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New member, new fish-keeper, my story, questions and future log

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New member, new fish-keeper, my story, questions and future log
Old 05-27-2011, 04:00 PM   #1
 
New member, new fish-keeper, my story, questions and future log

Hi every1,

I'm really sorry for the wall of text, but hey, you guys get to know me, I get to write EVERYTHING in terms of the info you might need to help me, and hopefully I can make it an interesting and fun read at the same time :) It will also serve as a nice history and log thread for me :) I'll be able to look back in a year or so and laugh at my noobiness :)

I'm a mature hobbyist, over 30, and whenever I get into something new, I read vigorously about it. I'm well aware that a newbie with a little knowledge is more dangerous than a newbie with none at all, most subjects seem to go that way. So I shall attempt to dazzle you with what I've learned so far, and shock you with the scope of my first mistakes (which arguably I can blame on the pet store).

So here's the story so far... I bought my girlfriend a Juwel 120l aquarium for her birthday, she had said she wanted one. I'm quite prepared to maintain it for her, no strings attached, she's not someone that likes to get into technical details, whereas I am, so that's settled :) I'm really looking forward to it actually, I like the fish more even than I thought I would, especially the pleco, which my GF doesn't like 'cos he's ugly'...women, what ya gonna do!? lol ;)

Within a short time, we populated the tank with a light coloured (almost white) fairly fine substrate (I know plecos don't like light coloured substrate, but she wants white, very adamantly, he has a couple of dark caves, he'll have to deal with it). It's not sand or anything, but it's fine for substrate, 1mm grains I'd say. This is covering the bottom of the tank about 2-3 inches deep. There's a large and expensive ornament, which is a very beautiful (but fake) rockery with a couple of caves underneath it and a large (fake) bonsai tree growing on top of it (I'll post a pic of the tank later). We also put several different (fake) plants in the tank, it actually looks very nice for a newbie effort I think.

I have read almost everything there is to read on the net about cycling, but unfortunately, neither I nor my GF have the patience for the cycling using rotting food method. So, on the recommendation of our local pet store, we went the Nitrivec route for cycling (Nitrivec for those that don't know, is a Sera bacteria product, claiming to populate your surfaces and filter with the beneficial bacteria to process ammonia into nitrites, and nitrites into nitrates, as well as 'conditioning' the water for fishkeeping, whatever that means).

Having no fish of course, we started by dosing the tank with the recommended amount, which clouded the water for a full 24 hours. It was so cloudy still the following day, that I did not want to follow the instructions and add another dose, fearing it would never clear. I called the pet store and they said I had not caused a problem by not redosing the next day and that I should continue with roughly half the recommended dosing each day for the next 5 days, with the filter and heater running normally, then add a few fish. The 5th day came, and I started testing the water with Sera liquid tests, I kinda liked this actually, felt like being a scientist. So I did all the tests, pH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate. Results were as follows...

pH=8!!!!
Ammonia=trace amounts (remember, tank had never seen a fish at this point, so I can only assume the Nitrivec logically contains trace ammonia as the food the bacteria need to develop, this is merely a guess though), barely darker than the yellow representing '0', but markedly greenish tinted, while not being anywhere near the green of the next color block. There is definitely a 'tiny' amount of ammonia in the water, more than none)
Nitrite=0 as expected
Nitrate=0 as expected

I figured I should add at least a fish or two at this point to get things started, but I was worried about the high pH. I've read so much on the subject, I think I'm ready to lead a seminar on water chemistry. I've now tested my KH and GH, which for reference, according to the paper test I used, are bang on perfect. Right in the middle of the green 'good' zone (incidentally the same paper test also does pH and rated 7.5. Interesting. I'm told I should trust the liquid test more, which read 8). OK, so I figure since the water isn't rammed with buffers, that it will lower naturally with some fish and waste and stabilise later, maybe at 7.5 or so, which I would be happy with. I also checked the temperature of the water, 26 as I had been advised.

So, confident my water could accept at least a few hardy fish, I grabbed the visa and headed to the pet store. My research had led me to the belief that a common pleco would be my absolutely ideal first fish. Very hardy fish, algae eater, very peaceful and easy to look after. So the first thing I told the fish store guy was all my water parameters and the history that I describe above. He didn't seem to really agree or disagree that the pleco was a good choice, but I know it is, so I moved on to ask what his suggestions for a few other community fish were. Here's where the trouble begins.

