Upside Down Catfish behaving strangely and just found one dead...
This is my first post so i hope i cover everything correctly so you can advise me.
My problem is that I have 2 upside down catfish that are about 12 months old and i've noticed some strange behaviour in one them in the past few days/week. Okay - scratch that! I have literally just gone looking for them both as I only noticed one behaving differentally and thought i should check the other and I just found the other one dead. Looks a few days gone so i can't tell if there were signs of disease. The remaining catfish i noticed a few days/a week ago begun swimming around the tank whilst the light was on and i've never seen him during the day before. It has been hiding in different places to usual, alot of these places in brighter lights than his usual hiding place. This morning i thought i could see some moss or something hanging off one fin and whiskers on the same side of his body, i really don't think fungus! Looking at him again now i think it's gone so it may have just been moss rubbed off driftwood but i can't definitely say it's gone...Anyways in finding the other dead i have just taken him out of his tank and popped him in a bucket of the tank water with a oygen/ph block as i dont have a spare airpump but always have a few of the oxy blocks just in case. Could it perhaps be that he's looking for the other upside down? They did hide together and were different sizes though they were the same size when bought which makes me think they may have been male and female. the remaining is the larger so maybe a female?
I have a 150lt tank. For this post i used an API (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) dip stick test kit. Usually i don't bother with checking the parameters unless there is a problem and this is my first in about 8 months for this tank.
Test results were:
I hadn't quarantined fish as i added them but the last of the fish would have been added maybe 2 months ago. the upside downs are amongst the oldest. water temp is set at 26'C, this is my winter setting and has been this for 2/3 months now. the heater sits close to a filter to help disperse heat.
I have live plants in the tank, unsure of types but they have been in since the beginning.
My filters are:
External - Fluval405, 1300L/hr, designed for 400L tanks but it is on a low-med setting. It siphons from the bottom and puts water back in at the top third level of the tank. I clean this every 2/3 months as recommended by my pet store and change the carbon at this time.
Internal - Smaller Fluval, i've lost the box but it was recommended for a 50L tank i previously owned. it sits at about halfway down the tank on the opposite side to the external filter. It contains carbon also which is changed or recharged regularly. i Clean this filter weekly/2nd weekly depending on how busy i am. There is a 25cm long, 1/2 inch wide airstone just in front of the smaller filter on a moderate setting.
I've mentioned where the filters and oxygen block are as i read a post about some bottom dwellers getting sick due to insufficient bottom water flow and oxygenation. I feel this is not the problem as my other bottom dwellers are fine.
The tank doesnt really receive any sunlight, maybe indirect but the light i have is one designed to encourage plant growth. The light comes on about 6/7am before i go to work and then gets turned of about 6/7pm after their last feed.
1/3 of the water was changed about 3 days ago. I usually change about 1/3 every week but if the guppy numbers have risen i change about 1/2 the water each week but will only change 1/3 if planning to do the larger filter not long after as i don't like to upset the water conditions or bacteria too much. I clean my tank by siphoning the gravel first and then just suctioning the water till i drain 1/3 of it. I often cut off and discard dead and dying leaves on the plants also.
I feed my fish algae wafers in the morning and tropical flakes at night.
I think the only thign i didn'y mention was that i have only natural gravel in the tank, and only river stones and driftwood for decoration. i try to keep the tank as naturall as possible with minimal artificial products used. i've never had any major problems with my fish and very few deaths. the upside down that's died would be my worst so far. There my favourites after my albino bristlenose.
I hope i've covered everything but havent dribbled too much. i'm worried about my last upside down seeing that the other has died.
Hope you can help,
Hi Kurt, welcome to TFK! The first thing that jumped out at me from your post was the use of salt in tank that contains scaleless fishes, which is what the upside down cats are. Catfish are sensitive to the use of salt. I'm really tired and off to bed so hopefully someone else will come along before tomorrow morning, when I will be back to go back over your post with a clear head. Hang tight, help will come.
Unfortunately my other upside down has died today. I didnt read anywhere that salt wasnt good for catfish, i would never have used it otherwise. they are the main feature in my tank. I began using salt after a white spot outbreak after i first set up the tank. it cured that and i continued to use it as i couldn't find any information to contradict it. i literally only use the recommended amount for just maintaing fish health. i have had most of my catfish in the tank from the very beginning and they have never been affected by the salt. They're all quite strong and healthy and have grown to huge sizes compared to their size when i first got them. Well except for the few that just died but i did believe it to be a case of over crowding. i've had it happen before whre guppy numbers have got high and older fish have dropped off. I've literally just got rid of all but maybe 7 male guppies as i don't want to run the risk of losing anymore of my catfish, they are truly my favourites. I thought that most catfish lived in brackish waters in normal conditions?
