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Old 01-17-2011, 09:47 AM   #1
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Why did my turtle die, and now my fish?

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to read my post. Please be patient, as this will be lengthy.

Let me start off by telling you about my tank as it was up until 3 weeks ago. I had an eastern painted turtle, named Sam, that my husband found as a hatchling a month after we met 10 years ago. I kept him in a 55 gallon aquarium and he thrived. When we moved into this house 5 years ago, we had to downgrade our tank for lack of room, so Sam's new home held 20 gallons. During warm weather (mid-spring, summer, into mid-fall) I would put him in his "outdoor pool" every couple of days so he could stretch his legs and bask in sunlight that wasn't artificial. The indoor tank setup was simple...he had a 3-tiered basking rock and a filter. I kept the water level low enough that he could get out of the water and sit on the top tier of the stone...about 1/3 full. I fed him a variety of foods: reptile sticks, earthworms, feeder fish, slugs, crickets...he ate anything that moved. Two summers ago my boys won 2 goldfish at the county fair, and we put them in Sam's tank (he never ate anything that big). The fish and the turtle became buddies...I would constantly see the fish cleaning his shell and feet, and they swam around freely with no fear of the turtle. After visiting my mom in PA last September, I added two baby catfish and three goldfish I had brought home from her small man-made pond. The goldfish and baby catfish adapted well to their new home.

About three weeks ago I noticed a change in Sam's behavior. My husband had a co-worker over, and he asked about the turtle, so I took Sam out to show him. I noticed he had green algae growing on his shell, which was normal, but not in such a large amount. So I took Sam to the sink and turned on the water, stuck him underneath and started cleaning him off. Now, normally when i do this, I have to pull his feet out with my fingers so i can rub them clean. This time, however, he kept his legs stretched out, no reaction to my touch at all. I thought that odd, because even after 10 years of this routine, he always pulled his feet into his shell when I'd touch them. I put him back in his tank, keeping an eye on him the rest of the night and the next day after I woke up. He was still eating, but sluggish, so I figured he was ok. Then, four days later, I tapped the turtle sticks against the side of the tank...his signal that it was time to eat...but Sam didn't move. His head and feet were out, eyes closed, and he was laying on the bottom of the tank behind the rock. I also noticed one of the goldfish was dead, lying at the bottom as well (I guessed it had been dead for a couple of days by the looks of it...and that Sam had snacked on it, because its head was missing). I pulled him out, my gut wrenching because had been acting so strangely for the past few days, and rubbed his head, hoping he was just sleeping, but he didn't move. I put him in the kitchen sink and ran to my computer to find answers. I read that there was the possibility he was hibernating, but I didn't think that was the case...we had him for 10 years and he NEVER hibernated. I also read that there was a chance he could be revived, so I followed the advice I found on the internet, but after two days of Sam in the kitchen sink, I realized there was no hope, he was gone.

A week later another goldfish was dead. I then decided to turn the tank into a regular fish aquarium. I took Sam's basking rock out, filled the tank with water treated with AquaSafe, and put an large aquarium stone in the tank that I had from when I first got the smaller tank. A few days later I went to Walmart and bought a bag of gravel, two algae eaters and two fresh water snails (the label had called them "mystery snails"), floated the bags in the water and rinsed the gravel, then added it to the tank. Thirty minutes later I added the fish and snails.

The first fish of the new tank set-up died in two days. It was one of the algae eaters. The next fish was one of my baby catfish. Then, this morning, two of the three remaining goldfish were stuck to the intake of the filter, dead. The third goldfish was barely alive, still breathing but having a difficult time keeping itself from floating sideways (I ended the poor fish's suffering swiftly and painlessly). All that remains in the tank is one algae eater, one baby catfish, and the two snails...and the catfish isn't looking so good.

