Ammonia – Quick Reference

Ammonia – Quick Reference

Ammonia (NH3) is produced by organic waste, decaying plant and animal matter and is deadly to aquatic life. Ammonia is very toxic and is not tolerated at any level! Common causes of ammonia in an established tank include:

• fish overload
• overfeeding
• filter failure
• poor maintenance
• medications

Fish show signs of stress such as that seen with oxygen depletion, gasping and aiming at the surface of the water and the gills become reddened and are often flared. Gills are a delicate arrangement of high surface area tissue with counter-current blood flow through which fish absorb oxygen from the water. Anything that even slightly adversely affects the gills seriously affects the fish’s ability to survive. Immediate action should be taken to prevent death. Drastic water changes of up to 70% must be done immediately. The products listed below should be used also.

Ideally, in a mature system, ammonia is continually converted to less harmful nitrate by an active population of nitrifying bacteria. The conditions listed above can cause these bacteria to fail and ammonia begins to accumulate in the water. Total ammonia is present as two forms – ammonia (NH3) and the less toxic ammonium (NH4)+. The proportion of each at any one time is pH dependent. At lower, more acidic pH, the less toxic ammonium is present. In more alkaline conditions, highly toxic ammonia is prevalent. This relationship to pH demonstrates the critical importance of proper filtration, conditioning and regular maintenance.

Always trace and eliminate the source of ammonia.

To lower ammonia:

Freshwater
• water change
• add Freshwater Aquarium Cleaner or Nitromax Freshwater
AquaLife Complete or Ammonia Detox can be used in emergency situations to convert ammonia to less toxic ammonium. Note: SeaChem Ammonia Alert and FasTest Ammonia are among the few test kits that give accurate ammonia readings once these products are used.

Saltwater
• water change
• add Nitromax Marine or Marine Aquarium Starter
Ammonia DeTox or AquaLife Complete can be used in emergency situations to convert ammonia to less toxic ammonium. Note: SeaChem Ammonia Alert and FasTest Ammonia are among the few test kits that give accurate ammonia readings once these products are used.

Ponds
• use Water Garden Cleaner according to the directions and AquaLife Complete can be used in emergency situations to convert ammonia to less toxic ammonium.

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