New fish death rate... normal? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 05:28 PM Thread Starter
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New fish death rate... normal?

Hi Everyone -

This week and last I've been stocking my 55gal planted aquarium. I've kept many fish over the years and am used to the occasional death when adding new fish, but I feel like I've been experiencing a lot of die off this time around. Admittedly, this is my first time keeping all of these species (except Otos), as well as my first having large quantities of fish shipped (LFS around me aren't great and COVID...). I've been working on getting this aquarium set up for two years and have been looking forward to having rummynose and Rams for 5+ years, so it's really disheartening to see new dead fish every time I look at the aquarium...

Before considering replacing the fish, I want to get to the root cause. Here's what I'm wondering:
1. Are there improvements I should make to my aquarium or acclimation procedure for next time?
2. Are these fish truly this sensitive to new water and it should be expected?
3. Is this normal when having fish shipped?
4. Does this supplier ship notoriously poor-quality fish?

Details below:



Tank notes:
1. KH = 3, GH = 5, TDS = 118, temp = 77F (25C), Ph = ~7.0
2. Ammonia = 0, Nitrite = 0, Nitrate = 20
3. Maintenance: 50% weekly water change 50% RO, 50% Tap
4. Equipment: Eheim 2215 canister filter, Hydor 425 powerhead
5. Age: six weeks old, seeded from another tank. Stopped showing any ammonia or nitrites at week three
6. Planted, dirted with pool filer sand cap, no CO2, Tom Barr's Non-CO2 Method weekly
7. About two weeks ago, amazon chain sword started dying off unexpectedly and possible contamination from dishwasher detergent (week before any fish were added, water changes since)
8. I know the above list is overstocked, I was planning on some deaths and moving any unpaired rams and a couple otos to another tank in due time
9. Fish came from Arizona Aquatic Gardens

Thanks in advance!

Last edited by Jojoba; 06-07-2020 at 06:20 PM. Reason: 1. Made table easier to read 2. Updated fertilizers
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 05:55 PM Thread Starter
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Update: went to perform water change and found another dead Cory, two dead rummynose tetras, and the dead female Apisto 😥
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 06:05 PM
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1. Your water parameters are perfect for the long-term care of these South American fish. Your water change schedule is excellent. I see no need for further recommendations on this front.

2. You look good here.

3 Excellent.

4. Excellent

5. Good.

6. General ferts? Not sure what this is. Regardless, not the problem.

7. This could be a problem. I think @Deanna had mentioned an issue with Dawn detergent at one point. But, I dont know how much detergent is needed to kill fish and whether water changes ( like you have done since) were enough to get it out of system.

8. When you introduced fish to aquarium did you monitor for any ammonia/nitrite traces as biofilter caught up with new bioload? Did you do any water changes within the 3 days after introducing fish.
Also, about acclimating fish. One of the best ways to determine how to acclimate fish is by asking vendor for their KH/GH and TDS prior to receiving fish. If cant do this, use a TDS meter to see how close the water is in fish bag on receipt to the tank going into. I doubt there was a need to float the bags the fish came in for 6 hours, nor a need to drip the others for 12 hours. If you would of had a TDS meter you could have had a better idea of how closely the water the fish came in matched your own.

9. That was an absolutely unacceptable amount of DOA numbers. I would also ask for credit for losses in the first 24 hours. You acclimated them well. I hope that you contacted them immediately to get credit. We are not supposed to give vendor reviews on this forum; but, I have had personal experience with this company. Please private message me if would like guidance on getting credit. Through pm, I can also give you recommendations for reputable vendors I have used for next time.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 06:34 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the thorough reply! You made a really good point about "general ferts" not being descriptive. I updated that, but agree that it's unlikely the issue.

7. Interested to hear what Deanna says. I have this listed as possible because our drain plugged around that time and our dishwasher overflowed into my RO bucket. We didn't notice this happening for a little while, so I can't confirm for sure whether contaminated water made it into the aquarium, but I did test the TDS of the RO water right after a water change and remember finding it strange TDS was 8, not the usual 2-3, so I think it's probable. FWIW the chain swords are still not bouncing back, so there may be something there (or I'm reading into it too much).

