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Old 11-16-2011, 05:04 PM   #1
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A Story: First Fish in Tank Died Likely Sick When Purchased

(Disclaimer: this is a long read. Below are photo and 2 videos.)

Background: 65g w/20g sump. Day 43. Tank 'officially' cycled last week when nitrites dropped to 0. Understanding the tank still quite new, the nitrates (API test) somewhere between 20-40 ppm. Salinity: 1.025 (actually 33 ppm). Ammonia: 0.

Nov 4th: added a donated hammerhead frag. Very happy and healthy, seems to be thriving. Added also, some donated live rock, small amount of substrate, 2-3 gallons water, and some cinnamon zoanthids that are growing and thriving...and some refugium grown fern caulerpa.

Nov 6th: added some 10 oz. substrate from known healthy reef tank that included at least 5 small feather dusters doing very well.

FIRST FISH: 2 ocellaris clownfish anemone from LFS.

Acclimation: floatation for 30 minutes. Add in 1 cup tank water. Float another 15 minutes, then remove clowns from bag and placed into tank.

Initial Behavior: indicated stress. Clowns stuck together as a 'pair', one much larger than the other. Seemed to seek out most active flow in tank, at first staying in one general area for long periods of time (without exploration) before moving to another area and repeating this behavior. Larger clown always seeming to be in the leaf. Larger clown exhibited non-stop 'panting' ... no so much in smaller clown.

By next morning they were 'settled' and calmer in one open corner area and easily visible. BUT, panting in larger clown was not diminished and he showed no appetite while the smaller obviously hungry.

Pet shop had advised that they might not eat for a "day or two" due to stress. Given those instructions, I was probably not as concerned (and I was) with their behavior - especially the larger one. That also in the context that these were my first tankmates in 40 years (now that's an age giveaway!).

Yesterday, at another LFS (several in my area)....young buut experienced reefaholic and sometimes a 'trusted source' (not now) suggests I get an anemone for the clown. Why? He rationalized that since we did not know the origin of the clowns (tank bred or captured)...and that eating was an issue...must be wild. So, must be that the big guy missed his anemone. Newn that I am...and not having had fish in xyxy years.... I thought, gee...ok, that makes some sense..and the investment is only $20.... But best part for me (and why I bought in), must not have a sick fish! Yippee! Yeah and for $20, I but into not having a sick fish (didn't listen to my gut), got me an anemone (which was not in the master plan) and went home happy.

Today, larger clown obviously very stressed and not looking well but as you can see from the still photo (below) he was not showing any external physical symptoms other than his behavior (that I see).

Called LFS shop. They seem indifferent saying that's the problem with marine fish...suggested hospital tank and treatment with an antibiotic. Logistics an issue here but rushed to put together the tank (all parts here) but did not have enough ro/di and saltwater mixed for the 10g. That said, between the 2.5 gallons RO drinking water on hand, 1.5 g asw , and 3 gallons of ro/di...I threw together the tank and started mixing salt and bringing to temperature.

While doing that, the clown starts to seek a hiding place...sometime later, starts darting around the tank, doing spirals, etc. Looks like a 'death dance' to me...that was my gut never having seen that before.

So, I called another LFS (no one else to call as my main source was unavailable). Head fish dude says (I'm going to paraphrase in quotes): "Nothing to be done without physical symptoms. Don't bother to hospitalize and no point in treating with antibiotics because it must just be 'something internal'. I'd live him in the display tank." Oh, really!

Called back to original store. LFS guy says that once they do that darting around spiral thing, it's over... too late. Pull him and dispose.

Several deep breaths. I do the deed and wish that I knew a more humane method.

