NH3 only test

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COBettaCouple

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Does anyone know of a testing kit that has a test for just NH3 and not NH3/NH4+ combined?
 

Luniyn

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The Ammonia one out of the 2 will do it. Seachem is the only company that I have seen that does it. Here is the info from their site. It seems it has both test kits included so it can do just NH3 and both NH3/NH4+, but it's the only way I see it sold.
 
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COBettaCouple

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Luniyn said:
The Ammonia one out of the 2 will do it. Seachem is the only company that I have seen that does it. Here is the info from their site. It seems it has both test kits included so it can do just NH3 and both NH3/NH4+, but it's the only way I see it sold.
Thanks, that kit does look like what I want. It's not as easy/convienient as the API test but will keep us better apprised of the free ammonia and help us track down & eliminate any causes that come up.
 

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No problem. By the way, don't bother with Seachem's in tank monitor card thingy. I saw one at my local pet store and gave it a try. I think it might have been out in the store light too long as it never changed. And I know I have ammonia in my tank as it's still in the beginning of the cycle process. Besides the API master kit has never failed me for testing yet, and I use Seachem's Prime in my water which gets rid of the free ammonia before I even add the water to my tank anyway. So I didn't find much use for it.
 

Terry

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Luniyn said:
No problem. By the way, don't bother with Seachem's in tank monitor card thingy. I saw one at my local pet store and gave it a try. I think it might have been out in the store light too long as it never changed. And I know I have ammonia in my tank as it's still in the beginning of the cycle process. Besides the API master kit has never failed me for testing yet, and I use Seachem's Prime in my water which gets rid of the free ammonia before I even add the water to my tank anyway. So I didn't find much use for it.
If you've ever added Prime, AmmoLock, Amquel, etc. to a tank to detoxify existing high levels of ammonia the Seachem test does come in handy. Unlike free ammonia, that bound ammonia formed by Prime, etc. can take weeks to be converted by bacteria. It really confused me on the last tank I cycled - I added AmmoLock & Prime to tie up 2-3ppm ammonia & save my cycling fish, and after a while I still had 2-3 ppm ammonia in the API test, but no nitrites and 40ppm nitrates. When I got the Seachem test it showed 0 free ammonia, and I knew the tank had cycled.

The second part of the Seachem test confirmed the same 2-3 ppm total amount of ammonia indicated by the API test . It took 2 more weeks till my total ammonia registered zero though. That second solution you add in the API test raises the pH to 12, and releases any bound ammonia, so it really measures total ammonia, not free ammonia. If you have no free ammonia in the tank and use Prime that's fine - it won't upset the API test. And if an API test shows no ammonia, then there is indeed none of either type. But, it's rare to get ammonia in tap water - do you really have ammonia in your tap water?

That in tank thing might have been accurate as it measures only free ammonia, not total ammonia - It could be that your addition of Prime has tied up all your free ammonia in your tank, and you have none. But the API test may say that you do have ammonia. Are you seeing any nitrites yet? Any nitrates? Be careful you don't bind up all of your free ammonia during cycling or you'll have no "easy" food for the bacteria, and it will increase the cycle time trying to get bacteria established with that harder to digest bound ammonia (ammonium).

If you're fishless cycling I wouldn't recommend adding any Prime to the tap water till the cycle is completed. In fishless cycling you want that ammonia free.
 

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Terry said:
If you've ever added Prime, AmmoLock, Amquel, etc. to a tank to detoxify existing high levels of ammonia the Seachem test does come in handy. Unlike free ammonia, that bound ammonia formed by Prime, etc. can take weeks to be converted by bacteria.
In everything that I have read, this is not true. In fact unless you are forcing all of the NH3 (free ammonia) to become NH4+ (ionized ammonia), most of the ammonia in your tank is already NH4+. The difference is only that NH3 is a dissolved gaseous form that can easily pass through the fishes gills getting into it's system. The NH4+, however, can not exist as a gas and so it can't get into their systems and is thus considered to be non-toxic. Although at high concentrations NH4+ can burn the fish like acid, so it's still not good to have a lot in your tank.

