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Fix up a tank in one day?


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Howdy folks!

It's been I don't even know how many years since I've posted here. The last time was early high-school, most likely, and now I'm almost done with college. I have a 55-gallon tank with one common goldfish living in it. It's been an absolute mess ever since I've gone to college, and I haven't really had much of an opportunity (or the knowledge) to do much with it. To be honest, I'm surprised the big guy's lasted this long (nine years, now? He was one of my first, too). I want to try and clean up the tank, and plan on getting a new faucet attachment so I can hook up the ol' python, but I don't know where to start. I only have one full day to dedicate to it, though, and I don't want to end up harming the poor guy by changing too much.

He's got an old filter attached (just one--the other one died a long time ago), and the filter cartilage is clogged with years worth of gunk. I'm considering just buying some new filters altogether, but I don't want to destroy the cycle in the tank (if there is one). I have an air pump with one of those air wands and an air diffuser from The Goldfish Connection running, but it's not giving much air output at the moment. I think the pump might be too low, or the actual items are clogged. There's a lot of crust growing on the light panes, and I'll need more than water to get it off, but I want to be careful and not let any sort of chemicals enter the tank. The decorations are dirty (what little there are). Also, I have a Clarifier Excel, also from Goldfish Connection, but I'm pretty sure the UV bulb burned out a long time ago. There isn't enough room to have two filters and that, so now I'm thinking of just storing it and focusing on the filters. The water is pretty dirty, and the only water additions that occurred were when the water was low and the filters started to make a lot of noise. :no:

Off the bat, I'm thinking off doing a 50% water change (and making sure my folks do them a little more often after I teach them how to again), cleaning out as much of the gunk from the gravel that I can, buying one (or two) new filters, cleaning the exterior, buy some more test kits for the water, and possibly boiling the decorations in hot water, but I wanted to get your guys' input!

What do you all think would be the best way to go about this?

Thanks for all of your help!

Edited by Whirlwind
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That's seems like a good plan, although knowing the parameters would help. If the gravel is very dirty, you might need to clean carefully so you don't stir up too much crud or even remove the fish while you are doing it. But at the same time, you don't want to shock it with clean/different water.

Are you going to be able to keep up with the tank from now on?

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Do you currently have a water testing kit? Can you give us your current water parameters, including tank and tap pH, kH, and gH?

They're around four-five years old, so I don't know how accurate they are, but I could still try and get a reading if they're still around. I was planning on making a Walmart run tomorrow after getting an idea of what to buy, but I don't figure the parameters are that great. They can't be awful for Whirlwind to survive this long, though, or so I'd like to think.

That's seems like a good plan, although knowing the parameters would help. If the gravel is very dirty, you might need to clean carefully so you don't stir up too much crud or even remove the fish while you are doing it. But at the same time, you don't want to shock it with clean/different water.

Are you going to be able to keep up with the tank from now on?

I'm pretty sure the gravel is awful. I was going to try and clean it with just the python. I was thinking of moving him to another container, but I'm not very confident in moving him from one container to another. I'm not sure if there are any clean ones I can house him in, at the moment, either. : < And unfortunately, I'm never really going to be around enough to clean it, but I'm hoping to make sure my parents somewhat keep up with it, and to work on it more the few times I visit.

Edited by Whirlwind
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I also worry about the possibility of changing too much, too quickly, on a nine year old fish.

You can also take your water to petsmart/co, and have it tested for free. (I love free)

How many filters are you currently running on your tank? When was the last time the media was cleaned out in Primed tank water?

Can we see a photo of the setup?

Sorry about all the questions, but getting a clear picture of the setup will help all of us figure out a good place, and a safe way, to start.

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If you aren't going to be able work on it much, you could remove the gravel and switch to a lower maintenance option. Either barebottom with a few bigger river rocks or marbles will be easy to clean or a thin layer of sand. The sand doesn't hold as much crud as the gravel does, and you need only enough to cover the bottom. :)

As for filters, you should have two on a 55, and each filter should do around 300 gallons per hour. Normally, I like AquaClears, but they require cleaning. Also, we usually recommend that people skip the expensive cartridges and use diy filter media, but if your parents don't want to do that much work, maybe they would at least change out a cartridge. For an inexpensive and easy option, I like these. My local superstore sells them, but I don't know if Walmart does. http://www.petguys.com/-030172015550.html?productid=-030172015550&channelid=FROOG&utm_source=CSEs&utm_medium=GoogleShopping&utm_campaign=PetGuys

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I'm almost embarrassed to show the horrible state it's in, but here we are. You can't really see much with how murky it is.

http://i39.tinypic.com/fk1euu.jpg

It used to have two filters a long time ago, but definitely not now. I'd absolutely love having the option to go visit Petco, but since home is in the middle of nowhere (literally), the only option I have for anything is Walmart or ordering online, and the latter won't really be here fast enough, I'm afraid. I'd definitely like to do something about the gravel, though, so if I can find some sort of usable sand or river rocks, I would love to make use of them. Any suggestions on what would be safe?

