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[APD] Ammona and Soil Substrates

I have been having water change problems since I moved to Corpus Christi,
Texas, USA last year.  It occurs mostly in the Winter (now).  A twenty
percent water change (with water conditioner added) has killed all my fish.
I recently did a 10 percent water change on a tank and forgot the
conditioner and had a bunch of fish die.  I did not have this problem on the
Corpus Christi mainland but have it here on Padre Island.  The only
difference is that the water is piped across a four mile causeway across
Laguna Madre.  I think gases build up in the pipes in the winter.

Anyway I thought I had everything figured out as I have been refilling the
tanks very slowly from the tap but with two big bait aerator stones and two
heaters in the tank to equalize the slight temp difference.  I haven't been
having problems using this procedure.  However, yesterday the fish in one
tank started to look stressed about an hour after the water change, and
three out of fifty fish in the tank died during the next hour.  Although
many of the fish had looked stressed then, the rest of the fish look fine
today.  This time I think I know what is happening.

This tank is one of two tanks I set up with a soil substrate about two weeks
ago.  About a week ago I measured low ammonia levels so I put the fish in
the tank.  The fish were fine until yesterday when I did the 70% water
change.  Yesterday, when the fish seem distressed I measured the ammonia in
the tap water (0 ppm), and the ammonia in the tank water one hour after the
water change when the fish where stressed (1 ppm according to my cheap test
kit).  This morning the ammonia was (0 ppm) in the tank.

The theorize that the ammonia was released from the substrate when I
partially drained the tank  The reduction in hydrostatic pressure somehow
helped the ammonia to go from the substrate to the water column.  Meanwhile
the plants kept consuming ammonium and by this morning the ammonia levels
were back down to zero and the fish are again happy.  This is an indicator
to me to be cautious with water changes until the substrate calms down a bit

What to you think about this theory?

Steve Pituch

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