The Planted Tank Forum banner

Killing RCS

593 18
I have a small (~5 gallon) newly set up Walstad aquarium. It seems awfully happy, but I can't seem to not kill shrimp. It's been set up for a week and a half, and is fully cycled. I've got a ton of plants and a handful of snails (MTS, bladder, and a single nerite). Additionally, I'm raising a billion little bacteria in a mat on some driftwood, more billions of diatoms on everything, and there are a number of other little critters (detritus worms, rhabdocoela, copepods, etc.). I did a full battery of chemistry tests a few days ago and the results were as follows:

pH - 7.5
TDS - 403
GH - 12°
Temp - 76°
Ammonia - 0
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - 0
Copper - 0

Water is remineralized RO. I discovered early on (after killing a nerite) that my tap water comes with bonus copper; not much, but apparently enough. Currently tests at 0. Substrate is potting soil and fine gravel with some crushed coral. Lights are on 6/4/6/8 hours (4 hour siesta per Walstad's book).

My intent is to add a handful of shrimp, but I'm still fairly new to this, and thought it wise to have a trial run with a "test shrimp". I picked up a single RCS at the LFS. Turned out to be a berried female. The LFS person told me to acclimate via 10 minutes temperature acclimation bag float, then add some water and wait ten more minutes, add more water and wait 10 more minutes, then net the shrimp into the tank. The shrimp swum around quite a bit, and would "hitch" like it was recoiling after having run into something. It settled down after a day or so, then died the next morning almost immediately after the lights came on (between my first and second cups of tea) sitting on the bottom of the tank and sorta just tipped over onto its side.

The second RCS I got from a different source, and acclimated it much slower over the course of about an hour. I don't have a drip acclimating setup, but I do have a 5mL children's oral medicine syringe (never used for medicine) that I used to add 5mL at a time, and slowly ramping up the volume. It never really did the hitching thing, and mostly hung out up in the roots of the floating plants. I never saw either grazing. The second one died this afternoon toward the end of the siesta, also sitting on the bottom, but didn't tip over until I poked it with my aquascaping tweezers (I'm sure they have a better name than that).

Given the prevalence of copepods darting around, and the happiness and health of the snails (and now baby snails), plus the test results, I have to feel that my water is in pretty good shape. I've got multiple types of biomat, tons of diatoms, and each shrimp even had access to (but never touched) a blanched lettuce leaf, so they shouldn't be wanting for food. I have no idea how I'm killing these shrimp. Please help!
Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 19 of 19 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
What makes you so sure the tanks is cycled in a week and a half? Did you add any source of ammonia? What type of potting soil did you use? I've heard people have issues with fertilizer or other chemicals leaching out of the soil. Did you test the water after the shrimp died? It's hard to say what exactly is causing your issues but it's typically not recommended to add shrimp to a 1.5 week old tank, my guess it's simply not enough time for the tank to cycle and grow enough bacteria/algae for the shrimp to thrive.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The potting soil is a mix from my garden I made up from bulk materials. It's sphagnum moss, organic compost, and perlite/vermiculite. It's been fertilized very lightly over the years with organic fish emulsion and other organic fertilizers. After some snails died, I tested and found copper. I switched to remineralized RO, and have had no copper since. Not sure what else I'd be looking for.

When I first set it up, I let the potting soil sit in a bucket of water for a few days to start cycling with the bacteria laden soil and float off anything floaty, then set it up and tested it after a few days. It registered some nitrate initially, and then has been zeros since.

The plants have had plenty of melt off (source of ammonia), and new growth is readily apparent on all but the slowest growers. There's snail poop everywhere, as they've had no shortage of food.

The test results I enumerated above was between shrimp. I haven't tested since the second died a few hours ago, but the numbers have been very stable.

The place is littered to the point of ugly with diatoms, and the driftwood is starting to lose its biomat fluff, but there's still plenty to eat. As a precaution, I gave them each a leaf of blanched lettuce, but neither showed any interest in it. There was some surface biofilm, but the bladder snails have caught up with it and it's gone. Water looks pretty clear, but it's tough to tell for sure through the diatoms on the glass. They shouldn't be wanting for quantity or variety. The snails and micro-critters eat a lot of the same stuff, and they all seem super happy.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Nitrates yes early on. Ammonia no. Part of the point of the soil is that it comes pre-loaded with bacteria rather than having to build a population from scratch. In my case, it's been in a wicking bed (water reservoir below the soil) for three or four years. Sort of a semi-aquatic environment. As I understand it, the bacterial population has had plenty of time (years in this particular case) to kick off and really hit the ground running. That the simultaneous melt off of a ton of plants all at once didn't even show up as a blip seems to confirm this.

