FAQs on Freshwater Aquariums &
Related Articles: Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality,
pH, alkalinity, acidity,
Treating Tap Water, Freshwater Maintenance, Frequent Partial Water
Filtration, Setting up a Freshwater
Aquarium, Tips for
Related FAQs: FW H2O
Quality 1, Freshwater Nutrient
Disease, Treating Tap Water for
Aquarium Use, pH, Alkalinity,
Acidity, Biological Filtration, Nitrogen Cycling, Establishing Cycling 1, Nitrite, Nitrate,
Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease,
Nitrification in Acid waters 12/15/12
One of the biggest urban myths in the hobby today is the one that says
nitrification ceases below a pH of somewhere between 6.0 and 6.5. This
simply is not true.
<I do agree... does slow down, never ceases>
I can offer the example of my altum tanks. Basically I started with an
uncycled Q tank at pH 4.2. It took me a couple of months to raise the pH
to the 6 level. During this process ammonia tested as high as .50 ppm
between water changes. The ammonia levels dropped to 0 on the way to
6.0. The bio-farm I had also set up to adapt cycled poret foams to
oxidize at a pH of 6.0 proved not to be needed. But this is merely
be anecdotal evidence.
I can offer you the following research paper on this topic which
appeared in the Journal of Applied and Environmental Biology:
Nitrification in a Biofilm at Low pH Values: Role of In Situ
Microenvironments and Acid Tolerance
1.. Armin Gieseke1,*,
2.. Sheldon Tarre2,
3.. Michal Green2 and
4.. Dirk de Beer1
1.. 1Microsensor Group, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology,
Celsiusstrasse 1, D-28359 Bremen, Germany
2.. 2Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Technion-Israel
Institute of Technology, Technion City, Haifa 32000, Israel
This is the conclusion:
"Conclusions. There is no evidence for either the conducive
microenvironment hypothesis or the common existence of specific groups
of acid-tolerant nitrifying bacteria. Instead, physiological adaptations
to low pH could be shown for various AOB and NOB. Under acidic
conditions, subgroups of nitrifi-ers, such as Nitrospira spp., N.
oligotropha, and Nitrospira spp., seem to profit from their strong
substrate affinity. The adaptation process is slow and possibly linked
to the expression of additional cellular functions, e.g., ammonium
You can read the complete paper here
<Thank you for this>
I have been posting this information on various fish forums trying to
tear down the myth that the tank bacteria can't function in acid water.
They can and do, it just takes time to get them adapted to the point
where they do.
I am a member at finarama.com a site for wild angels and discus. We have
a thread there on cycling acid water tanks. One of the posts in the
thread contains a reply from Dr. Timothy Hovanec on this topic. Here is
the exchange between him and a site admin (you have to join that site to
be able to read the forums):
"Now, as I wanted Dr. Hovanec to provide us with some straight answers,
I went ahead and formulated just 3 questions that summarize this matter
in a very simple way.
This is our correspondence:
<I know Tim... he and I attended SDSU for many years... I count him as
an industry friend>
On Jul 5, 2011, at 12:24 AM, Edgar Ruiz wrote:
"Hi Dr. Hovanec.
One of our main issues:
1. How to get biofilter working at low pH?
2. Can nitrifying bacteria adapt somehow to low pH (i.e. < pH 5.0)?
3. Can a very slow adaption (several weeks/months), serve to help
nitrifying bacteria cycled in an alkaline or neuter culture media, work
in moderately acid media?
Hello Mr. Ruiz:
Thanks for the email - years ago (and I mean around 1986 or so) I spent
several weeks exploring the entire Venezuelan Coast from Columbia all
the way over the Orinoco Delta as a consultant for a company that wanted
to build a shrimp farm somewhere - was a great trip. Before cell phones
and the internet!
Please see my answers to your questions below and if you have any follow
I would be glad to answer those also.
This basically answers the above 3 questions:
The best way would be to start at a higher pH and get the bacteria going
then slowly reduce the pH.
<A good idea, path>
The bacteria will slow down and so you have to have lots of patience and
monitor ammonia and nitrite and keep the value below 2 ppm and let the
bacteria adapt or select themselves for being able to work in the low pH
environment. I am not sure how long it would take - probably months
rather than weeks.
Also does your group tend to keep the fish in high humic conditions?
Nitrifiers do not like humic acid or humic conditions so this is a
potential problem. And if would be better to have a substrate for the
bacteria to grow on like ceramic pieces etc rather than free swimming in
I have taken the liberty of attaching a few papers that show nitrifiers
can be "adapted" to low pH values - 3.8 in one paper and it is
interesting that they found large amount of Nitrospira as the
nitrite-oxidizer which, of course, is what I showed years ago. So you
could start with some of my One & Only as a seed and then slowly
cultivate a low pH bacteria group (not mono or pure cultures). Once you
had a decent population you could share amongst your group.
I hope this helps."
On another topic, I have always enjoyed the site even though I have
never been a member. Thanks for ,making and maintaining it.
Chris L aka TwoTankAmin
<Thank you again for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Betta tank recycling! - Finrot 12/10/12
Am having a bit of an emergency so am going to try to make it quick. A
friend gave me an unwanted Betta, arg.
<I have been given these, also.>
I put it in my 2.5 gallon empty but cycled and running hospital tank.
He's been in there a few weeks. I am going today to buy him a 5 gallon.
Last week he got Finrot. I assumed it was from temp fluctuations at
night since all other parameters were perfect.
<Possibly. They do prefer warmer water.>
He is now at a toasty 82, I treated with Maracyn. Not sure if he's
getting better but not getting worse.
<Could take more than one treatment cycle. In my experience Finrot on
Bettas can be stubborn, and these fish seem to be susceptible to
The Maracyn blew out my bio filter. I took media from my 20 gallon and
put it in the filter, am doing 50% water changes daily.
<Would stop doing this during treatment because you are removing meds,
and that means you aren't delivering the proper dosage.>
My tap water reads at 2 for ammonia so I treat it with prime but
the tank is still reading at 1.0.
<This is a problem. I think your solution for this
short-term problem is to use ammo-chips aka zeolite. The stuff adsorbs
ammonia. You might also consider adding a bit of java moss to the small
tank if you have any available, but I would discard it after the fish is
healthy again.> I am getting the 5 gallon which I will seed with the
filter media from my other tank but until I can get it under control I
need to help him before the Finrot comes back or gets worse from the
<Personally, I would prefer to leave the fish in the 2.5 gallon tank
until the Finrot is resolved, mainly because it requires less Maracyn.
But, watch the ammonia levels and if they persist at problem levels,
then maybe the 5 gallon tank is the wise move.>
Should I leave him and persist or float him in a plastic colander in my
<I would not move a sick fish into a healthy tank, no.>
Not sure if this will stress him out? Thanks in advance, Marya.
<Good luck. - Rick>
Re: Betta tank recycling! - Finrot 12/10/12
Thanks Rick for the response,
To clarify I did complete the first 5 day treatment with no water
<ah, I see.>
I did a 50 and checked next day and ammonia was high for the first time
since I cycled the tank. Should I go ahead an start the second
treatment, cease water changes and use zeolite?
<It's all about trade-offs here. You have an ammonia problem that
comes from the tap water, and if the tank cycle crashed, you will have
more from the fish. That will stress the fish, of course. On
the other hand, the fish must be treated. I think I'd put some
zeolite into a small filter bag and if you have any water motion at all
in there, put it into the current. (If you have a filter put it in
there, also remove any activated carbon). If you live in the US,
PetSmart has small filter bags with a draw string for under a dollar.
Depending on how much flame moss you have, you can put some of that in,
but I wouldn't want to remove all of a healthy flame moss from a healthy
tank if the plant is small. See what the ammonia readings are
immediately and then after several hours. If the ammonia is not
going down significantly, you may need to move the fish into the larger
tank to keep the ammonia levels lower. And you may very well need to do
some partial water changes and a longer/higher concentration treatment
How will I know when the fin rot is defeated?
<The fins will start to heal and look healthy again.>
Also I only have flame moss in my other tank, will this help?
<Java moss was one suggestion. Any plant will help.>
I will check for java miss but am pretty sure my LFS doesn't have it.
<Welcome. Again, good luck. Never fun treating ill fish. - Rick>
Goldfish - tank size - cycling
Short story - I took my 3 yr old to the fair - ended up with a goldfish.
This was about 3 weeks ago. I *knew* nothing about fish.
Giving away fish at a carnival should be banned.
<Happens far too often, fish treated like trinkets instead of living
I purchased for 8 dollars a small plastic container from the fair
Next day he was gasping for air. Being that I knew nothing about fish -
I rushed to PetSmart - got him a lovely 2 gallon tank with filter. He
stayed in there a week while I researched how to take care of him.
Realized way toooo small of a tank for him. Got him a 20 gallon. He's
doing great. I continued my research - I probably need a bigger tank.
