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New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

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New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by vigilante on Mon Jun 15, 2015 3:35 pm

Okay so it had been years since having aquariums, and now I have kids, so we were at Walmart and got this little 3 gallon.  Long story short, set it up, ran it for four weeks, added 6 tiger barbs. New tank syndrome (ammonia spikes) but it took me too long to clue in.

1 fish died.

I started doing 50% water changes daily, and the fish were noticeably better.  Seemed to be doing well and playful.  Lots of colours came out in the barbs.

1 fish died later, reason unknown.

About 5 weeks later we went away for 8 days and I put in one of those time release hockey puck feeders.

1 fish dead, 1 disappeared.  Half the puck still left.

So now there are two tiger barbs left in the 3 gallon aquarium.  I've added a small sponge filter to replace the crappy one that came with it.  This all brings me to my question:

With ammonia poisoning, they all had red inflamed gills.  Is this something that fish can recover from, or are their gills always altered/scared/or less effective after an ammonia problem?

Also: I won't be offended if someone decided to explain why tiger barbs in a 3 gallon tank is a bad idea.  I've got two left but a 30 gallon upgrade isn't going to be practical for me.  I have a 5 gallon fluval spec that I am setting up and will put them in there - maybe add a third?  I'll use the 3 gallon to cycle the 5 - then probably put some shrimp in the 3.  I can't take them back to the place I bought them.  If you are ever in Thompson MB don't buy fish there - super expensive and poorly cared for.  I love the barbs by the way they are super active and interesting fish to have in a tank.  I'm hoping the current in the spec is a positive thing for them.
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Re: New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by CAAIndie on Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:44 pm

Hi vigilante, firstly welcome to Canadaquaria. You'll find lots of helpful and friendly members here. You have definitely come to the right place for advice.

What you are referring to as new tank syndrome is better explained as the early part of the nitrogen cycle in the aquarium. I'll put out a general explanation for anyone reading this who may experience similar problems, and you can take whatever parts are either a refresher or new to you Smile.

Fish waste produces ammonia, which as you know, is very toxic. Beneficial bacteria build up in the tank filter (90% in the filter, mostly on the biological filtration media, which is often small round ceramic cylinders. The rest of the beneficial bacteria lives on other hard surfaces in the tank, like the gravel and decoration). The first main type of bacteria convert ammonia to nitrite, which is also very toxic to fish. Similar to this first type of bacteria, a second type multiply over time and feed off the nitrite in the water and convert it to nitrates. Nitrates are what we remove from the tank with water changes. While 1ppm of ammonia or nitrite can easily kill a fish, nitrate levels from 5 to 20ppm are considered within the realm of healthy. After you see zero ammonia and zero nitrite in a tank (and only nitrates) you know you are completely cycled. During the cycling process, large and frequent water changes are necessary. After the cycle is completed, more moderate weekly changes are optimal. It takes a period of 4 to 6+ weeks to establish the beneficial bacteria to complete a cycle.

Adding too many fish at once, or fish that grow too large for a tank often results in the ammonia spikes you are seeing (or nitrite spikes potentially too). Your choice to do large and frequent water changes were absolutely the best short term solution you could have chosen, but you may recognize, the long term prognosis is problematic.

There are a couple of main issues here:

Firstly the behaviour of the fish is extremely active, and a 3 gallon tank would be akin to keeping a border collie in your shoe closet. Even if water quality wasn't an issue, it just can't express the fully range of behaviours it requires, and it may cause the fish significant stress. Fish and stress usually equals, sick, unhappy fish. You also have a type of fish that really needs to be a shoal (5+ fish), as smaller sized groups can lead to increased stress, and a vast increase in aggression (especially towards each other).

The second issue that is a small tank, ammonia/nitrite/nitrate will build up much faster, basically making the water toxic soup. Unfortunately when you have either too many fish, or too large a fish in a small tank, there just isn't the surface area for you to have enough beneficial bacteria to convert the waste produced into nitrates. Ultimately you end up in a perpetual issues with ammonia and nitrites.

