10 Gallon Tank Help! Gasping after water change

ChimericalFish

I'm not sure if this counts as an emergency, but I think we may have seriously messed up the water for my goldfish (Lucky) and I'm hoping you can help. I'll add the emergency template below, just in case it's useful.

On Monday, we got an aquarium light for our tank, and I realized how dirty the glass looked (lime scale build-up at the top). I grabbed a damp rag and a razor and started scraping at it, not thinking to remove Lucky first. I was rinsing & wringing out the rag into a separate bucket regularly, however, to try to minimize the amount of lime that ended up in the water. I couldn't get it all, though, so on Tuesday, I asked my husband (I'll call him Jack) to take a shot at it.

Unbeknownst to me, Jack put some white vinegar on the rag before getting to work. Once I realized he was getting vinegar in the tank, I told him we needed to remove Lucky and empty & clean the tank properly, because I was worried about the pH. So we placed Lucky in a large mixing bowl containing maybe a quart of his tank water. We pumped out another quart or so into another large mixing bowl. Then we realized we were really going to need a larger container, so we grabbed the mop bucket. Jack rinsed it and then pumped the rest of the tank water into it and dumped out the old gravel. We finished cleaning the lime with white vinegar and a razor, but meanwhile, I'd been reading up on the dangers of trace amounts of soap, and I said to Jack that I was worried about refilling the tank with the water that had been in the mop bucket.

So instead, we went to the big 8-gallon jug that we usually use for water changes (treated tap water)... but it was very low -- there was only a half-gallon or so in it. It hadn't been refilled recently. So we didn't see any other choice but to fill it with tap water, put in a capful of tap water treatment, and then fill the tank with it (we would normally give it more time to work first, but we didn't want to leave Lucky in such a small bowl for too long). We refilled the gravel in the tank, then carefully dumped Lucky in, added in the other mixing bowl's worth of tank water, placed his fake plants back in the tank, added back his new driftwood (which was first placed in the tank on Monday), and turned on the aquarium light, air stone, and Tetra 10-gallon filter.

Later, I noticed that Lucky seemed more active than usual. Looked it up & saw that it was likely a sign of stress. He was also gasping at the surface a fair amount. So I had Jack add some Ammonia Lock to the tank in case this was a sign of ammonia poisoning. (We have Seachem indicators for ammonia & pH suction-cupped to the inside of the tank, but they're about 7 months old & I don't know how well they still work. New ones on the way.) Wednesday, he still seemed over-active. It's Thursday now and he continues to swim quickly and come up to the surface frequently. He has also started rubbing up against one plant repeatedly. We're afraid to do another water change because we suspect we shocked his system with the last one (I realize now we shouldn't have dumped the old gravel, but we thought we'd be putting back the tank water at that point), but I'm also worried that maybe we managed to get some soap in there? Jack didn't remember until after I'd re-added them that the plants were also in the mop bucket at one point... Or maybe there's lime or vinegar contamination? The filter has not been changed recently, to my knowledge (Jack is in charge of our pets as he is currently not working, but he's not super vigilant about that kind of thing), but changing it now would just make things worse, wouldn't it?

What do we do? I have a bottle of Jungle-brand Start Right that expired back in 2017, some Ammonia Lock, and a new bottle of Seachem Prime Fresh and Saltwater Conditioner arriving tomorrow. I also have a new filter with new cartridges (Tetra bio-bags) that I could add to the tank (in addition to the existing filter?) if it would help.

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank? 10 gal.
How long has the tank been running? 4 years
Does it have a filter? Yes - Tetra 10 gal, not changed recently
Does it have a heater? No
What is the water temperature? Unknown, probably low/mid 70s (room temp)
What is the entire stocking of this tank? 1 common goldfish

Maintenance
How often do you change the water? Unsure, probably every 1-2 months
How much of the water do you change? 10%
What do you use to treat your water? API Tap Water Conditioner
Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? Both

*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? No
What do you use to test the water? Seachem Ammonia & pH alert monitors
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Ammonia: <0.02 ppm
Nitrite: Unknown
Nitrate: Unknown
pH: 7.4

Feeding
How often do you feed your fish? 1x daily
How much do you feed your fish? a pinch that is consumed within a few minutes
What brand of food do you feed your fish? Aqueon Goldfish Granules
Do you feed frozen? No
Do you feed freeze-dried foods? No

