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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All - Yes this is wordy but Ill start from beginning to get as much info out there as possible. I've had my aquarium setup for well over a year - I had a handful of small fish - a couple tetras, etc. About a month ago, I lost the 2 tetras and a bolivian ram within about a 2 week period. At this point, they were the last fish in my aquarium. I've wanted to start a cichlid tank for years and thought this was a prime opportunity. Over the course of the past month, I did about 2 or 3 50% water changes, each time adding stress zyme and water conditioner (dechlorinator). I had some algae growth, so I gave a few stronger doses of algare remover. I did another good size water change (40-50%) a couple days ago, only adding the stress zyme and tap water conditioner (no algae fix). The water looked great and thought I was ready for fish.

I have a 55 gal bow front tank - decorations are just a standard stone gravel, large piece of drift wood, a couple rocks (which have been in there for years), a pvc fitting for hiding, and some terracotta flower pots. I also have a heater, canister filter, and aeration stone hooked to an air pump.

I picked up some juvenile cichlids with the help of the worker at a reputable fish retailer - I ended up with 7 total - Yellow lab / two electric blue mainganos / msuli yellowtail acei/ pseudopropheus saulosi / mbamba yellow dorsal /melanochromis auratus. I also saw a very pretty lwanda peacock that was an adult (close to 5") that I had to buy, even with the very hefty pricetag for a freshwater fish - so that makes 8 total. The juveniles were all only about 1-2".

Last night I floated the bags for about 45 minutes and added this fish. Right off the bat, I noticed they all just kind of hung around the bottom, but I wasnt too alarmed as they just got introduced into a new environment. As I added the fish, I also added a dose of stress coat, stress zyme, and quick start.

On to this morning - I was happy to see the peacock swimming around in the tank, however I was a little disheartened to see my auratus swimming around erratically (figure-8-ing I believe is a term I've heard before). worse - the yellowtail acai was pale and bellyup on the bottom. Im yet to see any signs of the auratus after seeing him swimming erratically, so I am only assuming the worst.

Panicked - I ran to another local pet store to get a fresh water test kit hoping it would give an idea of what happened so quickly to my new fish.
Water temp was 79F
Nitrate was around 30-40ppm which isnt the best, but from what I read isnt a super dangerous level that would cause instant death
Nitrate was Non detected
Ammonia was somewhere between 0 and 0.25ppm
KH was somewhere around 200ppm
pH was 7.2
I discussed the issue with the petstore and was told that all parameters were where they should be, with the exception of the pH being a little lower than desirable for cichlids.
per their recommendation, I then added a small amout of pH up because the petstore keeps there cichlids around pH of 8, and thought the lower pH may be causing problems.

About an hour later - I noticed the peacock started swimming more vertically and started bumping his nose above the surface. I called the petstore and the person I talked to said it sounded like an oxygen issue. My filter discharge tube is below the surface, however I do have an aeration stone bubbler pumping air into the tank - but maybe there wasnt enough surface agitation to get enough O2 back in the water?

At this point, I drained a little water so the discharge of my filter was above the water surface and I noticed larger bubbles entering the water column from the water entering the tank. However, it was in vain as within another 30 minutes, the peacock was lying completely still on the bottom :(

So far, this is about 2PM - 18 or so hours after adding the new fish. I ended up going out and buying a circulator pump to give more surface agitation and give some motion to the tank. Once adding the pump, the remaining cichlids were swimming what appeared to be normally against the current created by the moving water. BUT then around 5pm - I noticed the saulosi swimming a little sideways and being pushed around by the current - it seemed to become progressively more erratic - and by 7pm I walked past and saw him stuck to the filter intake. So right now I am very disheartened that half of the fish I bought yesterday have met with a sad swift end.

I just rechecked the nitrite and ammonia again, and both are still virtually zero.

As sad as it is, I'll still consider this a learning experience as long as I can figure out what the heck is going on. If I did something stupid, dont be shy in telling me. I just want to get it figured out so I can finally enjoy a cichlid tank I've wanted for almost a decade now.

Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
:( For a dismal update - its now sunday evening, about 48hrs after first adding fish. Im sad to say I am down to just a single Yellow lab. Between yesterday and today, I'd notice another one start to swim a little out if level - 30 minutes later swimming half sideways and fluttering around - within another 30 minutes, that would be it. Almost identical pattern for every one - to the point where I could tell which one would be next from just a slight wobble or tilt while swimming. No marks, blemishes, nothing on any of them - just a rapid decline from 'seemingly OK' to dead within 1-2 hours.

I got home late afternoon today and was happy to see the yellow lab and mbamba swimming about in the water column - behaving 100% normal - swimming nice and controlled and level - absolute zero signs of discomfort - I was optimistic that these two would make it and whatever the problem was possibly cleared up. I made dinner and walked by maybe an hour later and the mbamba was belly up on the bottom.

Tested water again - pH was right around 8 - No Nitrite detected, maybe a twinge of ammonia (0.25ppm maybe) - nitrate around 30ppm.

Im yet to find anything along the lines of a smoking gun.

Again, any input would be greatly appreciated -
 

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So sorry you didn't get a response to your questions.

