Ammonia in tap water - how to treat

BrickCorvidae

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So, I have been having crazy troubles getting my water parameters in a safe range in ALL my tanks recently (the ammonia was always high, I never had trouble before) and couldn't figure out why. I reasoned out that the culprit had to be the water itself and decided to test the ammonia levels in our pre-treated water. This is what I found. Is this normal?

I added a normal dose of Seachem Prime to the water and it barely changed the ammonia level (second picture). I'm not sure what to do at this point. Any advice?
 

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Binditheaxolotl

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So, I have been having crazy troubles getting my water parameters in a safe range in ALL my tanks recently (the ammonia was always high, I never had trouble before) and couldn't figure out why. I reasoned out that the culprit had to be the water itself and decided to test the ammonia levels in our pre-treated water. This is what I found. Is this normal?

I added a normal dose of Seachem Prime to the water and it barely changed the ammonia level (second picture). I'm not sure what to do at this point. Any advice?
I would buy gallons of water. I have some in my tap water but I double treat with prime and it’s always gone in 12 hours. I would tub your lotl while you get parameters under control and recycle.
 

BrickCorvidae

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What's your double treating process, if you don't mind me asking?

Thanks!
 

Murk

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Ammonia in tap water is a difficult situation.

If you're sure the culprit is the tap water, and this is a new situation, it's worth it to contact the municipality/city/county/whatever first. Sudden increases in ammonia levels in tap water are generally not intentional.

But yes, generally the options are:

Finding another source of water
- Bottled water works well, but can be relatively expensive.
- Distilled water that you remineralise. I'm not familiar with the set-up (I think it can be quite complex) but I know some people do this.
- If you have a relatively consistent supply of rain water it's a good option as well - but you'll need to be able to have rain water shortly before you do the water change. You don't want to give rain water the chance to pick up nasty stuff outside.

Removing the ammonia from the tap water
- Small levels of ammonia will dissipate from tap water over time. You can try to fill a bucket with tap water and let it sit for a day, and then test the ammonia again. It won't make much of a difference but might be just enough.
- Boiling the water works quite good against ammonia as well, but I imagine it's impractical to boil several buckets full of water every time you do a water change.
- Prime or other products that "detoxify" ammonia do not remove ammonia. They only stop its effects for a day at most. After that, the ammonia will still be there.

Limiting the amount of water changes you need to do
In a cycled tank, the ammonia would turn into nitrates, which are usually removed by water changes.
Plants also use nitrates to grow. If you have a lot of aquarium plants and they are growing well, you'll barely need to do any water changes. I haven't done any water changes in the past ten months, and my nitrates are always close to zero.
Even if you can't get enough plants (or they don't grow fast enough) to remove all nitrates, every little bit helps. The fewer water changes you have to do, the less problematic the ammonia in the tap water would be.
 
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BrickCorvidae

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I had perfectly cycled tank and I kept wondering why I was getting ammonia spikes recently after doing routine water changes, so I think that the ammonia in our water must have increased recently. I did a larger water change a bit ago because of gill fungus and that must have been what killed my cycle because of the ammonia that was added.

I have been trying to grow plants in his tank, but without any luck. All the plants that I've tried (aside from the couple of bamboo) have either died from the lack of light/cold or have been battered to death by Greg.

I'm in the process of re-cycling the tank now and hoping that I can find some plants that could survive both my black thumb and Greg's abuse. Any advice?

Thanks!
 

Murk

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Oh, I hadn't gotten from your post that you lost your cycle. What makes you think so?

---
As for plant advice, I'm always happy to talk about plants!
For an axolotl tank I would stick with easy hardy plants, yes. As you say, the water is cold and axolotls have a habit of attacking plants.

You'll definitely need light, though. Without extra light (other than just ambient room light) most plants would die, and they certainly wouldn't grow enough to be good for your water quality.
For water quality, you would rather have no plants than dying plants.

Popular beginner plants are anubias, java fern and java moss. All of them survive axolotls and cold temperatures well enough, but they won't grow very fast (they're actually warm water plants).
They're nice, but they won't do well enough in the cold to make a real difference in water quality. If you want plants for fun they're fine.

