Unknown Ammonia Source

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an interest in aquariums or fish keeping!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.
I think prefilter in a planted tank is a mistake only because your going to get loose plant leaves etc stuck on the intake and it can only clog the prefilter so that could be contributing to the inability of your filter to control ammonia because the flow is not nearly what it should be to promote bacterial growth.

i prefer a prefilter in my planted tankes because with out it i have pieces of root, leaves, or stems wrapped around my impeller

plus its easy for me to just pick off any leaves that are attached to the pre-filter using the tongs i have.
 
i prefer a prefilter in my planted tankes because with out it i have pieces of root, leaves, or stems wrapped around my impeller

plus its easy for me to just pick off any leaves that are attached to the pre-filter using the tongs i have.

I thoroughly cleaned out the HOB and around the impeller I found quite a bit of fibers from the polyfill that I was using to mechanically filter the fine particulates. I had removed the prefilter about 3-4 days ago; I believe it would have prevented this from happening.
 
i prefer a prefilter in my planted tankes because with out it i have pieces of root, leaves, or stems wrapped around my impeller

plus its easy for me to just pick off any leaves that are attached to the pre-filter using the tongs i have.

How big is your intake? I've never had the issue of leaves etc. getting stuck? Maybe your opening is too wide.
 
I am trying to figure out why am I seeing ammonia spikes in a new fishless tank.

About 2 weeks ago I set up a 20 g long with the intent of keeping low light plants and shrimp in it.
I am using about 30# EcoComplete, Finnex 100w heater, AquaClear 50, and Aqualight dual T5 NO. I transferred the sponge and extra ceramic rings from a filter in an established tank. Most of the plants are from an established tank plus some new ones. Root tabs, flourish comprehensive and excel added for the plants.

After the initial cloudiness from the substrate, things cleared up for about a week and a half. I am using polyfill in the AC. Did not test the water or do any water changes.

This past weekend the water looked as if someone poured a cup of milk in it and i figured it was a bacterial bloom. I assumed that there would be some ammonia present when the bloom peaks and crashes. It cleared up in about two days so I tested the water and got Ammonia 8+, Nitirites 0, Nitrates 5. Did a 90% water change and tested the next morning: Ammonia 1.0, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 5. Then I tested it 24 hours later and I see Ammonia 8+, Nitrites 0, Nitrates 0. Huh?

Nitrates going to zero is probably due to the plants; zero nitrites means the cycling has stalled or is non-existent; but the ammonia has me stumped. I am not intentionally adding ammonia to it. I tested the water and it was zero for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.

Where can the ammonia be coming from? I have a moss ball from the established tank...maybe that is the source? But while it was in the other tank the parameters were stable. Also, under the hill on the left side is half a red brick. I was concerned about anaerobic activity since the substrate might be 6" deep there so I put a half brick there. Brick was in the back yard for years and was not used with cement or mortar. In hindsight, due to the porous nature who knows what it has absorbed while it was outside. pH is 7.4. I will be taking it out tonight and doing another big water change and then retesting 24 hours later.
Any thoughts on this?

Haven't read any of the other comments but its your ecocomplete. It leeches ammonia at first.
 
1/8" I think. Standard AquaClear HOB series intake.

yeah i have the same, ive learned a pre-filter is more or less necessary, also do you use regular poly-fil or the quilt batting? ive learned that the quilt batting works much better because since i switched ive yet to find any fibers in my tank unlike when i used just regular poly-fil.
 
yeah i have the same, ive learned a pre-filter is more or less necessary, also do you use regular poly-fil or the quilt batting? ive learned that the quilt batting works much better because since i switched ive yet to find any fibers in my tank unlike when i used just regular poly-fil.

Actually I am using the cylindrical prefilter sponge that came with one of my pond water pumps as the HOB prefilter.
Thanks for the quilt batting advice. Wish i knew this a week ago. Right now I am not using anything at the moment besides the square sponge, ceramic rings, and biomax.
 
Haven't read any of the other comments but its your ecocomplete. It leeches ammonia at first.

