Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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iamntbatman 01-11-2009 03:16 AM

Sick Jack Dempsey
This one's got me really stumped.

Lately I've been out of town several days a week so I've been having my brother come over and feed the fish while I'm gone. I have a young Jack Dempsey that's roughly 5.5" long alone in a 29g grow-out tank. This guy is an awesome fish. Every time I walk in the room, he swims right up the glass and begs like a little puppy dog. He's normally a very healthy eater and is quite active.

About a week ago, I got back home, fed him as usual, and was checking my email before calling it a night. Out of nowhere I hear all of this noise coming from his tank and look over to see him having a fit. He was thrashing all around in the corner under the outflow from the HOB filter, crashing into the glass, splashing up out of the water, and crashing into the sand. He calmed down after a few seconds. I assumed that he swam too close to the filter flow and got spooked or something, so I didn't worry about it. He hid behind a big piece of driftwood, but I expected that after being spooked. I turned his light out and went to bed. Ten minutes later, I heard thumping and woke up to see him swimming around like crazy crashing into things again. I didn't know what to do, so I just turned out the light and went to bed.

The next day, he was still hiding by the driftwood acting lethargic. This went on all day, so I did a water change (he was due for one anyway). Next day, he was still lethargic. Actually, he got worse. His fins started to clamp and he seemed to be having trouble breathing. I did another (larger) water change.

All of his water parameters are fine. Temp stays at about 78, no pH swings (steady 7.2), no ammonia or nitrite, nitrate never got above 10 ppm during all of this. The only thing I could think of is that somehow some sort of poison got in his tank while I was away. My brother says this didn't happen, and can't think of anything that could have spilled into the tank. Large water changes and adding a big bag of fresh activated carbon to the filter haven't seemed to do anything.

So, what to do? He hasn't been eating the past few days. Every once in a while, he'll start cruising the tank, and I try to feed him when he does this. Otherwise, he spends all of his time sitting on the sand next to the driftwood, fins clamped. He has done the freaking out thing several times now, and he'll do it if I make sudden movements (this didn't used to bother him at all).

Does this sound like some kind of poisoning? If so, how do I treat it? Is this damage permanent?

Little-Fizz 01-11-2009 10:35 AM

How long has he been in the tank? Is it a fairly new set up? In a high activity area? That's all I can think of... Like my swordtails flip all the time and I think it's because of where the tank is, people coming and going all the time. Sorry I can't offer any insight to the poison theory... It doesn't really sound like he is poisoned so much as he sounds frightened

jeaninel 01-11-2009 04:27 PM

This is a stretch but maybe some kind of current leak from the heater or something?

willow 01-11-2009 04:44 PM


Originally Posted by jeaninel (Post 162609)
This is a stretch but maybe some kind of current leak from the heater or something?

now that's an interesting point.

Hailfirex 01-11-2009 05:36 PM

yeah I was thinking too that maybe there could be an electrical current in the water

iamntbatman 01-12-2009 03:54 AM

It's in my room, which is fairly high-traffic I suppose but normally that doesn't bother him. The tank has been set up since July. If the heater was broken enough to short and cause a loose current, wouldn't it be broken enough to not keep the tank warm?

The heater doesn't look broken, and the tank is still 78, as usual, but the indicator light wasn't on on the tank. I unplugged the heater for now. I have a space heater running in the room so I'll crank that up just in case. I'll see if there's any improvement with the fish.

onefish2fish 01-12-2009 04:08 AM

loose current usually isnt a problem that i know of, its when you add a grounding probe you create bad current.
put it this way, a bird can sit on an electrical wire which has plenty of current going through it. the second a grounding probe is added the bird is done.

possibly perfume, hairspray, cleaning supplies being sprayed? those are the common ones that get into tanks. if infact it is poisoning i think your doing what you can honestly. water changes and carbon. another idea may be bad food?

iamntbatman 01-12-2009 04:17 AM

He only gets the best food.

Well, since unplugging the heater around the same time I made that last post, he started acting normal again for the first time in days. Ate out of my hand like he used to. I guess it was the heater, after all.

When an electrical device leaks current into the tank, you get a raised voltage of the tank water. This can shock you if you stick your hand in there. However, it won't "cook" your fish because there isn't really any current passing through them, just a high voltage in the tank. You're right though, when you have a leaky current like that and stick some sort of grounding wire in the tank, you create a path for current to flow through and anything along that path will get cooked. However, fish are a heck of a lot more electrically sensitive creatures than we are (their lateral line is very sensitive to electric fields). I can see how a loose voltage could make a fish uncomfortable. In my case, his go-to hiding spot was *right* next to the heater, so he might have been experiencing low level currents the whole time.

Looks like I need a new heater. I need a new tank for him, too, as this one developed a leak the other day. It's leaking out about a quart an hour. I needed an excuse to get him a bigger tank sooner than I expected, right?

onefish2fish 01-12-2009 04:27 AM

correct. and you sticking your arm in the tank and getting shocked is the ground.
and also correct about sensitie to electricity. i believe sharks can sense the slightest electric field released from being frightened and scared. i may be wrong but im pretty sure.
anyways im glad you found the source, better get that tank ASAP so you can cycle it, id hate to see the leak get larger. where is it leaking anyways? if its the seal its an easy fix.

iamntbatman 01-13-2009 03:30 AM

It's the sealant at the bottom corner that's leaking. I'll try re-sealing it after I get the tank emptied.

Well...I thought the heater was the problem, since the fish went back to normal within a few minutes of me unplugging it. This was right before I turned in for the night. However, today, it was the same story: he was moping in the corner all day. I guess the heater wasn't the problem after all. I'm just gonna keep doing water changes and replace the carbon every other day and see what happens.

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