Very high ammonia levels - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 21 Old 02-08-2009, 12:17 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Very high ammonia levels

I have a 125 gallon freshwater tank that we cycled with roseys (we now know about fishless cycling but a local pet store advised us to do it this way) and we saw a spike in nitrites and then low ammonia levels. We added our fish a couple every week or so and all was well for a few weeks. Then the fish got ich. We dealt with that but lost a few fish. Now we have 2 tiger oscars, 2 electric blue jack dempseys, 2 bala sharks and a pleco. All are juveniles around 2" - 2 1/2". After the ich problem, during a routine water change I cleaned the filtration system with tap water which I now know killed all the beneficial bacteria. We had what I'm assuming was a bacterial bloom because the water was cloudy for a couple days then cleared up. Since then, the ammonia has been off the charts for over a week and we can't seem to get it under control. We have tried a couple different things including Ammo Lock and daily water changes up to 25% per day with heavy gravel vacuuming but the ammonia is still high. According to API ammonia test kit, dark green is 8.0 ppm and our tests get dark green after a couple minutes.
So I guess my question is, is the tank re-cycling? And if it is, how long should it take and what should we do? Could it be lack of filtration? We have a Rena Filstar xP3 that is rated at 175g and 350 gph of flow. It's set up like this: bottom tray - 20ppi and 30ppi foams, middle tray - bio-chem stars, top tray - RENA crystals, ZeoLite ammonia remover and micro filtration pad. Should we add another xP3 to our aquarium?
Both my wife and I are fairly new to aquariums, we both had smaller ones when we were kids but that's about it. Any help you could offer would be appreciated!! I tried to include everything I could think of but let me know if you need any more info. Thanks!

Update: I just tested for nitrites and it's high too, around between 3.0 and 5.0 ppm. Our fish seem to be stressed too, picking on each other so any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
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post #2 of 21 Old 02-08-2009, 03:22 PM
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All of your fish will die very soon with ammonia that high.....
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post #3 of 21 Old 02-08-2009, 07:33 PM
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Water changes and lots of them! Your filter should be good enough, but if you want to buy another one it would not hurt. Sometimes it takes several weeks for a tank to cycle. If you used ick meds, some can kill your cycle, over cleaning filter and media can harm your cycle. Your biological section of the filter, you only want to clean in old tank water. At this point, my only suggestion is water changes. You may have to do daily water changes for a few weeks before your cycle kicks back in. Does not sound like the 25% water changes have helped alot. Maybe do 50% for a few days. When I have a tank cycling, I set my goal to keep nitrites and ammonia under .25 ppm. Nitrates under 40 ppm. Good luck! Balas are very sensitive, I hope they make it!
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post #4 of 21 Old 02-08-2009, 08:13 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for your advice twistersmom, I'm definitely doing 50% water changes starting first thing tomorrow and putting some Stability in as advised on a different forum. I appreciate your help and I'll let you know how it goes and if I have any more questions!
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post #5 of 21 Old 02-08-2009, 11:57 PM
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Hell! 8.0 ammonia!? water changes! Jack dempseys and oscars are expensive...50% water changes every 12 hours until you get it down to 0-1.0. Soon as possible...

55 Gallon

-10x Zebra Danio
-3x Angelfish
-5x Velvet Red Swordtail
-3x Albino Cory Cat
-3x Clown Loach
-3x Black Mollie
-1x Red Tailed Shark
-1x General Pleco
-1x Snail

10 Gallon


37 Gallon (Wanted)

Not Sure

150 Gallon (Wanted)

-5x Bala Shark
-2x Neon Blue Goarami
-5x Clown Loach
-1x Black Knife Ghost
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post #6 of 21 Old 02-09-2009, 05:06 AM
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In this case,, I would agree with 50 percent water changes twice daily if needed to get ammonia levels down. I would also use Prime water conditioner at twice the dosage. I would also were it me,, (and it ain't) add a hang on the back filter such as Emperor 400 by Marineland and I would leave both running on this tank from now on. I would only feed these fish every two days or even three until ammonia and nitrites are under control (0.25 to0.5). Lastly,, I would add a powerhead to the bottom of the tank to help send waste to the filters uptakes and prevent dead spots in the aquarium where waste could accumulate. I recall a similar post on another forum that also dealt with very high ammonia levels. The usual questions were asked and poster was sure that tank was cycled (8 months) and that overfeeding was not a factor. Ultimately,, It appears the child had dumped the entire contents from fish food container into the tank.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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post #7 of 21 Old 02-10-2009, 05:43 PM
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That sounds horrible! I'd hate to be you. I second the 50% water changes and using double the normal dose of Prime. If you don't do this or are not able to, all your fish will die.

The 50% water changes every 12 hours is best but if you are not able to do changes that often the next best thing is to get a bacteria "potion" as 1077 calls them. "Stability" will help get your tank cycled again.

Use the Stability only if you can not get a change of water like what is suggested. Even with Stability, with readings that high, you should do a change once a day at the very least.

Edit: just to be clear, you will use the chemical Stability along with Prime
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post #8 of 21 Old 02-10-2009, 06:03 PM
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If the ammonia is really at 8ppm, even a 50% water change will only cut that in half to 4ppm. That's still 12 times the recommended limit of .25ppm. You may even want to do 70% the first couple of water changes. Just make sure when you are adding water that you are also adding the prime first and add the water at the opposite end of the tank from the filter intake.
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post #9 of 21 Old 02-10-2009, 08:24 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks to everyone who gave us advice. We think we're back on track! We've done 50% water changes both yesterday and today. I've been adding Stability with the water changes and we plan on getting some Prime to condition our tap water. We've been using Top Fin Water Conditioner but it sounds like Prime is better quality. Before the water change today I tested the water and it was down to about 2ppm of ammonia but the nitrites are still pretty high. We're planning on doing daily water changes until both the ammonia and nitrites get to zero. Any other suggestions or are we on the right track?
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post #10 of 21 Old 02-11-2009, 03:36 AM
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As mentioned, Twice daily (every twelve hours) water changes will lower the ammonia and nitrite levels quickly. The damage has been done, Fishes gills have been burned, internal organs are under attack from elevated levels of both ammonia, and nitrites. The fish may or may not recover but will always be weaker from this expierience so proper aquarium maint will be mandatory . Regular WEEKLY20 to25 percent water changes,gravel vaccuming a small area of the tank with each water change,Not overfeeding or over stocking the tank. I would also seriously consider the extra filter for this tank.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.
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ammonia , cichlid , freshwater fish

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