How does Prime work? - Page 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #11 of 22 Old 11-25-2012, 11:53 PM Thread Starter
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So, apparently, Prime does several things: separates chloramine into ammonia and chlorine in a reduction process, and "somehow" binds or otherwise renders the chlorine harmless; does something, unclear even to Seachem (sheesh!), to make nitrite harmless and, central to my inquiry, converts ammonia into ammonium.

The explanation on Seachem's website is ambiguous, unclear and, in fact, misleading: “...including an ammonia binder to detoxify the ammonia.” The fact (?) that Prime converts NH3 into NH4 (not some unstated mystery compound) was confirmed by Byron in his correspondence with Seachem. Amquel and other conditioners do this as well, so there's no mystery there.

As far as I know, ammonium is ammonium is NH4+. There is no long-lasting, "non-reversible" form. It will remain NH4 at low pH and revert to NH3 at higher pH to a degree congruent with Olympia's graph and this table: CNYKOI - Ammonia calculator

There remains the 24 to 48 hour trope. Seachem uses vague wording, saying “Prime dissipates from your system within 24 hours.” Does it keep converting NH3 to NH4 until it’s used up? Does this timing relate to the reconversion of NH4 to NH3 (and is, therefore, pH and perhaps temperature dependent)? There are at least two ways to find out:

Ask Seachem. But with their record of unclear explication, I wouldn’t trust their answer to be straightforward and unambiguous.

Purchase some Seachem Multitest: Seachem. MultiTest: Ammonia and test hourly for 24 hours. Repeat at at increasing pH in order to develop a chart that Seachem could, but probably wouldn’t, provide.

If this makes any sense to you, nod your head. If you generally agree with it, raise your hand.
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post #12 of 22 Old 11-26-2012, 06:12 AM
Wait- if prime removes the Cl from NH2Cl, then only an amino group would be left (NH2), not ammonia (NH3). Perhaps a hydrogen ion then binds to the NH2?

20 gallon long: 3 adult Neolamprologus similis + about 11 fry of various ages; low light planted tank
20 gallon long:2 freshwater dwarf puffers (Puff Puff and Poofer); medium-light planted tank
10 gallon: 1 male betta named Wormy; low light planted tank
10 gallon: 1 male betta named Dante; low light planted tank
2, 5.5 gallon tanks that are currently empty (I see more fish on the horizon )
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post #13 of 22 Old 11-26-2012, 06:33 AM
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I still don't understand what your concern is. Seachem never says anywhere that it permanantly makes ammonia safe.

It makes it safe long enough for either A) Plants to use it or B) Nitrifying bacteria to use it. So by the time the Ammonium unbinds back to Ammonia (based on pH) ... there isn't any Ammonium left in the tank anyways.

The exact same can be said for every single other conditioner that claims it works for Chloramine and Ammonia.

The conditioners that only say they take care of Chlorine and Chloromine ... don't do anything and leave the ammonia as-is.
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post #14 of 22 Old 11-26-2012, 06:56 AM
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You state that ammonimum is ammonium and it is pH dependent, so at higher pH levels ammonium will convert to ammonia. Then you claim that Seachem has developed some novel way of creating ammonium that behaves differently, that won't convert to ammonia at higher pH levels and you think that is plausible? If this isn't the case, then why use prime at higher pH levels, wouldn't the ammonium it creates convert to ammonia and wouldn't Seachem state that the product doesn't work at high pH? But you seem to believe that it won't, I guess because this is special ammonium that has some 'mysterious' properties. And this doesn't even address how it converts ammonia to ammonium with out affecting pH. If all it does is add a proton that proton has to come from somewhere, it necessarily would be by adding an acid.

Amquel (apparently Formaldehyde sodium bisulfite or sodium hydroxymethanesulfonate) does not turn NH3 to NH4+, the claim from Kordon (I haven't found it on Korndon's site, but have come across it on several others) is "The hydroxymethane end of the molecule reacts with ammonia to form a non-toxic, stable water-soluble substance which is acted upon by biological filtration", note that it say nothing of pH, which would be the case if it were just NH4+.

Nothing mysterious about it. In order for it to work as they claim, it must be something other than ammonium that is created.

As far as what they told Byron, so what? He stated in his inquiry that he was not a chemist. They also are a for profit business in a competitive market, you think they disclose proprietary (or licensed use of someone else's formula) info to anyone that asks?

