Help me diagnose my ammonia spike

jonnyc88

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I thought I'd start a new thread as recommended to hopefully get the best advice.

First a summary:
I've got a new tank about 7 weeks ago which is a heavily planted tank. The tank is rectangular tall tank of 145L (38 US gallons). Dimensions are 81W x 38D x 55H cm
About 2 weeks ago (15th July) I've got more fishes in my tank. The tank now has x16 corydoras (x8 peppered x8 panda), 15 neon tetras, 10 cardinals and 10 Odessa barbs.
The tank always been a bit cloudy from time to time but 3 days ago it got really cloudy, looking more like bacterial bloom.
I do weekly 30% water changes before this.
28th July I did a water test and noticed the ammonia was really high (8ppm tested with API Master Test Kit). I've added API Ammo-lock but didn't do a water change.
29th July I've tested again and the ammonia is still showing as 8ppm. I did a 50% water change and added API Quick Start and API Ammolock after the water change.

I've then got some advice on this forum and have decided to do a 70% water change every day, no chemicals except for water conditioner. I was using Fluval but will switch to Seachem Prime later today (31th July).

I think I've been over feeding as the tank smelled really bad when I did the water change, plus there's lots of rotten food on the substrate. I will reduce my feeding to very small portion once a day.
I'm also planning on cleaning my filter media once I get the parts and maybe also add a small pouch of activated carbon in the bottom media basket.
Picture of media basket attached. Model is Aqua One Ocellaris 850.

media.jpeg


Any advice greatly appreciated!

I've created a table to log my parameters:
Date and TimeNotespHNitriteNitrateAmmonia
30/07 13:0070% change no feed7.40.25ppm5.0ppm4.0ppm
31/07 13:00no water change, fed yesterday7.20.25ppm5.0ppm2.0ppm (between 2-4 but closer to 2)
31/07 21:0070% water change, used Prime and cleaned filter7.20ppm10.0ppm0.5ppm
 
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Wills

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Hi, sorry to say but you have made quite a few mistakes in setting this up. I’ll be honest I did all of this too when I first started!

The two big things are you have added way too many fish way too quickly and you have used ammo lock. The ammo lock removed the ammonia but starved the bacteria so you could have lost any colony you had starting.

The advice you have been given is spot on loads of water changes daily for quite a few weeks. If you can get some mature filter media from someone or a shop that will be massively helpful.

Feeding needs to be very minimal if you have food on the floor it’s evidence you are putting way too much in a fishes stomach is about the same size as it’s eye to show you how much they need so with small fish it really is a flake or two.

Stick in there, put the work in and I promise it is worth it!

Wills
 
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jonnyc88

jonnyc88

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Hi, sorry to say but you have made quite a few mistakes in setting this up. I’ll be honest I did all of this too when I first started!

The two big things are you have added way too many fish way too quickly and you have used ammo lock. The ammo lock removed the ammonia but starved the bacteria so you could have lost any colony you had starting.

The advice you have been given is spot on loads of water changes daily for quite a few weeks. If you can get some mature filter media from someone or a shop that will be massively helpful.

Feeding needs to be very minimal if you have food on the floor it’s evidence you are putting way too much in a fishes stomach is about the same size as it’s eye to show you how much they need so with small fish it really is a flake or two.

Stick in there, put the work in and I promise it is worth it!

Wills
Yes, typical newbie mistake of over feeding and stocking too quickly. I can’t help it as I really love the fishes :)

Due to the lockdown I don’t think I will be able to sort the media out from my LFS. There’s only one close by and to be honest I don’t really like the shop, some of the tanks are really dirty ...

In regards to filter I suppose for now I should leave it alone? Was thinking of rinsing media and adding small carbon mesh bag. Part of me also wanted to get a better filter (Fluval) as per my other thread (https://www.fishforums.net/threads/changing-filter-on-a-new-tank.461918/) but not sure if that’s recommended.
 

