Physically Impossible Ammonia Problem

gallopingmouse
  • #1
Advice, please... (If this post is in the wrong spot, I'm happy to move it)

I'm 2 weeks into cycling a 5g tank with one hardy fish & one snail. I feel like I understand the process pretty well & I don't think I'm making any major mistakes, but I'm having a really hard time just getting my ammonia down to a safe level even with frequent water changes. I'm adding Stability per the instructions to try to get my bacteria going (and am using Stress Coat & Ammonia lock per instructions to help protect the fish), still relatively high ammonia & no nitrite.

Fish is fed very lightly right now & eats everything, there's nothing in the tank which could possibly be rotting, etc. But even with generous water changes multiple times a day, I can barely get my ammonia below 1ppm. Filtration should be adequate & is working fine. Fish is happy & shows no sign of distress. I've tested my tap water & 0 ammonia there. Why am I getting so much ammonia? Is it just because the tank is so small? It seems physically impossible that the levels aren't coming down with that much water dilution. And I've successfully cycled this size tank with the same water before with no problems.

Any ideas are very welcome.
 
mattgirl
  • #2
I have to think it is the ammonia lock product you are using. By adding a product that locks up ammonia the bacteria can't process it. Products that lock up ammonia do have their place but that place isn't when we are trying to cycle our tanks.

The only time I would even consider using a product like that is if I had an ammonia spike and I absolutely could not do a water change right at that moment. I would make a point of doing the water change as quick as I could though to both lower the ammonia and get the product back out of there.

I do have to ask, what is your pH level?
 
gallopingmouse
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Interesting, it was my understanding that the Ammonia Lock still made the ammonia in the tank bio-available to bacteria, but if that's not true it would explain the problem.
The problem is that water changes alone aren't really keeping my ammonia at a safe level for the fish- I can keep it down to around 1 during the day, but overnight it'll spike up to 2.
My ph is high naturally out of my tap (~8), but it stays steady and the fish has always seemed perfectly happy. My temp is 78, so I believe that any ammonia over 1 would be dangerous for him.
Do you recommend I stop the Ammonia Lock & just hope I can keep it down enough until I get some bacteria going?
 
mattgirl
  • #4
Interesting, it was my understanding that the Ammonia Lock still made the ammonia in the tank bio-available to bacteria, but if that's not true it would explain the problem.
The problem is that water changes alone aren't really keeping my ammonia at a safe level for the fish- I can keep it down to around 1 during the day, but overnight it'll spike up to 2.
My ph is high naturally out of my tap (~8), but it stays steady and the fish has always seemed perfectly happy. My temp is 78, so I believe that any ammonia over 1 would be dangerous for him.
Do you recommend I stop the Ammonia Lock & just hope I can keep it down enough until I get some bacteria going?
I do highly recommend you stop adding the ammonia lock product. I will recommend you get a bottle of Seachem Prime. It is first and foremost a water conditioner but goes one step farther and detoxes low levels of ammonia. It doesn't lock it up so it is still available as food for your bacteria. It will still show up in the test but it will be in a safer form.

I agree, with a pH that high the ammonia in this tank can be dangerous for your fish. I truly do believe you will be able to control the ammonia level once you get all the ammonia lock product back out of this tank. I fear your cycle is struggling with its food locked up.
 
gallopingmouse
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Okay, I'll take your advice, thank you so much!
Should I continue to use the Seachem Stability with the Prime?
 
mattgirl
  • #6
Okay, I'll take your advice, thank you so much!
Should I continue to use the Seachem Stability with the Prime?
You are so very welcome. Yes, you can use the stability with Prime. Just follow the directions on the bottle of Prime. For a while you may still have to change out some water every day so you will be adding Prime daily. Add enough each time for the full volume of your tank. Once the tank is cycle you just need to add enough to treat the amount of water you are replacing but for now we want all the ammonia in the tank detoxed.

