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shadowdrinker83

My Rookie Mistakes and How I'm Trying To Fix Them (With Questions on Water Quality)

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This may be a bit wordy, but I wanted to be sure to give as many details as possible to receive the best advice for my situation…

In October (2012) my daughters went to a little carnival/fair type event with their Grandma and came home with a bagged goldfish in tow. (I specifically asked my mom not to do this as she had done it once before and that fish died about a day later as we had no way to sufficiently care for it, which I felt would be unfair to allow to happen to another fish). So there we were with a fish in a bag and no idea what to do with it. I filled a storage dish with water, acclimated the fish (about the only thing I knew to do properly) and released it into the container. We then went about explaining to our 4 year old as kindly as possible that “Goldie” would only be with us a few days because goldfish don’t live very long (I know, I know… I seriously had no clue…). Anyway, I did the best I could for someone with no knowledge, but every morning I woke up expecting Goldie to be floating lifeless in his/her little dish. And then another week went by… So by this time even I know there is no way this fish is happy in such a small dish so I found the largest container I could and moved him/her into this. I also decided to do some research into the care of goldfish… and that’s when my mind was blown! Seriously, I had NO idea… I’d only ever known one person who kept an aquarium (a roommate from my early twenties) and she was constantly rotating dead fish out of her tank and replacing them with new live ones (I have a giant list in my head now of all the things that weren’t right about that tank of hers- LOL). So yeah, it blew my mind to learn how large they can get and how long they can actually live under the proper conditions. In truth, I was overwhelmed by it all and my first thought was, “There is no way I can take this on.” So Goldie remained in her (still too small) container for another month with me still expecting to find him/her floating every morning. It may sound horrible, but I actually really resented that fish and the fact it kept hanging on. I couldn’t stand knowing it was suffering, but was also irritated that all the responsibility for it had fallen on me.

And then something happened… I pretty much fell in love with that stubborn, spunky little thing. I went out and bought the largest tank I could afford/ had room for at the time (a 10 gallon), some accessories (gravel, plants, a small castle) which my girls picked out and the basic care items I had read I should get (things like food, Tetra AquaSafe, Jungle Start Zyme, net, gravel vacuum, etc). The tank itself came as a kit with a filter, small water heater and hood with lights. I read about cycling, but had no idea what was being said so I pretty much shot for the whole, “Do water changes” concept and went from there. Everything seemed to be going fine after that. Goldie became a different fish… from super lethargic to super swimmer, from not eating much to eating really well. Not to mention the fact that she grew over an inch the first couple of months in her new home! I figured all must be going well and I continued to do weekly water changes and bi-weekly filter cartridge changes. Then my tank got really murky and nothing seemed to be helping. Finally I decided that surely the tank must just need a really good cleaning. Uhm… by good cleaning, I mean this… I removed 90% of the water, all of the gravel (and cleaned it in non-conditioned tap water), all of the accessories (again, rinsed them with water straight from the tap), scrubbed all the sides and changed the filter cartridge (I had remembered reading somewhere to never scrub the build-up from the filter itself as this was part of a beneficial eco-system in the aquarium, so at least I didn’t do that). Then I refilled the tank with treated water (but not Start Zyme for some reason), replaced the gravel and decorations… and there you have it! My sparkling clean, but completely awful aquatic environment. Of course I didn’t know that at the time. A few weeks later I noticed that Goldie’s body looked terrible… the scales, the tail… I just knew something was wrong. So that’s when I went online looking for some answers and discovered she had the symptoms of ammonia poisoning. I immediately did a large water change to try to get the ammonia levels down. I then proceeded to do water changes every other day (with what I know after finding these forums I wish I had done them every day). Still, after a week of doing this I could tell she was looking much better. Then the black spots signifying healing showed up and I felt really relieved. I ended up finding my way to this website when I went online looking for every bit of information I could find to make sure my fish (yes, it’s MY fish now… just don’t tell my 4 year old) lives a long and healthy life. Since finding this site a few days ago this is what I have done/ found out…

On Sunday my water tested 3.0 for ammonia (yikes) so I did a 40% water change. I also added Start Zyme to my tank after this to try to start cycling my tank (which I think I finally have an understanding of after finding an easy to grasp article on here). On Monday I did a 30% water change in the morning and in the evening my ammonia test came back with a .5 reading. Today (Tuesday) I again did a 30% water change. After waiting about an hour I did the ammonia test and also did a 5-in-1 strip test. My ammonia results were .25 and the 5-in-1 results are as follows:

TANK

Nitrate: safe (20)

Nitrite: safe (0)

Total Hardness: 75 (soft)

Total Alkalinity: 40 (not good!)

pH: 6.2 (not good!)

