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Old 10-05-2021, 03:24 AM   #1
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Small Tank Rescue Crises!

I have taken over a new fish community from a neighbor who purchased a kit for their son. The family had intial interest but the interest waned and .... well you know the rest. The tank is a 5 gallon tank and it is clearly overpopulated. There are 6 fancy guppies (2 males/4 females), 2 Cory cats, and a Pleco. There are a few mystery snails and a nerite snail (?). I am a novice myself but have done some quick study on nitrogen cycling etc. and it doesn't take a pro to realize this tank is grossly overpopulated and was never properly cycled. The ammonia levels are deep green in the chemical ammonia scale. The fish are clearly suffering and I am not sure what to do. I went to a local store and purchased test kits, water conditioners, and a 29 gal. tank (with heater, hang over back filter and air supply) that I will setup tomorrow. But this will be a new setup.

What should I do to save these fish and bring them into a healthy environment given the crises state? I did a 2 gallon water change with Spring water in the 5 gallon tank. One Cory is probably not going to make it over night.

Appreciate any constructive advice in advance. This is why I joined this forum after spending the evening reading up.

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Old 10-05-2021, 04:16 AM   #2
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I would get the new tank set up, scaped, filled etc. If you have anything from the small tank that can go in the new tank like decorations, move those over. Squeeze out a sponge from the old tank into your new tanks water. If any filter media can go from your old filter into the new i would transfer that over. Turn it on, make sure everything is working ok.

While you are checking the new tank systems are working, i would use that time to do numerous 25% water changes on the old tank. Over a period of a 2 or 3 hours do these water changes half hour apart. This will get the water in your old tank close to the parameters of the clean tap water in the new tank acclimating the fish to what you will be moving them to. When you are happy that both sets of water are close to each other (including temperature), move the fish.

You will then be doing a fish in cycle. Test water daily. Do water changes sufficient to keep ammonia + nitrite combined no higher than 0.5ppm. You need some waste to cycle the tank, but you dont want ammonia and nitrite elevated so they become an issue. 0.5ppm combined is relatively safe while leaving enough to cycle the tank. You can try a biological booster product such as Dr Tims One and Only. This may speed up the process, but the squeezed out sponge and any filter media you can transfer will be more beneficial. Eventually you will see 0ppm ammonia and nitrite in your daily test and nitrate should be steadily rising. You are cycled for you current fish and can add a few more if thats your plan. Rinse and repeat with the fish in, test / water change routine.
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Old 10-05-2021, 07:59 AM   #3
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I would get the new tank set up, scaped, filled etc. If you have anything from the small tank that can go in the new tank like decorations, move those over. Squeeze out a sponge from the old tank into your new tanks water. If any filter media can go from your old filter into the new i would transfer that over. Turn it on, make sure everything is working ok.

While you are checking the new tank systems are working, i would use that time to do numerous 25% water changes on the old tank. Over a period of a 2 or 3 hours do these water changes half hour apart. This will get the water in your old tank close to the parameters of the clean tap water in the new tank acclimating the fish to what you will be moving them to. When you are happy that both sets of water are close to each other (including temperature), move the fish.

You will then be doing a fish in cycle. Test water daily. Do water changes sufficient to keep ammonia + nitrite combined no higher than 0.5ppm. You need some waste to cycle the tank, but you dont want ammonia and nitrite elevated so they become an issue. 0.5ppm combined is relatively safe while leaving enough to cycle the tank. You can try a biological booster product such as Dr Tims One and Only. This may speed up the process, but the squeezed out sponge and any filter media you can transfer will be more beneficial. Eventually you will see 0ppm ammonia and nitrite in your daily test and nitrate should be steadily rising. You are cycled for you current fish and can add a few more if thats your plan. Rinse and repeat with the fish in, test / water change routine.
Thank you. So, transfer all fish to newly set up tank at once?
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Old 10-05-2021, 08:37 AM   #4
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I would. Your old tank is overstocked, they are living in toxic conditions that could already be causing health issues. Cycling the tank before moving them could take a couple of months. Better to get them in a new home ASAP that is more fit for purpose. A fish in cycle is relatively safe if done properly. Keep on top of toxic water conditions by changing water regularly as needed.

