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Endless Ammonia

Posted By: SMCB
Date: Friday, 8 November 2002, at 2:16 a.m.

Now 2 fishtanks in my household are experiencing a constant ammonia surge. I forget how long I've had this problem. I tried posting prior, didn't get much of a solution (not one that worked). In the past month or so my mother has also developed the problem with her tank -- ammonia surging thru the roof. She just lost the biggest clown we had left, nevermind my still being upset about losing the bigger ones I had so many months prior. Someone help, please?

My mother and I each have 2 tanks, but oddly each of us have one tank which seems bent on being poisonous, the other being completely fine. I have a 50 gal and 10 gal tank, she has a 29 gal and 2 gal tank. Only the larger tanks (50 and 29) seem to have an ammonia issue. This makes me wonder what differences exist between the tanks that cause the ammonia problem to occur...

Filtration/Water Changes:

Both "ammonia tanks" have Bio-Wheel filters (the 50 gal tank having 2 30 gallon filters). The 10 gallon has a non-wheeled filter, the 2 gallon has undergravel filtration. The water to the ammonia tanks is changed once a week usually, once every 2 weeks at the (rare) minimum. Every 2 weeks, at least when I remember it's been two weeks, I change the filter media to my 50 gal tank -- sometimes I forget, 3 weeks happen, yadda. Can't swear to my mother's habits changing filter media, but I do notice filters being used/that she does so. And while I change the water of my 10 gallon at the same time as my 50 gallon, The 10 gallon wheelless filter has had the same filter media for so long I forget. Mother shows simalar laziness with her 2 gallon, the bottom of the tank looks rather dirty, took her a month or so to change it last. But the 10 and 2 gallon tanks test just fine -- the tanks we're worrying with are the problemed ones.

Population:

At the start of the ammonia problem, I don't think I had too many fish. Ditto for mother. At this point -- our tanks are scarcely populated. I have 50 gallons with 1 angel (softball sized), 3 silver dollars (baseball sized), and 3 loaches, the longest of which is 3-4" or so long, 2 others maybe an inch shorter (purchased as the initial surges took my 5 babies down to 1). I have a small scattering of white clouds/neon tetras, probably less than 10 total. Mother now has a 29 gallon tank with 3 smaller silver dollars and (now) a single clown around the size of my smaller ones (2-3"). 4 fish in 29 gallons, I just can't believe the 5th-to-last fish has recently died for overcrowding, even if he was a 4" loach... The tanks not troubled by ammonia have only small fish in them, Long-fin white clouds ("meteor minnows"), typical white clouds, and brilliant rasboras, about 1 fish per gallon.

Feeding:

I don't think I overfeed. I think I underfeed, the fish always seem hungry. But ammonia sucks and so I've gotten rather stingy. At the beginning of the day I give a small pinch to both sides of the tank (my Angel lurks to the right, loaches/dollars to the left), and I *may* repeat the process in the later portion of the afternoon or so, but it's got coin-toss odds. In the evening shortly before I cut the tank bulbs I throw in one blister-pack cube of (thawed) frozen bloodworms. On occassion, for variety's sake, I'll throw in other snacks (shrimp pellets, tubiflex, etc) -- these are not common however. Mother does roughly the same, although she puts the worms in at the beginning of the day with the flakes (I used to, it became a night thing over my work schedule). I use barely perceptable amounts of food in the smaller non-problemed tanks, the fish are itty-bitty after all, a flake or two ground in my fingers is enough for them, it's seemed. We do give the smaller tanks bloodworms, but very seldom.

I've asked my LFS about my problem, and gotten no real help. Mostly for having tried everything I can recall them suggesting, and nothing having worked. The most brutal suggestion they made was to empty my tank, completely, and start it over. This was long ago, I should have re-cycled by now, but at one point I actually did empty the tank, cleaned it with scalding hot water even, re-added gravel and wood and live plants and fish and such... 0 ammonia, but only for a few days. The tank went right back to being ammonia-problemed within a week, and although I assume I re-cycled over it being months ago, I truly can't tell -- the ammonia's never calmed down. One thing the LFS did suggest which made a huge difference was a bottle of ammonia-neutralizer, since I've started adding that to my water changes I've noticed no fish having died in my tank. Mother was initally resistant to the use of chemicals in her water, she lost a few over this, I think the loach that recently died was harmed by the ammonia prior to neutralizer and simply stayed too weak/died once it was added. But, despising giving chemicals to my fish as well, this is the fate I've so far resigned myself to -- Ammonia neutralizer (or dead fish). Not very acceptable, just more acceptable than