Recent water change, all of my guppies are in peril Please Help!

  • #1
Hello all, I am brand new here though I have had fish my entire life. Up until now I have not had any major problems or illness problems with fish. Last weekend I went to the pet store and bought a couple of new fake plants, new filter cartridge, and a new heater as my previous one had stopped working about a month ago. The temp in my house had been OK and the fish were perfectly fine during the time. So Saturday evening I had to empty a little more than half of the water because we had to move the 10 gallon tank to another room in our house. I did not even think to save that water and now I am highly regretting it. I cleaned out the gravel a bit, and then added new same temp water to the tank, added the same chemical I always use to "make the water safe" it dechlorinates etc its Tetra brand and says it contains bio something and its a yellow bottle (sorry I'm not at home right now to look).

I added the newly washed fake plants and the new heater washed as well. By wash I did not use soap as my dad who always told me to always only use water when I clean the aqaurium parts. I put the heater to 70 and made sure by keeping an eye on the thermometer as well. THIS IS WHERE I am told I also went wrong by not gradually raising the temp since they had been in about 60 degree water while the old heater was inoperable. I rinsed the new filter cartridge as the old one was very very dirty with slime etc. Once again something I've always done as I had been told to change it out once it is done.

All seemed fine. They were playfully swimming etc. Sunday I leave to visit family for Easter. Sunday night one fish floating and ALL guppies in the tank are near the top, listless, uninterested in anything, and their tail fins are all POINTED? They had been just fine on saturday. A trip to the pet store last night (monday) and they seem to think it is a fungus of some sort or a fin rot disease. So I buy this dissovling tablet thing that it supposed to rid my tank of this.

I got home and use a water test kit and found that the PH was off the charts...mine only shows up to 7.8 and it was about 2-3 shades darker than that. I added PH Down tablet.

I then added the med tablet, which turned my tank's water green and then waited and watched them the rest of the evening before heading off to bed. This morning two more were dead, and another nearly dead and unable to swim. I put him in a net inclusure near the surface so he wouldnt be swooshed around the tank by the filter current and because I had to leave for work.

Now there are I think 2-3 adult guppies left, and two smaller babies (not tiny like fry, but about the size they start getting colors) of which are the only two that ate last night. I had put in a small amount of flakes to see if they would eat. There are also two small skirt tetra's of which do not have any fin damage, and are swimming ok, but they are not eating and are a bit listless though not nearly as severly affected as the guppies. I have no idea what to do now other than just wait it out. I will test the PH again when I get home later today to see if the tank needs another ph down tablet. As for the meds it said to wait 3-4 days before adding again if needed.

I feel so bad for my little fish. I have had them all about a year, raised from fry. What should be my next step, should I completely give up hope? I don't know all of the fancy terms for cycling a tank but I have a feeling the huge water change is what started this, or that there was something weird in our tap. That's all I can guess because their fins were long and pretty before.
  • #2
Welcome to FishLore!

A. Don't feel bad about not saving the water, there aren't any beneficial bacteria in the water. The bacteria live on rocks, substrate, the walls, but the vast majority live in the filter. Which brings me to...

B. You mentioned buying a new filter cartridge, but I don't think I saw whether or not you added it. If so, this will be where most of your problems are coming from. Because the filter houses most of the bacteria, it is never thrown away
unless it is truly falling apart. If it contains carbon that needs to be replaced, you can cut the pouch open and replace the carbon (though many members don't use it except to remove medicine from the water). Which segues nicely to...

C. Most members will advise you to not medicate unless you are certain of what the issue is. I know which medicine it is that turns the water green, unfortunately I'm blanking on the name...anyway, oftentimes it is possible to do more harm than good when medicating.

D. Fish are actually very capable of adapting to a pH that they are not accustomed to, provided the acclimation is gradual. Again, many members will advise against using products to change the pH, because every time you do a water change, you are replacing the treated water with water of a different pH. It is better to have a consistent pH that is a little out of the range rather than to constantly futz with it (that's a word, right...?) and stress the fish. For example, my pH is high at 8.2, but I was advised to leave it alone.

E. As for the temperature, I'm not sure how quickly it changed, but it sounds like it may have been a bit too abrupt for the fish.
Usually one degree per hour is what is recommended. As an example, the first fish I bought when I started keeping fish again (and unfortunately didn't know anyhing) was a betta. I live an hour from where I purchased him, and I held his cup so the water didn't slosh around too much. Unfortunately, my warm hands increases the temperature by a fair amount (don't remember exactly how much), and then the temperature obviously dropped when we got home and I started acclimating him. Long story short (maybe not so short), he didn't make it, which is a testament to how sensitive fish are to temperature changes.

