Red Bellied Piranha And Catfish Suddenly Acting Weird At Feeding Time

espresso_dreams

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The catfish appears to be suddenly trying to attack the piranha... they have always gotten along, nothing's changed, nobody's gotten any bigger (both are terribly stunted - I'm working on that)... I'm sure they're not fighting over the food itself because the catfish has always had a stealth eating style and just eats whatever is leftover off the bottom (I honestly never knew it was eating the food until very recently). They have eaten flake food their entire lives (I will be changing that soon). They were matched as tank mates by pros at the fish store, though the pros don't know too much about piranhas in my state (shhh, I inherited them)... I know there are a LOT of problems with their current setup, but I'm not sure where the sudden aggression is coming from... and it's a super fast catfish, so the piranha really can't do anything but try to get away. She is getting old (like 10), and the catfish is only about 5. Maybe that's why?
 

Aquaphobia

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Can you please provide more details about the setup? What species of catfish is it? Have you recently moved them to a different tank?
 

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I can feel your stress and concern from the posting, but with no idea what catfish you are talking about, there's nothing to be said. That, and the species of piranha, would be key info.
 
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espresso_dreams

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It's a red bellied piranha and an upside down swimming catfish. I don't have any tank specs. They've been in that same track as long as they've been together. Like I said, nothing has changed.
 

Aquaphobia

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Can you please post a picture of the catfish? There's more than one species.

Also can you post the tank's dimensions?
 
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espresso_dreams

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I don't know the tank dimensions (but will measure or something at some point) and can't get a picture of the catfish. It's too fast. We rarely see the catfish. Pretty much only at feeding time. It's also still the pretty much same size as when it was put in the tank as a baby, so not easy to capture in any way. I have tried to film their interaction, but my camera isn't fast enough to catch the catfish at all.
It looks like it's nipping at the piranha, though, and she looks bothered by it. This is very new behavior.
 
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espresso_dreams

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Off-topic, but still...
"Try to get them on flakes or pellets as soon as possible and only give them live foods as a supplement to their diet."
She was put on flakes after she and her school ate an entire tank full of cichlids... even though she's tiny (maybe 5"), she often bites and has drawn blood on several people when she felt threatened. She mainly just hides during tank maintenance. Her last surviving tank mate (who has since passed) was FAR more aggressive. That one was nicknamed "bitey".

Aquaphobia said:
What do you feed them?
The tropical fish flakes the fish store recommended after she helped devour the cichlids and freeze dried shrimp.

My catfish looks similar to this one:

Mine is a lot darker and I think a bit bigger (the fish store where my mom bought it said it should be by now). He is entirely nocturnal. It looks like he's packing it in for the night (day) inside his log.

I have been trying to get pics of either of them, but something went wrong with their light a while back and though I did replace the bulb, it still doesn't work. I was told not to bother until water conditions were better. So I can't really capture either...
 

Aquaphobia

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Why is that off topic? Any information at this point might lead to a solution!

You mentioned that the fish are severely stunted. What were the circumstances that led to this? If it was because they were kept in too small quarters then I don't blame her for eating the cichlids or being easily stressed and biting out of fear!

These aren't robots. They're sentient beings who react to their environment.
 
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espresso_dreams

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Aquaphobia said:
Why is that off topic? Any information at this point might lead to a solution!

You mentioned that the fish are severely stunted. What were the circumstances that led to this? If it was because they were kept in too small quarters then I don't blame her for eating the cichlids or being easily stressed and biting out of fear!

These aren't robots. They're sentient beings who react to their environment.
Oh I couldn't agree more. I inherited them in late 2014 when my mother died and have been trying to fix everything ever since, but I also got a field lab and an extra cat, etc.

They were in a school of four with the cichlids and my mother's ex fed them all late one day. He had been feeding them meat. After that incident, he put them on pellets, then flakes. At the time, they were all in an appropriately sized tank (he kept it when they split just to be an ass). She really wasn't sure where she would put a tank that big anyway. Actually, even though it was none of my business, and I obviously don't know much, I questioned him even putting them in with cichlids...

