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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I put up a new 20 gallon tank Sunday for my nl. brichardi. Everything was new except for the tank which had been stored in the basement for several years. I used the cichlid sand that comes wet in a bag, rocks that had been in my other tank, a new power head, filter & heater (with an established filter floss pack from my other tank to help w/ the cycle). I'd installed a 3 jet UGJ system. The tank was rinsed well with hot water & wiped out well. The water was dechlorinated. My tap water has no ammonia, nitrites or nitrates, a pH of 7.6 and KH of 8.2.

Got everything settled down and running and put the 4 brichardi in. They looked fine so I turned the light off, watched a movie with my wife and went to bed.

On the way home from work yesterday, assuming everything was OK I stopped by the lfs and picked up 4 more brichardi to bring the total up to 8 (had 4 originally) to help guarantee I had sufficient m/f ratios.

But when I got home two of the brichardi were dead and the other two are on the bottom gasping. I couldn't figure out what it was so I grabbed a quick sample of the water and started changing the water. I checked pH and ammonia, 7.6 and 0 respectively. I wound up taking the survivors out and into my other tank but they died later.

So now the tank is all set up and running but it kills fish. I'm stumped.

Until this morning that is. The tank had been in the basement and had been exposed to a couple of flea bombs last summer when we became infested. Like I mentioned above, I had rinsed the tank well with hot water and wiped it out thoroughly but apparently that wasn't sufficient and enough residual poison killed my fish. The worst part is I siphoned off about 5lb of sand out of the new tank and added it to my established tank (which got an 85% water change last night just to be safe). This morning the fish looked ok for the most part, they weren't gasping though some were around the bottom of the tank. That could be explained by the stress of moving into a new tank then having most of the water taken out. They did look alert though so I think they'll be OK.

So my question is what to do with the 20 gallon fiasco? I was thinking a series of water changes and mixing the sand up might be sufficient, but I'm also thinking I should trash the substrate, take everything down and clean it somehow. Can I use soap? Is flea bomb poison water soluble? I've never used soap to clean fish gear for fear of contamination, but in this case?

Anyone? Thanks for reading.
 

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The gasping is also symptomatic of nitrite poisoning. Just another possiblity. I'd test for and rule that out first. Then rinse and scrub everything down again, but I'd avoid using soaps. Test with a single fish next time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks Tim, the tank was only set up for 20 hours or so before I got home. I really don't think there was any chance of nitrite poisoning, that's why I didn't test it. I'll give it a try though, can't hurt.

I've been doing a bit of research this morning on flea bomb pesticides and while most of them are definitely toxic to fish both water and sunlight break them down pretty quickly. I'm going to do some more looking, but I think I've got a plan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Oh geez, there goes my theory about the flea bomb. My wife reminded me that the tank had been upstairs in the spare bedroom until two months ago when we combined the spare bedroom and living room. Thusly it wasn't downstairs when the flea bomb was used.

****. Now I'm back to trying to figure out what it was.

Any ideas?
 

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The way you seeded the tank, it's very possible that it could have been nitrite. There may have been a healthier stock of ammonia converters than nitrite converters. I've found the nitrite converters to be more sensitive and less hardy. Regardless, I'd never assume that seeding is always going to be 100%. Even when seeding, I'd suggest fishless cycling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks again for the input Tim. I'll definitely check nitrite though after the large water change it might not show up. Wish I'd checked it before I tossed the sample, but I just didn't think there would have been anything to form ammonia much less nitrite in the 20 hours it was set up. The only thing that might have had any organic material on it at all was the used filter pad and I had rinsed that out pretty well (in tank water) before I put it in the new tank to minimize that very thing.
 

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I see no reason to think that the wet sand was good. When they get trucked around the country, the trucks get very hot. Does the good bacteria survive when the truck gets to 150 degrees or more? Or does it die and turn into a stagnant poison? I like to sterilize everything that goes in the tank so that I know what is there. As you've found, figuring it out later is really hard to do.
 

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prov356 said:
The way you seeded the tank, it's very possible that it could have been nitrite. There may have been a healthier stock of ammonia converters than nitrite converters. I've found the nitrite converters to be more sensitive and less hardy. Regardless, I'd never assume that seeding is always going to be 100%. Even when seeding, I'd suggest fishless cycling.
+1

I seeded a new 29g grow out/quarantine tank and it still took me 3 weeks to fishless cycle it. My ammonia eating colony was quickly established but the nitrite colony took a while to catch up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
PfunMo, I wondered about this myself. I essentially did rinse it as I added it and then did a couple water changes to get the bulk of the fines out of the water. Maybe not as thorough as I could have done in a bucket, but not nothing either.

FWIW, I looked up CLR and it contains (among different acids) surfactants which is basically soap right? So is this really safe? I've got some calcium or something built up on my 29 gallon's glass cover I'd like to get off if it's safe.

Everybody suggesting nitrites makes me wish I'd checked it. But honestly I just don't see how there could have been enough ammonia produced in a brand new tank with 4 very small fish and no food to create enough nitrites in 20 gallons of water to be harmful, I really don't. As I mentioned, I'd rinsed out the filter pad in tank water pretty thoroughly to minimize this very thing.

