Ammonia levels, no nitrate. Fish dying.


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Hello we have a 3500 gallon pond, its 3ft deep, 10x10 about. With a bog/waterfall. The bog is currently empty of plants, the pond we added some plants including water lettuce. Most have yet to grow.
So I recently conducted a water test and I got .25ppm ammonia (btw the pond has been up about 8 months so you'd think it'd be cycled) 0ppm nitrite, and to my surprise no nitrate?
We bought some feeder goldfish and put them in their after doing a drip acclimation and they all died due to ammonia poisoning... Our filter is a Aquascape 4500 w/built in UV.
Any thoughts on the lack of nitrates and height of ammonia? Some floating plants have begun to die...
 
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Welcome!
If your pond has been running for 8 months without any fish, the plants probably don't have enough nutrients to live off of and the UV you have is killing planktonic algae that would otherwise be consuming the ammonia.
It depends on where you live, what the quality of your source water is and if you have any other algae present.
The pond has cycled, but it would have a minimal nitrifying bacteria population.
I doubt the goldfish died from ammonia poisoning.
The zero nitrate reading could be because of the method used and the age of the test kits.
 
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We added the fish originally about 1 full month ago. The plants are planted on top of dirt capped in pea gravel within' hydroponic cups. The dirt was prepared properly before addition to the water. I figured nitrifying bacteria within the filter would eat the ammonia, via that cycle. We have hard water, high in CA and MG, rich in iron. Diatoms it seems are present, string algae just on the waterfall *nothing to noticeable, you'd have to Look* How come you say it would have minimal nitrifying bacteria?
The goldfish did die from ammonia poisoning, specifically black smudge. Caused by excess ammonia and toxins, dirty water. Even though we perform water changes once a month.
The zero nitrate and nitrite, and .25 ppm ammonia came from a new liquid test kit, and was accurate.
 
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It sounds like there's a lot to your pond, some pictures would be helpful.
I say minimal nitrifying bacteria because it doesn't sound like there was much decaying organic material or source of ammonia to establish a substantial bacterial population.
What kind of soil? How was it prepared?
Can you provide more water test results? Have you been tracking the water quality?
Liquid nitrate test kits can give you a zero reading if they have been sitting for a while, so it's important that the bottles are shaken well before testing.
Ammonia poisoning can be determined by examination of the gills, they would be red in colour.
What toxins?
What makes you think you have dirty water?
What is the water change routine? Also, what is the quality of your source water?
"Black smudge" has many causes.
Lots of questions.;)
 

Mmathis

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Hello and welcome, but sorry it has to be under these circumstances.

This doesn’t really sound like ammonia. There has to be something else going on. Could someone have added any kind of chemicals to the water without your knowledge? Pesticides or something like that?

Do I understand correctly that the pond went for 8 months with only plants? Then you added the fish? And the plants aren’t doing well either. Did you do a water change and add fresh water? Do you add dechlorinator? Does your source water contain chloramines?

Usually, you need the fish to be present in order for the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates to happen. And 0.25ppm isn’t high enough to instantly kill your fish.

Also, I entered your pond’s measurements into a pond volume calculator, and it showed that your pond would be around 2200 gallons — less than that if you have shelves. This number could be a factor when calculating how much dechlorinator, etc. to add if you’re looking at a 1500 gal. difference.

Can you post pictures of your pond and some of the plants?
 
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Hello and welcome, but sorry it has to be under these circumstances.

This doesn’t really sound like ammonia. There has to be something else going on. Could someone have added any kind of chemicals to the water without your knowledge? Pesticides or something like that?

Do I understand correctly that the pond went for 8 months with only plants? Then you added the fish? And the plants aren’t doing well either. Did you do a water change and add fresh water? Do you add dechlorinator? Does your source water contain chloramines?

Usually, you need the fish to be present in order for the ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates to happen. And 0.25ppm isn’t high enough to instantly kill your fish.

Also, I entered your pond’s measurements into a pond volume calculator, and it showed that your pond would be around 2200 gallons — less than that if you have shelves. This number could be a factor when calculating how much dechlorinator, etc. to add if you’re looking at a 1500 gal. difference.

Can you post pictures of your pond and some of the plants?
Hi Mmathis thank you for the reply,
I say it was ammonia due to the (list of) cause of the Black smudge. (name of illness).

No chemicals where added to water and no chemicals have been added to anything near the water.

the pond is 3500 gallons, the measurements i gave where not per mm.

Yes 8 months with only plants, added fish about a month ago, plants submerged are doing fine just Azola is struggling. Water lettuce had burnt leaves but has new growth (recently added these)
We dont add dechlor as the water comes from a well.

No chloramines or anything toxic @MitchM I didn't say there was toxins in water re read post please.

