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Old 10-03-2011, 01:33 PM   #1
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37 Gal - Fish are dying, need advice

I know that this topic, sadly, isn't new, but I could use some advice and encouragement.

I patiently developed a fishless cycle for about 6 weeks from July through August and started putting in fish in September.

Since then, the majority of fish have died, but I don't see any particular cause. I'll list a rundown of my fish and their fates, and then list some questions.

Batch 1: September 4th, 4 Neon Tetras, from Petsmart. All looked healthy and active from the start.

Batch 2: September 9th, 5 Neon Tetras, from a different Petsmart. These guys were lacking somewhat in color and vigor, and looking back I believe they were sick. I think this was my biggest mistake.

Batch 3: September 10, 2 Flame Dwarf Gourami, from yet another Petsmart. They seemed ok, but each one spent time just hanging out by the heater or close to the surface, not fully engaged.

September 10-24: Neon Tetra's began dying. I was distracted, getting home too late to get a good look at the tank, and my wife noticed them but didn't know that she needed to look for the bodies and get them out of there ASAP. She only removed the ones that were stuck to the intake tube.

By the 23rd I only had 2 neons and one Dwarf Gourami left. I had done several 50% water changes, and didn't see any problems with ammonia, nitrite or nitrate. The only issue I had was that my water ph seemed to be stable at around 7.4 and the tap water was about the same, whereas a few weeks earlier the tap water looked close to a 6.7.

Looking back, I should have taken a deep breathe and sought out advice, tried to stabilize things, etc before purchasing more fish, but of course I didn't do that.

Batch 4: September 25: Thinking that all of my troubles were based on sick fish from Petsmart, I went to a LFS in NJ that looked and smelled great, the fish seemed healthy and well cared for.

I purchased: 3 pepper corys, 3 Diamond Tetras and 1 Angelfish (about the size of a quarter). I also purchased a few different plants, and a better lighting system with HO bulbs to increase my chances of keeping the plants alive.

Everyone seemed happy and despite a little territorial display between the Gourami and the Diamonds, and the Angel, things settled down and they all looked like they were getting along.

The Angel seemed a little shell shocked, and hung out in a few spots without moving around too much, and didn't chase down food like the others. On the second day I fed him some pellets while he was hanging out at the top and that seemed to energize him, and he began looking around some more and sharing in feeding time.

On Thursday morning I did a 50% PWC, but found one of the Corys dead before I started and another looking pretty feeble. I went ahead with the change. 30 minutes after finishing the PWC, the feeble Cory was dead. I also put in a new charcoal filter, but rinsed out the old dirty one and shoved that in the filter with the hope that there would be a good bacterial transfer.

I went out of town for three days, leaving my visiting mother in my apartment to feed them. She reported that the third Cory died (or went missing) on Friday and the Angel died on Saturday. She removed the Angel but could't find the body of the Cory.

When I got back home yesterday, I found the Cory carcass and also a dead Diamond Tetra.

So, as of today, I have 5 left: 2 of the original Neons, 1 Dwarf Gourami and 2 Diamonds. The Gourami is looking a little discolored around the gills.

I'm getting kind of depressed about this. My 5 y.o. son is remarkably sanguine about these losses, but I would like him to be able to enjoy his pets without seeing them die every week.

My biggest question is: what should I do now?

If they continue to die off, what course of action should I follow before restarting?

I am also concerned about temperatures, as the heater that came with my tank just has a little dial on it, and I have seen the temperature in the tank drop 2 degrees F overnight when air conditioning is on. Now that the outside weather is cooling off, I want to figure out a way to keep the temperature more stable. Are there heaters that have temperature settings?

I also need a good way to measure temperature on the water going into the tank on a PWC. My sink is too shallow to fill it up and measure temp. Should I send the water into a 5 gallon bucket and put a floating thermometer in it?

Would I be better off with just goldfish?

Any advice would be appreciated.

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Old 10-03-2011, 01:43 PM   #2
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I have a feeling that you introduced neon tetra disease to your tank. What you described reminded me of what happened in my community tank. It was an established tank and I did not quarantine the neons prior to placing them in there. Big mistake! Once a neon dies of the disease, any fish that consumes part of that dead fish will also die from the disease. It's a horrible cycle.

There is also a disease that strikes Dwarf Gouramis. I lost mine to that. They get lethargic, pale and slowly die.

I have to admit that your post was so incredibly long, I had to skim over it, so I might have missed something.

What size tank? What are your exact readings in the tank and what test kit are you using?
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Old 10-03-2011, 01:45 PM   #3
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Hmm. Since your parameters are steady...I'm going to have to assume this is either horrifically awful luck with the quality of stock...or some type of contaminant is finding it's way into the water. I assume you're using a water conditioner? How often are you doing pwc's? How do you acclimate your fish to the tank.

You'd be shocked what can find it's way into the water column. There's even the possibility something is shorting out and putting an electrical charge into the water column. Air fresheners, soap, disinfectants, cleaning products, etc... The first step (if you haven't already) should be doing large water changes every day for quite some time. Running carbon in your filter for a while may also help to absorb any potential contaminants.

Temperature fluctuations aren't a big deal unless they're extreme. As long as the temperatures feel similar to the touch there is no harm done.

Here an idea of some odd things which can find their way in there. Obviously we can't say for certain that's the cause...but my guess would have to be a contaminant, poor acclimation or just awful luck with the fish you've purchased.

The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling
Being responsible...fishless cycling defines it, fish-in requires it. Choose wisely.
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Old 10-03-2011, 01:58 PM   #4
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Some More information

Sorry that my thread was SO long, I was trying to get as many details as possible out there.

Some basic Details:
37 Gallon tall tank from Petsmart, topfin
40 gallon filter, Topfin
4" sponge filter from Angels Plus, 64 cubic inches of filtration
200W heater, topfin
a high output light, but I dont have the details in front of me now.

For acclimation, I put the fish bags in the tank, unopened for 30 minutes. Then I put in about 1 cup of tank water and wait 10 minutes and repeat 2 or three times more. When I am ready to transfer the fish, I prepare a container filled with tank water, and then empty the bag into a net, catching the fish in the net, letting the water from the bag go down the drain. Then I quickly transfer the fish to the container, and then into the tank.

Using an API master kit for freshwater. I do have trouble seeing the difference between some of the grades of the regular Ph test. Is there another quality kit that would give me a better gradation?
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Old 10-03-2011, 07:01 PM   #5
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What dechlorinator are you using for the water changes?

I'm really sorry about your bad luck with fish so far.
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Old 10-03-2011, 08:44 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by librarygirl View Post
What dechlorinator are you using for the water changes?

I'm really sorry about your bad luck with fish so far.
Thanks, I am using SeaChem Prime for dechlorination.
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Old 10-03-2011, 09:06 PM   #7
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Yeah, a bit of temperature fluctuation is not big deal. I also agree that a contaminate is an option too, but I have a suspicion your problems arise from bad stock. I have had about 75% of the fish I have bought from chain stores drop dead relavtively soon after purchase despite my water params being good. The whole proces of netting a fish, putting it in a tiny plastic bag, transporting it, and re-acclimating it somewhere new is stressful, so it can lower their immune systems. It sounds like the dg's were not healthy when you bought them. Dg's and neons can be very sensitive. Angels are also pretty sensitive until they get well-established in the tank. (Btw, you may want to re-think keeping an angel with neons since the angel will likely eat them someday). I agree that LyndaB that neon tetra disease is an option.
If I were you, I wouldn't add anymore fish until the ones you have perk up a bit.
What are your parameter readings?
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