There is no way I can get a bigger tank for this fish. I've already
dumped about 600 dollars on tank, accessories, water testing kits.
<Education can be expensive. Despite how common goldfish are, they
really aren't beginner fish. That's especially true in a tank. Honestly,
I think you would be better off to see if a pet store will take it, or
see if you can give it to somebody with a pond. Ponds are really where
goldfish belong. Then, you can do a little research and get some fish
that will be more appropriate for your setup, and will give you
enjoyment instead of headaches. I'll address the questions regardless,
1st question: About cycling:
As much as I would have loved to do fishless cycle - I couldn't keep him
in the 2 gallon any longer, he was suffering. <Good that you recognized
this. Many just leave the fish there.>
I've had him in the 20 gallon for about a week. I am testing free
ammonia every day and shows nothing.
<Hmm. One week is not long enough to fully cycle a tank, and usually not
long even enough for the nitrite to spike. Check the instructions on the
ammonia test kit. Some of them give instant results, others require a
five minute wait period before reading.>
Do I do the water changes? Or wait until I see some free ammonia level
<Should be done weekly with goldfish. They are messy.>
There is a slight reading for total ammonia, is this harmful?
<thought you just said there was none, but yes, any ammonia is bad. The
reality is that you won't be able to completely eliminate ammonia until
the tank is fully cycled when there is a fish in the water, so the best
you can do is minimize it with partial water changes.>
I'm going on vacation in a few days for a week. I bought him an auto
fish feeder, seems to work great. Do I do a water change before I leave?
I'll be gone for 7 days.
<This is not the best time to cycle a tank. Ammonia will build up while
you are gone whether you do a change or not. Obviously, a large partial
water change before you leave can only help.>
2nd question: Adding more fish
I really want to add another fish, he must be lonely? Can I? If so, what
type of fish? The goldfish is about 2-3 inches.
<You definitely do not want to add more fish before the tank is cycled.>
I've read everything about how I need a bigger tank for goldfish - so
can I add a different type of fish - one that stays small? Any
<Feeder minnows maybe, while the goldfish is still small anyway.>
I hate to see him in there alone. An aquatic frog maybe?
<Goldfish are cold water fishes, check the temperature requirements of
the frogs. Might be too cold in winter.>
I don't know what to do with this goldfish in the future when he
outgrows the tank. <Move him.>
Can I take him to a goldfish pond?
<Once the tank cycles, you will be able to keep the goldfish for a
while, but it will ultimately outgrow the tank. Goldfish can get very
large. A pond is a perfect place for him .>
I really care about the goldfish first and foremost. Just need some good
advice. I have no room for a bigger tank!
<As I mentioned above, I think you'd be better off rehoming the goldfish
and stocking the tank with something that stays a bit smaller. However,
should you decide to keep the goldfish, remember they are messy and need
frequent partial water changes.>
<Welcome. - Rick>
Re: Goldfish - tank size - cycling 8/29/12
Thank you Rick! <Welcome.>
I appreciate the fast response. Regarding my
question about ammonia below. I am using the tests correctly.
I bought an API master kit. I still have the 2 gallon tank
mentioned below and trying to cycle that one as well. The 2 gallon
measures 4.0 ppm (no fish in there). The 20 gallon measures .25
ppm. I did a 25% water change with water conditioner and it still
measured .25 ppm. I then did a 50% water change and it was still
.25 ppm. Then I decided to measure my tap water which low and
behold was 2.0 ppm! I added the water conditioner to the tap water
and the measure was .25 ppm. I was very confused and did some
research where I learned about "free ammonia" and "total (includes bound
ammonia) ammonia". The API measures total ammonia.
From what I read the bound ammonia is fine - it's the free ammonia that
is toxic. I figured I'd never know if I had bound or toxic ammonia
and my water is never going read 0 ammonia since it is in my tap water
so I bought a Seachem test which measures only free ammonia.
<Be aware that if you have ammonia in your tap water, that is done to
react with the chlorine to form chloramine. They do that because
chloramine is more stable than simple chlorine. What that means is that
you have to be sure to treat the water with some kind of Dechlor. While
forgetting to do that with simple chlorine will irritate the fish, the
chlorine will be driven off eventually. Not so with chloramine, it
sticks around for a long time.>
So with the Seachem test the 20 gallon tank shows 0 ammonia. The 2
gallon shows .25 ppm. I am wondering is it normal to have 0
ammonia for the first 9 days of a new tank with a fish in it?
<Not really, unless you have a lot of live plants in there. That would
be an exceptionally quick cycle unless you seeded it with an object from
an established tank.>
How long until ammonia builds up to show a reading?
<See the link from last time, there is a graph. In my tanks, I've
noticed the ammonia starting to build up after a couple days. Check also
for nitrites, the second phase of the cycle. It's possible you are
already in the nitrite phase, but you should still be reading some
ammonia while the nitrite starts to spike. Finally, test the
nitrates. That is the end phase of the cycle. While 9 days would be
unusually fast to cycle the tank, it could happen. If you read
low-level nitrates and nothing else, that would be my guess. My
own cycled tanks usually read 0,0,0 because I have live plants soaking
up the nitrates.>
I also have a Seachem free ammonia alert reader that stays in the tank -
that is showing 0.
<The ones I've seen don't last more than a month or two. I think those
are good for monitoring water chemistry when treating for disease. For
every day use it's overkill and not really cost-effective.>
I've decided to keep the goldfish over the winter and either build a
pond (ha ha - husband not diggin this idea) or find a pond for him.
<He will be digging it, or else you will! Best, Rick>
Re: Goldfish - tank size - cycling 8/29/12
I forgot to mention this. On the day I set up the 20 gallon tank I
poured a bottle of Tetra SafeStart in the tank right before I
added the fish. I didn't mention this because I kind of just wrote
this step off since most experts don't believe that the bacteria in a
bottle works. But now I am kinda wondering if it does.
<I've been a skeptic and have never tried it, but the owner of one of my
local fish stores says he's heard good things from his customers.
If it works, it explains a lot.>
I don't see how it would be possible from everything that I am reading
that there is no ammonia in this tank after 9 days of feeding a fish in
there and one water change? Is it possible that this bacteria
actually established in the tank?? <Occam's Razor says yes.>
I have had 0 readings for nitrites and nitrates as well. I'm doing
the tests correctly - I am getting all of the expected readings on the 2
gallon tank that is currently cycling.
<Seems to have worked. - Rick>
Re: Goldfish - tank size - cycling 8/29/12
Thanks so much. I'm pretty surprised that SafeStart worked but I
doesn't look like there is any other explanation. My 2 gallon just
tested negative for Ammonia on day 17. The Nitrites and Nitrates
are off the charts. I've been occasionally adding fish food to it
to keep creating ammonia but should I just leave it alone now and let
the cycle complete?
<Glad I could help. On the small tank, you do want to keep feeding it,
but you also want to do some partial water changes. There is a level of
nitrite that can overwhelm the cycle and cause it to fail, and the
partial water changes will help to avoid that. How do you plan to
stock the 2 gallon tank? There are a few animals that can live in there,
but the selection is slim. - Rick>
New setup env/health... GF,
I have a 29 gallon tank. There are 2 filters running in it. One 30
gallon filter and one 20 gallon filter.
I have airline tubing attached to a pump that is currently airating
<aerating> the water until I can get a suitable airstone or
I have 1 Oranda goldfish in the tank. It is a large adult. The
tank is a relatively new setup. Only 3 days old. And that is also how
long I have had the goldfish.
<Yikes!> <This tank is not cycled and therefore not ready for
fish> Please read here - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwestcycling.htm>
My problems are as follows:
Cloudy water (brown color)
fish is lying at bottom of tank, is not easting, no energy, 3 white
spots on head, white stringy poo.
Things I have already tried to correct the problems:
Water- Water changes, increased filtration, water clarifier, changed
filter cartridges (all tried today)
Fish- Treatment for Ich given (yesterday), water changes, changed
filter cartridges, increased filtration (today)
Will the cloudy water go away on its own?
And can you please help my fish. It has been 3 days now and it still
won't eat the pellets or flakes I got for it to eat. Is the fish
just too nervous to eat, or is there something more going on that I
should be doing?
<Please read the above link. You need to get this fish out of the
tank for now, cycle the tank completely as per the link and then think
about stocking it.>
I will be trying a fungal treatment tomorrow for the spots on the
fish's head. If that does not work, should I try a bacterial
<Please do not. All of what you describe is related to the tank
being uncycled. Also for the future, please never treat unless you have
made a firm identification of the disease/problem.>
Is there anything else that could be wrong with the fish? What other
treatments should I try?
Thank you. <You are welcome. Please read as directed - Sugam>
Re: New setup env/health 1/20/2012
Thank you for your reply to my following e-mail.
<You are welcome>
I only have the 29 gallon tank for the goldfish. All other tanks I have
are too small. Any thing I can do about that while this tank
Also the fish has started eating.
It ate 1 pellet and half of 1 krill I broke up into small bits for it.
