Old 5 Gallon Tank / Setting up a 20 Gallon Tank
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Old 5 Gallon Tank / Setting up a 20 Gallon Tank

This is a discussion on Old 5 Gallon Tank / Setting up a 20 Gallon Tank within the Freshwater and Tropical Fish forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> I've posted here a handful of times in the past. Needless to say, I haven't had too much luck with my 5.5 G tank ...

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Old 5 Gallon Tank / Setting up a 20 Gallon Tank
Old 09-09-2013, 11:38 AM   #1
umi
 
Old 5 Gallon Tank / Setting up a 20 Gallon Tank

I've posted here a handful of times in the past. Needless to say, I haven't had too much luck with my 5.5 G tank that I bought as a first aquarium for a betta fish.

That being said, I cycled the fish tank using fish food and got a honey sunset gourami to try again, as recommended by my LFS. Everything was going pretty great for 5 weeks. (In the meantime, I was encouraged enough to want to upgrade to a 20 G L tank, and am cycling that tank now.) I was eventually going to move him to the 20 gallon once it finished cycling. However, I found him dead this morning. I'm pretty heart broken about it. It looks like there was a mini cycle going on as I recently got some algae bloom on my tank. (Did some reading and that should have been my clue that I was probably overfeeding/there were extra nitrates.)

Of course, I blame myself for not being more diligent. I think my nitrate test is a little inconsistent (yes it is liquid). I should have done another water change last night, since he was a little inactive. I tested the waters last night and my readings were 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 5 nitrates (color was lighter than 5, so it was probably lower). I didn't want to stress the guy out, so I was planning on doing a water change today. (I did a small 10% water change 2 days ago, so I thought 2 days in a row might be a little much). Nitrates were less than 10 when I tested 2 days ago. I used to rule that Nitrates should never be above 20ppm, and generally it was always under 10. I tested the tank every 2 days at first. Then it became every 3-4 days/twice a week to gauge water changes. I never saw the ammonia spike, so I thought I was fine.

The tank was not planted. It was kept at a steady 77-79 degrees. The Ph shouldn't have changed drastically, but I did not test it yesterday, so I do not know what it was then. (I initially tested my Ph on my tap and it was within range, so I acclimated the fish and didn't worry too much about it as per my LFS's instructions.) It has a sponge filter that is normally used on 20 gallon tanks (but I know sponge filters are not as powerful as other filters).

I'm *so* frustrated, as this time I planned everything out. I also just loved the little guy. He had SO MUCH personality.

I was also told that it may be because I cycled using fish food. Could this be the case? I've been told that cycling using fish food is inconsistent. I couldn't find pure ammonia anywhere in the store, and thought fish food would be fine. I also thought it would be ok, since I was keeping the honey gourami on it's own and was planning on monitoring it diligently (although not enough? I guess...).

Anyway. I am thinking it was a nitrate problem, as the fish was very active. I'm venting, but I would appreciate any other thoughts you may have.
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Old 09-10-2013, 02:31 AM   #2
 
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Umi. . . I'm so sorry to hear you lost your little Honey. *hugs* It's always hard to lose a pet, and it sounds like you've been working so hard over there to keep his water clean and get him through to a home better suited for his needs. I can understand your sadness and frustration. . . we've all been there.

This is going to be a long post. . . Please bear with me as I try to sort through all of your concerns one by one. . .

Quote:
Originally Posted by umi View Post
. . .I cycled the fish tank using fish food and got a honey sunset gourami to try again, as recommended by my LFS. Everything was going pretty great for 5 weeks. (In the meantime, I was encouraged enough to want to upgrade to a 20 G L tank, and am cycling that tank now.) I was eventually going to move him to the 20 gallon once it finished cycling.
Shame on the shop for selling you a Honey Gourami for a 5.5g tank!!! Don't take any more advice from the people in this shop! You're better off doing your own research - I think we've all been given bad advice from fish store clerks in the past. . . but kudos to YOU for taking the time out to cycle your 5g tank before bringing him home, and for following through with studying up on the animal in your care, and purchasing the 20L when you learned more about the needs of your little fish. Well done!

