Poor fish choice already! and nitrogen cyle question

dmcl1

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Ever wonder what possessed you to make that fish purchase? -- you know, just after you've added the new fish to the tank? :-\

We are new fish owners and have a new 29 gal tank that has not cycled yet; 4 glowlight tetra added last week and doing well.

And then ...

Husband noticed a few clumps of algae on one of the decorations and suggested I get an algae eater. So, foolishly, I let the pet store person talk me into buying 2 pleco's. After reading up on them over the weekend I feel very foolish --- these guys are gonna get big, right? Talked to another pet store worker today about bringing them back (I don't care about getting my money back, just figure I won't really have the right home for them). Would appreciate any words of wisdom you all have on all that. :-[

Other than the pleco bit, all is so far, so good. Tetras look happy and playful. Since this is a new tank that hasn't yet completed a cycle, I'm wondering how long I might expect to wait before the ammonia begins to register in testing. Tested again this morning and it is still reading zero.

Thanks,
Denise in Virginia
 

Isabella

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Hi Denise, and welcome to Fish Lore .

Yes, it would be best if you took the 2 plecos back because they will get too large for a 29 gallon tank. I think a fish like pleco needs AT LEAST a 75 gallon tank (I'd personally get even larger tank for it).

Now, don't get any more fish until your tank is cycled. Four tetras in a 29 gallon tank is far from overstocking, BUT any fish in a new tank may have to suffer because of ammonia and nitrite. A tank usually cycles around 4 - 6 weeks, but if you add fish to a new tank it may cycle longer with fish. It's always best to cycle the tank first, and then add fish. Your tank will first have ammonia, then nitrite, and lastly, nitrate. It will be cycled when ammonia and nitrite = 0, and when nitrate is present.

Because you already have fish in your tank, once you have ANY ammonia and nitrite in your water (however small these amounts may be), you'll need to be performing 50% daily water changes ... until ammonia and nitrite = 0. This is the only way to protect your fish from getting sick from ammonia and nitrite. Even smallest amounts of these 2 compounds can make your fish sick or even kill them. And even with daily 50% water changes, I can't guarantee that they'll make it. However, they will have much better chances of making it with the water changes than without them.

Once your tank is cycled, then you'll need to perform weekly 15 - 30% water changes, as a regular tank maintenance, so that nitrate is regularly removed from the water. Nitrate isn't as dangerous as ammonia and nitrite, but it can also become toxic when in large concentration. Strive to keep nitrate below 20, and 0 at best. The maximum is 40 ppm for nitrate, but I wouldn't let the water get that dirty.

If you want a good algae eater for your 29 gallon tank, get a few Otos, or 1 Siamese Flying Fox, or 1 Bristlenose Catfish. If you get the Siamese Flying Fox, MAKE SURE that its scientific name is Crossocheilus Siamensis because oftentimes the store will sell a loach that looks like it but is not it.

I guess that's it for now. As I've said, monitor your water for ammonia and nitrite now. Once they appear, perform daily 50% water changes until they = 0. Give the 2 plecos back to the store. And lastly, when you perform water changes, vacuum the gravel with each water change with a siphon tube (available at every fish store). Good luck .
 
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dmcl1

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Thanks for the reply Isabella.

Thanks for the confirmation on the plecos -- of course, in just the few short days they've been here, we've all grown to really like them. Just yesterday they began to come out from their hiding places at the back of the tank. If the store won't accept them back, I did find an LFS in Maryland that has staff who love plecos and may be able to help me find them a suitable home. That certainly makes me feel better.

Last night I found that 3 of the 4 tetras are showing signs of fin rot. Didn't realize the day before that this is what is was -- thought it was fin nipping by the smaller and somewhat ornery tetra who chases the others around the tank. Purchased Tetracycline (Mardel) this morning -- the store didn't have Maracyn as I saw suggested in another thread.

Performing daily water testing but still not seeing any initial rise in ammonia yet. Is that normal at this point?

