Welcome to Our Community

Wanting to join the rest of our members? Feel free to sign up today.

BIG problem with Ammonia

Discussion in 'Cycle your Tank' started by Jan Cavalieri, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. Jan Cavalieri

    Jan Cavalieri Fish Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2019
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    9
    Not so long ago I had PERFECT water in all my tanks, zero's on everything and PH was right at 7 -it was all wonderful. Then I got very sick for two weeks and was unable to do weekly water changes. As I recovered I tested the waters and found that EVERY tank had a huge ammonia increase. Started dosing with prime as directed to make the ammonia less harmful but, of course, that doesn't change the readings when you are testing. I have no nitrites and low or no nitrates - just ammonia readings of 1.0 ppm or higher on all three tanks. Ph is running between 7 and 7.4. Seachem also recommended using Stability daily which I add mixed with a quart of tank water.

    I have done 3- -70% water changes on my two bigger tanks - every other day. I've done 4 huge water changes on my small tank (in fact I killed a fish during a huge water change because the left over debris in the tank clogged his little gills) Lessoned learned about the cost of overfeeding.

    I'm disabled so this is a struggle for me but I'm determined to keep it up. But what is most frustrating is that the Ammonia Readings STILL have not changed - what HAS changed is that I added several new fish ( they had been on order before this mess started) - so I did add to the load on the two larger tanks - but the Ammonia didn't go up and it didn't go down - it just remained the same. Out of desperation I purchased AmGuard to supposedly remove the ammonia. Contacted Seachem first to get recommended quantities to add (the bottle dosing is based on 100 gallon tanks). They recommended a few DROPS which I mixed with a quart of tank water before adding it back in. Ammonia unchanged.

    Since then I have lost two fish - one a beloved CoryCat and the other an adorable Orange Gourami. These appear to have been dead a few days - so I don't think the AmGuard did them in. The Corycat had appeared slow and lethargic for weeks so I think the stress of the ammonia was just too much - but gills look perfect. No idea what happened with the Orange Gorami - gills didn't even appear the least bit irritated and no injuries just a perfect looking dead fish. Now one more is missing (this is a very heavily planted tank so it can take quite a while to locate a dead fish. No fish are missing from my other tanks.

    I have two bristle nosed yellow plecos I haven't seen in days but that's not unusual for them - they hide VERY well and come out at night to eat. Besides being hard to get - they were expensive, so I dread losing these two - they are also so adorable just so small I need a magnifying glass to see them properly (they will eventually grow to 4".

    So any clues on what is keeping my Ammonia so high? I tested our tap water to see if the City had changed anything but got the usual high PH, moderate hardness and NO ammonia. My tanks do not appear overloaded, most of the time you barely notice there are more than 3 fish in there. I need a solution before all these water changes kill me. HELP!
     
  2. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    Messages:
    15,082
    Likes Received:
    786
    Location:
    Perth, WA
    There is either a dead fish in the tanks or there is lots of uneaten food rotting away and that is causing the ammonia. Or the filters have stopped working.

    Are you gravel cleaning the tanks when you do a water change?
    If not, then do a good gravel clean and suck out as much gunk as possible.

    Make sure the filters are working properly.
    Increase aeration/ surface turbulence to maximise oxygen levels.
    Reduce feeding to a couple of times a week until the water is good.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. seangee

    seangee Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2008
    Messages:
    1,254
    Likes Received:
    135
    Location:
    Berks
    There isn't really anything to add to what Colin has said.
    If the tanks were mature (i.e. cycled) to start off with going 3 weeks without a W/C should not cause any harm. Many people follow their pet shops advice of 1 small change per month.
    I am away from home for 3 weeks several times in the year and I just leave my tanks, again no problems.
    Did anything else change? Like a well meaning friend feeding your fish / cleaning your filter or pruning your plants.
     
  4. Jan Cavalieri

    Jan Cavalieri Fish Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2019
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    9
    I regularly do a small or large water change weekly because I know I have a bad habit of overfeeding them sometimes. The one I really don't understand is the small tank - if you look at this tank it is spotless after 4 cleanings. I am getting a pump and stone to get more air in that tank - but after that many water changes this makes NO sense. I was well enough to do the feedings and I while I wasn't well enough to do a water change - I would suction out the food when I over-fed them. One of the larger tanks is not missing any fish so - nothing dead and the water looks crystal clear but I am fighting too many snails. The other larger tank has cloudy water since the last water change and the feeding that occurred after that - I had just added the 3 new fish and found 2 that died. One more is missing. Of the 3 tanks it has the LOWEST level of ammonia at exactly 1 ppm.

