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Old 10-06-2011, 11:17 AM   #1
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Help!! My fish are dying 1 by 1

This is terrible. A modern day tragedy. Here's the story, please help!

I got a 30gal tank off of craigslist. I go to pick the tank up and it has 2 massive plecos and 1 bottom feeder inside. The tank looks like it hasn't been properly cleaned in a year (dried white stuff all over the filter, tank cover, and the rim of the tank. All is OUTSIDE the tank, ei. not touching water). When we took the tank home and added water and let it sit for 3 days, we noticed how much waster was in the gravel.

The gravel is about 3 inches deep. I did the first water change and got ALOT of crap out of it using a pump (as of now i've down 5-6). I changed the filter cartridges and let the thing run/settle for another day. Then i started getting fish.

I've gotten 4 angelfish, 5 painted mirror fish, 7 guppys, a small catfish, a flame guarami, a clown loach, and I've kept the old sucker fish and gave away the two big plecos.

My first fish were an angelfish, 4 guppys, the guarami, suck fish, catfish, and the 5painted mirrors. Out of these, the angelfish, 2 guppys and 2 mirrors have died. The first to go was the angel fish after about a week. I noticed she started becoming inactive and was hanging out by the filter/top of the water.

So I did a water change, got more muck out of the gravel. The next day a mirror died. So i figured it was because of the change in temperature from the water change (my tanks hangs around 75/76 during the day and after a change drops to 70/71 that night) I put a heater in my tank, the temp went up to 78 or so, I decided to take it out. Two days later I found one of the male guppys dead. He hadn't been acting strange.

The next day (so far its been a week and a half since i put fish in) I got more fish, 3 more angelfish. A couple days (2-4) go by, sure enough one of the female guppys starts getting really sick. Her gills puffed up and got very red and she became extremely thin. She was constantly gasping for air at the top. She died.

So now I do another water change, a lot more muck is picked up from the gravel. 2 or 3 more days go by, another dead angelfish (this was is much larger than the first that died).

Two days ago I get more new fish. 4 more guppys (1 male three female) and the clown loach.

So yesterday (2 days after this last angelfish death, 2 and a half weeks after putting the original fish in the tank) I decide to re do my whole tank. I take all the rocks and live plants out, do a massive 15-20 gal water change. Now during the water change I sucked up ALOT of the much (its mostly brown dirt looking stuff) from the gravel. Atleast 60% what was possible using a pump. During this the water level dropped below the filter so I unplugged it.

Now my fish are swimming around in pretty dirty water because a lot of the dirt was floating around from the water change and hadn't resettled yet. My girlfriend calls me, so I spend an hour on the phone, meanwhile my fish are swimming in this non-filtering mucky water thats in the process of settling. DURING THAT HOUR one of my female guppys died. My biggest one! She wasn't acting so wierd, she had been hanging out at the top water layer a bit but my other guppies do that too.

So I fill the water back up and turn the filter on. Later that night I feed my fish and almost non of them were eating except the guarami. This morning one of the mirror fish were dead and 1 of the angelfish was extremely close to death. Just laying on the ground barley moving. I've taken her out. The good news is the rest of the fish (or most I couldn't watch them all) were eating again this morning. One of my new female guppys is hanging out at the top water line.

WHAT IS WRONG!? Is it the gravel that came with the tank, is it the large sucker fish that came with the tank? I just did a strip test, everything looks alright, the only thing that looked maybe too high was the nitrite. What should I do? I did a MASSIVE water change yesterday and two fish died that night!!!! Should I remove the gravel and boil it? Clean the entire tank?

Sorry for the long read, please help!!!!
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Old 10-06-2011, 02:16 PM   #2
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Ok first no more fish.

Second, the strips are not accurate at all. If you changed out the filter media, you got rid of a lot of beneficial bacteria, so your tank is probably in a mini-cycle. You want to get a good liquid test kit (API Master is best) and test the water DAILY. Any time nitrite and/or ammonia are over .25 do a pwc to get them down (this may mean larger water changes, it may even mean more than one per day); same with nitrate over 20. I suspect your two issues are not enough water changes and toxin levels.

Also did you use dechlorinator for water changes? If so what kind? Prime is the best if you can get it (most fish/pet stores should have it).

It's also possible the tank had a disease in it that you now inherited. I'd start with daily water changes and testing the water though and see if that helps. Also turn the filters back on (generally you just need to swish the filter media in old tank water to clean it; replacing it as I said removes a lot of the bacteria the tank needs to stay healthy) -- oops just noticed the filters are back on.

What filter do you have for the tank? It may not be sufficient and you could probably use a second filter.

Also what is the exact fish stocking right now? It's hard to tell from the post.
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Old 10-06-2011, 02:30 PM   #3
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So you also adopted the existing fish with this tank, correct?

