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magpie 03-01-2012 01:56 PM

Sudden tank issues... (long)
So... I've had my 65 gallon planted tank up and going since November. It's been doing great until the end of January when I ended up with some Ich, primarily in my Ricefish, but also on 2 Hatchetfish. I treated with Coppersafe and elevated temperatures and all was fine with the exception of the Ricefish - 4 died in the process, and it was the kuhli loaches and farlowella that I was concerned about, however they all fared just fine. I had a bunch of discussion with MinaMinaMina who also got some of these fish, and it appears that they may be very susceptible to Ich, and they also may be prone to bloat or death from overfeeding on meaty foods. I feed bloodworms and live brine shrimp, and we're wondering if that was the actual possible cause of demise of these fish, who are relatively new to the hobby.

But, I digress... The tank seemed to bounce back from the Ich treatment, however I did get a small spike of ammonia - 0.25 - possibly from not finding the dead fish in the tank - since it's heavily planted I never found them. I have never had ammonia in the past, not even initially, and I was told that with my acidic pH (usu 6.6-6.8) that the ammonia shouldn't affect the fish much. Anyway, I did a water change, with the ammonia back down to zero and it stayed there.

All seemed fine. Everyone is happy, healthy, colorful, eating fine, etc. etc. I ended up adding some new fish - 2 Laetacara, 2 Apistos. Before I added them I did a water change and I added a piece of driftwood to the tank that had been soaking for months trying to get it to sink. I had another larger piece of the same chunk of wood in the tank for a very long time, weighted by a large rock and it was sinking so I removed the rock on top of it. The small one still wasn't fully sinking on it's own, so my husband suggested that we nail a plastic lid to the base and put that under the substrate to hold it down. I scrubbed the driftwood well under very hot water, we put it in the tank, and it looked great. I had a nagging feeling that the nail was a bad idea due to iron/rust potential, and had a nagging feeling that I should boil the wood before putting in the tank as it had been soaking for so long with just a few water changes...

4 days later it was bothering me so I took the wood out and replaced the nail with a stainless screw, figuring no rust would happen there. Put it back in the tank.

Everyone seemed OK, new additions were happy and active, colorful, eating like champs. Then a few days ago I had a pencilfish hanging out near the surface of the water. Didn't look good. They have long been my "canaries" for the tank - they let me know when something is off by hiding or acting "off." I tested the water - all looked good - ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 5, pH 6.7. There was also one hatchetfish maybe acting a little strange, not with the group, but they are always near the surface so it was harder to tell. It was maybe panting a bit, as was the pencilfish.
I moved the spraybar of the filter near the surface in case it was an aeration issue.

Last night when I came home from work I had a dead pencilfish and two dead hatchetfish.
:cry: I ripped out the driftwood. It was late, so I didn't water change. This morning, more dead hatchetfish, one more dead pencilfish, and I noticed that my tiny rainbowfish had gone to 6 from 12, not sure when. (Yet there was a baby rainbowfish fry in the surface floating plants. What the heck?) I immediately did a huge water change this morning.

My question to you is this - could it really have been the one nail? Do you think it was something on the driftwood?
(As I mentioned, the same wood was used in the tank with no issue so it's not the type of wood, but maybe something on/in it from soaking forever?)

The only other changes I've had were that I added a bit of plastic screen/mesh to the input of my Eheim with two rubber bands, because when I cleaned the canister last month I found 3 of my smallest kuhlis inside the filter! They have all recovered fine. Could there have been something on the plastic mesh or rubber bands??
Maybe rubber bands were on veggies and there was a pesticide on the veggies? And it's strange how it's affected my mid/top dwellers and not my bottom feeders at all. Coincidence?

This is devastating! I've had such a happy healthy tank and then BAM so many deaths. I feel like I really try and do everything right, I really read a ton, I take care of everyone, and I pride myself in how happy my fish are.... but maybe if I had listened to my gut about the driftwood/nail then I wouldn't be in this position. I'm so mad at myself.

I want to cry. I love my hatchets and my pencilfish.

Everyone else is acting extremely normally. Kuhlis, gobies, cichlids, farlowella, the remainder of the hatchets, the remainder of the pencils, the remainder of the rainbowfish.

I would really love to add this piece of driftwood back in the tank as it looks so nice. Maybe if I boil and/or bleach (and then dechlor) and just weight it with a rock it will be OK? I don't want to chance it, and I wouldn't do it until I was sure everyone was healthy, but the fish liked that piece of wood. The farlowella and gobies loved to hang out on it.

What do you think???

Thanks in advance and thanks for reading this long post.

magpie 03-01-2012 02:44 PM

I realized that maybe the plastic mesh screen I put in might be treated with something? It's for window/door screen. I replaced it with a substrate bag end. Looks ugly but will do the trick for now. The smallest kuhli still might be able to fit in there or I'd leave it without anything on it at all.

