Ph and ammonia issues for freshwater beginner with 10 gallon - what am I doing wrong?
I just joined up here, mainly hoping I could get some help with several problems I've been having for a few weeks with my tank. I hope this is the right place to put this thread. If not....sorry :-(
In February I was given a 10 gallon tank, which I started entirely on my own. No one I know has any experience with tanks, so I bought a book (Freshwater Aquariums for Dummies), and did my best with help from the Petco guys. All seemed to be going well throughout cycling, and my fish seemed healthy (I've got a community aquarium) . When I used my pH/ammonia test kits, however, they showed I was at a worrisome pH of 6, and my ammonia was literally off the charts.
At first I thought it was just part of my cycling, and didn't really do much about it. When the levels remained at this state, however, I started with much more frequent water changes (about 10-15% 2-4 times per week) but it pretty much did nothing at all. The fish, oddly enough were and still are acting healthy. They eat and swim normally and don't look like they have ammonia poisoning. Starting to be concerned, I went with the advice of my local Petco, and bought pH Up and Ammolock. I also began even more frequent water changes.
At this point, neither one of the chemicals appears to be doing me any good. I began using benifical bacteria in a bottle, thinking I screwed up the cycling process. I also upgraded to a new filter, one that is supposed to be for a tank twice my size (my old filter was rather old, and didn't seem to be doing the job quite right.)
I'm starting to be at a loss for what to do. Did I mess up majorly in the cycling? Did I get too excited and overstock the tank? (Right now I have 6 platys, 2 tetras, 2 corys and 1 gold gourami, added gradually over about 3 months.) Should I do water changes with more water, more frequently? Like I said, I don't know anyone I can go to for help, and my book isn't much help at this point.
I would appreciate any help you guys can give me, as I'm a bit desperate
Thanks so much.
First thing, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum. Nice to have you with us. Though I'm sorry it was over a problem:-(. Still, hopefully we will help.
This will be lengthy, as there is a lot involved in what's occurred in your tank. I'll try to concentrate on highlights.
A 10g tank has limited space, and you already have too many fish, and some of the wrong sort for such a small tank. This is going to cause more trouble down the road. When fish are in "unfavourable" environments it causes them stress, and just as in humans, stress weakens the immune system so other health problems are more likely to occur. Cycling also causes stress, and any changes in the water like pH can cause major stress to many fish. At this point, to get on to the more serious issues, I will refer you to our profiles, second tab from the left in the blue bar across the top of the page. Many fish are included, including those you have. Please read up on their needs, it will help you to understand what's happening. You can also click on the name, scientific or common, when it appears shaded in posts which will occur if it is the same as in the profile, example Blue Gourami [this is actually the same species as the Gold variant] and platy. Cory and tetra will only shade if the full species name is given. Find your tetra though, because these fish are shoaling and need to be in groups of (usually) six minimum, and cory too although 3-5 is OK for a group.
Chemicals: Don't use them. They frequently do not work, and not only is the chemical itself very stressful on many fish, but any fluctuations it may cause with water chemistry only adds to the problem. Water conditioner we use because it is essential to get rid of chlorine and chloramine. But other stuff should be considered more harm than good. There are some exceptions, but remembering this general basic rule will save you a lot of grief, and be better for your fish.
Partial water changes are almost always the best remedy for anything. You can even do them daily in a crisis, up to half the tank, using a good conditioner.
The pH. This will start off equal to your tap water, and altering the pH will largely depend upon the hardness of your tap water. This is long to explain, so please have a read of my article on this issue in the Freshwater Articles section, here's the direct link:
I know that will be involved, but at least it will hopefully allow you to understand why your pH adjuster chemicals are not working. Have you tested your tap water? We need to know the pH and the hardness. The latter you can find out from your water supply people, many now have a website with data posted; if it is confusing, post the link and I'll have a look. It is essential to know what's in the water respecting minerals in order to understand what will naturally occur and what we may be able to do to alter the pH, if that is necessary in the end.
At this stage, stop putting any stuff in the water except the water conditioner at all water changes. Leave the pH alone for the present, we can deal with that later. And on this, let me know the tap water hardness and pH as mentioned above. Then I will be able to explain it, and offer suggestions. Read up on the fish, but don't get any more yet, we need to carefully sort that out after the water is stable.
Thank you so much, I didn't expect so much help first thing!
Yes, I've been reading more about this now, and almost every source I've found recommends water changes over chemicals.
The hardness of my water here in NY is 1.0 grain/gallon, and the pH is neutral at 7. I've always used conditioner on it, I recently bought more.
What should I do about the overcrowding? I don't really have another tank as an option. Should I just keep the fish I have and hope that the tank will be okay?
I would suggest removing some of the fish if another tank is not an option; keeping too many fish, and some fish that will not "fit" with the others anyway, is only going to cause more and more problems. Some stores will accept fish, for credit or even just to get them off your hands. The gourami is too large a fish for a 10g so that should certainly go. As should the platy because being livebearers they must have harder water or they will succumb to health problems and shorter lives.
You don't say what the species of tetra is, but they need a group, so having 5-6 of them would be best, depending what they are.
Okay, I think I'll try to give some of them back. They appear healthy at the moment, so the store might accept them.
The tetras are black skirt tetras, so they're a little bigger.
Thanks again for the help
There are many fish species admirabily suited to a 10g and we can discuss these if you like.
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