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Author Topic: How bad is 0.25ppm undetected for 1.5 weeks?  (Read 3187 times)
« on: October 30, 2016, 01:02:28 AM »
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I had set up a new tank and was testing the water weekly because I was using a bacteria booster product I've had success with in the past... but I seem to have gotten a dead bottle of bacteria as I've finally got suspicious that I wasn't overfeeding and tested the product in new water. (I also tested the tap and the dechlorinator and the Zyme (all good)... it's only the Nite-out II bottle of bacteria which turns the ammonia test green and it turns green immediately. What this means is that because I've been boosting it after water changes, I've been adding ammonia to my tank and my 5 new kuhli loaches have been dealing with 0.25ppm for about a week and a half due to regular boosts of dead yet surprisingly non-smelly bacteria after each new water change. I'm doing a major water change and now have 4 airlines and a spray-bar filter running in their tank. I'm new to Kuhli loaches and don't know their normal behavior yet. Are they likely to be alright?
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« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2016, 09:52:14 AM »
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How toxic any level of total ammonia (TA) might be depends on two factors- the pH and the temperature of the water. This is because, in water, ammonia exists in two forms NH3 aka unionized and NH4 ionized (TA is the sum of NH3 and HH4 present). The former is highly toxic, about 100 times more harmful than NH4. The red line level for NH3 is 0.55 ppm and the level at which it is of little or no concern is 0.22 ppm.

By example a tank at pH 8 and 80 F showing .25 ppm TA would have .0155 ppm of NH3 while a tank at pH 7 and a temperature of 75 would have .0013 ppm. As you can see, neither is a serious worry but there is a clear difference. Now, lets suppose you had a tank with rift lake cichlids which had a pH of 8.5 at 80F. The level of NH3 in that tank would be .0432 ppm and might be harming some fish. Raise the pH by .1 and your .25 ppm of TA now has .0557 ppm of NH3 and you would need to take action to bring it down.

Obviously, one should never ever add ammonia to a tank with living fish or inverts present. Low levels may not do direct harm, what they will do is stress fish to some degree and that in turn opens them up to more serious issues.

Finally, as a matter of personal choice I will never put anything into my tanks which ends with the word zyme.. As a rule one should always look to add the fewest things possible to ones water. There is almost no need to add nitrifying bacteria to a tank more than once in order to get a cycle jump started.

I am not sure what is in the Microbe-Lfit. I do know that Nirtrobacter, which is included, are not the nitriite oxidizers that persist in aquariums, so there is little benefit to having them. What strain of nitrosomonas matters as would the nitrospira. Unless the patent has expired, then Dr. Hovanec and Tetra have control over the common strains found in tanks at this time.

The autotrophic bacteria in tanks do not form spores, so they cannot survive at freezing or at high temperatures, Once you get over 100F you are in danger of killing them, Much above about 105F or so and they die pretty fast. So how they are stored and shipped matter. Moreover, The longer they are in the bottle, the less effective they bcome. After about 6 months you will start to have issues, If you refrigerate them they will remain usefull for about a year. After that, the time it take for them to come out of dormancy and actively function is not much less than starting a fishless cycle without them.

Stop adding all the junk, besides dechlor, to your tank. You do not need it. Also, some dechlors can cause false positives on ammonia tests. Here is what SeaChem states re this:

A salicylate based kit can be used, but with caution. Under the conditions of a salicylate kit the ammonia-Prime complex will be broken down eventually giving a false reading of ammonia (same as with other products like Prime®), so the key with a salicylate kit is to take the reading right away. However, the best solution ;-) is to use our MultiTest™ Ammonia kit... it uses a gas exchange sensor system which is not affected by the presence of Prime® or other similar products. It also has the added advantage that it can detect the more dangerous free ammonia and distinguish it from total ammonia (which is both the free and ionized forms of ammonia (the ionized form is not toxic)).

Most hobby ammonia kits use salicylate reagents. The SeaChem kit is able to test for NH3 ammonia as well as total ammonia.