And to add. Good for you taking on someone elses pets and trying to give them as good a home as you are able. Hope you stick around and let us know what you are up to etc. I would love to see some photos of their new home when set up. Would be interesting to see their current home too.
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Old 10-05-2021, 10:55 AM   #5
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I would. Your old tank is overstocked, they are living in toxic conditions that could already be causing health issues. Cycling the tank before moving them could take a couple of months. Better to get them in a new home ASAP that is more fit for purpose. A fish in cycle is relatively safe if done properly. Keep on top of toxic water conditions by changing water regularly as needed.

And to add. Good for you taking on someone elses pets and trying to give them as good a home as you are able. Hope you stick around and let us know what you are up to etc. I would love to see some photos of their new home when set up. Would be interesting to see their current home too.
Interesting and all helpful.

Now that I am over the initial panic as I began to appreciate (best I could) the dire situation I inherited, now I am trying to think more strategically. I am at the point in (working from home, child away in college), where I can and would like to devote time to cultivating an aquatic environment. Fate works in odd ways -- so yes, it is a silver lining that i was over my neighbors when Mom was having a argument with her son about the fish tank.

A bit more context,

Tank Dynamics
I brought the tank to my home on 10/2, plugged it in and let it sit as is. There was no air pump, so I connected one from an old hydroponic system I had. I let it sit for a day but I did feed the fish a bit. The fish were generally active and feeding. A couple of guppies and one of the cory cats were trying to breathe at the surface -- gulping air. The guppies -- two small females -- died.

Current Tank Condition (See photos)
I have added a sponge to the flimsy cartridge filter that they had on the tank. I know nothing about the filter but it is not powered and seems to move water by air being forced up the intake which presumably moves water into the filter housing. The sponge media seems to be working, but the ammonia levels remain high, so I've done 1 gallon water changes daily. I changed the water about 50% and added water conditioner and some foxtail plants. The foxtails seem to comfort the guppies as the orient themselves around the plants and the plants now seem to be showing signs of new growth after initially turning pale and losing some density.

Realistic Changeover
I have not even brought the new tank into my home. I have to designate a stand/furniture that is suitable for this size tank. I did not appreciate the weight of a fully set up tank with H2O. Point being the new tank is going to take some time for setup. I am committed to this but I cannot simply drop everything and spend the day on the new tank. I also have some issues around water supply. It is one thing with the small tank and quite another filling the 29 gal tank as I do not have a water source on the level of my home where I will have the tank. I have a long garden hose that I plan to run from an outside faucet into my house, and then to the tank.

Further Observations
I have removed the snails that I believe are still alive (1 Nerite and 3 Mystery) and put them in a simple bowl. The fish remaining in the small tank seem to be reasonably active and doing fishy things. I think one of the female guppies is pregnant, if that factors into any of the advice. The Pleco seems stressed and sometimes moves about the tank frantically then comes to a dead stop on the bottom stones or on a wall. Water temp seems stable at 78 deg F. Used API test strips (5 in 1) and the levels it tests -- seem within normal range. The ammonia is the acute issue.

I know this is a lot of random information and observation I am sharing, but hoping the more info I can provide will help with the advice. I don't know the custom/protocol in this forum, so apologies if I am flooding (no pun intended)
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Old 10-05-2021, 11:06 AM   #6
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Old 10-05-2021, 11:07 AM   #7
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We are where we are. And you are doing your best.

I would still opt to get the fish into their new home as soon as you are able. Keep up with changing water regularly on the current tank. If possible, a number of 50% water changes an hour or so apart will bring the ammonia down. I would like to see it 0.5ppm or lower if possible. Im assuming the spring water you are using for the water changes is ammonia free.

