Molly Chaos

  • #1
HI Guys and Gal's,

I have a 34 litre tank, and am a noob to keeping a proper aquarium, though I am familiar with the concept overall of keeping the fish.

I got a used tank (AquaOne 380?) from a friend, along with some noodles, filter medium, gravel, everything I needed really! I plugged it in, and having replaced the top pump, got it up and running within 4 days, to having the perfect setup with some startup in a bottle, all water values where spot on, IIRC it was zero and 40 for nitries and ammonia (cant remember immediately which ones which, but the aquatics store confirmed it was perfect!)

Having had the fish in the tank for just a week now, I have had to change the water twice in the last few days, as the water has gone to pot. The nitrates and nitrites have shot up, along with the pH (although that's about 8.5.

So I have drained the tank by about 35/40% and refilled it tonight, using some tap safe products to try and nutrilise the chlorines.

I have been using a simple syphon to pull the water out, and replenish the water by taking new water in a bucket, and re-syphoning from the bucket into the filter media so it can trickle back into the tank. Water returning to the tank is cold water, topped up with boiled water, just to increase the temperature and reduce the differential between tank and new water.

Anyway, I know I need to cycle daily the water now to try and get the water back into a healthy state, but I have made the following observations with my 8 female molly's (2 gold, two black, two white, two spotted black on white)...

1) some spend a lot of time resting by the gravel, not really moving move (primarily the gold)
2) one seems to repeatedly get her fin stuck to the top pump inlet guard at the bottom rear of the tank - I keep disconnecting the power to let her loose and try encourage her to move)

EDIT: Correction... she just died. found her once again (only 10 minutes after last releasing her) to find she was face down in the gravel. even after disconnecting the pump again, with a hope she would be ok, she wasn't, and remained sunken to the gravel. I always thought fish floated when they died?

3) these mollies seem to always be starving (perhaps the reason the why the water has so badly gone awry! how often should they actually be fed, and should they always be seeming this hungry, or is this a sign I am failing elsewhere in the tank setup?
4) others seem to remain towards the top of the tank almost as if they keep poking their heads out to get a breathe!!

Anyway, the tank is as follows:

34ish litres of water, previously with no problems
bottom feed to a top pump which comes out to the top
filter media on top, filter cartridge underneath and aqua bio noodles at the bottom
water falls back in to aerate the water
heater set to around 28 degrees Celsius
no live plants (one silk) and currently one ornemant

If anyone can offer any idea's on the above four points, and any suggestions as to what I should be looking for that would be great. In the meantime, I will continue with daily water changes at around 25-50%, and drop in around 2-5ml of tap safe products directly into the filter media.

Am I doing things correctly?
Also, are these 5 in 1 test strips sufficiently trustworthy?

Current test results are not great:

Nitrate: 40-80
Nitrite 3-5
pH 7.5
KH 180
GH 240
  • #2
Welcome to Fishlore

First, I would read up on the nitrogen cycle. This is the single most important part of fishkeeping. This will help you create a healthy environment for your fish.

However, there are a couple of issues. 8 mollies in an 34 litre tank is way overstocked. Even one doesn't belong in a 10 gallon. I would return the remaining mollies to the store as soon as possible since maintaining pristine water conditions will be nearly impossible. Not to mention, a molly can get up to 6 inches. So you see, a 34 litre tank is no place for 8 mollies.

Second, you have an uncycled tank and the store telling you your water is perfect is extremely poor advice. I would not trust the store to give you solid information on cycling or stocking fish.

After you have read about the nitrogen cycle and returned the mollies, I would look into fishless cycling using pure ammonia or fish-in cycling with fish that are more appropriate for your tank size.

And no, those test strips are not accurate so I would get the API Freshwater Master Test Kit. You'll also want a water conditioner that has the ability to detox ammonia and nitrite up to 1ppm for 24 hrs like Seachem Prime. It's the one most of us use here.

Good luck and let us know how things progress and we'll help you as best we can.
  • Thread Starter
  • #3

Many thanks for your advice. I have since followed it, unfortunately I lost two more fish last night, for all efforts to resolve the water have so far lost, and at that point I took the fish out of there, put them in some tap safe treated water, and returned the survivors this morning.

The manager was very surprised his colleague had offered such poor advice, so much so, they breached their own policies on refunds because he was so disappointed. Whilst the refund is great to have, I feel heartbroken, as to where my kids. Having had them only for a week, and thinking it maintained well, this spike and loss of three fish had us all upset, but on testing the water, I have been advised the levels are expected for a first cycle, and they don't believe the cycle is the problem, but they believe the death's were more to do with stress.

I am keeping my eyes open for an API test kit, I need a proper one, but with many bills this month, I don't have the money for it, that said, I think I need to sacrifice purchasing the kit before purchasing any more fish.

In the meantime, I have spoken to the manager and he has advised, the best bet would be to buy up to four guppies, and a couple of OTO's?

for a 34 litre tank, would you be inclined to agree?

In the meantime, my plan is as follows....

1) Take an old goldfish bowl, transfer some of the current water into it, and place the ornaments and gravel into there to encourage the remaining bacteria breeding
2) Drain and clean the tank, refill and cycle through the existing media, to put some of the good bacteria back into circulation, after about 72 hours, transfer the gravel and the decorations into the tank also, leaving for a further 72 hours.
3) Replace parts of the filter, leaving the old bio noodles in place, but replacing the filter media (it was used when I bought will have helped to boost the bacteria, then hopefully clean will pick up the slack)
4) run the tank for 72 hours further, with some safestart products to further boost the bacteria.
5) maintain for around one week, and monitor the levels.

