Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Andrewz00 04-02-2010 05:24 PM

Help asap... they are all dying!
My first post here... im sorry if i leave anything out ill try not to..
tank was started in 2002 in philly, has moved to NYC and moved around in NYC twice... its been setup and in its current location for about 2-3 years. fish have come and gone, the most recent family is listed below.

Original setup:
45 gal freshwater community.
Filter: Whisper 60
2 air strips
all fake plants
large rocks

1 large tinfoil barb (3-4 years)
1 orange parrot (1 year)
1 Columbian shark (2 years)
3 arulius barbs (8-9 months)
1 filamentosa barb (2 months)
5 red tiger barbs (2 years)
2 cory cats (7-8 years)
1 pleco (2-3 years)

test kit: freshwater master test kit by aquarium pharmaceuticals

aquarium salt, proper PH 7.0, stress coat, occasional stress zyme,

And the story begins.... as a treat i buy feeder guppies every few weeks. about 3-4 weeks ago i did this as normal. i purchased a dozen for $2 (cant be sure of the price). brought them home and put them in my tank as i always have. i did and do not ever add the water from the store... i pour them into a bucket..with their water, and add about a gallon of my tank water then scoop them out with a net and dump them into my tank
the feeding frenzy begins....

about 4 days later i noticed one of the arulius barbs swimming very funny, did a water change.... the next day i came home from work to find him wedged between the glass and a rock upside down, figured him for dead, pulled the rock he swam away with a bad abrasion on the side. he lasted another day... the 1 of the remaining two started acting weird.. pulled them both out into a small tank of their own, both died within 2 days.

after that they start dropping like flies over the next week... after the 3 arulius barbs go, the filamentosa barb goes, then the large parrot.... frequent water changes, higher temperature and aquari-sol bring slow down the epidemic

deciding my tank is pretty empty now and thinking i have the dying under control... i decide to go pick up a few rosy barbs (last week)... 5 to start, they were pretty small and all but 2 were eaten, i pick up 5 more... currently 5 are alive...

starting 2 days ago one by one all the red tiger barbs have died.... and now the tinfoil is acting funny again.. swimming wierd, rubbing against the driftwood...

did another water change today.. and have been testing all along. ammonia = 0 ppm, ph btwn 6.8 & 7.0, temp 79 F, nitrite 0 ppm, nitrate under 5 ppm.

any insight would be wonderful as i keep losing fish, all the expensive ones are gone, and i have a new 90 gal almost ready to be set up.....

Byron 04-02-2010 06:26 PM

Welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping; I am sorry your first post here has to be such a terrible calamity, but hopefully I and other members will be able to offer some advice.

Given the fact that you have been successful for a few years until just recently, and given the quickness of the demise of so many fish, I would suggest that something came along with the feeder guppies. I have read from others that this is a real danger, many do not use feeder fish because of this risk. As I have never done this, I will leave it to others to comment further as to what it might be and how to deal with it.

I would not recommend putting any new fish into this tank until the issue is definitely resolved. Assuming something arrived with the guppies, it may still be in the tank if new fish are dying; one could understand the fish having eaten something toxic dying over time, but not new fish added since then. The flashing (rubbing) is usually a sign of parasites but can also be water-related.

While your test results look fine, there are other water-related issues that can arise, and I would like to offer some guidance for the future.

The use of various chemicals and salt is something I do not advocate unless absolutely essential (i.e., to cure a specific disease), and I have no hesitation in suggesting that either or both may have contributed to this present problem by weakening the fish to whatever it was. While you may have been using these substances for some time with no "obvious" signs of problems to you, that does not mean the fish have not been seriously affected internally. This, even if not causing death at the time, can make the fish more susceptible to all sorts of disease down the road.

