water tests - need advice

  1. swimfan Member Member

    Hello all, I'm new to aquariums and to this forum. I started my aquarium a few months ago, and slowly over the course of the 3 months I lost all my swimmers due to ich &/or fungal infection (finrot) ~ the fish displayed symptoms of both.

    I started fresh 3 weeks ago. Two weeks ago I added the first fish, 3 black skirt tetras. One is quite large and silvery/shiny, one is medium sized and has much more black on the "skirt" area, and the third is a small guy with more of the silvery colouring.

    WHen I got them home, I realized that the middle one was missing BOTH of the small side fins (located right under/behind the gills). They must have been eaten off by another fish in the store? Anyway, all was looking good, for almost a week, and then the other two started picking on the middle one big time, real harrassment. So I quarantined the middle one, and within a few hours of "her" being alone, sadly, she died...... :'(

    I've been doing water tests every few days, and from what I understand the tank will take up to 6 weeks to completely cycle and my levels of everything will be stable? Is that right? I gave up on the chlorine removing chemical with this second new setup, and have just been leaving water in my basin for 24 hours before adding. I wondered if that was undesirable to my first batch of fish. These guys seem ok, but don't have too much spunk lately. I want to save them, but I don't know what's wrong? Here are my water test readings from today:

    pH 8.0 (this is high, but our plain water is 7.5)
    nitrate 0ppm
    nitrite 2.0ppm (?????)
    ammonia .25ppm (this has gradually lowered since the fish were first added).

    I plan another water change tomorrow, but is there anything I need to do for the nitrites? What about the pH? Do I need to worry about that?

    Question about the aquarium salt....... how much do I add? I worry about adding anything to the water, and don't want to oversalt them.

    Ok, I know, lots of questions, please bear with this newbie :)
  2. Gunnie Well Known Member Member

    Your nitrite level is toxic, and that could explain why your fish don't look too happy. You need to do about a 50% waterchange to get those nitrites down. You can add aquarium salt at a tablespoon per every 5 gallons to help with the nitrite toxicity. It will still make the nitrites in the tank available to the bacteria, but it will ease the stress on your fish. Don't worry about the ph. Chances are, the fish have lived in a higher ph anyway, and a stable ph is so much more important than a high one. One last thing. Does your water contain chloramines? If so, you will still have to use a water conditioner. If you age the water by letting it sit overnight with an airstone or powerhead to circulate it, then the chlorine will gas out, but chloramine won't, so check on that. Hope this helps!

  3. swimfan Member Member

    thanks gunnie..... how can i find out if my water has chloramines? i called our local aquarium shop, and gave the guy my water test readings, he said it sounded like the tank was still cycling and just to do my water changes and check the levels in a week or so. this is all so confusing.

    now, with the aquarium salt, if i'm doing a water change, say 50%, would i just add 1 Tbsp of salt since i'm only really replacing about 5gallons? (my aquarium is just a 10gallon). and if i only do a 25% water change, therefore about 1/2 tbsp?

    i did a 50% water change today. i'm going to check my values tomorrow morning.

  4. 0morrokh Fishlore VIP Member

    Swimfan, you're right about the salt. About the chloramines, I would use a conditioner just to be safe. I highly reccommend using the product called Stress Coat. It detoxifies chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals, plus it contains Aloe Vera which helps protect your fish against disease during the stressful time of cycling. The product Cycle boosts the good bacteria to speed up the cycle. Be sure to feed very sparingly, only once a day, so you don't overload the ammonia before there's enough good bacteria to convert it to nitrates. Also, raising your temperature a few degrees VERY GRADUALLY, like 1 degree every 4 hours, can help make the ammonia less toxic. Keep up with the water changes, every day if needed (25 percent should be fine unless it's an emergency). Since the nitrite has spiked, it sounds like you're almost done cycling. Don't add fish until you are getting 0 ammonia and nitrate readings, and then add only a few every other week or so. By the way, what kinds of fish are you getting and how many?

