Ammonia Problem

Discussion in 'Water Parameters and Additives' started by Fishfood, 14 Aug 2009.

  1. Fishfood

    Fishfood

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    Please someone help me out here.
    I have never had a problem with Ammonia b4 so this is really frustrating.
    For those that don't know we had a power failure about 4 weeks ago.
    Luckily everything survived.My water quality seemed perfect before hand and everything I put it seemed to thrive
    Then the power failure and ever since I have struggled with £"£$$"£ ammonia!
    I was half expecting a mini cycle but I mean come on this is 4 weeks later already.
    I have obviously been doing lots of water changes but honestly if the ammonia isn't getting converted you will have high ammonia by the very next day.
    Obviously I cannot do water changes every day until who knows when.
    I also started to wonder if I wasn't prolonging this mini cycle by doing the water changes just as you would if you did water changes at start up.
    Recently I started using Prime to get rid of the ammonia (apparently it converts it to a less toxic form that gets used easier by the biological filter.
    Perhaps this is the better way to go.
    Surely if I do water changes every day then sufficient bacteria to convert the ammonia will never grow because I am always taking out it's food source.
    Checked my ammonia again today.Got a reading between 0 and 0.25 (not good seeing as though even 0.1 can be toxic)
    Fish are all doing fine - as if nothing is wrong
    Corals - some (softies unsurprisingly) and birds nest (surprisingly) doing fine but things like frog spawn (which I know can be sensitive) don't look sick but don't look happy like they used to.
    No recession which is a plus but for e.g. frogspawn used to eat pieces of squid in minutes - now it hasn't eaten since the incident.
    It's definitely not overfeeding - which I've never done before - I've cut back to feeding the fish once a day.
    I haven't really been feeding the corals much at all - the only thing I have which needs regular feeding is my sun coral but lately he has been eating less than in the past so it's not that.
    So what is this? - is this a mini cycle?
    If so why am I still getting ammonia readings after 4 weeks - surely by now I would be getting high nitrite reading (zero!)? as the next stage.
    Four weeks into my original cycle ammonia and nitrite were already at zero.
    Perhaps some sponges etc are dying in the live rock from the outtage?
    Could things like a leather coral release toxins that show up on ammonia readings (far fetched maybe but I have to consider everything)?
    Apart from that I have stuck to all the advice given to me - I have done water changes,added ammonia absorbers,I have an abundance of macro algae growing in the hopes of absorbing nutrients,put in an airstone etc)
    Only plus side is it has seemed to come down slightly (shrimps weren't even moving or eating at one stage)
    Also have used different test kits to same result.
    Parameters
    Ammonia - 0.1 (approximately)
    Nitrite - 0
    Nitrate - 0
    P.H - 8.3
    S.G. - 1.025
    Temp - 28
    KH - 8
    Calcium - +-420
    Phosphate - 0

    All I want is my tank back how it was -
    so please if you have some explanations or advice it will be most appreciated
     
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  3. Alan

    Alan Admin MASA Contributor

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    How long did the power failure last?
    Have the readings checked with another test kit to make sure the kit is not faulty.
     
  4. Fishfood

    Fishfood Thread Starter

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    Not sure my guess is 6-10 hours - not sure - during night.
    Nothing died so it's not the worst theres been.
    Tried 3 tests - all give same reading
     
  5. dv8

    dv8

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    you make no mention of a skimmer, it could be that it is not working properly? air line blocked? perhaps the pump for the skimmer died because of the surge after the power was restored?
     
  6. Fishfood

    Fishfood Thread Starter

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    No don't think it's that - working exactly how it was when water conditions were perfect
     
  7. Tony

    Tony

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    You can add some purigen by Seachem or the ammonian detox by Kent marine
     
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  8. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    Hi Fishfood,

    This is rather peculiar...

    I too would suspect the test kit, but if you've used three different ones (were they the same brand?) then that pretty much rules that one out.

