Cichlid Fish Forum banner
1 - 15 of 15 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 20 gal tank, 10 fish in there, texas holey rock and white gravel. I have been running nightly tests of ph, nitrates, nitrites, amonia, etc. Everything is great, amonia is a little high, added some ammo lock for the last couple of nights now to clear that up.

The issue I have is that now all of a sudden out of the blue. the tank water is cloudy and there is a clear film on the top of the water. I have no idea what could be causing this in there. Any advice on how to diagnose and repair cloudy water? Nothing new has been added to the tank, and I have gravel substrate, not sand so it can't be sand particles clouding up the tank. Not at all sure what is causing the issue. Any advice, ideas, comments?

Thanks,
Bueller
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,111 Posts
I would also say that your having a bacteria bloom. After having some elevated levels of Ammonia in the tank the bacteria is prob blooming big time to help control that level of ammonia and cycle it into nitrites--->then Nitrates. I would personally do some water changes rather than use the ammo lock to get it back to an acceptable level.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,111 Posts
Yeah I didnt want to make any assumptions, but was figuring that they were doing a cycle w/ fish. After my tank was cycled the only time I seen ANY ammonia was my own fault when I installed my new filter and didnt even think about leaving old one on. Even then it was a minimal amount but still resulted in a bloom giving me "cloudy water" for a few days.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
392 Posts
Most times the bloom you see is the bacteria that break down nitrogenous wastes from the fish and it often occurs in a tank that's been fishless cycled as when you use ammonia you don't proliferate the bacteria who turn organic waste (like poo and uneaten food). These bacteria are more apt to exist in the water column than the denitrifying bacteria who break down ammonia and nitrites (they prefer to be anchored to something). Normally these heterotrophic blooms will subside on their own once they reach an equilibrium.

Regardless, if ammonia is present you typically aren't cycled, or in the process of a mini cycle which is more concerning than a heterotrophic bacteria bloom. What are your ammonia levels reading? Have you tested for nitrite or nitrates? Both nitrites and ammonia are toxic to your fish in even small quantities.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yes, I am most likely at the end of the cycle, its a relatively new tank setup, only about a month old - hence the constant monitoring of the water quality, so that would make sense.

I am just very careful now as I am still a newbie and didn't want to lose any (more) fish. When I first thought I could just replace the gravel, decorations, filter media and clean out the inside of the tank with the garden hose, killed half of the fish. :eek:

That took the stock down to the stongest 4 evidently. I let them live it up in there for about 3 weeks on their own with all the new gravel and such. Then added some more fish about 2 weeks ago, things have been all good as far as quality of water and crystal clear and such. Now there are 10 fish in there, which is exactly how many I want, I am just was concerned over the sudden cloudy water. The end of the tank cycle would make sense then I think. I also think a 10-20% water change after work today certainly couldn't hurt anything. Am I overlooking anything?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
392 Posts
I'll ask some very specific questions which can actually help me to help you.

1. How did you cycle your tank? Fishless using ammonia, Fishless using food or decaying shrimp/fish, Sacrificial Fish (where you basically throw in a couple of small, hardy fish to get your cycle going), or did you just put your stock list into a new tank without any cycling?

2. What is your ammonia reading (in either mg/liter or ppm)?

3. What is your nitrite reading (in either mg/liter or ppm)?

4. What is your nitrate reading (in either mg/liter or ppm)?

5. What cichlids do you have stocked in your 20?

6. What is your filtration set up?

7. How often and how much do you feed?

8. Are you using a water conditioner like prime?

Without knowing what's going on, if you're still having ammonia issues you most likely aren't cycled. Feel free to do a larger than 10-20% water change (i'd probably recommend at least 50%). Apart from some small africans like Shellies, i can't think of 10 cichilds you would be able to keep long term in a 20 gallon tank...they may simply be making more waste than your set up can break down, even as juveniles.

Ammonia and Nitrite are highly toxic to fish, if any of those are present it will be doing damage to your fish internally...use frequent water changes as well as something to detoxify the ammonia into ammonium (Prime is my personal choice) and keep monitoring. Without all the information in the 8 questions above i'll have a really hard time actually helping you nail down what the issue in the tank is.

