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Hi everyone I just had a huge massacre in my fish tank. I left for work and everything was fine, everyone was alive and swimming but I got home 5 or 6 hours later and everyone was dead. The tank smelled like chlorine on a pool-level. Flint tested my water and said the ammonia was high. Why did all my fish die and is it safe to reuse the tank? It still smells like chlorine.

Jen
 

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First of all sorry for your loss.

A few questions,

Did you cycle your tank before adding fish to it?
What size tank and what filter are you using?

Ammonia is extremely toxic to fish and in high enough levels will kill the fish very quickly
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
First of all sorry for your loss.

A few questions,

Did you cycle your tank before adding fish to it?
What size tank and what filter are you using?

Ammonia is extremely toxic to fish and in high enough levels will kill the fish very quickly
I used live plants to cycle my tank. I didn't have a filter because of the plants and it was a 2.5 gallon tank from petsmart. My plants were anarcharis and anubias nana.
 

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What fish were in the tank? A 2.5 gallon is very small and is really only suitable for a betta fish or some shrimp.

What was your method of cycling? Did you add any ammonia or just add fish and plants?
 

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A dwarf gourami, 5 neon tetras, a mystery snail, a zebra nerite snail and a tiger nerite snail. I just added fish and plants. I had the mystery snail with my betta but he died because I had him in a 1/4 gallon tank. I got the snail when I got him the 2.5 gallon he just didn't last long. I have another betta now to put in there but it still smells like chlorine and the snails are the only thing alive. One of the nerite snails is really hurt though part of his shell is missing. He was in a cup at the time of all the deaths though. Only the snails are alive.
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A dwarf gourami, 5 neon tetras, a mystery snail, a zebra nerite snail and a tiger nerite snail. I just added fish and plants. I had the mystery snail with my betta but he died because I had him in a 1/4 gallon tank. I got the snail when I got him the 2.5 gallon he just didn't last long. I have another betta now to put in there but it still smells like chlorine and the snails are the only thing alive. One of the nerite snails is really hurt though part of his shell is missing. He was in a cup at the time of all the deaths though. Only the snails are alive.
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A rule of thumb is 1" of fish body per gallon of water. You had about ~8-10 inches of fish in the 2.5 gallon tank. Also a filter is required, even if you have plants (only in rare instances would I advise advanced planted tank keepers to forgo a filter.)

Also fish tanks need to be "cycled" so natural bacteria grow to keep the water safe for the fish. Live plants alone will not cycle a tank.

I assume this is your first time keeping fish? If so I'm sorry your first experience had to go like this. I encourage you to research lots more here on these forums and online, buy a nice tank kit of 10 gallons or more, and then start slowly with 1 or two fish.
 

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A rule of thumb is 1" of fish body per gallon of water. You had about ~8-10 inches of fish in the 2.5 gallon tank. Also a filter is required, even if you have plants (only in rare instances would I advise advanced planted tank keepers to forgo a filter.)

Also fish tanks need to be "cycled" so natural bacteria grow to keep the water safe for the fish. Live plants alone will not cycle a tank.

I assume this is your first time keeping fish? If so I'm sorry your first experience had to go like this. I encourage you to research lots more here on these forums and online, buy a nice tank kit of 10 gallons or more, and then start slowly with 1 or two fish.
I'd like to disagree with you here. The 1" of fish per gallon rule is not a good rule to go by as it would allow you to keep a 10" Oscar in a 10 gallon tank which, as we know, is not good for the Oscar. I would also like to add that I have had tanks completely filtered by plants so that is a moot point as well, however this tank didn't have enough plants to properly filter the water, especially vs the enormous bioload put on this small water volume.
 

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Sorry you seem to have had such a rough start to the hobby! :(

The inch of fish per gallon rule isn't the most accurate, but it works alright for small fish (fish less than 3 inches), and it can be a good starting point, although I'd only use it for tanks larger than 10 gallons.

The 2.5 gallon just doesn't offer a lot of space for fish or beneficial bacteria, so ammonia can build up quickly especially with how over-stocked you were. All those fish should be kept in a tank of at least 10 gallons, and even then that's overstocked IMO, as they are active/somewhat large fish.

