The Planted Tank Forum banner

how to tell when Ember tetras are dying from old age?

7102 Views 8 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Hardstuff
I bought 5 Ember tetras at my LFS. They were full size when I bought them 18 months ago. They were doing really well until 3 months ago. 1 died & could not find the body. They are in a 10 gallon with many plants. I have been doing 50% water changes & run pressurized CO2. The 4 remaining fish will school & behave normally but not as much as they use to. They stay apart 90% of the time . Their fins look normal & their color looks normal. They do not breath heavy nor any scratching of any kind. I am perplexed. I am thinking maybe they could be 3 or 4 year old fish & maybe they are slowly dying like a human. They spit out larger flake food & sometimes only eat tiny crushed flakes . The only food they are taking are baby brine shrimp.

NO3 is holding steady at 5ppm's. NH3 is 0, & NO2 from API reads 0. The canister filter is cleaned every month. I reduced the lighting by 50% to keep the glare down for them. They do put on some weight if fed heavily on BBS only. The crushed flake food is not sustaining them. I have tried 3 different kinds. The baby brine shrimp is a PITA all the time.

Has anybody else experienced this with fish as they age before they die??? My money is on they are simply dying off, meaning they are old. But I would appreciate advice from experienced tetra owners. I am pretty sure they do not have disease as I have mentioned they look healthy although their eyes did not look right for awhile so I stepped up w/c's I tried to feed more often rather than treat with meds since the disease charts always went in circles. I went natural & they do seem to have improved a little but feel they are on the way out. I would appreciate experiences from others. What do you think if you have experience with fish dying of old age or disease before? Thanks
See less See more
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
I never had the ember species, but others. You haven't changed anything, other than for the better, or added new fish. I applaud you going the extra and feeding the brine shrimp; not many people will go those lengths for pet fish. They are coming to the end of their lifespan. I noticed cloudy eyes before they go-not totally clouded or popeye, just "off".
Also, not as spry, and a bit gargoyle-y look going on. One by one, they slowly pass, without much event, or deterioration.

I had one old timer neon (3 1/2 years old, don't know how old when I got it) that was the sole survivor. I added a new group and it mingled in and lived another 4 months before it, too, crossed the bridge.

Thanks Art by Stef. I guess it seems a little silly, but I put a lot of effort into keeping them happy. I also have learned another lesson. 10 gallons IMO is the bare minimum for even a small group of fish , especially planted tanks. I always felt a little guilty after awhile , even intended to move them to a larger tank. But I do agree with what you have said. It is something we all face with our fish if we are lucky enough. I guess in a way if the fish pass naturally we did our best. Funny there is little mentioned on the internet on fish dying of natural causes. Only disease not natural. I wonder how many fish had to indoor meds in their final days? Thanks again, I do feel better. Good luck with your current fish. I have others that I am enjoying as well.
Thanks Noahma. I agree . They pick at the crushed flake food & even go to the surface to feed a little but the intensity is not there anymore. I also messed up my last batch of Baby brine shrimp, so they will have to wait a little longer for a more sustaining meal. In my opinion , live food especially fed during their last 10% of time can extent their quality of life better. Not to say they should not be fed the stuff semi regularly but you know what I mean. It is interesting & another learning experience caring for aging fish. Like said before, if they are not cared for correctly when they are oldish they can die much faster if a different course of action is not implemented.

And yes , I started with a small group of 5 that did well for a long time until one went missing. But that fish started using cover more & not coming out to feed, or feeding late behind the others. I now have another one using cover a lot more so he or she will be next.

Just posting this stuff to help others so they do not pull their hair out trying to figure what is wrong. This is something we usually do not discuss since some decide to medicate & others do not know what is really going on. It is a little painful to slowly watch their quality of life go away but it is natural & people that keep their fish long enough will experience this in some form or another.

I hope this helps others as well. Thanks
See less See more
I'm glad you brought this topic up, Hardstuff.
More personable fish, like a betta, you can tell immediately when something is wrong, they really don't age as gracefully as a schooling fish, or the carbon copy fish like albino cories. Seems they have a couple "bad" days before they check out.

When you find a dead OLD fish from an established AGING school with no apparent cause, people are quick to pull out the medications and QT and such.

Older fish appreciate more plants to lounge on, and easier foods to eat. I see it with my aging guppies. I have one day during the week where it's shelled pea day (microwaved and minced for the old timers), followed by fast or "flush out" day (the day after is best time to do water changes), and one day they get live blend of microworms, decap brine shrimp eggs, and whatever is in season, like skeeter larva. Rest of the time is high quality flake, unless I'm raising fry.(I make a special stew for fry) This seems to cover all the bases.

Bottom feeders, I add something "mushy" as they age. (like blanched zucchini) Too much work on their old barbels gumming a sinking pellet and staking a claim :)

See less See more
I did not realize fish eat decap brine shrimp eggs. Are they the eggs that the shrimp already hatched out of or eggs that have not hatched yet? Sounds difficult to tell apart. Is there a way of separating the 2? Maybe you can purchase the eggs like that?

I was also wondering what is the best way to obtain a micro worm culture & do SAE's eat them as well. They are omnivore's , so you would think they would eat them. I would think they are high in fat & protein.

I would imagine as you stated that each species may age differently & go down hill at different time tables. Some faster than others & making the association between disease & natural causes almost overlap even though disease in part does happen as humans & fish a like begin to break down . Aging probably makes organisms more likely to develop disease as well.
See less See more
Fish can live a long time, I think it might be the genes of the fish. I had an 6 year old Black neon tetra, finally died when I forgot to add water dechlorinator after a tank swap.
Genes I am sure do play a big part as well. I did check out a a survey on how long cardinals live, & it seems like most folks keep them going for about 3 years on average considering many are wild caught & are probably at least a year or 2 before you get them. One guy said he had hundreds in a big tank for 11 years. I personally find that hard to believe. 4-6 years for most small tetras are the average from my readings. Embers may be wild caught in some cases so I could be at that magic 4 year mark.

Yes I notice the colors starting to fade a little. I am also wondering if the seachem excel shortens their life span as well. When I dosed the recommended amount they did not like the stuff at all. They seemed off a bit. The colors darkened on them, & their eyes seemed to change a little so I reduced the amount & eventually stopped dosing period about 4 months ago. I am using the stuff in my big tank but plan on going to pressurized soon & stopping excel altogether. I am sure their are folks that love the stuff but I am not one of them. I feel the least chemicals we put in our tanks the better it is for our fish.

My Embers are taking the baby brine shrimp & eating more crushed flake food now. They are schooling a little more now as well. I am also upping the trace since I mix r/o water. Making sure the Gh & Kh stays tight. All in all They all will probably not make the Fall , but who knows. This is a constant learning experience that never seems to end. Maybe thats why I like the hobby so much.
See less See more
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.