29 Gallon Tank Help. Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, And A Perpetual Disaster.

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by Tyrant, Mar 29, 2019.

  1. TyrantNew MemberMember

    This may be a bit similar to a thread I posted earlier, but this thread is more related to a general question than that of maintaining plants.

    Constants throughout this whole situation:

    6 platies, 2 male twins and another kinda genetically deficient male (swims fine but a lot smaller than the rest, kind of a result of unintentionally inbreeding over the last 3-4 years, the one survivor over a long list of multiple generations of platies). And 3 females. The two twin males keep pestering one female (their sister ugh) and don't bother the other 2, which I bought in hopes to dilute the harassment.
    ANOTHER probably much more important constant: I have a 9inch rhino pleco (including the fins which he has are huge), and he's been with me ever since I started the hobby 5 years ago. (Slowly upgraded tanks from a 1 gal, to a 10 gal when he was around 3-4inch, and now the 29 gal at 9in. Can't get higher than that though due to special limitations on my end. Can't give him away either but I haven't really had issues with nitrate buildup so it wasn't contemplated before someone decides to say I should "swap him". It should be noted that the purchase of a fish that would grow to be around 10inches wasn't intentional, I was 14 when I made that decision and the typical fish store employees recommended getting him for eating algae. Kind of funny though, they managed to accidently give me a rhino instead of one of the 20 other COMMON plecos in the tank, we paid like a $1 for him back in 2013. There wasn't even a price for rhinos on that display tank lol).
    Temperature kept around 78 Fahrenheit, only really increased it with fear of ich several times to 82-84).
    PH: Hovers around 6.7, but water changes presumably bump it up quite a lot (tap here in NYC gives me at least a 7.6)

    I have a 29 gallon aquarium where I've been having tetras dying over the last 2 months constantly. Whenever there seems to be stable parameters and no more deaths, I add a few more tetras to complete a school. (I've only recently been mixing cardinal tetras with neon tetras).

    This started ever since late December/early January, where I bought 8 neon tetras of moderate size and I did not have any problems with them for a month and a half besides one dying early on, probably due to acclimation shock.

    In the middle of February, I decided to get more neons because the tank conditions were consistent, 0ppm ammonia and nitrites for around 2-3 weeks and it didn't seem like the fish schooled too often, mostly just hung around but never as a tight-knit group.

    So I bought 4 more neons in that trip, these fellas were also fine for the time. No deaths for around 2 weeks.

    Then this is where the problem started, I was thinking of keeping the number at the already 11 I've had, they were acting fine but again, not a lot of schooling. Probably because there was no reason for it (no predatory fish). The idiot that I was, however, went to buy more plants to make the tank more...well...planted, and I didn't tell myself that it was only a trip to buy plants, nothing MORE. Instead, I ended up impulse buying 4 more tetras that were on sale, thinking "wow if I could get it at a nice 15, maybe it will perpetually look like they're schooling even if they aren't"). Anyways, I lost one of those tetras off the bat, didn't even get home by the time it passed. Should have been a sign for me to just return them, but the fish store that I went to that time (different from the previous two purchases), was REALLY far away and I only happened to pass by them on account of just being in the area for something else. Also I attributed the loss to how the guy handled the fish he was trying to get out of the tank, lesson for you fish shop owners: don't let uncompassionate idiots handle fish, especially ones they're netting out of the tank, this guy literally banged some tetras into the wall while trying to net them.

    Introduced the remaining 4 after 2-3 hours of acclimation, the float the bag for 20 minutes, add a half-cup of aquarium water, wait for 15 minutes and repeat kind of method. Can't drip acclimate because I don't have the stuff for it but this method has worked for me before (other two purchases, for example). The night passes, and two more of those new neons are showing symptoms such as rapid breathing and damaged fins, small white growths on the fins or eyes and the last one is just off by him/herself breathing quickly and not eating near the bottom. This is where I thinking, ok so the fish were definitely sick in the store and I try adding more stress coat, general cure, and paraguard to the tank fearing that the rest of the tetras could get whatever they had. Thing is, none of that helped. Water changes around 10-20% every 3-4 days for a week after I started having a massive die off of tetras, around 2-3 daily starting from the Wednesday after the Saturday I got the last 4. The only symptoms they had was quick breathing, some really small gray-ish white extrusions on some of their eyes (I would refer you to a previous post related to this but wouldn't that be self-advertising?, some diagnosed it as a specific strain of columnaris only neon tetras get apparently) separation from the "school" or shoal, and swimming near the bottom. No real signs of white "patches" of the muscles, but some did have localized areas where externally there were groups of white spots kinda hanging off of it, probably a secondary infection because that was in 3 out of the 14 that ended up dying, so I kinda ruled off NTD, especially since I removed fish that were, ugh hard to say it but, on "death's door" from the tank prior to any cannibalistic behavior would ensue, but now I don't even know if that could be eliminated. Ammonia was still at a constant 0-0.25ppm, it's really hard to tell and I never have seen that sharp yellow that the charts give, even while testing tap or distilled water: only small spikes if I didn't manage to catch a dead fish overnight at .5, but never higher than that, same with nitrites, and nitrates I don't really test because my tank is kinda heavily planted but the highest i've seen it over the last two months was 40ppm, averages at 5ppm though, that 40ppm was really random.

