High levels of ammonia in your water can have a variety of adverse effects on your shrimp and other aquarium wildlife. Ammonia in particular is quite toxic and the longer your pets are exposed to it, the more likely they are to encounter issues which can ultimately lead to death. While ammonia is released naturally in any aquarium through decaying matter (e.g. food leftovers, organic waste), bacteria usually break these further into Nitrite and Nitrate which have a much lower level of toxicity and can be safely removed by periodic water changes and absorbed by plants.
What causes spikes in ammonia levels in an aquarium tank?
Overfeeding can lead to sudden spikes in nitrates. Leftover organic material generates ammonia while decomposing, so if uneaten food stays floating around the tank it can lead to issues. Overpopulation (of both fish and plants) can also lead to problems, as both fish / shrimp waste and decomposying plant leaves contribute to water pollution.
How to measure ammonia levels in water
Ammonia is invisible and cannot be measured with the naked eye. By the time you start noticing ammonia-related problem it may be too late to save your shrimp, which is why regularly testing your water is essential. Tests often consist in harvesting some water from your tank, adding a few drops of solution until it changes color and match the color of the water with a color card. Ammonia is measured in ppm (parts per million). You should aim at a score of 0.03ppm or less in order to prevent problems.
How to lower ammonia in shrimp tank
If you are experiencing very high levels of nitrates and your pet shrimp are already suffering the consequences, your best point of action is to replace as much as the water as you can ASAP. Measure your ammonia levels and if the test is higher than 1ppm, replace 50% of the water in your tank. If it’s lower than 1ppm, replace 25%. Keep testing and doing water changes daily until levels stabilize. Only use clean, dechlorinated water for your water changes – the most ideal is remineralized RO/DI water. Some specialised products can also be used to act as “biological enhancers” that promote the presence of beneficial bacteria to fasten up the breaking down of ammonia into nitrites and nitrates.