Another ammonia issue

Byron

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I'm somewhat confused by your last paragraph. Which Seachem and API products are you referring to when you say they eliminate/reduce ammonia?

Re the GH and KH, see if this is posted in the data on your water authority's website.
 
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letterman7

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SeaChem Prime and API Tap Water Conditioner. Both say they neutralize chlorine and chloramine, which is common to larger municipalities to treat water: Monochloramine, often called simply chloramine, is the chemical compound with the formula NH₂Cl. Together with dichloramine and nitrogen trichloride, it is one of the three chloramines of ammonia. So, right out of the tap, we have a high ammonia content. Our local water authority covers three states, so the best guess for water hardness is somewhere between 95 and 120ppm according to data from surrounding areas.
 

Byron

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SeaChem Prime and API Tap Water Conditioner. Both say they neutralize chlorine and chloramine, which is common to larger municipalities to treat water: Monochloramine, often called simply chloramine, is the chemical compound with the formula NH₂Cl. Together with dichloramine and nitrogen trichloride, it is one of the three chloramines of ammonia. So, right out of the tap, we have a high ammonia content. Our local water authority covers three states, so the best guess for water hardness is somewhere between 95 and 120ppm according to data from surrounding areas.

This may be old news, but...

Prime "detoxifies" ammonia, it does not reduce or remove it. It is only effective for 24-36 hours, after which if any "ammonium" remains it reverts to toxic ammonia. I don't know how the API works but it will not remove or reduce "ammonia" either. I use this conditioner but I do not have ammonia issues (only chlorine fortunately) and with all my live plants and a good cover of floating, I have never see ammonia or nitrite above zero in all the years. Lucky on that score anyway.

Water is very soft, so that settles the GH.
 
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letterman7

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Hmm.. I think I have to disagree with you Byron. Yes, ammonia is not removed, only bound by a water treatment. Once bound, it does not "revert" back to ammonia. Chemically, it's can't do that. Both Prime and API bind ammonia initially upon adding it to a water change or fresh tank; it will not bind with any new ammonia after that 24-48 hour period, hence water changes every couple of days. Water hardness of less than 17 is considered 'soft': soft 0 - 17.1 parts per million (ppm); slightly hard 17.1 – 60 ppm; moderately hard 60 - 120 ppm; hard 120 - 180 ppm; and very hard 180 or more ppm. Most of eastern PA where I'm at has hard water with the local geology.
 

Byron

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Hmm.. I think I have to disagree with you Byron. Yes, ammonia is not removed, only bound by a water treatment. Once bound, it does not "revert" back to ammonia. Chemically, it's can't do that. Both Prime and API bind ammonia initially upon adding it to a water change or fresh tank; it will not bind with any new ammonia after that 24-48 hour period, hence water changes every couple of days. Water hardness of less than 17 is considered 'soft': soft 0 - 17.1 parts per million (ppm); slightly hard 17.1 – 60 ppm; moderately hard 60 - 120 ppm; hard 120 - 180 ppm; and very hard 180 or more ppm. Most of eastern PA where I'm at has hard water with the local geology.

Contact Seachem and they will certainly tell you differently. The same applies to Prime's binding of nitrite and nitrate...it lasts for 36 or so hours, then if the nitrite or nitrate is still present, it becomes toxic again. Ammonia is the same. I contacted Seachem a couple of years ago after reading this in a thread, thinking as you do, but I was wrong. The only time ammonia "detoxified" into ammonium can remain ammonium is if the pH is acidic; but if not, then it again becomes the toxic ammonia. No one has ever mentioned a product that does not operate like this, but one may be out there somewhere.

Where did you get the GH data? That is mistaking ppm for dH. Here is the chart many sites use; the terms are subjective, but close enough with the numbers, and both ppm and dH are given.

