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  1. #1

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    Default Serpae tetra bullying and sickness


    0 Not allowed!
    Hello everyone! I'm new to this forum! (and to the hobby)

    I received my first aquarium in July from an older gentleman who was retiring and wanted to give it away. It had four serpae tetras, one rasbora, and one pleco, and it holds about 40 gallons when all the decor is inside. Unfortunately I lost the rasbora and one of the tetras since then.

    I'm really concerned about my three remaining tetras. All three have some white on the fringe of their fins, which are deteriorating (fin rot?). I've been dosing them Stressguard every day with no improvements.

    The bigger problem, though is that one of my tetras (his name is Frodo) is bullying the other two (Sam and Eb). He swims at them rapidly and strikes them whenever they come nearby each other. And Frodo "owns" about 80% of the tank while Sam and Eb are confined to tiny areas, almost like prisons, because Frodo will "put them back in their place", so to speak, if they leave their sections of the tank. Eb is very pale and sick.

    Also, whenever Frodo strikes one of them, both Frodo and whoever he struck do this thing where it looks like they're tensing up and their fins stand straight up like they are in shock, and they tip around for a few seconds before finally recovering their balance. Except now, they'll do this even if they aren't fighting, as if there is an invisible fish striking them!

    I hope my description isn't too confusing, it's hard to describe this all. I've been doing extensive reading about everything from water changing to the nitrification cycle to parasites.

    I rearranged the decorations to give Frodo his own area to hide, so he can calm down, but he ignores it and continues to try to invade Sam and Eb's tiny spaces...yeah, 80% of my tank is empty (except the pleco). It's like Frodo isn't interested in that 80% of the tank, he just wants to make sure nobody gets it!

    The temperature of my aquarium is usually between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. I have a brand new heater but I manually turn it on and off myself instead of letting the heater do its own thing because I'm afraid the heater heats up too fast. The tetras' problems seem exacerbated whenever I turn on the heater so I never let it run for more than ten minutes at a time. I'm pretty sure the tank should be warmer, but I'm afraid of harming them with rapid heating also, so I'm not sure what to do.

    As you can see, I'm kind of a beginner. I really appreciate your help, I'm very scared for my fish and hate seeing them get hurt.

    If you have any questions about my set up let me know.

    Oh yes, forgot to mention, I suspect they may have head and lateral line erosion. Eb has what might be a small hole above his eye, and occasionally he and Frodo will bump into the glass quite a bit. I'm giving them VitaChem Fresh to help with that but haven't seen any results yet (but it's only been a week).

    Forgive me for the rambling post. A lot is going on at once, so it's hard to stay on one topic.

  2. #2

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    0 Not allowed!
    Tell us how and how often you clean the tank. Sounds like they have fin rot which often is from poor maintenance but, can also be caused by other things.
    The tetra are acting aggressive and flaring at each other because they are establishing dominance in a rearranged tank. You also need to get more of them. They are schooling fish and need a large group. Adding more will also eventually help bring the aggression down.
    When I go fishing I just throw sharp rocks in the water and wait for the dead fish to float to the top... Kingfisher
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    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.
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  3. #3

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    0 Not allowed!
    I started out doing them once a month, but the past few months I've been doing them quite often, but on an irregular schedule. My most recent water changes:
    Nov 7 - 10%
    Nov 15 - 10%
    Nov 20 - 10%

    I clean the tank with a siphon-powered gravel vacuum--usually I clean the gravel, but sometimes I just hold the hose higher up and just drain some water.

    Frodo has always "owned" the front of the tank, but sometimes he would let Sam swim around up front with him. Eventually he began bullying Sam, who started hiding from him, so I finally put up a barrier of decorations between Frodo and Sam and Eb. That worked for a while, but now Frodo just swims over the decorations and invades Sam and Eb's space. I guess Frodo has always sort of been the dominant fish, but he was never an outright bully until more recently.

    I have heard that serpae tetras are best in groups of six or more, but I'm reluctant to add fish to my tank right now, especially with all of my fish sick already.

    What other things (besides poor maintenance) could cause fin rot?

  4. #4

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    2 Not allowed!
    Try changing out more water at a time, like at the very least 25%. More is better especially if the tank is going thru some kind of mini-cycle caused by the move. 10% isn't enough to flush out the harmful byproducts left by the nitrogen cycle (nitrate and whatever else might be bothering the tetras). Do you have a test kit? API makes a master test kit you can get online for a decent price. It would be helpful to you (and us to help you) if you could post the parameters and conditions.

    Water changes are the best remedie for a slight case of finrot. I'm not sure about the losing equilibrium....do you see any abnormal redness anywhere?

    For now, up the water changes even to 50% daily until you can test the water and figure out what's going on. Also, which water conditioner are you using? There's a conditioner called Prime that not only removes chloramine, but it also detoxifies heavy metals and converts very harmful ammonia to very less harmful ammonium which is perfect in case there is a little cycle happening. All you have to do is dose the volume of the tank every 48hrs to keep the ammonia converted. Use Prime as well for new water added. This will help your fish while the tank re-cycles.

    If your tank is 80% bare, could you spread out some decor/ plants to create sections where the fish can possibly find more hiding places, and less chance of being seen and bullied. When you are ready to get more fish, if you could get 8 more serpeas, the aggression will be substantially reduced. Serpaes are quite nippy even for a tetra, so the bigger schools are even more important. I kept them when I first started as well, they are alright in a group of nine or more IME.
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  5. #5

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    1 Not allowed!
    Like has already been suggested; Serpae need to be kept in a large group to curb their aggressiveness, but even this has never worked for me personally.
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  6. #6

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    0 Not allowed!
    I think I'll start doing either bigger water changes or more frequent water changes, or both.

    I don't know much about cycling, but when I received the tank from the older gentleman, I threw out all three filter layers (carbon, foam, biomax) and started over (a big mistake, possibly). Now I never replace all three at once, but I suspected that the tank was uncycled, so about two months ago I bought Seachem Stability and dosed it once a day for a period of about ten days. My testing strips indicated no change, so I was afraid it wasn't cycling and I quit Stability. Now I'm wondering if my testing strips were inaccurate and maybe I left the tank half cycled.

    So yeah, there could be an issue there. Thanks for your post angelcraze2. :)

    I already use Prime when introducing new gallons of water, and occasionally I add 5 drops of it straight to the tank whenever I suspect there might be a problem with ammonia/nitrites/nitrates/etc. Should I be adding more? I usually swish my hand around in the aquarium to "mix up" the drops of Prime because I'm afraid that it is so concentrated that maybe it could harm the fish if it isn't evenly distributed.

    My tank isn't 80% bare, I was just saying that Frodo "owns" 80% of it, and he spends most of his time inside Sam and Eb's 20% as if his 80% still isn't enough. He's got a thirst for conquest, I guess :)

    I've been keeping a log of water parameters. My most recent entry:

    Nov. 24th
    pH - 8.1
    Ammonia - 0.5
    KH - 240
    Nitrate - 40
    Nitrite - 0
    GH - 50

    The colors are so hard to match up between the strips and the charts that this might be slightly off, especially with the pH and ammonia. Also, my nitrates might be at 0, because the nitrate pad changes to this peach-brown color that isn't even on the chart. I record 40 to be safe because that's the worst I think it might be based on how the nitrate pad looks. But there's a strong chance that nitrates are at 0 not 40.

    The difference between 0 and 0.5 is very, very hard to distinguish on the ammonia pad, so that might be at 0 also. My ph may be as low as 7.8.

    Forgive me for another long, rambling post. :)

  7. #7

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    1 Not allowed!
    You should invest in a liquid test kit like this - https://www.amazon.com/API-FRESHWATE...aster+test+kit - it's more accurate.

    And yes, if you threw out all media from the filter and started with new, you're going through a new cycle - fish-in cycle - which requires frequent water changes of an amount sufficient to keep the levels safe for the fish you have. It could be daily, every 2-3 days, depending on the stocking.

  8. #8

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    0 Not allowed!
    How do I cycle the tank? Should I dose Stability daily again? Thanks!

    Thanks for your response, SueD. I've heard that serpae tetras leave a very small biological load (at least I think that's what I heard) so that's a good thing. I will probably try to do a lot more water changes.

  9. #9

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  10. #10

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    0 Not allowed!
    Hey, while I'm thinking about it, do you remember when I was mentioning my new aquarium heater in my first post? It has a two degree variance, so if I have it set for 76, it kicks on at 75 and heats up to 77, then kicks off until the temp drops back to 75. Could the rapid two degree increase in temperature be harmful to my fish?

    Should I get a different heater?

    Once again, thank you all so much for your help! I am new to aquariums so this is great getting to sort out all of these little problems I'm having at once.

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