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diggitydani

Goldfish dying from salt dip

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I have a 45 gallon tank with two 15 gallon sumps, and I thought my four goldfish might have ich because I thought I saw white spots on one (I think now that they were just signs of sexual maturity bc it was limited to its gills) and a couple seemed lethargic and one of them had a torn fin that looked to maybe have some white on the tips, so I gave them each a 5 min salt dip in 3% solution of tank water and aquarium salt (I found this advice to be pretty standard from a couple sources). One of my fish immediately died. The others looked rough for a day or two, but then perked up, but now two of them seem sick again. I don't think they had ich anymore, since there are no more white spots and they're not rubbing on things. Here are some of the current symptoms:
 
Lethargy (they just sit on the bottom of the tank)
Black speckles on body and tips of fins
Ragged fins
Clamped fins
Peeling skin
Occasional not eating or spitting out food
White/gray spot on head (this is on my Black Moor)
 
It seems most consistent with ammonia poisoning, but I tested the water, and nothing seems to be amiss, apart from my GH, which is really high (they're in an aquaponics system and I supplemented CalMag recently) and KH which is over 13 drops. Tank temp is around 80 (the tank is outside and it's been really hot for the past few weeks. I recently bought a chiller I'm waiting to arrive).
 
I originally thought it was osmotic shock, which would make sense, but I'm worried it's developing into something else. Could this be just from the heat? It's been hot for the past few weeks, but this behavior mostly started after the horrible salt dip. The only I just don't know what to do to help.

 

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Welcome to the forum!

I'm sorry your fish died during the dip, that is very unusual without a lot of underlying stress. These are our instructions for a salt dip, for future reference. Is there anything on here you believe you missed in doing your own?

SALT DIP

1. dissolve 30 teaspoons salt/gallon of water (30 grams/Liter, or 113.7g/gallon). This concentration is 3%. Let it match the temp/pH of the tank, and make sure to add de-chlorinator. You can also use tank water, but because you are adding a lot of salt per gallon, you will need to heat up the water. Hence, it's crucial that you cool it back down.

2. prepare a holding tank. This is a tank that is pH/temp matched with the main tank, and has been de-chlorinated. This can be a 5 gallon tub, with bubblestone, or something bigger.

3. make sure you have some sort of timer

4. gently lift the fish out of the tank, and place into temp/pH matched salt solution.

5. start timer.

6. if the fish stays continues to stay upright, or tilts over but can get back up, keep him/her in the salt solution for exactly 5 minutes.

7. remove fish from the salt, and place in holding tank. The reason why we do this is to: 1) give the fish a place to recover by him/herself, and 2)to let the fish purge out ammonia/wastes in a place that is not the main tank.

8. if the fish starts to lose balance and cannot get back before the minutes, remove him/her and place in holding tank, as described in #6.

9. after 1-2 hours, the fish can be moved back to the main tank. He/She might still be disoriented, but should be fine.

Edited by Arctic Mama

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For any further treatment, it will be a huge help if you carefully fill out the diagnostic form below:

* Ammonia Level(Tank)

* Nitrite Level(Tank)

* Nitrate level(Tank)

* Ammonia Level(Tap)

* Nitrite Level(Tap)

* Nitrate level(Tap)

* Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)

* Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)

Other Required Info:

* Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops?

* Water temperature?

* Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running?

* What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)?

* How often do you change the water and how much?

* How many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change?

* How many fish in the tank and their size?

* What kind of water additives or conditioners?

* What do you feed your fish and how often?

* Any new fish added to the tank?

* Any medications added to the tank?

* What symptoms are you seeing? How long have they been going on?

* What medications do you have on hand or close enough to purchase?

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I did everything on that list with the exception of a holding tank. I didn't have one, plus I was dipping all my fish. Since the dip I've done a probaby 20% water change, and Ammonia always tests at zero.

