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Old 05-08-2004, 01:15 AM   #1
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Swordtail going crazy!

I think I may already know the answer, but I thought I might post and just see what people thought.

I just set up a brand new aquarium, 38 gallons, 36x12x20. I was going to start with some barbs, but the pet store barb tank had an ick infested fish in it, so I decided to start with something else...

I put in the gravel, a decoration, put in the water, put in the appropriate amount of chlorine/chloramine neutralizer, and let the filter run for 24 hours. The tank was very cloudy at first, but this slowly went away. I admit that I did add some drops of a water declouder to speed this up. After the initial 24 hours running, I added something called Stress Zyme that said that it would improve the development of my biological filter. I figured that would help out the first fish I put in there. Again, I added the recommended dose for my 38 gallons.

About 12 hours after that point, I purchased 4 green swordtails, 1 male and 3 females. I floated the bag for 15 minutes, and then released them. It took them quite a while, but eventually they started exploring. They had been in the tank for 12 hours and I dropped some food flakes in there for them, Tetra Min. They didn't seem to notice until the flakes fell to the bottom, and then they came out (they had been hiding). I guess I'll have to crush them a bit more, because they had to chew the flakes apart, and then ate them. Even though I only added about 6 small flakes, I think that may have been too much! They left a little over.

Anyway, about an hour after I fed them, the male swordtail started going crazy. He would swim up to the top, and then ride the wave that the Penguin 330 creates. He would cruise back up and ride the wave again. I thought he was having fun until I realized he cruised all the way till he almost hit the glass. He would run into the fake plants that are attached to my decorations. I realized that he had no control, and even though he was struggling to swim, he was pretty much at the whim of the current. He would go end over end, and eventually he ended up face first in the corner of the tank. He was there for a few minutes and he got up and started to swim again, and got sucked up right against the filter intake. He managed to get off of it and now he is sitting in the bottom corner of the tank again, and he seems to have retained some control, but apart from moving around a few inches, he is staying pretty much in the same spot and appears to be looking at his reflection in the glass.

I dipped some test strips I purchased into the tank, and my nitrates and nitrites are well in the "safe" category. Alkalinity is "ideal." Hardness is in the "hard" category, but not really near "very hard." My pH looks pretty high, closer to 8.0 than to the 7.6 color. I will purchase some pH adjustors tomorrow, and try to get closer to 7.0. My ammonia reading is right in between "safe" and "stress," of course there is also "high" and "danger," but the color is nowhere near that.

I guess I am a little idealistic. I had kind of hoped I might be able to keep all my first fish alive. I won't be surprised or heartbroken if I find him dead tomorrow morning, but I certainly don't want to kill my fish!

OK, sorry about all that info, but I am new at this, and I wanted to make sure all the info was there for my questions.

1) The only thing that seemed out of place was the pH. Would this cause a problem for my swordtails? I was told that the swordtails are a very hardy fish, that's one of the reasons I chose them to start the cycle in my tank, so I would find it hard to believe that in between "safe" and "stress" on the ammonia chart would cause a fish to go crazy. The nitrates are closer to 0 than to even the first of 2 "safe" colors, so I can't believe that's the problem either.

2) Do the ammonia and the nitrates dissolve evenly throughout the water? Will the water closer to the filter be safer than the water across the tank?

I might add that through all this, the 3 females are swimming around normally with no evidence of any kind of issues. They were quite concerned about the male, especially with his crazy swimming. When he was face-first in the corner, one came right up next to him, kind of seemed to be checking him out.

Any thoughts? Any "newbie" mistakes that I have made in the setup? I appreciate all of your help and suggestions!

PS - It has now been about an hour since the problem the swordtail was having. He is still hanging near the bottom, and appears to be putting forth more effort than usual to swim, but he is moving a little more normally. 2 of the females are kind of sitting right there with him, and the 3rd female about 4 or 5 inches above, also kind of hovering. Either way, I'll let you know how it turns out, but would still appreciate suggestions. Thanks!
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Old 05-08-2004, 01:33 AM   #2
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Ok... first off before I say anything. DO NOT buy any pH adjustment chemicals. A non-changing pH is MUCH better for a fish than a flucuating one. They will adjust. it is NOT safe to use products like ph down.

Weith that said, you made the largest "newbie" mistake there is. And very often the most fatal. I don't blame you as people that work at pet stores here openly admit that they don't even bother trying to tell customers about this anymore, because they never listen.

Your tank was not cycled. Cycling is the process of all the right bacteries growing, to get rid of the bad ones. The process cannot be completed without ammonia in the tank because that is what these good bacteria "eat". Therefore, leaving a tank setup for 24 hours is not going to do anything. And all those chemicals you are adding to help the biological filter and stuff and nothing but a waste of money. No offense but they can actually slow down the cycle. The ONLY one out there that works is bio-spira, and they aren't selling it for a few months because they couldn't grow the bacteria fast enough.

