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Old 01-06-2009, 03:35 AM   #1
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Exclamation I had no idea it was so easy for fish to die...please help me...

I got a 10 gallon fish tank for Christmas and I set it up on Friday night with neon tetras, fancy guppies, platies, balloon mollies, and a plecostamus.

I woke the next morning to find all but one of my neon tetras dead, along with one of my guppies and my plecostomus. My friend pointed out the ick on some of my fishes fins (the white spots were so small that I wouldn't have even noticed if she hadn't showed me), so I got some ick clear and put it in the tank on Saturday night. I also got an aquarium water heater because my room isn't very warm all the time, and I GRADUALLY raised the temperature so I wouldn't put them in shock.

Yesterday morning I woke up to find my last neon tetra dead. I'm not sure if he died from ick because he was already infected and beyond help by the time I put the meds in, or if he died from the medication itself. I don't think the temperature killed him because it seems like other fish would have died if temperature was the culprit. I've been reading that tetras are very sensitive to changes in anything, so I think I'm gonna hold off on getting more tetras for a while.

I took a water sample to Petco to have it tested and they said the pH level was too high, and gave me some stuff to lower it. I haven't used the "pH down" yet because today is the first day that I didn't wake up to any dead fish, and I'm worried that lowering the pH now might kill them if they're already adjusting to the pH level that it's at (I don't remember what the lady at Petco said the level was at, but she said it was high.) Also, the bottle of "pH Down" says add 2 drops per gallon, which is 20 drops, but it also says "some fish may be sensitive to pH adjustments greater than 0.2 in a 24 hour period", but I don't know how much that is... Does it mean 0.2% of 20 drops? Meaning they'd be sensitive to more than 4 drops in a 24 hour period? If this is correct than should I just add 4 drops every 24 hours to the water for the next 5 days? Or should I just wait and only mess with the pH if another fish dies...

This all feels like a big frustrating science project, but the fish are beautiful and I love watching them so I'm determined to fix the problem.

Any advice would be extremely helpful. Thanks in advance.
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Old 01-06-2009, 04:49 AM   #2
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The big problem is that you over stocked an un-cycled tank. The rapid ammonia buildup is likely what killed the fish.

I could sit here and write an essay on how you need to cycle your tank, but I would be doing you a dis-service by doing so.

Search this site and others for the info on how to get started in the hobby.
There are articles here: http://www.aquariumadvice.com/articles/ on cycling and also the nitrogen cycle as well. These are things you need to know.

You also need to learn about testing your water and how to read the results. Do you have an actual local fish store (abbreviated LFS on forums) where you can go and get good advice and the test kits you'll need?

I prefer to stay away from adjusting the pH level by chemistry. I consider it a last resort and pH adjustment is usually not necessary unless the water is at the far end of the scale.

Test your water and post the results on here so everybody will know where to start with guidance.

There's a great deal more to fish husbandry than putting a few fish in a tank and feeding once a day.

Don't give up, all is not lost. With no fish left, it's a good time to learn about the fishless cycle method. It can take up to 4 weeks to complete and gives you ample time to tutor yourself here and elsewhere.

Keep your chin up and good luck

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Old 01-06-2009, 09:04 AM   #3
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You put the fish in too soon. Been there, have the t-shirt. You've come to the right place though. Lots of good folks to help here. Patience is going to have to be your virtue to get your tank up and running nicely. My tank spiked ammonia for 11 days running in it's infancy, with fish. Only one survived and for the life of me, I have no idea why he made it. Just step through the process of cycling and you'll get to the joy of getting to watch them. Well worth the effort and a lot less stressful than continuing to add and lose fish. Good luck!!
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:44 AM   #4
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I also suggest that you read what cycling really is. A lot of times they do not give you correct info at the store. It will take more than a few days to fishless cycle a tank. A couple of other suggestions.

1. Throw away the pH altering chemicals. My pH is high as well. I don't touch it and as long as it remains stable, you shouldn't have any problems.
2. Buy a liquid reagent test for nitrIte nitrAte and ammonia.
3. Do not change the filter often, only rinse in old tank water.
4. Neons are very sensitive to changes. Probably best to have the tank set up for quite a while and stabilized before you even think about them.
5. A regular pleco will get way too big for your tank.

Please hold off on buying any more fish until your tank is cycled. If you have stocking questions (ie what would be suitable for a tank your size) please ask them here. There are quite a few very helpful folks around.

