Completely stunned move - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-14-2018, 09:16 PM Thread Starter
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Completely stunned move

I was cleaning to 75 g today - pretty normal, right? Well, I noticed after the first sweep and when I was putting water in that there was a lot of debris still. At this point I also had both canisters off to clean them too. That, I believe, was mistake #1. Smart me decides to try to clean more of the debris out...not once, but twice more. Mistake #2. I'm merrily cleaning my filters and look over to see not one but THREE dead longfin black skirt tetras - cue panic. Mistake #3. I rush to get the big filter together AND BREAK OFF A PIECE WHERE IT SNAPS!!! WTH!!! I honestly think it was a flaw in the canister. It's a newer one I've had to get parts replaced for already due to breakage. Cue the panic to just get the smaller canister on - I rinse it off and throw it on. By this time, more fish have died. I managed to super glue where the canister snapped (I put cling wrap on both sides over the glue - it's at the top and doesn't seem to be touching water). I get it on.

In total I lost five longfin black skirt tetras (the prettiest ones of course), a rosy tetra, a neon, a green cory. Everyone seems ok now. I double dosed the Stress guard, and did my regular Prime and Pristine. I checked parameters and other than the ph being a little up (8.0), everything was perfect. I'm assuming I had an ammonia spike(?). I attached a picture of my right arm - I had it in the water the most. It stings on the inner part and I think you can see the redness.

I feel like a massive idiot. I've never done a big clean like that before. I should have known it was too much. I'm posting this as a learn from my stupidity. Yes, you can over do it with a tank. I'm lucky I didn't lose more. I had about 87 fish in my tank, now I have 79...and I'm really hoping no more die. Weird part - the ones that died looked like the healthiest ones. I have a few that I've been medicating the tank for and they are fine...so weird.
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post #2 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-14-2018, 09:27 PM
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Sorry for your loses. No fun at all. How long did the whole cleaning process take and how long were the filters off? Ammonia is possible, but wouldn't kill your fish in a matter of minutes. I almost wonder...if you were really rooting around deep in the substrate to get things clean, maybe some hydrogen sulfide released?
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post #3 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-14-2018, 09:31 PM Thread Starter
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It took me a well over an hour...I'm thinking longer actually. I had the bubbler on the whole time, but I am now thinking the sudden change and no doubt oxygen reduced environment did it. I had a good cry over it. I'm neurotically watching the others and hoping they don't die. I just read that they could still succumb to it...I'm hoping that article was wrong I just feel like a complete moron. I never usually do more than a 50% change once or twice a week. I feel awful about over doing it.

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Last edited by NBGwen; 03-14-2018 at 09:32 PM. Reason: Weird duplication of my paragraph
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post #4 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-14-2018, 09:46 PM
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Don't beat yourself up. We all make mistakes. I killed half my fish by overdosing Prime once in the not so distant past...Learned from it and moved on.
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post #5 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-14-2018, 11:37 PM
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Were you disturbing the substrate? Having the filter off for an hour shouldn't have caused an issue. It could be you had anaerobic pockets in your substrate though and disturbing them with a deep clean can release toxins into the water column. Usually you get a bad egg smell along with it. Deep sand is the highest risk for this.
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post #6 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-14-2018, 11:56 PM
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I'm sorry for your loss, but something just doesn't add up. A thorough cleaning rarely kills fish so I'm confused.

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post #7 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 09:13 AM Thread Starter
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I did disturb the substrate...a lot. Not something I do normally. Normally I do a surface clean, not deep, as I don't want to disturb the roots of my plants. I obviously released something.

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post #8 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 02:00 PM
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I never clean more than half the filter media at once. But like the others, I think it more likely you stirred up something toxic from the substrate. Hope you haven't lost any more fish since? Maybe do another simple wc if needed..... why is there a photo of your arm.
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post #9 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 03:11 PM Thread Starter
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I think it was something toxic - as I said in my first post, the photo of my arm is there to show that whatever killed the fish caused a reaction to my skin. The splotchy redness is still there today, but doesn't sting. If it did that to me arm, I can just imagine how my poor fish fared. So far, no more deaths. Whatever it was, it stopped killing my fish. My plan from now on is to do one filter at a time. That way it is staggered and one will always be on.

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post #10 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 07:13 PM
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Well, I'm not an expert at freshwater but have more experience in saltwater. Same principles apply though. Substrates will pick up a lot of debris over time; especially deeper substrates, and if you don't have a fish or invertebrate that sifts the substrate or you don't regularly deep clean the substrate. When disturbed, it will release tons of ammonia into the tank. For a saltwater tank, we have our bioload on rocks rather than the filter for a freshwater tank and you had the filters off for cleaning.

For salt tanks, you have three options.
(1) Regularly deep clean the substrate every week.
(2) Never deep clean the substrate.
(3) Deep clean in small sections with regular maintenance. If not regularly, never do it all at once unless you are completely changing the substrate.

