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Old 08-08-2015, 10:17 PM   #1
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Death, Death, and more Death.

Hi! I'm new to the forums as well as aquariums. I started about a month ago. I did a lot of research online and began keeping some goldfish and small koi. I started with a 20 gallon long aquarium and quickly found out the pitfalls of NTS. I was able to correct my mistakes and didn't lose my fish. However, I had over stocked my 20 gallon and was fighting nitrite levels too much so I decided to upgrade to a 40 gallon breeder.

After setting up my new 40 gallon breeder I checked my levels (Temp, chlorine, PH, GH, KH, nitrites, and nitrates) and the test strip looked great. I transferred some water from the 40 gallon tank to the container my fish were in. They seemed to be doing well. I added my fish to the aquarium and they swam around like they were good. within about an hour though I could tell something was wrong. I checked my levels again and they seemed okay. But as the night went on fish started dying one by one by one. I ended up losing all of my fish.

SO, today I start over again. I emptied 95% of the water in the aquarium and filled it up again. dechlorinated it and waited several hours before getting a water sample and taking it to PetSmart. I had them do a quality check and again, it looked great. So I bought 4 goldfish to test with. Again, I floated the bags for 15 minutes, added some water from the tank, waited 15 minutes, added more water, took them out of the bag and put them in my aquarium discarding the bagged water. This was about an hour ago.

As I'm sitting here typing this I can look to my right and see one fish has already died. The others are sitting in the bottom of the tank huddled in a little group. The ONLY thing That's different between this tank and my last one is that I put gravel in the bottom. Is it possible that the gravel is bad? I rinsed it all thoroughly before putting it in the aquarium but I can't for the life of my figure out what is going on! I just checked my water again and the levels look great except the KH is low but it was in my last tank as well. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Has anyone else heard of or seen a situation like this?

for reference

temp - 78F
nitrate - 0
nitrite - 0
GH - ~75
KH - 30
Chlorine - 0
PH - ~7.5
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Old 08-08-2015, 10:57 PM   #2
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Second fish down!
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Old 08-08-2015, 11:03 PM   #3
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Ok we need o really review some things. First off, never trust a Pet-whatever or test strips to tell you if your water is good. Get your own API Liquid test kit to test your water. Is your tank even cycled? I'm guessing not. Also, some people may say something different, but I would NEVER change 95% of my water at once. I'm gonna leave this to the professionals from here on out. Nothing to do for the fish except bring them back to PetSmart or put them in a cycled tank.
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Old 08-08-2015, 11:12 PM   #4
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Ok we need o really review some things. First off, never trust a Pet-whatever or test strips to tell you if your water is good. Get your own API Liquid test kit to test your water. Is your tank even cycled? I'm guessing not. Also, some people may say something different, but I would NEVER change 95% of my water at once. I'm gonna leave this to the professionals from here on out. Nothing to do for the fish except bring them back to PetSmart or put them in a cycled tank.
I feel like you did not comprehend my post. This is a NEW TANK SETUP, so no, of course it hasn't cycled. I set it up once yesterday and then once again today. Second, the reason I changed out all the water I could was because all the fish I had in it the night before died. They started dropping like flies. So I assumed my water was trash and since it's a new tank and I have no fish, why wouldn't I change out all the water? They have never been fed in it, there has never been a nitrogen cycle. So, does this make more sense now?

The point is the first time I setup a new aquarium the fish did fine. The second time I setup a new aquarium all my fish have continued to drop like flies within a couple of hours of being in the aquarium. The only difference is adding gravel and I'm wondering if that could be the problem.
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Old 08-08-2015, 11:21 PM   #5
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Ok my bad. There are 2 ways of cycling an aquarium; fish in (what you're doing) or fishless cycle. Did you rinse the gravel with soap? If you did this is what's killing the fish. Soap and glass cleaner are extremely toxic to fish.
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Old 08-08-2015, 11:23 PM   #6
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I rinsed the gravel in water only using a brand new bucket that has never had anything else in it. the last two fish are about to die. I will remove the gravel only. leave the current water, put fish in it tomorrow and see if they live.
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Old 08-08-2015, 11:38 PM   #7
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I feel like you did not comprehend my post. This is a NEW TANK SETUP, so no, of course it hasn't cycled., I set it up once yesterday and then once again today. Second, the reason I changed out all the water I could was because all the fish I had in it the night before died. They started dropping like flies. So I assumed my water was trash and since it's a new tank and I have no fish, why wouldn't I change out all the water? They have never been fed in it, there has never been a nitrogen cycle. So, does this make more sense now?

