...Perfection!!!...and then frustration sets in...
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...Perfection!!!...and then frustration sets in...

This is a discussion on ...Perfection!!!...and then frustration sets in... within the Tropical Fish Diseases forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Well, the inevitable has set in and my fish have begun to die... . My fish over the past week have been dying off ...

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...Perfection!!!...and then frustration sets in...
Old 11-05-2009, 12:10 AM   #1
 
Unhappy ...Perfection!!!...and then frustration sets in...

Well, the inevitable has set in and my fish have begun to die.... My fish over the past week have been dying off pretty rapidly. The count as of tonight is at 5 now. Here is where it gets interesting...my tank is a 36 gallon freshwater bowfront with fake plants and a wet dry sump. NEVER has my water been bad. I have an API freshwater master test kit. When testing my water I follow the instructions to a "T" and make sure my measurements/dosages are spot on. My water parameters as of yesterday when I did a test was pH 7.2, ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20 ppm. My water with my awesome wet/dry filter couldn't be clearer. Whenever I add water or do a water change of 20% monthly I always add powder neutral regulator to keep my pH around 7. I also add Prime to dechlorinate and whatnot the water. I also have been adding API Stress Zyme+ for beneficial bacteria. I always measure correctly.

My tank is a community tank composed primarily of tetras, 3 angels, 1 dwarf pleco, and 4 cories. Altogether I had 28 fish in my tank and everyone was happy. I check my little friends daily and since I have purchased them from my local fish store (not petco, petsmart or any chain store) they have grown, become more active, and to my surprise developed colors I have never seen or expected. They look completely healthy. Upon close examination there is no damage to indicate bacteria, parasites or nipping. I am at a complaete loss as to what is going on.

I talked to my fish guy and the only thing he could come up with and I think is the culprit is ammonia spikes and here is why I think it could be this. Since my aquarium utilizes a wet/dry system I am forced to use an overflow box. This box has slits in it (for those who dont know, the slits allow water and debris to pass through and filter through the system). The downside is the slits in the overflow box are big enough to allow fish to slip through if they get too close and decide to see what's on "the dark side". When I first got my system set up during the transition from my hang on back emperor 280 filter to my new wet/dry system I would always monitor the overflow box as I would always find a tetra who "got too curious" and got sucked into the box where he/she would be swimming for their life. I would check this daily and have gotten quite quick at shutting they system down, saving the little guys/gals and returning them unharmed to the main tank. After weeks had passed occurences of "fish in box" decreased to the point where I assumed they learned their lesson. So I stopped checking so often...bad idea! lRecently, my wife noticed an Angel dead in my tank getting "tasted" by my dwarf pleco ( I thought these guys only ate algae?). I removed him and noticed my population looked smaller so I checked my overflow box. NOOOOOOO!!!! I noticed two dead bodies stuck to my prefilter and another tetra swimming for his life again. The only thing I can think is a fish died, an ammonia spike occured, killed another fish, causing a chain reaction that has begun to kill my little guys. What do I do????? Sorry for the long post but I wanted to be as thorough as possible while making this an interesting read. What do you all think? Oh boy.....
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Old 11-05-2009, 02:55 AM   #2
 
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Well, the first thing I think is that 28 fish is way too many for a 36 gallon tank. That alone would have caused for many water quality fluctuations, especially if the tank was only receiving a water change of 20% each month. That 20% should be done at least weekly, and with such a heavy population, even more frequently. Waste levels are not the only consideration when stocking an aquarium. There is also oxygen and mineral content in the water and territory needs. The more fish in a tank the faster the water is depleted of O2 and many needed minerals that are utilized by the environment and fish's bodies. These levels are replenished with circulation and water changes. If not refreshed frequently enough this can lead to illness, disease outbreaks, lack of strength and immune system functionability, and eventually death.

36 gallons will not hold angelfish for long, they get too large. They also are known to get quite aggressive as they mature. If feeling crowded they will attack the other fish, chase them out of the territory the angel has claimed. This applies to any/every angelfish. For 3 angelfish, I would never suggest anything less than 75 - 90 gallons, just for them. A standard and healthy adult angelfish will range in size from 5 - 8 inches in diameter, a few species can reach 10 inches.

