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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Saturday morning shrimp were dead laying all on one side of the tank. The fish that were still alive were at the top of the tank trying to breathe fresh air. Shrimps and tons of ramshorns were all also at the top of the water line.

Here is a picture I took last week after removing the hob. I was amazed at how far it has come in the last few months. I ended up losing my L201, 95% of my shrimp and my oldest sterbai. It was very upsetting to see the carnage in the tank Saturday morning. I was able to save a few shrimp including a few babies, my nerite, three sterbais and my beta. They were rehoused between two other tanks. I had to run down to petsmart to grab some hiding places for the rcs shrimp in my edge 6g. My old beta in there thought dinner was coming early on Saturday. I had to remove my danios and ghost shrimp from my edge 6g and move them downstairs to my spec 5g. Quite an ordeal to figure out how to house everything.

Now to why this happened. I'm hoping for input on this. The tank had been running fine with a 30g hob and a foam filter in the tank. I added a canister a week prior. Come Wednesday I figured that the tank had enough bio and with the sponge going in the tank I could take the purigen and bio media from the hob and move to the canister. I checked my water parameters Friday and they were close to normal. Ammonia was .25ppm which for some reason seems to have been the norm since day one with this tank, Nitrites 1ppm and Nitrates 20ppm which have also been the norm. I needed to add water anyways so I also added so added some API safe start. Enough to treat the tank. Did this kick something off overnight? After rehousing Saturday morning I checked the parametres again. Ammonia .25ppm, Nitrites 3ppm and Nitrates 40ppm. Tank water still clear. Saturday afternoon the tank clouded right up and you could see the cycle.

Did removing the hob cause this? I figured relocating the media to the canister would be fine since I still had the foam filter running. Did the API safestart do something?? What did I do wrong??
 

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Plant Whisperer
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Here is one possibility.

Sudden gasping at the surface and lots of dying shrimp are usually from a lack of oxygen. The hob probably agitated the surface enough to keep the water oxygenated well. When it was removed for the canister this was lost. If you had a high number of fish and shrimp they probably used up all the oxygen and suffocated to death.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The spray bar has the surface moving a little and the foam filter is ran by an airline which puts oxygen into the water. Was that still not enough you think?? They were fine for two days without the hob...
 

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I dont think lack of 02 was the issue. Is it possible a contaminant entered the water like copper? Once those shrimp die I would have expected an ammonia spike? So I guess I would think that copper or something else killed the shrimp then the dead shrimp caused an ammonia spike which then affected the fish. I dont know if this is what happened but maybe it seems logical enough to explore.
 

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Nitrites 1ppm
Nitrites 3ppm
NO2 at 1ppm is toxic level. Gotta do something right away.
NO2 at 3ppm is emergency action (90% water change) required.

Rising nitrite shows the nitrifying bacteria have been partially killed. The ammonia -> Nitrite bacteria are still on the job, maybe something bothered them a bit (based on the trace of ammonia), but they mostly are still busily turning ammonia into nitrite. The ammonia oxidizing organisms breed somewhat faster than the nitrite oxidizing organisms, and are more tolerant of some possible problems, so they would recover a bit faster if something did happen.

Nitrite -> nitrate bacteria are partially gone, proven by the rising NO2 and NO3. Enough survived to keep turning some of the NO2 into NO3, but enough had died to not turn all the NO2 into NO3. These are the slowest growing ones. If something happened to the bio filter, the ammonia oxidizing species take less of a hit, and recover faster. They then produce more NO2 than the compromised population can handle.

