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Old 09-23-2013, 01:43 PM   #1
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Smile Troubles with Nitrites

Hello,

New to this site and hoping I'm not posting this in the wrong area for discussion if I am please forgive me. I'll endeavor to do better next time.

I recently started up a 35 gallon freshwater tank. I cycled for 3 months with no fish prior to introducing any animal to the tank. Once I had conditions at optimal levels I introduced 3 Mickey Mouse Platys, 2 Dwarf Honey Gouramis, 5 neon tetras and a spotted pleco. After about two weeks, both gouramis and the pleco had gone on to visit their fish gods. I've been told that this is "normal" and not to panic. I use a freshwater master test kit for testing water and do this every other day to stay on top of any problems that might occur. It's been a week since the pleco (last fish that went belly on me.) and I'm noticing a slight increase in nitrites and a decrease in ph. Until recently all my values were optimal (Ie, temp 74.5, ammonia .0, nitrites .0, nitrates .0 PH 7.6, clorine/cloramines also at .0) Now suddenly nitrites are up at 1.0, nitrates 40. ammonia 1.0, PH is 6.8 alkalinity at 60, clorine/cloramine still at 0. While I under stand that these perameters are still with in tolerances, I am at a lost as to why the sudden change. A 50% water change and cleaning the substrate did nothing to change these values with the exception of the PH going from 7.4 to 6.8 after the water change.

I prefer to keep the PH at 7.4-7.8 for my tropical fish friends. So you can see how this could be baffling to me.

Here is some info regarding my tank.:

35 gallon all glass hexagonal
I only use pre conditioned purified water that has been tested prior to putting into the tank. This is done for each water change (extra step but worth it in my book.)
running an Aqueon 55/75 filter pump with one fully charged Nitra Zorb pouch and two filter cartridges (one of which is brand new)
Temp stays at 74.5
I use the recommended amount of aquarium salt of 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons of water.
The aquarium light it not on for any length of time past 3 hours (helps to keep algae down.)
Bubble wall is adjustable and there for kept at a median rate (so as not to create too much of a current in the tank but create enough oxygen needed for the fish. And to be certain of oxygenation I keep half the tank covered.
Fish are fed twice a day and only as much as they can eat in 1-3 minute span. I feed flakes as they don't seem interested in pellets.
Current tank mates are
5 Neon Tetras, 3 Mickey Mouse Platys, 3 Albino Cory Cats and 2 Golden Algae Eaters. ( the cats and goldens were added last evening.)
I use a natural gravel substrate with a layer of fine grained sand on top to protect my bottom dwellers from damages to undersides and barbels.
I also have one moss ball, 3 live plants, all other plantings are silk and all decor was scrubbed with soft bristle brush and allowed to sit in a pot of boiled purified water and then allowed to air dry prior to being placed in the tank.

Now my questions, am I obsessing over small stuff or does this seem like the tank maybe headed into a crisis and if so can I head it off? I understand that I can adjust PH upwards by adding crushed coral/shells to the filter but how much should I use? Is it truly necessary? I have coral that I can use (it is thoroughly cleaned and as been in the tank before, I removed it for fear it might tear fins. (It is a large piece of coral and no it is not a live coral) should I replace it? It is the only thing I have changed.

I know I just dumped a huge load of "I don't know what to do" on ya'll but honestly I don't know what to do.

Thanks in advance to any and all who can answer my questions.
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Old 09-23-2013, 01:50 PM   #2
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Hi. Welcome to the site.

How did you cycle the tank? Did you use pure ammonia? Fish flakes?
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Old 09-23-2013, 01:52 PM   #3
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First off 1 ammo 1 nitrite are not acceptable they both need to be under .25 so that's probably the problem right there
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Old 09-23-2013, 01:56 PM   #4
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Did a fishless cycle using pre conditioned water, slime cost, bacteria supplements. No food was introdued to the tank until fish were. Was this the wrong route?
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Old 09-23-2013, 01:58 PM   #5
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Do did you see ammonia go to nitrites then to nitrate
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Old 09-23-2013, 02:31 PM   #6
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Well the bacteria in the tank needs organic compounds such as fish waste in order to grow. it sounds like you have very little of these compounds. When you put the fish in the bacteria started work on this. the by-product of this first stage is ammonia. The autotrophic bacteria consumes this to grow but you have added too many fish and the bacteria hasn't grown enough to deal with it yet. It will balance out eventually but the fish can't live in those volumes of ammonia/nitrite

Only when you see a nitrate reading and 0ppm of ammo and nitrite is your tank fully cycled.

You went to great lengths in order to protect your fish. It's a Shame. Also cleaning the gravel with Tap water will kill the bacteria and water added without being de-chlorinated will also kill the bacteria
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Old 09-23-2013, 07:22 PM   #7
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I think what happened is that your tank was not cycled at all. Bottled cycling products often do not work very well. And the test values you needed to see were ammonia at zero, nitrites at zero and nitrates at some level between 20 and 30 ppm.

Also, what do you mean exactly by purified water ? I know you are using dechlorinator, but on what kind of water ? Tap, bottled spring, Reverse Osmosis, [ RO ], Distilled ? What brand of dechlorinator do yo use ?

But because the cycle hadn't happened yet, when you added fish, you started a cycle, and now you have too much ammonia and nitrite and while the nitrate level is not yet toxic, up to 50ppm is considered safe, the other two toxins are killing the fishes. I feel quite badly for you, as you clearly tried to do it right.

