Help High Ammonia Established Tank, Won’t Stabilize!

kmalek321

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Hey guys! Some background first, I have an established 40 gallon breeder with 8 tiger barbs and 5 zebra danios that’s been cycled for 2 years with no issues. I’m running 2 aqueon quiet flow 30s, 150 heater at 79F, fake plants/decorations.

We moved a very short distance about 2 months ago and devoted that last moving day for my tank. I drained the tank 85% keeping gravel wet and kept filter media in same bucket as my fish with old tank water.

Set up tank with no issues and used prime as conditioner for new tank water. Water was clear and fish all appeared healthy normal within 24 hours.


I decided to run a water test using my API liquid drop kid about a week later. My ammonia was through the roof (dark dark green easily an 8). My fish showed no signs of distress but I’m guessing it’s since they are accustomed to high levels since my fish are the same fish used when I first cycled My tank 2 years ago.

I immediately double dosed with prime and decreased feeding to only once a day every other day. Before I tried doing a water change I decided to test my tap water (it’s hard water, I live in the city) which surprisingly tested positive for ammonia at about a 1.5 24 hours later. I’ve read that my city recently started using chlorammine which may be the cause for ammonia in our tap water. After discovering this, I was afraid to do any water changes since I assumed I would only add more ammonia.

Anyways, I decided to hold off all water changes and just stick to dosing with prime every 24 hours and feeding them every other day only once a day.

It’s been more than a month of using the above method with no water changes and daily prime use with no change!!!!!!
my water test results today were this:
Ph 6.4, ammonia ~6.0 (very dark green)
Nitrite 0, Nitrate ~1.0.

Something has obviously reset my cycle, and even if it occurred during my fault during the move the nitrates should have at least started a showing. My nitrifying bacteria are obviously no longer present and I have even been adding seachem stability weekly with no change.

Once again, besides the high ammonia level all my fish appear normal and water is crystal clear.

My question is this, should I start doing 10-20% water changes with my tap water containing the ammonia or should I try an alternative? I contacted my LFS and they recommended I keep doing what I’m doing with no water changes but I am seeing no change at all in ammonia.

I’m very frustrated. I know this is a very common posting thread so I hope I am not breaking any rules of repeating thread questions.

Thank you for any advice!
 

bizaliz3

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I'm sorry this happened. Its good news that no fish have died as a result!!

its sounds like you did everything correct when it came time to move. If the media remained wet, and it was just one day....and no tap water was used to wash it....right? Then you should have been fine. The BB wouldn't die off in a day....

I wish I had some ideas as to what is causing your issues, but I don't.

@mattgirl ??
 
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kmalek321

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I'm sorry this happened. Its good news that no fish have died as a result!!

its sounds like you did everything correct when it came time to move. If the media remained wet, and it was just one day....and no tap water was used to wash it....right? Then you should have been fine. The BB wouldn't die off in a day....

I wish I had some ideas as to what is causing your issues, but I don't.

@mattgirl ??
Yes the media remained wet in the same bucket as the fish were transported in. And no they were never rinsed, they only sat in the original tank water and then put into the filters after the tank was full of new tap water.
 
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kmalek321

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Yes the media remained wet in the same bucket as the fish were transported in. And no they were never rinsed, they only sat in the original tank water and then put into the filters after the tank was full of new tap water.
Also our new apartment was only a few miles so the fish and media only remained in the bucket for less than an hour.
 

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Yes the media remained wet in the same bucket as the fish were transported in. And no they were never rinsed, they only sat in the original tank water and then put into the filters after the tank was full of new tap water.
This is probably a dumb question...but just to be sure....I assume you put dechlorinator in with the full tank of new water, right?

What confuses me most is the fact that is has been 2 months. Even if you lost your cycle completely (which you shouldn't have based on what you did), you would by re-cycled after 2 months :-(
 

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did you shake both bottles very well?

do you have the GH KH test?

seems strange that your tap is hard water, but your pH is 6.4. can you test everything in your tap water. let it sit over night first.
 

