Cory Playing Dead?

Skittlesttr75

Okay, so I have an 8 gallon tank with my guy Lenny (some type of cellophane Betta hybrid - was sold as Platinum White). I didn't know how he'd do with tank mates, so I grabbed the two Corydoras that were available at the store at the time (one Spotted and one Albino), just to see if he would be hostile. The Albino was super active and Lenny just looked at him like a hyperactive toddler. The Spotted one (Squiggy) was active, but not glass surfing constantly when not feeding like the Albino. I know the Albino was not happy and needed his own kind, so I took him to another store this weekend and picked up two more Spotted (Laverne & Shirley) for Squiggy to have as companions. That's 4 fish and more than enough for the tank to keep everyone happy. So far everyone seems content and there's no any glass surfing.

I fed them live black worms when everyone was in the tank. Lenny looked absolutely stunned at this marvel and preceded to go to town chasing them. The worms were "smart' and most swam to the bottom into the gravel. Lenny found that out pretty quick and has been at the bottom of the tank pretty much non-stop this morning (and last night before lights out) looking for more worms in the front of the tank where the trio hang out because that's where I feed them. One of the new "girls" plays dead for a couple of seconds every time Lenny swims over them (he has no sense of personal space and literally swims over them to make them move). Has anyone seen this behavior before? I don't know if she's sick, doesn't like my water (ammonia is higher than I would like, but I am doing 25% water changes weekly and just vacuumed the gravel yesterday), or this is her "typical" behavior. I think they were with Danios and other Corys in their tank.
 

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DoubleDutch

I don't exactly what it is and sorry to say but a 8 gallon tank isn't big enough for Peppered Corys (and any cory IMO), they are cool water Corys (bettas need warm water) and the substrate isn't a Cory-favourite.

So there is a combination of things that might be causing this.
 

mattgirl

ammonia is higher than I would like,

How high is that? If you are seeing any ammonia in this tank then it isn't cycled. I highly recommend you change out no less than 50% of the water to get the ammonia level down to negligible levels. It may take several 50% water changes to accomplish this and may take daily water changes to keep it down.

I hate being so blunt but if you don't get and keep the ammonia down the cory won't be just playing dead.
 

Ouse

There are some things wrong that could be causing this.

If ammonia is present, perform daily water tests to monitor it. If the combined total of ammonia and nitrite is 1ppm or above, do a 50% water change.

In normal circumstances, do 50% weekly water changes. Don’t vacuum the gravel.

Cories usually lose their food to big gravel. Rather than settling on top of the gravel, food finds it’s way below it and out of the fish’s reach.

Oh, and please get those decorations out and replace them with something less bright and more natural. That glowing, fluorescent colouration is all but natural and is only an additional stress factor to fish.
 

DuaneV

To address the actual question (then Ill give some helpful info):
No, I havent seen a fish "play dead" when another fish in the tank swims over/near them. Doesnt happen.

Now, for the helpful info:
You have way too many (and not the correct types) fish in that tank. An 8 gallon is good for a single Betta and thats about it.

Most Corys cant be kept with Bettas as they want much cooler water. Bettas do much better in 80, most Corys want 72-74. For us, not a big difference, for fish, BIG difference.

Corys NEED a school of the exact same species to be really happy. Stress makes fish act very strange.

If you have ANY ammonia, that is a problem. This comes directly from the small tank being overstocked, overfed and probably not correctly cycled. A 25% water change wont be enough. Its a math equation: 1ppm ammonia, 25% change, you still have .75ppm. Not a real difference. With 1ppm, youll need to change 75% of the tank to get it down to .25ppm.

You should REALLY think about rehoming any fish in that tank and just keeping the Betta. If you dont, they will continue to be stressed and youll have issues with them and the tank always.
 

Skittlesttr75

Thank you for all of your advice! Right now the tank is between 75-76 degrees, which I know the highest level for these Corys should be 74-75. I am new to owning an aquarium (one month) and thought I did enough research on the Corys, but I missed that these like cooler temperatures. I wanted the Corys to help clean the gravel and food that my Betta misses. No, my tank is not cycled, but I found this out after I brought home my Betta (I had it fishless for 3 weeks). To be 100% honest, my Betta is my priority, so if these Corys do not make it, then I will probably just let Lenny be solo or switch to 3 pygmy Corys.

1. Would you recommend changing the substrate to sand? I see mixed reviews on that for Bettas, though I know it's preferred for Corys.

There are some things wrong that could be causing this.

