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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm still a beginner for fish keeping had a few questions.

Those of you that live in the South Denver area do we have hard water? Meaning really high pH levels? If so, what do you guys do to keep the pH levels lower to keep those specific types of fish? I never really focused too much on pH balance and noticed I've been having some casualties over time.

I'm just trying to figure out if any fish can be kept with the type of water we have without having to alter or spend more time and money into the tank water conditions. If I need to switch fish types I wouldn't mind doing so.
 

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If you have hard water, the chances of you having a high carbonate hardness is also high. The hardness for water, in the hobby, is measured using gH and kH. These are the General Hardness (gH) and Carbonate Hardness (kH). I'd take a second to read this as it has really good information on hardness: Water Hardness

API offers these little test strips where you can get a very good idea of where your levels sit. I'd recommend that: Welcome to API Fishcare: GH & KH TEST KIT
Or you can call your local water company and they'll tell you. That's what I do. Free and accurate.

I have no idea about your water but based on the area, I'd guess you have hard water (mountains). It's also probably quite alkaline which makes it harder to change your pH level because you'll have a big buffer. I'd wait on test results or an answer from a local about what kind of water you have before moving forward.

If you do have high carbonate hardness, it's not worth adding stuff to the water. That link I copied has some methods and others exist out there, but I wouldn't go buy any pH lowering chemicals. You'll lower your pH and then it'll spike back up. Then you'll do it again and again until it crashes the system. I don't think it's worth it. Other methods of lowering the kH and gH will work, however. An example would be to dilute your water with R.O. water or something. Lots of ways.

There are a lot of fish who have been captive bred to adapt to these conditions. You could always look for fish sources who breed and keep them in similar waters you do. That or change your water. Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If you have hard water, the chances of you having a high carbonate hardness is also high. The hardness for water, in the hobby, is measured using gH and kH. These are the General Hardness (gH) and Carbonate Hardness (kH). I'd take a second to read this as it has really good information on hardness: Water Hardness

API offers these little test strips where you can get a very good idea of where your levels sit. I'd recommend that: Welcome to API Fishcare: GH & KH TEST KIT
Or you can call your local water company and they'll tell you. That's what I do. Free and accurate.

I have no idea about your water but based on the area, I'd guess you have hard water (mountains). It's also probably quite alkaline which makes it harder to change your pH level because you'll have a big buffer. I'd wait on test results or an answer from a local about what kind of water you have before moving forward.

If you do have high carbonate hardness, it's not worth adding stuff to the water. That link I copied has some methods and others exist out there, but I wouldn't go buy any pH lowering chemicals. You'll lower your pH and then it'll spike back up. Then you'll do it again and again until it crashes the system. I don't think it's worth it. Other methods of lowering the kH and gH will work, however. An example would be to dilute your water with R.O. water or something. Lots of ways.

There are a lot of fish who have been captive bred to adapt to these conditions. You could always look for fish sources who breed and keep them in similar waters you do. That or change your water. Good luck!

That's some good information. So if my kh is too high that can cause issues for the fish as well? I'm wondering if that put shock into my fish when I tried to top off only when I was experimenting on less water changes. I guess I won't know for sure until I get actual test results from the water. I will be getting a test kit here very soon.

Also, I've read around and googled around most fish are tank breed and most LFS are acclimated to the water they have. So I shouldn't have much trouble keeping the fish I already have? Just sucks that my ottos were the first to go. I'm wondering if they just had some disease that I had no real control over. I'll be doing more research and monitor my water levels more often.
 

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I second what Termato said regarding pH. Honestly, unless you're trying to keep something like discus, a high pH is unlikely to be the reason fish are dying. These are the questions I'd start asking to figure out what was happening:

What size tank?
How long has it been set up - i.e. a new tank or an old established one?
What are you stocking with and how many of each?
How long have the fish been in there?
Are there periodic water changes happening?
Has ammonia, nitrite and nitrate been tested recently and if so what were the results?
Did the fish show signs of illness before dying and if so, what were they?
Did anything change before the fish died?

