High ammonia, low nitrite, and some nitrate

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by jtscarlett, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    Hello all! I'm trying to figure out what are appropriate levels for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in a tank and what could cause rises in these levels.

    I've had my tank for at least three months now. I tested the water today and the ph is 6.8, ammonia 0.5, nitrite 0, and nitrate 10. I've read that as long as your nitrate is under 40, that's good, but ammonia and nitrite should be 0. What could be causing my high ammonia levels but nitrite levels are fine?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Aster

    AsterWell Known MemberMember

    It sounds like your BB is struggling to catch up with your tank's bioload, or the cycle has not completely finished.

    Tank size & stocking?
  3. leftswerve

    leftswerveWell Known MemberMember

    recent death, recent birth, overfeeding, new fish added, filter improperly cleaned, never cycled to begin with and the nitrates came from your tap.
    There's some possibilities, good luck

  4. OP

    jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    My tank is ten gallons and I currently have two Cory catfish and four Serpae tetra. I'm in the process of setting up a 20 gallon long tank so that I can give them a better home and get more cories and tetras since they like to be in large groups. (I originally had four cories but two died a few weeks ago)

    Maybe I'm not understanding the cycling process correctly, but even if a tank wasn't properly cycled in the first place, after a few months wouldn't it be cycled inadvertently by just having living fish in there?

  5. leftswerve

    leftswerveWell Known MemberMember

    not if you killed the BB each time you cleaned the tank, or it could take a really long time if you kept the water in really good shape by doing partial water changes every day or so.
  6. OP

    jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    I think one of the issues may be that I completely changed the filter sponges and carbon about two months ago because I didn't realize that's where all the BB are lol. How often are you supposed to change these sponges / clean them / clean the carbon or change the carbon?

    Sorry for all the questions, I'm very new to all of this lol
  7. peregrine

    peregrineValued MemberMember

    Im also fairly new but due ro something really recent ended up having to do a lot of extta research on filtration The activated carbon doesn't really have much bb it does mostly chemical filtration like removing heavy minerals, medications, etc As for filter sponges. Usually you can just take them out when you do your water change and rinse them off in the tank water. This would keep the bb in the filter. Also if you have the room in your filter you could look up and use some sort of bio media. Most brands have something.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
  8. oldsalt777Well Known MemberMember

    Hello jt...

    Your water chemistry readings are all over the place because the tank is small and small tanks don't hold enough water to dilute dissolved ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to the point your fish live in a stable water environment.

    Your chances for success aren't good. The larger the tank, the more you increase your chances for success. A 30 gallon tank is a good beginning tank. A 55 G is much better and a 75 is the best.

  9. Aster

    AsterWell Known MemberMember

    While it's definitely true that larger tanks are easier to maintain and keep stable, I disagree that a 10g will most likely fail. I know many people who have success with keeping small tanks as their first tank, myself included. Most people aren't ready to invest so much time & money at once into a new hobby, and to a newbie, keeping a 10 gallon tank is much less daunting than a 75.

    Consider water changing: a 50% change on a 10 gallon would be 5 gallons, but on a 75? Like I said, most people new to the hobby simply aren't ready for that kind of scale.

    Yes, smaller tanks will have more fluctuations. Yes, smaller tanks will need more maintenance. Yes, smaller tanks will get thrown off balance more easily. But no, sometimes smaller tanks are the better choice for people looking to get their feet wet in fishkeeping.

    Anyway, I digress ;) your cleaning of the filter sponges probably killed your cycle and caused the ammonia spike. Never change your filter media, just give it a good rinsing in dechlorinated water. Old tank water works.

    Also, I'm not sure about carbon but many people seem to take it out of their filters. I have a sponge filter because of my guppy fry so I've never had to deal with that, hopefully someone can elaborate.
  10. OP

    jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    While I would absolutely love a 55 G or 75 G, that's definitely not something I have space for or that I could afford lol. I am upgrading to a 20G soon, though! I went to the store to get it today but they sold out so I have to wait
  11. leftswerve

    leftswerveWell Known MemberMember

    What are your readings today? Any changes?
  12. OP

    jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    I actually just checked my levels! Yesterday I did a 40% water change.

    Today my ph was 6.4, ammonia 0.25 (maybe even less then that because the color is in between the 0 and 0.25), nitrite 0, and nitrate 5.

    So the ammonia did go by down by half which is good.

    Do I need to do another water change?
  13. leftswerve

    leftswerveWell Known MemberMember

    Hmm, Half of 0.5 is 0.25 , so your ammonia changed due to a water change. Not sure why your nitrates went to 0 other than a test descrpancy. You're going to have to continue to monitor your levels. You should probably get a bottle of prime ready, to take care of any big spikes. If you are going through another cycle or catching up on an old cycle, you'll know by tracking the numbers.
    IMO, wait on the water change and see what the ammonia and nitrites do. If you are using strips, those low of numbers are very hard to nail down. If you you keep catching low ammonio, 0 nitrites, but your nitrates are going up. then it is possible you either have something dead or your source water has ammonia. If your ammonia always rises and you never see the nitrate end of it, then you are in the beginning of the cycle.
    Good luck.
  14. OP

    jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    Thanks! I think you read my post before I edited it though: my nitrates were 5, not 0, that was a typo on my part.

    Also I'm using the API water testing kit that uses little vials of water and test solution, not strips!

    Every time I've tested my water I've never had nitrites. My ammonia level has always been 0.25 to 5, and my nitrates have always been from like 5-10. Is this normal?

    It could be my source water. I've been told the water in my town is terrible. There's nothing dead in my tank... Well, at least no dead fish. I can't imagine what else dead there would be in there?

    Thank you so much for all your help, I really appreciate it!
  15. leftswerve

    leftswerveWell Known MemberMember

    At this point do two things.
    1. Test your source water after it sits with a bubble for 12 hours (they way it should be before you use it). See what it looks like compared to your tank.
    2. Test the tank daily and see what happens. The only way your nitrates can not go up is either by no cycle happening, water changes, or a whole lot of plants. Refer to my previous post for steps to see where you are at.
  16. OP

    jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    Sorry but what do you mean by sits with a bubble? I usually let my source water sit for a half an hour before using it lol should I let it sit for longer?
  17. leftswerve

    leftswerveWell Known MemberMember

    In my opinion, yes. Let it sit with your dechlorinator 12-24 hrs with either a circulation pump or air pump with an air stone. This allows the ph to settle and degassing to occur.
    How much it matters is debatable, but you did see some ph differences in your tests rather quickly.
  18. Aster

    AsterWell Known MemberMember

    I think he meant to say a bubbler. Also, could you test your water straight out of the tap? What dechlorinator do you use? You might have chloramines in your tap, which explains the readings of ammonia without nitrite.
  19. OP

    jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    Thanks, I'll try everything you suggested and see how it goes!

    Yeah I can test it straight out of the tap! I'm heading to work soon so I'll do it when I get home from work.

    As for the dechlorinator I use, I use aqueoun water conditioner.

    I also use API stress zyme not for a dechlorinator but because it says it improves bio filter. I just picked it up because it was on sale like half off lol. These are the only two things I use on my tank at the moment
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 14, 2016
  20. OP

    jtscarlettNew MemberMember

    So i tested the tap water today and it was ph 7.5 ammonia 0.25 nitrites 0 and nitrates 0. Does this mean my dechlorinator isn't working?

    My tank water today was ph 7.5 (I think yesterday's reading must've been a fluke because no way there was that big of a fluctuation in ph overnight), ammonia 0.25 nitrites 0 and nitrates 5

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