I questioned that but in an identical setup I did a few months ago there was no ammonia spike. This setup has seen 8+ ammonia even after daily 90% WC 3-4 days in a row. EcoComplete for both tanks purchased at the same store.

Got fed up with this and took out all the plants and put them in a gallon ziplock bag and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. After 10 minutes they were rinsed thoroughly and placed in a 6.6 g holding tank (removing algae and remnants of a messy bacterial bloom that coated everything). Filter was cleaned thoroughly including the media. Tank wiped down with peroxide and rinsed. EcoComplete was placed in a 5 gallon bucket and I dumped a bottle of peroxide in it, let it sit a while and then took it outside and rinsed it the way one would rinse play sand. Yes, I may have rinsed out some of the things that make EcoComplete do what it does but it is still has it CEC properties. Put it back in the tank an added a bit more straight from the bag. Added some but not all of the plants. Driftwood staying in another tank while I monitor the ammonia level (DW was another ammonia suspect that I did not test previously).
image-2448000511.jpg
Will take baseline readings tonight and monitor it daily. Yes, it's a fresh start sort of, but I could not deal with the sky high ammonia anymore.
 
I would honestly just let it run it's course now. Let the bacteria build up because it seems like your BB was losing the battle from the beginning
 
Haven't read any of the other comments but its your ecocomplete. It leeches ammonia at first.

I tested the water that is present in the bag of EcoComplete for ammonia. Did it twice because the first test looked cloudy (not surprised due to the source). In both cases, the result was "dirty yellow"; not bright yellow but not light green. Quantitatively I'd say between 0-0.25. If the granules are leaching ammonia, it was not happening in the bag.
 
Just tested the tank (has been setup for about 5 hours with mostly washed EcoComplete and some straight from the bag, some plants, filter with washed media). Expecting ZERO...

Ammonia is 1.0.

A bit surprised about this result. The only other thing I can think of is the filter. During the "restart", I cleaned the sponge and media vigorously in hot tap water (to remove the remnants of a bacterial bloom and chronic ammonia issues). Perhaps the ceramic media or sponge is leaching ammonia? So I scoop out the ceramic media and sponge and swish each in separate cups of tap water for a few minutes. Tested the ammonia in the water each is in:

Ceramic media = 1.0
Sponge = 0.25

Hmmm. Could the ceramic media have been the culprit all along? I guess I should get new media. Not sure if it is worth boiling the stuff I have. Will do a test in the morning to see if this changes followed by a PWC.
 
Tested tank in am am ammonia is still 1.0. At least it is not going up (I think I found the source). Did a 75% WC mostly to get rid if the surface scum from the filter media. Retested ammonia = 0.25. Tap = 0.0
I will get new media today. About the old media, threw it in a large pyrex glass container with water and microwaved it for 10 min. Retested it: 0.0 ammonia. Prolly not going to use it but was curious about the effects of boiling it.
 
Day 2 after restarting my tank. Ammonia was 2 ppm so I did a 75% WC and brought it down to 0.25 ppm. 12 hours later it went up to 4 ppm. For those joining late, I am not adding ammonia for a fishless cycle; it's coming from somewhere.
Btw I tested some unused EcoComplete and some from the tank (about a tablespoon of each soaking in a few ounces of tap water for 12 hours): 0 / 0.5 ppm respectively.

There is this film at the water's surface and it is driving me insane. It is not oily; more powdery like pollen. I believe it is coming from the gravel because when I drained the tank during a big water change I noticed this floating stuff in between the grains. When I was adding water I could see this stuff float up. I'm convinced that the bacterial bloom that I had 1.5 weeks ago left something in the gravel and washing it did not remove it. I might give it a few more days and then...

Shrimp tank 3.0. Tank and filter will be washed out thoroughly. Starting over with new substrate: its a good thing that EcoComplete is only $9 for 20# at the local Petco so a couple of bags will be plenty. I will save some of the plants for a small water garden I have in the backyard. I don't want to take any chances with any kind of carryover. The plants have been dipped in peroxide but at this point I can get new plants.
 