I had my water tested at a LFS when I first discovered my copper problem. Their results matched mine.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
I was editing my previous post while you posted that, so some of this will be duplicated.

I verified my test results against tests performed by LFS, and 100% alignment. My water supply (since discovering copper in my tap water) is distilled with bottled RO remineralizer and pH adjustment. For a while there, I was testing daily for ammonia (and everything else). Never saw any. Neither did LFS for confirmation. I'm not testing daily at the moment as it's been rock steady and nothing is changing.

I'm fairly certain the plants melting from the transplant, as well as snail poop and the fading of the bacterial mat on the drift wood would all be sources of ammonia. For nothing to have shown up in any tests suggests the nitrifying bacteria are doing their thing at a rate that is capable of keeping up with the inputs.

From what I can tell, a tank is considered cycled when it registers 0 ammonia, 0 nitrates, and some nitrates. As heavily planted as the tank is, it's no surprise nitrates are also 0 as the plants are looking for all the nitrogen they can get. I've got lots of growth, and the diatoms suggest there's a bit more than the plants are able to fully utilize, but not so much as to get other, hungrier forms of algae. At least, this is what I believe to be the case. I can always be convinced otherwise, or I wouldn't be here.

Let's say it's not cycled though. What about that would be killing the shrimp? If ammonia/nitrite/nitrate are all 0, what about the rest of it would be killing shrimp in 2 days?
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
534 Posts
I am not in any way trying to be rude or arrogant, as my previous posts may suggest. I am no scholar.
I am not sure what exactly is causing your shrimp to perish. Based on the term your tank has been established, the soil you used as a substrate, and the overall sensitivity of shrimp and changes to the water chemistry, In my opinoin, the addition of shrimp to a 1.5 week old tank is suspect. Furthermore, the fact that a single shrimp is added and perishes could suggest other factors such as, source of shrimp, quarantine, water chemistry of LFS, water chemistry of supplier to LFS. Acclimation could also be suspect. In my opinion, your acclamation procedure seems a bit rushed. The key to success with shrimp, from my experience, is "low and slow." 10% water changes, painfully long acclimation periods, and steady water parameters.
We are also discussing the addition of singular shrimp being added, which could greatly reduce the survival rate based on may variables.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
157 Posts
I've read that copper can get absorbed and held quite easily by soil, dead algae, calcium deposits, etc (see here). There's a possibility that you might need to restart your tank with fresh soil and RO from the start? Your snails are doing OK, so it can't be too bad but RCS are pretty fragile comparatively.
Did a quick search and this thread mentions a product called Seachem Cuprisorb that could help filter it out as well?
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,861 Posts
It's been set up for a week and a half, and is fully cycled.
Your tank is not cycled. This is problem one.

I discovered early on (after killing a nerite) that my tap water comes with bonus copper; not much, but apparently enough.
If copper has been in your tank at any point, it's nearly impossible to remove to make it shrimp-safe. It can be there even years later. Though it doesn't register on your test kit, that doesn't mean concentrations in certain areas of the tank aren't strong enough to kill invertebrates. So that's problem two. You'd need to start over - possibly with a new tank entirely if you can't get that one clean and start over with 100% new substrate, plants, hardscape, etc.

Cuprisorb won't solve the problem, unfortunately.

After some snails died, I tested and found copper. I switched to remineralized RO, and have had no copper since.
As mentioned above, it's likely still in your tank.

When I first set it up, I let the potting soil sit in a bucket of water for a few days to start cycling with the bacteria laden soil and float off anything floaty, then set it up and tested it after a few days. It registered some nitrate initially, and then has been zeros since.
Yep, not cycled.

I would suspect that your tank is still cycling.
It is.

I verified my test results against tests performed by LFS, and 100% alignment.
That doesn't mean your tank is cycled.

My water supply (since discovering copper in my tap water) is distilled with bottled RO remineralizer and pH adjustment.
Using pH buffering products with invertebrates is almost always a death sentence. That's problem three. It's unnecessary to chase pH in a planted tank - especially one with invertebrates - and is more important to focus on hardness and osmotic pressure. Think kH and gH. pH becomes handy when estimating CO2 concentrations and when monitoring conditions for some other shrimp species, though.

