My Experience And Blunder.

N. Weston

Hello, I'm new to posting here, but have used this site for the past 4 months garnering info about freshwater aquariums. Here is my experience so far followed by some questions.

I successfully raised Triops and started up a 10 gallon tank with an undergravel filter (which was highly recommended for Triops). I also had a live Amazon Sword plant and some decorations. I cleaned the and all the decorations and substrate with distilled water. The Triops lived out their their life cycle happily to a ripe old age of 42 days give or take. At the time I did not preform a full cycle on the tank, but instead, preformed many water changes and gravel vacs. Now that the Triops are gone, I was interested in finally cycling the tank for fish.

Filter Setup:
I left the undergravel filter operating and added a TopFin 10 HOB. I modified the HOBs impeller by removing a few of the fins. The flow rate was way too turbulent for this little tank. I opted to not use the stock carbon cartridges and went with filter floss, Fluval Biomax Rings, and a fine cut-to-size filter media. The media listed above is oriented in that order from where the water is pumped into the filter to the output. Water clarity is great, and very clear.

Cycling Method:
I opted for the fishless cycle, as there was already some ammonia buildup from the Triops, this seemed like a good start. I also used Tetra SafeStart to introduce some BB to the system. Using Dr. Tims pure ammonium chloride, I kept the ammonia levels at 3ppm by testing water parameters daily with an API Freshwater Master Test Kit and adding more Ammonium Chloride when the levels dropped to 1ppm. After 3 days nitrites began to appear in the daily tests at low levels (0.25 ppm). By day 13 the nitrites spiked (1.75-2ppm). I continued the ammonia treatment. By day 17 the nitrite levels began dropping significantly. By day 24, nitrites were at 0 ppm. I then preformed one more ammonia treatment and waited to test parameters the next day. 24 hours later the Water parameters read:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrites: 0 ppm
Nitrates: Off the chart 100+ ppm (which I expected)

At this point, I preformed a 90% water change, using tap water treated with API Tap water conditioner. This brought nitrate levels down to 15ppm. To test the viability of the cycle, I then dosed the system with ammonium to bring it back to 2 ppm. 24 hours later:
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrites: 0ppm
Nitrates: 15-20 ppm.

I repeated this for a few days to ensure the cycle was hearty. It was.

Finalizing Water quality:
I decide to stop the ammonia treatments and prepared to stock the tank with a few fish. I preformed a 75% water change to bring the nitrates down to 5 ppm. The pH tested at 6.8-7. According to Tetra test strips, GH was soft (75), and KH was moderate to Ideal (80-120). I added some Tetra "EasyBalancePlus" as it was said to regulate ideal pH. Water temp was reduced to 74*F from the initial cycling temp of 80*F. All parameters looked good for my first fish.

Stocking and acclimating:
I went to my local fish store. After examining the tanks I was discouraged. Poor quality conditions and several dead fish. Seeing how I live in a rural area, with the closest PetSmart over an hour away, I opted for some Neon Tetras. The Tetra tank was one of the only ones that appeared really clean with no dead of sick looking fish. I purchased 4 and brought them home.

With the aquarium lights off, I floated the bag for 30 minutes. After I opened the bag, rolled down the edges and clipped it to the side of the tank. At no time did I expose any bag water to the aquarium. I used two separate cups to preform the acclimation process. One to remove water from the bag and the other to move water from the aquarium to the bag. I would remove about 1.5 cups from the bag and replace it with 1.5 cups from the aquarium. I repeated this process 8 times every 10 minutes. After the eighth time I removed the bag from the tank and gently poured the fish into a net placed over a bucket. I then quickly delivered them to the aquarium.

Day 1:
Initially after adding the Tetras, I let them explore the environment. The aquarium lights remained off as to help reduce stress. They all seemed to be doing well. I gave them a pinch of Tetra tropical crisps, and they all were observed consuming them. I then went to bed.

Day 2:
The next morning, much to my dismay, one of the little Tetras was dead on the bottom of the tank. I promptly removed him and inspected him. His coloration was pale but he had no signs of physical damage or Ich (which I read about before here on this forum). The remaining Tetras seemed very well, brightly colored, schooling together and very spry. After work, I finally turned on the aquarium light, I tested all parameters, and they were nominal. I fed them as I did the night before.

Day 3:
This morning, the same thing. Except the poor little guy was in the HOB inlet. Once again no signs of Ich or physical damage.

Day 5: Two days passed all parameters nominal. The remaining two Tetras seemed well, until that evening. Neither of them seemed interested in food. Later that evening the largest of the two, began behaving oddly. She was swimming around near the surface and seemed extremely disorientated. She also showed signs of discoloration. I had read that fish swimming near the surface could mean that the dissolve O2 content of the water is low. I thought this to be strange as the undergravel filters utilize two air stones. As a precaution I installed another air stone directly into the aquarium.

Day 6 (Today): The poor ill fish was found dead on the bottom of the tank. I promptly removed and examined it as before with the same results. The remaining tetra is still full colored but not very active and is hanging out near the substrate. I believe it may be scared because it is alone? Also, it is still not interested in food. I fear it may reach the same fate as the others. I tested water and all parameters nominal.

Questions:

1. What do you folks think the problem could be? I feel I was very thorough and careful throughout this whole process. I am wondering if the problem was because of the handling by the LFS. Needless to say, I probably won't get fish there again. Also, I don't want to restock the tank until I get some advice.

2. Do undergravel filter lift tubes provide enough O2 to the water column?

3. I think I should have started with removing the undergravel filter. :/ Can I disable it without compromising my tanks cycle? I think I could, perhaps, disable and remove one lift tube at a time. giving the aquarium a week in between.

I appreciate any help with this matter. It is discouraging. I feel I was very thorough and methodical. Perhaps I am overthinking or overlooking things. I enjoy aquarium keeping so far and want to move forward. But if there is something I am doing wrong, I'd like to remedy it so that no more fish are put in harms way.
 

BottomDweller

Welcome to fishlore!

Sorry this happened it looks like you did everything right. I think it was probably sick from the LFS. Even though their tank looked healthy it was probably on the same filter system as the sick tanks and sharing the same water. I would try to buy from somewhere else in future.
 

N. Weston

Welcome to fishlore!

Sorry this happened it looks like you did everything right. I think it was probably sick from the LFS. Even though their tank looked healthy it was probably on the same filter system as the sick tanks and sharing the same water. I would try to buy from somewhere else in future.

Thank you BottomDweller for your insight. I was unaware that that was how they filtered their tanks. Interesting. I will avoid my LFS for sure.
 

AvalancheDave

Could you list all chemicals used recently? It kind of sounds like a toxicity.
 

N. Weston

Could you list all chemicals used recently? It kind of sounds like a toxicity.

Absolutely.

Dr. Tim's Ammonium Chloride and Tetra Safe Start (during Cycle)
API Tap Water Conditioner
Tetra "EasyBalance" (pH stabalizer)

Also I should mention, my tap water was tested with API Master Test Kit. Results as follows:
pH: 7
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0

Between my last post and now, the final Neon Tetra perished.
Also attached is a picture of my tank.
 

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