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Old 03-15-2006, 12:15 PM   #1
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Temperature spike, lost first damsel

Our still-cycling tank last night suffered its first loss. One of the yellow-tailed damsels (who had an injured fin) finally gave in.

I've been keeping a very close eye on things, keeping everything clean, not overfeeding, monitoring ammonia, nitrite, etc.

But I noticed the temperature rising last night. I think the sun was warming up the house, and even though it was only 40 outside, the house went up to almost 80. The tank was already running around 79 typically (trying to keep it warm to speed up the first cycle), but it shot up yesterday afternoon to over 80, approaching 83. Just out of the blue.

The fish were all stressing, clearly. We lost one at this time. The others were all very low in the tank, breathing very, very hard.

Of course I turned off the heater. I was already due for some replacement water from some evaporation in the last week. But the temp stayed over 82.

Don't flame me here:

Out of ideas, short of a massive water change (which I wasn't prepared to do, I didn't want to spend time mixing up water), I started (slowly) adding ice cubes, one a time.

Its a 75g tank, and the fish were at the bottom, so I don't think they would have noticed. The cubes melted quickly, and I added them near the filter intake as to quickly disperse the colder water.

After about 20 ice cubes, and two hours later the temp came back down to 80 and the fish snapped out of their coma-like state.

Over night came back down to 78-79, where I wanted it. I know that's a big swing in a short time, but obviously the >80 temps were really stressing the fish.

Was this the worst thing I could have done? Would just a swap with some quickly-mixed up saltwater have been better? The total water quantity of the ice cubes was probably 16 oz or so. I was panicking, the kids were upset and worried, and I had to think fast.

We have a big house, and the tank is in the area with most steady temperature , short of being in a storage area in our basement. But I'm worried that ambient temperatures approaching 80 might make things difficult this summer.

Either way, it worked - temp came down, fish seem fine.

Also, regarding the "fishless cycle" comments I'm bound to get, I'm following the procedure suggested by several LFS's, and several books. I wasn't aware of the popularity of the fishless cycle until after we'd stocked a few damsels. Everything I'd read on it prior indicated that it was possible, but not the best way to go.
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Old 03-15-2006, 05:49 PM   #2
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You may want to consider a chiller with the summer coming. For a 75g to shoot up that quickly it must have gotten pretty hot in there. I know how it is...I have an old house with not so great insulation so I have to watch my temp pretty carefully.

I'm not sure about the ice cubes and whether or not they were a detrimental mistake but since your fish seem fine now I wouldn't worry about it too much.

One thing to try, slowly raise the constant temp of your tank. Since I had so much problems with temp and I couldn't afford a chiller at the time I had to resort to this. Fish are actually pretty adaptable if things aren't done too quickly. They can tolerate a higher temperature as long as it isn't a spike. Now I wouldn't go to crazy, maybe a degree or two at the most but at least until you get a chiller if it gets warmer in the house it wouldn't be as drastic of an increase from what they were used to. I did lose a few snails and hermits when I did this so I can't speak for any inverts you may have, they are notably more sensitive but like I said, it solved the problem for me in the short term and I didn't lose any of my fish. And I actually read this in an aquarium book I just can't remember which one at the moment. I'll try to find the source this evening and reference it properly so you don't think I'm making stuff up here. =P

Also, do you have a cover on your tank? If you do, make sure you open it when it gets warm in the house. Especially if it's a glass one, they can trap heat inside and make the temp rise quickly. You should also make sure you turn off the lights when you start to notice any temp spikes. Minimize any and all heat sources that you can. I've even used portable fans to blow on my tank but I didn't have much luck with this so I wouldn't depend on it as a remedy.

Good luck. Hope some of this helps.
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Old 03-15-2006, 06:28 PM   #3
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Re: Temperature spike, lost first damsel

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scoot
The fish were all stressing, clearly. We lost one at this time. The others were all very low in the tank, breathing very, very hard.

I run my tank all year long at 82-83 degrees. I do not believe heat is your issue. It sounds like ammonia poisoning to me and I would do a large water change asap to help relieve the stress on your fish.
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Old 03-15-2006, 07:07 PM   #4
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I agree, Sounds like ammonia is the issue, not temp. I keep my tank between 79-82 ith out any issues

If you are cycling with fish, you need to keep the ammonia down as much as possible to avoid harming, or killing them... Frequent water changes are used when cycling with fish, unlike with a dead shrimp cycle.
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Old 03-15-2006, 07:15 PM   #5
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Most of the tank is covered.

