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Catsup

High ammonia and nitrite problem in tank

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Hi everybody!

I've got a problem with my 4ft corydoras tank. On Sunday, after my regular weekly water change and gravel vac, I noticed my corys weren't as active as normal and later that night observed them darting to the surface constantly for air and acting sluggish.

I did an emergency water change the next morning and had the old water tested at my LFS to find high ammonia levels.

So since Monday i've been doing twice-daily water changes of about 50% each, and while my ammonia levels have dropped significantly, my nitrite levels have started to rise.

Seeing as my tank is probably cycling at the moment, are these twice-daily water changes too much? And is there anything else I can do to try to alleviate the stress on the fish?

I was using Ammo-lock and Prime initially, but switched over to Supachlor that I received in the mail today (I was worried my Prime is a bit old). I've also got Nitra-zorb in the canister filter and am adding Easy-Life to the mix as well, along with Aquasonic Bio-aid super concentrate and API Quick Start.

I've also lowered the water level to get more agitation from the spray bar and powerhead that i've got attached to a 30x12x12 cm pre-filter sponge.

I've had the tank for at least 9 years and some of my corys are 10+ years old, so it's not a new tank.

Unfortunately though, i've suffered two fatalities so far.

Anyway, thanking everyone in advance and apologies if i'm a bit all over the place, i'm pretty stressed at the moment, as I'm worried about my little buggers and want to see them hit 11+ years and beyond!

Update 25/2/15:

The ammonia issue is pretty much gone (the most I get is 0.5mg/L @ 26C), but my pH seems to be dropping. A day after my weekly water change it's at 6.5 and drops down to between 5.5 and 6, and i'm not sure why.

Edited by Catsup

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Hey Donny!

I can't remember the data off the top of my head, as I left it at my LFS.

And I have absolutely no idea why the ammonia and nitrite spiked! I was trying out some new food on the corys, and the tank was a bit dirtier than normal, but not by a huge amount, and as I do weekly water changes and gravel cleaning, I really am stumped as to why everything has gone to hell!

The tank has been way dirtier before and i've not had any problems! The only thing I can think of is that as I do age some of my replacement water outside, something must have gotten in there.

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Didn't touch anything in the canister filter at all! Which is why it's got me stumped!

Hell! Someone could've purposely gone out to poison my tank, but I don't really have anyone on my "Richard Nixon Enemies List"...

Honestly, it's been more heartbreaking than annoying! Seeing my fat little buggers gasping for breath and being pushed about by the current as they head to the surface to breathe...

Just had a quick peek of the tank before lights out and it seems to have settled down -- some of my Sterbais looked as if they were playing!

Will see how they do tomorrow and if it looks bad will do a water change.

Many thanks for the replies Donny!

Edited by Catsup

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I'm guessing that you used town water.

So there might have been higher than normal levels of ammonia and nitrates as well as higher levels of chlorine, if there has been any work on the mains or treatment plant, or and heavy rain.

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Hi Lictoga!

I live in the Sydney suburbs, so i'm not sure how much variance there would be from week to week, and although we did have rain earlier in the week, it wasn't major, so nothing out of the ordinary really.

The best guess is that something must have gotten into the water as I aged it outside, because I can't think of anything else that would've taken out my tank like that!

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Oh yeah! I go nutso on the Prime (or any other dechlorinator) just to play it safe -- I overdose both the aged water and the direct from tap water, then at the end of my water change drop more into the tank!

And after reading that thread, i'm glad I do just that!

Many thanks for the link!

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Did you have a power failure for part of the night? I have read that if this happens then the bacteria in your filters can die within hours, due to lack of water flow and food source.

My tank got accidentally switched off at the powerpoint overnight to the next morning. Then by the following morning my water was all milky/cloudy and all the fish were gasping for air.

Ammonia reading was green-black.

Did water changes 50% every two days. And washed out all the filters to clean out the gunk and muck. But after about 4 water changes slowed this down to give filters chance to feed on ammonia.

Have to go through an entire tank cycling process. Took out all tropicals, but the Bristlenoses (x2) and put into new tank that had just finished its cycling and was ready.

Three weeks since this happened and the affected tank is still reading high levels ammonia/ammonium, despite dosing liberally with "Stability." pH kept dropping down to acidic which is not good for re-establishing the necessary bacteria.

