Ammonia poisoning is the biggest threat to your fish as it can make them suffer from a life-threatening condition. It can occur in a newly set up tank and can also develop in a well-established tank with poor water conditions.
It is necessary to know how to treat ammonia poisoning so we can solve the issue at early stages and our fish don’t get much affected. So, How to treat ammonia poisoning in fish? Let us find out.
To treat ammonia poisoning in fish, follow these steps:
- Perform a 50% water change using treated tap water.
- Use the pH stabilizer to neutralize the pH level.
- Avoid providing food to your fish for some days to eliminate the additional waste.
- If you detect your fish developing red or purple gills and have patches on their body, place them in a hospital tank and run a proper antibiotical or antibacterial treatment.
- Once your sick fish is recovered and your home tank is free of ammonia and nitrite, you can re-introduce the fish to its tank.
- Make sure to add new fish to the tank only after the ammonia and nitrite levels reach zero.
This article will discuss how to treat ammonia poisoning in fish, and also, we will know the causes and prevention of ammonia poisoning in our fish tank. So, let us get into it.
- 1 What is ammonia poisoning?
- 2 Is ammonia poisoning dangerous to our aquarium fish?
- 3 What are the symptoms of ammonia poisoning in fish?
- 4 What are the reasons behind the ammonia spike in my fish tank?
- 5 How to treat the fish affected by ammonia poisoning?
- 6 How to prevent my aquarium from ammonia poisoning?
- 7 Conclusion:
What is ammonia poisoning?
Ammonia poisoning happens in our tank when we overcrowd our tank by adding lots of fish and when the organic matter decomposes in the tank.
Ammonia poisoning also happens when the pH level of our fish tank rises.
Usually, it occurs in a newly setup tank while running the nitrogen cycle, but it can also develop in a well-established tank when the water conditions are not ideal.
If your water conditions are ideal and everything is in control, ammonia poisoning will be nonexistent in that tank.
Is ammonia poisoning dangerous to our aquarium fish?
Ammonia poisoning can make your fish suffer from a critical condition, and they can even pass away.
Ammonia poisoning will directly affect the gills of your fish, and they will suffer breathing.
Also, it will result in ammonia burns all over your fish’s body, bringing them a lot of pain.
Your fish will come under stress because of ammonia poisoning and will become weak.
In short, ammonia poisoning will make your fish suffer from life-threatening conditions, and in the worst cases, they will pass away.
It is necessary to regularly check ammonia levels and maintain the ammonia level at 0ppm, as even a small amount of ammonia can cause issues to your fish’s health.
Also read: Ammonia Poisoning In Goldfish.
What are the symptoms of ammonia poisoning in fish?
All these are the symptoms that indicate that your fish is suffering from ammonia poisoning:
- Your fish will gasp for air at the surface of the tank.
- Your fish will become lethargic.
- Your fish will stay at the bottom of the tank.
- Your fish will develop red or purple gills.
- Your fish will have red patches on their body.
- Your fish will avoid eating as they will lose their appetite.
Ammonia poisoning affects your fish’s gills, making them suffer breathing, so they swim to the tank’s surface to gasp air.
Such conditions will put your fish under stress, losing their appetite and become lethargic.
You will notice your fish developing red or purple gills, and as the case gets worst day by day, they will develop bloody patches all over their body.
In some cases, you will find your sick fish sitting at the bottom of the tank with clamped fins.
Clamped fins mean your fish fins will be towards their body and will not flow the way they should.
Their fins will be folded towards their body instead of fanning.
Also read: Why Is My Fish Not Moving?
What are the reasons behind the ammonia spike in my fish tank?
All these can cause ammonia spikes in your fish tank:
- Overfeeding your fish.
- Overcrowding your fish tank.
- Temporary shutdown of the system.
- Poor water conditions.
- Dead and decaying plants and fish.
Overfeeding your fish will contribute to an ammonia spike in your fish tank.
A fish will consume and digest high protein-based food and then excrete ammonia through its gills.
So, feeding your fish more than they require will elevate the ammonia in the tank as the fish will produce more ammonia through its gills.