Thereafter, I am thinking, if the recommended fish are suitable, then I am thinking add two guppies first, run them for a week to get used to their new home. Then, add a couple of OTO's, again running for one more week. Finally, if the habitat is suitable for four guppies, add another two.

In the meantime, I am watching out for a larger tank, in which case, I will be looking to then set up the second tank close by, and will just ever few days, do a 20% change from the old tank, then drain that to the new tank, and then just start running the new tank.

To be honest though, the size of our home and space, I expect anything beyond a ten gallon will be far too big, so I will keep my eye open for one, but for now, I just want to get the water back up and running and start afresh with better advice.

In the meantime, I apologise to any molly lovers, I lost three, and all the advice I have had so far, indicates I have done everything by the book, between water changes, monitoring, adding the right additives etc, I think the only thing that we did wrong, was to feed them twice daily, although small portions (it was my 5 years old's nipped fingers full) for which I have learned the lesson and intend to reduce feeding to once every other day.
  • #4
I know it can be upsetting to lose fish and then having to explain why/how they died to your children when you thought you did everything right. But let's try to get it right the second time around.

The manager was partially right. The mollies probably died due to stress for being exposed to the ammonia in an uncycled, overstocked tank.

The four guppies are fine but not the otos. The otos are a shoaling fish that need to be in a group of at least 6 but they would overstock your tank again so I would leave them out. If you choose the four guppies, I would get all male so you are not overrun with babies. The males are much more colorful than the females anyway.

I like that you are trying to start fresh with the tank, however, the missing component is that there is no ammonia source to feed any bacteria that may exist from your filter media and the bacteria supplement you are going to add. Also, there is no beneficial bacteria in the water column so saving that would be useless. It is mostly in the filter media itself, a little on the gravel and other hard surfaces.

So, at this point you'll need to decide if you want to do a fishless cycle using pure or clear ammonia or a fish-in cycle but starting with just 2 guppies. Once you have decided on a method, we can go from there.

However, a testing kit is essential for cycling which you will need to monitor your parameters daily. Perhaps you can begin cycling after you can get the test kit?
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
that's my thoughts.

I think I will go fishless cycling, I have seen the method of dropping food in - I think that may be the best method, at least, whilst I look around for some ammonia products.

The thing that puts me off the master test kits is the price, for you good folks of the states, you pay around £16/$24 for these kits, over here we are looking at £23/$33! which seems a lot to part with, but I am very much an amateur, so need to adjust my expectations accordingly! lol

Anyhow, I am off to browse and see if I can buy some test kits, though these seem to allow over 800 tests, so its a good starting point, and probably translates to a lot less over the long term!
  • #6
You can use fish food but it's not ideal since you can't easily control the amount you are dosing. If you choose to use fish food, put it in a fine media bag or women's nylon stocking so it doesn't make a mess of your tank. When you're looking for clear ammonia, it has to be 10% ammonia and free from any dyes, perfumes and surfactants.

The API master test kit is a lot upfront but yes, you're right. It gives you over 800 tests and everything you need to monitor for pH, high range pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate. When you look at it that way and the fact that it is far more accurate, it's cheaper than the paper strips.

Cycling will take up to 12 weeks without a bacterial supplement. With a bacteria supplement, it will shorten that to 2-3 weeks. Two of the most highly recommended here are Tetra SafeStart Plus and Seachem Stability. The main difference between the two is that TSS+ requires you not to do any water changes for 2 weeks. Also remember that you will not want to allow the ammonia to go above 2ppm with a bacteria supplement as that may kill off the bacteria in it. This is another reason to get the test kit so you can check for this daily.

Here are a couple of threads that may help:
  • #7
A good test kit, is really a required piece of equipment when keeping fish, much like a tank and filter is. The API kit is pricey, but you do get what you pay for in this case. It is very accurate and will perform 100's of tests as you mentioned, which in the long run makes it cheaper than the test strips.. Try to think of the API kit as an investment.

While initially cheaper, test strips are notorious for being inaccurate. And it you can't trust your test results, then why bother testing?
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
I am most certainly inclined to agree with you both.

I have been looking and considered household ammonia (Kleen Off) which is 9% to 10% in strength. This has apparently been used by many in the UK for establishing a tank, and I have been advised its worth looking at, but using only 1ml per day to attempt an establishment. That I suppose will be a good way to control the ammonia, and the monitoring.

Popped down to my local store, and called a few more. Safe Start is a known product, but Safe Start + raised a few questions and confused noises. I did buy a standard bio bacteria, along with some more tap safe. Next step is to wait for the big bills to go out, see what I have left and invest then in a full master test kit (Freshwater I presume!)

Thereon, just start rebuilding the damaged house!
  • #9
What questions and concerns were raised about TSS+? Maybe we can help answer them. Many here have had success with the product.

And not saying the bacteria booster you got won't work but depending on the brand, some don't have the right nitrifying bacteria to keep the cycle.
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
not so much concerns with the products - moreso they had never heard of it. A quick search of google shows most purchases of TSS+ are US imports on the likes of ebay, very few products exist on our standard pages... I could buy direct from Tetra for £63!

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