High Ammonia Levels - Stressing me out more than it is the fish! - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 06:01 PM Thread Starter
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High Ammonia Levels - Stressing me out more than it is the fish!

Hello all,

I'm just a little stumped. I have searched through these forums, as well as other various sites, but so far have been unable to fix my ammonia problem. Let me give you a breakdown of my setup and readings before going into any other details.

Tank - 20 gallon
Fish - 2 Flame Dwarf Gouramis, 1 Powder Blue Dwarf Gourami, and 1 "Butterfly Algae Eater" (sold to me as that at LFS but I think its a Hillstream Loach)
No live plants
Temp - always between 76 and 78 F
Tank Age - 3 months
pH - 7.6
Nitrites - 0
Nitrates - 0
Ammonia - 4

Testing Kit: Constant Seachem Ammonia Alert to let me know its time to test
Jungle Ammonia Testing Strips
New - Starting to use the API Freshwater kit for Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates and pH

Story time!

I started this tank about 3 months ago, start from scratch. I had it set up for about a month before adding any fish, but did add some food in there to get my nitrogen cycle going. After 1 month, I added in a betta male. He lived in there for about another month, no issue. My tank had seemingly cycled, as all of my numbers were in the clear at this time. Hooray! Time to add some fish.

I very possibly overloaded the bioload when I went to the fish store. Added in the above listed fish, and put the betta in his own 5 gallon aquarium (Wasn't going to risk a labyrinth fish fight)

Another month went by, and my levels went up a bit, which I was totally expecting, but they died back down to 0 again. This past week however, my ammonia level has SKYROCKETED. It is at an unprecedented 4ppm!

To get my levels down, I have been performing a 25% water change daily, alternating between Stress Zyme and Aqua Safe for conditioning the water. I tested my tap water, and it is 7.6 pH and 0 ammonia, just to be sure that THAT wasn't the culprit. When the spike first happened, I did use Ammo Clear to give them temp relief, and I know that this just neutralizes the bad ammonia. I ALWAYS vacuum the gravel when doing the water changes, and have moved all of my fake plants and decorations to ensure nothing was hiding out under it. I always monitor my fish while eating, especially when new, and all but maybe 1 or 2 micropellets or freezedried bloodworms gets eating. Even the algae disc is devoured in a few minutes! However, just to be sure, I stopped feeding them for a few days. I also made sure to rinse my filter cartridge in used aquarium water to clear it up a bit without losing the good bacteria it has.

Today I have performed a 50% water change, and have switched to using Prime after seeing several suggestions to use it.

The curious thing is that my fish do not look at all stressed by this number. They are not at all gasping for breath (and not even doing a lot of labyrinth gulping either, air stone must be working well), they are very active and playful, and they have a healthy appetite.

What else should I be doing to get this spike down? Is this just the "ammonium" I've recently read about being registered by my test kit? Should I switch to live plants? If so, which ones are the best?

Any help or suggestions would be great!
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post #2 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 06:19 PM
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what test kit are you using?? strips or liquid?? i would continue to use prime with every PWC and continue testing and changing water daily.....as far as plants go i would suggest checking out plantgeek.net they have a lot of plants and they catagorize them by type, care difficulty and so forth...im sure byron will come along with good advice regarding plants

"Fish are friends not food"
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post #3 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 06:21 PM
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How does the tap water test for ammonia? What filter and filter media are you using? Was there any changes made to the filter before the spike?
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post #4 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 06:22 PM Thread Starter
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I started out with the Jungle Test strips initially, just because I couldn't get to the fish store (even PetSmart is 30 minutes away!) until today. Today I switched to the API Liquid Testing kit.

Tap water is a 0 on ammonia.

Filter is a Tetra Whisper 10-30 internal.

Have not changed the filter media, have only rinsed it in aquarium water, and that was after the spike.

I'm currently using the BioBag filter cartridge that came with it.

Last edited by mikaboshi; 11-14-2009 at 06:25 PM.
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post #5 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 06:27 PM
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ok API is a good kit.....i have that one too as do a lot of others on here...i am assuming your previous posted results where from the API kit??

"Fish are friends not food"
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post #6 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 06:31 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, the results I have are from the API test kit.
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post #7 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 06:33 PM
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are you dosing the whole takn with prime at each water change or just the new water??

how much are you adding?

"Fish are friends not food"
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post #8 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 06:36 PM Thread Starter
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I just got the prime today but I did enough dosage for the entire tank when I did my 50% water change.

I filled up my 5 gallon bucket, put in 1 quarter of a cap-full in (cap-full is for 50 gallons), let it sti for 15 minutes. Then repeated with the second bucket.

In total it was treated for 25 gallons.
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post #9 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 08:11 PM
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good....i was afraid your were only dosing for the new water. besure to test your water before each water change to see where your ammonia is sitting and that can also help you determine how much water to change...how often are you feeding your guys? for some reason it seems like youre cycling again...when was your last fish addition and what kind and how many at one time??

"Fish are friends not food"
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post #10 of 53 Old 11-14-2009, 08:22 PM Thread Starter
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Right now I haven't been feeding them at all to cut down on the waste in the aquarium.

Before that I was feeding them the micropellets or bloodworms in the morning, and then shrimp pellets or an algae disc at night.

I added all 4 of these fish at the same time, as stated, a little over a month ago, after the tank had cycled.

The 4 fish added were 3 dwarf gourami (1 powder blue and 2 flame) and 1 butterfly algae fish (which is what it was sold to me as, but I believe it is a hillstream loach)

If my ammonia levels are so high, why aren't my fish exhibiting any signs of ammonia poisoning? From what I've read, with pH that high it should be pretty toxic at any level over .5, and CERTAINLY toxic at 4.0! But my fish are not gasping for breath, are very active, and when i am feeding them they eat it all up. They do not have red or inflamed gills.
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