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FAQs on Freshwater Toxicity/Poison Situations

Related Articles: Freshwater Diseases, FW Disease Troubleshooting, Ich/White Spot Disease, Choose Your Weapon: Freshwater Fish Disease Treatment Options by Neale Monks,

Related FAQs: Environmental Disease 1, Environmental Disease 2, Environmental Disease 3, Environmental Disease 4, Cycling Trouble-Fixing, & FW Blue-Green Algae/Cyanobacteria, Freshwater Disease 1, Freshwater Disease 2, Aquarium Maintenance, Freshwater Medications, Freshwater Infectious Disease, Freshwater Fish Parasites, Ich/White Spot Disease, Worm Diseases, Nutritional Disease, African Cichlid Disease 1, Cichlid Disease,

Killer ferts?      2/8/19
Good evening WWM crew,
I think I may have injured my Bolivian ram with dry fertilizer.
<Mmm; for all (you and browsers into perpetuity), a good idea generally (unless using specially diluted, slow-release FOR AQUARIUM products) to dilute such in water, use sparingly; with test gear>
I do EI fertilizer dosing in my display tanks with dry fertilizer. I generally dose K2SO4, KH2PO4, and CSM+B, and let the fish take care of providing the NO3.
Shortly after I dosed my 120 gallon a few days ago (following the usual 50% water change), I happened to walk by the tank and notice that my male Bolivian ram was not with his mate (quite unusual; they were a breeding pair and generally don’t wander far from one another). After a few moments, I spotted him lying on his side, still breathing (a bit rapidly, but not gasping) and still moving his pectoral fins. He’s full grown; I’ve had them both for about four years, and I thought perhaps he got in the way of the ferts and got stunned, so I left him there to see if he’d recover.
<Mmm; well; a note re such large water changes. Given that so many places have varying water quality, concentrations of sanitizer (chloramine mostly in the west), I encourage folks to limit percentages to 20-25% at any one time... AND if at all practical, to store, heat (add supplements) to new change out water... Perhaps keeping it a week ahead of use. In other words, I'm inferring that perhaps some influence here may be due to the new water, not simply the fertilizer>
Parameters in the tank were 0 ammonia/nitrite and between 10-20 ppm nitrate. Temp was between 74-76F (room temperature in my house), pH 7.2, gH and kH in the 50-100ppm range (I use remineralized RO/DI water so my parameters are very consistent in that regard).
A few hours later I checked on him; he’d moved a bit, swimming backward and still on his side, and wedged himself between two stems of Rotala. He was still breathing and moving his pectoral fins, his color was good, and he didn’t appear bloated or have any visible signs of disease or injury other than his lack of buoyancy control. His mate seemed to be watching over him anxiously. I left him there, and hoped for the best.
The next day he was in the same spot, and I assumed he had passed ... but when I went in to remove him, he swam away — still upside-down. His condition was no better or worse than the day before.
However, at this point I decided to put him in quarantine to see what I could do. He’s now in a bare bottom tank with the same parameters (little to no nitrate) at 80F and 2g/L NaCl; so far, no change, but he does seem to be swimming a bit more. If I set him upright, he does the ‘belly scoot’ for a moment and then falls over again.
<Mmm; I'd've left this fish in place; would move it back now.>
Before I start throwing meds at him, I figured I’d check with the experts so I don’t accidentally make him worse. I haven’t tried feeding him, but I doubt very much that he’ll eat in his current condition, and I know the first-line treatment for swim bladder issues usually includes fasting the fish.
<I would NOT add medicine, nor do anything extraordinary in the way of offering foods>
Photo included in case you see symptoms I missed. Sorry about the lighting; my QT and hospital tanks are inside my stand.
Thanks for reading,
Linda A
<Thank you for sharing. Again, I would move this Cichlid back to the main/display; pre-mix fert.s, pre-make and store change-out water. Bob Fenner>

Fish Not moving around the tank      2/12/18
Hi Guys,
I have a couple of Angelfish and a discus 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 tank.
<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 chemical filtration>
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,
Shriram Natarajan
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Black Ghost Knifefish; hlth., NO3 file       11/24/17
Hello Crew,
Stumbled onto your site, read some stuff that sounds very helpful.
I have a large about 30cm long single BGK fish, I had it now for a few years in a 645Ltr. mostly African (both Tanganyika/Malawi) a pair of buffalo heads, clown loaches and Chinese Glass cleaners.
<Quite a mix>
All doing well.
At one stage awhile ago I was concerned about Nitrate/ Nitrite but have given up, could not get it right, hence small regular water changes, water always clear, no diseases, fish have been happy, some have bred
For some reason I have noticed BGK with swollen belly not eating, see him more often than not. Hangs vertically near the water outlets from the filter & not in usual hiding hole. BGK fish was large when I bought him, could he be getting old? But why the swollen belly?
<Perhaps "just" over-eating... could be a blockage, tumor... even a bacterial et al. infection>
I would greatly appreciate any advise regarding my Black Ghost Knife fish, he’s cool.
<I'd read on WWM re NO3; endeavor to keep it under 20 ppm via various methods, introduce a "laxative" food item (e.g. Daphnia, Artemia) to the BGK for a week or so. Bob Fenner>
Re: Black Ghost Knifefish     11/29/17

Thank you Bob,
<Welcome Gavin>
Knife fish died. I'm thinking tumor or blockage. I don't feed fish for days at a time sometimes due to shifts I work.
<I see>
Appreciate you getting back to me though.
Thanks again
<Thank you for this follow up. BobF>
Re: Black Ghost Knifefish; now Nitrate f' as well     11/29/17

Hey Bob,
Any tips for getting the Nitrate down?
<Ah yes; avoidance from the get go, water changes, biological amelioration, chemical filtrants. Gone over in detail here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwnitrates.htm
and the linked files above>

It's got me beat, the Ammonia reads 0 ppm to 0.25 ppm if that, as I stated previously I do regular water changes, vacuum the substrate but the Nitrate stays up.
Have tried a little bit of Poly-Filter about the size of the Ammonia Test kit box as recommended by the Aquarium place I bought it from.
<A worthy product>
But if the fish (Electric Yellow & leleupi) have laid eggs their got to be happy right?
<That or stressed; either end of the spectrum elicits reproduction, reproductive behavior>
Up until the Black Ghost Knife fish became crook I've had no problems.
<And you, Bob Fenner>
Re: Black Ghost Knifefish     11/30/17

Thanks again, Bob really appreciate your help.
I will have a read of that site you forwarded.
Kind Regards
<Real good mate. BobF>
Re: Black Ghost Knife fish; Nitrates f'      12/2/17

Righto' Bob,
Sorry to annoy you.
<Not an annoyance Gav. We're here to share>
I read the literature on the web site you forwarded, even though it mostly spoke of Marine set ups, it did in parts touch on Fresh water and in part mention the filter system.
That got me thinking do I NOT clean my filter regularly enough? Is the filter the reason my Nitrate/Nitrite is high?
<This is definitely a possibility as source of NO3. Mechanical filter media, accumulating materials that can/do break down into Nitrate is a principal source of this nitrification product>
All most people say is do regular water changes.
I am under the impression don't mess with the filter, clean it when you notice the flow rate drop, say every 6 months.
<Mmm; well; we need to expand on our ideas, terms here. "Filtration" is a very large concept; for instance, it encompasses denitrification, a set of processes "in reverse" that convert Nitrate largely to Nitrogen and Oxygen... under anaerobic conditions. Are you aware of this?>
I use an Aqua Pro 2200 Canister Filter. The 3 sponges & wool in the bottom basket, the rest filled with Biohome Standard Media and a tray of BioBalls which is all suppose to allow for colonisation of bacteria's and alleviate
Nitrate/Nitrite problems with less cleaning time.
<Actually... you may want to investigate a bit more here. I would switch out the Bioballs and if you have more of the Biohome Standard Media or other sintered glass (e.g. Siporax) filter product, use it in the BioBalls space. These balls drive the forward reactions of nitrification too much, too fast. You will likely see a difference on their removal, substitution within a few days>
Should I be cleaning the filter more often? Have I got the filter set up wrong?
<Just the BioBalls part here>
In the tank it's self are two air stones (bubbles/water movement), a sponge filter, an Aquael Turbo Filter 2000 internal filter and I use it with just the sponge like a power head pointed from one corner of the tank to the
width of the tank so no dead spots (2 Ft..) more bubbles/water movement, right? Also an Eheim streamON+5000. Optimum water circulation with a natural, smooth current formation.
As I have stated previously, the fish seem happy, there colour is bright except for one has dulled since I bought him (was red, now more brown) one has completely change to a better colouring, Nice dark blue with a bright
yellow streak from his mouth through his Dorsal fin to his tail (a Hap).
There is lots of water movement and air ration in my tank I think Bob, so is the filter the problem? What do you think?
<Fishes and non-fish aquatic life can become accommodated to higher NO3 concentration over time... but I would still aim for a reasonable number. There are other mechanisms to control; e.g. live plants use, Deep Sand Bed (in the tank or a tied in sump/refugium), ....>
Once again, again thank you for your knowledge/ information.
<Like tools rusting in a basement, only worthwhile if employed eh?>
Kind Regards
<And you Gavin. Do write back if something is unclear, incomplete, or you have further questions. Bob Fenner>
Re: Black Ghost Knife fish; ongoing... NO3   12/6/17

Hello Bob,
I read the literature on the web site you forwarded, even though it mostly spoke of Marine set ups, it did in parts touch on Fresh water and in part mention the filter system.
That got me thinking do I NOT clean my filter regularly enough? Is the filter the reason my Nitrate/Nitrite is high?
<Might be a factor; best to only clean/change out "part" of the filter media at every interval. As an example, if you're using two units of Chemi-Pure let's say, take out the oldest one and leave the less old one, adding a new unit>
All most people say is do regular water changes.
I am under the impression don't mess with the filter, clean it when you notice the flow rate drop, say every 6 months.
<Mmm; no... better more frequently. Like every month for the mechanical media... the chemical should be switched out/some rotated for new about this same interval>
I use an Aqua Pro 2200 Canister Filter. The 3 sponges & wool in the bottom basket, the rest filled with Biohome Standard Media and a tray of Marine BioBalls which is all suppose to allow for colonisation of bacteria's and alleviate Nitrate/Nitrite problems with less cleaning time.
<We had this convo.... I'd remove the BioBalls, use ChemiPure in the space instead>
Should I be cleaning the filter more often? Have I got the filter set up wrong?
<.... Yes>
In the tank itself are two air stones (bubbles/water movement), a sponge filter, an Aquael Turbo Filter 2000 internal filter and I use it with just the sponge like a power head pointed from one corner of the tank to the width of the tank so no dead spots (2 Ft..) more bubbles/water movement, right? Also an Eheim streamON+5000. Optimum water circulation with a natural, smooth current formation.
<Okay; good to have more circulation, and aeration helps... most canister filters are deficient here>
There is lots of water movement and aeration in my tank I think Bob, so is the filter the problem?
<Not a problem, other than the driven nitrification from the bioballs, but could be improved as I've stated>
Once again, again thank you for your knowledge/ information.
Kind Regards
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: Black Ghost Knife fish     12/11/17

Hello Bob,
Thank you again for your advise.
I will try the Chemi-Pure and a more regular cleaning of the filter.
So many people tell you different things, for me it's very confusing.
<Mmm; don't allow it to be. SEEK to understand the underlying science; question opinions>
I will let you know the results. Until then Merry Xmas & Happy New Year Bob.
<And you and yours. BobF>
Kind Regards
Re: Black Ghost Knife fish      1/24/18

G'day Bob,
Just giving you a little feed back about my aquarium as I said I would.
<Ah, thank you>
While waiting for the delivery of the Chemi-Pure I ordered online I shopped around looking for it.
One aquarium shop had a big sale on De-Nitrate and told me it would do the job. So I cleaned the filter, added De-Nitrate to the filter, made a small water change, left the aquarium to settle tested the water.
Ammonia reading = Perfect. Nitrate = SKY HIGH, so I'm thinking you rip off barstaaards.
Chemi-Pure arrives, clean the filter add the Chemi-Pure & leave in the De-nitrate, do another small water change, after a couple of days, Ammonia reading = Perfect. Nitrate = right up there again. So then I take everything
out of the tank, flush it all clean, find buffalo head cichlid eggs in one rock in their area, take out nearly all the water vacuum the substrate , put the tank back together leave it to settle, Ammonia reading = Perfect.
Nitrate = same - NO change high as a kite. THOUGHT BUGGA THIS, took a water sample to a pet store, they tested it for me, guess what? Every thing Ammonia, PH, Nitrate and a fourth thing (can't remember) PERFECT, SHOCKED AND STUNNED, obviously I have a faulty Nitrate kit, although it doesn't expire until 2020. Get this the wife says told ya so..
<Ahh, good that you checked the checker>
All that worry, money wasted, time spent goggling and seeking advise all for nothing, so obviously the Black Ghost Knife fish and a Peacock Cichlid both died (a couple of months apart) with swollen bellies had a Parasite or something happening.
Anyway the aquarium is crystal clear like the fish are suspended in air, I'm a lot more satisfied, I have left the filter media as is:- sponges and wool in the bottom basket, then the Marine home bio balls with De-nitrate in the next basket, then the Bio-home filter media mixed with De-nitrate, in the top basket is the Chemi-Pure also mixed with the De-nitrate, there was a lot it and I still have one bag of it unopened.
<Good; best to rotate one unit out (the older) and replace it w/ new every month or so>
Now I will leave the filter alone for awhile, but I will order some more Chemi-pure ready for when the current lot expires. Eventually the De-nitrate will expire as well.
Have a good one Bob and many thanks.
<Cheers Gavin. Bob Fenner>

Complete Wipe Out of Most of My Fish       10/14/17
Dear WetWebMedia Crew,
While I was away from home, something unexpected happened that wiped out all but four of my fish. I had left my fish in the care of my family, and the monthly aquarium service that comes to do a more thorough clean down,
and the fish were perfectly healthy. I had left a care guide for my family, and they were doing weekly water changes and feeding the fish a mix of dry and fresh foods. They had done this for my past two years of grad school without issue.
However, two days after the service came, the tank completely clouded over, becoming opaque white, and almost all the fish abruptly died. I was not there, but my parents complained to the service, and the service claimed they had had accidentally not dechlorinated the water properly. They then came a few more times to clean up the mess, and the water is clear now.
The remaining four fish are healthy, and there is no nitrite or ammonia in the water, so it appears the biofilter was not destroyed.
<Ah, good>
Because I was not there, I do not have a lot of information, so I apologize in advance. However, I have to wonder what it is that could have happened.
Here are the possibilities that were raised:
1. Too much dechlorinator used. This was the excuse the service gave, but
I was under the impression that unless aquarium conditions were 'marginal' the deoxygenating effect of dechlorinators is not much of an issue.
<You are correct; it is very hard to overdose water conditioners>
2. Faulty heater. Apparently the temperature in the tank got stuck at 82 degrees Fahrenheit after the service came. But again, not sure if that would be enough to wipe the fish out (the tank is 105 gallons, so it's not small.)
<I doubt this as a cause>
3. Clorox. Apparently the service used bleach to clean the decor before putting back in the aquarium, and there is the possibility they did not wash it off correctly. The service claimed this is something they regularly do without issue, but I have never seen them use Clorox before.
<Very easy to make mistakes here>
4. The service removed a lot of snail shells that were in the gravel. Is it possible they could have abruptly changed the pH by doing so?
<Very doubtful; the CaCO3 in shells is not very soluble>
5. The fish are regularly given fresh vegetables. However, one of my family members gave them green bean slices that were in the fridge for 10 days prior. Could they have been rotten and killed the fish?
<This I do not know>
I need to acquire a new nitrate, pH, and GH test kit, so all I can say is there is no ammonia and nitrite at this moment, unfortunately.
<Will share w/ Neale, as he may have other useful input. Bob Fenner>
Complete Wipe Out of Most of My Fish       Neale's take     10/15/17

Dear WetWebMedia Crew,
<<Hello Lynnie,>>
While I was away from home, something unexpected happened that wiped out all but four of my fish. I had left my fish in the care of my family, and the monthly aquarium service that comes to do a more thorough clean down, and the fish were perfectly healthy. I had left a care guide for my family, and they were doing weekly water changes and feeding the fish a mix of dry and fresh foods. They had done this for my past two years of grad school without issue.
However, two days after the service came, the tank completely clouded over, becoming opaque white, and almost all the fish abruptly died. I was not there, but my parents complained to the service, and the service claimed they had had accidentally not dechlorinated the water properly. They then came a few more times to clean up the mess, and the water is clear now. The remaining four fish are healthy, and there is no nitrite or ammonia in the water, so it appears the biofilter was not destroyed.
Because I was not there, I do not have a lot of information, so I apologize in advance. However, I have to wonder what it is that could have happened.
Here are the possibilities that were raised:
1. Too much dechlorinator used. This was the excuse the service gave, but I was under the impression that unless aquarium conditions were 'marginal' the deoxygenating effect of dechlorinators is not much of an issue.
<<Unlikely, unless they did something dumb like use the (super-concentrated) pond dechlorinator in your aquarium.>>
2. Faulty heater. Apparently the temperature in the tank got stuck at 82 degrees Fahrenheit after the service came. But again, not sure if that would be enough to wipe the fish out (the tank is 105 gallons, so it's not small.)
<<If the tank thermometer was set this high, and the tank actually warmed up to 28C/82F, then it is certainly possible for low-end tropicals (Danios, Platies, Neons, Corydoras) to become stressed, especially if oxygen
concentration wasn't that high to begin with. On the other hand, short-term (a few days) exposure to high-end tropical temperatures in well-filtered tanks with lots of water movement shouldn't be an issue. Still, if the
heater is set too high, and the tank also receives direct sunlight, it is most than possible for the aquarium to get much, MUCH hotter, and that can/will stress, or kill, fish that aren't adapted to prolonged high temperatures.>>
3. Clorox. Apparently the service used bleach to clean the decor before putting back in the aquarium, and there is the possibility they did not wash it off correctly. The service claimed this is something they regularly do without issue, but I have never seen them use Clorox before.
<<This can/will kill fish very quickly if significant amounts get in the tank. But merely cleaning ornaments, and rinsing thoroughly, shouldn't be a problem. Of course if one of the guys was new to the business, and didn't
know how well to rinse things, then there's a risk.>>
4. The service removed a lot of snail shells that were in the gravel. Is it possible they could have abruptly changed the pH by doing so?
<<Unlikely. While snail shells do dissolve in water, and quite rapidly (a few weeks, even) if the water is soft and acidic, in chemistry terms the process is slow, and unlikely to cause significant changes fast enough to kill the fish.>>
5. The fish are regularly given fresh vegetables. However, one of my family members gave them green bean slices that were in the fridge for 10 days prior. Could they have been rotten and killed the fish?
<<Depends on the amount of greens. Large amounts of decaying vegetation can/will remove oxygen from the water, leading to oxygen stress in the fish. But you'd need serious amounts for this: for a 200 gallon tank say,
I'd be thinking a couple cupfuls of greens rotting away would be necessary, not a couple string beans!>>
I need to acquire a new nitrate, pH, and GH test kit, so all I can say is there is no ammonia and nitrite at this moment, unfortunately.
<<All very mysterious, but hopefully not likely to be repeated. Did the service company offer any explanations? The fact the tank became white suggests a bacterial or diatom bloom, the former if it was a more milky white, the latter if there was a golden tinge. Anyway, both are connected with environmental instability, the classic being "new tank syndrome" but it could equally easily be a change in water chemistry caused by the addition or removal of some soluble chemical such as lime, or else clumsy maintenance of the filter that removed too much of the mature filter medium. The latter scenario would indeed cause a rapid die-off of the fish, as the filter capacity drops, but once the 'surplus' fish have died and been removed, the remaining biological filter capacity would be adequate for the remaining fish, so you wouldn't detect an ammonia and nitrite spike if you only sampled water quality after the event. Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>>
Re: Complete Wipe Out of Most of My Fish     10/16/17

The service’s explanation was they used too much dechlorinator, but that sounds doubtful to me.
<Indeed, but see previous reply.>
My family carefully meters out the food, and the amount of green beans was only a couple of small slices. They’ve done it many times before so I doubt it was the cause.
<Agreed, that being the case.>
The water is well oxygenated with a lot of water movement. The tank also doesn’t get any direct sunlight.
I’m personally leaning towards the bleach, or at least overcleaning the biofilter media.
<Quite so.>
I’ve never seen them use bleach before, so it is very possible the person using it wasn’t very experienced with it.
I’m honestly not sure exactly what to do now. I know I at least need to replace the giant Danios soon (there is a sole survivor, and he is not happy at all without his school) but if the biofilter has been reduced a lot I guess I need to do this very slowly.
<Yes, but in fairness, even if the filter is down to 10% of the bacteria it originally had, it'll "cycle" within a few days. It's not like starting a filter from scratch. Plenty of bacteria in the tank to colonise the sterilised filter media.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Amquel safe after termite fumigation?        12/22/15
Greetings Crew,
I just went through a termite fumigation. Thankfully I have only one fish at the moment, a Betta in a small tank. He rode out the fumigation safe on my desk at work. I just realized though that I have a stash of Amquel bottles and unused filter media (sponges/floss) that I forgot to remove before the tenting. Are these items still safe to use? I hate to throw it all away but will do so without hesitation if there's any chance the Vikane has contaminated them.
Thanks in advance!
<If the lids are on the bottles tightly, and the unused filter media are inside their unopened plastic packaging, then all should be safe. I'd rinse off the containers though to wash away any dust particles that might have absorbed poisons. But if there's any slight risk, like an open package or you're not quite sure the bottle had its lid on tightly, then bin these items. Not worth gamble in my opinion. I suppose you could run filter media through the dishwasher a couple times, then rinse thoroughly, e.g., by placing in a lavatory cistern for a few days (old school tip, this, but effective). What say you, Bob? Neale.>
<<Any such product that was sealed up should be fine to use; will not have changed chemically, physically. BobF>>

Fish Wasting Away    /RMF's try   12/10/14
<Samuel, greetings>
I've lost a number of fish to something in my tank and I am at a loss for how to treat it.
<Have scanned this msg. and am going to ask Neale Monks here to respond separately>
The first symptom seems to be spitting out of food rather than eating it. Eventually the fish will become lethargic, start hiding and stop trying to eat at all.
<Good clues. What comes to mind up to this point is either a dire environmental issue or a microbial to Protozoan issue>

I have been removing to treat or euthanize when I notice the spitting behavior but new infections continue. A few fish
have recovered from it and it has only, as far as I've noticed, affected a few species. All of my Celebes rainbowfish have been affected with 66% mortality of the adults and my Endler's have been dying at a higher rate than that. Fry/young fish seem more affected as I lost all but 2 of a batch of ~15 Celebes fry. Species which haven't had any casualties include Pseudomugil paskai, threadfin rainbowfish, Apistogramma borelli and a blue ram.
The tank is a 50g acrylic. Heavily planted, CO2 injected and fertilized (CSM+B, K2HPO4, KNO3 and K2SO4).
<To browsers; always a poss. of issues w/ CO2 use, inorganic fert. use>

NH3/NO2 0ppm and Nitrate varies between 5 and 20ppm. It's been set up for about 6 months and was an upgrade from a
The trouble started, as far as I can tell, back in early October with the addition of 5 Habrosus cories. I had lost 2 during quarantine but I chalked it up to stress as both were emaciated when I got them and they died the first couple days. About 3 days after adding the cories I noticed one of my female Endler's was spitting food out instead of eating it. I left her in the tank for a few days until I noticed one of my Celebes and another endler showing the same behavior. The Celebes was isolated and treated (still died) and both Endler's were euthanized. On 10/13, when I noticed additional infections
<... what came/comes first... the symptoms or cause/s?>
I treated the tank with Metronidazole (3 treatments of 500mg every other day). At the end I performed a large water change and added active carbon to help remove any remaining medication.
After a few days additional fish showed symptoms and the 2 Celebes I treated in quarantine showed little signs of improvement (one died during treatment, the other was still not eating, even when presented live food). On 10/23 I treated with Kanamycin (3 treatments of 1440mg every other day). The remaining Celebes seemed to respond well to this treatment. At this point I introduced a few swordtails from another tank and the infection decimated them. All were infected and only one recovered. I continue to euthanize
Endler's that spit food, don't show interest in food or look thin after a heavy feeding. My best guess was that this is a flagellate but I fear it might be fish TB (since the Kanamycin seemed to help some fish).
Thanks for any help you can provide and for this great resource you have available.
<I suspect something simple yet profound is amiss here... Really, just too little O2, perhaps w/ too much CO2. Do you monitor hardness? Do you have access to dissolved oxygen test gear? Ask your LFS re. We will solve this mystery.
Bob Fenner>
Fish Wasting Away     /Neale's go   12/11/14

I've lost a number of fish to something in my tank and I am at a loss for how to treat it. The first symptom seems to be spitting out of food rather than eating it.
<Quite often goes along with some environmental stress.>

Eventually the fish will become lethargic, start hiding and stop trying to eat at all. I have been removing to treat or euthanize when I notice the spitting behavior but new infections continue. A few fish have recovered from it and it has only, as far as I've noticed, affected a few species.
All of my Celebes rainbowfish have been affected with 66% mortality of the adults and my Endler's have been dying at a higher rate than that. Fry/young fish seem more affected as I lost all but 2 of a batch of ~15 Celebes fry.
Species which haven't had any casualties include Pseudomugil paskai, threadfin rainbowfish, Apistogramma borelli and a blue ram.
The tank is a 50g acrylic. Heavily planted, CO2 injected and fertilized (CSM+B, K2HPO4, KNO3 and K2SO4). NH3/NO2 0ppm and Nitrate varies between 5 and 20ppm. It's been set up for about 6 months and was an upgrade from a 29g.
<Switch off the CO2 and fertiliser system. The plants will be okay for a few days/weeks thusly. Why? Because sometimes CO2 can be dosed too high, and this will cause serious stress to the fish. It's easy enough to discount this problem by switching the CO2 system off for a few days and watching what happens. As plant growth will slow down, fertiliser will be redundant, so you can switch that off too. Again, they're a variable that we want to discount before moving onto other possible issues.>
The trouble started, as far as I can tell, back in early October with the addition of 5 Habrosus cories. I had lost 2 during quarantine but I chalked it up to stress as both were emaciated when I got them and they died the first couple days. About 3 days after adding the cories I noticed one of my female Endler's was spitting food out instead of eating it. I left her in the tank for a few days until I noticed one of my Celebes and another endler showing the same behavior. The Celebes was isolated and treated (still died) and both Endler's were euthanized. On 10/13, when I noticed additional infections I treated the tank with Metronidazole (3 treatments of 500mg every other day). At the end I performed a large water change and added active carbon to help remove any remaining medication. After a few days additional fish showed symptoms and the 2 Celebes I treated in quarantine showed little signs of improvement (one died during treatment, the other was still not eating, even when presented live food). On 10/23 I treated with Kanamycin (3 treatments of 1440mg every other day). The remaining Celebes seemed to respond well to this treatment. At this point I introduced a few swordtails from another tank and the infection decimated them. All were infected and only one recovered. I continue to euthanize Endler's that spit food, don't show interest in food or look thin after a heavy feeding. My best guess was that this is a flagellate but I fear it might be fish TB (since the Kanamycin seemed to help some fish).
<Fish TB is essentially incurable, so medication won't have any great impact. Wish it did! I'd back off from adding more medications before checking the environment thoroughly. When many fish die, and they all shows signs of stress, then the environment is surely the top possibility to consider. Rapid pH changes (common where CO2 is used inappropriately) cause many/all of the symptoms you describe. Very rapid plant growth without considering their oxygen demand at night is another common factor. What happens is we often minimise water circulation to avoid driving off the CO2, but during the night plants use up more O2 than they produce (they do
the reverse by day) and they can lower the oxygen content of the water substantially. This is especially so if organic decay (dead leaves for example) is present in substantial amounts. So: try minimising CO2 for a few days as outlined above, whilst also boosting O2 as much as you can, e.g., with an airstone at each end of the tank. See if the fish perk up.
Look to see if the fish are skittish, moving their gills rapidly, or staying ostentatiously close to the surface/areas of strong water movement -- all can be signs that the O2/CO2 balance in the tank isn't right.
Malayan Livebearing Snails crawling up the glass by day is another telltale sign -- they're veritable miners' canaries for this! While I'm not ignoring your idea that disease could be to blame, I'd still discount environmental stress before anything else. If you've done antibiotics and anti-Protozoans already to no good effect, then the "usual suspects" -- Velvet, Whitespot, Finrot, etc. -- can be discounted, then what's left -- Fish TB and other Mycobacteriosis-like infections -- are pretty much untreatable. So if that's the situation here, all you can do is allow the disease to run its course until what's left are the fish whose immune systems have defeated
the bacteria. But even here, it has to be stated that Mycobacteriosis is as much environmental as anything else, so it's likely something else is going on as well, even if a bacterium species is to blame.>
Thanks for any help you can provide and for this great resource you have available.
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Fish Wasting Away        12/20/14

Hey Crew,
I took your suggestions and messed around with my CO2/fertilizer among other things. One good indicator is that my MTS spend all day in the sand/substrate.
<Indeed. See them up the glass with the lights on, and something is amiss.

If they're happy in the sand without showing their little faces, then all is well.>
My Ramshorn also haven't been hanging out around the top of the tank. As a precaution I dialed my CO2 back a little and refilled my drop checker (showing greenish blue before and after). I also had my CO2 off during both medication regimens, which were also sans ferts. Additionally I had my CO2 off for 4 days during thanksgiving when I was out of town. My CO2 shuts off at the same timer my lights do. To improve dissolved oxygen I started running an airstone at night. I neglected to mention I also dose flourish excel at slightly less than the recommended amount.
<So without CO2 did the fish behave differently or better?>
I ceased excel dosing for a week to see if the fish showed any improvements to no effect. I tested and I do have some day/night pH swings but not by much. All I've got is an API kit but the difference looks to be about 0.2 lights off to lights on. The LA tap comes out ~8.2 here and is moderately buffered. I haven't checked the TDS or conductivity but a local planted tank shop told me that he runs all his tanks on tap and dosing moderately shouldn't be a problem. The issue might be related to or exacerbated by organic matter in the tank. I typically do a pretty good job pruning old growth and removing dead plant matter, but there have been times where I get busy and let the tank go a bit. I started pruning old leaves a bit more heavily as a precaution and have been diligent about removing any dead/dying material. I also ceased fertilizing for a while,
but started again when some of my plants started showing pinholes on their leaves. Since restarting I've cut back to 2/3 of what I used to dose.
<Sounds wise.>
I won't rule out any issue with organics in my tank, as I have soil capped with sand and a lot of living biological material, but I decided to check if a sick fish could transmit the condition. I took two obviously sick Endler's and placed then with 3 swordtails my girlfriend was culling (1m/1f older adults and one juvenile). Within a week all 3 were spitting food. The
Endler's were removed and euthanized. Both older fish progressed to the point where they weren't even trying to eat so I euthanized them. The juvenile eventually recovered. I then set up a new tank and tested to see if the recovered juvenile could infect a female Betta and a couple other juveniles. The Betta seemed a bit under the weather and her shape got a little funky but never stopped eating and was added to the original infected tank with the survivor swordtail. Both of the new juveniles were infected and died. My latest suspicion is neon tetra disease, or some microsporidia.
<Perhaps, but both are difficult to diagnose without a microscope. Some fish health vets have stated about half supposed "Neon Tetra Disease" infections are actually Mycobacteriosis. In other words, you can't distinguish Pleistophora from Mycobacteria by eye. Really do need a microscope.>
My girlfriend was initially convinced (or just afraid) it was fish TB but after taking parasitology this quarter she agrees with my initial suspicion of this probably being protozoan.
<A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing! But since you have access to a microscope via your girlfriend, why not take a dead fish into the lab, take smears from the skin, inside the mouth, gill cavity, etc., and see what you can see. Presumably your university library has Ed Noga's "Fish Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment". That's the book you need.>
The fact that some species seem more affected is what really makes me lean that way.
<But isn't conclusive. Trust me. Pleistophora is classically associated with Neons but has been reported from fish as diverse as Goldfish and Angels, while Mycobacteria has been reported from just about every fish
someone's made an effort to examine. Very, very few fish infections can be truly identified to genus level by eye. Whitespot, Velvet, Crypt... maybe Columnaris, possibly Costia... but not much beyond these.>
One symptom I neglected to mention is that in really sick fish the spine starts to bend. I've only noticed this in female Endler's, and perhaps slightly in one Celebes who hung on to life for a long time. The sick female I used to infect the swordtails was severely deformed by the time I killed her. I should have taken a picture, but didn't think to at the time.
Moving forward I fear I'm going to have to euthanize a lot of fish and hope for the best. That or tear the tank down and start over. My endler population is now only juveniles, which gives me little hope for any of them surviving.
<On the contrary, often juveniles survive rather better than the adults if the problem has been exacerbated by long-term stress or dietary shortcomings. Definitely worth leaving them be if they're currently feeding and growing.>
I'm planning on euthanizing all of my Endler's and any currently sick fish prior to me leaving town for a bit during the holidays. I might try adding a couple new Celebes after I get back to see if there is any lingering infection.
<No! If all the fish die, then leave the tank fallow for a few weeks.
That'll break the life cycle of most common parasites. Bacterial infections are latent in most tanks, even Fish TB/Mycobacteriosis, and they only become a problem when the fish are stressed, so while you might run some antibiotics through the tank, there's no real point, and few work on Mycobacteria spp in particular. Keep the filter happy by adding a little fish food now and again (the snails will turn this into ammonia). Then, select fish wisely from the start, adding a few at a time, choosing species suited to your environmental parameters. If you have liquid rock water, avoid tetras and other South American fish, but consider livebearers (particularly the non-fancy varieties with better health, such as Heterandria, Limia, etc.) as well as Ricefish, some of the Rainbows, and the hardier/adaptable cyprinids, such as Cherry Barbs and Danios.>
In a month or so I should know if I've beaten this thing or not.
Thanks again, Samuel
<Cheers, Neale.>

Aerosol Lysol poisoning, GF     3/2/13
I have a terrible emergency and need help asap! I walked into my living room to see my daughter's friend spraying aerosol Lysol directly into my tank water.
As fast as I could, I grabbed the water changing bucket ( 5 gallons) filled it, added aqua plus, and put my 7 moors inside. I took out my filters immediately and did a 50% water change,
<Dump it all out... now>
 adding the necessary amount of aqua plus, with an additional 50 ml. This was all done within moments of the poisoning. I had to put my fish back in ( they are very large, including fins they are twice the size of my hand), the bucket wasn't big enough and they were in danger from my other pets. I had them in the bucket for 3.5 hours before I had to put them back.
Was what I did enough?
<I would do another few 50% changes... every few hours; treating as above>
 I know I will find out by tomorrow :( but is there anything I can additionally do?
<Add activated carbon in the water/filter flow path>
Also what can other fish owners do in this case of emergency? I looked for a really long time before I found this forum and there was only advice on a tank cleaned with Lysol when I looked elsewhere. I also phoned my fish supplier, who advised me to do the process I had already done. If u can help me out I can't even tell u how much I would appreciate it. I love my fish :'(
<Hoping all will be well, Bob Fenner>
Re Aerosol Lysol poisoning    3/10/13

Hi bob, thanks so much for your help. I did end up doing another 50% water change with treatment about 2 hrs after the fish were put back in the tank.
Before that I set up an isolation tank. I had to use a Rubbermaid tote because nothing else was big enough and I was really skeptical of using the bath tub because of contaminants.
About four hours after the second water change I put my fish into the iso tank, where they stayed until morning.
I emptied my entire tank and cleaned everything, additionally setting up a separate iso tank for my plants and another for my snail's. I did forget to mention that I have 4 Apple snails, but they survived!! A little stressed but I believe they will be okie dokie. The tank sat for the night with cycle and salt. I slowly added the living things in the morning watching for signs of contamination/ poisoning. After 3hrs of no ill signs from the snails I put the fish back in. It was a long and stressful couple days but the work was definitely worth it, I had zero casualties :-D thank you once again
<Ahh, thank you for this follow-up report. BobF>

Emergency!!!    1/11/13
Hello, I apologize in advance for any grammatical or other errors as I am typing as fast as I can.
<No need. Slow down. Few fishkeeping problems -- short of fish jumping out -- need immediate fixes.>
Tank-20 gallon long, ammonia was 0, nitrite-0, nitrate-5, pH-7.6, temp 78.
6 zebra danios, 1ADF, 1 female Betta, 4 ghost shrimp, countless cherry shrimp.
<Sounds fine.>
Planted with Amazon swords, fast growing weed like plants and Amazon Frogbit, and flame moss. I do weekly water changes of about 30%, I age my water for 5-6 days because it comes out of my tap at an ammonia reading of 2.0.
<I see. Be sure to use a good quality ammonia remover with your water conditioner, or else choose a water conditioner that includes ammonia remover. If you do that, you shouldn't need to age water for so long, though leaving water to stand overnight before use is a good idea. In any event, if you aren't wild about the quality of your tap water, try doing two small 10-15% water changes a week rather than one big 25-33% water change. Maybe on Saturday and Sunday. That way, your fish won't be exposed to such big "shocks" if the water quality or chemistry isn't as good as it should be.>
I just did a water change and all was well. 2 hours later I notice a Danio darting around in panic mode, upon further inspection 1 Danio is dead, another is close and the rest are schooling in a panic behind the driftwood!

