Ammonia spikes and spawning.


Meyer Jordan

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Perhaps someone can help me out.
For many years, i have periodically run across references to Ammonia spikes due to spawning. While I have documented some increased level of Ammonia, I have never encountered anything that could be called a 'spike'. There is absolutely no reference to this described phenomena in any scientific document that I have been able to find.
Does anyone know of a scientific source that even mentions this?
 
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Does anyone know of a scientific source that even mentions this?
No, I don't know of any scientific papers, but it certainly seems quite possible. I think we've talked before about the possible adverse effects of concentrations of spawning pheromones in small ponds with heavy stocks of spawning fish. In a natural environment pheromones would be able to disperse and dilute, but in the confines of a small pond with heavy mature fish stocks those pheromone levels could remain concentrated thus keeping the fish in a constant state of arousal. The heighten activity of the fish during intense spawning is bound to increase ammonia levels in the pond. Much like the ammonia levels will go up in gym with many people working out.
Also, it also makes sense that the milk (sperm) that the males release during spawning would eventually die and decay thus adding to the ammonia levels in the pond.
Of course all this is probably only going to be discernible or measurable in ponds with moderate or heavy fish loads of mature fish.
 

Meyer Jordan

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Also, it also makes sense that the milk (sperm) that the males release during spawning would eventually die and decay thus adding to the ammonia levels in the pond.

True, but this amount would be very small considering that fish sperm generally has only 15% - 20% Nitrogen content. Hardly enough even when added to the additional Ammonia released through elevated respiration that occurs during spawning to account for a 'spike'.
But then a more basic question arises. Exactly what defines an Ammonia spike?
One would be hard pressed to find a true definition anywhere. Some say it means Ammonia levels are suddenly rising though still at safe levels. To me an Ammonia spike would be a large sudden increase in Ammonia to toxic levels. There are many natural occurrences that would promote a non-lethal increase in Ammonia. Some occur daily like right after fish are fed. Anything that stimulates the respiration rate of fish to increase will cause an elevation in Ammonia levels.Are all of these events 'spikes'?
 
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But then a more basic question arises. Exactly what defines an Ammonia spike?
Actually I was going to comment on what the definition of an "ammonia spike" is too?
You mention a "spike" happening right after fish are fed, I know that over feeding of fish use to be cited as one of the most common mistakes of novice aquarium fish keepers, especially in new tanks, sometimes killing all the fish in the tank. So yeah, I'm sure clear "ammonia spikes" are quite common in aquariums after feeding.
As far as a "toxic spike" occurring during spawning, it may well depend on what the baseline ammonia levels normally are in the pond, and exactly how heavily stocked the ponds is. You certainly aren't going to see an ammonia spike from spawning in a 5,000 gal pond with only two mature koi in it, but you might detect a spike in a 2,000 gal pond with 10 mature koi, especially if the majority of them are males and ammonia levels in the pond are normally high.

Anyway, you were looking for scientific papers on the subject, and I don't know of any, just conjecture.
 
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The only problems we have encountered are the terrible fishy stink of the water and the beating the females get in the process. Lost a gorgeous 15 pound platinum ogon one year to massive bruises. An ammonia spike would have to drive the ppm to 4.0 and hold it there for a couple of days to have an immediate impact. We have had a start up spike with a new pond as high as 2.0 but the simple solutions are to stop feeding and treat with one of the ammonia neutralizers. We never got an ammonia spike ever during spawning, but we have a very mature pond. Sounds like an unproblem.
 

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Just as I suspected. Another one of the many unsubstantiated 'myths' that continue to float around in the pond community.
 
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Just as I suspected. Another one of the many unsubstantiated 'myths' that continue to float around in the pond community.
Really! So Carolinaguy's post was exactly the sort of hard scientific evidence you were looking for?
I guess we can close this thread now. Good job. (y)
 

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Did I miss something in his post? I really didn't think that I would be presented with any scientific data to support the 'spike' theory, and I wasn't, but I thought that I would ask anyway.
 
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... We have had a start up spike with a new pond as high as 2.0 but the simple solutions are to stop feeding and treat with one of the ammonia neutralizers. ...

How are you handling the nitrites that come next?
-or are you using salt and have no plants in your pond?
 
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How are you handling the nitrites that come next?
-or are you using salt and have no plants in your pond?
At 0.25 nitrite, we do water changes and monitor for gasping and staying up in the bubble fields. That said we use lake water so our water is free. When we were on city water we still used water changes but the water bills were high. I am not a salt fan. Did research on it and found that the high end, long term koi keepers and vets had stopped salt treatment after the report from the guy who owns fish pharmacy, the reports from the 1978 niigata outbreak and their own experiences. We haven't used salt for 10 years. We have no plants right now but we will when the construction is complete.
 
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Do you test this source (lake) water?
Tested it last year several times to set a baseline. 6.6 acre lake combination of spring water and storm drain. Rock solid at 9.1 ph. No nitrogen cycle readings. Even nitrates. Maybe 10 during fertilizing season. Lake stocked with bass, bluegill and sterile Nile carp for plant suppression. Lots of clay stirred up. Good minerals for koi. Excellent growth for the school last year. Zip disease. Healthiest year we ever had. We have two "canary in the coal mine" fish who redden at the first sign of parasites. Not one day of reddening all last year. I even test the lake using a secchi disk. Spot on most of the year for good plankton health except for a short period. Supposed to add fertilizer to the lake but I didn't have the heart to tell the association, since we have a couple of folks who think the lake is too green. Never have seen a health problem with high ph and fish health.
 
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I suppose if you had a pond that was drastically over-stocked, the increased activity of spawning plus the koi gorging themselves on the eggs that are almost pure albumin, it's plausible that ammonia levels would raise in a "spike". For most of us with reasonable stocking and well cycled bio-filters it's probably an old wife's tale.
 
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Probably. If the bacterial colony is large enough as a result of The pond maturing plus a fully developed school of fish, then dumping in a pint of ammonia might not register because the bacterial conversion is supposedly instantaneous on contact with the bacteria. A couple of cycles through the filter of the pond volume might just consume it all to below readability in a couple of hours.. That said, when my school spawned and dumped about a gallon and a half of eggs in the bottom, I didn't bother to test for ammonia. Might have jumped and I didn't test for it at that moment. We will never know.
 
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Meyer Jordan

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then dumping in a pint of ammonia might not register

Well, depending on the pond's volume, it just might. Multiple independent studies have shown that in well established aquaria, there are very few, if any, Ammonia oxidizing bacteria. Most, if not all, Ammonia oxidation is performed by Archaea. Since ponds are very similar closed aquatic systems it is reasonable to assume that the same holds true in a pond. Established ponds have normally low ambient Ammonia, a level at which Archaea thrive. Nitrosomonas, Nitrospira and the other AOB require higher Ammonia levels. If an Ammonia spike were to occur in an established pond, there would be a definite lag time before AOB populations would increase sufficiently to handle the additional Ammonia..
 

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