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Old 06-01-2012, 03:08 PM   #1 
RainbowSocks
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Activated Carbon and Surfactant

Hi, newbie here! :P

So, I'm attempting to cycle a 10 gal and bought some clearly labeled "pure ammonia." However, upon getting it home and getting the ammonia level up to ~5ppm, my tank would have impressed any toddler playing during their bubble bath. Seriously, there were like 3 inches of foam on top of my tank. Heavy sigh. So I emptied as much water as I could, rinsed off all of the fake plants/decorations (left the real ones, though--they were hard to plant!), and rinsed out the filter. I have an Aquatech 5-15 filter that has about one tablespoon of activated carbon in it.

I did a wee bit of reading online--and it seemed activated carbon can remove some surfactants from water under the right conditions... so I tied a Brita filter under the outflow in hopes of helping. (Probability of making a difference: very low.)

Even though I added Jungle Start Zyme, my sole purpose right now is to get all that surfactant out. The ammonia is down to .5ppm, nitrogens are 0, and pH (which fluctuates because my water is super soft) is 7.6. Oh, and my tank has been up for approximately... *checks watch* 45 hours. The ammonia/surfactant was cycling for about 12 hours (overnight) before I realized I had a suds problem. The foam has yet to reestablish itself... which is good, right?

So, in the end, I'm looking for advice/recommendations to help get rid of the surfactant. (That was a long-winded way of saying that, huh?)
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Old 06-02-2012, 12:22 AM   #2 
N03113
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Water changes all the way - If you don't anything in the tank now, remove all the water for a 100% change, and you might want to wash out your substrate - use hot hot water. For the live plants, need to be rinsed with cool water.

If you're not getting any foaming now, that's good - but you could still have some of the soap in it, just not enough to make it foam.. You could do frequent water changes...
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:10 AM   #3 
Hallyx
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Ouch. You found out about surfactants the hard way. It's really difficult to find "pure" ammonia. I would take them to task about this. Please tell us where you got that ammonia, as a way of warning other members. Thanks.

And for others reading this: Shake the bottle to check for foaming surfactants.

Because pure NH3 is so hard to find, several of us have taken to using expensive Dr.Tim's ammonia from either Amazon ([ame=http://www.amazon.com/DrTims-Aquatics-Ammonium-chloride-Aquarium/dp/B006MP4QG6/ref=sr_1_1?s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1333591202&sr=1-1]Amazon.com: DrTim's Aquatics Ammonium chloride for Aquarium: Pet Supplies[/ame]) or Foster &Smith.

NO3113 really knows her plants and tank discipline. If she says to break it down, I'd follow her advice.

That really sucks. Tell us how this all comes out.

Welcome to the forum.
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Old 06-02-2012, 06:26 AM   #4 
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OK, I reread NO3113's advice to you. And it was not to panic and break-down the tank. Running 5.0ppm ammonia for cycling purposes will go a long way to flushing out the surfactants. It's up to you, RS.
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Old 06-02-2012, 12:47 PM   #5 
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well I would personally break it down and make sure everything is 100% free of any soap.

but, after a few 100% water changes, I'm sure things should be okay.

Ace Hardware is one of the only places I could find pure ammonia in my area without the surfactant. I got a small bottle of it, and I pretty much only used like... maybe a few tablespoons when all was said and done. So it will last you.
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Old 06-02-2012, 12:49 PM   #6 
RainbowSocks
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I was afraid I'd have to break the whole thing down... would it be okay to leave it up 'til Monday when I'm off work and have some time? So far the plants are doing pretty good. :/

I was using Al's Totally Awesome Pure Ammonia from the dollar store. A quick google search confirmed my suspicions that it had surfactants in it, based on other people's aquarium mishaps. It doesn't have an ingredients label so I just went by the name. I've also heard ACE has some pure ammonia. It's across town (20 minute drive min.), so if I can wait 'til Monday, that'd be good.

Thank you guys for your advice! There's so many conflicting things on the interwebz-from don't worry about it to throw away the whole tank.
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Old 06-02-2012, 01:19 PM   #7 
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Yeah as long as there aren't any fish in it. I don't think you need to throw away the whole tank.. just needs some hot hot water and rinsing to make sure all the contaminants are gone. Most plants are fairly resistant, but keep an eye for any damages to the leaves or melting.

what type of substrate are you using? If gravel, should be easy to just boil it. If sand, just lots of rinsing... if you are using a mineral rich aqua soil - I recommend just replacing it if you can. At this point it's not really the water that is worrysome, it's if any of the soap chems are clinging to any of the surfaces in your tank - even in trace amounts could be bad and you don't want any of it to be hiding in the substrate and leach out into the water later. Also, if you were running a filter - clean all your filter media with hot hot water and the filter itself.

don't worry about killing any good bacteria cause you want to cycle it using the non soapy ammonia. (a little goes a long way with that ammonia too!)
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Old 06-03-2012, 03:11 AM   #8 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by N03113 View Post
At this point it's not really the water that is worrysome, it's if any of the soap chems are clinging to any of the surfaces in your tank - even in trace amounts ...
Would this also inhibit the growth of the nitrifying bacteria, by coating the surfaces that they need to cover?
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Old 06-03-2012, 03:51 PM   #9 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hallyx View Post
Would this also inhibit the growth of the nitrifying bacteria, by coating the surfaces that they need to cover?
That I'm not sure of.
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Old 06-08-2012, 03:45 PM   #10 
RainbowSocks
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Whew. Tank has been boiled/rinsed/scrubbed/etc. Let it sit and get back up to 78 degrees over the last couple days. Added ammonia today. Here's to attempt number 2. :)
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