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I set up a side system for seed sprouting as my standard way is working ever so poorly. I have the remains from my original "experimental" system. So i set it up and decided to add straight ammonia to the water without really running the numbers, and BAM.... 832ppm on my ammonia. Its been over a week and i still am not getting any nitrite or nitrate production (i did pull some water from my established system, so i know i have the bacteria there).

So i thought hmmmmmmmmm..... maybe i killed my nitrifying bacteria with an excessive amount of ammonia.

any ideas?

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Not knowing tank size, how much water are we talking about, is there fish? How much ammonia did you add? did you test the water you are using? 832 ppm is like straight out of the bottle. It is difficult to help you without some more input.

No fish, just a water tank with about 30-35 gal of water. I added a couple of ounces(not exactly sure) of ammonia that my wife had left in a bottle. Now this is how i got my original calculation (which i am sure isn't exact but depending on the precise values put in comes out close enough)

1. a youtube video from what i assume is a chemistry teacher show the solution to a PPM question on a test

2. a web page from ehow that says 1 liter of water equals 1 kilogram of weight.(read step 1.)

So assuming that i put in even as little as 2 US oz converting first to liters than to kilograms than to grams i get

59.147 grams of ammonia

the i convert 30 US gal first to liters than to kilograms than to grams and then add the value of ammonia(question 2 from the vid)

113,621.354 grams of solution (ammonia + water)

then i divide 59.147/113,621.354 = 0.000521

multiply by 1 million    0.000521 x 1,000,000 = 520.56ppm

that is just a quick example of the process i used to compute my  832ppm. I don't remember the exact figures i used cause its been over a week almost 2 at this point.

I use a AFI freshwater test kit and of course the ammonia ppm chart only goes up to 8ppm. Which tells me little when my ppm is above 8.

Anyway... after a week i had no nitrites or nitrates in my tank. Now when i set up this little side system i had the genius idea of taking water from my established system to kick start this new one so i know i have the nitrifying bacteria in there.this lead me to the logical (used loosely) conclusion that my excess ammonia might have killed the bacteria. However it didn't stop the algae, it seems to be doing just fine.


I started with a 100 gal. tank of water and added a table spoon of ammonia on the first day and a teaspoon each day until I had between 2 to 4 ppm. I never added more than a teaspoon a day to keep the ammonia within the limits of my test kit. You should do a 10 to 15 gal.  water change to get the ammonia into a range you can test.

I just finished my startup. That 'fish-less start-up' didn't work for me. Friendly Aquaponiocs recommends against fishless start-ups. The first 2 tries I added ammonia and everytime I had too high of an ammonia level that killed by nitrifying bacteria.

       This is how I started up. I started with 20 goldfish in a 300 gallon Rubbermaid fish tank, and conditioned the water (so the fish don't die) by adding some Microbe-Lift Nite Out II (this stuff- ). Just follow the directions on the back of the bottle. For my 300 gallon tank i added 5 ounces. Every week add a little more until you get past your nitrite spike.

Also, don't forget to dechlorinate your water by bubbling it for 5 days or so before adding the fish, which produce the very, very tiny amount of ammonia you need to get your nitrogen cycle fixed.

Sticky...first of all...for any of your numbers to make sense, you need to know the strength (percentage wise) of your ammonia solution. (Make sense? ....Is it 3% ammomnia in that bottle...? 10% ammonia in that bottle..? 90% ammonia in that bottle..? There's a pretty huge difference in adding 2 ounces of 3% ammonia and adding 2 ounces of say...60% ammonia)...

Secondly, rather than going through the whole "Ruth Goldberg school of math" thing...and since your already somewhat converting to metric...all you need to know is:

      ppm = Solute (mg)

                  Solvent (L)

In this case your Solvent is you system water, and your Solute is whatever you are adding to your system (ammonia, salt, iron whatever...)....

That's it. That's all their is to it   Of course you STILL need to know the strength (in percentage) of whatever solute you are adding and adjust accordingly.

@Johnny. One could just as easily say "Just follow the directions for fishless cycling" does require some non-hippy 8th grade math for it to work properly though.

DO NOT try to use hippy it has been known to spontaneously and somewhat randomly bend the reality continuums in all 26 bosanic string spacetime dimensions...and that's while engaged in something as mundane as standing in the grocery store trying to figure out a 10% discount on Dr. Bronners Soap...No telling what could happen if one were to use such a powerful tool to figure out something like how much ammonia to add to an AP system...

Strange, I thought that Friendly's gave pretty good instructions on fishless cycling and even warned about ammonia much over 3ppm (pretty conservative) in their 2008/9 instruction manual. I guess people still managed to fuck that up somehow, so now they have to 'recommend against it'...

That math looks pretty complicated for my hippy math that only took me through college calculus is all. I'm not sure about your dimensional analysis b/c I think you might have forgot to convert ammonia into it's molar mass as defined by Boyle's Gas Laws equating Pressure and Volume. Ha ha j/k. Dr Bronners IS pretty good soap, i'm not going to lie. Also, i did follow the directions for the fishless startup and it is just unnecessary and too easy to mess up compared to using a very small number of goldfish to be sure you don't produce TOO much ammonia to kill the nitrifying bacteria in the concentrate that you added to the water. Don't condition the water at all except a little of that bacterial concentrate based on the volume of your system, as soon as you get the fish surviving in the system then the PH will start going down naturally as the fish breath the carbonic acid from there gills, so don't add vinegar either to try to bring down the ph b/c you'll just mess everything up. Want to check for nitrates during start-up w/o the expensive start-up multistrips with the extra sensitivity? Water your houseplants with your system water and if they don't die or grow better than with tap water then you're good to go, put your plants in the system.

Slow down there johnny, the 'hippy math' comment was not directed towards you...honest it wasn't. (Though reading this over I can see how you would think that).

Folks can cycle however they feel most comfortable doing so. Each method does have it's drawbacks, as well as it's advantages.

Hippy math? Just add two crystal chalice's of ammonia in moonlight hours and you should be fine. And it works better if you sing.

I always fish-less cycle. I just don't like stressing the fish (baaad vibes man). If you can keep your ammonia below or around 4ppm you should be fine. If you can't be bothered with the math you can add it slowly and use an API test kit to know when to stop.

Rude Goldberg? Sorry... this could be my one and only opportunity to correct you and I have to take it. It's the chance of a lifetime :D

Vlad Jovanovic said:

Secondly, rather than going through the whole "Ruth Goldberg school of math" thing...and since your already somewhat converting to metric...all you need to know is:


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