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Tetra Fish In Cycling

Shelley866

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Hi all I'm new here and new (unfortunately for my fish!) to keeping fish. I think I've made mistakes that many (most?) new fish keepers have and I'm feeling pretty silly and sad right now ....

So ok this is my situation - I have a 70 litre tank, it has been cycling with fish for around 2 weeks and I think I'm doing some things right. I added tetra safe start and was doing every other day water changes of 25% but I have been losing fish right left and centre. Then I read that tetra safe start should be added and then left for at least 2 weeks so this is what I am doing now. At present I have three catfish, 4 platys, 10 emperor tetra and 10 neon tetra and a betta fish. The water is very cloudy. I did not know about cycling before I purchased the fish and I certainly didn't know that tetra fish are not good at all for cycling so (after losing some tetras) I'm scared of losing more and hurting them. Can you please give me some advice on how to move forward in order to try to minimise harm and damage. My test strip says that all levels appear to be normal. Many thanks in advance.
 

the_lock_man

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Hi Shelley,
 
You have a number of issues, obviously cycling is one, but also you have WAY to many fish for your size tank (and I mean your current stocking, not before you started losing them), and your test strips are plain wrong. 
 
You don't mention using a water conditioner, aka dechlorinator, as well, so I just want to check that you are using this as well as Safe Start. The chlorine in your tap water will be killing your fish if you aren't using a dechlorinator, so if not, buy some immediately.
 
At the same time, buy a liquid-drop test kit. The test strips are notoriously unreliable, and you need to be in a position where you can be reasonably confident in your test results. I believe that another reason your fish are dying is ammonia poisoning. Although you are using Safe Start, it isn't an instant fix, it still takes time to build up the bacterial qualities. Many of these "Bacteria In A Bottle" products are less than effective, although I have read good reports about Safe Start, but definitely not instantly. In the meantime, with that level of fish, ammonia will be building up extremely quickly. I do not trust your strips that say "normal".
 
The next thing to do is to drastically reduce the amount of fish in your tank, you have way too many, even for a fully cycled tank. I strongly recommend that you return them all to the shop, and follow a fishless cycle, using bottled ammonia. That way, no fish will die or be harmed by ammonia or nitrite poisoning. If you can't bear to do so, then I would suggest returning all the catfish, both species of tetra and the betta, just leave the platies. You would then need to be testing water daily, and changing water daily, potentially at much greater levels than 25%.
 
We have detailed instructions for both fish-in and fishless cycling methods in our Beginners Resource Centre.
 
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Shelley866

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Gosh I really have gone wrong haven't i ... Far more wrong than what I suspected :-( ...... Thank you so much for your advice, I have purchased an api master test kit and yes I've always used water conditioner and decholrinator whenever I have changed any water. I also used an ammonia remover a few times because the fish were at the surface gasping. They are not like this at the moment and I have an airstone in there also. Please can you tell me how many and possibly what type of fish would be comfortable in a 70 litre tank? I will check out the beginners resource centre as you have advised thank you. I'm mortified I've made such a horrible mistake
 

benthyer

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You have come to the right place shelley and everyone here will be able to guide you through on your journey in fish keeping. It is a steep learning curve but once you understand the basics you will find everything a lot easier.

You're not the first person to do this and you rou definitely won't be the last. But at least you round are willing to see the advice and work to get the right solution.
 

AmtotheBurr

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Hi and welcome! It WILL get better and you'll learn a ton here. Like lock said, return or rehome the fish if possible. I did a fish in cycle too, and my platy died because of ammonia while I tried to get it under control. It's so much faster to cycle when you have no fish in the tank- you need to start with a clean slate. I ended up here for the same reasons as you did. Bought a bunch of fish and almost all of them died. I returned all of them because I didn't want to kill the rest and I knew my water was hazardous to them. Wish you luck and let us know what you do!
And there is no judgement here! I made literally the same mistake. :)
 

Goggy

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I agree on rehoming, you shouldnt have fish living in the tank when you are cycling.
if you were to cycle a fish tank while having fish, you should keep a very little amount of the fishes themselves: around 3-4 
 

TwoTankAmin

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There are two good articles in the Cycling section of this site on rescuing a fish in cycle gone wild. Please read them. If you need help you can shoot me a PM.
 
