New Tank Conundrum

  • #1
I recently decided to start a tank back up after having a 10 gallon Neon setup in high school. This time I wanted to go a little bigger and have a more diverse tank so I purchased a 29 gallon Aqueon "starter kit".

The first fish I added were 4 Lemon Tetras and sadly none of them survived past the first night. The LFS replaced them since my water tested out fine but the second set didn't fare any better. At this point I was pretty frustrated, the LFS employees were stumped, and I didn't want to needlessly kill anymore fish.

The manager gave me 3 Zebra Danios free of charge because he couldn't come up with an answer and wanted to see if anything would work in my setup. They have been in the tank for a little over 3 days and appear to be doing fine. The biggest difference I've been able to find online regarding these two species is that the Danios can handle slightly cooler water. My tank is setup in our basement (which stays cooler) and I'm wondering if the bundled 100 watt heater (preset to 78) just isn't sufficient. The tank has not been over 74 degrees and holds a little closer to 72 most days.

I'm just wondering if the temperature alone would be enough to kill the tetras overnight or if there is something else potentially at play here. Are danios just that much "tougher" than the tetras? We are on well water so I have not added any dechlorinator. I have the API test kit and my best guess at reading ph is 6.6 or 6.8. Ammonia/nitrite/nitrate aren't reading anything yet.

(I understand the nitrogen cycle and fishless cycling but at this point I'm locked into a fish-in cycle.)
Daniel W
  • #2
There's zero possibility that the temperature killed your tetras. 72 is actually an okay temperature for lemon tetras. Same goes for zebra dainos. The tetras you got might have been sick. Either that or ammonia. Not sure though. I haven't ever done a fish-in cycle and I'm not sure if there's ammonia the first day. And yes, I noted that your pet store said your water was okay. Maybe they made a mistake. Better to do it yourself. The best thing to do right bow would probably be to the water and do a 50% water change.
  • #3
Even well water can contain chlorine!

And it evaps within 24 hours, and a pet store uses teststrips (usually). If it had time to evap, i'm mostly clueless too. If the store doesn't use a drop test, its worth the investment. It will be self use, 30$, and last much longer than strips.

Strips can be very inaccurate.

Or the sun is needed to evap chlorine. Cant remember. But I know a member here has chlorine in their well water!
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
My LFS uses the API Master Test (I watched them test the water) and that is what I bought to test at home with. I also have the GH/KH test set.
  • #5
No Chlorine test?
  • #6
I'm not sure but it may be something in the well water, chlorine or otherwise (heavy metals?) zebra dianos are relatively hardy and that may be the reason they haven't died yet. We have to use bottled spring water in our tanks because even though we have well water, every fish we added to the well water filled tank ended up dying within hours. (Granted, they were horrible choices for the tank we had anyways because of classic beginner inexperience and a certain little brother who was more stubborn than a dwarf from lord of the rings, but that's a story for another day.) we didnt have a proper liquid test kit for the longest time, but when we finally got one, I tested and the only thing that showed a reading from the tap was nitrates at about 10 ppm. So its likely that you have something bad in your well water that you can't test for. I might consider switching to bottled spring water, at least until you can figure out what's going on with your water. At the very least, dose your tank with a water conditioner like Prime so you have a little less to worry about
Daniel W
  • #7
I just noticed the well water part. Well, safe to bet that your well water is not safe for fish. Tap is probably the safest bet.

  • #8
Welcome to FishLore!

When ever fish die that quickly after being added to a tank, the fist thing I think of is the fish not being acclimated properly. How did you acclimate your fish before putting them in your tank?
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
I acclimated them all by floating the bags and slowly adding water over about an hour. Once the bags were full the first time I poured off half the water and continued to mix the water until the bags were full again. Then I netted them out of the bags and put them in the tank.

I've read the product description for Prime and it says it can help with heavy metals. Is there a good chance that even if my water is chlorine free Prime would benefit me in that regard? I would think heavy metals would be a likely issue with well water.

