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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all! Hoping for a little frustration relief! I've been lurking around and reading this site for awhile now but haven't seen anything that mirrors my issue.
I have 7 pico tanks, 1 of the oldest has been up and running for over 4 months. 1 has been running for a month. The oldest is 2.5 gallon with various plants that are growing without problem, it is empty of animal life and has only inert black sand and 2 rocks, lighting is a cheap 7w clip on! The younger tank is a 2 gallon, black sand, 1 piece of mopani wood and one coral rock, small LED light, mosses (growing well), 8 small baby Brigs snails (moving in a couple of days to new home). Both have the nano HOB filters, no co2
So here's the problem-these 2 tanks consistently show very high ammonia levels, off the chart, using APO liquid test. I've done 50% water changes weekly and everything else I can think of and the ammonia will not come down! The snails are doing well in the 2g but I've tested the planted 2.5g with a couple of pond snails & they've died within a day. None of the other tanks are having any problems at all so I can't figure this out! Something must be wrong but I can't put my finger on it.
Am I going to have to tear these 2 down & start over? Suggestions on what to do will be appreciated!
I've been keeping aquariums for a couple of years, but new to planted & pico tanks.
 

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It doesn't make sense unless your tap water is high in ammonia. Have you tested it? Do you have a good test kit? Have you tried neutralizing the ammonia with Prime or like product to see if it climbs back up? Do you have rotting plants? Did you put peat or something under the sand?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Doesn't make sense to me either. Tap is 0 Ammonia and I use Amquel + conditioner with water changes. If any plant shows a dead/dying leaf I remove the leaf right away. The only other thing your response reminded me of is that a previous plant that died off may have decaying bits of root in the substrate.
I'll try stirring up the bare parts of the substrate and do another massive water change and see if that will help.
Thanks Tex Gal for the input - it frequently helps to have another set of eyes!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Something is alive in the planted 2.5 gallon that's been giving me the worst trouble! Some algae on the glass on one side has unmistakeable snail tracks!! Wonder if there is a MTS or 2 in the sand because there is sure nothing on top - I'm going to spy tonight after lights out and see what happens - there may be hope yet for this one!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Well, the 2 gallon pico finally cycled BUTTTT the 2.5 gallon with nothing in it but a few plants is still green (in the test tube!) with ammonia!! I had found some snail trails in the algae earlier but I guess those were just leftovers from the sacrificial pond snails before they died.
This tank is going on 6 months, I've pulled out every plant that looked like it might be the culprit; the only thing in there now is a very small java fern, a couple of Vals, a couple of dwarf Sags, and a Anubia petite. They are all growing (or should I say not dieing), no yellow leaves or melting.
This is a low tech tank, 2 watts/g, no fert., no CO2. I've been doing 50% water changes weekly, the filter is a nano HOB, the housing is clean and there is sponge over the intake; the media is a few bioballs with sponge on top of that.
What can I innoculate this tank with to get this ammonia problem dealt with? - I've tried everything else except a complete tear down!!
I really hate being so stupid with this - can someone straighten me out!!:biggrin:
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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Smaller tanks CAN be a doozy to get cycled. The smaller volume = smaller area for bacteria to colonize = easier to disrupt the N-bacteria population. If you're cleaning your tank too vigorously you may be causing more disruption than good.

You might try adding more biological media to your filter (you never mentioned what filters you're running?).

Another possibility is that the ammonia tests you're using are picking up the Amquel+ (or rather, the non-toxic ammonia compund that Amquel+ produces from the toxic ammonia...)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I'm running a single Red Sea Nano HOB full open. There is a sponge over the intake for bacteria to colonize and a sponge in the outflow chamber along with bio media. I never thought of the test picking up the detoxified ammonia from the Amquel however I'm thinking if the Amquel detoxified the ammonia then the sacrifial snails would not have died. HMMM - I think I'll cut the sponge from the outflow in half and add more bio media. As far as cleaning goes, I haven't done any except remove alot of the plants, do water changes, and rummage around in the substrate to be sure there wasn't any dead plant roots. Haven't scrubbed anything except for the filter housing, all the media was kept in tank water while I cleaned it - there was a good bit of algae growth on the glass that is now receding without any intervention from me, so now I'm wondering if the algae die off is contributing to the ammonia as well.
I suppose the reason this one is frustrating me is that it has been running the longest - I have 7 other pico's and this is only one left that is still being stubborn!
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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Healthy plants will help the problem, as they're nitrogen sponges.

Rummaging around in the substrate can disturb the N-bacteria big time, though, as substrate is one of the main colonization areas for them. It can also stir up detritus into the water column, which can feed ammonia blooms...

I'd add biomedia to the filter, give the tank a week, add some live plants, and then add some more snails. Give the snails a few weeks to get the cycle going, and get regular ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate readings during this time to see if you can figure out if the tank is moving along any in the cycle.

Otherwise, try to keep your hands out of the tank, so you can get a good "baseline" with what's going on in the tank chemically, without disturbing anything.
 

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Maybe you should add Mysterie Snails (They eat algae)

Well, the 2 gallon pico finally cycled BUTTTT the 2.5 gallon with nothing in it but a few plants is still green (in the test tube!) with ammonia!! I had found some snail trails in the algae earlier but I guess those were just leftovers from the sacrificial pond snails before they died.
This tank is going on 6 months, I've pulled out every plant that looked like it might be the culprit; the only thing in there now is a very small java fern, a couple of Vals, a couple of dwarf Sags, and a Anubia petite. They are all growing (or should I say not dieing), no yellow leaves or melting.
This is a low tech tank, 2 watts/g, no fert., no CO2. I've been doing 50% water changes weekly, the filter is a nano HOB, the housing is clean and there is sponge over the intake; the media is a few bioballs with sponge on top of that.
What can I innoculate this tank with to get this ammonia problem dealt with? - I've tried everything else except a complete tear down!!
I really hate being so stupid with this - can someone straighten me out!!:biggrin:
 

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Another possibility is that the ammonia tests you're using are picking up the Amquel+ (or rather, the non-toxic ammonia compund that Amquel+ produces from the toxic ammonia...)
+1

This is 100% true, and many people aren't aware of it. By "removing" ammonia what these products are actually doing is changing it into another form, molecularly. The test kits still perceive this nullified ammonia as actual ammonia.

Another thing to consider is that your test kit is worthless if you haven't calibrated it. I'm guessing you haven't, but don't take that personally... 99% of people using test kits don't calibrate them.

All of that being said, it is very true that smaller tanks are more "fragile" than the bigger ones. There is less space and volume for the bacteria to colonize, and during cleanings or waterchanges it is too easy to upset the balance. I'm now starting to understand, for my own benefit, that nano and pico sized tanks would be better off with larger HOB filters, instead of the little nano ones I use. Quite honestly, it wouldn't even be a bad idea to consider using a refugium type setup, similar to the way the nano reefers do it.
 
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