The answers to those will help narrow down whatever's happening. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I second what Termato said regarding pH. Honestly, unless you're trying to keep something like discus, a high pH is unlikely to be the reason fish are dying. These are the questions I'd start asking to figure out what was happening:

What size tank?
How long has it been set up - i.e. a new tank or an old established one?
What are you stocking with and how many of each?
How long have the fish been in there?
Are there periodic water changes happening?
Has ammonia, nitrite and nitrate been tested recently and if so what were the results?
Did the fish show signs of illness before dying and if so, what were they?
Did anything change before the fish died?

The answers to those will help narrow down whatever's happening. :)
I have a 10 gallon tank.
It's been set up for 6 months now. (Including substrate change)
I have 9 pygmy corys, 4 Emerald Danios, 1 Ottos.
Previous stock was 6 pygmy, 5 emerald danios, 4 ottos and 1 honey gourami. 1 pygymy died from stress when first bought. 1 Emerald got stuck in between a hole in a rock. 1 honey gourami died from illness. (Not eating and white stringy poop) Added 4 pygmy cories after the death of HG. After that I went on a weekend trip came back to dead otos x2. Don't know what the cause was, the fish were very active and eating. But I did notice they got really fat. uncomfortably fat. Did a water test and there were no ammonia, nitritres, and nitrate was around 5ppm.
Last night, one otto died. The only behavior I noticed was that it was near the intake filter. Looked weak. The lights went out and instantly died, found it on the other side of the tank where the water current was. Again this one was overly fat as well before it died. Only symptom that I noticed before their death.

I haven't checked the water parameters last night or today I will double check that. I used to do 50% water changes, but I heard that wasn't too ideal, so I switched it to 40% last weekend.
 

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Did their scales look like they were pointed out, too? Could have been dropsy. That's a side effect of a disease/infection they were dealing with.

I've gotten so many otos where they have just died. I haven't had them bloat like that though. They eat well and then boom, dead. It's hard to get a good batch. I've recently started to only get fish from trusted sources (usually from clubs or breeders). I've been having much better luck with those fish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Did their scales look like they were pointed out, too? Could have been dropsy. That's a side effect of a disease/infection they were dealing with.

I've gotten so many otos where they have just died. I haven't had them bloat like that though. They eat well and then boom, dead. It's hard to get a good batch. I've recently started to only get fish from trusted sources (usually from clubs or breeders). I've been having much better luck with those fish.
Honestly I'm not too sure. One thing I noticed is that their scales look dry? Like I can see the definition more? Is that a bad thing or good thing? Honestly I am thinking it was a bad batch now. Because all the other fish seem good. I'll just see how well they do over time and if I start to see them dying off. Kind of sucks because the pygmy Cories always hide and so do the emeralds. Hard to find them or know if they are dead. I'm sure I'll find them when I do some cleaning and move around some rocks.
 

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Planted tank? If so lightly or densely planted?

Otocinclus are a scaleless armored catfish in essence they have bony plates and not scales so they do look different. Also - I personally think it's difficult to figure out if they have dropsy. I have a two year old school in my 29 and when their bellies are full, they do get pretty round. Incidentally, my pH is around 7.8-8 (Boulder water) and they do fine.

Otos are generally a wild caught fish, so they're initially a lot more fragile. This is a fish that should really be purchased from a good LFS or hobbyist as you will get healthier fish less likely to die on you. Once they've adjusted to a healthy tank, though, they're usually not too touchy, though they will react faster than most other fish to problems in the water. Since it seems like your otos had been in the tank for several months with no problems, my guess is that the problem originates with some unusual change in water quality.