Sorry that was so long-winded! Hope it answered a few questions.

Edit: Oops, I see now about the filter. If it's gotten clogged with gunk, rinse it out in some water that you've removed from your tank during a water change. If you rinse it in tap water, the chlorine will kill the bacteria.
  • #3
Welcome to FishLore!!

I'm sorry about your fish.

When things go wrong, the first thing would be to test you parameters. Not just pH but ammonia, nitrite or nitrate readings.
Can you post these for us?
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
I have the API freshwater test kit but am missing a couple of the color shade cards. The only ones I have are the PH normal and PH high range. I just did a google search and there are pictures of the charts but I'm concerened about the shades possibly being different. Regardless I will try to run the tests when I get home. I will post as soon as I have a reading.

As per the prior comment, I really appreciate all of the info. I think with the combo of replacing the entire filter cartridge and cleaning out the black thing that goes in front of it I've sent my tank into re-cycle mode. I had no idea of the importance of the filter cartridges. I just thought if they were dirty, replace them. They get real slimy and nasty and stop cleaning as well so my instinct is to replace it.
  • #5
We used to have a pretty accurate one here in the aquarium water sub forum.
I just checked and the pics have been removed from photobucket.

Guess I can delete that thread! lol

Ask your lfs (local fish store) they often have extra charts laying around.
  • #6
When it comes to testing the water the ones you really need are the ammonia and nitrite ones. Ph is relatively unimportant, fish can become accustomed to whatever the ph is in your source water. Most people will say that you need the nitrate test as well--I certainly have it, but so long as you are doing weekly water changes and tank maintance it isn't exactly vital.

I haven't changed the cartridges/media in my filters since I started running tanks over 2 years ago. Just rinsing them or squeezing out the sponges when they start to restrict the water flow is more then enough. Literally--don't throw them out unless they are completely falling apart.
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  • #7
That is so good to know! I will definetly not change it again. I read that rinsing them in the tap would chlorinate them and harm the bacteria, so what do you do to rinse?

I will ask about the extra charts this weekend when I go back. In the meantime I am going to do the tests and see if the colors match the s I found online...

  • #8
When the filter cartridges ARE falling apart, even then don't just throw them out. Cut off as much of the fiber padding as you can and place it inside your filter along with a new filter cartridge. This will seed the new cartridge and prevent a minI cycle. Leave the old filter padding in place for at least a couple of weeks, then you can safely remove it.

There are different ways in which to alter pH when a person absolutely needs to but unless your pH reads higher than a 8.4 even 8.6 using the high pH test solution AND your fish cannot adapt no matter what you do, there is little need to try to adjust it. If you ever do try to adjust pH, stay away from the pH up/down products. They often will adjust your pH but due to the buffering capacity of the water, it doesn't stay adjusted for very long. This often leads to drastic and rapid changes in pH which can be very very harmful to the fish.
  • #9
Welcome to FishLore!

For the ammonia test, if the water is yellow, you have zero ammonia. As it detects ammonia it starts turning green. The darker the shade of green the more ammonia present.

The nitrate is a blue color when there is 0ppm. It starts turning purple in the presence of nitrite.

Do you normally do weekly partial water changes? As you probably know ammonia gets converted to nitrite which gets converted to nitrate. So since there is a steady stream of ammonia, you end up with a steady stream of nitrate. The only way to remove the nitrate is thru partial water changes. So if you had not been doing water changes, your nitrates could have gotten really high. Then when you did the large water change they would have dropped rapidly. Even though high nitrates are not good for fish, a sudden change in nitrate level can be fatal to them.

Going forward, you'll want to be doing daily 35%-50% water changes with Prime as your water conditioner until re-cycled. Prime will detox lowish levels of ammonia and nitrite for 24 hours and the daily water changes will keep the ammonia/nitite levels low enough for a full detoxing.

Best of luck!
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
I had no idea! Thank you. I am so glad I found this forum! You are all so very helpful! Okay so I won't use the ph product anymore. I am anxious to run all of the water tests today, I think I may do that on my lunch break in a little while. I just live up the street. After I test the water what is my next step to try and salvage what fish remain? Should I dig the filter I threw out, out of my trash to cut off the fibers to put in with the new filter? It's still in my kitchen trash in a plastic bag...
  • #11
I don't know how long bacteria can survive out of water and without food, so it may not be worth the trouble.
  • #12
If it's in a bag well wrapped and clean and has remained wet, it might be worth a shot. If you test for ammonia or nitrites, try it and see if your numbers drop after a few hours. It would be a good test for us to see if beneficial bacteria will remain active under those circumstances. I'd be very interested in the results if you are willing to try it and do the monitoring.

