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DocS 07-18-2010 05:39 PM

Dead Red Wag - was it stress?
First of all, I am new to this and try my best.

About my tank:
- established a 30 gallon tank with three different types of live plants, total amount 16 plants.
- heater with constant temp of 78
- gravel
-water change one week 10%, the other week 20%, and so on.
-fluorescent light 14 hrs.
-AquaTech filter system

Water chemistry:
-Ammonia: 0, always zero
-Nitrate:20, always at 20
-Nitrit: 1, first time, always zero before
-Hardness: 75, always 75
-Alkalinity: 300, always 300
ph: 7 always stable, never a change

At every water change: water conditioner from TopFin
Plant food: Aequon as directed, two portions over a week periode, always after a water change
Aquarium Salt started on July 17, since read about it that it reduces stress on my type of fish. Amount used 5 tablespoons, didn't want to overdose.

-Tropical Flakes, TopFin, amount, per fish, not the fry three pieces size of my little fingernail in the morning and evening, fish eat everything, nothing is left on the bottom.

Tank history:
-Started the tank on July 1st, with live plants, no fish.
-4 Red Wag (one male and three female) added on 3rd July to cycle the tank as recommended by pet store.
-8 July 10% water change done.
-15 July carbon filter changed, the other filter not even touched, and 20% water change done.
-17July, as recommended by my pet store, 4 Cory Cats added, also one artificial piece of wood, to provide shelter and space to hide. At the same day first time Aquarium Salt added, recommended again by the pet store.

Fish behavior:
The four Red Wags, were always in a group, one gave birth after one week, one fry, still alive, always hiding in the plants, is getting bigger and already orange, I want to let the nature its way and didn't use any nets or breeding devices.
They were swimming in the entire tank. No sign of stress, came to the top at feeding times starting day three. The day the one female gave birth the all of the Platies were swimming in the tank like they were searching for the fry. The next two days, the male was chasing after one of the females at all times.
17July I added 4 Cory Cats (green) into the tank and also placed the fake wood, I had to rearrange some of the plants. Instantly all the Platies were swimming on the top, and looking at the Cory Cats while in the bag, after them getting adapted to the water temp, I drained the bag into another container and caught the Cories in a net, transferring them into the new tank. Immediately after I noticed a strange/different pattern in my Platies, they were all on top, next to the heater, which is almost never running. Two hours later I started feeding them with the same amount of food, not even more for the Cories. They didn't eat well and the new Cory Cats had a lot to eat. I turned the light of while introducing the new fish and didn't turn it on for the feeding.
Later that evening, everything seemed normal, the Platies were swimming in the middle region and also on the bottom and one looked like hiding behind the new fake wood. The new Cories became more active and explored the tank.
Morning, 18July, 0700, I noted that only three Red Wags were swimming on top, looked like one was still hiding, I didn't notice any movement at his fins, used a net to see what's going on and planned on putting him into a water container. My thought that the fish is dead are confirmed! The other three Platies are acting strange, the Cories - I don't know them - are swimming around searching for food and are exploring the tank. I feed them with the same amount, since I noticed that they dind't eat that well last evening, but the food was accepted very well. The entire morning all Platies are swimming on top, at around noon, the first two females are exploring the fish tank, then about two hours later, the male starts to hide himself in a little cave next to the fake wood and is there the entire time. All the Cory Cats are swimming in the entire tank, as well as the two females, I also saw the fry, still alive hiding in a life plant.

I have no idea what killed my fish. I know, that the Nitrite reading this morning was 1, Nitrate 20, Ammonia 0, Hardness 75, Alkalinity 300, ph 7. Think, that the tank is still in its cycle process.

The dead fish did look healty, eyes as always, no discoloration, no spots, fins looked normal. I couldn't see any abnormality.

Does anybody has a n idea what might have killed my fish? Was it stress from the new fish? The added salt? the new/rearranged environment?

Thanks for ideas and your input.

DocS 07-19-2010 11:33 PM

Update - second Platy died
One update, my second Platy died, the male. I had a feeling that this might happen, after he became lethargic and started hiding the entire day yesterday and refused food this morning. Then three hours later I found him dead. I checked the water immediately and again no changes in the readings. This made me suspicious, did my test kit (strips) trick me and give me inaccurate readings?
I did a 20% water change and will change every second day another 10 percent now, until I have another kind of test kit, also, no more fish will be added into the tank.