8. The ammonia and nitrite numbers are from this morning and I had similar results after adding the Rams, Apistos, and Otos initially. I performed a 50% water change 48 hours after adding the Rams (same schedule as I'm doing today)

To your point about TDS: I do have a meter. I measured it throughout the acclimation. Rams, Apistos, and Otos started ~480-520. I added water little bits at a time to the bags until TDS was within 30 of the aquarium. The rummynose and cories ranged 467-486 and I dripped them until they were down to the 160s (at this point it was midnight and I could see some dying so I felt it best to add instead of continuing the drip).

9. I did submit claims w/in the four hour cutoff. I will also say I had similar experiences with other fish/shrimp in the same batch for other aquariums (hope that doesn't cross the line into a review). I'll DM you for more.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 07:03 PM
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Regardless of the DOA, personally I would never put fish in a dirted tank at 5 weeks, especially not Rams, Apistos, otos and even rummys. There is bound to be toxins in the water at that point, regardless of what your test kits tell you about nh3, no2. Those fish are pretty sensitive to water quality and I'm not at all surprised many didn't make it.

If it's very full of healthy growing plants that would certainly help, but nothing replaces a mature tank.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asteroid View Post
Regardless of the DOA, personally I would never put fish in a dirted tank at 5 weeks, especially not Rams, Apistos, otos and even rummys. There is bound to be toxins in the water at that point, regardless of what your test kits tell you about nh3, no2. Those fish are pretty sensitive to water quality and I'm not at all surprised many didn't make it.

If it's very full of healthy growing plants that would certainly help, but nothing replaces a mature tank.
-What kind of toxins do all dirtied tanks emit that are not able to be tested by aquarists?

I wish Diana Walstad was still here to give a rebuttal to this. It needs one.

PS. Better yet, OP. Go to APC and ask the wise Diana Walstad yourself. There is a section called El Natural where she frequents.
http://www.aquaticplantcentral.com/forumapc/el-natural/


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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 07:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
-What kind of toxins do all dirtied tanks emit that are not able to be tested by aquarists?

I wish Diana Walstad was still here to give a rebuttal to this. It needs one.

PS. Better yet, OP. Go to APC and ask the wise Diana Walstad yourself. There is a section called El Natural where she frequents.
El Natural - Aquatic Plant Central
From the Walstad Method:

"Do water changes as needed [some soils often require frequent water changes the first two months to remove miscellaneous toxins (e.g., wood oils) released by the soil. Also, new soils invariably release algae-stimulating nutrients (Nitrogen) the first couple months.] After tank is established, water changes can be very infrequent."

There's all kinds of leaching that IS NOT picked up in test kits. The reason high-light doesn't work with Walstad is because of the organics decomposing and leaching. Add to that sensitive fish and no mature bio-filter. High casualties are a given.
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 08:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asteroid View Post
From the Walstad Method:

"Do water changes as needed [some soils often require frequent water changes the first two months to remove miscellaneous toxins (e.g., wood oils) released by the soil. Also, new soils invariably release algae-stimulating nutrients (Nitrogen) the first couple months.] After tank is established, water changes can be very infrequent."

There's all kinds of leaching that IS NOT picked up in test kits. The reason high-light doesn't work with Walstad is because of the organics decomposing and leaching. Add to that sensitive fish and no mature bio-filter. High casualties are a given.
It also says not to add fish for the first month due to this leeching. But that it is safe after the first month. So, no, not a given after the OP waited 6 weeks before adding fish. He was testing nitrogen.


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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
It also says not to add fish for the first month due to this leeching. But that it is safe after the first month. So, no, not a given after the OP waited 6 weeks before adding fish. He was testing nitrogen.
Of course you can, you could add fish from day one if you do enough of this or enough of that. Still does not bode well for putting fish in especially sensitive ones. Walstad setups rely on waste to make the tank self sustaining, it's the opposite of high-tech where the water is super clean and your dosing inorganic salts to avoid algae from high-light.

Either way you look at it by adding fish to an immature tank your increasing the odds of casualities.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 08:33 PM
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Of course you can, you could add fish from day one if you do enough of this or enough of that. Still does not bode well for putting fish in especially sensitive ones. Walstad setups rely on waste to make the tank self sustaining, it's the opposite of high-tech where the water is super clean and your dosing inorganic salts to avoid algae from high-light.