RE: the ammonia, Fluff, you just replied to my post about the test kit. My ammonia test is the one from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. The 0 and 1 are pretty different, from yellow-ish (0) to dark green (1.0) with a light green in between (0.5).

My tap water is coming back between 0.5 and 1.0, just like the tank water. Wierd. I'm going to go pick up a second one, maybe strips if they make such a thing.

I'm well acquainted with this type of water testing, as an in-ground pool owner, every day of the summer I'm counting drops and comparing colors. This is different, but the principles are the same.

The ammonia alert is from SeaChem, its the small suction-cup mounted "ammonia alert" (brand new, at least to me) and after 2 days shows "safe".

The fish were definately stressing about something. There was a "quick" rise in temperature. At least 4 degrees, from 78 to 82/83. For some reason our house heated up really fast yesterday afternoon. Something I hadn't been aware of before.

I need to check the ambient temperature around the tank, there might be a "pooling" of warmer air there. A ceiling fan to disperse the air around the room a little might be in order.

The ammonia levels were the same before, during, and after the event.
95% of the top is covered. Just a few gaps around the filter return (a rear-mounted power filter).

I was very slow to add the ice cubes. One or two at a time, and the fish were all at the bottom, breathing hard like they were all about to croak.

I dunno.
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Old 03-15-2006, 08:38 PM   #6
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get the cover off the tank. That is going to be your problem and it will probably cause problems with ph down the road.As Fluff stated, 82-83 is not too hot for the fish, but if it rose quickly, that could be detrimental. Sometimes it is easier to maintain a tank in the low 80's that to struggle to keep it 78. The breathing hard thing sounds like ammonia poisoning to me as well.
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Old 03-16-2006, 11:13 AM   #7
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For some reason I thought it was better to cover as much of the tank as possible...

The tank was at 78 deg steady all day, with the heater off, and of course, 40 deg outside. Temperature of the house is a pretty stable 75-76 all year long.

I'll pull off some parts of the cover until the temp gets a little more controllable.
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Old 03-16-2006, 11:59 AM   #8
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I think covering the top of ur tank will also increase the tank's temp. if u have strong light. If ur afraid of ur fishes jumping out of the tank (firefish for example), get some kind of net to cover the top.

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Old 03-16-2006, 03:27 PM   #9
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I don't think my little damsels are that adventurous to get out of the tank, but I've seen them pop up out of the water a bit. They can get pretty worked up though. A screen would be handy to keep my St. Bernards hair out (he sheds like mad in the spring).

I didnt' know the cover could cause pH problems, but it makes sense, if gasses are trapped and fresh air isn't circulating.

The design of my light canopy really prevents me from removing the cover entirely. Its kind of a single-purpose system, a framework that holds the lift-up doors, the light canopy, and two long clear plastic strips which can be modified to fit around the plumbing in the back. I've already removed those, and in the last few hours I've already noticed the heater kicking on more often to keep the temp at 78.

The cover wasn't air-tight by any means, but I can definately feel warmer air in there when I lift the access doors, meaning air is trapped inside somewhat.

This is a FOWLR system, so the lights aren't very intense - 2 48" 32W tubes that came with. They're not producing much heat either (compared to higher-wattage bulbs I've seen).

The light system sets on top of the cover, which has 2 lift-up doors in front for feeding and access. Standard fish store setup. I could modify the doors, cutting away the solid portion of the surface, and replace with a screen - that would look pretty decent if I can cut it cleanly.
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Old 03-16-2006, 09:07 PM   #10
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Ammonia becomes more toxic as temperature and pH rises, esp. pH. The pH will increase as the temp increases. These two factors will cause a shift towards the production of a more toxic form of ammonia ion.

So indirectly the temperature change may have caused the stress and death, but as others have said, the temp was not out of normal range for your fish. Your tank is still young and the nitrifying bacteria are still being established so I would say that the tank may not be able handle the rapid shift in the water chemistry yet.

Good luck
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