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Old 05-07-2013, 08:53 PM   #1 
NTSimplicity
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Exclamation Cannot get ammonia down!

Hi! I'm new to the forum and to Betta Fish care. I've been creeping on this forum since I got my guy at the beginning of April, and I've learned so much (primarily that the people at the fish store should be ashamed of themselves). I've finally gotten myself into an issue that I haven't been able to resolve on my own with research, so I know it's time to reach out to you fine folks for help. Sorry in advance, my story might be a long one, but I'm hoping the more information you have the better able you'll be to help.

I purchased our 5.5 gallon tank, decorations, filter/heater/light/etc. plus our Betta Ming Ming, a Serpae Tetra (Twitch), and a mystery snail (Tuck) all on the same day - no mention of cycling the tank, so I set everything up and within 2 hours everyone was in their new home.

Twitch got sick overnight about 1 week after he came home with us. I'm not sure what it was, he became lethargic and stopped swimming very quickly. I took him out and put him in a bowl to watch him the second I noticed something was wrong, in order to try to prevent Ming Ming from getting sick. Twitch died the same day.

About 2 weeks later, the tank got very cloudy/yellowish, although I had just changed and tested the water two days before. I wasn't sure what was going on, so I left it for the day. Then I noticed Ming Ming was developing pop eye, and within 24 hours it was full blown in both eyes. I panicked, and I'm pretty sure this is where I made my mistake. I did a 90% water change and changed the filter (stupid), then started treating with Mardel Maracyn and Maracyn 2. Did that for a week, and his eyes got better.

All the while I was doing weekly water tests and everything was good. Nothing out of the ordinary, ammonia was 0, feeling like I was getting the hang of it....then the ammonia indicator was suddenly at caution.

I immediately began doing 50% water changes, first once a day and then twice a day. There is no change - it doesn't go down, but it doesn't go up either. I've been doing twice a day changes for 3 days, testing once a day at least. Today I also tested my tap water and conditioned water for ammonia just in case, both came back at 0. My tank is consistently at .25. I don't think this is toxic, but is is approaching stressful since it's been days at the same level?

My tank now just contains Ming Ming, Tuck, a live anubias plant, two small decorations and a large piece of diftwood for him to hide and rest in (I'm attempting to post a picture). I keep the water at 80 degrees.

The latest readings are:
Nitrate: 10
Nitrite: 0
Hardness: 120
Alkalinity 180
pH: 7.5
Ammonia: .25

I have been using 5 in 1 test strips (shame ), because I haven't been able to find anything else - except Ammonia, I'm using the API Test Kit for that.

I was feeding Ming Ming 3 pellets twice a day with no issues for the first 4 weeks (also gave him an occasional freeze dried bloodworm and golden pearls for a treat). Since this happened, I cut him back to one pellet twice a day. He seems in great health - no issues with his fins, looks good, his eyes are good (a little cloudiness in one eye remaining, but I read that can happen after pop eye), his energy is still very high. He's always been very active - comes out to say hi, follows me around the tank, he even comes over to my hand when I reach in the tank for something.

So my question - am I doing the right thing, or is there some other solution I should explore? I'm concerned because I'm going on a family vacation in 5 days, and I'm not sure I can find someone to keep up the water changes while I'm gone. I bought some AmmoniaSafe but haven't put it in, as I've read mixed reviews. Any help/advice you can offer would be appreciated.

Thank you for making it all the way to the end!
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Old 05-07-2013, 09:47 PM   #2 
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I'd do a gravel vac for your main water changes and use prime straight to the tank to eliminate ammonia. Prime is safe but make sure to calculate dosage. a moss ball can help too!
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Old 05-07-2013, 09:53 PM   #3 
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Cycles can be weird. Seems like you interrupted yours, but not completely, when you switched filters.

Here is what can help:

1. I assume by "ammonia indicator" you mean one of those wheel looking things. If so, my understanding is that they (and the strips) are inaccurate. Test once a day with the API liquid kit, and act based on those readings.

2. .25 may be as low as you can get with your tap water, at this point in your restarting cycle. It's not terrible. Not desirable, but that may be all you can get right now. If it goes to .5, then you have to get it down.

3. You can double dose Prime. I have heard mixed opinions on whether ammonium (what Prime makes ammonia into) shows up on the API test. For safety's sake, let's say it doesn't, and you do have a .25 level. Double dosing may help.

