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What Causes Ammonia and How to Control It Pt. 2

Excessively high ammonia levels can cause your fish to succumb to ammonia poisoning - a potentially fatal condition. In Part 2 of this two-part article you'll discover some treatment options for ammonia poisoning and valuable tips to keep ammonia under control.


hatchetfish xs 7911582Not only can excess ammonia lower the water quality in your tank and indirectly affect the health of your fish, but it can also directly harm your fish by causing ammonia poisoning. Ammonia poisoning can be fatal in fish and it is just one of the many problems likely to be caused by excess ammonia in the freshwater tank. Once you have learned the ways ammonia can enter your tank and the possible effects it can have on your fish, you may begin learning how to control it. In order to control the level of ammonia in your tank you may need to utilize an aquarium water test kit to monitor the ammonia levels as you make changes to your tank environment. By monitoring the ammonia levels as you make changes you will be able to tell which changes have the most effect on lowering your ammonia levels and which changes have little or no effect.

Treatment for Ammonia Poisoning

ph test xs 15020007If your fish are suffering from ammonia poisoning as a result of excess ammonia in the tank water, the first thing you should do is treat them for this condition. Begin by testing the ammonia levels in your tank water using an aquarium water test kit – if the test results come back with an ammonia level above 1ppm it is essential that you begin treatment immediately. The quickest way to bring relief to fish suffering from ammonia poisoning is to lower the pH of your tank below 7.0. The toxicity of ammonia increases at a higher pH, so lowering the pH in your tank will help mitigate the damaging effects of the ammonia. Performing a 50% water change along with several additional water changes over a period of several days may also help lower the ammonia level in your tank below 1 ppm.

While treating your fish for ammonia poisoning it may be wise to reduce the amount you feed your fish or to stop feeding them entirely for a short period of time. Reducing the amount of food you offer your fish will reduce the amount of waste being produced and, thus, will decrease the production of ammonia in the tank. Repeat your aquarium water tests daily as you treat for ammonia poisoning and continue the treatments until the ammonia level drops to zero. You should be aware that even after the ammonia levels in your tank begin to stabilize you may still lose fish to ammonia poisoning if they sustained too much damage to recover. Avoid adding any new fish to your tank until you have gotten the ammonia and nitrite levels under control.

Tips for Controlling Ammonia Levels

fish for-sale xs 22293888While lowering the pH in your tank and performing a large water change are two of the quickest ways to reduce ammonia levels, there are a variety of things you should do to keep the ammonia in your tank from getting out of control in the first place. Avoid adding too many new fish to your tank at once because such a sudden addition to the biological load of the tank could shock the system – the colonies of beneficial bacteria in your tank need time to adjust to increased levels of waste production in order to keep ammonia and nitrite levels under control. On a related note, it is unwise to feed your fish too much because this too could result in excess waste production and the accumulation of uneaten fish food. Experienced aquarium hobbyists often recommend feeding freshwater fish small quantities of food twice a day. Only offer your fish as much as they can eat in a 3 to 5 minute period of time and remove uneaten portions of sinking wafers and discs after an hour, before they completely dissolve.

cichlids xs 14402219The easiest thing you can do to control ammonia levels – and to maintain high water quality in your tank – is to perform regular water changes. Replace between 10% and 25% of the water in your tank with freshly conditioned tap water once a week and perform a large water change up to 50% of the tank volume once a month. Along with refreshing the water in your tank, it is wise to replace your filter media every 3 to 4 weeks to prevent the filter from becoming clogged. In addition to cleaning the filter once in a while you might also consider adding some supplemental filter media like ion exchange resins to help remove ammonia and nitrites from your tank water. Though all of these methods are helpful in controlling ammonia levels, perhaps the most important thing you should do is to monitor your aquarium water chemistry through weekly water tests. Keep an eye on the ammonia levels in your tank and, if they begin to climb, take action immediately to discover the cause and to remedy it. If you are aware of what is going on in your tank you will be better equipped to tackle problems like excess ammonia quickly before they can harm your fish.

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