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Astronotus ocellatus (Agassiz 1831), the
Oscar. To seventeen inches (45.7 cm). South America: Rio Amazonas basin
in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Northern Paraguay and French Guiana.
Freshwater: pH range: 6.0 - 8.0; dH range: 5.0 - 19.0, temp. 22 -
25°C. Wild type at the Shedd Aq. 2015
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Doing what it takes to keep Bettas healthy long-term
by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Question for Neale on phosphate based buffers
I have some questions about phosphate based buffers.
I'm setting up a 50 gallon freshwater (low tech, no CO2, lightly planted
with low light varieties) aquarium as the bioload of my 20 gallon is on
the high side. I have 6 Columbian tetras, 4 Orange laser Corydoras, and
6 zebra Danios and a handful of Nerite snails.
The parameters are zero ammonia and nitrite, with nitrates running
around 5-10 ppm. PH is steady around 6.6 and dGH is 6-7°. I run a Fluval
206 canister filter filled with matrix and API Nitrasorb. I switch out
25% of the water every 5 days. I added the Nitrasorb a few months ago as
my nitrates were consistently over 40 ppm even with water changes.
Everyone is healthy and active with great colors.
<I would imagine; sounds a great tank, though do watch the Nerites for
evidence of 'pitting' in their shell -- this can happen in acidic
I use RO water remineralized with Equilibrium. I use SeaChem's phosphate
based buffer Neutral Regulator. My tap water has almost no dGH and is
very acidic and unstable. Tests yellow using API test kit.
My fish have done great with the water I've been making up for them.
Their tank runs around 6.6 because of all the driftwood.
<Yes. The general hardness will have minimal impact on buffering against
pH decline, so to some degree you'll be relying on water changes to
offset background acidification.>
Other friends in the hobby have been pressuring me to switch to a
carbonate based buffering system on my new tank as it will also be
<Indeed. Carbonate is a good buffer, and some plants, such as
Vallisneria and Egeria, rely upon it to some degree as their source of
carbon for photosynthesis. On the other hand, it isn't necessarily
useful for soft water fish, and those plant species that can't use
carbonate ions won't benefit from it.>
My plants in my 20 gallon do struggle with growth and algae issues but I
don't think all the blame lies with Neutral Regulator as I have a
beautiful planted 5 gallon (low bioload, one Betta) that is almost algae
<Can happen, and sometimes it's really difficult to say why algae is the
problem in one tank but not another. Ambient lighting, temperature, the
type of plants used (and allelopathy between them and the algae) are
important factors, as well as the obvious ones like algae-eating fish,
nitrate level, etc.>
Their argument, besides algae, is that phosphate blocks absorption of
iron and other trace minerals.
<Possibly, but not something I have a deep understanding of. In any
case, whatever effect it might have, placing a fertiliser pellet, say, a
few cm down in the substrate close to your most iron-hungry plants
should surely compensate for that?>
My plants in my 20 gallon are struggling except for my java fern and a
small water sprite. I started using iron rich root tabs but to early to
tell if they are working.
<Java Ferns get little if anything from their roots, so root tabs are
irrelevant to them. Floating water plants such as Water Sprite similarly
absorb most if not all of their nutrients through their leaves and
fluffy roots rather than from the substrate, so again, root tablets
don't make much sense. Put another way, while root tabs will dissolve
and release iron and magnesium into the water column, they'll do so far
more slowly, and perhaps less effectively, than adding drops to the
water. Those iron and magnesium ions in or close to the substrate won't
be ignored by those algae that grow on the substrate, such as blue-green
Should I stick with the Neutral Regulator that is so dependable as far
as stable pH and ease of use?
<It is reliable and provides good conditions in terms of stabilising the
pH, but it will inevitably raise phosphate levels, which you can measure
with a suitable test kit. Within reason, phosphate is a useful
fertiliser, but too high and it can trigger algal blooms. Some
experimentation might be in order: try a half-dose of the buffer first,
see what effect that has on pH vs. algae growth, and vs. plant growth,
and act accordingly. Would I use it? No, not if the pH was basically
stable without it.>
My fish are my top priority. Are phosphate based buffers really so
terrible for a planted tank?
<See above. Pros and cons.>
Angelfish egg bound? 2/21/18
I have a 500 litre aquarium running with two external canister filters a
UV steriliser and an ocean free internal filter. No water quality
problems, I test weekly and change a third of the water weekly.
I have four angelfish
and seven comet goldfish, that have been living together for six months.
<Mmm; not really compatible. Like different water quality...
hard/alkaline vs. soft/acidic; temperate vs. tropical... OVER eager
eaters vs. more shy.
Different temperaments as well.>
The temperature is 24 C. My goldies spawn about once a week throughout
the summer and occasionally in the winter. Two of my angels paired up
and have spawned for the first time a couple of weeks ago, although they
tended the eggs for about four days they didn't hatch.
<Might be two females...>
The problem I have was with my other angel. I am pretty sure she is
female as the other female and her bicker, nothing vicious though.
<Shouldn't be too problematical in a system this size>
My other male looked like his breeding tube was down and has been
swimming with her. Anyway she got really fat and I thought she was
gravid as she has been eating well until she refused the last feed I put
in the tank but she seemed fine, swimming normally not hiding,
interacting with the others. I went to the other room to feed my discus
<!? You have Symphysodon too?!>
came back and she was on the bottom of the tank on her side and died
within minutes, no previous signs of distress only that she looked very
fat. What happened?
<Got me. Bizarre>
I was only gone for 20 minutes. Was she egg bound and ruptured or
something? Or was she constipated?
