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Old 07/22/2017, 11:36 AM   #1
lrhorer
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How much ammonia is too much?

I realize ideally there should be no ammonia at all in an aquarium, but I can never seem to get the ammonia level down to flat zero. Testing always shows a trace somewhere between 0 and 0.25 ppm, which is the maximum sensitivity of my testing kit. The tank (100g) is only a few months old, so I have only recently been adding a very few sessile invertebrates, including a spiny oyster, a sea apple, a Colt coral, a couple of feather duster worms and some sort of LPS whose name I don't know. Everyone seems healthy and eating well. In fact, all the fish are rather fat, and the crustaceans are growing at an astounding rate. The snails all seem healthy, and a couple of them are laying eggs. The urchins are very mobile and seem to be munching away at anything green in the tank. I lost a few fish early on - mostly damsels and one powder brown tang, and I had a sudden low pH problem that killed a couple of soft corals, but I haven't had a death in 2 or 3 months.

I don't want to mess too much with the tank chemistry if it isn't necessary, and I suspect the NH3 may be low enough I shouldn't try to fiddle with it in fear of upsetting the other parameters, which are pretty good. I am not dosing the tank with anything other than a small amount of carbonated water when the pH rises above 8.35, at which point I remove the CO2 scrubber and add 20ml of carbonated water I make myself. Filamentous algae and cyanobacteria are reasonably well under control. Does anyone have any thoughts or advice? Should I chill out and just keep an eye on the NH3 level to make sure it does not rise, or should I take steps to get it to flat zero?


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Old 07/22/2017, 11:57 AM   #2
jayball
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There will always be some small amount of ammonia in an aquarium due to fish and inverts excreting it but it should not really be measurable. What test kit are you using? Some can show some false positive ammonia results.

Assuming you have decent flow and the tank is more than a months or two old I would not worry about it. I have not tested for ammonia in years, just ALK on the regular and CA/MG a few times a year to make sure they stay in balance.

two aside's. One you seem to be over-complicating your PH management. Two, watch out for the sea apple http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2003/3/inverts


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Old 07/22/2017, 06:25 PM   #3
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I agree that a false positive reading is a likely issue. Personally, I would get a second opinion, because ammonia can be very toxic, but I wouldn't worry much as long as the animals are healthy. If the reading is accurate, the tank might need a bit more live rock, but I am betting on a testing issue here.


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Old 07/22/2017, 07:25 PM   #4
bif24701
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If you have an established system with flow and gas exchange there shouldn't be an ammonia problem unless there is a major death or equipment failure.


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Old 07/23/2017, 07:59 AM   #5
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yes...chill out


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Old 07/23/2017, 12:07 PM   #6
lrhorer
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jayball View Post
There will always be some small amount of ammonia in an aquarium due to fish and inverts excreting it but it should not really be measurable. What test kit are you using? Some can show some false positive ammonia results.
The API Saltwater Master Test Kit. It's maximum sensitivity is 0.25 parts per million. To my eye, the result is always not quite zero, but also not quite 0.25 ppm, ever since the tank cycled. I never worried about NH3 / NH4+ levels this low when I had fish-only tanks, but this tank is my first foray into a full blown reef tank.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jayball View Post
Assuming you have decent flow and the tank is more than a months or two old I would not worry about it. I have not tested for ammonia in years, just ALK on the regular and CA/MG a few times a year to make sure they stay in balance.
I have a calcium test, but not magnesium. Do you have a recommendation for a good Mg test kit, hopefully one that does not cost an arm and a leg?

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Originally Posted by jayball View Post
Two, watch out for the sea apple http://www.advancedaquarist.com/2003/3/inverts
[/quote]
Yeah, I know. Various invertebrates, including some sessile inverts and species that protect themselves from predation by accumulating toxic substances into various parts of their anatomy are not only deadly to various critters around them in the ocean, they can also kill almost everything in a marine aquarium just by dying, or even just being stressed out. Among the most famous of these are most sea slugs, sea cucumbers, and sea apples. It is also true of certain cephalopods and gastropods. I am not much worried about the later, since I definitely do not intend to include any Blue Ringed Octopodes or Cone Snails in my aquarium - as much for the sake of my own continued health as that of my aquarium. I have handled quite a few hyper-deadly creatures in the wild, but I really don't want any in my house, thank you. I've even given up keeping Rattlesnakes on hand, which I used to do a lot.

For obvious reasons, I am also not going to put any non-lethal (to humans) Octopodes or Squid into the tank.

I am keeping a close eye on the Sea Apple, though. So far he seems happy. It did withdraw into itself during a pH episode I had recently, but it did not swell or shrink, and he remained normally mobile (for a Sea Apple). It seems to be eating well. Whenever I add plankton to the tank, it fully extends its gills and withdraws one or two at a time, extending them again after a minute or so. I've tried to look for scats, but so far I have been unable to catch him defecating, and I have been unable to discern any scats among the detritus on top of the substrate. Since my only prior experience with these creatures has been in the open ocean, I am not quite sure exactly for what I should be searching. Can you or someone else here provide some insight? For what size, shape, and color of excrement should I be looking? The Spiny Oyster regularly evacuates through a series of quick shell expansions and contractions, expelling a pretty obvious amount of poop, and there are some tiny little rod-shaped bits of gunk right under the Featherduster Worms that I think used to be inside them.

I do want to get some Lettuce Sea Slugs, and I am aware I must guard for the same problems with them as with the Sea Apple or a Sea Cucumber. I would love to have some true Nudibranchs, but this tank is too new and I am still a bit too inexpert at reef husbandry to contemplate adding these beautiful and fragile occupants to my aquarium.

I am thinking of firing up another small aquarium and keeping another Octopus - but not a Blue Ringed, mind you. I kept one previously until it died of old age, and it was a hoot. It loved to climb out of the water and onto my hand when I was feeding it, and it recognized me whenever I came into the room. It never inked the tank.


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Old 07/25/2017, 03:37 PM   #7
Mishri
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yeah, .25 or less is fine for the API test kit.. it's not quite there, it's registering ammonia, but it doesn't go down low enough. anything under .1 is normal, which is probably where you are at. Ammonia can also be in a non-toxic state and register too high on test kits in certain circumstances and still be safe. If it goes above .25 then you need to take action.


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Old 07/25/2017, 04:28 PM   #8
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One thing you can check is yours fresh tap water source/filtered water parameters.I had an identical issue once ( recently discovered trace amounts of ammonia)and it was from my 20 gallon storage bucket that I kept my RODI water in ,that ,was a source of ammonia,contamination,after the water was filtered.It wasn't the test kits fault.Poor husbandry on my part.


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Old 07/25/2017, 06:14 PM   #9
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I agree that the API kit has a bit of a reputation for reading small amounts of ammonia in systems that are fine in reality.


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