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29 Gallon Aquarium Mystery, Fish in Distress


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Forewarning, this is going to be a long post as I've been dealing with this since last Friday. Any and all advice is very much welcomed as I'm not sure how to go forward and rid my tank of whatever is currently plaguing it and my fish. 

So I've been dealing with an issue with my main aquarium and I could use some advice. Friday of last week, March 18th I switched out my display 29 gallon aquarium that houses my angelfish and bristlenose pleco with a brand new 29. I used new sand and gravel as well as added in some large river stones, I of course kept the same plants, driftwood, and of course all of my filtration. I dosed Prime, Stability, and Safeguard to help with the move as I knew it would be stressful. While I was exchanging tanks, I kept my angelfish and pleco in a 5 gallon bucket with one of the sponge filters running in the meantime, both were fine in their temporary quarters while I got their home in order. Later that day, I added them to the new 29 gallon. I noticed they were acting a little off with their breathing, and kept monitoring the tank throughout the remainder of the day. On March 20th, I was getting weird bubbles forming at the top of the tank in the corner where the sponge filter was. They weren't breaking like they usually would when they hit the surface, they were more so sort of gathering together. I did a 90% water change, redosed all the same seachem products and added carbon (carbon was added more as a precaution, and still is in the tank). At that time, I was checking water parameters daily (and still am) and my ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate all read in at 0ppm. March 21st I still had no reading on my cycle, but March 22nd I started reading in at 5ppm while still maintaining 0ppm for both nitrite and ammonia. On March 22nd I also performed a 30% water change. I ended up removing the new river stones as well, in case they may have introduced something to the tank (just out of a random guess). Still from March 23rd to even today, I'm reading at 0ppm for both ammonia/nitrite and reading 5ppm for nitrate. I'm assuming during the tank move I either crashed/stalled my cycle, but now that I've got it back I'm not sure what else to do about my fish. My angelfish still seems like she's having issues, she's only calm when the lights are off so the majority of the past couple of days I have left the lights off. My crypts in the tank are melting back, I figured that would happen given recent events (I'm not concerned about losing my plants, I just want my fish to be okay). The bubbles from the sponge filters are still a little odd like they have been previously and haven't really changed any at all. I guess I'm asking is what should I do next? I'm just stumped. My pleco for the most part is acting fine, it's just that my angelfish still seems like she's very stressed from her breathing and irregular behaviors since the tank move and even today (almost a week later). I don't want to lose either of them, I've had my pleco for about 8 years since she was a baby and my angelfish almost 2 1/2 years. I've still been dosing daily Seachem Prime, Stability, and Stress Guard. Carbon is still in the tank as well. The water has never once been cloudy during this issue. 

Attached below are photos from the past week of everything.

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The top two photos are from March 18th when I swapped the old 29 with the brand new one. 

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The second set of photos are from March 20th, showing the gathering bubbles and how they wouldn't break off as normal.

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This standalone picture was from March 22nd from when I was doing my 30% water change to show the gathering bubbles from the hob filter. 

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This picture above shows the test results from today, March 24th with ammonia and nitrite still being at 0 and the nitrate still at 5ppm. No description available.

This final picture shows the 29 gallon aquarium today, March 24th, bubbles still the same with my angelfish still being very shy and stressed.  

Edited by Matthew Grob
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On 3/24/2022 at 12:51 PM, Widgets said:

I think the bubbles collecting are a sign of some form of contamination. What did you use/do to clean the new tank, sand, gravel, and stones? What sand, gravel, and stones did you use?

I cleaned the tank initially with a vinegar solution, flushed it out and let it dry out. I used two 20 pound bags of Caribsea Crystal River sand, I thoroughly rinsed those out in a pitcher of water repeatedly until the water ran clean. I did the same thing with the gravel and large river stone, ran it through a pitcher until the water ran clean free of debris. The pitchers I used are strictly for tank maintenance, after each use I would disinfect it with a bleach solution and let dry for 24-48 hours. The gravel was Imagitarium Snowy River, and the large river stone was Caribsea's large river stones, both purchased from Petco I believe. 

