Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Oyster Man 01-16-2012 06:30 PM

Can't Say I've Been the Best Fish Keeper
 
Dear TropicalFishKeeping.com

I have been the owner of a 29 gallon Eclipse fish tank for almost five years now. I used to take very good care of the tank by making sure I had proper lighting, filtration, and chemical balance; as well as a number of healthy fish. Unfortunately I have not been the best fish keeper for the last three years.

Of the six healthy fish and shrimp I used to have, only my black marble angelfish, silver dollar, and plecostomus remain; and I don't know if they're in the greatest of health. I also have a large assortment of live plants, many of which are covered with algae but otherwise look strong.

My filtration consists of an H-size charcoal cartridge, and a five year old bio-wheel filter, both of which are housed in the back half of the Eclipse's lid. I am hoping to buy a UV filter sometime, but do to money it won't be anytime soon.

My lighting is poor. It consists of two regular florescent bulbs, located in the front half of the Eclipse's lid. I do hope to purchase adequate lighting, but again, money is an issue.

I think the real icing on the cake is the fact that I haven't tested the chemicals in a little over a year. I recently bought a box of "Tetra Easy Strips "6-in-1 Aquarium Test Strips"" from Petsmart. The chemical readout is as follows:

Nitrate - 160-200 ppm

Nitrite - 0.5-1.0 ppm

Hardness - 75-150 GH

Chlorine - 0 ppm

Alkalinity - 0-40 ppm

PH - 6.2-6.8


Obviously I have not been a good fish keeper. I post this because I'm a little unsure of what to do, and any help is greatly appreciated. I can't change what has happened, only prevent it in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please post any questions, comments, advice below; and let me know if you need pictures or clarification.

Sincerely, Oyster Man

afremont 01-16-2012 06:51 PM

The first thing you could do is change at half your water and then change half of it again in a day or two. I'm thinking you don't want to shock the fish by lowering the nitrates too quickly though. They are very high, but I've heard that dropping them too quickly down to the 20-40ppm range that is desired may harm the fish. Maybe just change a third of it and watch them to see how they react. If they act thrilled and start spawning then change some more sooner than later. If they get all lethargic then give them so time to adjust. Your nitrites should be zero, not sure why they wouldn't be.

ladayen 01-16-2012 07:37 PM

hmm.. you dont list your ammonia but your Nitrites are high enough. Do 50% water changes every week and it will clean your water up, and should help with the algae issue as well.

thekoimaiden 01-16-2012 07:52 PM

Welcome, Oyster Man. It's always great to see someone who wants to learn. We all made mistakes in the past. The best thing we can do is learn from them and resolve not to do them again. We'll try our best to help you get your tank into shape!

For the algae/plant problem. How long do you keep your lights on? Generally it's not a good idea to keep them on more than 10 hours. This is probably what is causing your algae problem. If you can, it would be great to scrape some of the algae from the plants. Having live plants helps keep down the nitrates.

Afremont and ladayen are right. You need to start doing weekly water changes. This will bring down your nitrate.

Nitrite is not something that should be seen at all in cycled aquarium. If you aren't aware of what a cycled aquarium is, Byron wrote this great article on it.

I also forgot to ask, do you have a heater? From what I know all those fish are tropicals. If you want more information on your fish, the second tab at the top under the TFK logo has information on many species including your angel fish, silver dollar, and pleco. You can also click on the highlighted names of a fish in any post to see the species profile.

Geomancer 01-17-2012 06:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Oyster Man (Post 953151)
Dear TropicalFishKeeping.com

I also have a large assortment of live plants, many of which are covered with algae but otherwise look strong.

My filtration consists of an H-size charcoal cartridge, and a five year old bio-wheel filter, both of which are housed in the back half of the Eclipse's lid. I am hoping to buy a UV filter sometime, but do to money it won't be anytime soon.

Can I ask what you are wanting the UV filter for? With a planted aquarium you really only need mechanical filtration (sponge/pad/floss/etc) to remove particles from the water, and most people recommend not using carbon (as it may remove some nutrients plants need). The age of the filter isn't really an issue as long as it is still working =) You can just re-use the cartridge, washing it off during each water change (use the water you removed from the tank, tap water will kill the beneficial bacteria). You can do that until the pad disintegrates.

For algae, as said, probably means too long of a duration on the lights, or it is getting direct sunlight from a window.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Oyster Man (Post 953151)
My lighting is poor. It consists of two regular florescent bulbs, located in the front half of the Eclipse's lid. I do hope to purchase adequate lighting, but again, money is an issue.

I don't think that's too bad. What kind of florescents? There should be some text on the bulbs indicating their size (T8 or T5 probably) and a temperature rating in Kelvin (like say 8000K). Probably also the power in Watts (W). Most 29 gallon tanks just come with a single T8 bulb, so a dual tube is likely sufficient for at least moderate lighting.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Oyster Man (Post 953151)
I think the real icing on the cake is the fact that I haven't tested the chemicals in a little over a year. I recently bought a box of "Tetra Easy Strips "6-in-1 Aquarium Test Strips"" from Petsmart. The chemical readout is as follows:

Nitrate - 160-200 ppm

Nitrite - 0.5-1.0 ppm

Hardness - 75-150 GH

Chlorine - 0 ppm

Alkalinity - 0-40 ppm

PH - 6.2-6.8

As other's have said the Nitrates are high so you'll want to do some water changes. I would do 50% of the water right away, then 50% each week until you get those down to around the 20 ppm mark. Treat the water with a conditioner to remove Chlorine/Chloramine. You can't get Nitrates to 0, but fish can tolerate it far better than Ammonia or Nitrite. I'm also clueless on the Nitrite though, your tank is several years old, between bacteria and the plants I'd expect that to be 0 :S

I'm sure the plants would enjoy a comprehensive liquid fertilizer too, you dose it once a week (do it the day after your water change, the water conditioner has an 'affective' time period that you want to wait out).

