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Ammonia high and fish are dying!
Badmans Tropical Fish Message Center: archive:
Ammonia high and fish are dying!
August 05, 2001 - 06:49 pm
I have just started this process, so I am not sure what
information to give. I think my tank has cycled. It is about
2 months old and it is now crystal clear. I started the
tank off with 3 Bala Sharks and 2 tiger barbs and a plecostomus.
The guys at the fish store after the tank cleared told me
it was cycled and I could add fish. I added 1 clown loach,
2 kissing gouramis, 2 gold gouramis, 2 juli cory's and
2 sword tails and 2 austrailian rainbows. That cleary, in
my 29 gal tank, was too many fish too fast. I got a 10 gal
tank and moved some of the fish out. At this point all the
bala sharks, the tiger barbs, 1 cory and the clown loach
have all died. The plecostomus is staying at the top with
his head partially out of the water. I do parital, about
25% water changes every 3 or 4 days. The ammonia is way
high 7 or so. In the 29 gal, 1 gold gourami, 2 sword tail,
2 kissing gourami and the plecostomus remain. I have undergravel,
powerhead, 1 penguin 150 bio filer and Aqua clear 150 with
the ammonia carbs. Still have a very high ammonia amd the
nitrate is at 0. Please help before they all die.
August 05, 2001 - 07:15 pm
Keep doing small water changes and go to feeding only a
tiny amount once a day. Kick has great advice for the same
problem if you look in the 6/21 post to Marie and Brad.
Do a keyword search with the utility feature on ammonia
and I think it is the second posting that comes up. Your
ammonia is really out of sight!
August 05, 2001 - 11:05 pm
Just a point but when you do get the ammonia problem sorted
out, you are in for another headache. The fish you have
stocked in your tank are going to outgrow it. Kissing Gourami
can get to be between 6 and 12 inches long, Swordtails can
get to be up to 5 inches long, and most pl*cos (don't
know what kind you have) get to be very large. You will
constantly be fighting to keep ammonia levels down due to
the large amount of waste in your tank. You might want to
consider trading in for some smaller species in the future.
As for your problem, you have more than adequate filtration
and you are doing water changes so I would suggest maybe
you are overfeeding? Do you see a lot of uneaten food in
the tank? If so, cut back.
August 06, 2001 - 07:46 am
Good point on those kissers Anonymous. You can identify
yourself there are way too many anonymous people out here
giving good advice. I also agree Chris has an overstocked
tank. I have kept swords easily in a 29gallon, but wouldn't
put kissing gourami in less than a 55gallon. His pleco will
take awhile to grow and some LFS stores will let you trade
them in for smaller ones. Chris suggest you try and take
those kissers back or look for a 55 gallon plus soon.
August 06, 2001 - 09:03 am
Thanks for the advice. I do realize that the fish I have
will outgrow my tank. I am in the process of looking for
a 55 or 75 gal tank. No there is not a lot of food at the
bottom and have been feeding only once or twice a day for
about 2 weeks so I dont know if its overfeeding or not.
Which remains my question. I am still uncertain as to why
the ammonia is so high? The kissers are only 3 in. now and
the gold gourami is 4 and the the swords are about 2 in
and the plec is about 4 in. so that 18 inches of fish in
a 29 gal tank. is that still too overstocked for now, which
then in turn is causing my ammonia levels to be so high.
Also, at my current rate, the tank won't be overstocked
for long. The fem. swordtail is on its last leg.
August 06, 2001 - 09:32 am
Stop feeding them every day. I would recommend going to
every other day feeding them for the next 2 weeks. Maybe
even just 3 days a week. You need to lower the amount of
waste in your system. I wouldn't worry about teh fish
load for now, as you pointed out. It's a future problem,
August 06, 2001 - 10:36 am
The reason your Ammonia is WAYYY out of whack is because
1) You have introduced WAYYY TOO MANY FISH at one time....even
for a fully cycled tank. When you stock a tank (or change
the bio load) you only add a couple of fish at a time.
then give the tank 3 or 4 weeks so the bacteria can catch
up to the new addtions. If not you have too many fish and
not enough bacteria....its like cycling your tank all over
2) Before your fish died...you had TOO MANY fish for
a 29 gallon anyway. Its hard to say HOW many you can have,
but the 1" of fish per gallon is a good general rule.
