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Fish keep dying

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My fish keep dying and I can’t figure out the cause.
I have a 43 gallon aquarium. It has been going for 4-5 months. I started with a mix of eco-complete and seachum florite for soil. It is medium planted. I started with 6 Glo Tetras and 2 corys to cycle the tank. I have a eheim 150 classic filter system and a 65w light. I have a CO2 setup. The glo tetras and invasive bladder snails seem to be the only animal I can keep alive. I’ve tried a variety of fish (SAE, ember tetra, white cloud tetra, long-fin white cloud), shrimp, and assassin snails. The longest they last is about two weeks and most of the time they seem to pass after a water change. I was trying two different conditioners (NovAqua and Primer). I then just used one thinking the two were not mixing well (Prime). I have also tried just letting my water sit out for a day or two and not use any chemicals. None of this seems to help. My levels seem ok, maybe my pH is a little high, but that is the hard water we have. (pH=8.2, ammonia = 0.25ppm, nitrate = 10-20ppm, Nitrite = 0). I’ve invested a lot of time and money setting it up and trying to figure out what is out of balance. I’m at a loss and could really use some help. I don’t want to give up, but I also feel I’m just wasting money right now if everything keeps dying.

Should I add an air stone, more plants, use store water? Other ideas or suggestions?

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
So I realized I had written my Nitrate and Nitrite levels backward (fixed now). I only see that my ammonia levels are not 0. It has been going for 5 month which seems plenty of time to cycle. If you could provide some further clarification and advice that is what I am most in need of since I realize something is not right.
 

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Agree tank is not fully cycled. You can mitigate by increasing your water changes while things establish. Based on nitrate, you have some bacteria going, just not enough yet. You can also add more stem plants to help suck up the excess nitrogen compounds, which will somewhat buffer spikes, though water changes will still be needed.

The hard water is a problem for some species, but if that is typically what you would see in your area, then locally bred ones will be fine in it. You can also try species better suited to the local parameters. See if you have any local clubs where you can meet other hobbiests, and buy your fish from them. If you are set on soft water species though, try adding some driftwood to the tank to soften and lower PH naturally.

In the meantime, test often and do water changes until your ammonia is consistent at 0. Then add only a few fish at a time to allow the system to adjust. Don't change out all your filter media at once either. I found it helpful to put a loose, tough sponge, like a pot scrubby, at the first stage of my filter that is never replaced, just rinsed in tank water periodically, to maintain a good bacterial colony (similar to the bioball idea, but in an HOB).

Hope that helps. It can be really frustrating to work hard on a tank and not have it work for you because something is still off.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
We have hard water that has a pH of 8.2 out of the tap. The other levels are all zero out of the tap. If possible, I’d rather find ways to work with the water I have than change it or constantly buy water.
 

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Just a thought.

It looks like your water surface is completely still. If so, you could have very low oxygen levels.

Is that spray bar aiming down or up? Do you have any surface agitation? Low oxygen will easily kill fish.
 

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We have hard water that has a pH of 8.2 out of the tap. The other levels are all zero out of the tap. If possible, I’d rather find ways to work with the water I have than change it or constantly buy water.
Don't change your water as much or as much w/ each change..
Tanks normally will drop in pH as they age..esp w/ CO2 injection.
Problem is at that current pH toxic ammonia is easier to achieve.

BTW, your plants don't really look like there is a bright light over the tank..

Prime has always been my "go to" treatment and always had a hard time w/ Neons at above 8pH.. but could just be me..



Making a few assumptions though.. (temp 82F, pH 8.2, .25ppm total Ammonia/ammonium you are still below toxic levels for most fish..0.024 ammonia (toxicity is considered 0.05ppm)
Just a thought.

It looks like your water surface is completely still. If so, you could have very low oxygen levels.

Is that spray bar aiming down or up? Do you have any surface agitation? Low oxygen will easily kill fish.
I was assuming filter was off for the photos.. ;)
Yea adding a bit of O2 and surface agitation certainly won't hurt.

ONE thing.. If you are on municipal water you may want to ask what they add to it. Could be something "we" haven't accounted for yet...
You did state deaths seem to relate to water changes a bit...
 

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Don't despair. My local tap is super hard & high PH too, and I keep all sorts of fish.

Add driftwood to the tank. Trying to fight PH and hardness chemically is nuts. Its expensive, it can cause chemistry swings, and it's a headache. Large driftwood pieces (or peat in your filter) will leach tannins and offset the issue partially, and will do it naturally.

Also, many fish like harder water, like guppies, many cichlids, and anything that lives places with a lot of natural dissolved minerals. Many more fish don't mind harder water or elevated PH, and do fine in a wide range. You can always run questions past the folks here about specific species.

Good catch above about the gas exchange. You have CO2 going, yah? Try dialing it back a bit or give a little more surface agitation.

I have found that my PH imprives faster in tanks with fast-growing plants. I suspect this is because they soak up some of those minerals in their growth. Try additional stem plants, especially fast growers like hygrophilia, anacharis, ludwigia, or, if you have room for a big non-stem, vallisnaria. They will also act as ammonia vacuums, and help everything balance faster.

Your tank isn't doomed. You just gotta find that balance.
 

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I was assuming filter was off for the photos.. ;)
Yea adding a bit of O2 and surface agitation certainly won't hurt.

ONE thing.. If you are on municipal water you may want to ask what they add to it. Could be something "we" haven't accounted for yet...
You did state deaths seem to relate to water changes a bit...
Just another thought.

Many times tap water has loads of CO2 in it and very little oxygen. When I used to use tap water, my fish would show signs of stress. I would run bubbler right after change to get more oxygen in the water.
 

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For water treatment, don't mix things randomly - it certainly won't help and could overdose. Stick with prime and just use it per the instructions, don't add extra for luck. Do you know what your tap water is in terms of Gh and KH and what is added? Have you checked the temperature?

Your plants don't look particularly healthy either.

I would forget adding more fish for now and aim for stable water with healthy plants - that should set you up for best chance of success when it comes to fish.

I would start keeping a diary of what you do and your parameters. It sounds like you have been trying a lot of different things and that often just creates confusion as you could create an issue trying to fix one.
 
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