I caused my two tanks to crash!
Help, I am a brand new user and I have read a lot on here already, including the beginners guide to the nitrogen cycle, and many, many posts about how to lower ammonia in my tanks, but I now have a serious problem...
First of all, I started my first 10 gallon tank 8 weeks ago with a few guppies that my son had brought home from college, and basically no knowledge of cycling my tank at first. However, things seemed to be going along fine, all fish thriving, having babies, etc. I bought several live plants for the tank, then bought a second 10 gallon tank for the mommas to give birth in, which they did. Both tanks have live plants and they both have TWO filters each, one an in-tank model, one a hanging-on-the-back kind, figuring they were fairly small tanks with numerous fish. I then had 10 adults in one tank, two in the other with about 14 babies, and all fish were doing well. I was doing 25-30% water changes every week to 10 days.
Then, after the tanks were over a month old each, I stupidly changed all four of the filter bags/pads in each of the four filters at the same time, during a water change and gravel sucking, simply because the directions said to change the bags/pads each month. I immediately started noticing ammonia building up. I did water changes and added Ammo Lock to each tank. It was then that I realized that I had destroyed the beneficial bacteria by removing and changing all of the filter media.
It is now 10 days since I changed the media, and my ammonia levels (which include ammonium since I keep adding Ammo Lock with each water change, which I was doing every day at 30%) are above 8.0! The fish are still living because of the Ammo Lock, but sometimes seem a little stressed. I have cut my feeding way back to as little as possible and am continuing to do water changes at 30%, now every other day, adding a full dose of Ammo Lock each time, and also dosing with Quick Start and/or Stress Zyme with each change. Is there any difference between the bacteria supposedly in API's Quick Start and that in API's Stress Zyme, and which is better? Can I add it too often?
One tank is now showing a little nitrite and nitrate, and may be beginning to cycle again (I hope), but the ammonia/ammonium levels are still reading off the charts. The other tank is still not showing any nitrite or nitrate (maybe a trace of nitrate?) and seems to be stalled at off the chart ammonia/ammonium levels too. The fish in that tank don't seem as active as the fish in the other tank, and there are only six fish in that tank now, having moved four more adults over to the baby tank. After a water change, they seem even more stressed, sitting at the top.
I have read two opposing views as to what to do now. One is to stop doing the water changes so much because it is slowing the bacteria from growing. The other is to do more and bigger water changes, every day to get the ammonia levels down. I can't tell the bad ammonia from the okay ammonium with my API dropper test kit, so I keep adding Ammo Lock every other day to the water I am replacing.
My PH levels are 7.6
Do I keep doing water changes, and if so, how much and how often? Should I keep adding Ammo Lock and either Quick Start or Stress Zyme, and which one? Should I still be doing gravel cleaning with each water change? I swished out the filter media in tank water this last time and put them back.
What will fix my high ammonia/ammonium levels and is there a test to distinguish the bad ammonia from the harmless ammonium? I have Accu Clear a couple of times too, does that hurt the cycling?
Thank you so much for your help in advance!!
I can't say anything as to the chemicals, but were I you I would do daily 50% water changes, just to be safe, even with the Ammo Lock. I'm not familiar with that product but I guess it's the same as Seachem's Prime, which converts ammonia to ammonium. Now, you say you have live plants? What kind? Live plants will help a lot in your situation, as they take up the ammonia as a nutrient. I would get even more live plants, and look for fast growing ones, such as anacharis, wisteria, dwarf hygrophilia, and look into floating plants such as water sprite and dwarf water lettuce, even duckweed.
What is Accu Clear? You're adding a lot of chemicals, and these may also be detrimental to the fish. IMO, I would stop using everything except for the Ammo Lock and whatever water conditioner you use to detoxify chlorine/chloramine, and do daily 50% WCs.
I've never used bacteria in a bottle, but I know there are a lot of mixed reviews on them.
Also, yes, I would keep cleaning the gravel to remove any fish waste/uneaten food that is in there. I would also stop feeding the fish completely (they won't starve, they will be perfectly fine without food for at least a week) to prevent adding even more ammonia to the problem.
