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Ammonia And Nitrite Problems


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We have a 30 gallon tank with 3 goldfish (our pond fish)... 1 about 6 inches and 2 about 8 inches in length. I now know it should be a larger tank, but we're stuck with this for a while. We are looking into a larger tank (somewhere between 50-90 gallon... what would you recommend?).

We fed them twice a day (morning and evening) with medium size pellets, about 1 tsp each time. We're switching to small pellets as one seems to have issues with the medium ones.

We are using a Whisper EX45 filter and have an air stone and air clam in tank as well as a Sun-glo light on a timer for about 10 hours of bright light right now.

Prior to my reading on another site we were doing about a 30% water change every 2 days and cleaning all gravel at the same time with a vacuum. We changed the filter every 2 weeks and rinsed it every 2nd water change (in tap water). We cleaned all the plants about 1 1/2 weeks ago. We also used Clear Fast a couple of times to get rid of the cloudiness in the water.

As of five days ago we started doing daily back to back 50% water changes, with 25-30% gravel cleaning. The last time we did this was yesterday morning. Yesterday it took 3 back-to-backs to get the ammonia to 0, then treated with Amquel+. Today it started at 0 ammonia and 5ppm Nitrite.

I went to nnnn 2 days ago to buy a master test kit so we could check the nitrite and nitrate as well. I also asked about options while we're away to control the ammonia. The person there suggested a product called Amquel+. Obviously we don't want to control these things chemically, but we need an alternative for while we're away. What are your thoughts on this? She also suggested cutting back on the food, about 1/2 tsp per day, but cut it gradual over the next couple of days.

Anyhow, the readings from the tank yesterday before the water changes (they were done the previous morning as well) were as follows:

temp: 68, ammonia: 1.5 ppm, nitrite: 5.0 ppm

nitrate: 0 ppm, pH: 8.0

After the 3 back to back 50% changes the ammonia was between 0 and .25% and nitrite was at .5%. We added the Amquel+ so we could see how it would work and this morning the readings were 0 ammonia and 5 ppm nitrite.

Our water is treated with Aquaplus before being added to the tank and we've tested it before adding. p|H: 7.0 and all others at 0.

We have had the aquarium up and running with the fish in it since September 14th.

Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated.

What can we do to help control the ammonia and nitrite? How often can the Amquel+ be used safely? The people caring for the fish while we are away will not be able to do water changes and we'll be gone for 10 days. Not much hope of a tank change before we leave, but how large a tank would you recommend for our 3 goldfish?

Thanks in advance for any and all help.

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I haven't been taking care of fish long, but it seems to me as if you might be destroying your beneficial bacteria when you're "changing your filter" and rinsing it in tap water. I'm not sure if you meant you were rinsing the actual media or the parts of the filter itself, but either way, I don't think it is necessary to clean a filter every few days.. someone please correct me if I'm wrong! :unsure: If it does turn out that you are cleaning your entire filter (including the media) with tap water, then you are killing off the beneficial bacteria which keep ammonia and nitrite levels down. I think it is rare that anyone should have to "clean" their filter media, and if it is necessary, it should be done in tank water. Also, what do you mean exactly when you change your filter? This could also mess with your tank's cycle if you are constantly removing any beneficial bacteria.

As far as the tank size goes for those fish, your current situation may also contribute to the ammonia and nitrite levels. I would think at least a 55 gallon for them, but that also depends on what kind of goldfish they are (single or double tail). You may need even larger.

For a quick fix, I have read on here that people have used something which binds the ammonia to prevent it from being toxic from the fish, but still allowing it to be used by beneficial bacteria. I'm not really sure what to do about nitrites except for perform water changes..

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Hi there, and welcome to Koko's! :D

You've already supplied a lot of information, which is really great. A lot of first time posters tend to only mention the problem they're having and leave out most of the context (which is often the place where the issues start). I don't know enough to offer (reliable) advice, but I do know a couple of additional things the more knowledgeable forum members may want to know about before giving any advice. So in advance of them reading this: :)

Could you maybe give some information of your filter? Specifically the amount of water turnover per hour (that's one the most relevant properties of any filter).

You mention that you 'changed the filter every two weeks'. Do you mean by that that you cleaned it out, or that you removed the filter medium/material and added new medium? The reason I ask is because many people don't know that the filter media are the place where the beneficial bacteria reside: if you remove all the media at once, you take away most of those and basically restart with an uncycled filter. In case you're not sure what I mean with 'cycled', try these forum pages: Cycling a tank. (from your am/Ni/Na readings, it seems you're already well into cycling your filter).

In the end, regular water changes (e.g. 30-50% once every week), will be enough to keep your nitrate levels in check, while the ammonia and nitrite levels will all be taken care off by your cycled filter's beneficial bacteria.

