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Molly Looking Iffy And Lost Track Of What's In The Tank... Help

Discussion in 'Freshwater Fish Disease' started by JMcC, Jun 25, 2019.

  1. JMcCNew MemberMember

    Hi all,

    Some of you have been going through my new 20G tank drama with me, so you'll know where this is coming from, but here are the highlights. I got 2 fish (dwarf guarami and golden panda molly) 2.5 weeks ago and (yes, I realize this is bad now!) put them in RO filtered water. These fish have already been through the wringer...2 days after I got them, the guarami got ick. Treated early and went away. Molly wasn't looking so good (bloating, rapid gilling, similar symptoms to now), so I put some aquarium salt in (yes, at this point, it was just just RO). Seemed to fix the problem. About a week ago I thought my tank was doing fantastic (I was testing with strips) and when I got the Master water testing kit, I realized it wasn't, the testing strips just stink at what they're supposed to do. At that point, the tank was at approximately 6.25 pH, 0 ammonia, nitrite and 0 nitrate according to the strips. The big difference is that in reality, the ammonia was between 1 and 2ppm. So I switch to half RO and half conditioned tap and started doing 50-75% water changes daily. After a day or so, molly started bloating again. He still eats like a fiend, but I haven't seen him poop for a day or two, and poor guy looks like he's gonna pop. He's laying on the gravel near the plants, so I think he's trying to get oxygen (especially coupled with the fact that he's rapidly gilling). Sometimes he just starts swimming like normal (usually near when I come over and he thinks he's getting fed), and sometimes he looks like he's not going to make it through the next day. When he swims, he's not going to the surface for air or anything, he's just swimming.

    At this point, I've been doing the big water changes and occasionally putting very low levels of aquarium salt in (though I know marine salt is the thing that makes it brackish now, and I'm not quite sure if the aquarium salt is doing anything for him). With all the changes, I have no clue what the content of salt in there is now, and I'm wondering if bloat and rapid gilling for a molly can be attributed to too little salt. The water parameters have significantly been switched around (if I can call it that since I am not truly sure what they were before?). If nothing else, they went from RO to 1/2 RO and 1/2 conditioned tap, the pH is now about 7.6ish, the ammonia levels are still high (~1ppm), nitrites are still 0 and nitrates have risen to about 10-20ppm (I can't tell the color difference). There have been 33-75% water changes daily, and every other day (as it recommends on the bottle) I've put ammo lock in to help neutralize it, but I've been continuing with the water changes. I put in some Safestart, but I imagine that's been water changed out by now...

    If I think the molly would do well with more salt, how much do I put in? I'd appreciate your thoughts!
  2. FiskerValued MemberMember

    I'd stop adding aquarium salt. The molly can handle salt galore (I just acclimated one to a reef tank tonight actually) but your other fish won't handle it so well. I personally don't make use of aquarium salt at all, so I'm not sure if aquarium salt really helps mollies in the way you're trying to use it.

    The molly wouldn't be struggling because of too little salt in the water. They definitely do best with a higher PH in freshwater (7.6+) or brackish/saltwater, but just being in freshwater wouldn't cause issues like what you're seeing. I'd actually be concerned about the salt level being too high and killing your plants and other fish. Here's what I'd recommend:

    Get a piece of paper, and write down what additives you're putting in, when you're adding them, how much you're adding, and why you're adding them. Keep a journal. Make note of changes with your tank, water parameters, and fish. If you see your fish behaving more normally shortly after you do a water change, make note of that, and do more water changes. Tweaking your formula is what will get you through these tough stages.

    If the molly is so noticeably bloated, stop feeding. That'll help with your water quality issues, too. Fish aren't like you and me - I go 5 minutes without eating and I'm dying of starvation. Fish can go days, weeks, or even months at a time without much food. With smaller aquarium fish like mollies, it's more like 1-2 weeks before you start seeing signs of starvation. I'd start feeding once every 2-3 days, and even then, feed sparingly.

    Step up your water changes. 1 PPM ammonia is pretty toxic - it won't immediately kill hardy fish, but it's definitely not good for them. I'd be doing 75-85% daily if at all possible. As long as your temp and parameter matching your water, stress will be minimal, and any stress caused by the water changes will likely be less than the stress caused by ammonia.

    Finally, be VERY careful when making use of RO water in a freshwater tank. All too often, people like to try and use RO water to chase a number - usually PH. In some cases, it's necessary, like if your water comes out of the tap at 8.5 and you need it to be 6.5 for a few wild bettas. That's somewhat understandable and worth it to use the RO. Why are you using RO in the first place? Unless your PH is coming out of the tap ridiculously high (8.4+), you won't have issues with most commonly available freshwater fish adapting to your water, especially if you buy locally. You'll cause more stress by causing the PH to swing with slightly different water measurements (ratio of RO to tap) with each water change.
  3. JMcCNew MemberMember

    So yeah...apparently my conditioned tap water is about 8.2...that seems a bit high...
  4. wintermuteValued MemberMember

    Hmmm 50% RO and 50% tap should probably give you something around the 7.5 mark at a guess. Maybe mix up a container of 50% RO and 50% tap and leave it for 24 hours and test the ph.

    I think I may have suggested before to put some crushed coral chunks in your filter. That should help raise the kh and stabalize your ph. About a handful should be sufficient.

    I have mollies and the only thing I add is some stuff call start right B (which is called electrolyte salts) I don't know what is actually in it because it doesn't have the ingredients, but I suspect it is a mix of different salts, probably plain sea salt and some sorts of carbonates. I only put in less than 5g per 9L of water.

    I use a mix of 50% rainwater tank water (filtered through a carbon block filter) and 50% tap water. My water is too soft and if I don't have the crushed coral in the filter, my ph drops rapidly. both the filtered rainwater and the tap water have a ph around the 7.5 mark, which is the ph my tank remains at provided I have the coral in the filter. It used to drop to low sixes when I had goldfish and didn't have the crushed coral.

  5. JMcCNew MemberMember

    Yep, pretty right on. I have a huge water holder (marked with G and 1/2G on the side) and I have been using 2.5G RO and 2.5G conditioned tap. Granted, I've been doing massive water changes, but I've actually been testing the parameters before I do one so that I know if I should let it sit (but in the last week, my ammonia has been sitting at 1ppm), so I've been continuing to change the water. What does letting it sit for 24h do? I've just been mixing it, swirling it, and using it for the water change.
  6. wintermuteValued MemberMember

    Letting it sit for 24 hours allows any disolved gasses (most likely carbon dioxide) to diffuse which tends to raise the ph giving you the true ph of the water. :)