<Not good. In most cases, a water change would be recommended, at least 25%, and perhaps 50% if you can trust the new water will have about the same water chemistry and temperature as the old water. If your tap water's water chemistry is okay, it's just the ammonia in the tap water that's worrying, then treat with a good quality ammonia remover (such as Ammo Lock). After treatment, it *should* be safe to use. Just be sure to dose carefully; overdosing a bit isn't normally a problem, but if you under-dose, that will leave behind ammonia that can harm your fish. For what it's worth, consider a good all-around water conditioner that treats ammonia, chlorine, chloramine and copper, as these are the "big four" killers in tap water.>
Everyone else is fine. The cherries are eating happily and my female Betta is doing what is normal for her. I checked the parameters and all is the same except my ammonia is reading at .25.
<Cherry Shrimps are good bellwethers, and if they're happy, the tank should be safe and healthy.>
This is apparently from my tap water but I do the same process every week and have never had a problem, when I do the change it will sometimes register a little but then rectifies itself within a day. There has never been a reaction like this before, and I asked my husband and he has not touched my aging water. I am assuming they have been poisoned but with what?
<Assuming the tap water was okay, the usual poisons are things like airborne toxins (insecticide for example) and pesticides brought in on things like wood taken from the garden and plonked in the aquarium. While paint fumes can be toxic, most modern paints don't seem to be especially harmful to fish if the room is ventilated adequately well. Nonetheless, paint fumes are a possibility.>
And why are only the danios affected?
<Hard to say.>
There is no reddening of gills or streaks associated with ammonia. I put in a big bag of charcoal and a bag of zeolite but I can't do a water change because there's more ammonia in the tap than the tank!
<Water conditioner that neutralises tap water ammonia makes that tap water ammonia safe, though it will still register if you use an ammonia test kit.
Incidentally, if your water is treated with chloramine (and most city water supplies are nowadays) this will give positive ammonia readings as well, even if your water conditioner treats chloramine. Overall, I feel ammonia test kits are too misleading and don't recommend them. Use a nitrite test kit instead, because there are fewer reasons why these should give misleading results.>
Any ideas? Please help I don't want to lose the whole tank!
Thanks! Marya
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Emergency!!!     1/11/13

Yes Neale, thanks so much, I use Seachem Prime but I do have some ammo lock on hand, I can use that and do a big water change.
<If the tank seems settled now, I'd change 25%, and see what happens. Wait a few hours after that before changing more.>
I always check the cherries first because I know they are sensitive but they are fine, even tiny ones. My substrate is sand, i did move a cave and vacuumed under it, is it possible I dislodged anaerobic gas?
<It's a possibility, but realistically, hydrogen sulphide oxidizes so quickly it's unlikely to cause problems. After all, ponds and marine tanks routinely have sandy substrates with lots of anaerobic decay, yet no-one worries about them. If you have snails burrowing through the sand, then the risk is even smaller. If you are worried, lower the waterline a bit (or raise the filter outlet) so the outflow from the filter causes more splashing; this helps to drive off gases like hydrogen sulphide and chlorine even more quickly.>
Thanks again,
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Emergency!!!    1/12/13

Neale, I really really appreciate your quick response, especially during a crisis.
<Most welcome.>
The remaining danios are venturing out a tiny bit but they are mostly still schooling behind the driftwood.
<Should settle down if other fish are apparently okay. Danios aren't especially sensitive fish, so if more delicate species are okay, then the water is presumably "safe" for danios.>
Everyone and everything else is normal. I will do a 25% change now using the Prime, and monitor the tank. I just can't believe the suddenness (is that a word?) of it. My aging water sits inside a cabinet with nothing else in it in a bathroom that never gets used. I am stymied and frustrated but I will carry on. Thanks sooooooooooooo much, you are the best!
<Hope it all sorts itself out. Cheers, Neale.>

Just two questions. Metal poisoning symptomology 4/7/12
Hello again,
I would like to thank WWM for all the help with my ten gallon aquarium, although there is only 1 Trichopsis vittata left (they killed each other).
As I was reading through the site, two questions popped into my mind:
1. What are the most common symptoms of heavy metal poisoning?
<Lethargy, non-feeding, ataxia, discoloration>
2. If I do not see a fish eating, but there are fresh pieces of fish poo in the tank, is it safe to assume that the fish is eating? ( assuming that there is only one fish in the tank)
Thanks in advance.
<... Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Sick Betta- Tried everything with no luck.... May be BGA...   2/27/12
I am an avid reader and am so thankful to have found your site last year. I am desperate need of help. I've looked through the site and was unable to find a situation similar to mine. I have a big, beautiful red Betta. Tank specs: 5 gallons, heated between 76-78 degrees, filtered, gravel bottom, 2 live plants (both ok for Bettas) 1 synthetic plant to help keep current from filter slower. I do a 25% water change at least every two weeks, and a 50% water change once a month. I use a water conditioner and aquarium salt.
He gets a varied diet of Betta pellets and shrimp. I have studied and researched your site to try and provide him with the best care possible. Up until now he was happy, healthy and playful. In fact I was able to nurse him though a bout of Ick when I first got him with your knowledgeable help.
About a month ago I noticed dark green algae
<This might well be a Blue-green... Cyanobacteria... can be quite toxic>
 starting to grow in his tank. I tried to manage it by cleaning the spots that showed up when I'd do his water change. It got to be worse than normal so I decided to take him out and clean out the tank and gravel. I am very careful about contaminants and do my best to keep things as stable as possible in such a small system. After adding him back into the tank he was in bad shape in less than 24 hours.
<I further suspect BGA... becomes more toxic w/ attempts to remove>
At first I though it might be a stomach problem, minor swelling on his belly. I treated by adding aquarium salt to reduce the pressure and didn't feed him for several days. No change. He was and is spending considerable time on the bottom of the tank and at the top on his plants. He seems to have difficulty swimming, unable to stay at the top of the water, sinking back down.
Next I tried just maintaining his usual routine and keeping the water conditions normal as they had been, hoping he would normalize.
<This is what I would have done as well>
 He seemed to get a little better and was eating regularly again, if not as much- would float back down after two or three bites. Now he's in worse shape and the algae is back. He hasn't eaten or responded to me in the last two days now. I'm worried he's suffering and I'm at a complete loss. Please let me know if there is anything else I can do? And if not, how best to end his suffering painlessly. Thank you for your time.
<Mmm, please read here for background:
I might go the extreme route here of removing the fish... tossing the live plants... bleaching the entire system... rinsing, re-filling... and moving the fish through a few rinses (to discount the conveyance of BGA spores) to eliminate the Cyano. Bob Fenner> 
Re: Sick Betta- Tried everything with no luck....   2/28/12

Thank you so much, Bob! I went through and read the posts about the BGA- nasty stuff. I'm pretty sure now that that is exactly what it is.
<Was/is my best guess>
The tank has been getting more sunlight recently and I wondered if that was causing the algae to grow.
<Could well be>
 I know algae is common in tanks, but I wondered if this was a type that was harmful to the fish.
<There are bio-assays... I think you've been doing one>
 I'm going to remove him from the tank, bleach the system as you recommended and start fresh with the plants. I hope it's not too late and that I can get him to bounce back. I really appreciate your time to email me back. The amount of time and research that you all put into the website is phenomenal. It is so reassuring to know that there is a credible,
reliable source that I can trust.  Take care!
<And you my friend. BobF>
Re: Sick Betta- Tried everything with no luck....   Non-aq. plants     2/28/12

Hi again. I have one last follow up question. I've gone and bleached the system, replaced the gravel and added new plants (umbrella plants).
<Mmm, what is this... the scientific name? There are several popular "aquarium" plants sold that are actually not aquatic>
I picked up a new filter- Tetra whisper 10i internal power filter. It says it works with up to 10 gal tanks. It looks to be a little bigger than my previous filter, also a Tetra whisper. I'm concerned that its too strong for him, especially right now when he is not at full health.
<Likely is fine>
I've placed the plants around the filter to try and disperse the flow, I'm not sure its enough. I'm also torn because I know that the more water movement, the better to keep the BGA from growing again. Unfortunately it doesn't have a flow control. I've read through the filter posts and seen that both the gravel filters and sponge filters are recommended for Bettas.
<Or small internal or external power filters... there are even smaller units>
 I don't think I'll be able to find those in my area.
<Can be ordered via etailers like Dr.s Foster & Smith (.com)>
 I know I can order them online, however my main question is this: should I leave the filter off in the meantime?
<Yes; I would>
Second: What do you personally recommend for a filter for a 5 gal Betta tank? He's a pretty big Betta and used to be a strong swimmer...
<Mmm, you could just search w/ the string "Betta system filters"... Whisper 3i...>
Thank you again for your advice!
<Not advice; and this may seem something similar, but what I'd likely do given the stated circumstances. BobF>
Re: Sick Betta- Tried everything with no luck.... Non-aq. plants     2/28/12

In regards to the plants, they're Top Fin from PetSmart- growl - I did add some semi-aquatic Golden Ribbon plants (Dracaena variegatus?)
<This genus is terrestrial... see WWM re... the search tool>

 to float on the top which I've used before without any issues I thought, and the umbrella plants (were sold to me as aquatic, growl again. I'm not sure on the scientific name, but they do look similar the Anubias plants?).
<Also not likely truly aquatic>
 Looking on the posts regarding stocking tanks with live plants I see that PetSmart and Top Fin have used non-aquatic plants? For crying out loud, I am so disgusted with those people.
<Yes; unfortunately>
 I won't go into detail the problems I've had with them and the horrible information I've received- I've gone back after speaking with them and researched on your site to find that the information was just bad.
Unfortunately, I'm in Montana and at this point I have very little resources for my fish. Is there an online resource for good quality live plants?
<Quite a few actually. Search... read Aquariumplants (.com)>
Or is there at least one thing that PetSmart might have that would be safe for my guy?
<My fave: Ceratopteris>

 I am going to check and see if they have any of the following grasses by any chance: Anacharis/Elodea/Egeria, Myriophyllum/Parrotfeather, Ceratophyllum/Coontail. >
<These are too cold-water to be of tropical use. B>

all my fish are dying help! Mysterious FW losses 1/6/12
Dear Wet Web Media,
I am a fish novice, but had a fresh water tank when I was a kid. I have been caring for my sisters 29 gallon fresh water fish tank since late July when she moved, and I guess have become the owner, as she wont be back till minimum next August.
My sister had two Clown Loaches and a Coolie Loach for many many years. I think 9 years. When she left for NY we came over to feed her fish every few days, and during that time the more dominant Clown Loach took all the food and the other Clown Loach became very small, while the other became huge.
<Happens... need large systems, to live in shoals... groups; to prevent such bullying effects>
The dominant Clown Loach nipped at the little ones' tail, and the little one started to waste away.
After maybe a month of coming over to feed the fish every few days, my husband and I moved into her apartment to house watch and better care for her fish. Everyone seemed fine, the little Loach not eating much, and remaining very small and very skinny, but alive and behaving normally.
Then one day, two or three weeks ago, the subservient loach died. We figured because he was so skinny, was 9 years old, and not eating that it was probably inevitable and didn't think there was a problem with the tank or water quality.
Then it all went downhill...
Being shamefully ignorant, we went to buy more Loaches for our dominant Loach, as we thought he's a school fish and needed friends.
The aquarium store we purchased the new fish from was a very bad store, there were dead fish in many of the tanks, and the woman was not helpful.
Because of our ignorance we thought we were "saving" these fish from a horrid store, rather than we could maybe be bringing illness to our tank.
We purchased 4 Zebra Danios, one Clown Loach who was the same size as our Loach, two African Dwarf Frogs, and a High Fin Pleco.
<The one extant large loach is not likely to share the bottom w/ these last two>
The frog tank was especially bad, with dead frogs everywhere and eels eating the dead ones in a frenetic fashion.
The frogs died after a week. Again, we weren't sure of the cause, as there was none of the symptoms from your list. They just died. Still, everyone else seemed fine and we didn't change the water or do anything as we were leaving soon, and had not educated ourselves completely on proper fish care.
A few days later we went away for 5 days for the holidays and had a girlfriend come over every other day to feed the fish.
When we returned there was only one Zebra Danio left, and no traces of the others, not even body remnants. Nothing.
<Strange that the Danios perished. These are fast, smart fish w/ a good deal of aquarium conditions tolerance usually>
The Loaches were acting very aggressive about food, so we thought they'd eaten these guys. Our friend was no help, and hadn't even noticed that any fish had gone missing or were dead, so we had no idea what happened.
Then, convinced that there was no illness, we still didn't change the water,
<"Didn't change the water"...? You need to do regular partial change outs.
Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2ochgs.htm
and the linked files above>
instead buying more Zebra Danios for the Zebra and three guppies.
<Mmm, too easily killed by whatever (Butler) is doing so here>
This time from a nice, well maintained store.
The next day a guppy was found dead and half eaten. We still thought the loaches might be eating them, as there seemed to be nothing wrong with the fish, and the Loaches were still acting aggressive.
Then the next day, another guppy was dead, and another Zebra Danio was dying. Finally we could see that no one was attacking them, and that they were dying from something else. We went to bed, and the next day the Zebra was dead and the Coolie Loach was dying. He was pale, and barely moving.
We then FINALLY moved into gear:
We tested the water, and the Nitrate and Ammonia and everything were in the normal range. We did a 60% water change, and at the recommendation of the fish store guy, purchased Maracyn powder for the tank, following the directions of a packet per 10 gallons, which for us was three packets for five days.
Our Coolie Loach died a few hours later, which was really upsetting, as he had been around forever and was VERY hardy. I couldn't find any white spots or any other discernible signs of a specific illness, though there seemed to be a small red spot on one of his gills.
We are now on the second day of treating the tank with antibiotics. I removed the filter as I read that it can filter out the antibiotics. This morning we woke up to find the new Clown Loach dead! Again, no outward signs of anything! and now the other Clown Loach, that has survived EVERYTHING is acting sick. Normally a greedy guy, who never misses a meal, he hasn't come out once for any food, seeming to hide in his tube. Again, outwardly he looks fine, it's his behavior that indicates something's wrong.
<I'd put the filter back on, change out a good deal of the water. Stat!>
The Zebras and Guppy's seem fine, but there is a whiteness on the blue guppy's back, though it doesn't seem to have any texture, that seems to be getting bigger, though he's swimming fine. Because he's a new fish, I'm not completely certain how he looked before, but I thought this might be an indication of Ick or the other white bacterial problems mentioned online.
Today in a last ditch effort to save my Loach I added a tsp of powdered vitamin C to the tank, hoping to boost their immune systems. I haven't found too much on this online about Vitamin C but took a chance as my mom did it once for these fish and they were much better the next day, and because they're dying so fast I wanted to do SOMETHING! I understand it can make it more alkaline<?>
<Mmm, actually the opposite... will decrease alkalinity. Do you have measure for this here? Not the same as pH>
but read that's not necessarily a bad thing?
<Depends on the existing water quality and the livestock present>
So, that's where we're at now. Do you have any suggestions for other possible illnesses?
<Yes; it's past time to review the make-up of this system. Something is amiss here... maybe rotting driftwood, perhaps a toxic rock, ornament... some source of metal? >
Was this contracted from the awful aquarium store?
<Small possibility>
And are we doing the rights things now? We are involuntary fish owners, as these were my sisters fishy, but I feel terrible that my ignorance could have cost these guys their lives, so I would now like to be more educated on fish care as to never repeat my mistakes. Any help would be much appreciated!!!
Thank you!
<Let's have you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwtoxicenvdisfaqs.htm
Does any aspect/element of these situations pertain to yours? Bob Fenner>

Re: all my fish are dying help! 1/6/12
Hello Bob,
<Hi Lara>
Thanks so much for the response.
I looked at the links you sent and have again checked the water quality.
Here are the numbers:
PH Balance: 7.4
which means our tank is more Alkaline? correct? too Alkaline?
<Mmm, not a "balance", but a discrete "point"... and alkalinity is NOT the same measure... but an indication of resistance to change (downward, and acidity upward) on the pH scale... Please read here:
and the linked files above>
Ammonia: 0
Nitrate: 0.25
<... likely nitrite, not 'ate... toxic>

it was 0 before but I guess because we took out the filter for the antibiotics to work, it raised the Nitrates.
We have some calcium carbonate?
<One aspect/component of alkalinity and hardness>
hardened white deposit around the tank when the water evaporates, but not a "THICK" amount as the person in your link complained about.
The guppy's, Zebra Danio's and Pleco seem fine now, while the Loach is still alive, but breathing very fast and not eating. He remains in his tube below hiding.
We have two rocks, a tube, a tower and three plastic plants, but all are made for aquariums, so I'm not sure if there's a toxicity from them. The rocks, tube and tower have all been a part of the tank for years, while the plastic plants were added with the Frogs a few weeks ago.
We are still continuing with the antibiotics as I want to finish the course - which will be finished Monday, and haven't put the filter back in yet..
though perhaps I should?
<... as stated previously, I would>
I'm torn on this as I want the antibiotics to
finish their course and not be filtered out, but I don't want the Nitrates to get too high. Thoughts?
<Please search, read on WWM re NO3... and also, we ask that folks limit graphics file size to a few hundred Kbytes... yours here are ten megs...>
Also, I forgot to mention this before and perhaps this may be the issue,
but when we changed the water a few days ago we noticed that the water heater was cracked.
<Ahh! This may be the source of your fish loss troubles here> Upon removing it, the crack widened and the heater was
obviously broken, and it smelled like it was burning... we took it out and bought a replacement asap, but would a cracked heater make the water toxic?
Maybe that was the problem?
Another issue may be that when we got the new fish, after acclimating them to our tank in their baggie for 20 minutes, we simply poured the fish into the tank, including the water from the fish store.. we did this with all of the new fish, adding up to around 4-5 baggies the first time, and three baggies the second time a few weeks later. Could this have contaminated our tank?
<Not likely>
Another change that may mean nothing, but I'm trying to list all possibilities is before we bought the Pleco, the tank had A LOT of algae.
Once the Pleco was introduced he started eating it all, and now there is absolutely no algae, or not much. Could this have changed the PH balance?
<Could affect, yes>
I've attached a few pics of our tank, with close ups of the white deposits, and tried to show you the Guppy that seemed to have some discoloring though he moves too fast to get a good picture.
Finally, I guess we leaned towards it being an infection rather than a toxic environment because all the fish started dying once we purchased the new fish. of course the skinny loach *did* die a few weeks before the other fish were added, but again, we figured he'd gotten weak from not eating, and died from that.
Thank you so much for the help. Any further advice would be much appreciated.
<Keep reading. BobF>

Re: all my fish are dying help! 1/6/12
Oye Ve! The PH stuff is hard to understand!
<Take your time... new, but simple concepts>
so you think it's the heater? But why aren't they getting better?
<Takes time>
We changed the heater two days ago, as well as the water.. how long would it take to improve?
<A couple weeks...>
Also, I just checked out our Clown Loach who has emerged he also has one small red spot and one dark spot on his gill, and he's looking pretty bloated.. this looks the same as what I saw on the Coolie Loach Eel that died two days ago (though the Coolie Loach was not bloated).. is it possible that we have two problems? The toxicity from the broken heater and some sort of infection from the frogs?
Also, should we lower the PH? Is 7.4 too high?
<No and not>
attached are smaller files.. sorry about the big pics :)
<Already deleted. No worries>
Thank you for the speedy answers!
<I feel the need. B>
Re: all my fish are dying help! 1/6/12

oh and Nitrite is: 0.25
<As I stated two emails ago>
NITRATE color was between 0 and 5.0 on the chart - what does that mean?
<See WWM Re>

Tank in distress. FW, diag./troubleshooting w/o much to go on 11/26/11
Hello my friends,
I am hoping that you can help me, you are really my last hope. I have been trying for months to straighten around my 35 gallon hex tank, but to no avail. I have a wonderful community of livebearers and pygmy Corys, but I am losing fish at an astronomical rate. It feels like I will get everyone healthy and things under control for a few weeks, then lose another round of fish and start all over again.
<Something... very wrong here...>
I have seriously tried everything I can think of at this point. I have done HOURS of research online trying to find a solution, I have tried everyone ounce of advice I have been given and nearly every medication I can find.
<A poor situation>
I have been doing 25% water changes weekly, as well as vacuuming the gravel. I have tried replacing the
gravel, replacing the plastic plants, bottled spring water, treated tap water, changed the diet, changed the filtration, salt treatments, Melafix, Ich and fin rot treatments... nothing seems to stop my fish plague! I have my water tested weekly, my ph is perfect for live bearers,
<Slightly alkaline I take it>
the nitrates and phosphates are in a normal range,
<values please; not subjective commentary>
my temp is steady and perfect- yet my fish are still dying. And what is most troubling, is every fish has had
different symptoms. Some fish show no signs of distress at all, I just find them white and half eaten at the bottom of my tank.
<Ahh, data!>
Some fish will start shimmying and sink to the bottom and die in a few days, some get all "spastic" and dart like mad from the top to the bottom, and are found dead within days. Its just so bizarre and no one has answers for me. The fish that is currently in isolation is a sweet little balloon molly that I have
had for nearly a year. Her mate was the last to die, and it broke my heart.
I nursed him along ( ever hand feed a molly? yea.) for nearly ten days, but he finally slipped away. I tried everything I could to save him, including a vet visit.
<Did this Vet. examine (microscopically) the dead, live fishes?>
No one had answers. Now his mate is dying. Two weeks ago I noticed a bumpy ridge on her head, and brought her in for an inspection. I was told that since there was no discoloration she was fine and I had
nothing to worry about. The mass grew, became bulbous and turned a clear/milky color. This morning I found her with a massive crater in her head where this growth had burst. All the other fish were chasing her around picking at her face so I am assuming that everyone needs to be treated if I can correctly diagnose this issue. Someone please help me, I don't know what to do. I feel like I am torturing these fish. I am ready to give them all away and retire this tank for good. You are my last hope.
*sincerely, distressed fishy mom
<Through all these treatments, losses have you tested for chemical parameters other than what you note above? My first guess is that you have a toxic ornament/decor item/s in this system... Like a geode. Please list all the items found here and send along well-resolved images of the system.
What do you have for filtration, SOP for treating new water? What died first and symptoms? My next guess is a general fluke (monogenetic trematode) involvement. You don't list using an Anthelminthic in your blitz of dosings... Again, did the Vet. take a scraping from the bodies, gills of the lost fishes? Bob Fenner>

Re: Tank in distress 11/26/11
> Dear Bob, thank you so much for your fast response. It is nice to feel
> supported right now.
<My goal is to assist you; solve whatever the cause, source of mortality was/is here>
> To answer your questions-the vet was useless. He did nothing but look at
> my fish and say " yes, your fish has died." He ran no tests, he asked no
> questions, and he treated me like I was crazy for bringing in a lowly
> balloon molly. For tests I do not have actual ratings, levels, or even know
> exactly what was tested for chem. parameters as I had them done at the
> pet store and they simply said "everything looks normal". Ph I do myself, it
> is always between 7.6 and 7.8.
<Mmmm, a bit high. Is this the same as the pH of your source/tap water after it has sat for an hour or so?
I also have a question re the white object... rock, decor item in the pix you've sent along... Is this something intended for aquarium use? I might well remove it, soak it in new water... do a "bio-assay" w/ a fish or two to see if this is a source of toxicity>
and temp stays between 75 and 80 F.The first
> fish to die was a Chinese algae eater. He was "fat" when I bought him, the
> pet store guy said he was just "happy and fat" so i took him home and added
> him to my tank ( upon being educated I have discovered this in and of
> itself was a wrong move. I should have quarantined him, but I did not know
> this at the time) the next morning I found him LITERALLY exploded in my
> tank with all of his innards and guts hanging out.
<Yikes...! And possibly a good clue>
Everyone was eating him.
> So I removed dead fish and brought him back to the pet store. no
> explanation. just a new fish. ( big help huh?) From that point I began
> losing fish quickly and in rounds. I would find a mass of dead fish (
> sometimes as many as 10) clean them out, sterilize the tank ( boil rocks
> and decor) and move on. I have in my tank 2 rock structures (both plastic),
> several plastic plants,
<Mmm, I need to know if these are from an aquarium store or not. Artificial plants from other places can have metal "stems"... and be toxic>
and one very old Japanese moss ball ( this is the only living plant).
<Cladophora... this is fine, but do see my note re other algae below>
The filter is one that sits on the back and is rated
> for a 50 gallon tank ( mine is only a 35 so it should be sufficient).
For water I stopped using tap ( the tap water even killed my house plants) and
> I am using store bought spring water.
<Mmm, don't use this... a highly variable product. Best to just use tap...
Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm
scroll down to the water issues tray>
I am kind of a beginner with
> aquariums, this is really my first. The tank was given to me by a friend so
> I set it up and chose live bearers ( I like to see the babies).
> Reproduction at first was fantastic, everything was happy, all kinds of
> babies at all different stages, now the tank is nearly empty. I wont add
> fish until I know they are going to live. I've added some pictures, hopefully
> they will help. I only have my camera poe so they are not fantastic but the
> best I can do.
*update, my molly just passed. But maybe we can learn from her death and save the others. I did not think to take a pic of her before she died, I am so sorry.
RIP misty and Ike, at least you are together again.
<Mmm, now the bit about algae; in particular "blue green algae"... though it can be most any colour. IF you have a slimy feeling growth on your growth, plants... can't make this out in your pix. This could be a/the source of toxicity here... calling for (really) a complete break-down, bleaching and starting over. Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwbgafaqs.htm
Do read Crystal, make notes if you have questions... We'll fix this system.

Re: Tank in distress 11/26/11
> ok, I have read both articles, and I will switch back to tap water and
> move away from store bought. I took the 5 gallon container that I have been
> carting water back and forth with, filled it with tap water, and it is
> sitting under the table for a few days to "air out", I have several
> different water conditioners to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals
> from tap water, so I should be all set to switch back to tap water.
> Wonderful info, thank you very much.
> All the plants and rocks in the tank are specifically designed for
> aquariums, the white one has small plastic plants imbedded, and the other
> rock structure was a gift to me from a guy who does tanks professionally
> he had given it to me as a "tank warming "gift.) so everything in the tank
> is specifically aquarium friendly. I have had this same man over MANY times
> to assess my tank, and he can't find anything wrong with either my tank, or
> the fish, yet my fish keep dying.
<Some other poison source then>
> I don't have any visible algae problems, though I'm sure there is something
> in there for the algae eaters to eat as they haven't starved. The other odd
> thing I wished to mention, the pygmy cories and algae eater are all fine,
I haven't lost a single one of them, but I have lost dozens of guppies and
> now two mollies. I don't know if that is pertinent, but as you say every
> detail helps.
<... Do please look up (Google, images) Columnaris... Chondrococcus... Much of the symptomology you list fits this bacterial problem. B>
Thanks again for listening-
Re: Tank in distress 11/26/11

> I have looked into this particular bacteria before, but it doesn't seem to
> visually match. None of my fish ever had any rot around their mouths or
> fins, no discolored patches, or white film. But then again, this is the
> first time I have had a visual symptom of any kind to go by. All the other
> fish showed no physical signs of illness beyond slightly distended stomachs
> or bloating.
You could barely tell they were sick, but they would have odd
> behavior patterns, then show up dead! I have treated the tank for fungal
> and bacterial infections ( a general umbrella treatment of salt and
> Melafix).
The ONLY thing I haven't treated for yet is internal parasites, I
> was cautioned against this until I know for SURE if that's what's going on,
> but I am thinking perhaps this is my last option?
<Mmm, no; not the last. Check back at our original interchange...
Microscopic examination>
Do you think I should
> treat for bacteria and fungus again anyhow?
For internal parasites?
Or do you feel this is this a water condition problem?
<Have already made my principal speculations... likely IS env.>
I am so sorry to ask so many questions, I am just incredibly tired of losing my fish. :/
> Would it help to know the actual tanks history? What was in it before I > started with it? Or will that affect it now, several years later?
<Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwtoxicenvdisfaqs.htm
and the linked files above. B>
I have > struggled with this tank since I first started it up to be honest. I've
> restarted from scratch 4 or 5 times since I set this tank up 3 years ago.
> Thank you again for your incredible patience with me, I think I should bake
> you a cake or something.
Re: Tank in distress 11/27/11
> That's it! this is the problem!
you figured it out! I have never before
> been educated concerning the difference between acidic water and hard
> water, I ( being in a small northern Maine town) don't have many outside
> resources pertaining to fish, no vet to turn to ( as I already stated) and
> this is something I would have NEVER been able to figure out myself! I know
> my water is hard here, that is why I chose guppies in the first place ( now
> you can see a bit of the incorrect thought process) and the ph kit I bought
> is a generic on that does not test the alkalinity! This quote has saved my
> fish tank!!!
> "Changing pH directly is dangerous. Concentrate on carbonate hardness --
> what your test kit calls alkalinity -- *aiming for around 150-200 mg/l
> calcium carbonate*... "by understanding that GENERAL hardness and
> CARBONATE hardness are different things. General hardness -- which you
> measure in degrees dH, and with the "GH" test kit, is how much calcium and
> magnesium salts are dissolved in the water, for example calcium oxide.
This stuff doesn't necessarily affect pH."
This article would have NEVER caught my eye if you hadn't pointed it out! I have been fiddling with the ph quite a bit over the past two years because I was told it was too high or too low etc., when it really isn't the PH that is killing my fish! Every week i scrape off a THICK layer of white crusty stuff from my filters edge and off the top of the tank where the water has evaporated.

