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Need Help with High Ammonia!

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Need Help with High Ammonia!

Postby HeidiG » Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:34 pm

I need help with the ammonia levels in my tank. We purchased a 20 gallon tank 3 weeks ago for our kids birthday and lost a fish yesterday due to high ammonia levels.

The fish store told me to do a 30% water change, change the filter pad, and recheck in the morning. It is still at the level 4 and I checked our tap water which reads a level 1. I also just added ammonia neutralizer to help.

This is my first time with a fish tank and want to do what is needed so we do not lose any more fish. After reading information online we started with too many fish, and most likely should not have replaced the filter cartridge.

Any suggestions are appreciated!
 
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Postby kraigt » Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:22 pm

Sounds like too much too soon, there is no immidiate quick fix without chemicals and you really don't want to go down that route, best option is water change every 2-3 days making sure you knock the gravel as you'll have lots of uneaten food and poop lying there, also check to make sure you have no other dead fish lying under something as this doesn't help

plus do you have fresh plants, just give any dead leaves a prune.

also never completely removing the filter media, this is where your good bacteria lives, if you need to replace, only replace part of it so your keeping some of the good in your tank

if you do have too many fish, be prepared for high levels and frequent water changes

What type of set up do you have and what fish??
 
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Postby HeidiG » Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:32 pm

Thanks for the reply. So you suggest water changes. Should I continue to use the ammonia neutralizer? What about my tap water ammonia level?

Fish - 4 mollies, Gourami (dwarf), cory catfish, Redtail shark, 2 hifin tetras,

Set up - 20 gallon tank Aqueon tank, Aqueon power filter, Aqueon submersible heater, plastic plants, piece of driftwood, air pump with aierator, some decorative items.
 
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Postby kraigt » Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:58 pm

when you first set up a tank, its good to have high ammonia levels for the filter to use to start the process of changing this into the ideal water type for your fish, when the fish poop they provide the ammonia needed for this to happen, but you get a build up easily which is why water changes are important, most people change at least once a fortnight, but many change smaller amounts of water more frequently, which you may need to do until your levels drop

As you already have fish, try not to over feed them, the fact that many of them are still alive means nothing servere is happening yet, just keep up with regular testing

also concerning your tap water, a reading of 1 is quite high, I don't know what ammonia neutralizer your using, but I'd recommend something like API tap water conditioner or TETRA Aquasafe, if you read the instructions, you may need to add slightly more then stated, but do read the instructions, best option is to make up a bucket of the replacement water, add the neutralizer, then test it, don't worry if the levels are a little high as once your tank has settled your filter will be able to deal with the lower levels.
 
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Postby Peterkarig3210 » Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:04 pm

HeidiG!!!!!!!

First of all you have to understand that you need to colonise benneficial bacteria in the filter pad which converts the ammonia into nitrates, much less toxic than ammonia.

You will kill all your fish unless you take this period seriously and DO NOT change the filter pad. That is where the bacteria you need are colonising. Changing it just removes the bacteria and ammonia levels will rise and belly up for the fish.

There is a term called the "cycle" which is the process by which the bacteria in the filter covert ammonia to first nitr(i)tes, and then to Nitr(a)tes. A healthy fish tank has a healthy "cycle" going 24/7 producing nitrates.

Meathods for keeping the cycle alive are to rinse the filter pad in the water you've removed during a water change. Rinsing in the sink can kill the bacteria with the chlorine in tap water. Only change the pad when it's falling apart, and by the way you should have a back up area for the bacteria to live as there are none in a new pad.

This back up area could be a second pad. Change, or rinse the pads at seperte times so the new pad can seed and grow bacteria before you change the second, by rotating pads. Allow at least a week for a new pad to seed before removing and old one.

If your filter has only one pad go and buy a sponge filter (a prefabricated sponge) and slip it onto the filter intake. This will be a second back up place for bacteria to live. This can be removed and rinsed the same way as the pads in non-chlorinated water.

You need to get ammonia levels to absolute ZERO ppm. Then you need to get nitrItes to zero, and finally get nitrates which are much less toxic to fish.

1st feed VERY sparingly during this period. Do 50-75% water changes and don't forget dechlorinator that also dechlorinates chloramines as well as chlorine.

