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achelle3 09-01-2009 04:28 PM

10 gallon trouble..
 
Alright so I've been having a lot of trouble with this tank just recently. It got cloudy last week and I was doing a water change and the cloudiness went away perfectly fine. I had to check ammonia and ph levels which elevated so i used a corrector. The tank was perfectly clean and clear as I went to bed. The next morning I get out there to see the water horribly cloudy and my big tinfoil bard and the bala shark dead. The smaller barb and the rainbow shark survived and seemed to be doing ok. I filled up a 1 gallon and conditioned it then placed those two it. (had to go to work 7- 3) I checked the levels again that night and the levels were only slightly above what they should be. I tried to correct it again, and later put the two back in. I have been constantly watching and could see they were at the top again trying to breath there. What does this mean exactly??? I have taken them out again each day trying to correct the water. If I do a whole water exchange that will also risk killing them. I found this out when I had to move from one apartment to another. I saved all of them because i happened to be awake still that night.
It's been complication after complication. I also got a couple new fish too soon before the cloudiness cleared the water. I really don't know what the problem is. The ammonia levels won't go down and neither will the PH. I'm scared to clean the whole tank because it only did the same thing to me. I did get a new filtration system but nothing is working. the water is cloudy the ammonia is .5 to 1. Can anyone help me???

Byron 09-01-2009 05:38 PM

It would help to know how long this tank has been running from the first. But from what you have told us, I see some problems that need action, so I'll proceed.

First, never, never use pH adjusters in a tank with fish. This may have killed the ones that died (or may be something else). The pH is higher because of something, you need to find out what that something is. Adjusters will work short-term, but whatever is causing the higher ph will kick in again, so to speak, and up goes the pH. The more adjuster you add, the worse, because eventually the water's buffering capability (determined by the KH which is the carbonate hardness) will be maxed out and then the ph will crash horribly. This will certainly kill some fish outright, as they cannot cope with fluctuating pH; better to leave it where it is and find the cause and correct that slowly.

You said the ph is "high," and above normal, but what is the number? And what is "normal" in number? Lastly, what is the pH of your tap water (out of the tap) used for water changes? We need to see these numbers to know if something is causing this in the tank.

Second, a pwc of even 50% will not kill or harm any fish unless there is another problem that affects it. The pwc might be detrimental if the tank pH is below 7.0 and the tap water is above 7.0, but otherwise should not. Your pH numbers will help us with this. The cloudiness may or may not be related to any of this, it could just be bacteria and harmless. But the ammonia has to be dealt with, and this suggests that this is a relatively new tank and it is not cycled fully (?) or else something occurred recently to affect the nitrification cycle. Fish gasping at the top suggests ammonia or nitrite poisioning, as these burn their gills and they have trouble respirating. A pwc would relieve this temporarily, but the ammonia/nitrite will continue until the cycling is settled. The best cure for this is to dose the tank with a biological supplement such as Seachem's "Stability." It adds bacteria and jumpstarts the cycling, consuming ammonia and nitrite immediately. Hagen/Nutrafin's "Cycle" works the same.

This is all I can offer until we have the pH numbers. I would certainly add "Stability" ASAP to save the remaining fish, although it may be too far for that, so be prepared.

Byron.

achelle3 09-02-2009 10:43 AM

The PH was actually at 6.8 for most of that period of time. The tank had been set up since last November, but I moved at the end of July and had to empty the tank completely. I have been able to put the fish back in and they are doing fine. The ammonia is still around .5 to 1, but they haven't been at the top at all. They are 'breathing' normally and seem happy again. Only one is the original surviving member from the first set I got because I had to learn the hard way how to properly set up and care for the tank. The water is still a little cloudy, but this is the first time I have been able to leave the two fish in there for an extended period (overnight so far). I put the old filtration system back on it again, but was able to get a new bio-fiber to put in it. I really think that's what the problem was. The one before was pretty bad looking and no matter how much I tried to rinse if off of the build up wouldn't be completely clean. I honestly don't know what happened after I cleaned the tank to make it build up and become cloudy overnight and kill the two. Should I not attempt to clean the tank and only add water as needed for evaporation?
Oh and I put the ph corrector in the tank when I had the fish out of there. I was trying to adjust the tank without harming the fish. They have been ok in the small little one gallon while I've been trying to fix the aquarium. I watched their reactions closely when I tried to put the fish back in and took them out when it looked like it wasn't working.
Any ideas are much appreciated! Thanks for your time.

