Help with new tank and dying fish - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 16 Old 10-11-2008, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
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Help with new tank and dying fish

I have been in the process of setting up a new tank over the last several months. After a couple of issues during the cycle, I thought I had the tank properly seasoned and ready to go. I have a couple of barred gobies and one of the cleanup crews from BlueZoo aquatics (hermits, snails, sand sifter and serpent star, and a couple of emerald crabs) that have been in the tank since about week 4 (the blenny that came with the cleanup crew was killed when the cucumber that came with the kit nuked everyone). Everything seemed to be doing okay except I had this sudden outburst of green algae all over the sides of my tank and on a couple of pieces of dead rock (nothing on the live rock, though). Also about this time, I had a outburst of tiny, insect looking critters that I presumed were copepods. I also have a lot of tiny andromedea cassiopeia jellies (at least that is what pics online lead me to believe they were) still in the attached, pupal stage.

So I went to the LFS and picked up a scooter blenny to help fight the copepods. The next morning I see the poor guy laying on his back, twitching and shaking like he had been tazered. He was still darting around when I tried to scoop him up with a net, but was always upside down. I finally got him into the net and left him dipped in the water, but a half hour later he was dead.

After reading around, some sites say that a blenny should only be added when the tank has been cycled for at least 8 months, so I decided that perhaps a six-line wrasse would be a better choice. So I head back to the LFS and pick up one. He seems okay for two days and then suddenly dissapears. After moving around some rocks, I find him being devoured by some rather large bristleworms. Since the worms are not supposed to be harmful, I leave them be and take the remains back to the LFS. They provide me with another wrasse, and I bring him home. He also does well for a couple of days, picking at the copepods on the glass and the rocks more frequently than the first one, but then he goes missing as well. I haven't dug around for him, but I did notice a bit of an ammonia spike on the fourth day, so I can only assume he is no longer of this mortal coil as well.

My question to the forum is why do my fish keep dying after a couple of days. The two barred gobies are still alive and healthy, and have been in the tank for months. My levels are all at or near 0, so I am all but certain it is not ammonia or nitrates. The LFS said I was overfeeding the tank, hence the algae bloom, but I am only feeding one small pinch of flake a day and maybe an algae disk or two at night for the crabs. I also question the LFS's diagnosis since the algae didn't start until I got the T5 lights I have now. My salinity is a tad high at 1.021, but from what I have seen online that shouldn't be an issue. My pH is 8.1-8.3 depending on day and how close am I to a flush, but usually hovers around 8.2.

As for the copepods, they do not appear like anything I have seen online. They usually congregate around the exit for the water pump, but they are all over the tank. They appear to be a combination of the pictures of the isopods and the copepods on this web site: Xtalreef. The difference is they have the body and legs of the isopod, but not the head or tail ends. The heads appear to be more like the copepods, and the tails are completed rounded from the body, so nothing like either picture. They do not appear to swim, and mainly hang around wherever the aglae is thickest.

I have plenty of water filtration, so I doubt it is going to be lack of oxygen or stale water. Not only do I have a 70 gallon OTB filter and a 90 gallon skimmer, but I also have a submersable pump I had laying around for an old 25 gallon tank. All this for a 46 gallon tank. Since my end goal is to have corals, I wanted to have plenty of flow.

One last thing to mention is I have noticed these hair-like filaments that come out of the rocks at night. Some are quite long, well over five inches. I now they are alive (or attached to something that is alive) because they are usually not present during the day (but sometimes come out after a water flush). They just seem to drift in the currents, and if it wasn't for bubbles sticking to them I probably wouldn't even know they were there.

Sorry I can't provide pics. My camera refuses to focus on the critters in the front of the tank, and the bowfront makes the images of the back of the tank distorted.

Any help anyone can give would be really helpful. I am one step away from nuking the tank and starting over from scratch.
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post #2 of 16 Old 10-11-2008, 03:57 PM
You should not add any fish untill at least 4-5 months. Seeing that you just recently had your pod bloom, and algea bloom, means you still have a ways to mature. You also added WAY too many things at one time. CUC should go first, and you dont add it all at one time. All of this just adds nitrates, dertrius, and other unwanted materials in your tank.

