Plecos keep dying
I have a 55l Aquanano with neons, tetras, drawf gourami, and a cory catfish. This is an aqua-nano which has the equivalent of a 3-tier filter built in to the back utilizing: 1) 3-stage foam filter, 2) foam bio-block, 3) active charcoal, 4) 1kg of ceramic rings (in that order). The water quality is nearly perfect and everyone is fat and healthy... except I can't keep a pleco alive.
I'm a bit at a loss as to what's going on here. This tank has been running for several months now. There is an 18WPL light so there's plenty of grazing algae which I'm supplementing with pleco food. No one is picking on it, belly not sunken, trying to get specimens established at the lfs for 3+ weeks, actively hanging off the glass and busying about everywhere. Then, suddenly, dead. This has happened 5 times now! Also, no medication has ever been used in this tank and the substrate is quality neutral gravel.
Twice the death occurred within a day or two of a water change so my running theory was that the sudden change in water temp after a change (or some other factor) had something to do with it. But my latest pleco which didn't even last 2 weeks just suddenly keeled over today. It's like they sit down and die. It can actually take a while to notice they haven't moved for a while as there is no outward appearance of a problem at a glance.
Any ideas what I could be missing here? In past tanks I always remember plecos being easy and robust. I had never had to bother with dedicated pleco food before now. The rest of the tank diet is flake, pellet, and occasional bloodworms.
How many gallons is this tank? Is the 55l as in 55 liters(which is only about 14 gallons and WAY TOO SMALL for those fish) or is this one of those 40 gallon Aquanano tanks?
How many fish do you have of each type?
What KIND of pleco?
"A" Cory catfish? They need groups of five or more, so do your tetras. Cories also need sand substrate, not gravel. If you have stressed fish(like fish in improper shoals or schools), you likely have toxins in your tank.
What's the temp?
What are your water parameters(PH, GH, Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates), and what test kit do you use? We MUST have these numbers to have an idea, not you just saying it's perfect...it doesn't work that way as far too many say "Perfect" and then don't actually know what perfect is.
What do you feed them and how often(if you just give flakes and pellets with the occasional bloodworm to them....that's not enough, they need a good veggie source and some protein too: brine shrimp, cucumber, spinach, romaine lettuce, good quality algae wafers, glassworms, mysis, all good stuff...freeze-dried foods wont cut it either), and WHEN did you feed? They usually eat at night after lights out or in the early mornings. Cories need the same types of food.
How often do you change water and how much, and what do you treat the water with?
Likely culprit is toxins in the water, or if everything is big enough and truly is perfect...you likely keep buying plecos from a poor provider and they're sick.
nitrate 10mg/l but due a water change this weekend
I use Seachem Prime to condition the water.
No wood, feeding Tetra Pleco Multiwaffers, King British flake, Tetra Granomix, Ocean Nutrition bloodworms. All food < 4 months.
Tank cycled last Sept, used Organic Aqua Starter Pack... not that it matters.
25% water change every 2 weeks.
Bog standard €5 pleco, let's say Hypostomus plecostomus.
I think that's all the questions answered.
Current theory is to discontinue use of activated carbon which, in fairness, I got in bulk off eBay. I don't think it would leech anything despite common misconception but it has been on my mind. I typically replace it every 3 weeks. As carbon doesn't remove nitrate/nitrite/ammonia anyway and tank is established I don't see a reason to continue it.
I'm also thinking about an alternative algae eater who can manage better in this sized tank. Not only are plecos cool but they are a utility fish and I'd like an algae eater to help keep the tank clean. Any suggestions?
You'll want a smaller type like a bristlenose pleco, bulldog/pitbull/rubber-lip pleco(actually pretty peaceful despite the name) and they don't get as big.
Alternate algae-eaters are otos(need groups of five or more), cories(they need sand substrate and groups of five or more), mystery snails, nerite snails, cherry shrimp...
Now then, plecos require you to have wood for them. They need it to aid in digestion and also to file down their teeth, otherwise they can't digest right and they eventually wont be able to eat right either.
So aside from the tank possibly being too small or over-stocked(you didn't say how big the tank was...if it's 55 liters it's far too small for all of the fish you have....or how many fish you have of each type) and that...I'm guessing they were already sick when you got them, find a new place to get some. I would not get one of the commons or types that get 18-24 inches though(not unless you have a 75+ gallon tank, 55 gallons are a minimum requirement but are very tight and best as a temporary), you want one that gets 3-6 inches like the ones I suggested.
Ditch the bloodworms, they're great for messing up the more herbivorous species of plecs. Par boil some zucchini for the plecs, back way off on the bloodworms, over the years I've seen them as a culprit for problems more times than I can count.
A few more things; stressed fish don't give off toxins unless they die & you leave them floating around to rot. Corys will rarely eat algae, they like a more meaty diet. While some species such as puffers have teeth that need to be ground down plecs are not one of those species, many plecs need a bit of wood as roughage to aid in the digestive process, much like zucchini, spinach, or many other of the vegetables in the squash family.
Sounds like two choices to me; forget the plec, bump up the number of corys, they'll do fine with some bloodworms. Trade in the cory, get a plec, don't feed bloodworms.
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