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Ammonia Spike/ph Crash


Guest becky

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Guest becky

I have a 10 gallon hospital tank that has been up for almost 4 weeks. I have a whisper 20 (105 gph) that had previously been running on the main tank hopefully cycling to be ready for the hospital. Well, it was not. The ammonia was always zero, but I had nitrite readings of 0.25 about every other day and either did a water change or added amquel+. The pH was usually around 7.2-7.4.

I just got a new Penguin 350 for my 29 gallon main tank, it only had a Penguin 170 on it. I moved the 170 to the hospital tank, I moved the old filter cartridge to the new filter and left the old bio wheel in the 170 (I left the whisper running also).

Last night I was checking the water parameters in all the tanks to make sure everything was going ok after the switch. The sick fish was acting a little funny also. The main tank is fine. Nitrates are higher than I would like, but I hope the new 350 is going to take care of that soon.

The hospital tank was showing a very slight nitrate reading, I was hopeful that the cycle was going to finish. The nitrites were just barely showing up, less than 0.10.

But, I was horrified to see the ammonia was at about 2.0!!! :yikes It has been zero since the tank was set up. I just checked the tap water and it is reading about 0.5. I had checked the tap when I first got my water kits and it was zero. I guess the water fluctuates. I am in Texas and it is summer and who knows what they have to do to the water in the lakes before it gets to our homes.

I did two-back to back-water changes of about 3 or 4 gallons each and brought the ammonia down to 0.5.

This morning I was testing again to see what happened overnight. The ammonia was still at 0.5. Then I thought I would check the pH, because I had read Dataguru's posts on how pH affects the toxicity of ammonia. I was in for another shock. The pH was about 6.4. I checked the tap water, it was a solid 7.6-dark blue. Accck! What is happening?

I am using the whisper as a media slot, I added some crushed coral to the bag where the carbon is supposed to go. Should I add baking soda? I am paranoid about doing water changes now. If the tap water is 0.5 ammonia and so is the tank, what good will it do? What is happening with the pH? :help1

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Guest Phreno

I think that when the beneficial bacteria convert ammonia into nitrate, they use up some of the buffers and the pH can drop over time. Could that be what happened?

Also, I think Amquel can give false ammonia readings. What kind of test kit are you using?

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  • Regular Member

Yep Kyle is right on. The biofilter bacteria are kicking in and use up your KH, plus they release acids as they convert ammonia to nitrAte.

It's also possible that amquel+ could be contributing to the pH drop. Regular amquel crashed my pH once, and I think amquel+ will do the same thing. Glad you caught it! The good news is that with pH in the 6s you can have a lot more than 2ppm ammonia before it gets toxic.

The crushed coral was a good move. :)

It will be interesting to see if it can dissolve fast enough to help.

Don't want to take pH too high cuz of the ammonia. low to mid 7s would be good while you're seeing ammonia.

I'd add a little under 1/4 of a teaspoon of baking soda, predissolve in tank water and add slowly to a high water flow area. that should raise KH by 1dh. then check pH again.

The dilemma is that partial water changes will help increase your KH and pH, however the ammonia in the tap water makes it difficult to bring ammonia down in the tank. then you dose with amquel+ and that eats up your KH and lowers pH. kind of a catch 22.

The Kordon amquel+ site says 1 dose detoxes 1.2 ppm ammonia.

What I'd be tempted to do is to test daily and use amquel+ to detox the ammonia in the tank and compensate for the KH it eats up by adding the baking soda dose each time you dose with amquel+.

You could try that see if if 1/4 tsp baking soda is enough to maintain pH when you dose the amquel.

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Guest becky

Thanks Kyle and Betty. I have a question, both of ya'll said "convert ammonia to nitrAte". So we are talking about the complete cycle: ammonia-nitrIte-nitrAte for this problem to happen. Things were fine when I was reading 0 ammonia and some nitrItes (no nitrAtes yet).

I will do a small water change and add baking soda. I also have prime to condition the water. I bought the amquel+ first and then kept reading how everybody liked prime better. I just have the amquel bottle upstairs with the hospital tank. If prime does not cause the same problems as amquel does, perhaps I should switch.

This morning: pH 6.5, ammonia 0.5, nitrItes less than 0.25, nitrAtes 10 (last night were 5! I believe this tank is going to cycle finally)

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Guest becky

Excellent link. That is quite the intellectual crowd over there at KoiVet. I always have to think really hard while reading and usually am able to learn something, but I never can actually follow everything that they are discussing! (reminds me of some of my classes in graduate school).

I must go there more often to keep learning more. :listen:

Thanks for hunting that article (forum) down for me. They never discussed buffers which seems to be my problem. I have pool strips that measure alkalinity, is that the same? If so, I have zero.

If most of the hydrogen ions are generated during the ammonia-nitrIte phase, then I am going to say that the amquel+ might have a lot to do with my problem. I will switch to prime even with the lower detox rate.

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Guest Phreno

Well, its good to see that everything's going well!

And good move switching to Prime. It's much better, in my oppinion. I still love the fact that you can add it directly to the tank. When I was cycling my tank, I would get up before school and find the ammonia too high! I had to leave quickly, so I'd add prime and change the water 7 hours later when I got home. Believe me, its prolly saved my fish at least 3 times now. :D

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Guest becky

:o I was adding amquel+ directly to the water! Are you not supposed to do that? Ackk! I just keep finding stuff out.

The baking soda worked like a charm. After the water change yesterday the pH was 7.5 and ammonia still 0.5. Last night the pH was about 7.2 and ammonia back at zero! yaay.

It is holding steady this morning pH 7.2 and ammonia zero.

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  • Regular Member

They are pretty geeky aren't they! LOL Chemistry was a pretty long time ago, so for that kinda stuff, I generally rely on Roddy Conrad and a couple of other people. He really did a good job of explaining buffering to me back when I was trying to figure it out. See links here on pH, KH, GH and biofiltration.

http://dataguru.org/misc/aquarium/FishInfo.html#WaterQuality

Sure, you can add amquel+, or prime or regular amquel directly to the tank, tho I'd add it to a high water flow area and it's probably a good idea to dilute it in tank water before adding.

Cool! :goodjob

So have you salted to protect against nitrIte poisoning yet?

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Gee, that's fascinating stuff. So baking soda actually buffers? I thought it was the GH that buffered. I'll have to read that again, I'm like Becky, only a little bit sinks in at a time. ;)

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  • Regular Member

yea. baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and increases KH (carbonate hardness). It's the bicarbonate that does the buffering.

GH is general hardness (primarily calcium and magnesium). Calcium does play a role in pH tho. In really soft, but well buffered water, pH can get really high. adding calcium chloride will lower pH down into the 8s.

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Guest becky

Betty, very good articles (as usual). I am beginning to understand, and now need to buy a kH test kit. sigh.

As for the salt and nitrite poisoning question. I was salted to 0.3%, but had not replaced the salt with the water changes from the ammonia spike. I believe it is at 0.1% now. Last night the nitrite measured 0.25 and thought, I need to get the salt back in.

Well, this morning I measured :nana ZERO NITRITE :nana

Whopee!

I will still keep a close eye on both tanks to make sure they are really cycled. The main tank is also still measuring zero ammonia and nitrite. I guess that nice layer of gravel really does have lots of good bugs in it. I was worried about taking away the bio-wheel.

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