Feeling discouraged with my new tank, kind of a long story.

  • #1
So I had fish growing up and now as an adult I decided I want to have my own tank.

I have a little 5 gallon for my son (uses is as a night light in his room) with a betta (been in there a few months at least) and a new golden snail (he's been in there as of today) There were two amano shrimp and a different golden snail in there before but I moved them to the 29 gallon as told in the story below. Well the betta is thriving. he's happy and active, every now and then he'll build a bubble nest. Tank is cycled, though I can never get a 0 reading on the ammonia it's always seeming to show just slightly green (API freshwater master test kit) Anyway, this is about my brand new 29 gallon tall...

I know about the nitrogen cycle, I used the old filter media from the 5 gallon, put it in the power filter of the new tank to help things along... silly me, despite how I know it's not kind for the fish I went and got 6 leopard danios right off the bat. Put them in on the first day. One of them looked funny, kind of deformed, didn't notice at the LFS (named him gimpy) Few days later my readings were still showing >.25 ammonia, 0 nitrite, >5.0 nitrate, so I went and moved my Amano shrimp out of the 5 gallon and put them in the 29. They seemed happy enough. one of them molted.

a few days later, no change on my parameters, saw a couple of GORGEOUS black angels at the LFS, they were gasping for air in the store, I thought I could save them... nope! My own fault for buying sick fish. they died less then 12 hours after bringing them home. (acclimatized them using a kind of "drip method", just used a large oral syringe to add my tank water at intervals for an hour while they floated in the bag in the tank) Silly me didn't quarantine them. After they died, "gimpy" the danio died. parameters still havn't changed. did a 30% water change anyway. Then I took my older golden snail out of the 5 gallon as he seemed to be outgrowing it. He was happily motoring away.

parameters still the same a couple days later. Added 6 Purple Harlequin rasboras (it's kind of funny, they school with the danios!) and 4 red cherry shrimp and a Cryptocoryne wendtiI 'Tropica' plant. After a couple days, the parameters are still the same! still did a water change, about 30%. I am in a bit of disbelief that the ammonia levels have not changed... no nitrites... and barely any nitrates. Move forward a few more days and now all of my shrimp have died in two days, and my snail is acting sluggish and I lost a rasbora last night. My water has been a milky cloudy colour since maybe day three... and I am just feeling discouraged with all my fish/shrimp death. I understand it's a new tank... and at the risk of sounding horribly naive, I thought my water quality was good...?? I know that 0 is what we strive for in ammonia, but even just my plain tap water seems to be showing some slight green... I know I've been testing right, because I dealt with the whole nitrogen cycle (ammonia spikes, nitrite spikes, to finally nitrates) with my 5 gallon... and I just don't know what to do with this plant! lol, my husband so badly wanted a live plant in the tank, so I got this one as it was supposed to be good in low light and I don't have any special lighting for plants.

So I'm down to 5 danios (who are very active and seem happy), 5 rasboras (one of them is deformed and unhealthy looking like the previous "gimpy" kind of a weird shape... like a "Z"), 1 sluggish golden snail, and a crypt plant that I have no idea what to do with. Cloudy white water that doesn't change in parameters and it's been like... 3 weeks and two water changes... There is a fair amount of current as I have a bubble wall in the back and a little scuba diver bubbler. Besides the live plant, It's fairly moderately-densely planted with fake plants. temp is 80F. LED lights that are turned off at night. I don't know where to go from here.... Ultimately I just want to get to keeping an Angel Fish, with some pretty schooling fish around it! and my hubby wants shrimp... Any advice would be appreciated.
  • #2
Obviously you're treating the water? What are you treating it with?

If you have ammonia in your tap this could be an issue, I could say 30% water changes are pointless unless you're doing them every other day so you'd want to bump it up to 50-70% water changes but with the ammonia in your tap..

I've got no experience with this so hopefully someone here can step in.
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Treating the water with prime. Yeah I can never get just a yellow "0" reading. Maybe I'm colour blind... I appreciate your response. I'll do a large water change tomorrow and see what happens. I had thought to try that soon as well.
  • #4
I'd suggest doing double your normal dose of prime.
  • #5
Sorry to hear about the difficult time you've been having! I was in a very similar situation as you just earlier this year. I too started out with a betta and some shrimp in a 5 gal for almost a year, felt confident, bought a 29 gal and added fish way too soon just to be met with the nasty shock that keeping a betta is nothing like keeping a community. I totally understand the frustration!