The filter media hasn't been changed out on years, hence why I'm thinking of just dumping the whole thing, and the best option I really have at the moment is to buy two of those Aquatech/Whisper filters that are advertised for 30-60 gallons at Walmart (like http://www.walmart.com/ip/AquaTechPower-Filter-30-60-Fish-Aquatic-Pets/10291977)

. I think the one I have right now is a Whisper filter of that variety. I think they'd at least do things like change out the cartilage/do a small water change and stuff like that as long as I made a schedule for them. They've at least taken care of the feeding part, though the Pro-Gold I fed him has long run out, and now he's just enjoying his fish flakes. : <

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Sorry to double post, but it wasn't allowing me to edit my previous post! I found some more recent testing strips (not the drop ones, unfortunately), which should give a decent estimate, I think? Mind you, a lot of these readings also probably have to do with how my tap water naturally is.

Nitrate is high: >=200
Nitrite: 0

GH: ~300

KH: ~20 (it's in between 0 and 40)

pH: 6.0 (My pH has always been notoriously low)

Ammonia:.25-.5 (somewhere around that area)

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What day are you going to do this? You can get things delivered pretty quickly if you really want them. I completely understand that you can do only what you can -- I'm just trying to think of things that will work for you.

I think the Whisper filters will be ok, if you get two and make sure they have cartridges to change.

Walmart probably will have some river rocks in their fish section too. If they don't, you cohld get skmecwith the fake plants but you shohld boil those first.

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What day are you going to do this? You can get things delivered pretty quickly if you really want them. I completely understand that you can do only what you can -- I'm just trying to think of things that will work for you.

I think the Whisper filters will be ok, if you get two and make sure they have cartridges to change.

Walmart probably will have some river rocks in their fish section too. If they don't, you cohld get skmecwith the fake plants but you shohld boil those first.

Ahaha, tomorrow. This is kinda' short notice. Also, I just wanted to mention that my old python doesn't look very -clean-. Like, it's got gunk on the insides of it too from over the years of use (and no use). I'm thinking it might be best to buy a new one?

Either way, I'll see what all I can pick up tomorrow and work with, for sure! Hopefully it'll be a productive day.

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Just run some bleach and water through your old python, and it should be good as new. Soak it in Primed water, before reintroducing it to your tank, though.

Can you please get your tap parameters? When was the last time your tank received a water change?

Couldn't you just gently clean out your old filter in a separate container of tank water, thereby preserving your cycle? If you wanted to add a second filter, adding it, while still using the old filter will be far less stressful than fully re-cycling the tank, with your fish inside.

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Just run some bleach and water through your old python, and it should be good as new. Soak it in Primed water, before reintroducing it to your tank, though.

Can you please get your tap parameters? When was the last time your tank received a water change?

Couldn't you just gently clean out your old filter in a separate container of tank water, thereby preserving your cycle? If you wanted to add a second filter, adding it, while still using the old filter will be far less stressful than fully re-cycling the tank, with your fish inside.

Does the bleach need some time to fade after running it through the python, or is it good to go once it's soaked? The use of bleach scares me, haha, so I just want to make sure!

That aside, I was clearly very wrong about my tap parameters and must have been thinking of just ammonia when I said it. My tap results are as follows.

Nitrate: 10

Nitrite: 0

GH: ~150

KH: 120-180 (it was very vague)

pH: 7.0

Ammonia: .25

I couldn't give you an estimate on how long it's been since the water has been changed, but it's definitely been a -long- while. The python can't be attached at the moment because the nearby faucets were changed, so no one ever removed any water. They just added fresh water whenever it got too low.