Quote:
Originally Posted by umi View Post
It looks like there was a mini cycle going on as I recently got some algae bloom on my tank. (Did some reading and that should have been my clue that I was probably overfeeding/there were extra nitrates.)
Algae doesn't *necessarily* mean overfeeding (though extra nutrients in the water will certainly help it to thrive!), and it certainty doesn't prove that there was a mini-cycle (though that is still a possibility). How long did you keep your lights on in this tank each day? Nitrates should be present in all but the most heavily planted cycled tanks. A level below 5 for a gourami in a cycled 5g doesn't seem excessive to me, though having never been in this situation, I could be wrong. With no live plants to help maintain parameters, the algae could actually have been beneficial, as it would have been helping to consume toxins in the water!

It can be tricky not to overfeed when you're new and learning, remember that fish in the wild are happy with what they get, and rarely are given a fully balanced meal every day from the sky! It's perfectly okay to skip a day or more between feedings, and oftentimes necessary in a cycling/heavy bioload situation. I've heard many people say that a hungry fish is a healthy fish - though it is difficult to ignore them when they beg so prettily!

Quote:
Originally Posted by umi View Post
I tested the waters last night and my readings were 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and 5 nitrates (color was lighter than 5, so it was probably lower). I didn't want to stress the guy out, so I was planning on doing a water change today. (I did a small 10% water change 2 days ago, so I thought 2 days in a row might be a little much). Nitrates were less than 10 when I tested 2 days ago. I used to rule that Nitrates should never be above 20ppm, and generally it was always under 10. I tested the tank every 2 days at first. Then it became every 3-4 days/twice a week to gauge water changes. I never saw the ammonia spike, so I thought I was fine.
Ammonia spikes can happen very quickly, especially in an overstocked tank - it is entirely possible that it was missed. If the tank was cycled (even with fish food) before you added fish, the nitrates should have been slowly rising until the bacteria in the tank was at the proper level to deal with the bioload of the fish who lived there - in the case of the Honey Gourami, they may have stabilized at a much higher level. If you did have an ammonia spike, it would follow through the cycle chain - first ammonia, then nitrites, finally nitrates.0/0/>5 is not a cause for concern, obviously, but if your tank did experience a mini cycle, its more likely to have been the ammonia/nitrIte that caused the damage - not the nitrAte. 10ppm is fine, 20ppm is a good rule. . . it seems as if you've been testing diligently - if you saw no ammonia spike in the first week or two, I have to say that it sounds as if your tank was successfully cycled - especially by this point, five weeks in. It may not have taken much to disrupt a newly established bacterial colony, though - especially in a smaller, overstocked tank. OVER cleaning *can* be as dangerous as under cleaning, especially in a brand new setup.

Quote:
Originally Posted by umi View Post
The tank was not planted. It was kept at a steady 77-79 degrees. The Ph shouldn't have changed drastically, but I did not test it yesterday, so I do not know what it was then. (I initially tested my Ph on my tap and it was within range, so I acclimated the fish and didn't worry too much about it as per my LFS's instructions.) It has a sponge filter that is normally used on 20 gallon tanks (but I know sponge filters are not as powerful as other filters).
Plants will certainly help keep toxins down in any tank, provided you have the proper lighting and nutrients available for them to thrive. Gourami are bubble nesters, and come from a world dense with vegetation. You may want to consider planting your 20L (one of my favorite size tanks to plant!) Regardless, you're right - the Ph shouldn't have changed, especially not if you were doing frequent small water changes - unless, perhaps if your Kh is very low (very soft water). Sponge filters are fine - and ideal for tanks of that size. Gourami typically prefer slow-moving waters. It may be that a sponge rated for 20g created too much water movement for his comfort, and added to his stress?

As for Ph, I test my established tanks monthly - which is more than many other people do. As long as you are doing regular water changes (and it sounds like you were), you shouldn't have to test it daily, unless you are actively attempting to change the water chemistry (I/E soften or harden the tank water), notice behavioral changes (lethargy being one), or other reason for concern - such as extensive planting, or very soft water (a low Kh can lead to deadly Ph crashes, especially in a cycling situation). The steady influx of clean tap water *should* have been enough to keep parameters steady - I doubt Ph flux is a concern here, but I'd really like to know your Ph, Gh, Kh readings if you are able to test those, and wouldn't mind posting them from tap? It may give us a better idea of what we're dealing with. . . if you don't have it, the API Kh/Gh test kit is available through Amazon for somewhere around the $6 range.

