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Nat 01-05-2012 09:52 AM

Please help, sick platy
OK, so I set up a tank this past summer and everything has been fine up until now. My mother became extremely sick (cancer and a spleen removal) and had to have trauma surgery just before Christmas. We weren't sure if she was going to make it. Please don't think me a bad fish keeper it's just that we were spending three hours per day at our house sleeping trying to help get everything else taken care of. I usually clean my tank once a week and do a large water change and have had absolutely no problems up until my mother became ill and I had to skip one week. I also missed changing out the carbon filter and the sponge filter inside my AquaClear filter. When I went to clean out the tank my husband noticed that just one of the platys (platies) was acting odd. She is the smallest fish in the tank and has always seemed delicate. I could find no spots on her, nothing strange about her ordinary appearance and it was very late so I thought she was just tired. Fast forward to this week I went to do another water changing and cleaning and noticed that she is definitely acting very odd. She appears very weak, she is laying on the bottom of the tank. When I put food in she waits for it to float down near the bottom and then will swim ahead just a little to eat. She is moving her fins very fast but not really getting anywhere (the fish shimmy?). The closest thing that I can find to fit her symptoms are cotton-wool disease. But I dont' see any cottony white patches on her. She is yellow and black and her color does appear to be dull and slightly grey in places but it's very difficult to tell because of her natural color. All of the other fish are very healthy in appearance and in behavior. I noticed this late last night as I was cleaning out the tank and haven't had time to do water testing although I do not think this is ammonia poisoining, etc.. because none of the other fish are affected and there are no red traces around the gills, etc... I really don't want her to die and I don't know what the best approach is. I am stuck at work until 5 p.m. and then I am going to stop by and see about getting her some medicine. Should I quarrantine her in a heated fish bowl and treat her with medicine or would moving her create too much of a shock? Should I treat the entire tank and if so, with what? Please, please, please help!

Romad 01-05-2012 12:52 PM

Hi Nat,

Sorry about your mom, I hope she's doing better :(

As for your platy, do you have a setup for quarantine or hospital tank? I know you mentioned a bowl but you need a filter for water flow to aerate the water or some type of small airstone. Live plants would help also.

There are so many different things that can affect the health of fish that when you don't have any visible symptoms it might be really hard to diagnose an actual disease or illness.

You really need to test the water quality first. When you do your water changes are you using a good water conditioner when adding back to the tank? Like Prime for example?

And when you say replace the filter cartridge, how often do you do this? They should not be replaced unless they're literally falling apart. Just rinse them in the bucket of tank water when you do your water changes and put back in the filter. If you replace them each time, you're losing beneficial bacteria and your tank can start to mini cycle all over again.

Nat 01-05-2012 01:22 PM

Oh thank you so much- my mom is actually recovering from her surgery so much better than anyone expected. She is doing really well.

Thank you so much for responding as well. Please, please help me!!!!!
I am just so far behind in everything including keeping up with the fish and I feel in over my head right now. I was checking the water quality regularly and everything was great. Right now though I don't have a clue. I have to check it tonight. I just did a big water change last night, cleaned the gravel and reconditioned the water. I honestly don't remember the name of the water conditioner that I am using but I am almost out anyway. I know it isn't Prime and it isn't anything that sounds similar to that. I'm also having a problem with our very hard water that we have here it seems to be causing a calcuim build up on the inside of my filter. Any suggestions as to the best water conditioner to use?
I bought a startup tank and I hated the filter it came with the water wasn't staying clear and I was having a problem with ammonia levels. So, I bought an Aquaclear 20 - I have a small 10 gallon tank. The instructions that came with it were to change the activated charcoal once a month. The foam insert it said to change every two months and the biomax to change it every 3 months. I had read reviewers on Amazon saying they just washed the foam insert out in the aquarium water and so after two months that's what I did but it's looking really nasty now after having missed a water change so I had rather just toss it and the activated carbon but keep the biomax in the filter for another month and then change it as well. Is this for the best or should I keep the foam insert in longer?

