Author Topic: Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)  (Read 460 times)

Offline Halath

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Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)
« on: March 30, 2017, 07:52:00 PM »
I had 9 Lamprologus multifasciatus (Multies) and over the past 5 months, I have managed to lose fish after almost every water change and now Iím down to 3 fish. I need help understanding what is happening. Iíve kept tropical fish and koi for years, this is my first round of cichlids so maybe there is something I am completely missing. 
 
Starting from the beginning, I set up a fully cycled 20L tank using media and water from other aquariums. The tank is filtered by an Aquaclear 50 HOB filter and a medium sized sponge filter. I had the fish for 2 months before I encountered my first problem. I went on vacation and house sitter over fed the tank and it had piles of rotten food and water quality was terrible, I did a 50% water change killing all my fry and 1 adult, it has gone downhill since that point. The tanks current parameters are a pH 8.0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0, Ammonia 0, Gh 161.1 ppm, Kh 107.4 ppm. I have carribsea cichlid sand for substrate and Texas holey rock in the tank to help maintain the higher pH and buffer. The tank normally sits at a pH of 8.2, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0, and Ammonia 0. My water out of the tap is pH of 7.4-7.6, no nitrate or nitrite, Gh 125.3ppm, Kh 53.7 ppm. I am on municipal water supply so I do treat my water for chlorine and chloramines.

My water change schedule for this tank is ~25% every 2 weeks. I fill up a large tote with tap water and put an air stone and heater in the bucket over night to bring the temp of the tap water up to 77įF, which is the temp I keep the tank at. I then treat the entire volume of water with Seachem Prime following its dosing instructions.

What am I missing? What am I doing wrong? Please help me figure this out.
Thank you.

Offline jerrytheplater

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Re: Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2017, 08:26:18 PM »
Your cleaning schedule looks good to me. I am wondering if you are adding any salt additives to the tap water like Seachem's Cichlid Lake Salt. It could be a slight shock to the tank. But I don't think it is too bad. You could also add a buffer to it too to bring the pH up to 8.2. Your tap KH is a little low for Tanganyika water.

Have you checked your water pH in the tote after seeing the airstone for a day? That would be a better estimate of pH.

Jerry Smith
Bloomingdale, NJ

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Offline Halath

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Re: Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2017, 09:27:33 PM »
The pH in the tote only varies slightly from the tap as it only sits for 1 day only a little water is evaporated off, I have never used any buffers or salt additive in the water and read alot of mixed views on its use. I understand tho that my tap water is not ideal for a Tanganyika setup and that in my case they might be more of a necessity. Is the pH of my tap water to low to add to the tank without the use of a buffer?

Offline Jimdude

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Re: Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2017, 10:55:19 AM »
I'm wondering if your tote is made of a fish safe plastic. If you are only changing 5 gallons, try a 5g bucket from lowes or Home Depot.
It's not the quantity of tanks, is the quality of what's in them.

Offline jerrytheplater

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Re: Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2017, 09:56:32 PM »
The pH in the tote only varies slightly from the tap as it only sits for 1 day only a little water is evaporated off, I have never used any buffers or salt additive in the water and read alot of mixed views on its use. I understand tho that my tap water is not ideal for a Tanganyika setup and that in my case they might be more of a necessity. Is the pH of my tap water to low to add to the tank without the use of a buffer?
The pH of tap water can change significantly after 24 hours. And it's not due to evaporation. Tap water can have much more CO2 than water at equilibrium with the atmosphere. Reducing CO2 will raise the pH.

With the information you've provided, you say your fish die after water changes. Makes it look like something is going on with the water. If it is anything from the plastic tote, filtering through activated carbon overnight until you do your water change should remove it. Look at the recycling code on the tote and it will give you an abbreviation for the plastic it is molded from. PP= Polypropylene, PC= Polycarbonate, PS= Polystyrene, PVC= Poly Vinyl Chloride, etc. Which is it?

Your water is low on Buffering Capacity or Carbonate Hardness or Alkalinity. It is also low on pH. Sodium Bicarbonate in combination with the CO2 dissolved in your water will make an excellent buffer and raise your pH to 8.2-8.3 max. It also raises your Carbonate Hardness. I would advise using it. Your 25% water change should not really shock your fish that much. But it would not hurt to try the Bicarbonate. Start with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp per 5 gallons and check the pH change. Once you get to 8.2 you've added enough.

Could it be you have an intestinal parasite like Camallanus? You would see the female worm hanging out of the vent of the fish. It will retract very quickly too. It's laying eggs when it is hanging out of the fish. If you have that parasite, it is extremely contagious and all fish in your tank will get the worm. Usually when you see the female hanging out of the fish its too late for that fish. Best to just kill it. I hope you don't have it. It is really serious. Nets, siphon hoses, buckets etc will spread this parasite. Nasty.
Jerry Smith
Bloomingdale, NJ

http://www.njagc.net/wp/

Offline Halath

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Re: Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2017, 11:48:25 PM »
I dont think the tote is a problem, been using it with all my other tanks and other fish are all good. It is HDPE which is a food safe container so i figured by default it has to be fish safe. The statement about adding sodium bicarbonate and the low buffing capacity of the water which would lead to a pH swing is what I feel is the likely culprit in this case. Parasites are unlikely, I would like to think with the amount of time i spend watching my fish tanks I would have seen parasites and been able to treat it.