If ammonia is present, perform daily water tests to monitor it. If the combined total of ammonia and nitrite is 1ppm or above, do a 50% water change.

In normal circumstances, do 50% weekly water changes. Don’t vacuum the gravel.

Cories usually lose their food to big gravel. Rather than settling on top of the gravel, food finds it’s way below it and out of the fish’s reach.

Oh, and please get those decorations out and replace them with something less bright and more natural. That glowing, fluorescent colouration is all but natural and is only an additional stress factor to fish.

2. You mentioned taking out the decorations, but I spent a month trying to find out what they preferred in the artificial realm (since I am new, I don't want live plants yet). The Corys like the flat leaved decorations for algae (I'm guessing that's what they're doing when they're "tasting" them). All of them like the anemones, especially the all fluorescent yellow one as I have seen all of them rest on the branches (it's super soft). I did not find anything in my research that stated color mattered, only that you want softer / silk ones for Bettas and a lot of hiding places for both the Betta and the Corys. Since I added the other plants, Lenny doesn't hang out in the Cave or Betta Log anymore either. He just swims / hunts the whole 8+ hours I watch him. Plus, I don't keep the white LED light on in the tank because I think it's too bright for them. I keep the blue light on and try and keep at least 12 hours of no artificial light on in the tank.

Other articles that I read said that food / waste can spike ammonia and to vacuum my gravel. It was definitely dirty and filled with both. Please provide further clarification on why I shouldn't.

Maybe I'm lucky with my gravel, because all of their wafer / pellets stay on top. The only thing that may go between is Lenny's food or left over freeze dried brine shrimp / blood worms.

3. Other than water changes, rehoming, and using API Ammo Lock every other day, what else can I do to bring the ammonia level down? It was .25-.50 for two weeks and it jumped to 2.0 after I vacuumed the substrate yesterday. I vacuumed and then did about a 35-40% water change. I add Seachem Stability at every water change as well.
How high is that? If you are seeing any ammonia in this tank then it isn't cycled. I highly recommend you change out no less than 50% of the water to get the ammonia level down to negligible levels. It may take several 50% water changes to accomplish this and may take daily water changes to keep it down.

I hate being so blunt but if you don't get and keep the ammonia down the cory won't be just playing dead.
Are you stating that I will have to do daily water changes indefinitely to keep the ammonia down?

4. Since it jumped so high, does that mean that the cycling is finally starting?

5. Bought Top Fin Water Conditioner and Top Fin Biological Cleaner before I knew about the brand's bad rep. I don't want to throw it out if not necessary, but I'm wondering if I should switch to Seachem. Can I use Prime, Stability, and Pristine all at the same time?

6. I know Stability states it's to help "new tank syndrome," but one of the aquarists at a local store stated that he uses it every week in his tank at home. Does anyone do this?
 

mattgirl

If you are adding ammo-lock STOP using it. The ammo-lock is the reason your ammonia test spiked. No, you won't have to do the water changes for the life of this tank. Right now you want to keep the ammonia levels as low as possible while the bacteria that removes it grows enough to remove all that is being produced. Once this tank is fully cycled you will no longer get an ammonia reading.

I will point out. If you like your colorful tank leave it the way it is. As long as nothing in there has sharp edges that will tear fins I wouldn't be worried about it.

the only thing I would be adding to this tank is prime. It isn't going to hurt to add Stability. Once the tank is cycled there is no need to continue adding it. I know it tells you to add it with each water change but in my humble opinion the only reason the bottle advises you to do that is to have you continue buying the product for the life of the tank. Pristine is not needed either.

Prime and water changes will protect your fish while this tank goes through the cycle.
 

wateriswet

1. The Betta won't care about the substrate so long as it isn't sharp. I recommend you return the cories as they will get too big for your tank and are sensitive to nitrite and ammonia and you'll have lots of both for several weeks longer as your tank cycles.

2. Cories don't eat algae by there might be left over food on the plants.

3. Rehome the cories. Do 50% water changes when combined ammonia and nitrite hit 1.0 ppm. This might mean daily water changes for a while. Don't vacuum all of the gravel at once. Do half one time then half next time. The bacteria you're trying to colonize lives in the gravel so you don't want to wipe out all of it's home base at once. Double dose on seachem Prime. Get a piece of cycled filter media from a local fish club or pet store to jump start your cycle.

4. If you have any nitrates it nitrites present it means the cycle had started. However, as long as you have measurable ammonia or nitrite it means the cycle isn't complete.