Now I've been told by some of the guys that live in S. Denver that their tap water gets ammonia spikes. One guy told me he lost thousands of dollars in fish as a result - I think he was breeding Corys and Ancistrus if I recall correctly. Anyway, with your mentioning of such large water changes, if the tap water had an ammonia spike and you did a large water change... well you see where I'm going with this. You might want to keep your water changes down to 20%, which is standard for most folks. I would also recommend that given this particular issue in the Denver area, it might be a good idea to test your tap water before adding it so you know what's happening and can take appropriate measures if needed.

This also brings me back to the plants. Many plants will actually uptake ammonia directly before it even has a chance to go through the N cycle and become nitrate. As a result, keeping plants in the aquarium can provide some protection with a situation like this, assuming ammonia in the tap water is the cause. Hence my question about whether your tank is densely planted.

You also might want to try coming to one of the Colorado Aquarium Society meetings. You don't have to be a member to attend, and there's a lot of folks there from the S. Denver area who have tremendous knowledge and experience, and they're all pretty friendly and welcoming. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yea I have a planted 10 gallon. I would definitely say that it's densely planted since I first started. I have to trim my ludwigia repens down at least once a week depending on their growth habits. Since I seem to have medium light to high light. I dose 3ml of excel everyday.

I'm wondering if its because I'm seeing some bubbles come up from the substrate? I'm thinking maybe the aqua soil is getting to compact. I do notice some bubbles randomly come up time to time in the tank. Maybe anaerobic gas? But I don't see anything spike up in my test kits when I check the parameters.

Also, about the ammonia spikes. Maybe I am doing too big of water changes, like you state, causing some fluctuation with the chemistry in the water which probably caused the ottos to go in shock. I have checked the tap water and the ammonia levels are very small 0.5 ppm from the last time I checked. And I also dose seachem prime for the amount of the entire tank rather than the amount of water that I am adding to help neutralize any ammonia if necessary, but I don't think that should be an issue either because I have plenty of plants that can use up all that ammonia that gets reintroduced during the water change. My ph levels too are 7.8 possibly higher can't really tell sometimes on the color change on the test kit.

What is your water hardness btw, in Boulder if you don't mind me asking?

Planted tank? If so lightly or densely planted?

Otocinclus are a scaleless armored catfish in essence they have bony plates and not scales so they do look different. Also - I personally think it's difficult to figure out if they have dropsy. I have a two year old school in my 29 and when their bellies are full, they do get pretty round. Incidentally, my pH is around 7.8-8 (Boulder water) and they do fine.

Otos are generally a wild caught fish, so they're initially a lot more fragile. This is a fish that should really be purchased from a good LFS or hobbyist as you will get healthier fish less likely to die on you. Once they've adjusted to a healthy tank, though, they're usually not too touchy, though they will react faster than most other fish to problems in the water. Since it seems like your otos had been in the tank for several months with no problems, my guess is that the problem originates with some unusual change in water quality.

Now I've been told by some of the guys that live in S. Denver that their tap water gets ammonia spikes. One guy told me he lost thousands of dollars in fish as a result - I think he was breeding Corys and Ancistrus if I recall correctly. Anyway, with your mentioning of such large water changes, if the tap water had an ammonia spike and you did a large water change... well you see where I'm going with this. You might want to keep your water changes down to 20%, which is standard for most folks. I would also recommend that given this particular issue in the Denver area, it might be a good idea to test your tap water before adding it so you know what's happening and can take appropriate measures if needed.

This also brings me back to the plants. Many plants will actually uptake ammonia directly before it even has a chance to go through the N cycle and become nitrate. As a result, keeping plants in the aquarium can provide some protection with a situation like this, assuming ammonia in the tap water is the cause. Hence my question about whether your tank is densely planted.

You also might want to try coming to one of the Colorado Aquarium Society meetings. You don't have to be a member to attend, and there's a lot of folks there from the S. Denver area who have tremendous knowledge and experience, and they're all pretty friendly and welcoming. :)
 

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Haven't tested my KH and GH for almost two years, but the last time I did, the values ran around 6-7 and 14-15 respectively.

