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How much ammonia does a clownfish produce?

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Chris27

Hi everyone, i'm new to this forum so I don't so I don't know if i'm posting this in the right place. But I was curious how much ammonia a juvenile clownfish is capable of producing. specifically in a 28 gallon tank.

Its been cycling for 25 days and went 2 ppm of ammonia twice + whatever small amount of ammonia the shrimp produced while it was in their. I've had a light diatom bloom but left the lights off since.

 

The plan this weekend to get 2 hermit crabs or 2 trochus snails along with a bottle of bacteria to ensure they live. And add a clown if all goes well. My tank is only going through about 0.25 ppm daily. Is that enough for a clownfish?

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Tired

No. Your tank shouldn't be considered cycled until it can process 2ppm of ammonia down to 0 in 24 hours or less. Snails might be okay with the bottled bacteria, but it would be better to just get the bacteria.

 

There's no way to know exactly how much ammonia the clownfish will produce, as it depends on fish size and what it's being fed. You want the tank to be properly cycled, anyway, not just barely cycled enough. No sense putting a fish at risk when the tank probably just needs more time. 

 

Do you see nitrates regularly? If you add ammonia and see nitrates shortly thereafter, your tank is nearly cycled, and just needs more time for the bacteria to multiply.

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Chris27
2 minutes ago, Tired said:

No. Your tank shouldn't be considered cycled until it can process 2ppm of ammonia down to 0 in 24 hours or less. Snails might be okay with the bottled bacteria, but it would be better to just get the bacteria.

 

There's no way to know exactly how much ammonia the clownfish will produce, as it depends on fish size and what it's being fed. You want the tank to be properly cycled, anyway, not just barely cycled enough. No sense putting a fish at risk when the tank probably just needs more time. 

 

Do you see nitrates regularly? If you add ammonia and see nitrates shortly thereafter, your tank is nearly cycled, and just needs more time for the bacteria to multiply.

I know for a fact the ammonia is being fully processed into nitrates. Nitrites are consistently at 0. My tank managed to process 2 ppm in 2 3 days but something happened and most of the bacteria died off. the second 2 ppm took 8 days and I don't know why. I'm using powdered ammonia and just eyeballing it until I see the required amount on my test

 

Current parameters

Ammonia 0.25 (down from 0.5 yesterday)

Nitrite 0

Salinity 1.022

Temp 76

Ph 8.0

 

Tank specs

15 lbs fiji pink live sand

15 lbs marco dry rock

Added multiple sponges in the back chamber for additional surface area

dosed 10 ml aquarforest bacteria bottle 

Using salifert test kits for nitrite and ammonia

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Tired

Cool, you're on your way. But you should wait until the tank is fully cycled. It might not badly harm a clownfish to be put in that tank now, but there's no need to take the risk. Give it a week or so.

 

The sponges in the back chamber are probably not needed, and could potentially become nitrate factories if enough stuff gets in 'em. 

 

You should get nitrate and phosphate test kits. They're important numbers to know if you want corals. Mostly to make sure neither of them is zero- low or zero of those will seriously harm and eventually kill your corals. Not urgent, I suppose, but do get them before you get corals. And remember to do a big water change (80% or so is good) before adding any livestock, after the tank is cycled. 

 

One important note: do not add livestock if you're dosing ammonia. Ammonia levels will hurt them. 

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Chris27
14 minutes ago, Tired said:

Cool, you're on your way. But you should wait until the tank is fully cycled. It might not badly harm a clownfish to be put in that tank now, but there's no need to take the risk. Give it a week or so.

 

The sponges in the back chamber are probably not needed, and could potentially become nitrate factories if enough stuff gets in 'em. 

 

You should get nitrate and phosphate test kits. They're important numbers to know if you want corals. Mostly to make sure neither of them is zero- low or zero of those will seriously harm and eventually kill your corals. Not urgent, I suppose, but do get them before you get corals. And remember to do a big water change (80% or so is good) before adding any livestock, after the tank is cycled. 