I do believe that I have overstocked my tank but I was being so careful in testing my water, overfiltering, and doing frequent water changes that I honestly haven't had the first problem until I dropped the ball with the water changes. I've decided to add a second filter that goes underwater to help and just ordered it from Amazon last night as well as activated carbon/foam/etc.. for my Aquaclear 20 filter. I found that I had to add a second heater to the tank as soon as winter hit to keep it an even 80 degrees throughout. That seemed to do the trick. No, I don't have a hospital setup and I am a little hesitant to move her anyway because she seems to be most comfortable staying in the bottom of the tank and hiding in with the plants. I am hesitant to use live plants in the aquarium because although I do love them and I think they look a million times better than the fake ones I tend to have not so much as a green thumb but a black thumb plus I thought it would be better for someone who is fairly new to keeping fish to start off with fake plants. All of the plants I'm using were purchased specifically for aquariums and labeled fish safe although I am upset as two of my fake plants have started to grow what looks like brown algae on them. What is this????? I am clueless.

Should I go and buy a small 2.5 gallon tank and use the water from the 10 gallon I have her in to set it up and get her in there? I know I could get one at a fairly inexpensive price with a filter already built into it. Would this be better for her?

Romad 01-05-2012 08:25 PM

OK take a deep breath and let's try to figure out what's going on :)

First, you don't need charcoal in a filter unless you are trying to remove meds from the water after a treatment. I have an Aquaclear 20 on my 5 gallon betta tank. I use the bio balls nd two of the sponges in the filter. I've had it set up for years and have probably replaced the sponges once and only because I had snail eggs in there from some pond snails that hitched a ride in some plants. You can squeeze them out when you rinse them in the tank water but unless they're literally falling apart, leave them be. If you need to replace, only replace one at a time in between water changes.

Without knowing the ph and hardness of your water we can't know if your platy is going to thrive in your tank. You can check the Tropical Fish Profiles at the top of the main page and if you can't test for those things, bring a sample to your local fish store and they should be willing to test it for you. Most cities and towns will also have the info. available online.

As for your water conditioner, as long as you're using a decent one that removes chlorine and chloramines from your tap water, it should be ok. I would consider using Prime because it also detoxifys ammonia and nitrites for approx. 24 hours if you should have a spike in either of those due to filter replacement.

The brown stuff on your plants is probably just a bacterial bloom. This is fairly common and should go away with good water conditions. Check those nitrates :/

If you don't see any outward signs of disease on the platy and your other fish are behaving normally and look healthy (clear eyes, energetic, good appetites), then leave the platy be and don't treat the tank with anything unless you know for sure that there is a problem.

Lastly, when you have a bit of time, you migh want to consider looking into low light plants for your tank. There are plenty of threads here explaining the whole balance of light and nutrients and it might be as easy as changing your bulb and providing some good conditions and fertilizers once or twice a week.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Nat 01-05-2012 10:23 PM

OK, I have to apologize and say that I am sorry for the online panic attack! And also just thank you so very much for helping me to get this all sorted out. I've kept fish before but it such a long, long time ago so pretty much I'm starting all over again. Also, there was a great aquarium shop in town at that time. Unfortunately, not so anymore.

Ughhh, why does it seem like when one thing starts to fall apart everything else does too?
Anyway, I have three charcoal packs left and three ammonia remover packs for the filter and three of those bio pellet bag things that go in there and three foam inserts as well. Thank you so much for letting me know that I can just keep washing the foam out. I'm going to do that and just hang on to the rest of the foam. I think I am just going to use the foam with the ammonia remover pack and the bio pellet bags unless I need to use medicine and then use the charcoal or does activated charcoal go bad after a while. I have no idea of the shelf life.
Just did a check with my liquid API test kit. The PH is what it normally is - it always runs high around 7.6. It looked like it was reading around 7.6 to 7.7 tonight. The ammonia level is at 0. The nitrite level is at .025 or .25, whatever the lowest reading next to 0 is on the test kit - I can't remember but I can look it up again if I need to. I did stop by the pet store after work but I was afraid to buy any medicine since I don't know what's going on and I didn't want to do more harm than good. I did buy an API stress coat that has aloe vera in it and I also bought a Seachem stabilizer that said you can add it to a new tank but also to your tank each time you change the water. I added both tonight and waited about two hours before doing the water chemistry tests. I'm overfiltered but I'm afraid I'm overstocked so I actually have a second submersible (sorry for the spelling) filter coming tomorrow.