The tank was severely overstocked when you got it and definitely not cleaned, as you saw on your own. I'm sure the nitrates are through the roof and your new fish pretty much died from being placed in a toxic environmment. The other fish that came with the tank were able to adjust slowly to the filth, the new fish weren't. They were just slam dunked in.

I agree, strips are worthless. Get yourself an API master kit (liquid), cost about $22. Order from kensfish.com if you're in the states and you'll probably have it tomorrow.

Return the rest of your new fish to the lfs until your tank is deemed safe.

Before you do buy more fish, please research what size tank and how large of a school the species need. You've definitely hit a few speed bumps here with your stocking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DukeNukem713 View Post
I got a 30gal tank off of craigslist. I've gotten 4 angelfish, 5 painted mirror fish, 7 guppys, a small catfish, a flame guarami, a clown loach, and I've kept the old sucker fish .
4 angelfish would require a much larger tank

I've never heard of painted mirror fish

which species of catfish? some require a much larger tank

to my knowledge, you cannot keep gouramis and angelfish together

clown loaches require a school and a much larger tank

which species of sucker fish?
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Old 10-06-2011, 02:40 PM   #4
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double post deleted..... can we delete posts that have not had a reply?
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Old 10-06-2011, 03:48 PM   #5
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Thanks guys. Yes i went to petco and brought a sample with me. the guy told me that im going through a cycle because i've been changing the water so much and i changed the filter. he told me to let the tank sit for 6 weeks before i add any new fish. I put in some chemical that my buddy has to speed the process up. he used it and put fish in to his brand new tank in only 3 days, my roomate did the same thing with a new tank after 1 day, and the fish are doing fine. so im going to wait until I have a full week of clearly healthy fish before i debate adding more and doing a test. i dont think i'll buy a test, i'll just take a sample to petco again.

im confused about what u were saying though about nitrate? the man said not to change my water, but ur saying if the nitrate is too high i should? i just did a 15-20gal water change yesterday.

i have a huge filter it holds 4 cartridges. to my (pleasant) suprise today i noticed I only changed 2, and the other 2 have so much bacteria in them that water cant even pass through.

my tank is no where near overstocked (no offense) as of now I have 4 guppies, 3 female 1 male, 1 angelfish (about to die), a flame guarami, a tiny catfish, a pretty big sucker fish (6inches? debating taking him out), and 3 super tiny painted mirror fish (theyre the see through kind). Its a long tank, i can afford to even have like 6 small cichlids in there. my angel fish is pretty small too.
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:19 PM   #6
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You basically want your readings to be 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and <20 nitrates. I'm betting the store that your nitrates are probably >80.

Did the lfs give you exact numbers for readings?

Please please please reconsider and get your own test kit. You can get hundreds of test results for $20. By the time you drive to the store every week to have them test, you'll spend $20 in gas in a month. Plus, each employee will test differently so your results will not be consistent.

What did they give you to put into the tank?

If water can't go through your filter media, that's sludge build up, not beneficial bacteria. You need to rinse the cartridges off in tank water (not tap water). If water doesn't pass through, your tank is not being filtrated properly.
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:27 PM   #7
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what is an lfs? can i just ring the sludge out?
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:34 PM   #8
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I think your first mistake was not removing the adopted fish in the first place. That was way overstocked to begin with - you should have taken them to a store or put them in a cleaner tank or something while you fixed this one up.

Honestly I think the best thing to do is completely tear down and clean the tank, then start over with a fresh, fishless cycle. It kind of sounds like there's something very toxic in the water, either disease, or high ammonia or nitrate levels. A "lfs" stands for "local fish store". And what do you mean by ringing the sludge out? You'd need to rinse it off using the tank water - bearing in mind that you do it gently, in order to preserve the beneficial bacteria living on it.
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Old 10-06-2011, 04:49 PM   #9
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I think your aquarium is not cycled yet properly. Also you are hurrying to put fish in your tank that's why your tank's nitrogen cycle is not establishing.
1. Don't add any more fish into your tank for 15 days. Let the nitrogen cycle to be established. You can add fish letter on. Don't worry about it.
2. Try to go for 30-40% water change daily for next one week. This will help to reduce the ammonia and nitrate from your tank. Don't forget to add some chlorine remover chemical while performing water change.
3. Don't change your filter media frequently.
4. Don't over feed your fish. Six times a week.
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Old 10-06-2011, 06:36 PM   #10
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I think your first mistake was not removing the adopted fish in the first place. That was way overstocked to begin with - you should have taken them to a store or put them in a cleaner tank or something while you fixed this one up.

