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HeidiG
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:23 pm

Need Help with High Ammonia!

by HeidiG

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!
 

kraigt
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 9:18 pm

by kraigt

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??
 

HeidiG
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:23 pm

by HeidiG

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.
 

kraigt
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 9:18 pm

by kraigt

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.


Peterkarig3210
 
Posts: 1980
Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2007 3:04 am

by Peterkarig3210

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.


Tien6079
 
Posts: 99
Joined: Fri May 16, 2008 6:59 am

by Tien6079

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.
 

kraigt
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 9:18 pm

by kraigt

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.
 

HeidiG
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:23 pm

by HeidiG

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?


Peterkarig3210
 
Posts: 1980
Joined: Wed Oct 24, 2007 3:04 am

by Peterkarig3210

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.
 

HeidiG
 
Posts: 25
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 6:23 pm

by HeidiG

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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