Byron 09-02-2009 11:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by achelle3 (Post 237177)
The PH was actually at 6.8 for most of that period of time. The tank had been set up since last November, but I moved at the end of July and had to empty the tank completely. I have been able to put the fish back in and they are doing fine. The ammonia is still around .5 to 1, but they haven't been at the top at all. They are 'breathing' normally and seem happy again. Only one is the original surviving member from the first set I got because I had to learn the hard way how to properly set up and care for the tank. The water is still a little cloudy, but this is the first time I have been able to leave the two fish in there for an extended period (overnight so far). I put the old filtration system back on it again, but was able to get a new bio-fiber to put in it. I really think that's what the problem was. The one before was pretty bad looking and no matter how much I tried to rinse if off of the build up wouldn't be completely clean. I honestly don't know what happened after I cleaned the tank to make it build up and become cloudy overnight and kill the two. Should I not attempt to clean the tank and only add water as needed for evaporation?
Oh and I put the ph corrector in the tank when I had the fish out of there. I was trying to adjust the tank without harming the fish. They have been ok in the small little one gallon while I've been trying to fix the aquarium. I watched their reactions closely when I tried to put the fish back in and took them out when it looked like it wasn't working.
Any ideas are much appreciated! Thanks for your time.

This helps. Your bacteria nitrification cycle was disrupted creating what we term a mini-cycle. The ammonia reading anything above zero is serious; in an established tank the ammonia and nitrite should always be "0" when tested, always. Readings above zero are cause for concern as something is wrong to cause them.

Cleaing the filter was probably one cause of the problem in the nitrification cycle. Another culprit is having too many and too large fish in a 10g [more on this momentarily]. The third issue was adding more fish to further add to the ammonia when the tank wasn't cylced in to begin with (the filter cleaning). Those are the problems as I see it.

You don't mention plants, so I will assume there are no live plants in this aquarium. Live plants would help, as they immediately consume ammonia and assist in the nitrification cycle. In tanks without plants, you have to rely solely on the bacteria, and they take time to become established and then to multiply to handle additional ammonia. Forgive me if I'm assuming too much, but from your posts I am thinking you may not be too familiar with the cycling issue, so I will briefly explain it.

Fish produce ammonia constantly through respiration, and ammonia also occurs naturally from their waste and any biological decomposition (dead plant leaves, dead fish, uneaten fish food left in the tank, etc.). Ammonia is highly toxic to fish but there is a bacteria called nitrosomonas that "feeds" on ammonia and converts it to nitrite. Nitrite is also toxic, but another bacteria called nitrospira (nitrobacter sometimes) feeds on it and converts it to nitrate, which is relatively harmless in normal amounts. Nitrate is removed/diluted through the weekly partial water change.

It takes 5-8 days for nitrosomonas bacteria to establish themselves in a new tank, and once they do and begin producing nitrite the nitrospira bacteria take another 4-7 days (approx) to establish. During this period the fish in the tank are exposed to toxic ammonia and then toxic nitrite (unless there are live plants). Adding more fish only increases these toxins, and cleaning or replacing the filter media destroys the bacteria already established and starts it all over again. The hanging at the surface is almost certainly ammonia and/or nitrite poisioning.

One good way to avoid this is to "seed" the tank with bacteria from an established aquarium. Another way (when you don't have established bacteria to use) is to dose the tank at the first with a biological supplement. Seachem's "Stability" is good, and Hagen/Nutrafin's "Cycle" works the same. These products establish the bacteria immediately, and provided the fish load is not beyond the bacteria added, all will be well.