Honestly I think the best thing to do is completely tear down and clean the tank, then start over with a fresh, fishless cycle. It kind of sounds like there's something very toxic in the water, either disease, or high ammonia or nitrate levels. A "lfs" stands for "local fish store". And what do you mean by ringing the sludge out? You'd need to rinse it off using the tank water - bearing in mind that you do it gently, in order to preserve the beneficial bacteria living on it.
Well I removed the two massive plecos before i did any work on the tank. the sucker fish has been there the entire time though

And do i rinse it out over the sink or right back in to the water?

I was debating starting over from scratch today, but the guy at petco told me to just let everything be for a while and that I dont need to start from scratch
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Old 10-06-2011, 06:39 PM   #11
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I think your aquarium is not cycled yet properly. Also you are hurrying to put fish in your tank that's why your tank's nitrogen cycle is not establishing.
1. Don't add any more fish into your tank for 15 days. Let the nitrogen cycle to be established. You can add fish letter on. Don't worry about it.
2. Try to go for 30-40% water change daily for next one week. This will help to reduce the ammonia and nitrate from your tank. Don't forget to add some chlorine remover chemical while performing water change.
3. Don't change your filter media frequently.
4. Don't over feed your fish. Six times a week.
Also the man told me not to change my water as that was the reason all this was happening.
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Old 10-06-2011, 07:09 PM   #12
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How big is this "sucker" fish? Can you get a picture of it?

It depends - if you get a big 5g bucket of tank water you can rinse it in there if you don't want all the gunk getting back into the tank (I did this method with my old 55 gallon), then pour it down the sink. Just make sure you don't run the sink water all over the cartridge.

The 'guy from petco' is a sales employee and wants your money, even if it means making you buy a bunch of stuff you don't need or coming back for multiple new batches of fish after they die. I take all lfs with a very tiny grain of salt, then use forums like these to research a bit more if I'm confused on something.
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Old 10-06-2011, 07:18 PM   #13
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I think everyone on here has given good advice so far. The top two errors I think you made initially were taking out the filter media and adding so many new fish at once. You took out a lot of beneficial bacteria and then added a HUGE bioload, which sounds like it is too much for this tank anyway.

The basic rule used to be 1" of fish per gallon of water. Most people don't use that rule anymore, but I still think it is a GREAT tool for beginners. Find out how big the fish are going to get max size and stock. So if you have guppies that get about 2" then you wouldn't want more than 5 guppies in 10 gallon tank.

Also make sure you properly identify the 'sucker type fish' that you have. A lot of the larger bottom feeders produce a lot of waist and thus have a bigger impact on your biological filter.

Once you get a test kit, start testing your water every day, and do NOT add any more fish. When your parameters level out (ammonia and nitrite at 0 ZERO) then you can start adding fish, but you should only add 1-2 fish at a time, maybe one or two fish a week and test parameters daily to ensure that they stay balanced.

If you notice any ammonia or nitrite spikes you need to be prepared to do daily water changes to prevent any further fish deaths.
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Old 10-06-2011, 07:21 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by DukeNukem713 View Post
Also the man told me not to change my water as that was the reason all this was happening.
That is awful advice and I don't know why people still believe that water changes are bad. As long as you are using a water conditioner (and yes I think PRIME is the best), then water changes are the BEST thing you can do to keep your fish healthy. Think about it, how can letting your fish swim around in their waist be healthy?
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Old 10-06-2011, 07:41 PM   #15
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That is awful advice and I don't know why people still believe that water changes are bad. As long as you are using a water conditioner (and yes I think PRIME is the best), then water changes are the BEST thing you can do to keep your fish healthy. Think about it, how can letting your fish swim around in their waist be healthy?
Well with the water change came bacteria. I sucked up alot of the muck on the bottom doing them. like ALOT. and the next morning 2 fish were dead. and the guy at petco new alot i mean i know a good amount and I have 3 roomates who all have big tanks that are stocked with fish, my tank is so far from overstocked compared to theirs and theyve had 0 deaths so it's definitely not that.

like i said the bottom feeder is 6 inches or so. its literally a "bottom feeder" at the pet store. those silverish yellowish long looking ones
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Old 10-06-2011, 08:49 PM   #16
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Ok Bro. reality check here....

LFS employees, ESPECIALLY the big store versions, will say all sorts of inaccurate, or downright wrong things.

Yesterday, I had one at petsmart tell me I could keep a clown knife fish in a ten gallon tank. Dude, a clown knife gets to over 30 inches.

When they say its overstocked, they don't mean that you cant cram em in there or they will all die, they mean that because of the bio load, and habits of certain fish, that you have too small of a space for the fish to grow to their full potential, and they will produce to much waste for a tank that size to cycle, causing spikes in harmful substances like ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.

Want proof that the LFS is giving inaccurate info?
Think about it, there are HUNDREDS of different "bottom feeders" out there.
Some wont get over an inch or so, and others will get to over 4 feet long!

