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Old 06-09-2017, 01:50 PM   #1
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I need help with an ammonia spike!

Hello all, new to the forum and newish to fish aquariums. This is going to be long, I'm sorry. Growing up my parents always had a tank and in the first year of my marriage my wife and I had a 30 gallon for a year or so.

About 6 months ago I was given a 75 gallon tank, it came with a Penn-Plax Cascade 1500 filter with 5 media trays. I put in white sand, 9 live plants (ferns, lily pads, etc.) and the pet store suggested 12 feeder goldfish to establish the tank. The store only carried media for the Cascade 1000 which left about a 1/2" gap around the perimeter of the tray as they were too small, but the staff said it would be just fine. The bottom three trays had a simple filter floss, 4th one from the bottom had a charcoal infused pad, and the top another simple floss pad (beginner right?)

So, of the 12 goldfish in there 6 of them survived the tank cycle and once it was set the 6 champions were gifted to my father in-law who was going to put them in his gigantic outdoor pond. Instead he put them in a 55 gallon tank and they are all doing great.

After checking all of the levels in the tank (ammonia, pH, nitrates and nitrites) I started adding fish 4-5 at a time, letting them and the tank settle in for a few weeks and then adding more. I have or had 5 glass cats, 5 cherry barbs, 2 angels, 2 silver dollars, 2 three spot gourami, 2 flame dwarf gourami, 2 dwarf gourami, 2 bala sharks, 2 bleeding heart tetras, 2 blood fin tetras, 2 guppies, and 2 African dwarf frogs. The tank has done well and been running for about 6-8 months with only two fish deaths (which were replaced with the same species), though I have been very neglectful on testing the tank water. I somewhat routinely add API stress zyme and occasionally add API leaf zone to feed the plants, though that may be unnecessary.

I feed a small pinch of Tetra Pro flake food in the morning and frozen bloodworm in the evening. I feed the frozen bloodworm every day, I have read posts where people say that is a bad idea as there could be digestive blockages. The two pet stores I have been to say that it is actually okay. One was Petco (I know, but the girl actually seemed quite knowledgeable) and the other was a truly professional aquarium establishment. I started with 2 frozen bloodworm gumdrops, but moved to 3 as the angel fish and the silver dollars have gotten quite large and figured they would need more food. I used to feed the frogs pellets, but haven't in months as they always prefer the bloodworms. All of the blood worms are consumed in 3-4 minutes. Not sure if I am overfeeding or not. I have not had one fish with digestive issues.

For tank cleaning I will use a battery operated vacuum to clean the sand surface, I tried cleaning into the sand, but its too light and ends up getting sucked up itself and I didn't want to harm them bacteria (there is bacterial growth in the sand right?) That is all the cleaning I have done.

Well the other day I put in some stress zyme and leaf zone, cleaned up some surface poo and went on with my day. About 4-5 hours later my wife said that a guppy was dead. I was bummed and went to fish it out and noticed that all of the fish were quite lethargic. I pulled out the test kit and had an ammonia level of 8 ppm, probably more as the test kit only shows the color to 8 ppm and mine seemed like a darker green. My pH was 6.0, nitrates and nitrites were up as well, but don't remember their numbers.

I started freaking out, put in some API ammo lock and called my father in-law for advice. He told me to remove a third of the water, and the new water along with 3 tablespoons of salt, and that should hold me over till morning when a shop would be open. I had many fish just semi floating, sinking to the bottom and laying there and I thought I was going to loose most of them. After removing a third of the water and adding the 3 tablespoons of salt the fish almost immediately pepped up and started swimming again. I lost the one guppy and two glass cats, which is crazy to me as most of them were laying on the bottom on their side looking like they were gasping for oxygen.

