Ammonia in Fish Pond: Sources, Poisoning and Management

Ammonia, a colorless gas with a pungent odor, is not only found in household cleaners or industrial settings but can also pose a significant threat to the delicate ecosystems of fish ponds.

Whether it’s an artificial pond used for recreational fishing or a commercial aquaculture operation, ammonia buildup can spell disaster for both the fish and their environment.

Understanding the sources of ammonia, how it affects fish health, and implementing effective management strategies are key to maintaining thriving and sustainable fish populations in these aquatic habitats.

In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of ammonia in fish ponds, exploring its sources, the dangers it presents to aquatic life, and various methods for preventing or mitigating its negative impact on this fragile ecosystem.


In the world of fish ponds and aquariums, ammonia is an extremely significant water characteristic that bears a tremendous amount of weight. It is an important indicator of the quality of the water, the state of the fish population, and the ecological harmony of the aquatic ecosystem as a whole. There is a strong correlation between the presence of ammonia in water and the health of fish and other aquatic species. The concentration of ammonia in the water is also an important factor. It is absolutely necessary, in order to keep a healthy and functioning aquatic ecosystem, to have an understanding of the significance of ammonia as a water parameter.

The adverse effect that Ammonia accumulation has on the transmission of oxygen from the gills to the bloodstream is one of the major issues related with the accumulation of ammonia in fish ponds and aquariums.

Ammonia, particularly in its poisonous form, has the potential to obstruct the efficient uptake of oxygen by the gills of fish, which in turn slows down the process of respiration in these animals.

Damage to the fragile tissues of the gills can be caused by exposure to excessive amounts of ammonia, which can then result in inflammation and the development of lesions.

Because of these changes, the surface area that is available for oxygen exchange has been drastically reduced, which makes it more difficult for fish to collect oxygen from the water.

As a consequence of this, fish may experience respiratory distress, in which they struggle to receive an appropriate quantity of oxygen. If the condition is severe enough, asphyxia and even death may occur from the condition.

Ionized ammonia (NH4+) and un-ionized ammonia (NH3) are both components of TAN, which stands for total ammonia nitrogen. The proportion of each form that is present in the water is dependent on the conditions of the pH and the temperature.

When the pH level is lower (when conditions are more acidic), the concentration of ionized ammonia, denoted by the symbol NH4+, rises, while the concentration of unionized ammonia, denoted by the symbol NH3, falls.

On the other hand, at higher pH values (more alkaline settings), the concentration of un-ionized ammonia (NH3) increases, while the concentration of ionized ammonia (NH4+) declines. This occurs because ionized ammonia is more soluble in acidic environments than un-ionized ammonia.

The fact that un-ionized ammonia (NH3) is more hazardous to fish and other aquatic creatures than ionized ammonia (NH4+) is the primary factor that contributes to the significance of this connection.

Ammonia that has not been ionized can pass through cell membranes, including the gill membranes of fish, and cause disruptions in the regular cellular processes that take place in those cells.

On the other hand, ionized ammonia, often known as NH4+, has a lower toxicity level and is normally expelled as waste by fish.

It is absolutely necessary, in order to keep an aquatic environment in good health, to have a solid understanding of the variables that contribute to the generation and buildup of ammonia. It requires a thoughtful understanding of the biological filtration process, the nitrogen cycle, and good management practices. Individuals who care for fish in ponds and aquariums can protect the well-being of their aquatic inhabitants and support the development of a sustainable and harmonious aquatic ecosystem by doing research into the factors that lead to the accumulation of ammonia, its effects, and the methods that can be used to avoid and manage its formation.

Sources of Ammonia in Fish Pond

In a fish pond, there are numerous possible ammonia sources. Fish feces and decomposing organic materials naturally produce ammonia. In a fish pond, the following typical ammonia sources include:

Fish Waste

Ammonia is excreted by fish waste, primarily in the form of urine. As fish breathe and excrete waste, ammonia is directly released into the water.