One tip I can offer for when ever you have too high levels of ammonia/nitrite: don't do 3 consecutive 30% changes. Instead do 1 or 2 really large one. The reason for this is that for the dilution of the ammonia over your consecutive water changes (e.g. for 30%): 70% x 70% x 70% = 0.6 x 0.6 x 0.6 = 34%. Doing two 75% changes (so 0.25*0.25) however already decreases your ammonia levels to 6% from the starting levels (assuming you do the water change with water that has zero ammonia). This is not always possible, depending on the setup of your tank and such, but in general it's always more cost-effective to do fewer, but larger, water changes.

Hope this helps a bit. :)

PS: Kailey raises a really good point about rinsing in tap water: tap water often contains chlorine or chlorine compounds to disinfect it. In those concentrations it's harmless for humans, dogs, etc, but for your beneficial bacteria, it's toxic. For safety, many people rinse/squish the filter media in tank water that you just removed, just to get most of the muck our of it. Apart from that, you only need to do a partial replacement of your media every few months because the material itself doens't last for every. Doing partial replacements ensures that a large fraction of your beneficial bacteria remain and can quickly colonise the new media.

Edited by Erinaceus
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The goldfish are all single tail. In fact we think one may actually be a koi now. I will try to get a picture posted before we leave to see if anyone can help identify it for sure, but I'm pretty certain from searching images etc. on the internet.

When I mentioned changing the filter every two weeks it was the cartridge inside. We have stopped that (once a month as recommended now), along with the rinsing of the filter cartridge in tap water. We put the last one in about 2 weeks ago and rinsed it once in aquarium water to get some sludge off about a week ago... nothing done to it since. The filter is a Whisper EX45 and pumps 240 gph.

Also, I use the API master test kit. I heard the ammonia reading doesn't work after using the Amquel+. but I am still getting readings. I just retested it and it's at about .75 ppm since this morning. Would this be accurate or does the Amquel+ make the readings show higher or lower than they really are?

While we're away is it safe to have the Amquel+ used daily to keep levels under control? We don't want to rely on chemicals when we're home but need something for these coming 10 days.

If we manage to get a new set-up before then, would it be safer to transfer the goldfish to the new set-up immediately and then leave as it should take a few days for everything to cycle even if we are starting with the same gravel, plants etc.

Just looking for all our alternatives. Not sure the new tank will happen before we go, but we're looking right now. Just really not sure what size to get as different sites say different things... anything from 1 gallon per inch to 3 gallons per inch. Arghhh!

Thanks for the replies Kailey and Erinaceus

Edited by lyndsaykr
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Do you have anything else in your filter besides the cartridges that could potentially house beneficial bacteria? My filter has two biowheels which allow the bacteria to grow on them, so when I have to change out the cartridges, the cycle won't be affected (the wheels always remain in tact and never need to be cleaned or replaced unless broken). If not, it might be a good idea to invest in some filter media to put in your filter as well :)

Here is a link to a site which has a couple varieties just to give you some ideas:

My link

These should never need to be cleaned/replaced, as they provide housing for all of the good bacteria which will consume the ammonia and nitrites. Plus, when you upgrade to a larger tank, this media can be added to your new filter so you won't have to cycle your new tank from the beginning.

I have never used Amquel +, but as far as I know, this will detoxify elements from the nitrogen cycle; it won't remove them. This is good, because it means that the ammonia and nitrites can still be consumed by beneficial bacteria. Because it only detoxifies ammonia and nitrites, it makes sense that you still detect these while testing your water. I'm not sure how long the ammonia and nitrites will remain in a nontoxic state, so you will need to find that out in order to determine if your fish will be safe while you're gone. If you have someone feeding them, it would help keep the ammonia down if they only fed them once while you are away. It is good to fast the fish every once in a while, and they won't produce so much waste as a result. I would also definitely add some filter media before you leave so the bacteria can start growing while you're gone.

As far as tank sizes go, single tailed fish wlll need more space than fancies (double tailed). For fancy goldfish, a general rule I've heard is 20 gallons for the first fish, and 10 gallons for each additional fish. This is only a minimum guideline, as some fish may require even more water as they grow. So, for three large single tailed fish, you will definitely need more than 40 gallons, especially if one is a koi. If I'm not mistaken, koi should really only be kept in ponds... I saw you mentioned they are your pond fish, are you bringing them indoors for the winter? Anyway, I'd say 55 gallons minimum if this is to be a semi-permanent home for them.. there are more experienced members on this forum who could give you better advice, though.