    Have you tested for nitrite and nitrate every time you've tested for ammonia? In certain conditions the filter bacteria can convert nitrate back into ammonia/um - it's possible that perhaps this is happening in your tank...

    It could be that there has been some die-off in the LR (and/or sand bed), but you should be able to see this. Are there any white, gray or black areas which have developed on the LR - that would be a sign of die-off in the rock.

    Not really - the majority of the filtration bacteria live in your LR and sand, and would not be "washed away" by any water change. If you can measure ammonia then there is also enough food for them to live and multiply.

    Have you tested your RO / water-change water for ammonia - Some inferior brands of salt produce ammonia when freshly mixed. It's also possible that your municipal water could contain largish amounts of ammonia (chloramine used for water purification is not removed very efficiently by the RO filter, and breaks down to ammonia...). Come to think of this, when last have you replaced the carbon block filter in the RO (this removes the chlorine / chloramine), and/or tested the TDS of the RO water?

    Have you changed anything around the tank since the power outage (being very cold the last few weeks, have you perhaps been using a gas heater, or having windows closed, where previously it's been different - just trying to prompt you to think a bit "wider" than just the tank...

    Hennie
     
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  9. Fishfood

    Fishfood Thread Starter

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    Thanks Tony - using Seachem at the moment.
    Thanks Hennie - used Red Sea,Salifert and Tropic Marin test kits - all with same results so i'm ruling that out - all expiry dates fine.
    Yes I have been testing for nitrite and nitrate at the same time - both zero.
    No white or grey areas on live rock - what I did notice when doing a water change was some black rubbery stuff (maybe dying sponge?) in some of the cracks and holes in one of the rocks - I tried to siphon it away.
    But wouldn't it have died off by now?
    RO water has been tested and is good.Buying it from LFS - corals seem to react well to water changes so I'm ruling out bad quality RO water and also salt (using D-D H2Ocean Pro+) - it's only the next day that the ammonia bounces back.
    Haven't changed anything really - don't even let anyone smoke near the tank - so I don't think theres any outside pollutant getting in.
    Could it be overstocking? I added fish but took out trouble makers so I have pretty much exactly the same no. as b4 - 6 in a tank 80x50x45
    I'm open to any ideas.
     
  10. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    That's not right - if you've been having ammonia all this time then you should have experienced at least some nitrite increase, and most likely also a nitrate increase, by now. If this is not happening then either you don't have sufficient aerobic bacteria in the system (not likely after 4 weeks...) or something is causing the nitrate to be converted back to ammonia... hmmm...

    Could you give us a detailed writeup on the system, and perhaps port a few photos of the tank and sump - perhaps we can learn something from that...

    Hennie
     
  11. Kunhardt

    Kunhardt

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    Fishfood what test kit/s are you using to test the Ammonia? If its Red Sea ones then its definately the test kit. I think anyone who has ever used one myself included can tell u that they dont ever seem to go below roughly 0.25ppm
     
  12. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    You probably missed it from post no 8...

     
  13. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    @Fishfood, A couple of question we are not clear on.
    1) Do you get an ammonia smell coming off of the water?
    2) Is the water cloudy?
     
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  14. Kunhardt

    Kunhardt

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    Yip, must have skim read over that one :p
     
  15. Fishfood

    Fishfood Thread Starter

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    Hehe - don't worry Kunhardt it happens - old age? ;)
    Nope - no smell and no cloudy water.
    Not like there's massive amounts of ammonia - just about 0.1 but I know that's enough to be toxic over a long period - which this definitely is.
    I even placed about 2-3kg of live rock from an established tank about a week ago in the hopes that it would help but it didn't
     
  16. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    OK, THAT's IT - we need some serious solution to this :)

    What I'm going to suggest goes against all the good advise normally given to remove bio-balls, noodles, etc...

