My Ammonia will NOT go down. Help!

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DanaK

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Hi. I've ben having some problems with my new tank. It's my first tank and I cannot seem to find the answers to my problems anywhere. The most important thing that needs fixing in my tank is the ammonia problem. I'll be as thorough as possible.

I got the tank a few months ago. I added in the drift wood after soaking it to remove all tanins. I added some plants, mostly swords. I tried to get everything in the tank going before adding any fish. I had bought one of those kits that came with everything. After having the tank for a few weeks, I got 3 danios and everything was going great. I even had babies!

I was using a test kit with chemicals and test tubes (still am) but I wasn't doing it correctly, and so didn't think I had any ammonia problems.

Then I got 2 Platies. They ate an entire plant an made a lot of waste. I had to get rid of them and gave them to a friend. But my ammonia problems started there with all of the waste. I was using StressZyme to add live bacteria to the tank to help with Cycling and using AmmoLock to keep the water from being poisonous to the fish. By then my Ammonia levels had sky rocketed and all of the fish died. I thought the problem was the filter. Since my Nitrite and nitrite levels were at 0 and ammonia was so high, I thought that there wasn't anywhere for the beneficial bacteria to live, and bought a really good external Fluval pump and filter.

I also started using MIcrobe-Lift and instead of the stresszyme at the suggestion of a worker at the local pet store. That hasn't really helped much. I didn't add any fish for a whole month after they all died off to allow the bacteria time to eat up all of that ammonia while no fish ere adding any extra ammonia. The levels never went down. My Ammonia levels are still so high.

To give you an idea, 8ppm makes the test tube a dark green. My tube will turn a dark bluish green within a minute, which is not even on the chart. Sometimes I will get readings of Nitrite, but it goes down again very soon. It's almost as if the bacteria all die and stop cycling.

I have some plants in the tank that are not doing very well. I give them CO2, and fertilizers, and plenty of lights. but they still have brown spots on them even though they should have everything they need to be healthy.

I don't have algea. Sometimes the water will get to be a cloudy white, but then it goes away. Is the problem the plants decaying? That can't be all of the problem, I do have fish after all. I've tried everything to get the ammonia levels down.

I am changing the water about 15% every 3 days with no luck. What can I do? My ph is at about 6 and water temp about 82. I don't over feed the fish either. Only once a day and just a few flakes. What am I doing wrong?

THanks for any help you can give.
 

jetajockey

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Welcome to fishlore DanaK,

First thing, get that ammonia level down, when the ammonia level gets over 5ppm it can actually kill the bacteria that consumes it. Your PH is a bit low, I would remove the driftwood, or any other buffer that might be in the tank, just to see if it can come up a bit.

cloudy water in a cycling tank is usually just a bacterial bloom, it will go away in time.

I also suggest against using stresszyme, I've never tested microbe-lift but it's likely that it's not helping either. The only tried and true bacterial supplement out there right now is Tetra SafeStart. BUT if you do end up using it, you need to follow the instructions to the letter.

Since you have fish in the tank, I would try to get some Tetra Safestart.

These are the steps I would take

1- start doing big water changes, 50% a twice a day for the next few days until that ammonia level is below 1.0.

2- do a good gravel vacuuming, sucking up any leftover food and poop.

3- Remove the driftwood, at least temporarily, to see if it is causing you to have such a low PH.

4- Start doing 50% water changes every other day, conditioning the water with Prime or Amquel+.

OR
4a- go the TSS route, be sure to follow the instructions and don't be afraid to ask for help on here since many have experience with it here.

If you choose to go the non-tss route, then the goal here is to keep doing water changes frequently enough to keep the fish safe and the ammonia levels as low as possible. Eventually, the bacteria will build up enough to convert the ammonia into nitrite, and then eventually the nitrite into nitrate. This process however, can take 6 -8 weeks if done this way.
 

Aquarist

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Good morning and Welcome to Fish Lore.

I have edited your post creating paragraphs. When a post is typed in one big block, it makes it very difficult for many of our members to read, including myself, and sometimes the post may be ignored because of it.

Too, it's good Forum Etiquette to use paragraphs, correct punctuation, full sentences. No text speak.

Thanks!