I went ahead and purchased a small tank. It's a 1.5 gallon tank. I know, I know it's teensy but seriously this fish is teensy and yes, I know that's way too small even for a beta :)

I went ahead and added .5 ml of the stress coat and .5 ml of the stabilizer to it and it's going to sit for 24 hours. I was planning on going back to buy a little heater tomorrow to add to the mini tank to get it all set up for my little platy. She's tiny and is still about the same size she was when we bought her this past summer. She's never been really active but now she is constantly staying on the bottom of the tank. She actually swam to the top tonight when the food came out but when she swims she looks like my boxer bulldog. Her tail end drops behind her when she swims and she more wiggles than swims. She isn't horizontal, she's dipping with the tail down and the head up. She's also oddly shaped. She's always looked this way though - we thought she was just undersized or didn't develop properly. My other two females have had several groups of fry. One is actually pregnant right now. I think this one came to us pregnant but I haven't seen her that way since. She's extremely thin but fortunately still has an appetite. She's so small I'm thinking maybe it's best for me to just let her live on her own in the small tank anyway? So far all of my other fish are not only acting very healthy but like sharks when the food comes out. They are all over the tank - she mainly hides and I've seen her resting on the leaf of a plant. There is no cotton look around her mouth, no gold specks appear when she's put under a flashlight. She's definitely not bloated and I don't see any clamped fins. She does have red on her tail but as far as I can remember she's always looked that way. I won't swear to no greyish or kind of white patches but nothing that looks like ick. I think the splotchy I am seeing near the top of her head is where the yellow and black blend in and spot together but I won't swear to it that that's what I'm looking at.

Right now I think I'm going to try to save up for a 30 or so gallon tank. I would love to get the tank set up, get the chemistry right, and get real live plants put in place and then transfer all of my fish to that tank and add a few cory cats and keep a few of the fry. I'll probably go ahead and try to get some live plants going in this tank too but maybe in a few months. Anyway, sorry for the novel - it's just been a long week and my little tank full of stress relief has gone bad. Sorry, I'm too long winded :)

Romad 01-06-2012 07:03 AM

Don't worry about being too wordy here Nat. Sometimes it takes a lot of words to describe what's going on in your tank.

It sounds to me like your platy is a runt. I've had one or two fish that started out that way and just never grew right along with the other fish. It could very well be genetic.

Your nitrItes need to be at zero in an established tank. My guess is that you're always causing mini cycles when changing out your filter media because of the overstocking. Your beneficial bacteria doesn't have time to catch up with your tank load.

It's a really good idea to upgrade to a larger tank unless you want to give up some of your fish to a fellow hobbyist or the pet store. Craigslist always has a bunch of tanks and equipment for short money around here.

Nat 01-06-2012 09:37 AM

I thought she was just a runt too but here lately she's just crashing all of the time on the bottom. I think I'm going to move her to the small tank and see how she does on her own. I'd swear she's sick except I can't find anything wrong with her and all of the other fish are extremely active. Maybe if she doesn't have to compete for food she will have more energy. I really do want a larger tank but right now money is just too tight. I've tried asking a few close family members if they were interested in a fish or two but no takers and I really don't want to take one back to the pet store. I'm going to go ahead and get her moved and then ask my husband what he would think of setting up a second 10 gallon and not getting any more fish but just moving some of the ones we have to the second tank. I have a spare filter - granted it was the one that came with the tank and I hate it but it would do for a little while. In the meantime I do have a second little filter that's designed to go underwater and should be arriving today and I'm going to add that to the tank to see if it helps with the bio- overload. Do you think the second filter would help and more water changes? I've been doing about an 80% water change once a week. Should I change to two 50% water changes once a week or four 20% water changes? Also, I am vacuuming out the gravel once a week as well. Is this a good thing or is that too often? And, should I go ahead and add in some aquarium salt - would that help with the overall health of the fish?

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