Last edited by Quantum; 11-26-2012 at 07:02 AM.
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post #15 of 22 Old 11-26-2012, 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Geomancer View Post
. So by the time the Ammonium unbinds back to Ammonia (based on pH) ....
so if it is pH based, how is it that Prime doesn't change the pH to achieve the conversion in the first place? or does it? if that is all it is doing (lowering the pH), why not just buy some HCl or some of the pH down stuff to do the same thing, the fish may not like it, but that is the only way to convert NH3 to NH4+ by protonation
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post #16 of 22 Old 11-26-2012, 11:12 AM
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I only want to clarify a couple things so anyone reading this thread doesn't get the wrong idea.

Quantum is not seriously suggesting you attempt to lower the pH [at least, I hope he isn't], as that is a very different set of issues. And fussing with pH can seriously harm fish, and kill them.

Prime clearly has a track record of working in any given tank, so I wouldn't worry about how it may be doing it. Understand what happens, and the 36-hour time frame for some aspects, and leave it at that.

My bottom line in all these products is, don't use what isn't necessary. Prime is a chemical soup and chemicals are going to affect water chemistry, perhaps plant growth, and likely fish. Don't add what isn't necessary. I never use Prime, and I never will, because I only have chlorine in my tap water and that is all I want to mess with. The biological system including bacteria and plants handle--or should if left alone without chemical after chemical--these issues. And nature usually does it better than our chemicals anyway. If you have chlorine and chloramine in your tap water, there are many water conditioners that handle these without going further.


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 #17 of 22 Old 11-26-2012, 04:14 PM
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I would like to add this, because it was mostly what I said that brought up this line of questioning.

On Nov 26, 2012, at 2:06 AM "ZergyMonster" wrote:

> You have been contacted by Charles with regards to Prime by Seachem, their additional message is as follows.
> "Hello I have been through a recent debate/give and take about your product and it has brought up a question I would like to have answered.
> What does your product do to detoxify the ammonia? Does it convert it to ammonium? If it does: your site says that prime dissipates from your system in 24 hours, does that mean that the ammonium will revert back into ammonia if subjected to a pH of 7.6 or higher? If it doesn't: what exactly does it do?I read the FAQ that it ionizes the ammonia to make it non-toxic but what does that become exactly,I am by no means a chemist?
> This is a question to help my fellow tank keepers informed of your product and I would really appreciate a response.
Hello Charles,

Thank you for the email. Prime detoxifies ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate by converting them into a non-toxic iminium salt. If after 24-48 hours, the biological filter has not consumed the ammonia, nitrite, or nitrate, than yes, they will be re-released. This is why we always recommend during cycling to add Prime every 24-48 hours until the ammonia and nitrites are zero.

I hope this clears up any confusion. If you have further questions, please let us know.

Product Support

Be a master of water and the fish will follow
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post #18 of 22 Old 11-28-2012, 07:26 AM Thread Starter
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I only raised the question here because a couple of friends may have incorrectly inferred that the detoxification of ammonia by Prime was a permanent condition. That inference was based upon information on the Seachem website, where they wrote,"Prime....binds with ammonia until it can be consumed by your biological filtration....The bond is not reversible...” This might suggest to some that, even if their readings indicate a rise in ammonia, it was still safe, because Seachem said their “detoxification” was “not reversible. I’ll bring that ambiguous and potentially dangerous phrase to Seachem’s attention.

For me, the best one-line explanation came from a “reef” forum: “Prime is a hydrosulfide salt....which causes NH3 to pick up a hydrogen ion, forming NH4+(an iminium), which isn't really toxic. But the bond only last for about 48 hours.”

While a properly cycled and planted tank should be all that’s necessary to ensure healthy parameters, there are occasions—during the initiation of a cycle, during a minicycle, or some unforeseen occurrence---when a keeper might feel the need to resort to a chemical solution.

As part of researching an answer, I thought to ask my question of the more experienced keepers who inhabit TFK. I thank you all for your for helping me clarify this issue.

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post #19 of 22 Old 11-28-2012, 06:11 PM
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“Prime is a hydrosulfide salt....which causes NH3 to pick up a hydrogen ion, forming NH4+(an iminium), which isn't really toxic. But the bond only last for about 48 hours.”
sounds familiar, funny how you liked this explanation, but felt my very similar one warranted sarcasm; note that an iminium salt (which is apparently more correct since it comes from Seachem product support) is not the same as ammonium
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post #20 of 22 Old 11-28-2012, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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An iminium salt is a class of chemical compounds that includes ammonium.

I'm sorry I was unable to understand what you were trying to tell me in post #14. Perhaps, if you were to explain it to me in PM.....
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