Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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N00B 08-12-2012 02:35 AM

Mollies and Platys Dead & Dying... Help!!!
Beginner here... I have a 15 gallon freshwater tank with :
Current tank:
2 small glofish
2 bleeding heart tetras
2 white skirt tetras
2 long finned serpaes
1 sunsest platy
1 lyretail molly
1 small catfish
(Deceased: 1 dalmation molly, 1 balloon molly, 1 platy
Temperature: usually 84-86... but i turned my heater down a bit today as it's been hot
pH: 6.5-7.0

1 tall live bamboo plant
1 anubias variety plant

The beginning of my troubles started when my daylight spectrum bulb went out and my local store kept me waiting 2 weeks for a new one, and I did not think to remove my live plants, thus the ammonia started. For about 3 days the levels were steady around .5 ppms. I got rid of the plants changed the water 2 times a day for 2 days and the ammonia went away. Nitrites and nitrates were fine.Two days later my favorite dalmation molly died, he was sitting at the bottom and showed no other signs of stress, it may have been that he was old. I was very sad and took a drive to a real pet store to get new plants and I succumbed to getting new fish, which probably wasn't a good idea, but my water was stable. So three days later the balloon molly dies but he seemed very happy the whole time he lived and my water remained stable. I found him upside down with his fin caught in the filter tube, and I think it was just because he was stupid. 4 Days later one of my platys died, doing the same thing as my dalmation molly! Hiding at the bottom, but still swimming up for food and showing no other signs of stress. Now my other platy is acting similarly, perhaps lonely? But it is swimming around and eating, not sure of the sex. The lyretail molly which I'm pretty sure is male, is the only one of its kind. He doesn't seem aggressive, but maybe he is stressing the other fish, causing the deaths. I have noticed that he does this rapid sudden movement where he rubs his belly swiftly against the bamboo leaf. i know that this could be an early sign of ick, But have seen nothing on him or any other of the fish, but will keep looking. Basically my questions are: What is wrong with my tank?!?! Should I get the lonely platy and lyretail molly friends or leave it alone? Any advice will help, please & thank you!

eug 08-12-2012 03:09 AM

How long has this tank been running? Ammonia appearing is always bad news - it means your tank hasn't fully cycled yet. I do not think that the bulb dying has much to do with this, although it's conceivable that all your plants have died and are rotting.

Please read the following article:

When you introduce fish into an uncycled tank, there are no nitrifying bacteria cultures that break down highly toxic ammonia and nitrites into nitrates.

The cycle goes as follows:

Fish waste -> Ammonia -> Nitrite -> Nitrate

Nitrate is the end product of this cycle, and you have to remove nitrate via regular partial water changes. Nitrate is not immediately toxic in moderate amounts, but have long-term detrimental effects to fish health.

Plants are a great mediator in this biological scheme because they love to suck up ammonia, nitrate and nitrite (in that order of preference) as their nutrient source for nitrogen. Following the natural planted tank method of aquarium keeping, which is a method often encouraged here on these forums, the plants act as such an effective buffer against ammonia and nitrite spikes so that the cycle appears to not even occur. That's why this method is sometimes referred to as "silent cycling". In reality, some cultures of nitrifying bacteria are inevitably growing, but play second fiddle to the plants in their role of breaking down ammonia and nitrites.

Can you tell us how many plants you had in your tank before you removed them?

eug 08-12-2012 03:11 AM

Also, the molly being stuck in the filter tube sounds more like the fish was dead before he landed there.

N00B 08-12-2012 03:32 AM

Thank you for the response. I had one bamboo and one anubias variety, they rotted and I replaced them with new ones, the tank has been pretty much ammonia free since then. The tank has been operational for about 6 months... It is not mine, simply baby-sitting it for a friend. i do believe that the missing bulb & dead plants (which have both since been replaced) were the beginnings of my issues. I really do not know why these random deaths are happening, I have been vigorously changing the water and each time I do, the fish seem a bit happier, except for my poor platy who is staying on the grown. His/her breathing is slightly faster than the other fish, but other than that there are no signs of distress... even the poo is normal. No white poo from any of them. I do not use any chemicals. other than water conditioner that detoxifies ammonia. I have never had a spike in nitrites or nitrates which I really do not understand.

eug 08-12-2012 04:00 AM

I do not know about bamboo and if they're really meant to be kept in a submerged setting. I kind of doubt it...

I would get yourself some fast growing floating plants like water sprite, or brazilian pennywort which can grown floating or planted into the substrate. These are one of the most effective nitrogen sponges as well as providing cover for your fish to make them feel more secure.

What kind of catfish is it that you have in there? There are many, many different types of catfish that have completely different needs. Those tetra species are shoaling fish, which means they don't feel well unless they are together with at least a few (say 5 or more) of their own kind. You don't have enough space in my opinion for more fish though, so taking some of the fish back to the store might be something to consider.

You have a low pH, which indicates that you might have soft water. Do you have a test kit to measure general hardness (GH)? Please post the figures if you know them. If you have soft water, that's bad news for the livebearers like mollies and platys because they all need hard, alkaline water to do well. This seems likely to be a reason why these fish are dying.

N00B 08-12-2012 04:06 AM

I think you are most certainly right about the water hardness being the issue for my livebearers. I would like to find them new homes, but they are not necessarily my fish to give away, I'm just tired of waking up to dead fish :( The previous keeper of the tank said she did add a little salt from time to time... but she would just use regular sea salt which sounds crazy to me, but what do I know! I think you are also probably right about the bamboo not really being a submersible plant and I will absolutely take your advice on those new plant types. I do not have a test for general hardness, but I do agree with you. Thanks a lot, you've really helped!

eug 08-12-2012 04:10 AM

Ya that's not great because other fish like the tetras prefer soft water. The sea salt thing, well I don't have experience with adding salt, but that may have kept the minerals up enough for the livebearers to survive. It's just not going to work though when you try to keep fish with such differing needs, one half needing soft water, one half needing hard. If your tap water is naturally soft, go with fish that naturally prefer that, and do the right thing for the animals and take the platys back to the store. You can even lie and just say they died, if the original owner asks.

smit3183 08-12-2012 05:31 AM

You also have some other issues. You said temp was 84-86,that is entirely way to hot. Other fish will start to die. Keep a community tank around 76-78. The majority of fish you have are schooling fish which means they need to be in groups of 5-7,but with such a small tank you would be way overstocked if you added anything else.

GreyHounD 08-12-2012 06:09 AM

Some bamboo like lucky bamboo are poisoning. Might be that they bit the roots, another might be a temp shock.

eug 08-12-2012 06:19 AM

sorry, I missed the high temperature bit, I'm used to temperature in C and I don't know off the top of my head how to convert degrees F.

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