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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All,

Suddenly my fish are gasping for air at the surface and it appears i may somehow have started cycling my tank.

What would be the best way to expedite this process while also keeping the stress of my fish under control?

I'm adding Salt, doing periodic water changes, and I'm planning on adding a product that has live bacteria in it.

I worry that WCs will prolong the cycling process, but the fish appear to need relief.

Does anyone have thoughts on how to proceed?
Thank you
 

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Hi I'm not sure about adding salt that can stress them out more, I'd stick with plenty of water changes keeping your ammonia and nitrite below 0.25ppm until your cycle is finished. Do a couple of 30-40% water changes and retested your tank. That will help get rid of the salt and dilute the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and hopefully help your fish out
 

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Hi DrewWoodside,

+1 for Mango's comment; hook up an air pump to an airstone and start circulating water to increase the oxygen content.

You need to determine if you have an oxygen deficiency or cycling issue. If you haven't already done so check your ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate levels so you know if you are dealing with the tank cycling or another issue. Water changes may help if the tank is cycling but water out of the tap can have a very low oxygen content and may actually make the problem worse if it is an oxygen deficiency. In either case salt is not going to help this problem.

I used to accidentally set off a 'mini' cycle in my tanks when cleaning my filter by rinsing the sponges and/or biocubes in tap water thereby killing all of the beneficial bacteria with the chlorine in the tap water. Now whenever I 'clean' my filter media I use water from the tank the filter is used upon and my beneficial bacteria are not all killed off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So it's definitely not just an airstone issue. I've been running this tank for years and they have an airstone.

I've accidentally started the cycling process.

So with that in mind, the thinking is to do regular WCs to keep the levels down while the tank cycles itself.

How much WC is too much? I want to ease the stress on the fish but I also don't want to prolong the cycling process..
 

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Drew,

You have to check your Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate levels to really determine what volume of water you need to change, however you'd be safe with 50%.

Check your parameters after the water change...if any of the above noted levels are still high you can do another 30% change in the evening and do about 10-20% daily to keep levels at bay.

Ammonia - no higher than 0.25ppm
Nitrite - try to keep it at 0.25ppm
Nitrate - this should be about 5.0 - 10ppm ppm with regular changes
Hope this helps.

The key is keeping your fish alive...as long as you are treating your tap the fish will most likely be safe at any level of water change if your water tap water levels are safe.

Also I know it is variable but our local wells down here are pretty consistent and you can look up city water quality annual reports for pretty much any city. You want to check your water yourself but you can find out a little bit more detailed information via the reports posted by your city. As well you can find out exectly where your water source is coming from.
Look for communities using chloramine instead of chlorine. I think all of wa state is using chlorine. However you can check ph levels, turbidity, nitrate levels etc..
 

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The fish are probably gasping at the water surface due to ammonia or nitrite poisoning as the OP, Drew, is saying.

Do a large water change to remove nearly all of the ammonia and nitrite. Do not feed for the next couple or so days.
After the water change, add a live bacteria product. Like Diana mentioned, one that contains Nitrospira (Dr. Tim's One and Only, Tetra Safe Start). Dose enough for the entire water volume (if overstocked, maybe a bit more).
Don't do any water changes for at least a day or two.

You can use/add some kind of ammonia/nitrite detoxifier such as Seachem Prime or Safe, or some ammonia "absorber" like Zeolite crystal/Ammo carb/Ammo-lock, etc).

If you had to, you could still do water changes, but add more live bacteria after (remember to dechlorinate). I would not advise this route though as the water changes may prolong the "cycling". I would just do the steps mentioned above.

If you have plants, you could leave the lights on longer to keep them using up the ammonia/nitrite longer. (don't worry about the bacteria not having enough "food")
 

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Some things are not being mentioned and could be major factors. Without testing, we are guessing at the cycle, too much ammonia or nitrite, etc.
Yes, those are common causes of fish going to the top to gasp for air. But then it is also common for fish to do this when they are dying and can't breathe caused by lots of other factors. some pollutant in the tank? Maybe off the hands when cleaning. A bit too much surface scum that is not noticed/ Without knowing, we don't know so we need to test first for the obvious things and look deeper if it is not those.
 

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Fish gasping at the surface are indeed a symptom of the fish not getting enough oxygen.
Here are a few causes.

1) Warm water holds less oxygen than cooler water. If the fish will handle cooler water, then allow the water to cool off a few degrees.

2) Water confined in water pipes may have less air (including oxygen) than water exposed to the air. It would take half an hour for a bucket (or aquarium) of water to gain enough oxygen, if it was well circulated. If you did a water change with water right out of the tap, without aerating it I would expect the fish to start gasping pretty fast, but then stop gasping once the water was well aerated.

3) Stagnant water, no water movement in the aquarium will not pick up oxygen and get it circulated through the tank. Increase circulation.

4) Plants, at night, use oxygen and add CO2 to the water. Fish might pipe in the morning, but less as the light came on and plants started photosynthesizing. Add an air bubbler on a timer. Run it when the lights are off.

5) Toxins in the tank can interfere with the fish respiration. Ammonia burns the gills. Nitrite crosses into the blood and causes methemogobinurea. 1 teaspoon of salt per 20 gallons of water will minimize this. Other toxins can cause problems. Household cleaners, perfumes, cosmetics, lotions, pesticides... the list is almost endless.

6) Anaerobic conditions in the substrate can cause toxic conditions in the water. If you can smell 'rotten eggs', 'swamp gas' or similar smells this may be the problem.

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Low oxygen affects the nitrifying bacteria. They need a lot of oxygen to deal with the ammonia and nitrite.
If there is a lack of oxygen for some reason, then there may also be ammonia and nitrite to deal with.

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Emergency oxygen:
Add 1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide per 10 gallons and increase aeration.
Ass a bubbler, powerhead, or alter the filter. Whatever it takes to increase the surface ripple in the tank.
 

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Could probably eliminate all this guesswork by just having an API test kit handy.

That said I'd be doing a large water change to help put things back in order, probably is your best bet at helping out those fish. I could care less about prolonging a cycle honestly, more work yes but this isn't a fishless cycle and chances are you'll keep your tank from having a die off.

Water changes...water changes....water changes. Better than swimming in your own poop. ;)
 
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