Given the new info, I think we can throw out the ammonia in the tap water theory. Too bad - would have been convenient. Oh well.

Now some folks report Excel sensitivity with otos, but many (including myself) have used it just fine, and at higher concentrations, with no issues. I sort of don't think that's the problem, but figured I'd mention it, just in case. At the moment, my best guess is that perhaps another contaminant ended up in the tank, and the otos were just sensitive enough to be affected.

Bubbling from the substrate might very well be a sign of anaerobic conditions, but ime, that doesn't usually mess with the water column too much unless you get a sudden release of a large build up of gas. Do you have any crypts in the tank? They can help keep that issue down since they're a deeply rooted plant once established, and that will keep things more oxygenated. Swords are too, but most of them are too big for 10 (I speak from experience lol). Anyway, to alleviate the current situation, you can stick your finger (or a stick) down into the substrate to help release any accumulated gas and get oxygen down there. You can also get your hand down in there and stir up the substrate a bit if it's bad. Do a water change after.
 

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Many cities add ammonia - a small amount helps keep the water in the pipes from becoming foul - ammonia mixed with chlorine forms chloramine --- cities are not always consistent in how much ammonia they add - for many other reasons, such as rainfall lowering pH and/or rainfall washing more chemicals into the water or or or for many other reasons, water can change and checking your tap water & your tank water before every water change is a wise thing to do

When it comes to Otocinclus, as was pointed out above, most are wild caught and can be more fragile because of that plus many wild caught fish have internal parasites with no obvious signs - a 6-8 week quarantine is strongly recommended --- with that said, they can still be a difficult fish to keep, they often will not survive in anything but a mature tank with a constant supply of algae - if you like to keep your tanks clean from algae, they may not survive
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Haven't tested my KH and GH for almost two years, but the last time I did, the values ran around 6-7 and 14-15 respectively.

Given the new info, I think we can throw out the ammonia in the tap water theory. Too bad - would have been convenient. Oh well.

Now some folks report Excel sensitivity with otos, but many (including myself) have used it just fine, and at higher concentrations, with no issues. I sort of don't think that's the problem, but figured I'd mention it, just in case. At the moment, my best guess is that perhaps another contaminant ended up in the tank, and the otos were just sensitive enough to be affected.

Bubbling from the substrate might very well be a sign of anaerobic conditions, but ime, that doesn't usually mess with the water column too much unless you get a sudden release of a large build up of gas. Do you have any crypts in the tank? They can help keep that issue down since they're a deeply rooted plant once established, and that will keep things more oxygenated. Swords are too, but most of them are too big for 10 (I speak from experience lol). Anyway, to alleviate the current situation, you can stick your finger (or a stick) down into the substrate to help release any accumulated gas and get oxygen down there. You can also get your hand down in there and stir up the substrate a bit if it's bad. Do a water change after.
Now that I think about it, I think that it affected them when I topped off the water with the water that was left sitting out. The temperature was okay, but I think since it wasn't straight from the tap it caused a weird swing. But who knows. I have been dosing 3mL of Excel consistently for the past month or so and didn't really notice any symptoms, but I guess I could take that into consideration.

I have 1 Florida Sunset Crypt, and 4 Bronze Crypt Wendtii as well as 2 Amazon Swords. Hoping that it's enough to keep the substrate oxygenated enough.

Bump:
Many cities add ammonia - a small amount helps keep the water in the pipes from becoming foul - ammonia mixed with chlorine forms chloramine --- cities are not always consistent in how much ammonia they add - for many other reasons, such as rainfall lowering pH and/or rainfall washing more chemicals into the water or or or for many other reasons, water can change and checking your tap water & your tank water before every water change is a wise thing to do

When it comes to Otocinclus, as was pointed out above, most are wild caught and can be more fragile because of that plus many wild caught fish have internal parasites with no obvious signs - a 6-8 week quarantine is strongly recommended --- with that said, they can still be a difficult fish to keep, they often will not survive in anything but a mature tank with a constant supply of algae - if you like to keep your tanks clean from algae, they may not survive

I see what you're saying. I only clean the glass as much as I can, but there is some algae leftover. I don't really ever see the otocinclus eating the algae that gets on the glass though. GSA and now starting to see some fuzzy green on there as well. I did drop a couple small pieces of algae wafers and I haven't seen it going for it. I'll probably try to leave a slice of zucchini in the tank for a couple days and see if it will eat it.
 

