Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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melaniew2000 06-07-2008 05:03 AM

see my fishblurb for info on my tank.
Currently down to only a handful of fish-several had died within the last few month and when we did buy some new ones at beginning of the year, they lasted less than 24 hrs.
problem seems to be nitrate levels-always has been high and never have been able to get it down. tests done today, show ammonia a bit high, but am due to do water change tomorrow, pH 6.6 and nitrite 0. nitrate levels are a bit hard to tell with the liquid testing kit i use, but the water is definitely red which shows its between 40 & 160.
Anybody got any suggestions for what to do to get the tank back habitable for my fish and plecs. have thought of starting again-cleaning tank out, getting new gravel, put brand new water etc but dont know if the change in water will upset the fish and plecs or if that will do any good.

now the tank is looking pretty empty (about 5 fish in it) and my large 3-spot gourami has now got some red marks on its body and fins-dont know what this could be-looked in my fish ailments and only suggestion was flukes-but couldnt fin pic on net to compare to the fish.

any help would be very grately appreciated as i really want to get the tank sorted out and get some new fish in it that wont just die when i put them in!

thanks in advance

1077 06-07-2008 11:12 AM

Sorry to hear of your troubles. Were it me, I would purchase a good dechlorinator such as PRIME, EXTREME, or AMQUEL+. I would also purchase a gravel vaccum to vaccum the bottom of tank at each WEEKLY water change .I would change 50 percent of water immediatly and replace it with dechlorinated water of same or close temp. I would then test water twenty four hours later with a liquid test kit such as API master freshwater test kit (strip type tests are not very reliable) If ammonia still reads above zero (there are no safe levels of ammonia) I would perform daily 20 percent water changes with good dechlorinator until ammonia and nitrites are zero. Your nitrate readig needs to be at twenty or below (ten is ideal) water changes along with vaccuming the bottom of tank and NOT overfeeding should improve your water conditions. I cannot advise on fish that is ill but improved water conditions will help greatly. Good Luck.

It'sJames 06-08-2008 02:25 AM

Your nitrate is really high, so I would do that scheduled water change now. Any time there is ammonia present, you need to do a water change. A weekly water change of 30-50% (with a gravel vac) are the best way to keep your tank healthy.
Before adding any more fish, I would reconsider what you currently have. I'm assuming the plecs are common plecos, which are too large for a 128l tank. Having three of them in your tank is a recipe for disaster. If you would still like a pleco, consider a smaller species like a bristlenose. You may want to consider replacing the mixed tetras for a group of 8-10 of a single species. Tetras do best in groups of there own kind; six is the minimum.
Do not restart your tank! That will be moving backwards, when some simple changes can help you move forward and get the tank back on track. Choosing more suitable fish for your tank (rehome those plecs!) and doing weekly water changes will be a huge step.

iamntbatman 06-08-2008 02:40 AM

I could be wrong, but with nitrate readings off the charts and climbing ammonia levels, it sounds like the fish in your aquarium are producing waste faster than your biological filter can handle and that water changes aren't being done frequently enough to drop the nitrates. James is right; not only are plecos big fish, but they're also huge waste factories. What sorts of filtration are you using on the tank? Also, how much do you feed your fish? Ammonia readings on an old tank like that might be due to overfeeding as well as fish waste.

melaniew2000 06-10-2008 12:29 AM

hi 1077,
did water change of 4 buckets (which is about half the tank if not a bit more) on sunday night-will check new readings tonight and post results. ive got some form of gravel vacuum (its one which you start off by moving it up and down until the water flows through, not battery/mains powered)-is this the best type? we usually take out about 1.5 buckets with a jug then rest using that to get the all the crap off the bottom of the tank. ive got a liquid tester kit, but may invest separately in a different nitrite level one as this has 5 different shades of red and is very hard to tell exact reading-apart from that its high! i dont think we overfeed the fish (other half usually feed them) but will suggest he puts less food in now, or would it be ok to feed them every other day?

