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Ammonia


Maddi1553

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Maddi1553

So i had my first ammonia scare (been cycled for 2 months now) was just doing my every other day parameters check and the ammonia was 0.50 ppm  I tested twice just to make sure and sure enough it was at 0.50ppm😅 did a 50% water change anyone have any input on what else I should do? I have multiple corals a lawnmower blenny and a clownfish and everyone seems fine no stress. Would love some input please. 

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chasingcorals17
40 minutes ago, Maddi1553 said:

So i had my first ammonia scare (been cycled for 2 months now) was just doing my every other day parameters check and the ammonia was 0.50 ppm  I tested twice just to make sure and sure enough it was at 0.50ppm😅 did a 50% water change anyone have any input on what else I should do? I have multiple corals a lawnmower blenny and a clownfish and everyone seems fine no stress. Would love some input please. 

Any CUC that may have died and you just haven’t noticed the empty shell yet? Pretty hard to tell, I know, but a dead snail sure can pump out ammonia 

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brandon429

Maddi that's the level about 75% of reef tanks run at anytime they're tested on non digital equipment. If you had a real ammonia issue your report would be of fish loss its a false alarm. Post a picture of your tank for final proof, we automatically know it'll have plenty of normal surface area with clean water and happy animals, since it's been running this long those things are required... the pic will confirm. Extended ammonia alerts are misreads. Fully dead tanks are the real deal if ammonia is out of control. 

 

There are no symptomless ammonia events, things look normal in your reef because ammonia isn't spiked. It's actually .001-.005 nh3 but a non digital ammonia kit can't report that low as they report a state of ammonia which is ten times higher than those ranges, and often reported even higher than that because they’re non digital guesstimate kits. If a thousand fully cycled reef tanks ran ammonia kit tests using api or Red Sea, 900 would show your readings above - ~90 would show slightly lower or higher, still with no problems, and ten would show actual zero. Non digital test kits cause this much confusion in the hobby, it never ends.

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seabass

First off, I'd like to know the brand of test kit that you are using.  I assume API; first because it's probably the most widely used kit, and second because it's more sensitive than many other popular brands.  However, Brandon is more familiar with results from kits like Seneye (which might give an even a better insight into levels of ammonia).  One of these days I'll have to get up to speed on some of these newer kits.  Or maybe Brandon could school me on them here. :smilie:

 

6 hours ago, brandon429 said:

that's the level about 75% of reef tanks run at anytime they're tested on non digital equipment

Brandon and I will disagree a bit here.  I feel this percentage is exaggerated because he is primarily seeing people asking why they aren't getting a negative result, while the people that are getting a negative results aren't usually posting about it.  I mean why would you start a new thread asking why your tank's ammonia level is what you expected it to be?  Still, it doesn't negate the fact that not all non-negative test results end in fatal events.  But they might be harmful to some of the lower life forms which we can't observe.

 

Also, I feel that he's referring to non-negative test results, versus a proper color match of 0.5 ppm.  Most people in this category are reporting a color shift which may or may not seem to match 0.25 ppm.  I'm less concerned about a slight color shift than a reading which seems to match 0.5 ppm (which indicates a "higher than usual" level of ammonia).

 

Like I said earlier, I feel that API's ammonia test kit is a bit more sensitive than some other test kits (showing a color shift before some/most other brands).  Given that, I feel that their color chart doesn't correctly reflect these low end levels.  This allows me to discount slight color shifts as low, non-lethal levels of ammonia.  Some people refer to this as a false positive; however, the kit is actually reflecting actual low levels of total ammonia.  I wish API would update their color chart to more accurately reflect these lower levels of total ammonia.

 

So what is total ammonia?  Total ammonia is the combination of free ammonia (NH3, which is the toxic form) and ammonium (NH4+, which is considered significantly less toxic).  The ratio of free ammonia to ammonium is determined by temperature and pH, the primary one being pH.