Nitrite binds with the fish blood in a way that the blood cannot carry oxygen very well. The technical name for this is methemeglobinemia. (Mammals get it too). The fish basically suffocate, so are found high in the tank trying to get more oxygen, or else weak or dead on the floor of the tank. In this case it seems to have affected the shrimp and snails, too.
https://www.addl.purdue.edu/newsletters/1998/spring/nitrate.shtml

Treatment:
1) Immediate 90% water change, or 2 x 75% water change back to back. Use a dechlor that locks up nitrite (Prime is one). Continue water changes at a frequency and volume to keep the NO2 under 1 ppm.
2) Add salt (NaCl) at the rate of 1 teaspoon per 20 gallons. This is a low level, well tolerated by fish and plants. The chloride interferes with the NO2 crossing the gills, when the NO2 is at lower levels (under 1 ppm). When you do a water change dose the new water at this rate (ie: a 5 gallon water change gets 1/4 tsp salt). When the NO2 no longer shows on the tests stop adding salt and allow regular water changes to get rid of it.
3) Add a source of Nitrospira species of bacteria. These are the Nitrite oxidizing bacteria that this tank is missing. The correct species can be found in Tetra Safe Start, Dr. Tim's One and Only and perhaps a few others. Read the label and do not be mislead by someone saying 'it is just the same'. If it is not labeled Nitrospira do not waste your money.

Viable options:
~Moving livestock to other tanks.
~Sharing filter media with healthy, cycled tanks. (do not remove more than 25% of the media from any one tank, or else the donor tank can start having similar problems).
~Add more plants, faster growing plants, better light, other fertilizers (no nitrogen) to encourage the plants to remove more of the ammonia, which leaves less to be turned into nitrite.
~If you can rehome all the livestock, then you could complete a fishless cycle on this tank to regrow the dead bacteria.

Prevention:
Do any filter operations (cleaning, swapping out old media for new, changing to a new filter) with extreme care to protect the bacteria colonies.
When in doubt add one of the bottled products containing Nitrospira species of bacteria to boost the population.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
So I assume here is what I should have done after adding the canister..

1. Dosed the tank with prime upon adding the new canister, which I use.
2. Used Tetra Safestart, not API.
3. Left the hob on for a month or so before transferring the media from it into the new canister.

Should this maybe have been the approach Diana??

This morning all of the ramshorns still in the tank were cruising around like normal. Not at the top like Saturday morning. At this point since everything alive I wish to keep has been relocated I'll just let the tank do its thing for the next few weeks. I have new filter media coming tomorrow. Matrix and Substrat pro. I'm going to remove the bio balls that came with it and put as much of these in as possible.

Bump:
I dont think lack of 02 was the issue. Is it possible a contaminant entered the water like copper? Once those shrimp die I would have expected an ammonia spike? So I guess I would think that copper or something else killed the shrimp then the dead shrimp caused an ammonia spike which then affected the fish. I dont know if this is what happened but maybe it seems logical enough to explore.
I did try a new food Thursday. Hikari sinking wafers. I looked and they should be free of copper. Nothing else was added other than API quick start.
 

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You can move the established media to the new filter. This will move most of the bacteria. There is not a lot of surface area on the actual box of the old filter, not a lot of bacteria here. Moving the cycled media to the new filter can be done like this:
If it is a cartridge with glued-on floss, cut off the fluff, and put this in the lowest level of the canister. Put the activated carbon or other stuff in a cut-up nylon stocking (they make nice media bags!) If it is loose media like an Aquaclear, sponge, then it is OK to cut up the media (if it needs to be) in whatever way makes it fit the best. Then, as water flows past this fluff it will carry some bacteria into the rest of the filter to colonize the new media.
Obviously, there is some loss if you are cutting the floss off a cartridge, some floss stays stuck to the plastic frame.

Using any of the Nitrospira products is good. You can use some of a bottle, and keep the rest in the fridge, and add with each addition of fish as you restock.

Prime or other dechlor which specifies that it locks up ammonia and nitrite (Prime does this per Seachem, I am not sure if it is on the label, but I think it is. This was a side effect they had not realized, had not aimed for when they created Prime) are good to use in this situation.
Read the label on the Nitrospira product. Some of these specifically say not to use a dechlor within 24 hours of dosing the Nitrospira. Respect the timing on the labels.

Test frequently and be ready to do an immediate water change at the first sign of a problem.

