Our last platy just died

Discussion in 'Platy' started by gamine, Jan 4, 2013.

  1. gamine

    gamineNew MemberMember


    We are a newbie family who just got a small (5 gallon) tank in August. We started out with what I now know was too many fish - 3 platys and an albino catfish. We don't have live plants, I use an air filter (not the smallest at petsmart, the model for a larger tank than ours, a "20'). I change about 20% of the water each week and use test strips each week as well, although I will be switching to a liquid test.

    One platy died about 3 weeks in, the second died of what we also know now was ammonia poisoning due to overfeeding, about 3 months in. I did a major water change and the nitrite/nitrate levels have been 0 for the last two months. We switched to once-a-day feeding at that time as well. The PH was at about 6.5 but it's now 7, after I used API Proper PH.

    Two days ago our last platy, a Red Wag, began to lie on her side (I am pretty sure it was actually a male but my daughters called her "she" and gave her a girl's name) and rest near the wall of the tank. She was still moving around a bit but by this afternoon she pretty much stopped moving. I was able to see that her gills seems very white and possibly a bit puffy, and she was gasping for air. Her eyes seems to be popping a bit as well and she did seem a little thin, but she hadn't eaten much for 2 days. We also noticed that some of the scales near her tail seemed to have flaked off. However, her bowel movements were normal brownish and she didn't have any other white spots.

    About an hour ago she spun around a few times and lay down, and then she died.

    The catfish is still her usual self.

    I want very badly to get some more platys but I am worried that I did something wrong that killed them. I would actually only get one, since that will pretty much be the max for this size tank. I am wondering if I should move the catfish to another location while I completely clean out this tank, although I hate to start all over when our water seems to be in such great shape. But I am worried that our platy died of a bacterial condition that could infect the catfish.

    Any advice would be very welcome. We really miss our platys.
  2. Daniostetras

    DaniostetrasValued MemberMember

    I'm not very good with the disease thing, but I know that if you decide to get more platies you NEED to upgrade your tank to a larger size. Platies need 10+ gallons. A bigger tank will also complete a cycle in the first monthish, and then ammonia will no longer be a problem.
  3. AlanGreene

    AlanGreeneWell Known MemberMember

    First thing, its good you are asking questions rather than just getting more fish not knowing what went wrong.

    you need a larger tank for a start. the cat fish (i am assuming it is a albino cory catfish?) you mentioned is a schooling fish and likes to be in groups of at least 5 or 6, the tank you have is much too small for that fish, you should return the fish or try to upgrade to a 30 odd gallon tank and get the cat fish 4 or 5 more friends to swim with.
    you then need get the tank ready for fish - you need to do a fishless cycle to get the good bacteria ready to convert the fishes waste (ammonia) into nitrite and then on to nitrate, nitrate is the end result of the nitrogen cycle, if you do not know the nitrogen cycle you should look it up, there is information on this forum about the nitrogen cycle.
    you need to find out how many fish can live comfortably in your tank and which fish go well together, what temperature they prefer and what foods they need (feeding a variety of foods helps keep fish healthy and happy)

    I'm sure others will reply to this thread, keep asking questions if you are unsure of anything.
  4. OP

    gamineNew MemberMember

    Well the ammonia was a problem due to the overfeeding,I thought, since food was rotting away and not being filtered out. Once I cut back to a smaller once daily feed it seemed to resolve since its been great for two months. I don't think that is what killed our Red Wag. Any ideas on the white gills/lying on the side issue? Also I don't think I can get anything bigger than a 10 gallon tank. We are in an apartment that is a bit crowded already. Oh and yes, she is an albino Cory catfish. She and the Platy spent a lot of time together. I don't know who thinks fish don't play!
  5. kinezumi89

    kinezumi89Fishlore VIPMember

    Firstly I'm sorry to hear things haven't been going well :( I'm glad you're not throwing in the towel though; fishkeeping is very rewarding once things get settled in.

