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parameters seem OK but algae & fish not great

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We've had a 30 gallon planted tank about 3 years and it has been very stable for quite a while (nice plant growth, healthy fish), thanks in part to great advice I've gotten in these forums in the past! It's low-tech, not CO2-injected.


Here are the current parameters:
Ph 6.8
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 80+ (seems high to me, but it's been fairly stable at that level for the last 10 months and the fish seemed fine)
KH 2
GH 8 or 9 (8.5?)



Recently things seem to be out of balance:
- Growth of algae type 1. It's kind is green and forms long strings, looks like a green cloud where it attaches to plants and wood. I remove as much of it as I can with my water changes (every 1-2 weeks).
- Growth of algae type 2, which from my googling I think is black beard algae.

- Some of our younger endlers look too thin (top to bottom), like they're missing the correct curve of the abdomens.
- Some of our endlers sometimes rest on the bottom substrate for long periods of time. Usually when I notice this I do a water change right away and the behavior stops, but most recently they started to do rest there about 4 days after a water change, which is awfully short.
- Our betta died, the first fish death in over a year. The betta was large when we got him and we've had him about 2.5 years, so he was probably an older fish (I read they live 3-5 years), but it's still a concern.


I just changed our timer so the light will be one fewer hour a day.


In Googling the black beard algae I saw a site that recommended dosing with Seachem Flourish Extra. Do you agree?


What other steps would you recommend I take?
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We've had a 30 gallon planted tank about 3 years and it has been very stable for quite a while (nice plant growth, healthy fish), thanks in part to great advice I've gotten in these forums in the past! It's low-tech, not CO2-injected.


Here are the current parameters:
Ph 6.8
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 80+ (seems high to me, but it's been fairly stable at that level for the last 10 months and the fish seemed fine)
KH 2
GH 8 or 9 (8.5?)



Recently things seem to be out of balance:
- Growth of algae type 1. It's kind is green and forms long strings, looks like a green cloud where it attaches to plants and wood. I remove as much of it as I can with my water changes (every 1-2 weeks).
- Growth of algae type 2, which from my googling I think is black beard algae.

- Some of our younger endlers look too thin (top to bottom), like they're missing the correct curve of the abdomens.
- Some of our endlers sometimes rest on the bottom substrate for long periods of time. Usually when I notice this I do a water change right away and the behavior stops, but most recently they started to do rest there about 4 days after a water change, which is awfully short.
- Our betta died, the first fish death in over a year. The betta was large when we got him and we've had him about 2.5 years, so he was probably an older fish (I read they live 3-5 years), but it's still a concern.


I just changed our timer so the light will be one fewer hour a day.


In Googling the black beard algae I saw a site that recommended dosing with Seachem Flourish Extra. Do you agree?


What other steps would you recommend I take?
High nitrates do not kill fish- but, they do have the capacity to stress fish over time. This stress, then, can lower immunity and allow pathogens ( bacterial infections such as aeromonas, for example) to get the upper-hand. Some fish are more prone to high nitrates than others.

I would never think of 80 ppm in nitrates as an indicator of a healthy system.

However, I have learned on this forum that, in some situations, a high tech aquarium with high density plantings and fast growing stems-- 80 ppm is not high. That there is a difference between nitrates from dissolved organics and fertilizers.

It doesn't appear that you tank falls into that category, however.





How often do you do water changes? What volume?
How many fish are there in tank? What types?

How often do you clean gravel substrate?

How often to you clean up plant debris?
How often do you maintenance filter?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I do water changes every 1-2 weeks, about 25-30%. I "vacuum" the substrate as part my water change routine (with one of those tubes) -- is there more I should be doing for substrate cleaning? Substrate is white sand over a layer of black stuff that was considered plant substrate -- I forget what it was called.

I clean out plant debris as part of water changes, so every week or two. Overall plants are growing great, seem very happy. We used to have a problem with lots of yellow leaves, but now that's rare.

I also clean out the filter as part of water changes. (I replace gunky stuffing, but for everything else I just swish it in my bucket of aquarium water to remove debris, and put it back in the filter). I swab out the motor piece, clean out the intake tube, make sure it's running well when I start it up again.

Endlers, 6 black skirt tetras, 6 neon tetras, 3 cory catfish, 3 shrimp. There are more endlers in the tank at the moment than there should be because our usual systems for re-homing as they have babies (our local fish store welcomes them back) has been closed due to coronavirus. We should be able to reduce endler numbers soon.
 

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Okay.
I would work on upping water changes since you are seeing some sick/dying fish.
You will need to lower the nitrate level fairly slowely to not shock the fish. Do 25% water changes every 3 days over a period of time until you get your nitrates under 20ppm.
Consistently keep your nitrate level between 15-30 ppm. This is the best measure to ensure your fish stay healthy.