Wills

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For your filter you could change the model but I dont think the one you have is a bad one? What goes in it is more important, the more bio media you can get the better I use Seachem Matrix as its has the highest surface area but there are other good ones too. There is no need for any carbon in there, it is only really used for removing medication or chemicals but to be honest a good water change will fix that anyway. Pond Guru on Youtube is really good to see how to set up a filter.

One other thing on reflection is that you have way too many fish in your tank. A very vague guide you can use to stock a tank is 1 inch per gallon, it is very flawed but does help for a starting point. So with the fish you have now I'm seeing about 87 inches of fish in a 38 gallon tank, so it is something you will need to address in the future.

Do you know your ph, gh and kh?

Wills
 
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jonnyc88

jonnyc88

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For your filter you could change the model but I dont think the one you have is a bad one? What goes in it is more important, the more bio media you can get the better I use Seachem Matrix as its has the highest surface area but there are other good ones too. There is no need for any carbon in there, it is only really used for removing medication or chemicals but to be honest a good water change will fix that anyway. Pond Guru on Youtube is really good to see how to set up a filter.

One other thing on reflection is that you have way too many fish in your tank. A very vague guide you can use to stock a tank is 1 inch per gallon, it is very flawed but does help for a starting point. So with the fish you have now I'm seeing about 87 inches of fish in a 38 gallon tank, so it is something you will need to address in the future.

Do you know your ph, gh and kh?

Wills
I know it’s frivolous but I’ve always wanted the Fluval so I thought this would be a good chance to swap filters as I’m technically starting a new cycle.

Regarding stocking I do realise that it’s pushing the limits but the tank looked a bit empty with just 15 Neon Tetras and 8 Peppered Corydoras.

I think I did mention this is my long first thread here and feedback seems to be ok with my current stock. The tetras, barbs and corydoras seems to be happy and have space to swim around but I’ll keep an eye on that.

I’ve gone and ordered the Fluval 307 and it supports a larger tank so at least that’s future proof :)

pH is about 7.2 as in table above. I use strip test for GH and KH but they are within the green zone. Values are 8d for GH and 6d for KH
 

Byron

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I know it’s frivolous but I’ve always wanted the Fluval so I thought this would be a good chance to swap filters as I’m technically starting a new cycle.

Regarding stocking I do realise that it’s pushing the limits but the tank looked a bit empty with just 15 Neon Tetras and 8 Peppered Corydoras.

I think I did mention this is my long first thread here and feedback seems to be ok with my current stock. The tetras, barbs and corydoras seems to be happy and have space to swim around but I’ll keep an eye on that.

I’ve gone and ordered the Fluval 307 and it supports a larger tank so at least that’s future proof :)

pH is about 7.2 as in table above. I use strip test for GH and KH but they are within the green zone. Values are 8d for GH and 6d for KH
If you want to save money, can you cancel the new filter order? A larger filter is not going to provide any benefits. There is an old myth in this hobby that somehow, larger filters or more of them provide additional biological filtration. Wrong. You could turn the filter off and remove it, and with the plants nothing would worsen. More filters is only setting up competition for the plants.

The prime role of a filter in planted tanks is one of mechanical filtration only, with water currents suited to the requirements of the fish species.
 

seangee

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I wouldn't change anything. IIRC the tank is fairly well planted so just keep up with the water changes. I suspect a combination of too many fish too quickly and overfeeding. Rinse out your filter media. If there is uneaten food in the bottom its all over your filter too. I would be surprised if you need to continue the daily changes longer than a week or 2.

Just seen your post about the new filter. The glass / ceramic media will work fine - use that instead of what comes with the filter. The sponge can be folded or cut as you prefer. Don't try to see how much media you can cram in or waste money on trying to find the most effective media with the largest surface area. The bacteria you need will grow on what is available - and you won't ever have more than you need.
 

essjay

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The ammo lock removed the ammonia but starved the bacteria so you could have lost any colony you had starting.
According to API's website, Ammo Lock doesn't remove ammonia, just detoxifies it and the bacteria can still use it.