Quote:
Originally Posted by umi View Post
I'm *so* frustrated, as this time I planned everything out. I also just loved the little guy. He had SO MUCH personality.
Gourami are truly lovely animals, I know how hard it is to lose a fish that you've become attached to *hugs* It sounds like you were doing your best to keep the water clean and watching the parameters. From what you wrote above, you were doing the best you could to bring him through a bad situation and into a larger tank safely. We ALL start somewhere, and we ALL have made mistakes. The important thing is that it isn't for nothing - and you've learned a lot from this experience. The mistakes you made in the past won't be repeated. Please don't be so hard on yourself!

Quote:
Originally Posted by umi View Post
]
Anyway. I am thinking it was a nitrate problem, as the fish was very active. I'm venting, but I would appreciate any other thoughts you may have.
With a nitrate level as low as what you posted, I don't think nitrAtes should be a huge concern. . .That said, keeping even a young fish in a tank that is too small for it can cause a lot of invisible damage over time - and a shorter lifespan, ultimately. This may be especially true while they are young and still developing. Also, the close quarters, and so many water changes, as well as parameter flux in a tank of that size would have been very stressful on the little guy - and stress plays a huge role in fish health. A stressed fish will not have the immunity to fight off infection as well, so it even could have been a pathogen that he came into your home with, but was unable to fight off any longer. In truth there are so many possibilities, it's impossible to know for sure what happened. I know this isn't what you wanted to hear, and I wish I had something more solid to offer you - there are just so many variables in this situation. . .

Quote:
Originally Posted by umi View Post
I was also told that it may be because I cycled using fish food. Could this be the case? I've been told that cycling using fish food is inconsistent. I couldn't find pure ammonia anywhere in the store, and thought fish food would be fine. I also thought it would be ok, since I was keeping the honey gourami on it's own and was planning on monitoring it diligently (although not enough? I guess...).
As for cycling with fish food, I've never done it, but see no reason why it should be any different than any other method, bacteria wise - except that I'd assume you'd need to dump quite a bit of fish food in a 20g tank to generate the same levels of ammonia you'd see if you were dosing pure, and so have to stock more slowly from the beginning. Regardless, bacteria is bacteria is bacteria - as long as you test through the cycle, you should end up with a fairly good idea of where you stand with things before you bring a new fish home. If not, post the numbers from the 20 - we'll help you out! Since I've never cycled this way, I'll leave it up to someone who has to give you more input here. . . I'd hate to steer you wrong.

I hope this has helped you out somewhat, I'm a beginner, too. . . so please double check and verify what I've posted here with your own research, and feel free to post additional threads if you seek clarification on any of these specific points. Hopefully someone with more experience will be along soon to offer better input. . . in the meantime, again - please try not to be too frustrated by this. I know how hard it can be, and how easy to blame yourself, but try to find some comfort in thinking about how happy you're going to make all the fishies who will be coming to live soon in your lovely fully-cycled 20 gallon tank! *hugs*
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Last edited by Chesh; 09-10-2013 at 03:07 AM.. Reason: sleepy, can't write! >.<
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umi (09-11-2013)
Old 09-11-2013, 05:44 PM   #3
umi
 
Thank you so much for all that information.

I'm not sure whether it was a mini cycle. It could have been Ph, since I was not very diligent in checking my tap water daily. (My process was to fill 2 gallon water bottles with tap water, then I would use a dropper to put the proper amount of seachem prime. I would leave that water at least overnight/24 hours before using it in a water change. I never measured the Ph difference, other than the initial Ph from the tap. I might start doing that just to be sure. I didn't know about the

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chesh View Post
Shame on the shop for selling you a Honey Gourami for a 5.5g tank!!! Don't take any more advice from the people in this shop! You're better off doing your own research - I think we've all been given bad advice from fish store clerks in the past. . . but kudos to YOU for taking the time out to cycle your 5g tank before bringing him home, and for following through with studying up on the animal in your care, and purchasing the 20L when you learned more about the needs of your little fish. Well done!
So the 5.5 gallon just wasn't a good choice for the Honey Sunset Gourami, huh? The funny thing is they told me that in some time, I can probably add some neon tetras to the 5.5 gallon with the gourami. Originally I bought the thing to house a betta. There doesn't really seem to be much it is suited for, other than bettas, shrimps, etc. In your opinion, the tank was overstocked with 1 honey gourami?

