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Water Problems, Columnaris, or General Doom?


PineSong
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Currently feeling sad for my new tank. 20 gallon long stocked with 3 otocinclus, 4 Endlers males, 3 guppy males (still alive, started with 8), 3 platies (started with 4) and 2 mollies and a mystery snail. Sponge filter and HOB on opposite ends of tank. Lots of potted, planted, and floating plants + pothos with well developed root clusters. Tank was set up with wood, plants, gravel and filter media from my 2 and 3 year old betta setups, plus new plants in pots and floating.

Here's my water:

Ph 7.5

GH120  KH180
Nitrite .5 (was zero until yesterday)
Nitrate 0
Ammonia .25 (right now it's .25, it has gone as high as .5 for 2 days at a time. My tap water treated with Prime tests at .5 consistently, so I've used spring water for water changes or spring water mixed with treated tap water to bring down high ammonia levels)
Temp is 74 ( I turned the heater off due to fear of the ammonia)
 
I've had 5 guppies die over the course of the two weeks since I set up the tank including after I did med trio. Guppies have died one every other day or so, physically looking perfect but sitting at top of tank in the evening, followed by death the next day. One looked like his chest had a white bulge/burst area when I found him, though he had been physically intact when I went to bed, just sitting at the top of the tank.
 
Lost a platy this morning after 2 days of hiding in filter corner--a rough red meaty-looking area on his side. Moved him to a hospital tank before work, he was dead after work.
 
After work today one molly had white bumps on mouth and tail fin, and another platy had what looked like a "saddleback" wound, very hard to spot due to his coloration (red tailed dalmatian, the affected area is normally white with little red and black specks, only close examination reveals it's not healthy white, it's cruddy looking). They are currently in hospital tank with salt and Ich-X. I'm out of antibiotics (completed med trio a week ago) and will be unable to get more until tomorrow, if then. Within hours of being in salt/Ich-X, molly looks normal and has no white spots I can see, which seems bizarrely fast for even a surface-level improvement.
 
When I started this tank my goal was to have a peaceful community tank that the younger of my bettas might enjoy living in. Now, I can't picture this tank ever feeling safe enough to put a healthy fish in.
 
Photo is of my lighter orange platy, who has a red spot in the same location the deceased platy had that meaty area, and who was sitting at the top of the tank some this evening.  
 
Is poor water quality the root of the problem? Would .5 ammonia cause these deaths while Endlers remain alive and double in size?
 
 
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Okay, thank you. I just test stripped 2 jugs of the spring water. I have purchased all of it from the same brand and same store and it was 7.5 in one bottle and closer to 7.0+ in the other. If most of the bottles were somehow 7.0, and I never did more than a 30% water change, would that shift in pH (adding pH 7.0 spring water to pH 7.5 tank) be enough to stress the fish out? 

And, understanding that "the only safe ammonia level is zero", and weighing the two dangers here...am I correct in thinking that the best option for the fish is for me to do a water change to reduce ammonia and since my two sources are Primed tap water at .5 ammonia and bottled spring water at 0, I should use the spring water but perhaps add it much more slowly, like half a gallon at a time over the course of the evening to give the fish time to adjust--or am I safer to leave the ammonia at .25 and not mess with the pH? TIA!

 

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Edited by PineSong
Delete giant duplicate photo.
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I wouldn't mess with your pH it will stress them out more I would increase water changes and add a double dose of prime to detoxify nitrites and ammonia once.you get your ammonia and nitirte levels to zero I would treat with maracyn I wouldn't feed for a couple of days to provent ammonia spikes during treatment you can still add prime daily to detoxify any nitrites and ammonia while treating with maracyn 

Edited by Colu
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Thank you. I have only fed once in 4 days and will continue that pattern for now. Ammonia was still only .25 when I got home, but my "healthy" molly (not the one in the hospital tank) was dead. Nothing visible to the eye wrong with him. Meanwhile, orange platy with reddish spot remains active and eating algae or something as poop is brown, and the molly and platy in the hospital tank are still okay.

I'm going to follow your advice, will update.

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Another update:

I have not done anything but add a gallon of water, Prime, and withhold food. Ammonia getting lower with each test, below .25 this afternoon when I got home from work, no fish deaths including the guys in the hospital tank.

I just don't understand what happened with this hospitalized molly--looked perfect in the AM, had white cloudy areas on tail fins and white lump on lips in the afternoon, and after going into the salt/Ich-X tank went right back to being clear finned? I've treated fish for ich and many rescue bettas with all kinds of fin stuff happening but I've never seen anything disappear in hours. 

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Update: All fish are still alive but the hospitalized molly looks very poorly, though no white patches on tail or body, his eye is cloudy. Hospital tank is a sterilite file box so I can't get a photo through the glass, will take a photo if he passes away.

The platy with what appears to be saddleback is looking better, the sore area looks like it is healing. I've continued salt and Ich-x in the hospital tank and started Maracyn today when it arrived in the mail.

The fish remaining in the regular tank are acting normally--nobody hanging around the top or doing anything strange, the ammonia has been below .25 both AM and PM.

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Sad to report both the platy and the molly in my hospital tank have died. The molly had one cloudy eye the last few days of his life, but otherwise looked normal, photo below. Let me know if you see something I don't.

The platy appeared to be recovering from the sore on his back but was not eating, got less active and less active and died in the hospital tank after 2 days of maracyn.

Meanwhile in the main tank, there is no more ammonia but also no nitrates. Fish all look active and are eating (2 guppies, 3 Endlers, 3 otos, 2 platies are all I have left). 

I still don't know what killed all these fish but I'm voting for 1) stock overload for a new tank despite the old gravel, filter media, plants and wood, causing 2) too many panic-driven water changes messing with pH 3) too many meds too fast. I don't know what the white patches were on the molly before he went into the hospital tank, and I don't know for sure what caused the sore on the platy, but I do know that those things didn't appear until the fish had been in my tank for more than 2 weeks so I think they were just worn out by all of the above and got susceptible, not that they arrived sick. When I do get other fish to QT I am going to do one thing at a time.

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On 7/22/2021 at 7:37 PM, Colu said:

Looks like it had some fin rot as well my suspicion would be a bacterial infection I would get hold of some kanaplex to have on hand just in case any of your other fish start showing symptoms as maracyn didn't work it could have been a gram negative bacterial infection

I think it's the photo that makes it look that way--I noticed in the photo it looks like his tail is gone but while he was in water, it was clear, long and wholly present and fins looked clear and normal. I have both Maracyn and Maracyn 2 on hand for future problems--does Kanaplex treat things Maracyn 2 doesn't?

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