Any idea why my tank stinks?

Mar1111

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I've had a wicked few weeks of fishkeeping, and now this. I'll give my tank info:

Freshwater, planted, 40 gallon wide, started Aug 2019 after cycling
6 Skirt tetras
2 Pristella tetras
5 Golden danios
9 various Cory Cats
5 female Mystery Snails (moved males to another tank)
About 12-15 shrimp: Ghost, Amano, Cherry, 1 blue velvet

Black Flourite Sand substrate, AC70 HOB

Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 20
PH 7.4

Inside the filter I used 3 thicknesses of foam at the bottom, from fine to course, then had a small layer of carbon, with the ceramics filling to the top.

Fluval lighting... have lowered it to 6 hours a day and hardly ever at total brightness. The algae growth had slowed down, I used to have 9 hours of lighting.

I had 2 mystery snails get out in the last couple weeks, I don't even want to think about that now and it's irrelevant to this issue. Both died and that upset me. I cut part of a foam plate and used packing tape to close that hole around the filter, and dropped the water level, so now they're laying eggs inside.

4 days ago, on Monday, everything was good in the tank, except an algae issue. I suffer from 2 kinds - brown algea and the normal green. I totally cleaned the tank by hand using a piece of a phosphate pad and cut off the dark leaves caused by the brown algae. For a few weeks I also had some phosphate pad inside my filter and changed it twice, saw no change in algae. My phosphate level on an API test is normal, and was before I tried that.

After cleaning the tank I did a 50% WC. By Wednesday there was a smell as though something died in there - nothing is missing, there is nothing dead. Usually when a fish has died, my snails had it gone before I even knew it, there wasn't a trace of a few last month when I had a catastrophe in another tank, and I found parts, so I know what they can do. I change water by hand using a siphon and 2 gallon food safe buckets. I have tennis elbow and had an injection Wednesday, so I didn't do any lifting that day. Right now it's too sore to do much, but yesterday I did remove the filter and wanted to change out the foam for AC filter foam. When I opened the filter, the ceramic parts that were in 3 bags were just FILLED with small pest snails. I do not have a pest snail problem in this tank, apparently they just stay in the filter most of the time. I rinsed them out in a bucket of aquarium water and intended to use them again, but could see a lot of tiny ones in there. So I went to Plan B, rinsed out 1 bag of them very well and THINK I got all the snails out, threw the others away (after drying them out on my deck), and added another larger bag to that small bag, wanting to save some bacteria. I have to assume the snails are in the foam but it was so gross, I didn't even want to rinse it. I think I should've, but again, afraid of losing my bacteria. I added extra carbon to it this time, cleaned out the prefilter, and started it up. I also took 4 gallons of water out and changed it. In the evening I thought the smell was better.

Today, I can tell it's again getting worse. I just opened a window and shut the door when I was in there awhile ago. The fish do not seem distressed at all.

I feed them Tetra Mix (I think that's what it's called, can look next time I'm up) most of the time. I give them frozen brine shrimp once a week and frozen bloodworms once a week. I also have dried blood worms, flakes, and bug bites I rotate around. None of my fish seem to really like flake foods, so they only get it once a week, trying to give them a variety.

For those who may say that changing 4 gallons last night wasn't enough, remember I just changed 20 gallons out 3 days earlier. With a sore arm, I can't be doing a lot of lifting and carrying. The water is very clear since I cleaned the tank, no cloudiness.

I don't know what else I can tell you, I think that's it. I did a search in here and found someone asked last year about having stinky water, and I don't think anyone had a definite answer.

Just ask me anything, and please any ideas or suggestions would be welcome. I've done everything I know to do and can't stand that smell!
 

Ghelfaire

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My aquarium was stinking and I couldn't figure out why. Turns out some medicine had spilled in my cabinet causing the smell.
Maybe something like that happened? Like food, dechlorinator or medicine spilled.
 

JamesVader

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Do you have any blue-green algae in the tank I know that that can cause a smell? Or maybe one of your mystery snails died they can smell BAD
 

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Check under the black rim inside for the crusty grossness.
 

skar

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My old 55 used to smell before I changed to a 75...
Turns out I needed to do a BIG cleanup.
The substrate needs vacuuming especially under ornaments and drift wood.

