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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hi all. I figure its polite to introduce myself before demanding help:-D! My name is Steve and although I kept an aquarium when I was younger (Goldfish), I consider myself a newbie to everything. I have a formal education in chemistry so I understand the water cycle process pretty well from a science perspective but that only gets you so far!

On to the problem:

I've had 4 fish for about 2 weeks now in a new tank- 3 Platy's (2Fem 1Male) and 1 Molly (Male). They are all very small for the time being (about 4 inches of total fish). The tank sat empty up and running for about 2 weeks prior to getting fish. I thought the 3 platy's would be good but the LFS convinced us to get 4 or else we would end up with a second cycle if we added anybody down the road.

The problem is with my Molly; for the first week he was very active, darting around in the tank. Now he is lethargic, and hangs out above the heater, or in the small tree, and as of the past few minute inside the bushy plant in the center. There are no spots, markings, or anything visually different other than his behavior. He can still swim normally when aroused or during feeding time. At first I attributed it to maybe he was just so active because he stressed the first couple of days but now he definitely seems stressed to me beyond the point of just calming down.

We brought him to the local store (Its a marine life store only, not a big box store) and they said he appears healthy and that its probably stress from tank cycling. That makes sense except here are my tank params (API liquid):

Nitrate:a bit > 5ppm
PH: 8 ish

10G with Whisper10 filter - We don't have a place for a larger tank now but do plan to get a bigger one in the future.
API Stress Coat as a dechlorinator
Fake plants

Two things to note that I know seem to be debatable depending on who you talk to:
1) I have been using aquarium salt at the API recommended amount. Not sure I will use it forever but from a science perspective it is hard to dismiss that it will reduce the toxic effects of NO2 and NO3 and (from what I've heard/read) nobody seems to think it will be anything other than a waste of money (i.e. not harmful with the Platys and Mollys at least). I imagine its coincidental but it actually started shortly after I used a little less salt than recommended on my tank change on Saturday.

2) At the recommendation of the LFS I used the bacteria starter when first got the fish, I think I used the Safe-Start; again from research the worst this can do is waste money.

My ammonia did do a small spike to about 1ppm for 1 day only, with free ammonia always at less than 0.02ppm. I did 15%ish water changes every other day which kept the total ammonia at or less than 0.5ppm. The ammonia has dropped to zero but I don't think the tank has actually cycled because its only been 2 weeks and I havent seen a nitrite spike; though I must admit I havent been religious about testing it until I noticed the ammonia drop to zero for about 2 days. Another thing to note on this point, my tap water has about 5-10ppm of Nitrate so I have not seen a change in Nitrate.

Final points to note, he has a pointed anal fin so I am very positive he is a male (confirmed by the LFS) so it's not pregnancy related. He is the biggest in the tank and I don't recall anyone picking on him, even in his lethargic state they seem to leave him alone. The smallest fish does very occasionally seem to snap at everyone else in the tank though I think she may be pregnant and I've never seen any nipping just some chasing. The other male in the tank spends most of his day riding the current from the air stone or the filter. Neither of them seem to chase the females around so I didn't think the m/f ratio was the issue but the thought has crossed my mind.

As I was writing this I had shut my light off a bit early at the recommendation to try and calm all of the fish down and reduce the oxygen load and the other fish slowed down and he did seem to come out and swim for a few minutes but has since moved to the center piece and is hiding in the center.

So with the levels as they are, do you think its cycling? Could it just be the frequent change in water chemistry bothering him? I last changed water (15%ish) on Monday.

Hopefully someone has a suggestion and not just a grim outlook for this poor guy. He used to be the most social in the tank and fearless... he would come up and investigate if I had my hand in the water when vaccuming or grabbing the thermometer to check the new water temp. :-(

Sorry I wrote a book but I wanted to make sure you had all the info up front.

Here are some pics of the test results and the fish.