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Shelley866

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Ok I bought another tank, another70 litre because I spoke to the fish store and they won't take the fish back :-( so I plan on putting the old filter in the new tank with some if the gravel from it plus safe start and conditioner and splitting the fish up so they all have more room and healthier conditions. Not ideal because it wasn't in my budget for a new tank but I'm not having them suffer/die needlessly. Are you able to advise which the best fish would be to move to the new tank? (Like I say not ideal) but it's damage limitation right now I'm afraid ......
Ps. Thank you for not judging or being down on me! I'm gutted I made such stupid mistakes and I appreciate your considerate responses very much
 
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Shelley866

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No....... I spent a couple of hours today trying to either send them back or re-home them but with no luck so I'm left trying to do my best to stop any more harm coming. The fish store are saying they won't take them because it is over two weeks since I purchased them. They are not being helpful in any way even though I explained the circumstances
 

TwoTankAmin

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Here is some basic advice:
I will start from the cover of the printed edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy   DON'T PANIC
 
 
 
1. Divide the fish using body mass.  Think of it as having a room full of people including children that you needed to divide into two equal groups so that they had about the same total weight for each group. You are trying to get half into each tank. I should state that the proper number of fish for cycling in each tank is likely fewer than you will have in each tank.
 
2. Divide the contents of your current tank between both tanks. this includes filter media if it can be done. If not move the filter onto one tanks and leave everything else in the other. The water has no value in this respect.
 
3. When you use your dechlor, do not overdose it.
 
4. Under no circumstances use an ammonia remover/detoxifier (except if it is a part of your dechlor).
 
5. Both tanks should have new dechlored water to the greatest extent possible. You want the lowest levels of ammonia (and possible nitrite) to start. Once the fish are in place, turn off the lights and follow the directions from SafeStart to the letter. However, in your case you are going to do things differently in one respect. Double the amount of safe start suggested for a 70l tank. Extra bacteria will not harm things and will work better overall.
 
6. Do not change water in response to ammonia unless necessary. Necessary means you know the level of the toxic form of ammonia NH3, not just what your tests say. They measure Total Ammonia which is both HN3 and the way way less harmful form NH4. To determine how much of your ammonia is NH3 you need to know the pH and temperature of the water. Please post tank pH and temps here. You should only change water when the NH3 level is too high or the fish show signs of ammonia poisoning.
 
7. Do not change water in response to nitrite levels. Nitrite can be blocked from harming fish by adding a small amount of salt to a tank. The chloride in the salt is what does the trick. This may mean you will have to do diluted nitrite testing because the salt needed is based on the ppm reading for nitrite.
 
8. You need to test a lot. At least twice a day. When you do, please post the results here. Test for ammonia and nitrite. As long as nitrite reads close to 0, don;t worry.
 
9. Feed the fish once a day. Do not over feed. A fed fish can resist ammonia better than a starved one. But food, both eaten and uneaten make ammonia.
 
10. It is possible that a double dose of safe start and the other suggestions will help a lot. It is hard to say. The only way to know is to test. I suggest you label each tank as Tank A and Tank B and post the results that way. They may not progress in an identical fashion.
 
My main concerns here are to gain as much control over things as possible while not harming the fish. I want to see you get the tanks fish safe if possible. To that end changing water works against these goals. However, there are times when it is the best option and should be done. The idea is to avoid unnecessary water changes.
 
One last things, a lot of members here are in the UK. You might be able to find one or more near you who could park some of your fish for a while or might even want to buy them. They also might be willing to donate some cycled items from their tank(s). But this would mean if they have any pathogens etc. that they can come over as well.
 
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Shelley866

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Am I right thinking it'd be best to move the platys, betta and catfish because they are hardier? Or is this just me being more confused!??
TwoTankAmin thank you! Fantastic advice that I'm going to print off so that I can refer back to it. It makes so much sense when read like you've written it :)
Hmm not sure what that smiley face is!
 

TwoTankAmin

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You are not paying attention to #1 above.
 
You have not identified the species of the cats nor the size of any of your fish. But in the end, dividing by body mass is your best bet. Many catfish are not great with ammonia and are considered bad fish for cycling.
 
You can probably start with one tetra school in each tank. The rest would be done based on their size.
 
Just to give you a feel for what might be used to start off a fish-in cycle in a 70 L (18 gal.) tank w/o safe start. Two smaller zebra danios or barbs about 2 inches long. While they are not a normal fish of choice, that might be 3-4 of the tetras you have (unless they are adult size).
 
Some catfish are high waste producers depending on the species. If you cannot give me an idea of what they are, can you post a picture?
 
It is difficult to keep an overstocked tank healthy. It is almost impossible to get one cycled with fish and not lose any.
 
Like I said above, there is not a great chance all this will work. You have too many fish for your tanks and they do not all prefer the same parameters. I will still suggest your best bet is to post an SOS for members here near you who could take some of your fish off your hands. You may get lucky. Live plants would also help here.
 
It would really facilitate things to know the pH and the GH of your tank water, both for fish and cycling reasons.
 

benthyer

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Shelley what area of the UK are you in? If you don't want to post it here just send me a PM. I know the chances of me being nearby are slim but if I am I can help out by temporarily homing some fish and donating some mature media.
 

RobRocksFishTank

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benthyer said:
Shelley what area of the UK are you in? If you don't want to post it here just send me a PM. I know the chances of me being nearby are slim but if I am I can help out by temporarily homing some fish and donating some mature media.
 Wouldn't that be something if he's close.
 
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