Newbie needs help! Why do my fish keep dying? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 12 Old 04-07-2008, 02:05 PM Thread Starter
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Newbie needs help! Why do my fish keep dying?

Can anybody please help me? I'm quite new to keeping fish..started my tank in December and, after following some dodgy advice on water cycling, thought I had it sorted but I can't keep any fish alive for more than about 3 months!

I started with (on the advice of my local aquarium shop) 2 black mollies and 4 tiger barbs. I was told that I didn't need to cycle the tank if I added "Safe start" so, being naive, I did as I was told. One tiger barb died the next day and within a week another had died. The remaining 2 barbs started to attack the mollies so I went to another shop and bought 2 green barbs and 2 more tiger barbs, as I had read that being in larger groups can prevent agression. My tank then got a bad case of white spot, which I started to treat but all but one tiger barb (the agressive one!!) and the female molly survived!

This is when I discovered water testing! I went back to the original shop and they kindly gave me a 10 credit to spend once the white spot had cleared. Everything seemed o.k after about a month and my water tests stayed stable so I bought 6 more tiger barbs, 1 more black molly and a "community fish offer" consisting of 2 dwarf gouramis, 3 golden barbs and 3 bloodfins. All was well for another couple of weeks and then, without warning, the original tiger and molly died.

After another month (with no more deaths!! yay!) I thought all was o.k again so added another "community offer" of 1 silver shark, 2 blue plattys and 4 rosy tetras. This was 2 weeks ago and since then 3 more barbs have died (leaving me with 1) and today one of my gouramis died!

What am I doing wrong? I have been doing partial water changes every month (more often when the white spot attacked) and my water peramiters are fairly consistently as follows:

nitrite = 0
nitrate = 25 (I know this is quite high but how do I get it lower?)
GH = >10
KH = 6
PH = 7.6

Any help / advice would be greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 12 Old 04-07-2008, 02:13 PM
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Okay, first thing, what is the tank size?
Second, please stop adding so many fish so fast. This stresses ot the ones in there already and leaves the new ones secceptible to ammonia and nitrite spikes from adding so much bioload at once. 3-5 small fish or 2 medium fish every 6 weeks is enough. You need to give the tnak time to get caught up with the needed bacteria to support the current fish before adding new ones.

Ask all the quesitons you need to, we do our best to help and will try to get you back on the right track to enjoyiung this hobby instead of having so many headaches from it.
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post #3 of 12 Old 04-07-2008, 02:22 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for replying so quickly. I was sceptical about the number of fish I was adding but the shop said it was ok....last time I listen to them!

I think the tank is 54 litres (sorry, don't know gallons!)..its 30cmx30cmx60cm and I have a couple of live plants and ornaments.

The temperature is 25 degrees C.

Wouldn't I have noticed sudden changes in the water if thinks were spiking? Everything has been constant since the white spot outbreak.

Is there anything I can do now to stop any more fish dying? I was gutted about the gourami

Also, how should I be maintainging the filter?
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post #4 of 12 Old 04-07-2008, 03:16 PM
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Okay, 14 gallon tank.
6 tiger barbs 3 inches 18 total
1 molly 3 inches 21 total
2 dwarf gourami 3.5 inches 28 total
3 gold barbs 3 inches 37 total
3 bloodfin tetra 2 inches 43 total

Is this correct for the current stocking plan? If it is then you have 43 inches of adult size fish in 14 gallons. By the inch rule, that is 29 too many. Even without the inch rule, barbs and gouramis need a larger tank, 20 gallon to start so they can have plenty of room to swim and behave normally if not much larger.

That is a lof of different fish for such a small tank. The barbs have the tank overstocked already. Messy fish, aggresiveness issues are both gonna cause problems.

My best advice right now is to stop listening to that LFS. What you need to do is decide what fish you want and then get the stocking down to levels that the tank can support. Also, feed them less for now. They won't starve as long as all the fish get something to eat. If you want to keep all the fish you have, a 55 gallon, 200+ liter tank is gonna be the best bet and even then it might be small. I know, not the news you wanted to hear but is true.

As for parameters, they sound fine but you can have spikes and not see them sometimes. Your nitrates are fine, under 40ppm is good. Nitrites are good at 0, have you been testing for ammonia?

One other thing, what kind of filter are you using and the brand and size if you know?

I wish I could figure out a way to make it work but that is just too many and the wrong combination of fish for such a small tank.

Please feel free to ask as many questions as you need to. Is what members and staff alike are here for, to help you avoid such situation in the future instead of having to deal with the consequences of bad advice.
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post #5 of 12 Old 04-07-2008, 03:49 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again for your advice. I know it's not what I wanted to hear but I'm grateful to finally have advice from someone who knows what they are talking about but is not trying to sell me fish! The bloke in the shop seemed so helpful and has had his shop for over 20 years so I trusted his advice! Never again!