Sorry to hear that you are getting frustrated. I think that it happens to everyone in the beginning.
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:01 PM   #5
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I ran into another problem, after posting the above thread, I went to look at the fish and noticed one of them had ick again. So I had to take out 25% of the water and replace it before putting more medication in. Also, I had to take out the carbon filter, how long am I supposed to leave it out for?...
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:04 PM   #6
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I'm also now reading that replacing 25% of the water is too much and it stresses the fish...BUT THAT'S WHAT THE BOX OF ICK CLEAR SAYS TO DO. It seems like everything I do to make things better is potentially hazardous...
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:07 PM   #7
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Lastly, does this mean that because I didn't cycle my tank for 6-8 weeks that my fish are for sure going to die?...
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:27 PM   #8
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You are having ick & dead fish because of the uncycled tank. pH is not the problem. I would suggest not altering the pH at all (esp. with chemicals). Doctoring your water is an advanced part of this hobby & is done only if needed. Using the chemicals is the worst way to do that. <Except for the lfs, who will make big bucks on the chemicals plus the replacement fish....>

It is possible to keep fish alive during the cycling process. The key is keeping the levels low. Once you read the cycling articles & have an understanding of what you are trying to do, you can attempt a "fishy cycle." The key to this is daily (or more frequent) testing and water changes. It is not stressful to fish doing large water changes as long as the water is perfectly matched (in terms of pH, GH, other ions, & temperature). During cycling, it is necessary to do 50% or more pwc's to keep your ammonia & nitrite levels low (less than 0.5, 0.25 for more sensitive fish). This is another reason NOT to mess with your water. If you use your tap as is (except for adding dechlorinator), your change water composition will be the same as your tank, & all you need to do is match the temperature.

BTW - by all means treat the ich, but unless you get your water parameters in control, it will be futile. Also, you do not need to run carbon in your tank routinely .... Only run carbon when you are done with treatment to remove the meds .... and even then, a lot of us here just achieve the same result with water changes.
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:30 PM   #9
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a cycled biological filter is the most important part of fish keeping.Even when you medicate you run the risk of killing your filter and fish.It's not hard to keep fish. Read the basics and add fish 1 or 2 at a time .The smaller the tank the less room for errors.Oh and i change 50% of my water every week never a problem if done right.
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Old 01-06-2009, 07:40 PM   #10
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OK, upon more research I think I'm finally getting it...fish put ammonia in the water, the good bacteria will turn the ammonia into nitrites, and then the good bacteria will eventually turn the nitrites into nitrates... So what if my level of nitrates is too high? Just keep doing water changes to correct it? Would it be safe to change some of the water everyday? If so, how much?...

I probably should have mentioned this before, but we have really hard water. All the water changes I'm doing (including the one I did last night before putting more ick meds in), I've been running through the brita filter. It seems this would be better to put filtered water into the tank... but I've already been wrong about a lot of things, so feel free to let me know if I should have just tap water instead of filtered water.

Furthermore, I feel really stupid but I think I misunderstood "taking out the carbon"...I have a filter where the carbon is already in the filter, and I took the whole filter out...was I supposed to just take the carbon out of the filter and leave the filter in there?...
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Old 01-06-2009, 08:23 PM   #11
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oky doky,

if you have high nitrates (over 40) then do a water change.

you can never do to many water changes! think of it like a river constantly replenishing the water. (so long as the temp, ph are the same.)

tap water is fine, especially sense brita filters can get expensive. ive never used my britta for fish, just good ole dechlored tap.

i also take out the entire filter when treating ick. i put it back in about a day later.

dont feel stupid, we all made the same mistakes and had to learn the hard way.

And again, you can never do too many water changes, in fact if you see a problem with your fish, then the best thing you can do is change the water. avoid chemicals. (with the exeption of declorinator) i also bought some ph down :P but then relized that it can harm fish more than help.

if you dont have a test kit i would sugest getting one, the api master kit is great and has all the tests you will need Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master Test Kit Aquarium Gifts.

as long as you keep your waters ammonia,nitrite, and nitrate low then you should have no more casualties.

PS. plecos get really big and might want to look at a smaller algea eater like an Otocinclus (once your tank is cycled of course)

!! good luck !!

