15 Gallon Tank Glofish gasping - I can't figure out why!

Jodbug65

I'm going to apologize for being such a noob here, but I am concerned adopted fish mom.

About two months ago, I adopted a 2 year-old glofish named Piper from my friend. I was super fortunate that I was able to bring most of her water etc. along with her and against insurmountable odds, didn't have to go through the new tank cycling.

Piper has been on her own for over a year. There had been other glofish which came and went, but she was all that was left. Recently, I purchased a new glofish to keep her company (Phoebe) and everything has seemingly gone well up until maybe 4 days ago. Phoebe was introduced to the tank over two weeks ago.

I do 10-15% water changes 1x per week. They have lots of air (filter + bubbler) and my tank doesn't fluctuate more than 1-2 degrees (80-82 degrees). Four days ago, Piper started skimming the surface and gasping, and as I was due for a water change, I figured that was probably why. I recently purchased a manual vacuum thing, so I used it for the first time, but I didn't vacuum all of the stones at the bottom and I only removed 15% of the water.

Piper is still gasping and constantly skimming the surface, however, Phoebe seems fine. I tested my water using API testing kit and noted that the PH was quite high. How high is too high? I use regular tap water that I treat with water conditioner and I always add in some Fluval bacteria with water change, but I'm thinking I need to move to distilled next change over.

I just don't know why she's so stressed out and struggling. I feel like maybe I threw off the tank balance with my vacuuming and I don't know how to fix it. I'm scared to do an additional water change- could it still be water quality? I did use a bit of PH - that I purchased ( .5 ml) because I knew the PH was quite high but didn't want to take more water out and also, didn't want to put too much PH - in so as to not shock the fish.

Temp is good, no ammonia present. What the heck am I missing here?! I feel like I am most annoying customer at my local petstore as I am constantly asking for advice. Greatly appreciate any you all could give, thank you!
 

Hellfishguy

If it's a glow zebra danio it might just be old age - 2 years is ancient for that species.
 

awilkinson871

Dont adjust Ph. Chasing a number just causes swings that hurt fish more. If she is used to the Ph all this time changing it can cause more hard than necessary. What size tank and how many fish are there total?
 

Jodbug65

If it's a glow zebra danio it might just be old age - 2 years is ancient for that species.
This is my worry, but she is a glo tetra. She is quite big and beautiful. I hope it's not just an age thing :(
Dont adjust Ph. Chasing a number just causes swings that hurt fish more. If she is used to the Ph all this time changing it can cause more hard than necessary. What size tank and how many fish are there total?
It is a 15 gallon and just the two fish. I was worried about that too, I won't use it anymore at all. Would you advise using distilled water all the time going forward?
 

awilkinson871

Never use straight distilled. It has no minerals and low Ph so it will make things worse. What are the exact numbers on ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates?
My guesses...
1. Since you are doing small water changes and not vacuuming the substrate there could have been a build up of detritus that is raising some of the minerals to high levels OR
2. If you have thick substrate you could have a build up of gases and by vacuuming you disturbed some releasing it into the water.
 

Jodbug65

Okay thank you!

The PH is at the very top range of the low PH test. High PH test reads at 8.0. Ammonia is 0 ppm. Nitrites 0 ppm. Nitrates is barely barely orange so somewhere between 0 ppm and 5.0, but it's barely there at all.

If it is the gases (which makes sense) is there anyway to rectify that? Also, why is one fish struggling but not the other (is it just age?)?

Regarding the minerals, is that something I can rectify? I have had the tank 2 months and this is the first time I've vacuumed but have done regular water changes. The stones don't appear to be exceedingly filthy but jeepers, what do I know?!

Thanks so much.
 

awilkinson871

If there were gases you would smell rotten egg smell when disturbing the deeper parts of the substrate. It just means poo and food have gotten in there and are starting to decompose. Regular vacuuming helps prevent and treat that.
There are tons of minerals in water that fish and plants need to survive. One reason for the recommended weekly 50% water changes is to remove water that is depleted and add new water to keep a balance. Of course, the WC is also to remove waste, reduce nitrates, etc.
It is possible that the fish is just older and is showing it's age. It is also possible that there is an imbalance and it is just the first to show the affect because it is older. There really isn't a good way to tell.
Just make sure you are keeping the water stable and aerated and let your fish be as happy as it can for as long as it can.
 

