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Old 10-15-2013, 06:46 PM   #1
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Ok, here's my story

I've used AA in the past for troubleshooting, but decided to sign up hoping for some encouragement and in-depth advice.

Summer of 2012 I had the whim to start an aquarium. Scored a 30gal and stand with some supplies on CL for super cheap. Did some research, cleaned up the tank, bought the heater, air pump, and filter. Waited a few weeks, got impatient and proceeded to buy and kill half of my first round of zebra danios. Yikes! Pumped the breaks, figured out what I needed to do to keep the rest of my new pets alive. Was doing water changes twice a week, got the chemical water testers and after a couple of months everything is cruising right along. Starting adding a few more zebras little by little, so as not to overload the tank. Eventually added some corydoras. The most my tank has ever had is like 15 fish, 4 of those being corys.
October of 2012 my husband and I moved to a new house and I took that opportunity to switch over to a new 30gal I had acquired. I left my old tank with the inhabitants at the old house and set up the new one at the new house. Bought three 5gal jugs of water and filled the new tank half way. Drained the old tank half way and bagged the fish. Poured the old water in with the new water in the new tank, acclimated the fish and voila. Awesome new tank.
Well right now my tank is currently running, but sitting empty. Over the course of the year weíve lived in our new home, all my fish have died. Now it wasnít like they all died at the same time, they just one by one randomly seemed to go. Checking my water everything was fine, so it was very frustrating to not know why I was losing fish. I even had a few that just plain disappeared and Iím sure they were cannibalized. At some point in there I went and bought 4 new zebras and noticed that once I put them in the tank, their gills turned slightly red. My fault for not drip acclimating them, and I had one casualty from that. The others recovered and it was soon after that I thought my tank had TB. The corys were fine, but one zebra developed a curved spine and eventually died. Then another one developed a curved spine and died. So I decided to not restock the tank with zebras and eventually it was 3 lonely corys. Then it became 2 corys. Then it was 1 cory, until finally I found him upside down at the bottom of the tank.
I was fed up and listed my entire set up for sale and itís a stab to my heart (and wallet) because Iíve put so much time and effort into the tank and really have no clue what the problem was. I would like to keep the tank and restock, but I donít want to do anything until I figure out what the problem is!
So if you guys can help me troubleshoot this, I would appreciate it. Hereís some info:
Weíre on well water, but have a softener, so water that comes into the house is softened. This is the water I use for changes, because the well water is so hard and I want to avoid the nasty calcium build up. I tested the water on Sunday (10/13) and Nitrates were off the charts, but everything else was zero. Makes sense because with no fish, Iíve done no water changes. I keep the water temp at 80 and my pH is 8.4. My husband had the water tested and we just have a naturally high pH. Everything Iíve read is fish will get used to pH as long as itís consistent. Now one thing I havenít done, which just occurred to me to check as I type this, is use my testing kit on the water straight from the faucet. I have no idea if there are high nitrates in it that would basically be defeating the purpose of my water changes. But regardless, SOMETHING is making my fish susceptible to sickness and I need to figure out what that is before I attempt to restock. Whew!
Now that everyone knows Iím a fish murderer, and probably SHOULD just rehome my tank, what are your thoughts?
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Old 10-15-2013, 08:08 PM   #2
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Hi Mollylou and welcome to AA.
WOW, that's a post and a half!!. First up, don't give up. Where there's a problem there is a solution. We'll help you find it.
You have to cycle the tank again. Having no stock in it means no 'food' for the BB to survive. There are great articles on the forum about the different types of cycles. Click on the Article section on the top of the page.
During the move I suspect your BB(beneficial bacteria) died off. Your tank will need to be cycled again.
Remove all the water currently in there and replace it with a mix of the well water and the softened water. Read those articles and choose which method you want to go with. Cycle the tank and go from there.
A few questions for you;
1. Have you tested the well/softened water and what were the results
2. When you do your water changes, are you using dechlorinate to treat the new water.
3. When cleaning the filter, do you use used tank water.

I use water straight from the tap, I have no softener so I'm not too familiar with what the softener actually removes, apart from calcium. You might need to add elements back into the water. Hopefully another member can help out with that. The high Nitrates, although not the most toxic of the Nitrogen cycle, is still not ideal. Below 20ppm is a good figure to aim for. Plants are a great way to reduce Nitrates. Some simple, easy care plants will help to reduce Nitrates. Water Wisteria and Water Sprite are great at soaking up those trates. They can be planted or floated. They grow very quickly and require no CO2 or fertilizers.
Hopefully more members will chip in and help your cause. They might have different ideas of the problem or solution, so you will have a few suggestions to try. This is what I believe maybe the problem and solution but I stand corrected!!!
Please fire away with any questions or if any of this doesn't make sense....
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Old 10-15-2013, 08:29 PM   #3
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Seems like your going through a nightmare! Really sorry to hear about your fish, especially the cories. (I have four of them)

Your water from tap is really soft. I fill up a 5gallon bucket with water from shower, then add 5ml of my dechlorinator (suggested amount on label), drop my air stone in and let sit over night. That way it helps release gas and helps lower pH. Hope this helps a little.

