Posted: 2010.05.12(Wed)12:04 Post subject: I nuked my tank
This is not a problem asking for advice, but the confession of a heartbroken murderer.
Please forgive my lengthy descriptions. Please alert me if it is the wrong place to put this thread.
Last night, I decided to do a water change. It had been a week since the last change, and another tetra started fasting. I was still mourning over the loss of my old tetra (http://www.aquahobby.com/board/viewtopic.php?t=57404) which died after 20 days without eating. I was alone in the house. I prepared some fresh tap water* in the usual bucket, and used another bucket to take some stored water that we've kept for flushing the toilet. Our flushing water supply was suspended the day before but it was resumed by then, so the stored water was of no use; I actually thought it would be better as the chlorine gas would have diffused out. I siphoned out some tank water, and my parents came home as I was pouring away the old water. With no hesitation I poured the 2 buckets of "new" water into the tank through the filtration cartridge as how I usually do it. I put back all the accessories into the bathroom and my mom started bathing. (*Fresh tap water in my city is safe to be used directly for aquarium fish, from my previous experience.)
I watched my fish and noticed something strange. They were all swimming like crazy and gasping heavily at the surface. My dad was also watching and he commented something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Out of shock I put my hand next to my nose. I smelled - BLEACH . Scheisse! My first thought was to take away as much water as possible and replace it with surely clean water, but my mom was bathing and I could not get into the bathroom to take the accessories (I should have asked my dad to do that). Anyway my mom finished her bathing and was notified of the situation. She said I should net out all the fish and put them in clean water. All 3 of us sprang into action but it was too late. Below are the figures.
Agent: Bleach PLUS Ammonia (a drop of bleach alone in a 30L tank would not be so devastating)
Concentration: Unknown, maybe 1:3000 to 1:6000 or even less for the bleach itself.
Exposure time: 7-10 min
- 4x Tiger barbs died after 15 min.
- 4x Skirt tetras died after 30 min. One "had no time for imbalance" = it died standing upright.
- 1x Tiger barb, nicknamed Nemo, who had survived a brutal fin nip and recovered under my intensive care, who could recognize me by person, who had very strong willpower, who grew bigger than his old bully, succumbed after 45 min of struggling. Willpower can save you from physical injuries but not chemical poisoning.
- 3x Dwarf neon rainbowfish, after 2 h, were swimming awkwardly and color faded. They died before dawn.
- 1x Red ramshorn snail, nowhere to be seen, presumed dead.
- 3x Peppered Corys, remained at the bottom after the incident, being monitored.
I was devastated. My dad went on to wash everything and we have to abandon all the soil that I bought with ~HK$165 (~US$21) just one month ago, together with the gravel that we've used for 11 months. These were too difficult to clean. The tank was thoroughly cleaned. All plants were rinsed and are now being soaked in clean water.
It was revealed that my mom cleaned the water closet with bleach several hours before the incident. For the whole night I thought, "Did I add some bleached flushing water into the tank?" No, absolutely not. I admit I tried to do that, not knowing it was bleached. But the bucket tipped over and all the water was lost, so this cannot be the case. Probably, some raw undiluted bleach splashed onto the toilet wall and got on my hands. Then it dissolved in the water that I added to the tank.
I was shocked by the quick death of the tiger barbs. They were big, robust, healthy eating machines. Perhaps their high activity required more oxygen so they died quickly as the bleach ruined their gill epithelium. After the initial gasping, they failed to swim, lost balance, their body paralyzed, fins twitched then stopped, finally the gills stopped moving. All that happened in 15 minutes.
After some reading on the Internet, I have made up the suspected killing mechanism:
- Chlorine gas formed from bleach dissolved in water and first-step reaction with ammonia irritates gills.
- In excess of ammonia, hydrazine is formed which is a toxic oxygen remover.
- It may actually be an ammonia time-bomb. The symptoms matched acute ammonia poisoning.
- The progressive, clearly-staged deaths hint that initial contact with bleach itself was not that lethal.
- Any toxicity is exacerbated by the fishes' intimate exposure to water.
This makes me feel better now as it shows that I had not deliberately performed a fish holocaust. It was just a tiny drop of bleach, plus unfinished nitrogen cycling, minus a testing kit.
Now I only hope the Corys are fine and can eventually recover. Perhaps their ability to breathe air saved them. The only good thing is their dorsal fins can grow back to full size without constant nipping from tiger barbs. Any new addition are out of the question now.
