Daily pH Cycle and Ammonia Toxicity

Posted on Wednesday May 26, 2021

Test Tube with Ph Indicator

There are many variables to take into account if you wish to maintain a happy and healthy aquarium.

While obvious concerns such as clean water and oxygenation are important, we need to remember that lesser-known variables can likewise impact any organisms that may be present.

Ammonia toxicity is a perfect example. As relatively few aquarium owners are familiar with the topic, it is wise to take a closer look.

What is Ammonia Toxicity?

Fish excrete ammonia as a result of metabolising the protein found within their food. While this is a completely natural process, we should remember that aquariums represent closed environments.

There are times when ammonia concentrations may build up to toxic levels; impacting the pH of the tank.

pH is the value used to measure the presence of acidic or alkaline substances within a material. In this case, it is used to interpret if the water within your tank is acidic (a pH of below 7.0) or basic (a pH above 7.0).

Water that is considered to be “neutral” will display a pH of exactly 7.0 and yet, this is normally not realistic within aquatic environments containing plants and animals.

Now that we have taken a quick look at the principle of ammonia toxicity and the role that the pH of your tank can play, it is wise to examine how these two concepts are linked.

How Can Ammonia Toxicity Impact the pH Balance of Your Aquarium?

First and foremost, ammonia is a basic (alkaline) substance. Higher concentrations of this chemical within a tank will cause the associated pH levels to rise.

The issue here is that higher concentrations of ammonia (beginning at 0.25 grams per millilitre) can cause damage to the gills of fish.

As fish naturally secrete this substance, it also stands to reason that fully stocked tanks are more likely to suffer from ammonia toxicity.

Studies have shown that the highest levels of alkalinity occur after a few hours of daylight. Conversely, tanks become the most acidic during the overnight hours.

This is why it is important to monitor the pH of your aquarium at all times if you hope to avoid unintentionally placing the health of your fish in jeopardy.

Thankfully, the team at Oceanlife Aquatics is happy to provide targeted aquarium cleaning services in order to ensure that your tank is in top condition at all times. Please contact us to learn more.