<Can't tell from here>
When my fish poop, it normally breaks of straight away and doesn't hang
there. I am trying to convince myself to cut her open to check but I
don't think I can do it.
<Did you refrigerate the corpse? Time enough to get on down to a large
library and check out a book on fish dissection. Look for the name Ed
If she was egg bound is there anything that can be done if it were to
happen again to my other angel?
<More small crustacean food in their diet. Brine Shrimp, Daphnia...>
She had no outward signs of disease or injury, her belly was just very
bloated. I felt her stomach and the swelling was softish not hard and I
could feel some tiny hard lumps. I feed mostly frozen food,
<I'd delete these; see WWM re>
brine shrimp, krill and an insect based dried food.
I do feed peas once a day but I think the goldies eat most of them and
the angels spit them out. Any advice greatly appreciated so that I can
take immediate action if my other angels start getting swollen. All
other fish are pooping normal, with no obvious signs of internal
parasites. I have some Praziquantel to hand if you think I should treat
with it but I don't want to medicate for no reason.
<If you have another system, I'd separate the goldfish and angels. Bob
Water softened by potassium chloride safe?
Is water that has been softened by a water softener system that uses
potassium chloride safe for a light to moderately planted freshwater
<Mmm; depends; mostly on how "softened" the water has been, with the
exchange, addition of sodium here. What is the make up (GH, KH) of your
Presently I've been using water from my RO system and remineralizing
with SeaChem Equilibrium to bring the gH up to around 7 degrees and
buffer it to pH of 6.6. I have Columbian tetras and other softer water
fish. It's a
rather tedious process making up water for water changes using my
kitchen's RO system which is painfully slow. I have heard conflicting
information on safety of using water softened with potassium chloride
and was curious
what your thoughts were on the topic. It would make collecting water for
water changes so much faster since I could take it from the tap but I'm
all about keeping my fish healthy.
<You can either get/use a sodium test kit (which will give you a
value for K conc.), have someone else test for...
or do the bio-assay bit of just trying/using the softened water. Bob
Re: Water softened by potassium chloride safe? 2/19/18
My source water from my tap (believe it or not) is basically RO with
<... where is the hardness coming from?>
That is the purification process our small water treatment plant uses
Previously they used another method of purification and the tap water
was quite hard and alkaline, thus the RO system in kitchen and whole
house water softener system. They switched to RO because our water comes
nearby river that is brackish. It connects to the Gulf of Mexico.
My house water softener uses potassium chloride, not sodium.
So, sodium is not a concern here.
Too difficult to bypass the water softener and just use tap.
My question is about the safety of the additional or residual potassium
chloride in the softened water through my tap. Would it be good or bad
for soft water fish? I'm guessing my plants would enjoy it.
<I doubt you'll have a problem here. Not much ion exchange likely going
Thanks again Bob!
Betta fish wound 2/17/18
Hello, my Betta fish injured himself somehow I believe possibly by a tank
decoration or something, however it has been about 3 weeks and the injuring just
keeps getting larger and also looks white now , I will attach photos, is there
any kind of medicine I can give him or put into his water (it is filtered and
<Mmm; yes... there are some antibiotics that might help; but I would try
directly daubing this wound area (like w/ a Q-Tip or such) liquid Mercurochrome
or Merthiolate onto this wound; lifting the Betta outside the system, not
dripping the mercury containing material into the water>
I have read much conflicting information on "fix" medications and also salt.
What is the best I can do for a speedy recovery.
Also he is eating okay I think it might be difficult for him to eat because the
injury is right on his face, and he has normal looking poop . I feed him
I also think he has fin rot because he likes to put himself where the filter
sucks in water, therefore, sucking in his fins.
<Mmm; then maybe the Antibiotic (added to the water) in addition. Please read
water quality and a Pleco behavior questions
Hi all, I have a newish 20 gal FW tank (cycled, planted (Anubias, J.
fern, A. sword), sand, cholla wood, and 2 BN Plecos). I'm running an
80gph pump through two socks and two sponge filters, no aeration. (I
any of that yet - I'm paranoid about washing away my good bacteria!).
<Ah yes; cleanliness is not biological sterility>
My tap water and tank water is measuring about 8.2 ph, KH 230ppm, but my
GH is almost nil. I used my last API strip test to measure, which was
verified by my API drops tests for other parameters (nitrates-0,
ammonia-.1 and ph->8). I had a pack of 5 of those strip tests and was
only using them to gauge the hardness after verifying it matched the
other parameters measured by drops, or was close. The numbers on the
hardness have not changed in the 6 weeks since I started the tank.
<Interesting; the KH should decrease with/in time>
My understanding is the KH (I measured that using a swimming pool test
kit for alkalinity, which the pool test booklet says measures calcium
carbonate and matches the strip test KH number)
<Yes; the "K" is from the German, "Kalk" for Calcium>
is good to hold pH steady, and that seems to be the case. I have 2 BN
Plecos doing pretty good (except for behavior question below) in the
tank. I have 8 Harlequin rasboras in QT, and 5 Nerite snails and 5
cherry shrimp on the way. Do I need to ratchet up that GH? Epsom salts?
What won't raise the pH?
<Depending on what you might add to raise GH it might raise the pH or
For instance, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) would raise GH, but not
elevate pH here. I would not add anything myself>
"Thing 1" (the Pleco) has started this behavior: he's stationary on a
smooth rock, then he's either burping or farting, hard to say which but
there's a big bubble, and he immediately races up to the surface and
then back down to
his place on the rock.
<Many South American/Amazonian fishes are facultative aerial
respirators... Able to gulp air. No worries>
I don't think "Thing 2" is doing this (the other Pleco), and it is
happening sporadically - if I stand and watch, he may do it once, but
I've seen him do it about 5 times altogether, over the past 3-4 days.