0 - 4 dGH 0 - 70 ppm very soft

4 - 8 dGH 70 - 140 ppm soft

8 - 12 dGH 140 - 210 ppm medium hard

12 - 18 dGH 210 - 320 ppm fairly hard

18 - 30 dGH 320 - 530 ppm hard

over 30 dGH over 530 ppm very hard
 
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letterman7

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The hardness scale was just from a quick web search in a .pdf format (see attached). I will delve into the detoxification a little more. Something doesn't sound right to me - basic chemistry says that once something is bound into another state, it cannot be "unbound". I'll reach out to SeaChem this week. Bottom line, to clear the bound ammonia, water changes would be paramount until the beneficial bacteria take hold. Even still, I can't see the bacteria "clearing" a tank of fresh water from a water change - and bound ammonia - in those 24-36 hours. I could be very wrong.. biology and chemistry aren't my strong suits. But it is my wife's.. a retired hospital lab tech, so I tend to defer to her judgement :) So how does one obtain pure water without spending a small fortune in a stand alone RO setup?
 

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Byron

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The hardness scale was just from a quick web search in a .pdf format (see attached). I will delve into the detoxification a little more. Something doesn't sound right to me - basic chemistry says that once something is bound into another state, it cannot be "unbound". I'll reach out to SeaChem this week. Bottom line, to clear the bound ammonia, water changes would be paramount until the beneficial bacteria take hold. Even still, I can't see the bacteria "clearing" a tank of fresh water from a water change - and bound ammonia - in those 24-36 hours. I could be very wrong.. biology and chemistry aren't my strong suits. But it is my wife's.. a retired hospital lab tech, so I tend to defer to her judgement :) So how does one obtain pure water without spending a small fortune in a stand alone RO setup?

The chart in the linked document is not accurate so far as the hobby is concerned. I did mention previously that the terms are subjective. The numbers are absolute but what person 1 calls hard, person 2 may not. This is why we on TFF always ask for numbers. Many times we have had members who tell us their city says the water is moderately hard and when we see the actual number it is very. very soft. To get this mixed up for fish could be a death knell. The chart I included in my last email is where the hobby sits for the most part, and sites like Seriously Fish and others will follow suit. That way we all know what we mean.

Let me know what Seachem tells you. How many times have I said that I do not use Prime because Seachem will not (or cannot) say how it "binds" things. Trade secret apparently. But they did say that the detoxified whatever will revert to the toxic form again, and that is all we as aquarists need to know, if it is true (or we need to know it is not, whichever).

I don't understand what you are getting at with the "bacteria 'clearing' a tank of fresh water from a water change-and bound ammonia-in 24-36 hours" comment. And the last sentence, which is part of the thought. ??
 
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letterman7

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What I mean by bacteria clearing the tank is, essentially, bacteria are there to convert the ammonia to its non toxic components. This includes bound and free ammonia. With bacteria doing their job, ammonia should be at zero, no matter what. With a fresh water change, there will always be a certain amount of bound ammonia (with our chloramine levels here). I don't see the bacteria converting that ammonia in 24 hours. So it's sort of a bad give and take as the bacteria work, a water change actually adds more ammonia back to the tank. So to reach a zero reading, water changes would need to stop to allow the bacteria to do their thing. That ties with my last statement - to avoid having chloramine in the water, that means some sort of filtering system for the incoming house water supply, whether it be a RO system with charcoal canisters or something else. From what I'm finding, a large enough chloramine eliminating solution can run into the thousands of dollars. I'm wondering if there is a less expensive solution.
 

Byron

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I take it a bit differently, I'll try to explain (I'm also not a chemist).

Ammonia entering the tank with fresh water needs to be dealt with immediately. The best and safest way is with fast-growing live plants, and surface plants excel at this--they literally are ammonia sinks and can assimilate an incredible amount.

Without live plants, we are forced to trust the nitrifying bacteria. Nitrosomonas sp. take up the ammonia but they are slower than plants would be. They can reproduce in roughly 12+ hours by binary division. So in theory, the ammonia should be gone within 24 hours.

