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About a month ago I bought my boyfriend a 5.5 gallon aquarium, it has a small drip filter built into the hood and I also purchased an air pump and a heater. For substrate I used black sand from the petstore that I washed, decorations are a fake piece of driftwood and several clumps of plastic grass. Temperature is 78 degrees, pH is 7.0 and other parameters are within normal ranges. I let the tank cycle and then purchased two small guppies for the tank. These died in 12 hours, took them and a water sample to store for testing and everything was normal. Bought 2 more guppies, and these died also. Took them back, did a water change and waited a week then tested water again (which was normal) and bought more fish, these died. Went to a different store and bought some ghost shrimp and 2 more guppies. Guppies are dying, the shrimp are doing quite well and are even molting. The fish sort of hang out at the top of the tank like they need air but don't gulp, and then they sit at the bottom of the tank and die. Anyone have any advice? I am not a novice fish keeper and I cannot figure out what to do. I am about to rip my hair out and just scrap the entire thing. Everything appears normal, nothing is out of the ordinary. Fish just keep dying.
 

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If I were you I would try buying another kind of fish besides guppys, then see what happens. Also 5 gallons is pretty small for two guppys, not that small but still is kinda small.
 

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i would look into the minerals in your water. some fish (including guppies) cant stand high amounts of minerals in the water. Not only chack the PH again, but check the alkalinity. The only reason i say this is because shrimp love alkaline water and guppies cant stand it. You could also try adding some small tetras or even just some snails.
 

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I would not buy any fish until you know what is going on with the tank. Did you use a dechlorinater like Prime when you added the water? PH is what measures acidity and alkalinty of your water and guppies prefer alkaline water. Are you using a liquid test kit?
 

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Welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.

All of the advice so far has been relevant, I will just go one further. What is the hardness and pH of your tap water? You can find hardness out from the water suply folks, probably they have a website or you can contact them. This (hardness and pH) is critical to know. It can affect other things.

And is any substance other than water conditioner going in the tank? And which brand?

Byron.
 

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You say you "washed" the sand - what does that mean? If you used any kind of soap or detergent, I would throw it all out and start over. You never want to use chemicals to clean your tank, just water (maybe salt or baking soda if you REALLY need to scrub).

Just a thought, if the water parameters are all normal it could just be something else in the water that is poisoning your fish.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Everything checks out just fine parameter wise, I looked up the water treatment facility and the water here runs from moderately hard to hard using their scale of grains per gallon. When I say I washed the gravel, I just used plain tap water and put the a dishcloth in the bottom of a strainer (both of which were clean) and ran water over the sand until it ran clear. We have now lost a total of 8 guppies, shrimp are still doing fine. We only put 2 guppies in at a time, test the water before each addition and have even done water changes. There is also some aquarium salt added to the tank as well, which we did not do for the first 3 fish. Am I doing anything wrong? No chemicals around the tank, no cleaners, no additives other than the chlorine/chloramine remover, temperature is not fluctuating. I am at a loss!
 

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When you say "parameters" are normal or check out fine, we don't really know what this might mean. Always post numbers for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, temperature, etc. Seeing the specific numbers will usually tell us something.

I see nothing so far to indicate any sort of "cycling," and the symptoms are those for ammonia poisoning (fish hanging at top, then lying on the bottom, then dead). Do you know about the initial "cycling" of an aquarium? You can read about it here:
http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/freshwater-aquarium/beginners-guide-freshwater-aquarium-cycle-38617/

Shrimp can manage through cycling, but not fish. And you did not answer my question as to which water conditioner you are using; some of these will detoxify ammonia and some nitrite also, so it would help us to know which one.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
We cycled the tank for 7 days before adding any fish. I am using Tetra AquaSafe Plus for dechlorinator and the paramaters are:
pH 7.0
Ammonia 0
Nitrates 40ppm
Nitrite 30
Only time Ammonia goes up is after a fish has been dead in the tank, otherwise it is remaining low. Water also appears very clear, no cloudiness after the initial cycling.
 

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I hope one of those numbers is a mistake, or you need to get all the fish out NOW. Nitrites should be at 0. Nitrates are on the high side but on its own that wouldn't kill your fish so quickly.

7 days is not nearly enough time to cycle a tank without fish in it from start. If you had starter medium (gravel or filter media from a cycled tank) then 7 days would be enough time, but if you are starting with new substrate new filter, 7 days won't do much. The first phase usually takes about 2 weeks, for the bacteria to even begin growing.

Nitrities at 30 must be wrong, but if it is higher than 0 it will quickly kill your fish, all of them.

EDIT

Sorry, this sounds very much like I'm scolding you. I was just shocked to see that number. If your nitrite reading is above 0, that is your problem. If you started to cycle and then added fish, it probably made your tank go crazy. I would take out all the fish (sorry, I dont remember if you have any left), do a big water change, and continue with the cycle before putting fish back in. Like I said, a fishless cycle takes longer than 7 days, it will take closer to 4 weeks.
 

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Yeah...that number for nitrites definitely indicates your cycle is NOT complete. I actually am surprised the shrimp are still alive. Don't add anything else until the tank is actually cycled and I'd start doing water changes immediately to get the numbers down as long as the shrimp are still in there. If possible, get them out of the tank asap.
 

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Both nitrites and nitrates are very high. Nitrates at 40 ppm is harmful to the fish. Nitrites are more harmful to fish than even ammonia, neither are good for fish and will cause problems, both short and long term. Water changes are a definite, I would change out 50% of the water daily until you get the numbers down. Also definitly you will want to wait before you start adding anything else to this tank. When you do change out the water try to vacuum the gravel also when you do so, to remove any build up detitrus that is in there. When ammonia or nitrites are above .25 ppm you will want to carry out a water change. Also what are you using to test your parameters?
 

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Other members have said it, but as I asked the initial question I'll comment too. It takes 6-8 weeks minimum to fully "cycle" an aquarium, which means to establish the nitrifying bacteria spec is at a level sufficient to handle the bioload now in the tank. There is no quick one-week method, in spite of what some stores apparently tell customers. If you read that article I linked, it will explain it.

There is absolutely no question in my mind that your fish have all died of poisoning from ammonia, or possibly nitrite if they managed through the initial ammonia somehow. According to their site data, Tetra's AquaSafe Plus does not deal with ammonia or nitrites. The bacteria establishment they mention may be beneficial, but in this case that would have been inadequate anyway so I needn't pursue that argument.

You casn see now why I asked for numbers; I've no idea what may have caused you to think the water parameters were normal or fine, they clearly are not.

Please carefully read that article I linked, and feel free to ask any questions. We all want you to succeed and have healthy fish. That is our goal in offering our advice and suggestions.

Byron.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
What led me to believe that my parameters were fine was taking in a water sample to the store each and every time and different employees at 2 different stores testing it and telling me my water was normal and shouldn't be the cause of the problem.
 

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All the more reason to learn and do all your own testing and maintenance. That way you know things are done correctly. If the store employees were getting readings for nitrites and they were telling you that everything was ok, they obviously don't know what they are talking about.
 

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All the more reason to learn and do all your own testing and maintenance. That way you know things are done correctly. If the store employees were getting readings for nitrites and they were telling you that everything was ok, they obviously don't know what they are talking about.
Very true. Some stores use test strips for testing, they can be very inaccurate. And some employees may have more knowledge than others... etc.
 
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