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Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2013

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    Default Beginner's question - ammonia issue

    0 Not allowed!
    Hello all,

    I'm new into aquariums and just started about 3 months ago. I have a 36 gallon and a 10 gallon tanks. In the 36 gallon I only have 7 fish there: 5 buenos aires tetra, 1 male guppy and 1 female platy. The 10 gallon has 1 female guppy, 7 fries in a breeder box (5 guppy frys and 2 guppy/platy hybrid) and an african dwarf frog.

    My problem is I can't seem to keep ammonia level down. I feed the fish twice a day, not overly excessive knowing uneaten food could raise ammonia. I vacuum the tanks at least once a week, sometimes the 36 gallon tank requires twice a week vacuuming. For the vacuum I use a small air tubing so it doesn't remove too much water while effectively sucking out all the fish wastes. I would say each time I vacuum the water loss is roughly 25% (replaced the water afterwards).

    Within a couple days the tetras' fins would turn red indicating high ammonia (interesting tidbit to me) and sure enough after checking with the API kit it would always be at least 1 ppm. The filter on the 36 gal tank is Tetra brand, sized for 40 gal I think. There's a few bamboo plants hanging at the top of the tank (roots are immersed in water) and an amazon sword in the gravel. The live plants hopefully would help control ammonia but that hasn't happenned. There are are also a couple micro air bubblers and several fake plants.

    When the ammonia goes up after only a day of vacuuming, I just add Nutrafin Cycle Bio Filter (beneficial bacteria, right ?) and/or Seachem Prime - but not at the same time. Then I can see the tetras' fins gradually become clearer. Still, I have never seen ammonia level goes to zero in any of the tanks. So I think something I'm doing is wrong. Pet store employees say to wait a little while for cycling to occur but I don't know if my tanks ever cycled if I keep vacuuming once a week.

    So my question is, how often should I change the filter cartridge ? I haven't replaced it yet thinking the beneficial bacteria need to stay there. Maybe that's my problem ? Or is the vacuuming a problem ? Would vacuuming actually remove too much bacteria from the gravel ? Any idea what I'm doing wrong ?

    Thank you very much, go ahead and post your responses here. I'm ready to answer them all in quest for better environment for the fish. I lost a few fish already, including frys, so I'm really determined to get everything straightened out so no more would unnecessarily die !!


  2. #2

    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Second left after the Haggis Farm

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    0 Not allowed!
    Basically none of your tanks are cycled.

    Do not replace any filter cartridges, this is where the beneficial baceria (BB) live.

    Your 40G filter is too small to manage a 36G tank as when it has working media in it the flow rate can half, so a 40G filter is actually only good for a 20G tank.

    Best advice is go to the beginners section, and read up on cycling with fish. Or return all your fish and read up on fishless cycling. Ammonia exposure will really harm your fish so to try and prevent this do a 75% water change every second day to keep the level of ammonia down. Remember to use water conditioner to the tank to remove chlorines and chloramines from the tap water and treat for the whole 36g not just the 27G you will be replacing.

    Gravel vacuming will remove fish poop and also any uneaten food, which would pollute your water. Most of your bacteria is in the filters so don't worry about the Gravel and keep on vacuming it.
    Last edited by ScottishFish; 03-03-2013 at 09:58 PM. Reason: Typos
    My therapist says I need a bigger tank . . . . .

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    SLC, UT

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    0 Not allowed!
    Grats on seeking help to better the lives of your fish.

    Your tank is not cycled. No cycled tank should test positive for ammonia.

    Give this great sticky a read and those are the instructions you'll need to follow for correcting this problem.

    As a general rule, unfortunately, the employees at the fish store will not be the best resource for reliable information on your tank. I would stop adding the nutrafin. It doesn't cycle the tank for you. You will want to keep using the prime though as a dechlorinator. I also locks up ammonia and makes it less toxic to your fish during the cycling process. If you are only removing 25% of the water once a week, your ammonia will grow exponentially as you aren't removing enough water to make an impact on your numbers. You are going to need to start doing several water changes a week, possibly even daily, to manage your ammonia numbers throughout the cycle.

    Do you test for nitrites and nitrates? What are your results on those tests?
    You're right to not clean the filter, you also need to clean the gravel as little as possible and cut back on feeding.
    120 gallon FW bowfront in progress

  4. #4

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    Jan 2010
    Saskatchewan, Canada

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    0 Not allowed!
    +1 to the above posts

    As you are currently cycling with fish, you should test your water daily and complete waterchanges everytime the ammonia and/or nitrites get over 0.25ppm and change enoug to reduce those back down to 0.25ppm. For example, if you ammonia or nitrite were to hit 1ppm, you would need to complete a 75% water change to being it back down into the safe range of 0.25ppm

    There is a link below in my sig to the cycling with fish thread here that also explains all of this better than I can

    Getting your parameters in line would be a big first step right now
    If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
    "Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
    Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info [URL=""]

  5. #5

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    Mar 2013

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    0 Not allowed!
    As someone new to the hobby, I started not knowing anything about cycling and just recently completed cycling my first aquarium. I lost 4 black neon tetras over a short time which led me to research just what I was doing wrong. This site and a beginner aquarium book helped me through it.

    The above is good advice, except I would differ on one point. I have a 20 gallon Tetra brand tank with their Whisper 20 HOB filter. If you have the Whisper 40, you do need to change your filter cartridge regularly. You may have a build up of junk there that is generating ammonia. The biofilter is separate in that filter design.

    You might also buy an additional ammonia test kit just to make sure yours is accurate.

    It took me 56 days to cycle my tank. People will yell at me (I didn't know better at the time), but I did it with 20 neon and glowlight tetras and 3 cory cats. During the ammonia part of the cycle I had to change 25 to 50% of the water daily. When a couple of my glowlights started to show a little fin rot during the nitrite part of the cycle, I increased water changes. I regularly changed 50 to 125% of the water daily (2 or 3 changes) during the nitrite part of the cycling to keep levels down (and which cured the fin rot with no additional measures being necessary). I also added the recommended amount of API stress zyme to the water I was putting in to speed things along. My fish survived and are now seemingly happy. I would note that when I would change 50% of the water, and with a reading of 1+ ppm, my reading after the change would be 0.25ppm (when technically it should have read 0.5). i am not sure why this was the case, but the API test kits may not give exactly accurate readings (or at least you may not be able to interpret the results too accurately).

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