Feeding sparingly will keep ammonia levels from rising too quickly before the bacteria have a chance to eat it, coverting it to nitrites and then nitrates. Water changes will dilute the ammonia untill bacteria grow to large enough numbers to eat up all the ammonia.

There should never be any uneaten food left after feeding. That means you've fed way too much and you need to get that extra food out asap.

Go buy a water test kit that tests ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH, or go have your water tested at the store.

Remember that a healthy tank has zero ammonia, zero nitrites, and less than 20 or so ppm nitrates.

You then need to do water changes enough to keep nitrates at levels I above mentioned.

Stop using chemicals as they're no substitute for a healthy cycle, water changes, and management of a benneficial bacteria colony, and determin the frequency of water changes by doing them enough to keep nitrates at above levels and you'll have a healthy tank.
Last edited by Peterkarig3210 on Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Tien6079 » Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:07 pm

You can also add biological filtration boosters such as API Stress Zyme. This will help, but it cannot replace the water changes you will need to be doing. Also remember that after the tank is established you will continue to need to do water changes. Some of them will need to be big changes as well. I personally do a 50 percent water change once a month in my salt water tank.

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Postby kraigt » Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:11 pm

Also a note about your fish, you have a very nice selection, but just watch the red tail shark, can grow little too big for a crowded 20gal tank and will get aggressive

you have almost the full amount now for your tank, but just get tto know them and watch them when you can as there attitudes may change as they get older and bigger and you may need to up grade your tank to something larger, altho this won't be soon, maybe something to consider and watch for in the future

I hope your levels do drop, the first few weeks of a new tank setup are the worst, especially if your new with little knowledge, but once your passed this, you will find yourself just standing and randomly staring at the tank, it is a great hobby and the work does pay off.

Good luck.
 
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Postby HeidiG » Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:35 pm

I have a water test kit with the following results: Nitrate 0, nitrite .5, hardness - hard, chlorine 0, alkalinity 120, PH 7.2, ammonia 4.

Currently use - API aquarium salt tonic & API stress coat tap water conditioner. I used these when setting up and with water changes.

Recommendations have been to lower feeding, cont. the conditioner, frequent water changes (2 to 3 days) 20 - 50%, stop the ammonia neutralizer, add a sponge filter for a bacteria back-up when replacing cartridges.

I already replaced the filter cartridge last nigt - now realizing this was a mistake!

How often should I replace the filter cartridge?

Also, I still have the original cartridge in the trash that was removed last night. Should I do anything with it or just leave the new cartridge in?
 
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Postby Peterkarig3210 » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:02 pm

Maybe if it's still wet you could stick it in behind thenew one to help seed it, though there might be different opinions. I only clean mine when they start blocking the water flow.

You have no cycle at this point. This is a critical time and the fish can do fine with very little food at this point. If ammonia gets too high it'll itself kill the bacteria. Food and poop and anything rotting produces ammonia, so by putting as little food into the tank as possible at this point is going to help keep that ammonia spike from getting to critical levels till the cycle establishes itself.

Sounds like you have a handle on understanding what's going on.

Keep us posted, and you may even do water changes daily until the cycle establishes itself. I'd do at least 50% change myself during this period.

Remember, the bacteria are mainly living attatched to surfaces, so you aren't dumping bacteria when you do water changes as some people believe.

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Postby HeidiG » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:21 pm

The cartridge was very wet, so I placed it behind the new one. How long to do you think I should keep it there to help feed the new cartridge?

Thanks for all the advice. Below is a pic of the tank. The tank is for our 8 yr old twins. They along with our 4 yr old picked all the items and fish out.
2ba23-pic.jpg
 
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Postby Peterkarig3210 » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:45 pm

Picked the fish out???? Does this man they're all dead now? You need fish in there to produce the food to keep the bacteria alive. (unless you do a fishless cycle. Something a bit more involved and not usually done by most people)

Leave the cartrage in till water peramiters are good, ie the cycle is working and keeping ammonia and nitrites at zero.

With kids that young I'd considder making it a rule to stay out of the tank. You could measure out a tiny bit of food for them so the kids don't feed too much.

Of course it's fun to feed fish, esp for kids. They just don't know that fish are allways going to beg for food and really don't need that much.

You could feed even twice per day, but very little if any should be reaching the bottom before it's eaten.

Cute tank!

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Postby HeidiG » Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:55 pm

Funny. No, they decided which items to purchase for the tank, along with the types of fish - with Mom's guidance of course!

