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Prime and ammonia testing...gerrr

Discussion in 'Water Maintainence' started by Silverphish, Jul 27, 2015.

  1. Silverphish

    Silverphish Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2015
    Location:
    Central Virginia
    I have been attempting to cycle my tank now for 6-7 weeks, I use Prime to treat the water as my water company only uses chloramine (the tap has a reading of ~2 ppm), and keep getting high readings (2 - 4 ppm). I found out tonight that Prime (or any other de-chlorinater) will still test positive with the API test kit, so I will always have a positive result.

    So how am I supposed to know when the tank is cycled?

    How can I be sure I have enough bacteria to handle the ammonia produced by 4 (less than 1 inch fantails) in a 40 gal breeder?

    I already worry that one has ammonia burns from being in the quarantine tank too long (even with daily water changes). He has black smudges in some areas of his body that weren't there when I bought him, the scales in those areas seem intact. Though he shows now sign of discomfort, redness, swelling, eats great...Also, if one had burns, wouldn't they all? One is pure white and has been without blemish for 4 weeks.

    I need to get the fish out of the quarantine tank as soon as possible (it also tests positive, between 0.25 and 1 ppm even with daily water changes - but also using Prime), but I don't want to kill them now that the quarantine is finally done.
     
  2. Fishheadz

    Fishheadz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Location:
    Moffat, CO.

    There are other kits available, the API Master Kit is the most recommended, I think mainly because it's the best value, and for most people (whos city does not use Chloramine) works fine.
    From the Seachem Website; http://www.seachem.com/support/FAQs/Prime.html
    Q: I am using Prime® to control ammonia but my test kit says it is not doing anything, in fact it looks like it added ammonia! What is going on?

    A: A Nessler based kit (such as the API Master Test Kit) will not read ammonia properly if you are using Prime®... it will look "off scale", sort of a muddy brown (incidentally a Nessler kit will not work with any other products similar to Prime®). A salicylate based kit can be used, but with caution. Under the conditions of a salicylate kit the ammonia-Prime complex will be broken down eventually giving a false reading of ammonia (same as with other products like Prime®), so the key with a salicylate kit is to take the reading right away. However, the best solution ;-) is to use our *MultiTest: Ammonia™ kit... it uses a gas exchange sensor system which is not affected by the presence of Prime® or other similar products. It also has the added advantage that it can detect the more dangerous free ammonia and distinguish it from total ammonia (which is both the free and ionized forms of ammonia (the ionized form is not toxic)).
    *http://www.seachem.com/Products/product_pages/MT_Ammonia.html


    From Me;
    Prime stays active within the water column for 24-48 hours, so any Ammonia is bound and held, (the bacteria can still consume it).
    With that said, a single dose of Prime treats 1 ppm Ammonia, so if your tap is at 2 ppm Ammonia (as mine is) you should use a Double Dose. (this is totally safe, and as per printed instructions upto 5x dose can be used in an emergency (for Ammonia, NitrIte, or NitrAte).
    The Aquarium should be cycled when your water parameters are within an acceptable range; Ammonia - 0 ppm, NitrIte - 0 ppm, NitrAte - 10-40 ppm.
    This usually takes 6-8 weeks, however, if you are doing large weekly water changes, it may take considerably longer (10-12+ weeks?)
    You can reduce the amount of water changes, the bacteria needs the Ammonia, so if there are no fish in it, you can back off the Prime, to allow the bacteria all 2 ppm Ammonia from your tap. (my tap is also 2ppm Ammonia). Once the bacteria is able to establish, it should start producing NitrIte, and you should see this NitrIte spike in your water readings, After that another bacteria has to colonize, to consume the NitrIte thus producing NitrAte. When you see NitrAte above 10 ppm, you know it's pretty much ready, so long as Ammonia & NitrIte has dropped to zero.

