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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey everyone new to the forum game but have had aquariums all growing up. I have a major major dilemma, heres the problem:

I have a 10 gallon glass tank that has been running for a year and a couple months. It has in it 1 albino chinese algae eater (about 4 inches), 1 bristlenose pleco (about 3 inches), 4 small female bettas, a couple of tetras, a gold barb, & 2 corys. I use black sand substrate have 3 fake plants, and have one large reef rock (I got from my LFS).

HERE IS THE PROBLEM: I have out of control ammonia levels. I am talking deadly levels. They have been like this for about 2 weeks and I CANNOT get them down! They range at about 8 or 10 depending on the test kit (I actually went out and bought a new kit thinking mine was defective). None of the fish have died nor are any showing any stress other than one of the female bettas who looks slightly depressed (hangs at the top and stares at the side). I do water changes frequently and scoop out all uneaten food.

I did a 60% water change, added 2 gallons of water new treated water, and did another 60% right after (all of this last night). I tested the water this morning and its at 10 for ammonia levels!

I honestly don't know what to do! Do you think it could be the rock? Maybe the sand (even though it was sold at my LFS as aquarium sand)? I honestly don't know. I do weekly water changes and have a strong filter and a aeration stone. Please help, I am afraid my fish are all going to die!


Additional Info:
The sand is only about 3/4 inch thick. The chinese algae eater (Sir-Eats-A-Lot) tends to do a good job of stirring with his tail but I also make sure to vaccume the gravel well too every other time I do water changes
 

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I think its the sand. I had ammonia up to 8.0 for days, lost a few nice fish but I had to remove the sand due to thickness of the substrate.


How much sand depth(thickness) is on the bottom, pretty much over 1.5" is gonna need to be turned twice a month to keep it healthy in the tank. I removed my sand and havnt had any issues since. not even a sick fish.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Any suggestions of the types of plants? I just don't want the plants to die and have the decay add to the problem :(
 

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You have far to much stock for a 10 gal. tank. I think that you'll need to address that problem in order to control your ammonia levels. There's simply too much bioload for that much water volume. Your pleco and CAE alone create too much waste to expect the bacteria to keep up. Even if you could control ammonia you'd have to do water changes every day or every other day to control the resulting nitrates. Do you have another tank or a friend that could take them some of them? Maybe you could even arrange a trade at a LFS?

Plants can help but won't totally alleviate the overstocking problem, and chances are your ammonia problems will continue. The kinds you want to soak up nutrients are vallisnera (vals) and hornwort. Usually you can get bunches of hornwort for cheap.
 

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Unfortunately this is probably going to be a chronic problem what that many fish in the tank. I'd say halve your bioload, either replace the sand or switch out a portion of it, and throw in a bunch of hornwort.
 

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My hornwort shed like mad when the ammonia was high when they were initially introduced, not sure if its common but happened to me.

take out a few fish, maybe the bettas and the chinese, 10g's are only 10 bucks, if you got an air pump and some air line and a stone, you can go get a single sponge for an Aquaclear 70 HOB filter and use that for a filter, the bettas dont need heat and the CAE I am unsure if it does but those buggers are mean and deserve cold water but that my opinion on them fish.

That should work for you till you can get a new heater and filter for it.


I apologize for not catching the bioload, I skim read at times.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I think I am going to go ahead and get a 29 gallon. I was going to upgrade when I got into a bigger place anyway so I am just going to do it now. I know that the amount of fish is hight but I was doing great on the ammonia level with the weekly changes until about 2 weeks ago. What really confuses me is how the fish don't seem to be acting any differently!


the CAE I am unsure if it does but those buggers are mean and deserve cold water but that my opinion on them fish.
Yeah he is a grumpy old man. When I originally got him I had sent my not-too-knowledgeable (about fish) boyfriend to the store to get an otto and instead he came home with the CAE. Since he was so small and my boyfriend seemed to really like him I kept him. Little did I know he would grow into the mean bugger he is! He's lucky he is so pretty (hes a golden/albino so his coloring is a pale yellow pink color) or I would stick with the 10 gallon and just find him a new home.

Thanks for the help. I think I will add some hornwort to the tanks anyway just to eat up the extra nutrients.

Is the 29 gallon going to be enough?
 

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Betta's need heat for sure. They are most definitely tropical fish and like the temp 78-80F. It a complete misconception that they don't. CAE's I'm not 100% sure about, but I think they too would want water at least in mid 70's. They do get very aggressive when older, especially with fish of similar size in my experience. A 29 Gal would definitely be a good idea for that number of fish. Remember no such thing as a tank too large! :)
 

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My water at room temp is 76 sorry I didnt mention that is what I was going off of.


He is correct, there is no such thing as a tank too large, EXCEPT when it comes time to move it.
 

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Are you treating the tank for ammonia? If so some ammonia locks will still test ammoina with common test kits like the api kit. Even though the ammonia is the safe(r) type. If so you might consider getting the multitest ammonia kit the test for both the dangerous (free) ammonia and total ammoina. The difference between the two is the safe(r) ammoina.


If the free ammonia is low stop adding any chemicals to control the ammonia.

Add fast growing plants like anacharis to consume the ammonia and carbon dioxide. (You may have to protect the plants from the fish).

With fast growing plants ammonia will be unmeasureable unless you are adding some type of toxin. Which I doube because the fish seem fine.


my .02
 
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Discussion Starter #12
Are you treating the tank for ammonia? If so some ammonia locks will still test ammoina with common test kits like the api kit. Even though the ammonia is the safe(r) type. If so you might consider getting the multitest ammonia kit the test for both the dangerous (free) ammonia and total ammoina. The difference between the two is the safe(r) ammoina.
my .02
Actually yes, I was using ammonia lock and using the api test kit. It read at the darkest blue (danger level). I bought a second test kit of a different brand and got high results again however the kit only had one test and didn't differentiate between "good" and "bad" ammonia. I didn't know there was such thing as good ammonia.

I am switching the fish to a larger tank now but its good to know for the future that ammonia lock can make my single test readings wrong! *J/D*
 

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Actually yes, I was using ammonia lock and using the api test kit. It read at the darkest blue (danger level). I bought a second test kit of a different brand and got high results again however the kit only had one test and didn't differentiate between "good" and "bad" ammonia. I didn't know there was such thing as good ammonia.

I am switching the fish to a larger tank now but its good to know for the future that ammonia lock can make my single test readings wrong! *J/D*

You have one of the real dangers of locking up ammoina and for that matter dechlorinators. Both also lock up oxygen and over dosing can actually suffocate the fish. The ammonia lock is especially dangerous because you put more lock in and still test ammoina so add more.

Seachem has the multi test kit Here:

Seachem. MultiTest: Ammonia



FWIW this is the reason I do not recommend using either. Live plants will maintain unmeasureable ammonia levels and by simply waiting a few hours chlorine with dissipate. By waiting a week chloramine will be at safe levels. Meanwhile, the tank will have low carbon dioxide (raises the pH), high oxygen, and the plants will actually add (bi)carbonate back to the system which is being consumed by the aerobic bacteria.

But that is just me and my .02
 
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Discussion Starter #14
So the 30 gallon has been all set up since Tuesday, ALL levels look great and everyone is SUPER happy. Thanks everyone :) I'll try to post pictures sometime this weekend
 
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