really hard well water. high ph. fish dieing - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 16 Old 11-15-2008, 05:46 PM Thread Starter
really hard well water. high ph. fish dieing

3 neon tetra
2 dwarf gourami
1 small pleco
1 tiger barb
1 long finned serpae tetra and 1 short finned
3 tetras about size of neon but orange/black near tail
3 of these small silver (tetras?) with a black/yellow dorsal fin and red tail
1 hatchetfish

29 gallon tank
penguin bio-wheel 100 power filter
topfin 50 watt heater(ive read that topfin is a bad choice, maybe ill change)
floating thermometer (currently stays at about 79 F)
fluorescent light
air pump(2 hoses, 1 going to air rock other 2 this lil skeleton dude who moves with air)

rock i put in tank are from rosedale mills, they were for I think landscaping, came in a big bag, like $4 for 50 pounds(looked like same exact thing as the ones in fish dept. but in fish dept 1 pound was $4). i rinsed them off before putting in tank, but not with boiling water.

The ph in my tank is stable up over 8 ph, around 8.4 or so. Ive been using an API freshwater master test kit to test the water. The ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are all around 0 so that seems good, but i think the ph is a problem.

I use to have 6 neon tetras in the tank but over the past couple weeks 3 have died. The tank has been up for about a month or so. I do small water changes every week. A couple of the tetras I see with their gills very far open where I can see lots of blood(red on inside) for a long time. Is this some disease, or because of bad water?

Now this is one thing I have not seen mentioned anywhere I read about maintaining aquarium water... I have well water, not tap water from city water lines or something, so there is no chlorine in it since its not treated at a plant or anything, but the water is VERY HARD(lots of calcium/magnesium) and I believe with many heavy metals, and im not sure what other kinds of bad stuff. I have used tap water conditioners that remove chlorine/detoxify heavy metals just in case(kind of stopped using that one tho, since the fish was dieing with that stuff also), but I hope the stuff that removes chlorine isn't harming anything since I have no chlorine in water. I have also tried this "neutral regulator" stuff which is suppose to set ph to 7 and remove ammonia(according to tests from pet store I had ammonia before, but i don't now, so i guess that's fixed) but it doesn't seem like it did anything to ph. I think my hard water has too many buffers and will be very hard to change the ph. I have also read that using those chemicals to try and change ph may even be harmful if the ph becomes unstable and changes quickly and is just a temporary fix.

ooo and another thing, my cat wont stay away from the tank, keeps jumping on top and stuff. maybe she is scaring the fish to death, stressing them out too much.

Thanks, Dan.

woops, wrong forum? i thought i was in aquarium subforum, not disease subforum.

Last edited by Dan39; 11-15-2008 at 05:53 PM.
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post #2 of 16 Old 11-15-2008, 07:15 PM
The fact that you have no nitrate reading is raising red flags for me. What kind of test kit do you have? Liquid or strips? Has your tank cycled/do you know what a cycle is? I would still use the conditioner that removes heavy metals even if it is just a precaution. It can not hurt your fish. Your pH is too high for your fish. I would try to naturally lower it into the safe region (high 7's will probably be the best you can do and will be fine) by either using a mixture of reverse osmosis water and tap (needs to be the same proportions each time) or adding peat and driftwood gradually to your tank (peat goes in the filter). If you choose to do the latter you will have to monitor levels closely and try to find a balance at which it will stabilize.

Neon tetra disease (no cure) is also a possibility for the deaths, but I must ask first if you test for ammonia at the END of the week before the water change. Also, if you are using strips they may be giving false readings which could mean that your fish are dying of ammonia poisoning after all. Are any of the other fish affected?

I don't think your cat would be stressing them to death, but I would try to keep her away to avoid getting hair in the tank and/or rocking the tank which could cause it to become structurally unsound and will stress your fish to a degree.

Hope this helps.
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post #3 of 16 Old 11-15-2008, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
using the api freshwater master test kit (liquids). now that i think about it, ive been doing the testing only like a day after changing a lot of water, so that's why the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate may be low. im doing another nitrate as i type. haven't done it in a couple days. ive been mostly only testing ph.....gotta wait 5 minutes to see results, and then try to match the dam color on card.

i have read about cycling the tank, but im not sure if my tank is cycled. i kind of added a lot of fish i think too quickly. i started with like 2 serpea tetras, 3 of the silver things, and 4 neons, and they were in for like a week before i added the rest. i think it is cycled tho since the ammonia was high and has now gone and stayed down without me using the chemical.

im gonna go buy a piece of driftwood tomorrow and see how that helps, and maybe add peat if the driftwood doesn't do much. i have a feeling both still wont be able to combat against my hard well water. when i say hard water i mean HARDDDDDD.

how much usually does a decent reverse osmosis system cost? recommendations? i think i may need that because of all the minerals in my well water

here's something interesting i found(although its kind of like a dam advertisement with everything pointing to reverse osmosis as the cure to any problem)

alllrighty... nitrate is now at 10 ppm
ammonia 0
nitrite 0
ph 8.3
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post #4 of 16 Old 11-15-2008, 09:50 PM
Ok, those readings look better. It appears that your tank is cycled now. When did the deaths occur and do you know if the tank was cycled at that point? How soon after you bought them did they die? It is not uncommon for fish to not show signs of disease for a week or more, and depending on where you got them they may have been sick already. How are the fish in the tank now?

