Having issues starting aquarium

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bishopm created the topic: Having issues starting aquarium

Hello everyone, this is my first post.

Let me start by saying I have had aquariums before with little or no issues. This one is giving me a serious headache.

I have a 55 gallon tank with an "Penn Plax Cascade 1200 GPH Canister Filter", and a "300w in-Line External Heater". I also have about 2 inches of typical aquarium gravel, several fake plants, and one big fake rock ornament from Petco.

I have been cycling the tank for several months with immature guppies and filter media from my other tank. The tank currently has 3 immature guppies in it (a month old - each almost an inch long). I initially bought this new tank to have an Oscar (I have had them in the past and love them!) that would eat the fry because my other tank is getting overpopulated.

I use an API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT to check my parameters and have finally achieved the following results:
Ph - 7.6 to 7.8
Ammonia - 0ppm
Nitrite - 0ppm
Nitrate - 0ppm

Using the test strips I get the following:
GH (General Hardness) - between 120 and 180
KH (Carbonate Hardness) - Around 120

For better or worse, I use aquarium salt in all my tanks. I also use API Quick Start and Stress Coat when adding the new fish and with water changes. When I add new fish I typically open the bag and roll the edges down and float them in the tank for about 20 minutes, and then for the next 2 or 3 hours I add about a quarter cup of water every 15 or 20 minutes before I net them and add them to the tank to slowly get them acclimated to the new ph and water variables.

So, as I said before I have had at least three guppies in the tank thriving for the last month or so. I had been using a lot of guppy fry in the tank until I got the cycle completed. They were dying quite often until the numbers for cycling fixed themselves.

About a month ago I tried adding a Tiger Oscar from Petco, and it died within a day or two. It just never ate anything and kept hiding in the plants. I went back and got a replacement.

This one survived and thrived for about a week and a half before it died to an unfortunate accident where the inlet filter head to the canister filter popped off and he was sucked up into the tube.

I went back to Petco and got another replacement. He did eat for the first day or two, but then he eventually started hiding in the plants and laying on the bottom of the tank. He also developed skin issues. It was almost like the skin was peeling. His eyes clouded over, and then he died after about a week of having him.

After this, I went to an LFS near me and got a bigger (About 3-1/2 inches long) Albino Red Oscar, and a Bristlenose Pleco to eat the algae off the glass and rocks. The albino was very shy but he was eating off the bottom for about the first week. The pleco seemed to be fine as well. After the first week, the albino started doing the same thing the other tigers were doing. He would lay on his side (On the bottom and floating) and stopped eating. Again the pleco was fine. The albino died about a week ago while I was away on vacation (He was acting funny before I left). I had started using medications (Imagitarium Parasite and Bacterial Remedies) before I left just in case that might have been it, and my mother followed up with the rest of the med cycle. She came in to feed a couple times a day while I was away. She found the Albino and scooped him out. The pleco died about a day before I got home from vacation. He was fine until my mom found him at the bottom of the tank dead. I was feeding the pleco algae disks a couple times a week, but there was plenty of algae in the tank either way.

I test my water parameters at least once a week and have had no Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates for at least a month. I do 10-gallon water changes (2 Five Gallon Buckets), about 20% weekly, except when I went on vacation. I use a siphon and vacuum the rocks during water changes.

The meaningful parameters seem to be fine, so I am not sure what I am doing wrong. Also, I have had the three guppies in the tank for several weeks now with no issues. I don't want to get any more Oscars until I figure this out, but I need to do something fast as I now have over 100 guppy fry in my breeder tank.

I am wondering if maybe I had accidentally gotten my hands in the water with antibacterial soap on them. I just don't understand why my guppies would be fine and the bigger fish are not. I am thinking at this point I need to empty the tank and clean it out thoroughly and start over.

Any suggestions would be great.

Thanks in advance.
~Mark
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Suprd71 replied the topic: Having issues starting aquarium

First issue is your water parameter readings. A cycled system does indeed read zero on ammonia and nitrite, but you need some showing of nitrate to be a completed cycle. I believe that you dont have any bioload, ie 3 guppies in 55g to generate enough ammonia, to develop a significant bacteria colony in a canister filter. Simply, you need anther ammonia source. A fish in cycle needs enough fish of a decent size. A fishless cycle is you adding ammonia to a level of 2-4ppm over several weeks to let the bacteria cultivate and establish in your filters bio media. Once cycle is established, there is issue with 55g not being enough aquarium to properly house a fast growing, large cichlid like an Oscar. An Oscar can easily grow longer than the tank is wide. Inadequate, to be specific.


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DRACO replied the topic: Having issues starting aquarium

welcome to the community...
reading your post, i find it very frustrating for you to always losing your fish..

i would like to suggest you get a real test kit an API one
the strip is normally useless.

your adding aquarium salt is not clear... how much do you normally add?

cycling the tank that long should give you good water parameters.
i never had experience losing my oscar a day or two after putting it in my tank.
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bishopm replied the topic: Having issues starting aquarium

Thank you for your replies.

I have the API master test kit. I only use the test strips to check hardness levels. As Suprd71 stated I am thinking the Nitrates are low because I do not have enough fish in the tank at the moment. I have had readings of as much as 40PPM when I had larger fish. I added about 35 guppy fry last night because my breeder tank was inundated with them when I got back from vacation. I will keep an eye on the parameters now to see if numbers are normalizing again.

I usually add about a tablespoon of aquarium salt per five gallon according to advice from my LFS. I am planning on doing a water change tonight and rinsing filter media at the same time in the drained water. And when I replace water I am going to stop using salt for a while to see if that helps.

I do plan on getting a larger tank in the next year or so. Hopefully I can keep the fish growing as expected until I get the larger tank.

Thanks again!
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Suprd71 replied the topic: Having issues starting aquarium

Re the aquarium salt.. skip it. It wont harm guppies, but neither will it do anything to improve or speed up cycle. When moving up to a fresh water cichlid, well, they call them fresh water for a good reason,lol. Salt can be used in specific situations, to soothe wounds, treat for parasites and worms, but as an everyday component of the water, no. Fresh, pristine, toxin free water is THE number one most important item in successful cichlid keeping. You can for sure raise a baby Oscar in a 55g, but be sure to realize that when the fish exceeds 8ins, that 12in wide tank is now too small. Just FYI here, not preaching, but a genetically strong, well cared for Oscar can reach 8ins at 6 months of age.


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bishopm replied the topic: Having issues starting aquarium

Perfect! Thanks Suprd71!

I am going to stop using salt as of right now. I will do a 50% water change tonight when I get home, and then another smaller one this Friday. And if the numbers have normalized (Nitrates Showing) by this weekend I will look into grabbing another Oscar.

I guess advice from the LFS is not always good.

I will start looking for a larger tank on Craigslist right away. I was hoping to get at least a 75 gallon when I got this 55, but I could not pass up the deal.

Thanks again!
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bishopm replied the topic: Having issues starting aquarium

I just wanted to come back and say I now have a seemingly healthy Oscar in my tank. I swapped 75% of the water three times in a week, added water back in with no aquarium salt, and then added another Oscar and he is doing great! He is still not eating the feeder guppies I put in the tank, but he is eating pellets, and crisps.

Thank you all for your advice!
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