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Cycling, lots of pH crashes, will that happen too when I get fish?

Byron

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@Byron: I called them and they sent me to a website I hadn't been able to find when I looked before. We've had trouble here in Salem with cyanotoxins from algae in the water and they adjusted their filtering because of it. They add powdered activated carbon and keep it suspended in the water, and the cyanotoxins attach to it, and then it goes through a 'roughing filter' of a layer of sand. Then they add some acetic acid (vinegar) and it goes through slow sand filters. Then they add chlorine, fluoride, and (you expected it, I didn't) soda ash. They are working on an ozone cyanotoxin removal system that will be done in spring 2021. I was promised I'd get a call back tomorrow and was planning to ask what the pH is of the water before they add the soda ash. Would there be anything else I should ask?
I cannot comment on some of those additives, but the soda ash is what I expected as it is common with low pH water. It is temporary, which is why I can do massive water changes and the pH only rises a decimal point or two. So again on the pH, leave it alone, it will lower and stay there at whatever level it stabilizes at with reference to the organics. If they can tell you the natural reservoir pH before they filter/additives, fine, just for the record, but the biology of the aquarium will have more effect on pH in the end.
 
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amaranth13

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@Byron: I am not messing with the pH, I only added Prime and Flourish to the water.

Overnight I lost another ember tetra so now I have 2 left. I drip-acclimated all six of them yesterday for 2 hours, taking out some water every half hour or so until the water was very close to that in the tank. All four ember tetra died within 12 hours of adding them to the tank, so the cause is very highly probably shock, is what I read. The only thing I did not do when drip acclimating them was not heat the water they were in. I read several sources on it and they didn't mention it. The store pH was a phosphate buffered 7.0, I asked them. Mine was 6.8 after my 90 percent water change, but it went down further overnight, but not enough to cause pH shock I don't think. I had 0 ammonia 0 nitrites and 0 nitrates yesterday evening. This morning after losing 4 I had between 0 and 0.25 ppm ammonia, my estimation is 0.10 ppm, no nitrites and between 0 and 5 ppm nitrates, I estimate in the middle. So the ammonia would show that they died. I can't find them at all though, no bodies anywhere. I took out decorations to look for their bodies but nothing. But I can't really search in the live plants. But they were so tiny...

I did a 50 percent water change to get rid of as much of the ammonia as I felt I could do safely and dosed extra with prime. That should bind the ammonia for long enough to be processed. If its' not processed by tonight I'll do another 50 percent water change, but it would surprise me very much after having cycled. I am going to the fish store today and talk to them, they deal with our local water (they are 5 minutes away) and their people all have tanks at home. It's a fish and corals store, not a generic pet store. Maybe they will have an idea what happened. If one died of six I would have said stress but 4 out of 6 clearly means I did something wrong acclimating them.

Does anyone have any ideas what I could have done wrong?
 

Byron

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@Byron: I am not messing with the pH, I only added Prime and Flourish to the water.
Yes, I know. I just want to be clear that what is happening is perfectly normal and expected, so just let it happen, do the water changes without worry, etc.

Now, to the fish dying issue. First, do not overdose Prime, it does affect fish if regardless of what Seachem says. Never use more of any additive than the recommended dose to do the job. While it may not kill the fish (not likely it would go this far unless extreme), it most certainly does stress them, and that only weakens them. Every substance added to the aquarium water will naturally get inside fish, so the fewer additives and the less of those that are necessary, the better for the fish, always.

Second, ammonia is not a problem here, ignore it. So long as the pH remains below 7, the majority of "ammonia" is ammonium which is basically harmless. Nitrosomonas sp. bacteria and live plants will readily take up ammonium/ammonia. Our basic test kits like the API read both as "ammonia" but in acidic water it is ammonium. If there are live plants in this tank they will use some or all of any ammonia/ammonium occurring, with the faster growing plants taking it up quite rapidly, faster actually than the bacteria can do it. [This is why I suggested back a ways that you get some floating plants, forget "cycling" and then start adding fish.] Are there plants in this tank?

