Ammonia and nitrite out of control in established tank
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Ammonia and nitrite out of control in established tank

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Ammonia and nitrite out of control in established tank
Old 01-10-2011, 05:53 AM   #1
 
Ammonia and nitrite out of control in established tank

Hi,

I have a 130L / 30G AquaOne 620T aquarium filled with 10 neon tetras, 3 medium angels, 2 clown loaches, 4 tiger barbs, 2 paradise fish, two congo tetras, a couple of medium (2") fish and two snails. I recently lost an angel after a long battle with a fungus (I think) and replaced him, and got the snails and a couple of plants at the same time. I threw out a few plants that weren't doing well and replaced them with baby tears and a long grass.

Since then, my ammonia and nitrites have been skyrocketing. I normally test weekly, and when I noticed last weekend that ammonia was about 8 and nitrites about 2 I started dosing with Ammo-lock, poured in some salt and changed about 20% of the water. When it was still high on Saturday night I replaced 50% of the water and searched pretty thoroughly for the dead angel, although I didn't find it. I assumed it had been eaten. I stopped feeding, dumped in another 200g of salt, more ammo-lock, my entire stock of Cycle, changed the filter sponge for an ammonia-absorbing one, and added an expensive ammonia-eating bacteria recommended by my LHS called "B-4" (Japanese website: š™šƒpƒsƒGEC‚̃z[ƒ€ƒy[ƒWš™š). I think this is a different strain of bacteria that convert NH3 straight to N2 and H2O. They said it would reduce the levels to nothing in a matter of hours.

24 hours later my ammonia is off the scale at about 12 and the nitrites are at 1.0. The fish have seemed perfectly happy throughout all of this.

Any ideas? The fish load isn't any higher than it's always been. The only thing that's changed are the addition of the plants and snails, and possibly a dead angel hiding somewhere. I'm thinking of setting up a second tank and moving the plants and snails to it just in case they're the problem.

Any help will be gratefully received!

Len
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:10 AM   #2
 
hi, first let me say you're actually in the saltwater forum but it sounds like you are going through a tank cycling. how old is the tank or did you just clean everything in your tank? if you add too many new fish at once to a new tank you will run into this problem or if you've cleaned everything in your tank, you could have possibly killed all the "good" bacteria in your tank. if a fish died in your tank and the tank has been established for awhile it should not create an ammonia build up especially if you took the fish out within a reasonable amount of time. if it's a cycling there's not much you can do other than move livestock to another tank but if that other tank is new you will run into the same issue within the week.
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Old 01-10-2011, 06:22 AM   #3
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lenw View Post
Hi,

I have a 130L / 30G AquaOne 620T aquarium filled with 10 neon tetras, 3 medium angels, 2 clown loaches, 4 tiger barbs, 2 paradise fish, two congo tetras, a couple of medium (2") fish and two snails. I recently lost an angel after a long battle with a fungus (I think) and replaced him, and got the snails and a couple of plants at the same time. I threw out a few plants that weren't doing well and replaced them with baby tears and a long grass.

Since then, my ammonia and nitrites have been skyrocketing. I normally test weekly, and when I noticed last weekend that ammonia was about 8 and nitrites about 2 I started dosing with Ammo-lock, poured in some salt and changed about 20% of the water. When it was still high on Saturday night I replaced 50% of the water and searched pretty thoroughly for the dead angel, although I didn't find it. I assumed it had been eaten. I stopped feeding, dumped in another 200g of salt, more ammo-lock, my entire stock of Cycle, changed the filter sponge for an ammonia-absorbing one, and added an expensive ammonia-eating bacteria recommended by my LHS called "B-4" (Japanese website: š™šƒpƒsƒGEC‚̃z[ƒ€ƒy[ƒWš™š). I think this is a different strain of bacteria that convert NH3 straight to N2 and H2O. They said it would reduce the levels to nothing in a matter of hours.

24 hours later my ammonia is off the scale at about 12 and the nitrites are at 1.0. The fish have seemed perfectly happy throughout all of this.

Any ideas? The fish load isn't any higher than it's always been. The only thing that's changed are the addition of the plants and snails, and possibly a dead angel hiding somewhere. I'm thinking of setting up a second tank and moving the plants and snails to it just in case they're the problem.

Any help will be gratefully received!