    I cleaned the filter on one of the larger tanks but kept all the media - the filter was clogged with plant matter. The filter on the other big tank looks cheap to me but it came with the tank - it's a copy of a mainland filter, so no brand name is listed - seems to do well. Both the large tanks have aerating stones.

    The filter on the 3rd small tank barely shoves out any water but it came with the tank. I know there was too much food in it because I killed a fish when some of the accumulated food got in his gills during a large water change - now it looks sparkling clean. I can try withholding food but if the cory's dig up any they will be attacked by the larger gouramis so I really hate stopping the feedings but will try. (this will be painful).

    Thanks for the ideas - Jan
     
  5. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    Messages:
    15,082
    Likes Received:
    786
    Location:
    Perth, WA
    Maybe add an air operated sponge filter to each tank. You can run them off the airline instead of the airstone and they will give you extra filtration if the power filters get clocked up or stop working. They will have to cycle but it would act as a safety net or back up to help prevent this happening again further down the track.

    See if the smaller filter has something blocking it up. All power filters produce a fair bit of water movement so if yours is only trickling water, then it doesn't sound right.

    If you feed flake food, feed them less food but do it more often. The fish should eat all the food in 20-30 seconds and uneaten food should be removed asap, or within 15 minutes if you have bottom dwellers.
    If you feed frozen food, it might be easier to control how much is eaten and how much isn't.
     
  6. Jan Cavalieri

    Jan Cavalieri Fish Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2019
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    9
    I retested all my tanks and the ammonia in the small tank (after 5 water changes and cutting back on feedings) is now at 4ppm. One of my bigger tanks is 2 ppm while the messiest looking tank (with prior dead fish) is staying at 1 ppm. Does this make any sense?

    Did another water change today - this is getting exhausting. I added an air pump and stone to the little tank to improve O2 levels. For my tank with the AquaClear filter I bought media specifically designed to remove ammonia. I am dosing them all with small amounts (after contacting Seachem for the quantity) of AmmGuard - which can be a bit tricky to use - you don't want to overdose. All fish have survived it for 2 days in a row. I'm feeding one meal a day and about 1/2 the quantity - the problem is the sinking pellets - my big fish can just swallow the pellets whole, but the Cory's and smaller Gourami's may take an hour or two of constant munching to eat them - there is never anything left after that - they LOVE these things. Interestingly the tank that looks the worst, has cloudy water and too much plant and other debris also has the lowest Ammonia and nitrogen levels. NONE of this makes any sense. I'm no longer overfeeding, the water has been switched 4 times in the last week. I am not overstocked in any tank.

    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by an "air operated sponge filter" I have added extra media to all the cheapo filters (thin sections of sponge) because I can't change the filter it came with without loosing my bacteria (stupid design). When I did this last water change I checked all filters for debris clogging them and found my HAIR wrapped around the propeller thing (can't think at the moment) of the AquaClear and had a hell of a time unwinding it plus I cleaned the tubing and casing well and added the ammonia reducing media (which meant the charcoal filter had to go) - the flow on the filters of the bigger tanks has always been very good (even with my hair in it) but the little tank just doesn't put out much water so I suspect I will be getting a better filter for it - it was originally only meant to be a quarantine or hospital tank - I never intended to keep fish in it regularly.

    It's just psycho -Ammonia cannot recreate itself and the fish aren't pooping significantly more as far as I can tell. Yet I'm losing the battle. I'm actually shocked I have not had more dead fish. I even had to buy a new API test kit because I ran out of test drops in several bottles. The new test kit made no difference - same crazy high readings.

    Oh I located my "lost" fish - the "blue eyed bushynose lemon colored pleco" they are nocturnal, very shy and very good at hiding - big relief. One of my lost Cory's also finally showed up to eat - thought for sure he was dead.

    I don't think there is anything more I can do other than continue to cut way back on feeding and continue the water changes - Nitrites are also becoming slightly higher in all the tanks which usually corresponds to a reduction in ammonia (if the tanks are all in cycle mode again) Nitrates are at a very low level - zero to 5.

