Copyright 1999 AquaChem Publishing

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by Kevin J. Ruff

wpe2.jpg (3605 bytes)ne of the most immediate dangers to the fish in your aquarium is that of ammonia poisoning. Simply put, ammonia kills by suffocation -- it literally drowns your fish. This happens as a result of the ability of ammonia to irreversibly bind to fish hemoglobin in a fish's oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Once this binding occurs, the red blood cells are no longer able to transport oxygen throughout the fish's body. This, in turn, leads to a systemic failure in the victim, and ultimately death. It's very similar to cyanide poisoning in humans. Suffocation occurs even though there is an ample supply of oxygen present. A tragic and preventable death.

     The only way to prevent such a tragedy is to keep a constant vigil as to the ammonia levels in your aquarium. This is of absolute importance in a newly setup aquarium. The biological filter (see The Nitrogen Cycle, below) hasn’t had time to become established, so ammonia levels elevate quickly. Eventually the ammonia levels fall to normal. This is commonly known as "The Break-In Cycle" or "New Tank Syndrome". Even in an established aquarium, ammonia levels can spike (say from the external biological filter becoming clogged, or from the death and decomposition of a large plant or fish). So regularly monitoring ammonia levels is a must, and immediate remedy of any spikes is equally as important.............

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