Now if all your fish are 4" or above.... they make ALLOT
more waste then a samll 1 " fish. So a 4" fish would
actually take 8" out of that rule (1/2 inch per
gallon) as opposed to just the 4". I hope you followed
that, as I lost myself there
3) dont know if you already know this but the SURE way
to make sure your tank is cycled is NOT clear water. Clear
Water just means all the sediment (minerals, diatoms
ect) have settled to the bottom of the tank. The REAL
way to make sure a tank has cycled is to TEST for Ammonia
(Nh3 and Nh4), nitrIte (NO2...i think),
and NitrAte (NO3). A new tank will have spikes in
the ammonia, then after a few weeks NitrIte, then a few
more weeks NitrAte. see the genisis section of this web
site. He describes this "cycle" in depth.
Good luck... I was a begginer once too (still am...but
everyone here educated me well
August 06, 2001 - 11:30 am
I really appreciate all the input. It is really cool of
people to take time out of their schedules to address my
specific problem. I will go to every other day feedings
Peter. Thanks for the advice. I did read the cycling section
on this web site and everything in my tank did what was
stated except for the ammonia going down. The NO2 did go
up then zeroed but the ammonia never went down. Thanks again
for the help.
August 06, 2001 - 12:04 pm
No problem chris.....the people here are GREAT! If your
Ammonia never went down then your tank did NOT cycle, even
though you did get Nitrite readings. Also the anytime you
add fish, you will probably notice a Ammonia spike as the
bacteria try to catch up. Unless you have a Live Plant tank.
My tank (with plants) took FOREVER (like 4 months)
to cycle. I got One rading of ammonia (I checked every
two days) around 5 mg/l (5 ppm) then nothing.
I also NEVER got a Nitrite reading. Then after 3 or 4 motnhs
I FIANLLY got a NITRATE reading. The plants seemed to have
been sucking up all the excess ammonia and nitrites. I started
my tank cycling with 2 dwarf plecos, 3 black skirt tetras,
4 danios, and 4 whiteclouds. and this was in a 75 gallon
tank. And this was too many fish to start with.
August 06, 2001 - 02:36 pm
I know how you feel Chris!!! I have had my tank up and running
for 1 1/2 months now and had the same problem. I have a
37 gallon freshwater and started out with 5 fish, and added
6 fish a week later. Lets just say the ammonia rate was
off the scale!! I tried Amquel and it didn't do anything.
Then I treid adding AmmoCarb to my filter and I was down
to a ammonia reading of 0 in two days. Right now I'm
in the second phase of the cycle and my Nitrites are sky
high (5) and I'm waiting for them to go down.
I've lost 3 fish so far (sob!!) and yesterday
my tank sprang a leak but I managed to get 18 gallons of
the original water into a new 37 gallon tank. What drama!!
This takes so much patience. Hang in there and listen to
all these wonderful people on the board. Kick and Jeff have
helped me beyond any measure. They're lifesavers!
August 06, 2001 - 06:00 pm
Chris, you have gotten excellent information here. So I
really don't need to add anything. Once again, I just
can't believe the LPS would sell you that many fish
at one time for one tank. Even if your tank was "cycled"
you never, ever add that many fish at one time. You have
caused your cycle to go absolutely crazy with the bioload.
I will also mention here that some of the fish you purchased
are really not for beginners, i e. the balas and clown loaches,
as upsets in water perimeters cause major problems for them.
The pleco may be having problems as he may not be getting
enough to eat. Plecos should not be added for at least 6
months. Listen to what these guys have told you and before
getting any more fish check with us to be sure they will
do okay in your beginner status. Good luck on getting things
August 06, 2001 - 08:37 pm
Had another funeral this evening. The flags raised to half
mass once more now that the female sword tail has died.
The julli cori looks like its next. My ammonia is still
off the charts and the fish that remain are the 2 kissers,
the gold gourami, 1 sword tail, the pleco, and 1 julli cori.
Is this still too much of a load for my tank? Also, how
often should I change the water to "make it more comfortable."
Doesn't changing the water even in small increments
effect the ammonia levels negatively. I really dont want
to loose the kissing gourami, they are my favorite. Should
I sacrfice the other fish to reduce the load or take them
back (if they will let me)?
August 06, 2001 - 08:43 pm
As I posted the last message I turned to see my last julli
cori have an epileptic seizure and flip out and then jerk
a few more time before it died right in front of my eyes.
