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FAQs on Freshwater Environmental Disease 6

Related Articles: Environmental Disease, FW Disease Troubleshooting, Freshwater DiseasesChoose Your Weapon: Freshwater Fish Disease Treatment Options by Neale Monks,

Related FAQs: Environmental Disease 1, Environmental Disease 2, Environmental Disease 3, Environmental Disease 4, Environmental Disease 5, Environmental Disease 7, Environmental Disease 8, & Cycling Trouble-Fixing, & Toxic Situations, Popeye/Exophthalmia, Nutritional Disease, Aquarium Maintenance, Establishing Nutrient CyclingAfrican Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease

Bloated Molly/Possible Compatibility Issues... FW env. dis... reading  -- 1/26/08 HI WWM, I've read tons of info on your site over the last few weeks and now have a problem of my own. I'd keep researching but I feel like time is ticking for one of our Mollies. We set up a 55 gal. tank approx. 1 month ago. <Is it cycled?> All of the water parameters are all in ideal range, with 0 nitrites, 0 ammonia, <Were there ever?> neutral pH, hard water, high alkalinity, 82 degrees F. <A bit warm for the livebearers...> No air pump, but we do have the filter that looks like a double waterfall as the water is pumped back into the tank (I wish I knew what it was called, I feel very stupid right now.) <No worries. Your description is useful> I leave it running during water changes in order to allow for aeration of the new/old water for that brief period of time. Not sure if it's at all effective, but I feel like it might be. Is it? <Should be> Should we add an air pump to the setup? <Some redundant circulation, aeration is a very good idea> In the tank we have: 5 Mollies (3 Golden Lyretail, 2 Dalmatian) 6 Guppies 1 Bamboo Shrimp 1 4.5" Elephant Nose <Mmm... you need to do a bit of researching here... the Mollies are brackish animals... some of the livestock "likes" hard/alkaline water, others soft/acidic...> So far we've been doing about 30% water changes and vacuuming gravel weekly... with the exception of 2 days ago when I dropped the entire container of food into the tank and immediately vacuumed it all out and took about %75 of the water with it. <Yikes!> All the water was replaced immediately, all water params were still stable afterwards as I check everyday (I worry a lot.. :). I just did the first filter change today, only changing one of the cartridges in order to keep some of the bacteria the other side was holding onto. <Ah good> Plan to change the other one in about 2 weeks, maybe earlier. <Ditto> We're very very inexperienced in keeping fish, which is why we chose what we were told are very "hardy" species. <Mmmm... I'd be reading... doing independent assessments here. Compatibility is not such an issue with this mix, as the fact that there are different/varying "water types" of freshwater environments on this planet... and the life there not of infinite tolerance/range> In addition, up until now I never questioned our fishes' compatibility just because I felt like I'd researched enough and gotten every employee at the local petstore's opinions on the compatibility of these fish before we purchased any of them. <... Live and. hopefully, learn> So now we've got a problem. Last week I noticed one of our Dalmatian mollies (we used to have 3 of them) was hanging out at the top of the tank and being a lot less active than he had been previously. <... here it comes> Upon closer inspection I discovered a bulging eye, a mouth that was stuck hanging open, and torn fins. Clearly he'd been attacked by another fish, but by who? <Whom? Not necessarily "anyone"> Do you think it was an issue of Molly on Molly violence? <Can only hazard a guess, but likely "simple" environmental disease...> Do you think the Elephant Nose is capable of killing a Molly? <Mmm, not likely> (We expected the EN to be territorial, and he's got 2 great places to hide during the day, but he prefers to swim through them occasionally and spends the rest of his time bullying the fish. He'll calm down occasionally, but usually not for long. We feed him frozen bloodworms, which the Mollies seem to enjoy, so not sure if he's territorial with food? He's like this at all times, not just feeding time.) Anyway, that Molly ended up dying within 2 days of when I noticed his problems. <The others will soon be gone as well> And today I came home to discover another one of the Dalmatian Mollies staying at the top of the tank and being a lot less active than is typical of them. Went up for a closer look and discovered severe bloating in his abdomen, so much so that his scales are already sticking out. I'm certain this developed overnight since I usually watch them when they eat to make sure there's no leftovers left to sink. <...> So I read as many articles as I have time for today about adding aquarium salt for the Mollies (we have a 55 gallon, so for now I'll just add 2 tbsp., enough for 10 gallons.. <Uhhh....> and ease into the recommended amount for all 55 gallons in order to avoid a drastic change.) Every article I've seen says that salt is OK for the Mollies, some say it's OK for guppies, some say it's not. <Is okay for the Poecilia> I haven't seen anything about how well the Elephant Nose and Bamboo Shrimp will tolerate aquarium salt at the rate of 1 tbsp./5 gal. if they will tolerate it at all! <They don't "like it" one bit> So what do I do now? <Mmm, at least two systems if you want to keep these species> At the moment we have nothing set up to isolate the bloated Molly... very very very hopeful that it's not dropsy and will not affect the other fish. I read that it could be constipation and to feed a shelled, frozen pea, but right now he's not at all interested in the regular flake food and doubt that he'd pay a pea second thought. <...> Do you have any suggestions for me? Should I add the salt? Add no salt? Add some, but not as much as recommended? Do any of the species need to separated to stay in freshwater and turn the tank we have no into a brackish tank? I don't know what to do! <Read, decide for yourself... You have two very different, incompatible mixes of "water type" species here... one cooler water...> I'd appreciate any advice you could give me regarding what/how we should handle these issues and thank you for your time! (If you've made it this far, I know I've taken up a good amount of it.) Thanks again! -CM <The "Systems" of all these species are gone over on our site... as are their foods, compatibility... and unlike your LFS, we're not charging you for this information. Lucky you! Bob Fenner>

Re: Bloated Molly/Possible Compatibility Issues   1/28/08 Thanks so much for your quick reply. So should we keep the mollies and guppies together and invest in a new setup geared towards the elephant nose and bamboo shrimp? <Yes. Elephantnoses need very specific aquaria: largish, sand substrate, lots of floating plants, no fish likely to compete for food. Bamboo shrimps should be fine with Elephantnoses.> Also, the Molly ended up dying that same night. We quarantined it that afternoon, treated the water with Melafix (as per the LFS suggestions) and overnight he passed away. <Melafix is not all that good really. It's cheap, which is why it sells well; but it isn't terribly effective, and you're much better off using stuff that's been tested in labs.> We also treated the main tank with melafix in order to get rid of anything else that might be lurking in it. We don't want anyone else to develop anything else. <Doesn't work this way. Think about it: if tea-tree oil really was a medication that got rid of everything nasty, wouldn't doctors and nurses use it for everything? But they don't, because it doesn't. Besides, disease in aquaria is directly related to [a] quarantining and [b] water quality. To keep all your fish healthy, you need to concentrate on these two aspects. The direct parallel is with human health. Is it having a cabinet of drugs that keeps you healthy, or clean water and safe food?> Now the water is cloudy. We added aeration and the EN seems to have calmed down a lot because of it. Do they need water flowing over their gills continuously in order to breathe? <No this isn't how it works. Fish ventilate the gill cavity using muscles, and basically draw water in through the mouth in a way analogous to how we breathe air.> Is that why he would never calm down before? <No.> What can we do about the cloudy water? <Water changes, time, replace the mechanical filtration (usually filter floss) part of your filter.> Is it because of the Melafix? <Unlikely.> The bottle says nothing about it. Or is it because of the aeration? <No.> The removal of the carbon from the filter, maybe? <Carbon serves no particular function in a properly maintained freshwater aquarium, so the lack of it shouldn't matter. In any case, carbon removes dissolved organic materials, the stuff that makes old water yellow and acidic. It has zero effect on silt.> So many questions... so little time. <Hence we tell people to read books first, buy fish second.> Thanks for your help! -CM <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Bloated Molly/Possible Compatibility Issues 1/28/08 So how should we go about treating the water to make sure whatever bacteria gave the first molly dropsy isn't going to affect the remaining 4 mollies and 6 guppies? <Let me make this crystal clear: you can't. The bacteria that cause systemic and Finrot infections in fish are in the aquarium anyway. They're things like Aeromonas spp., which mostly sit around breaking down organic materials. They're the equivalent of E. coli bacteria on your body. In and around your colon, they don't do any harm, and perhaps some good. They only become problematic when they get into the wrong part of your body and, for whatever reason, your immune system can't deal with them. Ditto the Aeromonas bacteria in the aquarium. They become a problem when fish have been damaged (e.g., fin-nipped) and/or exposed to ammonia/nitrite (because this suppresses their immune system). In other words, if your aquarium is stable and the water quality good and the fish all happily swimming about... Finrot and Dropsy don't happen! Simple as that.> I know how important water changes are which is why we've done them at the rate of at least 30% every week since we've gotten the aquarium. In the first email I mentioned the spilled bottle of food in the tank, after which we vacuumed all that we could, taking 70% or so of the water with it, and then replacing all of that water. This was last Thursday, so the water in there now is OK, I'd imagine. PH is fine, temp at 78 now, nitrate and nitrite are at ideal levels, if not climbing slightly over the past few days. <OK, you've lost me here. Nitrate is one thing, and will indeed rise slightly over time. It goes up in between water changes, and then drops down when you dilute the nitrate with a water change. Simple enough. Nitrite is something else though: the filter should be removing it in real time. In a properly run tank, there is zero nitrite, all the time. If you ever detect any, you have a problem -- either overfeeding, under-filtering, or overstocking.> alkalinity is high. Should I be changing the water more often than I already do? <25-50% per week is adequate. The more the better.> Also, two of our mollies are very pregnant, obviously not something we're ready to house. Since we can't keep them, and none of the petstores want them, several people have mentioned adding barbs to the tank. I hate that it's coming down to this, but will the barbs be compatible with the older mollies and guppies (and shrimp and elephant nose until we buy them a new home)? <Depends on the barbs. Not all barbs are good community fish. Puntius tetrazona (sold as Tiger Barbs, Moss Barbs, Albino Barbs, and others) is most certainly not compatible with your fish. It is a notorious fin-nipper, and unless kept in a big group (six or more specimens) tends to be belligerent towards other fish. Puntius pentazona, on the other hand, is a nice little fish. A few barbs live in brackish water, such as Puntius ticto, so could be kept with Mollies and Guppies in a low-end brackish system. Among the other barbs in the trade are subtropical species (Puntius conchonius) and bloody great big barbs (Barbonymus schwanenfeldii), so research the barbs on offer, and act accordingly.> Also, since diseases are directly related to quarantining and water quality, and no new fish had recently been added and the water quality is good (we're new at this, but like I asked before, aren't the water changes we're doing now more than sufficient?) what else could have caused the Molly to get dropsy? <I do get bored saying this, but the problem with Mollies is that they just aren't easy to keep. They are reared in brackish-water ponds on fish farms, and while in theory they can be kept in freshwater (and certainly are freshwater fish in the wild) in freshwater aquaria they just don't seem to do well. The reasons aren't at all clear to me, but genetics may be part of the story: Mollies are hybrid fish, and at least some of their ancestors were brackish water fish. But nitrate-intolerance may be the bigger factor. Unlike most other freshwater fish, Mollies do not tolerate nitrate well. Salt reduces the toxicity of nitrate, so the more saline the water, the less delicate the Mollies become. In brackish water, and especially marine conditions, Mollies are an order of magnitude easier to keep.> What else can we do to prevent it? <Quarantine new stock, choose livestock appropriate to your ambient water chemistry, be critical about your level of experience and choose hardy species first, and more delicate things later on.> Thanks for your time. -CM Also... when I try to research these things I find so many contradictory opinions from different sources. Is there an EXCELLENT book you could recommend to me on keeping a freshwater tropical aquarium? I'm ready to just accept one person's opinion, just want to make sure that the book I buy is written by a reliable source.. and who better to ask for recommendations than WWM? <Ah, there are many, MANY good books. Picking one is difficult. But if there is one book I think every freshwater aquarist should have, that book would be 'The Interpet Manual of Fish Health' by Andrews, Exell, and Carrington. It's bee reprinted many times, and 2nd hand copies are easy to buy cheaply online. Why do I like this book? It isn't about species of fish, but about water quality, water chemistry, diet, disease, and all those things you need to understand if you want to avoid problems. It has got lots of diagrams and pictures, as well as very useful sections that help you diagnose problems and determine the best solutions. The second book -- practically my bible -- is 'Baensch's Aquarium Atlas', possibly the best encyclopaedia of freshwater fish. While there are other (often very good) multi-species guides on the market, this is the one I like the most. Now runs into many volumes, but Volume 1 is the one to start with, and it covers not just fish but also plants, diseases, water chemistry, etc. The 'Fish Health' book is a better and easier read on healthcare and water chemistry topics, but 'Baensch' covers the basics. Both of these books will last you a lifetime. Cheers, Neale.>

Sick Fish? by Rob 1/9/08 Hello Wet Web Media <Hello Rob,> Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I have a newly set up freshwater community aquarium of 10 gallons. <Adequate for Neons, marginally so for Guppies, but too small for Platies. Please understand a 10 gallon tank is very difficult to stock, and one of the worst tanks for beginners to start with. Size matters, and a beginner should always choose a 20 gallon (or larger) aquarium.> The aquarium has been in operation for about a week and contains 3 Platies, 3 Guppies, and originally 5 Neon Tetras (two are left) within the first 3 days or so a white growth started to appear on the Platies sides and fins which could be true fungus but I am unsure. Along with the white growths, red streaks are starting to appear next to the growths. This symptom could be a internal infection but I need a professional answer for this one. <Likely both Finrot and Fungus, which will often occur together in immature tanks with poor water quality (almost certainly the case here). Use a proper combination medication that treats both simultaneously (e.g. Maracyn or eSHa 2000, but NOT Melafix/Pimafix). Also monitor the nitrite level in the tank, as it is ammonia and nitrite that are stressing the fish. If you can detect nitrite above zero, then do a water change. While a tank is immature (that's the first six weeks) it is a good idea to change 25% daily, at least for the first month. Only when the tank is settled down can you relax and do the normal 25-50% water change per week (in a small, difficult to keep aquarium like a 10-gallon system, I'd HEARTILY recommend 50% water changes per week.> Along with the red streaks the Platies gills are becoming red and appear almost non-existent which could also mean a internal infection. <Unlikely an internal infection. Much more like nitrite/ammonia poisoning.> All of these symptoms together could mean that they received these diseases in the pet shop but I am unsure of the origin. <Forget it! Nothing to do with the pet store. These symptoms are 100% typical of too many fish being added to too immature a tank that's receiving too few water changes. Your fault, not the fish shop's.> All of the fish are eating fine and their behavior is the same as I know them by. <While the fish are sick like this, don't feed at all. When the nitrite level is zero, then start adding tiny amounts of food, literally one or two flakes, crumbled.> I added aquarium salt in the time of the set up of the tank and allowed it a few days to normalize before adding fish. <Did you read an aquarium book before starting? Please make an effort to do so. Resting the tank for a few days achieves precisely nothing. Why should it? There's no magic involved here: the bacteria in the filter grow when they receive ammonia from livestock (or an inorganic source). If the tank is empty and just sitting there, there's no ammonia, so the bacteria don't grow. Adding a whole bunch of fish like you did certainly provides the ammonia, but the bacteria population takes weeks to reach full capacity, so until then, the poor fish are swimming about in an ammonia-ridden cess pool! Hence their deaths. This is why when you "mature" an aquarium using fish, you start by adding just one or two small species, and then a couple more a few weeks later, and so on across the next few months. What you've done won't work. In addition, none of your fish need salt. Who told you to add salt? While salt can have therapeutic value under some situations, it isn't something you should add without thinking, and certainly not something that needs to be added on a regular basis. Rather, you should be monitoring water quality and chemistry using those test kits I hope you bought (at least a pH and a nitrite test kit) and acting accordingly.> I have consulted many sources and hope that the Platies sickness can be cured with your consulting. <Ultimately, yes, they can be cured, but depends entirely on whether you're prepared to start keeping your fish properly or not. Your move.> Thank you for your time. <Not a problem, and hope this helps.> Rob <Cheers, Neale.>

