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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had fish in the past (in my youth), and I consider myself a somewhat intelligent person... but I can't seem to figure out what's going on with my tank here. Please help me.

I just setup a new 30gallon aquarium. It's a tall, half-circle shape, with LED lights. I installed a heater (appropriately sized) and an AquaClear 50 (for 30-50 gallon aquariums). I'm using pool filter sand as my substrate (which was washed thoroughly) and have two big lace-rocks which I purchased at a local rock store. I scrubbed the rocks thoroughly with a stiff nylon brush and hot water (no soap). I read just about everything there is to read about how to cycle a tank. I filled the tank with water, 5 gallons at a time, all the while treating the water with water conditioner and bacteria supplement. I also added a bacteria in a bottle solution from my LFS. I opted for the 'fish-in' cycling (rather than fishless) and here's what happened...

Under the advice of the folks at my LFS, and everything I read online, I purchased 8 zebra danios to cycle my tank. I fed them only a small pinch of flake food every other day (as advised by my LFS). Over the course of three days, 4 of them died. I used my "API Master Test Kit" every day, each time reading zero ammonia, zero nitrites, and zero nitrates (obviously). My PH is steadily 7.4 and my tank temperature is a steady 76 degrees. (according to two different thermometers located in two separate areas of the tank). The next day another danio died and my levels remained at zero. (My LFS tested the water and confirmed my tests.)

I opted to try a different species of fish, the tiger barb (which is what I'd like to house ultimately). I purchased 6 tiger barbs from my LFS and added them to the aquarium with the 3 remaining danios. 24 hours later, all the barbs were dead. Everything in my tank remained the same, except for the ammonia which climbed to a trace amount: <.25ppm. Another test at my LFS confirmed this as well.

I did a 15% water change, ammonia levels decreased (lesser, but still reading a trace amount somewhere between 0 and 0.25). I purchased 6 more tiger barbs, at a different fish store. I got these ones at petsmart, because they were bigger (seemingly older and perhaps, stronger?). 48 hours later only 1 remains. Ammonia levels now read 0, as well as nitrites and nitrates. PH is unchanged. And to top it all off, these last barbs killed all but one of the danios (and the one remaining seems to have been nipped a few times and doesn't look good).

Also, yesterday, when there were 4 barbs and 2 danios alive, I added some substrate from a friend's established tank.

What am I doing wrong? What am I missing? What should I do next?
With this record, I don't want to keep adding fish. At the moment I'm 2 for 20 in the span of a week. This is sad.

I'm about ready to give up.
 

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You should really think about fish less cycling, or getting some used media from a fellow hobbiest.

Is hobbiest even a word? >.<

IF your dead set on going the fish route, buy 10 - 15 feeder goldfish. And don't feed lightly. Get them eating and pooping to get ammonia in the tank and get that cycle going.

Also... what are you using to de-chlorinate?
 

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Your fish are not dying from a cycling issue. That takes longer, but toxicity is a real possibility. Great question from Frank- what are you using for a water conditioner?

Is it a brand new set-up? The heater, filter, etc? Did you paint anything?

First thing I recommend is successive large water changes- pull out 90% of the water today, and do it again tomorrow. Rinse your filter media in hot water (yes, it will kill bacteria, but also rinse out any potential contaminants). Check your heater for cracks, check all power cords that go into the tank for any problems.

I'm concerned about the lace rocks as being a potential source for contamination. Pull them out for now- and see if fish survive without them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
This is the water conditioner I'm using... should I switch to something else?

Top Fin® Water Conditioner
http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.j ... Id=2752207

Everything else is NEW. Nothing was painted or washed with any soap or other chemicals.
My PH is normal... wouldn't this indicate some kind of chlorination issue? Or is that a separate test?

The lace rocks are a possible issue, I thought of that too... but they're the kind they sell at the LFS, the rock yard actually told me that they supply the fish store with their rocks (they just charge $1/LB vs the LFS charging $4.95/LB). I scrubbed them real well...
 

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Nope- your water conditioner should be fine (it neutralizes chlorine, chloramine and metals). My best guess is that something in the tank had some type of chemical residue which you'll have to remove with water changes. I'd still pull the rocks (hard to clean inside the holes) for now, especially since you've had so many deaths. Vacuum the substrate when you are cleaning, and scrub the inside of the glass while you are emptying the tank. You can put your remaining fish in a bucket while your doing this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Any advice on how to clean those rocks properly? I can't boil them on my stove...
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I'll do a major water change and take out the rocks for now.

