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Old 10-24-2003, 05:44 PM   #1
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Chronic ammonia spiking :o(

For over two weeks now we've been having drastic ammonia spiking in our 40-gal FO CC tank. Our angels, damsels & clown all died, and only the puffer is surviving. My wife thinks that my having rinsed the filter sponges in tap water might be what killed the fish, but even though I now realize that's a no-no, I can't believe the minuscule amount of tap water did it. I also rinsed the charcoal in tap water, but never the bio-habitat briquets, just kept that in a dish of tank water until time to reassemble filter.

We've been changing 5 - 15 gallons every day, each bucket carefully prepped for salinity, pH and NH3/NO2-free. But it keeps spiking ( The protein skimmer is producing more brown froth than before, and needs its trap cleaned 2x/day, and there are more bubbles on water surface than seems normal.

We have a Fluval 204 and two PH's; plenty of aeration & water movement. Historically we had too many fish and overfed for many months (ignoring your good advice, but let's not go there). The puffer didn't eat for ~ 2 weeks, but has resumed feeding for 5 consecutive days - but now we only give him 1/4 cube of frozen sponge/etc mix, which he inhales in seconds. He looks healthy, but seems down when the NH3 is high. It goes to the max of the color chart every morning, and we dump in Amquel to neutralize it, then change water evening.

Is this all just from built-up waste material? Have our ammonia-consuming bacteria died? I think at this point we need to remove puffer to a holding tank, and do a major water change, vacuuming all the CC, and wait/test/water-vacuum/change until it stabilizes. Would this do it, or do we need to totally empty tank, rinse CC, and start fresh & cycle tank?

Desperate for advice.

Bob Peitzke
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Old 10-24-2003, 06:24 PM   #2
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Bob,

I have to ask questions:

How old is the tank? Had it cycled before addition of fish?

It sounds to me that this is a chain reaction from overstocking... You are going to have to get Puffer out of that tank and let it cycle... At this point, I doubt the little bit of tap water used to rinse GAC and filter sponges did it.. However, if you rinsed all of the sponge like for instance, broke down the whole filter and cleaned it, then there is where the problem lies. You are cleaning and killing all of the beneficial bacteria in the filter sponge. This will cause the Ammonia to rise because the bacteria cannot keep up with it... It sounds to me that you are going to have to re-trace your steps and try again..Just don't lose heart and quit... We all have gone through things of this nature... JMHO
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Old 10-24-2003, 07:03 PM   #3
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Thanks, Timbo. We've had this tank set up as SW for almost a year, but only maybe 6 months since redo from some mystery contaminant that killed all our fish. After that, we emptied tank, put in new CC, did the no-fish/cooked-shrimp tank cycle, then introduced a couple of damsels, yada yada. We were up to 7 fish, ~= 16 fish-inches, and they were fine for many months. I believe we were overfeeding. We fed one cube of the frozen sponge/etc "angel mix" plus a small pinch of flake food every evening. We were changing only ~ 12% of the water once/month. After a while we started having moderate NO2 spikes but no NH3 spiking. Recently we've been having the major NH3 spikes twice/day.

OK, so here's the plan: we'll put puffer to a holding tank with correct salinity etc and a heater & PH; remove all decorative coral from main tank (not live); vacuum suction out buckets & buckets of water, to get all the gunk out of the CC, maybe most of the tank water; fill with new water; correct salinity & pH, and watch it. I expect we'll need to do one more major vacuum suction water change, maybe two, but after a week or so, it should stabilize and stop spiking. At that point we'll put puffer back in main tank, and then if he's OK for a few days, get a couple of damsels. OK? I plan to limit our tank to say four fish including puffer in future, with others all small types.

Question: will we need to introduce any new biomass to keep from starving the bacteria during this process? I would think there would be enough residual waste material to feed them enough, wouldn't you?


Thanks for advice.

Regards,

Bob
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Old 10-24-2003, 07:12 PM   #4
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I agree with Timbo on this one, get the puffer out of there, you are gonna cycle again. Just let it run its course. That will be the safest and most stable way to do this.

