Noob can't keep clean-up crew alive - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 02:45 PM Thread Starter
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Unhappy Noob can't keep clean-up crew alive

Hello all.

I'm so happy to have found this forum, and I've been learning a lot from reading old threads. I still have a lot to learn, though.

My current problem is that I can't seem to keep any 'clean-up' crew type fauna alive in one of my tanks.

Tank is:
20 Gallon extra high
Eco complete substrate, 2-2.5" deep.
Lava rock and some smooth river stones
Hunk of driftwood purchased from a hobbyist on CL (from an existing tank)
two big old seashells, soaked with water and bleach before being added, then dechlor water
A bunch of plants recently planted, but some baby tears, java fern, and java moss have been there for weeks.
Two super tall 'lucky bamboo' emerged, leaves out of water.

Filters/water movement stuff:
Two HOB filters, one rated for 40 gal, one for 10
Bubble wand across back of tank
Water movement is visible at the level of substrate
No visible algae
100 watt heater, temp 79-80

Params:
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate pretty low, like under 10
Don't know Ph, don't know any other params
NYC municipal water

Stock:
7 skirt tetras
8 neon tetras
1 mystery snail (but I moved him to another tank that has some algae for him to eat)

Care:
Weekly water changes 30-50%
Prime for water treatment
Sometimes 'Leafzone' frets (they were free)
Vacuum substrate with each water change. All removed water is pulled up from substrate vacuuming.

I was given the tank a few months ago, set up and with the larger filter running. At the time it had two skirt tetras and two neons. Lava rock was there too.

About a month ago I added five neons, the driftwood, and some baby tears (not dwarf) and java moss all bought from a hobbyist who was breaking down his tank.

About a week later I then added two white skirt tetras from Petco.

Every one of these fish has thrived happily in the tank since the get go.

I added one neon and one pleco that were being rehomed by a student who was leaning. Neon has done great. The pleco lasted about a week and then died.

About a month ago, I changed the substrate from clown barf gravel to eco complete (it was cheap on amazon prime, though maybe not the best choice).

Monitored params, everything good.

About a week later, I bought 4 albino cories from Petco. (At the time stock was 4 skirts, 8 neons) They were the last 4 at the store, and were on sale. I don't know if that's relevant at all.

Brought them home, acclimated them by floating in the tank and also by adding a bit of tank water at a time (not a drip though, like a couple spoonfuls at a time).

They were active for a few days, though two of them were much less active than the others, then they started dying one at a time. Each morning I would wake up to find them kind of stuck under a plant or tube, dead.

I wasn't sure what to make of it at all.

After a partial water change and water tests (same as above, everything good), I bought 3 skirt tetras at Petco, they have all thrived, and have actually started trying to spawn with the biggest original skirt tetra. The neons are also always active, curious, sometimes showing schooling, and very bright colored

A week ago, thinking whatever was wrong is resolved, bought 6 ghost shrimp. They were active and fun for about two days, but now I've had two deaths, and the ones that remain are starting to become opaque, and not really moving around much.

So, to date I have lost:
1 pleco (about 2" long)
4 albino cories (about 1.75-2" each)
2 or 3 ghost shrimp, but the remaining 3 or 4 are on their way out

What am I doing wrong that is killing off my bottom dwelling/feeding stock?

I worry that the problem is related to how high the tank is. Is there not enough oxygen at the bottom of the tank? Are undesirable chemicals building up near the substrate? My test kit is kind of old, is it possible that the chemicals in the test kit no longer work, and I actually have high ammonia or nitrite unbeknownst to me? If that were the case, wouldn't the tetras be showing some signs of stress?