Have these fish ever been de-wormed?
This issue with your fish could --possibly-- be due to gut worms. The description of small fish, sunken bellies, curved spine. This indicates lack of nourishment. Could be from gut worms or poor nutrition from foods fed. Livebearers produce lots of young, they should be fed daily with high-quality foods. I would also recommend, because you are seeing these types of symptoms, adding a liquid vitamin like Boyd's Vitachem to your feeding routine. You will see a huge difference in the health a vigor of your fish.

I would recommend treating fish with API General Cure, which covers many of the internal worms that fish get in the aquarium ( all but nematodes). I would also use this medication in food with either Seachem Focus or a food-grade gelatin like Knox gelatin to bind the medication to food. These meds are much more effective ingested than dosed in water column.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the detailed advice, @Discusluv! I will get the items you recommend. I have a few followup questions:

For the long-term, what kind of food would you recommend for the livebearers?

Would you make Boyd's Vitachem a standard part of our daily routine, or only while I'm seeing fish with these symptoms?

In your experience, do most supermarkets have Knox gelatin? I just googled and read an article about how to use it to make medicated feed.
 

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Thanks for the detailed advice, @Discusluv! I will get the items you recommend. I have a few followup questions:

For the long-term, what kind of food would you recommend for the livebearers?

Would you make Boyd's Vitachem a standard part of our daily routine, or only while I'm seeing fish with these symptoms?

In your experience, do most supermarkets have Knox gelatin? I just googled and read an article about how to use it to make medicated feed.
Not sure what you are feeding, but- A good quality staple food like New Life Spectrum is a good start. Another very nutritious food for fry and adult guppies are Golden Pearls. I get mine from Brine Shrimp Direct. https://www.brineshrimpdirect.com/original-golden-pearl-diets-active-spheres/


I add some Boyd's Vitachem to frozen food 2-3 times weekly routinely to feed my fish. Bloodworms, brine shrimp, etc... all work real well to add vitamin suppliment.



In my experience most grocery stores do carry Knox gelatin. But, in the time of COVID 19-- one cant be sure what people are buying out. maybe a jump on people canning jellies/jams. Normally, all bigger grocery stores will carry it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I have more questions! ��

It sounds like your advice should help the fish, fingers crossed. Will any of this also help the algae? If not, do you have thoughts on that? Or would you mostly ignore that for now while I try to stabilize the fish?

Is it believable that fish could get parasites/worms when there have been no new plants or fish added to the tank in over a year?

Do you have a favorite online source for supplies like these? I'll call my local independent fish store in the morning. In case they don't have all that you recommended, I just checked Chewy, PetCo, and PetSmart, and none of them have both items you're suggesting I get. Amazon is taking super long to deliver to me these days. Where do you like to buy from online if I can't get it locally?
 

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I buy from Amazon mostly, but I do buy from other sources. Big Al Pets have both the Vitachem and the NLS Optimum Flakes, but not the General Cure. https://www.bigalspets.com/checkout/cart/

You should try to find this ( General Cure) locally, however-- so can treat as soon as possible. You could buy these 2 seperately if cant find them packaged together. The active ingredients are metronidazole (active ingredient in Seachem Metroplex or Hikari Metro) and praziquantel (active ingredient in Hikari Prazipro).

It is possible to have internal parasites in fish for over a year and they not become a problem for along time. Healthy fish can keep these worms/protozoa under control. But, if an environmental stressor occurs, nutritional deficiencies happen- this balance can turn in favor of the parasite. Im not sure that this is what is occurring. It is just a possibility.

Have you ever noticed your fish have white feces?

The algae may subside when you get those nitrates (dissolved organic solids) under control, yes.
I would concentrate on the fish- getting them healthy- before turning to figuring out the cause of the algae. Concentrating on one thing at a time is best.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
OK, thanks for answering my many questions!

I haven't noticed white feces.

I've been feeding API tropical flakes; I also have in the house but haven't fed yet TetraMin flakes (which I grabbed as COVID-19 was hitting and I wanted to be sure I didn't run out of fish food while locked down). I also feed API bottom feeder pellets, and vegetable sticks with calcium & probiotics (locally made brand) for the shrimp. The fish eat the flakes, but are also super enthusiastic about the bottom feeder pellets and the vegetable sticks.

Do you think New Life Spectrum is higher quality food, and why?
 

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Fluval bug bites is some good food to try.

But as suggested above you really need to occasionally add some real meat to their diet. Baby brine shrimp or taking bloodworms and mincing them up with razor blade to small fish size would work. Buy smallest pack you can find so they don’t get old before you use them all up, small packs are also easier to break off small sized chunks.
 