I've given them a couple Pleco wafers every other day or 2, except the
day I gave them a zucchini. What's up (literally) with the Pleco?
<Nada; no need for concern>
I've had them for about a week now.
<Welcome Barbara. Bob Fenner>
Handling Moneywort 2/14/18
I just got into to getting used to a planted aquarium. My tank is a bare
bottom one with Angles and a discuss.
I added some black soil to one corner of the tank and got moneywort
plant which was rooted in a small plastic cup.
<Is this Bacopa monnieri? An interesting plant, but quite demanding.
Needs very bright light!>
My LFS asked me to place the soil in a bowl and place the plastic cup
along with the plant in the soil and place the bowl in the tank.
<Can be done this way. Essentially like growing a houseplant in your
But instead I have placed the soil directly in one corner of the tank
and placed the plastic cup half submerged in the soil.
<Or this. Is the "plastic cup" one of those with lots of holes in the
side, so the roots can grow out? These often have the plant roots
covered in a sort of mineral wool that looks like loft insulation! Yes,
you can leave the plants in these pots, and after a while the roots will
spread outwards into the gravel or sand.>
I have my tank light running usually a few hours in the morning and a
few hours in the evening. I can see that the plant looks pale before the
light is switched on and once after the light is switched on, it seems
to look a little better. But I still feel that the plant may not be in
its best health. I can also see some leaves floating around the tank
once a while. I do not have a CO2 system for the tank.
<Bacopa monnieri is not difficult to grow, but it does need very bright
light. It's normally grown by removing the stems from the pot, placing
them loosely into the substrate, and letting nature take its course.
Bacopa monnieri is actually a marsh plant, but will do okay in fish
tanks given enough light.>
Please guide me in what can be done for the better health of the plant.
Thanks and regards,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Handling Moneywort 2/14/18
Yes you are right its kind of a small "plastic cup" with holes in the
<Cool. These do work well. Many people remove them of course.>
I am now looking at increasing the period the aquarium light needs to be
switched on to around 8 hours.
<Oh, definitely, BUT do remember: long light period is not a substitute
for brighter light! Plants each need to certain intensity of light to
It's a certain 'threshold' that needs to be exceeded. Moneywort is
fairly demanding, as its light green colour would suggest. Darker leaf
plants, like many Cryptocoryne, will handle less light.>
I have the heater temperature set to 26 C that is around 78 F. Do I need
to make any changes to that. I currently house Angels and a Discus.
<26 C is a bit low for Discus, but ideal for Angels. Most people avoid
mixing the two species. Angels will bully Discus, and carry some
parasites that cause Discus major problems. Be careful!>
Mine is a 10 gallon.
<Not really big enough, long term, for Angels or Discus.>
<And to you too, regards! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Handling Moneywort 2/14/18
My Angels and Discus seem to be nipping the moneywort. Is this common.
<No. They may simply be hungry.>
Thanks and regards,
More Thorichthys issues 2/12/18
A follow up from my issues with Thorichthys discussed before:
They have been feeding and coloring, i have kept a close eye on them and just
today i noticed this... Worm like parasite in the left eye of one maculipinnis.
Look into 0:35 onwards there the nematode can be appreciated.
Consulting with a local aquarist he has said these are seen sometimes in wild
caught fish ( as is the case) and that a jaguar and a salvini of his had these
worms that left them blind on the affected eye but otherwise "well".
My issue is, is there any way to treat this? This looks definitely like a worm.
Is it related to gill/skin flukes? Should i be on the lookout for these as well
on the rest of fish in the tank?
<Eye parasites do occur, and are typically Trematodes such as Diplostomum spp.,
and yes, these can be treated with anti-helminth medications. Praziquantel is
perhaps the most widely used, and is reported to be effective against
Diplostomum at least. If it doesn't work, more aggressive anti-helminths, such
as flubendazole, could be used instead. It is worth noting that some
anti-helminths are known to be toxic to fish, so best stick with the ones known
to be safe, which also include Levamisole and Fenbendazole. Also important is
the fact that many of these eye parasites have complex life cycles that cannot
be completed in the absence of intermediate hosts, typically snails. So it is
possible to break the cycle by ensuring the absence of snails from the aquarium,
even without medication. Unfortunately the flukes can cause cataracts, which are
bad for your fish, so while they may be relatively common in the wild, are not
something most of us would accept under aquarium conditions. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: More Thorichthys issues 2/14/18
I can get Levamisole, and have treated before the planted tank with it for
Camallanus worms with 100% effectiveness in just a single dose.
I treated before the Thorichthys with it, but as you have seen, they keep dying,
just yesterday i lost another one, the one i showed you before with the white
poop coming out. The eye one is still eating and going as usual.
<All sounds a bit dispiriting.>
Just today, the biggest aureus (first aureus affected, by the way) is hiding in
a corner, with very pale color, and not eating, and i could notice a slight
white bulge out of this anus... so i assume... the same thing... i need to treat
this guy and cure him. Im not sure Levamisole works on this... might try
Praziquantel or flubendazole,
<Flubendazole generally regarded as the best of the fish-safe anti-Helminthics.
It kills the eggs, whereas Prazi, and I believe Levamisole, are more 'irritants'
that cause the worms to 'let go' of the gut.>
although ill have to get them as dog or human medicine, because i wont find it
as fish medicine... most probably i will find tablets... does the fish have to
eat this or can it be dissolved?
