my four hour old blue gourami is dying

  • #1
We just bought my daughter a 5 gallon fish tank for her birthday. we conditioned it with ammonia neutralizer and water conditioner and let it run per the Petland guy's instructions. we have a filter and a heater and gravel in it. Today (a week after we put it together) we bought her a blue gourami, a kissing gourami and a small catfish. The guy insisted they would all get along okay and would be fine in the small tank. They all looked great when we put them in. Four hours later, I looked in and saw the blue gourami laying on its side on the gravel looking pale and having difficulty breathing.
The catfish and the kissing gourami seem like they are freaking out swimming frantically around the tank. The catfish seems to be chasing the kissing gourami around. Unfortunately, they never told us to buy testers so I have no idea about the levels and I am pretty sure the tank is warm enough though I can't figure out how to read the heater.
It is dying, right? Are these not the fish to have in this small of a tank? I am dreading my daughter waking up to a dead fish.
  • #2
Welcome to fishlore! It seems like you have been mislead by a pet store employee yet again. We are here to help.

First off, all the fish you named should not be housed in a 5 gallon tank. Blue gouramis can get up to 5" and are very aggressive and territorial when mature. A kissing gourami can grow up to 10"+. The catfish, whatever it may be should not be in your tank aswell. No catfish is small enough to live in a 5 gal happily.

Do you know about the nitrogen cycle? It seems like you don't so click on the underlined blue words and it will lead you to an article about it. What it basically is is that when fish poop, they excrete ammonia. Ammonia is highly toxic to all fish and will kill or permanently damage the fish. However, there is a solution. Over the course of a few days or weeks (depending on how you cycle your tank. Ill get into that later) beneficial bacteria build up and begin to colonize in your tank,decor and especially your filter to help combat the ammonia. What the bacteria does is it converts the toxic ammonia into nitrite which is the next phase of the nitrogen cycle. Nitrite is also highly toxic and can kill fish. Over the course of another few days or weeks, a different bacteria builds up in your tan, decor and filter that converts this nitrite to nitrate. The nitrate is non-toxic at low levels so it is safe to have fish in a tank with some nitrates. The nitrates are then removed by weekly water changes. Adding fish that fast will not allow the colonies of beneficial bacteria to buil up and combat the ammonia and nitrite which is toxic to your fish. I suspect that is the cause of your troubles.

Now you learned about the nitrogen cycle, you will have to cycle your tank so it is safe to have fish. There are many ways to cycle a tank, with fish in, fishless, or even with a bacteria additive. I personally recommend fishless and heres why.

Fishless cycle is very simple. You add an external source of ammonia into your tank to start off the cycle. Over the course of a few weeks, the colony of bacteria builds up. Fishless cycling is usually a lot faster than other ways. Fishless also prevents having fish in your tank while cycling. When fish are in a tank that is cycling, they can be really stressed and may be poisoned by the toxic ammonia or nitrite. So fishless is the way to go IMO. Heres a thread explaining a few ways to fishless cycle a tank :

The next way to cycle a tank that is also good is with a bacteria additive. However, almost all the bacteria additives out on the market today are junk as they contain the wrong type of bacteria. There is only one that has been tried again and again with the most number of successes. That additive is Tetra SafeStart. With this additive, you could potentially cycle your tank in 10-14 days which is unbelievably fast in the fish world. If you decide to use this method, reading up on this will help a ton and answer a few questions you may have :

The last worst way to cycle a tank IMO is with fish. Using fish to cycle your tank is unbelievably cruel and inhumane. The fish can die or be permanently damaged. 99.9% of the people of this forum do not recommend it. This way would be a lot of hassle if you want to keep your fish safe during this process. You will need to do daily water changes with an ammonia detoxifier like Prime or Amquel+ to make the water safe for them.

Sorry that this may be a ton of information to comprehend at one time but it is for the best of your fish and yourself. Starting off the right way will save you from heartache, money, and from stress.

On a brighter note, once your tank is cycled, a betta would be perfect for the tank!
  • #3
Unfortunately, these fish are very poor candidates for small 5 gallon tanks.
Blue gouramis grow to about 4" long (And it does sound like this fish is ill)
Kissing gouramis can reach a foot long
And this "small catfish" could be anything. Do you remember what it was exactly?

My best advice would be to return these fish asap, since a 5 gallon aquarium is very limited space for these fish. Be sure you know how to read and adjust your heater and I recommend purchasing an aquarium thermometer (they're $2 at the most) so you can monitor the aquarium's temperature.

The advice above will also be very beneficial to you
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Thanks. We woke up this morning and the kissing gourami looks like it is turning black on top. That cannot be a good sign, right?
  • #5
Welcome to FishLore!!
I'm really sorry the fish store gave you such bad advice and even sorrier that you, your daughter and mostly the fish are paying the price.

As said above, it would be a good idea to learn about the nitrogen cycle.
However, since you just put the fish in, I doubt there is an ammonia problem yet.
Not knowing the water temperature, Stress and aggression would be my guess here.

Sadly, the choices are to return the fish and get something suitable for a 5 gallon or a large enough tank to house your fish.

Best of luck
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thank you, Lucy. Any recommendations for a 5 gallon? I have heard betta fish and guppies. Anything else? If we return these fish, which we will likely do today as well as buy testers, should we then wait to buy new ones until we do the nitrogen cycle thing? So that is beyond the treating it with ammonia neutralizer and water conditioner? That is what the Petland guy told us to do and we did leave it running fishless for two weeks.
  • #7
Running a tank without fish does nothing to cycle it unless you added a dead shrimp/fish food that would rot and create the ammonia needed for the bacteria to build. If there is no ammonia source the tank will not cycle no matter how long you leave it.

As for recommendations: a betta, guppies, endlers livebearers, shrimp, african dwarf frog, a dwarf crayfish, snails, microrasboras... not all of them at the same time of course
  • #8
Welcome to FishLore!

I don't know how old or impatient your daughter is, but if she is anything like mine was/is, I think the six weeks it would take to cycle fishless would be an eternity for her. Especially after already having fish in the tank. So I think using Tetra SafeStart to cycle the tank is the way to go. I have used SafeStart successfully in the past.

If you choose to go this route, the first advice I have is to totally empty the tank and refill it. (The ammonia neutrailizer will interfere with the SafeStart). When you refill the tank use Tetra AquaSafe for your water conditioner. (AquaSafe is what is recommended on the SafeStart bottle and when using SafeStart it is important to follow the directions exactly for the greatest odds of success).

Once your tank is filled and up to the proper temperature (for a Betta 80-81 degrees, if you opt for a Betta,,,great fish BTW) add the full, well shaken bottle of SafeStart. Then imeadiatly add your fish. (If you do not add a fish right away, there is no ammonia source to feed the awakening SafeStart bacteria.)

Then do nothing but feed you fish for 10 days. At day 10 test your water. If you have 0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrites and some nitrates you are cycled. If not wait 4 more days and test again. You should be cycled at that point, but if not post a message for advice on the next step (either waiting a little longer or start doing water changes depending on how your levels look).

Good luck!
  • #9
I'd recommend what jdhef said. If possible take the fish back to the store and start over starting with the water. I used safestart and it worked like a charm. I'd also go with the beta. You can find some really awesome looking betas.

Similar Aquarium Threads

  • Locked
  • Locked
  • Locked

Top Bottom