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Novice goldfish keeper - dark water = bad?

(18 Posts)
bellabelly Fri 24-Jul-15 21:02:37

Hello, first of all thank you to those of you who have given really detailed advice about caring for goldfish, I have been reading all the old threads and have found some brilliant advice on here.

We have had our goldfish since Saturday (DS2 won it at the fair - I know, I know, not great). I knew nothing about keeping fish and probably still have a lot to learn. But thanks to old threads on here, I learnt about tank size, water quality, fishless cycling of a new tank (too late for us to do this as fish was already with us but I will know for next time...)

Anyway, our baby goldfish is in a brand new 60 litre tank, with filter. (I do understand that this won't be big enough after a while...) I have done a few partial water changes since Monday (when tank was purchased) hoping to keep ammonia and nitrite levels at a safe level while the tank cycled. Have used the de-chlorination stuff with every water change.

Yesterday, my water testing strips (they change colour, bit like ph paper) arrived and I was really surprised that the ammonia reading was zero and the nitrite and nitrate levels were also really low. So I haven't changed any of the water since then, thinking i'll just do it once a week.

I noticed today that the water is looking a bit darker - not cloudy at all just more brown looking than crystal clear. Re-tested with the strips and got the same great results.

My 2 questions are 1) Can I trust the test results? I'm surprised (and delighted!) that the levels are already so low for ammonia etc but is it too good to be true?

2) Is it ok for the water to look a bit dark in colour? I always imagined that the water in a fishtank should be totally colourless but then there's an awful lot that I don't know about keeping fish. Am thinking ponds are often a bit brown looking, aren't they?

Sorry this is so long. Any advice would be very helpful.

bellabelly Sat 25-Jul-15 00:33:51

Having posted this earlier, I think that I have worked out, with some help from google) that the problem might be a piece of bogwood that I put in the tank as decoration and for the fish to hide under. Apparently they can stain the water with tannins but I did give it a good rinse under the hot tap before I put it in the tank.

Well, maybe that's the problem. But if there's anything else you think I should be looking out for, please say.

TreeSparrow Sun 26-Jul-15 10:05:28

Tannins won't hurt the fish. It's purely aesthetic really. Bogwood will, however, acidify the water slightly so it's important to keep your water changes as regular as possible so as not to shift the pH too dramatically each time. Daily is better than weekly, and this is important for a fish-in cycle.

Now, your test strips. They are notoriously inaccurate. Bin them. Get yourself a proper liquid test kit. You'll need a complete testing kit for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Liquid tests are more accurate and sensitive.

Keep up the good work and keep an eye on large tanks in gumtree for sale.

bellabelly Sun 26-Jul-15 23:10:16

Thanks, TreeSparrow - that's good to know about the tannins. I will stick with the more frequent water changes. Does approx 10% each time sound about right?

And sounds like the test strips are just a waste of time then. Damn. Will invest in a liquid test kit instead. Would you recommend testing once a week? Or more frequently?

TreeSparrow Mon 27-Jul-15 21:36:43

Whilst cycling the tank you skills test daily for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate to ensure you're keeping levels within safe parameters for the fish. Write down the results to keep track of progress. Test at the same time each day if you can, and test before a water change. Once you know you are cycled you can reduce testing to twice a week, then once a week. I'd do once a week for the first couple of months to make sure there are no swings.

I have a tank that's been established for four years now and it's heavily planted with mature filters. I only test once a quarter now.

TreeSparrow Mon 27-Jul-15 21:37:30

That should say "you should test daily", not "skills test ".


bellabelly Mon 27-Jul-15 23:44:18

Thanks again, treeSparrow, this is all really helpful to know. How will I know when the tank is cycled? Is it all to do with the readings or is there a set number of weeks it should take?

Also, (sorry for so many questions) is there a particular ph that I should be aiming for? Was thinking about the bogwood making the water more acidic. Or does it just matter that the ph level is fairly stable?

The more I learn, the more I realise I am clueless!

CharleyDavidson Tue 28-Jul-15 00:03:15

There's not a set time limit. It's a bit of a balancing act and you just know you've got it when you test repeatedly and you have no problems.

