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Dying fish

This is a discussion on Dying fish within the Tropical Fish Diseases forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> I am completely stumped, as I have been steadily loosing fish of the catfish variety over the past month. I have a 29 gallon ...

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Old 03-07-2012, 11:36 AM   #1
 
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Exclamation Dying fish

I am completely stumped, as I have been steadily loosing fish of the catfish variety over the past month. I have a 29 gallon freshwater tank with a sand bottom. I have one live plant, the rest plastic and 2 pieces of store purchased driftwood. I've done ammonia, nitrite and nitrate tests and everything is fine. PH is high, at about 8.3 but we have hard water here, even with a water softener. I've had this setup for close to a couple of years and never had any problems. However we did move last September to a house that now has a water softener though there were no immediate issues with the fish using the softened water. I recently installed a powerhead, removed the air stone but fed the line to the powerhead (it shoots out the air bubbles).

I have not noticed any odd behavior from the fish. I first lost my last 2 ghost cats, then 2 of my cory cats. They were about 2-1.5 years old. I tried restocking with young julli cories last week and all 3 of them died within days of taking them home. I have one cory cat that seems to be holding on by a thread. My upside down catfish looks like he's on his way out. He was fine yesterday, today he looks like he's about to die.

My other fish are 2 adult angels, a female betta, pleco and a few random snail varieties. It's been months since I've brought a snail home from the fish store and that's the only change I've had in the tank in regards to livestock. I've done massive water changes and cleaned the plastic plants. I don't know what else to do. Please help!
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Old 03-07-2012, 08:52 PM   #2
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alkemist View Post
I am completely stumped, as I have been steadily loosing fish of the catfish variety over the past month. I have a 29 gallon freshwater tank with a sand bottom. I have one live plant, the rest plastic and 2 pieces of store purchased driftwood. I've done ammonia, nitrite and nitrate tests and everything is fine. PH is high, at about 8.3 but we have hard water here, even with a water softener. I've had this setup for close to a couple of years and never had any problems. However we did move last September to a house that now has a water softener though there were no immediate issues with the fish using the softened water. I recently installed a powerhead, removed the air stone but fed the line to the powerhead (it shoots out the air bubbles).

I have not noticed any odd behavior from the fish. I first lost my last 2 ghost cats, then 2 of my cory cats. They were about 2-1.5 years old. I tried restocking with young julli cories last week and all 3 of them died within days of taking them home. I have one cory cat that seems to be holding on by a thread. My upside down catfish looks like he's on his way out. He was fine yesterday, today he looks like he's about to die.

My other fish are 2 adult angels, a female betta, pleco and a few random snail varieties. It's been months since I've brought a snail home from the fish store and that's the only change I've had in the tank in regards to livestock. I've done massive water changes and cleaned the plastic plants. I don't know what else to do. Please help!
Water softners add a lot of salt and other things to the water that are not good for your fish. Have you tested the salt level in your water to make sure it is not high? You might need to try and do a partial water change with using your water from an outside spicket. In my experience with water softners they are only hooked up to the water in the house not to the outside spickets. Definitely check your salt/sodium level and see how high that is.

What kind of salt do you use in your softner? Your water may be really hard like I have here but it is easier to do a partial change and add some water conditioners to get rid of a lot of the problems then to use the salty water softner water. Def check you levels b/c the salt output can change on your softner and definitely kill non salt water fish.
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Old 03-07-2012, 09:05 PM   #3
 
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I picked up a hydrometer and it seems to be reading at .9 to 1.00; how does that fair for salinity? I'm taking it a freshwater setup would have 0 or close to it? Is this salinity enough to kill freshwater fish?
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Old 03-08-2012, 06:02 PM   #4
 
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Originally Posted by alkemist View Post
I picked up a hydrometer and it seems to be reading at .9 to 1.00; how does that fair for salinity? I'm taking it a freshwater setup would have 0 or close to it? Is this salinity enough to kill freshwater fish?

Angel fish and any type of cat fish do not tolerate any salt at all so 0 would be where you need to be. You also have to consider it is not aquarium salt in the water it is basically rock salt which is another problem.

