View Full Version : ammonia and nitrite catch 22! Help

08-14-2003, 10:28 PM

I am in serious need of some advice from all you seasoned vets. I was given some quick cure and some antibiotic powder (neomycin) straight from a lfs guys commercial store supply to combat some ick that seemed to accompany 2 new Africans. 2 days later I was doing an emergency water change as my ammonia and nitrite levels were at recordable levels for the first time in 5 months since my tank cycled.

I now believe that the suggested antibiotic dose was such that it destroyed good and bad bacteria alike in my 125 gallon tank! My initial attempt beyond water changes and carbon was to detox these levels chemically - but then how would my bio-filter ever rebuild itself?

So last night I added some bio-balls from my lfs and some Bio-Spira (rumoured to establish balance overnite) to attempt to prevent further ammonia and nitrite toxicity. Ammonia seems to be in decline but my nitrite appears to be climbing. 2 fish have since died.

Please advise me on any further actions - my tank contains 20 valuable cichlids!

Thanks in advance

08-15-2003, 04:47 PM
... Some off-the-top stuff....Beyond the frequent and very necessary water changes (you are testing your tap water also, right?), and assuming the 125 is your only tank, I'd immediately increase tank aeration using simple tubes made for that purpose. You don't say how much or what sort of filtration you have (wet/dry?), but if it's HOB, the surface agitation alone is insufficient. Speaking of HOBs: Especially if you happen to have AquaClears or units with similar generous surface areas, you can place a good layer of gravel from the substrate of a healthy cycled tank that uses a UGF (from your LFS, maybe? over the foam/sponge block, plus add a couple of good ol corner filters with the same gravel for a jumpstart on the nitrification, this even if the bioballs are seasoned. (I assume Bio-Spira is supposed to achieve the same thing and may have already started the process?) I've never used the ammonia remover pack (whatever it's called) in my ACs for the general sort of detox that you refer to, but I don't see that it would create a Catch-22 problem. I'd also stop feeding the fish during your emergency course of action.

08-15-2003, 10:25 PM
Marc Weiss' product called Bacter-Vital is also great to help jump start the nitrogen cycle. If you do what Tom said, and add some of the Bacter-Vital for Brackish/Saltwater you should be good in about a week or so without much trouble.

No matter what the manyfacturers or lfs people say, broad spectrum antibiotics such as the one you used kill gram - and gram + bacteria, hence ALL the bacteria in your tank.

08-16-2003, 06:36 PM
in the same situation, i would use ammonia/nitrite removing filter media if i couldn't seed the tank with media from established tanks.

08-17-2003, 10:21 AM

The tank has finally been seeded and with the exception of Ph (through the roof) all levels are back to normal. Miraculously one of my oldest fish looked like a blow fish for 2 days - now it is back to normal??

My questions are #1 would you continue to replenish aquarium salt I started adding slowly to the main tank - with my next water change #2 do any of you use melafix or #3 stress coat after such incidents ?

Thanks for all the helpful advice! I suspected broad spectrum antibiotics kill both gram bacteria. In the future should I simply add antibiotics to their food?

Tom I use HOB Canisters connected to multiple Bio- wheels as well as three 802 powerheads one for circulation routed around the bottom of the tank.

Cheers bleu

08-18-2003, 11:14 AM
Hi bleu

Adding salt in moderation and stress coat certainly won't hurt. Frankly, I'd be more concerned about the sudden pH increase, especially if you can't pinpoint the cause. Swings in pH are always a concern: Our bodies, for example, adapt to such changes at the cellular level (consider what happens when we hyperventilate); aquarium fish, however, are stuck in an artifical environment where there's no such internal "biological correction."

Yep, a broad spectrum antibiotic doesn't discriminate: It acts on previously unexposed bacteria equally. But if you haven't tested for a given bacterium, what else can you use once you've decided to medicate with antibiotics? I've read about people lacing fish food with antibiotics; some may swear by that technique. But in a situation where I had to resort to broad spec antibotics, I'd administer them in a separate "hospital" tank (w/food where plausible).