Help! Cardinal Tetra Die-Off - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 06:56 PM Thread Starter
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Help! Cardinal Tetra Die-Off

I wanted to know if 4 of 37 die-off is typical for Cardinal Tetras by the 2nd day?

Started my tank with some planting mix that I had to remove weeks before I got any fish, now it’s just eco-complete. I don’t think there’s any residual material. After that, I conducted a no-fish ammonia cycle that took about 4 weeks to establish.

I added 6 otocinclus catfish and have repeatedly been seeing 5; I added 10 Amano shrimp and now am repeatedly seeing 3. They have been in the tank for about a month.

I now added 37 cardinal tetras, drip acclimated for over 1 hour to bag in the tank, dark overnight, fed the next day after 24 hours with the same tetra flakes they were getting at the LFS. Most ate, that I could see. The bottom half on some tetras aren’t bright red as I am used to typically seeing.

LFS pH was 7.0

The Cardinal Tetras all hang out in the back corner (near the filter return) with one or two swimming out occasionally.

The two filters and the CO2 Jebo create quite a bit of flow across the front of the tank.

Any ideas about die-off, path forward?

I have kept 10 rummy-nose tetras in the past and didn’t lose a one in 6 years!

54 gallon corner bowfront
103 watts T5HO
Eheim 2217 their media
Magnum 350 (with Purigen)
Pressurized Co2 30(?) Lime Green Thru a
Jebo Filter as a diffuser
Temp - 76 degrees F (Lowered for Amano)
Amm - 0
Ni - 0
Na - 5ppm (currently using Purigen)
PH - 6.6
RO water from store machine
Substrate - Eco-complete
Mixed Fert alternate days in a week:
KNO3 x 3 KH2PO4 x 3 K2SO4 x 3 CSM+B x 3
Leopard Vallisneria
Staurogyne Repens
Manzanita with Java Moss
Dwarf Sagittaria
Echinodorus Martii
Mayaca Fluviatilis and Sellowiana
Juncus Repens
Some external pothos have roots that drop in the top
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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 06:59 PM Thread Starter
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Oh, and some snails came in on one of the plants I ordered and they’re reproducing rapidly.
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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 08:21 PM
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I can't give you advice but I feel your pain.
Have the same thing happening with my neons

We both should hang in there, I think.
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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 08:45 PM
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By chance do you have KH or TDS values? I would endeavor to remove dead bodies, partial water changes should only help if there are decaying fish or shrimp corpses. Snails are rarely a problem in a well-maintained tank. If you have numbers of them, they'll likely cluster on anything dead.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 09:18 PM Thread Starter
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I do have kH and GH tests as part of my API test kit, but I find it hard to make a determination.

Two weeks ago they were:

dKH 3-4
GH 161.1

so I will test again tonite.

I do not have a TDS meter. My friend sent me a link to one:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H578WWT..._BVkdFb5MMJHHS

It didn’t seem expensive, would this be accurate one to use?

I guess I need one if I plan on keeping sensitive fish, right?

I think water in Pasadena, CA has a lot of TDS so that’s why I was getting RO water from the machine at grocery store.

I will post readings later.... Thank you.
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 09:29 PM
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I've had a couple of cheaper TDS meters that worked pretty well over the years, it should at least give you a close estimate. You can test it against known samples to be sure. May not hold calibration long, but only time will tell. RO is a good idea, I'd boost only GH. In their native waters cardinals are found in water typically sub 1 dKH and a pH as low as 4.0. Bright lights aren't appreciated, which can make them a tough planted tank resident. Peat, leaf litter and pretty much anything that produces tannins will not only soften the water but will tint it which knocks the edge off of the light. Frozen or live fare seem to help with vigor. Wishing you luck. 10% loss isn't too awful, but you'd obviously hope for better. If looking for more in the future, ask your LFS if they have access to tank bred specimens. I haven't gotten a wholesale list in years but they used to be available.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 09:30 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the commiseration, Lanaquarium.

I think by not getting single fish — and naming them — it’s easier.

Not really, but I don’t have to answer my son, “what happened to the 5” black Veiltail angelfish, Stevie Nicks?”
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you very much for the quick response.

I might see about some floating plants to cut the light a bit in some areas, maybe?

It sounds like I should have done a bit more research on the light sensitivity of Cardinal Tetras. The rummy-nose tetras I had in my old planted 40 breeder didn’t seem affected.

I will get a TDS meter and will check the dKH, GH and pH of the water coming out of the grocery store RO machine.

My local tap water, per City figures, is a mix of 7.6 and 8.5 pH sources and the average TDS is 399, so I haven’t been using it in the aquarium.
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 10:21 PM Thread Starter
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HELP HELP!!!

5 down now.

One is alive but is pale and spinning kinda vertically, if that provides any clues.

