Poor Start - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 5 Old 04-10-2012, 08:26 PM Thread Starter
New Member
Poor Start

We went off of Pet Smart tags, looking for similar-sized fish and similar tank requirements, and the limited knowledge of whatever people they decided to hire that month (no offense if you work there). It didn't work out very well, and I'm finding that a few of the fish I chose will need their own tanks, away from many of the others. I currently have 2 tanks - a 30 and a 75. The 30 is filtered by a 50g-rated filter, and the 75 by a 90g-rated filter. A swift spike in the Ammonia level in the 30g around week five taught me that I needed to vacuum my tank out, no matter how much I thought the extra filtration was doing for me.

First day: Started with a 30g, Sunset Platy + Betta (got along very well)
Week Two: Red Tailed Shark + Clown Loach
Week Three: Ich breakout
Week Four: Ich subsides, and we established a 75g
Week Four/Five: 3 Gouramis + 3 Rainbowfish + Panda Platy + Swordtail
At about this time parameters were all normal, with a consistent 0 Nitrates/Nitrites and 2ppm Ammonia. By the end of the week, the Clown Loach was dead (found stuck in the filter). One of the Gouramis died soon after. Ammonia got as high as 4ppm very quickly, with Nitrates and Nitrites still very low. There was 4-5 days between samples when we saw this, so we immediately moved the fish to the 75g.
Week Six: Ghost Knife + Pleco + Dragon Bichir (all now in the 75g, and the 30g empty and filtering after a good vacuuming)
The Dragon Bichir died a within a week of having him in the tank. The other two Gouramis also die, and the Betta looks like it has Neon Tetra disease. I'm pretty sure it'll be dead in the morning.

So this leaves me with 2 Platies, a Swordtail, a Pleco, Ghost Knife, 3 Rainbowfish (that find each other's fins tasty), and a Red Tailed Shark. I've been maintaining the temperature in each tank at mid-70's, PH is mid to upper 7's, and Ammonia maxed at 4ppm in the 30g (over the course of a few days), definitely because I decided to more than double the number of fish in the tank in a very short period.

We have a bowl (~2 gallons) that the Platies and the Swordtail are going into. The Pleco will apparently get up to 2 feet in length, and the Ghost Knife not much smaller. The shark will be comfortable in a smaller tank, I think, with the rainbowfish. I have an Oscar in a 30 right now (only a few inches in length at the moment), until I get him a larger tank this summer or autumn. The shark and rainbowfish will likely go into that.

This leaves me with a standard 75g (width not good for the Ghost Knife???) for the Pleco. I'm wondering if the Oscar or Ghost Knife could go in there with him. If not, assuming the shark and 3 rainbowfish go into the 30g, what additional tanks and tank-mates would you guys recommend for the remaining Oscar (I'm probably going to get several people telling me "no tank mates" on him), Pleco, and Ghost Knife?

Also, any general comments on my child-like entry into the world of keeping fish would be (amusingly) appreciated. I had a guy at work yelling at me for being so aggressive with establishing these tanks. I'm pretty sure I deserved it. I also wanted to add that despite several of these fish being unsuitable for half of the other fish in the tank, the ich episode (that didn't touch the first platy), and several unexplained deaths, the 2 platies and the swordtail have gotten along famously with no incident. I thought that was kinda funny.

Tank 1: 75g - Ghost Knife, Red Tailed Shark, Sunset Platy, Panda Platy, 3 Rainbow Fish, Pleco, Swordtail

Tank 2: 30g - "Tigger" the Tiger Oscar (moving to a new, larger tank this autumn)

Last edited by dscutt; 04-10-2012 at 08:40 PM. Reason: added more information
dscutt is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 5 Old 04-10-2012, 11:24 PM
New Member
Good news! You are enthusiastic about keeping aquariums.
Bad news! You learn the hard way some times.

