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Hello! Looking for new tank setup critique, plus a couple of questions

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Hello! Looking for new tank setup critique, plus a couple of questions
Old 03-03-2010, 08:00 AM   #101
 
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Jim, this may take another day for our thoughts to come together. We have 5 people working on this, believe it or not. Your situation became extremely complicated in post #68. Your problems are due to the pH fluctuations, which effects the ammonia/ammonium ratios. Additionally, your bacteria are not doing what they should do, and your plants are not photosynthesizing properly.

We know exactly what is wrong. The approach to fix the situation is up for debate. We are ironing our the details. You have some of the most experienced hobbyists I have ever known brainstorming on this, so just sit tight. Besides, in this hobby, nothing bad ever happens from being patient.
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Old 03-03-2010, 10:05 AM   #102
 
Wow... I must've screwed things up pretty royally to stop plants from photosynthesizing! To me, that sounds like it's right up there with the sun not coming up...


I didn't touch anything last night, but I did feed the fish a tiny bit (just a couple of flakes and a few sinking pellets). When the water was really cloudy I didn't see the point, figuring the fish couldn't see the food, so they haven't eaten in a couple of days. But, like I said, since the last water change Monday night it's been a little clearer, and if I had to guess, it seems to be clearing up slowly. If anything, it doesn't seem to be getting any worse in the last 48 hours.

That one Cory that didn't handle the WC on Monday is gone, but the rest of the fish still seem to be doing OK as far as I can tell. I just hope the high ammonia levels don't cause them any permanent damage...
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Old 03-03-2010, 02:37 PM   #103
 
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Can we get more test results tonight? I want to see these results every day. The reason your fish aren't stressed at the high ammonia level is because your pH is settling in at an acidic value, which means that most ammonia is present in the form of ammonium, which is not toxic. As Byron mentioned, no worries on the ammonia. Let your eyes be your test kit for the health of your fish. But we do need to get things to settle out properly, so lets keep on this every day.

We are having one heck of a conversation about your tank by the way. If we posted it here we would spend so much time giving background information that it would interfere with the discussion. (Kind of like reading Calculus text book.) I think we have a game plan, but still want feedback from 2 sources.
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Old 03-03-2010, 04:05 PM   #104
 
Well, I'm glad I at least created a stimulating topic of conversation for you guys!

Just to be clear, you did see that my pH was testing at 7.4/7.5 since the water change Monday, right? >7 is basic, not acidic, correct? (Though I think that it will eventually drop a bit once I turn the aerator back down to 'normal' and a little more CO2 builds up...).
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Old 03-03-2010, 06:53 PM   #105
 
Well, there doesn't seem to be much change from yesterday...

Water is still cloudy, not as bad as it was at its worst, but not any better than yesterday. Numbers are almost identical:
pH - 7.5
Ammonia - ~8ppm
Nitrite - 0ppm
Nitrate - 0 (or maybe a hair over)

I'm surprised that the pH hasn't come down a bit, and Ammonia is still high (IMO), but at least it doesn't seem to be increasing. I don't know what happened to my Nitrite/Nitrate #'s. I was testing positive for Nitrites and Nitrates as of Sunday and Monday, so I thought I was on my way. Did I kill off all the bacteria by cleaning the filter on Monday? I was careful not to use any tap water when cleaning. I really only changed the polishing pads and added the ammonia remover. I kept the main sponges, pre-filter media and Bio-Max noodles and didn't let any of it dry out, so I thought I'd be OK...
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Old 03-03-2010, 11:17 PM   #106
 
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I realize you appear to be getting a temporary pH spike after the water change. I'm just not trusting the test kits at the moment. If these readings were accurate, every fish would be floating right now. You can't have a pH of 7.4 and ammonia of 8.0ppm with fish living. So the only conclusion is to ignore the test results at the moment.

The one thing I must continue to stress is that you should not do anything right now. No water changes. No chemical additives. Just let the tank run its course. Continue testing and posting test results so that we can see when things start to get normal.

