Overnight ammonia? - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-03-2015, 02:35 PM Thread Starter
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Overnight ammonia?

I've got a relatively heavily planted 125G tank whith a 40G or so sump underneath it.

I decided to purchase a submersible ammonia detector (it was dirt cheap) along with the master API test kit.

The sumbersible ammonia detector clearly states that the indicator color takes hours to detect ammonia and start to shift color, and will take hours to switch back after the ammonia is gone.

I've noticed now that if I come in to the office and look at the detector in the sump first thing in the morning, it's saying there are low levels of ammonia.

However, when I run a test with the liquid API kit, it shows nothing. No ammonia, nitrites or nitrates either.

Is it possible that when the lights are on, the plants are consuming all of the free ammonia, but then when the lights are off, it's starts to build up over night, until the next morning? I would have thought the sump to be well enough seeded by now.

I looked around online but didn't find any similar scenarios, but if I didn't have an ammonia detector with such a built in lag time, I don't think I'd have ever noticed it either.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-03-2015, 02:55 PM
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It would seem that for your idea as to why to be correct it would need a large bio-load as in many fish. Too many for the filter to handle. If the flow rate was not enough it would equal the same as not enough bio-media(for the amount of fish) and your possible reason might be correct. But actually just guessing right along/w you.
Did you recently add a large amount of fish and maybe the filter BB have not multiplied enough yet ?

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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-03-2015, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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No new fish. There are about 40 tetras, half a dozen corries and 4 baby bushynose in the tank.

I wouldn't think that would be enough bioload across 150G of water to make an overnight bump, and even if it did, I can't imagine that would or could last more than a few days before the bacteria in the filter would catch up.

The flow rate etc. hasn't changed in the filter. I'll keep watching it though, and see what happens. What I need to do is stop by and take an ammonia reading at midnight, but since the tank is at the office, that's a bit tougher to pull off.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-03-2015, 03:40 PM
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If the detector is like a seachem Badge you hang in the tank/sump I would not give it very much merit.Just me though?

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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-03-2015, 09:42 PM
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^^ Agreed. Based on reports I've read here and elsewhere (along with my own experience with one I wasted my money on), those things seem to be less than 50% useful. In other words, more than 50% of them are useless and don't work worth a damn. I'd check your levels with the regular kit at various times to day to confirm before trusting those little Seachem Alert things.


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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-03-2015, 10:58 PM Thread Starter
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So I guess the real test will be for me stop by some time early in the morning before the lights come on and see what the ammonia levels are with the liquid master kit vs. the seachem deal.

The submersed detector was back to "zero" ammonia a few hours into the day. The liquid test kit was pure yellow the entire time though.

edit: would you get false low level positives?

Last edited by alcimedes; 02-03-2015 at 11:17 PM. Reason: clarification
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-04-2015, 02:04 PM
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I'd say any test might give a .25 reading without there being any in there.
When you said it should be gone in a few days if it had this overnight bump,
a healthy filter(the bacteria in it) that is adequate size for the tank should
knock out .25 ammonia in hrs, not days.
Granted there are lots more of those bacteria in a bottle of Tetra Safe Start than
in most filters, but I dumped one half bottle(more than they recommend but I don't try to save any of it for "the next time") into a 10g tank that had 5PPM of ammonia in it and got a reduction of the ammonia in 25 min. The next day there was none showing on the test. But I did those test/w a test strip, not the API kit.
Just for laughs run the fish through the Aqadvisor for the bio-load. Seems less than 60% to me.

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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-04-2015, 02:16 PM
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Fishes will tell you fairly quickly if ammonia or nitrites are at uncomfortable levels.
Agree with Raymond,Biological filter and don't forget plant's can process small bumps of ammonia fairly quickly.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-04-2015, 06:47 PM Thread Starter
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I stopped by the office this morning before any of the lights came on.

The submersible ammonia detector was clearly showing 0.25ppm. The liquid test kit still showing nothing.

I'm going to presume the submersed detector is off then, which seems to match other people's experiences as well.

I added my info to the Aqadvisor site, said it was around 50% for the tank size, and that was with no filtration at all selected. I'm going to chalk this up to a crappy submersed detector.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-06-2015, 01:47 AM
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If there was a minor rise in the ammonia the bacteria would start to increase to remove it.
Then, as the ammonia is removed (presumably by plants) the bacteria would not die off, they are quite capable of waiting a few hours or a day for the ammonia to come back.

So the next night they reproduce a bit more...

Until you should not see any ammonia. Should not take more than a couple of days to increase the population that little amount.

Still...
If the pH in the tank is low, then the ammonia will be in the form of ammonium, and this is less toxic to the fish.
But the bacteria do not do so well when the pH is too low (probably actually due to the low mineral levels)
So the detector might be right. Read the label. Does it distinguish between ammonia (NH3) and ammonium (NH4+)?
Is the pH at or below neutral (7.0)?
Is the KH low (a degree or two?)
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-06-2015, 12:26 PM Thread Starter
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Checked out the product description, pasted below.

Quote:
Ammonia Alert™ is an innovative color device for continuously detecting and monitoring toxic free ammonia. A sensor changes reversibly from yellow to green to blue, relative to the ammonia concentration. No test kits, chemicals, or procedures are needed. The device detects less than 0.05 mg/L (ppm) free ammonia and alerts you to the #1 killer before any sign of stress. It lasts over a year. Marine or freshwater use.In the absence of free ammonia the unit will assume a yellow or faint yellow-green color. It is normal for the dry sensor to have a greenish hue. It may take up to a few days for a dry sensor to equilibrate with the water. No sampling of water, chemicals, or test procedures are required. The presence of the free ammonia is detectable continuously with a response time of about 15 minutes. Response to decreasing ammonia is slower, requiring about 4 hours to go from TOXIC to SAFE on removal of ammonia.
The PH was just a hair over 7 last I checked, and I don't have anything to measure KH at the moment. I'll pick something up today.

It also appears that the faint yellowish/green color can be a zero reading. (emphasis mine above)
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-06-2015, 01:32 PM
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I have read those submersible ammonia detector are about worthless. I would take it and throw it away.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 03-18-2015, 04:15 PM Thread Starter
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Just wanted to update, a month or so later. The detector was the issue. Fish etc. are fine, readings for ammonia and nitrites have stayed at zero at all times with the master test kit, nitrates are just a hair under 5.
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