Help with Neon Tetras - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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Help with Neon Tetras

I LOVE neon tetras.

They are so beautiful, I don’t care how cliche they are.
I know they are weak fish because of overbreeding and stress easy but I thought I could give them a go.

My natural water parameters seem to be great for them. My ph is a 6.8 in the tank (comes out of the tap at 7-7.2) and almost non existent Kh. (I had to add crushed coral to stabilize ph at 6.8 but it has been there for 2 weeks now and seems to stay there with partial water changes)

My tank is planted, no CO2, ammonia/nitrites at 0 and for some reason my nitrates are 0 also since we did a large water change after fishless cycling before getting the fish.

Our filter is a Fluval 307 with Fluval media and matrix media and 1/4 cup of crushed coral. I also have a smallish sponge filter in there.
Substrate is PFS.

I test daily. (API MASTER KIT)

Tank was cycled and we kept it a week extra, feeding ammonia to make sure ph was ok (during cycling it kept dropping off the charts low)

As I said. We changed the water in the morning (of course with prime), got fish in the afternoon.

I know adding neons to a brand new, freshly cycled tank is not best. But neons are legit the primary fish I want.

We got 14 neons and 6 cories last Saturday(7/18)
I drop acclimated them on a slow drop for 2 some hours, spilling out a bit of water once in a while after floating them for about 15 mins.

Since then, the neons have been dying off, 1 by 1.
1 each day. We have 10 neons remaining.

One started flipping all crazy and floating at the top. Some separate themselves from the group, open/close their mouths real fast, go pale and die over night. One showed no signs of distress and died.

Every day we are searching for fish corpses.

I see no ich on them. No bent spines. The fins look good. They eat (we feed them just a tiny bit twice a day) visually nothing wrong with them. Their bellies look normal, not sunk or bloated. They are cute, colorful and interactive until they’re not.

What am I doing wrong?
I am trying SO hard to do everything right.
Could it have been a bad batch?
Am I overlooking an important water parameter?

I REALLY want to keep the neons. But looking for corpses every day is not super relaxing.

Meanwhile, my 6 cories are so far so good. Being cute little gobble piggies.
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 01:29 AM
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I would suggest being a little more patient before adding neons. Try to get your plants going well first, as they will act as excellent filters and generally benefit the neons. Your tap water may have most nutrients, but I would start dosing some all-in-one type fertilizer such as Thrive (zero nitrates is not good for the plants and there are some critical nutrients that your tap won’t have). Give it a month to stabilize, then add the neons.

If you aren’t familiar with Neon Tetra Disease, familiarize yourself with it. It is worse than COVID, if you are a neon and neons straying from the pack is an early symptom. Remove dead fish immediately so the others don’t start eating them, which is how it spreads. Have some Seachem Paraguard on hand.

Make sure the surface of your water is rippling, as this generates good oxygen exchange. You didn’t mention a heater, but I assume that you have one. Neons generally prefer soft water (low dGH of 2-4) but can tolerate higher. Your API kit should include that. I also recommend a TDS meter (they are inexpensive) and try to keep TDS under 200. TDS shock is the most common form of shock to a new fish (there is no such thing as pH shock - old wives tale).

As far as buying them is concerned, an entire tank at your LFS can have problems. Your situation may well be a result of this. We all have different ways of introducing new fish and here is how I add neons (because of their sensitivities):

I keep a small 1.5 gallon tank running as a quarantine tank (make sure it is cycled and Purigen will help with this). I buy only 3-4 neons at a time and try to use other LFS’ for additional neons a few weeks later, if possible. In any case, wait until your current batch of QT neons is in the display tank before buying more. I drip acclimate the new neons in a bucket over about two hours, emptying half the bucket at one hour. However, before doing this, I test the TDS of the LFS water (from the bag the fish are in) and then adjust the QT water to match the LFS water, before acclimating. If the TDS of the QT water is lower than the LFS, I add GH ingredients to the QT tank to raise it. In your case, Seachem Equilibrium would be the easiest thing to do. If the QT water is higher than the LFS water, I add distilled water to the QT water. Once your QT TDS matches the LFS, you can start drip acclimation. If no problems are observed for two weeks, change 25% of the QT water with water from the display tank every day for three days, then move the fish.

If your trip from the LFS is longer than about ten minutes, add a drop of Prime to the bag before they close it up at the store. Add 1 drop /gallon of Prime to the acclimation bucket.