Either way you look at it by adding fish to an immature tank your increasing the odds of casualities.
We will agree to disagree, I dont think that this event had anything to do with an immature tank. At 6 weeks if was ready for fish.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 08:40 PM Thread Starter
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This is my first dirted tank and I hadn't seen additional concerns around toxins, etc. leaching from wood/soil (there's also driftwood, too) in the first few weeks when I was doing my research, so that's good to know. I was expecting extra organics and tannins though, due to the soil, but otherwise thought I could monitor cycling like any other intert-substrate aquarium.

I actually wasn't adding any fertilizer at all until I noticed some of the Amazon chain swords yellowing, the emergence of a little GSA, and twisted leaves of the Amazon swords (non-chain) and Alternanthera Reineckii in week three. I did a water test and ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate were all at zero, so I figured some of this was due to nutrient deficiencies.

I know best practice is to start with less sensitive fish first, but since the whole stocking plan was sensitive fish, that kinda ruined that plan. Based on what I'm hearing though, despite nitrogen tests passing, I probably could have benefited from waiting another two-three weeks before adding any fish.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 09:08 PM
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I understand. All things being equal it's always better to wait. Not only for the tank to mature but to get the plants growing and purifying the water. One thing to consider with sensitive fish is that they rely on very clean water. A Walstad setup relies on waste in the tank to feed the plants since the idea is not to fertilize that much. So removing water goes against feeding the plants, but probably doesn't bode well for sensitive fish. Having many fish growing plants can help.
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-07-2020, 10:37 PM Thread Starter
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That all makes sense. I think I'm going to let things settle in for a few weeks before adding new fish back and focus on stability.
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 01:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
7. This could be a problem. I think @Deanna had mentioned an issue with Dawn detergent at one point. But, I dont know how much detergent is needed to kill fish and whether water changes ( like you have done since) were enough to get it out of system.
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Originally Posted by Jojoba View Post
7. Interested to hear what Deanna says. I have this listed as possible because our drain plugged around that time and our dishwasher overflowed into my RO bucket. We didn't notice this happening for a little while, so I can't confirm for sure whether contaminated water made it into the aquarium, but I did test the TDS of the RO water right after a water change and remember finding it strange TDS was 8, not the usual 2-3, so I think it's probable. FWIW the chain swords are still not bouncing back, so there may be something there (or I'm reading into it too much).
Soap (which is mainly surfactant) is not good and it doesn’t take much to kill fish (5-15ppm). Not all surfactants are bad, but those that are soap are bad. A very loose and general rule is: if it foams/bubbles when shaken, it’s bad. My experience involved using Dawn on some hardscape and not rinsing via soaking for some time to fully remove it. I noticed many fish struggling after about an hour and some foam on the surface. Then I realized what had happened. I did two 50% water changes (my standard ‘reset’ quantity), but still lost about half the fish before the w/c’s.

Surfactants (there are many types) reduce surface tension, which can prevent O2 from being able to cross the gill membrane, can damage the gills directly and can remove the protective slime coating on fish. Additionally, soap will cause gasses (O2) to rapidly leave the water, compounding breathing problems. This effect is also useful for disrupting the membranes of simple cells, such as algae, bacteria (potentially harming your BB - although removing some surfactant in the process) and viruses, like COVID-19. This is why washing with soap is better than using just alcohol sanitizers - it simultaneously disrupts the virus’ cell membrane and facilitates lifting it off your hands to be washed away. There is a popular algae killer called AlgaeFix, which is a surfactant that disrupts the algae cell membrane and, if overdosed, kills fish as indicated above.

It seems like you may have diluted most of it. If it were me, I’d do 3-4 50% w/c’s to be safe, some of which you may already have done.
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Last edited by Deanna; 06-08-2020 at 01:46 AM. Reason: -
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-08-2020, 01:43 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks, Deanna! I always knew soap was bad for fish, but never "why." Surfacants is the answer.

I'm at 3-4 50% WCs right now, but I'll plan on doing another one tomorrow to be safe. All of the fish looked a little healthier after the WC today, but have lost another Rummynose and Cory since, with two more cories not looking good.
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