Which brings us to your fish. You had too many fish in this tank from the start, and the bacteria take longer to establish themselves in sufficient numbers to handle the toxins. You also have fish which will be too large for this aquarium. But I'll leave this now, as the immediate problem is the cycling.

Last word on the ph; 6.8 is not high, but as you say this was the "normal" and it is now higher, it would be useful to know what it went up to. Another technical bit of info: at an acidic pH (below 7.0) ammonia basically becomes ammonium which is relatively harmless to fish. The bacteria still consume the ammonium so the cycle still establushes as above, but the fish are spared the ammonia poisioning aspect. Nitrite is still going to occur, so that will hit them. But when the pH is acidic, if it then rises above 7.0 for whatever reason, including a water change, the ammonium changes back into ammonia which is immediately toxic to the fish. This is why I asked for your tap water pH, to see if you would have further problems with water changes. You still need weekly partial water changes, but in times of ammonia trouble it may be better not until the problem is resolved slowly. And again on the pH adjuster, don't use it, believe me, it is only going to worsen this issue.

Get a small bottle (in a 10g it only takes a capful at a time for a few days) of "Stability" and use it according to the directions. If the fish are not too far gone now, this will probably save them.

Byron.

achelle3 09-02-2009 12:02 PM

I will check the tap ph when I get home and see how that is. As I said before the fish are fine. I know the red shark well and he has survived it all. He is the most hardy one I've had and is my playful one. He has been what i call playing cause he's aggressive where he goes after the other fish for a little bit. He has been doing this again so I'm starting to think he's fine again. The barb has also been fine.
Do you suggest I not get any other fish? The barb is more of a community fish and I would like to get another one (once the tank is better after a week or two) to keep it company. I'll check the local pet store for that product. That place has way too many tanks there and too many small animals in a small place but I am sure I could find that there.
And thanks for the info. I am not an expert with aquariums and it's great to know more about it. Another not I did have a couple lillly bulbs in there, but I was afraid after the two fish died and they weren't growing that I took them out. Would you suggest getting live plants that are already somewhat grown? Do you think the pet store might have that? Is there any particular plant that's better?

Byron 09-02-2009 01:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by achelle3 (Post 237224)
I will check the tap ph when I get home and see how that is. As I said before the fish are fine. I know the red shark well and he has survived it all. He is the most hardy one I've had and is my playful one. He has been what i call playing cause he's aggressive where he goes after the other fish for a little bit. He has been doing this again so I'm starting to think he's fine again. The barb has also been fine.
Do you suggest I not get any other fish? The barb is more of a community fish and I would like to get another one (once the tank is better after a week or two) to keep it company. I'll check the local pet store for that product. That place has way too many tanks there and too many small animals in a small place but I am sure I could find that there.
And thanks for the info. I am not an expert with aquariums and it's great to know more about it. Another not I did have a couple lillly bulbs in there, but I was afraid after the two fish died and they weren't growing that I took them out. Would you suggest getting live plants that are already somewhat grown? Do you think the pet store might have that? Is there any particular plant that's better?

A few more comments on what you've told us here (thanks for the info, it helps sort out problems).

The original barb that died was a tinfoil you said, so I am assuming the remaining barb is also a tinfoil? If so, this is too big a fish for a 10g tank; they grow to 14 inches when adult, if they live that long, and in too small a tank they may not because of factors that affect their internal development in small spaces (won't get into all that here). You're correct, they should be in groups, they are shoaling fish; but if this is a tinfoil I would give it away (to the store in exchange? or another aquarist who has them?) as it honesly will not do well in a 10g (or get a larger tank, a 100 gallon minimum for a group of these fish).

