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I have three apple snails in a 10-gallon (37.8 liters) aquarium and the ammonia stays off the charts. I only keep seven to eight gallons (26 to 30 liters) of water in the aquarium so that the top area of the glass is available for them to lay eggs. The snails are each smaller than a ping-pong ball. The substrate is 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) of sand. There are no fish in the aquarium. The tank is over a month old.

The ammonia tests 4.0-8.0 ppm every time I test it. I am using the API Freshwater Test Kit.

I have a mini cylinder sponge filter that I moved from an established tank. I do 50% water changes weekly and I add API Tap Water Conditioner each time.

I have added Imagitarium Biological Booster twice, after water changes.

I add Prime every few days to try to neutralize the ammonia.

What am I doing wrong?

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    Good question. What's the PH value? Very very unlikely that it contains ammonia, but did you test the water source (only need to do it once since it won't change that much and it's useful to have the nitrate values of the freshwater)? Can you get bacteria (a filter sponge or else) from a running aquarium (yours, a friend's or lended from a shop)? – Karl Richter Nov 12 '17 at 13:24
  • The PH of the aquarium is currently 8.4. (I haven't done this week's water change yet today.) The PH of the source water is 6.0. The nitrate value of the source water is 0. – Silver Sagely Nov 12 '17 at 20:15
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    That's very odd since I can't think of a source in a 40l aquarium that can change the PH value from 6 to 8.4. Even if you took concrete instead of sand the changes wouldn't be that severe (exaggerating). How many times did you clean the sand? Where did you get the sand from? Was the cleaning water very white (could contain a lot of gypsum)? Please test the freshwater for ammonia. If you edit your question instead of answering the comments you get more attention. – Karl Richter Nov 13 '17 at 4:45
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    API ammonia tests are garbage. I have never seen one actually read zero, I can test either of my main tanks which have both been running for more than a decade each, and they'll test 5 - 10ppm on API kits. If the tank has been up for more than a month, just ignore what you're reading. It's virtually impossible for free ammonia to exist in an established tank unless you seriously screw something up. Once the initial cycle is over, there's no reason to test for it again. – Jestep Nov 13 '17 at 17:47
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How are the snails doing? I've found them to be fairly robust to bad conditions, but that is very high ammonia. There are reasons to be skeptical of API ammonia tests, but only on the fringes (like differentiating between 0 and 0.25 ppm). At minimum, take some water to a local fish shop, even Petco/Petsmart usually do tests for free. The fact that the pH is going haywire is consistent in my opinion with the ammonia getting out of hand. Do more frequent water changes until the tests look better.

I'm going to refer to these as mystery snails since I assume that's what you have. Many people use "apple snail" to refer to a closely related species that gets very large (more like a baseball at adulthood), eats live plants, and is highly invasive and is regulated in the US. Mystery snails produce a ton of waste. I've spent time raising these snails and in the beginning it was very hard to give enough water or filtration to keep the ammonia at 0. You can manage 3 of them in a 10 gallon, but I would consider that a heavy bioload and one that will need careful management until it stabilizes.

I suspect the sponge filter is insufficient. You're going to need more water turnover to effectively process the amount of ammonia being produced. You can get a hang-on-back filter pretty cheap that will work in a 10 gallon. I bought a Deep Blue branded 100 gph filter at a local fish shop for about 10 bucks and put my own biomedia in it (I like the porous ceramic types that you can get pre-bagged for Fluval filters) and took out the included carbon.

I would still leave the current sponge filter since it's the only mature thing around. With that said, I believe sustained exposure to very high ammonia levels can have a negative effect on the nitrifying bacteria, so there's a chance if your tests are accurate that the sponge filter has lost much of it's bacterial colony.

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  • I am a newbie, but it appears that the tank may be slowly cycling. Before the latest water change the stats were: pH = 6.4, ammonia = 1.0, nitrate = 2.0, nitrate = 40. After every water change I add Imagitarium Bio Booster, but I suspect that there are no live bacteria in the bottle. I live in the South and the bottle was probably exposed to extreme heat while it was transported to the store. I will buy a hang-on-back filter. Thanks for your assistance! – Silver Sagely Nov 21 '17 at 10:51

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