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Plecostomus death trap?
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Pele
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Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2008.11.26(Wed)19:36    Post subject: Plecostomus death trap? Reply with quote

First of all, let me get the requirements out of the way:

Physics:
Tank size: 55 gallon

Temperature: 76 Deg F. (Maintained by a 250 watt heater at the center of the aquarium, As read by a digital thermometer with sensor near the gravel at the bottom. Top of the water is a few degrees warmer as indicated by the tape strip type LCD thermometer.)

Filtration: Whisper brand powerhead rated for 60 gallons with two carbon cartridges. I usually add Ammonia absorbant resin "Ammo-Chips" to the carbon as well. Filter intake is close to the gravel. Discharge is at the surface.

Aeration: Whisper brand 60 gallon rated air pump with two outputs, each output goes to a separate air stone. One air stone spans a third of the width of the tank, all the way at one side. The other is in a decorative Dragon statue at the opposite side of the tank. This one is throttled with a valve just a bit to calm the surface on this side for the surface dwellers.

Bottom surface: 2 inches of typical gravel and some glass gemstones.

Water change schedule: 5-10 gallons every other week. If pH or ammonia got really weird, I'd do a 50%

Chemistry: According to Aquarium Pharmaceuticals , Inc. 5 in 1 dipping strips and Ammonia indicator strips.
Hardness GH/KH: 60/0 ppm mg/L
pH: 6.8
NO2/NO3: 0.5/10 ppm mg/L
Ammonia: 0 ppm

Tank has been set up for approximately four months now. The first two weeks was without fish, but I added a sprinkling of flakes to start the bacteria and rotated cartridges with my 30 gallon tank.

Inhabitants at the time of the problem were:
4x Tetras:
-1x Diamond Tetra
-1x Long Finned Black Skirted Tetra
-2x Short finned Black Skirted Tetras

1x Bronze Cory Catfish (Recently discovered that it's a female and that's who's been egging up the side of the glass.)

1x African Freshwater Butterfly Fish (Recently found a space to jump out and was discovered behind the aquarium)


My Problem:
I keep killing Plecos. (What is the proper plural for Plecostomus?)

I've so far had three in the tank.

First one was was in the tank for a day, the next day, I found him stuck to the filter intake.

Second one was in for a week. He developed a little white fungus, so I pulled him and quarantined him in a 2 gallon and treated him with Melafix. When the fungus went away after a few days, I put him back in with the population. A week and a half later, he died.

Third one was in there for three weeks without problems before dying.

The last two had the same pattern of death, they'd swim sluggishly and awkwardly until they were just dead. I found them stuck to the filter intake and pulled them off when they'd start to swim, so I left them in the tank.

The first two had damaged fins upon inspection of the bodies. The last one had no abnormalities.

Feeding schedule was half an Algae wafer (Each wafer is about the size of a nickel.) in the morning and half at night. There was always a little left over algae from the previous one, so I figured he was eating... Though the catfish steals the wafers too.

None of the deaths occurred directly after a water or filter change.

All other fish have no problems aside from the land seeking Butterfly fish. (Which sucks because I can't find anyone who sells them around here.)


Am I doing something wrong or am I just getting plecos from a poor source (Pet Smart)
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Shai
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Joined: 09 Jul 2006
Location: Calgary, AB

PostPosted: 2008.11.26(Wed)20:42    Post subject: Reply with quote

It could be that the fish are poor quality. Chain LFSes are hit and miss that way. You should be quarantining the fish for at least two weeks before introducing them to your aquarium. What kind of pleco are they? A bristlenose would work well.

You have a few other issues in your tank though, some of which could be contributing:

Water Changes
You need to change at least 25% every week. That's at least 13 gallons minimum. In my 55g I do 50% every week regardless. If you find it's too time-consuming to do it all at once, split it up into two smaller changes each week that will equal 25-50% total. A Python is a savior for a tank this size.

