High nitrogen, zero nitrites in established tank - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 3 Old 08-15-2011, 05:18 AM Thread Starter
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High nitrogen, zero nitrites in established tank


I have a 16G tank with two tiger barbs, two 2" clown loaches (they tend to hang out with the barbs), a siamese flying fox about 2", and a paradise fish. Total fish length about 13", so I figure it's not overstocked. I also have five plants and it's lit with an 11W light. (It's in a bright spot although not in direct sunlight)

I've been struggling to keep ammonia levels in this tank under control for the last few months. Nitrite is always zero, but ammonia measured with two different kits reaches 4-8 a few days after a water change. I've tried (at different times) swapping fish between this tank and my 35G one, 60% water changes twice a week, dried bacteria, zeolite, ammo-lock and using water from my established tank for water changes. I hoped that would bring a lot of bacteria along with it. I never disturb the ceramic bio noodles in the filter, although I do rinse out the synthetic wool used for mechanical filtration - it collects a lot of algae. I've read that high levels of ammonia will kill the nitrosonomas bacteria. Does anyone have any experience with this kind of situation, and know what level of ammonia I have to stay below in order to get the cycle re-established?

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post #2 of 3 Old 08-15-2011, 06:20 AM
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Please review your previous post's from back in January.
Product's like ammolock,and zeolite,can starve the bacteria you are trying to develop, and they can produce false readings on some test kit's, many of which measure total ammonia both the non toxic ammonium which product's like these render ammonia produced by fishes,poop,and food and,,,toxic ammonia..
Dried bacteria,and water from a cycled tank will not be of much help .Better to use filter material that is wet from cycled tank, and perhaps a cup full of gravel from cycled tank placed in mesh bag, or section of ladies nylon and left in the tank for three weeks minimum.
Product such as PRIME dechlorinator would maybe be more helpful than the ammolock or zeolite along with water changes using the PRIME.
Your fishes are small now,but will need much larger tank assuming you wish them to remain healthy and reach adulthood.We must consider adult size of fishes when considering purchasing them for it is a long term commitment to provide for them in my view.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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post #3 of 3 Old 08-15-2011, 12:38 PM
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Your tank is overstocked. "Overstocking" has many components aside from mere size of the fish today. Fish interact, they send out chemical signals, and they have needs. Barbs and loaches must be in groups; they interact socially, loaches are a highly-social fish. No less than 5 loaches. TB need no less than 8, and a 15g is half the necessary size for them. Clown loaches need a 5-6 foot tank. And before you say they are small, this is irrelevant. These fish grow all their lives, and they need the space, not only physically but with respect to the quality of the water due to pheromones you can't see or measure in any way. I can assure you that your fish are suffering internally and this will seriously impact their health and lifespan.

High ammonia is a sure sign of trouble. Ammonia in a cycled tank should always be zero when tested. With live plants this should be automatic. So clearly there is trouble. Have you tested the tap water on its own? I don't think this is the source, but it is something every aquarist should know anyway, what is in the tap water. The fish stocking is the problem. And I concur with 1077's comments on substances.


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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