Fish suffocating at night, without air-stone.
Hello everyone! I'm new here, so forgive me if I go about this the wrong way...
I'm very new to planted aquaria and a relative novice to fish keeping, as well. However, I do like to read and research.
Through reading several different articles, forums and such, I found that planted tanks generally aren't supposed to have any real surface turbulance, to avoid "knocking" CO2 out of the tank water. Taking this into consideration, a few days ago, I decided that I'd try removing my air pump from the tank and see how my fish and plants would react. At first (and all day, with the lighting on) my fish seemed to not even notice the loss of the air pump and bubbles, but after the lights went out and my plants stopped producing O2... Well, I woke up the next day to find all of my fish (except my Cories, apparently because of their air-bubble "digesting" abilities) gulping air, at the surface of the tank. I immediately tossed two small airstones into the tank and started my airpump and within about 5 minutes, they were all back to normal. Since then, I've been running once small airstone, AT NIGHT and for about 1 hour after the lights come on. Is this the proper course of action for the health of my plants and fish?
Some basic info about my tank: I have a 29g tank. About 3 inches of iron-rich plants substrate, with a about 1 1/2 inches of pea gravel on top. I have 2-4 6700k T5 bulbs. My filter is the Fluval 205 canister filter and I'm only running it with foam, pre-filter in two of the media boxes and biomax in the last one. My tank, currently, houses a shoal of 5 Peppered Cory Catfish, 1 SAE (I'm hoping to add at least one more, maybe two, when my LFS gets more healthy ones in), 3 White Cloud Minnows and 4 "Mystery" snails. Attempting to reach a happy medium with the temperature, my heater is set to 74 degrees Fahrenheit. My tank is planted with several very young plants, including about 6 Java Fern, 1 Anubias nana, 2 Giant Val, 2 Crypt Wenditii and one Amazon Sword... As well as some floating Water Sprite and Duckweed.
I recently moved my fish (and their old water) from a 20g tank, to the new 29g tank. I was hoping that the plants and the old water would keep my 0 Ammonia/0 Nitrite/Low Nitrate conditions going. However, after the move, I noticed a very small Ammonia spike and have been doing 5-10g water changes every 48 hours, or so. (I "age" the water for, at least, 24 hours, add TetraAqua Dechlorinater and aerate the water, as well.)
I doesn't sounds like you are heavily planted like you should be, a picture would help others to see if there is sufficient plants for no co2 exchange, the Java fern and anubias are slow growers so they might not consume as much of the co2 as you would like. Also what is the name of the substrate?
Welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.
I've noted a couple things and will try to provide some useful suggestions. First on the CO2, there is no problem with an airstone during darkness. Plants photosynthesize during daylight only (provided it is sufficient light) during which they consume CO2 and oxygen (for other processes) and produce copious amounts of oxygen, far more than they can use. In a well-planted low-tech (natural) tank, it is not unusual for all the CO2 or rather most of it to be used by the plants. At night, plants and fish and bacteria continue to use oxygen and all release CO2. Provided there is a normal balance between fish, plants and water volume (i.e., not too many fish for the aquarium) the inactivity of fish during darkness (except for the nocturnal catfish and such) uses relatively little oxygen and generates relatively little CO2. The copious amounts of oxygen produced during the day are often sufficient to sustain the inhabitants during darkness.
In high-tech tanks where CO2 is added via diffuser, it is usually turned off at night; otherwise it would saturate the tank with CO2 when the plants cannot use it, and fish can suffocate from this. An airstone is often used at night just to be safe.
But as you have not mentioned CO2 addition, you have a low-tech tank (as many if not most of us here), and you are not overstocked with fish--yet [more on that in a moment]. Like zof said, we can't tell if the tank is "well-planted" but it has a good variety. The floating plants will use CO2 from the air, that is why they always grow faster because they can benefit from atmospheric CO2 [I explain how this works in part 3 of the series "A Basic Approach to the Natural Planted Aquarium" at the head of this section, here's a direct link for you: http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/a...um-part-34858/ ]. There should not be an issue with low oxygen at night from what you have told us. If you look at my 115g photos, there are 140 fish in that tank, and I have never had an oxygen issue during night. This leads me to wonder if perhaps something else is happening. And I think the "ammonia" is it.
Using "old water" in a new tank has no practical benefit, and may be quite the opposite. It will bring over ammonia and pathogens but very little if any bacteria. Nitrosomonas and nitrospira bacteria (the nitrification bacteria) live on surfaces under water, everywhere. On every piece of substrate, in the filter media, on plant leaves, on wood and decor, on the tank walls--every surface. Moving over media from the filter (or using the existing filter simultaneously) of moving wood or rock from an established tank, and plants, would bring bacteria. But not water. Your ammonia spike substantiates this, as that would not likely have occurred with any of these items.
Having said that, plants consume a lot of ammonium/ammonia as their preferred source of nitrogen--not nitrates as many incorrectly assume. [This is also explained in that series if you're interested.] So with plants, if they were there from day one, there should have been zero ammonia and zero nitrite even with your fish mentioned in the tank the first day. Do you have ammonia in your tap water? It is good to check tap water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate just to know, as if there are any of these present, it has to be dealt with at water changes.
