What Is Wrong With My Tank!?

  • #1
Hey everyone!

I am having the hardest time with this tank and I am really in need of some guidance. My last tank made it 8 years, so I’m not completely new to this hobby but I’ve never had a planted tank before. This will be a long post, but I will try to give you all of the information to help me solve this mystery.

My current setup is a 29 gallon freshwater tank. I tore down my old tank and completely redid it with new eco-complete substrate, new plants (mostly java fern, anubias, and some vals), new lights (Finnex planted 24/7 se). I kept the bio wheel going on a new 10 gallon and fed it fish food for a couple weeks but then transferred it over to this tank. I wasn’t sure the bacteria made it, but it has been about 4-6 weeks now.

I first added 2 gourami fish after a couple of weeks of testing showing 0 ammonia/0 nitrite/0 nitrates (though I have had a couple of days where I got a very slight nitrate reading, but they were about 2 weeks apart). One died over night after a few days, though he had been happily swimming and eating normally when I saw him last. The second one died right before my eyes— was swimming around and then just died over about 30 seconds. It was so weird. Water parameters were tested daily and were still 0/0/0.

I waited about a week and then bought 2 dwarf neon rainbows, 2 Celebes, and 2 otos. Again, tested water parameters before adding them after a water change and they were all still 0. Added the fish and they have all been swimming around and happy for three days, until we noticed one dead dwarf rainbow (who was fine two hours prior) and one dead oto. Again, water was tested this morning and again just now and still 0/0/0.

I do have live plants in this tank that I am struggling with as well. I recently posted a question about how to help them and I suspected the low nitrates are a problem. I received some feedback that I should try root tabs, but I have not done so yet. I was hoping the eco-complete was sufficient, though that appears to not be the case. I will post photos of the plants as well. There is algae on the plant leaves that the otos have been eating and there is a white fuzz on the driftwood and one of the plants that I’m starting to wonder about?

Current parameters:
0 ammonia
0 nitrites
0 nitrates
pH: 7.8
GH: 10
KH: 7
Phosphate: 0.25
Temp: 78F

I would really appreciate some help determining what is wrong with this tank. Thank you guys!


  • 3551E901-5B16-4207-9EF6-D693E4508B3E.jpeg
    117.5 KB · Views: 71
  • A7E62DF5-2E14-4EFD-A45D-B873A1BFFACA.jpeg
    90.3 KB · Views: 52
  • 8D3D336E-0908-4138-8027-EB6744FD0005.jpeg
    79.1 KB · Views: 57
  • BDAB97D8-F202-4B49-9F65-E37C8163992E.jpeg
    74.7 KB · Views: 53
  • E75B561F-AEE8-4994-A26D-A5EF412DDB30.jpeg
    117.5 KB · Views: 56
  • #2
Your tank isn't cycling. Readings should be ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 5+.
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
How do I get it to cycle? I’ve tried food and now have fish too. I have had nitrate readings, though minimal, twice. Any ideas?
  • #4
Some heavily planted tanks show zero/ very very little nitrates. What is your water testing kit?
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
I’m using a brand new API freshwater mater test kit.
  • #6
How do I get it to cycle? I’ve tried food and now have fish too. I have had nitrate readings, though minimal, twice. Any ideas?

Generally with a fishless cycle you add pure ammonia. Fish food can help, but its not all that effective and I wouldn't do that with the fish in there. The fish you do have are way too sensitive to do a fish in cycle with.

The very first thing I would do is dose Prime, which will bind ammonia and nitrite upto 1ppm. That will keep the fish safer in the short term, but it will need to be redosed as the Binding properties wear off after a while ( 24hrs I think? Might be 48). I would also dose stability as well.

The fish will produce the ammonia required to cycle, but its not going to be nice for them, so Prime and stability will help make things safe in the meantime. If you have access to any established filter media from another tank, a friend, your lfs, I would use that also.

Edit: the stuff on the driftwood is just a bacteria bloom/biolfI'm which will go away on its own.
  • #7
Otos are notorious for dying, I can get into it a lot, but tldr shipping kills literally 2/3. They have a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria in their gut that allows them to digest algae, but after being wild caught with cyanide and shipped all over, if there is no access to algae the bacteria dies and the other dies a few weeks later as it slowly starves to death. How long have you had the rainbows and otos? Fungus on driftwood is very normal, but the blob on the anubias looks like old fish food that fungused over, not harmful directly but you can just take it out. I don't see a reason for adding prime if no ammonia/nitrite are detected, but if it ends up being some kind of heavy metals poisoning, which is technically a possiblity, then it could help. Any chance your water lines were recently flushed or cleaned?
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
I got all the fish on Friday, so only a few days. I have used Prime with every water change, if that helps. I use city water from the tap. Same water my 8 year old Tiger barb had.

You guys are so helpful— thank you!!
  • #9
Make sure you're really shaking nitrate bottle #2 - bang it on a hard surface a few times, shake a lot, then use it.

You might have enough plants that you won't register ammonia or nitrates.

When you transferred the 10 gal filter over, how long was it on the 29 gal before adding fish? Did you add an ammonia source (either fish food or pure ammonia) until you added fish?

You have stocking issues if you'd like to discuss them (outside of incomplete schools)
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
That’s a really good point. I’ve read that Nitrate #2 notoriously solidifies, so I’ve been banging it on the table and shaking it each time.

I did add fish food when I changed it over and probably had it running for two weeks before adding any fish. I couldn’t find any ammonia here that was pure, so I settled for food. I will say that I wasn’t religious about feeding it, but I did do it a couple of times a week. When I started getting algae, I figured there was probably enough in there. Only once did I get even close to an ammonia reading, but that was 3 weeks ago at least.

Yes, any advice you have I’d love to hear. I’ve been trying to slowly add fish to let the bacteria catch up.
  • #11
Algae doesn't have much to do with cycling, so don't let that be your guide

Forgot to mention that root tabs would be beneficial for the root feeders.

What species of gourami did you add?

I'd either keep the dwarf neon rainbows or the celebes, not both. The dwarf neon rainbows will be very boisterous and will likely outcompete and intimidate the more timid celebes.

Whichever species you choose should be kept in larger groups of its own species. You could do 8 or so dwarf neon rainbows (they're chunky and active, so you don't want to add too many with a lot of other fish), or 15 or so celebes.

Add more otos too, but I would wait a few weeks, to give your tank more time to mature.
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
I’ll definitely order some root tabs then.

I had one of the regular blue dwarf and a flame.

Thanks for the advice on stocking. I’m down to one female dwarf neon rainbow and 2 of the others. I’d love to add more fish (understanding I should probably pick just one of those species) but when should I do that? I don’t want to kill any fish. Also, I was really hoping to have a brightly colored fish in the tank but I’m not sure what would be a good choice with a smaller tank?
  • #13
I would return one of the gouramis. Male dwarf gouramis (they're the same species, just different colors) will fight, bully, or kill each other eventually.

I'd rehome the remaining dwarf neon and one DG now, then wait at least a week before adding more of the celebes.

You could also have a school of small nano fish? Ruby tetra or ember tetra would complement the colors of the celebes nicely

Similar Aquarium Threads

Dawn Michele
  • Locked
  • Question


Top Bottom