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Old 09-01-2013, 03:16 PM   #1 
NorthernLights
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Question Cycling with High Tap Water Ammonia

Ok, so I did a water test yesterday on Odysseus' tank (I'm now in a different town than before, still hard water with high Ph) and the results were very odd...

ph 6.4, Ammonia 0.5, Nitrate 0.0, Nitrite 0.0.

I really freaked out because I had not done my water changes the way I normally do (3 gallon, filtered). Instead of 50% mid week and 100% weekend, I had been doing frequent (every 2-3 days, sometimes every day) 33% changes, scooped from the top, not siphoned off the bottom. I've also been feeding OO flakes at night, and some of them sink before Odysseus gets to them, had to rinse them off the silk plants. I use a mixture of Prime and StressCoat+ for conditioning my water.

The odd thing was, Odysseus' fins were not worse for wear, and he's a very sensitive fish when it comes to ammonia. I was also weirded out by the low ph of the water. I did some testing of the tap water and discovered the ph is 8.2 (so I am not sure why it took a dive in my tank), but the tap water reading for ammonia is 0.5!!! I had not done any water change in 2 days at this point.

The only guess I can make, therefore, is that the BB are doing something to keep ammonia down, since the ammonia level was at the same level as the tap water despite old food, etc, and the nitrates and nitrites are zero. But how can I tell if my tank is fully cycled if the ammonia is non-zero (since the Prime is converting it to ammonium)? Can a small tank cycle with that much ammonia in the tap water? Are my nitrate and nitrite readings correct, or is my tank not cycling at all now?

Thank you!
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Old 09-01-2013, 05:46 PM   #2 
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I thought a fully cycled tank would read 0, 0, and >20 after 24 hours (of no water changes) even with high ammonia tap water.

It doesn't sound like you're cycled, especially with your nitrite and nitrate readings at 0, even if it was partially cycled, you'd have numbers in one or both of those columns. Maybe it's crashed due to the high ammonia?

I know there's debate as to whether or not a tank that small can even be cycled...I haven't tried it, so I can't give any info on that one. I know the people who say that it can be use sponge filters, and I'd assume you'd need either lots of plants to help buffer the cycle, or plenty of gravel, decorations, and a pretty big sponge to hold enough BB's to make the cycle work. I wish I could remember who it was who does it successfully...I know it was a guy, and he's the Sponge Filter advocate. :) It was a few months ago, and there was a lot of back and forth about small tank cycling and sponge filters. Maybe do a search?

I know that they're also not sure exactly how Prime works...and that part of changing the ammonia to ammonium can sometimes involve a pH change (like if you have high pH it changes to ammonium more quickly, or maybe vice versa, I can't remember, but there's a link there)...and maybe the Prime is doing something with that?

As for your boy not being affected by the high ammonia, I'd say it's the Prime keeping him safe. Are you adding it every two days? I've read that it's only effective for 24 to 48 hours before the ammonium starts going back into ammonia.

Can you afford a bigger tank? If it was me I'd just try to upgrade to a 5 or 10g. You can usually get just a plain tank for under 20$, and your current filter and heater would probably work for the new tank as well. This way you can just leave your boy in his current house, and do a fishless cycle in the big tank with enough gravel/plants/filter media to definitely hold a cycle and you're good to go. Since you've already got the ammonia in your tap water, you don't even need to add anything in there, just do a regular fishless cycle.

Not sure if I was helpful at all...but maybe I was able to provide some info at least? :) Good luck to you!! :)
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Old 09-02-2013, 05:52 AM   #3 
rickey
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Originally Posted by NorthernLights View Post
The odd thing was, Odysseus' fins were not worse for wear, and he's a very sensitive fish when it comes to ammonia. I was also weirded out by the low ph of the water. I did some testing of the tap water and discovered the ph is 8.2 (so I am not sure why it took a dive in my tank), but the tap water reading for ammonia is 0.5!!! I had not done any water change in 2 days at this point.

Thank you!
Bio-acidification
The process in which bacteria transform ammonia/ammonium into nitrite, produces unstable nitrous acid (HNO2) "Nitration," in which nitrite is then oxidized into nitrate, partly chemically, by dissolved oxygen in the water, but mostly by bacterial metabolisms, produces a more stable product, nitric acid. Released nitric and nitrous acids react with the carbonate buffering, the pH

Clark's process
Soft tapwater combined with high pH can be an obscure, counter-intuitive headache for some fishkeepers living in areas where municipal water originates as groundwater drawn from limestone aquifers. In such waters, when the sum of dissolved calcium and magnesium exceeds about 150 ppm, municipal water boards resort to a water-softening technique called the "lime/soda" method in order to precipitate some of the minerals,
As lime is added to raw water, the pH is raised and the equilibrium of carbonate species in the water is shifted. Dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) is changed into bicarbonate (HCO3-). This action causes calcium carbonate to precipitate due to exceeding the solubility product. Additionally, magnesium can be precipitated as magnesium hydroxide in a double displacement reaction

So there are two possible reasons why but with a kH and gH test kits there is no way to tell


Rick
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Old 09-02-2013, 06:32 AM   #4 
Hallyx
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First of all, thanks to Rickey for that lucid explanation of bio-acidification. As for Clark’s process, does the calcium carbonate actually precipitate out of the water and lie on the bottom? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of adding lime in the first place? What am I not seeing?