Using a conditioner that detoxifies ammonia is usually advisable when ammonia occurs in the source water, and that is precisely what Prime and similar conditioners are intended to do...detoxify the ammonia for "x" period to allow the plants and/or bacteria to be able to deal with it. The advantage of plants is that they do not have to reproduce to handle excess ammonia, they just rapidly take it up. At some point it may be more than they can manage, depending upon the level and the number of plants, but that is another issue.

I don't know of any product that will "remove" ammonia permanently. Another member started a thread about one such product yesterday [https://www.fishforums.net/threads/questions-about-an-ammonia-remover.475196/unread
and we may find something. I'm sure if there was such a product the hobby would know of it, since ammonia is a serious issue.

A filtering system for the house water would seem to be a big expense. I wonder how risky it is for people to drink this water? I assume it is considered safe, since water authorities all over the place use it.
 
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letterman7

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That's true that the plants will also consume ammonia and likely at a quicker rate than the bacteria (which might explain why my floating plant roots always look "dirty"). And I also belive that there isn't a product that will remove anything that's in liquid form (or dissolved gasses in a liquid) without very expensive specialized equipment. But expense is relative to peace of mind :) I know that there won't be anything that will permanently remove ammonia as it's always being produced. I just want to get on top of the spike, and for the moment that's going to be multiple large scale water changes.
As for a whole house filtering system, expense would be what you would be willing to pay. Right now I'm heavily researching upflow catalytic carbon filters, which are stand-alone, no electricity, carbon filters that supposedly filter everything - from heavy metals to chloramine and chlorine. They come in various sizes depending on the size and needs of the home (or business), but most are well under $1K, and the average homeowner can install them. The end product would be very much akin to distilled water - stripped of all it's instilled chemicals, rendering it fairly pure. Totally safe to drink, you just won't taste anything. And, it would not give you any benefits, either, as stripping the chemicals also means stripping fluorides and other chemicals out that we humans would typically consume for better health. If you drink a ton of water a day, that might make a difference. For a fish tank, it means adding back in elements by means of an agent like SeaChem's Equilibrium (I'm not a SeaChem agent or seller, I just happen to have researched a lot of this over the past couple weeks :) ).
 

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On the subject of Prime and ammonia/nitrite reverting to the toxic state, this is Seachem's answer to that question
How long does Prime® stay bound to the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates?

A: Prime® 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 Prime® is re-dosed accordingly. Also, if your ammonia or nitrite levels are increasing within a 24-hour period, Prime® can be re-dosed every 48 hours.
 

Byron

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That's true that the plants will also consume ammonia and likely at a quicker rate than the bacteria (which might explain why my floating plant roots always look "dirty")

The brownish "fuzz" that occurs on floating plant roots is orgaqnic matter. I had an organic bloom in my 90g tank a few years ago, and the floating plants were unbelievably heavy with this. I had never noticed it previously, and I see very little now in any of my tanks. Microscopic food gets caught in this, and fish like pygmy cories, pencilfish, some tetras will be seen browsing through the plant roots looking for the food. I don't think this has any relation to ammonia, as I have seen this in tanks with a very minimal fish load, but not in tanks with much heavier fish loads.

You mention Equilibrium...I used this for three or so years, until a marine biologist convinced me it was unnecessary. I had consulted her concerning a fish disease and this came up in the discussion. I decided to stop the Equilibrium (I had started it because of my zero GH water, to provide sufficient calcium and it certainly made a difference to the plants), and used Seachem's Flourish Tabs instead. I've been doing this now ever since, some five or sic years, and the FT appear to be providing sufficient calcium as the large swords which were the main issue have been doing well; I can't say they are as "good" as they were with Equilibrium, but they are still growing well and that is all I care about, as the FT mean no excess minerals are getting into the water to bother the fish.
 