Side note on the trace of ammonia-
I have seen posts from others, and I have seen my own test results showing a low level of ammonia, under .25ppm, within 24 hours of treating with certain dechlor. Prime is often listed. I have several different dechlorination products on hand, and use a lot of Chloramine Buster, but also use Prime (whichever bottle is closest- I have no favorites among these 2 products). My tap water has chloramine, and will test 1 ppm for chlorine and 1 ppm for ammonia.
My understanding is that some dechlor will react with some test methods and show ammonia, even if it is locked up.
The way to get around this is to test more than 24 hours after using dechlor. Ammonia tests then should show a solid zero, no trace of ammonia. Any trace after that 24 hour wait = a problem that needs immediate attention.
 

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I like what @Diana said. I'm curious about something because I would have thought the tank would remain stable with the transferred media. Did you wash or rinse the media before putting it in the canister? I'm paying attention here because I have a 10g shrimp tank that I am going to be moving over to a 20. It just has a sponge and powerhead but I plan on replacing the sponge with a different style. I'm sorry to hear you have lost livestock. I found a single dead shrimp in mine sunday and it always makes me feel bad when that happens.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You can move the established media to the new filter. This will move most of the bacteria. There is not a lot of surface area on the actual box of the old filter, not a lot of bacteria here. Moving the cycled media to the new filter can be done like this:
If it is a cartridge with glued-on floss, cut off the fluff, and put this in the lowest level of the canister. Put the activated carbon or other stuff in a cut-up nylon stocking (they make nice media bags!) If it is loose media like an Aquaclear, sponge, then it is OK to cut up the media (if it needs to be) in whatever way makes it fit the best. Then, as water flows past this fluff it will carry some bacteria into the rest of the filter to colonize the new media.
Obviously, there is some loss if you are cutting the floss off a cartridge, some floss stays stuck to the plastic frame.

Using any of the Nitrospira products is good. You can use some of a bottle, and keep the rest in the fridge, and add with each addition of fish as you restock.

Prime or other dechlor which specifies that it locks up ammonia and nitrite (Prime does this per Seachem, I am not sure if it is on the label, but I think it is. This was a side effect they had not realized, had not aimed for when they created Prime) are good to use in this situation.
Read the label on the Nitrospira product. Some of these specifically say not to use a dechlor within 24 hours of dosing the Nitrospira. Respect the timing on the labels.

Test frequently and be ready to do an immediate water change at the first sign of a problem.

Side note on the trace of ammonia-
I have seen posts from others, and I have seen my own test results showing a low level of ammonia, under .25ppm, within 24 hours of treating with certain dechlor. Prime is often listed. I have several different dechlorination products on hand, and use a lot of Chloramine Buster, but also use Prime (whichever bottle is closest- I have no favorites among these 2 products). My tap water has chloramine, and will test 1 ppm for chlorine and 1 ppm for ammonia.
My understanding is that some dechlor will react with some test methods and show ammonia, even if it is locked up.
The way to get around this is to test more than 24 hours after using dechlor. Ammonia tests then should show a solid zero, no trace of ammonia. Any trace after that 24 hour wait = a problem that needs immediate attention.
I had an Aquaclear so I removed the bag of Purigen and the mesh bag of bio media and placed in the new canister. I didn't move the sponge though. I also assumed that the sponge filter in the tank have to have had a ton of biological growing in it as an added safety measure.
 

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I still preach the bacteria transfer method, although I have never tested for levels.
I don't wait for fish to get sick if I know a tank is cycling, I know it has ammonia, and it will need water changes.
If I want to set up a new filter, I place it in an established tank, and give one or two panes of glass a good wipe down.
Now let the filter do its work and collect al that bacteria from the glass for a day or so. With floss type filters you will see the discolouration.

Do not consider this filter fully colonised, but it is going to have miles more bacteria than a virgin filter or I suspect one does with a bottle of bacteria from the shops.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I like what @Diana said. I'm curious about something because I would have thought the tank would remain stable with the transferred media. Did you wash or rinse the media before putting it in the canister? I'm paying attention here because I have a 10g shrimp tank that I am going to be moving over to a 20. It just has a sponge and powerhead but I plan on replacing the sponge with a different style. I'm sorry to hear you have lost livestock. I found a single dead shrimp in mine sunday and it always makes me feel bad when that happens.
No rinsing at all. It was a quick transfer too. I opened the canister, added the material, closed it back up, primed the lines and had it back up and running.
 

