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Old 07-04-2003, 12:26 PM   #1
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New tank with high NH3+NH4

Hello. This is my first post. I have been reading for a few days here and I see I have much to learn.

I had a 45g tank for years with under gravel filter and an assortment of fish. This was before bio wheels etc. and all I did was maintaining ph levels and do 25% water changes every few weeks. That was 15+ years ago. Now I have bought a 6g Eclipse tank with the cartridge and bio wheel.

I have a test kit that checks the combined NH3=NH4. If I understand this correctly only one of those is toxic to the fish yet I could be reading high nitrate with low nitrite and not know this. I used Bio-Spira to setup the tank about 5 weeks ago. My problem is I may have over populated the tank. I have two small angle fish, a blue gurami, two small rosy barbs, a pictus catfish, and a Chinese algae eater totaling about 8+ inches in my 6g tank. Shortly after I had it setup the water turned milky over night. I bought a test kit and figured I had high ammonia. I did a quick 25% water change and bought some Ammo Lock. This helped clear up the water but my NH tests read 3.0 mg/l or more by the time I get home from work. I have been doing 25% water changes with Bio-Spira treated water daily for a week now and the fish seem to be OK. I have a tetra test kit but the Bio Spira says it will give false high readings with test kits that use a certain regent. I would have written this off to incompatible tests but yesterday my Chinese algae eater died. I did the water change as usual but woke today with a very milky tank.

I am having trouble sorting out my real problem from my exacerbating the one I had. My treatments can be killing off my bacteria which I need to prevent the problem in the first place. Now that I have confessed my noobieness, can someone please help me figure out where to start in stabilizing my tank?
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Old 07-04-2003, 01:24 PM   #2
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Having never used the Bio Spira, I can't comment on how effective it is. If you have an ammonia kit that uses a nessler reagent, you will get false readings if you have used ammo lock. You need a salicylate based kit to get correct readings in this situation. The tank is overstocked IMO. Bear in mind that these fish are juveniles at the sizes you listed. Fully grown, they could total 18"+ total. The inches per gallon rule is something you can't really go by. What is important is the biomass of the fish and the available surface area in the tank. In many cases, adhering to the "inch per gallon" rule will still result in an overstocked tank. From your description, I suspect that the tank is experiencing an ammonia spike with nitrite soon to follow. I would secure a salicylate test kit and do enough water changes to bring the ammonia down to .5 or less. I would test for nitrite as soon as the ammonia shows any signs of subsiding. IMO, you need to take most of the fish back for now as I don't think they have a good chance right now. The angels would be the first ones to go back as they are delicate fish and will not likely survive a cycle. The cloudy water can be caused by excessive ammonia...likely it's a bacterial bloom and will subside in a few days. The danger with these usually harmless blooms is that, especially in a smaller tank, they can cause the oxygen levels in the water to drop dangerously low. So...continue the water changes to keep the ammonia diluted, watch for the nitrite that is sure to follow, remove (IMO) the angels, the gourami, and the pictus, and the tank should cycle in 4-6 weeks. I wouldn't recommend the chinese algae eaters either as they become very agressive as they get larger. Once the tank has cycled and is stable, I would recommend a trio of otocinclus catfish for algae control. They stay small and are neat little fish...sensitive to water parameters though.
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Old 07-04-2003, 01:57 PM   #3
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Thanks Logan. The people at the pet stores in the towns here only know a bit more than I do when I asked about the nessler issue. Can you recommend a brand of salicylate based tester so I can search for a seller online?

It looks like I may be buying a house this summer/fall and will be building a DYI tank that is much larger. I had hoped that I could get by with the over crowding for a while by doing more frequent changes and such but it appears things are out of control. I have been using allot of bacteria for ammonia control and may have caused the bloom myself. The Bio Spira said you cannot overdose with their product. Hmmm.
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Old 07-04-2003, 11:52 PM   #4
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Unless I am mistaken, the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals ammonia test that has the two separate reagents is a salicylate based test. The nessler kit uses only one reagent. I would think any pet store that sells SW fish would have this kit on the shelf...it will work for FW or SW and comes with color comparator cards for each.

You might be able to get by with the overcrowding for a while...I don't think it's going to go over too well until the tank cycles. It is entirely possible that the bacterial bloom was caused by additives. It is basically a case of excess nutrients and the bacterial bloom will continue until the food is consumed...then they'll die off.
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