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Hi Matthew, 

I am no expert, but I had a similar problem with a 10 gallon I set up a while ago. I believe it was the sand, since it only had a couple rocks from an established tank and a throughly cleaned HOB with a new sponge. It was a fine sand (I forget the brand, but I know I got it at petsmart) finer than yours. I put 2 green corys in it and 12 hours later they were in obvious distress (laying lopsided on the bottom, barely moving and gasping) so I moved them back to their original tank and they are fine now.

It also had some odd bubbles, but I didnt think too much about them. When I drained the water the glass had what looked like oil on it, I wiped it down but couldn't smell or see anything odd. I tore it down and throughly cleaned it and did a completely different system and it's been running great since. 

You didnt mention any oily residue, but I only noticed it when I looked directly at the inner surfaces, which is much easier with a short 10 gallon.

The only other thing I can imagine is your reused filter media. The one that was in your 5 gallon bucket was always wet and the life in it continued basically as normal, but maybe the other media sat out and dried or was in "sterile" water which may have fouled it.

Good luck I hope you get it fixed.

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On 3/24/2022 at 1:13 PM, Widgets said:

Have you checked the pH? If there was any vinegar residue it could still impact the tank after drying and rehydrating. 

I just checked the pH, it's reading in at about 7.6 which is the standard for my aquariums. I have well water, so my water's typically on the hard side. 

On 3/24/2022 at 1:16 PM, Robert Bourdess said:

Hi Matthew, 

I am no expert, but I had a similar problem with a 10 gallon I set up a while ago. I believe it was the sand, since it only had a couple rocks from an established tank and a throughly cleaned HOB with a new sponge. It was a fine sand (I forget the brand, but I know I got it at petsmart) finer than yours. I put 2 green corys in it and 12 hours later they were in obvious distress (laying lopsided on the bottom, barely moving and gasping) so I moved them back to their original tank and they are fine now.

It also had some odd bubbles, but I didnt think too much about them. When I drained the water the glass had what looked like oil on it, I wiped it down but couldn't smell or see anything odd. I tore it down and throughly cleaned it and did a completely different system and it's been running great since. 

You didnt mention any oily residue, but I only noticed it when I looked directly at the inner surfaces, which is much easier with a short 10 gallon.

The only other thing I can imagine is your reused filter media. The one that was in your 5 gallon bucket was always wet and the life in it continued basically as normal, but maybe the other media sat out and dried or was in "sterile" water which may have fouled it.

Good luck I hope you get it fixed.

There hasn't been any oily residue in the tank from what I've seen. During my 29 gallon swap I kept my filter media in other pitchers of old tank water to help keep them hydrated and try to keep them alive. I just wish I could find out what's the irregularity in my tank is so I can get it fixed. I had someone recommend performing a 50% water change with solely Seachem Prime and let it sit for a few days and see if the weird bubbles go away with the lights off as well. I might try that, or just resume a 30% water change in the meantime. 

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On 3/24/2022 at 8:59 AM, Matthew Grob said:

The second set of photos are from March 20th, showing the gathering bubbles and how they wouldn't break off as normal

I wouldn't worry about that.

If there was something on the glass or the tank that's in the water, meaning it wasn't cleaned and rinsed and there was some residue of something, then you would need to empty it. Clean it really really well and then do the same thing with the substrate.

Bubbles just means there's something changing the density of the water in some way. Water changes help resolve that. Some plants, especially crypts don't like to be moved and will melt when they are.

On 3/24/2022 at 10:05 AM, Matthew Grob said:

I cleaned the tank initially with a vinegar solution, flushed it out and let it dry out. I used two 20 pound bags of Caribsea Crystal River sand, I thoroughly rinsed those out in a pitcher of water repeatedly until the water ran clean.

Sounds fine. I would recommend using just water whenever possible.

Place the fish in a bucket so they can relax (put a towel over it with a bubbler. You can use the tank water or just match temp and move them with a net.

Flush the substrate by having the tank slightly lowered in water and raking your hand through the substrate. Then drain as much as you can. Take a hose and spray the wall with some pressure and wipe the whole thing down with some paper towels. Then rinse it and make sure there isn't any residue on the rim area and under the lid.

Refill. Check your parameters and redose ferts. If you need to add some root tabs and then add the fish back.

