Death by Water Change?

  • #1
I am trying to cycle my 29 gallon tank. I have used Biospira twice, and have finally gotten through the ammonia stage. Now the nitrites are through the roof. So, water changes. I have been doing a 30% ish change every day or other day. Yesterdays change and todays were killers to my little fish! They became instantly lethargic, and most of them have now died. The remainers I have parceled out, but the two in my brand new hospital tank didn't make it either. Sigh.

At both of these recent changes, the ammonia is 0, nitrites 5 nitrates 0 PH 8
2 hours after the change readings were the same, but ph down to 7.8

The PH is puzzling because I am using Neitral PH to treat my water- 7.0. So, somehow the PH is going up inside the tank. My substrate is Eco-complete, I have lot of live plants starting to grow, and a power filter and airstone.

So far I have lost most of my danios, a couple of tetras, ottos, and the rest are looking really sad. Like I said- lethargic- and that is not what a danio should look like! I put a couple of the danios went into my brand new hospital tank and didn't make it there. Any ideas? All I can think is that the nitrites were so high for so long that every time I changed the water it was a big shock to the fish and they finally couldn't take it anymore :-( In addition, the weather is changing dramatically here- freezing nights to 80 degree days and back again, so the water has changed temperature more than I am sure they woud like.

Any suggestions on what I may have done, so that I can not do it again? I have a phyton gavel cleaner arriving tomorrow, hopefully that will make these water changes a bit less of a chore and stress on the fish.

I also think that the tank has plenty of what it will need to finish the cycle now, no fish in there till it is good and done! It is so sad to lose fish :-(

  • #2
I'm sorry about your fish I'd recommend fishless cycling usually, then you can just let the cycle spike and go on thru. The biospira doesn't seem to be 100% and sometimes gets sold when it's outdated. I'm not sure what effect the neutral pH product would have on the bacteria in biospira either.

I wouldn't worry too much about the pH, unless you're planning on delicate fish. the pH in your treated tap water is probably close to the fish store's if it's nearby and a lot of fish adjust, even to high pH. The pH altering products are hard on fish. I think there are some natural pH alterers that you can look into for your tank that would be more fish-friendly like almond leaves, peat moss, certain types of wood. (I'll let the members who know more on those fill you in there.) See what effect they'd have on your water and your pH.

Likely the nitrites did them in.. 5 is pretty high and if it spiked to 5 or higher real fast, it's got to affect them i'd think. What type of heater do you have? I'd recommend the visitherm stealth heaters they sell at the DFS website for temp. changes like that (you're not in denver, are you? that reminds me of denver, especially this time of year.)

Good luck with finishing the cycle and having healthy fish in it before long.
  • #3
My guess is the nitrites are weakening the fish to the point that any little change in the water puts them over the edge. You probably need to do larger water changes and twice daily if necessary to get those nitrites down. A nitrite reading over 1 is lethal. What is the ph of the water straight out of your tap? I'm not familiar with what you are using to treat your water. Sometimes chemicals used to maintain a specific ph can actually cause your ph to fluctuate and kill your fish. To reduce the stress on your fish during this time, try using amquel plus (make sure it's the plus product) as your water conditioner. It will help neutralize your nitrites so your fish feel better, but it's still available to the bacteria. Also try bumping up your water changes to 50% or even 75% for the first few. What type of tests are you using?
  • #4
are you sure your tests are right? your reading for nitrite should not be the same before and after a change - unless there was another source of nitrites. what does your water source read for nitrites (might as well test the rest of them while you're at it too)?

hope you figure it out!
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
I am using a seachem master test kit. I will continue the water changes, and see about making them larger ones- the poor fish trauma! It is so upsetting to do water changes and have the fish die.

  • #6
Sorry about the trouble you are having!  There are two possibilities that I see.  The nitrite is clearly way too high at 5, and could very well be the culprit.  Also, as Gunnie mentioned, fluctuating pH can also stress and kill fish.  A change of .3 is enough to stress them, and it sounds like yours had a much larger swing.  I would recommend not trying to change your pH.  Fish can adapt much more readily to a constant pH that is outside the normal range than they can to fluctuating pH.  I would also 2nd FLBettaCouple's advise on getting a heater in there to protect fish from some of the temperature swings, which can make them vulnerable to disease.

Now that there are no fish in your tank, are you adding food or some other ammonia source to keep the cycle going?  If not the bacteria will die off and you will have to start over.
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Ah ha!

Searching for possible answers, and just more information in general, I read the thread here about the apI test kits...
...and a gave my nitrate test a very through shake and tap on the table and more shake.

All of a sudden the nitrate readings on all 3 of my tanks were completely outragous! From 0 in the tank that was having trouble cycling, now I have a nitrate of 20, same in the other tanks. With high nitrite and nitrate in the big tank, no wonder a large water change was a big shock to the fish!!! The good news is that the nitrite is down to .5 in the big tank, so all of my nitrite levels are looking good. (the other two have ammonia and nitrite of 0)

I also just got a python syphon system in the mail this wekend. So, I think frequent small water changes will be happening in all 3 tanks for however long it takes to get the readings right. Ten percent gravel clean twice a day, I think. Oh and just to think that my precious fish, in all the tanks have been living with high nitrates!

--R, both relieved and not relieved! ha!
  • #8
Also are you conditioning the water before you add it and what is the temp of the water when you add it?

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