How to Test Ammonia in Water Without a Test Kit?

Most, if not all, water treatment facilities use amonia to keep our water pure. However, ingesting too much of this chemical can lead to adverse effects. Furthermore, if you are taking care of various aquatic lifeforms, this chemical can also cause damaging effects to them if not tested properly.

The best way to test our water supply is to have the proper equipment, but there are also ways to determine if there is ammonia in the aquarium. If you want to know how to test ammonia in water without a test kit, read on.

Ways to Test Ammonia in Water Without a Test Kit


As discussed earlier, it’s difficult to check ammonia levels in your fish tank without a kit. And, if you don’t have a test kit and want to do it yourself, you need formal training.

However, by taking a water sample to your local shop, they can do an ammonia test for your aquarium and recommend various solutions. This method serves as a workaround to doing the testing yourself.

Here are the things you need to bring when you go to your local pet shops:

  • Water sample – Bring a cup of your tank water for the shops to test your water for ammonia.
  • Detailed observation of your fish’s behavior – While describing how your fish behave will do, it’s much better to have a list of how they move around the fish tank so you can compare notes with the experts regarding the subject.
  • Photo of your fish tank – Sometimes, the way the water looks can already hold all the answers, so having a photo of your fish tank will do wonders if you want to get to the bottom of this problem.

Signs of Ammonia in Your Fish Tank

As you cannot measure ammonia in water without a test kit, take note of these signs to determine high ammonia levels before consulting the experts:

1. Check if the water is cloudy


While cloudy water in fish tanks might mean many things, this could also be a telltale sign of a high ammonia concentration.

The best way to address this problem is to change the water within your fish tanks or get a reverse osmosis filter to help clean the tanks.

2. See if the water is already green


Green water color in fish tanks doesn’t necessarily denote high ammonia concentration since algae, responsible for this color, also benefits aquatic lifeforms.

However, an overabundance of these plants can harm your pet fish; that’s why if the water in the fish tank is already overwhelmingly green in color, it’s time to suspect high ammonia concentration.

3. Look for inconsistencies in fish behavior


How our pet fish behave can tell us whether their environment is still conducive to living. Erratic behavior and unusual swimming patterns indicate that the water might already have a high ammonia concentration. Some of the signs of ammonia stress are as follows:

  • Gasping for air with part of their mouth above the water surface
  • Looking tired and lethargic
  • Not eating much
  • Showing signs of inflammation on its eyes, fins, or gills

If you see these signs on your pet fish, it’s time to go to your local shop to test your water.

Tips to Reduce Ammonia From Fish Tanks

As with anything in life, prevention is better than cure, so when dealing with high ammonia concentration in your fish tanks, it’s always better to know what to do after determining that that is the case.

Here are some tips on how to reduce ammonia in water at home:

1. Perform partial water change


Partial water change is replacing a portion of your fish tank’s water. This process aims to introduce a cleaner water supply, eliminating the problems your tanks previously had.

Since the overabundance of ammonia within your water is the problem, reducing and replacing the contaminated water is a good option.

You can change 30% of your tank water if the water condition is still relatively good or up to 50% if it’s too cloudy.

2. Use a bigger tank


Using a bigger fish tank might not sound like a good idea initially, but it has advantages. Smaller tanks tend to constrict the fish within. When they produce waste, the smaller tank can easily get contaminated, prompting it to produce more ammonia.

Having a bigger tank means contamination will take longer, giving owners more time to replace the water or test the ammonia level of the aquarium.

3. Decorate the tank with live plants


Live plants are suitable for aesthetic purposes and balancing the ammonia levels within your fish tanks. Plants absorb the usual sources of ammonia, like food and waste from the fish, so adding these elements will balance the environment within the tanks.

4. Upgrade the filtration system


It’s important that you use and maintain the filter for your fish tank. Check for clogs to clean the filter, and add one more if you intend to grow more fish.

Also, make sure to vacuum the tank substrate, and clean the impurities, such as food leftover, to ensure that the condition of tank water is maintained well.


Can tap water have ammonia in it?

To keep our tap water pure and free from contaminants, various chemicals are used to eliminate them. Chloramine, a mixture of chlorine and ammonia, is one of the disinfectants used to keep our water supply clean, so ammonia is expected in our tap water supply.

What are the Signs of Ammonia in Water?

One of the reasons why human input is needed when doing an ammonia test for an aquarium is because we can easily detect these signs. Things like strong taste and smell, and if it irritates the skin and eyes, are telltale signs of high ammonia concentration in water.

Can I Make a DIY Ammonia Test Kit at Home?

The quickest answer to this question would be no. Making a DIY ammonia test kit is virtually impossible without proper chemistry training. The most surefire way to get your water tested for ammonia is to bring a sample to your local shop.

These shops have the proper equipment, like ammonia test strips for fish tanks and various chemicals that can help determine the ammonia levels in your water supply.


While ammonia is necessary to keep our water supply clean, we must also be wary of its presence. Now you know the alternatives on how to test ammonia in water without a test kit, make sure you monitor the water condition and your fish’s behavior closely.

If you want to check water for ammonia concentration, your best bet is to go to your local pet stores and have it tested. While having a way to test ammonia levels without a test would be the ideal scenario, as it stands, we still don’t have the technology to do so.

In case there are inconsistencies in your pet’s behavior or the water, do yourselves a favor and have your water tested for ammonia levels immediately.