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It your tap water is showing 1.5 ammonia and your tank is showing 6 then I think it is time to start doing some water changes to get the tanks ammonia level down. Put a double dose of Prime for the full volume of the tank with each water change.

The good thing about having a PH of 6.4 is the high ammonia level is ammonium. The bad thing about it being ammonium is that it isn't very good food for your bacteria so it is being starved.

I am thinking the ammonia level you are seeing in your source water is because they are using chloramines instead of chlorine. Prime neutralizes both so it will help in this case.

What is the PH of your source water? If it is quite a bit higher than your tank you will want to do small water changes daily. I wouldn't do any more than 10 or 15% because once the PH starts rising the readings you are getting for ammonia will revert from ammonium back to ammonia. You want to change the number slowly to protect your fish.
 
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kmalek321

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This is probably a dumb question...but just to be sure....I assume you put dechlorinator in with the full tank of new water, right?

What confuses me most is the fact that is has been 2 months. Even if you lost your cycle completely (which you shouldn't have based on what you did), you would by re-cycled after 2 months :-(
Yes I dosed properly with prime. I’ve only ever used prime as my dechlorintor and never had an issue
 
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kmalek321

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did you shake both bottles very well?

do you have the GH KH test?

seems strange that your tap is hard water, but your pH is 6.4. can you test everything in your tap water. let it sit over night first.
Yes I will do that today and then let you know tomorrow! My pH in my tank has always been around that level even at my old place.
 
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kmalek321

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It your tap water is showing 1.5 ammonia and your tank is showing 6 then I think it is time to start doing some water changes to get the tanks ammonia level down. Put a double dose of Prime for the full volume of the tank with each water change.

The good thing about having a PH of 6.4 is the high ammonia level is ammonium. The bad thing about it being ammonium is that it isn't very good food for your bacteria so it is being starved.

I am thinking the ammonia level you are seeing in your source water is because they are using chloramines instead of chlorine. Prime neutralizes both so it will help in this case.

What is the PH of your source water? If it is quite a bit higher than your tank you will want to do small water changes daily. I wouldn't do any more than 10 or 15% because once the PH starts rising the readings you are getting for ammonia will revert from ammonium back to ammonia. You want to change the number slowly to protect your fish.
Thank you!! I am going to let my tap water sit overnight as another user suggested and test it in the morning. I will update you all with the results in the morning!
 

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I pulled up the drinking water report for your city. It shows you don't have very hard water. It says your GH (hardness) is about 66ppm (3.6dgh) and KH (alkalinity) 47.2ppm (2.6dkh). But the pH has been increased to 7.6, which gives a false sense of hardness.

Do still do the GH/KH tests @Skavatar has requested, to verify this is what is coming out of your tap. But...this says to me that after you rid the tank of excess ammonia, that in order to get your cycle really going again, it is likely you will have to use some crushed coral or something to give your GH/KH a boost. I wouldn't add it until the ammonia is removed, to try to keep the pH lower and prevent this much ammonia from becoming highly toxic with higher pH levels.

I'll wait for those test results, and have you look at this link to confirm this is your water report for your city, before making other suggestions.
http://www.ci.richmond.va.us/PublicUtilities/documents/reportWaterQuality2017.pdf
 
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kmalek321

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I pulled up the drinking water report for your city. It shows you don't have very hard water. It says your GH (hardness) is about 66ppm (3.6dgh) and KH (alkalinity) 47.2ppm (2.6dkh). But the pH has been increased to 7.6, which gives a false sense of hardness.

Do still do the GH/KH tests @Skavatar has requested, to verify this is what is coming out of your tap. But...this says to me that after you rid the tank of excess ammonia, that in order to get your cycle really going again, it is likely you will have to use some crushed coral or something to give your GH/KH a boost. I wouldn't add it until the ammonia is removed, to try to keep the pH lower and prevent this much ammonia from becoming highly toxic with higher pH levels.