The term "free ammonia" is a misnomer and doesn't mean that it is any easier for the good bacteria to eat. The proper term would really be "un-ionized ammonia" and all it means is that it is ammonia that is floating around looking for another hydrogen atom to bond with. All Amquel+ or Prime does is gives it that extra H converting it from NH3 to NH4+. In fact without using Amquel+ or Prime or anything along those lines in your tank, you will always have a balance of NH3 and NH4+ in your tank. The amount of NH3 is determined by the Ph and the temperature of your tank. In a tank with a total amount of ammonia reading 1.0, with a Ph of 7.0 and at a constant temperature of 78F, 0.0059ppm of that 1.0 reading is NH3 while the rest is NH4+. In that same 1.0 total ammonia reading at a Ph of 8.0 and at a constant temperature of 78F, 0.0558ppm of that 1.0 reading is NH3 with the rest being NH4+. This is why Ph is important because as you can see, at a higher level of Ph you will have more toxic ammonia in your tank at any given time. Someone with a high Ph really needs to use a Amquel+ or Prime type product in order to force all of the ammonia to be NH4+. However, all of this has nothing to do with the speed at which the nitrifying bacteria convert either NH3 or NH4+ to nitrite. Thus your tank was not fully cycled just because you didn't have any free ammonia in your tank, it was simply safer for the fish. Only when your API kit read 0 total ammonia was your tank fully cycled.


Terry said:
But, it's rare to get ammonia in tap water - do you really have ammonia in your tap water?
Actually it's not as rare as you might think. Chloramine is simply chlorine mixed with ammonia, so if your tap water has chloramines in it then you have ammonia in your tap water. In fact if you only use AquaSafe, NovAqua+, or other products that only remove chlorine, then you will notice they say that they break down chloramines. They do not get rid of chloramines, they only break apart the bond of the chlorine and ammonia. Then they remove the chlorine but leave.... ammonia. So if you have chloramines in your tap water (which more and more cities are switching over to using over plain chlorine every day) then by using anything but Amquel+ or Prime (or other related products) you are only adding more ammonia to your water with each water change.

As for that test card I was referring to, I didn't find it very useful as it never changed from the store bought color over to the "Safe" color. I may have just been too old as I did give it 4 days in the tank before I took it back to the store. But in any event, I subsequently started to use Prime and don't have to worry about it anyway. That's the only reason I felt it wasn't all that great of a tool.
 

Terry

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Hi. Thanks for the comments. It sounds like I've read everything you have - probably at the same sites LOL. And I know the form of ammonia at low pH (less toxic) is different than that at neutral & alkaline pH. I was simply trying to say that, as you can read in the fine print in the API instructions, or on the Seachem Prime site (for their test kit), those ammonia "detoxifiers", including Prime, CAN affect your API test result and mislead a person into thinking that they need to add more Prime to protect their fish, when they no longer have any of the toxic form left in the water. Ionizied or not ionized, the API test gives the total of both. That's why I went with the Seachem test.

And i know most of us have chloramines (chlorine/ammonia compound) in our water. I've even read some things recently that we don't even have to worry about treating for the chloramines - just the chlorine, as the bacteria will break down chloramine anyway, and that the amount of Cl released wasn't enough to worry about. But, I'll keep treating my water to be safe, and I use Prime even though it's overkill, and thiosulfate would be sufficient based on the newest research I've read about chloramines. By the way, if you want to get really technical, if you have chloramine in your water - you have an ammonia/chlorine compound - not actual ammonia. It doesn't become ammonia till you actually break the chloramine bond.

Can you tell me the reaction by which Prime, etc., detoxifies ammonia? What is the end product of that reaction? From experience whatever the resulting compound is, it takes a long time to be consumed by my bacteria. I'm not trying to put you on the spot, but I've asked that in a few other forums & never got an answer & I'd like to know.
 

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I'm not sure even Seachem knows how it works... lol. If you look at their FAQ on Prime, at the bottom it says that they didn't even know that Prime would detoxify nitrite and nitrates. It was only after getting tons of reports from users that they found out that it does. However, it's my understanding that it binds it as a by-product that is equally digestible by the bacteria. The one thing that I did find was about the original Amquel (not the plus version) and how it got rid of the ammonia (which is found here). They aren't talking about the Plus version as it's not patented yet, but they say it works in much of the same way.

As for the chloramines, yes it is a compound of ammonia and chlorine, however, just like chlorine (though at a much slower rate) it will eventually remove itself from water. During this process it's possible for the compound to become unstable and allow the chlorine to burn off while the ammonia remains. This will result in a positive ammonia test right out of the tap. Also due to all of the other chemicals that are in our "fresh" water supply, just like using Amquel+ or Prime, it is possible that certain chemicals are combining to break the chloramine bond and the result is free ammonia out of the tap. Messed up I know, but definitely a reason to get bottled water!

