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Water Change Problem


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#1 eddieperth

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 06:01 PM

Hello all!  Longtime reader, first time poster

 

I have a 4x2x2 lo-tech planted aquarium.  Aquarium has been set up for a year now.  Fish and plants generally thriving and growing. Water parameters stay at or near perfection, though the tank tends to be acidic. (Typically about 6.4pH)

 

The Problem:

 

The last two times I've done a major water change (approx. 30-40%), the tank water has gone cloudy, and within 24hours the fish are gasping at the top of the tank. Both times when I have tested the water, the Nitrite reading was high. (testing at other times shows it at/near 0)

 

I am mystified as to what might be going on and would welcome any input/ideas as to how to address this!

My only idea is that perhaps something in the tap water is killing off some of the beneficial bacteria???

 

Additional info that might help:

I live in Kingsley which is NOR.

I do not disturb the substrate when I change water.

I use water directly from the tap without letting it stand (no idea if city of Joondalup uses Chlorine or Chloromine), which I then treat with water conditioner in the bucket before pouring in tank.

Filtration is cannister filter filled with bio balls and a sponge.  I do not run an airstone.

Tank is not overstocked- 5 rainbows, 2 juvie angelfish, 5 corys, 2 juvie plecos, 3 platies, 2 kribs

 

If more info or pics are needed, let me know!  Thanks in advance for any help!



#2 dazzabozza

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 06:22 PM

Tried running the same tests directly from the tap?  In some hotter months the water corp may draw from underground bores.

 

Seachem Prime may be of use to help neutralise the nitrite if it's intermittent.



#3 eddieperth

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 09:19 PM

Tried running the same tests directly from the tap?  In some hotter months the water corp may draw from underground bores.

 

Seachem Prime may be of use to help neutralise the nitrite if it's intermittent.

 

Thanks Dazza! Yeah I've tested the tap water for Nitrites and pH. results are 0 and 7.0 respectively.

 

And yeah after the last time, I got some Prime to ease the impact on the fish.  I think for the next change I'll also draw the water a few days in advance...otherwise, I don't have any ideas



#4 Mattia

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 11:01 PM

Silly question : try to smell your prime... does it smell bad?

#5 eddieperth

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 11:48 AM

Silly question : try to smell your prime... does it smell bad?

Thanks Mattia....it smells fine. I didn't start using Prime until after the problem started



#6 Mr_docfish

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Posted 14 February 2018 - 08:14 PM

From what I understand, you top up the tank then add the water conditioner that has been mixed in a bucket... If this is the case, next time, try adding the required amount of water conditioner to the emptied aquarium before topping up with water. Also, if you are using a garden hose to top it up, flush the contents of the hose first before adding water to the tank (plasticisers in the hose can be toxic)
Basically, something toxic is coming through your tap water that is killing off your filter bacteria, causing a spike in ammonia or nitrite.... or so it seems.
So try to change the methods of your water change and see if that improves the situation.

#7 eddieperth

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 08:05 AM

From what I understand, you top up the tank then add the water conditioner that has been mixed in a bucket... If this is the case, next time, try adding the required amount of water conditioner to the emptied aquarium before topping up with water. Also, if you are using a garden hose to top it up, flush the contents of the hose first before adding water to the tank (plasticisers in the hose can be toxic)
Basically, something toxic is coming through your tap water that is killing off your filter bacteria, causing a spike in ammonia or nitrite.... or so it seems.
So try to change the methods of your water change and see if that improves the situation.

 

You are definitely thinking along the same lines as me, Docfish!  Thanks for your input

I agree that it seems these major water changes are causing a bacteria die back.  After the latest incident, I've been monitoring nitrites and they were back to 0 within about 4 days, which makes me think that not all of the bacteria are dying, but enough to cause a spike.

 

I add the conditioner to the bucket of new water, just before putting it in the tank.  I figure that ensures it mixing well, and have never had issues with this method in the past.

 

Also, I don't use a garden hose, but fill buckets in utility sink.  I have been letting the tap run for 20seconds or so before filling.

 

I'm due to make another small water change today.  I have a small aquarium that I use for extra plants....I think I'll use water out of this tank to top up the main tank just to give the fish a break.



#8 Jules

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 08:27 AM

I read interestingly on a stingray forum, that some people turn off all filters and sumps whilst doing a water change, then fill up the tank (with a garden hose) and chlorinate it all within th aquarium, wait 5-10minutes for the water and chlorinator to mix through etc (still having internal pumps on for water movement) and then switching the filters on. Apparently this reduces chlorines and chloramines running into filter media and killing bacteria, hence causing ammonia spikes.

