I talked to the fish store... they say there are no chemicals in their water. I took the liberty of testing the water in their bag with one of my test kits, and the ammonia was 0, nitrite was 0, nitrates were 0, and pH was 8.3-8.4... all of these values are the same as my tank.
As an update, I've come some ways from my last post (not in a good direction either) and I'm wondering if the latest problems may shed some more light onto what may possibly be going on with my tank.
Back to the beginning... I moved one black mollie from my freshwater tank into the saltwater tank. He did fine so a week later, I went to LFS
1 and got 2 blue damsels, a domino damsel, a three stripe damsel, and a chromi. The chromi died the same night, but I figured it was a fluke. Then the two blue damsels both died about 3 days later and I started to get concerned. I took my water to LFS
1 and they confirmed that everything was ok and the tank had cycled. I suspected as much, but the people on these forums suspected otherwise. I'm not sure if it really was cycled or not, but at least now I had confirmation from a 2nd source that my personal test kit readings werent faulty.
I waited a couple more weeks and everyone was doing ok so I figured it may be the fish store's stock. I went to LFS
2 and bought 2 yellow tailed damsels, 1 blue damsel, and another chromi. This time the chromi changed from green to white (never did that the first time) and everyone was ok for a few more days. Then the domino damsel and the three stripe damsel from the original batch as well as the new chromi all died within about 36 hours of each other.
At this point I'm getting very frustrated. I have two sources telling me the water is perfectly fine, the temperature is at 75 (supposedly perfect), ammonia/nitrite are both 0 and nitrate is between 0-5. Calcium is 450, phosphates barely read on my home test, and this water is coming from an RO
unit so everything should be swell. I decided to go to LFS
3 which is a very ritzy place that has been in business for like 15 years and does home service for a bunch of people I know, everyone raves about them, and I couldn't find one troubled looking fish in the entire store. Beautiful coral tanks and the whole bit... basically they seemed like they might know what they were talking about. I brought my water there and once again, they confimed that the tank was more than ready for fish. All the levels were exactly where they should be... So I ended up buying an anemone (can't remember what kind now, but it's not green tips with a brownish base and they said it would work well with a percula clownfish) as well as buying a cardinal fish.
Brought these home, drip acclimated them, put them in, and everything was going swell. The anemone is eating great... the cardinal fish doesn't move around much, he kinda found a corner and likes to stay there, but he isn't breathing hard/fast and he's eating well, so I think thats just the way he is. After about a week, everything was still going fine so I figured all was well and made the trek back to LFS
3. I picked up a male/female clownfish, a bubble anemone, and another anemone whos name I can't remember (long white tenticles with small purple tips on the end). Drip acclimated these guys, got them in the tank, the anemones took hold very quickly and are eating great. The clownfish looked ok when I put them in.
Earlier today the black mollie I took from my freshwater tank died right in front of me. Out of nowhere, he started having a very difficult time swimming. Started getting pushed around by the powerheads, and seemed to have a very difficult time figuring out which way was up as he tried swimming in whichever direction he happened to be pointing at the time. No more than two minutes later, he ended up getting stuck to the powerhead intake (it's a maxijet 1200 with the grate on the bottom so he wasn't sucked directly into the intake, but the water going in was more than he could pull away from) so I lunged for the power switch, turned the heads off, he swam away from it (still haphazardly) and I grabbed him up in a net, filled a little QT tank with the water from the main tank and hung it inside, then put him in that. Upon inspection, he had several slices across the side of his body. It looked like he may have hit the live rock or something... didn't look like he was attacked by another fish. I put some melafix in his little QT tank in a desperate effort to help him out, and he seemed better for a few minutes... managed to right himself and swim around more normally, but then gave up and floated to the top dead.
Not more than a few hours after that incident, I had one of the yellow tail damsels die as well. He had no lacerations, no signs of gill disease or any other sort of disease... looked perfectly fine to me. Then, to top it all off, the smaller of the two clownfish is breathing very rapidly (almost faster than I can count the breaths) and swimming vertically part of the time which makes me think his time is limited. Everything I've read online basically says thats the beginning of the end.
So now I'm at a crossroad... I can't figure out what in the world is happening with these poor fish. I'm left with three anemones (all different breeds) which seem to be doing perfectly fine. Two clownfish, the bigger of which seems ok but the smaller one is acting odd. A yellow tail damsel and a blue damsel. The yellow tail seems fine, but the blue damsel is breathing more rapidly now as well. Then a cardinal fish who found a corner and doesn't tend to come out of it, but other than that he seems to be doing fine. I've sat in front of this tank for hours each day and I can't figure out whats up... nobody is fighting, there are no signs of a disease in the tank (no inflamed gills, spots, blood, fin rot, etc.). I've tested the levels daily and everything remains at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0-5 nitrate, 8.4 ph, 75-76 degrees F, 300-500 calcium, barely readable phosphates, and 1.023 salinity (as measured by a refractometer). I don't know if it's better to give up and stop senselessly killing fish or if there is some kind of miracle answer to this that I just haven't been able to find? At this point, I'm finished buying fish... I've already killed too many and it seems to me that I'm pretty ignorant since I can't even figure out why everything continues to die.
I'm hoping that someone here may have that miraculous missing piece to this puzzle?