02-20-2011, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Byron
I hope this is not too late to help. You could have a major issue here and lose the fish, as I'll explain.
First, in acidic water (pH below 7) ammonia always changes into ammonium immediately, always. Plants have nothing to do with this. Ammonium is harmless to fish. So as long as the pH remains acidic, fish are fine (with respect to the ammonia/ammonium issue only).
If your tap water is basic, pH above 7, you must do very small water changes to restore the tank pH to where it should be for the fish. Very small. If you do a major water change and the tank pH rises above 7, as someone mentioned, the ammonium immediately changes back to ammonia, and bang go the fish. Using a water conditioner that detoxifies ammonia will help, Prime is one but several do; they work the same way, by changing ammonia to ammonium. But this can have its problem too, because Prime and other conditioners only work for 24-48 hours, then the ammonia returns if the bacteria has not multiplied sufficient to handle it.
Nitrifying bacteria also die off in acidic water. Some authors suggest 6.4 is the pH below which nitrosomonas bacteria cannot multiply, some suggest 6 as the pH below which they will simply die.
There is also the issue of major shock from too quick a pH adjustment, but that is secondary to the ammonia issue.
And members were correct on the ammonia/ammonium reading the same on test kits; most of those we use, like the API, do not distinguish between the two forms and will show "ammonia" whether it be ammonia or ammonium.
Whenever a tank has reached this state of neglect, bringing it back must be done slowly.
Thanks a lot Byron. I am taking chemistry at the moment and this is exactly the stuff Im dealing with to which is sad because I see now I cant apply it in real life lol. Maybe if I remembered ammonium doesnt affect the fish, I would have. I read to much info and cant keep up with some of it. I am actually on my way to check back on the tank. The last I checked, the ammonia was down to 1.0 but because I didnt have enough time, I did not check the Ph or anything else. I cant update on those factors until I get over there and check it. I also did not check his tap water parameters. Dumb move by me but I was just trying to get a water change done. Most of his fish were not greatly affected but I had seen he had one African cichlid dead and an oscar with some raw spots and half a left fin. I took the oscar and put him in my quarantine tank at my house because I didnt think he had a healthy environment in that tank. So to recap: Day1) I did two 50% water changes. One in the afternoon and one in the evening. I feel this is a mistake since after seeing what Byron said, I could have done something bad. parameters were 2.0 ppm for ammonia. I cleaned out a hell of a lot of food, washed the decorations in a bathtub (found more food), washed plants with food stuck in them, and finally rearranged the tank to give it new life, more hiding spots and Day2) A 25% water change, parameters were 1.0 ammonia. So Ill update later about how today goes and see if I am any closer to fixing this tank.