Is it Common to have 0.5 PPM Ammonia in Tap Water?
I'm in the third week of cycling my 55 gal tank, and I've done a few water changes (50% of so over the last week to bring the Nitrites down because they were way over the 5.0 PPM max the API Freshwater Master Kit can detect.) My Ammonia levels in my tank are close to 0 (0.1-0.2 PPM) guessing by the color of the test tube. I had never measured the Ammonia in Tap water because I guess I ASSUMED Tap water wouldn't have any. I filled a test tube up to the line with tap water and got a reading of 0.5 - 0.75 PPM. This kinda blew my mind, is this even safe? I don't have fish yet but once my tank cycles and I perform water changes, wont this add Ammonia to my tank? or will the Bacteria handle this Ammonia increase from the tap water quickly enough to keep the fish safe? I currently finishing up using API Stress Coat when adding water during water changes. I have a bottle of PRIME which I will use once the API Stress Coat is used up. On the label of the PRIME, it mentions it handles Ammonia as well. Does API Stress Coat neutralize Ammonia as well?
You will need to use a water conditioner that will bind Ammonia and make it non-toxic, Seachem Prime is an example of this. It only works for ~48 hours, but that's long enough for bacteria or plants to take care of it. I would highly recommend live plants, as they do an even better job than bacteria.
Ammonia is not common in tap water, but isn't unheard of either. Particularly for people on a well. If it is city water, your town should have a water quality report you can consult, most post it online.
I get ammonia readings out of the tap, and my city uses chloramines so I use conditioners that detoxify the ammonia. When you start adding fish, make sure you're using the Prime. Another alternative is Seachem Safe which is about 1/10 the cost per gallon to treat. It comes in a powder though so you'd need to make your own solution.
Did you test the water immediately out of the tap? Or off gas it. Can't remember exactly how this effects your readings, but it will if you didn't :-)
Thanks for the heads up. I tested directly from the tap, didnt gas it off. But when I tested my aquarium after a 50% water change, about an hour or so after the water change, the ammonia levels had risin slightly (original tank water was 0.10 -0.20 PPM , an hr after water change it was 0.4-0.5 ppm. Would the natural degassing that takes place after a water change take longer to occur? should I have wait more than an hour to get an accurate reading? In any event I now know to use PRIME or other Water Conditioner that binds Ammonia, as well as Chlorine and Cholramines I plan on using live floating water sprite to help with nitrates/nitrites, but wanted to develop a healthy system of bacteria first before adding the plants so I could take advantage of fully stocking my tank
It really doesn't matter HOW the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are being consumed, as long as it IS being consumed. Floating plants are great for nitrogen removal, and the use of them can even bypass the need to cycle. Plants are more efficient at removing nitrogen than bacteria, and if you wait for the bacteria to build up in numbers and then add plants, the plants will out-compete the bacteria and the bacteria will slowly die off anyway due to starvation.
If you intend live plants, plant the tank now and forget "cycling." Once planted, especially with floating Water Sprite, you can add a few fish and go from there. Plants take up a lot of ammonia/ammonium as their preferred source of nitrogen. And nitrite is not an end product, so that part of the "cycle" is a non-issue.
As for the tap water, once you have live plants it is probably a non-issue, but to be safe using a conditioner that detoxifies ammonia won't hurt. Most of these work by changing ammonia to ammonium which is basically safe, and the plants and bacteria will take up either form readily. It is the initial influx of ammonia that may cause issues, so using such a conditioner deals with this. As someone mentioned, these products become ineffective after 24-48 hours, but by then the plants/bacteria will have taken up the additional ammonia/ammonium so all is well.
I personally wouldn't use Prime unless you also have a nitrite and/or nitrate issue in the tap water [and you should test tap water for both just to be certain]. The fewer chemicals entering a fish tank the better, and if there is no problem then dosing such products is unnecessary. It is always best to let nature handle water chemistry when possible, and your plants and bacteria will deal with the nitrogen cycle without chemical interference.
Byron, there are chemicals such as Ammo-lock that do what you said (detoxify ammonia, chlorine and chloramine) without mentioning nitrite and nitrate, but I don't believe Seachem Prime actually ADDS anything additional in order to detoxify nitrites and nitrates. According to their website, the formula wasn't designed for nitrite and nitrate removal, but it just happened to do so at elevated doses:
Q: How does Prime make a difference in reducing Nitrates?
A: The detoxification of nitrite and nitrate by Prime (when used at elevated levels) is not well understood from a mechanistic standpoint. The most likely explanation is that the nitrite and nitrate is removed in a manner similar to the way ammonia is removed; i.e. it is bound and held in a inert state until such time that bacteria in the biological filter are able to take a hold of it, break it apart and use it. Two other possible scenarios are reduction to nitrogen (N2) gas or conversion into a benign organic nitrogen compound.
I wish we had some more "concrete" explanation, but the end result is the same, it does actually detoxify nitrite and nitrate. This was unexpected chemically and thus initially we were not even aware of this, however we received numerous reports from customers stating that when they overdosed with Prime they were able to reduce or eliminate the high death rates they experienced when their nitrite and nitrate levels were high. We have received enough reports to date to ensure that this is no fluke and is in fact a verifiable function of the product.
Seachem. Prime FAQ
I don't know if Prime does actually have more chemicals than Ammo-lock, or if API simply didn't conduct the necessary studies to say that their product also detoxifies nitrite and nitrate. But then again, I just checked out Seachem's product line again as I'm typing this and saw that they carry a product similar to Ammo-lock called AmGuard. The only differences that I'm seeing between Prime and AmGuard (aside from Prime detoxifying nitrite and nitrate) is that Prime also detoxifies heavy metals and provides slime coat. Now I'm wondering if it's the chemicals included for those that are mysteriously detoxifying nitrite and nitrate. I agree that it's best to add as little chemicals as possible, I just thought the above response from Seachem was interested.
But there is also the wider issue of Prime messing with nitrite and nitrate. In a well-planted tank, ammonia is going to be taken up by the plants and (to a much lesser extent) bacteria. I would prefer leaving this for nature to handle, rather than adding something unknown into the mix, which might well end up being of more harm than good.
Yet another is the issue of TDS. This came up a few weeks back in another thread and the final outcome was the realization that all these extra TDS do cause difficulty for soft water fish, so again the fewer the better.
My bottom line is that I prefer adding as little stuff as possible to the aquarium, and if this or that isn't an issue, then products that target this or that don't need to be in the tank. Water chemistry is a very complex issue, and the more stuff going in to the mix, the more likely something will occur.
In new tanks, I use Kordon's AmQuel+ or Seachem's Safe when changing water to detoxify the ammonia until the bacteria can consume it, but after a couple months when the plants fill in I just use Kordon's NovAqua+ to simply deal with the chloramine and don't even worry about the ammonia in the water because the plants consume it so rapidly (plus I don't do massive water changes at a time so the ammonia becomes heavily diluted). You make a valid point though about using products like Ammo-lock or AmGuard instead, and I'm now considering switching to one of those (or similar) instead of using Safe when dealing with ammonia.
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