Very high ammonia with Tetra Safestart!

Discussion in 'Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle' started by virtuoso735, Jul 24, 2015.

  1. virtuoso735New MemberMember

    Hi everyone,

    I set up a 20 gallon long tank last week and decided to do a fish-in cycle with Tetra Safestart since so many on fishlore have had success with the method. On Saturday, I set up the tank and used water conditioned with Prime. I waited a day, then added a large bottle of TSS (the one for 70 gallons) to my moderately planted 20 gallon long (Aquaclear 30 filter), then added 6 small glowlight tetras. I realize this is more fish than recommended, but I thought this would be okay since my tank is planted and the tetras are quite small. I have not used any Prime since then; I only used distilled water to top off. Today (5 days after adding TSS and the fish), I tested my water and the ammonia is 4-8 ppm! Nitrites are .5 ppm. Should I be worried? Are these just falsely high readings I'm getting for some reason? I tested the tap water and ammonia was 0. The fish are acting fine it seems; they're eating and are pretty active. Should I change the water? I know Tetra says I shouldn't for 2 weeks, but the ammonia is really high. Did I get a bad batch? Should I have gotten such high readings? Please help!

  2. Dom90Fishlore VIPMember

    Yes you'll have to do a water change, as those ammonia levels are very, very toxic for fish. Do a 75% water change and get a bottle of Seachem Stability.
  3. junebugFishlore LegendMember

    The only way the ammonia would get that high in a tank with so few fish with so small a bioload is if you're overfeeding pretty badly, or if your tap water has ammonia or chloramines in it. Or the test was wrong. :)

    Just for future reference, it's not generally a good idea to test water during a TSS cycle unless something appears wrong with the fish.
  4. ClearEyesWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome to Fishlore!

    What are you using to test your water? The API liquid test is most recommended around these parts. If you're using test strips, who knows what your actual readings are.
  5. alinkWell Known MemberMember

    This is exactly why they say dont test your water during cycling with TSS+ unless there is a visual reason that you should (flashing, red gills, odd behavior, etc). The readings you get will drive you nuts thinking you need to do something. I would not touch it yet. Give it until at least day 10 before water change unless something (mentioned above) happens to the fish.
  6. crystalm04Valued MemberMember

    I agree with Dom90. I'm cycling a tank right now with fish using Seachem Stability. The good thing about Seachem Stability is that you can do a water change if ammonia gets too high for fish or they start acting funny and then just double dose. As for TSS I heard you aren't supposed to do water changes for 2 weeks. Good luck to you.
  7. virtuoso735New MemberMember

    I may be overfeeding. My fish aren't really eating the NLS pellets I've been feeding them but I've been trying every day, so some has been accumulating. However, I tried frozen brine shrimp yesterday and they went at it like sharks! So it seems like the fish are okay.

    I'm using the API test kit. I assume that it's accurate.

    I heard 1-2 ppm ammonia was normal, but I got something that looked like 4-8 ppm! That's why I'm worried. :( The fish seem fine. I read that TSS has a form of ammonia in it that shows up on the tests but doesn't affect fish; is that why it's so high?

    How would I use Seachem stability in my situation?
  8. Dom90Fishlore VIPMember

    Well, you would need to get the ammonia downs to levels that are more manageable, between 2-4 ppm. That way, the bacteria that's inside the bottle of Stability wont die off from the high ammonia levels. Then I would follow the dosing instructions on the bottle. I have cycled quite a few tanks recently and in the past using Seachem Stability.
  9. tyguy7760Fishlore VIPMember

    If the fish seem fine, I would be hesitant to do anything yet. The fact that you put enough TSS+ for 70 gallons in a 20 gallon could be the reason for your high ammonia. But you are correct that the ammonia in TSS+ is designed to feed the bacteria and not harm the fish. Also you should only be feeding the fish sparingly during cycling. I know they are cute and you want to feed them but the BB is not built up yet to take on your extra food.

    I wouldn't panic yet
  10. alinkWell Known MemberMember

    I would hold off on trying another method of cycling (Stability) until you have determined this will not work. As long as your fish are doing fine, leave it alone, no tests, no water changes until day 14. If you have problems with the fish, then you would have to do like Dom90 said and almost start over with a very large water change to remove the ammonia.

    Don't give up on the TSS yet though. You did it the process correctly and it should work. Only thing I would change is your feeding. Reduce the amount you feed and only feed once a day. It is a lot easier to overfeed than underfeed. Fish can go many days, some even up to 2 weeks with no food, they dont need 2-3 large feedings a day. Fish food manufacturers say that so you use more food have to buy more.
  11. crystalm04Valued MemberMember

    I would strongly suggest that you follow the great advice you have been given here already. My case in particular of why I chose to use stability over TSS is a whole other case of which I have a trial and errors thread started about. No one here will give you ill advice and if so someone would surely correct them. If your on day five of using TSS than you should probably stick it out and let it run its course. Unless of course if your fish start acting weird or start to die. My tank was fully stocked and that's why I chose to use stabilitly. Like I said that's on a whole other thread I started that your welcome to read about so you don't make the same mistakes I did. Good luck to you.
  12. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to FishLore!

    Have you tested your pH level? At a pH below 7.0 ammonia starts turning into ammonium. And as your pH approaches 6.0 all the ammonia in the tank has become ammonium.The good news is that ammonium is far less toxic than ammonia (some claim it is non toxic). The bad news is that ammonium is a terrible food source for the bacteria.

    So if your pH is anywhere in the low 6's, you may have starved out the SafeStart bacteria. A low pH could explain why you have such a high ammonia level and all your fish are still alive.

    But if your pH is above 7.0 and you feel confident your ammonia test results are accurate, I would do some water changes ASAP to get that ammonia down. Then if you wanted to try SafeStart again you could (24 hours after your last water change of course).

    Best of luck!
  13. KarenLMWell Known MemberMember

    IMO you should check your pH as mentioned above and if it is above 7.0 don't do anything until day 14 unless the fish start to act differently.

    Only feed the amount of food the fish completely finish in two minutes - and time it. Two minutes is shorter than you think.
  14. virtuoso735New MemberMember

    My pH is 7.8-8.0 according to the API test. My fish really do seem to be fine. No worrying behavior and when I fed them tonight they were eating voraciously. I made sure to feed only a little tonight. For now, I will just keep a close watch on the fish and check the parameters ago when I get to 14 days. I really hope everything works and will update the thread.
  15. KarenLMWell Known MemberMember

    Remember to only feed them once a day and a very small amount.
  16. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Ammonia levels that high could kill the SafeStart bacteria.
  17. KarenLMWell Known MemberMember

    SafeStart sometimes triggers false readings I've heard.
  18. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Ya know, I do not know that SafeStart causes a false ammonia reading. But I do know that SafeStart is a bottle of bacteria in a "stabilized ammonia" solution. I do not know what a "stabilized ammonia" solution is, but I do wonder if it registers on the ammonia test. I assume (but do not know) that this "stabilized ammonia" is not toxic to the fish.

    I've used Safestart several times with success, but I never test before the 14 days have elapsed.
  19. KarenLMWell Known MemberMember

    I do believe the stabilized ammonia will show a reading, but is a safe form. Thus we talk about a false reading.
  20. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Yeah, it would be nice if the next time a member used SafeStart , they tested their ammonia level a couple hours after adding the Safestart to see if there was an ammonia spike then posted the results.