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Water That Is Too Clean?


fishyfan7

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Over the past 6 months, I have been losing fish after fish...usually a month-4 months apart. I eventually began to think there was a bacteria or parasite so treated with Tetracycline and Copper (after losing about 5 fish). My params are perfect (0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, 5-10 ppm Nitrate, ph 7.5, temp 72). My LFS said that is doesn't sound like disease since the fish deaths are so spread out and that maybe I am cleaning too much?

I have a 46 gal tank with a double bio-wheel and 2 line air pump.

I gravel vac weekly and do a 25% water change. He said I should NOT vac weekly and should only vac at most monthly....instead I should use my hand to stir up the gravel once a week or so??? Maybe I'm anal but I alway thought the cleaner the better? He said I may have been interferring with my nitrogen cycle and maybe the tank never actually cycled? (it's about a year and half old)

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oh one more thing....I only have brown algae (which grows everywhere like crazy!) and no green algae...he said this was another indication of an uncycled tank?

Also, I know the copper and tetracycline probably messed up the cycle but this algae stuff was from even before that.

His other advice was to cut out salt almost completely and to throw away Stress Coat and instead use Amquel +

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Frist of all, if you are having regular readings of zero ammonia, zero nitrite and a readable amount of nitrate, I would guess that your tank is cycled. That is what a cycle does - it produces those results. If you are not, at this time, using any ammonia/nitrite/nitrate binding chemicals in the tank (similar to Amquel+), then there is no reason to use it at this time. It is simply not needed. It will bind the ammonia that is there - and still allow your beneficial bacteria to use it in the nitrogen cycle, but since they already seem to be processing it all successfully, the Amquel+ would simply be an unneeded step.

Secondly, unless you have a specific reason for using the StressCoat, I would, once again, recommend that you simply do not. I do not use it unless a fish is being handled substantially and roughly or in very specific circumstances and for only a short time.

FInally, there is, of course, too clean. This means if you were to empty out your filter and change or scrub all the filter media, wash all the gravel and change all the water every week. You would not have a cycle then. But, you can even make it "too clean" like that and have your fish thrive - as long as you find SOME way of dealing with the fish's waste. I have a friend that raised fish as a business and he changed every one of his tanks 100% every day without fail. They thrived. The thing is that you need clean water - how you get that water is up to you. Here on Koko's, we talk of the nitrogen cycle because it is the easiest, most reliable way to get the clean water the fish need.

A gravel vacumning - rather deep - is needed each week, particularly with goldies. THey are messy, and loads of mulm and yuck goes deep into the gravel where it sits and decomposes. This adds to the stuff the bio-filter has to process. If you remove it on a regular basis, then the bio-filter's cycle does not have to work so hard and the tank is cleaner. You cannot possibly damage your biocycle by vacumning deeply weekly. If you wait a long time to vacumn, and then stir it all up, the waste could overcome the bio-cycle and bump your cycle substantially. You could even release a toxic gas that could kill or harm your fish when you stirred it. So do NOT put off vacumning. Do it every water change.

Many goldfish keepers choose to run their tanks with the entire bio base in the filter and the tank bare bottom. The gravel has a way of harboring parasites and their "offspring", where they can sit waiting for an opening in a fish's skin, or stress to give them opportunity to take over. A bare bottom can eliminate or greatly reduce this possibilitiy. Others choose to run UV filters on their water - as a way to eliminate all the free swimming parasites in the tank - before they can re-infest a fish.

You say you have a double bio-wheel? Even though it may not turn over 460 gph, it seems that whatever it is doing, it is doing it well, for your parameters look good.

Your brown algae is unsightly, but probably can be managed with more light - turning it green and yummy and healthy.

There are several things that could be wrong here, so I am going to throw out some possiblities......

If you had flukes in your tanks, the copper and Tetracycline would not touch them. They can kill fish - often with large periods between death, for most fish have varying amounts of strength to resist a fluke infestation. The weakest or most stressed go first, the other can carry the flukes for months or years, until they get stressed by another illness or problem and then the flukes take over. A scraping could help with diagnosis here.

