I blew it-temperature
Last night I forgot to close the window in the fish room, and the temp dropped to 40 overnight! The wind was blowing directly into the room when I got up. My 55 and 20 gallon tanks and my hospital Tupperware (where I'm treating a weak Platy) were all down to 70! I about freaked out. Closed the window, turned on the space heater and shut the door. It took hours to get the tanks back up to 79. I did a partial water change on the Tupperware hospital and the water I added was slightly warmer. I was afraid of shocking the Platy with water that was TOO warm. My question is, if this ever happens again, how fast can I warm the water back up without harming the fish? And will they have any lasting effects from getting that cold? Thanks! I'm worried about them after that traumatic experience, poor things!
If the fish are carrying the ich parasite, it is liable to make itself known. Chilling is a sure fire way to bring about an infestation. 70 really isn't THAT cold - certainly not cold enough to kill your fish.
After hurricane sandy, my tanks were 58 degrees, and were for 4 days. When I got power (and heat) back, I had them all back up to temp that same day - close to a 20 degree swing. When I administer heat treatments for ich on new fish while they are in quaratine, I bring the temp up from 76 to 88 in as long as it takes the heater to do the job. I have never had a problem swinging the temps - it's the sudden, drastic changes that have the potential to shock the fish. Do you want to subject them to constant temperature swings of that magnitude? Of course not. But the fish won't explode from an isolated instance raising the temp from 70 to 79 ;-)
As Jaysee points out, the real harm is done when fish are shocked by sudden dramatic changes in the environment. This applies not only to temperature but nearly all aspects of water chemistry as well. This, for instance, is why it is not recommended to do a significant water change on a neglected tank. Even though it may seem counter intuitive, the dramatic change in chemistry, even though it's 'better', is 'shocking' to the livestock as they need more time to adjust.
Our fish can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than we might expect, however the fishkeeper is wise not to test this too far or too often!
In nature, fish are exposed to a surprising wide range in temperatures (even in the tropics). From very cool rains to thermal gradients in still pools. The difference is that often the fish can move to regions where they are comfortable.
It is always better for temperature changes to be gradual. Having said that, I think rapid cooling is worse than rapid warming, but I don't know if my fish are in total agreement. :-D
Good luck (I think you'll be okay...but keep a watch on that dern window).
Well, now, a day later, a female betta is showing signs of Swim Bladder Disorder. I'm wondering if the temperature drop helped in bringing it on. I'm going to put her in a shallow Tupperware container with a heater and not feed her for two days, then offer a bit of pea on the third day. Is this correct? I sure hope she pulls through. I feel just awful. Any other advice?
What are the signs to which you are referring?
Well, this morning she didn't eat and had trouble staying in one spot. She would either drift to the bottom or float to the top, and she had to put an effort into not drifting. Then she was on the bottom and breathing heavily. But a little later was swimming again. Didn't look that bad at all, but now I can't find her. Its been about two hours and I haven't seen her. I have a really bad feeling. I guess I should have caught her when I had the chance.
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