Illness & Symptoms
How long have you had this fish? 7 years
How long ago did you first notice these symptoms? 2 days ago
In a few words, can you explain the symptoms? Gasping at surface, rapid swimming, rubbing against plants
Have you started any treatment for the illness? No
Was your fish physically ill or injured upon purchase? No
How has its behavior and appearance changed, if at all? No noticeable appearance change
 

EdieBadedie

There's a lot going on here and no one can be 100% sure, but if there is a chance there is soap/vinegar in the water, I would try and change as much as you can. I also notice you don't test for nitrite/nitrates, so that could be an issue as well, but you would have to get a test kit to know. I would also test the ammonia with a test kit because they are generally more sensitive. I agree changing the filter would make things worse so I wouldn't do that.
Am I understanding it right that the gravel in there is brand new? The gravel in a tank also contains bacteria (not near as much as the filter) so if its all new it could have caused an ammonia spike
 
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ChimericalFish

I thought we changed all of the gravel, but I just asked Jack and he said that he actually saved some of the old gravel and added it back in when we were setting things back up. I just put in a rush order for Seachem Stability -- should arrive tonight & maybe a water change + starting that up will help. (Also ordered a nitrite & nitrate testing kit, but that won't arrive until Tuesday.)

According to Jack, he did use baking soda to try to nullify the vinegar after cleaning and then rinsed the whole tank out with a hose, too.
 
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EdieBadedie

I thought we changed all of the gravel, but I just asked Jack and he said that he actually saved some of the old gravel and added it back in when we were setting things back up. I just put in a rush order for Seachem Stability -- should arrive tonight & maybe a water change + starting that up will help. (Also ordered a nitrite & nitrate testing kit, but that won't arrive until Tuesday.)

According to Jack, he did use baking soda to try to nullify the vinegar after cleaning and then rinsed the whole tank out with a hose, too.
It is kind of hard to say, the pH might be off if the mix of vinegar and baking soda was off. Honestly I think your best bet is a water change (maybe 50%) and watchful waiting. If he continues flashing (rubbing on rocks) I might consider ich or another disease, but until you get those testing kits just keep doing water changes until he improves
 
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RayClem

There are so many things going on, I am not sure what to tell you. Here are some thoughts.

If the mop bucket contained bleach or ammonia cleaners or disinfectant cleaners like Lysol, pine oil, etc. these substances are highly toxic to fish. If the bucket was thoroughly rinsed before you used if for your fish, then you might be OK.

When you used tap water, did you add a water conditioner to remove any chlorine in the water?

A lot of beneficial bacteria grow on the sides of the tank and in the substrate. By doing a through cleaning of the tank, you removed a lot of the bacteria. Thus, you would need to recycle your tank.

Unfortunately, a 10 gallon tank is seriously undersized for a goldfish. They need somewhere between 20 gallons and 50 gallons per fish depending upon the type and size. If by common goldfish you are referring to the single tailed comet goldfish, they can grow to over a foot long and need about 50 gallons of water per fish as adults. The doubled-tailed fish with fat bodies are somewhat smaller and can live in about 20 gallons, but 10 gallons is too small for anything except a juvenile. If the fish is four years old, he is likely too big for the tank.

Likewise, goldfish are messy eaters and produce a lot of waste. A filter rated for a 10 gallon tank is not sufficiently large, Filters in goldfish tanks need to be cleaned weekly, but rinse the media in used tank water and only replace it when absolutely necessary.

If you can get a bottle of Seachem Prime, that will detoxify any ammonia and chlorine. Just in case the mop bucket had harmful cleaning chemicals you might try adding some activated carbon to the filter to absorb organic contaminants.

Since Jack is not working at this time, I suspect that getting a larger tank might not be feasible. If Lucky lives up to his name, you need to consider getting a larger tank whenever you can do so. I would suggest a 29 gallon tank as a minimum.
 
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Diane 007

There are so many things going on, I am not sure what to tell you. Here are some thoughts.

If the mop bucket contained bleach or ammonia cleaners or disinfectant cleaners like Lysol, pine oil, etc. these substances are highly toxic to fish. If the bucket was thoroughly rinsed before you used if for your fish, then you might be OK.

When you used tap water, did you add a water conditioner to remove any chlorine in the water?

A lot of beneficial bacteria grow on the sides of the tank and in the substrate. By doing a through cleaning of the tank, you removed a lot of the bacteria. Thus, you would need to recycle your tank.