By the way, Welcome to Fishlore!
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
Okay so the results are in :
PH is a 8.2
Nitrate very light orange, not on chart but would be in between 5.0 and 10
Ammonia .50? Very faint yellow color
Nitrite was a very light green blue, lighter than the first blue on the chart for nitrite.

Chemical brands used were:
Tetra Aqua -AquaSafe w/BioExtract (Makes tap water safe)
Tetra Fungus Guard(turned my water green)
Tetra Correct PH 7.0(says it maintains ph for weeks, has not worked yet and I was told above not to use it again)

I did not normally do weekly water changes, more like monthly where I would take out about 2-3 pitchers full and replace. I have had this tank running for about 3 years constant.

Over lunch I sadly lost one of the tetras and 2 more guppies. Now there are only two baby Guppies which appear to be doing better as they snacked on a small amount of flakes right female guppy which looks really bad and is very pale and the last Skirt Tetra which is swimming jerkily in one corner of the tank. It is like a horrid nightmare! I fully expect to come home to only the two baby guppies alive.

I did not have a chance to garbage dive to see if the filter was still wet as my lunch break is not long enough for me to test the water, try to eat, clear out dead fish and then sulk at what I've done I will however be looking for the old filter asap as soon as I get home. If it is still viable I may try to put the fabric back in my filter and test after a while to see if it helps at all.

Now what do I do with my results above??? The tank seems to be nowhere deemed ready for fish life. Should I leave the remaining fish in the tank or transfer them to my other guppy tank upstairs? I have not done this for fear of bringing the disease to my two perfectly healthy guppies in their 3-4 gallon tank.
Also how will I get rid of the green water? Will it fade? My husband is ready to dump it all out to start all over but I don't know what is the best thing to do.
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  • #14
I might add if there are condtioners or chemicals that I need, the only pet store I have nearby it Petsmart. Our local aquarium store sadly went out of business last year.
  • #15
HI welcome to Fishlore!

Your peramiters sound like they are good. That being said, how long has it been since the last time you tested? Can you check the date on your test soultion bottles? It would be the last 4 digets of the lot number. The soultions are good for 3 years from that date. After that they may not be accurate.

Edit: some how I missed a line. Was the ammonia green at all? Just pale yellow is 0ppm, a little green is higher and cause for concern. If there was some grren in it I recommend water changes with a product called Prime( I buy it at petsmart) it is a declorinator but it will also detox lower levels of ammonia and nitrate for 24hrs to help protect your fish. I would do daily changes until your tank recycles.
  • #16
I know we have been throwing a lot of information your way already but after reading your post on how you do water changes, another thought as to another possible cause of your sick fish occurred to me. There is something called old tank syndrome. If water changes aren't carried out often enough with enough water being exchanged fish slowly become accustomed to a lack of minerals some of which provide them with electrolytes. While these fish will tend to survive under these circumstances people sometimes will stumble upon a problem when they try to acclimate new fish. New fish can't adapt to these conditions readily so there is often a high death rate. Another way people discover the problem is when they do have a circumstance in which they decide to change out a lot of water. What happens in a case such as that, the fish that have become accustomed to the lack of minerals in the water are now bombarded with more minerals than they can handle with dire results for a lot if not all of the tank. Water changes don't normally harm fish but under circumstances such as old tank syndrome, they can.

In order to make sure old tank syndrome doesn't happen to you large weekly water changes of 30 - 50% (I prefer 50%) are recommended with the use of a gravel vac so that the debris that collects in the gravel will be vacuumed out at the same time as you do your water change. This will help to keep nitrate levels from building too much by removing some of the debris that contributes to them. It can also help to make sure no toxic gas develops in your substrate.
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  • #17
The ammonia test was yellow. I believe the green tint to be the water dye that came after the medicine was added to the water. It was super bright, pale yellow with a pale pale green tint.

