Hi all. I figure its polite to introduce myself before demanding help
! My name is Steve and although I kept an aquarium when I was younger (Goldfish), I consider myself a newbie to everything. I have a formal education in chemistry so I understand the water cycle process pretty well from a science perspective but that only gets you so far!
On to the problem:
I've had 4 fish for about 2 weeks now in a new tank- 3 Platy's (2Fem 1Male) and 1 Molly (Male). They are all very small for the time being (about 4 inches of total fish). The tank sat empty up and running for about 2 weeks prior to getting fish. I thought the 3 platy's would be good but the LFS convinced us to get 4 or else we would end up with a second cycle if we added anybody down the road.
The problem is with my Molly; for the first week he was very active, darting around in the tank. Now he is lethargic, and hangs out above the heater, or in the small tree, and as of the past few minute inside the bushy plant in the center. There are no spots, markings, or anything visually different other than his behavior. He can still swim normally when aroused or during feeding time. At first I attributed it to maybe he was just so active because he stressed the first couple of days but now he definitely seems stressed to me beyond the point of just calming down.
We brought him to the local store (Its a marine life store only, not a big box store) and they said he appears healthy and that its probably stress from tank cycling. That makes sense except here are my tank params (API liquid):
Nitrate:a bit > 5ppm
PH: 8 ish
10G with Whisper10 filter - We don't have a place for a larger tank now but do plan to get a bigger one in the future.
API Stress Coat as a dechlorinator
Two things to note that I know seem to be debatable depending on who you talk to:
1) I have been using aquarium salt at the API recommended amount. Not sure I will use it forever but from a science perspective it is hard to dismiss that it will reduce the toxic effects of NO2 and NO3 and (from what I've heard/read) nobody seems to think it will be anything other than a waste of money (i.e. not harmful with the Platys and Mollys at least). I imagine its coincidental but it actually started shortly after I used a little less salt than recommended on my tank change on Saturday.
2) At the recommendation of the LFS I used the bacteria starter when first got the fish, I think I used the Safe-Start; again from research the worst this can do is waste money.
My ammonia did do a small spike to about 1ppm for 1 day only, with free ammonia always at less than 0.02ppm. I did 15%ish water changes every other day which kept the total ammonia at or less than 0.5ppm. The ammonia has dropped to zero but I don't think the tank has actually cycled because its only been 2 weeks and I havent seen a nitrite spike; though I must admit I havent been religious about testing it until I noticed the ammonia drop to zero for about 2 days. Another thing to note on this point, my tap water has about 5-10ppm of Nitrate so I have not seen a change in Nitrate.
Final points to note, he has a pointed anal fin so I am very positive he is a male (confirmed by the LFS) so it's not pregnancy related. He is the biggest in the tank and I don't recall anyone picking on him, even in his lethargic state they seem to leave him alone. The smallest fish does very occasionally seem to snap at everyone else in the tank though I think she may be pregnant and I've never seen any nipping just some chasing. The other male in the tank spends most of his day riding the current from the air stone or the filter. Neither of them seem to chase the females around so I didn't think the m/f ratio was the issue but the thought has crossed my mind.
As I was writing this I had shut my light off a bit early at the recommendation to try and calm all of the fish down and reduce the oxygen load and the other fish slowed down and he did seem to come out and swim for a few minutes but has since moved to the center piece and is hiding in the center.
So with the levels as they are, do you think its cycling? Could it just be the frequent change in water chemistry bothering him? I last changed water (15%ish) on Monday.
Hopefully someone has a suggestion and not just a grim outlook for this poor guy. He used to be the most social in the tank and fearless... he would come up and investigate if I had my hand in the water when vaccuming or grabbing the thermometer to check the new water temp.
Sorry I wrote a book but I wanted to make sure you had all the info up front.
Here are some pics of the test results and the fish. https://www.icloud.com/photostream/#ACJtdOXmEdHka
Thanks in advance,
**Just a note, we were giving tetra veggie flakes (what the LFS told us to use) until we brought the fish in yesterday to the LFS when they told us to get the floating pellets (Thera A+A regular formula) because it will be easy to control the feeding amount.**