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Old 12-06-2022, 04:46 PM   #1
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Mass Die-Off

40 gallon breeder. Filstar XP, half sand, half red flourite, driftwood, stones, planted, CO2. Water parameters, all normal PH-7.2-7.2, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20-30 ppm, ammonia 0.25. For the record, I've never been able to get ammonia to zero, even after a 50% water change. Tank has been fine for 2 years at 0.25. Water temp 76-78 degrees. Weekly 20% water change. Filter cleaned once a month

Prior to the die-off, I had a dozen rummy nose tetra, 4 black skirt tetras, 6 corys, 4 red-eye tetras, 4 black emperor tetras, a bristle-nose pleco and a couple of chinese alga eaters and a couple of gouramis. Various plants.

Tank was fine for 2 years. 2 weeks ago I introduced 4 new black emperor tetras -- yes, I know I should have quarantined -- I didn't. A week or so later, I notice what looked like ich on 3 or 4 rummys and a couple of emperors. I immediately changed water, cleaned filter, raised water temp to 83, added aquarium salt and ordered some Ich-X. But within hours, I lose 5 rummys and a couple of corys. By the next day (the Ich-X hasn't even arrived yet. I just ordered it!), I've lost ALL rummys - a dozen in 24 hours, all 6 corys and 2 red-eyes. WTH? Ich doesn't wipe out a tank in 24 hours, does it? Black skirt tetras look ok, emperor tetras look like they have ich, so I plan to treat, but am I missing something? Ich doesn't cause a mass kill in 24 hours, does it? Some of the dead fish look like there's a stringy substance, that doesn't look like ich. I've included a few pictures. Could it be something else? Any thoughts would be appreciated
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Old 12-06-2022, 07:31 PM   #2
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Just to clarify my comment about ammonia - I may have sounded too glib. Frustration from losing half my tank. My ammonia levels are usually somewhere between 0 and .25. I've attached a picture of a test taken after an 80% water change. Not quite 0, but not quite 0.25 either. In this case it was probably a little high, closer to 0.25, but I just changed the water a week ago, so it wouldn't have been that high for more than a day or so, not long enough to wipe out 50% of the tank. But I'm just not convinced it's ich either. The surviving fish don't exhibit any physical sign of it. Maybe I just had too many in the tank, and the additional 5 tetras I added just tipped it into some kind of system collapse. I just don't know. I loved my school of rummy nosed tetras. They were the hallmark of the tank for the past 2 years.
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Old 12-06-2022, 10:25 PM   #3
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Sadly, with today's fish, you really need to quarantine any new arrivals. But that horse is out of the barn.
From the pictures, it looks like an advanced case of Ick or possibly something called neo Ich which is a different parasite ( Ichthyophthirius schlotfeldti )than what causes "regular" Ick. You can read a bit about here here: https://www.bassleer.com/ornamentalf...-_-05-2012.pdf

I can't say for sure that your system was overloaded but what appears to have happened was the weaker species in the tank succumbed to the parasite more than your hardier ones. Ich, in general is more a symptom of a bigger problem because healthy fish can usually withstand the parasite. Weaker ones don't. A treatment schedule can be found here at page 45: https://www.aqualogo-engineering.ru/...0%B5%D1%80.pdf

As for not getting your ammonia consistently to 0, are you using any kind of plant fertilizer that may be giving off some ammonium? That would show up as ammonia on an API test kit. If not, your test reagent may be off and I'd have another test done with another kit to confirm your result.
Hope this helps.
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Old 12-06-2022, 11:18 PM   #4
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Thanks for the response. Sadly, the die-off is continuing, and I've lost another red-eye and 2 more of the emperor tetras. The tank is also giving off a slight odor which I've never had before. Is that from fish dying, or is it from something else. Swapped out the bio-chem zorb but I'm afraid I'm going to lose my entire tank.

The link you provided on a treatment doesn't work. I think I'm too late for my tank, but would appreciate the information if you don't mind sending it again.
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Old 12-06-2022, 11:24 PM   #5
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Some test kits read 0 as 0-0.25. But if the pH of the water is 7.0 or less (and it probably is due to the CO2), then ammonia isn't going to be an issue because it changes into the less harmful ammonium at the lower pH.

Some plant substrates can release ammonia for months or years after they are added to an aquarium. Most stop releasing it after a few months. You might have something rotting under an ornament or even driftwood that is rotting and releasing trace amounts of ammonia.

-----------------

White spot does not kill large numbers of fish rapidly unless you let the white spot parasites build up to huge numbers, then one day you find a pile of bodies in the tank. However, you will see the white spot building up on the fish several weeks prior to this happening.

The silver tetra looks like it has excess mucous over its body, so does the rummynose tetra, but it also appears to have white spot. Fish naturally have a thin clear layer of mucous over their body and if they are stressed out by something, they produce more mucous that can appear as a cream, white or grey film over part or all of the body and fins, or it can look like clear filaments hanging from the fish. Normally it's caused by a chemical in the water.

