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Problems with ammonia spikes.

5 platies, one emerald corycat and one snail
They get fed once a day. They get a pinch bug bite spirulina flakes, warldley tropical flakes, 10 crab cuisine pellets and 5 omega one shrimp pellets. All of this is soaked in seachem garlic guard. All food is consumed in less than 5 minutes.

20 gallon long tank
Have fluval aquaclear 50 HOB filter that I've been running for years.
Inside the filter there are two fluval standard sponges and one pack of ceramic beads.
Tank has been running for about 5 years.

Also running airstone near HOB which I run 24/7. Figured it would help with circulation and pulling the light crap to the side with the HOB. Seems to be working.

Test results from API master freshwater liquid test kit.

PH - 7.4-7.6
Ammonia - .50 (holy crap)
Nitrites - 0
Nitrates - 10
Water change is one every 7 days.
I have been changing out 50% of the water because of the ammonia spike. I have not cleaned the HOB filter in a month because I don't think there is enough BB.
I have been skimming the surface of the substrate for poop. Only deep dig clean 1/2 of the tank with the gravel vac each week. I clean the side that has the HOB filter because that's where the crap ends up.

I have a clay dish in there that I have filled with carib sea aragonite for the calcium. Rest of the substrate is crushed gravel (don't know brand. Bought years ago).
For plants I have a bunch of pothos growing out of the tank that seem to be doing very well. Only the roots are submerged. Also have water sprite that doesn't seem to be growing very fast. Also have anubias nana in there. All the plants are super green, but just not growing fast.

Have what seems to be brown algae on the glass this week.
Dosing 1/4 tsp dry fert potassium, 3/4 tsp epsom salt (magnesium), seachem flourish (1/4 cap), 1.5 cap of flourish excel, 1/16th of a cap of flourish iron. This is once a week after water change.

In the tank I also have a small clay pot that fish can go into for shelter.

For lighting I have a sprial 6500k ccfl bulb over the tank. It's kind of high up so the pothos gets the light. Thinking that might be one reason for the water sprite not taking off. Going to put another 6500k light on the tank glass this week and see if that helps.

Was thinking maybe I need to swap out the ceramic beads in the HOB with a high PPI reticulated foam piece. How high should the PPI be? I see on Ebay they have it up to 40. Thinking if I get the highest, it will give the most surface area to the beneficial bacteria. Also thinking of swapping out the two standard fluval sponge filters with 40 ppi.

Any thoughts as to why I'm getting these spikes and what I can do to get the ammonia down? Thanks!
 

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I’d buy 20ppi Poret from Swiss Tropicals.

Cut to the correct shape, with several pieces if possible.

Example: I have 2x 1” and 2x 2” layers in each of my Tidal 110s. All cut to shape so there is no flow around them. I also added more holes to the bottom of the media basket. Great flow + massive surface area. Between the two of them I have more media and flow than an FX4.

40ppi will get clogged too quickly.


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you mentioned you havent cleaned the HOB in a month... any signs of muck accumulating? I would still clean the sponges and the ceramics in tank water to keep it free of gunk while keeping any BB you might have in there.

Have you been doing anything like rescape or digging around in the tank recently that may have stirred up muck in the substrate?
 

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Pretty much agree with everything the others said. First and foremost, test your water supply. Some people have ammonia in their tap, and even those who don't should routinely test their tap throughout the year as sourcing can fluctuate, they flush the lines, etc. Next I would cut back on feeding. It sounds like your daily amount is already too much, but adult fish do not need to be fed daily. Myself and a lot of others only feed their adult fish every other day. I feed once a day, 3-4x a week. Lastly if your tap contains no ammonia, rinse your filter media in some tank water and do a large WC because ammonia could be building up from food particles clogging your filter.
 

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Note Ammonia is more toxic at higher pH levels. The Ammonia levels in your case may be due to the amount of food you are feeding your fish. There are differences of opinions on this but note some suggest feeding an amount of food that the fish can consume in less than 1 minute per day which is 1/5 of the amount you are feeding them.

While you are working through resolving this issue, I suggest lowering your pH a bit to at least slightly lower the danger level of the Ammonia level until it is addressed. You can easily add an Acid Buffer such as Seachem Acid Buffer to do this.
 
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