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Old 06-15-2019, 12:36 AM   #1
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Exclamation New tank and fish keep dying

My 4 year old has been working towards earning a fish tank and we put it together last weekend. We got a 20 gallon Marineland tank with LED light hood, Penguin 150 biowheel filter (with the included cartridge and seachem purigen added), and submerged heater set to 78 degrees. We were, of course, given bad advice by Petsmart and added fish too quickly and they all died overnight. Iíve been doing some reading on the forum and I need help!

We set up the tank - gravel, fake plants, decoration. Everything was properly rinsed before going in the tank. Filled with water and treated with Tetra AquaSafe then Tetra SafeStart. We did not wait 24 hours between the two, did not know at the time we had to. Then added 4 Glofish Tetras. They all were dead by morning. Got the fish out of the tank and back to the store we went. They suggested adding some additional bacteria and allowing it to cycle for a few additional days, then bring in a water sample for them to test. We did this and waited 4 days. The water became cloudy on day 2, was told this was totally normal and to just let it run its course. Took in a water sample tonight, got the all clear to add fish again. We did another 4 tetras and also added StressCoat to try to help with the transition. The fish floated in the bag in the water for about 30 minutes. Then I added some tank water to the bag and they floated another 30 minutes before netting them into the tank. 2 died within 3 hours.

I have 2 main concerns - does my water have enough oxygen with just the filter running or do I need to add some sort of bubbler/aeration? And 2 - is it just the water that is killing the fish so quickly? If so, how to do I fix it? If the last 2 fish die, do I just drain it all and completely start over? Please help walk me through this. Thank you!
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Old 06-15-2019, 02:44 AM   #2
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Your tank isn't cycled. The fish are dying from poor water quality and it's not stable because your not cycled. Also, you are getting bad advice from PetSmart.

Now that you have two fish in the tank and alive you will be doing a fish in cycle. I'll also advise you should get an API Freshwater Master Test Kit so you can test the water as you go. Cycling can take anywhere from 4-8 weeks. If you know your water parameters you will know when you need to immediately do a water change to lower ammonia and nitrites. It will also allow you to know when your tank is cycled.......0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrites and a nitrate reading usually between 5-40 ppm is the goal.

In the meantime, start by doing a 50% water change immediately and another within 24 hours. After that, do daily 25% water changes or 5 gallon changes. You can do daily 50% water changes if you feel it's needed. Being your tank is fairly small it's not as hard to change 10 gallons of water. This will keep your water acceptable until you get a test kit and know exactly what's going on with your water parameters.

It's also a good idea to test your tap water.....if you are using tap water....to see if it contains ammonia, nitrites or nitrates. Stop using all the bottled products they're selling you. If they worked they would have by now. The only thing you need is dechlorinator and I recommend Seachem Prime. Prime will convert ammonia and nitrites into a safer form for up to 48 hours although, in your case, id dose daily with your water change. If you miss a day of water change, still dose the tank with Prime.
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Old 06-15-2019, 07:51 AM   #3
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Thank you for the information! Based on some reading I was doing I was thinking that was the problem, but then other sources said that the water wouldnít kill the fish that quickly. Either way, thank you for the direction.

Unfortunately, the other 2 fish died overnight so our tank is now empty again. Can I cycle the tank without fish, or should I get a few more for the process? Since they did die, should I completely drain the water and totally start over? I will go out and get the test kit and Prime today. Anything else I need to get?

Last question for now, Iím also seeing conflicting advice on this - when doing a water change, can I pump the tap water directly into the tank if I preventively dose it with prime or do I need to put it in a bucket first, dose with prime, and then add to tank?
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Old 06-15-2019, 08:17 AM   #4
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Thank you for the information! Based on some reading I was doing I was thinking that was the problem, but then other sources said that the water wouldnít kill the fish that quickly. Either way, thank you for the direction.

Unfortunately, the other 2 fish died overnight so our tank is now empty again. Can I cycle the tank without fish, or should I get a few more for the process? Since they did die, should I completely drain the water and totally start over? I will go out and get the test kit and Prime today. Anything else I need to get?

Last question for now, Iím also seeing conflicting advice on this - when doing a water change, can I pump the tap water directly into the tank if I preventively dose it with prime or do I need to put it in a bucket first, dose with prime, and then add to tank?
Yes you can cycle without fish. You'll have to get some pure ammonia to do so to feed the bacteria.

Yes you can dump tapwater into the tank so long as you dosed the tank volumn with Prime.
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Old 06-15-2019, 08:20 AM   #5
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Yes you can cycle without fish. You'll have to get some pure ammonia to do so to feed the bacteria.

Yes you can dump tapwater into the tank so long as you dosed the tank volumn with Prime.
Great! Anything else I need to cycle without fish other than prime and ammonia? Should I start with the water in the tank, or do a 100% water change and start over?
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Old 06-15-2019, 09:13 AM   #6
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If you get the ammonia make sure it's pure ammonia. Ace Hardware sells it if you have that store near you. If not go with what you can get your hands on. Shake the bottle, if it has excessive bubbles or if the bubbles don't dissipate quickly then it has additives and you don't want that. If for some reason you can't find this, Dr Tim's sells ammonia in a bottle for cycling. If you don't like the price just add a pinch of fish food to the tank.