Here's a picture, anything else jump out at you?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I just read elseware that I might be able to put the large lace rocks in the dishwasher (with no soap, of course).

I could run it through a couple times, high heat, and that should make sure the rocks are safe, would you agree?
 

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I would make sure to run the dishwater with no soap prior to the run with the rocks- there's likely residue from prior runs. Then afterwards, soak them in buckets or totes, with plain water. That will leach anything else that's on them.

I looked at the picture, and the first thought was nice cat! And then, that your substrate was a bit thick. I'd take it down to about an inch depth so that it can easily diffuse poo and not trap too much in the first place.

Is that just a black background? how is it attached?
 

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triscuit said:
I'm concerned about the lace rocks as being a potential source for contamination. Pull them out for now- and see if fish survive without them.
I had a very similar problem starting my tank. It seems I purchased a decoration that was meant for terrariums. It read on the label that it was safe for ALL aquatic life. However, when I removed it it was all slimy, and since then all of the fish are thriving!

I began with Tiger barbs and a green terror. The barbs were the first to go; within hours of placing them in my tank. The cichlid lasted a few days. I think tigers are very fussy fish-the water paramenters must be just right, but cichlids, well the green terror, isn't very picky.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
triscuit said:
I would make sure to run the dishwater with no soap prior to the run with the rocks- there's likely residue from prior runs. Then afterwards, soak them in buckets or totes, with plain water. That will leach anything else that's on them.

I looked at the picture, and the first thought was nice cat! And then, that your substrate was a bit thick. I'd take it down to about an inch depth so that it can easily diffuse poo and not trap too much in the first place.

Is that just a black background? how is it attached?
He is a nice cat... love of my life. He's really who the fish tank is for! :)
You think I've got too much substrate? The tank came with a little flier which recommended 30LBS of substrate... so that's what I did (eyeballed at least, 3/5 of a 50LB bag of sand). It appears a little deep in the front there but it's very hilly (from moving the rocks around and the initial water where I just dumped it in). So... in other words... it's a much thinner layer else ware. I can take some out though if you think it might be a problem.

My background is just the standard black/blue piece of shiny paper from the pet store. It's loosely taped at the moment (and has some air bubbles/wet spots near the top in that photo from a little water spill). Once I get the tank functioning properly, I'll attach the background with a little bit of oil which is said to work better.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Elijah said:
I began with Tiger barbs and a green terror. The barbs were the first to go; within hours of placing them in my tank. The cichlid lasted a few days. I think tigers are very fussy fish-the water paramenters must be just right, but cichlids, well the green terror, isn't very picky.
Is this common opinion? I was under the impression that Tiger Barbs were of the hardiest variety, and generally recommended for cycling.

I really enjoy the barbs, and would ultimately like to house them in my tank. That said, if there is a different fish that will serve my tank better in the beginning, I'm all ears... I just don't want any more deaths!
 

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ebineesey said:
I really enjoy the barbs, and would ultimately like to house them in my tank. That said, if there is a different fish that will serve my tank better in the beginning, I'm all ears... I just don't want any more deaths!
It is just my opinion that tigers aren't the hardiest of fish. I hear good things about Zebra Danios to serve your tank well. I also have had good success with Chinese Algae Eaters in being tough to kill...well unless you put a Dempsey in with it!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I did add salt... as a last resort under the advice of someone at the LFS.

I added one tablespoon.
The dosage says to use 1tbsp per 10gallons as a "tonic" for the fish.
It's hard to say whether or not it did anything since I added it only recently (yesterday, when 4 of the last batch of barbs were alive), and didn't add much anyway.
 

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Hey ebin sorry to hear about your troubles.. I'm pretty sure your rock is fine but running it through a dishwasher or even soaking it in a 5 gallon bucket with hot water will help.. The sand should be perfectly fine as well but there is a possibility it can be contaminated..

I have some questions for you..

#1 Where did you get the sand? Was it packaged? if so what brand?

#2 What heater do you have?

#3 Have you added any type of meds?

#4 Behavior of the dieing fish? Heavy breathing,scratching agaisnt surface, etc

#5 What type of water do you have? Well or city water?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
stefan88 said:
Hey ebin sorry to hear about your troubles.. I'm pretty sure your rock is fine but running it through a dishwasher or even soaking it in a 5 gallon bucket with hot water will help.. The sand should be perfectly fine as well but there is a possibility it can be contaminated..

I have some questions for you..

#1 Where did you get the sand? Was it packaged? if so what brand?

#2 What heater do you have?

