Go Back   Aquarium Advice - Aquarium Forum Community > Freshwater > Freshwater & Brackish - General Discussion
Click Here to Login

Join Aquarium Advice Today
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Please support our sponsors and let them know you heard about them on AquariumAdvice.com
 
Old 07-10-2011, 07:46 PM   #1
come get me tang police!
 
jetajockey's Avatar


 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: In a swamp near you /Pensacola, FL
Posts: 12,047
Your Guide to Ammonia Toxicity

*WARNING* This guide is intended to give a better understanding of Ammonia toxicity and is not intended to diagnose or treat any problems. Please use this information wisely. *WARNING*

Ammonia. It's bad. I think even the most novice fishkeeper understands this concept. It's a common idea that Ammonia levels should be 0 in a well operating tank, and this is absolutely correct.

Ammonia poisoning is very harsh, and often, when fish begin to show effects of ammonia poisoning, even with swift action to remedy it by water changes and detoxifiers, it may be too late for some.

If you ever get ammonia readings in a cycled tank, the first thing to do is to figure out where they are coming from, and then formulate a plan to remedy it.

In cycling tanks, or even newly established tanks, the ammonia level can rise unexpectedly.

This can also happen if the ph, temperature, or bioload changes. It often takes a dramatic change, but it happens.

Still with me? Time to get a little technical.

Ammonia in aquaria has 2 forms. NH3 (Free Ammonia) and NH+4 (Ammonium).

Ammonium is much less toxic than Free Ammonia is,
so much so that Ammonia detoxifiers such as Prime or Amquel+ rely on converting the Free Ammonia over to Ammonium temporarily.

So to sum it up. Free Ammonia (NH3) + Ammonium (NH+4) = TAN (Total Ammonia Nitrogen). TAN is the total amount of ammonia
found in your tank, in both forms.

While TAN is consistent, the levels of NH3 and NH+4 in your tank fluctuate depending on both temperature and pH levels.

TAN is what your test kit reads in. It does not differentiate between NH3 and NH+4, which means that it gives you the total of both combined.

This is important to know, because one form is far less toxic than the other, and because of that, your tank may be in less/more danger than you think.

And this is why I created charts.

These charts will give you a reference point to see how much of the TAN(total ammonia nitrogen) in your tank is actually
the harmful Free Ammonia (NH3).

These charts were compiled with data taken from Agriculture Water Quality Alliance (AWQA: Agriculture Water Quality Alliance) as well as
the University of Florida's Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) found at EDIS - Electronic Data Information Source - UF/IFAS Extension

There is a threshold level for Free Ammonia (NH3) in the tank. A threshold level is basically the point at which adverse effects begin to happen. So levels below this are deemed safe.

The threshold level for Free Ammonia (NH3) .025ppm

Levels of .05ppm Free Ammonia (NH3) may harm fish, and at levels of 2.0ppm fish will begin to die.

How to use:

1) Test your water for Ammonia, pH, Temperature.
2) Take your Ammonia reading and find the proper chart
3) Find your pH/Temperature to see where you are on the chart.

The charts are color coded for easy referencing, and read in PPM

GREEN = SAFE YELLOW = CAUTION RED = DANGER





Notes: The charts only go down to 7.0pH. There is no data given for pH levels below this, and I'm not sure why. Rather than guesstimate, I'll leave it as-is for now. There is a common trend that the lower the pH, the less NH3 is present, but do know that there is a point around 6pH where nitrification completely stops.

A lack of buffers in a tank is a problem, especially when cycling, so if you are reading consistently low pH readings (or a wild swing in pH, adding a buffer may be a good idea.


You have your chart reading, what now?

Well, this ultimately comes down to you. If you are in the yellow or red, then a water change definitely should be in short order. This can get complicated if your water source has ammonia in it, so it's always a good idea to test your tap water for ammonia to make sure you aren't fighting an uphill battle.

As always, I recommend a good water conditioner that temporarily detoxifies ammonia to go along with as many water changes as needed to put you back into the green.


