STILL ammonia problems - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 19 Old 05-30-2008, 07:00 PM Thread Starter
beetlebz's Avatar
STILL ammonia problems

ok im having an ammonia problem (long running) in my 29g tank. Lemme go into some of the background.

it started out plastic everything with normal gravel. I think it was 2 blue gouramis and 2 bala sharks (no lectures pls... i know) and 2 cory cats. upgraded the aquatec filter to a penguin biowheel 200, the ammonia just never went down. fish came and fish went, had a few dwarf gouramis, some female bettas in there, ammonia never went down. I could get it down to about .25ppm but after a few days it would be right back up to 2ppm.

I tried running my canister filter from my cycled 110g tank (ehiem ecco 2236) in the 29g and the ammonia still persisted. I tried moving the tetra 60 size HOB filter also from my cycled 110g tank and the ammonia persisted.

since then i have COMPLETELY removed everything in the tank. The current inhabitants are 1 green severum (hes only about 2.5-3") 10 glowlight tetras, 1 apistogramma, 6 trilineatus cories. Its decorated with some plastic plants but a few live... red ludwigia (i think) and a couple I have not yet identified, as well as a few healthy sword plants. there is one big piece of driftwood in the bottom (not original, had the ammonia before the wood) and I have swapped out the substrate for's own substrate, and im currently using a tetra 60 sized double HOB (set about 1/2 way down for flow rate) and the penguin 200.

I only feed 1 pinch of tetra color crisps and 2 or 3 sinking tropical wafers, sometimes freezedried blood worms, and if there Is uneated food after the severum gets done the cories are awesome at cleaning up.

sooooo thoughts? why do I still have ammonia?

EDIT: just to add... i have private well water, which i still tested anyway for shiz n giggles and its 0 ammonia. And occasionally i will add some seachem prime at water changes anyway to help reduce the ammonia toxicity.

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post #2 of 19 Old 05-30-2008, 07:36 PM
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I must ask, why did you add so many fish to a tank that's not been properly cycled? I'd take out all the fish, except for maybe 1 and get the tank under control. It sounds like you're just not giving your tank a chance to cycle.

Also, do you have very alkaline water? The ammonia we speak of in aquariums, NH3, is a dissolved gas which is pH dependent, the lower your pH, the less ammonia can dissolve into the water.

What are your nitrite and nitrate levels?
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post #3 of 19 Old 05-30-2008, 10:52 PM Thread Starter
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last readings were 0 nitrite and something like >20 nitrate but that was a bit ago. the tank has been established for over a year now.

the initial fish were in there because it was my first tank and way before my fishforum days. as for the rest of the fish, the ammonia was perfectly stable before adding them, then over time the ammonia builds up more and more until it stabilizes where its at now.

ph was and still is 7.4. its almost the same exact setup as my 10g betta sorority tank which cycled in only a few weeks and has been perfectly stable ever since. and read the post, i DID take everything out and started from scratch and had the same exact results using diff fish, substrate and filters.

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post #4 of 19 Old 05-31-2008, 09:49 AM
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So when you had no fish in it, it was still .25 ppm of ammonia, or it was zero until you added fish?

I wasn't recommending taking all the decorations and such out, just the fish. I'm not implying that you didn't approach cycling correctly, but you'll need to remove all ammonia sources in order to truly determine the cause of the problem.
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post #5 of 19 Old 05-31-2008, 01:17 PM Thread Starter
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it was 0 ammonia before the fish went in. it starts out fine, then once i get to my stocking limit for a couple weeks the ammonia starts to creep up. very slowly. the ONLY thing that has been a constant is 1 big piece of lava-looking rock (which i took out and cleaned) and the glowlights.

im starting to wonder if it was some kind of contamination. my penguin 200 has gotta be coming up on 10 months old now, and the bio wheel is still as shiny as when it was new.

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post #6 of 19 Old 05-31-2008, 01:23 PM
Wait, 0 nitrite? That should mean you have 0 ammonia, or the tank has yet to cycle. I want to say you have a bad ammonia test kit, or your tank itself has something wrong with it. How did you purchase the tank?
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post #7 of 19 Old 05-31-2008, 02:57 PM
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With the tank being over a year old you can very well see ammonia and no nitrites. The balance of bacteria could be off and the de nitrifying bacteria are plentiful but the ammonia bacteria are not. It is not an uncommon thing to see in any age of tank.

As for the ammonia, when do you test your tap water? Right out of the tap or after it has set out for a while? Not sure if it makes a difference but it makes a huge one for GH, KH and other parameters.

Do you gravel vac with every water change?

I would check out that lava rock. There is the possibility, if it has a lot of hole sin it that there is somehting decaying in there that you can not see or something died in the holes.

As for the biowheel, it should have some color in it by now. Not sure why it owuldn't have something built up on it after this long. You have not been rinsing it in tap water have you? (Just asking to cover all the bases)
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post #8 of 19 Old 05-31-2008, 11:45 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Cody
How did you purchase the tank?
credit card? nah it was new in box, part of a wal-mart aquatech kit but the tank and heater are the only parts i still have from the kit.

the biowheel may be a TINY bit darker than when it was new but there is certainly nothing noticeable building up on it. and i have not touched the biowheel since I installed it initially.

ill try removing the lava rock just in case, thats good thinkin.

as for the testing or the test strips, its the api freshwater master, and it seems to work just fine for all of my other tanks, but who knows. I need to buy a refill for the ammonia test anyway, maybe ill get the seachem ammonia test kit just for giggles.

lemme take the rock out and see where we go from there. unfortunately, okie, I dont have enough other tank space to temporarily house all the fish in the tank anymore :(

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post #9 of 19 Old 06-01-2008, 12:46 AM
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I would think about putting that lava rock in a bucket of clean water and testing the ammonia levels after a while.
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post #10 of 19 Old 06-09-2008, 10:14 PM Thread Starter
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removed the lava rock and added some more live plants... and while the ammonia hasnt disappeared in the last couple days, it was a bit lower than it has been BEFORE the water change today!

looks like the lava rock might have been the culprit after all. ill keep everyone posted.

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