I am a bit confused as to why my alkalinity and pH would be such a problem as every time I do a water change I not only use the AquaSafe water conditioner, but I also use the Easy Balance which is supposed to help with water chemistry and pH levels. Also, after reading some more in the forums, I thought maybe I should go ahead and test my tap water also, so here are those results:

TAP

Ammonia: 0

Nitrate: 0 (safe)

Nitrite: 0 (safe)

Total Hardness: 75 (soft)

Alkalinity: 40

pH: 6.2

I know from reading other posts that the ideal is for ammonia to be at 0. I also understand that if my tank is cycling, I should soon be looking for the nitrite and then eventually the nitrate levels to increase (and then decrease over time with water changes and as the process progresses). I am concerned about the alkalinity and pH levels. If I had to guess, I’d say this pH and alkalinity are probably the same as they have always been in my tank. Should I be trying to raise them immediately? What is the best way (or product) to do this?

I also know I desperately need to get a larger tank (40g minimum, but shooting for the 50-55 range) AND a better filter for Goldie. I am currently saving for this (we have just bought a home and are moving in a month so a larger tank isn’t possible until we have moved). I also plan on trying to cycle the new tank without my fish this time around. I am very concerned about Goldie making it through this upcoming move. She is already stressed and going through a tank cycling and if she survives the move she will basically have to start all over with going through another tank cycle.

I will admit I wasn't sure whether to post this here or in the Horror Story thread, but opted for here as it deals with water quality. (I still think it's quite a horror story though...).

I really want to be the best fish mommy possible. I feel so bad that I have already made so many mistakes that have caused harm to Goldie. I would really love some advice and feedback on how to proceed and also possible products to use in the new tank.

PS. Goldie is a beautiful little Comet!

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You're in very good company here, and Goldie is lucky to have you! I always buy tanks at PetCo's dollar-per-gallon sale, and I look for stands on Craigslist :)

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Do you know how often that sale comes around? I saw mention of it in another thread here and the person said it was currently going on, but that was a few weeks ago. I was really kicking myself for missing out on such an amazing deal!

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I think you're awesome for taking this on even though you didn't want it to begin with. Means you're a great person (: and I'm sure your daughter will be happy with YOUR fish (;

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It ended on the twenty seventh, unfortunately. I think another one will happen sometime between August and October?

Is there a way you could buy a clear sterilite tote? I personally have the 116qt tote, and it makes a wonderful temporary home once you brace it so it doesn't bow out. You could house Goldie there until you can afford the tank. Checking Craigslist is always a good idea to look for used tanks, too.

Also, when you upgrade, you can just move your filter over and keep your cycle. You don't have to lose it. :)

Hopefully someone can more comprehensively address your water quality issue. One way to start would be to go grab a bottle of Seachem Prime and a API freshwater Master Test Kit. The test kit is a drop kit, less expensive in the long run, and the most accurate. The strips you're using won't give reliable results and get expensive quickly. The Prime will be your ultimate dechlorinator and help bind the ammonia to make things a bit safer.

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Do you think you would be able to get the API test kit that Chelsea mentioned? I hesitate to suggest any products to raise your pH until I am convinced that your pH is in fact that low. Test strips tend to be rather inaccurate, some worse than others. Which brand strips are you using?

Also most products like Start Zyme need to be left in your tank for about a week to be effective and with your ammonia and/or nitrites spiking, you will be doing water changes too frequently to let the BBs establish themselves. I'd skip the Start Zyme .. . .

Edited by fantailfan1

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I will look into the API test kit. I did read the API won't test for ammonia properly when using Prime as it can't distinguish between the treated ammonia and actual toxic ammonia. Should I take that into consideration when looking for a better test kit since I am having such issues with ammonia? I have been using the Jungle test strips (both the ammonia and the 5-in-1). Pretty easy to tell I went to Walmart for my poor fish's needs. Now that I know better (or am at least starting to learn) I will be looking for better products from other sources.

Thanks for that heads up on the Start Zyme not being very effective with my constant water changes. I appreciate the tips everyone has shared so far!

Also, when you upgrade, you can just move your filter over and keep your cycle. You don't have to lose it. :)

Thanks for this info! Will this work for my move? For example, if I am able to get this current tank cycled before we move, will keeping my filter and adding it to my tank ASAP help with re-establishing my tank?

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Prime will not affect your ammonia readings with the API test kit. Trust me. :)

When you get a bigger tank, just move your current filter onto the new tank. It is the filter that is cycled, not the tank. You may notice a small blip in your cycle but it shouldn't be anything too significant. You just need to keep your eye on your water parameters and do a water change if you see ammonia or nitrite rising.

