Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Hello! I posted a few days ago about my new betta tank, and everyone was very helpful, so thanks again! 
Today I have a question about ammonia levels (I am a super newbie). Is it possible to have a false ammonia reading? Here is the context behind the question: I have a 5 gallon filtered tank with one betta. I tested my water yesterday, and ended up with 0.25 ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite and 10-20 ppm nitrate. I did a 25% water change and vacuumed the waste out of the substrate.  Today, about 24 hours after the water change, I tested again. Results were ammonia 0.25 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm and nitrate 10 ppm. Should I do another 25% water change? I thought the nitrates fed the plants, in simple terms, so if i do and the nitrates end up at 0, will that have a negative effect on my plants? I have dwarf hair grass, Monte Carlo, salvinia minima and an Amazon sword. The day before the last water change, my readings were 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrite and 20 ppm nitrate. I am using the API master test kit, and I do know the nitrate test is extremely finicky so I also have some test strips, but I have not used them recently because I tend to set them down and then walk away and forget to read them 😅 Any input would be much appreciated, thanks! 

Edited by Bailey
Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, KBOzzie59 said:

What is your water source?  Does it contain chloramine?  If yes what are you using to treat the water?

I'm not sure if it contains chlorine or chloramine (or both? Like i said, i am very very new to this...) but I use tap water. I treat it with stress coat +, just because that was available to me and my fish had some fin issues when I bought him so I thought the aloe Vera would help him heal up. I treat the new water before putting it in the tank, so I just dose for the amount I'm replacing, not the whole 5 gallons. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Question 1: How long have you had the tank running for?

Question 2: do you use liquid fertilizer for your plants?

Question 3: what type of filtration do you use?

At first glance it would appear your tank is fully cycled, however if you dose liquid fertilizer it will give a reading of Nitrates in your tank. If your tank isnt fully cycled that could be one cause of the ammonia source. Second cause could be your source water. Have you tested your water out the tap? It could be contaminated with trace amounts of ammonia, meaning your are introducing it into your tank with each water change. Lastly dont worry about your plants. Plants do consume nitrate but they prefer nitrite better and ammonia the best. If there is ammonia in your tank they will consume it first before making do with the less desirable nitrate. Until i can get more clues to accurately diagnose the problem my gut instinct is telling me your tank isnt fully cycled or contaminated water source. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
27 minutes ago, Will Billy said:

Question 1: How long have you had the tank running for?

Question 2: do you use liquid fertilizer for your plants?

Question 3: what type of filtration do you use?

At first glance it would appear your tank is fully cycled, however if you dose liquid fertilizer it will give a reading of Nitrates in your tank. If your tank isnt fully cycled that could be one cause of the ammonia source. Second cause could be your source water. Have you tested your water out the tap? It could be contaminated with trace amounts of ammonia, meaning your are introducing it into your tank with each water change. Lastly dont worry about your plants. Plants do consume nitrate but they prefer nitrite better and ammonia the best. If there is ammonia in your tank they will consume it first before making do with the less desirable nitrate. Until i can get more clues to accurately diagnose the problem my gut instinct is telling me your tank isnt fully cycled or contaminated water source. 

Tank has been running only about 5 weeks. It was an impulse purchase, I will admit, but I'm trying to do right by the fish. I have liquid fertilizer but I haven't used it yet (easy green), I'm nervous to use it and I don't know why. The tank is a 5 gallon kit with a built in filter, I have a carbon cartridge in it right now, but was planning on switching to a coarse sponge in its place in a few weeks. I have not tested the water out of the tap, but I can do that. I think the tank WAS cycled, I was consistently getting 0 ammonia and nitrite, with 5-10 ppm nitrate; but last week on Sunday I drained the tank, took half of the gravel out and put fluval stratum on top, and that's when i added the Monte Carlo. I soaked all of the plants and decor and filter media in the tank water in a bucket to prevent some of the bacteria on any of it from dying off. so I am thinking I'll have to start the cycle over? If I find 0.25 ppm ammonia should I water change or not? I had thought that ammonia was so toxic that even that amount would kill the fish if left in there. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed I must admit, but I love the little dude so I appreciate all your input!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't be changing water at .25ppm ammonia. Ammonia toxicity is relative. pH and temperature both influence how harmful it is to fish, but at .25ppm you'd need to have some wild parameters to see much reaction from your fish, especially a betta.