@Mmathis the dirt was the start of the cycle for the pond.
We prepared the dirt via this @MitchM http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/...-mineralized-soil-substrate-aaron-talbot.html
 
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It sounds like there's a lot to your pond, some pictures would be helpful.
I say minimal nitrifying bacteria because it doesn't sound like there was much decaying organic material or source of ammonia to establish a substantial bacterial population.
What kind of soil? How was it prepared?
Can you provide more water test results? Have you been tracking the water quality?
Liquid nitrate test kits can give you a zero reading if they have been sitting for a while, so it's important that the bottles are shaken well before testing.
Ammonia poisoning can be determined by examination of the gills, they would be red in colour.
What toxins?
What makes you think you have dirty water?
What is the water change routine? Also, what is the quality of your source water?
"Black smudge" has many causes.
Lots of questions.;)
The dirt is/was the source of ammonia for kickstarting the cycle.
Soil was topsoil, no fertilizers, all organic, etc etc.
Be more specific.
We did the test properly as said.
No toxins, re read please.
Re read please.
Black smudge has the causes i listed, this is where you got confused it seems.
We drink from the source of the pond water. Well.
 

Mmathis

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Just curious, but how long after you added the gold fish did they die? And how many did you add? Did you add them all at the same time? Were you monitoring your water parameters or just do a one-time reading?
 
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The goldfish did die from ammonia poisoning, specifically black smudge. Caused by excess ammonia and toxins, dirty water. ...
....

I have re read it and it reads to me that you're describing why the goldfish died from ammonia poisoning.

Anyways, the only way you determine ammonia poisoning is the appearance of red gills, sign of ammonia chemical poisoning. Black smudge can be the result of physical injury as well.
Feeder goldfish are often of poor health because they are raised to live as long as it takes for another fish to eat them.
0.25 ppm ammonia is not sufficient to kill healthy fish.

If you used organic topsoil, that's good. The link you provided states to use cheap topsoil which often contains herbicides and pesticides.

Again, if you have any other test results, please post them. If you are a planted tank enthusiast, you already know that healthy water contains a balanced level of nutrients.
 
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Just curious, but how long after you added the gold fish did they die? And how many did you add? Did you add them all at the same time? Were you monitoring your water parameters or just do a one-time reading?
All died at separate times due to same cause (black sludge), all died about 2-4 days apart. Added 8 fish. Same time. One time reading as of this time, had on old test kit but we ordered a newer more updated one.


Also my question is not on the health of the fish its about why i have no nitrates w/ ammonia.
 

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OK, not sure why you are even posting here because I am getting adversarial vibes in your responses — almost like you are expecting us to give you contrary replies. I wouldn’t have posted this comment in the first place, but you did use the word “toxins” in one of your posts: “Caused by excess ammonia, toxins, dirty water.” But then you criticized @MitchM when he asked you what you meant by “toxins,” and then you denied having said this. You obviously already have a handle on what’s going on with your pond and have made up your mind that you are right and we are wrong. So no matter what we say, you’re going to argue about it. We have standard questions that we ask when someone is having a problem with his/her pond. Most problems with fish illness/death have a common cause (poor water quality), but we can’t help someone without cooperation in getting this information.
 
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Mmathis

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All died at separate times due to same cause (black sludge), all died about 2-4 days apart. Added 8 fish. Same time. One time reading as of this time, had on old test kit but we ordered a newer more updated one.


Also my question is not on the health of the fish its about why i have no nitrates w/ ammonia.
You have no nitrates or ammonia because you don’t have fish adding to the bio load. Why are you asking us this question? Please go back to the web site you included, and talk to those people. And....it doesn’t bother you that your fish died.....?
 
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Sorry didn't mean to come off as rude im just posting quick replies as im doing 2 things at once.

We have 4 fish in the pond rn.

Asking because i need and answer, AA isn't a pond forum. *although they have pond journals* and i thought i'd come here to ask due to your all's experience in ponds.

Your taking my posts the wrong way it seems, i do care my fish died but i know how to fix that problem -> in order to fix that problem i must know how come i do not have Nitrates but i do have ammonia.

To reiterate the question -> How come i have 0ppm nitrate, but i have .25ppm ammonia? (and 0 nitrite)
 
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Also my question is not on the health of the fish its about why i have no nitrates w/ ammonia.

If you have submerged plants as well as a soil substrate, there's your answer.
We would be happy to help you have a successful pond, but it would help to have a complete picture, so to speak, of your setup.
:)
 
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If you have submerged plants as well as a soil substrate, there's your answer.
We would be happy to help you have a successful pond, but it would help to have a complete picture, so to speak, of your setup.
:)
Im at a hotel rn due to a nearby tornado watch, i cannot get a pic atm unfortunately my apologies for that delay.

"If you have submerged plants as well as a soil substrate, there's your answer." what do you mean by this? thanks.
 