Direct Answers re Gas Bubble Disease   1/9/08 Hello and thank you again to Mr. Fenner for your advice on achieving perfect water and then on fish compatibility. <It's actually Neale here at the moment!> Now, a new problem arose and by the articles in the archive I seem to have a bad case of GBD. <Not really a disease but a symptom. Gas Bubble Disease is perhaps most similar to "the Bends" in humans, in that it follows on from problems with the solubility of gases in an aqueous medium. In this case, if aquarium water is super-saturated with oxygen, differences in the chemical composition of the blood inside a fish cause the oxygen to come out of solution where they form bubbles, particularly in the capillaries. The bubbles cause damage to the surrounding tissue, killing the cells, and ultimately allowing secondary infections to set in. There's no cure as such, since it's essential a wound caused by improper conditions. So the best you can do is fix the environment so it doesn't happen again. Very rarely a problem in freshwater tanks, because freshwater holds a lot more oxygen than seawater, so is less likely to become super-saturated. It's also less common for freshwater tanks to be intensively aerated with things like protein skimmers and ozone generators. It is possible for rapidly photosynthesizing plants to super-saturate the water though, but you'd have to have massively powerful lights and incredibly fast-growing plants for this to be at all likely.> First a Corydoras was found dead in our standard rectangular 75g tank with ideal ph, ammonia and nitrate and nitrates all zero, but the Cory was found with no eyes. Then our 10" Bala was dead the next day with red rings around the eyes that seem to protrude. Then suddenly my African Brown Knife with popped looking blisters on the skin and Black Ghostknife with no outward signs also died. Then when we spotted our upside down catfish struggling to swim sideways with a large bubble on his side, I finally found out what this was on your site. <Does indeed sound like GBD, though I'd also check other, more probably, factors such as poisoning. For example, I once made the mistake of putting wood in a tank I'd taken from the garden, without knowing someone had recently sprayed with insecticide. The end result is some fish died and the rest went loopy within an hour of the wood being put in the tank. Poisoning causes a suite of different symptoms depending, presumably, on the fish. But things like inflamed gills and improper swimming ability are among them. Other potential poisons include paint fumes, excess tobacco, and the sorts of things children might pour into an aquarium accidentally/on purpose, such as beverages.> I'm still confused on the difference between GBD and emphysematosis and how exactly to treat this. <No practical difference, and no treatment other than remedial action to remove the causes.> Your seminal article that was a fun read about pond Koi with GBD was actually no direct help for freshwater home emergencies. <GBD is incredibly rare in home aquaria, particularly freshwater aquaria. You need a large pump system, such as that in a Koi pond, plus wide environmental changes, such as day/night temperature swings, to cause the necessary super-saturation of oxygen PLUS the changes in solubility. In the average tank with a poky little filter in a centrally heated home, just isn't going to happen.> Could you please tell me what should one do STEP BY STEP in an emergency situation like this to save the other fish who are likely in pain from the gas pressures? <Review any possible sources of super-saturation, and act accordingly.> As a diver myself, I'm having nightmares about them suffering from the 'bends.' <Broadly similar. Fish can of course adjust the blood chemistry to adapt to changes in the environment, but their ability to react to SUDDEN changes is usually limited.> Clues: We are running two AquaTech 30-60 with each having free falling cascade waterfalls on the surface, four anchored small air stones and two bubble wands across the back. <Quite possibly overkill right here. Switch these devices off, except for the filters, and adjust those so all they do is move water, not create aeration. No aquarium needs aeration; the function of the bubbles is merely to create movement from the bottom of the tank to the top, so the bottom layer of water can receive fresh oxygen. This can be achieved at least as well with a powerhead or filter.> We've always kept the temperature at 80 degrees but lowered it to 78 tonight in the hopes it will help. <Lower temperature = high solubility of gases, so will help. By default, aquaria should be kept at 25C/77F; anything above this should be done only in specific cases where required for breeding or by a particular fish's requirements. Many species, including Neons, Danios, and Corydoras, actually want lower temperatures than even this. Neons for example do best around 23C/73F.> We also removed all the plants we put in the tank two weeks ago and stopped doing 50% weekly water changes due to the fears of winter tap waters having more dangerous gas conditions. <Shouldn't make any difference provided the water is left to warm to at least room temperature first. It's never a good idea to add freezing cold water to a tropical tank.> We vacuumed the gravel 4 times in a period of two weeks with up to 50% water changes when fish began to die -- now I see we might have exacerbated the problem. <Hmm... cleaning the tank shouldn't cause any problems.> Please help, we're desperate. The internet sites I searched only offered definitions, chemistry equations and some high-tech expensive super large canisters to de-gas water for hatcheries. <GBD just isn't a common problem in fish tanks, hence the lack of information. While it is possible this is going on here, perhaps thanks to overzealous aeration, do also consider the alternatives.> Thanks so much for saving their lives - you are really true life heroes, Michelle <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Malawi Cichlid Wipeout! 12/26/07 Happy Holidays! I had a tragedy over the holiday season that I am trying to find an answer to. I had a tank full of Malawi cichlids and all in the same day EVERY single fish in the tank were on the bottom dead except for a few. <Water quality, chemistry, air pollution, or temperature are the only issues likely to kill all the fish at the same time very quickly. Check all and act as required.> I thought maybe it was a water quality issue so I did two fifty percent water changes and put some tiger barbs in. Before I knew it, they were covered in small white spots all throughout the body including eyes. <Likely common whitespot/ick, caused by stress. So whatever was at a lethal level when the Malawians died is now merely at a stress level after the two water changes. Transportation of new livestock can often trigger these sorts of infections too.> What I am trying to understand is why not a single white spot of ich or velvet showed up on any cichlids, they were completely asymptomatic. <Which is why it's a water issue. Things like paint fumes, pesticides, alcohol, etc., can cause the rapid death of lots of fish. Blocked filters, overheating, etc., can also cause sudden and otherwise asymptomatic deaths.> Have you ever heard of African Cichlids being completely resistant to fish parasites/protozoan? <Nope.> Or is it a coincidence and did they die from something else and the barbs happened to get ich? <Coincidence is two fish dying in the same week. All the fish dying at once isn't a coincidence.> Thanks <Cheers, Neale.>

Parrotfish... mis-mix, FW...-12/22/2007 Hi guys, <Shana> I just purchased my 29 gallon aquarium. Based on the information I received at the pet shop, it houses: a male Betta, a tiny red-tail shark, an angel fish, an eel and what looks to be a blood parrotfish (though it is more a coral pink than red). <... "Just" purchased...? Was this system somehow "pre-cycled"? The mix of fishes you list is untenable... Not compatible behaviorally...> I was told all of them should get along fine. <Not so> However, it seems the parrotfish is terrorizing the eel. He has a nip taken out of his tail and the parrot has taken over his "house". Did I make bad tank-mate choices? <Someone did> The fish were chosen for beauty and the eel to satisfy a 7 year old boy's fascination. <More to the world than this...> I haven't seen the parrot bullying anyone else. <You will... or the results thereof> I have seen the Betta take quite an interest in the eel as well, so it may have been him that took the nip, but the parrot is the one that has evicted the eel from his hiding hole. Should I just get a couple more hiding spots so the eel has a place to get or should I consider taking one of them back? <You should read... re the Compatibility, Systems, Feeding of this life, all other life you think you may place together. At least on WWM> The parrot is a beauty, but I don't want a bully. I'm also concerned that I read on your site that they can get up to a foot long? <More like half this in such a small setting> If that is the case, this tank isn't going to hold him long, huh? Lastly, can you recommend any other fish that will go well with this mixture of fish? I would kind of like a bottom feeder or two to help with the gravel vacuuming. :) Thanks for any advice. Shana <Best for you to "take a few steps back" here. Return the Parrot Cichlid for now... read re the rest of the menagerie here... put together a workable assortment... What you have won't work. Bob Fenner>

Parrotfish... mis-mix, FW... 12/22/07 Bob, <Hi Shana, Jeni/Pufferpunk here with you today.> Thank you so much. Holy moly, "won't work" was an understatement, huh? I couldn't have picked a worse mixture if I had tried. <Easily prevented with research beforehand.> Obviously the lady at the pet store was just as clueless as me. <She saw a newbie with a wallet.> The parrotfish and shark are going back today. If I see the Betta having trouble I will but him in a bowl. <Bettas do not belong in bowls. They need at least a 5 gallon tank with a heater. As far as your "pink" parrot fish, please read: http://freshaquarium.about.com/cs/beginnerinfo/a/paintedfish.htm > My remaining questions concern the eel and the angelfish. The eel has been nipped and it is turning white around the area. Will that heal or do I need to do something for him? <For now you could add Melafix, as long as it doesn't look infected. (I'm sure Bob will have something to say about that...)> The owner of the shop I got the fish from (different lady from the one that sold the fish to me in the first place) says that the aquarium salt (1 tbs per 5 gal.) will keep infection at bay. Is this true? <Not necessarily but you could try. I'd start with 1 tbsp/10g & table salt is fine. I wouldn't go spending any more money than you need to at that place.> Also, I read on your site that eels need sand rather than gravel. I have not seen this eel burrow at all, even after being evicted from his hiding spot. From your site, I gather that he is a Mastacembelus armatus. Do you think he will be ok to keep? <Hmmm... if that is the species you have, it grows to quite a large fish, about 3'. There are much smaller species of spiny eels. Mine doesn't seem to have any problems burrowing in small gravel.> I would also like to keep the angel if possible. This is a brand new tank though so I'm a little concerned for his well being. <As well you should be. Please read up thoroughly on cycling a tank before adding any fish. You have two choices: Return all the fish right now & fishless cycle the tank. While it's cycling, you can read up on the species you & your son are interested in; their adult size & recommended tank size or keep the angelfish only, purchase Bio-Spira & add it to your filter, after doing an 80% water change on the tank. Bio-Spira is the ONLY product containing LIVE bacteria. DO NOT LET THE STORE TALK YOU INTO ANY OTHER PRODUCT! None of them are the same as Bio-Spira & all the rest of similar products contain dead bacteria, adding to your bioload.> He has been in the tank for only about 2 days, but seems to be doing fine so far. Opinions on keeping him? <Your tank is a good size for 1 large angelfish (don't worry, it will grow), a couple schools of 2 types of tetras (4-5 each) & about 4 Cory catfish. You could also get one of the smaller species of spiny eels. That would make a lovely tank for you & your son!> Thank you so much, again. Lesson learned: research for myself before purchasing and don't just take the word of a pet shop employee! Yikes! <Sounds like you've got it now. ~PP> Shana

Re: Parrotfish (gone, now trying to fix tank)  12/24/07 Hi all, <Shana> Ok, I can't take the fish back (the weekend plus the holiday) so I need to do my best to fix this as is (loaded). I have not been able to find Bio-Spira yet. I will have to travel to the city to do that. <Unfortunately, it can be a difficult to find product. I'd call around first--save gas $$$.> Just got my testing kit and here is where I am: Nitrate: 20 Nitrite: .5 Hardness: 75 Alkalinity: 300 PH: 8.4 <You need to know what your ammonia level is too. No need really, to test hardness or Alk.> No need to tell me this is all very bad, I know. What I need to know is what % water change to do & how often to correct this asap without shocking my fish worse than they are. <There is never any reason not to do large water changes on your tank, unless it has Old Tank Syndrome, which means there hasn't been a water change done on the tank in a very long time. Since you are dealing with New Tank Syndrome, large water changes are the only thing you can do right now to keep the fish from poisoning themselves with their waste. You must try your best to keep the ammonia & nitrite at 0 (any amount is toxic) & nitrate below 20. I would do 80% daily water changes, until you can return most of those fish. Add Prime to dechlorinate the water, it will detoxify some of the ammonia/nitrite in there. Be sure to try and match the temperature of the water you remove.> Again, my population is: 1 male Betta 1 angel fish 1 eel 1 Pleco 2 fancy guppies (male) 2 Bubble mollies (male) 2 Green Tiger barbs (presumably male) <Where did the parrot go? The tiger barbs will nip at the long fins of the Betta, guppies & angelfish Common Plecos grow to 18".> I know, I know, a heckuva wreck. Thanks again, Shana <Work hard at finding a place that will take those fish. ~PP>