That would definetly make sense about the old tank syndrome. I am hoping that the tank is cycling quickly. This morning it had cloudyish water and was really green. Now it is nearly clear with just a slight green tint. There have been no more casualties since today at noon and the babies are actually swimming, although still at the top of the tank and not nearly as much as they normally do. The tetra is hanging out below the filter in a dark corner which is also near the heater. And the guppies are all at the top of the tank still. I so hope they get better. I feel so bad for ruining everything. I'd never known you were supposed to change the water out so much. I will definetly be doing this from now on. A couple of you had suggested doing a water change daily until they are all healthy again. Is this true? Should I start today? I haven't done anything with the water since saturday evening. Or should I wait until this weekend?

  • Thread Starter
  • #18
Toosie, I am so thankful for all of the information. I am a quick learner so the more the better I am just happy that I found so much support in here from people much wiser in fish keeping than myself!
  • #19
Did you manage to garbage dive and retrieve the filter? If you did, hopefully between that and if you can find Seachem Prime or Kordon Amquel+ at your Petsmart to detoxify the nitrites, hopefully the bacteria will be able to take care of the current nitrite level while one of those products keeps your fish safe. I would hold off on further water changes until your fish have had a chance to adjust to the new mineral and nitrate content in the tank. After they start to feel better, I would then start changing just a small amount of water everyday, about 10% would be ok. I would do that for about 5 days and then increase the amount of water to 20% for another 5 days. At that point I would setup a new weekly water change schedule. It should be safe by then to start changing out 30 - 50% once a week because the fish will have been acclimated to the new water quality by then.

If you start doing gravel vacs, I would start by concentrating on a small area and keep cleaning it by plunging the syphon tube all the way down into the substrate to the bottom of the tank and lifting it up again until the water in the tube runs clear. It's a small tank so the amount of water you remove that day from the tank will dictate how much substrate area you are able to clean. Kinda keep track and clean a different portion of the tank with each change until the whole bottom has been cleaned. When you move on to your weekly water changes you can clean half of the tank's substrate each week. If after a while your substrate isn't getting all that dirty, you'll be able to gravel vac the entire surface and deep clean areas with your weekly water changes.

If you couldn't use the filter media or if you can't get one of those products, water changes may have to start sooner.
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
Good morning! Okay- so- I don't have this gravel vac that you mentioned nor do I have the other two products. I will however be heading into town this weekend to be able to go to the pet store. So I will need to get that vac and then I will look for either of those chemicals above.

This morning there were no more casualties and the baby fish were eating as well as one of the adult guppies. The tetra and the oldest guppy are still not eating. Eldest guppy is resting on the top of a floating plant just under the water surface. I keep checking to make sure it's alive and I can see it moving it's fins slightly so I know it's still trying to survive. The tetra came out from it's new hiding place last night and sort of swam in place out in the open toward the front and center of the aquarium. This is the best they have all looked all week, but there are still nowhere near being perfect ebcause the guppies are not actively swimming around, they are just staying at the top of the tank.

As for the old filter aparently yesterday was garbage day and my hubby had already taken the trash out in the morning. I was so concerned about the other fish that I didn't even paya ttention to what day it was

When do you recommend I start changing the water then? And thank you so much for the gravel cleaning advice. I will definetly do it that way so that it stays clean moving forward. I'm so thankful for all of the things I am learning this week so that this doesn't happen again!
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  • #21
I just thoguht of something to add. This tank does not have gravel rocks. It actually has rocks that are about the width of a half dollar and there are some that are smaller, but not gravel size. SHould there be gravel instead? I have always used the rocks because they looked more natural...
  • #22
Rocks are just fine. Certain types of fish are more comfortable (if that is the right term ) with a specific substrate... For example: loaches and cory cats do better with sand substrate because they dig or bury themselves in it. But say for goldfish--no worries with rocks. In some ways it is even a better choice then gravel, as I have heard a tale or two about a "choking" goldfish. Usually on a piece of gravel that became lodged in their mouths.

For the fish you have it shouldn't matter. Its an asethetic choice more then anything
  • #23
You should start doing the water changes as soon as you finsih reading this, if not sooner. Doing the daily water changes will keep the ammonia and nitrite levels low. And while it is better to be treating the new water with Prime (so remaining ammonia/nitrites will be detoxed), second best is to just keep those levels as low as possible to minimize damage to the fish.
  • #24
I agree with jdhef. Being as you don't have the filter to try to take care of the toxins you'll have to start the water changes immediately. The toxins are sure to kill the fish if they are allowed to accumulate and being as your large water change will have already brought up the mineral content substantially, the increases of minerals at this point are the lesser of the two evils for your fish. Try doing a 20% water change today to see how much it brings down the toxins, and if it doesn't bring them down below .25 ppm start doing 50% changes tomorrow.