5. Keep the top fin conditioner and use it after your cycle had been completed for at least a month. It works for removing chlorine from tap water but won't help detox ammonia. Get seachem Prime and use it while the tank is cycling.

6. I only used stability when cycling my first tank. Can't tell if it helped or not but it didn't hurt. I never use it now and instead use dirty filter material from a cycled tank when setting up new tanks
1. The Betta won't care about the substrate so long as it isn't sharp. I recommend you return the cories as they will get too big for your tank and are sensitive to nitrite and ammonia and you'll have lots of both for several weeks longer as your tank cycles.

2. Cories don't eat algae by there might be left over food on the plants.

3. Rehome the cories. Do 50% water changes when combined ammonia and nitrite hit 1.0 ppm. This might mean daily water changes for a while. Don't vacuum all of the gravel at once. Do half one time then half next time. The bacteria you're trying to colonize lives in the gravel so you don't want to wipe out all of it's home base at once. Double dose on seachem Prime. Get a piece of cycled filter media from a local fish club or pet store to jump start your cycle.

4. If you have any nitrates it nitrites present it means the cycle had started. However, as long as you have measurable ammonia or nitrite it means the cycle isn't complete.

5. Keep the top fin conditioner and use it after your cycle had been completed for at least a month. It works for removing chlorine from tap water but won't help detox ammonia. Get seachem Prime and use it while the tank is cycling.

6. I only used stability when cycling my first tank. Can't tell if it helped or not but it didn't hurt. I never use it now and instead use dirty filter material from a cycled tank when setting up new tanks
Bonus: consider reducing the amount or frequency that you feed while the tank cycles to slow the build up of toxins. Skip live food until it cycles as live food tends to produce a lot of waste quickly.
 

Ouse

You mentioned taking out the decorations, but I spent a month trying to find out what they preferred in the artificial realm (since I am new, I don't want live plants yet). The Corys like the flat leaved decorations for algae (I'm guessing that's what they're doing when they're "tasting" them). All of them like the anemones, especially the all fluorescent yellow one as I have seen all of them rest on the branches (it's super soft). I did not find anything in my research that stated color mattered, only that you want softer / silk ones for Bettas and a lot of hiding places for both the Betta and the Corys.
Live plants are really not that hard to use. Cories don't eat algae either; they just snoop around the tank looking for food morsels. It might simply resemble algae-eating.
Other articles that I read said that food / waste can spike ammonia and to vacuum my gravel. It was definitely dirty and filled with both. Please provide further clarification on why I shouldn't.
Gravel vacuuming at this stage is dangerous as it removes beneficial bacteria from the substrate while it's trying to settle.

I use sand, and waste stays on the surface of sand. Eventually, it disappears on it's own. I never vacuum my own substrates.

It's impossible to keep the substrate spotlessly clean no matter what.

Everything else that can be said has been said by others. I agree not to use ammolock as it essentially pauses the cycle. Another example of API's products... :rolleyes:
 

Skittlesttr75

If you are adding ammo-lock STOP using it. The ammo-lock is the reason your ammonia test spiked. No, you won't have to do the water changes for the life of this tank. Right now you want to keep the ammonia levels as low as possible while the bacteria that removes it grows enough to remove all that is being produced. Once this tank is fully cycled you will no longer get an ammonia reading.

I will point out. If you like your colorful tank leave it the way it is. As long as nothing in there has sharp edges that will tear fins I wouldn't be worried about it.

the only thing I would be adding to this tank is prime. It isn't going to hurt to add Stability. Once the tank is cycled there is no need to continue adding it. I know it tells you to add it with each water change but in my humble opinion the only reason the bottle advises you to do that is to have you continue buying the product for the life of the tank. Pristine is not needed either.

Prime and water changes will protect your fish while this tank goes through the cycle.
Thank you!
 

CHJ

I am new to owning an aquarium (one month)

Other articles that I read said that food / waste can spike ammonia and to vacuum my gravel. It was definitely dirty and filled with both. Please provide further clarification on why I shouldn't.
I'm a little worried that your gravel is "dirty and filled" after having 1 betta in it for a month.
You also mentioned getting corries to clean the bottom of all the food the betta doesn't eat.

How much are you feeding it? Bettas are pigs who will eat until they die*, to have food on the bottom seems like too much food was/is going in the tank. Too much food will cause issues. Too much food in an uncycled tank will be worse.