I am going to find a post on here about this exact thing that someone else did not too long ago. Until then, read up on cycling, as it needs to be done. If you don't return your fish to the store there is a very good chance you will loose some, if not all.

Also, go purchase a liquid test kit. The dip strips are not very reliable at all. And the reason they are probably showing your nitrates/nitrites as normal is because that this point it is pretty much tap water. It is the ammonia (fish waste, and uneaten food) that is killing your fish at this point. And once the cycle starts, it will be the nitrates, and then nitrites. Please do some searching on this site about the cycle, or google. I will post the link for the other post as soon as I find it.

I'm sorry for your fish. I don't blame you though, and I hope you don't take anything I say as an attack to you. It's just that stupid pet stores don't tell people this stuff, and it can be very serious.

-brent
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Old 05-08-2004, 01:40 AM   #3
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http://www.aquariumadvice.com/viewto...375&highlight=

There is the post. It starts on the second page about the cycle.

FYI, your swordtail is probably doing what he is doing because he is gasping for air due to the ammonia, or simply because he is trying to get out. Ammonia is very deadly and burns their gills.

-brent
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Old 05-08-2004, 12:29 PM   #4
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It looks like you will be cycling with fish--it can be done and fish can live, but you have to be on top of things.
pkremer, if you know anyone with an established tank, ask them for some filter media, or a squeezing from their filter sponge--that will have all the necessary bacteria in there. Stress Zyme will not help.
Quote:
Originally Posted by flipz
And once the cycle starts, it will be the nitrates, and then nitrites.
Other way around. The nitrites will spike (they are just as deadly as ammonia), then nitrates (plant fertilizer).
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Old 05-08-2004, 12:56 PM   #5
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I always flip those two.
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Old 05-08-2004, 01:04 PM   #6
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The two are not alphabetical but reversed. It is not as you normally think kind of like they live in water but we live with air. Maybe that will help you keep them stright. Its a backwards world.
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2-55gal \ 1-30gal \ 1-10gal in use
1-225gal \ 1 60gal hex \ 17-20gal \ 7-10gal in storage
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Old 05-08-2004, 08:29 PM   #7
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Well, I have good news! I woke up this morning, and of course, the first thing I did was check the tank, and there was the male swordtail crusing around the females as if nothing had happened last night! I watched him closely for a while to see if anything appeared unusual, but all of them were moving all over the tank, even going right by the filter intake without even the slightest hint of exertion.

I contacted the pet store where I purchased them, and they told me it sounded like he may have been experiencing stress because of the recent move and the uncycled aquarium? Then maybe he was able to calm down when the lights were out overnight. I do have to defend this pet store a little. They DID make me aware of the biological cycles, and told me how to get it started. They recommended I cycle the tank with fish. They said swordtails would be an excellent fish to start with as they are a little hardier than other fish, and inexpensive if they did happen to die.

It made sense to me. I have done a lot of research on the initial cycle, probably made a newbie mistake with the Stress Zyme, it said it had 100 million bacteria per teaspoonful "to start the development of the biological filter." Sounds like it might not do anything after all. Would it be worthless to continue to follow the instructions and put it in again on day 7 and 14? I already purchased it...

Now, I understand that the ammonia will spike initially, but I have to ask flipz a question. Now, I have never actually experienced doing this, so I know I don't understand everything, but I feel that intellectually at least, I understand how the process should take place. I am curious why you feel that the problem was ammonia. I have seen in every pet store I've been in male bettas sitting in jars of about 12 ounces. Pet store employees say they can sit in there for days! If a betta can sit in 12 ounces of water for days without killing himself from ammonia poisoning, how could 4 tiny swordtails (less than 1" each) be suffering from ammonia after only 12 hours in a 38 gallon tank?

The pet store told me that with just 4 tiny swordtails in 38 gallons of water, the ammonia buildup would be slow enough where the bacteria could start to grow and remove it before it became toxic, and then the nitrites and nitrates, etc. I am hoping that they are correct and that they gave me good advice, because I would really like to succesfully keep these guys alive.

Also, why are pH adjustors such a bad idea? Will that cause more stress on the fish than the fact it is too high?

Managerie, thank you for the advice. When you say I need to be on top of things, what in specific do you mean? The pet store owner offered to let me take one of the biowheels from one of his Penguin 330's running on his aqariums and then put mine in his for a few weeks. I was hesitant to take him up on it because I was afraid that if his tank were to become infected with ick, then it could perhaps infect my tank when I bring it back. It's beginning to sound more like that might be a good offer to accept though?

