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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hello everyone. I'm new to the forum, but not to freshwater aquariums. I've had two for over 7 years now. One is a 44 gal corner tank, the other is a 29 gal.
I do what I'm supposed to do with frequent water changes and testing the water and have never had a problem with high nitrate levels.
However, I tested my water because my fish were acting strangely in the 44 gal and the nitrate level was off the charts, literally. Fire enging red. I thought it may be a fluke, but no. I borrowed a friends test kit and it also came back as off the charts.
My local pet store owner told me to clean the gravel again and use Tetrasafe with Nitraban and I did that yesterday. I'm not much on using chemicals except for Prime and sometimes salt, it makes me uneasy. I wake us this morning to 4 dead fish, including my 5 yr old and a 4 yr old clown loaches, a German blue ram and a swordtail.
The water is now cloudy also and I have no idea what to do. The pet store owner wants me to do a 75% water change and load the tank with stresszyme, stress coat, salt, and Tetrasafe.
Any suggestions?
Thanks,
Donna
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hello. We use the siphon tool first and then take the gravel out and scrub/rinse it with hot water only and let it air dry 4 times before putting it back in. We have done it this way for years and have never had a problem.
We've never had to adjust the PH. It's always 7.3-7.4.
And we do partial water changes every 2-3 wks. As I said before, we use Prime with the water changes and on occaison salt.
The water keeps getting cloudier and cloudier. Two of the fish seemed to be 'gasping' so I took them out and put them in the smaller tank and they are doing no better in there. I turned the undergravel filters up as high as they would go along with the bubble wand because I know that O2 levels can go down when nitrates are high.
I just don't know what's happening and what the best thing is to do.
Donna
 

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Donna, no more scrubbing the gravel please!
There's three basic types of filtration that happens in a tank:
mechanical (trapping of debris & particles)
biological (good bacteria that break down fish waste)
chemical (use of activated carbon to remove yellow tint from water, etc.)


Your gravel bed used with the undergravel filter is supposed to be the tank's biological filter. The water flows through the gravel, and the good bacteria live on the surface of the gravel. This process catches particles so it also becomes a mechanical filter, thats why you siphon it clean every now and then. But the good bacteria live on the surface of the gravel, and by scrubbing it down and letting it dry out, you're killing your bio filter.
You said your nitrate levels are elevated, but could you clarify if your nitrite level is as well? Also, what does your ammonia level test out at?
An established tank should have 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite.
The way it works is this - fish waste gets broken down by one type of bacteria, it turns the ammonia into nitrite.
Then another type of bacteria eats the nitrites and turns those into nitrates.
That nitrate is removed when you do a water change (or by live plants, its a fertilizer for them), thats one reason why we change water.

So by your cleaning regime you are essentially forcing your tank to go through an unnatural cycle each time you break it down like that, totally unnecessary and counter-productive.

Do you also have a hang on back filter? Thats the one you can scrub out really good, so long as you keep the gravel with the microscopic layer of bacteria attached. That hang on back filter is your chemical and mechanical filter, while the gravel is the biological filter (remember the 3 types).

Please confirm those ammonia and nitrite levels if you can, if they are detectable, you should be doing water changes to lower them immediately and perhaps add some cycle or other brand of live bacteria to rebuild your bio filter. And also when you your water changes do make sure the temperature and PH of the new water are both the same as the remaining tank water. Also for the time being cut back on feeding and light.
Best regards
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hello Mediahound.
Sorry it took so long to get back here. Family illness, all better now.
Ammonia -0
Nitrites -0
PH -7.3
All of this is normal.
I am doing 25-30% WC daily and setup a powerhead on an existing free port on the UGF. :eek: Couldn't believe the stuff that came flying out!!!! I was appalled.
The nitrate levels are slowly coming down and I haven't lost any more fish, thank goodness.
The water we put back in the tank is the same PH and temp.
Going now to get either Cycle or BioSpira. Have heard that both are good.
OH!! And no more gravel rinsing in hot water. Got it. That is one time consuming chore that I will gladly give up!
Thank you for all your help and advice. I really appreciate it.
Donna
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Ron, not sure what caused it after cleaning it the same way for all these years, even tho I was overcleaning the rocks. Buildup of grime under the UGF suddenly became too much? Don't know. Just glad to know how to take care of that problem now.

Mediahound, you are sooo right and thanks again for the help.

Donna
 
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