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Frustrated

bsatter

Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Location
Clear Lake
#1
Hi all,

I'm a longtime freshwater guy. I've dabbled with brackish. I been keeping fish for 20 years. However, this is my first attempt a saltwater fish.

I'm having a horrible time keeping fish alive. I'm getting beyond frustrated, and I'm seriously thinking of just giving up. I'm wondering if anyone can help me troubleshoot.

Before we get started, I bought a new RODI water system with Rubbermaid trashcans. The output for the RODI is 0 TDS. I'm using Brightwell NeoMarine as a salt. I'm using a Hanna salinity checker to check salinity. The checker was calibrated last week using the fluid packets provided by Hanna.

Attempt 1
I set up a 20 gallon long QT with a small HOB and heater. I went to a well know lfs to discuss my first fish purchase. I was looking for something hardy and forgiving. I will be stocking a 210. The lfs suggested 4 clowns. I made the purchase. The drive home was only about 30 minutes. By the time I made it home, one of the fish had already died. After floating the bags, I placed the remaining fish in the QT. The salinity in the QT matched the salinity in the bag. The temp was about 80 degrees. Shortly there after, I noticed the fish not doing well. Not really moving. The LFS had mentioned they dosed copper. I dosed copper as well. Within 24 hours, the remaining fish were dead. I really chalked this up as sick fish and moved on. All of the fish came from the same tank at the LFS. However, I really didn't have any symptoms to diagnose.

Attempt 2
After much reading from the failed first attempt, I decided the tank transfer method would be my method of quarantine. I sent up 4 10 gallons and a 20 gallon. I achieved a salinity of 1.025 on all of the tanks. I placed my order from LiveAquaria. Again, I ordered 4 clowns and a lawnmower blenny. Once I received the fish, the salinity was 1.018 in the bag. I frantically tried to bring down the salinity in the tank while monitoring temps. I simultaneously acclimated the fish and brought the salinity down in the tank. The fish behaved excellent for 12 hours or so. Then they looked very stressed. It was almost like they were not getting enough O2. I had an airstone in the tank. I had an ammonia badge on tank which read that everything was fine. The PH was 8.4. I dosed with PraziPro (the only med in the tank). One by one, they all died over the next 24 hours. In retrospect, I thought this had to do with the swift change in salinity. I was unprepared for the really low salinity in the saltwater. In reviewing of the LA website, they do state that the salinity could be this low. I was really upset that I had killed these fish.

Attempt 3
Another week past, I done additional reading. I decided to make a 3rd attempt. Again, I was going to use the TTM for quarantine. Everything was cleaned and setup again. I made the same order--4 clowns and a blenny. I had my salinity at 1.018. This matched the bag for the clowns. The blenny was at 1.017. I acclimated him a little longer. Everyone came out of the bag beautiful. They even ate about 6 hours after being in the tank. I went to bed feeling pretty good. I woke up this morning. We were back to the stressed looking fish. The fish were hanging at the bottom. They look very disoriented. I tested the water. These were my numbers:

0 Nitrite
8.3 Ph
0 Nitrate
6.4 dkh Alkalinity

The ammonia badge was showing okay. While I thought it was near impossible for much ammonia to be present, I knew the symptoms were there for ammonia. I decided to test for ammonia using the RedSea kit. It was showing .4 which reads as .04 ammonia. (If I'm interpreting the test correctly.) I did a 50% water change matched with salinity and temp. I've already lost 1 of the clown and a the blenny.

The ammonia situation really surprised me. I tested my RODI water. There was zero ammonia. I tested one of the running tanks I have for the TTM. There have been no fish in this tank. There was ammonia present. In the fresh saltwater I just mixed, there is no ammonia present. The only circumstance I can think of ammonia entering the systems is the cat litter box in the room. In review, I've read this could cause ammonia in the air to be pumped in the tank. However, I'm really finding this hard to believe.

Is the ammonia my problem? Why am I killing fish? What else should I test for at this point?

I've never had a problem keeping fish alive. It can't be this hard.

Thanks!