New Community Tank with Issues... FW plethora of errors... mis-mixed stock, uncycled, wood decomp...  -12/14/07 Hi, <Hello> I've written in before about a Green Spotted Puffer. Sadly, the little guy didn't make it. Tank Stats (I know you want 'em): Size: 160L Temp: 75 F pH: 6.7 KH: 4 GH: 4-6 NO2 and NO3 both at 0 My husband and I started a 160-liter tank about five weeks ago. We cycled it for nearly a week, <Mmm, usually more time is needed...> with a piece of driftwood being the only thing in there. Almost right away, the stick was covered in white, goopy fungus. <Nice description... opportunistic (the best kind) decomposers, eh?> We gradually added plants (with snails, Stowaway and Freeloader) and fish, and scouring the stick has become a routine. Every few days, it starts growing the fungus, so we douse it in boiling water and scrape all the dead, stinking gunk off. <Uh... I would not do this... for one due to the cost of energy, for two, because you'll end up with no "stick" in time> Issue 2: We started out with a nice, small school of neon tetras that have stayed strong. A week later, we added four guppies. <Mmm, well... these fish species actually "like" different water conditions... don't have much overlap...> One died the next day, and one the following. Each lost all color and coordination and their tail fins literally fell apart (We were thinking Neon Tetra Disease). <The guppies? No> We went back to the store once we were sure that the remaining guppies were going to make it. We added ten more Neons, a plecostomus (sp?), a firetail, and a lizard-fish <... Can you send a pic, or maybe the scientific name of these last two?> (at least that's what they call it in Swedish). The plecostomus died under the stick, covered with the goop-fungus. The firetail is a bit pale and has started flashing. The lizard-fish is just plain weird, but I think that's just how he is. The troubling bit is that our neon tetras are dying in droves. We lost five in one day, and just lost another. They start the crazy loopy swimming, then just stop, but the latest one also had a few white fungus-goop-looking blobs on him before he died. We're really wondering what to do here. We isolate the sick fish as soon as we see them, but it's still not going well. Thank you! Maria and Ola. <I do wish our resident FW guru Neale Monks was here (he's in transit, visiting in the States)... You have a few issues going here. For one, the driftwood/stick may not be suitable for aquarium use. Please read here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm and the linked FAQs files above... I would leave it out, soaking in water elsewhere, till it stops (or doesn't) decomposing). It may be mal-affecting the water quality, stressing your fishes... Secondly, the mix of species you list is not compatible. I suspect the lizard fish is brackish: Is this it?: http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i3/Dragon_Gobies/Dragon%20Gobies.htm The system is NOT likely cycled... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above... Your water quality? What tests do you have? Please read re the Systems of the life you list... make notes re the water quality... pH, hardness, temperature... of all... Do you start to see the errors here? You need to READ, and stop just jamming life into your system. Bob Fenner> Re: New Community Tank with Issues -12/14/07 Hi, <Hello again> The 'firetail' is actually a Red-tailed Black Shark, and the 'lizardfish' is a Homaloptera cf. zollingeri. <Thank you for this... These should provisionally be fine. The "shark" can be a bit to very "mean" with growth/age... and the Hillstream fish needs high dissolved oxygen...> Tank Stats (using the JBL EasyTest): Size: 160L Temp: 75 F pH: 6.7 KH: 4 GH: 4-6 NO2 and NO3 both at 0 <Good...> We'll be taking the driftwood out, certainly. It seemed like it was for reptiles, but was with the fish things, and the store clerk claimed it was great for tanks. <I see... I think s/he was/is mistaken> I suppose the question now is what to do. We'd also been told that the bacterial cycle we purchased would have it ready quickly. We will check out these articles and others. Do you have any other advice? Maria and Ola <I do think the system is cycled... if you have no nitrite... Did you ever measure any of this or ammonia? BobF>

New Community Tank with Issues... FW plethora of errors... mis-mixed stock, uncycled, wood decomp...  Neale's input  12/15/2007 Hi, <Hej,> I've written in before about a Green Spotted Puffer. Sadly, the little guy didn't make it. Tank Stats (I know you want 'em): Size: 160L Temp: 75 F pH: 6.7 KH: 4 GH: 4-6 NO2 and NO3 both at 0 My husband and I started a 160-liter tank about five weeks ago. We cycled it for nearly a week, with a piece of driftwood being the only thing in there. Almost right away, the stick was covered in white, goopy fungus. <As Bob said, cycling typically takes 6 weeks. During that time, you add either an ammonia source (such as small amounts of rotten seafood) or very hard fish like Danios. The white stuff on your wood is fungus. Very common on bogwood that hasn't been "cured" properly. It's the edible material on the wood being used up by the fungi. Basically decay. Plecs and certain other fish will eat the fungus. It isn't harmful, but it does mean oxygen is being used up and metabolic waste is being dumped in the water.> We gradually added plants (with snails, Stowaway and Freeloader) and fish, and scouring the stick has become a routine. Every few days, it starts growing the fungus, so we douse it in boiling water and scrape all the dead, stinking gunk off. <Assuming it's a smallish bit of wood, I'd just ignore the white stuff. There's nothing you can do to stop it. The white fuzz are fungal hyphae, in particular the reproductive bodies. Scraping the white stuff off does nothing to the fungi in the wood. So it grows back very quickly. You may as well let nature take its course. Wood is best cured outdoors in Mother Nature, but if a low-tech alternative is to stick the wood in the cistern of a toilet. With each flush the wood will be washed, and after 6 months decay should have diminished to invisible levels. It never really goes away, and eventually all wood rots.> Issue 2: We started out with a nice, small school of neon tetras that have stayed strong. A week later, we added four guppies. <As Bob said, not a great combination. Guppies need hard, alkaline water and are extremely sensitive to disease in anything else. You will have better luck keeping them in marine conditions than the soft, acidic water you have! Guppies need pH 7.5-8.0, general hardness 15 degrees dH upwards, and carbonate hardness 8 degrees KH upwards. Guppies also appreciate warmth, at least 24C and ideally around 25-28 C. Neons require different conditions. Neons like soft, acidic water; they hate brackish water; and they despise excessively warm water (22-24C is ideal). So while both could be kept in moderately hard, slightly alkaline water at a medium temperature -- say, pH 7.5, 15-20 degrees dH, 24 degrees C -- it would be optimal for neither, and therefore making them less likely to do well. Your water chemistry is ideal for Neons, and indeed most other tetras, so I'd concentrate on them.> One died the next day, and one the following. Each lost all color and coordination and their tail fins literally fell apart (We were thinking Neon Tetra Disease). <Almost certainly Finrot and/or acidosis. Your water conditions are basically unacceptable for Guppies and most other Livebearers. If the tank is immature, ammonia and nitrite may be poisoning the fish as well. Guppies ARE NOT hardy fish any more. Wild Guppies may be, but fancy Guppies most certainly are not.> We went back to the store once we were sure that the remaining guppies were going to make it. We added ten more Neons, a plecostomus (sp?), a firetail, and a lizard-fish <No idea what a "firetail" or "lizard-fish" is. I wonder if the Lizard Fish is Butis butis, a kind of sleeper goby (family Eleotridae). It is a hardy fish that needs brackish water. It will also do well in marine conditions. Lifespan in freshwater, especially soft/acid freshwater, is not good.> (at least that's what they call it in Swedish). The plecostomus died under the stick, covered with the goop-fungus. The firetail is a bit pale and has started flashing. The lizard-fish is just plain weird, but I think that's just how he is. The troubling bit is that our neon tetras are dying in droves. We lost five in one day, and just lost another. They start the crazy loopy swimming, then just stop, but the latest one also had a few white fungus-goop-looking blobs on him before he died. We're really wondering what to do here. We isolate the sick fish as soon as we see them, but it's still not going well. Thank you! Maria and Ola. <Without knowing specifics, my assumption here is that you have high levels of ammonia and nitrite in the tank. Do not add any more fish until your buy a Nitrite Test Kit. Use it. Once the nitrite levels have gone down to zero, you can SLOWLY add more fish. By slowly, I mean one or two small fish every couple of weeks. If you don't do this, all the fish you add have a high probability of dying. Also read up on the needs of freshwater fish. Unlike marine fish -- which have essentially uniform water chemistry requirements -- freshwater fish come from many different types of environment. Some will do well in soft/acid water -- but others will not. Characins, Corydoras catfish, loaches, and barbs all tend to do well in soft/acid water. Livebearers, many cichlids, Goldfish, some Rainbowfish, and many "oddballs" need hard/alkaline water. Brackish water fish -- like your Green Spotted Puffer -- are different again, and need water that is essentially halfway between freshwater and salt water in salinity. With few exceptions, brackish water fish can't be mixed with freshwater fish, so it's best (normally essential) to keep either one type or the other. Any aquarium book will describe the preferred temperature, pH, hardness, and salinity of a particular fish. Use this as a guide to what fish to add to your aquarium. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: New Community Tank with Issues  12/16/07 Hej, <Ave!> Thank you so much. The nitrites are also at 0, and we have some algae growth as well. We'll need to look for an ammonia test and the high dissolved oxygen. Would that do any harm to the others in the tank? Thanks for all your help! <Zero ammonia and high oxygen concentration will be beneficial to all your livestock. Plants tend to not like strongly aerated water, but that's more because of the loss of CO2 than the oxygen concentration itself. A bigger issue with Homaloptera species is their preference with relatively cool water. Avoid anything above 25C, and aim for 22C. Some tropical fish do better in water at this temperature (Danios, Corydoras, Neons, etc.) but others will not do well and will become prone to disease when kept too cold.> Maria and Ola <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: L-25 Scarlet Pleco feeding, Now: Grounding proves vs. freshwater tanks (RMF feel free to comment)    12/11/07 Neale! <Hello again!> I'm back :) Thank you very much for the great information. Anyhoo, this one is slightly off-topic. I was wondering what was your take on grounding probes? Is there any hard evidence that it is of any use? <No personal experience. Can't do any harm, and they certainly don't cost much. So if you want to use one, go ahead. But I'm sure other things, like water changes and filters, have a much greater impact on overall fish health. In any case, have a read of this brace of replies on the topic for other peoples' comments... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/grdprobeaq.htm I get the impression these are more an issue for marine aquarists.> There are articles out there stating the down sides of using grounding probes, how they create a complete circuit for current to flow, bypass the use of GFCIs in a way, etc... I comprehend their views on this situation, but then there are others out there who states grounding probes are an absolute necessity. Natural bodies of water simply have their own way of handling stray voltage and since they are in direct contact with the earth, there is no issue there, but when we have an enclosed system of water, shouldn't we be providing a path for that voltage to complete itself? <No idea. Doesn't seem a major problem compared with nitrogenous wastes and pH fluctuations in aquaria. Freshwater doesn't hold much charge anyway, at least not compared with brackish/salt water.> Are there any proven evidence of its uses/harms? <Nothing scientific that I'm aware of. There are all sorts of stories about "stray voltage" causing lateral line erosion and all that sort of thing, but whether or not these have been adequately proven is beyond my knowledge. It's the sort of thing that strikes me as being so minor in impact, if it exists at all, that an aquarist's attention is better focused on water quality, water chemistry, diet, and social behaviour first.> Any personal experience from you? <Nope.> I'm asking because I got one a few months ago, but have yet to ever install it. Should I install it just to be "better safe than sorry" or will it just cause more problems? I checked my water with a DMM today and found it at approximately 35 V. Understanding that voltage itself creates no harm until amperage/current is supplied, the idea that a grounding probe might due harm in the event of something shorting out in the tank and creating a circuit path sounds really reasonable to me. <If you haven't needed it thus far, I wouldn't bother. I don't know any aquarists with freshwater tanks who use these things. Marine aquarists seem more interested in them.> Question is does stray voltage causes diseases in fish that the ground probe was designed to rectify? <The evidence that "stray voltage" (whatever that is!) would cause sickness in health may or may not be true, but compared to other factors like water quality its impact is surely very, very small.><<Am in total agreement. RMF>> How do you see it? <No strong feelings either way.> Anyhoo, this time I promise I will "try" to stay out of your hair as much as possible :) Thank you very much. <You're welcome, and good luck, Neale.>

Sick Bolivian Ram... mis-stocked, salt use, env. dis.  12/7/07 Hi - <Hello Laura> I have an 80 gallon FW tank that cycled for 6 weeks prior to adding fish. I added one tablespoon of aquarium salt per gallon of water when I set up the tank <Why? That is, for what purpose?> and continue to add salt at the same rate when I do water changes. <Again, your rationale?> The LFS suggested I try 3 Bolivian Rams, 2 Rubber Nose Plecos, 2 Botia Angelicus, 3 Kribensis, and 3 Neolamprologus Sexfasciatus. <... suggested? Mmm, these fishes "like" quite different water conditions... some soft/acidic, others hard/alkaline... Mmm, maybe see all these species ranges for such posted on Fishbase.org> They told me the fish would be OK together in an 80 gallon tank with plenty of rocks and plants so I created 3 separate groupings of rocks/caves and plants then added all the fish to the tank at the same time. They were doing great the last 3 months until now. <Okay> The female Ram stopped eating 2 weeks ago. She hides in the plants or hovers near the heater, she doesn't seem to be eating and is getting thinner, her feces are thin and pale, looking more like empty casings than anything else. She doesn't swim with the other Rams the way she used to. Also, today her breathing seems to be more labored and I thought I saw some swelling inside her gills. <Mmmm, could be internal parasite issue... perhaps (a smaller likelihood) the water conditions, salt catching up with it metabolically... even psychological reaction to hassling... by the Botias or African Cichlids...> The only other sick fish is one of the Plecos - it has a strange looking spot on it's tail that looks like a chunky ball right on the middle edge of the tail fin. Could that be a fungus? He seems healthy otherwise - swimming and feeding as usual. <Seem WWM re funguses/infectious disease of FW fishes... and of Loricariids... True fungus is rare... very much more likely here is trouble with your water quality... Again, the salt, too hard water...> I'm sure these problems were created by poor water conditions <Oh, I agree> and overfeeding which I have hopefully rectified. I fell behind on water changes and the nitrates spiked to almost 80. I've been doing small water changes every 2 days for the last 10 days. <Mmm, this may be too much... what percentage are you changing out?> Water quality seems to be ok now - nitrites and ammonia are zero, nitrates are down to 15, temp. is 81 degrees F. I will be maintaining the tank with a weekly schedule of small water changes from now on. <Good> Is there anything else I can do to make the Ram healthy again or is it too late? <Never too late as long as the animals are alive...> What do you suggest for the Pleco's tail? <The same as for the Rams...> Should I treat all the fish at the same time in the 80 gallon tank? <Mmm, no> If I need to move the Ram and Pleco to a hospital tank, can they be in the same tank for treatment? Thanks, in advance, for your advice! Laura <Not advice per se... but systematically this is what I would consider: Moving the soft/acidic animals (the Rams and Plecos) into another system, or the hard/alkaline water (the Africans and Botias)... into another system (they're not compatible physically or psychologically)... Next, giving up on salt... See NealeM's input here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/saltusefaqs.htm Reading before taking anyone's advice (mine, ours inclusive)... The mix you have now, salt use are untenable... won't work. Bob Fenner>

