quick Start and Ammo Lock at water change. I also added some baking soda to increase the pH. Sometimes, the fish would go back to orange color, sometimes it returns to the pale color or sometimes, it would have both colors.

Here is the water quality each time I measured before water change.
Ammonia - 2 to 4 ppm.
Nitrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate - 0 ppm
pH 5.0

Apr 15, 2018 - I started using Seachem (Prime, Stability and StressGuard) at 20% water change at three times a week. (reading that Seachem seems to be the better brand than API based on the people's success) There is not that much waste at water change.
Here is the water quality each time I measured before water change.
Ammonia - 4 to 8 ppm.
Nitrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate - 0 ppm
pH 7.5 to 8.0

For the past few months, I only feed a few flakes per day so I don't know why ammonia is so high with two fish only. The tap water has pH7 the last three times I measured monthly. I clean the filter with the tank water and change the media every 1.5 month.

I am running out of ideas what to do next. I have been doing what the people on forum said for high ammonia (keep adding the API Quick Start or Seachem Stability, which I must have used a few bottles already and keep up with the water change. ) but this does not seem to improve after three months already.
 

Jenoli42

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Welcome to Fishlore and i'm so sorry you're struggling!

First question: have you tested your tap water straight outta the tap for ammonia?

Next question: what media is in your FX filter?

EDIT: is it accurate that your pH readings are changing so drastically? do you have an API kH/gH testing kit? how did you measure the drop to a pH of 5?

I hope we can help!
 
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gordonhtfu

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Jenoli42 said:
Welcome to Fishlore and i'm so sorry you're struggling!

First question: have you tested your tap water straight outta the tap for ammonia?

Next question: what media is in your FX filter?

EDIT: is it accurate that your pH readings are changing so drastically? do you have an API kH/gH testing kit? how did you measure the drop to a pH of 5?

I hope we can help!
1) I tested the tap water straight out of the tab two or three times. The ammonia is 0.
2) I use Zeocarb, Carbon, Ammonia Remover as the media in the filter
3) The pH should be accurate. I use the most common API freshwater master kit. The pH is normal initially and it started to become low, pH5, most likely due to the medication I used to treat ich. Subsequently, I used baking soda with water change to respond to low pH and it stayed around 8 but I think the pH should drop more when I do more water change in the next few days.
 

AquaticJ

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Well at the end you said you change the media every 1.5 months? I sure hope you aren't replacing anything other than the carbon, because that would be your issue. Also, don't mess with your PH, keep it stable and that's all that matters. Fluctuating PH can kill fish AND bacteria.
 

Jenoli42

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gordonhtfu said:
1) I tested the tap water straight out of the tab two or three times. The ammonia is 0.
2) I use Zeocarb, Carbon, Ammonia Remover as the media in the filter
3) The pH should be accurate. I use the most common API freshwater master kit. The pH is normal initially and it started to become low, pH5, most likely due to the medication I used to treat ich. Subsequently, I used baking soda with water change to respond to low pH and it stayed around 8 but I think the pH should drop more when I do more water change in the next few days.
I agree that swapping out your filter media will swap out all your cycle and you'll start over...

i don't know what zeocarb is... do you have any filter floss/wool or bionoods/bioballs?
 
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gordonhtfu

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AquaticJ said:
Well at the end you said you change the media every 1.5 months? I sure hope you aren't replacing anything other than the carbon, because that would be your issue. Also, don't mess with your PH, keep it stable and that's all that matters. Fluctuating PH can kill fish AND bacteria.
I change the Zeocarb, Carbon and Ammonia Remover at filter clean as per instruction on the package. Here is the package I bought:

I don't have the floss, wool or bioball. I only have these biorings that come with the canister filter. I don't change them and I only wash them with tank water at filter cleaning at 1.5 month: https://www.amazon.com/Fluval-Biomax-Bio-Rings-ounces/dp/B000HHSG5M/ref=pd_bxgy_199_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B000HHSG5M&pd_rd_r=354VTQZJ1P9S46F5QM2G&pd_rd_w=UgMqK&pd_rd_wg=NYbnW&psc=1&refRID=354VTQZJ1P9S46F5QM2G

Do you recommend me changing all three at 1.5 month frequency going forward? Or stop cleaning filter for now?
 

Jenoli42

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ah! the biorings are the key! good! excellent that you only rinse them in tank water.

i'm unfamiliar with the fluvial zeocarb etc, so i won't comment because i'd be guessing.

which ich medication did you use? one of them kills your cycle, which is why i ask...
 
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gordonhtfu

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I have used a few times the API Melafix (which didn't work that much for the first few days) and used mostly Herbtana (which seemed to be working in a few hours and kept using it for 10 days). Dosage is as mentioned on bottle.




I am thinking that 8ppm ammonia is too high for the fish now. Should I keep the fish in the fish tank doing what I do now? (with water change twice a day which didn’t seem to work for two months already and I don’t feel it would work anymore)

Or could I move the two fish to a separate 20 gallon bucket with the tank water (and then do a partial 40% water change daily to keep Ammonia low but this bucket does not have any filter system) while I do an 80% to 90% water change for the original tank which would be fishless now and I could start a cycle more easily? When the tank is more readily cycled, I would then slowly introduce the cycles tank water to bucket and when the fish is used to the tank water more and more, I would put them back to tank.
 