Hope this helps a bit :D

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:goodpost

Yes you're very correct about tank size. A koi needs to be immediately returned as they need 300 gallons each and need to be kept in ponds only. this is so they can reach their full potential of 3 feet long.

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Assuming the one is in fact a koi I will be finding a new home for him. Our pond is not large enough to support him at his full size. I just want to confirm it before I start looking to adopt him out. He has all the coloours and appearance of a Magoi Koi (grow to 4 ft) but he has no barbels that I can see. How would I post a picture on here? I can post them to the proper forum and see if maybe I'm wrong and he really is some type of goldfish after all.

I was doing a search online and I may have found a reasonably priced 65 gallon set-up. Will be discussing it with my husband tonight. We need to bring the fish inside from mid-September through mid-May as our pond is an old converted bathtub and the metal doesn't insulate the cold very well. The poor guys would freeze to death if we left them outside so we need to have a set-up in place each winter. We made an attempt last year and lost the 2 goldfish. This year we are determined to do everything right... research, treatment of water, etc.

Here's the information on the filter we're using:The Whisper EX45 provides mechanical, chemical and biological filtration for both freshwater and saltwater aquariums up to 45 gallons. Includes 6 1/4" main tube with magnet impeller assembly, 5 1/4" extension tube, 2 1/4" strainer, one Bio Bag and one Aerobic Frame with Bio Foam. Whisper Bio Bags are constructed of dual-sided mesh and ultra activated carbon. The Bio Bag performs mechanical filtration by catching large debris in its dual-sided mesh. The activated carbon inside the Bio Bag absorbs odor and discoloration performing chemical filtration. The Aerobic Frame and Bio Foam provide a perfect surface area for bacteria to grow allowing biological filtration to take place. A flow control knob is positioned on top of the unit to allow the control of water flow into the filter. The Whisper 45's motor is 9 watts. Good for aquariums up to 45 gallons. Pumps 240 gph.

There is a second cartridge in front of the filter cartridge that has about 6 or 7 plastic spiked circles (wheels) on it. We actually cleaned it out completely about 1 1/2 weeks ago as it had a bunch of stuff on it. I'm now thinking it was possibly part of the good stuff starting up in the cycle. Live and learn. Wish I'd read all these forums a few weeks ago.

Also, Kailey you mentioned only doing one feeding while we were gone. Is that enough? We'll be gone 10 days. When we are here, is the 1/2 tsp of pellets per day sufficient for 3 fairly large goldfish? It seems like such a small amount and they keep looking like they want more.

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Also, Kailey you mentioned only doing one feeding while we were gone. Is that enough? We'll be gone 10 days.

Typically, if you're gone for 3-5 days, it's not necessary to have them fed them during that time: goldfish can cope quite well with the occasional lack of food for a couple of days (even though they may try to use their puppy eyes on you :rolleyes:). In fact, many people (including my wife and I) give our goldfish one fasting day each week. That's beneficial for them because it completely (or mostly) emptied their intestines. That way, it helps in preventing intestinal blockages, which could for example lead to floatiness (it's one of the main causes, if I remember correctly).

If you really don't want to leave them without food, plants can also be a good option: it usually takes them a couple of days to get through them, so it's kind of a good cash for them. And it's a lot safer than those auto-feed thingies.

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Okay, so only one or two feedings while we're away. Is the 1/2 tsp of pellet food sufficient at that time or should it be more? Is it sufficient at a normal feeding?

Sorry for all the questions but we're determined to have these guys survive and get it right for them this time around. Never realized how much work could be involved though.

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Okay, so only one or two feedings while we're away. Is the 1/2 tsp of pellet food sufficient at that time or should it be more? Is it sufficient at a normal feeding?

Sorry for all the questions but we're determined to have these guys survive and get it right for them this time around. Never realized how much work could be involved though.

I'm not sure about the right amount of food. Something that's often mentioned (and is at least true for our goldies), is that the right amount of food will be completely eaten within a minute or so. If it takes longer, you're giving too much food. If it's gone after 10 seconds, it's probably too little food. For the 10 days that you're away, it's best to err on the side of caution and give too little rather than too much, simply because eating little also helps to reduce the amount of ammonia they produce. Do you have any algae in your tank? If so, those are already useful for your goldfish: ours spend most of the day eating algae. It's labour-intensive, but it does give them plenty of nutrients (and as a bonus, as it is labour-intensive, it keeps them occupied as well).

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Haven't really noticed algae but I'm sure there is at least a little bit in there. I see them looking like they're eating at the side of the tank and sucking on the gravel and plastic plants regularly.

We got a new 55 gallon tank today. Posted on the general forum about wether or not to change them over now or not. Wasn't sure where to post that one. Not sure which option would be better for them at this point.

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