Unexplained night deaths....lack of O2? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-06-2018, 07:56 PM Thread Starter
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Unexplained night deaths....lack of O2?

In short, over the last couple years I've had a series of fish deaths that I've struggled with. Very rarely has it been more than one or two at a time; generally when it happens it's overnight. My time to enjoy the tank is later in the evening before the light timer goes off (10pm) and everyone is doing fine. Then in the morning is when I see the corpse(s).

First off, the water tests seem fine. I stock very lightly and have never been one to put a lot of new fish in at once. My current load would be ok for a 10 gal (other than a large algae eater)...the tank is a 75g with two canisters on it, WAY overfiltered but (I don't think) not too much flow (one is an old eheim that really doesn't have a ton of flow).

Other tank notes:
- a couple of my fish have been in there for years and they are ok. I have an amano that is roughly the size of a small lobster, he's been in there for years.
- it's a low-tech tech with (to my discredit) sporadic light dosages of excel. Many of the deaths happened prior to me ever using it, and using it hasn't changed anything.
- I have a number of both root feeding and other plants. That said, it is not a tank that is nothing but a wall 'o plants (yet!)


I have had a few instances of ich and moving forward I am resolved to use a QT tank despite the hassle. I mention this because a couple of the deaths have happened within a few weeks of treatment (higher temps and salt) and I thought perhaps those fish just got weakened. However, there have been similar deaths at times far before or after the ich.


Other things I've considered:
- airborne something bad - I've tried to make sure nothing is sprayed near the tank and no cleaning stuff is near it.
- something bad in the filter(s)...but I've had a HOB on there recently in place of my sunsun that I was repairing... and had two deaths. The eheim has been on various tanks for 12 years and I really doubt it is the cause of any of this.
- type of fish - most of the deaths have been rummynose and lemon tetras. The former known to be fragile, the latter hardy. However, I've lost cories, a couple giant danios and a couple buenos ares tetras (the latter two types holdovers from when I had a few South American cichlids in there).
- water vac disturbance - I've noticed a few times that deaths have happened after the tank was cleaned and water changed...which if anything should be helping the fish. I'm very careful to rinse my hands carefully before touching the water. I thought maybe that "stuff" might be getting stirred up, especially if I've moved a piece of wood or rock that had detritus under it.

Ok, long story short, as I've been grasping at anything I can..
The fact that I've noticed this after water changes made me realize that after water changes the tank tend to be full. I sometimes top it off before a change too. And when it's full, there is way less surface agitation. Could this be o2 deprivation? I haven't used an air pump in...30 years maybe!...but I also have never had near this many plants before. I've read that plants at night will use some O2--even without co2 in the tank, could this be an issue?

I've ordered an air pump/stone to try it out, it can't hurt. I could use it on my shrimp tank too (which has ALSO had a bunch of deaths, though my ONE remaining male apparently came through as a female is berried! Way to go, dude!). That tank has plants as well, and I have kept it mostly topped off (filter is an aquaclear). Conceivably the same issue could be afflicting both tanks if it's an issue at all....

Anyway, this long-*** post brought to you by an extremely slow work day, thanks for any words of wisdom!
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-06-2018, 08:04 PM
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well the only thing i can say is i had a pleco kill and partialy devor my oranda goldfish over night do not know if the gold fish was the bully or the pleco but since the goldfish is gone now all fish are much happier ???


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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-06-2018, 08:04 PM
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I sure don't see anything that jumps out. I think the oxygen is a good place to start. It would be more likely with a lot of plants, but if you're on the edge anyway I could see it being a possible issue. Since heat decreases the oxygen available and increases the need for it the deaths with temp raised supports the theory too. How many deaths are you dealing with?
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-06-2018, 08:30 PM
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Are you, by any chance, adding excess amounts of Prime(or whatever dechlorinator you use) at water change? I killed half a tank one time doing this...learned my lesson REAL quick. Prime will bind to chlorine and ammonia first, but if there's not much of that available, it will bind up O2.
The other thing worth considering is your water source. Can you post a link to your city's water report? Or are you on well water?
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-06-2018, 09:11 PM Thread Starter
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Oy, I do use Prime and that would certainly line up with the water changes...I haven't really paid much attention to how much prime I put in...didn't seem like a lot (maybe a partial capful per bucket, or less when I use the hose on a big water change).

So possibly: low ammonia + full tank (less gas exchange) + too much Prime....man I'll be both pissed and relieved if that's what it is....