After much discussion, he recommended that I picked up a couple of Red Tail Black Sharks (tbh, the chaos in the tank with 15 or so of them in there should have set off alarm bells, but it didn't), and 3 (female I believe, maybe one of them is male, despite knowing 'how' to tell, I'm having trouble being sure) Blue Ram Cichlids. The Rams are very pretty and I wanted something colorful for my GF to admire, and despite the fact that I already KNEW cichlids were generally aggressive, I took his word for it that they wouldn't be a problem and more importantly (and more tragically, incorrect as it turns out) would be a good choice for my new, uncycled tank. I can already hear some of you groaning in your swivel chairs, as I did when I started reading about the fishes.

So I now know that it is ill advised keeping two Red Tails in the same tank. DOH! I also now know that Blue Rams prefer soft acidic water and a higher temperature than my aquarium is currently set to provide. My water is hard and alkaline and a degree too cold. DOH! I also hear they shouldn't be added to a cycling tank, only a well established one, and that they shouldn't really be kept with other aggressive fish, since they are 'all bark and no bite'. Our first moment of entertainment came when one of the sharks tried to eject the pleco from his newly adopted cave, and was roundly beaten for his trouble. :) I should point out that's not the only cave in the aquarium, there is no need for them to fight over it, the shark was just trying his luck I think.

I did the acclimation quite slowly, adding a cupful of my water to the bag water while it floated in the tank, every ten minutes for about an hour, til I had doubled the volume of the bag. I then very carefully fished them out and introduced them to their new home. It was dusk outside and the room was poorly lit (I am told this is good for acclimating fish), but I was able to see the fish. The pleco immediately started investigating everything, what a character! I fed them straight away (I don't know if this was a good idea or not tbh, but I didn't want them going hungry and getting used to a new environment). The pleco devoured his algae pellet with gusto. In the meantime the sharks were also exploring and doing this headbanging thing (they swim alongside each other and thrash, like a test of dominance), the one that is fractionally larger and clearly more confident in the tank wins every time, and occasionally chases the weaker one round the tank a bit, but no actual bites are occurring yet. Also, they both leave the three cichlids pretty much completely alone.

All the fish 'seem' quite happy. The pleco is having a riot in his new home, sucking on everything. The cichlids spent their first 90 minutes or so huddled together in a corner of the tank, kind of standing on their fins on the substrate, that was unexpected, but very interesting. I'd never seen a fish 'stand' on its fins before. I was a bit worried at first, but they have now starting swimming about, moving around the tank, then returning to that spot for a while, then venturing out again (usually on their own, one at a time, and one is definitely bolder than the other 2). Their behaviour appears as though they are not stressed or depressed, though obviously I have little experience of this. They are tending to stick to that part of the tank, and not move around a lot (I just went to check on them and all three were in different areas of the tank after being left alone in the dark for a while, so I guess they are ok, for now).

So, I'll bullet point my immediate concerns...

* Should I even try to leave those two red tails to coexist, or will it inevitably be trouble in the long run? Does it matter what gender they are? I'm aware they will need a bigger tank in a few years, as will the pleco.

* Do you think that the red tails chasing behaviour is early signs of bullying? After a little chase, they go their separate ways in the tank, until maybe later they will cross paths again, and may or may not then instigate more 'headbanging' and chasing.

* Have I made a huge mistake with the Rams? Is there anything I can look out for in their behaviour that indicates they might not be doing well? They ate when I fed them, which I suppose is a good sign. The bold one was particularly hungry, venturing into the mid tank to catch as many falling flakes as he could.

* Have I put too many too large fish in the tank considering it probably only has a sprinkling of bacteria at the moment? The sharks are very small, 3 inches, the cichlids about 2 inches, and the pleco is about 4 inches nose to tail.

* Is my assumption that the pH will probably drop a little by the time cycling is complete correct?

Please feel free to give me any other advice you think it sounds like I might need! And thank you very much for reaching the end of this essay!
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Old 05-27-2011, 05:26 PM   #2
 
Cycling with Blue Rams, yeh, terrible idea I know...