AbbeysDad 01-17-2012 09:57 AM

Welcome to the forum Oyster Man.
It sounds like you need to recharge your interest in the hobby (or give it up!). I understand. We often have our interest peek in one thing or another and for a time we are very focused, nearly obsessed with it. Then life throws up all sorts of 'distractions' and we lose the level of interest we once had. Then one day we look at the green fish tank with low water level and ask, 'what am I doing to those poor little guys?'.
Life happens, but we must find the time to be proper caretakers for those that depend on us.

Most of your problems with your tank likely go away with a weekly 50% water change, minor filter and glass maintenance. "The solution to pollution is dilution."
Can you invest 1 hour or so a week to do this?

I'm not saying you absolutely should not have a UV sterilizer, but I don't think you need one. With sufficient water changes and light management, the algae problem should go away.

Good luck and hope you continue to participate in the forum!

AD

flight50 01-17-2012 12:12 PM

I agree with thekoimaiden. A tank running this long should not have nitrites. Considering you said you have quite a few live plants, they should consume your nitrates. I bet a good cleaning of all the algae will help. It is blocking the plants nutrients from the water. I also never heard of getting rid of toxins, shocking the fish. After all, that's what water changes does. There is no desire for any fish to have nitrites nor nitrates. Only living thing in a tank that wants these are plants and algae.

I also think Abbey has a point. Your interest has declined. I get this way from time to time myself but its nothing like seeing your investment in your fish tank go to waste. So a good ole cleaning will be appreciated by your fish and you will fell happier that your fish are happier.

Byron 01-17-2012 02:42 PM

My caution is to go easy on the water changes until things are back to normal, or what should be normal.

As someone noted, no reading for ammonia is given, so we may assume it might be high. In acidic water (pH below 7) this is not an issue as ammonia changes into relatively harmless ammonium. But if your tap water is above pH 7, i.e., is basic, and you add enough to the tank during a water change to raise the tank's pH above 7, all that ammonium immediately changes into toxic ammonia. Thus, go slow on water changes. This allows the bacteria time to re-establish and handle things. This will also allow you to gradually reduce the nitrates.

Byron.

Oyster Man 01-17-2012 09:44 PM

Thanks a bunch, this has really helped out.

Looked at the numbers on the bulbs. I appear to have two F20T12-PL/ AQ-ECO. According to the link it is a T-12 size. Should I be worried? Turns out I was wrong, it may actually be an aquarium light.

49891 - Specifications - GE Commercial Lighting Products

My lights have been on an eleven hour timer. I'll shorten their timer to ten hours; or maybe less since my aquarium does get some sunlight.

According to the article the instant strips are inaccurate. I saw a thirty dollar liquid test kit at Petsmart that I may buy. It should be more affordable since you guys are saying I may not need the UV filter; which I only wanted for algae control. Thanks, you all saved me about seventy dollars.

I was digging through some old fish stuff and I found an "Instant Ocean Aquarium Test Kit". It's a left over from my endeavors to have a salt water aquarium. I don't know if I should use it though; it's about five years old and made for salt water aquariums, which makes me think it will also be inaccurate.

While I was thinking about chemicals, I went ahead and tested the chemicals from the tap; to compare them to my aquarium. I should note that I still used the instant strips.
The readout is as follows:

Nitrate - 0-20 ppm (much less)

Nitrite - 0 ppm (less)

Hardness - 0 GH (much less)

Chlorine - 0 ppm (same. That's no mistake, our water is chlorine free.)

Alkalinity - 0-40 ppm (same)

PH - 6.8-7.2 (more neutral/alkaline)



I do have a heater for my aquarium, but I need to buy a thermometer. I know, pretty inexcusable.

I will definitely start doing water changes weekly until things settle down.

Thanks for suggesting the fertilizer, I'll look into buying some next time I'm at Petsmart. Probably the same time I buy a thermometer.

I forgot to mention in my first post that I'm a little worried about my silver dollar. The plecostumus and the angel fish act pretty normal, but the silver dollar always acts nervous. When I approach the tank, the silver dollar usually darts to the opposite end, only to smack against the glass. I know they're social, and I've considered getting another, but I'm worried that the angle fish may nip at a new fish at this point.

It's true, I have lost a lot of the fervor I once had for my fish tank, and I'm ashamed I ever let it get to this state. I just hope I can fix things.
Thanks again for the suggestions and comments. This has helped tremendously.

Sincerely, Oyster Man

angella 01-18-2012 06:39 AM

Hi! Welcome to the forum. Though I am still learning the ins and outs of this stuff it seems like your tap is funky.. I don't know haha but I've never seen tap water with 0 hardness or chlorine.

And yeah your Silver Dollar is probably really lonely :( But I think doing the water changes weekly and getting all your parameters in order (especially nitrates below 40 & nitrite 0) should be done before fixing the silver dollars condition. And about the angel fish being mean, it might, but you need a group of 6 silver dollars really so maybe if you get everything in order for a month and then add 5 silver dollars the aggression, if any is present, will be spread out.
I don't /think/ that would be bad, unless maybe since you already only have three fish that might cause a mini cycle... I'm not sure but perhaps others will have an idea.

Good luck and I hope you get everything taken care of :) I'm sure your fish appreciate you doing this haha


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