Chemical Smell from Tank

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RossM

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Dec 2, 2019
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Hi all,

I have just brought two miniature fish tanks- each 5.5litres. Each tank now has three little minnow fish in them. One of the tanks is operating perfectly. Yet the second tank I noticed there is a foul chemical type smell coming from inside the tank. Hard to describe but almost like a cross between the smell of marijuana and oven cleaner.

I followed the same procedure for both aquariums:
* Opened the box and assembled the tank
* Washed the filter media under cold tap water and dried it with a towel
*Washed the gravel in a jug filled with cold tap water then discarded the tap water and put the gravel in the tank
* Filled the tank with cold tap water, stopping 1cm below the rim of the tank
*Put the required amount of tap safe into the tank and switched on the filter
* Left it to run without any fish in it for 48 hours as advised by pets at home
* Tested the water myself and the store also tested it all fine
* Brought the fish and took them home
* Poured some water out of the bag down the sink and then floated the bags with the fish and remaining water in each tank for 1 hour
* Emptied fish carefully into tank
* Waited 12 hours and then fed the fish for the first time since they had left the store.

So if both procedures were the same and one tank smells fine, something must be different about the 2nd tank and causing a problem. So I think what is different and I can only come up with;

* I used different ornaments in each: the tank that smells fine has two porcelain skulls in it and a glazed Christmas tree type decoration. Yet the 2nd one has a plastic "grass ball" in it and a glazed Christmas tree.
* Both tanks and filters are the same brand. Yet the filters in each tank look a bit different. It's as if one of them is a newer model filter as it's a different shape and seems to have different filter media.

The water in the 2nd tank isn't complete clear though it's like a subtle 'off clear' colour a bit like the colour of water with salt dissolved into it .

The fish all seem happy and healthy and the water tests I have just done indicate no problem with the water.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks

Ross
 

dudley

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Feb 9, 2005
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Hi Ross and Welcome to the forum!!

Are the ornaments you have in either tank made for aquarium use? If not, I would remove them as some decorations can leach harmful materials.

The 2nd issue is that based on your tank set up procedure as described, neither tank is cycled to allow beneficial bacteria (BB) to grow enough to sustain your fish. It usually takes 4-6 weeks to grow enough BB to add fish though some BB products might work.

What is the tap safe product you used?

What brand aquarium test kit are you using? You should have zero ammonia, zero nitrite and some level of nitrate over 5PPM in a cycled aquarium.

I would return the fish to the store you bought them from until your tanks can support any fish at all.
 

RossM

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Dec 2, 2019
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Hi Dudley,

Thank you for your response. Yes all the ornaments are specifically designed for aquarium use.

I appreciate what you are saying about cycling. Although why would the store I brought the fish from (pets at home- the largest pet store in the UK) tell me 24 hours is long enough before adding the fish? I will go and buy a BB product though - I have used these in previous aquariums in the past.

The tap safe is Tetra Aqua Safe. The test kit is Tetra 6-in-1 test strips .

No3 is 0, No2 is 0, GH is 8, Kh is 3, pH is 6.4 and Cl2 is 0

So all levels look to be acceptable as per your advice except for Nitrate. However my test kit says that a value of 0-25 mg/l is acceptable?

Many thanks

Ross
 

dudley

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Ross, I've found it very common the stores can give bad advice either because they are just looking to make some sales or the employee is clueless.

Thanks for listing the test kit and your water parameters. The test strips do give a range of values and the ones for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate do start at zero which is fantastic for ammonia and nitrite but not so much for nitrate. There should be a topic on the forum somewhere that explains the cycling process and what to expect on a new tank set up. Here is the link.

I also see that your pH is 6.4 which seems low but may be due to your water source. Are you on city water, well water, cistern, etc.?

What I like to suggest is that you also do a test of your tap water with the test strips to see if the numbers change between your tap water and the aquarium water. Definitely keep a written log of ALL your testing by dates to see if you see changes going forward as it's handy for determining if you need to make any adjustments.

I'm not sure why you are smelling something odd in only one tank, does it happen to smell like the Tetra Aqua Safe product?
 

Arthur11

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Jul 13, 2021
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You are having a problem with a smelly fish tank. In fact, getting rid of the fish tank smell is very easy. I think you should take care of the air humidity and check the filter system regularly to prevent the development of an odor. Schedule proper tank maintenance and change the water as soon as necessary to prevent complications later on. Use a clean cloth to wipe away any remaining food clinging to the walls of the tank.
 

FreshyFresh

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Jan 11, 2013
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Ross, like you say, these are really tiny tanks @ 1.5 gallons each. Do you know the specific type of fish you have in there?

As dudley suggests, if you don't have access to known healthy, cycled filtration media and/or substrate that would provide an 'instant nitrogen cycle' to your new setups, it's best to do a fish-less cycle.

You can get through a cycle with fish in the tanks, but you will need to do daily water changes and should feed very lightly in the process. You shouldn't see ammonia or nitrite in the water until one day, weeks down the road, you will see nitrate.

In terms of the odor you're smelling? Who knows. It could be chemical off-gassing from the materials in your setup or could be from organic compounds in the tank. I'd do water changes to see if it helps.
 

dudley

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Feb 9, 2005
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Another 2 yr old topic bumped by Arthur11 who forgot to insert links to his website. ;)
 
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Arthur11

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Jul 13, 2021
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You are having a problem with a smelly fish tank. In fact, getting rid of the fish tank smell is very easy. I think you should take care of the air humidity and check the filter system regularly to prevent the development of an odor. Schedule proper tank maintenance and change the water as soon as necessary to prevent complications later on. Use a clean cloth to wipe away any remaining food clinging to the walls of the tank.
If you constantly clean and follow a strict maintenance schedule, you can keep a fish tank from smelling.
 
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