Can't get nitrates under control suddenly??

ashleyb

Member
I have a 20 gallon tank that I cycled for seven weeks before adding fish. It has an Aquatech 30-40 HOB and also two additional sponge filters in there, so I'm on the super safe side for filtration. The tank was cycled with seeded material from one of my well established tanks. I have the temperature set at 78 degrees. I know without a shadow of a doubt that this tank was cycled before I added fish. It's a heavily planted tank with black fluorite for the substrate. I use the API Master test kit to test my water.

Two weeks ago I added a mystery snail, two elephant snails and a Nerite snail from a smaller tank, they were fine. A week ago I added my first stock, which was 9 neon tetras, 4 white finned Rosy tetras and a honey gourami. Everything was looking good the last several days, and then two mornings ago I woke up and half of my tank was dead. I had just tested the water the night prior and everything was reading great at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and 20 nitrates. But when I woke up I found the honey gourami, two rosies and four neons dead. I immediately tested the water again and was shocked - in just over 12 hours I was reading .25 ammonia, 0 nitrites and 40ppm nitrates. What the ? I did a 50% water change (in an attempt to cut the nitrates in half) and dosed with prime for good measure, that was last night.

This is morning I woke up to one more dead neon. I tested the water again and everything looked good. 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and 20ppm nitrates. Out of curiosity I just tested it again before I go to bed and now it's 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and 40ppm nitrates again!! I have not fed my fish in over 24 hours and as far as I know I feed them sparingly. How are my nitrates doubling every 12 hours?? I haven't even fed them and the tank is not even close to being overstocked. I just did another 50% water change and dosed with prime again. I hope I don't wake up to more dead fish.

Anyone have any ideas? When I test my tap water it does have nitrates in it, but it only reads 5ppm. So it can't be the water changes. Am I doing the right thing by changing so much water? Help!
 

joiakimfish

Member
Sorry I have no clue as I am new to this ..but did you try testing your faucet water let it sit for 24 hrs ..that might be of some assistance ...
 
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ashleyb

Member
I've tested my tap water before. It reads 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and 5ppm nitrates.

Since doing the water change I am literally now watching another Rosy die. She keeps going upside down for several minutes, twitches and then dives to the bottom of the tank and hits the sand hard, then floats right back to the top again.

I'm at a loss. My water params are perfect for sustaining life at the moment. I just changed the water..
 

Mom2some

Member
When you have strange water issues I call in CindiL. I don't have much in the way of useful thoughts... Dragones150918?
 

jmarks

Member
my first thoughts are....
1. are test solutions expired?
2. are you shaking the nitrate test adequately? till your arm feels like it is going to fall off?
3. have you rinsed your filter media?
4. what is your pH?
5. I would re-test both tap water and tnk water following the directions to the t
 

CindiL

Member
Hi. What is your ph of both tap and tank?

Based on what you're describing, my first guess would be that some of the fish were diseased when you got them and not assume its your water parameters.

Are there symptoms at all? How fast when you notice one acting off, does it die?

The night before you lost 50%, was anything off?

Have you noticed anything on the ones that died? gasping? any small slime coat spots? red marks?
 
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ashleyb

Member
My PH in the tank is 7.6, the test solutions are actually brand new, and I beat the out of that nitrate bottle. I beat it on the furniture, the wall, my palm and I shake the test tube until I feel like my arm is going to separate from my body. The morning that everyone died I rinsed my filter media in some tank water. But I really don't even feel it was necessary, it was gunky but pretty normal. I just did it as a precaution.

I don't notice any symptoms before a fish dies. I go to bed and they are happy and shoaling, woke up and they're dead, I was assuming from nitrate poisoning. I know 40ppm can be hard on the neons, but I thought the tetras were a little more hearty. I don't know what happened with my rosy earlier this evening, I did the water change and she was dead a half hour later. But everyone else seems fine. I don't notice any abnormalities whatsoever on the bodies, other than where my snails decided to feast on their corpses. Nice. The night before I lost half the tank the water parameters were 0 ammonia, 0 nitrates and 20ppm nitrates. So pretty normal.

If this is something in my water that I'm not detecting, I'm thinking about doing a water change with filtered water and see if that makes a difference. I have no idea why they're dying, I just know that my nitrates are rising unbelievably fast. I'll test my water again now for argument's sake, but I just did a 50% water change a few hours ago. I don't usually test again for at least 12 hours for fear of false readings.

I think I'm in trouble. I have inspected my tank THROUGHLY the last couple days, and all of a sudden my tetras have white bumps on them?! I can't tell if it's ich or not, they look more like small ulcers than specks of salt. They are on the gills and by the mouth. What could this be?

The neons show no sign of this whatsoever. But something tells me they will soon..
 