Billy
 

Bullitt519

Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2019
Location
Cypress
#3
Is there a reason you are treating copper in your qt tank? I would just setup a tank and monitor before throwing them back into a copper bath. But that’s just me I don’t really purchase a lot of fish anymore. My last purchase was from fjw 2 clowns and yellow wrasse. He said he treated with copper in his tanks I took them home and put them in regular qt tank and they have been great. Eating well and doing well. They are in my main tank now and still looking great. I would personally get them local or look on the fourms.
 

bsatter

Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Location
Clear Lake
#5
Is there a reason you are treating copper in your qt tank? I would just setup a tank and monitor before throwing them back into a copper bath. But that’s just me I don’t really purchase a lot of fish anymore. My last purchase was from fjw 2 clowns and yellow wrasse. He said he treated with copper in his tanks I took them home and put them in regular qt tank and they have been great. Eating well and doing well. They are in my main tank now and still looking great. I would personally get them local or look on the fourms.
I'm not treating with copper. In the first attempt, I did treat with copper once I the fish started exhibiting sickness. I did that only because the lfs was using copper in their tanks.
 

sneezebeetle

Director
Board Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2015
Location
Houston, TX
#6
So sorry your having such a hard time with your fish.

Myself, I would be inclined to believe that having ammonia present in the room via odor from your cat box a possible source for the ammonia in your system. This is why pregnant woman are advised not to clean liter boxes, because of the ammonia present in the air. Also, this is why we don't spray air freshners near open tanks, and we are cautious when paint in a room where we have our aquariums and we use caution like taping off the aquarium and adding additional fans for air circulation. I would move your tanks (or the cat box) to another area so they arent in the same room together.

Edit - Don't think I explained that very well. Basically, the ammonia in the air is leaching into your water.
 
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bsatter

Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Location
Clear Lake
#7
So sorry your having such a hard time with your fish.

Myself, I would be inclined to believe that having ammonia present in the room via odor from your cat box a possible source for the ammonia in your system. This is why pregnant woman are advised not to clean liter boxes, because of the ammonia present in the air. Also, this is why we don't spray air freshners near open tanks, and we are cautious when paint in a room where we have our aquariums and we use caution like taping off the aquarium and adding additional fans for air circulation. I would move your tanks (or the cat box) to another area so they arent in the same room together.

Edit - Don't think I explained that very well. Basically, the ammonia in the air is leaching into your water.
Thanks! We have moved the box. I also have the fan going in the room to circulate the air a bit more.
 

Cody

Secretary
Board Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Location
The Woodlands, TX
#9
So sorry your having such a hard time with your fish.

Myself, I would be inclined to believe that having ammonia present in the room via odor from your cat box a possible source for the ammonia in your system. This is why pregnant woman are advised not to clean liter boxes, because of the ammonia present in the air. Also, this is why we don't spray air freshners near open tanks, and we are cautious when paint in a room where we have our aquariums and we use caution like taping off the aquarium and adding additional fans for air circulation. I would move your tanks (or the cat box) to another area so they arent in the same room together.

Edit - Don't think I explained that very well. Basically, the ammonia in the air is leaching into your water.
That's a good way of looking at it. The pregnant woman example is an interesting insight.

What I was getting towards is that even though you have the nitrifying bacteria on hand, it still takes a week or two to get established and thriving. Even if ammonia from the cat box isn't the issue, you're still going to be cycling a tank with those fish in there. That's less than ideal and could potentially lead to more deaths, even for hardy fish.

My advice would be to cycle your tank first, then put the fish in, even if it's just a quarantine tank. I've always done it this way, and will admit that I haven't ever quarantined, and have had very few deaths.
 

Tenny

Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2018
Location
League City
#10
I think it's 100% ammonia that's causing the issue, but I think it's mostly just due to the fact the tank isn't cycled. You can read the thread I had about it... I was doing 50% water changes every day along with doing a prime dose every night.... and that was a 10g for just one tang. I ran a sponge in my DT for 1-2 weeks, but that wasn't long enough for it to take on the beneficial bacteria for when I moved it to the QT.

My suggestion would be to cycle a tank... how ever you want to do it is up to you. Keep a air sponge filter in it while you do the cycle though so it has enough time to get that beneficial bacteria.

Expect to have to do something for him with Copper / CP. Most LFS's from my understanding run just enough copper prevent the diereses from appearing on them, but not enough to actually treat it. Although I do remember FJW was setting up their own "quarantine" system at one point where they would hold it for 4 weeks in copper or something along those lines.

Then I would keep on hand:
Copper w/ Hanna Test Kit or CP.
Metroplex, Kanaplex, Furan-2, PraziPro.