If a number of fish died shortly after a water change, then it might have been something in the new water you added to the tank.
Do you dechlorinate the new tap water before adding it to the aquarium?

Water companies sometimes do work on the pipes and they usually increase the amount of chlorine/ chloramine in the water for a day after they do the work. The same thing applies if there's a sudden increase in temperature or an earthquake or disturbance that might let unwanted stuff into the water pipes. They don't normally tell you they are doing work in the area unless it's a planned outage and then they send you a letter a month before saying the water will be off on this day for x number of hours.

Other reasons the fish can die is if there is a sudden rise in water temperature. This can reduce the oxygen level in the water and the fish can suffocate. This is even more of an issue if you add carbon dioxide (CO2) to the water because warmer water holds less oxygen and if you add CO2 as well, you can kill the fish.

You should also check to make sure nobody has used the fish buckets for anything and you didn't have anything on your hands when you worked in the tank. Most people don't but I am just covering as many possible scenarios.

-----------------

When treating white spot, you either raise the water temperature to 30C (86F) and keep it there for 2 weeks, or at least 1 week after all the spots have gone. Or you add a medication that contains Malachite Green or Copper and keep the temperature around 24-26C. If you raise the water temperature to below 86F without adding medication, you simply speed up the parasite's lifecycle and they reproduce faster and infect the fish more heavily.

If using heat or raising the temperature to speed up the parasite's lifecycle, you should turn off the CO2 and increase aeration/ surface turbulence to maximise the oxygen levels in the water.

-----------------

To work out the volume of water in the tank:
measure length x width x height in cm.
divide by 1000.
= volume in litres.

There are 3.785 litres in a US Gallon
There are 4.5 litres in a UK gallon

When you measure the height, measure from the top of the substrate to the top of the water level.

If you have big rocks or driftwood in the tank, remove these before measuring the height of the water level so you get a more accurate water volume.

You can use a permanent marker to draw a line on the tank at the water level and put down how many litres are in the tank at that level.

-----------------

Before you treat the tank, do the following:
Remove carbon from the filter before treating with chemicals or it will adsorb the medication and stop it working. You do not need to remove the carbon if you use salt or heat to treat fish.

Wipe the inside of the glass down with a clean fish sponge. This removes the biofilm on the glass and the biofilm will contain lots of harmful bacteria, fungus, protozoans and various other microscopic life forms.

Do a 75% water change and gravel clean the substrate. The water changes and gravel cleaning will reduce the number of disease organisms in the water and provide a cleaner environment for the fish to recover in. It also removes a lot of the gunk and this means any medication can work on treating the fish instead of being wasted killing the pathogens in the gunk.
Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it is added to the tank.

Clean the filter if it hasn't been done in the last 2 weeks. However, if the filter is less than 6 weeks old, do not clean it. Wash the filter materials/ media in a bucket of tank water and re-use the media. Tip the bucket of dirty water on the garden/ lawn. Cleaning the filter means less gunk and cleaner water with fewer pathogens so any medication (if needed) will work more effectively on the fish.

Increase surface turbulence/ aeration to maximise the dissolved oxygen in the water.
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Old 12-06-2022, 11:25 PM   #6
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Regarding quarantining -- I mean, I don't have a lot of room to run a separate quarantine tank with a running filter and active media -- how is an average amateur like me supposed to quarantine new tank mates?
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Old 12-06-2022, 11:28 PM   #7
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Thanks for the response. Sadly, the die-off is continuing, and I've lost another red-eye and 2 more of the emperor tetras. The tank is also giving off a slight odor which I've never had before. Is that from fish dying, or is it from something else. Swapped out the bio-chem zorb but I'm afraid I'm going to lose my entire tank.
Contact the water company and make sure they didn't do anything to the water supply in the last few days.

Maybe do another water change but use a double dose of dechlorinator and aerate the new water and dechlorinator in containers for 30 minutes before you add it to the tank. If there's something in the aquarium water, then a 50% water change should dilute it by half and you should see an improvement pretty quickly. If the water change does help, then do another one each day for a week.
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Old 12-06-2022, 11:36 PM   #8
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Thanks, Colin, for your response as well. I'm not aware of any quality issues with my water supply -- it's not overly chlorinated to begin with, but I've been using the same water for 2 years with this tank, haven't had an issue like this. I suppose something might have happened recently, but I'm not aware of anything.

No sudden changes in water temperature lately. The only thing that changed recently was the addition of a few black emperor tetras, a couple of snails and an anacharis plant. I've been using the same fish store for more than 2 years, haven't had a single problem with fish. Would hate to think they sold me a couple of fish that within 2 weeks wiped out more than 2 dozen tank mates.