    I am getting some serious arm muscles hauling this water around (I use a gravel cleaner/water remover poured into a bucket rather than my python because the python was putting the fish (they'd get sucked in) at too much risk and removing water faster than I could get rid of the debris. Not to mention handling a 50 ft long hose that kept causing my sink to back up because I had to run water full blast to keep the suction going. Cleaned up SO many water messes on my hardwood floors - and getting the water out of the hose when you're done is a 50 ft of pain in the neck. Not to mention my O2 cord getting tangled with the 50 ft hose. Hauling buckets of water isn't a lot of fun either but at least I have far better control of the waste removal and I know exactly how much water I removed.

    I think I'm doing the very best job I can and just keep hoping with time this will work itself out. Everybody's help has been MUCH appreciated.
     
  7. Colin_T

    Colin_T Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    Messages:
    15,082
    Likes Received:
    786
    Location:
    Perth, WA
    Your filters crashed. You either had a power failure that lasted more than a couple of hours, or the water flowing through the filter was too slow and the filter bacteria died. The fact all 3 tanks have the same issue would suggest a power failure. Your filters now have to cycle again, which shouldn't take too long because the tanks are established.

    You should reduce the feeding to a couple of times per week. If you want to keep feeding each day, then do big water changes 4-8 hours after feeding them.

    ------------------------
    With the AquaClear filter that has the Ammogon (ammonia adsorbing granules) in, don't leave it in the filter for too long because it will remove all the ammonia and the filter bacteria won't grow back. Yes you want the ammonia gone, but after it has gone you want the filter bacteria to develop so they can eat any ammonia that occurs.

    Ammogon can be recharged by soaking it in salt water for a couple of days and then rinsing with fresh water. After it has been recharged it can be re-used if necessary.

    ------------------------
    Air operated sponge filters are simply bits of sponge with a plastic fitting and they run off a normal air pump. Power filters have sponges in them too but they use an electric motor to suck water through a sponge. The air operated filters use air from an air pump instead of a power head.

    You can Google air operated sponge filters and see pictures of them. There are a few varieties and a basic model is all you need to act as a back up if the power filter fails. You run the air operated filter in conjunction with a power filter.

    ------------------------
    Re: the Python gravel cleaner. Can you just use it like a normal gravel cleaner and put the end of the hose in the shower or bath and drain the tank water down the drain, or run it out the front or back door onto the lawn. Then fill the tank with buckets of water and get arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger :)

    You could also fill a large plastic container with tap water, add dechlorinator and aerate for a few minutes. Then use a small water pump and length of hose to pump that water into the tanks.
     
  8. Back in the fold

    Back in the fold Fish Crazy

    Joined:
    May 25, 2019
    Messages:
    350
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Billings Montana USA
    Interesting conversation. About leaving a tank untended for three weeks and no problems: yes this can be done. About Arnold: he'll be back. I think people make problems that aren't there in the first place. Fish keeping is simple unless you over complicate it. I am not making fun or minimizing your dilemma but pointing out that you should keep it simple.
     
  9. Jan Cavalieri

    Jan Cavalieri Fish Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2019
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    9
    Heck I thought it was going to be the perfect hobby for me. I'm disabled and am on Oxygen 24/7 - I rarely leave the house. I have allowed myself to "be sick" and therefore weak and helpless. The pet love of my life (Delilah- the Basset Hound) died of cancer, followed by my dear father dying. My husband died 1 1/2 yrs ago of a brain hemmorage. I've always thought this was a "guy" hobby because there can be so much equipment to assemble but overall that part has mostly been quite easy. Like nearly every other new fish keeper I overfeed - plus that "mom" thing comes out and I can't stand skinny pets. I am TRYING because I do believe that is was the cause of my ammonia levels.

    This new hobby has really brought me out of my depression.

    As far as water cycling - this whole mess has felt just like that - so I keep waiting for nitrites to rise. They have risen in one aquarium but the ammonia has stayed just as high

    I use a hose with a siphon device that sifts through the gravel (but is too small to let a fish get inside the hose - common problem with the Python - curious fish I guess. It doesn't suction debris as well but water goes into a bucket and when I've removed about 70% of the water I refill it with prime treated fresh water. I can manage about 2 1/2 gallons per trip, but I'm getting stronger.