Could you explain the use of Cichlid salt. I have only ever used salt in treating fish with parasites problems and slim coat issues in a hospital tank/pond setting. In all my tanks I keep plants,and adding salt could kill or damage the plants so I never considered using it. Is the salt a necessary additive?   

Offline jerrytheplater

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Re: Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2017, 09:38:20 AM »
First thing, I don't work for Seachem or any other fish related company.

Cichlid Lake Salt from Seachem http://www.seachem.com/cichlid-lake-salt.php gets pretty close to duplicating the salt makeup of the African Rift Lakes if made up with DI or RO water and if used in conjunction with either of their two buffers, Malawi/Victoria Buffer http://www.seachem.com/malawi-victoria-buffer.php or Tanganyika Buffer http://www.seachem.com/tanganyika-buffer.php

These salts are totally safe for plants that can handle hard alkaline water. There are many. I grow many Cryptocoryne species in my tanks. The list goes on.

Remember that salt does not always refer to Table Salt, Sodium Chloride. There are Chlorides in Tanganyika, but not that many. Mostly its Carbonates and Bicarbonates. Very little if any Phosphates. Some Sulfates. There are also fairly high Silicate levels found by Dr Kuferath.

Here is a water analysis of Lake Tanganyika done by Dr. Kuferath in a French expedition from one location on the lake either in the late 50's or 60's and referenced in a TFH Book called Pierre Brichard's Book of Cichlids and All the Other Fishes of Lake Tanganyika. Remember that water analysis can change depending on location, rainfall, season, depth, etc.   

Salt                           Salt
Found in Lake.           Conc.
                     mg/l
      
Na2CO3, Anhy    125.0
KCl                             59.0
KNO3                   0.5
Li2CO3                   4.0
CaCO3              30.0
MgCO3              144.0
Al2(SO4)3*18H2O   5.0
K2SO4              4.0
Na2SO4              1.0
FeCl3*6H2O      0.5
Na3PO4*12H2O   0.4
Na2SiO3              13.5

There is another Tanganyika water analysis done by Christel Kasselmann and published in her book Aquatic Plants. Plus there are pie charts in A Fishkeepers Guide to African Cichlids if interested.

Notice the above does not show any Bicarbonate, but it is there. Carbonate will react with the CO2 in the air and form Bicarbonate over a very short time. It may be due to the analytical procedure done at the time. Don't know for sure.
Jerry Smith
Bloomingdale, NJ

http://www.njagc.net/wp/

Offline Rupert

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Re: Serious Water Change Problems (Long Post)
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2017, 10:56:44 PM »
My first thought is that if the water changes weren't killing your fish before the vacation accident, there is perhaps more going on than just a water change issue. FWIW, it's entirely possible your tank experienced spikes of ammonia and nitrite which compromised the health and resiliency of your fish. May be witnessing the toll over time which is complicating the issue.

I'm on really hard well water that tests at 7.6 pH immediately from the tap (before it has had time to really off gas carbon dioxide). My tanks run an astonishingly reliable 8.2 pH. I do weekly 30% - 50% water changes direct from tap to tank, more frequently if I'm really after growth. I've never noted the pH drop lower than 8.0 in the tank immediately after a water change (though I have to admit I stopped testing that data point after a brief series proved consistent). Have never had any fish losses as a result or witnessed any behavior that suggests the fish are the least bit stressed. Same pH numbers as you, but my water is really hard. (Can't tell you the numbers on hardness. My last kit died before I moved to well water and learned the joys of constantly unclogging faucet screens--which made getting a new test kit feel a little redundant since I only keep hard water fish.) All of which is to say, you may be on the right track by looking into your buffering capacity to reduce your potential pH swings. Even so, based on the rest of your description I'm kinda hesitant to think that a pH swing (have you tested on this point?) is the sole culprit, but as always itís safer to never say never.

If you decide to buffer and raise your pH, remember to go slow in small increments toward your goal and then be fanatical about maintaining stability and consistency. I'm lousy on plants, but the Anubias barteri in my tank is growing so well in my hard water I've had to split it in half since putting it in last Fall. And, as Jerry mentioned, there are a number of plants that will do just fine in parameters your multis prefer. (The fish club in my area even has vallisneria available that comes from stock originally collected from Tanganyika.) Might be some new, fun areas for you to apply your love of plants. Speaking of which--is your multi tank really heavily planted? Is that how you're getting zero nitrate readings?

You mentioned that multis are your first cichlids. Even so, the basics are still the basics. As an experienced hobbyist, I'm sure you'll bracket this problem in short order. I love my multi tank and they are such an interesting little fish that the effort to set up their environment is totally worthwhile.