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High ammonia on established tank

Sara_Notfors

New Member
Joined
26 Jan 2020
Messages
22
Location
Edinburgh
Hi all,

I've had my 200 L tank that well planted with low fish stock (2 acaras, about 10 rummy nosed tetras and 2-3 black neons) for about 2 years now. I've got a 1400 L/hr all pond solutions external filter and a single T5 bulb running about 6-7 hours a day as the tank gets some direct sunlight.
I checked my water the yesterday after 2 tetras died suddenly and had about 0.5 - 1.0 ppm ammonia (!!!). I wasn't able to do anything about it last night but have just done a 50% water change that's brought it down to 0.2 ppm. What's my best plan of attack for brining it down? Any suggestions as to the cause?

Thanks in advance for the help,

Sara
 

Sara_Notfors

New Member
Thread starter
Joined
26 Jan 2020
Messages
22
Location
Edinburgh
Hi all,

I've had my 200 L tank that well planted with low fish stock (2 acaras, about 10 rummy nosed tetras and 2-3 black neons) for about 2 years now. I've got a 1400 L/hr all pond solutions external filter and a single T5 bulb running about 6-7 hours a day as the tank gets some direct sunlight.
I checked my water the yesterday after 2 tetras died suddenly and had about 0.5 - 1.0 ppm ammonia (!!!). I wasn't able to do anything about it last night but have just done a 50% water change that's brought it down to 0.2 ppm. What's my best plan of attack for brining it down? Any suggestions as to the cause?

Thanks in advance for the help,

Sara
Quick update - NO2 at 0.1 ppm and NO3 at 1 ppm (ok)
 

_Maq_

Member
Joined
23 Jun 2022
Messages
618
Location
Czech Republic
Not by my hand, but it has been warmer in general recently…shouldn’t really affect things though I think?
Increased temperature surely had an impact on microbial community. Various microbes reacted differently. In general, their activity increases with temperature. Nitrifiers could have been affected negatively due to lack of oxygen - 1. oxygen solubility decreases with temperature, 2. heterotrophic microbes have higher oxygen demand and nitrifying microbes cannot compete with them. Additionally, ammonia oxidizing microbes respond to increased temperature differently from nitrite oxidizing ones. This may cause discrepancy in nitrification as a whole. Even small changes sometimes may have significant consequences.
However, if your pH is below 7, 1 mg/L ammonium+ammonia should be perfectly safe. Test kits always measure ammonia and ammonium together, and pH measurement is necessary to tell how much of this is made up by toxic ammonia.
Though I'm not convinced that your problems are caused by ammonia (by nitrites, perhaps?), I believe some changes in your tank's microbial life are the cause.
I suggest improved oxygenation, and increased water changes. (People often believe that lack of oxygen is impossible in well-planted tanks. I think differently. It's difficult to prove or demonstrate but my long-term experience suggests that good oxygenation tied with good water movement is remarkably beneficial. The more so during summer.)
 

Sara_Notfors

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Thread starter
Joined
26 Jan 2020
Messages
22
Location
Edinburgh
Increased temperature surely had an impact on microbial community. Various microbes reacted differently. In general, their activity increases with temperature. Nitrifiers could have been affected negatively due to lack of oxygen - 1. oxygen solubility decreases with temperature, 2. heterotrophic microbes have higher oxygen demand and nitrifying microbes cannot compete with them. Additionally, ammonia oxidizing microbes respond to increased temperature differently from nitrite oxidizing ones. This may cause discrepancy in nitrification as a whole. Even small changes sometimes may have significant consequences.
However, if your pH is below 7, 1 mg/L ammonium+ammonia should be perfectly safe. Test kits always measure ammonia and ammonium together, and pH measurement is necessary to tell how much of this is made up by toxic ammonia.
Though I'm not convinced that your problems are caused by ammonia (by nitrites, perhaps?), I believe some changes in your tank's microbial life are the cause.
I suggest improved oxygenation, and increased water changes. (People often believe that lack of oxygen is impossible in well-planted tanks. I think differently. It's difficult to prove or demonstrate but my long-term experience suggests that good oxygenation tied with good water movement is remarkably beneficial. The more so during summer.)
Worryingly the pH is 4?! Tap water pH is around 7.5 - 8. NH4 still quite high at around 0.3 ppm. I did a 50% water change again today and cleaned the filter out. I'm not sure what else to do at this stage - reduce the temperature? its at 28.4 - 2.8.8c
 

