Tank Went Toxic Fast

JimSinclair

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My goldfish had a 33% water change Monday night. My water parameters, tested with API test drops, are consistently fine (ammonia and nitrite 0, nitrate around 20, pH the highest with the regular drops and lowest with the high range drops, so I call it 7.5).

This morning when I fed them they seemed fine.

Tonight I went to feed them, found some kind of orangey gunk on the glass around the top of the water line, one dead fish, one nearly dead, the rest hovering at the top of the tank.

I quickly got the live ones out of the tank and into one of the buckets of clean water standing by for the next water change. Then I tested the water in the tank. Ammonia and nitrite are off the charts! I have never seen results this bad, even during initial fishless cycling of a new tank where I was adding pure ammonia.

The filter is still running. That's the first thing I checked. It is not clogged. It appears to be working fine.

So now what? Complete water change, obviously. What else? I guess I will stick some used filter media from one of the other tanks into the filter for this tank, and test the water daily, and probably change some more every day depending on the tests.

Anything else I should do? What could this orangey residue be? Nothing that I feed them is that color. There aren't any plants in there.

What could make a tank become this bad, this fast?
 

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JimSinclair

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Here is an orange blob I found behind the filter. Is it some kind of fungus?

My goldfish had a 33% water change Monday night. My water parameters, tested with API test drops, are consistently fine (ammonia and nitrite 0, nitrate around 20, pH the highest with the regular drops and lowest with the high range drops, so I call it 7.5).

This morning when I fed them they seemed fine.

Tonight I went to feed them, found some kind of orangey gunk on the glass around the top of the water line, one dead fish, one nearly dead, the rest hovering at the top of the tank.

I quickly got the live ones out of the tank and into one of the buckets of clean water standing by for the next water change. Then I tested the water in the tank. Ammonia and nitrite are off the charts! I have never seen results this bad, even during initial fishless cycling of a new tank where I was adding pure ammonia.

The filter is still running. That's the first thing I checked. It is not clogged. It appears to be working fine.

So now what? Complete water change, obviously. What else? I guess I will stick some used filter media from one of the other tanks into the filter for this tank, and test the water daily, and probably change some more every day depending on the tests.

Anything else I should do? What could this orangey residue be? Nothing that I feed them is that color. There aren't any plants in there.

What could make a tank become this bad, this fast?
 

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JimSinclair

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I did a Google search on fuzzy orange blob in goldfish tank, and didn't take time to read through everything I found, but noted many mentions of orange algae.

So if it's algae or fungus, its spores might be contaminating the filter, right?

I completely emptied the tank, wiped it down with paper towels and refilled it with clean water, added double Prime, salt, Stress Zyme to replenish the bacteria, and Paragard in case it's fungus. (Incidentally, I saw no indication of fungus or fin damage on any of the fish, even the dead one.) Then instead of returning the filter that might have fungus spores in it, I grabbed a smaller sponge filter that I'd left in one of my other tanks to be available for such an emergency. I plan to allow the potentially contaminated filter to dry out completely, and get all new filter media before returning it to the tank.

The surviving fish are back in the tank, swimming around throughout the tank instead of hovering stationary near the top, and the one that was lying upside down on the floor of the tank is starting to swim a little bit now too. They do keep going up to the top. I can't tell if it's because they need oxygen or because they're looking for food. And after a crisis like this I'm not sure if it's a good idea to feed them right away.

Now going to see if I can find a spare pump and get an airstone bubbling in there.
 

Sheldon13

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My goldfish had a 33% water change Monday night. My water parameters, tested with API test drops, are consistently fine (ammonia and nitrite 0, nitrate around 20, pH the highest with the regular drops and lowest with the high range drops, so I call it 7.5).

This morning when I fed them they seemed fine.

Tonight I went to feed them, found some kind of orangey gunk on the glass around the top of the water line, one dead fish, one nearly dead, the rest hovering at the top of the tank.

I quickly got the live ones out of the tank and into one of the buckets of clean water standing by for the next water change. Then I tested the water in the tank. Ammonia and nitrite are off the charts! I have never seen results this bad, even during initial fishless cycling of a new tank where I was adding pure ammonia.

The filter is still running. That's the first thing I checked. It is not clogged. It appears to be working fine.

So now what? Complete water change, obviously. What else? I guess I will stick some used filter media from one of the other tanks into the filter for this tank, and test the water daily, and probably change some more every day depending on the tests.

Anything else I should do? What could this orangey residue be? Nothing that I feed them is that color. There aren't any plants in there.

What could make a tank become this bad, this fast?
Any chance you noticed these orange stringy things moving? They look a WHOLE lot like my worm cultures when the worms gather in clumps to lay eggs.
 

