Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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afoshee 02-04-2009 04:25 PM

Any advice? PLEASE! nitrate prob, among others
Looking for any advice possible, thanks in advance.

Brief history- Ive had my tank set up for about 4 yrs. Started with smaller community fish, and gradually added Cichlids. It is a 90 gallon tank. They all get along pretty well and have only lost one fish due to aggression.

Currently I have
4 Cichlid-Golden Severums,
1 beautiful Jack Dempsey
1 smaller Cichlid, not sure what kind
1 parrot
6 giant Danios
1 algea
1 catfish

I have a good sized driftwood, a med/large coral piece, 2 live plants (onion and sword), 1 flat rock, 1 rounded rock and plastic plants.

I changed filter 1 month ago from a filter that sits on top to a Fluval 405 canister. And ever since then Ive had nothing but problems. Although the water looks crystal clear, my levels have never been the same.

Here are the levels- One morning the fish were breathing heavy. Turned out to be to much ammonia. Treated it with Top Fin ammonia remover x2, and added bio bacteria.
1 week later the numbers were
NH 0.5
pH 6.8
Alk 80
Hard 250
'ites 5.0
'ates 200!!!!!
I did a water change, was due for montly anyhow, added pH up, conditioner, and bio bact. Then levels were as follows
NH 0.5
pH 6.4
Alk 40
Hard 425
'ites 5.0
'ates 200 still
I checked in AM, and they were no better. Added NH remover again.
Went to fish store, advice was to do weekly water change and should see improvment in months!!!! And they said "hopefully fish will make it through" :-(
Then changed 2 carbon (there are 4 total in Fluval 405) left one old one, and added ammonia filter.

Did weekly water change today and levels were as follows after water change.
pH <6.4
Buff 0
Hard 120
'ites 5
'ates 200 still

Plus it looks like 3 of Cichlids have fungus/septicemia. So, I took out carbon and added medicine.

Im so confused. Any ideas of what I should do, anything I can add/remove??

Ive never had any probs with the tank/fish. Its very frustrating. Please help


Twistersmom 02-04-2009 04:48 PM

I wonder if you test kit is accurate. That is a crazy high level of nitrites and nitrates. Maybe check into buying a different test kit or have your water tested at the store to see if they get the same readings. If the readings are correct I would do a big 50% water change. Maybe 15% water changes everday after that, until you see see ammonia and nitrites at zerro, nitrates under 40ppm. Getting the water quality in check would be my #1 priority. I think at this point any medication or adjusting the ph, will just cause more stress on the fish.

dramaqueen 02-04-2009 04:51 PM

The API master test kit is the one that is reccommended.

afoshee 02-04-2009 06:42 PM

Ive been using Mardels 5in1 test. Ill def. give another brand a try. thx

afoshee 02-05-2009 09:34 AM

I did another water change this am. The fish werent looking to happy. Levels as follows

pH <6.4
Alk 80
Hard 120
Nitrite 3.0
Nitrate 80-200

At least some are going in right direction. I will do another change tomorrow. Thx!!

JohnnyD44 02-05-2009 10:21 AM

I recently had this problem, my nitrates were in the 200 took me 5 weeks, doing 20% water changes 3 times a week!!1 it was a pain but it gradually got under control. watch how much your feeding them too, that can cause it to spike. but definetly look into the API test kit, it's the best!!!

Tyyrlym 02-05-2009 11:25 AM

Yikes, where to start.

First off the strips are not much use, dump them. Get a liquid test kit like the API one. Freshwater Master Test Kit, its about $30 in store, $15 to 20 online and its cheaper in the long run than strips. I know it's junk because a water change will reduce the nitrates. So either your nitrates are so sky high that you're maxing the test out or they're not accurate.

Did you use any of the filter material from your old filter with your new one? If you didn't did you just yank the old HoB off and hook the new one up and go? I'm guessing that's what happened. The problem is simple, you're cycling your tank all over again. The few bacteria that remain in the tank on the gravel and decor just aren't enough to deal with the waste all your fish are putting out.

