10-12-2008, 07:47 AM
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Hello from the dark side of the hobby... sorry to but into this freshwater thread, but an important point has not been recognized.
What type of test kit are you using? You said that you are adding chemicals to lower the ammonia. What exactly are you adding? If you are adding a water conditioner to remove ammonia, such as Amquel, Ammolock, etc, then please continue reading...
Test kits which utilize Nessler's reagents will give you a false positive when using these products. There is no ammonia, but the kits will read positive anyhow. You must use a Salicylate-based ammonia test kit in order to achieve the correct reading. For proof of this, simply read the instructions in your test kit.
Another big topic is pH. At low pH levels, say 6.4 or below, nitrosomos bacteria are not capable of breaking down ammonia into Nitrite. Have you tested your pH? If this applies to you, you must first raise your pH above 6.4, and then allow time for the nitrosomos bacteria to consumer the ammonia. Unfortunatly your fish will be more stressed during this time, because the toxicity of ammonia increases as the pH increase. Hence, this is a delicate balancing act.
The real problem probably occured in week 2 or 3. You likely tested your water and thought the tank was "cycled". In fact, some nitrosomos and nitrobacter bacterias were present; enough to reduce the current ammonia and nitrites to zero. Unfortunately, at this point you added livestock to fast. The result was a quick spike in ammonia to a level that the nitrosomos were unable to handle. The reaction was problably to add a water conditioner, which then caused a false positive reading of ammonia. You continued to add more conditioner and do water changes, and continued to get false positives.
Just a guess, but i'd bet my avitar pic that i'm right on this.-)