Resize-Wizard-1.gif

As you can see, at lower pH levels, almost all of the total ammonia is ammonium (not very toxic).  But as the level of pH in the water rises, the ammonium is converted into free ammonia (increasing toxicity).

 

So what does the API ammonia test kit actually test?  It tests for free ammonia; however, it only reports on total ammonia.  You might ask, how's that possible?  Like many liquid reagent ammonia test kits, the API kit's reagents raise the pH of the sample to a level where most of the ammonium is converted into free ammonia, which is what the kit tests for.  I assume that API's reagents might raise the sample's pH a little bit higher than its competitors (resulting in a more sensitive kit). :unsure:

 

So at a pH of 7.8 (a relative common reef tank value), about 3% of the total ammonia would be free ammonia.  The value would still be less than 5% at a pH of 8.0.  This is why not all non-negative results are fatal to our hardy tank inhabitants.

Resize-Wizard-2.gif

 

Newer tanks seem to have more non-negative results than mature reef tanks.  While I can often notice slight color shifts on my mature tanks using API's kit, they are not easily confused with a reading of 0.25 ppm.  I actually like API's kit, as it tends to be able to reveal relative changes in ammonia levels.

 

So should I be concerned about non-negative results?  While maybe not reason to panic, I feel that you should at least be aware of them.  Maybe there's been a death in the system, or maybe a disruption of the substrate.  It's another indicator which might provide additional information.  That said, I rarely test for ammonia once I have confirmed that the nitrogen cycle has been established.  Brandon will argue that you can establish a cycle without testing.  While this is true, confirmation with tests can be reassuring.  And testing can be highly beneficial when dosing ammonia to establish a biofilter on dry rock by dosing ammonia using the fishless cycling method.

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brandon429

we need pics of this tank in question 

 

 

symptomless ammonia noncontrol is always suspect, actual control over ammonia isn’t suspect to any digital ammonia kit owners.

 

 

 

A few readers might be thinking that the test once registered zero, now it says .25-.5 so that *must mean* ammonia has spiked and held.

 

no, it doesn’t. Any common cleaning or feeding event can cause a minor and fractional increase in free ammonia and then it’s oxidized within five minutes / this happens all day long in any reef. The non digital test kits can take over ten days to register the drop a digital kit would report in five minutes, see this comparison thread:

 

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/new-cycle-seneye-vs-api.859493/


 

that’s specifically showing api in danger zone but from day one the tank was safe, running at the nh3 levels of a proofing test tank we used to benchmark the seneye for symptomless reef nh3 levels.

 

Seabass, I have a running bounty payable to the first person with a calibrated seneye or hach meter showing ammonia non control on a perfectly normal looking post-cycle reef tank. We need to see some digital measures then I’ll pay out a bounty based on how convincing the test is factored alongside tank pics

 

 all reef tanks trend towards the nh3 range stated above because we are all repeating the same ratios of surface area overages in all tanks even if the bioload ranges.

 

I have quite a pattern linkage for false ammonia concern posts, consider the patterns below. It’s easy to just claim ‘no, those were all spikes’ but until we see some actual symptoms of loss and digitally measured noncontrol I think the patterns make a better case nobody has free ammonia issues. Ammonia balance is the most inherently regulated parameter in reefing, but is also conveyed among peers as the least self managing.

 

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/sustained-ammonia-spikes-are-misreads.802470/

 

 

there isn’t one single case available to show ammonia noncontrol before a fish kill event using hach nh3 lab meters, seneye, or mindstream devices when those existed a few years ago. The panic is solely for the non digital test kit owner, and fish loss instances (none above for pages) come from disease or acclimation issues, none were killed by a tank not controlling ammonia preceding the fish loss. I hold these stances from the preponderance of evidence in other peoples reefs, as they present.

