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I've lost 6 fish in 8 days....

Discussion in 'Tropical Fish Emergencies' started by Bonnie, May 5, 2004.

  1. Bonnie

    Bonnie Member

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    You guys have helped me out before, and I appreciate it. I hope you can help me again.

    I have an old established 30 gallon tank set up. I clean it out once every 2 weeks to 1 month, which may be my problem, though I've never had this high a mortality rate before. My tank is well-planted with Amazon swords. I HAD one dwarf gourami, one pearl gourami, four zebra danios, six neons, and 2 otocinclus. I replaced the two gouramis, after the others died, which they did, a week apart. I had my water analyzed at a fish store, and the man said the pH was too high--7.6, which baffled me, as we have neutral water. So I did a 20% water change, and checked again, and used some sodium biphosphate to bring it down to neutral, although it went a little below, to 6.8.

    Oh, the temp is around 78 deg. F.

    I bought a couple more neons, two new otos, as I no longer saw the old ones, and assumed they had died (they didn't--I suddenly had four!), and a new pearl gourami. Not on the same day, a week apart. A couple of days later, my fish suddely started dying en masse. I lost the dwarf gourami, and two of my new neons, one danio, and two otos--in 8 days time. I was getting frantic. I checked for ammonia, which was zero.

    Then I bought a kit called a "Quick Dip 5". It has strips in it, on which are 5 little squares, that test for pH, alkalinity, total hardness, nitrite, and nitrate.

    My results from my first test were

    pH-6.8
    KH--around 60
    hardness--300 (Philadelphia USA has very hard water)
    Nitrite--nearly zero
    Nitrate--160

    The latter said that was the danger zone. I did a 25% water change, which brought it down to around 60. I didn't lose any more fish. The man at the fist store told me to get a certain type of filter called a Chemipure, that is supposed to have bacteria in it, that "eat" nitrates and nitrites, as well as raise the pH slightly (it did--it is now neurtal).

    Everthing went well for a few days, then I had two more neons die, overnight. And this was AFTER I put in the Chemipure filters. I tested the water, and everything was the same, except the Nitrates had gone up again--to around 140 or so. I lost my last neon later that day. I did another 25% water change, and the Nitrates is back down to around 60.

    So now I have exactly 3 long-finned zebra danios and a young pearl gourami. I don't know if I have any otocinclus left; they are hard to find, sometimes. The fish that are left are lively, and doing well. I try not to overfeed, but I wonder if I did that inadvertantly and that is what raised up the nitrates too much.

    But from what I have read, nitrates aren't nearly as bad for fish as nitrites. I have almost zero of the latter, but plenty of the nitrates--which aren't supposed to be so bad.

    So, can anyone give me any advice on how to keep my fish alive? This mass die off has only happened in the past few weeks. Things were fine before then. I think maybe I didn't clean the tank out often enough, just once a month, but I've done that elsewhere, with no ill effects, though maybe, with the super hard water here, that won't do.

    Any advice short of breaking down my tank, and starting from scratch? Thanks.
     
  2. Tempestuousfury

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    I stopped reading after a while...

    However, you added too many fish at one time. I wouldn't suggest tampering with the pH (though peat moss might be safer. I'm not sure if you said this, but do you have rocks that might be altering the pH?
     
  3. pendragon

    pendragon Member

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    Hi Bonnie. Sorry about all the trouble your having. :(

    I don't know exactly what's going on, but I'll give you my thoughts.

    Item numero uno: no more fish go in the tank to replace lost ones until the deaths stop and water parameters are under control.

    Nitrate is far less toxic to fish than nitrite, but nitrate in the concentrations you're talking about (160 ppm) is plenty enough to be very toxic. I would say it's solidly in the "danger zone."

    Item numero dos: If you don't have a good comprehensive water test kit, you should get one. If you're committed to keeping fish, think of it as a long-term investment. I'm not familiar with the test strips you mentioned. I prefer the bottle-dropper and test tube kits myself, but what you have may be perfectly fine.