  5. swimfan Member Member

    thanks for the advice........ well, I checked my nitrites tonight, I just couldn't wait until tomorrow morning. still at 2.0 ( :mad:), but if that has something to do with almost being at the end of cycling, i feel better. i decided to check ammonia, and voila, it is at 0ppm!!

    i added 1 tbsp aquarium salt, since i did a 50% water change this morning, and I added 1/2 capful of the water conditioner (its called Aqua Plus, but I'll pick up StressCoat tomorrow when I head to the fish store to get a new filter for my next water change, I'll use that instead from now on).

    as for fish, i'm hoping against hope that these 2 black skirts hang in there, I really love them. i'm not sure what to do next.... i just have a 10gallon, and these ones are quite big! i'm thinking maybe one more to give them more of a "schooling" feeling among themselves. and maybe 3 danios at some point. that would be it. or maybe i should get some sort of algae eater eventually? i just don't know.......... any suggestions for a newbie with a 10gallon tank?
  6. swimfan Member Member

    well, fish do seem a little happier today, and more playful. what do you think of my doing another water change today, since I did one yesterday too? maybe 30% or so? and how long can i expect these nitrites to stay at peak? how often should i do water tests right now (every day?)??
  7. 0morrokh Fishlore VIP Member

    Since your ammonia is down to 0, the cycle should be starting to wrap up. Keep doing water changes as long as the nitrites are high. Pretty soon your nitrates will spike, and continue with the water changes. Once the nitrites are down to 0, you can think about adding more fish. And keep testing the water every day.
  8. Craig Well Known Member Member

    i find feedin my fish every other day helps i do that all the time so like miss out a day then feed them as much as they can eat in 2 minutes
  9. Isabella Fishlore VIP Member

    Under no circumstances can you put the fish in your tank the day that tank was set up! When you first set up a new aquarium tank, it lacks an appropriate environment. Right temperature alone isn't enough. You need the right pH level for the kind of fish you have, as well as (at best) ZERO ammonia level. Pay careful attention to nitrates and nitrites as well. When you first set ap a tank, you have to wait for the internal environment to stabilize (or for the tank to "mature") - that may take up to a few weeks. Oh, and if you're using tap water, DO NOT forget to add a dechlorinator to it! Now, in a new tank there are no essential bacteria to break down wastes as well as to cope with toxic levels of ammonia (ammonia develops quickly in a newly setup tank). However, if you allow some time to pass (speaking in weeks), the bacteria will gradually increase. Once that happens, the bacteria will be able to convert the toxic ammonia into a compound called nitrite - which also is toxic, though less than ammonia. Then, as toxic nitrite increases, so does another kind of bacteria that, too, will break nitrite down into a compound called nitrate. Nitrate is even less toxic than nitrite. But of course, nitrate will also have to be removed. This is done by regular water changes - about 25% of your tankwater should be changed every 2 weeks in general (depending on the amount and type of fish you have). This entire process takes a few weeks. After few weeks have passed, and the internal environment is stabilized, THEN you're ready to buy fish and put it in your tank. No wonder they died the first time you got them! They probably were poisoned by dangerously high ammonia levels ... Good luck!
  10. FishFan Member Member

    Please be respectful and kind to other members here. We were all new at one time and comments like the one above will not be tolerated. It's just unneccessary.We are all here for one reason or another-to help or be helped.
  11. Gunnie Well Known Member Member

    If you haven't bought it already, your aqua plus will do just fine for now. Personally, I prefer to use something like aqua plus over some of the other conditioners because I don't like the additives. When I tried the Stress Zyme, it seemed to make my water look slimy, or "snotty" (sorry, but I couldn't think of a better word). I prefer the more basic water conditioners, but everyone has their preferences. WalMart also sells Start Right made by Jungle which is a basic water conditioner and it's cheaper than a lot of the other conditioners. From what I gather from Isabella's post, she is talking about a fishless cycle, where you don't add fish until the cycle is complete. Some folks such as yourself choose to cycle their tanks with fish to provide the ammonia needed to do this. Although some folks think it is cruel to cycle a tank this way, which is their opinion, and they have the right to their own opinion. It is also a matter of opinion on how much water to change, and how often to change it. I do a gravel vac and 50% water change every week on all my tanks. If you want to figure out when your tanks need water changed, once your tank is cycled, do a large enough water change to get your nitrates down to zero. Then test your water daily until you get 20 ppm on the nitrates. Once your tank reaches 20 ppm, you know it's time to do a water change. The amount you change out will also have to be experimented with. I don't check my parameters as often as I used to, and merely do the 50% water changes whether they need it or not. It is very rare that I get sick fish.

    And I would definately do another water change if the nitrites are still at 2.0. Your fish may look better after your first water change, but that nitrite level is still toxic no matter how they act. You don't want your fish getting stressed out from the high nitrites, and have to deal with ick or fungus before your tank even gets cycled. That can get very complicated, time consuming, and your fish could die. Keeping them healthy is so much easier. ;)