But you can't depend on bottled bacteria alone, and even if they had worked, they would still need to be fed. They only eat ammonia and nitrite.. so you'd have had to be feeding them all that time with pure ammonia or by adding just a few hardy fish, or possibly be adding some raw shrimp, which would decay and produce some ammonia, but all that is moot now.

Because now you have fish.. so first, do not add any more fish until the cycle is stable. Start doing water changes until the ammonia and nitrite readings come down to .25 or less. Big water changes are much less stressful than the toxins are, so do as many as needed to get the levels down. You can do half a tank at a time, or a third at a time, as often as need be to get the results you need.

Test often and do a water change every time those two levels exceed .25. You already have nitrates so you already have both the types of bacteria you need for a cycle, you just need to get them balanced so they are able to handle the load of fish you have. The bacteria reproduce about once every 24 hours or so, so it might take a week, or longer, to get it under control.

It is unfortunate, but the other fish that have been exposed to the ammonia and nitrite may not live very long. It burns gills and can cause other damage, and it's not reversible. Some fish live longer, some don't live very long at all.

Catfish are quite sensitive, being 'scaleless'. They aren't really without scales but the scales are very fine and small, making them more sensitive to any toxin. Most of the dwarf gouramis are also quite fragile and sensitive and may die for no apparent reason.. at least in this case you know why they died. They prefer quiet water, plenty of plants both planted and floating and no boisterous tank mates. Perhaps not the best choice for community tanks. Always pays to research the needs of fish you are interested in keeping, as the fish stores don't always get it right. Just because a fish is peaceful doesn't automatically make it a good all around community fish.

Once you get the cycle under control, with zero ammonia, zero nitrite and nitrate around 20 ppm, then you can consider adding other fish, but only a few at a time. Each new fish adds a new load of ammonia, which the BB, beneficial bacteria, need some time to adapt to, that is, grow enough of themselves to consume and convert it.

Also, if you only have lights on 3 hours a day, any live plant you have is probably not going to do very well. Even low light plants need light for about 8 hours a day. Algae is inevitable, but low lighting levels for low light plants usually won't cause much of an algae issue. Many algaes show up as a result of nutrient imbalances, rather than simply an excess of light. Brown algae [ diatoms] often appear in new tanks, but it mostly goes away on it's own once the initial supply of silicates is used up by the diatoms. If you don't want to deal with live plants, go all fake instead.

And why salt ? its not needed unless fish are sick or are brackish species, like mollies. But even mollies are quite adaptable to fresh water and breed readily in it, so salt is just not necessary. Many people use it because they think it has some sort of tonic effect but it's a myth. It's useful for treating some illnesses and wounds but as a regular additive, it's not good. Catfish in particular do not tolerate salt for any length of time, another reason your pleco may have gone earlier than others. Cories don't tolerate it either, so stop adding salt.

Last, the Nitra zorb.. it can only absorb so much, and it's not the way to handle the problem long term. Long term you want a cycled filter that has enough biomedia in it to support good colonies of nitrifying bacteria. Filter floss is great for water polishing, or keeping it very clear. It gets fine particulates out. You maintain filters by squeezing or rinsing out the sponge or other media in tank water, from a water change, or in dechlorinated water, so as not to kill off BB. Once clean, you replace the media in the filter. Even floss can be reused many, many times before it's so ragged it's falling apart, though you can replace it more often if you wish.

Ceramic media, in a mesh bag, is another good bio media that lasts almost forever, and sponge will last many, many years before it begins to degrade. The cartridges sold to refill filters are expensive and not any better than basic media, and most of them have carbon, which is also not needed. Carbon is useful for removing some medications, odours or discolouration, such as from wood, from water. Otherwise, it's costly and serves little purpose and must be replaced often to maintain freshness and activity.

You can buy filter sponge and cut it to fit the space. Floss is the cheapest media of all, and many ceramic types or bio balls can be bought also, and kept in a mesh bag so they stay together. All will provide large surface areas for BB to colonize.
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Old 09-23-2013, 07:54 PM   #8
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Yes it does sound like you are over thinking this a tun. You have done a tun of work and are getting none of the pay off. Tap water is perfectly fine to use as long as you are using a good dechlorinator like prime.
It also sounds like you ran your tank for a very long time but you never fed the bb (benefital bacteria) so you basically just ran an empty tank. Now that you have the fish in there you are actually getting the cycle going. It does sound like it has started now though. But now you have the hard work to do you will have to test daily and anytime your ammo and nitrite levels are .25ppm or more you will have to do a water change. Anytime the nitrate is over 20ppm you will have to do a water change. You don't need to add salt to your tank. I only use at that level for treating ich. Plecos don't tolerate salt well and that may have killed him. Just remember to keep it simple or you will kill yourself trying to get everything right.
1. Dechlorinated water
2. Water changes when ammo and nitrite are .25ppm and nitrates are 20ppm or higher.
3. Your tank is cycled when you have 0 ammo, 0 nitrites, and 5+ nitrates.
Past that there really isn't much to do but sit back and enjoy your fish!
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Old 09-24-2013, 03:14 AM   #9
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Just in case you didn't know. Always remove the dead fish from the tank as this will only add to the problem. When they decompose it will cause massive ammonia spikes.

Pleco's also give out a pretty big bioload on there own.

You would have been ok if you would have introduced your fish very slowly. I used 4 harlequin rasbora to cycle my tank. They were never exposed to more than 0.25ppm ammo. U have 8 now. They are very happy little fish.

Don't get down about this. The first time I started a tank I didn't even know about the nitrogen cycle.

Good luck
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