Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Cheknnudol 04-13-2009 01:27 AM

Newbie running into MAJOR problems...
Alrighty, first off hello! This is my first post to this forum and man could I use some advice! My experience with fish is so minimal and my boyfriend and I have just invested in making this a new couple's hobby. Sorry ahead of time that the post is so long but I guess I need advice beginning to end...

This all started a couple of weeks ago when he decided he really wanted some fish, and inherited a 3 gal tank from his soon-to-be sister-in-law (tank, filter, air pump incl.). I was out of town at the time but apparently he bought a blue gourami and guppy for the tank and used super filtered water from the dispenser at the grocery store to fill it up. The gourami reportedly mauled the guppy (thus earning its name - Jaffar) so we opted for some hardier fish: an angel fish and a black molly named token. After floating for appropriate lengths of time we let the newcomers into the tank, but the gourami went after the angelfish. Back to the pet store. Swapped the angelfish for an african dwarf frogs, the gourami was still being feisty, so we gave up on it and traded it in for a spotted catfish. This is where the trouble starts.

Summary: 3 gal Tank with one black molly (Token), one spotted catfish (Meowth) and one african dwarf frog (Kevin) with a 25 watt heater and 1-3gal whisper filter with bio bags.

A few days ago we noticed what looked like a bite out of Token's lip (a white spot near his mouth that seemed like a chunk of flesh missing rather than a cottony something or another like we found Ich and Flex to be described as after some research). It started getting some stringy things off of it but we didn't think anything of it having had minimal fish experience before and assuming it was something food related. Yesterday he started acting really strangely, however. Chillin at the bottom of the tank or at the top rather than zooming around like his usual self. White thread-like stuff seems to be attached to his body and his tail looks shredded to pieces, though he wont use it or any other of his fins besides the arm ones (like i said ... fish experience minimal) for swimming.

Today while at the store to grab something for him (at the time we thought it was Ich) my boyfriend fell in love with the ghost catfish and another angelfish, so we decided to go ahead and convert a frog tank we had into a new aquarium. We filled the new tank with treated water from what I think was a Glacier water machine at the grocery store, as well as about a gallon of water from their old tank (boyfriend said something about retaining some of their beneficial bacteria?). After heating this new water we floated the new fish and ziplocced (god that sounds horrible) the old fish into individual baggies to float them in the new tank as well. After getting everything we needed to deck out the new tank, the new fish, melafix for the Ich, and what I guess is a comprehensive water testing kit, we've come to the status described below:

1. Size of aquarium (# of gallons) :

2. Is your aquarium setup freshwater or brackish water?
I'm not really sure what this means, sorry!

3. How long the aquarium has been set up?
Less than a day, though the previous had been set up for a couple of weeks

4. What fish and how many are in the aquarium (species are important to know)
1-Angelfish, 1-Black Molly, 1-Spotted Catfish, 1-African Dwarf Frog, 2-Ghost Catfish
5. Are there live plants in the aquarium?
A 4" anubias(sp?) plant that we bought with the new tank pump and heater

6. What temperature is the tank water currently?
The temperature strip we borrowed from the smaller tank puts it at between 83-87 degrees though earlier it noted an even higher temp than that. Our heater has been turned all the way down now for several hours though so I find it hard for this to be correct.

7. What make/model filter are you using?
Whisper 10Gal with Biobags

8. Are you using a CO2 unit?
Since I don't know what this is I guess not.

9. Does your aquarium receive natural sunlight at any given part of the day?
Only as much as comes in through the tiny basement windows, so not much.

10. When did you perform your last water exchange, and how much water was changed?
All but one gallon of the current water is brand new

11. How often do you perform water changes?
Weekly at a minimum

12. How often and what foods do you feed your fish?
We had been hiding dried blood worms in a tic tac container for the dwarf frog as he didn't seem to like fighting the catfish for the sinking wafers, then dropping a pinch of tropical fish flakes for the molly. However, the blood worms ended up being a ton of trouble and the dwarf frog turned out to hold his ground against the cat fish when he was hungry, so we just stepped back to that. Now that we have all of the new fish though it's expected we'll be dropping a pinch of the blood worms (ghost catfish/african dwarf frog), a small pinch of the tropical flakes (angel fish and molly - if he makes it) and a sinking wafer for the spotted catfish.

13. What type of lighting are you using and how long is it kept on?
In the smaller tank we had been using an incandescent light during day time, then turned it off before bed. The larger tank has a flourescent aquarium light in it on the same schedule.

