Ammonia stuck at 1


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Jan 6, 2019
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Hello! So a family member of mine decided to purchase a fish tank for my sister for Christmas. They got her a 3 gallon (after I told them months in advance a 1 gallon would not be enough) and small 2.5 inch betta. They set up the tank with her on Christmas, put in water that had been left out for 24 hours with a dechlorinator, a moss ball, small filter (came with the box), heater, and the fish. The tank is still in the cycling process and while I realize this is dangerous with a fish in the tank, there’s nothing I can really do.

I began testing a week ago and saw that the ph was 7 (and has been since then), nitrates were present in small amounts, and the nitrites started at .5 but have been at 0 since then. I’ve been using the api test kit the entire time. However, upon viewing my ammonia, it seems to have gone from .5 two days ago to 1 today. I did a water change after then .5 reading and want to know what I can do to decrease the ammonia and help this fish survive as best I can. Thanks!


Jan 26, 2008
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Perth, WA
Hi and welcome to the forum :)

Ammonia is caused by anything that breaks down in the water. It can be fish food, fish waste, dead fish or plant, rotting driftwood, basically anything that rots in the water. The best thing to do with a newly set up tank is reduce feeding to 2 times per week. The fish will not starve and the less food going into the tank, the less ammonia that will be produced. Once the filter has cycled (about 4-5 weeks, sometimes longer) you can feed the fish more often.

You should also do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate any day there is an ammonia or nitrite reading above 0, or a nitrate reading above 20ppm. Nitrate should not be building up yet because the filter hasn't cycled yet. If you have nitrates in the water, it might be coming from the tap water. Check the tap water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. If the tap water has less than 20ppm of nitrate that is fine and the tank will always have some nitrate. If the tap water has more than 20ppm of nitrate, then you will need to look into removing the nitrates before using that water in the tank. Nitrates can be removed with filters like a Pozzani filter, and floating plants like Duckweed and Water Sprite will use them.

You can also look at using reverse osmosis (R/O) water or distilled/ rain water if you have very high levels of nitrates in the tap water. If you use R/O or rain/ distilled water, it is a good idea to add a small amount of mineral salts (Rift Lake water conditioner at 1/4 strength) to the water to increase the hardness and stabilise the pH. Bottled drinking water can also be used if it doesn't have too much salt in.


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