_Maq_

Member
Joined
23 Jun 2022
Messages
618
Location
Czech Republic
pH = 4??? If yes, that's truly worrisome. Some internal biochemical processes collapsed, obviously. What does your substrate consist from?
Water changes are the first aid. Do you have any powdered CaCO3 = calcite, limestone, chalk? That's the safest way to increase pH and buffer capacity of water. It's poorly soluble in water so you'll get a white 'mist' in the water. It's not dangerous, neither to fish nor to plants. However, I can't suggest dosing from distance. Try a teaspoon, wait 24 hrs & check pH. You'll see.
Keep on oxygenating, that's always a good thing if things get into trouble.
 

tam

Member
Joined
5 May 2011
Messages
1,293
What's your KH? The nitrogen cycle uses up KH, if it runs out you can end up with a low ph and stops the cycle - usually it happens in old tanks without a lot of water changes. Is your water soft?
 

Sara_Notfors

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Thread starter
Joined
26 Jan 2020
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22
Location
Edinburgh
Test your source water too just to make sure it's not a false reading/problem there.
Good thinking - my tap water has NH4 of about 0.3 ppm....
I've got a friend dropping by some bacteria gel ball things
 

Sara_Notfors

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Thread starter
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26 Jan 2020
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Location
Edinburgh
What's your KH? The nitrogen cycle uses up KH, if it runs out you can end up with a low ph and stops the cycle - usually it happens in old tanks without a lot of water changes. Is your water soft?
KH is around 4 dH (I think? first time I've used it and the water colour has changed to a light orange-yellow).
Aye, water is soft. I've been doing water changes, but only about once a week. Life has been a little crazy.
 

tam

Member
Joined
5 May 2011
Messages
1,293
KH is around 4 dH (I think? first time I've used it and the water colour has changed to a light orange-yellow).
Aye, water is soft. I've been doing water changes, but only about once a week. Life has been a little crazy.
Once a week should be enough to keep things stable, it's usually a problem if it's months without. Your water report might tell you the base line for things like hardness.

Another thing that might be worth doing is popping a water sample into your local fish shop - a lot will test for you and it makes sure your kit is reading correctly and they've usually more experience reading the colour results.
 

Sara_Notfors

New Member
Thread starter
Joined
26 Jan 2020
Messages
22
Location
Edinburgh
pH = 4??? If yes, that's truly worrisome. Some internal biochemical processes collapsed, obviously. What does your substrate consist from?
Water changes are the first aid. Do you have any powdered CaCO3 = calcite, limestone, chalk? That's the safest way to increase pH and buffer capacity of water. It's poorly soluble in water so you'll get a white 'mist' in the water. It's not dangerous, neither to fish nor to plants. However, I can't suggest dosing from distance. Try a teaspoon, wait 24 hrs & check pH. You'll see.
Keep on oxygenating, that's always a good thing if things get into trouble.
I can't remember exactly, some sort of red fine sand that from memory that provided nutrients to plants topped with coarse sand. NO powered CaCO3
 

jaypeecee

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Joined
21 Jan 2015
Messages
2,897
Location
Bracknell
I suggest improved oxygenation, and increased water changes. (People often believe that lack of oxygen is impossible in well-planted tanks. I think differently. It's difficult to prove or demonstrate but my long-term experience suggests that good oxygenation tied with good water movement is remarkably beneficial. The more so during summer
Hi @_Maq_

I agree with the points you have made. In particular, oxygenation of the water column and biofilter is so important. And the presence of dissolved organics eats up oxygen. But, oxygen in the water requires specialist equipment in order carry out accurate oxygen measurements. Having said that, I have found some hobbyist O2 Test Kits to be better than nothing. Currently, I have a Salifert O2 test kit, which I find useful. I prefer the Salifert kit to the JBL test kit for O2 tests.

JPC
 
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