14. What specific concerns bring you here at this time?
The chemistry in our tank is BONKERS and one of our fish seems to be in deep trouble :(

15. What are your water parameters? Test your pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.
pH: 6.6, Ammonia: 0.25, Nitrite: 5.0 (yikes!), Nitrate: 30 (eep!)

16. What test kit are you using and is it liquid or test strips?
API Freshwater Master Test Kit (liquid)

17. When was the last time you bought a fish and how did they behave while in the pet store tank?
We bought three of them today and the larger of the glass cats as well as the angel behaved fine. I wasn't watching when the pet store clerk grabbed the smaller of the glass cats, though none in the tank looked to be sickly/lethargic. The black molly looked great in the store... we picked him specifically because he was large and active (to keep his own against the vicious gourami). The african dwarf frog did what he did best and hid under a rock in the store tank. The catfish was super active... against, we picked him specifically for that purpose.

As I researched more over dinner tonight I thought that our molly more than likely had Flex than Ich, though that was after we dropped a dose of melafix into the tank. We're going to the store tomorrow to see about perhaps getting some kind of nitrite filter even if it's temporary, and investing in a digital thermometer. If you guys so advise we'll also be looking for Maracyn, I suppose. What can I do about these water conditions? How can I save my poor little Token?

willow 04-13-2009 08:13 AM

hello and welcome.
:shock: you've got some things going on in there.
however don't panic,and don't worry about not knowing much,you'll soon
catch on,we all started out at the begining in this hobby ok. :)
not all love and happiness i have to give you..sorry.
the fish you have for a new tank are not hardy enough.they will struggel with the toxins
that you have in the water.
here is a link for you to read through about the cycle.
if you buy a dechlorinator from the store,you can use tap water.
water changes will be needed to help the fish.
do not touch your filter while the tank is in it's cycle,your bacteria need to grow and
go through their changes,also no to disturbing the gravel either.
keep food to a minimum,make sure all that you give them has been eaten,
if there is any left on the bottom of the tank remove it.
let me know how you get on with the artical provided,
and don't worry about asking questions,there are plenty of us around to help.

Cheknnudol 04-13-2009 09:23 AM

Willow, thanks SO much for your response and that link. I'd heard the term Cycle several times poking around for Token, but none of the articles (supposed 'explanations') were very descriptive - mostly just one liners. I really appreciate that.

I see that it's the new tank being problematic now, but could the old tank have actually been an instigator for Token's illness? That tank had been used previously and while my boyfriend presumably cleaned it out, I found last night that he hadn't swapped the Bio Bag in the filter of that tank between his sister-in-law-to-be's use of it and ours. From what that article says, it's the filter in part that accumulates colonies of these bacteria (or perhaps just the first bacterium mentioned in the article? I'm a bit unclear on that.); is it possible that her fish had established even small colonies of these necessary organisms to help out when we first got the tank? If so, these water parameters aren't really helpful in diagnosing Token are they? Also, I'm not sure the boyfriend cleaned the tank all too well (we inherited a snail which I found out later was the only survivor of an infestation that had led to the removal of the tank in the first place) - is it possible some bacteria had stuck around on the tank walls and whatnot?

You said that water changes are needed to help the fish; is there anything I can do or buy for them to help them through this mess we've created? The first three tank inhabitants we are really really attached to, and the newest additions are becoming family favorites. It would be a shame if we lost any of them, really. While we're a bit short on cash at the moment (poor college students just getting back from spring break and having already shelled out plenty on the new tank set up), I'm not going to skimp out on these little guys. Any solutions or possible facilitators for this situation would be much appreciated, and more points and gold stars to the person with the cheapest effective input ;)

Oh one more thing: Should I stop the Melafix? Not buy any Maracyn? Even though the tank is the serious problem at this point, I would prefer not to let Token continue to deteriorate if I can help it. We haven't returned the smaller tank yet and it would be possible (though not exactly ideal for space reasons) to move him back there as a small hospital tank to receive any potential remedies as an only fish, should that be a preferable route for application.

The other fish seem to be behaving much more lively as they get accustomed to their new tank. Yesterday was all hiding and stress and not eating (yes! we removed the uneaten food for once! I think this may have been a serious problem in the smaller tank. I must learn not to indulge the "om nom nom" face that Meowth makes at me.) but everybody is out and swimming about now as I wake up with the exception of our lazy frog and poor little Token. I will test our water again tonight so the timing is a bit more regular unless you think it would be a good idea to do one this morning as well as one this evening. Yes/No?