 

* Ammonia Level(Tank): 0
* Nitrite Level(Tank): 0
* Nitrate level(Tank): between 5 and 20
* Ammonia Level(Tap): 0
* Nitrite Level(Tap) 0?
* Nitrate level(Tap) not sure
* Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines): Ph: 6.8 GH: too high to measure (it's an aquaponics system and I recently added CalMag), KH: above 13 drops
* Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines): Tap tends to be 7 to 7.3ish. Not sure about GH or KH. Does have chloramines, but I use a water treatment to remove
Other Required Info:
* Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops? I use API drop test kits for Nitrates, Nitrites, GH, and KH. I use Seachem for ammonia. I use an electric meter for Ph
* Water temperature? 80 fahrenheit (I'm waiting for a chiller to arrive so I can bring this down, but it's been this temp for at least a couple months)
* Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running? 45 gallon tank with two 15 gallon sumps, It's been running since about February of this year
* What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)? It's an aquaponics system, so the biofilter is the expanded carbon pellets with plants in it
* How often do you change the water and how much? Aquaponics don't require water changes for the most part. I just top off about 10 gal of water a week that evaporated
* How many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change? Yesterday I did a 20% water change and added in some distilled water
* How many fish in the tank and their size? There are 3 goldfish in the tank. one is about 2" , one is about 4" and one is about 5"
* What kind of water additives or conditioners? I use Home Grown Ponics natural dechlorinator, and I add in some API Stress Zyme and occasionally a ph down, since my tap water tends to have a slightly higher Ph than my tank. I occasionally supplement epsom salt or CalMag, chelated iron, and kelp extract
* What do you feed your fish and how often? twice a day, either broccoli or peas, or Hikari fancy goldfish food. I give one broccoli floret, 6-8 peas, or 2 decent sized pinches of fish food. 
* Any new fish added to the tank? no
* Any medications added to the tank? a little aquarium salt (just up to .3%)
* What symptoms are you seeing? How long have they been going on? see above
* What medications do you have on hand or close enough to purchase? I bought some ich treatment but I don't think that's the problem anymore. I can probably get any medication as I live in LA

Edited by diggitydani

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Your pH is low for goldfish, and quite different than the tap. Do you have peat or anything in your aquaponics system that may be dropping the pH? The injuries described are not inconsistent with pH crashes and then that leaves the goldfish vulnerable to secondary infections. It seems most probable right now, and I'm thinking if we can get your water buffered a bit and hold it stable your fish may well improve on their own.

Edited by Arctic Mama

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I don't have peat, just tomatoes, squash, cauliflower, kale, herbs, etc. But Aquaponics systems have naturally lowering Ph's. Also, because plants prefer a Ph of closer to 6, people usually try to split the difference a little. My Ph started around 7.6 months ago when the tank was new, and has gone down gradually over the past 6 months or so to hover between 6.7 and 6.9. 

 

I do worry that perhaps fluctuating temperatures in the tank (because it's outside and sometimes gets a little sun) caused Ph fluctuations throughout the day (even though the Ph is stable when I measure in the evenings), leading them to have weakened immune systems, which then made a salt dip nearly fatal. I'm waiting for a chiller to arrive so I can control the tank temperature a bit better. I just worry because it's been about two days since the salt dip and they're still showing clamped fins and bottom sitting etc. They seemed almost back to normal for a day, but now it's bad again. I just wish I could keep them from getting worse instead of better. How long do you think it will be before I know whether they're going to get better or die?

Edited by diggitydani

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I keep thinking maybe it's just osmotic shock, but I can't find any info on how to treat it; just how to prevent it. :/

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The temperatures aren't nearly as detrimental. I encourage you to pick some fish who can handle that filtration system if that is the pH is required to operate correctly. An Amazon or Southeast Asian community would do beautifully. But goldfish? Not so much. Their current stress response and illnesses are indicating they can't handle that pH - I see nothing else indicating a reason for that particular combination of symptoms, including the temperature. They can adapt to warmer temperatures fairly well, provided they remain stable. Stability is important. But the pH is outside the range of what is tolerable for healthy, flourishing fish.

