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Old 02-17-2014, 12:50 PM   #1 
JessiesGill
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Question Ammonia in tap water - how much Prime is safe

I just got the API Ammonia test kit on Friday and was shocked to see the reading from my 2.5 gal, filtered tank was around 2. I've been doing 50%-60% PWC every 2 - 3 days, so I expected a better result. As a control, I tested my tap water and it showed an ammonia level of about .5. That seems alarming, since I read that a water change should be done any time the tank reads over .25. I keep a bucket of treated water on hand for changes, so I tested the treated water. (I had been using Stress Coat as my water conditioner, but on Friday I switched to Prime.) It still read close to .5. I added a second dose of Prime to the bucket, at 2 drops per gallon, to test the ammonia again. The reading was slightly improved, but still not below .25. I took a small cup (about 6 oz) of the treated water, added 2 drops of Prime, and tested again, and got close to .25. The test kit is has an expiration date of 2018, and the Prime bottle was new and sealed when I got it Friday. I live in a large city where the water comes from reservoir lakes and is treated, measured, etc. According to the city, our water is neither hard nor soft.

I'd love your opinions on my water chemistry, and what I should do to keep the tank safe for my Betta. Why does my tap water show such a high ammonia level? Could there be a problem with my testing kit? If the test is not flawed, how much Prime is safe to add to my tank? I've read the standard is 2 drops per gallon, but according to my tests, it isn't making much of a difference. I certainly don't want to panic and add too much chemical to his water. BTW, Axl is active and seems to me to be in good health. We almost lost him in December, and he made a very fast recovery, but that story is for another thread.
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Old 02-17-2014, 12:56 PM   #2 
MattsBettas
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Prime can be safely dosed to 5x the normal amount. However, the reason you are still seeing ammonia on your test is because though the prime made it safe, the ammonia is still there, just locked up in a different molecule. It trips the test but is safe for the fish.

When people have ammonia in their tap water I recommend using prime and cycling the tank (I recommend that for everyone, but it's especially important when the source water is dangerous). The prime will keep the water safe for 24-48 hours after a water change, while the biological filtration has time to neutralize the ammonia.
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Old 02-17-2014, 05:20 PM   #3 
JessiesGill
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattsBettas View Post
Prime can be safely dosed to 5x the normal amount. However, the reason you are still seeing ammonia on your test is because though the prime made it safe, the ammonia is still there, just locked up in a different molecule. It trips the test but is safe for the fish.
Thank you. Now I understand why my test results didn't change. I'm glad to know that the Prime will keep the water safe for my fish. For now, does it make sense to continue with 50% PWC every 2 days, and add 5 drops (2/gal) of Prime directly into the tank on the days between water changes? (I forgot to mention, I use a siphon every time. It keeps the gravel pretty and is easier to do than using a cup. Plus, I read that ammonia sinks, so I am removing the more ammonia-dense water. Correct me if this is ill-advised.)

I would LOVE to get my tank cycled. I've been reading the threads here on cycling and filters, and I am beginning to understand. I got my tank in December, when I started reading this forum. It is an Aqueon 2.5 gal Minibow (no divider). I've been using the filter (power filter?) that it came with, which hangs inside the tank. It has a carbon pack across the top of it. I guess my tank will never cycle with this type of filter, or it would have been cycled by now. The more I read about sponge filters, the more confused I get. I see you have to get an air pump and figure out where to put it. Maybe some pictures of how they work in practice would help, because I don't understand from the descriptions of the products. Even after reading some of the sponge filter threads here, I am not sure what all I need for my little tank, or (more importantly) how to put it together.

Would something like this http://www.amazon.com/Hagen-Elite-Un..._cd_al_qh_dp_t work without having to rig up a sponge filter/pump system? Do you think its "foam filter insert" would be adequate enough to cycle my tank? (Tank has 1 Betta only. I don't plan to use live plants, as I have 2 black thumbs.)
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Old 02-17-2014, 05:27 PM   #4 
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How long have you had that tank? I have the same one for my mom's betta and we got it to cycle. I did cheat and use Tetra SafeStart, but before I left for school and left it in her care it had been giving steady readings for nearly six months. So it can be done, if you're not replacing the filter pads (The filter companies just want your money when they say to replace every month).
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Old 02-17-2014, 07:43 PM   #5 
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I bought the tank on December 11 and put the fish in it that day, so it's been in use for over 9 weeks now. I have never replaced the filter pad. Thanks to posts on this forum, I learned that replacing the pad would prevent cycling. I do swish it in old tank water every two weeks or so. It looks nice and dirty now, but the grime is concentrated on one area of the pad. I was thinking that the carbon in the pad may be preventing enough of a good colony to start the cycle. I haven't tried SafeStart or similar item. I'm thinking I should replace the filter first (to more easily sustain the cycle) and then I'll get SS and see if I can jump start this thing.

