Feeling like a fool- Suspected fin rot in guppies, what to do?

Eleanor Weinstein
  • #1
HI all,
So I feel like a total fool after just now finding all this new information about tank cycling, testing, adding fish and the like. And I'm afraid my poor fish are suffering because of it! Here is the whole story:

My adventure in fish keeping began last year with a betta fish in a five gallon tank with an under gravel filter. He died about six months after I got him, from what I don't know, possibly was just sick from the start? From there I moved to a group of five zebra danios I adopted from a lab at my school. They were two or three years old when I got them and I was told that was old for them. Two have since died of what appeared to be natural causes and one lept out of the tank to his death. As the zebras died, I replaced them with guppies, and currently have three guppies and two zebra fish.

As an early birthday present to myself, I recently upgraded to a new ten gallon tank. The guy at my LFS told me to fill up the tank with dechlorinated water and a dose of API's Stress-zyme and let it run for twenty four hours before switching my fish over. He also said I could add more fish, so I decided to get two dwarf puffer fish and (two day later) a spotted cory catfish.I added the guppies and puffers after 24hrs and then two days later added the cory catfish. I now know this tank is probably over stocked, but I really didn't know any better then, and I can only have one tank running all the time. I have been feeding them frozen blood worms- about
All of the fish seem to be active and doing fine, but I have noticed that my long finned zebra and two if not all three of my guppies seem to have the very beginnings of fin rot. They have white or black edges on their tails and top fins I tested the water with the API test kit I got today and ammonia was 0, nitrates were 0, nitrites were 0, and pH was 7.2. So that seems to be fine to me.....
My plan was to fill up my five gallon with dechlorinated water tonight, dose it with the stress-zyme, and run the filter over night, then put my guppies in there tomorrow to treat them (with the life guard all in one treatment) since the puffer fish are super sensitive to medication. I have done a 30% water change in the 10 gallon this morning, and will again tomorrow.
Is this the best method to treat my guppies?
I have no decorations to put in the hospital tank, is that ok? or do I need some?
What other things do I need to be doing to ensure the health of my tank?
Thanks for your replies! Please be nice though, I know I have made some mistakes and I feel super bad about it. I am a total beginner and really did not know any better! I just want to know what the best course of action for my fish is!
  • #2
Welcome to the forum.

You've been given horrible advice from your lfs, like so many of us originally were.

I suspect you're not using your test kit properly if you had 0 nitrates. You would only have 0 in a heavily planted tank. The faulty results would be from either not doing the nitrate test properly or performing the test within 24 hours of using a dechlorinator like Prime. With a new test kit, you have to take the nitrate reagent bottle and literally smash it hard against a countertop to break up the crystals in there. Only then will you get accurate results.

Please give us a complete list of the stock in this tank. I'm a bit confused as to what you actually have for fish. When you do a water change, do 50%, not 30, especially if you believe your fish are ill.
Eleanor Weinstein
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
In the tank I have two zebra fish, three guppies (all male), two dwarf puffers (male and female pair), and a spotted cory catfish. Eight fish total. I really feel awful because I'm pretty sure that's WAY over stocked now that I know better. But, I can't have two tanks at school and my parents refuse to let me keep a tank at home since they would have to care for it, which is totally understandable.
Is there any way my fish could live comfortably in this tank?

Is it only that brand of dechlorinator that makes the test inaccurate? Because I have used my API tap water conditioner in the past 24hrs. I assume either would make the test inaccurate. If so, how do I do my water changes with out adding dechlorinator? I guess I could just test tomorrow before I do a water change....

What should I do for my guppies?
  • #4
HI Eleanor welcome to FishLore!!
Hey, don't feel bad. Most of started off on the wrong foot.

Since the parameters seems ok for now (although I'm leery of test strip results) I'd blame the Dwarf Puffers.

Throw the strss zyme away. Really, I think almost everyone gets talked into that one. I know I did!
If you want to use a bacterial additive try TetrasafeStart.
Many members have had luck cycling with tetra safeStart.
This might help:
Q & A With Tetra About Tetra SafeStart

The guppies would probably feel more secure with some sort of decoration.
When fish are stressed it reduces their immune system making it harder for them to recover from an illness or nipped fins.