4. You can age the water. My tap has ammonia, so my water stands for a few hours (4-6) before it goes in the tank. Agitating it helps also. Then I does Prime and add it to the tank.

5. You can stuff that tank full of live plants. Even with ammonia in my tap water, my cycled tanks never register any. All of them are heavily planted, with about 75% of the substrate covered when you look down into the tank. Plants, especially fast growing ones and floaters, are total ammonia and nitrite and nitrate hogs. Fish also love them.

And tetras, like many fish, need a school to be happy. But that is a different issue.

Hope thus helps! It is all just things I have worked out with my tanks.
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Old 05-08-2013, 06:06 AM   #4 
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Note: I am a beginner, also. Pretty tank and fish!

I was reading about ammonia the other day and using Prime (which I use). I read that even after dosing with Prime, your ammonia indicator will register ammonia. Prime apparently converts the toxic type of ammonia to a safer derivative (please, someone, weigh in to explain this more precisely--does the liquid API Master Test Kit know the difference?)

Hate to send you off on another research trip, but I'm not actually qualified to speak on it except to say, "I read that..." A search for ammonia and Prime bettafish.com might reveal those many threads I had sorted through on this...(I usually have more luck Google searching it than using the search engine here for some reason.) But hopefully the mention here will prompt one of our "Jedis" to chime in. It was one of them who mentioned the SeaChem ammonia alert to me as a recommendation for the situation in my tank, and so far as I can tell it has worked accurately for me.

After enjoying several worry-free weeks with our fish, I'm experiencing a slight fin rot issue with my fish right now even in a well-maintained 10 gallon with proper water changes. So as I'm wondering about ammonia in my source water, too, I'll be another learner here on this thread as well. Thanks for posting.

Since you're on a bit of a schedule with your upcoming trip approaching, if you don't get the answers you need here soon enough, you can PM one of the moderators as well.
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Old 05-08-2013, 08:15 AM   #5 
NTSimplicity
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Thanks! Responses....

Thanks for the speedy reply all. Here are some responses:

Agent13: When I do the water changes I vaccum each time, so 2x per day right now (that sucker is pretty clean). I will check out a moss ball and Prime.

VJM: The ammonia indicator I use as an warning system, but I don't rely on it - I always test with the liquid test kit, which has been giving me the .25 results. I tested the tap water, which was at 0 which is why I'm baffled. Also I do age the water, for 12 hours. Been doing the water changes when my son goes up for a bath in the evening and after I send him off to day care in the morning. I like the suggestions for more plants, I'll check that out.

So .25 isn't deadly but needs to be monitored, which is what I was hoping (don't want my guys in immediate danger). Any other suggestions, something else I might try? Anyone have experience with AmmoniaSafe? (The kind I purchased look like tablets that fizz when dropped in the water.) Thanks again!
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Old 05-08-2013, 08:19 AM   #6 
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Also, I was heartbroken about the Tetra - I really wish I had done more research, but I assumed the people at the fish store were giving me good advice (little did I know what I didn't know, ya know?). I purchased them from an actual fish place, not a general pet store. Oh well, lesson learned. RIP little guy.
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Old 05-08-2013, 08:32 AM   #7 
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you should test the ph of your water after it has been in the tank for 48 hours as well, trapped co2 and other gases can have an effect on the ph test, ph is not as important but it can kill fish if it is too high or too low
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Old 05-08-2013, 09:46 AM   #8 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NTSimplicity View Post
Also, I was heartbroken about the Tetra - I really wish I had done more research, but I assumed the people at the fish store were giving me good advice (little did I know what I didn't know, ya know?). I purchased them from an actual fish place, not a general pet store. Oh well, lesson learned. RIP little guy.
I really don't get what is up with fish stores. Any other business would fail if it handed out such poor advice.

I just got through with a fish-in cycle (oh, the horror), and there were a few days right before everything went to 0-0-0 when I could not get the ammonia under .25 without seriously stressing out the fish. I monitored it, and ended up doing every other day 50% changes. He is fine. It is obviously not optimal, especially long term, but as a brief phase in the cycle I did not have any lasting effects.
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Old 05-23-2013, 05:07 PM   #9 
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Update

I wanted to give an update: Before I left for vacation I purchased a few more plants and a moss ball, started using Prime, and taught my father how to do water changes so he could keep those up while I was gone.

I am happy to report that Ming Ming and Tuck are just fine and the ammonia level is back down to zero.

Thanks to everyone for your advice and support!
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