I know, it's a bit contradictory to what I told you in my last post but the priorities sometimes dictate how we deal with things. Sometimes we aren't allowed to be quite as cautious as we would otherwise like to be and in this case the toxins will have to take priority. The toxins will surely harm the fish, the increase in minerals.... the majority of it will have already happened.

If however you want to play things safer and if you have the time, you can do 10 - 20% water changes half an hour to an hour or so apart 2 or 3 times, (more often if the toxins are getting high) but spacing out the water changes and using less water will help to give the fish time to adjust to the new water. It's kind of similar to when you first bring home a fish from the store and you add water to the bag a few times to get them used to your water. Then after doing it a few times, you're good to go and can increase the amount of water with the changes without worrying the water itself will harm the fish.

Edit: The gravel vac, even though you won't actually suck gravel up into the tube, will suck a lot of debris out from in between your rocks so it will still be very helpful.
  • #25
goodness, hope your fish are feeling better. Don't give up fish tho. I also have had fish for years, took a break, and then started back with 10 gallon and easy going guppies or so I thought. My fish started dying too. I am theorizing that it is my live plants, which haven't had real plants in years, and that plants are having tough time starting in tank, and so I am having ammonia/nitrate issues. I am tossing my plants, going artificial again, cause never had such a massive die-off of easy fishes, in long long time.
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  • #26
You guys are so awesome. I am at work for 4 more hours, so I will change the water just as soon as I get home. Since I won't have the water vac until this weekend, is it okay just to take water out from the top with a pitcher for today's water change? or should I grab some of the extra airline tubing and vac out the bottom? I know it will be a LOT slower, but in theory it would work, right?
  • #27
Yes it would work and you can if you have that much patience but otherwise your old method of changing the water will work to bring down the toxins and you can start to get the tank clean on the weekend.
  • #28
Hello and to FishLore! Glad you found us!

Whew, you've been through a lot with your fish. Sorry to read about your troubles. Be encouraged, though. We're here to help, and we've all had to learn at one point!

You've gotten tons of great advice. At this point, I would recommend the following:

1) Continue to ease the stress on your fish by keeping the tank lights off, or at least reducing the time that your lights are on if you have plants.

2) Keep testing the water. Follow toosie's advice for minimal partial water changes.

3) Keep the temperature constant. If you do perform a 10 percent water change, make sure that the temperature of the new water matches your tank's temperature.

4) Browse the Beginner's Section here on FishLore.

For your trip to the pet store, may I recommend the following? In my experience, these two items are indispensable.

* Get Prime by Seachem. I strongly recommend this product for dechlorinating water and detoxifying ammonia. It works wonderfully well and in my experience does exactly as advertised. I have never seen anyone else ever post anything negative about it. The bottom line is, it works.

* Get an API Master Freshwater Test Kit. It's a bit pricey, but it's worth the money. As mentioned here earlier, check the expiration date before you purchase it.

And we LOVE pictures, so if you have pics of your tank(s) please share! Keep us posted!
  • #29
I also have both Prime and the AI master test kit, and I agree that they are items no fishkeeper should be without (though I hear Amquel+ does the same thing as Prime). PetSmart has the test kit, but it's $30, which is kind of expensive. I think WalMart has it for $20, and you can probably find it cheaper online (Amazon, etc). I also love my turkey baster, and it's the cheapest investment of the three!
  • Thread Starter
  • #30
Hmm I didn't even think of a turkey baster! I do have the master test kit from API and it came in handy. I did the slight water change with just a pitcher right when I got home from work. As of this morning the water was clear, algae was growing a tad bit around the bottom corners, and my three guppies had fins again!!! I had no idea they grew back THAT fast?! the tips where the new growth is are clear that is the neatest thing. It would appear the worst has passed! The two younger guppies were PLAYFULLY swimming across the tank this morning when I walked up to it. I have no idea how to upload a pic on here but I would love to share them since you guys helped save my remaining fish!
  • #31
It's GREAT to hear things are looking so much better!

Here is a link to help you upload pics to your posts.
  • Thread Starter
  • #32


Thank you Toosie so much! Well here is the only pic I have at work...It's of my little Betta. I have had him more than two years Now I just need to figure out how to get my pics from my phone on here. I'll have to email them to my pc later. Thought you would be happy to know that my home aquarium is thriving again
  • #33
Fantastic pic! I'm extremely happy to hear things in the home aquarium have improved so much. Great job!

Looking forward to seeing all of those other pics.

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