My own tanks tend to be neutral - 7.0-7.2 naturally. That's about the lowest bound I can maintain and have healthy fish. Higher, up to 8.2-ish, is generally better for them. And harder is better than softer.

I am not a specialist with Aquaponics but we have a very helpful few members who know more about it than myself, so I will flag them and see if they have anything else to add. Otherwise, buffering your rank or switching the goldies to a filtration type that won't be harmed by maintains proper chemistry to match the fish you're caring for is the best solution.

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I keep thinking maybe it's just osmotic shock, but I can't find any info on how to treat it; just how to prevent it. :/

It's not, if you measured the salt correctly. There is no treatment beside moving the fish into lower salinity water and giving it time. And those symptoms were occurring before the dip, hence why you dipped, yes? Unless you have an illness that didn't get quarantined out of your crew, I'd bet good money on pH as I said :)

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The only pre-dip symptoms were two fish (one that died and one that's sick now) were sitting on the bottom and the black moor had a torn tail. The black spots on one of the sick ones, frayed fins on both, grey spot on the black moor, peeling skin, clamped fins, and the black moor sitting on the bottom only happened post-dip. The container I had was a 1/3 gallon, so I added 9 tsp of API aquarium salt. It wasn't super granulated, and I even left out maybe 1 tsp of it because it wouldn't dissolve, so I figured it was actually less salty than recommended.

 

I hope it's just ph, though it's been around 6.8 pretty steadily for months now with no other issues popping up before about a week ago. Unless the high temps recently caused Ph swings, that is.

 

Thanks so much for your advice, btw. :)

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Also, I'm starting to think the 30 tsp / gallon recommendation is a typo. I think it's supposed to be .3% salinity, and someone left off the decimal point somewhere, so instead of 1-3 tsp/gallon, it became 30. Kokos Goldfish is one of the reasons I thought 30tsp/gallon would be ok, but given it killed or almost burned the skin off my fish, I think this is a typo that started on some website or in a book somewhere that's become prevalent around the internet.

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Before I can make any suggestions, I need to know more about your aquaponics system. Would you please post a picture an an explanation of the system? Please include the volume of your grow bed and describe the water flow through the system. Has this tank run as an aquaponics system from the start? What are "expanded carbon pellets"? Pease give a link to the product.

While aquaponics may not need water changes, fish may need them. Most systems have a biofilter before the grow bed and many have a settling tank before the biofilter. These get flushed regularly, giving the fish a water change. Your fish are telling you they need more water changes, so give them to them. Also be careful about iron supplementation. I overdid the iron once and had a couple of seriously sick fish. I did a big water changes since some of the other fish were showing some distress. The sick ones spent a week in a sick tank before I returned them to the pond. I think foliar feeding may be the best reaction to mineral deficiencies. Definitely don't use distilled water!

The only thing that might be wrong with your salt dips is leaving them in for 5 minutes. We always say take them out when they "tip over." Fish receiving their first salt dip rarely last more than a minute or two before tipping over.  We use 0.3% salt as a long term bath in treating ich, but we do a dip in 3% solution.  

Diurnal temperature variations did not produce your problem. A lot of good scientific research shows that the normal variations in temperature during the day produce healthier goldfish than any constant temperature.

I also doubt that pH is a problem.  If your fish have been at a pH in the upper 6's from the time you set up the tank, they prefer that pH.  I have heard of a breeder who has low pH water (like 6.0) and  keeps his fish in water at a pH that would kill a fish that had been accustomed to a pH of 7.5.  

 

It sounds like you had sick fish for which a salt dip was not a cure.  

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I only do a salt  dip if nothing else works.  Cause it can kill the fish.

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Here's an image of the setup: http://bit.ly/1FLtCE6 It has been an aquaponics system since the very beginning--even before I had fish to add to it.