I thought at first the recent deaths were caused from not cycling the tank, but that didn't explain why my turtle or the two first goldfish died...plus, I have never cycled the tank when I would change Sam's water...I would just carry the tank to the kitchen, put the fish in a bowl of the water, put Sam in the smaller half of my double-sided sink, and dump the water out. Then I'd scrub the inside of the tank with a rough sponge (to remove all the green stuff that grew constantly on the glass), the basking rock with a utility brush, and the outside and inside of the filter with a toothbrush. I'd fill the tank 1/3 full with tap water, carry it back to the stand, and then add the rock and filter. I'd add Sam (after a thorough scrubbing) and then the fish, not even treating the water for chlorine...the fish never had issues with it, even in the past when there were feeder goldfish still remaining in the tank before Sam ate them.Then I thought that maybe the first fish that had died may have been sick, and when Sam ate the head, whatever germ or disease the fish carried killed him. Perhaps whatever infected that first goldfish had spread to the other goldfish who spread it to the catfish and then the algae eaters. Another idea that came to mind after reading some information on the internet is that perhaps the aquarium stone I put in the tank to replace the basking rock was releasing foreign chemicals into the tank...the stone has been outside for five years in my yard next to a tree trunk, and although I soaked it and scrubbed it in extremely hot water, maybe something was left behind inside the stone (I noticed when I had put it in the tank that lines of tiny air bubbles escaped the stone). But again, that doesn't explain why my turtle and the first goldfish died.

I'm no expert when it comes to aquariums (obviously), so my guesses are probably way off. Does anyone have any ideas as to why my turtle died, and why my fish are now dying off one by one? Oh, and I am not sure if this helps...but for the past few days, the goldfish had been swimming at the very top of the tank...the tops of their heads above the surface of the water as they hovered almost completely still except for the movement of their mouths and gills.

Thanks in advance for any light that can be shed on what's going on in my 20 gallon waterworld.
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Old 01-17-2011, 10:26 AM   #2
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Hello,
My answer will be lengthy as well. Thank you for your patience.
I'm so sorry to hear about your turtle. Sounds like a great pet, let him rest in peace, he had a fairly long life.

Okay. First off, downgrading is never a good thing. I understand that you had no further choice, but the turtle really was happier in the 55g and downgrading so much can be stressful. However, I doubt that was the cause because he did live quite a bit after being transferred to his new tank.

My main concern is the crazy amount of fish added to the tank. Goldfish are extremely messy, requiring very large tanks and double filtration. A single Goldfish should be housed in about a 20g, (and 10g for every other GF) but I suppose 2 would be OK, though way pushing it with a turtle.
You must understand that Goldfish are apart of the carp family and can reach lengths of. 6-12" when aloud ample room to grow. It is unhealthy for so many fish to be in a tank of that size. I am sorry, but five Goldfish, a Turtle, and two Catfish is just way to much.
First of all, what kind of catfish were they? Some reach lengths of 2 inches, others 2 feet. So you see why "Baby Catfish" is a very loose term.

So, it comes down to this. The bioload of your fish was wayyy to much for your tank to handle. I HIGHLY suggest that you read up on the Nitogen Cycle so you understand what I an talking about when I say Ammonia, Good Bactera, and Nitrates.
Anyway, back to what I was saying. Your tank was much to small for all of the fish you tossed in there, and there must have been Ammonia present. Ammonia is extremely toxic to all fish, and was very likely the cause of your Turtle's death and Goldfish. Also, your Turtle's behavior changed because he was really stressed. He went from a roomy 55g all himself to an overstocked, overcrowded 20g with too much activity. I certainy do not wish to be harsh, but that simply was the cause of his death (The Ammonia) and stress.

A tank with the fish you chose to have would need about 60-70 gallons, not 20. (However 60-70 would not be totally necessary, that is just a standard. With good maintenance and a tank cycle and good filtration the 55 could have been OK too.)
So in conclusion, it's a good idea to better research your pets before buying them. You should always know what kind of fish you are gettig before putting it in your tank. It seems as though you did the best you could for your turtle, as you did not realize what you were doing. I am sorry that you lost him, and good luck to you in the future.

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Old 01-17-2011, 12:24 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by mandy2936 View Post
First off, downgrading is never a good thing. I understand that you had no further choice, but the turtle really was happier in the 55g and downgrading so much can be stressful.
This is why I let him swim around in his outside pool (it was one of those blue hard plastic kiddie pools you can buy at Walmart), set up with a rock he could climb out of the water and get on, plus some water lillies I got from a nearby lake. I'd put him in it when I woke up in the morning, and took him out and brought him back inside right before sunset.