For the pleco... a pleco is a catfish and not entirely an algae eater. They are a scavenger fish and will eat nearly anything that falls within their territory (with the exception of only a few species of wood eaters). Depending on the type of pleco you have, the majority of plecos is also going to get quite large, even a dwarf species. When a pleco outgrows its environment they can run out of natural food supply, and tend to go in search of another food source, and quite often that is the other fish in the tank. Fish such as angels with the big round flat bodies are especially vulnerable to a pleco attack in a small tank. While it doesn't sound as if your pleco attacked anyone, that is something to keep in mind in the future. Please be sure to feed your pleco, not just rely on natural food supply in the tank. I also don't know how new your tank is. A new tank will not have a good natural food supply for any size/species of pleco for at least a good 12 wks.

To address your overflow problems, there is a solution, so please don't be discouraged. My suggestion would be this...
Turn off the filter, do a water change and lower the water level in the tank to approximately 2 - 3 inches below the slats of the overflow box. (You will want to add an air stone to the tank for a couple of nights, and if you have the ability to hook the hang on filter back up during this time, even better... even if it sits on the front pane of glass for this time) Once the water level is lowered, completely dry the overflow box down to 1 - 2 inches below the slats, then let air dry for another 10 - 15 minutes. Take a piece of fabric screening, cut to fit this area, and a tube of aquarium slicone. Place a small line of silicone around the perimeter (1 - 2 inches below the slats and along the top rim above the slats) and then place the screening over the slats. This will require 12 - 24 hrs to dry completely, which is why it is best to leave the water level lowered until the slicone has set and dried before filling the tank back up. There should be no reason to move your fish during this time. I have done this easily with no issues for the fish, in the past.

The fabric screening should not inhibit water flow through the slats, but will keep your fish protected from falling through. Please be aware that most fish jump, even if you don't witness it. Some are more noted for it than others... things like swordtails, red tail and rainbow sharks, etc are well known for tank jumping when they have an opportunity. While the screening will protect the fish from falling or swimming through the slats, it will not protect those who should choose to jump over that overflow box. For this reason, and to give your fish an extra chance, the same fabric screening can be used inside the overflow box. I am not quite sure how your tank is set up, but typically there is a small amount of water trapped in an overflow box, unable to go up over the lip created by the piping. A nylon stocking with rubberband can also usually work to fit tightly over this pipe opening, but rubber bands should be changed every 2 - 3 months and should be fitted tightly, especially with nylon stocking due to its stretching ability. Nylon stocking should be stretched to fit tight so as not to inhibit water flow through the pipe. The rubber in the bands begins to break down and bands will become brittle and snap over time when consistently submerged in any amount of water.

The purpose behind covering the pipe is to trap any fish that should happen to jump over, so they cannot get sucked down into your fitration system. The small amount of water trapped in the overflow box can maintain many species of fish for a limited amount of time, which gives you the chance to scoop them safely back into the tank. (We have used this method at the store, and when doing a daily check on all tanks/overflow boxes to rescue any fish that jumped during the night, we were able to save most of them)

It will be important to keep the screens clean and in good shape at all times, so this will add somewhat to your maintenance. A new toothbrush (that has never been used for anything) can be used to scrub any algae or debris from the screening that covers the slats. The screening or nylon stocking should be removed and also scrubbed with same toothbrush regularly to avoid clogging the fabric with solid debris and/or algae.

If you wish to make a more permanent solution for the piping in the overflow box, plastic canvas also can work well, but it is much more difficult to get it to stay put. It does not bond well with silicone or crazy glue. (I've tried) The nylon and screening thus far have worked much better for me in the past. The advantage of the plastic canvas is in cleaning and how much debris it traps (a lot less than screening or nylon stocking).

I hope this has helped.
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:05 PM   #3
 
Dawn, thank you so much for all your invaluable information! Well I have some comments/concerns I hope you could clear up/address for me. I know my population was very high for my tank size, especially since my angelfish in particular can get quite big! I have taken this into consideration and the plan was to take the necessary action (bigger tank) when the angels outgrew this one or became a problem. Unfortunately now there is only one remaining.

