PDA

View Full Version : Should I break down and get an ammonia-reducing chemical?



Fraoch
02-24-2009, 02:06 PM
I've been cycling the tank for about a month now. Unfortunately I dove in before reading this forum and have been doing it with 3 little guppies that we've unfortunately become attached to!

As expected, ammonia levels rose about a week after the fish were in, so there's been ammonia for almost 3 weeks now. My testing is showing it pretty low, 0.07 (I assume that's mg/l) but the chart with my test kit shows that 0.15 mg/l is lethal with the high pH in our water (8.4!)

To be on the safe side I'm doing a 10% water change every week, with a tap water conditioner of course.

I had assumed this was a stressful ammonia level but not a lethal one and until recently, the guppies were fine. However on Sunday I noticed one was wiggling rather than swimming and his tail was droopy. He stayed at the surface, appearing to gasp although not actually taking in air bubbles.

Yesterday he deteriorated rapidly. He didn't eat and by the evening he looked nearly dead. What was sad was that the two others, usually very adversarial, appeared to be keeping vigil over him - they both hung around him and one was fanning him with his tail.

I looked for signs of ammonia toxicity and I'm still undecided...at first we thought his gills were inflamed but that was directly under the aquarium light, which is so strong you can see right through the fish, so it's not surprising you can see that his gills are red.

I turned down the temperature (I was keeping it high to cycle it) because that should improve the oxygen saturation. But I decided to try something, I did a 10% water change even though I had done one on Saturday. Amazingly it perked him right up! He didn't go back to normal but he sure didn't look like he was.

He made it through the night and although he's not back to normal, he doesn't look as bad as he did.

I suppose we shouldn't get too attached to them but it's hard to watch him dying slowly.

I want to do something to help, I can't just watch him. I've been avoiding chemicals due to what I've read about them but I'm thinking of breaking down and getting Ammo-Lock. My understanding is that this converts ammonia (toxic) to ammonium (non-toxic) while still allowing nitrifying bacteria to develop.

Questions:

- should I use an ammonia-absorbing/reducing chemical?

- isn't 0.07 mg/l very low? Would hardy fish like guppies have a problem with this level? It sounds low but it's halfway to lethal at a pH of 8.4.

We have BAD water here. pH 8.4, hardness 300, alkalinity 300. This may be making things worse, the pH sure is.

Lady Hobbs
02-24-2009, 02:09 PM
I would add it. The prolonged toxins is what gets them. Your ammonia level may be in the safe zone but still is very hard on fish for days and days and the same thing with nitrites.

Algenco
02-24-2009, 02:10 PM
Bigger water changes, cycling with fish WC of 40-50% at least once per week are in order to keep the toxins low.
Guppies are very adaptable but 8.4 may be rough on them.

Fraoch
02-24-2009, 02:44 PM
Thanks for the quick replies. I was trying to avoid the chemical roller-coaster but when you see one of them slowly dying, it's hard to sit back and do nothing.

As for nitrite, still 0 - which indicates the bacteria haven't established themselves. I'm trying to be patient and we'd love to add more fish, but not while things are this bad.

I did use a bacteria starter and the water conditioner contains a bacteria booster (Tetra BioExtract) but I suspect the water conditions are making bacteria colonization difficult.

Lady Hobbs
02-24-2009, 02:48 PM
The boosters are not considered as chemicals but as natural products.

Alfcea
02-24-2009, 02:56 PM
If ammo-lock transforms ammonia into ammonium, it should not affect the cycling process. You can add it safely and the bacterial colonies will continue to grow.

Hmmmm... so you said you've been cycling for a few weeks. You've had ammonia the whole time and it was until now that you saw your guppies get sick... It sounds to me like the cycle is moving along and it is the nitrites that are raising high. Did you get a reading of those? What is the concentration? Cycling with fish is possible but as was said before, you need to keep up with those frequent, large water changes... You might even need to do them every day...

Oh, and by the way, it is possible to transform ammonia into ammonium by lowering the pH. In your case that would not be advisable because your water is too hard and trying to lower it would stress your guppies more than they already are...

EDIT: Oooops, sorry, I see that your nitrite is zero... It took me too long to type this!

Lady Hobbs
02-24-2009, 03:02 PM
Are you using a dechlorinator? You should have been seeing nitrites long before this.
Do not clean anything, change out the filter pad or clean the gravel.

