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Why Are all my Plants Melting? | Home Fish Aquarium Guide

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Why Are all my Plants Melting?

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(sigh)… The adventures never end with your home fish aquarium do they? First you have the break in period of the tank. Cycling your fish, monitoring ammonia, nitrite and nitrates daily watching for signs that they are in danger or that the tank has cycled. At this point in time we have two platys in our tank. It’s small (5 gallons), but they do seem happy. I would like to move them up to a 10 gallon or larger tank, but at the moment that’s not going to happen. Water parameters? 0 ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrites and 0ppm nitrates. It doesn’t matter when I test, how I test, everything is always zero. (There must be something wrong I hear you saying….) No, we have been trying to keep live plants in the aquarium and they are using up all the available nitrates. Java Moss, Java Fern and Filligree Frill were the first plants, then an amazon sword and anacharis, then I tried anacharis again. Recently I’ve added water sprite. Each time, they seem to do okay for a bit, but with the exception of the java fern and java moss (which lately is buried under algae…. everything else collapses. The anacharis just melted over several days twice, the filligree fell apart and died, so did the water sprite.

So I return to the nitrates. I’ve heard of people adding fish to their tank to get more fertilizer for their plants and that’s something I’ve thought about here. (I’ve also got an eye in getting to that 2-1 female to male ratio that seems a good balance for platys.)

The recent bout with algae had me researching causes of algae – too many nitrates or phosphates in the water is the common answer. Bought a phosphate test kit and THAT was zero too… This is when I keyed in on some advice that suggested that a lack of proper nutrients might encourage algae growth while diminishing plant growth. This got me to think of my long and disappointing history with aquatic plants. The only things that have survived long term was java fern and (somewhat java moss – if you could find it under the algae…) I can’t really say the java fern has thrived although I do probably have 8 or so small plants of it by now, everywhere from a couple that are 1/2 inch tall up to maybe 2 inches tall.

At the moment I still have the remains of about an inch of the filligree frill that I managed to keep alive and long stems of the floating water sprite. So I’ve spent time reading and am VERY interested in the Walstad planted tanks (natural planted tanks or npt’s). The next tank I put together – that’s going to be my recipe! It may be a while though and would rather get things in order with the current tank first. So, there are fertilizers and many different approaches to dosing and at that point there’s co2 and fluorish and ….. my head starts to spin at the estimative dosing and I just had to stop.

What if the only thing I’m really lacking is nitrate. Okay let’s assume that for a minute. Surely sometime somewhere, someone has asked how to raise the nitrates in their aquarium. I know it’s an odd request…. usually we do water changes to lower nitrates because it has been commonly accepted that nitrates are poisonous in higher levels to fish. Surely I’m not the only person that has a tank that seems to suck them up like a mop.

So, as I read, it seems that saltpeter (potassium nitrate) is a good water soluble source of nitrate for fertilizing aquarium plants. Further green light stump remover is a good source of unadulterated potassium nitrate. Wow – as luck has it, some years ago I got some green light stump remover and have used it exactly once on an old stubborn apple tree root. I retrieved it from our out-building and did some tests this afternoon. First I sprinkled some of it in the water jars that I try to keep sprigs of our plants in. Since I don’t have a permanent hospital tank I’ve wanted to keep some plants separate from the main tank in case something happens and the main tank is contaminated. Then I’ve got a plant sample that I can use for the hospital tank (and help control the ammonia/nitrites there while the fish recover.)

Anyway, I sprinkled a bit and then for the main tank I decided I didn’t want to sprinkle dry into the tank. For starters I didn’t know how high a dosage it would be anyway. I instead took a pint jar and filled it with water and put in 1/4 teaspoon of the green light stump remover and attempted to mix it. I tested for nitrates before mixing and then again about an hour or two after mixing. Before mixing there were no nitrates and afterwards it looked VERY high on our test scale. So, I slowly added about 1/4 to 1/3 of a pint to our tank which after another hour or two of settling/mixing had settled down to around 50ppm of nitrate in the tank. (First time I’ve ever seen a substantial nitrate reading there.)

