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Old 09-13-2021, 01:23 PM   #1
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Driftwood causing ammonia spike?

Hi all,

I finally found the perfect piece of driftwood at an LFS and added it to my 35 gal hex tank. The tank has been up and running (with the same inhabitants) for over a year with no issues. I noticed the morning after adding the driftwood that my ember tetras were gasping at the surface. I immediately performed a 75% water change, added Prime accordingly, and let them recover. The next morning (today) I found the embers at the surface again. Attached is the driftwood (for ID purposes..) and the current test results.

I have a Fluval 407 filter on the tank that was last cleaned 3 months ago so the media in the filter is good and seasoned. Typically ammonia in this tank are at zero. Again, no additional fish or plants were added.. just removed a resin decoration and replaced it with driftwood. Thanks all!

Also, floating at the top is a fresh bag of activated charcoal. I know it should be in the filter but I was in a rush to get to work and didn't have time to add it to the canister.




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Old 09-13-2021, 01:44 PM   #2
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Try removing the driftwood, doing a big water change and see if the ammonia returns. Do you have a tote box big enough to hold the wood? Add some water in there, drop the wood in and test the water the following day to see if the water has got contaminated.

Did you clean the wood or do anything to it before adding it?

I would also test your tap water and see if ammonia has suddenly appeared there. Rule it out of the equation.
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Old 09-13-2021, 02:06 PM   #3
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Try removing the driftwood, doing a big water change and see if the ammonia returns. Do you have a tote box big enough to hold the wood? Add some water in there, drop the wood in and test the water the following day to see if the water has got contaminated.

Did you clean the wood or do anything to it before adding it?

I would also test your tap water and see if ammonia has suddenly appeared there. Rule it out of the equation.
Thanks for your response. Yes I do have ammonia in my source water, here is the test result for the source water... This is interesting, I've never seen ammonia in my source water before. Perhaps the water changes are adding to the stress with the addition of the ammonia?

I adjust the pH down to ~6.8 before adding it to the tank.

I did clean the wood before adding it. I scrubbed it with a towel in the shower. There haven't been any visible tannins in the water, or at least the water hasn't changed color.
I added an airstone in case there is a dissolved O2 issue (not pictured). Perhaps the ammonia is from our water source and not the driftwood. Any other idea why adding the driftwood would be causing the gasping?
Or maybe there's no correlation with the driftwood and the fish are suffering from the ammonia in the source water...which was coincidently added when I added the driftwood.

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Old 09-13-2021, 02:12 PM   #4
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If ammonia has suddenly appeared in your tap water, i think thats the most likely explanation. Perhaps your water company has added chloramine to the tap water rather than chlorine as a temporary (or permanent) measure. That happens occasionally. Call them, ask if they have an explanation for the ammonia you are seeing.

It could still be the driftwood. Perhaps there is some decaying matter in the wood. Could some soap or detergent have gotton onto the wood from the shower?
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Old 09-13-2021, 02:31 PM   #5
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If ammonia has suddenly appeared in your tap water, i think thats the most likely explanation. Perhaps your water company has added chloramine to the tap water rather than chlorine as a temporary (or permanent) measure. That happens occasionally. Call them, ask if they have an explanation for the ammonia you are seeing.

It could still be the driftwood. Perhaps there is some decaying matter in the wood. Could some soap or detergent have gotton onto the wood from the shower?
Thanks for the feedback. No detergents were used when cleaning the wood and the wood wasn't placed on the shower floor but I will remove it and soak to to test chemical levels.
Regarding the chloramine. Will this be resolved with extra Prime doses and a fresh carbon filter?
If so, would you expect the fish to act normally in 12 hours?
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Old 09-13-2021, 02:40 PM   #6
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Water conditioners will break the ammonia / chlorine bond in the chloramine releasing ammonia and chlorine. The water conditioner will treat the chlorine side and in a cycled tank the nitrogen cycle will remove the ammonia pretty quickly. Prime should detoxify some ammonia for a day or so and is often recommended as the go to water conditioner while a tank cycles.

I understand a good quality carbon filter will remove chlorine, but not so good with chloramine. I have no idea how long that takes or how long the carbon lasts when being used to remove chlorine.

Whether prime will work to treat your tap water depends on how much prime you use, and how much ammonia is released from the chloramine. Double dose the prime at water changes as a precaution?
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Old 09-19-2021, 01:03 PM   #7
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While my well water sucks for hardness and pH; while most people with well water deal with a low pH, I live in an area extremely rich in limestone so my well water is in the my pH is high as all hell range. It is nice I generally don't have to worry about whatever the hell the city might decide to add to the water. There is no chlorine, ammonia, nitrites or nitrates in my tap. I keep turtles anyway, so the "negatives" of well water don't really impact my situation as much as trying to keep fish alive. Only fish I put in my tank are intended to be eaten.
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