This seems like a lot, but the only time I lose neons is when they come home with a disease and more often than not, Paraguard takes care of that.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 07:00 PM Thread Starter
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That was SO helpful!! Thank you.

Yes. I know we should have been more patient with adding the neons. But both myself and my husband just couldn’t do it. I think that’s the ONLY thing we didn’t do as a neon best practice.

We are holding off on adding any more until this batch stabilizes for a while. The good news is, we’ve not had a loss since Wednesday :::knock on wood:::

For plant fertilizer I have the starter pack from aquarium coop with easy green, iron and liquid carbon but have not dosed since we added the fish. I was adding it while we were cycling and my plants seemed to be doing quite well with it.

I read up on neon tetra disease. Terrible thing. But I do not think they have it. They really do not show many symptoms except for the fish that was flipping around, maybe?

We did lose 1 dead fish somewhere. Can’t seem to find him anywhere. I moved the rocks and searched through the plants but he vanished. I looked all around the tank too to make sure he didn’t jump, without success. We are planning on a water change tomorrow and do some algae clean up so hopefully he will surface then, assuming he hasn’t been eaten already. But I have been watching pretty closely to make sure none of the fish are congregating anywhere suspiciously.

We have good water surface agitation from both the canister filter (turned down a bit as it seemed to be blowing the fishes around at first) and the sponge filter and a small air stone (I just like the look of tiny bubbles but I know there is probably no need for it)

And yes. Of course we have a heater 🙂 our water temp is about 77 on average with room temp changes (it’s been weird weather this week.)

I do have a TDS meter as I am planning on perhaps getting shrimp someday but have not yet studied how to use and and understand results. Perhaps now is the time to learn.

I have the api master as well as Kh and gh tests and the results are consistent and should be well suited for the neons (and I’m testing daily right now to make sure nothing goes out of whack as my set up is still so very new)

Yup. I drip acclimated them for about 2.5 hours. I did not test the LFS water though. I’ll do that next time.

I’ll get some Paraguard. I have some general cure and Pimafix and aquarium salt and Ich-X. I did panic and add general cure as per directions to my tank after the first fish died but have not added anything else since. Just decided to observe them for a while since I have no idea what is actually the matter. They really look good.... until one is not 😞 and it’s so upsetting.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 07:09 PM
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I would also add that you really should pull that crushed coral! If neons are truly to be your centerpiece fish, cater the water to them. I find that a KH of near 0 (like your tap) is best, and a pH below 6.0. Put them in soft acidic conditions and they'll spawn daily and generally be hardier. I used to collect rainwater to breed these, I don't think you can have too soft of water for neons. Getting healthy hardy fish from a reliable source might be the only thing more important in my experience with them.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.

Last edited by Blue Ridge Reef; 07-24-2020 at 08:19 PM. Reason: parenthesis placement
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 07:19 PM Thread Starter
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We were seeing pretty drastic ph swings during cycling, which I would assume had something to do with things spiking up and down during that time, which is why I added the corals. Seems to have settled down at a steady 6.8 now with kh still turning on the 2nd drop.

Maybe I will start removing it little by little over time and see what happens
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 08:41 PM
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Most of the swings in pH you'll see in a mature planted tank come from biological processes and the plant's production of CO2 at night. As long as the TDS is stable, osmotic pressure will also be and there should be no harm to fauna. Most of us with CO2 injected tanks change our pH a full point every day and night. While this would likely wipe out everything if changing pH so drastically with a water change, it really isn't an issue when caused by carbonic acid. All bets are off in a newly set up cycling tank. Also would add that ammonia is much less toxic the more acidic the water is.

This batch of neons may be doomed regardless of what you do. Weak neons simply have a low survival rate. But this is one species of fish that does best with a minimum of carbonates in the water and crushed coral puts carbonates in your water. Rather than going by basic care sheets, look into the conditions that people who breed them keep.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 08:57 PM Thread Starter
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I was advised to add the corals to raise my ph because the low ph would have stalled the cycling.
Why wouldn't the bacteria be affected by very low ph in a cycled tank? Or is the issue only when the tank is first being cycled?

I'm not sure how low ours dropped but when my nitrites started going up it was definitely lower than 6, a 50% water change didn't even get it up to 6 (our out of the tap water is ph7.2), we ended up adding baking soda to keep it up during the cycle before I got the crushed coral. I'd add the baking soda, get ph up to 7 and the next day it would be under 6 again. It was a nightmare.

