Ammonia levels way too high
I have a two week old 30 gallon saltwater tank. Ammonia levels are through the roof and I can't seem to get it down. Current tank inhabitant is a single domino damsel. (His counterparts - another domino and 2 yellow-tail blue damsels - didn't survive.) Current filter is a Biowheel.
I have tried rinsing filter media and using AmQuel. Have treated with the AmQuel once per 24 hours for the last 3 days. Very little effect on the ammonia level.
Water quality is otherwise good and salinity and temp are perfect.
Can anyone provide ideas on how to get this ammonia level down?
Your answer is in your first sentence, the tank has only been running for two weeks, that is not enough time for the tank to cycle. Do you have any live rock in your system? You should not place any livestock in your tank before all of the readings (Amonia, Nitrite, Nitrate) are at 0.
I would do a small watter change (5 gal) every week and keep on doing your tests. You will see that your Amonia will drop to zero then your Nitrite will spike and after you Nitrate) when your nitrate hits 0 then I would slowly add lifestock.
hope it helps
Should I keep using the AmQuel? Or is this messing with the natural cycling of the tank?
And no, I don't have any live rock and wasn't planning on adding any.
I have never used this product before, but if you are cycling you generally don't add anything to the tank. If you are not cycling with live rock, I would go see you LFS and purchase a product to help you cylce.
I am curious about your long term plans. You have set up a 30 gallon saltwater aquarium and used a freshwater filtration method. This filter is designed to take Ammonia and Nitrite and turn them into Nitrate. In freshwater this a fabulous filter. However, Nitrates quickly become toxic in a saltwater aquarium, needing to be kept at levels below 40ppm for almost all fish, and below 20ppm for many. Corals and invertebrates need Nitrate readings under 5ppm or preferably zero.
Keeping levels under 80ppm is almost impossible using this type of filter. The hobby experimented with filtration methods for most of the 1980's and early 1990's. Systems using biological filtration, such as biowheels, undergravels, sponges, and bioballs, were found to have very minimal success.
It will be possible for you to have success with this type of filter, but it will require you to keep extremely sturdy fish and only 2 or 3 very small fish. I would limit the tank to Damsels and Clownfish only. Most other small fish require live rock to graze on, feeding on the microorganisms, copepods, and amphipods which live in the rock. Larger fish will be a burden on the Nitrate load. Even fish such as Dwarf Angels and Hawk Fish will generally not thrive in this type setup.
A properly set up marine aquarium uses a thick layer of aragonite sand, live rock, and a protein skimmer as the only filtration method. Some hobbyists, including myself, also choose to run a hang on filter with activated carbon. However, no form of biological filtration media be used.
For the record, large fish only systems may be set up using a "pre skim" technique, which draws all water into a very powerful protein skimmer, with the output into biomedia. This method works well for 220 gallon and larger systems keeping Trigger Fish, Puffers, large Angels, Groupers, etc.
However, very frequent large-scale water changes are required, which usually means 50% of the water on a monthly basis. Even then, such systems have much more success with a deep sand bed and significant volumes of live rock.
Wow, I can't believe if any lfs sold Amquel to be used during cycling period. If they did, they should not be in fish business. At this point don't do anything but, if possible, add well cured liverock. It's better to add now than once tank is established. Give it another week or two, you will see NH3 going down and at the same time NO2 will rise. Don't panic. No2 will go down to zero in another 3 to 4 weeks. Then your tank is so called cycled (biologically active). FYI, Amquel or similar products can distort certain NH3 test kits. Read the label.
i've seen many damsel do survive this eventhough I would never know what long term affect fish would have. If you still have one Damsel left, leave it alone without any water changes.
Do yourself a favor which will save you lots of heartache, even money, pick up a book and do little research before you invest any more money on this tank. Most of s/w fish are removed from nature for our enjoyment, so let's do our best to keep them alive as long as we possibly can.
As another member pointed out, I strongly recommend Protein skimmer, not now, but once tank is cycled. there are few HOB type which is pretty inexpensive. Do run Protein skimmer when tank is cycled before you add any livestock. Always do the test regularly until you have pretty good idea of what goes on with your tank. No other tank will be same as yours.
When you are ready to add new fish, please do so slowly since your tank cycled with one fish. Amount of biologiacal activities equals amount of pollutants (waste of fish)
Good luck and LMK if you need assistance or have questions.
Ditch the bio-wheel quick! that's the most harmful part. I hope you have sand and not crushed coral and please do more research.
:( All the other responses have been good advice. I'd return the poor fish as soon as possible and get your tank running properly without fish. Also, I'd highly advise using live rock in your tank. Not only is it a great form of filtration, but it's one of the things that make salt tanks so interesting: all the crazy hitchhikers you find in your tank. Plus, it'll keep you entertained during the cycling process.
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