Thanks in advance,

**Just a note, we were giving tetra veggie flakes (what the LFS told us to use) until we brought the fish in yesterday to the LFS when they told us to get the floating pellets (Thera A+A regular formula) because it will be easy to control the feeding amount.**

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So long as test result's read as shown,,I would continue to do as you have been (testing every couple day's, change water if ammonia,nitrites rise).
Is pH from tap close to ph in the tank?(no pH up or down product's).
Would switch to dechlorinator such as PRIME, if your water from tap is treated with Chloramines.
Your current product only detoxifies chlorine, and if water is treated with chloramines(Chlorine /ammonia), then PRIME would be more helpful in new tank.
Would not add any more fish to this tank,Would not clean or replace filter cartridges for next three week's (if not overfeeding,,filter should not get dirty enough for concern).
Am troubled by last sentence in your post "Until we brought the fish in yesterday"
Moving the fish is stressful = sickly, due to stress related weakend immune system.
Must not rule out that fish was sick when purchased, and that stress from uncyled tank,is now causing further problem's.
If your tapwater is producing hard alkaline water as your pH suggest's,, then I would slowly wean the tank from salt unless the store is/was keeping these fish in brackish water.(you mentioned marine store)
Some folk's use mollie's to cycle marine aquaria for their ability to tolerate ,perhap's thrive, in rather salty water.But livebearer's can do fine without salt (just need alkaline water).
Feed the fish in this small tank a tiny amount, once a day or even every other day until biological filter is established.
Hope some of this help's.

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply.

The Stress Coat bottle states it detoxes chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals. That being the case would you still recommend I change to prime?

The GH and KH for my tap water are off the chart. Hence the high PH as you had hypothesized. Because the GH and KH are so high a local aquarist recommended mixing some distilled water in water changes. I'm doing about 25% distilled with the tap water. I have not used any PH altering chems in the tank. Right now GH is 150 KH 180.

The other 3 came from the same tank at the LFS and aren't sick though I know it wouldn't rule out a sickness from the store. I guess we'll just wait it out and see. He's moved from the heater and is mostly hiding deep inside the center plant.

I am glad you confirmed that I should be changing the water as often as I am. The guy at the store said I'm changing it too much and that it will never cycle unless I change it once a week. That doesn't make sense to me because the ammonia and NO2 will suffocate the fish and the beneficial bacteria seeing as they are also aerobic.

Thanks again, I'll keep you posted how it turns out.

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I'd recommend prime anyway, just because it does all of the above; chlorine, chloramine, and heavy metals, AS WELL as detoxifying ammonia and nitrites for between 24-48 hours....meaning if your very regularly pwc, like you are, even if there is ammonia etc in tank, it wont be harming your fish.

I would presume what the lfs guy is saying by the pwcs making your cycle longer would relate to doing a pwc will reduce the ammonia in the tank. The bacteria needs the ammonia to establish/live, hence by reducing the amounts, you are technically robbing it of its ''food.''

And good, dont add chems to mess with your Ph etc, life would just get WAY more complicated.......

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As per the amount of water changes. on my first tank, ammonia conversion wasnt a problem, more so the conversion from trites to this point i was doing 50% a day, on days off twice- am and pm. Dont worry about them. If they are regular this will alleviate the problems associated with large pwcs etc as the system will not have the chance to lower in ph etc etc etc

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks to all for helping. Unfortuneately he didn't make it. At the advice of a local aquarist we tried a last ditch effort to see if it was just constipation and gave him a green pea but he wasn't able to eat it and passed shortly after.

We did remove him from the tank within an hour. All of the others in the tank seem OK, no change in behavior, color, or any strange markings. I will keep an eye on them but if anyone has any tips of what to watch out for, let me know.

Tank parameters (liquid test kit) are a little different than the other day:
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: A trace (I wouldn't have noticed it if I hadn't done the test before, its only a slight bit darker, I did a sanity check with a test strip and it also shows a trace).
Nitrate: a little darker than the 20ppm color, call it 25ppm. So it's up a little bit.
PH: still 8 on the chart but a tick lighter vs. a tick darker before; I would say it was 8.1 before and is now 7.9.

A point about starving the bacteria, the reason that doesn't make sense to me is because if there is ammonia present in the water, then there is surplus of food for them even if you keep it to a minimum. I was just trying to point out that I'm not convinced it should go well into the toxic range if you can avoid it because that will also suffocate the first stage bacteria (and the fish) as they are aerobic.

Either way, since this is the first time I am getting a trace of nitrite, (after about 5 days with no ammonia and no pwc's) I'll keep an eye to see if the spike is coming.

For anyone else reading this, just starting off, don't let the LFS convice you to get a Mollie in a new tank that isn't stable yet or a small tank that is difficult to keep stable. They told me he'd do just fine, but from asking around it sounds like Mollies are very sensitive to changing water chemistry and thats what this seemed to have been as well. I'll wait to get another Mollie until I can get a bigger tank.

Best regards and thanks again for helping out.

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