Fraoch
02-24-2009, 03:04 PM
If ammo-lock transforms ammonia into ammonium, it should not affect the cycling process. You can add it safely and the bacterial colonies will continue to grow.

That's what I figure. I still want to try things naturally, this will allow the natural cycle to develop while keeping our poor little guppies from harm.


Hmmmm... so you said you've been cycling for a few weeks. You've had ammonia the whole time and it was until now that you saw your guppies get sick... It sounds to me like the cycle is moving along and it is the nitrites that are raising high. Did you get a reading of those? What is the concentration?

0. I thought I saw a blip a few days ago but it may have been me being hopeful. It was definitely 0 last night though.


Cycling with fish is possible but as was said before, you need to keep up with those frequent, large water changes... You might even need to do them every day...

I'm willing to if that's what it takes. However it seems there are differing sources of information out there and I read that water changes over about 10-15% did more harm than good.

I can tell you that 10% water change last night did wonders. I just checked on him, my little invalid is still looking a lot better.


Oh, and by the way, it is possible to transform ammonia into ammonium by lowering the pH. In your case that would not be advisable because your water is too hard and trying to lower it would stress your guppies more than they already are...

Right, I don't want to start the pH roller-coaster. We have very, very hard water around here and that's that, everyone we talked to said we (and the fish) just have to get used to it. I also thought about water changes, I'd have to lower the pH in the new water too and if I got it wrong I'd screw things up with a water change.

Wild Turkey
02-24-2009, 03:06 PM
I dont use ammonia reducers, they dont do anything for the tank that testing/water changes wont do but more accurately and effectively. Some ammonia reducing products have been known to give false readings as well.

Water changes are by far the best weapon at reducing anything harmful in the aquarium

I would test daily and water change until your ammonia and nitrite are both at for below 1.0ppm. Do it daily (for fish cycle)

Fraoch
02-24-2009, 03:08 PM
Are you using a dechlorinator? You should have been seeing nitrites long before this.
Do not clean anything, change out the filter pad or clean the gravel.

Yes, Tetra AquaSafe.

I cleaned out the gravel the first couple of water changes but now I'm careful not to disturb it and just try to get decaying food/waste. It's time to change the filter right now and I have a new one with a foam pad designed to act as a bacterial bed but I won't change the existing filter.

Fraoch
02-24-2009, 03:21 PM
Err, I should mention, one other thing that makes everything worse...we have a small tank. 10 gallons.

Yes, it would be better if it was larger, but we're just starting out, times are tough and we only wanted a few small fish.

Northernguy
02-24-2009, 03:51 PM
Do large water changes every time your ammonia or nitrite levels peal.Its the best cure.Get some Tetra Safe Start for you tank and follow the directions.It will give your tank the bacteria boost it needs.The stuff works almost instantly from what I have seen.

Fraoch
02-24-2009, 05:09 PM
Well things have turned around I think.

I went out to the aquarium store. It turns out Ammo-Lock didn't do what I thought it did, it eliminated ammonia entirely, which will stop the development of the biological filter. Instead I got AmQuel+, which (according to the bottle directions) will remove ammonia, nitrites and nitrates without disrupting the biological filter. It does leave some form of ammonia in the water because it indicates it's compatible with salicylate-based ammonia test kits (I just got one the other day).

AmQuel+ will reduce oxygen levels "for a few hours" so I got an air pump for temporary use.

Almost instantly after adding it, the little guy perked up even more. The reason I like guppies and the reason they're so fun is they immediately investigated the strange air bubbles, charging them and riding up and down the air stream. Even the sick one got in on it.

So I think he's out of immediate danger. I'll aerate the tank for 24 hours and test for ammonia again. I hope this hasn't disrupted the biological filter, but I had to do something.

Northernguy, I'll think about SafeStart, thanks. (BTW I lived in North Bay for 3 years and Espanola for another three...)

Wild Turkey
02-24-2009, 08:25 PM
I hope this hasn't disrupted the biological filter, but I had to do something.


Water Changes.

PostalPenguin
02-25-2009, 03:09 AM
I am cycling my 10 gallon right now with 4 platies and its about halfway done. I do a 20% water change every day. The water changes are what keep your fish alive while you cycle. Try doing 10-20% water changes every other day. That way you wont have to rely on the chemicals to keep your fishes happy. Good luck.

