How to control ammonia levels in your aquaponics fish tank
One thing you must avoid is high levels or spikes in ammonia levels in your aquaponics system. Spikes in ammonia will cause your fish to die, which in itself can add to the problem if not removed quickly. But how to lower ammonia levels in fish tank naturally aquaponics? Let’s take a look…
How to lower ammonia levels in aquaponics fish tank naturally in 15 seconds…
To lower ammonia levels in aquaponics fish tanks naturally includes stopping or reducing the amount you feed your fish. It’s also good practice to feed little and often to control the amount fish excrete through their gills. But also to watch out for dead fish or other organic matter that can be rotting and producing excess ammonia in your aquaponics fish tank.
How to lower ammonia levels in fish tank naturally aquaponics
Ammonia is a silent and invisible fish killer. Spikes in ammonia will kill your fish and unless you’re testing on a regular basis you may not know until it’s too late. Acceptable ammonia levels in a freshwater aquaponics system should ideally be zero. The ammonia level must be kept to below 2 parts per million (2ppm), as anything over this level will kill your fish.
If your ammonia levels are too high in your fish tank, there are several ways to reduce this. One way is to reduce the amount of ammonia that goes into your system. Or secondly, you need to increase the nitrification efficiency which increases the rate at which your ammonia is oxidised and converted to nitrates.
Ways to naturally reduce ammonia levels aquaponics water:
Reducing the amount of ammonia going into your aquaponics system
- Reduce feed or stop feeding altogether: You will bring down ammonia by stopping or reducing the amount you feed your fish. If you overfeed your fish, ammonia levels will jump up.
- Feed little and often: Feeding little and often rather than large amounts once or twice per day is the best way to control how much ammonia fish excrete through their gills.
- Reduce fish stocking levels: Fish over-stocking can cause excess levels of ammonia, which means if you reduce fish levels this will reduce ammonia naturally.
- Watch out for dead fish: Dead fish secrete high levels of ammonia. If you find a dead fish in your aquaponics fish tank you must remove it immediately.
- Remove organic matter: By removing any organic matter like uneaten fish food will reduce ammonia levels, as left to rot it will create more ammonia.
- Reduce the water temperature: A reduction in water temperature will help reduce ammonia levels. But be careful to keep the water temperature within the acceptable range for the type of fish you have.
Increase your system’s nitrification efficiency
- Introduce more nitrifying bacteria: Speed up the conversion of ammonia into nitrates by introducing nitrifying bacteria.
- Clean the water filter: If your system has a water filter, then a blockage in this filter will reduce the efficiency of your system.
One other way to reduce ammonia levels, whilst not necessarily being natural, is to carry out a water change. But if you choose this option, don’t change-out more than a third of the water at a time. Plus make sure to top up the water in the plant media bed, rather than in the fish tank. But also, if you’re using tap water make sure to remove any chlorine first.
Ammonia in fish tank symptoms
The extreme symptom of ammonia in a fish tank is the death of your fish. However, before fish die from ammonia poisoning there are a number of symptoms that are quite easy to spot. So watch out for the following symptoms first:
- Lethargy: This is usually the first sign or symptom and should be used as an indicator to test the water chemistry and act fast.
- A loss of appetite: If your fish are not eating normal amounts of food this is normally the next sign of excess ammonia in the water. Of course this excess food the fish are not eating will begin to collect at the bottom and rot, thereby making matters even worse.
- Gasping at the surface: Once your fish are gasping at the surface, you know that there’s something significant going on.
- Inflamed gills, fins, eyes or anus: these are signs or symptoms you may or may not be able to spot, but I would hope the first three will be enough for your to realise that the ammonia levels have risen to poisonous levels.
What causes ammonia in aquaponics fish tanks?
Of course without the ammonia (NH3) an aquaponics system wouldn’t work. As it’s the oxidised ammonia in the form of nitrates that is essential for plant growth. However, if too much ammonia is produced this is when problems arise.
Ammonia in most cases comes from the overfeeding of your fish. Excess food that the fish don’t eat sicks to the bottom of the tank and begins to rot. It’s this rotting process that creates the excess ammonia.
Other organic matter like dead plants or fish is also a source of ammonia, together with a lack of cleaning of your filters where your system has one. Fish also produce ammonia through their gills, but it has been found that by feeding fish small amounts of food and often reduces the amount of ammonia excreted.
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