pps. you may want to look into the heat treatment for ick, its easier on the fish than chem, cost nothing, and works great.
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Old 01-06-2009, 09:36 PM   #12
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I'm new to so I feel your pain. i listened to the LFS clerk tell me to fill it up, turn it on, and add fish. The testing is critical for a new tank. Get the API freshwater master test kit if you can. It's a good one. Test your water out of the tap and a sample that you dechlorinated and let sit for 48hrs for pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. This will give you a frame of reference for what your tank is doing. Don't worry about the hardness or pH really yet. If you tank isn't cycled water conditions in your tank can change fast, so try to test for ammonia, and nitrite everyday. you won't have much nitrate yet (probably just the amount found in your tap water.) If ammonia or nitrite are over .50 ppm you should do a water change ( I do 50%) to bring them down to a lower level. You may do 50% water changes every day for a while. Once the tank is cycled ammonia and nitrites will drop to 0. You only have to do a water change for nitrates between 20 -40 ppm. Try to keep the water temp on the water change as close to the tank temp as you can. (i use a cheap digital kitchen instant read thermometer for this). Remember to treat the tap water for chlorine and/or chloramine. And don't over feed the fish. This can cause the water to get bad fast. good luck.
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Old 01-06-2009, 10:29 PM   #13
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Nitrates: once cycled, your bacteria should be cranking out the nitrates. That's where having a few live plants really helps. Took me about 4 weeks to cycle my first tank, but with my plants in there the whole time the nitrate part of the cycle hasnt been a problem. Check out the Planted Tank forum for more info on that... a whole 'nuther subject.

Other than that, everybody has covered the water issue, but there's one thing that you mentioned, and which hasn't yet been discussed, is which fish are hardy. Neon tetras aren't considered particularly hardy, and also require a bit lower pH than the typical Great Lakes area water (such as mine, pH 7.6-7.7, high GH; I use it straight from the tap with a dechlorinator product added, no filter). Your livebearers (guppies, etc) should be ok with it, once the ammonia's out of the way.

Anyway, hardy fish: Fish like white cloud minnows and zebra danios are active, hardy (can take cold temps and various water conditions), easy to find in most any fish store and inexpensive. My zebras are very lively and roam the entire tank; being a bit piggy at feeding time seems to be their only vice. The fancier fish can come along later, but I'd say try a few of one of these species first.
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Old 01-07-2009, 01:42 AM   #14
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Furthermore, I feel really stupid but I think I misunderstood "taking out the carbon"...I have a filter where the carbon is already in the filter, and I took the whole filter out...was I supposed to just take the carbon out of the filter and leave the filter in there?...
The nitrifying bacteria lives in the filter (& other surfaces). After your tank is cycled, you can take out up to 50% of your filter material without having much effect on the tank. During cycling, it would have lengthen the cycling process & make your levels worse if you remove the whole filter. It would have been better if you just remove the carbon & left the rest of the filter, but don't feel too bad, we are all rookies once ...

At this point, I would suggest simply using your tap water straight (with a good dechlorinator). Filtering through the Brita isn't going to help (won't harm the fishies ... but it will cost you $$$ when you are doing 50+% pwc daily for the next month ....) Also, don't worry about the hardness or pH at this point.... you ahve enough on your plate getting through the cycle. Most of the common fish will do OK in just about any water. Strive for stable parameters instead. <When you get some pH, GH & KH numbers, we'll let you know if it is really necessary to doctor the water if you want to keep certain sensitive fish .... but your fish is already in the existing water, changing things now would just stress the fish & make things worse.>
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Old 01-07-2009, 02:07 AM   #15
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OK, upon more research I think I'm finally getting it...fish put ammonia in the water, the good bacteria will turn the ammonia into nitrites, and then the good bacteria will eventually turn the nitrites into nitrates... So what if my level of nitrates is too high? Just keep doing water changes to correct it? Would it be safe to change some of the water everyday? If so, how much?.
Hang in there! I was in your shoes not so long ago. I got some really bad advice at the LFS. Coming here has transformed my tank into an incredible habitat for my fish. FYI for you, here is the test results I got for the first month or so as I cycled my tank with fish (I am kind of data happy). Amazing how it happens just like described.
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Old 01-07-2009, 06:24 AM   #16
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Cloudy eyeball on my fish??

Thank you all for your help. As it stands now, I haven't had anymore dead fish since the dead tetras, but now one of my platies has a goofy looking eye. It kind of looks cloudy, and he still has a white spot (just one for some reason) on his tail fin. I'm wondering if this is something other than ick. I set the water temperature (gradually of course) to about 80 degrees because I'm reading that it makes ick go away faster. And I'm about to change more water and put another ick tablet in (the box says it's ok to do it after 24 hours if the ick is still there). If this ick clear dose doesn't make it go away than I'm not sure what I should do because I feel like I'd be giving them too much medication if I did it 3 days in a row. *sigh* I guess I should just be grateful that no more fish have died, I'm kind of surprised considering I didn't cycle it before getting the fish. I'm half expecting a few more casualties only because it seems that the odds of them all surviving are low. *crosses fingers*
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Old 01-07-2009, 12:09 PM   #17
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To kill the ich parasite, you'll need to raise the temperature to 87 or 88 degrees. Keep it at this temperature for two weeks after you see the last spot. There's a good article in the Articles tab on how to treat ich with heat or meds.