<It can be added to the water, or put in the food. The latter is probably best,
but the former can work, assuming carbon is removed from the water. I'd also up
the oxygen a bit, too.>
what a bout a bath in a high concentration of it? Levamisole was much easier to
administer because it was a soluble powder that didn't need to be consumed, but
not sure how i will find Prazi or flubendazole.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: More Thorichthys issues 2/18/18
An update: the two affected fish haven't died yet, but no more have
shown any symptoms.
<Well, that's promising.>
I treated with two doses of Levamisole. No Praziquantel or Flubendazole
to be found. But a local drugstore will carry Prazi in a few days.
I also took the fish out and gave then a bath on Epsom salts,
considering that could help them evacuate whatever is causing the
<Not how Epsom salts work; and besides, suddenly exposing fish to
changes in water chemistry and temperature isn't a good idea. Assuming
you're using the 'safe' dose of Epsom salt described earlier, it'll work
slowly in the aquarium, but won't have time to do anything if you're
merely dipping fish for a few minutes in such a concentration. What else
to say except that 'scattergun' approaches to medicating are rarely
effective, and often stressful. Better to do nothing than to mis-use
Pic related its the biggest aureus affected, can you notice the white
bulge coming out of its anus?
<Looks like the ovipositor to me. No more than a few mm long even on big
cichlids. Angled backwards and pointed on males, thicker and rounder on
females. Often visible all the time on males, but usually only visible
immediately (no more than a day or two) before spawning on females.>
Fish affected display it, and right now the condition has worsened on
this fellow. He is getting skinny due to not eating and the bulge is
getting bigger... Like a shin, it is red around the area right now. He's
not moving much, i don't think he's going to make it.
The other affected maculipinnis is still going around the tank, but
hasn't eaten, but, he is evacuation ample white, stringy feces.
<Classic symptom of Hexamita, but do understand many anti-Helminthics
will cause the bowel to evacuate large quantities of faeces, plus
mucous, as part of the way they work.>
The bath consisted of 1 tblsp of Epson salt in a gallon of water.
<So 5 tablespoons per 5 US gallons; to remind you/readers of the correct
dosage as a medication, 1 to 3 tablespoons Epsom salt per 5 US
gallons/20 litres. Higher dosages, as you're doing, may be tolerated by
hard water fishes, but do monitor pH and general hardness to ensure they
are within the safe limits.>
<You're welcome. Neale.>
Re: More Thorichthys issues But, this time, autopsy!
I am sorry for messaging so much (double messaging even) things just seem to be
going downhill without much in my power to do...
The biggest aureus, which i showed a picture of in my earlier message, finally
succumbed. I quickly scooped him out and tried to find anything i could.
Surprise, he also had an eye parasite... these look like and move like worms...
like, leeches... i would say they act and move like leeches, white in color with
some red dots on the lower body... i have a video, if you would like to see it,
i will send it to you bad quality video by the way.
<While that would be interesting, I do think
Then, i performed an autopsy on the swollen belly of the deceased. I found
this.. worm, immobile, lying tangled in the organ that is also shown in the
picture... warning, graphic.
<Looks like a nematode. Could be a harmless species though: a dead fish will
attract them out of the aquarium environment, where they otherwise feed on
decaying organic matter.>
Levamisole is ineffective to this. There is another Thorichthys showing
symptoms, the one i showed you before with an eye parasite. It doesn't seem to
be getting worse, but isnt getting better either, eventually starvation will set
in i guess...
<Ah, do think I have mentioned this before. Flubendazole and Fenbendazole are, I
believe, the 'best' anti-Helminthics drug aquarists have access to; Piperazine,
Levamisole and Praziquantel are good, but by no means 100% effective. These
latter are cheaper and more easily obtained though, hence their wide usage in
The remaining three of the Thorichthys (of a total of 10 originally....) seem to
be doing completely fine. No eye parasite, no weird behavior, feeding a lot and
generally acting like a cichlid.
<Which is nice.>
Main questions are: Are these parasites (eye and intestinal, which seem to be
different parasites) contagious at this point?
<Impossible to say. Most 'worm' parasites have intermediate hosts such as snails
or small crustaceans that they need to enter before producing the next
generation of infective stages that will go after your fish. There are
exceptions though, including Camallanus, which is why that genus of worm is so
prevalent in fish farms and even home aquaria. Camallanus worms infect healthy
fish via organic muck eaten from the substrate, so 'hoovering' the substrate
will go some way to removing the baby Camallanus worms. The precautionary
approach would be to keep the health fish isolated (i.e., in another tank) from
the infected ones, and to ensure the healthy fish do not become exposed to water
(buckets, nets, etc.) from the unhealthy fish tank. I would strip down the
healthy tank as far as practical, so that it can be kept thoroughly clean.>
i made sure to remove any dead bodies rapidly from the tank.
The planted tank has a collection of characins, Kribensis, and ugh... my
precious Plecos.... Is there any risk of infection?
<While many parasites are species-specific, unfortunately the worm-like
parasites do tend to be generalists, or at least adaptable. Medicating all fish
exposed to the infected fish is certainly wise.>
should i move the remaining affected fish?
<The ideal would be to remove all infected fish to a clean hospital tank;
medicate as effectively as possible (i.e., Praziquantel if that's what you have,
but Fenbendazole or flubendazole if possible). Leave the healthy fish where they
are, but clean the tank as far as practical (to get rid of any parasites in the
gravel, etc.) and generally give the tank a good tidy up to ensure excellent
water quality, stable water chemistry, and maximum oxygen levels.>
should i also remove the Thorichthys that are healthy? any...measurements?....
im really scared right now.