Also, overfeeding will result in more leftovers and waste products in the tank, causing an ammonia spike.
Overcrowding your fish tank by adding more fish and invertebrates will cause an ammonia spike.
Overcrowding your tank with fish and invertebrates will produce more waste and ammonia by the fish.
At one point, the nitrogen cycle will not be able to break down the ammonia, and there will be an ammonia spike.
Also, adding lots of fish at a time will spike ammonia in your fish tank as there will be a sudden production of lots of waste and ammonia in the tank, which nitrogen cycle will not be able to break.
Temporary shutdown of the aquarium system
When the power cuts off of your aquarium filter, it doesn’t circulate the water, which results in the depletion of oxygen level in the water.
The beneficial bacteria present in our aquarium and filter require a regular supply of oxygen to live.
When they don’t get oxygen for a long gap, they start dying off, and hence the ammonia spikes in our tank.
So, regular circulation of water is necessary for beneficial bacteria to live.
Poor water conditions
Usually, ammonia occurs in a newly setup tank, but it can also develop in a well-established tank if the water conditions are poor.
Not performing a regular water change and not cleaning your tank will result in excessive waste in the tank, causing an ammonia spike.
Adding untreated tap water while doing a water change is a common mistake people with less experience make.
Tap water contains ammonia and other harmful toxins which enters your aquarium system when you perform a water change and use tap water to replace the existing water from the tank.
Dead and decaying plants and fish
Dead and decaying plants and fish will also cause ammonia spikes in your fish tank.
Dead and decaying plants and fish will decompose in the soil, increasing the ammonia to high levels.
Such organic matter becomes food for bad bacteria in the tank, and the ammonia rises.
All the points we discussed above for a reason behind an ammonia spike in our fish tank are for a well-established fish tank.
Usually, ammonia will occur in a newly set up tank during the nitrogen cycle.
If we want to understand the nitrogen cycle easily, then all it is about is breaking down ammonia into nitrites into nitrate by developing good bacteria in our aquarium system.
But if by any chance the nitrogen cycle breaks, there will be an ammonia spike in your fish tank.
The good bacteria will not be produced in your tank, and there will be an ammonia spike.
So, running a proper nitrogen cycle is necessary before adding fish to your fish tank.
How to treat the fish affected by ammonia poisoning?
The first thing is to look for the reason behind the ammonia poisoning in your fish tank.
As we know, overcrowding, overfeeding, failure of the filtration system, breaking of the nitrogen cycle, untreated tap water, and poor water conditions can be the reason behind ammonia poisoning in the tank.
Once you find the reason behind the ammonia poisoning in your fish tank, eliminate the reason.
Now, these are some things you should perform to treat your fish with ammonia poisoning:
- Start by getting the pH level at an adequate level; for that, you can use the water pH stabilizer.
- Perform a major water change of 50%, as it will eliminate some toxins from your tank. (Make sure the water you are adding to the fish tank should match the temperature of the remaining water in the fish tank)
- Avoid feeding your fish for some time, as it will prevent your tank from excessive waste. Also, if the ammonia poisoning is at an advanced level, you have to avoid feeding your fish for a longer period, like one week.
- If your fish has developed red or purple gills and have bloody patches on its body, immediately shift them to a hospital tank and run a proper antibiotical treatment.
- Don’t add any new fish to your fish tank until and unless the ammonia and nitrite level of the tank comes to zero.
- Once your sick fish is recovered, and the home tank is ammonia-free, you can re-introduce the fish to its home tank.
We recommend using the API water pH stabilizer as it will help you neutralize the water pH level.
You can buy this product on amazon: API water pH stabilizer.
How to prevent my aquarium from ammonia poisoning?
Ensure all these things to prevent your fish tank from an ammonia spike:
- Ensure good water conditions.
- Avoid overcrowding your fish tank.
- Avoid overfeeding your fish.
- Add plenty of live aquatic plants.
- Remove all the debris from the tank regularly.
- Keep a regular check on ammonia levels.
Good water conditions
Ammonia can occur in well-established tanks also if the water condition is poor.
So, keeping your water clean and safe from all these toxins is necessary.