    You really should keep your nitrates below 40 ppm if at all possible, and even lower if you are so inclined. I try to not let mine get beyond 20 to 25 ppm. The only way to do this is by dilution through water changes. It's best if (after you've gotten the nitrate level down) you can work out a schedule for smaller water changes that will keep the level down. I do about a 10% to 15% water change each week. For my tank, that's sufficient to keep the level where I want it. Smaller, frequent water changes are better for your fish and water chemistry than large ones once-a-month, but the once-a-month one is still far better than not changing water at all.

    Your nitrate level seems to me to be climbing faster than it should. Get it down in the safe range by doing 20% or so water changes spaced a few hours apart. Then test daily, doing water changes as appropriate to maintain a low nitrate level until you feel like you have a good handle on keeping it low. Then let's see how the fish you have now are doing in a couple or three weeks.

    I'm not familiar with the Chemipure product you mentioned, but it sounds like one of the 'bacteria in a can' type of products - the effectiveness of which is typically very circumspect. It may be having an effect, but it very well may not. Regardless, you need not and should not rely on it to get nitrate down. You control your nitrate level with your routine water changes. If it's rising too fast to control in this way, then there is an underlying problem somewhere that must be found and solved (i.e. treat the disease, not the symptom). It should not rise so fast that you cannot control it. I really don't think you'll find this is the case, though, if you just establish a routine.

    Neither do I think your hardness nor pH are really an issue here, and I would encourage you to resist doing anything further to control them. Your fish should adapt to those parameters without a lot of fuss. Otherwise you may end up doing more harm than good.

    Hope that helps.

    pendragon!
     
  4. Bonnie

    Bonnie Member

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    Thanks, guys. No, the rocks have been in there from day one. They are sold at the fish store.

    And I didn't mean to give the impression that I added so many fish at one time. The most I ever added at once was four--three neons and one otocinclus. I didn't have many fish at the time, and everything was fine-for awhile.

    But won't doing a 20% water change every few hours shock the fish too much? I could see every day, but every few hours? Or would a 10 % change every day be better?

    I still don't know what caused this sudden spike in nitrates. But I do thank you folks for your help, and believe me, no more fish will go into this tank until it is fixed! God bless you guys!

    Bonnie
     
  5. Bonnie

    Bonnie Member

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    I forgot. I do have test kits for pH and ammonia, but not for anything else. The strips were the best investment I had made, to check my water, though, since it showed the nitrate problem. Thanks.
     
  6. jams.alaskan

    jams.alaskan Forum Fan

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    Pendragon really does have very good advice. To get my nitrates back down to about 40 or below I would do changes that often and make darned sure that I matched the temp of the tank and added dechlorinzer to the water. Make sure that there are no dead fish in the tank as that can raise your levels faster than normal. I'd not worry about the ph as for most fish that is just fine. A large swing in ph - sometimes even a small one can be fatal.
    Best of luck and let us know how you are getting on. :)

    ALASKA
     
  7. Sky042

    Sky042 Member

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    This may sound like a stupid question but are you using a dechlorinator with your city water??

    and I'd follow what has already been said with not needing to monkey with the PH anymore unless it's drastic.
     
  8. waterwatereverywhere

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    I'd echo what advice the others have given you, Bonnie. Fish stores often seem to blame pH when it's very unlikely to be the problem - a stable pH is more important, and there's not much wrong with 7.6. Messing around with it can do more harm than good.

    It's very strange that your nitrates kept going up that much, unless it was some corpses in there polluting the tank. Sorry about your losses, and good luck in stablising the tank, sounds like you're doing all the right things.
     
  9. Bonnie

    Bonnie Member

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    Thanks. Yes, of course I am using dechlorinator, and it takes out other stuff, too, and has struff in it to coat the fish, forget what it is called. And I did lower the pH, but did it gradually, and no fish died--until a few days later. I once lived in St. Louis, Missouri, and the water pH there is normally 8.6! I had to use the sodium biphosphate to bring down the pH gradually, every time I cleaned out the tank. I never once lost any fish on that account. So I am familiar with it.

    There may very well be a dead otocinclus in the tank, that I can't find. They can be darned hard to see, sometimes.

    I have to work today, but when I get home--if I have the energy--I will do a 10-15% water change. And I am great at matching water temperatures.

    Thank you for all your helpful advice. God bless! :*
     

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