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Weird: ammonia and plants?

Molch

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So I recently got an order of Elodea densa. The plants looked a bit ragged, so I sorted out the nicer ones and put the rest in a plastic tank by the window to deal with later. Then I got busy and forgot about them for about a week.

When I looked at them this weekend, I noticed a slime film had formed on the surface and I decided to try my new ammonia test kit on the tank. The result was off the scale - at least 6 or 8 ppm!! :eek:

So...where would all that ammonia come from in a tank that contains only plants? I assume there are heterotroph bacteria breaking down the shed leaves and producing ammonia?

But...if a handful of Elodea can produce that much ammonia in a week, what does that say about putting plants like this in a tank that has not yet cycled?:confused:

I'm not to keen now too put these Elodea in my newts' tanks....

any thoughts?
 

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carsona246

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my guess is the slime is algae covering the plants, which caused them to decay. If properly maintained plants will suck up toxic chemicals like ammonia and nitrate like you wouldn't beleive.
 

Azhael

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If there are parts of the plants that are rotting, then the ammonia comes from there. Any protein that is degraded and metabolized will produce ammonia, it doesnt matter if it is animal or vegetable.
 

Cas

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That looks like some decaying matter in the bottom on the bowl, and if the plants didn't look too great then some leaves were probably dying as well, as already mentioned decaying matter= ammonia (as well as a bunch of other stuff) google the nitrogen cycle.

Basically you get different ammonium salts from decaying matter which is in solution so you get NH3 (in equilibrium) as water acts as a buffer. Id go into more detail.... but its pretty boring lol.
 

Molch

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sure; I know it comes from decaying matter broken down by bacteria; I was just really surprised how much ammonia it produced in such a short time. Elodea pretty much always loses leaves doesn't it? That would suggest it wouldn't be a good plant to put into tanks that are still cycling - right?
 

carsona246

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Idk, I've never heard of plants adding ammonia, so either the majority of the plant mass is all dead, or something is up with your water. I've always added plants to help cycle, and I find they help. I can't remember how long the plants were in the container, but if they were just put in a big container with no nutrients and a lot of light it's very possible they all died. I would swish the plants around and see how much they desinegrate, and the ones that seem less covered in algae and hold together are probably ok for the tank. The way plants work is the more light the faster they grow, and the more nutrients they uptake. If you have a lot of light, but no nutrients, you just get a bunch of algae that chokes out the plants.
 

Molch

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well, I checked - the plants are not all dead; but their lower stems are losing leaves and some stems are rotting; however, the tips are vital and growing. I guess they are beginning to die..

Tonight, I'll sort through these and I will snip off all the vital parts and start those from scratch.

Can Elodea grow floating, like Ceratophyllum, or should it root?
 

Jennewt

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I'm really shocked that plants could produce THAT much ammonia. I assume that you've repeated the test? And tested other water samples that are negative, such as your aquariums? Does your tap water have chlorine or chloramine?
 

Molch

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Jen - yep, I repeated the tests. I also tested my tanks after I had put some of those Elodea in. The alpine tank had a slight increase in ammonia to 0.5 ppm, so I took the Elodea out and did a water change. That tank is still cycling, though. Ammonia is back down now, and I'm testing daily anyways in the new tank.

The Cynops tank, which is established, showed no increase in ammonia after I put the Elodea in.

What this tells me is that some decaying plant matter can really jack up ammonia in a tank that is still cycling, and that one should be careful with plants like Elodea that have a tendency to shed leaves.
 

Molch

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oh, and I should add: I don't use tap water (out here in the great boondocks of northwestern Alaska, I have no plumbing).
I use water from a natural spring nearby, and it has 0 ammonia in it and a pH of 7.6.
 

Jennewt

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Interesting thread, thanks. And I'm verrrrry envious of your water source:cool:
 

ecarg08

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This may help you a little, check your filter media to make sure it isn't clogged or clumped with a bunch of old food and other waste. If it is real dirty, you can swish your filter pad media in a bucket of used tank water (never never use tap water!)

This may help reduce the amount of ammonia the rotting materials on the filter pad could be producing and help improve water flow in the tank!

If you have carbon in your filter that is over 4 weeks old, cut it out or remove/replace just the carbon. Different users have opinions on if carbon is useful or not.
 

Molch

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ecarg - the plants in question were just in a temporary plastic tank with no filter...they were not in my newt tank.

My newt tanks are fine; no measurable ammonia in them as of this am.

And Jen - yeah, good water. But before you get too envious, consider having to haul all that water around manually (and fuel and all other stuff, too: luckily I have an obliging mammal who helps me pull stuff): :wacko:
 

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