Good Luck!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
1. How did you cycle your tank? Fishless using ammonia, Fishless using food or decaying shrimp/fish, Sacrificial Fish (where you basically throw in a couple of small, hardy fish to get your cycle going), or did you just put your stock list into a new tank without any cycling?

What is cycling? - OK, just kidding. I started off with an existing tank of community fish. Took them all out and donated them. Emptied tank, changed out gravel, decorations. Added 12 (Yes I know NOW) 12 cichlids to the tank. 3 days later. Changed my mind about the gravel color, emptied everything out. Again. Twice in the same week, yes, I know this NOW is a bad idea. Lost 8 fish. Down to 4. Let those 4 be alone for about 3 weeks. Monitored water conditions. Bought some more fish, added them about 2 weeks ago. Now I have 10 and have had 10 in there for about 2 weeks.

2. What is your ammonia reading (in either mg/liter or ppm)?
PPM 3.0 - 4.0. Not sure if that is mg/liter or ppm. Its on the side of the bottle on a little color chart. I use those test strips (is there a better way?)

3. What is your nitrite reading (in either mg/liter or ppm)?
PPM .5 Not sure if that is mg/liter or ppm. Its on the side of the bottle on a little color chart. I use those test strips (is there a better way?)

4. What is your nitrate reading (in either mg/liter or ppm)?
PPM between 0-20. Not sure if that is mg/liter or ppm. Its on the side of the bottle on a little color chart. I use those test strips (is there a better way?)

5. What cichlids do you have stocked in your 20?
I have no clue. I can't find a picture chart online anywhere that has the fish names. As I said, VERY new to this hobby. So new its downright embarrassing. My apologies. I will make an attempt to list them, looking them up one by one based on their appearance:

2 Pseudotropheus demasoni
2 yellow labs, but one of them looks more orange honestly
2 red zebras (they are orange)
2 Pseudotropheus sp. "Acei"
1 MELANOCHROMIS AURATUS
1 Pseudotropeus saulosi (Male)

6. What is your filtration set up?
There is a Penguin brand filter hanging on the side of the tank. I believe it is large enough for a 30 gallon tank. It takes two carbon tray type cartridges. It has a bio wheel.

7. How often and how much do you feed?
Once per day. One pinch of cichlid flakes.

8. Are you using a water conditioner like prime?
I do use prime. Love the way it smells and use it as cologne too.

Any help you can give is very much appreciated. As I said, I am VERY new to the hobby, but am quickly falling in love with it. Just want to have a healthy tank I can be proud of.

Thanks all,
Bueller
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
392 Posts
BUELLER said:
What is cycling? - OK, just kidding. I started off with an existing tank of community fish. Took them all out and donated them. Emptied tank, changed out gravel, decorations. Added 12 (Yes I know NOW) 12 cichlids to the tank. 3 days later. Changed my mind about the gravel color, emptied everything out. Again. Twice in the same week, yes, I know this NOW is a bad idea. Lost 8 fish. Down to 4. Let those 4 be alone for about 3 weeks. Monitored water conditions. Bought some more fish, added them about 2 weeks ago. Now I have 10 and have had 10 in there for about 2 weeks.
Well from the sounds of it you've disturbed what biological filtration you had, and then overpowered it, i would consider you're pretty much at square one. By changing all the tank decor and gravel you got rid of most of the beneficial bacteria you'd established with your community tank.

BUELLER said:
2. PPM 3.0 - 4.0. Not sure if that is mg/liter or ppm. Its on the side of the bottle on a little color chart. I use those test strips (is there a better way?)
For all intents and purposes in a freshwater tank mg/L is equivalent to parts per million, so 3.0-4.0 is really high for ammonia. As PfunMo suggest you're going to want to start changing water as soon as possible with the goal of getting you ammonia below 1.0 ppm as quickly as you can. Even small amounts of ammonia can cause permanent damage to a fish's gills and internal organs. I'd recommend a big water change of around 75% ASAP and then daily water changes to keep that ammonia level below 1.0 ppm. Also, PfunMo's site recommendation is an excellent one that i used myself when learning.