My question. What is your filtration situation on the tank? It's a 29G (looks wide not taller, aqueon?) Which might just mean you may not have as much water movement as you think and need to add slightly more flow. Make sure you have one sponge on either corner at the least.

Edited by nabokovfan87
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On 3/24/2022 at 2:07 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

I wouldn't worry about that.

If there was something on the glass or the tank that's in the water, meaning it wasn't cleaned and rinsed and there was some residue of something, then you would need to empty it. Clean it really really well and then do the same thing with the substrate.

Bubbles just means there's something changing the density of the water in some way. Water changes help resolve that. Some plants, especially crypts don't like to be moved and will melt when they are.

Sounds fine. I would recommend using just water whenever possible.

Place the fish in a bucket so they can relax (put a towel over it with a bubbler. You can use the tank water or just match temp and move them with a net.

Flush the substrate by having the tank slightly lowered in water and raking your hand through the substrate. Then drain as much as you can. Take a hose and spray the wall with some pressure and wipe the whole thing down with some paper towels. Then rinse it and make sure there isn't any residue on the rim area and under the lid.

Refill. Check your parameters and redose ferts. If you need to add some root tabs and then add the fish back.

My question. What is your filtration situation on the tank? It's a 29G (looks wide not taller, aqueon?) Which might just mean you may not have as much water movement as you think and need to add slightly more flow. Make sure you have one sponge on either corner at the least.

So essentially you want me to drain the tank and all of its contents and flush it out thoroughly, right? The tank is an Aqueon 29 gallon, filtration running is a Aquaclear HOB 50 with a large and a medium sponge filter by the Co-Op. 

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On 3/24/2022 at 12:20 PM, Matthew Grob said:

So essentially you want me to drain the tank and all of its contents and flush it out thoroughly, right? The tank is an Aqueon 29 gallon, filtration running is a Aquaclear HOB 50 with a large and a medium sponge filter by the Co-Op. 

Perfect.

I wasn't sure if you had sponge filters only in there or not. Let me show you mine.  The output on the tidal has that added lip and so it can push the flow deeper, but what I would say is to have the sponge on the left and the output on the AC slightly right of center. That flow pattern will be ensuring that movement isn't the concern.

So because of the room I prefer the ziss bubble bio and it acts like a polishing filter. I have the airstone setup purely so I can add a hang on breeder box in a moment.

With 29G because it's taller, it's a stout tank, and it's something where getting the water from the substrate to the surface takes a bit of effort. That may or may not be the issue, I know the AC filter (tidal 55 is on mine) should do perfectly fine. I would suggest running filter floss for the next couple weeks while you're dealing with this issue.

Again, I think the bubbles are not the concern but whatever is causing issues with the fish. So if we want to be totally safe here the best thing to do is to clean it as best you can (lid/rim, substrate and so on) just in case there could be an issue or some sort of oil. If you see surface scum that's definitely an indicator and the filter floss and such should help clean that after the water change.

Salt is also a great way to help with respiration on the angels (they are a cichlid as well) and it's not going to cause any issues with anything going on here.

Now that we know filtration and movement shouldn't be an issue, that one final clean of the sides and the tough rinse of everything will make sure there is very low risk of residue and you can focus and proceed on the fish behavior and their health. It's the best way to rule out that factor with the changes you've made.

20220324_122235.JPG

Edited by nabokovfan87
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On 3/24/2022 at 3:29 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

Now that we know filtration and movement shouldn't be an issue, that one final clean of the sides and the tough rinse of everything will make sure there is very low risk of residue and you can focus and proceed on the fish behavior and their health. It's the best way to rule out that factor with the changes you've made.

As far as the driftwood, plants, and pretty much all of the equipment and inserts go, I should just give everything a thorough rinse with regular water before adding back to the tank correct? I might try adding the sand in a bucket and rinse it out repeatedly so I can empty the tank itself and flush it out, then wipe everything all down. Then put everything back in the tank slowly and safely, redose what's needed. Anything in particular I should do about the filtration? Just keep it in regular tank water correct, like I did initially when I swapped tanks. 

