Any time an aquarist adds any type of organic matter (including live animals and live rock), ammonia will result.
It is normal to see the ammonia level rise during the cycling period of a new aquarium. Do not try to lower the ammonia if you are cycling a new tank by using ammonia remover; you are only preventing the cycling process from taking place. Using a product such as FritzZyme® or TurboStart® will help lower the ammonia without disrupting the cycle of the aquarium.
Ammonia occurs in two states depending on the pH of the water. The unionized state, NH3, is more toxic than the ionized state, NH3+4. The unionized state can invade the body tissue of marine animals much easier. Almost all free ammonia in seawater with a normal pH is in the ionized state, thus less toxic. As pH rises, the less toxic ionized state decreases and the more toxic unionized state increases. For example, a toxic level of ammonia as NH3 may be present with a pH of 8.4 being lethal, but the same level of ammonia as NH3+4 with a pH of 7.8 may be tolerated. Higher tank temperatures can also affect the toxicity of ammonia.
Testing for ammonia is extremely important. Ammonia will be elevated during a new tank cycle but can also be elevated in established aquariums if the aquarium is not maintained. If water is not changed regularly, filters are not kept clean, the tank is overstocked, or medication is used that disrupts the biological cycle, ammonia levels can increase. Test immediately any time you have sick fish or a fish death. Ammonia is measured at parts per million (ppm). Aquarium water quality is critical to the health of tank inhabitants. Lethal levels of ammonia can accumulate very rapidly in the absence of true nitrifying bacteria. The ideal ammonia reading should register at “0.”
If ammonia is present, fish may exhibit the following symptoms:
- Rapid gill movement
- Clamped fins
- Bacterial infections
- 0.5-1 ppm – Reduce feeding, clean filter and siphon gravel to remove excess debris. Add recommended dosage of Fritz A.C.C.R. and FritzZyme® 7 for freshwater or FritzZyme® 9 for saltwater.
- 2-3 ppm – Temporarily stop feeding and perform a 25% water change. Clean filter and siphon gravel to remove excess debris. Add recommended dosage of Fritz A.C.C.R. and FritzZyme® 7 for freshwater or FritzZyme® 9 for saltwater.
- 4-5 ppm – Complete a 50% water change and follow previous steps. Consult a local dealer for advice on finding the cause and correcting the imbalance.
- 6-7 ppm – Complete a 75% water change, follow previous steps and consult a local dealer for advice on finding the cause and correcting the imbalance.