ammonia/ammonium/nitrite/nitrate/cycling(in CC amphib glossary)

fishkeeper

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definition for these terms here. Particularly how they relate to each other.
 

Jennewt

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ammonia (ammonium): a toxic product produced by uneaten food and feces in an aquarium. See [cycling].

nitrite: a toxic product of the breakdown of [ammonia] in an aquarium. See [cycling].

nitrate: a non-toxic (final) product of the breakdown of [ammonia] and [nitrite] in an aquarium. While not toxic, high levels of nitrate in aquarium water indicate the need for larger partial water changes on a regular basis. See [cycling].

cycling (1): The breakdown of waste products in an aquarium. Waste products produce [ammonia]. The subsequent activity of beneficial bacteria break ammonia into [nitrite] and then into [nitrate]. An aquarium is considered to be "cycling" (or "cycled") when the beneficial bacteria have become well established, a process that takes one month or more after a new aquarium has been set up. See [link to cycling article].

cycling (2): The seasonal changes that prepare an animal for reproduction. For example, a salamander may need to be exposed to a cold winter and decreased sunlight in order to be properly cycled for breeding in the spring.
 

fishkeeper

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This one looks good. Unless anyone has anything additional to add we could change it to ready.
 

Daniel

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That's a short version, but good to understand.
I would add the sum-formulas and that the reduction from ammonia (NH3) to nitrite (NO2-) to nitrate (NO3+) needs oxygen.

With too little oxygen in the water, nitrate can break down to (toxic) nitrite again, but that is a special case (can happen without light where plants consume oxygen, too).
 

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Do we need to include the term "ammonium"? I rarely hear this used in the context of aquariums.

Here's a revised version:

ammonia: A toxic product (chemical formula NH3) produced by uneaten food and feces in an aquarium. See [cycling].

nitrite: A toxic product (chemical formula NO2-) of the breakdown of [ammonia] in an aquarium. See [cycling].

nitrate: The non-toxic product (chemical formula NO3) produced by the breakdown of [ammonia] and [nitrite] in an aquarium. While not toxic, high nitrate levels (>50 ppm) in an aquarium indicate the need for larger partial water changes on a regular basis. See [cycling].

cycling (1): The breakdown of waste products in an aquarium. Waste products produce [ammonia], which is subsequently broken down by beneficial in the presence of oxygen. The ammonia is converted to [nitrite] and then into [nitrate]. An aquarium is considered to be "cycling" (or "cycled") when the beneficial bacteria have become well established, a process that takes one month or more after a new aquarium has been set up. See [link to cycling article].

cycling (2): The seasonal changes that prepare an animal for reproduction. For example, a salamander may need to be exposed to a cold winter and decreased sunlight in order to be properly cycled for breeding in the spring.
 

Daniel

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I am fine with that.

"Ammonium" is used in german and means "ammonia". I don't know if there is an additional meaning in english.
 

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ammonium is what ammonia reverts to at a lower ph(I believe under ph of 6.5). At this stage it is less toxic, and beneficial bacteria are not as active. A long overdue waterchange on a tank with water that has acidified due to lack of water changes will convert all the ammonium to ammonia...with consequences for the fish.

At least...that is how I understand it.
 

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Joseph is right. There is free ammonia (NH3-N) and ionized-ammonia (ammonium) (NH4+-N) (both resulting from protein breakdown) which exist in an equilibrium. The amount of each in this equilibrium depends on pH -level and temperature. Whereas the ionized form is quite harmless and rather high concentrations are tolerated (at least by fishes) the free form is toxic for aquatic organisms. Lower pH - levels will result in an increase of the ionized form and vice versa. Basically the same happens with temperature drop respectively increase.
 

Daniel

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Okay, now that's a translation mistake - in this case your "ammonium" is called "ammoniak" over here.
 

Jennewt

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My chemistry classes of long ago come stumbling back in consciousness... While this is all somewhat relevant to aquariums, it's hard to put into a concise definition.

Shall we omit "ammonium" from the definition? Or can anyone propose a definition that includes it?
 

Daniel

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I think we can leave it aside for now as it comlplicates the definition.

But then I also made a mistake with the formula: "ammonia" should be "NH4" instead of "NH3" (ammonium)

If we say that it's toxic should we name the levels it might get toxic at?
f.e.:
ammonia: readings higher than 0
nitrite: readings higher than 0
nitrate: readings should below 40/60

One addition:
cycling (1): The breakdown of waste products in an aquarium. Waste products produce [ammonia], which is subsequently broken down by beneficial bacteria in the presence of oxygen.
 

John

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It is correct to say that ammonia and ammonium exist in equilibrium in water but in actuality at all but the highest pH most ammonia (NH3) exists as ammonium (NH4+). Even in the lab ammonia solution is chemically ~ammonium to all intents and purposes.
 
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Jennewt

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OK, here is the final version, hopefully:



ammonia or ammonium: A toxic product (chemical formula NH3 or NH4+) produced by uneaten food and feces in an aquarium. The ideal ammonia level in a well-established aquarium is zero. See [cycling].

nitrite: A toxic product (chemical formula NO2-) of the breakdown of [ammonia] in an aquarium. The ideal level of nitrite in a well-established aquarium is zero. See [cycling].

nitrate: The non-toxic product (chemical formula NO3) produced by the breakdown of [ammonia] and [nitrite] in an aquarium. While not toxic, high nitrate levels (>50 ppm) in an aquarium indicate the need for larger partial water changes on a regular basis. See [cycling].

cycling (1): The breakdown of waste products in an aquarium. Waste products produce [ammonia], which is subsequently broken down by beneficial bacteria in the presence of oxygen. The ammonia is converted to [nitrite] and then into [nitrate]. An aquarium is considered to be "cycling" (or "cycled") when the beneficial bacteria have become well-established, a process that takes one month or more after a new aquarium has been set up. See [link to cycling article].

cycling (2): The seasonal changes that prepare an animal for reproduction. For example, a salamander may need to be exposed to a cold winter and decreased sunlight in order to be properly cycled for breeding in the spring.
 

MRIGUY

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I like this version. It reads better and seems a better fit.
 
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