Honestly I have NEVER checked the salinity of incoming fish / coral. I do use this for acclimation: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005YIVJSU/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 (basically the bag floats in the water (so temp is adjusted) while it slowly drips some water in it. No water from the bag gets into the aquarium. After I am confident they are ready to move over, I pour some water over the animal in my hand or net and then put it in to reduce the amount of "store" water that gets in as much as possible.
 

sneezebeetle

Director
Board Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2015
Location
Houston, TX
#11
That's a good way of looking at it. The pregnant woman example is an interesting insight.

What I was getting towards is that even though you have the nitrifying bacteria on hand, it still takes a week or two to get established and thriving. Even if ammonia from the cat box isn't the issue, you're still going to be cycling a tank with those fish in there. That's less than ideal and could potentially lead to more deaths, even for hardy fish.

My advice would be to cycle your tank first, then put the fish in, even if it's just a quarantine tank. I've always done it this way, and will admit that I haven't ever quarantined, and have had very few deaths.
Great point Cody

Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk
 

bsatter

Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Location
Clear Lake
#12
I'm really confused at this point.

Everything I read about the tank transfer method says not to worry about cycling the tanks until you get to the last tank. The fish are not going to be in the tank for more than 3 days. Yes, when you get to the last tank that you will be holding the fish for a week or more, you need something. I was prepared when I got that far.

The ammonia is coming from some place. I'm inclined to believe the cat litter box because my second tank was running fishless. It had ammonia in it as well. The only other thing I can think of is chloramine bypassing the RODI system. Would an ammonia test pick up the ammonia in chloramine? If so, my RODI water is reading 0 for ammonia. Also, the water has filter for over a week, stored in the Rubbermaids with an air stone running.

Is the tank transfer method the way to go? Do you really have to cycle all of the tanks for the duration of the treatment?

I'm still trying to save these fish. It isn't looking pretty though.
 

webster1234

Supporting Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2012
Location
Pearland
#13
My vote is ammonia as well. I used to do tank transfer with 10g tanks and they weren't cycled. But I would check my ammonia twice a day, dose with prime, and do a lot of water changes. 5 fish in a 10g un-cycled tank is a lot. You'd be surprised how fast they can pollute the water. I have never had luck with those ammonia badges. They always showed good for me when there was a high level of ammonia in the water, therefore I won't use them.

Get some ammonia reducer from Petco, and reliable ammonia test kit, and test twice a day. When it shows a hint of ammonia, dose with ammonia reducer. The next time it shows a hint of ammonia, do a 50% water change and dose with more ammonia reducer. If ammonia shows up before you go to bed, don't wait until the morning to do your water change.

If you ever use copper again, you should ramp it up over the course of several days until it gets to the recommended dose. And never never use ammonia reducer with copper. It will kill your fish.
 

Luman01

Supporting Member
Joined
Mar 25, 2017
Location
Richmond
#14
I'm really confused at this point.

Everything I read about the tank transfer method says not to worry about cycling the tanks until you get to the last tank. The fish are not going to be in the tank for more than 3 days. Yes, when you get to the last tank that you will be holding the fish for a week or more, you need something. I was prepared when I got that far.

The ammonia is coming from some place. I'm inclined to believe the cat litter box because my second tank was running fishless. It had ammonia in it as well. The only other thing I can think of is chloramine bypassing the RODI system. Would an ammonia test pick up the ammonia in chloramine? If so, my RODI water is reading 0 for ammonia. Also, the water has filter for over a week, stored in the Rubbermaids with an air stone running.

Is the tank transfer method the way to go? Do you really have to cycle all of the tanks for the duration of the treatment?

I'm still trying to save these fish. It isn't looking pretty though.
Any tank you set up be it a qt or dt, it needs to cycle, even for ttm, but after all my fish that went in to my old qt system they all died, and I have qted a day sense. If I were you, I’d buy a 3 Chromis and throw them in ur display tank, note that at least 1 will die just cause the always do so don’t think much of it. And if at least 1 Chromis is still alive in display tank then add 1-2 fish max every couple of weeks or so till about 3-4 months, that way ur bacteria can build up with the added bioload. And raise ur temp to run at 80-82 degrees max! Don’t go over 82. That’s what worked for all my fish! My 2 tangs and my African leopard wrasse diddnt go through qt, to me it’s a waste of time and money, cuz to truly have the fish “clean” it would need to be in there for at least 1 yr. a few weeks is nothing! Now if you still want to go through “qting” your fish. No prob I respect ur decision, I’d do this. Cycle it. How ever you want to do it cycle it for 2 weeks. No fish at all. Dose ace hardware ammonia. It’s 1 ml per 10 gallons. Get to the point where it turns that ammonia from 4ppm to 0 in less than 24 hrs, then ur ready to qt ur fish. I’d suggest increasing that surface area of ur bio filter. To help with that.