The point is the first time I setup a new aquarium the fish did fine. The second time I setup a new aquarium all my fish have continued to drop like flies within a couple of hours of being in the aquarium. The only difference is adding gravel and I'm wondering if that could be the problem.
I'm not quite as nice as nils, but I feel extemely helpful so let's dissect this post and get to the problem k? I promise I can help!!!

You said " This is a NEW TANK SETUP, so no, of course it hasn't cycled. "
Well here lies most of the issue being that four goldfish were depositing ammonia that wasn't being converted to nitrites via the denitrification process which is essential to all aquariums.

All "new tank" setups should either be pre cycled via fishless means or have an established fish in cycle plan introduced before fish are added. Its clear this precaution wasn't taken.

You said,
"there has never been a nitrogen cycle. So, does this make more sense now?"

Yes, lots, in fact fish will continue to die until the tank is cycled, I and others would love to assist you in this, just say the word and we can/will post links to beneficial material. Thanks and best of luck.
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Old 08-08-2015, 11:40 PM   #8
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Do you have an ammonia test kit?
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Old 08-08-2015, 11:52 PM   #9
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So you're telling me that even though I never fed them 4 small goldfish in a 40 gallon breeder tank would all die within 2 hours from ammonia build up in a brand new tank? Is that my understanding? This is the exact way I started my first 20 gallon aquarium a month ago and I lost 0 fish.
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Old 08-09-2015, 12:09 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by WashMan03 View Post
So you're telling me that even though I never fed them 4 small goldfish in a 40 gallon breeder tank would all die within 2 hours from ammonia build up in a brand new tank? Is that my understanding? This is the exact way I started my first 20 gallon aquarium a month ago and I lost 0 fish.
No, they shouldn't have died. Im guessing contamination of the water from some external source. DO NOT get any more fish until you figure this out or at least attempt to remedy it. First I would drain all of the water and give the tank a good scrubbing with a 1/11 vinegar water mix and rinse all of the gravel and clean everything in the tank thoroughly. Other than that I don't know what to tell you. Just do what I said and we'll see what happens.
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Old 08-09-2015, 12:19 AM   #11
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No, they shouldn't have died. Im guessing contamination of the water from some external source. DO NOT get any more fish until you figure this out or at least attempt to remedy it. First I would drain all of the water and give the tank a good scrubbing with a 1/11 vinegar water mix and rinse all of the gravel and clean everything in the tank thoroughly. Other than that I don't know what to tell you. Just do what I said and we'll see what happens.
Thank you for your help and advice.

I would be curious to know if the gravel is the contaminant. For "research" purposes I'm thinking I'll do as you suggested. I will clean the tank and rinse the gravel again. Then I will introduce a few goldfish with no substrate. I realize this isn't the way to keep them but I want to see how they do. If after 2 hours they seem to be doing well I will reintroduce the gravel and see what happens. I did rinse the gravel pretty thoroughly the first time. However, now that you mention it I did not clean the tank when I got it from the store. I just brought it home and set it up. Could the tank have been contaminated with something so bad that even several water changes wouldn't suffice and it would kill off all of my fish in a couple of hours?


I mean we are talking about 40 gallons here... I would think for the fish to get killed off that quickly it would have to be a HUGE contaminant of some kind. This is why I keep pointing to the gravel.
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Old 08-09-2015, 12:40 AM   #12
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Thank you for your help and advice.