Try like I said to do a partial water change with the water from outside your house. Try and bring it down more. Make sure you treat with a water conditioner to take out chlorine and all the chemicals that are going to be in the hard water not coming from the softner. The levels are enough to kill certain fresh water fish like your angelfish and cats but there are also some fresh water fish that like the water a little brackish like mollies and platys. Definitely do not replace anymore of your fish until you can get the levels down.

It's not your fault a lot of us don't even think of the salt added by water softners. I surely never did. I have hard water b/c I live in the desert and it took me a long time to get the chlorine and other harsh things out of my water. Well not a long time it was like 3 days. But I think even if you had fish that like brackish water they would still probably die b/c it is not aquarium salt it is rock salt and there is a huge difference from the research I did when I was looking into breeding mollies and platys. But most definitely try that and hopefully you can get your other fish to stay a live long enough to get the level down and they will get healthy again and you won't lose anymore. Good luck and keep me posted as to what happens please!
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Old 03-08-2012, 08:07 PM   #5
 
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One of the reasons why I stayed away from marine setups, all the extra chemistry. Now please correct me if I'm wrong, but doing Google searching, the specific gravity of distilled water is 1.00 so I'm not sure where the 0 comes into play, unless it's a completely different salinity test. Now I do know that there is salt nonetheless in the water because I can taste it and the water tray (water dispenser) on the refrigerator gets coated in a thin layer of salt. I'm a little confused in that aspect.

Now as for the water softener, it was installed from the previous owner, and I believe this was a whole house setup, including outside taps (not really ideal IMO). Though this is a Kinetico Mach "on demand" system with a bypass switch. As to how much truth there is in bypassing, I can't tell, as I believe the water heater would still be holding a tank full of "softened" water. I did do about 40% water change yesterday with the softener set on bypass. Think I was under the assumption of this being true "soft" water but it is essentially simulated, otherwise I would of set it on bypass since I moved when filling/cleaning the tank.

My angels don't seem to have been affected much, since they are a mated pair and have been consistently trying to spawn, which makes me believe everything was all fine and dandy before. Though they seemed to have stopped since the cats started dying.

The upside down catfish didn't make it. The only thing I could think of was that I was cleaning the tank and accidentally pushed up against him and the driftwood. It was nothing lethal but perhaps the stress caused him to succumb to the chemistry of the tank?

Anyways.. sorry for this novel. There is just so much going through my head and I don't want to loose anymore of my fish. My angels are the dearest to me.
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Old 03-10-2012, 03:00 AM   #6
 
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Don't worry about how much you write I understand and I do the same thing. A lot of the houses I have lived in with water softners (military brat so a lot) always the outside spickets did not have the water softner water b/c it's not good for the grass either. If you have a bypass on it then you probably are right and it goes to everything. As far as distilled water it has a little salt in it. My father has to use distilled water for his sleep apnea machine and he has to clean the residue out once a week. Well I go over and do it for him. Bottled water that you buy does not have any salt in it at all.

I really do not know what the big difference in the 2 are other than the chemical background such as chlorines and metals. If you look at the water you can buy for fresh water fish at the pet store it has none in it either. Even though a lot of that water i for koi ponds and starting new tanks. Koi actually like a small amount from what I researched when I was thinking of building an outside koi pond.

I can do some research and look into this further for you to see if there is something that says that level is ok for fresh water fish. I know I had a brackish tank and moved my fish to my larger tank and did 50% water changes daily for a week to get the salt out and then added tetras and they died within a few hours. I did not test the water before I moved them over but after they died I did and it was 1.1. I have no clue how it was still that high but I felt horrible b/c I was going to test it but didn't. But I will ask some friends and look around and see where that number is coming from.


Quote:
Originally Posted by alkemist View Post
One of the reasons why I stayed away from marine setups, all the extra chemistry. Now please correct me if I'm wrong, but doing Google searching, the specific gravity of distilled water is 1.00 so I'm not sure where the 0 comes into play, unless it's a completely different salinity test. Now I do know that there is salt nonetheless in the water because I can taste it and the water tray (water dispenser) on the refrigerator gets coated in a thin layer of salt. I'm a little confused in that aspect.