Uneaten Fish Food

Unconsumed fish food might drop to the bottom of the pond and decay if it is overfed or not fully absorbed. Ammonia can be produced by this breakdown process.

Decomposed Organic Matter

Any organic material that enters the pond over time, including leaves, plants, algae, and other organic stuff, can do so. Ammonia is emitted as a result of breakdown.

Dead Organisms

If fish or other creatures perish in the pond, the decomposition of those remains will raise the ammonia levels. Any dead creatures in the pond need to be removed as soon as possible.

Chemicals and Fertilizers

Runoff from surrounding gardens or agricultural areas may contain fertilizers and chemicals that contain ammonia. The quantities of ammonia could rise if this runoff gets into the fish pond.

Water Sources

The water used to fill or top off the pond occasionally may already be contaminated with ammonia. This might happen if the water source is tainted, comes from a well, or has a high ammonia level in the groundwater.

When Is Ammonia Most Likely To Be Tested

To preserve the health and welfare of the fish, it is important to routinely evaluate the ammonia levels in fish ponds. Testing frequency may vary based on elements like pond size, stocking density, and management techniques. Ammonia testing is crucial during the following periods in particular:

Initial pond setup: It’s critical to verify the ammonia levels while constructing a fish pond or adding additional fish. This enables modifications to be made if ammonia levels are excessive and aids in determining whether the pond environment is adequate for the fish.

New pond cycling: Ammonia testing is crucial for a successful new pond cycling operation. Beneficial bacteria colonize the pond during the nitrogen cycle, turning hazardous ammonia into less dangerous chemicals. During this time, keeping an eye on ammonia levels can ensure that the nitrogen cycle is working properly and that the pond is developing biological stability.

Problems with the water quality: Ammonia testing should be done if there are any indications of poor water quality, such as stressed fish, higher mortality rates, or algae blooms. These problems may be exacerbated by high ammonia concentrations.

After feeding: Ammonia levels often increase after feeding the fish because extra food is being processed and turned into ammonia. Ammonia testing soon after feeding can be used to evaluate the effects of feeding techniques on water quality.

Regular monitoring: As part of routine pond management, it is advised to evaluate the ammonia levels frequently. Testing every one to two weeks is a usual recommendation, though the frequency may change based on the specifics. This makes it possible to identify any increases in ammonia levels or changes in the water’s quality that might be harmful to fish at an early stage.

As high levels of ammonia can be hazardous to fish, it is vital to keep in mind that they should ideally be kept at very low or undetectable levels in a well-maintained and balanced fish pond. In the event that high ammonia levels are discovered, suitable measures should be taken to address the problem, such as modifying feeding regimens, improving aeration, doing partial water changes, or including biological filtration to help with ammonia removal.

Effects of pH and temperature on ammonia toxicity

Ammonia in water can either be the ammonium ion (NH4 +) or unionized ammonia (NH3). The methods for measuring ammonia yield a result that is the total of both forms. The value is given as either “total ammonia” or just “ammonia.”pH has a major impact on the relative ratio of the two forms in water. When pH is high, unionized ammonia, which is poisonous, predominates.

When the pH is low, the ammonium ion dominates and is not particularly hazardous. When pH is lower than 8.0, less than 10% of ammonia is typically in a hazardous state. However, as pH rises, this proportion rises sharply.

Draw a line from the water’s pH straight up to the line that is closest to the water’s temperature in order to calculate the amount of unionized ammonia present in a water sample.

Draw a line to the right from that point until it touches the vertical axis of the graph. The percentage of unionized ammonia in the water sample is estimated at that point. To get the un-ionized ammonia concentration, simply multiply that amount (divided by 100) by the total ammonia concentration.

The pH of ponds changes as a result of pond inhabitants’ photosynthesis, which raises pH, and respiration, which lowers pH. As a result, ammonium predominates from before sunrise until early morning, and poisonous ammonia predominates during the late afternoon and early evening.Temperature has an impact on the equilibrium between NH3 and NH4 + as well. Warmer water contains more hazardous ammonia than cooler water at any given pH.