 

The tank has removable window tint to help with heat and algae blooms (that's why it looks black), and the water overflows from the tank, to the sump on the right, then through a water bridge to the sump on the left (under the tank), then is pumped up up to either the hanging grow bed on the left or the zig zag gutters on the right, and then is drained back into the fish tank. The grow bed on the left is 26 gallons, and I'm not sure about the gutters on the right, though I'd guess maybe about 15 gallons total? And sorry by carbon pellets, I meant clay pellets (http://amzn.to/1Key2aG). They're Ph neutral and are basically just media to allow beneficial bacteria colonies to form so they can help convert fish waste to nitrate. 

 

From what I've heard, most aquaponics systems utilize their growbeds as their biofilter, given a biofilter's whole purpose is just to have a place for bacteria to colonize. The only instances I've heard of people having a separate biofilter outside the grow beds are if their growbeds aren't big enough to handle the waste load of their fish (some systems only have a few cups of clay pellets), or if they want a backup filter if they want to stop running the system through the grow beds.

 

Yeah, I wanted to take the fish out when they started tipping around a bit, but the video I watched said only to stop if they tipped over and couldn't right themselves after a second or two. The video made it sound like it was normal for them to seem to be distressed. :/

 

I mean, only two fish were exhibiting symptoms before the dip. Scribble and Jot were kinda lethargic, and Inky had a torn tail. I saw some spots on their gills (I now know those are just signs of sexual maturity) and thought I saw some white where Inky's tail was torn, and the sources I checked all said it was probably ich, since that's a very very common goldfish illness. In researching salt dips, most people acted like it was no big deal, and they just salt dipped their fish when they seemed at all off. I chose to dip all of them because a) no one implied in any way they were dangerous, and b) I read that ich infects the whole tank, so thought it would be pointless to only dip the couple that seemed a bit off. Jot died from the dip, and since the dip, Scribble and Inky both seem dramatically worse than they were. Inky, who was swimming around just fine before the dip, now spends most of his time sitting on the bottom of the tank with his dorsal fin flat against his back and his face hidden in a corner. Scribble has taken to sitting on the tank bottom as well, and only rouses if food falls and basically hits him in the face. 

Edited by diggitydani

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Nice system!  I thought "carbon" was a misprint, but they seem to come out with new grow media every month, so I figured I should check.  Your plants look very good for growing off so few fish.  

 

I sure wish you had asked before treating with a salt dip.  We usually use these only when the fish has an external infection or parasites combined with heavy slime coat.  The salt dip strips off the slime coat (and some parasites with it) so that medication can reach the ailing skin.  Salt dips don't work for ich.  All of the life stages of the ich parasites have to be exposed to salt.  We treat that with a bath of 0.3% salt for a period of weeks.  

 

You might want to read my thread on aquaponics , less for my brilliant writing ;) than for the many links I included.  Lots of people here do backyard aquaponics  and many commercial operations thrive.  One area restaurant has a huge aquaponics system upstairs and they serve both the tilapia and the veggies in their meals.

 

I'm not sure what ails your fish, but the first thing I would do is get them cleaner water.  I'd start by changing all of the water and see if the fish improve.  Your plants will do fine with somewhat less nutritious water for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks! It took the system a while to cycle up, but there are even more plants in there now and they're mostly doing ok. I'll probably have to get a replacement goldfish, though I don't want to put too many in a 45 gallon tank, even if it does have two sumps to keep water circulating. I keep thinking about upgrading to something bigger so I can have more fish, but I don't think it'll fit my space. I'll definitely check out your thread--I've done a lot of reading myself on aquaponics etc, but I'm less familiar with fish care, having never kept an aquarium before this. It's like two different yet overlapping worlds!