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On 3/24/2022 at 1:14 PM, Matthew Grob said:
On 3/24/2022 at 12:29 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

 

As far as the driftwood, plants, and pretty much all of the equipment and inserts go, I should just give everything a thorough rinse with regular water before adding back to the tank correct? I might try adding the sand in a bucket and rinse it out repeatedly so I can empty the tank itself and flush it out, then wipe everything all down. Then put everything back in the tank slowly and safely, redose what's needed. Anything in particular I should do about the filtration? Just keep it in regular tank water correct, like I did initially when I swapped tanks. 

Yeah, you don't need to scoop out substrate or anything, just use the tank itself as your bucket.

Remove the fish, get them safe and in a dark area.

Remove the wood and any plants attached, rocks, etc. (If you have plants in the substrate then gently remove them and float them in a bucket, replant after. You can also just avoid that area if you're concerned about damaging the plants.

Drain the tank so you have room to move water around and take your fingers and mix/rake the substrate to remove any detritus and try to release any fine particles into the water. Then. Drain out the rest of the water completely.

At this point, you have the tank with only the water submerged and you can take a hose and rinse the glass off. Use a paper towel and scrub the surface off (it's going to be slimy just from bacteria, but you're trying to get rid of any residual oils or anything that's on the glass itself that could be causing something to sit on the water surface. Then take some clean paper towels and clean the lid and trim. You can rinse it as many times until your comfortable that it's clean.

Refill the tank, add filter floss to the HoB, let the filter run for 15-20 minutes to settle and then replant and add back in the hard scape. Add in your dechlorinator and your fish and your dosing fertilizer.

You can add a light dose of salt tomorrow if the fish are still having any redness in their gills after they have had time to settle in.

You can put the media itself (not the Sponge but the actual white media bag) into the bucket with the fish and it will stay cycled. As long as it doesn't dry out, you're fine.

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On 3/24/2022 at 4:24 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

Yeah, you don't need to scoop out substrate or anything, just use the tank itself as your bucket.

Remove the fish, get them safe and in a dark area.

Remove the wood and any plants attached, rocks, etc. (If you have plants in the substrate then gently remove them and float them in a bucket, replant after. You can also just avoid that area if you're concerned about damaging the plants.

Drain the tank so you have room to move water around and take your fingers and mix/rake the substrate to remove any detritus and try to release any fine particles into the water. Then. Drain out the rest of the water completely.

At this point, you have the tank with only the water submerged and you can take a hose and rinse the glass off. Use a paper towel and scrub the surface off (it's going to be slimy just from bacteria, but you're trying to get rid of any residual oils or anything that's on the glass itself that could be causing something to sit on the water surface. Then take some clean paper towels and clean the lid and trim. You can rinse it as many times until your comfortable that it's clean.

Refill the tank, add filter floss to the HoB, let the filter run for 15-20 minutes to settle and then replant and add back in the hard scape. Add in your dechlorinator and your fish and your dosing fertilizer.

You can add a light dose of salt tomorrow if the fish are still having any redness in their gills after they have had time to settle in.

You can put the media itself (not the Sponge but the actual white media bag) into the bucket with the fish and it will stay cycled. As long as it doesn't dry out, you're fine.

So I have removed the angelfish and pleco and put them in a 5 gallon bucket with airline running, I have the filter media inside of the bucket as well. Plants have been pulled and so has the driftwood piece. I can't bring a hose in to flush the tank walls out, so I've had to improvise and spray down the walls of the tank with just a standard spray bottle and keep wiping with a paper towel as so. As I stirred the substrate, there was a lot of something bubbling out and there was a minor film to it, so I've kept syphoning water out. As I'm writing this I have almost drained the whole tank, minus the sand/gravel substrate of course. And once everything has been wiped down, I'll start refilling! I'll keep this thread updated as stuff progresses. Angelfish and pleco seem to be doing okay in the bucket right now. 

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On 3/24/2022 at 2:30 PM, Matthew Grob said:

I can't bring a hose in to flush the tank walls out, so I've had to improvise and spray down the walls of the tank with just a standard spray bottle and keep wiping with a paper towel as so.

that will work perfect.

 

 

On 3/24/2022 at 2:30 PM, Matthew Grob said:

As I stirred the substrate, there was a lot of something bubbling out and there was a minor film to it, so I've kept syphoning water out. As I'm writing this I have almost drained the whole tank, minus the sand/gravel substrate of course.