Edited by fantailfan1

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Look at these videos to learn how to set up your filter when you get there, too. You don't need to overpay on those cartridges anymore.

:) make sure your media stays wet on the car ride. I usually bag mine in a Ziploc with some old tank water to keep the bacteria wet and happy.

Edited by ChelseaM

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Hello Shadowdrinker! :)

Welcome! We'd love to see YOUR fish some time! :D:rofl :rofl :rofl

(I chuckle at this, because I know the feeling very well. You are in good company!)

Anyway, you have gotten fantastic advice from everyone up above. If you don't mind, let me do a point by point prioritization of things, hopefully to make things less overwhelming, and even fun actually. :)

1. Let's take a look at the entire set up, from gravel to filtration, etc. I actually think you will be OK in the 10 gallon for a little while, although as others said, you'll want to update a (very) short while down the road. However, for now, let's make the 10g as ideal a home as we can. This means evaluating whether you have enough filtration, what kind of filtration media you are using (and whether it needs switching), and removal of potentially hazardous materials and conditions. To accomplish this, could we get pics of your tank and/or a video, as well, as giving us a bit more details about the filter. Chelsea linked you to fantastic videos on how to DIY your filter media assembly. :)

2. Let's cycle the tank safely, and hopefully quickly. Yes, this means that the fish will have to be in water where there will have to be some ammonia and nitrites. However, we can make it safe, by blocking the toxic effects of these nitrogenous products. For that, you will need the drop test kit, Prime or Amquel Plus, and get ready for some fun water changes over the next month. :rofl

3. Let's work on the food and how much you feed.

4. Let's work on a maintenance schedule that works for you and healthy for the fish.

1 & 2 are the biggest priorities. :)

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Hello and Welcome to Koko's :)

You have all the great advise you need above :) I'm looking forward to meeting your little fishy friend soon :)

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Welcome, and good for you for caring for your fishy! What's his/her name? :)

I got "into fish" the exact same way--the 9 year old I was caring for wandered off w/ friends and the friend's mom at a carnival and returned to me w/ a baggie. <sigh> I immediately launched into research mode and went to Petsmart, which sold me a 10 gal tank and THREE OTHER FISH!! Yikes. I went through water-change hell for months trying to cycle tank and finally gave up and got a 55 gal, which cycled and was home to those fish and others for the next 13 years! A water quality disaster years ago resulted in a terrible die-off (RIP Angel, Bubbles, Charm and Fred!) but I now have Georgia and Goldie (the latter acquired from my niece after she did the exact same foolish thing as my 9 year old charge years ago!), as well as Titus the bristlenosed pleco, all of whom will be moving to a 90 gal tank this weekend!

Anyway, you are NOT alone LOL--not by a long shot! The great thing is that you're HERE and you only have 1 fish in that 10 gal. Listen to everyone here (dnalex will walk you through it and you can COUNT on his knowledge!) and you'll be OK. :)

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Ok, I went to petsmart today to get a few things. Luckily I found someone who was very helpful as I wanted to get an air feature for the task, but felt really intimidated by the set up. She made everything really easy to understand so I got a bubble wall. I also got the API ammonia drop test and the API drop test for pH. I saw the master kit, but the price was slightly out of my range today. However, ifyou guys think I should definitely go with that one then I can return what I got and get the master kit on Friday. I also got Prime for conditioning my water. I will go ahead and proceed with my morning water change using the Prime then wait to hear back on the API tests before doing my level readings.

To answer the feeding question, I was originally doing 3 a day because that's what the package instructions said. Then I discovered through my readings here it should be way less so I did a day of fasting a few days ago. Yesterday I fed her fresh cucumber bits in the morning and again at night as my daughter wanted to watch Goldie eat the same thing she was munching on at that time. Today I fed regular goldfish food, but plan on only doing one feeding a day when I do that. I read that in a post by someone, but another person said it should be every other day. I just don't want to starve my baby. What would you recommend as a feeding schedule?

Edited by shadowdrinker83

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TINY amounts a few times a day are OK but TINY! Just a mouthful or 2. :)

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Unfortunately, we're going to need the whole kit. So if you are able on Friday, please go grab it. :) Every single one of the parameters are important.

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Here's your best buy on the API kit.

As Alex said the big concern is getting your tank cycled and seeing if that apparently low pH is an issue.

I have a question about your water. Is it naturally soft or softened? If it is going through a water softener, there should be a source of unsoftened water (like an outdoor tap. I use only unsoftened water for my goldfish. Hard water is usually higher in pH and also holds pH better than soft water.