    The ammonia problem was due to the tank not being cycled, in addition to overfeeding. With platies and a cory cat in such a small tank, there definitely should have been some nitrate present. Additionally, strips are very inaccurate - there is a thread where a member used strips, which said the water was safe (0ppm ammonia and nitrite), and then used a liquid kit and learned that there was a significant amount of one or both present (I don't remember). I'm assuming you likely still have ammonia or nitrite present, which is unfortunately the cause of your fish's demise.

    An "air filter" is not a filter, it merely aerates the water. Once you upgrade your tank (which is definitely step one, assuming you want more platies) then you'll need to buy an actual filter. The most common filter for a 10 gallon tank is an "HOB" (or "hangs on back," since they hang on the back of the tank). The purpose of the filter is more than to just filter particulate out of the water; the filter media (a cartridge in the case of an HOB) is very porous and is home to the beneficial bacteria which transform toxic ammonia to nitrite, and then to nitrate. According to your profile you are familiar with the nitrogen cycle, however some of your statements lead me to believe that your understanding might not be as firm as is necessary to be successful with fish. If you think you may need to read up on it a bit, go up to Alan's post and click on the underlined text.

    It sounds like you really like platies - if so, I highly suggest you get a 20 gallon tank. 10 gallons is really too small for platies; some members have successfully kept them, but as I own quite a few myself, they're so active that I can't imagine moving them to such a small tank. They get pretty darn big, too! Plus they create a lot of waste, so they need a large volume of water to dilute it. If you had a 20 gallon long tank (as opposed to a "20 tall," which has less vertical swimming space), you could easily fit five or six platies in it. PLUS, it's the smallest size tank that will allow you to keep your cory cat. Cories are schooling fish, meaning they need at least a group of six or so (though more is always best - remember, in the wild, they live in groups in the hundreds!) in order to feel safe and comfortable.

    My advice:

    1. Buy a 20 gallon tank, an HOB rated for 20 gallons (roughly 200 gallons per hour), and two 50W heaters (I don't think they make 100W heaters; I have a 20 long with two 50W. Also, more smaller heaters is better than one big one - in case a heater fails (IE won't turn on, or won't turn off!) then you have a backup).
    2. Buy an API freshwater master test kit.
    3. Buy a bottle of Tetra SafeStart (enough for 20 gallons, and read this thread: https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/q-a-with-tetra-about-tetra-safestart.58116/
    4. Buy a few platies.
    5. Set up the 20 gallon tank with filter and heater, and all the decorations you want. Move the cory and new platies over (you may wish to buy the platies after you set up the tank, of course).
    6. Dump in the bottle of TSS.
    7. Wait two weeks - NO water changes, NO water tests. Just feed the fish!
    8. If all goes well, your tank should be happy and cycled!

    This is assuming that you are anxious to get new fish. However, a cycling tank is stressful on fish - you unfortunately learned this the hard way. :( If you are patient and have time on your hands, the safer way is to set up the 20 gallon, filter, and heater, and buy a bottle of pure ammonia. This replaces the ammonia produced by the fish's waste. "Feed" the tank the ammonia, and keep track of the levels with your API test kit. Once you can process 2ppm or so of ammonia in 24 hours, and your readings are 0ppm for ammonia and nitrite, plus measurable nitrate, then you will know your tank is cycled. Do a water change, move the cory over (acclimate first, of course!) and buy just A FEW platies. At this point, the bacterial colony will only be large enough to process however much ammonia you've been putting in, but platies create a lot of waste, and you don't want to overwhelm the bacteria - you need to give the colony some time to grow and adapt to the increased waste production. After a couple weeks, you can add a few more platies, as long as they aren't showing signs of illness.