Cognac82

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That's super gross, for lack of a better way to put it.
Did you change any filter media at the last water change? If so, you might have disrupted your cycle.
What kind of filter do you have and did you treat your water with anything last time you changed it?
Did you add new fish?
The dead fish might have spiked your ammonia some but it doesn't explain the nitrites. Something made you lose your cycle.
I know someone else will tell you this but filling out the form for help might be helpful. I don't have the link but you can search it.
As far as the orange stuff goes, gross. And I got nothin. Following.
 

JimSinclair

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Any chance you noticed these orange stringy things moving? They look a WHOLE lot like my worm cultures when the worms gather in clumps to lay eggs.
No, the orange stringy things did not move. They kind of disintegrated into slime when I wiped them off with a paper towel. Very disgusting.
 

JimSinclair

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That's super gross, for lack of a better way to put it.
Did you change any filter media at the last water change? If so, you might have disrupted your cycle.
What kind of filter do you have and did you treat your water with anything last time you changed it?
Did you add new fish?
The dead fish might have spiked your ammonia some but it doesn't explain the nitrites. Something made you lose your cycle.
I know someone else will tell you this but filling out the form for help might be helpful. I don't have the link but you can search it.
As far as the orange stuff goes, gross. And I got nothin. Following.
No, I didn't change the filter media. At the last water change I didn't even take it out and squeeze it in the bucket of used water. I do that about once a week.

I treat the water with Seachem Prime, and add API Stress Zyme with water changes. That's long-standing routine and nothing about it was changed recently.

It's a sponge filter, because that's my special needs tank with two fish who are impaired in swimming due to damaged tails, one fish that is blind, and until it died this evening, one fish with a crooked spine. I figure a sponge filter is safer for them because it can't suck them up or injure them. I need to order a replacement sponge for it now. Just recently I visited the LFS where I bought it and asked about replacement sponges, and the guy said they don't carry them because people just replace the whole filter. Seems kind of wasteful to me. But I will see about ordering replacement sponges online.
 

JimSinclair

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Are you using well water?
No, tap water. And Seachem Prime to condition it.

I live in Syracuse, New York. Our water supply comes from Skaneateles Lake. Would an algae bloom at the surface of the lake affect city water drawn from deep down?

And if it were something in the water supply, wouldn't my other tanks also be affected? I have four other tanks of little fish and a 440-gallon basement pond with the adults. All the fish in the other tanks/pond were their usual active ravenous selves tonight, and no other tank or pond had orange gunk or dead fish in it.
 

JimSinclair

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Me too! But ewwwww! And so sorry for your fish loss.
Thank you. The dead fish was named Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. It had a bend in its spine and reminded me of the storybook character. If you read the books, or had them read to you as a child, you might remember that Mrs. Piggle Wiggle was described as having a lump on her back which she told the children was where she stored her magic. My Piggle Wiggle fish looked unusual because of the scoliosis, but swam and ate just fine. I'm going to miss it.
 

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I don't have an extra pump so I pulled out the bubble wall from my largest and most overstocked tank (anybody please want to adopt and provide lifetime care for some common or common/comet hybrid goldfish? They are NOT to be used as feeders) and connected its pump to a smaller airstone for the tank that had the disaster tonight. I hope the fish in the bigger tank will be all right until tomorrow afternoon when I can go to the LFS and get another pump and reconnect their bubble wall.

The disaster survivors seem to be enjoying the bubbles. I guess I will leave the airstone there even after the tank recycles. More oxygen can't hurt and will probably be good for them.

Nobody is at the top anymore. Everyone is swimming normally except the completely tailless one, who doesn't exactly swim normally anyway, but usually gets around well enough in the calm special needs tank with the gentle sponge filter. At least now it is swimming, and right side up at least half the time, and after its first time drifting into the bubbles from the airstone and getting shot to the top of the tank, is successfully keeping itself out of the bubble stream. When I first discovered the problem tonight, that fish was lying upside down on the floor of the tank; and when I returned them to the tank after cleaning and refilling it, at first that fish was only swimming upside down. Swimming right side up at least half the time is an improvement.

I think I will give them a very small amount of food because they seem hungry, and then I will feed my dogs and cats, and go to bed, and hope everyone will still be alive in the morning. I think the LFS opens at noon. I will take some orange blob samples and go ask for advice and buy another pump.
 

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Last update for the night, I hope: I put in a pinch of Tetra Pond pellets. One fish took a bite. Nobody else seemed interested, and the one fish that took one bite didn't go back for more. After giving them about 5 minutes to change their minds, and still seeing no interest in food, I used tweezers to retrieve the now-softened pellets. My cat Cat R Pillar, who has recently taken to hanging around the aquariums at feeding time and trying to steal steamed broccoli and blanched spinach, was happy to eat the Tetra Pond pellets.
 

Sheldon13

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No, tap water. And Seachem Prime to condition it.

I live in Syracuse, New York. Our water supply comes from Skaneateles Lake. Would an algae bloom at the surface of the lake affect city water drawn from deep down?