What conditioner do you use? Some detoxify ammonia, they do this by changing it to ammonium, and test kits will read ammonium/ammonia as "ammonia" so the ammonia may not be harmful, though your fish gasping suggests to me it was there as ammonia.
Your light may be an issue; is it HO or NO T5? More on this when you respond.
I'd like to end with a suggestion not to acquire more SAE--which I assume is the Siamese Algae Eater, Crossocheilus langei --and even consider exchanging it. This fish grows to 6+ inches, and even one is too large in a 29g tank, much less three, and it is a shoaling fish with a social structure within the group and should be maintained in a group of 5-6 or more to be at its best. If you want an interesting fish to eat algae, there are some nice SA species that remain small or relatively small--Otos (also shoaling, but small so 3+ would be fine), Farlowella, Whiptails, smaller species of pleco [some will , some won't eat algae, some reach 3-4 inches max, others like the common pleco get to be 12-18 inches, so you need to research the species], all of which except the otos do well alone. "Algae" should not be an issue in a planted tank, so make sure you really like the fish as a fish before buying any of these, since they will quickly consume what little algae may be there then have nothing to eat. They will become accustomed to prepared foods, I have all of the fish I've mentioned for the sake of the fish as they are highly unusual and intriguing, and they all eat prepared foods and frozen.
Hope this will be of some help.
I have a confession to make, Byron... I've been perusing these forums for a couple weeks, before this mishap I've had, and when I created this thread, I was hoping I'd hear from you about it. I've read all 4 of your stickies, in this forum, that you mentioned, as well. *Which is actually what led me to remove my sponge filter, from this tank, lol... Because I read that my plants would need the ammonia more, than the bacteria.
That being said, let me touch on a few things that I neglected to mention, previously. My 29g has been up and running for, about, 10-14 days. I brought the old water (thinking that it would be a good idea), all of my plants and two pieces of large Mopani wood. All of those things had been in an established aquarium that had been running with 0 Ammonia/0 Nitrite for at least 2-3 months. When I switched over, I used a HOB power filter (rated for up to 70g), while I waited on new parts for my Fluval canister filter to come in, so the filter and media were new, as was the gravel... This explains my ammonia problem, I've been having. Apparently, my aquarium is not well planted enough to completely take care of the ammonia, since I'm still reading about 0.25 ppm about 48 hours after a 15-20% water change.
Yes, I do have Ammonia and Nitrate in my tap water. I have been using TetraAqua's "AquaSafe" tap water conditioner (I plan to switch to Seachem's "Prime" after this runs out) and API's "Ammo Lock," which claims that it removes chlorine/chloramine and DETOXIFIES ammonia, which I assume means that it turns it into ammonium, like you mentioned earlier. I have not really been using the Ammo Lock, though, since I didn't feel it necessary. I feel that I may have been wrong, now, considering the circumstances... Do you think it's likely that my fish were having a hard time because of the ammonia that was present? I don't feel that it could've been much higher than .50 ppm at the time, but I hadn't checked it, then... So who knows.
This: http://cgi.ebay.com/30-T5-Lighting-H...#ht_1746wt_911 is the light unit I'm using. It has 4 6700k bulbs in it, but I'm currently only running 2 of them, since most of my plants are relatively low-light plants, all four seemed like overkill. I also have been running the blue LEDS at night. There's four of them and they're relatively dim.
I absolutely love Plecos and Whiptail catfish, and I'd love to add one to my tank. That being said, those whiptails you mentioned... The one's I've found so far all reach a length greater than that of a SAE, according to what I've read (6+ inches). Also, the current in my tank is relatively gentle (My Fluval's output goes through an 8in spray bar). Aren't suckermouthed catfish (like plecos, whiptails and otos) more happy in tanks with a more robust current? If you think they'd be comfortable in my calm(ish) tank, I'd be more than happy to get a Bushynose Pleco, or even one of those beautiful whiptail cats. I'm sure my LFS would be more than happy to take the SAE back. I only paid about $3 for him, anyway.
Thanks again, Byron! I look forward to your response.
Lots of issues, so here goes.
I think your ammonia is tap-water related, see next bit.
The reason a water change can be troublesome with ammonia in the tap water is because it is too great an influx of new ammonia at once. The plants cannot handle it that fast. I've no knowledge as to how much ammonium plants will assimilate in a given period of time, but from my experiences and research it seems they can't handle a massive influx quickly. "Massive" may not be so massive for all I know.
On a 29g tank four HO tubes is in my opinion 3 tubes too many. HO is equivalent to 1.5 T8 (regular) tubes, in the same type of light. So 2 T5 HO tubes equates to three T8. Over a 29g I would never have more than one T8. I have one T8 over my 33g which is 3 feet in length, and it has a Life-Glo 2 6700K full spectrum tube which is more than enough light, plus I have floating plants to dim it more for the fish. [Photo below shows the former 33g as illustration; it was simply a tank for excess plants (daughter plants from the main tanks) and it is now, as of last week, my 33g SE Asian Pond aquascape as in the photos under my Aquariums.] Can you have only one tube light? Even two is going to be problematical.
