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URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

This is a discussion on URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix? within the Axolotl General Discussion forums, part of the Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) category; I just got my API Master Test Kit today and did my first proper water test. For reference, I've been ...

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Old 8th May 2017   #1 (permalink)
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Exclamation URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

I just got my API Master Test Kit today and did my first proper water test. For reference, I've been using test strips previously, and they've been showing that everything is fine. I wanted the API kit so I could be more accurate, especially since I'm going to be starting up a new tank soon and I want to monitor a fishless cycle.

ANYWAYS.

My levels are VERY WRONG. At least, for ammonia. And unfortunately, I already have an axolotl in this tank. I thought it was already cycled, but apparently not?

Ammonia: 1.5ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 5ppm

Now, my axolotl seems fine, but I am NOT messing around with such a high ammonia level. Here's some pictures of my results so they can be double-checked:

Click the image to open in full size.Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.

My question is, how do I fix this? Especially with an axie already in the tank? I have Tetra SafeStart plus (which I used to start my tank and I use every other week for water changes) but do I need to get something else? Do I just dump some of the SafeStart into the tank? I'm really worried about the health of my axie and I want to make this better, as soon as possible.



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Old 8th May 2017   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

I'd make a 50% water change immediately. SafeStart won't do much, but it's something. You can pour it into the dechlorinated water before you add it to the tank. Keep testing every day now, and do 30% water changes. When you detect nitrite, the cycle is going in the right direction - but keep changing water every day as nitrite is just as toxic for your axie as ammonia is! If the levels get high, do another 50% change. It's a balancing act!



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Old 8th May 2017   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

Ok, I did a 50% change and will continue doing water changes until everything's good. How long should that take? I know in most tanks it's a several week long process, but I've been regularly doing large water changes (once a week, 75%) and adding "concentrated aquarium bacteria" to the water. And I just today added some marimo from an established tank, would that speed things up, too?



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Old 9th May 2017   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

Great! Just keep monitoring it - do another test now if possible. Not sure how long it will take, a week or two perhaps as the spike is currently ongoing.

An alternative is to remove your axie from the tank and keep him in a plastic container with 100% water changes until the tank is cycled. The marimo will probably help a bit! What kind of filter are you using? If you can add filter media from an established tank you will instantly cycle your tank!



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Old 9th May 2017   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

I only have natural light and computer light right now to do a test by, and the natural light has gone for the day. I don't want to read it wrong because of poor light! I will do another water test tomorrow, though, before and after a water change. I don't know about keeping my axie in a plastic container for the length of the cycle period- I don't have a safe place for him to go, and I'm not confident I could do the constant water changes and such without making him very stressed. As he's a juvenile, and my first axolotl, I'm trying to be very cautious, haha.

I'm using the filter included with a cheap Aqueon MiniBow 5gallon tank. I don't know of any place I can take established filter media from, so I'll have to do this the "hard" way!

I am going to "seed" my filter media for my next tank, though, so hopefully I'll completely avoid this problem in the future.



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Old 9th May 2017   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

Test before water change: Ammonia at roughly .75ppm. Out of curiosity I tested my tap water; it's at .25ppm, but that shouldn't be enough to cause this problem, right?

Going to do a water change; I'll edit this post with the results.

EDIT: Ammonia's now at .50 ppm. My axie is still doing fine; very active but not in a "stressed" way. Could these levels simply be because I'm using such a small tank? (I promise, I'm upgrading him as soon as I can, haha...)




Last edited by Twigwise; 9th May 2017 at 21:56. Reason: results
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Old 9th May 2017   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

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Originally Posted by Twigwise View Post
Test before water change: Ammonia at roughly .75ppm. Out of curiosity I tested my tap water; it's at .25ppm, but that shouldn't be enough to cause this problem, right?

Going to do a water change; I'll edit this post with the results.
That is a lot better!

The problem with most test kits (including API) is that the "ammonia" tests measure both NH3 (ammonia) and NH4 (ammonium). NH3 (the unionised version of NH4) is very toxic and NH4 is quite harmless. In low pH's, much of the NH3 is ionised to NH4.

So basically, in a low pH = most of it is ammonium (safe) while in a high pH, it stays in its unionised, toxic form = ammonia. Your test kit measures an average of both. Do you have a pH test?



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Last edited by Karayna; 9th May 2017 at 22:09. Reason: I was blind when I read your first post about using the API kit... XD
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Old 9th May 2017   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

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That is a lot better!

The problem with most test kits (including API, which I guess is the one you're using?) is that the "ammonia" tests measure both NH3 (ammonia) and NH4 (ammonium). NH3 (the unionised version of NH4) is very toxic and NH4 is quite harmless. In low pH's, much of the NH3 is ionized to NH4.

