View Full Version : Fish are unhappy

01-14-2007, 06:55 PM
I've had my tank setup for about 2 months now. Over the course of a month, I put in 5 head-and-tail light tetras and two congo tetras. The tank was doing fine. They were all healthy and active. My plants were thriving, I had algae and little snails zipping around.

Then about two weeks ago, I did a 20% water change and scraped all the algae off the front because it grows so quickly. As the week progressed, I noticed that no new algae was growing on the glass. One of my tetras began 'swirling' every now and then. Sometimes his head would go down and he'd kinda lose equilibrium. Sometimes he'd be swimming on his side for a second or two. I thought it was just him and figured he'd die soon.

A few days later, I replaced one ugly plant with a couple new lush ones. I bought some Tetra FloraPride (http://www.tetra-fish.com/catalog/product.aspx?id=77) and some new food (http://www.tetra-fish.com/catalog/product.aspx?id=22). Then I noticed that all my tail lights were beginning to swim funny. Their backs were curving and they just looked sad. Their colors were faded. About three days later (this morning), I woke up and the top of the tank was covered with leaves. One of my new plants had given up the ghost and there are dying spots on the other new ones too.

I did a 50% water change and changed the filter cartridge on my Eclipse filter.

Do you think this is sufficient to save my tank? Perhaps I just didn't change enough water last time and the toxicity was too high? I don't know what else could cause such a drastic change in the tank environment, since I hadn't introduced anything new until those plants a few days ago. Or should I run out in a panic and buy medicine??

Thanks for any help you can give!

01-14-2007, 07:00 PM
Do you have a test kit? If no, get your water tested at the LFS. It may be your water. I know I had trouble with tetras in a newly established tank. Did you cycle the tank before you put the fish in?

Welcome to the forum :)

01-14-2007, 07:09 PM
Yes, I was very careful to start up slowly. I used Cycle and let the tank sit for a day or two, then I added two tail lights. After about 2 weeks, I added 3 more. And then the two congos about 2 weeks after that.

I'll run to the store and pick up a test kit. I hope that's all it is! My local fish guru says all you need for happy fish are water, plants, and bubbles. I guess not...

01-14-2007, 07:42 PM
sorry to say, you didn't wait long enough. my guess is the levels
are probably starting to level off now, so you may not see strange levels. probably low nitrates and high nitrites. right at the tail end of the cycle.

the behaviour you are seeing now may be the result of damage to the fish from earlier. hard to say. i am surprised that they made it this far.

it usually takes a month to a month and a half to break in a new tank. if you have an existing tank or a friend with an established tank, you can speed up the process, but 2 days just isn't long enough.

sorry about that man


01-14-2007, 08:00 PM
By cycling you mean to give it time to grow enough bacteria? In the beginning, I added a medium-sized piece of driftwood from the pet store that came from an established tank, so I thought that would speed up the process. I also thought that adding live plants right away would speed up the process as well. You mean a normal cycle is to let the tank sit with nothing in it for a month? I didn't think bacteria would grow if there weren't fish in the tank producing waste, to feed it. Or am I misunderstanding?

01-14-2007, 08:09 PM
When you bought "Cycle" from the store, was it refrigerated? If it wasn't, then it was no good.

01-14-2007, 08:12 PM
No, it was just hanging out on the shelf... It seems most pet stores have it just hanging out on the shelf.

I'm reading up more on cycling. I guess I wasn't very well informed. I had no idea about letting the tank sit and adding ammonia. I've had tanks before and I've never done any of that and the tanks all did well, so I thought I could just do the same thing as usual. This is my first planted tank, though, so that might be what's making it react differently. Basically, I should get something to lower nitrite levels and test pH and water hardness while I'm at it?

01-14-2007, 10:51 PM
you should be able to test for ammonia, nitries, nitrates for sure. it is good to test for ph and hardeness as well.

your lfs should have a general test kit that will have all of these tests for about $30.

the wood and the plants will deffinetely help. also, a good oxygen supply, bubbler, will aid the bacteria growth as well. in stead of straight ammonia, it is ususally easier to put some flake food in and let it disintegrate and rot. that should provide ample ammonia.

keep at it


01-14-2007, 11:39 PM
Ok, thanks a lot for your help!