Or, do you think replacing that carbon pad with some filter sponge, cut to size, would do the trick? That filter doesn't take up too much swimming space, and the current seems to be fairly gentle. He can swim with no trouble, hover motionless beside the intake, and he seems to enjoy chasing his pellets when the current sweeps them away (like catching live bugs). The only problem I have with the filter is that it isn't a sponge filter.
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Old 02-17-2014, 08:26 PM   #6 
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Hmm, it's odd that a tank hasn't cycled in nine weeks. Can you bring some water to a pet store and have them test it? (Ask for the specific numbers, not just if it's "okay" or "fine") It might be your test kit giving weird results.

As far as I know carbon won't stop a cycle, and it gets used up after a few weeks anyway. I did have the same problem with the filter only really hitting one area of the pad, it really is a big design flaw. I think replacing it with a sponge would be a great idea, or I'm pretty sure you can remove the entire filter from the frame altogether. I don't know much about the filter that you linked in your last reply, but I might be able to help answer your questions about sponge filters if you're interested in them.

If you decide to use TSS, a word of advice: Prime will mess with the solution rendering it useless, so you'll want to wait a day after your last water change to add it, and a few days before your next. I'm not sure if it's a Tetra-specific problem, so I always advise waiting a day before adding any cycle product to be safe.
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Old 02-17-2014, 10:43 PM   #7 
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How sponge filters work:



The smaller tube is connected to the air pump.

There's not really anything special about them, they just provide a simple habitat for nitrifying bacteria.
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Old 02-18-2014, 01:50 AM   #8 
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Rana, I'll ask the pet stores if they do water tests. I have a PetCo, a PetSmart, and an independent LPS all in my part of town. I still find it hard to believe that my city water is .5 ammonia. Wouldn't that smell, or burn, or something? I'll ask them for numbers on nitrites and nitrates, too. I do have a nitrate test kit. I figured that if I saw a rise in nitrates, I could assume cycling had occurred. So far, I have not seen a measurable amount on that test at all.

Maybe a Fluval sponge pad could be cut to fit on the filter? My hesitation is that it may be too thick to sit there and have the water flow over/through it. I wouldn't know how to cut it down to reduce the thickness of it. Any ideas for thinner sponges or pads that would fit?

Kittenfish, thanks for the diagram. I see that the advantage of this design is how it maximizes the surface area of the sponge, so that more BB can grow in the tank. The disadvantage to using a sponge on my existing filter is that it is pretty much 2 dimensional and sits just above the water level. It doesn't really dry out, but it doesn't encourage lots of growth there, either. Maybe I should start a new thread specifically about sponge filters in a 2.5 gal tank. I'm not too mechanical, so trying to figure out all the connections w/out specific instructions makes me nervous.

Rana, thanks for the tip about TSS. I will remember that. Hopefully I can figure out my ammonia readings, what to do about my filter, and then I will get a bottle and try to start the cycle.
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Old 02-18-2014, 02:32 AM   #9 
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My tap water had 1 ppm ammonia last time I checked, plus a good amount of nitrates. I use a double dose of Prime with each water change and my plants and bacteria quickly take care of it.
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Old 02-18-2014, 04:30 AM   #10 
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JessiesGill, don't stress about it too much, my tap water also has a very high ammonia content. When I first started doing water tests, I couldn't figure out how my little fish was producing .25-.5ppm ammonia in 1-3 days! I was even more shocked when I tested the tap water and found out that was the issue. ( I even tested bottled water to ensure my kit was good at the time ) Water from other areas has always made me sick, so I always assumed my local water was "good" water. ( I always get nauseated from the water when I travel to other states ) I guess not so much for my fish, though!

I was thrilled when I tested my tank water a few weeks ago and it had NO ammonia. The tank actually cycled with little help from me, I was in training at my job on a day shift for two months and wasn't as attentive to Gallifrey as I could have been. During that time, with slightly infrequent water changes, the tank cycled and is now producing 0 ppm ammonia water.

That being said, don't stress about it too much--and if you're worried about your kit, like I was, test it with some bottled or distilled water. As long as the bottle is fresh, the kit should test it at 0 ppm.

I worried initially that the ammonia would harm Gallifrey, but seems like it has never effected him. I actually bought Seachem Prime specifically due to the tap water and it's done a wonderful job keeping him safe. :)
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