Symptoms of Ammonia toxicity in fish pond 

Ammonia toxicity is a significant concern in aquaculture, particularly in closed or intensive fish farming systems.Elevated ammonia levels can be detrimental to fish health and can lead to condition “Ammonia Toxicity”.If the ammonia concentration increased , the fish will become lethargic and eventually fall into a coma and die. Some clinical sings showed by fish due to ammonia toxicity is given below

1.Huge amount of mucous production in fish. 

2.Erratic movement swam up to the surface. 

3. Darkening of body color. 

4.Red or bleeding gill, lamellae, swollen of gill . 

5. Secondary infections. 

6. hyperventilation, violent erratic movement including spasm and coma.

7.Increased respiration rates and fish seem to “gasp” air at the surface of the water

8. Fish lost its balance and sank down to the bottom and died afterward.

9. Clamped fins,lethargy, reduced activists. 

Treatment of ammonia toxicity in fish 

At first it has to note that there is no way to treat the condition directly. However, if you treat the pond with medication quickly, you can minimize the losses done to your fish’s respiratory system and brain.

Ammonia Management Options 

Theoretically, there are several ways to decrease ammonia concentration, but most approaches are ineffective for the large ponds used in commercial aquaculture. Following is a discussion of some ways their effectiveness and their practicality.

Stop feeding or reduce feeding rate

The main source of nearly all the ammonia in fish ponds is the protein in feed. Ammonia is produced within the fish when feed protein is broken down. Therefore, it seems reasonable to said that ammonia levels in ponds can be controlled by decrease feeding rate or feed protein level.

Increase Aeration

Some producers believe that pond aeration is one way to get rid of ammonia because it increases the diffusion of ammonia gas from pond water to the air as toxic form of ammonia is dissolved gas.

Addition of lime

Liming in ponds decrease ammonia toxicity. Lime contains calcium which react with soluble phosphorus, removing it from water and making it unavailable to plankton. 

Apply phosphorus 

Most of the ammonia excreted is taken up by phytoplankton , so anything that increases phytoplankton growth will increase ammonia uptake. This fact is the main theme of fertilizing ponds with phosphorus fertilizer to reduce ammonia levels. 

Adding a source of organic carbon 

If the dissolved oxygen concentration is sufficient enough, adding a source of organic carbon, such as chopped hay, to intensive fish ponds can reduce ammonia toxicity. 

Addition of ion exchange materials 

Certain naturally occurring materials, called zeolites, can adsorb toxic gases from water. These are feasible to use in aquaria or other small-scale, intensive fish-holding systems, but not worth it for large volume fish ponds. Adding acid In theory, adding acid to water will lower pH. This can shift the ammonia from toxic to non toxic form. However, a huge amount of acid is necessary to reduce the pH in well-buffered ponds and it would have to be mixed rapidly throughout the pond and tank to prevent “hot spots” region that could kill fish. 

Safe ammonia level in fishpond

Ammonia levels should always be zero or extremely close to zero, unless in a new system. Any ammonia should be a warning sign that something is wrong and should be looked into if it is found in an established pond or aquarium. Ammonia concentrations exceeding 0.25 ppm should raise concerns, and anything above 1.0 ppm requires quick action.


The health of the fish depends heavily on prudent pond management, wise selections of fish food, and excellent feeding practices in fish ponds. Correct feeding promotes fish growth, reproduction, and overall health. Any uneaten food should be taken out as soon as possible after feeding.This makes sure that as the food decomposes, surplus food won’t contaminate the water. To prevent both the chronic and acute harmful effects, the ammonia concentration in the fish pond needs to be regularly regulated. The level should be carefully monitored to ensure that it is constantly below 0.2 mg/l. To prevent a harmful synergistic effect with the presence of ammonia in the pond, it is essential to ensure that the pH and temperature values are properly managed.

