a newbie with grave errors...please help. totally confused, eager to learn :(

Discussion in 'Freshwater Beginners' started by alouc, Jul 30, 2014.

  1. aloucNew MemberMember

    hello everyone,

    i write to you with a heavy heart tonight. allow me to explain...ugh. maybe i'm being too sensitive about this, but i feel absolutely horrible over what has happened. surely as fellow pet owners you'll be able to understand my upset.

    here's my timeline. bear with me please. i have been following the advice of pet store employees. it never occurred to me that perhaps i should go online and search for chat rooms dedicated to fish keeping. i just...i don't know. i didn't give it much thought and just asked the employees for help time and time again. i think they mean well...but...yeah. here it goes.

    june 1st - bought 25 gallon tank, set up with aquaclear filter, heater, airstone, gravel, several ornaments/artificial plants.

    it sat fishless for three weeks, filled with water and filter and heater running during that time frame.

    june 21st - bought three zebra danios for a fish in cycle. on the advice of pet store employee, a young girl, who i truly believe meant well. added nutrafin cycle, which is a three day cycling treatment. online articles give mixed reviews.

    bought an api master kit. began testing every 24-48 hours, while dosing the tank with prime every 24-48 hours, as well. did 25% water changes each week, like clockwork. didn't miss any. very diligent about being on time. vacuumed about 1/2 the gravel each time.

    things were going marvelously. not a single sign of stress in the fish. active, eating well, socializing. my ammonia climbed to 0.25, nitrite stayed at 0 (perhaps i missed the spike...?), and nitrates climbed to 10.

    my ammonia held firm at 0.25. i read that 0 is ideal, but that some tests will show 0.25 even when there is barely no ammonia present.

    july 1st - bought two bloodfin tetras, and one powder blue dwarf gourami. things went marvelous with them, as well. not a single sign of stress. no fighting among fish. everyone ate a variety of foods with no problems (flakes, pellets, vegetable matter, and blood worms).

    i continued testing every 24-48 hours, and dosing with prime at the same time. my levels remained strong at 0.25/0/10. i continued with the weekly 25% water changes.

    fastforward to july 28. bought two zebra danios, and two albino corydoras. please keep in mind as i'm saying all of this that i wasn't up to speed on what it meant to form a shoal of fish. the employees told me they would be okay with two or three in a group. again, it didn't occur to me to research this myself. i took their word for it.

    everything was perfectly fine and dandy until i added these fish.

    within 12 hours, the two new zebra danios were dead. within the next 12 hours, the corys were dead. within the next 12 hours, my three previous existing zebra danios were dead. tonight - one tetra just died. one tetra and my dwarf gourami remain...but not for long. i can guarantee you they are dying by the behavior they are exhibiting, which is unlike their norms i've come to know over the weeks.

    so, every fish basically began exhibiting the same signs of impending death as soon as i put the new fish in the tank on the 27th. floating in space, not putting much effort into swimming, listless. no aggression. they all died in the exact same manner - they would suddenly flip over, float along on their backs while attempting to swim, attempting to flip back over with no success, and then die while sinking to the bottom slowly.

    so, my assumptions...

    first off, bear in mind that i've tested my water parameters several times in the last few days and there has not been either an ammonia or nitrite spike since adding the newbies. not a single inch of movement with either values. the water remained bright and clear. therefore i am not quick to blame it on an overloaded bio system.

    the two new danios and the two corys i added on the 27th...perhaps one of them was diseased. please bear in mind also that i didn't know of such a thing as a quarantine tank. i just read about it within the last hour of sitting here.

    i figure one of these fish was the culprit because the rest of the fish were living very active, content lives leading up to the newbie additions.

    i didn't see any outward signs of disease. no strange colours, lesions, no strange bowel movements, no bleeding, etc. they looked normal, in my eyes, to the best of my knowledge.

    so...if you've read this far...thank you SO much. i feel like a lost soul here...no idea who the heck to turn to for advice. all i know is that i do want to keep fish as a hobby and i care about them very much and am willing to do whatever it takes to become a responsible fish keeper.

    my questions...what on earth do i do now?

    so many questions. if anyone could try their best to answer them in order, it would be so greatly appreciated so that i don't get confused. well, any moreso than i am right now.