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The water where we are now is naturally soft. We will be moving to a different area in a month. I don't know what that water will be like, but I do know there is not a water softener in the house we bought.

Thanks for the link to the Amazon API... comes to about what I paid for the test kits today! Will definitely go with that. I will just keep using my jungle strips until it arrives even if they may not be completely accurate.

Edited by shadowdrinker83

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Look at these videos to learn how to set up your filter when you get there, too. You don't need to overpay on those cartridges anymore.

Wow! Thank you so much for those videos! I'm pretty sure I now know what my biggest problem has been... I've been throwing out any possible chance of a cycle every two weeks!! No wonder I've been having issues with ammonia. And all I did was exactly what the instructions on the box said. Ridiculous! Anyway, I returned the individual API tests today and got what I need to create my own cartridge and hopefully get a true cycle started.

Should I start off by doing a large water change when I start over with my new filter media? If I am starting all over would it be beneficial to add Start Zyme? I plan on re-reading the thread on cycling. Just didn't know if there were any differences since I've had the tank up and running for months.

Also, I was thinking about making some changes like removing most of the accessories in the tank and also adding the bubble wall I got yesterday. Is this ok or a bad idea at this point?

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I just wanted to say how pleased I am that you want to do your best for your little fishie :) I know it all seems overwhelming and difficult at first but you will soon settle down into a routine and it will become easier and a lot more enjoyable! Well done for everything you've done so far

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Look at these videos to learn how to set up your filter when you get there, too. You don't need to overpay on those cartridges anymore.

Wow! Thank you so much for those videos! I'm pretty sure I now know what my biggest problem has been... I've been throwing out any possible chance of a cycle every two weeks!! No wonder I've been having issues with ammonia. And all I did was exactly what the instructions on the box said. Ridiculous! Anyway, I returned the individual API tests today and got what I need to create my own cartridge and hopefully get a true cycle started.

Should I start off by doing a large water change when I start over with my new filter media? If I am starting all over would it be beneficial to add Start Zyme? I plan on re-reading the thread on cycling. Just didn't know if there were any differences since I've had the tank up and running for months.

Also, I was thinking about making some changes like removing most of the accessories in the tank and also adding the bubble wall I got yesterday. Is this ok or a bad idea at this point?

Maybe you said this and I forgot but what type of filter do you have and what kind of media do you have in it? Do you have any ceramic biomedia such as this:

http://www.petmountain.com/category/348/1/aquarium-filter-bio-media.html

Do not bother with the start zyme. You will be doing too frequent of water changes for it to have any effect . . . It's debatable whether or not these products work anyway.

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I bought my tank as a kit from Walmart and am currently using the filter that came with it which is an Aqua-Tech 5-15 filter that uses cartridges that contain activated carbon. Today I went and bought the cut-to-size bonded pad stuff and also some of the Fluval biomedia to put in the other part of my filter. I will be setting it up exactly like the woman showed in that first video up above. I did look at the stronger filters, but again, they weren't in my price range today. I did have someone mention a pretty budget friendly one in another thread I posted my tank pictures in so I will be looking into that.

Since I was asked to post pictures of my tank set up I went ahead and did that here: http://www.kokosgoldfish.invisionzone.com/forum/index.php?/topic/109952-my-current-tank-and-changes-i-need-to-make/page__fromsearch__1

I feel as though I should apologize in advance for what you will see if you click that link... LOL.

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OK, good. I just wanted to make sure you had some sort of biomedia. :D

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I posted this information in another thread and included photos of the tank now that I've changed it a bit, but I wanted to put the information here as it's more relevant to this topic.

Today I went to work on my tank and here is what I did...

- 70% water change (conditioned with Prime- my first time using that product)

- Removed about 1/3 of the gravel

- Removed all fake plants (leaving only the castle as an accesory)

- Took out the carbon filter cartridge in my filter and added the "cut-to-size", bonded filter pad. I was going to add the Fluval BioMax media, but I discovered I had a bio filter so I left that in to help pass BB onto the new filter pad and also keep my water as healthy as possible for my fish while all of these other changes are going on. (Should I eventually switch the filter out and replace with the fluval biomax stuff- once the BB has been established in the new pad? Or should I just forget the other stuff and stick with the bio filter that came with the filter)?

- Added the bubble wall (LOVE how this looks)!

After making all these changes I waited about an hour and took readings (with my strip tests as I do not have the API master kit yet). Here are the results:

Ammonia: .25

Nitrate: 0

Nitrite: 0

Hardness (GH): 75

Alkalinity (KH): 40

pH: 6.8

Out of those readings (if they are correct) the only one that is not good is the Alkalinity (KH) level.

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