BUELLER said:
3. PPM .5 Not sure if that is mg/liter or ppm. Its on the side of the bottle on a little color chart. I use those test strips (is there a better way?)
Nitrites let you know that you have at least some denitrifying bacteria present, so you didn't start a completely new cycle, but a high ammonia level prevents your bacteria that break down nitrites (just as harmful to your fish as ammonia) from forming at a normal rate, so a high ammonia level will impede your cycle from moving as quickly as you need. Nitrites will spike at the next part of your cycle and it will happen almost overnight, so keep an eye on it..it will be your clue that your cycle is getting very close to completion.

As to your question on the best way to test i think it comes down to what works best for you. I personally have used both the strips and the liquid reagent kits like API. I prefer the liquid kits, as in my experience they seem to be a little more consistent. However, strips work and they're much better than not testing at all.

BUELLER said:
4. PPM between 0-20. Not sure if that is mg/liter or ppm. Its on the side of the bottle on a little color chart. I use those test strips (is there a better way?)
If you have nitrites present, then your nitrates are far less of a concern. Nitrates are toxic to your fish in large amounts which is why we do weekly water changes to keep them at a reasonable level (less than 20ppm). Right now I'd focus on ammonia and nitrite issues, as doing those water changes will keep your nitrates down really low.

BUELLER said:
5. I have no clue. I can't find a picture chart online anywhere that has the fish names. As I said, VERY new to this hobby. So new its downright embarrassing. My apologies. I will make an attempt to list them, looking them up one by one based on their appearance:

2 Pseudotropheus demasoni
2 yellow labs, but one of them looks more orange honestly
2 red zebras (they are orange)
2 Pseudotropheus sp. "Acei"
1 MELANOCHROMIS AURATUS
1 Pseudotropeus saulosi (Male)
Ah, sounds like the old petsmart grab bag. I'd probably guess your demasoni are Metriaclima Lombardoi, commonly refered to as Kenyi as they're a far more common fish. Look at their barring and their head shape to be sure. If the bars are triangular and a little bit irregular in shape, then you've got a Kenyi.

Zebras, Labs, and Acei, Auratus are all readily available so i'd guess you're spot on with those guesses. And you may have a male/female pair of saulosi, although they're a much rarer find in a big box store.

The fish you've got are all Lake Malawi Mbuna, who are aggressive, intelligent, mouth breeding cichlids who need a lot of territory in order to get along well. Unfortunately, all those fish in a 20 gallon tank probably is not a recipe for success. Acei and Labs are docile enough, but will outgrow most 20 gallon tanks quickly. Kenyi and Auratus are pound for pound some of the most aggressive mbuna you can own and usually are recommended in larger groups in a 75 gallon tank or more.

You've got two issues with your tank size. First of all, mbuna are little poop factories who require lots of extra filtration and a good amount of water. In a 20 gallon i don't know that with that stocking, even as juveniles, that you're going to be able to keep up with their waste production. Most of those fish will grow to be at least 4-5 inches long. The Acei more than 6 inches...your tank is just too small for a long term home for these guys.

Secondly each of your male fish is going to want to establish a territory of roughly a square foot of substrate for breeding and defense purposes. Without that space to claim, once your boy fish hit puberty, all **** is going to break loose in that tank. You might be able to get away with a small group of labs or saulosi in a 20 breeder, but as a neophyte it's going to put you in a tough position. With your current bioload, even when your biological filter is established, you're going to have to do 3-4 water changes a week, of around 50%. A tool i found useful when researching was the freshwater aquarium advisor which can be found here. While it isn't perfect it will give you an idea about the species you're keeping and the tank size and filtration you might need.

For as a little idea of what you're looking at:

using aqadvsior (which isn't perfect but will put you in the ball park of what to look at
This is your tank as of today

This is your tank in 4-8 months

Also, with tight quarters and aggressive species you're going to have to keep an eye out for stressed and damaged fish. Look at tail fins and see if they looked damaged or frayed. Look to see if any of the fish stay near the top of the aquarium, wedged vertically in corners, or behind filter or heater equipment. Also, look out for distended or shrunken bellies, a fish that doesn't eat, and any white or mucousy poop as this is a sign of a Malawi Bloat problem, which can and will kill fish.

