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Old 05-03-2012, 08:21 AM   #1
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Question Science/Techy question about ammonia

Hi there

Can anyone confirm whether this information is accurate?

According to my Nutrafin test kit, the toxicity of ammonia is largely dependent on the pH of the water. Apparently if the water has a relativley low pH, any ammonia will be present n the form of ionic ammonium, which is much less harmful to aquatic life, than the toxic gas, ammonia.

The water in my tank is at pH7 (straight from the tap it is 5.5, although i don't know why there is such a difference). Anyway, according to the test kit, if the ammonia reads >1.2mg/l, I should test the pH. The test pack includes a chart which then allows you to determine what action to take by looking at the pH results in combination with the test results, rather than looking at ammonia alone. It provides a red/amber/green system giving different actions depending on the severity of the problem.

For me (with pH 7) I would not enter the red (danger) zone even if the ammonia levels reached 7.3 mg/l. With 7.3mg/l being the highest detectable level on the colour chart (dark orange in colour), this suggests it is unlikely i would ever have an ammonia problem.

While i intend to continue to do water changes, I'd appreciate your views on this. For me, perhaps (if this is true), I don't need to worry so much about my fish getting poisoned.

I also wonder how this affects the whole cycling process. Does anyone know, for example, whether the bacteria that are responsible for the breakdown of ammonia also breakdown ionic ammonium? If not, how do you ever get the cycle going?

thanks in advance
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:28 AM   #2
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jeta did an excellent article on this exact topic. I'd highly suggest reading through it and checking out the charts in the bottom of the article.

Your Guide to Ammonia Toxicity
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:54 AM   #3
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Amazing article. It's good to know, that as long as I'm under 2.0ppm on the ammonia, I'm on the safe side
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Old 05-03-2012, 08:58 AM   #4
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Thanks very much. Interesting article and it backs up the information on my test kit.

Having read most of the posts that followed the article, experienced members may be interested in a newcomers view on 'how much they should tell newbies'.

I can see the argument for restricting information in an attempt to avoid confusing or overloading people, however a word of warning.

While I am very new to this and know nothing of fish-keeping, I am university educated in food science. This means I have a pretty good understanding of microbiology. While this is not the case for everyone, you will find that many people are more than capable of grasping basic scientific information.

If you give people information which is too simplistic (and effectively inaccurate) you risk people thinking you don't know what you are talking about. I would advise that the article I just read should always be offered to people. If they find it too complicated, they will simply give up reading it. As long as you also give your basic 'simple' information as a fall back, everyone is happy and will continue to trust the people giving the advice.

I know many will disagree, but these are my thoughts as a newcomer.

Thanks again to meegosh for sharing this.
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Old 05-03-2012, 11:56 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N3PTUN3 View Post
Thanks very much. Interesting article and it backs up the information on my test kit.


While I am very new to this and know nothing of fish-keeping, I am university educated in food science. This means I have a pretty good understanding of microbiology. While this is not the case for everyone, you will find that many people are more than capable of grasping basic scientific information.

If you give people information which is too simplistic (and effectively inaccurate) you risk people thinking you don't know what you are talking about. I would advise that the article I just read should always be offered to people. If they find it too complicated, they will simply give up reading it. As long as you also give your basic 'simple' information as a fall back, everyone is happy and will continue to trust the people giving the advice.

I know many will disagree, but these are my thoughts as a newcomer.

Thanks again to meegosh for sharing this.
It is a great article / Resource by JetaJockey ... I applaud the time taken to do it.

I am one of those that disagree's to a point. For newbies going through the cycling process ... at least for the first couple of months ...I recommend focusing on keeping the ammo below 0.25ppm until they get more comfortable maintaining good water parameters (Temps, pH factors, PWC schedule ...). Then let them explore more details as they become more familiar and add stock to their tank.
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:09 PM   #6
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Also keep in mind that while ammonium does not hold the same degree of toxicity to fish as ammonia, it still is not healthy for fish. The only healthy numbers for fish are zero ammonia/ammonium & nitrite thus the need for water changes while cycling. Its also worth considering that its theoretically believed that nitrite functions conversely to ammonia/ammonium- the lower the ph, the more toxic nitrite is to fish. So, the bottom line is a simple one- water changes in a cycling tank to keep your fish healthy.

Nitrite - The Free Freshwater and Saltwater Aquarium Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit - The Aquarium Wiki
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Old 05-03-2012, 12:31 PM   #7
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Thanks again. As i say, I know some people could be confused by a lot of information, it just doesn't apply to me. Perhaps I'm just an info junky. For me personally, the more I know the better I feel. I will continue with my water changes. I was just confused at the somewhat hard line taken on ammonia levels, given that it is obviously not a straightforward matter. At least i understand the reasons for your caution in telling people everything and I know that I can still trust the advice I get on this site.
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Old 05-03-2012, 01:27 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by N3PTUN3 View Post
Thanks again. As i say, I know some people could be confused by a lot of information, it just doesn't apply to me. Perhaps I'm just an info junky. For me personally, the more I know the better I feel. I will continue with my water changes. I was just confused at the somewhat hard line taken on ammonia levels, given that it is obviously not a straightforward matter. At least i understand the reasons for your caution in telling people everything and I know that I can still trust the advice I get on this site.
Well-- I don't think there was that awful lot of information in the article, but I agree that the technical side of it may be a little confusing. I, personally, love all the technical stuff and I'm glad I've found (and read) this article. It may be my technical nature (maybe being an atheist has got something to it as well)-- even though I don't have a higher degree.

Quote:
Originally Posted by N3PTUN3 View Post
Thanks very much. Interesting article and it backs up the information on my test kit.

Having read most of the posts that followed the article, experienced members may be interested in a newcomers view on 'how much they should tell newbies'.

I can see the argument for restricting information in an attempt to avoid confusing or overloading people, however a word of warning.

While I am very new to this and know nothing of fish-keeping, I am university educated in food science. This means I have a pretty good understanding of microbiology. While this is not the case for everyone, you will find that many people are more than capable of grasping basic scientific information.

If you give people information which is too simplistic (and effectively inaccurate) you risk people thinking you don't know what you are talking about. I would advise that the article I just read should always be offered to people. If they find it too complicated, they will simply give up reading it. As long as you also give your basic 'simple' information as a fall back, everyone is happy and will continue to trust the people giving the advice.

I know many will disagree, but these are my thoughts as a newcomer.

Thanks again to meegosh for sharing this.
My only problem would be, that the people reading the article before learning all the basics about cycling and fishkeeping may go a bit lazy about it... "You say ammonia shouldn't go above 0.25ppm, but I know it'll be all right till the 2.0ppm so I'll do the water change tomorrow!"

I myself will keep doing the water changes regardless, but now knowing a new facts I won't get panicky every single time my ammonia test results get this green tint to it
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