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Old 02-05-2009, 12:52 PM   #1
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Tetras in an ignored tank...

Hmmm...where to begin...I have offered to take on the care of a tank at a shop that I frequent because it bothers me to see it being ignored. It could be a stunning tank, but I think the employees are tired of dealing with it, and have let it slide. I have a 75 gallon tank at home (fancy goldfish) and a pond with fish and am not new to fish keeping, but I have almost NO experience with tropicals.

I can barely see the fish thru the murk, but I believe there are 3-4 silver dollars and 5-8 smaller fish, some sort of tetras I think. Its a larger tank, maybe 35 gallons, six sided. There is a large HOB filter but I can not figure out a manufacturer because it is so dirty and crud encrusted. In a few days I will be doing a cleanup of the tank, and will have more information. Right now, all I know is that they were being treated for velvet somehow, and the shop has a water softening system in place. I am completely unfamiliar with velvet, and do not know anything about water softening systems. I took a sample and the pH is 7.0, no ammonia, but the nitrates were high.

I do not want to stress these fish. I yearn to just net them out, put them in a bucket in a quiet corner, and then clean the living heck out of that mess. BUT...I think it might be safer to scrub up the filter, do a PWC and gravel cleaning, and do another PWC and gravel cleaning in a few weeks. What do you think? What do I need to know about tetras?

Any thoughts would be welcome.
CT
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Old 02-05-2009, 02:35 PM   #2
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If you attempt to clean it all at one time you will stress and kill the fish......If you put the fish in a bucket they will stress.....

No ammonia and high nitrates show that the tank has an active bio system that you don't want to kill off......Do small water changes using a vacuum to remove surface debris.....Remove and thoroughly clean the filter with clean water(assuming that the filter cartridges are clogged)......Stop any treatments with meds.....Be sure to use a water conditioner in the make up water......Trying to do too much too fast will result in disaster.
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Old 02-05-2009, 03:42 PM   #3
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I agree with dano for the most part.

I would start with 10% water changes every 3 or 4 days (less frequently if the pH is vastly different). After maybe 2 or 3 of them, rinse half of the filter media (if possible), after a few more rinse the other half. To be really safe I would probably do more 10-20% changes than fewer 50% changes even after several small changes have been done.

I would shy from doing immediate or large gravel vacs in such an unmaintained tank-- could stir up a lot of waste and land you with a massive ammonia spike. I would start vac'ing small portions (a third at a time, probably) of the gravel after the water quality is normal (nitrates below 40ppm and pH same as water being added).

Tetras are notoriously fragile little guys, so caution is warranted...

Good luck!
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Old 02-05-2009, 06:51 PM   #4
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I once took over an unmaintained tank and can tell you that small water changes with dechlorinator are best. It will take a few weeks to get things up and running to be beautiful but it will be worth it.

You start with 10-20% for starters, wait 3-4 days and do it again. Keep doing it every 3-4 days. I would do a small gravel vac on the 3rd water change. You can clean the front wall of glass with an algae scrubber whenever you want. Make sure to match temp and add dechlorinator every time and watch the fish for any abnormal signs.
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Old 02-06-2009, 07:53 AM   #5
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Well, so far, everyone is confirming the need to go slowly. So I will just have to suppress my desire to scrub the living heck out of the mess. The problem is that I can't go back every 3-4 days. I don't think the shop will appreciate me making a mess out of that corner so often! I think weekly might be acceptable, at least until the current situation is remedied. And then I am hoping to set it up so that monthly maintenance (by me) will do the job. Oh, well. It's been a mess for so long already...and anything I do (slowly) will be an improvement.

They have some sort of rotating drum automatic feeder that they say is functioning. I think it is putting too much food in at one time. And I am getting the impression that tetras are herbivores? Is that right? They seem to be feeding shrimp pellets and some sort of basic tropical fish flake. Suggestions for a better diet might be needed here, too.

Thanks for the help. I will post pics as the project comes along.

CT
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Old 02-06-2009, 03:59 PM   #6
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If you can only get in there weekly, you may want to do the water changes with Amquel+ to pre-empt post change ammonia spikes in case you stir anything up.

Tetras are fine with flakes, mine also steal algae wafers (the poor cories just can't catch a break).

This just occured to me; I would wait for expert confirmation on this one, but could you perhaps add a secondary filter to help establish new bioload? I'm thinking it may help when you are able to rinse the filter media in the old filter and will help process anything you stir up (mechanically at first, biologically later as it establishes bacteria).
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Old 02-06-2009, 06:12 PM   #7
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To simplify things; why don't you get them to give you the whole mess...Then you could start it from scratch in your on home....Just convince them of the cruelty of allowing fish to suffer as they have been doing and probably will do again as soon as you leave.
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Old 02-07-2009, 01:12 AM   #8
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As for taking the whole thing home...I don't have room for any more tanks! In addition to my 75 gallon, I also have a 100 gallon stock tank in my basement where my pond fish are over-wintering, and a 10 gallon quarantine tank that is currently housing 5 new goldfish being treated for ick. My roommate is starting to get worried...

Anyway, I think this is also a terrific educational opportunity. The employees at this shop really seem to want to learn about better tank care, but they have been listening to conflicting (and sometimes bizzare) advice from pet store employees. I think this may also be a case of "too many cooks in the kitchen" and selective hearing. The equipment they have is good, but its not set up right. The filter is a prime example...it has one thin pad, but lots of room for more...and the intake tube is so short that it is probably mostly pulling in water that it just discharged. Their gravel cleaning tube is too short to reach the bottom of the tank and a bucket on the floor at the same time. I don't think they know how to use it anyway.

I think some education will go a long way here. I am looking forward to the process, and it will be nice to go in there and not be dismayed by this tank anymore!

CT
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Old 02-07-2009, 01:49 AM   #9
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Have fun and good luck....
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Old 02-12-2009, 01:14 AM   #10
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Nevermind! The whole plan has fallen thru. The husband of the manager butted in and stated that me cleaning the tank had some sort of potential legal liability if I got hurt in the process. He probably has a point, but I am still irritated by the whole thing. However, it's not a total loss. They did a partial WC and scraped the algae off the glass. I advised them on getting an extension on the intake tube, and adding filter material. Apparently verbal assistance is legally acceptable.

OH well, I tried. Thanks for the input everyone.
Cathy T.
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Old 02-12-2009, 07:25 AM   #11
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I'm glad you at least tried and made them aware of their mistakes. Hopefully they will realize this and take things into their own hands. I'm not too sure how you can get hurt cleaning a fish tank... drown?!!?.. but policies are policies.
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