 

One important note: do not add livestock if you're dosing ammonia. Ammonia levels will hurt them. 

The plan was to wait until the weekend, 5 or 6 days and see how much ammonia it can handle. If the numbers are bad ill  wait an extra week for some clean up crew and see how that goes.

The sponges are not for physical filtration, but for extra surface area for the bacteria. It will definitely be under a layer of filter floss and hopefully avoid contact with any detritus or food that might break down.

I have a nitrate kit but im not gonna bother with testing it when there is nitrite presence in the water, which can make the test innacurate

I know ammonia is harmful in saltwater as low as 0.1 ppm, so i'm definitely not gonna be dosing any ammonium after I have livestock

 

How fast does bacteria multiply? So far I have had no success with having it multiply in my tank. I just dosed the final drops of bottled bacteria today so I guess ill see.

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Tired

Depends on the conditions, but it should absolutely be multiplying. Assuming the temperature, salinity, and so on are in line, you should have it spread pretty fast. Your salinity is a tiny bit low, you might want to bring that up, but it shouldn't have hurt anything. 

 

How sure are you that your ammonia test is accurate? Way too much ammonia can stall your cycle pretty badly. 

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Chris27

I used the salifert test and followed the intructions to a t. some of the stalling could be a result of the fluctuating temperature in the first few weeks, the heater I was using was innacurate.

 

I keep the tank at a low salinity because it keeps a little bit of room for error, ammonia is slightly less toxic at lower salinities, and it saves a few bucks by making the bucket last another couple of weeks. I have no ato, I just stuck a few lines of tape in the back chamber and im topping off daily

 

The only bottled bacteria available at my "lfs" is aquavitro  seed bacteria. which ive flankly never heard of. 

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j.falk

I wouldn't keep the salinity that low.  Especially if you plan on adding livestock soon.  You're only making things harder on yourself.

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Tired

Corals aren't going to be a huge fan of low salinity. This is not the place to save a few bucks. And you shouldn't be thinking about ammonia being less toxic, you should be thinking about having no ammonia, period. 

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Chris27

Like I said, the main reason im keeping salinity low is room for error. If I forget to top off for a few days at 1.026, everything in my tank is dead. 

(FYI I retested and the actual number is 1.024, I have no clue how the salinity just went up)

 

Small ammonia spikes are inevitable when adding new livestock or something dies. Like I said, the plan is to be patient and wait until my biofilter can handle more ammonia

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Chris27
On 9/15/2020 at 7:42 AM, Tired said:

Corals aren't going to be a huge fan of low salinity. This is not the place to save a few bucks. And you shouldn't be thinking about ammonia being less toxic, you should be thinking about having no ammonia, period. 

Hi again, its been five days and i've continued dosing ammonia. I did another trial and my tank managed 0.5 ppm in 24 hours. certainly improvement but probably not enough

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mcarroll

Clowns will produce ammonia in proportion to the amount of food you put in the tank.

 

You're taking an indirect approach to patience, BTW.  😉  

 

This ammonia method is mostly popular for rushing tanks into service.  It's not foolproof.  I'm not even sure it's advisable in most cases.  But it is popular.  🤷‍♂️

 

A tank will cycle in 30-40 days with almost on help from you at all.  Just build the ammonia load progressively, starting with the smallest critters you can...so the ammonia concentration never becomes detectable.  Hermits or snails are good starters.  "The Natural Method"  

 

For a good starting point, check out Marine Aquarium Handbook Beginner to Breeder by Martin Moe.

 

If you were actually in a hurry to start the tank – maybe you're rescuing some fish from someone else? – then the "modern" way to hurry would be to use a calibrated dose of bacteria like Marineland's BIO-Spira or Dr Tim's One & Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria.  The usual waiting for bacteria to multiply up to the ammonia load is eliminated.  

