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post #1 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-01-2017, 07:14 PM Thread Starter
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Multiple Problems With New Tank

Hey everyone,

Iím having some problems with a new tank. Its a 30 gallon thatís been set up for about 2 months now. It is heavily planted with the following equipment:

Filter: SunSun 302b
Substrate: Black diamond sand
Heater: 150 watt
Light: Finnex 24/7

I did a fishless cycle by dosing liquid ammonia. Once my ammonia and nitrate levels were both 0, I assumed I was cycled and began adding fish. My current tank inhabitants are:

11 Rummynose tetras
2 GBR (1 male, 1 female)
1 pearl gourami
5 Corys
5 otos
1 mystery snail

Ever since I began adding fish, fish have been mysteriously dying. A fish would randomly die, and I would check my levels with my API master test kit and everything would be fine. A few days later, another fish would randomly die. When I got my first pair of GBRs, the female laid eggs and then suddenly died a few days later. Once again, my levels were fine.

I talked to my LFS and they said I could have a bacterial infection in the tank. So I dosed Melafix for a week straight and everyone looks happy. I checked my levels before going back to the LFS and everything looked good.

Yesterday, I added another female GBR to replace the one that died, 3 rummynose, and another oto (The numbers stated before include these fish). I checked my water today and my ammonia and nitrate levels spiked. My gourami is not looking so good. I quickly did a 30% water change. I canít figure out why I keep randomly losing fish, and it seems like my tank hasnít fully cycled.

What are my options? And how can I increase filtration in my sunsun because it seems like it canít keep up.
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post #2 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-01-2017, 08:09 PM
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Some points may be missing. I might first question the cycle. When doing the fishless cycle we need to continue to add small amounts of ammonia as it is the food which feeds the first bacteria group and then that group feeds the second group who come on board to process the nitrite to nitrate. Was there additional ammonia added along the way to keep this process going. Not sure what you mean by adding ammonia and then seeing nitrate. As a last step to check for full operation, we do want to add ammonia and see it has been process fully down to nitrate in 24 hours. But this does take some time, like possibly a month.
Perhaps I'm guessing wrong but do give the fishless cycle some thought as it is easy to get it wrong when first working the problem.
Meanwhile, I might guess that it is not working and water changes will be the best bet to save fish. But that can be totally wrong so more info on how the fish act and how they die may be helpful.
Do they act like they are having breathing problems before dying?
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post #3 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-01-2017, 08:11 PM
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How much ammonia was your tank cycling in 24 hours? How quickly were you adding fish? Have you done any quarantine?
Without more details of your cycling process, itís impossible to know if you are cycled. What are your current parameters? Temp, ph, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate?
My first piece of advice would be to stop adding fish for now. Make sure your tank is fully cycled. Test daily. If you test for one week and see no measurable ammonia of nitrite, I would say youíre cycled.
At this point, you can think about new fish, but you also need to make sure your current stock is healthy. Make sure you have no deaths for at least 30 days. If something dies, start the count over. Then when you decide to buy new fish, quarantine them for at least 2 weeks, many recommend up to 6 weeks. This will help ensure they donít bring a new disease to your tank and kill your established fish.
Setting up a qt is easy. You donít have to have another tank, a (food safe) Rubbermaid tote with a heater and filter will work fine. You want it to be large enough that they are not too cramped. I bought a 10g at the petco dog sale for my qt, and use a 50w heater and an aquaclear 20. When I need it I just take some biomax out of one of my canister filters and itís cycled.
Only add a few fish at a time. This will help you not overload your biofilter, causing and ammonia spike. Quarantine for a set period of time. Watch them for signs of disease, if anything shows up, treat it and then start at over. When you are certain they are healthy you can add them to your main tank and get more for qt.
Also, GBR are notorious for being sensitive fish. They do not do well with fluctuating parameters. Many of the ones coming from big box stores come from farms where they are overly added on antibiotics. These fish can die easily.
Depending on how high your ammonia spike was, a 30% water change wonít make much of a difference. If ammonia was 1 ppm, it would still be .7 ppm after a 30% water change. Change enough water to bring the level to a safe amount.