<Understood. I think you've been unlucky here, but cichlids do travel badly, and
there is a problem in the hobby with cichlids picking up various parasites (such
as Hexamita and Camallanus) on fish farms, wholesalers, and at retailers.
Quarantining expensive cichlids is certainly recommended, and prophylactic
treatment for Hexamita, and possibly Camallanus, can make a lot of sense. Good
Fish Not moving around the tank
I have a couple of Angelfish and a discuss which I got recently. I did a
water change yesterday and had some changes done to the decor of my tank
by adding a plant and moving the driftwood and rocks to one side of the
<How much water change?>
Since yesterday I have observed that all my fishes have stayed to one
side of the tank and don't seem to explore the tank or move around.
<Something amiss here environmentally. I'd remove the driftwood, add
Is this a normal behavior and will get normal over time or is there
anything that can be done to solve this. The Fish seem normal though and
don't seem to be chasing each other.
Thanks and regards,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
A couple of white bumps on my Betta 2/11/18
I’ve had my Betta, Ting Krit, for about 15 months. He’s always been outrageously
healthy, building bubble nests, hitting his food like a hungry bass hitting a
lure, swimming very actively. He’s in a 5.5 gallon heated, filtered tank with 1
assassin snail I added to deal with a pond snail infestation.. Temperature
stable at about 77 degrees, pH stable at 7.0 to 7.2. I check chemicals every
week and change out a gallon of water. Ammonia and nitrite always zero, Nitrate
less than 5. I used to check KH and GH as well, but they were always stable and
not a problem (I checked that with you earlier). I let his water sit in a tank
for a week before water changes with a couple of Catappa leaves in it. A couple
of weeks ago, I noticed a white spot on his left side. He still acts completely
healthy. I thought it might just be a normal discoloration. Today, I noticed
that the spot is raised, like a wart, and there seems to be one developing on
his top, well behind his head. His right side still looks normal; he’s always
had a bit of uneven coloring. I’m attaching 2 photos of his right side (one from
the top) and one of his left. His tank is growing a bit of algae. He was moved
cross-country recently, but I moved him in a large covered tub with his heater
plugged into the car plug, so he stayed warm the whole time and water stayed
clean. The only change I’ve made in the last 3 months is to start occasionally
feeding him some thawed (previously frozen) brine shrimp. Is this something to
<I don't know specifically what these spots are... Looks too big to be a
Protozoan parasite issue... Do you feed live freshwater food/s? If this were my
fish I would not treat it with medicine/s, but just provide the good care you
detail above and be patient. Hopefully the dots/spots will resolve themselves
soon. Bob Fenner>
Fwd: a couple of white bumps on my Betta
One additional bit, the only explanation I can think of. Right before the bump
appeared, I was trying to drop a bit of brine shrimp to the Assassin snail. Ting
Krit went nuts trying to catch the brine shrimp and shoved himself against the
heater in the back of the tank. Could he have burned himself?
<Could have; yes. I am inclined to think these are blobs of body mucus... from
physical trauma/s. BobF>
Re: a couple of white bumps on my Betta 2/11/18
Thank you. That was my inclination since this spot doesn’t match anything I can
find as a parasite or disease - also he continues to act very, very healthy.
I just fed him. He immediately swims to my side of the tank when I approach and
he almost grabs the food pellets from my hand these days, Then he spends the
next few minutes patrolling the tank hoping I dropped something else. He never
rubs against things in his tank as though his side bothers him. Also, I think I
imagined the spot on his top, or it is disappearing already - today it looks
like no more than his usual uneven coloration.
I never feed live food because I’m too afraid of parasites or disease. I even
destroyed the freeze-dried blood worms I’d bought him after my biologist brother
explained all the diseases blood worms can transmit and how hard it is to be
sure that they are safe.
<Yes; I too am not a fan of these sewer fly larvae>
Ting Krit only gets dried pellets and thawed, frozen brine shrimp.
Thank you again for your time and reassurance. I’m pretty attached to the little
guy and want to keep him healthy.
<Glad to share with you. B>
Best cichlid for 50 gallon community tank
I'm setting up a 50 gallon tank with sand substrate, some rock, lots of
wood and hardy plants (no CO2). My tap water is very soft (hardness
around 7°, pH around 6.4-6.8). I have 6 healthy Columbian Tetras, 6
zebra Danios and 4 Orange lazer corys from an established 20 gallon that
I plan on moving to the 50 gallon once it has cycled and settled a bit.
I plan to move the Danios over first and then add the tetras later and
the corys last (if I can ever get them in a net).
I would love to add a single male cichlid and was wondering if a
cockatoo dwarf would get along with the above. I would love a single
blue Acara but would be consider my Danios or tetras lunch? If I divide
the tank in two with the middle section more open, would it reduce the
Acara's aggression? I could leave my little Danios in the 20 gallon. A
friend also recommended a keyhole cichlid as a possible choice.
Thanks for your advice.
<Keyhole Cichlids are an excellent choice for this sort of tank. Not the
most dramatic fish, but quiet and unassuming, and if you have soft
water, should be quite easy to keep. Cockatoo Cichlids are also a good
choice. Quite adaptable and hardy fish, by dwarf cichlid standards.
Might also consider the Bolivian Ram, an all-around reliable dwarf
cichlid that has nice colours and a decent personality. Sheepshead Acara
another obvious choice; again, subtly coloured, rather retiring, but
excellent choices for dark, well-planted tanks with placid fish. Kribs
can be a good choice too, some of the rarer species, like Pelvicachromis
subocellatus being really rather lovely. Famously fecund, a singleton
won't cause much trouble and they're very easy to keep, as well as
vividly coloured. Blue Acaras are basically good fish, but there are a
few problems with them. First, they will eat fish they can swallow.
