Will the good bacteria die at high ammonia levels? Question 

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NMfishman

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so if you have a filter that has been well cycled and has lots of the good kinds of bacteria will subjecting that filter to water that has very high ammonia levels like say 10+ ppm kill the bacteria? Eventually will some other type of bacteria that likes the high ammonia start to grow and lower the ammonia levels? Does it matter if it is ammonium (NH4+) instead of ammonia (NH3)?

Thanks!
 

toosie

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Are there fish in this tank? If there are, it is imperative to do vast, multiple, consecutive water changes to bring ammonia levels down, even before you consider introducing a cycled filter media. Yes, this high of an ammonia level can harm developed bacteria.

Once levels have been brought down to under 1 ppm, (closer to .25 would be far better) then the cycled filter media, and a product such as Seachem Prime or Kordon Amquel+ can be used to detoxify the remaining toxins, and the filter will be able to work on the conversion process.

If this is an unoccupied tank, it's some what of a different story.
 
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NMfishman

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toosie said:
Are there fish in this tank? If there are, it is imperative to do vast, multiple, consecutive water changes to bring ammonia levels down, even before you consider introducing a cycled filter media. Yes, this high of an ammonia level can harm developed bacteria.

Once levels have been brought down to under 1 ppm, (closer to .25 would be far better) then the cycled filter media, and a product such as Seachem Prime or Kordon Amquel+ can be used to detoxify the remaining toxins, and the filter will be able to work on the conversion process.

If this is an unoccupied tank, it's some what of a different story.
no worries, this is a fish-less tank. I use it for running experiment and this is my latest one.
 

toosie

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LOL.. That is very good to know!

Well then, pH controls whether ammonia stays as ammonia or if a good portion of it (not all of it) converts to the less toxic form of ammonium. A pH of 7 and above = ammonia, below 7 a portion of it converts to ammonium.

When ammonia gets too toxic, the cycle can stall, often resulting in a damaged bacterial colony.

pH plays other parts in developing the bacteria that is responsible for the conversion process. Beneficial bacteria like a pH of (somebody correct me if I get this wrong) 7.8 to about 8.4 This pH is where their development is at it's best. A pH of 6.0 and lower can slow and then stop the bacterial development

Temperature of 82F - 90F can help the development of bacteria as well. So does extra oxygen.

But, (I like starting sentences with but, much to the dismay of my English teacher) I don't believe that another bacteria kicks in to convert exceedingly high levels of ammonia.

Ammonia itself is a weak base, while Ammonium is an acid. Therefore I believe if you have high enough levels of Ammonium, it would have a sterilizing effect.

You'll have to let me know the results of your test. It's very interesting and I'm glad no fishies are involved.
 

Alasse

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As someone whos tanks ammonia level turned the test tube black, i will just state that i noticed no loss of bacteria, the fully mature canister filter managed to fully cycle the tank in around 4 weeks

Test results on my tank (PH 8 Temp 29-34C)

Oct 3rd (2nd day of setup)
Ammo - off the charts
trItes - .5ppm
trAtes - 10ppm

Oct 10th (1 week after setup) Completely toxic to fish
Ammo - off the charts
trItes - off the charts
trAtes - 170ppm

Oct 17th (2 weeks after setup)
Ammo - .25ppm
trItes - .1ppm
trAtes - 200ppm

Oct 23rd (3 weeks after setup)
Ammo - 0
trItes - 0
trAtes - 160ppm (50%WC)

Oct 30th (4 weeks after setup) Fish safe and cycled
Ammo - 0
trItes - 0
trAtes - 20ppm

The tank was heavily planted
 

lipadj46

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Ammonia is a dissinfectant (it is ammonium hydroxide in water and that is a strong base) so yes high concentrations will kill bacteria. Eventually the ammonia will diffuse from the water lowering the concentrations and the bacteria would come back.
 

Danni

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Yes it will...
 

toosie

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Hey lipadj, thanks for the added info! I stand corrected.
 

DrTim

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High ammonia levels do not 'kill' the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB). There is shift from one species of AOB to another at different ammonia levels. Some AOBs function at low ammonia levels and when the ammonia gets too high for them they do not function well but they do not die (lower the ammonia and they will immediately start to work again).

About the only way to kill an AOB is to break open the cell wall or poison it will hydrogen sulfide.
 

Jaysee

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I've always wondered this - how long can the bacteria survive for without a food source?
 

toosie

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Uh, well see, now I stand corrected again!! LOL So, DrTim, will another species of AOB come to the rescue and convert very high levels of ammonia, or do you HAVE to bring ammonia levels down again for the little guys to work. And while we're at it, I'd REALLY like to know what else I got wrong in my first post. I'll even say Please.

I'm anxious to hear the answer to Jaysee's question too.
 

Aquarist

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Good morning,

It's my understanding that with pH 7.0 and above = ammonia is ammonia.

Below 7.0 = ammonium

Below 6.0 the beneficial bacteria needed to sustain the cycle begin to die off.

JaySee...I don't think anyone knows how long beneficial bacteria will live without a food source. I have never seen a pin point response to your question.