Oh, well I will just give it time. Have three filters working on it. Water is so clean you can't see it - but not much in way of bacteria yet.

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Hi Waggles!

No power outage on my end -- my corys started acting funny right after my weekly clean, something that they never do! And when I went to feed them in the evening, only a few decided to play "stacks on" when I dropped food into the tank.

The new water that I put in at the time had to be "poisoned" in some manner, because i've never had a problem of this magnitude in the near decade that i've had the tank!

Two more fatalities today, and one more on the way by the looks of it... it's bloody heartbreaking to watch!

Hoping both your tank and mine finish cycling up soon!

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Just did a test of the water (using Prodac International kits):

Temp: 24C (on really hot days it's higher).

Ph: 6.5.

Ammonia: 0.5mg/L (down from 10+mg/L on Monday).

Nitrite: essentially 0 (not exactly clear, but clear enough that it doesn't even come close to the next gradation).

Nitrate: essentially 0 (reading was a clear colour, and didn't even hit the colour gradation for "official" 0).

My cories are still jetting to the top, but are probably still in shock from the goings on, so i'll just leave them alone for now and monitor the water parameters each day.

Many thanks to everyone!

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My LFS warned me not to dose too much Prime etc, because it would lower my pH, and unfortunately it did exactly that! My pH tanked down to about 4.5 at one stage!

Did my weekly water change on Sunday and scrubbed off all the remaining gunk on the leaves of my plants and added new water slowly and immediately the cories reacted positively! I even found a 3 week old baby that I thought wouldn't survive the ammonia spike and pH swings and yet there it was bigger than when I saw it last!

Unfortunately, I did end up losing 8 cories -- and a few more are still sketchy and sick, but otherwise everyone else is now back to normal! They've bounced back so quickly it's quite amazing! They're tough buggers for sure!

I definitely buggered up in responding to the tank, but i've never had something like this before in 10+ years of fishkeeping! A very painful lesson and experience!

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Yeah, I read that while researching, but after the initial days my ammonia stabilised to 0.5mg/L and nitrite was at zero and my pH still tanked.

So I don't know... this was a really strange problem with my tank, what with the sudden onset of the problem with "new" water, so maybe chock it down to just general weirdness.

Alternatively it may have been the Ammo-lock which tanked my pH, because i've never used that before, whereas I always use Prime -- I don't have prior data with my tank as i've never needed test kits prior to this incident.

Either way, everything looks like it's back to normal at least, which is good!

Edited by Catsup

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My tank seems to have stabilised, and it's been going about 10 or so days without any problems -- I even had spawning activity on Monday!

That said, my pH seems a bit low, somewhere between 5.5 to 6 (closer to the 6 side of things) even though the new water that I add is at 7.5; my LFS mentioned that the pH in their "general" tanks is about 6.5.

My ammonia is at 0.5 mg/L and sometimes a bit under, but never seems to reach zero. Nitrite is at zero and Nitrate is a weird reading (colourless when it should be at least yellow).

So i'm not sure if the tank is back at normal, or the cories have just become accustomed to the low pH and small amount of ammonia...

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My test kits are brand new, only a couple of weeks old. The expiry dates on them are a couple of years off as well. I emailed the manufacturer about the Nitrate kit but they've yet to get back to me.

I've also done a measure of my tap water and the pH there is 7.5, with zero ammonia and nitrite.

I'm not hugely worried as I was a couple of weeks ago, as everyone is playing, eating and spawning as if nothing is wrong. But the low pH is kinda of bugging me a bit, and as i've not bought test kits in many, many years, I don't know what my baseline parameters are.

Edit:

I'm playing around in this calculator:

http://www.hamzasreef.com/Contents/Calculators/FreeAmmonia.php

And inputting my data gives me free ammonia at 0.0003 mg/L, so in theory the tank should be okay.

Edited by Catsup

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Does your wife spray Febreeze near the tank, or Glen 20? Both are anti bacterial and can knock out the nitrifying bacteria.

Happened to me once before, did not take much to do it either...

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No missus, but no one in the family goes near the tank at all, let alone to spray anything.

The initial takedown of the tank is still a mystery, although my LFS told me that a few other customers recently reported some bad water that had a bad effect on their tanks, although i'm not sure if it happened at around the same time as my incident, particularly as I also use water aged for a few days outside.

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