The next morning I immediately went to a local shop in Salem called "The Premium Aquarium", very awesome place by the way with extremely knowledgeable staff. I explained everything, they tested a sample of my water that I brought in and they were amazed at the ammonia levels I had. Even after the work I did the night before it was still right around 8 ppm. I was told to go home and remove half of the water and replace it. They set me up with new media for my filter, so now I have regular filter floss in the bottom two (a much better kind than what was at Petco), next up is a mesh bag filled with charcoal, next another filter floss, and lastly a doubled up layer of ammonia pad. I did leave all but one of the original filter floss pads in there and set the new stuff on top of it as I feared that would remove too much of the bacterial growth in the filter. Not sure if I did the right thing or not. When I removed all of the trays from the filter, the canister was left about 3/4s full of water with a lot of gunk in it which I assumed was a mix of feces and bacteria (like the slimy mother you'd find in apple cider vinegar)
so left it all in there as I didn't want my fish to die off.

The aquarium shop also set me up with Seachem Neutral Regulator to help with the pH, but said it was likely due to the ammonia spike. I also picked up a bottle of Seachem Stability as it has bacteria in it to help establish the bio filter and take care of the ammonia problem.

So after replacing have the water, putting in 3 tablespoons of salt, all the new filter stuff including the ammonia pad, the neutral regulator, the stability, and another dose of ammo lock, the next day I am still between 4 and 8 ppm on my ammonia. The fish all seem to be doing fine, peppy and happily swimming.

What am I doing wrong? Should I have taken the crap out of the filter (all the poop and stuff, but left the water? Am I being too cautious about the bacteria in the filter? Am I supposed to routinely remove the media and wash it? Again I am new at this obviously haha. I just really don't want to lose anymore. Should I continue with a daily water change? If so, continue with 50%? Do I add the anymore of the chemicals after since I removed have the water?

My apologies for the long post, I'm just desperate for answers.

Dan
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Old 06-09-2017, 02:13 PM   #2
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Can't put all that on the system at once it takes time. Especially mixing amphibians in there which were housing bloodworms n taking massive dumps (bloodywormy dumps). Ever considered a pothos plant on top of your tank?
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Old 06-09-2017, 02:15 PM   #3
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You can pick one up at home depot for $7 it'll suck all that ammonia up
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Old 06-09-2017, 02:34 PM   #4
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What I don't see in your filter setup is some type of biological media. Yes, BB (beneficial bacteria) can pretty much establish themselves on any surface, but a dedicated area (e.g. - ceramic rings/pellets) makes it portable and easy to clean. I would recommend getting some.
You can safely rinse the existing filter media using water removed from a recent water change. Sounds like there is a bunch of unnecessary waste in there. Also, sounds like something whatever BB you had in there.
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Old 06-09-2017, 02:52 PM   #5
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First off, I'm gonna touch on several of the issue's I see, but I'm not an expert so you will have to research them and listen to others and decide what to do.

Not a fan of frogs, they will eat fish. This is second hand information, I have never had them. Second the gourami could be a problem as they get older.

What I am sure of... Water will take the path of least resistance!
Those filter pads are allowing water to bypass them, buy the right ones online or buy the sheets and cut your own. I would also recommend replacing some of the floss with ceramics or bio balls or some type of media that the bacteria can grow in.

Determine which direction the flow goes in your filter, there are 3 types of filtration and the water should flow through them in this order.
1.Mechanical filtration, this means the area where big debris is filtered out. This can be sponges or floss that is firmly packed so debris doesn't get by.
2.Chemical filtration, this is the carbon which takes out chemicals in the water. Many here do not use carbon because it has to be changed monthly and can take nutrients out of the water needed for live plants. Seachem's Purigen is an alternative that lasts longer and doesn't take nutrients out.
3.Biological filtration, this is where your bacteria grows. This can be filter floss but IMHO I would use ceramics of some kind (Fluval biomax, sera Siporax, etc.) there are many brands. Can also use porous rock or dish scrubbers, anything with lots of surface for bacteria to grow on. I believe you don't have enough bacteria because thread doesn't have much surface area, but is great for polishing the water (removing other contamination).

