Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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tashaj 09-02-2013 09:44 AM

Mollies dying - brand new to fishkeeping - please help
 
Hi there, I would appreciate any help please. I am new to fishkeeping, have been wanting to start for a long time and only just took the plunge. I will relay as much information as I have and hopefully someone can give me advice. Please forgive my new-ness to fishkeeping (and don't laugh/abuse if I sound totally stupid) :oops:

I bought a 20L ( US 5 gallon?) 'start-up' tropical fish tank kit at the recommendation of my local aquarium which came with 2 liverbearers. Kit includes:

* Bar filter for 50L tank (9 gallon?) (kept on low as recommended by store keepers)
* heater for 100 - 150L tank (26 - 39 Gallon) (kept on 27 Celsius (80F)
*gravel, plastic plant, ornament and hidy-log
*water treatment (Aquatopia Water Safe brand)
*tropical fish flakes

I took home the tank and set it all up as per the instructions and let it run for over 48 hours. I am using water from my tap that has been treated as per the instructions on the treatment product that came with the kit. Tank sits on my bench, gets about 30 minutes of indirect cool sunlight approx 7am in the morning which aquarium owners advised would be fine as it would assist my heater get back to temp from the night.

Once it was ready, I then went back to the store and they did a water test (with all the tubes and so forth) and said my water mineral content and the PH was right for keeping livebearers. (I am sorry I don't have any of these details as I only have a small PH tester kit.)

I then took home my 2 livebearers (1 molly, 1 platy - both female) and did as the aquarium owner instructed - float in bag in water for 15 mins, open bag and gradually let the water in, then let them into the tank.

As I was also to buy 2 small baby bristlenose catfish to complete my tank, (only tiny at the moment), the aquarium owners said that I shouldn't clean the tank and come back in 2 weeks to pick up the catfish as the tank needed to be a little bit 'dirty' for them.

So in 1 week 6 days my fish were happy and vibrant, and seemed very comfortable with their tank and I was really pleased. I took a sample of my water in to the store for them to test it again, this time they only did a PH, and they said it was a little on the alkaline side but that it was fine for livebearers. I noted that there was a little of some sort of white dusty build up starting to appear on the plant and rocks near the plant, and they advised that was simply uneaten food and to feed them a little less. I bought a pebble siphon vacuum and was advised to do a 1/3 water change (which would happen naturally by using the vacuum) and then come back in a week to see if the tank was ready for the catfish.

I went home and did this straight away, although I think I got too much into the cleaning and probably took closer to 50%. Treated the water from the tap as I was refilling the tank. My friend at work says she brings her water down to much less than that and hasn't had any problems, so I thought I had done pretty well......

It was Sunday lunch when I did the water change, I woke up Monday morning and my gold molly was lying on her side against the stem of the plant... she was breathing pretty quickly, didn't seem disformed or decoloured, sort of seemed really lethargic.. like dipping her face on the pebbles.. the platy was perfectly fine.

I got home and sure enough she was dead. I don't know if this is useful information or not but she had a purple colouring under her head.. in the gilly bits. So heartbroken

I put it down to the water change and having taken too much and after speaking to my friend at work, she said it may have been that the water from the tap was simply too cold (its Spring here in Australia, so its by no means freezing water.) But I thought my uber-heater would have brought it back to temperature without any worries. She said she fills her tank with water from the hose but that its usually a llittle warmer then the kitchen tap.

So, I Sunday I take my PH tube in for the aquarium keepers to see, they say PH is fine and after telling them about the dead fish they say it was the change of water etc and that it is normal to lose a fish in a new tank. I buy a thermometer from them (no idea why this wasn't in the start up kit, they originally advised I didn't need one for a little tank and such a powerful heater as the thermostat on the heater would be all good). I also bought 1 female molly because I didn't want my platy lonely.

I introduced the new molly as what I did with the first fish, and seems fine, a little shy hiding in the log, but the 2 were getting on really well.
Well about an hour ago it died.. so 30 hours from when it was introduced. I had only seen it eat a little bit at the first feeding the night I bought it home (there have been 2 feedings since I bought it home) but put that down to the fact that it might have been a little shy and settling in. It didn't eat at all the 2nd feeding which was tonight and it died a couple hours later. Again, same as first molly.. except a little more face dipping in the pebbles, at times almost vertical against the pebbles.. didn't leave it long enough to see if its gills went purple.. I cleaned it out as soon as it started floating.