I hate doing it but about once a year a deep clean needs to be done. Including the filter.
 
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Mar1111

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Mike1995 said:
Do you happen to have cyanobacteria? (Blue green algea). That stuff smells terrible.
No I don't have blue/green algae.

skar said:
My old 55 used to smell before I changed to a 75...
Turns out I needed to do a BIG cleanup.
The substrate needs vacuuming especially under ornaments and drift wood.

I hate doing it but about once a year a deep clean needs to be done. Including the filter.
I have sand for a substrate and really wish I didn't. My other tank is gravel and I suction it with every WC, so easy. I don't know how to change it at this point but would if it was easier.

StarGirl15 said:
Check under the black rim inside for the crusty grossness.
I always wipe the rims clean when I clean it. Right now I have 2 clutches of eggs up there but really don't think they stink. One is 2 days old and one was laid last night.

JamesVader said:
Do you have any blue-green algae in the tank I know that that can cause a smell? Or maybe one of your mystery snails died they can smell BAD
I don't think it's a snail, seems they've all been moving around. Last week I noticed one hadn't moved in 2 days, checked and the shell was empty - all the bottom crawlers cleaned it out and I never knew, never smelled a thing.
 

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Post # 8 . You have sand but don’t think you can deep vacuum?
A link on using a vacuum with two hands. This technique is even more important with sand .

 

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Flyfisha said:
Post # 18 . You have sand but don’t think you can deep vacuum?
A link on using a vacuum with two hands. This technique is even more important with sand .

I always recommend this video. It's been a while since I watched it lol I'm about to watch it now just because I love it
 

skar

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Mar1111 said:
I have sand for a substrate and really wish I didn't. My other tank is gravel and I suction it with every WC, so easy. I don't know how to change it at this point but would if it was easier.
I have sand too.

I just use the 5 gal bucket and pour the water in the yard.
If sand is residual I let it dry in the bucket and pour the sand back in the tank while it's dry.
 

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I don’t know about the smell but you should get a Python to do your WC instead of using elbow grease.
 

Desi

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Is it possible that there might be some dead pest snails still in the filter? That would really stink.
 
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Mar1111

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Desi said:
Is it possible that there might be some dead pest snails still in the filter? That would really stink.
Very possible! I'm so afraid of losing my cycle, but wish I could start with an all new filter.

How big of a sponge would I need from my other tank's filter if I'd use it to seed this? I have a 20 gallon with an AC30.
 

candiedragon

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You should definitely rinse out the foam in your filter, just squeeze them out in the buckets of old tank water and you wont lose them. Otherwise, the purpose of your bags of ceramic rings are meant to establish the meat of your beneficial bacteria colony. Personally, I just spray out the foam with the water hose and take extra care to keep the ceramic in tank water to preserve the bacteria. That could be why... but then again, the carbon should be taking care of odors. So I could only guess it's outside of the water column. Unless you actually took a scoop of water out and smelled it? Really hard to say.
 

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Mar1111 said:
Very possible! I'm so afraid of losing my cycle, but wish I could start with an all new filter.

How big of a sponge would I need from my other tank's filter if I'd use it to seed this? I have a 20 gallon with an AC30.
Since you have ceramic type media in your filter along with the sponges you can get pretty aggressive at cleaning the sponges. Once a tank is firmly established, giving the sponges a good cleaning shouldn't affect the cycle. The smell could very well be coming from a few dead snails.

I see you have already removed and replaced some of your ceramic media. What I would have done instead of replacing it is rinsed it in some heavily salted water. Like slugs, snails can be killed with salt. Folks may call me cruel but back when I was so heavily infested with snails I was pulling out dozens daily. I would sprinkle table salt on them to kill them before discarding them. It killed them instantly.

Occasionally my snail jar will start smelling bad. That smell is strong enough to be smelled across the room. When that happens I know a snail has died in there. They do have a very unique odor.
 
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Mar1111

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mattgirl said:
Since you have ceramic type media in your filter along with the sponges you can get pretty aggressive at cleaning the sponges. Once a tank is firmly established, giving the sponges a good cleaning shouldn't affect the cycle. The smell could very well be coming from a few dead snails.

