New Tank - Sick Fish

  • #1
I have a new 29G tank setup – on advice from the LFS, I’ve been using Amquel (for chlorine, etc) and Stress Zyme to get started -- it’s what they use given the water in our municipality. The tank was setup, filters (sponge & HOB) running for a week or so before the fish came home. When I set the filters up I added the Amquel. I also have the water slightly brackish, SG around 1.004. A couple live plants and some driftwood.

Brought the fish home Saturday and after a few hours all was well for a few days. Now, not so much… here’s the diary.

- brought fish home (2 swordtails and 2 kuhlI loaches)
- drip acclimated everyone for about an hour
- added everyone to the tank
- added stress zyme
- all were pretty stressed at first but by the end of the day lively, active, hungry – perfect

- everyone fine, frisky, eating
- Ammonia – 1ppm

- Everyone still fine
- Ammonia - 1ppm
- Did 25% WC and added some Amquel for the tap water

- Everyone still fine
- First meal of frozen bloodworms (those were a big hit)
- Ammonia - 1ppm
- 50% WC – since ammonia wasn’t going down (though it wasn’t going up either) and bloodworms are messy
- Added more stress zyme and Amquel for the WC

- Female swordtail was hiding under a decoration at the bottom, swimming in place, dorsal fin flat, tail fin flat, not eating. Her solid red color has a “white patch” right in front of the dorsal fin on her back
- Male swordtail wasn’t hiding, but listing to one side at times, more active than the female, eating, but not his normal self - he lost some of his red color down by the pectorals
- KuhlI loaches – as much as I see them, seem fine. One was out at night scavenging and when he saw me was his normal skiddish self and went to go hide
- Ammonia - 1ppm

Thinking the 50% water change caused this, I did not do a WC on Wed.

- swordtails were at the top of the tank when I came home, fed some bloodworms, the female ate some, but didn't finish.
- the male slowly finished the bloodworms (was hoping he'd save some for the kuhlis) - still more active than the female
- kuhlis still seem fine, active at night, tempted by the bloodworms during the day
- after the meal the swordtails went back to hiding near the bottom
- ammonia 1ppm


Other water parameters:
pH – 8.2 (steady whole time)
Temp – 80 degrees – steady except for the 50% water change
Nitrite/Nitrate – 0ppm

Another odd item - just for fun tonite I tested the water out of the tap for ammonia and got the exact same readings as the tank water. I literally could not tell the difference in color between them. I'm not quite sure what to make of that... but am a little leary of the test kit now (it's brand new). I'm using the API master kit for FW.


Any ideas what might be wrong? Only affecting the swordtails? And what to do about it?
  • #2
Is there enough oxygen in the water? Do you have an air stone?
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
I think there should be enough O2 moving about - the sponge filter has an airstone driving it and there is a decoration that has an airstone too (so 2 airstones on two pumps).
  • #4
It seems you are doing the right things. Maybe others can give you other suggestions but maybe it is a compatibility issue rather than the nitrogen cycle?

Just a thought.
  • #5
Welcome to FishLore!!
First, I'd suggest stop using stress zyme. It really won't help the tank cycle any quicker.

Could be a couple of things going on. Ammonia, which seems to be coming from your tap water.
One day with fish you shouldn't have a reading of 1ppm so quickly
Good call testing your tap water.

It could also be stress. With Livebearers, it's suggested to have more than 1 female per male. Otherwise he'll bother her too much.
Not that I'd suggest adding more fish to an uncycled tank.

It makes it tough to get fish through the cycling process when there's ammonia in the tap.
Does Amquel detoxify the ammonia? If not, you can switch to Prime. That'll detox the ammonia but it will still be available for the beneficial bacteria to grow.

It's usually recommended to do daily water changes when cycling with fish.
But again, with the ammonia in the tap, you'd have to be sure to use a conditioner that also detoxifies the ammonia before a water change.
Do a search on the forum, I know others have had to deal with ammonia in their tap water.
It might give you some ideas.

Many member have had luck cycling their tank with Tetra SafeStart.
That might be an option for you.
This should help any questions about it:

If you decide to go that route, pay close attention to the water conditioner recommendations.

Good luck!
  • #6
Good morning,

Here is a link to 4 of the best water conditioners to use when cycling with fish to keep them safe. I use Amquel + and Nova Aqua + routinely for my fish.

Great advice above from Lucy. I agree with the daily water changes until your tank cycles. It's going to take some effort on your part to keep these fish alive but it can be done. Once the cycle is complete things will be much easier.

Here is a link to a thread concerning Ammonia In Tap Water:

Best wishes!

  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Thanks everyone for the guidance...

