My clownfish is dying....again! Please help!
I am a new marine hobbyist and have had a 60 litre marine tank set-up for approximately 4months now. When i set-up i put ~2 inches of coral sand as a base, and some ocean rock in and then ensured that the salinity, temperature and levels were all ok. ~2 weeks in i added some live rock and then waited ~2weeks for the levels of the tank to settle again.
I then took some water to my local fish supplier, which they checked and gave the "ok" to. I was then presented with 2 clownfish (1 normal and 1 black and white) as my first fish - ready to cycle the tank. The normal clown fish died within 1 week and i put that down to stress of moving and perhaps the tank cycling?! To ensure my tank was ok i then waited 6 weeks before going back to the store and buying another clownfish and some polyps. The clownfish died within 24hours of having it, but the polyps seemed fine. The next day i went back to the store and replaced the clonfish for a black and white variety, which seemed very happy for ~1 week at which time the original black and white clown started to develop white spots (well more smudges) on it's body and fins which would be there one day and gone the next and then come back and go again, later it started lying on the bottom of the tank and gasping for breath (It's gills looked inflamed and red). I went to my store for some advice and they said it sould either be Ich or Velvet disease and that either way i needed to treat my tank with Copper Sulfate?!
I followed the guidance with the treatement, removing active carbon filters, turning off UV lights etc but after a day the original black and white clown died! Since then i have found out that the Copper Sulfate has killed a lot of the inverts in the live rock and the polyps (which they did not tell me about!), but after water changes and replacing the filters they are steadily coming back... ~1week on and the new black and white clown has started displaying the same syptoms, gasping for breath on the bottom, white spots which appear, then disappear, then appear again, and becoming increasingly pale when the lights are turned off (takes longer to come back to full colour when turned back on).
If it was Ich or Velvet surely that should have been gotten rid of when i treated the tank? - Why is my fish dying again? - I don't seem to be having much luck with the tank so any help you could give me would be great. Thanks.
It seems you have learned that same hard lesson that many new hobbiests learn; NEVER trust a LFS (local fish store) for advice, at least not as the sole source of it. remember, the more money you waste on them, the more money they make. You have come to the right place for advice now. Hopefully, the news that I have to provide doesnt discourage you to the point that you wish to leave the hobby.
You may very well never be able to keep corals and inverts in that tank again. Copper kills inverts. Copper is also absorbed by the silicone in your tank and will continue to leech out into the water for years to come.
if you have the means to re-house your livestock into another tank, I recommend doing so, so that you may try to save your display tank.
Once your display is you will need to fill the tank completely with a bleach/water solution, and let that sit for several hours (12-24). Then empty the tank, rinse it out well, and then let it dry completely. Once the tank is dry, fill it with pure, high quality R/O water and let it sit for 1 week. RO/DI water is very reactive in that it is so pure that it will suck impurities from whereever it can. After about a week, test the water for Copper. Mind you I said "test the water", not "have the water tested" Buy yourself a good test kit, preferably, API, Kent, or Sailifert. While youre at it, (if your funds allow) buy yourself the test kits for Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Ph, Phosphate, Kh, Calcium, and Iodine. Now if youve tested the water, and it tests positive for copper, empty the tank, and refill it with new R/O. let it sit another week, then test it again. repeat this process until there is no longer any copper detected by the test. After that, you can either hope it worked, or test it outfill the tank with properly mixed saltwater, and move a few snails to the tank for a month. See how they fare.
The bottom line here is, It's probably just far easier to go buy a new tank, and start over. Treat yourself to an upgrade, go to a 29 gallon (appx 105 ltr)
Either way, if you want to continue in the hobby, I strongly recommend that you invest in the test kits, and frequent this site. If you decide that you want to make a purchase, dont do it in haste. Ask the LFS about it, then verify what they told you here, and on the internet. Honestly, the LFS is your least reliable source. They want your money. We here want to see you succeed in the hobby, for the sake of the animals, and for the sake of the hobby.