Consider performing a 35% water change weekly to ensure good water conditions.
Make sure to dechlorinate the water while doing a water change by using the API water conditioner to eliminate chlorine and other harmful toxins from the tap water.
The API water conditioner will help you eliminate chlorine, chloramine, nitrite, ammonia, and heavy metals from the water.
You can purchase it from Amazon API TAP WATER CONDITIONER.
Consider adding a good filtration system with biofilter media to keep the water clean and protected from harmful toxins like ammonia and nitrite.
Also read: What Is The Ideal pH For Freshwater Aquarium?
Overcrowding your fish tank will result in an ammonia spike because of excessive waste and ammonia production by fish.
So, make sure to keep your fish tank manageable.
To make sure that you are not overcrowding your fish tank, follow the one-inch one-gallon rule.
The one-inch one-gallon rule means one inch of fish per gallon of water.
For example, if you want to keep guppies in a 20-gallon tank and one guppy’s average size is 2 inches, then you can keep a maximum of 6-7 guppies.
We are taking 6-7 guppies of 2 inches for a 20-gallon tank because some of the space will be taken by substrate, plants, and other decors, so it is wise to deduct some gallons when following the one-inch one-gallon rule.
Also read: How Many Fish In A 10-Gallon Tank?
Avoiding overfeeding will also help you prevent an ammonia spike in your fish tank.
To ensure that you are adequately feeding your fish, provide them with food in a quantity that they can finish eating in one to two minutes.
If your fish is taking more time to finish their food, you are overfeeding them.
In such cases, deduct the quantity every time you feed them until they finish their food in one to two minutes.
If you are feeding them once a day, then you should feed them in a quantity that they can finish in three to four minutes.
Many aquarium owners end up underfeeding their fish when trying not to overfeed them.
So, if your fish finishes their food in seconds, you are underfeeding them and next time, increase the quantity until they finish their food in adequate time.
Also read: How Often Should I Feed My Fish?
Add live aquatic plants.
Adding live aquatic plants to your fish tank will help prevent an ammonia spike in your aquarium.
Plants will absorb toxins like ammonia and carbon dioxide from the water and keep the water clean.
Also, aquatic plants are one of the best hiding spots for smaller fishes, and they feel safe in a planted tank.
Plants will ensure enough oxygen in your fish tank.
So, plants are beneficial to your fish in many ways, and you should consider adding plenty of live aquatic plants to your fish tank.
Remove debris from the tank.
Removing all the debris and other waste from the tank will help prevent an ammonia spike.
Consider cleaning your tank on a weekly basis when performing a water change.
Use a gravel siphon to siphon out the food leftovers, decaying plants, and other waste from the substrate.
The more you keep the substrate clean, the lesser the risk of an ammonia spike in your fish tank.
Also, as soon you see dead and decaying plants and fish in your fish tank, take them out of your tank immediately and dispose of them.
Keep a regular check on ammonia levels.
As we all know, prevention is better than cure. So, we should always ensure that our fish tank is free from ammonia and other harmful toxins.
We recommend keeping a weekly check on ammonia levels so that you can treat it in the early stages if there is anything wrong.
Consider using the API freshwater master kit to check the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH level of your fish tank.
We use the API freshwater master kit and can assure you that it shows an accurate result.
You can buy it from amazon: API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT.
Ammonia poisoning will make your fish suffer from a life-threatening condition; in the worst case, they can even pass away.
An overcrowded tank and excessive decomposition of organic matter increase the ammonia in the tank, resulting in ammonia poisoning.
Elevated pH levels also result in an ammonia spike in the tank.
Eliminating the reason behind ammonia poisoning is necessary to treat your fish.
Start by performing a major water change of 50% and neutralizing the pH level using the API ph level stabilizer.
Avoid feeding your fish for some time to prevent ammonia spikes, as it will help you eliminate excessive waste until the ammonia reaches zero.
Immediately separate the fish affected by ammonia poisoning and shift them to a hospital tank where you have to run a proper antibiotical or antibacterial treatment.
Reference: NCBI, ResearchGate, Wikipedia