Will the krill cause a problem?
<Your best bet is to see if the store or a friend with an
established tank and some room will hold the fish for you. Are your
other tanks cycled? if so, using some of the filter media from those
tanks here will help speed up the cycle a bit. Test your water daily
and keep and eye on the ammonia and nitrites. Feeding is only going to
add to your cycle issue because it is a source for these toxins.
Goldfish are messy in any case so feed very very sparingly. There are
also some commercial bacteria starters that will help speed up the
cycle. You may look into these. Even with these steps though, it is
still in the best interest of the fish to hold it elsewhere till you
are ready for it.>
Thanks. <Good luck! Sugam>
Re: URGENT! Betta Problem!
Please Reply! Still not reading re sys., cycling
Hi again Bob,
I hope all is well with you.
<Well enough, thanks>
Thank you for taking the time to help me out with my aquarium issues. I
am regretful to say that Cupcake passed on the morning of Sunday the
I have had a look at the links and conducted some more research on
cycling a tank. However, I still have a few more questions to throw at
Firstly, could Cupcake's rapid breathing have been caused by gill
I know it would be difficult for you to determine but I thought you
might find a similarity in Cupcake's symptoms and those of gill
flukes or even something else. I'm not entirely certain, you see,
however, the information I can provide you with is that he was
breathing rapidly and heavily with his gills moving in and out all the
time as if he was panting.
<There are other circumstances that fit these symptoms... mostly
He even looked as though he was yawning, would stay mostly at the
bottom of the tank and was bloated at one point as I said before, etc.
After he passed, I looked at him and his gills were sticking out away
from his body.
<Do you still have this fish? A simple compound or dissecting
microscope? Trematodes are easy enough to see>
He was also very dark and dull in colour though the insides of his
gills were not dark but light coloured, I think, and not swollen at
all. They were just sticking out - almost pointing out at a 45 degrees
angle. I didn't have a very good look other than that, however,
since it has all been rather emotional and overwhelming. I couldn't
bare poking him about, I just wanted to let him rest in peace.
He had only been there for about five days, but when I took him out I
noticed that everything was covered in a layer of slime. The bubbler in
there would have been a good 20 years old and was stored in the laundry
before now, however Mum and I thought it would be ok since our other
bubbler (stored in similar conditions) was ok.
<Should be fine; unless coated, exposed to laundry cleaner/s>
There was no filter, as I stated earlier.
<And Betta systems do need this>
There was also an odour which smelt like a combination of plastic and
herbs that was coming from the tank. I noticed it slightly after the
first day I set up the tank (about 24 hours after) but since it
didn't smell like rotten eggs or anything that would normally be
associated with ammonia build up, I thought perhaps my nose was playing
tricks on me. However, day after day it seemed stronger and the
cloudiness in the tank, that I thought was from the gravel, was getting
thicker. After the fifth day, Cupcake was gone.
I didn't want to have a pet fish ever again after that. However,
Monday, my mother and brother persisted to surprise me with another
fish so they got me 2 fantail goldfish, Marshmallow and Cherry.
<Mmm, these need a good-sized volume>
I am grateful that they love me so much as to be so persistent, however
I do feel rather hurt and injured by the whole ordeal. It's all
been rather devastating and it is all happening at once. This has never
ever happened before, which is why it is so confusing and would kindly
appreciate any advice you have to give. Marshmallow and Cherry are so
innocent, delightful and cute to watch - I just don't think I can
bare seeing them go like Cupcake!
Since they were a surprise I had to use Cupcake's tank, so it was
good I had it and everything in it thoroughly washed with HOT water,
then filled with conditioned water, gravel, a fabric plant, and sitting
with the bubbler going for about six hours prior to introducing the
<... needs to be cycled. Please read here:
and here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/gldfshsystems.htm
No filter yet.
<Will die w/o>
I used the same bubbler because I didn't think it could have been
the problem until now. I thought maybe Cupcake had a slime disorder or
there was something else happening associated with Cupcake. However,
after about 24 hours of having the bubbler on, I noticed a strange
odour again (like herbs and plastic mixed together) and as I looked in
the tank it was murky with the cloudiness being a light
whitish-yellowish-green in colour, like before.
Also, the walls of the tank, the bubbler and the gravel were all
covered with a coat of slime. It seemed to have happened slightly
faster than with Cupcake, however. Maybe because the bubbler had been
working for a while? We quickly removed the two fantail goldfish that
had just moved in there and placed them in a spare 3 litre tank for the
time being. I've been observing them and they both appear to be
acting normal and eating.
Nothing seems to fit. I am estimating that it is all due to the fact
that the tank was not cycled but I don't think it's the main
cause. Would not having the tank cycled have this kind of an effect
Actually, I am leaning more towards the concept that the bubbler was
contaminating the water and the fact the tank was not cycled just made
Perhaps because it was old or mouldy on the inside?
I don't know. Please tell me what you think? I've looked up
about algae blossom etc but it does not seem to be the case since the
tank is not very well lit by the sun at all. Also, it isn't murky
due to too much food or waste since this all happened within 24 hours.
I use Safe Guard 5 by Aqua Master to condition the water. It contains
aloe vera and states that it "eliminates toxic ammonia, removes
chorine and Chloramine, coats and protects aquarium fish, reduces
stress in aquarium fish and protects fish with aloe vera". Could
the presence of aloe vera be causing something?
<Possibly, not probably>
I've read contrasting theories that aloe vera does nothing and
other theories that it can cause gill irritation. Could it be the aloe
vera clouding the water and doing this? I somehow doubt it since our
other tank has not been cloudy in the time we have been using Safe
Guard 5, thank God. But could it be harming the fish?
<... read where you've been referred>
Prior to this we were using Vita Pet water ager - we thought the Safe
Guard 5 was better since it covers more but mum did think it a strange
coincidence that everything went downhill around the time we changed to
Safe Guard 5. What do you think?
Tomorrow I am going to experiment with the bubbler in some fishless
water to see if it is the culprit. For now, I have again washed the
tank and everything in it with HOT water and rinsed it with filtered
tap water. I then filled it with around 8 litres of conditioned
filtered tap water (I used Safe Guard 5 again)
<Not a save-all>
and the gravel but no bubbler or plant. If it is the bubbler, I am
going to buy another bubbler and get it and an under gravel filter
happening. I am also going to get some good bacteria from the pet shop
tomorrow to put in the tank. You see, now that I have these little
goldfish I don't have 6 weeks to get the tank to properly cycle -
but I am hoping that introducing the good bacteria and getting some
oxygen in the tank may speed up the process. Is this right and are
there any other ideas you have in mind perhaps?
I would really appreciate your opinion, Bob. Thank you so much for all
your time and effort.
<Read. Write back if you have further, specific questions.
*Not Urgent* 225 gal cycling,
Guppies + Goldfish? 9/1/10
I am restarting my 225 US gallon tank and am wondering how long it
takes to cycle.
<Usually 4-6 weeks.>
Does it take longer for bigger tanks or is it still 2 months? I have 2
canister filters, one undergravel (with powerhead) and another
powerhead (not connected to the undergravel). I'm putting a pinch
of fish food in there every day. There aren't any decorations or
fish in it yet. The temperature of the tank is hovering around 74F (no
<Should be fine by now.>
I have a friend who used to work for a fish store before it closed and
he says that putting guppies in the tank would help it cycle.
<Can do, but I'd recommend what Americans call "Feeder
Guppies", i.e., genetically-mixed, wild-type Guppies. The Fancy
Guppies tend to be inbred and demonstrably weaker than their wild-type
cousins. This has been shown in laboratories in many ways. Given the
relatively cool conditions in your Goldfish aquarium, Fancy Guppies are
more than likely to be stressed, perhaps harmed, in the long term. By
contrast, Feeder Guppies should adapt just fine, as will wild-caught
Guppies if you can get them. In any case, a 225 gallon tank is so big
that 6-12 Guppies would produce so little waste that the risk of harm
from a nitrite or ammonia spike would be near-zero.>
I also have a 2.5" Oranda goldfish (Fuzzy) that I would love to
put back in the main tank (he's currently in the little 5 gallon
because all the other goldfish got velvet and Ick and died) but the
more I'm reading up on guppies the more I want them to be the main
fish in that tank (the big one).
<Guppies and Fancy Goldfish can work well. Yes, Goldfish will eat
Guppies if they can catch them, but Fancy Goldfish generally swim to
slowly. Add some floating Indian Fern or Brazilian Pondweed, and the
Guppies will have cover and the Goldfish will eat the plants rather
than the Guppies anyway.>
I've asked him if the guppies would nip Fuzzy's fins and he
<Indeed, generally not.>
I also asked him if mixing tropicals (are guppies tropicals?) with
goldfish are a bad idea and he said that they should be fine together
since Fuzzy would be big enough to handle them.
