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Old 04-08-2022, 09:49 PM   #1
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Ammonia Level Stabilization

Hi!

New here.

My ammonia levels have consistently been at about the 3.0 mark on the API test strips and I cannot get it down. I've tried 50% water changes, 30% water changes, and 10% water changes several times in a week. The level stays the same. I have had a few fish die, which is where my concern is.

When I do a water change I treat the water and vacuum the gravel. My tank is 30 gallons and houses

3 red eye tetras
2 Striped Danio
2 Honey Gourami
2 Mickey Mouse Platy
2 Dalmatian Mollies
2 Glofish
2 Sunburst platy
1 Powder Blue Gourami
2 African Dwarf Frogs
2 Snails
1 Dwarf Albino Pleco
4 Ottos

We also have about 7 live plants (no other fake plants).

I feed them a pinch or two daily, and they eat it all. I also feed bloodworms to the frogs, which some of the fish eat as well.

I'm at a loss as to what to do from here - I can't seem to get the Ammonia levels down and it's concerning me. I'd appreciate some advice!

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Old 04-08-2022, 11:56 PM   #2
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It sounds like your tank hasnít been cycled. I would move all the fish into a fully established tank or give them to someone who has an established tank or possibly back to the pet store. Also the tank is EXTREMELY overstocked and you have been doing too many water changes a week and youíre not letting your tank cycle. What kind if filtration do you have? I would youtube a video about the nitrogen cycle and cycle your tank for 4-6 weeks before adding fish, if youíre not adding beneficial bacteria from an established tank. I would recommend getting a sponge filter for your tank as well. Click image for larger version

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Old 04-09-2022, 12:13 AM   #3
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This explains how to start up a tank and how to establish a nitrogen cycle https://www.aqueon.com/articles/star...uarium-60-days
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Old 04-09-2022, 12:40 AM   #4
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This is frustrating to hear, as I consulted with the specialty fish stores in my area to make sure I was doing everything correctly. I've also been following instructions for the water changes, so I guess I'm feeling more lost hearing this, since I was doing what I was being recommended in the first place.

I can't have someone else keep the fish at this point, and my fish store isn't about to house them, so I have to figure out how to stabilize this with my current setup without adding any new friends.

The filtration system I have is a standard cartridge, no housing setup for a sponge. It sounds like I may have to change the filtration as a whole, or is there a way to add sponge to the current filter? I have a Top Fin Silentstream 40g filter apparatus with the large cartridge.

Any other informative resources I should be poking at to better understand what I should be doing, now that I feel like I'm not sure I can go to my specialty fish store?

I appreciate your input!
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Old 04-09-2022, 01:12 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by AnxiousVentures View Post
This is frustrating to hear, as I consulted with the specialty fish stores in my area to make sure I was doing everything correctly. I've also been following instructions for the water changes, so I guess I'm feeling more lost hearing this, since I was doing what I was being recommended in the first place.



I can't have someone else keep the fish at this point, and my fish store isn't about to house them, so I have to figure out how to stabilize this with my current setup without adding any new friends.



The filtration system I have is a standard cartridge, no housing setup for a sponge. It sounds like I may have to change the filtration as a whole, or is there a way to add sponge to the current filter? I have a Top Fin Silentstream 40g filter apparatus with the large cartridge.



Any other informative resources I should be poking at to better understand what I should be doing, now that I feel like I'm not sure I can go to my specialty fish store?



I appreciate your input!


What fish stores are you consulting? If it’s a petco or petsmart or any other chain pet store, I wouldnt trust everything they say and do the research yourself. Here is a website on how to correctly cycle a tank https://www.aqueon.com/articles/star...uarium-60-days sounds like ur filter couldn’t handle the amount of waste produced after adding so many fish which caused your ammonia to spike. You could get a filter or decor/plants from an already established tank from someone so it can release the beneficial bacteria to get ur tank up and running. As for the filter, you should be fine if you reduce the amount of fish in ur tank. Here is an aquarium stocking calculator that really helps https://aqadvisor.com/
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Old 04-09-2022, 06:32 AM   #6
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I wouldnt say you are overstocked. It is heavily stocked, but could be managed if you keep up with proper water maintenance.

What you have done is add too much bioload too quickly into an uncycled tank. You need to cycle the tank, and doing that with such a large bioload will make that difficult and a lot of hard work. Your several water changes per week may need to be several water changes per day until your cycle establishes.

I will post a fish in cycle process that should get you through your water quality issues with minimal risk.

To start with though, you need to get that ammonia down. If its at 3ppm, i would want that below 0.5ppm. Assuming your water is ammonia free, that would take 3 x 50% water changes. Do them all as soon as you are able, leave an hour or two between each water change. I would do some tests on your tapwater too to see if that is contributing to anything.

