Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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szurlo 04-11-2008 04:30 PM

Illness that doesn't match anything I find via research
Hi all,

Fairly new to tropical fish, and have something going on that I can't quite figure out.
First, my setups is a 75 gallon freshwater tank, filtered with a Rena Filstar XP3 and heated to 79 F.
I have a test kit and every thing from water hardness to PH to nitrogen, etc is normal.
The population is currently 4 Neons, 2 Black Mollys, 4 Platies, a Gourami, a pleco and 2 Mystery snails.
Plenty of elbow room for all in 75 gallons. This setup is about 2 months old and all the fish were introduced in the first 2 weeks and all came from the same source (Petsmart). I feed them TetraColor Tropical Flakes and algae wafers.
Here's what's going on. About 2 weeks ago, one of the Neons began just hanging out at the bottom of the tank and eating very little. In a couple of days he actually appeared to get smaller, and a couple of days after that he was dead. There was never any visable sign of illness, not spots, mucous, parasites, etc. Nothing. Just stopped swimming around, stopped eating, and died.
Now I have a female Black Molly that is doing pretty much the same thing. She almost always stays at the bottom of the tank, has reduced her food intake and appears to be losing weight. Additionally, she is doing what I could only describe as hyperventilating. It's almost like she has swim bladder disease AND gill flukes AND some kind of internal bacterial infection or something. But again, the ONLY indicator of illness is behavior. (and lose of weight).
I currently have her in a 10 gallon hospital tank with heat at 81. I am treating this as a parasite issue since I had to start somewhere. I am using some tablets I got from petsmart that contain praziquantel, diflubenzuron, metronidazole and acriflave. I guess if she doesn't respond to this, I'll try antiobotics next. Anyone out there that can take a guess at what might be afflicting my fish?

Thanks much in advance,

Amphitrite 04-11-2008 05:11 PM

Could you post exact readings for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate please? And what sort of test kit are you using?

szurlo 04-11-2008 05:57 PM


Originally Posted by Amphitrite
Could you post exact readings for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate please? And what sort of test kit are you using?

It's a "TetraTest Laborette" kit that uses liquid regents. It has no nitrate test, but ammonia is currently 0 mg/l and nitrites are <.3 mg/l.

okiemavis 04-11-2008 06:40 PM

Well, that's part of your problem, there should be absolutely 0 nitrites in your tank- do a 20-25% water change and keep monitoring. It's odd that you've had that many fish in your tank for 2 months and the tank isn't cycled though. Did you change out all the filter media or something? Add water without treating it first? Also, it would be very helpful to know your nitrates, as that is important in understanding where your tank is in the nitrogen cycle.

szurlo 04-11-2008 07:55 PM


Originally Posted by okiemavis
Well, that's part of your problem, there should be absolutely 0 nitrites in your tank

The test kit I have has a color chart that you match to the vial. The lowest possible value is "<.3 mg/l" which means "less than .3 mg/l". There is no "0" value on the chart. My test sample looks to me to be about the same color as the "<.3 mg/l" scale. See below. The instructions that came with the kit said that nitrites just needed to be kept below .8. Since mine appear to be no greater than .3, if even that, I figured I was OK.
I always treat new water with a chlorine remover before I add it. I remove and set aside the bio-media basket from the filter when I clean it, so in theory, I should not be doing anything that would kill off the bacteria colonies. I vacuum the gravel once a week, but I adjust the suction so that it just lifts the debris off the surface without overturning too much of the gravel.
Also, can you recommend source for a kit that tests nitrates? I looked at all the ones on the Petsmart website and none of them appear to test for nitrates. Obviously time is of the essence, so I really was hoping for a brick and mortar that sells one. Don't want to have to mail order.

okiemavis 04-11-2008 08:38 PM

Ah, I see now. That looks to actually be zero, so all good there. API is the gold standard here for tests, I'm pretty sure API brand is sold at most PETCOs. While it is very good to know, I think you can pretty safely assume some, as your tank appears to be cycled (nitrates are the good ones, except in very high concentrations).

It is almost unfortunate that you have ruled out water quality issues, as this is the most easily improved and it accounts for ALL the symptoms. There are two diseases I can think of that most fit your symptoms.

One is Neon Tetra Disease (I do hope I am wrong). Loss of color & appetite, emaciation unusual swimming behavior are all symptoms. There are some other symptoms like spinal curvature and finrot, which your fish may or may not be displaying.

The other is fish TB/wasting disease; the top symptoms include emaciation, listless behavior and possibly bulging eyes. Also, Mycobacterium will cause rashes if it comes in contact with your skin, so avoid handling any dead fish or anything.

Neither of these diseases have any proven treatments that I know of, although I'm sure if you look online you'll find many different theories. Definitely QT any of the fish exhibiting any syptoms.

szurlo 04-11-2008 08:46 PM

Well, rats. None of what you describe really fits the symptoms exactly. The Molly has now been in the hospital tank for about 12 hours and I cant' honestly say that I see any improvement. I have noticed that she is pooping almost continuously since I put her in there. Maybe constipation? I hear that can stop the swim bladder from inflating and might explain the bottom dwelling. I just don't know. One other thing I forgot to mention that might be a clue... She spits back out 90% of what I see her eat. Every time I put food in the tank she comes to feed, but spits the vast majority of it back out. That sound like anything? None of the other fish are doing that.

herefishy 04-11-2008 09:08 PM

TetraColor Tropical Flakes is not meant to be a staple food. but that hasn't anything to do with your problem. If the problem is constipation, feed spirulina flakes or fresh veggies like zucchini. You can get a leaf clip at your lfs. It is used mainly by SW keepers to feed sheet algae. They usually run $2-$3. They have a suction cup that attaches to the side of the tank.

Mollies and platys do like a little aquarium salt in their tank. You may want to add a tablespoon per 5g to your hospital tank. Do not use sea salt, different stuff all together.

szurlo 04-11-2008 09:25 PM

Thanks for the advice on the flakes. After reading your post I read the can, and sure enough it says "for best results use in conjunction with yada, yada, yada". And of course the clerk at the Petsmart said "yeah, that's fine" when I asked her if this was what I should be feeding my fish. Lots of bad advice out there for us newbies.
Also, I had been reading that plecos like zucchini, so I had planned to rig up some way to get veggies in the tank anyway. Now I just need to get this mystery disease under control so I can add a Clown Loach or two to get this damn nuisance snail issue in check. I can thank petsmart for that too. I'm guessing those little buggers hitched a ride on my Mystery snails.

okiemavis 04-11-2008 11:03 PM

Any loach will take care of your snail problem in no time. Clown loaches do best in groups (you'll hardly see them if you keep them alone) and easily grow over a foot in length, so I'd think twice about putting them in a 75G. And...obviously...don't add more fish until you know what's going on. But you already know that.

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