 

 

 

pictures here will show a perfectly normal running reef, able to quickly and safely convert even a few test load drops of ammonia if some were put in. No ammonia event has occurred here, once we see tank pics. The conflict for decades has been and will remain: non digital test kit says to panic, tank pics say everything is and has been fine.

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brandon429

https://www.reef2reef.com/threads/does-anyone-dose-ammonia-and-or-how-would-one-try.770535/
 

 

and lastly that link. That’s a big one for dispelling myths in old cycling science. It shows several calibrated seneyes on tanks with ranging bioload, the nh3 ranges reef tanks run at, and post cycle reefs getting dosed with raw ammonia as test loading. Using the digital gear we can see how fast any reef tank of common surface area can uptake free ammonia test loads, with no ramp up time, above the degree the tank is handling its own waste at the moment of dosing. (once we get pics here, we can discern bioload to surface area status)

 

 

 

the rule of ramping up bacteria to match a bioload, false. That’s instant cushion ability above in any running tank. The inability to handle a tanks own bioload after two months doesn’t exist in reefing, hence the bounty. Not only is her ammonia safe, as those tanks above do she could add extra ammonia loading and still be safe.

 

the one difference in the two threads? The test device. The similarity in both threads? Normal looking tanks.
 

 

Maddie also post your actual test ammonia reading so we can visually guess what reducing it 10x over to nh3 form will read. It will match your tank pic health after we run that conversion. No reefs run at zero nh3, so I learned to not fault api for always showing some in 90% of posts about it in verified already cycled reefs.

 

 

also factoring in my bounty prediction: we now have seneye machine owners who spot check our rip clean threads, initial cycling threads and tank transfer threads and they’re 100% in safe range all the time matching the tank pic non symptoms every time. I agree the OP had a small ammonia event, and then it went away in three minutes. 

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seabass
5 minutes ago, brandon429 said:

Thanks for the links.  I'll have to review them and digest this info.  Maybe I'll even be converted to the dark side. :lol:

 

4 minutes ago, brandon429 said:

nobody has free ammonia issues

Well, maybe that's where we might disagree some.  I assume that ammonia can kill fish when too many are placed in a tank without any biofilter.

 

Although, I get where you are coming from.  Ammonia might be the bogeyman of reef keeping (where it's unnecessarily feared or blamed, way more than it should be).

 

4 minutes ago, brandon429 said:

The inability to handle a tanks own bioload after two months doesn’t exist in reefing

It can certainly handle its typical ammonia inputs, even spikes due to disruptions, small additions, and deaths of smaller animals.  However, I can't imagine that levels remain perfectly stable in the event of a significant input of ammonia.

 

We are often measuring relative changes versus lethal toxicity.  Most of these measurable changes wouldn't/couldn't be observed visually; and all of the tank's inhabitants would remain seemingly unaffected.

 

25 minutes ago, brandon429 said:

A few readers might be thinking that the test once registered zero, now it says .25-.5 so that *must mean* ammonia has spiked and held.  No, it doesn’t. Any common cleaning or feeding event can cause a minor and fractional increase in free ammonia and then it’s oxidized within five minutes / this happens all day long in any reef. The non digital test kits can take over ten days to register the drop a digital kit would report in five minutes

These analog tests are reflecting actual changes in total ammonia.  Science doesn't permit the test to extrapolate, it can only look at current levels.  Does this mean that the digital tests are unable to detect the changes which analog tests are reflecting?  I don't know.  I'll look at your links and see if I can rationalize what's going on.  The two should be in sync, although one might be more accurate than the other.  Also the testing procedure (like where the reagents raise pH levels) might also differ, yielding different results.  IDK.

 

36 minutes ago, brandon429 said:

Seabass, I have a running bounty payable to the first person with a calibrated seneye or hach meter showing ammonia non control on a perfectly normal looking post-cycle reef tank. We need to see some digital measures then I’ll pay out a bounty based on how convincing the test is factored alongside tank pics

Yeah, I'm not sure that tank pics will show much beyond how mature it is.  Like I said, we are primarily talking about relative changes which are non-lethal and which can't be observed with the naked eye.  It's sort of like the difference between 8 dKH and 10 dKH; neither one is necessarily a problem but knowing the value provides (hopefully beneficial) information.