 

But this is not how to start a reef, or to make live rock.  This is just how to start a bio-filter quickly so the fish you add don't croak from ammonia poisoning.

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Chris27
5 hours ago, mcarroll said:

Clowns will produce ammonia in proportion to the amount of food you put in the tank.

 

You're taking an indirect approach to patience, BTW.  😉  

 

This ammonia method is mostly popular for rushing tanks into service.  It's not foolproof.  I'm not even sure it's advisable in most cases.  But it is popular.  🤷‍♂️

 

A tank will cycle in 30-40 days with almost on help from you at all.  Just build the ammonia load progressively, starting with the smallest critters you can...so the ammonia concentration never becomes detectable.  Hermits or snails are good starters.  "The Natural Method"  

 

For a good starting point, check out Marine Aquarium Handbook Beginner to Breeder by Martin Moe.

 

If you were actually in a hurry to start the tank – maybe you're rescuing some fish from someone else? – then the "modern" way to hurry would be to use a calibrated dose of bacteria like Marineland's BIO-Spira or Dr Tim's One & Only Live Nitrifying Bacteria.  The usual waiting for bacteria to multiply up to the ammonia load is eliminated.  

 

But this is not how to start a reef, or to make live rock.  This is just how to start a bio-filter quickly so the fish you add don't croak from ammonia poisoning.

I've just been eyeballing the ammonia until now and testing daily. I finally found a calculator for how much ammonia to dose and i'm gonnna start dosing 0.5 ppm, then 0.75, then 1.0, etc. Once I see at the very least 1 ppm daily being fully cycled. Ill do a 90% water change, begin running carbon, and try some hermit crabs to see if there is something obviously wrong, if it all goes well i'll get the clownfish. (Any changes you'd suggest?)

I'm not rescuing the fish or anything, its almost been 5 weeks so i'm willing to wait another couple of weeks. My bacteria is being very slow and I don't know why, i've dosed small amounts of aquaforest and fluval cycle bacteria.

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Tired

Sounds like a solid plan, except the carbon. IMO, don't run carbon unless you suspect there are toxins in the water, it can remove nutrients that your corals need. 

 

It is a little odd they're moving this slowly. Have you considered an ICP test? You send a sample of your water to a lab, and they find out exactly how much of various elements are in it. It's good to know just in general, and can spot if some sort of contaminant we don't normally test for is in the water. They don't test for everything, but they can find out a lot. 

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Chris27
1 hour ago, Tired said:

Sounds like a solid plan, except the carbon. IMO, don't run carbon unless you suspect there are toxins in the water, it can remove nutrients that your corals need. 

 

It is a little odd they're moving this slowly. Have you considered an ICP test? You send a sample of your water to a lab, and they find out exactly how much of various elements are in it. It's good to know just in general, and can spot if some sort of contaminant we don't normally test for is in the water. They don't test for everything, but they can find out a lot. 

I have no plan to get corals for a few months, and no stony coral until next year. Ill still hold off on the carbon unless I get a bad smell or toxin in the water.

 

I hope my slow bacteria growth is some user error, my tank can barely process a smidge more than 0.25 ammonia a day. I get access to a precise scale tomorrow and I can start measuring out how much to dose instead of eyeballing it. I live in Canada and I don't know if ICP tests are available here. Ill leave the white lights on and hope to see some kind of algae, that would at least prove my tank can sustain life

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mcarroll
12 hours ago, Chris27 said:

I hope my slow bacteria growth is some user error, my tank can barely process a smidge more than 0.25 ammonia a day. I get access to a precise scale tomorrow and I can start measuring out how much to dose instead of eyeballing it. I live in Canada and I don't know if ICP tests are available here. Ill leave the white lights on and hope to see some kind of algae, that would at least prove my tank can sustain life

Too much need for hope and too much to potentially go wrong and too much number chasing with this.  

 

There's no need for so much "hope" or effort if you slow down and do the natural method.  It just works.