The red shark I will assume is a red tail black shark. Sorry, but also not appropriate in a 10g. These will grow to 6 inches and can live for more than 8 years if healthy and in suitable surroundings. The 'playfulness' is actually the shark beginning to show its true nature; they are territorial, especially with their own species (2 in this tank would be eventual death for one of them from stress at being pursued) or any similar bottom fish (other sharks, loaches, etc). Aggressivenes on other fish (aside from bottom fish) is probably a sign of frustration. Unless you are moving up to a larger tank, i wld try to rehome this shark.

Both fish appearing more normal is probably indicative of the nitrification cycle becoming established. It takes anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks in plant-less tanks. When ammonia and nitrite readings are zero for several consecutive days, the tank may be considerd cycled for the biioload in it at that time. Adding more fish can then be done slowly--but honestly I do not recommend adding any fish to this tank until both present fish are re-homed.

Aquatic plants are available from pet stores (some may not carry them, most I think do now). The type that will grow in your tank will depend upon the light (type and intensity) and may or may not require liquid fertilization once a week. [The lily bulbs, assuming they were aquatic lilies and purchased from the pet store, would not have caused this trouble.] Some first thoughts are Java Fern which is low light and tough, Anubias is similar. If you have wood or rocks in the tank, Java Moss will grow on these and looks nice. Rooted plants like swords, vallisneria, sagitarria are not difficult depending upon the light. I would avoid stem plants (those sold in bunches) as they are higher light and more difficult to manage (require more maintainance) and they tend to lose lower leaves due to light, etc. Although readily available, stem plants are not in my view "easy' to start with; and most who start out with plants do so with these and then wonder why they have little success and give up, when different plants would be successful. We can talk about species of plants when I know your light.

Byron.

achelle3 09-02-2009 06:34 PM

Alright I tested the tap water and the level was above the 7.6 which was the last bar on my 'scale' to check with. I found a product called "Prime" by Seachem which is essentially the same thing. I put the recommended doseage in it. But the fish have been fine in there all day. The barb is a tinfoil. I tried to find another home more suitable for it as I can't get a bigger tank in my apartment. No one was interested. The shark, however, is a rainbow shark. I looked up information on it and it is said to get up to 6 inchs and live 4-6 years as well.
Also the tank is on a kitchen counter here (weird place but it can be seen from the dining area and living room this way). The kitchen is a u-shape with an eat in area on the other side and the tank is next to the wall there. There is a patio door and the blinds are always open, but direct light doesn't really get in from there as the balcony has the roof over it too.
If I could find a place for these fish what would you suggest should be in a 10 gallon aquarium? I thought about a betta with one or two other fish that would work with him. I had gotten recommendations from the store that the fish I had would work fine, but they don't know everything obviously.

Byron 09-02-2009 07:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by achelle3 (Post 237413)
Alright I tested the tap water and the level was above the 7.6 which was the last bar on my 'scale' to check with. I found a product called "Prime" by Seachem which is essentially the same thing. I put the recommended doseage in it. But the fish have been fine in there all day. The barb is a tinfoil. I tried to find another home more suitable for it as I can't get a bigger tank in my apartment. No one was interested. The shark, however, is a rainbow shark. I looked up information on it and it is said to get up to 6 inchs and live 4-6 years as well.
Also the tank is on a kitchen counter here (weird place but it can be seen from the dining area and living room this way). The kitchen is a u-shape with an eat in area on the other side and the tank is next to the wall there. There is a patio door and the blinds are always open, but direct light doesn't really get in from there as the balcony has the roof over it too.
If I could find a place for these fish what would you suggest should be in a 10 gallon aquarium? I thought about a betta with one or two other fish that would work with him. I had gotten recommendations from the store that the fish I had would work fine, but they don't know everything obviously.

Unfortunately, some staff in pet stores have little if any knowledge on fish. Unless you know the person is a fish hobbyist you simply have to be careful following their advice. Others on this forum could tell you horror stories of advice given them by staff in stores.

