Ammonia! Brutis is dead! Need advice - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 11 Old 01-28-2009, 07:06 AM Thread Starter
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Exclamation Ammonia! Brutis is dead! Need advice

Hello! I've been reading this forum for quite awhile, and it was invaluable as I set up my first 75g tank. So thanks to everyone who's contributed and I hope to do the same.

In any case, I've got a problem with my tank.

Here are the specifics:
- 75g
- cycled two months ago using fishless method
- co2 injection (only one 2 liter, diy, with reactor)
- 6 tiger barbs, 4 black barbs, 3 corys
- planted with 1 amazon sword, 3 crypts, 3 apongatas, and some floating plants
- fluval 405 with standard filtering media - 2 biomax and 2 carbon filters

So I brought my first batch of fish home. Everything was going well until the water got cloudy, the ammonia started to spike (.25 ppm), and within a day I had an epic algae bloom. I started with aggressive water changes (30%) and the ammonia died away within a day or two and seemed to stay gone but the bloom wouldn't go away. (it's hard to read the ammonia tests when the water is green...) The tigers went nuts because they couldn't see each other to school up...

Well, I wasn't about to have a new, beautiful tank be a large, green brick, so I got a UV filter. It was pretty efficient, killing the algae in about 5 days. I've done two water changes to remove the dead algae and have cleaned the filter and tank twice with gentle gravel cleaning under the rocks... the filter was totally loaded with nasty back water on both occasions.

So now I have ammonia that won't go away and the water changes and stress from the algae have claimed two fish and is working on two more (it looks like they have a bacterial or fungal infection)... Brutis, one Tiger that was aggressive from the day we slapped him in the tank? Yeah, he was the first to succumb to the stress.

So long story short

1) What next, more water changes? I've added Cycle and stress coat on the last water change to get rid of the ammonia and hopefully restablish the bacteria... I've got .25 Ammonia, 0 Nitrites, 10 Nitrates, 6.6 ph, 2 deg. KH (too low?), and a GH of about 9 deg.
2) One of the black barbs is GONE - I mean GONE - during the last water change *when I could see* I looked everywhere for him - took everything out - is it possible for the corys to have completely eaten him? Or should I keep looking?
3) The biomax is covered in green algae - should I slowly replace?

Any advice, would be greatly, greatly appreciated. By me, and by my wife, who is *tired* of hearing about this fish tank!


Sorry about the long post!
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post #2 of 11 Old 01-28-2009, 08:07 AM
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Join the ranks of those who's wives have a love/hate relationship with their fish. Mine loves looking at the tank, but wishes I'd shut up about it and stop asking her to feed them. Whenever I manage to drag her into a fish store she inevitably make a production of looking at the betta bowls or goldfish bowls and reminding me that when she intended for me to get a fish for father's day she meant a betta in a bowl, not a 55 gallon tank.

First off, your first ammonia spike was a mini-cycle. Fishless cycling is a good way to cycle but it's imprecise. This necessitates that fish are added slowly to the tank. The number of fish you added overwhelmed the biofilter and the bacteria had to grow to handle it. Not a big problem, but one to watch out for in your next tank.

Algae, the green water is an algae bloom. Like any algae bloom it means something is out of whack in the aquarium. Either too much nutrients or too much light or a lack of one or the other. Green water is usually cleared by either a blackout or a UV filter, congrats on the new gear. I want one myself.

When you say you cleaned the filter how did you do it? Too aggressive a cleaning of the biomedia could have disrupted the bacteria enough to induce another mini-cycle.

1) Yes, continue to do water changes. You want to keep the ammonia below 0.25ppm. Since you are injecting CO2 I'd recommend keeping the water changes small, 10% or so. What is the pH of the water coming from your tap? Have you tested your tap water for ammonia? Occasionally things happen in the water system that can introduce contaminants. Don't bother with the bacterial additives. They're iffy at best and you've already got bacteria, you just need more.
2) Yes, corys are scavengers and a dead fish like that is a feast to them and any other fish in the tank. Given the time, and it doesn't take much, the other fish in the tank will remove a dead fish for you. You want to be especially careful if you have sick fish in the tank as the disease can spread if it dies and the other fish in the tank start to woof him down.
3) That's a toughy. Personally I'd swish it around in some old tank water, see if it clears. You've got a UV filter to help out with algae and right now you need to be more concerned with reestablishing the biofilter than algae. Messing with the biomax is the last thing you want to do right now.

Hope that helps, always feel free to ask questions.

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post #3 of 11 Old 01-28-2009, 01:58 PM Thread Starter
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Alright, I did a 10% at lunch today and everything looks alright, except a couple of fish - they seem to be flashing a little.

Usually, when I clean the filter, I just dump the water out and then scrub the mechanical floss filters using water from the water change. Honestly, I haven't done anything else with the biomedia, afraid thatwould break the cycle.

PH is something else I've read mixed opinions about. My tap PH is 7.2 and the reactor/co2 system will drop that to 6.6 when it's running normally. I've got a lower KH - 2 - but wasn't sure about adding anything to bring it up, figuring I should get the ammonia out of the water before mucking around with another param. Strangely enough, it used to be 4, so I'm not sure whats dropping it like that. During the day, the ph swings .2 from 6.6 in the morning to 6.8 in the evening.