Salt in freshwater aquaria is something I do not recommend; some fish are highly sensitive, Corydoras being one of those you mention. Being forced to live with salt in the water cause the fish's immune system to work overtime all the time, and this stresses the fish and weakens it. Then along comes something as mundane as ich, and the fish dies. [Not saying you have ich, this is just an example.] In their habitat, all Corydoras that occur in coastal rivers never, and I mean never, venture anywhere near brackish water; they avoid it like the plague. I have this from Dr. David Sands, Dr. Warren Burgess and Dr. Stanley Weitzman, all of whom have observed first hand in South America. No one can argue with these authorities. Dr. Sands calls it a "chemical barrier" that invisibly keeps the Corydoras well back from any interaction with salty water; different pH values in adjoining rivers works the same, a lesson for us all on fish "adapting" to something different.

The pH chemical is similarly very stressful to many fish, Corys again in particular. They do not like chemicals or medications. And again, this builds up over time.

Much as I trust API, I would never use, nor advise others to use, StressZyme. This product, similar to Tetra's "Easy Balance", affects the biological balance in an aquarium; it cause ammonia to spike at first, then goes on to do things that are better left alone for the natural bacteria to handle. Stress Coat forms a synthetic slime coat to replace the natural the fish should have on its own. I know there will be many others who agree with me that this is not a good thing.

Once things are back to normal, and again I'm sure others will have some good advice on the initial problem, please do not continue use of these substances. Fish have an incredible ability to fight off all sorts of disease. But they need to be healthy to do so, and that means free of un-necessary stress caused by chemicals.


rsn48 04-02-2010 07:48 PM

I used the following stocking calculator for your tank and you will see it is way over stocked and I didn't include your Pleco. The filter you have has a "rough" flow rate of 60 gallons an hour which isn't that great as you will see in the calculator. The calculator assumes around 60% flow rate as compared to what the company says the flow rate of a filter is. A filter is rated empty, nothing inside and no hoses or anything hooked up, but once you add media and it starts to run and trap crud, it slows down significantly.

At first I thought your tank might be suffering from "Old Tank syndrome" (link below) but I think your overstocking as the fish aged an grew caught up with you:

Andrewz00 04-02-2010 10:53 PM

all very good information! and i thank you both so far! i have never known any other way to "stabilize" chem levels in my tank... i completely understand and agree on a natural balance but have never been taught any other methods... if not for using stress coat or proper ph to neutralize chlorine etc from tap water and/or to bring the PH to a level suitable for its inhabitants... how does one manipulate these chem levels? i have been maintaining tanks since i was very young but have never delved as deep as i should have into the specifics.... any insight would be great!

iamntbatman 04-03-2010 04:24 AM

Welcome to the forum! I echo the sentiment that it's unfortunate that you're coming to us under stressful circumstances.

Basically, you don't really need to manipulate your water parameters and doing so, as Byron pointed out, can be very problematic. The only chemical you really need to use in your tank on a regular basis is a good water conditioner that removes chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals. I like Seachem's Prime but there are others that work just as well (I used to use Tetra's AquaSafe but switched to Prime just because you use so much less of it). Unless your water is either very hard and alkaline or very soft and acidic, there aren't many limits on what fish you can keep. If your water is on the extreme side of things, it's better to stock your tank based on your water conditions than to try to manipulate your water to suit the fish.

I agree with Byron's suggestion that disease came with the feeders. Stressed fish are sick fish and you'll be hard-pressed to find more stressed fish than feeder fish kept in filthy, overstocked tanks at the fish store. It's good that you're using feeder guppies as opposed to goldfish or rosy red minnows as those have other associated health risks, but guppies are very easy to breed so I suggest setting up your own breeding tank for feeder guppies. Breeding them yourself means you have more control over any sorts of disease you might be passing on to your other fish.

What fish do you have left in the tank? Definitely don't get any more fish until you've got this problem under control. You may still have stocking problems with the fish you have left so those might need to be addressed as well (specifically, the Columbian shark grows quite large, is a brackish water fish and needs to be in full marine conditions as an adult).

Feel free to post photos of any sick fish and go into detail about their symptoms. Keep us updated!

dxljhbk 04-05-2010 07:37 AM


I'm not sure that i would put too much stock in that stocking calculator. I just used it for my 90 gallon aquarium and by its calculations, my tank is "seriously overstocked", but i've been running it for the better part of a year now with absolutely no problems. Once a week i test the water and also change about 20% of the water and my ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels are always normal.

