HELP! fish dropping like flies - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 06:57 AM Thread Starter
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HELP! fish dropping like flies

brand new 20 gallon high - (aqueon kit with power filter, 100 watt heater, fluorescent light which I keep on about 12 hours a day) a 6" airstone, 20 lb. generic black gravel, some rocks and fake plants

set tank all up with conditioned water - filter/heater/bubbles running about May 22, - and on May 28th added 3 small spotted corys to get the ball rolling (if I knew I could have done that without fish I totally would have!!)

temp hovers around 78-80º

daily testing with API master kit is consistently:

AMMONIA = .25 - .50
NITRITE = zero
(just for S&G I check nitrates once a week or so and of course it's always zero)
PH = a whopping 7.8!

I do 25% water changes with bottled spring water as often as possible at the moment (about every other day)

about two weeks ago I put my male betta in with the corys because I recently had a monkey wrench thrown into my life that was making the every other day bowl cleanings he required impossible - I figured he'd do better in the aquarium as his bowl was certainly LESS ideal (he was getting dull looking and fins were fizzling away from all the ammonia =( )

within a couple days the betta was looking MUCH better - got some pep back, was eating like normal, color started getting vibrant again, fins looked to be coming back

BUT around the same time one of the corys started looking unwell - within a day or so he was dead

removed him from the tank ASAP - but I was terribly sick so he may have been dead in there for like 12 hours before I managed to get him out - did a 25% water change at the time of his removal

then 2 days later even though he WAS looking so much better for about a week, suddenly the betta started acting as the cory had before he died... then the betta died as well

I noticed he was dead around 10pm so in there dead overnight (about 9 hours) before I was able to remove him - but when I did I did another 25% water change

now I'm down to 2 corys... and one of them is looking a little off since last night

when I say "off" they don't LOOK to have anything on them or be discolored or anything like that - they're just kinda lazing about, hanging out on their side, hiding behind a rock or plant, ocassionally moving from one spot to another until they finally die

I'd REALLY like to not lose ALL of these fish - I'm wondering if there is anything I can do to keep at least the well looking one from dropping like the others

also if they all do end up dead how do I go on from there in my continuing effort to get this thing to cycle (I've had it set up WITH fish for 4 weeks now and it's getting nowhere)

it's been years since I've done this but I don't recall EVER having issues like this!!

thanks in advance for any help or advice you guys can give me =)
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post #2 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 09:54 AM
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I can't help you other then to offer encouragement. I am going through the same thing. I too am trying to cycle my tank with fish (didn't know there was another option) So far my fish are not dying but I am not getting anywhere with Nitrite either. I am over 5 weeks in and my Ammonia keeps spiking so I do partial water change to save the fish but never have an elevated Nitrite level.

If my fish do die, I won't be adding any more until after the tank is 100% cycled and I have had good readings for a few weeks. I wish fish stores would not tell people they need the fish to cycle the tank.
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post #3 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 10:18 AM Thread Starter
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Inga ~ haaa yeah so much for the relaxing hobby of fish keeping :/
I had one other aquarium about 8 years ago and did oodles of reading beforehand - none of which mentioned anything other than to let the tank sit running but fishless for a week before adding fish
so that is what I did... then after a week I added 1 small pleco 1 cory and 2 angel fish - and I never had a single problem - I didn't even own a test kit so I never tested the water - I did monthly 50% water changes and that was it!!
after about a month I added 2 swordtails - one of which died within a few days - the other was fine

I only started having problems with that tank about a year in when I had to move into a house with mold issues which somehow crept into my filter :(
I got rid of that entire setup and waited until my situation was better to start this new setup
I started out just like I started my old tank only AFTER I got the 3 corys I started doing some research online to refresh my memory and learned there is A LOT more info out there now than there was 8 or so years ago
but I'm afraid ignorance may have been the key with my previous setup
it seems the more I learn the more trouble I seem to be having with this one