You can leave the water you have in the tank. I'm sure it has ammonia in it at the moment.

You'll want to keep your Ammonia at 4 ppm during cycling when possible. If you use pure ammonia dose at 5 mL. This should put 20 gallons of water right around 4 ppm. I like to use the little NyQuil plastic measuring cup. You'll definitely want to get a test kit when cycling your tank this way.
Ammonia and dechlorinator is all you need. Plus patience
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Old 06-15-2019, 09:23 AM   #7
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If you get the ammonia make sure it's pure ammonia. Ace Hardware sells it if you have that store near you. If not go with what you can get your hands on. Shake the bottle, if it has excessive bubbles or if the bubbles don't dissipate quickly then it has additives and you don't want that. If for some reason you can't find this, Dr Tim's sells ammonia in a bottle for cycling. If you don't like the price just add a pinch of fish food to the tank.

You can leave the water you have in the tank. I'm sure it has ammonia in it at the moment.

You'll want to keep your Ammonia at 4 ppm during cycling when possible. If you use pure ammonia dose at 5 mL. This should put 20 gallons of water right around 4 ppm. I like to use the little NyQuil plastic measuring cup. You'll definitely want to get a test kit when cycling your tank this way.
Ammonia and dechlorinator is all you need. Plus patience
Thank you! Iím glad to finally be getting some good advice and doing this the right way. I can handle the patience part, my 4 year old on the other hand might have more difficulty

When I used the test strips this morning - ammonia was 0, nitrites were 0, and nitrates were 20. But Iíll test again with the API kit when I get back from the store. Could the lack of a air pump and low oxygen be causing issues?

Should I add more of the Tetra SafeStart at some point during this cycle since I already have it? Or is that not helpful?

One last question - can you overdose on dechlorinator? When I do the partial water changes and add prime to the tank, do I dose for the amount of new water or for the total volume of the tank?
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Old 06-15-2019, 12:22 PM   #8
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I'd double check that test with the liquid test kit. Make sure you shake the heck out of the nitrate #2 bottle. Literally bang it against your hand or a table. It can give a false reading if you don't shake well.

What are you using for filtration? As long as you have good surface agitation it will create oxygen in the water.

If you have the safe start it couldn't hurt to use the rest of it. Then I'd stick with the basic ammonia and dechlorinator.

There is a limit to how much dechlorinator you should use, especially when you are ready to add fish again. Double dosing wouldn't hurt anything. I believe one cap full of Prime treats 50 gallons of water so you'd be good with a half a cap full. The smaller bottles have a dropper top. And it's two drops to every gallon of water.

If you plan on pouring water directly into the tank with a water hose then you want to dose the tank prior for the full 20 gallons then add water. Or if you're using a 5 gallon bucket or similar you could just dose the water in the bucket as you go. This is where the dropper bottle comes in handy.
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Old 06-16-2019, 11:29 AM   #9
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I'd double check that test with the liquid test kit. Make sure you shake the heck out of the nitrate #2 bottle. Literally bang it against your hand or a table. It can give a false reading if you don't shake well.

What are you using for filtration? As long as you have good surface agitation it will create oxygen in the water.

If you have the safe start it couldn't hurt to use the rest of it. Then I'd stick with the basic ammonia and dechlorinator.

There is a limit to how much dechlorinator you should use, especially when you are ready to add fish again. Double dosing wouldn't hurt anything. I believe one cap full of Prime treats 50 gallons of water so you'd be good with a half a cap full. The smaller bottles have a dropper top. And it's two drops to every gallon of water.

If you plan on pouring water directly into the tank with a water hose then you want to dose the tank prior for the full 20 gallons then add water. Or if you're using a 5 gallon bucket or similar you could just dose the water in the bucket as you go. This is where the dropper bottle comes in handy.
For filtration I am using a Bio Wheel Penguin 150 with the included cartridge and a Seachem purigen in the other slot.

I found everything I needed between a few stores - ammonia was a little more difficult to find. I am working on it all this morning. What is the order I should start everything? Dechlorinator, let sit for 24 hours (I read somewhere that the dechlorinator can kill the bacteria in SafeStart and to wait 24 hours). Then SafeStart then ammonia shortly after? Or ammonia then SafeStart?

Thank you for your help and answering all my questions!
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Old 06-16-2019, 01:04 PM   #10
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That filter should be fine for your tank. If you wanted to add airstones it could only help but not necessary IMO.

First thing, test your water if you have the test kit so you can gauge how much ammonia you will have to use.

I'm assuming your tank is currently full of water that had dechlorinator in it??? When you're ready you can add either the safe start or the ammonia first. Doesn't matter.

Apparently you have to wait 24 hours before adding dechlorinator. I'm guessing it's because Prime and most dechlorinators use a binding agent. Anyhow, if you have to add water for whatever reason use the dechlorinator then add ammonia. 24 hours later use safe start.
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