...

You'll want to remove any livestock from the tank and actually cycle it. You'll need to add an ammonia source to a fixed concentration (think 2-3PPM) and keep it there every day until the tank can process it all into nitrite and then nitrate in 24 hours or less. Here's a solid post about the fishless cycle. It's not an add an ammonia source once situation and then wait a week or two. You actively have to be involved in the cycling process.

Address the copper issue by starting over or getting a different tank. Then properly cycle it before adding any livestock. If you don't want to start the tank over, then cycle it and make it a fish-only tank.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I didn't perceive any rudeness or arrogance, and I hope none is perceived of me. Nor am I a scholar, but I try to be scholarly, as I'm sure you do as well. This is meant to be a respectful dialog. I know what I have and what I've done to get here. What I don't know is what I'm MISSING.

Maybe I misunderstand "cycling a tank" then. I understand "cycling a tank" to be shorthand for building up a bacterial population that consumes and converts nitrogen compounds from those that are toxic to fish, etc. to those that aren't. My soil came from wicking beds. These are compartmented beds with a water tank covered by a dirt bed separated by a semi-permeable membrane. The water wicks up through the dirt via capillary action, and the dirt stays quite wet. It's full of all sorts of bacteria, including the nitrifying variety. By using this, I had a significant jump start over a glass box with sterile substrate and plastic decor that must start from scratch. To further my lead in that regard, I immersed the soil in water for days prior to setting up the tank to both mechanically sort the floating and sinking parts of the soil, as well as shift the bacterial population to being fully immersed. When I set up the tank, I put the dirt and substrate, decor, and lots of plants in all at once. Typical transplant melting and source of decaying plant matter were left in place as an ammonia source. I kept a close eye on the chemical levels, and everything stayed perfectly in check once the plants got established enough to consume the nitrate. It's been stable and steady since despite changes in the amount of ammonia producing elements. This is part of the point of a Walstad tank. Assuming it isn't cycled, and again assuming "cycled" means capable of regulating nitrogen compounds, whether or not it's cycled can't directly do anything. What about not being cycled would be resulting in dead shrimp? Ammonia/nitrite/nitrate remain consistently 0, so that's not it. If "cycling" is what I think it is, then this isn't my problem. What am I missing here?

As for the copper, the initial amount of copper was enough to show up on a test in a binary sense. Not enough to achieve the lowest mark on the scale (0.1ppm), just enough for the color to change a little. This situation existed for about 24 hours, and was immediately dealt with via 2X 90+% water changes with lightly remineralized RO. Just barely enough to not be distilled, so that it would pull ions rather than deposit them without being too harmful to the plants. After which, copper tests have been zero. That went for a few days, then more significant water changes with fully remineralized RO pre-adjusted to the desired chemistry in terms of hardness and pH. The health, prevalence, and active reproduction of the snails suggests copper levels should be plenty satisfactory. Additionally, the presence, prevalence, and variety of other invertebrates (rhabdocoelae, detritus worms, cyclops, water fleas, and on and on) that should similarly be affected by copper levels supports this. Even if there is some copper locked away in the tank somehow, it would have to be an absolutely infinitesimal amount that can't possibly kill a shrimp with just 48 hours worth of exposure.

What's the deal with the pH buffering? Why is this a death sentence with invertebrates (bearing in mind all the happy and rapidly growing snails, both mature and freshly hatched/extruded, as well as all the micro-critters)?
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,861 Posts
I think it'd be a good idea for you to use the search function here on the forum. It will help you immensely with understanding these issues.

What about not being cycled would be resulting in dead shrimp?
Because waste isn't being processed and tiny concentrations of ammonia are toxic enough to kill Neocaridina shrimp.

Additionally, the presence, prevalence, and variety of other invertebrates (rhabdocoelae, detritus worms, cyclops, water fleas, and on and on) that should similarly be affected by copper levels supports this. Even if there is some copper locked away in the tank somehow, it would have to be an absolutely infinitesimal amount that can't possibly kill a shrimp with just 48 hours worth of exposure.
Those critters are generally more resistant and resilient than Neocaridina. Snails, too. And they also aren't strong enough to break apart particles of potential food and surface film in the tank or to disturb potential areas of settled copper. You could have one tiny area of copper concentration that's strong enough to be deadly to Neocaridina and not be able to pick it up with your test kit (assuming it's capable of detecting small amounts) from another area of the tank.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,284 Posts
There's really never a good reason to put shrimp into a tank that is 10 days old in spite of what test kits indicate, especially one under the Walstad method. The whole idea is that the substrate will generate food for the plants. Meaning these tanks are "dirtier" than a typical aquarium with an inert substrate and water column dosing.

