Aquarium Setup • Post Mortum

New to the world of cichlids? For discussion on how to set up new tanks, including placement, filtration, substrates, water, etc. No stocking discussions here.

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Post Mortum

Postby huskertsd » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:57 pm

We bought a 55-gallon with the intention of keeping cichlids, something I've never done before. Never have had anything about a 29-gallon before, and hadn't hadn't anything for several years. When purchasing, I asked about filter options and was told you can't beat the new cannister filters, something I've never had. We got an Aquatop CF-4000UV, which we were told was more than enough, cycling 370 gallons an hour.

Never having a cannister filter before I set it up with the intake low and near the bottom in one corner. Not sure what you call it, but the outflow tube, about a foot long with holes, I placed on the other side of the tank, underwater, with the holes pointing down. That part may (or may not) be important, because of what happened next.

We'd had the tank up and going a week, and followed the seller's advice about getting it cycled, by using the bacterial add-in. He said with that, there's no reason to wait a couple of weeks before stocking it. We waited a week, first bought 3 small cichlids (only 1 1/2 inches), waited a few more days, and got 9 more cichlids of the same size. They were all fine...for about 12 hours.

We had a massive ice storm here, and literally 4 hours after putting the 9 cichlids in, the power went out. No heat, and obviously no running filter. Kept an eye on them, and 5 hours later they still seemed fine. Went to bed, and when I woke up, only 4 cichlids were still alive, all gasping at the top. No power, started changing water to get some oxygen in, when the power started.

Any thoughts? Was a week to cycle not enough, even with the bacterial stuff added? The salesman said you only needed 5 days or so with it. Was it an oxygen thing, given they were all gasping at the top? Like I said, I had the outflow pointed down, so there was absolutely nothing disturbing the surface tension. Did oxygen just get low? Was it an ammonia spike, since three-fourths of the fish were added just hours before the power went out, and there was no filter running with the power out?

In the meantime, after partially changing water and with the power on, the remaining 4 are back to looking "normal". Only change I've made for now is to alter the outflow from the cannister filter, placing it an inch or two under water but with the holes angled up so the outflow chops up the surface tension. Given what just happened, I'm going to go into a holding pattern for a little while to see how the remaining four do, before adding anymore.

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Re: Post Mortum

Postby b3w4r3 » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:53 pm

I would say the fish likely suffocated from lack or oxygen. No water movement is a bad thing for any fish tank. Angling the spray bar up like you have now is the proper way to help get O2 into the water.

As far as the bacteria supplement goes, they are hit and miss, mostly miss. Pet stores just want to sell stuff, so their advice is rarely in your best interests. We like to promote fishless cycling here as it is the best most humane way to get a tank up and running with full confidence that it will provide a healthy environment for your pets. I would recommend taking the survivors back to the store, and starting a fishless cycle following this guide ... _cycle.php

If you refuse to do that then I suggest you watch your water chemistry closely for the next month or so, and do water changes as needed to keep ammonia and nitrite levels well below 1 ppm. Get some test kits if you don't already have them. This article may be helpful if you don't understand the cycle a new fish tank has to go through

While fishless cycling does not satisfy the evil ID in most of us, I fear you will lose more fish, or they will suffer long term damage from living through the cycling process. With a little patients you will be rewarded for your efforts to cycle the tank without fish.

If power outages are common in your area you might want to look into some battery operated air pumps to help keep water moving in the case of a blackout. Even in a well cycled tank no water flow will result in dead/stressed fish in a short amount of time.

Good luck, and sorry for your loss :(
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Re: Post Mortum

Postby huskertsd » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:02 pm

Thx, much appreciated. I admit that having a 9-year old excited to set up his first tank really influenced how fast we went in buying fish, with only the 1 week wait.

Before the power outage, and before we added the 9 fish yesterday, ammonia and nitrites were very low (this with 3 cichlids in the tank for a few days). pH was 8.2. I admit I don't have a nitrate test.

I also admit I was so in a hurry to "help" when seeing the 4 gasping at the top this morning that I did an immediate water change (probably 60%) before even doing any testing. Guess I should have tested to see if it was ammonia or something else, but I too think it was oxygen, with no moving water for that long of a time, in a relatively new tank.
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Re: Post Mortum

Postby jcabage » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:34 pm

It was most surely a lack of oxygen that killed the fish.

Any ammonia or nitrite in the tank is not a good sign though. A nitrate test can be very helpful while watching a cycling tank. The presence of increasing nitrates with 0 Ammonia and 0 Nitrites will indicate completion of the cycle.

I have heard some success stories with bottled bacteria. It definitely couldn't hurt to start the cycle. Just remember to dose pure ammonia to feed it, and keep an eye on your parameters.
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Re: Post Mortum

Postby CichlidOWNR » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:40 pm

Just so that you know what is possible for a 55 gal. I have the CF-500UV canister filter (one step larger than the CF-400uv), a under sand jet system (most call it UGJ for Under Gravel Jet but I have Pool Filter Sand) connected to a Rio 2100 submersible pump with a pre-filter. I just added a small sponge filter hooked up to a air pump to add more space for bio and some polishing/mechanical filtration. With the sponge filter, pre-filter, and what I have in the canister filter, there are lots of places for bio to stick to and also provides water movement and aeration. I don't use the bubbles from the sponge filter as the main source of aeration, just as a addition to my custom spray bar (which is made out of PVC pipe and can be made to make water movement whatever you would like it to go).

I have had lots of fun researching and then building these additions. I mention this since researching some of these projects might satisfy your son's enthusiasm while giving you time to cycle the tank successfully and then have enough movement and aeration for when you re-stock the tank. I used the Library section of this website for instructions and ideas.
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Re: Post Mortum

Postby ratbones86 » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:04 pm

if you want to keep your spray bar pointed down to add current you can get a small sponge filter to do the surface break and keep oxygen in the tank. plus the sponge filter will also help filter and they work great. i use one in all my tanks, even with canister filters. My 55g mbuna tank has a sun sun 303b and a sun sun 304b on it as well as a sponge rated for a 55g tank. That way i have the surface airration and plenty of filtration for the tank along with plenty of current
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Re: Post Mortum

Postby iridextr » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:51 am

Gotta invest in a few of those battery powered air pumps. It's been worth it for me. During a massive snow storm that hit us mid December, the power was out for about 10 hours. Most people didn't know because it was the middle of the night when it got shut off, but I'm so used to hearing my tanks bubbling in the background that I woke up shortly after it shut off due to the silence. I immediately grabbed all my battery operated air pumps and put airstones in all the tanks, two a piece in the big tanks. It didn't do much but it did enough to save all my fish, my neighbors lost half of their community tank that night.
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Re: Post Mortum

Postby CichlidOWNR » Thu Apr 11, 2013 8:20 am

I am assuming since you are in South Dakota that you get a lot of snow during the winter months. Due to this, I would research a battery back up solution for extended power outages when the time comes to start prepping for the winter. My house lost power for five days during the Derecho storm in June 2012. I as lucky I moved my fish to a different location a mile a way after day 3. This will offer a longer period of time where you could run a heater and a canister or a smaller canister/power filter to keep the tank limping along for a longer period of time pending power requirements. I bought a marine battery and have it on a trickle charger to maintain. I found instructions over the internet and was easy to set up. I actually almost had to use it last night since the power went off. Battery powered air pumps are also a must for the short term power outages and to use in 5 gal buckets when I get fish from a local fish club or re-home/move my stock. The battery powered air pumps are very useful.
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