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Stinky water = bad bacteria? What to do?


ShawneeRiver

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  • * Ammonia Level -- 0
  • * Nitrite Level -- 0
  • * Nitrate level -- 5
  • * Ph Level, Tank (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines) -- 7.2
  • * Ph Level, Tap (If possible, KH, GH and chloramines)
    Other Required Info: same
  • * Brand of test-kit used and whether strips or drops? Tetra Strip
  • * Water temperature? 74
  • * Tank size (how many gals.) and how long has it been running? 36, recently restarted. First started in July.
  • * What is the name and "size of the filter"(s)? Aqualcear 70
  • * How often do you change the water and how much? weekly, 80%

  • * How many days ago was the last water change and how much did you change? Wednesday, 80%
  • * What kind of water additives or conditioners? Prime, Nutrafin Cycle
  • * What do you feed your fish and how often? Omega One pellets twice a day, duckweed always, peas weekly
  • * Any new fish added to the tank? ghost shrimp
  • * Any medications added to the tank? Prazi
  • * List entire medication/treatment history for fish and tank. Please include salt, Prazi, PP, etc and the approximate time and duration of treatment. two weeks of Prazi
  • * Any unusual findings on the fish such as "grains of salt," bloody streaks, frayed fins or fungus?
  • * Any unusual behavior like staying at the bottom, not eating, etc.?

I'm getting frustrated. My tank wasn't level, so I ripped it down and set it back up, and I've had nothing but problems since.

1 -- within 2-3 days of restarting the tank, the filter died several times. I bought a new one and transferred some of the media. Fish started bottom sitting, and I had been wanting to treat for flukes, so I started Prazi.

2 -- within 2 weeks, the new filter was plugged up with a thick, stinky mat of duckweed and waste under the sponge. Obviously, this was totally my fault. I didn't realize it was happening because it was my first Aquaclear filter. Some of this gross stuff got in the tank.

3 -- Since the gross filter plug up, the tank has been stinky, even with daily or every other a day 80-90% WCs.

4 -- two of the fish just keep looking worse and worse, with scale loss, sunken gills and some whit discoloration on the dorsal fin. I put those fish in a QT tank with salt and Melafix. I ended up putting all the fish in there after the other two started bottom sitting. Fish don't look better and the main tank still stinks, even without fish (it does have ghost shrimp).

So, I assume I've lost my cycle and that there's something bacterial going on. I can't rip down the tank right now and scrub everything. Can anyone offer something to try to get the main tank on track? Is there something I can do to get rid of the bacteria? Should I try the Melafix in the main tank? More water changes? Meds?

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It doesn't look like you've lost your cycle, because you still have zero ammonia and nitrite, and some nitrates.

My suggestion is to first distinguish between a biological (bacterial) versus chemical source of the smell. The way to do this would be to use carbon. If the source is not bacterial/biological, the carbon should help you get rid of the smell. Once you know that it's not a biological source, then you can take measures to get rid of it even more...like rinsing the filters really well.

If it is a biological source for the smell, it may be that you will need to disinfect the tank entirely. :(

Edit: I would keep your fish in QT right now, where you can perform for practical daily water changes to help them. Is your QT cycled? If so, it may be helpful to salt the tank to 0.1% to aid in the healing. I wouldn NOT begin feeding them medicated food, because at the moment, we don't really know what it is they are sick from and medicated food would be a big stretch of a step and may be entirely unnecessary or inappropriate.

Edited by dnalex
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My sick fish always smell. Have you salted the tank yet? I would salt up to 0.3% for a few days, keep up the water changes and see. Usually salt is enough to stop whatever might be creeping up.

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I don't want to salt heavily because it will kill my plants. I was at .1%. Also, I think it's beyond creeping up. It's already here. :(

It was a chemical smell at first, but now it's just fishy. QT is NOT cycled and Melafix calls for no WCs for a week because the stuff is added to the water daily. So ammonia in there is trace right now, which I don't like. :(

This sucks. Goldeen is just looking worse and worse. I see more scale loss today.