Thanks for writing. i'd written the sizes of my fish in the original thread. As far as the upside down were concerned they'd never attacked any of my other fish. The problem wasnt them killing fish it was them dying. I only had 2 upside downs and they both died. the other fish are okay i think my tank was just over crowded. i've really culled my fish numbers though and they seem to be doing fine now.
Hi and welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.
From your last post it seems things may have settled down. But 3 things do stand out from the information in this thread, and I will provide my comments on each.
First, nitrates. In a reasonably-well planted tank, nitrate should never exceed 20ppm, and unless the fish load is way overboard, nitrate below 10ppm is normal. Nitrate at 40ppm suggest to me that organics are accumulating faster than the plants can handle them. This usually means either too many fish, or inadequate maintenance. This is a 150l/40g tank, and an explosion of guppies plus a goldfish may be the issue; goldfish are notorious for producing copious waste, both physical (solid) and via respiration. But also there is the water change schedule which I think is insufficient for this tank, and this is the second issue I see. A 50% change every week would be better. But I would also rehome the goldfish as it is not suitable with tropicals for several reasons [I understand the "emergency" issue with this, but it is still an issue to resolve.]
Third, salt. Catfish such as the species you have are freshwater, not brackish; in fact, the Corydoras species that occur in coastal streams in South America will never be found in tidal waters because they avoid salt water. I cannot say that this is what killed the upside down catfish, but it certainly may have contributed. Salt weakens the fish, it affects their kidneys, and aside from possible abnormal behaviours it would be undetectable. This applies to most freshwater fish; characins, many cyprinids, etc. Except as a medication to treat a specific ailment, salt should absolutely never be added to a freshwater aquarium, and with respect to treatment--only if the fish concerned can tolerate salt, otherwise use another medication. I'll end this with some info on salt that I prepared for another post:
Salt is detrimental to freshwater fish and plants in varying degrees. To understand why, we must understand what salt does in water.
Salt makes the water more dense than the same water without salt. The aquarium contains water. The bodies of fish and plant leaves also contain water [just as we do--we are, what is it, 90-some percent water?]. The water in the aquarium and the water in the fish/plant are separated by a semi-permeable layer which is the cell. Water can pass through this cell. When either body of water is more dense, the other less-dense body of water will pass through the membrane to equalize the water on both sides.
Water is constantly passing through the cells of fish by osmosis in an attempt to equate the water inside the fish (which is more dense) with the water in the aquarium. Put another way, the aquarium water is diluting the fish's body water until they are equal. Freshwater fish regularly excrete this water through respiration and urination. This is the issue behind pH differences as well as salt and other substances. It increases the fish's work--the kidney is used in the case of salt--which also increases the fish's stress in order to maintain their internal stability. Also, the fish tends to produce more mucus especially in the gills; the reason now seems to be due to the irritant property of salt--the fish is trying to get away from it.
I have an interesting measurement for fish. Dr. Stanley Weitzman, who is Emeritus Research Scientist at the Department of Ichthyology of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and an acknowledged authority on characoid fishes, writes that 100 ppm of salt is the maximum for characins, and there are several species that show considerable stress leading to death at 60 ppm. 100 ppm is equal to .38 of one gram of salt per gallon of water. One level teaspoon holds six grams of salt, so 1 tsp of salt per gallon equates to more than 15 times the tolerable amount. Livebearers have a higher tolerance (mollies sometimes exist in brackish water) so the salt may be safe for them.
Plants: when salt is added to the aquarium water, the water inside the plant cells is less dense so it escapes through the cells. The result is that the plant literally dries out, and will wilt. I've so far been unable to find a measurement of how much salt will be detrimental to plants; all authorities I have found do note that some species are more sensitive than others, and all recommend no salt in planted aquaria.
Now you know why I never recommend salt.
Hi there Byron!
thanks so much for writing back to me. You have given me some interesting information. Like i said i couldn't find any information contradicting the use of salt but i will definitely stop now for the sake of my catfish. I have already removed the goldfish, he is in another tank with a couple of other goldfish. i had to get a new, stronger filter as the tank literally can only take the 3 goldfish. i have got rid of all but 7 of my male guppies. I dont want them breeding anymore. i have begun the use a new nitrate/nitrite/ammonia absorber in my filter that lasts longer than carbon and is much more effective. Water conditions are back to normal and the fish all seem fine.
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