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Nitrite And Ammonia Levels

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Offline fishcake76

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Nitrite and ammonia levels
« on: February 21, 2014, 11:28:02 AM »
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Hi,

I've moved to this area to continue the discussion from the fish health bit where I originally asked about poo but then got talking about water quality!!!

I am a bit stressed today.

Got my ammonia tests yesterday (API) and tested first thing this morning. Ammonia read 2ppm and Nitrite 1mg/l.  Decided I would do another big water change and really clean the gravel well as I think I have been over feeding and the amount of poo Peppa and George create is amazing!!!

Did this, left tank for 30-40 minutes and did another reading. Ammonia now 1ppm and Nitrite 0.25mg/l.  I am hoping that the fish won't die due to the amount of water I changed. They are a bit quiet at the mo but George has done some 'current surfing' which he seems to enjoy doing!! ;D

I haven't fed yet today so will probably leave this until this evening. I am thinking of buying some Tetra safe start as I am worried that my bacteria is not growing hence why my nitrite and ammonia levels and so high.

Keeping fish is a strange hobby. I am fascinated by them, their characters are so different and they are lovely to watch. I am really enjoying learning about them but on the other side of the argument I worry about them a lot!!!! :-\

FC

Offline Sue

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2014, 01:15:25 PM »
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Can I ask what your pH is? If you haven't got a tester, take a sample of tank water (not tapwater) to a fish shop and ask them to test it - and get them to write it down. The reason is that ammonia is more toxic at high pH and nitrite at low pH. And there are things you can do. But until you know your pH carry on with the water changes.

Ammonia exists in two forms in our tanks, and one form is a lot more toxic than the other. The two are ammonia (very toxic) and ammonium (a lot less toxic). The amount of each depends on the pH of the water and on the temperature. The higher the pH and temperature, the more of it is in the toxic ammonia form. The ammonia test kits we can buy measure the two forms combined so we can't tell how much of the total is ammonia and how much is ammonium.
Once I know you have your pH and temperature I can give you a link to a calculator. Fill in the numbers and it'll tell you how much is ammonia out of the total. Then you'll know just how much of the toxic form you have, and you'll be able to tailor your water changes accordingly.



Nitrite is easier. Your only fish are platies, and they are salt tolerant. You can use salt to counteract the effects of the nitrite in your tank; ordinary table salt is fine as the amount you need is only small. There is a calculation involved.

First you need the volume of water in the tank. This won't be the same as the total volume of the tank as the filter, decor etc take up some of that volume. Assume the amount of water in the tank is 85% of the total tank volume. Then you need the nitrite level.


The calculation:
Work out 85% of the total tank volume to get the water volume - use litres.

Multiply the nitrite reading by 10
Multiply that by the water volume you calculated above
Multiply that answer by 1.5

The result is the amount of salt in milligrams to add to the tank. Don't add it directly, remove a bit of water from the tank, dissolve the salt in that then pour slowly into the tank.
If you'd find it easier, tell me the nitrite reading next time you test and the amount of water in your tank, and I'll do the calculation for you.

Continue to monitor both ammonia and nitrite. If nitrite goes up, add more salt, but only for the extra amount of nitrite - if it goes up from 0.25 to 1.0, add enough for 0.75.
If you need to do a water change because of the ammonia level, don't add any more salt. Yes you will remove salt during the water change but you'll also remove nitrite. Only add more salt if the nitrite reading goes up.

Once your cycle is finished and both ammonia and nitrite are zero, you'll get rid of the salt by your maintenance water changes.



Don't worry about stressing the fish with water changes, swimming in toxic water is more stressing. You can even do a 95% water change. Provided you add dechlorinator and warm the new water to the same temperature as the tank water, the fish won't come to harm.
Until we know your pH and can use that calculator, you need to get your ammonia reading down below 0.25.













For anyone who wants to know what is behind that salt calculation:
It is actually chloride that counteracts nitrite, and salt is sodium chloride.
The amount of chloride needed to detoxify nitrite is 10 times the amount of nitrite. A nitrite reading of 2ppm (ie 2mg/l) needs 2 x 10 = 20mg chloride per litre. That is part one of the calculation.
The second part is working out how much chloride for the volume of the tank.
The third part - salt is sodium chloride. It is one third sodium, two thirds chloride. Multiplying by 1.5 gives the amount of salt that contains the amount of chloride you need.

Offline Richard W

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2014, 04:55:20 PM »
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You might try not feeding your fish at all for a couple of days. It won't do them any harm and might help the situation.