To use plants effectively as a filter, you need to have LOTS of plants, and a very low bioload, which is pretty impossible in a 2.5 gallon, there just isn't enough room.

As to the chlorine smell, did you do any kind of water change prior to the deaths and perhaps forgot to use conditioner?

The deaths were caused by the buildup of ammonia pretty definitely, as your tank was uncycled and just couldn't handle that bioload :/

If you want to give it another shot, a 2.5 gallon is a decent size for a betta. If you get a filter (I really like the Azoo Palm Filter Power Filter for Small & Desktop Aquariums: Azoo Palm Filter) you can use media from a cycled tank to jumpstart your cycle, or start the cycle using pure ammonia.

Unfortunately a 2.5 gallon just isn't suitable for any other fish besides a betta :(
 

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True, its pretty damn small. Bettas are very nice, hardy fish, and if you cant afford a bigger tank atm a betta, or siamese fighting fish as they are sometimes known, would be nice. Oh, and you dont need a filter/pump for fighter fish
 

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True, its pretty damn small. Bettas are very nice, hardy fish, and if you cant afford a bigger tank atm a betta, or siamese fighting fish as they are sometimes known, would be nice. Oh, and you dont need a filter/pump for fighter fish
Don't need, but they still benefit from a filter.
 
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Using the 10" inch oscar in a 10 gallon is NOT a proper application of the inch per gallon rule. It is for small schooling fish, as was mentioned earlier. It's actually a pretty conservative stocking method - good for beginners. I know for such fish I've stocked 1 fish per gallon. Is it the best means of determining a tanks capacity for housing fish? No. But it's a good place for beginners to start, and we all have to start somewhere.

Don't need, but they still benefit from a filter.

Agreed. The only reason they don't "need" a filter is because some people choose to maintain a rigorous water change schedule instead. Truthfully, ANY fish can be kept without a filter if one wanted to do water changes all the time. Bettas are not special in that regard.
 
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pretty simple... the bio load was way more tthan the tank could maintain.. it's a cruel hard lesson in chemistry and fish stocking.. bad things happen real fast in a small tank....amonia kills fast...I'm sure there were some signs in the morning, but they were missed... did you feed them before you left.. if you did.. the addition of the food( un eaten) most likely shifted the balance to the toxic side..
 

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Sorry you seem to have had such a rough start to the hobby! :(

The inch of fish per gallon rule isn't the most accurate, but it works alright for small fish (fish less than 3 inches), and it can be a good starting point, although I'd only use it for tanks larger than 10 gallons.

The 2.5 gallon just doesn't offer a lot of space for fish or beneficial bacteria, so ammonia can build up quickly especially with how over-stocked you were. All those fish should be kept in a tank of at least 10 gallons, and even then that's overstocked IMO, as they are active/somewhat large fish.

To use plants effectively as a filter, you need to have LOTS of plants, and a very low bioload, which is pretty impossible in a 2.5 gallon, there just isn't enough room.

As to the chlorine smell, did you do any kind of water change prior to the deaths and perhaps forgot to use conditioner?

The deaths were caused by the buildup of ammonia pretty definitely, as your tank was uncycled and just couldn't handle that bioload :/

If you want to give it another shot, a 2.5 gallon is a decent size for a betta. If you get a filter (I really like the Azoo Palm Filter Power Filter for Small & Desktop Aquariums: Azoo Palm Filter) you can use media from a cycled tank to jumpstart your cycle, or start the cycle using pure ammonia.

Unfortunately a 2.5 gallon just isn't suitable for any other fish besides a betta :(
I didn't forget to use conditioner. I did a water change 3-4 days before all the deaths.

I already got another betta but I'm afraid to put anything alive back in the tank. I have him in a plastic bin until I figure out how to clean the tank out. Even empty it still smells like chlorine on a pool-level. I may or may not get a filter I just changed all the water every week with my other betta. I might put some more tetras in when I move him, though, he looks lonely.

