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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
GHI 150
KH 180

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!!
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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;-)
 

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Welcome aboard!

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.

Jeff.
 

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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.

Byron.
 
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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.
 

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Welcome aboard!

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.

Jeff.
Thank you all so much, and for all the specifics, especially the explanation that the super high ammonia will inhibit the nitrite eating bacteria from growing....I was wondering if that could be true. Also I will get Prime to use instead of Ammo Lock, and stop using all the rest of the stuff. How my guppies are all still doing okay is a mystery to me, but I am thankful that they don't seem in bad condition. I do have to keep feeding the babies I believe, I don't think I can skip a day for them, can I?

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!!!

barb
 

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Thank you all so much, and for all the specifics, especially the explanation that the super high ammonia will inhibit the nitrite eating bacteria from growing....I was wondering if that could be true. Also I will get Prime to use instead of Ammo Lock, and stop using all the rest of the stuff. How my guppies are all still doing okay is a mystery to me, but I am thankful that they don't seem in bad condition. I do have to keep feeding the babies I believe, I don't think I can skip a day for them, can I?

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!!!

barb
On the light, if you have an incandescent hood (one with screw-in bulbs) keep it. Get two 10w "Daylight" CFL bulbs. I use GE Daylight, with a 6500K rating. My plant growth is superb in this tank (a 20g) with no algae issues.
 

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I think that you do need to keep feeding the little ones, they don't have the stores built in yet to survive too long between feedings

You could try the compact fluorescents for plants in those and keep going as you are, i would probably choose to do that if it were me. If you decide to upgrade the tank I'd suggest an LED light system and use a glass top rather than a classic hood. The LED come in plant and non-plant versions just like the tubes.

I think that buying the largest tank that you can afford is the best course. The larger water volume is just easier to work with, more stable and allows for better numbers of fish. I started with my daughter wanting a 5 gallon and we ended up with a 37 gallon. We should have gone up one more size but that is another story.

Having said that, two tanks do let you have two varieties that might not otherwise be keep able in a single larger tank.

Cost considerations include right sized filters, new lighting (possibly plant friendly), adequate heater.

If you were starting from scratch I'd suggest, and many others here would as well, to go with a planted tank... That $80 in chemicals would have gone a very long way in plants. Enough right from the start avoids the whole cycle. Tank + substrate + water + heater, light and filter then add fish. I don't have chlorinated water but I bought a small bottle of prime specifically in case of a spike. That has been my only chemical purchase, other than fertilizer. I haven't opened it yet.

Jeff.
 

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I do have planted tanks, each with three-four plants, including Amazon swords and arrowheads, and some kind of bunch plants that are really fluffy and grow like crazy. I had java moss, but something about adding the bottled bacteria did them in, or caused them to go grey and icky looking, so I took them out. I'll get the light bulbs that were recommended, that's sure cheaper than a new hood and stick with the two tanks for now, I guess.

As for all the babies...the LFS said they would take them when they are adults, but why I am raising guppies for the LFS? I love watching the babies grow. I bet I will end up buying a third tank because I feel bad parting with them, much to my husband's chagrin. Although some are certainly turning out prettier than others....what would the LFS do with not-so-striking guppies? I think they'd end up food for bigger guys.

If I wanted to stop having babies, could I just have a tank of male guppies? I know that isn't optimal, but I don't want to have to keep worrying about what to do with grown up fry...?
 

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Just don't buy live bearers... but that's a personal thing. You could go with all male guppies but I don't know much about live bearers at all... maybe you can't.

Yah, it sounds like you might end up with another tank.:roll:

Jeff.
 

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I do have planted tanks, each with three-four plants, including Amazon swords and arrowheads, and some kind of bunch plants that are really fluffy and grow like crazy. I had java moss, but something about adding the bottled bacteria did them in, or caused them to go grey and icky looking, so I took them out. I'll get the light bulbs that were recommended, that's sure cheaper than a new hood and stick with the two tanks for now, I guess.

As for all the babies...the LFS said they would take them when they are adults, but why I am raising guppies for the LFS? I love watching the babies grow. I bet I will end up buying a third tank because I feel bad parting with them, much to my husband's chagrin. Although some are certainly turning out prettier than others....what would the LFS do with not-so-striking guppies? I think they'd end up food for bigger guys.

If I wanted to stop having babies, could I just have a tank of male guppies? I know that isn't optimal, but I don't want to have to keep worrying about what to do with grown up fry...?

If you do decide that you don't want to raise fry any more doing a tank with just males will work out fine :)
 

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You might be able to work out a deal with the LFS to get credit for the guppies you bring in. You could get free plants/supplies.
 

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As for all the babies...the LFS said they would take them when they are adults, but why I am raising guppies for the LFS? I love watching the babies grow. I bet I will end up buying a third tank because I feel bad parting with them, much to my husband's chagrin. Although some are certainly turning out prettier than others....what would the LFS do with not-so-striking guppies? I think they'd end up food for bigger guys.

If I wanted to stop having babies, could I just have a tank of male guppies? I know that isn't optimal, but I don't want to have to keep worrying about what to do with grown up fry...?
Unless the store intends selling the guppy fry as feeder fish, I suspect they will soon not be interested in more. A female livebearer will deliver a sizeable brood regularly for years. Have a read of ouor profile, click Guppy. There is also a bit more data in the Livebearer introduction in the profiles.
 