I would be curious to know if the gravel is the contaminant. For "research" purposes I'm thinking I'll do as you suggested. I will clean the tank and rinse the gravel again. Then I will introduce a few goldfish with no substrate. I realize this isn't the way to keep them but I want to see how they do. If after 2 hours they seem to be doing well I will reintroduce the gravel and see what happens. I did rinse the gravel pretty thoroughly the first time. However, now that you mention it I did not clean the tank when I got it from the store. I just brought it home and set it up. Could the tank have been contaminated with something so bad that even several water changes wouldn't suffice and it would kill off all of my fish in a couple of hours?


I mean we are talking about 40 gallons here... I would think for the fish to get killed off that quickly it would have to be a HUGE contaminant of some kind. This is why I keep pointing to the gravel.
Ok, hope this works out!
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Old 08-09-2015, 12:44 AM   #13
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Ok, hope this works out!
Do you recommend washing all of my items with the same 1/11 vinegar mix?
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Old 08-09-2015, 12:45 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WashMan03 View Post
Hi! I'm new to the forums as well as aquariums. I started about a month ago. I did a lot of research online and began keeping some goldfish and small koi. I started with a 20 gallon long aquarium and quickly found out the pitfalls of NTS. I was able to correct my mistakes and didn't lose my fish. However, I had over stocked my 20 gallon and was fighting nitrite levels too much so I decided to upgrade to a 40 gallon breeder.

After setting up my new 40 gallon breeder I checked my levels (Temp, chlorine, PH, GH, KH, nitrites, and nitrates) and the test strip looked great. I transferred some water from the 40 gallon tank to the container my fish were in. They seemed to be doing well. I added my fish to the aquarium and they swam around like they were good. within about an hour though I could tell something was wrong. I checked my levels again and they seemed okay. But as the night went on fish started dying one by one by one. I ended up losing all of my fish.

SO, today I start over again. I emptied 95% of the water in the aquarium and filled it up again. dechlorinated it and waited several hours before getting a water sample and taking it to PetSmart. I had them do a quality check and again, it looked great. So I bought 4 goldfish to test with. Again, I floated the bags for 15 minutes, added some water from the tank, waited 15 minutes, added more water, took them out of the bag and put them in my aquarium discarding the bagged water. This was about an hour ago.

As I'm sitting here typing this I can look to my right and see one fish has already died. The others are sitting in the bottom of the tank huddled in a little group. The ONLY thing That's different between this tank and my last one is that I put gravel in the bottom. Is it possible that the gravel is bad? I rinsed it all thoroughly before putting it in the aquarium but I can't for the life of my figure out what is going on! I just checked my water again and the levels look great except the KH is low but it was in my last tank as well. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Has anyone else heard of or seen a situation like this?

for reference

temp - 78F
nitrate - 0
nitrite - 0
GH - ~75
KH - 30
Chlorine - 0
PH - ~7.5
Hello Washman!
I'm sorry you've had such a bad start with your fishtank.
If you're interested in starting over, here are some tips that will help you:

1. Take the 40 gallon tank apart and rinse it thoroughly with vinegar and water. I would strongly suggest getting rid of the gravel as it is not safe to use with goldfish. The gravel is probably not what caused the death of your previous fish, but in the long run, if you want to keep goldfish, gravel is no good. The fish can get it in their mouths and choke on it. Gravel also traps loads of mulm which is decomposed poop and food and this will foul your water. With goldfish, your best bet is to go bare bottom or use some pretty sand. My favourite is CaribSea Tahitian Moon sand.

2. What kind of filtration do you have? Goldfish are real messy. Don't skimp on the filtration.

3. Buy a liquid test kit. Test strips are not very accurate and yours don't seem to test for ammonia which is one of the most important tests. If you're going to be fish-in cycling, you will need to test for ammonia at least once a day if not more. The API master test kit is awesome and not too expensive. I highly recommend it.

4. Dechlorinator. They're not all the same. Make sure your tap water does not have chloramines. Most regular dechlorinators do not get rid of chloramines and this will kill your fish pretty quickly. When you get your liquid test kit, test your tap water for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. This will let you know if your tap water is a problem. They should all test at zero. If you have chloramines, your tap water will test positive for ammonia.

You can also just buy a dechlorinator that removes chloramines as well as chlorine to be safe. Seachem Prime is the best and most affordable in my opinion. This product also detoxifies ammonia and nitrites to make the water safe for your fish in a fish-in cycle.