I checked the temp with my new thermometer, and it is on 24 Celsius (75F) even though the dial is set for 27C (80F). I started playing around with the heater because now that I think of it I haven't seen the light on at all but figured it must be on when I am not here or during the night when its cooler. I turned it up and light comes on, put it in the water, stays on for a little then turns off.. figure that's the thermostat working and that it will periodically turn on and off till its correct temperature? not sure then why the water isn't the correct temperature already????? I read that mollies and platys can live in 24 - 27C water and so while it is on the low side, it is still in correct range, so confused.

I am going to take a sample of my water in to a different aquarium tomorrow to see what they say .. feeling really disheartened and want to know if anyone is able to give me advice based on the information I have given. I only have my platy, Ariel, left and I don't want to buy any more fish until I fix whatever it is that is wrong, but also don't want her to be lonely.

I want to get this right and be successful at keeping just a small tank of a few fish and enjoy the practice.. sorry this was so long-winded!

Sylverclaws 09-02-2013 10:09 AM

Oh dear. Well, being new it happens.

You've made several mistakes here, the first and worst was listening to pet shop advice. They sell you bad info, it kills your fish, you buy more or buy meds, they profit. That's all that really matters to them, and some unfortunately just don't know better and say as they're told to say. Some know they're wrong and claim great education, those should be kicked. They take advantage and hurt new hobbiests and their fish like they did to you, so I am sorry about that.

Next...it takes 4-6+ weeks to properly cycle a tank, and you have to add an ammonia source to get it going, letting it sit with filter and heater does nothing without the ammonia source. You can start it with fish food, or purchase the starter chemicals for it. I suggest the food...but you've already started the cycle with your fish, and it unfortunately killed them as it very often does.

Next: Bad heater. Having a heater for a much larger tank will make the temp flux a lot and improperly heat the tank risking the deaths of your fish. You need a five gallon heater, nothing more, nothing less.
Also, sunlight is not good for a tank, if it's just a little indirect sunlight for an hour or two it's alright, but anything more or anything direct can cause algae and bacterial issues, as well as risk frying your fish.

Now then, livebearers...great starting fish. Guppies and platies are the better of them to start with. Hardy, and pretty.

Now, you have the wrong tank size for anything other than a single male betta and maybe a pair of nerite snails. Nothing smaller is really...fish safe. And no other fish can fit happily in a tank that size. Once the tank finishes cycling, which you need a proper testing kit to find out, you can get a single male betta for that tank and snails if you so desire.
Or you could make it a little shrimp tank, once it gets cycled and established, you could get 8-10 cherry shrimp, they're nice little shrimp, low bioioad and are peaceful, but will need to have a supplemental diet with a tank that hasn't been established for about six months or so, and that can often be tricky.


If you want livebearers, you need a much bigger tank.

A trio of platies would be happy in a 15 gallon, but no more could fit happily, they can get big and are thick bodied, and though normally peaceful will get very aggressive if not given proper space. No livebearer can handle being in groups smaller than three, and though not really schoolers, do prefer company and get stressed and aggressive, also insecure without it. You could get five in a twenty gallon.

Mollies need much more room and groups of 4-5 minimum. They have a VERY high bioload and a tad extra filtration is good(maybe 5-10 gallons more), like very hard, brackish water, with PH no lower than 7.3 and prefer it higher like 7.6+ or so. Brackish settings aren't a must, but are MUCH better for them, and preferred. Mollies need 20 gallons for the smaller ones like balloons, black mollies or gold dusts/gold nuggets. The sailfins, lyretails and such need 30 gallon tanks minimum as they can get 4-7 inches long.

Any of the livebearers that get more than three inches need 30+ gallons, the smaller ones will be fine in a twenty gallon in a proper group. Be sure you get long tanks, not tall ones. More swimming space = happier fish. Especially with these guys.

Now with livebearers you have to watch out for babies. In my opinion, they're over-rated as good starter fish because of that little...flaw. lol They have babies all the time and the only way to prevent it is an all male tank, females store sperm for up to a year and can give birth 1-2 times per month to 10-100 babies a go. The adults will not always take are of the problem for you, though often do...and the water quality will be destroyed with too many in there. So be careful. =P Everyone here probably knows by now my thing is livebearers, I always have too many babies, but I have nurseries...still get swamped sometimes though. x.x Most shops will take in your fry, but some places those can be hard to find.

If you decide you don't want livebearers, I'd suggest cherry barbs. They can do fifteen gallon tanks with a group of five, twenty gallons is much better though. Less risk of babies everywhere, they're not too difficult, just research their needs... food needs, as well as what water parameters they need before you get them as you have to have a proper test kit to find out if your stats are right, and if they're stable. All fish prefer stable, make sure it's been stable for at at least two weeks before getting any fish.


