Ammonia levels spiking like crazy! WHY?! - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 28 Old 06-03-2011, 11:28 AM Thread Starter
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Ammonia levels spiking like crazy! WHY?!

Hello, I am new to this forum but I have a 46 gal bow front tank, I have a canister filter with a 75 gal per hour rating, a power filter with a 55 gal per hour rating, and another power filter with a 20 gal per hour rating. On the 17th of this month i will have had this tank for 2 months, it has had fish in it for all these days, I have six black finned Tetras and a single betta (for color). The ammonia lvls have stayed at 0.5 ppm for most of this time and the nitrites and nitrates have been readin zero this whole time and i have been doing 25% water changes about twice a week. TWO days ago i checked the ammonia lvls and they were 8.0! Right at the end of the little color chart. I did a 50% water change right then and there. it brought it down to 2.0 but by morning it was back up to 4.0. Nitrites and Nitrates are still both reading ZERO. What is going on?! I haven't changed ANYTHING in the tank.
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post #2 of 28 Old 06-03-2011, 11:44 AM
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What kind of substrate are you using?..Also do you have any live plants or wood?..what is your feeding schedule like and what are you feeding? Sounds like your fish load is small so its probably a easy fix based on cleaning with weekly water changes.
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post #3 of 28 Old 06-03-2011, 01:54 PM Thread Starter
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I have a mix of slightly large peddles and gritty sand. both are said to be PH neutral and have been in the tank since i first filled it. No wood or live plants. There is a protein sheen on top of the water that i can't get rid of. I thought for a while i was getting false positives or something due to the protein sheen but i used my grovel cleaner to extract some water from the bottom of the tank and tested that and had the same super high ammonia results. The tank is going on three days with over 2.0 ppm and the fish seem perfectly fine. So i don't know what is going on.
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post #4 of 28 Old 06-03-2011, 02:06 PM
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I have a few questions. Why so many filters? You also said the ammonia has been. 5 and the nitrites and nitrates have been 0 is this from day one of setting up the tank? Plus you have no live plants? Is this correct? Sound like to me the tank is going through a cycle.

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post #5 of 28 Old 06-03-2011, 02:22 PM Thread Starter
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I have one canister filter and two power filters. One of the power filters is just a little one that i had and figured i might as well use, all were brand new when setup in the tank. The tank isn't two months old yet. The ammonia was not at 0.5 the whole time, maybe a few days after i first added the tetras it when to 0.5 and then to 1.0 but it stayed there forever, and just a few days ago it just went sky high, I don't know how high the levels of ammonia are suppose to get during a cycle but 8.0 parts per million just doesn't sound right for a cycle.
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post #6 of 28 Old 06-03-2011, 02:48 PM
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Well during a cycle the ammonia can go pretty high and the added amount of fish waste and food can cause it to go higher without something to use the ammonia. Bacteria needs to form and it will to consume the ammonia. Have you considered live plants they will use the ammonia as food. Any how I am not sure you need all those filters. I would think the tank is definitely cycling. Where to go from this point I am not sure one way is live plants. The other way is to wait till it is done cycling and the ammonia will be @ 0 and nitrites @ 0 and nitrates will be something but shouldn't be higher then 40 have heard less. Without something to consume the ammonia not sure the fish will survive some are harder then others though not sure about the fish you have
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post #7 of 28 Old 06-03-2011, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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I got the black fin tetras because they are suppose to be tolerant of a cycling tank. I think its just crazy that for over a month the ammonia stayed at 0.5-1.0 ppm and then all of a sudden it shoots up to 8.0ppm. I have all the filters because i want to keep a good sized African Cichlid tank when its done cycling and i was told that they produce alot of ammonia due to their high protein diet so i have the canister filter with three baskets setup with one basket with a strainer and two with just bio-balls for the bacteria to grow on.
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post #8 of 28 Old 06-03-2011, 06:18 PM
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Need more info please. What is the water pH? And temperature? What do you feed the fish, how much, and how often?

A 46g tank with as few fish as you list should not have even had a noticeable cycle, so it may well have cycled and you would not see nitrite. Nitrate should appear though, as you have no live plants and your water changes are not large. But again, the fish load is very small for the volume.

