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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2004, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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Still having deaths

I have been keeping fish since 1959, yet this one has me stumped! I posted earlier, got a few suggestions, but no solutions. This tank was set up in early may, a 30T acrylic with an Eclipse hood. Substrate is pea gravel from Home Depot, thoroughly washed. As a geologist, I can testify the gravel is all quartz. The substrate now has mulm visible throughout. I cycled the tank first with hornwort, then tadpoles, and finally some wild caught Heterandria formosa. Other plants were added about thre to four weeks ago - About 50 Sag. subulata, 1 small melon sword, 2 Red Rubin swords, and one Ozelot sword. I also added 2 Sag. platyphyllas, they have since died off. The melon sword is losing its emerse leaves, but the other plants look very happy and the Rubins are growing like weeds. I have 5 aquatic Plantabbs in the gravel, near the large plants.

About one month ago, I disconnected the filter in the hood - it kept overflowing, resulting in a wet carpet. Two weeks ago, the largest of the Heterandria started to die, and I noticed a brown to yellow color to the water. I removed the driftwood and over the next week replaced about 50% of the water. The color stayed, though over the last 24 hours it has faded quite a bit. Water parameters, when I first measured them two weeks ago, were not good - pH below 6.5, high nitrates and nitrites. The water was, and remains, hard - 250 to 300 ppm GH, 40 to 50 KH. As I replaced water, the pH went to 7 but this morning is back to 6.5. Nitrates are now 40 ppm, nitrites undetectable. Chlorine and chloramine are undetectable and always have been.

Wednesday I added 5 White Clouds and they looked fine last night, but this morning two were dead; as with the Heterandria, there was no sign of injury or illness on the corpses.

I have figured out how to put a Whisper filter in the tank, and will do so later today - perhaps that will help. Otherwise, I am completely buffaloed. I am also wondering about a safe way to boost the pH and keep it neutral. Any comments?
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2004, 05:15 PM
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This may be a dumb question but what filter did you have on between the time you disconnected the overflowing one and the when you are connecting the new one?


Also are these the only fish deaths? If so I'm not sure why you think something has to be wrong with the set up. I bought 12 Tiger Barbs yesterday and two of them died but sometimes new fish just die. It doesn't mean the tank is bad
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2004, 05:50 PM
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Sooooo. What are your ammonia levels? You've been in the hobby a long time, I'll grant you that. But, you didn't add any fish and didn't mention anything about performing a fishless cycle. As far as I know, a plants only tank isn't going to cycle without ammonia being added. I know about the tadpoles -- it's just I've never heard of cycling a tank this way. If it turns out it has properly cycled, then I'll take back everything.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2004, 06:55 PM
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What is the content of the tap water for gH, kH, N and P? Also pH out of the tap.
Test it after letting it stand out overnight.
Where did you get the driftwood and what is it? If you plan to re-introduce it, boil it to kill unwanted guests and bacteria. This will also remove many tannins.
Lighting wattage? Tank size(30gals. tall?)? Plant mass.......this is subjective, but do you have a few plants, a fair amount, or a ton of plants?
Your kH is low.......below 3.0H. Are you injecting CO2? This would account for the pH drop. Fish load.....types and quantity?
You can buffer up the kH in one of two ways: Baking soda; Crushed Coral in the filter. Baking soda will work immediately, but will have to be added weekly. Coral is slower, but needs less maintenance to maintain.
Are you now filtering with the Whisper?
I know these are questions, not answers, but we can't give suggestions without this basic stuff.

Len

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Len

HAVE DISCS - WILL TRAVEL
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2004, 06:59 PM
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If there are high nitrates and high nitrites then there has to be ammonia in the tank. You can't get nitrites without ammonia.

From the description it sounds like there is no filter running on the tank. That means little or no water circulation.

You need to get some fast growing stem plants to soak up the ammonia. The plants you have are not able to keep up with the production of ammonia. Have you recovered all the bodies in the tank?

Something is affecting the pH. With a kH of 2-3 you should have a pH of around 7.4-7.6. Don't try and raise the pH using chemical methods. Doing so without figuring out what is going on is going to end up with you chasing the dragon.

The deaths of the White Clouds could well be nitrate/nitrite/ammonia poisoning.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2004, 08:17 PM Thread Starter
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Let me answer the questions all together.... no filter at the moment. only an airstone. I had not immediately put in another filter - I have kept many tanks with no filtration and no problems, especially with a low fish population. I have no ammonia test kit, so cannot say much about its level - will need to get something to check it out. What mystifes me is the fact that the fish will be OK right up until I find them dead! Tapwater after standing is pH 7.2, KH 180, GH 300+, nitrites 1.0, nitrates 40. I am not injecting CO2. 30 watts lighting, plant mass moderate, maybe leaning to heavy. Driftwood was Malaysian. "brand", bought from a reliable LFS, and I removed it 2 weeks ago.
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2004, 08:33 PM
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When you said the pH was below 6.5, was that the lowest your pH kit tested? I'm wondering if the pH was perhaps WAY lower and you were not aware of that due to the limit of the tester. You may need to get a lower range pH test kit, if this is the case.

What has the water change schedule and volume been since set up in May, I know you mentioned one 50% water change, was that a normal amount on some sort of schedule? Or did you have any regular water changes? I note a huge difference between thank KH and tap KH. This suggests that regular water changes were either none or very small.


