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Old 02-12-2010, 12:18 AM   #1
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Clown breathing heavy...help?

Hi there. First off, I'm a complete noob. 20 gallon reef tank is my first SW tank. Have done my best to follow instructions from local aquarium shop....

20 lbs of live rock. 30 lbs live sand. cycled tank for 2-3 weeks before adding fish/inverts/corals. filter is a "skilter" model. seems to be doing it's thing.

population:
1 orange clown
1 black clown
4 small corals
5 blue leg hermits
2 red leg hermits
2 mexican grazer snails
5 turbo snails

using Tetratest Laborett liquid test kit...
ph - 8.3
ammonia - 0
NO2 - 0.3
SG - 1.022 (coralife hydrometer)
temp - 79

everything seems in the range I think based on the what the test kit says, but....

the black clown has been breathing heavy, mouth hanging open all the time. earlier this evening he looked even worse. sort of listing to the side.

any advice would be very very welcome.
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Old 02-12-2010, 03:07 AM   #2
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Just taking a shot in the dark here, but I'd do a 30% water change a couple times a day. Your NO2 (nitrites) should be 0.0 if your tank was ready for fish. Any levels of nitrites indicate that your biological filtration isn't working right. It could be you either added too many fish too quick (definitely possible with a 20g), or you didn't cycle to start with. When you cycled, did you see the ammonia go up, come down, and eventually drop to zero? If not... then you didn't cycle.

Seems like you should be showing some ammonia levels, as it kind of sounds like ammonia poisoning. But water changes never hurt when you're not sure what's up.

Sorry you have to come to AquariumAdvice needing immediate help, but welcome.

How long have the fish been in there?
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Old 02-12-2010, 07:08 AM   #3
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Thanks very much for your reply.

Fish have been in there for about 2 weeks. On the cycle question, I didn't test for ammonia levels. I took water into my local aquarium shop. First time I took water in she said "not ready". Next time she said "OK". I'm obviously going to ask a few more questions and try to get smarter and more independent from here out.

Already did one 20% water change using SW I bought from the aquarium shop. Will do a few more this weekend and will pay attention to NO2 levels.

thanks again...will update as I go here.
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Old 02-12-2010, 07:33 AM   #4
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I recommend researching everything before even glancing in the direction of your LFS. I didn't and had a few, lets call them 'mis-haps'.
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Old 02-12-2010, 11:45 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by naterq View Post
Fish have been in there for about 2 weeks. On the cycle question, I didn't test for ammonia levels. I took water into my local aquarium shop. First time I took water in she said "not ready". Next time she said "OK". I'm obviously going to ask a few more questions and try to get smarter and more independent from here out..
I think that's a good idea. Not relying on others to understand your own water parameters is the first step everyone in this hobby should do.

So another question... the fish have been in your tank for 2 weeks - were you testing for ammonia and nitrites during that time? Or is this the first time you tested for those things?

If this is the first time, then perhaps the ammonia WAS there, and now it's gone because you're at the tail end of a "mini-cycle" because of the additional bioload from the new fish. If that's the case, you could be just seeing the result of ammonia poisoning, even though the ammonia is gone.

I'd also wonder if you were truly done cycling to start with. Unless you used fully cured live rock, 2-3 weeks seems kinda quick. But it's possible.

As an aside... you say you have one "orange" and one "black" clown. Are they the same species of clowns? If not, they might not get along to well in a 20g tank. Just something to be aware of and keep in mind for the future.
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Old 02-12-2010, 11:38 PM   #6
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Unfortunately I didn't know enough to test for ammonia and nitrites during the 2 weeks I've had the fish. I was testing for ph, SG, and watching temp. The "take water to LFS" was my only insight into ammonia. I think your theory of ammonia poisoning during that first week I had the fish is a good one. LFS told me I had ammonia after 1 week of having the 2 fish and the inverts. Had LFS test water again today. Confirmed what my test kit was saying - ammonia gone, very low level of nitrite. LFS said "don't worry about that....real low".

On the cycle question, yes, the 20 lbs live rock was sold as "cured" from the LFS. 30lbs live sand was of the sealed bag variety.

On the same species question, I really don't know. The Orange one is quite a bit bigger than the Black/Orange one. Orange one seems very healthy. Haven't noticed it harassing the smaller fish at all.

Quick update on the sick fish.....still looks really sick. Skinny, fins flat against back, panting, maybe sort of cloudy look to his body? Tonight I noticed 5-10 small white dots on his body as well. Is it possible that this was a sick fish right out of the gate from the NFS, the ammonia issue in week 1 further stressed him?

He sure doesn't look like he is long for this earth......
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Old 02-12-2010, 11:44 PM   #7
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Confirmed what my test kit was saying - ammonia gone, very low level of nitrite. LFS said "don't worry about that....real low".
Wrong. Any Nitrite is bad. It should be 0. Also the white spots will be ich. For that you can hypo treat but from what it sounds like it probably won't make a difference. Can some offer any tips for the fish at this point?
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Old 02-12-2010, 11:48 PM   #8
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Isn't ich sort of the end of the world for my new little tank? Will my other fish end up with it? Crabs, snails, corals?
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Old 02-13-2010, 12:19 AM   #9
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Look into hyposalinity for the ich, stay away from meds as most of them contain copper which is bad for inverts such as your coral, hermits, and snails. Your inverts are fine as they can't carry ich. You will most likely need to move your fish to a quarentine tank and start hyposalinity.
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Old 02-13-2010, 01:53 AM   #10
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Agree with thominil. Here's a good link about hyposalinity:

ATJ's Marine Aquarium Site - Reference - Hyposalinity Treatment

Here's a good article on marine ich:

Marine ICK - everything you need to know

Ich will look like someone sprinkled salt on your fish, and will appear and disappear on the fish as the parasite goes through its life cycle. With each new generation, more and more spots will appear. Google "marine ich" and look at some of the pictures to see if that's what you're seeing.

As thominil mentioned, you need to do hyposalinity in a quarantine tank. If you do it in your main tank, it will kill any snail, crabs, and corals in your tank. Actually... any treatment that truly kills ich will kill all those things. While the fish are being treated in a quarantine tank, the ich in the main tank will die off if the main tank is left fishless for 8 weeks.

While it's not "the end of the world" for your new little tank, it IS a daunting task to deal with. Your other fish may, or may not, show signs of the parasite - but if you're treating one, you might as well treat both. Getting the main tank fishless is the only way to break the life cycle in your main tank. Afterwards, housing any new fish in a quarantine tank for a minimum of 4 weeks will greatly increase the odds of keeping ich out of your main tank.

Sounds like your tank experienced a mini-cycle because of the addition of 2 fish at once. The lowered immune system of the fish due to the excess ammonia allowed the ich to get a foothold. The fish might not be gasping due to ammonia poisoning, but the ich. Ich attacks the gills, but it's the parasites on the outside of the fish that we normally see. But even without the ammonia, it sounds like the fish had ich to start with, since this is a brand new tank. You were kind of doomed either way, in my opinion... if that makes you feel any better?
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