True, its pretty damn small. Bettas are very nice, hardy fish, and if you cant afford a bigger tank atm a betta, or siamese fighting fish as they are sometimes known, would be nice. Oh, and you dont need a filter/pump for fighter fish
I already got one.

Don't need, but they still benefit from a filter.
I haven't decided if I'm going to use a filter yet or not. Depends on money, I'm a college student and don't have a lot.

randal, ... what do you mean some of your snails shell is missing ?
There's a piece gone and his flesh is sticking out of it.

pretty simple... the bio load was way more tthan the tank could maintain.. it's a cruel hard lesson in chemistry and fish stocking.. bad things happen real fast in a small tank....amonia kills fast...I'm sure there were some signs in the morning, but they were missed... did you feed them before you left.. if you did.. the addition of the food( un eaten) most likely shifted the balance to the toxic side..
I feed them every day and put an algae wafer in for the snails. They were all active and happy in the morning and before I left but I came home and they were dead.
 

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i have heard snails with their shell gone like that is a death sentence :(
as for "what do you mean?"
-if it's broken, ... damage from what ?
-if it's dissolved, ... to acidic for your snails.

i'm going to guess 'broken' from your description.

new thought, ... maybe something was eating a hole in it :(
-other snails are a possibility as well - as far as possibilities go

regardless very sad :(
 

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i have heard snails with their shell gone like that is a death sentence :(
as for "what do you mean?"
-if it's broken, ... damage from what ?
-if it's dissolved, ... to acidic for your snails.

i'm going to guess 'broken' from your description.

new thought, ... maybe something was eating a hole in it :(

regardless very sad :(
It looks broken. What could eat a hole in it? Flint suggest maybe my gourami knocked him around a little which lead to the break. Could my mystery snail have eaten it? He's not a full grown nerite snail, only about 1/4" long. Flint says our PH is 8.4 and the GH and KH are 14-16 so from what I've read the water is good for their shells.
 

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water sounds good
i only know of 2 snails that eat other snails. (in freshwater)

the assassin snail (everyone knows)
and the spixie snail - pretty sure that's not a mystery snail, i haven't come across anything that suggests mystery snails eat other snails. i have seen apple snails eat mini- ramshorn snails (it was more accident, the apple snail is large, the smaller snail just happened to fit in it's mouth)

snails do have teeth, ... tooth ?, ... close enough, that they use to help with getting some of the tougher foods.

if your snails shell seems broken, ... ya, being banged around could do that ;(
 

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dono, ... i haven't heard anything about ammonia reacting with calcium sources
i have heard pH being an issue

-can ignore the following
and makes me wonder about running a tank with very low pH (below 6.5) no invertebrate would survive, but there would never be an ammonia issue, ... would need lots of plants to keep ammonium down
 

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If your water change was done 3-4 days before the deaths it definitely wasn't chlorine that killed them, and you used conditioner so it's just not possible.



I really don't understand the chlorine smell you are experiencing. It's possible you're smelling the effects of an overstocked tank (ie, lots of detritus and the smell of partially decayed fish, since it was a few hours since you found them)

Ammonia kills, and it kills fast. You're tank just had too many fish.

Betta fish don't get lonely. They are perfectly happy without tankmates, and in your 2.5 having fish tankmates is just simply not an option, as you will most likely experience a similar outcome to what happened to your other fish.

Filters aren't terribly expensive, and they really are incredibly helpful. Checking on Amazon there are a lot of options under $20 (this one seems nice Amazon.com: Hagen Elite Underwater Mini Filter, UL Listed: Pet Supplies)

It is possible part of the problem was over feeding. An entire algae wafer for two snails each day adds a lot to the bioload, and that combined with the possibly over-fed fish in an extremely under-sized tank is a deadly combination.

EDIT: If you're still worried about the tank smelling bad (and if you haven't done a water change since the fish died), your best bet would be to do a very large water change to clear out all the ammonia in there.

When you add the betta fish you are going to be doing a fish in cycle, which means you will need to be doing daily water changes to keep the ammonia concentration low so that it won't harm/kill your betta.
If you can get a filter, you can ask Flint to loan you some media from an established tank to help speed up your cycle.
 
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