It seems like this happened pretty fast in your tank. But with the irritated arm, the only thing that I can think of is something toxic; ammonia or some other cleaning agent.

Sorry to hear about your losses. Always sucks losing fish. Especially when it is our fault. Keep on going and learn from it because that makes us better fish owners. At least you only lost a few and not the entire tank.
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post #11 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 07:53 PM
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Yeah, filters off for that short of time shouldn't have done anything. I have two canisters on my 75g tank and Hurricane Irma knocked out power for more than a day...no problem. My tank is not heavily populated and does have a number of plants though.

I have had similar die-offs though, and I still don't know why exactly. Either perhaps a chemical got near the tank (my wife's sister cleans sometimes) or as was mentioned a pocket of something was disturbed.

I would recommend only cleaning one canister at a time.

Also, it's handy to have a HOB filter for deep cleaning times...I have a couple old aquaclears that are perfect for extra cleaning when there is a lot of debris. Load them up with anything you like and run them for that day.

Also also I started using pre-filters a couple years ago and it really cut down the gunk that gets into the canisters. Something to consider if you don't have them. Obviously it adds an additional cleaning step (I squeeze them out in tank water in a bucket).

Edit: I completely overlooked the arm issue despite the giant pic! Wow...no clue. I have had my hands in many a tank over the years and can't say I've ever experienced something like that.
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post #12 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by NBGwen View Post
I think it was something toxic - as I said in my first post, the photo of my arm is there to show that whatever killed the fish caused a reaction to my skin. The splotchy redness is still there today, but doesn't sting. If it did that to me arm, I can just imagine how my poor fish fared. So far, no more deaths. Whatever it was, it stopped killing my fish. My plan from now on is to do one filter at a time. That way it is staggered and one will always be on.

If there was something toxic in your tank that caused that skin reaction then it was either in your tank to begin with, or on your skin and introduced into the tank. Cleaning the substrate and filters wont magically create something toxic enough to cause an immediate reaction to your skin like that. Similarly, having a filter (one, two, all, some) off for a little while (or even a few days) is not going to cause an immediate fish die off. Nor would anything you described be enough to completely rid the tank of oxygen to the point where you'd watch fish die.

Perhaps you did disturb a pocket of anaerobic substrate and released some noxious sulfur but chances are you'd have reported a really noticeable foul stench emanating from the tank.

From what I read, it seems like you did a few massive water changes in a row throughout this. I see no mention of using a dechlorinator. Any chance you forgot to use it? Doesnt happen all too often, but municipal water companies will often drastically increase levels of chlorine (or other "additives") due to environmental factors, etc. I know higher levels of chlorine can cause some people who are sensitive to have reddened skin too. The elevated PH you're seeing may also be due to some change in your tap water.

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post #13 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 09:36 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by lksdrinker View Post
If there was something toxic in your tank that caused that skin reaction then it was either in your tank to begin with, or on your skin and introduced into the tank. Cleaning the substrate and filters wont magically create something toxic enough to cause an immediate reaction to your skin like that. Similarly, having a filter (one, two, all, some) off for a little while (or even a few days) is not going to cause an immediate fish die off. Nor would anything you described be enough to completely rid the tank of oxygen to the point where you'd watch fish die.

Perhaps you did disturb a pocket of anaerobic substrate and released some noxious sulfur but chances are you'd have reported a really noticeable foul stench emanating from the tank.

From what I read, it seems like you did a few massive water changes in a row throughout this. I see no mention of using a dechlorinator. Any chance you forgot to use it? Doesnt happen all too often, but municipal water companies will often drastically increase levels of chlorine (or other "additives") due to environmental factors, etc. I know higher levels of chlorine can cause some people who are sensitive to have reddened skin too. The elevated PH you're seeing may also be due to some change in your tap water.
I'm on well.. No chlorine but I do use prime. And I don't recall any foul smell at all I don't recall having my arm exposed to anything other than the water...but I could have exposed to to something previously and just didn't realize it (the joys of MS brain).

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post #14 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 09:40 PM
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I'm on well.. No chlorine but I do use prime. And I don't recall any foul smell at all I don't recall having my arm exposed to anything other than the water...but I could have exposed to to something previously and just didn't realize it (the joys of MS brain).

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Well water....there goes my theory about the chlorine then! Just for curiosity's sake, why use Prime then? Any chance you waited longer than usual to add the prime since you were pre-occupied with the filter cleaning, repairing, etc?

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post #15 of 29 (permalink) Old 03-15-2018, 09:41 PM Thread Starter
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Well water....there goes my theory about the chlorine then! Just for curiosity's sake, why use Prime then? Any chance you waited longer than usual to add the prime since you were pre-occupied with the filter cleaning, repairing, etc?
Oh yes. I did all the cleaning and then added it (after the fish started dying). Very well could be something in my well water. I use it as I had read that it was good to use it...

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