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  1. #1
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    Fish and shrimp dying! Diseased water?

    I'm a fish newbie that is in need of help! My fish and shrimp are dying and I can't figure out why.

    My fish enthusiast neighbor gave me an extra 10 gallon tank he had hanging around (complete with all the equipment!) so I could start a tank for my kids. I filled it up in early January and let it sit for a day or so. I had read about fishless vs. fish-in cycles and certainly didn't want to do the latter. After a few days, I used the ammonia test kit he gave me and was surprised to see that there were no traces of ammonia! Fantastic! (Yes, I know better now.)

    Went to PetSmart (the best of what's in my area for freshwater fish) and picked up 2 Long-Fin Zebra Danios. I knew they were hardy and figured they'd be a good starter fish while I got the hang of things. I did weekly (bi-weekly if it needed it) PWC, de-chlorinated the water with every change, and the Danios seemed to be doing well. Test results were perfect, so I added 3 more Glofish Danios and a few Ghost Shrimp thinking I was in the clear and kicking serious butt at being a new fish owner with the temperamental 10 gal. The shrimp were molting and growing and my zebras had babies! Sadly, the shrimp thought they were delicious.

    Then I noticed they were a little pink around the gills. Did more frequent changes and did lots of testing. Added 1 tablespoon of aquarium salt to the water knowing my shrimp would be happier and hoping it would help the fish, too. The redness improved slightly, but the tips of fins started to turn a little milky. I did more and more testing to try and figure this all out, but nothing ever appeared on the test results. Turns out the test expired a few years ago. Awesome. (Apparently my neighbor hasn't kept freshwater fish for quite some time!) Picked up a new kit and found ammonia was out of control at 2.0 ppm! Did a WC! Thinking I was doing my tank a favor, I also dropped in one of those fizzy tablets that neutralizes the ammonia. Bad idea! It seems to have restarted my cycle.

    I left one Saturday morning in late February with five active fish and came home that afternoon to two dead on the substrate. I did a test for clues and found the nitrites were at a deadly 5.0 ppm. Did a 70% WC, but too little too late. The other three fish and one shrimp would soon die as well. SO sad watching them breathe so fast knowing the end was near.

    The tank sat empty for a week, excepting one shrimp. Watched test results. Nitrites dropped, ammonia rose slightly and then dropped off completely and I thought I was in the clear. Picked up 3 guppies (2 male and 1 pregnant female) and one berried shrimp to keep my shrimp company. Three days later, they were all dead. No visible signs of disease or stress. No white spots. No red gills. No apparent signs of fin rot.

    I've read that Ich (or is it Ick?) needs to find a host within a few days so I have a hard time believing it was that being that the tank was fishless for a week. I think we all know what happened to the poor Danios, but do any of you have any ideas about the Guppies? What am I missing? Is my water diseased? What do I do next?





  2. #2
    Senior Member axelrod12's Avatar
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    Ick is one of the more noticeable diseases. You would have seen raised white bumps like grains of salt on your fish. In this situation it sounds like you may just still be in the midst of your cycle. It can take up to 2 months for a tank to fully cycle without anything hindering it's process. If the tank is empty now I would recommend buying a bottle of pure ammonia, dosing your tank and completing with a fishless cycle. Test and dose daily until the ammonia is being completely processed into nitrates.

    Did the guppies show any signs of stress in the 3 days you had them?
    "If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason the possibility of life is destroyed" - Leo Tolstoy/Christopher McCandless
    "Don't be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin" - Grace Hansen



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    Oh thank you so much for responding!

    I didn't see any raised white bumps, so I'm guessing it wasn't Ick. And no, I didn't see any signs of stress with the Guppies like I did with the Danios. No quick breathing, redness, strange coloring, etc. I was watching them rather carefully. Although in hindsight, maybe the female was showing signs and I just didn't realize it. She was the longest surviving and she quit eating on the last day she lived and rested on the substrate a lot--pregnancy traits from what I understand. I thought she was just getting ready to have babies. Was that stress or was she just preparing for birth?

    Yes, the tank is empty now so I could complete the fishless cycle like you recommended. Should I start from scratch to make sure any parasites or diseases are eliminated? Can I still be the the midst of a cycle with no Nitrite or Ammonia present?



  4. #4
    MTS Survivor Jannika's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lals View Post
    Can I still be the the midst of a cycle with no Nitrite or Ammonia present?
    Yes, if nitrate is also 0. In a fully cycled tank ammonia and nitrite should be 0, with some level of nitrate.



  5. #5
    Senior Member axelrod12's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lals View Post
    Oh thank you so much for responding!