Jodbug65

If there were gases you would smell rotten egg smell when disturbing the deeper parts of the substrate. It just means poo and food have gotten in there and are starting to decompose. Regular vacuuming helps prevent and treat that.
There are tons of minerals in water that fish and plants need to survive. One reason for the recommended weekly 50% water changes is to remove water that is depleted and add new water to keep a balance. Of course, the WC is also to remove waste, reduce nitrates, etc.
It is possible that the fish is just older and is showing it's age. It is also possible that there is an imbalance and it is just the first to show the affect because it is older. There really isn't a good way to tell.
Just make sure you are keeping the water stable and aerated and let your fish be as happy as it can for as long as it can.

Yeah, definitely no smell like that at all, just normal fish water smell.

I keep hearing differing things on the water changes. My local petstore recommended no more than 10-20%. Should I be doing 50? Obviously want to keep my fish as healthy qs possible. Piper has been skimming now for 4 days and she's still kicking so I'm feeling like maybe with the next water change she might feel better - think I have disturbed things. But I will just not mess with it until then!

Thanks so much for all of your guidance!
 

mattgirl

Please don't be afraid of doing big water changes. I change out 50% of the water in each of my tanks each week as do lots of other folks here. As long as you temp match and add your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in the tank water change can only help. With just 2 fish in a 15 gallon tank 50% may not be necessary but i would do it anyway.

Your pH is fine. Stable is much more important than a specific number so don't try to change it.
 

awilkinson871

Yeah, definitely no smell like that at all, just normal fish water smell.

I keep hearing differing things on the water changes. My local petstore recommended no more than 10-20%. Should I be doing 50? Obviously want to keep my fish as healthy qs possible. Piper has been skimming now for 4 days and she's still kicking so I'm feeling like maybe with the next water change she might feel better - think I have disturbed things. But I will just not mess with it until then!

Thanks so much for all of your guidance!
For anyone- especially a newbie- fresh water can't hurt. As you get more familiar with the hobby and your tank you may start to adjust how often and how much you change, but water changes have helped more fish than they have hurt. The cure for many illness and fin rot situations have been water changes.
 

Jodbug65

Thank you guys so much re: water changes. I'm so terrified to remove too much of the good bacteria. This has been extremely helpful.
 

mattgirl

Thank you guys so much re: water changes. I'm so terrified to remove too much of the good bacteria. This has been extremely helpful.
Thankfully the bacteria isn't free floating in the water so doing water changes isn't removing any. It is growing on all the surfaces and on your filter media so don't over clean the things in the tank.
 

Jodbug65

Please don't be afraid of doing big water changes. I change out 50% of the water in each of my tanks each week as do lots of other folks here. As long as you temp match and add your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in the tank water change can only help. With just 2 fish in a 15 gallon tank 50% may not be necessary but i would do it anyway.

Your pH is fine. Stable is much more important than a specific number so don't try to change it.

You read all of these things re: PH like 6.2 is recommended and then I test it and it's way above that. I guess it's just one of those things you get to know and understand. Also, I jussst purchased my API testing kit. I have been back and forth to my petstore getting my water tested for weeks and feel bad bothering them lol so this could explain my PH freak out Thank you!
Thankfully the bacteria isn't free floating in the water so doing water changes isn't removing any. It is growing on all the surfaces and on your filter media so don't over clean the things in the tank.

My tank is super clean really. I get one little smoosh of algae where the sun hits it when I open the door, but other than that, all the decorations look great. But will definitely keep that in mind!

I am stressed out about filter changes though. How often should they happen? I read somewhere that I should just rinse the filter?
 

mattgirl

I know some things can be confusing. when it comes to pH I do recommend having it up to at least 7 but anything over that should be fine. Mine is 7.2 others here have above 8 and their fish thrive. As I said. The number isn't as important as having a stable number. Work with what comes out of your tap and your fish should be fine.

It is good that you are getting your own test kit. It should give you some peace of mind knowing you can keep an eye on the numbers. As long as you see 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites all should be fine. You will probably see some nitrates but I suspect they will be fairly low with just 2 fish. Most advise trying to keep them at 20 or lower.

If you are using the disposable cartridges don't replace it until it is literally falling apart or water is no longer flowing through it freely. It you continue using them and it comes time to have to replace it cut a slit in the new one and dump the carbon out. As it breaks down it clogs the fiber. I have not run carbon in my tanks for many years. It really isn't needed. It does have its place in the hobby though. Such as removing medications after treatment is complete or removing unpleasant odors from a tank. When replacing a cartridge cut the fiber off the plastic frame of the old cartridge and put that piece of fiber in with the new cartridge. It will help seed the new cartridge.
 

