Nitrate & Ammonia care sheet

What is ammonia?

Fish continually release ammonia directly into the water through their gills, respiration and solid waste. Uneaten food and other decaying organic matter such as dead plant leaves also release ammonia. The bacteria Nitrosomonas, live in the gravel due to the presence of your undergravel filter break down ammonia into nitrite via the nitrogen cycle.

What is nitrite?

Nitrite is a toxic waste product produced when bacteria break down ammonia in an aquarium. As the biological filter develops, the bacteria Nitrobacter break down the ammonia converting it to nitrate a non-toxic end product. In aquariums imbalances can occur where ammonia and nitrite build up and poison the fish. Testing for ammonia and nitrite is extremely important as even low levels can be fatal for fish.

To reduce/remove ammonia and nitrite from aquariums the following steps should be taken:

  1. Water changes using a gravel cleaner are a must. Gravel cleaning will remove excess waste and uneaten food from the gavel bed and also dilutes the concentration of ammonia and nitrite in the aquarium. 1/3 water changes every few days or as advised by a: staff member should be completed. If water changes are being performed – more than twice a week – do not always gravel clean, rather siphon water from the top every second water change as although gravel cleaning is essential too much gravel cleaning can disrupt the bacteria colonies.
  2. Ammo-lock should be added to aquariums containing ammonia. Ammo-lock converts ammonia into a non-toxic form. Remember it will not remove ammonia so a positive ammonia test will still result but the ammonia will be less harmful. Add 5ml of Ammo-lock per 37 litres of water. Add after every water change.
  3. Ammonia and nitrite result due too much waste in the water for the bacteria to convert it to nitrate so you need to add bacteria so there is more to break down the waste. Add double doses of Cycle, 1 capful per 20 litres twice a week or as advised by a staff member.
  4. Products such as Nitra-zorb pouches or Ammonia removing resin will absorb the ammonia and nitrite from the water so these products are a fantastic way of dropping the ammonia and nitrite levels quickly and reducing the likelihood offish losses. A staff member will advise you of the use of these products. 5. We need to reduce the amount of waste in your aquarium so feeding must be cut back. Depending on the level of ammonia and/or nitrite in your aquarium feeding should be stopped altogether for a period of time such; as a week or reduced to every second day. A staff member will direct you in your feeding patterns.