I'm on city water. I have had my tap water tested at the LFS, especially looking for copper when I lost some shrimp--nothing really stood out to us. He did mention that our central FL water fluctuates a lot when it comes to TDS and things like copper. I have considered going at least partially to RO+minerals but I hate to unless I know it's necessary...Anyway I'll look at getting that report.

I didn't mention it but I've even considered my ever-more-aggressive algae eater could be stressing some of these guys. Still don't think that's it, but he needs to be rehomed anyway as he's gotten huge, lazy and grumpy!

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Originally Posted by Kubla View Post
I sure don't see anything that jumps out. I think the oxygen is a good place to start. It would be more likely with a lot of plants, but if you're on the edge anyway I could see it being a possible issue. Since heat decreases the oxygen available and increases the need for it the deaths with temp raised supports the theory too. How many deaths are you dealing with?

hard to say exactly as it's been nickel and dime over years. I had one die-off where maybe 7-8 fish died within a couple days of me returning from vacation...I suspected my wife's sister, who was feeding, may have sprayed something near the tank but not really sure. Other than that it's ones or twos every few months. Probably a total of 15-20 or so over a few years where I had no idea what the cause was; no strange behavior, everything seemed normal at night then *blam*. I generally only have 10-20 small fish in that tank plus my shrimp and algae eater so it's a pretty high percentage. As I mentioned lemon tetras and rummy nose have been most of them, but then those are the ones I've bought the most of to try get decent-sized schools.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-06-2018, 09:23 PM
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Some things to think over/review?
Ich will often leave many small wounds and these can be a place for various fungus/infections, etc. to start bu those are often things we will see and know to treat. Perhaps repeated ich attacks will leave the gills damaged and this can lead to shorter life. something like smoker's lungs?
But it is not likely to be airborne unless it is cutting off the Gas exchange. Not likely to happen but worth looking at how the water moves in the tank. If the load is low and water is moving bottom to top so that pretty much all the air is exposed-- not likely.
Watching the fish just before going to bed and knowing how they act normally and at that time may tell you if they are suffering something long term or something happens overnight. Active and doing good but dead in the morning leans toward some form of attack but if they are generally slow and not too active, I might lean toward some progressive damage.
Also, it is true that fish do have a natural lifespan and some of those mentioned are not designed as lifers but more often baitfish in the wild and do have shorter lifespans than those who are less likely to be eaten.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-06-2018, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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Good info.

Most of them are very active at night...I haven't really made any correlation between any of them "slowing down" and dying overnight. I was aware of the ich damage, I have had two bouts in three years but a few of the fatalities have only been through one of those...something I hope to avoid moving forward.

Here's a shot of the tank to show it's not very heavily planted. There are quite a few plants but most are small and I'm hoping to grow them out. Eventually this old aquarium will be making way for a new larger planted one. (embarrassed disclaimer: Whatever attempt at "aquascaping" was once here is long gone, stuff is just strewn about and I took out a lot of rocks and wood for other tanks and just to make more room to grow out plants!)

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-07-2018, 05:56 AM
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Unexplained night deaths....lack of O2?

Iím always ruminating on this as well. Itís happened recently. I lost a young panda Cory that was fine for months. Found it in the A.M. and examined it - looked perfect. Then a week later found an Ember tetra dead in the A.M. Also nothing visible. Those Iíve had a few weeks. What reason? Bullying? Ph swing? Food? Cyanobacteria? So disconcerting - not to mention heartbreaking. Is it seasonal? Idk - Bad breeding, poor treatment at the store. I have to let it go. Just know it happens to lots of us fish lovers.


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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-07-2018, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by 3puffers View Post
Iím always ruminating on this as well. Itís happened recently. I lost a young panda Cory that was fine for months. Found it in the A.M. and examined it - looked perfect. Then a week later found an Ember tetra dead in the A.M. Also nothing visible. Those Iíve had a few weeks. What reason? Bullying? Ph swing? Food? Cyanobacteria? So disconcerting - not to mention heartbreaking. Is it seasonal? Idk - Bad breeding, poor treatment at the store. I have to let it go. Just know it happens to lots of us fish lovers.


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Iím stuck on the O2 factor. Not sure why but regardless your post has tons of info. I have a rather deep planted tank, (that I have since trimmed back) 45 gallon 24 inches deep, with small fish that occupy all levels. Canister filter with no spray bar. What I did was, put in a small korilia power head down on the far end of the tank, and tilted it up for added surface agitation, but I put it on a timer. Off during feeding times, on and off after that through out the entire day, and off during midnight to 8 am so everyone can sleep. Is this something that may be valuable to you?