Len
Sorry to hear bout your problems. Dead Angelfish could have contributed to the initial elevated ammonia levels ,and when you removed filter material (sponge)you likely also removed substantial bacteria that works to eliminate ammonia.
Ammonia removers render ammonia in the aquarium to less toxic form (ammonium) but many test kits will still read at high levels for they measure total ammonia both toxic and less toxic.
Water changes with dechlorinator such as PRIME or AMQUEL PLUS will do same thing as ammolock and also adresss nitrites and I would stop the use of salt for while itr can help reduce nitrite levels it is also quite uncomfortable for many fishes and especially loaches and catfish along with plecos.
Would look to see that no one else is feeding your fishes which can contribute to ammonia levels and would perform daily 30 to 40 percent water changes for a week or two minus the salt,ammolock.
Would use dechlorinator such as the two mentioned.
Do be aware that some ammonia removers such as ZEOLITE will release ammonia it absorbs when placed in salt solution so adding salt to a tank with this product would have negative to toxic effect.
You will have to stay up on water changes given the fishes you have in 30 gal tank until such time as good bacteria can once again build up to handle the ammonia produced by fish,fish waste,food,etc.
If the tank had healthy biological filter and no decor or substrate was removed,then in a couple weeks ,the bacteria should catch up with the fish load in my opinion.
Water and dechlorinator is all that I would use and as mentioned,,I would perform daily water changes to clear the tank of salt, and reduce ammonia and nitrites as well.
Ammolock is up to you but if you use one of the afore mentioned dechlorinators,,then it too can be done away with.
Not all dechlorinators are the same,the two mentioned are bout the best on the market and are used by many.
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Old 01-10-2011, 10:37 AM   #4
 
Can you go to LFS and test the readings from your kit. Possibly something polluted your reagents/reactants, whatever they are called.
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Old 01-10-2011, 01:49 PM   #5
 
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I agree with 1077. In short, you are dumping far too many chemicals and substances into this tank. While the fish may appear to be weathering it so far, they may not be long-term, as these substances can have a devastating effect on the fish's immune system, internal organs and such. All of this causes stress, and stress weakens the immune system so other issues become more problematic. The less that goes into a tank the better.

I also second the suggestion that you ask you fish store to do an ammonia, nitrite and nitrate test to confirm/compare your test kit results, just in case. 1077 is correct on the ammonia, that is not a concern if you are using a detoxifier, but nitrite at 1 seems unlikely without fish showing the signs.

You do have an issue with your stocking. There are too many fish in this tank, and there are fish that should have much larger quarters.

Clown loaches are shoaling fish; they have a high social structure within groups and must be kept in a group of 5-6 or more. As they attain 8 inches easily (if healthy) and can attain more than 12 inches, they need a 6-foot tank for a group to be at their best.

Angels also are shoaling fish, and a group of 4-5 is minimum, but this requires a 4-foot tank (55g minimum). Congo tetra are the same, a group of at least 6 but in a 4-foot tank minimum. Shoaling fish that are denied a group of sufficient size are under stress because it is for them completely un-natural. A recent study proved scientifically that shoaling fish in groups less than 5 had much higher levels of aggression, even among otherwise peaceful fish, and increased health issues. All caused by stress.

Tiger barb are notorious fin nippers and can be very aggressive to other fish, especially in small numbers; a group of at least 8 can lessen this natural aggression (they also have interactions within the group), but they should never be in a tank with sedate fish like angels. Even if aggression is not observed, the angels know they are there and that is stressful in itself; fish send out chemical signals, pheromones, and other fish read them.

I would caution that the stocking issues may well have led to the loss of the angels. Please consider re-homing some of these fish; they will be healthier and more likely to live normal-length lives if they are in their preferred environment.

Byron.
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Old 01-11-2011, 01:11 AM   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron View Post
I agree with 1077. In short, you are dumping far too many chemicals and substances into this tank. While the fish may appear to be weathering it so far, they may not be long-term, as these substances can have a devastating effect on the fish's immune system, internal organs and such. All of this causes stress, and stress weakens the immune system so other issues become more problematic. The less that goes into a tank the better.

I also second the suggestion that you ask you fish store to do an ammonia, nitrite and nitrate test to confirm/compare your test kit results, just in case. 1077 is correct on the ammonia, that is not a concern if you are using a detoxifier, but nitrite at 1 seems unlikely without fish showing the signs.

You do have an issue with your stocking. There are too many fish in this tank, and there are fish that should have much larger quarters.

Clown loaches are shoaling fish; they have a high social structure within groups and must be kept in a group of 5-6 or more. As they attain 8 inches easily (if healthy) and can attain more than 12 inches, they need a 6-foot tank for a group to be at their best.