Northern Lights, if you really have 6.5pH virtually all of your ammonia exists as ammonium. That sounds nice and safe, but as soon as you add/change >7.2 pH water your ammonium changes to free ammonia almost instantly. How much depends on the amount of change. Not good for fish. That's one reason to use Prime (2-drops/gal of tank size) with pwc's. Low pH water is also hard to cycle (the nitrifying bacteria like it >7.2).

Making large water changes with 8.2 pH (tap) into 6.5pH (tank) courts pH shock. EG: A 50% change raises the pH 0.8 points, near the maximum recommended. In other words keep your changes small and frequent.

Test a sample of your tapwater pH every 24hours and record the pH drift. Shake a sample vigorously and record the change. and Let us know what your pH really is. And your GH and KH as well.

Zero change in ammonia after only a few days is not unusual. You can tell if your tank is cycled if you read a rise in nitrate over time. As you know zero readings in ammonia and nitrite can indicate either it is or it isn't yet.

How much of your ammonia reading is free ammonia and how much is ammonium depends in the pH and, to a lesser extent on the temperature. Here’s a chart to show what I mean. See if it answers some of your question, If not, ask again. It’s something I’m sure you’ll want to understand.

CNYKOI - Ammonia calculator

Prime works by adding an hydrogen ion to the ammonia molecule (NH3) which changes it to ammonium (NH4). It gets this ion from the water. At low pH, it stays NH4. At higher pH the water wants it back, so it reverts to ammonia. The higher the pH, the faster it goes back. That's why Prime is said to work for 24 to 48 hours, quite a wide range.

Sponge filters are cheap, easy and reliable. (Want the sponge filter thread?) But there are other ways of ensuring enough area for the nitrifying bacteria. I use a Hagen mini internal filter in my 2.5g tank. It has a very small filter foam. I added just a little bit more. My Anubias in there doesn't eat much ammonia. But this tank is well-established and securely cycled with one not-overfed wild Betta.

Last edited by Hallyx; 09-02-2013 at 06:39 AM.
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Old 09-02-2013, 08:14 AM   #5 
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Thanks for the replies!

I currently have an undergravel filter in that tank. I am planning to upgrade both of my boys to 5 gallon tanks when I move again (another month or so) with sponge filters and bare bottoms. For now, I'm trying to get by with what I've got...

I hear you on the Prime. I use that as my main conditioner, I just add a bit of StressCoat+ as well. Actually, in the last week I had added Prime-conditioned water only.

I had done a complete water change before I posted (100%, and I did both a tank water rinse and a slight new water rinse (with conditioned water), plus I added some Quick Start to the gravel after it was back in the tank. I didn't mean to leave flakes in the tank, I only found them when I pulled the silk plants out for cleaning. Normally Odysseus is a little vaccuum, but I think the flakes aren't as much to his liking (even less so than NLS, but he loves OO pellets. Galahad, of course, won't swallow pellets of wither brand, but does eat crushed flakes) BTW, I always put new water through a Brita filter before adding Prime and putting it in my tank, not sure if that makes a difference.

I do not have water tests for GH and KH, nor have I seen them for sale (I use the API Master Freshwater Test Kit). Where would I get those?
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Old 09-02-2013, 08:19 AM   #6 
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Great posts you guys!
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Old 09-02-2013, 09:14 AM   #7 
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I don't have anything complicated to add, but my tap water reads 0.5ppm ammonia, and within an hour after a water change in my cycled tank the ammonia reads 0ppm.
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Old 09-02-2013, 11:26 AM   #8 
rickey
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Originally Posted by Hallyx View Post
First of all, thanks to Rickey for that lucid explanation of bio-acidification. As for Clark’s process, does the calcium carbonate actually precipitate out of the water and lie on the bottom? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of adding lime in the first place? What am I not seeing?
With the Clark's process your tap water come to you with near 0 kH and 0 gh as most all the calcium and magnesium carbonates (reduces mineral deposits) have been precipitate out at the water treatment plant and replace by bicarbonate (HCO3-) this drives the the pH to 8.2 (Reduces corrosion) were it is self limiting but also makes the pH very unstable and small changes in acidity of the water send the pH crashing down. This makes water treated by Clarks process unsuitable for aquariums or in the very least very hard to manage.
You are spot on with small frequent water changes till he figures out if it is simply bio-acidification or a result of Clark's process.

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Old 09-03-2013, 07:56 AM   #9 
Hallyx
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Strong cycle, Jamie. Your fish is drinking better water than you (except for the DOCs),
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Old 09-03-2013, 07:02 PM   #10 
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Strong cycle, Jamie. Your fish is drinking better water than you (except for the DOCs),
Yeah, that's the tank I was killing with kindness during the nitrite spike by doing multiple daily water changes which just added ammonia and made the nitrite even higher. But I guess once it finally caught up it built up stronger.

To the OP, all the other stuff about pH is over my head, but ammonia in the tap water is such a pain. But IME once your tank finally gets a handle on it you're in really good shape. It's annoying to have your fresh water be toxic to your fish.
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