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help! depressed/ill goldfish

(21 Posts)
EmmaBemma Tue 02-Aug-11 19:10:46

3 months ago I bought two goldfish for my daughter's third birthday. I put them in what I then thought was a decent sized tank (21 litres), though a quick scan of this forum reveals my mistake! It has a water filter which I check weekly and change the media 4 weekly. I do a 25-30% water change every week too, using a vacuum thing. I use chlorine neutralising drops and leave the water to sit for a couple of hours so it's room temperature.

The fish themselves - one is about twice the size of the other, and has always been the boss. I don't think he attacks the little one but I do see him chasing him around. The littlest one is about 3 inches long from nose to end of tail at the very most. They get fed 3 times a day on flakes and until a couple of days ago both were active feeders and seemed happy, lively fish.

But over the last couple of days or so the little fish has got gradually less active and is now just lurking in the same place at the bottom of the tank, practically lying on the gravel. He's not interested in food at all, and his eyes look dull and clouded over, one slightly more than the other. I did a quick search online and it seems there is such a thing as "cloudy eye" disease which is mostly caused by bad water quality but I thought I was doing enough water changes? The other thing that can cause it, apparently, is being stressed, and again - other than maybe the big fish chasing him sometimes - I do what I can to avoid that.

Has anyone got any suggestions? I feel really sorry for the little fella, I don't want him to die or be ill if there's something I can do to help, but I just don't know what.

Kladdkaka Wed 03-Aug-11 12:42:52

I'll try to quickly run through water cycling, sorry if I repeat stuff you already know.

Fish soil the water and that makes them ill because they then 'breath' that same water. Bluerhh! You have to cycle the water until it's nice. This is how you do it:

1. STOP FEEDING THE FISH
2. Change 50% water
3. Next day, check the amonia level (fish pee). If it is a safe level go to 4. If it isn't go back to 2.
4. Next day, check amonia level again. If it is a safe level go to 5. If it isn't go back to 2.
5. Next day, check the amonia level. If it is a safe level go to 6. If it isn't go back to 2.
6. Check the nitrite level. If it is safe go to 7. If it isn't go back to 2.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until you have had 3 days of 'good' water.
8. Feed a tiny amount to fishes.
9. Next day, test amonia and nitrate levels. If not safe, go back to 2.

The main cause of bad water is usually over feeding. If water is bad, stop feeding and get cycling. If no amount of cycling works, then you need you need more filtration. Add a second filter and keep cycling until the amonia and nitrate eating bacteria grow.

I hope that made sense.

EauRouge Wed 03-Aug-11 15:36:42

Yes, it sounds like the filter isn't coping so the water quality isn't up to scratch. In addition to what Kladdkaka wrote, make sure you never wash the filter in tap water (use water taken from the tank) and dechlorinate any fresh water you put in. Don't keep changing the filter media unless it is a carbon sponge (it will be black if it is) because you will be throwing out all the good bacteria. Aquarium companies are buggers for making you spend money unnecessarily, normal sponges can be rinsed in tank water and re-used until they lose their elasticity.

A liquid test kit is better than the dipstick ones, they are more expensive up front but they work out cheaper in the long run and they are more accurate.

Kladdkaka Wed 03-Aug-11 15:56:38

The dipstick ones all run into a blur for me and I can't read anything off it.

EmmaBemma Wed 03-Aug-11 19:38:28

Thank you very much, both - that's really helpful. I don't have a water test kit but have just bought one off Amazon (an API liquid test one). While I'm waiting for it to arrive, should I do 50% water changes every day?

I hope you also don't mind me asking a couple of other questions -

-should I get a better water filter? The one I have came with the tank, I presume it's very basic.

-how often should I change the media if not every month? I do rinse in tank water every week.

-will poorly fish get better from cycling the water alone?

-how long can fish go without food, assuming I need to go through the above steps more than once?

Many thanks again for your help.

EmmaBemma Wed 03-Aug-11 19:39:51

oh hang on, my apologies - I see you answered the filter question in your first response, Kladdkaka.