It's one thing to come home and see one , but to watch
them die is quite sad. Please help My male sword tail is
August 06, 2001 - 08:51 pm
Is it ok to change the 20-25% of the water every day?
August 07, 2001 - 07:49 am
Put the male sword in the 10 gallon you got.That is big
enough for a sick sword until your water parameters balance
out. I wouldn't change the water every day because the
tank needs to cycle and 25% is quite a bit. Maybe 10% would
be okay to give your fish some help in the interim. Stop
feeding for a few days until the ammonia starts to go down.
I have left my fish for a weekend with no food and they
can go longer than that! Even if you don't think you
aren't overfeeding..excess food and fish waste are still
adding to your problems.
August 07, 2001 - 08:31 am
Here is a begginer that has made the same mistakes as yourself
just 6 months ago.
First, They fish you should use to cycle your tank intially
should be a HARDY fish. Scour this website as I think Badman
gives several examples of good cycling fish. Plecos, loaches,
ottos, swords, neons are NOT good cycling fish as they are
very sensitive to changes in the tank. And the fish you
select for cycling should not be a schooling fish as you
should only use 3 fish or so to start with (especially
in a tank less than 30 gallons).
Second, changing 20-25% of your water DAILY should ONLY
be done if your fish are on medications, or you have Ammonia
problems. Unless the water that comes out of your tap is
the same PH, temp, and chemical composition, you are REALLY
stressing your fish out. If your gonna change water daily
(again I advise against it unless you MUST) change
only 5 -10% MAXIMUM. I would only reccomend changing 15%-
20% every week or two!
Hope that helps
August 07, 2001 - 11:13 am
I already have the other larger gold gourami and the 2 australian
rainbows in the 10 gal which has not cycled yet either.
1 of the rainbows looks pretty bad in there. Would adding
the sword tail to it be to much?
August 07, 2001 - 11:38 am
You are between a rock and a hard place. if both the gourami
and rainbows are a good size (greater than 2" I
say) then DO NOT add the sword. Remember a 4" fish
makes a BIGGER amount of toxic waster then four 1" fish.
I would say just leave things the way they are and PRAY!!
I lost a few fish too due to my overstocking. Its sad but,
live and learn. Or try and trade some of your fish with
your LFS for store credit.....
Am I on the right track other board fish experts????
August 07, 2001 - 05:29 pm
Hard to say how big the fish are Claude. Sometimes when
you first buy them they are usually juvies and not at the
adult length. The sword could just be 2" we can't
tell without looking. Chris if you could estimate size and
which fish are where it might help. When I suggested temproraily
moving the sword I was hoping that there hadn't been
much fish or food waste added to the 10 yet. If he has other
fish there the ammonia may be building up in the ten gallon
as well. Just quit feeding temporarily, keep testing for
ammonia, do tiny water changes if you must and hope for
the best! I think you should look for a better LFS store
when you get through all this.
August 07, 2001 - 08:12 pm
29 gal- two 3inch kissing gouramis, 1 4in gold gourami a
2 in sword and 3.5 inch plec
10 gal - 4 in gold gourami, 3 in and 2.5 in autralian rainbow
August 07, 2001 - 08:54 pm
Your gouramis might possibly (??) be okay as they
are from the anabantoid family and get their air from the
surface so the concentrated ammonia isn't going through
their lungs. The others I am not too sure about. The pleco
probably doesn't have anything to eat other than what
you might be providing for him, and this will not give him
a very good start.
I am afraid, however, that you are going to see problems
with the 10 gallon now. 10 inches of fish in this tank is
way too much in this "uncycled" tank. Oh my, I am
trying to think what to tell you to do.
Claude is right about the excessive water changing. The
best thing you could do if the remaining fish look and act
healthy is to see if you can return them to the LPS. Then
leave the tanks alone for about 2 weeks empty and start
over with fish. Posted below is a very worthwhile article
on "first fish". I think it would benefit you to
check it out.
Damn the LPS for putting you in this position!! I know how
exciting it is to bring new fish home, but I also know how
upsetting and discouraging it is when they die right in
front of your eyes.
If returning is not an option, only feed a very small amout
every 3 days. Fish can go for up to 2 weeks without feeding
with no ill effects. And at this point, I think that is
the only way you are going to get a reduction in your ammonia
levels until the bacteria has time to catch up.
