Sick Pleco (loose lips?...)

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Karbel

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I rescued 2 plecos from destination toilet bowl a couple of years ago from a neighbour who was moving and didn’t want to be bothered with them anymore. I admit I haven’t been the best host to them, but I really don’t know a lot about aquariums and didn’t realize what I was undertaking. For the most part, despite some cloudy water sometimes etc, they have really flourished with greedy little appetites ( I feed them little algae wafers that they readily gobble up), poop that would rival sharks (just kidding, but they *do* poop a *lot), and grown. They are now approx 5 inches each and only like in a 5 galloon aqauarium. I realize this is a little too small for them, but am waiting for some cages to be built for my Bearded Dragons when I will move them into one of their old tanks. Ok, so enough about the background (I *think*…). Recently, one of them has all but stopped eating, if and when she does eat, it is only like a little “sip” – certainly not the adorable little piggy that I had grown to love! I really don’t know about these little guys, so please excuse any seeming-ignorant descriptions. But she seems to have a loose lower lip - its just kinda hanging there and often times seems to slide out of place when she is on the glass – it almost looks like a lip of novacaine when on the side of the glass. However, she is also not even on the glass as much these days. She also rarely sits right on the bottom of the tank like the other does the way she used to, now she just kinda floats just above the bottom of the tank – sometimes with one part of her body floating higher or almost like she is half sitting up sometimes– and she seems much much more influenced by normal ripples in the water – almost like she has lost muscle tone or something – I don’t know. But she doesn’t seem as stable and seems to have to move around some just to keep from floating around if that makes any sense. She *may* be a *little* bloated, but Im not really sure as I don’t know if that is in my mind or if she was smaller before. I tried doing water changes and still no improvement. Do you have any idea what is wrong with her or if there is anything I can do other than try to keep her comfortable? I also noticed that the one was bullying her a little bit the other day – but I have never seen that before. I know you all will understand when I say that I have really grown fond of them and would feel horribly bad if she died at my hands! Please help!
 

Isabella

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It's really nice of you to have rescued 2 plecos. I guess being in a tiny tank is better than being dead. However, a 5 gallon tank is really too small for 2 plecos. In fact, these fish grow very large and they will soon literally outgrow your 5 gallon tank. These fish need a tank something like 75 gallons in size - not kidding. Your small tank is probably suffering from bad water quality, and that's why your fish is sick. It would be very helpful if you got a test kit that includes tests for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, and if you posted the readings here.

You do have a filter running on that tank, right? You will need to get a BIG tank for these fish, or else you'll need to find a suitable home for them. They will not live in a 5 gallon tank. Until then, do perform large and frequent water changes to be removing the accumulating nitrate. And nitrate does accumulate fast from 2 plecos in a 5 gallon tank. I assume you're familiar with the nitrogen cycle? If not, please read about it in the Beginner's Articles on the Freshwater Beginners board. This way you'll understand what ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are, and why it's important to keep the water free of them.

Lastly, when you perform water changes, do dechlorinate the new water before you add it to your tank. And when you clean your filter media, clean them in TANK WATER, not tap water. This is because chlorine in tap water will kill off the beneficial bacteria in your filter. You'll know what bacteria I am talking about once you learn about the cycle.

Good luck and ask if you have any more questions.
 
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Karbel

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Hi Isabelle,

Thanks so much for responding so promptly. I do have a question though and a few comments. I don't have an ammonia kit and I will buy one, but I do have strips that test nitrate, nitrite, hardiness, alkalinity and PH. However, I will admit that I am not the best reader fo these strips. They dont provide numbers but rather colors. Also, just to clarify, as soon as my dragon cages are buiilt, I am going to transfer plecddos into a 40 gallon tank which will at least buy some more time for time being. I will provide you with as much water quality information, but from the description of the fish, do you have *any* preliminary inkling of what could be wrong. Also, I dont know how to give you readings from the color strips of nitrate and nitrite?...

Thanks so much for all your help!
 

newbie101

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There should be a color cardthat came with the tests. You hold the strip up to the card and match the color on the card to the color on the strip, and the card will have a number with that color.
 

Isabella

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Karbel said:
(...)  I don't have an ammonia kit and I will buy one, but I do have strips that test nitrate, nitrite, hardiness, alkalinity and PH  (...)  They don't provide numbers but rather colors  (...)  I am going to transfer the plecos into a 40 gallon tank which will at least buy some more time for time being  (...)  from the description of the fish, do you have *any* preliminary inkling of what could be wrong  (...)  I don't know how to give you readings from the color strips of nitrate and nitrite?  (...)
I don't know how test strips work because I've never used them. But I've heard numerous times that they're not very accurate and not very reliable. I do know, however, how liquid tests work. There is a color card with them, and each color corresponds to a number. The number indicates the content of ammonia, for example, in your water. If you want a really good test kit, get Aquarium Pharmaceuticals tests for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate (and pH). They're liquid tests that are accurate and reliable, and easy to read. We need to know your ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate readings in order to know what's wrong with your fish. I suppose putting the plecos in a 40 gallon tank for the time being is OK. I mean, it'll be much better than keeping them in a 5 gallon tank - no question about it. Just bear in mind they'll eventually need an even bigger thank then 40 gallons.

REMEMBER to cycle the next tank to which you will transfer the plecos, BEFORE you transfer them.
 
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