<Does depend on the water temperature. I wouldn't keep Goldfish
warmer than 24 C/75 F.>
Can I mix them or should I keep them separate? Fuzzy is the only
goldfish that would be in there with them (unless I find a panda or
another red Oranda) and I'm kind of worried that my friend could be
wrong and his fins would be chewed on or mixing both him and the
guppies would cause all of them to have stress from the temperature
(too high for the goldfish or too low for the guppies).
Thanks for answering my questions(again)! Sorry if I'm missing any
<Do also consider Platies, a larger species which does very well in
the cooler, slow-moving water conditions Goldfish enjoy. Platies are
also herbivores, and eat much the same thing, simplifying maintenance,
especially during holidays. Stick in some plants or cucumber, and let
them eat that while you're away for a couple of weeks. Good luck,
Please help- I am so discouraged.
I have been trying to cycle my fish tanks for months now...
unfortunately, I received terrible advice from a woman at my local pet
store who told me I could just buy a tank and add fish.
Since then I have practically become a chemist and fish biologist
(okay, not quite). I have read every article I can find on goldfish
keeping and tank cycling and sought your excellent advice on many
occasions. I am sadly still having cycling woes.
I gave up on cycling the tanks with fish on board- it was too hard on
them and I nearly lost them a couple of times. Instead, I set up some
tanks and did a fishless cycling using ammonium hydroxide to feed the
bacteria. I added enough of the ammonia to get a reading of 2 from my
Master test kit.
This worked very well... my smallest (20 gallon) tank finally cycled. I
waited another two weeks and two nights ago I checked water parameters-
they were ammonia zero, nitrite zero, pH 8.2, nitrates 20, KH 7 degrees
and GH 8 drops.
I did a 90% water change and checked parameters again. They were the
I did a small water change, reducing my addition of Malawi salt
slightly so that I ended up with a pH of 7.9 and a KH of 5 drops the I
added a fish. I fed a nice slice of zucchini to the fish so that he
would produce some ammonia for my carefully cultured bacteria. This
fish usually produces about a .5 worth of ammonia a day.
I got home today and checked the tank parameters. Ammonia was zero and
nitrite were zero, but my nitrates are back down to 4.
<Wouldn't obsess over nitrate. Nitrate in tap water varies, so
water changes may affect the nitrate level considerably. Plants absorb
nitrate, and some denitrification can go on in the substrate. Provided
the nitrate isn't dangerously high, i.e., much over 50 mg/l, you
can ignore it.>
My KH has dropped to 4 degrees. Why is my KH dropping- in addition to
the fish producing less ammonia than I had been previously adding has
this contributed to the drop from 20 to 4?
<I'm not sure what a "drop" is. In any case, carbonate
hardness goes down as acidification progresses. Acidification happens
in ALL tanks thanks to things like the nitrogen cycle and the decay of
organic material. Provided you're doing weekly water changes, and
provided the pH doesn't vary much between those water changes, you
can largely ignore the carbonate hardness (degrees KH).>
Is my tank NOT cycled anymore? Are my cherished bacteria dead? If so
what did I do wrong? I have two other tanks partially cycled and
can't afford to make the same mistake.
<Sounds to me your tank is cycled just fine.>
Will the tank rebound? I will get the KH up to 5 degrees tonight with
the Malawi salts (my tap water has a pH of 7.0 and won't support
cycling so I need to do this). I am so upset- I expected a drop in
nitrates, but no one so drastic. Can I save my bugs?
<Add the fish, do weekly water changes. Provided the pH stays more
or less stable, and that ammonia and nitrite remain at zero, you're
fine! Cheers, Neale.>
Help (RMF, thoughts on very
weird water chemistry?) <<Below>> GF, new
sys., uncycled 2/26/10
Hello WWM Crew
Thank you for the wealth of information on your site. I have a couple
of questions that I have not been able to find answers to. I have a 55
gallon with three 4" fancy Goldies. I'm running a Filstar
<350 gallons per hour>
and a Top Fin 40 HOB
<200 gallons per hour>
with extra bio material (I borrowed this filter from a two year old,
established tank, along with 2 cups of gravel) I also have a
submersible water pump for gas exchange.
<A total of 550 gallons per hour for a 55 gallon tank, so that's
a turnover of a little under 5 times per hour. Broadly acceptable for
Goldfish, though I do tend to recommend slightly more than this, more
for water clarity reasons than anything else.>
The tank has been running for 4 weeks and we are still struggling with
<It does take 6 weeks for a tank to cycle at coldwater temperatures,
and your fish are quite large compared to the size of the tank. So
while seeding the tank with gravel from another aquarium should help,
and that you've added live media from a mature filter should help
dramatically, there could be reasons why cycling seems slow.>
My City tap water has very difficult parameters and are as follows.
PH range 9.2 to 9.7
<Now that's far too high.><<Yikes! RMF>>
<These are both mg/l? The general hardness (GH) is quite good for
Goldfish, but the carbonate hardness (KH) is low for Goldfish, and that
could cause problems in the long term.>
ammonia .50 to 2.
<One reason your pH is so high is this ammonia: it's far too
high, dangerously high in fact.><<Deadly.>>
I am aerating change water in a Rubbermaid and after a couple of days,
the Ph comes down to 8.4.
<OK, tap water at pH 8.4 is fine for Goldfish. So why does the pH go
so high in the aquarium? Like the ammonia, which, as I'm sure you
remember from school, is a basic rather than acidic chemical. Some
water from wells and other sources has unstable or just plain weird
water chemistry, and can turn in very strange test kit results that
aren't at all accurate. Do bear this in mind.>
None of the other parameters change. I am buffering with baking soda
and keeping 1% salt to protect again Nitrites.
<Fine. But don't use salt permanently. And rather than buffering
with baking soda, could I recommend a more balanced Rift Valley salt
About a half dose should do the trick nicely.>
I use Prime for water conditioning and BioZyme. I vacuum carefully
every other day. I use the recommended dose of baking soda to raise the
KH and it virtually disappears over night.
<Now that's very odd.>
I can't seem to get ahead of the curve. How much and how often can
I add BS ?
<Would use the Rift Valley mix described in the linked article,
added to each new bucket of water at about a half the dose listed. I
wouldn't keep adding chemicals here. I'd try to establish *why*
this aquarium is acidifying rapidly, since that's what consumes
carbonate hardness (it's like adding vinegar to a sample of baking
soda: eventually the baking soda would all be used up).>
I am adding 1 1/2 tsp per day and would like to get up to 120.
Are the struggling nitrifying bacteria consuming these elements, or is
the hardness of the water somehow responsible for this?
<No, the bacteria shouldn't be altering water chemistry.
What's more likely is your test kits are giving you a misleading
result on what your actual water chemistry is. I'll remind you at
this point not to use water from a domestic water softener; despite the
name, these devices don't "soften" water in the way we
mean it, and merely replace the minerals that form lime scale in pipes
with different minerals that don't. Depending on the system, the
resulting so-called soft water can be rather odd and unnatural in
composition, and not at all useful for fishkeeping.>
Does the GH need to be adjusted?
<There are two ways around funky water chemistry. One is to have the
water standing for 24 hours or so, and then adjust with Rift Valley
salt mix to get the precise composition you want. The second is to use
a reverse-osmosis filter to properly soften it, and then add Rift
Valley salt mix (or, for soft water fish, Amazon mineral salt buffer)
to get the water chemistry you want. You could also use rainwater for
the same thing. It's generally not a good idea to mess about with
pH and hardness *before* the water chemistry of the tap water has
stabilised because the test kit readings you get initially may not be
the ones returned a few hours later.>
I am also very frustrated by the resident ammonia in my tap water.
<I would be too. Now, there are three issues here. The first is that
some water conditioners will actually increase the ammonia content.
How? Because if your water has chloramine in it, and the water
conditioner isn't formulated to neutralise this, then when the
chlorine is removed the ammonia is left behind. In general, it's
wisest to buy a water conditioner that treats chlorine, chloramine, and
latent ammonia all at the same time.
These might be slightly more expensive than generic brands, but
they're still economical (especially if you buy the pond formula,
which is what I do, and just use it very sparingly). They also avoid
you having to worry about what's in the water. Secondly, ammonia
can come in with tap water apart from chloramine. How? From
agricultural run-off mostly. Aquarists in rural districts often have to
deal with this issue. Up to 0.5 mg/l is considered "safe" for
human consumption, but that's still a dangerous amount for fish,
especially across the long term. Finally, ammonia test kits aren't
always reliable. Why? Because some will detect chloramine or the
neutralized ammonia and chloramine, and report these as non-zero
ammonia levels. For this reason, I recommend people use a nitrite
rather than ammonia test kit. Treat all new water on the assumption it
contains ammonia and chloramine, but don't test for ammonia. Test
just for nitrite, since this is the stuff your biological filter will
produce while cycling.
With luck, once the nitrite drops to zero, the fish-generated ammonia
will have dropped to zero too, so any/all ammonia left in the system
will be "false positives" resulting from tap water
I am holding temps at 70 to try to reduce toxicity but it is still a
problem due to the high 8.4 PH.
