Established Tank Problem, Asking For Any Advice

MiggyTheMet

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Okay, I'm not new to having a fish tank, but I'm not the most knowledgeable person either. In the past I've had 20 gal, 29 gal, 55 gal, all freshwater and decided to take a break from fish for about 8 years. I have a 29 gallon currently that I've had for about a year and a half now. I HAD a green terror, and an iridescent shark. My GT started flourishing around 8-9 months and really growing and colors starting to really shine. I noticed about 3 weeks ago that his stomach was getting really big, and I tried to google things and all I could find was that he was simply eating too much, which I know wasn't the issue because I only fed once a day in the morning before work, and only a pinch of pellets which whatever my GT didn't touch or came or hit the bottom the silver surfer (iridescent) would eat. His stomach then ruptured while I was at work. I buried the GT then did a 70-30 water exchange following and let the tank run for about a week with just the surfer in it. I experienced no issues, while going to look for new fish I described to the worker I was talking to the size of my iridescent and that I would be willing to give him to them for some money off of whichever fish I decided to put in my tank. I traded in my iridescent for some money off of 2 medium sized peacock cichlids (35 dollars a pop NON guaranteed) which died within 2 days after. I brought a water sample in and they said the only thing they can find wrong is that my nitrate is high. I asked about every question in the book about how to lower my nitrate and how it got so high in the first place, and didn't come up with very much (if anything) So I'm reaching out, looking for help! I love fish but I will not buy another fish and put it in my tank to die, my favorite thing about Fish is watching them grow, and that's very hard to do with them only being able to survive 2 days in my current tank situation. I was told to do another water exchange, which I then explained I would but wasn't sure what it was going to help seeing as I've been using the same water source this entire time, and this is the first time I've had an issue. I need help, is what I'm trying to say I guess, if anybody has any other explanations besides nitrate I'm very open minded. Really hoping to getting my tank back to normal as soon as I can so I can. 
 
 
Thanks in advance!
 

eaglesaquarium

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You never discussed how high the nitrate was, but the nitrate issue comes down to this:
 
If your nitrates are high, then you weren't changing the water frequently enough or of a sufficient percentage or both.  That's the only way the nitrate could get high.  You should be doing a minimum of 25% water changes weekly.  That's the minimum.  Personally, I do about a third of my tank every week, a 50% roughly every other month and from time to time do a 75% water change, or two 50%'s in quick succession.
 
The single easiest thing that a fishkeeper can do to protect his/her fish from problems is to be very good about changing the water.  Big water changes are far more beneficial than they are harmful if you do it right (temp matching the water, dechlorinating, etc.).  
 
 
Could there be something else going on?  Certainly, but we don't have nearly enough information to be able to determine that.  
 

cowgirluntamed

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Investing I your own test kit(api liquid freshwater master test kit) is always a good idea. Then you can test your own water in the tank AND more importantly at the moment in tap. The kit tests for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and ph. When testing the tap you have to outgas it. Either let it sit for 24 hours or shake it briskly for a few minutes before testing. But in this way you will know exactly what your water quality is and can go from there.
 

Ch4rlie

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As Eagle already mentions, there is actually not a lot of information to go on with.
 
Perhaps it would be good if you can provide all the usual water stats, including gH, kH unlikely will be an issue but better to have as much information as is possible.
 
High nitrates can be an issue but remember that the nitrate test is the least reliable of all the usual tests from API test kit. Not saying nitrate is not possible but would have thought your other fish may have shown issues with high nitrates if that's the cause of demise of your GT and do not really think 2 days of exposure to high nitrates would have resulted in the deaths of the new Peacocks. That's my opinion from my own experiences as I did get high nitrates in the past, other folks may beg to differ.
 
I completely agree that water changes is the number one best method of reducing nitrates with at least 25% water changes weekly, preferably nearer to 50% imho. BUT of course this depends on how much nitrate you get directly from your water source, if you're getting 40ppm nitrate at end of week in the tank and doing a water change with 30ppm nitrate coming from your tap is making little difference really. 
 
