What would be considered an average level of ammonia in a pool?

anthonypool89

Well-known member
Aug 26, 2016
442
Berks County, PA
Referring, of course, to chlorinated pools. I just checked mine and I'd say the color falls between 0.5 and 1 ppm. How does that compare to, say, when there is a high level of chloramines? Next question, of course, would be: what would be an average level of ammonia in a non-chlorinated (or biguanide) pool? Should there be any? Or, in cases where CDX is used, would that typically generate an ammonia residual?
 

JoyfulNoise

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
May 23, 2015
17,060
Tucson, AZ
There is no ammonia in a chlorinated pool. Chlorine and ammonia will react with one another to form chloramine which, with excess chlorine as the oxidizer, would eventually be oxidized to nitrates, nitrogen gas and chloride (salt).

In a properly chlorinated outdoor swimming pool, chloramine levels should always be less than 0.5ppm and, in most TFP pools, CC’s are almost always zero.

In a biguanide pool with no CDX, the biguanide will breakdown slowly over time with the presence of the oxidizer (peroxide) to eventually form carbon dioxide, nitrates and nitrogen gas. There could be intermediate phases of ammonia, but peroxide acts like chlorine in that sense and will oxidize the ammonia to nitrogen and nitrates. It’s very hard to quantify what that would be on average but it should be very low as any appreciable concentration of ammonia would give water a foul smell.

CDX contains the chemical DBNPA (2,2-dibromo-3-nitrilopropionamide) which rapidly hydrolyzes to form ammonia, bromide and haloacetic acid compounds. They are eventually oxidized by peroxide into nitrate/nitrogen, bromides, bromates and carbon dioxide.

Ammonia test kits (the kind you buy at the pet store) are not super accurate at the low end, so your actual ammonia levels may not be all that high. If you have a measurable amount of oxidizer level in the water, then it’s most likely a false reading. Oxidizers like peroxide will mess up the aquarium ammonia test.
 

anthonypool89

Well-known member
Aug 26, 2016
442
Berks County, PA
JN....thanks so much for all that. Most interesting. So, theoretically, whatever ammonia is present in the pool should become oxidized. I hate to add yet more oxidizer - especially since the current level is way higher than I've ever kept it, and also adding more a few days ago only seemed to result in a stronger odor. The key word appears to be "eventually" with regards to the process of oxidization. If I'm likely to be stuck with this over a longer period of time, I do think I'd rather partially drain. Anytime I read the MSDS warnings on all of this stuff it's a bit scary, and there is no doubt I've been inhaling at least small amounts of whatever is in there. I don't like the warnings on the algaecide since it specifically references the possibility of long-term long issues. I assume they derive most of these toxicity notices based on much stronger , more direct exposure than what I'm getting from the water (?) Hopefully at any rate. I can recall similar nose / throat irritation after being in indoor pools that were likely full of chloramines. I'd love to know just exactly what I am smelling - from one particular thing that was added during the chemical barrage on the 15th, or simply something that came about as a result of adding all that stuff so close together.

It'll be time to clean the filter tomorrow or the next day, so then I'll once again drain the water all the way down to the skimmer and replenish. My theory has been to (without exposing large amounts of plaster) partially keep diluting.

I wondered about the effectiveness of one of these API ammonia kits, but figured at least it may give some indication. I was just curious. The level I'm seeing - @.75 ppm - to me, almost seemed like it COULD be high given that 1 ppm is actually a low-end acceptable chlorine level, but you probably can't put the two on the same scale. See what tomorrow brings....
 
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jseyfert3

Bronze Supporter
Oct 20, 2017
830
South-Central WI
given that 1 ppm is actually a low-end acceptable chlorine level
Not on TFP it's not. For chlorine pools, TFP recommends a minimum of 30 ppm CYA, even on indoor pools or covered spas, and 30 ppm CYA requires a bare minimum 2 ppm FC level, with 4-6 ppm being the target level. Again, TFP recommended levels.

The "1 to 3" ppm FC is the pool industry level, which isn't backed up by science and often is either too harsh or not effective enough, depending on the user's CYA level, since the pool industry doesn't understand they are related, apparently.

