Ammonia issue in established tank

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Jellybeann

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Hi everyone! I have an established 8 gallon cube about 3 years old. Never bothered to check water parameters before. Got a master test kit last week and found ammonia to be at .25. Any reason why ammonia would spike up to .50 (possibly more) after a water change? Nitrate and nitrites are at 0. Iā€™ve only got a betta and some pest snails in there. Heavily planted. Using Stress Coat + to condition the water.
 

Byron

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First question, since you are in the USA where this is common, does your water authority use chloramine rather than straight chlorine? If yes, it is common to see low levels of ammonia (0.25 to 0.50) because chloramine is ammonia and chlorine bonded and the conditioner detoxifies them but the ammonia will remain. In this situation, it is not harmful. The live plants should use the ammonia within 24 hours or less.

Since you mention it...Stress Coat is not something I would use. This conditioner unfortunately contains aloe vera. Aloe vera has absolutely no benefit for fish, regardless of what API may claim. And scientific tests have shown that aloe vera can impact the gills of fish. There are some other issues too. A better product is API's Tap Water Conditioner; it handles chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals, and that is all most of us require. It is also highly concentrated so you use much less, a benefit to fish.
 

TwoTankAmin

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I would flush the stress coat and choose a different product. IMO.

There are a few reasons for getting a trace ammonia reading like you are. One would be if your water company uses chloramines. Dechlors break these down which neutralizes the chlorine part but then frees the ammonia part. Even if you use a dechlor which also detoxifies ammonia, what that does is turn ammonia, NH3, infto ammonium, NH4. The latter is way less dangerous and the bacteria can use it, albeit less efficiently.

Most hooby ammonia test kits read Total ammonia which is the sum of NH3 and NH4. So to get an accurate rrading you need to test soon after dosing, Otherwise you can get an anmmoja reading ovr the next day or 2. But .25 ppm of NH4 is safe for quite some time.

The next reason you may be seeing that .25 ppm is that it is not real and there is no ammonia. Some things in our water can interfere with an ammonia test. iron is one example. Our test kits are not exact scientific instruements. In a lab a decent ammonia test rund from ove $100 to into the $1,000s for the really exacting applications.

So, how can we get some idea of what is actually going on in your tank? And here is how I explain it. Kets suppose I were to ask you to do the following:
1. Set up an aquarium.
2. Out in .25 ppm of ammonaia.
3. As soon as that starts to drop, add nack enough ammonia to keep the tak at .26 ppm. if you test in an hour it will be .25 or in a day or a week, it will always be .25.

Now all you have to do is tell me how you can make that happen. And that will explain why it is virtually imporssible to have a contant low level reading of almost anything in a tank. Do not forget that ammonia is a gas. So as long as your water's pH is above 6.5 or so, some fraction of the ammonia will be NH3 and able to evaporate. As soon as it does, some of the NH$ will become NH3 to restore the balance.

So, as long as that .26 ppm stays constant and does not rise, it is likely not an issue. If you want to be sure, read the section in the article here on Rescuing a Fish-in Cule Gone wild. It will provide you with a link and exact instructions on how to know exactly how much of any total ammonia reading in your tank is in the form of NH3 and the rest will be NH4.
https://www.fishforums.net/threads/rescuing-a-fish-in-cycle-gone-wild-part-il.433778/
 

DAnCSF

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Another thing to remember is that test results are a snapshot of time...It doesn't sound like you have a initial baseline to compare. Now that you got a test kit, do weekly tests establish a base line, once you have a baseline you can take actions to make any corrections. But it seems like 1 betta in an 8 gal tank with lots of plants you don't have much to be concerned about.
 

seangee

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Also did you have a problem that made you go out and buy the test kit? If the tank has been fine for 3 years its unlikely that anything changed just because you now have a master test kit.
 

Slaphppy7

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Good info above.

I would add that you need to wait a full 24 hours after a WC before testing ammonia.

Welcome to TFF
 

sharkweek178

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That ammonia reading can be a little tricky sometimes. Depending on what kind of light you're looking at it in, sometimes you can see it as a false positive.
 

TwoTankAmin

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I would add that you need to wait a full 24 hours after a WC before testing ammonia.

And here is what SeaChem, maker of Prime says re the above in their FAQ section (blue color added to text by me):

I am using PrimeĀ® to control ammonia but my test kit says it is not doing anything, in fact it looks like it added ammonia! What is going on?

A: A Nessler based kit will not read ammonia properly if you are using PrimeĀ®... it will look "off scale", sort of a muddy brown (incidentally a Nessler kit will not work with any other products similar to PrimeĀ®). A salicylate based kit can be used, but with caution. Under the conditions of a salicylate kit the ammonia-PrimeĀ® complex will be broken down eventually giving a false reading of ammonia (same as with other products like PrimeĀ®), so the key with a salicylate kit is to take the reading right away. However, the best solution ;-) is to use our MultiTestā„¢ Ammonia kit; it uses a gas exchange sensor system which is not affected by the presence of PrimeĀ® or other similar products. It also has the added advantage that it can detect the more dangerous free ammonia and distinguish it from total ammonia (total ammonia is both free ammonia and non-toxic ionized forms of ammonia).

How long does PrimeĀ® stay bound to the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates?

A: PrimeĀ® will bind up those compounds for up to 48 hours. If they are still present after that time frame, they are released back into the water, unless PrimeĀ® is re-dosed accordingly. Also, if your ammonia or nitrite levels are increasing within a 24-hour period, PrimeĀ® can be re-dosed every 24 hours.
https://www.seachem.com/prime.php
 

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