Large Danios should be okay, but anything bite-size might disappear!
Secondly, the quality isn't that great, often lacking the vivid blue we
expect (and see in photos). Finally, there is a notorious look-alike
species called Aequidens rivulatus that has similar, even better
colours, but is far more aggressive. Caveat emptor! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Best cichlid for 50 gallon community tank
Thanks Neale! Great advice as always. It will either be a
Keyhole or a cockatoo.
<Two nice choices. Very different in looks and personality. Indeed, in a
big tank, why not keep one of each? Cheers, Neale.>
Saving Betta from possible Ammonia Poisoning
I'm sorry to trouble you,
<Never a bother>
but I could use some help with my sick Betta, Samson. To cover the
basics, Samson normally lives in a 5 gallon heated, and cycled tank (had
been cycled for 2 years now). Tank gets a 25% water change every week.
<Great so far>
Our tap water here has ammonia in it, so I've been adding Ammo-lock as
well as a water conditioner that deals with chlorine and chromomine.
Two weeks ago I went on vacation, I had someone come in to feed the
rodents of the house, and asked them to feed my two Bettas occasionally
as well (don't worry, they are in separate tanks).
Long story short, the filter in Samson's tank died while I was gone. I
came home to a tank growing grey algae, food sitting on the bottom, and
a not so great looking fish. Samson was hanging out right at the top of
his colour had faded from vibrant red to red with a gray tone to it.
I immediately did a 50% water change, and went out to get a new filter
for him. I wanted to buy test strips for ammonia but my LFS was all out.
I did buy test strips for Nitrates and Nitrites, both of which read (and
to read) 0ppm.
I installed the filter, and did another 30% water change the next day.
Samson perked right up about a day later and his colour came back. I
thought the problem was mostly dealt with, as long as I kept up water
changes 2x a week.
All weekend he seemed fine, then on Monday he suddenly stated acting
extremely ill again. His colour faded once more, he started clamping his
fins, and he was back to either staying right at the top of the tank, or
laying on the bottom. I did another 30% water change, which did not make
any difference to his behaviour.
I got home from work today and just did a 100% water change, making sure
to scrub out my gravel and silk plants. I know it means restarting my
tank, but I was worried that I had missed some of the gray algae and
was making him sick.
<I would've done the same>
I swapped the filter media in from my other cycled Betta tank, to speed
the cycling process along.
During the tank cleaning, I had set Samson up in a small holding tank,
with some Methylene blue added. I've read it can help repair damage from
ammonia poisoning. I added him back into his main tank a few hours ago,
and so far
all he's done is hide, but he's still not looking great.
<The repair will take time. A few weeks>
The problem is my LFS is STILL out of ammonia test strips, and since
Samson is a red fish, I can't determine if he has the red ammonia burns
I've looked him over pretty closely with a flashlight and can't see any
obvious signs of a parasite (at least not on the outside). He is still
interested in food, just struggling to reach it.
I'm concerned that I've misdiagnosed the problem, or that he got such
severe poisoning that he's going to need more help than simple water
changes and filtering can fix. I'm also concerned that he's not bouncing
back like he
should due to his age. He was full grown when he came to me (he was a
rescue) and I've had him just over 2 years.
Any suggestions on how to help him along in recovery? I really
appreciate any advice you could give.
<I would continue to do as you are doing; perhaps raise the temperature
to the low to mid 80's F. Patience here. Bob Fenner>
Re: Saving Betta from possible Ammonia Poisoning
Thank you for the quick response. Just an update, It's been 12 hours
since I broke down the tank and cleaned everything. Being put into a
holding tank, and then back into the main tank stressed Samson (the
though I tried hard to do it as gently as possible.
My tank parameters at the moment are 0 nitrites, 0 nitrates, ph 7, temp
of 26.5C, not sure on hardness, but I know we typically do have very
hard water here. I still don't know the ammonia amount but I will be
checking back at my LFS tonight to see if the test strips came in.
The bad news is he's been hiding for the full 12 hours.
<To be expected... not to worry>
No interest in food at all. I haven't seen him swim around at all
either, but when I check on him he has switched hiding places a few
times, so he is obviously swimming slightly. He is just laying on the
bottom in his various caves and gives no reaction when I come to the
tank. I have lots of plants that reach the surface, so he could hang out
up top if he wanted too, but he is either too weak to get there, or just
prefers to be on the bottom right now.
<The stress of the move...>
The good news is he seems to be breathing easier, it is not laboured at
all, he is laying upright, and I think his colour has improved just
marginally, it's more red and less grey, but still not back to normal.
He is honestly acting like he does when he sleeps, but I've never seen
him sleep for 12 hours straight before.
I took a good look after his Methylene blue bath for any signs of
staining, to try and identify any cell damage. I couldn't see anything
noticeable, but of course I'm no expert and may have missed something.
<Methylene Blue is very safe, mild>
My best guess is that his filter was out for a week while I was gone. So
I think the ammonia buildup get pretty bad.
<Could have been>
I do understand if he is going to recover that it's going to take time.
I just hate seeing him in distress. I think I need some tough love here,
does he have any chance at recovering?
Is there anything else I could be doing to help the process along?
<Not really; no. Just time going by>
I want to give him the best chance I can, but if there really is no
hope, I also don't want to prolong his suffering
I really appreciate that you and the rest of the crew take time to
answer questions like mine.
