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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
First off, glad I joined here. Tried a few other sites, I like this one the best.

Second, I'm having some issues with three of my four aquariums.

I'm spiking ammonia readings on tanks that have been cycled for over a year. There has been no changes that I can think of that would change the ammonia.

Here are the water levels:

Ammonia: 4.0
Nitrite: 0.0
Nitrate: 3.0
pH: 6.0

The strangest part:
The ammonia has been reading that high or higher for the past 6 days.

The fish are acting completely normal. There is not lethargy, red gills or lack of appetite.

I know the test kit (chemical version, not the strips) is accurate because I purchased a second kit and it is giving the same results.


Building background on my tanks:

I gravel vacuum each once per week accompanied by a 25-40% water change depending on how thorough the gravel vac is, and usually I'm very thorough.

Both 55g's have two BioWheel 350s.

Both are at a temperature that fluctuates between 76 and 78 degrees.

55g Tank A:
1 veil fin oscar
1 pleco
1 convict

55g Tank B:
1 veil fin oscar
2 bloodparrots
1 pleco

None of tank B's inhabitants are full grown save for the pleco. Regardless, I do not think the tank would be strained with the current inhabitants at full grown, if you disagree, please let me know.

I feed both tanks sparingly a few times a day. When I say sparingly, the oscars get 10ish pellets and the parrots/convict will eat flakes usually before the majority of them hit the bottom of the tank during each feeding. I would reduce the pellets but the oscars finish what they are given almost immediately.

The oscars rarely get feeders. No more than once every other month.

Does anyone have any idea why ammonia would spike, but the fish wouldn't react?

Is there something that could have gotten into the tank that would screw with ammonia readings?

The only recent addition was to one of the two 55g's and that was a bamboo plant. But I can't see that messing with ammonia levels.

The only common denominator between both of the tanks is a python gravel vacuum. Could something have gotten on the vacuum? I can't see how this would be possible, however... If you think it's a possibility, please let me know.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Forgot to mention, to combat this problem I have been doing water changes daily.
 

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Loach Lover
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Do you have any other plants? And how are the bamboo doing?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Bamboo is fine. Growing actually.

No, no other live plants. Just fake.

Old driftwood purchased at a Petco, but I don't believe that counts.
 

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Loach Lover
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Hmm, then I'm not sure.
Someone with more experience will probably be able to help figure this out, like TheOldSalt. Once they see it they will probably post. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for trying, I do appreciate it.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Update: After tonight's partial water change the ammonia is sitting at 4.0 again according to the test kit.

I am going to continue with the water changes and significant gravel vaccing until I figure this out or someone figures it out for me. ><
 

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Have you checked your source water for ammonia? I know you said it was three of four tanks (so why no ammonia in the 4th tank), but it's worth a try.
 

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Wow, you know your stuff. You actually care about your fish. I would say check source water like PT said above. Other than that. Are you filters still running good?? Just curious lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Source water is fine, I thought of that too just forgot to post it.

4th tank is reading 0/0/10ish (amm,nitri,nitra).

I have no idea why this tank isn't throwing a tissy like the rest.

When Saturday rolls around, the 4th tank is the last tank to get vac'd/changed. So I'm thinking that something might have gotten on the pyton and was washed off before I got to the 4th tank.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Wow, you know your stuff. You actually care about your fish. I would say check source water like PT said above. Other than that. Are you filters still running good?? Just curious lol.
Thank you for the compliment, I really do care for my fish, I spend as much time looking at them as I do anything else... Or maybe more! :)

Filters seem to be good, nothing coming out of the overflows and all the "biowheels" are spinning. The media seems to be, the best word I can think of, used. They are approx. 2.5 weeks old, but I didn't want to replace in case it was an ammonia spike as bacteria really thrive there.

I'm just very confused. I would be very worried if the fish were acting strange... but they aren't. :confused:
 

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Are you using an "ammonia detoxifier" like Prime? that would explain why fish are fine even with ammonia in the tank

Possible causes of high ammonia:

1. Ammonia in the source, or released by choramine in the source when dechlor is added. Did you test new water after dechlor?

2. Anything rotting in the tank, driftwood, bamboo, algae, dead fish, uneaten food, eaten food (someone else feeding your fish?) Use your nose.

3. Something that was removing ammonia has stopped or slowed at removing it. Did you take out ammonia-remover? take out filter media? unplug any filters? let filters clog? replace the substrate? remove any live plants (aquatic or growing out of the tank)? kill or scrape lots of algae?

Most likely something has hurt your filter bacteria, maybe your water supply had antibiotic in it one day or an overdose of chlorine. Has your pH changed? Any change in water parameters can hurt your filter. Refer back to "cycling a tank". I would suggest water changes to get ammonia below 3 (aim for <= 1 ppm, it will come back) since high ammonia can hurt filter bacteria as well as fish and snip little pieces off the filter in the "good" tank and seed the big tanks weekly until things improve. And watch the nitrite because if the ammonia isn't being processed, the nitrite-eaters could starve and you could see a nitrite spike when the ammonia-eaters start up again.

I guess it could be a false positive, have you started adding anything new to the water? Sometimes tannins from driftwood that make the water brown can make a test look positive. Have a LFS test the water with a different kind or brand of test.
 

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Well, I'm at a loss, good luck.
 
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am guessing a good gravel vac and a 60% wc should do the trick for now. your pleco....is it a common one? if so thats ur culprit. those doods are poop machines incarnate.
 

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Do a 50% water change and retest. See if the ammonia drops by 1/2. This will confirm the accuracy of your tests.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Two separate kits confirm my results. Nothing is dead or rotting in the tank. Neither Oscar has had feeders in over a month.

Been doing water changes, the ammonia drops and the following day it is back up at god awful levels. 4.0 and up.

@ emc

I have never used Prime, Ammoquel or Ammolock or any other product that would mess with ammonia levels.

1.) Yes.

2.) Nothing is rotting. I am going to remove the bamboo and driftwood for a couple of days and see if that makes a difference.

3.) I unplug the filters for a short time while gravel vaccing otherwise it just sucks air. The filters have been 100% operational otherwise.

pH has been sitting at 6.0.

I'm still at a loss. Regardless, I'm pulling all decor out tonight, removing the gravel and washing it thoroughly.

One of the parrots is acting a bit off today. Now, I'm not confused, I'm worried.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Update:

After removing the gravel, bathing it and soaking it in water for a while (with Stresscoat to make sure there wasn't any chlorine left over) and about a 75% water change the ammonia level is between .5 and 1.0. Not ideal, but liveable for my fish for the time being.

Guess I'm just going to have to stay on top of it.

Also, I mentioned that one of the bloodparrorts were acting funny, he seems to be fine now.
 

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Go ahead and start a product that "detoxifies", but leave ammonia "available to the biological filtration" such as Prime or Amquel+, they may mess up your test results even more (some tests see the "complexed" ammonia, some don't), but they are the best change of your fish surviving an ammonia spike you don't notice in time to change water.

Either something "uncycled" your tank or your fish have outgrown your filtration (are you feeding more than you used to?) . Think about adding another filter (sponge filters are cheap). Control ammonia with reduced feeding and water changes and "re-cycle" the tank like it were new.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
So, Prime won't cause the ammonia-consuming bacteria to die, but will only detoxify the ammonia in the tank?

Nitrite has still be at 0 this entire time but I'm still getting gradual gains in Nitrate.

All the fish are still in perfect health.
 
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