Fraoch
02-25-2009, 01:27 PM
I'm going to increase it to 20% every other day and start tonight.

The ammonia test I got scared me last night - 1 mg/l:ssuprised: My old Nessler-type test kit never got above 0.07? That's a huge discrepancy - and I do know how to do the tests and read them (I have a degree in chemical engineering).

I'm glad that the ammonia is now non-toxic with the AmQuel+, and it's obvious it's working by looking at my formerly-sick fish. Last night he was still recovering but looked much better and this morning he's almost back to normal.

1 mg/l is extremely toxic from what I read, especially at my high pH. It's amazing I didn't kill them all :scry: but in my defense my old test kit never read above 0.07. I guess they really are fairly tough.

Wild Turkey
02-25-2009, 03:05 PM
I'm going to increase it to 20% every other day and start tonight.

The ammonia test I got scared me last night - 1 mg/l:ssuprised: My old Nessler-type test kit never got above 0.07? That's a huge discrepancy - and I do know how to do the tests and read them (I have a degree in chemical engineering).

I'm glad that the ammonia is now non-toxic with the AmQuel+, and it's obvious it's working by looking at my formerly-sick fish. Last night he was still recovering but looked much better and this morning he's almost back to normal.

1 mg/l is extremely toxic from what I read, especially at my high pH. It's amazing I didn't kill them all :scry: but in my defense my old test kit never read above 0.07. I guess they really are fairly tough.

Nope 1mg/l (same as 1ppm) is right where you want your ammonia and nitrite levels right now, any lower and it will slow that cycle quite a bit, any higher and you risk the fish dying.

Basically, you need to test and then water change it down to 1mg/l (1 ppm) daily. Ammonia reducers are no good as a solution in my opinion.
They can

1.Give false ammonia readings
2.Not work
3. Theres no way to tell how much of the ammonia in the water is toxic or not since the test reads ammonia and ammonium, but not separately. So, if you have 3ppm it could be 2ppm ammonia and 1 ppm of ammonium.

Im not sure why, but people seem to be turning a blind eye to how accurate and effective testing/water changes is.

If i have 10ppm ammonia, and i do a 50% water change i now have 5ppm. Another 50%? now its 2.5 ppm. Easy Peasy.

If you are worried about being able to test and reduce the ammonia accurately and effectively, water changes are the best and cheapest solution by far. However if you dont test, they are no where near as accurate or effective. "Just do 50% daily" is what i recommend to people who obviously are having a mini-cycle but dont have a test kit yet.

Northernguy
02-25-2009, 03:19 PM
Froach the only chemicals you need are a dechlorinator for water changes and some Tetra Safe Start to cycle your tank for you.After that all you have to do is monitor your perametrs for spikes.With the Tera safe start there should be no spikes at all.

Fraoch
02-25-2009, 03:35 PM
Nope 1mg/l (same as 1ppm) is right where you want your ammonia and nitrite levels right now, any lower and it will slow that cycle quite a bit, any higher and you risk the fish dying.

OK, good. I was going by the chart in my old test kit that indicated 0.15 mg/l in water of pH 8.4 was lethal. 1 mg/l is well inside the lethal range according to that chart.

The chart is attached, I believe I was reading it accurately. I always got a result near or past 0.6 but not 1.2. It was well past 0.6 last Friday, I did a water change Saturday and that brought it down. Assuming that the results were linear, a reading of total ammonia of 0.6 mg/l is half of a reading of 1.2 mg/l, 0.15/2 = 0.075 mg/l.

My new test kit is more accurate.


Basically, you need to test and then water change it down to 1mg/l (1 ppm) daily. Ammonia reducers are no good as a solution in my opinion.
They can

1.Give false ammonia readings

Yes, the bottle directions made it clear that my old test kit would not work.


2.Not work

That was a risk but from the way my affected fish has reacted, I'd say it did. He's almost back to normal now.


3. Theres no way to tell how much of the ammonia in the water is toxic or not since the test reads ammonia and ammonium, but not separately. So, if you have 3ppm it could be 2ppm ammonia and 1 ppm of ammonium.

Very good point, I was thinking about this. For some time now, I won't know. New ammonia will be toxic, any existing in there is non-toxic. And I won't know which is which.

I will be doing water changes every other day, every day if my testing or fish condition indicates something's wrong.


Im not sure why, but people seem to be turning a blind eye to how accurate and effective testing/water changes is.