Wishing you all the best,
Re: Saving Betta from possible Ammonia Poisoning 2/15/18
Hi Bob and Crew,
Sorry to trouble you again, but my Betta fish Samson seems to have
I emailed last week about my sick Betta Samson, who we thought had
ammonia poisoning. We got a new test kit and have been checking the
The ph is between 6.5 and 7, the temperature is 27c, no nitrites or
nitrates ever registered. We have ammonia in our tap water (registers at
0.5ppm after adding water conditioner), so we use API AmmoLock.
<If I haven't stated this before, I strongly encourage you to treat and
save new/change out water a week or more ahead of use>
We had swapped in the filter from our other cycled Betta tank, which
seemed to be working on dealing with the tap water ammonia and were
doing 25% water changes daily. For 3 days the fish was doing better. He
and had a pale colour, but he started eating again and wasn't hiding or
clamping his fins at all. He would swim out to see me when I came to the
tank, he just needed to have a rest afterwards. He seemed to be on the
road to recovery.
Then on Saturday he seemed to be a bit worse, so instead of the daily
25% water changes I'd been doing, I did 30% water changes. On Sunday he
started acting very ill again, he would swim to the surface to breathe
have the energy to settle himself back down again, instead just falling
onto whatever was below him (ending up hanging upside down from a plant
at one point). He wouldn't eat, he wouldn't react to anything. I would
thought he was dead except that his gills were still moving.
With nothing else to try, I set up a 1 gallon hospital tank with
Methylene blue and moved him into that. I'm completely at a loss to
explain why he has now twice improved and then become much worse very
quickly. I would suspect water quality but the tank readings seem great
and I had done a complete tank clean and 100% water change the last time
he started getting worse. I have another Betta tank set up with the same
parameters, same food, and that fish is thriving! Samson's been in the
hospital tank for 3 days with 50% water changes. He's now able to sit
upright again and decided he was willing to eat a small amount again
I've checked Samson over several times with a flashlight looking for
anything that could explain this weird cycle. I can't see any visible
deformities, no scratches or scrapes, no broken fins. The only thing I
can see that seems wrong is a greenish/brown colour on his tail fin that
is not part of his normal colouring (when healthy he was a vibrant red).
I've dealt with velvet in tanks before and this doesn't look anything
like it to me. I'm not even sure this colouring is a sign of a specific
disease or simply a change in colour due to illness.
I was hoping for some help in identifying what could be wrong so that I
can begin a targeted treatment instead of just leaving him in Methylene
blue and hoping that works. I'm assuming since this started with a
broken filter that we are still dealing with ammonia poisoning but also
possibly a secondary infection.
List of symptoms that I've seen:
-rapid gill movement (this is a new development in the last few days)
-loss of appetite (this comes and goes)
-struggling to stay upright (this also comes and goes)
-loss of colour
-greenish brown colouring on tail fin
<... nothing jumps out other than stress from all the changes>
Standard symptoms I have not seen:
-No gold specs
-no white growths
-no streaking or dark tissue
-no fin or body rot
-no eye glassing or swelling
-gills are not visibly swollen
-no trouble eating when he wants to eat
-no obvious weight loss
-no body swelling
-no raised scales
-no scrapes, holes or missing scales
-pooping just fine
Any advice at all would be very much appreciated. I've dealt with sick
Betta's before (I used to work in a pet shop that sold Betta's and I
treated any that came in sick), but I'm honestly at a loss for what I'm
dealing with here.
<I urge patience and caution here against doing anything else... Likely
the best course of action is to do nothing further. Bob Fenner>
Thorichthys care/sickness 2/7/18
Hello crew. Hope you are doing fine.
Some weeks ago i talk to you about the possibility of getting wild T. aureus and
I got a group of 4 and 5 respectively. They came pretty stressed and some got
ich as soon as they got into my tank, along with minor fungal infections.
<Often the case.>
A 32c + salt + malachite green treatment later and they are looking great.
They are eating and gaining weight, but their behavior is not good. From afar, i
can see them moving and going around the tank (120 x 40 x 35) and picking sand
but as soon as i go near the tank they stay still.
<Is the tank brightly lit? These fish dislike bright lights.>
They don't hide, they just stay still. No movement at all. They are housed with
an Acara diadema and a small jack Dempsey ( about 7-8 cm)
<JDs are not compatible with Thorichthys species, so I'd separate them ASAP; as
you hopefully realise, Thorichthys cannot fight because of their modified jaws,
used for sifting sand. So they fight mostly with bluff, hence the eye-spots on
the gill covers. If forced to fight, their jaws can become dislocated, and such
fish starve to death. Acara are a mixed bag, and Aequidens diadema is a very odd
choice here, being a sort of blackwater specialist really, and again, a bit
prone to aggression. Might be fine with the JD given space, but I'd not risk
they both exhibit the same behavior.
<See above. Cichlids prefer dark tanks, and upwelling light, whether from light
substrate or plain glass, will disturb them. Adding floating plants will help a
lot, because their main fear is overhead predators such as Herons. So anything
that offers shade and shelter will help. Old school approach for quarantining
new livestock was an unlit tank, shady corner of the room, away from heavy
footfall (e.g., a basement, not a busy corridor), and large flower pots for
The only ones that seem to don't mind are the Ancistrus cirrhosus in there( 2 of
Diet is Spirulina tablets and AquaMaster cichlid food along with flakes. They
all eat readily and in front of me. Just their general behavior is off.
<See above to begin with; but there's more, of course, below...>
Today i found one of the largest maculipinnis dead. He seems a bit bloated, as
the rest of the fish don't have that bulge. There is very fine river sand,
no pebbles. Big rocks and caves for hiding.