Not sure what to do at this point. Treat for Ich, even if I don't know for certain it's ich? Wait for them all to die and start over? This was a great tank for 2 years, gone in less than 2 weeks.
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Old 12-07-2022, 12:36 AM   #9
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Do a water change and see if they have spots. If they have white spot, then treat the tank.
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Old 12-07-2022, 10:17 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by jcmcn5 View Post
Thanks for the response. Sadly, the die-off is continuing, and I've lost another red-eye and 2 more of the emperor tetras. The tank is also giving off a slight odor which I've never had before. Is that from fish dying, or is it from something else. Swapped out the bio-chem zorb but I'm afraid I'm going to lose my entire tank.

The link you provided on a treatment doesn't work. I think I'm too late for my tank, but would appreciate the information if you don't mind sending it again.
Sorry to hear. I just tried the link and it worked. It goes to a .pdf file so make sure you are set up to read pdf files. You may need to download Adobe Acrobat reader or you can google " how to open pdf files on...." and list your machine.
In short, the treatment is a 2 week process of daily water changes, vacuuming the bottom and raising the temperature. Medication used is salt and Malachite Green with Formalin.

Regarding "how is an average amateur like me supposed to quarantine new tank mates?" It's becoming more common in today's hobby to have a quarantine tank as part of the required equipment. With so many fish now coming from Asian farms where new diseases are either being created or new pathogens are being introduced to the hobby from new sources not previous within the hobby, it's like playing Russian Rhoulette adding new fish to an established tank. Your other choices are 1) asking your local shop to quarantine the fish for you. 2) Not buying farmed fish. 3) Do not buy fish that have not been at your local shop for at least a week.
All these will not guarantee you success but will limit your exposure. Quarantining is the best option. Dealing with disease is just part of fish keeping. There are many good books on fish diseases that should be part of your hobby equipment. There are also medications that you should keep on hand " just in case". I know it sounds like wasting money because hopefully you will never need them but when you add up the costs of replacing expired medicines with the costs of replacing all the fish you've lost, usually the fish cost more.

Hope this helps.
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Old 12-07-2022, 10:44 AM   #11
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) Not buying farmed fish.
What are my options here? I imagine all fish stores are buying from farms?
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Old 12-07-2022, 10:52 AM   #12
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What are my options here? I imagine all fish stores are buying from farms?
Lots of local breeders will sell fish to local fish stores. Not all their fish will come from farmed sources. Even myself, not a breeder, but i do get over populated sometimes as fish do breed whether i want them to or not. At these times i bag up excess fish and trade them in for some store credit.
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Old 12-07-2022, 11:04 AM   #13
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Thanks for the reply. How would I go about finding out about these local breeders? I live in New Jersey -- it's actually harder than one would think to find folks like that as they don't exactly advertise. People like me are pretty much funneled into a very limited selection of fish stores. That's a tough business so it's not like there's a lot of entrepreneurs looking to open up brick and mortar fish stores
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Old 12-07-2022, 11:15 AM   #14
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I would ask in the store where specific fish you are interested in come from. They might not give you details, but at least you would know if they are farmed on another continent or bred locally before buying them.

Local aquarium clubs often have swap meets etc where you can buy or trade for fish.
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Old 12-07-2022, 11:24 AM   #15
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I get free healthy fish often from people in the local Facebook group. Recently: 2 turquoise severums, 1 adult Oscar, 2 dojo loaches, 6 spectacular African peacock cichlids, & 1 black Angel fish. I see other smaller varieties as well. People on Craigslist will often give away or sell fish at low prices.

All of my free fish are in excellent health.

As to a QT, those can inexpensively had at the two places I mentioned. A 10 G should suffice. I see many putting up ISO (in search of) ads for long lists of fish and often some of these people get what they want without cost.
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Old 12-07-2022, 12:20 PM   #16
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OK, last post on my sorry tale -- appreciate the indulgence. This is a pic of the few survivors of this episode. 5 black emperor tetras. If you zoom in, you can see what looks like some kind of white spot disease. Is that what you see? And it's a little odd to see them all hanging out at the top of the tank in the corner. Water was changed yesterday, parameters are all normal. Heat is up to 84 degrees and I've been treating with aquarium salt until Ich X arrives today. Any thoughts on what you're seeing would be appreciated
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Old 12-07-2022, 04:02 PM   #17
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OK, last post on my sorry tale -- appreciate the indulgence. This is a pic of the few survivors of this episode. 5 black emperor tetras. If you zoom in, you can see what looks like some kind of white spot disease. Is that what you see? And it's a little odd to see them all hanging out at the top of the tank in the corner. Water was changed yesterday, parameters are all normal. Heat is up to 84 degrees and I've been treating with aquarium salt until Ich X arrives today. Any thoughts on what you're seeing would be appreciated
I can't get a large enough picture to see for sure but Ich effects the gills so combined with the raised temperature, they are probably at the surface for more oxygen. I'd increase the aeration in the tank.
There didn't seem to be too much surface agitation for an exchange of gases.
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