Jenoli42

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that could work... my concern would be heating the bucket. if you change out the water regularly maybe?

what's your substrate btw?
 

ParrotCichlid

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I really doubt your ammonia is 8ppm.

If it was it would probably cause instantaneous death or at least severe burns to the fish. I've observed fish showing clear signs of irritation (Rubbing sides against gravel) with just 0.25ppm of ammonia in the water.

Your test kit really sounds out. Please take it to a pet store or a few different pet stores for second opinions. Many will disagree but i have been having problems with my new API Freshwater Master Test Kit. Everything works good accept for the ammonia test. I tested the same tank 3 times in a run and got ammonia showing 0.25ppm, 0.5ppm and 2ppm. Three different tests one after the other showing them results on the same tank.

Taken it to a pet store to confirm and the guy proved my water was clear of ammonia by testing it with a liquid NT Labs Test Kit and Test Stripes. He said he changed to the NT Labs for the very reason, ammonia being hit and miss on the API products.

I'm sure you do have ammonia in the tank OP so i would keep the twice daily water changes up until you can get the water tested from a few different stores with different brand's of test kits. I just really doubt its 8ppm.

Nearly forgot to add, if the ammonia is still high after months of this tank being setup and regular water changes then i would look towards the API Quick Start and Seachem Stability.

If you notice, you seen a clear jump in ammonia after Apr 15, 2018, when you switched from using API to Seachem and added Stability.

Some of these products contain beneficial bacteria that is put in to promote a stable tank. Unfortunately this isn't always beneficial. If you get a bad bottle and the bacteria happens to be dead then you are basically adding liquid ammonia to your tank when added.

Any way, if you do actually have ammonia of 4 - 8 then its definitely not the cycle or the fish causing that ammonia. Even if you was only changing the water every week them two Parrot's would not produce enough waste to raise your ammonia levels that high in a 120g tank in a week even in an uncycled tank.
 

Sarah73

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I wanna ask if you ever rinse the filters and if you have any pleco's in that tank? Also test the ammonia in your tap water.
 
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gordonhtfu

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For the filter cleaning process, I have used media water and a sponge to rub the filter components clean. I had to use a lot of media water because the water become dirty after the rub.

I never had pleco fish in the tank. I had 40 goldfish in the tank in Dec and Jan and they died overnight one day (likely due to super high ammonia from huge wastes and some infection). After that, I bought the new FX4 canister to replace the old one. I took everything from tank. Then, the gravel and decor are rinsed, boiled and sun dried outdoor for a week. Then I started the new aquarium in Feb, initially with just the decor. In March, I traded the gravel because I wanted to have more substrate for bacteria growth.
However, that didn’t go well because my fish started developing ich as described in original post and I figured it was due to the gravel which created a cloudy environment in the water. A week later, I got all the gravel in tank because the water quality is so bad and I am pretty sure it's the gravel and these gravels must be "contaminated" because they were in the goldfish wastes for too long back in Dec/Jan. In April, put in new bags of gravel (that I boiled and rinsed with cold water three times before introducing to finish tank) ... and now everything is under control, except Ammonia level.

Tap water is pH7.
 

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pH will drop during cycle because bacteria growing gives off some acid. If you are doing small water changes you aren't adding back enough KH. When pH drops too low, bacteria stops growing. You need larger WC to keep pH up. During cycle, you really should keep pH up some more. You might want to look at seachem alkalinity buffer which is more stable for KH than baking soda.
You may have over washed the bio rings.
Edit; higher pH also makes ammonia more toxic. You'll want to keep ammonia under 1, especially as you start getting pH up around 7.6 or more.
 
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gordonhtfu

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Jenoli42 said:
that could work... my concern would be heating the bucket. if you change out the water regularly maybe?

what's your substrate btw?
I have gotten three 20lbs bags of these gravel (It's either the first or the second type)



TexasGuppy said:
pH will drop during cycle because bacteria growing gives off some acid. If you are doing small water changes you aren't adding back enough KH. When pH drops too low, bacteria stops growing. You need larger WC to keep pH up. During cycle, you really should keep pH up some more. You might want to look at seachem alkalinity buffer which is more stable for KH than baking soda.
You may have over washed the bio rings.
Edit; higher pH also makes ammonia more toxic. You'll want to keep ammonia under 1, especially as you start getting pH up around 7.6 or more.
Notes taken for next time. Currently, the pH is 7.5 to 8 so I don't need to raise pH anymore. I may have overwashed the rings as you guessed and it increased my Ammonia level from the 4.0ppm band closer to the 8.0ppm band. I will stop changing the filter now until the cycle is more stable.
 
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gordonhtfu

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TexasGuppy said:
If your ammonia is really that high you should do a massive water change.
I will take some tank water sample to PetSmart/Petco store for testing. If the Ammonia is over really >4ppm, what % of water change do you recommend (but massive WC would kill the fish right)? Or should I move the fish to a smaller bucket and let the tank cycle as suggested in post #8?