I hope this gives you a better understanding of how Ammonia toxicity works and helps you in your cycling process!
__________________

__________________
jetajockey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2011, 07:50 PM   #2
Aquarium Free - 2+ Years
 
mfdrookie516's Avatar



POTM Champion
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Winchester, Ky
Posts: 19,409
Awesome write up! Definitely some good material here to reference. As I said before you posted this, you should definitely submit this as an article. This is a great reference for all of us.
__________________

__________________
-Jonathan

"What, exactly, is the internet? Basically it is a global network exchanging digitized data in such a way that any computer, anywhere, that is equipped with a device called a 'modem', can make a noise like a duck choking on a kazoo." - Dave Barry
mfdrookie516 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2011, 07:50 PM   #3
Aquarium Advice Addict
 
eco23's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Fredericksburg, VA
Posts: 6,314
Bookmarked . Great write up and you just saved me a lot of future typing. Also a great example of why it's so important to have a quality test kit. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.
__________________
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...ng-148283.html
Being responsible...fishless cycling defines it, fish-in requires it. Choose wisely.
eco23 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-2011, 08:14 PM   #4
Look It Up
 
librarygirl's Avatar


 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 7,052
Fantastic information and easy to use, thanks!
__________________
librarygirl is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-11-2011, 05:26 AM   #5
come get me tang police!
 
jetajockey's Avatar


 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: In a swamp near you /Pensacola, FL
Posts: 12,047
Thanks for the kind words!
__________________
jetajockey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-11-2011, 06:35 AM   #6
Aquarium Advice Addict
 
jcolon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 3,470
Send a message via AIM to jcolon Send a message via Skype™ to jcolon
Very well done!

A good bookmarked source!
__________________
75g Planted Barbs Denison, BlackRuby, Tiger, Albino Tiger, Green Tiger, Cherry, Gold, Checkered, Odessa.
NonBarbs Cardinal, Neon, RummyNose, Bloodfin Tetras, Z. Danios. 1RTS. Amano, Bamboo, Ghost & RCS. 20g Long Shrimp Tank RCS, Tiger, Amano.
jcolon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-2011, 02:28 AM   #7
Aquarium Advice Freak
 
roundar's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 314
Meant to post yesterday when I read it, great article man. Bookmarked for sure, and thanks for taking the time to for such a clear write up.
__________________
Dihydrogen monoxide is an industrial solvent that can be found in your local streams and rivers. Vote to ban dihydrogen monoxide immediately!
roundar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-12-2011, 03:14 PM   #8
come get me tang police!
 
jetajockey's Avatar


 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: In a swamp near you /Pensacola, FL
Posts: 12,047
Thank you.

I find it really interesting that according to the chart, someone with a 7.6ph with average tank temp ~78f is still within the safe range at 1ppm ammonia reading.
__________________
jetajockey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 06:34 PM   #9
5x5
Aquarium Advice FINatic
 
5x5's Avatar

POTM Champion
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 942
Very interesting read. I know many of the tank cycling experts like Eco suggest water changes at .25ppm ammonia. Maybe it's important to factor in ph and temp for future recommendations. The question is: does a tank cycle faster with lower temp and higher ammonia or higher temp and lower ammonia?
__________________
5x5 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 06:46 PM   #10
5x5
Aquarium Advice FINatic
 
5x5's Avatar

POTM Champion
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 942
Does similar data exist for the toxicity of nitrites and nitrates?
__________________
5x5 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 06:46 PM   #11
Aquarium Advice Addict
 
eco23's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Fredericksburg, VA
Posts: 6,314
Quote:
Originally Posted by 5x5
Very interesting read. I know many of the tank cycling experts like Eco suggest water changes at .25ppm ammonia. Maybe it's important to factor in ph and temp for future recommendations. The question is: does a tank cycle faster with lower temp and higher ammonia or higher temp and lower ammonia?
I'd normally leave this alone...but since I was mentioned by name I feel I have to respond. The .25 threshold is recommended because it is the lowest level on the API Master kit which most members are suggested to use. In general...ammonia is bad as jeta said in the write up. The factors and information listed here I 100% agree with, but there are many new members have no knowledge of the process...and in many cases if they had to account for pH, temp as well as the other factors during a fish in cycle...I feel it would commonly be information overload. I more than welcome people to use this chart, in fact I have already linked it several times..and you are more than welcome to come along behind me and inform the new members about how pH and temp fits into the equation.