Quote:
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My main concern is the crazy amount of fish added to the tank. Goldfish are extremely messy, requiring very large tanks and double filtration. A single Goldfish should be housed in about a 20g, (and 10g for every other GF) but I suppose 2 would be OK, though way pushing it with a turtle.
This is not as I've come to understand through my research over the years, the rule of thumb being 1 gallon of water for every 1 inch of fish, including goldfish. The goldfish that were in my tank were common goldfish, 2 inches long. So 5 goldfish would equal 10 gallons of water.

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Originally Posted by mandy2936 View Post
First of all, what kind of catfish were they? Some reach lengths of 2 inches, others 2 feet. So you see why "Baby Catfish" is a very loose term.
I'm not sure what kind they are, but my mom had them in her pond in her yard (one of those build-yourself kind) and the two I took were 3 inches long. The last catfish has died since I made my first post this morning. Here are some pictures of it. I noticed it was REALLY slimy when I fished it out of the tank, and it had whitish yellow paches on its skin.






Quote:
Originally Posted by mandy2936 View Post
Also, your Turtle's behavior changed because he was really stressed. He went from a roomy 55g all himself to an overstocked, overcrowded 20g with too much activity.
This was not the first time there have been a handful of fish in the tank with him. Spanning ten years, feeder fish that he didn't eat would grow to be two or three inches long, and they lived in the tank with him for months before he tackled their size and ate them. He hadn't been in that "roomy 55g" aquarium for over 5 years, and he was a happy, healthy turtle the entire time he was in his smaller home.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mandy2936 View Post
So in conclusion, it's a good idea to better research your pets before buying them. You should always know what kind of fish you are gettig before putting it in your tank.
I did not buy the turtle, nor the common goldfish and catfish. When I first got Sam, I spent countless hours gathering information about how to properly care for him. After downgrading his tank, I realized he didn't have much room, so based on the information I already knew, created his outdoor pool so he'd have lots of space to make up for his smaller home. As for the goldfish, I am 35 years old. I have had PLENTY of experience with that type of fish. I know that they are a community fish that can survive just about anything...cold temperatures, dirty water, chlorine in the water...this is why they are the number one choice for a child's first pet. I am not daft, I know this from experience, not from something I have read on the internet. The catfish I admit to not knowing anything about...except that they were small, and lived in my mother's small pond with Koi and common goldfish. The goldfish, catfish, and my turtle have lived in the tank for months without any issues, until three weeks ago.
Finally, the snails and algae eaters. I was told that they were a good choice for my tank, for the snails clean up the wastes of fish, and the algae eaters help keep your tank walls free of algae.

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I certainy do not wish to be harsh, but that simply was the cause of his death
Those words finally set my blood boiling. I asked for ideas, not accusations.
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Old 01-17-2011, 01:46 PM   #4
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Montana, mandys right. All of these problems combined caused your turtles death.
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Old 01-17-2011, 01:49 PM   #5
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Take a look at this thread:
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...de-137961.html

I'm not sure it'll be too helpful but considering some of your fish came from a pond, it could be useful, considering the yellow spots.
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Old 01-18-2011, 04:45 AM   #6
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Montana, mandys right. All of these problems combined caused your turtles death.
Those problems MAY HAVE caused the turtles death. You have no idea what happened to the turtle. She asked for ideas, not accusations.
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Old 01-18-2011, 05:06 AM   #7
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Hmm I don't see how Mandy post was an accusation. The content are full of ideas. And I agree with her. 5 goldfish with a turtle for a that sized tank may be too much let alone the catfish. But can I ask what kinda filter system u used?(water flow, model) And did u test ur water for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate? And hearing that algae on ur turtle, it woulda been a good idea to have tested ur phosphate. And this is just an idea as I don't have many exp with turtles. U said u got some Lilly from a local pond if I'm not wrong. The Lilly may had carried with it a bunch of diseases. Just an idea I thou u may like to know.
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Old 01-18-2011, 05:18 AM   #8
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Hubert,

"That simply was the cause of his death"

