Does Prime actually "Detoxify" free ammonia, NH3?

Lasse

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It's not a gas. In seawater it will carry a negative charge spread across the oxygen atoms. NH2SO3-


Do you think it will penetrate a membrane and give a false reading of NH3 gas? If seneye and ammonia alerts is based on membrane technique - which I do not know for sure - IMO - it should not interfere

Sincerely Lasse
 
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Randy Holmes-Farley

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Do you think it will penetrate a membrane and give a false reading of NH3 gas? If seneye and ammonia alerts is based on membrane technique - which I do not no for sure - IMO - it should not interfere

Sincerely Lasse

I do not know, but your conclusion sounds logical.
 
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taricha

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I have always thought that these are build on gas permeable membrane - if so - I can´t understand how NH2SO3 (that´s probably is much larger) can interference with these equipments.
Everything I've seen about these lines up with the idea of a gas permeable membrane. Pipette a little puff from inside an ammonia bottle across one and boom.
Screen Shot 2021-09-16 at 4.03.34 PM.png
 
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taricha

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Good grief. The underlying paper cited by the one I complained about earlier is no better....

The attached paper purports to show that amquel decreases total ammonia and NH3 in a dose dependent way (freshwater stable pH 7.6), but they just did a hach total ammonia test and calc'd NH3 from pH, and made no considerations (that I saw) for the possibility of interference with the test.

This paper attached claims to show that ChlorAm-X (hydroxymethanesulfonate) helped a culture of rotifers (higher population, more eggs) by reducing TAN, but they didn't bother to control the pH and the group that got ChlorAm-X had lower pH than the control group from day 2 onward - eventually ending up more than 0.6 pH lower after 6 days. (See table 2.)

yikes.
 

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Dan_P

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Good grief. The underlying paper cited by the one I complained about earlier is no better....



This paper attached claims to show that ChlorAm-X (hydroxymethanesulfonate) helped a culture of rotifers (higher population, more eggs) by reducing TAN, but they didn't bother to control the pH and the group that got ChlorAm-X had lower pH than the control group from day 2 onward - eventually ending up more than 0.6 pH lower after 6 days. (See table 2.)

yikes.
Why are they trying to correlate total ammonia and not the calculated free ammonia? Makes one wonder why this work was even published.
 

Dan_P

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Good grief. The underlying paper cited by the one I complained about earlier is no better....



This paper attached claims to show that ChlorAm-X (hydroxymethanesulfonate) helped a culture of rotifers (higher population, more eggs) by reducing TAN, but they didn't bother to control the pH and the group that got ChlorAm-X had lower pH than the control group from day 2 onward - eventually ending up more than 0.6 pH lower after 6 days. (See table 2.)

yikes.
Do I foresee a bottle of ChlorAm-X being purchased?
 

DrZoidburg

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Good grief. The underlying paper cited by the one I complained about earlier is no better....



This paper attached claims to show that ChlorAm-X (hydroxymethanesulfonate) helped a culture of rotifers (higher population, more eggs) by reducing TAN, but they didn't bother to control the pH and the group that got ChlorAm-X had lower pH than the control group from day 2 onward - eventually ending up more than 0.6 pH lower after 6 days. (See table 2.)

yikes.
Ill have to read this later it is one I was looking at yesterday.
 
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taricha

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@taricha Have you done any math? If you did it at day 1, 4, and end you see it is missing lol. You have to do a little adding, subtracting, and multiplying by % nitrogen. Also you may need a periodic table. In these steps, if you do that you have .52 missing.
You are applying unnecesarry conversions to what I already converted. Like I said (more than once) ... all those charts already are reported in ppm of N.
Ammonia-N, NO2-N, NO3-N.
 

threebuoys

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I request that @taricha and @Dan_P collaborate to write either an article or a sticky thread for the Reef Chemistry forum that summarizes the wealth of information they have provided in this thread. I recognize that some readers will choose sides on the effectiveness of the product just as they have in this thread. But, the average hobbyist should not have to wade through 14 pages to glean all of the information your tests and experiments have provided. If one chooses to believe Seachem's claims about Prime's effectiveness at detoxifying ammonia based on anecdotal information from hobbyists who have used the product, at least they will be informed about what to expect when they test for ammonia.

So worse case, Prime is marketed as a chlorine neutralizer and an ammonia detoxifier. Effectiveness as a chlorine neutralizer can be confirmed by test the average hobbyist might use. Effectiveness as an ammonia detoxifier cannot be confirmed by tests the average hobbyist might use and is supported only by anecdotal evidence offered by users of the product. Buyer beware.
 

MnFish1

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I now have some results of the amphipod test that I discussed the setup for in this post:



First column is the time in hours, the next 4 columns are the 4 treatments - Tank water with or without ammonia and with or without Prime, second to last column is the ammonia level at that time, last column is when and how much Prime was added.