My big concern with water changes was to never take out too much water so as not to restart my cycle. I always thought doing a water change every week of about 20% would inevitably restart my cycle and therefore was avoided. I have absolutely no problem doing them if it is in fact okay to do so without doing more harm than good.

I had purchased some plastic mesh screen with pretty big openings specifically for cutting off any entrance into my overflow box. I never added it to my tank as it SEEMED nobody was going in anymore...I was wrong...doh. I guess I will have to build it now (glad I didn't return the materials!)

Now when I go to build this thing, assuming I use silicone to fabricate something, can use ANY 100% pure silicone since I have noticed it pretty cheap at my home depot or is there in fact a difference between the chemicals/additives used in aquarium safe 100% silicone and regular 100% silicone for home/outdoor use?

I see what you are suggesting to do with the overflow box but I am always worried about the box flooding my bedroom even with constant maintenance therefore I am hopeing by doubling or tripling up on my plastic mesh I can keep out the fish but allow the debris to pass through and not clog it.

I did just buy some airstones that I am going to be switching out for my flexible bubble tube as it seems to not be producing bubbles as it once did about a month ago...maybe it just needs a cleaning or has some deposits on it...either way it's time for a change.

As far as my tank it has been established for about 3 months. I never knew plecos were scavengers per say. What can I feed them and how to make sure they are eating correctly? Should I feed my cories something seperate too?

By the way I do have a tremendous amount of fake plants of all shapes and size in my tanks to allow plenty of places for everyone to hide and explore. It seems like my fish enjoy it and still have quite a bit of room to swim about. Is it possible I have too many plants in there? I can take a picture and post it if necessary.

Well that about sums it up...please let me know what you think on what I have posted as I am especially interested about the weekly 20% water changes being safe and not restarting my cycle.

Thanks so much Dawn and anyone else who chimes in! I apprciate all your time and knowledge!
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Old 11-05-2009, 12:35 PM   #4
 
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I would be sure that silicone says somewhere on the bottle,tube,etc...safe for use in aquariums.
Some silicones such as those used to seal around outdoor windows contain Mildewcides which you don't want introduced to your aquarium.
At three months, water changes of 20 percent each week ,will only help your fish by removing,diluting,organics that build up due to fish waste and or fish foods. Nearly all folks who keep fish ,perform weekly water changes for this purpose.
Not sure the neutral regulator powder you are using is needed. If your tapwater's pH is 7.0 to 7.4 .the fish you have would be comfortable and over time,,the water in your aquarium through natural processes ,will ultimately become more acidic (soft) and probably be closer to the 7.0 without the product. Hope some of this helps.
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Old 11-05-2009, 01:54 PM   #5
 
Good to know, thank you for your advice! Now regular 20% weekly water changes won't restart my cycle? Should I do more or less than 20%? Thank you much my friend!
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Old 11-05-2009, 02:46 PM   #6
 
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Let me tackle your questions one at a time...

Quote:
Originally Posted by RabbitsAreSlow View Post
Dawn, thank you so much for all your invaluable information! Well I have some comments/concerns I hope you could clear up/address for me. I know my population was very high for my tank size, especially since my angelfish in particular can get quite big! I have taken this into consideration and the plan was to take the necessary action (bigger tank) when the angels outgrew this one or became a problem. Unfortunately now there is only one remaining.
You will still want to watch growth rate of the remaining angel, and move it to a larger tank as it matures and shows higher aggression level/territorial behavior, and also as your waste levels begin to increase steadily. (larger fish put out larger amounts of waste)