I do have a couple of driftwood pieces which could be lowering it even though I did boil the life out of them.

I'll learn how to use the TDS meter and see what is going on in that department. Meanwhile, keeping my fingers crossed for my remaining 10 tetras

Last edited by Lanaquarium; 07-24-2020 at 08:59 PM. Reason: added additional info
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 09:44 PM
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Super acidic water will take longer to fully cycle, and in planted tanks the plants themselves uptake so much of the nitrogen that it becomes even tougher to know. But If I'm keeping neons, cardinals, chili rasboras and acid water fish of the like, I don't raise the pH higher than their preferred parameters to cycle the tank and then drop it back down. Much easier on you, the fish, and the cycle to just wait however long it takes until 2-4 PPM of ammonia is at 0 after 24 hours (obviously fishless when doing this) at the desired parameters. Active soil can be a huge help if setting a similar tank up in the future. Your driftwood is doing a smaller version of this, but lots of tannins are lost in boiling.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 11:18 PM Thread Starter
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My tank was definitely fully cycled. I was adding 2ppm ammonia daily and it would be 0 in 12 hours. After staying really high (when my ph issues started) the nitrites also were 0 no matter how much ammonia I put in there. Which is why I felt like getting a whole bunch of fish would be fine as long as we monitor the water closely. Esp since we donít have a quarantine tank at the moment.

We kept it going an extra week to sort out the ph. It just wouldnít stay put and the corals (I added 1/4 cup in a media bag in the filter) is the only thing that seemed to stop ph from dropping.

Iím happy with it being in the 6.8-7 range bc that means it wonít go loopy during water changes. And from everything I read itís pretty good for the neons.

Although now Iím concerned about the other stuff in the water.

We do also have 6 cories in there and are planning to add a few Otos and eventually an undecided upon center piece fish and ~7 ph range seems to suit most these fish.

But I think we definitely need to wait until the batch of these tetras settle.

Yeeeesh. I didnít realize Iíd have to get a masters degree in chemistry when my husband suggested we get a fish tank lol

But I am really enjoying learning, although am experiencing PTSD from recent fish loss.

Back in the day, my red cap oranda just was a super cool fish all the time for many years and I didnít even know that one should be testing any water lol

It was a simpler time but back then I DID give up on neons. Iím like DETERMINED to make them work now. It really seems that our natural water here should suit them quite well.

Maybe this should be its own thread. And I have such feels for another poster having issues with them.

But could I give cardinals a try maybe? Iíve never kept them before and I was so wildly unsuccessful with neons in the past... and now 😞

Would they school with my remaining neons? Or would it create a strange divide? One of my LFS gets tank raised cardinals pretty regularly.

Also, for any future fish, Iíd figure out a qt tank. So donít worry. Thatís why I have a sponge filter already in my tank and I have a small heater on standby. Weíd just have to get a tote. We just figured for our very first batch of fish the main tank would be fine since other than a rogue bladder snail there was nothing else in there.

Last edited by Darkblade48; 07-25-2020 at 07:42 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 11:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lanaquarium View Post
My tank was definitely fully cycled. I was adding 2ppm ammonia daily and it would be 0 in 12 hours. Which is why I felt like getting a whole bunch of fish would be fine as long as we monitor the water closely. Esp since we don’t have a quarantine tank at the moment.

We kept it going an extra week to sort out the ph. It just wouldn’t stay put and the corals (I added 1/4 cup in a media bag in the filter) is the only thing that seemed to stop ph from dropping.
Can't agree more that it was a cycled tank with those numbers. But you want the pH low if keeping neons is the end goal. I keep 5 0 dKH tanks currently and don't even measure pH in them at this point. It's going to be yellow off the scale and that's where it needs to be.
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I’m happy with it being in the 6.8-7 range bc that means it won’t go loopy during water changes. And from everything I read it’s pretty good for the neons.
By all means they will live in and adapt to harder water than their native waters. But they will never breed at 4ish dKH and 7.0, at least that I've ever tried or heard. My ultimate tell as to whether fish are truly thriving is if they spawn. Not even that I want to spawn most species or will raise their fry, but if they aren't doing the basics like eating and spawning, something is off from ideal. I've yet to lose a fish to loopy pH swings and rarely even test for it.