 

I for one have been using this method lately and have noticed my water doesn't have a cloudiness it used to for a few hours after a water change, cant say it works, or if it was micro bubbles from the filters being on when the tanks half drained, but maybe try that?

 

Also Seachem Prime shouldn't smell fine - it should have a kind of Sulphur smell form the sodium thisulphate in it :D



#9 Spiesie

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 10:34 AM

Do you clean your canister filter when you are doing your water changes?

 

Not sure if Bio Balls is the best media in a canister. They tend to work best in a wet/dry trickle filter where they are heavily oxygenated.

 

Perhaps the bio balls is not holding enough beneficial bacteria to handle any small change. It might be a good idea to systematically change over to something like Marine Pure spheres/Eheim substrat/etc.



#10 ice

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Posted 15 February 2018 - 03:02 PM

Jules i also use that method, i turn my canister off but leave the lower powerhead on and turn the top powerhead on once the water is refilled. I add my prime to the water before filling and then another small dose after and let the powerheads circulate the water for 10 minutes prior to turning the canister back on. Water is usually crystal clear and I've never had a problem with filter cultures dying off as a result. Pays to be anal about these things!



#11 humbug

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Posted 16 February 2018 - 06:52 PM

What water conditioner were you using before you switched to Prime? 

Ollie's theory sounds good, but here's another.  Perhaps your water supply contains chloramine.  If you are using a basic water conditioner (a thiosulphate based one) it will break the chloramine down to chlorine and ammonia, and "remove" the chlorine, but leave the ammonia.  Perhaps the BB are able to deal with that level of ammonia relatively quickly ie within your 24hrs, but take more time to accommodate the resulting nitrite, causing a nitrite spike.



#12 eddieperth

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Posted 13 March 2018 - 03:55 PM

Thanks for all the additional comments since I last spoke up!

 

I'm still having the same issue.  I've basically been overcoming this by taking water from a plant only tank to fill the main tank, and then adding fresh water to this plant only system.  So it's not really fixing anything, but, the fish are unaffected.  I'd really like to get to the bottom of this!

 

Humbug, you're theory about Chloramine fits the evidence....but two questions:

1. How could I find out what my local Water Corp. puts in the water?

2. if it is Chloramine, how could I overcome this problem?

 

Jules,  I'll def try the method you describe and see if it makes a difference!



#13 humbug

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Posted 14 March 2018 - 07:50 AM

If you give your water supply guys a call and explain the reason for your questions I'm sure they will be able to tell you if they use chloramine (and/or other additives of concern) , and possibly the circumstances under which it is used.  In some supplies its used routinely.  In other places its used during hot spells, or after certain maintenance procedures.  That's what makes it difficult for fish-keepers.  It can be a bit like playing Russian Roulette, not knowing what and when we are dealing with in the way of toxins.  If your tap water tests positive for ammonia it is possibly an indication that chloramine is being used, but the absence of ammonia isn't enough to be sure its not there!!

Prime should detoxify chloramines.  If you look at the bottle, or check out the Seachem website, you will find the recommended dose to deal with chloramines.  Its a higher dosage.  Treating your water in the bucket before adding to the tank should be enough to completely protect your fish.  Prime works pretty much instantaneously.



#14 whatfor

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Posted 16 March 2018 - 05:32 AM

I get the cloudy tank now and then , I am doing 50% water changes twice a week. My readings do not change though.

I have question though , prime detoxifies chlorine and chloramine so the filter can remove them later. So how does the filter then remove them?



#15 Delapool

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Posted 16 March 2018 - 07:22 AM

I’ve only looked up ammonia where I knew that prime (and any other as far as I know), will bind for about 24 to 48hrs. Started looking for a link as I always thought that the re-release would be gradual which gives the bacteria time if you have ammonia in tap water.