Overfeeding fish can mean two things :

- feeding them more than is good for them
- feeding them more than they can eat so that excess food reaches the gravel and breaks down there, contributing more ammonia.

The less fish you have, the more difficult it is to judge the correct amount of food.

Ultimately all ammonia comes from the food, whether it passes through the fish first or not ...........

I was wondering how big the tank is. The levels do seem to go up surprisingly quickly as you only have two fish, unless it's a small tank.

Offline fishcake76

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2014, 07:41:40 PM »
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Hi Richard,

I have a 18" x 10" tank, so just under 30 litres.

I only have two platys at the mo (although if George, my male has anything to do with it, it will soon be more!!! :P)  I was feeding them one flake each twice a day and they were not eating it all so a lot of it was sitting on the bottom.  I didn't feed them today until just now when I gave them literally four freeze dried Daphnia which they ate quite quickly.

I have learnt that I have to keep an eye on Peppa, my female, as she is a pig (no pun intended!!) and will chase George away and eat as much as possible in as shorter space of time as she can!!!!

I wonder if it is worth me adding something like Tetra Safe Start as well as doing the water changes and I will definitely add the salt as suggested by Sue when I've checked my PH.

FC

Offline Sue

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2014, 12:27:15 PM »
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30 litres is quite a small tank, it's just slightly bigger than my betta's tank, so both ammonia and nitrite will build up quickly. Reducing feeding as Richard suggested is a good idea. As a very rough guide, a fish's stomach is about the same size as its eye, so the amount to feed is two eye's worth once a day or even once every two days till you have finished cycling. They won't starve to death if they are fed once every two or even three days.



With a tank that size, I would get one more female platy once you have zero ammonia and nitrite. Then stop there. Although the community creator says you can have more fish the problems will start when you have fry. And you will. And it'll be worse when you are able to get a second female. Females drop a batch of fry about every 30 days. If you try to save them all the tank will soon be very overstocked. It sounds cruel but the best thing to do is nothing. All those fry will soon prove too much for your filter in a small tank and you'll start having ammonia/nitrite problems again. Leave the fry in with the adults. Most of them will get eaten but the fish that remain won't suffer overcrowding.

Offline Sue

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2014, 12:31:57 PM »
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Missed the bit about safe start.

From what I understand, that tells you to not do any water changes and to let the levels get quite high. I'm not sure what I'd do. If you use safe start it might help, but not doing water changes could harm the fish. I would be inclined to wait until you know your pH then you can find out just how much of your ammonia is in the toxic form.

Tip for freeze dried live food - put a bit of tank water in a small pot and soak the food for a few minutes before giving it to the fish. Freeze dried food can sometimes rehydrate and swell up inside the fish, especially greedy ones that gobble it up quickly.

Offline fishcake76

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2014, 09:49:44 PM »
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Thanks for tip about freeze dried food. I have read some of the older posts on here and noted how big their tummies are. Peppa definitely eats more than she can manage if given the chance!

Regarding stocking the tank. I had hoped to build a little community with some small tetras, rasboras or barbs, some corys and some shrimp. I have  even toyed with getting a betta (male). I completely see your point though about the risk of overstocking once the fry start arriving. One question though, wouldn't a tank with other adults of other types, ie, tetras or small barbs eat all the fry and control stocking levels that way?? I was fully intending leaving them to be eaten. I had intended to get two same sex fish but forgot to specify when the chap was catching them!!! It didn't cross my mind until were half way home!! I think they should tell you that you have a male and female so you are aware before you leave the shop but I also realise it is the responsibility of the buyer to ask for same sex if they don't want babies!!!

Incidentally my ammonia was 0.5 today any nitrite 0.25 which I was pleased with even though they are still higher than we want.

FC

Offline Sue

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2014, 02:56:37 PM »
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Small fish tanks are a problem when it comes to stocking. I have two 18" w x 10"d x 10.5" h, one is my quarantine tank, the other used to be my betta's tank till I noticed I'd managed to crush a corner so bought him a new tank. They both hold 24 litres of water.

Small tanks are better understocked as if things go wrong, they go badly wrong very quickly. They are also awkward to stock because they are short, and even tiny fish often need a longer tank because they are fast swimmers. And most tiny fish are shoaling fish, so you need at least six of the same species.
I can give you a list of fish suitable for a tank this size, but some are for hard water and some for soft, you need to choose from those that suit your water. You can find out if you have hard or soft water from your water supplier's website, though it might take a bit of searching. Does your kettle fur up, does your showerhead gets lots of limescale? These indicate hard water. If you don't have them your water is probably soft. You would also need to check the temps they need as this does vary from species to species.

