|Ammonia Produced in Fish Wastes and From Nitrogen decay|
Ammonia: Most Common Killer of New Fish
- By Dr. Erik Johnson
Ammonia is the primary waste product of fish, excreted primarily through the
gill tissue, but to a lesser extent via the kidney. Ammonia can also
accumulate from the decay of fish tissues, food and other organic debris
derived from protein. Ammonia accumulations cause reddening of the skin
and disability of the gills by its direct caustic effect on these surfaces. Fish
suffering in water with high ammonia accumulations will isolate themselves,
lie on the bottom, clamp their fins, secrete excess slime, and are much more
susceptible to parasitic and bacterial infection.
Ammonia is a big problem in new systems because the bacteria that would
naturally dissolve ammonia are not established, see discussion of cycle. As
well, even in established systems, ammonia may accumulate in springtime
when the water is cold but fish are eating, because filter bacteria have not
emerged usefully from hibernation.
Ammonia ionizes below pH 7.4 to Ammonium - and so in its ionized state is
less toxic to fish.
Above pH 8.0 most ammonia is ionized, and so becomes more toxic. Care
should be taken not to increase th pH of a system if ammonia is present but
the need to drop the pH or restrict oxygenation to tanks of fish to keep pH
down is an overrated aberration in the literature.
Treatment: Water changes and management of the pH near neutral will go a
long way to cutting losses from Ammonias, ancillary, less useful modes of
Ammonia management include the use of the various water conditioners that
bind ammonia, and the application of rechargeable Zeolites to the system
filter. I am still going to tell you that time and water changes are the two
Water that is warm, high in pH or deprived of oxygen will have an enhanced
toxicity when ammonias are accumulating. These are all important
considerations as we try to interpret the varying symptomatology of fish at the
same ammonia level, for example, but are affected very differently.
You will never have to worry about Ammonia if you use a drip irrigation
system for constant water replacement at about 10-20% per week.
More about ammonia
Ammonia - Understand this! - by Doc Johnson
Ammonia is the first waste product of your fish. It is often the cause of your
first mortalities in new facilities and new ponds. There is a simple test to
measure the levels. I am a big fan of Kent's Ammonia Detox to reduce the
toxicity of ammonia, and of Enviro Reps BRF13A (Ammo Down) for the
seeding of beneficial bacteria to reduce the ammonia on the long term.
Bioseeding may be the most effective method of all, when possible, and
AP's AmmoLock is great. I do not like Amquel. At all.
1. Made from rotting fish wastes/urine/food
2. Tested with Nessler's Drop Type tests
3. After (the regrettable) addition of aldehydes such as Formalin or Ammonia-binder
agents, test with Salicylate reagent tests.
4. Ammonia causes redness of fins, general poor health, excess mucus production,
flashing, and by chronic auto-intoxication: Pinecone disease.
5. Ammonia is more toxic at pH above 8.0
6. Ammonia is directly irritating to fish gills and tissues
7. Ammonia is removed from the environment by beneficial bacteria called
8. You can control Ammonia with partial water changes or addition of Zeolites.
I discourage the use of chemicals for Ammonia binding. All but a few of them
contain aldehydes (glutaraldehyde) which are guilty of binding oxygen and
irritating the fish.
Wet dry filtration (versus submerged media) is very superior for supporting
I will upload a VERY lengthy discussion of Ammonia in *doc format please
check the downloads section.
There will also be a pretty-rare document there showing Gratzek's research
on my favorite ammonia binder, Ammolock II
"First of all, because it is foiled by fewer organic molecules, let's establish
that Salicylate test kits are superior to Nessler's tests. Still, Ammonia testing
can present a problem. You may not know that dechlorinator can zero-out
your ammonia test. The reason is that in the salicylate test kit, chloride ions
provide a reagent. Ample dehlorinator and other ammonia binders will zero
out this free chlorine reagent and show you a zero test. The only way to be
sure that the Ammonia is truly bound up is by "live-tissue cell culture
histopathology". Cells are bathed in test-water and then examined for tell-tale
signs of Ammonia damage. The only company that has done this so far is
Aquarium Pharmaceuticals who used Drs Lukert and Gratzek at UGA. This
Ammonia binder does not contain any aldehydes. Even the so-called "Sulfide
Ion" binders are often nothing but Formaldehyde-bi-sulfite (rongalite) which is
incredibly unstable." Doc Johnson
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