    ...i don't even know where to start...

    do i empty out the tank? remove the water, turn off the filter, remove the gravel, etc?

    can i reuse this gravel and my ornaments/artificial plants in a future tank, or will they have to be thrown out in case there are germs latched onto them? i really hope i can continue using them all because it cost me a lot of money to decorate my tank.

    assuming i can reuse my tank and accessories, how do i properly sterilize them so any future fish will not pick up any germs? assuming that my tank came down with a disease in recent days.

    god...please help me...i'm up against a wall here. no idea who to turn to. heartbroken, and my children are sad about it, too. :( i feel like i've let the kids down by killing their pets.

    i'm getting ready to leave on vacation for a large chunk of august, so i won't be able to do much for at least 3 weeks.

  2. poeticinjusticesWell Known MemberMember

    Hello and welcome. Your post pretty much broke my heart :( It simply should not be like this.

    Right off the bat, I would actually say you started off better than many. The right test kit, Prime, knowledge of the cycle. Please don't apologize for your errors, we will get you through this.

    Interestingly, you are the second member I have seen post use of Nutrafin Cycle and getting the exact same, odd readings. neonblue1980 is the other.

    Unless the Nutrafin is somehow messing with the readings, it sounds as if some kind of disease has taken hold. Or is there any chance some kind of toxin was introduced to your tank? Soap? Pesticides? Aerosols? Is your water changing equipment new and for fish only? Also, I noticed you mentioned parameters excepting pH. Have you tested that as well as your source water?

    Someone else can help you on the needs of your fish and how that may have come into play, beyond goldfish and bettas I am pretty much useless :p

    Sterilizing the tank can be done with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Spray, rinse, air dry. Chlorine bleach will get anything left behind and Prime will get the chlorine afterward. Someone else will give you more specifics on that as I have not yet had to sterilize a tank and do not know the exact specifics. I would also encourage you to wait for their confirmation that I have advised correctly here.

    Please do not get discouraged. You are here now, and this forum has a wealth of information if you're open to it.

    Should you choose to do a fish - in cycle in the future, Tetra SafeStart is the product you want to use. It has some rather fickle, definitive instructions for use but done right it will cycle your tank in around 14 days.

    You may also want to look into a fish less cycle. It takes more time, yes, but will spare you stress which you have had enough of already :(

    Sent from my SCH-I545 using Fish Lore Aquarium Fish Forum mobile app
  3. Adam55Well Known MemberMember

    Hello and welcome to FL.

    One possibility is too much new stock was added at once on the 28th, but it wasn't a drastic addition. Still, the bacteria that processes ammonia and nitrite is a living colony. It will grow as large as the food source dictates. When too much stock is added at once, the cycle crashes. And new tanks are especially vulnerable to cycle issues. Did you check your water levels after all the fish died?

    It is possible that a new fish contaminated the tank, but the timing seems off for that. If the fish wiped out your tank that quickly, why weren't any of the fish that were in the tank with the sick fish at the LFS also dead?

    Another possibility, but a slim one: how much Prime were you adding and how often? Gross overdoses of Prime can impact the oxygen level in the tank.
  4. hollie1505Well Known MemberMember

    Hi there and welcome to Fishlore.

    Sorry you are having a tough time at the moment but please don't be down hearted. You've done the right thing adding Prime and testing your water. You trusted the advice you were given adn you can't be wrong for doing that, we've all been there :)
    poeticinjustices has summed a lot up already for you and I agree that Tetra SafeStart is a fantastic product to fish-in cycle.

    1) Do you have any fish in the tank? If not then, empty it and clean as Poetic says :)

    2) Clean everything using the solution and it can be used again.

