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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 03:13 PM Thread Starter
 
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Please help! Scary mystery...

I don't really even know how to start. Feel like an idiot, and maybe I should just ride this out, but it's making me a nervous WRECK!

Background - this tank has been running for almost 2 years. Planted about a month ago. At that time I did a complete break-down to replace substrate. Fish, filter and heater hung out in water syphoned from the aquarium into a spare 10 gallon. I also syphoned 5 gallons into a jug and used that plus water in the 10 to partially refill my 20 once the switch was complete. So, I re-started with a well established bio-filter and all has been well since. I rinse the sponges in tank water once in awhile, but otherwise just perform regular weekly WCs. I did do a series of large WCs and add a UV last week to help with a mild bout of GW. It did - water is crystal clear. I ran it for about 3 days straight and since then, after lights out every other day.

I'm moving over to EI and my fish and plants are thriving and healthy. A couple of days ago (this might just be a REALLY good argument for EI...) I decided to run through some tests of my water parameters. Just to be sure. Well, everything I have tests for is fine except the two big ones fish-wise. My ammonia and nitrites are both literally nearly off the charts. Like an cycling tank. Cut to Kathy frantically running around like a chicken with her head cut off. 50% WC, beating up plants and churning the gravel, sucking out everything without leaves or fins. WHEW!

A couple of hours later - SAME THING! Throw in some Prime and try to distract myself for awhile.

Yesterday - same scenario! And I just came back from checking again and yet again - ammonia and nitrites galore! More Prime... At this point I am holding off on yet another WC until I get some feedback from you guys/gals.

Now - all this being said - the fish (2 Keyholes, Neons, Clown Pleco and African Butterfly Cichlid) are absolutely fine, and in retrospect have remained fine through this comedy of errors - unless they are Oscar worthy actors! I realize this may be a case of bad test kit and I am probably wasting the time of anyone reading this. But - I'm terrified!

Hubby has ordered some Hach tests for me. In the meantime - if possible - can someone assure me that if my ammonia and nitrites were really that high the fish would be visibly distressed??? Or would they not necessarily SHOW distress? Is it possible my UV could have nuked the good bacteria in the bio-filter and I'm re-cycling? (I'm grasping at straws here - I know there are those who run UVs 24/7.)

I'm sorry this is so long and scattered, but I'm worried sick! Thanks if anybody has made it this far and can offer any insight!

Kathy
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 05:10 PM Thread Starter
 
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Please help! Scary mystery...

I hate to be pushy, but...

... BUMP.

Kathy
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 05:34 PM
 
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Sounds scary, but I would say if your neons are fine, then your ammonia and nitirites are probably fine too as neons die very quickly with any amount of ammonia or nitrite.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
 
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Please help! Scary mystery...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aulonochromis
Sounds scary, but I would say if your neons are fine, then your ammonia and nitirites are probably fine too as neons die very quickly with any amount of ammonia or nitrite.
Really? Need an icon for huge sigh... Instinct tells me it's the tests, but it's a kit and the other tests were accurate - hubby has Hach counterparts that I compared them too. (Ph, KH, GH...)

I just checked on everybody - again - and they look thoroughly normal.

Thanks for slogging through that, Aulonochromis - I really can't thank you enough for the reassurance.

Kathy
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 06:02 PM
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I wouldn't worry about it too much until you can retest w/those Hach tests. The fact that all your fish aren't showing any signs of stress should be reassuring enough (best measure of how appropriate their environment is).

Nitrite and ammonia burns are pretty easy to diagnose and will alter fish behavior. The fact that there are no mention of discoloration, physical changes in health, and lack of feeding response are some signs that they're not bothered.

Just sit back, enjoy the tank, and revisit it when you get those new test kits.

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 06:13 PM Thread Starter
 
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Please help! Scary mystery...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ibn
I wouldn't worry about it too much until you can retest w/those Hach tests. The fact that all your fish aren't showing any signs of stress should be reassuring enough (best measure of how appropriate their environment is).

Nitrite and ammonia burns are pretty easy to diagnose and will alter fish behavior. The fact that there are no mention of discoloration, physical changes in health, and lack of feeding response are some signs that they're not bothered.

Just sit back, enjoy the tank, and revisit it when you get those new test kits.
Thanks Ibn! As I have never had high ammonia/nitrites I really have no idea what stress indicators to watch for, but I figured there would have to be something. But again - not knowing - it could conceivably be a "silent" killer. Glad to know what to look for - just what I imagined. I'm going to proceed as if nothing is wrong as long as fish and plants are happy!

Kathy
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 06:34 PM
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Here's a quick list for you as far as symptoms are concerned for future reference.

Ammonia poisoning:
Fish gasp for breath at the water surface
Purple or red gills
Fish is lethargic
Loss of appetite
Fish lays at the bottom of the tank
Red streaking on the fins or body

Nitrite poisoning:
Fish gasp for breath at the water surface
Fish hang near water outlets
Fish is listless
Tan or brown gills
Rapid gill movement

Eric


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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 07:28 PM
 
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GW eats ammonia

I suspect you did not find the cure for the GW, you just elimiated the symptom. GW feeds on ammonia or urea found in some terrestrial fertilizers. My first thought is that you have plant fertilizers in the gravel that are leaking. Gravel cleaning will aggravate that.