*I have quit keeping bettas because I have a hard time resisting a begging fish and have fed one until she died. My wife also can't resist a begging fish. When you have 2 people feeding a begging fish.. well lets just say she looked like she had Schwarzenegger's pecs when she went.
 

Skittlesttr75

I'm a little worried that your gravel is "dirty and filled" after having 1 betta in it for a month.
You also mentioned getting corries to clean the bottom of all the food the betta doesn't eat.

How much are you feeding it? Bettas are pigs who will eat until they die*, to have food on the bottom seems like too much food was/is going in the tank. Too much food will cause issues. Too much food in an uncycled tank will be worse.

*I have quit keeping bettas because I have a hard time resisting a begging fish and have fed one until she died. My wife also can't resist a begging fish. When you have 2 people feeding a begging fish.. well lets just say she looked like she had Schwarzenegger's pecs when she went.
Oh, he flashes those baby blues and begs for food all day. I have 5 types of food that I alternate. Only one I don't have to pre-soak (New Life Spectrum Betta Small) because it doesn't expand in water. That's the only one that floats. Lenny won't go to the bottom for the remaining food except when he "hunts" for the live black worms that are smart enough to swim to the gravel. So, the other 4 foods that I use have to be pre-soaked and then then start sinking as soon as I put them in the tank (Hikari Freeze Dried Brine Shrimp, Hikari Freeze Dried Blood Worms, Top Fin Pro Series Betta Crumbles, live black worms).

He gets about 10 micro pellets of New Life at 8am. Then he will get one of the other 4 at 4:00pm (the tiniest of pinches possible from the shimp cubes and about 10 blood worms). Now that he's had the live black worms, he's even less interested in eating the slower sinking foods. He literally hunts all day for the worms. He is actively swimming all day and even stopped hanging out in his cave and Betta Log. Unlike what other people say, I never see his belly expand when eating. I feed him 2x a day because he is so active. But he is very stubborn when it comes to what he will eat from the bottom. This is why I added the Peppered Corys. I also feed them their sinking pellets / wafer (alternating) once a day to make sure they get what they need. There are 3 of them, so I give 3 pellets / wafers.
How high is that? If you are seeing any ammonia in this tank then it isn't cycled. I highly recommend you change out no less than 50% of the water to get the ammonia level down to negligible levels. It may take several 50% water changes to accomplish this and may take daily water changes to keep it down.

I hate being so blunt but if you don't get and keep the ammonia down the cory won't be just playing dead.

Thank you!

If you are adding ammo-lock STOP using it. The ammo-lock is the reason your ammonia test spiked. No, you won't have to do the water changes for the life of this tank. Right now you want to keep the ammonia levels as low as possible while the bacteria that removes it grows enough to remove all that is being produced. Once this tank is fully cycled you will no longer get an ammonia reading.

I will point out. If you like your colorful tank leave it the way it is. As long as nothing in there has sharp edges that will tear fins I wouldn't be worried about it.

the only thing I would be adding to this tank is prime. It isn't going to hurt to add Stability. Once the tank is cycled there is no need to continue adding it. I know it tells you to add it with each water change but in my humble opinion the only reason the bottle advises you to do that is to have you continue buying the product for the life of the tank. Pristine is not needed either.

Prime and water changes will protect your fish while this tank goes through the cycle.

I guess I am confused as to why Ammo-Lock is harmful. It's advertised as:
  • Detoxifies ammonia in aquarium water and tap water
  • Works instantly to make aquarium water safe for fish
  • Eliminates fish stress caused by ammonia in freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • Dose freshwater and saltwater every two days until ammonia is not detected
What about adding Aqueon Pure Bacteria or API Quick Start? There are a lot of reviews out there about those two, along with Prime. From what I understand, I can't add too much "good" bacteria to break down the ammonia.
1. The Betta won't care about the substrate so long as it isn't sharp. I recommend you return the cories as they will get too big for your tank and are sensitive to nitrite and ammonia and you'll have lots of both for several weeks longer as your tank cycles.

2. Cories don't eat algae by there might be left over food on the plants.

3. Rehome the cories. Do 50% water changes when combined ammonia and nitrite hit 1.0 ppm. This might mean daily water changes for a while. Don't vacuum all of the gravel at once. Do half one time then half next time. The bacteria you're trying to colonize lives in the gravel so you don't want to wipe out all of it's home base at once. Double dose on seachem Prime. Get a piece of cycled filter media from a local fish club or pet store to jump start your cycle.