Since your head is probably exploding with new information I'll help it a long a little bit.
FishLore's e-book is full of helpful info.
Here's the link:
FREE Freshwater Aquarium Book

Good luck!
Eleanor Weinstein
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
What is wrong with the stress zyme?

I did not use test strips, I have the API master test kit that uses vials of water and different indicators.

I don't think it's the puffers that caused the fin rot, they are so far totally non aggressive towards the guppies and the fins are not frayed or bitten AT ALL, just have white or black edges.......

I will add some silk plants to my hospital tank and let it cycle tonight then add the guppies and zebra fish to treat them tomorrow. I think it is VERY early stage fin rot because they seem totally unaffected by it, so hopefully that's a good thing!

Has anyone used lifeguard all in one treatment? does it work?

Also, is my tank so grossly over stalked that I need to find some fish new homes, or not? Please tell me!
Eleanor Weinstein
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Also, since I've only had the aquarium for 4-5 days, it couldn't have been fully cycled right? So now are all my fish going to die as it cycles??
  • #7
StressZyme doesn't contain the type of bacteria the tanks needs to sustain it's self.
If I recall correctly the directions say to add it weekly.
If it worked there wouldn't be any need to keep adding it.

Unless you have used filter media from an established tank your tank would not cycle in a couple of days.
Cycling can take 6-8 weeks give or take.
Stress Zyme could be consuming the ammonia giving a false sense of security.

During the cycling process the beneficial bacteria grows naturally.
There are some additives that do work. Tetra SafeStart being one of them.
I think some members have had luck with Dr, Tim's one and only (who also developed Tetra SafeStart but was sold under the name of biospira years ago)

Here's a basic explanation of the nitrogen cycle:

First the ammonia (from fish waste and left over food) will rise.

In a few weeks bacteria will start to develop, the nitrite levels rise and the ammonia levels start to drop.

After a few more weeks a different kind of bacteria begins to develop, the nitrate levels rise and the nitrite levels drop.

Ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish.
So until the cycle is complete and enough bacteria develops to process the toxins, keep the levels down with 50% daily water changes.
Some say it prolongs the cycle since water changes remove some of the ammonia and nitrites that the bacteria need to develop. However, we do this for the health of the fish.

If your pH differs greatly from tap to tank 2 25% changes a day would be safer.

Using Prime as your water conditioner will detox the ammonia for 24 hrs between water changes.
Wait 24 hours between testing. Otherwise you might not get an accurate reading.
When the readings are 0 on both ammonia and nitrites with some nitrates showing, the cycle is done.

Now for your stocking question.
Imo, there are a few choices.

In no particular order:

1) Keep the Puffers. Re-home all other fish.
I've never kept puffers but from what I have read they are pretty nippy. They are carnivores after all.

2) Keep the guppies re-home all other fish.
Zebra danios are much too active for a 10g. Cories (depending on the species) need more room than a 10 gallon allows. They also do better with more of their own kind.

3) Keep the puffers in the 10g.
Buy a 20 gallon for the guppies, Zebras (danios?) and cory.
Since cories do much better in groups go with at least three. They will feel more secure and be more active.
The zebras (if they are danios) would do better in a larger group. They can be nippy so be mindful of how they interact with the guppies.

I've used Lifeguard but didn't have luck with it.
Could be I was treating for the wrong illness and the product it's self.

I've had very good luck using Maroxy for fin rot. For some reason I haven't been able to find it lately.

Your fish are not necessarily doomed. Keep on top of the water changes.

