What Does Ammonia in a Saltwater Aquarium Do?
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What Does Ammonia in a Saltwater Aquarium Do?

Ammonia in aquarium will turn toxic to fish if it builds up. This usually happens in enclosed environments such as hobby aquariums and even large fish tanks. Ammonia in saltwater habitats that are controlled environments demand constant monitoring. It is part of the natural cycle in saltwater ecosystems so there is no way to get rid of ammonia production entirely. However, certain measures can be implemented to make ammonia in saltwater harmless and manageable.

Causes of Ammonia in Saltwater

Ammonia in saltwater aquarium is produced mainly by fish. When fish excretes waste, this produces ammonia that may not be harmful at first. If the pH levels inside a fish tank is below 7, there's a big chance that the produced ammonia will not be toxic to the inhabitants of the fish tank. However, in most instances, ammonia is toxic and its accumulation will mean certain death to the fish in the fish tank.

Uneaten food, when it decomposes, is another source of ammonia. That is why it is important for fish tank owners to regularly clean the tank or just concentrate on removing the uneaten food from the tank after feeding time to decrease the chances of ammonia becoming abundant in the water. Another cause of ammonia production is plantlife in the fish tank. When they decompose, they also produce ammonia.

Effects on Fish

When there is too much ammonia in aquarium, it can cause irritation of fish's eyes, gills and fins. These body parts will appear red and swollen when exposed to too much ammonia. This irritation will decrease the quality of the fish's body's protective mucus, in turn leaving it vulnerable to bacteria infection.

When Can I Expect High Levels of Ammonia in a Saltwater Tank?

You can expect to experience high levels of ammoniain your saltwater fish tank when it is new. New fish tanks still need to be conditioned and cycled before fish can be introduced to it. If you put fish in the fish tank before cycling it, you increase the chance of ammonia accumulation in a short period of time, spelling doom for your fish. You need to let your fish tank settle before introducing fish. Let bacteria develop in the fish tank beforehand because it will complete the fish tank nitrogen cycle. Ammonia can also reach critical levels if fish tank maintenance is poor, so you better make sure that you clean your fish tank regularly, not to mention scooping out uneaten food after you have fed your fish.

Monitoring and Eliminating Ammonia

There are ammonia test kits available in almost all pet shop or aquarium stores. Use these test kits to monitor ammonia levels in your fish tankonce a week. This will let you know if you need to change your fish tank's water or if you need to clean decomposing debris inside the fish tank.

There are also chemicals that help eliminate ammonia from saltwater fish tanks, but it is better to use natural methods. These natural methods include encouraging bacteria growth inside the fish tank by making sure that you have a proper filtration system which serves oxygen throughout your fish tank and at the same time provides a base of operations for beneficial bacteria

Image Courtesy of Aumar G. Daguia

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