View Full Version : Levels off in my well established aquarium

10-02-2007, 02:51 PM
I am hoping that someone can help me because I am so frustrated right now. My favorite fish died last night (yes, I had a favorite fish) and I can't take any more deaths in my aquarium. Everything was fine no changes to feeding, water changes, or anything. My PH fell to 6.2 and my nitrates rose to 220ppm. I have been doing daily water changes of 20% for the last two weeks and can't get them down, I even change my filter daily leaving the bio rocks alone so not to mess with the good bacteria. I have checked for hidden deaths and found nothing everyone is accounted for! I have used buffer to raise my PH but it will not go up! I thought about getting some live plants to suck up some of the nitrates but I don't want to harm them instead of helping. What is wrong?!?!? What do I do?!?!?!?!? Please help.

By the way the tank I have the problem in is: 70 gal, about 30 assorted African Cichlids (most are 1 inch three of them are 3 inches), mostly malawi (sorry if i spelled it worng), and about 25+ babies (fry smaller than .25 inches - super cute!)

Also my fish still seem to be breeding because I have 4 mouth fulls right now - not sure how but I do. But they are starting to swim slow and a little sideways and I can tell things are NOT right!

10-02-2007, 02:54 PM
Did you test your tap water for nitrates and ph?

10-02-2007, 03:04 PM
Yes I checked and the tap water levels are almost 0 for the nitrates and about 7.6 for the PH. Really strange!

10-02-2007, 03:49 PM
I would do a 50% water change today and another 50% in 2-3 days then retest after each change, I would also clean the filters and make sure I vacuum the bottom well....

Plants won't make a dent in your problems, something is rotting somewhere. Or you are not changing enough water frequently enough in your maintenance.

10-05-2007, 10:28 AM
So I changed my water and vaccumed my rocks -moving everysingle thing in the entire aquarium - just like you suggested, I actually took more than 50% about 70%. (I am surprised all of my fish did not die!) I did it the 2nd and again last night. I tested my water this morning and the levels are still trough the roof. I changed my filter and bought new sponges even getting the charcol with "amonia" removing chips. Any other suggestions I just can't figure this out!

10-05-2007, 01:28 PM
200+ ppm of nitrate will not kill your fish instantly, however over time it will damage their immune systems. It sounds like you need to add a buffering material like 1 cup of crushed coral to one of your filters. You also need to do regular water changes. It may not hurt to increase gas exchange by disturbing your surface a little more. If we knew what filters you were running we could could give better advice in that department.

10-05-2007, 01:40 PM
I have a fluval 305

10-05-2007, 01:49 PM
Something is not right here... if your readings are 220ppm and you do 50% water change then your readings SHOULD be somewhere around 110ppm after the change...assuming there are 0 nitrates in the tap-water.

Ammonia removing chips (Zeolite) won't absorb Nitrates and carbon won't absorb very much. Your problem is with the end product of the nitrogen cycle not the cycle itself....

I would take a water sample to your LFS to test for your just to be safe that your kits are not contaminated. If they agree with your testing then.....

I think we need more details, how long the tank has been setup, what is the filtration for the tank, your regular maintenance schedule, Substrate type and depth, feeding schedule and amount and type so we can get a handle on why your producing so much nitrate.

10-05-2007, 02:18 PM
So I took my water (both aquarium and tap) down to the local pet store where they tested it and confirmed the exact measurements I have!

So Here are the details:
70 Gal
5 year established tank
Fluval 305
I do a 25% water change 1x per month (vaccuming out the rock)
Change/wash out my filter with exception of the bio balls (i lightly rinse to keep good bacteria) 1x every 2 weeks sometimes
Gravel approx 2 1/2 in deep - pile of some river rocks for babies to hide in, lots and lots of lava rock
Feed: Every night - 6 days a week. I feed about one rounded tablespoon of floating cichlid pellets (all of which is devoured in seconds) approx 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons of sinking pellet "attack" from Petsmart for my babies this amount varies as the babies get bigger. The fewer babies the less I feed. I usually watch to see how hungry they are. Plus larger fish seem to get a lot fo these as they like it better then the floating pellets and I think they are still hungry.

I have had 5 deaths in the past few weeks all of which were removed as soon as I saw them. 3 of the 5 were still limp and had just died the other two were only there for a bit as I drink my coffee with my fish and relax before bed watching them! :)

Hmm I want to make sure you have all the details that I can think of ...
I have NO live plants only fake
No algae eaters - no plecos or anything (they keep eating my babies and convit eggs.
I do have a few snails that are tiny, none that are visable in the tank. I found them in the filter on the old sponge yesterday.
I have about 30 fish assorted cichlids
ranging anywhere from 1-3 inches but I would say 25 of them are 1 in. My "daddy" is about 3 inches.
I also have a ton of babies most less than .25 inches. They hang at the bottom and are harder to count! :)
I also have 5 pregnant mouthfulls right now. 2 are ready to spit them out any second!
I have two air stones and an air curtain in the back.
I dont think I left much out so ....

10-05-2007, 06:30 PM
Does your nitrate test only go up to 220ppm? The chances are they where much higher then the test showed and are coming down. Cut down of feeding and keep doing large water changes until it comes down. 25% water changes are not enough, once you get the nitrates down I would start doing 30-40% water changes once a week.

10-05-2007, 08:30 PM
No need to shock the fish, to get the nitrates down try 25% water changes every few days.

10-06-2007, 04:25 AM
25% once a month is far too little water not nearly often enough.... not for cichlids anyways. I try to change 30% every week to keep levels down, and clean the filters monthly.

Now I am curious, how often do you test for nitrates? You only change the water once a month, and I am assuming you don't test after each water change....(or every filter cleaning)

Glaive, re-read the thread, he's already tried back-to-back 50% W/C's and not gotten his levels down below 220ppm... something is not right there.

10-07-2007, 02:18 PM
No, I test about 1 or 2 times a month. I have never had a problem like this before. So really I never tested too often. I have always had babies and mouthfulls and never really lost more than a fish or two every now and then. So i always figured I am doing something right to keep the spawning cycle going.

In response to the highest level on my test kit ... yes it only goes up to 220. Now- last night I checked my water and it seems as though I am about 190 ish so I am going to keep changing the water in hopes of reducing the nitrates.

So i am going to change my feeding and watwer changing habits - 30% once a week and stay with the amounts I am feeding because I do not want to starve my fry or my larger fish and have them eat my fry ..although i am sure they eat their fair share!

Last night I noticed that I have several more new fry that are tiny so they must have just been spit out!

Thank you all for your help!

10-07-2007, 04:47 PM
I am a little scientific with water changes.
I know the average amount of nitrates my tank produces in a given week.
I also know the rough amount of nitrates my plants consume.
I have taken weekly samples to verify my levels and their respective changes.
I maintain my levels via a small water change weekly.

You will obviously have different results based on bioload.
However weekly measurement over a one month period will yield a lot of information.

01-21-2008, 08:00 PM
Sorry if I missed this, but have you tested the ammonia levels to be sure what the levels are?

When you said you checked for dead things, did you check up inside your structures? They have many cavities that something can hide in. If it gets stuck or trapped, R.I.P.

It really sounds like something would have died. At this stage, if it were me, I would transfer my fish to a LFS tank, bath tub if nothing else is available, or something to get them out of there, and really investigate the inside of the tank. If nothing is found, drain everything, start over with the water, and add fish slowly.

If you have a good relationship with you LFS, most will let you do this. Have you tried treating for fungal / bacteriological as a matter of troubleshooting?