    I didn't see any raised white bumps, so I'm guessing it wasn't Ick. And no, I didn't see any signs of stress with the Guppies like I did with the Danios. No quick breathing, redness, strange coloring, etc. I was watching them rather carefully. Although in hindsight, maybe the female was showing signs and I just didn't realize it. She was the longest surviving and she quit eating on the last day she lived and rested on the substrate a lot--pregnancy traits from what I understand. I thought she was just getting ready to have babies. Was that stress or was she just preparing for birth?

    Yes, the tank is empty now so I could complete the fishless cycle like you recommended. Should I start from scratch to make sure any parasites or diseases are eliminated? Can I still be the the midst of a cycle with no Nitrite or Ammonia present?

    The guppy was most likely displaying signs of stress and not pregnancy. You can still be in the midst of the cycle. You tank is considered fully cycled when the colony of beneficial nitrifying bacteria is large enough to process all produced ammonia completely into nitrates. Ammonia is simply a food source for the bacteria they will eventually die without it but can still survive for some time. If you are really concerned about there being a parasite or disease in the water you could break the tank down rinse everything thoroughly in hot water and then start over. However this will completely restart the cycle so be prepared to wait longer and spend some time looking at an empty tank and testing water.
    "If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason the possibility of life is destroyed" - Leo Tolstoy/Christopher McCandless
    "Don't be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin" - Grace Hansen



  6. #6
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    Jannika and axelrod12, thank you both so much!

    My last test did not show any Nitrate, so I'll just wait and test some more. I've been toying with the idea of adding some plants to my tank--probably moss as I have gravel. I'd like to have a place for fry to hide. Good idea or bad idea to add them at this point?

    I don't really love the idea of doing a full reset on the tank only to have to wait longer. I'm missing the fish as much as my kids are! (Maybe more!) If the consensus here is that I'm losing fish due to a cycle issue, I think I'll wait for my Nitrate levels to rise (anything under 40ppm is safe, right?) and take my chances again. Plants also help with maintaining good water parameters, yes?



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    If your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are all -zero- then you don't need to worrk about starting over...you are already starting over. My advice would be to leave the tank set up as it is, get a bottle of ammonia, do a large water change to start, read up on the fishless cycle and wait.

    However, in the absence of "waiting" there are a few tools you can do to improve things. If your neighbor has any tanks up, ask if you can borrow some filter media to seed your tank with. Or see if he has a buddy with a tank for some media. Even the squeezings from an established filter can give to seed to cut down on cycle time. Best would be to place that media in a fine mesh bag in your tank while you monitor a cycle, and once you see a complete cycle, leave it in there for 2 weeks to a month as you build up your stocking.

    There are also products out there of "questionable" use such as Tetra's "SafeStart". I used it once, long ago, to start my first 10 gal as I had "restless kid syndrom" and it worked as stocking was light, but for every positive anecdotal story, there is an equal story of death and dismay.

    Adding plants at this point is your personal choice. They won't effect your cycle any, though I suppose it is possible that with enough "stem" plants you wouldn't see the creation of nitrates as they uptake them from the water column. "stem" plants like wisteria get most of their nutrients from the water column where root feeders like amazon sword pick them up from their roots and usually need supplemental root tabs. To an extent, plants can help maintain good water parameters, but they are no cure all for poor tank maintenance.

    I would wait on the plants. Most of what you find in the big boxes is of questionable application in the aquarium in the first place. Especially those plants you get in tubes at most of the big box locations. Wait around on here and you usually can find low cost low tech/low light plants for sale.

    What you could do is go on an "adventure" hike with the kids and look for a nice piece of wood to put in the tank. Especially if you have a hardwood forest in the area. Prepping it for tank use will give you something to do while working the cycle.



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    tolawdjk, thank you for your response! What would I do without this forum? So grateful for all the responses.

    Really good idea on the adventure hike. Kiddies would enjoy it. I think once it gets above freezing we could go do something like that. They are both preschoolers. The closest trees to me are mostly pine, but I'm sure I could procure a piece of hardwood from somewhere. Is there one kind of wood that is better than others? How does one prepare it for the tank?

    I did another test today and did finally get a bit of nitrate. However, I think I'll pick up a bottle of ammonia tomorrow and get my fishless cycle on for real this time. My neighbor has moved on to saltwater, but I'm sure he knows some other freshwater keepers. I'll check on that. Hold up--can I use seed from his saltwater tank or are they two completely different ball games?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge on plants. That was very insightful. I'm certainly not expecting a miracle, but any help from a plant couldn't hurt. And they look way better than the plastic that's in there now. I will keep my eye out for the low cost/low tech/low light plants like you suggested. Somebody has got to be pruning some moss at some point, right? And yeah, the plants in the tubes never look very healthy. Do you recommend getting fish from an online retailer?



  9. #9
    Senior Member happypoet's Avatar
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    Hi there. I saw your post on my profile. Once you're done with your cycle, I could definitely sell you some shrimp. Send me a pm when your tank is ready.



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    Ah, thank you much.



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