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letterman7

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On the subject of Prime and ammonia/nitrite reverting to the toxic state, this is Seachem's answer to that question
Yes, I saw that on their site. I have an email and a call into them to see if they can clarify how, exactly, organic compounds can become "unbound" after a certain amount of time. I'll post a reply if I get one.
The brownish "fuzz" that occurs on floating plant roots is orgaqnic matter. I had an organic bloom in my 90g tank a few years ago, and the floating plants were unbelievably heavy with this. I had never noticed it previously, and I see very little now in any of my tanks. Microscopic food gets caught in this, and fish like pygmy cories, pencilfish, some tetras will be seen browsing through the plant roots looking for the food. I don't think this has any relation to ammonia, as I have seen this in tanks with a very minimal fish load, but not in tanks with much heavier fish loads.

You mention Equilibrium...I used this for three or so years, until a marine biologist convinced me it was unnecessary. I had consulted her concerning a fish disease and this came up in the discussion. I decided to stop the Equilibrium (I had started it because of my zero GH water, to provide sufficient calcium and it certainly made a difference to the plants), and used Seachem's Flourish Tabs instead. I've been doing this now ever since, some five or sic years, and the FT appear to be providing sufficient calcium as the large swords which were the main issue have been doing well; I can't say they are as "good" as they were with Equilibrium, but they are still growing well and that is all I care about, as the FT mean no excess minerals are getting into the water to bother the fish.
Interesting. I figured the fuzz was organic, just can't place where it's coming from. Since the roots are basically filter, I assumed it was related to the ammonia level. Never assume.. :) Interesting note on the Equilibrium. I have some of the liquid Flourish that I'll dose once in a while, but the plants overall seem ok, if not a little thready since the tank is so deep.
 
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letterman7

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:) SeaChem is hiding behind their formulas. This is the answer I received:
There are two different types of ammonia, Free Ammonia (NH3) and Ammonium (NH4). We are most concerned about Free Ammonia, so when Prime is added to the water, it is converting the existing Free Ammonia into Ammonium, which is far less toxic and can be easily removed by the biological filter. After the 48 hour period, Prime is no longer active, therefore, the bond is released and the existing ammonia can convert back to the free ammonia form.

As for the Nitrite and Nitrate, please refer to our FAQ explaining the process:

The nitrite and nitrate is detoxified in a manner similar to the way ammonia is detoxified; i.e. it is bound and held in an inert state until such time that bacteria in the biological filter are able to take a hold of it, break it apart and use it. Two other possible scenarios are reduction to nitrogen (N2) gas or conversion into a benign organic nitrogen compound.

Unfortunately, providing any further information about the process in which Prime detoxifies these compounds would be proprietary.
 

Byron

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:) SeaChem is hiding behind their formulas. This is the answer I received:
There are two different types of ammonia, Free Ammonia (NH3) and Ammonium (NH4). We are most concerned about Free Ammonia, so when Prime is added to the water, it is converting the existing Free Ammonia into Ammonium, which is far less toxic and can be easily removed by the biological filter. After the 48 hour period, Prime is no longer active, therefore, the bond is released and the existing ammonia can convert back to the free ammonia form.

As for the Nitrite and Nitrate, please refer to our FAQ explaining the process:

The nitrite and nitrate is detoxified in a manner similar to the way ammonia is detoxified; i.e. it is bound and held in an inert state until such time that bacteria in the biological filter are able to take a hold of it, break it apart and use it. Two other possible scenarios are reduction to nitrogen (N2) gas or conversion into a benign organic nitrogen compound.

Unfortunately, providing any further information about the process in which Prime detoxifies these compounds would be proprietary.

Much the same as what they told me. They did however admit to me in writing that they did not know how Prime bound nitrate to make it harmless, but it seemed to do so (maybe they do now know and won't tell). This is one major reason I will not use Prime, who knows what it is really doing, especially when it does not need doing (those with no ammonia/nitrite/nitrate issues in source water using Prime). In a healthy aquarium biologically balanced, and assuming these compounds are not in the source water, there is no need for Prime when there are safer options that are equal or better at detoxifying chlorine.
 

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