Just found this forum and realizing my mistakes.....and nitrite spike?
Hello and thanks in advance for your help. Sorry it is so long but I want to give as much detail as possible.
I just found this forum last night. Between last night and today I probably spent 8 hours reading sticky after sticky, the beginner guides and responses to various questions I was interested in. I think this will be a great place to learn the proper care for my fish. I really like how helpful everyone tries to be, even when those asking for help seem stubborn! I promise to take the advice I am asking for.
Here's my story...(I am fully expecting the eye rolls and head shaking to go on through out this thread)...
I admit that I did not do enough research before starting my tank and ultimately I am responsible for the well-being of my fish. I did, however, think (past tense) that I was speaking to a knowledgeable "fish specialist" as I was told. After reading so much on this forum, I already know more then he does! My husband and I told him what we were looking for and he set us up with a 26g bow front start-up kit, strip test kits, water conditioner, bacteria supplement, gravel and decor. He told us to set everything up after rinsing and let it run for 1 week then come back and pick out fish. We spent a lot of time in there the first day talking with him and thought he knew what he was talking about. When we went back for fish we looked for him.
After spending more time with him discussing fish we left with 4 Bala Sharks (no eye rolling and head shaking at the same time please). I now know that my tank is too small for these guys but I love them. So as soon as we can we will upgrade to a proper tank. Do you think they will be okay in our 26g for a couple months? We currently live in an apartment but are house hunting. I don't really have the room to set up a second tank now just to have to move it in a month or two. But of course I want to do whatever is best for the Balas. My plan would be to start cycling the new tank as soon as we move in, so it will have enough time for a proper cycle.
If they would be okay until we move, should they stay alone in the tank or can I add a few more? If they can't handle the wait, I can look for someone that is better able to keep them.
As you can guess, we had some problems in the beginning because we did not properly cycle the tank. I will never again add fish to a tank before I cycle it! There were 2 days that we thought we were going to lose the Balas. I woke up and they seemed to lose all of their color...could barely see black on their fins and they looked pale beige. We couldn't sleep that night and were surprised when they were still alive the next morning. The ammonia levels were very high. We also went through a week of very cloudy water. Yesterday we started a notebook to keep track of our readings. We just have the test strips (ammonia and 6-in-1) but we will get a better test kit this week. Any suggestions?
We have had them for 6 weeks, they look great! They are shiny gray with beautiful black fins. We can see they have grown. They are between 2-3 inches. We have been doing 10% wc each week and did 25% wc at 4 weeks. As per the test strips, ours numbers have been very good.
A few days ago we noticed "brown algae" starting on the one big bubbling rock we have and a ceramic "no fishing" sign. Now it is also on the gravel along the front of the tank. The plants (not live) and gravel along the back don't have any yet that I can see. Could this be because we have not changed the filter cartridge yet? The instructions say to change at one month and we missed that. We have the Aqueon Quiet Flow 20 Power Filter that came with the tank. This one has carbon which I think some of you don't like. I still have to read more about the different types and decide if we need to change ours. I am nervous about changing the filter because I don't want to mess anything up.
Yesterday I went back to the LFS and spoke to the same guy (I figured best to stick with the guy who knows his stuff...hhmmph!). Told him about the brown stuff. He told me I could leave it or take everything out and clean it and put it back. Not the gravel...told me to vacuum if I wanted. I spoke to him about adding more fish...reminded him that I have 4 Bala Sharks in 26g but would upgrade asap and he took me to the silver tipped sharks...I left with 3 of them (go ahead, eye roll and head shake at the same time). On the way home I was not feeling too good about my purchase. As my new "sharks-in-a-bag" were bobbing in tank, I started surfing the web and found this forum....by 3am I learned A LOT! Most important that I need to return the silver tipped sharks. He never mentioned anything about brackish water..something I've heard in the past but didn't understand what it was. And that these guys were going to get big like the Balas I don't have enough room for. Promise #2...I will not buy anymore fish until I have researched and seek advice! I called the LFS and asked about returning the silver tips and about brackish water...I was told "you can return them but they will be fine in freshwater". I told her I have a few friends (you guys on the forum) that said they will not survive in freshwater and she said "not true, none of our fish need salty water". I told her I will be in tomorrow to return them.