That line and not asking important questions, like you did, is what made Mandys response an accusation. The OP never mentioned tested water levels or what type of lighting, if any, the turtle had in it's tank. She mentioned the turtle would get sunlight in warmer weather, but did the turtle get proper UV lighting during the colder months? Know all the details before quickly coming to a conclusion. Especially when it's about a pet that the woman obviously cared for for so long.
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:15 AM   #9
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Hey there,
So i was reading this and noticed somethings. Like the 1 inch per gal rule its a but irrelevent. Because a fish has bio load some have a high one while others low. Gold fish have a very high bio load that why we try to discourage them being kept. Just here a 10inch Oscar (possible) wouldnt go very well in a 10 gal tank would it?
Also it would be helpful if you could get a test kit. As this is a good idea to know when to do water changes and things like that. So i think its in the best interest to get one for the well being of future fish.
Lastly im sure Mandy didnt mean to affend you she is very Kind and when she sees this i am positive in her that she will be very apoligetic. Mandy was just trying to help.

But HarryTwatter but out buddy there is nothing here for you have no idea so just leave ok. This thread is about turtles not about how someone said. OK so let the OP take charge alright!
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:57 AM   #10
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I don't agree with his approach, but HarryTwatter is right. We don't KNOW why her animals died, so we can only give ideas. I agree that we really don't have the right to say THAT is why the animal died. To say the animals she cared for died because she did things wrong when we really don't have enough information could very easily be offensive to the OP. We ALL need to be courteous.
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Old 01-18-2011, 09:29 AM   #11
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Thank you all for your support. I'm glad to be told Mandy didn't mean to offend, but unfortunately that is what her post did.

Sam was like a symbol to my husband and me...we had taken a walk while we were dating (we had only been seeing each other for a month) beside a lake when he found a baby turtle barely two inches long. He knew how much I loved animals, so he gave it to me. I named it Sam...because I didn't know if it was a male or female, and Sam could represent either. When Sam got older it was obvious he was a male, for his front claws were very long. My husband and I have been together ten years, married for 9...and we've had Sam since the beginning. A 35 year old woman crying for hours over the death of a reptile should be proof enough of the love she carried for the turtle.

Now to the other questions in multiple posts:

FILTER: Tetra Whisper 20i internal filter...it has two suction cups on the back so it worked perfectly since I couldn't use a filter you hang over the edge of the tank due to the water level never being over 1/2 full. It uses disposable carbon filters.

LIGHTING: GE Aqua Rays is the name on the bulb that's in the light strip across the hood of the tank. So yes, he did have artificial sunlight if he wasn't outside.

WATER TEST: No, I never had the water tested. Honestly, I never considered having to do so. Sam was a semi-aquatic turtle, breathing from the air, not from the water, so I didn't think testing the water would ever be necessary. When I added the goldfish, I didn't test either...simply because the feeder fish I placed in Sam's tank in the past never had any problems...and some even grew to be 2-3 inches long before Sam ate them. As for the little catfish, I removed them from a murky yard pond with a bottom covered in mud, leaves, pine cones, acorns, and other debris...I kept Sam's tank pretty clean, changing the filter when I was supposed to, so perhaps I was naive in thinking the catfish would be healthier in the tank than in the pond they came from, since they would be in a cleaner environment. I do, however, admit it was very careless of me not to test the water before I added the two new algae eaters and snails. Especially since I found the last algae eater floating belly up in the tank this morning. All that's left are the mystery snails.

I'm getting ready to head to Walmart now (grocery shopping time!) and I'm going to see if they carry a testing kit. I'll test the water when I get home. At this point, I just need to determine what is necessary to keep the two remaining souls alive in the tank.
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Old 01-18-2011, 09:41 AM   #12
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Montana. I hope it's ok to say that it's ok, we learn from our mistake. We all have made mistake and thats how we learn. Yes Im glad u are buying a testing kit and also another recommendation. If space permits. Buy a smaller tank for quarantine purpose. Whenever u bring home new fish or have a sick patient. U can isolate it making treatment alot easier. But u will require another filter I understand ur pain bare goin through ATM. I recently lost my oranda which I had for 11 years. I hope u get better
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Old 01-18-2011, 10:23 AM   #13
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[moderator edit], have you ever had a pet turtle? If you had you would know that what i said was true. I didn't mean it in a rude way, but i said it to offer closure, to move on, ya know? And to montana, Thats sweet. I can see that you were very close to Sam. The only thing thats wrong with what you did was you took him from the wild.
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Old 01-18-2011, 10:24 AM   #14
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Whoops, meant to say 'harrytwatter' :P
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Old 01-18-2011, 12:18 PM   #15
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Let`s remember everyone has the right to post. It might not be what we want to hear but still everyone has that right. Let`s stay nice and no name calling esp no cursing. It`s a good topic let`s keep the discussion good also.
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Old 01-18-2011, 01:01 PM   #16
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I just bought a 5-in-1 test kit and used one of the strips to test the water of my aquarium. Here is a picture of the key, and my results are below:



