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If there was a way to distill the fishkeeping hobby into a single phrase, it would be something along the lines of constantly doing things that keep ammonia levels as close to zero as possible. We can also rephrase this as always maintaining an optimal nitrogen cycle, and this applies to freshwater aquariums and reef tanks alike. Ammonia (NH3) is a byproduct of closed aquatic ecosystems, and it’s also a lethal pathogen you should always be watching out for. The knowledgeable staff at Aquatic Warehouse, a trusted aquarium supplier, want to share a few things you need to know about ammonia and how to get rid of it in your tank.
One part nitrogen and three parts hydrogen are all that’s needed for ammonia molecules to form. This chemical compound is natural, and it results from the decomposition of organic waste in aquarium water. Multiple sources of waste can be found within the aquatic habitat: uneaten food, excrement, plant decay, algae, and even breathing processes. Since you already have two parts hydrogen in the water, all it takes is organic waste breaking down to provide one more part to combine with nitrogen.
All aquarium test kits, which are invariably color-changing liquid drops, will tell you how many parts per million are present in the water. As a fish keeper, your job is to keep ammonia levels down to zero. If there’s any presence of NH3, this means the ecosystem isn’t balanced and could turn toxic very rapidly through the process of nitrate poisoning.
Getting Rid of Ammonia
Any time water testing results in the detection of NH3 in more than one part per million, the best course of action would be to lower ammonia concentration through dilution. In other words, you need to perform a water change, ideally 50 percent in one session or an immediate 25 percent change on one day and another 25 percent on the next day if you’re pressed for time. At the same time, you should look for floating or submerged debris such as plant matter, uneaten food, and excrement, all of which will need to be cleaned along with algae formation. Some water conditioners like Prime are formulated to neutralize ammonia in an emergency, but they’re not meant to replace water changes and cleaning. Liquid bacteria is a game changer here. It’s advisable to go to your aquarium store and pick up some fresh bacteria to naturalize and fix the problem immediately.
Finding the Cause of Ammonia Spikes
Once a tank has been properly cycled, all you need to do to keep ammonia levels low is frequent cleaning and water changes. If NH3 is detected despite this routine, there may be issues related to overfeeding. Perhaps the tank is stocked with too many fish and not enough plants, or the biological filter has deteriorated to the point that it no longer supports bacterial colonies. In some cases, the filtration and aeration system isn’t functioning optimally, thus resulting in inadequate movement of the water column.
In addition to ridding your aquarium of ammonia, there are several other things you’ll need to do to properly maintain the tank. At Aquatic Warehouse, we carry all of the essential aquarium supplies, whether you need a protein skimmer, filtration, LED Lighting, testing kits, or an aquarium dosing pump. Stop by our store in Kearny Mesa, order supplies from our website, or give us a call today at 858-467-9297.