The really bad news is that you're not only cycling with fish, you're cycling with a LOT of fish. You're going to need to change the water on a daily basis or pretty close to it. Use your new test kit and test for ammonia and nitrites. If either of them read 0.25 ppm or above you need to do a water change, 30 to 50%. With that many fish I'd just plan on having to do a water change a day. Keep this up until you detect no more ammonia or nitrites in the water.

Next, stop with the chemical cocktail you're pouring into this tank. Ammonia remover does not remove ammonia. It converts it to ammonium, a form that is harmless to fish yet can still be processed by your bio filter, bacteria. Most test kits can't differentiate between ammonia and ammonium. You don't need a seperate ammonia neutralizer and I'll get to why in a second. The Bio Bacteria is snake oil, occasionally it does actually work, most of the time you're just pouring lots of little bacteria corpses into your tank. What is the pH of your tap water, unless it's below 6.0 or above 8.0 you don't need to monkey with the pH, in fact messing with it only makes your aquarium less stable and stresses your fish out. The only thing you really need to add to your water is a good water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramine. Something like Prime is good to use and has the added benefit of also being able to detoxify ammonia and nitrites. Use it as directed.

Your filter, go to it and yank the ammonia filter out of it. You want to cultivate your bio filter's bacteria and encourage them to grow so they can filter your water for you. All that ammonia filter does is starve them of food, preventing growth, and forces you to constantly buy ammonia filters. The carbon doesn't really matter one way or another right now, just replace it as scheduled every two to four weeks.

Your fish are likely sick because of the stress the ammonia spike is causing them. The best thing you can do for them is regular water changes to keep the ammonia and nitrites down as best you can.

Tyyrlym 02-05-2009 11:34 AM

A few other items.

The fish store's advice of weekly water changes was rather bad. Your tank is cycling again and daily should be the rule. Now, how often do you regularly change the water? A consistent schedule of water changes is important for the well being of your fish. It refreshes dissolved nutrients that can be depleted and it removes dissolved organic compounds that are not that great. It also just freshens up the place a bit. Ever breath recycled air for long? Same idea. The bare minimum you should change the water is enough to consistently keep your nitrates under 40ppm. What this means is you change enough water so that right before the next water change your nitrates are still below 40ppm. If the water being added is dechlorinated and matches the aquarium's pH and temperature a water change won't harm your fish at all.

I would cut back on feeding. During the cycle any food you put into the aquarium will either rot and turn into ammonia or go through a fish and produce ammonia. One small feeding a day will be enough for your fish to keep them fine until the aquarium has cycled and you can go back to twice daily or whatever your schedule was.

I'd highly recommend a quarantine tank. It gives you a place where you can treat sick fish without dosing healthy ones with meds. You can also use less meds which saves you money as well. Finally the most common use is a place to house new arrivals for several weeks so you can observe their general health without exposing your other fish to any parasites, fungus, or infections the new fish might have. They don't have to be complicated and can be rather cheap to set up. Quarantine - 15 gallon Freshwater fish tank

afoshee 02-05-2009 03:29 PM


Originally Posted by Tyyrlym (Post 168966)

If either of them read 0.25 ppm or above you need to do a water change, 30 to 50%. With that many fish I'd just plan on having to do a water change a day. Keep this up until you detect no more ammonia or nitrites in the water.

What is the pH of your tap water, unless it's below 6.0 or above 8.0 you don't need to monkey with the pH, in fact messing with it only makes your aquarium less stable and stresses your fish out.

Again, ty ty ty! All this advise is invaluable.

Question- if the levels are low, is there ever a need to do more than 1 change a day?

And, I used the strip to test pH (going to fishstore this evening), and the tap water pH red below 6.4, thats as low as the strip went. Any better way to test pH? Anything else I should add to shopping list?

afoshee 02-05-2009 03:53 PM

Also, as far as carbon goes, should I replace all at once or do half each time. Follow manufactures guidelines? The filter holds 4 bags. And with water changes, I used to alternate btw filter cleaning and gravel vac. Do I follow same now, or do strictly water changing. Again tyvm for your help, it is so invaluable!!!!

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