Help : I Keep Losing Fish After Filter Maintenance... I'm Beyond Befuddled Help 

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Immortal Lobster

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Long story short, every time I clean my filter (either one of 2) I get fish die offs. I have a 60g planted freshwater tank. It is filtered by two fluval 406 filters (I used to have two tanks, I consolidated for redundancy)

For media: I use fluval ammonia remover , purigen, and seachem matrix.
Standard foam Filters and fine floss.

Both filters have inline uv. Although one bulb is currently dead.

Last night I changed on filter on a 3mo schedule. I cleaned all elements with ro water except the larger foam where I used the pressure of the tap to clean. I then soaked into a prime/ro mixture.

I tested my recharged purigen for any sign of chlorine, got solid 0s.

I did not replace the water inside the cannister.

I added some prime to the the canister and topped off with ro water. Then added some bacteria right to the intake side of the filter.

Put it all back together, water came out of filter clean went to bed.

Woke up to find my lone discus (rescued) dead, Congo tetras dead, Bolivia rams dead, and siamese algae eaters checked out. I profess I have yet to test the water, but if it's like the last 3 events it'll show very high ammonia. I'm at whits end, I keep changing how I do this trying to find the bad variable. I'm coming up empty. I'm frustrated, I can't afford to keep replacing fish...


I'm at whits end on this. . Help!
 

Kasshan

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Stop cleaning your filter then. Just make sure the water flow is unobstructed. That's all. I only cleaning my filter when too much gunk backs it up which is a few times a year maybe. Other wise I do a weekly rinse of the sponge on the intake.
 

Demeter

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You are probably killing off your beneficial bacteria when you clean the filter. Only use your old tank water to rinse off filter media. Never change all your media at once either.

Not sure exactly how you are killing off the bacteria but if you are getting ammonia then I’m sure its happening somehow. Perhaps the RO water has drastically different parameters and it’s shocking then bacteria? Either that or the tap water is too hot/cold or has chlorine that is killing it off in the sponges.

When I clean my canister I do it during a large water change. I use the old water to rinse the media as best I can then just put it back in and refill the tank. Sometimes I take the spray head on my faucet to rinse but I use tank temp water, with well water I don’t worry about chemicals.
 

Stoka

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So is your ammonia only high right after filter cleaning? You might want to test for the big three (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) on a regular basis to get more data to work with. The two possibilities I see now are damage to your nitrifying bacteria (doesn’t seem likely with redundant filters or your described routine) or introduced ammonia (again not likely as your cleaning routine looks good). What is your water change routine?
 
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Immortal Lobster

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I do a 5 gallon change weekly. And top off another 5gal of evap with the same ro water (untreated). Ro water into bucket, bucket into tank. Never have problems doing that. Last time I checked ro water ammonia was 0, nitrites had a tick above 0, no nitrates.
Ro water tests 0 when I check it. PH is much higher than the tank, but I'm not adding much overall. I'm not home right but I'll test aquarium water when I get back.

And , yes ammonia spikes after cleaning. This time I tried keeping as much aquarium water as possible in canister as I cleaned.
 
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Immortal Lobster

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Apologies, I've fallen ill. Stupid allergies moved to a sinus thing.... Anyway.

Water test results

Ammonia is actually 0... Nitrites and nitrates on the other hand... :/
 

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rainbowsprinkles

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Why do you use ro water? Do you remineralize? Don’t dump prime directly into canister- might be too concentrated. And what others said about cleaning filters- those bacteria can be sensitive. Get those nitrites down.
 

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Your filters are the one thing in your home that you don't want to keep spotlessly clean. Personally I think you are doing too much too often and are stressing your cycle by doing so.

I would also replace the ammonia remover with more bio-media. An ammonia remover isn't necessary in a cycled tank. That is what the bacteria eats and in a cycled tank the bacteria will eat it all. Feed your bacteria and it will keep your tank healthy.

I am not sure changing out 5 gallons of water in a 60 gallon tank is doing much good. I actually change out at least 30% of the water in my 55 gallon each week.