<Unfortunately the bloating could be anything, even decomposition. Assuming the
fish are feeding well, I'd perhaps go the good old Metronidazole approach as a
good first pass sweep against the commonest cichlid problems, but nothing else
is immediately obvious here.>
I observe them daily, and that bulge wasn't there yesterday. I reckon i missed
on the water change schedule the last two times by a few days, im not sure if
that could have been it given their wild nature. Ph is 7.8, gH and kH around
9-10. No ammonia ( sump filter) but i lack nitrate tester...
Any insight on the matter is welcome...
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Thorichthys care/sickness 2/7/18
I moved the maculipinnis to a separate bare bottom tank ( will have sand too) to
observe them better. See the video, maybe that can flash some more light on the
matter. Its just this one, the smallest, but i saw one of the others do it a few
days back ( still alive).
<Nice looking fish. Nothing obviously wrong. Would suggest environment is off,
perhaps lighting. Do also review water chemistry as appropriate to each species
-- fish will be nervous if water too hard or soft for them. Ditto temperature.
Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Thorichthys care/sickness 2/7/18
Do you not see the shaking weird? it looks similar to the Poeciliids ""shimmy"".
<Just looks nervous to me.>
Water hardness and ph should be on point. These are lake Izabal F0 specimens
I have moved the aureus to the planted tank, they have perked and colored
Active and all... maybe i should just move the maculipinnis too? but i would
prefer to keep them separated, they are juveniles yet, but will they be easily
told apart one species of another when older? internet pictures are not very
<Understood. Can you not add some floating plants, even bunches of pond weed, to
the quarantine tank in the meantime, to see if that calms the nervous cichlids a
bit? Obviously can't be 100%, but I do feel this is psychological, not
pathological. Cheers, Neale.>
Continuation to problem / something very wrong. Thorichthys plus
I've talked to you guys these past couple days about problems with a batch of
wild Thorichthys aureus/maculipinnis.
On a follow up i moved most of them to a big 150 gal planted tank. The original
tank they were in turns out there is something really wrong with it. Today i
found the jack Dempsey and Acara diadema heavily distressed, discolored and
refusing food. 1 Ancistrus cirrhosus is dead and one Ancistrus ranunculus as
well. Both of these have been tank raised, so we know for a fact these fish
thrive in our waters. Picture added. You can notice a big bulge on the
cirrhosus, a common occurrence among these when fed too much protein... this was
not the case, as i feed regular flake, Spirulina tablets and vegetables. The
ranunculus, on the other part, has a sunken stomach. One could say their dietary
needs are far apart, but the case is that there is another ranunculus, with a
normal sized stomach, and another cirrhosus, who is well fed but not swollen.
<I would start suspecting some poisoning of the tank. Whether adding something
by accident, such as wood that's been treated with herbicide, or something
already in the tank causing, for example, a sudden drop in oxygen level. Often
times it's easiest to strip down a tank that's "failed" catastrophically,
removing the fish in a bucket while you remove all the sand and wood, leaving
just the filter and anything easily cleaned, such as ceramic ornaments. Big
water changes also useful. Ideally, pretty much all of it. Try to keep
temperature and water chemistry steady though. Of course, before going down this
path, check water quality and chemistry to make sure they're right.>
In my past messages i told you how the Thorichthys would have swollen bellies
when i found them dead.... this is may be a clue. Of all the Thorichthys,
currently there is only one who has a slightly swollen belly and has white poop
(non stringy, but rather, full, big) constantly coming out of him... i grabbed
the fish gently and pulled on it and a piece of it came off... the fish is
constantly evacuating said white poop... also, the fish is constantly shaking..
similar to Poeciliidae shimmying.
<Shimmying is a symptom of stress, so rather difficult to put down to a specific
ill address a video of the fish and its white poop in another message, since im
reaching max size. the rest of the Thorichthys are colorful, active, and
eating.. constantly picking at the substrate.
<Yes, please try and keep any/all files to less than 1 MB in size. Larger files
cause us problems, and may cause your message to be returned unread.>
The aquarium in which they were before (in which the Ancistrus died, and where
the Dempsey and Acara are) has turned white overnight, very cloudy. The filter
sponges have also a strange, slimy, fluffy kind of growth which honestly i have
<Bacterial blooms could easily explain the cloudiness, and the fluffy stuff
could be bacteria or, if on organic matter such as wood, fungus. Bacterial
blooms typically imply unstable water chemistry and/or quality. Fungus usually
appears on wood that hasn't been properly cured. Such fungus is more or less
colourless, whereas your typical thread or beard algae have dark green, even
I am at a loss. As of right now i have bleached the filter pieces and tubing. Im
boiling water to clean the tank and start a new with used filter media from
other tanks. i am restarting the tank. The fish are in a bucket and will be
moved here after cleaning.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Thorichthys care/sickness 2/8/18
I will add plants to the quarantine, i have plenty.
Seems i need to relocate fish/rearrange the tanks. I guess all the Thorichthys
will be sent to the 150 gal planted tank until i properly arrange a 55 gal. I
don't want hybrids so two tanks will have to be.
<Understood and agree.>
I would rather keep them in the 150 but i don't want to take chances with the
smaller species of characins and the rest of fish in there.
I found another one dead... on the floor. So... yes, this is stress. This isnt
going as planned, but i will pull through.
<Hope so. Take your time, and use water changes and supplemental aeration as the
two most useful tools to getting through environmental stress. While big water
changes run the risk of exposing fish to changes in pH and temperature, if the
water is 'bad' this is by far the lesser of two evils.>
Thanks again, for everything. I hope i can send you some pictures at a later
date, when they have developed their best colors and size, and hopefully i get
pairs and spawn.
<Will look forward to seeing this photos in due course.>
Freshwater Aquarium Articles & FAQs
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