Newbie Problems / Questions

jreed

Tank: 20 Gallon Tall
Filtration: AquaClear 30 HOB and UGF with MaxiJet 600 Powerhead (160 gph)
Plants: Artificial Only

History:

Started 3-1/2 weeks ago with 2 zebra danios and a bottle of Tetra Safe Start. After one week, I added four more Zebra Danios after consultation with LFS.

At week two, LFS says cycle is complete based on their test of my water sample and their firm belief in TSS. My own testing with API Master test kit showed NH3 rise then drop, never registered NO2, and was showing < 20 ppm HO3 (tap has 0) when I visited the LFS. The presence of NO3 means the tank has cycled, right? Maybe not...

Eager to add livestock (to hopefully remedy a problem with a bully danio), I readily accept the LFS advice that it's safe to double the bioload and they send me home with 5 small tiger barbs and 1 cory.

Next morning the cory is dead. LFS says it just happens sometimes. I decide to bring home one more tiger barb to make it an even six. One of the tiger barbs is dead the following morning.

Bully danio behavior isn't any better two days after adding the additional fish and has to go back to the LFS (with another one since after a 30 minute rodeo trying to net them I couldn't tell them apart). That was last Monday.

The API test last Wednesday showed NH3 at 2 ppm. I freak out. LFS suggests polyfilter but no water change. I add polyfilter to AquaClear 30 (below BioMax and above carbon) on Thursday. It's back to the LFS on Saturday with piece of the polyfilter and water sample. They concur with my ammonia readings and interpret color of polyfilter as iron in the water which they speculate is interfering with the cycle. Their recommendation is leave the polyfilter in, wait it out, and switch to RO or de-ionized water for future water changes. They did suggest and I performed a 10% WC with RO purchased from them.

Fish began exhibiting some symptoms of stress... one danio occassionally glances off decor (flashing?), one of the tiger barbs hangs out by the heater with mouth opening and closing frequently (labored respiration?), and I'm seeing the occassional "white, stringy poo" trailing a couple of the tiger barbs. All fish are still eating, and I've had no more fish loss.

Assuming that I probably just increased the bioload too quickly (and that the LFS is in business to sell fish), I tried some more TSS. I added 1/2 the bottle Monday night and the other 1/2 last night (I've since read that was a bad idea... better to do it all at once) in the hopes of getting the cycle back on track. As of this evening, chemistry looks like:

NH3: 2 ppm
NO2: 0 ppm
NO3: 40 ppm
pH: 7.6
kH: 80 ppm

From what I've read about TSS, they suggest holding off on a water changes for 7-14 days after application. I'm beginning to think I should have done a 25-30% water change first.

So, my first question is whether or not the filtration is overkill for this tank. Not that it matters, but the setup was recommended by the LFS to get the most out of the 20 gallon tank. I wonder, though, if the amount of water I'm moving is interfering with the BB getting established.

Second, can anyone give me any pointers with respect to the cycle? Am I basically starting over?

Final note: Please don't berate me about a fishless cycle... I've already learned my lesson.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

Lucy

HI jreed welcome to FishLore

No berating allowed here. Many of us started out on the wrong foot.

Since you have a nitrate reading, I don't believe that you're starting over, only in a minI cycle from adding too many fish at once.

TSS is less effective with a higher ammonia reading.
https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/q-a-with-tetra-about-tetra-safestart.58116/

I can't address the RO water, I really don't know anything about it.

Imo, at this point you have a couple of choices.
1) Do daily water changes until either a) you get the cycle back or b) ammonia reading is under 1 and add more TSS.
2) Wait the 7-10 days that TSS recommends before doing any water changes.

Personally, I think I'd go with the first choice since your fish are acting strangely.

I'm not a huge fan of under gravel filters. It can get really nasty under the plate with left over food and fish waste which could cause the ammonia to rise.
The only way to really clean underneath is to tear the tank down.
It's been years since I used one, so maybe they're better now......not sure.

Water movement from filters shouldn't adversely effect the cycle.

I think that answers your questions. If not, feel free to ask more.
The members are always happy to help.

Good luck!