Second, how are the plants looking? Growing well? They also consume ammonia, and if they are growing and looking green then that is probably OK. OTOH, they may be shedding emersed grown leaves and that can add to pollution in the tank.

In any case, the Prime is probably what is keeping the fish comfortable, I'd add more if the fish seem to be unhappy. Don't overdose, for you do need the filter to grow bacteria to process ammonia also. I think you can add some daily, if it seems important, check the label.

Last, be sure what the test kits are testing, free our bound ammonia. In general, one bottle kits give total ammonia, two bottle kits give free ammonia, but again, read the instructions to be sure.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
 
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Please help! Scary mystery...

Ibn, thanks so much for the list of symptoms. Printed and filed!

Anona, I have a flourite/gravel mixed substrate - no root fertilizers added. And I am religeous with my WCes and maintenance.

The plants are doing fantastic. There has been a little shedding - which has slowed greatly. But I have a little green tight mesh net that I use every morning like those leaf sweeper do-hickeys for swimming pools! (The big white net is for fish catching - they actually seem to be catching on and don't freak out when they see the green net every day.) So there really shouldn't be too much reason for ammonia. I'm really pretty fastidious (anal..), that's why this has had me so freaked out!

I've been adding the Prime as indicated in the directions. Whether it's that or bad tests? Fish are fine. It does say on the label that it doesn't mess with bio-filter so I'm hoping that is true.

My ammonia test is a one bottle that says NH3/NH4 on it. The nitrite test is a two bottle - NO2. If you don't mind - what is the difference between free and bound ammonia? And does the above information tell you which it is? (Nothing about free or bound in my directions.)

Thanks again everybody!

Kathy
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 09:51 PM
 
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Free ammonia is NH3 so NH4+ is bound ammonia. the ratio NH3:NH4+ depends upon the pH and temperature, and of the two ammonia form NH3 is considerably more toxic to fish than NH4+, so if pH<7 the total ammonia can get pretty high because it will mostly exist as NH4+.

If you are dosing CaCl2 the the concentration of NO2- will be less toxic to fish.
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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-14-2005, 09:54 PM
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Bucket test you kits (known quanity in known volume) if unsure.

Moved to Tucson.
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-15-2005, 01:49 AM
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Sounds like either your test kits are off or you are getting false positives.
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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-15-2005, 01:55 AM
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But both kits gave bad results at the same time? probability is much lower. Have you tested straight tap water?


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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-15-2005, 02:54 AM Thread Starter
 
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Please help! Scary mystery...

Quote:
Originally Posted by shalu
But both kits gave bad results at the same time? probability is much lower. Have you tested straight tap water?
Shalu - you're like Jiminy Cricket to my Pinocchio...

(Knocking normally very practical and thoughtful self over the head...) I even have an RO unit!!!!!!!!

DOH!

Kathy
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 04-15-2005, 03:32 PM Thread Starter
 
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Unhappy The plot thickens...

Okay. Shalu - excellent idea testing my tap water!

However, now I am more thoroughly confused than ever. Tap and RO water reads no ammonia or nitrites. So while my tests might not be perfectly accurate... I just don't understand how the fish have never showed a moments distress over the last few days. After they greedily finished their breakfast and begged for more this morning , I retested. Please help me with the results! I'm going to share everything from my booklets that seems to mean anything.

MUCH better today, but still getting readings...

Okay - Ammonia NH3/NH4 (0-7.3 mg/L) Test. Result - 1.2 mg/L. (Over the last couple of days it has shown as high as 4.9) Color chart result based on pH (7.2) - 0.01 which is deep in the "green" (safe) zone. Off to the side next to the chart in tiny letters it says "For ammonia as nitrogen (NH3-N) divide result by 1.22." It doesn't say which result - 1.2 mg/L or the 0.01 from the chart - or what to do with that information.

Nitrite NO2 (0.0-3.3 mg/L) Test. Result - 0.4. (Over the last couple of days it has shown as high as 0.8) Booklet says a dangerous amount of Nitrite is present and to immediately do a 20% WC. On the back of the booklet next to the color chart, more tiny print "For nitrite as nitrogen (NO2-N), divide result by 3.3. (Result - 0.12121212...) As with the ammonia, once again it says nowhere in the literature what to actually DO with that...

Can someone help me decipher all this? And does anyone have any idea why my tank is apparently going through some kind of cycling burp? Refresher - filter has been cycled for almost 2 years. I haven't had any ammonia or nitrite in all that time. Same filter, same fish, same feeding schedule, fastidious maintenance and WCes all along. Water is crystal, sparkling clear and fish and plants are happy. I know it defies logic, but I keep coming back to the UV as the only variable.

I wish I had access to Bio-Spira here, but to my knowledge I don't. I have however had quite good success with Bio-zyme in the past and can get my hands some of that. Should I go this route at this point or try to ride this out?

I am so baffled. Thanks for your help and hanging through this with me...

Kathy
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