is it better to remove ammonia "immediately" or...

Discussion in 'Filters, Filtration and Pumps' started by jarthel, 18 Nov 2009.

  1. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    Messages:
    212
    let it go through the nitrogen cycle so it would end up as nitrate (which I believe are good for plants)?

    there are various filter media that can remove ammonia with zeolite being the cheapest I believe.

    Any thoughts?

    Thank you
     
  2. Dan Crawford

    Dan Crawford Founder Staff Member

    Messages:
    3,268
    Location:
    Daventry, Northants
    Thats an interesting question, not one i've ever thought of.

    I'd remove ammonia by doing water changes and add the required N and other nutrients to the fresh tap water. There is no point in waiting for the cycle when you have the required nutrients in a bottle IMO

    Hope that helps.
     
  3. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    8,267
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    I wouldn't use any ammonia remover or chelator in a planted tank, as long as you have healthy plant growth you don't need one. It is up to you really, you can use Dan's approach, or in a "Walstad" type tank the combination of plants, biofilm and biofiltration will mean that ammonia is very unlikely to ever rise to detectable levels once the aquaria has stabilised (these tanks are never really "cycled" in the conventional manner). Personally I use the Walstad approach, but with frequent water changes, partially because I keep fish (Apistogramma mainly) that are reported to need very "clean" water (I've never kept them in any other type of tank, so I have no personal experience otherwise), I basically follow the suggestions of Bob Wiltshire (ApistoBob) at <http://www.dwarfcichlid.com/Aquarium_care.php> .

    If you are unsure about the nitrification process have a look at the "Skeptical Aquarist" <http://www.skepticalaquarist.com/docs/nutrient/nitcyc.shtml>, Brett doesn't update the pages very often, but they are still, in my opinion, the best written pages on biofiltration etc. <http://www.skepticalaquarist.com/docs/biofilm/devbio.shtml>.

    cheers Darrel
     
  4. Stu Worrall

    Stu Worrall Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    1,987
    Location:
    Flintshire, North Wales
    dave spencer did a very good write up on another forum about this and using an ammonia remover on startup but I cant remember the forum. Ill be using some on my new tank
     
  5. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    Messages:
    212
    what if include them as insurance policy? As Dan has said, nutrients can be added without waiting for the cycle to finish.

    zeolites expend themselves but I assume zeolite replacement can be part of a routine when maintaining a canister.
     
  6. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Hi,
    I would definitely suggest using Zeolite, a mineral which does a really good job of binding ammonia. This is especially useful during a high tech tank startup. The excess ammonia production rate due to poor nitrification as a result of low bacterial populations in sediment and filter, typically seen in immature tanks, makes it critical to remove as much as practicable. This significantly lowers the risk of triggering algal blooms. Fluval make an excellent Zeolite/Activated carbon mix. After a few months you can either replace it (the binding sites get filled with ammonia) or just leave it in and it will become like ordinary filter media and the bacteria will feed off the bound ammonia. If this is a high tech tank then you ought to be dosing PO4/NO3 separately and not waiting around for NH4->NO2->NO3 transition. Avoiding algae means that in the first 2 months of operation you should do frequent and large water changes, keep the lighting low, dose appropriate nutrient levels and make best efforts to control the ammonia loading rate - that's where the Zeolite is instrumental.

    The nitrogen cycle will happen in every tank and it's unavoidable (unless you add bleach or Dettol to your tank). The trick is to get the nitrifying bacteria population up to speed as quickly as possible. These populations are what stabilizes the tank. Ammonia is always being produced 24/7. Healthy plants uptake ammonia but plants in poor health discharge ammonia, or at best do not uptake much of it. This changes the ammonia buildup rate which, under high lighting algal spores use as a trigger to bloom. The Walstead approach absolutely, positively is begging for trouble in a high tech tank. Walstead type tanks are a stroll through the park. High tech, fuel injected tanks are a Formula 1 circuit. These are different regimes and you cannot easily mix their principles without turning your tank into pea soup.

    So the idea is to:
    1. Maximize plant health by having appropriate levels of nutrients/CO2. Healthy plants remove more ammonia and they oxygenate the filter, sediment and water column thereby speeding up the aerobic nitrifying bacteria populations.
    2. Curtail the ammonia buildup levels by removing/sequestering as much of it as possible via water change and Zeolite.

    It's specifically because of Dave Spencers use of Zeolite that he observes a marked reduction of or even the non-appearance in diatomic algal blooms, the scourge of newly setup tanks.

    Cheers,
     
  7. Iliveinazoo

    Iliveinazoo Member

    Messages:
    130
    Location:
    Southampton
    I'd be patient and let the cycle happen. Depends on if you don't mind spending money on something that is not going to be an issue after a few weeks though.
     