Unfortunately, a 10 gallon tank is seriously undersized for a goldfish. They need somewhere between 20 gallons and 50 gallons per fish depending upon the type and size. If by common goldfish you are referring to the single tailed comet goldfish, they can grow to over a foot long and need about 50 gallons of water per fish as adults. The doubled-tailed fish with fat bodies are somewhat smaller and can live in about 20 gallons, but 10 gallons is too small for anything except a juvenile. If the fish is four years old, he is likely too big for the tank.

Likewise, goldfish are messy eaters and produce a lot of waste. A filter rated for a 10 gallon tank is not sufficiently large, Filters in goldfish tanks need to be cleaned weekly, but rinse the media in used tank water and only replace it when absolutely necessary.

If you can get a bottle of Seachem Prime, that will detoxify any ammonia and chlorine. Just in case the mop bucket had harmful cleaning chemicals you might try adding some activated carbon to the filter to absorb organic contaminants.

Since Jack is not working at this time, I suspect that getting a larger tank might not be feasible. If Lucky lives up to his name, you need to consider getting a larger tank whenever you can do so. I would suggest a 29 gallon tank as a minimum.
OP has stated a 10% water change every 1-2 months! Is it possible the fish is in shock? I can only imagine how high the nitrate levels would have been?
 
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ChimericalFish

When you used tap water, did you add a water conditioner to remove any chlorine in the water?

When Jack rinsed the tank out, you mean? He did not use any conditioners then, no. But when we refilled the tank with tap water, we did put a conditioner in that.

Unfortunately, a 10 gallon tank is seriously undersized for a goldfish.
...
Since Jack is not working at this time, I suspect that getting a larger tank might not be feasible. If Lucky lives up to his name, you need to consider getting a larger tank whenever you can do so. I would suggest a 29 gallon tank as a minimum.

Yes, unfortunately, we can't afford to upgrade at this point (money/space). He is a Comet Goldfish (just looked it up). Hopefully, a bigger tank is something we can work towards.

A filter rated for a 10 gallon tank is not sufficiently large, Filters in goldfish tanks need to be cleaned weekly, but rinse the media in used tank water and only replace it when absolutely necessary.

That is good to know. We can upgrade the filter, and I will make sure Jack is more diligent.

If you can get a bottle of Seachem Prime, that will detoxify any ammonia and chlorine. Just in case the mop bucket had harmful cleaning chemicals you might try adding some activated carbon to the filter to absorb organic contaminants.

Thank you -- I will try that.
 
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RayClem

Since it appears you will be stuck with a 10 gallon tank for a while, you need to be changing out half of the water on a weekly basis. That is the only way to keep the tank clean enough. A 10% water change each month is not nearly sufficient.

Also, if you are doing weekly tank maintenance to clean the glass, rinse the filter media, etc. you will never get into a situation where you need to do a drastic cleanup.
 
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Flyfisha

Hi ChimericalFish welcome to fishlore.

You are getting good advice from others.
The thing I noticed people is the date of the cleaning and the time it’s been since. This leads me to wonder if the nitrogen cycle has been dramatically disturbed by the cleaning and cleaning products .

A water test for ammonia ChimericalFish would help to see if the bacteria are still active ?
 
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CrackerboxPalace

I agree with RayClem's advice. 50% water changes minimum will be necessary until an upgrade is feasible. To decrease the fish bioload and keep your guy cleared out a little more you can have a fasting day once a week.

Instead of replacing the filter media, the best thing to do would be to rinse it in old tank water, or dechlorinated water. This will save the beneficial bacteria and keep the filter clean. I recommend you do this at least every month while lucky is in the 10-gallon.

If you leave the light off for a couple of days this will reduce the amount of stress in the fish. During this time still continue checking and maintaining the tank, checking his behaviour, etc.

If you want to do a tank upgrade and save money you can buy a 50+ gallon tote tray. Might not be as pretty but it will be much cheaper than buying an aquarium.

Best of luck with your fish! hoping he can pull through :)
 
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ChimericalFish

Thank you so much to everyone for your help! I ended up adding activated carbon to the filter and getting started on a round of Seachem Stabilizer last night, and he's already looking much better -- no more rubbing or gasping, and his activity level is much more normal. I will pass along everyone's advice to Jack about doing more frequent water changes for as long as he's in the 10 gal, and I will put a reminder on the family calendar so we don't forget! I will also show Jack this thread so that we're both on the same page about the level of maintenance needed & we can talk about what's feasible as to timelines/tank alternatives (so we can maybe get Lucky more space).

Thanks again! You guys are amazing!
 
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