Effects of Ammonia in Aquariums

Ammonia in saltwater aquariums

What is Ammonia

Ammonia is a chemical compound made up of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms. Fish, coral and invertebrates experience it in two different forms: free ammonia NH3 and the ammonium ion NH4+. The makeup of the Ammonia depends on certain environmental factors within saltwater aquariums. The form that ammonia takes also determines its toxicity to fish coral and invertebrates regardless any ammonia in aquariums is stressful to it’s inhabitants.

Effect of Ammonia on your Aquarium Inhabitants

Ammonia in Aquariums

Ammonia is continuously introduced into your aquarium through fish waste, respiration, and other biological processes. While it is, in effect, the source of the nitrogen cycle, ammonia is extremely toxic. Fish will show signs of stress, such as erratic swimming behavior, when ammonia is present.

An ammonia spike is a dramatic, toxic increase in the aquarium’s ammonia level. If, for example, the beneficial bacterial colonies created during startup fluctuate, a harmful ammonia spike may result.

An increase in the biological load  can also trigger an ammonia spike. An imbalance is created when ammonia levels exceed the capacity of existing beneficial bacteria to efficiently process the ammonia. The additional surge in ammonia levels momentarily overwhelms the nitrifying bacteria and takes time to reestablish itself.

Managing Bio-load and Ammonia in Aquariums

Common factors that influence bio-load include overstocking your aquarium or overfeeding your fish. Since bio-load has a direct correlation with ammonia production, you want the bio load in your aquarium to be ideally less than or equal to the nitrifying capacity of existing bacterial population. When the nitrogen cycle is out of whack and ammonia level spikes in an established aquarium, it is vital to reestablish the population of beneficial bacteria.

Since aquariums are a closed system, it is essential to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. You also need to make sure you have a healthy and stable population of beneficial bacteria. This can be easily done through routine use of bacterial additives. Avoid poor water quality due to inefficient biological filtration. Routinely test your aquarium for ammonia and correct any filtration problems to ensure an enjoyable aquarium hobby.

It’s best not add too many fish to your aquarium at any one time. This can also exceed the nitrifying capacity of the existing bacterial population. Its import to give the bacterial population time to grow to take on the added bio-load before adding more fish to your aquarium.

How to Lower Ammonia in Aquariums

If you’re cycling an aquarium I would just let the nitrogen cycle run it’s corse, But if you have an ammonia spike in established tank very important that you reduce the level of ammonia in aquarium through water changes immediately. Than continue to do 10-20% water changes daily until the ammonia level in aquarium drops to 0.

If you have any questions about ammonia in aquariums feel free to email me at Jeff@madhattersreef.com

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