I'm with you though... if all of these fish die on me I will be trying to continue the cycle without fish
being that there is already ammonia in there I assume I only need to continue feeding to keep that going and hopefully start over with new fish within the next month

I love my fishies and all this dying is making me sad and guilty feeling for not being smarter about this in the first place - although I was just doing what I had been told in the past

I guess my previous tank was filled with lucky water or something haaa

anyway - I'm not noticing any change in ammonia - I mean obviously it was zero in the beginning - but since then it's been hovering between .25 and .50
I guess I need to be doing larger or more frequent water changes (currently doing about 25% every other day)
I've been doing it with gallon jugs of water - this weekend I'm going to get a hose and hopefully that will make more frequent and larger water changes more doable

but I'm afraid all my fish will be gone by then :(
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post #4 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 10:48 AM
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Yup, I am really in the same boat. My experience with fish from years ago was a 55 gallon tank that my, then, room mate set up. She set the tank up, let it run for a day or two, got a handful of Banded Convicts and a handful of Bala Sharks, a Pleco and tossed them all in. I don't think any of those fish died. I know for awhile she was doing partial water changes but she soon lost interest and didn't do much after that. I bought food and fed them each day. The convicts started reproducing like it was going out of style, the Pleco grew to over a foot long, all seemed well.

We moved out because I was buying a house and she was not coming with me. I don't know how it ended for those poor fish though.

I guess we had lucky water for a few years as well. This time, I bought the tank, set it up, let it run for a week as recommended. Then while I was at the fish store checking out my options and purchasing more decor, I was told I needed a few hardy fish to cycle the tank. I listened and bought 3 Tiger Barbs as was recommended. Now I am thinking they were just trying to get rid of the Tiger barbs. lol

I have heard it can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks. I am at almost 6 weeks. I guess I just thought that I would have noted some changes in the Nitrite by now. I am a little frustrated because I really am trying to do everything right. I feel like I have gotten so much bad advice, it makes me wonder how people manage to be successful with fish. There must be a lot of lucky water out there. ;)

I was thinking of buying a Sponge filter today with a small air pump. I think that way even when I change my filters in the back filter, the biological stuff will stay in the tank. Lord knows once I finally get through this, I don't want to start all over when I do a filter change.
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post #5 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 10:58 AM Thread Starter
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oh poor fishies!! I've seen lots of aquariums that seem neglected - sheesh once they're established these things are pretty easy to maintain - I don't understand why people just let them go... those ARE living creatures in there!!
but I was just thinking about the filter situation too - the filter on this thing looks filthy - but I don't dare change it!!
I remember changing out the filter cartridge on my old tank once a month when I did those 50% water changes
but with all the reading I'm doing it seems to me that changing that filter cartridge will just take the thing a giant leap backward
the more thought I put into this the more stupid I feel
perhaps these things are better left to scientists haaa
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post #6 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by brandelion View Post
but with all the reading I'm doing it seems to me that changing that filter cartridge will just take the thing a giant leap backward
the more thought I put into this the more stupid I feel
perhaps these things are better left to scientists haaa
I hear you. It doesn't help when people who are "in the know" are snotty with their answers either. I doubt anyone is born with the knowledge of how to properly set up and maintain a fish tank. lol

The more I think about it, the more I think a sponge is the way to go. I noticed in the fish store here that I felt was the most knowledgeable and had the healthiest looking tanks, they had sponge filters. The guy was very nice and didn't try to sell me anything but talked to me about the benefits of having them in the tank. I think he has managed a soft sell, as I really want to get one for my fish now.

I think it is a good idea to frequent these stores and just ask questions and listen to them answer questions that others have as well. Not to mention that looking at all of their tanks, gives you ideas.
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post #7 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 07:25 PM
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In smaller tanks (say under 50 gallons) sponge filters work very well, I always suggest them.

