Ammonia level won’t go down. Please help

Callisto405

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Help please!! I am aware that I am still going through the cycle process. 36 gallon tank is at a little over a month. All levels ( tested with API liquid test) have been reading great except for ammonia which has been steady at .50 and I have done a few partial water changes. There are a few live plants in my tank, along with 6 glo tetras, 4 glo danios, 4 barbs. Have not added any new fish. Have been feeding small amount once a day, keeping lights on for a minimum of 3 hours a day. This morning I tested the ammonia, as I’ve been doing every day, and it is at 8.0, could be higher for all I know, since that’s the highest it showed on chart. I saw one of the leaves on one of the plants, was dead. Removed it. Water has been so clear but is now very cloudy. This all happened overnight. I added API Ammolock this morning too. Nitrite went up a little as it has been steady at a 0ppm. What happened overnight?? Was it the dead leaf on the plant? I’m really worried about my fish. I’ve been trying so hard to follow all the rules. Water changes. Less food. Daily water Testing. What the heck happened?? What do I do now??? Please help me 😢😢😢😢
It sounds like your cycle is just getting started. Only way for a tank to cycle is for ammonia and nitrite to rise drastically before it can fall to 0. And this could take weeks. This is why fish-in cycling is frowned upon. Very stressful on the fish
 
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Tenaj

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The fish are all dead and the tank is empty, so the ammonia can now remain in the tank to feed the BB. The OP did lots of water changes, but I expect the 8ppm spike was so much it killed all the fish, but some hung on longer than others.
They all died at the same time 😢😢 Right after my 75% water change yesterday. All within an hour The water is new since I had just changed it. I kept the filter going. What is the OP? Sorry lol.
I guess I’m trying to understand what I do now with the tank, before adding mew fish. This has been crazy 😜
 
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Tenaj

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It sounds like your cycle is just getting started. Only way for a tank to cycle is for ammonia and nitrite to rise drastically before it can fall to 0. And this could take weeks. This is why fish-in cycling is frowned upon. Very stressful on the fish
I wish petsmart had mentioned the cycle to me. They just sold me fish. Lost a few in my 10 gallon tank. Started my own research. Upgraded to 36 gallons and here I am 😢
 

Myraan

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A lot of LFS give reasonable advice from the 90s about gradual stocking, what we call today fish-in cycles, problem is without lots of extra water changes that will not work. In addition even when LFS give the right advice, realistically people want fish now, so they will often ignore the advice.

While it's bad that they put animal welfare ahead of profits, I understand the temptation; the actual mistreatment is technically the customer's fault so they will not get in trouble. A personal rule I have is that if I like LFS - I try to spend money there rather than letting amazon undercut, ultimately if they don't make a profit they go out of business and the staff have no job, and the customer has no more shop to visit.

Pets at Home in the UK does have rules enforced from on high to at least attempt welfare. They have a point system to prevent overstocking. That system is far from ideal as adding 3 1 point neons to a fully stocked 60 litre tank will result in refusal of sale, while they will happily sell a goldfish for a fifteen litre tank as such a tank allows 7 fish points and a goldfish is labelled with 5. In addition, anyone with a brain will know how to lie to the store staff to avoid refusal of sales.

My other LFS (my favourite one) asked me when I asked to buy a tank - "Do you know about cycling?". I answered yes, I have researched on the net, I am going to try a fishless cycle. He said "ok, there are various ways of doing a cycle" but left me to my devices. I expect had I said no he would have sold me a bottle of safestart and some teststrips..... not necessarily ideal but at least the advice wasn't from 1975....

The LFS is in a difficult position though..... if they told complicated advice about various methods of cycling involving expensive test kits, half of their customers would smile and then go and buy fish from their competitor who asks them no questions about things that confuse them.
 
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Tenaj

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A lot of LFS give reasonable advice from the 90s about gradual stocking, what we call today fish-in cycles, problem is without lots of extra water changes that will not work. In addition even when LFS give the right advice, realistically people want fish now, so they will often ignore the advice.

While it's bad that they put animal welfare ahead of profits, I understand the temptation; the actual mistreatment is technically the customer's fault so they will not get in trouble. A personal rule I have is that if I like LFS - I try to spend money there rather than letting amazon undercut, ultimately if they don't make a profit they go out of business and the staff have no job, and the customer has no more shop to visit.