Keep an eye on things, but I wouldn't go crazy and test more than once every other day or so. Bettas are tough fish. People keep them for years in tiny vases without heaters or even water conditioner. It's not right, but it does demonstrate their adaptability to sub-optimal conditions. If you start to see ammonia creep over the .50ppm mark, maybe consider a 25-30% change without a gravel vac or cleaning. You could also skip the water changes and dose the tank with something like Prime in order to temporarily neutralize the ammonia's toxicity.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah ha! When you changed your substrate that can cause a mini crash in your nitrogen cycle, as your old gravel substrate is prime real estate for beneficial bacteria. Your bacterial colony was likely still fledgling since your tank has only been setup for 5 weeks, then you removed half that colony with half your substrate. You can get live bacteria cultures like Fritz Zyme 7 that Aquarium Co-op sells, there are other similar products out there that can boost your bacteria colony back up. Under normal circumstances your colony will rebuild itself, but it will take some time to catch back up. Using bacteria starter will speed up that process. API also sells a product called Ammo Lock that binds the ammonia and makes it temporarily safe until you can reign in the problem. As always follow directions on the bottle what ever product you use. You should be fine once your colony builds back up to your bioload. On a side note, this situation is an example of why i like reusable filter media like sponges over disposable filter media like cartridges where you end up throwing away some of your bacterial colony there too. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
26 minutes ago, Will Billy said:

Ah ha! When you changed your substrate that can cause a mini crash in your nitrogen cycle, as your old gravel substrate is prime real estate for beneficial bacteria. Your bacterial colony was likely still fledgling since your tank has only been setup for 5 weeks, then you removed half that colony with half your substrate. You can get live bacteria cultures like Fritz Zyme 7 that Aquarium Co-op sells, there are other similar products out there that can boost your bacteria colony back up. Under normal circumstances your colony will rebuild itself, but it will take some time to catch back up. Using bacteria starter will speed up that process. API also sells a product called Ammo Lock that binds the ammonia and makes it temporarily safe until you can reign in the problem. As always follow directions on the bottle what ever product you use. You should be fine once your colony builds back up to your bioload. On a side note, this situation is an example of why i like reusable filter media like sponges over disposable filter media like cartridges where you end up throwing away some of your bacterial colony there too. 

Ok thanks!! That's kinda what I assumed had happened! How long should I wait to switch out the carbon filter for a sponge after the tank recycles? I was planning on doing that anyways, but after changing the substrate I didn't want to also remove the filter cartridge and completely decimate whatever beneficial bacteria was in there. I have API quick start I can add in there, too. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Schwack said:

I wouldn't be changing water at .25ppm ammonia. Ammonia toxicity is relative. pH and temperature both influence how harmful it is to fish, but at .25ppm you'd need to have some wild parameters to see much reaction from your fish, especially a betta.

Keep an eye on things, but I wouldn't go crazy and test more than once every other day or so. Bettas are tough fish. People keep them for years in tiny vases without heaters or even water conditioner. It's not right, but it does demonstrate their adaptability to sub-optimal conditions. If you start to see ammonia creep over the .50ppm mark, maybe consider a 25-30% change without a gravel vac or cleaning. You could also skip the water changes and dose the tank with something like Prime in order to temporarily neutralize the ammonia's toxicity.

Ok very helpful, thank you! I've been a bit worried about him since changing the substrate as it lowered the pH substantially, and then he tore his tail from over flaring, and THEN he scraped his head and the sides of his body up 🤦🏻‍♀️ I'll keep an eye on it and wait on a water change for now. I don't know anything about Prime, if I use that how long does it work for? Should I use that in conjunction with the API quick start I have?  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Prime will do the same thing ammo lock does it binds the ammonia making it temporarily safe. By temporarily i mean 24-48 hours, i cant remember off the top of my head. Do add your quick start as soon as you can. That will start to rebuild your colony. After 2 weeks of steady readings of 0 ammonia 0 nitrite, you should be fine to change your filter media. You can even spike your media with a few drops of quick start to really get things going. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

How low is your pH? 