Thanks for all the help so far. This seems like a great place for me to grow in the hobby.
  • #10
Although I'm still a beginner, several things come to mind when I read your post, as I compare your experience to my own. First is to get and list your exact parameters as PH was all you listed so far. But, with a PH as low as your's, I'd wonder if you have a KH issue. So, find out and list your KH, too. Also, as the post above me suggests, your acclamation may have been faulty.

Most likely, though, my thoughts are that you probably got a bad batch of fish. That's exactly what happened to me on my start up. Two groups of fish died on me almost immediately just like what happened with you. After I lost my second group, the LFS lost what they had left of the same batch, and they admitted to getting a bad batch, and of course, replaced them free of charge. I wouldn't worry that you did something wrong unless your parameters don't check out well.

Lastly, although it wouldn't have caused your fish to die, it's my experience that the preset heaters don't work well. I, too, purchased an Aqueon kit, which came with a preset heater, and I was having the same temperature issues. I'm now running the preset heater along with an adjustable one, and the temperature is holding where it should be.
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
I'll do a full test of the water when I get home tonight and post back. I don't remember exactly what number I got for hardness when I checked a few nights ago. The LFS did tell me the water around here is usually on the softer side.

I'm already planning to replace the heater with something that gives me more control. I just want to pinpoint the actual problem first.

A couple of the tetras were breathing a little hard when I went to bed. I didn't know if it was stress related or a sign of something more.
  • #12
It sounds like you did a good job acclimating, so that shouldn't have been your problem. But you may be on to something with the heavy metals. I think if it were me, I would be using Prime.
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
I just bought some Prime on my break. Is there anything I need to worry about if I use it like overdosing or mixing it with other products? I started the tank with Dr Tim's All in One but I'm wondering if that did anything at all since the fish were never in the tank long enough to "feed" the bacteria.
  • #14
Prime is safe up to 5x the recommended dose.
  • #15
How much oxygen is in your tank? If your fish are breathing heavy you may need to add a second filter, or bubbler, or sponge filter etc to promote the surface agitation, and oxygen exchange.

(I personally run filters twice my tank size (110 AquaClear for a 40breeder)

Or adding a bubbler can be cool too! (Volcanoes, waterfalls, or bubblers shapes like starfish etc. )
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
I have the bundled HOB filter and an air wand the length of the tank running at about medium output. The surface looks like it is getting decent agitation.
  • #17
TexasDomer , Aquaphobia

Perhaps you have an idea? Params look good, sounds like good water agitation, I'll be happy to hear your input.

  • Thread Starter
  • #18
Bad news, one of the danios was about gone when I got home. So down to 2 in the tank.

Here's outdoor/sunlit pictures of my test results:


Ammonia- appears to be first day with a reading



I'm slightly confused by the conversions for hardness but...

KH- took 2 drops to turn

GH- looked almost like it turned after 2 but definitely after 3 drops

It's getting hot here again in VA so the air is running. I have the vents closed in that room but temperature is reading at ~71.5/72. A heater upgrade is looking like a definite now. "Preset to 78" isn't exactly accurate for all situations I'm seeing.
  • #19
I'm with with jdhef on using Prime in case it is heavy metals.

We're those tests done on the well water?
  • #20
I think those were tank water.

Personally I don't think Prime would takeout heavy metals. Atleast not that much. But my suggestion, if using a bucket, fill it before work, set it infront of a window, primed. Maybe extra dosed, then vac your gravel and water daily.

I would definitely recommend a more precise heater.

Eheim Jager's are really nice, or maybe a Fluval?
  • Thread Starter
  • #21
Those tests were done on tank water. What ph do y'all read that as? Is the hardness ok?

