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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am not a newbie - I began 40+ years ago and have kept/raised SA, kept/raised rift lake, kept/raised reef coral - but one is never too old to learn. I have come full circle, convincing my wife last year to allow one freshwater tank.

The tank is a 40g Uniquarium rectangular dwarf Cichlid and planted tank. I recently changed out the lighting from a Marineland LED reef to a Marineland LED plant lamp (The 10K reef lamp LED system was slowly burning up the plants and I got tired of replacing plants every three weeks). There is no under gravel filter. Planting medium is Caribsea FloraMax and Caribsea sand (both freshwater).

The water test kit was recently changed from an API Master Test Kit to API 5 in 1 (due to suspension problems with the Master Test Kit's Nitrate titrate solution bottle #2). Here are the strip results:

GH: 60
KH: >240
pH: 6.5-7.0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 20

The fish are gradually dying off. The plants (including Anubias and Sword) are going soft/rotting in the stems and leaves turning yellow and dropping off. Although the water tests are good, I have proactively dosed the tank with Prime. The plants receive Flourish Excel - I have not added Iron - but that doesn't explain the fish die-off. I am doing a partial water change, even though this began after a water change this past weekend.

Any help or advise is appreciated! TIA!
 

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There are a few things here I would want to check into. The fish deaths are the more serious and may or may not be related to the plant issue, since you mention plants dying regularly prior to this.

How long has the tank been running before the fish began dying? Were any new fish added within the month or two before the fish deaths began?

What symptoms are the fish showing, anything that is out of the norm?

I second Mikaila's warning on the Excel. Personally, I would never put this in a tank with fish. The only ingredient is Glutaraldehyde [Seachem call it Polycycloglutaracetal but if you check the Health Fact sheet it is glutaraldehyde] and this is a disinfectant used to sterilize, in antifreeze, in embalming fluid...etc. It will kill some plants outright even at normal doses [Vallisneria and some mosses seem particularly sensitive]. I would cease using this as it will be one less problem for the fish.

Has anything changed with your tap water? Thinking GH, pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate?

Have you checked that no toxic substance may have inadvertently got in the tank? Children sometimes add stuff without knowing. Anything chemical in the pails or other aquarium equipment?

The change in light can often cause trouble for plants, but this is certainly not going to kill off fish, so I think we need to be looking elsewhere.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for you responses Mikaila31 and Byron. I will attempt to answer both of your queries and also update the situation.

I am currently using the Marineland 24-Inch to 36-Inch Aquatic Plant LED Light with Timer (reference
). For more than a year I used the Marineland Reef Capable LED Aquarium Lighting System (reference
- You can also view my tank here under the product review by M.Ross) - The plant version was not available at the time. When it did become available, I wasn't ready to part with the extra money and was content on replacing plants, which don't react favorably to 10k reef lamps.

I was using Seachem Flourish Excel, 10ml/40g, once per week in an effort to boost plant growth. I will discontinue based on your recommendation.

New fish (neons and Otocinclus) had been added two days prior to a partial five gallon water change. I used DI water (pH ~7.5) from the local Marine shop, that I have done business with in the past. I also changed out the Nitrate filters and Poly-Filter, used in the prestage filtration. I added the proper dosage of Seachem Discus buffer and Neutral regulator to the tank. It was that evening that I notice a couple of neons dying - they were randomly swimming within the current without any strength - they were easily captured.

Yesterday, I did an emergency 15g water change - Only this time I used my own house water (soft pH ~9), and treated each 5g with the proper doses of Seachem Prime, Seachem Discus Buffer and Neutral Regulator, and API Leaf Zone and Amazon Extract. I removed the Poly-filter and Nitrate filter from the prestage filter. I have retained the aerator in the prestage filter that runs at night when the lighting is off. So far, so good. I have not lost anything further. I still have three Bolivian Cichlids, several Otocinclus cats, and four neons. They ate well this morning.

One other product I have had bad experience with that causes fish-kill is Tetra's EasyBalance Plus - One can observe the "suffocation" - Immediate supplemental aeration and water change is required unless your willing to part with your fish - But you may already be aware of this product.

Let me know if I have answered your questions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
PS

Any possibility of anaerobic bacteria causing the fish-kill following the gravel cleaning?
 

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Your using way to many products. What is your reasoning for using the di water then the buffers/Ph products? They are not typically recommend. Need Ph, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite readings still.
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Big thing I see here is plants dying, ph low and Prime being used.

Stop using the Prime.

Stop doing water changes, just replace evaporative losses.

then check to see if pH goes up and the plants start growing new leaves.

my .02
 

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He has not given actual tank Ph or hardness so I dissagree with that. Also just not doing water changes is a poor way to increase hardness and Ph, it will also likely lead to nutrient deficiencies if he does not have them already.
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What plants do you have in the tank?

Anything that looks like this?