Here is one more thing I noted in the behavior. The moment I removed the male Platy (dead) the other fishes began to swim in the entire tank again. The Cories are acting the same as I put them in, searching like crazy for food, and the two Platies are swimming and seem to be more vital, also I saw the Platy fry again.

I feel bad for the two Platies and will not replace them until I know the tank is fully cycled, worst comes worst I will loose all of my fishes and cycle just with my plants.

iamntbatman 07-20-2010 06:31 AM

Hmm, nothing really jumps out at me with the information you've given. I would halt the salt though. The platies might not mind it (and might even benefit from it) but it's not so good for the corydoras. The only thing I can think of is that some sort of illness was introduced with the cories. What sort of disease I can't rightly say as you saw nothing visibly wrong with the fish (other than general "I'm not feeling well" behavior prior to death).

DocS 07-20-2010 02:21 PM

Another dead fish... .
This time I found him in the morning, he was alive one hour and then I found him dead. This time it was a Cory. Same thing again, nothing visible to see on the fish, beside he stated hiding in my log the last night... . If this continues, I will be loosing all my fish within the next week... . All the fish look normal to me. I've stopped the salt already and didn't replace the water I took with it. As of now, a total of 50% of the water are changed and tonight, I will change again another 10 or 20 %. Plus, I am waiting to get a test kit. Any recommendations, what I should get?


DocS 07-20-2010 09:26 PM

Got an API test kit - finally
So, no I have a liquid API test kit for pH, Ammonia and Nitrate. No Nitrit kit was available.

I tested the water as in the manual and here are my results:

pH: 7.6, this is an .6 increase since the last test with the strips, I found some pH indicator paper (used in hospitals) and tested it and had again 7.0 as value
Ammonia: 0
Nitrate: 10, this is 10 less than with the test strips

So, the question is now, what causes my fish to die? What's the accurate test now, the strips or the fluid kit?

To the behavior, the 2 Platies are swimming around and very active, also the fry is swimming and getting bigger, starts to come out of his concealment and starts swimming in mid tank levels.
The Cories are also very active, but one started now to sit in my fake log... . That's how it started with the other one who died, they all started hiding... . I hope he isn't next.

Thanks for any input.

DocS 07-22-2010 11:10 PM

The dying goes on
So total toll so far: 2 Platies and 2 Cories, no changes in my water chemistry... . I am clueless!

Byron 07-23-2010 12:02 AM

Welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.

To summarize: 30 gallon tank, 16 live plants, setup July 1. 4 platy added July 3, 4 corys July 17.

To your last question, liquid test kits are more reliable than test strips. And the API is a good kit; I would trust its results over any test strips.

With live plants and the fish number in a 30g as you have described things, there should have been zero ammonia and nitrite from the first, and a nitrate reading of 10 suggests to me that the tank is cycled, which makes me doubt the test strips more. Briefly to explain, plants need nitrogen as a macro-nutrient, and they prefer to assimilate it as ammonium. Ammonia is produced by fish and biological processes, and plants take it up and convert some of it to ammonium, a less toxic form, and assimilate that as their nitrogen. They do this faster than the nitrosomonas bacteria, so in a tank with sufficient plants and not overcrowded with fish, you should not see ammonia because the plants use it. And as there is little left for the bacteria, there is little nitrite produced, so little that it would likely not show in a test kit like the ones we use. Some does go through the process though, and the nitrate reading shows this.

Which brings me to the nitrate; 10 is higher than I would expect in this tank at this stage. With the API nitrate test kit, regent #2 has to be shaken vigorously for 2+ minutes, not just 30 seconds as noted in the instructions, otherwise the reading may be higher (inaccurate). Test the nitrate in the morning and shake regent #2 for 2 minutes and see what reading you get.

I'm not saying the salt was the sole culprit, but 5 tablespoons in a 30g aquarium (which probably is more like 25g of water with the substrate and such) is almost guaranteed to take its toll on corys. As iamntbatman mentioned quite correctly, they are highly sensitive to salt. Won't go into specifics as you say you've removed it; please do not put salt in a freshwater tank with Corydoras, characins, loaches, rasbora, anabantids. Livebearers can "tolerate" it but should not be subjected to it, especially at that very high level. I don't know where the idea that salt reduces stress comes from; nothing could be further from the truth. I know salt is a tonic for nitrite issues, but in my opinion you wouldn't have nitrite with plants and so few fish in a 30g. And adding salt definitely stresses the fish I've mentioned, beyond any doubt. I posted on this earlier today, twice in fact.