I'm still thinking a contaminant of some sort got in there, either from the tank sitting unused for a number of years or the sand having gone bad. I'm planning to do a number of water changes over the next few days then try maybe a zebra danio or something in there to see how it does before I try again.
 

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Everybody suggesting nitrites makes me wish I'd checked it. But honestly I just don't see how there could have been enough ammonia produced in a brand new tank with 4 very small fish and no food to create enough nitrites in 20 gallons of water to be harmful, I really don't. As I mentioned, I'd rinsed out the filter pad in tank water pretty thoroughly to minimize this very thing.
I don't disagree, but it has to remain a possiblity at least. Fish gasping is indicative of oxygen deprivation. Other toxins don't typically behave that way. No disease would kill that quickly. There may have been some processes going on related to the cichlid sand that we're just not aware of. Other processes like denitrification can release nitrites. We may never know exactly what hit them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
prov356 said:
I don't disagree, but it has to remain a possiblity at least. Fish gasping is indicative of oxygen deprivation. Other toxins don't typically behave that way. No disease would kill that quickly. There may have been some processes going on related to the cichlid sand that we're just not aware of. Other processes like denitrification can release nitrites. We may never know exactly what hit them.
So another toxin like pesticide or soap would not have produced the gasping lying on the bottom symptoms? Interesting. I'm thinking the sand is the culprit now. I also agree that we probably won't ever know exactly what happened. I just want to ensure it doesn't happen again. I'm not all GreenPeacey with fish, but I do certainly feel a responsibility to keep them healthy and happy in my care.

So do you agree with my plan of doing a number of water changes over the next few days and trying a danio or something similar in there?
 

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So another toxin like pesticide or soap would not have produced the gasping lying on the bottom symptoms?
I can't say that there aren't any other toxins that will do that. But, typically, they exhibit other behaviors from the types of toxins you're referring to. So many possibiities though and not a lot of reliable info out there. I'm just going by what's been reported here.

So do you agree with my plan of doing a number of water changes over the next few days and trying a danio or something similar in there?
Yes, that's what I'd do. My poor danio's keep getting moved around as needed. :)
 

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It's late at this point but I just drove home a point about my tanks that I knew. I killed one fish and am treating another. My rule is -nothing goes in the tank that is not sterilized first.

I had a 75 that would getting short on sand and another tank that I had shut down about four days before and drained all but about two inches of water out. I scooped about a gallon of sand out of the old into the working tank and within 24 hours was overrun with multiple diseases. Since there were no other changes, I have to assume the sand, setting in stagnant water developed several things I did not want.

I could have avoided all the trouble and expense of treating fish if I had only done my normal bleach soaking before using the sand.
I was fortunate that I only lost one dither fish rather than the whole breeding group in that tank.

Bleach will react with pesticides and remove the doubt about whether they are there.
 

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I had a similar issue when I first set up my cichlid tank, N. Pulcher. A couple were at the bottom, as you have described and others were gasping at the surface. I had to add additional surface agitation to increase the oxygen content of the water. That solved it for me, but it sounds like you have other variables to consider. Just throwing my 2 cents into the mix as something to think about.

Good luck with this, and let us know how things turn out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for all the input everybody. I really appreciate it. As it turns out one of my brichardi did in fact survive the ordeal though I still haven't seen my calvus (or comp. not sure) from the established tank. I think he was probably a stress casualty.

At any rate, I tested the water in both tanks (after doing nearly 100% water changes yesterday so it doesn't mean a lot) tonight and both tanks show 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrites and 0 (in the new tank) and about 10 Nitrates. GH was high in the 29 because I added Epsom Salts yesterday per something I read about fish lying on the bottom gasping. pH was 8.0 in both tanks w/ GH of the normal 6 that my tap water runs. I've been meaning to start buffering the KH but need to get baking soda.

So everything looks good as it is now. I'm going to try some guppies (wife wanted them, they're pretty) though I'm sure danios would have been a better choice in the new tank and keep an eye on it. If they survive I'll set up a 10 gallon for them, I've always wanted to breed guppies for some reason.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Whatever the issue was it seems to be ok now. The six guppies survived at least until 8:45am when my wife checked on them this morning. I'm just going to chalk this up to a learning experience to be more cautious with new tanks and re-doing established tanks.

I'm particularly bummed about losing the altolamp (whatever he was) because all I really did to that tank was remove the rocks to fish the brichardi out and then rearrange them. He was visible that night but gone by the next day. Oh well....

Thanks again for everyone's input. This really is a great place.
 

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I'm not sure what you mean by gone by the next day. If you mean you could not find him, I might share some learning experience I got the hard way. When removing rocks, I have found the fish don't always do what I expect. They sometimes stay in the rocks when I move them and then several days later I find them laying in the floor with the rocks. They seem to do all kinds of things that I don't expect. Like stay in the net overnight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
PfunMo, no I saw him Sunday night *after* rearranging the rocks. Come Monday he was gone. I imagine he died and is wedged in the rocks somehow. I haven't wanted to take it apart to look for him in hopes that maybe he's just hiding out. But I don't think he's hiding and the tank has had enough stress the past few days.
 
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