But if I lower the PH, the KH crashes out completely... so I'm
leaving the PH alone.
<Correct. Don't ever change pH directly. In fact, forget about
it; it doesn't matter than much. Water hardness is important, and
what fish "feel", and while pH does affect ammonia toxicity,
let's put that to one side for now.>
I am doubling the dose of Prime and the lowest ammonia reading I can
manage is .25.
<Water conditioners only work on tap water ammonia, not the ammonia
coming from your fish. More significantly, test kits can return false
I use API test and can only hope that the ammonia I am reading has been
detoxified. How do I know for sure? How can I better manage this part
of the cycle?
<I would test for nitrite rather than ammonia for a start. I'd
also observe the fish. If the fish are happy, and you're feeding
them sparingly, and you're changing 25% weekly, I'd assume the
cycle was progressing nicely.>
10 days ago, I had 4 days of 0 ammonia/nitrite in the tank and was
hopeful that the cycle was coming around..... but since then, the
parameters have been all over the map again.
<Unless there's a reason you might have killed the filter
bacteria -- e.g., the filter was switched off for a couple of hours --
I'd assume the bacteria are happy. Again, I'd also check
nitrite, and I'd observe the fish.>
So I can only assume that the bacteria are not up to snuff and still
Does the 1% salt retard their colonization?
<Ah, now, this is interesting. Freshwater filter bacteria have a low
tolerance for salt. Up to about SG 1.003, which is about 6 parts per
thousand, or 0.6%, freshwater bacteria are present. But above that
amount it's actually salt water bacteria that are present. Yep,
from 1.003 to 1.025, you're growing marine aquarium bacteria. So
adding too much salt can cause problems if it forces your aquarium to
start cycling once more as a BRACKISH rather than freshwater aquarium.
Now, 6 ppt/0.6% is 6 grammes per litre, or 0.8 oz per US gal. It's
much more than you need to detoxify nitrite, for which purposes half
that amount would be ample. By contrast, a 1% salt solution, which is
10 grammes per litre, or 1.36 oz per US gal., is around SG 1.006 and
well into the brackish/saltwater rather than freshwater bacteria range
of tolerances. So yes, the salt could have re-set the cycling process.
Any suggestions you might have will be very much appreciated by my fish
<Cheers, Neale.> <<RMF advises feeding not at all if either
ammonia or nitrite are approaching 1.0 ppm>>
More re: Help (RMF, thoughts on
very weird water chemistry?) 2/26/10
<<RMF advises feeding not at all if either ammonia or nitrite are
approaching 1.0 ppm>>
<Sage advice. Indeed, even when the levels of both are low, say,
0.25 mg/l (= ppm), you would be wise to just feed low-protein (i.e.,
vegetable) foods. Goldfish will be happy to eat just plain Elodea
pondweed for weeks,
and this contains enough energy for good health, but little protein,
and under bright light will absorb ammonia directly as it grows. Feed
nothing else at all. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: More re: Help (RMF, thoughts
on very weird water chemistry?) 2/26/10
Thank you so much for your insights and suggestions.
<Happy to help.>
I will follow suit and switch to Rift Valley Salt Mix tomorrow. I am
assuming I should reduce and eliminate the 1% salt? I have not had
anything even approaching .25 Nitrite for many days.
Nitrite readings have all been staying in the Blue,
<As in zero?>
but it is the Ammonia that has been stubborn and unexplainable.
<If you have zero nitrite, and seemingly happy fish, and nitrate
levels are rising normally between water changes, then I'd be
tempted to assume your ammonia test kit is returning a false positive.
Non-zero ammonia levels that are genuine, poor water quality issues
tend to stress fish quickly and obviously.>
I must say, my API Ammonia test has become a frustrating addiction....
and I am relieved to know I am getting false positives.
<I don't really understand why ammonia test kits are so
problematic, but they are. So it's always been standard practise in
the UK at least to get newcomers to the hobby started with a nitrite
rather than ammonia test kit.
Nitrite test kits seem to be much more reliable.>
I do live in a highly agricultural area and I'm sure that probably
does explain the high readings in the tap water.
<Yes, can be so.>
I use Prime which supposedly removes Chlorine, Chloramine, Ammonia and
Nitrite. I have preferred it simply because it takes such a small
amount to treat a bucket of water.
<An economical and worthwhile product.>
I also have Detox Plus, made by Koi RX which makes the same claims, but
requires a larger dosage. I assume there is no need to double dose the
water conditioner in order to lower erroneous Ammonia readings.
I do not have an RO or water softener and am trying to learn how to
make the tap water behave itself.
<In general, almost always, conditioned tap water is fine, provided
you choose aquarium fish that enjoy whatever your local water chemistry
might be. That usually splits into soft water fish on the one hand
(like tetras) and hard water fish on the other (like livebearers).
Provided you make at least this basic dichotomy, tap water is usually
I can tell you, I don't drink this stuff any more.
<Oh? In the UK at least, tap water is invariably safe to drink, and
because of stricter controls, tap water is arguably *better* in terms
of contaminants and bacteria than well-known brands of bottled water.
There's a lot of nonsense talked about water, mostly from people
selling water filters, bottled water, or whatever. In the case of
aquarium fish, it's better to be able to use tap water for big,
regular water changes than to be dependent on a low-output, expensive
to run RO filter that would end up limiting the number of water changes
you could do (especially in emergencies).>
My Goldfish have been like the canary in the coal mine.
I do have one further question in regards to cycling. If the 1% salt
actually reset my Bio process to marine, and I now am growing Marine
bacteria... will these die off when I gradually change out the salt to
Am I right to assume that I will once again "reset" to a new
FW bacteria cycle?
<Hopefully, if you do the water changes in 25% steps over the
succeeding weekends, the saltwater bacteria will die as the freshwater
bacteria multiply. Experience of brackish water aquaria suggests that
this is what happens.>
And will I therefore, once again have a very real and deadly Ammonia
level that I must deal with?
I just want to make certain with you that I will not get in trouble and
miss something if I stop doing any testing for Ammonia and test only
for Nitrite. My filter was never down, no medication... no reason for a
reset of the cycle, other than the salt.
I've been told that here in the Midwest, that Municipalities tend
to take the least expensive route in constructing City water.
<Likely so, but there will be Environmental Agency limits on what
they can do, so any water deemed fit for drinking will meet at least
some basic standards. Check your local water supplier's website,
and you should find out what those are.>
They remove minerals and this hatchet job creates some very bizarre
water parameters. My water comes out of the tap usually at 9.5 but
aerating for 2 days brings it down to 8.4.
<That is odd. In Nebraska, where I lived for a few years, the water
came from a chalk aquifer, the Ogallala Aquifer, and the tap water was
fairly hard and alkaline (unless it had passed through a domestic water
In the US, you can get some useful data on the water in your area from
the EPA and USGS.
The Ph remains fairly stable at 8.4 in my aquarium but the tap KH of 53
will crash quickly.
1 1/4 tsp of baking soda every day will hold the KH at about 89 but I
can't increase it without increasing the dose. I too would like to
know what Black Hole the carbonate hardness is disappearing into.
Hopefully the Rift V. salts will solve the problem.
I thank you so very much for all of your advice! I was a child of the
Humanities and now wish I would have spent more time hanging out in the
Science Lab !!!
<Still plenty of time.>
fish... What WWM is NOT... IS a
ref. system... USE it or lose it and them/GF
I got a 55 gal fish aquarium for the kids for Christmas and they picked
out some gold fish to put in it
<Don't add any fish until you've first cycled the aquarium.
This involves providing a source of ammonia across a period of 3-6
weeks so the filter bacteria can become mature. Adding fish to an
immature aquarium generally
results in the fish being exposed to dangerous (i.e., non-zero) levels
of ammonia and nitrite, and this in turn results in sickness, even
death. If you added fish into an immature tank, you need to be doing
25-50% water changes *daily* just to keep the fish alive through this
After 4 weeks, you should find ammonia is at zero and nitrite close to
zero, and you can switch to weekly water changes of 25%.>
1 multi colored gold fish and 1 black bug eyed fan tailed and 1 red
headed gold fan tail this morning I noticed the red headed fan tail was
at the top of the tank just floating with the current barley swimming
and that he was turning black in areas not swimming with other fish he
did eat some but what could this be any ideas.
Thanks Concerned Father.
<Do read here about what Goldfish need:
Nitrofurazone... use, effect on
nitrification 2/14/08 Looked all over your site for the
answer? <You did?> let me start at the beginning, I've seen
collectors using Nitrofurazone (yellow water) to store recently
collected fish. In some cases I've heard of wholesalers using it to
fend off disease. <Yes... not uncommon with FW...> Question Is
this a good idea to use constantly in a quarantine tanks for all new
arrivals <Mmm, not IMO/E> Will it affect the biological filter?