Third, pH differences was not likely the issue here with the Embers. Nor I suspect was the acclimation. I won't speculate as it would be guessing. I would look into any substances you may have previously added and that might still be present. Explain things to the store and they may replace the Embers. BTW, I would suggest more of them, 8-9 minimum; this helps them settle in too, but small species are always less stressed the more there are. Another BTW...The Wet Spot fish store in Portland is said to be exemplary. I've not been down there, but it has a good reputation and they can get some very rare fish.
 

seangee

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Sorry to hear about your losses.

I suggest you try to get a refund from the fish store. Phone first as they may require you to bring in a water sample. This is worth doing as they may shed some light on the cause even if they refuse the refund. Take water from the tank in a clean container, not the same container as the dead fish.

Drip acclimation can be a controvesial subject. Pesonally I don't do it and try to get the fish into clean fresh water as soon as humanly possible. I added 25 neon green rasbora (microdeavario kubotai) to my tank on Saturday. These have a similar requirement to your ember tetra. The store had them in hard water with a pH of 7.2 and they went into my tank which is at 6.5 (and soft water dGH=0, dKH <2). Here is exactly what I did.
  1. 90% water change on Friday night. I had to do this as I moved the tank onto a new stand.
  2. Fetched fish on Saturday morning. Traffic was heavy so I took the motorcycle which means they probably got shaken around more than yours but it meant I could get them home at least half an hour sooner. (We are allowed to filter or lane split in the UK ;))
  3. Floated the bag in the tank for 15 minutes (lights were off) to allow the tempertaure to equalise
  4. Emptied the bag into a net over a bucket (I don't want the shop's water in my tank)
  5. Emptied the net into the tank
I left the lights off until the timer came on around 4 hours later. FWIW I doubt that my filter is cycled as its only a month old (but I do have plenty of plants). Also FWIW your fish did not die of ammonia poisoning. In an acidic tank the ammonia becomes ammonium which is not harmful to fish and it is too soon for nitrite to have built up to dangerous levels.

I don't actually think there is a right or wrong answer about acclimation. I don't and have never had a problem. Others do and don't have problems. Barring any toxins one thing that I did differently was to ask how long the store had had the fish. They had had these for several months, which meant that they had got over the stress of being shipped from where they were caught to the store. This is far more stressful than moving them from the store to your home and if the store has had them for less than a month some casualties are expected. When I buy fish that I know are new I try to reserve them and tell the store I can't come in to collect them for 3 weeks. That way any that die will do so in their tanks and I won't have to pay for them.
 
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amaranth13

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@Byron: yes I have plants in the tank, though my floating ones weren't doing so well. I had Salvinia Cucullata half of which is still alive, and I had duck weed but every time I was trying to do things in the tank it would all stick to my arms and I had less and less left. With the searches through the plants I had to have my arms in the tank a whole lot. I think I will get some frogbit today, harder to lose iit all. Is Anacharis a stem plant only or can it live floating? Because I have a few loose pieces that look very good and are floating.

So I went to the fish store, they tested all my water, indeed some ammonia, nothing else bad. The pH was not enough of a difference to have killed them. My acclimation was all right according to her. She told me to go check my filters even if I thought it was impossible. I had an Aqueon 10 g shrimp filter, which has all water entries and exits covered, and a Penn Plax Cascades 300 in the tank. I took everything apart after all. What happened was that the shrimp filter had four holes in it for four suction cups. I had suction cups in the top two holes which kept it up all right but the bottom ones kept coming off so I removed them. The holes were 3 mm! And yet more than one ember tetra had managed to swim in there and couldn't get out. I found one half decomposed body in the sand and two in what I could reach of the bottom half of the filter with tweezers. Most of the underside of the filter isn't reachable at all, so there could be more in there.

