Questions about an Ammonia Remover

Bruce Leyland-Jones

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Those of you following my Journal will know that I recently had an...erm...'experience' with an Ammonia Remover being added to my cycling tank.
To summarise, some was added in error. I knew I needed ammonia present, to feed my beneficial bacteria and was not happy with the Remover being in my tank. I immediately conducted a mega water change in an attempt to remove it from the tank.
Part of the water I put back into the tank came from my established tank and I also added some more of my bottled bacteria, which apparently comes with its own food source. The next day, I was pleased to see my tank had some ammonia still present and I got the impression my cycle was saved.
It was, thankfully.
Close call.

But since then, I got to thinking...
  1. Has anyone used 'Love Fish Ammonia Remover' before and, if so, how effective was it in removing ammonia? Total removal? Partial removal? Immediate, or after a few hours?
  2. The Remover does something to the ammonia that makes it harmless to fish, but also makes it unavailable as a food source to bacteria. What becomes of the ammonia?
  3. Use of Ammonia Remover will decrease pH. I'd imagine such a change in pH could be problematic for tank inhabitants. Is this change of a marked degree and/or is it gradual? It seems pointless to save your fish from ammonia poisoning, only for them to pop their clogs through an abrupt pH change. (I know...chemicals are, generally, Bad News in a tank).

I can't see myself ever using this stuff, except in the most dire of emergencies. Even then, if, for whatever reason, I found an ammonia 'spike' in my tank, then extensive water changes and a thorough search in the tank for the cause should address the issue.

I'd also be thinking that with the ammonia removed from the tank, the beneficial bacteria would soon starve and begin to die off. The consequence of this might be that any waste products created by the tank inhabitants would not then be properly processed by the BB and there'd then be an ammonia spike...needing more Remover...and so on and so on.
Thinking further about this particular aspect, the inhabitants of the tank will be producing ammonia all of the time...so perhaps the BB wouldn't be starved after all...especially if only enough Remover was used, as per instructions, to remove the ammonia that was in the tank at time of application.
OR...does the Remover linger and continue to remove ammonia for some time after the application?
 

Byron

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The question is, how does this product do what it claims? [Your #2 above]. I just tried to find this online, and discovered this seems to be another manufacturer that does not explain how "x" works, or what is in it. I tend not to use products where the manufacturer can't or won't provide details.

Is there no information on the label as to what is in it, and how it "removes" ammonia?. Most (maybe all) conditioners and similar products that detoxify ammonia do so by changing it into ammonium [for a limited time however]. This is basically harmless, and has no effect on plants taking up the ammonia/ammonium, nor the nitrifying bacteria. So to the substance of your question, there would be no detriment to using such a product. However, this would not be the case if this product does somehow actually "remove" ammonia. If the manufacturer won't answer this, don't use it.

The decrease in pH is serious. Fritz has a pond ammonia detoxifier which they say does not alter pH, and they also claim it is a "detoxifier" not a "remover" of ammonia, which is very different.

If there is a colony of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria [or more likely not bacteria but archaea] in the aquarium, it will as you know reproduce according to the available ammonia/ammonium. If the ammonia should lessen, the bacteria/archaea will not die off, but move into a sort of suspended state, and if the ammonia/ammonium increases, they spring back into action. The length of time the bacteria can remain in this state of suspension depends upon factors like temperature, pH, water (drying out does kill them), and whatever else. But it has been shown to be longer than most expect; experimental studies determined that the ammonia-oxidizers could be starved of ammonia for weeks and even months, but upon reintroduction of ammonia it only took a few hours for the nitrifiers to become active. This article from PFK a few years back may be of interest.

 
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Bruce Leyland-Jones

Bruce Leyland-Jones

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The question is, how does this product do what it claims? [Your #2 above]. I just tried to find this online, and discovered this seems to be another manufacturer that does not explain how "x" works, or what is in it. I tend not to use products where the manufacturer can't or won't provide details.

Is there no information on the label as to what is in it, and how it "removes" ammonia?. Most (maybe all) conditioners and similar products that detoxify ammonia do so by changing it into ammonium [for a limited time however]. This is basically harmless, and has no effect on plants taking up the ammonia/ammonium, nor the nitrifying bacteria. So to the substance of your question, there would be no detriment to using such a product. However, this would not be the case if this product does somehow actually "remove" ammonia. If the manufacturer won't answer this, don't use it.

The decrease in pH is serious. Fritz has a pond ammonia detoxifier which they say does not alter pH, and they also claim it is a "detoxifier" not a "remover" of ammonia, which is very different.

If there is a colony of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria [or more likely not bacteria but archaea] in the aquarium, it will as you know reproduce according to the available ammonia/ammonium. If the ammonia should lessen, the bacteria/archaea will not die off, but move into a sort of suspended state, and if the ammonia/ammonium increases, they spring back into action. The length of time the bacteria can remain in this state of suspension depends upon factors like temperature, pH, water (drying out does kill them), and whatever else. But it has been shown to be longer than most expect; experimental studies determined that the ammonia-oxidizers could be starved of ammonia for weeks and even months, but upon reintroduction of ammonia it only took a few hours for the nitrifiers to become active. This article from PFK a few years back may be of interest.