But don't blame yourself... It is hard to get accurate information, or any information from people who are ignorant to the hobby of aquarium keeping. I used to work at Petsmart and had to leave after being so frustrated with everyone who worked there. Now I work at a LFS that knows their stuff. So find a local shop by you that takes time to care for their fish.

The biggest thing people don't realize is that patience is key when setting up aquariums. In order to be happy, think about what you would like your aquarium to look like in the future. I usually decide between a community aquarium, a predatory tank, malawi cichlid tank, tanganyika cichlid tank, south american cichlid tank, brackish water tank, etc etc etc... The most important tool in having a healthy aquarium is that gravel vacuum. Draining (while gravel vacuuming) between a third and half of the water out each week will lead to impeccable water quality. The more frequent the water changes, the less harmful nutrients there are in the aquarium. This also means that the new water added in has extremely similar water parameters as the water that is already in your aquarium.
When starting an aquarium, your fishtank is an unsafe environment for fish. The tank lacks nitrifying bacteria that are prolific in established aquariums. This bacteria converts toxic ammonia (fish waste and overfeeding) into nitrites, and eventually less toxic nitrates. In an established (cycled) and healthy aquarium, there will be zero ammonia and zero nitrites present and a slight amount of nitrates. Plants (and algae) use nitrates as food, and they are the only thing that will remove nitrates from your aquarium naturally. This is why it is important to continue doing water changes in an established aquarium, because while nitrates are not extremely harmful, they act as a secret killer, building up over time and slowly taking a toll on your fish.

That is a lot to digest, but that is basically how an aquarium works.

This is what should have happened to your levels...

Once you added a few fish, you should have seen a rise in the ammonia levels.
After a week, do a water change.
Over a week or two, the ammonia levels should have decreased and a rise in nitrite levels should be seen.
This means that the population of bacteria that converts ammonia has risen to appropriate levels to deal with the ammonia.
Continue water change schedule.
After another week or two, nitrite levels should also decrease and nitrate levels should rise.
This tells us that the population of the second type of nitrifying bacteria has risen to appropriate levels to deal with the nitrite.
Continue water change schedule for rest of life of tank.

You may add fish during this process, but slowly. And preferably fish that can tolerate higher levels of ammonia. Just stay away from delicate and expensive fish. Expect to lose every fish you buy, and that mentality will definitely hold you back!

So now that you know how everything works, hopefully you can make yours work!

So. Now. On to the fish.

You have an extremely wide range of fish. They range in size, aggression, diet, and region of origin.

First off, anyone who gives you advice for your aquarium that is BLACK or WHITE is wrong. Don't listen to them. I can't tell you how many times I've heard of hobbyists who have kept predatory fish with small guppies and have never had a problem. The only rule to really go by is that someone, somewhere, has an aquarium that will prove everything you declare WRONG.

Keeping an aquarium is an ongoing experiment. Personally, I don't believe that the combination of fish that you have will be the best option for you. From my experience, I would say the Ghost Knife has a taste for fish. You're just lucky that your platy swords and rainbows are larger than his mouth. Knife fish also have a solid spine, so they do need a wide tank to move around in, so a 75 is kind of a fringe area. You may need to upgrade in a few years or sell him back to a LFS. And NO they will not only grow to the size of the tank. Fish grow just like us. There is no magic spell that makes fish stay small... Same with your pleco. A Pleco is a pretty cool fish, but contrary to many people's belief they do not aid in cleaning your water. They just make it worse, just like any other fish. They cannot remove nutrients from the water, that is done by natural bacteria growing on its own, and through your water changes. While common plecos eat algae when they are small and young, they quickly grow to two feet and terrorize your tanks decorations and plants... they also mostly stop eating algae. One would be okay in your 75 gallon though. Just beware of the live plants issue. To take care of algae, choose the smaller bristlenose plecos. They stay about 4 or 6 inches and usually don't bother plants.