Anyways, first of all, don't add anymore fish until the tank is cycled. It does make sense that the filter media from an already established tank would "instant cycle" a tank, and it would, but when done right. The donor filter media only has enough beneficial bacteria to support the bioload of the amount of fish you had in the donating tank. In this situation, the filter media you used could only support the equivalent of a singular fish and some invertebrates.

What was this filter media? What kind of a filter did you take it from? What filter are you running on the 29 gallon? If it is one of those activated carbonate pouches, I would recommend ditching the carbon and keep the pouch. Don't rinse anything out with tap water, the chlorine in untreated tap water kills all beneficial bacteria, thus starting over the cycle. The mesh pouch itself is what holds the beneficial bacteria and the carbon is dangerous to your fish when it expires. Worst part, it's still up to debate when it expires, I've heard as soon as in 2 days. A lot of members here on fishlore don't use activated carbon in their filters for this reason.
Also, how much of the filter media did you take from the 5 gallon?

The fact that you have so many fish alive still makes me believe that their are some beneficial bacteria in your filter, this is good! It's also perfectly normal for the readings to be similar for so long. Tanks can take up to a couple months to cycle.

To speed up this process you can buy bottled bacteria. There's many kinds out there, but based off of the experiences of members here on fishlore (including myself), either Tetra Safe Start or Seachem Stability are going to be your best bets. I've personally haven't had success with Tetra Safe Start, but I have with Seachem Stability! With Tetra safe start, you have to dump the entire bottle in your tank at once, and it's kind of hit or miss, but some people swear by it. Just be aware if you do go with this option, you can't do water changes for a couple of weeks. With seachem stability you don't have to use the entire bottle, and you can continue to do water changes.

It's also perfectly normal to have ammonia or nitrites or nitrates in the water straight from the tap. I would test your tap water to find out. This will be a base line to base your cycle off of to see if you're actually getting anywhere. Regardless, you still need a 0 ammomia,0 nitrite,0-40 nitrates reading in your tank for it to be cycled.

And about the live plant, the led lights that typically come with an aquarium USUALLY aren't powerful enough to grow or maintain most plants. Here on the forum though, there are members much more well versed with live plants that can help you pick out the right lights, substrate, minerals, etc if you have your heart set on keeping certain live plants!

The cloudy water is a bacteria bloom from all of the ammonia build up. It'll go away after the tank is cycled.
  • #6
I second the call not to add anything else. When I did an upgrade from a 10 to 20 I moved all my media over and didn't add any fish till I knew we were good. At this point you just need to for the bb to catch up to the new stocking levels.

I had an aqueon led light on the ten and was able to grow Java moss and ferns. They were both happy and multiplying. I'd suggest you start there if you want live plants. As a plus neither need nutrient rich substrate as they get their nutrients from the water.

Either way though, don't give up! Cycling a tank is always the most frustrating experience! When we started there were many times I told my wife "we're done!" But I'm happy we persisted. Our fish bring a fun and calming dimension to our household.
  • #7
I'd suggest doing double your normal dose of prime.

That's not going to help.

  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Just want to say thank you to all the kind replies. I know we'll get this under control, it's just discouraging when I thought I had it all figured out! lol, as monty313 said, this comunity tank thing is a lot trickier then the betta in a 5 gallon!

So no more adding fish until I'm positive it's cycled. Will do!

Did about a 50% water change today, the cloudiness has lessened. and checked the parameters again, was showing ammonia greater then .25 before and less than .25 after. nitrates are still about 5.0. still no nitrites.

It was one of those floss pouches with the carbon(or whatever that black stuff is) inside, that I moved from the 5 gallon. it was only for a filter meant for a 3 gallon, so fairly small, about the size of a deck of cards. I also had some of that spongy stuff in the 5 gallon filter but I thought that the carbon one would be better to help the new tank. Clearly I was wrong! haha! I swished it around in a bucket of old fish water that I had just took out of the 5 gallon during a water change to get the debris off it then stuffed it into the big power filter. It's a Whisper 30 power filter. it has a big bag of carbon and one of those black spongy things inside. I know never to rinse in untreated water. I think I'll refrain from using the carbon in the future... but what instead? just the spongy like material?

I've debated trying stability, but have heard mixed reviews about it all, I might give it a go.

I took the snail out of the tank during the water change, as he was so lethargic. very unlike him. I hope I don't lose him. I put him back into the 5 gallon with the other newbie snail.