Conclusions & What I Learned

  • Fish was sick in store. I just didn't recognize the symptoms. And, letting emotion get the better of me, I forgot to have them feed it in front of me... rule 1. I know the rule. I simply forgot.
  • Trust your gut. If it's not right, it's probably not just a case of new fish tank jitters.
  • Have the quarantine hospital tank ready, even for the first fish unless you are prepared to treat him in the display tank.
  • Take everything you hear from a LFS with a grain of salt. My apologizes to the knowledgeable and ethical LFS guys. I know you are out there, but your reps are spoiled by those eager to say something to make me feel better, sell me something, speak because they feel they need to say something... and for whatever reason cannot man (or fem up) and say, "Gee, not sure. Let me ask. Can I call you back after I research. Ask Bill, Bob, or Jane they would know." Better to be silent and admit ignorance than to say something inaccurate.
Thank you for reading.
Click image for larger version

Name:	Sick Clown 2 336 upl.jpg
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Links to videos. First, (2 hours before burial) shows both clowns, but primarily focused on larger one's behavior. Second, (approx. 45-60 minutes before burial) shows only first clown with cutaway where I was trying to capture Tomini Tang introduce last night. He's out and about now that the sick clown is gone - funny thing that.

Sick Clown 1 of 2 - YouTube

Clown Sick 2 of 2 - YouTube
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:10 PM   #2
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Have a look at your acclimation process. Look on YouTube for drip acclimation, you should acclimate over a period of several hours at least.
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:54 PM   #3
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I'm sorry for your lose...
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:59 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by davePM View Post
Have a look at your acclimation process. Look on YouTube for drip acclimation, you should acclimate over a period of several hours at least.
In total agreement that drip method is preferred, but do not believe it would have made any difference in this case.

Currently, have a very happy Tomini Tang added last night and the small clown seems bothered by his missing mate but is otherwise looking good.

A side note, on that tang. He went into hiding after discovering his sick tankmate last night. Stayed in hiding until after I removed the gravely ill clown. Wow. If fish could talk.
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Old 11-16-2011, 06:02 PM   #5
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I'm sorry for your lose...

Appreciate your post.

Writing all this out has helped as I have also posted on another forum I visit. And during the course of the past 2 hours, the tang added last night has really lifted my spirits as I was getting wigged out about his behavior.

So, sometimes in loss comes good things... I'm sad about the big guy, but I did the best I knew how for him.

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Old 11-16-2011, 06:22 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by LarryS

Appreciate your post.

Writing all this out has helped as I have also posted on another forum I visit. And during the course of the past 2 hours, the tang added last night has really lifted my spirits as I was getting wigged out about his behavior.

So, sometimes in loss comes good things... I'm sad about the big guy, but I did the best I knew how for him.

All you can do. I've actually lost my whole tank one time and almost gave up. Now ppl compliment me on my tank and one guy even said it looks like I took a slice of the great barrier and framed it... Lol.. So with every lose, there can be reward.
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Old 11-16-2011, 06:25 PM   #7
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All you can do. I've actually lost my whole tank one time and almost gave up. Now ppl compliment me on my tank and one guy even said it looks like I took a slice of the great barrier and framed it... Lol.. So with every lose, there can be reward.
Yep. Well said, thank you.

Hope I'm a lot smarter with the next purchase.
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Old 11-16-2011, 06:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by LarryS

Yep. Well said, thank you.

Hope I'm a lot smarter with the next purchase.
Trust me. We are all learning still. I'm still a newbie, but try to learn from the vets. Even the vets need advice. Why we are here to help each other through it all.
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Old 11-17-2011, 01:14 AM   #9
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The fish are very lucky to have an owner like yourself! Very thorough post, and easy to read. Thanks for sharing. I watched the videos but had to stop them early - I don't like seeing them suffer.

A lot of fish deaths occur within a week or so of bringing the new guys home. This can be attributed to: Stress and Poisoning (if it was wild caught).

The acclimation process is very important, not as much so with fish over inverts and corals, but still none the less important. When I first got my clowns, I acclimated the same way you mention above. I didnt have any issues. BUT in saying that, they may have been so stressed going from the wild, to a foreign populated tank at the LFS, and then into their final destination at home (if only we could tell them there won't be any more travel!)

An after thought: the fact that the male is healthy and active leads me to think they weren't poisoned?
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Old 11-17-2011, 01:32 AM   #10
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Im so sorry, especially that you had to see him suffer. Im proud of you, (as proud as a kid can be of an adult, of course! Lol) you did your very best to try and save your fish. If im not mistaken however, the little one is still alive?
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