Anyway, though, I am happy to report that at least for the time being, he appears to be doing well!

Paul
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Old 05-08-2004, 10:28 PM   #8
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hey paul,

i didn't realize that they had told you about the nitrogen cycle, and you specifically bought those fish to cycle the tank. in that case it is ok. you were already realizing that you may lose them. and i didn't mean that the ammonia was already so high that it would kill them, i was just saying that the first part of the cycle is ammonia, so that will spike before you get any nitrites or nitrates.

the thing about the bettas though... it really is NOT good for them! no matter what any pet store says. just like how millions of people in this world have goldfish in "goldfish" bowls, where fact of the matter is goldfish require at minimum 10 gallons PER FISH! i didn't know that until i got on AA and read it in a million different places. any person on here will tell you though that those tiny little cups they keep bettas in are not safe for them. they probably keep the ammonia levels low by not feeding them.

as far as the store owner offering you to take the biowheel, that would be best. that would put your tank into an "instant cycle," introducing all the right bacteria and cycling your tank right away. however if you are afraid of his tanks being infested with some sort of bacteria it's best to not even try. but if the tank he is offering it from his free and clear of disease, it's one of the best ways to cycle your tank.

and as far as the ph adjustments go, i know menagerie can give you more details than i can, but it is much safer for a fish to have a steady ph than a flucuating one. if you put ph down in your tank, it will IMMEDIETLY drop the ph which is VERY bad for the fish. and in many cases it's impossible to keep it down, unless you keep adding more. so it will constantly be flucuating like crazy. very bad for the fish.

and about the stress zyme, it's up to you if you want to keep up with what they say. most people on here have 1 moto they live by... they don't use chemicals in their tanks other than dechlor. i have even read in many cases the bacteria stuff (other than bio-spira) can actually slow down or completely stall the cycle.

hope that helps. good luck with everything, it's a great hobby! but it can get expensive fast.

-brent
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Old 05-09-2004, 01:27 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pkremer
Also, why are pH adjustors such a bad idea? Will that cause more stress on the fish than the fact it is too high?
They are a bad idea because if your tank doesn't have a good buffer, pH swings will result and it's another thing to go wrong. pH swings will stress the fish, which on top of cycling the tank, could easily kill the fish. If you find that you need to adjust the pH up or down, there are natural ways and we can help.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pkremer
When you say I need to be on top of things, what in specific do you mean?
Watch the water parameters everyday. Be prepared for an ammonia spike and be ready to do a water change. Then be ready to do it when the nitrites come up. With so few fish, the tank may cycle slowly and the levels may not overwhelm the fish.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pkremer
The pet store owner offered to let me take one of the biowheels from one of his Penguin 330's running on his aqariums and then put mine in his for a few weeks...It's beginning to sound more like that might be a good offer to accept though?
Hmmm, I would do it IF you could take the established wheel home. Letting your wheel gain bacteria in his tank for a couple of weeks will allow you to get bacteria faster, but you need bacteria NOW (*edit*--I see that is the case). The ich concern is a real one. Again, be prepared: read the article in the Articles section on FW ich and all the ways to cure it. The natural way with salt and heat has worked well for many members.
If you lived up here, I would happily give you bacteria from my filters and it sounds like you have a caring LFS owner willing to help out a newbie. Take him up on the offer, unless the tanks are infected. Also, if you do get an outbreak of ich, don't blame the owner, he is just trying to help.
In any event, keep us updated!
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Old 05-10-2004, 01:45 AM   #10
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Well, first of all, I would just to let everyone know how much I appreciate your help! This forum is definitely making things easier to understand and hopefully I will be able to get my aquarium up and running with TOO many newbie mistakes...

OK, I think I may have mentioned this, but I did water tests about 12 hours after I put the fish in, and the ammonia levels were rising. My ammonia test strips have 5 colors. Ideal, Safe, Stress, Harmful, Danger. The test at 12 hours put it right in between safe and stress (closer to stress, I would estimate .4 ppm). Nitrites and Nitrates didn't even register, Hardness was 150 or hard, Alkalinity was Ideal, and and pH was closer to 8.4 than to 7.8.

Now, I am at 3 days with the fish, and did water tests again. Once again, Nitrites and Nitrates are not even registering. Hardness was unchanged at 150 or hard, Alkalinity was ideal, and pH had dropped to in between 7.2 and 7.8 with no help from me! The only thing I found strange was the ammonia reading. I had thought that it would be rising, however, the test strip put the reading in between Ideal and Safe (closer to safe, I would estimate .2 ppm)! The ammonia reading went down! Would this be normal after only 3 days? I guess one question I have not asked is how long this cycle is supposed to take to complete. Could there be bacteria growing and removing ammonia after only 3 days? I thought it might take a couple weeks.