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Unless the store intends selling the guppy fry as feeder fish, I suspect they will soon not be interested in more. A female livebearer will deliver a sizeable brood regularly for years. Have a read of ouor profile, click Guppy. There is also a bit more data in the Livebearer introduction in the profiles.
Thanks all for the help with guppies, but because my son brought them home, I got into them and really love them, but I understand what you are saying about the LFS and them probably not really wanting my future fish. I will eventually move to a different collection, I am sure.

However, I am still struggling with both tanks with the ammonia issue, which is not disappearing in any way. Today I bought Prime to use with the water changes and even more plants, which is the most these 10 gallon tanks can take. I am tempted to completely empty the tanks, or change out 95-100% of the water to get the ammonia levels down to 1.0 or lower. I really think I will have to do that. The 30% each day is not doing it. Should I take all fish, plants, decorations out of each tank, change out the water completely, but not rinse the gravel or filter media, and just add Prime? (By the way, my tap water is 0 for ammonia.) Do I need to rinse out the filter boxes somehow, as well? I can rinse the media in the tank water I take out, and even the gravel.

Help, please!

Also the store keeps saying to add bacteria products, can they hurt?

thank you!
 

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However, I am still struggling with both tanks with the ammonia issue, which is not disappearing in any way. Today I bought Prime to use with the water changes and even more plants, which is the most these 10 gallon tanks can take. I am tempted to completely empty the tanks, or change out 95-100% of the water to get the ammonia levels down to 1.0 or lower. I really think I will have to do that. The 30% each day is not doing it. Should I take all fish, plants, decorations out of each tank, change out the water completely, but not rinse the gravel or filter media, and just add Prime? (By the way, my tap water is 0 for ammonia.) Do I need to rinse out the filter boxes somehow, as well? I can rinse the media in the tank water I take out, and even the gravel.
!
75% water changes are about as much as you need to do if you have added as many plants as you say. No sense in making more work than you already have. That let's you leave fish and plants in place during the process.... although if you want to go through such a large change, it won't hurt. Rinsing everything as you suggest is the recommended way, using old tank water or even treated (de-chlorinated) water.

Adding any products other than prime at this point is pointless. Your plants may be enough to consume all the ammonia as it is produced and your problem will most likely clear up right away, particularly if you go with a 100% water change. That's how I started, fresh water, lots of plants and add the fish. Even with a small amount of ammonia, say the 1ppm, the plants would soak that up in short order.

What plants did you get?

Jeff.
 

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I am a bit puzzled, having read this thread through. I do not understand ammonia at 8 ppm with all these plants. Bacterial supplements can do no harm, but they should not be necessary with plants.

While it is true that changing the filter media would have removed the nitrifying bacteria in the filter, there are bacteria elsewhere in the tank, not to mention the live plants using ammonia/ammonium.

Maybe we are not clear...just how many fish are in the 10g tank? Assuming this is the problem tank.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
I am a bit puzzled, having read this thread through. I do not understand ammonia at 8 ppm with all these plants. Bacterial supplements can do no harm, but they should not be necessary with plants.

While it is true that changing the filter media would have removed the nitrifying bacteria in the filter, there are bacteria elsewhere in the tank, not to mention the live plants using ammonia/ammonium.

Maybe we are not clear...just how many fish are in the 10g tank? Assuming this is the problem tank.
Both tanks are problem tanks, neither one has ammonia levels below 8, and actually they are probably higher than that, it's off the charts.

First ten gallon tank has 6 adult guppies, roughly 15 baby guppies of varying sizes, most are still very little.

Second ten gallon tank has 6 adult guppies, 2 baby guppies of very small size. This tank used to have 10 adults, but 2 died and I moved 2 to the other tank.

For the first month I didn't test the water, as the fish all seemed to be fine and the store told me I didn't need to---big mistake, I know. During the first month I didn't really suck out the gravel, I didn't know how, I just ran the cleaner over the top of the gravel. I was probably feeding too much at first too.

The first time I checked for ammonia was after I changed out the filter media and had finally decided I needed to buy dropper test kits. It showed .5 at first, then after a couple of days and a BIG gravel cleaning where I pushed all the gravel around like a novice and made stuff come up into the water, it ran up to 4.0, and then within a couple of days, over 8. And this is doing 30-60% gravel changes each day since the ammonia spike. It's like the bacteria product I was adding was made up of ammonia or something...API Quick Start.

Tonight I just changed out 50-60% of the water in the tank #1 with most of the babies. I carefully cleaned the gravel, after removing the plants and ornaments, most of which are potted, now that the LFS finally showed me how to do it correctly, but not all that much stuff was in the gravel at this point. I rinsed the media in the tank water. Then I retested the ammonia, and it was still 8.0! It must have been 16.0 before that, but I am still at a loss. This test works correctly, and tests 0 for our tap water.

As for the types of plants, three potted plants per tank--two swords and one arrowhead, or that's what I was told. Also two bunch plants per tank, not sure of the name, they are "fluffy," spread out in each tank, and one other "bunch" plant. No floating plants. I'm sorry I am not knowing the names of these plants yet.

I haven't changed Tank #2 today yet, the one with the six adult guppies. Waiting for advice....

Thanks so much, I know this seems to be impossible, but I am looking at the test tube and shaking my head.

Also, a handful of tiny snails have grown in each tank, having hitched a ride in on a plant.
 
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