If so, remove it. It's probably the problem. (The pic is of Hygrophila Balsamica)
 

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Edit, just noticed it in the first post lol. the water has plenty of hardeness for the fish you have, maybe a bit much... What are you tap parameters?
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OK, things are starting to make a bit of sense. Some of what I will now suggest will repeat prior advice.

First, on the plants. IF the initial GH of 60 is the tank, I assume this must be ppm [too high a number for dGH] and this equates to around 3 dGH. This is one major issue with your plants, there is insufficient calcium in particular and also magnesium. Walstad says the GH must be at 4 dGH or higher, and in my own experience with near-zero GH tap water this has proven true; my plants were falling apart until I used Equilibrium to raise the GH to 5 or 6 dGH and now they are lush and green. I'm not here suggesting yet more products, miksan, so bear with me.

Another problem with the plants is no trace minerals. API's LeafZone is only iron and potassium (according to their info online), and in your situation with soft water this is inadequate. [Iron in the absence of sufficient calcium is also deadly to plants, so another problem.] Plants need 17 nutrients. I would discontinue this product since it is not going to help and it is adding more TDS which stresses the fish. When it comes time to deal with the plants, Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement is one of the best complete ferts available; also Brightwell Aquatics' FlorinMulti. As a third option, though not as good as these, Nutrafin's Plant-Gro can help. But this is not "complete" and you use a lot more so it is more expensive plus not as effective--so it is only a last resort. These sorts of complete ferts will be sufficient in natural (low-tech) method tanks and are the easiest.

Last on the plants, the Excel again. This was actually making things worse for the plants, because the 17 nutrients have to be roughly in proportion. When something essential is missing, adding more of something else won't help, and often makes it worse, as here. You've stopped this now, but I just mention the balance so you know.

Now to the fish. Mikaila is quite right, there is far too much "stuff" going in this tank. I am a believer in less is always better when it comes to additives, supplements, adjusters, etc. Every one of these is affecting the fish, by simply increasing the TDS (total dissolved solids). You have named fish for which this is serious, because they are soft water fish. That's one aspect. Second is, these products often don't do all they claim, or if they do it has side consequences; your example of the EasyBalance is proof--and this product I never recommend because it increases ammonia and that is likely some of what you experienced. Third, some of these may interact in a less-than-desirable way--think of it like medicines, your doctor always warns about taking multiple medicines and for the same reason.

Mikaila is also on the mark in that we need the numbers: GH, pH, KH of your tap water (not tank). Also, is there any ammonia, nitrite or nitrate in the tap water?

Bottled water: I don't know exactly what this may be, but bottled water can be dangerous in fish tanks depending what might be in it. If it is absolutely pure RO (reverse osmosis) water, then it will have nothing; but otherwise, no idea.

Water changes: When in trouble, do a water change of half the tank or more--provided the replacement water has similar parameters to the tank [see caution below]. I guarantee this is one of the best "cures" for anything because it removes so many pollutants and invigorates the fish. Provided the parameters are close, this is always a good idea. Use a good conditioner, one that deals with your source water issues and no more. Again, no need for more chemicals and stuff affecting nature if it isn't essential. In this situation, if you have Prime, fine; I would go with something more basic, such as one that treats chlorine/chloramine and not much else, but most will deal with heavy metals and that won't hurt here.

The caution in a water change is the different parameters. IF the tank water is pH 6.5 as first posted, and the tap is pH 9, this is too great a difference, so smaller frequent water changes are advisable to slowly adjust the tank.

I think I've covered the issues as I saw them, will check back later.


Byron.
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks, Byron. I'll get the tap specs later today. The purpose of the buffers are to lower the pH to a level suitable for Amazon dwarf Cichlids. I just ordered Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement from Amazon. It should be here by Tuesday. The DI is RO provided by "The Reef Shop" in OKC (where I did business when I had a reef tank). I always purchased their salt water in 5g jugs - and wasn't ever using my tap water (which is run through a water softener). I should have thought of that when I switched back to fresh water - getting older, but learning all the time. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Only AMazon and Anubias.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Here are the tap water readings:

GH: 60 ppm
KH: 0-40 ppm
pH: 9.0
Nitrite: 1 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm
NH3/NH4: 0.25 ppm

...and here are the current tank readings (following this morning's feeding):

GH: 60 ppm
KH: >240 ppm
pH: 7.0
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm
NH3/NH4: 0 ppm

All tests made with API 5 in 1 Test Strips, except Ammonia made with API Freshwater Master Test Kit.
 

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Here are the tap water readings:

GH: 60 ppm
KH: 0-40 ppm
pH: 9.0
Nitrite: 1 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm
NH3/NH4: 0.25 ppm

...and here are the current tank readings (following this morning's feeding):

GH: 60 ppm
KH: >240 ppm
pH: 7.0
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm
NH3/NH4: 0 ppm

All tests made with API 5 in 1 Test Strips, except Ammonia made with API Freshwater Master Test Kit.
Test strips are not as accurate as liquid tests, but they are (or should give) a fairly reliable idea. The API Master kit which has pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate is a good investment. These are all the tests one normally needs. The GH test is needed if one is adjusting the GH.