 

Yeah, there are a lot of things I wish I'd done differently. I'd have asked, but everyone made it seem like it was no big deal. Just something you did with goldfish sometimes. I've definitely learned my lesson. :/

 

I'm definitely planning on doing a water change when I get home from work. Is it ok to do such a drastic water change all at once? Also, is there anything you recommend adding to the tank to help them heal? I've been putting in a little API Stress Zyme, but that seems more for the aquarium itself than the fish.

Edited by diggitydani

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Also, I'm starting to think the 30 tsp / gallon recommendation is a typo. I think it's supposed to be .3% salinity, and someone left off the decimal point somewhere, so instead of 1-3 tsp/gallon, it became 30. Kokos Goldfish is one of the reasons I thought 30tsp/gallon would be ok, but given it killed or almost burned the skin off my fish, I think this is a typo that started on some website or in a book somewhere that's become prevalent around the internet.

No ma'am, not a typo. A salt bath is different than a dip and the concentrations differ. For longer term treatment 1 tablespoon per gallon (.3% salinity) is recommended. For dips, it is indeed anywhere from a 1-3% solution, depending on what we are trying to manage. To knock off external parasites a harsh, quick dip is key. I agree checking in with us here for future treatments is the way to go, because we wouldn't have recommended a salt dip with those symptoms ;)

Treatments vary in intensity and duration, especially for parasites or treatments that must penetrate the slime coat to be effective. That's why we have a treatment team and a handy dandy form - it helps us figure out what may be most effective given the situation in each tank. And one variable different can drastically alter what we recommend, or give us THE clue necessary for treating effectively.

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Huh. So weird. Well, I guess I'm glad I found this forum then--prior to this I was flying blind, just googling things. 

 

I did like a 85% water change, so hopefully this'll help. My black moor is already looking much perkier than he has in days. His dorsal fin is even up once in a while! Though they seem to take two steps forward and one step back, so I'm trying not to get my hopes up. 

 

Thanks everyone so much for your advice! It's made me feel much less in the dark about everything. :)

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In my mini aquaponics system, I empty the radial flow filter and the pump sump bucket twice weekly, replacing 10 gallons of water.  Once a month or so I flush the biofilter (~ 8 gallons replaced).   My system -- fish tank + radial flow filter + pump bucket + biofilter + grow bed -- is about 90 gallons, and I have the equivalent of about 5 adult goldfish in the tank.  The number is a lot larger, but lots of them are babies.  These fish enjoy robust health and also the fact that I overfeed them so that they will feed the plants.  

 

I have a few recommendations you can consider for your system.  You don't have to do any of these, but each contributes to the water quality for your fish.  Please understand I am looking at everything that might cause a problem for your fish, and I'm not finding much.

 

Run the water through a basic biofilter like this one, using a 5 gallon bucket, before it goes to the grow beds.  This has two advantages.  All of the ammonia/nitrite will be converted to nitrate before the water goes to the grow beds.  This maximizes the nitrate concentration there.  This filter sediments much of the particulate waste from the tank allowing you to remove these solids from the system.  With your current system, most particulates settle in the grow beds, sumps or just flow through the system back to the tank.  Decay of these particles contributes to the fertility of the water, but also uses oxygen.

 

If feasible, run the water from the grow beds to a sump that empties into the tank.  Grow duckweed in this sump.  The duckweed will use nutrients the plants have missed, and as it grows, you can feed it to the fish.  Duckweed makes good fish food (supplemented by a quality pellet), so a lot of large aquaponics systems have incorporated duckweed to produce an even more sustainable system.

 

I think your fish tank may be low in oxygen and encourage you to let more light in.  By shutting out light to prevent algae growth, you eliminate the oxygen algae produce by photosynthesis.  One of the main reasons fish prefer ponds to aquaria is that the walls of the pond are covered with algae and other water-purifying microbes.  These get cleaned off aquarium glass so you can see the fish.  Unless the cover you have on the tank is a screen, it limits gas exchange on the surface.  