EDIT: Fixed link to Amquel FAQ
 

Terry

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Luniyn said:
I'm not sure even Seachem knows how it works... lol. If you look at their FAQ on Prime, at the bottom it says that they didn't even know that Prime would detoxify nitrite and nitrates. It was only after getting tons of reports from users that they found out that it does. However, it's my understanding that it binds it as a by-product that is equally digestible by the bacteria. The one thing that I did find was about the original Amquel (not the plus version) and how it got rid of the ammonia ([urlhttp://www.novalek.com/kordon/amquel/howamquelworks.htm]which is found here[/url]). They aren't talking about the Plus version as it's not patented yet, but they say it works in much of the same way.

As for the chloramines, yes it is a compound of ammonia and chlorine, however, just like chlorine (though at a much slower rate) it will eventually remove itself from water. During this process it's possible for the compound to become unstable and allow the chlorine to burn off while the ammonia remains. This will result in a positive ammonia test right out of the tap. Also due to all of the other chemicals that are in our "fresh" water supply, just like using Amquel+ or Prime, it is possible that certain chemicals are combining to break the chloramine bond and the result is free ammonia out of the tap. Messed up I know, but definitely a reason to get bottled water!
I don't think anyone really has all the answers as to what's going on! I guess they just know some things work. I always wondered about the claim on prime that it can detoxify nitrites by adding an overdose of Prime (5 times as much dosage I think?). How does it do that? I guess SeaChem doesn't even know. I just hate adding a lot of things to the tank if I don't know what they're doing (or possible side effects). If I can find that recent info. on the chloramines I'll post it in here.
 

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can i just say how informative this thread is! its brilliant! just wondering though, how do you know when you start getting chloramine in your tap water? i checked the most recent water report from the water authority when i got my first tank and it said they use chlorine, not chloramine. can they just change over one day and not tell us? i use "nutrafin aqua plus" which tackles both so its no major concern. just curious (as always!)! is it true the reason they use chloramine rather than chlorine is because chloramine is a more stable compound, so easier for them to work with, but some use chlorine cos its cheaper? also, isnt chlorine a gas at room temp, so thats how its eliminated when the chlorine and ammonia is split....it'll just gas out? (gas will rise up and out of liquid) also air stones would surely help push it out of the water? just thinking out loud? dont some people just leave their tap water to stand over night to allow the chlorine to leave the water? (i personally dont trust this method and it would take far too long for my liking, so i'll stick with my chemical method!) so from that i could assume chlorine can separate itself from the water?
by the way, i heard that ammonia is ammonium at pH under 7 and less toxic. over 7 and its toxic ammonia. my pH was 7.4 and ammonia was causing red gills at just 0.5ppm, looking really really bad at 1.0ppm (using the api test kit). i couldnt figure out at first why other people had ammonia of 4ppm and no ill effects to their fish, but they had low pH. i soon learnt pH must be taken into account whn assessing the toxicity to fish!!
anyway, i'm starting to ramble! i am enjoying this thread loads though.....i've learnt alot! thanks!!! tan
 

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tan.b said:
...how do you know when you start getting chloramine in your tap water?...can they just change over one day and not tell us?
Yep... well at least they can here in the US, not sure if they have restrictions in other parts of the world. And yes as you said they use chloramine because it's more stable, in other words it wont just go away if you leave a bucket out for 24 hour like chlorine will. It will eventually degrade though and that is why you can find ammonia in your tap water, because the bond between the chlorine and ammonia broke up. Either naturally or because of the introduction of another chemical that was more attractive to one the chlorine part of the compound. So it split apart to join that other chemical leaving the ammonia all by itself. The best way to find out if you have it in your tap is to test for ammonia right out of your tap. If you get a positive reading then you have something contributing to it.

tan.b said:
i use "nutrafin aqua plus" which tackles both so its no major concern.
I found very little info about aqua plus other then it says it gets rid of chlorine and chloramines. The only question I have about that is how? They don't mention getting rid of ammonia, so how do they "get rid of chloramines" without dealing with the ammonia? They may simply be breaking the bond of chloramine which makes it chlorine and ammonia separate. Yes that is in fact "getting rid of the chloramines" but then it will only deal with the chlorine and not touch the ammonia. I'm not saying that it's not working as they state, it's just that I'm leery about their wording. Also it says it has a "sedative effect" to help against stress, that also bothers me a bit as it sounds like they are drugging the fish. I'm not sure if Prime or Amquel+ is available in the UK, but I have heard of another called "Safe Guard" from a company called King British, that does mention getting rid of the ammonia after breaking up the chloramines. Not saying go out and buy it, but just voicing a concern. If the bottle you have says something different then the very little I could find on the web then that is a different story.
 