The recommendation of .25 is a safeguard to ensure fish survive the ordeal without complications and will not signifigantly alter the time frame for a cycle. BTW, the guide and write up about fish-in cycling was not created by me...and was put together by one of AA's senior and most respected members. I would also state most seasoned fish keepers would also recommend to a newbie they should follow the guide commonly linked.

Read over this guide and you should understand why it is the normal practice to advise what I and most other experienced members do.
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/articl...now/Page2.html
__________________
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...ng-148283.html
Being responsible...fishless cycling defines it, fish-in requires it. Choose wisely.
eco23 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 06:55 PM   #12
5x5
Aquarium Advice FINatic
 
5x5's Avatar

POTM Champion
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 942
Eco - I was just pondering out loud. I agree with the argument you've outlined for keeping .25ppm as the standard threshold, even if it's only a part of the equation for the actual toxicity. It serves little purpose for newbies to be trying to adjust there temp and ph to keep fish alive with higher ammonia. That could even cause more bad behavior like ph down...etc
__________________
Join the official SA/CA Club: A place to share pictures and talk about your monsters.

http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...d+society.html
5x5 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 07:17 PM   #13
Aquarium Advice Addict
 
jcolon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 3,470
Send a message via AIM to jcolon Send a message via Skype™ to jcolon
Quote:
Originally Posted by 5x5 View Post
Eco - I was just pondering out loud. I agree with the argument you've outlined for keeping .25ppm as the standard threshold, even if it's only a part of the equation for the actual toxicity. It serves little purpose for newbies to be trying to adjust there temp and ph to keep fish alive with higher ammonia. That could even cause more bad behavior like ph down...etc
I also agree with a standard of .25ppm. Forget about .. it depends on the temperature and pH ... blah, blah, blah. To newcomers it get very confusing. Pick a minimum danger level number and anything from that and above is not safe for fish... period Let those with Doctorate / PHD's and such argue the minutiae.
__________________
75g Planted Barbs Denison, BlackRuby, Tiger, Albino Tiger, Green Tiger, Cherry, Gold, Checkered, Odessa.
NonBarbs Cardinal, Neon, RummyNose, Bloodfin Tetras, Z. Danios. 1RTS. Amano, Bamboo, Ghost & RCS. 20g Long Shrimp Tank RCS, Tiger, Amano.
jcolon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 07:29 PM   #14
5x5
Aquarium Advice FINatic
 
5x5's Avatar

POTM Champion
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 942
I agree as well after giving it some thought.
__________________
Join the official SA/CA Club: A place to share pictures and talk about your monsters.

http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...d+society.html
5x5 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 07:31 PM   #15
Aquarium Advice Addict
 
eco23's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Fredericksburg, VA
Posts: 6,314
I also agree and hope Jeta has time to put together the same type of info as it relates to nitrItes. My understanding is that no2 basically reacts in the opposite direction to NH3 and is the matching piece to the puzzle.

Don't get me wrong...I 100% support this guide and I would personally use it myself if I was doing a fish in cycle...and I also on several occasions have linked it to members who have developed a good understanding of the process...but when you take all this information into account as well as the same info as it relates to no2...I'd hedge my bets and stick with the "lower the better" recommendation. Of course, that does not pertain to all members, there are plenty of knowledgeable and capable people here for whom this guide would be invaluable information. I know personally when I started out in the hobby, if someone tried to explain cycling to me and also handed me charts as ammo and no2 relate to pH and temp...my head would have exploded. That's not saying others aren't capable...just my personal opinion and experience.
__________________
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...ng-148283.html
Being responsible...fishless cycling defines it, fish-in requires it. Choose wisely.
eco23 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 10:08 PM   #16
come get me tang police!
 
jetajockey's Avatar


 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: In a swamp near you /Pensacola, FL
Posts: 12,047
Quote:
Originally Posted by jcolon View Post
I also agree with a standard of .25ppm. Forget about .. it depends on the temperature and pH ... blah, blah, blah. To newcomers it get very confusing. Pick a minimum danger level number and anything from that and above is not safe for fish... period Let those with Doctorate / PHD's and such argue the minutiae.
Well the standard is wrong. If you can read the chart, then you'll see why.