#3 Have you added any type of meds?

#4 Behavior of the dieing fish? Heavy breathing,scratching agaisnt surface, etc

#5 What type of water do you have? Well or city water?
1. The sand was from a pool supply store, it was packaged. Target brand.

2. Heater is TopFin brand, 200WATT.

3. Nothing was added except for water conditioner, bacteria suppliment, a bacteria-in-a-bottle product (I dont remember the brand but it was highly recommended at my LFS... I'll find it though), and a small amount of salt (1tbsp) towards the very end.

4. Dieing fish were doing one of two things: Some did appear to be breathing heavily and surrounding the surface. Others sank to the bottom as if they couldn't swim. They were still alive, just not moving.

5. City water. Portland, Oregon. My LFS who is in my county says the water is fine (same source) unless I have bad pipes in my building or something. How do I go about getting the water tested for things other than PH/Ammonia/Nitrites/Nitrates (which is all they test at the LFS) ?

UPDATE:
My last Tiger barb is still alive and seems to be doing well. Granted, he's by himself in the 30Gallon tank, and is exhibiting behavior which seems to be normal for a fish of this type which is not housed in a school (he's sort of skiddish and tends to hide).

I added an air stone to the tank and my levels remain:
Ammonia: <.25ppm
Nitrites: 0
Nitrates: 0

The Ammonia level is obviously not 0, which it ought to be, and doing small water changes brings this down but it eventually climbs back up to a trace amount somewhere between 0 and .25. Question though... Should I be doing these water changes at this point? Isn't the ammonia necessary to cycle the tank? As I understand it, the Ammonia turns to Nitrites, which then turn to Nitrates (which are good). So... If I'm constantly removing all ammonia, is the tank ever going to cycle?

And with one little fish, it'll take quite some time. I was thinking of adding some more barbs, since this guy seems to be OK. Thoughts? Or should I wait even longer... ?
If the last fish dies, I will try a fishless cycle. But, I'd rather he lived... in which case, I need to add more fish. So I'm sort of torn as to how long I should wait. He seems fine... and I'm leaning towards adding fish.
 

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Humm ok It doesn't sound like you have a ammonia problem,nitrite or nitrate problem.. Though your tank may not be completley cycled yet your fish should not be dropping like flies..

Look at your heater.. The reason I asked about your heater is because there are alot of crappy brands out there.. I read some reviews on your heater and didn't read anything good.. Alot of times these heaters take on water and still operate.. I have lost some fish in my day do to heaters that bust and pretty much electrocute the fish.. I have heaters that weren't sealed correctly and would litterally shock me if i touched it in the right area..This could be a possiblity.. Not telling you to go change your heater but you should inspect it.. If you do change heaters, ebo jagers are a really good not so expensive submersible heater..

Breathing heavly and hanging near the surface.. I think you stated you had an aquaclear filter.. If that is so, sometimes these filters don't break the waters surface enough to supply the tank with ample airation.. If your water level is high and your not getting much of a splashing from the filters output you could very well just have not enough oxygen in the tank to support all the fish.. Could explain why only one fished survived.. Try lowering the water level of the tank so your filter can break the surface better..

Other than that if your water is the same as the local fishstore i'm sure it's fine.. Unless your apartment building does soemthing with the incoming water.. Maybe like a water softening system?? I don't know, just guessing..

I'm sure your sand and your rocks are fine.. But if all else fails, who knows.. Maybe the sand is the problem.. I would use this as a last resort and just start off fresh.. No sand or rocks.. Just fish and water.. See how that goes..
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
(Thanks for your help here everyone...)

Take a look at my heater. I noticed a formation of little air bubbles on the heater. Is this cause for concern? I tried googling for this but couldn't find a whole lot... some people said it was common on their heaters and others said it happened on heaters that eventually exploded. Should I be shopping for a new heater? I can take this one back... I still have the receipt.

(not sure if these links will work properly so bear with me)

https://flic.kr/p/5602740780
https://flic.kr/p/5602739590
 

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Little airbubbles on your heater are fine.. What I was saying is that sometimes they can take on water and ill your fish.. This doesn't sound like the case though.. Because one fish has survived.. Was just throwing that out there just incase maybe your heater was busted and took on water..

Only other thing i could think of is that your tank does not have enough oxygen.. Like is said if your filter is not breaking the waters surface enough you could possibly not be getting enough oxygen to your fish.. Hard to see in the pic you linked.. If this is the case lower your water levels so the filters return breaks the water more thus creating more oxygen in your water..

good luck
 
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