Right now you need to get those nitrites out of there. It kinda sounds like this tank was never properly cycled and each time you do a deep clean on your filters you are throwing it farther out of balance.

Right now you need to get the nitrites down with water changes. I would do a 50% water change to begin with. Check the nitrites and see how high they are. If still high do another one the next day. Keep up with the water changes until you see 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and some nitrates.

I am curious as to why you are using RO water in a freshwater tank. Most of the time regular tap water will work just fine. Just the other day a lady discovered that her tap water was perfect but she had been told by someone that RO water was best. She was so relieved to find out that she no longer had to go through making RO water and now can do water changes without having to jump through hoops to get the water for them.
 

Wraithen

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Im going to go a slightly different direction. What is the ph of your tap and your tank?
 

mattgirl

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Wraithen said:
Im going to go a slightly different direction. What is the ph of your tap and your tank?
thanks for bringing that up. At one point it was said that the RO waters PH is higher than the tank but exact numbers will help.
 
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Tank is 6.4ish, tap is usually around 7.6. Tank has a lot of established mopani wood. So let's pH quite a bit. I've got some crushed coral situated near intake of 2nd filter. Overall aquarium has sat happily at 6.4ish for years.

I use ro because local tap can be unpredictable. Occasionally they use those pesky chloramines. I've been employing ro for 3yrs without much problem I have my own system under sink, so it's no bother. I do add seachem trace.

I've been told historically that you can't overdose prime. That might be my problems I soak my purigen in a fairly concentrated solution. Could that carry over into the aquarium?
 

mattgirl

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I can't imagine Prime causing what you are experiencing. Prime is basically just a water conditioner but unlike most others it also neutralizes low amounts of ammonia. It doesn't actually remove it or lock it up. It just temporarily changes it from ammonia to the less harmful ammonium. After 24 hours or some say 48 hours it reverts back to ammonia. It will still show up as ammonia in the API ammonia test because the test doen't know the difference between ammonia and ammonium.

If a tank is cycled it gives the cycle time to process the ammonia.

Something is causing your cycle to be unstable. Cleaning too much can cause a mini cycle but since you have 2 canisters running on this tank, cleaning one should not cause what is happening. It certainly should not be enough to kill your fish. There has to be something else that we aren't seeing.

Have you tested your PH in the tank right before and right after cleaning one of your filters? If there is a big difference that could be the cause. That doesn't explain the rise in nitrites though.

What kind of bacteria are you adding?

You say you change 5 gallons of water during a water change. That doesn't sound like enough to me but what do you do to the tank during the water change? Meaning do you take things out and clean them? Bacteria grows on every surface in the tank so over cleaning can remove too much bacteria and can throw the tank into a mini cycle.

Are you adding the minerals back into the RO water? Both fish and bacteria need the minerals present in most of our tap water.oops, reread and see you are adding Trace. I am assuming trace is the necessary minerals
 

aae0130

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Do bigger water changes.
Stop cleaning your filter for now. Get a book from a pet store, library, Amazon, etc..... that explains the nitrogen cycle.
Resume filter maintenance after reading the book.

One more thing......and please don’t be insulted by this.
Stop saying you rescued that discus. It is now an ironic statement at best.
 

AvalancheDave

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There are a fair number of reports of regenerated Purigen resulting in deaths. Apparently, using the wrong type of bleach was the culprit in some of the cases.

Does the same thing happen when you use new Purigen?
 
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Immortal Lobster

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aae0130 said:
One more thing......and please don’t be insulted by this.
Stop saying you rescued that discus. It is now an ironic statement at best.
Hence why I shared it... He was one eyed, and was about to be simply discarded by store. Not like I was planning on his death in my tank... No worries, no insult taken.

AvalancheDave said:
There are a fair number of reports of regenerated Purigen resulting in deaths. Apparently, using the wrong type of bleach was the culprit in some of the cases.