My big concern with water changes was to never take out too much water so as not to restart my cycle. I always thought doing a water change every week of about 20% would inevitably restart my cycle and therefore was avoided. I have absolutely no problem doing them if it is in fact okay to do so without doing more harm than good.
As was already mentioned, weekly water changes are a good thing, as they help to control waste levels, but also help to replenish the tank with needed minerals and nutrients that are utilized by the fish and environment.
Weekly water changes are just that... changing of water from the surface of the tank. Once each month the gravel should be vac'd when doing a weekly water change, so as to remove solid waste that will collect in your gravel bed and break down to further pollute your water. In a planted aquarium, this is plant fertilizer and is partially utilized by the plants as food. With plastic or silk plants, however, there is nothing to feed on this waste, so it will build up at a steady rate. The only way to remove it is manually.
The nitrifying bacteria that are responsible for the breakdown of ammonia to nitrate will colinate on any surface area that is wet in an aquarium as long as they have food (ammonia/ nitrite) to keep them thriving. If there are fish in the tank, if food is going into the tank, the bacteria should have food enough to thrive, and their population will grow enough to accommodate the amount of waste produced in the tank. This is the course of the cycle.
These bacteria are not a free swimming presence, so removing 20 - 30% of the water each week should not be any issue with the cycle. The trick is just never to remove too much water at a time. Beyond 30% is considered excessive in most situations.
Filter media and gravel bed are going to be the primary source of your bacteria culture. For this reason we do not change filter media at the same time we perform water changes and most especially gravel vacs. Filter media containing carbon should be changed every 30 days to keep the carbon fresh and functioning properly.
If filter media becomes dirty and/or clogged between the 30 day changes it can be rinsed, but this should be done in dirty aquarium water at the time of water changes, never under tap water. The chlorine in tap water will destroy the bacteria on contact.
During the monthly gravel vac, be sure to only lower the water level to 20 - 30%. If this does not allow you to vac all of the gravel that is fine, stop and wait until the next month, where you will want to begin the next gravel vac where you left off. This will keep solid waste under control without depleting the aquarium of too much bacteria at a time, thus keeping you safe from beginning a new cycle.


I had purchased some plastic mesh screen with pretty big openings specifically for cutting off any entrance into my overflow box. I never added it to my tank as it SEEMED nobody was going in anymore...I was wrong...doh. I guess I will have to build it now (glad I didn't return the materials!)

Now when I go to build this thing, assuming I use silicone to fabricate something, can use ANY 100% pure silicone since I have noticed it pretty cheap at my home depot or is there in fact a difference between the chemicals/additives used in aquarium safe 100% silicone and regular 100% silicone for home/outdoor use?
Again, as was mentioned, you will want to make sure the silicone you use is rated for aquarium useage. The standard household silicones typically contain chemicals that are harmful to the animals in an aquarium.

I see what you are suggesting to do with the overflow box but I am always worried about the box flooding my bedroom even with constant maintenance therefore I am hopeing by doubling or tripling up on my plastic mesh I can keep out the fish but allow the debris to pass through and not clog it.
Be careful that by doubling or tripling the mesh at the slats you don't instead slow down and/or inhibit water flow. This can cause issues with your filter. If its of any comfort, I have successfully covered overflow drain pipes as I described and have never had any issues with flooding. When I feed fish at night or in the morning I just made it a standard practice to check the overflow box for fish and debris, and cleaned it as needed.

I did just buy some airstones that I am going to be switching out for my flexible bubble tube as it seems to not be producing bubbles as it once did about a month ago...maybe it just needs a cleaning or has some deposits on it...either way it's time for a change.
Air stones will clog over time, they will also break down. That is normal and to be expected.

As far as my tank it has been established for about 3 months. I never knew plecos were scavengers per say. What can I feed them and how to make sure they are eating correctly? Should I feed my cories something seperate too?
What you offer your pleco for food will depend on the species of the pleco. Some are algae eaters (vegetarian) while others are wood eaters. If you can post a clear photo of your pleco we can help you properly ID it and then offer feeding instructions at that time.

By the way I do have a tremendous amount of fake plants of all shapes and size in my tanks to allow plenty of places for everyone to hide and explore. It seems like my fish enjoy it and still have quite a bit of room to swim about. Is it possible I have too many plants in there? I can take a picture and post it if necessary.
I always welcome the offer of photos. It is much easier for us to help guide someone through if we can see first hand what they are describing. I will say this though: In an aquarium there is no such thing as too many plants, be it live or fake. Plants offer territory and shelter for the fish. The more decor in a tank the more territory, which relieves aggression levels and stress, and thus helps lead to healthier fish.
I look forward to seeing a photo of your tank.

Well that about sums it up...please let me know what you think on what I have posted as I am especially interested about the weekly 20% water changes being safe and not restarting my cycle.

Thanks so much Dawn and anyone else who chimes in! I apprciate all your time and knowledge!
You're welcome, I hope this has helped to clarify things for you. If you have further questions, please feel free to ask away...

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