  8. Stu Worrall

    Stu Worrall Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    1,987
    Location:
    Flintshire, North Wales
    That was the one Dave Spencer had suggested, I just couldnt remember what it was called :D Ive bought some Aquaone zeolite to use on mine although I guess theyre all the same.
     
  9. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    Messages:
    212
    it seems zeolist is used in swimming pools so it might be cheaper to buy from there.
     
  10. Stu Worrall

    Stu Worrall Forum Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    1,987
    Location:
    Flintshire, North Wales
    it was cheap anyway, only about £4 for more than Ill need.
     
  11. altaaffe

    altaaffe Member

    Messages:
    309
    Location:
    Thornhill, Egremont, Cumbria
    It's a good question and made me think for one.

    I'm about to move house and set up my tanks all over again. But I think I'll seed a filter on my Oscar tank for use on a hi-tech tank so that it will be searching for every last bit of ammonia it can get from the the off - hopefully this way I won't have to worry about the initail stages of ammonia production.

    I wouldn't want to use an ammonia capture product myself due to the fact that when you want to stop using it you're running the risk of starting a mini-cycle again or at least introducing pockets of ammonia again
     
  12. jarthel

    jarthel Member

    Messages:
    212
    why would you want to cycle though if a media like zeolite can remove ammonia already? It seems to me (this is my 1st tank ever which I haven't setup but I have been reading) the main aim of the cycle is to remove ammonia (and by-product nitrites) out of the system. but without ammonia, there's nothing to worry about. and plants like ammonia too. So I suppose the zeolite will be absorbing just the excess. nitrates and other nutrients can be source from an additive/fertilizer.

    As I said, zeolite replacement can be part of the routine when maintaining the canister. like every month, you replace zeolite (or whatever ammonia-absorbing chemical you used). and zeolite can be recycled (seems like a bath in salty water will do the trick).
     
  13. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Exactly! I don't get why folks seem to think they need ammonia to avoid cycles. There is ebb and flow all the time. Just think about the difference in ammonia uptake when you give a tank a prune. The bacterial populations are resilient, so as long as the tank is mature the populations can build easily. In any case the Zeolite does not do it's job forever. It fills up and cant remove any more, then bacteria colonize the sites feed off the captures ammonia. You can replace the Zeolite with fresh, or you can just continue on. It's at tank startup that the tank is most vulnerable to algal blooms precisely because the bacterial populations haven't built up to resilient levels.

    Cheers,
     
  14. a1Matt

    a1Matt Member

    Messages:
    2,498
    Location:
    Bromley
    I have a related question\questions that has been floating around my head on and off for a while...

    Lets assume for starters that zeolite is in a tanks filter and that it is 'full' with ammonia.

    I assume that the ammonia held in the zeolite is fully available for any nitrifying bacteria to feed on, and that when they do feed on it the zeolite will regain some of its absorbing abilities.

    Is this assumption correct? If so then it seems to me that zeolite would be good to leave in a filter long term and the process I described above would work as a buffer to take up the slack created whenever the bacteria can not munch through all the ammonia present straight off.

    Or am I misinterpreting it? I guess it could be just as probable that the zeolite can not reabsorb once it has been 'used' once without some chemical recharging (like salt, etc).

    (A little OT now... I assume this is the same way that a substrate with a good CEC rating will work with nutrients, i.e. it will release nutrients to plants when the plant grabs them, then recharge as and when it can from whatever is released to it via the sediment\water.)

    (Getting really OT, I wonder if it is the same for activated charcoal as well?!)
     
  15. ceg4048

    ceg4048 Expert/Global Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,953
    Location:
    Chicago, USA
    Matt,
    Barr indicates that it's more of a one shot deal. The chemical binding of NH4 occurs for about a month or so and then the bacteria start to colonize the binding sites. Whether their presence interferes with further chemical binding I'm not sure, but seems likely. He does say though that the Zeolite is rechargeable with a (table salt) brine solution where Sodium is exchanged for ammonium. If this is the case then the real advantage of this mineral is to attenuate the ammonium loading rate in new tanks and tanks which are experiencing NH4 spike due to whatever reason such as filter bacteria die off perhaps as a result of medication for example. The surface area for colonization may not be as high as the sintered glass products so depending on the fish/plant load it may not be as effective as the sintered glass products long term, but it's certainly not bad at all.

    Zeolite is even being used to supplement sediments where it can sequester ammonia and prevent leaching into the water column. Again, in new tanks this is a major plus, especially if it helps to reduce the NH4 leaching which is prominent in Aquasoil.

    People really need to get over the fear about "Oh my God, if you remove my ammonia the tank won't cycle" which is of course, an irrational fear (sort of like fear of PO4, AKA phos-phobia :angelic: ). The tank cycles fine but what we are doing is to help attenuate the ammonia loading rate, which is highly correlated to some forms of algal blooms.

    Cheers,
     

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