As for the current state of your fish, I'm curious as to the test results for those I've mentioned above. Most diseases can be attribuited to poor water quality. In a tank that size, the problems will happen fast. You should have been performing water water changes every 1-2 weeks in a tank that size. If not, Nitrates will build up fast and provide an unpleasent, and potentially leathal environment for the fish. As result, they will become stressed, and respectively, will become more suceptable to disease and infection.
I'm sorry I can provide little help for diagnosis of your fish's current condition, nor how to cure it. Hopefully Dawn will stop in to provide her input. She is much more well versed in disease ID and remedy.
Hope that helps
Hi, I'll do what I can to help, but will warn you up front... before I can begin to diagnose the problem, I'll have to ask some questions and wait for answers. This could be a number of different things, most of which I would not have used copper to treat.
Can you please list exact results for
Is the fish still eating? What is the water temp? What is your spg/salinity? How much circulation and filtration (filters and power heads) are in this tank? How big are the fish in the tank? Did any of the fish exhibit cloudy eyes or clamped fins?
I have some more comments and suggestions for you, will stop back later as I'm in a hurry right now. I need these questions answsered before I can begin to sort this out for you, and find something that will really help.
I would strongly suggest you take SKAustin's advice and invest in at least a 30 gallon tank. 2 clownfish can't live long in 60 liters... 1 would be the max in a tank that size.
I'll be back...
Thankyou!...but where next?
Thanks so much for your replies guys, i really do appreciate it. About an hour before you posted your reply Dawn my clownfish died. :-( I really am getting quite down about all this and don't know whether to just set-up another tropical fresh water tank (only Cichlids though). I have done my best for this tank but obviously under the guidance of "experts" at my LFS!
What do i do next. I will follow your clean-up instructions, i will remove everything and throw it away (Polyps have died because of Copper added anyway) and bleach the tank completely. Obviously i will discard all filter cartridges but should i turn the filter on when a bleach solution is in there to clean that out also? Also what is RO water and where do i get some from? Is it the same as DI water...where supplies it? I have not used this in my tank so far (no suggestion to from LFS)...is this where i have been going wrong all along? Also i noticed the other day that the "tap safe" i have been using for my tank says "not to be used in marine tanks"...could this have affected my fish to this degree?? I reall want to be a successful Marine hobbyist but i am at this minute unable to upgrade my tank size (sticking at 60 litres)....is this possible? What are your thoughts/suggestions?
Re: Thankyou!...but where next?
It sounds to me as if your LFS only wants your money, and it doesn't sound like they know much about saltwater fish keeping, either. I agree with SK about the more mistakes you make the more money you spend, all their profit. Is there another source for a fish store near enough for you to shop at? If not, you may want to consider getting your information here, in books, etc, and then go do your shopping without their help in the future. We can help you... but you have to really want it for us to do you any good... does that make sense?
The next important tip for you is that patience is your best friend when it comes to fish keeping, especially marine. This is not something where you can cut corners and rush through things and still expect it to work, and most especially in a small tank.
With all of that said, I will strongly suggest you buy a new tank if you wish to keep saltwater. The bigger the tank the easier and more stable this will be. Anything under 30 gallons is considered a nano tank, it is also going to be limited to what can go into it and how soon. Saltwater fishes need more space and territory than freshwater fishes... saltwater animals tend to grow large quite fast, and aggression levels can be severe issues if fish are at all crowded. Oxygen levels and waste breakdown are also different in satlwater, as the salt makes the water much more dense. For these reasos we can't put as many fish/animals into a saltwater tank that we can in freshwater. In 16 gallons, expect 2 small fish, (fish that will stay small and some inverts, also limited in number). If clownfish is something you want, 1 ocellaris clown is the limit for fish in that size of a tank... the others get too big and aggressive, and even 1 ocellaris clown can reach 5 inches if its female.
