Fish Dying, I Need Help Help

  1. E

    EyelessCrow New Member Member

    So this is my first post here, hello by the way.Sorry if this is a book but I am out of ideas on my tank and it is discouraging, expensive, and I don't feel like fish are safe in my tank and I cannot figure out why and that bugs me worst of all, I dont want my fish to suffer :(. I will try and give every bit of info here that I can and maybe you fine folks can help.

    Tank and equipment: 20 gallon long with aquaclear 50 filter and a heater. Water is usually always around 75 degrees.
    Substrate: 2 bags of Carib-sea Eco-complete w/ lavarock in a mesh filter bag to prop up one side (more on this in a bit)
    Decorations: Mopani driftood (that ive boiled the out of) 2 flat rocks that I have propped up to create a cave
    Plants: 4 amazon swords along the back of the tank. Anubias that I have split up and have around the tank 3 of them glued to holes in the driftood (made sure to use safe super glue(fish were dying before I did this anyway))
    Water Parameters: I'm a little confused about this part and I don't remember off the top of my head EXACTLY what they were but I've used test strips as well as bought an API master test kit and I do remember they were all in safe levels. Looking at a picture of the results I do have rather hard water with a ph of 7.0 I believe, nitrates looked to be 10ppm, nitrites were 0. I do have a rather bad green hairlike algae issue coming from my plants and brownish algae on the lower back of the aquarium.

    I don't know if I didn't let my tank cycle enough when I first got it. Basically this is what happened. I took my old betta tank and took the plants and driftwood from that. I watched a youtube channel that seemed rather popular recommend using lava rock below the substrate to prop up one side, I thought it was a great idea so I did. I bought a bag of lava rock from home depot (I think this is part of my mistake) and set up my tank. I let it sit for about a month...probably way too short and I bought 12 red crystal shrimp because I've always loved those. 1 died a day until they were all gone. I went and bought black neon tetras because I heard they were hardy and if my tank wasn't cycled they would help with that and I wouldnt risk their lives. Sure enough they did fine, everything seemed wonderful! I went and bought a dwarf gourami...dead within 3 days, it never ate aside from day one. Water tests were normal. I thought maybe it was petco fish being petco fish. I bought a dwarf crayfish from my LFS...dead within a day, then my neons started dying. It couldn't be my plants, I trusted the substrate, my water is hard but I don't know enough to know if that matters and im stressing I didn't let it cycle long enough. Then I thought about the lava rock I bought from Home Depot, a friend who is familiar with fish recommended I remove it to be sure. I took it out and this huge plume of red went up and colored the water. I boiled and washed this stuff like crazy so I don't know what that was. My remaining neons all bloated up within an hour. I was horrified to see that I caused that to those fish. I went online to look up what to do and people who had similar issues, from what I could tell was dropsy, though THAT was awfully quick, were told to euthanize the fish but most were dead before I figured out what to do. I stirred up the water, and did numerous big water changes and siphoned water from as deep below substrate as I could.

    I thought things were fine so I bought some peppered cory catfish from petco and some silvertip tetras from my LFS, they lived for about a month happy and active, eating every day before I found one cory upside down. I went to remove it and it swam off, perfectly fine. I even laughed about it, joking how they were messing with me. Next morning, again upside down. This time it couldn't swim away upright, it was dead by the end of the day. Two days later another cory died the same way. All of my silvertips are fine, though one is noticeably more pale than the rest. I went home last night and a cory was dead on my filter intake. I just can't take this anymore.

    I was going to buy a 5 gallon tank and filter, transfer water over and move the surviving fish there and start my 20 gallon over with just aquarium gravel and fake plants. I am concerned whatever chemicals may have been in that lava rock has just seeped into my subtrate and possibly into my filter media as well.

    Anyone have any other ideas on what could be doing this? I'm not very enthused about this hobby right now :(.
     
  2. KaitlynR

    KaitlynR Well Known Member Member

    I would just completely take down the tank and restart. I'm so sorry this happened to you.... If you need help, let me know. I've got extra tanks lying around.
     
  3. Poseiden

    Poseiden Valued Member Member

  4. Esli

    Esli Valued Member Member

    I would also start over, make sure everything is set before you add fish again.
    Settle on the stuff you want for your tank such as substrate, decorations, etc. If the filter you have is cycled, keep it running and add to your set up.
    Make sure your readings using the kit are all safe and you are cycled completely. 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and some nitrates.
    Then go buy your fish. Once everything is situated, bring your fish in.
    I would test for the next few days after the fish or so, just to keep an eye on the readings.
    By this point, you should feel comfortable and confident that your fish are safe. If fish continue to die, it might not be you. A lot of fish stores do not carry very health fish, so it might not be you.
    Don't be discouraged, I lost a lot of fish for not quarantining new fish. I just got my fish a 125 gallon. Its fun, it happens, and we learn.
     
  5. bryangar

    bryangar Well Known Member Member

    Sorry to hear that happened.

    Was the lava rock that you bought for grilling? From what I know, every lava rock that is sold at home depot has been sprayed with gas or if it was for landscaping it could have been sprayed with a pesticide.