Or... could this be some kind of disease that isn't showing any outward visible signs until the fish is really sick? (hanging out near the surface, slight panting, listless, and then obviously dull coloration once they get to that point.)

TwinDad 03-01-2012 05:51 PM

I can't say as to a disease but the window screen material is a coated fiberglass or aluminum. It's not likely inert in a aquarium.

Could you buy a sponge filter like say for a agua clear and make a "cork" or "mushroom"out of it and use in the opening?

Sorry for the loss I had something similar with some cories. I never did find out what did it and I feel bad for it. Everyone is happy and healthy now.

magpie 03-01-2012 07:26 PM

Good idea about the sponge. I probably just need it another couple months till these guys catch up with the others in size. I can't believe they survived in there!

I didn't even think before I put that mesh in there. It just seems so benign... Maybe that is it. I'm such an idiot.

Does it seem strange that it hit more of the upper dwellers? You'd think the kuhlis would be affected by a chemical or toxin of some sort.... Unless it rose in the water column?
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Byron 03-01-2012 07:56 PM

I am more inclined to suspect the wood. If I read you correctly, this all started after the wood went in.

One nail or screw is not going to leech that much rust/iron/whatever to kill so many fish so rapidly. And while the screen might be an issue, I would not expect that either so rapidly.

What type of wood? From your description, it sounds like Mopani wood, that African blond/dark wood. A photo would help. I had trouble with this, as have others. Some of it contains toxic fungus, in my case it appeared as a white film, sort of very low fungus layer. Within a day in a 90g the water clouded and fish began respirating very fast. Others have had fish die within a couple days.

This is my first inkling. I would remove the wood, and do a major water change, 75% of the volume, use a good conditioner.

magpie 03-01-2012 09:41 PM

The wood is gone, I did about a 70% water change and plan on doing another one maybe Saturday?

I removed the mesh, too.

The wood is branchy, I don't think it's mopani but it could have had something on it from soaking in the bucket for so long. I didn't change it overly frequently so am wondering if it grew some ickiness and should have been boiled.

Here's a shot of a part of it. The farlowella is on it. Those are just bubbles from a water change.

Here you can see the old one on the left, the new one is smaller on the right.

magpie 03-02-2012 08:10 AM

What about gill flukes? Some of it matches, some doesn't.

I guess it's a waiting game right now...?

TwinDad 03-02-2012 09:17 AM

I had forgotten about the wood. I did recall reading what Byron had posted about the wood issues he had and made me nervous in using some on my own. It's possible that it's the source, it could also be the screen and rubber band, however it could be all of the above at once.

Did you ever find the source of the ich?

I like your tank it looks great.

Byron 03-02-2012 10:53 AM

I'm not sure what type of wood that is. It might be grapewood, another that is notorious for toxins (Mikaila related a real horror story she had with grapewood). Might be Mopani, though I would have expected it a bit lighter on one side. Whatever it is, removing it and doing a couple major water changes will soon tell us. If the fish improve, fine, leave the wood out.

Sometimes one has to just start and examine issues one by one to find the culprit. In addition to my more recent experience with Mopani, I had another wood issue back in 1997. We don't know where this wood comes from, or what it may have encountered during its lifetime. There are some precautions we can take, such as avoiding any soft woods, coniferous, etc., and removing any that begins to rot in the tank. I am using only Malaysian Driftwood and so far have had no issues.

magpie 03-06-2012 08:01 AM

Quick update: Been doing water changes and half-doses of something similar to Quick Cure and the deaths have stopped so far. So not sure which was going on, but am just happy that it's stopped and everyone looks normal at the moment.

Not sure if I should chance putting that wood in again but weighting it down with rocks. Maybe if I boil it first? Part of me wants to because It's the same type as the other kind in there (which has had no issues), and looked nice... but part of me is really nervous about it, as maybe there was some kind of funk growing on it from soaking for so long in a plastic bucket? I'll probably just ditch it and use another piece that I know is safe. *sigh*

Either way it was a heavy loss, and I feel bad for the survivors because they're all schoolers that like to be in larger numbers, I think especially the hatchets. I also now have only one pencilfish out of 5 and my plan with them was to increase their numbers. Hope she's OK solo for now as who knows when there'll be purple pencils again in the LFS. Maybe I should just get another kind of pencils or some tetras or something. These guys were just so beautiful, though...

Definitely waiting for a good few weeks before adding anyone. I think I'll add the hatchets first as they seem definitely less secure without the larger number.

Total deaths: 6 hatchetfish (out of 10), 4 purple pencilfish (out of 5), 7 gertrudae rainbowfish (out of 12).

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