Again, thanks a ton for your response!

willow 04-13-2009 09:57 AM

you are very welcome.
fish do beg and they make you feel bad for not giving into them :)
but don't worry,you'll get hardened to it,otherwise they will eat all day !!
your tank is fresh water,brackish means it has salt mixwd in,which your s does not.
hang on,as i need more help from others to help you.

aunt kymmie 04-13-2009 10:33 AM

Welcome to the forum! You sure jumped into the hobby head first. I did the same thing. :-) Not sure I can add anything to what Willow has already covered. The link on cycling is informative and I wish when I started I would have had that info as I would have done a fishless cycle. I did exactly as you did; I got a tank and threw in a bunch of fish and then started asking my questions.

Since your tank is not cycled you'll need to keep on top of your water parameters and do water changes every time you get a reading for ammonia and/or nitrates. When I was going thru this procedure I was sometimes doing water changes every day for days on end. Because you have so many fish in a small tank, until the tank is cycled you'll most likely see ammonia/nitrite readings on a daily basis. Due to the small tank size and the fact that the tank is overstocked it'll take a lengthly amount of time for your tank to finally cycle, if at all. (This was my experience and I ended the battle by making the switch from a 6gl to a 100gl)

I'm sorry to be the party pooper but the fish you have chosen are not appropriate for a 10g. An adult angel is quite large and requires an absolute minimum of 20gl. Tall tanks are the preferred style for these fish. I wouldn't keep one in less than a 40g tall. Ghost cats are a shoaling fish and prefer to be in groups of four or more. If it was my tank (and it's not!) I'd rethink the setup and consider rehoming some of the fish. This would be the "cheapest & effective" solution.

I'm not sure what is wrong with Token without seeing a picture. What type of test kit are you using?

willow 04-13-2009 10:42 AM

White thread-like stuff seems to be attached to his body

kymmie do you think that this could be columnarius ?

aunt kymmie 04-13-2009 10:52 AM

It sounds like it could be but it could also easily be something else. I hate to hazard a guess as I've no experience with columnaris. Ask me about ich; I know all about that. :-) Hopefully someone with experience with this type of disease will chime in with their knowledge. In the meantime I was reading this:

Fish Disease - Columnaris

Not sure if this link helps...:-?

Cheknnudol 04-13-2009 11:04 AM

Columnaris is what we ended up thinking it was after all the research we did yesterday, which is why I was considering picking up the Maracyn-Plus from the store later. In what little expertise I have, I'm fairly certain having seen his condition that this is what he has, though I'm unsure what the best route for treatment is. Isolation and antibiotics? Treat the whole tank? I don't want to muss up the water chemistry too much with any meds we try for him but at the same time stressing him with another move seems risky.

Thanks for everyone's input and we'll take a look at our options with the tank size. All of these fish are fairly small at the moment (The body of the angel, no fins, is probably the size of a dime if not smaller and the next largest is the spotted cat which is probably only 2 - 3") so we have a little while to consider things.

ETA: We're using an API Master Test Kit for Freshwater, and I've just been informed that the boyfriend has a 20 gal tank on hand but he was saving it for the snake he wants to get. Would it be preferable to move them in there? I'm not sure how much larger of a tank we can accomodate here, though I will probably be setting up a 10 or 20 gallon of my own at my place which may inherit the glass cats. If we switch everyone to the 20gal that would have to be somewhat of a long-term solution as any money towards tanks at that point would have to go to a replacement terrarium for the snake-to-come. If we skip that and go straight to saving up for a larger aquarium, though, I feel like we could get something to accomodate all of our little guys by the time they completely outgrow this one. What would the smallest recommended tank size be for all six fish?

I'm not entirely sure how to judge how much space fish need either (obviously)... each of ours seems to have its own hiding space and swimming space and only interact with one another when they so choose. It's not crowded like the pet store tanks. Any insight on this?

Further ETA: I will do my best to grab some pictures later on today of both Token and the tank itself, though my camera isn't with me at the moment and it will have to wait until after work and school. Hopefully you guys will stay tuned to help me out :) Thanks!

willow 04-13-2009 11:10 AM

i was just your sister still running any tanks ?
if she is,get her to donate some filter media or even some gravel from her tanks,
that will help your cycle.

aunt kymmie 04-13-2009 11:15 AM

Because this disease is highly contagious I'd forgo isolation and treat the entire tank. If it was me I'd use antibiotics and hope for the best. :-?

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