Strange fish behaviour... Crowded, too-small FW sys.  12/7/07 Hello !! <Hi there!> I have a 30 litre tank, with a sucking loach, a Cory catfish, <Are social animals...> 5 tetras and an angel fish. <Mmm, the Angel needs more room than this> Lately, I changed the gravel to sand and took out some of the catfish's favourite hiding places, as the tank was too crowded. Since then, he has started to quickly dart around the tank, keeps going to the surface and chases the other fish. He has always been very peaceful and calm, and sits at the bottom of the tank. Now he never stops and is worrying me as he is my favourite! I wondered if it was just because he has no where to hide? <Possibly... though more likely resultant from water chemistry changes> I tested the water, all nitrates, nitrites, PH and ammonia levels are fine. <For what you can, did test for> Also, I have an angel fish that has been swimming up-right for about 2 months and seems really out of the ordinary. It doesn't eat as much as it used to and hovers at the top of the tank gasping for air. <It may be> It doesn't seem to be able to keep itself upright and floats upside down, on it's side or facing upwards. Could this be something to do with it's swimbladder? <Yes... or nutrition, or internal parasite...> Please help !! Thank you !! <You need a larger, more stable system... The Corydoras more of its own kind. Please read: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwangdisfaq3.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Flashing lights... hlth.  11/28/07 Hello Bob, <Paula> I just read a post from 8/28/06 under FAQ Anabantoids/Gouramis, on the WWW site that you had some input in. It concerned bright light and a Gourami flashing and swimming around the tank like crazy. Post was titled " Gourami Help". My late father, who was an Electrical Engineer used to like to tell us "interesting" new developments in his field. One night at supper, he told us about a study that was done, I believe in Boston, that cited that recent increases in petit mal seizures in school children could be directly linked to the spectrum of the particular Fluorescent lights being used throughout the school system. Evidently, the price was right and lots of the same flour. tubes were bought for use throughout the school system. When the particular lighting was replaced the incidents of petit mal seizures dropped! It was the color range of the spectrum rather than the brightness that caused the rise in seizures, or so the theory went. This made sense as some seizures are related to, I believe, to red lights. Now, this was back in the mid 60's and I never forgot it as later I had a cat with seizures and the quickest way to end an episode for him was to place something like a towel over his head, block all light and he would respond immediately. We never did figure out what the trigger was as to light with him though. Could it be possible that this is what's at work with some fish too, given the range of types of fluorescent lights out there, for plants, daylight full spectrum, etc. ? Would be interesting to find out if fish that exhibit this behavior reside in incandescent or fluorescent lit tanks. <Possibly> I hope you aren't laughing right now, but I thought it might be worth a shot to write to you about it. Stranger things have happened, right? <Don't think this is strange at all... In fact, was watching TV last night (out in HI, bushed, couldn't make headway on the too-dang-hard crossword puzzles), and there is/was a serial on... "House"? About a doctor... and they were going to use flashing lights to induce a seizure(!) in a patient with adult onset measles...> I find the site invaluable and have no idea what fish keeping idiots, like myself, would do without it. Keep up the good work and many thanks for the site. Regards, P Libby <Thank you for sharing. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Lethargic koi, env. dis.  - 11/26/07 Hi Robert, <Carson> I have a small tancho koi that is about 4-5" that I am currently keeping in a community aquarium due because we haven't built a pond yet. It was purchased at the same time as a Kohaku koi that is currently 6-7". They were the same size when purchased. The past couple of days the tancho koi has been very lethargic and only really moves when you approach the tank. <Mmm, how long ago was this Nishikigoi purchased? What water conditions was it under at that time?> It doesn't seem to want to eat very much. The ammonia level is at .25 ppm, <Toxic!> the nitrite is the same, <Ditto. These MUST be zero> the pH is at 6.6, the nitrate is at 0. <You are fortunate here... if these values were higher the NH3... would be NH4OH much more... and deadly> The water temperature is at about 74 degrees f. There doesn't seem to be any spot of ich and none of the other fish are exhibiting any unusual behavior. The tank is 55 gallon with two filters (one sixty gallon one thirty gallon) that are constantly going, The tank consists of the following fish 1 - 4" tancho koi 1 - 6" Kohaku koi 1 - 5" comet goldfish 2 - 2" comet goldfish 3 - 2.5" bala sharks 1 - 3.5" golden shark 1 - 4" tinfoil barb 1 small freshwater crab. Their diet consists of flakes, freeze dried brine shrimp, freeze dried krill, and occasionally bottom feeder shrimp pellets. <I would cease feeding period till the ammonia and nitrite are zip, nada, gone> Is there anything that I can do to help my tancho koi? Carson L Maestas <... you should read... On WWM re water quality, environmental disease... Your livestock is in grave danger. Bob Fenner>

Help... dying fish! -- 10/9/07 Hello. <Hello!> Your site is fantastic and I'm sorry if this answer has already been posted. <Okay...?> I searched and got some great info, but not the exact info I needed. I have a 110 gallon planted freshwater tank. <Good size tank.> It cycled for like 2 months with just plants and substrate ( mixture of gravel and laterite base layer , sand 4top layer) b4 I added any fish. <Hmm... doesn't really work this way. "Cycling" is the process whereby ammonia-consuming and nitrite-consuming bacteria become established. This is a process that depends on a source of ammonia. Normally, this comes from the fish, but some people use plain ammonia purchased from a drug store or hardware store. You can also just add food to the tank and let it rot. But plants don't really help, because they remove ammonia from the water, and produce very little themselves.> I have a canister filter (Jebo Odyssea) and my first inhabitants were 3 angels (1 koi and 2 gold marbles, 1 loach, 8 neon tetras and a small Pleco. <Argh! Not good. After two months of just plants, you have suddenly added a bunch of fish, all of which are adding ammonia. Traditionally, people use very hardy fishes for this critical stage. Danios, White Cloud Mountain minnows or peppered Corydoras are good choices. Angels are a terrible choice, and to a less extent tetras and loaches are not good either. Plecs should be okay, but an adult Plec will demolish a planted aquarium -- to a hungry Plec, a planted tank is an "all you can eat" salad bar!> Unfortunately before I read on your site that any new fish should be quarantined ( they didn't tell me at the pet store either) I recently added 3 swordtails, 5 more Neons , one more loach, and 3 more angels ( I was hoping to get a breeding pair.) <Neons are Angelfish food in the wild and in captivity. Are you aware of that?> Up until the addition of new fish everyone was healthy, looking good. I had just done a water change a few days b4 everyone new arrived also. <You should be doing water changes regardless of new fishes. 25-50% weekly. During the first few months, I'd also recommend doing a Nitrite test before each water change, just to make sure the filter is working properly.> First one swordtail died, but I thought he may have already been in a bad way as his tail had been nibbled at the store (didn't notice till I got him home) so I didn't think too much about it. then a couple Neons went and then I noticed my marble angel has white spots on her body and her gold coloring is kind of darker and more dull. <Whitespot, a classic symptom seen on fish kept in poor water conditions.> I think it must be ich or some sort of fungus, so I got malachite green for a treatment only to read the fine print when I got home that says loaches and tetras can be sensitive to it. <Not so much tetras, but definitely loaches.> Is it going to harm them if I use it? <Yes. Could kill it. What kind of loach? If we're talking the "sucking loach", that's not a loach at all, but an extremely aggressive, even psychopathic minnow-relative that mustn't be kept in any tank with community fish. It isn't a loach, and couldn't care less about Malachite Green. But if you mean a Clown loach, this is very sensitive. Clowns are also schooling fish. Oh, and herbivorous schooling fish at that, so choose plants with care.> The Koi's got this red coloring along the outside lines of his body and in the middle where his spine is that I didn't notice b4. <Please don't use "text speak". It's difficult for our readers, not all of whom are native English speakers, to follow. Just type "before" or whatever instead.> What can I use instead to treat them? <Assuming it's a true loach, then adding salt and raising the temperature is the safest approach. Some medications may be safe with Clown loaches. See what's available in your area, and check the labels. Be sure and read this section of the site, chock full of commentary on how to treat Ick/Whitespot on loaches: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/clnlchdis.htm .> I'm afraid I'm going to lose all my fish bcuz... <Again, please don't use the text speak. It's "because" no "bcuz".> ...this morning one of my marbles was dead and 2 more Neons. <Indeed. Will persist until filter is mature enough to provide good water quality. Please buy, read a book on keeping a fish tank and go through the section on water quality and filtration. Get water quality right, everything else is easy and most fish are extremely hardy. Get it wrong, and things turn from bad to worse.> Also - temp ranges between 78 and 80 between day night, <Bit on the warm side for regular maintenance. Aim for 25 C/77 F.> PH is 7.4, <Fine.> nitrite .05, <Terrible. Utterly awful. Why your fish are dying! Implies and immature filter failing to keep the water clean. Probably needs another 3 weeks to mature. During this time, provide minimal food (feed every other day) and big, regular water changes (25% daily would be nice, but certainly at least 50% twice a week, until nitrite drops down to ZERO and stays there).> and dissolved ammonia is 0. <Fine.> But with the table that's included to read toxic ammonia, at 7.4 ph and temp of 79 would be 1.5. <Forget about this stuff. Way too complex for your needs/experience. Learn this instead: Zero ammonia/nitrite good; non-zero ammonia/nitrite bad.> I have no co2 injection, plants are ok but I'm wondering if I should add aeration at night for the fish. <Aeration is generally not needed. Plants certainly won't appreciate it. Some plants need CO2 more than others. Depends also on lighting and pH of the water. Buy, read book on aquarium plants. It is very easy to spend a fortune on aquarium plants only to see them gradually die. Getting a planted tank like you see in the magazines is fairly hard work and not something that "just happens".> I'm going to do another water change today and clean filter media. <In the name of all that is holy DO NOT CLEAN THE FILTER! Leave the filter alone. Things are bad enough already. The filter is the life support system for an aquarium. When it is happy, the fish are happy; when it is unhappy, the fish die. Simple as that. One of the things filters hate is being cleaned. Leave cleaning the filter for at least three months. Even then, do nothing more than rinse/replace the mechanical filtration layer (typically a sheet of filter floss or a coarse sponge) and then rinse the biological media (the sponges and ceramic chips) in a bucket of aquarium water so the worst of the gunk comes away. Then put everything back. I clean my filters maybe three or four times a year.> Hopefully it will help water parameters. <Water changes always good. Otherwise the two things you need are time and a good book.> Please let me know what else I can do! -Denise <Hope this helps, Neale>

Sudden dying fish advice! 10/3/07 Hi <Hello.> I hope you can help me, am a bit of a novice fishkeeper and after a promising start am slight concerned about the goings on in my tank! <Oh dear.> I have a 35gallon freshwater aquarium, which ive had for three weeks (originally my brothers and kept for 6yrs). It had 5 Malawi's and one Plec and I added another 8 Malawi's, another Plec and 5 red claw crabs (about 2cm each). <Red-claw crabs are brackish water animals, and shouldn't be kept in a freshwater tank. They are also amphibious animals, and keeping them permanently submerged is cruel. Kept properly, they are more like frogs, rooting about on land, but dipping in the water to moisten their gills periodically.> Everything was going fine but then in the last 24hrs both my catfish and the alpha male (a 2.5inch blue zebra) of the tank have died! <Check water quality when two fish suddenly die.> I have checked all the levels and everything is normal. <Define "normal". I'm assuming you aren't using brackish water, so the conditions aren't normal for your crabs at least. More specifically, have you tested the nitrite level? Also, what's the pH and hardness? Malawi cichlids need fairly hard water to do well (at least 10 degrees KH, and a pH around 7.5-8). I don't know what Malawi cichlids and plecs you are talking about, but 13 Pseudotropheus zebra and two common plecs such as Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus simply cannot be kept in 35 gallons of water. There is no way water quality will be acceptable for them all. Even a single common Plec needs around 50 gallons of water, at least.> My concern is that, could this be the work of the crabs and should I really get rid of them? The shop said they could live together but now am not so sure <Crabs shouldn't kill most fish, though they will certainly catch and kill very small fish like guppies. But unless you are keeping them in a brackish water vivarium with a sand-bank and wood for them to climb about on, then no, this isn't an acceptable home.> Advice would be most grateful as I don't really want £80 stock all to die off! <Indeed.> Best regards, Lester <Lester, you need to sit back and review the aquarium conditions. A 35 UK gallon tank is simply too small for all the fish you are keeping. What will happen is that the fish will die, one by one, until the aquarium reaches its "carrying capacity". You can delude yourself into thinking the aquarium is fine, but Science doesn't work that way, and until the population reaches a sensible level, fish will keep getting sick and die. For 35 gallons, you should be thinking about, say, one or two Ancistrus Bristlenose catfish along with maybe three cichlids (one male, two females). Nothing else will work in the long term. Hope this helps, Neale>