    Sorry for so much info! :p Hope this helps. Don't feel bad, almost everyone (myself included!) starts off on the wrong foot. The good thing is it's easy to do things correctly from the get-go, so you don't have similar experiences again :)
  6. OP

    gamineNew MemberMember

    Thanks for your support. I do have that HOB already, and will look for a place to put a bigger tank. I am now wondering if I was changing the filter too often and removing the friendly bacteria. Actually aside from my tank size, and having a single heater, what you described is how we did the initial set up. I will do the fishless Cycling this time since we already have a place to have our Cory live until its ready. And yes we do really love platies!
  7. kinezumi89

    kinezumi89Fishlore VIPMember

    Ohh you're right, don't change the filter cartridge! It says to change it every month or so, but that's just a ploy to get your moneys. It's just as you said; that's where the bacteria live, so by throwing it away you're re-cycling your tank every month. Once your tank is back up and running, every so often when you're doing a water change, simply swish the cartridge around in the bucket of old tank water (that you just removed from the tank) to dislodge the goo. But don't throw it away! If it starts to fall apart, then get a new cartridge, put it in the filter along with the old one, leave it there for at least a month, and then you can throw the old one away. This way the new one grows a happy bacterial colony. :)

    A single heater definitely isn't a problem for a smaller tank. :) I have one 50W in my 10 gallon, and one 300W in my 55 gallon. I just don't think they make 100W heaters, which is about what you would need for 20 gallons, and there's definitely nothing wrong with two smaller heaters.

    I'm not sure if you mean you have an HOB in with the cory currently, or a new one awaiting a new tank, but there's a few things you'll want to do to keep your cory happy until the new tank is up and running.

    1. I still recommend an API liquid test kit - much more accurate than the strips, and since you get so many tests out of it, it's more cost-effective in the long run too. :)
    2. I forgot to mention last time, I would get a bottle of Seachem Prime (you can get it at Petsmart or Petco, or online). It's a water conditioner that gets chlorine and chloramine like other conditioners, but this one also detoxifies ammonia and nitrite for 24 hours. So while your tank with the cory is cycling, it'll keep her safe from those chemicals. It's a bit more expensive than other conditioners, but it's super concentrated, so you'll literally only need a couple drops.
    3. Keep up with water changes! If she's still in the 5 gallon (not sure if I missed an upgrade somewhere), then I'd recommend doing 30-40%ish water changes every other day to every three days. Cories don't produce a ton of waste, but depending on the filter situation, it may just be sitting in the tank (not sure if the HOB is on the tank currently or not).

    To answer the question in your last post, the red gills is most likely irritation from the ammonia. If you've ever smelled strong Windex or cat urine smells, you know it's pretty strong stuff! If you were locked in a closet with a dozen catboxes, you wouldn't be feeling so well after awhile too :p

    That's great you're doing a fishless cycle :) Here's a link describing various methods, if you haven't seen it: https://www.fishlore.com/aquariumfishforum/threads/four-methods-of-fish-less-cycling.48446/ Most members highly recommend the "pure ammonia" method rather than using fish food or chunks of fish. Firstly it's easier to know exactly how much ammonia you're adding (something like "ten drops = 2.0ppm", etc), and also it's a lot less smelly :p
  8. OP

    gamineNew MemberMember

    Thanks again. I have an HOB right now. However I dont have an ammonia problem at all. That was 2 months ago. Will get the liquid test later today.
  9. aylad

    ayladWell Known MemberMember

    If no other fish had been introduced into your tank, it's unlikely that your last platy suddenly contracted a disease that killed him. The high ammonia levels earlier probably did some serious organ damage that didn't actually kill him until after the ammonia was gone.

    Even fish that survive ammonia problems are seriously injured by it and will eventually pay the price. I discovered this the same way you did, back when I was a new fishkeeper.
  10. coacoa8506

    coacoa8506Valued MemberMember

    i agree with aylad. I went through something similar when I started my first 10 gallon tank and even after the tank had cycled, some of my fish just couldn't make it. They were fine forever, then, after I had a grasp on things with my tank, BAM. My 10 gallon now has 4 platies and a crowntail betta (waiting for the gasps) and they are extremely happy all together! Not sure about the cory, but you could easily get a few platies in a 10 gallon as long as you don't over-crowd with too many plants and decor (just my little old opinion along with the advice of VERY experienced hobbyists). Good luck!!!