I'm really sorry for the huge post.
I know it's a lot of info.
Hope it made sense.
Eleanor Weinstein
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
I did not use the filter media from my established tank, but I did use the gravel, decorations, and "net sponge" piece that was in my old filter. The package said that it was for the good bacteria to attach to....
Could that have helped it cycle faster?
I can also just switch back to my old filter if that would help it cycle faster.
I think my game plan for now is to do two 25% water changes a day, only feed every other day and feed slightly less (to make sure everything gets eaten). I did a 25% water change around eight tonight and will wait to do another for 24hrs so that I don't use the dechlorinator and can test my levels again. Then I will procede with water changes.The guppies will go in the hospital tank (5 gal) I set up tomorrow (it has the old filter on it so it should be cycled, right?) and be treated for the fin rot with the life guard. They will also get 50% water changes every day. I put some silk ferns in the tank. They are not specifically for aquarium use but it's all I have right now. They will be treated for five days (as per package directions) and if they get better they will go back in the tank then.
Does this sound like a sound plan so that my fish will live through the tank cycling?
I really can't re-home any of the fish because no one I know has an aquarium or wants one.....
But I also cannot get another tank. So i'm kinda stuck here......any advice?
The zebras are not "normal" zebra fish. I adopted them from a lab on my campus where they were used for genetic testing. Both of them are much less active than a normal zebra fish because of deformities that they had when I got them. They are pretty old and I would not be surprised if they pass soon due to natural causes, but they can be surprising.
All of the fish seem to be getting along just fine. Zero aggression what so ever aside from a half hearted chase at feeding time.
  • #9
There's a very good chance that the deco and netting had bacteria on it that would help the cycle along.
The bacteria on the old filter may not be viable if it hasn't been up and running with a source of ammonia to fed the bacteria.

Sounds like you have a plan since another tank or re-homing isn't option for you.
Once the guppies heal you can always fall back on the 5 gallon if someone needs to be separated.

Good luck!
  • #10
Welcome to Fishlore, Eleanor. Everyone here is trying to give you the best advice possible and help you have healthy and happy fish in your tanks.

When you were researching your tank, did you check on what to feed and how to care for your puffers? I have a pair of puffers in a tank by themselves. They need a Well planted tank so that they have plenty of hiding places. If the puffers are mostly sitting to one side with their tails curled around, they are scared and not happy at all. These fish generally are happier in a 10 gallon tank with no other fish as they become very territorial and can be quite shy if there are other more aggressive fish in the tank. I would strongly suggest either taking them back to your fish store or placing an ad on Craigslist or kijijI as you are likely to lose the puffers if you don't. They are very sensitive to water parameters and while yours are currently fine, the fish store did you absolutely no favors by suggesting these guys for your tank. Puffers are somewhat of a "High maintenance" fish compared to the others and are definitely not a good fish to have in a starting tank.

A quick run through of puffer fish feeding:
Most puffer fish refuse to eat flake food. A rare few will get by on frozen foods. Primarily, a dwarf puffer prefers to eat snails and small live foods such as mosquito larvae, maybe small blood worms, etc.
  • #11
Welcome to fishlore. First off do not beat yourself up over all of this because its not your fault. Its only natural to follow the lead of someone who works in the industry for advice. I can not speak for other industries but in this hobby many LFS - petsmart employees etc really do not understand what they are advising at times. Not all but many.... If I rehash something that has already been told to you look over me but I think I read every ones responses. I just wanted to add a couple of things to hopefully help you out a bit. Going forward use Seachems Prime as a dechlorinator for your water . A bottle will last you a long time and its good stuff. Also, I did see where you said you were feeding bloodworms. Again I may have missed something but just in case. You know not to feed bloodworms as their every day feeding right? Bloodworms are great and I use them as well but they are more of a treat maybe once a week. Blood worms can bloat your fish if overfed and can kill them. I would suggest New Life Spectrum sinking pellets for your daily feeding and I feed once a day and that's it. Only feed them what they can consume in 30 seconds or so. If 5 minutes after feeding you see food floating around or on the bottom of the tank - that is way too much. Too much food can cause problems for you and your fish such as ammonia which depletes the oxygen from the water and could also kill them if not caught in time. As another member mentioned. Puffer fish are not for the beginner in this hobby. They take a little more care and are more sensitive to things IMO.

I know you said your parents would not allow you a tank because "they would have to take care of it". You seem to write/speak well as a mature young lady. Wouldn't it help your case with the folks if you said that you would take care of it and not them?? Just a thought.
  • #12
I know you said your parents would not allow you a tank because "they would have to take care of it". You seem to write/speak well as a mature young lady. Wouldn't it help your case with the folks if you said that you would take care of it and not them?? Just a thought.

I missed the parent part.
So much for my suggestion #3.

Eleanor is away at school. The school allows one tank.
If she got another tank it would be her parent's full responsibility to care for it.
  • #13
I missed the parent part.
So much for my suggestion #3.

Eleanor is away at school. The school allows one tank.
If she got another tank it would be her parent's full responsibility to care for it.

Ahh okay I missed that some where along the way so that makes sense then.
Eleanor Weinstein
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
Thank you thank you for all of the advice everyone! I really appreciate it.