So I've been dosing this (brand new from scratch) 120l (25ish gallon) tank with Sera Nitrivec, the bacteria product, for many days without fish. I figured I'd let a lot of it build up in the filter rather than add fish on the second day as the instructions say, so after a week, I headed to the store with the intention of picking up a pleco and whatever else the shop guy recommended for a starter stock.

Unfortunately, as I read after I had finished a 1 hour acclimation procedure and introduced the stock, that both of his recommendations were disastrous.

He knew I was new to the hobby, he knew my tank hadn't cycled, he knew my pH was 8 in hard (but not 'too' hard) water, and went ahead and sold me 3 Blue Rams.

As soon as I introduced them, very satisfied with the pretty little fish, I went to read about them. Imagine my horror to read that they are extremely sensitive fishes requiring soft acidic water and a well established tank. :/

Is there anything I can do to help them survive (I'm not even going to try to change the water chemistry, the pH will drop a little after the tank cycles anyway) the cycling procedure? For what it's worth, a total of 6 young fish were introduced today. The 3 Rams, 2 Red Tail Black Sharks (yeh I know, I know, again, this was the store recommendation, I won't be going back there), and a 4 inch common pleco. I'm very worried and sad that they might not make it, what can I do to help them?
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Old 05-27-2011, 06:09 PM   #3
 
Return them all, there is no way the GBR will survive so your gonna loose them if you try. Easiest would be to return all of them and to a fishless cycle. Both the sharks and pleco will get to big for the tank. The two sharks will eventually kill one off, they are territorial amongst themselves.
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Old 05-27-2011, 06:33 PM   #4
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikaila31 View Post
Return them all, there is no way the GBR will survive so your gonna loose them if you try. Easiest would be to return all of them and to a fishless cycle. Both the sharks and pleco will get to big for the tank. The two sharks will eventually kill one off, they are territorial amongst themselves.
Thanks for the reply, I have a much larger tank ready to go, don't worry. It will be years before those fish outgrow the 120l, but when they do, I have a deep 250l in storage.

Its obvious which shark will kill the other, one is clearly dominant. I'll return one of the sharks and the cichlids if you're absolutely sure they won't survive. I don;t see any value in doing a fishless cycle at this point with the aquarium running for nearly 2 weeks and half the boosted bottled process complete. All I need now is the pleco to get pooping. ;)

I'll be monitoring the water daily, changing as necessary and stressing them as little as possible through the process (the remaining shark and pleco).

Last edited by Aashenfox; 05-27-2011 at 06:35 PM..
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Old 05-28-2011, 01:49 AM   #5
 
Yep you need to return them. Even if they do by chance survive the cycling process I would give them only 2 months beyond that to live. The process poisons fish, some are hardier then other, but GBR are defiantly on the sensitive end of the fishy spectrum. Even if the initial poisoning does not do them in, the long term damage is done and it is irreversible. Their organs are taxed an immune system effect, they are on limited time. I've had it happen before with GBR, they survived a tank crash and were only exposed for 24 hours. They seemed happy and healthy in a different mature tank a few days later. Over the course of a few months they all up and died one by one. Half showed organ failure and got real skinny. Its not something to put any fish though if it can be avoided. Even hardy fish are not completely unaffected by the cycling process. They will never be as healthy as if they had not been exposed. Fish-in cycling tends to cause more problems in the long run because its not uncommon for the fish to get sick.
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Old 05-28-2011, 10:15 AM   #6
 
Hi! Welcome! I'm new here too. I'm far from an expert (still fishless cycling my tank) but just wanted you to know I read your story. I wish I could help, hopefully someone else on here can help you soon. Good luck!
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Old 05-28-2011, 11:23 AM   #7
 
Byron's Avatar
 
First off, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Now to your issues.

Quote:
So, I'll bullet point my immediate concerns...

* Should I even try to leave those two red tails to coexist, or will it inevitably be trouble in the long run? Does it matter what gender they are? I'm aware they will need a bigger tank in a few years, as will the pleco.

