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Old 10-08-2008, 10:48 AM   #1
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Question can't get ammonia level down

I bought my first 20g tank about two months ago and cycled it for a few weeks as instructed. i then added 3 dwarf gouramis, which i was told are good hardy fish to start with, and do 25% water changes weekly using a gravel vacuum. the tank has gravel, driftwood and plastic decor.

recently one of the fish died. i had the water checked at the fish store and they said the ammonia was too high and suggested i use Ammo-lock which i have been for over a week, however the test strips say its still in the danger zone (6.0). Also, the test strip indicates that the alkalinity is low (0) and the ph is acidic (6.2). the nitrates are 0 and the water is soft (75). i replaced the carbon filter yesterday to see if it would make a difference, but still the same. i still had the original one it came with in there until now. i've also tried reducing feedings to no avail.

the two remaining fish don't appear to be stressed. i'd like to add more fish, but want to make sure the water conditions are ok first. what is my next step?

thanks!
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Old 10-08-2008, 10:55 AM   #2
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Welcome to AA!

I'd recommend doing a very large water change (50-75%) to get the ammonia levels down. Also, test strips are notoriously inaccurate, so you should consider getting a good test kit, I recommend the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, to monitor your levels.

You said you allowed your tank to cycle for 2 weeks, but if you weren't adding an ammonia source, it wasn't in fact cycling at all.

Any ammonia or nitrIte level above 0.5ppm is getting toxic for fish, so in general you'd want to do large water changes (on the order of 50%) any time 0.5ppm is exceeded. Even though your fish aren't showing symptoms right now, it is affecting them and will have long term affects on them.

Please don't add any more fish until your cycle fully completes. There's an article in my signature below called the Nitrogen Cycle that fully explains what's going on in your tank during this process.
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Old 10-08-2008, 11:15 AM   #3
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The other catch is that Ammo-lock locks up the ammonia (according to the bottle) but does not remove it from the water. In addition to the ammonia lock I would use ammo-carb or zeolyte crystals (i think that's what they're called) or something along those lines to put into your filter to actually remove the ammonia.
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Old 10-08-2008, 11:30 AM   #4
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I wouldn't use ammo-carb, zeolyte crystals, or any other chemical that removes the Ammonia as these will escentually replace the biofilter. Using them is much more expensive than simply doing the water changes to keep the Ammonia at safe levels while the cycle completes. Using Prime, AmQuel+, or other dechlorinators that detoxify Ammonia is fine since they leave the Ammonia available to the biofilter just keep it in a form that won't harm the fish. The catch is that your test kit will still read the detoxified Ammonia.
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Old 10-08-2008, 06:46 PM   #5
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Please don't change your filter again. Especially while you are cycling. You are loosing a lot of your good bacteria that way.
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Old 10-08-2008, 07:24 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by neilanh View Post
Welcome to AA!

I'd recommend doing a very large water change (50-75%) to get the ammonia levels down. Also, test strips are notoriously inaccurate, so you should consider getting a good test kit, I recommend the API Freshwater Master Test Kit, to monitor your levels.

You said you allowed your tank to cycle for 2 weeks, but if you weren't adding an ammonia source, it wasn't in fact cycling at all.

Any ammonia or nitrIte level above 0.5ppm is getting toxic for fish, so in general you'd want to do large water changes (on the order of 50%) any time 0.5ppm is exceeded. Even though your fish aren't showing symptoms right now, it is affecting them and will have long term affects on them.

Please don't add any more fish until your cycle fully completes. There's an article in my signature below called the Nitrogen Cycle that fully explains what's going on in your tank during this process.
QFT. I'd go with this recommendation as well as those below.
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Old 10-09-2008, 08:57 AM   #7
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Question

thank you all for your advice! i'll definitely look into getting a better test kit.

i did a 50% water change yesterday, but didn't add any ammo-lock. i tested it today and the ammonia level has dropped but is still high (between 3.0 and 6.0 according to the strip) . should i do another large water change? if so how long do i wait before doing so? should i continue using the ammo-lock or just focus on water changes?

thanks!
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Old 10-09-2008, 09:33 AM   #8
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I was in a very similar situation to this (even down to the Dwarf Gourami) and did the following until the tank was cycled:

a) Test the water every day - and keep a note of the Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates and pH. You really need the API Master test kit to do this and should consider getting hold of one as a priority (it's a bit pricey but it's worth it).

b) Do a partial water change every day (I did 50%) and try to hoover up as much fish waste as possible while you're doing this. Make sure that the water you replace the water removed with matches the temperature and pH and this will be fine.

c) You don't say how often you're feeding but I would recommend feeding just once a day. If your DG are anything like mine they'd eat 10 times a day if I fed them that often. But they quickly adjust to a single meal a day and this means less wasted food and fish poo which will help to bring your Ammonia levels under control.