Pets at Home in the UK does have rules enforced from on high to at least attempt welfare. They have a point system to prevent overstocking. That system is far from ideal as adding 3 1 point neons to a fully stocked 60 litre tank will result in refusal of sale, while they will happily sell a goldfish for a fifteen litre tank as such a tank allows 7 fish points and a goldfish is labelled with 5. In addition, anyone with a brain will know how to lie to the store staff to avoid refusal of sales.

My other LFS (my favourite one) asked me when I asked to buy a tank - "Do you know about cycling?". I answered yes, I have researched on the net, I am going to try a fishless cycle. He said "ok, there are various ways of doing a cycle" but left me to my devices. I expect had I said no he would have sold me a bottle of safestart and some teststrips..... not necessarily ideal but at least the advice wasn't from 1975....

The LFS is in a difficult position though..... if they told complicated advice about various methods of cycling involving expensive test kits, half of their customers would smile and then go and buy fish from their competitor who asks them no questions about things that confuse them.
Love this post!
 

CaptainBarnicles

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Tested the water this morning and it read 1ppm ammonia. So sad to see all fish gone. Do I just test everyday until
It gets down to 0? Will it get to 0 by doing nothing other than running the filter?
Yes, the first colony of BB will convert the ammonia to Nitrite....then the second colony of BB will covert the Nitrite to Nitrate...by that point your ammonia readings will be at 0 and your Nitrite readings will be dropping.
 

Wadey87fish

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So personally I do the fish in cycling never had an issue did you add all them fish at once?

Use one type of water conditioner remove as much water as possible add a filter booster.

It can't be 8 again after a 50% change.

Don't wait keep changing the water
 
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Tenaj

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So personally I do the fish in cycling never had an issue did you add all them fish at once?

Use one type of water conditioner remove as much water as possible add a filter booster.

It can't be 8 again after a 50% change.

Don't wait keep changing the water
Thanks. When I started with the 10 gallon I bought 3 glo tetras then a week later added 2 barbs. Few died. Did research and learned about the cycle. Upgraded to 36 gallon. Started water changing once to then 2 times a week. Did add more fish. Never more than 2 at once. Fast forward to over a month, ammonia spiked to 8 from a 1, which was what I had been working with. 2 water changes when I saw the 8. 2 water changes yesterday which was the day after. 50% and 75% within an hour they all died 😢😢😢😢
 

Byron

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Thanks. When I started with the 10 gallon I bought 3 glo tetras then a week later added 2 barbs. Few died. Did research and learned about the cycle. Upgraded to 36 gallon. Started water changing once to then 2 times a week. Did add more fish. Never more than 2 at once. Fast forward to over a month, ammonia spiked to 8 from a 1, which was what I had been working with. 2 water changes when I saw the 8. 2 water changes yesterday which was the day after. 50% and 75% within an hour they all died 😢😢😢😢

This is for the future, when the tank parameters have worked themselves out and settled. You will obviously want to get some fish, and I'd just mention that a 10g tank is not sufficient space for barbs (whatever the species), nor glofish. We don't want you to walk into more problems. When you're ready to consider possible fish, let us know which and we can provide advice.
 
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Tenaj

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This is for the future, when the tank parameters have worked themselves out and settled. You will obviously want to get some fish, and I'd just mention that a 10g tank is not sufficient space for barbs (whatever the species), nor glofish. We don't want you to walk into more problems. When you're ready to consider possible fish, let us know which and we can provide advice.
I no longer have that. Learned from researching that they needed more space. Again. Knew nothing other than what petsmart told me, which was nothing 😢 sold me tank and fish then sent me packing lol. I’ve learned so much since then I now have a 36 gallon. Had 6 glo tetras. 4 glo danios and 4 glo barbs. Now I have none 😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢 they all died yesterday
Now I have a tank with no fish. 75% water change was done yesterday before they all died. Filter is still going. Ammonia is now at 1ppm. Trying to work on picking up from here to finish cycle and add fish. Picture shows what I have minus the fish 😢😢😢😢
 

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Byron

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I no longer have that. Learned from researching that they needed more space. Again. Knew nothing other than what petsmart told me, which was nothing 😢 sold me tank and fish then sent me packing lol. I’ve learned so much since then I now have a 36 gallon. Had 6 glo tetras. 4 glo danios and 4 glo barbs. Now I have none 😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😢 they all died yesterday
Now I have a tank with no fish. 75% water change was done yesterday before they all died. Filter is still going. Ammonia is now at 1ppm. Trying to work on picking up from here to finish cycle and add fish. Picture shows what I have minus the fish 😢😢😢😢

Thanks for the tank size correction. That offers more choice for when this issue is resolved, and it will be.