melaniew2000 06-10-2008 01:02 AM

hi Its James & iamntbatman
did water change of 4 buckets (which is about half the tank if not a bit more) on sunday night-will check new readings tonight and post results. ive got some form of gravel vacuum (its one which you start off by moving it up and down until the water flows through, not battery/mains powered).i use tetra aqua 'aquasafe' to remove chlorine and the testing kit is a freshwater master testing kit (liquid one) from aquarium pharmaceuticals-does pH, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia etc in little test tubes.
i really dont want to get rid of my plecs as had them for a while and got the 2 larger ones off my one of my bestfriends who was moving as wasnt able to take her tank with her! so am willing to do anything anyone suggests to get the tank more habitable for the fish! once ive sorted it out-i will then consider purchasing some more fish-definitely not before!
The filter i have is a Fluval 3plus, 700litres per hr, 6 watts, suitable for aquariums up to 130 litres (came with the tank).
i am willing to invest in another filter (should i get the same or bigger one?)if that will help with filtering the tank by filtering twice as much waste.
i think your theory of the plecs producing waste too fast for the filter to cope with it might be true, so an additonal filter might be a good idea along with daily 20% water changes until the nitrate levels reduce, then go to doing a water change every week of about 50% (subject to nitrate levels being ok) once they are back to a lower level.
would it be worth on the next large water change taking the gravel out of the tank and replacing it with new gravel (or cleaning the gravel thats there then replacing it)? as im sure a lot of waste is harboured in the gravel and therefore by changing this for new gravel/cleaned gravel it would get rid of any decaying waste thats down there and therefore assist with the cleaning up of the tank?i can then keep on top of the waste my plecs produce
i really want to get this tank up to scratch-whatever hard work it takes!!

iamntbatman 06-10-2008 01:20 AM

Definitely don't replace your gravel entirely. There's a lot of bacteria growing down there that are a big part of your biological filtration, and if you replace it all at once...well you get the idea.

Your gravel vacuum sounds fine. I use the same type since I don't have a sink close enough to my tanks to use a python. On your next two water changes, clean about 50% of your gravel if possible. By clean, I mean really shove it down through your gravel until you get to the glass under it. When I first got into the hobby, I would just sort of sweep the top layer of gravel with the vac. Later I tried sticking it deeper into the gravel. It's amazing just how much nasty stuff builds up down there. Keep in mind that by doing this, you're removing some bacteria along with all of the waste you're taking out, so it's important that you spread it across at least two water changes to minimize the damage. During regular water changes, I do a thorough deep cleaning of about 1/3 of the floor area of my tanks.

Adding a second filter would be a good idea. Doubling the filtration capacity you have now should make a considerable improvement in keeping your ammonia levels at zero. Adding another of the same filter, a hang-on-back power filter, a reverse-flow undergravel filter, internal filters, sponge filters...any of these will help. I would probably add at least a Pengiun 150B filter with a Biowheel for starters.

In the end, though, a 128 liter tank is going to be too small for those plecos. You're already seeing the effects of how much waste they're capable of producing. Eventually the smaller guys will be just as big as your big guy, and he's not done growing either. Unfortunately, no matter how much filtration you get and how often you do water changes, you're never going to be able to house three common plecos in a 128L tank. I would start looking for a much larger tank soon (75 gallons for starters, but eventually you will need even more than that). Until you can get a bigger tank, I would definitely recommend adding another layer of filtration as well as performing water changes more often.

1077 06-10-2008 03:08 AM

I would agree with previous post. Especially in regaurds to plecos. Initial gravel cleaning I also agree .Probably needs it, deep cleaning that is. After you begin to achieve stable water readings I would not be as aggressive with vaccuming the bottom for reasons already mentioned. One third of tank lightly each week at water change .A different area each time. You should not have much to vaccum if properly stocked and fed which means plecos need to find new digs. Look into plecos such as rubberlipped, clown plecos, or bristle nose. They do not get near as large and do not create near the waste. :D

melaniew2000 06-10-2008 01:47 PM

latest reading about 48hr after water change. ammonia 0.5 and nitrate is about 80 (its not the shade of red for 160, so looks more like the shade of red of 80).
so plan of action :
-will do another water change this weekend paying serious attention to the gravel to try and get out a lot of the waste from down there! then take reading again. may try a week of doing small water changes each night to try and get the nitrate levels something like decent (testing water levels the following day)
-invest in another filter to help the other one out and filter twice as much water as it is curently doing.
-buy a nitrate only testing kit that is more accurate and doesnt have 4 different shades of red for the higher amounts that are impossible to work out which one it should be!
Hopefully in a month or two's time i should be able to figure out the optimum time to do water changes and the amount of water i need to change to keep the nitrate levels low and ammonia levels zero. i will broached the subject of getting larger tank with my other half to see what his view is, but in the meantime my aim is to get the water down to a safe level for the fish and plecs.
just thinking about it-the smallest plec we have doesnt seem to be much bigger than when we got him (about 2.5yrs ago) so he might be one of the small kind as he definitely hasnt grown much. his skin is lighter in colour than the other 2 who are dark brown and patterned-so hopefully he might be one of the ones that stay small!
sorry for writing an essay! will keep you posted on my progress and thanks again to both of you for your advice.

It'sJames 06-10-2008 11:51 PM

Just a quick note on those water changes - With the ammonia as high as it is now, I would try really hard to get in another water change before the weekend. Sounds like you've got a good plan though, and hopefully you'll be able to get a larger tank for those plecs sometime in the future.

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