Ammonia Testing

Ammonia can occur naturally from the decaying of organic matter, but it is also produced in large quantities by humans. It is also used in fertilizers, and in the production of plastics, pharmaceutical and petrochemicals.

Although at low concentrations, ammonia is generally harmless, at high concentrations ammonia will cause damage to vegetation and is an irritant to the eyes and nose. Ammonia is incredibly toxic to aquatic life, so ammonia monitoring is essential for aquaculture applications.

  • Drinking water – Ammonia can be present as a result of disinfection using monochloramine, or as a result of leaching from materials used in water pipework construction. Levels of ammonia greater than 0.2 mg/L N may lead to taste and odour problems when chlorine is used as a disinfectant.
  • Environmental (surface/groundwater) – When natural materials are broken down by bacteria, ammonia can be formed as a by-product. Increased levels are caused by iron rich soil, humic deposits, being near a forest, or fertilizer and faecal contamination of the water.
  • Wastewater – Bacterial action can cause ammonia levels to reach extremely high concentrations. Removal of ammonia from wastewater is carried out using the Nitrification Process to convert ammonia to nitrate before denitrification.
  • Aquaculture– Ammonia is a waste product of aquatic life which must be closely monitored due to its poisonous effects, especially at lower pH. In a well-established aquarium, ammonia will rapidly be converted to nitrite and eventually nitrate. Most aquariums aim to have zero ammonia present.
  • Soil, irrigation and hydroponics – Fertilizer addition is a major source of ammonia, but the natural nitrogen-fixing bacteria found in soil will draw nitrogen from air and convert to ammonia as part of the nitrogen cycle. Hydroponic nutrient solutions introduce nitrogen as an ammonia salt. Ammonia is also frequently present in soil as a result of urea dosing.

 

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NH

NH4+(Ammonium)

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