Your Oscar may be the biggest problem you run in to. The Oscar is a South American Cichlid that can sometimes pack an attitude. This is not just because it is a cichlid. Yes, many cichlids usually are aggressive and territorial. But saying "cichlid" is kind of like saying "car." While you have an oscar, a cichlid, it is very different from the angelfish, also a cichlid, in terms of aggression and territoriality. Discus are cichlids as well! Many people often assume cichlids = overwhelming aggression, which is not always true.
Now, being a larger fish that will probably reach a size of a foot or so, you have to be willing to experiment. I would recommend fish of about the same size... A fish that will be able to "hold its own" in a tough pecking order. It is possible to keep several large and more aggressive cichlids in the 75 gallon, just understand that not everything is going to work out. There will most likely be a "boss" of the tank, that may or may not be your oscar. Some other fish that may work out would be a Jack Dempsey, Texas Cichlid, Red Devil, or Green Terror. I would just recommend sticking with LARGER South or Central American Cichlids that commonly are more aggressive.

The platies, swords, rainbows, and redtail shark should be able to get along together in a community aquarium. The redtail shark sometimes can be a little nasty, but you could definitely get a peaceful one! I would add more types of rainbows, and several large schools of fish. If I was working with your 75 gallon, I would definitely add a TON of live plants. Because plants are awesome and beautiful and only benefit your aquarium. I would then add about 18 Cardinal tetras, 12 Harlequin Rasboras, and probably quadruple the same number of platies and swords you have in there already... but that's just me! This is YOUR fish tank. Just make sure to take it easy. Try to cycle your aquariums for the next month or two ONLY using the fish you currently own. Keep up on your water changes, and don't be afraid to do an extra one in the middle of the week for now. If you see your fish stressed, and aquarium, non-iodized salt to your water as a general stress reliever and immune system booster.

But please. Remember one thing... Have FUN!

...and do water changes. It's honestly the solution to every problem.
rmlynn is offline  
post #3 of 5 Old 04-10-2012, 11:41 PM
New Member
Also, forgot to talk about the Ichthyopthirius Multifilis outbreak that you had in your tank. Honestly not a big deal. Simple things to do when it happens next time-

Bump up the temp in your tank to 82 or 83.
Treat with a medicine called "Ich-X" It's light on fish, not too stressfull. Be sure that if you have delicate fish, "half-dose it." Simply use half of the amount the bottle calls for. This is especially important with scaleless fish such as catfish.
Do water changes with heavy gravel vacuuming.

Here's a schedule.
Day 1: ICH ATTACK! Turn up the temp to 82/83. Go buy Ich-X. Perform a 50% water change with heavy gravel vacuuming. REMOVE CARBON FROM FILTER (it will filter out medication). Add a half dose of the Ich-X medication. Relax. Go to sleep.
Day 2: Perform 50% water change. Half dose Ich-X again. Relax. Go to sleep. Fish probably look 1000x better already! If not, be patient!
Day 3,4,5..etc: Repeat Day 2.

*Personally, I'm extra careful, so I like treating the tank for at least three days after I have seen the last white spot leave my fish. This is to ensure a lone super ich soldier doesn't survive and then reproduce some more super ich soldiers which are extremely hard to get rid of.*

The science behind what you're doing. The white spots on your fish aren't the actual parasite that is slowly killing your fish. The white cap develops as a defense to protect the parasite sore. The ich eventually falls off the fish and into your gravel where it lays eggs/reproduces and such. Their life cycle goes on!

So, when you bump up the temperature, you speed up the life cycle of the ich. They fall off the fish faster. The ich is protected by the white casing when it is on the fish, so when they fall off, the medication kills them and their future offspring. By gravel vacuuming, you remove live eggs and living parasites, aiding the fish and aquarium in combating the infection.

Pretty simple!