Useful...particularly your point about the bacteria going to sleep, so thank you for that. This was as I suspected from past science, but many on-line sources talk of the bacteria 'starving' and starting to die off immediately.
The active chemical is sodium hydroxymethanesulfonate.
First scans of Thinternet were not particularly enlightening, so I'm going to have to get creative with my searches.

Whilst being aware of the pH change danger, this product, (and others like it), state quite clearly that not only are they safe for fish, but also for invertebrates, including shrimp.
 
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Bruce Leyland-Jones

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Myraan

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I've only seen the LoveFish range on sale in Pets at Home. I'd like to hope it removes ammonia the normal way and is meant to be used in conjunction with another water conditioner they also sell. My suspician is that is snake oil designed for Pets at Home employees to sell to people who have ammonia testing positive when they bring a sample in. Or it might even be bottled bacteria. I'm sure I have seen packets of biological media sold as ammonia remover also.

Aaha a u wrote last two posts as I am writing.... sounds like their version of prime then but without the other active ingredients. At least prime certainly smells a little sulphurous
 

Byron

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Whilst being aware of the pH change danger, this product, (and others like it), state quite clearly that not only are they safe for fish, but also for invertebrates, including shrimp.

This or similar claims that "x" is "safe" for fish cannot ever be trusted. Seachem says this of Excel, and API of their CO2 Booster, but both contain glutaraldehyde and if anyone thinks that toxic disinfectant is safe for fish...it is not. I'm surprised someone hasn't taken them to court over this, but I suppose most aquarists are happy to accept anything the manufacturer says, rather than delve into the actual problem. Anyway, don't believe products are safe unless you know they really are. "Safe" as these manufacturers (and Seachem and API are undoubtedly two of the best in this hobby) define it may be that the fish can survive it. That does not mean it is "safe." A substance that is used to kill bacteria in embalming fluid, and ships' ballasts, is not safe for an aquarium.
 

AbbeysDad

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I'm surprised someone hasn't taken them to court over this, but I suppose most aquarists are happy to accept anything the manufacturer says, rather than delve into the actual problem.
I've always agreed with you that anything in the water gets into the fish through osmosis. But the 'reason' they can say that their product is 'safe for fish' (and why any lawsuit would probably fail) is simply that the level of dilution is so great as to not present a threat to livestock. The same could be said for many/most of the medications for fish....or even salt! I've often thought that aquatic plant fertilizers aren't really good for our fish, but in small amounts, they benefit the plants without 'harming' the fish...but then again, perhaps the fish would be better off if it was never used. :)
 

xxBarneyxx

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I've often thought that aquatic plant fertilizers aren't really good for our fish, but in small amounts, they benefit the plants without 'harming' the fish...but then again, perhaps the fish would be better off if it was never used. :)
Some of the healthiest fish I have ever had where kept in tanks with excessive nutrients in it for plant growth. Even inverts that are a lot more sensitive to water quality thrive in planted takes so I wouldn't worry about standard plant ferts.
 

DoubleDutch

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I've always agreed with you that anything in the water gets into the fish through osmosis. But the 'reason' they can say that their product is 'safe for fish' (and why any lawsuit would probably fail) is simply that the level of dilution is so great as to not present a threat to livestock. The same could be said for many/most of the medications for fish....or even salt! I've often thought that aquatic plant fertilizers aren't really good for our fish, but in small amounts, they benefit the plants without 'harming' the fish...but then again, perhaps the fish would be better off if it was never used. :)
Only think when you add stuff that is sprayed into seacontainers to kill of bugs, it won't be beneficial to any living organism.

DDT and more recent Fipronyl (In Holland) didn't kill larger animals but the build up didn't much good.

I think fertilizers are different (traces of a lot are in natural waters as well) than the Gluth. Byron is talking about.
 

AbbeysDad

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Some of the healthiest fish I have ever had where kept in tanks with excessive nutrients in it for plant growth.
My point was two fold: 1) Anything in the water gets into fish through osmosis; 2) Generally most things are diluted enough as to not cause serious harm. Although we can't really measure if these additives reduce life spans. We simply can't know as some aquarium fish likely live longer than their wild cousins, and others do not.
But I'd ask to what end we'd need or want 'excessive nutrients' in a fish tank?
I think fertilizers are different (traces of a lot are in natural waters as well) than the Gluth. Byron is talking about.
I would agree that modest use of aquatic fertilizers is certainly less harmful than glutaraldehyde, but the fact that fertilizers exist in natural waters is largely the result of man made pollution and why high nitrates show up more and more in the source water in agricultural areas.
Now I have never/would never use a glut product in an aquarium. I'll confess that I have no idea how an antiseptic used to sterilize heat sensitive medical and dental equipment makes plants grow better. It makes little sense to me. Then again, there are countless hobbyists with anecdotal evidence that believe that it's very effective.
It seems to me that it's pointless to push plant growth with unnecessary additives that may not benefit or cause long term harm to the fish. I guess it may simply be a focus of aquatic gardening vs. fishkeeping.
 