    3) Don't panic, blame yourself and beat your self up. You have done everything as directed. Now it's time to take a step back, take a deep breath and research to your hearts content :)

    If you still have fish, perform daily 50% water changes and keep dosing the Prime. If not, once everything is clean and set back up you can restart the tank with a fishless cycle or fish in with TSS. It may be best to restart once you are back from vacation but you can take your time cleaning, setting up and researching.

    I have been talking to someone on this forum today who also lost their fish and their little brother has described the sky as being full of water and their fish is now swimming up their with the other angel fish. I thought it was a lovely sentiment for the children.

    I just wanted to let you know that you haven't done anything wrong and I am very sorry for your losses. I wish you lots of luck!xx
  5. aloucNew MemberMember

    hi poeticinjustices, thanks for writing!

    the remaining two fish and still hanging on - i just did a 50 percent water change treated with prime in hopes of somehow saving them...but i realize that's probably pointless at this stage in the game.

    i think giving a thorough sterilization once we come back from vacation may be what's in order.

    i'll definitely wait to see if anyone can confirm the sterilization process. but the weird thing is...none of the fish had any telltale markings of being sick. everyone looked fine to the naked eye....but i suppose that means nothing in the grand scheme of things.
  6. jdhefModeratorModerator Member

    Welcome to FishLore!

    The first thing I want to say is stop apologizing! Many members (myself included) started off badly. What's even worse is that I have kept fish off and on my entire life and still was doing everything wrong until I discovered FishLore. I, like you, though that the people at the fish store would be experts at keeping fish and it never dawned on my to seek info on the internet until I became obsessed with my pH.

    PoeticInjustices has given you some good advise. But I would like to add that if it were my tank, I would toss the gravel and disinfect everything else with a solution of 1 part bleach to 19 parts water. Then rinse until you no longer smell the bleach (chlorine), then put all your ornimets into the tank and fill the tank with water that has been overdosed with dechlorinator. Then drain the tank, put your new gravel in, arrange your decorations and refill with dechlorinated water. Oh yeah, and also I would toss the filter media and get all new filter media.

    Once that is complete you can wait 24 hours and add an entire, well shaken, appropriate sized bottle of Tetra SafeStart and a couple fish. Then do nothing but feed your fish for the next 14 days. On day 14 test and if all worked like it should, you'll have a cycled tank.

    Of course if you have any fish left alive, you'll need to put them somewhere temporarily so you can do all those things. The one thing different is you can put any surviving fish back into the tank right after refilling, but you still MUST wait 24 hours to add the SafeStart, since adding SafeStart less than 24 hours after adding a water conditioner can cause it to fail.

    Best of luck and keep us posted on your progress. Feel free to ask any questions you may have. No one here will think you are asking too many questions or will any one think any question is stupid. This is a forum full of people who want to help you succeed!
  7. aloucNew MemberMember

    adam, i tested the water parameters as soon as some of the fish started dying, and then have tested them several times along the way, as well. it has all stayed perfectly steady over the last few days. no changes whatsoever.

    i do find it strange to think that an illness could wipe out the fish THAT fast. i mean, you'd think it would take...at least a bit of time...not start killing off immediately...?

    i am guilty of randomly throwing in the prime, not necessarily measuring it. i read that it's okay to overdose with prime but the oxygen decrease like you said makes sense.
  8. Adam55Well Known MemberMember

    Yeah, all I'm saying is to consider all avenues before tearing the tank down. Concerning Prime, it is a reducing agent. That's what it does to whatever is in the tank, including oxygen. So while you can dose up to five times the dosage in an emergency situation, overdosing every day can cause issues with the oxygen level in the tank. Low oxygen levels can kill the fish directly or indirectly (by altering the pH). It's just something to consider. And if you suspect disease, go ask the LFS if a batch of fish was wiped out. If your fish were killed by it, the fish that lived with the new guys the day before also would have been.
  9. millcaValued MemberMember

    Sorry to hear about your fish losses. It is hard to lose a single one of them and you've certainly had an overwhelming loss.