I will just point out that Glo Fish are something the hobby does not endorse, so I ask that you please leave these out of any fish considerations. No matter how such characteristics are achieved, the deliberate manipulation of a fish species is something we must never encourage, and that means, never buy such fish. There is no other way to get these practices stopped, though laws in some countries (those in the EU for example) do prohibit glo fish from being imported or acquired, not sure if just keeping them is also illegal, or if this applies to the UK as well.

One may wonder why this is so important; there is more behind this than just the wrongful manipulation of a species for profit. It hurts the entire hobby. I mentioned in another thread a few weeks back that forces are gathering to ban this hobby altogether as part of the global understanding that we (humans) are destroying the environment and the trafficking in exotic animals is serious and has already been banned by some countries, and this is going to continue. In the last issue of Amazonas, it is reported that the City of Winnipeg in Canada is considering a bylaw to prohibit the importation (into Winnipeg) and the acquisition of any ornamental fish, along with amphibians, reptiles and birds. It also prohibits the sale of fish to anyone in or outside the city. Existing tanks of fish are grandfathered. If this bylaw should get passed, it will end the hobby in Winnipeg, and you can be sure that once that "success" is achieved, it will spread to other cities, provinces, states and countries.

All of this just points out where we are. Manipulating genes, injecting dyes, deliberately causing malformation to certain species of fish to provide "balloon" varieties--all of this is reprehensible, often harmful and inhumane to the fish, and does not make the hobby look any better to those outside the hobby--who may not fully understand things but do have a very sincere love for the natural world.
 

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You should read all about fishless cycling in below link. Follow the instructions exactly and in 5 to 6 weeks you might be properly cycled. . Leave filter running the entire time. Do not add any fish untill you do the final test as described in the following link. Use pure ammonia to get starting level to 3 ppm using a proper test kit (api recommended). If you don't understand something, reread the instructions till you do understand it. At the very end, dont forget to do a very large (90% or more) water change to remove built up nitrates.
 
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Pcknights

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Keep making water changes.
Search and remove dead plants, dead fish.
Do you have any big snails inside? These are notorious ammonia bombs if they die in smaller tanks.
I am using test stripes which contain multiple tests. It's convenient cause it shows also nitrates nitrite in the water.
Having nitrates and lower level on ammonia and nitrite means that you have a good cycle.
Fish produce ammonia, ammonia brakes down to nitrite by good bacteria, nitrite breaks down to nitrate by other good bacteria, plants use nitrate as fertiliser.
I believe its a good idea if you can get some test stripes in order to have an overview of your whole circle and not just ammonia. You can get something like 100 stripes for 10pounds or something.
I would also suggest to keep the lights on for 8 hours minimum.
 
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First of all, sorry to read about the problems you had Tenaj. I had my fair share when I started out 30 years ago. My worst was that I read somewhere that you could feed earthworms to fish. So I did and then had the most horrific fungal outbreak which gradually killed every fish I had. This was before the internet was really a thing, so there was no forum like this to discuss and gain knowledge. Anyway, back to the fish less cycling. I’m sure adding ammonia works but it seems a bit complicated to me with having to monitor the level and add ammonia at certain times. May I suggest an easier option. Get a cooked prawn and stick it in a small media bag and toss it in your tank. Then forget you have a fish tank for a few weeks. Then start testing for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. When ammonia and nitrite are zero you’ll be cycled. Remove the prawn, do a partial water change to dilute the nitrates and then you can add fish. Even though you are cycled, don’t rush out and buy loads of fish straight away. Add a few at a a time. A small quarantine tank is a good idea.
 

Jan Cavalieri

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I think you really need understand what is going on when a tank is cycling (read up a little more on it) For some reason it all sounds intimidating but in reality it is quite simple, and no real knowledge of chemistry is required (even though it is a chemical process).

When you start cycling a tank you must have a source of ammonia - so don't get rid of all the ammonia in the tank while you are doing all these water changes right now. Try to aim for .25 ppm
Pour in a bottle of bacteria (I use Tetra Safe Start -it's inexpensive, works well and easy to find at nearly all fish stores. I always keep a couple of bottle on hand that I add before i add more fish to the tank. This is because (once your tank is cycled) you may want to add more fish. More fish means more ammonia which (once the tank is cycled) is not a good thing. Adding bacteria to your tank before you get more fish will provide a sufficient bacteria load to cover the ammonia excreted by the new fish.