See if your LFS may keep the puffer for a while, until your tank is ready again. That would be my suggestion. JMHO.

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Old 10-24-2003, 11:27 PM   #5
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I think I see one issue... The Fluval 204 is only rated for tanks up to 40 gal, and in this I would suggest that it really is not enough fiter for a tank with Angels and Puffers... Puffers are very messy eaters and leave too much waste behind.. I would strongly suggest, and you can take it from me, you will need at least at minimum, the Fluval 404 on that tank to be safe... or, you could supplement the 204 with a HOB filter such as the Emperor 400... This will give you plenty of BIO MASS and you could alternate the filter cleanings....

In regards to your first post, your Puffer is experiencing ammonia poisoning and this is why he looks down... You will need to get him into a holding tank and do regular water changes on it, to keep the ammonia down...BTW, throw the AMQUEL away... it has no place in a proper setup... I would go ahead and vacuum and clean the CC as best as you can on the first go round.. After the vacuuming, replace the water that was siphoned out with good mixed water.. Then throw in the dead shrimp and let it cycle again...During this time, make sure you are changing the water often to keep the puffer happy in his temporary home...

Please by all means if you are going to keep the Puffer (they get large), get the extra filter.... You will be glad you did...

And, finally, after the tank gets through the cycle this time, add the Puffer back into his home and let the tank stay like it is for at least a month before adding any new fish, so that you can see how the water fairs with the puffers messy ways...

Another Oh BTW, AMQUEL and the like are known to give off false positives in Ammonia tests... This could be why after you put it in the tank, you did not see it fall much...I still say get rid of it...

Keep the faith,
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Old 10-24-2003, 11:46 PM   #6
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Why another filter ??? A good skimmer will do te job and maybe add some LR but I think that the skimmer would do it without adding another filter
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Old 10-24-2003, 11:56 PM   #7
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Skimmer would get rid of some DOC's yes, however, it is not considered media in which to grow bacteria. If you do not have the filtering bio-mass to handle the load, then it is an endless battle with ammonia and nitrite swings... It would also be a cheaper solution to another filter than buying 65 lbs. of LR and a good Skimmer.

You bring up a valid point and one that I would have suggested if I didn't read FO with CC substrate.


BTW Bob, Michel did have a valid solution if you think this may be what you might want to do?
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Old 10-25-2003, 12:11 AM   #8
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Understood but they already have a skimmer so 40lbs of LR and that,s it I think
Maybe I'm wrong ! Sorry Timbo ... Did not want to interject here !
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Old 10-25-2003, 07:35 AM   #9
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The protein skimmer is producing more brown froth than before, and needs its trap cleaned 2x/day
oops, , I missed the already have a skimmer part....
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Old 10-26-2003, 11:36 AM   #10
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I do not have a SW tank, but have mistakenly used a product made for salt water that may help you in the future. When my husband bought a 6 inch jack dempsey and brought it home, we had no cycled tank to put it in. Within a few days, you know what happened in that 29 gal. tank. I was doing water changes twice a day until I looked around on the net and found a product called ammonia/nitrite eliminator made by Acquamarine. I got it from www.aquadirect.com, and I also see you can get it on www.drsfostersmith.com. When I ordered it, there was no block to check for the fresh or salt water version, and I just placed an order, not knowing there were 2 different formulas. When it arrived, I called Acquamarine, and was told the saltwater version would be safe in my fresh water tank. He told me to triple the dosage recommended on the package for 2 or 3 days. That stuff is amazing! My ammonia level was down to zero in 2 days! I now keep the stuff handy in case of any future mishaps. My JD is now in a 100 gal. tank with another JD, 2 oscars, & a large pleco and very happy. I think the stuff saved him. Being a newbie, I have had to use it since then with great results. I used it Friday on my 100 gal. tank, and the ammonia is almost back at zero. I think I feed my pigs too much! I'm learning!
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