BUELLER said:
6. There is a Penguin brand filter hanging on the side of the tank. I believe it is large enough for a 30 gallon tank. It takes two carbon tray type cartridges. It has a bio wheel.
Penguin makes a good (albeit noisy) product. If you were keeping 10 neon tetras in that tank, you'd have plenty of filtration...but if you're going to keep the fish you've got and try to make it work you're going to need another filter with your stocking level...and even then you may not be able to catch up with waste produced.

BUELLER said:
7. Once per day. One pinch of cichlid flakes.
Perfect, just remember that mbuna need a day a week with no food whatsoever, to give them a chance to clear out their long digestive tracks

BUELLER said:
8. I do use prime. Love the way it smells and use it as cologne too.
Ha! Prime is going to be a life saver for you and your fish. Prime will help to detoxify your ammonia into the less toxic ammonium. Read the directions on the side of the bottle and don't hesitate to follow it's recommendations for emergency ammonia and nitrite control.

BUELLER said:
Any help you can give is very much appreciated. As I said, I am VERY new to the hobby, but am quickly falling in love with it. Just want to have a healthy tank I can be proud of.

Thanks all,
Bueller
HOnestly, everyone makes a few mistakes on their first tank. What matters now is you're doing the research and headed into the right direction. Do some big water changes, double dose your tank with prime to help keep the toxicity down and do everything you can to keep nitrite and ammonia under 1 ppm. Also, sadly, you may want to reconcile yourself into looking into a different type of cichlid or fish for a 20 gallon tank. There are plenty of Tanganyikan and Western Hemisphere fish like Shellies and Convicts that are great to keep and won't outgrow a 20 gallon tank. Good luck to my friend, and don't hesitate to ask for any further assistance!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I did some research on the demasoni and double checked the web site of the store where I bought them from to be sure. They are not Kenyi, they are Pseudotropheus Demasoni that I purchased from Fish Freaks Cichlids, which is an awesome store by the way. I am lucky enough to live here in Omaha so I go over there all the time. I realized pretty quickly that the pick of fish you can get at the local petsmart is pretty run of the mil stuff, so I ventured off fish freaks and made my "first real cichlid" purchase lol... Anyway, off on a tangent there, sorry...

With the current fish that I have, I was wondering if you could please recommend an aquarium size, filter brand and size and anything else I need to get in order to keep these guys relatively healthy. I am not talking over the top cutting edge of science top of the line parts but just like a X gallon tank and X brand of filter, X watt heater, etc. I may have to do some rearranging, but I may as well get a bigger tank cycling now while these guys are living in the smaller 20. What time frame do you guys think I need to have these guys migrated over to a new larger, cycled home?

Thanks in advance...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
19 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Holy ****. Changed half the water last night, now just as cloudy as ever and FROTHY white **** along the top. Ammonia off the charts.

Could someone please reply to my above question about what tank size to buy that will work for the fish I have....

Thanks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,111 Posts
I am by no means an expert but I wouldnt consider anything less than a 55g. I personally am running a 75g which seems to very popular as it is just as long as the 55 but is 6 inches deeper giving it a much bigger footprint. This will allow more males to stake a claim and give others some room to get out of dodge when some get aggressive. I also have Demasoni's but have 16 of them. You will read all over that is recommended to keep 1 or more than 12 due to them being so aggressive to their own species.

If it were me in your shoes, I would do another water change. Even it means 2 in a day. Do whatever is necessary to get that ammonia down to under 1ppm. Like stated before during water changes give double doses of prime to help with toxicity, and would start looking for a bigger tank now or see if you can return some of the fish until you do get one.

I would guess the cloudiness is from a bacteria bloom that is trying to deal with all that ammonia so until you can get that under control your prob gonna have some real cloudy water.

Good luck and hope it works out for ya.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
392 Posts
To get the fastest response I'd re-post the question you have on the Lake Malawi forum, they can give you some extra advice about stocking levels, i'll take a shot at it here, but that board gets more traffic from the pros of the site.