First, I don't see a problem with your pH so I would not try and adjust it all as it can make any issues worse if it bounces up and down.

Which test kit are you using? I do find your nitrate level higher than I am comfortable with and water changes are the easiest way to lower it. If you did a 40% or 50% water change (don't forget the water conditioner and match temperature) it should drop your nitrate level by 1/2, assuming your tap water has no detectable nitrate reading.

When was the last time you cleaned your canister filter? Also which brand and model filter are you using?

I've heard bad things when people use an algae remover product in their tanks so that may have been the culprit. Again a water change should help remove any remaining product.
 

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I don't see anything obvious, but clearly a water problem. Agree, do not use algae remedies or pH Up.
 

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The ammonia could be a possible culprit. You certainly don't want any detected.

Did you by any chance test the water parameters prior to adding the cichlids? I understand that you went from 2 to 7 fish. I am not familiar with the fish you kept before the cichlids but cichlids produce a lot of waste, so maybe you didn't have a proper bacterial colony established when adding them. Also, do you know why the fish prior to the cichlids died?

If there are no other obvious signs, I would certainly start by trying to get that ammonia to 0.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the input so far - I'll try to address all points brought up.

The canister filter is a Hydor Professional 150. For filtration (bottom to top) - I have the black bio pad, polyester filter fiber, ceramic bio beads, activated carbon.

I havent cleaned the filter for about 3 or so months - as I've only had 3 small fish in there for several months (1 bolivian ram and 2 neon tetras), so I had assumed minimal waste was being collected. What caused them to die, I wasnt 100% sure, the thing I did notice was when the last one died, he looked like he was wrapped in a cocoon - and this was only overnight - he was alive when I went to bed and I found it like that in the morning. I had been regularly dosing with algae remover at this point due to a bloom - so maybe thats what caused my issues with those guys too? Again, since the last one died, its been a good month with some 50% water changes and no fish at all in the aquarium.

As far as test kit - I bought all new stuff Saturday when the first new fish died. I bought the API master test kit (pH/Nitrate/Nitrite/ammonia), and also a secondary API kit for KH.

I am glad to hear that the pH shouldnt be an issue, I was definitely not a fan of the idea of constantly having to monitor and adjust my pH - I was just going by what was suggested. I will also discontinue use of algae remover.

Morris -just to clarify - I went from zero fish to adding the 8 cichlids. In regards to bacteria levels and cichlid waste - Can you elaborate more? I think what you're getting at is that due to the elevated waste of the cichlids, the waste may have overwhelmed the bacteria levels? but wouldnt I have noticed a spike in nitrite/ammonia beyond the small amount Im seeing? Additionally - not to sound cynical, I dont think any of the cichlids were alive long enough to produce any viable waste. Unfortunately I dont have any pre-cichlid water chemistry.

More questions - Is it possible that having such a large tank with so few fish could have severely diminished my bacteria levels and losing my nitrogen cycle?
Shouldnt the stress zyme /stress coat / quick start combo have added sufficient bacteria when I added the fish? Likewise when adding the stress zyme during the water changes during the period with no fish? Note - I also had the lights off completely during the no-fish period to inhibit the algae I had been fighting, if that is at all relevant.

Lastly - when I was initially troubleshooting with the pet store (After the first casualty) - she advised against water changes for a week or two, as changing the water chemistry may cause more harm than good as far as stress levels on the fish. Beings now I am down to just one (and based on what I've seen I dont know if I'll even have him by tomorrow), what would you guys recommend as far as water change frequency and volume for now? How do I ensure I get a good cycle going prior to sacrificing another round of moderately expensive fish? How long should I wait before trying again, and what should I be looking for to be a good indicator that the aquarium would be safe at that point? Im really nervous, as even if I did test my water prior to adding the cichlids, I dont think I would have raised any red flags based on any of the parameters.

Sorry Im being so rambly - I am very besides myself from this whole thing.
 

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eljajkeo22 said:
Thanks for the input so far - I'll try to address all points brought up.

The canister filter is a Hydor Professional 150. For filtration (bottom to top) - I have the black bio pad, polyester filter fiber, ceramic bio beads, activated carbon.
Again, since the last one died, its been a good month with some 50% water changes and no fish at all in the aquarium.

Morris -just to clarify - I went from zero fish to adding the 8 cichlids. In regards to bacteria levels and cichlid waste - Can you elaborate more? I think what you're getting at is that due to the elevated waste of the cichlids, the waste may have overwhelmed the bacteria levels? but wouldnt I have noticed a spike in nitrite/ammonia beyond the small amount Im seeing? Additionally - not to sound cynical, I dont think any of the cichlids were alive long enough to produce any viable waste. Unfortunately I dont have any pre-cichlid water chemistry.
I don't think you tank is properly cycled. You went from 3 small fish which was a small bio load, then a month with no fish which may have lost all the good bacteria. You need to start over now. clean the filter and follow the steps for a fishless cycle.
 

