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Old 12-19-2011, 01:56 PM   #1
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Exclamation Ammonia 8ppm, will not go down, newer tank

Hi! My name is Jennifer. I have a problem, and I'm hoping someone here will offer me good advise. I purchased a 20 gallon freshwater aquarium start-up kit for my daughter's birthday.
Top Finģ 20 Gallon Starter Kit - Gift Shop - Fish - PetSmart

We thought everything was going well, but unfortunately, we were wrong.

The tank has been set up for right at 1 month. Her first 3 fish were little gold barbs. After about a week or so in the tank, she got 3 pot belly mollies, then 3 regular mollies a few days later. The final addition of the 10th fish, a fourth pot belly molly, was the evening before her first casualty, 1 week ago Sunday. From last Sunday to this Sunday (yesterday) she had lost all 3 original pot belly mollies.

We have had the tank water tested weekly at the pet store, (they use Tetra brand strips) and the ammonia has been very high the last couple of weeks, and is not coming down. (The nitrates/nitrites are o, ph is 6-8, I keep temp at 76/78 degrees.) The aquarium store told me this is normal, due to new tank syndrome, and that it should come down on it's own. I was told not to change water, clean gravel, change filter cartridge, etc, as this might hinder the cycling of the tank. The problem is, the ammonia is not coming down. Her gold barbs now had very red gills and red splotches/streaks from ammonia poisoning. Although they are still active, I'm concerned for them.. as well as the other fish.

So, I decided to do something! Even though they didn't recommend cleaning a "new tank", I can tell she has been over-feeding, by the debris in the gravel, and the subsequent high ammonia level. So I purchased a siphon style gravel vac and attempted to get some of the junk out of the gravel. I stopped when a 5 gallon bucket was full, as this is 25% of the tank capacity. (I did check temp of new water and add water conditioner before adding fresh water to tank.) I also added bio-boost, as I have been doing weekly.

The gentleman at the store yesterday was a bit more helpful than others, and suggested a product called "ammo-carb". He recommended adding it to the filter housing inside a tied of section of panty hose. This product is
suppose to remove ammonia...he said he uses it for his aquarium at home. So, I purchased it, but the recommended amount fer her 20 gallon aquarium will not fit in the housing. Even half that amount creates a bit of back flow of water, and although the amount of water being filtered and put back in the tank appears normal, I am concerned the water may not be moving freely through the filter. I'm wondering if there is a better alternative, or another way of using this one..(such as putting the section of panty hose filled with the ammo-carb somewhere in the tank, rather than in the filter housing..)

I have been told varying opinions on water changes at this point in the process. Some say no, some say yes, but only 25% once a month, some once a week, some daily until ammonia problem is solved.., etc.. My concern is the fact that the nitrogen cycle is at best, in mid process, and I don't want to "re-start" it. BUT, I need immediate relief for these poor fish!

I wish I could go buy 20 gallons of established tank water and a filter ready with colonies of good bacteria!! But since I can't- I've got to get this water stabilized, and quick. Any information/advice is much appreciated.

Jen
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Old 12-19-2011, 02:25 PM   #2
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50% water changes as many as needed to get it down. Maybe even 75% are you treating the water before adding fresh water? Prime is a great product. Also have you tested tap water? Sorry I kinda skimmed through your post. Most importantly do your water changes and as many as you need to bring it down. And you should do a water change every week even if the tank is established. This is JMO but I had issues in the beginning and had to do ALOT of water changes that I went out and bought a python! Made it so much easier.

http://www.google.com/search?q=water...&client=safari
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Old 12-19-2011, 02:38 PM   #3
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Welcome..... you are actually overstocked for that size tank, especially one that is not cycled. Remember that any time there is ammonia, your fish are in a toxic environment. Some are hardy enough to survive, most are not.

You need to start doing daily 50% water changes, perhaps more than once per day.

You need to get yourself an API master kit. The test strips are worthless.

You need to return at least half of your fish to the lfs. They should never have let you purchase them for this tank. Shame on them.

Do not add any chemicals. Only add Prime. You probably have another 2 weeks or so before you're cycled but you'll have to be diligent to get there safely.

I would suggest you go to feeding every other day and only once, a small feeding.
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Old 12-19-2011, 02:49 PM   #4
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I second everyones advice- water changes, lots of big daily water changes with a good water conditioner & temperature matched water. The water changes will not hurt your cycle because most of your bacteria live in the substrate & filter media. Just dont throw any filter media out or change it-it only needs to be swished in some old tank water once a week once your tank is established. The water changes are going to save your fish from being poisoned. Please invest a good water test kit so you can monitor your water yourself & do water changes as needed- API freshwater master test kit is highly recommended. Strips are inaccurate at best and are not worth the expense over the long run. Ideally, you want your ammonia & nitrites to be zero & your nitrates to be less than 20ppm. Please read up on 'fish-in cycling' so you can understand what is happening in your tank-im sure someone will post links soon! Dont hesitate to ask questions if you are unsure or dont understand anything!!
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Old 12-19-2011, 02:53 PM   #5
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Cycling with fish: I just learned about cycling but I already have fish. What now?!
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:05 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LyndaB
x2 this thread will help a lot and so will the members. I got through it and so can you! Just listen to what they have to say, don't panic like I've done a few times and be patient.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:11 PM   #7
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You need to return at least half of your fish to the lfs. They should never have let you purchase them for this tank. Shame on them.

...The reason we actually purchased more, after the original 3 gold barbs (which are <1 in, very small) was that the pet store people told me I didn't have "enough" fish to create enough waste, in order to get the cycle going...