I didn't know this wasn't normal, so i just kept cleaning it up without paying much mind to it! So I need to buy a GH test kit? Is this correct?
Will you please try to explain to me 150-200mgL calcium carbonate, or will a GH test explain itself?
<Is more completely explained by searching/Googling on the Net. This IS the principal source of water hardness... and resistance to change in pH ("buffering")There is, and should be some degree of General Hardness in all waters. Only distilled, reverse osmosis... other filtered or specialized waters lack it/this. Absolutely necessary in home aquariums, but not at too high concentrations>
I feel that part of my tank problems is me finding incorrect information on the web. I will NEVER
go anywhere besides your site EVER again. You are incredible! Thank you so much.
<Welcome. BobF>

Tank suddenly toxic 7/16/11
Dear Wet Web Media,
I have read many articles on your site, and I'm very happy to have found this amazing resource. But I am still very confused and am getting conflicting advice. My tank is 29 gal. and has been operating for several years. I use a Penguin 170 for filtration, and there is an inch of gravel, plastic plants and 1 live plant in a pot. Until yesterday, I had 3 Danios and 1 algae-eater, and really wanted more fish. I stick with the basic community fish -- Danios, platys, mollies, guppies.
<Ah, now, you do realise that while Danios are soft water fish and do best at pH 6 to 7.5, Platies, Mollies and Guppies are hard water fish that need hard, alkaline water with a pH around 7.5 to 8.>
Recently we moved to a new apartment, and moved the aquarium successfully, and put most of the same water back in. We added 5 gal. of new water, and the gravel was pretty well washed in the process.
After the tank had been running in the new place for 2 weeks, and I had done another 1/3 water change, I thought I was ready to add some fish. I use a test-strip kit that measures several things at once. No matter what I do to the water, the nitrates always measure 20-40 ppm (this has been the case for the whole life of the aquarium).
<Likely your tap water has this; check.>
Nitrites are usually zero. Total hardness is always "hard," or even "very hard."
<This is general hardness; important for fish health, but doesn't really affect pH substantially.>
Alkalinity is low -- 40 ppm. PH is 6.2, very acidic.
<Alkalinity is carbonate hardness, and this is the stuff that stabilises pH and, crucially, creates the alkaline conditions Mollies and other livebearers need. At pH 6.2, you'd find keeping these extremely difficult.>
I added 2 guppies to the tank yesterday, and this morning the nitrites are measuring .5 ppm. The guppies are hovering near the top of the water and not moving around much. I added a capful of Prime, as the label indicates it can be used to neutralize nitrites in an emergency, but there has been no change.
Here are my questions:
1. Why would adding 2 guppies send the tank over the edge, as it were? What do I do now?
<Do read:
Using the Rift Valley salt mix described at about 50% the quoted dose, perhaps reducing the Epsom salt ratio a bit, should help create the hard, alkaline, basic pH conditions Guppies, Platies and Mollies need. Don't replace all the water at once -- the pH change will be severe on the fish -- but a series of 33% water changes over the next three days should do the trick safely. Alternatively, remove Guppies and stick with suitable soft water fish -- X-Ray Tetras for example are among the best, safest community fish out there. Common Penguin Tetras are also good.>
2. Could the gravel have been TOO washed? The local pet store (there are no specialty fish stores around here) tried to tell me to tear down the tank again and wash the gravel or even replace it. This doesn't seem right, according to articles on this website.
3. Should I add something to correct the PH? I have been reluctant to make the tank a sort of "chemical soup," but I'm told only Danios will survive in water like mine. I see from articles on this site that PH is very important, but also that it's not a good idea to "mess about" with the water too much. I did try adding "Correct PH" to the water the other day, which is supposed to raise it to 7, but there has been absolutely no change. Now I don't know what to do.
<Changing pH directly is dangerous. Concentrate on carbonate hardness -- what your test kit calls alkalinity -- aiming for around 150-200 mg/l calcium carbonate. That's a middling level acceptable for most livebearers (though honestly I'd skip Mollies) and tolerable for hardy soft water fish like X-Ray Tetras, Danios, Corydoras, etc.>
Thank you so much for any advice,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tank suddenly toxic 7/19/11

Thank you to Neale for all the information. There is a lot of chemistry here, so I'm studying the articles and trying to make sense of it all. One thing that's confusing is that usually, hard water seems to be associated with alkaline water -- but I have hard water that's acidic. For now, I'm just doing more water changes while I figure things out.
Thanks again,
<Joy, start by understanding that GENERAL hardness and CARBONATE hardness are different things. General hardness -- which you measure in degrees dH, and with the "GH" test kit, is how much calcium and magnesium salts are dissolved in the water, for example calcium oxide. This stuff doesn't necessarily affect pH. So you can have lots of it in the water, but still have a low pH. Carbonate hardness is the one measured in degrees KH and with the "KH" test kit. Now, the carbonate hardness is the carbonate and bicarbonate salts, the ones that raise the pH above 7.0. Even moderate amounts of this will raise the pH to 7.5 or so, and at high concentrations the pH may be 8.0 or even higher. It's perfectly possible to have high general hardness and low carbonate hardness. When added together they make up the total hardness, but that's something aquarists rarely worry themselves with (though perhaps they should!). One confusing aspect is that in America especially you will often see the GENERAL hardness test kit give its results in milligrams/litre or parts-per-million of calcium carbonate.
Why, I don't know. But it should really be in calcium oxide, which is what's used in science and, as you should now see, is closer to what general hardness is all about. Anyway, once you understand that general hardness has little to do with pH, while carbonate hardness has a lot to do with pH, figuring out what you see as a paradox becomes a lot clearer.
Cheers, Neale.>

Fish itching... not Ich or velvet -- 06/25/11
Dear crew,
Some of the fish in my planted low-light 30g aquarium are itching'¦ it started off with one of four of my Corydoras habrosus a week ago... I just thought maybe this was normal, as I had acquired them about 2-3 weeks prior. However, the other three since became "lazy" and just keep to themselves in a corner, but do go up for a breath. I also thought this was normal, with them being nocturnal.
<Four is rather too few for this dwarf species; even for large Corydoras species a group of four would be shy and hide away during the day. Keep C. habrosus and other dwarf Corys in groups of at least six, and realistically a dozen or more. They're cheap to buy and don't place much demand on the filtration system, so there's not really any excuse.>
Additionally, in my current war against blue-green algae, I added 4 zebra Nerites during a blackout 2 weeks ago as I heard they eat some BGA.
<Hmm'¦ no, not really much good against cyanobacteria. There is a brackish to marine species, Puperita pupa, that may eat cyanobacteria, and because it's called the "Zebra Nerite" by some, it can be confused with the freshwater species commonly traded, such as Neritina coromandeliana. That species only eats green algae and diatoms.>
Today I saw one of my Neon tetras flash himself against a plant. At this point, I am sure it must be a disease.
<Well, Neon Tetras suffer from several diseases and have a poor survival record in hard water, so above all else, be aware that you won't have much success with Neons unless you buy good-quality stock and keep them in coolish (22-24 C) water that is soft (1-10 degrees dH) and slightly acidic (pH 6-7).>
It is not Ich or velvet, I think. On my fattest neon, it seems there are punctures in the skin (I can't really tell). Other than that and the flashing, it does not seem there are any other symptoms.
Water parameters are all at correct levels, so I'm not concerned about that.
<You may not be, but I am! Without some declaration of the water chemistry and water quality in actual numbers, I can't help much.>
Water changes are 25% every Saturday.
Looking forward to your response'¦
<Likely a variety of environmental issues at play here, as well as stocking choices that may need to be revised. Do understand that cyanobacteria indicate fundamental problems with an aquarium including high nitrate and phosphate levels; poor water circulation at the bottom of the tank and/or around plants; and insufficient lighting. Review, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish itching... not Ich or velvet -- 06/25/11
Hello Neale,
Thank you for the information about the Nerites.
<You're welcome.>
I suppose I'll keep them anyway, their shells are quite pretty and I'm sure there's enough diatoms and green algae at the back and right panel of the tank... I never clean those unless Cyano is growing immensely on them. Less than two months ago, my tank was covered in the stuff, for the past 3 weeks I have gained the upper-hand on the stuff and now it is really reduced to just small patches. I think you'd be impressed! I improved the tank dramatically'¦ extra circulation, improved maintenance, more suitable plants (this is a low-light tank)'¦
<Ah, yes, sounds good. Agreed, Cyanobacteria are easiest to "fix" by improving things and letting other plants, algae regain control.>
Anyway, the tank is stocked as follows...
1 Rummy Nose
2 Harlequin Rasboras
5 Neon Tetras
8 Glowlight Tetras
1 Clown Pleco
1 Dwarf Gourami (surprisingly healthy...)
4 Salt & Pepper Corydoras
4 Zebra Nerites
4 Amano Shrimp
<Hmm'¦ not completely surprised the Corydoras habrosus are hiding, given their small size compared to some of these tankmates.>
I know the tank is probably overstocked, but I'm going to be moving the rummy nose and harlequins to another tank soon. I don't know if I can add anymore C. habrosus?
Water parameters:
Ammonia: 0ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 20ppm
PH: 6.7
GH: 10dH
Temp: Maintained at 75F, but these warm Summer temperatures are bumping this up to 78-84.
Tank is injected with DIY co2.
<May be redundant in a low-light system, and in fact may even cause problems. Remember, CO2 isn't the limiting factor in a low-light system, and the slow-growing plants wouldn't care anyway. So you have this extra variable that could be displacing oxygen and lowering pH. Review, and act accordingly.>
Thanks again.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish itching... not Ich or velvet -- 06/25/11
The inhabitants appeared more happier once the water was made more acidic and soft.
<Fair enough.>
I also think it affected the Cyano, presumably because bacteria has trouble in acidic environments'¦
<Don't think this is likely'¦>
The plants also seemed to do better.
Does this have anything to do with my original problem?
<Hard to say. Do review the various things mentioned in previous messages. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish itching... not Ich or velvet -- 06/26/11
Good morning my friend,
It does appear the fish have definite symptoms of a disease. Last night, before lights out, one of the Neon's red line had lost a lot of it's intensity.
<Neons do lose their colours at night, as you probably have noticed already. But if their colours go during the day, that's a sign of stress and/or disease. It isn't one particular thing, though Neon Tetra Disease is the most common species-specific problem Neons die from (of course more Neons are probably killed by poor water quality, predation by Angelfish, being kept too warm, being kept in hard water, and so on).>
At the time I also noticed my Espei have an incomplete orange colouration (i.e., they're missing a patch of orange). I was concerned it may be the dreaded Neon Tetra Disease.
<Quite. NTD is essentially untreatable, and infected fish should be euthanised (see WWM re:, but 30 drops of Clove Oil in a litre of aquarium water does the trick nicely).>
This morning, it appears there is a cloudy coloured patch on one of the neon, but the neon has regained the intense red it had. The growth does not look cottony.
<May be either Finrot, Fungus or something called Mouth Fungus, actually a bacterial infection, Columnaris; do see WWM re: distinguishing them and treatment.
Some useful medications, e.g., eSHa 2000 in the UK and Seachem Paraguard in the US treat all three.>
The Gourami is being his usual arrogant self and doesn't seem affected by anything. The Rummy nose has a real intense red nose... The glowlights are well too.
Please help'¦
<Have tried. Cheers, Neale.>

!!Emergency- please help!! Dish soap in tank 5/22/11
Please help- someone has put an ornament coated in dish soap in my fish tank and my beautiful big black moor is very sick.
I removed him as soon as I realized what had happened but that was about 5 minutes after the soap was introduced.
Right now he is in a bowl of clean water and I have put 1/2 T of salt in the water.
Initially the fish's fins lost colour along the edges and he began to float on his side.
After adding the salt his fins returned to a normal black colour but he is still unable to right himself. His gills are barely moving- sorry for the messy letter but I am typing this with one hand. Is there anything else I can do or try?
<Place this fish in another established system of volume, increase aeration/circulation>
Thank you Gina
<Welcome. BobF>
re: !!Emergency- please help!! Dish soap in tank 5/22/11

Hello Bob:
I had done that but I think the initial damage was too great. Much to my profound sadness, the moor did not survive the night.
Thank you: Gina
<Ahh, sorry for this accidental loss. B>

My fish are dying... killed 1/1/11
I set up an aquarium about 2 months ago, maybe a little more even. It still has a cloudy (milky) tinge to the water.
<Not good... indicative of A) the system not being cycled, B) being under-filtered, C) being over- and/or mis-fed...Do you have water quality values/tests to relate?>
Not so obvious looking at the aquarium from the front, but looking through the side (which is longer), the
cloudiness is obvious. I keep having fish die, generally one by one, and that continues to this day.
I started out a several goldfish,
<? In how large a volume...?>
which we now have in my daughter's aquarium, then gradually stocked up the fish to a total of 6 Lyretail mollies (3 silver, 3 Dalmatian),
<Actually, not easily kept...
Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/mollies.htm
3 Kuhli loaches, 3 albino Cory catfish, 7 cardinals, 5 Rasboras, 6 coral platys, 3 guppies. The 5 goldfish that are now in another tank were also there for a period of time.
<Mmm, goldfish "carry" a large parasite load generally... could easily be resident, passed on to your tropicals now>
The first to go were a molly and a couple of Rasboras. The other mollies seemed fine, as did the Rasboras. I did a 10-15% water change, and took a sample to the pet store. They said it looked fine so they replaced the fish. Then I think some cardinals
<... not compatible>
and another molly died. Same thing, water change, tested fine, store replaced fish.
<They are fools, or at least foolish here>
Later another cardinal, then later on another, and another molly dies as well. Everyone else looks fine to my untrained eye.
At this point I'm doing small water changes a couple of times a week or more, and adding de-chlorinator and "stress coat" to the water.
<Not of use>
The fish actually began to look pretty stable before we left to visit my family for Christmas.
Water still a little cloudy. I had put in a couple of plants to see if that might help the biological process.
<Ahh! A very good idea, move>
Also put in a "beneficial bacteria" solution that the fish store recommended,
<And this>
and set up a small motorized fish feeder to feed twice a day. Tested the feeder before leaving, it seemed to work fine.
Getting back from vacation, found most of the cardinals dead, three more mollies gone, 1 or 2 of the Rasboras gone, and a couple of the platies as well. Did a water change, again about 15%. In the days following, found another cardinal dead, then a Rasbora, and today a dead platy.
What am I doing wrong (or what "right" am I not doing)?
<Likely the system is not cycled... Do read here re:
and the linked files above till you understand your situation>
I have a 65 gallon tall tank (36"x18"xsomething tall), two filters (Emperor 280 came with the aquarium
package and an older filter I happened to have hanging around, not sure brand or size but it has a bio-wheel in it too), and a heater.
<These are inadequate... Again, you need to have your own test kits for ammonia, nitrite... at least>
The only other pertinent detail I can think of is the physical condition I noticed on some of the mollies. At least two of them, once it became clear they were in trouble, seemed to have trouble swimming and developed a deformed spine.
It was clearly warped into an "S" shape. Haven't noticed this on any of the other fish. I haven't noticed Ick, which is the only fish disease I can readily diagnose. I also just put in a number of Amazon sword plants that were given to me, hoping this will help any biological issues in the tank. But I don't think I'm making any progress.
Can you help?
<You can help yourself, your livestock by reading where you've been referred here>
Thanks in advance for your assistance!! Chris
<Welcome. Bob Fenner
Re: My fish are dying, salt-softened water 1/3/11

Thanks so much for your quick response!! Good articles. I have some more details that you asked about.
<Ah good>
Nitrate = 5; Nitrite = 0; Hardness = 15-20; 0 chlorine; PH = 8.2; Ammonia = 0.
I generally feed the fish once daily. We live in San Antonio, TX, which has a very hard water, but like most here we have a water softener installed.
<Avoid this water for your pet-fish use... the sodium from the salt recharging ends up being too much for your livestock>
Outside tap is not on the softener, though, so I could easily add harder (not softened) water.
<Best to get most from here... and just enough from inside to warm it sufficiently>
Bought some aquarium salt at recommendation of the person at the aquarium store. More fishy deaths... another cardinal, a Cory and a molly :-(.
I am curious also about the comment on filtration...the 280 should handle tanks up to 50...and my older filter was on my old 40 gallon tank...are the two together not enough for the 65 gallon?
<See WWM re... do both turn over all the water in your system ten times per hour?>
I would not be sad to get a new filter, the 280 makes a lot of noise and drives my wife up a wall.
<Ahh! There are many other better filters that are quiet>
Thanks again for your help!!!
<Welcome. BobF>

Silicon<e> and dying fish??? 12/28/10
I was reading about artificial plants on the net. There is this site that describes using silicone as a base for fake plants. My husband went and used GE silicone II as a plant base and put the plant in. The tube said
that the stuff was not "aquarium safe" My husband then said that meant it wasn't safe to seal an aquarium with and the manufacturer does not want a lawsuit if a huge tank explodes from the wrong silicone.
Anyway, the plant was in there all night and the fish were acting weird this morning. One was hanging out under the filter, the other two were acting normal. I checked on line and found out that this silicone is toxic
to fish, so I removed the plant and did about a 90% water change and replaced the salt. The three mollies are just hanging out now, but that may be the stress from the huge water change. Anyway would Epsom salts help or do I just wait to see if it is too late. I will no longer let my spouse
make any aquarium decisions again. Thank you!!!
<Greetings. Yes, it is true that you need to use only aquarium-safe silicone around fish. The silicone itself isn't toxic so far as I know, but the anti-fungus chemicals added to the silicone usually are toxic, and the
aquarium-safe silicone lacks these. Removing the silicone from the tank, and then doing one or more large water changes, should bring things back down to normal. The addition of fresh carbon to the filter would also be very helpful. After a week, remove that carbon and throw it away. Cheers, Neale.>
<<RMF would like to try correcting misstatements I have made re the use of various "Silicone" formulations... They are NOT necessarily toxic, but often unsuitable in other ways. Please see the discussion here: http://www.gtaaquaria.com/forum/showthread.php?p=107998
Mea culpa, but I have misunderstood that 100% Silicone on labels was and is NOT the same product/formulation. ONLY ones distinctly labeled FOR AQUARIUM USE should be employed for such>>
Re: Silicon and dying fish??? 12/29/10

I was e-mailing yesterday about a fake plant with a silicon base, that was toxic to fish. I mentioned I removed the plant and did two water changes yesterday that replaced about 90% of the water each time. Two of the three mollies are back to normal this morning, but one is at the bottom and will not come to the top even for food. She is just there. The other two mollies are adult size. I got this smaller molly in a tank with a group of adults and the guy at the store said she is either a baby or a runt. Anyway it doesn't look like she will make it. My question is: Is the fish suffering??
In that case is it better to put it too sleep or should I wait until she passes on her own??? Thank you!!
<Only you can tell if the fish is suffering. But yes, if she's doomed, there's no point waiting. Do read here:
The ice method mentioned in old aquarium books isn't humane, but the clove oil method is, and 30 drops in a litre of aquarium water quickly sedates and then kills suffering fish. I highly recommend this method because it's safe, cheap and reliable. Drug stores sell clove oil, sometimes as Eugenol.
Cheers, Neale.>

Please help!! Sulfur, FW wipe-out syndrome/s 12/28/10
Hi Everyone!
I'm not sure what happened, but the other night my 200 gallon tank started to smell faintly of sulfur. Never had this problem before.
<Danger... a good idea to execute/do a good water change-out 20-30% via gravel vacuuming. You may well be experiencing a type of "break down syndrome" w/ populations of microbes that produce such smell predominating... can poison your livestock>
The next morning, after putting in some StressCoat and Amquel the night before, our African Knife and our Cori were dead, and our 15 year old iridescent shark was still alive, but obviously very ill. The entire
house reeked of sulfur. All three fish had their mucous coat just peeling off in sheets. We did a 50% water change, vacuumed the heck out of the gravel, cleaned out and replaced most of the media the canister filter while adding a lot of charcoal to hopefully remove the stench.
Before bed, we added the appropriate amount of stress coat. Today, the shark looks much better, but I know is not out of the woods. The tank, thankfully, no longer stinks. Some sites have recommended an antibiotic at this point, but I don't know what to use. NEVER had this problem before.
Any idea what we messed up on? Thank you so much!! - Maria
<I would NOT use/place an antibiotic. Too likely to compound issues, troubles... like stop nitrification totally. Usually these types of syndromes are due to overfeeding, lax maintenance... but often enough they
"just happen". Hence the need to stay diligent. Am very glad you have a sharp nose, were able to and acted quickly. Adding more filtration, circulation, aeration... making sure to vacuum at least part of the gravel each (weekly) water change period... greatly decreases the chances of such episodes.
Bob Fenner>

New tank syndrome in established tank, or something else? Neale 12/27/10
Hello all! It has been a number of years since I had to post WWM for help, but I've got myself into a pickle and I need another experienced head to examine what is going on in one of my tanks. Tank in question is a 125 gallon planted freshwater tank. Tank has two Whisper 60 rear mounted filters and 1 Fluval 405 canister. They have been in continuous operation since Spring of 2006. I had let the tank population dwindle because I was considering changing it from a Rainbowfish piece into an African Cichlid tank. However, the pH in my tapwater runs on the low side for African Cichlids so I decided to stick with what I've done best over the years, primarily Rainbows. About 5 weeks ago, here is where the population stood:
1 M. boesemani rainbow @ 5.5" (very mature)
<At this, oh yes!>
2 M. mogurnda @ 4.0" (mature breeding pair)
2 Botia almorhae @ 3.0" 1 A. spilurus @ 5.0" (last of a home bred school from years ago)
1 Brochis splendens
<Much happier in a group>Typically I do 25% water changes weekly. Source water is tap. Normal water parameters are 78 degrees, pH of 6.2. In preparation for adding new fish, I did a slightly larger water change just to make sure the top gravel was completely disturbed/vacuumed. I probably replaced about 40 gallons of water and let it sit overnight.
<Better by far to have such new water set for about a week>Everything was fine in the morning, the fish were happy and vibrant. I ran all the tests you'd expect. pH was 6.2,
<A bit low... I'd likely add some simple baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to new water in preparation for use... with a heater, powerhead>
ammonia was 0, nitrite was 0, and the nitrates came in very low, between 3 and 5 ppm. This seemed normal, the tank was barely stocked after all. So, off to the LFS I went. I came back with 6 more Brochis splendens, 6 very small Botia macracantha, and a pair of quarter sized parrot cichlids. Prior to introducing the new fish, I tested their water from the store for pH and it came in at 6.8. Given that their reading was slightly higher than my tank,
<Actually, this 0.6 pH point difference is quite large... this scale, like that for earthquakes (Richter) is a base-ten logarithm... do please see Wiki or such re'¦>
I slowly acclimated them and released them. The fish seemed perfectly fine in about an hour. As a general rule, I don't feed new fish. So I skipped the nightly feeding. In the morning I gave them a light feeding of Aquarian flake food. At night I gave them the usual feeding of frozen bloodworms. Still, all was well.
<Mmmm. Bloodworms have recently fallen out of favour as fish food>
36 hours after the fish were added, I noticed the water turning hazy. I thought, oh boy, here it comes. I've heard of this happening, but never had it happen to me. New tank syndrome in an established tank. I tested the water for ammonia. Nothing. I ceased feeding completely at this point. I continued testing the tank about every 8-9 hours for ammonia, nitrite, and pH. The pH never changed from 6.2 and my ammonia and nitrite readings kept coming back at 0. Yet, before I knew it, all of the new Brochis and Botia species were displaying signs of ammonia poisoning. Clamped fins, whitish streaks on the sides, red inflamed gills, listlessness. I was so convinced that ammonia was present I went and bought new testing kits and blamed my prior readings on being expired. The new kits continued to bring me readings of 0. Not knowing what else to do, I tried to manage things by doing 25% water changes twice a day,
<Good>once in the morning, and once at night. At one point, about 3 or 4 days into this, I did get a slight reading of about 0.25 ppm on ammonia. By this point, fish were starting to die off. I lost half the loaches and half the Brochis catfish in about 3 days. Within 96 hours of the water getting cloudy, all of the new fish were dead, but more disturbing, some of the old timers were beginning to get ill. By the end of a week, I lost my remaining boesemani rainbow who was very old, and also my last spilurus cichlid. About 10 days after the cloudy water first appeared, I was down to the original Brochis splendens and only 1 M. mogurnda. So I let things settle down for about 2 weeks and just kept an eye on the tank. The water returned to crystal clear. Even after getting the reading of 0.25 ppm ammonia, I never got a nitrite reading. My highest reading on nitrates came in at 5 ppm, which if anything, led me to believe the nitrification process was working just fine. So, about 10 days ago, I went to a different fish store and added six M. Praecox rainbows. These fish have been doing just fine. They are active, eating healthy, and acting crazy, like rainbows. 2 days ago, I went back to my other LFS for 6 more Brochis splendens and another pair of parrot cichlids. I added these fish Christmas Eve. They were doing fine Christmas day. Today, I just about fell over when I found one of the new Brochis catfish laying belly up on the bottom of the tank. The new parrot cichlids, who are about 3.5", are clamping their fins and refusing to come out of their rocky holes. Their gills appear quite agitated, their eyes have white spots in the middle. All of the remaining new Brochis Splendens have white edges to their fins and white stuff on their eyes as well. The Praecox rainbows? Nothing abnormal about them. Water currently tests at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 5 ppm nitrate, pH is still 6.2 So now, I am really puzzled. Even if I never got the readings I expected, I am convinced the first disaster I had roughly a month ago was due to adding too much stock at once, overloading the biological system, causing the cloudy water and an ammonia spike, which killed all the new fish and most of my existing stock.
<Mmm, really? In a 125 gallon system? I don't know>
Now? The original Brochis catfish is doing fine, the original Mogurnda gudgeon is doing fine, the week old Praecox rainbows are doing fine, but the new catfish and parrot cichlids are going through a remarkably similar event. Could it be that the pH change from LFS water from 6.8 to 6.2 is causing this?
<Is a contributing factor; but should NOT be the sole determinant here>
I've made this kind of pH swing with new fish before with no issue. If the pH of the store water was originally well over 7.0 I'd be much more apt to blame this first. I'm hesitant to do anything that might bring the pH in my tank up, because the other 8 fish are fine. I would like to save the new fish, but I am not sure how. I do not have a hospital tank at my disposal, I am afraid.
<I'd leave them where they are>
I am just at a loss as to what all this means and what to do next. I am hopeful the experienced minds at WWM can point out something I missed. Needless to say, I think I'll stick with the store where the Praecox Rainbowfish were bought!
<Let's see... the new water, the 40 gallons could be a factor... Municipalities are unfortunately given to "pulsing" "sanitizer" and "other conditioners" at times into their potable/mains water supply (I would call them re... the number will be on your "water bills")... The Bloodworms could have contributed to the cloudiness... and possible "biological poisoning" pursuant... through chemically feeding some noxious species in the water... But I too discount the likelihood of nitrogenous waste issues really causing mortality here... and pathogenic disease. I would point you to reading on the Net, Ed Noga's et al's in-print works on fish pathology, but the reading would take a few tens of hours... and not for-sure yield a satisfying resolution. Bob Fenner>
<<Please let me add a couple of points here. Firstly, Melanotaenia species from New Guinea tend to do best in moderately hard, neutral to slightly basic water conditions. They don't need "liquid rock" by any means, and in the wild may well inhabit quite soft water conditions, but under aquarium conditions water somewhat on the hard and alkaline side of neutral does seem best. You'll often see Melanotaenia boesemani used as a dither fish species for Tanganyikan cichlids, and that gives a fair idea of the sort of conditions it'll thrive under. I'd aim for 10-15 degrees dH, pH 7-8. The second thing to remember is that pH affects biological filtration, and the lower the pH, the less effectively biological filters work, to the degree that they all but stop close to pH 6.0. The ideal pH for biological filtration is about pH 7.5 to 8.0, and that's another reason to use moderately hard, slightly basic water should the option exist. As Bob says, baking soda will raise pH by raising the carbonate hardness. I'd add a little Epsom salt too to raise the general hardness, 10 degrees dH, 3-5 degrees KH being about perfect for Rainbowfish of all types. Mogurnda spp. Sleeper Gobies enjoy identical conditions, and your Brochis should thrive under them, as will most loaches, assuming good water quality and plenty of oxygen (this latter often the make or break issue with loaches rather than water chemistry). Also as Bob has pointed out, some water suppliers send out water fine for drinking but less good for fishkeeping. Problems can also happen if you're using a domestic water softener. The use of an RO filter and the use of soft water ("Discus") or hard water ("Rift Valley") buffering salts may provide the best workaround depending on your requirements. Cheers, Neale.>>
Re: New tank syndrome in established tank, or something else? 12/28/10
Thank you Bob & thank you Neale!. I actually have a copy of Ed Noga's Fish Disease book.
<I 'broke down" and bought the 2d Ed. for my own Xmas gift>
I haven't needed it in a while, time to blow the dust off the jacket and see what I can find. Your suggestions for adding baking soda seem like the appropriate path to take.
<Yes... simple, of value and very safe>
I've done some more reading on the relationship between pH and biological filtration and I like what I have learned. I'll need to get a fresh GH/KH kit to help monitor the transition. In the mean time, I have done an additional water change, premixing 1 tsp of baking soda per 5 gallons of water, and replaced 25 gallons of water.
<Good... I'd add a bit more>
This has slightly raised the overall pH in the tank, to 6.3...maybe 6.4 - it's hard to tell on the color card. I am assuming raising the pH 1 basis point every 24 hours is gradual enough.
<One tenth is fine>
I will aim for 6.8 and see where that leaves me. The water here is great for Discus & other Amazonian enthusiasts. For everything else.....well, I'll be polite and not say it.
Thankfully, there have been no additional casualties in my tank. The Brochis catfish seem a little more lively and the parrot cichlids do not seem to be breathing as rapidly since adding the baking soda/water mix. The Praecox rainbows seem to be enjoying the slightly elevated pH. If anything, I expect they'll handle the change just fine. I've kept more than 20 varieties of Melanotaenia rainbows and if I've learned anything, they are adaptable and hardy.
I'd put them up there with gouramis in terms of general toughness.
Thanks again!
<Thank you, and Neale. BobF>
Re: New tank syndrome in established tank, or something else?

The Praecox rainbows seem to be enjoying the slightly elevated pH. If anything, I expect they'll handle the change just fine. I've kept more than 20 varieties of Melanotaenia rainbows and if I've learned anything,
they are adaptable and hardy.
<Agreed. BobF>
<<I will add here than the genus Melanotaenia includes a variety of species from both Australia and New Guinea, and while some come from hard water habitats, others from soft water, they do generally tend to be adaptable. Still, each species should be judged on its own merits, and it's wise to establish the needs of a given species before buying it. Furthermore, farmed livestock may exhibit different tolerances to wild fish.
Melanotaenia boesemani for example is widely farmed, and given the farmed ones have different (weaker?) colouration to the wild ones, it's not impossible they're less or differently adaptable too. If in doubt,
moderately hard, around neutral pH water conditions tends to serve Melanotaenia species well: i.e., 10-15 degrees dH, pH 7-7.5. Cheers, Neale.>>

Texas Holey Rock and cigarettes (RMF?) 12/21/10
Dear WetWebMedia,
I have an unfortunate situation that I can't find info on anywhere else on the 'net and I think it's something that should be posted in case anyone else runs into this problem. I bought some Texas Holey Rock off eBay, when it arrived I opened the boxes and took all the rocks out and inspected them. The seller said they had only been cleaned with water, there was a bit of dirt on some and they were not the bleached white of previous rocks I had purchased but I figured it would be OK if I scrubbed them and rinsed them off with clean water and then put them in my tank (they were only a light tan). However, as soon as I got the rocks wet they *reeked* of cigarettes.
<Oh dear.>
The seller swears the rocks were never kept by cigarettes -- fine, but there is no way with the way they smell that the seller is telling the truth. I'm almost certain if I put these rocks in my fish tank they would not only make my entire tank smell of cigarettes, but would probably kill my fish as well (it's a 50 gallon Malawi Mbuna Cichlid tank).
<Actually, it's pretty unlikely. My parents smoked like chimneys, yet my dad kept a fish tank, including a reef tank, all the time.><<RMF is not so sure; would NOT just place this rock, WOULD test a bit of it w/ some inexpensive aquatic life exposure elsewhere>>
What I am wondering is, is there a way to clean these rocks so that they are useable in the tank?
Will the method of bleaching and soaking the rocks get rid of all traces of the cigarettes?
<Hydrogen peroxide should do a good job, then rinse a few times, and leave to dry for a couple days. H2O2 breaks down pretty fast into harmless water and oxygen. Otherwise bleach, diluted until it's just the faintest smell, can work as well. Rinse thoroughly. An old trick is to place suspect material in the cistern of a flushing lavatory. After a few weeks, the stuff will be so thoroughly and repeatedly rinsed that most dirt should be washed away.>
Or is the stone so porous that no matter what I do it will still be in the rock?
<There's an element of that, but at the same time, if a rock is difficult to clean using bleach, it's also difficult for trapped chemicals inside the rock to leach out. If you place carbon in the filter, and replace that carbon every two weeks, you should absorb any nasty chemicals in the rocks.>
Because of the strong smell I refuse to boil the rock, I don't want to create a health hazard that affects other people.
<Don't see this being an issue at all.>
Your input and knowledge would be of most help. Thanks in advance,
<If it's really unusable, you may want to return the goods, dispute the sale with eBay, and/or leave eBay feedback as necessary. If the rock was being sold as aquarium-grade material, that would imply it's basically clean. Good luck! Cheers, Neale.>