Newcomers can't be confused by all the hoopla around fishless cycling, why not have more stuff out there for them to learn if they are willing to, rather than just pretend like theres some magical #s and have absolutely no evidence to prove it.

Just because someone is new doesn't mean they can't grasp it, and if they don't want to, that's fine with me. I just know with this chart I can tell someone that X amount of ammonia is harmful to the fish, and then I can prove why, rather than just say 'oh because I said so'.

Call it minutiae if you want, but I don't think it takes higher learning to read a simple chart, and it's extremely important, especially for those that already have ammonia coming out of their tap above the magical .25ppm 'minimum' that everyone throws around.


I expected to get some flack for posting this, since it's contrary to a lot of 'teachings' going around, and that's fine, but at least have an actual argument against it's validity, because that's all that matters.
__________________
Dont Forget to Join my FREE weekly Plant Giveaway.
Click Here!
jetajockey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 10:19 PM   #17
come get me tang police!
 
jetajockey's Avatar


 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: In a swamp near you /Pensacola, FL
Posts: 12,047
Quote:
Originally Posted by eco23 View Post
I also agree and hope Jeta has time to put together the same type of info as it relates to nitrItes. My understanding is that no2 basically reacts in the opposite direction to NH3 and is the matching piece to the puzzle.
It's not going to happen with nitrites, the documentation is too few and far between unfortunately, so most of it would be total speculation. It doesn't appear to be on a sliding scale, like exact opposites, so I've tried to leave that alone.

Quote:
Don't get me wrong...I 100% support this guide and I would personally use it myself if I was doing a fish in cycle...and I also on several occasions have linked it to members who have developed a good understanding of the process...but when you take all this information into account as well as the same info as it relates to no2...I'd hedge my bets and stick with the "lower the better" recommendation. Of course, that does not pertain to all members, there are plenty of knowledgeable and capable people here for whom this guide would be invaluable information. I know personally when I started out in the hobby, if someone tried to explain cycling to me and also handed me charts as ammo and no2 relate to pH and temp...my head would have exploded. That's not saying others aren't capable...just my personal opinion and experience.

This guide isn't for someone who is brand new into this, it obviously takes some understanding of what ammonia and the nitrogen cycle is before you can start understanding the intricacies of it. It's still important though, like I mentioned in the last post, you know as well as I do that many have ammoniated water, so the 'do water changes till you get it to .25' thing doesn't work, and in those cases we often say 'well keep it as low as possible'.

I'm totally on board with the 'low as possible' thing, but have seen many threads where someone is freaking because their water source doesn't allow them to get down to that standardized.25ppm threshold. I've even seen people switch over to bottled water or r/o just to get there.

The other thing is I sometimes see recommendations to do daily multiple PWCs, which is also unnecessary in most situations. Too many water changes can be detrimental when cycling, the biofilm in the tank gets dislodged/dries out in certain portions, and also the water itself takes time to stabilize. Granted, beneficial bacteria don't colonize in the column itself, but they do use the water as a means of getting around, so messing with it the least amount feasible would make sense.

Yes, when initially combatting a toxin issue, multiple PWCs may be necessary to get an extreme amount of toxins out of the water, but otherwise, it's not.

If someone is reading 1.0ppm ammonia in their tank, and they do a 50% wc, they don't need to another 50% right after to get it down to .25. Chances are that the .50 reading is well into the safe area, and also Prime or other detoxifier is being used so the water is safe for a 24+ hour period anyway.