(a little) (a Lot) Fred <Furan compounds generally do not affect
nitrification (directly), but can do so in established, closed (e.g.
hobbyist) systems. Bob Fenner>
Water quality -- please help! FW
nitrogen cycling est. 11/11/07 Hi Crew,
<Nicole> I'm having some serious water quality issues in my
tank, and I need some advice on what best to do. Here's the
situation. I purchased two Opaline Gouramis for my 20G community tank
about a month ago, and they did not get on well at all. <Sometimes
happens with Trichogaster species... usually from having them of the
same sex, in too small a volume> I thought that I had purchased a
male and a female, but now I'm not quite so sure... I'm
thinking they might actually be two males. <Easier to sex when
larger... and both sexes present for comparison> At any rate, the
larger of the two Gouramis proved really aggressive, and after trying
several measures (isolating him in a colander for a few days, etc), I
decided it would be best to move the larger Gourami to another tank
because it was being extremely aggressive to the other Gourami and was
even starting to harass other fish in the tank. <Good plan> So, I
put the Gourami in a 10G that I set up using a fishless cycle (just
with household ammonia and some filter squeezings from the established
tank). This worked well for establishing my other tank, but did not
seem to go so well this time. A few days after adding the Gourami I got
some ammonia spikes. I decided to try to ride it out with water changes
to keep the ammonia down. The water quality seems to be just going
downhill rapidly, though. Yesterday when I came home the tank was
cloudy and the ammonia was at 2-3 ppm (!!!), <Yikes> no nitrites.
I did a 50% water change, and added some activated carbon with ammo
chips to the filter. This morning the ammonia was back up to 0.5-1.0
ppm, and nitrites at 0.25 ppm. I did another 50% water change, and now
the ammonia and nitrite levels are reading 0, but the water (6 hours
after the water change or so) is back to being extremely cloudy.
What's going on in my tank? <Oscillations in becoming
established... happens. I'd put the mean Gourami back in the 20 in
the colander> I'm guessing the cloudiness is some sort of
bacterial bloom, but I'm not sure what to do about it aside from
doing water changes and wait for the bacteria populations to stabilize.
<This is "it"... but the water changes are setting the
process back...> In the meantime, the Gourami looks very unhappy
(pale and hanging out in the corner), and I am concerned about leaving
him in the tank. I could put him back in the 20G community tank, but I
am worried that he'll resume his old pattern of chasing and biting
the other fish. Should I keep him in a 5G bucket for a few days and see
if the 10G tank stabilizes? I have a spare filter that I could set up
in the bucket to at least aerate the water, but this seems like not an
ideal solution either. <Again, I'd place it back in the 20 in
the colander...> Any help you can give me would be appreciated...
I'm really frustrated by these water quality issues, and worried
about the Gourami's health. thanks in advance, Nicole <Welcome.
55 Gallon freshwater water quality
problems 11/8/07 Hello Crew, I am somewhat new to the freshwater
hobby and am having problems with the water quality in my freshly
established 55 gal tank. I set it up and began Cycling on October 14th,
2007. I used a product called Stability from Sea-Chem. <Ah, one of
these "instant bacteria" products. They can work well, but
approach with caution. To paraphrase Euclid, "There is no Royal
Road to a mature aquarium". All these products do is help things
along. You still need to do all the usual water quality tests and stock
the aquarium carefully checking for problems.> I provided the proper
doses for 7 days as the directions said and completed my cycling on
October 21. Nitrites, Nitrates, and Ammonia all came back 0ppm with a
Ph of 7.0-7.5. <Very good.> 2 Days after cycling I added a
5" Common Pleco. 2 days after that I installed a new Aqua Clear 70
filter to go along with the Aqua-Tech 30-60 That I cycled the tank
with. <OK.> That same day I also added a 2" long Horse Face
Loach. 2 days after that on Saturday I transferred my 4" long Bala
shark from my 29 Gal tank into the 55 Gal. Everyone was doing fine. I
continued monitoring my chemical levels every other day for a week.
after that week I decided to add two 3" Spotted Pictus Cats. Later
that night I tested my water to find out that the Nitrites, Nitrates,
and Ammonia have spiked. <Yes, this happens sometimes. An immature
aquarium is an unstable aquarium, regardless of whether you do a
with-fish or a fish-less cycle.> I did a 10 gal water change with a
gravel vac (probably not a good idea) <No, water changes are good.
The more the better. In this case, 50% per day would be the minimum. To
stop fish dying you need to be re-setting the ammonia down to zero at
every opportunity.> and added another dose of the stability per
advice from my LFS who is very knowledgeable. <OK.> The next day
the levels came down just a tiny bit so I added some more Stability and
waited to see what the next day would bring. Well Tuesday came along
and my levels were still high so I did a 15 gal water change, added
some more Stability trying to get the bacteria up and added Ammo chips
to help reduce the Ammonia. <Never mind the Stability. The bacteria
are *already* in the filter, so adding more of them doesn't really
make any difference. The bacteria just haven't settled down. That
takes time. Water changes, my friend, are what you need here.> My
last test was yesterday, Wednesday the 5th of November and my levels
were as follows: Nitrites 0.25ppm, Nitrates around 10ppm, and Ammonia a
whopping 1.0ppm. <Ugh. The nitrates are fine, but the ammonia
especially is a killer. Water change! Water change!> My fish all
appear healthy and are all very active. I feed them every other day
(except for the Pleco, I give him an algae wafer and cucumber every
night). <Cut back the food. Don't give them anything on
alternate days. The less protein in the system, the less ammonia.> I
am at a loss of what to do next. <This is easy: water changes!>
I'm thinking of just letting it go and seeing if it balances on its
own. <Yes, it will. Two, three weeks, tops. The fact you have
nitrite and nitrate implies that the bacteria are doing their thing.
They're just messing about a bit, figuring out the right population
size of this mini-ecosystem. Let them settle down. In the meantime...
water changes!> Any help you could offer would be wonderful. Thank
you, Derrick <Good luck, Neale>
Re: 55 Gallon freshwater water
quality problems 11/8/07 Thank you very much. I will do a water
change as soon as I get home today. So as for the feeding. If am
feeding them every other night right now (feeding one night then
skipping the next) how often should I be feeding them if you say to cut
back? <As infrequently as possible. No more than 3-4 times per week.
Fish can go weeks without food, but ammonia kills in days. Cheers,
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>
Old Glass, Slate Tank repair,
speculations re fish physiology re env. nitrogenous
compounds 2/18/07 Dear Crew, <<Hello, Anne. Tom
with you today.>> I recently purchased a 55 gallon slate bottom
aquarium. I've scraped the old silicone out, cleaned and resealed
the tank three times. I still have a major leak. The slate is flaking.
Could it be leaking the water? It's very hard to lift the tank to
tell where the leak is coming from. I am also not sure that I can
safely dismantle the tank. <<This one's a little out of my
area, Anne, but if the slate's flaking, you won't get proper
adhesion with the silicone. Both the slate and glass must be perfectly
clean and, in the case of the slate, sealed, in order for the silicone
to bond properly. Now, my shortcoming, if you will, is in knowing how
to properly seal the slate in order to get the bond that you'll
need to prevent leakage. I would hazard a guess here that you'll
need a clear epoxy sealer that's, obviously, suitable for aquarium
use but, beyond this, I'm at a loss to provide any hard
information.>> I have been researching fish for ten years and am
hoping to get a PhD in aquatic animal medicine. <<A commendable
goal/pursuit.>> I haven't started college yet and am having
trouble understanding a few things. I understand pH and the measuring
of Hydrogen ions. What I don't understand is the direct effect pH
and ammonia have on fish. Is it merely the fact that fish don't
come into contact with ammonia and nitrates in the wild? <<From
an evolutionary standpoint, I would offer that this is, in part, the
case. Fish have adapted, around the globe, to a variety of differing
conditions which is why we don't have 'one-size-fits-all'
water parameters in the hobby. The most obvious example is the
difference between saltwater and freshwater life but variations in pH
in different areas of the world are certainly other cases in
point.>> Does it affect their bodily functions?
<<Absolutely. Ammonia, for example, adversely affects (burns) the
gill tissues causing swelling/damage which inhibits/prohibits the
uptake of oxygen and the expulsion of ammonia. The result is
suffocation. Likewise, nitrites bond with oxygen-transporting
hemoglobin in the blood resulting, effectively, in the same thing, i.e.
suffocation. pH fluctuations can cause damage to the skin, eyes and
gill membranes as well as altering, with sometimes fatal consequences,
the very narrow range of the pH of the fishes' blood.>> From
what I understand it's not that fish can't handle the levels
it's how quickly it changes. <<This is true, to an extent,
with pH levels. Ammonia and nitrite levels, ideally, should never even
be measurable but fish can/will adapt to pH levels outside of their
particular norms as long as these remain stable. The current thinking
in the hobby now is to adapt our fish to the pH levels of whatever our
primary source of water -- tap water, for instance -- might be.