    Since you really don't know what caused the sudden deaths, you are wise to tear down your entire tank once the last two remaining fish have passed (hopefully they won't but it sounded like you thought it was a matter of time). Some diseases such as Fish tuberculosis is not killed off by normal bleach solution.

    I was given some good advice recently from a fish breeder about how to sterilize a tank and other equipment. They suggested I buy a 1 lb. bag of Pool Shock which is basically Calcium Hypochlorite (HTH). This is supposed to be much better stuff than the bleach we can buy off the shelf. You want to find HTH that has at least 65% HTH in it. Here's the stuff I ended up buying on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ECHQKU6/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    It is a bit pricey due to the shipping so if you have any pool stores around you, it might be worth calling them to see if you can buy a bag from them for a couple of bucks.

    Then you need to soak your tank, filter, artificial plants and decorations, nets, sponges, etc in the HTH for at least an hour. As other have advised, throw out your filter media. You'll want new stuff for your filter.

    Here's how to calculate the amount of HTH to dissolve in water before adding it into your tank:


    Basically, I worked all of that out to be 1/4 teaspoon per gallon. You'll want to do this outdoors due to the fumes and also wear gloves and clothes you don't mind bleaching. Only make enough solution that you'll use that day. I don't think it is a good idea to store this stuff in liquid form. Much better in the powder form.

    After an hour soak, use a sponge that has been soaking to scrub the items down. Then thoroughly rinse off everything so you cannot smell chlorine at all.

    As an added precaution, you could then go get some 70% isopropyl alcohol (Walmart for $0.88) and put a spray bottle top onto the bottle. Squirt everything down and let it air dry outside. (Again, the fumes of this stuff is strong). Then you should be sterilized sufficiently.

    I also strongly recommend the Tetra Safestart which has been mentioned above. My tip there is to always read the back side of the bottle to determine how many gallons it will work with. The front of the small green topped bottle says "Up to 100 gallons" but the back says 20 gallons. It is the back number that is correct for cycling a tank. So get enough small bottles or larger ones to exceed the number of gallons of your tank. Then what at least 24 hours after using Prime, to dump the TSS in and then an hour later add a few fish (4-5 danios is what I used on my 29G tank). Then don't do anything for 14 days unless the fish are exhibiting weird behavior at which time it, test your water parameters (including pH) and do a water change if the numbers are alarming.

    I wish you the best in your fishkeeping adventures. We've all had to learn the hard way, but again, I'm really sorry your way was especially hard.

    The comment of about toxins somehow getting into your tank is a very legit thing to consider and would cause very fast deaths. I know you mentioned using Prime (a lot even), but not using it correctly and exposing your fish to untreated chlorinated water could also lead to quick and rapid fish deaths.
  10. LinwoodValued MemberMember

    First, to the post on chlorine then alcohol -- be VERY sure that all the cholorine is gone before putting alcohol in there, they should not be mixed. Ever. I'm not sure the alcohol is serving much purpose after the bleach, by the way -- bleach is a far better sterilizing agent than alcohol (really than almost anything). And frankly for this small volume a bottle of laundry bleach (make sure it has no other additives other than water!) is just as good. And generally longer exposure is better than stronger for bleach -- strong risks more damage; the hour is a great recommendation above, a lot of people just wipe or rinse and quit.

    I'd echo the prime -- I saw where you were adding it every day, not every water change. Not sure what you were trying to accomplish there, I would recommend using it only for Chlorine issues.

    By the way, if you do the bleach route to clean, after rinsing and rinsing, fill everything up, put all the decorations in, and dose it with a double or triple dose of prime, and let it sit and mix for a while, run the filter (you should not put carbon media in at any time during this until the very last step). Make sure everything has flushed out any chlorine even if you can't smell it.

    Then empty everything and start like it was a new tank.

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