And as far as the filter goes, is that all it would take to get it cleaned up enough? The inside walls are covered with quite a bit of gunk, so I should just leave most of that there and maybe just gently shake it in the water so the loose particles come off? I also looked inside, and one of the cartilage's have been replaced with a mesh bag filled with http://www.goldfishconnection.com/shop/details.php?productId=88&catId=1, something I suppose I did a long time ago. I used them in place of a cartilage, and now I'm not even sure if I did it right. Would that be a correct use for them? And if so, should I just gently rinse them too before reusing them?

Haha, sorry, I know I have a lot of questions. I just want to make sure not to mess up!

Thanks, all of you, for all this help!

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Can I make a suggestion?

What about getting a sterilite tub and putting him in it, and your media in a separate container in tank water to clean it. Once clean, leave it in there until the end. Then, you can remove the gravel and rinse you can put it back in if you would like, but it would be easier on your parents if it was bare bottom (as long as they don't mind wiping the walls) and it will stay cleaner since the food and waist wouldn't build up in the gravel. And the , you can empty it, give it a good rinse and wipe, fill it, and put the filter on, but do not put the media in yet. If you can get airline tubing, make a drip acclimation to get him used to the 7.0 pH. And also, once the media is clean and you are acclimating, put it in with him so the BB can acclimate to the new water as well. And make sure to get Prime. It can be a life saver. Especially if you dose it in his tank now, it will detoxify the ammonia for 24 hours. Don't follow any of my steps unless a mod or helper gives you the okay, or if they come up with something better :)

(A mod, can you check the information for me. :donthit:)

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This is a hard one.

The tank is cycled, and the cycle bacteria are located:

in the gravel

on the surface of the tank

on the surface of those ornaments

in the filters.

If you clean up the tank and put new filters in it, you will lose most of the cycle bacteria. Unless your parents are willing to make large daily water changes for a few weeks, your fish will be poisoned by ammonia and nitrite.

Changing all of the water could be done without losing the cycle, but there is a large difference between the tank and tap pH -- too much for the fish to handle all at once.

Ideally, you would clean up the tank over the course of a week or two, putting your new filters in the tank and leaving the old ones in place. You would change 10 gallons of water twice a day until The pH of the tank and tap were the same. Then you would do a 100% water change. After that, you could clean a little bit of the tank daily. But you can't do this because you won't be at home.

So here is my suggestion. Get a clean 5 gallon bucket, or better, a plastic storage box that is larger. Fill it with water from the tank and put your fish in the water. Then remove all of the water from the tank, vacuuming the gravel as best you can. Dump the dirty water from the old filters, rinse the filters and medium with dechlorinated water, but don't scrub anything. A filthy cycled filter is vastly superior to a sparkling clean uncycled filter. When all of the water is out of the tank, you can rinse the tank and contents with dechlorinated water, but, again, don't scrub anything. Fill the tank with clean dechlorinated water. Put the old and new filters on the tank in get them running.

Every hour, replace 10% of the old water in the container the fish is in with clean water. Check tank and container pH periodically. When the pH matches, you can move the fish into the tank. After a few weeks, you can remove the old filters and start cleaning the tank. Even then, clean it a little at a time to avoid a cycle "bump."

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Good luck with your tank makeover!

Will you be able to get home again sometime soon to maybe do some of the maintenance you aren't able to this time?

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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How set are you on keeping the fish? It seems your parents dont really want to care for it, you are only visiting a few times a year, and that nitrate number is terrible. How about giving it away and making a few bucks selling the tank etc? Right now money is just being thrown away running the light and filter and that fish is living a terrible quality of life.

Edited by DieselPlower
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I do agree with DieselPlower that you need to reassess your comittment to fishkeeping. Rehome the fish.

You need to also assess if your parents are committed to this as well. A 55G is a lot of weekly work and they seem not able or interested in doing it. It is unfair to them to keep your goldie if they are also not interested.

Cleaning the tank and changing the water safely cannot be done in one day. You will lose your cycle and/or shock and lose your fish. Beneficial bacteria needs time to grow back from cleaning your filter and tank, and removing your gravel.

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This is a hard one.

The tank is cycled, and the cycle bacteria are located:

in the gravel

on the surface of the tank

on the surface of those ornaments

in the filters.

If you clean up the tank and put new filters in it, you will lose most of the cycle bacteria. Unless your parents are willing to make large daily water changes for a few weeks, your fish will be poisoned by ammonia and nitrite.

Changing all of the water could be done without losing the cycle, but there is a large difference between the tank and tap pH -- too much for the fish to handle all at once.