Kladdkaka Wed 03-Aug-11 20:03:37

- 50% water change everyday until you know it's clean. Fish will love you for it. It the equivalent of opening the windows in a dark room full of sweaty cavemen.

- my filter has 2 sponges. I rinse them in the bucket of water taken from the tank when doing a water change (not clean water). I replace one sponge every 6 months or so. Don't change all the filter stuff in one go. The whole point of cycling is that you are cleaning the water until the bacteria grow in the filter to do it for you. If you change it all, you have to start again as you throw out all the good bacteria.

- I only ever change water for poorly fish (apart from ich). Sometimes they get better, sometimes they don't. All the other chemicals seem a bit pointless to me. Others may differ.

- Don't know exactly how long fish can go hungry when cycling, but when I set my current tank up it was 3 weeks of cycling before they got any nosh. Pond carp go all through winter with no food.

- Once you water is clean start feeding tiny amounts, but keep testing the water. If the amonia/nitrite goes up, you're feeding them too much. Once you get the balance right, it's a doddle. My tank now gets a 30% water change once every six months only (purely so I can clean the filter and the glass).

EmmaBemma Wed 03-Aug-11 21:16:02

Thanks again Kladdkaka - you've been so helpful and reassuring! I'll keep on top of the water quality from now on and hopefully it'll be enough to perk up the little fella.

Kladdkaka Wed 03-Aug-11 21:34:59

You're welcome.

EmmaBemma Thu 04-Aug-11 16:18:25

Just to let you know, after two 50% water changes, little fish seems to be getting better already! He is swimming about quite nimbly now, looking for food in the gravel and on the surface. One eye is still quite cloudy but the other looks almost normal. Going to keep doing the changes until the test kit arrives, and not feed yet.

Kladdkaka Thu 04-Aug-11 16:21:01

Excellent. Well done.

Furball Thu 04-Aug-11 16:28:21

can I just add that when you do start feeding them again.

only a tiny pinch twice a day max. Only put enough in that they eat it in a few minutes.

It's rotting food thats adding to the water quality problems.

HerbWoman Thu 04-Aug-11 21:01:49

If it gives you an idea I have never had to change the sponges in our tank, and they have been in the filter for approx 6 years now. Still working fine.

EmmaBemma Thu 11-Aug-11 20:36:25

hello again! thanks Furball and HerbWoman, both your posts were helpful.

Water is now sparkly clean and in the last two days have resumed feeding very tiny amounts as per Kladdkaka and Furball's posts. But little fish is NOT eating. After my earlier post, he seemed to go downhill a bit again. Bigger fish seemed to be bullying him a bit too, and I noticed a little bit of his tail fin and one of his side fins was missing - nibbled off maybe? He stayed in the bottom corner of the tank for three or so days and then one of his eyes went really bulgy. (during this time the water was ammonia/nitrite free but my guess is that he's still harbouring an infection)

I bought some antibiotics for the water from amazon. They still haven't arrived but his eye has gone right down again, though neither eye is clear, and he's got livelier, swimming around the tank, not being bothered so much (that I can see) by the big fish. But he hasn't eaten a thing. Just not interested at all. Is there anything I can try to tempt him with or is it pointless to try until he's better? And should i be bothering with these antibiotics? I'm worried they might affect the other fish, who is totally well, and I don't have a hospital tank.

EauRouge Fri 12-Aug-11 10:00:18

I would just treat the whole tank, the antibiotics shouldn't harm your other fish. Which one is it, metronidazole? That's the one most used with fish.

You could try tempting him with some live food if you can get it. Most specialist aquatic places sell things like bloodworm and daphnia in little packets. You just empty them into a net and give them a good rinse under the cold tap and then bung them in the tank. Your fish will love you forever grin Go sparingly though because your tank is small. You can always keep some of the food in a jam jar, they will live for a couple of days.

How soon can you upgrade to a larger tank?

EmmaBemma Fri 12-Aug-11 15:20:21

I'm not sure what the actual antibiotic ingredient is but the product name is Tetramedica Lifeguard. It says it's a broad spectrum antibacterial and antifungal treatment - I thought that sounded like a winner as I don't know exactly what's wrong.