As for a reverse osmosis system, the cheapest that I can find at Drs. Foster and Smith (usually pretty good prices) are about $100, but I have found really cheap ones on ebay. I don't know the quality of those though.
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post #5 of 16 Old 11-15-2008, 10:24 PM Thread Starter
had 1 neon die today, 1 yesterday, and 1 last week. kind of weird....

the ph is just way too high i think. im gonna have to get the driftwood and peat, and after that if the ph goes down ill try adding some more neons and see how they do

another thing. whats the normal for keeping the tank light on? ive just been leaving mine on 24/7, should i be turning it off at night? i just read somewhere else that the light should only stay on for like 12 hours a day. pretty much turn it on when i wake up, then off when i go to sleep...?
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post #6 of 16 Old 11-15-2008, 10:52 PM
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I can't tell ya to much about your tank yet, but I know cats! If you're looking to keep him off the tank, not only for his own safety but your fishes... you could try a squirt bottle of cold water, everytime he looks like he's about to jump on it, squirt him in the hiney. Or everytime he jumps up, immediately get up and take him down without a word and put him in another room. I've done both these methods with my cat and it's worked for hte most part. Just watch your kitty so he doesn't snag a fishy for a snack. :P
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post #7 of 16 Old 11-16-2008, 06:57 PM
You should be turning the light off at night. Fish, like people, need a day/night cycle. They will be happier when they have time to rest. that I know when the deaths occured this is seeming like something more than ammonia poisoning. Do the fish have any other symptoms? Look at them all closely and observe their behavior. Neons can be rather delicate, so maybe your pH really is stressing them out. Keep us posted.
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post #8 of 16 Old 11-17-2008, 08:27 AM
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Where to begin.

First, don't rely on a chemical to control your ammonia. A cycled tank will have all the bacteria it needs to do this naturally and more effectively than you ever could. The purpose of a water conditioner isn't to remove ammonia or convert it, its to first and foremost neutralize chlorine/amine and detoxify heavy metals. Aside from that don't bet on it doing anything.

Second, your filter is a bit small. Even by the manufacturers usually over optimistic appraisal your Penguin 100 is on the small side for your tank. It's nothing to get overly concerned about, just realize this when it comes to stocking your tank as you'll have to stay on the light side or add a second filter.

Third, fish need a day/night cycle just like humans. Try to leave your lights on for no more than 12 hours. You don't have to turn them on right at dawn/dusk, the fish will adapt. My wife turns on the lights at 10 or 11AM and I turn them off at 11 PM. As far as the fish are concerned that's dawn and dusk to them.

Next, your pH is high. 8.4 is actually very high, salt water high. I'd have to say that if the tests are right an RO/DI system is probably not a bad idea for you. RO system's output is measured in gallons per day, gpd. Naturally the higher the GPD you get the more expensive the system is. Be aware that in addition to the RO system you're also going to need a container to hold the water it makes. The system makes water very slowly so you'll be wanting to start it running the day before you need to do a water change unless you get a very high GPD system. Also you'll need to do something with the waste water. For every gallon of RO water the system it will make you can expect it to make about 6 gallons of "waste" water that you'll have to dispose of. You'd do well to post in the freshwater equipment forum if you want more info on RO systems. Alternately you could try the saltwater section as many saltwater aquarists use RO systems.

Finally, your stocking plan is iffy.
The neons, serpaes, and all tetras, do better in groups. They all like schools of six or more and no they will not get these from other tetras, they need their own species. The serpae's are worrisome as singly or in pairs they can be extremely aggressive until their school is made larger.
The barb also likes to school but they are a notorious fin nippers and fairly agressive.
The gourami's can be aggressive to other males. If you have a male/female pair you'll likely be ok but two males in a smaller tank like that can result in a lot of aggression between them.
What kind of pleco is that? Some kinds are actually small and others just start that way. Common plecos can grow to be very large, too large for your aquarium.

That being said nothing is unworkable and you're doing the right thing by asking questions.

Tetra Fanatic
Watch my tank progress from Craigslist salvage to fishy habitat: Aaron's Tank
The only things that happen quickly in an aquarium are bad things.
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post #9 of 16 Old 11-17-2008, 10:40 AM
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I believe your probleem is with the neons. Are any other fish dying? Neons don't do well with the ph you posted. Many fish will adapt to ph levels that are stable. It's when we begin trying to adjust it that most have trouble. I would expect neons to do better in softer water with a ph closer to neutral or slightly above than hard water with a ph of 8 or above. A very wise man once told me to buy fish that do best in your water rather than trying to adjust the water to suit the fish.

The most important medication in your fish medicine cabinet is.. Clean water.

Last edited by 1077; 11-17-2008 at 10:42 AM.
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post #10 of 16 Old 11-17-2008, 11:35 PM
Originally Posted by Dan39 View Post
how much usually does a decent reverse osmosis system cost? recommendations? i think i may need that because of all the minerals in my well water
What about going to a local water store or the grocery store? I can get water that has been treated by reverse osmosis for about $3 per 7 gal. I know you can get it cheaper but that is the price at the closest place to me. I just use my 7gal camping water containers to haul the water. This might be an option for you?
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