Did a 15% water change yesterday. Those siphons make that job easier than I expected (although I nearly ended up overfilling the bucket in my excitement once I finally got it working properly! ).

We'll see how they come through and hopefully I can get this tank cycled properly.
 

Isabella

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dmcl1 said:
Performing daily water testing but still not seeing any initial rise in ammonia yet.  Is that normal at this point?
Well, exactly how long have you had this tank running? Each individual tank is really different. Some tanks cycle longer while others cycle faster. Cycling without fish is also faster than cycling with fish. Not sure if the size of the tank has anything to do with the speed of the cycle, but could be. All I can say is: have patience. Every tank MUST cycle - there is no way without it. If you don't yet register any ammonia, that's good, because your fish are not suffering from ammonia poisoning. But ammonia WILL show up -  a matter of time - and once it does, start performing daily 50% water changes. The same goes for nitrite. It would be really good if you got yourself a nitrite test. You're not registering any ammonia, but what if you have nitrite and don't even know about it? Nitrite is as toxic as ammonia. If you have 0 ammonia and some number of nitrite, that means your tank is half-cycled. In other words, you've already had ammonia and now are having nitrite.

Finrot, or really any disease, when it occurs during the cycle, is most likely the result of ammonia or nitrite present in the water. If the tank is fully cycled and mature, and diseases occur, they're either the result of poor water maintenance or overcrowding, or they were brought from the store. Many diseases take a while to manifest themselves, even up to a month. You may be buying sick fish without even knowing it. And lastly, a healthy fish can get sick in good-quality water as well. Know how? When you buy a new fish and do not acclimatize it properly, it may get sick this way. By acclimatizing I mean slowly adjusting your fish to new water, i.e. to new pH, new nitrate levels, and new temperature. You do this by floating your fish bag in your tank water - this stabilizes the temperature. And while you're floating the bag, you pour into the bag with the fish half a cup of your tank water (or so) every few minutes, doing this for an hour or two. The bag with the fish should have at least twice as much water as it had before, once you're done with pouring the water. When you're finished, you net the fish and put it into your tank (do NOT pour the water from the bag back to the tank). All of this helps reduce pH and any other shocks that fish may suffer as a result of an environment change. Bringing a fish from a store and putting it into your tank right away may almost certainly bring a lot of shocks to the fish, and thus make it sick - especially if the pH and temperature (as well as nitrate content) of the fish store water is very different from those of your tank water. One last thing: when acclimatizing fish in the way I described to you above, keep the tank lights off and keep your room darkened as well. Turn on the tank lights the day AFTER acclimatizing.

OK, I hope that helps and sheds some new light on where diseases originate from. As I've said before: get nitrite (and nitrate) tests, and keep monitoring your water for ammonia and nitrite, and nitrate. Don't know if there is much you can do to help sick fish in a tank that isn't cycled yet.(This is because your filter doesn't yet have the bacteria established and adding medications to a new tank may kill off the few bacteria already present or may prevent the bacteria from forming.) But best of luck to you anyhow.

P.S. When you clean filter media, clean them in tank water, NOT in tap water. Chlorinated tap water will kill off the bacteria in your filter, and thus you'll have to cycle your tank again.
 
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dmcl1

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No worries Isabella, I DO have a full test kit and always test for pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates at each testing. So far, they are all registering zero. I was just asking about "normal" as I'd somewhat expected to see a change *somewhere* after the first week based on the various things I'd read in books and on the internet. However, this is a new tank that ran for 6 days before putting in any fish and I had not done anything to "start" the cycle (like adding fish food, etc.) prior to adding the fish.

Granted, 29 gal tank with only 4 little glowlight tetras ... probably going to take a while for enough ammonia to build up to even be noticeable. (Although the plecos that have now been in for 3 days sure know how to make a mess, so I am taking water readings each day!)

I'm guessing the fin rot is largely due to stress and a big change in water conditions. I did do *most* of the acclimatizing steps you mentioned, although not as slowly as you suggest and did not consider having the light off when adding them. Will keep that in mind next time.

Thanks for your help,
Denise in Virginia
 
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