After experience, I can tell you that TFP has this down and the pool industry does not, cause in my pool at 6 ppm FC I had a guest ask if there was chlorine in the pool, because it was completely unsmellable. I've never been in a public pool that did not smell of "chlorine", even though almost certainly it was 2 ppm or less FC.

Anyway, just an aside, back to the main topic at hand...
 

mgtfp

Bronze Supporter
Mar 5, 2020
276
Melbourne, Australia
Hey Anthony,

I remember that you were contemplating to make the conversion from Baqua to Chlorine. Where are you now? Is this topic here part of your thinking process whether you want to make the change?
 

anthonypool89

Well-known member
Aug 26, 2016
442
Berks County, PA
Matt,

OK...here goes: I did Baquacil's algae treatment protocol (for persistent algae OR slime-producing organisms). I really didn't think I have any algae issue although it was suggested here that I might but rather I was targeting the white water mold. So, anyway, it involved two substantial doses - a day apart. Combined, it came out to 10 times the typical weekly maintenance dose. Then, the following day, I decided to use the Baquacil Line Cleaner. (I must interrupt here for a moment in saying that I did not run the filter nonstop as suggested for 24-48 hours but rather just kept it at the usual 10 hours and off. At the time I was having such trouble with rapid filter pressure increase that I really didn't want to take a chance of it going all night). So now..back to the Line Cleaner...followed the instructions - for my pool it took about 2.5 pounds. Then, since it calls for a floc treatment and ALSO running the filter an extended period - I disregarded that as well being that, for one, my water was already perfectly clear and, for another, I have no vacuum to waste capability. I talked to several people - including here - who strongly advised against using floc anyway. So, a few hours after adding the Line Clean, I added the suggested amount of CDX - which came to 4x the usual weekly dose. After a few more hours, added the recommended amount of oxidizer - 2 gallons. That's it. Brushed frequently as recommended for both the algae and line clean procedures. Started to notice a strong smell that evening - SHOULD have kept the filter running for sure but didn't since the filter pressure was already at 17 although seemed fairly stable. Over the next few days the pressure started to drop (something it has NOT done all summer so far - a problem detailed in another thread that is now closed), then hovered between 15 and 19 - continuing to bounce up and down. Right now I'm at 20, hence the suspicion that a filter cleaning is coming up very soon.

I think that about brings you up to speed. I've discontinued using the Aqua Finesse tablets a few weeks ago on the advice of Jerry (the Ahhsome guy) nor have added any Ahhsome (was due for that over the weekend). At this point, I don't want to add ANYTHING and see if this soup will stop boiling !
 

anthonypool89

Well-known member
Aug 26, 2016
442
Berks County, PA
Hey Anthony,

I remember that you were contemplating to make the conversion from Baqua to Chlorine. Where are you now? Is this topic here part of your thinking process whether you want to make the change?
You know it! This recent regimen I just described in reply to Matt is, I consider, a last-ditch effort to continue on baqua. I've never tried this Line Clean, nor the heavy duty Baquacil algae treatment. My fault completely for going at it like a crazy man and adding too much stuff at once. I suspect nothing is oxidizing in there like it should and, for whatever reason, throwing off fumes and smell like I've NEVER had - even back when my chlorine balance might have been off (when still using chlorine, of course)
 

anthonypool89

Well-known member
Aug 26, 2016
442
Berks County, PA
Not on TFP it's not. For chlorine pools, TFP recommends a minimum of 30 ppm CYA, even on indoor pools or covered spas, and 30 ppm CYA requires a bare minimum 2 ppm FC level, with 4-6 ppm being the target level. Again, TFP recommended levels.

The "1 to 3" ppm FC is the pool industry level, which isn't backed up by science and often is either too harsh or not effective enough, depending on the user's CYA level, since the pool industry doesn't understand they are related, apparently.

After experience, I can tell you that TFP has this down and the pool industry does not, cause in my pool at 6 ppm FC I had a guest ask if there was chlorine in the pool, because it was completely unsmellable. I've never been in a public pool that did not smell of "chlorine", even though almost certainly it was 2 ppm or less FC.

Anyway, just an aside, back to the main topic at hand...
J..thanks!! I stand corrected! I know I have a lot to learn about chlorine if that's the route I am going - which seems likely. I really like the idea of SWG (discussed in another of my threads that I believe is now closed) but of course need to get going with chlorine first.