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SOS newbie killing her white clouds from her inexperience


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Little background. I guess I have found out I'm the typical newbie who ended up doing more harm than good due to her inexperience and lack of research...though I really did do ALOT of research...or so I thought! BUT in hindsight I realize now that I did research in order to rationalize proceeding with what I have come to realize now was a very BAD idea to begin with instead of research in why this idea should not continue...at least not for a newbie. Let the saga begin!!!

I converted a peace lily into a water plant and thought it would be awesome to have fish swimming around the roots...best of both world's planter/fish tank. After doing my due diligence....or so I thought I converted my peace lily into a water plant, waited 2 weeks added my snails....beautiful zebra narrate snails....2 of them, waited another 2 weeks and was suppose to add my red cherry shrimp but the store didn't have any...so waiting for them but added my fish 2 weeks following...4 white clouds. The whole time I was had been checking the water once a week with the 5 in one test strips...thanks Cory for the advice of cutting them in half to last longer, REALLY appreciating that now! So then I feed my fish-Bug Bites-following directions...feed twice daily only as much as they can eat in 2 minutes. Feed my fish and off to work I went. Guess you all probably realized what happened after that...yep ammonia spike. Which ironically enough I ended up knowing about before I even went home due to watching one of Cory's videos on fish in tank cycling and what NOT to do and why...yeah hindsight and all. So I'm freaking out at work...work night shift 7pm-7am. I read and read and read and following Cory's video advice when I got home and realized that thankfully my fish are alive and active...so maybe they stood a chance. Tested water. Nitrate 30ppm, Nitrite 2ppm, pH6.5, KH 40 ppm, GH 30 ppm and ammonia was a whopping 6.0...could of been higher but that's as high as my test strips went. I immediately did a 50% water change, rushed to the pet store when it opened and bought API Ammo Lock...last bottle and only thing available. Followed bottle directions and now for obvious reasons am questioning EVERYTHING I'm thinking and doing. Should I do another 50 % water exchange before 24 hrs. are even up...ammonia is currently at 3.0 and fish seem to be fine not at top of tank gasping for air, or sluggish lie about behavior so far and NO I have not feed them which is my next question. Cory says...video...to hold off food for 4 days, and then feed again a week later and every week there after...as long as tests are going well bump up feed once a week until feeding daily. But these guys are tiny...does that still apply to them? And PLEASE tell me what I should do next, or look for or not do. I just want to give these little fighters the best chance possible and not suffer for my stupidity! Bottle of Ammo Lock says to dose again in 2 days? HELP!!!

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When you have ammonia and nitrites, big water changes are good. More than 50% is okay. I have done 80% water changes before. It does not hurt the fish. It takes two 50% water changes to reduce the ammonia/nitrite concentration as much as one 75% water change. 

More than one water change in a day is alright if the ammonia/nitrite concentration remains high.

I would not feed the fish until the ammonia/nitrite problem shows signs of abating. You need to keep testing so that you know when that is.

I do not know anything about ammo-lock. I tend to doubt that any product really detoxifies ammonia/nitrite. But I know you want to do everything you can to keep the fish alive.

After this emergency And your cycle is over, I think it would be better to feed the fish just once per day.

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Welcome!  Sorry to hear you are having an issue, but I can definitely relate to doing all the research and things still not going to plan.

It sounds like you are having an ammonia spike from the additional bio load of the fish and the food.  How large is you tank and what filtration are you using?  If I understand your summary the tank has been set up for 4 weeks total but you just added the fish and started feeding it.

The tank seems to be cycling for the first time or is re-cycling and there is not enough beneficial bacteria to support the new fish and addition of food with the food being the ammonia source.  I also recommend watching if you have not seen it 3:14 - What to do when you have an ammonia spike

A couple of ideas come to mind initially:

  • Hold off on food for about 4 days and proceed with a reduced feeding schedule after that, also make sure to remove any uneaten food.
  • 50% water change is great.  You will want to keep monitoring and keep changing water as needed
  • Don't add any more fish until the cycle completes
  • Dechlorinator will only bind the ammonia for 24 hrs - assume this is what Ammonia Lock is doing
  • Adding a live beneficial Bacteria like Fritz Zyme 7 will help the tank re-cycle if available.
  • Adding about a Tablespoon per 5-10 gal of salt will make the ammonia less toxic to the fish if water changes are not working, but you will want to research and possibly remove the live plants first since many are sensitive to salt.

Also worth checking:

  • Confirm that you are following the ammonia test strip instructions and not contaminating the ammonia test strip pads with water from the other strips (assume you did this but just making sure).
  • Check the water source for the tank for ammonia as well.
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Thanks for all the help. I will follow all your advice....

Tank is a 2.8 gallons cylinder 9 1/2 inches wide, 10 1/2 inches high. I was attempting my hand at gardening during these Covid times and fell down the fish hole when I had the wonderful idea to show case my converted water peace lily with with some fish swimming around the base. The filter is the submersible type for 5-15 gallons tanks I had turned it off because though set at the lowest setting the current still seemed strong even for a river fish and even though before all this they seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it...darting around each other, playing with and against the current. I just thought with everything else right now they didn't need to exhaust themselves with current and I have a water stone in there as well for air and circulation. But I turned filter back on.

I did another 50% water change...do I dose the Ammo Lock again though afterwards?

I will definitely hold off feeding the fish for at least 4 day...even though they are so tiny "sigh".

I checked my tap water 0 ammonia. I never would of thought of that though I should have as I tested it with the 5 in 1 strips when I first started but in my defense though a very, very, very sad one I thought 5 in 1 took that into account and I didn't have to check for ammonia...yeah yeah, hence the name.


Thanks all for all your help and anything you can think to add I will gladly incorporate on my little ones journey to recovery....I HOPE!!

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That is a good description and it sounds like a beautiful tank!  I could see the minnows loving the extra current.  Thanks for checking the tap water, because it helps rule that out.  I have experienced a lot of stress myself trying to get the last 0.25ppm of ammonia out of the tank after water changes only to find out that it was coming from the tap and my tank is actually filtering it 😀.

The ammonia lock may just be delaying the cycle that needs to occur as the ammonia is released back into the water 24 hrs later and my understanding is that the beneficial bacteria cannot use it while it is locked up.  Live bacteria, piece of cycled sponge, or cup of cycled substrate would be really helpful in speeding the process along if you know a local hobbyist or have an local fish store that can help.

The tank is definitely going through a re-cycle so the ammonia should be reduced and a nitrite spike will happen next as the beneficial bacteria convert the ammonia to nitrite.  It may be really hard to stabilize a new 2.8 gal aquarium since 2 snails and 4 fish plus food is a huge bioload for that size tank.  You will want to take it really slow with a tank this size and monitor the water closely over the next couple of weeks.

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