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Old 05-06-2016, 11:29 PM   #1
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Ammonia issues!

Hey guys! This is my first time posting so bare with me if i dont give you all of the information i have. No ive had my fish in a 55 gallon tank for almost 2 years and im just now having ammonia issues. I have an oscar, a jack dempsey, a jewel cichlid and a silver dollar. Yes i understand my tank is overstocked but since this issue erupted i have fed them significantly less( every other day). I have about an inch of gravel, all plastic decorations, a UV sterilizer, air pump and a marineland penguin 350 filter. Ive done a lot of research in trying to irradicate this issue. I have been doing 50% water changes for roughly 2 weeks now every day and i cannot seem to get rid of the ammonia. Now i have an API test kit that shows me my ammonia levels are right around .50-.25ppm. I have been using prime to detoxify the ammonia to make it safe for the fish since i started. The fish arent showing any signs of stress other than the very low pH i am getting, roughly 6.0 or lower. After a water change i let my water settle and mix while the filters pumping to assure my test will not be wrong. After the water change it reads zero at night... in the morning it jumps back up to .25-.50. Its quite frustrating.
Please help. Im stumped.
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Old 05-07-2016, 12:18 AM   #2
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Sounds to me you are doing everything right. I would continue with the water changes making sure to vacuum the gravel out each time it is done. Also, if you have someone close by that has a well established tank and you can trust their water take some of their filter gunk and throw it into your tank and it should really release many of the good bacteria needed in the cycle.
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Old 05-07-2016, 12:26 AM   #3
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Hmm interesting thought about the gravel. I havent been stirring up the gravel every time and actually vaccuming it. Seems like a given for water changes but doing that will probably help. It just got annoying gravel vaccuming eveey day. no more laziness! Maybe the ammonium is settling into the gravel. Ill have to do that from now on. Also ill take your advice on the beneficial bacteria. Do you mean the gunk off of the pad? Thanks for your input.
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Old 05-07-2016, 08:35 AM   #4
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Well, its safe to say that your problem is your ph.

The lower the ph, the slower your beneficial bacteria work. Couple that with an overstocked tank and youre gonna get ammonia.

Thankfully, its a simple fix. Just add a handfull of crushed coral in a filter media bag (or you could just stick it in the filter cartridge) and the stone will slowly dissolve buffering your ph up.)

Follow up question, how often do you change your filter cartridges?
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Old 05-07-2016, 10:12 AM   #5
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A good source of ammonia is from the fishes poop which unfortunately settles to the ground and down into the gravel. So getting that out of the gravel is very beneficial to helping the bacteria. Yes lowering ph would do great help. I use catapa leaves in my filters to do this. Every couple weeks I have to put in a leaf because they deteriorate quickly. They are extremely cheap and very effective.
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Old 05-07-2016, 10:30 AM   #6
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Well, its safe to say that your problem is your ph.

The lower the ph, the slower your beneficial bacteria work. Couple that with an overstocked tank and youre gonna get ammonia.

Thankfully, its a simple fix. Just add a handfull of crushed coral in a filter media bag (or you could just stick it in the filter cartridge) and the stone will slowly dissolve buffering your ph up.)

Follow up question, how often do you change your filter cartridges?
Ok so a standard API pH up wouldnt do the job? I started using that but it just shoots right back down. Also im afraid the ammonium created by the prime will turn back to ammonia and harm my fish if i raise the pH. Does this stand true? Also i change my filter pads every 2 weeks.
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Old 05-07-2016, 10:50 AM   #7
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Disregard my last comment I misread what you said.
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Old 05-07-2016, 10:50 AM   #8
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Ok so a standard API pH up wouldnt do the job? I started using that but it just shoots right back down. Also im afraid the ammonium created by the prime will turn back to ammonia and harm my fish if i raise the pH. Does this stand true? Also i change my filter pads every 2 weeks.
Api ph up is useless because of the exact same problem youre having. It causes huge fluctuations in ph which is incredibly unhealthy for fish.

As for the detoxed ammonia returning into regular ammonia, i doubt it. Its chemically bound rather than controlled by ph like ammonium usually is.

lastly, stop changing filter pads. Youre just throwing away beneficial bacteria. The filter pads should be kept until they are literally falling apart. On average they should last 6 months at least. when doing your weekly maintenance, just clean the dirty pads in old tank water.
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Old 05-07-2016, 01:18 PM   #9
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Awesome. Will do. Im going to try the coral to raise the pH. Im hoping that makes my bacteria more active so that they will start breaking down this ammonia. Furthermore ill continue to clean the gravel and do 50% water changes with prime. Ill leave the pads in for a long time occasionally cleaning the pads. Any other suggestions? Thanks!
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Old 05-07-2016, 01:28 PM   #10
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Also what kind of crushed coral do you recommend for my freshwater south american cichlid tank?
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Old 05-08-2016, 09:50 PM   #11
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Api ph up is useless because of the exact same problem youre having. It causes huge fluctuations in ph which is incredibly unhealthy for fish.