Obviously you care about your fish (otherwise you wouldn't be here!), and you want to do what's best. Some fish stores unfortunately are either uninformed, misinformed, or just in the business in selling fish rather than taking care of fish. It's extremely easy for hobbyists to get sold into things that just don't really work.

So down to your practical situation:

- Firstly to your ammonia poisoning/burns for your fish. That's difficult to answer for sure... it depends on the extent to which they were affected. They may heal back to normal, or they may have permanent damage. Unfortunately with the tank size, you will constantly be dealing with ammonia or nitrite issues.

- Short term, the largest tank you can get them in, the better they will do. While you may be able to keep them alive with large water changes (as you have been doing), you may still lose them based on the stress of the restrictive tank (that is assuming you could still do the large 50% changes frequently). You also might be able to keep them alive, but they just won't be happy. A harsh statement, but unfortunately true.

- If upgrading the tank size for these little guys isn't an option (as you mentioned 30g would be a much better size), I would seek to find a local hobbyist who might be willing to take them. Whether that is through our site, or even something like kijiji. That is a difficult thing to do, but that's my number one suggestion. My much more distant second suggestion would be to seek a moderately larger aquarium. A 20g or even a 10 gallon would allow the fish a non-optimal, but BETTER quality of life. Quite often 10 and 20g tanks can be found very inexpensively second hand (other sizes too) (sometimes ranging from free to 30 or 40 bucks).

Your suggestion for adding shrimp to the 3 gallon (after the barbs are gone) would be a good one. That's the best stocking suggestion I have for that tank size. Some nice aquarium plants would work great too. Seeking something low light, and low tech would be great. You could definitely find members here (or our sponsor! ThePlantGuy, whom is located in Winnipeg) who may be willing to sell/ship plants.

The 5 gallon could open up the possibility to being a suitable tank for a betta  (again providing that it isn't in with barbs) A 5 gallon tank size really allows you to provide a much better environment for a fish that is unfortunately usually kept in very small bowls, and see a wider range of behaviours.

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Re: New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by Sbenson11 on Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:00 pm

Welcome to the forum Vigilante,

The only thing I can add to what CAAIndie just replied with is...

Can we nominate you for article of the month for that very informative reply Smile

Steve
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Re: New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by CAAIndie on Mon Jun 15, 2015 6:03 pm

@Sbenson11 wrote:Welcome to the forum Vigilante,

The only thing I can add to what CAAIndie just replied with is...

Can we nominate you for article of the month for that very informative reply Smile

Steve

Baha. If you want, when nominations come around. Laughing

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Re: New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by GaryE on Tue Jun 16, 2015 5:59 am

That was a great answer up there, and a great question above it!

Can fish recover? Yes, but it depends on the length of exposure. The redness is effectively burning. I have seen fish imported from farms where fins have been burned off. Maybe one in five can still rebound, if they live more than 48 hours in clean water. That is a big if.

There is permanent damage - the scorched fins stay small, and they will have respiratory problems, but I'm bald and have asthma so I can relate to them.

Tiger barbs, properly cared for, can reach 4 inches. Usually, they max at 3, but the potential is there. My 3 gallon fry hatching tanks are 5 inches front to back and 12 inches long. The rule I use for fish and tanks is that the length of the tank should be 8 to 10 times the adult length of the fish, with 10 being the rule for active fish that like to 'run'. Tiger barbs REALLY like to move. They also like to live in large groups.
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Re: New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by alexmtl on Tue Jun 16, 2015 7:45 am

Oh, a thread that may dethrone the Koi King on the Monthly Article Award. This month is shaping up really well on the submissions so finally King Steve may get a run for his money.

In answer to your questions I think they can recover depending upon exposure like GaryE said. I have had fish that have survived long transport, over three weeks which are ideal burn conditions. The fish if young will survive and recover, as I witness my little fishes swimming and breeding. However these are little fishies. I must add that the last long transport killed off the adults, and I was left with a noxious mixture of dead adults and seven young still alive in the breather bags.