I'm keeping a lookout on ebay for second hand large tanks near me. I'm trying to work out logistics too - we don't have a lot of room in our house and I need to find somewhere for the current tank and fish to live whilst the new tank is cycling, which I hear can take weeks!

There is an aquatic supply place near me, I'll see if I can get some yummy bloodworm tomorrow! Thank you.

EauRouge Fri 12-Aug-11 15:26:15

Oh, it's antibacterial rather than antibiotic then. It's well worth a go, those broad spectrum meds are great for minor infections and illnesses but some more stubborn infections need proper antibiotics which you can get from a vet or illegally from ebay.

Freecycle and car boot sales are brilliant for second hand tanks. If you've already got a mature tank running then you can just move everything over rather than waiting to do a fishless cycle. You cycle filters rather than tanks because that's where the vast majority of the good bacteria are. I can give you step by step instructions if you like once you get a new tank and filter.

EmmaBemma Fri 12-Aug-11 17:54:59

oh! I'm a doofus, and thought antibacterial and antibiotic were the same thing...

that's good news that I can just transfer everything over, and will make life a lot easier. I will definitely be back to ask for instructions once I've got the new tank. thank you again for your help.

EmmaBemma Fri 16-Sep-11 06:16:53

hello! just to update you as I haven't been on for a while, as of yesterday the fish are now swimming about in a much bigger tank - 80L. I know this still isn't an ideal size and I was holding out for something bigger, but at the price they cost just now even second hand ones were too much for me to afford (£100+), and I thought it would be best to get them into something bigger quickly than keep them in that tiny 21L tank. Plus, reading up online tells me that the best size, failing a pond, is 200L +, ideally 280L for two, and there's no way I've got the space for that. They're still little fish though and they've got masses of room compared to before - tank is nearly 3 ft wide - so I'm going to see how we go for the next year and then as they grow, hope to rehome them with someone who does have a pond, keep the tank and find some more suitable fish for it after that!

The tank itself is great, I got sand for the bottom, there's several (fake) plants in it for cover and I bought a powerful filter for it. I'm running their old little filter next to the big one for the first week or so to try to get the bacteria to cross over.

I do have a problem, which is that I'm fairly sure little fish can't see very well now after his illness. Otherwise he is fine, but his eyes don't look right and, whilst he doesn't bang into things, he seems to swim about a bit more cautiously than bigger fish and he doesn't see when I put food in the tank. I think he smells the food but then goes searching for it on the bottom rather than swimming straight up to the top like his buddy. I've been making sure he gets fed by swishing the water around so some flakes float down to him before the other fish gobbles them all up, and also feeding frozen bloodworm once a week, which goes everywhere, so they both get a good meal then. But is it OK that he can't see? Is he likely to survive long term?

EauRouge Fri 16-Sep-11 08:07:33

Oh that's good, it sounds like they're enjoying the new tank! You can put the sponge or whatever from your old filter straight into your new one (if you can fit it in there with the new sponges) and then there's no need to run both of them together.

The eye thing may or may not be cause for concern. If you see any bulging or cloudiness then that could be a sign of illness. I know a couple of people that have kept blind goldfish and it's not been a problem. They can smell food and sense objects around them with their lateral line- that's the line down the side of their body, it's not always obvious but you should be able to see it in the light- it's the same line that allows fish to move together in a shoal, a bit like a sixth sense. Pretty cool eh grin

EmmaBemma Fri 16-Sep-11 10:12:06

they really are enjoying it - they both seem much happier (at the risk of anthropomorphi-watsit).

Little fish's eyes aren't cloudy or bulgy, they just both look wrong; flatter if anything than big fish's eyes and the pupil seems partially obscured, if not by cloudiness but by scarring possibly? They've been like that since he was ill. I'm pretty sure he's otherwise recovered and seems lively and well, and is eating fine so long as he can find the food.

That's really interesting about the lateral line! I'm going to read up about it.

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