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OK, thanks for answering my many questions!

I haven't noticed white feces.

I've been feeding API tropical flakes; I also have in the house but haven't fed yet TetraMin flakes (which I grabbed as COVID-19 was hitting and I wanted to be sure I didn't run out of fish food while locked down). I also feed API bottom feeder pellets, and vegetable sticks with calcium & probiotics (locally made brand) for the shrimp. The fish eat the flakes, but are also super enthusiastic about the bottom feeder pellets and the vegetable sticks.

Do you think New Life Spectrum is higher quality food, and why?
When you learn to read fish food labels you can understand why fish food companies like NLS provide a superior food. Here is an article on how to do that: http://nlsfishfood.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Nutrition-Article.pdf

Bump:
Baby brine shrimp or taking bloodworms and mincing them up with razor blade to small fish size would work. Buy smallest pack you can find so they don’t get old before you use them all up, small packs are also easier to break off small sized chunks.
Agree. Newly hatched baby brine shrimp is a really great food for fry and adults. I hatch baby brine shrimp daily for my fish and fry.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
@Discusluv Can you tell me your procedure for making a medicated feed for small fish with gelatin, General Cure, and flake food? I don't think my first try was very successful. I made some cubes, put them in the tank, and the fish pecked at them, but I feel like most of it went un-eaten and eventually I pulled it out.
 

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Follow all the good advice, above, regarding the fish. However, I'd like to address the water parameters a little bit. Your nitrates are unusually high, your fish are, at least, severely stressed and you have hair algae appearing. Much seems to be related to the high nitrates ...but why are the nitrates so high? Usually, this is the result of extreme overdosing of nitrogen fertilizer (either plant fertilizers or fish food) and/or organics out of control. Yet, you seem to be cleaning sufficiently. You might try 10-15% w/c's daily for a week to see if nitrates can be controlled better. Also, ammonia seems ok and the pH would keep it in the safer NH4 form for the most part, anyway. Why is your pH at 6.8? Is that typical of your tap water? Your KH might support it, but indicates that pH should be in the 7.3 area - another possible indicator of organics being high.

I would certainly want to know why my NO3 was so high. I think that, once you find out why it is, you will solve a lot of your problems and I'm guessing there is an organic build-up with which even your water changes aren't able to keep up. If all of this is due to organics, you might get some relief by adding Purigen to help reduce them until you figure out why NO3 is so high. In a low tech tank, Purigen, used regularly, is a good addition to your filter. I'm thinking that you might have the beginnings or a stable mild form of "old tank syndrome." Any chance of getting a TDS reading?

Also, do you have good gas exchange (surface rippling)? Ensuring this might help your fish with one of the potential stress areas.

What are the NO3 readings in your tap water?
 
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks, @Deanna!

I tested my tap water last night (I've done so before but figured updated info would be good). Nitrates were 0, Ph was 8.4! I'm pretty sure that's higher than it's been when I've tested in the past. Ph in the tank has been stable at 7.0 for a couple years, so the 6.8 reading was a change since last time I tested. Alas, I don't have a TDS meter

In case either are part of the mystery: I've been dosing with NilocG Aquatics Thrive twice a week (more like 1.5 times a week because I don't always remember) on the advice of folks here a year or so ago -- that has really helped stabilize my plants. But do you think the dose is too high?

I'm also adding Seachem Equilibrium each water change.

I'd say yes, decent surface rippling, from the filter plus an air stone.
@Discusluv The General Cure package recommends removing the filter cartridge during the treatment time. That scares me a little because I can see when I clean it how much productive it is, all the stuff it's sucked up. Do you agree I should have the filter running with nothing in it for a few days?

Also, if I can't get the fish to eat enough of the gelatin feed in my second try (tomorrow), should I go ahead the dose the water next time?

(Deanne, I welcome your thoughts on these questions, too.)
 

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It is actually just any activated carbon (chemical media) that needs to be removed. This is because it will take any medication out of water column. The mechanical ( sponge) and biological media can be left in.
Yes, if the fish refuse to eat food with General Cure, will need to dose in water column per instructions on package.
 

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Thanks, [MENTION=315458]I tested my tap water last night (I've done so before but figured updated info would be good). Nitrates were 0, Ph was 8.4! I'm pretty sure that's higher than it's been when I've tested in the past. Ph in the tank has been stable at 7.0 for a couple years, so the 6.8 reading was a change since last time I tested. Alas, I don't have a TDS meter

In case either are part of the mystery: I've been dosing with NilocG Aquatics Thrive twice a week (more like 1.5 times a week because I don't always remember) on the advice of folks here a year or so ago -- that has really helped stabilize my plants. But do you think the dose is too high?

