Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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CRAFTY2 12-05-2012 01:39 PM

High nitrates in red devil tank all! This is my first post, I have been looking to find someone who can help me with some problems I have been having with my red devil cichlid, Rex. ANY HELP OR ADVISE WOULD BE GREATLY APPRECIATED!!
I recently upgraded to a 55 gallon aquarium due to Rex's size, it was ALOT more difficult than I had imagined it would be. He is so big and moving him proved to be a challenge, and he sort of freaked out a couple times while we were trying to get him into a bucket. He is not scared of ANYONE and certainly NOT afraid to let us know it!
Since upgrading from a 39 gallon to the 55 gallon he has stopped eating, I even went out and got him some feeders to entice him (I know they are not good for him, and I only give them to him once in awhile as a treat) but I didn't know what to do! He usually will gobble and destroy a dozen in a day but this time it took him 4 days and he now it has been 3 days since that and he STILL wont eat any pellets or brine shrimp.
I also noticed some white spots on his back fins now, but they don't look like fin rot OR white spot disease. I went into my local aquarium store and inquired as to what they think is going on and showed them the video of Rex so they could see his spots and they don't even know! I think maybe he "swatted" (forgive me but I don't know the techniqual term lol) so hard he kinked his fins or something?
However, they suggested I test the nitrate levels, so I did and they are REALLY HIGH! I also bought a new canister filter the same week I switched tanks so now I don't know what the problem is or how to treat it!
I am relatively new at this but bought this fish because he is so AWESOME! I am totally committed to taking care of him and he has become a part of the family. Some one please help me I am so worried about him I am losing sleep! I know I need to bring the nitrate levels down asap and will today when I get home from work I just need to know the best method and if anyone has any ideas as to what the marks on his fins are??

CRAFTY2 12-05-2012 02:11 PM

Also I forgot to mention, since I have changed the tank and filter he has gotten angrier(if that's possible!). He is not shy and has always been VERY active, and that has remained the same. I have done water changes once a week, as always but the more I try to fix his aquarium the angrier he gets! He is not showing any signs of nitrate poisoning that I have seen (but I certainly am no expert!), and I put some water conditioner in his tank last night and tested it this morning and it went down a little but not much. His driftwood does have some algae on it I noticed last night as well, maybe I will take it out and clean it today?

lakemalawifish 12-05-2012 02:12 PM

Hello! Sorry your prized fish is not acting normal and you are loosing sleep :(

Not sure how long your tank has been running with your fish in it, or how you cycled it. What are your ammonia and nitrite levels? If the only thing elevated is the nitrates and ammonia and nitrites are zero that normally means that the tank has cycled and what you have now are the resulting high nitrates but this can take several weeks so if it is a fresh set up you have something else going on. Please check your water with an API Water Test kit for freshwater, it is much more accurate than test strips.

To try to help with your problem at hand, I would recommend a 50% water change and use Prime water conditioner according to the total volume of your tank. So, for a 55 gal tank you will use 1-1/2 cap fulls. This small amount extra of Prime is not going to hurt your fish and I would rather use a tad more just to be on the safe side. If you are not familiar with Prime, here is the website link.

Seachem. Prime

Without seeing the marks on his fins, it's hard to say, but just recently we moved a 10" Wild Caught Oscar to another tank and he trashed around and got a skinned place on his side and the top of his head. Luckily we were placing him in a tank that was fully cycled so I researched and found 2 products that have totally cleared his damaged scales in a little over a week. They are

1. Acurel - BodyGuard RX - Vitamin Boost and Appetite Stimulant
2. Acurel - HealthGuard - Weekly Health Boost and Electrolyte Stabilizer

The medication above is a liquid drop and you use 1 tsp of each per 50 gal done on a weekly basis. So, if you are in the middle of doing lots of water changes for high nitrates, best to wait until this has calmed down, then start the medication.

Also, right after we moved this huge Oscar he would not eat. For about a week. I think he was just stressed from being moved. I would drop food in and net it right back out within 15-20 mins. With nitrates that high you don't want food sitting around in the tank, will just make it worse. You will need to stay up on cleaning the substrate and water changes, like every 2-3 days or so depending on how high your nitrates are. With the API test kit, nitrates in the orange (20 ppm and below) are tolerable, the more Red and higher the number goes the more dangerous it is to your fish and needs quick action. The clean fresh water will go a long way in helping the overall health of your fish and once your water is in good shape, he will start eating.

There is a product on the market called API NitraZorb that you place in your filter. Here's the link. We have used it before, it is rechargable and can be used several times over again. It helped, but the results were not immediate and not drastic. We just decided to keep doing what we were doing... consistent water changes, clean substrate, stop over feeding and the use of Prime water conditioner for the safety net that other water conditioners do not provide.