    After that really stressful period, I was down to one neon, a tough fellah that was bigger than the rest, he probably had the immune system on steroids or something because the only time he seemed to be sick was a small bout with fin rot for a few days while being alone, the sole survivor.

    A week passed and I was thinking of getting the lone tetra some friends, especially considering all of the stories of tetras getting stressed out while not in a school and dying a really sad death. Ended up getting 7 cardinals because that's what my other store, not the one I last went to with what I supposed was the origins of whatever plague killed my previous tetras, had in stock and I read that the two kinds of fish would school together. (And yes, I made sure that the ammonia was a constant 0-0.25 (again, I never see that sharp yellow so I assume that either I can't see it or the kit just loves stressing me out)), and these guys were acting great for around 2 weeks. Annoyingly enough though, they didnt really school and mostly stayed around the back of the tank, but the big neon would hang out with them.

    Decided to test my luck again later when that same fish store (not the bad one, I am never going there again), had a spring sale and 35% off seemed like a great opportunity to increase the size of my school. Bought a mix of neons and cardinals to see what it would look like and these guys were good for the weekend (last Friday). I also got some oto catfish because they seemed like a great idea to clean up the anubias, vallisneria, and amazon swords I had in the tank, plus I already had a supply of algae wafers for my rhino pleco. Of the first three otos I had, two died after several days, they all had plump stomaches and I had no idea what caused it. I assumed it wasn't shock because they all seemed great for 3 days :(. A fourth was eating, got fat, and I saw it try to dart towards the surface a few times but then it couldn't swim upright again and just landed upside down on the aquarium bottom. Died a few minutes later. This was after two cardinals died the night before and ammonia spiked to 1ppm, presumably because of that...

    I just, I don't know if I want to continue with the hobby. I change out 4 gallons of water every week (7.6 out of the tap, with some time left out to change to ambient room temp treated with stress coat), whenever ammonia spikes I do the same, my pleco uproots the plants sometimes and I change that but I just spend so much time stressing out about it. Attached a few pictures, a picture of a deceased cardinal (the only one that i've had that seemed to have whiteish blotches and anything discernibly wrong when it died) the water tests were literally the day before the two cardinals died and the picture of the aquarium are the same as it is now, just imagine less tetras and less otos. I have two otos left by the way but I can't afford to get more at this rate. Thinking about just letting the current tank play its course and if any fish die, so be it (obviously with water changes still going on, I'm not going to give up on the rest). But I honestly have no idea what I could be doing here. Any tips? What am I doing wrong? Does it make any sense as to why this is happening??

    Credit to anyone reading this or looking it over, I am sorry for how disorganized it is but I have no idea how to put this without just writing it all out...anything could be important I guess...
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
  2. AngelmomValued MemberMember

    This is a lot to unpack, so forgive me if some of these thoughts seem obvious. I see you treated with general cure and paraguard, both of which are geared toward parasites, but not for bacterial infections. Maybe erythromycin or something similar would be a good next step, along with a larger water change. I think your acclimation method is fine, but you might want to consider a quarantine/treatment tank (even a small one) before any new fish. I'd also pull apart that rock scape and make sure you don't have pockets of plant detritius, or dead fish parts, in there. pH on your photo looks more like 6, which in my experience is a little low and could make already weak fish susceptible to problems including bacterial diseases, but maybe that's just the photo. Hope there's something useful in these random thoughts - don't give up yet!
  3. abarbWell Known MemberMember

    Why does your ammonia tube have more liquid than your nitrate tube?
  4. TyrantNew MemberMember

    It's mostly me taking a dip in the aquarium water, don't have an eyedropper to do it more cleanly unfortunately. Does the amount of water initially in it make a big difference?

    And yes I do use the right amount of drops when testing if that was your next question LOL.

    It's probably the picture, I attached a new test but it seems to be around 6.6. I will try to set up a quarantine with my old 10 gal, just wondering if you think gravel that's been in there for around 2 years with no water in it should be suitable? (All the beneficial bacteria is probably dead by now, but outside of a quick rinse it should be good?) Going to have trouble finding a place for it though.

    And yeah, you're right about the rocks, the thing is it's REALLY tough to put it back together because of the pleco making sure that if there's a space that he can use to topple it all over, he will ugh. I do vacuum behind it though with my gravel vac (the tube connected to a plastic siphon really) though, and do look at it from an angle to see any obvious...corpses...but there are a lot of spots where bodies could be just hiding. I'm sometimes scared that disturbing it would release a lot of dirt that formed over time for the last 2-3 years though, something that happened before when I was removing my vals from a container I stupidly placed them in the aquarium with. Accidently killed a lot of fish like that. Also scared of doing water changes to a large extent because a full swing of 6.6 to at least 7.6 seems to be too large.

    Side note, lost another oto today and it seems like the fins on a lot of my cardinals (not neons though) seem to be ripped up? Almost like spines with what is left over and I can't really tell how that happened, no other deformities seem to be on them :c

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 29, 2019
  5. TyrantNew MemberMember

    Would anyone have recommendations as to the maintenance I should do with a tank like this? Considering the pH is at ~6.6 in the tank but the tap is heavily chlorinated at ~7.6 and I have around 25 gallons of tank water to work with?