Jodbug65

I know some things can be confusing. when it comes to pH I do recommend having it up to at least 7 but anything over that should be fine. Mine is 7.2 others here have above 8 and their fish thrive. As I said. The number isn't as important as having a stable number. Work with what comes out of your tap and your fish should be fine.

It is good that you are getting your own test kit. It should give you some peace of mind knowing you can keep an eye on the numbers. As long as you see 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites all should be fine. You will probably see some nitrates but I suspect they will be fairly low with just 2 fish. Most advise trying to keep them at 20 or lower.

If you are using the disposable cartridges don't replace it until it is literally falling apart or water is no longer flowing through it freely. It you continue using them and it comes time to have to replace it cut a slit in the new one and dump the carbon out. As it breaks down it clogs the fiber. I have not run carbon in my tanks for many years. It really isn't needed. It does have its place in the hobby though. Such as removing medications after treatment is complete or removing unpleasant odors from a tank. When replacing a cartridge cut the fiber off the plastic frame of the old cartridge and put that piece of fiber in with the new cartridge. It will help seed the new cartridge.

Amazing- thank you! Really appreciate the help.
 

Jodbug65

If there were gases you would smell rotten egg smell when disturbing the deeper parts of the substrate. It just means poo and food have gotten in there and are starting to decompose. Regular vacuuming helps prevent and treat that.
There are tons of minerals in water that fish and plants need to survive. One reason for the recommended weekly 50% water changes is to remove water that is depleted and add new water to keep a balance. Of course, the WC is also to remove waste, reduce nitrates, etc.
It is possible that the fish is just older and is showing it's age. It is also possible that there is an imbalance and it is just the first to show the affect because it is older. There really isn't a good way to tell.
Just make sure you are keeping the water stable and aerated and let your fish be as happy as it can for as long as it can.
Hey again! I just wondered if you mighy know what I've done...

So, 3 days ago, Piper was on her last legs (day after I posted this). She was floating up on her side and her little yellow friend kept righting her again (it was so heartbreaking). As a last ditch effort, I threw in some Pimafix and Melafix and removed the carbon filter before I left for work.

I came home fully expecting deceased fish and when I got home, she was much improved. Since then, I have only been feeding a very small amount 1x per day (she seems almost like she gets heavy after eating? Even her belly seems slightly distended). I did fast both of the fish yesterday for a full day (I read something about the bladder?).

Yellow fish (Phoebe) seems completely fine. As per instructions, I did a water change today (day 3 of the medications) and did closer to 50%.

Does it sound like a bacteria or a parasite? She did appear to be losing her coloring a bit as well but seems a bit better and nothing so dramatic as when she just couldn't keep herself righted.

Can I do anything else here? Thanks so much for your advice before. I would appreciate any insight you might have!

mattgirl ditto on your advice and any insight would be appreciated!
 

awilkinson871

Not staying upright usually means swim bladder, but swim bladder is a symptom not an actual disease. It occurs from constipation, parasites, tumors, organ issues, etc. There isn't a way to determine exactly what is causing it. The loss of color is often just due to the stress of not feeling well. I would see if fasting continues to help and you could feed daphnia to see if it is a constipation issue. Finish out the course of medication and see if she bounces back. Only time will tell. You are doing everything you can and I know she appreciates it.
 

Jodbug65

Not staying upright usually means swim bladder, but swim bladder is a symptom not an actual disease. It occurs from constipation, parasites, tumors, organ issues, etc. There isn't a way to determine exactly what is causing it. The loss of color is often just due to the stress of not feeling well. I would see if fasting continues to help and you could feed daphnia to see if it is a constipation issue. Finish out the course of medication and see if she bounces back. Only time will tell. You are doing everything you can and I know she appreciates it.
Okay - thank you so much for all of your help. I was reading so much conflicting stuff, I thought best to just come here.

It won't hurt the healthy fish to fast? And can I fast for more than one day? Promise last questions lol. I'm so scared to starve the poor thing to death. I read 4 days is safe, then 2 days, so I'm just like argh!
 

awilkinson871

You are a good fish momma. Fish can usually go 2 weeks without food if necessary. People often fast for 2-3 days regularly. If you can get daphnia it will get the flow moving...so to speak.
 

Jodbug65

You are a good fish momma. Fish can usually go 2 weeks without food if necessary. People often fast for 2-3 days regularly. If you can get daphnia it will get the flow moving...so to speak.
I will go on a hunt for it today! Thank you! ❤ Just want her to live her best fishy life!
 

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