If i have 10ppm ammonia, and i do a 50% water change i now have 5ppm. Another 50%? now its 2.5 ppm. Easy Peasy.

In retrospect perhaps I should have just changed the water, but my testing was indicating that ammonia was still in the safe range and I'd just changed the water the previous day, with good effect however. But something seemed seriously wrong and I was worried my water change wouldn't be effective.

It seems there are differing opinions on large water changes from what I've read. I'm willing to increase it to 20% and I'm willing to do it every other day as obviously I haven't been doing enough, but is there any risk with 50% water changes?

Northernguy
02-25-2009, 03:43 PM
I have been doing 50% water changes on all my tanks and have done so for several years.The cycle is in your filter.
Back in the day when I cycled with fish I was doing 50% water changes dailky to keep the ammonia and nitrites down.Large water changes remove the bad water faster.

Wild Turkey
02-25-2009, 03:49 PM
When you are talking about an established tank, it gets more complicated. You could change 90% of the water right now and it would make no difference. The ph in your tap is still very close to the ph of your tank, so temp is the only real issue and thats on the side of user error.

In an established tank, however, 50% can be devastating, especially if your fish are not used to it.

For example, my cory tank's PH is very low, its heavily planted, gets light vacuuming and a good 1/10th of the tank is taken up by a log. All those factors make my ph from my tap around 2.0 from my tank water. So, a 50% change would lower my ph by an entire point, and give all my fish ph shock. Instead i would do more, but smaller waterchanges, like 10 or 15% Thats where it gets tricky, with ur situation as it stands, you have no reason to fear large water changes whatsoever.

Its important to note, that two 25% water changes do not remove the same amount of whatever you are trying to remove as a 50%, so when you do less you must do more, so-to-speak.

There are other options if you are creative and use your head though. For example, if i take the tank down to 50% and fill it back up over say...an hour..it probably wouldnt shock them, and the changes will be much more gradual, without having to change twice as much water because i'm doing much smaller changes.

Fraoch
02-25-2009, 04:14 PM
The ph in your tap is still very close to the ph of your tank, so temp is the only real issue and thats on the side of user error.

That's the only thing that might shock my fish - temperature. Temp in the tank is 78. Temp out of the tap is very cold right now so I have to let it sit for a day, but even then, it's not 78. I don't think using warm tap water is good - as I understand it, the hot water tank can introduce heavy metals to the water, leaching lead from solder joints and other metals from the pipes due to the increased temperature.

But we have flexible plastic piping in this house, so maybe heavy metals aren't an issue? Can you use warm tap water for water changes? Obviously you'd have to get the temperature right.

Based on some research I did, I'm not adjusting the pH, so they won't get a pH shock.

Wild Turkey
02-25-2009, 04:21 PM
That's the only thing that might shock my fish - temperature. Temp in the tank is 78. Temp out of the tap is very cold right now so I have to let it sit for a day, but even then, it's not 78. I don't think using warm tap water is good - as I understand it, the hot water tank can introduce heavy metals to the water, leaching lead from solder joints and other metals from the pipes due to the increased temperature.

But we have flexible plastic piping in this house, so maybe heavy metals aren't an issue? Can you use warm tap water for water changes? Obviously you'd have to get the temperature right.

Based on some research I did, I'm not adjusting the pH, so they won't get a pH shock.

Match the temperature out of the tap. I have heard of what you are suggesting, in your tap if it gets above a certain temp, it starts to look "cloudy", however, if you let the water cool, there are no more heavy metals in the water than before, and no residue on the glass.

Match the temperature, otherwise you are doing your fish a great disservice every time you change the water. Use a floating thermometer to check before, or get a digital one with a probe for about 10 bucks if you want to feel like a kid with a science kit. :D Regardless of variables, as long as you do the same thing (get into a routine) everything will be just fine. Heavy metals are actually good, they provide the buffer that keeps your ph from fluctuating wildly.

You are correct, messing with the ph is not worth it in most cases. Stability is much more desirable than optimal ph/hardness. Not to mention most fish are tank bred which means what they actually enjoy in the wild doesnt come into play quite as much.

Taurus
02-25-2009, 05:16 PM
I dont use ammonia reducers, they dont do anything for the tank that testing/water changes wont do but more accurately and effectively. Some ammonia reducing products have been known to give false readings as well.