CindiL

Member
Such a bummer to have this happen at first. I know its tedious but will you test your tap water? Have you done that recently? for ammonia and nitrites and ph? Please post the parameters.

It would help if you could get some pictures and post them of what you're describing on the fish..ICH definitely looks like large grains of salt, not ulcers. I don't want to speculate without the photos.

I don't think its the nitrates. 40 is not ideal but would not be causing the issues you're describing.
 
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ashleyb

Member
My tap water reads 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 5ppm nitrates and a ph of 7.6 both in tap and tank water.

The tetras are in quarantine and I'm using salt baths. They are looking pretty good already. The neons still seem unaffected.

However I have done a 50% water change two days ago and a 50% water change last night. The only fish in the entire tank are four neon tetras. But when I tested my water just now, it was reading .25 ammonia! And 0 nitrites and 20ppm nitrates. Can someone please explain WHAT is happening in my tank?! How do you get an ammonia spike with only four tiny neon tetras in a 20 gallon tank?? I tested this water THIS MORNING and the ammonia was at zero, so it spiked to .25 in roughly 14 hours. Why can't I just keep this under control? I have NEVER had a problem keeping water parameters under control in any tank I've ever owned! I just did yet ANOTHER 50% water change for the THIRD night in a row, and this time I vacuumed the flourite. I'm about to just trash this tank because I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. This tank was definitely well cycled before I started adding fish.. I don't understand.
 

joiakimfish

Member
Don't give up I know it's frustrating but being defeated won't help you in the future ... Is it fluorite is for the benefit of plants CindiL TexasDomer el337 is their anyway the fluorite could be affecting her water negatively? What kiind if plants do you have ... What kind of food diet do they have normally?
 

jmarks

Member
I wouldnt worry as much about the 0.25 reading for ammonia, my tank has been giving me that reading for months now. I even posted a queation about it on here awhile back, and a lot of people shared similar types of "false readings"
 

Maxi1

Member
Hi, a few thoughts... First good job with your testing and water changes. I know how upsetting this is. Going to finish in another reply.

Ok. One thing I noticed you said is about adding fish, if you added 14 fish all at once that would be a problem. It doesn't fit with your nitrates but anyway, it would mess up your cycle cause a minI cycle. And I wonder if some of the fish you added were sick.

I'm not a big quarantine person but when I get new fish I only get 4-5 at once and I put them in qt for 3-4 days before putting them in my main tanks. We have a 20 gallon tank with guppies in it that I use for the quarantine tank.

I rarely get a 0 reading on the ammonia, I don't count it as a .25 unless the color really matches that greenish .25 color.

Hope some of this helps and keep up the good work!
 

el337

Member
Yeah, I agree with Maxi1. I don't think the water parameters are the cause of the deaths but as far as why you've gotten the spike is definitely due to all the fish being added at one time. I imagine after you're cycled, most of the BB died off since a couple of snails aren't going to produce the same amount of ammonia you were dosing prior. Then adding all 14 fish the week afterwards probably overwhelmed your biofilter.

I think like CindI said, it may have been bad stock or an illness especially if you're seeing some symptoms. Can you post a photo?
 

CindiL

Member
Take a water sample, add in prime or other water conditioner and then test it for ammonia. I wonder if you have chloramines in your tap water. Sometimes they don't show up until the bond is broken with a water conditioner giving you ammonia. Prime would protect them but it would explain the reason.
 
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ashleyb

Member
Okay, that makes sense. I did add the neons and gouramI at the same time, I added the rosies 1-2 days later. So it's totally possible I overloaded the filters. I have three filters in the tank.. One HOB and two sponge filters.

This morning my water is finally reading normal, perfect actually. However I'm not going to get too excited yet because ya know, I've seen it before. The neon's colors are back and bright as ever and they're shoaling nicely. The rosies took a turn for the worst - one passed away naturally and the other was obviously not recovering. I euthanized her using clove oil, it was really sad. I still don't know what exactly that was, I'm just really happy I'm not seeing it anywhere else in the community tank.

If I can keep the water parameters normal for another week or two I'm going to add some female swordtails and see how it goes. Thanks for your help guys! I'll be more careful about adding an influx of fish in the future. And everything falls out of whack again I'll hit y'all up lol. Thanks!
 

el337

Member
Swordtails get up to 6 inches and are pretty heavy on the bioload. Not sure they are suitable for a 20g. Considering the situation, you might either want to reconsider them or just add one and see how it goes. I'd even QT to be safe.
 
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ashleyb

Member
I was told by my LFS that they get up to five inches but are usually 3-4 inches full grown. I was only planning on having two females and the neons. Nothing else. I also have a 55 gallon bowfront I can add them to if they get crazy. That tank has housed fish successfully for two years. Thanks for the advice!
 
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