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Old 11-13-2014, 11:54 PM   #1
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Sudden (really) high ammonia?

First off, I'm extremely new to fish keeping. I've had my tank for about 2 months. I got the tank, filter and about a dozen fish off a friend who was moving. I failed to do any research before getting the tank and all the fish managed to die in about an hour...I still don't know why exactly.

Following that tragedy I started obsessively researching. I now have 9 happy, living fish (4 longfin zebra danios, 4 Corey cats, 1 dwarf guorami). The tank is 50 gallons and has a Fluval 306 filter. I test the water frequently and things have always been good (pH 7.8, ammonia 0, trites 0, trates 0-20). I do weekly ~10-20% water changes. I got my last fish about a month ago.

I did a PWC on Saturday, regrettably I didn't test the water until Tuesday because I was thinking about adding more fish. pH was 7.8, trites 0, trates 10-20...Ammonia was 8! I tested the water twice to be sure. I also tested my tap which was .25. Immediately did a PWC and tested the water right after...it read 0. Can it really change that fast?

Tested yesterday and it was .25, did not do a PWC. Tested today and it was between 1 and 2 (I have a tough time with the color chart). Did a 20% change. Ammonia is now .25, nitrites are .5 or 1 (seriously how do you read those charts accurately?).

Is the tank going through a mini cycle? Any idea what may have caused this? I don't think I over feed, but sometimes my roommate does it for me so he might. There was some dead plant matter that I found, could that be it?

Also, it's time to do monthly filter maintenance...should I go ahead and do it or wait until things are back to normal?

All the fish seem happy, at least. Any advice would be much appreciated!





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Old 11-14-2014, 12:17 AM   #2
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Were your fish showing signs of distress when your ammonia reading was 8 ppm? If not, I suspect that reading is not correct, especially when it coincided with 0 ppm nitrites.

Did you let your filter media dry out when doing your water change? If so, that might be responsible for the mini-cycle. I doubt that over-feeding or dead plants would cause an ammonia spike in an established tank, especially if your nitrates are still reasonable and you're doing regular water changes.

I would do daily 50% water changes until the ammonia spike goes away.

Also, zebra danios and gouramis are not very compatible fish. The danios will nip at and stress the gourami. If you don't want to get rid of one or the other, get about 8 more danios so that they chase and nip at themselves and not the gourami.
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Old 11-14-2014, 01:10 AM   #3
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Which dechlorinator are you using, and do you add it to the tank before adding new water, dosing for 50 gallons, or to the new water in buckets, dosing for the size they are?

Unless the filter dried out or was exposed to untreated tap water i would be at a loss. Maybe a fish died?

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Old 11-14-2014, 03:05 AM   #4
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I use Prime, I do a mix of strategies depending on how much time I have, but lately I had been putting Prime in first then water.

All the fish are accounted for...is there something I might have done to mess up the filter? I cleaned it for the first time a month ago. I didn't touch the biological media, I really just cleaned some pass that were in there and replaced the carbon...but then again I don't really know what I'm doing.


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Old 11-14-2014, 11:23 AM   #5
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What did you do with the biological media while you were cleaning the filter?
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Old 11-14-2014, 12:00 PM   #6
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You had 8ppm of ammonia then did a PWC and it dropped to 0ppm?

Unless you did a 100% water change one of those readings had to be wrong.
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Old 11-14-2014, 01:28 PM   #7
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Ah dalto is right, missed that part. It would read 4ppm, higher if your water has chloramine after a 50% wc.

Might of messed up the initial test.

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Old 11-14-2014, 03:01 PM   #8
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I've had an odd ammonia reading, repeated the test, had the same reading, then repeated with a different test tube and pipette. Then it was normal. I guess I'd not rinsed a test tube all the way or something.


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Old 11-14-2014, 06:25 PM   #9
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When I was cleaning the filter I guess I just let it sit out since that's what the person in the video was doing, but it also only took him about three minutes to clean it while the whole process took me about 45 minutes. That can't be good for the bacteria...Should I fill that part up with tank water?

I am bad at cleaning out the tubes in a timely fashion. Maybe they weren't rinsed well enough? I agree a reading from 8 to 0 surely indicates a faulty test. I wasn't ever very good at chem lab haha.

Thanks for all the help so far!


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Old 11-14-2014, 07:59 PM   #10
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When you do a water change do you check around decor for pockets of waste and food? A lot gets trapped around and under rocks and decor and when it is disturbed will cause an ammonia spike. If you disturb the substrate it can also cause an ammonia spike. When you clean your filter just fill a bowl or bucket with tank water and set the filter media in that while you do maintenance. Make sure you use treated water to clean the filter.
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