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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-07-2018, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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Yes, after thinking about the o2 possibility I have angled both my spraybars up to do the same thing and now have more surface agitation than before. I do have a powerhead but I get worried that flow is already pretty high in there with two canisters (the sunsun especially). Plus I'll have the air pump running soon, so at least I'll know it's not o2 if it happens again.
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-07-2018, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Stokely View Post
Yes, after thinking about the o2 possibility I have angled both my spraybars up to do the same thing and now have more surface agitation than before. I do have a powerhead but I get worried that flow is already pretty high in there with two canisters (the sunsun especially). Plus I'll have the air pump running soon, so at least I'll know it's not o2 if it happens again.


Yep, rule out the O2 possibility. Good luck with the diagnosis. Like your tank BTW.


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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-07-2018, 04:11 PM Thread Starter
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Good gravy...this morning, yet another lemon dead. No obvious signs. The smaller, younger tetras seem to be the ones dying...I got these in a batch and I suspect they caused the ich in my tank--so I'm wondering if they were just weak fish. I like that store, they are very helpful but this would not be the first time I've had issue with their stock. Frustrating... This after increasing surface agitation. To add insult to injury, the air pump I ordered came in and doesn't have enough power to push air out of the airstone past a couple inches in depth...grrrr.

Hey, glad you like the tank! It's a 15-year-old all-glass tank and it's been great. I'm ready to retire it, it's got a lot of hard water etching and I'm beginning to worry about the silicon as it's a damaged a bit from years of cleaning abuse (my fault, not the tank's!) It's FAR from how I'd like it to be--I saw a youtube vid of a tank full of wavy jungle val with driftwood and some sandy open areas and that's what I'm shooting for. I do have 6 or so val in the back and they are starting to send out new plants, which has me stoked! I don't really like the color of the PFS substrate, but I like everything else about it...if I can find some similar sand in a more natural color that would be great (and that doesn't cost more than this old tank is worth ideally!)
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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-08-2018, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Stokely View Post
Good gravy...this morning, yet another lemon dead. No obvious signs. The smaller, younger tetras seem to be the ones dying...I got these in a batch and I suspect they caused the ich in my tank--so I'm wondering if they were just weak fish. I like that store, they are very helpful but this would not be the first time I've had issue with their stock. Frustrating... This after increasing surface agitation. To add insult to injury, the air pump I ordered came in and doesn't have enough power to push air out of the airstone past a couple inches in depth...grrrr.



Hey, glad you like the tank! It's a 15-year-old all-glass tank and it's been great. I'm ready to retire it, it's got a lot of hard water etching and I'm beginning to worry about the silicon as it's a damaged a bit from years of cleaning abuse (my fault, not the tank's!) It's FAR from how I'd like it to be--I saw a youtube vid of a tank full of wavy jungle val with driftwood and some sandy open areas and that's what I'm shooting for. I do have 6 or so val in the back and they are starting to send out new plants, which has me stoked! I don't really like the color of the PFS substrate, but I like everything else about it...if I can find some similar sand in a more natural color that would be great (and that doesn't cost more than this old tank is worth ideally!)


These unexplained deaths are puzzling, and why only at night with no physical signs prior to


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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-08-2018, 08:09 AM
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Sand substrate, old tank.

The sand needs to be stirred weekly because lethal gas pockets can build up in the sand.


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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-08-2018, 09:13 PM
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It's not lack of oxygen. What type of fish? Within what period from purchase? How often are you changing water? The fact that it is overnight is just how it is. Almost every fish that i have EVER found dead has been in the morning. You say your parameters are good.... what are they pH GH and KH. Temp? Some fish are severely weakened by hard water or low temps. The fact that it is happening consistently and continuing points to a continued issue in some parameter. Adding fish is always a gamble. I don't consider any fish safe until 3 weeks post addition or 3 weeks from the most recent loss.... and that includes the pre existing fish. They are also placed at risk. These are the painful lessons I learned in building up very large schools of numerous species. Some places supply poor stock... some batches are better than others. Even with PERFECT parameters and acclimation I have lost an entire group of 20 Neons. I bought Lemon Tetras twice. First time HALF of them died. Second time... same tank same acclimation... everything... didn't lose a single one.
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