Their tank is large enough to freak out my landlord, but I'm sure it's not big enough. I don't really even know how to figure out how big it is... the fish store helped my mom for over a decade before she passed away, but they weren't able to remember her (I'm bringing a pic the next time I go), so their recommendations weren't specific. They also don't have any training in piranhas, with the exception of the ones who are from other states (one was able to tell me mine is most likely female). I know when the pump died a couple years ago, I was so not informed that I had to bring the entire pump in to figure out how to replace it.

According to everything I was taught by my mother about these fish:
They are BOTH known for being aggressive species, but aren't known to mess with each other (she knew exactly what kind of piranha it was)
They are on flakes so they won't eat each other (though it's not that likely)
They are relatively hardy fish
They both need the tank heated to ~75 or so. Their heater has been iffy for a while now, but I have a space heater pointed at them that keeps it in range when the tank heater flips out (normally only happens when the power goes out, and it comes right back on because we're on the FD grid, but the heater on the tank has to be unplugged, plugged back in again and is generally not reliable at first)
Catfish NEEDS places to hide, especially during the day and is very antisocial
Piranha gets scared easily (probably because her school is gone, that's why my mom bought the catfish)
She lost her last remaining piranha friend Bitey in 2014 before my mom passed. Unknown causes. Possibly just age. That poor fish flipped around for 48 hours and we knew there was nothing we could do and it was gasping for air at the top of the tank, so I held my mother's hand as she scooped it up with the net (can't do it with your hands, they definitely bite) and held it there until all movement stopped, and we buried it outside. Mercy killing. She had asked the fish store if they had any idea why her "p word" was acting funny, but they didn't have any answers other than water quality is probably not good and/or age.
I don't know how the other two died. I wasn't living with her then.
My cat is obsessed with the catfish because he moves quicker than anything he's ever seen before (maybe me, too). We've never been able to catch him with the net even.
At night, when catfish is in a good mood, it'll come out and skI'm the surface of the water, scaring everyone half to death (looks dead)
Probably over 90% of the time, that catfish is literally upside down. Another reason a pic is hard.
Every 2 weeks, I have been changing about 30-50%. I'm aware that this isn't ideal, but it's actually given us clearer water that no longer smells funny.
Piranha is missing almost all of her fins because of fighting with the other piranhas she outlived (I think I heard she killed one?), and getting her fins sucked into the pump because she's hiding from something. Mostly fighting.
That 30-50% of water - it is a 5 gallon bucket filled just under three times.
Hopefully, some of this was helpful. I will buy the API water test kit when I have the money (like next week) and see what I can do to improve the water, but I suspect 34 year old piping is in this house... not much is up to code.
I have been planning on reintroducing blood worms... maybe it'll have the opposite effect that my mom's ex expected and make them less aggressive towards each other? Once I learned that the catfish was actually eating the flakes, I stated giving more, which means the water is probably worse...
 

Aquaphobia

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What kind of smell was coming from the tank? Was it sulphurous? Do you have live plants? Do you vacuum the substrate? What kind of substrate and how deep is it?

By doing more frequent water changes you'll keep the parameters more stable by replenishing the minerals and salts that were used up before they fall really low

Bad water can trigger aggression.
 
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espresso_dreams

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Aquaphobia said:
What kind of smell was coming from the tank? Was it sulphurous? Do you have live plants? Do you vacuum the substrate? What kind of substrate and how deep is it?

By doing more frequent water changes you'll keep the parameters more stable by replenishing the minerals and salts that were used up before they fall really low

Bad water can trigger aggression.
This is the substrate:


It is about 1.5" deep. I vacuum it as often as possible, but have been dealing with a lot of other things lately (teen's poor health, her not doing well in school as a result, custody battle, the demands of a 100lb field lab, two cats, all of their collective messes, my full time job, etc - lots going on here). I used to do it once a week, exchange about 30-40% only and thoroughly vacuum the substrate, but was actually getting worse results with the water (unless there is something hidden in it that I can't detect with my nose and eyes) anyway.
When I was doing it the way I'm supposed to, a LOT more **** was growing in it, and at one point, the entire tank was green in less than a week. That took forever to fix. I was told green usually means algae? And the catfish eats that, along with whatever else it can find, apparently. So I don't know why that happened... the only other time we've seen it turn green was when the filter system died, and we immediately bought a new one, and somehow the fish survived it.