I appreciate the input.
__________________
Dont Forget to Join my FREE weekly Plant Giveaway.
Click Here!
jetajockey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2011, 10:47 PM   #18
Aquarium Advice Addict
 
jcolon's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 3,470
Send a message via AIM to jcolon Send a message via Skype™ to jcolon
Quote:
Originally Posted by jetajockey View Post
Well the standard is wrong. If you can read the chart, then you'll see why.
Hey jetajockey ... who cares if you get flack ... continue to stay firm with your ideas. Ideally ... I'd say your are correct. If you can read the charts... which I think are superbly done ... one should be able to properly decipher the info. What I'm finding is not everyone cares to either read or wants to read charts ... which is sad. It's a pattern that I'm afraid is becoming more common ... IMO. Too many people want the direct info right now up front ... no if, ands or buts. I see it with many of my students. At the beginning of the year, they ask a question and roll their eyes if I say "it depends on". And forget about expecting them to refer to charts ... it's like

It isn't till later in the year when they've had most of the curriculum in under their belt do they then refer to charts and grasp the why it "depends on" etc.

IMO ... a minimum ammo number is for no other reason than to give those people who just want a fish tank a number to go by. Those who want an Aquarium, meaning they know it's more than just fish will understand the intricacies, will research more and refer to charts like yours.

It's too bad you are not finding useful data for Nitrites / Nitrates. Maybe you can be the one to start the quality research on it. Keep up the good work!
__________________
75g Planted Barbs Denison, BlackRuby, Tiger, Albino Tiger, Green Tiger, Cherry, Gold, Checkered, Odessa.
NonBarbs Cardinal, Neon, RummyNose, Bloodfin Tetras, Z. Danios. 1RTS. Amano, Bamboo, Ghost & RCS. 20g Long Shrimp Tank RCS, Tiger, Amano.
jcolon is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-16-2011, 01:08 AM   #19
come get me tang police!
 
jetajockey's Avatar


 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: In a swamp near you /Pensacola, FL
Posts: 12,047
Thanks for the response.

I may look into the nitrate thing, there is probably a lot of resources on it, but I really don't want to subject fish to nitrite poisoning for the sake of a writeup.

I agree that <.25 is a good target, I even recommend it fairly often.

My issue was with those that demanded a <.25 level otherwise the fish were going to suffer poisoning/death.

For the sake of accuracy, it needs to be brought to light. One reason is because newbies look to others for advice, and when they get this kind of advice from those that they deem 'in the know', they take it and run with it, and next thing you know, they are in another thread telling someone else that their fish are going to die if they aren't keeping the ammonia below .25 .

I'm sure I could find some threads to evidence this but it's probably easy enough to find.
__________________
Dont Forget to Join my FREE weekly Plant Giveaway.
Click Here!
jetajockey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-16-2011, 01:26 AM   #20
Aquarium Advice Activist
 
ChristinaE12's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Billings, MT
Posts: 96
This is pretty interesting.. And it is funny how mislead information gets spread quickly. I know I'll have this chart around at all times.

I'm sure there are other factors even, still, but this is a great guideline to follow instead of thinking automatically that; "cause my 'ammo' is above .25 now my fish are going to die" type thing. Hopefully this chart gets into more peoples hands sooner than later.
__________________

__________________
ChristinaE12 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
ammonia, guide, toxicity

Please support our sponsors and let them know you heard about them on AquariumAdvice.com

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Ammonia Spike ... HELP PLEASE Dewymoon Freshwater & Brackish - Unhealthy Fish 17 07-11-2011 10:38 AM
Could 0.25 ammonia be coming from testing kit? Aqua315 Freshwater & Brackish - General Discussion 31 07-08-2011 12:44 AM
My tap water has ammonia in it cloud9 Freshwater & Brackish - General Discussion 2 07-04-2011 01:19 PM
Look at this photo... is this 2 or 4 ppm of ammonia?! Gnarls Gnarlington Freshwater & Brackish - Getting Started 9 07-01-2011 10:16 PM
Ammonia problem Scottishnewbie Freshwater & Brackish - Getting Started 13 06-25-2011 03:18 PM







» Photo Contest Winners







All times are GMT -4. The time now is 01:13 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
×