* Do you think that the red tails chasing behaviour is early signs of bullying? After a little chase, they go their separate ways in the tank, until maybe later they will cross paths again, and may or may not then instigate more 'headbanging' and chasing.
This is going to become very serious, and dead fish will be the result. A 120 litre/31 gallon aquarium is much too small for a common pleco or a red tailed shark. A digression on size. Potentially large fish need space to develop properly (internally and externally) from day one. While a fry of either species can begin a healthy normal development in a small space, it very quickly outgrows it. And this does not mean by external size, but inward development of the organs. We term it stunting when a fish is trying to develop in too small a space, and it causes many health problems that would otherwise not likely appear, plus it weakens the fish's immune system, often makes it more aggressive, and causes it to be deformed internally. These fish should be returned to the store for their sake. We have fish profiles here, second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top, or if the name is shaded you can click on that to see that species' profile. Each profile contains data on number of fish, minimum tank size, and compatibility/behaviour issues. Please read them.

In the shark profile, it mentions that this species is believe to have lived in isolation in nature (they are now extinct in the wild). It is programmed to fight off all rivals. Even if no external damage is evident, the fish is under terrible stress, either as the aggressor (losing his attempt to remove the other from his territory) or as the submissive one (being literally hounded to death). This is very cruel to the fish. Think of it as very similar to people who put fighting dogs together in a small cage and they try to kill each other. It is just the same.

Quote:
* Have I made a huge mistake with the Rams? Is there anything I can look out for in their behaviour that indicates they might not be doing well? They ate when I fed them, which I suppose is a good sign. The bold one was particularly hungry, venturing into the mid tank to catch as many falling flakes as he could.
As you seem to know, this is a very delicate and sensitive fish. Water parameters are critical. It needs to be kept in the same parameters in which it was raised, assuming they are tank-bred fish. If wild caught, they must have very soft acidic water. In either case, they need warmth, 82F is minimum. If these conditions are not provided, they will slowly (or quickly) become affected. They will be prone to disease and I can assure you they will die long before their expected lifespan. Please read the profile, click the shaded name: Blue Ram.

Quote:
* Have I put too many too large fish in the tank considering it probably only has a sprinkling of bacteria at the moment? The sharks are very small, 3 inches, the cichlids about 2 inches, and the pleco is about 4 inches nose to tail.
This depends. Aside from the more serious issues I've already mentioned, the bacterial supplement may or may not be sufficient to start the cycle. But the added stress of the afore-mentioned problems will make the fish far more suceptible to any other problems such as ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. The toxic effects of ammonia and nitrite sometimes kill the fish quickly, sometimes the fish appear to live through it only to succumb to death down the road due to internal damage that we cannot see.

Quote:
* Is my assumption that the pH will probably drop a little by the time cycling is complete correct?
Yes and no. The pH is closely connected to the buffering capacity of the water, and that is determined by the mineral content. If we knew the GH and KH of your tap water we would have a better idea of how this will play out. "Normal" means nothing, do you have the numbers? I can explain this process then.

Byron.
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Old 05-28-2011, 11:29 AM   #8
 
Thanks for reading :) Welcome to you too!

I have an update now anyway...

One of the sharks has gone back to the shop, last night the terrorism must have got really bad, because all day today, the smaller shark was hiding under the filter and every time he came out, he got chased incessantly round the tank by the dominant shark.

The pet store was very reluctant to take him back (they will not give me my money back at all, and it was a struggle to get them to replace him in their stock), and insisted that what I had read about sharks not going well with more than 1 in the tank was hogwash! I told them to read up on what they sell.

They were also adamant that the blue rams will not be a problem. I almost facepalmed in front of the guy, but not being a combative sort, I decided to let it slide and simply never ever go there again.

I did manage to convince them to give me a piece of already soaked driftwood, to get the pH down a bit for the cichlids, which hopefully will help them a little to survive the partial cycle (partial because I have already introduced copious amounts of bacteria.

After 2 days with 6 fishes in the tank, Ammonia has actually gone down to absolute zero frm the first reading I took which had indicated that there was 'more than none whatsoever' in the tank. Nitrates and nitrates are still undetectable on the paper test.

I will continue with small doses of the bacteria product and daily water monitoring. These Blue Rams are absolutely stunning. Now that they have fully acclimatised to their new home, their colours are very striking, deep neon blue spots, bright yellow faces and dar dark black spots and stripes. The two males face off occasionally, but it's very gentlemanly, no nipping. When they do this, their colours become even more vibrant. With what I have read about the dilution of the quality of this species due to poor quality breeding and in-breeding, I consider that I am very lucky to have 3 specimens which look every bit as colorful as any photograph you will find on the web. I so hope they make it, and will bust my ass to make sure they do.
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Old 05-28-2011, 11:30 AM   #9
 
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If there's any way the pet store will take the fish back and give you a refund, I would probably take them all back and choose fish that perfer harder water.