I would recommend Seachem Prime as a water conditioner as it has an added use of detoxifying ammonia for a day or two. If you have high ammonia a double dose of prime will help. If you manage to get it down to 0.5 - 1.0ppm then a single dose. This should be a backup to water changes, not an instead of thing though. The only surefire way of removing ammonia when you arent cycled is water changes.
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Old 10-07-2021, 12:15 AM   #8
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Phew .... made the transition to new tank today. Kudos for recommendations on the aggressive water changes on the old tank. Even in its overcrowded state, all the fish noticeably improved through the day while I was setting up new tank.

New tank set up went reasonably smooth. I went with Fritz Zyme7 to boost the cycling process. Also transferred some truly foul filter media from the old tank and also dropped in a bio stone. According to the API Freshwater Ammonia Test Tube testing, the tank is currently at 0.25 ppm (mg/L) with all the fish from the old tank now in their new home. Very pleased with Marineland 350 filtration system and two heaters have the water at 78 deg F steady. Water is moderately cloudy at the moment but that is to be expected at this stage from what I've read.

Anything else I should be on lookout? Planning to do a 25% water change tomorrow and then retest water and drop in a dose of Seachem Prime.

Thanks for the support and encouragement.

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Old 10-07-2021, 03:29 AM   #9
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The cloudiness is a biological bloom. Bacteria taking advantage of nutrients inbalances and should clear up as your cycle establishes. Might take a week.

Hopefully everything goes good and your fish can enjoy their new home.

Keep the old tank. You might want to try a betta in there or do a shrimp tank. If nothing else you might need a quarantine tank some time in the future. Put it in a cupboard until its needed.
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Old 10-07-2021, 09:05 AM   #10
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Thanks, so no need to use any product to clear up the cloudiness. Would you recommend daily water changes or should I just change water if Ammonia rises above a certain level?

One of the female guppies is about to go into labor it seems. I plan to use the small tank as a delivery room as the guppies as a group are very active and aggressive. I am stunned that through that overcrowded, toxic environment the female guppy is still ready to give birth. Nature finds its way ....


I am also preparing driftwood for the the new large tank, and will be boiling it today. Is there any advantage/disadvantage to adding the cured driftwood during the cycling process?

Thanks again,

Will
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Old 10-07-2021, 09:41 AM   #11
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I wouldnt do anything specifically to deal with the cloudy water at this stage. It should clear up as your cycle establishes. Water changes will help things, but you will likely be doing these anyway. Your tank isnt even that cloudy, ive seen them before where you cant see the back of the tank.

As per my post #2. Water changes sufficient to keep ammonia + nitrite no higher than 0.5ppm. If they creep up to 0.5ppm + 0.5ppm then change 50% of the water.

Ive never heard of driftwood having any effect 1 way or another on the cycling process. It might drop your pH a little bit. Lower pH can slow the process down, but it also makes ammonia less toxic. The low amount of pH drop will have negligible effect IMO.
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Old 10-08-2021, 08:30 PM   #12
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Transition Complete

Thanks for your advice and suggestions. New tank is set up with initial aquascaping and the new inhabitants seem very happy. They are orientating to each other and the structures I have set up. Feeding normally and moving about exploring their new home. (Image 1)

The cycling seems to have progressed quickly. Nitrates and Nitrites have remained low. Ammonia is levelled at .25 pmm (see Image 2)

Total community includes:

4 Diamond Tetras
1 Albino Cory
3 Green Cory
1 Pepper Cory
2 Skunk Cory
1 Pleco
A few snailsóMystery and Nerites

I'll do a 25% water change tomorrow morning.

Thanks again.

Will
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Old 10-08-2021, 08:34 PM   #13
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Not that it makes much (if any) difference, but you are looking at a saltwater test card. The test is the same, but the freshwater and saltwater tests come with different test cards that read slightly differently.
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Old 10-08-2021, 09:39 PM   #14
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Not that it makes much (if any) difference, but you are looking at a saltwater test card. The test is the same, but the freshwater and saltwater tests come with different test cards that read slightly differently.
(yes, and as you said, the freshwater scale is virtually identical)

Any recommendation for a centerpiece species given this community?
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Old 10-20-2021, 11:04 PM   #15
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Cycling continues ...