Very easy plants for cold water are Elodea and Hornwort.
Elodea is also called "waterweed" and it really grows like a weed. While they make roots they don't necessarily need them, so even if your axolotls uproot them they'll float happily on the surface. If they grow too tall you can snip them (or if an axolotl breaks up a stalk) and then you'll have two!
Hornwort is a bit prettier (and has less of a habit to make a big jungle of the tank), but both are real nitrate-sucking powerhouses. You'll have to trim them regularly.
Cold water is important, and enough light as well. Waterweed that gets too little light becomes very pale, to brown, to sludge, which makes your aquarium quite gross and has the opposite effect of the intended water quality improvement.

Elodea and Hornwort both grow very tall. If you have a lower aquarium you could try water milfoil. It's quite similar but tends to stay a little lower.
Vallisneria does quite well as well. It's not as much of a monster as waterweed or Hornwort, but it's absolutely indestructible so axolotl-safe. It's especially easy to propagate, so you can start out with just one plant and slowly fill up the entire tank.

In my experience, axolotls produce enough fertilisers (poop!) that you won't need any additional fertilisers. As long as you have enough light and cool water, all the plants above should grow pretty well.
Water flow or air bubbles always help but aren't necessary. I've never used CO2.

Something else you could consider is emersed plants: leaves out of the water, roots in the water.
You mentioned bamboo, which works well.
Pothos is also a very popular choice; I've used arrowhead plant and spider plant, which can all be found in every student dorm or elderly home in the world, I believe.
I was very happy with emersed basil as well because it's nice in salads and turning axolotl poop into salad herbs was not as gross as it sounds.
Emersed plants tend to grow even quicker than underwater plants, and axolotls like the roots well enough to hang out in. Really depends on the shape of your tank, though.



As always when people get me started on plants this has become a lot of words. Apologies.
 

BrickCorvidae

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Oh, I hadn't gotten from your post that you lost your cycle. What makes you think so?

---
As for plant advice, I'm always happy to talk about plants!
For an axolotl tank I would stick with easy hardy plants, yes. As you say, the water is cold and axolotls have a habit of attacking plants.

You'll definitely need light, though. Without extra light (other than just ambient room light) most plants would die, and they certainly wouldn't grow enough to be good for your water quality.
For water quality, you would rather have no plants than dying plants.

Popular beginner plants are anubias, java fern and java moss. All of them survive axolotls and cold temperatures well enough, but they won't grow very fast (they're actually warm water plants).
They're nice, but they won't do well enough in the cold to make a real difference in water quality. If you want plants for fun they're fine.

Very easy plants for cold water are Elodea and Hornwort.
Elodea is also called "waterweed" and it really grows like a weed. While they make roots they don't necessarily need them, so even if your axolotls uproot them they'll float happily on the surface. If they grow too tall you can snip them (or if an axolotl breaks up a stalk) and then you'll have two!
Hornwort is a bit prettier (and has less of a habit to make a big jungle of the tank), but both are real nitrate-sucking powerhouses. You'll have to trim them regularly.
Cold water is important, and enough light as well. Waterweed that gets too little light becomes very pale, to brown, to sludge, which makes your aquarium quite gross and has the opposite effect of the intended water quality improvement.

Elodea and Hornwort both grow very tall. If you have a lower aquarium you could try water milfoil. It's quite similar but tends to stay a little lower.
Vallisneria does quite well as well. It's not as much of a monster as waterweed or Hornwort, but it's absolutely indestructible so axolotl-safe. It's especially easy to propagate, so you can start out with just one plant and slowly fill up the entire tank.

In my experience, axolotls produce enough fertilisers (poop!) that you won't need any additional fertilisers. As long as you have enough light and cool water, all the plants above should grow pretty well.
Water flow or air bubbles always help but aren't necessary. I've never used CO2.

Something else you could consider is emersed plants: leaves out of the water, roots in the water.
You mentioned bamboo, which works well.
Pothos is also a very popular choice; I've used arrowhead plant and spider plant, which can all be found in every student dorm or elderly home in the world, I believe.
I was very happy with emersed basil as well because it's nice in salads and turning axolotl poop into salad herbs was not as gross as it sounds.
Emersed plants tend to grow even quicker than underwater plants, and axolotls like the roots well enough to hang out in. Really depends on the shape of your tank, though.



As always when people get me started on plants this has become a lot of words. Apologies.


Thank you SO much! I love plants as well - I just haven't quite made friends with aquatic plants yet. I do have quite a few of the plants you mentioned in the emersed plants section, so maybe I'll set up a way for them to grow outside of his tank. I love the idea of growing basil!

I know I can find Hornwort at a few of the local fish stores, so I'll make sure to pick some up! Thank you again for the super valuable info!
 
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