Good luck.
rmlynn is offline  
post #4 of 5 Old 04-11-2012, 11:02 AM
New Member
For the water changes, you should aim to keep ammonia as low as 0,5 ppm. Never let it go above 1ppm. Nitrite should be even lower, no more than 0,3 ppm. The way to do this while cycling the tank is to change 20-50% water every day, or every other day, depending on how high your reading are. You will need to do this until you have completed your cycle, and it can take 4-6 weeks.

After the cycle is completed, you will want to keep ammonia and nitrite at 0, and nitrate below 40 ppm. It will be easy to do with regular maintenance (change 20-30% water every week while vacuuming gravel, rinse filter material in tank water, scrape off algae from glass).

You may also experience mini-cycles if you change too much of you filter media at the same time, since a lot of beneficial bacteria live in there. It can also happen if you overfeed or add to much fish at the same time. These will lessen with time, while the tank becomes "well established" and there is a strong bacteria colony in the substrate.

I must stress the role that live plants can play in your tanks. Apart from being beatiful, plants consume ammonia and nitrate while growing. They also consume heavy metals that are harmfull to fish. I find that it is easier to balance a tank with live plants and that the fish are happier. You also normally have a lot less algae.

Don't fall for the "additives" trap. Use only a good water conditionner, and medication if your fish are ill. You could consider a small hospital tank, because medications are harmfull for bacteria and fish... Also, don't try to add water clarifiers, algae killer or other bottles that promises to make your tank perfect. They won't work, and will harm your fish. Also, don't add salt, it's a common misconception : Salt in the Freshwater Aquarium

I have no experience with the bigger fish that you have, and thus cannot help you. To me, these fish looks like a lot of trouble for what they are worth, but you be the judge.

Also, you will have trouble with the 2 gallon bowl. It's impossible to keep the water parameter stable in there, you won't be able to put more than 2-3 fish in there, and I hope you have an heater and a filter even for that.

Don't despair, the art and science of keeping an aquarium is easily learnable, and you've found a great forum to find help !
Boise1024 is offline  
post #5 of 5 Old 04-11-2012, 03:14 PM
Byron's Avatar
First thing, dscutt, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Nice to have you with us.

I'll just pick up on a couple of points already mentioned. First, get yourself some live plants, fast-growing ones like stem plants or floating plants. The latter are easy to maintain, and some stem plants do well just floating. This is the only way to get through a new tank cycle with fish in the tank and with no harm to the fish. Now, the damage has already been done if ammonia or nitrite were above zero with fish in the tank for a day or more, but that can't be helped now. The beauty of plants is that they grab the ammonia fast, even faster than bacteria, and when plants take up ammonia they do not produce nitrite so another benefit.

Do not buy any more fish until the tank(s) are settled and established. Even with the plants, let the tanks settle down. All this is highly stressful on all fish, and stress may not even be externally visible to us but it is causing the fish considerable trouble and this will become evident down the road, so the less stress the better.

As for the present fish still left, you will have trouble at some point. Unless you plan on a tank that is at least 6 feet in length and 2 feet in width, the Black Ghost Knifefish should go back. You can read more in our profile, click the shaded name. Profiles in general are under the second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top, but if the common or scientific name is used the same in a post as in the profile it will shade and you can click on it.

I see you are in Washington State, just south of me in Vancouver, BC. Seabeck is on the Kitsap Peninsula I believe, so presumably you have soft water. If this is the case, forget livebearers long-term (guppy, molly, swordtail, platy, endlers are livebearers) as they must have medium hard or harder water. There are methods to add mineral hardness, you can read more here:

It is always easier to select fish that match your source e water; it makes water changes much simpler, and avoids having to adjust water GH (general hardness) and possibly KH (carbonate hardness) and pH depending.

This should help you at this point. Never be afraid to ask questions here, there are many experienced aquarists who have gone through probably all the same problems. Good luck.


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]
Byron is offline  

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Poor start with GoldFish (fancy) - Advice? MugonZaller Cyprinids and Atherinids 7 02-14-2012 06:04 AM

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome