Boxerwing's Journal of Fish Ownership
Up until this weekend in my aquarium adventures, it has relatively unexciting. Cycling my 77g tank took six weeks. First one week lost due to trying to cycle with fish food and never getting any actual ammonia creation. Then, using ammonia, I lost another 3 weeks by not reducing my dose when the nitrites finally showed up. Finally, I got some seeded filter media, and from there it took 15 days. But it cycled! Finally!
So I went out and got fish. The time my tank was cycling I put to good use by researching a lot about fish. I finally had a list of fish I wanted, all tetras: Congos, Colombians, Diamonds, Black Phantoms and when mature enough, a couple of BN plecos. The day I was going to get fish, I took out as much water as I could, gave the gravel a quick clean (there was still fish food in there!), rearranged the decor and refilled the tank. I did this early afternoon, and we went out that evening to buy fish. I ended up bringing home (due to limited availability): 7 Congos, 10 Diamonds, 8 Colombians, 11 Black Phantoms and 2 Bloodfins. The Bloodfins were a mistake; I think the guy at the pet store mistook them for Colombians. Eh, they were neat so we kept them.
The first week we had the fish was amazing. The Colombians and the Diamonds schooled together swimming across the tank, then played in the flow of the outlets. The Congos were setting up their territory and working out dominance. The Black Phantoms hid a lot, but were starting to come out a bit more and were schooling a little at the back of the tank. Water parameters were as I expected over the week: amm 0, trites 0, trates slowly rising from <5 to just under 20, and pH 8.
Sounds great, right? I thought so too. One week after installing the fish, it was time for my first water change. This was Friday night. I remembered to shut all power off first. I vacuumed the gravel deeply on 1/2 the tank and lightly on the other half. Emptied out about 2/3 of the water. Started refilling the tank. After it filled, I waited about 1/2hr before starting things up again. Looking in to the tank, I noticed a dead Congo floating in the fake plants at the top of the tank. Not good. Then another Congo started spinning, went up to the top of the tank, bobbed up and down and died too. Oh no, not good at all! I had forgotten to add prime, so I added the appropriate dose. More fish started spinning. Checked parameters. amm = 0.6 but others unchanged. More died. Added more prime to see if that would help. Kept checking parameters: amm almost 1.2 and others unchanged. Noticed a partially eaten fish carcass at the bottom of the tank. When cleaning, I had moved a cave to look underneath and clean. Maybe the fish carcass came from there? Or had gotten in to one of the filters and restarting them pushed it out? Finally, no more fish died. Eight fish in total died after the water change. I could only assume (and it was suggested by an AC member) that my vigorous, inexperienced cleaning had dredged up too much stuff causing an ammonia spike. The amm then dropped back to 0.6. I turned the lights off and left the tank for the night. The remaining fish seemed to be breathing quickly (like over 60 breaths per min which is way higher than what I had been observing), but otherwise acting normally.
The night I felt awful and didn't sleep well at all. Kept dreaming about sick fish all night. Finally at 0530, I just got up. I retested the water parameters: amm = 0.6, barely registrable trites and trates < 5. I realized I needed to do another water change to bring the amm down to a safer level. Shut off the power, had a coffee and started draining the tank.
Next post: it gets worse.
Oh my. I did a water change too and started losing fish.. I didn't even think it could have been the ammonia!
So when doing this second water change, I did no cleaning of the gravel, just a straight 2/3 water change to bring amm < 0.25. I even went so far as to stick the probe end of our digital thermometer in the end of our python when refilling to make sure the water temp stayed stable (it did). No sooner had the tank filled, then the awful sight of fish starting to spin and twirl, go up to the top of the tank, and die. It was absolutely awful. I had actually remembered to put the prime in before I started refilling, but obviously that did not help. Fish after fish died. All my beautiful shiny fish were suffering, and I had no idea what to do. In fact there was nothing I could do: we live in the country, and Scott (hubs) had taken our only vehicle in to town to get work done on it. Besides, what else could I have done? Water changes are supposed to help, not harm. Within 3hrs, all the fish were dead except one who continued to struggle. I still had not restarted the filters or the air bubblers, hoping to prevent whatever was causing this to cycle even faster around the tank. As the fish died, I scooped them out. 37 of 38 fish were now dead, and the last one, a Diamond, was struggling. I wanted to euthanize him, so got out our net and tried to catch him. He was pretty zippy, and I couldn't catch him, so I texted Scott and asked him to help me with him when he got in. I shut the lights off, left everything else off, and sat down stunned.
In less than 12 hours all except one fish were dead. Dead quickly, with no signs of infection. I thought about all the things that could have caused this. We are on well water, so no chlorine/chloramines to worry about. What ever it was, it was not toxic to cats, dogs or humans, as we all have the same water supply and are fine. The toxic substance dissipates over time, because when we originally put the fish in, they looked great: healthy, active and little signs of stress. The options seemed to be: a) a toxin or chemical that is in low enough concentrations to not harm the mammals of the house, but high enough to harm fish and yet dissipate over time, or b) too many dissolved gases in our well water. We do have a tendency to get a lot of "air" in our system; air interrupts the water flow and spews water on me all the time, especially first thing in the morning. This is my and our best guess as to the problem. If it is dissolved gases, then the mammals in the house are better able to deal with them than the fish. The fish are breathing in the gaseous water, it forms emboli and kills the fish. I had noticed air "in" the tails of some of the fish before they died. It certainly was not on the surface like little shiny bubbles, but formed along the "spines" (?) of the tails. Letting the water sit and get moved around the tank by filters and bubblers helped get rid of the gases, which is why the fish were fine when we acclimatized them.
Obviously, we are going to get our water professionally tested, soon. And the lone Diamond survivor? His post is next.
Originally Posted by chocological
I understand the sickening feeling. I hope the rest of your fish are okay.
The Diamond Chapter
I should probably back up and describe our 77g tank setup:
77g glass tank
lid with T5 40W 6700K lights x2
2 heaters, one glass and one with digital screen
air pump with 4 air stones
river rock style gravel
fake plants including floating bamboo
one imitation stone cave
fish were being fed Hikari Micro Pellets 3 pinches 3x day, occasional f/d bloodworms and f/d brine shrimp
So, only one fish was still alive Saturday afternoon. Scott came home from getting the truck checked out, and he had a rather eventful trip home. Turning onto our gravel road, he hit a baby deer that came out of nowhere. Scott's okay, the truck has a dented and loose bumper, but the fawn died instantly . He was pretty shook up (even though he wouldn't admit it), and I was still very upset. I had other things to do, like take care of my other pets, get some housework done, etc., so the fish tank was left for the moment. Nothing was on: not the filters nor the lights, bubblers or anything. I would occasionally walk by and look for the fish, but couldn't really find him. Scott's chair is right near the tank, so every once in a while he would tell me that he saw the fish and where he was.
Slowly, I realized that the fish was doing not too badly. I figured I would at least turn things on to keep him comfy, and started thinking about what to do. The little guy was quite a fighter, that was for sure. I had to shift my thoughts to closing the tank down, to trying to figure out a way to keep him alive and keep the filters cycled to get him some buddies. I figured that since the 77g needed to cycle again, so I thought I could set up our "new" quarantine tank.
On Labour Day, I had been perusing kijiji to see if I could find an inexpensive small tank to use as a QT. I found a 10g with lid, internal filter, heater, lid, decorations/plants, gravel, air pump and hose, and miscellaneous water treatments and food. It ended up being in fabulous shape and we got it for only $30CAD. I hadn't touched it since we bought it since I wasn't expecting to use it so soon.
I jumped in to action, and scrubbed the tank and other stuff we needed. I talked to Scott, and decided to move the 405 to the 10g. Yeah, overkill, but it was cycled or close to it and one fish wasn't going to put out too much ammonia. We set up the QT, and let it run overnight empty with a couple drops of ammonia to keep the cycle going. We left the fish in the 77g overnight; the water was super clean having been changed twice in the last 24 hours.
On Sunday, I did water testing on the QT. It was showing being cycled: amm=0, trites=0 and trates>5. It took both of us to catch the little guy, and we had to remove most of the plants to do it. We put the fish and the net in a bowl of tank water, transferred him to the QT, and got him settled in. We found out that our survivor is a Diamond Tetra, and one I could actually recognize! When we got the Diamonds, I hadn't realized that two of them had ragged dorsal fins. Both fish had been healing their fins when all the trouble started. Our survivor the was one with a big chunk out of his dorsal fin; more proof that he was very much a fighter. We decided to name the guy and we are calling him Les Diamond after Les Stroud, host of the show "Survivorman" and a Canadian too. Thought it was appropriate.
Sunday night I did water testing on the 77g: amm = trace, trItes = 0.3, and trAtes = 10. Obviously it is still not cycled, so since it is now empty, I am treating it as being in a fishless cycle in which the I still have to wait for trIte eating bacteria to catch up. We are sooner rather than later building up our fish stock again, but we are doing it slowly. We are assuming that if the water sits before going in the tank it is safe (everything shows that). We are planning a water storage system in the house for water changes. I'll talk about that in another post.
Today, Les is doing awesome. His tank is stable, and he is eating and doing other fishie things. I am diligently scooping up uneaten food after every feeding, and will continue to test his water everyday. I am letting water sit before warming it and adding it to his tank. I'll do my best, since he is doing his
Glad to hear Les diamond is okay.
Im new to fishkeeping and just was wondering.. What type of testers are you using for your water?
And, is there a way to test for dissolved gases?
Chocological -- you should start your own thread if you want to ask questions.
And you should use the API liquid masters test kit, it has everything you need in it.
Pics of the tank pre-crash
Here is a full view of the tank pre-crash:
_MG_6827 by DancingWisp, on Flickr
Diamonds (Les is not in the pic tho'):
_MG_6865 by DancingWisp, on Flickr
All of the types of fish:
_MG_6871 by DancingWisp, on Flickr
Talk to me!
I'm not sure about community unspoken rules about replies in journals, but I encourage comments, thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms here!
I am sorry you had the tank crash. I used to have well water too but I didnt have fish then. I hope you can find out what happened so you can restock.