You are wise not to add the water from the bag into your tank as this may introduce pathogens, ammonia, and whatever else; new fish should always be netted from the bag/bucket into a tank as you did. Some (slowly) mix water from the tank with the bag water either in the bag or in a bucket for a period; I do this myself, although I know several first-rate aquarists who recommend against this. But this would not have affected the platys anyway.

There is always the chance that something arrived with the corys. Or the addition of the fake wood and moving plants caused something; thinking here of something on the decor, or anaerobic patch stirred up in the substrate, but in so new a tank the latter is not very likely.

I don't see mentioned which water conditioner you use? And I assume no other substance (other than the salt) was added or is being added, correct?

The carbon in the filter will become exhausted in a week or two when it has adsorbed its limit; don't replace it. In planted tanks there is widespread belief that carbon removes nutrients that the plants need. Plants do a better job of filtering than any filter anyway, so might as well let them get on with it.

Have you tested your tap water on its own? It is good to know the hardness, pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, if any. It is good to know these numbers so you can see what, if any difference, there is in the tank.

I can't suggest any other possible culprits that what I have above. Having gone through this in typing the post, I am beginning to think the salt may well have been the culprit, since it was added in a large dose the day the corys went in and that's when the platys started having problems. Did you happen to notice excessive (fast) breathing? You mentioned fish at the top, were they sort of gulping at the surface?

Let us have the info requested above, and one of us may have further ideas.


DocS 07-23-2010 01:05 AM

First of all thank you all for answering.

- I haven't tested my tap water yet, but will do so tomorrow and post the results.
- TOPFIN is the water conditioner that I use, I realized, that this one is hard to dose, since it is so highly concentrated. Could I have overdosed the water conditioner?
- I also had some fertilizer for my plants from AEQUON at the beginning, but stopped using it, right after the first fish died. Sorry to mention that.
-I didn't shake the number two solution for two minutes, will do so tomorrow.

To the salt, this crossed my mind, too. But I wonder, why my Platy died first, he should have tolerated it. To them swimming at the top, they do not gasp after air or are upright in the tank. I coudn't notice any fast breathing, or labored breathing, but I am new to this hobby, so my experience is low. I just see them (Platies) for several times at the top next to where my heater is, which isn't running much. The room temperature is about 78 degrees average. I live in 29 Palms, so it is hot out there. Also, I have one fry from a Platy and this one is still alive and just doing fine.

I noted that one Cory is getting more and more lethargic, expect him to die by tomorrow, this is what I've seen at the other fishes, he lost his appetite, started to hide and will be dead... .

All the dead fish look totally normal, what I was thinking about is, if they didn't get enough oxygen?

Anyways, whatever happens, I will r, un the tank. If all my fish die, I will run it for at least another month before adding new fish and I will take the most hardiest one I will find.

DocS 07-23-2010 10:56 PM

Tested my tap water for Nitrate, same as in the tank, 10ppm.

I got some other thoughts: Could it be, that I need an air stone to get more oxygen into the tank? AND, I think I might have found one thing that I did totally wrong. Whenever I worked on the tank, I washed my hands and used liquid soap to clean them... . I just realized today, that my hands after rinsing them off still have the smell from the liquid soap! Could this lead to dying fishes?

Byron 07-23-2010 11:10 PM

The Topfin water conditioner seems basic, handling chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals. At 10ml per 10g it is double what mine use, 5ml per 10g. I currently use Kordon's (and have for 15 years). But I don't think this is an issue. Overdosing a conditioner is said to be harmless, but there has to be a limit, after all, it is chemical (look at what's in Topfin) and fish swimming in chemicals can't be good. But unless it was way over, I wouldn't expect this to be the cause.

The soap on your hands is certainly a possibility. I always wash my hands in plain warm water thoroughly, then dry fully, before going in the tank.

Nitrate is fine, though again higher than I would expect--you did shake the regent 2 for 2 minutes? I am still of the mind there is not a cycling issue.

There should be no oxygen issue with 8 small fish in a 30g that also has live plants. It may be worthwhile to add an airstone and observe the fish's reaction. If there is one, then something may be in the water. Otherwise, not necessary.

How much salt a platy can "tolerate" is not known to me, but as I mentioned you added a lot at once. And even though livebearers can "tolerate" salt, they should hnot have to as they don't need it. Here's the link to my other post on salt, it is post #9 in this thread:


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