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My Otos never go for the algae wafers or even zucchini or spinach. They do seem to look canned green beans but mostly they are stuck to the glass. They love the algae. They also spend time on a few of the plants, but don't harm them - gotta be algae that I can't see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
My Otos never go for the algae wafers or even zucchini or spinach. They do seem to look canned green beans but mostly they are stuck to the glass. They love the algae. They also spend time on a few of the plants, but don't harm them - gotta be algae that I can't see.
Yeah, I'm thinking its algae we can't see because they are nice and plump compared to when they were first bought. I'm going to be looking into getting a few more otos to replace the 3 that I lost. Don't want the one to be lonely.
 

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Was the water that was sitting out in an area where an airborn chemical could have gotten in? For example, if the bucket of water was sitting out in the bathroom, and someone used perfume, cleaning products, room freshener or a spray deodorant, then any of those things could have gotten into the water easily. If that happened, it could have been a situation where only a very little was in the water, but it was enough to cause probs with the otos. Another theory at any rate :)

Love the crypts :) They'll def help a lot, though you'll prob still need to poke the substrate from time to time. lol



Now that I think about it, I think that it affected them when I topped off the water with the water that was left sitting out. The temperature was okay, but I think since it wasn't straight from the tap it caused a weird swing. But who knows. I have been dosing 3mL of Excel consistently for the past month or so and didn't really notice any symptoms, but I guess I could take that into consideration.

I have 1 Florida Sunset Crypt, and 4 Bronze Crypt Wendtii as well as 2 Amazon Swords. Hoping that it's enough to keep the substrate oxygenated enough.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Was the water that was sitting out in an area where an airborn chemical could have gotten in? For example, if the bucket of water was sitting out in the bathroom, and someone used perfume, cleaning products, room freshener or a spray deodorant, then any of those things could have gotten into the water easily. If that happened, it could have been a situation where only a very little was in the water, but it was enough to cause probs with the otos. Another theory at any rate :)

Love the crypts :) They'll def help a lot, though you'll prob still need to poke the substrate from time to time. lol

Yeah that's possible. Since it was sitting in my room. But who knows. It's weird how it only affected the otos though. Didn't realize they were that sensitive.

Yeah, I definitely do since I replant some trimmings of my ludwigia repens.
 

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Yep - otos are kind of known for being sensitive. If you decide to get more of them at some point, def get them from a good LFS or hobbyist, since you'll have healthier fish. Also make sure you're not buying them the same day they came in - better to wait and see how healthy the group is. Two years ago when I went to get mine, my LFS had put a hold on selling them since the shipment came in with parasites and they were treating the fish. I went back once treatment was finished, and they've been great - best batch I've ever had. :)

Yeah that's possible. Since it was sitting in my room. But who knows. It's weird how it only affected the otos though. Didn't realize they were that sensitive.

Yeah, I definitely do since I replant some trimmings of my ludwigia repens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Yep - otos are kind of known for being sensitive. If you decide to get more of them at some point, def get them from a good LFS or hobbyist, since you'll have healthier fish. Also make sure you're not buying them the same day they came in - better to wait and see how healthy the group is. Two years ago when I went to get mine, my LFS had put a hold on selling them since the shipment came in with parasites and they were treating the fish. I went back once treatment was finished, and they've been great - best batch I've ever had. :)
I'll definitely keep that in mind when purchasing them. Probably shouldn't be buying from petsmart. The petco that I go to seem more solid.
 
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