Hopefully by this weekend we can give you some sort of game plan. I can tell you is what you will no longer be using. Stress Coat & pH down should no longer be used. It appears that the use of these 2 products together has been causing issues. For example, Stress Coat has a pH value >9.0. At the same time it is bonding ammonia into ammonium, which is a very temporary bond only intended to be effective on established systems that are effectively removing ammonium via biological filtration or naturally utilized by live plants. Your tank is a great example of what happens when this process does not work as planned. Because of this, we will be recommending a different process of conditioning your tap water.

I am also curious, have you tried testing your water with different test kits? It would be worth while to take a sample to the LFS to have it tested with a different brand test kit. Whatever you do, please do not pay any attention to the advice they give you after reading the test results. They lack the background and tank history necessary to make any recommendations or to even understand how or why these results are what they are. Just get a 2nd test result to confirm the results you are getting.

Continue to sit tight. If you loose any more livestock be sure to let us know. Is the tank clearing up any?
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Old 03-04-2010, 09:08 AM   #107
 
As of this morning, via a quick glance at the tank (with the lights off) as I was heading out the door, it didn't seem to be clearing up any. Most of the fish seem fine, but a couple of the Corys were having problems. The one I thought I lost yesterday was laying on his side in a bucket I put him in and I thought was dead, but when I went to move the bucket, he started flopping around. He's still holding on, but still laying on his side. I put another Cory that seemed to be twitching oddly in the bucket with him and put a few drops of Melafix in with them.

Interesting re: the Stress Coat... I didn't even think that it would affect the pH, and I only used the pH down during the first week, so I was thinking it was the tap water raising my pH. Initially, I was using the API Tap Water Conditioner, but then switched to using the StressCoat when we realized that there was some ammonia in my tap water (the StessCoat claims to remove ammonia, while the Tap Water Conditioner doesn't mention anything about it - see post #68). Then, I guess I od'd a bit on the StressCoat because I thought I had to get that ammonia out of the tap water before putting it in the tank, so I kept adding it to the buckets of tap water until ammonia tested 0 (post #68). For the last 2 WC (Sun & Mon), I picked up some Prime to treat the water with and used that instead of the StressCoat. I haven't put anything but the treated tap water directly in the tank for at least a week and a half...

I'll take a ride to the LFS tonight and see if I can have them test the water, and/or pick up a different brand of test kit. Do I need a whole master kit, or would just the pH and Ammonia tests suffice? Can I 'cheap out' and just get a pack of multi-strips? I know they're not as accurate, but if my liquid test kit is correct, they should be close, right?

I really appreciate the help!
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Old 03-04-2010, 01:45 PM   #108
 
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Ask the store to test pH, ammonia and hardness, and make sure they give you the numbers, not "it's good" or "it's a bit high" stuff which tells you and us nothing. And to reiterate Mark's advice, do not be led into doing anything by their suggestions; just get the test results.

The API test kits are deemed reliable. The combo kit has ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH if you can afford that and don't already have these. Or individually a pH and ammonia kit will suffice. It is useful to have a nitrate kit though, so long-term the combo will likely be the better deal as it will probably be less expensive that purchasing just the individual three. Check the expiry date on the package or maybe it is on the bottles; sometimes test kits can sit on the shelf for years.

Byron.
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Old 03-04-2010, 02:19 PM   #109
 
That's what I already have - the API Master Kit + the API Hardness test kit. I was asking if I should buy a whole 'backup' kit from another brand for $40, or if I could get away with just a couple of the tests (or even a handful of mutli-test strips) to use as a sanity check when the results from my 'primary' kit seem odd. I'll have the LFS test either way.
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Old 03-04-2010, 02:26 PM   #110
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LMychajluk View Post
That's what I already have - the API Master Kit + the API Hardness test kit. I was asking if I should buy a whole 'backup' kit from another brand for $40, or if I could get away with just a couple of the tests (or even a handful of mutli-test strips) to use as a sanity check when the results from my 'primary' kit seem odd. I'll have the LFS test either way.
When I contacted API about shelf life, they said 2-3 years was about it. If you've had yours that long, or the time from the dates on the bottles is beyond this, a new kit would be wise. If your kit is still within the time, then maybe wait to see if the store results differ that much; they may not. B.
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