I see you have already removed and replaced some of your ceramic media. What I would have done instead of replacing it is rinsed it in some heavily salted water. Like slugs, snails can be killed with salt. Folks may call me cruel but back when I was so heavily infested with snails I was pulling out dozens daily. I would sprinkle table salt on them to kill them before discarding them. It killed them instantly.

Occasionally my snail jar will start smelling bad. That smell is strong enough to be smelled across the room. When that happens I know a snail has died in there. They do have a very unique odor.
Thank you for that. When I rinsed in aquarium water, I never though about salt. Since I got cories I haven't even considered salt. I had 20 to 30 snails rinsed out, carefully dumped the water outside and left them to dry out in the sun, same with the 2 packets. I don't want them growing in my yard! I feel 0 remorse in killing those things.

Dechi said:
I don’t know about the smell but you should get a Python to do your WC instead of using elbow grease.
We have a bathroom faucet with no way to screw the python into it. I'm sure there's a way but I don't know it! Bought one last year and returned it.

Flyfisha said:
Post # 8 . You have sand but don’t think you can deep vacuum?
A link on using a vacuum with two hands. This technique is even more important with sand .

But that sucks the sand out the tube and I don't want that.
 

mattgirl

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Mar1111 said:
Thank you for that. When I rinsed in aquarium water, I never though about salt. Since I got cories I haven't even considered salt. I had 20 to 30 snails rinsed out, carefully dumped the water outside and left them to dry out in the sun, same with the 2 packets. I don't want them growing in my yard! I feel 0 remorse in killing those things.
I felt no remorse either. I didn't invite them in and just wanted them gone. Now that I have assassin snails to keep the snails down I don't mind them in my tanks. I appreciate the job they do but in low numbers. I gave a couple I found in my filter their own home. The assassins had already cleared all of them out of my tank. I figured they would appreciate some of their favorite food from time to time. Those 2 I found in the filter got busy and soon there were lots of them in the jar. I pull some out of there and dump them in the tank I worked so hard to remove them from. They have time to do a bit of house cleaning before the assassins find all of them.

My assassins do double duty. They keep the pest snails under control and also keep my sand stirred since they are constantly moving through it.

If it were me I would rinse the snail infested sponges in some heavily salted water unless I had some already seeded from another tank. If that was the case I would probably just replace them. Problem is, it is going to be difficult to find all the snail eggs in the filter itself and they will soon be all over the new sponges.
 
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Mar1111

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Presidenchill said:
I always recommend this video. It's been a while since I watched it lol I'm about to watch it now just because I love it
Do you have sand or gravel?
 

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Mar1111 said:
Do you have sand or gravel?
Half gravel/half sand mate

Update: you can siphon off the top of the sand, gently rake the sand with an instrument or your hand, preferably an instrument if you have a hard time reaching or don't want to reach, then you can siphon off the top again. You want to be gentle through this whole process. Also if you watched the video, he crimped the hose to stop his sand from coming up through his gravel mix. With regular cleanings you should really only have to siphon top and rake through, crimping sand only takes a faster crimp as you only want the gunk and not the sand. My siphon head is 2 feet so it's a long way up for my sand to go and by then I got the waste I wanted and it drops back down. Sometimes if I angle it right, the sand will just stay towards the bottom half and kind of torrent around without actually rising all the way up.
 
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Mar1111

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Presidenchill said:
Half gravel/half sand mate

Update: you can siphon off the top of the sand, gently rake the sand with an instrument or your hand, preferably an instrument if you have a hard time reaching or don't want to reach, then you can siphon off the top again. You want to be gentle through this whole process. Also if you watched the video, he crimped the hose to stop his sand from coming up through his gravel mix. With regular cleanings you should really only have to siphon top and rake through, crimping sand only takes a faster crimp as you only want the gunk and not the sand. My siphon head is 2 feet so it's a long way up for my sand to go and by then I got the waste I wanted and it drops back down. Sometimes if I angle it right, the sand will just stay towards the bottom half and kind of torrent around without actually rising all the way up.
Thanks so much for that answer! I do have a rake in my tools I use now and then. Have to be careful with plant roots!
 

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