IMHO I would use 2 trays of mechanical, 1 tray of chemical, and then 2 trays of biological. Many different types of media for each type of filtration, and many different brands. Could mix and match in an endless number if options.
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Old 06-09-2017, 03:07 PM   #6
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Here is a picture of the media basket in my Aquaclear 110.[ATTACH]300273

You can see the ceramic media and the sponge below it. Water flows from bottom to the top. I don't use carbon but have Purigen in my other filter. I use two.
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Old 06-09-2017, 04:03 PM   #7
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Go to a BBQ store n get some lava rocks
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Old 06-09-2017, 07:24 PM   #8
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Thanks you guys! Exact reason I joined. I'll get back with a more thought out response as I feel I may have not been able to get all of the facts across correctly.

For now I'm having an aquarium emergency. I look over and all of the fish are at the top gasping for air and the next thing I know one of my bleeding heart tetras died and one of the silver dollars is upside down breathing quite rapidly. My heart broke. I called the aquarium place and was advised to do a 50% change immediately and every day until down. After the change it's right at 2 ppm or a little above. The silver dollar sprung back to life! For now. I'm on my way to Home Depot right now for those plants to throw them to at least they can start helping. I assume buy it potted, thoroughly rinse the roots and place the roots in the water. I planning on getting 3 or 4 so they can work quickly. Is my thinking correctly? I'm going to the aquarium place tomorrow to pick up proper bio media.

Also, should I open up the filter again and remove all of the crap and sludge stuff and rinse the filters tonight? Would that help in time?

I truly appreciate your advice and direction. I will in to do anything to save these fish, anyone know a magic spell for ammonia?

I'll get back to answer questions and explain a little more after I get these plants in.

Dan
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Old 06-09-2017, 08:35 PM   #9
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Whatever you do just don't do it all at once. Give a day between cleaning the filter/changing water/adding plants. When you clean the filter itself only address one media type each time as well. Stability is the goal. Nothing drastic as they're already living in there so gradually make any and all changes. I like to keep it down to 30min a day after work and I'll address one thing. Nice n easy, don't shock em. The pothos can sit right in the tank or filter and as it grows it can be draped around the tank or into other tanks. If you cut it and sit the cutting in water it will sprout new roots. Very useful plant. Comes in a few colors now too
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Old 06-09-2017, 09:28 PM   #10
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You can rinse all the filter media in a bucket of tank water. I have pothos hanging in my tank and they grow very well.
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Old 06-09-2017, 09:31 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toolman View Post
First off, I'm gonna touch on several of the issue's I see, but I'm not an expert so you will have to research them and listen to others and decide what to do.

Not a fan of frogs, they will eat fish. This is second hand information, I have never had them.
African dwarfs frogs at the absolute most eat shrimp and small fry. African clawed frogs are the fish eaters
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Old 06-10-2017, 12:32 AM   #12
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Okay well I cleaned the filter already so I should that's the plants out then. I had the plants in for about an hour. Should I wait on the bio material then? Could I add it in with the floss?

So adding 4-5 fish every few weeks was a bad idea? It's crazy the fish would seem absolutely fine for so many months.

The frogs- they're still quite small, the cherry barbs are bigger, for now

Gouramis-they haven't been aggressive or anything as of yet, but thank you very much for the info and I'll definitely keep an eye out once they're bigger.

The filter- I knew that water would take the path of least resistance which it why I thought it was weird the petco employee said it was okay. I actually picked stuff up on my trip to premium aquarium, all cut to fit.

The water flows through the bottom tray on up. So the first two are tightly packed filter pad, the next is the charcoal (I'll look into the purigen. Then more filter pad and lastly the water goes through ammonia pad. Premium aquarium did say that I could remove the ammonia pad once it's under control, so I could fill the top two sections with the bio media.

Oh and I did clean the filter media in tank water, it was quite nasty. I think that may have been my issue. I have not once cleaned it and I see several clean theirs once a month. I was told that it was a system that took care of itself once it was setup. Haha I guess I got bad advice.

Dan
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Old 06-10-2017, 12:37 PM   #13
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When I had my canister filter it would slow down if not rinsed out every other month or so, another thing I've seen recommended is to switch the ribbed hoses that often come with them to smooth ones, less bogging down with crap lol.

Also, depending on how deep your sand is, if it isn't sifted regularly, sometimes gas pockets can develop and if something breaks it open it can leach all sorts of terrible things into the water and kill fish. It's not common, but I've heard of it happening.
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