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What to do if fish die and tank smells weird or chemically


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Hello. I recently posted about fish struggling and dying in a tank I just rescaped. For more information on the tank parameters and such look at that post but it isn’t very relevant. After a fish died and the rest are doing better in quarantine, I determined something is seriously wrong with the tank itself so I took out all the decorations and gravel because I suspected the gravel could’ve been the problem as it was sitting in a wet bad for a while. However I came to find that all the decor, tank itself, filter, wood, rock, etc all had the same weird smell that is vaguely chemical like. 

I am very concerned about what this means. I used a net in both this tank and one of my displays to get the fish in the first place, is this cross contamination that would be a problem? What do I do with the tank, wood, rock, plants, filter, etc?? What do I do to make sure the buckets I’ve been using are safe.

what do I do at all? Very panicked and stressed if you can’t tell. I know this is a hard one but I would really appreciate any help, thank you

I honestly can’t even conceive where a chemical of some kind could’ve came from. I do my water changes and such next time washing machines and stuff roomates use but I doubt any detergent got in there or anything but that’s the only possibility I can even think of. Also wouldn’t detergent make the water bubbly and soapy? This wasn’t something I noticed. 

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On 1/31/2022 at 12:21 PM, bettta999 said:


the thing is that rescaping your tank migth caused troubel in the co sistem and the nuke thing i meant was that i didnt read it well and i tougth of "nuking the tank " that mean ripping every thing apart and starting from 0 

I have ripped everything out. I’m saying what do I do to save the tank itself, the filter, the wood, rock, gravel, buckets, siphon, etc

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On 1/31/2022 at 12:24 PM, bettta999 said:

ohh ok i hadent undertand clearly so you have some option put it in a bucket and wait till the thing dilutes changing its water every 3 days or bleaching every thing

Wouldn’t the wood soak of bleach and cause a problem? Also how would bleaching remove chemicals? Thought it was just for getting rid of disease, pests, etc. or am I mistaken

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On 1/31/2022 at 12:29 PM, bettta999 said:

yes so exept the wood but how do you now its a chemical that is killing your fish and not another thing so if thats the case put it in a bucket and let it realese everything thats harmful and change the buckets water


That’s the problem, I don’t know, but how could anyone know for sure. I just know it’s odd that all the gravel and decorations had the same odd smell

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Don't panic. If I were in your shoes I would do the following in this order (you would likely have done most of this by now): 

Save the inhabitants: Put them in a QT of any kind with media from another tank you have running (sounds like you have more than 1). Of course new, treated, clean water. It doesn't matter if it's another empty tank, plastic bucket or container they are #1. MONITOR for other signs of stress/illness. If it's not a sponge filter with good aeration use an airstone. 

Rinse the plants and put in another QT, bucket, etc, over the course of a few days change the water. After a few days I'd likely feel safe putting them in with the fish. 

Throw away that gravel. It probably grew mold, bacteria and who knows what else. You could potentially boil it and bake it in the oven if you really wanted to save it but I say meh. And when I say throw it away, put it outside somewhere in your yard/garden bed/potted plants, whatever. 

Boil the crap out of any decorations or wood if you want to use them again, otherwise toss or start a faerie garden outside with that gravel. 

Clean the tank out good. You can use a bleach solution but I STAY AWAY from that. I'd either use Dawn soap and/or White Vinegar- scrub that sucker. THEN if you have somewhere that gets sun or has good airflow let the thing dry out (sun helps sanitize) for a good couple weeks. 

I'm not sure you said what kind of filter. If it's a sponge, boil it, wash the hard parts with the above items I mentioned for the tank. Use new airline when you set it back up. Dry them with the tank.

You can boil any other accessories or wash with the recommended above products and let dry. 


This is just how ***I***would do it. I feel like it's overabundance of caution to do it this way but I feel like it's the best and most logical way to proceed when it's an unknown, though gravel per what you described is likely source. 

Edited by xXInkedPhoenixX
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