How to Reduce Ammonia in a Fish Tank Step-By-Step
Step 1) Immediately Do A Water Change
One of the first things you should do when you notice that your ammonia levels are high is to perform a 50% water change.
The water change won’t remove all the ammonia, but it reduces the amount by adding clean water which will allow your biological filter to catch up.
This is all part of the nitrogen cycle and you can click here to see 5 Fundamentals Of The Fish Tank Nitrogen Cycle explained in an easy to understand infographic.
5 Fundamentals Of The Fish Tank Nitrogen Cycle
Step 2) Vacuum Your Gravel
Overtime fish waste and uneaten food will accumulate in your gravel and start to produce ammonia.
When you complete your water change its a good time to also clean your gravel.
Step 3) Remove Any Uneaten Food
Each time you feed your fish be sure to remove any uneaten food floating around or any large uneaten chunks on the bottom of the tank.
Step 4) Remove Dead Or Rotting Plants
Just like fish waste, rotting plants will also produce ammonia so remove any dead or rotting plants as soon as you notice them.
Keep this in mind: If you have just set up a new tank every new tank will have high levels of ammonia at first, this is okay, it’s all part of the nitrogen cycle as baceteria is building in the filter media. If you just set up your tank the best thing to do is wait for your tank to cycle.
Step 5) Remove Dead Fish
If you have a large community tank with lots of hidding places, it can be tough to notice dead fish.
But if you can’t seem to keep your ammonia levels down, I would suggest looking under some rocks, you never know what you might find.
Step 6) Unclog Your Filter
Your filter is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your tank. The filter is where your beneficial bacteria will grow. This bacteria is what breaks down the ammonia so that your tank can cycle.
If your filter is clogged and water isn’t flowing freely over the bacteria, then the ammonia will not be broken down to less harmful nitrites and you may experience an ammonia spike.
Check your filter tubes, cartridges, media and impellers, if needed clean your filter.
Step 7) Cut Down On Feeding
If you have an ammonia spike your fish may become lethargic and likely not eat as much, take this time to cut down on feeding.
Try to feed your fish only once per day and ensure all the food has been eaten. Anything left behind will just add to the ammonia levels.
Step 8)Make Sure Your Tank Isn’t Overstocked
Sometimes beginners will add too many fish, too fast.
When you have too many fish, the bacteria that is building up in your tank hasn’t established itself and simply can’t keep up with the amount of waste produced by the fish.
Add fish slowly and allow your the beneficial bacteria to develop over time.
Step 9) Use Chemicals (Band Aids)
If you do all of the above and still have an ammonia problem you can start to add chemicals like ammonia-removing pellets to your filter.
Another good product is Seachem AmGuard which can be used for emergency situations and good for up to 48hours.
Keep in mind that chemical fixes are only temporary and you should still try to find the root of your ammonia problem. It’s likely overfeeding, overcrowding, biological filter hasn’t developed or your filter is clogged.
Step 10) More Water Changes
If all else fails, continue to do water changes every day/other day until the ammonia levels drop down.