    If you change your QT water everyday, but are only using a single dose, they are still being exposed to 1 ppm Ammonia, if your tap is at 2 ppm.
    So, change QT daily, double dose Prime, ...don't worry...too much.
    Eventually, once you get cycled and get into a good routine, you won't worry about testing water as much, you'll just know it needs changed.
    Perhaps an odd analogy, but think of tank water kind of like a baby's diaper, if it looks dirty, or smells dirty, it most likely needs changed.
     
  3. Silverphish

    Silverphish Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2015
    Location:
    Central Virginia
    If it only binds the ammonia, does that mean it treats nitrite and nitrate the same way, where it will test positive even if it is bound and non-toxic at the time? (In other words, will my nitrite and ammonia levels EVER be zero?)

    I really appreciate the advice. I got the 40 gal a few months before I moved for my 2 fantails to go (they had been in a 25 gal for ~5 years and it always seemed dirty) in at a petco $1 per gal sale. I didn't know about all this water testing stuff, I only changed the water when it looked murky (which was about every 3 weeks) the petco people just said to add tap water conditioner if I didn't have a well. When I moved, it would have been an 18 hour drive for the fish, so one of my (old) local shops said they'd hold my fish for a week, until I could get the tank ready, then ship them to me. Well, one was dead on arrival, the other died two days later. I'm actually surprised that they lived for so long in the first place, I had no idea what I was doing. I broke down the tank, completely for a few months. When I finally decided to get more fish I started researching what kinds and colors I liked. That's when I started to realize that there was soooooo much more to caring for goldfish than I ever realized. This time I want to do it right! I set the 25 gal up, two weeks later got some fish. Set the 40 gal up and figured it'd be ready by the time the QT was over. If I can get this chemistry stuff down to a science, I want to upgrade them to a 75-90 gal next time there is a sale (and I have the $).
     
  4. chocky

    chocky Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2014
    Location:
    WA, Australia
    you're ammonia and nitrites will be come 0 when your filter has finished cycling and has enough beneficial bacteria to convert the ammonia to nitrite, nitrites to nitrate. You also need enough filter media to house the beneifical bacteria so you have enough.
    Using Prime is just to help initially when you add the tap water in, to dechlorinate and also give the BB enough time to convert the ammonia.

    Prime isn't causing your water to test positive for ammonia but the chloramines which is causing readings of ammonia.
     
  5. Fishheadz

    Fishheadz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Location:
    Moffat, CO.
    Prime will also bind the NitrIte and NitrAte, however, you should be able to get good readings for these two parameters even with Prime active in the system (they should not give false-positive readings).
    Chloramine is Chlorine & Ammonia, Cities use this combination to kill bacteria while the water is being pumped through the water mains to peoples houses.
    The way Prime works is it separates the Ammonia molecules from the Chlorine molecules, the Chlorine is voided, and the Ammonia is held in an inert state (making it harmless to fish, but still consumable by the bacteria)
    I think an 18 hour drive would have been much less stressful than shipping, as shipping involves transfers from multiple conveyors , and trucks, and a lot of handling. Battery powered air pumps are available at most fishing bait shops for under $20. (my roommate uses one for making his compost worm tea). A styrofoam cooler is around $10, or less.
    Like I said previously, the cycle usually takes 6-8 weeks, but if you're doing water changes on a cycling tank, it will be delayed, possibly taking 10-12+ weeks to cycle.
    And like Chocky stated, you need to ensure that you have a large enough area in the filter for the bacteria to colonize. What filter are you using? What media are you using?