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Just FYI...when I was using Melafix, I never did dose daily, and when there is ammonia, I do water change and re-dose. The stress from having ammonia is much worse than not having Melafix in the water. You can always re-dose.

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I personally don't like Melafix. I think it smells way too strong (gives me a headache) and it seems to choke my fish.

I would salt. Salt at 0.3 will not kill your plants if you have javas and anubias.

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Thats why I always say use Melafix and Primafix at a half dose... I had to do a round of Primafix for Juptiter lately, it took me longer to treat but it didnt bother her :thumb:

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I don't want to confuse but I think your cycle has crashed. Test strips are not so accurate and with the filter upheaval+changing tank,+prazi, salt, smell it is possible that nitrate 5 is misleading and you have lost your cycle which can smell bad -beneficial bacteria do smell bad when they die or are dieing.

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i was thinking the same thing Imo, a neighbour suffered a similar problem. her test kit showed all was well, my test kit showed ammonia. i think the cycle is gone, or just about to.

by not having any fish in there to produce waste to feed the nitrates, if the cycle has not already gone, it's about to.

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How long has the tank been without fish and how long since it started to smell? I remember from other threads that this issue has been going on for several days.

I think that at this point, you will have to take steps to repair the cycle. Since all your fish are now in QT, can you get some pure ammonia to serve as food source? Also, I would get a different test kit ASAP (API freshwater master) to re-check these values.

Edit: I have a question for you guys, Helen & Imo. It's very likely that the cycle has crashed, or is about to. What I don't understand is that this isn't a new issue. The OP has had smelly water probably for several days now. How long does it take to crash the cycle, and also, during the intervening time, wouldn't we have already started seeing cloudiness in the water, as the result of either ammonia building up, bacterial bloom, or both? Finally, what are the tell-tale signs of an impending BB colony crash, besides the possible odor? Thank you :)

Edited by dnalex
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You guys know the history here way better than me as I haven't been around enough recently to keep tabs on all, and tank history really is a key factor in help in diagnosing of course!!

I know the bad smell can be either coming from sick fish or from dieing bbs. The reason is that bacteria ferment as they die and that process stinks. It can take some time for ammonia to show up as the cycle is crashing.....there may be enough bbs to hold the cycle but you are still getting die off.

You will not necessarily see cloudiness. Cloudiness usually = bacteria are still alive but looking for a place to attach, they can freelive for some time and so they do NOT smell when the water is cloudy usually.

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Edit: I have a question for you guys, Helen & Imo. It's very likely that the cycle has crashed, or is about to. What I don't understand is that this isn't a new issue. The OP has had smelly water probably for several days now. How long does it take to crash the cycle, and also, during the intervening time, wouldn't we have already started seeing cloudiness in the water, as the result of either ammonia building up, bacterial bloom, or both? Finally, what are the tell-tale signs of an impending BB colony crash, besides the possible odor? Thank you :)

i don't know why my neighbours tank smelt and lost the cycle, i determined the cycle was being lost with the test results and also noticed a fishy smell and cloudiness with the water... i believe she wasn't being honest with me in the first place. i lose patience and just move on when i realize ppl are lying... so i have nothing more to offer on that.

in anycase, when was the ghost shrimp introduced? and how soon after introducing the ghost shrimp did you notice all this happening.

did you add the water that was in the bag with the ghost shirmp to the tank when you added them?

were the ghost shirmp qt'd at all?

where did you get them from?

also, there is a question missed in the questionare, how many fish occupy the tank?

how big is QT and is it cycled?

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It would only make sense that the cycle has crashed. The tank was re-set up and my filter was lost. I did transfer some media, a big decoration and plants, but is that enough? On top of that, the new filter got that nasty gunky buildup right away. I think the readings -- if they are accurate -- would be due to big WCs.

I think I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place because the fish are in an uncycled qt tank. So today I'm going to do a big WC in the main tank and rinse the filter one more time. I'm putting them back in there, and I will have to do a with-fish cycle with lots of water changes and watching the parameters. I'll run carbon through the filter for a few weeks.

Helen, the ghost shrimp were added about the time this happened, but that was also the time that the filter died. There are 4 small fish.