There is the off chance that you might not have enough buffer in your tank - the pH of 7.5 might be a transient reading. This is highly unlikely if you have consistantly measured 7.5. You do not state gH or kH, so I feel I need to include this in possible observations.

You could have some other parasite - microscopic - other than flukes or in combination with flukes that is systematically eliminating your weaker fish.

As far as salt goes, I like running my tanks at .1% all the time. It suits my fish keeping style. Others do not. It think it is really a matter of your personal preference. But having salt in your tank is not responsible for the fish deaths, unless for some reason you have dramatically overdosed through error or salt creep.

I would see if you could find a microscope that you can use to do a scraping - a check for any parasites you might see - ones that were resistant to the treatments you have already used. All it takes is one or two little nasties left and you will be working at killing them all over again in a few weeks/months.

:)

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Thanks...I don't have a microscope and can't really afford to spend a bunch on one...I do see one on Target's website for cheap....how powerful would it have to be to do the job? This one says: Children's microscope with 50x magnification

Also, how do you do scrapings? Scrape where? And how do you do it without stressing out the fish? If it were flukes or parasites, would I see it ina sample of water?

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I haev begged and been allowed to use, at different times, the microscopes at the local high school and the microscopes at my vet's office. YOu may be able to find a microscope that you will be allowed to use for free, if you ask. Many higher end fish stores also have them on the premises and you can ask if they will let you look or if they will look for you.

A scraping is done using a cover slip for a slide - preferably a plastic one that will not break - that is fairly gently scraped over the side of the fish while being held at approximately a 45 degree angle to the fish's body. The slime coat that you pick up will commonly contain any parasites that you are looking for. Scrapings done at various locations on the fish's body can help in diagnosis. No, the type of parsites that you would be looking for are probably not visible in a water sample.

I think I will ask Toothless to have a look at your thread. He is the champion at diagnosis. If you have not outward signs of anything wrong, whatsoever, except the fish dying, something strange is going on. I do not see anything that jumps out at me about your water or your tank at this moment, except that perhaps something is lurking in the gravel waiting.....

Can you think of any symptoms that the fish displayed before they died? Did they flash, or scratch or have spots or red veins or ulcers or whitish tuffs or slime?

Did they float or sink? Did they get lethargic?

If you would like, I can move this thread over to Disease Discussion and perhaps you will get more help there......

I think I shall. Please post back. I would like to see you solve this problem. Fish keeping is supposed to be relaxing and joyful, not stressful. :)

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Over the course of the past few months, I have been posting to the Disease section and it's all quite a mystery...the first real sign is when the fish go to the bottom of the tank and sit there with their fins clamped...a couple of days later they flip on their sides and stop eating. They die after about a week. Some are slightly pine coned and others are not. The last fish that died had the most symtoms. He developed little black spots on his body at the end in addition to the floating problems. I had thought at first he was constipated so I fed peas and then fasted but he continued to decline. Once he started getting the spots (and I noticed he wasn't pooping much but had developed a stringy white poop when he did go so I thought it was Bacterial). I tried Furan in the hospital tank but no such luck.

Over the months, I have tried different meds....Maracyn II, Copper Safe and Tetracycline, Furan, Quick Cure...nothing has done it. THough, Tetracycline did have one fish pop back to health (he came up off his side and started eating again after 3 or 4 days) but a month or so later, he got sick again and died. :(

The last fish that is still living has been acting ok swim wise...he does seem stressed..flashing around a lot (especially when I come up to the tank or when I go into the cabinet below the tank)...I'm hoping it is that he is just missing his buddies and not that he is getting sick! I want to give him a tank mate but am afraid to do so for awhile. I'm keeping an eye out to see if he is brushing against things...I have seen him go tummy against the side (head up) quite a bit in the last few days)...not sure if he is greeting me or trying to run his belly. He seems to be resting in his plants (on top of them) a lot lately too.

But I don't see any spots/sores etc and his fins are perky. And he is definately eating!!

I thought maybe their flake food is poor quality so I have been giving more peas/frozen brine/algae flakes but I still give the GF flakes bc I am afraid I am not hitting all necessary nutrients with those 3 things.

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