How To Lower Ammonia Levels In A Fish Tank [10 Effective Ways]

I hope you love the products I recommend! By the way, any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other retailers are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thanks in advance for your support!

With that out of the way.

How To Reduce Ammonia In A Fish Tank

If you have an ammonia problem in your tank, you may be asking a few of the following questions:

  1. How do you lower ammonia levels in a fish tank?
  2. How does ammonia get in fish a tank?
  3. Does ammonia remover work fish tanks?
  4. How do you fix an ammonia spike?
  5. Do fish tank filters remove ammonia?
  6. How to check your ammonia levels without a test kit?

Below we will answer all these questions and even show you some other things that you can do to help reduce ammonia in your aquarium.

Let’s begin.

Quick Picks: Awesome Ammonia Reducing Products

Below we’ve picked some GREAT Ammonia Prevention supplies.

The products listed all help with reducing ammonia and come in pellets, neutralizing drops, and even media for your filter.

    1. Best way to remove ammonia from a fish tank: Python Water Changer
    2. Best ammonia remover for fish tank: API AMMO-LOCK
    3. Best ammonia removing filter media: Fluval Ammonia Remover

How to Get Rid of Ammonia in 10 Quick Steps:

If you have too much ammonia you should be worried, toxic ammonia is the most harmful toxin for your fish and it can kill them if you don’t fix it fast. So rather than waste your time with the science behind it, here are 10 effective ways to deal with an ammonia spike in your tank.

  1. Immediately do a 50% water change
  2. Vacuum your gravel
  3. Remove any uneaten food
  4. Remove any rotting plants
  5. Look for any dead fish
  6. Ensure your filter isn’t clogged and it is flowing freely
  7. Cut down on feeding
  8. Make sure your tank isn’t overstocked
  9. Use ammonia removing pellets in your filter
  10. Keep doing water changes every day until the amount of ammonia levels dropdown

If you do all of these things, you should start to notice an improvement within a day or two.

If the problem persists, then continue to perform water changes and the steps noted above until you notice an improvement.

We will go into each step in more detail below, but first, check out this infographic to help you a better understanding of the ammonia problem.

Infographic - How to Get Rid of Ammonia In Your Fish Tank
How to Get Rid of Ammonia In Your Fish Tank

Watch: How to Remove Ammonia From a Fish Tank

Reducing 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 filtration to catch up.

This is all part of the nitrogen cycle, and you can click here to see the 5 Fundamentals Of The Fish Tank Nitrogen Cycle explained in an easy-to-understand infographic.

Step 2) Use A Gravel Vacuum

Over time fish waste and uneaten food will accumulate in your gravel and start to produce ammonia.

When you complete your water change, it’s a good time also to clean your gravel.

Identify The Symptoms of Ammonia Poisoning

Now that you’ve completed a water change and cleaned your gravel, you need to identify the underlying symptoms of the ammonia in your tank.

Usually, it’s one of the following items below.

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 decaying plants as soon as you notice them.

Keep this in mind: If you have just set up a new aquarium 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 and avoid new tank syndrome.

Step 5) Remove Dead Fish

If you have a large community tank with lots of hiding 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 good 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 nitrite levels, 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 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 and water conditioner like Seachem Prime or API AMMO-LOCK or Fluval Ammonia Remover pellets to your filter

Another good product is Seachem AmGuard which can be used for emergency situations and is 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, the biological filter hasn’t developed, or your filter is clogged.

Step 10) Regular Partial Water Changes

If all else fails, continue to do water changes every day until the ammonia levels drop down.

Question #1: How do you lower ammonia levels in a fish tank?

Keep Your Ammonia Levels Lower Through Prevention!

If you’ve completed all the above steps, hopefully, you’ve removed or at the least lower the ammonia levels in your tank.

So what’s next:

Well, since I’m sure you don’t want to go through all this work for the second time, you need to monitor your water parameters by testing your water weekly with an aquarium test kit.

As you use your test kit, it’s important to understand that you are hoping for an ammonia level near 0, but this may not always be possible as your fish continually produce waste.

So what do you do?

Well, you can use an awesome chart found on that shows you when ammonia will become toxic to your fish, depending on your PH level and temperature.

One necessary takeaway when you check out the chart is that the warmer your water is, the less ammonia it takes to become toxic to your fish.

Prevention is all part of a bigger picture in maintaining your aquarium and keeping a regular cleaning schedule. Everyone should read this article on cleaning an aquarium.

Question #2: How does ammonia get in a fish tank?

The most common way ammonia enters your fish tank is from tap water, fish waste, uneaten food, and when things like live plants die and decompose. Source: Aquarium Water Quality: Nitrogen Cycle. Florida Department Of Agriculture And Consumer Services, 2020.

This is why some of the first things we recommend to do when you have an ammonia problem are to remove decaying organic matter with the following steps:

  1. Immediately Do A Water Change
  2. Vacuum Your Gravel
  3. Remove Any Uneaten Food
  4. Remove Dead Plants
  5. Remove Dead Fish
  6. Unclog Your Filter
  7. Cut Down On Feeding

All of these steps try to remove any organic matter that is contributing to high ammonia levels.

Question #3: Does ammonia remover work in fish tanks?

Ammonia removal products will work but only temporarily. They won’t address the root of the problem, causing your ammonia levels to spike.

I recommend using ammonia removers only when setting up a new tank, when you have an overstocked tank or when you first notice an ammonia spike but can’t do one of the seven steps listed above.

Question #4: How do you fix an ammonia spike?

An ammonia spike is typically caused by a build-up of fish waste, uneaten food, and when things like aquatic plants die and decompose.

When dealing with an ammonia spike, you should first look for things like dead fish, rotting plants, uneaten food, or possibly a clogged filter.

Remove any decaying organic matter that you find immediately.

Question #5: Do fish tank filters remove ammonia?

Different types of media you use in your fish tank filter can help remove and lower the ammonia levels in your fish tank.

That said, your filter media is not removing the ammonia but converting it into less harmful nitrates.

Nitrifying Bacteria called Nitrosomonas found not only in your filter media but everywhere in your tank consume ammonia and convert it into Nitrites.

Learn More: Read our full article on some of the best nitrifying bacteria that you could use in your aquarium.

Question #6: How to Check Your Ammonia Levels Without a Test Kit?

To my knowledge, there isn’t any way to do this.

But good news:

Most aquarium stores will test your water for free. But if you have a tank, you should have your own, and the API Master Test Kit is relatively inexpensive and very reliable.

Further Reading: Do You Have More Problems? We Put Together A List Of The Most Common Aquarium Problems Along With Their Causes And How You Can Fix Each Problem.

Final Thoughts

If you try the above steps and still have an ammonia issue the products listed below all help with reducing ammonia and come in pellets, neutralizing drops, and even media for your filter.

  1. Best way to remove ammonia from a fish tank: Python Water Changer
  2. Best ammonia remover for fish tank: API AMMO-LOCK
  3. Best ammonia removing filter media: Fluval Ammonia Remover
Follow Me