Plecos are also poop machines, easily fouling water quality. You will definitely have to keep up on the water changes with one in the tank.


Filtration
Personally, I would get a bigger filter. A "general" rule of thumb I have heard passed around is that whatever size your tank is, buy a filter rated for at least double that. On my 55g I have two AquaClear 70s (each are rated for up to 70g).

In your filter, ditch the carbon and ammonia inserts and just use sponges. Carbon inserts only last a short time and are really only good for removing medication and some impurities from the water. It's true bacteria can grow on the surface area but you can achieve the same thing with a filter sponge and filter floss and not have to worry about the carbon leeching things back into the water later. Also, if you have live plants, carbon will remove some nutrients the plants need.

Sponges also never need changing. Just rinse them in used aquarium water once a month or so when they get gunky and put them back.

You can't just swap the carbon out though, else you will lose the beneficial bacteria you have. You'll have to insert a sponge with the carbon and take the carbon out after a few weeks.

You shouldn't ever need the ammonia inserts because there should always be zero ammonia readings in your water!


Chemistry
You need individual test kits for nitrite and nitrate. Any reading of nitrite is bad because it's toxic so the result should always be zero. Nitrates should be kept below 20ppm.


Stock
Cories and tetras are social fish. You need at least 5 more of each (and more than that is better, within stocking limits of your tank).
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Pele
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Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2008.11.26(Wed)22:21    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for a quick reply...

I'm still new to this. I got the 30 gallon from some friends that were moving away.

in the beginning, it had:
2x Bala Sharks
2x Diamond Tetras (One surviving in the list above.)
2x unknown fish... Long, Dark in color with a reddish stripe
1x Bronze Cory CatFish (In list above)
1x African Freshwater Butterfly fish (In list above)
1x Some type of eel looking fish, maybe a loach

I also got a single Jellybean Parrot Cichlid (Not dyed. That's cruel.) in a 2 gallon aquarium. He was separated out because he was aggressive. (He's a cichlid, duh)

I don't think they knew how to maintain an aquarium, as they experimented and lost a lot of fish, and had the Jellybean in a tank that was too small.

Anyhow, the Bala Sharks and others died off due to the tank move, as well as I think the 30 gallon was overstocked. My girlfriend attempted to replace the fish to surprise me and I think that introduced more disease and killed off more of the fish...

I was left with the Butterfly, a Diamond Tetra, and the Cory, with the Jellybean in the 2 gallon, so I decided to get this 55 gallon used from someone on Craigslist...

Luckily it did come with a Python.


I added the Black Skirted tetras to school with the Diamond tetra. I can't find any Diamonds around here. They seem to get along though.

I moved the Jellybean to the 30 gallon and added a Red Parrot Cichlid. Poor guy was too crammed in the 2 gallon. Now he has some space to move around in. These two get along rather well.



I didn't want to stock with tank up too much until I learned what the hell I'm doing. I don't like killing the fish.



Okay, so. 25 % every week... I usually try and hit all of the gravel to clean up uneaten food and poop that's in there. In order to get it all clean, I usually end up taking out 50% of the water... But if a 50% water change weekly won't hurt, then I'll to it. It only takes about half an hour with the Python.

Upsize the filters... I can do that... What is recommended? The current ones on both tanks hang off the back. They just have the cotton carbon cartridge that slips in. There is no wheel. I read that these can be modified or that I should look into a complete replacement of them.


Separate test kits? The strips are no good? What about one of those little plastic indicators that lives in the tank for a few months to a year? Like this:


They have them for pH, Ammonia, and other readings.

What do you recommend for test kits?
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Darkblade48
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Joined: 21 Jun 2004
Location: Yokohama, Japan

PostPosted: 2008.11.27(Thu)6:13    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pele wrote:
Separate test kits? The strips are no good? What about one of those little plastic indicators that lives in the tank for a few months to a year? They have them for pH, Ammonia, and other readings. What do you recommend for test kits?