Since the shrimp and other fish deaths there is just two rasboras that are looking a little sad. one of them is fine when I put him in a quarantine container in the tank. But once he gets into general population he just gets pushed around by all the currents and stops doing very well. So for now he stays in the cup... Ideas what I can do for him? The other that doesn't look healthy is very thin and doesn't have a lot of colour, though he still eats and "frenzis" when I put food in.
Besides them... The danios are having the time of their lives.... and omg the remaining 3 rasboras are mating! the one keeps laying eggs on the plants and the other two appear to be competing for her? I've never seen anything like it... lol, especially in a cycling tank. strange!

I quite like the look of java moss and ferns!! Thank you! Once things level out here I'll see about adding them. So far the crypt plant had a little bit of dye off, nothing significant... a few leaves. we have a very brightly lit living room and get a lot of morning sun so it could be enough? I'm worried I'll be dealing with alge.
  • #9
Glad to hear you're more positive! I got excited and bought a betta for my 5 gallon plus two cories. Overstocked it obviously and the betta and 1 Cory died while trying to cycle. I was bummed out and kicking myself. Since then, I wholeheartedly believed and learned that patience is key in this hobby and to try to not get frustrated. Doing a fish less cycle now and learning from my mistakes. Keep your chin up and move forward!
  • #10
I'm glad your fish, for the most part, seem to be doing well! Instead of the carbon pack, I highly recommend replacing it with this thing called filter floss. It's very cheap, it's great at holding beneficial bacteria, and you don't need to replace it unless it's falling the shreds. That takes a long time Though (like months or years), and in that situation you just replace it bit by bit. An alternative to that though would be using pillow fluff that you get at craft stores. Even cheaper and just as efficient! Just a handful is enough for the tank and if ever needed it's much easier to slowly replace. I recommend Loops and Threads Classic Fiber Fill from Michael's craft store if you have that near you. I have that in all my tanks and it works like a charm. Just make sure it's 100% polyester and that it doesn't have any preservatives or dyes.
I also recommend eventually getting an additional filter. It's better for the fish' bioload and if one fails, you still have the backup. Aquaclear is a great brand! I personally use an Aquaclear 30 along with my Whisper filter that came with my 29 gallon!

It's also worth mentioning that your 5 gallon tank is currently uncycled since you took out the filter media for it. Another downside of using those filter cartridges is that every time you have to replace them the cycle restarts
So if you experience any troubles with that tank, that would be why. You could use the filterfloss/pillow fluff on that tank too if you'd like!
For the fish in the cup, make sure that it's always getting fresh water because in such a tiny environment the ammonia with grow to toxic levels fast.
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
I will be looking into that floss stuff for sure!
Thankfully I added an extra spongy filter media thing to the filter in the 5 gallon when I first started the tank out knowing that the other cartridge would need to be changed out and I didn't want to deal with cycling the tank every time it needed to be changed. So that sponge media is still in there with all the good stuff in it! It was a tight squeeze to fit it in with the media that was meant to be in there, but it works. I thought the beneficial bacteria also lived in the substrate and on plants and decor?
Fish in the cup died. I was adding fresh tank water regularly, he just kept getting weaker.
  • #12
I'm sorry about your fish, poor thing..
I'm glad your 5 gallon is safe though.
While there is potentially beneficial bacteria on any porous object in the aquarium, it's a very small amount compared to the amount that is supposed to be in your filter. I believe I read somewhere that is most cases over 90% of your beneficial bacteria is in your filter, but don't quote me on that I don't know if that's exact! It would make sense though because beneficial bacteria dies if it isn't constantly aerated, like it would be with the flowing water inside of a filter.
  • #13
Forgot to mention, another alternative for filter media, asides from filter floss, would be the biomax from Aquaclear filters! You can buy it on Amazon here:
Or in most pet stores that sell fish stuff. This you wouldn't have to replace ever, I believe
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
Oh! I like the looks of that stuff too! I'll look into it more too! Thank you so much for the advice!
  • #15
I had this same problem when cycling my first tank. If you're on city water then the ammonia showing up in your tap is likely ammonium versus ammonia. If your tank was fully cycled you'd be showing 0 ammonia in your tank regardless of your tap water readings (I thought this was my issue as well).

Do you have nitrates showing up in your tap? Mine does which led me to believe in the beginning I was cycling. With the bioload of your 1 betta it seems unlikely that the BB adjusted that quickly to your new tank hence your ammonia reading. I personally used stability for 7 days doing 50% water changes every 2 days. After I finished using stability I suddenly began seeing nitrite readings. From there I allowed the tank to take its natural course and overall it took me 3 weeks to cycle.

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