So, I’m eagerly watching the tank, plants and fish for the next 48 hours. I’ll be doing the nitrate test at least once tomorrow (maybe twice). I’m curious to see how quickly those plants suck out the nitrates. So far – about 5 hours later – the fish seem fine (which was a high concern for me about fertilizing the tank…)

So, we have a bit of an experiment in progress to see if those plants will perk up and thrive with more nitrates in the water. Of course, there have been nitrates – fish have to ____ you know…. it’s just that the plants have always been able to absorb it all out – it will be interesting to see how soon I “need” to re-dose with my home-made liquid fertilizer.


CO2 is another home-made possibility. I’ve seen some homebrew setups for adding co2 to a tank. I’m not sure that I really want to do that (yet). It may wind up being what I need to keep things in balance. One note about the natural planted tanks that I find really attractive is that there is no need to add co2, fertilizers or much of anything on a regular basis to keep them going (!)

Which is exactly why I want to give a try to one at some point.

I’ll update as things progress.

–Update 12/29 – 10:40AM–

After about 15 hours… 10:30 AM the nitrate test seems to show ~25ppm. It is clearly better than yesterday at 7PM and at this rate I’m expecting to see it in the range of 10ppm by 7pm this evening (unless there’s some sort of diurnal cycle at work here with the nitrates absorbed more at night. Such a rapid absorption seems to validate my assertion that the plants in the tank have been nitrate starved. Given that most of the tank contents that still have leaves are the java fern which is relatively slow growing I wonder if the rapid absorption is from some of the leftover water sprite trying to recover. (The fellow at the store called it water sprite – I think it looks like the hornwort pictures I’ve seen….)

–Update 12-29 – 7:50pm-

Okay – after 24 hours nitrates are still around 25ppm (probably below if I subjectively estimate the coloring. Previous was slightly above the 25ppm reading. I’m suspecting by this time tomorrow we may be down to 12.5 ppm (We only have 0/12.5/25/50/100 on the chart.) I went to the LFS today (local fish store) and got a new twin bar platy to add to the fertilizing crew…. and also got clumps of anacharis and java moss (the old java moss had been so obscured by algae I’ve thrown most of it out.) I’ve got several assorted jars here and there, hither and yon in the house windowsills with water, water sprite, java moss, anacharis and most all have been fertilized with the potassium nitrate. I’m hoping to be able to keep some plant stock alive outside the tank. One jar has water from the aquarium with the java moss leftovers (I may put some anacharis in there too.)

I tested the water from the lfs in the bags and the nitrate levels were 100ppm+ which I think explains how their plants are thriving so well there. (Yes the fish look good too.) A year or two ago I would have been shocked by that high a nitrate reading, but now not so much…. It seems that high nitrates are what it takes to keep the plants happy. We’ll see over the next few days, weeks. By the way, the water sprite (or hornwort) looks like it still has some sprigs of leaves and may be starting to grow again. (Not certain yet, we’ll need a day or two to be certain I think.)

Look for more updates tomorrow. I thought about redosing with my home-made liquid fertilizer mix, but my goal really is to see how many days it takes for all this nitrate to be soaked up so I can have an idea of how many days my fertilizer cycle needs to be. (Hopefully with the added fish it will improve things somewhat too. (Oh, and I think she’s pregnant….))

–update 12/30 – 11am –
Water test showed around 25ppm on the nitrates – have we found a stable level? I’ve been over-feeding the last week hoping to get the nitrates up, but of course didn’t see any elevated levels until adding the fertilizer mix. Maybe that’s finally starting to contribute to the nitrate level. Will check again this evening.

It seems daffy to have to TRY to foul up the tank water…. but I think the water being too clean has been the demise of our plants so far.

