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You need to do some research on 'cycling tanks', and ammonia and nitrite toxicity. The levels you're seeing could could long term damage to your fish, at best, and kill them at worst. You'll find info in the water chemstry section of the forum library. You should be very worried about both the ammonia and nitrite settings and following the advice given in previous posts.
 

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but my LFS said I'd be ok
It's never a good idea to add fish to an uncycled tank, as it's always an incredible risk and can damage the fish, if not kill them outright. In these situations, if the fish survive, then the idea gets passed on that it's ok to do this and doesn't harm the fish and all of the rest of us go to unecessary lengths to get tanks started. Ammonia and nitrite can damage fish. They may not die, but it can leave them in less than ideal condition and shorten their lifespans. Just because they survive this doesn't mean 'everything turned out ok'. Keep the feeding down, the water changes going strong, and keep detoxing that water. All you can do in this situation.

BTW, I've been using the ... http://www.aquariumguys.com/aqua-water-change-50ft.html ... but I have to hook it up to the sink (which mean chlorine ... BAD) so my LFS said keep it to 10% ... any ideas on how to get the chlorine out using the water changer? (without doing a whole-house filter?)
Your LFS has evidently never heard of dechlorinator. :roll:
 

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A question to others: in this circumstance would it have been a good idea to lower the temperature slightly to reduce ammonia toxicity (I'm thinking of the link http://www.dataguru.org/misc/aquarium/AmmoniaTox.html prov356 referenced in another thread)? Would it also be a good idea to add aquarium salt to prevent nitrite poisoning?
There's usually enough salt in the tank to detox nitrite as much as it's going to. I never advocate the addition of salt. The conditioners like Prime or Ammolock are the best options for dealing with the toxins.

I wouldn't drastically drop the temp because fiddling with heaters may do more harm than good, but I'd make sure it wasn't on the high end of the good range. Meaning, if it's 80 or or, drop it to 77-78. Personally, I'd leave it there then as cooler water holds more oxygen.

Well, I just tested the Ammonia before and after a 10% water change this morning (I kept it at 10% for now until I get some water conditioner today)
If you've got chloramine in your tap water, then even 10% charges aren't good. The chloramine is stable, more so than chloramine, that's why it's used in tap water. The chloramine can even kill off the bacteria that you're trying to build.

Your ammonia levels are down enough that I'd not do another water change until you got the conditioner, as you said, Even then, go for 25% changes once or more per day rather than a massive change. I've found that massive water changes can be disruptive to the bacteria you're trying to build. Be sure to keep testing to see make sure what you're doing is having the intended affect.
 

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Did you check to see if there's chloramine in your tap water? If so, there's a very simple answer to this.

Also, on Sunday, put in ammonia remover "filter media" (from Fluval), new charcoal, and cleaned the filter at the same time.
Too much tinkering with the filter. Leave it alone for a while. Once you get past this, remove the ammonia remover and charcoal. No need for either.

It's easy enough to check your ammonia kit with a bottle of spring water or similar.

Regarding filter cleaning schedule, depends on the filter(s), fish load, feeding etc. There's no one-size-fits-all.
 

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Can you recommend a test kit I could buy for this?
It would be in your water quality report. You can alwsys find these online. It appears you don't have chloramine, just chlorine, so can't blame that for the ammonia reading. I'd double check the test kit, and then leave the filter alone for 30 days or so. Then, yes, remove the items mentioned from the filter.

What type and how many filters do you have? If you only have one filter and have been adding, removing, and cleaning things, then that could account for the ammonia reading. More info would be helpful on filters and maintenance schedule up to this point.
 

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Rena seriously over rates their canisters. It's rated at 350gph MAX. That means empty, no media, and probably little or no head height. Kind of deceiving, isn't it? :) When I had an XP4 rated at 450, I measured the actual and it was about 240gph, no more. Your XP3 may not even be getting 200gph. So you could be turning your tank over 1-2 times per hour. It may not be enough to keep the ammonia at 0. That could be your problem. They rate it for up to 175 gallon tank. That's ridiculous. I'd add a powerful HOB and get some turnover in that tank. Biofiltration doesn't need a lot of turnover, true, but I think 1-2 times per hour just may not be enough. Do you have any powerheads, etc or any other current going?
 

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I just suggested a HOB because it's cheaper and the bigger ones tend to have high gph capability. If you can swing an FX5 or similar high end canister, then I'd probably go for that instead. Don't just bump up to an XP4, as it won't help much. If you add the bigger canister, run both simultaneously for a couple of months. And if/when you take the XP3 out of comission, move it's biomedia to the new canister. I'd probably leave it in place and use it for chemical and additional biofiltration. Lots of things you can do.
 

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wouldn't that increase Ammonia?
Yes, but in a cycled tank, you still shouldn't get a spike. I never have from a dead fish. Of course, it depends on the fish size and filtration, etc. Now, if your filtration was on the edge as far as being adequate, then something like that could push it over. You could be right.
 

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So we're back to the same old problem.
Yes, but I don't think there's a mystery really. I think once you add that filter, you'll be on your way to resolving it. I'd also suggest adding some sort of internal power head or hydor koralia to get more current going. You should also consider moving that return flow spray bar nearer to the surface. I like intakes low, returns high.
 

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The charcoal and ammonia reducer would have acted as biomedia. They count when you're counting total biomedia. The Seachem stuff wouldn't provide anything new/better unless you added more, so more surface area. And the Seachem media probably wouldn't have been populated so quickly to be the reason for the reduction in your ammonia level. I'd say it's more a matter of the bacteria finally finding other areas of the system to populate. The whole system including decor acts as potential surface area for bacteria, as long as there's a good flow of water. The additions and changes to your filtration/water pumps may have been a big factor in getting your ammonia down. Don't get me wrong, increasing your biomedia was a good thing, but my point is that anything with a lot of surface area, like what the charcoal and ammonia reducer had, would work just as well. It's not always a simple answer.
 

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The lot number has the date, like Lot # 28A0102, would be Jan 2002. See this article for more information. Check the expriration on the kit you have and replace it, if needed. I've never found them to be inaccurate. I've heard the Seachem stick-ons are really bad. FWIW
 
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