I think your problem is simply something that cannot be comprehended so simply. There are many factors that we simply cannot control no matter how hard we try. I think your also suffering from the "too clean" situation. Just because you can't physically see or test what the ammonia is producing from doesnt mean it isn't there. As frustrated you are, just keep doing 25-50% water changes until it subsides. As for the film and and white crud, it sounds simply like a bacterial imbalance. Why not get some BB from your LFS or dose seachems bacteria solution to push along the process. I know how pushing for logic is our nature but it may be out of your hands. Don't give up and break it down again because you will be back at square one. Just be patient. I def suggest adding BB to help.
 
I think your problem is simply something that cannot be comprehended so simply. There are many factors that we simply cannot control no matter how hard we try. I think your also suffering from the "too clean" situation. Just because you can't physically see or test what the ammonia is producing from doesnt mean it isn't there. As frustrated you are, just keep doing 25-50% water changes until it subsides. As for the film and and white crud, it sounds simply like a bacterial imbalance. Why not get some BB from your LFS or dose seachems bacteria solution to push along the process. I know how pushing for logic is our nature but it may be out of your hands. Don't give up and break it down again because you will be back at square one. Just be patient. I def suggest adding BB to help.

Thanks for the encouragement. My other tank was setup in similar fashion and I saw none of these set backs.

Two things that still bother me are:
1. Rising Ammonia
2. White spots

I did not mention the surface film because water agitation from the HOB and paper towels are keeping that in check somewhat.

Ammonia is still jumping from 1 to 4 in a matter of 12 hours. I do a 50-90% water change, bring it down to 1 or less and then later in the day it goes back up. There are some plants present but no apparent decay from what I can see. Filter with new media is running.

The white spots are starting to appear in the gravel. Like Ich spots but larger. Solid, round, white and not fuzzy. Frequency is about maybe an inch apart. And I see them on the glass and leaves as well. The parts of the heater that I missed while wiping it down is showing a white film with bumps (think of plaque). You know those petri dishes with agar used to grow out bacterial cultures? That is what it looked like during the bacterial bloom...white film with numerous raised dots. I think is it still present. A bacterial imbalance is one thing but this is A bit much.

I will give it a little more time. If the daily WCs don't bring down the ammonia or the white spots continue to spread then I am restarting with new substrate and a complete cleaning.
 
Why not raise the tank water to around 86 and add salt. This way you can rule out ich and other parasites. In addition, get some BB like I've mentioned to help your filter combat whatever this crap is.
 
I'm also thinking a possible fungus or algae. Keep vacuuming the surface and scrubbing what's visible in addition to water changes. Raise the temp to 86, keep the water agitated at all times, Add salt and a water conditioner and give it some time. I know your mentally running out of that but give it a go.
 
I'm also thinking a possible fungus or algae. Keep vacuuming the surface and scrubbing what's visible in addition to water changes. Raise the temp to 86, keep the water agitated at all times, Add salt and a water conditioner and give it some time. I know your mentally running out of that but give it a go.

If I do all of this, there is a chance that it wont be completely removed. Plus the plants will be killed in the process. Even if I killed whatever it is, the residual stuff will still be in the gravel. Vacuuming might tank care of most of it. Even the ceramic media I cleaned and boiled a few days ago...I let it sit in tap water for a day or two and it smells awful!

To remove all doubt it might make sense to disinfect the tank and equipment and start fresh. For seeding I can get some media from my other tank as needed.

Thank you for the suggestions.
 
If I do all of this, there is a chance that it wont be completely removed. Plus the plants will be killed in the process. Even if I killed whatever it is, the residual stuff will still be in the gravel. Vacuuming might tank care of most of it. Even the ceramic media I cleaned and boiled a few days ago...I let it sit in tap water for a day or two and it smells awful!

To remove all doubt it might make sense to disinfect the tank and equipment and start fresh. For seeding I can get some media from my other tank as needed.

Thank you for the suggestions.

I say don't worry about it, and let it just run its course.
 

Latest posts

Back
Top Bottom