NITRATE: 10 (Safe)
NITRITE: .5 (Caution)
HARDNESS: 75 (Soft)
ALKALINITY: 80 (Moderate)
pH: 6.8 (Neutral)

Based on my results, can anyone advise on how to make the water in my tank as ideal as possible? And, yes Hubert, I do have a spare tank...I can use it to put the snails in if I have to start from scratch and change all the water, then cycling it.

KYLER SKIPPER: There's this great tool that this forum has...it's called block user. Guess what name I'm adding to my list?
Your posts are rude and offensive. I came to this forum for ADVICE, not for an accusation OR a lesson on morals.
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:11 PM   #17
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First off well done one getting a test kit!
Now we have a pretty standered test here you nitrate is good and nitrite is a little high but everything else is good. But i cant help notice is there an ammonia? This is the most important of them all. Ammonia is what feeds the bacteria in the filter and substrate ect.. Also ammonia as you know is poisonious to fish.
I would reccomend doing the change all of the water thing. Just for a chance to clean and refresh the tank and make it look great! You can put plants and driftwood in the tank to add an eye catching thing about the tank and make it look beautiful. If possible could you post a picture of the tank? I'll help you with plant selections do you have a light on the top of your tank?
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Old 01-18-2011, 02:14 PM   #18
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Also that was a really beautiful story of you and your husband, a much loved pet is something that is hard for all of us. I can see you loved him very much you'll live a long happy life with your husband
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Old 01-18-2011, 06:08 PM   #19
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But HarryTwatter but out buddy there is nothing here for you have no idea so just leave ok. This thread is about turtles not about how someone said. OK so let the OP take charge alright!
Actually dude, I've owned a RES for over 15 years. Many illnesses come and go with them that may or may not be due to bioload.

Mandy offered a lot of good info, but telling the lady that bioload is what killed the turtle before she even asked important questions was jumping the gun.
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Old 01-18-2011, 08:28 PM   #20
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Wanted to do a quick update on the tank:

I took the remaining two mystery snails out and put them in a 5 gallon aquarium with water from my tank (best thing i could think of to do). I have a "mini" filter i'm using for them.
I scooped and poured in the sink enough water so I could carry the tank to the kitchen and dumped the rest down the drain. I took all the gravel out and put it in a gallon pitcher and poured scalding water in the pitcher so the gravel would soak. I then scrubbed the aquarium rock (scalding hot water again...and I mean so hot it BURNS to touch it...I used thick rubber gloves to protect my hands), the filter, and the bottom and sides of the tank. After everything was rinsed, including the gravel, I put it all back in the tank, including a few new things I got from Walmart today, which I had cleaned as well (a log hideaway with fake plants, more gravel, some live plant bulbs, a thermometer since i didn't have one, and a bubbler cuz i didn't have one of those either). I added 12 gallons of water, using Aquasafe to neutralize the chlorine. I chose to add 12 gallons instead of the full 20 because I wanted to leave some space between the top of the water and top of the tank, because the lid I have has some open spots the snails can escape through if they decide to crawl all the way out of the water. When I had read up on the mystery snails, I learned that they have been known to escape tanks that were not completely enclosed, so I thought some extra space between each edge would deter them from trying to get out.
I hooked up the bubbler (I know that's not what it's called, but that's what I LIKE to call it ) and plugged it in, then plugged in the filter. Top on, light on, and now I begin to cycle.
Sound good?
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