And if it were something in the water supply, wouldn't my other tanks also be affected? I have four other tanks of little fish and a 440-gallon basement pond with the adults. All the fish in the other tanks/pond were their usual active ravenous selves tonight, and no other tank or pond had orange gunk or dead fish in it.
My only other thought is that any little big of algae would thrive on food waste if your fish are messy eaters.
 

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I have no clue what is happening to your tank but it really is scary and definitely sucks that everything is going along fine and then this happens.
 

JimSinclair

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As of noon today, all fish in the special needs tank are alive, swimming normally ("normal" as defined by their own individual standards), and grazing powdered Tetra Pond pellets off the tank floor. They are ignoring whole pellets, which I am about to remove and probably feed to Cat R Pillar again. (He's right here waiting.)

This worries me a bit, because the only difference in feeding between the special needs tank which had orange crud and a dead fish last night, and the other tanks which have neither, is that only the special needs tank gets ground-up pellets. It's obviously easier for Adrien who can't see, and for Rumpy who doesn't have a tail at all and Woodstock who swims the way Snoopy's bird friend flies, to find and access particles that sink to the floor than to locate and navigate to and grab anything floating in the water. But that also means I can't find and retrieve any uneaten food, and those food particles can get sucked into the filter sponge and nurture algae or fungus. I was hoping they would be able to graduate to pellets, but apparently not.

After removing the uneaten pellets (and probably feeding them to my cat), I plan to eat lunch, bury Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and then go to the LFS for advice and an extra pump so the fish in the big tank can have their bubble wall back.
 

Sheldon13

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As of noon today, all fish in the special needs tank are alive, swimming normally ("normal" as defined by their own individual standards), and grazing powdered Tetra Pond pellets off the tank floor. They are ignoring whole pellets, which I am about to remove and probably feed to Cat R Pillar again. (He's right here waiting.)

This worries me a bit, because the only difference in feeding between the special needs tank which had orange crud and a dead fish last night, and the other tanks which have neither, is that only the special needs tank gets ground-up pellets. It's obviously easier for Adrien who can't see, and for Rumpy who doesn't have a tail at all and Woodstock who swims the way Snoopy's bird friend flies, to find and access particles that sink to the floor than to locate and navigate to and grab anything floating in the water. But that also means I can't find and retrieve any uneaten food, and those food particles can get sucked into the filter sponge and nurture algae or fungus. I was hoping they would be able to graduate to pellets, but apparently not.

After removing the uneaten pellets (and probably feeding them to my cat), I plan to eat lunch, bury Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and then go to the LFS for advice and an extra pump so the fish in the big tank can have their bubble wall back.
Try turning off the filter when you feed. I have to do that in one of mine or all the slow poke’s food gets sucked up before they can get to it.
 

JimSinclair

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Try turning off the filter when you feed. I have to do that in one of mine or all the slow poke’s food gets sucked up before they can get to it.
Interesting idea. How long is it safe to leave the filter unplugged?

LFS guy could not definitively identify the orange fuzz, but said it looks like algae. He also said there are some threadworms in the water sample that I brought the algae in, but he said there wouldn't be any of those left in the tank because I completely emptied and wiped down the tank. He said the algae, if that's what it is, could easily account for the high ammonia and nitrite and could kill the fish. I saw for myself how fast the stuff grows. I had put a teeny tiny pinhead-sized sample into a jar last night. This afternoon I put the jar in my vehicle, drove around doing other errands for about an hour and a half before going to the LFS, at after an hour and a half of cooking in a nice bright sun-heated vehicle, the thing was about half an inch in diameter. The LFS guy verified that algae can explode very quickly.

So what to do about it? He said what I did last night was the right thing, and now I should do daily partial water changes and add Stress Zyme each time to recolonize the bacteria. I bought a double air pump and an extra sponge filter. Now that tank is going to have two sponge filters, the small one I put in last night and a big one, as well as an air stone.

Now going to do that water change.
 

JimSinclair

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The new pump and the new sponge filter are set up and running. The fish in the biggest tank have their bubble wall running again, while the smaller airstone is still running in the special needs tank. Since that biggest tank also has two HOB filters in addition to an established sponge filter, I took the established sponge filter from there and put it in the special needs tank, and put the new sponge filter in the biggest tank.

The special needs needs tank has had a partial water change and Stress Zyme as well as the addition of the established filter. (All the tanks and the pond should have had water changes today, but I ran out of time, so they will all get them tomorrow.) The fish in all the tanks appeared lively and happy, and all ate some gel food for dinner. I didn't see anything orange or anything fuzzy (except a small floating furball, because my cats like to perch on top of the aquarium covers) in any of the tanks.

I did not take time to do a water test or take videos tonight, because I drive a full-size cargo van and I had agreed to help a family move all their belongings to their new house tonight. They're loading their stuff up now, and it will be well after midnight by the time I get them where they're going and then get myself back home. I am hoping to find everyone still alive and well and no more orange fuzz.
 
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