Ammonia Detoxification and Fluctuating pH - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 4 Old 08-25-2010, 03:53 PM Thread Starter
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Ammonia Detoxification and Fluctuating pH

Ok so i feel as tho im pretty familiar with the process that goes on when fish are shipped when it comes to ammonia detoxification but after doing some research ive become rather confused.
Most of my confusion comes from the fact that i have read that doing slow drip acclimation for fish that have been in a fish bag for more than 24 hours(say if u have the fish shipped to you) can be harmful due to the fact that adding water from an established aquarium re-toxifies the ammonium into ammonia. and that for fish that have been subjected to ammonia detoxification, fish whos physiology has changed to accept these new levels of ammonium, it can be harmful to slowdrip acclimate them.

ok, so questions are:
whats the best way to acclimate new fish?(fish acquired from both LFS and online fisheries)
can someone provide a comprehensive explanation of ammonia detoxification or at least point me to a resource that can do so?

thanks in advance
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post #2 of 4 Old 08-25-2010, 06:09 PM
Mar Pollut Bull. 2002;45(1-12):17-23.
Ammonia toxicity in fish.

Randall DJ, Tsui TK.
Department of Biology and Chemistry, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon.

Ammonia is present in the aquatic environment due to agricultural run-off and decomposition of biological waste. Ammonia is toxic to all vertebrates causing convulsions, coma and death, probably because elevated NH4+ displaces K+ and depolarizes neurons, causing activation of NMDA type glutamate receptor, which leads to an influx of excessive Ca2+ and subsequent cell death in the central nervous system. Present ammonia criteria for aquatic systems are based on toxicity tests carried out on, starved, resting, non-stressed fish. This is doubly inappropriate. During exhaustive exercise and stress, fish increase ammonia production and are more sensitive to external ammonia. Present criteria do not protect swimming fish. Fish have strategies to protect them from the ammonia pulse following feeding, and this also protects them from increases in external ammonia, as a result starved fish are more sensitive to external ammonia than fed fish. There are a number of fish species that can tolerate high environmental ammonia. Glutamine formation is an important ammonia detoxification strategy in the brain of fish, especially after feeding. Detoxification of ammonia to urea has also been observed in elasmobranches and some teleosts. Reduction in the rate of proteolysis and the rate of amino acid catabolism, which results in a decrease in ammonia production, may be another strategy to reduce ammonia toxicity. The weather loach volatilizes NH3, and the mudskipper, P. schlosseri, utilizes yet another unique strategy, it actively pumps NH4+ out of the body.

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post #3 of 4 Old 08-26-2010, 01:07 AM
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kitten has linked us to the scientific info. The article doesn't explain how to acclimate fish though so I will offer my comments on that aspect.

First, fish from the store are different than fish flown in from somewhere that have been confined to the shipping water for many more hours, perhaps days. So there are two different processes.

With fish from a store where you are home in a few hours. My method is to open the bag and float it to equalize the temperature slowly, say for 15-20 minutes (it is not usually far off so this is adequate). Then I add some of the tank water to the bag, about a cup. Wait 15-20 minutes. Add another cup, wait as before. If they are sensitive fish, I do a third, and maybe a fourth. Then net the fish out of the bag and into the aquarium. Never pour the bag water in; it has ammonia you don't want more of, it may have pathogens and various other nasties. An alternative some use is the drip method. Same principle, but here after equalizing the temp, pour the bag water with the fish into a pail, then drip the tank water in with a piece of tubing. After it is 50/50, net the fish from the pail into the tank.

I know professional fish breeders who do not do any of the above, they maintain it is more stressful than simply netting the fish from the bag into the aquarium (provided temp is equal). I'm not a biologist so I can't say which is better, but I do the above.

With fish long in the bag, this can be dangerous for the reason you mention. Only if the tank water is basic (pH above 7) could this occur, but if it is then it may. I have only once had to deal with transported fish that were in the container for several days. There had been a delay, and as it was (to me) an emergency--a third of the fish were already dead--I just broke open the bags and dumped the water and fish into a running aquarium I happened to have going. They were killifish, and none that were alive died. I had soft acidic water in the aquarium, that obviously helped.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #4 of 4 Old 08-26-2010, 04:22 PM Thread Starter
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yea ive also heard the same from various reputable fish breeders. i always was under the impression that slow drip was a much safer way to acclimate fish but now im realizing that there is a lot of conflicting information concerning this. also, the chemistry is interesting concerning the fishes physiology much appreciated
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