–update 12/30 – 6pm –

Okay I couldn’t wait for 7pm so I went ahead and tested. I also tested one of my standalone quart jars with plant in it (it had been fertilized with potassium nitrate.) The standalone jar was still around 25ppm of nitrate. While I was testing the tank I went ahead with all the parameters (all 3 are flashing from time to time and I didn’t think it was just the nitrates) and I’m glad I did. Here are the results: Ammonia 0.25 ppm, nitrite not 0, not quite 0.25 ppm I’ll call it 0.125 ppm, nitrates still holding around 25ppm (could be a bit lower.) So what does this mean?

Well, two weeks ago I just had one fish in the tank, now there are three. One was added about 9 days ago, the last one yesterday. About 8 days ago I added a plant (they called it watersprite – I still say it looks like hornwort.) Within a couple days that plant disintegrated and is all over the place rotting. So, I’ve tripled the bioload, have a lot of dead plant matter (and I’ve been feeding more) so I’m seeing a new cycle since the bioload has increased so much in the last stretch. I’m hoping that the ammonia/nitrite levels will have washed out by this time tomorrow, although I may check in the morning again. At this point in time I’m very glad I added the extra new plants (java moss and anacharis) I know both to be good at minimizing the ammonia and nitrite levels. (I’ve seen it before firsthand – java moss seems to soak up nitrites like mad and anacharis is great for ammonia if I recall correctly.) The nitrate level staying at 25 is quite possibly a sign that the increased waste is getting converted. It will be interesting to see if the nitrate level steadies after this new blip cycle settles or if I’ll need to dose with nitrate more or not. So, will the nitrates hold steady, go up, go down? Stay tuned. In the meantime I’ve been looking at other livebearers online… endlers livebearers have caught my interest today…. maybe when we setup a larger tank? The colorations on the males are impressive. They seem related to guppies (and can interbred.) There’s debate though if they’re a distinct species although they come from a different area and apparently breed true if kept with their own kind.

–update 12/31/10 – 11am –
Okay – a little disappointed to say that the ammonia and nitrite levels are still up. Ammonia is 0.25 (although I would say it appears a little LESS than 0.25 which would be a good sign if true. Nitrite is a solid 0.25 (which is up a bit from yesterday.) Nitrates are at around 25ppm (to be honest it looks a bit below suggesting that the plants are still pulling nitrates out.) I’ve suspended feeding until the ammonia/nitrites settle down. Another note is that I recently switched from freeze dried worms as the main feeding food to some veggie flakes (all this time and I hadn’t realized they would prefer mostly algae/veggies… Snoopy certainly didn’t seem to turn her nose up at the worms all this time. There has been algae in the tank to eat as well…)

Given my concern on the nitrite levels I collected another bunch of java moss from my mason jars on the window sills to toss in the tank. If I recall from when the tank was cycling that java moss was the best plant I found for sucking up nitrites. Hopefully that will help things out a bit. (I also added a pinch of the flake food to all my jars on the window sill with anacharis and java moss and the hornwort/water sprite stem. My thinking is that the flakes seem to break down faster than the dried worms and should provide some nutrients in the water for those plants. (I guess our tap water is just too clean!) As for the tank it looks like the doubling time for the bacteria colony can be anywhere from 7 to 20 hours, so hopefully (assuming ammonia is back on the way down) we should see nitrite on the way down by this evening.

So – do I attribute the mini cyle here to the fertilization of plants? Not directly to my addition of water that had been treated with potassium nitrate. I do attribute it to increased feeding, change in type of food and an increase from 1-3 fish over the span of about 9 days plus plant debris from the new plant that just fell apart. It’s remarkable to note that in spite of all of that the nitrate levels seem to be going down from the current plant load. (Although the presence of ammonia and nitrite probably explains why nitrates remained at a plateau at 25ppm for a while. Plants prefer those nitrogen sources over nitrate. I can’t imagine how high this peak could have been without any plants in the tank! Of course, outside of adding a couple fish I may not have started this if it hadn’t been an attempt to solve the melting plant issue. My biggest mistake at this point could be cited as trying to flip all the switches at once. (Feed more/add fish/fertilize with nitrates.) It would have been better to be patient and try one at a time. Realistically the feed more was somewhat tied to adding fish. i wanted to make sure there was enough food for the new fish. That does illustrate how quickly things can get out of balance in a small tank as well though.

