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Old 02-24-2011, 04:02 PM   #1
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Ammonia test results that I don't understand

Hi, all. I have a 30 gallon FOWLR, with about 40-50 lbs of live rock, and sand on the bottom. I have 1 half-black angel, 1 strawberry basslet, 1 firefish, and 1 striped blenny. the tank has been up and running for about a year. The filter is rated for a 50 gallon tank. I don't have a sump.

If it matters -- I have no idea -- I have compact fluorescent lighting, plus T5s (those are the actinic blue ones, yes?), and 2 small LED "moon" lights. I run the full spectrum lighting about 10 hours a day and the "moon" lights overnight, and I use the actinic lights only for an hour or so in he morning and at night, to simulate something like "dawn" and "dusk."

So, here's the problem: Recently (2 months or so), when I test my water quality, I get very low or undetectable readings for Nitrites and Nitrates, but very high readings for Ammonia. First of all, is this even possible? Second of all, if it is possible, what could be causing it? (My pH levels are where everyone says they're supposed to be, and I can't remember any other specifics right now, but only the Ammonia ever seems to test as a problem area)

I have made a few partial water changes, and I have added some sort of bottled additive, which claims to contain active bacteria cultures, and is marketed as a way to cycle a new tank (INSTANTLY!).

Nothing ever seems to change the ammonia levels.

I'm aware that I may actually have the tank a little over-stocked, but the fish are all acting normally, and they do not show any of the signs of ammonia poisoning that I find listed anywhere on the internet. To all appearances, the fish are very healthy, as far as I can see.

I feed the fish only every couple of days, and I feed them no more than they can eat in a few minutes, so I don't think I'm overfeeding. Plus, I have a pretty full contingent of hermit crabs and snails, as well as a few emerald crabs and a fire shrimp, all of whom seem to be doing quite well.

Any suggestions on what might be going on? Any suggestions on what I might be able to do to fix it?

I'm asking, because I recently acquired a piece of live rock with a pretty, green mushroom coral on it. I think I'd like to start growing some more corals, but I know the water quality has to be perfect, in order to keep those guys alive. The mushroom has been in the tank for a couple of months now, and it seems to be doing well. It hasn't propagated itself, but it's certainly not dying off, as far as I can see. Am I ok to try some corals? Is my test kit just faulty for Ammonia (It's one of those Instant Ocean ones, with the little, foil packets of powder that you add to the test water)?

Sorry for writing a book. Thanks for any suggestions that anyone would like to make.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:06 PM   #2
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What test kit are you using? If it were me, I'd scoop up some water and take it to the LFS and have them test it. And pick up an API master test kit while you're there if you're using test strips.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:08 PM   #3
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+1 on the API test kit
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:09 PM   #4
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I thought I mentioned the test kit. It's an Instant Ocean test kit. It has little, foil packets with poder in them. You take a small sample of water in a little beaker-like thing, and you add the powder, shake, wait, and compare with little, colored plastic chips, which are supposed to give the readings. I'm sure the kit has a name, but I don't know what it is. I don't use those strip tests, because it's my understanding that they can be pretty imprecise.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:12 PM   #5
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So, based on the input from tjm and Durvish, it sounds like I should be suspicious about the quality of the test kit right now, and less so about the quality of the water?

Am I right in thinking that the outcomes (apparently healthy fish, inverts [and now, a single, small coral], plus otherwise-normal test results) suggest the water is actually ok?

Thanks, by the way.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:15 PM   #6
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+1 on different test kit.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:16 PM   #7
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If your test kit is showing things aren't ok, but the fish are acting ok, I would want to verify that the water is indeed ok.

The API kits are liquid rather than powder. Just make sure you follow the directions exactly (shaking the second nitrate bottle for 30 seconds, etc.) and these API kits will give you a good reading. But to be sure, you should take a water sample to the LFS and have them test it, and pick up the API kit while you're there.

Edited to add: You did mention the test kit you're using, I must've missed it.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:19 PM   #8
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Just for reference, this is what you want.

Saltwater Master Test Kit - API
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:20 PM   #9
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Thanks. Got it on the test kit thing. I'm sold.

Any critiques on any of the other information that I provided. This is my first aquarium of any kind, and I am sort of making it up a I go along, so if anyone wants to tell me that there's something I seem to be doing wrong, I'd be grateful for the heads-up.
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Old 02-24-2011, 04:27 PM   #10
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The Seachem ammonia test kits are good as well.

Just put the test circle in a test cavity in the water from the aquarium and a drop of ammonia regiment and wait 15 min. Very accurate and easy to use.
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