Fish Tank Ammonia is the number 1 killer of fish, especially in a new tank. If you have an ammonia spike I can help you resolve the problem right now! And hopefully save your fish in the process…In this article I’m going to give you the quick and easy fix!
So there are plenty of reasons why you have ammonia in your tank but that’s not what you came here for, lets get straight to the point.
Later in the article I’ll go over some reasons WHY you may have ammonia if you’re interested in not making this a recurring problem.
Fixing Ammonia Levels
First thing you want to do is a 50-80% water change. This will help get a big chunk of that ammonia out of your tank. I say 50-80 because only you know what amount of water change your fish can handle.
If you have hardy fish, like these African Cichlids, that are accustomed to big water changes go with the 80%. If you’re not sure what your fish can handle or just started a new tank go with a 50% water change.
Now lets go step by step:
- First remove the water (50-80%)
- Next step is to add Seachem Prime (very important) which will not only dechlorinate the new water you’re about to add, but it also detoxifies the ammonia in the water still in your tank. Keep in mind this doesn’t remove the ammonia, it just detoxifies it making the water temporarily safe for your fish.
- After that go ahead and refill the tank with fresh new tap water. When refilling your tank you must make sure that your new water temperature matches your old water temperature or you will shock your fish. This is something that should be done during every water change.
- After you’ve refilled your tank your going to add Seachem Stability. Stability is basically bacteria in a bottle that will boost your cycle and help grow the beneficial bacteria you need in order to convert the ammonia naturally.
Add Prime and Stability daily for 1 week or until your water test show 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites.
(Need help with how to test your aquarium water, here’s a helpful video – API Master Test Kit)
After 1 week if you still have ammonia or nitrite in your tank repeat the entire process: Start with a 50-80% water change, then dose Prime and Stability daily until your water test reads 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite. This means your tank has been fully cycled.
Also do not feed your fish for the first 5-7 days.
Your fish will be adding ammonia every time they poop, so adding food will only add to the ammonia in your tank.
Following this procedure will allow your tank to cycle with fish in the tank, it’ll help get your tank in a livable state immediately and boost the time it takes to get your tank properly cycled, not to mention, it will save your fishes life!
Why there is ammonia in your fish tank
The most common reason why you have ammonia in your tank is because your tank is not cycled. If you don’t know what I mean about cycling your tank make sure to watch this video which is a simple to understand explanation of the process.
In short, if your tank isn’t cycled you wont have the necessary beneficial bacteria needed to convert and remove ammonia from your tank. Most new comers into the hobby either neglect this important step or just think its aquarium foolishness…no judgement though, I was one of them also!
So many fish die and aquariums fail because of this, they even gave it a name, its called New Tank Syndrome.
Ammonia Spike in your existing tank
But lets say you didn’t just start a new tank and all of a sudden you got an ammonia spike, and fish are dying left and right, what gives!
Well, multiple reasons…Did you add a bunch of new fish all at once? Doing this can absolutely cause an ammonia spike. See, beneficial bacteria will only grow as much as its needed, or as much food there is in your tank for them to survive on, and yea, their food is ammonia.
Quick algebra explanation…
So if you have 10 fish producing X amount of ammonia you’ll eventually grow the same X amount of beneficial bacteria to feed on it and convert it.
But if you add a bunch of fish at once and now all the fish produce X+10 amount of ammonia, the X amount of bacteria currently in your tank cant handle the +10, its too much food and not enough mouths to eat it. So you’ll leave that +10 in your tank and get an ammonia spike! And that can kill all of your fish.
The beneficial bacteria in your tank need time to reproduce and grow more to handle the extra amount of ammonia, or food.
Over cleaning can cause ammonia in your tank
Another reason for an ammonia spike could be your cleaning process. Did you recently clean your tank, filters, or move substrate around, maybe change out a big piece of décor.
If you clean your equipment too well with soap or other chemicals that will kill your beneficial bacteria. If you clean with tap water the chlorine in your tap water will kill your beneficial bacteria. If you used tap water to clean your bio-media you may have killed most of your Bacteria. Here’s an article on how to properly Clean a Fluval 407 Canister Filter.
Or maybe you have a hang on back filter and decided to throw away your cartridges which housed a whole bunch of bacteria on it. No Bueno.
If you disturb a lot of your substrate at once you could kill a lot of bacteria, or if you removed and/or cleaned a piece of décor that had a bunch of bacteria living on it you could also kill bacteria that way.
Moral of the story is you should always make sure anything you do to your tank and/or filters preserves as much beneficial bacteria as possible.