Soft to medium water:
Fish of the Boraras genus x 6
ember tetras x 6 - these are deep orange red when they've settled in, I have some
Microdevario kubotai x6 - I have some of these as well
Norman's lampeye, Aplocheilichthys normani x6
Sundadanio axelrodi - very soft water only

Hard water:
Danio erythromicron x6
endlers male only in this size tank

Both:
celestial pearl danios aka galaxy rasboras x6
Aphyosemion striatum a pair.
scarlet badis tricky to feed; a pair or 1 male with several females
One of the dwarf cories habrosus or pygmy or hastatus x6

And of course Siamese fighting fish.


If you didn't have the platies, in a tank this size, I would go for maybe 8 of one of the above shoaling species or perhaps 6 of a mid water swimmer plus 6 of a dwarf cory species. Or 6 of a mid water swimmer and cherry shrimp. That's all.
Or one siamese fighting fish, on his own (or maybe with a snail)

In my 24 inch long, 50 litre tank, I have 9 Sundadanios, 8 pygmy cories and an unknown number of cherry shrimps, and I consider that to be a bit overstocked.


Offline fishcake76

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2014, 04:00:43 PM »
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Hi,

Quick update regarding my tank.

The nitrite/ ammonia situation hasn't really changed. Still have 0 nitrite but 0.5 ammonia. Did take a sample to be tested but didn't take enough and they tested the two I already knew (without checking with me which I wanted doing the most, although I guess they would normally be nitrite and ammonia so I can't blame the shop, hey ho! :P) and confirmed what my tests were showing!!  So still don't know current PH (although I do know we have hard water and last test showed 7.5) or Nitrate readings.

Regarding breeding pairs and oodles of babies I have made some progress. Peppa is now Pedro!!!!!  :o

The MA that we got them from kindly took Peppa back and replaced her with a male.  I was very sad to part with her as she was my favourite :( but I really didn't want the whole fry issue so a tough decision had to be made and she is now back at the shop (but in much better water conditions!!) and Pedro has moved in and is currently have a good old explore and wondering what the hell happened to all the lovely non-toxic water he was living in!!  George was a bit confused I think and followed him around the tank for a while before realising he couldn't mate with him!!   :))

Hopefully now I can stop worrying as much and concentrate on getting my water right.  :)

FC

Offline Sue

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2014, 05:02:49 PM »
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With the API ammonia tester, a lot of people have problems distinguishing between the 0 and 0.25colours, so your 0.5 may not be quite as bad as you thought.

Here is the ammonia calculator Leave the first box set at NH(NH3 + NH4), type 0.5 into the ammonia measurement box, set salinity to zero, type in 7.5 for pH, and whatever your temperature is in the temp box. Then click calculate on the right hand side. The figure you want is the lower of the two boxes, NH3 concentration.
If that box shows 0.02 or lower, that is safe even for the most sensitive fish, and anything below 0.05 is fine for most fish. If the box shows above 0.05 (and yes I do mean 0.05) then you need to do a water change.

Offline fishcake76

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2014, 07:04:02 PM »
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Thanks for that calculator Sue. My NH3 concentration is 0.0083 ppm so I'm guessing that's ok then?? :)

I'll still wait for my home tests to read 0 before adding anymore fish but that is a weight off my mind!!

Thanks Sue - hero member status definitely deserved!! ;)

FC

Offline Sue

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2014, 07:11:23 PM »
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That's good, your fish should be fine with that.

Offline fishcake76

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2014, 09:53:29 AM »
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How-do peeps!

 :D My Tank - The story so far:

fishless cycle for 3 weeks using the Inter-pet aquarium start up set. Nitrites get stuck at 0.5 so buy two platys to 'speed things up'. Am advised to water change and test for Ammonia (by the wonderful Sue). Ammonia is at 2ppm Nitrates at 1ppm.  Another water change and reduce feeding, re test and ammonia 1 and nitrates 0.25.

Platys turn out to be male and female so in an effort to stop my tank becoming full of babies I return female to shop and exchange for male.  Re-test water and ammonia 0.25 and nitrates 0.

New male platy is very territorial and chases existing male relentlessly. Decide to get a couple more males to even the playing field.  ???

Re-test water after a couple of days = ammonia 2ppm, nitirite 0.  :( Worry a bit and get some ammo-lock as temporary measure while tank adjusts to increased ammonia.