That's exactly what happened. I did some more research later and saw that a larger tank is better suited for this little guy. I also wanted to have a community tank with different variety and colors, so I decided to invest in a 20G L.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chesh View Post
Ammonia spikes can happen very quickly, especially in an overstocked tank - it is entirely possible that it was missed. If the tank was cycled (even with fish food) before you added fish, the nitrates should have been slowly rising until the bacteria in the tank was at the proper level to deal with the bioload of the fish who lived there - in the case of the Honey Gourami, they may have stabilized at a much higher level. If you did have an ammonia spike, it would follow through the cycle chain - first ammonia, then nitrites, finally nitrates.0/0/>5 is not a cause for concern, obviously, but if your tank did experience a mini cycle, its more likely to have been the ammonia/nitrIte that caused the damage - not the nitrAte. 10ppm is fine, 20ppm is a good rule. . . it seems as if you've been testing diligently - if you saw no ammonia spike in the first week or two, I have to say that it sounds as if your tank was successfully cycled - especially by this point, five weeks in. It may not have taken much to disrupt a newly established bacterial colony, though - especially in a smaller, overstocked tank. OVER cleaning *can* be as dangerous as under cleaning, especially in a brand new setup.
Here's the thing, I didn't see any ammonia spike. And I've been checking in the very least 2 times a week. I feel like I don't trust my testers. (I made sure several times to shake the results really thoroughly.) One thing I didn't do was shake the tester bottles themselves, which after some googling, I saw might help. I'll definitely look into checking the Ph every now and again, as well as, API Gh/Kh testing kit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chesh View Post
Gourami are truly lovely animals, I know how hard it is to lose a fish that you've become attached to *hugs* It sounds like you were doing your best to keep the water clean and watching the parameters. From what you wrote above, you were doing the best you could to bring him through a bad situation and into a larger tank safely. We ALL start somewhere, and we ALL have made mistakes. The important thing is that it isn't for nothing - and you've learned a lot from this experience. The mistakes you made in the past won't be repeated. Please don't be so hard on yourself!
It's funny how attached we can get. This gourami had SO MUCH personality. He would come greet us, beg for food, and was so responsive to our presence near the tank. It's odd to say, but I feel like I can't replace him.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chesh View Post
As for cycling with fish food, I've never done it, but see no reason why it should be any different than any other method, bacteria wise - except that I'd assume you'd need to dump quite a bit of fish food in a 20g tank to generate the same levels of ammonia you'd see if you were dosing pure, and so have to stock more slowly from the beginning. Regardless, bacteria is bacteria is bacteria - as long as you test through the cycle, you should end up with a fairly good idea of where you stand with things before you bring a new fish home. If not, post the numbers from the 20 - we'll help you out! Since I've never cycled this way, I'll leave it up to someone who has to give you more input here. . . I'd hate to steer you wrong.
I was planning on cycling the 20G with food, the same way. I've read in couple of different places that sometimes cycling with food is inconsistent, since you don't know how much fish the establish bacteria can support. I couldn't find any pure ammonia in NYC, but maybe I'm not looking in the right places. (I looked at pharmacies, mostly.) This choice might not be too popular, but I'm currently "borrowing" 5 feeder guppies from a coworker of mine who has them multiplying at home. (That's a separate story all together.) I did this a week or so ago, because I wanted to give in-fish cycling a try and I prospect of having a large empty tank for a month wasn't attractive to me. After I am done, I plan to return them. I know a lot of people are against it, but I wanted some sort of activity in the tank as it was cycling. Eventually I was going to stock it with my old gourami, 2 platys (had my heart set on bumblebee platys for a splash of color), a small school of cardinals, and a small school of some small catfish variety. I checked the stocking with aqaquarium, and it looked like my 20G can accommodate that. I was also looking into German Rams, but I know they need a mature tank and I was just beginning to research and learn more about them.

I have a cascade 150 filter on the 20G, but after my gourami passed, I moved the 20G sponge filter into the tank to help it cycle a little quicker. I also moved some decorations and substrate over, so hopefully this tank is cycled soon. It's still early in the process though and I don't plan on stocking additional fish without finishing this cycle.
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