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I guess you need to ask you water company for that information. I've heard they use higher levels of chloramine in my area after heavy rains - maybe due to runoff, I don't know. There are different forms of Chlorine. I'm going to paste part of a thread from another forum, mostly from a person named Bignose. I hate to advertise other forums but if anyone wants the link to the post let me know. The topic was originally "Where does bacteria come from?", meaning where does the kind we want in our tanks come from? The thread got into a lot of depth (and got a little heated at times!), here's part of it, a part about chloramine and chlorine:

"Actually, it is becoming quite a problem today about chloramine resistant oxidizing bacteria. The problem is that the bacteria strains, the same ones we culture in our fishtanks, are able to take the amine part (ammonia) off the choramine and use it as an energy source. Exactly how they use the ammonia in our fishtanks. The real problem with these is that ammonia are then neutralizing the chloramine that should be used to kill E. coli and all the other nasties that we really do want killed in our water. And you can't just use more chloramine since that is just more food for those resistant strains. One study I read said that in the year-long study, over 60% of chloramine using water companies in the US and Australia had problems with oxidizing bacteria.

So, if your water company uses chloramine, guess what strains probably ended up in your tank? The resistant ones from the water company. Otherwise, there are bacteria pretty much everywhere. No treatment process at the plant will be 100% effective. These oxidizing bacteria are in every bit of water everywhere. Unless you keep a room like the clean room Intel uses to make microchips, life is going to find a way to get into pretty much any water anywhere.
The chlorine that is left after the oxidizing bacteria take ammonia off it isn't the same as chlorine gas. Firstly, chlorine gas, Cl_2, will dissolve as Cl_2, unlike table salt, ClNa, which will dissolve into its constituent ions, Cl- and Na+. Chlorine gas remains Cl_2 in the water, and that form is the killer. In Cl- form, it is pretty much harmless. When the oxidizing bacteria do their thing, it leaves a Cl-, not Cl_2. So again, pretty harmless. Secondly, just like using regular chlorine gas, some of the remaining pure chlorine can dissolve out of the water. Back when water companies were only using chlorine gas, there were no such things a water conditioners, everyone knew to just let the buckets sit out 1-2 days and the chlorine gas would dissipate.

Re: "But in that case, doesn't that mean that our bacteria colonies would also be resistant to them. So, in theory, we could use straight tap water without dechlorinator and not do any harm to the colony if they have developed that resistance." Yes, that is exactly what that means. In fact, it was thread a few months ago discussing how water conditioners are unneeded which prompted me to look up the scientific papers that discussed the problems water companies are having today. I will admit that I was skeptical at first too, but many researchers have reported on this today, and I trust their expertise over mine (which is pretty much zero). The person in discussion in this thread has been using non-conditioned chloraminated water for over a year and had no problems whatsoever. While the practice is sound, I still feel better about putting 10 cents of conditioner in with my water changes... it is so cheap I figure I'd rather be safe than sorry.

It still takes a long time to cycle since "problem" is an ambiguous term. The water companies would be worried about a concentration of 1-1000 bacteria per liter. But only 1000 bacteria/L would be an insignificant amount compared to the millions needed to process the ammonia in a fishtank. Cycling is also slow since the oxidizng bacteria are the old man/Sunday drivers of the bacteria world. The average bacteria species, given adequate resources (food, light, water, whatever it needs, etc.), doubled roughly every 4 hours or so. I think that the current record is one species that hits about 10 mins. But, 4 hours is typical. The oxidizing bacteria in fishtanks take 20-30 hours to double. LIke I said, the old man drivers of the bacteria world. So, to get to the millions takes a lot longer than other bacteria species. And, when you only have 1000 or so to start with...

