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I've kept several generations of Triops in this tank with no problems (other than the fact that they seem to take personal delight in digging up the live plants the moment I re-secure them in the sand).

Two triops generations ago (which is about a month and a half in human time) I added an Otocinclus, an Apple snail, and three very small Nerite snails. I do not know the specific species of Nerite, but they're small and solid brown or yellow in color. These residents all got along fine with the triops and all are still healthy.

Let me give you my tank specs/rundown before I get into the problem, which is actually with a guppy currently living in this tank. I apologize for my wordiness; I'll try to keep it to a minimum, but I've tried to include as many details as possible to help.

-5gal tank, longer than it is tall (approx. 24"x9")

-Substrate is CaribSea brand black aquarium sand (coarser and larger-grained than "beach sand", but decidedly smaller grain than gravel.)

-Submerged heater keeps tank at 77F/25C, with occasional small fluctuations when I keep the lid off while cleaning.

-2 filters, on opposite sides of the tank:
Eheim Liberty 100 hang-on filter, rated for 20gal.
Duetto 50, rated for 10gal.

-Airstone with knot in hose to reduce volume of bubbles; this is on the right side of the tank near the Duetto filter (occasionally I add a second airstone on the other side of the tank and run it for a couple of hours)

-Mardel brand NH3/ammonia monitor which is currently showing "safe" levels of NH3/4

-Tank is heavily planted with live aquatic plants, including:
Free-floating Elodea bunches, Java moss, Japanese Marimo algae ball, Amazon Sword, Echinodorus Osiris, Sagittaria Subulata, Anubias Barteri, and a couple of others

-6 or so smooth rocks scattered about the tank, mostly used to hide/weight down the roots of the plants

-1-3 drops of Prime from Seachem added each night

-Water used is Crystal Geyser spring water as it was the only brand that successfully hatched triops consistently.

-I have several water testing kits:
ELOS (NH3/4, pH)
API (Ammonia, Nitrate)
2 "strip" type test kits which I know are not as accurate, but I bought them because the vial kits were giving me false positives all the time.

My pH, which used to be around 7 - 7.2 a few weeks ago, is now about 5.5 - 5.8.

The ELOS NH3/4 kit is showing me 0.5 mg/l. API Nitrate kit is showing 0. The API Ammonia test is literally showing me 8 ppm (mg/L) but that would result in insta-death for my critters and I feel like this kit always gives me false positives. Someone over on the triops Yahoo group told me that often test kits will show the presence of ammonia, but if Prime or AmQuel Plus is used daily, these are actually false positives.

The strip tests are showing me nearly-zeroes for nitrate/nitrite, a hardness of about 25 or slightly less, and very low pH, about 5.5.

Tank has been "active" in its current form for about 2 months. Although several generations of triops have come and gone in that time, there have been no other real changes other than the addition of a few more aquatic plants a month ago.

Then, two weeks ago after a triops die-off from old age, I bought 3 male guppies. Since the guppies were mid-tank swimmers and my triops are benthic bottom-dwellers, I figured they'd tolerate each other and no one would eat each other (and also I thought that since the Otocinclus had been living with triops of various sizes/ages for a month plus with no problems, the guppies would be okay.)

Since I got them, the guppies usually have been swimming together in a small "pack" (school?) and have not displayed any aggressive behavior towards each other, at least not any that I've witnessed. I don't observe any fin damage or any outward signs that they've been beating each other up. The aquarium store kept a large number of males together sans females in a large tank, so maybe they're "used" to living with other males with a minimum of aggression.

The guppies have displayed good appetite, but they appear to spit out the bits of food that they do eat. By this I mean, when I add flake food (TetraMin Tropical Flakes, 46% crude protein) or wafer food (TetraMin Tropical Crisps, 47% crude protein), the guppies attack with gusto, nip off small bits, and then spit the small bits right back out. Maybe I'm not soaking the flakes/crisps enough beforehand? The flakes/crisps then float to the bottom where the triops make short work of them.

--Now that I've read some articles on guppies/goldfish, I know I shouldn't be feeding flakes/crisps heavily. I've also got Spirulina flakes and freeze-dried brine shrimp that I feed the triops, should I switch the guppies' diet to those and blanched fresh veggies and not feed flakes/crisps any more?

(I also have freeze-dried tubifex worms, but when I added a cube of those, some of them apparently came back to life once re-hydrated and were squiggling around the walls of my tank. I now have a tubifex infestation I can't seem to get rid of. It's a little horrifying.)

Now onto the actual issue:

The guppies add way more waste than I was expecting to the bioload of my tank. I clean the sand obsessively and keep the filter intakes clear, but there is still fish waste everywhere. I thought that it would be helpful to put in a small amount of Tetra brand freshwater "water clarifier", which is supposed to help the tiny particles of junk stick together for easier cleaning/filtering. I added about half a teaspoon of the stuff.

The next day, my three triops were dead, my Apple snail was (apparently) comatose and half-dead, one of the Nerites was writhing, and the other two had actually left the water and were stuck to the tank walls above the waterline. The guppies seemed okay, if a bit still and unenergetic. The Otocinclus appeared entirely unperturbed. (I'm pretty sure he'd survive the Apocalypse.)

I immediately did a 20% water change. I removed all 4 snails and put them into a cup with clean spring water. I cleaned the tank, removed the plants and rinsed them. Today, the snails all appear to be fine and are back to their normal behavior. The Otocinclus is still fine. Two of the guppies are still swimming around together and striking at food. But the third one is acting strange. He hangs around the surface of the water and has very little fin movement. His tail fin is also very "flat", meaning he doesn't seem to keep it as widely spread out as he did prior to this. He is uninterested in food, refuses to eat, and stays away from the other males. He'll move if I tap the tank or if I get too close, but otherwise he hardly moves at all. His breathing doesn't look especially labored, however.

I am sure I poisoned all my critters and killed my triops with my stupid, impulsive addition of the water clarifier.

Is there anything I can do to help my guppy recover? I don't want to stress him any more by moving him, but would it be better to move him to another tank for a while? Should I do more 20% water changes?

Also, prior to adding the water clarifier, the guppies hung out in the airstone stream or the outgoing-water valve of my filters a lot; is that normal?

Included are two images, one of my overall tank setup, and one closeup of two of the guppies. The yellow spotty one is the one with the odd top-swimming behavior.

Incidentally, how do I raise pH? Triops prefer a pH of 7 - 9. What would cause the sharp drop in pH that I've had in my tank? (from 7ish to 5.5)

I know this post is very long and I apologize for that. Thank you in advance for any help/insights :}


2,257 Posts
Id take the guppy or guppies out and put them in a bowl with half tank water and half new water with an air stone. let them be for a bit, do a 60% change in your tank and drip acclimate them to it, you can do this with a PLASTIC gang valve and air line, that is all that is needed for a drip acclimator, this will SLOWLY balance things out and they should come back.

the cobra/snakeskin is my concern he is holding his tail very very low.

add carbon and do a 60% then drip acclimate they should be fine.

what are you feeding them? a little bit of bloodworm might infuse some energy but the ones I see are males and males dont do much on their own, they hang out like typical stags in the human world do. I witness this often when I seperate a male out from the females back to the all male tank.

20% wc will help but 60% might be better. if you got shrimp in there they might not make it and the triops should be fine with the newer water as they always love fresh water(got 4 huge crystal steins with them in there, I like these little buggers they are a hoot to watch, especially when they eat, a much more entertaining time then watching my assassin snails eat.)
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