How To Test Ammonia In Fish Tanks

How To Test Ammonia In Fish Tanks

Ammonia is a colorless gas that is soluble in water, becoming a strongly alkaline solution.

It builds up naturally from fish waste but can become harmful to the fish.

Unfortunately, ammonia can be difficult to detect in fish tanks.

Luckily, we have a few solutions to help you test how much ammonia is in your tank.

After that, you’ll be able to take the steps to reduce these ammonia levels and allow your fish to be happy and healthy.

Method 1: Ammonia Testing Kits

Buy A Testing Kit

Ammonia testing kits are an important item when it comes to owning fish.

You can find them in most pet supply stores. Alternatively, you can buy them online.

Most testing kits will include a testing solution, test tubes, and a color chart so you can measure the ammonia levels in the tank.

The most popular testing kit is the API Kit.

With these kits, you can test for ammonia in both freshwater and saltwater fish tanks.

They are easy to use and produce accurate results.

If you choose to purchase a different ammonia testing kit, ensure you buy the right one for your type of fish tank.

Ammonia levels will usually be measured in parts per million (ppm).

Put The Test Tube With Tank Water And Fill To The Allocated Line

Once you have opened the testing kit and set it up, you will need to fill a line with tank water.

You can choose between dipping the tube in the tank, or scooping the water into the tube until it reaches the desired line.

Remember: The test tube must be clean before you start this.

If unclean, your result may not be an accurate reflection of the ammonia levels in the water.

Add The Required Number Of Drops Of The Testing Solution To The Tube

Note: The testing solutions are labeled, so please ensure you use them in order, or else your results will be messed up. Use the tube labeled no.1 first.

Please ensure you handle the testing solution with care, as it can be irritating to the eyes and hands.

First, uncap the testing solution and hold it vertically over the tube.

It is important that the bottle is held vertically, as the drops must all be the same, or else you risk ruining the results.

Gently squeeze out the required amount of drops into the tube.

Please note that different tubes may ask you to use different amounts of the test solution, so please always follow the instructions in your testing kit.

Repeat as above with testing solution no. 2

First, uncap the testing solution labeled no.2, and repeat as above.

Occasionally, testing kits will come with a third testing solution, so please ensure you double-check your testing kit and the instructions.

Shake For Five Seconds

Place the cap back on the test tube and check that it is tight and secure.

Once this is complete,
shake the tube well for five seconds, to ensure the solutions mix.

Wait For Any Color To Develop

The solution will take time to react with the ammonia.

Your testing kit will specify the exact waiting time.

The water may change color quickly, but you should still wait the recommended time so the solution can work.

Compare The Color Of The Water In The Tube To The Chart

Take the chart out of the testing kit. Go to a bright area so you can see the color.

Hold the test tube up to the testing chart.

You can then compare the color of the water to the colors on the chart.

In most kits, if the water is yellow that indicates no ammonia is present.

The greener the water gets, the higher the levels of ammonia there are.

Remember: Some kits will have two charts, one for saltwater, and the other for freshwater.

Please ensure you are using the correct chart for the tank.

If Ammonia Is Detected, Clean Your Fish Tank

Your tank water should always be the lowest color section on your chart (or read 0.0ppm).

If this is not the case, then you should give your fish tank a clean.

This ensures your fish are happy and healthy.

Rinse The Test Tube And Put It Away

Pour the water in the test tube down the drain, do NOT pour it back into the tank as this will seriously harm your fish.

Rinse the empty tube thoroughly with clean water, and put it away in a safe place so you can use it again for your next test.

Method 2: Use Test Strips

Buy The Test Strips

Testing strips are convenient because they’re so quick to use.

They can be used in either saltwater or freshwater, but confirm this before you buy.

You can find them in an aquarium or pet store.

You normally have the option of purchasing ammonia test strips or a larger set that can also measure nitrates and pH.

Dip The Test Strip In The Tank And Move It Around For The Allocated Time

Dip half of the strip into the fish tank and move it around.

Different testing kits require different times for this step, so please follow the instructions that come with the testing strip package.

Compare The Color Of The Strip To The Color Chart

If any ammonia is present in the water, the strip will change color.

Compare it to the chart.

As the previous step notes, yellow means there is no ammonia present in the tank, while green indicates that there is ammonia present, and the tank needs to be cleaned.

Once this step is complete, dispose of the test strip.

Clean Your Fish Tank

If ammonia is present, you’ll need to clean your fish tank.

The test strip should show a 0.0ppm reading, and a higher reading means you need to clean the tank. Your fish will thank you!

Knowing When To Test

Include In Your Weekly Chore Schedule

Ammonia may build up in fish tanks if there is an issue with the filter.

It can also build up if the tank water has not been changed in a while.

Ideally, you should test your fish tank every week.

By doing this, you have the best chance of detecting any sign of ammonia early, so you can clean the tank and prevent any danger or harm from coming to your fish.

Knowing When To Test For Amonia

A good way to make sure you clean the tank every week is by incorporating it into your chore schedule.

Getting A New Fish

Sometimes, new fish carry ammonia.

You should check your tank if you take on new fish as pets to ensure no ammonia is beginning to build up.

Check For Ammonia If Your Fish Seems Unwell

If your fish seems unwell or sluggish, you should check for ammonia in the tank.

If there are high ammonia levels, your fish will start behaving strangely.

However, you should try and clean your tank before ammonia levels become this high.

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! Two different ways to check ammonia levels in your fish tank.

By following these steps every week, plus the additional steps if necessary, you are ensuring that your ammonia levels remain low.

This means your fish should remain happy, lively, and healthy.

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