The bleach treatment that SK mentioned may or may not work, and his suggestions for trying a few snails over a few months time is a very good one! Copper actually leeches into the silicone seals and even your rock... so if you're bleaching the tank, the rock will also need to be bleached, sand replaced, and all filter media should be changed. The easiest way to achieve this is to empty anything still living from the tank (maybe return them to the store for credit towards something new later would work) and empty the sand. If you use a syphon hose you can suck the sand out pretty easy, but make sure you get it all, this is very very important. Do not replace the sand right away, just water. Add 1/2 cup of bleach for each gallon, turn your filter back on (without media) and all other equipment, and let this run for a few days. Everything that has been exposed to the copper sulfate needs to be sterilized if there is any chance of keeping another invert in that tank, ever! The rock, once bleached, can be rinsed and used as base rock, and it can be reseeded by the addition of new live sand (Aragalive by Carib Sea is great for this) and some new pieces of live rock. Be aware, this process is going to take a very long time to complete enough so you are again ready for animals, sp please be patient. Expect about 3 - 6 months before that tank is possibly safe again. It might be a lot less work and a lot cheaper in the end if you were to retire this tank as a quarantine tank, use it only for fish QT in the future, and start a new tank... same size or larger, no matter, but a tank that has never seen copper. It would also be a good idea to change the filter, moving this one with the the tank as QT and fish only. Anything plastic, rubber, or in any other way synthetic is going to leave you at risk for copper exposure in the future.
Stop the use of chemicals, tap water, and any other suggestions made by that LFS! DI water is just as safe as RO water, though they are different. The only difference between them is how they are filtered...DI is deionized water, RO is reverse osmosis water. Both are suitable for a saltwater tank, but once you choose one type, stick to it. pH and other differences in the water chemistry of the two can make it dangerous to mix them in a small tank.
Saltwater relies much more on bilological filtration than freshwater does, so paying close attention to and understanding the environment are super important for success. We will help you every step of the way if that is what you want, but before I go into further details I'd like to be sure this is what you choose to do.
If you decide to instead work with freshwater, the tank and all of your equip will still need to be sterilized, as some freshwater fish and all freshwater inverts (and all plants) are very sensitive to any copper that may still contaminate the tank. The bleaching process as we both mapped for you above is still in effect no matter what choice you make on how to procede.
Cichlids are going to bring you some very limited choices in a tank that size... 1 pair of dwarf cichlids (such as apistos) or 2 - 4 shell dwelling African cichlids will be a limit in that size of a tank.... and will require a lot of decoration.
I know this sounds like a lot of work... it sort of is.. but it could be a lot worse. I have seen people lose thousands of dollars making the same basic mistakes that were made here. Patience, education/information, and diligence are needed to keep fish... but it is heavily addicting once you get there. It sounds as if you have learned your lesson the hard way, so if you can avoid misinformation in the future, you should be well on your way now to a positive fish keeping experience. The best way to avoid it is to find a minimum of 3 sources for your information, compare what they tell you, and watch for the things that don't match up or make any sense. Here on the forum our only goal is a happy fish and a happy fish keeping experience. We give our time for free because we were each once where you are now... vulnerable to anything anyone tells us is right. It wasn't until I received formal training and education at the store that I learned the right from wrong, and it wasn't until then that I realized the severe problem our population faces here. Its not as simple as dropping a fish into water and watching it swim, and the basics are just that... very basic and true for any situation. Learn about the nitrogen cycle. If you need help, let me know, I have a lesson page for it on my website. Water quality to a fish is like air to a human... without it in good condition and unpolluted, they get sick and die. There is a balance that must be achieved and maintained. Mother nature does this all around us, but when we choose to put her into a box and control it, we must understand how and be prepared to meet those needs.
Welcome to the fishy world... where its always changing, where its always addicting... where every day can bring something brand new!
Bleaching in process...