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post #4 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-01-2017, 10:38 PM Thread Starter
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For my cycle, I dosed enough to bring ammonia up to 3 ppm and then waited until it dropped to 0, then dosed up to 3 ppm again. Once it could bring 3 ppm down to 0 in 24 hours I waited until my nitrites went down to 0 as well
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post #5 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-01-2017, 11:49 PM
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A few things. First your fish might not have been healthy to begin with. You see fish farms use high doses of antibiotics and hormones so the fish basically has no real immune system because they lived their whole lives without coming into contact with anything. Think boy in the plastic bubble. Then they get to the store and get thrown into a tank with tons of bacteria and the fish is assulted by things he has no immunity against. Well then he goes home with you and again is attacked by the bacteria in your tank. Fish finally gets too stressed, can't fight off infection and dies. This is why fish from breeders tend to do better than pet store fish. They've been exposed to more nasty things. Kind of how the kid who eats dirt at the playground never gets sick lol

The second problem sounds like too many fish introduce at one time. Even though your tank was cycled, there might not have been enough bacteria for that amount of fish. You will only have enough bacteria to eat the amount of ammonia available. This is why I like to add only one type of fish at a time. Like add the rummy nose than a few weeks later add something else. That gives the bacteria a chance to kind of catch up with the fish load. Remeber ammonia doesn't only come from poop and food, fish also exhale it out of the bloodstream when they breath, so that many fish equals a lot of ammonia. Another thing could be maybe the meds killed off your bacteria. I don't know how that particular medication works, so maybe look at the science behind that. I personally never trust what a bottle says because fish products are not closely regulated by the fda or the usda so they can put whatever they want on the package. Just always prepare for another mini cycle after using meds.

Another thing could simply be stress. They traveled God knows how far to the fish store. Got put into a tank with strange fish they don't know, then went for a car ride to your house and got put into another tank with completely new fish. The stress alone can make them unable to fight off infections.

If it were my fish I would do a ton of water changes and plan on cycling the tank again. Also make sure you have plenty of hiding places. You might also want some floating plants to block out some light, the plants may love the light but the fish absolutely hate it. Most of these fish come from muddy streams or places with trees that block out the Sun. Its pretty dark down there. A lot of light will make them feel exposed to predators. Normally fish in a bright tank won't be as colorful for this reason. So to sum up, keep ammonia levels down and reduce stress so if they are sick, they are better able to fight it off. Hopefully they will pull through. Keep us updated
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post #6 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-02-2017, 12:00 AM Thread Starter
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Well I just lost my gourami. He was sitting on the bottom of the tank all day, and he finally passed. I am definitely not adding any other fish for a long time.

Why do meds cause a mini cycle? That sounds like exactly what happened to me.

How big of water changes should I be doing everyday?
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post #7 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-02-2017, 12:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abraham3660 View Post
For my cycle, I dosed enough to bring ammonia up to 3 ppm and then waited until it dropped to 0, then dosed up to 3 ppm again. Once it could bring 3 ppm down to 0 in 24 hours I waited until my nitrites went down to 0 as well
Okay , feeling better about how the cycle was done. Done correctly , the major advantage of a fishless cycle is that it does build the large, full blown bacteria to meet a full load. I'm assuming that you did it right since you are not missing the major point. Some do miss the big points at times.
Moving on to the next idea? With fish dying, is there any chance of not spotting a dead fish back in a corner where it becomes a total ammonia factory?
Other thoughts might be something small being done to knock out too much of the bacteria. New tanks and filters tend to be somewhat easy to upset and that can also come when we are most worried and we try to hard to keep it all clean.
Cause may be hard to find at this point but what seems clear is that the bacteria was doing enough to convert the 3PPM of ammonia and that should have been enough but now it is not working so you have to fight what is, rather than what should have been.
I would do some things depending how easy or what is on hand. One I like to keep on the shelf for crisis, is a box of Ammo-carb or Ammo- chips. They are pretty cheap and easy to hang in a bag somewhere that water flows around them and they do take ammonia out of the water. They also have the advantage of lasting nearly forever if they are cleaned and restored. Soaked in salt water per directions on the box?
Water changes for sure will reduce pollution and if done so that the fish are not shocked with totally different water or cold, etc. it can do the full job but sometimes it is a lot of time and work.
Done clean the filter, stir the bottom or even wipe down the glass for a while so that you do nothing to kill as it is the vital point that is missing. If it was there at one point, it does bounce back much quicker.
Added note?
Only some meds knock out the bacteria but Melafix is not one of them. Those meds can't tell the difference in the good bacteria and the items they are meant to kill.

Last edited by PlantedRich; 10-02-2017 at 12:19 AM. Reason: add
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post #8 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-02-2017, 01:42 AM
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OP said a heavily planted tank. Are the plants healthy? If so, they should be sucking up a lot of ammonia. All of the above posters have some good points, so I'm going to focus on some water issues.

I assume your water is from the tap. How about the LFS water? Have you tested it for TDS, GH and KH levels? If the fish are stressed by the sudden shock of different water parameters they may die in a day or two. I'd get a Seachem "Ammonia Alert." You stick it on the inside of your tank and it constantly shows your ammonia level for easy tracking. For your plants, are you dosing nitrogen? If you are reading a nitrate level and are dosing nitrogen, you may be reading nitrates that are not reflecting a cycled tank but are simply the nitrogen fertilizer.