Attempting to chemically alter the pH is, all too often, the recipe for
a disastrous change in the pH levels of our tanks. Better to maintain
stable pH conditions outside of the 'ideal' than to set the
stage for a potential calamity. (This almost always takes the form of a
plummet in pH levels due to insufficient buffering.)>> I know
some fish can survive with gradual acclimation to abnormal levels. I
have a bad feeling that I've got things very messed up! <<I
don't think you have things 'messed up', Anne. These
aren't easy concepts to get a handle on. The important thing to do
is take it slowly. Lots of folks become overwhelmed by the volume of
information and throw up their hands in despair. Narrowing your focus
to very specific topics until you're comfortable with each one will
help in avoiding 'information overload'.>> Please help a
very obsessed and very confused fish fanatic. Thank you so very much,
Anne ( I hope to one day be as smart and knowledgeable as
all of you) <<Well, in my case that might be taking a step
backward but, for all of us, thank you. I've got the feeling that
you'll far surpass my knowledge with a little more time and
research. Best regards. Tom>>
Loading up a Non-Cycled Tank 1/21/07
Hello, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Thanks for taking the time to set up
such a well rounded, helpful website first off. <Thanks
a bunch!> I have a 55 gallon tank which has been set up around two
weeks. In that time I've lost a ropefish, an angel fish,
a blue Gourami and 2 rainbow fish. I was thinking that it
may just be the water cycling, so I did a 50% change but now I have a
serious problem. My female ropefish, Roxanne, refuses to
eat. I've had her in the tank for about a week and she
has not ate one time. I feed everyone else in the tank
tropical flakes (there are currently 7 other fish: pink kissing
Gourami, 2 blue gouramis, one swordtail, one plec sucker fish and 2
rainbows) and I feed her frozen bloodworms. I took the
advice of others and fed her at about midnight with the tank lights off
but she just showed no interest. I really don't want to
lose her as I did my other, whom I might ad I never saw eat anything
either. Thanks for your help. <You are definitely having
a problem because you have fully stocked a non-cycled
tank. A big no-no in aquarium keeping. Here
is some info for you to read: http://www.thepufferforum.com/forum/library.php?cat=4 As for
now, I suggest doing a huge (90%) water change & again
tomorrow. Add Bio-Spira to your filter ASAP. Be
sure to use dechlorinator--I suggest Prime. No other
product, other than Bio-Spira, contain the live nitrification bacteria
(mentioned in the above link) that keeps your tank
cycled. Fish do not eat when they are unhappy. I
think once you get the cycling issue straightened out, they will be
much happier. You can try live blackworms, if she still
won't eat. Buy yourself a test kit & keep track of
ammonia & nitrites (VERY toxic--should be 0 at all times),
nitrates, (should be <20) & pH (around 7.2). I also
suggest researching the adult size of some of your fish, especially the
gouramis. I've never been able to keep a ropefish for
long--they can escape through the tiniest hole in your
Tank Crashed After Ich Treatment
12/21/06 Hello. I hope you can help me. I have a 55 gallon aquarium
that recently came down with ich. Originally, it contained mollies,
platies, guppies, Neons, other assorted tetras, and one Pleco that is
about 12" long. Since we had the tetras, we were told we had to
use a chemical known as Rid-Ich Plus to treat the tank because they
could not handle anything stronger. After 8 days of treatments with
this, they all died along with a good majority of the tank. We switched
to Quick Cure. It was at this point that our levels in the water sky
rocketed. Our nitrites actually were at toxic levels. We took a sample
to an aquarium shop and they told us they had no idea how anything was
alive in the tank. :( While treating with the Quick Cure, we were doing
50% water changes daily to attempt to fix the water levels. Which
brings me to the new tragedy in a very long road for this poor guy. We
have tested his levels daily and they are fine. He has developed a film
over his eyes. I am told this was a protective layer his body created
during the ich cycle which has scarred him for life and he will never
see again. (It reminds me of cataracts.) I have also been told that
this could be a bacteria infection. He has blood under one of the
capsules. I am guessing it is from him hitting his head when he would
try to jump from the tank and hit his face on the hood of the tank. He
also has red spots right above his dorsal fins that almost look raw. As
if he needs anything further... he has white spots on him that would
make me think he had ich, but the remaining 2 mollies in the tank do
not show any signs of it and with everything else he is displaying... I
am not sure that it is not fungus. Can you please tell me what is wrong
with him and what is the best thing to do for him? Also, with the
holiday we will be out of town for two days so I am not sure how that
would affect any treatments that we would need to administer. This tank
is a month and a half old. It was originally set up as a pond, but we
started the cycle over again when we changed the gravel. I thought you
may need that information as well. I appreciate any help you can give
me. Have a wonderful holiday! Mikaelah < The prolonged treatments
affected the biological filtration and created deadly ammonia and
nitrite spikes. Most of the fish were killed off directly with the fish
that are left have been stressed by the treatments and the spikes.
Unfortunately the Pleco has come down with a bacterial infection too.
Let start by getting the tank stabilized. Do a 50% water change ,
vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. It would be best to place the
Pleco in a separate 20 gallon hospital tank. Either way then, make sure
the water temp is up to 83 F. Increase the aeration. Add a tablespoon
of rock salt or aquarium salt per 5 gallons of water. The mollies will
love this and it will make the Pleco develop a protective slime to
fight the ich. Treat the tank with Nitrofurazone as per the directions
on the package and the Rid-ich II. The next day do a 50% water change
and treat again. Do not feed the sick fish. They will not eat and the
food will rot and cause the spikes you had before. Do this for three
days. If you are leaving then on the last day just do a water change.
When you get back check on the fish. If everyone is alive and the
infection has cleared up then add some high quality carbon for the
filter to remove any left over medication. When the tank is cleared of
any medication you can add Bio-Spira from Marineland and you tank will
be cycled very soon. Then you can start to feed your fish again. New
fish need to be quarantined before placing them in the main tank or
this will happen all over again.-Chuck>
Fish Concern During
Cycling 9/12/06 Hello Crew, I have made the ignorant mistake
that other beginners have made. I did not let the
aquarium do its cycle before introducing fish. I have 10
fish and 3 mystery snails in my 28gal bowfront tank. I have read the
fish will start to die near the end of the
'Cycle'. It has been about a week and no fish have
died yet and ammonia levels are about 1.5mg/l. My question
is, as the ammonia increases throughout the cycle should I remove the
fish from the tank and place them in smaller containers of freshwater
until the chemical levels are normal. I have performed 2 -
25% water changes and added the product "ACE" (ammonia
chlorine eliminator). Thanks for your time < Add Bio-Spira by
Marineland. Tank will be cycled within a day. Or keep fish
in tank and continue to dilute ammonia with water
changes.-Chuck> Water Changes 9/7/06 Hi,
<Hi, Pufferpunk here.> I understand that this issue is more than
adequately addressed on your webpage but the more I read, the more
confused I get so please be patient with my tale of woe. I bought two
goldfish for my daughters 3 weeks ago. I got a 20g tank and
let it sit for about a week, putting a small amount of flake food in
everyday. <Did you test the water, during this cycling
process? How about a 90% water change, before adding the
fish?> After introducing the fish, I overfed which resulted in high
ammonia. After doing partial water changes every several
says and reducing feed, I have the ammonia down to
.5ppm. Today, however, the nitrite shot up to
2ppm. One of the fish is hanging out on the bottom behind a
plant. I did a 50% water change and the ammonia is now
.25ppm and but the nitrites are the same. The fish still
looks stressed. I have been adding API stress coat, Cycle
(which is see is junk) and ACE (also junk?). I have no live
plants, about 2 inches of gravel and a Whisper 20
filter. Water temp is between 75 and 80 which is probably
too high but not sure how to lower it (I live in the Mojave Desert).
