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Old 03-23-2019, 06:12 AM   #1
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Unhappy ammonia spike nitrates but not nitrite

Hello everyone,


So i have an established south american cichlid tank and i was hoping to try a new way of planting some plants as my cichlids (geos) in particular obviously like to sift through the sand. So i decided to try adding some more sand i bought the caribsea naturals sunset gold and i added another layer to make the sand slightly deeper as well as changing the colour to a more "natural" colour.

When doing this i asked myself if this was smart and if i really could cover the old sand with new without the possibility of spikes in the tank, (as I'm not a professional just a hobbiest) and i researched online and saw nothing saying this would cause issues. So i went forth and did so, now i also bought some plant pots like the ones that tropica plants come in and i also purchased "tropicas" plant soil in the sort of bead shapes.

The next morning i woke up to my fish having cloudy eyes and in my past experiences i've had this when the ammonia or nitrite nitrates are high. So i went and did a test on my water with api master test kit and found my nitrite was 0ppm my ammonia was .25ppm and my nitrate was in the dark orange ( i don't remember exact reading ) sadly one of my beautiful cupid cichlids passed away from this...

i took my dead cupid cichlid to the biggest fish store around me second largest in canada and i trust them very much and they offered to do a autopsy on the fish to see if it was ammonia or what not. They told me his gills were slightly inflamed and his organs were slightly swollen and the eyes, as could be seen were cloudy. I asked what happened and they told me the tinny sand particles could be affecting the oxygen intake as well as the nitrates being high all reducing oxygen.

Now i have air pumps and i have a air filter with the hose connected and it shoots out water and bubbles. The fish were very lethargic and very muted in colour as well so they told me also it looked like possible bacterial infection. They recommend removing any and all carbon i had which i do use time to time and to use filter floss. They told me to also test my ph kh and gh as the kh can cause ph fluctuations and can cause the Ph to drop low.


The only medicine they told me they have available in canada since the government has banned many was sulfaplex and focus by seachem.

Rushed home did a massive water change at least 75% tested the water and Ph was low bellow 6 and the kh api test changed colour after 1 drop same as the gh test.

They told me to buy the alkaline buffer by seachem and acid buffer which i already had and was adding as they work together. I did this added new water added medicine and fed it with their favourite frozen bloodworms with some sachem garlicgaurd, the cloud on the eyes and the lethargy was going away .

i waited and tested the water nitrite 0ppm nitrate 0ppm ammonia .25ppm STILL!!!!


i have a Api filstar canister xl, U4 fluvial, emperor marineland and 2 other mainland HOB's for a 75 gal tank. I have added more bio media than filters came with and never had a ammonia spike since the beginning set up years ago.

I added more bio media today as well some ceramics in the canister and some in the HOB's i added catappa bark and coconut botanicals and some catappa leave because of the medicinal properties.

Please if anyone can give me more advice and more info as to what is going on and what i have done it would be great.

in the tank i have 4 angle fish, 2 geos, 2 common plecos, 2 severums and 2 discus, the discus are new adds about 2 weeks ago now and 2 cupids.

i also have a 40 gal tetra tank i added the soils and new sand to but it has had no issues. i did add less to it and it has lots of moss and lotuses and swords and some water lettuce.

usually i have a idea of what's wrong i have bread convicts and angles but right now i have no idea what is going on and really need advice please someone ....anyone.


right now they seem ok i am scared i'll wake up and they get worse.

thank you
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Old 03-23-2019, 08:58 AM   #2
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What type of plant substrate did you use exactly?

Often times some of these types of substrates are known to give off large amounts of ammonia for the first little bit. After a few weeks and big water changes its normally all good.

This could be what happening here. All I can suggest right now is to ensure you do daily large water changes and add the appropriate amount of prime as it can bind harmful ammonia.

Or transfer the fish to another tank for a bit. Or remove all the substrate and do large water changes to reset . If you don't mess with your filter you will not harm your cycle.
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Old 03-23-2019, 04:14 PM   #3
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i used the brand tropica soil. I read that ADA amazonia leaches a lot of ammonia but saw nothing really on tropica soils. Today i woke up did a test nitrite still 0ppm nitrate 0ppm and ammonia 0.25ppm still.

i dont use prime im using kordons version of prime as the smell of prime is horrid.

i contacted the a pet store employee who said to not do a water change right now and only add the kordon AmQuel since its only at 0.25ppm and it detoxifies up to 2ppm ammonia.

i saw this morning one of my plecos now has cloudy eyes and is barley doing anything my other plecos is fine, the other fish are ok as well swimming.
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Old 03-24-2019, 05:17 AM   #4
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ok so after further tests and experiments i have noted that tropica plant soil does in fact leech ammonia in to the tank. But not right away.

After adding the soil in to a cup about 10 min sitting i did a ammonia tis with that water and the results were ammonia 0ppm. I let it sit and after about 10 hours the ammonia in the same water was at 1ppm.

i dont know what to do as the tank is steady at the .25ppm ammonia reading nitrite 0ppm nitrate 0ppm.

Do i let it sit as im also treating for bacterial infection at this time, will the tank evolve to contain enough BB to rid of this .25ppm ammonia reading?


right now i am adding Kordon AmQuel and seems to be doing its job detoxifying.

I have a tetra tank i had added this bloody soil to and fish were showing signs of ammonia poising. Again ammonia was high nitrites were 0ppm nitrates 0ppm.

I did research and never saw anything about tropica leeching one ADA Amazonia, so i am really upset and i dont recommend this if you have a established tank and not heavily planted.

If anyone can offer me some advice some knowledge further on how to handle a situation like this please i am open and need it. I have expensive fish and they are like my babies i love them dearly and i dont want to loose them.

my other idea was to remove the pots that i filled with this soil, but im scared now of disturbing and making it worse.
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Old 03-24-2019, 06:43 AM   #5
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Maybe start doing 25% daily water changes for the next few weeks. This will keep the ammonia in check or at least at a constant lower level until your BB builds up to control it. Your ammonia at .25ppm isn't really high and more on the low side. In fact it's right at the level that a lot of people keep in thier tank when they do a fish in cycle. I'd dose your tank with Seachem Prime daily during your 25% water change to also help keep the ammonia in check.

I'm thinking you probably got BB in your tank but it hasn't grown enough at this time to keep up with the added ammonia from the new substrate you put in. That substrate could be putting off a lot more ammonia than .25 ppm but your BB is keeping it at .25 ppm. I'd have to believe that your bacteria colony would eventually grow to take out the extra ammonia. Or as stated above, the substrate will eventually stop releasing ammonia after some time.
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Old 03-24-2019, 02:30 PM   #6
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hi and thank you for the advice! i honestly decided to just dig out the pots with the soil in them, at this point it wasn't worth it to me. Did a 75% water change after digging them out incase of another spike and added Kordon AmQuel. My cichlids have been doing really bad because of this mistake of mine by not doing further research. I did however email on of the tropica laboratory personnel in hopes of getting further advice through them. Fingers crossed the removal of the soil goes well. Its really hard seeing my fish having these cloudy eyes and slime and just over all lethargic. I hope this post is also good info for other people as a warning against adding this unless you are prepared for the outcome, as i was not.
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Old 03-25-2019, 12:30 AM   #7
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i have tried to upload images of my test results starting from day 1 reading which is a example of what happened inside tank from a cup demonstration. The ammonia was the highest on the first day the second test was the result from the soil removed from my tank leeching ammonia in to sample waters. The third is a reading of my tank after the removal a few hours later from the soil being out.
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