As for the plants, the light must balance nutrients; getting enough nutrients into a brightly lit tank is not always easy, esp CO2. The result is that once plants have assimilated the available nutrients including CO2, they stop photosynthesizing and the light remaining on will be grabbed by algae. There is also the fish, which is my main concern. Forest fish such as we keep in planted tanks occur in very dimly-lit waters, with very few exceptions. To keep them less stressed at at ease, dark substrates, dim light, and hiding or cover (which can be plants, caves, bogwood) is required; floating plants are extremely beneficial in any tank of forest fish. I have been working on new profiles for our profile section the past few months, and I think I can count on one hand the number of fish species that do not live only in water that is covered with vegetation (floating plants) or has thick overhanging terrestrial vegetation.
A quick comment on filter currents; I advocate the filter should be suited to the fish, as not all fish need or want the same water flow. Your Fluval sounds ideal. In my present 90g flooded Amazon tank there is scarcely any "current" from the Eheim canister which is what all those fish demand; they occur in very still waters and that is the "quiet" tank for SA fish. The 115g has a Rena XP3 with the spigot (not spraybar) about 15 inches from the end wall and the force directed against the wall; this creates a bit of a current for a foot or two into the 5-foot tank, and is deliberate; I have a trio of spotted woodcats (the fish in my avatar) that need current, and they reside in tunnels in the standing wood closest to the filter outflow--they decided this themselves after they were introduced to this tank. And a couple of the Corydoras species that come from streams with more current have taken up residence at that end of the tank, while the others are further down. The cardinals and rummynose tetra which do not like currents at all remain in the right half of the tank farthest from the current and rarely, very rarely, venture closer. It is fascinating to be able to provide this type of variableness in the same tank as it teaches us about the fish; given the option, they choose what is most natural for them. And that means they will be less stressed and thus healthier. My philosophy which I advocate in my posts and in the profiles is to know the fish and their natural habitat; this is absolutely essential in order to know what we must provide to allow them to live full lives.
From what you're telling me, it MUST be tap water related*... I haven't really been fiddling with ammonia neutralization... The only reason that didn't occur to me, was that my tank was reading 0 ammonia, before... Hmm... Until I receive my 2 liters of Prime, I'll continue using my Tetra water conditioner and treating the "fresh" water with the Ammo-Lock.
*I just did a water test on my tap water, just to remind myself how much was in it... I'm reading almost 1 ppm. This might be my culprit and I'll begin preparing my water change water accordingly.
I've only had this light for about 4 days/3 night, but yes... All night. It illuminates the left and right side of the tank, and leaves the middle very dark. It's a dim, blue light. If fish and plants need TOTAL darkness, though, I'll only turn it on occasionally, for nighttime viewing, from now on.
(It's rather late, but I wanted to touch on those subjects, before I retired for the night. I'll return in the morning and address your other concerns.)
Thanks, once again, Byron! You've been a great help.
P.S. That is a gorgeous tank! Are those plants, floating with the long roots, Water Sprite? Is that what I have to look forward to, from mine?! :D
I can't say how much light is beyond the "darkness" the fish and plants need, but the safe course is to provide darkness so both can rest. Let's work on the assumption the ammonia is tap water related. And remember, test kits read ammonium and ammonia as ammonia, so use the fish as your guide.
i just wanted to clarify some things ( and please correct me if im wrong ) but fish breath through their gills not the mouth so gasping at the surface makes me think amm as well. airstones dont add oxygen to the water through the bubbles but rather disrupt the surface allowing for better gas exchange. keeping an air pump on a timer to come on at night MUST have a check valve as you'll wake up one morning to a siphoned tank and a soaking floor.
Byron suspects that ammonia is my problem, and not dissolved oxygen, because ammonia primarily stresses the fishs' respiratory system.
As for the check valve, one has been installed in my air lines since day one. Thank you for the warning, though. Not many people seem to know that they should have one.
Lemme see, lemme see... So, a T5 puts out, roughly, 1.5x the light that a T12 or T8 does, yes? So a 24 watt T5 puts out about 36 watts worth of light? So two of mine would be putting out 72 watts worth and if I started up the other pair, that would be 144 watts, yes? Now, it seems fairly obvious to me that 144 watts of light, over a 29g tank is quite a lot and, considering my plants, unneeded. Which I suspected, anyway. I've only really had on 2 of the T5s since I received it in the mail. (About 4-5 days ago.)
That being said, shouldn't 72 watts be okay in my tank? That's only a little more than 2 watts per gallon, yes? Isn't that pretty much moderate lighting? Forgive my ignorance. Like I mentioned before, I'm very new to live aquatic plants and the lighting has been something that's had me a bit confused, no matter how much I read.
As for the Plecos... This discussion has gotten me very interested in grabbing a pleco for my tank... I've loved plecos ever since my first tank, when I was about 13. I DID have it in my head that I wouldn't be able to keep even a smaller one happy (Like the bushynose) without a more robust current, however. I'm going to sniff around a bit and see if I can't find a pleco that I like that's small enough and is okay with gentle water movement.
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