I put the amount of food in the cap and let them add that amt. to the tank. Most likely, I was overfeeding.

We have only buried one. They will not allow us to flush.

I grew up with a 55 gallon tank (my Dad's) that he had running for 20 years. It has been an experience setting up and starting one on my own.
 
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Postby Peterkarig3210 » Mon Jan 25, 2010 1:26 am

You'll get it right soon. You might get a little cloudy water for a day or two and this is a normal part of the bacteria getting adjusted to your tank. One thing I like to do, as well as many others, is to have much more filtration than what is required. You can add a second filter if there's room, or a canister type which goes under the tank and doesn't get in the way of a hang on back (HOB) type. This way you'll have a tank that can tollerate occasional over feeding, over stocking, etc. The sponge is still a good idea too as it also keeps the main filter from clogging up as fast. The sponge does have to be rinsed often, but that's pretty easy. If you have bacteria in other places you can rinse in tap water. Just a suggestion.

I got back into aquariums when my son was about 4. We had a lot of fun with the whole thing. I was into it as a child myself, collecting fish and crayfish from the stream nearby (when I lived in upstate NY). Now I have 5 tanks, with 4 including my 100 gallon in my bedroom. It's a fun hobby, and a lot more fun when you understand the basics and can keep fish alive.

Good luck! PK

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Postby yasherkoach » Mon Jan 25, 2010 2:16 pm

OH NO! Man, those fish store salesmen are like weathermen, 9 out of 10 times they are wrong.

In a new tank never ever change the filter. Oh man, this is the worse thing you can ever do. I completely blame the salesperson. Incredible advice...guy should be out of that department.

With a new tank you need to leave all filters in place so the good bacteria can accumulate or else you will never ever, and I promise you this, get the ammonia to stay at zero. Man, what an idiot salesperson. If I was you, I would complain to the manager of that store, because that person should not be in the fish department...who knows what other bad advice he or she gave.

In the beginning of the cycling your tank, first 4-8 weeks, your ammonia level will rise at first, this is natural. Do not be shocked about this. Very normal...actually, this must occur first. It is the first GOOD sign your tank is cycling right...if your ammonia level did not rise, you will be in for a very long cycling. Then your nitrites will rise as the ammonia levels fall th next bacteria comes into play, nitrite, this bacteria will rise very quickly, then fall to turn into nitrate which should read about 10-25 ppm (never ever to exceed over 40-50 ppm or else you'll stress the fish to the point that they can die). Once the ammonia and nitrite levels remain steady at 0 for about 2-4 weeks, and nitrate is at 10-25 ppm, then you have a cycled tank...and then and only then, can you add more fish, easy on it, observe closely and test the waters for any further problems.

The filters in the filter remain. I hope you have a bio-wheel which should never ever be replaced or rinsed. If the filters are charcoal based, AFTER the tank is cycled, then and only then, replace one filter at a time every 4-5 weeks or else you will have a reverse reaction for the charcoal is unable to clean the water properly and the tank will get polluted. If you can get 2 filters in, one comes out to be replaced and the other is rinsed in tank water...repeat this process every 4-6 weeks.

Hope this helps
Last edited by yasherkoach on Mon Jan 25, 2010 2:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.
 
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Postby yasherkoach » Mon Jan 25, 2010 2:22 pm

one other thing, never ever use chemicals except water conditioner (Prime, preferably on each water change, follow the bottle as directed).

Chemicals can actually make things worse. Chemicals will offset other chemicals in the tank, and you will find yourself in a juggling act...and in the process, you will stress the fish and possibly kill them.

let nature do its thing. Us humans must water test, water change, never overfeed, periodic change of filters (after the tank has cycled), observe...and repeat. I have a log book on everything that has happened in the tank since May 8, 2008. Every water test, every item added, every fish that passed on, every prune, every type of food, you name it, the date, I will give you info on what exactly happened in the tank. You may want to do this, especially on water testing, it helps to show when is the best time to prevent things from happening.

Anyway, stay away from the chemicals. I do not want to sound arrogant about this, but most experts do not know what they advising on, and store salespeople ar even worse...you want everyday experience from us common people, come here, to this forum (and probably others), and you will receive the best advice that you can ever imagine.

Happy fishing!
 
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