A visit to the world-famous koi breeders in the mountains of Niigata/Japan always provides amazing insights! They breed world class koi that win championships and as Grand Champions sell them for over one million dollars. But when it comes to water tests they are amateurs.
This, of course, is because they can supply their natural ponds and holding facilities with so much fresh spring water from the mountains that they never usually have to worry about water chemistry. But occasionally they do!
In their indoor keeping facilities the animals are densely crowded for short periods during the peak sales period and the water pollution is easily detectable by foam formation on the water surface. Proteins are deposited where the water meets the air and foaming occurs. Koi enthusiasts and Japanese breeders know that ammonium needs to be tested. The Japanese use a test available in Japan, which we have never seen before, and test the ammonium/ammonia. That’s what it says on the test (!) and it’s up to the user to decide whether the result refers to NH4 (ammonium) or NH3 (ammonia)! Unbelievable but true! In reality this test determines the ammonium content. Ammonium itself is non-toxic, but is converted into ammonia with increasing pH-value. That’s why it’s important to have a table that shows how much highly toxic ammonia is being formed at which pH-value.
Measuring the pH value is equally vital! The two well-known breeders Kaneko and Toshiyaki from the Yamamatsu koi farm were astonished that their water showed pH-values around 7 and lower! At these low pH-values there is practically no toxic ammonia. But during a partial water change the pH-value rises and parts of the ammonium become toxic ammonia.
We explained these connections to the breeders and they then understood why the koi were briefly shooting back and forth in the water after a water change. These were signs of ammonia poisoning! Some of the breeders now use the JBL Ammonium/Ammonia and pH test and can counteract this accordingly. It was really an honour to be able to teach these absolute specialists something useful...