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.