Now when you are cycling a tank you must have SOME ammonia in the tank to kick off the cycle. In the old days, that meant adding inexpensive fish (because they are likely to die but they provided a source of ammonia to the tank). Some people added food to the tank and let it decay and produce ammonia (fine if you want to wait a million years) and others found out that if you keep the tank without fish you can add pure household ammonia (no soaps or anything else added) to the tank along with bacteria to start the nitrogen cycle. The first group of bacteria then convert the ammonia to nitrites, different bacteria then come in and convert the nitrites to relatively harmless nitrates which can then be removed with a water change. Do not consider your tank cycled until you get readings of zero ammonia and zero nitrites for several days in a row. Personally I don't like to wait an entire week because of the risk of the bacteria dying off due to lack of food source but do wait several days at least - testing daily to make sure your cycle is complete.

Once you then add fish they become the new source of ammonia that keep the beneficial bacteria (BB) alive and the BB keep the ammonia and nitrites in check. (in your case you already have your fish in the tank and if they survive cycling then they will serve as the permanent source of ammonia to keep the bacteria fed and keep your nitrogen cycle working,

Weekly water changes are to clean up after your fish and clean the water - if you are like me and tend to overfeed you can suction out the excess food before you DO have an ammonia spike, that will remove the excess food that is way too much for the bacteria to eat. i do water changes every Friday of about 70% (actually I have an assistant that I pay to do it since I am disabled but I can and do it myself when he is not available or I need to do an extra water change). 70% may seem like a lot but I've had good experience with it. It doesn't affect the bacteria in the tank. BUT one issue with removing that much water - especially if you haven't suctioned out the debris in the tank well enough is that the 30% of water left in the tank may be full off concentrated debris that I have had kill some fish. So make sure you do a very good job suctioning the gravel if you have a lot of debris or, before you start your water change, remove water from the tank and put it in one or more large buckets (depending on the number and size of the fish). Add a bubbler stone to keep the water oxygenated if you are slow at doing water changes like I am. Put your fish in the various buckets until your are done with the water change (and re-suction that debris your missed.) When you are about half-way done with adding the new water (with conditioner) it is safe to return the fish to the tanks, since you don't want a huge temperature change after they've been cooling off in the buckets. So the less time spent in the bucket the better. If you don't have a lot of debris left in that last 30% of water feel free to keep the fish in the tank. OH - the other reason I sometimes remove the fish is if I purchased them when they are very small. I have some glass fish that are terribly small and hard to see so I always remove them and any other small fish from the tank before removing water or suctioning them up accidentally. I had to reduce the size of my intake tube after 3 of the 5 got sucked up into the filter and killed, so small fish are just at high risk until they grow up. Once you "get" what is going on chemically in your tank you'll be better able to make your own decisions about how best to handle certain situations.

Also do check the PH of your water coming out of your tap. I lost a lot of fish until i did that. Turns out my tap water matches the city average of 9.4 - which is WAY to high for fish. I put in a PH nutrulizer to EVERY container of water before you add it to the tank the neutralizer adjusts my water to a PH of 7.0. which is perfect for most tropical fish (Cichlids I understand require a PH of about 8.0 in which case I would use a bottle of PHdown (according to their directions) to try to get my tank to a PH of 8. So I mix up my PH neutralizer along with my water conditioner and add it to every container I use so it goes into the tank at perfect levels. I am not going to pour ph 9.4 on the heads of my fish and THEN add the neutralizer - the water will enter the tank PERFECT for for fish I have. You can also get a lot of information about what is in your water by going to your city's website and hopefully they have their annual Water report online - so you can see the average PH and water hardness (something more difficult to adjust); I also found that my city like many others add both chlorine and chloramines to our water - both are harmful. I also recently noticed that there is a rather high amount of ammonia already in our water (about .2 ppm) that explained some of the issues I've had over the years. So while it's written for those interested in what their drinking water contains, it's even more important for fish keepers to check this report.

Best of luck. Your issues are very serious but may not be the end of the world for your fish if you follow the instruction given by some of our many experts (I am NOT an expert and learn something new every day - (i've only been doing this for 4 yrs.)
 

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