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How long did you have the foam filter in the tank prior to the hob removal? May I ask what the stock list was before the crash?
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
How long did you have the foam filter in the tank prior to the hob removal? May I ask what the stock list was before the crash?
A few weeks on the foam filter. The HOB since day one.

1 - Beta
4 - Sterbai Cory
1 - Nerite
1 - L201 Pleco
20-30 Red Cherry and Fire Shrimp
Too many ramshorns. I remove them constantly.

Beta gets hand fed 5-6 pellets each night
Corys get fed 6 shrimp pellets each night
Not sure what the L201 was eating. I saw him on a shrimp pellet once.
 

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Could it be that adding prime to an established tank could starve some of the existing bacteria?
I use a different product so not familiar with its properties. Many of these products claim to lock up ammonia and nitrates for 48 hours.
 

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I dont know. It seems to me that between the sponge and the canister with seeded media that the tank should have been stable. @Diane do you think a spike caused the shrimp deaths or do you think the spike was a result of the shrimp deaths? Either way as Diane pointed out there was a spike and not enough bio filter to absorb it.
 

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Only a guess:
first I assume you were using the API test kit?
I've NEVER had much luck w/ the Ammonia kit showing zero Ammonia.. always a "tad" green w/ aquarium water..Strips always showed zero..
So to be honest that isn't "the biggest" worry.
Prime will bind it for 24hrs..
BUT the Nitrite test I always found was accurate... sooo
THAT really was your biggest possible problem. You never had enough of the Nitrite-Nitrate bacteria..
and messing w/ it was a big part of the problem. It would have been better to run the canister for a good 2 weeks and not remove anything till nitrites were zero..

Now besides the media swap a few things.. Did you check pH? pre and post?
Did you do anything else like clean the gravel???

Cloudy water was most liekly due to a bacterail bloom. Usually caused by a release nutrients from somewhere..
Heterotrophic bacteria become a problem when their population grows rapidly to feed on high levels of organic materials dissolved in the water column. This sudden heterotrophic bacteria growth is known as a bacterial bloom, causing white cloudy aquarium water. A bacterial bloom consumes large amounts of oxygen from aquarium water, so from the onset of a bacterial bloom make sure the tank gets additional aeration. Also, a bacterial bloom may coincide with rising Ammonia levels, so be sure to routinely check for Ammonia spikes.
In other words a more likely "effect" than a cause.

I'm not ruling out an ammonia spike BUT.. the point is if nitrites go to zero, more than likely ammonia will go to zero..
 
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I didn't touch anything in the tank. I was checking it out last night when I got home and the glass appears to have a coat of something on it, and the water is still cloudy. My new filter media should be here in a couple days. I'm just going to let the tank do its thing after that. The only other thing I could think of is I have crushed a couple snails here and there figuring my catfish would clean them up. I might clean the glass today to see if that does anything.
 

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If you were reading ammonia and nitrite, even at small levels, I would guess you tank was at the absolute brink of what it could processes, and then had a bit more on top of that. (or you would have read 0 for nitrites)

My guess?

The sinking wafers were probably just enough to push the bioload over the top.

I've seen that with wafers, they're a pretty dense food, and if they sit in the tank overnight, will start adding to the bioload.

I think your tank was already just a hair beyond capacity, and the wafers were enough to kick things on the downward spiral of a crash. My 2 cents.
 

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Hi, so sorry to hear about your tank. To me it does sound like you had a problem with your cycle when changing out the filters-that's been well covered by others. Not sure if you know but canister filters can use up oxygen due to bacteria activity/decaying detritus, and do not add oxygen back in the way HOB and sponge do. I think you also had a lack of oxygen due to the filter, it's a very common problem, I would have thought the sponge filter would have covered you, but it seems not enough). Maybe the bacteria in the media you moved over to the canister were also not used to the less oxygen in the canister and some died off as they adjusted causing your tank to start a cycle. In your photo it looks like your spray bar is low in the tank-about half way down-I would move the spray bar up to just below the surface of the water to increase oxygen exchange.
 
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