Old Amquel = Toxic Levels of Ammonia? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2007, 04:31 PM Thread Starter
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Old Amquel = Toxic Levels of Ammonia?

I had a brilliant idea this weekend, I was going to get some interesting kind of pleco (I was hoping for a bristlenose, but I was open to just about anything but the common pleco), so I went to a new (to me) fish store with really good online reviews, and found... pit bull plecos! they were really cute, and promised to stay little, so I got three and "acclimated" them to my angelfish tank.

Well, they kinda flitted around half-heartedly in my tank for a while and I just figured they were getting used to the somewhat warmer temperature of my water vs. the store's, and in the morning, I went and checked up on them and discovered they were all dead.

soooo...

I had just done a water change the day before, so I couldn't imagine what all was wrong, but I did some tests (this tank's been running for about four months now...) and discovered my ammonia was in the blue (almost off the color chart) level, and I started to try to figure out what the heck was wrong... I took a water sample (and the dead fish) to the store where I got them from and had them sample it (just in case my test kit was broken...) and they got the same result, with the added worry of a really low PH. At this point I'm worrying about my nearly breeding-sized angelfish, swimming around in this highly toxic water and sweating... We eventually decided that it must be my Amquel! when I had purchased it in November of last year, it had that thick coat of dust on it that comes with things that happen to be more than a year old... for some reason, I never thought that it would go BAD... the guy behind the counter at the fish store I went to told me it was likely that when I was doing water changes, I was actually ADDING AMMONIA to my water... so he sold me a new bottle of P.A.T. - Proffessional Aquatic Treatment? for half the price of the amquel I had purchased, and it treats more gallons... I then did a big waterchange on my angel tank and today they're doing ok... but... still it was quite frightening. I need to test my water again tonight when I get home...

I guess this is just a warning... if the seller seems shady, the bottle has a year's worth of dust on it, and you're not sure of it, DON'T BUY THE BOTTLE!
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2007, 04:52 PM
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I'll keep that in mind about the Amquel, but have you considered that the dead fish themselves were the cause of the ammonia? If they were somehow unhealthy to begin with or stressed in shipping - or any number of reasons - they could have died and created the ammonia spike.

One thing I hope you will try is to take a bucket of clean tap water, treat it with your old Amquel, let it sit for a couple hours, and then test it. If you get high ammonia readings in the bucket then it's safe to blame the chemical. Please do this and let us know how it goes!


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2007, 04:53 PM
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If I recall correctly, Amquel and other ammonia absorbing chemicals screw up ammonia readings, or am I thinking of something else?
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2007, 05:19 PM Thread Starter
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I duno. I'll do as Jen suggests and test it tonight, as I haven't thrown out the old amquel bottle yet. Mostly I was just concerned about changing the water again. But I don't know if three tiny pitbull plecos dying in the tank could cause such an alarming spike in the ammonia levels of a 45 gallon tank? But, yeah, it was a late night last night, only got like 3-4 hours of sleep. I'll test tonight after I get home.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2007, 06:57 PM
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I think it was something else that caused it either being the dead fish or increase in bio-load.

I have had amquel that sat for years since purchase and it worked perfectly fine when it came time for it. Amquel does screw with the readings some but to what exent I would not know.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-26-2007, 07:09 PM
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Only thing i can think of to debunk the "plecos die = ammonia spike" is that the reactions take some time to increase your ammonia. And i don't know if overnight would quite do it...

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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-27-2007, 12:48 AM
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Is your tap water treated with chloramine?

If so what water conditioner do you use?

What what type of ammonia test kit?
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-27-2007, 01:03 AM
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i doubt it was amquel. read the label. it says on there it will give you a false positive test. NH4 will be present but in a non toxic form.

if you were using this as a water treament for chlorine and what not...then the amquel did what its supposed to. its not ment for chlorine or that sort.

plus i would stay away from it in general. to me amquel and those sorts are products of those who dont have time for fish. its an "easy" way out which can cause more problems later

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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-27-2007, 01:34 AM
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Quote:
Only thing i can think of to debunk the "plecos die = ammonia spike" is that the reactions take some time to increase your ammonia
Quite true.

Ammonia and water, for that matter, are the final products of the process of decomposition.

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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-27-2007, 03:23 AM
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Check your local water supply. If they use chloramine that can cause an ammonia spike if you are using just 'regular' amquel. If you use amquel+, that will also work against chloramine. I had an episode 2 years ago where after a large water change I lost 3/4 of my fish...changing the water again killed more of them. After I got a conditioner for chloramine I was able to salvage what was left.

That being said, I actually doubt it was an actual toxic dose of ammonia that killed the new fish. If it were truly that high, all fish in your tank should be dead or dying. I suspect that the fish were either shocked in some way (temp, pH, etc) or were unhealthy to begin with. Good luck trying to get that by the LFS though....they'll blame the high ammonia reading still.
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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-27-2007, 04:03 AM
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Use Prime from now on. It's far more economical, it promotes slime coat that isn't amine based (safe with Purigen), and removes all chlorine, heavy metals, chloramines, ammonia, and nitrite. It can also be used in Marine and Freshwater. What more could you ask for?

