The Causes of High Ammonia in Freshwater Tanks Featured

High Ammonia in Your Freshwater Tank? – What you need to know about high ammonia levels in your tank and what you need to do about them.

ammonia testingAmmonia testing is essential for the fishkeeping hobby. Always have an ammonia testing kit on hand and be sure to test for ammonia levels about once a month.

Ammonia is a naturally-occurring chemical compound that can be found in every freshwater tank. You may not realize it, but as your fish eat and digest they may be releasing ammonia through their gills. This, on top of the natural production of ammonia that occurs during the breakdown of organic waste, can lead to high ammonia levels in your tank. Even though ammonia is a natural substance, it is still extremely dangerous for your fish. If the ammonia levels in your tank begin to approach 1ppm, your fish may suffer from ammonia poisoning and could die as a result. In order to keep your fish healthy and your tank water fresh and clean, it is wise to not only learn how ammonia gets into your tank in the first place, but how to get rid of it as well.

The Dangers of Ammonia

Many aquarium hobbyists do not know that, in addition to chlorine, their tap water may also contain ammonia. Chloramine is a type of water-purifying agent that is often used to treat tap water – it is formed by binding chlorine to ammonia. Many water conditioners designed to remove chlorine from tap water also result in the release of bonded ammonia atoms into tank water. Another possibility, if you find that the ammonia levels in your tank are getting out of control, is that you may not have a sufficient colony of beneficial bacteria in your tank. These bacteria are responsible for breaking down organic wastes and for converting ammonia and nitrites into less harmful substances called nitrates. If you do not have an adequate quantity of these bacteria in your tank, your ammonia levels could quickly get out of control. If the ammonia levels in your tank get too high your fish could begin to exhibit symptoms of ammonia poisoning which may include hemorrhaging in the gills, difficulty breathing, red streaking on the body and loss of appetite.

Preventing Ammonia Build-up

Because many regions are beginning to treat their tap water with chloramine rather than chlorine alone, it is wise to look for a water conditioner that removes both chlorine and ammonia. The purpose of a water conditioner is to remove toxic chemicals from tap water – if you use a conditioner that fails to treat one of the most dangerous chemicals for fish you will not be doing yourself or your fish any favors. Perhaps the easiest way to control ammonia build-up in your tank is to monitor the accumulation of organic waste. Organic waste includes decaying plant matter, dead fish, uneaten fish food and feces. Because ammonia is produced during the decomposition of these products, the more organic waste you have in your tank, the more ammonia will be produced when it is breaking down.

To keep the level of organic waste, and thus the level of ammonia, in your tank under control there are several things you can do. Avoid overfeeding your fish – only feed your fish as much as they can eat within one to three minutes and limit your feedings to twice a day. Always use a gravel vacuum to remove accumulated waste from the substrate of your tank when performing water changes and carefully treat your tap water to remove both chlorine and ammonia before refilling your tank. To ensure that you have a sufficiently large colony of beneficial bacteria in your tank to help with the conversion of ammonia, try adding an EcoBio-Stone to your tank. These stones are made from porous volcanic cement that has been infused with live beneficial bacteria along with the nutrients they need to thrive. EcoBio-Stones are available in several shapes and sizes so it is easy to find one that will match the décor in your tank. Once you add the stone to your tank, the bacteria will multiply rapidly, taking over maintenance of the nitrogen cycle and working to keep your tank clean and your ammonia levels under control.


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