I feel really bad about these losses, but I just can't figure out what to do.
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post #2 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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Sorry, my first post is an epic tldr

The short story is, I'm having a lot of losses on the bottom of my tank. I don't know why, the schooling fish in the middle of my tank are doing great. What should I do to figure this out?
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post #3 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 03:44 PM
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There is a site from which you can get a water change suggestion that is made
according to your stocking level. It will also tell you if what you are stocking is
compatible. AqAdvisor - Intelligent Freshwater Tropical Fish Aquarium Stocking Calculator and Aquarium Tank/Filter Advisor
Don't know from exp about cories but I think they like a sand bottom in a tank.
Someone who keeps them can add more info on that, but I think there may be
a problem/w the Eco and them.
But my main impression is too much at one time for a new tank.
People don't usually vac a planted tank for example. They do skim the top of
the sub to remove excess detrius/mulm. Usually at the water change.
You changed the sub and after that I'd let a tank settle for at least a month before
thinking about adding anything but plants to it.

The shortest distance between any two points is a straight line...in the opposite direction...
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post #4 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 03:46 PM
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There is a lot of fish coming and going out of this tank. That said, do you have somewhere or somebody you can bring a water sample to so your water can be tested?

It is okay to change a substrate in a tank, however, when you do so all at once, your tank takes a huge blow to it's cycle. Think about how much bacteria live on a single piece of substrate, then remove all of it. This will send the tank into a tail spin.

You said your test kits are old. I don't know what defines 'old' but I suspect that at least part of this fish loss problem is due to putting fish into a uncycled tank.
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post #5 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Ok. I'll get a new test kit, and increase my water changes.

eta: I thought that the continuity of the filter media, lava rock, some plants, and the driftwood (plus the fact that the eco complete is supposedly already seeded with bacteria) would limit the length of the cycle post substrate change.

The test kit is of unknown age, it was given to me with the rest of the equipment. It has a Petland price tag with something near current local price, so I thought it was probably ok.

Last edited by uptown; 06-11-2016 at 03:54 PM. Reason: add more info.
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post #6 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 04:31 PM
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The biggest thing that raises a flag is that you don't know what your pH is; this is an incredibly important water param and you should definitely test it to see if your pH is suitable for your livestock.
Pattern8 and Pattern8 like this.
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post #7 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 05:35 PM
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pH can be a factor but most fish and plants can adjust to pH. You really have no need to mess with pH or consider pH when stocking unless you are stocking something that is known to be sensitive. Anything between 6.0 - 8.0 should be ok for most things.

As for the corys and substrate, that really shouldn't be an issue, as they can thrive with most any substrate. The concern with barbel degradation comes with poor water quality, as opposed to rough or jagged substrate. Eco Complete is fine. Like the others, I wonder if there was a mini cycle that occurred due to the substrate change.
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post #8 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 07:47 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SwissCheeseHead View Post
Like the others, I wonder if there was a mini cycle that occurred due to the substrate change.
I lost the pleco before changing the substrate. Maybe that was completely unrelated?

Also, was 3 weeks between substrate change and add of shrimp that are currently dying.

Obviously, I'll get a new test kit and increase my water changes now.

I just wonder if there is any possibility that anything else is going on. Are tetras just that much hardier than the things that I have lost? Or perhaps because they are higher in the tank?
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post #9 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 07:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown View Post
I lost the pleco before changing the substrate. Maybe that was completely unrelated?

Also, was 3 weeks between substrate change and add of shrimp that are currently dying.

Obviously, I'll get a new test kit and increase my water changes now.

I just wonder if there is any possibility that anything else is going on. Are tetras just that much hardier than the things that I have lost? Or perhaps because they are higher in the tank?
I've already had my long winded rant about Pet Co and how they keep their tanks, so I won't go into all of that again. That being said, was there anything suspicious about the tanks that these fish were being caught from? Fish that looked off? Hiding in the corners of the tank?
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post #10 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 08:36 PM
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Looking at your fish that didn't make it.

1 pleco (about 2" long)

4 albino cories (about 1.75-2" each) - I'm pretty experienced and have had tetras live 7 years and I can't keep Cories alive. Never fiqured it out.

