Houdini & London Fog - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 8 Old 06-12-2007, 04:04 PM Thread Starter
Houdini & London Fog

I had four female swordtails in a 10-gallon hospital tank (see "All Female Swordtails Dying"). One "expired" yesterday, so when I went to bed at 11pm, there were still three sickly swordtails in the tank. This morning, a second was dead, a third was still sickly, and one was just missing. Absolutely disappeared! The thank is nearly completely enclosed; what few openings are there are small and would be difficult for even a jumpy fish to get through. The fish was not flopping on the floor near the tank, was not under any rock, plant, or decoration. I cleaned out the ENTIRE tank hunting for it, but it just is not there!

Now the tank looks like all of London's fog collected in it. I had treated it with Mardel fungicide, but the instructions said that replacing the carbon filter and doing water changes would eliminate the discoloration and fog. I have done both these measures, but it just gets foggier and foggier. I am at a loss as to what happened to the fish and where the fog is coming from. Any help?

I had raised the temperature of the tank 2-3 degrees, and there was a little algae (not bad). Could the higher temperature and the medicine have reacted with one another to create the fog?

This is just plain weird. I am new to the hobby but I have done tons of research on fish, disease, and tank upkeep, and I have never seen such bad fog (you can hardly see through it to the other side).

Best wishes for your fishes!
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post #2 of 8 Old 06-13-2007, 08:26 AM
mHeinitz57's Avatar
if it is a white fog their are usually two possibilities. Either there are particles in the water that are too small for the filter to pick up or there is a bacterial bloom. The first option usually happens when people put in new gravel before rinsing it or put in way too much food and the filter is not picking up all of it. If this is the case then use a product called a flocculent (Accuclear, Crystal Clear, etc). A flocculent is a chemical that binds small particles together to make them larger so the filter picks them up. However, most of the time the cause is due to the second possibility...bacterial bloom.
When most people start up a new quarium it is common to go through a hazy period of the cycle. This haziness can occur whenever there is a sudden surge of nutrients in the water. The regular bacteria that control the nitrogen cycle are not free floating and so they generally live in the filter or on hard surfaces. There are however, freefloating heterotrophic bacteria that reproduce much quicker and break down organic substances. When you put new fish in or overfeed or even gravel vac and stir up a lot of nutrients, you get a surge of these heterotrophic bacteria coming in to feed off all of the new nutrients. THey reproduce very fast and can cause that milky fog in the water.
You mentioned that you had fish die and that you also did a thorough search of the tank to find the missing one. Both of these instances could increase the nutrient levels in the tank and cause the bloom. The only real concern is that the heterotrophic bacteria can produce ammonia, so keep a close eye on your ammonia levels. (usually if you smell the tank and it has a cat urine odor..this is the problem) If it is really bad, I would suggest doing a small water change and cut down your feeding for the next few days till the haziness subsides.

Mike H
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post #3 of 8 Old 06-13-2007, 09:03 PM
Flocculants bind to any free-floating particle and make them heavier thus taking them to the bottom where the are the broken doen(hopefully) by the bacteria in the gravel bed. I use them, when needed, even in my spartan tank, where I then vacuum the bottom a day later and continue for about two days. I sometimes vacuum a gravel bttom tank the same way if it is a new system. I believe that this method helps to prevent ammonia spikes which are so devastating in the aquarium. Also, you may want to try elodea which is a plant that is a "filter feeder" and also helps to clean the water as well as soften it.
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post #4 of 8 Old 06-13-2007, 11:40 PM
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not much bacteria actually lives within your gravel bed unless you run an undergravel filter. You basically have two kinds of bacteria living in your tank...

autotrophic aerobic bacteria: colonizes on hard surfaces in oxygen rich environments such as your filter and is responsible for changing molecular compounds of organic substances. These are the bacteria we are most familiar with that convert ammonia and nitrite into nitrate.

heterotrophic aerobic bacteria: free floating bacteria that reproduces quickly and is responsible for breaking down organic matter, generally with a biproduct of ammonia. THese also thrive in oxygenated environments and adjust their population to the ammount of nutrients and organic matter present in the water: they are responsible for bacterial blooms.

That being said...gravel is not an ideal place for either aerobic bacteria to thrive and not very much of the bacteria in your tank will be found there. Exceptions would be very shallow tanks, areas of gravel surrounding aeration, or when an undergravel filter is used. The purpose of flocculents is not to make substances sink to the gravel but merely to allow them to get caught in the filter. If it were the other way around, I wouldnt suggest that anyone use them.

Mike H
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post #5 of 8 Old 06-14-2007, 11:48 AM Thread Starter
Thanks for the replies. Greatly appreciate the advice. I don't use undergravel filters due to the great controversy over them, but there are sponges in the Tetra filter to hold bacteria.

The cloudiness was at first a pale yellow - understandable since the Mardel fingicide was yellow - but it just got thicker and heavier and turned darker and darker until now the tank looks blood red. It is similar to the "red tide" phenomenon that occurs in the ocean, so I am wondering if it is an algal bloom. As of yesterday my ammonia, nitrite, and nitrite levels were zero - which is a little odd since I usually have about 5ppm of nitrates.

I took photos if anyone wants to see them. Today I plan to do a large water change, replace the carbon filter cartridge, and see what happens after that.

Also, my remaining red velvet swordtail is perking up just a little and she actually at a little both yesterday and this morning! I don't know if this is due to the red water or in spite of it, but at any rate, I am very pleased with her improvement.

Best wishes for your fishes!
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post #6 of 8 Old 06-14-2007, 02:07 PM
mHeinitz57's Avatar
ahhh...I'm from San Diego and I miss those red tides I have never seen a red algea bloom in a tank before, that is interesting. How long do you leave the lights on in the tank? Most algea bloom problems are due to too much lighting in the tank...but generally with green algea. Not sure if cutting the light down to only a few hours a day and keeping away from direct sunlight would help. Definitely change the cartridge on the filter and the bio bags on the Tetra filters will open up so you can pour more carbon in if you desire.

Mike H
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post #7 of 8 Old 06-15-2007, 12:14 AM Thread Starter
Since the tank has live plants, one of which is the light-loving ludwigia, I have the lights on from 8am-1pm, and again from 3pm to 10pm. This still might be too much, though. What do you suggest? I have several snails in the tank that do nice justice to any algae that attempts to grow on the plants, and just a little builds up on the glass which I weekly scrub off.

I'm not sure what the red is from; I've never heard of red algae in a fish tank, either. The most common ones, I've read, are brown, blue, and green.

The weirdest part of all of this is that the red of the water is the exact same color as my missing fish; I had originally thought the fish had somehow gotten in the filter and been "destributed" throughout the tank as a result. Since there were no visible bone fragments or skeletal structure, however, I doubt very seriously that this was the case.

Whatever the discoloration is, it appears to have completely destroyed my biological filter. There are now no nitrates at all, and the ammonia spiked today. So back to square one we go. Grr. Hopefully there is still some bacteria on the plants and gravel and it won't take another 5 weeks to mature.

Best wishes for your fishes!
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post #8 of 8 Old 06-16-2007, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
Well, I found my Houdini fish today - yes, she had indeed jumped from the tank to a horrible demise. She had landed underneath my tennis shoes, which are close to the counter where the tank sits. I had checked inside the shoes, but just not under them. Poor thing.

I still have one solitary female swordtail to go - I really hope she makes it. She's stopped eating again, so I have my doubts, but I guess time will tell.

Best wishes for your fishes!
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