How To Lower Ammonia In Fish Tank

How to lower Ammonia in a fish tank? Fish hobbyists are scared of even the slightest sign of ammonia. So if you smell something that smells like cat urine, and your fish are sleepy, gasping for air, or having redness around the gills, then you should probably test whether you had ammonia in your fish tank.

Why ammonia is so scary to a fish hobbyist? In today’s article, we are going to discuss: What is ammonia? What causes ammonia? How can we remove or prevent ammonia?

What is ammonia?

Ammonia is a chemical compound that is often the byproduct of rotten organic substances and common fish waste in the fish tank. Even the smallest amount of ammonia can be lethal to your fish. Because of this, it is important to fully cycle a new fish tank and establish a biological filter.

Ammonia, however, is the first step in jump-starting the nitrogen cycle in a fish tank.


Why it is important to reduce ammonia in your aquarium?

  • To the fish: ammonia in the fish tank can cause ammonia poisoning in fish. When fish take ammonia-rich water through their mouth and release it through their gills it hurt their gills. The tissue damage caused in the fish makes it harder for fish to respire and potentially kill your fish. Note: it’s impossible to cure a fish with ammonia poisoning.
  • To the plants: ammonia is good for plants as it was used as a nutrient by plants, but excess amounts of ammonia can be harmful to the plants as well.

What causes ammonia?

The causes of ammonia are more or less the same as that of nitrate because ammonia is transformed into nitrite and then into nitrate by different kinds of beneficial bacteria. The die-off of organic matter, fish or plants, overfeeding, overstocking, and poor fish tank maintenance can all contribute to the buildup of ammonia.

How can we remove ammonia?

1. Water change

I don’t believe there is any other way that is easier and more effective than water change in your aquarium. In order not to stress your fish and invertebrates, you can change 50 % of the fish tank’s water and test the parameters the following day; if you still find the presence of ammonia, change another 20 – 30 % of the water and retest the parameter the next day.

2. Beneficial bacteria

Using beneficial bacteria is not the fastest way to lower your ammonia level in the water. It’s more like keeping the nitrogen cycle working. As I mentioned above, the two different kinds of beneficial bacteria will transform ammonia into nitrite and then into nitrate.

3. Filter media

Filter media can provide extra space for beneficial bacteria to grow. However, if the filter media is trapped with lots of detritus, it needs to be cleaned gently in tank water.Hygger Aquarium Bio Filter Media

Hygger Aquarium Bio Filter Media 

Chemical supplements and conditioners also come in handy in terms of removing ammonia.

How long does it take to lower the ammonia?

If you just start cycling the fish tank, then it will take around 1 – 3 weeks for ammonia to show itself on the test kit before nitrite and nitrate are present.

If you experienced a sudden spike of ammonia, it might take you 1 or multiple water changes before it went normal again.

You should figure out the reason for the high ammonia in your fish tank and deal with it accordingly.

How to prevent ammonia in your fish tank?

There are a couple of methods to prevent ammonia in your fish tank:

1. Test source water

You can test the water even before it was added to the fish tank.

2. Test kit

It is of great importance to test the water regularly with a test kit in the first year when you just set up a fish tank.

3. Live plants

Live plants use nitrite as a nutrient to grow new leaves. There are many benefits for us to keep live plants in the fish tank. Get a planted fish tank if you can.


Those are very useful tips for you to reduce ammonia in your aquarium. Ammonia can harm your fish so you should regularly check it with the water test kit. Also, ammonia levels can suddenly rise to a spike before any permanent solution was taken, you should do a partial water change or use neutralizing drops for the time being.

Related Article: How to Lower Nitrates in Fish Tank

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