The soil is generating toxins that feed the plants., Now once the tank matures and the plants are doing well, they can take in these toxins pretty quickly and keep the water "clean", but after 10 days? Even if you have a ton of plants that is very unlikely. And any movement of the soil will release toxins (even if they are undetected) and kill shrimp.

Snail survival means very little in terms of water quality in regards to shrimp.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
I searched plenty, here and on the internet at large. The problem there is that having exhausted any ideas for what to search (since I'm pretty sure cycling and copper are not my problems lacking a sufficiently convincing case being made for either), "dead shrimp" doesn't do much good.

The tank not being cycled can not directly kill shrimp, or anything else for that matter. Ammonia or nitrite levels can though. Those have been zero. The timing argument fails as well, as bacteria populations grow on an exponential scale. If you're starting from zero with a sterile tank, sterile substrate, etc, the curve is parallel to the X-axis, and it takes a long time. If that were the case, you might be right about the cycling. Since I started with live soil from a semi-aquatic environment with lots of nutrients, I started on the curve parallel to the Y-axis though, so a few days to go from billions to slightly more billions is perfectly reasonable, and evidence on the ground suggests this is what has occurred.

The snails themselves are also sensitive to copper, but they are mollusks and not crustaceans. The crustacean microfauna are crustaceans though, and seem like a slightly closer analog. The fact that both are sensitive to copper to at least some degree, and not only surviving but thriving and successfully reproducing suggests this is not an issue, or at least a very very minimal one.

Meanwhile, Asteroid may have struck on something here. Nitrogen compounds and bacteria aren't the only things that exist in soil. Lots going on there, and I have no way of knowing where to even begin to figure that out in a practical way. I know shrimp are sensitive to ammonia/nitrite and copper. The usual, but notably absent suspects. Those being accounted for, the problem likely lies in some unusual suspects. I'm sure there are other things they're sensitive to present in your garden variety garden variety soil (see what I did there?). I've got MTSs digging around and having all sorts of fun in the substrate, likely keeping things suspended in the water column.

The ultimate goal here is guppies, shrimp, and snails. The idea was to introduce them in order of bioload to ramp up the rate of introduction of nitrogen sources along with the plants ability to consume them without introducing too much to where I get an algae bloom. Snails being the most minimal, then shrimp, then fish. In the book, it's suggested to go all in at once with the tank setup, plants, and fish. Shrimp were not part of the conversation as I recall... It may be that I need to shuffle my timing around to favor neutralization of unknown soil constituents by toxicity to the animals being introduced over bioload. If I drop guppies in now, give the biome a chance to equilibrate, then introduce the shrimp, it'll give the shrimp a better chance. That will give the plants more to work with from a nutrient perspective up front (and likely algae, which the shrimp were supposed to be present for to help with in advance), as well as give them time to be able to neutralize whatever other unknown nutrients/toxins at a greater rate. Does this sound viable?

The unknown in this strategy is how to know when this unknown problem substance is at whatever level would be acceptable... Only thing I can think of is give the system time to equilibrate to the fish, then try another canary shrimp to see how it does...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
33 Posts
Man, this reminds me of how I entered the hubby.
Watched a couple of Foo the Flower videos on youtube and fell in love with shrimps. Set up a walsted tank thinking it's the ultimate method. had a couple of shrimp live a miserable life for a week and die. Then to a bigger tank and with different soil and exactly the same experience.
You may have more experience than I did but depending on what you want to keep Imo you have these options:
1- You want shrimps:
You can keep trying them in your walsted tank and maybe one day they will survive or
set up a simple tank with a sponge filter and reminerlized water to have a thriving colony.
2- You want healthy plants:
Go with Walsted which is a simple and effective way or
set up a simple tank and with a number of inhabitants keep hardy plants that will thrive.
3- You want guppies:
Just do whatever
they'll survive if the tank is cycled.

I simply can't see any point in using walsted method. Now I have a tank chuck full of Guppie Grass and its bare bottom. There is also a breeding Colony of shrimps in it. There also haven't been any trace algae.
If you ask me, a simple tank with a sponge filter is the best way to go either for shrimps, plants or fishes.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
130 Posts
spectre6000,

You are undoubtedly a smart fella. But you're arguing with some exceptionally smart and experienced aquarists here. It's still obvious you don't understand how to properly cycle a tank. Go look on YouTube or other source since you can't seem to find what you're looking for on the site.