: Help... Not in your articles ! Induced RO issues, FW... - 8/17/10
So sorry to bother you once again, but I have lost so many exquisite fish and I'm ready to give up.
<I see.>
I can't see them die anymore. I've literally spent thousands of dollars
trying to understand the science of how to manage these water parameters and it seems ultimately impossible. I write one more time to see if you have any further ideas.
I have ornamental goldfish ... 3 in a 55 G and 3 in a 75 G.
I have Canister filters and HOB plus underwater pump on each tank. There is heavy filtration, bio media and surface movement. Water changes every 5 days religiously with vacuuming and no overfeeding.
My fish are floaters on pellets, so they get veggies and some raw shrimp. My tanks are clean and tested every day, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are kept at 0 with water changes and Nitrazorb.
city water
PH 9.8
<Much too high.>
KH 53
GH 71
calcium undetectable on a test.
<I see.>
I put in a 3 stage reverse osmosis unit in my house... but the PH is still outrageously high, at 9.8.
<This doesn't make sense. Are you sure it's an RO unit? A domestic water softener IS NOT an RO filter. Domestic water softeners merely remove carbonate and bicarbonate salts that create limescale. If you do have an RO unit, if it's not producing water with 0 KH, 0 GH, and pH 7 then your unit isn't working correctly, either because of configuration or maintenance.>
The city water and RO water both behave the same.
<Which shouldn't be the case.>
If I age the water in large tubs for 4-5 days, the PH drops to around 8. When it is added to an aquarium, and a PH of 8 is established with KH at 160, GH at 200, the Ph begins to rebound back up every single day until within a week, the PH is up to 9.8 again and my fish are dying. (no more vacations)
What am I missing in the buffering that I cannot stabilise the PH? I am out of ideas and I've resorted to using Acid Buffer by Seachem to try to hold the PH by adding the recommended amount every day or every other day.
<No no no'¦ don't use "pH down" products in this way; acid buffers are to hold an acidic pH, not to create one. It's a shame the manufacturers are a bit disingenuous about this.>
Sometimes it works but too often, it is unpredictable and I have a yoyo Ph.... this method of controlling PH is volatile, unpredictable and obviously unacceptable.
The fish become lethargic and unhappy until I change water again at day 5. I have had problems with Flukes/gill Ich and white edges on fins from bottom sitting. After eating, every fish is desperate for oxygen and gobble bubbles frantically until after an hour of this, they begin to float upside down from all of the bubbles they have swallowed. The amount of filtration and splashing in my tanks is ridiculous... the sound is like living under Niagara Falls. I know this all has to be due to the erratic water parameters.
I have been using the Rift Valley mix, with half RO and half tap water, as Neale suggested.
<Which will work perfectly if you're starting with true RO water. Indeed, a bucket of pure RO water, with about 25-50% the Rift Valley salt mix added should create something good for a broad range of species, around pH 7.5, general hardness around 10 degrees dH. But if the RO water isn't 0 general hardness, 0 carbonate hardness, and pH 7, then obviously this isn't going to work.>
But with the nightmare of dead fish continuing, I stopped using Rift Valley and switched to Lake Malawi salts (Seachem) hoping that it would have a broader buffer content.....but it takes A LOT of it to bring the KH and GH up.... and doesn't do enough to drop the PH.
<Again, should work fine with RO water. The Seachem product is much the same as the DIY Rift Valley mix in terms of result, just cheaper. On the plus side, with the Rift Valley mix, you can tweak the Epsom salt and baking soda up or down to raise or lower the GH or KH values respectively.>
I end up with my KH too high and the Ph still at 8.8. So I have resorted to using Seachem Acid Buffer just to try to get the PH down. But I cannot hold the PH no matter what I do, and the stress on my fish is deadly. Even when KH and GH are within good parameters, there is no calcium in the water, I discovered 2 weeks ago. I never previously had a specific test for Calcium, and only concerned myself with KH and GH. I bought Aquavitro Calcification and have slowly been trying to raise the calcium. It is just below 100 now today.
<Let me stress that your problem IS NOT what you're adding to your water. Whether you use the Rift Valley mix, the Seachem product, or any other buffering mix, when added to RO water at about 50% the dose for Malawi cichlids, you should get something more or less perfect for Goldfish. But your problem is that your supposed RO filter is not producing RO water. THAT is your problem. Establish what's wrong with your RO filter, and once it's producing pure water, with 0 general hardness, 0 carbonate hardness, and a pH around 7.0, then you'll be all set.>
Here is a direct link to our city water analysis, but these parameters tend to fluctuate.. Only the Ph remains at 9.7 and sometimes as high as 10. Three months ago the GH was over 300, and now it is extremely low.
Please if you have any suggestions or can recommend a further strategy, please help. I would do whatever it takes to keep these fish healthy... I know there have to be answers, but I just can't watch any more fish dropsy and die when I am gone for a weekend.
Thank you,
<Amy, do please read here and the articles linked at the end of the piece. There is something very amiss with your RO system.
Apart from maybe Malawian or Rift Valley cichlids, or else Central American livebearers and Goodeids, I can't think of any fish that will thrive in water at pH 9, 200 mg/l dH. Cheers, Neale.>

Established Tank Meltdown 8/2/10
<Hello Margaret>
First, as many have said, thanks much for your help. Your website is magnificent.
<Thank you for your kind, encouraging words>
I've been keeping tanks for about 15 years now and thought I was pretty good at it--but apparently not as good as I thought. I have a 75 gallon tank planted freshwater that's been set up for about 5 years--two moves in there, but the community, plants, and drift wood have been pretty constant. I had five clown loaches (largest about 4 inches), 8 giant Danios, 6 Australian rainbows (the ones with red stripes), and 7 or so skunk cories. About two weeks ago I noticed that the fish were in distress--and there was a rotten egg smell.
<Trouble with a capital "T">
I assumed I had a pocket of hydrogen sulfide under one of the pieces of driftwood (research),
<Which I'd remove pronto...>
and did a massive (80%) water change, took everything out, vacuumed the gravel, and seemed to stop it--but then two days later came down and all the giant Danios, all but 2 Australian rainbows, one clown loach, and two skunk cories were dead.
I repeated the procedure daily for three days, and got good readings all around (nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia at 0) and no smell. So thought I was out of the woods. Transferred four silver dollar sized angel fish from another tank and planned to get replacement loaches and cories and rainbow fish, though not the Danios (since I needed schools for my remaining schools). Today, went to do a quick water change, and checked the readings--and the ammonia was really high, 4 ppm, but nitrate and nitrate were still zero.
<Well... your nitrifying microbes have either been killed off, or are metabolically inactive. In any/all cases it is necessary to re-start the biological filtration here. Happily, there are currently ready-working cultures to be had (e.g. Dr. Tim's One and Only). Please feed not at all as long as the ammonia registers more than 1.0 ppm, and read here immediately:
and the linked files above. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Thanks much,
Re: Established Tank Meltdown
Mr. Fenner (or whomever is on call now),
Thanks so much for the fast response. I do appreciate it. As soon as I detected the excessive ammonia reading, I did a massive water change, added some bacteria I had on hand (which was old--so ordered BioSpira), and last night, this morning, and at noon, the ammonia read between 0.25 and 0.50 ppm.
<Ahh! Much better>
I am planning to do a follow-on water change (smaller than yesterday's tonight, recognizing it'll slow the cycling, but quite worried about my fish. I can move some to another aquarium, but they're not really suitable, as my 48 gallon tank has only tinies in it.)
<I would still (definitely) gravel vacuum the smaller tank and put this "gunk" in your uncycled one>
I really didn't ever expect to have a crash such as I've had--wondering if adding gravel or the filter media from another tank would help, as it does with initial cycling?
<Indeed it usually does>
Should this be treated as a normal, new cycle, then?
Sorry to sound confused. I read the link and it certainly sounds as if this should have been expected. I just "assumed" with a 75 gallon tank and a reasonable fish load (it was reasonable, wasn't it? Let me know please if it was excessive--5 mid-sized clown loaches, 8 giant Danio, 4 striped rainbow fish, 7 cories--please),
<Should be fine... unless the Clowns are huge>
that despite vigorous cleaning of the gravel, and brief removal of the driftwood,
<I'd leave this out>
that the cycle would last. Oddly, all the plants seem very, very happy. Any further advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.
Anyway, thanks much for your time. I love your book (if Mr. Fenner is responding) and greatly appreciate your help (whoever is responding).
Best Regards,
<And you, BobF>
Re: Established Tank Meltdown 8/2/10
Bob (if it's still you),
Thanks for letting me call you that. One loach was about 4 inches, the others about 3 inches, so thanks for the reassurance on that.
<Under six inches is fine here>
I did note in this email (missed it in the first), that you highly recommend removing the driftwood. If you say to do so, I will. It was all purchased in aquarium stores, and most of the pieces have plants growing on them, including one really big broad-leafed plant. But if you say I need to remove them, I will.
<I would at least "gouge out", remove the anaerobic/soft parts of the wood that were rotting... provide more circulation about the piece>
Any explication would be greatly appreciated, however. I have driftwood in the 48 gallon tank too; it has only a dwarf ram, 8 cardinal tetra, 8 tiny rainbow fish (can't remember their names--but the males trail magnificent fins and they're less than third the size of the average rainbows?), half a dozen pygmy Rasbora, and a banjo catfish. Does the driftwood in that tank need to come out too?
Thanks much.
<Depends... Please read here:
and the linked article... B>
Re: Established Tank Meltdown -- 8/3/10

Mr. Fenner,
<Tis I, Bob>
(Or whomever is there.)
I really appreciate your help. And I need it.
<Certainly welcome Margaret>
I read all the articles about driftwood, took mine out, looked at it, poked at it, and found no fungus or soft spots. So I put it back in. If you tell me that was a bad decision, I'll pull it out.
<Mmm, is/was this the source of anaerobiosis? The "rotten egg" smell that likely led to your losses? Has simply moving it, cleaning about it obviated the source?>
I don't know what's going on, though. Clearly, though, I've been a bad fishkeeper, all unaware. I have two tanks, one 75 (as I've talked about below) and one 46 gallons. I was changing the water (I do a 40% water change
every two weeks)
<I'd do half this every week... in point of fact, I do>
and decided to test, since I have had such bad results with the other one. Again, this tank has been up and running for five years--moved twice in that time, but been in its current location with its current occupants (give or take a few tetra, as they die from time to time) for more than two years. The occupants are 2 dwarf rams, 8 cardinal
tetras, 6 miniature rainbow fish (the kind where the males have flowing fins), 8 pygmy Rasboras, and a banjo catfish (about 2.5 inches). Had planned to add 6 pygmy corries and 5 more cardinal tetras. O.k., the test results were 1.5 ppm ammonia, 1 ppm nitrites, and 0.5 ppm nitrates. I dumped in a bottle of SafeStart. But what am I doing wrong?
<Something is and/or has suspended nitrification. Did you read where I originally referred you to? I would feed NOTHING till both NH3 and NO2 were under 1.0 ppm>>
I feed frozen food, a mixture (brine shrimp, bloodworms, veggie), 2 cubes per day to that tank. I do a 40% water change every other week. Change out the filter media (carbon) once a month. Have BioWheels on both aquaria.
<Something... again, has "poisoned" the beneficial microbes involved in the forward (chemical reactions) in nitrogenous demineralization in these systems... What?>
My larger tank seems stable now--ammonia still registering, but at 0.5 ppm and nitrate and nitrite are both zero. Still, what happened?
<Do read again: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm
scroll down to the yellow coloured tray...>
Again, 40% water change every two weeks. I feed that one (or did before the massive die off and would like to replace the inhabitants--particularly feel sorry for the sole clown loach) 3 cubes a night.
Any additional advice for long term fishkeeping is welcome. Have been arrogant--advising new keepers on the cycles, on the minimal fish loads for tanks, and yet here I am--in dire straits.
Thanks for your professionalism and assistance.
Best Regards,
<Please write back after reading the trouble/fixing FAQs files... BobF>

Ich, cloudy eyes and poor water quality. 8/2/10
I have a 55 gallon tank in trouble. I have a mild case of ich going on, cloudy eyes on 2 of my fish and really bad water quality.
<Meaning what precisely? Is the tank newly set up? Or massively over-stocked?>
I just changed 50% of the water, am lowering the PH and put in Nitra-Zorb to help with the ammonia and nitrates.
<Uh, no. Understand this. Randomly changing the pH will severely stress your fish. Usually a fixed pH is best, and the value itself doesn't matter much so long as it doesn't vary. Exceptions exist for those fish such as livebearers that MUST have a specific pH, in this case a basic pH between 7 and 8.5, and if kept below the pH range will quickly sicken. Now, there's nothing much you can add to remove ammonia and nitrite. Nitrate -- with an "a" -- is not the same thing is as nitrite -- with an "I". Nitrate is not especially toxic. Nitrite and ammonia are very toxic. Nitrite and ammonia can be reduced -- diluted -- through water changes but essentially the only way to remove them is via biological filtration.>
Do I need to remove the Nitra-Zorb in order to begin treating with Maracyn and Quick Cure?
<Nitra-Zorb will physically remove ammonia, but in doing so slow down maturation of a biological filter. It is almost NEVER a solution to a poor water quality crisis. You'll see it's usually marketed for use in reef tanks as a chemical filter to remove nitrate, in other words, to improve already good water quality. It's not a replacement for biological filtration.>
I can not find any information telling me if that will absorb the medications.
<It shouldn't do, but it isn't relevant here anyway.>
The fish are definitely stressed and a few are not eating.
<I bet.>
I am confident that I can get the water quality back to normal (which I believe was disrupted from previous ich medications),
<Some medications can, will stress biological filtration, and if that's the issue here, you need to treat the tank as if it's cycling. Don't feed the fish at all, do 25-50% water changes daily, and if your fish are salt-tolerant species like Guppies and Mollies, add a little salt to the water, 0.5-1 teaspoon per gallon should be fine. Medicating without
restoring good water quality is pointless. I will point out that therapeutic doses of salt and Epsom salt can be used to treat Ick and Pop-eye respectively, and in both cases WILL NOT affect filter bacteria at all. Do read:
but I do not want to wait to start treatment with the Maracyn as the cloudy eyes are very concerning to me.
Thank You,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Ich, cloudy eyes and poor water quality. 8/3/10

Hi Neale, the tank is not newly set up or overstocked.
It had a spike in PH (it is not normally this high), ammonia and nitrate.
<Ah, but why? Ammonia shouldn't really rise above zero once an aquarium is cycled. Whilst all aquaria experience slight pH *drops* between water changes, pH *rises* are rare, and usually imply the addition of some sort of calcareous material such as limestone to the tank. The pH will also go up if ammonia levels rise appreciably, ammonia being a basic substance when dissolved in water.>
I am doing the daily water changes to try to reduce all 3, but the fish health and appetite remain poor.
Immediately following water changes, they all seem to be much happier, but it is if the tank is cycling as suggested and by morning they are miserable again.
<Sounds as if that's exactly what's happening. Your job is to figure out what's wrong with this tank. Let's assume there's nothing calcareous in the tank. Let's also assume your tap water contains no ammonia, but check that.
So we'll put down the pH rise to non-zero ammonia levels. Now, why would a mature filter stop working properly. The four factors are these: [1] the size and number of fish; [2] the amount and types of food being used; [3] the correct functioning of the filter; and [4] the health of the filter bacteria on the biological media. So, review critically how many fish are in the tank and how much they've grown. Reduce the amount of food you normally give, and don't feed at all while non-zero ammonia levels persist.
Look to see that the filter is adequate to the task at hand, and consider adding another filter. Finally, rinse off the biological media, and if its irredeemably clogged, replace up to 50% of it.>
I've been down this road before and I think it's a combination of my tap water and an older aquarium.
<I don't see why.>
The ich and cloudy eyes are a new addition to this nightmare though.
<Both of these could be a result of stress caused by non-zero ammonia levels.>
I will try to treat both with the aquarium salt versus other medications.
One question for you, what are your feelings about ammo-lock?
<It's a fine WATER CONDITIONER. It is not a cure-all or a magic bullet. By all means use it on tap water that has non-zero ammonia levels. But do not for a nanosecond imagine it will help lower ammonia levels in your
aquarium. It has absolutely nothing to do with the ammonia produced by your fish.>
Will it help keep the fish less stressed during this "cycling" phase?
I should also tell you that I am using stress zyme to try and boost the biological filtration.
<Largely useless. I presume you already have some biological filtration going on, which implies happy bacteria somewhere in the tank. These will be infinitely more useful than any bottle of anything sold in your pet shop.>
Thank You,
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas)<<None further>> 7/26/10
Hello there!
My poor fish seem to be in great distress and I was hoping that you could help me out.
Firstly, water in tank = 400 liters (about 105 gallons), ammonia - 0, nitrite - 0, nitrate 5.0
<Sounds fine so far.>
Fish = golden Danios x 16 and Albino Corydoras x 4
Temperature - 25
<Bit warm for these fish; if you can nudge this down to 22-24 C, that'll suit both species much better.>
Ordinarily my tank maintenance routine would include a weekly vacuuming of the gravel, and a partial water change of about 100 or 150 liters.
<OK. Now, do be careful with the gravel cleaning part. A gentle stir with a stick is usually better than anything rougher than that. If you have live plants with roots in the gravel, you shouldn't stir the gravel at all. If you have no rooted plants, keep the gravel real thing, maybe 1-2 cm, so that it's easy to keep clean and anaerobic conditions don't develop. Anaerobic conditions are fine in tanks with rooted plants because of the way plants and anaerobic bacteria interact, but if you have a gravel bed without plants you don't really want anaerobic conditions; at least, not if you're not going to maintain in as a "Deep Sand Bed" analogue.>
My current tank is a fairly new set up, it's been running for about 2 months or so, (we've just recently relocated to a new country, my last tank was a 60 gallon with 12 golden Danios and 2 apple snails. No problems whatsoever, tank ran smoothly for two years -not a single death nor any sign of disease or parasites (aside from the ich they had in the store which was easily treated in quarantine when I brought them home), the fish, snails and tank went to a friend of mine when we left (boy I miss it!)... but anyway, I digress'¦
My Corydoras started dying (I had 8 originally), the water seemed alright (but I did fairly large partial water changes (daily) anyway because I couldn't think of anything else to do.) Then I noticed these teeeeeeeeeeny tiny little threads hanging off one of the Corys fins, they were less than a millimeter long, only just barely visible.
<Anchor Worms, Lernaea, are quite common among Corydoras, and I assume that's what we're talking about here. But please confirm with your retailer.>
When I looked closely I noticed all the Corys had them, I checked wet web media but my search keywords turned up way too much irrelevant info so I dumped the Cory with the most threads into a bowl and took him back to the LFS from whence he came.
At the LFS a fin sample was taken and we had a look under the microscope. Turns out, it's a rather heavy and unusual fluke infestation. I was advised to do a salt dip, and given two courses worth of fluke/worm medication (active ingredient = Praziquantel).
<Won't work on Anchor Worms.>
I bought my tank from this LFS as well, so I got as accurate a dosage recommendation as I was going to get. Got home, dipped the remaining Corys (I had 5 at this point) for 15 seconds (they couldn't handle more than that),
<Really? Any kind of dip works by stressing the parasite, and if the dip is too brief, then the parasite won't be affected. It's best to choose something that allows you to submerge the catfish for a reasonably prolonged period of time. Remember, the longer the better!>
then put them back in the tank. I then crushed up the tablets and medicated the tank. I was told that I would need to repeat the treatment in 7 days time, but to vacuum the gravel for excess medication beforehand.
Aside from one Cory dying the next day (his abdomen became swollen and there seemed to be internal bleeding) everything seemed ok, the rest of the fish carried on as usual. I tested the water daily (fearing the medication would kill off my bio filter, and lead to ammonia spikes, but the ammonia stayed 0 and so did the nitrite.)
There was a lot of excess medication trapped in the gravel,
<No, no, no. Medication doesn't get "trapped" anywhere. In fact it is metabolised by the filter bacteria usually within 24 hours.>
so I thought that if I vacuumed up small areas over a period of 3 days I wouldn't have to shock my fish with a massive water change on the day I re-medicated.
This is where the trouble began, the morning post vacuum/partial (about 100 litres) water change (yesterday morning to be precise), one of my Corys was breathing rapidly at the bottom of the tank, his abdomen looked swollen and empty (no food, he hadn't been eating), I feared that what happened to my other Cory, was happening again, but aside from that, the Danios were acting strange too... they were all clustered in a group on the gravel, breathing quicker than usual.
<Sounds like stress.>
The three other Corys seemed fine. I tested the water, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, I wish I had checked PH but I didn't. I did my usual "I don't know what else to do panic stricken water change", changed out 150 liters of water, added 50 ml Melafix (I never use Melafix... clearly, I was desperate).
<Indeed. And if you have a suspected case of poisoning, adding anything is a bad idea. The idea is to simplify water chemistry, not complicate it. A 25-50% water change is a fine idea; adding another medication is a bad idea.>
The fish were looking well and truly poisoned by this point, red streaking along the fins and body, parked on the gravel, gasping. I took out all the decorations, and phoned the LFS. They said that I had already done a partial water change and added Melafix (which apparently is what they would have recommended) and they didn't know what else I could do.
<Melafix is almost completely useless.>
The water got really cloudy, not with dirt, debris or medication, but what looked like a weird white algae bloom, there were lots of little tufts on the glass and even a whole area of my black gravel went a lighter shade.
<Sounds like you have a deep gravel substrate, and in stirring it up vigorously you disturbed the anaerobic layer within it. Understand that anaerobic decay in gravel is inevitable once it's deeper than, say, 5 cm/2 inches. In itself it's harmless, and indeed useful, since the bacteria that live there convert nitrate into nitrogen gas. So far, so good. But if you stir a deep gravel bed too vigorously, you can release reduced inorganic chemicals into the water column, as these react with the oxygen they dramatically lower the amount of oxygen available to your fish. Plus, there's a risk of releasing large amounts of hydrogen sulphide all at once. Again, in small amounts this is harmless, and tiny bubbles of the stuff percolate out of deep gravel beds all the time. These tiny bubbles react with oxygen before they do any harm. But if you release big lumps of hydrogen sulphide all at once, you can poison the fish and lower the pH dramatically.>
Miraculously, none of my fish died during the night (I had nightmares about them btw). The Danios are still huddled at the bottom, but the Cory I was sure would die actually seems a little better, he's rooting around for food. I dropped a Cory food tablet in (which usually causes a feeding frenzy for the Corydoras + Danios alike) but none of the fish seemed particularly interested. So I took it out and put in a bit of the Danios flake food, which dropped to the bottom and the Corydoras ate it (well, at least they ate something). Danios still don't have any appetite (really worrisome).
<I'd not feed for the next few days. Do not feed until the fish are behaving normally, and even then, half-rations for the first few days.>
So now my question is, should I add a dose of Melafix again today (LFS recommends this),
and should I risk treating the tank for flukes tomorrow given the delicate condition they are in?
<Use a medication safe for use with catfish. I fear that 15-second dips aren't going to make much difference.>
I never use aerosols or cleaning products in the room with the tank, (I clean the place with water + cloth, and just use a vacuum cleaner for the floor - I am actually paranoid about toxins getting into the tank). I always rinse my hands before sticking them into the tank for maintenance. The tank does have a hood on it.
<Yikes! I'm staggered the Danios haven't jumped out yet.>
When I took my Cory to the LFS, I brought with me a sample of my tank water, so that they could verify that my tests were accurate.
I don't add aquarium salt, I don't use anything to bring PH up or down. Usually, the only thing that goes into my tank is de-chlorinated tap water.
Is it possible that the tank waters PH dropped due to the medication, and that I brought it up too much with my water changes? Would that cause my fish to behave this way? The tap water has a PH of about 8 or so and my tanks current ph is 7.2 or there about. I don't know what it was before I changed the water. I did a partial water change about 2 days before I started the first round of fluke medication.
<I'm confused by what your Corydoras are actually affected by. I think you need to pin down precisely what the problem is. Praziquantel is used against internal worm parasites -- primarily nematode worms -- and external monogenean flukes. Formalin may also be used to treat external flukes. Anchor Worms need an organophosphate medication. In any case, you do need to pin down what parasite you're dealing with and medicate accordingly. With that said, Flubendazole is generally considered a better choice for sensitive fish than Praziquantel, and Flubendazole should cause your fish any problems if used correctly. Formalin is a common medication for external flukes, but it is highly toxic, to the aquarist as well as the fish, so should be dosed carefully. That your retailer is recommending Melafix is alarming, because even the manufacturers of this product wouldn't be daft enough to suggest it as an antidote to poisoning!>
Thank you so much for your time!
<It isn't obvious if the problem here is the Praziquantel or the gravel cleaning. On the one hand, fish can react badly to Praziquantel, and stress symptoms can be a lot like those of poisoning: heavy breathing, lethargy, loss of appetite. But on the other hand, disturbing anaerobic layers of gravel can suddenly change water quality, water chemistry, and dissolve oxygen content, and again, symptoms here can match poisoning. If this was me, I'd do a 50% water change while ensuring water chemistry remained constant; I'd stop with the Praziquantel and switch to Flubendazole; I'd stop feeding until the fish are acting normally; and finally I'd leave the gravel alone. Perhaps in the long term I'd remove all but the thinnest layer of gravel if the tank doesn't have rooted plants, but if it does, I'd leave the gravel completely alone. Fast-growing plants like Vallisneria and Amazon Swords do a great job of keeping gravel clean and with their help the anaerobic layer works to your favour, optimising water quality by removing nitrate.>
-Julie B.
<Hope this helps.> <<Me too. RMF>>
Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help.
Hello again!
Thank you for the response! :)
<Happy to help.>
Well, the guy at the LFS seemed pretty positive about his identification (he's the owner, it's a different person that works there that keeps recommending the Melafix),
<I see.>
he gave me the scientific name of the fluke but I didn't quite catch it (I could phone in the morning and ask though).
<Please do. Makes a big difference. Anchor worms, Monogenean flukes, gill flukes are all very different things.>
Only a tiny amount were actually visible to the naked eye, under the microscope the infestation looked a lot worse. The visible threads dropped off within about an hour of the medication being added (of course, I can not say whether the microscopic ones are off or not.)
<Sounds promising though.>
I think you misread the part about the hood, I *do* have a hood on my tank.
I don't have a planted tank, but my gravel is fairly deep and I certainly stirred it all up a lot (much more than usual).
<If you have no plants, then you only need enough gravel to stop light bouncing off the bottom of the tank, and to shore up any ornaments that might move about otherwise.>
Thanks so much! I'll do a water change right away, and when the fish are better, I'll move them to a temporary tank while I take out the excess gravel, then do a partial water change and let the tank settle for a day before I put them back in, sound alright?
<Yes, if I was removing gravel, I'd move the fish to a big bucket, remove all the gravel, replace with a thin layer of carefully cleaned gravel, and then replace all of the water in the tank. I'd then acclimate the fish to the new conditions just as if I had bought them from new. In other words, remove 75% of the water in the bucket, and then over an hour add cupfuls of water every 5-10 minutes until the bucket was filled. Then net the fish out and add them to the aquarium. I have done this many, many times and if you're careful it's completely safe.>
I'll put the temp down as well :)
<Very good.>
The Danios are still looking awful, cowering and gasping. Two have clamped fins.
<Danios are sensitive to low oxygen concentrations. On the other hand, gill flukes damage the gills and will also cause them to feel "suffocated". So as stated before, it's difficult to know precisely what the deal is here -- gill flukes, toxic conditions caused by anaerobic gravel, or poisoning because of the medication.>
Thanks again and I'll let you know how it goes :)
-Julie B.
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 7/27/10

Hello again... again!
<Hello, hello, hello.>
Okay, so I did about a 45% water change last night after I got your first email, it was 2:00 am by the time I was done, so I figured I'd go to bed and hope for the best. The water was crystal clear after the change. I didn't touch the gravel.
This morning the water was cloudy again, the slightly bloated Cory died, 2 of the Danios seem perfectly fine, the remaining 3 Corys seem ok for the time being (I'm not putting any food into the tank so I can't comment on appetite). The rest of the Danios seem only very slightly improved, huddled in a group, some (as opposed to all) are gasping desperately, some tails bending up in a bit of a U shape, the red streaking seems to have faded slightly on some of them (could be my imagination though). Two Danios still have clamped fins.
<Hmm. Well, may be residual from whatever happened before. Only time will tell really. There's nothing you can "add" to the water to magically improve this sort of shock or poisoning. Carbon will of course remove many toxins, but it will also remove medications, which is why you wouldn't use it in this situation. But do remember that if you suspect poisoning, using a package of fresh carbon can be helpful. It won't do anything for pH changes, hydrogen sulphide, and so on. Just toxic organic chemicals -- medications, paint fumes, etc.>
I phoned the LFS man, he didn't know the exact species, but said they are definitely monogenetic Trematodes, not flatworms.
<Right; see previous messages about which medications to use.>
The "medicine" that I vacuumed out of the gravel is actually just some form of binding agent they put in the tablets (or something to that effect.)
<Can't imagine such binding agents would cause any problems, or at least ones where siphoning would be the solution.>
He said to hold off on the fluke meds for now (he didn't think the medication was the problem) and to leave the tank alone for today, then see how the fish are doing tomorrow, and if they don't seem much improved, to do another water change. He seems to think the tank is contaminated, but neither of us knows how, or what with.
<If in doubt, strip the tank, replace all the water, add new gravel. Alternatively keep an open mind for things like non-safe ornaments, rocks, or pieces of metal, especially copper, that might have got into the tank.>
My water change buckets are all fish only and kept with my other tank bits and bobs (siphon, net, pincers, etc.) next to my tank.
I feel like I'm running out of time to save these fish and I just don't know what to do. It's truly horrible watching them all suffer like this'¦ Also, I want to get to the root of the problem because I don't dare get new fish until I find out what's gone wrong here.
Is there something wrong with my mechanical filtration?
<Shouldn't make much of a difference. Silt particles don't kill fish. Go visit any river on Earth, and chances are the water will be FAR murkier than anything in your aquarium.>
Did I not set it up correctly? The tank has two built in wet/dry type filters, with a sprinkle bar. I run filter floss in one, and ceramic noodles in the other. Everything seems to be running alright, I've rinsed the floss out (in aquarium water, when I do a partial water change) on one or two occasions but there just isn't much stuff in there to rinse out :/ If there was something wrong with my mechanical filtration, would it cause the symptoms that I'm seeing in my fish? (...grasping at straws now.)
<Indeed'¦ I don't think any of this is the issue.>
I have traces of copper in my water (copper pipes I guess). I was told to let the tap water run for a bit before filling the water change buckets.
<Yes, this will rinse out the worse of the copper in your pipes, but any half-decent water conditioner should neutralise copper anyway. So again, should not be an issue.>
I've been doing that (was doing it anyway to get the temperature right.) I don't know exactly how much copper is in the tank water but I was told that it's very little (when I took my Cory and water to the LFS). I don't have a copper test kit, could this be the problem? Should I get a test kit?
<No need.>
At what point should I consider euthanizing my fish? They are certainly stressed out, but are they in pain?
<I'd give it a couple days before doing anything drastic. Maybe replace 25% of the water each day as well, just to further dilute whatever problem there might be. If you're not medicating, then add carbon the filter, or if you can, a high-end "super carbon" of the sort used in marine aquaria, e.g., Polyfilter.>
thanks again for your time
-Julie B.
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 7/27/10
Hellooo ^_^
Thanks again for your reply, here's a quick update. :)
I did add some carbon to the filter (last night, after the water change), the LFS man also recommended it today when I called him, (forgot to mention it, sorry!) I will take the carbon out when I do the next fluke treatment.
Anyhoo, one of the Danios (with the really badly clamped fins) died, however, quite a few of the other Danios are a perking up. They are not normal by any stretch of the imagination, but they do look visibly better. A few are still gasping, swollen gills, streaked with red at the base of their fins and mouths, parked on the gravel doing scorpion impressions (best way I can describe it). The 3 remaining Corys still seem ok, no gasping, no bloating, no red streaks, no red gills.
<Sounds promising.>
Another symptom to add to the list is very very very thin, long, stringy white poo... like a sausage skin without the filling. This is from the Danios (I don't think I've ever seen the Corys poop.)
<Could be a reaction to the medications, especially if the medications shifted some worms inside the fish, but really, who knows?>
As for possible décor disasters... I have black gravel (man made stuff, don't know what it is exactly except that it was stupidly expensive). Some of it is rust coloured. Don't know if it's important but I'll mention it anyway. Bought it brand new with the tank.
<I tend to favour natural gravel as the safest, but anything sold as aquarium safe shouldn't be toxic. Still, I will mention Corydoras are happiest with _smooth_ silica sand as sold in garden centres. Costs very little, and though it's a bit pale initially it darkens over time and the Corydoras go bananas burrowing into it. A thin layer is perfectly safe, and ideal for use in tanks with fake plants.>
One beautiful hollow tree aquarium ornament, I had one just like it in my old tank, but after two years the paint had all but worn off, so I purchased a new one (months ago) to use in the new tank (figured I'd get it ready before the move). I gave it a coat of polyurethane varnish to stop the paint coming off (I've read it's safe for aquarium use), and it was at least three months after I varnished it before I put it in the tank, up until then it had been in it's cardboard box. It's been in the new tank ever since I first set it up.
<Again, should be safe.>
Aquarium plants with metal wire in the plastic stems. I put these in the tank on Friday to see how they would look, and took them out on Saturday when things went bad. To be honest, I didn't even realize they had metal in them (they are made for aquariums), but I did notice some rusting when I gave them a closer inspection. Surely they couldn't have poisoned the tank in such a short time period???
<Seems unlikely, but if they're rusting, yes, I'd chuck 'em out. All-plastic aquarium plants are the best if you're not going to use live plants.>
Thanks again for all your help!! :)
-Julie B
<Glad to have been of help. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 7/28/10
Hello Neale ^_^
Well, the Danios seem to be improving, some of them really have made a remarkable turnaround :)
Most of the streaking seems to be gone now, and most seem to be a bit calmer. A large group of them are still in their usual spot on the bottom, but they look a little less awful.... mostly'¦
The Corys are not as active as usual, they've spent pretty much the entire day in one spot (near the Danios). Now and then one will poke around the tank a bit and then go back to the same spot. No signs of distress or bloating.
<Also good.>
I've removed the carbon and given the tank it's second (and final) round of fluke meds. The medication does not seem to be bothering anyone, so yay to that. I'm supposed to do a partial water change in two days, according to the instructions ...*sweat forms on brow*... Do you think I should run carbon for a bit after I do the water change?
<No need to use carbon until you've finished the course of medications.>
Is it ok to use the carbon that I've just taken out or should I get some new?
<Best to discard "used" carbon. It needs to be replaced every couple of weeks anyway, if you choose to use it.>
As for the Corydoras sand... I was toying with the idea (before disaster struck) of having a sandy section in the tank for them. Like a sand pit, perhaps partially outlining it with small pebbles, or plants or something.
<Certainly doable.>
I have loads of tank floor space to play around with and I thought it would look cute. I would much rather go for a dark coloured sand, but I read somewhere that Corys need white sand. Is that true? Why would the colour make a difference to them?
<Dark sand, such as Tahitian Moon Sand, tends to be a glass byproduct or volcanic sand. These are abrasive and damage the Corydoras. Remember, these catfish push the stuff through their mouths and gills. Unless the manufacturer explicitly states a dark sand is safe for catfish and burrowers, avoid it. I personally wouldn't rely on advice from retailers if the sand is unmarked as safe for burrowers. At least some retailers are ignorant of this issue, and a few doubtless say anything to make a sale. Smooth silica sand is invariably the best and safest choice.>
Concerning live plants. I've always kept apple snails in my freshwater setups (they are beautiful), some of them would eat plants that I put into the tanks and some of them wouldn't.
Since I'm pretty rubbish when it comes to identifying one apple snail species from another (and believe me, I've spent many long hours staring at pictures on applesnail.net trying to spot the difference), I tend to default to plastic or silk plants. I don't have any snails in my current set up, so if you have any hardy plant suggestions'¦
<Oh, many. Good minimal effort plants include Cryptocoryne wendtii, Vallisneria spiralis, Java fern, Java moss and Anubias barteri. All these will adapt to a range of conditions and aren't fussy about light or CO2. If you have strong lighting, 2 watts per gallon or more, then Hygrophila polysperma is another excellent choice though it needs pruning to stay nice and bushy. Floating plants are a mixed bag because some are badly effected by condensation under the hood. Indian Fern and Amazon Frogbit are two easy species.>
I have 5 fluorescent light bulbs (tubes... whatever :p). They say on their boxes that they support plant life, but I don't have much experience in the aquatic plant department. So please take into account that my lighting may be sub par. ^^;; I would love to have some non stagnating live plants in the tank! Are the plants you mentioned in your earlier email (Vallisneria and Amazon Swords) easy to take care of?
<Amazon Swords can be easy to maintain, but they need a deep substrate, monthly fertiliser pellets pushed into their roots, and strong lighting. I've never had much success with them because my catfish always eat them, but that aside, the common species Echinodorus bleheri is generally not difficult to keep.>
Since I still don't really know what went wrong, would you suggest I strip the tank and start over once the fish complete their fluke medication?
<If you decide to switch to a planted tank, then you'll probably need to do something the substrate. That being the case, breaking down the tank and rebuilding it wouldn't be a bad idea. Keep the filter running by sticking it in a bucket of water, and you can leave the fish in there too. That way, there's no rush and you can spend a few hours getting the substrate, rocks, bogwood and plants just right.>
I can keep the fish in a quarantine tank in the meantime. By strip of course, I mean new filter media, cleaning all the décor, replacing the substrate (or boiling my current gravel -- would take a while :p). completely draining the tank, and giving it a thorough clean. It would mean cycling the tank all over again too'¦
<No, keep the filter running. Admittedly, easier if you have canister filters or box filters; undergravel and hang-on-the-back filters are a bit more awkward in this regard.>
Or should I just carry on with the usual tank maintenance, and hope for the best?
<Up to you. Certainly leave the tank as it is for a few weeks, and don't change anything until you're happy all the fish are healthy again. But after than, do what you wish.>
You see, if my fish die in the near future, I won't know whether it's due to flukes, stress, poisoning, a combination of the aforementioned things, or something else all together. If you were in my situation, what would you do?
<See above.>
Thank you so much for your time, I can't tell you how much I appreciate your advice, and that you take the time to help people. :)
-Julie B.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 8/8/10
Hello Neale/Bob :)
I'm afraid that I'm still having fish trouble, and I still can not pinpoint what the problem is.
<Mmm, something is/was toxic... forestalling cycling establishment if memory serves>
The good news is that my bio filter seems to have stabilized, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 5.0
The fish are all behaving normally now, but are dying slowly anyway. Every other day I find a dead Danio. I am now down to less than ten Danios, and only two Corydoras.
<Can we, should we "start anew" and chat re whatever may be a/the root cause here? Do you have any geodes, seashells or such in your/this system?
Is there possibly a source of ammonia (e.g. a kitty litter box nearby?). Do you know of the product PolyFilter? It has a propensity for changing colours depending on what's in your water>
I have a cycled quarantine tank (about 150 liters), standing by, as I obviously would like to replace the fish that have died, but I'm too scared to purchase any new fish as I don't know exactly why my current fish are dying.
<Me neither... but there is a cause>
Since I had a heavy fluke infestation (as diagnosed by LFS guy with microscope), I'm worried that parasites might still be a problem.
<Could be>
I'm attaching a photo of my latest deceased Danio, you can just about make out some white... stuff... along it's side. It was very difficult to photograph, and I would like to know whether you think it may be a parasite,
or something else.
Thanks for your time! :)
-Julie B.
<... Please read here re treatment:

Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 8/9/10
Hi Bob :)
Thank you so much for taking the time to puzzle this out with me!
Ok, starting again.
Tank = 400 liters,
ammonia - 0
nitrite - 0
nitrate -0/5.0
temperature - 23°/ 24°
filter #1 - Eheim canister filter
filter #2 - filter that came with the tank, contains ceramic noodles.
Fish = 8 golden Danios - 7 which appear normal and healthy, one seems to be dying, lays on bottom, curved spine, no appetite, breathing seems a bit labored but not gasping desperately.
Fish cont. = 2 albino Corydoras, seem healthy and active.
Décor = 2 x live java ferns (recently added), several plastic aquarium plants,
<Do please check these... some that show up are ornamental for non-aquarium purposes... Have covered metal stems!>
one ceramic aquarium log ornament, about 4/5 cm black aquarium gravel.
I have no other pets, I do not smoke, do not use detergents in the room the fish tank is in, do not use air fresheners. I always rinse my hands and arms before and after doing anything in my tank (I would get gloves but haven't found any that go up to my shoulders :p). I don't know for sure _if_ my fish _were_ poisoned, but the symptoms seemed to point in that direction.
Here's a quick sum-up of everything that went wrong... in order.
First, my Corydoras started dying off, rather suddenly, one at a time. On close inspection I noticed some organisms hanging off their fins (at this point the Danios seemed in perfect health). I took one of my Corydoras to
the LFS, a fin sample was taken and I was told that I had the worst fluke infestation the guy had ever seen. I was told they were monogenetic Trematodes. I was given two doses of Praziquantel, 40 tablets, 20 to be crushed up and used at a time.
I gave the tank it's first dose of Praziquantel, all fish seemed fine except that one of the Corydoras (who had been taken to the LFS) bloated up and died. Kept an eye on the ammonia and nitrites, fearing the bio filter would crash due to the medication, ammonia and nitrite remained 0.
<Prazi shouldn't do this>
Four days after dosing the tank I did a small water change (fish were behaving normally before this). The next morning the Danios were behaving abnormally, grouped on the bottom looking skittish. Did a larger water
change and added Melafix
<Worse than worthless... please see WWM re>
(I guess I thought it would help them heal, prevent fungus post fluke damage, I didn't think it would harm them).
<This herbal... can disrupt nitrification and worse>
The fish (Danios, not the Corys) became severely stressed after that, red streaking appeared, and they lay on the gravel gasping. The LFS guy said they sounded like they had been poisoned, but I didn't know what could have poisoned them.
<The "fix">
I decided to write to WetWeb media, hoping that I could figure out what was going on. Neale suggested that perhaps I disturbed the gravel too much, releasing toxins into the water.
<Another possibility>
I vacuum the gravel pretty regularly without such catastrophic results but I had hoped this was the source of the
toxins because at least that way I would have a reason for why this was happening.
The Danios were in severe stress for several days, then slowly started to improve and behave normally (small groups at a time). I gave the tank it's second dose of Praziquantel a day later than I was supposed to. Kept an eye on the ammonia + nitrite, both were 0 until one day I got ammonia readings.
There were no dead fish in the tank, and I had not been feeding so I could only assume that the ammonia spike was due to my bio filter crashing... exact cause unknown.
Right now, my filter seems stable, but my fish have been dying anyway. I don't know what their cause of death is, flukes, toxins, stress, disease?
<Me neither... but microscopic analysis can prove/disprove the presence of flatworms>
I've ordered some poly filter, do you think it'll help me?
<It will... in terms of water quality and possibly revealing a/the source of trouble here... e.g. turns colours dependent of the presence of materials of note... blue for copper, reddish for ferrous ion...>
-Julie B.
<Steady on. BobF>

Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) - 8/10/10
Hi again Bob :)
The sick Danio died, but I'm happy to say that the rest really do look like they have made a 100% recovery.
<Ah good>
I'm also happy to say that I miscounted, I have 8 surviving Danios zooming around the tank like little torpedoes.
I scraped both sides of the dead Danio, and took a gill tissue sample. I checked it out under my microscope and didn't find anything out of the ordinary. If there were flukes, they would have come off with the scales right?
<Oh yes>
I scraped a bit of skin off too... It felt pretty horrible cutting up my pet.
<Only need gentle, at slide angle, pressure to remove slime... not scales et al... Unless the specimen is dead; in which case I'd cut a piece of the gill/branchiostegal out/off and examine that as well (perhaps under a slide cover and a drop of water)>
Ammonia and nitrite are still a beautiful zero and I've resumed regular feeding habits.
I'm going to give the tank some time, see how things go... add the poly filter when it arrives and see what happens :)
Thanks for your patience and advice!
-Julie B
<Welcome. BobF>

Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 8/12/10
Hi again Bob/Neale :)
My poly-filter arrived this morning :) The only colour appearing so far is a very light brown.
I was thinking about getting some new fish this weekend, since they have to go into quarantine for at least a month anyway, it'll give me time to monitor the stability of the main tank.
<Mmm, I'd likely wait on this... just in case>
My quarantine tank is a aqua one, AR-850, 165 liters (43 gallons, US), cycled and has a heater. It's also decorated in a style similar to my main tank (it helps to have a pretty quarantine, that way I feel less tempted to move the fish before their qt time is up :p). The tanks only permanent resident is a ceramic frog, that I "feed" to keep the filter bacteria going
<I see... well, good-sized...>
Now what I wanted to know is, do you think it'd be okay to put 20 golden Danios into my quarantine tank?
<If it's cycled, should be fine>
I don't usually get more than 12 Danios at a time, but since I lost so many fish, I'd rather not beat around the bush
anymore than what I have to. For my final stocking numbers in the main tank I'd like to have 30 golden Danios, + 8 or 10 Corydoras.
My main tanks capacity is 515 liters, but with the gravel and décor I estimate the actual amount of water to be about 400 liters.
If everything goes well with the new Danios, after their quarantine period is up, and once they've settled into the main tank without problems, I was thinking about getting 8 Corydoras... but I'm a little concerned since the last batch had flukes (and possibly some sort of internal parasite). What really worries me is that I can't tell that something is wrong with Corydoras until it is too late...
<Could be treated prophylactically>
Should I blast any future Corydoras with anti parasite/worm/fluke meds as soon as I get them home into quarantine?
<Mmm, don't like the term "blast", but dosing would be fine>
What can I do (besides checking water quality) to ensure the health of future Corydoras?
<Observing them at your dealers mostly>
Or perhaps, you'll suggest some other sort of bottom dwelling fish that may be more suitable for me?
<Archived... on WWM>
Your site really is amazing, thanks for all the info!
-Julie B.
<Welcome! BobF>
Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 8/14/10

Hi Bob :)
Thanks again for your response! :)
Checked the poly-filter today and it has turned a light blue, indicating copper.
It's in my tap water (copper pipes, perhaps), and I guess my dechlorinator doesn't remove it (it says it removes chlorine + chloramines + metals (unspecified) )
I'm going to hold off getting fish for a while longer (taking your advice), and I think it'd be a good idea to get some poly-filter for the quarantine tank too.
Also, I'm not convinced my fluke problem is solved. I noticed two specs on one of my Corydoras tail fin, which may or may not be flukes / fluke activity (it's definitely not ich)... Would it hurt my fish to do a Prazi
treatment again? Are flukes really difficult to get rid of completely?
<No and not generally>
I do apologize for constantly bothering you. It's just different when you keep fish... a dog or a cat you can take to the vet when things don't seem normal, but it's challenging when you keep aquatic pets and things go wrong that are not in the area of your personal past experience. There are numerous fish forums out there on the web, but it's difficult sometimes to judge good advice from bad.
Thanks! Have a lovely weekend!
-Julie B.
<And you. B>
Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 8/18/10

Hi Bob! :)
<Hello Vi/Jules>
Just wanted to report that all is well here :) Thank you for your time and advice (a special thank you for recommending the poly-filter). :)
<Ah, yes... a "shot" in the not so dark... Part of acquired/developed "intuition">
I've decided not to do another Prazi treatment, since the medication says to "use caution" if the tank contains snails or Corydoras :/ All the fish seem so happy and normal at the moment that I'd hate to throw a spanner in the works anyway.
<I agree>
I have one final question if you don't mind... I've been looking into mail ordering fish (over night delivery), and have been reading through your acclimation FAQs/articles. Ordinarily I'd just drip acclimate new fish, but I get the impression it would be a bad idea if the fish were in their bags for a long time.
<The accumulated metabolites and CO2 can be problematical, yes>
I've read some scary stuff about PH dropping as soon as the bag is opened...
<Actually, rising... with disastrous concurrent change in ionization state of ammonia>
So what would be the best way to acclimate fish that have been in their shipping water for an extended period of time? Float, and then net into the quarantine tank, without mixing water? Or drip acclimation?
<Please read here... as per marine... the second article in particular:
Thanks again!
-Julie B.
<Welcome. BobF>

Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 8/26/10
Hi Bob! :)
I've been restraining myself from contacting you these past three days but I can't hold out any longer, sorry!
After I last wrote to you, I went to a different (closer) LFS to purchase a copper test kit (since the poly filter was turning blue, as was the poly in the quarantine tank). The LFS guy asked me if I was using the warm water tap, and I told him I was. He said that the warm tap water is the source of my copper and that I should only use cold water, and to use boiling water to get the temperature right.
<One approach>
I don't know if it's due to my using the warm tap water in the past, not using enough dechlorinater or what, but I've killed off my bio-filter at some point, in both tanks. Both tanks have nitrite spikes, the main tank is between 0.50-1.0 ppm, and the quarantine tank is between 1.0 - 2.0 ppm.
There are no fish in the quarantine tank, just a decomposing catfish pellet.
Ammonia and Nitrate are zero in both tanks.
I've noticed bacteria blooms in both tanks post water change. Although, the blooms were a lot worse when I was using the warm tap water. The water in the quarantine tank is crystal clear at the moment (I only do a weekly water change on it), but my main tank has a bit of a soft focus look to it, as I have been doing partial water changes (and gravel vacuuming) daily since detecting the nitrite. The water is very clear immediately post water change, but then a little while later it gets that hazy look... not too bad, but it's noticeable. The water changes don't drop the nitrite reading, but it seems to stop the nitrite from rising.
<... do you drink this water?>
I've been reading through your nitrite FAQs and I'm confused, some say to do water changes, and others say to leave it alone and wait for the cycle to establish itself. A lot of the FAQs recommend bio-spira, but that is not available to me. The only bacteria "helper" I can purchase here is Nutrafin Cycle, which I've heard can actually delay the cycle.
<Perhaps... there are other products>
I've read that salt can help fish cope with nitrite, but my fish (Danios, Corydoras) are not salt tolerant at all, from what I've read. I've read that Corydoras could develop dropsy from it.
The fish seem ok at the moment.
So do I feed the fish every other day, do a weekly water change and hope for the best? Or do I continue to change the water (about 100 liters) daily?
Should I add salt?
<Just feed sparingly... time going by>
Hope you have a great weekend!
-Julie B.
Re: Fish seem poisoned, please help. (Bob, any ideas) 8/27/10
Hi Bob!
Wow, that was fast! :)
<Some times>
Ok... so I don't need to do the daily water changes? How high would the nitrite have to go before I panic?
<... more than 1.0 ppm with a concurrent high pH... Do you know how to search WWM?>
I'm hoping, that since it is a large tank, with few fish, the nitrite won't spike too badly.
Thanks again!
-Julie B
PS: Good thing I didn't get those 20 Danios!!! :)
<Ah yes. BobF>

Goldfish, tiny unfiltered tank, the usual story... 5/28/2010
I have a comet goldfish that is about 2.5 inches long.
<Will get much bigger than that, if kept properly. Comets are really pond fish, and even in an aquarium should top 6 inches/15 cm within a couple of years, and potentially reach 8 inches/20 cm or more.>
I have him alone in a 10 gallon tank with no filter
<Not good enough; this is precisely why he's sick.>
but I do change 50% of his water 1-3 times a week and test it for nitrates and ammonia regularly.
<And? What are the results from these tests? Remember, anything above 0 nitrite and 0 ammonia will stress him. Nitrate is largely unimportant.>
He is about 1.5 years old and started having problems when we upgraded to a bigger tank for him and his buddies about 2 months ago.
<The problems weren't caused by the bigger tank, that's for certain.>
It all started with Pop Eye, I learned I was over feeding
<Overfeeding doesn't cause the damage, that's a myth. Overfeeding swamps the filter with nitrogen, and water quality plummets. In a reasonably large, adequately filtered aquarium overfeeding is unlikely to cause problems because the filter should be able to handle a little extra food.
But if someone keeps a fish in a tank that's too small and doesn't have a filter, then even with normal rations there'll be ammonia in the water, and if you overfeed, that ammonia level quickly reaches dangerous levels.>
and secluded him to this 10 gallon tank around his 2nd week of having it. I treated with Maracyn 2 and he seemed to get better,
<Temporary, at best. Environmental problems aren't cured with drugs any more than fat people lose weight by switching to Diet Coke.>
he went back in the community tank. He got Pop Eye again so I sequestered him again and treated him then he seemed better so back in the tank he went.
Then a week later I noticed his fins were all clamped together.
<Spotting the pattern yet...?>
Treated him for a week with Maracyn, seemed better, all but the top fin were totally open, back in the tank he goes. Two weeks later I see this weird round white circle on his side and he looks like he is getting white
slimy stuff on his side.
Now I decided to just keep him in the 10 gallon tank for a few months until he is totally healthy so I can stop setting up and taking apart a tank. I treat him with Maracyn, he gets better and his top fin opens up beautifully at the exact same time as his back fin develops tail rot.
<It's environmental; fish his living conditions, then treat the symptoms, and he'll stay healthy.>
At this point I really don't want to spend any more money
so I let it go for 2 days then I just cave and start treating him with Maracyn again. So now his tail is very short , about .75 inch and the end has grown dark brown, I've been treating him for 3 days, tonight he gets
his 4th dose.
I'm leaving to go out of town for a week in 4 days and I really don't know what else I can do to get him healthy.
<Read what these fish need, and then keep them properly. You can't keep Goldfish in small, unfiltered bowls and tanks. Never could. Just because you see them in bowls on TV doesn't mean that works, any more than Superman can fly just because he does in the movies. Goldfish are animals and animals have requirements.>
I do use aquarium salt, 1tbs per 5 gal
and I do 5 gal water changes so I don't mess up the levels.
<The levels were messed up a long time ago! Try and understand what you're doing, rather than flailing about. Remember the nitrogen cycle? You presumably learned about in school, in biology class. Certainly taught to everyone here in England. Anyway, nitrogenous wastes come out of the fish, and have to be processed. If they're not, the ammonia sits in the water, causing all sorts of harm. Think about how you manage that ammonia -- FILTRATION!>
I also feed him a little once a day but will tell the person taking care of him to only feed him every other day to keep waste down. Aside from doing a water change right before I leave is there anything else I can do? Is the tips of his tail getting darker a good or bad thing?
<Likely ammonia burns, and definitely not good.>
Is there hope or am I fighting a loosing battle?
<If it is a losing battle, it is so because you chose not to keep this fish properly. Remember how Hitler lost the Second World War because he decided to invade Russia? Lack of understanding and planning cost him dearly.
That's where we are here. Any aquarium book would have told you Goldfish need large tanks and they need filters.>
<Do read:
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Goldfish, tiny unfiltered tank, the usual story...
Hi again,
When I test his water the levels all come back at 0.
<What levels? The pH should be between 7 and 8, not zero.>
The main fish tank (20 gal with 5 other goldfish)
<Insanely overstocked.>
has filter and the water tests fine, I have taken it to pet shops and tested it myself.
<Might well be fine while they're small, but honestly, I can't believe it's "fine" if these are big fish. Been at this game for far too many years...>
I'm just hesitant to pick up a filter for the 10 gallon tank he is in
because it should be temporary.
<A bad plan.>
Ideally he will go back into the main tank. I was told that I could avoid getting a filter as long as I do partial water changes every couple of days.
<Well, perhaps, for a while. But clearly he's ill, so this obviously isn't working, is it? What more can I say...>
I have actually taken samples of his water into pet shops and been told that the ammonia and nitrite are at 0. At this point is it better to put him in the main tank with the filter or keep him separate and do the regular partial water changes?
<It's the lesser of two evils, yes.>
Also is 10 gallons really to small of a hospital tank for a 2.5 inch goldfish?
<Yes. Because people do this is precisely why most Goldfish die within a year of purchase. I don't have stock in companies that make aquaria! I'm telling you the truth, as opposed to what you want to hear.>
The idea is to eventually move them all to a 125 gallon tank by the end of the year.
<Now that's more like it! But even a 55 gallon tank would be fine for 4-5 fancy goldfish.>
Just a side note, these are my boyfriends fish and he had no idea what they needed or how big they would get when he got them a year ago.
<Hence the need to read a book before doing anything else.>
It wasn't till he moved in and I talked him into upgrading the tank because they looked crowded and the subsequent health problems occurred that I read up on it and realized what he had gotten us into!
<My pleasure. Cheers, Neale.>

How to treat un-diagnosable illness (RMF, any other ideas?)<<>> 5/18/10
Hi crew,
<Hello David,>
I have a 55g FW community tank. From time to time, 1 or 2 of my critters will just up and die for no apparent reason. If it's more than one, they're always the same species.
<Interesting, though perhaps a clue that different species are more sensitive to different stresses, so more or less likely to sicken and die.>
The only symptom is that for 2-4 days before they die, they begin to hide out more and eat less. Then one day I just find them dead.
<I see.>
This has happened on and off for, well, ever since I've had this tank, about 2.5 years. The timing seems totally random, e.g. it doesn't happen after I bring home new fish or anything like that. I'll just lose a fish or two every 4-6 months. I have never seen any other disease symptoms - gills look normal, eyes look normal, no lesions/spots/etc, no change in color, no fin loss, no listing or difficulty swimming, no other behavioral changes other than hiding and (often) not coming out to feed.
<Does seem to suggest an environmental and/or stocking problem. In other words, the fish grow, a tipping point is crossed, some fish die, the tank "relaxes" as the tipping point is reversed, the fish grow some more... and so on.>
I dose the tank with Melafix when I see this start to happen, which may help stop whatever it is from spreading, but certainly never 'cures' anything.
<Indeed. I'm not a huge fan of this product. It may help against mild external infections, but against serious external infections or any type of internal infection it is essentially useless.>
I just found one of my pearl gouramis dead this morning after seeing this pattern for a few days. The other one is also starting to hide out.
<Oh dear.>
I know you'll ask about maintenance, so here goes. I do 25% water changes usually every week, sometimes I miss a week.
<Fine; so do I!>
Filter cleaning every 2 weeks without fail.
<May be overkill. Are we talking about external canister or hang-on-the-back filters? These are best left alone as much as possible, and when they're cleaned, it should be very gingerly. Honestly, I clean my external canister filters every 3-4 months. Others would argue it's better to clean them a bit more often, maybe 6-8 week intervals. But still, the idea is leave the bacteria alone as much as possible.>
Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate always read 0.
<<No NO3?>>
I don't gravel-vac very often, maybe every 2-3 months-the tank is very densely planted and I can't really get deep into the gravel anyway-but when I do vacuum, I'm not picking up sludge or anything.
<There are actually good reasons to leave the gravel alone and not stir it at all, ever! If you have plants, the roots are already carrying oxygen down into the sediment, so the gravel is being kept "clean" through microbial processes. Stirring gravel can disturb that.>
I have a UV sterilizer. I'm fanatically careful about not getting traces of soap in the tank. No plastic decorations or anything like that. I do ~not~ use carbon due to impact on plant nutrients.
<Very good.>
Don't think I'm anywhere near overstocked. I have 2 pearl gouramis (well, 1 now), 5 ghost glass catfish, 2 flag fish, 1 Ancistrus (not full grown), 4 threadfin rainbow, 6 Endler's. I feed them Spectrum, moderately, and skip feeding 2x week. Occasionally I feed some frozen bloodworms or brine shrimp but not regularly.
KH is about 3.4 (60 mg/L), GH 4.5 (80 mg/L). CO2 injection. pH is 6.9. I leave the CO2 running at night and run a couple of airstones to blow off excess CO2, so pH is pretty stable - it goes up just a hair at night, but definitely never more than 7.0.
<I wonder if that's true. I'm hugely suspicious of pH fluctuations in soft water aquaria. I always argue that people keeping fish purely for fun aim for moderately hard, slightly basic conditions. Soft water fish won't mind, and nor will plants, but the additional carbonate hardness will ensure a nice, stable pH. Something like 10 degrees dH, 4-5 degrees KH, and pH 7.5 is acceptable for a very broad range of community fish. Changes in pH can cause severe stress on fish, and the last time I experienced my own mass mortality of aquarium fish, it was Vallisneria softening the water that seemed to cause the pH drop. It's also important to remember filter bacteria cannot abide acidic water, and their preferred pH is 7.5 to 8.5.
Below pH 6 they essentially stop working altogether. So if you have a sudden, perhaps overnight, pH drop, you have a double whammy: acidosis affecting the fish, plus filter bacteria that are becoming stressed.>
So (finally, thanks for reading this far!) I have 3 questions:
1. Does my maintenance seem reasonable given my stocking? 25% change, say 3 weeks a month b/c I might miss a week.
<Yes, seems fine.>
2. Is the level of die-off I'm describing considered "normal"-losing a fish or two every 4-6 months, with no qualifiable disease symptoms?
<Is not normal, unless the fish are fairly old. If you have a tank of 5-year-old Neons, then yes, they're likely geriatric and will be shuffling off their mortal coils. But if the fish are just a year or two old, then no, it's not normal.>
3. When I start to see this malaise, what should I do? I could quarantine, but unless I'm going to apply some sort of medication, I don't see the need-the malaise never seems to spread very far, usually it's just 1-2 fish in the same species. And if I should and medicate - what should I treat with?
<I do not think this is bacterial or viral, so medication isn't the issue here.>
Once I start to see these symptoms, the outcome is always death, so maybe I should just quarantine and try some sort of very broad-spectrum antibiotic - the 'nuclear option' as they say? Kanamycin maybe?
Thanks so much for any advice you can offer!
<Cheers, Neale.><<I'd like a list of what has died... in what order, over time. There may well be "something" toxic, anomalous in this system (e.g. a geode or such) or outside... for instance a kitty litter box, or use of an aerosol in the vicinity. A unit of PolyFilter might reveal (by colour change) the nature of this possible poisoning. BobF>>
Re: How to treat un-diagnosable illness
I should also add that my tap water quality is very good. I've looked at the district water quality reports. Very low metals, low VOCs, etc.
<Don't think this is the issue here. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: More: re: How to treat un-diagnosable illness (RMF, any other ideas?) 5/19/10

Hi Bob,
Geode... interesting. I don't have a geode but I do have a fist-size rock is exposing what looks like quartz on one face --
<Ahh! A too-likely culprit>
at least I assume it's quartz because I can't imagine what else it could be. What is the problem with geodes? Potentially same problem here?
<Yes. Quartz (mainly silicon and oxygen) itself is generally not harmful, very water soluble period, but there are many impurities associated with: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fused_quartz
There are labs that can/will test such rock/s... For now, I would definitely remove it from your system>
Litter box is in the other room. We use clay litter with no perfumes.
No aerosols or cleaning products used in the vicinity. But I will follow your advice on the Polyfilter.
<Please do... will send along to Neale. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: More: re: How to treat un-diagnosable illness (RMF, any other ideas?) 5/19/10
Hi Neale,
Thanks for the detailed response. I don't think the nightly pH swing is significant, and it's up not down. The only significant pH fluctuations I've ever had were when I failed to notice my CO2 running out and ended up with an empty canister and off-the-charts high pH. I've had 2 of those events -- but neither one was even remotely associated with any illness or die-off.
<I see. Well, all I can say is that I've seen these events in both ponds and aquaria, so they're worth considering.>
Very interesting though that higher pH is tolerated by soft-water fish, I've heard that before but never quite absorbed it. And that bit about Val.s softening the water. I learn something new every time I chat with you folks!
<Biogenic decalcification; Vallisneria, Elodea, and various other plants that prefer/require hard water use dissolved carbonate and bicarbonate as their carbon source alongside/instead of dissolved CO2. If you choose such plants and grow them in water with a high carbonate hardness, adding CO2 fertilisation is redundant.>
I am curious though about the recommendation to do less frequent filter cleanouts. It's an external canister. I've always been told that every 2 weeks is a good schedule to avoid excess nitrate production.
<Ah yes, the "nitrate factory" idea. Not really an issue in freshwater tanks, especially those with good plant growth. Every situation is different of course, but provide water quality is good and water turnover remains optimal, I'd suggest leaving the filter for somewhat longer periods than 2 weeks between cleaning. A month is more than adequate, and as I say, I do mine even less often.>
I do wash out (using tank water of course) a fair amount of 'dirt' from the fine sponge when I clean every couple of weeks... most of that is likely decaying plant matter I suppose...
<Yes, and contains minimal nitrogen, being mostly cellulose.>
but I have no problem taking your advice as license to be a bit lazier about filter cleaning. ;)
Thanks guys!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Hi Team!!!!!
I have a king kamfa 3.5" and I changed 70% water the other day, later I reailised that there was some white calcification on my aquarium glass I didn't really bother thinking it will settle down on its own but it did not, 2 days later I checked my water tank and it was recently cleaned and a lot of chlorine was put in to that, my fish lost all its colour on 2nd day and became completely white, changed 100% water made sure it was chlorine free, and its been 3 weeks that the colour has not come back and flowerline on my fish has completely disappeared and it has started getting some black patches on its fin and body which is unusual. can some one help me with this please.
<Well, provided you're offering good conditions and a healthy diet, this fish should recover by itself. Flowerhorn cichlids need hard, alkaline water with zero ammonia and zero nitrite. Middling water temperature and lots of oxygen are important. Do read here:
I assume you've done weekly water changes, any traces of chlorine are long gone now. Since the fish hasn't diet yet, it presumably wasn't exposed to lethal amounts of chlorine. But do make sure you didn't kill the filter bacteria. A common problem when "deep cleaning" aquaria is to worry about unimportant things, like lime scale, while creating serious trouble by killing off the filter bacteria. Check ammonia and nitrite levels are zero.
If ammonia and nitrite are zero, the pH is around 7.5, the hardness above 10 degrees dH, and the temperature around 25-28 degrees C, this fish should recover on its own. Cheers, Neale.>
HI Neale!!!
Thanks for the reply, how do I regenerate the filter bacteria, coz when I did 100% water change I washed the entire aquarium accessories, including filter media, that's why I guess my fish has now got black patches on its fin,
<Yes, very likely. Ammonia burns from non-zero ammonia levels can, will discolour fish.>
I tried giving him a salt bath, but it still has black patches on its lips forehead and fins. please help
<Your tank is essentially cycling again. This will take 4-6 weeks to put right. Cut down on the food by 50-75%, and do 20-30% water changes every 1-2 days. If you find ammonia above 0.5 mg/l, or ammonia above 1.0 mg/l, do a 50% water changes. Treat live biological media like a baby! Rinse in aquarium water if it needs cleaning. Otherwise NEVER, EVER wash under a hot tap, use cleaning fluids, or allow to dry out.>
<Good luck, Neale.>

Freshwater tanks, possibly poisoned 4/13/10
Hi all. Hope you can give me the best direction on what to do with my two freshwater tanks. One is a 20 gallon tank that houses about a dozen male Platies and the other a 40 gallon tank that houses a dozen Corydoras and 30-40 female Platies.
<Very nice.>
On Saturday night, I did a 50% water change on both tanks. I noticed Sunday that the snails in my 20 gallon tank had started to creep up towards the top of the tank and accumulated on a fake floating plant.
<A bad sign.>
Seemingly like they were trying to get out of the water.
<Correct; when stressed for whatever reason, aquatic snails will crawl up and rest just above or below the waterline.>
Monday morning, I found a dead Platy in my 40 gallon tank. Then Monday night I found two dead Platies in the 20 gallon tank. I'd previously only lost 2 Platies over the span of several months. The Platies in both tanks were hanging out at the top and breathing rapidly, more so with the Platies in the 20 gallon than the 40 gallon but quite a noticeable change in all the fishes behavior overall. For example, my Corydoras were making more dashes to the top than usual and the water looked a bit cloudy in both. On check my ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels were at 0.
A couple of days before I prepared the water for the last water change, I had a sewage backup in the tub I use to fill the buckets. After the plumbing was fixed, I cleaned the bathroom with 409 and bleach and then rinsed and rinsed and rinsed. Is it possible that the residue from these chemicals was transferred to my buckets and water and then to my fish tanks?
<Normally you shouldn't get cleaning fluids into the drinking water pipe work, so just because you've cleaned the drains shouldn't affect your drinking water. On the other hand, if you put cleaning fluid in the buckets you use for the fish tanks, then yes, you could have residues left behind.>
If this is the issue, I had also cleaned out the tubing to my Eheim filter for my 40 gallon tank and not sure what I should do, if anything, about that. I'm just at a loss it could be anything else as I've had no problems for quite a while and have made no changes other than water, added no new fish.
<Right. It does sound like a sudden environmental problem of some sort.>
More importantly, how should I proceed with water changes or addressing this issue?
<Do check that other things didn't happen when you did the water change.
For example, if you did a big water change following a long period without water changes, then you could expose the fish to a sudden pH change. Some well water supplies are notoriously variable in water chemistry immediately after being drawn. Stirring the substrate can release toxic gases under some circumstances. So there's a variety of things to think about.>
I rinsed out all my buckets several times tonight and cleaned out my siphon hose and performed another 50% water change on both tanks using a different bathroom altogether. It seemed to ease the Platies desire in my 40 gallon to hang out at the top but in my 20 gallon my Platies are still breathing rapidly at the top. A couple do not look well at all and I'm hoping they are still alive in the morning. I'm going back and forth as to whether or not I should switch all the Platies to the 40 gallon as I don't know if the extra stress will do them harm, but if the 20 gallon tank doesn't stabilize, I don't see another choice (I had the males separated for the females because I'm phasing out Platies in general but I'm remiss to give them away or other unsavory options).
<I'd certainly keep doing big water changes, perhaps 2-3 more, each time making sure the outgoing water chemistry is the same as the water chemistry of the water going into the tank.>
Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Freshwater tanks, possibly poisoned - 4/13/10