So, in short, if you keep the small tank you can have a betta and snails, or shrimp, or a snail tank. lol

If you get a bigger tank, livebearers. I suggest platies or guppies, or Endler's to start out with. They're the easier of the livebearers, Swordtails and mollies can be a bit more difficult and needy.

tashaj 09-02-2013 10:15 AM

Thankyou so much for your help and advice. I have a lot to do!!! Glad I have found a place where I can ask these questions and get help

Sylverclaws 09-02-2013 10:20 AM

Indeed, I wish you the best of luck. Don't be afraid to ask questions on whatever you need to or don't understand! Sometimes it takes a bit to get answers, but people are usually friendly here and willing to lend a hand. =P Ah, I've had my share of problems myself. ^_~ It's nice to have people around who know how to help, and livebearers are certainly my forte.

Ah yes, welcome to TFK! ^_^

I edited my answer a bit if you want to check it over again. lol

I also suggest you research the nitrogen cycle, that will help you figure out what needs to be done to cycle your tank.

tashaj 09-02-2013 10:23 AM

Thankyou thankyou... I am sure I will have many questions. I figure I have driven most everyone around me mad with talk of fish and questions!!! I am feeling confident I'll get this right! (and hopefully let my remaining platy live!!!) You have been so helpful

SeaHorse 09-02-2013 10:24 AM

Hi Tasha
I'm sorry to hear you are having such trouble. This is very common in new tanks and for new fish keepers and we'll try to help you to understand what is going on. First off you have been told a number of things that are not correct!! I'll try to elaborate. My first concern is tank size... 5 gallon? That is suitable for a Betta kept alone with maybe a snail. Or Baby Mollies/Platty... called Fry when used as a tank to raise babies.
The minimum tank length for a Molly is 24 inches long... 36 is better for them. Platy's need 20 gallons also... I think that is 24 inches long also. These fish can get to be 3 inches long.... that is 7.5 cm-ish.
No more new fish until we stabilize the tank and get it thru the Nitrogen Cycle which is possible on small tanks. The cycle can take up to 6-8 weeks to get thru and your fish will be in danger due to high readings of Ammonia and NitrIte during this process. Water changes done more frequently during this time will help save your fish. Dilutes the problems down. Your water change did not harm your fish unless you did not use de-chlorinator, or you did not match your water temperature with a thermometer.
Always read your tank temp, then set your water temp at the tap, match it in the container/bucket of new fresh tap water... add dechlor... then add to tank. When adding fish in a bag from the store, rest the bag in the water opened in such a way to not release the fish yet. Slowly, each 5 min intervals, add a little tank water to the bag. You are blending a number of things this way so there will be less shock. They include vast temperature changes (no thermometer), PH from one city to another. After about a half hour of doing this, NET the fish out of the bag and into the tank. Remove the bag of store water and pour down the drain. Try never to add outside store fish tank water to your tank. Always net the fish into your tank gently. This reduces your risk of bringing disease into your tank from the store.

Ah... Silverclaws types faster than I... ** EDIT**

Keleborn 09-02-2013 10:38 AM

Sorry about your experience with the pet store. Unfortunately, Sylverclaws is quite right about the way a lot of pet stores, especially chain stores operate. But, you've come to the right place! Be sure to check out the threads on Beginner Freshwater. We have a good aquarium only store here in Lubbock, TX, called Mr. Aquarium, where the staff are all trained to take proper care of the plants & livestock they sell, by giving good advice to their customers, as well as keeping track of everything their customers are doing with their aquariums, so they are on top of any problems, and don't even attempt to sell things their customers don't need, (of course, you can always insist! Usually you'll be wrong, lol). If you can't find a pet store that treats you that way, by checking their advice here in the forum, since you're new, then your best bet is to continue doing research here, before making purchases. Like Sylverclaws said, you need a pet store that will at least tell you how to properly cycle a tank first. I just started setting up a 20 gallon tank that's going to take me months to cycle, because of the particular way I want it set up. I'm in no hurry. Most pet stores won't tell you this is a hobby that requires a great deal of patience if you don't like dead fish; sad. Good luck as you progress, and hope to see more of you in the forum.

tashaj 09-02-2013 10:41 AM

Thanks Keleborn, I am glad I stumbled over this forum! I will be doing some diligent research and have already printed Sylver's email and going over it with a highlighter!!! Trust me, ya'll be hearing more from me :)

tashaj 09-02-2013 10:44 AM

Thankyou Jakie! Noted Noted Noted!!! So much to do! Really appreciate your advice


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