Go ahead and give the last dose of the ich clear. I like the heat method over using meds but your fish have been stressed and if the med look like it's helping, then finish it. Be aware that meds only kill the ich in the free-swimming stage. Later, if the ich comes back, I'd suggest the heat method.

If you're changing water every day, that helps a lot to remove the free-swimming ich too. Water changes also should help the platy with the cloudy eye. If not, you may need to put him in his own quarantine tank and give him an antibiotic. Don't mix antibiotics and the ich med. Don't put the antibiotic in the main tank, since antibiotics will also kill the good bacteria you're trying to cultivate. For now, keep up with your testing and water changes (I agree with jsoong about just using tap water with dechlorinator).

Article about quarantine tanks: http://www.aquariumadvice.com/articles/articles/35/1/The-Freshwater-Quarantine-Tank/Page1.html

Article about ich: http://www.aquariumadvice.com/articles/articles/29/1/Freshwater-Ich-Yuck-/Page1.html
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Old 01-07-2009, 06:06 PM   #18
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"By raising salt levels to 2-3 ppm or 1.002-1.003 specific gravity above what one normally keeps the tank at can destroy the Ich parasites. It has a strong effect on osmosis, and dehydrates the parasite to the point the parasite can no longer function and dies. Again, raising levels slowly but not too slowly is key here; raising salt 1 ppm per day is recommended. Generally 7.6 grams of salt per gallon is equal to 2 ppm or 1.002-1.003 specific gravity . However, itís the chloride ions which are necessary for the treatment, and different salts have different levels of chloride. Itís best to purchase a hydrometer which measures low levels of salt to ensure proper dosage."

Can anyone tell me how I figure out how much salt to put in the tank? I'm not sure how to figure it out when they say "ppm (parts per million)" because don't understand what measurements a "part" is... I just want to know how much aquarium salt I can safely put in my tank to kill the ick but not hurt the fish...
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Old 01-07-2009, 07:58 PM   #19
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I can tell you how much salt to add, but I would suggest not at this point. It is NOT advisable to mix treatments. You need to let one treatment run its course before starting another. You are not going to get good result if you don't give time for the first treatment to work before you jump into another thing.

As I stated before, your first order of business is to get your water parameters under control. What are your levels at this point?

I would advise finishing the ich-cure treatment & remove the meds completely (with water changes) before embarking on either the heat or salt treatment. What fish do you have left? Some are intolerant of salt or heat, so we might have to tailor things.

Why are you using the salt? <Depending on what you are treating, you need different levels.> To calculate salt dose, you need to understand the units. <BTW, that quotation of yours has an error. You want to raise salt level to 2-3 ppt (part per thousand, not ppm).>

ppm = parts per million = mg/l (milligram per liter)
ppt = part per thousand = g/l (grams per liter)
% of salt = g% = grams of salt in 100 ml of water ... thus 0.3% = 0.3g per 100 ml of water.
Specific gravity = weight of water (1 ml) in g + weight of all solutes in that ml of water.

1.003 of sg = 0.3% salt solution = 3g of salt in 1000 ml of water = 12g of salt in 1 gallon

You weight out the salt (aquarium salt, or kosher salt = pure NaCl) for the amount of water you have, or you can estimate 1 teaspoon of salt = 5 g of salt. <The exact amount depends on fineness of salt, so it is best to weigh the salt.>

I hope the salt dosing makes sense. I'll help you with the calculations when you are ready & need to use salt. <BTW, you do NOT add all the salt all at once. You should raise salt no more than 0.1% (or 1 ppt) every 12-24 hrs.>
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Old 01-08-2009, 11:00 AM   #20
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Hello there! I am also new, and I am in the middle of cycling my tank. I have had tanks in the past, but it has been 15 years, so this is all slowly coming back to me.

My suggestion is once you understand the cycling part (and I am also still learning about it), is to also really research your fish. I have read and been told that Neons are pretty delicate and I plan on adding them to my tank but am waiting for a fully cycled tank. That is also the last fish that I will add so the tank is very stable. Some fish are more hardy than others. So I have been going in to the pet store, and looking around on this site, and then when I see a fish i like or a fish is recommended, I do internet research on it to see if it will fit in my tank and my community. What is good for one tank, may not be good for another.

But don't give up! The rewards are HUGE! We had a tv repair man come into the house last night and he spent a good 10 minutes looking over my 55 gallon and telling me how nice it was. But I lost my upside down catfish this morning. So through trial and error, you can be successful.

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