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Old 03-09-2011, 06:42 PM   #1
Aeo
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Lightbulb Fresh water tanks in a chloramine water district

Hey Fish Friends,

I signed up for an account today because this seems like a good spot for aquarium banter and, frankly, my Facebook friends are tired of hearing about it. I'm sure you can relate.

Anyhow, having done some searching I've noted there is not an active thread dedicated to handling water treatment in a chloramine treated district. As the only way to remove chloramine is by using activated carbon filtration, it presents a huge problem in a closed ecosystem. This particular topic is one I feel strongly about because I lost a lot of fish following otherwise excellent advice on forums like this one before my local family-owned aquarium store (Ocean Aquarium in San Francisco) set me straight about the problem.

Standard tap water in my home city of San Francisco is treated with chloramine. It has a pH of 7.2 and an a resultant ammonia concentration of 0.5%. In other words, you would be hard pressed to design a more efficient fish killer that doesn't hurt humans.

In a chloramine treated environment, doing a classic 30% water change will immediately disinfect your tank - meaning all of your healthy bacteria will be dead and you will be cycling your tank from scratch. While the ammonia levels associated with chloramine can be treated chemically, an insidious secondary problem immediately occurs. Single-celled organisms that feed on bacteria will have nothing else to eat besides your fish.

The results are fairly horrifying.

I would like to devote a thread to a general awareness of chloramine (vs chloramine-t) and the problems it creates in aquariums. In addition, I'd like to get a discussion going on how to best handle chloramine treated water. I will update the top thread here as qualified solutions appear over time.

As I understand it there are currently two ways to deal with chloramine.
  • The first is to pre-treat the water used in a change with Ammo-Lock2 (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) or AmQuel (Kordon). Either product will react with the ammonia to form non-toxic, inert, moderately stable substances that are readily gobbled up by plants. I have not actually tried this method but I would also recommend matching your pH in advance when doing a large water change. To neglect either treatment introduces two of the three silent killers into your tank in large quantities.
  • The second method that I find more natural must begin with a new tank. I have three inches of sand in the bottom of my aquarium. This sand is not only an excellent substrate for plants but also a fantastic host for healthy bacteria. It takes anywhere from 4-8 weeks to get good bacterial growth in a tank and you will know it is properly cycled when your ammonia levels drop to zero. I have found Microbe Lift (Ecological Laboratories) to be a great help in speeding up this process. Using this method, once your tank has been cycled, do not do water changes!. A properly maintained tank with a good biofilter and healthy bacterial colonies in the soil should not require them. I can assure you that Ocean Aquarium in San Francisco is operating close to 100 very healthy planted tanks that never receive water changes.

What is your experience with chloramine and how do you handle changing or topping up your water given the toxic nature of what the water districts have handed us?
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:01 PM   #2
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the one and only chemical i use is "prime by seachem" 1 cap treats 50 galons and i live in a town that has very high cloromine but if you live in sanfran it may not be that water... it may be the desolved metals from the old pipes killing your fish copper and iron are both deadly to fish but i do do 10% water changes twice a month because i have pirahnas and the amonia gets to 8.0ppm+ (but 0.5% amonia is nuts any city would not alow that)... if i dont and that even after a biofilter has been set up you need alot of plants in your tank to keep the parameters at 0 with out water changes that or your tank has been set up for a few years and has an extremly healthy biofilter if your worried about the bacteria attacking your fish just use stability by seachem it helps rebuild the lost bio filter with out harming the fish i have had 0 problems whith this so far
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:14 PM   #3
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Prime works well. It treats chlorine and chloramine.

Most people do not sufficiently plant a tank to the point that no PWCs is a good option. The tanks at the Ocean aquarium, are they on central filtration, and is there any kind of sump or fuge associated with the system? Volume is a big factor here imo.
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:17 PM   #4
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I think, as I mentioned in response to an earlier post of yours, that you have a misconception of what chloramine is. Chloramine is simply Chlorine and Ammonia. The chemical compound is NH2CL. Most big name water conditioners on the market (Prime, AmQuel, etc) can easily handle either chloramine or chlorine. With chloramine, the conditioner first binds the ammonia with hydrogen creating ammonium (NH4+). Ammonium is not harmful to fish, yet is still available for nitrosomonas (the bacteria that 'eat' ammonia and produce nitrite) to consume. The second phase of the process is where the conditioner detoxifies the chlorine that is remaining. It's really not any different, IMO, than having chlorine in your tap. The conditioner still detoxifies it. The only difference is that ammonium is still readable on certain ammonia test kits. The API ammonia kit tests both ammonium (NH4+) and free ammonia (NH4), so sometimes you'll get a false positive ammonia test when using tap water with chloramine in it.
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:18 PM   #5
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I would go with Prime also, since it removes chloramines and treats some heavy metals (I believe). I use Prime to replace what is lost in evaporation, and I also use to for the new water during water changes.

I am pretty sure copper is not deadly to fish, only inverts.
Water changes need to be made once a week, (I do 50%, some do 20-30%)

DO NOT use ammo-lock, ever. It is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm, only going to help for a little bit. The only way to get rid of ammonia (with fish) is to do water changes, and you want to keep it and the nitrites at .25 if you are cycling, and at 0 when the cycle is done.

As for the water changes; how would those people like to drink water that has been sitting on the counter for a month? Or maybe take a bath in water that has already been used by everyone else in the house? GROSS. By doing water changes, we are trying to kind of re-create their natural enviroment, like a river or ocean, and also take out any toxins, dust, etc., out of the tank, which a river or ocean would naturally "wash" away.
If your ammonia is .5 out of the tap, when you get your nitrogen cycle done, it should take care of it. Also, if you use Prime, it detoxifies the ammonia and nitrite, but you will still get a false positive.
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:23 PM   #6
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Well, I think there is plenty of merit to running a system that may do fine without PWCs... but it is not something I would recommend to anyone just starting out in the hobby. It requires a large amount of plant biomass that will readily grow/uptake N without the need for a lot of additional nutrient supplementation. It would also require that the tapwater used for topoffs be very low in TDS, ions, metals, etc that are not readily used by plants.
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Old 03-09-2011, 07:53 PM   #7
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amquel+...i have high ammonia and chloramines (and nitrates) in my tap and it works wonders...my mbuna's are thriving...have heard prime works equally as well though i have not used it...
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Old 03-09-2011, 11:12 PM   #8
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Good thread so far. You are right that I'm not a chemist so my exact understanding of chloramine is limited - however - on a practical level I'm more interested in good solutions.

I think the mistake a lot of beginners make is not pre-treating their water. Where I live a pH of 7.2 with .5% ammonia is massively toxic.

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The main point is that chloramine is a very efficient killer and a lot of beginners don't know how to deal with it (or even what it is)

The secondary point is that there are two ways to handle chloramine, which is far more toxic than just chlorine alone. The obvious one is to pre-treat water, which takes lots of chemicals and a decent sized bunch of water containers. The second one is to set up the tank in such a way that it only requires top-ups and the chlorine/ammonia are cycled for you by the ecosystem.
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:33 AM   #9
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I dump the Prime in the tank and then add the water with a Python, no problem. I add the Prime to the buckets and fill them up with water, still no problem.
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Old 03-10-2011, 01:41 PM   #10
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I agree with dkpate; Seachem Prime and regular PWC's are the way to go. Luanne
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