Your comments about your filtration may have some merit. Given your high bioload your filtration may not be sufficient and you could be where you simply cant get the tank cycled. Personally i would look for filtration rated for double your tank size. If despite efforts to cycle the tank you arent seeing any improvements in a couple of months, either get another filter to supplement your 40g rated filter or upgrade your single filter.
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Old 04-09-2022, 06:33 AM   #7
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To cycle a tank you need to grow denitrifying bacteria to consume ammonia and nitrite that your tank produces. The bacteria needs an ammonia source to grow colonies sufficient in size to consume all the ammonia and resultant nitrite and turn it into nitrate which typically you remove through your regular water changes.

A fish in cycle uses fish waste as an ammonia source and regular water changes are undertaken to ensure that water parameters are maintained at relatively non toxic levels.

Set up your tank. Make sure everything is running smoothly. Make sure you have used a water conditioner product with any tap water you have put in your tank. Seachem Prime is a water conditioner that will also detoxify some ammonia for a day or two, so is a good choice for a water conditioner while cycling a tank with fish.

You should have a test kit. Preferably a liquid test kit. It should test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

In ideal circumstances you should be starting a fishless cycle with a low bioload (number of fish). 1 small fish per 10 gallons/40 litres is a good number of fish, but this can be tweaked a little for fish that are social and don’t do well on their own. Ideally a hardy type of fish. You may have fully stocked (or overstocked) your tank before you knew about cycling. In these circumstances, if its not possible to return fish, you will have to make the best of it.

If you haven’t already done so, add your fish. Acclimate them to the water in your tank before doing so.

Feed lightly to start with. Daily as much as is eaten in 2 minutes, or as much as is eaten in 3 minutes every 2 days. You can increase to full feedings if you are confident your parameters aren’t getting too elevated too quickly and water changes don’t become a daily thing.

Start to regularly test the water for ammonia and nitrite. At least daily. Depending on your bioload you could start to see ammonia quite quickly. Nitrite will likely take a little longer to appear.

Your target should be to keep ammonia + nitrite combined no higher than 0.5ppm by changing water whenever your water parameters exceed this target. 0.5ppm combined is a level of waste that is sufficient for your cycle to establish but relatively safe for your fish.

If you see 0.5ppm ammonia and 0.0ppm nitrite (0.5ppm combined) then leave things be. If you see 0.5ppm ammonia and 0.25ppm nitrite (0.75ppm combined) then change 1/3 of the water. If you see 0.25ppm ammonia and 0.75ppm nitrite (1.0ppm combined) then change 1/2 the water. If water parameters get worse than these levels it may require multiple daily 50% water changes to maintain safe water conditions. This is more likely to happen with a fully stocked tank.

Remember to add water conditioner whenever you put tap water in the tank.

Over time the frequency of water changes and amount you need to change to maintain your ammonia + nitrite combined target will reduce. You can also start testing for nitrate and should see this rising. If you are finding the ammonia and nitrite in your tests are consistently low, and you aren’t already fully stocked, you can add a few more fish. It may take a few weeks to get to this point.

Once you add a few more fish, continue to regularly test the water and continue to change water if you exceed the 0.5ppm combined ammonia + nitrite target. With added bioload the frequency of water changes and amount you need to change may increase again until your cycle has caught up. Again once you are consistently seeing low ammonia and nitrite you can add some more fish. Rinse and repeat with testing, water changes, and adding fish when safe to do so until you are fully stocked.

You can then cut back on water changes to control nitrate only. Typically you want to keep nitrate no higher than 40ppm, but I would recommend changing some water every 2 weeks even if your water test says you don’t need to.

A fish in cycle from an empty tank to fully stocked can take several months.

A good way to speed up this process would be to put a small amount of filter media from an established filter into your filter, or get a sponge from an established filter and squeeze it into your tank water. Perhaps you have a friend who keeps fish who could let you have some? This will seed your filter with the bacteria you are trying to grow and speed up the process.

Another option is bottled bacteria like Dr Tims One + Only or Tetra Safestart. These products wont instantly cycle a tank as they claim but in a similar manner to adding established filter media they can seed your filter with the bacteria you are trying to grow to establish your cycle. These products are hit and miss as to whether they work at all, but are an option if established filter media isnt obtainable and may speed up the process from several months to several weeks.
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Old 04-09-2022, 10:19 AM   #8
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If you’re able to rehouse anything, I would start by getting rid of the snails and the frogs. Both are heavy poopers which increase your bioload. If you’re worried about algae, the Ottos and Pleco will help, but worry about algae later. Increasing plants will also help.
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Old 04-09-2022, 10:31 AM   #9
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If youíre able to rehouse anything, I would start by getting rid of the snails and the frogs. Both are heavy poopers which increase your bioload. If youíre worried about algae, the Ottos and Pleco will help, but worry about algae later. Increasing plants will also help.


I would take out the gouramis as well because theyíre very delicate to bad water parameters. Keeping the livebearers is a good idea because theyíre very hardy and in my experience are good at starting up a cycle
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