This morning the swordtails are at the top of the tank - the female, still swimming in place franticly. She didn't eat this morning. The male did eat, but not much. Though I'm starting to think they don't like the flakes. The bloodworms make them go nuts, but with the flakes they just take a bite and spit it out.

Another new observation on the male. He seems to have pure white poo - and it stays stuck to him for a while. I've noticed this 3 times this week. IIRC, the poo should be a light brown, not white and this is white, or almost clear. I have not seen the female poo.

On the water:
Amquel does remove ammonia, chlorine and chloramines - or detoxifies them. Also, this should work on the ammonia in the tap water too right? Do I need to add this even if I don't do a WC?

I'm starting to wonder if the test kit is accurate on the ammonia reading? After 3-4 days I would have expected the ammonia in the tank to be higher than the tap - given the fish and food. I wouldn't think the water changes would have removed *all* excess ammonia. But this morning I could tell a difference between the tap and the tank. The tap was < 1ppm and the tank > 1ppm, but it was not a large difference by any means but there was some difference. I did another PWC this morning, the first since the 50% WC.

Next steps?
- It seems like Amquel should be sufficient for treating the tap water - the link above also recommends NovaAqua+ - It's not immediately clear to me that it's part of the solution - it sounds like NovaAqua+ does everything Amquel does and more??? OTOH, I clearly don't know the solution - but I don't want to add more chemicals if I don't need to (The Kuhli's still seem fine)

- TSS - I might as well give this a try, it certainly doesn't seem like it will do any more harm so might be worth it. I'll have to research a bit to see if I don't already have enough stuff in the water to interfere with it though. It looks like you shouldn't use Amquel (ammonia detoxifier) and TSS together.

- some different food in case the swordtails are undernourished from the flakes???

Thanks again everyone...
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Well, the female didn't make it... The male seemed to eat really well today - I fed him some freeze-dried daphnia.

I was going to add the TSS today, but now I'm worried I won't have sufficient bio-load for the TSS to do it's job. Esp, if the male doesn't make it. Right now I have the 2 kuhli's and the sick male swordtail in the 29G. So 1 fish per 10G in the 29G tank but again, if the male doesn't make it then it will be slightly less than that.

Any thoughts?
  • #9
You have fish? you have sufficient bioload.
white poo may be a sign of internal parasites(feed anti-parasite food).
Sorry about the female, though.
I'd also recommend feeding chopped up boiled peas(with the skins peeled off), it helps with constipation and passing poo.
Also, add garlic water and vitachem to their food if you can- an immune system boost couldn't hurt, and it may help the fish not get sick or heal quicker during this rather stressful cycle.
Good luck with the rest of your fish!
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Thanks GP - a couple questions:

- what is (or an example) of anti-parasite food?
- for the peas - is this just taking regular hard peas (like for split pea soup) and boiling them until soft?
- I've never heard of garlic water - is this at the grocery store or pet store?

Thanks again...
  • #11
what is (or an example) of anti-parasite food?
well, every fish place has one, ussually they're labeled as "anti-parasite medicated food". having never dealt with this problem I can't really be more specific, I'm sorry.
for the peas - is this just taking regular hard peas (like for split pea soup) and boiling them until soft?
I use green peas, freeze and then thaw them, then de-hull them, chop them and feed them to my fish, but every one else recommends boiling them to make them even softer.
I've never heard of garlic water - is this at the grocery store or pet store?
you can use canned garlic from the store if it has no added preservatives or oils, but I make my own: cube a toe of fresh garlic, poor boiling water over it, and let it cool. refrigerate it when you aren't using it, and on average mine lasts two weeks before going rancid. The longer it sits the more potent it becomes.
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Ok, thanks again - I'll check a few of the LFSs.

The male has started the frantic swimming in place today (the female was doing this for a day or two before she died)... So I may be too late.

If this was a parasite (that the swordtails got and the kuhli's did not seem to) - do I have to worry about the state of the tank for when new fish eventually are added?
  • #13
if you treat for parasites now, I don't think you have to worry about it later-just so long as every fish is treated now.
I think you may have Columnaris: Lower the temp to blow 75*f if it isn't there already, isolate the sword if possible, add antibacterial treatment to his water, and feed anti-bacterial food if he'll eat it a.s.a.p.! I don't how I missed it, but your female is showing two of the symptoms: saddle-back lesion and swimming in place. thankfully, you haven't noticed a fuzzy mouth-that can turn a fish's mouth into a bloody mess(literally), and what damage is done may not be recoverable.

By isolate the sword, I mean keeping him in the aquarium, but away from other fish, if possible. Columnaris is extremely contagious, so you need to treat the entire tank, but isolating any sick fish may protect any fish who aren't affected yet.
  • #14
here are a couple of links on it:

  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Ok, off to the LFS to see what I can find... thanks.

Similar Aquarium Threads



Top Bottom