Fish nipping at rocks/plants after eating
I started my freshwater tank with a live cycle exactly 1 week ago. I bought the tank setup from a friend of mine who'd upgraded. When I bought the tank it had been running for about 2 months. However, when I brought it home, we drained all but about 1 inch of water from the tank. The substrate and piece of driftwood were left in the tank from the previous setup. The tank sat idle for about 3 days in this state at my house without the filter running, thereby killing all beneficial bacteria, if I understand correctly. I filled the tank and ran the filter and the heater for nearly 2 weeks before I had the time to add my first fish.
It is a 55-gallon tank with a Whisper EX-70 filtration system. My substrate consists of rocks about the diameter of a U.S. Quarter.
I am currently in the process of doing a live cycle on the tank. I have 4 small Red Wag Platys, 3 small Serpae Tetras, and 6 small Green Tiger Barbs.
Everyone seems to get along with each other pretty well, as the barbs have plenty of friends to play around with.
However, I have two issues.
First, the largest of the Red Wag Platys seems to spend a lot of time at the surface (gasping for air, it seems), but only after eating. It seems like high ammonia levels to me based off of research. I am planning on taking my water in to get tested on Saturday, so hopefully conditions don't degrade to an unsafe level before then. I am thinking about cutting back on the feeding for a day.
Second, it seems as though ALL of the fish like to spend about 5-10 minutes nipping or pecking at the rocks and fake plants in the tank after eating. What are they doing? Is this a problem?
If you're feeding flakes, there are always tiny bits of food that sink down into the tank, so your fish are probably just eating the leftover bits and pieces that they find. Doesn't sound like a problem to me.
Taking your water to a store is an option, but you're much better off buying your own test kit. Don't waste your money on the paper test strips as they're inaccurate and end up being very expensive. A good liquid test kit, like the API Liquid Freshwater Master Test Kit, is a fishkeeper's best friend.
I would guess that you probably do have escalated ammonia levels in the tank. I would do a 30% water change as soon as possible, and another one tomorrow if the fish are still gasping. Cutting back on feeding will also help as rotting fish food also adds ammonia to your water.
If in doubt, do a large water change. Bacteria is in the gravel and the filter, not in the water, and you can change as much as you need to without hurting your new cycle.
If you ever get to where you are in this spot again and have a cycled tank but no fish to add to it, add a few drops of pure ammonia each day just to keep that bacteria alive.
As stated, all the fish you listed will pick and look for food that has fallen for a while after you feed. It was my favorite part of watching my old FW fish doing that. :-)
As to the platies, then you really need to do a water change. Since you are still cycling that means there is present toxic ammonia and nitrite, which is the cause for gasping. Feeding also adds detrius to your water.
It would also be best to purchase your own liquid test kit. API is a favorite here. This is because LFS usually just say that your water is 'fine' or 'ok', and never give any readings and/or test with strips. You need exact numbers.
hello and welcome.
just in agreement about the water test kit,so much better
to have one at home,you can keep a very close eye on
the water,and you will know the exact results instead of the
fish store saying "it's all within the correct limits"
you yourself will be able to document exact numbers.
Even when you use Dechlorinator, such massive change will & can disturb the well established miniature biotope (tank).
Only time when I performed such massive chages was to initiate the spawning of fish w/ well aged water in order to simulate the arrival of Rainy Season in the tropicals. "Had great success spawing tetras this way!!!
Thanks for your help! I am going to pick up a test kit here soon. Because of evaporation I add about 2 gallons of new dechlorinated water every other day. Between that and skipping feeding for a day they have stopped gasping post-feed.
I will let you guys know when I have accurate levels to report.
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