Complicated Situation - Best Case Moving Forward?

  • #1
HI All,

After a harrowing 24 hours where 3 of my 5 goldfish almost died, I finally have things stabilized. Now I'm wondering for the best thing to do moving forward to keep everybody happy. I apologize in advance for the long post, and thank you so much to whoever reads it and has advice.

A little bit of background: about 1 month ago we successfully re-located the 5 goldfish during our move to a new house - a 14 hour drive. We kept the substrate and filters wet, and brought about 50% of the water with us, so when we re-set up the tanks I believe we maintained most of the bacteria. I unfortunately did not have a test kit during this time because of a misunderstanding with the movers and my own procrastination. However we-reset up the tanks and the fish seemed happy and healthy with no issues. Due to size differences and some aggression issues in the past they were split up into 3 separate tanks.

Fast forward to about 10 days ago - the tanks had been very healthy with no issues. We purchased some live plants at Petsmart and split them up among the three tanks. In the next couple of days after that, 2 of the tanks turned a very dark orangy brown, and the water had a putrid smell. Not sure if this was plant related or not. We did have a filter in one of the tanks, no filter in the other but were using an air stone and partial water changes. I had always heard not to do more than a 50% water change and to wait at least a few days in between water changes, so we followed that plan, with 2 50% water changes about 4 days apart. The water remained looking very orange and brown with a bad smell.

Yesterday afternoon, the smallest fish was found floating on its side, nearly dead. I moved her into a small plastic storage bin filled with water from the 1 tank that seemed healthy. After about 30 minutes she seemed healthier, but the 3 other fish in the bad tanks were acting shocky and starting to have trouble breathing. I was worried that the dark water indicated a serious issue...maybe it was too drastic but I emptied both tanks completely and rinsed the gravel and the filter. While doing this I held the fish in plastic bins with water from the 1 healthy tank - which took that tank water level down by about 40%) I knew it would be difficult for them to lose the bacteria, but thought that was probably safer than whatever was in that water.

I re-set up the aquariums and dusted them with Stress coat and API -Quick Start. I have since read the mixed reviews on whether the Quick Start actually allows you to add fish instantly as claimed. We have tried to put them back in the tanks a couple of times with poor results - they seem to be suffering from low-oxygenation and stress. 2 of them actually stopped breathing for a good 5-10 minutes, so I moved them back into the small container of Tank 1 water and used an air stone to super-oxygenate the water, and they started breathing again.

So the current situation is that all 5 fish are now sharing the 1 healthy tank with a partition - it is a 25 long and I know it is crowded, but hoping that we can keep on the ammonia levels with regular water changes. Everyone has seemed stable for the last 2 hours, and not having any aggression issues yet. I am wondering what the fastest and safest way is to cycle the other 2 tanks to give everyone a little more room. Clearly fish-in cycling is not working for these guys, but I know fishless cycling takes up to 3 weeks. I do have available the API Quick Start, and the Tetra SafeStart plus if either of those would be helpful. I also put some gravel, decorative rocks, and a bio-bag from the healthy filter into the 2 tanks to try to jumpstart the bacteria growth.
  • #2
Sorry you have had trouble. I would keep the fish where they are and start from scratch. Ditch the plants as the water turned brown when you added them. Get new filter media and gravel even. I would scrub out the tanks and items (water only) really well then do a "semi" fish less cycle. So that means gets the tanks set up and add water slowly from your cycles tank as well as regular water. Add new plants if you want. After a week or so, add the fish. When you do water changes, add some water from the cycled tank to the new ones. Don't be shy with the liquid bacteria and stress coat.
And get a test kit! It'll help!
This is what I did with my Betta tank and it worked well!
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thank you for the advice! It sounds like I am on the right track as we went ahead and emptied out the tanks completely and washed everything thoroughly. We still have one fish struggling a little tonight but the rest have recovered really well. Hopefully they will co-exist for the next week or so while I cycle there tanks.

Test kit purchased this morning - the store was out of the master test kit with liquid so I had to settle for strips for all but the ammonia. Should be able to have the better kit by the end of the week as well.

Right now Tank 1 that they are all in has an ammonia level of between 0 and .25, a GH of 60, a PH of 7, Nitrite of 0 and Nitrate of 60. Do those numbers all seem in an acceptable range?
  • #4
I am not sure about GH, but I'd expect another little spike in nitrite, then nitrate as you still have some ammonia. My only further advice is to not rush your cycling. I did that with my first tank and killed some fish. They will be ok for a while in a smaller tank. Good luck.
  • #5
Hi, the bacteria are not in the water column they are housed for the most part in the filter media and on the substrate. By rinsing them and starting over in tap water (I personally would not have recommended) you are basically starting from scratch.

What type of goldfish are these? fancy? comets?
What size tanks are they all in?

Going forward, I would:
1. Go ahead and fill up their separate tanks, make sure a filter is in each one, a airstone is not enough as the bio-load of fish is huge.
2. Pick up Seachem Prime and Seachem Stability, and follow this formula exactly. It will keep your fish safe and allow for the cycle to complete. I'd expect the cycle to complete in a few weeks. You'll need that test kit to make this work so hopefully you've ordered it?
In the meantime dose prime once a day to each tank for the volume of water to keep ammonia and nitrites detoxified for 24 hours up to 1.0.

If ammonia + nitrites is less than 1.0 – dose prime for the full volume of water and stability and re-check in 24 hours.

If ammonia + nitrites is 1.0 or greater – do a large water change, dose prime for the full volume of water and stability and re-check in 24 hours.

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