I hope you enjoy the site.

Hold on for more responses.

Ken
 

Meenu

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How frustrating for you!

I absolutely agree with Jeta that very frequent water changes with Prime water conditioner are necessary. He's given you good advice. The only thing I would say is not to waste your money on TSS at this point. I used it, and love the product, but it dies if a tank has more than 1.0ppm ammonia in it, so it won't survive your tank.

I assume that you weren't changing your water enough, and also that you are probably overfeeding a lot for the ammonia to have creeped up that much. Four danios, and oto, and a betta would not cause that sort of an ammonia issue. Only feed what your fish finish in 1-2 minutes with no leftover food at the bottom of the tank once a day.

There are some issues with your stock (bettas and danios aren't compatible, and danios and otos need schools), but we can deal with that after we get your ammonia under control.

Welcome to fishlore, Dana.

PS: Ken, thanks for fixing the post. If it was a gigantic block of textspeak, I probably wouldn't have read it.
 

MindTravel3r

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DanaK said:
Then I got 2 Platies. They ate an entire plant an made a lot of waste. I had to get rid of them and gave them to a friend. But my ammonia problems started there with all of the waste. I was using StressZyme to add live bacteria to the tank to help with Cycling and using AmmoLock to keep the water from being poisonous to the fish. By then my Ammonia levels had sky rocketed and all of the fish died...
I agree that the high ammonia and low pH are most likely the cause of the cycle not moving. I also agree that the water changes that Jetajockey advises is the correct course of action. However, if I am reading this correctly, all of the fish have died, and therefore there are no fish left in the tank. If this is correct, you should consider completing the cycle using the fishless cycling method:



If this is the case, and you choose to do a fishless cycle, I would stop the water changes once your ammonia came down to about 2-3 ppm which is a good starting point for a fishless cycle.

Finally, it is my understanding that C02 will lower your pH. I don't have experience with C02 yet, so I couldn't advise on how to make adjustments there, but that could certainly be part of the low pH issue.

I hope this helps.
 

Meenu

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David, her aquarium info has fish listed. Now I'm confused.
 

jetajockey

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I thought the tank was empty also but her last 2 paragraphs tells me it isn't, hence why I advised the way I did.
 

MindTravel3r

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Looks like that got by me. After rereading the last couple of paragraphs, I agree, looks like there are fish. Jetajockey's course is correct. Please disregard my comments regarding fishless cycle.

Sorry for any confusion.
 
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DanaK

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Yes, I do have fish. I have 4 Zebra Danios, 1 oto catfish, 1 female betta. They don't seem to be affected by the high ammonia at all. After doing research I assume it is because the ph is so low, that it is not toxic to them at this point in time. Will low ph keep the tank from cycling, or cycling at a normal rate?

I did a big water change yesterday. I have CO2 in the tank for the plants. I did not realize that hat would cause the pH to drop too. The water in my apartment that I use in the tank is very alkaline, so frequent changes (50% every day as recommended) should bring it up a little. But if not, I did get some pHup from the store to use.

After the water change I did yesterday (also did a good gravel vacuuming too) I tested the ammonia. Still very high (8ppm) It must have been so far off the scale that taking 50% of the water (and thus 50% of the ammonia) out it is still testing high. I will continue to do the water changes until the ammonia level is low enough to cycle. 2-3ppm is okay for the bacteria to live and start the cycling, right? Until then I am afraid to us the pHup. The ph being low is the only thing keeping the fish alive probably. Is it safe to raise the ph before the ammonia is down further? Or at what point should I lower it?

Thanks so much for your help! This is the only place where people know what they are talking about! I really appreciate all of the good advice.
 