But also that ammonia in the bound form can still be used by the nitrifying bacteria, perhaps more slowly though as they need to do more work. However a cycling tank will still cycle using prime. I’ve not heard of many cases where tanks never cycle due to the water conditioner (and even then it’s possible the bacteria just couldn’t get going properly and one of those cases where the tank takes 2 months to cycle).


http://www.seachem.c...prime-questions

http://www.seachem.com/prime.php

#16 Buccal

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Posted 16 March 2018 - 07:47 PM

I get the cloudy tank now and then , I am doing 50% water changes twice a week. My readings do not change though.
I have question though , prime detoxifies chlorine and chloramine so the filter can remove them later. So how does the filter then remove them?

theres your problem right there,,, 50% wc way to much, try 35-40% twice a week.
50% is just on that edge of just a bit to much which explains the occasional ammo spike.
You can get away with 50% twice a week with a real beefed up filtration system that revived much faster after the shock of a water change.
When winter hits and water is cooler, you’ll get ammo spikes even easier again.
This isn’t up for debate, this is fact, so no need for my further replies.

#17 Westie

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Posted 16 March 2018 - 08:51 PM

theres your problem right there,,, 50% wc way to much, try 35-40% twice a week. 50% is just on that edge of just a bit to much which explains the occasional ammo spike. You can get away with 50% twice a week with a real beefed up filtration system that revived much faster after the shock of a water change.


^ take this advice onboard
I reduced the size of my water changes and it improved my water when I was having dramas a while back. It works.
I thought it was weird as more water being changed would be beneficial..... wrong!
Hope this works for you

#18 Delapool

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Posted 17 March 2018 - 12:04 AM

Might be interesting to know the age of the tank. I was getting bacterial blooms and tank was unstable dealing with ammonia (which is interesting as different bacteria types) but that was for tanks less than 6 months old.

Small tanks I’ve had settle down to almost 100% water changes.

Planted re-scapes often multiple, large water changes of say two-thirds trying to clear pea-soup from disturbed substrate. But multiple, established filters used.

#19 eddieperth

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 07:05 AM

Quick update:

 

Switching to Prime and using the higher dosage has sorted things!  Thanks to all of you for the advice

 

One person asked about the age of the tank: It has been running for about 12months.

 

Would love to get recommendations for best canister filter media.

Also, the tank has consistently low pH.  While the fish seem just fine, I'd like to raise it a bit...would a small bag of crushed coral in the filter be the best way to raise it?

 

thanks again!



#20 humbug

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Posted 26 March 2018 - 08:43 AM

I personally wouldn’t discourage people from doing large water changes.  Many of us do very large, regular water changes without ever encountering issues.  Doing large water changes is lifestyle for serious discus breeders.  Logically – only a tiny percentage of the BB in our tanks is in the water column, so even removing the bulk of the water from the system will have negligible impact on your filter providing you use a water conditioner which removes chlorine / chloramines.
 

But there is one situation where there can be an issue with large water changes . . . . . and the penny has just dropped as to a potential explanation for the problem you have been facing.  Sorry I didn’t cotton on earlier.

 

We have two major types of bacteria in our tanks.  As hobbyists we generally talk about the autotrophic bacteria which include the nitrifying bacteria in our filters.  There is another group – the heterotrophic bacteria.  They are the ones which cause the “bacteria blooms” in tanks, often when a tank is first set up, or if there is a sudden influx of organic material like excess feeding or a dead fish. One salient point - the heterotrophic bacteria reproduce much faster than the autotrophic bacteria.

 

I won’t go into a detailed description; I’ll provide a link below for further info instead.  But here’s a summarised version of what may be happening in your tank.
 

Consider a water supply with a high organic content.  The water supply company adds chlorine to ensure bacteria doesn’t grow in that water and it’s safe for human consumption when it reaches us.  Because of the chlorine, bacteria isn’t able to survive in the water and therefore can’t break the organic compounds down while the water is in transit to us through the pipes.  That means that it arrives at our place with the organic load intact.  But once we put that water into our tank, and add a decholorinator, the bacteria in our tank can have a field day.  Its suddenly got access to a bonanza of food.  It’s the heterotrophic bacteria which goes wild as they are the ones which reproduce most rapidly.  Their rapid growth causes a clouding of the water.
 

In the process of converting the organics, they consume vast amounts of oxygen, and they produce ammonia.  If the oxygen is depleted enough, it will cause issues for fish.  Sometimes people see the ammonia increase after a water change and make the assumption that the water change has impacted the nitrifying bacteria in the filter.  An understanding of the bacteria shows it’s not necessarily the case!
 

Anyway – I’m guessing you might be joining the dots.  It may well be that the situation changes with each water change if the organic content of the water varies – hence why this has only just become an issue for you. 
 

This article might be of interest for a bit of further reading, otherwise there are other good resources you should be able to find via google.
 

http://www.oscarfish...c-bacteria.html


Edited by humbug, 26 March 2018 - 09:03 AM.





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