To address your question of 'how long do i have' it can be a tough question to answer...in a 20 gallon if a male gets rowdy you can come home one night to a tank full of 9 dead fish and one territorial male who decided this whole area was his. If your fish survive the ammonia spike (currently) and nitrite spike that's coming, i would say you at least have a few months before i'd start to get really nervous.

The froth might be from the extra prime (hopefully), the cloudiness is still probably your bacterial bloom. The first thing you need to do is change water in large chunks (at least 50%) 2-3 times a day until you get that ammonia down to 1.0 ppm or lower. Prime will help turn NH3 into NH4 which is less toxic for your fish, but maybe you should skip using the Prime to lock down ammonia until you get the ammonia levels down low.

The next thing i'd do is stop feeding your fish altogether until you get that ammonia down below 1.0 ppm, and until you have zero ammonia in the tank i'd probably only feed every other day. You have to give your beneficial bacteria time to convert that ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate, and if your ammonia levels are really high it will inhibit your cycle.

One thing you can also look into is buying some bacteria-in-a-bottle and adding that to the tank as soon as possible. The jury is still out on some of these, but i have had personal success with Dr. Tim's One and Only and Seachem Stability. This can give your cycle a kickstart and help stop damaging your fish. I have to be the bearer of bad news though, if your fish have been exposed to long periods of elevated ammonia, you're going to want to start checking for signs of ammonia poisoning. Your fish will be lethargic, either hovering at the top of the tank or resting on the bottom. They may be gasping. They may be showing reddish/purple and/or swollen gills, they may stop eating, or have red streaks along their body. Often times if you're seeing these signs it may already be too late to save your fish.

For the moment being I'll take a shot with your question of tank, filter, heater etc...keep in mind i'm going to give you a conservative opinion which will give you your best chance for success. I'm going to assume you don't care about keeping fry and want the least work-intensive tank to begin with, so my advice will be based on that.

For Mbuna you'll want to start probably with a 55 gallon 4' tank for keeping multiple species. You'll want to pick 3 species of typically docile mbuna to start with. The best way to keep aggression down in the tank is stock your species in harem breeding groups of 1 male to 4+ females. Some species that you already have like Yellow Labs (Labidochromis Caeruleus "Lion's Cove") and Pseudotropheus Elegans (Acei) are a good start since they are monomorphic (meaning males and females look similar) and gender ratios aren't as important typically with them. Acei will get big and some people wouldn't stock them in a 55, but they're such a forgiving fish for a new aquarist that i don't mind recommending them. Your third species could be either your Red Zebras (Metriaclima Estherae) or Pseudotropheus Saulosi. Zebras are the more aggressive of the two and will mate freely with your Yellow Labs giving you a bunch of hybrid fry which you shouldn't keep. The Melanochromis Auratus is too aggressive imho to stock in a 55 unless it's a species only tank with 1 male and 8+ females, and the demasoni are very aggressive and usually have to be kept in large numbers so they can be a daunting fish for a beginner.

Filtration is more a preference based system. A good rule of thumb is you want 5-10x filtration in gallons per hour of your tank's volume. A 55 gallon means you'd want 275-550 gph of filtration (don't pay attention to what size tank the box says it's good for, cichlids need more filtration than tropicals). You have a ton of options here honestly. Right now you can find great deals on HOB powerfilters from Marineland (Penguin and Emperor lines), Aquaclear, and others. I'm a canister guy myself, but you can filter just as well using HOB powerfilters and they're easier to service (but must be serviced more often).

As for heaters the rule of thumb is usually 2.5-5 watts per gallon. IF you have cold winter temperatures, best to shoot for the 5 watts per gallon. I'm also a fan of having two smaller heaters as opposed to one big one. Heaters are notorious for failing and being 'stuck on'. with two smaller filters you have less of a chance of cooking your cichlids if one does fail.

Like i said, i'd definitely post this question on the Lake Malawi board to get the most responses possible, you can also feel free to pm me if you have any other questions or i wasn't clear. Good luck my friend!
 
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Top