Regarding acclimating new fish, I strongly recommend a quarantine setup. Match the water parameters of the QT to the LFS. As an example; I used to buy three times the neons and cardinals I wanted because I knew at least two-thirds of them would die in a few days and I used a QT and acclimated them over two hours. I finally found a solution where now I almost never lose fish in that critical 2-4 day period. I match the GH and KH of the QT to that of the LFS. In doing that, you also closely match the TDS, and TDS (which is ideally kept below 400) is more important than pH. Then, over a few weeks, you bring the QT parameters slowly into line with the main tank before transferring the fish.

Last edited by Deanna; 10-02-2017 at 01:45 AM. Reason: coorections
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post #9 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-02-2017, 02:23 PM Thread Starter
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Yes all my plants growing fast and seem healthy, although I am battling some algae right now. I only dose excel daily and have seachem root tabs in the sand.

As for my water, yes I use tap water. I condition with prime before adding it to the tank.

The LFS I go to is very knowledgeable, and is not a big box store. They said that they also use tap water and a lot of their fish are locally raised. So, I donít think the fish experience too much of a shock when being added to my tank. I always drip acclimate my new fish to help prevent shock too.
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post #10 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-02-2017, 09:33 PM
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Well ...you're between a rock and a hard place for the moment since your reported parameters look ok, although I like to be sure that my TDS is always below 400. So, I think you have to go on the assumption that cycling isn't complete and protect the fish you have left until you're sure (by having no NH3 or NO2 for a week or two) you are fully cycled. That means keeping a twice daily (if you can) eye on NH3 and NO2. If you encounter either one, do a water change. Your plants will help you keep the ammonia chain down.

Longer term, a QT and proper acclimation is the best thing you can do for new fish and to protect your main tank. I'd test TDS, GH and KH of the LFS water everytime I bring it home and then, before acclimating, change the QT tank parameters to match the LFS water. Although some people swear they can just plop them into a QT with no problems, I was never lucky that way. You need to keep the fish in the QT for at least two weeks anyway (to monitor for disease), so you can slowly adjust the QT tank parameters to those of the main tank during that two week period.

One other thought: are you injecting CO2? If so, are you monitoring to be sure it isn't too high and further stressing the fish?
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post #11 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-02-2017, 10:05 PM
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The best way to add fish is to let the tank mature some. Even though your test kit is telling you its "technically" cycled its not that black and white. If you let the plants grow in for about a month and really filter the water along with a more mature bio-filter your fish would have done better.

Certain species don't do well in new setups and Rummies and especially GBRs are on the list. I'm surprised your LFS sold them to you if they knew your tank was new.
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post #12 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-03-2017, 12:20 PM Thread Starter
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Update:

Iíve been doing 30% water changes everyday, and everyone looks happy so far. Havenít lost anyone since the gourami.

My GBRs laid eggs, but they were quickly eaten
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post #13 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 01:36 AM Thread Starter
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I have another question, but Iíll try not to start a new thread.

How do you know if your tank is getting enough oxygen? Is it just as long as your fish arenít at the surface gasping for air?

The reason I ask is because I have my canister filter outflow pointed up towards the surface right now. I did this so the flow breaks the surface quite a bit and oxygenates the water. I have a glass top with a 2 inch gap along the back of the tank. Iím worried my tank isnít getting enough flow with the outflow pointed upwards, but I donít want to lose aeration by moving the outflow down. Should I be ok if I adjust the outflow and make it not break the surface as much?

Thanks for all your help!
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post #14 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 03:56 AM
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Some fish will gulp at the top, others will retreat down. They usually are always toward the back of the tank (top or bottom).

I have a 29 gal. In addition to the canister wand (which points down along the back wall, I have two Koralia pumps attached to the back, near the top, and pointing forward and up to create just enough rippling short of breaking the surface. The flow then moves down across the front (on both sides - two pumps) and across the substrate, where it meets the downflow from the wand. You get better gas exchange if you don't break the surface.

I inject CO2 (didn't see if you did or not) so it's important for me to have good flow for nutrient dispersion. All plants must be waving gently in the flow.
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post #15 of 16 (permalink) Old 10-05-2017, 06:10 PM Thread Starter
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Some fish will gulp at the top, others will retreat down. They usually are always toward the back of the tank (top or bottom).




I inject CO2 (didn't see if you did or not) so it's important for me to have good flow for nutrient dispersion. All plants must be waving gently in the flow.

I donít inject CO2. I believe I have plenty of flow along the top of my tank. Iím more worried about flow along the bottom of my tank.

For my 29 gallon, I have my spray bar along the left wall pointed towards the right wall. My intake is also on the left side of my tank.
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