Something I have always done is research any fish I don't already know about before I buy it. Reference books were my source, but now the internet has so much info on fish it is easy to find out in advance. Not all fish will be compatible together, either due to different requirements in water parameters, or behaviour. A successful community aquarium is one in which all the fish (and plants) have the same basic water parameter (pH, hardness, temperature) and environment (wood, rock, plants?) needs and have compatible behaviours. There are lots of fish for a 10g, although you will have to consider smaller adult sized fish. Tetras, barbs, danios, rasbora...all these have shoaling species that are compatible (some may not be, so research), and there are bottom fish like corydoras catfish and some of the smaller and peaceful loaches. Especially with plants, a 10g could be a stunning aquarium with a group of 7 shoaling fish and a trio of bottom fish. All of the shoaling fish should be in groups of minimum 5 or 6.

A betta would work, but companions are more limited; some of the small tetras would continually nip the betta's fins, or the betta would view them as food. Those with more experience in bettas can offer suggestions.

Prime is a water conditioner not a biological supplement. Prime will detoxify ammonia--not remove it, just make it "safe' and the bacteria will still consume it in the nitrification cycle, so that's fine. The "Stability" is live bacteria that immediately colonizes the tank surfaces and it will handle the nitrite as well as ammonia.

Almost forgot the pH issue. So tap water is 7.6, tank was 6.8 on its own, correct? I would leave it at 6.8, that is ideal for all the fish mentioned above, and the ones you already have for that matter. The water in an aquarium will gradually drop in pH as the tank matures, but that is not the cause here in a new tank. Keep monitoring the tank pH. The danger will be with the partial water changes that will add basic water (7.6), but once the tank is matured with bacteria and if you have live plants this will not be a concern.

Byron.

achelle3 09-02-2009 11:11 PM

Alright then the pH is at a normal level for the fish and the ammonia has gone down finally. Prime was the only thing I could find at the pet store. There were other products like Ammo-lock or something, but I thought this would be better. I will look into plants and see if anyone would want these fish, otherwise I'll just keep the two and try to do what I can for them. Someone was interested, but needed to set up a tank first and that could be a while yet.
So the next time I do a partial water change I will be careful.. and probably wait for a week or two until the tank is well established again. I just hope it doesn't get cloudy after a while like it did the last two times.
Thanks so much for your help with this issue. I just didn't understand what the problem was but it makes more sense now. The rainbow shark and barb seem to be happy with the water again and that's a relief for the time being.

Byron 09-03-2009 01:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by achelle3 (Post 237570)
Alright then the pH is at a normal level for the fish and the ammonia has gone down finally. Prime was the only thing I could find at the pet store. There were other products like Ammo-lock or something, but I thought this would be better. I will look into plants and see if anyone would want these fish, otherwise I'll just keep the two and try to do what I can for them. Someone was interested, but needed to set up a tank first and that could be a while yet.
So the next time I do a partial water change I will be careful.. and probably wait for a week or two until the tank is well established again. I just hope it doesn't get cloudy after a while like it did the last two times.
Thanks so much for your help with this issue. I just didn't understand what the problem was but it makes more sense now. The rainbow shark and barb seem to be happy with the water again and that's a relief for the time being.

You're welcome. One thing more on this, don't stop the regular partial water change, just do less water. Water changes have an immense positive effect on an aquarium, and more often with less water is preferable to less often with more water; the water stays more stable from week to week if the pwc is regular. This is a 10g, so I would change maybe 2 gallons (probably one normal pailfull), check the pH of the tank immediately before and then about 15 minutes following the pwc to compare. A minor change is OK, say .3 or .4 as going from 6.8 to 7.2. Another 2g pwc in 3-4 days is OK, again check pH before and after. Let us know if anything happens. But this is probably the best remedy. And don't vacuum the substrate when you do the pwc, just change the water from the top of the tank; don't want to disturb the bacteria colonizing the substrate. Once the tank is cycled and established, vacuuming the substrate can be done with the weekly pwc.

Byron.


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