4. If you have any nitrates it nitrites present it means the cycle had started. However, as long as you have measurable ammonia or nitrite it means the cycle isn't complete.

5. Keep the top fin conditioner and use it after your cycle had been completed for at least a month. It works for removing chlorine from tap water but won't help detox ammonia. Get seachem Prime and use it while the tank is cycling.

6. I only used stability when cycling my first tank. Can't tell if it helped or not but it didn't hurt. I never use it now and instead use dirty filter material from a cycled tank when setting up new tanks

Bonus: consider reducing the amount or frequency that you feed while the tank cycles to slow the build up of toxins. Skip live food until it cycles as live food tends to produce a lot of waste quickly.

Thank you so much for your advice!
 

mattgirl

I guess I am confused as to why Ammo-Lock is harmful. It's advertised as:
  • Detoxifies ammonia in aquarium water and tap water
  • Works instantly to make aquarium water safe for fish
  • Eliminates fish stress caused by ammonia in freshwater and saltwater aquariums
  • Dose freshwater and saltwater every two days until ammonia is not detected
What about adding Aqueon Pure Bacteria or API Quick Start? There are a lot of reviews out there about those two, along with Prime. From what I understand, I can't add too much "good" bacteria to break down the ammonia.


Thank you so much for your advice!
I know what it says on the bottle but I also know what happens when it is added. Ammo-lock locks up the ammonia. Bacteria can't eat locked up ammonia so the ammonia level just keeps climbing. So many folks come here wondering why they can't get their ammonia level down even with water changes. The one thing each of them have in common is the use of ammo-lock. I have seen this happening time after time during the 5 years I have been a member here on this forum.

Prime on the other hand doesn't lock up the ammonia. It simply changes it to a safer form. Our test will still pick it up but what it is picking up is safer for the fish. Bacteria can still eat this form of ammonia so the cycle will move forward.

You are correct. It would be difficult to over dose bottled bacteria. The main problem I see with adding bottled bacteria is how it skews our tests. Without bottled bacteria we know exactly what to expect while cycling a tank. First we will see ammonia and then in 2 or 3 weeks we will see nitrites. Once both ammonia and nitrites start going down we will start seeing nitrates.

Some bottled bacteria works as advertised. Unfortunately lots of them don't.
 

Skittlesttr75

I know what it says on the bottle but I also know what happens when it is added. Ammo-lock locks up the ammonia. Bacteria can't eat locked up ammonia so the ammonia level just keeps climbing. So many folks come here wondering why they can't get their ammonia level down even with water changes. The one thing each of them have in common is the use of ammo-lock. I have seen this happening time after time during the 5 years I have been a member here on this forum.

Prime on the other hand doesn't lock up the ammonia. It simply changes it to a safer form. Our test will still pick it up but what it is picking up is safer for the fish. Bacteria can still eat this form of ammonia so the cycle will move forward.

You are correct. It would be difficult to over dose bottled bacteria. The main problem I see with adding bottled bacteria is how it skews our tests. Without bottled bacteria we know exactly what to expect while cycling a tank. First we will see ammonia and then in 2 or 3 weeks we will see nitrites. Once both ammonia and nitrites start going down we will start seeing nitrates.

Some bottled bacteria works as advertised. Unfortunately lots of them don't.
Thank you for that explanation, that really helps! I will get Prime started today. Do you have any experience or read any other reviews here with Aqueon live bacteria? I couldn't find any when searching the forums. They're little balls and feel like gel.
 

mattgirl

Thank you for that explanation, that really helps! I will get Prime started today. Do you have any experience or read any other reviews here with Aqueon live bacteria? I couldn't find any when searching the forums. They're little balls and feel like gel.
You are so very welcome. I've not read anything either positive or negative about this type of bacteria. As with all other brands and types of bacteria boosters, it may help and the most important thing, I feel sure it won't hurt.
 

Skittlesttr75

My next question is this. If I add the bacteria today, I shouldn't do a water change, right? I'm just afraid of taking out all of the bacteria that I just put in that might be in the water (before it goes wherever it goes to grow).
 

mattgirl

My next question is this. If I add the bacteria today, I shouldn't do a water change, right? I'm just afraid of taking out all of the bacteria that I just put in that might be in the water (before it goes wherever it goes to grow).
Since you are doing a fish in cycle let your numbers be your guide. Cycling a tank is important but when doing a fish in cycle the fish have to be your first priority. Keep the total amount of ammonia plus nitrites below one with water changes even if that means doing a water change after adding the bio-balls.
 

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