Brandelion, I am sorry you're having such trouble. Reading through your thread, I suspect the fish are suffering from ammonia poisoning. Ammonia at .5 even with alternate day water changes of 25% is still high and will take its toll in time. And particularly on Corydoras that are one of the most sensitive fish when it comes to water quality. And the "symptoms" you describe--lethargy, rolling over--are indicative of water issues, most likely ammonia.

What water conditioner are you using?

Have you tested your tap water for ammonia?

The tank is pH 7.8 you said, what is the pH of your tap water (I'm assuming tap water is your source water)?


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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post #8 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 09:41 PM
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Just wanted to say I agree with Byron sounds like you have ammonia problems. I would listen and do what ever Byron says because he is very smart and has helped me alot.

Kindest Regards,

Keeping fish its not a hobby it is a passion!

I have a 55 gallon, 40 gallon, 29 gallon, 20 gallon tank, 5 gallon , and a 2.5 gallon all with real plants.
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post #9 of 81 Old 06-25-2010, 11:23 PM
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I agree with byron, however I'm wondering why you're using bottled spring water?

"Good schools do not make one educated. The ability and desire to learn makes one educated."

"Knowledge does not make a person smart. Utilizing that knowledge makes them smart."
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post #10 of 81 Old 06-26-2010, 07:15 AM Thread Starter
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Byron ~ to answer your questions the ph on my tap is 8! which is one of the reasons I've been using bottled spring water - the spring water has slightly lower ph of 7.8

the tank WAS at 8 until a couple water changes using the bottled water

BUT I can't continue to dump 5 gallons of store bought water in there every day or every other day so I'm going to switch back to tap water - the spring water didn't make that much difference anyway

your other question is the other reason I've been using spring water... I was told by (who I'm learning to be an unreliable source) the chick at the store that I wouldn't need conditioner if I used bottled spring water

this made sense to me as I distinctly recall with my last aquarium that I didn't use conditioner... I just filled gallon jugs and let them sit for a week or more before adding them to the tank (and that water was so heavily chlorinated it burned my eyes in the shower (my current water is unchlorinated well water)

my NEW plan - since I'm down to ONE cory now is to take water straight from my tap (so's to best match temp) and use conditioner --- do you have a suggestion as far as what conditioner would be best?

as for why the other fish died - I would have immediately assumed it was the ammonia if it wasn't for the betta -- sadly I was also misinformed about proper betta care (over the years I've had 4 different bettas... one that I had for close to 4 years) and was never told I should be checking their ammonia levels or changing their water practically every other day and when I learned this (through trying to figure out what was wrong with one of them... turned out to be a fungal infection, which I nursed back to health) I started testing their water and the ammonia was at 4.0!!!! - none of them acted strange in any way - except for the one that wound up with that fungal infection - they ate, swam, blew bubble nests, flared if they saw their reflection (or sometimes mine)

of course once I learned that they needed more attention I gave them more attention!!

but because I have had some issues with time (and sickness) lately - this betta was being a little neglected... he started getting dull looking and his fins started fizzling - because of the ammonia... which had gotten up to 4 again - so I put him in the tank with the corys and after a couple days he perked up, started getting color back and was acting more betta-y than I had ever seen him act

then a week or so later is when the first cory started with the lazy, side flopping, no eating thing and died... and a couple days after that WHAMO - the betta starts doing the same thing

since he never did any of that from even worse water conditions in his bowl I figured it must be something else - which is why I thought I'd ask in here to see if maybe it could be something else

as for the corys being sensitive... the whole reason I got them was because I was told they didn't even require filtration!! I was originally looking for something to put in an unfiltered 10 gallon with the betta and that was one of the suggestions :/

apparently I was misinformed AGAIN!!

what I don't understand is why the last time I set up an aquarium, I did NONE of this (just set it up, let it sit running for a week and then added fish... a cory, a pleco and 2 angel fish) and had ZERO casualties!! but like I said befire... must have had a tank full of lucky water or something hehehe

anyway... Calmwaters & TexasTanker~ thanks =) I'm listening hehehe
and see above for why I've been using spring water
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