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The first step is to understand the difference between total ammonia NH4 and free ammonia NH3.
There is a lot of confusion about NH4 and NH3 so let us and try and explain.
NH3 free ammonia is the toxic part of total ammonia NH4. It is very difficult to work out how much harmful NH3 is present by measuring NH4 and PH and then using a look up table. Most test kits measure NH4 even if they are marked as an NH3 test kit. Seneye only measures toxic free ammonia, NH3 and in very low levels.
Q. My seneye shows ammonia is present ?
A. All aquarium livestock produces ammonia, how much build up depends on how many animals are kept and how much you feed versus how efficient your filters are. This is why it is so important to slowly introduce livestock over many months to your aquarium; it allows the biological filter bacteria to breed that consume the ammonia as it produced.
Why do I have ammonia in a mature aquarium ?
A. Sometime bacteria colonies can be affected and population’s crash, this can be caused by water parameter fluctuations or pollutants; when this happens it is likely that levels will self-correct but an eye should be kept on levels. Ensure that your filter system is adequate and functioning correctly.
Why do I have ammonia in a new aquarium ?
A. Often too many fish are introduced or too much food is added to an aquarium causing free ammonia to rise. If allowed to rise too far the ammonia will reach toxic levels and kill the fish. This is often referred to new tank syndrome. Ensure that your filter system is adequate and functioning correctly.
How to control ammonia.
All aquariums should have a biological and or chemical filtration to control ammonia. Biological filtration uses bacteria colonies to convert ammonia to less harmful substances. Chemical filters remove the ammonia and lock it away, common materials are zeolite. If you see sudden spikes without a change in stocking or feeding levels than it is likely that either of these methods has failed allowing ammonia to rise to unacceptable levels; a chemical additive or water changes is a good ways to reduce free ammonia levels.
Q. Why does my free ammonia NH3 go up when I do water changes?
A. NH3 and NH4 always form equilibrium with pH and temperature. When we do a water change (especially if you are a lazy fish keeper) the new water will often be harder and higher pH than the water you are removing. This move to a higher pH will unlock NH4 into NH3 and the transition can happen in fractions of a second. The seneye device will report this change in pH, temperature and free ammonia.
Q. Can my seneye be used for cycling my aquarium?
A. Yes the seneye is perfect for setting up an aquarium and making sure the fish are not over stressed by ammonia during the process. However be aware that those embarking on fishless cycling will most likely see a second ammonia peak when real fish are introduced.