You are here:

Fish/Ammonia level in freshwater


QUESTION: Hello Ash,

I have a newly cycled freshwater cichlid tank with some ammonia levels that have been strange since I set it up.  My tap water itself straight from the faucet is a .25 ammonia level and the level in my tank now is .5,  But I am currently using ammo chips and ammo lock if needed.  Will this .5 level affect my cichlids in any way? So far I have seen some pacing with my yellow lab and albino, but that may have been from a recent water change and the pH change that comes with it.

ANSWER: Alright well I have some questions for you Tom so I can answer the most accurately.

How many cichlids, and what cichlids, are in the tank.

What tank size?
What is your maintenance schedule? Water changes, gravel siphons i.e

How long did you cycle the tank for?

Sorry for the delay and making you answer these questions but I do not want to give you misinformation nor do I want to mislead you.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Yea no problem. I have 5 cichlids, 2 Chinese algae eaters and 2 barbs total.  My cichlids are a yellow lab, livingstonii and three mbunas. I have a 40 gallon and do weekly water changes I just added some crushed coral to buffer ph and Tank cycled for a month with multiple barbs.
Sorry I Didnt specify, I should have realized you need these details.

ANSWER: I can see where some ammonia might be happening. Your tank is slightly overstocked but this is okay with cichlids as they do need a slightly overstocked aquarium to diffuse territorial issues.

The only problem I can see with the tank stocking is the two Chinese algae eaters. They may look small right now, as they are juveniles, but both can grow to 12" inches and they don't get along. Once they grow bigger they'll start having scrappy fights amongst each other.

But fighting fish don't have to do with the ammonia factor what does is they have a very high bio-load which is why a 55 gallon is a minimum for them not because of their size but because of how much waste they produce. So two full grown Chinese algae eaters would need at least 65 gallon.

Do you clean the gravel with a gravel vacuum? Waste build-up under the gravel can also cause ammonia build-up.

I suggest stopping the usage of chemicals such as ammo-lock/ammonia chips as it can disturb water parameters more then you think.

Look into the product its called Seachem Prime, it is sort of a 3 in 1 which might help with the ammonia. It nullifies ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and declorinates the water for you so you can use it with water changes.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Okay ill look for it. Also would water hardness matter a great deal to the fish. I have had a tropical community tank for a while but never a cichlids tank and I just need to know if the water hardness is a big factor in health. My water now is naturally hard where I live.

Cichlids prefer hard water with a higher PH of 7.5-8.0 for optimum health. So the hard water you have is actually good for them.

For future reference:

I have a house and a couple of tanks in Texas. They have naturally hard water because they get their water from an aquifer so most of the "softer-water" (Like bleeding heart tetra's for example) tropical fish that have been bred and sold in Texas have already adapted to the hard water there. Believe me most chain pet stores do not go through the trouble of softening water for a few couple dollar fish.

If you do start up another tank that have fish that prefer softer water you could soften the water with peat moss in the filter behind the active-carbon cartridge. Peat can be found at local hardware stores such as Home Depot or Lowes in the garden section.

I guess now you know more about soft water then you ever wanted haha!


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Ash WolFF


My knowledge of fish ranges from freshwater and saltwater fish compatibility and care from easy livebearers to monster fish. I can help you set up a simple freshwater aquarium to a complicated reef tank. I would be pleased to assist anyone who is new to the aquarium hobby.


I have been in the aquarium hobby for eight years mostly dealing with large and small aquariums. I keep mostly monster fish (Arowana's, Large Cichlids; Oscars, and freshwater/saltwater eels specifically) but now that I am in college I am keeping a 30 gallon tropical community and a 45 gallon brackish aquarium while my father tends to the big monsters I left behind.

I'm on YouTube! My 30 gallon community posts are the only ones that are up so far. My Brackish tank is next! I'm on Yahoo Answers:

I am currently in college aiming for a job in Marine Biology.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]