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Old 11-22-2011, 12:18 PM   #1
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Can't keep fish alive...Help!

I set up a new aquarium several months ago and so far I've lost 9 fish and only have one left alive. I'm new at this so I'm not sure what the problem is. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

I have a 40 gallon freshwater tank with a Marineland Penguin Biowheel 350B filter. I have a heater and keep the tank temp at 78 - 79 degrees. I do not have an air stone so I rely on the filter for water movement. Should I add an air stone to oxygenate the water? My current test results are: GH 120, KH 80, pH 6.5, Nitrite 0.5 and Nitrate 20. I do 20% water changes every 3 weeks.

I started with three dalmatian mollies to cycle the tank. Six weeks later I added two creamsicle mollies and one dwarf gourami. Soon after adding the new fish I had a Nitrate spike. I believe this was my fault for over feeding them. The same time I had the Nitrate spike my well pump broke so I could not do an immediate water change. When the pump was repaired the repair man put about 1/4 cup of Dawn dish soap in my well becuase it apparently kills some kind of bacteria. I was not there to stop him because I know soap residue is lethal to fish. I had to wait until our water no longer came out of the faucet soapy to do a water change which ended up being almost two weeks. I did 20% water changes every few days until the Nitrates returned to normal. During this time I lost all three of the dalmatian mollies and one creamsicle molly. A couple of weeks after the Nitrates returned to normal I added one sunset gourami, one silver tip shark and one plecostomus. Soon after I had an ich outbreak. I treated with Jungle Ich Clear tablets as directed for several days. I lost the shark and the plectostomus. About a week or two after the ich cleared I lost the dwarf gourami. A couple of weeks later I decided to try again. At this point I had been getting all my fish at Petsmart because there is no nearby local fish store. I decided to make the 45 minute drive to the closest fish store and only add one fish to see if I had better luck keeping it alive. I got a turquoise gourami. It died a week later. This left me with the one creamsicle molly and one sunset gourami. A few weeks later the gourami started nipping the molly shredding her fins so the molly died as well. With the exception of the last molly, all the fish acted the same right before dying. They almost looked like their tail end was paralyzed. They would float head up with their tail down, but occasionally get a burst of energy and swim really fast. After a day or two of that I would find them dead. I still have the sunset gourami which seems to be doing well. I did a 30% water change this weekend using bottled spring water because I fear my well water may be part of the problem. Does anyone have any insight or advice on what else I should be doing?

Thank you,

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Old 11-22-2011, 12:22 PM   #2
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Have u checked the levels of ur sink water?

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Old 11-22-2011, 12:40 PM   #3
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Wow ... that sounds like a streak of bad luck ... sorry to hear about your fish dying .. let's see how we can help.

How are you testing your water? Test strips (JUNK) or liquid like the API Test master (highly recommended). I didn't see your ammo numbers which would be very helpful. You really don't want to see any nitrite so I'm wondering if your tank underwent an ammo spike? Did you do any tank maintenance during that time? Change any filter media / cartridge?

I'd up your PWC's to at least 25% a week, instead of 20% every 3 weeks (unless you meant to say every 3 days). Aside from removing nitrates, PWC's also recharge nutrients / minerals and ions fish need. Get your well water tested just to ensure they're no minuet soap residue coming out of the faucet. Hopefully by now it should be removed.

My best guess is you underwent an ammo spike and somehow some bacteria in your tank died (leading to nitrite numbers). Continue to do PWC's and test with the API test master. Give your tank another week and then you could consider adding another fish a little at a time.

Moving forward, I recommend setting up a QT tank for new stock once your tank is established. In regards to air-stone ... I personally consider it a vital piece of equipment in any aquarium (a source of debate) to help promote oxygen exchange.

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Old 11-22-2011, 01:00 PM   #4
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I also had like six fish die in a month. It was cause my sink water, my tanks weren't cycled, and I was doing to many and to big of water changes! Good luck I know it gets frustrating after u lose so many fish. Keep ur head up it will get better!
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Old 11-22-2011, 01:12 PM   #5
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HI and welcome. It seems like you're inappropriately stocking your tank and adding too many fish too soon. Also instead of testing for nitrate, focusing on nitrite and ammonia particularly would have been better as they are far more toxic to fish than nitrate. You'll also need to increase your water change schedule.

The tank may have cycled already, or at least close-to. It's likely your fish died from ammonia and/or nitrite poisoning during the cycling process (ammonia rises then falls, then nitrite rises than falls).You have nitrite at .5 now? What's your ammonia level? Have you tested nitrite before? Have they been higher than .5? At .5 you're borderline toxic for fish; I'd do a 60% water change asap.

Also if you change water sources too quickly that can be bad for the fish as well. Fish like stability; changing from tap water which they are used to to spring water which may or may not contain enough minerals and which may be a lot softer than your water can be a shock to them. Find one water source and stick to it (preferably tap).

First, look at the link in my signature: new tank with fish. It'll guide you through what you have to do to keep the remaining fish alive (and may give you an indication of why the others died). You'll also need to current readings for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. If you have ammonia and/or nitrite, you'll need to do far more water changes than one every few weeks (probably daily for a while if levels are still showing). I'm not sure where you are in the cycle without further information: if there's ammonia, and whether or not nitrite have spiked and then are falling or is this the first time you're seeing them? You may either be about done with the cycle (if nitrites are falling) or just starting the nitrite phase if nitrites are just starting to show. Again that guide in my signature will help. What test kit are you using?

I wouldn't add any more fish until the tank stabilizes. Also it's best to research online and ask here first before buying fish; the pet/fish stores will mostly sell you whatever you want whether or not your tank is appropriate for the fish you are buying. Also once the tank stabilizes I highly recommend one 50% water change per week at least, but for now do them as needed to keep ammonia and/or nitrite as low as possible.
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