As for the detoxed ammonia returning into regular ammonia, i doubt it. Its chemically bound rather than controlled by ph like ammonium usually is.

lastly, stop changing filter pads. Youre just throwing away beneficial bacteria. The filter pads should be kept until they are literally falling apart. On average they should last 6 months at least. when doing your weekly maintenance, just clean the dirty pads in old tank water.
To add to Mebbid's advice: when your pads are looking like they're about to fall apart, put the new pads in the back of the filter box for about 2 weeks. They won't quite fit, and the lids of your filter won't sit right, but don't worry about that. The new pads will seed with the beneficial bacteria and should prevent the ammonia spikes you're dealing with now.
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Old 05-09-2016, 05:20 PM   #12
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Update... my jack dempsey died oveenight. The pH dropped way to low. I bought coral but its on the way. Currently trying to save my oscar
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Old 05-10-2016, 05:47 AM   #13
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Update... my jack dempsey died oveenight. The pH dropped way to low. I bought coral but its on the way. Currently trying to save my oscar

Aww sorry. I have crushed coral wish I could give you some. I keep some around as I keep some in all my tanks.maybe check the local fish stores and find some. I've been told when your pH is that low it's in danger of crashing. Good luck


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Old 05-10-2016, 08:21 AM   #14
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To add to Mebbid's advice: when your pads are looking like they're about to fall apart, put the new pads in the back of the filter box for about 2 weeks. They won't quite fit, and the lids of your filter won't sit right, but don't worry about that. The new pads will seed with the beneficial bacteria and should prevent the ammonia spikes you're dealing with now.
Ok thank you so much!!!
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Old 05-10-2016, 10:20 AM   #15
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At a pH of 6, the ammonia is in the non toxic ammonium state. Raising the pH will convert the ammonium to ammonia. This is what happens on bags of fish that are transhipped (and the fish are in the bag for an extended time) when the bag is opened and the CO2 escapes. If you really want to play with the pH, the better way is to use baking soda, which will also act as a buffer to prevent a pH drop. However, you have to ask your self if you want to play water chemist or live with what you have. A stable pH, even at 6, is better than one that fluctuates, even if it slows the nitrifying bacteria.
What is the pH of water from the tap?
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Old 05-13-2016, 12:01 AM   #16
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At a pH of 6, the ammonia is in the non toxic ammonium state. Raising the pH will convert the ammonium to ammonia. This is what happens on bags of fish that are transhipped (and the fish are in the bag for an extended time) when the bag is opened and the CO2 escapes. If you really want to play with the pH, the better way is to use baking soda, which will also act as a buffer to prevent a pH drop. However, you have to ask your self if you want to play water chemist or live with what you have. A stable pH, even at 6, is better than one that fluctuates, even if it slows the nitrifying bacteria.
What is the pH of water from the tap?
Our ph of our tap is roughly 6.8.
I recently added crushed coral (argonite) to buffer the pH right around 7.0.
What do you suggest?
As of now i dont think my pH being that low (6.0 or below) is safe since it killed one of my fish.
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Old 05-13-2016, 10:16 AM   #17
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I agree 6.0 is too low. When did you put the coral in and what is your pH today?




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Old 05-13-2016, 06:37 PM   #18
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I agree 6.0 is too low. When did you put the coral in and what is your pH today?




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I put the coral in 3 days ago and i have the pH safely buffered at 7.2.
The fish are so active now that i raised it safely and the oscar is no longer shedding his slime coat. So long as i continue the water changes with prime to keep the ammonia diluted i think they will be ok. Ive had this issue for about 3 weeks so im hoping my cycle will kick in again in a couple weeks.
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Old 05-13-2016, 06:39 PM   #19
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I put the coral in 3 days ago and i have the pH safely buffered at 7.2.

The fish are so active now that i raised it safely and the oscar is no longer shedding his slime coat. So long as i continue the water changes with prime to keep the ammonia diluted i think they will be ok. Ive had this issue for about 3 weeks so im hoping my cycle will kick in again in a couple weeks.

That's great news. Sounds like you're on the right track now.


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