Nano tanks are small. I think that you have great opportunity here to have some fun with nano fish and small aquascapes. Shrimps certainly and live plants. Barbs I am not too sure would be happy in the three but in the five, possibly singly or in pairs.

Long term, there are a lot fish that would suit your 3 and 5 gallon tanks. In fact guppyguy and Builu have been very successful in aquascaping and making best arrangements in this type of micro environment. As well you may consider cycling through the tanks and see what becomes of the situation.

Positively the future of the tanks looks bright as you are aware of what is necessary for future success. Indie explained what the cycle is, in perhaps the most succinct way that we have seen. In my humble opinion, I think you still have a few weeks to cycle through until you get stable conditions. I believe you are moving well into two good tanks that will end up prolific and enjoyable.

In closing, consider live plants as an addition. The research in the new two weeks will help you to wait out the cycling and profit from the experience.

I must add that about ten years ago I bought a 5 gallon kit for my daughter. It ended in failure despite my past many years in the hobby. We do our best and there should be no regret about what had happened. I have since bought the fish that I stocked, and they are doing fabulously in the present day in the same kit that I had bought years ago. Poetic, failure at first then harmony. For those who are curious, these were Daisy Ricefish, an elegant new entry into the trade recently. I'll post when I get the chance.

Welcome the forum vigilante. Hope you enjoy the reading!
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Re: New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by vigilante on Tue Jun 16, 2015 2:49 pm

WOW! Thanks so much for the welcomes and the advice. I'm glad that I found some folks that are enthusiastic about the hobby - and glad to now be a part of the forum.

Regarding the tiger barbs, I resigned to the fact that they do need a new home. I definitely made a mistake putting them in such a small tank, and so many (6) all at once too. Even though it was an upgrade from what they were in at the store, they need more room.

Thanks for the encouragement regarding live plants. Between this and youtube, I've worked up the courage to try it. I doesn't seem as hard or intimidating as it used to. I've ordered some plants from the plant guy in Winnipeg and am just waiting for them to ship out when he receives the stock. I got Java fern and Anubis and a few others - so each tank will have different plants.

I'll also have to get a small test kit for ammonia and nitrites, so that I can be aware of what's going on in the tanks. I'm thinking the 3 gallon is going to house some shrimp and the 5 gal will have the 2 remaining barbs in the interim, with likely a betta to follow AFTER the barbs are rehomed.

I was never interested in Bettas because they always looked like dying fish in those little cups and jars people have them in - through using the internet it looks like they can be a very interesting pet when properly housed. I've been looking online at ways people have modified their fluval spec V to reduce the flow for bettas. Apparently they don't like a current at all - but I still want good circulation so that the water gets filtered. I can't help but wonder if it will be a bit of a balancing act when the time comes.
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Re: New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by CAAIndie on Tue Jun 16, 2015 3:28 pm

John (The Plant Guy) is on here very frequently, so if you find you have any questions as you get going, this is a great place for getting good answers. Smile We also have some members who are truly masters at planted tanks. It sounds like you made great choices for the plants too. Just in case you didn't know, that with both anubias and java fern, you will need to plant them a little different than you would something on the garden. You don't bury them in the substrate, but rather attach them to driftwood, stone, or decorations (some use fishing line, elastics, even types of crazy glue work well). After some time the plant will root on the object and you can remove the fishing line or elastics. One just need to be sure the rhizome of the plant isn't buried. Smile


You definitely made the right choice with the barbs, as tough as it can be.

Betta are near the top of my list for my next tank (there are actually many different species of them too). Even the common pet shop betta splendas variety are far more enjoyable in a larger aquarium. You'll find lots of really experienced betta keepers too, so be sure to ask if you have any questions about them.

I was thinking, you should consider a tank journal (check out ours at http://www.canadaquaria.ca/f12-tank-journal ) for some examples. They are a great way to track the progress of your tank and show off your achievements and new things as you go. Smile

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Re: New Tank Syndrome - fish recovering from ammonia poisoning.

Post by fish lady on Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:05 pm

betta can be very additive i have 4 males and 4females so beware lol so many types to chose from
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