Do minimal water changes because as Claude said, the fluctuation
in the pH can cause more harm and stress the fellas worse
than what they already are. I would say no more than 10
percent every 3 days. Do you have ammocarb in your filters?
This should help to rid the tank since this in an emergency
situation. Be looking to hear from you again soon.
Check out the site below to get you started on a little
better footing as far as choosing fish goes.
August 15, 2001 - 07:11 am
My ammonia is starting to gradually come down. However,
I have a few additonal questions/concerns. I am down to
2 kissers, 1 plec and 1 gold gourami in the 29; 1 gold gourami
and 1 austrailian rainbow in the 10. However, in the 29
gal once I went to a 3 day schedule--they are not eating.
The food is just sitting at the top. The gold gourami and
one of the kissers has not eaten at the top for a few weeks.
Second, when should I can I clean the gravel since it is
recommended that I not mess with it?
August 15, 2001 - 12:13 pm
chris..all that food laying around is not a great idea..scoop
it out and go ahead and lightly clean your gravel...all
that decay in there will certainly not help with your water
August 15, 2001 - 12:59 pm
The plecostomus died also, so now I am down to 3 fish in
the 29 gal and 2 in the 10. How frustrating!!!! I am not
even sure my tank is trying to cycle the NO2 is still at
August 15, 2001 - 02:24 pm
sorry chris..he may have just starved..I know it's real
frustrating going through cycling..hearty fish..a little
at a time...most people starting out just plop in a whole
bunch of nice looking ones they think a great,then slowly
watch them die..not good for anyone...please read through
the genesis section on the main site to easy some of your
pain with a better understanding...or the cycling stuff
kick put out for you...don't worry you will get through
it all and be a happy fish keeper too.
August 15, 2001 - 08:17 pm
Chris, just to add a little here. Plecos are not good for
tanks newer than 6 months old. They thrive mainly on the
algae that grows in an established tank, and I feel, like
Jeff, that the poor little guy starved to death. Stay away
from these until your tank is established and you start
to see some algae growing on the glass.
August 17, 2001 - 11:43 am
HANG IN THERE. As long as you have ammonia readings, YOUR
TANK WILL CYCLE. Unfortunely you got some bad advice in
the begining (just like I did) and now you are learning.
I think thats why the veteran fish keepers keep posting
here. To help newbies from making the same mistakes over
We have all been beginners at one time (or still are
in my case) and had bad info passed to us by lfs or
bad books. God, I hate crappy lfs!!!!!
All will be ok in the end....just chalk this up to a valuable
learning experience. In a few months you will have a BEAUTIFUL
tank that will enthrall you for HOURS (I know mine does).
Just follow the advice of Kick, Jeff, and Joyce.
Keep your chin up,
September 04, 2001 - 07:59 am
You have been another victim of some bad advice from the
fish store!!!!!!! Save yourself a headache and either take
some of the fish back to the store or get another tank (BIG
ONE). Now some will say that one inch of fish per gallon
is a good guide line, but I have broken that rule on three
of my seven tanks...just increase your water changes. You
also have some species in your tanks that don't quite
get along. Look up all of your fish on the net (like
here) and learn about their habits and who they get
along with...DON'T LISTEN TO THE PIMPLE POPPIN DWEEB
AT THE FISH STORE!!!!!!! Good luck!
September 09, 2001 - 05:01 pm
I do not know if this is a great idea, but could he take
the fish out put them in a tupperware and use bottled water
to try and keep them alive? I have done this when fish were
getting picked on. One of those 30 gal storge containers
September 09, 2001 - 08:35 pm
Anonymous that will work if you still use a heater and filter.Bottled
water is not a good idea since you don't know what ph
it is. Distilled is 7.0 and spring water can have a very
high ph(test it and see). It's better to use
your tap then to shock the fish! Also this post is pretty
old and I think some solution has probably been found by
September 10, 2001 - 11:21 am
My tanks still have not cycled but I only have a few fish
left anyway. IT seems like it is taking forever. My ammonia
is still high and now my NO2 is really high so I guess its
cycling. In the 30gal the 2 kissing gouramis still remain
with the australian rainbow. In the 10 gal the last remaining
gold gourami is left, but he is weird now. He is very skidish.
He hides in a shell. Still waiting to add some fiSh. Patience
seems to a big part of this hobby. Who would of known?