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Old 07-24-2009, 02:46 PM   #1
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Pesky, Persistent Low level Ammonia Readings

Hi All..

I have a freshwater 75 gallon that has been set-up for well over two years. In the past 6 months, I have had this persistent low level ammonia reading, between .25 and .50 PPM. I use the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, which is about a year old now.

I have two filters going. One is a large sponge with a Hagen (can't remember the actual model) 70 powerhead in one corner, and an AquaClear 110 in the other. Media is stable; I rinse both sponges (in water removed from the tank) and replace the carbon and ammonia removal media once a month. I do 25% water changes weekly.

I am getting, as I said, Ammonia readings at .25 and .50, Nitrites are 0, Nitrates are reading 0 - 20. (Dechlorinated tap water tests 0 for Ammonia). pH in tank is reading 7.8, which is also what the dechlorinated water straight out of the tap tests out at; temp is more or less steady between 74 and 76. Just for test purposes, I did a full 50% water change on Tuesday and the ammonia level didn't change as of Wednesday's (22 July) or this morning's (24 July) reading.

The tank has two small clusters of live plants and the rest are artificial. My current inhabitants are two white clouds and two Cories, all four of which are active and healthy. I know I am not overfeeding; I feed sparingly anyway. I use the Sanfrancisco Bay Brand Freshwater frozen multipack; each cube lasts me a full week.

I want to add Swords, Mollies and a few Platies, however, I am hesitant with the consistent Ammonia readings.

Any ideas? The thought HAS crossed my mind that the Ammonia test reagents might be the culprits but the 0 Ammonia reading on the tap water sort of blows that idea out of the water..so to speak.

Thanks

Terese
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Old 07-24-2009, 02:56 PM   #2
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Test your water source, as it may be coming from there. Make sure you follow the directions correctly with the test kits. It may also be the test kits to. Check to see if they expired.
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Old 07-24-2009, 02:56 PM   #3
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One more thing that I forgot....Welcome to AA!
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Old 07-24-2009, 03:06 PM   #4
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Thanks for the welcome

The tap water (city/source water) tests 0; this is what makes this so frustrating. The kit isn't expired as far as I can tell. API indicates kits are good for 5 years and the date on the bottles indicates they were "manufactured" in June 2008. This makes them only 13 months old. Even though I know the tests by heart at this point, I still look at the directions before testing.

Thanks

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Old 07-24-2009, 03:13 PM   #5
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Have any plants died recently and are starting to rot?
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Old 07-24-2009, 03:18 PM   #6
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That was my next step; to yank the few live plants in the tank. The ones in there appear healthy. Haven't had a dead leaf in 6 months.
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Old 07-24-2009, 03:21 PM   #7
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Leave the plants in there if not rotting then they are actually helpful. Are you dosing any ferts for the plants?
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Old 07-24-2009, 03:37 PM   #8
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No fertilizers in the last couple of weeks. Last dose was on the 1st of July.
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Old 07-24-2009, 04:35 PM   #9
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I've never used ammonia removing media, but in a properly cycled tank it shouldn't be necessary. Everything else sounds totally normal to me... do you think the ammonia remover could be preventing your tank from cycling properly? Just a guess...
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Old 07-24-2009, 05:06 PM   #10
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been reading this post as i also have an ammonia problem. Can the plants be the cause, because mine are starting to look a bit bedraggled? I figured the fish were doing it but if the plants are dying, this could be the cause of the ammonia problem right? LMK
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Old 07-24-2009, 06:34 PM   #11
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Hi Donna

Just as with anything else, if your plants have dead/decaying leaves, they can add to the ammonia load. These leaves need to be taken off and removed from the tank. I had to give up on a fully live planted tank. The water quality in the area is very hard and has a anturally high pH (7.8 ). Based on research, this would required RO or distilled water and I just don't have the time. I have a few plants, just two small clusters of some basic plants that seem to be doing OK, for the moment anyway. They've been in the tank about a year.

Terese
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Old 07-25-2009, 02:18 PM   #12
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Hi All..

I just did another 20%, pulled the sponge out of the filter box, and it had an algae build-up; that might be what was causing that little bit of ammonia. After a thorough clean of the filter box and a new sponge, I replaced the carbon and ammonia remover with new ones. I still have another sponge filter in there so the "seeding" hopefully will be much faster; I didn't rinse that one this time. Every piece of anything hard got a hard scrub down; even took the power head apart.

I also sent the question into That Pet Place to one of the marine biologists. His answer was pretty close to what people have been telling me. He is suspicious of the low reading and said the ammonia remover media can give skewed results. He also suggested trying another ammonia test kit. Since Nitrites are 0 and the Nitrates are low, he is pretty confident it isn't a cycling problem. He also indicated that some products, like Amquel or Prime, can also skew the ammonia readings. Terrific, he just happened to name the two dechlorinators I use the most often.

I am going to remove the ammonia media but leave the carbon in for now just due to the fact I changed out that one sponge. The water is crystal clear and the cories and white clouds are flitting about, seemingly quite happy.

Thanks for the help...will keep everyone updated.

Terese
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Old 07-25-2009, 02:31 PM   #13
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You don't need to change out the sponges until they are falling apart. The companies tell you to change them just so you'll buy more. I have a feeling that your ammonia reading is due to over-cleaning the filters more than anything else.
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Old 07-25-2009, 04:39 PM   #14
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The only reason I replaced the sponge was due to the fact that it was algae "infected," the normally white - cream colored sponge was green. I was thinking that the level of algae growth might be causing the ammonia. Had it only been a light amount, I would have just rinsed it out.

Squeezing out the sponges doesn't hurt the colonized bacteria; it just releases whatever solid detritus the sponges have pulled out of the water.

Terese
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Old 07-25-2009, 04:51 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tlkng1;1005568e


The only reason I replaced the sponge was due to the fact that it was algae "infected," the normally white - cream colored sponge was green. I was thinking that the level of algae growth might be causing the ammonia. Had it only been a light amount, I would have just rinsed it out.

Squeezing out the sponges doesn't hurt the colonized bacteria; it just releases whatever solid detritus the sponges have pulled out of the water.

Terese
I realize this. It sounded like the sponges were replaced frequently from the post.

Algae won't cause any problem with ammonia (as long as it isn't dead algae).
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Old 07-25-2009, 06:49 PM   #16
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Alert over

I bought another ammonia specific test kit (SeaChem) and ammonia reads 0...took it twice just to make sure.

Will still keep an eye on things over the next week or so.

Thanks to all ..it was still a great discussion.

Terese
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