View Full Version : Ammonia Spike

05-18-2014, 01:29 AM
I did four things by mistake on my 2 months old 20L same day which might have caused Ammonia Spike to dangerous level (according to test strip),

1. Changed 50% of water (weekly)
2. Replaced old filter cartridge
3. Added 1.5 ml of seachem flourish comprehensive
4. Siphoned substrate (Sand + Rock gravel) and moved around some sand

2 fishes jumped out of the tank and died, All other fishes were completely stressed and moved to the bottom of tank except guppies which stayed on top.

I again changed 50% of water within an hour but didn't help the fish so moved all fishes to 30L to save them. Now fishes are happy in 30L and at least 2 green tiger barbs escaped from the tragedy. I added 2.5 ml flourish comprehensive to 30L before moving the fish and it didn't affect them. In your view what might have caused this sudden spike? I suspect release of ammonia from sand or filter cartridge, what is the best way to handle this next time?

05-18-2014, 03:45 AM
or perhaps ammonia was already present and the water change raised the pH to a level where the ammonia is in a toxic form. If ph was below 6.8 and now above that could be the scenario.

05-18-2014, 10:06 AM
If all the filter media was changed, I'd suspect that as the problem rather than a change in toxicity to existing ammonia though either is possible and a combination of the factors probably existed.

05-18-2014, 10:40 AM
I noticed lot of dead leaves & fish waste settled in other end of the tank and I tried to vacuum them while changing water. As you said existing Ammonia is probable case and my pH is acidic with 6.8-7.0 level. what is the safest way to handle this next time? How would I stop this ammonia accumulation? Add high end filter?

05-18-2014, 11:47 AM
I use pillow floss filler (poly-fill) for all my box and hang on filters... I wash them using tank water when I do WC (never use tap). Otherwise the rest of my tank is on sponge filters. I got some Safe powder that could help reduce ammonia if you want to pick some in Downtown decatur.

I suspect that replacing the filter while not having a 100% cycled tank could have been the cause. Also, the higher the pH, the more toxic ammonia becomes to fish. e.g. the same level of ammonia is 10x more toxic in pH of 8 than pH of 7, and much less toxic at pH of 6 or 5. (http://www.fritzzyme.com/index.php?p=faq&pagename=ammonia&qid=23&n=7)


05-19-2014, 12:13 AM
Thanks for your response, do you mean adding pillow floss filler in place of carbon cartridge or along with carbon? I heard about Sponge filters but thought that is only for smaller tanks, are they good as add-on filters? are they likely to have better effect on my ammonia problem?

I use pillow floss filler (poly-fill) for all my box and hang on filters... I wash them using tank water when I do WC (never use tap). Otherwise the rest of my tank is on sponge filters. I got some Safe powder that could help reduce ammonia if you want to pick some in Downtown decatur.

05-19-2014, 03:34 AM
Neither floss media, sponge media nor carbon will remove or add ammonia. It is the nitrifying bacteria that remove ammonia and they like to set up house in the media. None of the media with full bacteria bed will remove ammonia immediately as in zap its gone. It takes some time. And it is safe to assume nothing you did added ammonia unless ammonia was present in the tap water. Filter cartridges do not work as well as many may assume. They are pretty much mechanical filtration only.
What fish and how many do you have. Maybe too many for a newly setup tank. Decaying plant material and fish waste create ammonia. Ammonia may spike shortly after feeding and gradually go to zero with a good bacteria bed. Overfeeding, overstocking or added too many fish at once can create ammonia spikes greater than your bacteria bed can handle and then you can have problems. Unless you have a low pH and/or chemical filtration. But raising your pH under those conditions can be disasterous.
Personally, I tend to replace filter media when doing water changes and have no adverse effects. But I tend to not overstock my tanks. I also use zeolite, which removes ammonia, in cannister filters or media bags. I use pillow floss in some canister filters as it tends to trap more debris than sponges. I use sponges just for biological filtration and never replace but do rinse them now and again. I use carbon but it is generally only useful for removing odors and color not ammonia and it will raise your pH slightly. Also all carbon is not created equal and some types can worsen the problem.
Try googling biological filtration, chemical filtration and mechanical filtration when you have some spare time. You will have many options for each kind.

05-19-2014, 10:14 AM
For ammonia spike, short term is to do water change and treat it with Stability or other products if you do not have time to wait for the 3 week cycle and / or already have fish in the tank. Regardless of the media you use, your tank has to cycle for the ammonia to be transformed into Nitrite and then Nitrite into Nitrate.

What I like about filler floss (beside being inexpensive) is that is make it easier to start a new tank using some of the "old" media of an existing established tank. I stop using carbon after reading that it could the cause of some death (and as Roger mentioned, not all carbon are created equal).

05-19-2014, 02:40 PM
Be sure that you're not overfeeding your fish as well. Food decay will spike your ammonia pretty quickly if you're throwing too much food in. Not sure what kind of fish you're keeping but do keep that in mind.


05-20-2014, 10:44 AM
Appreciate all your response, I'm recycling my tank from scratch with pool filter sand and try sponge filter (add-on) this time. I will consider all these points, have been a good learning. Thank You !!!