–update 12/31 – 7pm

Okay – I’m pretty sure the ammonia is dropping it appears to be between 0 and 0.25. Nitrites are still rising somewhat and appears between 0.25 and 0.50, nitrates are holding around 25ppm (frankly if I had to guess I would say it’s a bit higher than 25ppm, but much less than 50ppm.) Hopefully ammonia will continue to drop to zero by tomorrow and maybe we can see the nitrites start trending down as well. (If we get up towards 1ppm nitrites I’ll have to do a water change to try to improve the water conditions.) Once the ammonia/nitrites settle down I’ll be interested to see if we’ll be at an equilibrium where there is actually increasing nitrates in the tank.

What’s somewhat funny is in all my reading over the last few days I’ve been getting interested in a few more plants (and fish to try.) The latest plant I’m curious about is a floater – duckweed. Yes it can be invasive – so watch how you dispose of it, but it gives good cover for fry and sucks up nitrates quickly (fast growing..) Of course it can shade out other plants, so maybe it’s one to keep in a carefully controlled situation. Looks like it could be an interesting experience though.

–update January 1 – 2011, 10:30pm

Well – did a water test this morning nitrites were between 0.5 and 1 ppm. Had belated Christmas and everything else going on today (installed new light fixture, obligatory lowes trip, build rail for bunk bed, etc.) Anyway, just got back to do another test this evening around 9:30 at which time ammonia is between 0 and 0.25, nitrite looks like it’s pushing 1ppm, nitrates look to be a bit below 25ppm. I went ahead with a 20% water change. This way I was finally able to get some of the hornwort debris. After that it looks like we’re closer to 0.5 than to 1.0 on the nitrites, but it’s still a bit worrysome. Will retest tomorrow. I noticed something really cool after replacing the anacharis in the tank. I was inspecting it for signs of growth or anything and saw at a node what appeared as though it could be a root. Maybe a couple mm long and a light brown. There was an air bubble. Then it got a bit bigger (the air bubble.) Then it got a bit bigger and floated away. It kept repeating this, kind of cool to actually SEE photosynthesis happening. The fish look okay at the moment, there is a bit less flashing and yes I did break down and feed them. Hopefully we will be going down on ammonia/nitrites both tomorrow.

I’ve held off redosing with the fertilizer for the moment. I may try again in a day or two when the nitrite/ammonia settle down. I’m really wondering if we might be producing enough nitrates once this mini cycle is over that I won’t need to fertilize. I’m hoping that will be the case that we’re net positive. Although if it seems to be very low tomorrow I may go ahead with a re-dose so I don’t lose anymore plants. The hornwort/water sprite seems to be growing still. There are clumps of fine leaves on growing tips here and there, just fairly sparse.

If the nitrites are still climbing and reach 1.0 or higher again tomorrow I will do another 20% change (more unless the gravel vac clogs again.) I may do yet another nitrATE test tonight just to see if those levels are down near 12.5 now or appear more/less. I know what the math would be with a 20% change and it being 25ppm… but these tests can be subjective at a certain point. (Looked less than 25/more than 12.5 to me last time – probably close to 25 but….. in different light it might have been a solid 25…)

Update 1/2/11 – 9:30pm

Tested again after another 20% water change. between 0 and 0.25 ammonia between 0.25 and 0.5 nitrites and Nitrates are above 12.5 (but less than 25ppm.) I also remembered that before the new plants and third fish I did a water change and cleaning of the tank which included a scrubbing of some of the aquarium ornaments and plant leaves to remove any accumulated slime (brownish red mostly) I’m wondering if I cleaned out a lot of good bacteria in the process and thinking this may be yet another contributing factor into this mini-cycle.