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan
"The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it." Neil DeGrasse Tyson
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2016, 10:51:52 PM »
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Thanks to your kind and helpful advice and some research into the color of test kits I learned that mine was only reading the NH3 not the TA... therefore I was 0.03 over the safe zone for 1.5 weeks! I got a new bottle of bac, this one stayed yellow when tested for ammonia and did not turn green, so I started over with a 50% water change and good boosters.
Two days after getting good bac the ammonia was still zero but no nitrites or nitrates yet (you are instructed to keep boosting until you read nitrates), but today I had another spike of ammonia which because I had tested that new bottle... began to fear one of my kuhlis had simply died but after pulling everything out of the tank I discovered that they are all alive and lively... however something uninvited had died in there... some pioneering flying insect found a small opening and drowned before I even knew it was in the house. So back to the beginning... more changes, more bac boosters, and more mechanical filtration for the time being even if it annoys the loaches at present. I'm definitely going to keep that security blanket stuff around I'm beginning to feel I've a storm-cloud over my head or something.
You are right that adding things can complicate things though, whatever they suspend the bac with in the bottle, keeps the undiluted bac from smelling like it should when it's dead, it doesn't even smell like the ammonia that the bad bottle tested so very positive for so from now on I'm testing all new bac bottles in case they are defective.
Anyway... many many thanks. No one ever told me about NH3 or a relation between it, PH, and temp. I've been trying to find whatever algebraic formula that would be but so far have only found specific examples...
[Whatever kind of nitosomas/nitrobacters they do work in combination with the zyme. I can tell you this from some experience breaking all rules, see my first ever something-other-than-betta tank I took home a skinny fish I thought just needed TLC.
Turned out to have parasitic red butt worms called Callamanus, extremely med-resistant and one of worst nightmares you can get. Because the larva for the parasite is nearly invisible and free swimming (unlike the detectable mature red worm which eventually emerges to let you know why your fish are starving)... I made a desperate attempt in the beginning to separate by water changes the surviving fish from any larva.
I netted them and put them in 100% brand new water and thoroughly rinsed out the filters every second day for a period of two weeks, then stopped. Unfortunately neither that nor the parasite treatment I was using along with stopped the epidemic from spreading, but the boosters on the other hand kept the self-same cories and platies alive over the several months to 1+ years it took the 2nd and 3rd generations of Callamanus to grow to maturity and kill the same remaining fish.
 Now you don't have to believe me but I think that if the bacteria wasn't viable... they should have just died of ammonia poisoning first because I thoroughly and repetitively broke the all important conservation rule. I also would change 100% of water every time the parasite claimed somebody new... and the rest of my fish still went on to survive them by months.
Because this was my first experience with not-as-tough-as-bettas fish, I have now more experience with surviving unnaturally huge NO-NO water changes without lost fish life as a newbie than I do with just maintaining the natural basic filter bac that is a more independent and stable colony... experience I normally should have after having the same tank inhabitants that long, but alas, I have to learn it still.
After what I went through though... there's always going to be live bac in the fridge door beside the milk carton whether I need it or not just to provide me a sense of calm. But for now, everything had been bleach-sterilized to start off.]
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2016, 12:16:24 PM »
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Lets deal with things one at a time.

Firstly, when you use a viable bottled bacteria, it includes both the ones which oxidize ammonia and the ones which oxidize nitrite. Moreover, they are there in the proper proportions. This means there are the proper number of nitrite bacs to handle all the ammonia the ammonia bacs can create. The result is you almost never see nitrite show on test kits. Decent starter bacteria should not contain ammonia in the bottle. If the bacteria all die and start to decompose, then the result is some level o f ammonia.

As for callamanus, here is the treatment you should get. Since I see no location for you, I have to assume you are in the states and my suggestion here is based on that.

Start reading here:

Dr. Harris sells the cure. I keep it and Flubendazole in my med box at all times.

Next, you don't need to find the formula re ammonia. There are a number of online calculators for this. i use this one which is designed to work for fw, sw and brackish. For fw tanks set the salinity to 0. Also, to make your life more fun you should also know that there are two different scales used in testing the nitrogen complex (ammonia, nitrite and nitrate). Once scale is interested in only reading the nitrogen ions present while the other scale read all the ions present. Looking at the chemical part of this what we see is the following:
Ammonia(as NH3 and NH4) turns to Nitrite NO2 and this in turns turns to nitrate NO3.

Notice that all the forms above have two things in common" they all contain a single N and they all contain different amounts of other things (H, and ). When one uses test kits that use the nitrogen scale, all of those 4 things have the same thing- a single N.O 1 ppm of ammonia becomes 1 ppm of nitrite which becomes 1 ppm of nitrate. However, when using the total ion scale they have more things that will be measured. The result is on the total ion scale the numbers are different. Because there is a mix of ions involved and N and O have different atomic weights the following approximation happens; 1 ppm of ammonia becomes anout 2.55 ppm of nitrite and that in turn becomes 3.44 ppm of nitrate.

Fortunately there are formulas to convert nitrogen and total ion scales into each other just like we do with C and F ir miles and kilometers. Whenever discussing the levels of these compounds it is important to make clear which scale is being used. Normally when using the nitrogen scale the reading will be written this way 1.5 ppm Ammonia-N or ammonia-nitrogen. This also applies to nitrite and nitrate.

You can find the ammonia calc I use here
You can find the formula for converting between the nitrogen and total ion scales here:

In case you do not know, the * in the formulas means multiply by. So the cart shows how to convert a reading in -N to total ions. If you are using the more common hobby test kits, they use the total ion scale and you need to divide your test results by the factors to convert them to -N. This is important as both ammonia and nitrite over 5 ppm as nitrogen will stall a cycle and can even kill off bacteria at higher levels. 5 ppm of ammonia-N is equal to about 5.4 ppm on the total ion scale and 5 ppm of nitrite is equal to about 16.4 ppm. (You can see the effect that counting all the ions has- at each stage the numbers get bigger.) 5 ppm of nitrate-N would be about 22.2 ppm on a hobby kit.

I hope all this helps.

One last thing, how any of the nitrogen compounds in tanks effect fish varies. Some fish can handle higher levels for longer and other will succumb rapidly at much lower levels. This is one reason why fishless cycling makes one's life easier and insures no fish are harmed in the process.

Also- Dr. Tim's One and Only is my preferred choice for bottled bacteria. Keep it in the fridge and its good for about a year


“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan
"The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it." Neil DeGrasse Tyson
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