5. A 40 gallon tank is only big enough for two fancy goldfish. These are the egg-shaped ones with double tails. The single-tailed goldfish and koi are pond fish and they will not do well in an aquarium.

6. 78 degrees is very hot for goldfish. Do you have a heater in there? Consider turning the heat down to 70-72... Or get rid of the heater alltogether.

7. Consider doing a fish less cycle. Your fish will do much better. Read these links:
Tips and Tricks For Your Fastest Fishless Cycle! - Aquarium Advice
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling - Aquarium Advice
These articles will tell you all you need to know about fish less cycling.

8. If you still want to do fish in cycle, read this one:
I just learned about cycling but I already have fish. What now?! - Aquarium Advice

I hope this helps you a bit. Don't hesitate to ask more questions.
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Old 08-09-2015, 01:10 AM   #15
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Hello Washman!
I'm sorry you've had such a bad start with your fishtank.
If you're interested in starting over, here are some tips that will help you:

1. Take the 40 gallon tank apart and rinse it thoroughly with vinegar and water. I would strongly suggest getting rid of the gravel as it is not safe to use with goldfish. The gravel is probably not what caused the death of your previous fish, but in the long run, if you want to keep goldfish, gravel is no good. The fish can get it in their mouths and choke on it. Gravel also traps loads of mulm which is decomposed poop and food and this will foul your water. With goldfish, your best bet is to go bare bottom or use some pretty sand. My favourite is CaribSea Tahitian Moon sand.

2. What kind of filtration do you have? Goldfish are real messy. Don't skimp on the filtration.

3. Buy a liquid test kit. Test strips are not very accurate and yours don't seem to test for ammonia which is one of the most important tests. If you're going to be fish-in cycling, you will need to test for ammonia at least once a day if not more. The API master test kit is awesome and not too expensive. I highly recommend it.

4. Dechlorinator. They're not all the same. Make sure your tap water does not have chloramines. Most regular dechlorinators do not get rid of chloramines and this will kill your fish pretty quickly. When you get your liquid test kit, test your tap water for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. This will let you know if your tap water is a problem. They should all test at zero. If you have chloramines, your tap water will test positive for ammonia.

You can also just buy a dechlorinator that removes chloramines as well as chlorine to be safe. Seachem Prime is the best and most affordable in my opinion. This product also detoxifies ammonia and nitrites to make the water safe for your fish in a fish-in cycle.

5. A 40 gallon tank is only big enough for two fancy goldfish. These are the egg-shaped ones with double tails. The single-tailed goldfish and koi are pond fish and they will not do well in an aquarium.

6. 78 degrees is very hot for goldfish. Do you have a heater in there? Consider turning the heat down to 70-72... Or get rid of the heater alltogether.

7. Consider doing a fish less cycle. Your fish will do much better. Read these links:
Tips and Tricks For Your Fastest Fishless Cycle! - Aquarium Advice
The (almost) Complete Guide and FAQ to Fishless Cycling - Aquarium Advice
These articles will tell you all you need to know about fish less cycling.

8. If you still want to do fish in cycle, read this one:
I just learned about cycling but I already have fish. What now?! - Aquarium Advice

I hope this helps you a bit. Don't hesitate to ask more questions.


Thanks for this reply. This is extremely helpful. The goldfish I mentioned putting in my 40 gallon aquarium tonight were mostly for testing purposes. I did not know if they would make it or not since every fish I had died the night before. I do not intend to keep goldfish. but they are cheap and I figured if they would live, I could get some more koi.

I do not plan on keeping koi in the aquarium. I have a koi pond which I was going to transfer them to once they got about 6 inches long or so. I appreciate your advice in setting up a new aquarium. I am using a water conditioner that removes both chlorine and chloramines. I was also using other chemicals that allow "immediate introduction of fish" by removing and limiting ammonia and nitrites.

I would like to mention again that I realize this isn't the perfect setup. But it was good enough to keep 8 fish alive for a month with regular water changes and maintenance. My nitrite levels continued to spike (much as you would imagine) having 8 2-3 inch fish in a 20 gallon aquarium but my nitrate levels were also beginning to rise. That's why I chose to upgrade to a 40 so that I could have a more stable tank.