The list isn't right but, either way, I seem to have way too many fish! How many "adult inches" should I have in my size tank? One of my current fish is a silver shark and I only realised afterwards just how big they can get?! Why did the damn shop sell it in a Community offer?!

I think you're right about stress being the cause of death as the fish that have died have shown little sign of illness and it does seem to be the more established inhabitants that are dying. Do you think my fish will just keep dying of stress until they have enough room?

All I know about the filter is that it's a "Vita Tech" and is probably a cheap one, as it came as a bundle with the tank, heater, light, thermometer and food. Would a better filter make any difference? I have had quite a lot of algee but that has reduced since I've cut down on the hours of light in the tank.

I have cut down on feeding from 3 times a week to twice and now to once a week. Hopefully, this will help.
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post #6 of 12 Old 04-07-2008, 04:11 PM
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Feeding regiment is actually bad too. Let me guess, more advice from the LFS. Once to twice a day is fine maybe fasting them once or twice a week if it is needed. Rule of thumb, feed what the fish can eat in 3 minutes, no more. Make sure everyone gets some to eat and they will be fine.

Have you been doing water changes? 25% weekly is a good place to start but I change 50% weekly without any stress to my fish. Dissolved solids, something we have no way of measuring in the hobby can be as bad as ammonia and nitrites. Get a good gravel vac if you don't have one and do a really thurough gravel vac with a 50% water change. This should help relieve some of the stress hopefully. I recommend 50% on anything under 30 gallons, 115 liters.

I forgot about the silver shark, it will need a larger tank very soon if it doesn't need one already.

I would suggest a better filter but I know nothing about the one you have, will have to research it to find out if it is any good or not. More filtration would help though so getting a second filter won't hurt, just make sure to get a quality one rated one higher volume than your tank is. Flow can be adjusted on some of them so larger filters won't normally create a current problem. My personal preference is Aqua Clear HOB power filters. I would get the AC30 for your tank and eventually you can remove the other one if it is not any good.

As for the fish you have, it would not surpise me to see more of them die, sorry. The best you can do is keep up with water changes and provide the best condtions you can to give them the best chance of surviving. For a 14 gallon tank, I would only put 12-20 inches of adult size fish in the tank. The types of fish make a difference but that is a whole other topic.

If you can take back fish for store credit I would really suggest doing so. Is your choice ultimately but is better to get them a good home instead of waiting for them to die off to the point at which the tank can support them. Is a good reason to get another, larger tank.
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post #7 of 12 Old 04-07-2008, 05:43 PM
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I was just reading this thread and couldn't find any reference to the ammonia levels, although I might have missed it. Are you testing for ammonia?

My recommendation would be to return all the fish except for 1 or 2 that you know will fit in a community tank (like the molly). Then give your tank some time to finish balancing out and start researching fish. Also, if you can find an aquarium society in your area, they probably have a forum with reviews of fish stores. That way you can find the best LFS near you and get healthy fish and good advice!
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post #8 of 12 Old 04-12-2008, 12:48 PM Thread Starter
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Yay! No more deaths since the Gourami the other day!

Thanks again for the advice. I have started feeding the fish more and all seems to be going o.k so far. I have been using a gravel vac since I got the tank (the only good advice I seem to have had from the shop!!) but I will start doing more regular water changes and tests. I think I also need to research my filter too, to see how it should be properly maintained.

You're right, okiemavis, I haven't mentioned amonia because, again on bad advice, I've been using the 5in1 test strips to test my water and they don't record amonia! I have got a proper liquid testing kit now though and have done a couple of amonia tests that have come up as 0, so I'm happy. The tests for nitrite and nitrate etc also came up the same as the strips showed so I guess my water is o.k at the moment.

Unfortunately, the place I bought the fish don't accept returns so I'll just have to look after them all as best as I can until I can afford to get another tank. The sad thing is that the shop I went to was the only one in my area that I'd heard good things about!

Random, and possibly silly question, but can plattys and mollies cross bread? My black molly looks all pudgy around the stomach like she's pregnant but the only other live-bearer in the tank is a blue platty?! Is this possible or is she ill?
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post #9 of 12 Old 04-12-2008, 03:04 PM
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In general, platties with swords and guppies with mollies. I have heard rumor or platties and mollies but never seen any proof of it.
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post #10 of 12 Old 04-14-2008, 02:00 PM Thread Starter
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Oh great, just what I need...the possibility of breading rare, cross-bred fish and even if any of the fry manage to not get eaten, they'll die anyway because my tank is too small!
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