ParrotCichlid said:
I really doubt your ammonia is 8ppm.

If it was it would probably cause instantaneous death or at least severe burns to the fish. I've observed fish showing clear signs of irritation (Rubbing sides against gravel) with just 0.25ppm of ammonia in the water.

Your test kit really sounds out. Please take it to a pet store or a few different pet stores for second opinions. Many will disagree but i have been having problems with my new API Freshwater Master Test Kit. Everything works good accept for the ammonia test. I tested the same tank 3 times in a run and got ammonia showing 0.25ppm, 0.5ppm and 2ppm. Three different tests one after the other showing them results on the same tank.

Taken it to a pet store to confirm and the guy proved my water was clear of ammonia by testing it with a liquid NT Labs Test Kit and Test Stripes. He said he changed to the NT Labs for the very reason, ammonia being hit and miss on the API products.

I'm sure you do have ammonia in the tank OP so i would keep the twice daily water changes up until you can get the water tested from a few different stores with different brand's of test kits. I just really doubt its 8ppm.

Nearly forgot to add, if the ammonia is still high after months of this tank being setup and regular water changes then i would look towards the API Quick Start and Seachem Stability.

If you notice, you seen a clear jump in ammonia after Apr 15, 2018, when you switched from using API to Seachem and added Stability.

Some of these products contain beneficial bacteria that is put in to promote a stable tank. Unfortunately this isn't always beneficial. If you get a bad bottle and the bacteria happens to be dead then you are basically adding liquid ammonia to your tank when added.

Any way, if you do actually have ammonia of 4 - 8 then its definitely not the cycle or the fish causing that ammonia. Even if you was only changing the water every week them two Parrot's would not produce enough waste to raise your ammonia levels that high in a 120g tank in a week even in an uncycled tank.
I am assuming "keep the twice daily water changes" was a typo and you mean once every two days. I'll go to the pet store as suggested. The pH is mostly gradual increasing from 0ppm (initially without fish) to 8ppm (now). The only clear jump (from 2 to 4 ppm TO 4ppm to 8ppm) would be around the few days near April 15, when I did a filter clean and media changes (as described previously) and started to use Seachem instead of API.
 

TexasGuppy

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so, you probably hurt the bacteria with over cleaning which is why the ammonia started to climb right after. Water change won't hurt fish if you match temp and the PH isn't to far off existing water. Just make sure fish have room to swim around without freaking out or anything if it gets too low. A 4ppm with 75% change would bring you down to 1ppm... You may need to do back to back 75% wc. 8ppm with back-to-back 75% would bring it down to .5 - assuming your tap is 0.
 
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gordonhtfu

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I did a water test at the store and they confirmed the measurements.
8.0ppm Ammonia, 7.2 pH, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate.

I have decided to put the fish to the 20 gallon small bucket with new water because the 8.0ppm Ammonia is too high.

I also did a 95% water change (the 5% is in the filter which I don’t plan to wash anymore now) and keep the tank status quo for a week to see if there is something else in the tank that is generating Ammonia. I also made a discovery while emptying the tank! Though the water is clear, there is a lot of pieces of floating thing that came out of the decor when I shook the decor. They look like dead skins of the fish. Perhaps, their dead skins because they spend so much time hiding in the decor? I manage to take out 95% of water as expected but there are still some of these floating pieces in the water which I can try to gravel clean the next few days.
 

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AngelTheGypsy

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Now that you have done a large water change, I would definitely put the fish back in the tank. The bucket is not going to be any better for them.
Stop using the ammo lock. This is the reason your ammonia is testing off the charts. (I have personally run into this ).
The best product to use to keep fish safe from ammonia (in small quantities less than 1 ppm) is Seachem prime.
You may have your cycle going, but the ammolock gives a false positive reading.
Now that you did a 95% water change, test your water and put the fish back in the tank. Test your water daily. Follow this formula:
If the test shows ammonia plus nitrite above 0 but under 1 ppm, dose Prime for entire tank and retest in 24 hours.
If ammonia plus nitrite is above 1 ppm, do at least a 50% water change, dose prime for entire tank and retest in 24 hours. *If your ammonia plus nitrite is 2ppm or higher, a larger water change will be necessary. At 2 ppm, a 50% change will bring it to 1 ppm, a 75% will get it to .5 ppm.
And do not use the ammo lock. It’s junk, a gimmick, band aid. Does nothing for you.
If you start seeing ammonia and/or nitrite rise, then your cycle is not in place and you need to get it going. It’s not hard to do, even fish in, it just takes a little patience.
 

ParrotCichlid

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Great advice right their ^^ Put the fish back in the tank, no point keeping them in a bucket.

Just to add if you do happen to not be cycled OP then don't take the war on ammonia too far.

To do a fish-in cycle you must have some ammonia in the tank at given times. But you want to be aiming for 0.2-0.5 ammonia at an absolute maximum. Anything over that and it becomes very harmful to the fish.

I'm mentoring a fish in cycle for a friend currently and we are keeping her tank around 0.25ppm of ammonia in the fish in cycle. If it gets over, she does a water change. Currently the fish are showing no real signs of distress.
 
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