But yes, I would clean out the whole tank and contents and start over. I did fish in cycling, lost maybe 4 fish, but it was an accident. I would have tried fishless first, plus I can't seem to find ammonia here in hawaii because too many people use it to make hardcore drugs with it=( & the fish food method seems inaccurate.
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Old 10-15-2013, 11:28 PM   #4
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Not sure if I did this right but I tried to attach the results from the in-depth water analysis my husband did. I'm not sure how to read those in relation to my tank chemistry though.

I also went to Petsmart tonight with water samples from my tank and the tap. They didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, except for my nitrates from my tap are identical to my tank. I went ahead and double checked with my test kit and got 10ppm for the tap and about 30ppm for my tank, which is better than the 100+ppm it was on Sunday.

To be honest, when I did my water changes I didn't use the dechlorinate every time, but I did clean my filters in my siphoned water.

I suppose I could drain/refill my tank and recycle. Should I replace my filters with new ones? Should I rinse off my bio-fiber or just leave it?
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Old 10-16-2013, 07:11 PM   #5
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I know this sounds obvious and probably stupid as they live in it but it's obviously a water issue. If they were fine in your last place, the water is the issue, not anything you are doing...
I'm not experienced enough to completely understand those readings. I just test for the usual, Ammon/Nitrites/Nitrates. I do know my water is quite hard though. Are you using a liquid test kit??. The strips are very inaccurate. Is the tank planted??. If the tank is empty, stockwise, the BB will have died and you will have to recycle it anyway. Their seems to be metals in the water and you would need to use a delorinater. Prime is an excellent choice and goes a long way. Also when you are cleaning the filters, make sure the media doesn't dry out. This can kill some of the BB, resulting in Ammonia, which if your using Strips to test with might not pick up. This would have an effect on the fish over time. Sorry I can't give you an exact cause or answer but you need to start from scratch and go from there. I would consider planting the tank. You could use easy, low-light plants like Water Wisteria or Water Sprite. These are excellent at soaking up Nitrates from the water.....
I would clean everything and start from the beginning. I know it's a pain but it's best to start over.....
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Old 10-21-2013, 07:45 PM   #6
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How difficult is it to have a planted tank? Do I have to do anything special or can I just throw some plants in there? The little bit of research I did looks like some plants get their nutrients straight from the water, so would a high pH be a problem or would the plants get used to it?
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Old 10-21-2013, 08:23 PM   #7
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I have just planted one of my tanks(15g) literally 1wk ago. So far so good. I am certainly NOT an expert and am still learning myself but there are a few plants I know that will help your Nitrates. Water Wisteria and Water Sprite are two fast growing, low light plants that generally can be planted in most tanks and do well. They don't require added CO2 or liquid carbon or ferts. They can be planted or just left floating in the tank. As I said I am no expert but if your are interested, there are a few great members(that I know of) who are brilliant with plants and would be able to help you out with more details. Although I only have my planted a week I am really enjoying it, it does require a bit of re-arranging and tweaking, adding more plants and moving some etc etc but i'm on the right track with the help and great advice from Old Scales and Rivercats, both excellent with plants.....
I'm not certain about the PH but mine is in the mid 7s, so I don't think yours would be an issue.
Ps... Picture taken a few hours after planting!!
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Old 10-21-2013, 08:53 PM   #8
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I personally like planted tanks. Depending on your lighting, what you use for substrate and what kind of plants you want will determine difficulty. If you want a planted tank, think if the plants need liquid ferts or dry ferts like root tabs. CO2 systems help out a lot, but is not always needed. I don't have money to build one, so I am still waiting to add CO2.
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Old 10-21-2013, 09:20 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mollylou View Post
Not sure if I did this right but I tried to attach the results from the in-depth water analysis my husband did. I'm not sure how to read those in relation to my tank chemistry though.

I also went to Petsmart tonight with water samples from my tank and the tap. They didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, except for my nitrates from my tap are identical to my tank. I went ahead and double checked with my test kit and got 10ppm for the tap and about 30ppm for my tank, which is better than the 100+ppm it was on Sunday.

To be honest, when I did my water changes I didn't use the dechlorinate every time, but I did clean my filters in my siphoned water.

I suppose I could drain/refill my tank and recycle. Should I replace my filters with new ones? Should I rinse off my bio-fiber or just leave it?
Your TDS (total dissolved solids) are off the charts!!

You also mentioned that when you added fish they got red gills. That's not from bad acclimation, but ammonia poisoning.
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Old 10-22-2013, 05:51 PM   #10
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Is there anything I can do to lower the TDS? Those are the results straight from the well and from the tap. The more research I do the more I'm thinking that I need to mix two different sources of water. Perhaps mix the water from the tap and the well, or invest in a R/O unit to mix with well water? My TDS would still be pretty high if I did the former though.

My substrate is sand, so any plant that I can go ahead and stick in there without having to muck with it too much is best. But I suppose if my water is crap it's not going to matter since the plants will most likely die too. I just need to figure out the best solution for my water first.

All of the reading I've done on water softeners and the results from my water tests make me think there is WAY too much sodium in the water...193.8 ppm and 98.51% of sodium? If I use water from the well, my biggest problem should be calcium build up on the tank. I think I see the lesser of two evils here.
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