Inheriting a dirty 20 gallon aquarium with 2 fish - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

 
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post #1 of 4 Old 07-12-2011, 07:48 PM Thread Starter
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Inheriting a dirty 20 gallon aquarium with 2 fish

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Some one is giving me their 20 ( or 20 some gallon, he's not sure ) tank. It has two fish left in it that somehow survived total neglect. I have read conflicting posts on Google whether to remove the fish and do a total cleaning or leave them in the tank. My thoughts were to get the poor things out of there and start over and clean the gravel and plants but I don't want to stress them too much. He is going to remove some of the water so it can be moved. I am going to find out what kind of filter there is. I'm thinking I may need a new one, the water does not look very good but maybe with regular care it might not be the filter at all. There is also a skeleton of a poor catfish that did not survive that has just been left in there, it breaks my heart! I really want to do this right and not loose those last two fish. Thanks!!!
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post #2 of 4 Old 07-12-2011, 08:27 PM
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First, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.

Now your question. The fish must be slowly re-adjusted to "better" water. If not, the shock can kill them outright.

As tanks run with fish, the organics accumulate in the substrate. Bacteria break these down, producing CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the process, and this tends to acidify the water by adding carbonic acid. This is perfectly normal. The carbonate hardness (KH) of the water has a buffering effect on pH, keeping it stable. But at some point that capability is exhausted, depending upon the hardness of the water, and the pH then falls.

This is a slow process and fish adjust to it. At the same time, nitrates are likely increasing. Ammonia is also being produced from the breakdown of the organics, but if the p|H during this becomes acidic, ammonia converts to ammonium which is harmless to the fish. Again, this is all relatively slow, and fish adjust.

If you suddenly do a massive water change with "fresh" water, it will likely be very different chemically from the tank. If the pH of the added water is basic (above 7.0), the ammonium immediately turns into ammonia and will likely kill the fish. There are several factors in all this, but the point is that a massive water change to clean things up can be deadly.

It is best to replace a bit of the water slowly, vacuuming the substrate a bit each time, over a period of several days.

There will be other issues with the water too, and they also are best if things are changed slowly.

Moving the tank, keep the filter wet with tank water and when you set it up again rinse the filter media with tank water, not tap water. Use a good conditioner, in this case Prime would be best as it handles ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.

If I've missed something, someone else will probably catch it. Feel free to ask questions.

Byron.

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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jojed (07-12-2011)
post #3 of 4 Old 07-12-2011, 08:44 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you sooo much!!! I will take it slow and get these guys where they need to be.
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post #4 of 4 Old 07-12-2011, 08:50 PM
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Originally Posted by jojed View Post
Thank you sooo much!!! I will take it slow and get these guys where they need to be.
You're welcome. I forgot to mention, a test kit is a good investment. API make reliable kits, the liquid, not strip ones, and they have a combo called Master I think that includes pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate; useful at this stage.

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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