<Definitely a bit uncomfortable for goldfish...> I plan to add a
real plant and switch to frozen (thawed) peas for
feeding. What else should I do!? How much of an
emergency is this? <Ammonia & nitrites are extremely toxic
to most fish. Goldfish are a bit hardier than tropicals
& can handle poor water conditions a bit better. I still
suggest water changes, water changes, water changes! Your
tank is still cycling. The only product I'd add is
Prime. ~PP> Thanks, Russell
Re: Nitrites and fancy goldfish- help
Seachem's Prime 9/8/06 OK thanks! This
morning the ammonia is 0ppm and the nitrites are still
2ppm. The fish still looks stressed but
ate. Neither fish went for the peas but ate the flake food
OK. <I would feed very minimally, while trying to cycle
your tank.> What is Prime? <Prime is IMO the best
water conditioner to use for your fish. removes chlorine, chloramine
and ammonia. See: http://www.seachem.com/products/product_pages/Prime.html>
Water temp is down to 72 after leaving AC on all night. <Glad to
hear they're doing better. Keep doing water
Re: Nitrites and fancy goldfish- help Seachem's
Prime 9/8/06 OK got the Prime (I found it on www right
after my email this morning) and added a plant so we will see what
happens. Also did a 25% change. How long does it
take the Prime to work? <Should work
instantly. Are you using enough for the entire tank, not
just the water you're replacing? You should be.>
Also, I assume that even if the Prime is working and detoxifying
nitrites, it will still test positive. Think I read that
somewhere. Thanks for your help! My daughters
don't want to loose their new pets. <With the right care &
tank size, they can live >20 years! ~PP>
Maintaining Biofiltration with no Fish 11/25/2005 I have a 3
gallon Eclipse tank with BioWheel, heater, 4 or 5 java ferns and
airstone that has been set up for over a year now. It has
recently housed a betta. My water parameters are: ammonia 0,
nitrite 0, nitrate 5.0 Temperature in tank is a consistent 79
degrees. I am one week away from getting another betta,
could you please tell me if I need to do something to maintain the tank
for a week (in order to not lose my biological filter)? <Just leave
all the filtration and lights running as you would if there were a fish
in there, a week is not a long time, your filtration should be
fine. Best Regards, Gage> Thank you, as always. Sue
"New Tank Syndrome", Guppies, Fatalities.... -
10/19/2005 Hi, <Hello.> I had an absolutely crushing
experience yesterday. I could NOT figure out what
happened. <Uh-oh....> I had put my guppies into a 10
gallon tank with heater and filter. They weren't crowded
up and they were doing fine....for about a week. <Uh, so
the tank was just set up a week ago?> Suddenly yesterday I came home
and looked in the tank and realized immediately that something was
terribly wrong. The first thing I noticed was that the water
was cloudy. I had checked the tank every day during the
previous week and the water was always clear and the fish were swimming
normally about. <Clarity of the water speaks nothing
about the quality of the water.... You absolutely must test
for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.... Especially during this
critical cycling time of the aquarium....> They had light during the
day via a window and they had darkness at night and
evening. I fed them with the food from the container I'm
feeding the other fish which are still alive and healthy, with the
possible exception of some old food left at the bottom of the
container, but I did not see any of that upon inspection. I
fed them the evening of night before last, I think, or if that
wasn't the last time, it was early yesterday before going to
work. They did not attract my attention to anything unusual
at that time. I checked the pH of the water after
I found them dead, and I found it to be pretty close to normal and
possibly a little alkaline, which is what livebearers like.
<pH is not the issue here, but the toxicity of ammonia and nitrite
present.... this is what's killing them.> The
temperature was not too hot or too cold. When I found them
there was one small one still alive so I immediately put her (him?) in
my healthy tank in the side container with two molly fry. I
thought I'd saved at least that one and it seemed to be
ok. About an hour or so later I checked it and it was also
dead! <Too badly burned from ammonia or nitrite to
recover, I'm sure.> I inspected the dead fish and found a number
of them seemed to have big openings at the stomach area.
<Possibly just coincidence, possibly something else pathogenic - but
the root cause here is a toxic environment.> Can you shed any
possible light on the possible cause of this???? I would be ever so
happy to find out because I'm afraid to put anything else in there
and I am, to tell the truth, disillusioned about keeping any fish at
all now!! <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm
and also in the Set-Up and Maintenance portions of the Freshwater
section of the website.> Thanks for your help. Looking
forward to hearing your thoughts if any on the possible
cause. I haven't emptied the tank, thinking that if I
need to test the water I'll still have it. <Begin reading, and
learning about water quality and how it affects your
fish. You will do fine in time, no worries.> Leslie W.
<Wishing you well, -Sabrina> Incredible reappearing
Gouramis- help! 7/7/05 Hello to the Crew, I set up my 30 gallon
freshwater, let it run for a week, then added 2 Blue Dwarf Gourami
males. Checked water quality for 5 days and all was progressing nicely,
until I came home and my fish were gone on the 6th day. We assumed they
either ran away from home or the cat got them, but could find no
evidence of escape or midnight snacking. Two weeks have passed during
which I've added plants, played with gravel, splashed around, etc.,
waiting for the tank to finish cycling before getting new fish. Tonight
I moved a large rock and out came floating two blue bodies, which then
proceeded to twitch. I was shocked! Don't know if they were stuck
or what, or how. Surprisingly they are alive with no food for 15 days,
but worse, no water changes. Ammonia is about gone, nitrites are sky
high. <Toxic, toxified... why did you place fish in an uncycled
system?> I did a 50% water change, fed them, turned off the light,
lowered filter intake flow (one got pulled alongside), and turned up
the bubbler a little. They now have more motor control, but seem very
weak. Any other suggestions? Chances for survival? I might have missed
something else pertinent on your site. Thank you!! <Read here:
particularly the article and FAQs files on Establishing Biological
Cycling. Bob Fenner>
Re: Incredible reappearing Gouramis- help! 7/7/05
<Toxic, toxified... why did you place fish in an uncycled
system?> Hi Bob, Because placing a couple fish into a new tank at
the beginning helps the cycling process. <... dismal...> At least
that's what I've always been told/read. <Well... now
you're being "told" differently... there are better ways
to establish nutrient cycling...> I've read the
cycling FAQs and have cycled several tanks over the years. I
watch my pH, Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate levels religiously and do
regular water changes along the way to keep the ammonia, then nitrite
levels down. I've never lost a fish. In this case, the two fish
"disappeared" at the beginning of the cycle (still low
ammonia levels), not to be seen for 2 weeks, and assumed to have been
gotten by the cat. Thus, I did not do any water changes, and was
waiting for the tank to finish cycling before adding new fish. My
question was what can I do, other than what I've listed, to help
the poor critters. Thank you for pointing out my tank is toxic and
suggesting the FAQ on tank cycling. <Glad to find you've been
reading... but you stated that the nitrites were/are high... I would
keep these under 1.0 ppm through water changes... look for a bacterial
prep. like BioSpira, other conditioned media... to facilitate cycling.
Bye Bye Bio Filtration I want to thank you for your wonderful
site. Questions: I was reading yesterday about tanks infected
with disease, and about not using pet store water when adding new fish.
Okay, I have a tank that was diseased, and had pet store water in it.
There were numerous diseases in there - all needing different
treatments. I used Kanamycin and Super Velvet in there, and then took
the whole tank apart and rinsed everything off. However, my water is
well water and there is no chlorine in it. I put Bio-Spira in the water
and figured everything was fine. Two fish got a fungus, and I set up a
hospital tank the same day to treat them with Rid-Ick Plus, which
specifically says it can't be used with any other medication.
Next thing I know, the fish in the "clean" tank started
showing signs of disease. I had to treat them in the "clean"
tank because of the Rid-Ick in the hospital tank. Since I had already
tried Kanamycin, I started running Spectrogram in the "clean"
tank. Next thing I know, two of the fish in the "clean" tank
started developing Popeye. I cleaned the hospital tank again, put the
Popeye fish in there and started treating them with Kanamycin. So here
is the end result: I have a "clean" tank that apparently has
some kind of disease in it that causes Popeye (one fish had already
died from it before I started doing all these changes and treatments -
right after I brought it home from the store.) One of your articles
said that diseases can live in the rocks and silicone. Does that mean
this Popeye disease can still be living in my tank? How do I clean the
"clean" tank (there is only one fish in there, and I
don't think she's going to make it) after I am done with all
the treatments? Should I use bleach in the water I use to clean it,
since there's no chlorine in my water? (I did this before in the
city when my water WAS chlorinated, and just rinsed really well
afterwards.) If I do, how do I get the bleach OUT of the rocks,
silicone, decor, etc. after cleaning? De-Chlor? Regarding the Popeye,
how do I know when the treatment has been successful? Will their eyes
go back like they're supposed to be? Or do I just see that the eyes
are not getting worse and figure I've killed the disease? Is
Kanamycin the best treatment? When will it be safe (assuming they
don't die in the hospital tank) to put them back in the
"clean" tank? (I know a guy that has been giving antibiotics
to a Betta for a year now because she had Popeye and one eye was still
clouded over, and I told him that if the bacteria that caused it
wasn't dead yet, it probably never would be.) Kasey DeVita <Hi
Kasey. Have you been testing during all these treatments? The only
diseases you mention are a fungus and Popeye. Both can be caused by bad
water conditions. And the meds you used will kill the beneficial
bacteria needed in bio filtration. Readings for ammonia, nitrite,
nitrate would tell the tale. Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm.
For right now I would suggest you stop medicating. Do a 50% water
change daily for the next few days. Add 2 tbls of aquarium salt and one
tbls of Epsom salt for each 5 gallons of replacement water. Mix it into
the new water before adding it to the tank. The Epsom salt will help
with the pressure build up in the eye. How much it goes back to normal
would depend on the amount of damage done. The eye could be lost. When
cleaning you can use bleach in the water. Rinse well, fill and add a
double dose of dechlorinator. Then drain and refill. Small objects that
can handle heat, even gravel, can be boiled. Please do a fishless cycle
or use Bio Spira before adding any fish back to the system. Don>