2 or 3 ghost shrimp, but the remaining 3 or 4 are on their way out - It's not uncommon for Ghost shrimp to die after purchasing. They are many times feeder shrimp and not kept in good conditions. They are have a very short lifespan (<1 year.)
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post #11 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smooch View Post
anything suspicious about the tanks that these fish were being caught from? Fish that looked off? Hiding in the corners of the tank?
the cories were all hiding, and were the last 4 at the petco. also, it was a long trip home. the subway was stalled, and it was like 1 hr.

the pleco, with one neon tetra (still surviving), came from a student who was rehoming them (that's all she had in a 10gallon, weird). I didn't see the tank. obviously it was kind of stupid to take them, but i was picking up a betta from her for my son's (then empty) tank, and couldn't let her just flush the other fish.

the cories and shrimp were from the same petco, the tetras (that have been fine) were from a different one.

the 4 tetras that i added after the cories and before the shrimp are doing great.

so, the things that have died had two things in common: clean up crew/bottom dwelling, live on bottom of tank.

Bump: Also, I'm not that happy about petco either, but there are only two other places that sell fish in manhattan (or within any reasonable radius), and both of them are pretty dodgy and the tanks look pretty bad.
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post #12 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 09:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by uptown View Post
the cories were all hiding, and were the last 4 at the petco. also, it was a long trip home. the subway was stalled, and it was like 1 hr.

the pleco, with one neon tetra (still surviving), came from a student who was rehoming them (that's all she had in a 10gallon, weird). I didn't see the tank. obviously it was kind of stupid to take them, but i was picking up a betta from her for my son's (then empty) tank, and couldn't let her just flush the other fish.

the cories and shrimp were from the same petco, the tetras (that have been fine) were from a different one.

the 4 tetras that i added after the cories and before the shrimp are doing great.

so, the things that have died had two things in common: clean up crew/bottom dwelling, live on bottom of tank.

Bump: Also, I'm not that happy about petco either, but there are only two other places that sell fish in manhattan (or within any reasonable radius), and both of them are pretty dodgy and the tanks look pretty bad.
I agree with houseofcards regarding ghost shrimp. They need a long acclimation period and if they're coming from dodgy tanks to begin with, the odds of having success with them is not in your favor.

I have White Skirt and Bleeding Heart tetras. My Bleeding Hearts are cray, but they've been with me for 2 years. My White Skirts came from Pet Co and now live the life of being treated like they should.

I've been told that there are species of cory that die if somebody sneezes in the same room ( the person that told me this was kidding, kind of) but I've had them live for 5-6 years. I have panda cories now and I've never had a problem with them. They're easy to please and haven't died yet from somebody sneezing. LOL

If I were you, I wouldn't put too much into this being a bottom dwelling fish problem. There is nothing wrong with Eco-Complete, so I'd focus on making sure the tank is stable, do your water changes to get the fish you have through the mini cycle. I also wouldn't add any more fish until that proverbial dust has settled. Give your tank a chance to do what it needs to do before handing it more of a biological work load.
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post #13 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 09:41 PM
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Temperature is too high.
Hot water holds less oxygen.

Most cories thrive in cooler water.

Plecos (the common plec, and many related fish) come from open, active water that sees sunshine which grows the algae. They tolerate quite cool water, and are OK in a warmer tank if the oxygen is there, but are better in cooler. Do not buy any more common plecos. If your tank needs algae control get a couple of Otos, but get this problem solved first- Otos can be a bit delicate.

I would lower the temperature 1 degree per day for a week. Get it about 75 degrees.
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post #14 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 09:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. I'm not interested in any more plecos. Like I mentioned, I ended up with him as a rescue tag along.

Should I bring the temp down for the tetras?
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post #15 of 21 (permalink) Old 06-11-2016, 10:11 PM
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Tetras should be fine with a tank temp of 75. My tanks are 76 and they're fine.
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