API AMMO LOCK product detoxifies ammonia, converting it into a non-toxic form. This non-toxic ammonia is then removed by the biological filter, or aquarium cycle, in the usual way.
and

API AMMO LOCK product detoxifies ammonia, but it does not remove it, which means the ammonia will still show up when using test kits.
 
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jonnyc88

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Since there are 3 experienced members here advising against a new filter I’ve requested a cancellation with Amazon.
I thought a better, higher flow filter would be beneficial.
 
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jonnyc88

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I wouldn't change anything. IIRC the tank is fairly well planted so just keep up with the water changes. I suspect a combination of too many fish too quickly and overfeeding. Rinse out your filter media. If there is uneaten food in the bottom its all over your filter too. I would be surprised if you need to continue the daily changes longer than a week or 2.

Just seen your post about the new filter. The glass / ceramic media will work fine - use that instead of what comes with the filter. The sponge can be folded or cut as you prefer. Don't try to see how much media you can cram in or waste money on trying to find the most effective media with the largest surface area. The bacteria you need will grow on what is available - and you won't ever have more than you need.
Thanks. My media is currently setup as per screenshot with the glass and ceramic bio filters, plus sponges and a wool top filter.
A mate has Fluval and he said a better filter would make a difference but I’ll go with the experts here :)
 
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jonnyc88

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I did a 70 + 30% water change using Prime and cleaned the filter this evening. Boy, was the filter dirty. It smelled really bad, hundreds of copepods swimming on top media basket and also lots of decaying material. To be fair to Aqua One the filter design made it relatively eady to service. First time doing it and no spills.

Gave the fish very llittle food as they seem reall hungry (pecking at the dirty debris whilst I was cleaning filter). Tested the water aftewards and the ammonia levels went down to 0.5ppm!
NItrites are virtually zero and Nitrates is a little higher at 10ppm. (see table above).

Quite happy with the result and pretty sure the filter is the culprit as ammonia levels were still high even after water change last 2 days.
Fingers crossed the parameters stabilise in the following few days. I will still do daily changes and if it stabilises perhaps I will switch to every 3 days then weekly.
 

Wills

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I know the bigger flow or bigger capacity does not increase the biological filtration but I do like a high flow to get the waste organics into the water column and out of the tank.

Again personal preference at the moment for me but I'm trying to do my reincarnation as a treat so I am favouring the more expensive accessories and equipment right now haha! Though I've not bought ADA.

@essjay appologies, I thought it converted Ammonia to Ammonium which the bacteria wouldnt feed on. I wonder if it works in a similar way to Prime which I think does a similar thing? Which always confused me so dont use it haha.
 
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jonnyc88

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I know the bigger flow or bigger capacity does not increase the biological filtration but I do like a high flow to get the waste organics into the water column and out of the tank.

Again personal preference at the moment for me but I'm trying to do my reincarnation as a treat so I am favouring the more expensive accessories and equipment right now haha! Though I've not bought ADA.

@essjay appologies, I thought it converted Ammonia to Ammonium which the bacteria wouldnt feed on. I wonder if it works in a similar way to Prime which I think does a similar thing? Which always confused me so dont use it haha.
Well my cancellation was rejected so would be expecting the Fluval 307 tomorrow I think. Just as good as I don't have to look forward to cleaning the filthy pipes in my current filter :p
 

Wills

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Make sure you buy a pipe cleaner that you can thread through from the tank side :) Much easier than disconnecting everything!
 

essjay

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@essjay appologies, I thought it converted Ammonia to Ammonium which the bacteria wouldnt feed on. I wonder if it works in a similar way to Prime which I think does a similar thing? Which always confused me so dont use it haha.
It does turn ammonia into ammonium, but that process only lasts for 24 to 36 hours. Bacteria and plants can still use it.

It's zeolite and similar products which remove ammonia and starve the bacteria.
 
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