By the way, what are your Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia ratings?
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post #3 of 16 Old 10-11-2008, 04:23 PM Thread Starter
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pH: 8.2-8.4
Nitrite: 0
Temp.: 77.0
Salinity: 1.023 (and I need to replace the water that has evaporated over the week, about 4 gallons worth, so this will come down to the 1.021-area later today)

As I said, my levels have looked good for a long time now so I don't think the tank is overloaded at the moment. I won't argue that I did add too much too early, but I haven't seen ammonia at anything close to high for well over a month now and the nitrates are usually really low well. Besides, if the problem was overloading the tank and causing chemical spikes, wouldn't that affect the gobbies as well?
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post #4 of 16 Old 10-11-2008, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Cody View Post
You should not add any fish untill at least 4-5 months. . You also added WAY too many things at one time.
Although I agree with Cody in principle, that patience is a virtue, especially in a marine aquarium, I do not think this is the cause of your fish death. Six Line Wrasse are extremely durable fish, and to see them disappear within 2 days suggests something other than water chemistry.

My first thought is that you may have a predator, possibly a mantis shrimp. Check out this pic: Mantis shrimp - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The 2nd picture is a more common version than the first, and would be your likely culprit.

Another possibility is your acclimation procedure. If you float the bag during acclimation AND have a long drive home from the LFS, you could be poisoning your fish during the acclimation process. If this fits your situation, we can go into more detail. Otherwise, lets assume this is not the cause.

It is also possible, and likely, that the LFS is using an acclimation procedure which is inappropriate. You should never purchase a fish from the LFS unless it has been there for at least a week, preferably 2 weeks. If the fish you purchased were new to the LFS, this could be a potential cause, as fish usually take 2 to 3 days to show the signs of poor handling and care, which fits your timeline well. I will not lecture about a quarantine tank, however, this would make our diagnosis much easier.

For the record, why are you keeping your salinity so low? 1.021??? 1.023 to 1.024 is the more common recommendation and the natural level.
That being said, this is not the reason your fish died. Such a small change in salinity would only impact the most sensitive species.
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post #5 of 16 Old 10-12-2008, 10:26 AM Thread Starter
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I have been on the watch for mantis and haven't seen or heard any proof that there is one (but with the way the rocks are positioned there are plenty of hiding spots). I am also inclined to think that there may be some kind of predation going on, but I am at a loss as to what it could be. Just to be sure, I checked my tank several times after lights out last night, and the only things I saw were several dozen bristleworms floating in the current, and several dozen of the long, hair-like threads floating in the currents. While pics online are scarce, I am inclined to think that what I am calling bristleworms are digitate hydroids (they are similar in appearance and behavior, but are thicker in girth and more of a whiteish color), but I can't find anything that resembles the hair-like thingys. Both are light sensitive and retract as soon as the flashlight hits them. The hairy threads also have a white growth at the end that appears to be a tangle of itself. Probably the best analogy I can make is a strand of spider web that has been broken from the web and knotted up at the end as it waved in the breeze. This would offer a possibility of the reasons for the gobbies continued existence since they both sleep under the rocks in a sand burrow.

I should also probably mention that I am losing hermits and snails fairly freqently. I started with four turbo snails, and one died yesterday leaving me only one left (and he hasn't moved for a while). For a while I was writing them off thinking that there wasn't enough food for them, but I am not so sure now as there is plenty of green algae all over the tank now. The snails dying off is fairly new, but I have always been losing about a crab a week. I figured that maybe the emeralds were getting to them, but last night I found both emeralds huddled in the same hole in a rock. I thought that emeralds were supposed to be nocturnal?

As for my acclimation process, that is a possibility. For the blenny, I just floated the bag for about 15 minutes and then dumped him in. However, for the two wrasses I used a 1/8 hose with a knot and started a drip line for 20 minutes and 30 minutes respectively (I was also thinking that my acclimation process was the culprit). My drive isn't too far, about 20-30 minutes.

I purchased the blenny from a different LFS than the two wrasses. I am unsure about the blenny and the first wrasse, but I know that the second wrasse was definately new to the LFS. The first wrasse had a slight pinkish discoloration to his side, but both I and the LFS thought it was his coloration pattern. But that was the only reason the LFS was willing to give me a new one (hence one of the reasons I probably will not frequent that LFS any longer). As for the blenny and the second wrasse, there was no indication of disease and both were gladly picking at pods and swimming around like normal.

