Floating lotl and ammonia problems

ffsloth

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So I have a 20gal tank that I have cycled for approximately 6 weeks. I didn’t do a water test on it before getting my new lotl, Rhea. A few days later she started floating. First just going up, gulping air, and just her butt would float above her head. Then she’d go back down, so I assumed all was good.
Another day or two went by and then she was at the top, floating and unable to stay at the bottom of her tank :( The next day I got a water test kit to start diagnosing the problem and found my ammonia levels were at like 1.5-2 ppm! I freaked out, tested the temp of water in my fridge, and prepared to fridge Rhea in deer park water to avoid any crappy water readings.
Once she was in there after a few hours she was already more active, and now over 24 hours later she still is floating, but more active than when I scooped her from her tank. So I’m guessing a good sign?
Now my tank; I took out ALL the water, cleaned the rocks in my tank, and bought all bottled deer park water to refill the tank. Just took another ammonia reading, and it’s still readying 1 ppm :/ I have sand substrate and didn’t let it dry out or rinse it, so I’m guessing some of it held some of the water and I’ve diluted it. I’m planning on doing another partial water change tomorrow with more bottled water.
What else should I be looking for or doing? I’m worried now that my tap water and conditioner are contributing to the high ammonia, so I guess only using bottled water?
 

ffsloth

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Lotl is now on day 3 in the fridge and has continued to be active, although still not eating. Oh well, kinda how this goes with fridging from my understanding.

My tank readings are coming out better, except now my nitrites are high! Looks like it’s 2ppm, but possibly 5ppm. Not entirely sure, buts it’s purple :(

The rest of the water parameters: pH, 7.6; ammonia, 0.25ppm; nitrate, 5ppm.

Do I just let it keep cycling? What percentage should I be doing for water changes? Frequency?
 

Tye

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Have you read any guides to aquarium cycling? What technique did you use to cycle the tank? It took me a little over two months to cycle mine completely.

The whole point of cycling a tank is to allow different colonies of bacteria to grow in the tank, on the substrate, decorations, and filter media. It is these colonies of bacteria that will eat your waste products and convert them into different types of waste. Ammonia to nitrite then nitrite to nitrate. Live plants can help take up nitrate and any dangerous excess nitrate will be removed/kept low with weekly 20% water changes.


By removing and scrubbing your tank down there's a high chance you killed any bacteria that was starting to grow. You should avoid doing deep cleans of your tank unless you have an illness or super bad algae problem. The fresh start might have crashed the cycle you were building.



As your tank cycles you'll notice spikes in the various numbers. Your ammonia will be high with trace amounts of nitrite and nitrates at the start. Then you'll see high nitrite and small readings of ammonia and nitrate. Finally you'll start to see readings of zero ammonia, zero nitrite, and 30-40ppm of nitrate. This is because the particular bacteria you need to grow won't have established themselves yet. But as they do, you'll see the various waste products get converted.



I would look up some guides on cycling, pick one, and then proceed. If you decide to put your axolotl back in the tank while it's cycling be aware of a few things.
You cannot use a pure ammonia method while cycling with live animals. The levels you need of ammonia with that method will kill your animal.
If you cycle with an animal in the tank, be prepared to do 50% or more water changes a day. Using a conditioner like Prime will help keep the toxicity of ammonia and nitrite down but you'll still need to remove a large amount of water to keep your animal from getting ammonia burns. (Be aware that depending on the type of water test you have Prime has been known to throw false positives on tests. Their website has more information on this.)
When you remove large volumes of water from the tank while live cycling you will have a slower cycle. It could take three months or more for things to cycle. This is because of the large amount of water you're replacing daily and sometimes twice daily.
Tap water should be fine if conditioned. Test your tap water to see if your water itself has ammonia in it. I know a few people on the forum had that problem. Cycling with a live animal and removing that much water could become expensive if you're using bottled water as the volumes you need to remove are rather high.
 
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