    Many people use lava rock in their aquariums. Especially since it has a large space for beneficial bacteria. It also has the possibility to grow denitrifying bacteria.

    Adding CRS might are really sensitive and need lower Ph. You also said that you added Eco complete, it raises your Ph and the hardness

    How often did you do water changes? Did you do one once you finished your cycle? What was your ammonia source when you were cycling? Have you cleaned your filter since everything happened? Were you changing out the water everytime something died?

    Like everyone is recommending, restart your tank. Throw away the filter media, Let the substrate dry out, use white vinegar to wash the tank then let it dry out for a bit. It’s to remove any bacteria left over from the dropsy you said you had. Can you provide a picture of the fish’s body? Were the scales actually lifted from the body?
     
  6. OP
    OP
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    EyelessCrow New Member Member

    Thanks I appreciate that and I will probably restart, I would imagine it would be cheaper to just find one on craigslist than go through hassle and cost of that unless you live in NW Washington state :). I wanted to get another smaller tank going because I really like shrimp and I want to make a shrimp only tank.
    It cycled for about a month it has been around 2 and a half months since then. No under gravel filter, just the one off the back of tank.
    Thanks I'm going to start over. But if that lava rock was contaminated shouldn't I get rid of the filter media? I've had a few people express concerns it might actually be killing my fish still because of absorbing chemicals and redistributing them. Thanks for the advice, I'm definitely going to take things slower and make sure it is completely cycled this time. I was impatient last time and it cost me money and more importantly the lives of my fish :(
    It was landscaping lava rock and I have concerns it was sprayed with pesticide. It was bagged and the brand name is Vigoro. I couldn't find anything on it but I don't know, I'm sure it does its intended purpose well.

    I might do lava rock again but I want to buy it from a reputable source that knows it is clean.

    That explains the water hardness issue. We have hard water here but I thought it was a little much. When I make my shrimp tank I was planning on using store bought spring water and fluval shrimp substrate. I heard that shrimp can be fine in harder water they just can't breed but I did read CRS were sensitive. I just didn't think my tank was a death trap at the time.

    I didn't really have much of an ammonia source aside from plant matter and I know that wasn't enough now and that's why I say I doubt it was cycled. To be honest I learned a lot more about cycling after all this has occurred and I am a lot more equipped going in this second time. I was just going to throw a frozen shrimp from the super market in and let it decay (per king of DIY youtube channel). I did water changes twice a week when this was going really bad but now I'm doing once a week. I don't think I did a water change before I bought my first fish...or shrimp. I have taken my filter media and rinsed it in water from the tank when I did a water change once, that was about it. I did not change the water when each individual fish died no.

    I'm definitely going to start over, buying new filter media. As for substrate do you think it's okay to re-use? I'm worried about contaminates. I am also not 100% it was dropsy just what I gathered from a cursory google search of "help my tetras have ballooned up" I couldnt tell if their scales were raised, but they were big. Like, "what have I done to these fish" thoughts levels big. They were normal size bloated up and died within 3 hours of me taking out that lava rock.
     
  7. bryangar

    bryangar Well Known Member Member

    That’s strange, I can’t find anything about it either, other than they sell it at home depot. Maybe try e-mailing the company and ask them about it. You can also buy those big bags of ceramic rings and use that instead. You can buy like 6 pounds for around $13 on ebay.
    Or buy from a fish store that sells lava rocks online.


    Sounds good about the shrimp tank. They can survive but again they’re sensitive and you didn’t really have a cycle.

    Dead plant matter releases very little ammonia. If you didn’t use any actual ammonia then you most likely lacked a cycle, but you learn from experience.
    I personally wouldn’t use a frozen shrimp. It can start growing fungus on it and cause more problems later on. If you have a hardware store near you try getting pure ammonia. It’s also sold on amazon as Dr. Tims ammonium chloride.

    It should be fine if you give it a really good wash.
    Were the tetras like that before you removed the lava rock? It could possibly have been from overfeeding. If you remember looking at the fish from an aerial view and you saw the scales sticking out like a pinecone then that is dropsy.

    Edit: Im not sure if you know it but eco complete is inert but has a high CEC so it takes nutrients in from the water column and stores it for the roots. So you’ll need to be adding ferts or root tabs to get nutrients back in the substrate after you wash it.
     
  8. OP
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    EyelessCrow New Member Member

    No they were not like that before I took the lava rock out. Maybe I wasn't clear in what I said. They were fine - I took the rock out - an hour later they were bloated up, cardinal tetras with white bellies the size of small pea - 2 hours later they were dead.

    You have given me a ton of info, thanks a lot. I didn't know that about the nutrients but I was adding ferts to the tank as well (seachem) I forgot to add that info if it matters. I haven't added any since I noticed the bloom of algae because I figured I was feeding that too lol. I will also buy the ammonia instead of using a shrimp.
     
  9. bryangar

    bryangar Well Known Member Member

    No, you were clear. I just find it weird how that happened. Maybe they could have eaten the small particles that were floating when you lifted the lava rock? I’m not sure about that.

    Also you said you only had amazon swords, right? I would add some root tabs a few inches away from the plants. They’re heavy root feeders, it would also stay in the gravel and you wouldn’t have to worry about feeding the algae.