API measures ammonia and ammonium together. 0.25ppm isn't just ammonia. It's a combination of ammonia and ammonium that have this coexistence.  There are many factors that go into figuring out how much ammonia is in the 0.25. Temperature, pH are the main ones. I've seen some calculations that include salinity as well.  

But the more acidic the water is, the more ammonium versus ammonia. 

For example, my pH is around 7.4. Temp was 75. I kept getting this mysterious 0.25ppm.   But it so happened that the ammonia was actually only 0.003ppm. The rest of the 0.25 was ammonium.   So I wasn't worried. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Gideyon said:

How low is your pH? 

API measures ammonia and ammonium together. 0.25ppm isn't just ammonia. It's a combination of ammonia and ammonium that have this coexistence.  There are many factors that go into figuring out how much ammonia is in the 0.25. Temperature, pH are the main ones. I've seen some calculations that include salinity as well.  

But the more acidic the water is, the more ammonium versus ammonia. 

For example, my pH is around 7.4. Temp was 75. I kept getting this mysterious 0.25ppm.   But it so happened that the ammonia was actually only 0.003ppm. The rest of the 0.25 was ammonium.   So I wasn't worried. 

My pH is low. It was 7.4 before I changed to stratum. Now it's at 6.4, but I was reassured that as long as it stays steady at 6.4 the fish will handle it just fine. Temperature is about 78-79, depending on how warm the room is. How did you find out how much was actual ammonia versus ammonium? 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a thought here. You may not have crashed your cycle. I have heard a lot of people say fluval stratum can leach some ammonia into the water column. You may be fighting ammonia for a while depending on how much you put in. Personally whenI was having a few ammonia problems, I would check parameters daily and change water at 0.5ppm or above.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Bailey said:

My pH is low. It was 7.4 before I changed to stratum. Now it's at 6.4, but I was reassured that as long as it stays steady at 6.4 the fish will handle it just fine. Temperature is about 78-79, depending on how warm the room is. How did you find out how much was actual ammonia versus ammonium? 

 You can get ammonia test kits that just test for NH 3 the toxic form of ammonia

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
52 minutes ago, Goosedub said:

Just a thought here. You may not have crashed your cycle. I have heard a lot of people say fluval stratum can leach some ammonia into the water column. You may be fighting ammonia for a while depending on how much you put in. Personally whenI was having a few ammonia problems, I would check parameters daily and change water at 0.5ppm or above.

My main concern is, he has a few scrapes on his head/sides of his body that he's dealing with along with 2 tears in his tail from flaring at his reflection, so I was afraid any ammonia in the tank would basically just cause him to wither away 🥲 The tears seem to be healing well, the scrapes just happened 2-3 days ago so I'm keeping an eye on them. Based on the calculator above, I actually only have .00045 ppm free ammonia, if that is accurate. So do you think it would be safe for him to wait until I get a .5ppm reading to do a water change, given what he has going on? He's very very active, eating very well and building multiple bubble nests, so he seems ok...

Edited by Bailey
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Bailey said:

My main concern is, he has a few scrapes on his head/sides of his body that he's dealing with along with 2 tears in his tail from flaring at his reflection, so I was afraid any ammonia in the tank would basically just cause him to wither away 🥲 The tears seem to be healing well, the scrapes just happened 2-3 days ago so I'm keeping an eye on them. Based on the calculator above, I actually only have .00045 ppm free ammonia, if that is accurate. So do you think it would be safe for him to wait until I get a .5ppm reading to do a water change, given what he has going on? He's very very active, eating very well and building multiple bubble nests, so he seems ok...

I think it would be fine. Water changes cause stress as well so it is always a balance of what causes the least stress. I think you could wait to water change until ammonia hits 0.5ppm or above and monitor daily until stable

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...