Please Help i tried writing properly... FW... disease... env.   7/21/07 <<Thank you for contacting WetWebMedia. We appreciate your email, but unfortunately cannot reply because it's in a format that we can't post on the site. Please correct your grammar, punctuation, and spelling, make sure the question isn't written in ALL CAPS or no capitalization at all and send it to us again. We aren't trying to be the "bad guys" here, but we are ALL volunteers, and we get dozens of questions every day - we just haven't got enough time to correct questions that aren't formatted properly. Please take some time to fix your question and write back; we will greatly appreciate this respect. Thank you. Andrea>> <I don't buy that you took the time to run a spellchecker on your e-mail, nor did you attempt to after my request. However, I will do so for you.> You guys seem quite knowledgeable and helpful and after spending countless hours online and at pet stores getting different advice and suggestions i <I> hope you can help me. My situation is as follows; I have <an/a> approximately 30 gallon hexagon tank with an aquaclear <AquaClear> 70 filter. The tank was started a little over a month ago. I began with a couple of platies <platys> (male/female) <.> After a couple of weeks i <I> purchased three guppies. After a few days of close observation <,> i <I> noticed a sudden change, <.> <T>the female platy, Olivia, had lost half her <of> tail and <had> marks on her scales. I observed further for a couple of hours. I <also> repeatedly observed one guppy chase and repeatedly nip at Olivia. This all happened in less than 24 hrs<. from the time> that Olivia lost half her tail. I returned the guppy to my local pet store but it <I, not it> was not in time. I then purchased a couple of dwarf gouramis (male) who were extremely peaceful. Unfortunately <,> later <omit later> my girlfriend <(>as so many do<)> <Note: This is pretty offensive to the female fish keepers out there. And there are many of us.> thought the fish would be happier with more food and overfed the fish. When I noticed this i <I> tried catching the excess food but <again, I> it was to late. After a few days <,> all three guppies were dead. <NOTE: Why no water changes? Why no water testing? Why no test kits at home?> I went my store to <ask them to> run a water check, <and> I <I> was told my ph <pH> and ammonia were slightly raised. <NOTE: How raised were they?> I did a water change of about 30% <,> added a proper PH <pH> 7.0 <,> <snake oil> as per advice of my local pet store. Soon after I noticed my male platy had become aggressive, chasing the gourami's <gouramis -- plural, not possessive> around <,> particularly the more relaxed <,> slower one. In order to change this i <I> wanted to add other fish hopefully <,> to spread out the negative attention. <NOTE: What made you think this was a good idea?> Unfortunately <,> after running tests <,> <NOTE: What tests?> I realized my nitrates were slightly elevated. <NOTE: How elevated?> I was told to do a water change and <add> some treatments. <NOTE: What kind of treatments?> After a week the levels were still slightly elevated <,> <NOTE: How slightly?> but i <I> decided to add a few more "peaceful fish" <.> <NOTE: Why on Earth did you decide to do this with your tests showing poor water quality and your fish already in jeopardy?> I watched them in the tank and spent every< >day there this week <,> looking at different options (thought about platies <platys> <,> mollies <,> <NOTE: You are aware Mollies are brackish fish, correct?> or perhaps a few more gouramis <NOTE: Aggressive fish.> ). Inn <In> the end <,> I fell in love with these belly <balloon, I assume> mollies <,> and took three home. One had a a <two of the letter 'a' here'¦you really want me to believe you did the best you could?> long top fin, the others are smaller <,> without the large top fin< >(not sure if that helps with determining sex). <NOTE: No. Read up on mollies on WWM. Use the Google search tool on the bottom of every page.> One of the mollies is real shy (i <I> noticed at the fish store) <NOTE: Not typical molly behavior. Why did you buy a fish who was acting oddly?> and the other(s?) seemed scared as i <I> put him in the tank. And last but not least <,> the last white spotted little b*******<Are you kidding me?> is going around chasing the gouramis around <You used 'around' repeatedly/incorrectly. Omit here> <,> nipping at them. I thought they would be peaceful, but i <I> was mistaken. Why do i <I> have such angry fish? What causes this? Do i <I> need to add a bunch of females? <I am going to stop here, and write you a bit at the end. You have much to learn, young grasshopper.> Is my temperature to high? (generally between 75-80) <Parentheses and words between them go before the '?'> Also after reading other people on this site for the last couple of hours <,> i <I>read someone mention <about> the particles <What particles?> floating in the tank. They look like white little pieces of sand or tiny particles. Should i <I> be concerned with that? <Sigh.> Some more general information. <No period here, use a colon instead :> I also used amquel+ <AmQuel+> plus <Omit 'plus', or the + after AmQuel. Capitalize 'Plus' if you omit the +> and stress coat api <API Stress Coat. These are trademarked products and manufacturers. Capitalize.> to treat the new water and condition the new fish. Sorry for the long drawn out letter, but i <I> spent countless hours reading and 3-5 trips a week to the pet store and have become very confused. Please I need help. Thank you guys for <from, rather than for> helping those of us who just want happy fish. take care <Take care,> gil <Gil> ps <P.S. Here are > links to video of my tank if it will help on you tube <YouTube:> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qej-vQFK8N0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ro6vCePVAk <Also, I have (omit 'or')> or a few more on my picasa <Picasa:> http://picasaweb.google.com/gmoses/BellyMolly?authkey=zMdQcxJ93tE<http://picasaweb.google.com/gmoses/BellyMolly?authkey=zMdQcxJ93tE> <Ok, Gil. First, I want you to know that you occasionally took the time to use proper case on the pronoun 'I', or use sporadic punctuation, which leads me to believe you do indeed know how to use proper grammar. Second, I am inclined to believe if you are using Picasa and Google, you could have used the spellchecker in Gmail, or Google Documents to improve the document. Likewise, I am willing to bet someone computer savvy enough to upload videos to YouTube has Microsoft Office or a similar word processing software client with a grammar/spell checker on it. I sent the e-mail back for you to fix, and asked you nicely, and you said you were unable to do so. I do not buy this. Now, you are working hard on killing some fish, so for their sake, I am going to help you out here. I spent the last hour or so correcting your mistakes, and now, I am going to inform you what to do. You stated above that you have done much reading. However, it seems to me you need to do quite a bit more. Please read up on livebearers, and their husbandry. Also read up on gouramis and their husbandry. There are plenty of articles available on wetwebmedia.com. Here are links to a few pages to get you started. I suggest you read them in full, and the linked pages at the top. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/livebearers.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/anabantoids.htm Also, I have a gut feeling this tank is relatively new. I also get the feeling it is not completely cycled. We are going to need a LOT more information to help you out. I have the feeling the fish are IRRITATED by their environment. How big is the tank? Exactly how many of each type of fish do you have in there, and what genders (if you read the above, the livebearers are VERY easy to distinguish)? What are the EXACT test readings (Ammonia, NitrIte, NitrAte, pH, kH) and what is the EXACT temperature of the tank? What kinds of magic potions have you been adding on the recommendation of the fish store? So on and so on'¦ You need to do much more reading. I also suggest you read the following, and the linked pages at the top. Read thoroughly, not skim. You will glean much use from it: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm If you send back at least the answers to the questions I have raised, we can help you. But you have provided little usable information, and I am making some rough guesses here. Also, PLEASE, use the spellchecker BUILT IN to Gmail and a grammar checker before you reply this time, rather than deceiving me, or provide me a better reason you are unable to do so.> <Thanks Andrea> <<Well done "Woman of the sea". RMF>>

Re: Please Help i tried writing properly  7/21/07 Wow Andrea, <Gil> First of all I reread my original email and tried my best to change it so it was more punctuated and I even added my paragraphs and punctuations to the best of my ability. I apologize if I was not to your liking. I made many changes and did a spell check from Gmail and did not realize that when I read over the email and made some last minute changes I made mistakes. <I appreciate this, and this is still even a better effort. The problem is that we are an all volunteer staff, and as Bob likes to put it, proper English is 'the coin of our realm,' i.e., the way we are paid. We publish the queries we receive and the answers to them on the site for others to read and learn from. In order for us to do that, we must correct the errors. One or two mistakes are no big deal, but a lengthy e-mail that is riddled with sporadic improper casing'¦that is a bit much. Likewise, I took your original e-mail and ran it through Gmail's built in spellchecker. It caught the un-capitalized 'I's. I am not trying to embarrass you here, but please, my tolerance drops when I am deceived.> I am computer savvy to a degree but actually I do not have any grammar check software (no Microsoft Word or any other). I have always been a terrible speller and not much for grammar either. I don't know what to tell you. I did take the time to do what you asked but for some reason you assume I am capable of writing as well as you, which obviously I am not. I have a tendency to write as if I am speaking and therefore tend to reread things and miss errors. <Slowing down helps when proofreading, and also when taking care of fish'¦> As for the comment about my girlfriend I meant no disrespect to woman but rather meant many people tend to over feed fish, both men and woman. I have no idea why any one would think men or woman would be better at taking care of fish. I am sorry you read it that way. <'¦as am I> I am assuming you spent so much time correcting my email that you did not really take it all in, or perhaps it was not clear enough. As I stated in the first paragraph, it is a new tank. <You are correct. I spent a lot of time fixing a lot of errors. Another reason we insist on correct spelling/grammar; so that we can actually address the issue, rather than lose track correcting the query.> I ran it for a couple of weeks and then I added fish. That was about 4-5 weeks ago. <It is likely your tank is still cycling. This could be why your fish are aggressive, they are being poisoned by ammonia/nitrite, which is causing them irritation, in turn causing them to attack each other.> As I wrote I have two dwarf gouramis, I was told they are male. <Gouramis tend to fight each other, and other fish in the tank. They are a might aggressive.> I have one male platy. Then I added three balloon belly mollies today. So at the moment there is a total of six fish. In the past month I have been to five different pet stores and spoken to the owner of a fish store for help. <Fish stores and their employees are not always the best source of information. Their goal is to make money, not always to help you.> In fact the owner of the store told me that most gouramis are not aggressive and are great for community tanks. <Not my experience. Gouramis are closely related to Siamese Fighting Fish. They are considered aggressive/semi-aggressive at best.> She even was surprised that at one of the pet stores they told me not to get gouramis. <I am surprised she said they were community.> Like I said I have done a lot of reading and talking and have received much information and many times it is in conflict. <You should take notes, and go with what the majority states. Also, subscribe to some message boards and ask opinions. One I find very friendly and extremely useful is http://www.aquariumadvice.com. Use the beginner forum. Ask questions. Plan and ask for help BEFORE you buy ANY more fish.> I am doing the best I can. <I believe you, and we want to help, but we have to maintain our rules for everyone.> In fact on one of the sites they spelled platys like I did platies. Also I saw that it said that the mail has the larger dorsal fin. OK to the point, I don't know what the right thing to do is and that is why I wrote to you. <And that was the right thing to do, and we encourage you to continue to write, but we must insist you slow down, and proofread your e-mails. Use references for grammar if you must. Here is one online I use: http://www.askoxford.com/betterwriting/?view=get> So as much as I appreciate the English lessons that is not really what I was hoping for. I understand that you may feel I was to lazy or ignorant as others have been criticized on your site but I did do the work to make it easier to read. Also, I mentioned the different things that the people at the pet stores told me to buy and add. To repeat I've added API Stress Coat and AmQuel +. I have been feeding flake food, but purchased yesterday some freeze dried worms to feed them as well. The nitrates, if I saw correctly, were at 3.0 if that makes sense, <Yes, it does. You need to get your own test kits badly, and learn to use them and read them. I suggest buying an API Freshwater Master Test Kit. Should run you about $25-30$> but I am not sure I was looking at the right thing at the store. My tank temperature fluctuates, which I gather means my heater either is not working correctly or I am not using it correctly. I will be purchasing a new one tomorrow. <GOOD!> So, like I said the temperature stays between 75-80 degrees. <You definitely want to get this stable. No more than +/-1 degree fluctuation a day.> I will now go and read the links you sent. I hope you are kinder this time around and realize I am making an effort and appreciate the help. <Kindness wasn't my issue. I tried asking kindly the first e-mail, and was brushed off.> Thank you again. Gil <Gil -- You need to do some water changes in the next few days to keep the fish you have already alive. 25-50% a day I'd say to keep the Ammonia and Nitrite levels below 0.5 PPM, and get test kits to test for them. Drop the Stress Coat and just use the AmQuel. Don't be using anything else. What kind of filtration are you using and what kind of media is in the filter? DO NOT add any more fish, PERIOD. If anything, take the gouramis back to the store. Get your OWN test kits (see the one I mentioned above) and learn how to use them, and test your water. Once you do, and your ammonia and nitrite are ZERO, and nitrate is below 25, then you may SLOWLY add a few, well researched, peaceful fish. In the meantime, read carefully about stocking plans, and visit some forums and ask suggestions. Come back and ask us also. Go look at the fish stores and see what interests you. I'll be happy to help you plan a stock around what you find that you like. If you like the platys and mollies, I'll help you plan around those. Take care, and don't worry, we'll get it figured out. Andrea>

Re: Please Help i tried writing properly  7/21/07 I just realized I wrote gourami's instead of gouramis like i was supposed to. It is late here and I got confused but only in my attempt to do it correctly so you would not have to correct me. I am sorry for that mistake. Gil <Quite alright, I fixed it.> <Andrea>

Re: Please Help i tried writing properly  7/21/07 Thank you for the advice I will definitely take it into consideration and finish reading the articles you sent me. I still would like to clarify that I did not dismiss you when you returned my email asking me to correct it. I took it to heart and made changes to the best of my ability. For some reason, when I run a Gmail spell check it does not capitalize my 'I'. I tried fixing the ones I noticed. If you don't mind I was hoping to just clarify something. When you write that if anything, I may want to return the gouramis to the store, is that because they are at risk? If it is because they are generally aggressive, strangely enough they are the only fish that I have purchased that have been really peaceful. <I suggested this for two reasons. The first is because your tank is not cycled. In my opinion, the lower the bio load, the better while the tank cycles. The gouramis are the larger of the fish, so they are the best candidates to go. Second, gouramis tend to become quite aggressive in time, especially in tall tanks, such as the 30 hex. They are bubble nest breeders, and the males will compete for space at the narrow top of the tank. Likewise, they are known for nipping the fins of other fish.> So can I keep this grouping together? <Provided the gouramis behave, you can, once the tank is properly cycled.> I do not plan on adding fish until the water is steady and fully cycled. Just curious as a general is it a negative to have all male fish in a tank or when the time is right should I add females? <It all depends greatly on the types of fish. The general (VERY general) rule of thumb I follow is two females to each male. However, each species is different. You will need to research EACH species, and use forums to ask questions. Use the Google search at the bottom of WWM and read, read, read.> In response to your question I am using an AquaClear 300 with a carbon insert an ammonia remover insert and a foam insert. <The ammonia remover insert should be removed and replaced with the bio cylinder type insert. This ammonia removing insert is actually likely prolonging the nitrogen cycle. Please use the Google search on wetwebmedia.com for 'Nitrogen Cycle' and read it thoroughly. Also, get the test kits we discussed previously.> From much of my reading it would seem that with each type of fish it is best to buy them in a certain quantity. For example, with the gouramis, I was told to either only have two in my tank or a group of five or more. <You need to do much more research, my friend. It is better to read than rely on what the fish store employees tell you. They want your money, and are not as concerned for the wellbeing of your tank.> As for the balloon belly mollies I was told to buy at least three. While I am on the topic, I was hoping that you can clarify if the large fin on top of the balloon belly is only on males or did the other site misinform me. <You were misinformed. Use the Google search tool on the bottom of wetwebmedia.com and enter 'sexing mollies'.> Finally I was wondering if you have any opinion on what the small particles that are floating in the tank. Do you think they are just part of the cycling process or are they something harmful? For a reference you can look at the videos I sent, you may be able to see it. http://picasaweb.google.com/gmoses/BellyMolly?authkey=zMdQcxJ93tE <The particles could be any number of things. How well did you rinse the gravel before you put it in the tank? It could be uneaten food, or waste from the fish. It could be many things. Very hard to tell from a video.> Thank you again and sorry for the misunderstandings. <Quite alright. Keep reading, and get the test kits and heater ASAP. Do a water change TODAY.> Gil <For the record, Gil, I am going to encourage you to do much of the reading and research on your own, and point you to tools rather than just give you the answers. This is the best way for you to learn. All of the questions you are asking are easily answered by using the search button on the wetwebmedia.com site at the bottom of every page. It just requires that you do the research and reading.> <Andrea>