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Sorry didn't mean to come off as rude im just posting quick replies as im doing 2 things at once.

We have 4 fish in the pond rn.

Asking because i need and answer, AA isn't a pond forum. *although they have pond journals* and i thought i'd come here to ask due to your all's experience in ponds.

Your taking my posts the wrong way it seems, i do care my fish died but i know how to fix that problem -> in order to fix that problem i must know how come i do not have Nitrates but i do have ammonia.

To reiterate the question -> How come i have 0ppm nitrate, but i have .25ppm ammonia? (and 0 nitrite)
Let me give you an example. You say that your pond is 3500 gallons. My pond is roughly 3000 gallons. I have about 30 goldfish. I do have an active bio filter as well as a bog and lots of marginals. I haven’t had an ammonia, a nitrite, or a nitrate reading in my pond in YEARS! The ONLY time I’ve had positive readings of these was during the first few weeks of start-up, when the pond was cycling. If I were to remove a ton of my plants, and/or add a bunch of new fish — my balance would be upset, and my chemical parameters would change.
 
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Yes i understand the balance thing...
but "usually" (i use this term loosely) Having ammonia and no nitrite or nitrate indicates something is wrong...

Maybe i am misunderstanding what you are saying.
 
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Im at a hotel rn due to a nearby tornado watch, i cannot get a pic atm unfortunately my apologies for that delay.

"If you have submerged plants as well as a soil substrate, there's your answer." what do you mean by this? thanks.

The submerged plants are consuming the nitrates.
I wouldn't worry too much about the ammonia level as it is. I would take some daily measurements over a number of days to see if the level stays where it is or changes.
Could something have fallen into the pond and died? That could give you an ammonia spike.
I think the best course of action is to purchase an API Master test kit plus an API KH/GH test kit.
Here are a couple of links for them:
https://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+4345+17338+4454&pcatid=4454
https://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+4345+17338+13521&pcatid=13521

I suspect you may be having some other water quality issues. If you can maintain high water quality, you will have a successful pond.
A few other questions:
Where are you submerged plants? In the main pond, or in the bog?
Ca and Mg will give you a high GH reading, but more importantly you need a good carbonate (KH) reading, otherwise you will get PH swings which could have caused your fish some stress.
If you're in an area that gets a lot of rain in a short amount of time, and your rain is acidic, that could pose a problem.
Which state are you in? I think we have a map here that gives us some numbers of rain acidity levels.
How strong (gph) is your circulation pump?
Can any surface runoff enter your pond?
 
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The submerged plants are consuming the nitrates.
I wouldn't worry too much about the ammonia level as it is. I would take some daily measurements over a number of days to see if the level stays where it is or changes.
Could something have fallen into the pond and died? That could give you an ammonia spike.
I think the best course of action is to purchase an API Master test kit plus an API KH/GH test kit.
Here are a couple of links for them:
https://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+4345+17338+4454&pcatid=4454
https://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+4345+17338+13521&pcatid=13521

I suspect you may be having some other water quality issues. If you can maintain high water quality, you will have a successful pond.
A few other questions:
Where are you submerged plants? In the main pond, or in the bog?
Ca and Mg will give you a high GH reading, but more importantly you need a good carbonate (KH) reading, otherwise you will get PH swings which could have caused your fish some stress.
If you're in an area that gets a lot of rain in a short amount of time, and your rain is acidic, that could pose a problem.
Which state are you in? I think we have a map here that gives us some numbers of rain acidity levels.
How strong (gph) is your circulation pump?
Can any surface runoff enter your pond?
We have those test kits.
Nothing died in the pond, such as a bird etc.
will do the daily measures.
Not many plants, we just added them therefor i doubt they are consuming all that nitrate. Having about 40lbs of dirt in there makes a lot of nitrate, and other things so having 0 nitrate with that is whats concerning.
There are some grasses in the bog, some anarchis in the deep.
We dont get a lot of rain, very dry weather... sadly.
Arkansas
not sure... i'd have to look, believe its 3500gph. ill look though.
And no.
 
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Not many plants, we just added them therefor i doubt they are consuming all that nitrate. Having about 40lbs of dirt in there makes a lot of nitrate, and other things so having 0 nitrate with that is whats concerning.
....

Anaerobic areas of your substrate will consume nitrate. Nitrogen will be released through to the atmosphere plus be consumed by plants and algae.
Most bogs/waterfall setups have a flow through type of design, that's what I mean when I say it's helpful to know all the details of your pond. We make assumptions based on what we're told. The diagnosis of what's wrong with your pond can change as more facts are known.
Low nitrate readings are a problem most people would like to have.
Do keep an eye on that ammonia level though.

If you're interested in reading, there's an excellent book that can explain everything about soil substrates in an aquatic environment:
https://www.amazon.com/Ecology-Planted-Aquarium-Diana-Walstad/dp/0967377366
 

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