Can't get ammonia to 0ppm.

RabbitOfAurora

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Hey all. I recently bought an already established tank with an axolotl in it. I'm having what I assume is a minor cycle crash from the move and I have no idea how to fix it.

I've had my tank almost 2 weeks and my paramaters are currently:

Ammonia: 0.25ppm
Nitrites: 0ppm.
Nitrates: 20ppm
Temprature usually sits between 16C and 20C

Paramaters have been the same for the entire two weeks except for the rising nitrates.

I was fortunate enough to be able to keep some of the tank water when we moved it, so it would have been say a 90% water change. The previous owner did mention she'd never tested parameters before and her filter kept stopping (she lived in an old house that struggled with the electricity)

I feed pellets and my Lotl is greedy so all of them always get eaten, and the few that occasionally get missed I pick up with a turkey baster at the end of the day. I also clean out any poops as soon as I notice them.

My Axolotl seems a bit stressed? (occasionally flapping his gills what I think may be too much, usually when resting. Curling but not hooking his tail. Gulping air.) But could also just be entirely normal from what I've read.

I've been dosing Seachem Prime every 24 - 48 hours but noticed what COULD be fungus happening (I see white on the tip of one of his gills, if the light hits it in a particular way) so I've changed to dosing prime every 12 hours (on day 2 now, was going to try for 3 days) and the tank is almost due for a water change.

Water changes I was advised to do 25% every second week and to rinse the filter on weeks I didn't change the water. But I've been too nervous to rinse it since my cycle is already a bit off and I'm scared it would crash my cycle completely. My filter is currently just a sponge filter and I've been seriously considering upgrading (recommendations welcome.)

I'll just throw in that I also have one small feeder fish in there that gets some flakes every second day and I have sand for substrate.

I get a lot of conflicting advice from facebook groups and the internet and I'm very confused, concerned and overwhelmed, so any advice on how to fix up my tank and care for my Lotl is appriciated.
 

Hayleyy

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Which test kit are you using? If it's the API then it reacts with seachem prime giving false ammonia results. I don't think you need to keep adding prime unless it's a water change. I have heard of people doing it but never have myself. Something like stability or any other bottled beneficial bacteria can help the cycle if it has indeed crashed. If you haven't already it's good to test your water supply before dechlorinator to see if there is ammonia. Mine does have it which is why I also use prime. I'll wait a day or two before testing just to avoid those false readings.
If there actually is ammonia then change small amounts of water every day or 2. This will bring it down. Check the tank thoroughly (under decorations for example) as food/poop can get trapped.
For regular water changes I usually do 20% every week, more or less depending on test results. You probably don't need to be rinsing the filter so often, unless it is really dirty, but as long as it's with tank water there isn't an issue.
 

RabbitOfAurora

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... I am indeed using the API Freshwater Master Test Kit.

I just tested my tap water like you suggested which is reading 0 ammonia.

So would you say to discontinue the use of Prime for a few days and retest? That Prime isn't necessary at all for me at this point?

I did also just order a big bottle of stability, I origionally picked up the API quick start kit, because I've been trying crazy hard to do everything I can for this axolotl, thinking he might be showing signs of discomfort because of this ammonia reading (apparently this is just the way he likes to behave and I'm a paranoid Axolotl parent)

Do you think it would be worth buying water hardness and oxygen tests? Or should it be fine because of my filter and tap water? Because they have also been recommended to me.
 

Hayleyy

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I don't think you need to keep using the prime, save it to dechlorinate new water. Don't use it for a couple of days then test to rule out incorrect test results. You could also take a sample to a fish shop though they may also use API and thus get wrong results.
If you test in a couple of days and it's still showing ammonia then you know there is some in the tank. Personally I would tub the axolotl with daily 100% water changes while the ammonia is sorted out. You can leave the axie in but do small water changes every day and keep an eye on the axie for ammonia burns and weird behaviour. If you can post a pic of the axolotl I'll see if the ammonia is affecting him.
Since prime acts to detoxify ammonia if there is ammonia in there then you could keep using it just to keep the axolotl safe.
Hardness isn't a huge issue but axolotl like it on the hard side. I've recently bought a GH & KH test kit so I can monitor it. Turns out my water is pretty soft so I'm figuring out what I need to do to bring it up. I would recommend getting one if you can, I got mine from Petbarn and the price wasn't too crazy. I haven't used an oxygen test but if you can find a good one that isn't expensive let me know, I'd be interested! I usually go by gill size, smaller gills mean lots of oxygen (sometimes too much), larger gills mean less oxygen.
 

RabbitOfAurora

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Unfortunately my Lotl is tubbed until further notice because the jerk decided it would be fun to grow some fungus. I ordered some indian almond leaves and I'm picking up some black tea tomorrow in case fresh water isn't enough.

I did a water change today and rinsed out the sponge filter (which was SO dirty omg.) I have a small inkling that it's the filter itself that is causing the ammonia. The power kept cutting out when I bought the tank (why it was for sale) and between being filthy and not 100% functioning all the time... Otherwise there's just nothing else except the prime that could be.

I have noticed some damage to his slime coat before the fungus showed up, but someone I was talking to said itbwas likely from him rubbing against the rim of a hide pot I have, vecause the damage is RIGHT where he likes to sit.

I thought he might be a bit uncomfortable, because he's been curling his tail (not hooking) and flapping his gills what I thought might have been too much and sometimes air gulping. But every single thing I read said basically it could be a sign of illness, but it also could be normal; and because he's been active and eating his pellets (until I tubbed him) I thought I was just being paranoid...
 

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RabbitOfAurora

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So my sister triggered an idea with the sand. I kicked it all up to see if anything was trapped underneath and low and behold I unearthed some black rotting bits. I assume they got trapped there during/before the move. How much matter does it actually take to raise the ammonia? Could that have been the problem all along? How long until the reading drops if it was the problem?
 

Hayleyy

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Aha, trapped debris under sand would absolutely do it. I do kick up my sand once a month to check for this (and gases). The bacteria in the tank should eat up the ammonia within the next week. The stability will help this along.
It's good to regularly squeeze out your sponge in tank water (usually the water you take out during a water change) so do it maybe once a month or two.
For the fungus and skin the leaves or tea bath should help. Just keep the water nice and cool so it will heal faster. There's heaps of info on here about fungus if you need more :)
 
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