Then you still test occasionally just in case as sometimes you can still get a spike of ammonia from time to time if something happens to affect your bacteria.

I have a gorgeous piece of bog wood but it just kept turning the tank water brown despite having been soaked for weeks so it's out of the tank now. I like my water to look clear.

bellabelly Tue 28-Jul-15 00:13:18

Thanks, CharleyDavidson! I think I get it now. I will probably keep on testing weekly for a while after the tank is cycled, just to reassure myself.

Thanks for your comment about the bogwood but that's not what I want to hear! Soaked for weeks and still turning the water brown? grin Like you, I'd much prefer the water to be colourless but I keep telling myself thta the tannins must be nearly gone by now... sounds like I have a few weeks / months to go! Is yours a really, really big bit?

TreeSparrow Tue 28-Jul-15 11:00:31

Tannins have some antimicrobial qualities so are useful. Regular water changes will keep the water clearer if you don't like the affect. It doesn't last more than a month or so for very large pieces.

Don't mess with the pH. You just want to aim for water stability so just keep everything regular and on schedule and your fish will be fine.

You should be cycled when your testing consistently produces zero ammonia and nitrite but climbing nitrates. Water changes must continue to remove nitrates (below 20ppm ideally).

CharleyDavidson Tue 28-Jul-15 11:15:45

My bogwood is a big, solid tree trunk type bit, not a branch which I think doesn't help.

TreeSparrow Tue 28-Jul-15 11:21:48

If you don't want it I'll have it. I'm always trying to up my tannins and add catappa leaves and alder cones to my tank. grin

bellabelly Mon 03-Aug-15 21:57:21

Just a quick update, I've been doing daily partial water changes and the water is now much less dark so I'm thinking that the small piece of bogwood must have nearly finished releasing tannins. It does look visibly paler than when it first went in to the tank.

Secondly, the test strips were said to be a bit useless so I (grudgingly) bought an API liquid test. The first day I used it, the ammonia level was 0.50ppm. Just for comparison, I used one of my old test strips and got a reading of 0 (ie, it was bright yellow in colour). So annoyed to have wasted my money on the strips and they weren't even especially cheap - the liquuid test set was only a few pounds more. Still, live and learn. For the last 2 days, the ammonia reading has been nearer to 0.25 but nitrite reading still at 0 so don't think the cycling process has started yet.

Thanks for all the advice so far - our goldfish seems to be doing ok so far...

bowsaw Wed 05-Aug-15 10:23:38

did you not do a fishless cycle before adding the fish?

Id change shops as your getting bad advise if they recommended them being ok going in on day one with fresh tap water

bellabelly Wed 05-Aug-15 14:12:19

No, bowsaw, sadly not. As I said, DS won the fish at the fair.

bowsaw Thu 06-Aug-15 07:48:00

keep the feeding very low, you need the tank to establish and stabilise. there is probably more than enough visceral fat (is it filled out from anal to ventral (gill) fin?) on the fish to keep it going on reduced rations for some time.

if the water discolouration is from the bog wood its not a issue, you might not like the look but for now the issue is getting the filtration up to speed, adding carbon would take out some of the discolouration, but its used up fast and is another expenses you dont need to do.

TreeSparrow Thu 06-Aug-15 23:14:03

Bowsaw - read from the beginning to get all the info on this case.

I wouldn't recommend carbon. Waste of money in my opinion and should only be used to remove medication from the water column.

Glad the testing is more accurate with liquid tests...told ya the strips were crap! Try to keep the ammonia below 0.25 and your fish will be fine. Cycling fish in takes a while.

bellabelly Tue 11-Aug-15 00:46:24

Am still getting 0 readings for nitrite and nitrate, it's taking forever to get this tank cycled. I keep reading about products that "kickstart" the cycling process, eg, Interpet Filter Start, that claim to boost the "good" bacteria and help your tank cycle faster. Any thoughts on this sort of product? Worth a try or might I be doing more harm than good if I add this to the tank?

Ammonia levels are consistently 0.25ppm or thereabouts and I'm still doing daily water changes (partial). If I ease up on water changes, would that help the tank to cycle faster? Or would I just be risking harming the fish? Gah, so much I still don't know!

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