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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey,

I've had my [first tank in about 5 years] tank set up for 5 or 6 weeks now and water parameters are now normal. pH about 7.2, nitrogen levels are undetectable, water is relatively soft. I do about 40% water changes every week.

http://www.plantedtank.net/forums/yourtanks.php?do=view&id=1547

Among the first batch of fish I got was 8 Cardinals. Two were lost during cycling, no big deal. A few weeks later, when the cycling was over, I bought six more along with 5 harrisoni Pencils. Everyone was doing fine and normal for about a week, but now the Cardinals and Pencils are really quite skittish and only spend time under the piece of wood or under heavy plant cover. Whenever they cross the middle of the tank, they do so quickly and frantically. They did not behave this way in the past.

Any idea what's up here? Thanks for any help!
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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What size is your tank, and do you have any other fish in there besides Cardinals and Pencils?

I know that both fish tend to prefer dark substrates, and as they are also shy fish, you may need to add another more active fish to act as a dither fish.

Floating plants sometimes help, too.

These are the possibilities that come to mind if water parameter and disease issues are ruled out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
can you see the link i posted? it's got everything mentioned in there. basically, 12 cardinals, 6 otos, 2 clown plecos, 5 pencils, 2 corys, and up to 4 amano shrimp.

gravel is not dark, but i wouldn't call it light either. it's a pretty neutral gray, with the pink flecks of flourite. there isn't a whole lot of plant cover, although one or two of the crypt spiralis is long enough to be reaching the front of the tank across the surface from being planted in the back. the left half of the tank has some shading screen to lower the light for the anubias on that side, so it's a bit darker over there than the right.

disease isn't ENTIRELY ruled out, as 2 or 3 of the cardinals have a single spot of ich each that i noticed yesterday and started treating (quick cure). i'm not convinced that that is the reason, since they've been acting skittish for over a week now, the pencils behave the same way but show no symptoms, and when the first batch of cardinals had worse ich a few weeks ago they didn't act this way, aside from minor flashing.
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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Yes, I saw the link, and IMO that's really light substrate. I don't think it's the source of your issues, though, since you've got ich in the tank. Just because you can't see all the parasites on them doesn't mean the fish aren't feeling them. Most sick fish hide. I think once the fish are better and the plants have filled in more they're more likely to be out and about.

You don't have any dither fish, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'll look into dither fish for the tank. You don't think I'm getting close to the upper end of fish population for a 33gal do you? It seems a bit barren right now because everyone has taken cover, but when they were out it looked rather busy.

I just wonder why they seem more skittish now, even though they are healthier and in better water than at times in the past when they weren't so skittish...

Thanks for the help. It's been so long since I was in this hobby. Some of this stuff is slow to return after years of absence.
 

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High Alpinist, we have pretty much the same fish selection. I have 12 cardinals, 10 brown pencils, 1 trifasciatus pencil, 1 tiny blue diamond discus, 3 cory's and 1 amano shrimp in my 20 gallon. My fish are all over the aquarium and hardly hide. When they see me, they usually come out (they're thinking food). I do have eco-complete black substrate but I know the substrate thing does not matter. I'v used regular fluorite before and basic light brown aquarium gravel with cardinals and they all seem to do ok. I looked at your pic and have to say nice setup. In my opinion I don't think you have enough plant density. The open water areas make them feel skiddish and unprotected. With heavy cover they feel more safe. But at the same time I have seen them swim around in lightly planted tanks. I know when I put a school of cardinals in a 75 gallon with hardly any plants they schooled up real closely and stayed together. There was no real aggressor in the tank either. Also what is your tank water temperature? Mine is around 80-81 degrees. Maybe your water is on the low end of there likings? Try 78-80 degrees see if that helps?

I dunno it could be the sick thing to, they will settle down and not be as active when not feeling good.

Here is pic of my tank, its decently planted, but only been running a month now. Plants are still filling in etc. Cloudy water because I just did a WC/dosed ferts. I just feel the tiny schooling fish's seem to do better in dense planted tanks, or species only planted tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
thanks, yeah i know it's a bit sparsely planted at the moment. trying to space out the expenditures at the moment. the plants all seem to be responding well and sprouting after the few weeks they've been in there, but i am planning on putting some more in. a couple more spiralis to finish a curtain in the back, more microsword for a carpet, spread out the java fern that is sprouting from one of the leaves, etc.

temperature hovers around 80-81 or so.

we'll get rid of this bit of ich and see if they calm down. i'd also like to get some frozen brine shrimp, which will be easier and tastier for the pencils. at the moment, they get flake, granule, and occasional blood worms (which are mostly too big for the pencils anyway).
 

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oh yea my pencils love the brine shrimp. I usually thaw some out and mix some flake with it and shoot them together in the water. The bigger cardinals like the brine shrimp too. The smaller ones have a tuff time with it.

nice sig by the way, we currently have and have kept some of those species our self. I would love to do a planted predator tank, with leaf fish, exodons, a few specific other species that won't barge through plants to much, like smaller red tail cats/arrowana's/ peacock bass etc. Good luck with your tank though, Im sure it's just a little phase. Another thing I thought about was, is there a lot of activity outside the aquarium? People walking by constantly?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
"Another thing I thought about was, is there a lot of activity outside the aquarium? People walking by constantly?"

You know, I was thinking about that. The tank is downstairs on a metal frame on laminate flooring (with furniture coasters under it). The room is a playroom for the kids, although they're not down there for the majority of the day and otherwise it's rather people-barren. They don't really bump into the tank directly when they are down there, but their little heels can be mini-jackhammers on the floor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Just thought I'd throw an update up here.

I've added 5 Head and Taillight tetras as a dither fish (hopefully), and also some temporary plastic plants to float for shade and cover. It didn't take long for the H+T's to be befriended by the Pencils, and now everyone likes to come out quite frequently. These two approaches seem to have worked.

I'm still getting over the ich, though. Started turning up the temperature a bit today, and also bumped the formalin/malachite treatment up from about 50% to 60% of full dosage daily.
 
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