 

As for adding a fish, you're on your own with your current plan.

 

If you want to slow down and go natural, then adding a fish should come later.  Add a hermit crab (or I prefer snails) first...then wait at least a few weeks – I like a month – to see how things go.  Then add another couple of hermits or snails and see how that goes for around a month.  Work your way SLOWLY up to the fish.

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Chris27

Update:

After a few days wait for the ammonia to drop again. I found an online calculator measuring how much I need in ppm, I got access to a gram accurate scale and measured out 1 gram, supposedly 4 ppm ammonia in my tank size.

I measured 2 hours later at trace levels of ammonia... This is starting to get old. I believe this is the 5th week of the cycle with no success....

I'm thinking now about just getting some snails and crabs, slowly build up the bioload (like what mcaroll said) maybe some mushrooms and zoas along the way. And get a fish much later. Anyone else think that idea viable? My patience is waning.

In the time being i'm gonna do a large water change, if there is a toxin in the water slowing things down hopefully ill reduce it, I would run carbon but i've been advised against it

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Tired

Mcarroll knows their stuff, they give excellent advice.

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aclman88

I have never used powdered ammonia, but have had luck with Dr. Tim's liquid ammonia.  It is possible the powered stuff has gone bad if you are not measuring ammonia after having added a 4ppm dose.

 

It seems like you are jumping all over the place trying to get a cycle.  Pick a method, stick with it, and just be patient (easier sad than done, I know) 

 

I would second @mcarroll's idea of adding some snails and taking it from there.  I also would not add any coral for a little bit until the tank is definitely cycled and stabilized a bit.

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Chris27
22 minutes ago, aclman88 said:

I have never used powdered ammonia, but have had luck with Dr. Tim's liquid ammonia.  It is possible the powered stuff has gone bad if you are not measuring ammonia after having added a 4ppm dose.

 

It seems like you are jumping all over the place trying to get a cycle.  Pick a method, stick with it, and just be patient (easier sad than done, I know) 

 

I would second @mcarroll's idea of adding some snails and taking it from there.  I also would not add any coral for a little bit until the tank is definitely cycled and stabilized a bit.

I wish I had access to dr timms, it seems a lot easier than the powdered stuff i'm using. I live in canada so its my only actual option.

 

Up to this point ive been sticking with one method, ive been dosing ammonia and seeing how much time it takes to fully cycle through, which in my case is painfully slow.

 

When I mentioned adding corals I meant in a couple of months, and just some really hardy soft corals. The question is, when will the tank be established enough to support a bioload like a juvenile clownfish? A couple of months I assume? And is my bacterias current ammonia consumption rate of about 0.25 ppm ammonia enough for 2 snails?

(Fyi I havent seen algae in my tank for a couple of weeks now, I do have nori so that's what ill be feeding the snails)

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mcarroll
On 9/24/2020 at 1:32 PM, Chris27 said:

Up to this point ive been sticking with one method, ive been dosing ammonia and seeing how much time it takes to fully cycle through, which in my case is painfully slow.

 

When I mentioned adding corals I meant in a couple of months, and just some really hardy soft corals. The question is, when will the tank be established enough to support a bioload like a juvenile clownfish? A couple of months I assume?

In short, a snail isn't going to register on the ammonia test kit.

 

If you wanna read more...

 

Nutshell analysis:

  • We only care about ammonia at high enough concentrations to cause problems.
  • Ammonia release more or less scales with the size of the organism/quantity of food consumed.
  • Concentration of ammonia from those releases is dependent on tank size/water volume.
  • With a fish-sized tank only carrying a snail-sized organism, you've prevented the ammonia concentration problem.  
  • Adding supplementary bacteria (not necessarily an "instant tank" type though) is an insurance policy on top of the process.

We have a common knowledge that says "any ammonia is bad".  

 

But the truth is that any aquatic environment has pulses of ammonia – all the time.  Those pulses come from eating.   They come from all ecological levels.