Update 1/3/11 – 7:40pm

Busy day today – first day back at work after a holiday break. Just tested – Ammonia is not quite zero – but is closer to zero than 0.25 ppm (I would say 0.10 or less…. nitrites are down to 0.25 (no water change today – so any lowering in the numbers is attributable directly to the good bacteria.) Nitrates…. well, we ran out of goo for the test – so I’m looking for a new nitrate test kit. I also made the rounds today to feed the plants in the mason jars. They are all looking pretty good at the moment and I”m hoping that I’ve figured out what it takes to keep those plants alive on the window sill. If so, that will give us a good headstart on plant stocking when we do a new tank.

Update 1-4-11 – 10pm

Another busy day – no chance to get a nitrate test kit. Well, I did, but walmart just had test strips and ammonia test kits…. So, ammonia today seems very near zero if not zero (there may be a hint of green to the color.) Nitrites are less than 0.25 It’s not quite halfway between that and 0, but it appears to be less. Fish are looking good and the plants are too. I added just a drizzle of the liquid fertilizer mix after verifying that there was no ammonia or nitrite present in the mix. (Since I can’t monitor the ntirates at the moment and the last I checked it was between 12.5 and 25ppm and dropping.) Hopefully I’ll get to make another stop tomorrow and pick up a nitrate test.

I’ve been looking at 10 gallon aquariums more (and 15/20 gallons) and our oldest son is thinking he wants a tank in his room so we may be looking at a new tank soon. (I’m hoping to do a npt (natural planted tank) if that’s the case. Another article to come on that later….)

Update 1-5-11 – 11:20pm

Okay – ammonia is 0 nitrites are 0.25 (or a shade lower 0.2?) and I did pick up a nitrate test and it came in around 40ppm. Plants and fish still seem in good shape. I think the water sprite/hornwort really is growing. Some of the small green sprouts seem to be getting bigger and I’m looking forward to seeing them unfurl in the next day or two. The anacharis seems to be growing as well. At first it was hard to be sure if it was growing or just moving overnight a bit due to water current/etc. But I’ve been watching a particular new bud on one of the branches and it has definitely grown a few centimeters over the last few days.

No water change again today. Maybe tomorrow we’ll really see a more significant nitrite reduction. (It’s been one week since the last fish and plants were added.

Update – 1/6/11 – 10pm

Well… another day, another round of tests. ammonia seems 0 or slightly above zero. nitrites at 0.25 or a shade higher (still.) Nitrates are down to between 20 and 40. The water seems a bit cloudier today (maybe from the morning feeding, since I’ve been skimping for a few days I gave two pinches of food today.) The anacharis is looking paler today. (last time it lasted 9 days – unfortunately today is day 8.) I lowered the temperature on the tank a few degrees to see if I can find a good balance. (It was around 75/76 F and I’m thinking that may have been too much for the anacharis. The next thing to try is the lighting…. this is supposed to be a full spectrum bulb, but I’m wondering if it’s not as full spectrum as advertised (walmarts only bulb in the aquarium section…. I’m thinking of looking in the general lighting area.) I haven’t been able to check the anacharis in the window sills yet today (it’s dark and there’s been quite a bit going on this evening.

Update – 1-7-11 – 6pm

Another day another round of tests… ammonia is approaching 0.25 again. I have turned the temperature down to around 72 in the tank. I’m not certain if the ammonia spike is from over feeding (making up for the light feeding days – the poor little guys are looking so eager each time I come to the tank and are foraging for algae all over the place now….) it could also be that the anacharis is breaking down – it seems a bit paler to me today. I’m not certain though. Nitrates are at 20 ppm and nitrites between 0.25 and 0.5. I did replace the bulb today with a 40 watt equivalent fluorescent that claims to be “daylight” and the spectrum chart appears to be in a good part of the spectrum for plants. Visually I prefer the previous bulb as it seemed a shade brighter (but if it’s bright in the wrong part of the spectrum that could make a difference.) We still seem to be cloudy today – I’m wondering if it’s due to the ammonia/nitrite levels or if it’s from the plant breakdown. CO2 is another thought and last night I turned off a secondary air stone. That could account for the increase in ammonia/nitrite as well (I believe there had been a good colony on the airstone and has acted almost as a second filter. I’m restarting it in hopes that will help our ammonia/nitrites over the next few days.

