Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, with a pungent and distinctive smell. A molecule of ammonia is formed of a negatively charged nitrogen ion and three positively charged hydrogen ions, hence it is chemically represented as NH3. This chemical can either occur naturally or can be manufactured. Natural ammonia which is present in trace amounts in the atmosphere comes from the decomposition of organic matter. The synthetic method of ammonia production involves a series of chemical processes that combines nitrogen and hydrogen ions.
pH Value of Ammonia
The pH value, or the potentiometric hydrogen ion concentration, of a solution is basically the measure of how acidic or basic the solution is. The pH value of any solution is measured in a logarithmic scale, with 0.0 being the most acidic, 14.0 being the most basic or alkaline, and 7.0 being the neutral point. Hence, to know whether a solution is acidic, basic, or neutral, one has to know its pH value. When we measure the pH of a solution, we are basically counting the amount of hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxyl ions (OH-) present in it. An increased level of hydrogen ions means that the solution is acidic in nature, while more hydroxyl ions (OH-) indicate that the solution is more basic or alkaline in nature. However, if both the hydrogen (H+) and hydroxyl ion (OH-) levels are nearly the same, it means the solution is neutral. The pH of ammonia is about 11.5, which means it is basic in nature. This chemical has an ability to neutralize acids, and when dissolved in water it forms a positively charged ammonium (NH4+) ion and a negatively charged hydroxide (OH-) ion.
Aquariums and ponds are the principal sources of ammonia, as it is a waste released by aquatic plants and animals. In fact, it is excreted directly from the gills of fish into pond water. Hence, when ammonia is released into the pond water, it either turns into an unionized NH3, which is highly toxic to fish and other aquatic animals and plants due to its high pH value, or it gets ionized, having chemical symbol NH4+ and a low pH level. Therefore, this chemical can either be caustic or hazardous, as most of its benefits and side effects depend on its pH value.
However, this chemical serves as a building block for the synthesis of many pharmaceuticals. Ammonia, when mixed with water, can be used in many household cleaning products. Also, it is the most commonly used ingredient in many fertilizers, as it revitalizes the soil by providing nitrogen to it. Apart from this, it also acts as a precursor, either directly or indirectly, to many nitrogen containing compounds. But, high concentrations of ammonia can be extremely dangerous when inhaled, ingested, or touched. Inhalation or ingestion is usually avoidable due to its strong smell and bitter taste.
To sum up, we can say that ammonia becomes increasingly more toxic in water. Therefore, if your pond water is basic in nature, it is better to keep your ammonia level at zero in order to avoid any adverse effects on the animals and plants.