Currently I am reading .25 ppm ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 5-10 ppm Nitrate.
Straight from the tap, my water reads .25 ppm ammonia after adding tap water conditioner and ammonia detoxify.
The water has been checked every 3-4 days with no changes in ammonia, nitrite or nitrate.
And before it's asked, yes I am aware that even with the liquid reagent testing, there can be false positive readings on the ammonia scale since the reagent doesn't distinguish between ammonia and ammonium.
You kinda answered your own question.....by using the ammonia detoxify product that convert the ammonia to ammonium due to ammonia in the tap water to start and the test product not being able to tell the difference between ammonia and ammonium that is less harmful to the fish but still available for the nitryfing bacteria...you will have a reading for ammonia/ammonium until the nitryfing bacteria kick in and remove it.....with the nitrate reading you should be cycled-what size is the tank, type of filter used, how long has the tank been setup, stocking and pH reading.....
It's a 20 Long divided, with a baffled OTB 3 stage filter, and heat.
Moderate to heavy planting, including wisteria, clover, ludwig and a couple of others, plus 1 moss ball.
Current stock is 5 females and 2 males, and 3 Otocinclus.
The PH hangs around the 7.6 - 8.0 range. I actually have notations in my log about rainfall versus water changes, and notice that from the tap the PH is lower within 3-4 days of rainfall. I believe it's a function of the raw water source becoming slightly diluted after a rainfall.
This tank has been running for 6 weeks, and populated for 3. It was set up with a fishless cycle, with substrate from another tank and 50% water from an existing tank. Originally it was free-cycled, until I had the bacterial bloom, after the bloom, I then added the plants.
No behavioral issues or illnesses noted on any of the Betta's. Everyone is quite happy and healthy, to the point that they swarm the front of the tank literally every time someone so much as walks by them. Colors are vibrant, and all the fins look good. The only notable exception to that is one of the blue females tends to show stress stripes first thing in the morning when the light is turned on. Those tend to go away within 15-20 minutes.
One of the males actually swims up against your finger if you put it in the tank, and goes through the motions of being petted.
A couple of foot notes about the set up.
The filtration is located in the center compartment, thus alleviating the "hot end cold end" condition that can occur other wise. The compartments are equal on the ends in size, with a double sized compartment in the middle housing the sorority. The heater is also located in the center compartment for the aforementioned reasons.
They are fed a mixture of pellets and brine. The brine is every 3rd day on average. On rare occasions, flake food is added. It depends on them. If they look like they are getting bored with pellets, often times flakes will re-stimulate them or make them appreciate the pellets more. Not sure which.
Yes I know they Oto's are supposed to do better in larger communities of 5-6 instead of alone like they are now with one in each compartment, but I have used single Oto's in smaller "Micro" tanks for years with no adverse effects, and they appear to be more than content.
I am surprised that you have nitrate-10 fish in a 20gal long heavy planted with a 3 stage filtration system-plain gravel or plant specific substrate??......wisteria and ludwigia stems should be using all the ammonia before conversion...that is-if you have at least 20 stems of each.....not sure what the clover is...all the plants are actively growing, healthy, no unusual plant death or melt, no rotten egg smell...etc.....any plant food used...sometimes, some types of plant food can cause skewed readings...
What kind of water changes-how often and how much.....
As long as the fish are acting and eating okay.....I wouldn't worry too much....sometimes the fish are the best water testing kit....and power of observation.....ammonia/ammonium 0.25ppm usually is not problematic for Bettas, however, our goal is 0ppm......it is odd though.....established nitrogen cycle and live active growing, healthy plants......and you still test ammonia/ammonium.......have you used a different test products or had your water tested at a pet shop....just to rule out a problem with your test product.....just a thought.....
Your response pretty much hit why I am asking. Using 20 some years of aquatic experience, and 12 years experience in Marine Safety, I am really at a loss.
The water changes are 25% weekly, with light gravel vacuuming. 50% monthly with full gravel vacuum. During every other change the media is rinsed in the removed water, along with the intake sponge. (Keep in mind, ammonia/ammonium is present at the water source, so there is no increase or decrease from the point that fresh water is introduced.)
Tests are every 3 to 4 days to ensure there are not any spikes occurring between changes.
I have used test strips in the past and noticed that the ammonia test strips always seemed to be approximately the same.
The substrate is gravel, but 3 of the plants are potted and the pots buried in the substrate. There appears to be excellent root growth out of the pots and embedding into the substrate.
In the pictures below, the first one is an up close of the clover. The second is a few weeks old, and is the overall set up. There is more wisteria present in the tank now. All of the plants have nearly doubled in size and coverage since the picture was taken.
Hopefully you can see from what I am going through that these fish are babied, and have become an integral part of the family. To the point that one of the kids has moved a chair from the kitchen, to directly in front of the tank so they can watch them more.
Okay....I thought it was heavy planted......you should see nitrate with the amount of plants-vs-stocking.....that is good.....you might want to separate the stems....you would get better growth...faster...and with that comes more useful ammonia/ammonium removal naturally by the plants, also adding some floating plants like water lettuce, frogbit, duckweed would help or even adding something like a cutting from a willow tree...stick a willow tree branch in the tank and as it start to send out roots it will use ammonia/ammonium as well as a lot of nutrients that can cause algae.....you can even add a peace lily to the filter box if you are using a HOB type...that will work too for natural ammonia/ammonium and excessive nutrient removal....not for emergencies....but for minor issues like this since the Bettas are overall acting and eating okay....especially since your source water has ammonia to start....or use Prime.....
Your tank looks nice by the way.....I love that turtle...really cute...
As I said, moderate to heavy. And the the wisteria in particular is nearly double whats shown in the pictures from trimmings and re-planting.
I pulled up one of the wisteria to trim a little off of it tonight and rather than doing it in tank, I took it out. It has some really incredible root structure on the one I chose. (Chose due to the fact that it was already at the top of the tank and spreading.)
I have even replanted a few trimming from the ludwig and it seems to be doing well too. So I am hopeful that this will eventually just correct itself, and maybe discontinue the ammonia neutralizer. Just using the tap water conditioner on the next couple of changes to see if that helps out.