Meenu

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I would strongly encourage you to not use chemicals to alter your pH. Here's a link with some stuff explaining why:

I think you need to just do a 90% water change today. Get all that biolt-up ammonia out of your tank. And test your water 24 hours after you change the water; the readings aren't accurate right after.
 

jetajockey

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DanaK said:
Yes, I do have fish. I have 4 Zebra Danios, 1 oto catfish, 1 female betta. They don't seem to be affected by the high ammonia at all. After doing research I assume it is because the ph is so low, that it is not toxic to them at this point in time. Will low ph keep the tank from cycling, or cycling at a normal rate?
Yes a low pH will inhibits bacteria growth. They seem to do best a bit over 7 ( i think its 7.2 but i'm not exact). Even with a 6.0 PH, your fish can still suffer long term damage from ammonia levels, so its best to get the ammonia level down asap.
I did a big water change yesterday. I have CO2 in the tank for the plants. I did not realize that hat would cause the pH to drop too. The water in my apartment that I use in the tank is very alkaline, so frequent changes (50% every day as recommended) should bring it up a little. But if not, I did get some pHup from the store to use.
I totally agree with meenu here, do not use any buffering chemicals. See if you can return the bottle. I would see if the driftwood is causing the low PH, just take it out for a while and see what happens.
After the water change I did yesterday (also did a good gravel vacuuming too) I tested the ammonia. Still very high (8ppm) It must have been so far off the scale that taking 50% of the water (and thus 50% of the ammonia) out it is still testing high. I will continue to do the water changes until the ammonia level is low enough to cycle. 2-3ppm is okay for the bacteria to live and start the cycling, right?
Yes it sounds like ammonia levels were off the charts. 2-3ppm is okay for bacteria to live, but not okay for fish to live. Prolonged exposure to 2-3ppm of ammonia, even at 6.0 ph, is detrimental to fish, and if you get your PH issue worked out and it raises up then they will likely be very damaged in the process.

Until then I am afraid to us the pHup. The ph being low is the only thing keeping the fish alive probably. Is it safe to raise the ph before the ammonia is down further? Or at what point should I lower it?
Like I said before, only adjust the PH in natural ways, it is much easier and safer to control this way. DEFINITELY get your ammonia levels down to below 1.0 before getting that pH level up.

I personally would do 50% water changes, twice a day ( one morning one night) until the ammonia level is next to nothing. I would not do a huge water change because I wouldn't want to shock the fish. They have been acclimated to an environment with high levels of ammonia (ammonium), it's a good idea to make their acclimation out of that a gradual one.
 
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Ok. That is all very good advice. ill let you know how the situation progresses. I di another 50% change yesterday. The levels of ammonia are coming down. The test I did made it look like the ammonia was down between 1 and 2 ppm. But, as I just learned from Meenu, that was probably not accurate since I tested right after the change. I'll have to test again when I get home. The ph has come up too. The water out of the tap is about 7.6 on the pH scale. It will probably continue to come up (fingers crossed).


I saw in the store yesterday a product made by the same company that makes Amquel and white powder in a jar that says it will raise low pH to 7 and lower high pH to 7. Have any of you used that? I can't remember what it was called. I didn't buy it though. I looked at the links you guys provided, but it didn't say why it is bad to alter the pH chemically. Can anyone be more specific?

Thanks!
 

Meenu

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It is natural for pH to fluctuate in a cycling tank. I would not add any buffering agents, liquid or powder, to the tank. They adjust the pH too quickly, and can cause tanks to crash. We've seen people who lost all their fish that way in the past, although it's been a while since I've seen anyone say that. I think this is because we tell people not to use the stuff.

Your pH will fluctuate until cycling is complete. It drops naturally over time, so the best way to keep the pH from dropping too low is frequent, regular water changes. I do about 75% weekly, although that's more than most members.
 

ivan.tsary

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Newbie question... wouldn't adding Java moss or other live plants from a established tank help bolster the Ammonia processing abilities and balance the tank?
 

Meenu

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I don't know a lot about it, since I don't have plants, but yes, I think plants help along the cycling process.
 

claudicles

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Adding plants doesn't actually speed cycling The plants will use the ammonia as food to grow but it means you plants will grow instead of the BB. The end is the same, lower ammonia, but it is not actually via the cycle you are tryng to promote. There is no problem with this if you are planning to keep your tank planted as you will need a smaller amount of BB in the long run.

i don't think I explained that very well.
 

ivan.tsary

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Makes sense to me claudicles.
 
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DanaK

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Update: I've followed everyone's directions and advice. The tank is now cycling nicely. I think all of my troubles are almost over! Thanks again everyone.
 
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Tank is now fully cycled! Thanks!
 
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