Time (hours)Status of AmphipodsAmmonia levelPrime added
1 - Tank Water2 - TW+Amm3 - TW+Amm+Prime4 - TW+Prime
02 swimming2 swimming2 swimming2 swimming0.55ppm NH3, 4ppm NH3+4.+4x Prime
62 swimming2 swimming2 swimming2 swimming1.6ppm NH3, 12ppm NH3+4.+12x Prime
(16x total)
72 swimming2 alive, not swimming2 alive, not swimmming2 swimming
132 swimming1 alive not swimming, 1 dead2 alive, not swimmming2 swimming
202 swimming1 alive not swimming, 1 dead2 dead2 swimming
222 swimming2 dead2 dead2 swimming

The clearly toxic effects began within an hour of moving to the second level of ammonia, so I did not go any higher.
The ammonia was clearly toxic with or without Prime added at 12x (for 12ppm ammonia). There was no detectable difference in the color of the seachem disks, or the time when the amphipods could no longer swim, or any significant difference in the time when they were dead.
In the treatments with ammonia, without Prime the two amphipods were dead at 13 and 22 hours. With Prime the amphipods were both dead at 20 hours.

The amphipods not exposed to ammonia (with or without Prime) were able to swim throughout the process and were fed to a grateful yellow watchman goby at the conclusion.

Pics at the conclusion of experiment.
Seachem NH3 disks.png

(Seachem NH3 detecting disks Left to right: bottle 1- Tank Water, 2 TW + ammonia, 3 TW + ammonia + Prime, 4 TW + prime)

Amphipods_dead.png

(left to right: bottle 1- Tank Water - swimming, 2 TW + ammonia - dead, 3 TW + ammonia + Prime - dead, 4 TW + prime - swimming)

Could the experiment be made more applicable and convincing with sensitive fish and a lower ammonia level? sure, but I have zero interest in doing that since it's clear to me that Prime doesn't detoxify ammonia and it would just end with dead fish.
This started when @Dan_P was looking at measuring NH3 with seneye and was curious about performance near zero NH3. I suggested trying Prime to artificially zero out the NH3 sensor, and the results were weird... so I checked with my seachem kit.

Prime by Seachem is commonly used to treat tap water, it dechlorinates Chlorine and Chloramine. This effect is strong and easily measurable by test kits.

But Prime also claims that it "...detoxifies ammonia. Prime® converts ammonia into a safe, non-toxic form that is readily removed by the tank’s biofilter." They say that the normal dose of Prime can detoxify 1ppm ammonia.

NH3 is the toxic form of ammonia, which under normal tank conditions is a tiny part of the total ammonia (Randy's Article for details). Most chemical kits measure total ammonia - NH3+NH4, and so seachem says that these kits can't detect the effect of Prime to detoxify NH3. And one should instead use a test method that measures only free ammonia - NH3 instead, according to Seachem - such as their kit.
"However, the best solution ;-) is to use our MultiTest™ Ammonia kit; it uses a gas exchange sensor system which is not affected by the presence of Prime® or other similar products. It also has the added advantage that it can detect the more dangerous free ammonia and distinguish it from total ammonia (total ammonia is both free ammonia and non-toxic ionized forms of ammonia)."

So here we go.

I pulled a liter of tank water, spiked it with ammonia to ~1ppm total ammonia.
20210802_160941 (1).jpg

API at 5 min confirms it's in the ballpark of 0.5-1ppm total ammonia.


Then I dosed a drop of Prime from two separate bottles (one new unopened) into the 1L of water. Approximately a double dose from each for a cumulative 4x dose of Prime and stirred.

After 30 minutes, I then used the ammonia sensing films from the seachem kit to see if the measured free ammonia, NH3 was decreased by the "detoxifying" effect of Prime.
The ammonia sensing discs are supposed to be read at 15 or 30 minutes to determine free ammonia.
Seachem_ammonia_prime.jpg

Each beaker has ~75mL of sample water.
Bottom left is tank water only - clean zero
Two in the middle top and bottom are replicates of tank water +1ppm total ammonia - disks form a color as they should, approximately consistent with 1ppm total ammonia at ~8.0pH (maybe around 0.05 on the top 30 minute scale of the color card)
Top right beaker is tank water +1ppm total ammonia +4x dose of Prime - the disk forms exactly the same color as the samples that were not treated with Prime. The same amount of NH3 is apparently present.

So according to Seachem's free ammonia kit, Seachem Prime does not do anything to decrease toxic free ammonia, NH3. If it has any effect, it's gone within 30 minutes.

(BTW, when I overdose prime to 30x recommended dose, it still didn't decrease the NH3 measured.)