CRAFTY2 12-05-2012 02:49 PM

Thank you so much for your speedy reply! I have been using Prime when I do his water changes weekly. I will do another one today (I did one yesterday as well). I am going to also take a sample into my fish store and have them test it for me to see the levels, I think I should test the tap water as well?
I can not tell you how grateful I am for your recommendations, I will try the bodyguard RX when the tank clears. Can I put the NitraZorb in my canister filter? I think everything I have been doing lately to make things better for him (tank, filter, background) have been doing nothing but (excuse my language) pissing him off! And I feel horrible about it!
I always tell him to "stop having such a bad attitude!" but now I think it's my fault!lol
By the way I had him in the smaller tank for about 9 months then the new one about a week and a half. I used just about ALL of his old water for the new tank and used Prime in the rest of the water. I will keep you posted, and once again THANK YOU!!!

jeaninel 12-05-2012 02:53 PM

Hi Crafty2, welcome to the forum. Some good advice from Lakemalawifish. If its a brand new setup your tank is probably cycling. Test your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels and give us the numbers. Also, how long has the new tank been running and what size water changes are you doing?
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jeaninel 12-05-2012 02:57 PM

Oops, looks like you posted as I was typing mine. Using your old tank water does not help to cycle the tank but would explain the high nitrates. Did you use any of the old filter media in your new filter? That would have helped the cycle.
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lakemalawifish 12-05-2012 03:19 PM

LOL no doubt, big fish have big attitudes :) Our 10" Oscar is like a pouting puppy most of the time but I do not feed him unless he comes to the glass wagging and doing mouth gestures because I don't want to overfeed him and mess up his water. He definitely lets me know when he's hungry and I am home all day so I don't miss his little dance.

Yes, the API NitraZorb goes into your canister filter. Just mark a date on your calendar when you put it in and when to remove and re-charge it. It has been awhile and I don't remember how long that is.

Also, if you find the BodyGuard also look for the HealthGuard. Seems like I read on the package that they are best used in combination with each other. Seriously it cleared up Mr. Oscar's wounds in just a tad over a week.

Does your fish have a hiding place, or is he used to having a hiding place? Unfortunately I had to move around Mr. Oscar's hiding areas while trying to get his skin healed because he was moving stuff around and I did not want him to make it worse or create new scuffs. He has adjusted just fine with fewer hiding spots, and actually seems to be more interactive now, he is the only fish in the tank so being able to hide is not that great of an issue I guess. Now he just has a bamboo plant that he likes to "think" he is hiding behind.

pop 12-05-2012 04:00 PM

Let me first say its best to listen to the moderators suggestions so disregard this idea…. Because everyone will point out that iam incorrect and possibly dangerous.

Adding prime is a very temporary solution that will last one or two days. Prime binds ammonia and nitrate molecules making the molecules unable to enter the fishs body by osmotic pressure. I would instead add a very small amount of aquarium salt (like a dash) the reasoning behind this act is that the neutral charged ion of salt will also prevent the absorption of nitrates through osmotic pressure. change the water to remove nitrates.

lakemalawifish 12-05-2012 04:27 PM

Hello Pop, I am not going to call you out on this because I have always been nervous about adding salt to my tanks. Have only done it once at the careful advice of my breeder because it appeared some of our fish may have had Hex (white stringy poop) which can lead to Malawi Bloat. I was told to use a very calculated amount of marine salt and Epsom Salt gradually over a period of several days and fed the fish food with Metro. It worked! Supposedly the Epsom Salt helps if the fish are constipated.

My African breeder friend uses a specific mixture of salt in most all of his tanks and I trust his knowledge thoroughly but the reason I do not wish to use salt is, we have large tanks with large fish that are overstocked to reduce aggression. Our tanks are over filtrated, but still we struggle with Nitrates quite often. I have to do so many water changes that trying to keep up with the salt thing is too complicated for me, and I don't want to make their water too salty. I have never heard of salt helping to reduce nitrates, and I am not sure I want to go there, just because it is uncharted territory for me and I have a brick wall up for some reason. But, because of my lack of knowledge, I am not saying you are wrong. I have also heard that salt can interfere with the biological filter, not sure if that is true, but just hearing that kinda scared me off.

We kept dealing with nitrates and trying different things and realized that the nitrates were probably coming from our canisters not being cleaned often enough. I had gone through a period of time while new in the hobby of cleaning my canisters too often, which was causing mini-cycles. So my hubby helped me realize that my OCD of keeping the tanks "too" clean was causing my distress. In trying to determine how long to go between canister cleanings, we started getting a spike in nitrates within a 2-1/2 month period. Now we know that based on our tank's bio-load (I guess that is what you call it) we need to clean our canisters every 2 months. Some people told us they had gone 6 months or longer before they cleaned their canisters. I was using tank water of course to clean them, but was removing too much of the good bio. Our tubing (intake and output) is only cleaned when the water flow coming from the spray bar is obviously reduced. All of this is stuff that you learn over time, some by trial and effort, and some by people like on this forum. Everybody means well, when something has worked for them. It is up to the individual person to decide what they feel comfortable with.

jeaninel 12-05-2012 04:57 PM

I believe salt helps reduce nitrites, not nitrates.
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