What is the standard I should go by? I believe they told me 1-1.5 inches of fish per gallon. But then recommended fish that went beyond that. (go figure)

The 4 remaining mollies are maybe 5-6 inches total, plus the 3 barbs, for a total of 8-9 inches of fish in a 20 gallon tank.

We were hoping to get some cory cat's (4 was the # recommended, but I'm not comfortable with their advice at this point) and a pleco...eventually. Once the tank is stable and safe. Will this be possible..?

Thanks for your input!! It is much appreciated.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:17 PM   #8
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What you really need to take into consideration is the adult size of the fish, the bioload, the environment requirements (some fish demand more space to move than others) and compatibility. That inch per gallon nonsense is just that, nonsense. It's always especially hurtful to those new to keeping fish.

Your mollys have a large bioload. They are also prolific spawners. So they require lots of room for what seems to be a relatively small fish.

I would not recommend a pleco of any kind in this tank, just too small for them. The common pleco, which most stores try to sell you, can grow a foot long.

The corys are a wonderful species and would probably do well.

If you're keeping the gold barbs, you need a minimum of 5. If this were my tank, I'd do a larger school of gold barbs and the corys. I'd return the mollys.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:19 PM   #9
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I'm going to do another water change now, and hopefully get some waste/excess food out of the gravel as well. I'm relieved to know that I can do this daily without screwing up the cycle. I just feel terrible knowing the fish are in there with the ammonia so high.

I bought the API Ammonia test kit this morning. It gave a higher reading than the strips they used at the store. (8ppm) I will continue to monitor daily. I am concerned about the ph getting out of whack after water changes though. It was 8.0 at 5:45pm last night, and 8.4 this morning at 11:00am after doing the 25% water change last evening at 8pm...

I will also rinse my filter cartridge in the tank water that I have removed and reinstall it. I'm not sure at what point it is safe/recommended to install a new one?

Thank you everyone for your replies. Hopefully someday, I will know what I am doing and maybe even help someone who is in this very situation.

Jen
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:22 PM   #10
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Your pH will fluctuate while the tank is cycling. What you're going through is why we always recommend fishless cycling.....

For right now, leave your filter media alone..... don't even swish it unless it's completely gunked up. If it looks okay and water is passing through it properly, leave it alone.
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Old 12-19-2011, 03:31 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by LyndaB

For right now, leave your filter media alone..... don't even swish it unless it's completely gunked up. If it looks okay and water is passing through it properly, leave it alone.
+1

My tank was fully cycled but not very long when I swished one of my 2 filter cartridges. Now I'm having to do daily water changes. . Good luck!
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Old 12-19-2011, 04:55 PM   #12
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This is so frustrating! I "thought" I had done enough researching prior starting this project, but I was sadly mistaken. So many products declare it "safe" to add fish immediately, even in a new tank, etc, etc, which is apparently b/s. Not to mention the pet store folks who haven't exactly guided us in the right direction...

I just completed my second water change in 24 hours, this one near 50%. Unfortunately,I did swish the filter cartridge before seeing the posts not to...

I wish there was some way to move these fish to safety until we get the water under control...

I retested the ammonia after letting the water cycle throughout the tank and filter for a few minutes (using API liquid test) and it is still reading 8+ppm. Is this reliable, or should I have waited longer to retest?

Jen
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Old 12-19-2011, 05:09 PM   #13
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Make sure you thoroughly rinse the test tubes before retesting. I would wait an hr & then retest. If you still are getting high ammonia, do another 50% wc. I would also test your tap water for ammonia/nitrites/nitrates (make sure you really shake & bang the nitrate bottles on hard surface before testing-they can be finicky) & let us know how those numbers look for your tap. Its important to know what your are adding to your tank!
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:54 PM   #14
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Seeing improvement!

Last night I did a 90% water change, but refilled only halfway, took it down again, the refilled. I was at .5-1 ppm following that.

I just did a 90% water change, and am now reading about .25 ppm.

Getting there!

Thanks to all of you who were willing to take time out of your day to help another "beginner".
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Old 12-20-2011, 12:59 PM   #15
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Keep up the good work! You're doing great!
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Old 12-20-2011, 01:12 PM   #16
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That is a BIG improvement!!!! Your fish thank you for it!!!! Keep up the good work & have LOTS of patience!!!
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Old 12-21-2011, 10:24 PM   #17
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I had the same problem with the mixed opinions on the water changes and found that daily pwc's dropped the ammonia level during the cycle process, it took over a month but the tank is finally self sufficient. What kind of filter do you have? I have found that leaving the filter alone while doing the pwc's helps the filter establish itself rather than tinker with the media and risk destroying any bb's. The same holds true for ponds, seed the filter and let it establish itself while keeping the water fresh and treated, I use the Prime conditioner.
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Old 12-21-2011, 11:20 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Jen.Cavanaugh View Post
Last night I did a 90% water change, but refilled only halfway, took it down again, the refilled. I was at .5-1 ppm following that.

I just did a 90% water change, and am now reading about .25 ppm.

Getting there!

Thanks to all of you who were willing to take time out of your day to help another "beginner".
Much better, you're doing very well! Sorry the fish store gave you bad advice; it's very common, unfortunately. How is everything today?
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Old 12-22-2011, 02:53 PM   #19
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I retested the ammonia after letting the water cycle throughout the tank and filter for a few minutes (using API liquid test) and it is still reading 8+ppm. Is this reliable, or should I have waited longer to retest?
Many people say that if you use Prime as a dechlorinator, you will get false readings if you do not wait 24 hours after using Prime to test. Not sure about the other dechlorinators.
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