Well ... so far, so good. No loss of fish and added a few more. Ammonia levels are stable at .125, but Nitrite/Nitrates have been creeping up. I am conducting 40% water changes 2x week. Fish are thriving, but plants are meh. Going to try and let it be for the next month or so and let things settle in. River stone substrate traps a lot of detritus and food, so I am trying to be more mindful of feeding less, though I would say the small army of Corys really keeps the upper portion of the substrate pretty clean!

Thanks for your help in the changeover ... any other thoughts or things to look out for are always appreciated!

Will
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Old 10-20-2021, 11:50 PM   #16
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The plants not doing much is likely a lighting issue. By the looks of the light in that picture, itís far from being a good plant light (looks like marginal light focused mostly in the Center)

But, one step at a time. Get the fishyís all sorted out and happy with an established cycle then open up a new can of worms.

Depending on the plants involved and how well you want them to flourish, youíll likely need to get a better light as well as look at fertilizing and co2 if you really want to get carried away lol

What brand tank is that? Was hard to see in the picture.

Iíve got a 29g top fin, and the light that came with it is actually ďokĒ for plants. Iíve only got red ludwigia in there, but with some fertilizers the light is enough for them to flourish as well as initiate a massive algae bloom
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Old 10-21-2021, 03:42 AM   #17
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You really need to give plants a couple of months before deciding if they are doing ok or not. Probably just transitioning from emersed to submerged. Plants are cultivated emersed in water and have ready access to CO2 from the atmosphere. You put them in your tank and cut off its CO2 supply and they need to adapt which can take a while. Existing leaves might die off, but new growth is adapted to its new environment. Are you seeing any new growth?

Depending on the types of plants they really dont need much light. Low demand plants will be fine under pretty much any aquarium light.
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Old 10-21-2021, 01:58 PM   #18
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The plants not doing much is likely a lighting issue. By the looks of the light in that picture, it’s far from being a good plant light (looks like marginal light focused mostly in the Center)

But, one step at a time. Get the fishy’s all sorted out and happy with an established cycle then open up a new can of worms.

Depending on the plants involved and how well you want them to flourish, you’ll likely need to get a better light as well as look at fertilizing and co2 if you really want to get carried away lol

What brand tank is that? Was hard to see in the picture.

I’ve got a 29g top fin, and the light that came with it is actually “ok” for plants. I’ve only got red ludwigia in there, but with some fertilizers the light is enough for them to flourish as well as initiate a massive algae bloom
The tank is a 29g Aqueon standard rectangle.

I separately purchased a Marineland hood with integrated lighting. Irrespective of the light needs of the plants, I am planning to upgrade that lighting to something that has better coverage of the entire tank and has adjustable intensity.

@Aiken Drum .... good advice on waiting to see how the plants adjust to being submerged. I don't have the sense that the environment is settled. To answer your question, I am already seeing new growth/roots on the Red Foxtail ferns since I've been adding Seachem Flourish after water changes. I've also adhered moss to some slate pieces and they seem to be taking as well.
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Old 10-23-2021, 12:44 PM   #19
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I.cant be much use pointing you in the right direction as far as a better light. I’m still checking out options myself as I’d like to upgrade my light solely for variable intensity and night/moon lighting effects

If you’re using fertilizers, are you using carbon in your filter? Some say it doesn’t matter, some say the carbon catches the ferts and it defeats the purpose of dosing.

I’m not using carbon and the seachem flourish is obviously working as I’m in the middle of a big algae bloom lol
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Old 10-23-2021, 01:02 PM   #20
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I am planning to upgrade that lighting to something that has better coverage of the entire tank and has adjustable intensity.
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Iím still checking out options myself as Iíd like to upgrade my light solely for variable intensity and night/moon lighting effects
I like the Fluval Aquasky for low demand plants. Programmable intensity on white/RGB and timers through an app.



Some feature effects as well if you like playing with those kind of things too (like lightning storms).

Upgrade to the Fluval Plant if you want more intensity, light output more tuned to the plants needs and some additional settings. Not needed for low tech/low demand set ups though.
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