I have (now) done extensive research on the care of dwarf puffer fish, but there are extremely contradicting things all over. So, it is pretty much up to each owner to decide how to care for their fish. From my research, and what I understand of biology and ecology, I have concluded these things: they are totally fresh water fish who naturally eat snails, worms, and other misc critters, need lots of hiding places, and can be territorial.
My tank has at least seven plants, a cup on it's side as a "cave", and a large faux wood decoration that creates many places for them to hide. Both of my puffers seem happy, no curled tails, no "pacing" the glass. They zoom right up to the glass when I walk in the room and bob up and down in greeting for a few minutes before wandering off again. They seem to have almost no issues with the guppies, but I understand this may change as they get older. Unfortunately all I can do is watch them closely.
I have been feeding them frozen (thawed) blood worms with a syringe, 2-3 worms each per feeding, and added small snails to the tank which they have almost completely devoured. I am working on getting a source for live blood worms or black worms for them, but it may not be possible in my area. Someone on a different forum suggested pin head crickets. Not so sure about that one........
The pet store will not accept them back, and I would be wary of getting them in a worse situation over craigslist. If anything, I would give away the guppies.
I had never heard that blood worms were not a good stable food. Seeing as the puffers are carnivorous, they will not eat flake or pellet food. The guppies get a tropical flake food (although they eat some of the blood worms too), and the cory gets a sinking hiakarI (sp?) pellet for catfish every so often. But, the puffers have thus far only eaten snails, bloodworms, and they like to pick at the sinking pellets.
What would you recommend as a daily food for my puffers?
I have heard both good and bad things about live white worms or black worms. Some say they are perfectly nutritional other claim they are fatty and not nutritious.
I am very careful not to over feed. I clean up any food that is left over (usually there is none) except for the sinking wafers as catfish eat slowly.
thank you for your compliments, I would like to think I am as well However, it is more so an issue of school policy, limited space, and a roommate who isn't into fish like I am. School policy states that you may have "fish" ( which I interpret to mean one tank), and my tiny dorm room only has the space for my ten gallon and a one gallon "emergency" tank. And although my roommate is a lovely person, she doesn't have the fish bug like I do. If I got another tank, it would have to stay at home and my parents would be the ones looking after it.

After reading all of your advice I think I will post an ad to try and re-home the guppies and zebra fish. They are moving into the five gallon today to be treated, and I know it's not ideal but they will be ok there for a few days.
Eleanor Weinstein
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
I put the guppies and zebra fish into my five gallon today to treat them for the fin rot, and they ate the medication tablet! As soon as I dropped it in they went after it and tore it to bits. Now they are not doing so well.....anyone else have this problem? not sure they will make it now
  • #16
I hope they'll be ok.

I've seen mine go after meds but not sure if they consumed any.
Now I take a cup a cup of tank water and dissolve powdered meds before poring them into a tank.
Eleanor Weinstein
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
Unfortunately, none of my guppies or zebra fish made it. They were not doing well after eating the medication (stupid fish....why eat the meds????) and then today, I came home and found that my new heater had malfunctioned, and it heated my tank to ALMOST 90 DEGREES instead of stopping at 78 like I had it set to. Way to hot for even healthy fish to survive
On the bright side, my puffers and catfish are all doing great in the other tank. Water parameters are still all reading zero, doing a 50% water change every day and just waiting for it to cycle I guess? Not sure how I will know if it has since I'm doing the water changes and have to use the declorinator which may be screwing up my readings but idk. Just trying to do my best for my fish!
Does anybody have any advice for how to transport my fish and tank in a week when I return to school? It is a 1hr drive.
  • #18
That stinks. I'm really sorry about your fish.
Best we can do is try and you did that.

According to their website (sorry can't find the link to support this) It's advised to wait 24 hours after adding Prime otherwise you could get a false positive.
I'm not sure about other water conditioners.

As far as moving just bag them up like they do at the fish store.
You can put the bags in cooler to try and maintain the water temp.
  • #19

According to their website (sorry can't find the link to support this) It's advised to wait 24 hours after adding Prime otherwise you could get a false positive.


Similar Aquarium Threads

  • Locked
  • Question
  • Locked
  • Question
  • Locked
  • Question
  • Locked
Top Bottom