What is Ammonia?
Very often, we can not identify hazardous substances that are contained in the air, neither by smell or visually. For example, carbon monoxide. Which is formed in the exhaust fumes of the car. Since it has neither color nor odor, and it is very dangerous for health. And often, people realize that they have poisoned themselves only when it is too late. Ammonia works the same way in an aquarium. For us, the water in the aquarium is usually crystal clear and without specific odors. But it can already hide an increased concentration of this chemical. And we can only recognize this by the appearance and behavior of the fish. And most likely only when ammonia has time to poison the entire population of the aquarium.
In nature, ammonia is present everywhere. And is an important link in the biological cycle of living organisms. But there is a fine line between the permissible rate and poisoning.
Ammonia in the water. Where from?
If you read my article on chemical balance in an aquarium and look at a specially made drawing, then you will immediately understand all the main processes occurring in it. (Read by this link.)
Ammonia is formed as a result of the vital activity of fish. Mainly in the gills. Fishes, unlike other living things, when breathing, they emit not only safe carbon dioxide. But also very poisonous and perfectly soluble in water ammonia. It is also formed in fish waste and uneaten food residues. And it is presented in aquarium water usually in two of its forms. As free ammonia (NH3) and ammonium ions (NH4). Therefore, in tests to determine the amount of ammonia, there is always an icon NH3 / NH4, as in the photo below.
But under normal conditions, in an aquarium with a well-established biological balance, and in which, in sufficient quantities there are useful nitrifying bacteria ( Nitrosomonas) - the concentration of ammonia is close to zero and does not pose any danger to the inhabitants of the aquarium. The fact is that these bacteria process ammonia into still dangerous nitrites, and already nitrites are processed by other bacteria into relatively safe nitrates.
How to recognize high ammonia in an aquarium?
The visual and most urgent sign of ammonia in the water.
If you suddenly notice a change in the behavior of fish. Such as lethargy and a change in coordination of movements. It is difficult for fishes to breathe and they keep near the surface. Trying to jump out of the water. Bad eating food. The water has an unusual smell. Plus, if your aquarium is overpopulated, there are no live plants, and there is not enough filtering (What filtering is and why it is needed, read my post on this link). That with great certainty it can be said that this ammonia, and it is urgent to take immediate action.
Determination of ammonia by means of tests.
Now, almost all manufacturers of equipment for the aquarium, there are special tests to determine the concentration of ammonia in the water. From the simplest and not very accurate, to more advanced drip. The principle of work for all is about the same. Or wetted the strip, waited, and compared the results with the color scale on the attached chart. Either they took a sample of water and added a few drops of the solution from the test kit. We waited and also compared with the color scale. In any case, detailed and understandable instructions will be attached.
Below, in the photo shows my tests for ammonia in one of the aquariums.
As we see, for the correct testimony of tests, we still need to consider pH water.
The pH of water is the scale used in chemistry to determine the acidity of water.
Ammonia in the aquarium. Constant control.
Now on the market of aquarium products, a new, useful invention has appeared, such as an ammonia meter in aquarium water. But its main difference from tests is that it is placed in an aquarium, and it measures ammonia on an ongoing basis. And it works for a year. And does not require any special maintenance. Only periodic removal of green fouling with a soft sponge. Everything. No more strips and test drops are required. This innovative product is designed and manufactured by an American company of aquarium products. Seachem. Here link with a detailed description of the product. And perhaps this is the best solution for today!
Ammonia in the aquarium. How to reduce dangerous concentration?
The easiest and most effective way to reduce the level of ammonia in emergency cases is to replace part of the aquarium water with clean tap water. Percent 35, and sometimes all 50. Just watch the temperature of the fresh water. Fish, cold-blooded animals. And completely depend on the temperature of their environment. Sharp temperature drops are contraindicated for them.
Use of zeolite.
A slower, but also very effective way of dealing with ammonia in an aquarium. Just put a nylon bag with zeolite in the aquarium filter.
This filter filler is available from all manufacturers of aquarium products. And you can easily buy it at any pet store.
If it is not possible to place it inside the filter, simply move the bag with the zeolite next to the air diffuser. Or near the exit of the aquarium filter. For attachment to glass, use a suction cup. Zeolite, in contrast to activated carbon, can be used repeatedly. For this, the used zeolite is poured with 10-15% sodium chloride solution for a day. Then washed with running water and used again.
Chemicals in the control of ammonia.
There are treatments on the market that help to neutralize ammonia in the aquarium, and protect the fish from its harmful effects. For example,APIAMMOLOCK . It removes ammonia from the water and at the same time protects the gills of fish, thereby reducing the stress of poisoning. Before use, it is necessary to replace some of the water with fresh water.
All methods for the determination of ammonia and its subsequent removal is all a consequence. The main thing to find and eliminate the cause of his appearance. And as always it comes down to Balance in the aquarium.
To adjust the balance and forget about the problem of ammonia. Rules:
1. If possible, do not overcrowd the aquarium with fish.
2. Use good biological filters.
3. If possible, use live plants.
4. Do not overfeed.
5. Do regular substitutions.
6. Love your fish - they are alive!