Thanks Neale. I've lost two more fish overnight in my 40 gallon tank.
Several fish in both tanks are in dire straights. I rechecked all the levels and the only different number was my Nitrate in the 40 gallon was at 10. My pH was 7.2 in my 40 gallon which is lower than the fixed at 7.6-7.8. I do a mix of baking soda, marine salt and Epsom salts as my carbonate hardness does drop drastically without bringing down my pH in rapid succession. Quite honestly, I haven't been checking the pH regularly because it was so stable for several months since figuring out the mix. So I don't know what kind of a bounce I'm truly dealing with.
<Ah, now, this could be a factor. You mentioned Platies, which in common with livebearers generally, are acutely sensitive to low pH. They're happiest in liquid rock, so beef up the carbonate hardness.>
The last water change before all this started I did was about 4 weeks ago.
This last one before my tanks crashed, I did do more siphoning and picking up rocks and caves that I normally don't go around. Also I usually only change 30-40 % of the water but did 50% per I went about a week or two
longer than I usually wait. ?? Ugh. :( I don't know what the <bleep> happened.
<If you have low carbonate hardness, the pH drop through acidification can take the pH into the acidic range within 4 weeks. Do a big water change and you swing from, say, pH 6.5 up to 7.5. This would certainly be enough to
stress, possibly kill fish.>
I just did another 50% water change in both tanks and already most of the fish in my big tank are back at the top of the tank breathing rapidly again. In my 20 gallon, they seem to be faring a little better.
<Do have a look to see the filter is working. Also check that the temperature is correct. I've stunned fish by adding freezing cold water without thinking (they do recover from cold quite quickly) and a stuck heater can reduce oxygen concentration so much filtration stops and fish suffocate.>
Can you clarify if I should be doing the 2-3 water changes you suggested immediately right in a row or wait a few hours?
<If fish look stressed, then changing water to flush out potential toxins is the lesser of two evils. But you do have to ensure water chemistry doesn't change wildly.>
I've tried to hit the temperature straight on and am using identical mixes but the water from my tap comes out at no less than 8+ so I wasn't able to hit the same pH with the water change with my larger tank.
<Platies and hardy farmed Corys shouldn't be too fussed, so long as you more or less have pH 7.5-8, 10-20 degrees dH water.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Freshwater tanks, possibly poisoned - 4/13/10
Hi Neale,
I'm going to try and be as clear, concise but thorough as I can be.
Hopefully, something in my details will pop out at you.
A pattern starting emerging after the 2nd major (50%) water change today.
I have lost no more fish but I do expect to lose some (hopefully not all) overnight.
This is what I observed today:
1st Major (50%) Water Change: Fish showed slight improvement for a few minutes in the 20 gal tank. 40 gal tank no improvement.
2nd Major (50%) Water Change: Fish in both tanks 'perked' up. Meaning they stop hanging out at the top of the tank, breathing still relatively fast but not as labored or rapid. The went back to their old routines of bothering each other and picking at algae/plants and swimming around. The exception would be the handful of fish who had been in the worst shape (leaning on plants, trouble swimming) those seemed to still hover at the top of the tank with rapid breathing but did improve (no leaning). 2 hours post water change, every single Platy at the top of the tank again with labored, rapid breathing. Even about 2 dozen or so fry that usually hide in java moss (breaks my heart).
3rd Major (50%) Water Change: Fish in both tanks 'perked' up as before.
Somewhere between 3-4 hours post water change, every single fish at top of tank again.
4 Minor (20%) Water Change: Did this in 40 gallon tank only. No change whatsoever, all fish still in distress.
5 Major (50%) Water Change: Fish in both tanks 'perked' up as before. I have to go to bed so I don't know how long this will last.
I checked the parameters in both tanks and my change water before the 4th/5th water changes. As follows:
40 Gallon Tank: 0 Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 7.6 pH 76 Temp 130 mg/L for Carbonate Hardness Heater Working Normally Filters (Eheim Professional 2080 - I think is the number - and dual sponge filter) both working normally.
You said to check, they are both running water through as usual. Not sure if I should 'check' something else. Large, long airstone working properly.
20 Gallon Tank 0 Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 7.6 pH 77 temp 130 mg/L for Carbonate Hardness Heater working normally Eheim internal filter working properly as is Eheim overhang filter.
Change Water (after treated): 0 Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 75 average temp 140 mg/L for Carbonate Hardness (off 10 mg/L from both tanks) Before 5th major water change I purchased new 5 gallon buckets. I had never cleaned old buckets with chemicals but changed anyways. Purchased new Baking Soda and Epsom salts for my mix. Only thing I did not change out was Marine Salt as stores were closed (this salt is approximately 1 year old). Changed airstone out I use for aeration as well. Still using bathroom that was not cleaned with bleach recently to handle and fill buckets.
I have had both these tanks up and running for over a year using the same processes for water changes every time. Again, everything was stable before I did a 50% water change last Saturday night.
What can I do now? I'm expecting to wake up to disaster again in the AM (as well as fail a test tomorrow as I've got no sleep, energy or time to study with this crisis, but I digress). It's like something in both my tanks is poisoning the water or starving the oxygen out.
Thanks so much in advance. This is excruciating to watch what my fish are going through.
<Gina, at some point worrying about what happens delivers diminishing returns. If this was me, I'd do this. Remove the fish to a large bucket of water. Euthanise those clearly in distress. Put a heater in the bucket if needs be, plus a filter if you can. Now, strip down the aquarium. Discard whatever you can, especially anything porous, e.g., carbon, Zeolite, seashells or Tufa rock. Put live plants aside for now, in a bucket or dish where they're wet and sunny. Basically, you're removing anything that might have absorbed poisons. Deep clean the aquarium. Stir and rinse the gravel thoroughly. Wipe down the glass. Don't use any cleaning fluids at all, and make sure the water you use to clean the tank is drinking water. Doesn't need to be dechlorinated, but shouldn't have any risk of carrying cleaning fluids. I use a garden hose for this sort of thing. Anyway, clean the tank, then put it back together. Fill with 100% fresh water, dechlorinated and buffered as required. Put heater back. Allow to warm to at least 20 degrees C. Reconnect filter. Now, with the aquarium running with basically clean water and materials, but the same live media as you had before in the filter, this is essentially a new tank. So you'll want to use a "drip method" to adapt the fish to these conditions. Essentially empty the bucket they're in down to the bottom 25%. Over the next hour, add a cup or so of water from the aquarium to the bucket every 10 minutes. The bucket should fill within an hour. Net the fish out, pop them in the aquarium, and hope for the best. Discard the water in the bucket. With luck, the conditions will be entirely "fresh" and the fish should be fine. If they are, you can then decide whether to put the live plants back. Though it isn't likely they'll have absorbed toxins, it's possible. Add a few, wait a day or two, and then keep adding more as needs be. Otherwise, throw them all out and buy new plants. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Freshwater tanks, possibly poisoned 4/15/10

Hi Neale,
I wanted to thank you for your time and energy helping me sort this out.
I've been a little stressed so I'm not sure if I came off as unappreciative or a raving lunatic.
<Didn't seem that way at all, so don't worry.>
I'm down to about 2 dozen Platies and still have all of my Corydoras. I stripped down the 20 gallon tank per your instructions and put it back together using new sand for the bottom. Currently I've got the fish in this tank and another 10 gallon tank I wasn't using. They appear to be doing well but I'm not too optimistic yet.
<Let's hope for the best.>
You said to get rid of anything porous but to keep my live media.
<Correct. There's a balance to be struck. Certain materials like limestone can absorb toxins and give them up later on. Plastic shouldn't do this, but there's a small risk.>
I'm pretty confused on this point and before I take any filtration apart in 40 gallon I want to make sure I understand. All of my live media, e.g. sponge filters, filter pads, ceramics, etc ... look to be porous. You gave
examples of what to toss. Could you clarify what type of live media I can keep?
<I'd keep it all for now.>
I've got all my rocks and ornaments set aside. I don't have anything remotely as porous as the Tufa rock example you cited but have several different types of standard rock. Is the best thing to toss them or is there another option?
<Non-porous rocks like granite and slate should be fine.>
Everything seems to be porous and evil at this point but I don't want to toss away good money because I'm paranoid.
<Quite so. Ceramics, non-porous rocks, glass, plastic, etc. should be okay.>
Thanks again. I hope your day treats you well.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Freshwater tanks, possibly poisoned 4/16/10

Hi Neale,
<Hello again Gina,>
Oh boy. I hope you're not sick of me yet (she says meekly).
I think my issue may be resolved. I stripped down the 40 gallon and reset it up keeping my live media and some of the gravel. I transferred my 3 remaining male Platies as test fish and will slowly add back the nonporous materials as the days go on and monitor.
<Very good.>
Anywho, I would like to phase out the Platies from my system. I don't want to say I don't like them as they are beautiful but I sure don't enjoy the reproduction levels and bullying that occurs.
<Certainly aspects of livebearers commonly overlooked. Unwanted babies can be easily taken care of via predators such as Asian killifish, glassfish and angelfish. But yes, the males are bullies when not kept in sufficient
numbers. I like to keep one male and two or three females when keeping livebearers, or else a sufficiently large group in a big tank that allows aggression to spread out.>
I'm looking for more peaceful fish that don't reproduce en masse and all the complications that brings regarding what to do with the fry. Would my 20 females be okay (happy, not stressed) to keep in the 20 gallon tank for
3-6 months so I can ensure that pregnancies are over with?
<Wouldn't be my recommendation at all. Even going by the hopeless "inch per gallon" rule this would be overstocking. Is there a local fish club you can share these fish with? Or else, move the males and keep the females. The females aren't aggressive.>
My concern is if I put them back in the 40 gallon tank, I'll never be able to round up all the fry well enough to weed out all the males in time (I've tried and failed at this over the past few months).
<Do try biological control!>
Ever try to catch one particular male Platy in a 40 gallon 'breeder' tank with 40 identical looking fish and obstacles such as rocks and plants? Those dudes are fast. Well, you could and probably have done it.
<Two nets. Use one to drive the fish, and the other to catch it. Removing the rocks is usually essential.>
Also, I must have read something wrong in my initial research or just gotten confused. I have my tank temps set to 77 F but reading again, it seems both my Platies and Corydoras would be happier at 75 F.
I have Albino and Peppered Corydoras (different species, the 2 groups stay separate for the most part). For Peppered Corydoras, fishnet.com says that 73.4 F is the max. Between the two, what would be the best temperature?
<A degree or two either way doesn't matter. But the main thing is neither Platies nor Bronze Corydoras nor Peppered Corydoras -- the two species most usually sold as "albinos" -- prefer water a little cooler than, say,
Gouramis or Cardinal tetras. You're after about 24-25 degrees C, 72-75 degrees F. Besides Platies and most Corydoras, this is also ideal for Swordtails, Neons, Danios, and quite a few other fish.>
My Corydoras never spawn (well once after a water change but the babies did not survive)
<That's the clue! The water change! Corydoras should be kept fairly cool as stated, and then exposed to a much cooler water change sort of like rainfall, but with the heater set slightly higher, up to 25 C/77 F, so that the fish think its rainfall on a hot day. I've written some personal experiences here:
Note that I kept my Peppered Corydoras outdoors through a British summer, and they spawned the next morning after bringing them back indoors in September. While Corydoras aren't coldwater fish, with the exception of things like Scleromystax barbatus, they are much less "hothouse flowers"
than many people think.>
so I'm a bit worried this means they are unhappy. I really, really like the Corydoras. But it begs the question, when any species of fish reproduce, don't you have to separate out the babies and then the babies from each other to eliminate chances of inbreeding?
<Somewhat, but if you're keeping a mixed collection of farmed Platies, with three or four males and at least as many females, the genetic mix should be okay. On the other hand, if you have Platies that all came from a local
breeder, so they're all brothers and sisters, yes, inbreeding becomes a major problem. I will mention here that livebearers cause a lot of problems through inbreeding, and things like spine deformities and faulty swim bladders are extremely common. This is one reason I like wild-caught livebearers such as halfbeaks, or those species like Limia nigrofasciata that haven't been too intensively bred.>
It's hard to get excited about babies if I shouldn't keep them.
<I understand. But partly it's about honing your skills, even if you don't rear any baby fish. Each time you get a bit better. Breeding Corydoras isn't especially hard if you start with the simpler species, but the fry are small, much smaller than livebearer fry, and therefore more prone to fungal infections and predation. A good approach is to move leaves with eggs into a breeding trap or net, let the fry hatch out there, and rear them within that net for a couple of months or until you're ready to move them to an 8-10 gallon tank where you can rear them away from other fish.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Freshwater tanks, possibly poisoned 5/8/10

Hi Neale,
My problem has returned. About 2 days ago, I noticed the same type of behavior that preceded the kill off of much of my stock 3 weeks ago.
Snails going to the top, fish gasping for breath at the top. I performed two 50% water changes on my 40 gallon tank and conditions improved for an hour or two, then they began to gasp for air at the top of the tank again.
Exactly like before.
<Oh dear.>
I promptly moved all of my fish to my 20 gallon and 10 gallon tanks and everyone is alive and well. Maybe I jumped the gun on moving the fish but I didn't want to take any chances this time.
<Indeed. I'd have left the fish where they were, and would have simply done one or two water changes, checked the filter was working properly, and checked the pH was where it should be -- pH crashes are not uncommon and can cause fish to gasp, react just like an ammonia crisis.>
So now I'm looking at my 40 gallon tank and don't know what to do.
Everything was fine for over two weeks after I broke it down, rinsed everything and reset it back up throwing out anything porous and slowly adding decorations and fish back in. I have been performing 10-40 % water changes daily as my ammonia levels started going off the charts. I assumed my tank was going through a recycling phase.
The night before this all started happening again, I had performed two 35% water changes right in a row. Now that day I had been at work and I work with dogs and use a lot of chemicals to sterilize the facility which get on my skin and I wash my hands with soap probably no less than 20 times in a shift.
I'm thinking I have directly poisoned my tank twice now by changing the water with chemical residue either still on my skin or in the bathroom (as was my suspicion the first time).
<Possibly, but not particularly likely. If you want, wear rubber gloves like those you'd use when washing dishes, or latex gloves from a drug store.>
I really don't know of course but can only assume that the rapid decline of my fish after water changes is something I am contributing to directly via my person. There have been no chemicals (not even cooking oil) used in my house since prior to the first incident. It's just odd as this last time, I had been doing only single water changes daily but upped it to 2 to get the ammonia at precisely 0 and the first time this occurred was also after a larger than usual water change. I know it's not a pH bounce this time because I have been monitoring the numbers very carefully (and doing daily water changes).
I have since purchased gloves and will never stick my bare hands in the tank again.
I'm planning on breaking down the 40 gallon and resetting back up which is fine as I'm changing the tank over to a planted one. Can I still keep my live media, slate rock and pea gravel and sand when I set back up?
<Yes, but I'd keep the filter media only, and thoroughly clean everything else, especially the gravel. Do check the gravel smells "sweet" before using it again.>
Or am I risking toxins being released back into the tank at a later date if I do?
<Not from the biological media, no.>
Although I'm pretty sure I poisoned the tank a second time, I have this nagging doubt in the back of my head that it was a delayed toxin release from the first incident. Or something else entirely.
<Could be either. It's a mystery really.>
Although, I can barely afford to replace everything, I certainly don't want to get a planted tank set up for this to happen yet again.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Freshwater tanks, possibly poisoned 5/16/2010

Hi Neale,
I thought I'd update you.
This issue was caused by my water hardness not poisoning.
You know the pH thing you mentioned half a dozen times during this conversation. Yeah, that.
<I see...>
This is where you say, I told you so. :) Apparently the marine salt that I use for the mix to fix my carbonate and general hardness was compromised or old and all I had to do was purchase new salt and the issue resolved.
<How odd. Kept cool and dry, marine salt mix should stay stable for a very long time.>
Amazing how critical thinking skills go out the window when you panic.
Everything became a confirmation bias that is *was* poisoning and so why check the hardness. Gosh.
Thanks for all your help. I'm just relieved that the issue is resolved now.
<As am I.>
<Take care, Neale.>

Heavy metal poisoning from a decoration? 1/27/10
Is it possible that an aquarium decoration from China can be leaching heavy metal into the water?
<Sure. There are children's toys with lead paint, so who knows. Is it likely, well, that's a whole different question. Anything from a reputable brand should be safe enough.>
The top has a shiny blue paint while the rest of the castle is quite different. The 26 g tank has been running for 2 weeks...all tests for nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, ph, general hardness and carbonate are within normal ranges.
<Define "normal". Let's recap. For Platies, you need at least medium general hardness (10+ degrees dH) and medium carbonate hardness (4+ degrees KH). The pH should be around 7.5, but that pH shouldn't come from a pH potion, but from the carbonate hardness in the water. Temperature should be a little cool, about 22-24 C. Water quality must be good; 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite.>
The ph of my well water is 6 but the tank is stable at 7.5.
<How did you achieve this?>
Of 2 Platies initially introduced (1 male ,1 female), the female died in 2 days. The male seemed fine. I got a female to replace the one that had died and she also died within 2 days. Both fish that died appeared fine externally but both seemed stressed. Thinking that the male might be harassing the single females to death, I bought 2 new females so they would feel safer. The original male seemed to slow down and start spending most of his time on the bottom and not eating. When he swam it was a shimmy kind of swim, his poop was very pale, and his vision seemed affected. He died today. The 2 females are doing well although one doesn't explore as much as the other and also seems less adept at eating. I changed about 20% of the water today and removed the castle. I plan on doing another water change tomorrow. The filter is designed for a 20-30 g tank so should be adequate for filtration.
Any thoughts or suggestions? I am very upset that something I may or may not be doing is needlessly causing the death of these poor fish. Thanks for any help you may be able to give.
PS I also plan on getting my well water tested just in case but I don't suspect that is the issue.
<I think the "castle of doom" hypothesis is a bit of a long shot. By all means take the thing out and see what happens. But I'd concentrate on making sure the water has sufficient carbonate hardness and isn't too warm. Also check the aquarium is fully cycled and properly filtered. Cheers,

Re: heavy metal poisoning from a decoration? -- 1/27/10
Wow, thanks for your quick reply.
<Clearly I have a completely empty social life and nothing better to do!>
I have no clue why the ph is 7.5 and my well is 6.
<Oh. For reasons that aren't clear to me, some well water has unstable water chemistry. Perhaps CO2 dissolves into it, lowering pH, and once drawn from the tap, the water degasses, and pH rises. Alternatively, there may be minerals that are stable when the water is in the aquifer or whatever, but once brought to the surface and warmed up, these minerals change. In any case, I do recommend people with well water draw their water out the day
before they use it, leave it overnight, and then test the water chemistry in the morning. If necessary, adjust the water chemistry using a small dose of Rift Valley Salt Mix. The recipe is meant for keeping hard water fish,
and is listed per 5 gallons; if you use one-fourth to one-half those amounts, you should get something pretty good for general community fish.
If you're keeping Platies, you're aiming for moderately hard water, around 10 degrees dH, 5 degrees KH.>
I assumed perhaps shells in the substrate which is supposed to "river rock" but I didn't see any evidence of shells.
<Unless you have a lot of shells, the impact they have on water chemistry is fairly minimal.>
I have a fake driftwood log and plastic plants.
<These shouldn't alter water chemistry at all.>
Something raised the ph besides me :-) but it is consistently 7.5.
<That's fine for community fish.>
The KH is 60 - 80 mg/L ( I have 2 kits...one is a reagent and the other is a dipstick and they yield different results.)
<This is towards the low end of the recommend carbonate hardness scale; acceptable for soft water fish, but unsuitable for livebearers and other species that like hard water.>
But wouldn't you expect a lower ph with that KH?
<Not necessarily.>
The GH is 80 mg/L.
<80 mg/l of what? Calcium oxide or calcium carbonate? Assuming calcium carbonate, this is fairly soft, and not to the liking of most livebearers.>
Water temp is 75-76 F which is warmer than you suggested.
<But not too warm. Platies should be okay.>
No ammonia, nitrate, nitrite.
I just discovered a newborn today! I would guess only a few hours old.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? Rainbowfish hlth./env. 1/10/10
<Hi there>
We have a 55 gallon tank with: 2 turquoise Rainbowfish, 2 zebra Danios, 2 emerald Cory cats, 2 praecox Rainbowfish, 1 Australian Rainbowfish, 1 Plecostomus, and 1 striped Raphael catfish.
<Mmm, the Rainbows are social species... should be kept in groups>
Recently we've had a problem with our Rainbowfish having open body sores and subsequently getting Popeye twice.
<Water quality? Measures?>
This has gone on for probably 4 months now and we've done treatments with: Lifeguard, Melafix, Tetracycline, and EM Erythromycin.
<Mmmm. Please read here:
and the linked files above>
Our last attempt at treatment was done by setting up a hospital tank and dosing only this fish with the Erythromycin. After several courses of treatment we had quite a bit of improvement, but the sores were still present. We placed the Australian back in the 55 gallon tank with the others about 6 weeks ago.
Now the sores are looking worse and the Popeye is back again. I also noticed that one of the praecox rainbows has a huge gash in it's side. I checked the water levels and they're all fine.
<Please send values, not subjective evaluations>
Four days ago I started dosing the entire 55 gallon with Melafix,
<Worse than worthless... see WWM re>
at the recommendation of pet store, because it is inexpensive
and supposed to treat the problems we are experiencing,
<... it will not. In fact, it forestalls folks seeking, using real cures;
sometimes disrupts nitrogen et al. cycling... is worse than a placebo>
but it doesn't seem to be doing much. Today I noticed that the praecox seems to be struggling and staying at the surface of the water, so I put both it and the Australian in the 10 gallon hospital tank, added aquarium salt, and started treatment with the Erythromycin and aeration with an air stone. Do you have any suggestions on what else I can do?
<Yes... water changes, the use of carbon et al. chemical filtration, the adjustment of water quality, determination of root cause/s here... There is something amiss with the environment... NO treatment/medicine is going to solve this>
I'm also wondering if you have any opinion on whether the Raphael cat may have caused the injuries to these fish with his hard and spiny exterior?
<It has not... Lives on the bottom...>
Heather Richardson
<Please send along water test data, history and make-up of this set-up, images of all including the livestock if you can. Bob Fenner>
Pictures Re: Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? 1/10/10
<Mmm, no. Unfortunately no pix attached. Please try again. BobF>
please find pictures of the Australian Rainbowfish that has Popeye and body sores as well as a picture of the praecox Rainbowfish that has the gash on its side. Please also note that where I said, "Recently we've had a problem with our Rainbowfish having open body sores and subsequently getting Popeye," I was referring to only the 1 Australian Rainbowfish that I've attached the pictures of.
Heather Richardson

Re: Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? 1/10/10
The pictures should be attached this time. Also attached are photos of the water chemistry as of this morning in the 55 gallon tank (which I replaced the carbon in yesterday after transferring the sick fish into the hospital tank). It seems the levels are off now.
<They are... do you agree that there is detectable ammonia and nitrite here? Toxic!>
The temperature hangs around 76.6F.
It was unclear as to whether you wanted pictures of the healthy fish, <Mmm, no>
so none are attached (I did try to take pictures of them, but they're too fast to catch.)
<The Praecox is ich infested... the others...>
It may be of worth to mention that the reason we don't have several of each social fish is because we've had some problems in the past with a malfunctioning heater.
<?! Replace this>
Over the past couple of years, our heater has malfunctioned three times causing our tank temperature to soar to 90+ degrees,
which has killed off probably 10-15 of our fish. The last time this happened was during the time that the Australian was treating in the hospital tank, so I don't think it's related to the condition.
As far as the praecox with the gash in the side, it died overnight.
Should I continue to treat the Australian in the hospital tank with erythromycin until I figure out what is wrong in the 55 gallon tank?
Heather Richardson
<First and foremost, the water quality... whatever is subtending nitrification needs to be FIXED. Pronto... See WWM re:
the third tray down. The issue here is a priori environmental. Pouring in more med.s is counterproductive. BobF>

Re: Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? 1/11/10
Thanks for link as far as where to look for information, however, there are a lot of links and stories and I'm not sure what exactly it is that I'm looking for instruction on.
<Hello Heather. Platydoras-type catfish are generally extremely hardy, and the last fish to show signs of stress. So if your specimen is currently sick -- and I better make the point here they're social animals that don't thrive kept singly -- it's a good idea to review the reasons why. As Bob mentioned, a broken heater serves no purpose. When shopping for a new one, choose one that either has a clip-on heater guard, or else pick up a heater guard that can be fixed over whatever heater you buy. These catfish are notorious for burning themselves as they nestle against the heater. They like to hide, and switched off, a heater is mistaken for a plant root or something. By the time they feel the heat when the thing switches on, their skin is burned. Catfish don't have scales -- their armour is actually just thickened skin -- so unlike most other fish that can slough off damaged scales easily, catfish can be severely harmed by otherwise superficial burns and cuts. Optimal water conditions should ensure spontaneous healing of such wounds, but any trace of ammonia or nitrite, as well as excessive heat or cold, will stress the fish sufficiently to allow secondary infections. In any event, if you're getting a variety of sick/dead fish, it's a very good sign the aquarium environment is poor. Review tank size, filtration, diet, etc. and act accordingly. To recap, a community of talking catfish and Rainbowfish would need to be upwards of 180 litres in size and equipped with a robust filter rated at not less than 4 times the capacity of the tank in turnover per hour (e.g., a 200 litre tank would need a 4 x 200 = 800 litre/hour filter). Water chemistry should be neutral (pH 6.5-7.5) and the water slightly soft to moderately hard (8-15 degrees dH). Avoid extremely soft or extremely hard water, and don't add salt.
Ammonia and nitrite should both be at zero levels all the time; if they're not, then the filter is immature, the filter not properly maintained, the fish overfed, or the tank overstocked. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Open Body Sores/Striped Raphael Catfish culprit? 1/11/10
Thanks for the information, Neale. Fortunately, our Raphael catfish is not the one with the sores.
It is the Australian rainbow that is having the problems with the wounds that won't heal and the recurring Popeye.
<Almost certainly a water quality issue, perhaps aggravated by collisions with solid objects, fighting amongst themselves, or a vitamin-poor diet.
Check the Rainbows aren't throwing themselves into the glass because of sudden noises, lights coming on in the dark, etc.>
To recap my previous discussions, we have a 55 gallon tank with: 2 turquoise Rainbowfish, 2 zebra Danios, 2 emerald Cory cats, 2 praecox Rainbowfish, 1 Australian Rainbowfish, 1 Plecostomus, and 1 striped Raphael catfish.
<I see. I will make the observation an adult Plec, anything upwards of 20 cm, and up to 45 cm when fully grown, can overwhelm an aquarium this size, preventing good water quality. There is no obvious reason to keep a Plec in a tank this size, and you'd be much better with an Ancistrus Bristlenose.>
We use an Emperor 400 BioWheel filter (400 gallons per hour) in conjunction with a submersible bio filter. We should be getting a pretty good flow with these.
<In theory, yes. But even the best filter clogs up with time, and some designs waste precious filter media space on stuff like carbon and Zeolite you don't need.>
I'm not sure if you saw the photos of the sick fish or the water chemistry, so I have attached copies for your review.
As you see, our levels were a little high.
<I'll say! First check your tap water doesn't contain ammonia or nitrite. It shouldn't, but some supplies do. Water conditioners are available that neutralize (not remove) the ammonia that comes with tap water (no good for fixing ammonia produced by fish, though). If your water contains nitrite, that's a bigger deal, and you really should call your water supplier.>
In an attempt to solve this problem, I did some gravel vacuuming today and a huge water change.
<Gravel cleaning doesn't dramatically change much of anything, though it makes the fishkeeper feel a bit better I suppose. There really shouldn't be much organic matter in the gravel assuming the tank is properly filtered and you stir the gravel a bit each time you do a water change.>
The levels are still the same, though. I'm wondering if the fact that our tap water tests high for ammonia has anything to do with it?
<Yes, can do. Obviously a filter neutralizes ammonia at a fixed rate, and is designed to remove the ammonia produced by the fish. If you also have ammonia in the water, and this isn't neutralized first, then filter could be overwhelmed. The WHO recommend water for drinking contain less than 0.2 mg/l, and higher levels are often taken to imply a mix of dirty water (i.e., sewage or agricultural run-off) with potable water. If you're getting above 0.2 mg/l, pick up the phone and call your water supplier.
Such levels are potential health hazards to you and your family, let alone your fish.>
I've read online that although the results say it's ammonia (on the tap results), it may just be chloramine that shows on the test as ammonia.
<Yes, this can happen. The interaction between chloramine, dechlorinators, ammonia removers, and ammonia test kits is complex. See for example these explanations by manufacturers:
The bottom line is that using one or more products to condition your water (for chloramine and ammonia) may be necessary, and at least initially, try doing small (10-20% water changes more frequently to avoid flooding the tank with extra ammonia. As an experiment, try skipping a water change one weekend, and see what happens. If you find ammonia and nitrite drop to zero after a couple of days and stay there for the next ten days, then the problem is the TAP WATER. If the ammonia and nitrite levels do not drop to zero, then the problem (in part at least) is THE AQUARIUM. Why? Because even a crummy filter should process the ammonia in your tap water. Once it's gone, it's gone. So if levels don't drop to zero, that means there's some other source of ammonia that keeps topping up the levels in the water.
This is, of course, the fish (either directly, or via the food you give them).>
Regardless, I don't think either are probably things I want in our tank.
We use AmQuel Plus when doing water changes. Any suggestions on what to do next?
<Cheers, Neale.>

Emergency!! Yeast in my tank!! Please help!-- 12/04/09
Hi folks!
Please help me with a tank emergency. I have been using homemade CO2 (yeast method) for a couple of weeks in my planted 75 gal tank. Last night my new CO2 mix over-bubbled and sent yeast flowing into my tank. I noticed it almost immediately. As an emergency measure I moved all of my fish into my 10 gal tank. Yikes!! (about 55 inches of fish in there, although at their current size it's closer to 35 inches) I added some Melafix with the fish.
(catching them was very difficult) I did a total water change all the way down to the gravel, vacuuming as I went. I pulled out most of the plants and rinsed them off, as well as the rock decorations. Couldn't pull out the driftwood.
I refilled the tank and let it run overnight. Dosed the tank with Flourish excel and BioZyme. I have two hang on the back filters, filtering 750 gals per hour. Today the water looked much better but I noticed flecks of whitish stuff on the driftwood, and some yeast bubbles at the water line. I vacuumed the gravel again; another 10 gals, and refilled. Cleaned both filter outflows and changed the carbon filters in both. After it settles again I plan to swish it around with a net to try to get as much as possible sucked up into the filter. Then tomorrow I plan to do another gravel vac.
My poor fish are still crowded into the 10 gal but I don't know which is the lesser evil. I don't know how long the 10 gal bio can handle the stress of the extra fish load. But I don't know what effects the remaining yeast might have on my fish. I haven't tested anything yet.
Is there anything that will eliminate the yeast?
<Water changes; a series thereof. I'd do 3-4 50% water changes across a day, and then acclimate the existing fish to the flushed out aquarium just as if you'd bought them new, the idea being to minimise water chemistry stresses.>
Have I gotten a sufficient amount out to not harm my fish? What if they eat some of the yeast as they are feasting on bottom food? Any other suggestions?
<Can't imagine yeast would be terribly toxic. It naturally occurs in aquaria anyway.>
You guys are so great! You have helped me a few times when I couldn't get my answers anywhere else.
Thank you.
<Good luck, Neale.>

Re: Emergency!! Yeast in my tank!! Please help! -- 12/15/09
Hi again, Neale,
Thank you for your oh-so-quick response! What you all do is really admirable, and I really appreciate your help.
<Glad to help.>
I wanted to give you a follow-up on my yeast fright for anyone else who may have been unfortunate enough to have this happen. It seems that I "dodged a bullet" because I was right there when it happened and caught it right away. One of the guys at my LFS had it happen while he was at work, and within 3 days lost $300 worth of fish and all his plants melted.
I lost two fish, and those were a guppy and a Danio that had been living in my 10 gal when I unceremoniously dumped all my other fish in. They didn't survive my two Golden Wonder Killifish. (I honestly did not think they were big enough to eat guppies and Danios but, alas...).
<Indeed; Aplocheilus are far more predatory than many assume.>
At any rate I did not lose a single fish to the whole process; even my Blue Ram is doing great. Nor did I lose a single plant! After my second water change the tank settled and looked great and tested well so I moved my fish back in, in groups, slowly acclimating as you suggested. It is now two weeks later and all is well.
I didn't even get a case of Ich!
The Praecox and Boesmani Rainbows immediately began spawning behavior again as if nothing at all had happened. The interesting result of this, though, is that ever since they were all moved out and back in again, all of my fish are schooling together every day. (Except the Killifish) Even the Ram will school with the rainbows and Congo Tetras.
So, we have survived and for the time being I have decided against using any CO2 and am seeing if I can achieve the same great, healthy plants with Flourish Excel.
<Not all plants need extra CO2, and if you combine slow-growing bottom plants (like Crypts) with fast-growing surface plants (like Indian Fern) then CO2 is not essential. The slow-growing plants will get enough from the water, and the surface plants enough from the air. CO2 is really only crucial where you have fast-growing, submerged plants.>
Thanks again!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Plastic poisoned tank?-- 12/04/09
Hi guys, I hope you're well this afternoon.
<Am trying to "get w/ the program" fresh this AM...>
I'll try to be succinct here...2 days ago, I helped my mother build and install a java moss wall in her freshwater planted tank. We used PVC pipe to make "goal posts", hung over the side. Then used plastic, black "pet proof" screen for windows and screen doors, fastened with plastic zip ties.
I have used the same PVC and the same zip ties in my FOWLR tank for many years with no ill effects (same brand, same store even).
<These, the pipe, screen and panduits are all chemically-inert/safe for aquarium use as far as I'm aware. I've used them all for many years myself>
I sandwiched the moss between two pieces of the screen, tied on with fishing line.
<This last is also fine IME>
All the stuff was new, clean, and not contaminated with anything. The java moss was stuff we pruned out of the same tank, put in the clean water-change fishtank-only bucket, and then put right back into the tank, attached to the screen.
The rest of that day, and all of yesterday, everything was fine.
Then this morning when she turned on the tank lights and sat to look at it, the entire animal population of the tank had died except 3 lone stragglers (2 Gourami and an Aust. rainbow, who don't look like they will make it either). This was a 48 gallon, well established tank with about 15 small tetras, some Corydoras, and another rainbow in it. Also a huge population of tiny snails that bred like crazy in the plants. All dead, in a matter of hours.
The moss in the screen seems fine, all the plants are unchanged.
We removed the remaining fish to quarantine, and have started doing water changes. But without any clue as to what would cause this, we are at a loss. Presumably, somehow, a PVC and plastic moss
<Wait; "plastic moss?" I thought this was the real plant>
wall leached something into the water and killed everything =( The screen itself is just plastic or rubbery material coating a "core" of nylon fiber.
<And sorry for misunderstanding here as well. I was referring to "stock" plastic screen door material. I don't know what it is you're using here>
We have ruled out temperature problems, aeration problems, kids throwing stuff in the water, electrical leaks, all the usual. What could have possibly caused this and what can we do?
-distraught, Earl Clay III
<Mmm, I'm thinking a bit of experimentation might be in order here... with just one of the materials used in a large pickle jar, bioassay organisms (perhaps "feeder" guppies)... But am considering that something altogether not mentioned may be a/the cause of mortality. Soap on someone's hands for instance, or some other toxic material in/on a container used in the whole set-up process... Perhaps a glass cleaner, or cooking oil or such in the air the day of the work or just after... As the possibilities of poisoning are vast here I suggest your read: http://wetwebmedia.com/toxictk.htm
and the linked files above. Yes, including the "marine" input. Please make it known if this reading brings anything live to your consciousness. Bob Fenner>
Re: Plastic poisoned tank? 12/4/09