Ideally, you would clean up the tank over the course of a week or two, putting your new filters in the tank and leaving the old ones in place. You would change 10 gallons of water twice a day until The pH of the tank and tap were the same. Then you would do a 100% water change. After that, you could clean a little bit of the tank daily. But you can't do this because you won't be at home.

So here is my suggestion. Get a clean 5 gallon bucket, or better, a plastic storage box that is larger. Fill it with water from the tank and put your fish in the water. Then remove all of the water from the tank, vacuuming the gravel as best you can. Dump the dirty water from the old filters, rinse the filters and medium with dechlorinated water, but don't scrub anything. A filthy cycled filter is vastly superior to a sparkling clean uncycled filter. When all of the water is out of the tank, you can rinse the tank and contents with dechlorinated water, but, again, don't scrub anything. Fill the tank with clean dechlorinated water. Put the old and new filters on the tank in get them running.

Every hour, replace 10% of the old water in the container the fish is in with clean water. Check tank and container pH periodically. When the pH matches, you can move the fish into the tank. After a few weeks, you can remove the old filters and start cleaning the tank. Even then, clean it a little at a time to avoid a cycle "bump."

This is just what I was thinking. Slow and steady wins the race.

I would see about rehoming the fish. And store the tank for later when you can have it and take care of it yourself.

Good luck

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Thanks for all the replies! They were all really helpful, and I'm going to try and see what I can do before heading back.

I'd love to rehome the fish if I knew anyway I could, because I'm just definitely in no position to take care of him, and my parents are far too busy to do a lot with him, though I think they'll be more willing once I can get the python up and running. In fact, my dad is the reason I'm trying to do whatever I can so quickly (asides from genuinely having wanted to help). He wants me to fix up the tank before I leave.

But the problem with rehoming is, as I mentioned before, my family lives in the middle of nowhere (rural Arkansas), and finding someone who wants to buy it -and- can pick it up seems highly unlikely. The same goes for Whirlwind. He's such a large guy, that someone would need a lot of space to give him and be knowledgeable enough to take care of him, but that doesn't seem to be much of a possibility at the moment. Especially with me being away.

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Well, perhaps you should work on upgrading the filtration, getting the Python clean and working, cleaning the gravel somewhat and acclimating the fish to clean water today. Then you could work on removing the gravel slowly on your visits.

Edited by ShawneeRiver
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You don't have a local pet store that you could entrust him to? Just seeing the parameters in the tank makes me wonder if you should look for another home for him.

:( After seeing a fish survive for that long with minimal care, a majority of people would be very skeptical as to why they would have to care for him beyond that minimum.

Good luck with whatever you decide. :hug

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Thanks for all of your support, guys. It means a lot! This is the first time I've visited home all year, so I really can't be around enough to do much of anything, but my mom seems determined to spend about half an hour once a week to do small water changes, and she's been making more time to do things, so I'm hoping that things will get a little better here on out.

I went and bought a second filter, but Walmart didn't really have much else for me to buy, so I'm going to just get as much of the gunk out of the gravel as I can, slowly refill the water so that it doesn't shock him, and then attach the new filter and clean the lids of the tank (oh boy, does -that- need cleaning). It's about the best I'll be able to do, now. Unfortunately, there aren't any local pet stores, and certainly not ones I would trust to take care of him, haha. The best I could do is visit a Petco and the like some forty miles away, but they don't actually take care of old fish, do they? I couldn't imagine.

Either way, maybe we can work with the gravel as long as my mom keeps on cleaning it often. There's too much there for me to get. But right! Thanks again! Hopefully it'll be in a much better condition from now on!

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Coming to the party late but I think you are doing the right thing keeping him at your parents' home, Whirlwind. This tank has been his home for so many years and it is certainly a good size for him. Unless you knew someone with a nice pond, I don't think moving him would go well.

The additional filter and a stepped up water change will really help. If your mom doesn't have time, is there a chance that you could arrange to pay a local, reliable teenager to come in and do a good water change every now and then?

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Haha, thank you very much, Redcap! You bring up a really good point that I never considered until now. My parents own a local restaurant here and employ many teenagers. I'm sure some of them wouldn't mind spending a little time once a week cleaning up the fish tank (as long as they were taught how to do it properly, of course, and are paid!). I think I'll pitch that idea to my parents, so hopefully something will come out of it! My dad is an animal lover, and he can't stand seeing the tank in such a state. He just, unfortunately, doesn't know how (or really have the time) to maintain it, so I think he would be all up for this idea!

Thanks for all the help, once again! I really do appreciate it.

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