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Ammonia And Goldfish: All You Need To Know!

Have you ever neglected to empty the cat's litter box for a few days, and when you finally begin to sift through the litter, the odor of ammonia hits you in the face? If you have ever smelled ammonia, you will never forget the odor.

Excessive inhalation of ammonia can cause irritation and damage to the lungs and airway, as well as skin irritation. Did you know that your goldfish emit ammonia, which may not only accumulate in the tank but also risk their lives?

"Ammonia and Goldfish: All You Need to Know!" by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) mentions are some important facts regarding goldfish and ammonia.

Where Does Ammonia Come From?

Several animals excrete ammonia through the urinary system, as it is a byproduct of metabolic activities within the body. Although goldfish create ammonia, their urinary system acts differently from that of mammals. Ammonia metabolized by the kidneys is expelled by a urinary hole, which resembles a urethra.

Ammonia generated by breathing and other metabolic activities is eliminated via the gills. Regardless of its source, ammonia begins to accumulate in your tank. Goldfish are extremely filthy fish that create a high bioload, meaning they excrete a great deal of ammonia.


Preventing Ammonia Buildup

So, what do you do about the presence of ammonia in your aquarium? There are chemical additions that neutralize ammonia and convert it to a less hazardous form that may be used in an aquarium. If your aquarium has been properly cycled and has appropriate filtration, ammonia should not be accumulating.

Use a trustworthy test kit to monitor the ammonia levels in your tank on a regular basis. A cycled tank should always have an ammonia level of 0 ppm. If ammonia levels begin to rise, the tank’s cycle has been disrupted and your beneficial bacteria colonies have been badly affected.

Beneficial bacteria reside on surfaces such as filter media and substrate, so if you recently changed your aquarium’s filtration system, filter media, substrate, or other objects with a large surface area, you may have disrupted the tank’s cycle. Recolonizing the tank with beneficial microorganisms and neutralizing the ammonia will help restore its health.

Ammonia Poisoning

When your fish are exposed to excessive quantities of ammonia or long-term ammonia exposure, they get ammonia poisoning. Typical causes of ammonia poisoning include introducing fish to an uncycled aquarium, a halted tank cycle, keeping an overstocked aquarium without proper filtration, a rise in the pH of the water, and prolonged exposure to poor water conditions, such as in a feeder fish tank.

Many fish suffering from ammonia poisoning will develop black spots on their scales and fins as they recover. If fresh black spots appear on your fish, check your ammonia levels. While the body works to recover from ammonia burns, even if ammonia levels remain excessive, black patches may appear. Dark spots do not indicate that ammonia levels have returned to zero.

Poisoning with ammonia can result in the loss of scales, skin burns, and the loss of fins or fin rot. Scales and fins may not necessarily regenerate regardless of your actions. Fin clamping, lethargy, lack of appetite, irregular swimming, gasping, air gulping, and sitting at the bottom of the tank are further indications of ammonia toxicity.

If you observe any of these signs in your fish, check all of your water parameters to rule out ammonia and other toxin accumulation. In addition to removing the ammonia from the water, aquarium salt baths and treatments that replace the slime coat can be utilized to aid in the recovery of your goldfish from ammonia poisoning.


As can be seen in Ammonia and Goldfish: All You Need to Know!” by BestForPets (bestforpets.org), ammonia is one of the most prevalent killers of goldfish, particularly in the hands of novice or unskilled caretakers.

The “new tank syndrome” is characterized by elevated ammonia levels, which may be prevented with adequate tank cycling, filtration, and water upkeep.

If you observe indications of ammonia poisoning in your goldfish, you should first check your water parameters and, if ammonia is present, treat your tank for excessive ammonia levels and begin treating your fish by bolstering their immunity and slime coat.

Although though humans are accustomed to sensing a strong odor when ammonia is present, you will not be able to see or smell ammonia in your fish tank; thus, you cannot rely on sight or smell to identify it.

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Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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