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If his chemistry is showing 0 nitrites and having nitrates with 0-25 ammonia then it sounds like he didn't lose his cycle. If he's using API liquid test kit his ammonia reading very likely 0. My ammonia reading never quite matches chart in tanks or tap. Do agree his nitrates are high though. Why are we not considering problem was with fish ?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yes it's the API liquid test kit - I didn't test pure tap to compare the ammonia reading against the aquarium but it might be a good idea. There is just the tiniest twinge of blue but I'm also somewhat color blind so I have a heck of a time with color comparisons in general - my fiancé is the one who said it wasn't quite zero but not quite 0.25.

As if this morning - my yellow lab was still alive. If I try a new tank cycle I'm assuming will that be detrimental to his well being? Any other input on whether I lost my cycle or not? Are several 10-20% water changes on a daily basis a good idea? Granted I add stress coat and zyme each time?

Thanks
 

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Sorry to hear you are somewhat color blind as that makes it difficult to compare the colors, good call on help from your fiance!

The ammonia test isn't blue, it's yellow/greenish so maybe you were looking at another tester.

I would stop using the API Stress Zyme at this time, it isn't really needed despite the claims. I'm also not a fan of the API Stress Coat as it has additives to replace the slime coat on fish and I've heard anecdotal issues affecting the fish. Seachem Prime is a popular choice for a water conditioner as it only treats for chlorine or chloramine removal in adding fresh water though it does temporarily bind harmful ammonia until the good bacteria can utilize it.

Water changes are usually not a problem, I would do a 25% water change, wait 24 hours, test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH and do another 25% water change and then retest. Be sure you are only adding the recommended amount of water conditioner to the new water as overdosing the product can be just as harmful at underdosing.

I would wait at least a week or so to get your water parameters under control before you service your canister filter. Or you could service the filter to make sure it isn't all gunked up with debris and if it is, gently swish any dirty media in a bucket of used aquarium water that you siphon from the tank.

I would also test your tap water to see if you do get a slight ammonia reading as some water companies use chloramine as a disinfectant and that will register on the ammonia test kit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Yes you were correct all along which really botched my narrative thus far. The Nitrite is what has the slight detection (very slight tinge if blue). Ammonia was yellow non detection all along.

Another potentially stupid question - and maybe some insight here now that you mentioned over dosing - when I dosed the quickstart/stresszyme/stress coat. I did base it off the full 50 gallon capacity of the tank. So in essence I added 25mL of two of them and 50mL of the other - I'm not home to check which, but it was based off the instructions on the bottles. This was along with not adding any new water aside with what made it in from the bags the fish came in from the store. Thoughts on this?
 

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It may be helpful to keep a written record of your water testing results and the dates you do the testing just to avoid a mixup in the future plus it's very handy for your own information especially when figuring out any problems.

As far as the 3 products you are using:

-API Quick Start is supposed to add good bacteria to aid in cycling a new tank to establish good beneficial bacteria that will consume ammonia, nitrite and eventually convert to nitrate. Regular water changes are the cheapest and easiest way to remove nitrate accumulation as well as regular filter maintenance. Follow the bottle instructions exactly.

-API Stress Coat is a water conditioner and you need to follow the instructions exactly. It is usually only used when adding new water. If you add 10 gallons of new water, the directions state 2 teaspoons per 10 gallon. You should not dose for the entire aquarium if you are just adding water with a bucket.

-API Stress Zyme has specific instructions based on what your tank needs. Again, I don't think you need to use this product but since you already have it I would just use it once weekly or every other week at half dose until you use up the bottle.

For future reference, try to avoid adding any fish bag water to your aquarium. I like to float the bag of fish in the aquarium for 5 minutes, and then transfer the fish and their water from the bag into another container such as a bucket, pitcher or specimen container and then net the fish directly to the tank. This method has worked for me for years without any issue because the fish I buy are usually from hobbyists or a LFS with similar water parameters to mine. More delicate fish or fish with radically different water will need a slower method to acclimate to your water conditions.

Another best option when buying new fish to add to an existing aquarium is to have a quarantine tank with a mature filter where you can monitor new fish for 4 to 6 weeks BEFORE adding them to your tank. This is not a real popular option with a lot of people because it requires having more than one tank available but it is a prudent consideration when you consider the cost of both the new fish and the existing aquarium fish. Usually a 10G tank works for fish under 2 inches though a 20 gallon long tank gives more space for larger fish. Even clear plastic totes would work as long as you can add some type of filter and a heater and are easier to store than a glass tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks All -

I can pick up a bottle of seachem prime and use that instead of the others. If my yellow lab doesnt make it, I will do a major water change or two to get rid of any remnant chemicals I've added and start fresh per the fishless cycle instructions.

If my yellow lab keeps on surviving, I will stick to 20-25% water changes maybe twice a week, only adding a dechlorinator. If he makes it a few weeks, do we assume its safe to try to add another batch of fish? Ideally I'd add a fish or two at a time to see how they manage, but I know that can be a problematic approach with how territorial they can be. So I want to be sure its ready before another massacre happens.

Any other advice or input based on what was said? Still wish I knew what was the underlying cause of the problem in the first place. the rapid decline from normal healthy looking fish to death is still a little baffling to me, especially with no abnormal spikes in the water chemistry.
 
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