Ammonia is a common pollutant in fish ponds. Too much ammonia can be harmful to the fish and can cause death. There are several ways to reduce the levels of ammonia in a fish pond. One way is to increase the aeration of the water.

This will help to dissolve the ammonia and release it into the air. Another way is to add plants to the pond. Plants will help to absorb the ammonia and reduce its levels.

Ammonia is a common pollutant in fish ponds. It is produced as a result of the decomposition of organic matter, and can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. Ammonia levels should be monitored and kept as low as possible to maintain healthy water quality.

Aquaculture waste water often contains high levels of ammonia, which can be harmful to both fish and the environment. In order to reduce the levels of ammonia in aquaculture effluent, a number of measures can be taken.

One is to improve the management of feed and manure so as to reduce the amount of waste produced. Another is to use alternative water treatment methods such as biological filtration or ozonation.

Causes of Ammonia in Fish Ponds

Ammonia is a harmful pollutant that can be found in fish ponds. The main sources of ammonia in fish ponds are the waste products of fish and other aquatic creatures, decaying vegetation, and fertilizers.

Ammonia can cause problems for fish such as decreased growth rates, lower resistance to disease, and death. It is important to prevent high levels of ammonia in your pond by keeping the water clean and well-maintained.

Ammonia is a compound made of nitrogen and hydrogen atoms. In aquatic ecosystems, ammonia is produced as a result of the decomposition of organic matter by bacteria. The level of ammonia in water is usually low and doesn’t pose a problem. However, when the level of ammonia increases, it can be harmful to fish and other organisms.

The main sources of ammonia in ponds are fish waste, uneaten food, and decaying plants. Ammonia levels can also increase when the pond is over-fertilized or when there is an influx of new fish. High levels of ammonia can cause respiratory problems in fish and can also lead to death.

There are several ways to reduce levels of ammonia in ponds. One is to reduce the amount of organic matter by keeping the pond clean and removing dead plants and animals.

Effects of Ammonia on Cultured Fishes

Ammonia is a colorless gas with a strong, pungent odor. It is produced by the decomposition of organic matter and is also a component of some fertilizers. In water, ammonia exists as ammonium (NH4+) and un-ionized ammonia (NH3).

The toxicity of ammonia to aquatic organisms increases as the pH decreases. At low pH levels, un-ionized ammonia is more toxic than ammonium because it can more easily penetrate cell membranes. The toxicity of ammonia also increases as the temperature of the water increases.

Ammonia is highly toxic to fishes and can cause death at concentrations as low as 0.1 mg/L. Ammonia binds with hemoglobin in the blood to form methemoglobin, which cannot bind oxygen. This results in suffocation and death.

Ammonia is a common and essential component of the aquatic environment, but at elevated levels it can be toxic to fishes. While the lethal concentration of ammonia varies among fish species, any level above 0.05 mg/L can be harmful.

The effects of ammonia on cultured fishes include reduced growth rates, increased susceptibility to disease, and mortality. In addition, ammonia can cause osmotic stress and alter the balance of minerals in the water. Fish farmers should take steps to monitor and control ammonia levels in their ponds and hatcheries to protect their valuable stocks.

Management of Ammonia in Cultured Fishes

The management of ammonia in cultured fishes is a critical component of success in aquaculture. Ammonia is produced as a waste product by fish, and can quickly reach toxic levels if not managed properly. There are a number of strategies that can be employed to keep ammonia levels in check, including water changes, the use of biological filters, and the addition of chemicals that bind ammonia. By using these methods, aquaculturists can maintain healthy and productive fish populations.

How to Get Rid of of Ammonia in Fish Ponds

Ammonia is a common problem in fish ponds. It can cause stress and even death in fish. There are several ways to get rid of ammonia in a fish pond. One is to add an aerator. This will help to break down the ammonia and oxygenate the water. Another is to add plants. Plants will help to absorb the ammonia and other pollutants from the water. Finally, you can add a filter to your pond. A filter will help remove excess ammonia and other pollutants from the water.