I think my plan for today is a significant water change and dosing of prime.
  • #22
Skyy2112, neutralizing heavy metals is one of Prime's advertised abilities.
Connor540, are you sure your tank is cycled? I'm reading that nitrate test as zero.

The hardness is quite low.
  • #23
Nitrate looks between 0-5. But I do see an ammonia spike--- ph @.. 7.2?

I'll have to check my prime bottle. Any idea how much heavy metals it reduces? (Havent had those problems yet, but knowledge is power)
  • Thread Starter
  • #24
@, neutralizing heavy metals is one of Prime's advertised abilities.
@, are you sure your tank is cycled? I'm reading that nitrate test as zero.

The hardness is quite low.

I know the tank isn't cycled. This is a fish-in cycle at this point. Today was the first day it looked like I was getting a reading for ammonia at all. It would make sense I guess for nitrite/nitrate to read 0.

The LFS showed me a couple of options (powders) for increasing the hardness. Any opinions on those types of products?

Thanks for all the input.
  • #25
Never personally done anything w/ GH/KH. Dont even know how to test.
  • #26
CindiL is the resident GH/KH and general all-around water chemistry guru so I'd wait for her verdict. There are slower, more stable ways of increasing GH/KH then those powders, like limestone and crushed coral, though tbh I have zero in my own water and I do keep those products on hand. In an emergency, baking soda works well, too

Some fish, like livebearers, need hard water but most fish will be able to adapt. The problem really comes in with your pH because having a low KH can leave you vulnerable to pH swings, especially as KH is used up by living things, including nitrifying bacteria and plants!
  • #27
How can I test said Kh and Gh? Arent there multiple factors? And aren't strips a bad way to do such?

  • #28
Strips will give you a ballpark though they might not be as accurate as a liquid test. Both Nutrafin and API make a GH/KH test. You get 2 bottles of reagent, one for each, a pipette and a test tube. You put the water to be tested in the tube then start adding drops of one of the reagents. After each drop you shake the tube. First it will be one colour but at a certain point it will change to another colour. The number of drops it takes to change colour will tell you the GH or KH of the water.
  • #29
Wow, 35ppm for GH and KH. Ouch. Must be a shallow well.
  • #30
Hi, welcome to fishlore

Yes I would be using prime too because more than likely you have metals in your water and prime should get rid of them.

Your GH and KH are too low. I don't know what powders they tried to sell you but the easiest thing to do is buy some crushed coral, or aragonite, or limestone (texas holy rock), or aragonite sand or sea shells or cuttlebone etc. Crushed coral/aragonite are the easiest to find. Petsmart sells a top fin brand but its 20pounds which will last you forever. Someone here picked up the small container in the betta section of top fin crushed shells and that would work too. I'm not sure the cost difference. Most people just put them in a media bag and drop the bag in your HOB. Do you have the quiet flow then? which model? 20 or 30? You can probably fit a small bag on the left side of the box where the water comes into the box. The coral will actually serve two purposes. 1) it will increase both GH and KH and 2) it can be your bio-media for bacteria to grow on. It tends to dissolve slowly over months and you'll have to re-fill it as it gets lower but it won't be often. Its fine to also just put them in your substrate.

A gh of 2 is a bit too soft even for soft water fish. I'd like to see that GH test closer to 4 drops (you count the drops until looking down at the tube the color changes. Ignore the outside of the vial color).

Your KH of 2 is too soft and like Aquaphobia mentioned will most likely lead to a ph crash over time. This depends on your stocking and feeding levels and also how much water you change out. Ideally your KH would be 5 or higher. You can also add in a small amount of baking soda with your water changes. For a 30 gallon tank, I'd say 1/2 tsp mixed in with some tank water, this will raise your KH and your ph some also which is fine.

After a few days to a week test the GH and KH again and see where they're at with the addition of the shells

As far as why your tetras died its hard to say I agree. I would test your tap ph also and ammonia, nitrites and nitrates and post them back here. It could have been something as simple as heavy metals which we can't really test for other than a copper test but not others that I know of. It is also possible they had a bad batch like mentioned.