It could just be gas bubbles, it's a new tank and sand takes a little bit of time to settle. most substrate will hold some air but it shouldn't be anything major like that. If you have any major concerns with what you saw, toss in some water and then rinse it again just to make sure you did everything you could and to release whatever it is that you have going on.

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On 3/24/2022 at 5:39 PM, nabokovfan87 said:

It could just be gas bubbles, it's a new tank and sand takes a little bit of time to settle. most substrate will hold some air but it shouldn't be anything major like that. If you have any major concerns with what you saw, toss in some water and then rinse it again just to make sure you did everything you could and to release whatever it is that you have going on.

I'm filling back up the tank currently, this might take awhile. Anything I should do particularly to the sponge filters before I reintroduce them, should I just squeeze them in the water while they're in the pitchers before I readd them? 

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On 3/24/2022 at 2:56 PM, Matthew Grob said:

I'm filling back up the tank currently, this might take awhile. Anything I should do particularly to the sponge filters before I reintroduce them, should I just squeeze them in the water while they're in the pitchers before I readd them? 

Nothing special. Do what you do during a normal water change. you can let it run (and the HoB) with floss for whatever amount of time (no need to run it more than an hour) and then clean them in a clean bucket of water with dechlorinator.

After that, add your ferts and what not back in and your media

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Looks good.

If you can, push the HoB to the right side (I totally understand your hiding the input pipe and stuff behind the wood).  The only reason I mention it is that the output on that hob right now is the middle of the tank, then you have the sponges over to the right, all of your flow is focused on that right side. you might have a dead spot on the front corner of the tank.

It should be absolutely fine, but just a very minor tweak. Once your plants grow in I would think the flow and such is balanced out a bit and there's less of a concern.  If it's moved slightly right, the input is at the center and then you just really need to worry about keeping the corners and sides cleaned.

I just did a water change on mine so that's done for the weekend 🙂

I hope the fish are doing well and enjoy the clean tank.  The substrate looks fine, I don't see any reason you'd have any issues with that sand or anything going on with the hardscape materials used.

Edited by nabokovfan87
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On 3/24/2022 at 8:59 AM, Matthew Grob said:

I've still been dosing daily Seachem Prime, Stability, and Stress Guard.

You only need prime after the water changes, Stability you can do for a week while the tank gets up to running (or once every few days after that point).  The stress guard and prime are doing the same thing, so you definitely don't need both. Stress guard should be something along the lines of prime (water conditioner) with aloe or seachem's special sauce in its mixture to help slime coat.

water change day: Prime only required, dose ferts.
Daily or as needed: stress guard / stability.

https://seachem.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003985794-FAQ-Can-I-use-Seachem-StressGuard-together-with-

Edited by nabokovfan87
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Fish have been added, they're a little stressed right now as I would imagine but they should calm down overnight since lights will be off til' morning. I'll test the water parameters in the morning to see what I'm looking at, hopefully I won't stall the cycle again like I did originally when I switched tanks. Thanks for all of your help @nabokovfan87! I'll keep this thread updated as the tank progresses and how the fish react 🙂 

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So just to give everyone a morning update, I tested the parameters this morning and everything's looking good so far! I'll be keeping the lights off for today, I'll probably turn them back on tomorrow for reduced hours to help limit stress. Fish were treated to frozen brine shrimp this morning. I also added in some Indian Almond Leaves last night too.No description available.

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On 3/25/2022 at 5:58 AM, Matthew Grob said:

So just to give everyone a morning update, I tested the parameters this morning and everything's looking good so far! I'll be keeping the lights off for today, I'll probably turn them back on tomorrow for reduced hours to help limit stress. Fish were treated to frozen brine shrimp this morning. I also added in some Indian Almond Leaves last night too.

"dosing daily Seachem Prime, Stability, and Stress Guard."   

I think if you quit putting all this in the water your fish will be much better off. Seriously, there are no magic potions for fish. They have proven filtration from you (you saved the filters full of water right?) You have zero ammonia, nitrite and some nitrate, right? You are cycled. You are good to go without all those chemicals. 

All you need to do is de chlore the water before you add, Prime will do that. 

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