Hi Bob, thanks much for the fast (and early!) response.
<I felt the direness/need to reply ASAP>
Hope it's warmer where you are than here by Lake Michigan...
<Have got my "Holmes" portable heater on low... but right next to me>
looks like it's gearing up for what we like to call an "ice hurricane", what in kinder areas would just be called "snow". I have read all WWM's info on toxicity and ruled out all the usual culprits like aerosols, soap on hands or in buckets, and the like. Barring that, nothing that hadn't been there in routine use for the whole life of the tank, which makes me look hard at the moss wall, which is the only thing that changed in the time between a thriving tank and a dead one.
The java moss is indeed live Vesicularia dubyana , grown from a tiny sample into a monstrous several-pound mass within 8 months or so.
<This is assuredly not the root cause here>
The screen we used is the following stuff:
Pet D Fence Pet-Resistant Screening
Made of vinyl-coated polyester, fabric is much heavier than traditional fiberglass or aluminum screening. Resistant to tears and damage caused by household pets.
<Mmm... I did a Google search with the question: "is polyester toxic to fishes?" and here:
So, vinyl and polyester...could this have leached stuff into the water?
<I do think the Polyester might be implicated here>
Or possibly killed the snail population, which maybe then resulted in killing the fish? Or maybe the culprit killed the substrate microbial population, resulting in the same chain of events, in less than 48 hours?
<Mmm, the last is not too likely, the former, less still>
Our plan for now is to get some small snails as bioassay animals and maybe put some of the screen in with them in a quarantine setup and see what happens. After the day of water changes (35 gallons changed) the 3 surviving fish seem to be hanging on (with the Australian rainbow seeming none the worse for wear). Might there be visible signs on the fish, that I could look for, which might give further clues as to the specific toxin/gypsy curse involved?
<None to look at grossly on the surviving fishes... but do remove the screen if you haven't done so already... and add some Granulated Activated Carbon (in a bag in the water flow path)>
The plants are all still showing no signs that anything ever happened. So if nothing else, if we can isolate what killed off every last snail out of a monstrous population of them, while leaving plants intact, we might be able to strike it big selling our new pest snail removal technique.../head desk
<Mmm, I do like the way you apparently think. Or should I state, "It appears we think alike">
Thanks again, hope to catch you at a convention sometime, I owe you some beers!
<Ooooh, now you're talking. Do please see the search above... Think over your impressions... And do report back what your experiments, further experiences reveal. Cheers (and biers), BobF>

Re: Plastic poisoned tank?-- 12/04/09
Hi Bob,
<Hello Neale>
A few comments that might be helpful.
I doubt the tiny snails suddenly "bred", but if conditions turn poor, substrate-living snails like Melanoides will make a brisk bee-line to the surface. This is often a very good clue that a freshwater tank isn't working. Lack of oxygen is the classic stressor, but I've also witnessed them do this when the pH suddenly drops. Your correspondent would be wise to check the carbonate hardness. If he has soft water, biogenic decalcification can dramatically change the pH, and in doing so stress/kill the livestock.
<Oh! Please do retrieve, or I will, the sent corr. and send this note on to the original querior. Please don't think you're "doing me wrong" for intervening, offering your useful input>
Plastic products sold as safe for aquaria should be perfectly safe, and I always recommend people buy such items unless that can be sure other products are safe (e.g., because the item is sold as safe for holding potable water, or for use in ponds, etc.). However, you do need to be careful with items sold for use in vivaria, as these may not be designed to be constantly submerged. I'm also skeptical of suspiciously inexpensive dyed silk plants, fake ferns, etc.
My final comment is that the two times I have seen sudden mass deaths, they were indirectly my fault. The first time was underestimating how quickly Vallisneria would decalcify soft water when photosynthesising rapidly, and the second time when I placed some wood in a tank without knowing that wood had been recently sprayed with insecticide. I'd encourage your correspondent to review any recent changes to the tank or its immediate environment. These are, I feel, more likely to be the problem than gradual poisoning by something that was already in the tank.
Cheers, Neale
<All excellent advice. Will forward. Cheers, BobF>

PVC and Fish (RMF?) - 10/24/09
<Hello Jed,>
I recently put a gray colored PVC pipe into my fish tank (as a filter modification). I have a 50 gallon filled with guppies. The water has turned green, not like an algae green. I suspect the pipe has leaked chemicals into the water, but I am not 100% on this.
The pipe does have a dreaded "made in china" label on it, and when I walk into the room, I smell a funny rubbery scent or similar.
<The smell is coming from the aquarium? That would be pretty bad news.
Anything that comes off something stuck in an aquarium -- whether dye, ink, or chemicals used to cure or treat the plastic -- is potentially toxic.>
I inspected the pipe, but it doesn't look like it is fading or pealing apart in any way. Is pvc, particularly gray colored ones, dangerous to fish?
<Usually not, at least, if bought as "safe for use with drinking water".
PVC is widely used for pond and marine applications.><<All so. RMF>>
Is this paint on the pipe filled with lead and/or should I worry about this and/or how can I test for this?
<I can't imagine it would be worth testing; the test kit would cost more than replacing the PVC pipe. So why not just locate a suitable supply of piping usable with potable water, and replace the questionable pipe you already have?>
Thank you very much,
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: PVC and Fish - 10/25/09
Thanks for the kind reply - I discovered the smell was coming from a nearby suitcase, but as for the discoloration of the water, I still don't know what is causing it.
<Hmm... the plot thickens. Sounds as if someone put something inside a suitcase, and it rotted. Children are wont to leave sandwiches and the like in their luggage, so bear that in mind. Hope you find the solution, anyway.
Cheers, Neale.>

Ammonia (Bi Orb tanks; fatalities; poor water quality; the usual, really...) 6/21/09
Hi Guys
Hope you can help, tried everything I can from various web sites but getting know where .
I've a 30 l /8 US Gal Bi Orb which has been running for about 6 months, set up end of December , added fish slowly as suggested and got up to 6 Tetras and 2 Guppy's by mid March with no problems but was aware was now getting to maximum tank occupancy .
<Do understand that 30 litres, 8 US gallons is much below the minimum recommended size for tropical fish aquaria. Even 10 US gallons would be borderline for things like Neon Tetras. More importantly, Bi Orb tanks are an "odd" design that actually isn't all that good for keeping fish. They look nifty, I admit, but the spherical shape is the worst possible for fish in terms of surface area to volume ratio. The key thing is that there isn't a lot of oxygen getting into the water. So while they're widely sold, I strongly recommend against people buying them.>
For no apparent reason started to get an ammonia reading at the start of April , 0.25 , done partial water change about 10/20% added water conditioner and added cycle , following day all reading back to normal ,
tested water again couple of days later and ammonia starting to appear again , this is still happening now .
<It's probably not a "no apparent reason" issue, but rather something that's gradually developed. Ammonia comes from the fish, and it's removed by the biological filter. If you have ammonia in the water, it means you
either [a] have too many fish; [b] have insufficient filtration; and [c] you're adding too much food, and what the fish don't need is ending up in the filter and rotting. It's also worth mentioning that as time passes a
variety of things happen. The fish grow, for one thing, and a fish twice the length it was will actually be eight times the mass, so as fish grow, they produce much more ammonia than we think. As time passes, silt clogs up the biological filter media, be they sponges or ceramic noodles, and the silt suffocates some of the bacteria. So over time, filters process less ammonia, and to remedy that the media needs to be rinsed off
I've done partial water changes now , vacuuming the gravel media , anything from 10% up to 50% , 2 to 3 times a week but after a couple of days ammonia starts to come back and rises very sharply . At first I was adding Ammo Lock or Ammonia Remover but haven't done this for a month now , just the water conditioner and cycle , at water changes , however even when I add cycle now I don't get a biological bloom .
<Sounds to me as if this tank is overstocked, insufficiently filtered, and perhaps too much food is added.>
All other readings are fine and have never changed .
<What are they?>
The tank currently has only 5 Tetras in it now as 1 of them and the 2 Guppy's have died , they showed no sign of illness and were behaving normally , they didn't go all at once and were taken straight out once found , last one to die was the Tetra about 2 weeks ago .
The current tank conditions are Temp 26 , ph 6.4 , ammonia .25 , nitrate 0 nitrate 0
<Woah! Guppies cannot possibly be kept at pH 6.4! These are fish that need hard, basic water: around pH 7.5 to 8, general hardness 10+ degrees dH. If you live in a soft water area, it's best to keep Guppies in a brackish water system, adding 6-9 grammes of marine salt mix (not aquarium salt or tonic salt) per litre of water. This will not be acceptable for Tetras though.>
Hope you can help
Many Thanks
<Cheers, Neale.>

Water Chemistry, FW, bewared home water softeners! 5/5/09
I have well water that has a PH of 8.2, however, I have my water for my house on a softening system.
<Do not ever use water from a domestic water softener in a fish tank. Most reputable water softener installers will tell you this, alongside also telling you not do drink the softened water. Domestic water softeners don't "soften" the water in the way aquarists mean it; all they do is replace the limescale-causing salts with sodium, and the resulting sort-of-soft but saline water is just horrible for fish.>
Thus the problem is that I have a high PH but soft (GH/KH) water.
<Use the drinking water tap, which should be unsoftened. If your water is "liquid rock", there's really nothing wrong with that. Sure, you can't keep Neons, Ram cichlids and other soft water fish -- but there are plenty of fish that *prefer* rock-hard water! Start with the Livebearers, either the regular kinds (Guppies, Platies, etc.) or the more unusual ones if you need a challenge (Limia, Ameca splendens, Xenotoca, etc.). Rift Valley cichlids as well as all Central American fish (including cichlids and Central American characins, such as Cave Tetras) thrive in very hard water, as do Goldfish and many of the European/West Asian killifish. So there are plenty of options; see here:
Is this even possible, is it because of the softening system?
Can I put fish that prefer a high PH with hard water into my tank that is a high PH with soft water?
<No. Fish don't feel pH; it's actually trivial. Aquarists tend to talk about pH because it's an easy, High School concept they're familiar with, and much of the time it describes water chemistry adequately well: hard water has a high pH, soft water a low pH. But the fish really don't care; what they worry about is hardness, both General and Carbonate. Do see here about water chemistry:
Thanks for your expert advice. Sincerely,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Large Koi, Fan-Tail Goldfish and Carbon Monoxide... -- 03/03/09 Dear Crew, First of all, I want to let you know that I have spent the last 7 hours or so reading your FAQs and articles on the Peacock Eel and the Kuhli Loach that I just rescued from Wal Mart. I consider myself, not expert, but at least knowledgeable of freshwater aquariums as a hobby since I have been in possession of at least one at any given time for my entire life. Your information has been extremely beneficial to me because I had never even heard of a loach before today, but I felt so bad for the little guy wiggling around all by himself and I am planning on getting more as soon as possible. What I am trying to say is that when I brought these creatures home I had no idea what to do with them; the first thing I did was Google them and came across WWM and I have been sitting here asking question after question and getting them ALL answered. Thanks a lot!! OK...here is the real question: A few weeks ago my son was in possession of 2 koi (about 8") and two large (10" from end to end) fan-tail goldfish and a menagerie of other small fish (Giant Danios, smaller goldfish, tiger barbs, some Neons, and several others) in a 55 gallon tank. All of a sudden they started getting a slimy, spotty coating and about 24 hours before they finally died, it appeared they had slime trailing off of them, and the other fish would sometimes nibble at it. They just laid at the bottom of the tank; they would not eat or swim at all. I treated the fish for ick when they first started showing spots, but that wasn't it. Then I used a broad spectrum antibiotic, Tricyclene, but that didn't work. I finally treated them with this Lifeguard all in one treatment for bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections and that seemed to work because they started swimming and eating again, the spots and slime cleared up and they stopped dying. We lost both Koi, one Fantail and all but a small handful of the others. The interesting thing is this: My son's bedroom (where he keeps his fish) is in the basement, where the furnace is. Right about the same time the fish started getting sick we were starting to have problems with our furnace (it smelled bad when the heat kicked on). We had the gas company come out and they said everything was fine. Then, about a week later, our eyes started to burn and we got headachy and just didn't feel very good. Luckily, my children were gone to their dad's the week all of this was happening. When my husband called the gas company again they came out and this time the carbon monoxide was so high we had to evacuate and we had to buy a new furnace. The level of carbon monoxide was 300 times what would have caused our carbon monoxide detectors to go off if we had had one. We were lucky to be alive, and the gas company said that we were alive only because I would open the windows and patio doors when the smell would get unbearable and our eyes burned and we would feel nauseous. DO you think the carbon monoxide caused this reaction in the fish? And if you do, what kind of infection do you think it was? I am sorry this question is so long and I really didn't mean to get into such great detail, but these fish were very special to us; my son especially. He has had them for as long as he can remember, and telling him that they died while he was at his dad's was more horrible than you can imagine. It seems as if I am haunted by these fish and I feel horrible that I couldn't save them in time. Please help me put this to bed finally. Lana <Lana, the short answer is that I don't know anything about the toxicity of CO to fish, though I assume if they breathe the stuff, it's bad for them for the same reason it's bad for humans. In humans, it binds irreversibly with the haemoglobin molecule in blood, reducing the capacity of your blood supply to provide adequate oxygen. But the question I can't answer is whether CO would dissolve rapidly enough to be taken up by fish and so cause disease. CO is slightly more soluble in water than CO2, but that isn't saying much, as anyone trying to add CO2 to a planted aquarium will testify! On the other hand, even small amounts of CO are toxic, so quite possibly you could have a chronic stress situation leading to a variety of symptoms such as those you've described. In any case, your priority is to ensure that CO levels in your home are safe, and if that means using a CO detector, then that's obviously a useful investment. But I'd not immediately consign any problems to the CO incident, and as always, do a check of nitrite and pH, just to check water quality and water chemistry are as they should be. Sometimes coincidences happen, and we ignore one problem because we thought it was actually part of another. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Large Koi, Fan-Tail Goldfish and Carbon Monoxide... Spiny eels in community tanks; mail-ordering fish 3-4-09
Thank You, Neale, for your quick response. We have, in fact bought two CO detectors for each floor of my house, and so far all is good! We have not had any new aquarium deaths since our new furnace was installed, but I have been keeping a close eye on this tank since it was infected; I used to leave it up to my son to let me know when his fish need maintenance (I suffer from fibromyalgia and it is not easy for me to go up and down the stairs) but now I go down at least twice a day to make sure the tank looks good and the fish are doing well. I have a new 26 gallon tall aquarium with a bowed front with a few Dwarf Gouramis in it along with a Striped Peacock Eel and a Kuhli Loach. I have been looking for more Loaches to add to this aquarium but so far have been unsuccessful. I have called all of my local LFSs, and even those more than an hour away and I am being told that those are pretty rare and good luck finding them. I am thinking about looking on the Internet to buy them; What are your thoughts on purchasing fish via Internet and what should I look for/watch out for? Lana Brown <Hello Lana, I'm happy to help. Be careful adding loaches other than Kuhli loaches to your 26 gallon tank: Striped Peacock Eels (Macrognathus aral, I think) are slow feeders and usually starve to death in community tanks. It's critical there's nothing nocturnal that will compete for frozen bloodworms and the other live or meaty foods you're giving it. Unlike catfish, spiny eels aren't scavengers and won't eat dried or pellet foods. So you must take great care choosing their companions. Do also note the maximum length of Macrognathus aral is around 60 cm (24 inches) and as such much too big for your tank when mature. At that size it will be an accomplished predator too, so those Kuhli loaches and likely any small fish like tetras will be viewed as food. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/spinyeelsmonk.htm Anyway, as for mail ordering fish, without a doubt the key thing is that they have some sort of guarantee of live arrival. Lots of people obtain fish by mail order and do so successfully. After all, fish are shipped to pet stores by mail order! So the basic system is sound. But if the mail order company is putting it's "money where it's mouth is" in terms of guaranteeing their livestock arrives in good health, you can be confident they know what they're doing. That said, nothing beats seeing fish in the flesh, and species like Kuhli loaches should turn up in most aquarium shops on a regular basis. Cheers, Neale.>

Unknown Freshwater Disease FW Stkg, Water Quality, No Information 3/1/2009 Hello there. <Hi Nick, Mike here> I have a small 5gal freshwater setup and have been experiencing a disease problem for the past couple months. <5 Gallons is rather small for anything except a Betta.> I've lost about 7 or 8 fish now total. <Ouch!, what kind of fish?> When they contract the disease, the fish clamp their fins to their sides and swim with an odd "waggling" motion. In addition, they breathe rapidly and have somewhat of an ashy hue. <This isn't a disease, this is environmental\poor water quality. Have you tested your water?> I have been gradually adding aquarium salt to see if that would help prevent spread of the disease, but it doesn't seem to be working. <Aquarium salt is pretty much useless, and this isn't a disease.> After removing a dead fish, the rest will be perfectly fine for a week or so, and then another will come down with the disease all of the sudden, usually dying within 1-4 days. <Wow, There are more questions here than answers. How are you filtering this aquarium? What species of fish, how often are you changing the water?...I could go on and on...> Could you possibly ID the disease from my description or point me in the general direction for treating this? <Almost certainly environmental based upon the information given. You really need to start reading. Start with these, covering both setup and maintenance: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm>
Re: Unknown Freshwater Disease Re: >> FW Overstocked, Water Quality, 3/1/2009
<Hi Nick> I just realized what could possibly be the problem. I completely forgot about changing and cleaning filter media- it's been about 1 and a half months since last cleaned. <Ah Ha!> When I cleaned it out yesterday I washed quite a bit of brown gunk off the filter pad and sponge. <The sponge is a biological filtration medium - bacterial colonies live there, converting the toxic ammonia to slightly less toxic nitrite and then non-toxic nitrate. If you washed the sponge, you destroyed the bacteria.> I had had about 11-12 fancy guppies in the tank initially. Could my forgetting to clean for a month and a half cause results like I was seeing? <11 - 12 guppies is too many for a 5 gallon tank. That said, more likely than not, when you cleaned the sponge, you killed all of the bacteria, forcing the tank to cycle over again.> The rest of the fish have appeared completely healthy while 1 or 2 have been dying per week for about the past month. The first fish that died would have only died a week or so after a good cleaning. <Likely from ammonia poisoning> That's the only thing that confuses me. <Read here my friend, all shall be revealed: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm > <Mike>

Re: >> FW Overstocked, Water Quality, 3/1/2009 If they cannot be rinsed with tap water, how should I going about cleaning the filter media? <The filter media can be rinsed, or better yet, replaced. The sponge which should not be replaced) can be rinsed in either dechlorinated tap water or in a bucket of tank water when you do your regular water changes.> <Mike>

FW Fish Deaths 2/23/09 Hello guys/gals! I wrote a few weeks ago concerning my blue ram, Lymphocystis, and fish death ... You asked me for more info so here it goes (sorry it took so long). 60gal ... Little over 1yr old. 2 whisper 60 filters, 3 air stones. My ammonia is o, nitrites o, nitrates 40 or less. pH is 7.4, temp is 78/79f. I do a 50% wc once a week. Fish stock(after deaths): 4 Angel fish (1in babies) 2 bamboo shrimp 4 black neon tetras 3 cardinal tetras 1 dwarf Gourami 4 emperor tetras 3 German blue rams 1 Mickey mouse platy 9 neon tetras 3 Otocinclus catfish 3 peacock gudgeons 2 sword tails And before you give a lecture about the tetras they school within groups of the other species. Anyways you asked what fish have died ... In the past month I've lost 1 angelfish, 2 blue rams, 1 oto and 4 emperor tetras. I thought it was the blue rams disease killing everything but this the other day I could have swore I saw black algae growing on the fake plants ... Its possible it could've been in there for MONTHS. So my question is this ... Could OTS or the black algae have something to do with the sudden deaths? I KNOW it's not my tank maintenance bc I keep my tank clean and I have always kept a tight cleaning schedule. Thx! Nick <Your nitrates are too high for many species. I usually recommend to keep the nitrate levels at 20 ppm or less. This may not be your fault. Check the nitrates of your tap water. In many agricultural areas the nitrates may be as high as 50 ppm. This is because years of fertilizer use have leached through the ground water into the aquifers and now the nitrates are in the ground water. So how do you reduce the nitrate levels when water changes won't work? Live plants will help. This black algae is growing because of the nitrate problem. I would recommend getting an R/O unit. These pretty much reduce everything and leave you with mineral free water. Lots of articles on using R/O on WWM. Initial cost may be high but well worth it in the long run. Many for sale on eBay.-Chuck>

Re: Fish death FW Fish Deaths II 2/23/09 Thx! That could possibly be the problem as my tank does have live plants in it. I have recently moved and I have not tested the new water. In terms of nitrates, its not always that high its usually 20 or less but 40 is the max its ever gotten. 2 more questions : If I test my tap water and it DOSN'T give me any kind of reading what else could be the problem? (I keep my tank lights on for 12hrs a day and I do not have any other algae growth in the tank, and also its only growing on the plants hanging at the top of the tank). < The water at your new place may be different in terms of water chemistry (pH, hardness, etc...) and fish usually don't like big changes. Combine that with the move and the fish could be stressed by a combination of both factors. Test the new water and compare the results with what you were getting at the old place.> If I do get a high reading what other options do I have other than R/O water saying as I really don't have the $ for that. Thx again. < With a R/O unit you know exactly what you have in the water, nothing! This way you can add the buffers to get the water where you want it and keep it there. The other alternative is to match the fish up with the water you have. Hard alkaline water is good for many fish but not so good for others.-Chuck>

Gasping fishes (RMF, thoughts on this mystery?) 8/21/08 Hi Crew, I am hoping you can offer me some suggestions because I am not sure what I should do. <Oh?> Monday I did a relatively large water change in the morning on my 35g planted tank. I normally keep my water changes 25-30% but exceeded this to approximately 50% because I wanted to do some deeper siphoning where there are no plants. <In itself should do any harm, unless you carbonate hardness is so low the tank is "balanced on a knife edge" as far as coping with normal background acidification goes.> All replacement water is treated with Prime water conditioner. The filter sponges (two AquaClears) were rinsed in tank water. I keep filter floss on the top for extra physical filtering and this was replaced. This is normal procedure for me. That afternoon the hydro went out for about 3 hours. <The hydro? What is that? Some sort of filter?> On Tuesday I had a swordtail gasping at the surface and generally looking unwell behaviourally but no physical symptoms that I could describe to you. He died. Then a dwarf neon began to display the same behaviour and again died quickly. <This is a Dwarf Neon Gourami?> Last night I noticed one of the baby platys seemed to be off with a little surface skimming and this morning dead. Now I see one of my threadfin rainbows and another young platy exhibiting the behaviour and suspect they too will soon perish. <It sounds to me as if you added something poisonous. I have done something similar once before, by adding wood to a tank without realising it had been sprayed with insecticide. Many fish died quickly, with essentially the same symptoms you describe. By contrast the fish that didn't object to the poison came through unscathed showing little more than heavy breathing and a certain loss of appetite. Poisons can be of various types, the most common being things like paint fumes and bug sprays. But there's also the danger of bleach, detergent, and other cleaning materials being used in buckets and not completely rinsed out. Stuff can get into buckets and pipes accidentally, especially if you store them in the same place as cleaning tools or garden equipment. It's wiser to store them somewhere safe, perhaps in the cabinet itself, so they can't be accidentally contaminated.> Normally, this quick succession of deaths would point to water quality issues and since I guessed it is always possible that I put the tank through a mini-cycle, I tested this morning and everything checks out. Nitrite and ammonia 0. Ph 8.0 and Nitrate 20 which is consistent with my tap water. The threadfins and wrestling halfbeaks were the latest additions but that was 6 weeks ago. The threadfins went through the normal 2 week quarantine the halfbeaks did not. This is because my quarantine tanks are not suitable for jumpers. That said, they were specially ordered in for me and at the LFS for 5 days. I know that these fish are treated with erythromycin on arrival. The manager was not there one day last week when I was in and I saw employees adding it to the tanks. The halfbeaks are so far thriving and growing. <It may well be the Halfbeaks aren't fussed about whatever toxin got into the tank. Once settled in, they are certainly quite hardy fish, particularly Dermogenys spp.> There are potentially a few other hints. Last week I added a male swordtail who I have had a year in another tank (the dead fellow from above) I added him to impregnate a female Lyretail who I have also had for some time. It was my intention to keep her next brood but she did not appear to be pregnant (approximately eight weeks after she last gave birth) although she had been exposed to males and pregnant in the past. She suddenly showed up dead but I thought the male perhaps had become overly aggressive with her and killed her. <Would tend to agree with that analysis.> I am sorry but other then telling you that it was last week sometime I cannot pinpoint the time line. There were no hints of illness with her. The only other potential hint is a platy who is presently in quarantine due to popeye. I recently had a male "come-of-age and he is rather aggressively chasing the other platys at times, I assumed the pop-eye was due to trauma suffered at the hands of the rogue. She has recovered well in Epson salt and isolation. <If one eye has "popped", that's usually trauma; if both, then environmental or some systemic infection.> Lastly, I would like to mention that this tank contains along with plants a happy school of Corydoras. I mention this because I know in any suggested treatments, these fellows need special consideration. <Unless these are some funky wild-caught species of Corydoras, they'll likely be tolerant of whatever medication you use. I've never had problems treating Peppered or Bronze Corydoras for example with standard Ick medications. That said, the old salt/heat approach is perhaps preferable.> I do not think that waiting this out is good idea as it seems to be continuing but I do not know what steps to take. <The usual: daily water changes and close observation for further symptoms, at least for the next week.> Should I add carbon to the filter? <Not a bad idea at all. Will remove many toxins. Remove and dispose of the carbon after 1-2 weeks; it'll be saturated by then anyway, and you run the risk of the toxins leaching out in the long term.> Should I put a UV light on it? <I wouldn't bother. Doesn't sound like this is caused by a waterborne parasite.> Will this help if it is bacterial in nature? I am on a well and we have had a lot of storms and rain, it is possible the well in contaminated (we do not drink the water). <Ah, this is certainly something worth considering. You can get stuff like ammonia and nitrate running off fields into the water table, and these can stress/kill fish. Do check the water for ammonia before adding to the tank and see how it registers. Would tend to recommend only using potable water for aquaria, unless you're sourcing from something known to be (at least acceptably) safe, such as rainwater outside of a city. Treating inbound water with water conditioner and filtering through carbon isn't a bad idea at all.> The family is going away for a few days at the end of the week, so I could shock the well then and have all the bleach run through before they return? <Somehow I don't think this is biotic but abiotic.> Any suggestions you have would be much appreciated..... Aileen <Cheers, Neale.> <<Mmm, the "Prime" might have gone bad... or there may have been a bunch of chloramine pulsed into the municipal water for that day... Or some sort of negative interaction with either these and some biota here... My usual advice to mix/store change water, avoid such large % change-outs. RMF>>
Re: More re: gasping fishes (RMF, thoughts on this mystery?) 8/21/08
Sorry Neale, <Aileen,> Hydro is electricity. It has been a stormy, wet summer in Ontario... <Ah, I see.> I know this could saturate the soil and increasing leaching into the water table. My nitrates in the well climbed to 40 this winter. I suspect this was due to a failed corn crop last summer. The soil was treated (herbicides/ fertilizers), but the corn crop failed. I suspect this would leave some of the stuff available to my well if there was enough water to transport it there. This well is not new, it is the old hand dug well lined with field stone and apparently highly susceptible to contamination. Anyway the nitrates are down to 20 now and remain so. I just tested the tap water for this and ammonia which is 0. I did a water change on the "big tank" Monday morning, though it was a 25% water change and inhabitants are demonstrating no ill effects. That said it is a much bigger volume of water and a much smaller water change. Would this be enough of a dilution factor? <Bob seemed to be recommending against big water changes, which is certainly good advice if you can't be 100% sure that water chemistry/quality of the incoming water is consistent. But if the water coming in is of similar quality/chemistry to the water taken out of a pond or aquarium, you can really change as much as you want. It's fairly standard practise among freshwater aquarists to change 50% per week.><<Unfortunately, much of the mains/tapwater sources in the world have become questionable in modern times... Again, my advice to only change about 25% maximum in any given period and to pre-mix/store change-out water to avoid such issues. RMF>> My water has plenty of carbonate hardness Neale. You had me test and retest the water, and although it does change with aeration and time, it was not enough to cause stress to the fish. This is also why as a safeguard, I always kept my water changes to about 25%. <OK. Well, if that works, best stick with it. As Bob suggests, this will minimise variations between water changes. It sounds as if your incoming water is simply too variable to be "trusted".> Well, since I began this return email the threadfin has died, as has a wrestling halfbeak! I had not even realized that one of the halfbeaks was sick. This is really upsetting, but I suspect you know that. <Oh dear.> I have done a partial water change (50% out only 25% in) with a bucket of aged water and added carbon. It is the only aged water I have on hand. My buckets are dedicated fish buckets and have been in use a year. Prior to being fish buckets they were restaurant food bucket. Though I am certainly not the only inhabitant of this household, I really do not think there is contamination by way of that route. We drank the water here until, because of the fish tanks I discovered the high nitrate level. Regular testing of potability regarding fecal coliforms had in the past revealed low levels, but shocking the well remedied that. It was literally due to the fish and WWM that we stopped drinking the water. <OK. I'm not an expert on drinking water, so I'll cry off commenting in that direction. And I have zero experience of well water (it just isn't something that's common in the UK) so I have to be careful about commenting. But the general advice is this: the water that goes into your tank MUST be approximately the same water chemistry as what was taken out. Obviously a fish in a river isn't swimming in the same water from moment to moment, but the water flowing past the fish will have more or less the same water chemistry all the time. So in the aquarium, when you do a water change, that's your paradigm: new water, same water chemistry. If you can't guarantee that, do smaller water changes so that any fluctuations are diluted.><<Mmm, if I may, I strongly recommend looking into using a simple RO or more involved at-home water filtering system... and blending about half of this water for changes... and using the filtered water for your potable (drinking, cooking) needs. RMF>> My gut feeling is that something is in the well or the siphon that I cannot test for. Because the 100 gal is fine, I use the same buckets for both , but I use different siphons on the tanks. How, I have no idea. I would be really interested in your thoughts on the dilution factor mentioned above. <Proportionally smaller water changes will reduce the risk of water chemistry shock.> However, I am going treat as if there has been contamination of some sort. I think the well water should go in for a complete analysis, but that will not be in time for these fish. I do not see an obvious date code on the Prime but I will write Seachem just in case they know something I don't. I have had this particular container about 2 months. Could bad food be a possibility? <Bit of a long shot really.> These guys get spectrum grow (young fish and pregnant females) as a staple with various vegetable flakes and fresh vegetables, particularly peas. The big tank has older and larger fellows in it and get the regular spectrum and less of the vegetable based flake, although everything else is the same. <All sounds fine.> In regards to my other slips.. the "dwarf" is Melanotaenia praecox and the Corydorus are not funky, they are the typical but delightful juliis and sterbai. <Right.> "My usual advice to mix/store change water, avoid such large change-outs. RMF" Yes. I am aware of this. During this water change I was so focused on the bottom I did not think about the amount of water I was removing. <If you keep incoming/outgoing water chemistry the same, this isn't an issue. I have done 70%, 90% water changes many times without problems. If you think about it, moving a fish from the pet store to your home aquarium is a 100% water change, and your fish survive. Sure, you might take care to acclimate them, and if doing a "big clean" I would certainly remove the fish to a 5 gallon bucket of old water, and then acclimate them to the new water over 30 minutes by swapping out some of that old water with new water. Maybe an approach you might take next time around.> Even then I could have replaced it and should have I guess. I siphon this tank into the buckets so if I suck up a platy baby I can put it back. I have developed a really good relationship with the manager of a local store and she takes any excess young I have for credit. It also means that now when I ask a question she cannot answer, she tells me she doesn't know instead of just making one up and of course now I can answer some of hers. As far as the storage, the sheer volume of water I need every week has complicated this as well as complacently: I have been getting away with it...until now. <It sounds like small but frequent water changes, perhaps coupled with nitrate-management approaches (e.g., fast-growing floating plants) would be the way forward. Restrict feeding and don't overstock, and then you may find weekly 20-25% water changes will be acceptable.> I do want to put an old and therefore well rinsed rain barrel in the basement. They are of sufficient volume and come complete with a lid and tap. . I have been a little concerned about the plastic and leaching and had not yet checked this out. I am of course now very sorry that I had not moved on this sooner Thanks again for your help gentleman. I do hope I can stop this. <So do we.> Aileen <Cheers, Neale.>
Re: A little more Re: More re: gasping fishes (RMF, thoughts on this mystery?) 8/22/08
Hi, Just a quick note to let you know that it seems to have abated. I did lose a couple of fish last night still, but there are no new casualties today and nobody is indicating any stress. Surprisingly the species that escaped totally unscathed was the Corydoras. I wish I knew what I had done or more specifically what was introduced into the tank to cause this, but I have yet to figure it out exactly what or when it was introduced. However, I shall carry on and follow your recommendations and hopefully this will not happen again. Not pleasant at all..... Thanks again for your help with stopping this potential wipe out Aileen <Hi Aileen. Thanks for the update. Not sure I was able to offer much constructive analysis, but it sounds as if you have some idea of what *not* to do in future, so that the chances of this happening again will be reduced. Good luck, Neale.>