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Although now I’m concerned about the other stuff in the water.
What are you concerned about?
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Originally Posted by Lanaquarium View Post
We do also have 6 cories in there and are planning to add a few Otos and eventually an undecided upon center piece fish and ~7 ph range seems to suit most these fish.
Both will positively thrive at 0 dKH, I've kept scores of both in these conditions.
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Originally Posted by Lanaquarium View Post
But I think we definitely need to wait until the batch of these tetras settle.
I would definitely do that.
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Originally Posted by Lanaquarium View Post
Yeeeesh. I didn’t realize I’d have to get a masters degree in chemistry when my husband suggested we get a fish tank lol
Honestly, using your straight tap I don't think you'd have to. Don't get scared by internet reports about pH swings being deadly. KH is the life blood of African rift lake species, but you are keeping things that live in acidic conditions that have pH swings from 4.0 to 6.0 with seasons and rainfall.
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But I am really enjoying learning, although am experiencing PTSD from recent fish loss.

Back in the day, my red cap oranda just was a super cool fish all the time for many years and I didn’t even know that one should be testing any water lol

It was a simpler time but back then I DID give up on neons. I’m like DETERMINED to make them work now. It really seems that our natural water here should suit them quite well.
Your water absolutely should if not buffered to be more alkaline. I wouldn't change a thing, other than perhaps buffer it the opposite way of crushed coral. I wish you luck and am rooting for you and these neons!


Edit to answer the ninja post. 20 years ago I'd have said that cardinals are far more sensitive than neons, but that does not seem to be the case anymore. Especially tank raised cardinals are on average, sturdier fish. I would not add some until you see what direction these are going though. Just too big of odds that what is ailing the goose would ail a gander.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-25-2020, 12:17 AM Thread Starter
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Still having a hard time getting quotes to work on my phone! Sorry.

But yes. Now that we have some fish in here, both my husband and I are in agreement that we will give them time to settle and then figure out what is next.

I want to watch them for at least a month.

It was just REALLY hard to hold off. 1 bladder snail in 36 gallons just didnít satisfy us Although we did spend quite a bit of time looking at them. lol freakin Gary. Theyíre multiplying. I regret not taking them out when I had the chance lol

As far as ďother stuff in the waterĒ someone earlier mentioned that corals might be releasing too much... of something neons donít like that I did not previously realize as EVERYTHING I read said that crushed coral is the best natural way to buffer the ph. Sorry. Itís been a day.

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This batch of neons may be doomed regardless of what you do.
I certainly hope not. Because I already feel like a fish murderer. Weíve not had a death since Wednesday :::knock on wood:::

I know neons can have a rough start.

I know these deaths can likely be attributed to my brand new tank. Or a bad batch. Or a multitude of other reasons.

The more forums I read the more I realize how very custom everyoneís ecosystem is. All I can do is educate myself the best I can, make choices and learn from experience.

I really appreciate the input IĎve had on this thread.

It was very informative and gives me some next steps in my neon journey.

So THANK YOU!

Last edited by Darkblade48; 07-25-2020 at 07:42 PM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-26-2020, 01:34 AM
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I've lost a lot of new neon tetras to columnaris bacterial infections. I don't have a quarantine tank but I'm convinced that it's necessary to acclimate neons the majority of the time, so you can treat bacterial infections or other diseases they have from shipping and sitting in the LFS. I find them very fragile and susceptible to disease until they're acclimated.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 07-30-2020, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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I am finding this also.
My tank is 36g and with water displacement less so so I figured I can treat it without breaking the bank 🙂

We have now had a full week with no tetra deaths.

Not sure if I should start feeling confident or not.

I do know that I want to Add a few more to the school and they will need to be quarantined.

With our stock plans our tank can support at the very least 14-16 neon tetras.

I also just realized that 5 of my neon tetras are actually CARDINAL tetras. So I have 5 neon and 5 cardinal

I didnít mean for this to happen. But here I am.

Sigh.

So a fun realization I just came to.

It SEEMS that I actually have 5 neon tetras and 5 cardinal tetras.

It took a minute for the fish to stop dying and color up. The difference is clear. Definitely 5 neons and 5 cardinals.

Last edited by Darkblade48; 08-01-2020 at 12:46 AM. Reason: Please use the edit function for back to back posts to keep threads cleaner
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