Originally Posted by Hallyx
The debris is not causing the ammonia readings, per se.
It sounds like your nitrite-eating nitrate-producing bacteria are doing their job but you ammonia-eating nitrite-producing bacteria are weak. Are you radically siphoning the mulm and debris out of your gravel? What kind of filter are you running? How long has your tank been cycled?
It seems to me that you need more area for your bacteria colony, or more filter flow to feed the bacteria.
Of course you know that 0.0ppm, 0.0ppm, and >10ppm are ideal readings for a cycled tank.
Well, my tank was fully cycled as of mid April. In August, I moved back on campus (well, to an apartment complex close to campus) and I was instructed by a few users that the best way to transport my tank would be to drain most of the water from the tank, leaving enough to keep the substrate and biomedia wet at all times. That's exactly what I did, but when I set my tank back up, I had an ammonia reading of .25 the very next day. That said, there's also ammonia (.25) in my tap water. However, after asking around, I learned that my tank was going through a mini cycle and it was evident because I usually have a reading of 0/0/5 (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate, respectively) and then i had .25/0/0. NOW, as mentioned in my first post, I have .25/0/5.
At the time of the completion of the cycle and the move, I was using an Aqua-Tech 5-15 filter. However, since it was too strong for my betta even with a baffle, I've recently switched over to an Aquaclear 20. I took the filter media from the old filter and put it in the new one, though. I ended up having to cut it to make it fit, but the pieces that I cut off are buried in the substrate. So in addition to the old filter media, there's a brand new filter sponge and biomax cubes (and carbon but I'm not sure if that's relevant), but I plan on replacing those with another sponge when my tank stabilizes again.
As for siphoning, I mostly try to get out all the excess gross that my mystery snail makes, but I do tend to focus most of my cleaning in the gravel because there's a lot of debris in there and I feel like it's starting to get a little out of hand.