Going back to the predation, bear in mind that I have several dozen, maybe even a couple of hundred, of the small andromeda jellies in various stage of growth (they never last long once free floating) and several things that appear to be white nodules with several dozen tentacles attached (I have seen pics of them before and want to say that they were not really considered a threat).
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post #6 of 16 Old 10-12-2008, 12:45 PM
The acclimation doesn't seem like it is a problem. All I do for my corals, fish and inverts is give them a 30min float, but I add some of my water to the fish's bag. Thats all.

Seeing that you are missing hermits and snails, Pasfur may be right about a Mantis. I would say no to a pistol because of the lack of clicking, but you still should be able to hear something every now and then. And, it sounds like a spearer because of teh fish deaths.

What type of live rock did you purchase? Florida Rock is supposed to "carry" the most unwanted hitchhikers.
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post #7 of 16 Old 10-12-2008, 06:30 PM
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Have you successfully purchased saltwater livestock from the LFS that sold you the deceased fish?

I am still leaning toward something happening to the fish prior to your purchase. Perhaps the wholesaler they are using is not properly handling the fish. This is not uncommon. We also still see fish handled improperly at point of collection, although this is becoming less frequent.

The second, and very likely possibility, is that you have something in your tank that has become territorial and is killing your new additions. As mentioned, just keep watching it closely.
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post #8 of 16 Old 10-13-2008, 01:15 AM Thread Starter
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Cody, the liverock was 'Fiji' liverock, if that means anything. They came from the LFS that sold me the gobbies and the blenny, but the tank that the rock was in was seperate from the rest of the fish (but all of the tanks are connected through a central filtration system). I have not purchased anything from the other LFS other than the two wrasses and a sand sifter starfish that seems to be doing fine.

Pasfur, the LFS that sold me the wrasses keep their liverock completely seperate from the rest of the fish and I have not purchased any liverock from from them. With the exception of the wrasses and the starfish mentioned above, I have not bought anything from them.

I did a check again just a couple of minutes ago (I am on EST) and apart from the filament thingys and a hermit feasting on a snail, nothing was out of the ordinary. I saw no signs of a mantis, not even a flashing glimpse as it ran away. I did see some more of the bristleworms, but they do not appear to be 'surfing the currents' and were merely moping around the local rock formations.

One other thing to mention is I have a high number of what appear to be diatoms (at least according to both LFS's). They are small, fabrioncci (sp?) shaped shells about two or three millimeters in diameter. They are stationary and when I run over them with a algae scrumber they leave a small imprint of where they were. I would guestimate I have two or three dozen of them. Not sure if that helps.

Again I mention the hair-like protrusions from the live rock. They are only from the liverock that was from the store, none from the dead rock. They are very light sensitive and some are very long (three or four inches easy).

One last thing to mention is I topped off the tank today to reclaim the evaporate from the past week. In doing so I added a bit of salt to the water in an attempt to bring the salinity to a level higher than current after Pasfur's comment that mine is a bit low. I will continue to slowly bring the level more towards the 1.023 and cease my attempts to bring it down to 1.020. Also, the tap water in my area is a bit chilly and it caused the temp in tank to drop to 76.2. It is back to 77.0 now, but again I am trying to give as much info as I can in hopes someone can help me solve this problem.
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post #9 of 16 Old 10-13-2008, 05:13 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, so this moring I wake up and notice that my serpent star has had all of his legs nibbled off. There is definately some kind of predation going on. What is everyone's thoughts on the legs being eaten by the gobbies? I haven't fed them any mysis for a week or so, just flake. Also, will his legs grow back, or should I plan on scooping him out when I see him next?
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post #10 of 16 Old 10-13-2008, 05:47 PM
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The gobies didn't eat the starfish legs. You have something bad in the neighborhood. Keep watching.

You may try adding some sinking pellets very late at night, in the middle of the night, to see if you can get some night time activity going on. Maybe you will get lucky and catch sight of the unseen suspect.
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