Drat!! Old tank syndrome got me!!!

Gargoyle

I never thought it would happen to me but it did... Here is the complete horrid and twisted story of my run in with old tank syndrome...

My tank has been set up for 3 years now. (the one in mention) Last weekend one of my fish died suddenly for no apparent reason. This puzzled me more than anything because the other fish in the tank where doing very well. Or at least appeared to be.

After the fish's untimely demise I did the standard battery of tests and found nothing out of the ordinary. This troubled me even more. So I go a week pondering the possible causes all the while with no other issues in the tank.

Well this weekend was take care of the tanks weekend. I test the tanks and realize.. I AM DOING THE NITRATE TEST WRONG!! After 3 years you would think I knew what I was doing right?? LOL! So I go to the ten gallon.. Looks good, nice and clear, fish are upright, etc... Test for nitrates the right way and get a reading of almost 80ppm... I am in shock! So a 90% water change and some cleaning are done right away.. Tank is happy now.. Then I go to the 55... Nitrates pretty much broke the scale! I couldn't believe it.. Water is clear and sparkling.. Fish swimming about like nothing is wrong (bar the one death).. I am in disbelief of what the test shows so I test it again.. Same result.. I had just done a 30% water change the day before so I am thinking it is my tap water... I test the tap.. Nitrates come out at a big fat zero. So I roll up my sleeves, take an old canister filter I modified to be a vacuum and get to cleaning the substrate. Two filter cartridges later and a few OMG's from the family at what was coming out of the tank I am satisfied it is clean.. Then I do a 90% water change on the 55.. Man that took a while.. LOL!

All said and done the nitrates in the 10 are at 5ppm now and at 10ppm in the 55. The turtle is happy as well. I figured since I was doing all this I would clean his tank as well... Turtles are so much easier.. Plopped him on the floor and got to cleaning.. I think he enjoyed the exercise more than anything else to be honest.. LOL!!

So there is my story... Just because your tank "looks" clean doesn't mean it is. And there is a HUGE improvement in the fish's behavior overall since this was completed.. I fell bad that I lost a fish... But it's death was not in vain. He saved many of his fellow tank mates.

I am still surprised by what happened.. Took me totally off guard that is for sure. But it's all better now..
 

Aquarist

Good morning Gargoyle,

Sorry to hear that you lost one of your fish. I'm glad you have the issues resolved now. Good catch! )
Ken
 

GoGreen

So, as a newbie to the fish world, I realize that nitrates can build up over time, but I thought that frequent water changes keep this in check. Does one have to eventually super vac the substrate, more than the usual debris pick up?
Assuming that you already do water changes and vacuums, what other factors would make nitrates build up in a tank?

Good for you for figuring out the problem so that you saved your other fish!
 

ccb04

Gargoyle ... sorry to hear about your loss. Glad you found the cause though.
 

ccb04

So, as a newbie to the fish world, I realize that nitrates can build up over time, but I thought that frequent water changes keep this in check. Does one have to eventually super vac the substrate, more than the usual debris pick up?
Assuming that you already do water changes and vacuums, what other factors would make nitrates build up in a tank?

Good for you for figuring out the problem so that you saved your other fish!

GoGreen,

Water changes certainly help. Routine testing is important as well. Try and avoid overfeeding, etc.

Nitrates can also build up in filter media in some instances.
 

AlyeskaGirl

What is your routine maint.? The only reason to me in getting that high of a reading is insufficiant water changes, gravel vacs and filter maint.

I know somebody who has a large tank, way overstocked, overfeeds, insufficiant water changes, insufficiant filtering which gets nasty quick with nitrAtes to the roof and then some. Fish die and he doesn't listen to the reasons, just buys fish to replace. Just wants a tank and not do the care.

My maint. is water change every 7-10 days with a gravel vac. Not just the surface of the gravel, I get down in there and getting underneath ornaments where debris gets trapped. Check my filters to see if things need to be rinsed. Matter of fact it's time for filter maint. on my next water changes. Ugh.......
 

Gargoyle

My main problem was that I was doing my standard Maint of 50% W/C every other week. I changed out the filter when it plugged and wasn't testing water very often.. Well during the course of this my live bearers went on a reproducing streak.. I quickly had about 70 swords in my tank.. When I went to test again I failed to shake the vial for the 60 seconds.. Just forgot.. That gave me inaccurate readings and made me think the water was fine.. Much to my dismay.

I have changed the filter set up to a trickle style sump filter since then.. But the lack of shaking the Nitrate test vial for the 60 seconds is what got me. Once I did that I received the true readings and took appropriate action.

Now as for the gravel vac... A siphon only picks up so much. Its not very powerful at all. I have a heavily planted tank and plant matter is quite dense. So I used the old canister filter to make sure all that grunge (90% I could not see) was removed. The overstock issue is being resolved between selling them to the LFS and giving others away. My turtle also enjoys them from time to time.. They breed so fast..

Basically just a series of unfortunate circumstances came together and bit me on the butt. I slacked off on my testing and it caught up with me.
 

mosin360

I'm curious, how was you doing the test wrong and how did you find out it was the wrong way?
 

Gargoyle

-- I didn't shake it for the specified 60 seconds. (API master test kit)

-- I was reading the directions to my daughter because she was curious and I read the part about shaking it for 60 seconds.. The light bulb turned on in my head and I tested again the correct way.
 

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