Also, I have no problem using a gravel vac once a week to clean the gravel from contaminants as I find it a relaxing chore. I did this on my 20 gallon and it worked well. I did this on my 40 gallon and they still died.

This post is really less about setting up an ideal aquarium and more about pinpointing the exact cause of whatever is killing my fish in almost no time when both of my setups were identical except for the gravel. However, I didn't wash either aquarium first so that could be a problem but If it's the gravel I want to know. that stuff is 16 dollars a bag! So basically I paid about 50 dollars for something pretty to kill all of my fish.

being that it's a new setup and the fish are dying in less than two hours to me it suggests that a lot of factors that would kill fish during the nitrogen cycle are out of the question. Again, I learned the hard way about the nitrogen cycle once but it took a few days even with 5 fish before ammonia levels spiked.

These were all very healthy fish that within minutes of being introduced into the new aquarium began acting strange (sitting on the bottom with their fins tucked in) and within a couple of hours died. This to me screams contamination by something, either on the surface of the tank (I suppose) or in the gravel. I just wanted to know if anyone had seen or heard of this.


I did rinse the gravel and put it in 5 gallon buckets of plain water and swirled it, tossed it, agitated it very good. I tried to be careful as the color was chipping off of it but I spent a good amount of time rinsing it all.


Sorry, I mistyped earlier. It was at 74 degrees.
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Old 08-09-2015, 01:44 AM   #16
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If you didn't rinse the tank it could have been cleaner residue from use at the store.
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Old 08-09-2015, 03:27 AM   #17
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One other thing going on this time of year is municipal water treatment for algae from their containment ponds/lakes reservoirs, and where I live they will change water supply locations, for us it is from the lake to a reservoir, and I think they flush the lines with chemicals/extra Chlorine (to make them SAFE for us humans to drink, Yum). They can also add or add more Chloramine than usual which requires a double amount of treatment drops in the first place. Some water dechlorinator brands do not treat Chloramines read your bottle so you will know. Prime works great for all the people I know, it is a dechlorinator.

You can call your local water department and ask them what they have been up to lately. They will also let you know what they used in the water and what used and even they should have the water parameters.
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Old 08-09-2015, 03:55 AM   #18
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One other thing going on this time of year is municipal water treatment for algae from their containment ponds/lakes reservoirs, and where I live they will change water supply locations, for us it is from the lake to a reservoir, and I think they flush the lines with chemicals/extra Chlorine (to make them SAFE for us humans to drink, Yum). They can also add or add more Chloramine than usual which requires a double amount of treatment drops in the first place. Some water dechlorinator brands do not treat Chloramines read your bottle so you will know. Prime works great for all the people I know, it is a dechlorinator.

You can call your local water department and ask them what they have been up to lately. They will also let you know what they used in the water and what used and even they should have the water parameters.


That is another variable I didn't consider. The dechlorinator I have does indeed also neutralize chloramine. But your comment brings up another good question for me. Is it possible to *** too much dechlorinator to my aquarium? If I double it and don't need to will that have an adverse affect on my water quality?
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:37 AM   #19
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I noticed you said your GH was 75 and your Kh was 35? Did you mean DKH? If that was the API test kit those levels are super high and probably killing your fish. I had this issue once at a friends house. His well was drilled into pure limestone. It killed fish unless we cut it with distilled water first. You would like to have more like 20 at the most for a gold fish I believe? I would much rather see something like 8. GH is less important to fish but still should be under 20. 75 is really high. It explains why the fish are dying so fast. Try a 50 50 mix of your water and distilled water. Problem is how to get them from your tank water into that water without shocking them. Drip acclimation is probably a good idea. Temp is important to try to match.

The only other thing would be if there was some kind of contaminant in the water you don't know about. Copper for example. However, I'm pretty sure most dechlorinators fix that. Which one did you use?
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Old 08-09-2015, 07:38 AM   #20
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I still don't understand why OP still want to put fishes in an uncycled tank.

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