Definitely get separate test kits. The strips are no good because they are finicky and can be affected easily by moisture, poor handling or poor storage conditions. Because of these factors, they usually are not advised.

Personally, I wouldn't go with the plastic indicators either. I'd just go with the time-tested true liquid test kits. If you actually figure out the cost per test, it's just mere pennies per test.
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Pele
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Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2008.11.27(Thu)7:59    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aquarium Pharmaceuticals sells a multi test kit for around US$40. Is this a reputable kit?

http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2754034

It tests Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite, pH, and High Range pH.
It lacks KH and GH readings though.

How critical are these hardness readings?

Should I look elsewhere for a kit?
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jeaninel
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Joined: 07 Sep 2008
Location: Northern California

PostPosted: 2008.11.28(Fri)3:00    Post subject: Reply with quote

The API master test kit is a good one and is what most of us use.

Also on your filter, I would leave your current filter on and just add another one. That way you don't lose any of the beneficial bacteria which lives mostly in the filter. I have a 55 gallon with a Whisper 60 and a Penguin 350 biowheel and they do the job fine.
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Pele
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Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2008.11.28(Fri)12:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

So what should I look for in a filter?

Do I really need that wheel?

Ideally, I'd get a twin of my existing filter, that way I can transfer parts between the two should one break...

Then again, my area of expertise is in electronics and mechanical things... I don't know much on biology and chemistry which is kinda important in choosing a filter.
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jeaninel
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Joined: 07 Sep 2008
Location: Northern California

PostPosted: 2008.11.28(Fri)21:35    Post subject: Reply with quote

The biowheel is a definite advantage. There are 2 biowheels on the Penguin 350 (or Emperor 400) and is plenty to house your beneficial bacteria. Then you can fill the double slots with filter media for plenty of mechanical filtration. And I think the Marineland filters (Penguin and Emperor) are a better made filter than the Whisper. Also, I've found that my Penguin 350 is much quieter than the Whisper 60.

Although, it is nice to be able to use the same filter media between your 2 filters. I would like to eventually replace my Whisper 60 with another Penguin 350. Too bad PetSmart no longer has them online for $26.99. Doh!
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Pele
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Joined: 17 Nov 2008
Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: 2008.11.30(Sun)18:02    Post subject: Reply with quote

jeaninel wrote:
Too bad PetSmart no longer has them online for $26.99. Doh!


http://www.petmountain.com/show_product/502949/?utm_source=froogle&utm_medium=datafeed&utm_term=502949

?
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nikelodeon79
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Joined: 08 Nov 2007
Location: Wisconsin, U.S.A.

PostPosted: 2008.12.01(Mon)12:11    Post subject: Reply with quote

A second Whisper60 will work just fine. That is what I use on my 55g tank (two Whisper60s).

Regarding the pleco: if there is any ammonia or nitrite in your tank (you will know for sure when you get the API liquid test kit) it could be the culprit. When I set up my first tank, I didn't know about cycling and water changes and every pleco I tried putting in there died. They seem to be sensitive to water quality.

What sort of pleco are you trying to add? Most plecos sold in pet/fish stores are common plecos, which grow to 60cm and will definitely overstock your tank. A bristlenose pleco (maximum size of 6 inches) would do better in your tank, but keep in mind that ALL plecos are poop machines that will add considerable waste to your tank. If you do want an algae eater, look into a group of otocinclus (after your tank has matured a bit longer, as these tend to be very sensitive fish as well) or SAEs. You'll want to make sure your water conditions are up to par before adding ANY more fish.

It is a common myth that all tanks require an algae eater and a catfish. This is simply not true. There are natural ways of controlling algae (see the Articles section) and gravel vacuuming will take care of extra food in your substrate. Cories have specific needs that are not communicated in fish stores. They do best in a smooth, small grained sand and in the company of their own species (at least 6 individuals). When they are kept in gravel or sharp sand, their barbels can be damaged and they can die from the gasses caused by rotting food trapped between the gravel pieces.
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