 

Oxygen concerns give another reason for having a separate biofilter.  Nitrification uses lots of oxygen.  Plant roots take up oxygen or die.  The water that drains from a grow bed that also serves as a biofilter should be very low in oxygen.  Many people run an airline to the bottom of the grow beds to keep the plant roots well aerated.  At least you should have an airstone in the fish tank.  Perhaps you already do.

 

A shallow stock tank similar to what I used would also improve conditions for your fish.  I won't say how many fish I have successfully kept in that 50 gallon stock tank, since I don't want to encourage overstocking.  Shallow water with  a large surface area does wonders for goldfish.

 

I hope you don't think this a criticism of your system.  The fact that you don't have experience with goldfish before and created such a good system blew my mind.  You can't believe what horrible "aquaponics" systems I see posted by people wondering why their poor goldfish are sick.  Most backyard aquaponics systems use tilapia, which tolerate horrible crowding and filthy water.  You have to tilt the balance from what's best for the plants to what's best for the fish when using goldfish.

 

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Thanks so much for your suggestions! I'm always looking for ways to improve the system--I think I've done pretty well, but it's always always a learning process. :) I recently got a chiller for my system, because of this crazy heat, I suspect the poor goldies have had rapidly swinging temps throughout the day. I'm hoping to provide a bit more stability with this (though I'll still allow a little natural fluctuation, I think, given what you said about it earlier). It's an inline system, so I might try to set it up so that the water goes from the sumps to a biofilter, then the chiller, and on to the grow beds. 

 

I actually already have dome duckweed in one of my sump tanks--I feed it to my fish sometimes when it builds up, but it doesn't stay in their tank for long. I don't think I'll be able to manage switching the system so the sump flows into the tank in this one, though. That might have to be something for my next system. Or maybe for when my gutter system has to get changed out. I started with the gutters, and didn't realize until after that I created a hybrid NFT/ebb and flow system. It's working ok now, but eventually I want to change them out for some vertical towers.

 

I'll think about letting more light in, but really, when the sun hits the tank during the day, the tank still gets a decent bit of light. The black on the glass is just a tint, and it's see-through in direct sunlight. The top black cover is just a screen cloth thing meant for shade--it's got a bunch of holes in various places to let water flow in etc, but maybe I'll see how it goes without all the covering. I originally put the cover on to keep goldfish from jumping out (which I read somewhere they do sometimes) but having never seen any behavior like that in the 7 months I've had them, I don't think it's very common, heh. I do already have two giant airstones in the fish tank, actually. I used to keep one in the sump right underneath, but switched it to the fish tank in addition when the fish were recovering from the salt. 

 

I'm hoping to switch the glass tank out for something more pond-shaped eventually, but I don't think I have the space or time to change it all right now. In the meantime, as soon as my three survivors are back to 100%, I'll probably get one or two more fish, given I've got so much filtration and such that I never get ammonia spikes anymore. I'll see how they behave first with one new tank mate, though. I haven't added any goldfish since they all arrived together from the same tank. Hoping to get a ranchu or something like that. :)

 

Thanks again for your advice! This has been really helpful!

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Goldfish rarely jump.  Unless the area you keep them in is completely enclosed, you should have a screen/net cover to protect them from predators.

 

If you get another fish, be sure to quarantine it for a month,  

 

How are your fish doing now?

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The area is on my balcony, so it's pretty enclosed beyond a couple finches who eat from a bird feeder on the other side of the balcony.

 

My fish are doing great! I changed the water and ever since they've really perked up! Even to the point where I had to separate the two males, because they tend to bully each other around food time. I think Inky (the black moor) has gotten more aggressive partly from sexually maturing, and partly from the fact that it's harder for him to find food because he isn't as fast and doesn't have very good eyesight like Scribble (the other male) has. I have a clear acrylic tank divider to keep them from going after each other, so hopefully that'll calm them down for a bit.

 

I'll definitely quarantine the new fish--I'm waiting until the black salt burn scarring heals itself on my fish, though. :)

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Poor little guys I hope they recover

Please read post # 22!  :)

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