I'll check the tap for ammonia, just to be sure.

Appreciate your response!
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post #4 of 11 Old 01-28-2009, 07:17 PM
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The small daily pH swing is normal. The hardness has probably dropped since adding CO2, as that would react with the ions that make your water hard. You'll want to be careful here, as having very soft water like yours means you don't have much buffering capacity to handle pH swings.

Keep up with those small water changes to keep ammonia in check, and your bacteria will replenish themselves after any mini-cycle you might have been through. Good luck!

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post #5 of 11 Old 01-29-2009, 07:05 AM
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Yes, with a planted tank you can expect the pH to swing from day to night as plants stop taking in CO2 and start taking in oxygen at night. The plants stop absorbing the CO2 and it starts to saturate the water, driving down the pH overnight. That's why you get a lower pH in the morning than at night. It's normal, and not to be worried about. Some people turn off their CO2 injection during the night but they are usually using more advanced compressed CO2 set ups.

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Watch my tank progress from Craigslist salvage to fishy habitat: Aaron's Tank
The only things that happen quickly in an aquarium are bad things.
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post #6 of 11 Old 01-29-2009, 06:15 PM Thread Starter
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Alright, I'm back already!

I did a full makeup on the tank and now I'm at a loss here...

Ammonia is improving and the tank has started to get a little cloudy (white), so you guys nailed the mini-cycle.

But now, check this out:

KH = 0
PH =6.0

What could possibly be causing the PH to crash? It's been stable for weeks and weeks and now all of the sudden it took this huge drop in KH (dropped 3) and PH (dropped .6)- this has got me totally stumped. My KH from the tap is 4.

Now, I've got a few rocks that I salvaged and just dumped a couple in vinager, reading that it's possible that they may effect the KH, and if they bubble, I should remove them - could anyone confirm this?

Otherwise it's just good old fashioned gravel and some drift wood...

I added flourish excell at the advice of a LFS (before I started posting here)... Could this have done it? It's been a week or so, I stopped when I noticed it dropping the KH...

Any help would be appreciated. I'm not sure what my best next steps are - don't huge PH swings seriously endanger the fish?

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post #7 of 11 Old 01-29-2009, 07:04 PM Thread Starter
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Don't mean to answer my own post, but I'm pretty sure I found the problem.

Well one of the rocks bubbled in the vinegar. And after finding where the rock was, in the path of one of my air stones, I realized that about four days ago I had bumped up the air levels to help oxygen levels when the algae died. I think it increased the rate the rock was dissolving into the water and hence the mysteriously dropping KH.

I did a small water change for the ammonia and the PH is back to 6.4...

I*really* don't want to put any more stress on the stock that's in the tank, I think they've lived through enough of my blunders.

The KH is still 0...

Should I add anything to raise the KH, or slowly let it recover with water changes?

I'm open to any advice you might have.

Thanks again anyone that answers/reads,

P.S., Tyyrlym, I fully respect your tag line now "The only things that happen quickly in an aquarium are bad things. "
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post #8 of 11 Old 02-01-2009, 07:56 AM Thread Starter
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All fixed - thanks everyone!

Not sure if it was the right thing to do, but my solution was to continue doing small water changes, like everyone recommended. The low PH issue persisted over the next day, so I ended up adding 1.5 teaspoons of sodium bicarbonate in solution over the course of five hours or so a couple of days ago. This brought the KH up to 2 - not great - but since the PH is stable now, I'm going to let the weekly WCs slowly bring the KH back to the tap level over the course of the next few months, now that I've gotten rid of the dissolving rocks.

I guess there really *is* a reason for buying rock by the pound at a LFS!

I've been ammonia free for two days now and the PH has returned to normal and everyone looks healthy - the black and tiger barbs are getting all of their color back and the indestructible corys haven't been the wiser, .

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post #9 of 11 Old 02-01-2009, 08:04 AM
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you've had some great help here,and i'm glad that your tank is on the mend.

when you set up a new tank,hide an extra
sponge or two behind some decor,that way you have
something seeded for you next filter.
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post #10 of 11 Old 02-01-2009, 04:36 PM
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It sounds like you are on track to get the pH stable by bumping up the KH. The vinegar test revealed a rock that was dissolving in the water flow but that would have helped you keep the KH higher. Removing it made that problem a bit harder and may be how you got all the way down to zero. That test is intended to reveal rocks that contain calcium carbonate, the same stuff that makes up crushed coral. It is often prescribed as a cure for low pH. Your driftwood looks very nice in a tank but can use up some of the KH by releasing tannins into the water. The tannins are a weak acid.

A basic misconception in your posts is that you thought the fish were suffering from the green water algae. At that point it was your best friend, it is the reason you had very little ammonia until you "got it under control" using the UV. The fish do not care at all about green water, we care about it because the fish are intended to be decorative and of course they are hard to see through green water.

The daily pH variations from CO2 are not a problem for the fish. What we usually interpret as a pH swing causing a problem is really a hardness swing. Fish do not adapt well to large rapid changes in the amount of dissolved solids in their water. The easiest way to detect that change is often to notice the corresponding change in PH. The change caused by CO2 does not affect the TDS so it is not a problem for the fish.
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algae , ammonia , freshwater

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