Angels also are shoaling fish, and a group of 4-5 is minimum, but this requires a 4-foot tank (55g minimum). Congo tetra are the same, a group of at least 6 but in a 4-foot tank minimum. Shoaling fish that are denied a group of sufficient size are under stress because it is for them completely un-natural. A recent study proved scientifically that shoaling fish in groups less than 5 had much higher levels of aggression, even among otherwise peaceful fish, and increased health issues. All caused by stress.

Tiger barb are notorious fin nippers and can be very aggressive to other fish, especially in small numbers; a group of at least 8 can lessen this natural aggression (they also have interactions within the group), but they should never be in a tank with sedate fish like angels. Even if aggression is not observed, the angels know they are there and that is stressful in itself; fish send out chemical signals, pheromones, and other fish read them.

I would caution that the stocking issues may well have led to the loss of the angels. Please consider re-homing some of these fish; they will be healthier and more likely to live normal-length lives if they are in their preferred environment.

Byron.

+ one
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Old 01-11-2011, 04:00 AM   #7
 
Thanks for the replies all (and apologies for posting in the wrong forum!)
I found the fish starting to look distressed this morning, so I changed about 70% of the water. That brought the ammonia down to 4ppm and nitrite to 0.5ppm. I used at spare ammonia test kit to confirm it. I also removed the plants just in case. It's back to 8ppm and 0.5ppm 12 hours later so I've added some ammo-lock. I searched the substrate thoroughly for the angel but couldn't find it.

BTW I added the salt to reduce the effect of the nitrite on the fish. I guess I'll just keep changing 50% of water daily until it starts to improve.

Thanks for the advice on stocking as well. All the fish are fairly small still - I figured I'd have to find new homes for some when they grew. I never would have got the tiger barbs if I'd known how aggressive they would be! I thought about getting a few more instead of some of the others, but my LHS talked me out of it - they thought it wouldn't make a difference to the aggression. For all that, they haven't nipped any fins recently.

Looks like I'll have to find some new homes earlier than I thought
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Old 01-11-2011, 01:14 PM   #8
 
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Originally Posted by lenw View Post
Thanks for the replies all (and apologies for posting in the wrong forum!)
I found the fish starting to look distressed this morning, so I changed about 70% of the water. That brought the ammonia down to 4ppm and nitrite to 0.5ppm. I used at spare ammonia test kit to confirm it. I also removed the plants just in case. It's back to 8ppm and 0.5ppm 12 hours later so I've added some ammo-lock. I searched the substrate thoroughly for the angel but couldn't find it.

BTW I added the salt to reduce the effect of the nitrite on the fish. I guess I'll just keep changing 50% of water daily until it starts to improve.

Thanks for the advice on stocking as well. All the fish are fairly small still - I figured I'd have to find new homes for some when they grew. I never would have got the tiger barbs if I'd known how aggressive they would be! I thought about getting a few more instead of some of the others, but my LHS talked me out of it - they thought it wouldn't make a difference to the aggression. For all that, they haven't nipped any fins recently.

Looks like I'll have to find some new homes earlier than I thought
Why did you remove the plants? They are a tremendous benefit in this. They assimilate ammonia (as ammonium) and this will reduce and can even eliminate nitrite.
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Old 01-11-2011, 11:50 PM   #9
 
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Originally Posted by Byron View Post
Why did you remove the plants? They are a tremendous benefit in this. They assimilate ammonia (as ammonium) and this will reduce and can even eliminate nitrite.
Salt may have resulted in plant's not looking so good/dying. I think dead or dying plant's could contribute to water qualtiy problems but would agree that if plant's were growing ,,they would be a benefit.
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Old 01-12-2011, 05:01 AM   #10
 
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Salt may have resulted in plant's not looking so good/dying. I think dead or dying plant's could contribute to water qualtiy problems but would agree that if plant's were growing ,,they would be a benefit.
I was concerned that the plants were contributing to the problem, since I added them at the same time that the ammonia started rising. The long grass in particular was going light brown and rotting in places instead of staying green, and I kept finding leaves and stems floating in the tank. There are still a few anubis in the tank -they've never had a problem. The light level in the tank is about 1.4 w/G, which might be too low for some plants. I might have just chosen the wrong ones.

Even after removing the plants though, things have continued to rise. I've just done a 70% and then 30% water change, and got ammonia down to 2.0 and nitrite to 0.25. If it's still going up tomorrow morning I'll put them back in.

For what it's worth, the exotic 'b-4' japanese bacteria did exactly nothing!
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