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Bruce Leyland-Jones

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As soon as we stick fish in a glass box full of water, we are deviating significantly from the natural status quo.
Whilst we do our best to mimic the natural world, that is all we can really do...mimic.
For our fish to survive, never mind thrive, we need all manner of modern technology, developed over decades of careful science and engineering and giving us the necessary tanks, heaters, air pumps, lighting and filters.
As science teaches us more and more about what we're actually doing and what we can do to do it better, so too do we get more gadgets and gizmos, some of which are basic snake oils and some of which are dashed useful. (I'm thinking programmable LED lights and reliable, effective filters). Some tech may yet prove its invaluable worth as time goes on, (I'm thinking UV filters and CO2 dispensers).

Besides the toys, I also have some faith in the chemists and their pills, potions and lotions. For sure, there will always be the Snake Oils, but amongst these will be genuinely good products.
Once upon a time, bottled bacteria was a scam, then one brand (and only one brand) became credible and now, it is widely accepted that some other brands are actually useful and do exactly what it says on the bottle.

Much as I love the all-natural approach and ethos, I can also embrace useful tech and chemicals, facilitating my care of these lifeforms which I've gone and stuck in an artificial glass box.
 

Byron

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The issue of plant fertilizers is one that I have given much thought to over the past decade. I have reduced my use of these as much as I feel I can and still have live plants in the upper water column, especially floating. My source water lacks just about any mineral/nutrient, so what I don't add is solely dependent upon the fish foods, and I have evidence that these in themselves are not sufficient. So I use liquid comprehensive fertilizer once a week and no more than I believe is necessary to maintain decent plant growth. Aside from the aesthetic of plants, they do benefit water quality and that may balance any negative.

Second point though, the negative itself. Plant additives that I use and recommend contain nothing other than minerals. The harm these may do by entering the fish with the tank water is likely very low if any when it comes to harder water species which naturally require at least some of them. Soft water species are certainly more sensitive to these. But two things here: first, many of these are in fish foods as they are important, so it is not a case of adding a foreign substance but increasing a natural one; and second, many aquarists assume soft water fish can "adapt" to harder water, so that is somewhat of a similar issue. The point in all this is that we are adding natural minerals and not toxic disinfectants, harmful medications, unnecessary antibiotics, etc, in using natural fertilizer.

Third point, is the use of substrate tabs when this is possible, instead of liquid fertilizers. Seachem's Flourish Tabs release all the same nutrients as their comprehensive liquid, but not into the water column. This is one reason the tabs do not encourage algae as the liquid will if over-used. So this is one way to assist plants--and I have maintained healthy swords plants solely on the tabs for months--without increasing any effect on the fish.
 

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My point was two fold: 1) Anything in the water gets into fish through osmosis; 2) Generally most things are diluted enough as to not cause serious harm. Although we can't really measure if these additives reduce life spans. We simply can't know as some aquarium fish likely live longer than their wild cousins, and others do not.
But I'd ask to what end we'd need or want 'excessive nutrients' in a fish tank?
Better plant growth, which actually then gives better water quality and a much better living area for a lot of the commonly kept tropical fish. I had Flame tetras in a heavily planted and fertilized tank from birth and they lived over 4 years (when I shut the tank down and re-homed them). Considering their normal lifespan in captivity is 4-5 years, which is well known and documented, and the fact that almost all the fish I kept in these tanks spawned constantly is pretty decent proof in itself that regular ferts like potassium phosphate, and potassium nitrate along with the regular trace ferts really have zero effect on fish health.

In fact a well established planted tank with rapid plant growth is in my opinion the absolute best option to give (most) fish the best water and living conditions. I could quite literally not do a water change for a month and you wouldn't be able to detect any Nitrate. Despite the fact I was dumping more in every couple of days.

If you want to get a real experts opinion on it look up a lot of the stuff written by Tom Barr. That guy has not only done it all in the real world he has done the science to back it up as well.
 

AbbeysDad

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If you want to get a real experts opinion on it look up a lot of the stuff written by Tom Barr. That guy has not only done it all in the real world he has done the science to back it up as well.
I've studied Estimative Index (EI) - I'm just not a fan of high tech as it may be great for 'the planted tank', but I feel low tech is more natural for fishkeeping. Each to his/her own. :)
 
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Byron

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There is sufficient evidence that over-dosing plant additives is risky to fish. And with the EI you pretty much need diffused CO2, and this is without any question harmful to fish. I have discussed this with Tom a while back, and he is entitled to his view and without question when it comes to botany he does know. But he is not an ichthyologist, and he admitted to me that he promotes mainly plant tanks without fish or with few fish. He may or may not understand the issue with fish in these high-tech tanks, that really doesn't matter. I care more for the fish, and I am not prepared to make their existence more difficult just to achieve better plant growth. Especially when my tanks look like those below, I see no problem here, and the fish are better for this approach.

You may be interested in some article on the CO2 issue. Regardless of the specifics, the evidence is clear that CO2 does cause issues for fish.
 

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