Sometime around 1am last night while I was searcing the forum for info on brown algae, silver tips, filters, and half a dozen topics that caught my eye, I read something somewhere and decided to test the water....my nitrites were through the roof!!! Everything else is within the safe ranges on the chart (Tetra EasyStrips 6-in-1). But nitrites are over 10ppm. I did a 30%wc right away and another today. The test strip doesn't seem to be as bright pink as it was yesterday but it is still over 10ppm. I will look for a better kit tomorrow when I return the fish.
Why are the nitrites so high? The fish show no sign of any problems. They are swimming and eating as they normally do. Is there anything else I can do? Should I do another water change today or wait until the morning? I really don't want to lose these guys. And I don't want anything to happen to the silver tips during their short stay. They look great and are very active but I cannot handle a brackish tank so they have to go back. (At one point last night, I said "these are catfish right?" He said, "no, they are sharks"...I'm such an idiot! And I am usually not, which make this worse :/
First off, Welcome to AC. Im new here also but like you have learned a lot. Second, get a API Master Test kit. There by far the best test kit on the market. A little more then the strips but well worth it.
A note about your filter cartridge. Dont ever change it unless its literally falling apart. Wash it in tank water after you change it but never tap water. The bacteria that changes the Ammonia(what fish produce) into nitrIte into nitrAte lives in the filter media. Changing that will just cause you tank cycle to go in a downward spiral. Keep up with the water changes to make sure you keep those levels as low as possible. Nitrite is a good sign that your on your way to a cycled tank.
Same for the gravel and plants, I wouldn't worry about vacumming intill you get the tank fully cycled. The brown algea from what I have read comes from low oxygen levels, and feeding to much. That is the broken down food on the bottom of the tank and so forth.
Im sure some of the more experienced fish keepers will chime in. I would print out a couple of those stickies and take it to said fish guy asap though.
One last thought. Your not an idiot, just mis-educated if that makes sense. Heres to a bright future with your fish...
cassper has given good advice.
Do not change your filter media. ever, unless it's falling apart even though the mfg's suggestion is to change monthly. they want to sell their product :o) get the api liquid master test kit asap as the strips are highly inaccurate.
Bad news - unless you get those nitrites down to less than .50ppm your fish will soon die. They cannot withstand 1ppm let alone 10 ppm for extended periods of time. You need to be doing several large water changes a day if need be to get those nitrites below .5ppm. Once you accomplish that (and you need to do this asap) you can cut back to changing the water only if ammonia and or nitrites approach .5ppm while your tank is cycling. please read the fish in cycling stickie in my signature line to provide you with more info. and of course, continue to ask questions.
note: your good bacteria (what you're trying to grow to get your tank cycled) does not live in the water so you can change out as much as you want. your good bacteria lives in your filter media and filter = that's why you never change it.
As for the bala sharks - oh boy. They are okay for now size wise but you need a minimum of 90 gallon aquarium = 125 or 150 would be better for a group of 3 - 4 balas as they grow to over a foot long are very active swimmers and need a lot of room. you add in the silver tips = you're looking at even larger tanks. I'd return them asap. In fact, I know this is hard to hear, but unless you can plan for a very large tank, in the very near future, the balas should be returned as well. sorry.
The brown algae is diatom. typical of a new tank and should go away once you get your water parameters under control ( 0 ammonia and nitrites and less than 20 nitrAtes.) You can wipe it off the glass and ornaments.
Others may chime in but if this were my tank, I'd return the balas and the silver tips, inform the LFS you have done some research and realize they are going to be way too large for your tank, ask them for credit toward new stock and stock the tank with a nice school of tetras (maybe some colombian - aka red and blue tetras, or bleeding hearts or serpaes, emperors, buenos aires - there are many suitable tetras that won't grow much larger than 2 to 2 1/2 inches which is an ideal size for your tank. a school of 6 cory cats (again - small fish for a small tank) would also be nice. Add a couple apple snails and you'll have a great tank to learn on and enjoy/
just my 2 cents.
