Ammonia spike! Help! - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 6 Old 11-16-2010, 06:43 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Ammonia spike! Help!

I have a mature 12 gallon tank that I've had running for a few months now. The only fish in there are a Praecox Rainbowfish (3in), a Clown Loach (2in) and an Angelicus Dwarf Pleco (3in). It has an Eclipse 1 hood. I keep the air stone bubbling pretty good. I've been cleaning the tank regularly, vacuuming the gravel, scrubbing off any algae, stress coating the water for 25% changes and adding Cycle to boost the biological filter. I also regularly change the carbon filter. I feed the fish a pinch once every 2 days.

For the last couple weeks, despite the cleaning, using the Cycle, and even using a de-ammoniafier chemical, my chemical readings have looked like this:

ph: 6.0
ammonia: 4.0 ppm
nitrite: 0 ppm
nitrate: 40 ppm

The fish seem to be doing fine, if occasionally hanging out by the filter. I am at a loss as to how to combat this ammonia spike. If anyone has any advice, please let me know. Could there be rotting food stuck in the filter tube?
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post #2 of 6 Old 11-16-2010, 09:07 PM
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Did you change all of your filter medium at one time and while you were doing a water change? Did you rinse any of the filter medium with tap water instead of tank water? Sounds like you lost your good bacteria and you're having a spike because of it. Having said that, I wouldn't expect your nitrates to be up there but I guess it's possible.

Animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
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post #3 of 6 Old 11-16-2010, 09:59 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah I did replace the filter pad while doing a water change about a month ago. I had an outbreak of finrot and had to take it out and do water changes to use the medication.
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post #4 of 6 Old 11-16-2010, 10:10 PM
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Welcome to FTK, that being said, what test kit are you using? What is this de-ammoniafier chemical? Brand and what is it suppose to do? Detoxify for a while or actually remove it?

I'm a bit worried about you relying on the Cycle chemical too much and not to sure how this chemical for the ammonia might affect your test results.

Also how long has this spike been going on and having you been treating it will all this stuff the whole time?

I'll let someone else comment on your fish choices but look at our profile for at least the Clown Loach and notice this fish will out grow this tank in no time.
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post #5 of 6 Old 11-17-2010, 04:47 AM
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OK keep doing partial water changes to get back on track.

When you do have to remove charcoal, just cut the filter pad and empty the charcoal out. Don't rinse it under tap water and you won't lose your bacteria.

Animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
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post #6 of 6 Old 11-17-2010, 01:21 PM
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I see you just joined this month, so welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.

Now, to business; I am sorry to say, you have some major issues. The fish you have are inappropriate for a 12 gallon tank, and the high nitrates are one result. We have fish profiles here, second tab from the left in the blue bar at the top of the screen, or you can click on the fish name when it appears shaded in posts [which it will if the name is the same as that in the profile]. Please read the profiles of these fish, I won't repeat all that here.

Potentially large fish cannot be kept in small tanks except as a very temporary measure. Fish grow all their lives, and often when young may have growth spurts. If the environment is not sufficient, they can become stunted, or deformed internally, meaning they will have endless health issues down the road and assuredly shorter lives. Part of this is the stress caused by the small space and resulting water conditions; stress weakens the immune system in fish just as it does in humans. Another aspect is keeping shoaling fish like rainbows and loaches singly; without a group of their species, this is very highly stressful, so it adds more to the problem. Loaches in particular have a high social structure within a group, and this has to be met.

With a pH of 6 your ammonia is actually ammonium, relatively harmless. Bacteria use ammonium/ammonia regardless, and if you have live plants they will use ammonium as their preferred source of nitrogen. However, the problem is that if there are no live plants, nitrosomonas bacteria use the ammonium and produce nitrite, and nitrite is also highly toxic, so this will harm the fish if the nitrospira bacteria are not in sufficient numbers to handle it.

When you say "stress coating the water" are you meaning the use of StressZyme? This will increase ammonia further, as it affects the bacteria and biological system in the tank. And I agree that Cycle should not be used regularly, if at all; it is chemical, not bacteria like bacteria supplements such as SafeStart (Tetra) and Stability (Seachem), but even those should only be used at the start of a new tank, not further; a healthy aquarium must have an established biological system, and developing it naturally is far better than disrupting it with additives. The only substance that should go into a cycled tank is a good water conditioner and plant fertilizer.

The biology of this tank is out of balance, and stressed fish produce substances (pheromones) that further induce stress. My advice would be to remove these fish from this aquarium either by setting up larger appropriate-sized tanks and increasing their numbers accordingly, or returning them to the store or another hobbyist. I am sorry, but the present state is only going to worsen as these fish continue to "attempt" to develop. In the meantime, daily 50% water changes with a good conditioner will alleviate some of the trouble for the fish.

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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ammonia , chemicals , levels

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