It takes weeks for the billions of bacteria to build up sufficient numbers on ALL surfaces of the tank to process waste. You can have a trillion, but they're not doing a ton of good, yet, if they're all still in the substrate.

Performing tests and determining that your tank has no ammonia is NOT the same as testing your tank several days in succession while dosing ammonia to see if it can PROCESS ammonia.

Dave
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
@teimurijervakani, You may be onto something. I've never directly looked to see if there are any examples of successful Walstad shrimp tanks. I'll have to look into that. I've not really trolled YouTube for shrimp videos yet. The impetus here is that I'm allergic to just about everything, and have a 2 year old in need of a pet and some learning opportunities. I work with water chemistry professionally, and like complex systems like this. Also, I don't want to be doing water changes all the time (I remember hating them when I had an aquarium as a kid). The guppies and shrimp are colorful and active, and can be differentiated enough for her to give them names and such.

Edit: I just confirmed that others are successfully keeping and breeding neocaridinas in Walstad tanks. So this is not my problem directly.

@Mbrman, I see the post counts and moderator status. That doesn't excuse looking past the facts to assumptions made of newbies. The fact is that cycled or not is a dimension removed from the presence or absence of nitrogen compounds. No amount of cycled or uncycled can kill. Some concentration of nitrogen compounds resulting from not being cycled, on the other hand, can. There has not been any amount of any nitrogen compound show up in the tests since somewhere on day 2 despite plentiful sources of ammonia. Nitrogen compound levels can't spike to lethal levels and dissipate to 0 in any tank, cycled or not, over the time spans available here. Healthy to dead to healthy in under 48 hours with no change in bioload?

@somewhatshocked, I will always readily admit ignorance when there is ignorance to be admitted. Similarly, I'll hold my point in a debate when it's valid. I am no aquarium professional, but I'm not stupid either. I know that I don't know much about shrimp or aquariums, but the facts are the facts. Nitrogen compound 0s across the board, cycled or uncycled, can't kill. Cycling is all about the nitrogen cycle, and even if there was no nitrifying bacteria present at all, there's no nitrogen compounds at the end of the day to do any damage. The cycling suggestion simply doesn't hold water. If there's something to cycling a tank that has anything to do with anything outside of the nitrogen cycle, I'll admit that I'm not aware of it. Please enlighten me.

I don't buy the copper absolutism either. A copper atom in the room an aquarium in isn't going to kill everything and necessitate buying a new house if one ever wishes to keep fish again. A kilo of copper shavings dumped into an aquarium will likely do so in a hurry. As with nearly everything in life, there's a spectrum. Plenty of shrimp have survived minute amounts of copper temporarily in contact with some element of their aquarium in the past. Longer than 48 hours for sure. Shrimp may not exist in the wild adjacent copper mine runoff, but copper is in every water source and supply in trace amounts unless it's intentionally removed. I'm highly confident this is not a copper issue.

The dead shrimp is still in there (expensive source of ammonia for now), and less than 24 hours later is swelling (carapace seems to be separating laterally at the beginning of the tail) with some white spots or something forming (bacteria). I've never seen or timed a shrimp breaking down, but I think I'm well on my way to gaining that experience. The rapidity here suggests any pico critters are no longer contained in the substrate. Regardless, the small volume (4 gallons of liquid water) would be expected to show some amount of nitrogen compounds from this in short order would show nitrogen compounds pretty quickly. 24 hours may not be enough for anything substantial, but here are the test results from an hour ago:

Temperature - 76°
pH - 7.5
TDS - 453 ppm
°GH - 12.8
°KH - 7.25
Ammonia - 0 ppm
Nitrite - 0 ppm
Nitrate - 0 ppm
Copper - 0 ppm

Everything on paper is perfect for neocaridina shrimp. I think that's about everything that's typically measured, and possibly then some. Something is not on paper though...
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
17,861 Posts
Playing games of semantics and insulting others is not permitted.

Thread closed. Don't start another like this.

Reminder: Attempting to insult the moderation team after they shut down your thread is a quick way to find yourself removed from the forum. We're discussing planted tanks here. It's not life or death. Check yourself before jumping down someone's throat, folks. There's literally no reason for it here. It takes two seconds.
 
1 - 19 of 19 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top