    Alternatively, you could add a bacteria supplement, such as Seachem Stability* This may help jump start your cycle, but should not be required after the tank is established.
    I would not recommend any other bacteria supplement, as no other product available works the way Stability does.
    * http://www.seachem.com/Products/product_pages/Stability.html

    For future reference on the PetCo $1 per gallon sale, it only includes tanks up to 55 gallon, sadly 75 & 90 gallon tanks are not included in those sales.
    With that said, there are some good deals to be had through CraigsList, though you must be very careful when dealing with people.
    Never buy a used tank, unless you can see it full of water. Getting burned on a $300-$400 large tank is not kool (trust me, I know).
    Inspect any used tank you're considering very closely, are there any scratches?, do all of the seals look good? cross braces good and sturdy?
    Always ask what was housed in the tank previously, personally I avoid anything that held reptiles, or other critters, like arachnids. (not sure why I do this, its just me I guess)

    A lot of the time you'll find folks that don't really want to get rid of their setup but have to move and can not take it with them, these are the deals you should look for. Occasionally, you find someone who has upgraded to a larger tank/ newer filter, and is selling their old setup to help offset the cost of their new setup, that they already purchased.
    You can usually get a complete setup, for one price (be careful here, and check prices of items new)....never be afraid to haggle, if they're asking $150, offer $100. Usually they will take less than what they are asking, especially if they can tell you're a "fish person". (they posted the price they posted with the expectation folks would ask for a cheaper price).
    People moving are most usually on some type of a time restraint, so they'd rather sell it for $100 vs. $150, so it's one less thing they have to worry about getting rid of before their deadline.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2015
  6. Tank Girl

    Tank Girl Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2012
    Location:
    Michigan / Unites States
    On their website, API states that the ammonia test kit is salicylate based.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  7. Silverphish

    Silverphish Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2015
    Location:
    Central Virginia
    My filter is a whisper EX70 with two charcoal filter cartridges and a "bio-scrubber" in each side. It filters 340 gal / hr. I was considering either replacing one side with Fluvial bio-wheels or ceramic cylinders, or I have an old filter from a smaller tank (20 gal capacity) that I could fill with the extra bio media (I think the smaller one has a rate of 110 gal/hr) just to boost everything.

    Also, next time I move, I'm defiantly taking my fish with me!

    Thank you all so much.
     
  8. Fishheadz

    Fishheadz Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2014
    Location:
    Moffat, CO.
    my apology for confusing the two


    I'd pack in as much bio media in as possible, I would likely fill both cartridge slots with Bio-Max (the cylinders). I would also consider packing in as much as possible in that spare 20g filter too.
    Don't really need the charcoal, though some type of mechanical filtration is a good idea. so might save some room for some filter floss, or other mechanical filtration.
     
    Tank Girl likes this.
  9. shakaho

    shakaho Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2010
    Location:
    Orlando FL
    As Chocky pointed out, your tank is cycled when ammonia and nitrite both reading zero all the time. The API test reads total ammonia which is ammonia (the toxic form) and ammonium (non toxic). Prime, at the recommended dose, will convert up to 1 ppm ammomia to ammonium. You need to do water changes to get your ammonia below 1 ppm to protect your fish from ammonia.

    Excess ammonia and excess nitrite not only endanger your fish, they also slow nitrification and the cycling process. Nitrification is substrate inhibited. (A less technical source.) That means both excess ammonia and excess nitrite inhibit nitrification. Inhibition of nitrification means slower growth of nitrifiers and thus slower cycling. Any ammonia/nitrite in the tank means that the nitrifiers have more "food" than they can eat.

    When cycling a pond or tank I have almost always done fish-in cycling, keeping the ammonia/nitrite below 0.5 ppm with large water changes and /or understocking. Cycling never took longer than a month. I did fishless cycling once (in two separate tanks). I started with 4 ppm ammonia and the process took the same two months that most people report.

    Ponds are usually cycled with fish, using severe understocking to keep the fish safe. A joke among pond people says, "Cycling is a three-week process that can be reduced to 21 days by using bacterial products." I believe the faster cycling in ponds as compared to aquaria comes from the regular natural seeding from local nitrifiers.
     
  10. gillian

    gillian Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    Location:
    brooklyn, ny
    Perhaps I am misunderstanding this thread, but in my previous tank I used Prime with every water change and an API test kit. I would frequently test ph, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate after the change. Using Prime never gave me false positives. I would seem to usually, if not always, (except when I first cycled the tank with fish) get Ammonia and Nitrite readings of 0.0ppm.
     

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