The big thing, rdd, is that oxidizing bacteria is in all water, everywhere. Again, it may be just a tiny amount tens per liter or thing on that order, but there are some in all water. And, no process can kill 100% of all bacteria. The goal is just to get the bacterial levels down to safe, not 100% clean. So, some bacteria come in with every single drop of water in the house. The bacteria also are small and light enough that they can ride droplets of water in the air. Again, each droplet in the air is not swarming with bacteria, many probably don't have much at all, but a few here or there. Many of the bacteria starve, since if they don't find ammonia within that 20-30 hours window, they will die. But, a rare few will survive, and come in with tap water, come in riding a droplet in the air, etc. Or, much more succinctly, "everywhere". I am sorry if that answer is unsatisfactory to you, but it really is accurate. I don't think that anyone in the scientific world is looking for one specific source of bacteria, since they all understand how there are many different sources. For that matter, I am not sure how you would go about looking for the source of bacteria, anyway, since it is not like you can follow one around like a wild bird or dog or something. You can't tag them and follow their day to day travels like they do with populations of birds or giraffes or anything they want to study."

I never did get Bignose's source on his information.
 

Luniyn

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Terry said:
While the practice is sound, I still feel better about putting 10 cents of conditioner in with my water changes... it is so cheap I figure I'd rather be safe than sorry.
LOL... and that's the bottom line of this entire thread! ;D
 

tan.b

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WOW!!! glad i didnt ask on that forum!!! very informative though! ;D
well, as you guys said, for the sake of a few pence, and my piece of mind, i'll keep adding my de-chlorinator too!! dare i even ask whether rainwater is suitable as that should have loads of bacteria and no chlorine? does it carry pathogenic bacteria though?
tan
 

Luniyn

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Rain water is a toss up. It may not have chlorine, but it may be acid rain. Also it tends to be very soft water, so it can be hard to keep it at a steady Ph as it doesn't have much of a buffer. You are probably better off with the tap water .
 

Terry

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tan.b said:
WOW!!! glad i didnt ask on that forum!!! very informative though! ;D
well, as you guys said, for the sake of a few pence, and my piece of mind, i'll keep adding my de-chlorinator too!! dare i even ask whether rainwater is suitable as that should have loads of bacteria and no chlorine? does it carry pathogenic bacteria though?
tan
I wouldn't count on the rain water as a good source of bacteria - at least not the kind we want. In that quote I posted I think the gentleman was guessing on that one. Since bacteria are everywhere in the air, no doubt some land on a rain drop, but I have my doubts they're the type of nitrifying bacteria we want in our tanks. There was also a heated discussion in that thread (which I got involved in LOL) where someone said it would be good to throw soil in the tank as soil has a ton of nitrifying bacteria. I have no doubt it does, but again - it's not the kind we want. If it was that easy there would be no need for products like Bio-Spira, Bio Zyme, etc. Based on the above quoted information, tap water may be the best source of the bacteria we want, but very few get through the water treatment plants, and they multilpy very slowly. Anyway, I'm WAY off topic now!

In answer to your question on pathogenic bacteria in rainwater, consider this - if there are any, they would be picked up from the air by the rain, and would be in the air that we're all breathing anyway. So, probably no higher incidence of anything pathogenic than in the air that we breathe (and the dust that falls out of the air into your tank). I wouldn't worry about it unless you store rainwater in a container outside - I'm not sure what could end up growing in there. Anyway. off topic again.
 

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I live in South Florida, and even swimming pools that aren't highly, highly chlorinated will become green. There is a near me that has all outdoor ponds for their fish. If you take a look at the link there, look at the top left photo and you can see how green their ponds are. Besides the fact they show people handling the fish, I just couldn't trust any fish I bought there (not that I have... scared to) without a quarantine tank. I can only imagine the things those fish are exposed to simply from rain water or whatever else might fall into the ponds. The only way I would think of using rain water down here is if I chlorinated it to clean it out... which pretty much makes it tap water that isn't as easy to come by.
 

tan.b

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that all makes sense! - who put soil in their tank?!! that can contain pathogenic bugs like toxoplasmosis for one and tetanus for another! and how long would it be for your water to clear? and every water change would stir it up. yuk! re: ponds, i'm in 2 minds about these. i figure if the fish are doing well in them then there's probably a survival of the fittest goin on, so only the hardier fish survive and breed, whereas the aquarium scenario will have most fish survive even those that are deformed or weakened in any way, so if you bought from a pond they're probably quite hardy and will def survive in an aquarium and they'd be used to temp fluctuations etc so should acclimate quite well. however the other side of the arguement is that the stress the fish are exposed every day will have long term health implications and may live a shorter life, but then again this is the closest to simulating the wild environment where the fish came from in the first place and did well for thousands of years! the algae is often an additional food source for fish and does them no harm at all. it is just unsightly.
anyway, this has nowt to do with nh3 so i'm way off topic too!! ooops!
tan
 
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