Am I dealing with some kind of pathogen or parasite?

I was NOT going to do a big water change, because I thought I might shock them, but now obviuosly something is wrong with the water they’re in.

I thought I might add 3ml of Prime incase this is a mini-cycle. Ammonia was zero this morning!

Any ideas would be appreciated......
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 10:56 PM
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That could indicate extreme shock, nitrogen poisoning or *possibly* a Myxozoan parasite. I bet there are YouTube videos of "whirling fish disease" but I've had many fish I bred myself (and was certain hadn't been exposed to any pathogen) just break into this dance before dying. The fish displaying this behavior is typically a goner. I've had odd fish do a version of this and live for many months, but I always euthanized since the condition never improved. Partial water changes with water closer to their native conditions (soft, acid, bump the heater a couple of degrees) can only help. Couldn't hurt to slide something under the light to dim it temporarily. I would remove and euth the whirling fish, personally.

Nothing good happens fast in an ecosystem.
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post #11 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-24-2020, 11:27 PM
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Oh dang.
I removed my neon that was doing that right away.

Also, I panicked and dosed my tank with general cure - not sure it was the right thing to do but I did.
I also fed them some pea soaked in garlic... In case they had a parasite. Internet said that was safe.

Since I did that we lost 2 more fish but the dying stopped on Wednesday.

I’m still cautious and count them all as often as I can.
These darn tetras can’t be trusted!!!

I feel ya. And I’m sorry. I LITERALLY understand how frustrating it is.
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post #12 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-25-2020, 01:16 AM Thread Starter
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UPDATE. HELP!

My tank:

pH = 6.6
KH = 1-2
GH = I cant get the color to change after 30 drops. (I think above I gave the ppm figure of 161.1 above, but before it took 9 drops)
Temp = 78 degrees

The fish store where Cardinals were purchased:

pH=7.0
DKH=2
GH=2
Temp=76

Is there ever a problem with the GH reagents providing the right result?

Is there something in the tank that can cause that rise: PVC, plastic zip ties, plant weights, black silicone, slate, metal in the pumps?

Could my fertilization cause this kind of rise in GH?

Obviously this might be the shock their experiencing, no?
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post #13 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-25-2020, 02:52 AM Thread Starter
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I did eliminate the whirling fish. I didn’t want any of the other fish pecking at it and getting contaminated wIth any pathogen.

I’m leaning toward a shock from a really drastic change in GH, as the store was low and I can’t even get the tube to change color no matter how many drops I add.

Anyone have experience with using the bands that came with the plants for anchors? I used a number of them, because the vallisneria I received didn’t have much in the way of roots, so I cut up the plant bands and used them as anchors.

I heard Sagittaria doesn’t do well with high GH either and that is the one plant that isn’t robustly growing right now.

The anchors that i can see have turned white on top. Other than a disease, that seems the only thing I can think of. But, only some of the fish are being affected????

I didn’t want to do a drastic water change right after I put them in the tank either, as they’ve already been through enough with the acclimation.
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post #14 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-25-2020, 04:28 AM
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Again, I am in the same boat as you with my neon die off. So I can’t definitely advise.

But I’ve been thinking about what I would do in your situation based on the research that I’ve done.

Since most of your water parameters, other than gh are fine, I’d remove anything you suspect is causing that weirdness. So all the plant anchors and what not.

I feel that fish are greater than plants and most plants will be just fine if not better if you float them.

I’ve not dosed any ferts to my plants since I got my fish. But I still feel they will bounce back or I’ll get new ones once the life has stabilized.

In my own tank, when my neons started dying, I dosed general cure. According to most accounts it won’t harm other fish, you will just need more of it for a larger tank since there was no QT.

I watched a few YouTube videos on it and went with the aquarium coop approach - dose one time according to instructions then wait a week to see what happens.

I also tried to feed them a pea and garlic. I soaked a cut up skinned frozen pea in crushed fresh garlic and put it in instead of pellets. Not sure everyone ate it but I just left it in there.

Then if the fish kept dying off even more I’d freak out and try as gently and carefully as I could do a 25-30% water change.

My fish do not seem to show any signs of ich or anything so I didn’t dump any ich-x. I also have aquarium salt on stand by but it seems that neons and also cardinals (and corydoras) are sensitive to it as they have no scales so I held off on that too.

Pull out anything your gut tells you might be leaching in the water. Do a partial water change.

Maybe dump some medicine in. But that’s up to you - google fish symptoms.
I had the flipping, the separating from the group and going pale and also no warning at all. I also seem to have had one recover from closing and opening his mouth like super fast.

I don’t know what did it. But I tried.
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post #15 of 32 (permalink) Old 07-25-2020, 04:31 AM
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Also check out the advice from members in my thread about neons. Neons and cardinals are similar enough that it will mostly apply.
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