 

The animals are by and large equipped to deal with these levels of ammonia.

 

Eating causes an ammonia pulse within the animal as it eats!  

 

If "any ammonia" was totally bad, the act of eating would be lethal.  (and if ammonia coping mechanisms are defeated, it can be lethal) 

 

Photosynthetic life such as corals and algae use these ammonia pulses as preferred food sources.

 

So "any ammonia" is not bad.  Ammonia is only bad when the concentration gets too high.  

 

"Too much" ammonia is an easily avoidable condition.  It helps if you have more of a system (start small, take time, baby steps, etc), but essentially just don't stock fish first.  Under that approach, it's a humongous ammonia spike vs a minuscule bacterial load – with literally no other helpful organisms like corals or algae, et al., to spread out the load.  

 

If you haven't already, I would check out either an eBook or (real) book version of Marine Aquarium Handbook Beginner to Breeder by Martin Moe.  A classic and totally essential reading.  I'd also suggest browsing the supplemental reading I have saved in the Microbial CommunityNutrientsFish and Coral sections on my blog.....more technical, more up to date than some aspects of the book.  The book has the big advantage of being COMPLETE in its presentation of the problems of reefkeeping....it also has good solutions that still work as they worked then, but obviously it doesn't have the advantage of any research that occurred since publishing, and it can't cover all subjects in complete depth.  So the journal articles I've saved make an excellent supplement.  👍

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Chris27
47 minutes ago, mcarroll said:

In short, a snail isn't going to register on the ammonia test kit.

 

If you wanna read more...

 

Nutshell analysis:

  • We only care about ammonia at high enough concentrations to cause problems.
  • Ammonia release more or less scales with the size of the organism/quantity of food consumed.
  • Concentration of ammonia from those releases is dependent on tank size/water volume.
  • With a fish-sized tank only carrying a snail-sized organism, you've prevented the ammonia concentration problem.  
  • Adding supplementary bacteria (not necessarily an "instant tank" type though) is an insurance policy on top of the process.

We have a common knowledge that says "any ammonia is bad".  

 

But the truth is that any aquatic environment has pulses of ammonia – all the time.  Those pulses come from eating.   They come from all ecological levels.

 

The animals are by and large equipped to deal with these levels of ammonia.

 

Eating causes an ammonia pulse within the animal as it eats!  

 

If "any ammonia" was totally bad, the act of eating would be lethal.  (and if ammonia coping mechanisms are defeated, it can be lethal) 

 

Photosynthetic life such as corals and algae use these ammonia pulses as preferred food sources.

 

So "any ammonia" is not bad.  Ammonia is only bad when the concentration gets too high.  

 

"Too much" ammonia is an easily avoidable condition.  It helps if you have more of a system (start small, take time, baby steps, etc), but essentially just don't stock fish first.  Under that approach, it's a humongous ammonia spike vs a minuscule bacterial load – with literally no other helpful organisms like corals or algae, et al., to spread out the load.  

 

If you haven't already, I would check out either an eBook or (real) book version of Marine Aquarium Handbook Beginner to Breeder by Martin Moe.  A classic and totally essential reading.  I'd also suggest browsing the supplemental reading I have saved in the Microbial CommunityNutrientsFish and Coral sections on my blog.....more technical, more up to date than some aspects of the book.  The book has the big advantage of being COMPLETE in its presentation of the problems of reefkeeping....it also has good solutions that still work as they worked then, but obviously it doesn't have the advantage of any research that occurred since publishing, and it can't cover all subjects in complete depth.  So the journal articles I've saved make an excellent supplement.  👍

So, what i'm getting from this is if I did a 100% water change. Hopefully taking out whatever is killing the bacteria in the water. I can start getting snails and begin building up the biofilter?

Ill get on that this weekend, i'm filling up the ro water tommorow. Ill get 2 snails next weekend, feed them nori, and then take baby steps towards more inverts. 