Hope this helps
Lucas.
 

Tenny

Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2018
Location
League City
#15
I'm really confused at this point.

Everything I read about the tank transfer method says not to worry about cycling the tanks until you get to the last tank. The fish are not going to be in the tank for more than 3 days. Yes, when you get to the last tank that you will be holding the fish for a week or more, you need something. I was prepared when I got that far.

The ammonia is coming from some place. I'm inclined to believe the cat litter box because my second tank was running fishless. It had ammonia in it as well. The only other thing I can think of is chloramine bypassing the RODI system. Would an ammonia test pick up the ammonia in chloramine? If so, my RODI water is reading 0 for ammonia. Also, the water has filter for over a week, stored in the Rubbermaids with an air stone running.

Is the tank transfer method the way to go? Do you really have to cycle all of the tanks for the duration of the treatment?

I'm still trying to save these fish. It isn't looking pretty though.
Go do a water change immediately. I'd say 50% tonight, and 50% first thing tomorrow. If you don't trust your water go buy some from a store that they make.

Don't trust those ammonia badges. I had one and it reported nothing yet my test kit said ammonia.

Do the fish show signs of anything other than being disoriented?

PM me if you need something as I am close.
 

Cody

Secretary
Board Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Location
The Woodlands, TX
#16
Go do a water change immediately. I'd say 50% tonight, and 50% first thing tomorrow. If you don't trust your water go buy some from a store that they make.

Don't trust those ammonia badges. I had one and it reported nothing yet my test kit said ammonia.

Do the fish show signs of anything other than being disoriented?

PM me if you need something as I am close.
I'd say to get those fish in someone's tank that can keep them alive while his tank cycles. I couldn't agree more about the ammonia dial though. I wouldn't trust it
 

bsatter

Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Location
Clear Lake
#17
Hi everyone,

I appreciate all of the feedback and suggestions. Below is what I have done and my plan of action.

  1. I immediately dosed prime when I found out I had the ammonia in the tank.
  2. After getting an ammonia hit on the fishless tank and no ammonia on my RODI water, I searched for the culprit. The only thing I could point to was the cat litter box. The cat litter box was removed from the room. I also ran a fan to circulate air in the room.
  3. The fish didn't appear any better within an hour or so. I matched the temp and salinity of the tank. Since Prime had been introduced to the tank, I wasn't certain if the ammonia test would work again or give a false reading. I did test the tank though. The results showed 0 ammonia. However, I still did a 50% water change. The fish appeared a little better.
  4. After a few hours, the fish seemed worse. After another ammonia test, it appeared there was indeed ammonia in the tank. I heated the remaining water from the bucket from above. I moved the fish into this bucket. They seem to be fairing a little better.
  5. I went to Petco/PetsMart looking for a chlorine/chloramine test. That was no joy. I really don't think this is the problem. That water was aged a week or 2 after coming out of the RODI. I just reaching for straws at the moment.
Moving forward, I had a 20 gallon ready to go. This tank was not getting air from the room pumped into it. However, it was present in the room. I'm testing it for ammonia now. Assuming there is no ammonia present, I'm going to start heating it up and reducing the salinity to match the bucket/old tank. If there is ammonia present, I'll start with new RODI/Salt. Once I get the water where I want it, I'll throw some of that Fritz Zyme 9 in the tank with a HOB. I'll then move the fish into that tank. I'll monitor the ammonia throughout.

Thanks!
 

Tenny

Supporting Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2018
Location
League City
#18
Hi everyone,

I appreciate all of the feedback and suggestions. Below is what I have done and my plan of action.