Like i i said I have a 90 gallon aquarium and i'm running an emperor 400 and magnum 350 for filtration. I have 13 tiger barbs, 13 cherry barbs, 7 Giant Danio's, 3 Rainbow sharks, 5 Marble Loaches and 5 Chinese Algae Eaters and everybody lives together peacefully.

A lot of the warnings the calculator gives me, such as it being a bad idea to keep multiple sharks together, it doesn't take into account the fact that my tank is heavily planted with tons of hiding places. I never have any problems with agression between the sharks.

It also says my filtration is only at 59% and that i need more, but i'm already running enough filtration for a tank twice as big, so i'm not so sure i agree, especially because my ammonia is always at 0 ppm.

The calculator seems like a nice jumping off point for beginners, but it leaves out a lot of other variables in my opinion.

Andrewz00 04-05-2010 03:34 PM

sorry this took so long to get an update.... i had my wedding on Saturday, needless to say i have been away from my computer....

so right now the tinfoil, cory cats, columbian shark, pleco, and i think about 5 baby tiger barbs are left.... i will be testing the water again this evening and will post those result. as i stated to begin with, never had an ammonia spike, and all nitrate, nitrite levels are normal. are there other things i should be testing for? i do have a water hardness test kit i use every few months... should i do that more often?

Byron 04-05-2010 04:58 PM

Hopefully whatever it was is finished. Post the test results from tonight. Previous readings were OK, so hopefully nothing has changed there. pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate for now. Once you know the tap water hardness, testing for that is only critical if the tap water changes, not that likely, or if you are adjusting the tank water hardness it is necessary to monitor. But you're not doing any of that.

And congrats on the wedding.:-D


d0r0g0 04-05-2010 05:40 PM

sorry to interrupt, but I have a question for Byron...

I currently use API Stress Coat to dechlorinate water whenever I do a water change - is the aloe portion or the slime coat additive harmful to my fish?

I don't does the tank directly, just each bucket as I add it.

Byron 04-05-2010 07:26 PM


Originally Posted by d0r0g0 (Post 357616)
sorry to interrupt, but I have a question for Byron...

I currently use API Stress Coat to dechlorinate water whenever I do a water change - is the aloe portion or the slime coat additive harmful to my fish?

I don't does the tank directly, just each bucket as I add it.

I've no scientific evidence either way. I know several members here do not advocate these products. The conditioner I have used for 15 years is Kordon's NovAqua, and it has something similar; on the label is reads, "NovAqua forms a multi-layered, protective slime coating on fish's skin...and adds electrolytes to ease stress." I've never had reason to trace any problems back to this, but I am not a scientist.

Many conditioners do similar, API obviously, Tetra AquaSafe, etc. Seachem's Prime has the phrase, "Prime® also promotes the production and regeneration of the natural slime coat rather than relying on artificial or non-native slime compounds." I've no idea how it does this, and probably wouldn't understand it if they told me.

I see the real danger being the multiplication of different products. All of these use chemicals, and as I mentioned previously in this thread, these are sometimes essential, as in a water conditioner. My original caution was made because there were four different substances being added to this tank, and fish had been regularly dying. While I did not and cannot attribute the deaths directly on any one of the substances, I do believe that all of these together probably contributed to the problem.

Fish undergo stress when any chemical substance is added to the aquarium water, and this weakens their immune system. This opens the door to parasites and various other issues. Fish in good health, free of major stress, have a powerful immune system to fight off disease. As an example, ich (white spot) is apparently present in all (or most) freshwater on the planet; yet all the fish on the planet do not die from it, because they fight it off naturally. The last two occurrences of ich in my tanks cleared up without my intervention. Maintaining fish in a healthy environment will go a long way to preventing disease and ill health. And with fish, as with humans, stress is now seen to be a significant factor.

So, with that background to my answer to your question, I personally do not see a problem using API StressCoat on its own as the water conditioner.


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