So at least it wasn't that I hadn't acclimated them correctly. And I was so confused that there were no bodies and the lady at the fish store said 'there -have- to be bodies with four of them gone'. The other option was my cat but I have a hood on the aquarium. So now I pressed filter foam into the holes as far as I could get it in. The rest of the filter was well covered, I got a shrimp filter exactly because these fish were going to be so very small. The Penn Plax Cascades filter was not a problem at all, thankfully nothing had swum in there. I am sad that such a small thing cost the lives of 4 fishies, so young :( But now at least I made sure it can't happen again.
 

Byron

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@Byron: yes I have plants in the tank, though my floating ones weren't doing so well. I had Salvinia Cucullata half of which is still alive, and I had duck weed but every time I was trying to do things in the tank it would all stick to my arms and I had less and less left. With the searches through the plants I had to have my arms in the tank a whole lot. I think I will get some frogbit today, harder to lose iit all. Is Anacharis a stem plant only or can it live floating? Because I have a few loose pieces that look very good and are floating.
Anacharis is a stem plant but it can be left floating. Once the floating plants show signs of growing (increasing), you should be fine.

The filter explains the Ember losses. BTW, whenever you have water tested by a fish store, always get the number and write it down (and their unit of measure where that is relevant).
 
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amaranth13

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@Byron: Thank you. The free floating Anacharis looks a lot greener and healthier than the pieces I planted! When I went to the aquarium store today they didn't have a lot of Frogbit but I got some mini water lettuce, not as small as duckweed but still small. It won't stick to my arms and get lost though! I was worried for a moment he was trying to sell me one of the big ones! I will remember to get the numbers when I get my water tested by the store, my aquarium store uses the API test kit too, just like I do. And like me they also have a pH meter stick because it's so hard to read the test!

There was some more ammonia, I could not get all the bodies out of the filter :( The Aqueon has the little motor where the holes were so only the front is partly reachable, not the back. I did another 50 percent water change, did not dose extra with prime (apart from the normal amount that needs to go in the water). i got some new ember tetras and are acclimating them now, so my left two won't be as lonely. I'll probably need to do regular daily or twice daily water changes for a few days to get rid of the ammonia. Poor fishies :( At least it was not me doing something wrong except not realizing they can swim into 3 mm holes!
 

Byron

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All embers present and accounted for this morning, and no ammonia left. Yay,
Good. On the ammonia, remember it is harmless ammonium if the pH remains below 7.

On the plants, there is only one species of Water Lettuce, Pistia stratiotes. But not to worry, it can grow to various sizes depending upon conditions, and it is easy enough to control. It will produce adventitious plants (daughter plants) quite rapidly once it is settled, and if the parent plants get too large, remove them.

Most floating plants are fast reproducers because they are fast growers, that is one of their main advantages. Fast growing means using more nutrients (including ammonia/ammonium) and this not only improves water quality it discourages problem algae.
 
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amaranth13

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@Byron: Thank you. The pH is slowly drifting down to 6.7 but as you explained, I'm not worried about that, and it's not going fast. So it's harmless ammonium at that level. Oh I didn't know there was no mini water lettuce but the plants look small enough, if the main ones get too big I'll remove them. I like the long very fine roots. The fish probably will like them too. I know every tank that's cycled for a few months is likely to get algae so something to discourage it is great!

My embers are so funny, I have a bubble wand on the side of the aquarium, and the embers are taking turns taking bubble rides to the top and then come down again to do it once more! They're spending about 50 percent of their time there, that's not harmful for them is it? My pump is not going at full speed there, I put a little tap in the line to adjust the pressure to a reasonable level before I got them.

Also my Betta tank is cycled! After the water change I'm going to bring some of the water lettuce and salvinia over to there as well, as well as an anubias I had planned for the tank. I'm not going to go to ta big box store to get a betta, my LFS uses much bigger cups and gives them water changes and small amounts of food, so I will go to them. I'll wait for the weekend and might wait longer to see if they can get me a blue one. I think halfmoons and doubletails are very beautiful but I worry about them being uncomfortable with all that finnage. I think I'll ask that question in the Betta threads.
 
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