Blame me. Criticize me. Scold me. I lost 12 out of my 15 fish in one night, 5 had been kept for 1 month, 5 for 6 months and 2 for 11 months, and I am not sure about the remaining Cory trio. I am very sad. I killed my fish and ruined the whole system, with just one silly water change! Murphy's law _________________ Diamond Hill, Hong Kong
Last edited by keithkyli on 2010.05.13(Thu)11:07; edited 10 times in total
Joined: 18 Dec 2009 Location: British Columbia, Canada
Posted: 2010.05.12(Wed)14:34 Post subject:
very very sorry for your loss. agreed its a mistake you are not likely to make again. do try to have designated buckets for your tank and keep them seperate from cleaning supplies and clearly labelled for their purpose.
I feel much better now as I realize the fish may have been killed by ammonia poisoning, not the bleach. Ammonia has been a chronic problem and now I can finally get rid of it. I can move on without bully tiger barbs and nervous skirt tetras. It was the loss of Nemo and the rainbowfish couple that haunt me the most.
The Corys are fine, now they are in their refugee camp in a basin, accompanied by two guppies* bought for starting a new cycle. I have also put the remaining plants in the basin and my dad managed to get a water pump with airstone.
The tank is scrubbed sparkling clean and laid with pebbles of 0.5-3cm diameter. We will make it a pebble-based landscape and will not use soil anymore. However the filtration media have also been disposed in last night's panic. This time I will make sure I follow the proper steps to set up the cycle. I will also get some testing kit in the weekend, for sure.
*I just found out that the new fish should be zebra danios. They have long pectoral fins and the tail is not fan-like. The body is neon pink in color. (Is it dyed?) I have no experience with them before and we use Chinese names here, so I misidentified them as guppies. Good old cyprinids! I don't know why but I have a strong emotional tie to cyprinids, perhaps because cyprinids have fed and entertained the Chinese people for over 2000 years.
Thanks for all your advice! _________________ Diamond Hill, Hong Kong
Last edited by keithkyli on 2010.05.13(Thu)12:50; edited 3 times in total
Joined: 29 Mar 2005 Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posted: 2010.05.13(Thu)0:29 Post subject: Re: I nuked my tank
Not as bad as you think - just a simple mistake. Learn from it and move on. I certainly don't blame people for mistakes like this, I've caused quite a few fatalities in my time & I am sure pretty much every experienced hobbyist has somewhere along the way.
Moving on, I would just put the cories and the guppies into the tank (once you are sure it is totally free of remaining toxin) along with the plants & perform regular water changes (50% every 1-2 days) until the cycle completes. The basin is no better than the tank as both are uncycled.
You can decide on your desired stocking as the tank goes on but guppies are classically a hard water fish & cories are soft water (plus guppies are too greedy) so it is not ideal to keep both in the same tank. If you're going to stick with the cories, I would recommend you put in a nice smooth sandbed for them to dig in - a few large pebbles ontop can preserve the pebble look but it will be much more cory friendly. _________________ Fishing in the Rivers of Light
I manage to kill 2 tanks of fish in one day, 14 red top lawandas and 3 rubber lip plecos, I forgot to add the water conditioner....
Stuff like that happens to the best of us, as long as we learn from our mistakes.... I now have my kid asking repeatedly, "did you add the prime"? whenever I do water changes now _________________ I think I need a bigger tank......
I'm sorry to hear about your fishes. You don't have to blame yourself, you don't want that to happen either. I hope you'll cope up with that experience. _________________ http://www.plumbing-schools.net
I'm sorry to hear about your fishes. You don't have to blame yourself, you don't want that to happen either. I hope you'll cope up with that experience.
Yes it was 9 months ago and now I've moved on. Thanks for your support. The 3 survived Corys are doing good, the smallest one grew dramatically last fall, and I've added a 4th. I now have angels, zebra danios and guppies. I've learned to have specified equipment, keep more plants, have a stable bacteria crew, never change water at night and only use fresh tap water (we don't have much chlorine in it). My aim is to make the tank as maintenance-free as possible, and I think I've made it. Algae are gradually subsiding. The only maintainance I do now are changing 30% water every week and prune the plants when necessary. I've learned a lot from this website and others, and can share with people from my local internet community. _________________ Diamond Hill, Hong Kong
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