Maybe Prime worked better for @Dan_P measuring with the Seneye NH3 sensing device???

Update: see Dan's measured zero effect from Prime with two more ammonia detecting kits in post number 16

Update: Amphipods seem to fare equally poorly when exposed to NH3, whether treated with Prime or not. post number 44
It would be interesting to see what Seachem says about the methods you're using and a possible different explanation. For reasons already discussed - I do not think the amphipod study is done correctly. I also think it gets very confusing when in one sentence the word 'ammonia' is used - and in another 'Total ammonia' and in another 'NH3' throughout many of these posts.

All of that said - You're right there are several possibilities (IMHO)

1. Prime does not 'detoxify' ammonia in the manner they suggest - at all - and instead, the success stories of its use are coincidence or caused by other factors.
2. Prime indeed DOES detoxify ammonia for fish in ammonia < 1 ppm, and the presence of 'ammonia' in the tests above are confounded by something else.
3. Something is incorrect with the testing methodology - OR Seachem is incorrect about how their product affects ammonia tests under varying conditions. (i.e. in their lab with their tests, they get different results). Since we don't know what their methods are, its impossible to know. But whats being done above - seems to be trying to replicate Seachem's experiments without knowing what they did.
4. I read a (very interesting) blog about the science behind why prime 'doesn't' 'detoxify' ammonia - and the person makes a convincing case as to why it shouldn't. But - without in-vivo testing, nothing can be said about whether prime detoxifies ammonia or not for the average user in the average tank.
5. Prime is useful as a water conditioner - it does neutralize Chlorine, and it works fine in Freshwater even in areas using Chloramines - and seems to help in QT tanks. So - Since we don't really know Seachem's definition of 'detoxify', and since Prime supposedly only lasts 24-48 hours. I think the word 'detoxify is a little hyperbole perhaps.

I have no skin in the game - I have never used Prime except in one freshwater tank - and I bought it by mistake. But it is an interesting discussion - and an interesting set of experiments.
 
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MnFish1

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Question: when someone wants to “detoxify ammonia”, would you say the occasion is usually an emergency and not some variation of cycling an aquarium?
Prime is primarily designed (and probably the most widely used) - so that an aquarist can add fish, etc immediately while the tank cycles. So - Cycling certainly has something to do with it IMHO.

If I had an 'ammonia emergency', I would figure out 'why', and do a huge water change twice. (like 90%). I'm not sure I would rely on any product during an emergency.
 

MnFish1

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They refuse to discuss the topic.
Actually - they wrote at least a paragraph or two - about the proposed mechanism on their website - in response to a question asked by someone concerning the use of Prime with sulphur containing medications
 

MnFish1

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If you are a vendor, you can share data or not. If you share the data there is a chance that it just leads to more questions and discussions.

But yes, if there was clear cut data, why not just show it In a way that doesn’t endanger your product’s proprietary secrets.
IMHO, They shared their results. You could not replicate their results. That does not mean that your results are correct and theirs are 'wrong'. I saw somewhere else about the possibility of some lawsuit against Seachem for misleading advertising perhaps that will lead somewhere?
 

MnFish1

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Let me try to address a recurring question - "but Prime saved my fish from an ammonia event?"
Let me give a brief (haha) run-down of some reasons why a hobbyist might think that Prime etc has saved their livestock from ammonia when it hasn't. (No judgment, less than a year ago, I had some fish loss and not much time, detected a little ammonia, and dosed Prime to "save" the unaffected fish. I was convinced it had worked. Here's why I was wrong.)


1. Ammonia accumulates more slowly than we think. When I feed generously for my small fish, (pinch of flake + cube of mysis + cube of brine) I am only putting in enough protein to elevate total ammonia by 0.5 ppm.


Since fish release ~80% of protein input as ammonia, this would take 5 days to reach 2ppm ammonia. If you feed sparingly, you could probably stretch that out to 2 weeks before total ammonia would go up to 2 ppm, even if your tank consumed zero.

2. Most ammonia is non-toxic NH4. NH3 is a small %. pH really matters. Even if I have the hypothetical 2ppm total ammonia at pH 8.2, then it's only 0.13ppm toxic NH3. see calculator. If the pH drops to 7.8 then 2ppm total ammonia is only 0.05ppm NH3.

3. Most organisms are tougher than the few sensitive fish we think about. From RHF article
" Marine fish generally have 96 h LC50 levels that range from about 0.09 to 3.35 ppm NH3-N."
That is, while there are sensitive fish that have a LC50 (lethal concentration to 50% of specimens) over 4 days (96 hr) of ~ 0.1ppm NH3, many saltwater fish are much tougher. So many systems could spend days at the above hypothetical 2ppm total ammonia (pH 8.2, NH3 = 0.13) and not lose livestock. Benthic organisms are even tougher than that, in looking up NH3 tolerances for random inverts in my system, pods, asterinas, snails, crabs, shrimp - all quite high by our sensibilities.