The addition of plants, especially fast growing plants, is a big help in reducing nitrate levels but of course this can be hard if you keep certain species of fish :/
 
The biggest clue I would think is how your GT died, could be a number of things but again, lack of information on symptoms etc is making this hard to even guess in general direction of possible causes.
 

eaglesaquarium

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Ch4rlie said:
High nitrates can be an issue but remember that the nitrate test is the least reliable of all the usual tests from API test kit. Not saying nitrate is not possible but would have thought your other fish may have shown issues with high nitrates if that's the cause of demise of your GT and do not really think 2 days of exposure to high nitrates would have resulted in the deaths of the new Peacocks. That's my opinion from my own experiences as I did get high nitrates in the past, other folks may beg to differ.
 
The nitrates being high isn't necessarily as big a problem in and of itself as it is as a sign of a bigger problem.  "Old Tank Syndrome" is generally a situation where the fish that are living in that water slowly are acclimated to the new water parameters and adapt to it, but new fish will have to deal with such different water from their previous home that they can't cope with it and die.  Generally, the nitrate test is the one that points to OTS.  Total dissolved solids would be another clue, but may not show up on the kH or even the gH test.
 
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MiggyTheMet

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As I stated, I'm not the most knowledgable so you'll have to bear with me if you want to help me. According to my local fish store my GT's demise was going to happen no matter what my water was. According to them it happens to some fish and there's no way of knowing which ones, and no way to stop it. As far as my levels I guess I'll have to get one of my own test kits because they didn't tell me any of the levels, they just tested the water and said my nitrates were high and it was pretty red and he pointed to the scale so I could see.


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Byron

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MiggyTheMet said:
As I stated, I'm not the most knowledgable so you'll have to bear with me if you want to help me. According to my local fish store my GT's demise was going to happen no matter what my water was. According to them it happens to some fish and there's no way of knowing which ones, and no way to stop it. As far as my levels I guess I'll have to get one of my own test kits because they didn't tell me any of the levels, they just tested the water and said my nitrates were high and it was pretty red and he pointed to the scale so I could see.


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I would place little trust in advice from a store that tells you that your GT would die regardless of water issues.  As you have asked for detail, I will take the time to explain a couple things which should help you in future.
 
Water is the fish's natural environment, but many fail to realize the significant impact this has on fish.  It is much greater than the relationship of terrestrial animals to air.  Water is continually passing into the body of freshwater fish, entering the bloodstream and the internal organs.  Anything and everything in the water get inside fish, either via osmosis through the cells, or via the gills in respiration.  So the water itself is crucial to the fish's health.
 
Each species of fish has evolved to function in a very specific environment.  The water parameters and chemistry are of prime importance.  As soon as these shift, or become fluctuating, the fish has difficulty maintaining its physiological equilibrium, what is termed the homeostasis.  This causes stress, which in turn leads to various issues that affect the fish's health and metabolism.  The fish becomes weaker by degrees.  At some point, it may no longer have an adequately functioning immune system, and generally life doesn't last too much longer.
 
I'm not saying this was the direct cause of the the GT's death.  But if for example nitrates were high for some time, the fish's health would have been very seriously compromised.  Cichlids are now known to have problems with nitrates that remain above 20 ppm.  The "red" on the card from the store's water test was likely way above 20 ppm.  The high nitrates were thus a real factor in the fish's weakening health and death.  Stress is the cause of 95% of all fish deaths.  In the absence of severe stress, fish should be able to deal with most issues; it is only when the immune system is compromised--and there are likely other internal issues--as a result of stress that disease sets in, whatever it may be.
 
Nitrates must be kept below 20 ppm, and more frequent and larger water changes, not overfeeding, and not overcrowding the aquarium should allow you to manage nitrates at a reasonable level; live plants also help, but they cannot control nitrate that is "out of control" to begin with.  If nitrates are present in your source water, that is another problem that has its own needs to correct.  Nitrates are toxic to fish, just as ammonia and nitrite are, only at differing levels and exposure times.
 