Water changes are by far the best weapon at reducing anything harmful in the aquarium

I would test daily and water change until your ammonia and nitrite are both at for below 1.0ppm. Do it daily (for fish cycle)

I gotta agree with WT here. Ammonia reducers do nothing that a good old water change can't do. Unless your water is treated (sanitized) with chloramines. Prime will break the chlorine\ammonia bond, neutralize the chlorine, and turn the ammonia into ammonium which will be consumed by the biofilter. Amquel+ claims to do the same. I know that Prime works on chloramines. The ingredients in Amquel+ are proprietary. Therefore, I'm not sure what Amquel+ does.

But if you're dealing with just chlorine in your tap water, dechlorinator and water changes are all you need. :22:

Fraoch
02-25-2009, 08:51 PM
I gotta agree with WT here. Ammonia reducers do nothing that a good old water change can't do. Unless your water is treated (sanitized) with chloramines. Prime will break the chlorine\ammonia bond, neutralize the chlorine, and turn the ammonia into ammonium which will be consumed by the biofilter. Amquel+ claims to do the same. I know that Prime works on chloramines. The ingredients in Amquel+ are proprietary. Therefore, I'm not sure what Amquel+ does.

But if you're dealing with just chlorine in your tap water, dechlorinator and water changes are all you need. :22:

We do have chloramines here. I was using a sample pack of Tetra AquaSafe, I also have a bottle of Top Fin tap water conditioner.

This brings up an interesting question though. Should I use AmQuel+ to treat tap water? Would this allow a residual of AmQuel+ in the water which will convert ammonia in the tank as it develops? I usually leave my conditioned water for 24 hours in order for it to warm up and for the water conditioner to work, so the temporary oxygen depression caused by adding AmQuel should have passed.

But yes, point taken, larger and more frequent water changes here.

Taurus
02-25-2009, 09:04 PM
We do have chloramines here. I was using a sample pack of Tetra AquaSafe, I also have a bottle of Top Fin tap water conditioner.

This brings up an interesting question though. Should I use AmQuel+ to treat tap water?

Yes if you're confident it does what it says.

Would this allow a residual of AmQuel+ in the water which will convert ammonia in the tank as it develops?

I wouldn't count on that.

I usually leave my conditioned water for 24 hours in order for it to warm up and for the water conditioner to work, so the temporary oxygen depression caused by adding AmQuel should have passed.

This should not be necessary.

But yes, point taken, larger and more frequent water changes here.

thumbs2:

I only advocate Prime because I know it works.

Aquasafe does nothing to detox live ammonia after the chlorine\ammonia bond is broken.

Northernguy
02-25-2009, 09:06 PM
Every time I do a water change I refill my buckets immediatly and let them sit until I am ready for another W/C.Usually about evry 4-5 days.
I add whatever hot water I need to match the tank temp.Add dechlorinator and its good to go.
Amquel should not be necesary.

Taurus
02-25-2009, 11:36 PM
LOL...opinions may vary. :22:

Lady Hobbs
02-28-2009, 01:24 PM
Yes, Tetra AquaSafe.

I cleaned out the gravel the first couple of water changes but now I'm careful not to disturb it and just try to get decaying food/waste. It's time to change the filter right now and I have a new one with a foam pad designed to act as a bacterial bed but I won't change the existing filter.

You change that filter media and you have set that tank right back to the start again. Clean nothing. Feed very sparingly. Turn heat up to 82 and aerate. Add some Tetra SafeStart to hold those toxins down, do your water changes and you'll be fine.

Fraoch
02-28-2009, 05:03 PM
I was going to ask what I should do to start my new sponge/foam type filter but I guess not...anyone need 8 months' worth of filters (whoops)?

The good news is it appears the cycle is progressing. I'm getting nitrites (0.5 then 1.0) and even nitrates (20). I'm doing 20% water changes daily.

The fish are looking better except for one last weird symptom I'll list in the guppy subforum. The smaller sick one that started this thread is completely normal now and eating everything he can find.

Lady Hobbs
02-28-2009, 05:10 PM
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Good job!

Fraoch
02-28-2009, 05:22 PM
Thanks so much for the help!:22:

Oh and I'm even noticing a bacteria layer over many objects in the tank. It's most obvious with the air line, it's milky/cloudy where it hits the water. One of my guppies has claimed it and will defend it against the others.:hmm3grin2orange: