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My Levels Won't Go Down!


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Hi all! I'm new here and new to fish tank-ing. I have 3 baby fancy goldfish in a 20 gallon tank. I know that two is pushing it, but I came into work one day and my boyfriend had showed up early and added a third. (A sweet gesture I could've done without!!)

The tank has been running for just under a month and I can't get my levels down. I was doing 10-25% water changes every day, but my fish started stressing out, so I cut back to every other day. The levels have stayed the same before and after EVERY change. I left the tank alone this weekend (a coworker came to feed once) and the levels are still high. I don't know what to do.

pH: 7.4

Ammonia: 2.0

Nitrites: .25ppm

Nitrates: 0ppm

Help!!!

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You will probably have to do bigger water changes to see a difference. I would suggest 50%-75% daily. As long as the water you add in is pH and temp matched, that shouldn't be stressing the fish. They are probably stressed by the toxic ammonia and nitrites. Feed sparingly to help keep ammonia production down. And how much filtration do you have?

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You will probably have to do bigger water changes to see a difference. I would suggest 50%-75% daily. As long as the water you add in is pH and temp matched, that shouldn't be stressing the fish. They are probably stressed by the toxic ammonia and nitrites. Feed sparingly to help keep ammonia production down. And how much filtration do you have?

I did 50-60% changes once last week and once the week before and saw no change. My water is pH and temp matched; I keep a 5 gallon jug next to the tank just for their water changes, so that the water sits overnight and matches the temp of the room/tank.

I have a standard 20 gallon carbon filter right now (I know I need more). Looking into adding a sponge filter or something of the like to help with this; just trying to find the best one on my budget. What do you recommend?

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I was doing 10-25% water changes every day, but my fish started stressing out, so I cut back to every other day.

Your fish are stressing because these water changes are too small, not too frequent. If you have ANY ammonia at all in your tank, this is extremely toxic and stressful to your fish. If you test your water and detect ammonia, you should do a very big water change right away.

Your tank is currently cycling. Here's a great explanation of what that means http://www.kokosgoldfish.invisionzone.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=3

Until it is fully cycled, you will need to do very large, frequent water changes to keep the toxic ammonia (and nitrite) from accumulating. The good news is that because you are showing nitrite, this means your cycle is starting, so you're on your way. But an ammonia reading of 2.0 is very, very toxic. You need to do a huge water change right away - try 90%. The reason your levels aren't changing is because you aren't removing enough water to impact the concentration.

As for the filter, you want to have a total turn over of at least 200 gallons per hour. So look at what your current filter is rated for and buy another one that will get you up to this level. I am a big fan of Aquaclear models.

Edited by Chrissy_Bee
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I was doing 10-25% water changes every day, but my fish started stressing out, so I cut back to every other day.

As for the filter, you want to have a total turn over of at least 200 gallons per hour. So look at what your current filter is rated for and buy another one that will get you up to this level. I am a big fan of Aquaclear models.

Currently my filter does 100 gallons per hour. I'm looking on craigslist now for a larger one, as I can't afford to spend much at the moment. Going to do a large water change later today once work calms down.

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I was doing 10-25% water changes every day, but my fish started stressing out, so I cut back to every other day.

Your fish are stressing because these water changes are too small, not too frequent. If you have ANY ammonia at all in your tank, this is extremely toxic and stressful to your fish. If you test your water and detect ammonia, you should do a very big water change right away.

Apart from this main reason to do big water changes (ammonia's extreme toxicity), it might be useful to note that e.g. one 40% water change has even a (slightly) bigger effect on lowering levels of Am, Na and Ni than do two 20% water changes (which would have the same effect as one 35% water change). So if you want to limit the number of water changes, the bigger the water changes the better.

For the ammonia: any level above 0.25 would be considered harmful to the fish, so doing a 75% water change (or two 50% w/c's) would be needed to bring the levels down to something the fish can at least cope with (i.e. 0.5, although I would really recommend trying to get them below 0.25).

On the positive side, you're currently in the nitrite stage, so with any luck you'll soon be seeing nitrate appear :). Keeping my fingers crossed ^_^.

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On the positive side, you're currently in the nitrite stage, so with any luck you'll soon be seeing nitrate appear :). Keeping my fingers crossed ^_^.

Thank you! Will update after lunchtime when I do the 90% change (if I can find my large bucket that someone stole :P).

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As for the filter, you want to have a total turn over of at least 200 gallons per hour. So look at what your current filter is rated for and buy another one that will get you up to this level. I am a big fan of Aquaclear models.

do you think this one would be alright? http://www.amazon.com/Hagen-AquaClear-Power-Filter-200/dp/B000260FUM/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1303139724&sr=8-3

or should i go up on size to this one? http://www.amazon.com/AquaClear-70-Aquarium-Power-Filter/dp/B000260FUW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1303139724&sr=8-1

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OK, two hours after my 90% change levels update:

pH: This is weird. When I do the standard test, it turns bright blue, which is obviously way past that chart (above 7.6). When I use the High Range test, it comes out lighter than the 7.4 color.

Ammonia: .50ppm

NitrIte: 0ppm

NitrAte: 0ppm

Did this screw up my cycle since I had SOME NitrItes before and now nothing?

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Nope. No nitrites is a good thing. Nitrites are highly toxic.

The pH tests do the same thing for me. But 7.4 to 7.6 is good.

That's a relief. :)

Since I still have ammonia, is there anything else I should do? Or just keep up with daily water changes?

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Nope. No nitrites is a good thing. Nitrites are highly toxic.

The pH tests do the same thing for me. But 7.4 to 7.6 is good.

That's a relief. :)

Since I still have ammonia, is there anything else I should do? Or just keep up with daily water changes?

I would do another water change soon, the ammonia is still high. Once you get that under control it won't be as bad. Don't worry if you get nitrite or even ammonia readings of 0, there will still be enough trace amounts in the tank and the fish qill quickly produce more to 'feed' your cycle.

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I would do another water change soon, the ammonia is still high. Once you get that under control it won't be as bad. Don't worry if you get nitrite or even ammonia readings of 0, there will still be enough trace amounts in the tank and the fish qill quickly produce more to 'feed' your cycle.

Thanks. I'll do another 50-75% tomorrow after I test in the morning.

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Since your tank is overstocked, I would go with the bigger filter.

I agree, go with the bigger filter. :)

How do you suggest I go about setting up my new filter? I've found a few different suggestions:

1. Run old filter and new filter at the same time for at least a month.

2. Put the old filter's media in with the new filter to get it seeded.

3. Plop the old filter media pad in the tank once the new filter is running.

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If it can go on the tank while running the old filter I would do it that way... If you cant put both filters on, then take all the old media in the old filter and put it in the new filter :) and run it :)

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the pH of the water has been the same all along. 7.4ish. i have to use "spring" and i treat it with the conditioner before adding it, because the tap water here is disgusting and even the treatment doesn't remove metals (very old mill, old rusty pipes).

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I would recheck the ph. That is an extreme difference from what is was and what is should be. That can cause major stress to your fish as well. Maybe something went wrong and the reading was off(I hope). I mixed up the color chart things on the low and high ph test kits I had once and almost freaked thinking my ph was really low. :doh11: The ammonia is still over the safe limit IMO so I would continue with large water changes to keep it at bay. The bacteria is in the filter system so you can change as much water as needed without loosing the real bacteria that is in your system. Wishing you a fast cycle! :angelstaf:

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the pH of the water has been the same all along. 7.4ish. i have to use "spring" and i treat it with the conditioner before adding it, because the tap water here is disgusting and even the treatment doesn't remove metals (very old mill, old rusty pipes).

So you're using bottled spring water? Generally this has a low kH which means it can't hold your pH stable and you will need to add a buffer of some sort. It would be worth checking the kH. Or do you think you could buy a product to remove the metals from you water? If you are going to keep goldfish long term, you'll always be doing big water changes and that could be very hard with spring water :(

I would recheck the ph. That is an extreme difference from what is was and what is should be. That can cause major stress to your fish as well. Maybe something went wrong and the reading was off(I hope). I mixed up the color chart things on the low and high ph test kits I had once and almost freaked thinking my ph was really low. :doh11: The ammonia is still over the safe limit IMO so I would continue with large water changes to keep it at bay. The bacteria is in the filter system so you can change as much water as needed without loosing the real bacteria that is in your system. Wishing you a fast cycle! :angelstaf:

I once had this happen too. I think I had residue left in the test tube from the last time I checked the water, I went into panic mode! I also agree about the ammonia, it is still dangerous.

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So you're using bottled spring water? Generally this has a low kH which means it can't hold your pH stable and you will need to add a buffer of some sort. It would be worth checking the kH. Or do you think you could buy a product to remove the metals from you water? If you are going to keep goldfish long term, you'll always be doing big water changes and that could be very hard with spring water :(

I should be more clear. Have you ever seen the machine at WallyWorld by Culligan? It filters the water from the town's water supply and you pay by the gallon. I have to use that, because the water that comes out of the tap here, I wouldn't drink, let alone let fish swim in. It literally comes out with a rusty-brown tinge.

Edited by allicatmeow
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