Let the ammonia level determine how much you need to change. If it is reading 1 change out 75% of the water and it will get it down to .25 Getting and keeping it that low should be your goal. Once you start seeing nitrites you want to keep the combined total of ammonia plus nitrites down below one. Getting an keeping the ammonia down now will make it easier to keep both down when the nitrites spike.
 
gallopingmouse
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Perfect. I was starting to think that this new tank was haunted, it's usually not a problem to keep my chemestry good...
Thanks again.
 
NellysDad
  • #8
Prime actually detoxifies ammonia too so you should be safe for up to 24-48hrs after each water change. I've done an emergency cycle with prime and it won't break your cycling process.

My water is quite alcaline, close to yours (pH is 8.2 straight out of the tap) so I'd be just as worried about nitrites as ammonia as it gets very toxic in such low pH.
 
mattgirl
  • #9
Perfect. I was starting to think that this new tank was haunted, it's usually not a problem to keep my chemestry good...
Thanks again.
Please let me know how things are going. If you have more questions I will be happy to try to answer them.
 
gallopingmouse
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
NellysDad,
I'm about to pick some up & hoping to get things going in the right direction. I'm testing obsessively now, but typically I don't have a problem with ammonia or nitrate even at that high pH, just with this new tank since I've bungled my cycle. Fortunately PorkChop the fish doesn't seem to care so far, but I do worry about the little dude.
 
mattgirl
  • #11
I do have to ask. Do you have other tanks that are already cycled?
 
gallopingmouse
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
I don't...I'm doing my best to avoid the multiple and/or larger tanks rabbit hole right now. I would try to get some bio material from my pet store, but their tanks look sketchy so I don't want to introduce whatever they may have into mine.
 
mattgirl
  • #13
Gotcha. I agree, it is probably not a good idea to take a chance.
 
Donthemon
  • #14
What type of fish and what test kit are you using?
 
gallopingmouse
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
RayClem
  • #16
In an aquarium, ammonia can exist in two forms. At low pH levels, below 7.0, the ammonia will exist primarily as ammonium ion, which is undesirable, but a lot less toxic than ammonia. At pH levels slightly above 7.0, there will be a balance of ammonium ion and ammonia. Once the pH is above 7.5, most of the ammonia will exist in the ammonia state which is quite toxic.

Do you know what your water supplier uses to treat your tap water. In my community, they use chloramine, which is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. Thus, if I use tap water for water changes, I am adding ammonia to the tank each time I add water. Water conditioners use sodium thiosulfate to break the chloramine bond and then break down the chlorine to chloride ion. However, they do not remove the ammonia. I suggest you check with your water supplier to see what they use to disinfect the water.

If your water contains chloramine, you can use zeolites to abnsorb the ammonia before adding the water to your tank. During the cycling process, adding zeolites to the filter in your tank will only slow down the growth of beneficial bacteria. If you are adding ammonia to your tank with each water change, you will never get the levels down where you want them.

Also, does your tank have suitable surface area for colonizing the bacteria. Using a sponge filter or ceramic biomedia will provide the area necessary for the bacteria to grow. If you are using an internal cartridge filter or an external HOB filter with a cartridge, you might need more surface area. Also remember that if you change out a filter cartridge, you are removing any beneficial bacteria it might contain.
 
gallopingmouse
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
RayClem,
I can look into my water source, but I've not had trouble keeping my ammonia at 0 prior to cycling this new tank, so I doubt it's my water. I'm hopeful that mattgirl nailed it and the Ammonia Lock was the problem, should find out soon. Thank you for taking the time to reply!
 
RayClem
  • #18
RayClem,
I can look into my water source, but I've not had trouble keeping my ammonia at 0 prior to cycling this new tank, so I doubt it's my water. I'm hopeful that mattgirl nailed it and the Ammonia Lock was the problem, should find out soon. Thank you for taking the time to reply!

Although most localities still treat with chlorine, more and more are adding ammonia. Thus, it does not hurt to check. My municipality lists the water tests results online at least once a year, so all I had to do was look it up.
 

Similar Aquarium Threads

Replies
10
Views
72
StarGirl
Replies
11
Views
216
jamesde
Replies
39
Views
3K
Inactive User
Replies
21
Views
4K
mattgirl
Replies
8
Views
459
Azedenkae
Top Bottom