If the ammonia really was 8 at some point, you would have seen the fish react, and probably all would be dead. So I sus-pect perhaps the test kit is not accurate (which one are you using, and how old is it?), or the water is acidic (ammonia changes to harmless ammonium in acidic water).

Byron.

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 #9 of 28 Old 06-04-2011, 01:10 AM Thread Starter
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Sorry for the lack of info. I try to keep the pH at 7.5, it varies slightly due to water changes it might go slightly higher or lower of this mark, the temp is a steady 75 degrees. I feed them normal tropical fish flakes once every morning, they gobble it up in less than 15 seconds but i don't feed them anymore until the next morning.

The beta in the tank started to show signs of ammonia stress by swooning or fainting, and the tetras gills were all starting to show signs of red in them, so I did a BIG water change just now, about 80% and cleaning the canister filter strainer media, (Not the bio balls of course) and changed out the strainer and carbon filter insert for the power filters, I added stress coat plus to get rid of the metals and chems from the water and added my pH 7.5 setter. Going to check the water in about two hours to see if that helped the ammonia, god help me if its still high.

On the 17th of this month i will have been running this tank for 2 months. I have yet to see a lick of nitrites or nitrates.

You peek my interest when you say i am cycling my 46 gal with so few fish. For my size tank what is the recommended fish count to properly cycle it?
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post #10 of 28 Old 06-04-2011, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Jadgpanther4tw View Post
Sorry for the lack of info. I try to keep the pH at 7.5, it varies slightly due to water changes it might go slightly higher or lower of this mark, the temp is a steady 75 degrees. I feed them normal tropical fish flakes once every morning, they gobble it up in less than 15 seconds but i don't feed them anymore until the next morning.

The beta in the tank started to show signs of ammonia stress by swooning or fainting, and the tetras gills were all starting to show signs of red in them, so I did a BIG water change just now, about 80% and cleaning the canister filter strainer media, (Not the bio balls of course) and changed out the strainer and carbon filter insert for the power filters, I added stress coat plus to get rid of the metals and chems from the water and added my pH 7.5 setter. Going to check the water in about two hours to see if that helped the ammonia, god help me if its still high.

On the 17th of this month i will have been running this tank for 2 months. I have yet to see a lick of nitrites or nitrates.

You peek my interest when you say i am cycling my 46 gal with so few fish. For my size tank what is the recommended fish count to properly cycle it?
I didn't mean to imply more fish or even fish to cycle. I was only commenting that so few fish in that volume would not have, or should not have, a major issue cycling. The ammonia is obviously "diluted" the more water there is, so this gives the bacteria time to become established with less stress on the fish. However, I do not recommend cycling tanks with any fish; ammonia and nitrite are both toxic to all life forms, and while fish may appear to survive cycling, internal damage is often done and this will show up down the road with more health issues, shorter lifespan, etc. I use live plants; enough fast-growing plants in a new tank with a couple fish and there is no discernible cycle at all. Safer on the fish, and more reliable.

I would also not use the pH adjuster. Most of these are harmful, or can be, to fish. The pH of the water is relative to the hardness, and adjusting it has to take that into account. Hardness, particularly carbonate hardness (KH) acts as a buffer to maintain a stable pH at the level it is coming out of the tap. Fluctuating pH is far more stressful on fish than a stable pH that may be outside their preference. Before I say more on this, it would help to know the fish, the tap water pH and hardness (get this from your water supply folks), and why you are trying to keep it at 7.5.

Fluctuating pH due to water changes is (or should be) minimal and not a problem. A shift of 2-3 decimal points is fine. The tank will develop a biological equilibrium with a steady pH, determined by many factors such as tap water hardness, calcareous rock/gravel/sand if any in the tank, number and type of fish, wood, leaves, plants, frequency of water changes, fish foods, etc. It is always best to leave this balance alone, rather than trying to adjust it. With so many factors, this becomes difficult and again more stressful on the fish.

Ammonia must be kept below .25 with daily 50% water changes if needed.

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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