Ammonia in Water Quality

Leaks in and out of the fish. Excreted mostly via the gills, much less so via the kidney.

Ammonia is the primary waste product of fish, excreted primarily through the gill tissue,but to a lesser extent via the kidney. Ammonia can also accumulate from the decay of fish tissues, food and other organic debris derived from protein. Ammonia accumulations cause reddening of the skin and disability of the gills by its direct caustic effect on these surfaces. Fish suffering in water with high ammonia accumulations will isolate themselves, lie on the bottom, clamp their fins, secrete excess slime, and are much more sucspetible to parasitic and bactrerial infection.

Ammonia is a big problem in new systems because the bacteria that would naturally dissolve ammonia are not established, see discussion of cycle (Look it up!) . As well, even in established systems, ammonia may accumulate in springtime when the water is cold but fish are eating, because filter bacteria have not emerged usefully from hibernation. This is also true in the Fall as pond temperatures decline. Filter bacteria that reduce Ammonia are becoming metabolically less-active as the water temperatures drop into the sixties. Ammonia levels may climb.

Ammonia ionizes below pH 7.4 into Ammonium. In its ionized state is less toxic to fish.

Above pH 8.0 most ammonia is ionized, and so becomes more toxic. Care should be taken not to increase th pH of a system if ammonia is present. If the pH has CRASHED (Look it up!) then bring up the pH fast - the bacteria will be resuscitated and the ammonia will go down again. but the need to drop the pH or restrict oxygenation to tanks of fish to keep pH down is an overrrated abberation in the literaturwe.

Treatment: Water changes and maagement of the pH near neutral will go a long way to cutting losses from Ammonias, ancillary, less useful modes of Ammonia manbagement include the use of the various water conditioners that bind ammonia, and the application of rechargeable Zeolites to the ssytem filter. I am still going to tell you that time and waterchanges are the two mainstays, however.

Water that is warm, high in pH or deprived of oxygen will have an enhancedtoxicity when ammonias are accumulating. These are all important considerations as we try to interpret the varying clinical signs of fish at the same ammonia level, for example, but are affected very differently.

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