The problem with water softeners is that they usually remove the "hard" minerals by adding other minerals like sodium, and the end result is even worse. Can you bypass the softener for straight tap water for the aquarium? If you can, do you know the GH and pH of this water?

Reducing the GH and pH of water for fish is best achieved by diluting the water with pure water, such as RO, distilled or even rainwater. Using chemicals is risky because they may not work. But even more, they are adding more TDS and this is what is so bad for soft water fish. So the end result is "soft" water that is actually not soft but hard. Our basic GH kits measure hard minerals (calcium, magnesium) but not all the other minerals/substances that increase the TDS. My article on Total Solids may provide some background:
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/...al-solids-tss-tds-freshwater-aquarium-122027/

The nitrate at 20ppm is something I would want to lower at least in half. And here too the dilution with pure water will achieve this better. If it comes about that the tap water pre-softener is an option, we can consider other ways to deal with nitrates in the tap water. Members like AbbeysDad have considerable experience with this problem and will be able to help when the time comes.

Byron.
 

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He has not given actual tank Ph or hardness so I dissagree with that. Also just not doing water changes is a poor way to increase hardness and Ph, it will also likely lead to nutrient deficiencies if he does not have them already.
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original thread post" said:
I am not a newbie - I began 40+ years ago and have kept/raised SA, kept/raised rift lake, kept/raised reef coral - but one is never too old to learn. I have come full circle, convincing my wife last year to allow one freshwater tank.

The tank is a 40g Uniquarium rectangular dwarf Cichlid and planted tank. I recently changed out the lighting from a Marineland LED reef to a Marineland LED plant lamp (The 10K reef lamp LED system was slowly burning up the plants and I got tired of replacing plants every three weeks). There is no under gravel filter. Planting medium is Caribsea FloraMax and Caribsea sand (both freshwater).

The water test kit was recently changed from an API Master Test Kit to API 5 in 1 (due to suspension problems with the Master Test Kit's Nitrate titrate solution bottle #2). Here are the strip results:

GH: 60
KH: >240
pH: 6.5-7.0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 20

The fish are gradually dying off. The plants (including Anubias and Sword) are going soft/rotting in the stems and leaves turning yellow and dropping off. Although the water tests are good, I have proactively dosed the tank with Prime. The plants receive Flourish Excel - I have not added Iron - but that doesn't explain the fish die-off. I am doing a partial water change, even though this began after a water change this past weekend.

Any help or advise is appreciated! TIA!
I thought those parameters were the tank's.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Test strips are not as accurate as liquid tests, but they are (or should give) a fairly reliable idea. The API Master kit which has pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate is a good investment....
Byron.
The API Master Test Kit's Nitrate test solution #2 is terrible - unless you shake it like a paint mixer for several minutes. This problem was noted in my post of 01-16-2013, 12:18 PM.

I had false tests of zero ppm Nitrate until given a tip regarding this product foible. The Nitrate test did produce a positive result after vigously shaking API solution #2 - However, since solution #2 is now concentrated...

I can get softener-free city water from the outside tap. I will provide those results today.

FYI from earlier post: "The DI is RO provided by "The Reef Shop" in OKC...". DI = Deionized; it was discontinued in case there was a breakdown in "The Reef Shop" process.
 

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The API Master Test Kit's Nitrate test solution #2 is terrible - unless you shake it like a paint mixer for several minutes. This problem was noted in my post of 01-16-2013, 12:18 PM.

I had false tests of zero ppm Nitrate until given a tip regarding this product foible. The Nitrate test did produce a positive result after vigously shaking API solution #2 - However, since solution #2 is now concentrated...

I can get softener-free city water from the outside tap. I will provide those results today.

FYI from earlier post: "The DI is RO provided by "The Reef Shop" in OKC...". DI = Deionized; it was discontinued in case there was a breakdown in "The Reef Shop" process.
Yes, the nitrate test does require regent #2 to be shaken for 2 minutes, not just the 30 seconds stated in the instructions. But that aside, most will say that the API liquid tests are reliable. The only ones better I have heard of are the Sera, and they are more expensive and less common to find. Beyond these, proper scientific testing is obviously accurate to a greater degree than our tests, but for aquarists without access to these the API and Sera are OK.
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I agree that titration, properly done, is much more accurate than any commercial test strip - and less expensive in the long run.

I have the result of the outside tap water. In order to compare apples to apples, I used the same test method before. Note: Outside tap water is much colder, impacting pH.

GH: 180 ppm
KH: 40 ppm
pH: 7.5
Nitrite: 3 ppm
Nitrate: 40 ppm
NH3/NH4: 0.25 ppm

For comparison, here are the inside tap reading from my earlier post:

Here are the tap water readings:

GH: 60 ppm
KH: 0-40 ppm
pH: 9.0
Nitrite: 1 ppm
Nitrate: 20 ppm
NH3/NH4: 0.25 ppm

<snip>
 
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