Everything Is Always Dead.

  • #1
HI all,

I am having the hardest time keeping anything alive in my ten gallon tank. I have never had a problem like this before in all the fish tanks I've had.


Fish: 6 ember tetra

Standard 10 gallon, planted (5-6 amazon swords and java fern), sponge filter with an airstone, quiet flow 10 filter, some driftwood and natural stone imported from generations of aquariums with not-dead fish. Temp ~25 degrees Celsius.

Tested with API Liquid Test Kit and confirmed at LFS:
PH Stable at ~7.4
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 0

Tank had been up and running with a homeless dwarf cory cat (unavoidable) for three months before now with no breaks in service. This little cory cat appears to be the only creature capable of survival in this tank.

Substrate: Seachem flourite black

Chemicals used in tank: prime for water changes, some seachem flourish as needed to sustain plant growth

Note: the filter current was far too strong for ember tetra (or anything else the LFS store has persuaded me to put in this tank) so I baffeled it with an aquarium sponge which appeared to help. The LFS has tried me with three sets of small tetra or rasboras now and none of them make it. In desperation I went to a petco, but as soon as deposited my little buddies it became apparent they had ick. I treated it at the time, but they were too far gone.

I acclimate in the standard way: float the bag then add a cup of my water every 15 minutes etc.

Am I doing something insanely wrong here? I typically have bred my own cichlids and live bearers that I exchange with friends so have never really bought fish, am I doing something wrong on that end?

Any help appreciated!
  • #2
Puzzling- maybe break it down sterilize to rid of pathogens and start over?
  • #3
In regards to your PH... I’m assuming that number is out of the tank with your apI kit...
1- have you tested it out of your tap?
2- have you tested it out of your tap degassed?
(Meaning you fill a bucket or dish of de chlorinated water... and run an air stone in it for 24-48 hours or let it sit out for 48 hours?
A lot of time these little fish are sensitive to ph swings (like all fish) but the little guys are a bit more sensitive... you should test your ph all 3 ways and see if you get the same number... a lot of people don’t realize that their ACTUAL PH is the result you get after it’s degassed
For example out of my tap it’s 7.8... however after de gassing it... it’s 8.4... that’s a huge swing so especially if your doing large water changes this could be part of the issue...
I myself have have been able to keep a variety of healthy fish but because of certain chemistry in my water I am absolutely unable to keep smaller or baby tetras... I’ve tried and tried and I gave up because it just wasn’t a fit for what my chemistry is....
If your Cory cat is still in there you should re home him... they shouldn’t really live single... usually atleast 6 is a good number but you won’t have room for that type of numbers in your tank...
Also a 10 gallon filter in a 10 gallon tank is very underrated... you also have to remember that all the plants and decor you have displace water... so you have much less than “10g’s”
Maybe try removing a couple things to give more space for swimming etc... it’s hard to tell without a picture of your tank but it sounds like a lot in a 10 gallon but it could just be me
Also the reason the corycat is able to survive is because they are much stronger than other fish
But it could be a number of other things...
Have you ever tested your GH/KH?
  • #4
Hmmm. Is the tank new
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
I've tested the PH out of the tap and it's the same. Haven't done the other thing before. I generally do 25% water changes on basically all my tanks, is that too much? Totally possible I just have a strong crop of fish and have been getting lucky with my other tanks.

Maybe this was unclear: I was holding the cory on a short term basis for a friend while she fixed some issues in her tanks.

Most of the plants in the tank are in the back as background and the stones are about an inch long (four of them), so I'm not sure swimming space is the issue. But I can try some removal, thanks.

Part of the reason I added the sponge filter was because I wasn't confident in a quietflow 10. Do you think this was a mistake? I have only dabbled in sponge filters before for fry, so I could totally be messing that up.

I'm not familiar with GH/KH...can you elaborate?


No the tank is not new! It's been running (with one 20 minute break for a power outage 8 months ago) for about 1.5 years. It's just that nothing has ever been successful in it, besides my temporary cory cat tenant.
  • #6
I would say start with a better filter... you always want to over filter your tanks... so if you have a 10 gallon tank with a filter rates for 10 gallons it’s not enough... I’d move up to one rated for 20g’s atleast... (I have one rated for 20 gallons running on an 8 gallon tank)
Second I would try de gassing your water and then test the PH... it’s quicker if you have a spare airstone to throw in but if you don’t just leave it sit out for 48 hours to be positive... (mine won’t change in 24... doesn’t change to my actual ph until around 48 hours)
Stir it up or pour a cup in and out every now and again if you don’t have a spare air stone..
KH and GH (carbonate hardness) and general hardness is another measurement in your water... it can get a little complicated to explain but part of it acts as buffers for your PH
KH- basically a measurement of bicorbonates and carbonates... (again it’s hard for me to explain)
GH-that is the general harness of your water...
Like is it soft or hard basically
If you have too high or too low of either of these measurements it can effect what can live in your tank... so it’s good to know what they are so when you research your fish you will know what levels of this they are recommended for... but if you have been only able to keep 1 Cory car alive in a cycled tank for a year and a half something isn’t right...

Are you on well water or city water?
Also with no fish... how are you keeping the cycle going? It has to have an ammonia source?

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