We can't remember what the smell was, but it wasn't a sulfur smell. I would've freaked about that... musty, maybe? Just off somehow... our tap smells a bit off itself. I've considered getting a large Brita or something and putting it on the counter for them, but it wouldn't be enough water, and it wouldn't be warm enough either. Maybe a call to the health inspector instead...

No live plants. Only a fake one. The catfish also eats tons of algae.
 

Aquaphobia

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Hmm, it does sound like there's something in your tap water that shouldn't be. Can you get the city's water test results?

Also, I'm sorry if you feel like I'm putting pressure on you. All you can do is the best you can do and you have to deal with what's important first. Try not to stress over it x
 
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espresso_dreams

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Aquaphobia said:
Hmm, it does sound like there's something in your tap water that shouldn't be. Can you get the city's water test results?

Also, I'm sorry if you feel like I'm putting pressure on you. All you can do is the best you can do and you have to deal with what's important first. Try not to stress over it x
Ok... #1. Just learned it comes from a pump house... I took 2 years of environmental science and know VERY well what those are... :/
#2. I can't list my location, but here is a screenshot from 2012 results. I SERIOUSLY doubt they've solved the problem...
Screenshot_20170220-164834.png

#3. I was taught how to find local water quality info in college... I have never had this hard a time finding it... very interesting that the only thing that I could find was in a freaking newspaper titled something like "contaminated drinking water" in my city... suspicious...

Edit: it is called "Toxic Waters", run by NYT.
 

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I have to go get on my computer to read that, but I get your drift.
 
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espresso_dreams

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The gist: haloacetic acids, trihalomethane, chloroform and lead were all out of range.

I think it is also very likely that the pipes in this house (built in 1982) have never been updated and are probably adding copper, too.

Aquaphobia said:
I have to go get on my computer to read that, but I get your drift.
I found something more up to date with a lot of digging:
Screenshot_20170220-170753.png
 

Aquaphobia

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Yeesh. Don't get inverts!

Would buying bottled water be an option? You could start adding a little at a time and basically acclimate your fish to the new water.

Or get an RO system and just add something like Replenish back to the water to remineralize it.

CindiL has dealt with bad water.
 
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espresso_dreams

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Aquaphobia said:
Yeesh. Don't get inverts!

Would buying bottled water be an option? You could start adding a little at a time and basically acclimate your fish to the new water.

Or get an RO system and just add something like Replenish back to the water to remineralize it.

CindiL has dealt with bad water.
I don't know about buying water, because it'd have to be the right temperature before I could use it... plus, it would get costly fast.

As for RO, that could be an option when I buy... I will have to get my 14 year old to explain the flow rates to me when she's awake... I took a class in college that basically covered all of that (water filtration, flow rate calculations, desalination, etc - it was called urban technologies), but if it wasn't for her tutoring me (she was 6), I never could've passed it.

Now I'm starting to wonder how our water quality might be affecting the septic tank the landlord refuses to pump ever...
 

Aquaphobia

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Nice...

Good point though, a septic field is basically a bacteria farm where the little guys eat the wastes going into the field. If your bacteria aren't healthy then your septic system won't work as well. Kind of like a cycle I guess! If the water is that bad it could be having an effect on both the septic and your tank!
 
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espresso_dreams

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Aquaphobia said:
Nice...

Good point though, a septic field is basically a bacteria farm where the little guys eat the wastes going into the field. If your bacteria aren't healthy then your septic system won't work as well. Kind of like a cycle I guess! If the water is that bad it could be having an effect on both the septic and your tank!
Yeah... that septic tank scares me already, especially since he refuses to do anything with it unless it overflows, and then said he'll charge me for it if anything inappropriate is found in it...

I found a couple pics of the piranha:
IMAG0476.jpg
IMAG0421.jpg
IMAG0680.jpg
IMAG0685.jpg

She is very small.
For reference, that cat is a 15lb half Maine ****. Also, it was suggested once or twice that she may be some kind of "fake" piranha (and that's why she never got big), but I was told those were peaceful, which she is definitely not.
Oh. Also, the Spongebob house is purely decorative. The catfish can't fit in it.
 

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