Now as for the water softener, it was installed from the previous owner, and I believe this was a whole house setup, including outside taps (not really ideal IMO). Though this is a Kinetico Mach "on demand" system with a bypass switch. As to how much truth there is in bypassing, I can't tell, as I believe the water heater would still be holding a tank full of "softened" water. I did do about 40% water change yesterday with the softener set on bypass. Think I was under the assumption of this being true "soft" water but it is essentially simulated, otherwise I would of set it on bypass since I moved when filling/cleaning the tank.

My angels don't seem to have been affected much, since they are a mated pair and have been consistently trying to spawn, which makes me believe everything was all fine and dandy before. Though they seemed to have stopped since the cats started dying.

The upside down catfish didn't make it. The only thing I could think of was that I was cleaning the tank and accidentally pushed up against him and the driftwood. It was nothing lethal but perhaps the stress caused him to succumb to the chemistry of the tank?

Anyways.. sorry for this novel. There is just so much going through my head and I don't want to loose anymore of my fish. My angels are the dearest to me.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:53 PM   #7
 
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My last cory passed, so now I no longer have any catfish at all. The only fish I have left are my angels, pleco, female betta, snails and a ghost shrimp.

I purchased a hardness test. Straight out of the tap with the water softener on, the KH was incredibly high, I got the API drop test and it took 18 drops for the color to change, the highest the chart went to was 12. The water was however "soft", took 2 drops. With the water softener off, the KH was still crazy high and the water was also reading hard, I gave up after 8 drops. At this point, I don't know what to do.

The fish have been living in this water for 7 months now without any visible signs of trouble until recently. I would think that something else would be the cause of sudden death. The water softener may not be good yet if there were issues, I would think the results would be immediate.

I can't afford to pick up an RO unit anytime soon, so it feels like they are stuck with bad or worse water. The only problem is that I don't know which is which. I don't know if I want to subject the rest of the fish to more changes.
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Old 03-11-2012, 09:30 PM   #8
 
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After refreshing my memory (even though I love my fish, I've been busy and I had already lost all my cats..), the water softener removes calcium and magnesium and replaces the ion with sodium. Apparently calcium and magnesium is important for osmosis of the fish. I will probably start to swap out the current tank water with water bypassing the softener. Before this, the fish had straight tap water at the apartment, only a few miles away though in a different municipal. If the angels and all my former fish were able to live in that water, they *should* be fine here...

Though I don't know if this is the root of the problem. The sudden deaths, still boggle me.
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Old 03-11-2012, 10:55 PM   #9
 
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Originally Posted by alkemist View Post
My last cory passed, so now I no longer have any catfish at all. The only fish I have left are my angels, pleco, female betta, snails and a ghost shrimp.

I purchased a hardness test. Straight out of the tap with the water softener on, the KH was incredibly high, I got the API drop test and it took 18 drops for the color to change, the highest the chart went to was 12. The water was however "soft", took 2 drops. With the water softener off, the KH was still crazy high and the water was also reading hard, I gave up after 8 drops. At this point, I don't know what to do.

The fish have been living in this water for 7 months now without any visible signs of trouble until recently. I would think that something else would be the cause of sudden death. The water softener may not be good yet if there were issues, I would think the results would be immediate.

I can't afford to pick up an RO unit anytime soon, so it feels like they are stuck with bad or worse water. The only problem is that I don't know which is which. I don't know if I want to subject the rest of the fish to more changes.
You can purchase those giant 5 gallon things of water from the super market. try that?
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Old 03-11-2012, 11:20 PM   #10
 
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Water softeners generally run with rock salt which breaks down over time and leaves a mess in the softener unit. Without knowing it the salt content in the water can become lethal to fish if you use the water.

I see from your earlier post that the salt content was too high for most freshwater fish, this is the likely cause of the sudden deaths.

Even with the softener bypassed, it is likely that a lot of residue will still be in the pipes for some time to come. The best course of action I would recommend is to purchase distilled water when you do water changes. This will not only help reduce the salt content already present in the tank, but will be less likely to cause any future problems. Long term, I would seriously look at getting an RO/DI unit not only to use as drinking water but also for the tanks. This way you can use the softener for supply to the shower etc.

Might be worth checking as well with your local water company as to whether or not they have recently added anything to the supply. At this time of year, as the spring melt begins if you live in an area with snow, many water companies will increase the levels of chemicals put into the supply. This is because they are dealing with run off from melting snow and increased water volume through processing plants.
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