With really high ammonia levels, the beneficial may or may not die off. I do know that with really high levels of ammonia the beneficial bacteria may not be able to overcome the high levels. That is why it is best to keep the ammonia levels relatively low during cycling. No higher than 4ppm.

Ken
 

Jaysee

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aquarist48 said:
JaySee...I don't think anyone knows how long beneficial bacteria will live without a food source. I have never seen a pin point response to your question.
I figured someone who's developed 2 bacterias in a bottle would have a definitive answer on the matter.
 

toosie

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Thanks Ken, that pretty much confirms what I said in my first post, except for the ammonium part. I'm pretty sure in a lot of the research I have done it states that below pH 7 a lot of the ammonia is converted to ammonium but not all of it, and the more acidic it gets, the more ammonia is converted, but I don't know at what point all of the ammonia is converted. I guess I still have a little research to do.
 

DrTim

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Hey All - I will dig out a table from my Master thesis which was on Ammonia Excretion and Ammonia Toxicity in Striped Bass and post it when I get a chance. It shows the percent un-ionized ammonia (NH3) at different pH values and temperature. For now, at a pH of 11.5 99+% of the total ammonia (the ammonium plus the ammonia) is in the form of ammonia. At a pH of 7 no matter the water temperature 99%+ of the total ammonia is in the form of ammonium (NH4+). The half way point 50% ammonium 50% ammonia is roughly a pH of 9.5. At a more normal pH of say 8.0 only 3 to 7% (depends on the temperature) of the total ammonia is in the ammonia (NH3) form.

I've always wondered this - how long can the bacteria survive for without a food source?
The answer is - they last basically forever. Bacteria are not human. They do not die from starvation (I am being somewhat general here) but bacteria have ways to survive when the conditions get bad which is why they have been around for so many millions and millions (billions) of years. The only way to kill a bacterium is to break its cell wall or poison it. Now this does not mean they have a lot activity but they aren't dead in the sense that the cell cannot turn back on and start doing what it does (oxidizing ammonia or nitrite).

I also read on this forum that there are land based nitrifiers that drown in water - this is simply not true. Nitrosomonas europaea (a common ammonia oxidizing bacteria - AOB) and even Nitrobacter winogradskyii (a common nitrite oxidizing bacteria NOB) are both found in soil (land) but when you want to grow them in the lab you grow them in water, plus they are found in aquatic environments. In fact, in the lab all strains and species of AOB and NOB are grown in water they are not grown on agar or media in a petri dish.

The major deciding factor of which AOB or NOB will develop in an environment is the amount of ammonia or nitrite, respectively, in the environment.

I hope this helps and I mean this in an educational sense - I do not mean to 'step' on anyone's toes only to try and clarify things.

Love to answer any questions
 

Jaysee

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DrTim said:
The answer is - they last basically forever. Bacteria are not human. They do not die from starvation (I am being somewhat general here) but bacteria have ways to survive when the conditions get bad which is why they have been around for so many millions and millions (billions) of years. The only way to kill a bacterium is to break its cell wall or poison it. Now this does not mean they have a lot activity but they aren't dead in the sense that the cell cannot turn back on and start doing what it does (oxidizing ammonia or nitrite).

I also read on this forum that there are land based nitrifiers that drown in water - this is simply not true. Nitrosomonas europaea (a common ammonia oxidizing bacteria - AOB) and even Nitrobacter winogradskyii (a common nitrite oxidizing bacteria NOB) are both found in soil (land) but when you want to grow them in the lab you grow them in water, plus they are found in aquatic environments. In fact, in the lab all strains and species of AOB and NOB are grown in water they are not grown on agar or media in a petri dish.

The major deciding factor of which AOB or NOB will develop in an environment is the amount of ammonia or nitrite, respectively, in the environment.

I hope this helps and I mean this in an educational sense - I do not mean to 'step' on anyone's toes only to try and clarify things.

Love to answer any questions
Thank you for the great answer. A lot of us can only speculate based on our observations, so it's great to have someone with the clinical information to both confirm and deny what we think we know.
 

Jacker

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Very good information here, DrTim, aswell as others provide some very good information, im sure everyone asks the question about how long does the BB survive not knowing the full information, info like this should be shared with the rest of the Fish lore users.
 

Aquarist

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Good morning,

Let's get back on topic please!

"Will the Beneficial Bacteria die off at high ammonia levels?" <---Is the topic of this thread.

From information provided by Dr. Tim (Thank you Dr.Tim!), I think it's safe to say the answer is NO. The beneficial bacteria may not die off but the beneficial bacteria may not be able to over come the high levels, therefor the high levels need to be reduced via water changes so that the beneficial bacteria can do what it needs to do which is cycle the tank.

If you would like to discuss other forms of bacteria, what they do, and how they work, please create your own threads so that this one isn't hijacked any longer.

Thanks!
Ken
 

toosie

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You're right of course Ken.

My apologies NMfishman.
 

Aquarist

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Good afternoon,

The discussion on Bacterial Additives has been moved to a new thread of its own in the link below:


Thanks!
Ken
 
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