Oh please help! Rescued tank problems!

  • #1
Hello all,
Sorry my first post is such a sad one but I seriously need help here!

I rescued a 20 gal tank from a friend of a tennant and it had been running a 10 gallon whisper (media had almost 3/4in gunk on it from not being cleaned or changed and the water was beyond FOUL smelling!)
The previous owner had an 8in dragon fish, 6in pleco and 2in rainbow.
The only thing the fish were being fed was a cube of frozen bloodworms and a cube of frozen glassworms PER DAY.
There was so much calcium and algae on the tank you couldnt see in it and the gravel (not even 1/2in) had almost 1/2in green/black slime.
We changed just about 90% of the water (I used to know a bit about the cycling stage but its been years) and I put a new filter (aqua clear for 50gal) and vacuumed up quite a bit of gunk. I left filter and media so I didnt kill all bacteria.
6 days later I check and its reading 1ppm ammonia, no nitrite.
Fish looked very stressed so I added stress coat and melafix along with some aquarium salt.

I added pre-cycled aquarium sand to bring up bacteria and next day I still got .25 ammonia, now trace amounts of nitrite and 20 ppm nitrate.
I put in ammolock, and nitrazorb pillow. and now read NO nitrite but still ammonia and nitrate.

The water is really hazy/cloudy and I added some water clearing stuff by apI but it doesn't seem to be working even after 8 hours.

Dragon fish is CONSTANTLY swimming around even in the day (seems to be looking for something or restless) and Rainbow seems restless too.

Please refresh my memory on what to do!
  • #2
HI welcome to Fish Lore

That was so nice of you to rescue the fish. It sounds like they needed you!

Ammolock is ok for an emergency but I'm afraid the only way to resolve the problem would be a larger tank and seperating them, I believe they have different water requirements.
I googled dragon fish and apparently they can get quite large. (2 feet ) and prefer brackish water.
The pleco can get huge also and if I'm not mistaken, they can't tolerate a brackish tank.
Maybe you can find a lfs to take them?

In the mean time you can use Prime as your water conditioner to detoxify the ammonia (unlike ammlock, it will still make the ammonia available to the bacteria) and do daily water changes to get the cycle in check.

I hope someone more familiar with these fish will see this and correct me if I'm wrong.

Good luck.
  • #3
I am not sure on Dragonfish, but will direct Dino this way when he wakes.

Lucy was correct on the plecostomus statement; They do not do well at all with salt. They lack the slime coat that other fish have. The salt is rough and scratches their slime coat, which tells their body to produce more slime coat, kind of like scabs on humans.

I think Lucy's idea of seeing if a local fish store would take some/all of them and you keep the tank and stock it to proper amounts and stay on fishlore to chat, learn, and teach what you know would be the best all around situation.
  • #4
You're getting excellent advice and bless you for rescuing these poor fish. Personally I would see if the LFS would take the Dragon Fish(I love those, so pre-historic looking) and the Pleco. The rainbow is the one I would keep and get some more of. They are quite beautiful in groups. That would take care of the top and mid water. Then a group of corys for the bottom after the tank is fully cycled.
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Still perplexed

Well I checked with a couple LFS and noone will take them! Like I said before, I did the 90% a week ago, but forgot to mention that I also did a significant w/c when I added the cycled sand. I just checked this am and now the ammonia is back to 1pp! I am now getting trace amounts of nitrite and I also checked ph and it is 7.6. This doesn't sound good does it? Fish seem less stressed today, the rainbow actually ate something today and seems to be gaining some color back to his fins. I checked all over about the poor fish and noone will take them! The pleco seems to be acting very normal. I am just worried about what would be making the ammonia go UP instead of down? I added ammo lock yesterday.....??? How much of the water should I change today (any? been 2 days since last w/c) Does changing the water out disrupt the nitrogen cycle?
  • #6
I'm glad the fish seem better today.

Doing water changes during the cycling process will slow it down, but in order to try and keep your fish as healthy as possible it's necessary.
I'd suggest doing daily changes to keep the levels down.
  • #7
Hmmm... Lucy and the others are giving you the best course for cyceling your tank. If you could get some tetra safe start or bio-spira I'd try that as well. I will likely help cut down your cycling time.
Now I not an expert but is this the dragon fish?

If it is according to my fish bible...
They like a temp around 73-77 F. Recommend an aquarium length of 47". They are brackish and like a thick sand substrate with brackish water (0.5-1%). They get to be around 25" long.

If you can't find anywhere to take him he sounds like a really neat fish and you might need to invest in another tank for him.
Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
OMG that is NOT what this guy looks like! He is long like that, but the mouth is shaped different and he is an olive greenish color with an orangish underbelly. He is about 8in long and he does have similar fins that almost seem to come from his gills but he has 2 horn like protrusions from the front of his face by his mouth (which is way smaller than the picture)..
  • #9
Hi, It sounds like it might be a Ropefish from physical description and also since you said its constantly swimming about, (just like a ropefish). I had one a long time ago and loved it, it sadly jumped out though. So I'd make sure there's no open spots on the tank......
Heres a pic https://www.polypterus.info/Images/ropefish1.jpg

( I also meant to add that if it does not look like a ropefish to you, that it is most likely a Senegal bichir.)
  • #10
Hmmm... could you maybe post a picture of him?
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
Alas, Louie is a ropefish. After pwc yesterday a is 2 and n is 2. Although the fish do not seem to be showing any stress (probably bc they are sadly used to such horrible conditions being in a tank that hadn't been cleaned in years) I am panicking like crazy! How much water to change today? Cant find the bio stuff, I only have stresszyme, stresscoat, ammolock, and melafix which I bought all new last week.
  • #12
Probably do a 50-75% water change and add the stresscoat, don't use the ammolock until someone else here says it's ok. You want your tank to cycle and if it prevents the ammonia from being availible to the bacteria then they'll die off.
Just take a deep breath
If you're feeling up to another run to the fish store look into picking up some Prime water conditioner it'll detox the ammonia for your fish for 24 hours until the next water change and still leave it in a form for your bacteria to use.
I don't know what stressyme does but I think you might b ok to add that as well if you'd like.
Relax you're doing the best you can for your new guys and they appreciate it.
Hang in there. <hugs>
  • #13
I agree with Red.
It's a bad situation, you're doing your best to improve the life of these fish and that's to be commended.
Unfortunatly 20 gallon just doesn't meet the needs of the ropefish or pleco.
Here's some info on the ropefish:

and the pleco:
  • #14
Alas, Louie is a ropefish. After pwc yesterday a is 2 and n is 2. Although the fish do not seem to be showing any stress (probably bc they are sadly used to such horrible conditions being in a tank that hadn't been cleaned in years) I am panicking like crazy! How much water to change today? Cant find the bio stuff, I only have stresszyme, stresscoat, ammolock, and melafix which I bought all new last week.

HI I'm so glad I could help with identifing your new fish friend!!! Don't worry, it will be okay! I'd do a 50% water change today and test your water again tomorrow. I wouldn't use any chemicals right now except the stresscoat. Also what and how much are you feeding them? Its a possibility that there is left over food in the tank causing your quick a and n raise. 2 cubes of food per day (if your still feeding that) is to way much for the rope fish and rainbow at their size, and the pleco generally won't eat any of it. I'd say no more than 1 cube of bloodworms and also I'd thaw it out before and slowly feed it to them and if possible make sure they are eating most of it. Hope this helps!!!

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