 

Unrelated question, will an ammonia reducing filter pad (probably designed for freshwater) reduce ammonia spikes when a fish does get introduced in a few months? if it will,,does it still build up the biofilter?

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Tired

Assuming your new water doesn't also have whatever's killing the bacteria, yes. 

 

If your tank is mature enough for a fish, you shouldn't ever see enough ammonia to harm the fish. No need for an ammonia reducing anything.

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mcarroll
36 minutes ago, Chris27 said:

Hopefully taking out whatever is killing the bacteria in the water.

If anything the nutrient spikes from repeatedly running artificial ammonia tests on the bio-filter might be causing problems.  

 

Maybe a testing issue.  

 

I doubt there's something mysterious/unheard of in the water killing your bacteria.

 

40 minutes ago, Chris27 said:

I can start getting snails and begin building up the biofilter?

You've got it.  Could be a hermit or two instead.  Start small like that and allow plenty of time before your next move.

 

41 minutes ago, Chris27 said:

feed them nori

You should feed them almost nothing....or actually nothing.  Be very moderate with any feeding you choose to do – remember the need for lots of food is the main objection against larger critters like fish.  The snails will cruise 24/7 for bacterial films (and other appropriately sized prey), and distribute them around the tank while they're at it.

 

42 minutes ago, Chris27 said:

Unrelated question, will an ammonia reducing filter pad (probably designed for freshwater) reduce ammonia spikes when a fish does get introduced in a few months? if it will,,does it still build up the biofilter?

They do work.  But you do not want them in your scenario.  

 

You want to stick to the baby steps approach to prevent any big buildups and just slowly build that bio-filter.  

 

Once the nitrifying bacteria population reaches critical mass, moderate ammonia additions don't take any meaningful time to adjust to.  They can multiply at a geometric rate...but it still takes time to get up to critical from near-zero.

 

 

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Chris27
8 minutes ago, mcarroll said:

If anything the nutrient spikes from repeatedly running artificial ammonia tests on the bio-filter might be causing problems.  

 

Maybe a testing issue.  

 

I doubt there's something mysterious/unheard of in the water killing your bacteria.

 

You've got it.  Could be a hermit or two instead.  Start small like that and allow plenty of time before your next move.

 

You should feed them almost nothing....or actually nothing.  Be very moderate with any feeding you choose to do – remember the need for lots of food is the main objection against larger critters like fish.  The snails will cruise 24/7 for bacterial films (and other appropriately sized prey), and distribute them around the tank while they're at it.

 

They do work.  But you do not want them in your scenario.  

 

You want to stick to the baby steps approach to prevent any big buildups and just slowly build that bio-filter.  

 

Once the nitrifying bacteria population reaches critical mass, moderate ammonia additions don't take any meaningful time to adjust to.  They can multiply at a geometric rate...but it still takes time to get up to critical from near-zero.

 

 

Can high nitrite levels and ammonia levels below 2 kill the bacteria? just to be safe I placed a bag of carbon in the back and im changing the water regardless because its likely rich in nitrates at the moment. I know carbon isn't great for corals but they are a long ways ahead of me right now, I need some confidence building and my tank to age a bit.

 

Are hermit crabs equally as hardy as snails? Id be happy to get an omnivore instead so I can feed pellets and nori instead of just one. I would gladly start with hermits instead of snails, I like them a lot better.

 

My tank is almost entirely devoid of life, the only algae is little green patches on the rocks and I don't have any pods. Hermit crabs would eat nori and sinking pellets until I see good algae growth? right?

 

The plan is monthly or bi-monthly additions, just a couple of dwarf hermits or trochus snails. I would be happy with baby steps because at the very least it wont be an overpriced box of water for another 5 weeks.

 

Question unrelated to your responses, do hermit crabs produce enough waste to justify weekly water changes?

 

Thanks for all the help everyone, it really means a lot

 

 

 

 

 

 

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