Hope this helps! It can be particularly difficult at first but stick at it and you'll be there in no time...
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Old 10-09-2008, 09:43 AM   #9
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I'd do 2 a day until you get the level below 1ppm, then a water change whenever it gets above 0.5ppm after that. As long as you match water temperature and use a good dechlorinator (like Prime) water changes aren't going to hurt anything.
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Old 10-09-2008, 09:46 AM   #10
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Based on your ammonia levels you really need to be doing a 70% - 90% water change to have a chance of getting the ammonia levels down into the safe range. It would take three 50% water changes to achieve the same results as a 90% water change. As long as you match the temperature your fish won't mind a bit.
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Old 10-09-2008, 09:52 AM   #11
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Might the Dwarf Gourami be a bit upset about only having 30 - 10% of their water to swim about in during the PWC? I never went above 50% when I was cycling my tank because I didn't like how my DG were forced into the bottom half of the tank while I was doing it...
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Old 10-09-2008, 10:10 AM   #12
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They'll be ok. THe fish that I have actually seem to enjoy large water changes. Like getting fresh clean sheets on your bed.
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Old 10-09-2008, 10:38 AM   #13
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^^ My fish never mind either. Like Joy said I'd also recommend using Prime during each water change. You can even double (I think even triple...at work so can't see the bottle) the dose for a little while to help detoxify the ammonia but stay religious on the major water changes (75%+). I also agree that the test strips are VERY inaccurate and suggest picking up a quality test kit like API. You can also look at Hagen and Seachem for quality individual tests.
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Old 10-09-2008, 10:42 AM   #14
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Might the Dwarf Gourami be a bit upset about only having 30 - 10% of their water to swim about in during the PWC? I never went above 50% when I was cycling my tank because I didn't like how my DG were forced into the bottom half of the tank while I was doing it...
I've actually heard of a Discus breeder that does large enough water changes that the fish no longer have room to swim, and had some of the best looking Discus you'd ever seen. Of course this is third had information. On my own aquariums I've easily done 75%+ water changes and never had any issues. The fish always seem much more active than before the water change. Many have reported increased breeding behavior after a large water change. So as long as the fish have room to swim normally, I definately don't feel there is any problem with a larger water change.
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Old 10-09-2008, 10:44 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by neilanh View Post
They'll be ok. THe fish that I have actually seem to enjoy large water changes. Like getting fresh clean sheets on your bed.
Mmmmmm......clean sheets.....I LOVE clean sheets!!
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Like Joy said I'd also recommend using Prime during each water change. You can even double (I think even triple...at work so can't see the bottle) the dose for a little while to help detoxify the ammonia but stay religious on the major water changes (75%+).
Actually you can do up to 5x the dose in an emergency. Seachem. Prime
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Old 10-17-2008, 10:45 AM   #16
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I got the master test kit last week. i was initially doing 50% water changes every other day, as i didn't have time to do them daily. for the past three days i've been doing daily ones. the ammonia level has steadily dropped from 2.0 three days ago. test results today are as follows:
ammonia = 1.0
no2 = 0
no3 = 0
ph = 7.2

is it normal for it to take so many water changes for conditions to improve?

also, i tested the fresh water before adding to the tank. in one 5g bucket i added 10ml of water conditioner, in the other i put 20ml. the ammonia levels were .5 and .25. does this means my tap water has a lot of chlorine? should i be adding more water conditioner, or adding something else to bring the ammonia level to zero?

also, i noticed that the fish seem a little hyper when i do the water changes. is there something i should be doing to cause them less stress? that was one of my concerns about doing a 75%+ change but maybe i'll give it a try this weekend.

thanks!
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Old 10-17-2008, 11:07 AM   #17
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I think based on what a lot of other people have posted about their experiences of relatively large water changes, your DG being hyper probably isn't anything to worry about and you should go for it with the 75% water change.

I'm surprised by the distinct lack of Nitrites and Nitrates though, that suggests to me that your tank isn't cycled.

I've read that you should usually double (at least) the dose of water conditioner while a tank is cycling before adding the water back into your tank. What water conditioner are you using? If you're in the UK (like me) then you may have trouble finding Prime in which case I'd say using Ammo-Lock for the time being is OK. Remember though, Ammonia will still show up in your water tests even when you are using Ammo-Lock but is converted to a form which will not harm your fish.

Good luck!
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Old 10-17-2008, 11:21 AM   #18
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i'm using Big Al's (aquarium store) brand. the bottle's instructions say to add 5ml per 10g and 10ml to neutralize chloramine.
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Old 10-17-2008, 02:03 PM   #19
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The presense of Ammonia means that you have Chloramines and should be dosing the higher dosage. And yes while your aquarium is cycling it isn't at all uncommon to have to do daily waterchanges to keep the Ammonia and Nitrites at safe levels for fish, especially if too many were added to the aquarium too quickly.
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