Avoid Nasty Aquarium Chemicals
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Ammonia occurs naturally in your aquarium. It comes from your fish as a waste product. Actually, it starts out as ammonium.
Unfortunately, ammonium almost instantly converts to poisonous
ammonia at pH levels above 7 (neutral).
The higher the pH level, the deadlier the effect of any ammonia in
At low pH levels, ammonia poses less of a threat.
At low pH levels, ammonia poses less of a threat.
For this reason saltwater tanks (pH 8.2 to 8.4) and African cichlid
tanks kept at the high pH levels of the Rift Lakes (pH 8+) really suffer
when this occurs.
Tiny bacteria in the water (nitrosomonas)
actually eat ammonia and convert it to nitrites.
Nitrites are still not good. They
also stress your fishes. The
addition of salt to their water decreases this stress.
That’s why we recommend adding one teaspoon of salt per gallon to
all new fish tanks.
Now another type of bacteria (nitrobacters)
starts eating the nitrites and converts them to essentially harmless
nitrates. In high
concentrations, nitrates can also cause a problem.
However, regular water changes will keep them diluted.
We also get low levels of nitrates out of our faucet -- lately
about 5 parts per million (5 PPM). If
nitrate levels go above 10 PPM, our water system alerts us not to let
babies drink it. It doesn’t
faze kids and adults, but too many nitrates can be harmful to babies.
In case you’re wondering, it comes from farm fertilizer runoff.
Corn and other grasses love nitrates.
Water plants prefer their nitrogen in the form of ammonium.
Nitrate only becomes a problem in your aquarium if you go long periods without
changing your water.
No matter what your problem, a water change will usually solve it
(or at least decrease it).
Too much of any harmful substance in your water will be diluted
when you change part of the water. A
25% daily water change will correct nearly any water problem without
adding chemicals – other than those added by the Des Moines Waterworks.
make great water quality detectors because they generate extra slime when
in poor water. (They crank out
lots of slime anyway -- but much more when kept in crummy water.)
If you see extra slime on your goldfishes, change their water.
This is one of the few cases in which they would be better off in
brand new tap water. But
always add a water conditioner, or the stress of the chlorine in the new
water will very likely finish killing off your weakened goldfish.
This is the prime offender in most new tanks.
New hobbyists always feed too much.
Overfeeding your fishes is not a kindness.
It is a death sentence. If
you see ANY food falling to the bottom and being ignored by your fish, it
presents a serious threat. Uneaten
food decays and generates ammonia. Some
brands resist decaying for longer periods than others, but they all rot
grow a white mold that clings to everything.
Others stick to each other in a slimy mass.
Some seriously discolor the water.
Get them out. We
strongly recommend the gravel vacuum cleaners.
They are great. Ask for
your fish get stressed from the bad water, they start eating less food.
More food piles up on the bottom. Get
out that gravel vacuum cleaner and start saving their lives.
Actually, dead fish pose less of a threat than dead food.
Because very few people will leave a dead fish in their tank (if
they see it). However, you
need to give your tank a weekly once over.
Look behind the filter stems, behind the rocks, and behind the
plants. Any undiscovered
corpse can generate ammonia. Get
it out as soon as you spot it.
fish pose the same threat as uneaten food.
Both decompose and produce ammonia.
Get rid of both as quickly as possible.
Plant leaves contain a lot of cellulose.
This means they decompose slowly.
Still, you don’t want a layer of dead leaves on the bottom of
your tank. Eventually, they
Remove fallen plant leaves with a fish net.
Swirl it in a figure-eight pattern.
This will cause them to come up from the bottom, so you can net
them. If you have lots of
leaves on the bottom, take them out with your gravel vacuum cleaner.
Correct the problem that caused the dead leaves.
You can also find freeze-dried and liquid forms of ammonia-eating
bacteria. Some of these come
with extra enzymes that help break down ammonia also.
We are partial to the freeze-dried and refrigerated forms which
seem much more stable over time.
You can add AmQuel or a similar product which neutralizes ammonia.
We like AmQuel because it corrects the problem in minutes.
That is, it corrects the excess ammonia -- not the cause of the
excess ammonia. You usually
need a combination of several techniques to correct excess ammonia.
Make one of them a serious water change.
Some water systems contain chloramine -- a particularly deadly
combination of ammonia and chlorine. It
is very stable over time. Chlorine
by itself is a gas that escapes from the water within 48 hours.
Or you can instantly neutralize it with most water conditioners.
We prefer NovAqua.
neutralizes both ammonia and chlorine.
By the way, our water system does not add chloramine.
Unfortunately, chloramine makes itself when there’s any
ammonia in the water. Our
water system strives to maintain an 0.5 PPM chlorine level in our tap
water. This will stress your
fish if you make a greater than 50% water change (unless you add a water
Plants to the Rescue.
Three plants perform ammonia removal well enough to rely on:
In a new tank, ammonia levels peak somewhere in the second to
fourth week. It strikes those
least ready to deal with it. Ammonia
puts more empty tanks into garage sales than any other factor.
Nitrite peaks about two weeks later.
When you get both at high levels at the same time, you get a double
whammy (or your fish do). Once again the garage sale rears its ugly
Secret Weapon. A
simple bag of dirty water works wonders.
We use our gravel vacuum cleaner to pull a quart of water out of a
functioning under gravel filter (usually an African cichlid tank).
This bag of “gross looking water” contains all the nitrosomonas
and nitrobacters you need to jump start your under gravel filter.
It also contains the sticky bacteria that keep your water from
getting cloudy. Add the dirty
water. Once it settles (about
10-15 minutes), you have aged your tank six weeks.
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