Ooh.. that smell... Dechloraminator 6/22/08 Hi crew, <David> Well, here's an interesting one... while preparing a batch of FW for a water change, I noticed a very strong sulfur odor from the water change bucket. I'm sure this is not a good thing... <Agreed> I've been using tap water in this place for a few years and never noticed this before, and I usually sniff the water to make sure I don't smell any residual chloramine. It's reservoir water, not well water, and does not smell at all sulfury out of the tap. So, what's different... this is a fairly new bucket, but I have used it for water changes a few times already. It's very warm in the house today, so the water in the bucket is around 80-85F, which isn't typical. I noticed the smell within a couple of hours after putting the water in the bucket, so I can't imagine this could be any kind of bacterial problem... could it? <Mmm, no...> I added dechlorinator (Amquel), GH (Seachem Equilibrium), and some acid buffer (also Seachem). Are any of these products known to produce that smell, when used in normal quantities? <There are... the Amquel... may be "too old"... does have the capacity for generating this smell... Should be tossed if so> Or, could the low pH of the water be reacting with the plastic? <Doubtful. Most of these buckets are "food grade" safe polyethylene... Contain no Sulfur> The pH in the bucket is probably around 6.0 or slightly lower, i.e. bright yellow on the test kit. I've been adding the acid buffer and then waiting a while before I add the alkaline-- maybe I shouldn't do that-- ? -Dave <This pH is actually not "that" low... the container is almost entirely non-reactive... It's the dechloraminator almost assuredly. Bob Fenner>

Re: ooh.. that smell 6/22/08 Bob, thanks for the quick reply. I did a test, last night I prepared a fresh bucket, added the Amquel and GH but did not add the acid buffer. This morning there was no sulfur smell... but I did notice a faint chlorine smell, even though I tend to use a bit more dechloraminator than suggested on the label. So this seems to support your idea that the Amquel is past its due date. Perhaps the sulfur smell was some interaction between the Amquel, the higher temperature yesterday, and the acidic properties. <Mmm, maybe. Thank you for this follow-up. BobF>

Lysol...! 3/12/08 My "sweet" son dumped Lysol on all the rocks we were cleaning from our fish tank. They are a mix of quartz, volcanic (very porous) and sandstone?. Are these rocks in any way salvageable? We have one lonely old African Cichlid and were in the process of building up a new tank.... gotta love kids! Thank you, Deanna <Mmm, I'd give them a long rinse in hot water, perhaps a bleach washing (please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm "Children, the promise of tomorrow... If they make it that far!" Bob Fenner>

Paint fumes, FW aquatics toxicity -- 10/30/2007 Dear WWM Crew, I have recently (over the past week) lost fish in my 29-gallon 9-month-old freshwater aquarium. My 4 catfish died a few days ago, followed by my 2 angelfish yesterday. Today, after work, 3 zebra Danios and 1 rasbora were gone. I did a 50% water change 2 days ago (even though parameters were normal). How realistic is the possibility that paint fumes might be the reason? The aquarium sits at the bottom of a stairway, and the walls being painted were the stairway walls, and also the upstairs hallway. The painting has gone on over the last 7 days (really, last weekend and this weekend), which is also when my fish started appearing sick. The tank is covered. Water parameters are normal, I keep a fairly fastidious water change schedule per your site's recommendations, and have not had a problem until now. I'm wondering if I'm seeing "flashing", although it may be that I'm watching the fish *really* closely for the first time and exaggerating what is perhaps normal behavior. My remaining inhabitants are 6 gold barbs (who seem to me to be quite hardy), a dwarf gourami not appearing well, and 2 harlequin rasboras, who do seem to be twitching (actually, 2 of the gold barbs seem to be twitchy). I don't see anything attached to their bodies. In researching on your site, I came across the suggestion that paint fumes can have a deleterious effect, but was not able to infer if this was a rare occurrence or a common one. Thank you for your time, and please let me know what you think, I hope I've supplied the correct information. I did go to my LFS this afternoon and managed to confuse myself right out of the store. Katie <Katie, paint fumes are extremely toxic to fish and can easily kill them. Assuming that the aquarium is otherwise fine in terms of nitrite, ammonia, pH etc you can probably put down a mass death of fish to paint fume. Really, you should relocate an aquarium to a part of the house not being painted. If that isn't practical, then putting the fish in one or more large (5 gallon) buckets with lids in another room (ideally with a filter attached) can work too. Do regular (daily) water changes and the fish can be kept like this for several days in a centrally heated home. The degree of toxicity varies depending on the paint and how much fresh air moves through your home. In the meantime, you need to do massive water changes to flush out the fumes from the water in the tank (say, 2 x 50 water changes today). Most of your fish will be getting poisoned from the water, into which the fumes dissolve. Air-breathing fish (like Corydoras, loaches, etc.) are at greater risk, because they take in the fume-laden air directly. Different species have different tolerances. Cichlids on the whole are "canaries" when it comes to poisons, keeling over at the first sniff. Good luck, Neale.>

New water Caused Fish Loss 4/16/07 I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank. For the past few weeks, after I feed the fish, the excess food that was not sucked up by the 100 gallon filter I have on there, fell to the bottom and started to collect around the decorations in the tank. I did what I could to remove 90% of it, but it sticks to everything in a glob. My water tested fine for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and the pH hovers at right around 6-7. Yesterday, I was topping off the tank the way I always do and the tap water had no odor, but within 30 minutes of adding it to the tank (I only added 1 gallon and it was treated with tap water treatment) all of my fish went to the top of the tank and were gasping. Within an hour, I had lost all 20 of my fish, including 2 Cory catfish and one lace cat. The rest were for my kids and were fancy fish, and mostly tetras of various kinds. My 2 snails made it! Within that first 30 minutes and all day yesterday, the tank was emitting a VERY STRONG Sulphur smell? I tested the water after all the fish died and the only thing that was elevated was the nitrates? I have Nitrazorb in the tank at all times and have never (in 5 years) had a total loss. What would be causing the Sulphur smell and how do I fix it. I have since moved my snails to my cichlid tank and they are doing fine. I topped of the cichlid tank with the same 1 gallon of water and have had no issues at all? Any ideas? I'm planning on draining all the water tomorrow and rinsing the rocks, etc...Basically starting from scratch on that tank to avoid a total loss again. The kids were devastated. Any help you can suggest would be greatly appreciated. At a loss!? Shay Einhaus < OK, Stick with me here. I think I can explain what is going on here. It may be a little confusing but I think I know what happened. Excess food that is not removed from the tank is broken down into ammonia. This is deadly to fish. In an acidic pH like the one you described, there is no ammonia. The ammonia is bound up with an extra hydrogen molecule to form ammonium. This is less toxic and loved by plants. When you topped off your tank the water was probably alkaline and shifted the pH from an acidic to basic environment. All that ammonium iron then reverted to ammonia and you had an ammonia spike that started to "burn" the fishes gills. This caused all your fish to rush to the surface, since they had less active gill tissue the were starving for air. This didn't happen in the cichlid tank because it is already at a high pH so all the waste is an ammonia and the new water didn't change the pH. I would make the following recommendations. Only feed your fish enough food so that all of it is gone in 2 minutes once a day. Remove any uneaten food. Food going into the filter does not count as gone. It is out of site but not out of the system and is still affecting your fish. Get rid of the Nitrazorb. This effects the biological filtration. When the resin has expired and can no longer absorbed any additional nitrogenous wastes , it will cause the toxins to rapidly accumulate for no apparent reason. Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all part of a normal aquarium system. I would recommend that you use Bio-Spira from Marineland to add the additionally bacteria needed to properly breakdown the wastes in your aquarium. Check the water you are adding with the water that is already in your aquarium or at least remove some of the old water to reduce the waste before adding any new water.-Chuck>

Poorly Fishes, need more info. - 4/7/07 Hi <Hello there> I wonder if you can help. We are new to keeping fish but brought a 80 litre tank 4 months ago. We have been very careful and done everything that we should. Over a 8 week period we purchased 5 platy's, 2 guppy's, 5 Glowlight tetras, 3 Neons and 2 upside down catfish. <Mmm... this last, Synodontis nigriventris... may prove to be too testy for some of your more easygoing fishes> About 6 weeks ago we noticed that one of the yellow and blue guppy's looked more yellow, it died 2 days later. We then noticed that one of the orange platy's had a white spot on it as did a few of the others. We spoke to the Fish shop and they thought it was Ich and we treated accordingly and the spots disappeared. The big Spot on the orange Platy left a ulcer. Then we lost the other Guppy and then the Catfish - perhaps the catfish due to the Ich treatment. The tanks seems healthy the readings are as they should be <Mmm, values please> and we are doing regular water changes and we are having lots of babies. <Generally a good sign> We have managed to save about 30 babies and have put into a nursery tank but over the last couple of weeks this has dropped to about 10 babies..............and then there are 9 babies in the main tank that all seem to be doing fine. Could this be Velvet or multiple diseases that due to out inexperience we have missed symptoms??? <Yes... there could be other disease/pathogenic at play here... but, treating for such carte blanche is always a bit of a risk... There are intolerances, toxicity to consider in administering said "medicines"... I would like to know the water test measures you have, the history of the maintenance, your set-up, before advocating a course of action. Please do respond with this information, and we'll go on from there> Please help Yours Frustrated Jo x <Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Poorly Fishes 4/8/07 Hi Bob <Joanne> Many Thanks or reply. <Welcome> In response to the Set-Up and readings we have a Record 80, 80 Litre Tropical, Freshwater Tank with a inbuilt filter system. There are only artificial plants in the tank. The readings are PH 7.2, ammonia 0mg/l, Nitrites 0mg/l, Nitrates 10mg/l. <Okay> To add to the whole issue I went to the fish shop yesterday and explained what has been happening, the guy thought that it sounded like Velvet and gave us King British Velvet Control <... don't see the ingredients listed on the Net... what is in this product? Aren't companies required to list such in your country?> medicine and within an hour all 5 of the Platy's were at the bottom of the tank, gills clamped and rapidly breathing. We did a 50% water change and within an hour <Good move> they seemed to be fine and are now all swimming around the tank as normal. Could it be the toxins, <The toxins? "It" was the product used> I am even more confused as through it all the tiny babies in the main tank were fine and still are. Whilst the adults looked as though they were going to die the babies were swimming around as normal. I would have thought that whatever it was it would have hit the babies first. The 5 Glowlight tetras, 3 Neons and the catfish seemed fine. Cheers Jo x <Likely "classical" habituation at play here... the old/er fishes raised in very different conditions. BTW, you might read-up on the desirable water quality of the species you list... not much if any overlap... twixt the livebearer/s and not... Bob Fenner>

Something has gone horribly horribly wrong! (high pH and white water in fw tank) 2/22/07 Hi Crew, I have a major situation on my hands. I have a 24g planted freshwater tank. I came home from my evening college class last night, and my tank water was white and cloudy. <Mmm, what had been done with this tank/system recently? The last day or so?> I immediately did a 50% water change, and left the tank overnight. There is no change today. After scouring WWM for an answer, I initially thought it might be a bacterial bloom. <Possibly... from an overfeeding incident? A death?> That is, until I got home from work... I tested my water and my pH has gone from 7.4 to 8.0! I tested my source water, which comes from a private well that is not treated with anything, and it's pH is 7.4. My ammonia is 0 and my nitrites read at 0.05 ppm. I've already lost a bamboo shrimp and an albino tiger barb. I want to save the rest of the inhabitants... They are all trying to bail out (literally). I can't figure out what happened, since I don't dose anything really (I use SeaChem flourish tabs in the substrate and I use a fizz-tab CO2 system. So, here's my question... What the heck happened and how do I fix it? Sean <First of all... "don't panic"... well, do panic in terms of action here... At least I would run some activated carbon in your filter flow path... Better still would be to move all the tank inhabitants to another system if you had/have it... or even to a friendly LFS till we can figure out... or luck into this system fixing itself. Bob Fenner>

Re: Something has gone horribly horribly wrong! (high pH and white water in fw tank) - 02/22/07 Hi Bob, Thanks for getting back to me. I added a packet of activated carbon when I did the 50% water change. The tank is looking 100 times better today. <Ah, good...> I can actually see the back glass. all my fish have calmed down. They're no longer trying to jump out, and they're looking at me like they're hungry. <Good signs> All I've done with the tank in the last week is a little cleaning. I removed some well, actually quite a few) dead leaves from some of my plants and cleaned up some hair algae that had started showing up. <Mmm, this last might be at root (no pun intended) here... some types of algae are quite toxic... and get "upset" when "fooled with"... All the more reason for regular maintenance and... what's that oxymoron?... dynamic equilibrium> I forgot to mention, I think my heater broke. As I was doing the water change, I thought the water felt a bit warm, and I noticed there was an unusual amount of condensation on the inside of my aquarium cover. My thermometer didn't show that the temp was high... and it's not a cheap stick-on one. I replaced the heater with a spare my soon to be mother-in-law got at a yard sale, still in the box, for $1. It's working exactly as it should. <Good> Come to think of it, I'm really not sure when the shrimp died (I found the other one dead this morning), since everything went haywire either while I was asleep or while I was at work. I suppose the shrimp could have died in the night, causing a bacteria bloom that wasn't noticeable until the lights were on... <Yes> But I'm still confused by the high pH. <... Well... it's possible that the shrimp dying, decomposing... provided sufficient nutrient... that it boosted photosynthesis, and your water wasn't all that well buffered for resisting an upward trend in pH... Maybe I should write for CSI? Call be Bobby Bruckheimer from now on> I guess I won't worry about it too much. I'll just use some RO or DI water as I'm doing water changes to get it back down to 7.4, where it matches my source water (unless you advise otherwise). Is there anything else I need to do? Sean <Thanks for this follow-up. BobbyB>

Please Help Solve my mystery... over-treated, killed off nitrifiers, toxified with "clarifier", no mystery 2/20/07 **Stuff is bolded so you guys can "skim" all my rambling haha.** <Can't see in the response tray...> Hi, It's Brittany again. I've been *having some problems*. Alot <A lot> of my fish have died, and my tank is no longer a mostly-molly tank. Here's my current set up, please look at the pictures too. <Pix didn't "come through"> *Fish :* 1 female 24 Karot Gold Molly, 1 female lyretail Dalmatian molly, 1 male black and gold sailfin molly, 1 male Moscow guppy, 1 male cobra guppy, 2 female fancy guppies, 3 Cory catfish (I'm pretty sure 2 are male and the other is female), one "sucker fish". I have 5 molly fry, 1 guppy fry, and 1 young sucker fish "separated" in the tank. *Water:* *Hardly any salt* since I'm all out, *78 degrees*, Has* tap water conditioner* in it... and is *currently very green*. <... something wrong here... Nutrient abundance, lack of filtration...> This "green" issue has been going on for quite awhile now. At first, *it would happen every once in awhile*. Once some of my fish started getting sick,* I would treat them with medication*. <... what sorts? Most of these are toxic... to the fishes, other life in the system> After medication was used as directed, or sometimes before the full "7 days", *the water would become cloudy and foggy looking*. <Yes... killed off your necessary beneficial (filter...) microbes> A few times I finished the medication use to see if it was just "normal". When the cloudiness didn't clear up (after a few 25% water changes and such), I bought some "Water clarifier". <Also toxic> That stuff was a nightmare and made my tank even worse, and no, it didn't "clear up after a few days" as some pet store people had said. So, I resorted to my last option: full water change. <...> *My fish were dying and I wasn't going to sit there and watch them continue to suffer. With limited funds, I didn't have the means to buy some miracle product.* <There is, are none> After the full change, my water was so clear, I had forgotten what it looked like to be so beautiful! The fish were happy, spanning their fins and sails, and chasing their reflections. <Except it isn't cycled...> *When two more fish got sick, I again used the medication...* <.......> and when the water began to cloud again and turn greenish, I was frustrated. *After about a 50% water change, the tank was clear again.* Since it was my favorite male (Tyson, as you may or may not recall), I was not going to do nothing about it. *So, I submerged a 2 gallon tank into my 28 gallon tank (since I only have one heater) and installed a 3 gallon filter for the smaller tank.* <Good> Here is where I placed Tyson for medication treatment. At first he was ok, but then he started to lay on the bottom and become depressed. I tried a few things... blah blah blah, it's off topic... but as sad as it is to say, my poor Tyson died. I believe he has Tuberculosis or something untouchable and incurable of the sort. <Poisoned> Through his death and the *method of separation, I learned that separating and medicating a fish this way WOULD NOT cloud my water*. So, of course, when my young male catfish got some modified "Version" of pop eye, I*separated him out in the same way *. When my male sailfin got sick with Popeye, I added him in with the catfish. Here is where the cloudy water mystery began. * I only medicated the small "bowl" inside my tank. Yet, somehow, 2 DAYS after I began medicating these two fish, my main tank is green as green gets.* I can hardly see my heater on the back "wall" of my tank, and I'm amazed the fish can see. A few days before, this happened when I was just medicating the catfish, so, *I did a 50% water change, and that seemed to clear things up.* Now, two days later, my tank is the greenest I've ever seen. *There is no algae build up on the glass and the cories and sucker fish are thriving.* My lyretail molly, like all the ones before her, is fading. *I don't know what it is about my mollies... especially lyretail, but they all end up the same... with this "curving of the spine" and then death. The fish never appear "sad", as in, they don't separate themselves out of stop eating, until minutes before they die.* So, the mystery... for a recap because I know I'm "long winded" in all aspects of communication: *1) My fish are lessening by the week* <No mystery here... they've been poisoned by your treatments, are in an uncycled system> *2) my water is hopelessly green and cloudy despite partial water changes* <Ditto> *3) My lyre's don't ever survive!!* <Again...> The only catch.. I don't have any money. I'm a young adult going to college this summer, so I still live with my parents. Money goes towards gas. I have full access to a HUGE kitchen with all sorts of things that may be "natural remedies" for cloudy and green water. <Actually... none necessary, advised> I don't have money to replenish my aquarium salt, but there's plenty in the kitchen which I have not used in the tank. I have Melafix and Pimafix, <Worthless> API Stress Coat, Tap water Dechlorifier/ Conditioner, and different food sources. Please help me fix my problem and save my fish with the resources I have available. Right now I'm going to do a "full" water change of my tank. I have removed and scrubbed my filter because it had algae collected in it. The filter is still good for another week. Again, sorry for the long email! I'll bold the important stuff or something for a quicker "browse". ~Brittany~ <All you need is your (obvious) intelligence, and to apply yourself... Start reading here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above... Your system is uncycled... you've been poisoning your livestock... Bob Fenner>

Iron In The Aquarium, FW 2/12/07 Hey Chuck, I have the wire artificial plants in my tank and the metal is actually rusting. I can see it through the plastic and on the bottom glass of my tank. Is this ok for the fish and the water? < A little iron is naturally found in many sources of tap water due to rust found in the pipes. Many newer homes have copper or plastic piping but a little iron will not hurt the fish but would be relished by live aquatic plants.-Chuck>

Gold fantail thyroid tumor? Likely Simazine poisoned - 1/22/07 Hello crew, <Rachel> I have a one-eyed gold fantail named Polyphemos, <Ahh!> about 5 inches long from nose to the end of his tail. A few months ago I bought a 5 gallon Regent acrylic tank for him (up from his old 2.5 gallon) <Yikes... needs even much more room than this> with a built-in filtration system and bio-wheel. After reading the FAQs, I realize he should have twice that much space, <Easily... better four or more times> but I have nowhere to put a 10 gal. tank until I move out of this apartment. Having lost several goldfish in years past due to poor water quality, I've been diligent about changing Pol's water - 20-30% weekly. <Good> I had a friend feed Pol over Christmas break. He seemed fine when I got back, although there was a lot of algae build-up, and his dorsal fin and tail had changed to black - I chalked this up to the dark algae-covered environment. <Mmm, both more likely due to declining water quality> I scraped some of the algae off the tank, did a partial water change, changed the filter, and added the recommended amount of "Algae Destroyer Liquid." <... Simazine... toxic... I do NOT endorse the use of this compound for/in ornamental aquatic use> Pol seemed fine for the rest of that week, and soon began to change back to his normal gold color. However, he has now lost his appetite completely, and as far as I know has not eaten any of his food for close to a week. (Until yesterday his tank was bare except for some river stones, which made keeping track of and disposing uneaten food a breeze.) He now spends most of his time sitting in the corner of the tank with his nose in the air and is breathing heavily. <Start... changing the water... daily... a gallon or two... stored from days previous...> He occasionally darts to the surface and swims normally when disturbed but soon settles back in the corner. He doesn't seem to be in danger of starving just yet; he was perhaps overfed while I was on vacation, and his fins and scales are all normal and healthy. But when he first lost his appetite, I noticed a small reddish-white bump on his throat (see picture, attached). I thought at first from his symptoms that it might be flukes, did a partial water change, and treated with Parasite Clear, which involved a 20-30% water change before the second dose. 48 hours after the second dose of the medicine, the bump was still there, and the area of redness appeared to have grown to 2-3 mm in size. I did another 20-30% water change, tap water as usual properly treated with a dechlorinator, hoping that it was a water quality problem, perhaps tied to the algae remover chemicals. Nothing seems to have helped. Ammonia levels are undetectable, pH is at 7.5. I don't have a nitrite/nitrate test kit, but I'm assuming from these recent water changes every couple of days that it's as close as I can get it to optimal. Usually he eats Tetra Exotic sinking mini sticks for dinner alternated with Tubifex worms for breakfast, and has always until now been extremely interested in food. He doesn't show interest in it at all now, even when I drop the pellets directly on top of him. Since reading the info on these pages, I've tried feeding him a thawed frozen pea, without the skin; no response. I added a layer of gravel and some live plant bulbs last night, hoping that they could help create a more natural environment eventually, or at least a more comfortable surface for him to sit on. Although it's been fine until now, I've also added a bubble stone in case there's a problem with oxygenation. Besides this bump, the rapid breathing, and constant sitting in the corner, he looks healthy, but refuses to eat. From looking at the charts at www.fishyfarmacy.com, I thought it might be a thyroid tumor, Chilodonella, or maybe even a rock stuck in his throat. <Mmm, no... these are distant possibilities... Your fish has been poisoned... by the initial questionable water quality... next, the Simazine...> I've thought about trying salt, but the last time I salted a tank my fish died - I was using table salt without iodine as recommended by some other website, and wasn't sure whether that death was due to using the wrong type of salt or the inevitable progress of the infection. <More likely by far the latter> I've got a bag full of meds from my disease-ridden poor-water quality days, but I didn't want to dose him up with more chemicals before I knew for sure what was wrong. Any advice or diagnosis you have would be very much appreciated! I think he could hold out for a few more days to a week without eating, but I'm out of ideas for what else to do to help him. Thank you, ~Rachel <>< <If you had another up and going system I'd move the goldfish to it... as you don't seem to... dilute the present ones toxicity... Bob Fenner> Bubbles appearing on gills and bodies...HELP! - 1/18/07 Greeting, WetWebMedia. <Greetings, Ashley. JustinN with you today.> I am writing because my mom's 12 gallon tank (which I help maintain) is having some trouble. <Ok> Today was partial water change day, so we took out about 25%. I scrubbed the algae off the walls with a new sponge, and vacuumed the gravel, and cleaned the plants and decorations. <When you say 'new sponge' do you mean a sponge made for aquarium use, or a standard kitchen sponge? If the latter, kitchen sponges are manufactured with anti-molding agents and bleach soaked into them before shipping, as to keep them sanitary.> When I finished the job, I re-filled the tank. I put Wardley's Chlor-safe in, I've used it before with no ill effects. Then the trouble started. <Am I to understand you refilled your aquarium with chlorinated tap water, and then added your dechlorinating product after the fact? Oh, no no no, my friend. You need to be mixing this in a container before adding to the aquarium, to allow the dechlorinator to fully neutralize the chlorines and chloramines.> The tank has a medium-sized Angelfish, a Boesemann's Rainbowfish, 4 Giant Danios, 2 Kuhli Loaches, a 'Rhino' (I think Chocolate is actually what it is) Pleco, and about 7 or 8 Zebra Danios. I know it's overstocked, but the Angelfish is still small, and as he grows, he shall be moved, and the Zebra Danios are feeder fish for a frog. They don't eat much. <Oh my! Overstocked does not even begin to describe it, my friend. Your Pleco will too likely grow far too large for the confines of its current aquarium, as likewise your giant danios, rainbowfish, and angelfish will need larger quarters with time. This doesn't even begin to consider the nitrogenous waste accumulation that must be occurring, or the psychological and physiological crowding taking place!> Anyway, as soon as I'd refilled the tank, they all began gasping at the surface. Bubbles began appearing on their skin, and gills, and a few were on the Angelfish's eyes. I wasn't worried (since the occasional bubble appears on them all the time) until the bubbles appeared on Jack's (the angelfish) eyes and everyone's gills. <Mmm, the effects of chlorinated water/toxins in the tank> And then, I took them all out of the tank and put them in water from an older tank, so I could clean the tank out again. I wondered what could have caused this, and now I'm thinking either the sponge I used to clean the walls, or the bucket I used to refill the tank, or maybe the Chlor-Safe was expired. Or maybe I just took out too much water. I did use a tiny bit of bleach on the plants, but it wasn't that, because I hadn't even put them back in the tank yet. <Was likely a double-whammy attack here, from the (likely) inappropriate sponge use and chlorinated tap water combination.> Then, while they were in the bucket of older tank water, a Giant Danio jumped out. It took me a while to get it, and when I put it in the bucket, it got worse, and went belly-up, then died. I looked at it, and thought it was because of the tank, but it was indeed the one who'd jumped out. So then I was relieved, until I noticed some sort of fuzz on Jack's long fins. When I put him back in his tank, I discovered that it was more bubbles. So this time, I took out nearly 80% of the water, and added more water to it, using Aqua-Safe instead of Chlor-Safe, and added some Aquarium Salt to help their slightly inflamed gills. And I added some old tank water so they wouldn't be in a totally new, 'uncycled' tank. <The old water will help some, however, the water does not contain your nitrifying bacteria. This is located on the surfaces of your aquarium, such as the glass, substrate, and decor.> So far, they've been okay, one Zebra went belly-up, and I removed him, but everyone else seems okay. They still have bubbles on them, but just on their fins, and they still are 'breathing' rapidly. What else can I do? <If another fish has died, then all is not ok. You have already begun my first recommendation, by executing another water change. Furthermore, from here on out, when you go to do a water change, mix your tap water and dechlorinator in a separate container such as a bucket before adding to the aquarium, and allow a few minutes for neutralization. Secondly, you really need to reduce the bioload in your aquarium, it is direly overstocked.> I'm sorry for the excessively long email, thanks in advance for any help you can give! Ashley <No worries for the email length, Ashley. The details help us evaluate the issue. -JustinN>

Bubbles appearing on gills and bodies...HELP! - 1/18/07 Thanks. I am sorry, I failed to be specific about the water. I do put the dechlorinator in the water before I put the water in, and let it sit for a few minutes. And I wrote the wrong name for the Wardley's Chlor-safe. It's actually called Chlor-Out. The sponge was a new kitchen sponge, and it came in a 4 pack, and I'd used one of them before with no ill effects in another tank... <Or you used it before, and it didn't have as much of the antimicrobial treatment on it last time... Either way, these sponges are not made for aquarium use, nor are they suitable for them. Get an algae sponge and just rinse it thoroughly, you'll be glad you did. Peace of mind is important, you know *grin*> Well...a few more fish have died. Another Giant Danio died, and we only have 4 out of the 7 or 8 Zebra Danios left. Then, just a few minutes ago, the Pleco died. I put a little bit of Melafix in there, since Jack's fins are looking a bit ragged, and the net was a bit rough on them. What else can I do now? Everyone else seems fine...But then again the Pleco looked fine until he started floating at the surface and couldn't swim down. :( <Melafix will likely not be doing anything but exacerbating the problem at this point, Ashley. There's a toxin of some sort in your water that's making things amiss..> Would it be wise to move them to another 20 gallon tank? It only has 6 Zebra Danios in it, and it just finished cycling a few weeks ago. <I think this would be wise, yes> I feel terrible, because these fish were just fine until I cleaned their tank. I'm almost afraid of cleaning my other tanks for fear of killing them. (But I'll do it anyway, just with a confirmed fish-only bucket, and no sponge) <Perhaps its time you invested in some wonderful magnetic algae scrapers? There are many available, such as those manufactured by Mag-Float, and they make the algae cleaning a breeze... I have one on all of my tanks, even my 2 and a half gallon acrylic Betta tank! Otherwise, as long as you're premixing your water, I see nothing wrong with doing other tank maintenance here. You might also look to your tap water output quality, perhaps something has changed there that is mal-affecting your aquatic charges? Good luck! -JustinN> Ashley (And I did leave the other message below, you already responded to that one, thank you very much! My fishies would be grateful if they only knew how much you guys help.) <Thank you for this, my friend.>

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 changes. ~PP>

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>

White Cottony, Furry Substance... FW toxic situation, no useful data 8/30/06 I hope you can help us. We have a 55-gallon freshwater aquarium. We've had it about 2 years. We have not added any new fish in about a year. We have two catfish about 5 to 6 inches long, a goldfish about 8 inches, a tiger fish <Mmm, wonder what this is species-wise?> about 8 inches, 3 small berry tetras, <And these> 2 eels, <And...> and an albino frog. <Xenopus laevis?> Again, all have been living in harmony for about a year. We have small river gravel and large rocks and fake plants. <Not a good idea to mix tropical and non-tropical life...> Recently, the smaller of the catfish started acting very odd and would swim straight up very fast and bang his nose on the tank lid. It was constant and loud and lasted for about a week, at which time the behavior subsided and he was back to normal. About this same time, a white cottony, furry substance started showing up on our rocks, then the plants, and now the gravel. <Likely some population/mix of mostly algae...> It is spreading rapidly and taking over the tank quickly. The catfish that had been acting strangely, <Some algae produce toxins...> but then was doing fine, died yesterday and the larger catfish looks like he is almost dead as well. The goldfish also does not look healthy either and the eels are no where to be found. We drained and replaced about 1/3 of the water in the tank today, but I can't seem to find anything on the internet that describes what is happening in our tank. Please help us before we lose all our fish! Is this a fungus? Where did it come from? How do we get rid of it? Thank you for any help or advice you can supply. <Could be a toxic situation concerning the algae... but w/o any data re water quality, the actual species involved... not possible to make other/better speculations. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwalgcontrol.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Can a new aquarium filter be defective?? 8/21/06 <Yes> All of my fish died within 24 hours of replacing a filter. <Frightening...> I emptied the tank, cleaned (with no soap, etc.) with aquarium sponge. Rinsed all decorations, etc. When I started the tank using only the under gravel filter the water looked fine. Then when I added the bio filter, the water appears to have tons of little white particles in the water. <Likely bits of packing material, or plastic bits from manufacture?> I have never had this before. After circulating for 24 hours, it still looks the same. Could it be from the filter (it came from the same pack that was used prior to the fish dying)?? <Yes... though I've rarely seen, heard of this. Do you have a means of magnification? Perhaps the store where you bought this unit does... I would take a water sample into them for testing, a look-see. Measures of nitrogenous wastes at this point could easily be from the stress, death of your livestock> Deborah Marsh <I would thoroughly clean (dump, rinse, re-fill) this system, and leave running w/o livestock for a few weeks before trying some hardy animal to do a bio-assay. Bob Fenner>

Amquel et al. going bad - 8/10/2006 Hi Bob <<Tom, actually. Greetings.>> Have you heard of Amquel or Novaqua 'going bad'? <<Can't say that I have, DR. In fact, Amquel is reported by Novalek to remain stable indefinitely. I have not seen any "stability" reports on NovAqua or NovAqua Plus+, however.>> <Mmm, RMF has... not common, but can become contaminated with live bacteria...> I add dose of each to a FW 75gal. on a monthly or bi-monthly basis and the last time I used it, my water got very cloudy and within days I had an algae bloom. This has not happened before and am wondering if these products caused it? <<Perhaps, but not for the reason you suspect, i.e. the product(s) going bad. To the contrary, DR, the Amquel, in particular, might have done its job a little too well. Consider that one of the indications that an aquarium has completed cycling is the growth of algae. Not uncommon at all for new aquariums to experience the type of "bloom" that you did. The result, most frequently, of a sudden splurge, if you will, of nitrates. My thought is that your tank was in equilibrium but on a very tight line. An "imbalance" occurred during the last water change that partially starved your bio-colonies, perhaps due to using the Amquel. A minor ammonia build-up took place, which the remaining beneficial bacteria "jumped on" creating a temporary increase in nitrate production. The ever-present algae spores had a field day with the excess nutrients in the water and you inherited a "bloom".>> I e-mailed Novalek, but they will not respond to this question. All water parameters are good and nothing else has changed. <<Might be a little late now, DR, but check your nitrate levels again. On a side note, just stick with the NovAqua during water changes. The less you treat your tank, chemically-speaking, the better, manufacturers' recommendations notwithstanding. ;)>> Your help is, as usual, greatly appreciated...Thanks again...DR <<Happy to help, DR. Tom>>
Re: Amquel et al. going bad - 8/10/2006
Hi Tom.. <<Hey, DR.>> Thanks for the fast response and informative answer. <<Not a problem.>> I should have mentioned that I do a 10% water change on mon. and Thurs.. of each week. This keeps nitrates down to 10 or less. Monthly I do a 25-30% change, clean filter pads (2 emperor 400's) vac gravel, clean inside of glass, add seasoned, heated, aerated water and the Amquel and Novaqua. Do you think I am overdoing it? <<No. In fact, you could write the book! I'd still drop the Amquel from the picture, though. Hard to argue with success but this still seems to be the source of the problem, in my opinion.>> My wife and daughter think I'm nuts for working so much on these but...I also use this schedule for my 100 gal. FW, and my 29 gal. FW. <<My wife and daughter have given up on me! As long as the tanks are taken care of...>> Thanks again...DR <<Any time, DR. Tom>>
Re: Amquel et al. going bad - 8/10/2006
Hey Tom.. Write the book??? WWM is where I learned all of this! If the beginners/newbies would just do the maintenance and forget the chemicals and stop gap measures...there would be a lot less redundant questions on WWM! To all you beginners....DO the water changes and the rest will take care of itself! Thanks again Tom...DR <<Sound advice, DR. Best regards. Tom>

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