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My 800gallon system is now ready for cycling.  However, I'm not clear on how to go about figuring the amount of ammonia to initially add to begin this process.  Any help would be appreciated.

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Hey John that's good news.  Bring the level up slowly to 2PPM and maintain it there.  If it gets to 4PPM then do a 50% water change to reduce it.  400 gallons is a lot to empty and start again so go slowly.  Each time you add ammonia to bring the level up wait a few minutes (at least 10-20) before taking another reading.  You won't have to add ammonia daily until the cycle starts to establish.  Patience with nature is the key here.  Do you have a BB colony for it already or are you doing it from scratch?  I'll have to check my notes but off the top of my head I think it is 1/4 teaspoon ammonia per 10 gallons for city (surface) water.  It will be more for well (ground) water depending on your area and if you filled it that way.

What kind of ammonia are you using?

Just bought a couple of gallons from Ace Hardware based upon recommendations here.  I believe that it is 10% ammonium hydroxide.  Need to know how much to add to get to desired level.

TCLynx said:

What kind of ammonia are you using?

Someone might have a better cookie cutter figure for you...but you could take 8 gallons of water and put in ammonia till you get 1-3 ppm (we're probably talking drops)...then just multiply that amount by 100. (Though I'd add that amount slowly and testing along the way, like Community AP suggested)...

@Community AP. Why would you need to do a 50% water change at 'only' 4ppm ammonia? I agree that that may be approaching the high end of things, and would be best to stay under 4ppm, but don't really agree that such a drastic dumping of water would be called for, as I've not come across anything that suggests nitrifiers are significantly inhibited at that level?(6-8ppm on the other hand)...

I agree with Vlad on this one.  Fishless cycling, I'm more likely to say wait it out instead of dumping lots of water unless you have an over abundance of water on hand.

Hi, I'm few months late to the conversation, but I have another question on ammonia if any of you are still around.  (It's probably not worth starting a new thread.)

I have a smaller, indoor system -- only a 20 gallon fish tank.  I've got the plumbing up and going (I think), and I'm ready to start cycling.  I bought a bottle of ammonium hydroxide ("Clear Ammonia") at the hardware store, but it doesn't say what the dilution is.

I have no idea how much to add to start the cycling.  30 milliliters?  2 cups? A half-gallon?  What?  How do I get the ammonia level up to 2-4 ppm?

Also, how long should I wait for it to disperse before testing the ammonia level again?

Hey there Steve...Yeah, most of us are still here :)

Weird that the concentration is not listed? Who is the manufacturer?

So are you saying that your total system water volume is 20 gallons?

Give us some more info on the brand, your area and what hardware store/chain and maybe someone could dig up some good info as to the strength...

Unless it's "Justin Bieber's Super Whimpy Brand Ammonia" or something, you can be sure that your dose wont be in the cups or half gallons range...

Figuring out how much ammonia to use.  This reminds me of a blog post by Sylvia some time back

case of the missing ammonia

Anyway, you could use a cup of water and start with drops of the ammonia to figure out how many drops of ammonia will bring a cup of water to your desired level.

Or maybe use a gallon of water and fractions of a teaspoon (keep track as you go) to figure out how much ammonia is needed to bring a measured amount of water to the desired level.  Once you figure that you, just do the math to figure out how much ammonia you would need to dose your system with to bring it to the desired level.

If you do your test in a jar or jug, you can probably add the ammonia and then cap it and shake it up and wait a few minutes then do your test.  Then if it isn't enough you can add another measured amount, shake again and test.  It won't be supper accurate but I think it should be good enough to aim for a range between 2-4 ppm.

You could also invest in a small glass pipette...or buy an extra pH kit and pilfer the little plastic vial with the ml markings that you'd normally test your water in.

Apparently in the US most household ammonia sold is between 2-10% strength. Now, since the density of ammonia is less than water, there are some fun ways to determine what strength you have, but are wholly unnecessary if you just use the method TC described...

Hi Steve, 

When I first started my system I bought some ammonia from Lowes. Concentration wasn't marked on the container but before I added it to my system I did a little googling (is that a word?). I found that this particular ammonia had soap in it. BE CAREFUL what you add to your system.  I then went to a cleaning and chemical place down the street and found some 26% ammonia and double checked with the manufacturer and they verified it was only ammonia and water. It was around $10 for the gallon but it was worth it knowing for sure it was soap free.

Steve Werlin said:

Hi, I'm few months late to the conversation, but I have another question on ammonia if any of you are still around.  (It's probably not worth starting a new thread.)

I have a smaller, indoor system -- only a 20 gallon fish tank.  I've got the plumbing up and going (I think), and I'm ready to start cycling.  I bought a bottle of ammonium hydroxide ("Clear Ammonia") at the hardware store, but it doesn't say what the dilution is.

I have no idea how much to add to start the cycling.  30 milliliters?  2 cups? A half-gallon?  What?  How do I get the ammonia level up to 2-4 ppm?

Also, how long should I wait for it to disperse before testing the ammonia level again?

Good Point Tracy.  Do make sure it is really just ammonia since detergents, fragrance and soap are all dangerous to fish.

Ammonia is the bane of my aquaponic existance.  I started small...really small.  20 gallon tank with a 10 gallon tote and no fish.  Ran for several weeks without ammonia and base tested city water.  I had a tip to add 5ml or less to the tank.  Added 5ml.  Not right. Ammonia is at 4.0 and not dropping after another few weeks.  Going to change out some water.  Plant cuttings are starting to take root and seeds have all sprung, and fish are ok, but I can see ammonia is going to climb.  I really am reconsidering the fishless method.  I know my bed is pretty small and should be 1:1 but it is all I could find at the time that was food safe.  I may also add a second bed to see if that aids in dropping.  Best in current testing is no more than 2ml per 20 gallons.

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