Welcome to TFK, we've all been there before.
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Old 05-28-2011, 11:40 AM   #10
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Byron View Post
First off, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Now to your issues.



This is going to become very serious, and dead fish will be the result. A 120 litre/31 gallon aquarium is much too small for a common pleco or a red tailed shark. A digression on size. Potentially large fish need space to develop properly (internally and externally) from day one. While a fry of either species can begin a healthy normal development in a small space, it very quickly outgrows it. And this does not mean by external size, but inward development of the organs. We term it stunting when a fish is trying to develop in too small a space, and it causes many health problems that would otherwise not likely appear, plus it weakens the fish's immune system, often makes it more aggressive, and causes it to be deformed internally. These fish should be returned to the store for their sake. We have fish profiles here, second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top, or if the name is shaded you can click on that to see that species' profile. Each profile contains data on number of fish, minimum tank size, and compatibility/behaviour issues. Please read them.

In the shark profile, it mentions that this species is believe to have lived in isolation in nature (they are now extinct in the wild). It is programmed to fight off all rivals. Even if no external damage is evident, the fish is under terrible stress, either as the aggressor (losing his attempt to remove the other from his territory) or as the submissive one (being literally hounded to death). This is very cruel to the fish. Think of it as very similar to people who put fighting dogs together in a small cage and they try to kill each other. It is just the same.



As you seem to know, this is a very delicate and sensitive fish. Water parameters are critical. It needs to be kept in the same parameters in which it was raised, assuming they are tank-bred fish. If wild caught, they must have very soft acidic water. In either case, they need warmth, 82F is minimum. If these conditions are not provided, they will slowly (or quickly) become affected. They will be prone to disease and I can assure you they will die long before their expected lifespan. Please read the profile, click the shaded name: Blue Ram.



This depends. Aside from the more serious issues I've already mentioned, the bacterial supplement may or may not be sufficient to start the cycle. But the added stress of the afore-mentioned problems will make the fish far more suceptible to any other problems such as ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. The toxic effects of ammonia and nitrite sometimes kill the fish quickly, sometimes the fish appear to live through it only to succumb to death down the road due to internal damage that we cannot see.



Yes and no. The pH is closely connected to the buffering capacity of the water, and that is determined by the mineral content. If we knew the GH and KH of your tap water we would have a better idea of how this will play out. "Normal" means nothing, do you have the numbers? I can explain this process then.

Byron.

Thank you very much for the detailed info. I must admit, much of this I have learned on my own.

As I mentioned to librarygirl, one of the sharks has now gone, and the other is very cheerful, very active.

Please let me stress, that as they get bigger I will move them to a much bigger tank (I have a 55 gal in storage). I was fully aware of all the requirements and idiosyncracies of the pleco before I bought him. Sadly I had not read about the sharks or the rams before they were sold to me as 'good choices'. This is a lesson I suppose to do my own research as well as considering local opinions.

So, one of the sharks has gone back, and I have decided to persevere with the rams. I honestly can't tell you how attentive I am, I'm checking the water morning and night, watching them for hours at a time to try to discern their state of mind. After 24 hours in the tank, they are doing extremely well, their colours have come out fantastically, and they are roaming around the tank raising their dorsals and displaying at each other whenever they pass in the street. :)

The pleco seems to very happy too, he even roams around in the day and has even been seen right at the top of the tank, testing his suction strength against the full filter flow! He seems to like doing that for a bit, then going back to his cave.

I'm one of those stubborn (and arrogant in a way I suppose) people, that often believes I can succeed where others have failed, by reading, studying and giving careful contemplation to every facet of a problem. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I'm not, but this is my nature, and I'm going to try to raise the rams as best I can. I've already raised the water temp to 81F, which according to most sources is fine for the rams. I've read TONS of information about the rams since yesterday (stayed up til 4 in the morning last night reading about them and people's experiences with them).

I realise it's extremely early days, but I'm going to work very very hard, to try to make this work for my fish.

Last edited by Aashenfox; 05-28-2011 at 11:58 AM..
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