    BUT THERE MAY BE AN END IN SIGHT - I'm finally getting a reduction of ammonia. In all three tanks:
    Tank A: Ammonia originally 2.0 - multiple water changes, great snail clean up of hundreds of dead and alive snails. Used filter media in my AquaClear filter that supposedly removes ammonia. Add 1 ml of AmGuard for two days so far - Ammonia today: 1.0. 4 water changes this week.

    Tank B: Ammonia originally 1.0 , water VERY cloudy and a lot of debris. Running the filter faster and added 1 ml of AmGuard for 2 days. 4 water changes this week. Ammonia today: .25 Water sill cloudy but improved. Found only 2 snails.

    Tank C: (5 gal): Ammonia originally 4.0. Filter runs slow (I've ordered a better one), running current one faster and added an air stone which the fish enjoy/ Added .5 mls of AmGuard for two days. 5 water changes this week. Current ammonia level: 2.0 Nitrites .5 (all other tanks remain zero for Nitrites and Nitrates PH's all range from 6.8 to 7.4).

    So huge progress as far as I'm concerned. I'll continue to work on it (two tired for water change tonight) and add AmGuard. None of the other filters will hold that media bag made by AquaPure but I might buy one and split it into two filter bags and add to tanks B and C.

    Again - thanks for all your help.
     
  10. rjthevagabond

    rjthevagabond New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2019
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    1
    I like using live plants.
    situation like this like colin said possible filter crash. would adding bacter AE help?
     
  11. Jan Cavalieri

    Jan Cavalieri Fish Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2019
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    9
    I seriously thought about it and read up on it but it seems that "Stability" by Seachem does just that and I've been using it regularly - but there are packets of bacteria that you can add to the water - it just makes me nervous to mess too much with the chemistry any more - since ammonia levels are slowly coming down - and I've cut way back on feedings (my favorite fish no longer "dances" any more when she sees me since I no longer always bring food LOL-but it's for her own good). So I'm just so thrilled what I've done so far is working so well. I've also ordered some floss/pillow fluff type of material that you can stuff into a media bag and it supposedly works wonders for clearing up the water (one of the tanks is still milky) and for removing ammonia. I figure it will not do any harm - while pouring in all these chemicals are more likely to cause problems.

    Ordered from Amazon - should be here in a day or two - of course the dang bags may take longer to arrive - figures.
     
  12. rjthevagabond

    rjthevagabond New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2019
    Messages:
    10
    Likes Received:
    1
    I always try chemical free approach first and I keep ilve plants from day one its amazing what a cpl of marimo balls can do and some duckweed.
    and they basically care for them self and can live in low light conditions
     
  13. NICKOLAS

    NICKOLAS New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2019
    Messages:
    37
    Likes Received:
    0
    Honestly i had the same problem and asked a question here about ammonia. A lot of things i did didnt work until i decided to do a 50% water change and instead of adding freshwater i added water from a family members main tank. Within 1 day ammonia levels dropped to 0 and ever since than its stayed at 0. So i would recommend using water from a local aquarium or someone you know and a decent amount of it.
     
  14. Jan Cavalieri

    Jan Cavalieri Fish Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2019
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    9
    I have a ton of plants - I do a head count everyday and that is getting more and more difficult to find my shy fish especially. The marimo balls get eaten - I have two algae eater fish per tank. I still have some small pieces of them left, but they look more like grass now than a ball. Thanks though.
     
  15. Jan Cavalieri

    Jan Cavalieri Fish Fanatic

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2019
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    9
    I don't know anybody besides myself that keeps aquariums. One of the local pet stores sells it per gallon but you have to figure out a way to transport it (he recommends multiple 5 gallon buckets with lids. Problem is I can't lift more than 2 1/2 gallons at a time - with my disabilities its just too difficult. Don't exactly live in the friendliest of neighborhoods. The only man in my life is my step-son but he gets abnormal heart rhythms if he exerts himself too much (I don't think he's up to carrying that many buckets). Plus this would only make sense if there was Ammonia in my tap water - which there isn't - so as long as I start with ammonia free water it shouldn't make a difference.

    My little tank went from 4 ppm to .25 - then was back up to 2ppm today. To me that sounds like overfeeding - which I'm pretty convinced is what happened to begin with so I've cut them back to 1 meal a day (they hate me) to see if that helps. I rarely find leftover food debris but under and behind the foliage there could be some I'm missing. Early on I found 2 dead fish in one of my big tanks but that was the tank with the lowest ammonia reading at the time.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1

Share This Page