I think I will get a water change in tonight to try and keep the numbers down a bit more. We also are in the midst of the first of two winter storms expected the next week so I’m concerned as to what might happen if we lose power. I have a battery powered air pump but I’m not sure if we can keep it running for a long stretch without some serious scrounging for batteries….

update 1-7-11 – 10:30pm
Well, I was starting to vacuum the gravel and caught sight of a little white flake of food floating up towards the siphon when it suddenly darted down…. we have babies. I saw 4 at one time and then a 5th being born and there still seem to be a few to go (at least.) Snoopy, our red wag (red-orange body with black tail and fins) is giving birth. She had been a bit cranky the last week or so chasing the other two around (a bit moreso today it seemed.) She is the one I suspected was pregnant just based on her size. We added Mickey (a male) into the tank on Tuesday December 21st. Prior to that Snoopy had been a solitary female since around this time last year I believe (I’ll have to look back, but I think she may have been in there a bit longer.)

So, that’s 2 weeks and three days gestation (which seems AWFULLY short when I’ve been reading that they usually have 4 weeks or so. Anyway – the little guys are real cute – two little dots for eyes and a transparent body. Those tail fins REALLY go when they zip around. They’re all very smartly sticking to the java fern pretty closely.

It’s interesting to see Snoopy hovering near the top with her mouth almost at the top of the water and the other two huddling somewhat close to her in a similar pose. They’ve been quite a bit more tranquil now that she’s in labor (do you even say that for a fish?) She goes in fits and starts as she tries to birth one and then hunkers down and rests. My only regret is that this had to happen when the tank is less than ideal. Ammonia is less than 0.25 after the change but more than 0, nitrites are 0.25 and nitrates are around 20ppm.

Update – 1/8/11 – 12pm

Well, there is a longer new post about the baby platy fry that I’ve just put up. I start out with a duplication of the last update and then go on from there to give you detail on the new fry.

Water quality – so far I’ve just tested nitrites (0.25ppm) and I do plan on a partial water change today again (taking care not to vacuum up any little fry.) We’re talking about a 10 gallon when the weather clears up enough for us to go out. It will be a Walstad Natural Planted Tank.

update – 1/8/11 – 8pm

Another water change and it appears another small batch of fry…. after the change the water parameters are ammonia 0, nitrite 0.25 and nitrates 10. Another change planned for tomorrow since I’m feeding more ground up flakes to try to help the babies.

update – 1/9/11 – 9pm

Okay – no sign of baby fry at the moment and it looks as though Snoopy has finished giving birth. Water parameters are between 0 and 0.25 ammonia, 0.25 nitrites and 20ppm nitrates. I went ahead with another water change hoping to see some platy fry darting around (and to get some of the extra food from the last couple days. The only other big news of the day is I got a new 10 gallon to set up in my oldest son’s room. Ultimately the adult platys (platies?) will move over to that tank after the next birth of fry.

update – 1/10/11 – 9:30pm

Well – very busy day – snowed in but lot’s of work to do. Just got a chance to test the tank this evening. Fed once today. No water change. Ammonia is back to between 0-0.25 nitrites still around 0.25 and nitrates around 10-20ppm. As soon as the new tank is looking good I’ll be migrating the male out to it as he could use a bit of a vacation from the cranky pregnant female platys…. snoopy still takes a good dive at him from time to time. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that she’s bigger, pregnant, the water quality or the tight quarters. All in all, I’m glad we have the new tank to work with.