I am on a well and use prime with every water change.

Lastly, while cycling with fish-in, follow this forumula to keep them safe:

If ammonia + nitrites is less than one == dose prime for the full volume of the tank and re-check in 24 hours.
If ammonia + nitrites is 1.0 or greater == do a large, 40-50% water change, dose prime for the full volume of the tank and re-check in 24 hours.

You'll cycle faster if you go ahead and pick up some Seachem Stability (like Dr. Tim's all in one) and dose that daily.
Until you're done cycling, I would keep your fish count very low, in the 29 gallon I wouldn't have more than 4-5 small fish until your cycle is completed with 0 ammonia, and 0 nitrites.
  • Thread Starter
  • #31
The packaging doesn't really say but based on the dimensions I could find online it looks like the Quietflow 20. I was considering adding another airstone since the wand I have in there isn't distributing air very evenly.

I'll start dosing the prime and look for the crushed coral and stability today.

Would the danios and my cycle be better served if I got their numbers up to about 5? Or is that not really worth the risk right now? The danio that ended up dying last night never was as active as the other two so I don't know if the water is what killed him. The other two are still pretty active today.
  • #32
Yes, I would up their count to 5 or 6 but no more. They'll be happier in a group like that.

I would get another filter if I was you, perhaps instead of the airstone. I run two of the quiet flow 30's on my 33g and its perfect. You want to aI'm for about 10x in gph the size of your tank, so roughly 300 gph.

Also, instead of using the expensive stock cartridges you can buy or order a 2 pack of the fluval C4 sponges/foam. You only have to cut off about a 1/2 inch off the side and they fit great. With weekly rinsings they will last you easily 6mo to a year without needing to be replaced. I usually combine that with a piece of the marineland rite size filter bonding pad that you can cut. I replace those about every 3 months or so when they get really thin. They're finer so polish the water and pick up small debris really well.
  • Thread Starter
  • #33
I added 3 more danios this afternoon. They seem to be getting on fine.

Since I already have the 20 from the bundle would adding a Quietflow 30 to that be enough? Can you essentially add flow rates when running multiple filters? Or is it a better idea to just switch to one bigger filter?

I'll have to look out for the sponges/foam the next time I hit up the LFS. Thanks for the tip.
  • #34
More than one filter is usually best unless running an airstone. It makes the O2 in water.
  • #35
Its actually better to run two filters than one for a few reasons. 1). It gives you a backup in the event one fails. 2) The water is running through two filters, thus converting ammonia and nitrites to nitrates over two different surface areas. This does a better job than it running through one. 3) Gives another source of oxygen, mechanical filtration and biological filtration where an airstone is only going to give you oxygen.

The 30 does 200gph so I think you'd be alright. It also has enough room on the left side for the coral etc. Just make sure if/when you switch to other media that you cut the floss off around the blue frame, dump the frame and carbon and put the floss in with your new sponge for a couple of weeks to seed it before tossing the old floss.
  • #36
Wait up. Does two filters thus having a larger bacteria surface break down Ammon faster? Wouldnt the excess bacteria die thus having the same amount as one filter? (I have extra filters on the chance one fails me)
  • #37
Yes, you'll have the same amount of BB to handle the bioload, but they'll be spread out between the media in two different filters. However, if one filter dies, you'll still have the other running and taking care of ammonia to at least some extent. Handy if you're away when one dies
  • Thread Starter
  • #38
The only hangup I'm having with going the two filter route is my hood. It can accommodate one of the bigger filters but will require some modding to fit a second smaller one. The starter kit is turning into a tank and a pile of leftovers quick.
  • #39
Hang on to those leftovers! Soon you'll have enough to start a whole new tank;D
  • Thread Starter
  • #40
I figure I can dig out my 10 gallon some day and give it some extra juice

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