Thanks for all of that Dawn, i really do appreciate your time. I have just removed everything from the tank, sand and all...and the tank is currently running with a bleach solution through the filter and around the tank. Everything that has ever come in contact with the tank is also undergoing the bleaching! I have kept a piece of Ocean Rock which i have had in the tank from the offset and that is also in there bleaching. Unfortunately i am not really in a position (in a house share) to get another tank - no room as i have a tropical fresh water tank set-up also, which has been running very successfully for over a year now (fingers crossed), so i'm going to have to stick to the tank i have - I'm up for the challenge, i have all the time! I really do want to do this so please don't give up on me! So after a couple of days of bleaching i need to fill the tank with RO water (Where do i get it from????), and wait a week or two for this to leach any impurities from the tank? Should i then replace all of the water and add any rock and sand at this point? At what point should i consider adding live rock (best place to get that other than a LFS?? - Also is it really beneficial to the tank having this rock in there?). Obviously it is going to take time to get this tank back up to scratch so your support along the way will be much appreciated. Thanks.
Re: Bleaching in process...
After the first week with the R/O, you will want to test the water for Copper. If Copper is still present in the tank, you will either need to repeat the process of filling it with R/O for another week, then test again, or as Dawn has suggested, keep that tank as a QT and replace your display tank. If the test shows it is absent of Copper, you will want to test it by adding only a few (2-3) snails. If these snails die off you should, again, as Dawn has suggested, keep that tank as a QT and replace your display tank.
Live rock is absolutely VERY beneficial to a SW tank. It houses much of the life responsible for your biological filtration. And it's crucial to any system supporting corals and inverts. Besides, it looks sooooooo much better than plastic Decor, JMO.
I'm getting a bigger tank!
Thanks for your support guys, i'm now going to go for getting a bigger tank and keep the tank that has been infected with Copper as a QT tank, think this would be better in the long run and with regards to maintaining water stability etc it seems silly not to! - though not through a lot of deliberation with my housemate. What size would i be looking at to get a nice diversity of fish in and some corals/reef when the time comes? I have a week off work in a few weeks so will shop around for tanks then and hopefully come up with something nice then, i can also then spend some time setting up my tank. Where do i start with this? What do i add? And in what order?
I'm very excited about this and hope that you can guide me through this set-up process to make this a better experience than i have had so far...
You would likely do okay with a 29 gallon tank, especially if you have the means to do a small bit of plumbing and add a 20 gallon sump to it. A 55 gallon tank with a 30 gal sump would be even better.
If you're looking to keep any real number of fish, 75 gallons will be a minimum. Think of it this way:
In 30 gallons expect 3 - 4 small fish that stay small, or 1 - 2 medium size fish, such as clowns.
In 55 gallons, 5 - 6 small fish, or 2 - 3 medium fish
In 75 gallons, 3 - 4 medium fish, or a mix of 1 - 2 medium with 4 - 6 small
In 90 gallons, 1 - 2 larger fish, 3 - 5 medium fish mixed with 4 - 6 small
Does that help?
Examples of small fish are:
and anything else that reaches a max of about 3 inches
sand sifting gobys
yellow tail damsels
and any other fish that max's at about 5 - 6 inches
and any other fish that exceeds 6 inches max
keep in mind, there are some large fish that will still only be temporary in anything less than 200 - 300 gallons... and these are where people often have the most difficulty in choices they've made. Dwarf Lionfish is a good example... full grown many of these fish will still exceed 6 inches... yellow tangs, which are so popular, average about 6 - 8 inches in diameter full grown... Hepatus tang, (dori fish) will reach about 8 - 10 inches.