If there were no regular water changes, then a pH crash is very likely.
This would have killed some or all of the biofilter and the fish.

Nitrites in the tap water suggest that the water may have chloramine, or there is some other source of ammonia that is partially converted to nitrites. Perhaps the disconnected filter in the hood, was it cleaned out or simply left there? A dirty pad may be leaking dead bacteria into the tank from evaporation drips. You mentioned the tank has no chloriane or chloramine, what of the tap water? How is tap treated before water changes?

{Whoo Hoo, look at that, 1000 posts!]
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-07-2004, 10:37 PM Thread Starter
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The kit goes to 6.2 - the next level is 6.5, and the test strip showed something intermediate. You are right - very little changing was done. Again, this is standard for me, and I have not had trouble with other tanks. I did add rainwater, but have none at present to add. Tapwater does have chloramine added, I treat it and the tests show zero chloramine afterward. The amount of nitrate and nitrite in tapwater makes me wonder if ammonia is also present..

I did add TLC, which has bacterial cultures to attack nitrates and nitrites, and saw a decrease in nitrites for sure. Possible sources from the tank include a bit of decaying vegetation - not very much at all, though - and possibly the mulm in the gravel. I would guess the mulm would be the culprit. There is no physical connection now between the old filter and the water.

Thanks to those who have answered. I know that many of you think I have a scandously low-tech approach. All I can say to that is - it worked for decades! This is the first time I have ever had significant problems.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-08-2004, 11:13 PM
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Ok

OK, rainwater, that explains the lowered KH and pH. I now doubt a pH crash occured for this explains the evidence. (It may also mean that you've introduced airborne pollution if you were not filtering that water with carbon to remove unknown "stuff", but this is not likely the problem now.)

Chloramine... that might explain the ammonia/nitrite if you use something that breaks the chloramine but does not detox/lock up the aammonia. Plants seem to use ammonia but not nitrite, so you may see more of the nitrite and less of the ammonia if in tank biofiltration processes some of the ammonia to nitrite and the plants take the rest of the free ammonia. Many products that say they treat chloramines only break chloramine and release ammonia untreated, you didn't mention what you use, I am curious.

Just to recap the tank and tap params, the tank is at 6.5 pH with 2 degrees KH, unknown ammonia, no filter, live plants, low lights, no CO2. Tap water is 7.2 pH with KH 10 degrees with nitrites and nitrates after standing, and is chloramine treated.

I'll venture a guess now. I think the fish died from ammonia which you do not test for. Turning off the filter was the cause, for the plants are not sufficient to absorb the ammonia released from decaying plants and wrongly treated chloramine water in a slow growth mode due to low light and no CO2. The addition of the airstone may have agravated the situation, blowing off the CO2 produced by the fish, and therefore slowing the plants that much more. The plants could have saved the fish, were they under better light and with the low CO2 in the tank conserved and not lost to the airstone.

So, going forward, don't worry about the pH, your tap water is fine as it is, you don't need to mix rainwater or chemicals to lower it (I suspect the high GH was due to some pH products you've added along the way).

If you can get back to using filtration, I think you need to, for the lighting is too low to make the plants a healthy filtration system. If you want to use no filter, increase the light some up to about 60 watts or near that. Just painting the back of the hood bright white will help some by increasing reflection.

And finally, quarantine your fish. There is still the possibility of disease killing the fish.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-08-2004, 11:16 PM
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PS. I was a petroleum engineer in New Orleans many years ago, thus the "detective mode".
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-09-2004, 01:46 AM Thread Starter
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I added a Whisper filter with carbon about 2 PM, and now (half past 8) the water is definitely clearer. I just measured nitrates, they are still around 40PPM and nitrites not detectable. My water conditioner is Kordon's Amquel and it states it *does* eliminate ammonia. But ammonia from organic sources may be the problem... the $12 for an ammonia kit is a big expense right now, my free money has been devoured by setting up the tank and (now) the filter.

Also, I added TLC a week ago - it is a live bacterial culture that should also reduce ammonia levels.
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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-09-2004, 02:03 AM
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What is TLC? made by who?
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-09-2004, 01:29 PM
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Amquell will lock up the ammonia and let the biofilter turn it into nitrite, but it offers no protection for the fish from the nitrite. So, if you use that, forget about an ammonia test, not necessary, you shouldn't see much ammonia that is in a form to hurt the fish.

With a filter going now, the carbon ought to suck up the nitrites, and then the biobacteria will start working and everything ought to get back to normal.

Does the tap water really have 40ppm nitrates?? I thought that level was prohibited in public drinking waters in the USA. No wonder we all used bottled water in New Orleans.
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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-09-2004, 02:42 PM
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I used to use AmQuel...but what I've found is that Prime, by seachem, is better.
Not only is it 10x more concentrated (1mL treats 10gallons)...it also detoxifies nitrite and nitrate. Since your tap water contains both, it might be a good idea to neutralize them from the start.
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-09-2004, 03:31 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the tip about Prime. And I have measured the tap water several times, the nitrate is indeed that high!

So, I am back to Square one - all parameters seem to be in the acceptable range. I am leaving the lights on all the time, at least for awhile, in case plant metabolism will help. No deaths in 72 hours now, so maybe the situation is now OK.
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