01-16-2007, 08:21 PM
I performed all the tests and everything came out normal: nitrate, nitrite, hardness. The kit didn't include ammonia, but since I changed 50% of the water and dosed them with AmQuel, I think that's ok. My fish are acting better but they're not completely back to normal. I even have algae growing back and I saw a few snails zipping around last night. The only one who's still pretty bad is the one who was originally sick. He's hanging out at the bottom, and only comes out to eat.

One thing I noticed that kinda worries me is the pH. It's between 7.2-7.8. (The test doesn't do the numbers in between, so I can't be more precise). I did the test three times. Even after adding Correct pH (http://www.junglelabs.com/pages/details.asp?item=TB640), the number stayed the same. Is this a dangerous pH level? Could this be part of the problem?

01-16-2007, 08:30 PM
It depends on the fish but my ph is 8. and all of my fish are fine, so I highly doubt this is part of the problem. Did your test kit show any nitrates at all? If your tank is fully cycled it should show no ammonia no nitrites and some nitrates(although for me its only a small amount).

If your not showing any nitrates maybe you should get an ammonia test too.

01-16-2007, 08:45 PM
Nitrites was at the very end of the spectrum, so next to none. I think nitrates were one square up from the bottom.

01-16-2007, 08:51 PM
I would still recommend getting an ammonia test kit. If somehow your ammonia was up around 3 or 4 doing a 50% water change would maybe drop that in half which will still be harmful to you fish. As for the Ph that should be fine if your fish have been doing well in that. My Ph is right around 7.6 for my tank and everyone is very happy.

01-18-2007, 05:16 AM
Sigh...I haven't yet been able to get an ammonia test (work has kept me too busy the past couple days). I will try to take a lunch tomorrow and pick one up then.

New problem: Now the little tetra who was originally sick has a fuzzy white dot on his tail. Like the size of a pimple. It protrudes a bit so that you can even see it when looking at him head on. What's going on? Is it ick? I'm starting to get stressed out over this. Should I dose them all with Stress Coat? What's that fuzzy dot?? Is it contagious???

My poor fishies... :*(

01-18-2007, 01:07 PM
Ick is more of a bunch of spots on the fish like he got salt sprikled on him this might be some kind on fungus, if you have one I would suggest moving him to a quarintine tank if not get some medicine and treat it but remember to remove the carbon from the filter first.

01-18-2007, 09:24 PM
Ok, I took my water to the LFS and they said there's nothing wrong with it. I described the white dot and the guy got all excited cuz he knew exactly what it was. Fin and tail rot caused by bacteria. He says they were probably introduced when I put my congo tetras in, since apparently they're notorious carriers. So he gave me MetaFix and sent me hopefully on my way.

He doesn't know why my plants are all dying though. I guess I'll have to figure that one out on my own, because the ones that are dying are supposedly 'hardy.' Anywayz, thank you all for your suggestions and advice for this newbie! :)

01-19-2007, 04:55 AM
I would suggest that you don't mess with your ph at this point. Trying to bring it down, and then it swinging back up because of the natural buffers in your water just causes you to have to try to bring it back down. The PH swings will be much harder on your fish than allowing them to adjust to the higher PH.
Cycling with fish was the only way to do it previously, but people were advised to use hardy fish such as danios, not tetras. Better methods for the sake of the fish have been devised as you have seen since you started researching.
My understanding of the assistance of plants in the aquarium is that the plants will use the nitrates as their own food source, in a newly established aquarium you shouldn't have any nitrates until you are near the end of your cycle. You said you replaced some plants with some "lush" plants....I assume you had a few that weren't doing so well. Rotting plants that have died off can also cause pollution in the water, raising your ammonia levels, this may have contributed to the natural cycle you were going thru with your fish.
Hope everything starts to level out for you and that your tetras perk back up with some TLC