New 46g Newbie trying to Correct, New Tank Set Up Problems, FW  -- 09/08/07 Your site has been invaluable; < Thanks for your kind words.> unfortunately, I discovered it (almost?) too late. I am one of the millions who have fallen prey to the "here's the package, pick your favorite fish, all will be well" sales pitch. On a Saturday night my boyfriend (who has a 75g with zero ammonia but 6 Oscars and 2 Dempseys) and I set up this 46g tank with the BioWheel Penguin 200, natural-looking substrate rock gravel, set heater at 78, Greek-themed decorations with two having air stones underneath, and two foot-long air sticks. Then we added: algae eater, aqua safe conditioner, pinch of table sea salt, <Why?> dechlorinator, Topfin bacteria, parasite clear and quick cure. < Why are you treating for things you may not have?> We let it sit for two days while the fish that I was assured would 'do well together' were put in the 75 gallon established tank on the other side of a divider to keep out the Oscars and Dempseys. We were obviously horribly misinformed. We added the fish, which were: 2 brown knives each nearly 6", 2 black ghost knives each 4-5", 3 Bala sharks each 4", 2 black spotted silver bottom dwelling catfish 3 inches each, 2 Plecos 6" each, and 8 apple mystery snails. The needle nose fish had died in the bag before he could make it to the temporary tank - could have been because the bag the LFS chose was more narrow than his length? < This is actually a brackish species that get pretty big. A small bag could have stressed it to the point that it could die.> I tested the water with the only two tests we were advised to use: ammonia and nitrites. Both were zero, but pH card by SeaChem on the tank wall looked very high (around 8.2) but ammonia card says it is in the safe zone. < New tanks can be ammonia free for a few days.> I fed everyone bloodworms twice a day but didn't think twice about the uneaten portion lying on the bottom - "great, more for later for them!" Wrong. One day later one brown knife died - skin on his nose was missing and his nostrils had turned very white, along with parts around his eyes and even a part into one eye. A trip to the store ended in a result of nothing but a replacement brown knife. They offered no advice, no explanation. This left me uneasy and committed to self-research. I found your site and felt very blessed. < That's why we are here.> Next day I found one of my Plecos looking dry on the floor by my couch at 2am when I couldn't sleep. Crying, I woke my boyfriend who picked him up and put him into the tank. He's acted fine since and I am puzzled how he lived and my cats didn't eat him. Next day one of the balas has white spots in the black eyes. Spider webby flotations are noticeable, slight cloudy water, and decorations feel slick. Since then I have gone into emergency mode and taken these remedial steps based on your site and I would like some guidance to see if I'm heading in the right direction now: 1. I know understand the need to have waited until the tank "cycled." I pray I'm not too late. I added substrate from the 75g established tank and replaced the one pad in the Penguin 200 filter with one of his 'dirtiest.' Then I added one of his uncleaned Tech 30-60 (330gph) to my tank as well. I see that 5-10 times your gallons per hour is best and now with 530 for my 46g, am I pushing it? < Continue to monitor the ammonia and nitrites until stable. It may take a few days for the bacteria to get established. The fish you have selected all get very large and will appreciate the extra filtration.> 2. Salt is horrible for scaleless fish like knives. Won't do that again. < Salt has its place but unfortunately most of the species you have selected don't really like salt.> 3. Bala with white eyes is isolated in a one gallon bucket with an air stone and hose. Maybe bacterial infection or onset of ich? < White cloudy eyes are a bacterial infection that usually responds to a Erythromycin treatments. The best cure for ich is a treatment of Malachite Green and Formalin found in Rid-Ich by Kordon.> Added one drop of Quick Cure. Quick Cure has Malachite Green so in the future if I treat the knives or other scaleless fish it will be at half strength? Or are there better treatments for Mr. Bala and the Knives? < For scaleless fish look at Rid-Ich+.> Does he need a heater too? < Your fish are tropical and need to be in the right temperature range to survive. If the water is not around 80 F then you need an additional heat source that will warm the water up to that temperature.> Covered the top with saran wrap and he is inside a dark cabinet away from drafts. 4. I raised the temperature to 80 one day, then 82 the next because your site said not more than 2 degrees a day. < This temperature is suitable.> 5. Algae wafers were put in for the Plecos and snails who were probably starving to death. How can I avoid the feared "algae bloom"? < Lots of algae info on the website. Too much light and waste cause algae.> 6. Yesterday (Day 4) I did a 25% water change because ammonia was at .5ppm. The new water only had dechlorinator added to it. After the change the tank is at .25 which is still scaring me but I will do a 30% water change on Day 6 and every thereafter to keep this down. Hoping to avoid the dreaded ammonia spike, the subsequent nitrite spike, and the slightly less evil nitrate thereafter. Will test daily. 7. The tank is overstocked. Fish should have been chosen according to a formula of one gallon per inch at maximize size? < Not really a hard and fast rule. When the tank is stabilized you need to keep track of the nitrates. Keep them under 25 ppm with water changes. If this cannot be done in between water changes then you need to reduce the bioload and keep fewer fish in the tank.> In that case, I needed a hundred more gallons! I need advice on compatibility; some sites differ. Regarding the black knives - no one but one site said they should be solitary and one other said just to never have two males together. Sexing was suggested by length differences (25cm for female and 30cm for male) and female adult head looks like juvenile head. This was unhelpful because both are 4-5" juveniles. Brown knives seem to be ok, but all knives I now realize need covered hiding places. I purchased an acrylic tube but that's not enough for them. Greek themed decorations don't seem to offer this covering. < The knife fish you have chosen are nocturnal predators that require a dark area to hide in during the day. Without this area they will become stressed and prone to disease.> The cats are voracious eaters; they consumed each one cube of the frozen bloodworms whole while I worried about the temperature affecting their intestines. < Sounds like typical catfish.> Balas chase each other around and now have split fins on top (just a couple splits) and I believe that is because of poor water and needing to school with more. Shall I return them because they obviously will outgrow the tank shortly? < Think of a long term plan for stocking your tank. If the balas are not in the picture then remove them.> The Plecos seemed overjoyed to suck on the algae chips. Should I remove the remains uneaten after two hours or trust the snails will get the leftovers? < I would remove them after the Plecos are done. The snails always seem to find enough food without specifically being fed.> Shall I return one of the Plecos, or both and search for a smaller breed of pleco? < Go to Planetcatfish.com to identify the species of pleco you now have. I don't think you need more than one unless you really like these pleco's.> Mine seems to be the chameleon common black spots on brown/grey color that grows a foot long. 8. I added more air to the water by connecting the air hoses to a 50 and a 70 pump separately. 9. I am panicked about the pH but have read enough to be more scared of trying to change anything rapidly or with chemicals. Should I resort to peat moss to bring it down ever so gently? < Forget trying to modify the pH until everything settles down.> Will the natural cycling help me get there? < The nitrification process will effect the pH in a very soft water aquarium. Don't worry about it in you situation right now.> Should I just pray they are hardy enough stock to cope? < You have bigger problems to worry about then pH right now.> Knives are more acidic loving and prefer 6.2 to 7 pH you say.' < If you decide to keep these knife fish for the long term then lowing the pH would be beneficial.> 10. My apple mystery snails seem to have cracked, lighter colored shells. I have read I need to keep the water level down a couple inches from the top so they won't stress out from having no space to lay egg sacs. This I have done as well. At this moment my tank isn't cloudy, no one seems ill yet except for the one Bala in the treatment bucket. My pH is still around 8.2. Please help, I feel like a terrible idiot for trusting these well-meaning, dangerous breed who are selling these poor helpless creatures. Should I add the Bio-Sphere liquid that so many rave about? < The Bio-Spira from Marineland is the real deal. I recommend it to new aquarists. In your situation though it may not be needed.> Should I try to figure out how to vacuum the substrate? < Gravel vacuuming is a very useful tool in removing the detritus that has accumulated in the gravel.-Chuck> Thank you for your altruistic patience with newbies and your love of fish, Michelle

Serpaes, bloodfins, and gouramis, oh my  9/3/07 I have had my tank set up for 2 weeks before I put anything in it. <How was it cycled?> I have a 10 gallon with carbon/bio-fiber filter. All levels are normal <What does this mean?> as of 3 this afternoon. The temp stays at 82 without a heater (so I don't have one yet). <Not a good idea. Ten gallons is so small, unstable that the temp. will vacillate too much if/when the ambient temp. does> I have 4 bloodfin tetras, 4 serpae tetras, <Nippy> a blue gourami, a spotted Cory, and an African Drawf frog. The frog doesn't look like it's gonna make it. For most of the day it has been on it's back. <Bad...> I treated with Fizz Tabs (parasite clear) <Toxic to amphibians...> and it seems to be doing better. But still won't eat and is staying pretty much hidden. It doesn't seem to be able to swim to the top of the tank against the current from the filter. If it isn't better by morning, what do you suggest? <I'd move it NOW to another setting> The bloodfins seem to be gasping/breathing quickly (but since I only got them today, I don't know if this is normal). <Likely metabolic cycling... this system is not doing what it needs to do in terms of biological filtration...> And there is something clinging to the side of my tank which I think is displaced eggs, but I'm not sure. Also, though everything I can find on these species say that they are peaceful fish and would be ok mixed in this fashion, they seem to be aggressive towards each other. They aren't nipping, but they are chasing, definately not schooling (like they were in the store). Thank you in advance for any comments you may have. Brandi <Please read here (and quickly!): http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above... Stop feeding period... test your water for nitrogenous accumulation... You are at a crux, a crossroads in saving or destroying this life... What will you do? Bob Fenner>

Re: Serpaes, bloodfins, and gouramis, oh my - 9/3/07 Hello again, and thanks so much for responding! I spent hours last night searching through your site and the amount of knowledge there is a little overwhelming. I sure appreciate all the time/effort you all have put into educating those of us who take the time to learn. <Thank you... I am constantly looking, mulling over possibilities of how to make the content more accessible, "user-friendly"... If you have input, please do send it along> The link you gave was so helpful. I cycled the tank by using an old filter I had before with goldfish and left it for a month. <Ah, good> I wrote in the previous email that I had the tank set up for 2 weeks. That was a mistake (I was so sleepy). I'd added the fish over a period of 2 weeks. Sorry for the miscommunication. <No worries. Thanks for the correction> My frog died shortly after I sent the last email, but I replaced him last night from a different store and the new one is doing much better. It eats, swims, and has already claimed the driftwood ornament as his home. <Ah, good... Do please read what we have re ADFs... their feeding in particular> The Serpaes are schooling and the Bloodfins are calming. Guess I didn't give them enough time before settling in. I will be getting a heater this coming weekend for when it starts cooling off. <Good> I've been keeping a sharp eye on the thermometer and it's stable for now. But I want to get ahead of the fluctuations before they start. I'll also be getting a more advanced testing kit. I have the strips so I've been using them and then taking a sample of the water to the pet store for reassurance. The filter I'm using is a Deluxe Aqua-Tech power filter for a 5-15 gallon tank. It has a bio-fiber insert that is supposed to eliminate ammonia and nitrite, along with a carbon/polyfiber screen. Is this sufficient? Or do I need something else? <Should work... once all is a few weeks older...> I'm committed to doing right by my new friends. Thank you so much for your advice! Brandi <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Curious behavior? FW... dis.    8/22/07 Hi, I have a small 6 gallon tank- new, about 4wks old. I had 3 small fish- 2 male Endler's and one Otocinclus, live plants and a piece of driftwood. At the start, I was doing small water changes every 2-3 to control ammonia and so forth, everything was fine. Last week however, I was gone for 4 days; I did a water change before I left and dropped some slow-release food. When I returned, the water was very cloudy white, one endler died, and the other two fish were very stressed of course. I did a 40-50% water change and removed the driftwood (it was decaying), and the two calmed down a little. My LFS told me to check the ph, it went down to almost ph6- was ph7 before. They gave me some type of buffer powder and the ph is back to normal, and water is clear again. The Oto seems to be acting fine, although it seems he has some white spots, and maybe even some goldish flecks on the body. But since I've only had these for a short time, I don't know if the gold color is it's normal coloration, the white spots maybe ick? Also, the endler stays swimming up and down in one corner, by the filter current. It can swim normally, horizontally, but mainly doesn't want to swim anywhere else in the tank. Sometimes he moves to other parts, but mostly just swims up and down now. He didn't do this before. Should I treat them with any medication? I raised the temp to 80-82, and have added salt. Anything else I should do? It's been a few days since everything's gone back to normal, should I just wait? Thanks!- vanrey <Greetings. The Otocinclus sp. likely have whitespot (or, less likely, velvet) and should be treated immediately. Use a proper whitespot medication, not salt or Melafix. It does sound as if the bogwood you purchased was not fully cured. Cured bogwood shouldn't rot, at least not noticeably. Bogwood does lower the pH though in tanks with low levels of carbonate hardness. In this case, I'd recommend sticking with fake bogwood instead. Endler guppies -- like all guppies -- want fairly hard and alkaline water. Given your mix of fish, aim for pH 7.5, and "moderately hard" water on whatever scale you're using. Guppies become very sickly at anything softer or more acidic than this. This is what you're seeing. Cheers, Neale> Many problems, please help! FW maint., Dis. troubleshooting, env.     8/22/07 Hi there. I have had my tank established for about half a year now and up until now, it has been doing rather well. I managed to eradicate a serious white spot problem without any losses, and was feeling very happy with the health of my fish and the water quality. I have a 120L Juwel Rekord aquarium and about 30 fish, most of which are no bigger than 5cm and some that are smaller. I recently had a serious outbreak of hair algae, and so changed all of the water, got new plants and completely cleaned the gravel and decorations. The tank looked wonderful and clean, until I decided to change a few filter sponges, and it soon became completely covered in dirt. I waited for the dirt to settle and then did a thorough gravel clean and hoped that the filter would suck it up again (which it did), Anyway... This seems to have all culminated in a serious problem that I cannot solve. The water is now full of floating particles that look like specks of cotton wool. They get sucked into the filter and then seem to come straight back out again. two of my neon tetras have weird, raised white patches on their mouth and gills (I have 6 altogether) . Many of my fish are also acting erratically, flicking themselves on the gravel and occasionally darting about in zig zag motions. I treated with an anti fungal medication but I haven't noticed any improvements. I know that this is usually a sign of white spot, but I have not noticed a single speck (for now, anyway...). I keep my airstone activated at all times to provide extra oxygen as I may have overdosed on the med. When it is turn off, my mountain minnows will often hang about at the surface, gasping. I have been trying my hardest to keep the tank clean and do regular (about once a week) water changes of 50%, and I am now at my wits end. I just get the feeling that my fish are suffering. Many of them have red gills and their behaviour is not what it was. I regularly test my water and nitrites and nitrates are both almost 0, the PH is at about 7 and the water is hard. I just don't know what to do. Could the illnesses be related to the weird stuff floating about? and how on earth can I get rid of it when I don't have a clue what it is? I am feeling so frustrated. Any help will be appreciated so much as I love my fish and just want the best for them. Thank you in advance for the wonderful service you provide. Anna <First, clean out your filters. Take the sponges from the filter box in the corner of the tank and give them a thorough clean in a bucket or two of *aquarium water*. Do not run them under the tap! What you want to do is wash away all the solid waste while leaving the bacteria happy in the sponge. Replace the rather pointless carbon and nitrate sponges with a couple of new regular sponges, maybe one mechanical filter sponge and one biological filter sponge. Your filter will now perform its job much more efficiently. Now, remove about 50% of the water, and replace with new water (dechlorinated, of course). While you're siphoning out the water, stir up the gravel a bit so you can suck out any detritus. From the way your fish are behaving there can be only one of three things going on: [a] The temperature is too high; [b] The biological filter isn't working; or [c] Something toxic has got into the aquarium, such as insecticide or paint fumes. The white threads in the water are most probably colonies of blue-green algae. These form slimy mats or bushes on flat surfaces, but when disturbed the threads float about, often in vast numbers. Dealing with blue-green algae is difficult, because nothing much eats it. So you need to get back to basics, making sure the conditions in the aquarium don't favour the blue-green algae. High nitrate/phosphate levels, sunlight, overstocking, and decaying organic matter all seem to promote blue-green algae. I sometimes find it easier simply to take a tank apart, keep the fish and filter running in a bucket, and then thoroughly clean the tank from top to bottom. Otherwise, installing fast-growing plants like Hygrophila is a good way to deal with algae, assuming you have enough light for them (the default Rekord hood doesn't have enough lighting). Finally, I suspect you will need to treat for whitespot, though in this case stress is probably the immediate cause of the problem and will need to be fixed as well. Hope this helps, Neale>