I'll wait for those test results, and have you look at this link to confirm this is your water report for your city, before making other suggestions.
http://www.ci.richmond.va.us/PublicUtilities/documents/reportWaterQuality2017.pdf
Thanks for the response. Sadly I just reread some other comments and I realized I don’t have a GH/KH test, only the standard API liquid test kit. In other words I can only test ph ammonia and nitrates
 

toosie

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Thanks for the response. Sadly I just reread some other comments and I realized I don’t have a GH/KH test, only the standard API liquid test kit. In other words I can only test ph ammonia and nitrates
Well, in light of that, if you can confirm I found the right water report, we can use the results from there for GH/KH for now, but we will still wait for your morning pH test results. I assume you also have a nitrite test? I only ask because you only mention pH, ammonia and nitrates. And a nitrite kit could become important.
 
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kmalek321

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Well, in light of that, if you can confirm I found the right water report, we can use the results from there for GH/KH for now, but we will still wait for your morning pH test results. I assume you also have a nitrite test? I only ask because you only mention pH, ammonia and nitrates. And a nitrite kit could become important.
Yes I do have a nitrite test. And I live downtown in he city of Richmond, VA. I’ll let my water out now and test it in the morning. My pH test only shows results from 6-8 so if it’s more acidic than 6 I will have no way of knowing which the only concer so I’m not sure how accurate it will be. I have not tested my tap water pH yet though so I will let you know!
 

toosie

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Yes I do have a nitrite test. And I live downtown in he city of Richmond, VA. I’ll let my water out now and test it in the morning. My pH test only shows results from 6-8 so if it’s more acidic than 6 I will have no way of knowing which the only concer so I’m not sure how accurate it will be. I have not tested my tap water pH yet though so I will let you know!
Alright. That is the city I looked up. I was hoping you would click on the link in my above post and have a look at it. But it's fine. We'll use that info. It is mainly the tap water pH that we are going to wait for. If you can fill a container... just a clean soup bowl will be fine, test the pH of that water, and leave it out to gas off, then test the pH of that sample again tomorrow, and give us both numbers, we will have an idea of what we will all be working with. If you have an airstone that you can run in that sample of water, it will help with the gas exchange that will occur.
 

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If the ph is that close to 6.0 it would most likely be easier and less stressful to put peat in the tank to drop the ph below 6.0. The ammonia will stay as ammonium which is safe for your fish and you do regular small <20% water changes and don't worry about it. Just make sure you keep your ph down below 6.0 or you will convert the ammonium to the poisonous ammonia.

I suggest researching blackwater species and killifish, your bad luck is kinda good luck. Most people have high ph which puts breeding many killifish and blackwater species out of reach and they look amazing.
 

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Hey @Sarcasm Included, a question for you. I know it's totally possible to keep fish in waters that ARE under 6.0 but in a case like the OP's where the pH from the tap is quite high, would it be better to lower the pH in a holding tank of some sort and then do large water changes to remove and control ammonium levels, if the OP went ahead with your suggestion? I'm kind of weird maybe, but I think I would want to treat ammonium levels much like we treat nitrate levels, if I were to explore the option you have presented.
 

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@toosie ideally having the water sit till it drops to 6.0 ph to get it down, but you can do twice daily 10% water changes and it should normalize in less than a week. After you normalize the tank's ammonia content, I would do frequent small water changes to keep the ammonia down and minimize the impact of the ph spike. I would also suggest using live plants to consume ammonium from the water table.
 

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what filter media are you using? if you have ceramic or better, then you could cultivate a large enough BB colony to process that extra ammonia.

i can't find it now, but there was an experiment on another fish forum where the guy dosed more and more ammonia each week, he was eventually dosing like over 10ppm and the BB would process it all within 24 hrs.
 
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