Noob can't keep clean-up crew alive
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.
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
Nitrate pretty low, like under 10
Don't know Ph, don't know any other params
NYC municipal water
7 skirt tetras
8 neon tetras
1 mystery snail (but I moved him to another tank that has some algae for him to eat)
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.