Re: Many problems, please help!   8/22/07 Hi Neale, thank you very much for your help. It's funny you should mention paint fumes, as we have been doing some painting around the house recently so that could indeed be a part of the problem. <Ah, the plot thinnens. Keep the door closed to the "fish room" and open a window, so the air can freshen up. Do big water changes to dilute the toxins.> I was just wondering if you feel it would be okay to put fresh gravel in the tank, as whenever it is disturbed, lots and lots of algae begins to float about the tank and then settle right back down again. <Not only is it safe, it's advisable, if you think the gravel is irredeemably dirty. The exception here is if you use an undergravel filter. Assuming you do not, then change the gravel if you want. This will have no effect on biological filtration.> Would it be okay or should the current gravel just be cleaned thoroughly, I'm not sure if getting rid of it would upset the biological balance of the tank. <Unless you have an undergravel filter, you can change the gravel once a week if you want.> Also, would it be okay to change 100% of the water or would this be very upsetting for the fish? <Treat as if you were introducing the fish to a new aquarium: put fish in bucket of old water. Replace 100% water in new tank. Make sure pH and hardness are roughly the same as before (slight differences don't matter, but going from pH 6 to pH 8 would be bad!). Now empty half the water from the fish bucket. Every 5 minutes, add a litre or two of "new" water from the aquarium into the bucket, so that over the next 30 minutes the bucket is filled up with half old water and half new water. Empty out 50% of the bucket, and repeat the process. By the end of the hour (which should be, say, 6 or 7 additions of water) your fish be completely acclimated to the new water conditions. Catch them with a net, and put into the aquarium. Don't put any old water from the bucket into the aquarium. I've done this many, many times even with delicate things like halfbeaks and never had problems. It's a variation on what marine fishkeepers call "the drip method". Freshwater fish are, almost by definition, able to tolerate quite drastic water chemistry changes (e.g., droughts, heavy rainfall) but still, you don't want to take advantage of it.> Thank you, Anna <Cheers, Neale>

Color aerator + Spirulina flakes = dead mollies??   8/22/07 Hi, I love this site by the way. However, my tank is having some problems. I had 3 balloon mollies, 2 tetras, 1 guppy, 1 pleco (I was going to get female guppies for my male). I added a Hydor Ario 2 color aerator - it emits a blue light which shines on the bubbles, and also began feeding my fish Spirulina flakes (ProBalance Spirulina flake) last night. They were all in fine health before hand. After I installed the aerator they seemed to be a bit afraid of it at first, but then warmed up to it and were swimming at least near it. <Cool.> I left it on all night. In the morning I woke up to find all 3 of my mollies dead on the bottom of the tank. The tetras were also acting a bit funny, not as active as usual. The male guppy on the other hand (who had previously enjoyed chasing the mollies and trying to mate with them constantly) was swimming at the top of the tank kind of like he was blind. He would swim until he hit a wall, change directions, and repeat that. He swam right through the food I tried to feed them. The tetras also showed no interest in the food. <Why on Earth did you feed the fish if three had died? Let me tell you how unwise that was! When fish suddenly die, that means you have a problem, one of which is a problem with the filter. Adding food makes things like that worse. For next time, the thing to do is run a series of tests (at the very least pH and nitrite) and then do a big (50%) water change.> I'm dreading going home, as I think I'm going to find them all bottom up when I get there. <Indeed.> The temperature is constant (~78-80F), I'm not able to check the nitrates and ammonia levels as I'm waiting for my water testing kit. <Why waiting? You should have these BEFORE you have any fish. This is non-negotiable.> I did a 30% water change last week. I've had all these fish for about 1 month (the male guppy for 2 weeks). What happened?? <Any number of things, but most likely caused by problems with the biological filter.> Did the presence of the aerator cause too much stress for them?? (if so, how can I prevent this in the future) <No, this is most likely coincidence.> I may have overfed them the Spirulina flakes causing some to sit at the bottom (I intended for my pleco to get these), could the decay have caused an ammonia spike?? <Yes, but without a test kit, you'll never know...> If (worst case scenario) I need to restock my tank, should I remove all/most of the water and let it cycle?? <Yes. The bacteria are in the filter, not the water. Change as much water as you can.> My pleco was acting all right, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he'll survive (he's proven pretty hardy in the past). <Do you know how big this fish will get? If you have a 55 gallon tank, that's fine and he'll be happy; anything smaller, and you've bought a fish too big for your aquarium. By the same token, mollies need completely different water than tetras. Mollies at the very least need hard and alkaline water conditions, and I'd argue that for 100% success with them, they should be kept in *brackish* water with a salinity around 10-25% that of seawater (using marine salt mix, of course, not that old snake oil tonic salt/aquarium salt). As you've discovered, mollies are extremely sensitive to poor water quality when kept in freshwater tanks. I seem to say this 300 times a week, and yet no-one listens and mollies keep on dying... Mollies prefer brackish water, mollies prefer brackish water. Balloon mollies, which are of course some horribly inbred god-awful mutant of a molly are even less hardy than the wild-type fish, and if I could I'd outlaw them as animal cruelty. So if you want mollies, at least try and get a variety that has approximately the correct set of genes for its species, and so stands a fighting chance of living a decent life.> Thanks in advance for any advice!!! Grace <Hope this helps. Good luck! Cheers, Neale>

What's going on? FW env. issues, dis. troubleshooting   8/6/07 Hello, <Ave,> Your site is great. I have spent countless hours reading the articles and FAQs and have gained much knowledge and have benefited greatly from the advice. I have a couple of strange problems however that I am sure are related, but have no clue how to resolve them both. <OK.> Problem 1) Is that my water has been cloudy for two months straight. <This happens.> I have patiently waited and waited, but there is no sign of it easing up. It is obviously a bacterial cloud, as you can see it rolling by in tufts like smoke. <Non sequitur. You certainly can't "see" bacterial clouds as obviously different to clouds of silt. The latter are actually quite common in aquaria. If you introduce too much gravel or sand that hasn't been washed of silt properly, and then don't have enough mechanical filter media to remove the said silt, you end up with cloudy water. Some fishes that root about the substrate, such as goldfish, barbs, cichlids, etc. will simply exacerbate the problem.> My water quality is perfect; NH3=0ppm, NO2=0ppm, NO3=<10ppm, Ph=7.2, Alkalinity =1-3dKH, GH=<1dKH, and the temp is 78f. What is strange about these readings is the low nitrates. <The KH reading is a bit low, and GH reading way too low. Unless you're keeping seriously soft water fishes like Apistogramma, this is not really acceptable water chemistry. For standard tropicals, you want about 6-18 degrees GH (German hardness) = 100 to 300 mg/l calcium carbonate, and around 5-10 degrees KH. Anything much below these values lacks the water chemistry stability and won't favour the development of biological filter bacteria. I have kept fish for the past 30 years, and have always had massive algae growth and every since I began testing for NO3, have always had high readings over 80ppm despite all the water changes, cleanings, etc. Now all of sudden I succeed in bringing the NO3 down and poof? the water turns cloudy and it seems like the NO3 is keeping itself down! <Admittedly seems odd, but I think part of it is the very soft water, which algae (and bacteria) don't usually like.> These water conditions have been stable since the cloud appeared which makes me wonder if the cloud is not a mitigating factor. I have of course had clouds before, caused by over cleaning, over feeding, polluting rocks, wood, etc., but have always remedied the situation within a week or two. Never before have I had perpetually cloudy water. There are 3 events that preceded the cloud that must be suspect, and they are 1) I found a new home for my football sized Pacu. 2) I got a new filter (Eheim Pro II) to replace the little Cascade and Tetra Tec filters. And 3) I added 2 new pieces of Malaysian drift wood to the tank. <OK. Nothing there seems an obvious factor, except perhaps if you have insufficient mechanical filter media in the new filter.> I got rid of the Pacu for obvious reasons (size mainly), and replaced some of his mass with 3 silver dollars, 3 Corys, and a Pleco. The filter change was because the Tetra Tec made far too much noise and the combination of the 2 filters were moving too much water and the currents had the new smaller fish swimming for their lives just to stay stationary. <Well, I'd disagree with your resolution here. Silver dollars and Corydoras live in moving water with far more current than most tanks, and plecs couldn't care less since they suck onto thing. You almost can't have too much current in a tank. Certainly, around 6x the volume of the tank in turnover per hour would be perfectly in order for these fishes. I run one of my tanks at 10x turnover, and once they get used to the exercise, the fish are fine.> Also, they had to aim into the current which had them swimming toward the back of the tank which only leaves their other side for viewing. Before leaving the Eheim alone, I ran the Tetra Tec in parallel for 2 weeks while the new filter cycled. Everything was still fine at that point. The added wood came from a reputable aquatic dealer and I conditioned it for several days before adding it to the tank, by alternately boiling and scrubbing until the water stayed clear and the scrubbings resulted in no loose or soft debris. <Could be fungal decay I suppose, but unlikely.> The water was still fine after this until 2 weeks later when I did a standard cleaning when I vacuum ½ the gravel with a 20% water change. The tank clouded up a bit which it usually does, but didn't clear. Instead it progressively got worse and is still in full bloom. <Don't fixate on the cloudiness. Take a belt-and-braces approach. First, assume its silt, and add "filter aid" to help a freshly installed wad of filter floss suck it up. I've done this, and it works very well, usually in 24 hours. Second, now assume it is bacterial, and focus on the water chemistry. The water chemistry could stand with a bit more hardness, and all else being equal things should improve. I'd personally remove the fish to buckets, remove the filters, do a 100% water change, fill up with new water, acclimate the fish and filters back to the new water chemistry *without putting any old water into the new tank* and then see what happens.> Problem 2) Is that I cannot grow algae anymore. I have successfully reduced the nitrates to less than 10ppm and probably phosphates as well (I do not have a phosphate test kit), and now the algae has gone from a runaway problem to extinction. <I suspect because of the water chemistry.> What algae there was on the wood and plastic plant leaves has died and turned a dark color. You might wonder why this is a problem, and it is because I have 2 new bushy-nose pleco's that have nothing to eat. <Put out some thinly sliced cucumber, courgette, blanched lettuce, etc each night weighted down with lead weight and let them graze happily.> I had one prior, that died, I assume from starvation, but do not know for certain. I got 2 more that are very small, and I am worried that they will meet with the same fate. I try to feed them algae wafers, but the glutinous silver dollars eat every bit of everything that hits the water. <Silver dollars are omnivores and need plant material in their diet. So use algae in the day time for the silver dollars, but add some algae wafers at night for the Ancistrus.> I even tried over feeding by continuously putting algae wafer after algae wafer into the tank thinking that the silver dollars would get full and leave some behind for the other fish, but after 26 wafers were dropped in and devoured I had to give up because I was afraid of the resulting pollution, and believe me there was pollution. <I bet. Ancistrus are nocturnal; silver dollars are not. Feed one with the lights out, the other during the day. Easy peasey.> After that feeding episode there was a pooping frenzy like I have never experienced. You know haw amazing it is to change a babies diaper and find a pound of poop when you feed them only a few ounces of milk? <No, I have no idea about this and don't want to imagine it. Sounds horrid.> Well then you can picture the substantial piles throughout the tank. It looked like a completely new bed of substrate. Anyway, I would like to know how to either grow some algae or otherwise feed my pleco's. <Feed 'em at night.> I actually want to know what is going on. I am thinking that the cloud would go away if I removed the wood, but I am not sure and therefore I don't want to throw the tank into another direction of unbalance until I know why my NO3 is staying so low. <Try it; remove the wood, see what happens.> Do I have anaerobic bacteria eating it? <No.> If so, how can I use this to my benefit and still produce some algae for the pleco's? <Don't concentrate on algae for the Ancistrus. You'll never produce enough of it for them to live on. Use vegetables and algae wafers, and let them graze on algae as and when they want to.> Here are the specs on the tank: * Size = 75 gallon * Type = FW * Occupants = one 5? silver dollar, three 3? silver dollars, three 1? albino cats, two 1+? albino bushy nosed pleco's, and one 1+? blue ram. * Lighting = 32w 4? AllGlass tube (I think it is 6000K), on for 12 hours per day (on a timer). Tank catches 2 tiny rays of sunlight through cracks in the blinds at sunset for approx 15 minutes. * Substrate = epoxy coated in good condition (black colored - it turns white when it wears out) * Décor = 3 medium/large pieces of Malaysian drift wood, one has been around a while and 2 are new. Several plastic and silk plants. * Filter = Eheim Pro II canister (275GPH) w/ built in heater. On a power backup so it will continue running during a power outage. * Filter attachments = water surface skimmer (10% of the flow), 2 other pickups very close to the gravel (90% of the flow), exhausted to a long spray bar for soft flow on water surface, and one jet at mid-tank. * Filter Media = 1L tube shaped porous ceramic-like things (called Bio Max), 1? sponge, 3L cylindrical porous ceramic-like balls (looks like bleached coco puffs)(called substrate pro), 2 bags Chemi-Pure, and a fine mechanical pad. * Water = Reverse Osmosis reclaimed using RO Right to 110TDS, Baking Soda to 3dKH, and Freshwater Essentials. * Water conditions = Ammonia = 0, Nitrites = 0, Nitrates = <10, Ph = 7.2, Alkalinity = between 1 and 3 dKH, General Hardness = less than 1dGH, Temp = 78f * Maintenance = 20% water change weekly, clean filter each new moon, vacuum ½ of the gravel 1 week after each new moon * Food = Hikari Cichlid Staple, Hikari Micro Pellets, Tetra Algae Wafers, Hikari Daphnia * Frequency of feeding = Usually once a day, sometimes twice, sometimes I skip 1 to 2 days without feeding. Mostly use the cichlid staple and micro pellets, and occasionally (1-2 times per week feed the wafers), daphnia mostly goes down the skimmer, so I don't try to feed with it very often. Sorry this is so long, and thank you for taking the time to read it. Scott <Hope this helps, Neale>

