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Help! Tropical fish not happy. What can I do?

(40 Posts)
spekulatius Sat 28-Jun-14 21:40:03

We've got a 110 litre tank with 8 Neons and 6 Platys. The problem is the Platys die. A lot. And the once left just don't seem happy. They hide most of the time, one likes to hide in a tunnel thing and lies on the bottom looking dead. When I try to remove him he swims off. I did ask the guy at Seapets today, he said Neons are usually the first once to go if the water isn't right but they seem ok. He said I could bring some water to have it tested there but I found a test kit at home, it gives a reading but doesn't say what is normal? Hope someone can help?

EauRouge Sat 28-Jun-14 23:09:16

Hello smile

If you post the test results on here then I can give you a hand.

spekulatius Sun 29-Jun-14 08:32:27

NO3 Nitrite 250
NO2 Nitrite ok
dGH total hardness > 21
dKH carbonate hardness 3
ph 6.4

It's a Vitakraft testkit Combi 5.

EauRouge Sun 29-Jun-14 09:46:14

Have you got an ammonia reading? Is the nitrAte definitely 250 and not 25? I've never heard of it going that high. can you check your tap watr and see what the nitrate level is in that?

spekulatius Sun 29-Jun-14 10:17:29

Yes it's 250. Goes from 0, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500. That's NO3 mg/Nitrite. The other is NO2 and it's either white (ok) or light pink (not ok). Tap water No3 is 0, carbonate hardness is 20 and ph 8.4. I did add TetraAqua Easybalance to the water. Suppose to reduce Nitrite. ?????

EauRouge Sun 29-Jun-14 11:25:15

Well, that's probably your problem then- nitrAte should be kept lower than about 40ppm (or mg/l, the measurements are the same), but the lower the better. 250 will cause all sorts of health problems.

When's the last time you did a water change and how much did you change? When did you last clean the filter and how did you do it?

EasyBalance I think is supposed to reduce nitrAte. Don't get nitrAte and nitrIte mixed up, nitrIte will kill your fish at much smaller levels than nitrAte. In a healthy aquarium, nitrIte should always be zero. this is a good explanation of the nitrogen cycle in aquaria.

Also it's very concerning that your tap water is pH8.4 and your tank is pH6.4- that's a big change. It could be that your tank is experiencing a pH crash.

For now the best thing to do is a water change- I'd do maybe 20% every day for now, until the pH is more stable and the nitrAte is reduced.

spekulatius Sun 29-Jun-14 11:51:18

We used filtered tap water about 8 months ago. The ph of filtered water is 7.6. Rinsed the filters under tap. I'm not sure about the different types of Nitrite. They are both spelled Nitrat. Must be from Germany I guess.

EauRouge Sun 29-Jun-14 12:44:13

8 months ago is the last time you did a water change? When did you last clean the filters? You should never use tap water btw, it kills the good bacteria in the filter.

yes, could be German, a lot of aquarium companies are from there. NitrIte is NO2 and nitrAte is NO3.

spekulatius Sun 29-Jun-14 15:33:20

Is that too often or not enough? Cleaned the filters at the same time. Do you mean I have to use bottled water to fill the tank? I used to have real plants in the tank but they've all been eaten. Are they good to keep the fish healthy? Will try changing the

spekulatius Sun 29-Jun-14 15:59:17

Looking at the link you sent I need a different test kit that shows Ammonia don't I? It all looks quite complicated, i've always just put the water in and the fish seemed happy and had babies. Will go with the water changing for now.

MamaPizza Sun 29-Jun-14 17:03:54

It's not really that complicated.

Once the nitrogen cycle is established, which can take 6-8 weeks, ammonia should always read 0, nitrIte 0 and nitrAte up to 40. You only have to do weekly or fortnightly waterchanges (depending on stocking level) of about 25% and it will tick over nicely without being complicated. It's just getting it right in the first place that can be a bummer especially for newbies.

And never ever wash the filter sponges under tap water, it will kill your good bacteria. Always give them a rinse in old tank water, about once a month should do.

EauRouge Sun 29-Jun-14 17:27:55

With that number of fish in the size tank you have, you really need to be doing a water change every week. The EasyBalance stuff is OK every now and again but it's not substitute for regular maintenance (despite what the marketing blurb might say).

This is what you need to be doing on a weekly basis:

25-40% water change (depending on nitrAte levels)
Clean gravel/sand
Tidy up plants
Top up with fresh, dechlorinated tap water (you'll need a dechlorinator like TapSafe or AquaSafe)
Rinse filter sponges lightly in water taken from the tank (the aim is to increase water flow, not to clean off all the gunk completely.You might get away with this once a fortnight or even once a month depending on how quickly it gets blocked up)

Don't use bottled water, it can be very high in nitrAte as well as high mineral levels that make the water very hard. Your tap water is already hard and alkaline which isn't ideal for neons but as they've survived such high levels of nitrAte, they're obviously tough as old boots.

You can buy separate ammonia test kits, so you can keep the kit you have. What you are looking for in a healthy tank is a steady pH level and this:

Ammonia: 0
NitrIte (NO2): 0
NitrAte (NO3): <40, but the lower the better.

If your ammonia or nitrIte is more than zero then your filter isn't working. This can be temporary but needs to be monitored. If nitrAte is zero then you need to keep an eye as well, but this can happen in a healthy tank if it's really lightly stocked and has tons of plants.

I don't know where you've been getting your information/advice from so far, but never, ever listen to them again!! Hope that helps a bit, if any of it is clear as mud then I can explain a bit better once the DDs are in bed and not pestering me wink

marne2 Sun 29-Jun-14 21:05:18

Eau gives good advice.