Exceptional product. I use it exclusively, and often encourage others to do the same.

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post #12 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-27-2007, 04:25 AM Thread Starter
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Interesting theories everyone. After running several tests, I have a theory of my own: I believe it's my own bloody fault for not putting up a bunch of cash for substrate. I used sand. boooooooo... here's why I think that:

I had changed out nearly all the water yesterday and switched it with the new dechlorinator, which, if it WAS the amquel plus's fault, should have reduced the ammonia to nothing. However, not two hours ago, the ammonia is somewhere between 5 and 7.5ppm. fish seem OK so I'm not going to worry about switching substrates tonight........ anyway, on to the other tests,

PH out of the tank is as low as my stupid color reader will read - 6.2 (possibly lower, but I don't FEEL anything when I stick my arm in the tank, not even itchy, I know that doesn't mean anything, and I really need a broader test... anyway...)

Out of the tap, no dechlor no nothing, I get 0 ammonia, 7.2 PH.

Out of the tap, in a clean bucket, using the amquel, I get PH 7.0, ammonia still 0.

three hours later, the results are the same from that bucket.

From a different tank, which gets the same water treatments as the angel tank, my ammonia is 0, my PH is 7.0. - this tank has a sandy bottom also, but the sand itself is of a different consistency, I should have thought that the place the hardware store gets the sand from might not be the same each time....

IN the angelfish tank, I have a fluval hooked up to an overflow filter, no carbon in the filter, and it's about half-full of healthy-looking plants and the tank walls are about half-covered in hair algae... (should have alerted me to the high ammonia... I shoulda caught it before wasting 20 bucks on fancy plecos...) I have no weird decorations, just slate and driftwood. The only thing really different between the two tanks is where and when I purchased the sand substrate... and well, the species of the inhabitants, the sizes of the tanks.... the brand of filter... ok, there's a lot of differences, but the differences that count to ME would be the sand. I've currently got some of the sand from the afflicted tank in a bucket drying out - I'm going to get some fresh water and do some tests to see how high the ammonia gets with just the sand, and also with just the sand and the water conditioner.

If I HAVE to tear my whole bloody tank down, I'll do it, but I'll only do it after I get paid on friday.

......I'll need another bucket.
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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-27-2007, 04:59 AM Thread Starter
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Ohya, I forgot to mention... this morning after the elaborate water changing, my angels were NOT clamboring overthemselves at the water surface, trying to convince me to over feed them. I had to LOOK for them. I had to part plants, and eventually I found them, hiding, and sitting very still...

I dropped another capful of conditioner in and then turned on the air bubbler... they slowly perked back up, but that gave me quite a scare.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-27-2007, 05:38 PM Thread Starter
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Also, for the moment, until I can switch out the substrates, I got my hands on some calcium carbonate for 5$ and put about a cupful of it (in a cup) in the tank. I'm hoping it will help. Guy at the fish store mentioned putting a shell in the tank, but I just can't see spending 3 bucks on a "hermit crab shell" so I got CaCO....3? instead. I'm hoping it doesn't kill my angels... but it DID balance the ph in the test water overnight.

*crosses fingers and hopes*
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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 03-29-2007, 04:07 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, so... I couldn't wait until friday and I called my favorite LFS and asked if they could give me a price on 50 lbs of onyx sand... since it would have been the same as if I had purchased the laminated black pebble sized crap at the big chain stores (worked out to about 30 bucks after taxes) and they just happened to have it in stock right there, I drove and got it from them...

Now, this store doesn't keep the onyx sand in little convenient baggies, they keep it in 100lb bags in the back, and a bucket in front if you just need a little... This guy, he pours out half the 100lb bag, by measuring the weight of it as he scoops it into another, smaller bag...

this is what I like about this store. I asked for 50lbs... I watched the man measure the part he was dumping out. 18.2, 18.4 and 9 pounds he dumped out. That means I got about 55 pounds of onyx sand - for 30 bucks. I say that's a dang good deal. Possibly, though, this was because I decided to fall in love with some kind of leopard spotted ancistrus? maybe... catfishy thing with red fins that ran me 25 bucks (now, easily the most expensive fish I've ever owned) at the same day. Either way, I really feel like I got a good deal. After staying up 'till midnight, I fished everything out of my angelfish tank, got the toxic sand out, put the onyx sand in, re-planted everything (even with a more pleasing scape!) made a little rock-cave on the front of the tank for the catfish and added everyone back and I"m really really pleased with the results. I must say - this is a very good reason not to buy play sand ever ever again... even though it's cheap. (well, not to buy it for your aquarium, anyway......)

oya, the important stuff: PH is now 7.0, ammonia is to .25ppm. (vast improvement over 7 or more???ppm)
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