I'm also adding Seachem Equilibrium each water change.
As I mentioned, I think you have a touch of “old tank syndrome”, which may be why your NO3 is high, your pH is low (for your situation), you are getting algae and your fish are stressed enough to allow disease to appear. You can look OTS up on the web or here on TPT.

The daily 10-15% w/c’s I suggested are to gradually adapt your fish to a return to normalcy. If you have higher ammonia than you think you do, and your pH were to suddenly jump to 8+, you could kill your fish with an ammonia spike, so do this slowly, as per the directions you find.

I don’t know how much Thrive you are dosing, so I can’t say if it’s too much or not. Using this calculator, which many of us do, you can easily set your target doses for everything: https://rotalabutterfly.com/nutrient-calculator.php.

Between the Thrive, the Equilibrium, the tap water and the fish food, along with the somewhat low and infrequent w/c’s, I’m guessing that you have quite a load of dissolved solids in your tank, which contributes to OTS. This is the reason that I wanted to get a TDS reading: to see just how high it might be. TDS meters are cheap and can be a good overall indicator of when to change your water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Hi @Discusluv and @Deanna,

Thanks for all your help a few weeks back! I wanted to send you an update and a followup question.

Since I posted here's what I've done:

- 25% water changes every 3 days. A few hours after my most recent water change, nitrates were down to 15, the lowest they've been in over a year. My plan to to test 3 days from now to see how much they've risen, to see if I can shift to water changes every 4 days and gradually increase from there.

- Switched to NLS food plus Boyd's Vitachem daily.

- Treated with General Cure. Tried twice with a gelatin feed I made (I experimented with two different formulations), but they didn't seem to eat much of it, so I dosed directly into the water 3 more times, always 48 hours apart.

- Cut back the length the tank's light is on by 1 hour.

- Removed some algae manually (removing badly "infected" plant leaves, removing and scrubbing hardware that had a lot of algae).

The algae situation seems much improved. There have been no more fish deaths (just one in the last year, but that's what led me to post in the first place). One fish looked newly sick for a day (also, white poop for the first time!), but seemed to return to normal after the last two doses of General Cure.

However, one of my original concerns is unchanged: Some of our younger endlers look too thin (top to bottom), like they're missing the correct curve of the abdomens. These fish sometimes rest on the bottom substrate for long periods of time.

It seems to me these fish may have been born "deformed" in some way. None have died, but they don't look right or act like the others. They are a small percentage of all the endlers.

I guess maybe the best I can hope for is that now that the fish will be less stressed and healthier, there won't be more babies born like this?
 

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Hi @Discusluv and @Deanna,

Thanks for all your help a few weeks back! I wanted to send you an update and a followup question.

Since I posted here's what I've done:

- 25% water changes every 3 days. A few hours after my most recent water change, nitrates were down to 15, the lowest they've been in over a year. My plan to to test 3 days from now to see how much they've risen, to see if I can shift to water changes every 4 days and gradually increase from there.

- Switched to NLS food plus Boyd's Vitachem daily.

- Treated with General Cure. Tried twice with a gelatin feed I made (I experimented with two different formulations), but they didn't seem to eat much of it, so I dosed directly into the water 3 more times, always 48 hours apart.

- Cut back the length the tank's light is on by 1 hour.

- Removed some algae manually (removing badly "infected" plant leaves, removing and scrubbing hardware that had a lot of algae).

The algae situation seems much improved. There have been no more fish deaths (just one in the last year, but that's what led me to post in the first place). One fish looked newly sick for a day (also, white poop for the first time!), but seemed to return to normal after the last two doses of General Cure.

However, one of my original concerns is unchanged: Some of our younger endlers look too thin (top to bottom), like they're missing the correct curve of the abdomens. These fish sometimes rest on the bottom substrate for long periods of time.

It seems to me these fish may have been born "deformed" in some way. None have died, but they don't look right or act like the others. They are a small percentage of all the endlers.

I guess maybe the best I can hope for is that now that the fish will be less stressed and healthier, there won't be more babies born like this?
Thank you for updating- so many dont and we never know if something worked or not. It will take awhile for those fish that are malnourished due to parasite to begin gaining weight and filling out. So, you should see gradual improvements over the coming weeks.

It could definitely be a lack of nutrients on the mothers part that contributed to the deformities in babies. It could also be a lack of diversity in breeding stock. Also, there are a certain amount of deformities that will naturally occur over time.

You may need to cull the deformed fish out to ensure these deformities aren't carried on to future stock. I know thats hard, but it may be necessary.
 
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