Hello and welcome to the forums. To answer your question about if there its a test kit for measuring ammonium or ammonia, test kits will read them as the same. If the pH is below 7 than the ammonia is in the form of ammonium above 7.0 and it will be in the form of ammonia (very simplified explanation). I would continue to do water changes on a daily basis of at least 50%, by doing this you at diluting the amount of ammonia that is in the tanks. Many use prime which also acts as a water conditioner. Also as the OP suggested adding more plants to the tank will help, floating plants being the ideal choice.
As for using something like Tetra safe start, I myself would advise st this point not to use it. I have used it on several talks that I started up and it had worked well, buti have used this right at the beginning. My reasons behind advising not to use it at this point is as follows, when using this product it advises you not to do any water changes, if I remember right they say for two weeks, sorry it has been a little over a year since I last used it so my mind is a little fuzzy on some of the specific details of the instructions. During this time there will be readings of ammonia nitrites and nitrates. When I had set up my convict tank I tested daily and tracked the numbers, can't remember if I recorded the numbers in the log on my deuteron page, might have I would need to take a look to see if I did or not. I did do my water change earlier than what the directions said but I waited for almost a week I believe again would have to check to see what I recorded. With the levels that your ammonia is at right now for the health of your fish and trying to get them through the cycling process I would definitely be doing daily water changes.
Had edited my above post to add more info, but it didn't seem to save. I did check my aquarium logs and I did record the results I was getting. I tested every day and when there was a change I recorded it here, I did start doing water changes about 7 days in, also recorded in the maintenance log. For another comparison if you want to look I used tetra safe start also on my 50 gallon tank. With this one I had added the safe start after the fish had been in the tank for a day out two if I remember right. Also if I remember correctly I was using test strips at the beginning if that tank. That was my first tank that I had set up and had made several newbie mistakes with, luckily with forums like this one I was able to get on the right track;-)
You are on the right track.
Changing water does not affect the bacteria as they reside on surfaces, primarily the filter media (as you well know now) and the substrate... which even gravel vacuuming doesn't really affect. Keep it up at 25% to 50%... or even more due to your current issues
Cut your chemicals down to either the ammo lock with de-chlorinator or just Prime, which does both. Fewer chemicals the better unless you are actively treating something.
The super high ammonia will inhibit the nitrite eating bacteria from propagating and doing what they do, so it will slow down the process, but as soon as the ammonia drops back to below 1ppm, they will start kicking in. So expect the nitrites to spike first. I don't know if ammo-lock will even help here as it may only be for ammonia but Prime also renders the nitrites non-toxic. As soon as the ammonia is steadily below 1, the lower the better, and the nitrites also drop off expect the nitrates to climb and continue water changes to keep them below 10ppm.
Plants will help with the ammonia, in fact enough plants will render the cycle process unnecessary... but for now they can just help the situation. The issue with plants would be that you need adequate lighting though. Stock starter kit lights won't always do so you would have to at least change out the bulbs for plant friendly ones (6000 to 7000 kelvin, which is the colour temperature).
Ammonia (toxic) and ammonium (non-toxic) remain in an equilibrium that is dependent upon the pH of the water. The higher the pH, the higher the ratio of ammonia to ammonium, the lower the pH the reverse occurs. What the ratio is and how much of each is present is less important than just getting the total amount down. The test kits typically test for a combined ammonia concentration.
Oh, don't use accu-clear, just another chemical and all it does is helps to clear the water of particulate which is a non-issue as far as getting the tanks cycled again.
Welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.:-D
I agree with the advice given by other members, totally.
Never use clarifiers (Accu-Clear or similar) as these work by binding particulate matter but also bind the fishes' gills, causing additional stress on top of everything else.
Also, that tank will become cloudy as part of the cycling process, this is totally fine and means everything is going as it should. Don't worry about the cloudiness, it won't hurt anything and will eventually go away on its own.
And I guess I will have to get new hoods with plant friendly lights--I am assuming florescent ones that you describe? I just have the old incandescent ones now. At this point I wish I had just bought a 20 gallon with the right hood from the beginning! I think I have spent $80 on chemicals, that could have gone towards a bigger tank....sigh. At this point would starting over with one twenty gallon instead of two 10 gallons (since the babies seem to coexist okay with the bigger fish, hiding in the plants) be a decent idea, or should I stick with the 2 10 gallons, get different hoods and lights, and try to ride out this huge ammonia spike?
Thoughts? Thanks so much everyone!!!
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