  1. I immediately dosed prime when I found out I had the ammonia in the tank.
  2. After getting an ammonia hit on the fishless tank and no ammonia on my RODI water, I searched for the culprit. The only thing I could point to was the cat litter box. The cat litter box was removed from the room. I also ran a fan to circulate air in the room.
  3. The fish didn't appear any better within an hour or so. I matched the temp and salinity of the tank. Since Prime had been introduced to the tank, I wasn't certain if the ammonia test would work again or give a false reading. I did test the tank though. The results showed 0 ammonia. However, I still did a 50% water change. The fish appeared a little better.
  4. After a few hours, the fish seemed worse. After another ammonia test, it appeared there was indeed ammonia in the tank. I heated the remaining water from the bucket from above. I moved the fish into this bucket. They seem to be fairing a little better.
  5. I went to Petco/PetsMart looking for a chlorine/chloramine test. That was no joy. I really don't think this is the problem. That water was aged a week or 2 after coming out of the RODI. I just reaching for straws at the moment.
Moving forward, I had a 20 gallon ready to go. This tank was not getting air from the room pumped into it. However, it was present in the room. I'm testing it for ammonia now. Assuming there is no ammonia present, I'm going to start heating it up and reducing the salinity to match the bucket/old tank. If there is ammonia present, I'll start with new RODI/Salt. Once I get the water where I want it, I'll throw some of that Fritz Zyme 9 in the tank with a HOB. I'll then move the fish into that tank. I'll monitor the ammonia throughout.

Thanks!
I don't know if I'd suggest dosing with the fritz and throwing the fish in. I think that may cause a lot more ammonia as you are adding something that is supposed to spike ammonia along with the fish.

I think you have two tanks... So what I'd do is 50% water change and dosing prime daily or twice daily. Then in the other tank start that cycle with Fritz along with some PVC and a HOB so that the baceteria has something to attach to. Monitor the ammonia / nitrite both tanks. As soon as nitrite hits zero in the cycle tank transfer them over to that tank. I am sure that'll spike the ammonia a tad in the "cycled" tank as you are adding a significant bioload, but it should be able to handle that with a few water changes now that you are probably an expert at it.
 
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bsatter

Supporting Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2018
Location
Clear Lake
#19
Just a quick update:

I moved all 3 from the bucket to the tank. The tank showed 0 ammonia. They all had advanced neurological issues. One of them died within a hour of placing it in the tank. A second was dead by morning. I still have the last one hanging on. It shows intermittent signs of progress. I will keep it as comfortable possible and measure ammonia. I'm hopeful he pulls through but I think the damage is done.

Moving forward: I'm abandoning the small tank transfer method of quarantine. To admit, the method wasn't a failure as much as my ignoring the ammonia symptoms when first displayed. I honestly did not think ammonia could build up that quickly (less than 24 hours). However, I believe it had a good head start with the cat litter box. Would I have had the same problems without the litter box pumping ammonia into the tank? I don't think so. In the future, I'll just quarantine with a cycled 20 gallon long. I'll have a hospital tank ready to medicate if I need it.

Honestly, if I hadn't spent so much money right now, I'd probably just fill the 210 with freshwater fish and be done. I'm still considering it.

I appreciate all of the help and feedback.
 

Cody

Secretary
Board Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2014
Location
The Woodlands, TX
#20
Just a quick update:

I moved all 3 from the bucket to the tank. The tank showed 0 ammonia. They all had advanced neurological issues. One of them died within a hour of placing it in the tank. A second was dead by morning. I still have the last one hanging on. It shows intermittent signs of progress. I will keep it as comfortable possible and measure ammonia. I'm hopeful he pulls through but I think the damage is done.

Moving forward: I'm abandoning the small tank transfer method of quarantine. To admit, the method wasn't a failure as much as my ignoring the ammonia symptoms when first displayed. I honestly did not think ammonia could build up that quickly (less than 24 hours). However, I believe it had a good head start with the cat litter box. Would I have had the same problems without the litter box pumping ammonia into the tank? I don't think so. In the future, I'll just quarantine with a cycled 20 gallon long. I'll have a hospital tank ready to medicate if I need it.

Honestly, if I hadn't spent so much money right now, I'd probably just fill the 210 with freshwater fish and be done. I'm still considering it.

I appreciate all of the help and feedback.
Get used to spending money if you want a reef tank :)


But for now, you just need to have a cycled tank up and running. Get the fish in there once that's done, then keep them fat and happy. Clowns are hardy fish and their immune systems will take care of them.
 
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