My Red Tail Shark is behaving funny

GoldenWitch

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This will be a little bit of a long story, please bear with me. My boyfriend had a red tail shark in his tank a while ago. One night, it started acting super strange. It couldn't really control its swimming to the point where he would practically launch himself into the sides of the tank or into the gravel, and he was breathing super heavy. I had asked a different forum for help, but all I got was, "put an oxygen pump in it." It's good advice, if he and the other fish had always been gasping for air, but 1) they weren't always gasping for air, and 2) it was literally only the shark. So I got no real help, and he ended up dying. Several weeks go by and my boyfriend and I took our time trying to fix the tank (Still had no idea what actually went wrong, but we kept a close eye on all of the tank parameters for a long time and everything seemed just fine.) Every single fish was doing just fine, so we assumed we either fixed whatever the problem was, or that maybe there was something wrong with the shark itself. Regardless, once we felt comfortable, we got another one. He's been doing just fine for a little over a week, however, when I went to feed them just now, the shark is acting funny. It's not quite as bad as the first one, but he's sorta upright and not moving around. He occasionally darts around for a quick second, then goes back upright. His breathing is super heavy too. Clearly, we didn't fix the issue, and we have absolutely no clue what could be hurting him, and we just really want to help him before he ends up like the first shark did. If anyone knows anything about what's going on, I'd really appreciate any info I can get.
 

Dunk2

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GoldenWitch said:
This will be a little bit of a long story, please bear with me. My boyfriend had a red tail shark in his tank a while ago. One night, it started acting super strange. It couldn't really control its swimming to the point where he would practically launch himself into the sides of the tank or into the gravel, and he was breathing super heavy. I had asked a different forum for help, but all I got was, "put an oxygen pump in it." It's good advice, if he and the other fish had always been gasping for air, but 1) they weren't always gasping for air, and 2) it was literally only the shark. So I got no real help, and he ended up dying. Several weeks go by and my boyfriend and I took our time trying to fix the tank (Still had no idea what actually went wrong, but we kept a close eye on all of the tank parameters for a long time and everything seemed just fine.) Every single fish was doing just fine, so we assumed we either fixed whatever the problem was, or that maybe there was something wrong with the shark itself. Regardless, once we felt comfortable, we got another one. He's been doing just fine for a little over a week, however, when I went to feed them just now, the shark is acting funny. It's not quite as bad as the first one, but he's sorta upright and not moving around. He occasionally darts around for a quick second, then goes back upright. His breathing is super heavy too. Clearly, we didn't fix the issue, and we have absolutely no clue what could be hurting him, and we just really want to help him before he ends up like the first shark did. If anyone knows anything about what's going on, I'd really appreciate any info I can get.
Tank size, water parameters and water temperature?

Your profile says you’re not familiar with the nitrogen cycle?
 
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GoldenWitch

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Dunk2 said:
Tank size, water parameters and water temperature?

Your profile says you’re not familiar with the nitrogen cycle?
Alright, the tank is 20 gallons (The people at Petco lied to us, but I looked online and 20 CAN be done, we just won't ever do it again). pH was a 6.6, but we added pH-up earlier today. Ammonia is between 0-0.25. Nitrite is 0. Nitrates were a little bit high, but I've read that they're not that harmful, and we did do a water change, which should help with that. The temperature is at 79 right now.
 

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Sorry, but I disagree with whatever online sites you’re reading. A 20 gallon tank is too small for a Red Tail Shark. Not sure the people at Petco lied. . . They often just don’t know but sound as though they do.

Read this link: Red Tail Shark Care, Size, Life Span, Tank Mates, Breeding

In my opinion, you should never attempt to alter pH with chemicals. The fluctuations that result could very well be the cause for the problems you’re seeing. If you need to raise and buffer pH, place a very small amount of crushed coral in a media bag and place it in your filter.

What exactly is the nitrate level and how often are you doing water changes? Is your tank cycled?
 
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GoldenWitch

GoldenWitch

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Dunk2 said:
Sorry, but I disagree with whatever online sites you’re reading. A 20 gallon tank is too small for a Red Tail Shark. Not sure the people at Petco lied. . . They often just don’t know but sound as though they do.

Read this link: Red Tail Shark Care, Size, Life Span, Tank Mates, Breeding

In my opinion, you should never attempt to alter pH with chemicals. The fluctuations that result could very well be the cause for the problems you’re seeing. If you need to raise and buffer pH, place a very small amount of crushed coral in a media bag and place it in your filter.

What exactly is the nitrate level and how often are you doing water changes? Is your tank cycled?
The tank is cycled, it's been cycled for about a year now. The nitrates were between 10 ppm- 20ppm. Again, we know now that they can't be in 20 gallons, but we can't move him right now. We do water changes weekly, every Sunday. Also, you mentioned that somewhere on my bio that it says I don't know the nitrogen cycle. I know it, I have several tanks of my own, I'm just watching my boyfriend's tank while he's at work during the week. I've never personally owned a red tail shark, but he's always wanted to get one and was excited when the people at Petco told him about putting one in a 20 gallon. So we've definitely learned from this, and he won't be listening to the petco employees next time and doing way more independent research for any future fish purchases.
 

Dunk2

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Here’s what I was referring to. . .

0DEDB509-A647-4EA6-B277-B876DCA3FD91.jpeg


I would start with a 50% or greater water change. I’d also suggest that you stop using chemicals to raise your pH. If you’re certain the pH needs buffered/raised, try crushed coral.
 
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GoldenWitch

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Dunk2 said:
Here’s what I was referring to. . .

0DEDB509-A647-4EA6-B277-B876DCA3FD91.jpeg


I would start with a 50% or greater water change. I’d also suggest that you stop using chemicals to raise your pH. If you’re certain the pH needs buffered/raised, try crushed coral.
Will do! Sorry about the misunderstanding with the nitrogen cycle, I haven't played around much with my account on here yet. Is there anything else I can do to help him? Or do you have anything else I should know about red tail sharks? They're new territory for me.
 

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With most fish, a change in behavior can be the result of one or a combination of many things.

Using chemicals to alter your pH level is a definite possibility, so I’d start with not doing that anymore. If the behavior continues after you make that change, hop back on here.
 
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GoldenWitch

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Dunk2 said:
With most fish, a change in behavior can be the result of one or a combination of many things.

Using chemicals to alter your pH level is a definite possibility, so I’d start with not doing that anymore. If the behavior continues after you make that change, hop back on here.
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your help!
 

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Ph for the shark is too low. He is stressed.
My rainbow sharks behave this very same when being bullied, the sitting nose straight up or down thing is normal, the darting around and diving into the gravel is not normal, how big is the shark? What are its tank mates?
Red tails and rainbows are very odd swimmers to begin with but since you stated the ph and the first one died I am to believe it is for that reason or bullying by another fish.
If this one dies and he still wants one I would suggest a 55 gallon tank and using RO water.
 

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