I do at least one water change a week and I do this using a gravel vacuum, at the moment I am doing 2 a week because my tank is slightly over stocked. It's important to check for ammonia as it can cause permanent damage to the fish if the ammonia is too high.

I don't have much luck with mollies or platies so I don't keep them anymore, I managed to lower my ph slightly by putting bog wood in my tank as well as plants and moss.

Azquilith Sun 29-Jun-14 21:54:50

Have been lurking, great advice thanks

spekulatius Thu 17-Jul-14 14:31:22

I've still got a problem with the platys. still dying. The tank was very very dirty, disgustingly dirty. Looks much better now, Neons are still happy. The Platys loose their colour, on the sides they look more white and all of them are swimming on top ad if they are getting air from there. I've put real plants and oxygen tablets but doesn't seem to help. Ammonia has always been 25, not changed yet. NO3 25, NO2 ok. Might be stupid question but can I take them to the vets?

EauRouge Thu 17-Jul-14 20:03:10

The ammonia is 25? That's why they're dying. It should be zero. At this point I would be doing water changes every day until the water quality improves.

There's not much point taking them to the vet, even if you are lucky enough to have a vet that knows about fish; these problems are all caused by water quality and you can't fix any illnesses until it improves. I'd be testing every day and changing the water every day until the ammonia and nitrIte is at a more manageable level (the only 'OK' level of nitrIte is zero).

Hope that helps! It'll be hard work to get everything back as it should be, but if you keep up with maintenance then it should be easy going after that.

NotQuiteCockney Thu 17-Jul-14 20:05:43

Fish swimming at the top don't have enough oxygen - how strong is your pump? Is it running a good jet of water around? That's how the water gets deoxygenated.

Are you cleaning your pump filter mediums in tap water? If so, stop.

There are products you can buy that can (I think?) repopulate your tank with the right sort of bacteria, to process the ammonia and nitrates ... (well, they certainly process nitrates).

hoppingmad Thu 17-Jul-14 22:23:36

Agree with above about ammonia levels and getting good flow in your tank.

Also what temp is your tank running at just now?

spekulatius Fri 18-Jul-14 00:00:30

Sorry, got that wrong. The ammonia level is 0.25. Pump is running fine. Is it ok to buy all filters new? They were so so dirty, I've rinsed them in tank water but they were so slimey. Think the heater is broken. Temperature is in green, about 22. Also the NO3 was originally 250, then went down to 25, today it's 50. The NO2 reading only days 'ok' or not but it reads as ok. Doesn't have any numbers

spekulatius Fri 18-Jul-14 00:04:02

Sorry hadn't finished. Ph is now same as tap water 8.4. Oh dear, one died today, hope there won't be another one tomorrow. I obviously don't know anything about fish but they had always been happy. Got the info from a book, certainly didn't mention water cycles sad

hoppingmad Fri 18-Jul-14 07:01:59

First off I would take that sample in to your lfs. They will help you understand the readings you are getting.

Secondly, no do not replace all your filters at once. Which filter system are you using? I would certainly think about starting a staged filter sponge replacement but if you do it all in one go you'll have no bacteria left. If they are slimy just rinse and rinse with tank water during a water change.

Remember water changes are partial, don't turf the whole lot.

Temp is ok, I would run it slightly warmer for those fish (about 24) but platys should be ok at 22 - certainly don't think it's whats killing them especially giving your readings.

If I understand correctly you did no water changes for 8 months? Then I'm guessing you did quite a radical water change and you say you rinsed all the filters in tap water. Your tank will be cycling now.

All you can really do is keep up with the water changes, every other day so as not to stress the fish.

Another option if you can afford it is to add a second filter for a while. Something like the fluval U2 should work to boost your filtration.

spekulatius Fri 18-Jul-14 07:12:35

8 months ago I rinsed them in tap water, now. I'm doing it in the old tank water.

EauRouge Fri 18-Jul-14 07:57:09

The sponges are meant to be a bit dirty, you need bacteria in there to process the waste. Have you read up on the nitrogen cycle? It's essential stuff to know. Don't just replace the sponges with new ones, that'll make things worse. A bit of slime is OK but you can squeeze them out a bit in a bucket of tank water to get it off. Yes, you do have to get your hands dirty when cleaning a fish tank grin

0.25 ammonia isn't so bad, it could just be a misreading on the test. Keep testing regularly and keep a record of what the levels are and that'll tell you what's going on. NO3 at 50ppm is still pretty high- have you tested your tap water to see what the level is? Have you been using dechlorinator when you do water changes?

spekulatius Fri 18-Jul-14 09:35:12

No3 and NO2 are both 0 for tap water. yes been putting tap safe into the new water.

EauRouge Fri 18-Jul-14 10:04:53

If your tap water nitrAte is 0 and it's 50 in your tank then it's building up very quickly- what's your feeding regime like? I'd do another water change. It can stress fish out if you do them too often, but if water quality is a problem then that will stress them out more.

High ammonia can damage their gills and high nitrIte (NO2) can inhibit their blood's ability to transfer oxygen (similar to divers getting the bends), so you need to improve water quality as well as adding extra oxygenation if they are gasping for breath at the surface. Can you get a test kit for NO2 with numbers on? 'OK' doesn't really tell you much.

Dunno what book you have but I'd be setting fire to it! Fishkeeping has changed a lot over the last 20 years and it's taking some of the the more old-school fishkeepers a while to catch up, so a lot of books are just plain out of date. The nitrogen cycle isn't complicated but it's an essential part of keeping fish. This is a really good diagram. Basically if you look after the bacteria and the water then you don't have to do so much looking after the fish.

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