The reason the two new fish died so quickly is not likely nitrates, though again this would not help if they are high.
 
Second issue is to always get the numbers from tests performed by the store.  This allows others to see issues and offer help.
 
Byron.
 
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MiggyTheMet

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Thanks, in your opinion what killed the 2 peacock cichlids? If it wasn't nitrates? And yeah I would like to use a diff fish store but this is the only local store that gets fish that are my interest. Petco and pet smart are the only other alternatives and they don't really carry anything but oscars as far as cichlids and choices.


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Byron

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MiggyTheMet said:
Thanks, in your opinion what killed the 2 peacock cichlids? If it wasn't nitrates? And yeah I would like to use a diff fish store but this is the only local store that gets fish that are my interest. Petco and pet smart are the only other alternatives and they don't really carry anything but oscars as far as cichlids and choices.


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There is no way any of us could diagnose the issue with the two new peacocks.  I would not expect quick death from high nitrates, but then we don't know just how high.  Scientific studies have proven that certain fish could die within an hour from high nitrate, but the nitrate in those tests was very high indeed.  All that really proves is that nitrate is toxic to fish (which some hobbyists still refuse to accept).  It was likely something else, with the high nitrate making whatever that was even more problematic for the fish.
 
How you acclimatize fish is important.  If your water was significantly different in temperature, GH, KH, pH, ammonia/nitrite or nitrate from the water in the fish bag, this would impact the fish.  We can't say for certain that ammonia or nitrite may not have been up from zero.  I always quarantine new acquisitions for several weeks, and I know the parameters are not far apart, but I have had fish die within a day or two.  There is the possibility that the fish were carrying some disease, or had an internal issue.
 
I will not even go into chain fish stores for fish.  I have known too many cases of widespread disease, both my own experience and others.
 
The API Master Test Kit in liquid tests, which includes pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, is a good investment.  Monitoring nitrate and pH on a somewhat regular basis is sound practice, and ammonia and nitrite are tests to carry out at the first sign of trouble.
 
Byron.
 
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MiggyTheMet

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Thanks man, really appreciate it. Just wanna get my tank back up to where I can get some new fish in there.


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AbbeysDad

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Lets talk about nitrates. Lets say for discussion that your tank generates 20ppm of nitrates a week and you do a 50% water change weekly. So after your water change, your nitrates are at 10, but by the end of the week they're at 30ppm. You do your 50% water change and they're down to 15ppm. By the next week they're at 35ppm....and so they keep climbing even though you're doing a 50% weekly water change! (Imagine if you did even less!).
So there's several things to keep nitrates low with a target of 20ppm, but no more than 40ppm. (Many of these have been mentioned)
-> Ensure that your source water is nitrate free. (It's not uncommon, especially in agricultural areas to have high nitrates in well water).
-> Keep a low bio-load.
-> Don't overfeed.
-> Feed high quality fish food. Lower quality foods with fishmeal and copious amounts of starch (wheat, oat. rice flours and/or gluten as binder) as the main ingredients. Fish can't process grains and it passes through as excess waste. Fish actually poop less when fed higher quality foods (believe it or not!), Check the ingredient list.
-> More frequent and/or larger partial water changes.
-> Keep filters clean (detritus may be out of sight, but it decomposes into nitrogenous compounds in the filter.
-> Keep gravel clean (much like the filter, waste decomposes down under and can create a nitrate factory. (switching to a fine gravel or even better, sand can make a huge difference).
-> Living plants will process ammonia and/or nitrates to keep low.
-> 'Chemical' filtration to trap and remove nitrates from the water column. API Nitra-Zorb, Bio-ChemZorb, Fluval' Clearmax or Lab Series Nitrate Remover are products that come to mind. (I like Nitra-Zorb because you can recharge it several times in salt water [either aquarium salt or non-iodized table salt]).
 
Good luck and keep posting!
 

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