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brandon429

Nice post. Agreed any non reef tank display with fish is at risk if they’re not following common active surface area trending. I like to box in the rules strictly to display tanks because they’ll be a uniform salinity and surface area repetition (salinity mattering in the rare instances someone wants to run a low salinity hypo treatment tank; nitrite can burn there whereas in display reefing we can rule out nitrite  noncontrol from any issue, my takeaway from Randy’s nitrite article)

 

 

Truly I’m fascinated by the patterns other aquarists post that’s the only reason I am placing links / it’s to show the patterning that shapes my opinion

 

I look for people who truly do test loading on their tanks 

 

 

it’s always the everyday tanks posting the ammonia alerts, claimed situations where just a normal everyday tank can’t keep ammonia down…that’s one of the biggest patterns I feel is present in the links. Who knows what such an ammonia dosing event would look like on api, for ten different reefs undergoing test loading. We could learn lots from an experiment like that, how fast the non digital kits report the drop rate etc 

 

 

Given the ranging degree of accuracy in today’s home testing I’m learning to rely on tank pictures and losses of tank life that go beyond fish loss since disease issues are so often in play…we never find fish + coral loss for example resulting from non controlled ammonia, we see only fish kills left to rot in the water as the sole cause of ammonia noncontrol in typical size reef tanks. For a nano, I would believe a large snail degrading could boost it but nobody’s shown it yet on any pics or digital posts we’ve tracked. We only see ammonia control on all calibrated seneye reefs with all common variation very close to the stated nh3 ranges above. 
 

in my thread about false ammonia readings I feel this is the mechanism in play:

 

.2 nh4 = .02 ballpark nh3 but at least is below all known toxicity levels, hence the recurring safe tank pics. The truth is with seneye or hach nh3 lab gear it will read .002= digital accuracy. The fact the kits report below toxicity but everyone reacts to the 10x over viewing of the nh4 reading is what drives the fallacy.

 

 

the level everyone reacts to as bad, specifically means good.

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brandon429

@Maddi1553 can you post a pic of your aquarium plus a pic of the actual test kit being ran, so we can see the color in the vial 

 

those are the final two missing pieces of the ammonia puzzle here

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seabass

Maddi, thanks for indulging our discussion about ammonia.  We've had a healthy ongoing conversation about this topic for awhile now.  I find it helpful, I hope it's equally helpful to those following along.  I know these back and forths have helped shape my opinions over time.

 

My main point is that, while your tank might be fine, it could be helpful to discover why there has been a quantifiable increase.  Maybe it was a recent disruption (possibly from maintenance), could be from a water change (did you know that ammonia is a contaminate commonly found in salt mixes), could be from an addition or even a death, even changing your filter media might contribute.  Knowing what affects your tank, and how, will likely help you in the long run.

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brandon429

agreed. There were times before when posters didn't have live rock in a tank they had only a few plastic plants and a biobrick; not necessarily high surface area at all in those setups/worthy of ammonia control suspect. Biobricks don't have water aimed and jetted through them; they lie on a low plane of water impact compared to live rocks that jut up in the center of the display.

 

I have also seen legit suspect ammonia control posts where for some reason they chose to have fish only up top, a few plastic coral decorations, and all the live rock packed into a sump. the swirling wastewater in the display never met live contact area until it was piped down in the sump and back, it's not hard to envision a backup occurring in that type of setup.

 

the pics show us the undisclosed details of it all. if nobody discusses the matter in point/counterpoint we'll never evolve; cycling discussions are very very worthy in the hobby and very needed. final rules are not written yet; still being shaped. 

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