Unwell Fish, FW tiny system up fish creek w/o a knowledge paddle, FOL  -- 07/24/07 Hi <Hello there> I have a 25l tank, bought for my daughter as a 6th birthday present. We ran it for one week with no fish, then put in 3 platys (orange/black/yellow for ease of description!). <Was this small system cycled by then?> After another week, we then put in 4 neon tetras. <Not a good choice for new tanks...> As this was her birthday weekend, she was also given (unexpectedly) 2 guppies (blue and yellow) and 2 gouramis. We were a little worried about the sudden overload and spoke to the local fish shop who told us to monitor carefully - I also bought a testing kit. <Ah, good> We noticed the blue guppy missing - and found him stuck in the filter - disposed of him. Water testing at that time said that all levels were dangerous. <...> I then took the water sample to the pet shop to double check; the ammonia levels were 7.3 with nitrate/nitrite also very high. The shop advised a 20% water change, use of Nutrafin aqua plus, and Nutrafin cycle. <This last product rarely works... Look for BioSpira...> The also said not to feed for 5 days and to use bactinetts. <Okay...> That day I noticed a tetra wasn't shoaling, then noticed a patch on his back which was losing pigmentation. He also began floating and struggling to stay upright, so I took the decision to remove/euthanise. The next day, a 2nd tetra was dead at the bottom of the tank. I had previously also noticed that the black platy was lethargic (although it always has been) and extremely fat. I assumed pregnancy but then noticed some white spots on her which I was busy trying to diagnose from the internet. She also has had extremely stringy/mucusy faeces - at one point I wondered if it was egg laying until I read about the live bearing. <No... being poisoned...> I have since then done 3 water changes, didn't feed for 5 days and am now feeding very very sparingly once a day, have replaced the bactinett 'dose' have used the aqua plus at water change times, and have been quite liberally dosing them with cycle. I've also increased the temperature slightly (about 27 degrees now). The tests now show the ammonia down to 2.3 and the nitrate/nitrite to be minimal. <... anything approaching 1.0 ppm of ammonia, nitrite is deadly...> All remaining fish are still alive although the black platy is now as thin as the others, with no white spots. She seems a little less lethargic but I am now convinced that it is velvet (a little internet knowledge is a dangerous thing!) and spend my time face to the bowl trying to look for a golden glimmer on her or others - I just don't quite know how it will look! So - I guess my questions are: - any idea what is going on with the black platy? <Poisoned by being put in a too-new, unestablished system> - why is the ammonia not dropping more with the cycle and bactinetts? and how should I get it lower? <... Please... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm and the linked files above> - was is neon tetra that killed tetra number one? and do I need to do anything to rid the tank of it? <... learn to/use the search tool, indices on the site...> - should I use any medications/salt, etc.>? <No...> Many thanks Jo <And here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm

Two fish dying after water change.... Freshwater 7/6/07 Hi... <Ave.> I have a 30 gallon octagon freshwater tank with danios (4 now), neon tetra, cardinal tetra (16), 3 Amano shrimp, 2 Siamese algae eaters, 3 kuhli loaches and 3 Cory. <Okey dokey, all nice fish. I'm not wild about octagonal tanks for a variety of reasons, but you have small fish so it should be fine.> I normally do water changes weekly but have been very busy and yesterday's water change came after 2 weeks. I replaced the old Wal-Mart filter entirely with a new Tetra Whisper but kept the old bio filter and trimmed it to fit. <I'm not familiar with the Wal-Mart filter, but I will say this, it's usually better to *add* a new filter rather than *replace* an old one. If nothing else, you have a back-up filter in case one fails. But you also have more water current (a good thing usually) and much better water quality.> Inside the tank I vacuumed the gravel, cleaned the glass with a scrubber (removing 5 gallons of water) and then added the new water. I had added Novaqua to the change water and lowered the pH of the tap water to 7.0 There was no odd fish or shrimp behavior at the time, everything appeared normal. <Now, my only issue here is the use of pH buffer. Only if you have very extreme conditions do I think this worth doing. Neons will adapt to pH 7.5 just fine. If you're lowering the pH but leaving the hardness alone, you aren't really doing anything useful. Fish don't "feel" the pH, they respond to something called Total Dissolved Solids, that is, how much "stuff" is in the water. Messing about with the pH but leaving the TDS (in this case the hardness) alone is sort of like painting an elephant from grey to white. It's still an elephant, not a mouse. Almost always, it is better to acclimatise your fish to your local water conditions, or better yet, choose fish that PREFER your local water conditions. Either way, this leaves you free to do as big water changes as you want without worrying about sudden deaths from water chemistry problems. If you live in a place with very hard and alkaline water, for example, choose things like livebearers, x-ray tetras, gobies, rainbowfish, cichlids, etc. that come from similar conditions in the wild.> Last night before I went to bed a flashlight check had everything looking okay. This morning I fed the fish as usual and watched them as I always do. The lights are on timer and that's "our" cue for feeding... the kuhli loaches are normally out in expectancy but could not be seen even after the food was in the water. Neither did the shrimp come out as usual. Then I noticed the gold danio having difficulty swimming and had prominent blood patches/lines... like the blood was more noticeable near the tail area. <All bad signs. Since a variety of species have gotten sick simultaneously, water quality or water chemistry is almost certainly the issue. Your first step here is *always* to do a nitrite test (for quality) and a pH & hardness test (for chemistry). If your fish are acclimate to the local water chemistry, you'd also do a 50% or more water change to dilute the problem and hopefully save the fish. But since you've been messing about with pH buffers, that's not an option. See my point?> I netted it and put it in a small container with tank water to observe. It kept floating upside down and then trying to right itself. I continued watching the fish in the tank and noticed one of my newer danios which hatched last July was near the top sort of picking at the floating food but a bit lethargic. I went to my office to work and checked later... it was flipping over and having difficulty swimming. I netted it and looked closely... it had the same blood type marking near the back tail area. Through a magnifier I can see the scales are slightly raised on the one side and it almost looks like a bloody bruise... the blood marking goes into the anal fin as well but not the tail fin or the dorsal fin. Another look at the tank fish with magnifier & flashlight the other danios have no blood markings at all and appear fine... also peeking in the normal hide holes for Kuhlis I saw one who appeared fine and good coloring. The shrimp had come out and were eating (2 females both carrying eggs) the male I rarely see. <Quite probably after the "crisis" things are recovering because the fish/shrimps are re-adapting to whatever the conditions are in the aquarium. Freshwater fish are usually very, very good at this compared with (say) coral reef fish or Rift Valley cichlids because they inhabit variable environments. But if you push them too far, they can die.> I always keep fresh pH and ammonia monitors in the tank. <Personally, I think they're a bit of a gimmick. Expensive for what they are, in terms of accuracy and replacement requirement. But each to their own!> After the second fish came up poorly, API tests of ammonia, nitrate, nitrite showed 0... I even tested for Copper just because I had it but it too was 0. The gold danio did not make it and I have moved the zebra danio into a small breeder tank to keep him from being tossed by current in a separate 5 gallon quarantine tank I have set up. But he doesn't look good. Any ideas what happened? <No precise idea. But assuming you did not accidentally introduce a toxin to the aquarium (such as paint fumes or insecticide) I'd place good odds on an extreme water chemistry change. The symptoms sound very like over-acidification, which is quite easy to provoke. Anyway, we need to know two things: Firstly, what's the pH & hardness of the water *out of the tap*. Second, what's the pH & hardness in the aquarium your tank is normally at. Unless the water from the tap is pH 8.0 or more and hardness 20 dH or more, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Most standard tropicals will adapt to those conditions fine, especially commercially bred varieties of things like angels and Corydoras which are a bit more sensitive when wild-caught. Neons and cardinals admittedly like conditions on the soft side, but I've kept them in "liquid rock" waters of Southern England and they do fine. When I've had mortalities, it's been from Neon Tetra Disease, not water chemistry, and once the infected fish died off and I broke the re-infection cycle, the fish become essentially hardy and easy to keep.> Thank you Debbie <Hope this helps, Neale>

Fish dying after water change-freshwater... follow up -- 07/06/07 Hello, <Greetings!> Thanks Neale for your reply. I live here in Dallas, TX. I tested the tapwater and the pH is way over 8.0 (API low pH test is deep blue (7.8) and using API high pH test appears deep brown/purple (8.8) and hardiness tested at 3 (using API). <That's an odd combination of results. What's the "hardness" you're using? A hardness of 3 degrees German hardness ("dH") would be incredibly low, practically nothing could live in that except fish adapted to very soft water conditions. But 3 degrees Carbonate hardness ("KH") would be only somewhat soft, and quite good for tetras and barbs, though bad for livebearers. Without knowing the system of hardness you are using, the number itself is unhelpful. Imagine as if I said something was 100 degrees, without saying whether Celsius, Kelvin, or Fahrenheit. 100 C is boiling water, 100 F is simply a warm summer day, and 100 K is abysmally cold deep space sort of frigid where even what we think of as gases are frozen solid!> I never use to buffer the water before a change, I usually would let it aerate and age for a week... until I got the Amano shrimp. <Non sequitur. Adding buffer does nothing to make tap water more or less safe to use in the aquarium. The only ESSENTIAL addition is dechlorinator (specifically, one that removes chloramine as well as chlorine). Aerating water is, in my opinion, neither effective nor economical. The electricity wasted aerating the water more than offsets the couple of cents' worth of dechlorinator. I buy the stuff in big "pond-friendly" bottles, and that lasts something like a year for an outlay of around $20.> So the very first water change I did with the shrimp in the tank they went nuts all over the tank. It kind of freaked me out... so that's when I tested the pH of the tapwater and made the assumption it was the high pH of the new water that made them go crazy in the tank. <Not sure that A follows B here. Your retailer is presumably keeping fish in water chemistry similar to that which comes out of your tap. So doing a water change shouldn't cause any serious problems. But not adding dechlorinator can cause all sorts of problems. Chlorine itself is toxic, and chloramine breaks down into chlorine plus ammonia, a double whammy for the fish.> The second water change I did with them I adjusted the pH to 7.0 before water change and had no reaction from them. (Note: Sometimes I did not aerate/age the water and simply conditioned and added to tank with no issues but I don't remember whether the first change with the shrimp was aged tapwater or conditioned tapwater straight from the tap) <Adding small amounts of "raw" water to an aquarium without dechlorinator is usually harmless. I confess to having done this when I saw a tank that needed a little topping up. As with anything, it's a question of concentration. A small amount of cyanide is harmless (as in almonds for example) but lots is obviously dangerous. If you're uncomfortable about your success with fish, a very good idea is to do lots of small changes instead of one big one. Two or three 10% water changes across the week should be adequate in most cases, but any potential changes in chemistry will be so small as to be relatively harmless.> Octagon tanks... now that I have one not my favorite either and do recommend against it ... but (A) it was my first tank and (B) neighbor had it in his garage sale for $5 with solid wood stand. <Sounds fine. I've had a hexagon tank as well for much the same reason. The problem with them is they have a poor surface area to volume ration (usually) meaning that for any given volume, a octagon/hexagon tank will hold fewer fish than a regular rectangular one. They also tend to limit the swimming space for fish. Fish that like to swim forwards, like danios, will find them less satisfying than fish that move up and down flat surfaces, like Ancistrus.> The new Tetra Whisper filter has a much stronger flow and a longer intake tube... two pluses for this deeper tank. <Yes, good call.> The remaining fish are still fine. The Kuhlis were out swimming late last night. The only other thing if not chemical is possibly during rearranging of decor and vacuuming they were accidentally pinned or hit causing this... but these fish are pretty fast moving and I move slow allowing them to get out of the way. <Banging a tank frightens the fish, but shouldn't cause serious harm, except with very highly strung things like needlefish (which freak out and damage themselves).> Thanks again. Debbie <So here's the game plan. Find out what hardness scale you on your test kit, dH or KH. Once you know that, we can decide whether modifying the pH and hardness is important. Also, confirm you are using a dechlorinator with chloramine remover. Skip the aerating thing. Waste of time. Long term, start phasing out the pH buffer if you can, and as and when you decide to replace fish, pick species that *prefer* the water chemistry you have. It'll make like 100x easier. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Freshwater 2 fish dying follow up - Carbonate Hardiness test  7/7/07 Hi again, <Greetings!> Sorry to keep writing I know you have many other emails to respond to. For the "hardiness" test that came out to be 3 I used API KH (Carbonate Hardiness) The pamphlet states 3 drops is equivalent to 3 dGH or 53.7 ppm GH. Does that make more sense now? In all honesty I had never used the test for the freshwater just my saltwater tanks. <There's no "conversion" between KH and dH so I have no idea what the pamphlet is talking about. These measurements are testing completely different things. It would be entirely possible to have a high dH but low KH, where the hardness salts were mostly permanent hardness minerals (chlorides and sulphates) rather than temporary hardness minerals (carbonates and bicarbonates). Anyway, be that as it may, 3 degrees KH is vert low. Too low really. Acceptable for softwater fish only. But even then, with very little carbonate reserve in the water, the water would be unable to buffer itself, and pH swings would happen easily. Over time, aquaria drop in pH because of the organic processes going on. Personally, a KH between 6 and 10 is much closer to what I'd consider safe and stable for the average aquarist. One thing I must mention because many ignore this: using "softened" water from a domestic water softener is nearly always a terrible idea. It isn't really soft water but water without temporary hardness. The "softened" water has lots of permanent hardness, and often in amounts and ratios of salts that freshwater fish aren't adapted to. Fish will often adapt well to even rock-hard well water or water from a limestone aquifer. What matters is stability rather than the actual values, unless you're trying to breed softwater fish. Have a read of this: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm .> As water conditioner I've been using Kordon NovAqua Plus. I used to use Amquel but switched because I didn't think I needed something that removed so much. <I checked up this brand, and apparently Kordon NovAqua Plus doesn't remove the ammonia produced when chloramine is present in the water. SO you need to use a dechlorinator that removes ammonia. Something like Seachem Prime or AmQuel Plus. Ammonia in the water will cause some/all of the symptoms you are describing, and certainly can kill fish very quickly. If you're curious, put some water from the tap into the bucket, add the NovAqua Plus, stir, wait a few minutes, and then do an ammonia test. If you detect ammonia, then there's your problem!> The main reason I do 5 gallon water changes weekly is first that's what I started but now mainly because the shrimp leave a lot of droppings on the gravel and so it's not just the water but vacuuming the gravel clean as well. <Don't get too hung up on visible waste in the aquarium. It's hardly ever a problem. The things that threaten the fish are the *invisible* wastes and chemicals. If you really feel the need to change substantial amounts of water but don't understand the background water chemistry, then doing numerous small changes, 5 or 10% at a time, several times a week is much safer approach. But much better to get a handle on the water coming out the tap, provide better buffering for the aquarium.> As far as replacing fish I actually hadn't planned on it... except the SAE when they get big because I just saw how big they can get, but mainly keep them all until they get old and gray so to speak. <A good approach. But sometimes adding fish when they're young avoids problems with territoriality when they're adults. So you need to moderate your rules according to the social behaviour of the species in question.> I think a nice school of cardinal tetras is nice... I've been told by a few people, different LFS staff/different stores, that "they don't count" because they only urinate in the water and that I could add more of them. Is that true? <No, its garbage. Fish produce waste proportional to their body mass and metabolic rate. Therefore 20 cardinals probably produces the same amount of waste as 1 blue gourami. There's no magic going on. They all produce CO2, ammonia, and faeces.> Personally, I think I've maxed out my stocking on this tank. <Perhaps. A use the old "1 inch of small fish to ever 10 square inches of surface area" rule but that's a guideline at best. I don't like the "inches per gallon" type rules because they ignore oxygen uptake at the surface. Either way, observing the fish and measuring water quality are the only real ways to know if a tank is overstocked or not.> Thank you again. Debbie <No problems. Enjoy your fish! Neale>

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