4. We assume new fish will be a little stressed in a new environment "take a few days to settle down." Many hobbyists might confuse some sub-lethal level of NH3-stress for new to a system stress, and think Prime prevented NH3 toxicity.

5. Any non-frozen bottle of traditional nitrifying bacteria can keep up with a slow rise in ammonia laid out the scenario in numbers 1 and 2. Recommended dose of Biospira can eat ~0.5ppm ammonia/day straight out of the bottle (for me anyway). One and Only a little slower, Fritz turbostart a bit faster. They expand capacity quite well too, especially if there is a constant presence of ammonia.

6. Heterotrophic bacteria are everywhere (and in some bottled tank starter products). They can reproduce really fast if conditions are right. With addition of carbon - present in all fish food - they can process ammonia quickly also. Plenty fast to avoid bad outcomes. Bottled bacteria myth or fact thread showed repeatedly the headscratching result that adding fish food caused ammonia to go down with these bacteria.

7. There are a zillion photosynthetic organisms that will show up rapidly in any tank that has light. Photosynthetic organism are strong consumers of ammonia themselves, and they release dissolved organic carbon that can help the heterotrophs consume ammonia also.

8. Photosynthetic organisms have such a strong preference for ammonia, that they have a hard time consuming any other form of N, if any ammonia is present. They'll ignore 20ppm NO3 to grab 0.2ppm ammonia. It's not like they are choosing it, it's just so much more energetically favorable as a food source.

9 / Putting it all together.
Tank "crashes" / die-offs don't raise NH3 as much as you might think. A 100g of dead fish that hides in your 55 gal (210 Liter) tank doesn't immediately turn into a bunch of ammonia. The fish might be ~20% protein, ~16% of protein is N, so 100*.20*.16 = 3.2g N. 3200mg N / 210 Liters = 15mg/L N = ~19 ppm total ammonia
Protein is broken down gradually over days to a week so maybe only 3ppm ammonia release per day. Some of that is eaten by clean up crew, that might assimilate 20% into growth and release the other 80% as ammonia. The carbon in the tissues also increases heterotroph activity that reduces how much N is released into ammonia. And on top of that, the metabolic processes involved in breaking down the fish will lower pH as well, thus reducing the fraction of ammonia that is NH3.
If all that decomposing organic material pushes the pH down to say 7.8 (my tank goes that low sometimes without dead fish), then the daily 3ppm total ammonia release would be only 0.08ppm NH3.
And that's without even considering the nitrifiers and the photosynthesizers, that with ammonia present will do nothing but eat ammonia, day and night.
So when I lost a couple of small fish to rapid disease and added Prime to "protect" the rest from toxic ammonia, there was never actually a clearly toxic condition to protect them from.

If I wanted to do something I could be sure would help protect fish during an ammonia event:
1) lower pH (7.8 is fine in a pinch, I wouldn't try to push the aragonite buffer around ~7.6)
2) add algae
3) add carbon (vinegar or whatever carbon you already use in your system)
4) add aeration (heterotrophs and nitrifiers both need O2 to work well, and the die-off could push O2 low.)
edit: 5) and y'know... water changes :)

Those are all incontrovertible and do not require trusting any unsupported manufacturer claims.
And the reason you didn't mention: "Prime helps detoxify ammonia in vivo'.
 

Randy Holmes-Farley

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Actually - they wrote at least a paragraph or two - about the proposed mechanism on their website - in response to a question asked by someone concerning the use of Prime with sulphur containing medications

As far as I know, Seachem does not reveal anything interpretable about what the mechanism is, because they do not clearly ever indicate the ingredients, although they do make come confusing statements about what it is not.

They also indicate their level of rigor (or lack thereof) in making claims for Prime when they write:

"I wish we had some more "concrete" explanation, but the end result is the same, it does actually detoxify nitrite and nitrate. This was unexpected chemically and thus initially we were not even aware of this, however we received numerous reports from customers stating that when they overdosed with Prime® they were able to reduce or eliminate the high death rates they experienced when their nitrite and nitrate levels were high. We have received enough reports to date to ensure that this is no fluke and is in fact a verifiable function of the product."


I'd be surprised if ANY of those customers actually had lethal levels of nitrate or nitrite before adding Prime. it is not easy to attain acutely lethal levels of nitrate or nitrite in seawater. The data I collected for nitrite suggest the lowest lethal concentration of nitrite I could find was 147 ppm. Does anyone believe that any customers using Prime had nitrite of 147 ppm?
 
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