Gotta run the daughter to school -- I'll be back in a few!

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ok.. on your return, if you can answer the following:

did you add the water that was in the bag with the ghost shirmp to the tank when you added them?

were the ghost shirmp qt'd at all?

where did you get them from?

how big is the QT?

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Thanks, Shelly.

I just drove DD to school while wearing my pajamas. That's a first for me. :blush:

I didn't QT the ghost shrimp. I've never seen any advise on what to do with shrimp in a qt and since I wouldn't know if the shrimp was sick or not, I didn't. They came from Petsmart, and that store has the best looking fish tanks (clean, cared for, and always healthy fish) in the area imo. Also, I try never to add store water to my tanks.

I think it comes down to the filter. There were a lot of changes, but things should have been OK. Then the filter died. Over two days, it died several times. I had switched to a sand substrate, so maybe it was sand. Regardless, it would stop and I could get it going, but the last time, it wouldn't start again. I got a new filter, but the tank was without filtration for 12-24 hours over two days. It stopped at night, so I don't know how long it was off. Maybe my BBs already were dying when I transferred them to the new filter. Then, I had an immediate fiasco with the new filter.

The water never was cloudy. The stink started when the new filter plugged up. Maybe the smell is combo of the rotting gunk that blocked the filter and the BBs dying as a result. That thought makes me feel better because I can do frequent large WCs while the tank cycles. It's the fear of bacterial infection making the fish rot that is my biggest worry.

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Yes, a drop test kit is on my list of supplies to buy, but it got pushed back due to the unexpected purchase of a new filter and I got an Aqueon water changer. That's more helpful in the short term because I now can do larger WCs.

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so many things have happened and they could all be contributing factors unfortunately..

you introduced the shrimp to the tank without qt. they could have had anything, parasites, bacteria.. anything. just becuase something looks good in the store, it doesn't mean that it's safe. a store has hight turn over of stock and there is no way the ghost shrimp would have been sitting there for too long. that's probably why they look good.

everything needs qt or disinfecting before adding to the main tank. this is why we qt. and if ever in doubt, we're always here to ask.

re the filters being off for 12- 24 hours, this could be where the smell is coming from. rotting duckweed and unfortunately bacteria does breed this way too.. so we could have bacteria from ghost shrimp and bacteria from rotting plants.

i still do not know how big the qt is, all i know is that it has 4 fish in there and an uncycled filter. please advise so that we can set the pace we're going to work at.

the cloudiness could be from production benefitial bacteria. if not all the BB's have died, then perhaps they're starting to regrow and that's why the cloudy water.

you say that the smell is going away. is there any rotting plant anywhere? ie, in the tank or in the filters? that's all gone now.. right?

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I have been using the Cycle. :)

QT is 30 gallons and has two filters running. BTW, the main tank is not and has not been cloudy. The qt is cloudy right now.

I hear you on the QT, Helen. It was a dumb risk. However, in hindsight, the shrimp have come out to play now that the fish are gone. They've grown and look healthy.

I have to go to the store and get a new dog dish today (the dog won't drink out of his bowl, so some reason), so I'll get a test kit today. I looked at my credit card statement yesterday -- omg, these fish are expensive!

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Testing is done, and the results are interesting.

In the QT tank, which should have no cycle:

Ammonia 1 ppm

Nitrite less than .25

Nitrate 0-5

In the main tank:

Ammonia 0

Nitrite 0

Nitrate 10-20

This would indicate that I have not lost my cycle in the main tank. I'm a little perplexed about the nitrate in the QT tank. How's that possible?! The test was not yellow.

So, that makes me wonder again about the smell and Goldeen's scale loss. Now I'm back to, was the smell a bacterial issue coming from the sick fish themselves? The QT tank smells only like Melafix, so I don't know if they carried the smell there. And the main tank is less stinky since they are gone. But I also did a big WC before I moved them. Oh, so confusing!!!

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As I mentioned before, I really think it's worth it to try to use carbon, at least for a couple of weeks, so that you can try to distinguish the possible nature of the smell.

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