Thats like going to a computer store, and saying "I want a computer"
"Oh yeah? you want a pocket PC, a gaming PC, a laptop, a server, a 500 terabite corporate giant or a stinkin calculator wristwatch? They are all "computers".

The brown sludge you are vacuuming up is not "bacteria" its waste. As in poop, rotting food, etc
Same with the crud you can see in the filter cartidges.

The bulk of the bacteria, (which you DO want) is not in the water, but in the solid substances like the cartridges, gravel etc.

The cloudy crud, is just crap...... litterally.

Another thing.

These fish are "Tropical" fish right?

Tropical fish are found in tropical waters which are much warmer than 72 degrees.

You really need that heater in there and looking for 78 to 82 degree water.
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Old 10-06-2011, 08:56 PM   #17
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if you want to be successful at fish keeping you have to be willing to take the advice that people on this site are giving you. so far the advice from the pet store has cost you a bunch of fish. to think all those beautiful angel fish have died is really a shame. take a step back read through the advice you've been given and then start to follow it. if you have fish that are too big for your tank take them to petco or petsmart. they will take fish and re-home them. BUY the api liquid tests.at least get the ammonia test. ammonia is a big killer of fish. i test everyday and my set up has been running for 11 months.you must have healthy water to have healthy fish. you must be PATIENT wait until your tank has cycled (o ammonia,0 nitrites and 20-30 nitates) do you understand what cycling your water involves? if not google it. you can find all the information you need. also people on this site are more than willing to help. follow their advice. you'll be glad you did and your tank will be a healthy place for your fish. also the advice to add fish slowly is very good. a few fish a week (if water stays in the right parameters) is the only way to do it. if you're patient now, your tank will be so much easier in the future. good luck
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Old 10-06-2011, 09:01 PM   #18
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Yeah mostly tropical , usually the tanks floats around 76 which is room temp. I think i will put the heater back in, but i dont really want to get it over 78 so i dont know if its worth it. and yeah i know what ur saying but i've talk to 4 employees now and 3 of them didnt know much and i can tell this guy knows his stuff. also, i have been givin no previous advice on how to setup/run my tank, so its obviously no ones fault but mine for not knowing (except my roomates, {mod edit} jerks could have told me to add the cycling liquid!) i highly doubt petco employees work on commission, he didnt push me to buy anything and told me exactly what your all telling me, that i have to cycle my tank. i am going to wait a couple weeks before i start adding fish, until i can atleast notice that all the fish in there are healthy and happy and, most importantly, not dying

and i know what your saying about bottom feeders - there are all sorts. this one is the most basic bottom feeder/sucker fish u can find. i dont know the name exactly. its not a pleco, looks almost like an eel. i'll try to look it up, it looks almost like a garra rufa. again, he's about 6 inches. hes not so big for the tank, but hes kind of ruining the whole smaller fish vibe, so i think i will give him to my roomies for one of there 45 or 55 gallons

thanks for the advice guys this has been alot of help. i made this thread before i went to petco and this has really helped me compare and contrast to what the guy said about my water test. i have a great idea of what i need to do now. thank you!

one more question though, i want to start up 1 gallon jars to raise some fry in. (3 of my guppies are pregnant, and i dont want them giving birth in this tank!) i shouldn't be using my current water until it cycles correct? and if i fill these 1 gallon jars with tap water and add the chlorine remover (obviously), what else will i have to do before i can add fish? i'm planning to manually filter the water myself with a DIY filter i made tonight and a turkey baister
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Old 10-06-2011, 09:19 PM   #19
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Well with the water change came bacteria. I sucked up alot of the muck on the bottom doing them. like ALOT. and the next morning 2 fish were dead. and the guy at petco new alot i mean i know a good amount and I have 3 roomates who all have big tanks that are stocked with fish, my tank is so far from overstocked compared to theirs and theyve had 0 deaths so it's definitely not that.

like i said the bottom feeder is 6 inches or so. its literally a "bottom feeder" at the pet store. those silverish yellowish long looking ones
the advice you received on here has been solid, "Overstocked" really doesn't have as much to do with the space in the tank but the capacity of the biological filter.

Anyway, You have been given EXCELLENT advice here and I think you should take some time to read some of the articles on this site to educate yourself about the nitrogen cycle, diseases, stocking guidlines et c. That way you are not relying on "The guy at the petstore". No matter how knowledgeable they seem, they are not always right.
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Old 10-06-2011, 09:22 PM   #20
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one more question though, i want to start up 1 gallon jars to raise some fry in. (3 of my guppies are pregnant, and i dont want them giving birth in this tank!)
A 1 gallon jar is not suitable for anything living. If you want a guppy fry tank, get a 10 gallon tank for about $10 at walmart and a cheap sponge filter and small heater and you will be good to go. Yes you will have to cycle this tank as well.
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