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Old 10-08-2003, 12:28 AM   #1
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ARGHHH!!! Contaminated gravel!

So tonight, I started filling my 29 gal. (it's a secondhand tank) w/ water. I put in the used gravel that my friend gave me along with the tank a few days ago. When I opened the tupperware container the gravel was in, I noticed it was still a little wet, but figured if I boiled it, everything should be okay. WRONG!

While I was pouring water into the tank over the gravel, I began to notice an odd smell. I figured that it was just the high levels of chlorine from the city water, since that's sort of what it smelled like. I added some dechlorinator, but the smell didn't go away. I bent down to look in the tank water, and noticed lots of fuzzy, whitish particles floating around. I had also noticed them when I boiled the gravel, but stupidly ignored it, figuring they were just parts of the gravel leeching or something. Luckily, I stopped myself when the tank was only a third of the way filled, and decided I should check for ammonia. Sure enough, there is something that was formerly alive rotting on this gravel! I don't know what the exact ammonia level is, I just saw the water in the tube turn bright yellow and dumped it out in disgust and complete frustration. These little particles are everywhere in the water, too.

So now, I am going to have to tear down the tank, and take out all this gravel that I am really repulsed by. Luckily, the tank is only 1/3 full, but that still means I have to syphon out at least 9 gallons of water filled with rotting particles. What do you guys think these particles are? Or do I not even want to know? I know I should have just bought new gravel, and I feel SOOOO stupid . I was just trying to save money, but the money spent on a bag of gravel would have been far worth it. I have already spent so much time cleaning this tank, and while I know I won't have to do as much this time, I'm still incredibly upset.

Any advice or condolences would be much appreciated. Luckily, no fish were harmed by my stupidity.
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Old 10-08-2003, 12:46 AM   #2
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Strange, what in the world would survive boiling - or is it just the dead funk left over after boiling?
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Old 10-08-2003, 01:00 AM   #3
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I don't know! I boiled the gravel for a half hour, and noticed lots of funk stuck to the sides of the pot when I dumped it out. Now, more, similar looking funk is floating around in the tank water.
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Old 10-08-2003, 04:37 AM   #4
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Oh wow, Catalina--that's terrible! I don't know what that stuff could be. I boiled colored gravel once, and it smelled funny too and lost some of its color. I don't think I experienced what you did, but I learned that boiling gravel isn't really the way to go, at least the cheap stuff I had! And what could have survived the boiling to create ammonia, unless it was somehow leaching from the gravel itself?? Very weird! But don't blame yourself! Really, who would have known. It's a good thing that you suspected something was weird and stopped filling the tank. Hopefully you'll get it all filled uneventfully this time!
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Old 10-08-2003, 08:38 AM   #5
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Fish waste products will not go away by boiling, that is probably what you have there. Example, boil a pice of shrimp, initially it would be sterile, shortly after it stops boiling, it begins to rot and produce ammonia. Hope that makes sense.

Rising very, very thouroughly before boiling would be the way to go. gotta get all the crud out.

Actually, here is what I would have done under these circumstances.

The old gravel should have been thouroughly rinsed, either with old tank water (preferrably), or with dechlorinated tap water. The point of this is to preserve all the nitrifying bacteria, and jump-start your new tank.

Rinsing this way would have gotten rid of all your previous fish waste, along with whatever else was in there. (If you had something living in there, snails, worms, etc. you would notice them during rinsing. Then you could have taken steps to get rid of them. )

Then either put the gravel in the tank right away, or styore the gravel wet in an open top container. A sealed container= no oxygen, so everything dies and rots, including your nitrifying bacteria.

Ok, now I've explained all that, if you want advice, trash the old gravel, get new. At this point you don't really know what is in there, better safe than sorry.
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Old 10-08-2003, 11:05 PM   #6
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That's true, if it is cheap, colored gravel, the funk showing up may be a by-product of the color cooking off. I like the natural look myself - river rocks/gravel and such.
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Old 10-09-2003, 01:00 AM   #7
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No, it IS natural colored gravel. The gunk was rotting fish waste products, as corvus explained. The shrimp analogy made it a lot clearer, so thanks for that. Why didn't I think of that before I poured it in there, though?

I am definitely just going to trash this gravel. The thing is, I didn't even need it to jump start the tank, since I have bio spira. I just spent a lot of money on a cave for the tank (for the loaches i plan to put in there) and the bio spira, and I really thought it would be okay to use old gravel if I boiled it.

Well, can't say there has been any purpose in me learning this, but hope that everyone who reads it will remember and not make the same mistake.
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Old 10-11-2003, 05:29 PM   #8
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Well, can't say there has been any purpose in me learning this, but hope that everyone who reads it will remember and not make the same mistake
Sure there is, YOU will never do it again! Believe me, I've made more mistakes with this hobby than I care to think of. The old "Experience is the best teacher" thing. Also, as you said, no one who reads this thread will do it either.

That's one of the primary reasons for this site/community. I've learned a lot here, and I have 20 years experience. I sure wish something like this had been around when I started in the hobby!
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Old 10-13-2003, 02:54 PM   #9
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i give up on colour gravel as i dont think it is very safe for the fish it is all ways leting its colour out.i do feel for you as it is a pain when you set some thing up and it all gos bad.but as they say learn by your mistaks.as my mum found out when she had me good luck with your fishkeeping
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