Does the same thing happen when you use new Purigen?
Wrong type of bleach? It's been a while since I've bought new purigen.

mattgirl said:
I can't imagine Prime causing what you are experiencing. Prime is basically just a water conditioner but unlike most others it also neutralizes low amounts of ammonia. It doesn't actually remove it or lock it up. It just temporarily changes it from ammonia to the less harmful ammonium. After 24 hours or some say 48 hours it reverts back to ammonia. It will still show up as ammonia in the API ammonia test because the test doen't know the difference between ammonia and ammonium.

If a tank is cycled it gives the cycle time to process the ammonia.

Something is causing your cycle to be unstable. Cleaning too much can cause a mini cycle but since you have 2 canisters running on this tank, cleaning one should not cause what is happening. It certainly should not be enough to kill your fish. There has to be something else that we aren't seeing.

Have you tested your PH in the tank right before and right after cleaning one of your filters? If there is a big difference that could be the cause. That doesn't explain the rise in nitrites though.

What kind of bacteria are you adding?

You say you change 5 gallons of water during a water change. That doesn't sound like enough to me but what do you do to the tank during the water change? Meaning do you take things out and clean them? Bacteria grows on every surface in the tank so over cleaning can remove too much bacteria and can throw the tank into a mini cycle.

Are you adding the minerals back into the RO water? Both fish and bacteria need the minerals present in most of our tap water.oops, reread and see you are adding Trace. I am assuming trace is the necessary minerals
I add microbe lift. (recommended through a friend from Auburn fisheries college)

I get about 5-10 gallons of evap, I drain another 5 gallon, then add back 15gal of new water.
 

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mattgirl

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We may be able to get to the bottom of this but to help figure it out I need a bit more information. The more information I have the better I will be able to help.

How long has this tank been up and running? You say you consolidated 2 tanks and are using both filters on this one tank. Were both tanks cycled, meaning a constant reading of 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and some nitrates?

How often are you adding the microbe lift? I did a bit of googling to attempt to see its uses. From what I could find it might help cycle a tank but once cycled there should be no reason to keep adding it. If seems it is used mostly for algae control and boosting the bacteria in ponds. Please correct me if I was researching the wrong product.
 
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Immortal Lobster

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mattgirl said:
We may be able to get to the bottom of this but to help figure it out I need a bit more information. The more information I have the better I will be able to help.

How long has this tank been up and running? You say you consolidated 2 tanks and are using both filters on this one tank. Were both tanks cycled, meaning a constant reading of 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and some nitrates?

How often are you adding the microbe lift? I did a bit of googling to attempt to see its uses. From what I could find it might help cycle a tank but once cycled there should be no reason to keep adding it. If seems it is used mostly for algae control and boosting the bacteria in ponds. Please correct me if I was researching the wrong product.
This particular tank has been running for two years. I added the other filter about a year ago. It was from a 50gal fresh that had been running flawlessly for about 3yrs. But I needed to reutilize the space and I could no longer afford to invest the time into two aquariums. It's now in storage. Yes, both tanks were cycled and read 0 ammonia, 0 to some nitrite (planted), 0 to some nitrates.

The microbe lift I know is sold in stores, petco is closest to me, so I get it there. It's uv stable, and I typically only add a capful back in filter after maintenance, I don't regularly add direct to tank. Not sure of pond use. I'll get a Pic in a second.
 

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mattgirl

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Well then, I am totally stumped I can't for the life of me see a reason for you losing so many or really any fish just from the canister maintenance. There simply doesn't seem to be anything you are doing or not doing that would cause the deaths.

I can't imagine it doing it but since you only add the microbe lift during a canister cleaning and you lose fish right after doing it I think I would stop adding it. That may not have anything to do with the fish loss but the timing is suspicious.
 
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Immortal Lobster

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I'mI'm going to research the bleach thing. I thought do long as it was unscented and not splashless (splashful?) were the only guidelines...

I'll not at the bacteria next time, and just reuse existing purigen, see if either of those variables changes anything.
 

rainbowsprinkles

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Heterotrophic bacteria in microbe lift is not the same as nitrifying bacteria.it may help breakdown waste but some say that these types of bacteria if used in excess can compete with aerobic nitrifying bacteria thus hindering your nitrogen cycle and causing mini cycles. I would stop using it.
 
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