    You need to introduce an aerobic filter into the system (only on a temporary basis, until the ammonia level has dropped AND you start to get a positive reading of nitrates). I would personally suggest you get a smallish fluidized sand filter - something like a Red Sea Merlin, if this is still available, but a bunch of ceramic noodles, plastic bio-balls, or even a few hand fulls of plastic hair curlers placed in a high-flow area (preferably with water flowing through them...) will work just as well.

    Monitor the water parameters, and keep the aerobic filter going untill the ammonia and nitrite levels have remained at zero for a few weeks, and the nitrates have increased to about 5 - 10 ppm. Then SLOWLY remove the aerobic filter media over a period of a few weeks whilst monitoring the parameters.

    Hennie
     
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  17. Fishfood

    Fishfood Thread Starter

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    Thanks - Sounds like a good plan Hennie.
    I think I'll give it a shot - will let you know what I manage to come up with
     
  18. Reef Maniac

    Reef Maniac MASA Contributor

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    I've only just read your thread Started new tank - New Members (thanks, NJ) and it does point to a few potential reasons for this problem:
    • The tank is only about 4 months old, and you have been stocking it from a very early stage. It is thus possible (likely...) that the power failure could have disrupted the cycling process, and that you have lost a proportion of the filtration bacteria.
    • Your tank is stocked very heavily for such a young setup, and the excess bio-load could simply be overwhelming your currently inadequate aerobic filtration capacity. (Remember, corals are also animals, and they too contribute to the tank's bio-load)
    • you are feeding quite heavily.
    Further to my previous suggestions, you should also not feed anything for the next two days, and thereafter only feed the fish once every second day for a week or two, until the ammonia drops to zero.

    Hennie
     
  19. Fishfood

    Fishfood Thread Starter

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    Thanks Hennie - really appreciate all the effort you have gone to to help me and to find out bout my system.
    It's not overfeeding - I feed very little - as much as my fish eat within about 20 seconds and have only been feeding once a day.
    However I will take your advice on feeding until ammonia drops and stabilises as it makes a lot of sense.Also hardly feed my corals - have about 290W of light in my little tank and all but sun coral seem to get on fine by photosynthesis - obviously they still produce waste so I hear you there.
    Your first point is very valid - I think I have lost a lot of the bacteria population - just surprised it's taking so long to recover.
    I think you hit the nail on the head with the stock.
    System was coping nicely before but I think after the crash it's probably a bit overwhelming at the moment.
    So all I can do I suppose is wait for the system to play catch up and manage the ammonia with water changes and additives in the mean time.
    I think your idea of adding the extra filtration in the meantime is a good one - certainly until the ammonia is down.
    Have just done an ammonia test right now.
    I bought a Tropic Marine kit (previously LFS tested for me) - really tough to compare to that colour chart - but the good news is its definitely somewhere lower than 0.05mg which is great seeing as though it was 0.1 before - definitely nice to see it coming down:).
     
  20. Fishfood

    Fishfood Thread Starter

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    The latest news is that I've tested again and ammonia is now less than 0.01 :).
    Hennie you're a genius - here's why-
    I think the ammonia is coming from my salt JUST AS YOU SAID.
    Tested the RO water before I mixed and was 0 - tested after salt and its high! - 0.5!!!!
    That's £"£$$£ toxic! and I was going to put this in my tank!
    I'm quite shocked cos I thought I was using a good brand - D-D H2 Ocean Pro+ and it's damned expensive!
    Makes sense too as I used to use Tetra - I had never imagined freshly mixed salt water from RO water could contain so much ammonia.
    Keep thinking I've done something wrong with the test or something but I'm going to check again.
    EDIT: Just tested the very same RO water I used and no ammonia so it's definitely coming from the salt.
    Checked on internet and this is supposed to be such a good brand.
    Says that it doesn't contain ammonia - yeah right!
     
    Last edited: 16 Aug 2009
  21. Nemos Janitor

    Nemos Janitor

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    How freshly made was the salt mix tested?
     
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