So basically, in a low pH = most of it is ammonium (safe) while in a high pH, it stays in its unionised, toxic form = ammonia. Your test kit measures an average of both. Do you have a pH test?
Oh! Yea, I do have a pH test, I can do that now.



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Old 9th May 2017   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

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EDIT: Ammonia's now at .50 ppm. My axie is still doing fine; very active but not in a "stressed" way. Could these levels simply be because I'm using such a small tank? (I promise, I'm upgrading him as soon as I can, haha...)
Well, even small tanks get cycled eventually, but it can take a longer time for it to stabilize with high bioload (though your axie is still quite tiny, so I don't think that's the problem). Keep changing that water every day, it will pay off. :)



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Old 9th May 2017   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

My pH test came out to be about 7.5 or 7.6, would that be considered "high" in this case? And is that proper for an axie? I read they like more "hard" water.



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Old 10th May 2017   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

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My pH test came out to be about 7.5 or 7.6, would that be considered "high" in this case? And is that proper for an axie? I read they like more "hard" water.
In this case, yes. That's another reason to keep changing the water to bring down the ammonia. Though pH doesn't really matter to an axolotl - they are happy in most settings (within "normal" ranges, I'd say ~6.5-8.5)!

Your water is most probably hard; "hardness" is actually a measure of the mineral content in the water (high content = hard water). It acts as a buffer that keeps the pH more stable (and usually high). There are separate tests for hardness too (KH/GH), but that's just optional I think. More important if you keep sensitive cichlids et.c. :)



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Old 11th May 2017   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

Pre-water change results for today
Ammonia: .5ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: roughly 4ppm

Ammonia's much better, but I'd honestly be expecting it to be decreasing more, or the Nitrites to be spiking? I'm also confused, as my boss- a LPS owner and fish expert- says that I shouldn't be worrying because my tank has already been running for almost 4 weeks already and it should be "actually cycled" already?

EDIT: After water change, Ammonia is at .25ppm! Much better!




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Old 12th May 2017   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

Another daily water change shows almost the same results as yesterday, except for a spike in nitrates?
Ammonia: .5ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: closer to 10ppm?

I may have miscounted the droplets for my nitrate test, though, so I'm unsure.

A puzzle, though, for anyone still reading this thread: When I got home from work, there was evidence of my axolotl possibly having regurgitated what he last ate. Bloodworms, which I haven't fed him in a couple days, were stuck to some decor and the filter intake, and there were some extra "salamander pellets" from what I left in the tank. After cleaning, I even found the earthworm he had last night. But Dragon seems to be in good health- no signs of stress.
Could I have simply messed up and missed some food during my last clean-up? Could that be causing the ammonia spike I initially had? I'm going to do a 50% water change and do a quick rinse off of the hide I have in the tank, just to ensure there's nothing I'm missing, but I'm quite puzzled.




Last edited by Twigwise; 12th May 2017 at 20:46. Reason: found the worm
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Old 12th May 2017   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

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Originally Posted by Twigwise View Post
A puzzle, though, for anyone still reading this thread: When I got home from work, there was evidence of my axolotl possibly having regurgitated what he last ate. Bloodworms, which I haven't fed him in a couple days, were stuck to some decor and the filter intake, and there were some extra "salamander pellets" from what I left in the tank. After cleaning, I even found the earthworm he had last night. But Dragon seems to be in good health- no signs of stress.
Still trying to figure this out.

But, post-water-change, Ammonia levels are down to between .25 and .5 ppm, closer to .25 . Dragon, the axolotl, is doing well and is sitting in his food dish, where he goes when he's hungry.



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Old 12th May 2017   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

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Still trying to figure this out.

But, post-water-change, Ammonia levels are down to between .25 and .5 ppm, closer to .25 . Dragon, the axolotl, is doing well and is sitting in his food dish, where he goes when he's hungry.
0.25-0.5 is absolutely acceptable during cycling as he seems OK. :) Normally, you'd need to wait about a week or two for nitrite to show up, so just be patient. What kind of filter are you using - I forgot to ask?



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Old 12th May 2017   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

Oh, and that regurgitated stuff could absolutely be responsible for the initial spike! In a small tank you have limited margins to work with, so fluctuations can happen fast when something is wrong! Could also be that he just pooped more than normal... Hopefully it will go down even more now that you found that nasty stuff and removed it!



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Old 15th May 2017   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: URGENT: Parameters Wrong, how to fix?

Hopefully! Today's water test post-change shows levels at .25ppm, and I just added some floating duckweed to the tank, and while I'm not very experienced with plants in tanks, I hope it'll help the water quality too.



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