update – 1/11/11 – 3:45pm

Okay another water change and the nitrites are just under 0.25. I’ve had to pull out some of the anacharis that was dying. Yes, in spite of decent nitrates in the tank – what should be decent light – 4 watts per gallon and a temperature around 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, some is still looking green and healthy, some is pale green and iffy, some is browning. Fortunately the platys are pruning a lot of the brown leaves. I’m wondering if it’s the intensity of the light, not all of it has a good chance at the brightest light. On the new tank I’ve tried substituting a regular cfl (100 watt equivalent) in place of the 40 watt equivalent bulb.

update – 1/11/11 – 9pm

Well I broke down and did another water change in the main tank. We’re now down to 0 ppm ammonia, just a shade above 0 (but not close to 0.25)ppm nitrites and between 5-10ppm nitrates. I’m glad to see there are still some nitrates for the plants, hopefully we’ll be able to see the levels stay down over the next few days so we can hold off until at least Friday for another water change. They seem somewhat stressed at the moment and I’m not sure if it’s the frequent water changes, the pregnant females and their changed behavior, water quality or cabin fever in a small space. The new 10 gallon has around 1ppm ammonia and nitrite (need more plants!) so a move will have to wait until that settles down some more.

update -1/12/11 – 6:30pm

Water test this evening – nitrites are 0 or just a shade above – nowhere close to 0.25. The new 10 gallon, I added some plants, stirred up some dirt and did a water change to try to clear the water a bit. Nitrites are down to 0-0.25 (very close to 0 there as well.) Ammonia is around 0.25

Just tested nitrates around 8pm – after all the whole problem came up after trying to increase nitrates for my plants 1) potassium nitrate/water mix 2) more food 3) more fish…. so at the moment nitrates are between 5 and 10ppm. Which seems to be a pretty close match to where we were yesterday after the water change. It’ll be interesting to see if we gradually increase or gradually decrease there.

-update 1/13/11 – 2:30pm

Ammonia/nitrites are both fairly clearly zero. Strange behavior has continued. Mickey seems to float to the top tail first and he and Mrs. Fish are hovering at the top of the tank. I’m suspecting swim bladder. Sadly, Snoopy has died. At the end there was sideways swimming and she has stayed near the bottom seemingly struggling to get up. Right now I suspect swim bladder disease (maybe from the flake food and overfeeding?) I’m sure the water quality didn’t help. Snoopy certainly has had a lot of stress over the last two weeks. New tank mates, giving birth to babies over at least 2 nights and 0.25 to 0.5 ammonia and nitrites for several days. In retrospect, more aggressive water changes earlier in the process might have helped. I hope the two remaining fish can pull through. I have tried putting raw peas in the tank (without the skin), but as of yet they’re not interested in eating.

That much said, there are probably a few lessons taken out of this 1) when the water quality goes down make more aggressive attempts to lower ammonia/nitrite levels. 2) Possibly keep aquarium salt on hand and amquel to dose and nuetralize the effects of nitrite and ammonia in the water. (i.e. expand the aquarium “medicine cabinet”) Now that we do have two tanks, use the smaller one as a 3) quarantine for new fish. (It’s possible that one of the new fish may have brought in something – although ultimately I think the ammonia/nitrite provided enough stress to cause problems.) Of course, it’s hard to isolate a new fish for two weeks if you only have one tank. 4) careful about over-feeding. I overfed for a couple reasons…. a) to fertilize the plants, b) to try to keep the adults feed so they would avoid the baby fry and of course I was also crushing up flakes into small bits to c) feed the baby fry. The consequences of over-feeding may be more than obesity though, swim bladder is a possibility (maybe even soak the flakes first?)

I intend to wait until the other fish look healthy again before adding another female into the mix.

update 1-14-11 10pm

The two surviving platys are still not looking great. After another day of observation I’m back to suspecting gill flukes. (The night before snoopy died my best guess was that there was some sort of parasite causing the lethargy and unusual behavior. That night I did a dosing with jungle laboratories parasite clear) Unfortunately it may be that this has been a problem since around the time of the first batch of fry (a week ago tonight.) The fish had changed behavior then and for several nights I assumed that the birthing behavior was why they were less active and hovering near the top of the tank. In retrospect it was a sign of distress that I could have acted on.