This was 7 days ago and during the last 7 days my ammonia has risen to 3ppm and my nitrites are still 0.  Have done 80% water change this morning and ammonia now 1ppm and nitrites still 0.  :(

I was advised by two different shops (PAH and MA) that water changes were not a good idea because you end up chucking any good bacteria down the plug hole so didn't do any water changes in last 7 days and ammonia just kept on climbing.

Was also advised by said shops to increase amount of filter start (of which I have added 1ml every other day since start) and so have been adding 2mls every day until two days ago when I chucked in 5ml in the hope something miraculous might occur!! :P

I am feeding once every other day. Am keeping the aquarium lights off (as I believe the bacteria grows better in the dark) and am using ammo-lock as instructed on bottle and adding 5ml filter start every day.

I am supposing that the addition of two new fish has increased the load on the tank and that my ammonia eaters are playing catch up, which could take some time as they weren't quite ready for the increase anyway!? :-[ 

Is there anything else I can do to get rid of the damn ammonia???

Suggestions on a post card to: idiot fish keeper with small tank!!!!   :vcross:

FC

Offline ColinB

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #13 on: March 07, 2014, 10:21:10 AM »
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Dear Idiot Fishkeeper With A Small Tank  ;)

Sorry to hear things are stressful. One way to relieve the stress would be to go into both those LFS and beat the cr@p out of the staff who gave you that advice. I find that very theraputic when stress levels build up.

Keep doing those water changes.... you must keep the ammonia as low as possible. The useful bugglies live in the filter media (and some in the gravel etc), they're most definitely not free swimmers. There will be enough ammonia being produced and moving through the filters with your platys pooing like only platies can.

Hope this helps the stress levels....... after the random acts of violence in the fish shops, of course.

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Offline Sue

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2014, 10:23:22 AM »
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The shops saying not to do water changes shows they do not understand these bacteria. You won't be throwing the bacteria away as they do not live free in water. The live attached quite firmly to the biofilm that coats every surface in the tank, but they grow mainly in the filter as the conditions in there suit them best (lots of flowing water bringing food and oxygen, in the dark, and lots of surface area in the media for the biofilm to cover)

If they meant you would be throwing away the bacteria that were added from a bottle, that isn't true either. Well, it's true in the sense that you'd throw away whatever it was you added, but that would probably be dead bacteria and the wrong species of nitrite eating bacteria (if it was anything other than Tetra Safe Start) so you won't be losing anything important.
Tetra Safe Start is the only bottled bacteria product easily available in the UK that contains the right species of nitrite eating bacteria. All the others contain the wrong one because Tetra (and Dr Tim's One & Only in the US) hold the patent for products containing the right bacteria and none of the others are allowed to use them.
And even with TSS, if the bottle has been stored incorrectly at any time between manufacture and your tank, the bacteria will be dead. If the contents of the lorry got too cold, or the warehouse got too hot, for example, that would be enough to kill the bacteria.


The only way to get rid of the ammonia is by water changes, I'm afraid. Adding more fish didn't help though as you doubled the amount of ammonia going into the tank.

Offline jesnon

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2014, 12:47:04 PM »
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Hi fishcake.  Sorry to see it looks like you've been poorly advised by your local fish shops! After my time here I take what fish shops tell me with a pinch of salt and come back here to check the facts! Sue is the guru for all things cycling related and got me and my little tank through my fish less cycle.  Unfortunately I've heard small tanks are actually much harder work than larger tanks in the cycling and keeping your tank happy! Still mine has fingers crossed settled down again now after my city move!

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Offline fishcake76

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Re: Nitrite and ammonia levels
« Reply #16 on: March 07, 2014, 02:38:33 PM »
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I've done another water change and my ammonia is now 0.5ppm. Nitrates still 0.

I know I was displaying incredible muppetry to get more fish Sue but poor George was either doing circuits of the tank or trying to blend in with the back ground in an effort to get away from Peppa.  :fishy1: <- (love him!!!)

I should just explain that originally we had Peppa (female) and George, then Peppa became Pedro (male).  We then got Goldie and another platy and Pedro became Peppa again (still male) and the other fish became Pedro!!!!   Are you with me?!?!?!

Now Pedro chases everyone, Peppa still chases George and George and Goldie have formed a secret alliance and don't attack anyone but I am expecting to get up one day and find Pedro and Peppa bound up in weed on the bottom of the tank!!!  I have seen Golding teaching George how to plait it into ropes!!!!!  :)) :))

I'll keep doing those water changes!!!  Oh, and I'll make sure I casually, accidentally barge into certain members of staff at said shops inflicting only minimal injuries!!!  ;)

FC

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