Edited to add:
You might want to wait for other opinions.
 

bowcrazy

A++ for what Lucy said. I only have one thing to add. I would add Prime to your water to help detox the ammonia and Nitrites. That might help releive some of the stress on your fish while you get threw this minI cycle.

Now as for RO water - hmmm - You don't want to use 100% RO water in a freshwater tank. The fish need the minerals in tap water that is not in RO water. I have visited with my LFS about this several times and they recommend that you use only 80 to 90% RO water. RO water will also drop your pH and Hardness so you will need to watch your tank real close of you start using RO water. I trust my LFS totally - he has never mislead me. He raises and sell fish wholesale and has been in the business for over 40 years.

Good luck with your tank - hope it calms down real soon.
 

AlyeskaGirl

I would like to add with not using Prime while TSS has been added. It's reccommended to not use any ammonia detoxing agent while using TSS or it will not work properly. Especially don't use it if you decide to add another bottle of TSS. Just a regular water conditioner is to be used, not one with a ammonia detoxing agent.

I like Lucy's 1st option.
 

jdhef

Final note: Please don't berate me about a fishless cycle... I've already learned my lesson.

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to berate you for thinking we would berate you!

In my opinion, cycling with SafeStart (if done according to the directions) is just as good as cycling fishless. Since SafeStart has the exact same bacteria that grows naturally in the tank, it is no different than using "seeded" filter media from an established tank, which is a prefered way to cycle.

You have gotten some good advice already, so all I can add is...
Welcome to FishLore!

Good Luck!
 

Tigerfishy

Agreed with jdhef, I can only add the same thing!!! Welcome
 

jreed

First, thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and sage advice.

Second, NH3 is down to 1 ppm this evening so I'm optimistic that things are heading the right direction. I plan to hold off on the water change and test again tomorrow. I'm hoping that if the ammonia level dropped by 50% in a day that the trend will continue.

As an interesting side note, I picked up a Mardel "Live NH3 Monitor" on the way home from work this evening. It, of course, shows that everything is fine. From what I can tell, it attempts to report only "toxic" ammonia (perhaps excludes NH4 which the API test does not?). Not sure of the reliability of these devices as I've read mixed reviews, but thought it interesting nonetheless.

Again, thanks for the welcome. It's nice to know that there are other perspectives available beyond the LFS since I'm sure I'll come up with more questions along the way.
 

Aquarist

Hello Jreed and Welcome to Fish Lore!

I hope you enjoy the site.

Ken
 

shih-tzu mom

Jreed; Welcome to FishLore-I have used TSS and had complete success with it. Do not do any water changes until 14-days and do not use Prime and things will be fine just relax and enjoy-Bella
 

jreed

Do not do any water changes until 14-days and do not use Prime and things will be fine just relax and enjoy-Bella

NH3 down to .5 ppm as of this morning. It's getting easier to relax now.
 

psalm18.2

jreed, your story is like mine. It's ok, just newbie fish owners. Who knew this whole fish thing was so complicated? lol
 

Shine

I don't think I would be overly trusting of a NH3 monitor that waits till 4pmm to consider the ammonia level 'toxic' given that any ammonia damages the fish... how much and if they survive depends on how hardy they are :-\

Plus they recommend you buy a new one every (what is it?) six months? So does its reading become less and less acurate towards that date? Worse, I think a lot of people buy them, hang them in the tank, and then forget the replacement date... so when their fish die they then say 'but the water was fine!!! My meter said so' I think these things can become a 'crutch' for some people.

Not that I've ever had one... though I did consider buying one when I started, but after reading the reviews I went with the liquid test kit instead
 

jreed

Plus they recommend you buy a new one every (what is it?) six months?

Actually, the packaging on this one said 4-6 weeks!

So does its reading become less and less acurate towards that date? Worse, I think a lot of people buy them, hang them in the tank, and then forget the replacement date... so when their fish die they then say 'but the water was fine!!! My meter said so' I think these things can become a 'crutch' for some people.

Not that I've ever had one... though I did consider buying one when I started, but after reading the reviews I went with the liquid test kit instead

I don't disagree. I certainly wouldn't use it in place of regular testing with liquid reagents.
 

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