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Old 08-17-2022, 05:00 PM   #1
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When to worry…

Hi! I am new to fish keeping but have been trying my best. I purchased a “precycled” tank about 2 months ago. AKA it was cycled with fish in it already at the store. They packed it up, water, fish, plants, everything and sent me home to put it all back together. Well, it was a poor impulse purchase. I have since learned found out it wasn’t cycled and it was overstocked. It is an 8 gallon and had 12 male endlers guppies and a betta fish. The betta fish developed fuzzy patches and died in less than 5 days. I felt terrible for the fish and responsible for not doing my homework. The tank was not cycled when I brought a water sample to the store looking for answers. I got an API freshwater test kit, treated the display tank for fungus as well even though I had isolated the betta to a hospital tank fairly quickly after the patches appeared, did a LOT of water changes, and got the tank cycled after a several weeks. It has been all going well since until 2 weeks ago I noticed I was only counting 11 endlers instead of 12. The tank is heavily planted with lots of rock caves so I thought maybe I was just missing one as I never saw a body. Then today after 6 weeks of 0 ammonia, and 0 nitrites, and 20-ish nitrates I have a spike of ammonia to between 0.25 - 0.5. Nitrites are still 0. Nitrates seems a little darker than normal but not all the way to 40. I pulled all the plants (they are all anubias glued to rocks- no actual planted) and rocks caves out today, looked for a body (none found but also confirmed only 11 living fish) vacuumed the sand well and did a 50% water change. I usually vacuum the substrate I can reach at each change but this was the first time I removed all the rocks to get underneath them. I plan to recheck the parameters in 2-3 days. Is this enough? I did rinse my filter sponge and bio balls last week but it was in old tank water I had just removed with my water change as is advised. I basically just swished them in the bucket of water I had just removed and put them back in the filter. My filtration system has a pump with 2 sponges, a TON of bio balls and I have a bag of chemipure green in there. Did I wreck my cycle unknowingly somehow? Or do you think this is from the dead guppy that must have been eaten/degraded? I don’t want to freak out and do too much but I also don’t want to end up with more suffering fish. They all seem quite normal right now. The are all active- super excited and come up to the glass when I am near the tank, eating etc, so I’m not really sure why one died. It just wasn’t there one day. I treat my new water with fritzguard and have been adding fritz 360 every 2 weeks. I will attach my records of the water parameters since the beginning, water changes, and stuff used below. If anyone has an opinion or advice, I would appreciate. My husband really wants to add back another betta or some Cherry shrimp but I told him I’m not ready for that and I think it would overstocking. I’m just trying to keep the ones I have healthy and happy at this point. Thanks in advance.
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Old 08-17-2022, 05:28 PM   #2
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While seeing any ammonia is a sign something is amiss with your cycle, the level you are reporting is safe. You havent mentioned pH, but even at a high pH you would need to be at 1ppm ammonia before your fish are at risk. Ammonia is more toxic at higher pH.

Your ammonia spike could be a result of the dead fish or maybe the cleaning. Maybe you are overfeeding. Maybe the water company used chloramine (or more chloramine) in their water treatment which would result in an ammonia spike. Lots of reasons why you might see ammonia where it wasnt there before.

Monitor things. I would test daily until things settle down again. Target should be ammonia + nitrite combined no higher than 0.5ppm. If your daily test shows parameters higher than this target then change some water.

Might be worthwhile testing your tap water for ammonia to see if thats the source.

10 or 11 endlers is fully stocked for an 8g tank. You could probably add some shrimp once things settle down. If you want a betta then either return some of the endlers or get a bigger tank.
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Old 08-19-2022, 08:54 PM   #3
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Thanks so much for the help! I tested the water again today and it is down to between 0 and 0.25, not quite a perfect yellow but not really green either with the nitrites still at zero and nitrates down to 5-10 ish from the water change.

My tap water does contain chloramine. It was one of the things that frustrated me in the beginning when I was trying to cycle the tank. I couldn’t understand why I was making such frequent changes and my tests weren’t changing. Then I figured out if I test the treated tap water for ammonia it does come out to 1. I always test my tank before I change the water or stir stuff up so hopefully that shouldn’t be the issue. Usually if I test the water 2 days after a change even with the ammonia in the tap water it is back down to zero. I have not bought reverse osmosis water at the fish store because pretty much right after I realized my water was crappy, the tank cycled and I hadn’t had an issue since. I will keep this in mind though. I know shrimp are more sensitive. If we decide to do Cherry shrimp eventually, any idea if this short influx of ammonia would hurt them? I know there are some products that say they detoxify ammonia like seachem prime and fritz complete. Would they be sufficient to keep the shrimp stable during changes? Or would the RO water be more ideal?

It may be overfeeding as well. I was really careful in the beginning but I got a little more liberal with portions lately as they always seem so frenzied when I walk up to the tank. I thought maybe they were hungry and not feeding enough but maybe they are just happy to see me?

One last question. My pH is at 8 right now. What is considered high?

Anyway, thank you for allaying my fears. I just don’t want to make any more mistakes. I will continue to wait and watch and change the water if necessary. I really appreciate your time.
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Old 08-20-2022, 04:12 AM   #4
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Buy some bottled water and test that. You know the bottled water will be zero ammonia. Compare it with the test from your tank. Zero ammonia can often look like a trace ammonia result. If your tank water and bottled water tests look the same, take your tank water test as being zero.

Many people have chloramine treated water. Possibly even the majority in developed countries. And it will be more prevalent in the future as its a better water treatment method. It doesnt make your water "crappy". The water company is treating water with your health in mind, not with a view to whats best for you to keep fish in it. A cycled tank will remove that ammonia very quickly. Lets say you do a 50% water change. Your tank water with essentially zero ammonia mixed with tap water at 1ppm ammonia would result in tank water at about 0.5ppm ammonia. At your pH and a typical water temperature that's a safe level of ammonia for your fish. As an extra safety net more frequent, but smaller water changes are safer and using prime as your water conditioner to detoxify ammonia for the short time it takes your cycle to remove the ammonia is a reasonable precaution. As i said, many people have chloramine treated water and they keep fish and shrimp just fine. RO would be the safest route to go, but i would see how things go before going that route.

Fish will always try and get more food. Feed daily as much as is eaten in 3 minutes. That is abundantly more than fish get in the wild. Skipping feeding days occasionally (once a week) wont hurt them. It might be an idea to do this and see if a day of no ammonia going in brings your test down to a true zero reading.

A pH of 8 is at the high end of the scale, but if you arent seeing any issues with your fish i wouldnt worry about it. Fish are adaptable to a wide range of water conditions, and when you read those ideal water parameters for particular species they are talking about wild caught fish and sometimes breeding. If you bought fish locally they have likely been bred and raised in similar water to whats coming out of your tap. Its more important that pH is stable. As to keeping shrimp at pH of 8, i dont keep shrimp. My understanding is that red cherry shrimp are ok upto 8. I would post a specific thread in the "invertebrates" section where it will more likely be seen by someone with first hand knowledge.

https://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums/f129/
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