High ammonia levels in aquarium. Help!

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Clinton McClure, Sep 28, 2003.

  1. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    I have been running a 29 gallon tank for over a year now. Last week I was gone for 3 days at my finace's house and returned to find my aquarium water very green and opaque. I immediately changed a 3rd of the water along with the filter and added some drops to clear the water. The next day, the water was clear but my ammonia and nitrite levels tested very high and the ph was all off (tested 5.0). I changed 1/3 of the water again and let it go for another day. The next day, the test results were the same so I changed 1/3 of the water again and retested the next day. The nitrite level has gone back to 0, but the ammonia is still dangerously high and the ph is still testing 5. In the past 5 days I have lost 2 green barbs and 2 tiger barbs, leaving me with one long-fin rosy barb, one tiger barb, a pleco, and 2 clown loaches.

    Can anything be done to get the ammonia level down or will I have to keep making partial water changes every day and endure another nitrite spike when it does go down? Also, would it be a good idea at this point to get something to raise the ph level back to 7 or should I wait until the ammonia/nitrite cycle has completed?
     
  2. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    Have you got something dead in the tank maybe?
    it's been a long time since I've kept freshwater, but if it suddenly spiked that's all I can think of, decaying plants or animals, or overfeeding maybe? while you were gone did you put in one of those self releasing food capsules?
    What kind of water are you using for your changes? Plain tap water? or filtered? RO?
     
  3. Joe Spratley

    Joe Spratley Stunt Coordinator

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  4. Bill Harada

    Bill Harada Stunt Coordinator

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    You could try adding Ammo-Carb to your filter media. It's made up of an ammonia absorbing mineral and comes in a milk-carton type container. Pour some into a mesh bag and stick it in your filter. It should solve your immediate problem of the high ammonia levels, but you still need to investigate the cause.
     
  5. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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  6. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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  7. Craig LeBlanc

    Craig LeBlanc Stunt Coordinator

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    Adding a new filter won't solve the immediate problem...it takes time for the nitrifying bacteria colonies to grow to the point where thy can process ammonia and nitrite at a quick pace. For an immediate solution, using an ammonia and nitrite neutralizing media is your only solution. If you can't make it to a store right away, start doing 15-20% waterchanges daily to try and knock the concentrations of the chemicals down.

    What kind of filtration are you using now? If you have an undergravel filter, seriously think about throwing it out and getting a good hang-on-back (HOB) power filter or an external cannister. The undergravel filters can accumulate a lot of organic sludge and that can lead to problems similar to what you are seeing now.
     
  8. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    Thanks for the replies. Ok, here's what I have. The filter is a Regent power filter. Right now I change the filter media with every water change. I tried changing the filter once a month but the ammonia level would slowly increase so I went back to changing it with every water change. I'm thinking it may be a good idea to change to a Penguin or some other brand which has a bio wheel attached so I can change the filter media but leave the good bacteria alone.



    The test kit is a Tetratest kit I bought last fall. The ammonia level was showing 5.0mg/l to begin with but is now 3.0mg/l. The Nitrite level was 0.8mg/l but has since dropped to
     
  9. Jay H

    Jay H Producer

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    Automatic feeders == bad! There's no reason healthy fish can go for a week if not more without food. I never use a automatic feeder and I've been gone for 3 weeks without fish loss in my freshwater tanks.. 3 days is nothing.

    Also, don't see why you are changing your filter media with every water change, unless you are only changing your water like once a year or so. If you are looking for inexpensive power filters, Whisper or Aquaflow ones are good, my Whispers have a separate sponge for the bio filter and a cotton floss that can be reused and washed and they're pretty cheap.

    Good luck with your fishies [​IMG]

    Jay
     
  10. Craig LeBlanc

    Craig LeBlanc Stunt Coordinator

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    Hrmmm the regent power filters are basically the penguin biowheel models without the biowheel...so they don't really do a lot of biological filtration. I'd switch to something that would do a better job...or soup up the filter you have.

    I have one of the aquatech 30-60's on my 20gal tank and I've added a bag of fluval biomax media rings into the 2 front chambers (after the pads) with an airstone in each chamber...which probably increases the efficiency of the biological filter by a factor of at least 10.

    The other option would be to get a smaller penguin...or aquaclear 200/300 and run that with 2 sponges.

    I never replace the foam/sponges in my aquaclear filters...every 2 weeks I will take them out and rinse them in decholinated water and rotate them.
     
  11. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    Agree with everyone else, you need to find out WHY the ammonia spiked.

    And yes, automatic feeders are bad. I only feed my fish every other day, and they are doing great. (In fact, I spotted some breeding going on last night!) Fish do not need to be fed every day, despite what several popular books say. Overfeeding could have caused the algae bloom, if I'm not mistaken. (The green water)

    You said you put drops in to clear the water. What kind of drops? Is it possible that these drops were the culprit? Could whatever water-clearing chemical you used have gone bad? I've heard of this happening on rare occasions...

     
  12. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    I picked up some Ammo Carb today and I'll give it a whirl. Now I just need to find a mesh bag...
     
  13. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    I would suspect the pH is the worst problem. I bought some coral to go in my tanks after having the pH crash due to the high load I have in them. I also agree with wondering why you should have to change filter media that often, that could be a part of the problem.

    I generally like to have two filters in each tank, just in case one decides to fail while I'm not looking. An aquaclear that has its media rinsed in used tank water when dirty, and a sponge filter/powerhead work well for me.
     
  14. Bill Harada

    Bill Harada Stunt Coordinator

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  15. Bry_DD

    Bry_DD Second Unit

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    Did you try vacuuming your gravel? If not try that it might help.
     
  16. Tony Whalen

    Tony Whalen Producer

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    I'm gonna say this again, as I don't think you saw it Clinton. [​IMG]

     
  17. Clinton McClure

    Clinton McClure Casual Enthusiast
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    Tony - The drops are Sparkling Clear made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Inc. and purchased at my lfs last week.

    I found a small mesh bag and loaded the front chamber of my power filter with Ammo Carb. Since the chambers are relatively small, I could not go with the recommended amount of .5c/10g and instead had to use a third of that amount. We'll see how that works.I also got some alkali to raise the pH a bit.

    I'll be getting a Penguin filter with a bio-wheel when I get paid in two weeks so hopefully that will cure my problem.
     

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