Anyway, all 4 swordtails appear healthy and normal. They have stopped hiding from me. They seem to be enthralled with their reflections in the glass, and today for the first time appeared to be playing (at least I hope that's what they were doing). They went to the top of the water where the filter pours in, and were swimming into the stream, allowing the water flow to give them extra speed. Then they would drop down, go back over to the filter, and "ride the wave" again.

Man, my posts get long! I'm sorry, I am just so enthralled with these little guys. I find myself watching them for an hour at a time. Very relaxing! Just a few questions this time as at least for right now, it doesn't seem that there are any pressing issues.

1) It was mentioned I should be ready to do a water change. Should I get the water ready now? I'm sure it will take a couple days for the water to warm up from the tap as I'm sure I don't want the water running through my home's water heater. Can I fill up a 5 gallon bucket, treat it and let it sit for a few days to warm to room temp? Is 5 gallons a good water change for a 38 gallon tank?

2) I am a little confused at their feeding habits. I am currently feeding them at about 8 am and at about 8 pm. They never come to the top to eat, they always allow the food to float down to the bottom. Also, when I put the food in, only 1 of the females actually consumes it as it falls. The others dart around, grabbing it into their mouths, and then spitting it out? Most of it lands on the bottom, and then for the next 20 minutes I see them cruising around, searching for and picking it off the gravel! I don't know if they aren't hungry, don't like the flakes (TetraMin flakes), or what. I am not giving them much. I am taking 4 or 5 tiny flakes, crushing them up in my fingers, and dropping them in. I am crushing them because at first, they were having to bite pieces off the flakes. I didn't realize just how tiny they were! When I come back from work, I check and all of the food on the bottom of the tank is gone so they must be eating it. Any ideas?

Thanks again! I appreciate it!
Paul

PS - I just posted 2 pictures. They are not very good, but there's not a lot of light in the room, and I didn't think I wanted to use the flash and scare them.
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Old 05-10-2004, 11:37 AM   #11
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Wow, that was a long post. I don't have much time, but let me address a couple of things.
Do 25% water changes-- ~9 gals. Remove water with a gravel vac as you clean the gravel--you want to remove fish waste and excess food. Temperature match your tank water with tap water (your tank should not be at room temp--you have a heater, correct?), add declor and add the water to the tank.
Cycling starts once an ammonia source is added and can go to 6 weeks. Do yourself a favor and get liquid test kits for at least ammonia and nitrites. Liquid tests are more reliable than strips.
Feed your fish once a day only what they can eat in a 3 min period. Also try different foods. My Mollies like a bit of algae wafer, frozen blood worms, frozen brine shrimp and peas (nuke them, peel them, serve).

I'll check back later--if I missed a big Q, let me know.
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Old 05-10-2004, 08:31 PM   #12
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Sorry for the length of the posts... Like I said, I get carried away.

Today I traded one of my two biowheels for a biowheel from one of my lfs tanks. He said it would speed the cycle way up, but to keep checking my water parameters. He said that when ammonia and nitrites read zero with a little bit of nitrate, then I can add some more fish. We'll see how things go...

How do I match temperatures for the water change? Just "feel it out" of the tap? Is it OK for the water to have run through my water heater? I got my current water from the outside tap for the hose. Yes, I have a heater set in my tank at 75 degrees.

Paul

PS - Pet store biowheel has been running for about 4 hours now, and I did my daily water test. Nitrites not even registering, ammonia still in between ideal and safe. This time however, the Nitrate color changed a little bit. Barely above zero, well within safe range, but it did register this time...
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Old 05-12-2004, 11:58 AM   #13
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Matching water temps--I usually just do a touch test. Or, if I am adding a lot of water, I pull out the thermometer. I don't understand--have water run through the water heater? I get my water out of the tap in the kitchen or tub and adjust the water with the cold and hot water knobs. I add dechlor and presto! Water ready to add to the tank.
Pet store biowheel needs to run at the store for a week.
Ammonia will continue to come up and then the nitrites will come up. After the ammonia spikes, it should go to zero and then there will be a nitrite spike, then zero and nitrates will rise--up to 40 ppm is safe.
Since you are cycling with fish, watch the levels closely! You may need to do some 25% water changes in order to keep your fish healthy.

Okay, I misread your post--I thought you were referring to your biowheel running at the store. I need to stop multi tasking
Okay, Hopefully, with the pet store bio wheel at your house, you will not see any spikes and yes, once nitrates start rising--your fish are in the clear! Let your biowheel run at the store for at least a week before switching over. If you bring back a nonestablished bio wheel, the tank will recycle.

I hope I made sense. I will try to remember to check back more often. If you need to ask a Q, please feel free to PM me. I am on the site too much, and will check my messages.
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