Last edited by fishmommie; 08-15-2013 at 02:21 AM.
All really good advice there.
The balas are really an oh boy. They grow pretty fast too. I like them but wont be getting them till I get my 8 foot tank.
Also if you have room you should add another filter. It wont hurt your cycle but you will be underfiltered with what you have.
I would return the balas too. Even though they are physically small enough for this tank right now they are still way to active for such a small tank.
Go get yourself a filter that doesn't require cartridges. I prefer canister filters but an Aquaclear hang on the back filter will do as well. The media which holds the beneficial bacteria in canisters and Aquaclear filters next to never needs replacing. Whether you decide on a good canister filter or an Aquaclear get one that is at least double the size needed for your tank and run it together with the one you are currently using for about 4-6 weeks. Then it will be safe to remove the old filter and not lose the cycle.
I don't think your nitrites are actually that high or your fish would be showing signs of nitrite poisoning and stress. Test strips are notoriously inaccurate. The API liquid master kit is what most of us here use, there are other types of testing equipment that are better, but for a hobby grade kit the API is the best for the money.
The brown stuff does sound like diatoms and as others have commented they are common in a newly set up tank and are caused by silicates in the water. Once the tank matures a bit they usually go away. It's just a matter of waiting them out.
When I go fishing I just place a sharp rock in the water and sit there waiting for all the dead fish to float to the top... Kingfisher
Brutal honesty will be shown on this screen.
I think my fish is adjusting well to the four gallon, He's laying on his side attempting to go to sleep on the bottom of the gravel.
Tolerance is a great thing to have, so is the ability to shut up.
I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you.
I am in agreement with other members here, completely. Unless you intend to have a 6-foot tank at minimum--and even this is small--return the Bala Sharks. Here is some data on this species [which I happened to write]:
Secon issue, the nitrites. At 10 ppm the fish would all be dead, so this can't be accurate. Do you perhaps mean nitrates, with the "a" instead of the second "i"?
You are getting some great advice from some extremely knowledgeable people -- much more knowledgeable than the LFS employee that sold you all those sharks! I don't have much to add to what has been said, except:
- LFS employees don't always know what they are talking about. Their job is to sell you fish. Many don't even have tanks at home and even if they have good intentions may not know enough to give you sound advice. There are some LFS employees out there who do know what they are talking about, but until you figure out who they are at your LFS, you are much better off listening to the members here.
- I second the advice to get a liquid test kit. I also agree with kermit and honey badger that 10 ppm nitrites might be an incorrect result. Perhaps you want to take another set of measurements?
- When you say that "Everything else is within the safe ranges", what are those results? Can you post your results for ammonia and nitrates as well?
Thanks everyone for all of your great advice!
I'm definitely talking about nitrites (with and I).
Yesterday, I tested with the strips 3 times and the results were brighter pink than the 10ppm pictured on the chart. Today it was between 3 and 5ppm. We did a 40% wc last night and 40% again this morning. Right now, the strip shows between 1 and 3pppm, so the wc are working. I picked up the API kit today and it looks like 2ppm but this color chart is a little tricky, I have to get a second opinion from my husband when he gets home from work in an hour. In the meantime, I am going to start tonights wc and start playing with the API kit. I'll will post all of the results later.
I was able to return the Silver Tipped Sharks today. The employee I spoke to said I could not return the Bala Sharks since I purchased them 6 weeks ago. I waited a bit to speak to the manager but he was busy and I had to get to work. I will call tomorrow morning and explain my story. I have the number for the customer service department if I don't get a good response from the manager. We did find out that one of my husband's co-workers has some Balas in a 90g at home. I don't know how many or how big but he has been keeping fish for a long time. Maybe he can provide a better home or knows someone who can. They didn't have enough time to talk yesterday but hopefully they did today. I will work on it.
My other homework for tonight is to read up more on filters. I'm sure I will post questions later.