Originally Posted by cwgrl42
I have lost two Tiger barbs (now down to 4 barbs, 2 gouramis, and a psychotic chinese algae eater who I would like to banish to the watering trough but I can't catch him) from the first round.....
Parameters: ph: 7.4
ammonia: 4 (I use ammonia lock and am doing about 50% water changes every other day)
Nitrites: barely registering
Filtration: 60 gallon Tetra and 20 gallon whisper
Planted with an assortment of live plants/ carpet
Looks like you've got your spice question added. I'll just agree that it probably isn't an issue, but a major water change would help clear out anything dissolved. The solution to pollution is dilution.
However, I wanted to mention a couple things on your fish stock and water parameters.
The Tiger Barb is a pretty aggressive fin nipping type fish, they really do best in a species only tank or in large schools in a larger tank with other active fish that do not have long fins. Read up on their profile to learn more. Them with Gourami are a bad idea, as Gourami are slow fish and their fins are very, very tempting to fin nippers like the Tiger Bard.
The Chinese Algae Eater is also a terrible fish to have in a community tank, and they are very, very bad at eating algae despite their name. You are right in wanting to get ride of him.
Now on your water parameters, 4 ppm Ammonia is extremely high and is likely what is killing your fish. A major water change is in order, daily, to keep that as low as possible since you have fish in the tank. The damage Ammonia causes to fish is permanent, they do not heal from it once it goes away. Very important to do everything you can to keep that at 0.25 - 0.50 ppm during the cycling process when you have fish in the tank. Sounds like you are using something to detoxify it which will help, but I'd do daily changes instead of every other day with Ammonia levels that high.
Stick with it if you can, put the food in a closet or cupboard that the kids can not reach. If they are your sisters kids, make her pay for the losses and suddenly she'll start to care more about what her kids are doing
At least now you know why doing a fishless cycle is best, far less work not having to do so many water changes.