I did a 50% water change today and redosed with the parasite clear and plan to continue that every two days (maybe with a 25% change instead of 50% though.) for a short while. Hopefully they will start to recover and look healthier, but I’m afraid I may have let the situation go on too long. Mrs. Fish has had red gills since we brought her home. I initially thought that was just her coloration, right now I wonder. Here are the basic symtoms – hovering at the top of the tank or the bottom. Not eating (these little guys normally were all over the place looking for algae or whatever they could find.) Not much interaction (no male chasing female). Very little startling or reaction to movement outside the tank, but next to them. Some of the time spent hovering at the bottom. (With snoopy I assumed this was birthing behavior and it went on a second and third and fourth night…) Right now my theory is that the stress on the fish from the 0.25-0.5 ammonia/nitrites for a period of time degraded their immune systems enough that gill flukes have been able to take hold (possibly introduced from one of the new fish.)

By the way in todays cleaning I did a removal of much of the remaining anacharis and pruned down some segments to the very green (and very short) sprouts of growth. The segments that seemed too short to get adequate light in the tank have been returned to a jar on the windowsill.

Update 1-16-11

I did another dosing for parasites today – Started a page on Gill Flukes to keep track of the log entries for what I’ve done in relation to those.

update 1-22-11

Well, we’re down to just a few tiny sprigs of anacharis left and I’ve just had a bit of a revelation of what may be the problem. Copper. We are in an older house with copper pipes, have copper stains in the basin and tub. So, I searched to find out if anacharis is sensitive to copper. It is and so are several other freshwater plants. (I’m assuming java fern is more or less immune to it….) but I may finally have an answer. I would order a copper test kit, but I’m pretty sure we have it so, I went ahead and ordered rid-metals which is supposedly a water conditioner to remove heavy metals from your aquarium water. IF I am right we should be able to find out over the next couple of months. I have changed out the house water in one of our jars on the window sill (which has a couple of 1-2 inch sprigs.) I dumped the house water and got some water from the creek. Our outdoor hose spigot may be pvc only, but I’m not certain. My next step will probably be a copper test kit to see just how much there is and which taps are worse.

Update 1-24-11

The Rid-Metals should be here on Wednesday. I don’t know if there will be any anacharis left by then. Since yesterday I’ve found that my red melon swords may be copper sensitive too. Keeping an eye on them

Update 1-27-11 (just after midnight)

Dosed with the rid metals – not enough anacharis left to test with, will have to get some more. I have some stem from hornwort that might come back out I guess (it lost it’s leaves.) There is a small 1-2 inch segment of anacharis that still has green stem, no leaves to speak of. So, maybe I will stop and pick up more anacharis again soon to test again. In the meantime I’ve got a copper test kit on order and will be able to pin down just how much we have in the tap water and which spigots are better. I’m also curious to see if running the tap for a minute or so improves the readings or just what we have to deal with.

update 2-16-11

Well around February 2nd I got a new kind of anacharis (hydrilla?) which is still thriving in the tank. Great amounts of growth. I also got the regular variety that had melted for me. That cam in last Friday (the 11th). So far, it looks great. Clear and obvious growth. I can say the other plants like java moss that looked like they were just surviving are now actually looking like they’re thriving. The coloration and growth on the java moss beats anything I’ve seen from it thus far over the last couple of years of tank keeping. So, at this point I’m a big fan of rid-metals. It’s been about three weeks since the arrival of the rid metals and everything is looking good. The water sprite (of some sort) that I was then calling hornwort has come out a bit since then. I also have added foxtail, hornwort, dwarf saggitaria anacharis and it seems like a few other plants (yes it’s a jungle now) and everything is looking great. I think the heavy metals were what was causing the plant melt! Will report back when I have more anacharis than I can deal with.

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December 28, 2010 - 9:22 PM
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