I usually suggest someone select fish before selecting a tank. Once you know what you intend to keep, then its easier to account for its needs before an issue can happen. Take a tape measure with you to the LFS, and a list of your fish choices, and their max sizes. Hold the tape measure up to a tank that interests you, and ask yourself, where will it fit and what will still fit with it. Don't forget to allow for width of a fish, and height, too. Including fins, a yellow tang will average almost as large as a dinner plate, a puffer fish that is 12 inches long is also likely about 6 inches or more around. If you want corals, that is a start... look at their requirements too. Some need specialized lighting, and some tanks are taller than others, increasing the need for extra lighting. Then look at the fish that interest you, make sure they are reef safe... and inverts, also. Things like chocolate chip stars can't be mixed with small fish, bottom dwelling fish, weak fish, or most inverts... as they are predatory and will feed on them. Harlequin shrimp will eat only chocolate chip starfish, and some things like nudibranchs, tend to eat mostly corals and sponges, and only a specific species not easy or possible to keep in an aquarium.
When visiting any LFS, always remember that just because something is there doesn't mean it belongs there. Stores see money, and exotic, rare, etc makes money. Once that animal leaves that store, you're on your own, and that can be devastating for you and the animal... and any others you may already have. Saltwater is an expensive hobby, and mistakes only increase that ten fold, as you've already found out.
Because you're working with a new tank, I will also suggest working with all new rock, too. I see no reason to take such chances with this kind of investment at stake. Bleach the old rock, use it in the quarantine to help keep it cycled. Once you add that rock and the live sand, it will cycle, cure the rock for you, and then the rock will help maintain the cycle for you.
Once you have chosen your tank, take it home, rinse it with plain water, and then fill it up with RO or DI water. Add your heater, set it for 76 - 78 degrees. Hook up your filtration unit. This is something else to consider when looking at tank sizes... the bigger the tank the more filtration will be needed, but this isn't a bad thing. A larger tank will allow the use of either sump or protein skimmer, or both, and this will make maintaining it long term much easier, much safer, and much less expensive. We can talk you through sump set up, but for this you will requre a smaller tank. If we know what size tank you're going to work with, we can suggest a good size for a sump. When you start thinking of this and worry about expense and space, remember that long term you will spend less because you will have better filtration, fewer problems, and less maintenance to equipment. A 20 or 30 gallon tank for a sump may cost about $30, but a hang on filter for a 75 gallon tank will run well over 100, and canister expect to pay up to 300 before you're done. Allow expenses for power heads, also, you will need these to mix the salt, which is your next step. Once filter, powerheads, heater are all hooked up, water in, then add your salt. Let this mix for 48 hrs, then use either a hydrometer or refractometer to check your spg/salinity. Your target is 1.023 - 1.025. If it's too high, siphon a bit of water and add RO without salt. If it's too low, add a small amount of salt. Wait 24 hrs, then check spg/salinity again. Repeat this until it is where you need it. After this is stable between 1.023 - 1.025, then and only then do you want to add sand and rock. If you add rock first, you can use sand to help anchor your base pieces, which will make building it much sturdier.
Once sand and rock are in the tank, let it settle and cycle. Expect this to take anywhere for 6 - 8 wks to be completely cycled. You will need test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, calcium to get you started, possibly iodine, magnesium, and a few others later. Begin testing about 3 days after sand and rock go into the tank. Check them all as its important to see how they balance and how that balance changes as the tank cycles. Calcium should be between 400 - 500 before attempting to add any animals. If it's low, try adding some crushed coral to the filter/sump, see if that helps. If not, a calcium supplement will be needed. Calcium has to be stable before animals, as they need it for their organs to function properly. Once animals go in, calcium should be checked weekly for the first few months, then monthly thereafter. It's also a good idea to check it after any major changes in the tank.
This should be enough to get you started... please remember that patiences is key to making this work. Sit on some of the excitement, spend the time making each choice, studying and asking questions before doing something you're unsure of, and plan to add animals only 1 - 2 at a time except for snails or hermits, and spacing additions at least 2 wks apart. Fish should always start out in quarantine for a minimum of 2 - 3 wks, with lots of decorations to hide in to relieve stress. Inverts should go right to the main tank.
Ask as you need, we're here...
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