Avoid Nasty Aquarium Chemicals
 Careful what you add to your aquarium
 
Amphibians
Axolotls
Caecilian Worm
Chaco Toad
Mud Puppies

Newts General
Newts Eastern
Newts Golden

Newts Mandarin
Salamanders
Suriname Toad
Tadpoles
Terrarium I
Terrarium II
USA Toads
Water Dogs
Misc. Toads

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Clawed
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Dwarf
Fire-Belly
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Green Tree
Leopard
Pac Man
Pipa pipa
Pyxie
Red-Eyed Tree
Tomato
Misc Frogs 
Misc Frogs II
Misc Frogs III
Misc Frogs IV

Misc Frogs V

Animals
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Bunnies II 

Cat-N-Around Cat Club
Cat-N-Around Cat Club 2007 Annual Show
Hawkeye Cat Club 2004
Hawkeye Cat Club 2005
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Degus
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Ferrets by BOB
Gerbils
Ground Squirrels
Guinea Pig
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Hamsters V
Hedgehogs
Kittens
Kids & Kittens
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Mice Pets II
Parasites
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Rats III
Rats, Hairless
S-T Opossums
Siberian Chipmunks
Sugar Gliders
Sugar Gliders II
Water Bottles

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Crabby 500
Crab 04 Results
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Crayfish III
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Tarantula Night 2006
TarantulaWeen VII
TarantulaWeen 9
Walking Stick
Misc. Bugs
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Parrot Pictures
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Parrot Pix III
Dave's Parrots


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Cool Iguana Pics
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Salmonella
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Uromastyx maliensis
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Misc Lizards 3
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Misc Lizards 6
Misc Lizards 7
Misc Lizards 8
Misc Lizards 9
Misc Lizards 10


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Kids at Pet Expo 5
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Misc Snake Pix
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Western Painted

Live Foods
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Shrimp II
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Decorating
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Miscellaneous
Bob's Acclimation

How to Start
How to Add New Fish
How to Keep Healthy
Which Fish Get Along?
10 Questions to Ask
What is Ich?
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Sponge Filters
Cloudy Water

Cool Water Tanks
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Preventing Disease
Feeding to the Max
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Nasty Chemicals
Overfeeding
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2nd Av Bait

Pet World Visit
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Onion
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Watersprite

Different Watersprite

                   
Ammonia occurs naturally in your aquarium.  It comes from your fish as a waste product.  Actually, it starts out as ammonium.

Ammonia Levels Change.  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 the water.  At low pH levels, ammonia poses less of a threat.

High pH Levels.  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.

Hooray for Bacteria.  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.

More Bacteria.  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.

Nitrate Notes.  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.

Change the 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.

Goldfish 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.

A CASE IN POINT

Not long ago, a red-headed teenager brought in an oranda that died after two weeks in his tank.  He wondered why, naturally.  (The one he bought from another store also died.)  His plecostomus was still alive.  Since the tank had been set up for two weeks, we suspected the problem was ammonia before we tested the water.  So, we ran an ammonia test to validate our findings.  Sure enough.  Way over 1 PPM.  Well into the deadly range. 

Goldfish are often thought of as able to resist the stress of high ammonia levels.  We find the exact opposite to be true.  We use feeder goldfish to test new tanks exactly because they make good ammonia detectors.  They croak off quite easily.

Goldfish succumb to high ammonia levels faster than nearly any other fishes.  His pleco looked unharmed.  You can’t always tell by outward appearances.  Ammonia destroys part of their gill tissues.  If it destroys enough of their gills, no more oxygen going in means no more goldfish -- or plecos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


Other Ammonia Sources.  In addition to ammonia as a waste source, you need to be aware of uneaten food, dead fish, and dead plant leaves and, of course, buffalo herds upstream.

Uneaten Food.  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 eventually.

Some 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 a demonstration.

Once 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.

Dead Fish.  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.

Dead fish pose the same threat as uneaten food.  Both decompose and produce ammonia.  Get rid of both as quickly as possible.

Dead Plant Leaves.  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 mean trouble.

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.

Commercial Ammonia Removers.  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.

Ammonia Blockers.  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.

Ammonia PLUS Chlorine.  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. 

AmQuel 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 conditioner).

Live Plants to the Rescue.  Three plants perform ammonia removal well enough to rely on:  

Anacharis;
Hornwort;
Vallisneria.

Anacharis.  Economical and fast growing, this “water weed” sucks ammonium, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate out of your water.  This is a very simple plant -- very valuable to new tank owners.

Hornwort.  This plant has all the advantages of anacharis.  It has the further advantage of doing well in poor light.  It has no roots, so it does well in goldfish bowls.

Vallisneria.  Looking like grass, these plants also eat ammonia.  Since these are more costly than the other two, fewer people use them in their early days in the hobby.

The Ammonia Cycle.  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.

The Nitrite Cycle.  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 head.

Aqualand's 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.  LA.

© 1996, © 2003, © 2004  LA Productions

3600 Sixth Avenue

Corner of Sixth & Euclid Avenues

Des Moines, IA 50313

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