Three Fish Four Fish Fish Serial Killer Part 3
The Story So Far....
The next morning I go in to wake up my son and check the tank. I turn on the tank light and open the lid to feed the poor things and notice rainbow water. I then noticed that the fish were all at the bottom of the tank. They looked droopy and sluggish. Something was definitely wrong. There should not be what looks like an oil slick in my newly cleaned tank. At least I didn’t think so- but I’m still learning right?
Back to the internet I go. By this time, I had found an aquarium forum that was pretty active and posted my query to the group. Within minutes, I knew I was in trouble, really BIG trouble!
The chemicals in the cleaner combined with the algae killer and dechlorinator had created a chemical leaching agent that was leaching what was left of the paint on the fake rock into the water. I was slowly poisoning my son’s fish. To make matters worse, by entirely emptying and cleaning the tank, I had destroyed the balance of that enclosed ecosystem. I now had a brand new tank that needed to be conditioned to get the nitrate cycle going. I had originally avoided this through the sheer luck of my friend Bev giving me the Gourami in water from her tank and using it in mine.
The consensus from the forum group was that I would have to do another complete change of water, remove the plastic reef and get to the pet store and buy some instant conditioner. Then, hope for the best as I was terribly stressing the fish out. Drooping was not a good sign. In fact, it was a very bad sign. I added that to my ever growing knowledge of fish facts.
So back in the bucket go the fish. I wrestled the siphon until the tank was empty and then refilled it. I threw away the plastic reef and any other decoration that had paint on it. And, leaving the poor fish in the bucket, I headed back to the pet store. By this time, I knew the hours of operation by heart and could recognize most of the sales people on sight. Upon reaching the store, I quickly scanned the aisles and found the conditioner. I grabbed the biggest bottle and made my purchase.
Coming home, I hesitantly peered into the bucket, fearing the worst. They were still hanging in there. I put the conditioner in the tank as directed and the added the fish back in as well. Then I walked out of the room, resolving that if these fish died, I would somehow make it up to my son by learning everything I could on fish care before we bought another fish. I’d become a fish expert.
By evening, the fish had begun to perk up, the water was a little cloudy but I was informed by the forum that this was normal. I was to use my testing kits to make sure that the ammonia levels did not go above a certain level or I would have to begin to do partial water changes to keep enough oxygen in the tank for the fish to breathe. I would know that the tank was finally getting its normal cycle back when the ammonia levels reached zero and the nitrate levels were within a certain range on the little card that was in the kit. I went to bed certain that this was just another small bump in the road of learning about aquariums.
I woke up the next morning to a completely cloudy tank. You couldn’t even see the fish in it, nor anything else. Grabbing my chair and siphon I emptied half the tank and refilled it with fresh water and found my first casualty. Even I know upside down is not what God intended fish to do. Thankfully, it wasn’t Gourami. Being a bigger fish than the others would, I hoped, help him weather the current crisis.
I spent the next few days constantly changing water, watching as the ammonia levels climbed higher and higher. We held 2 more funerals. Gourami hung in there, a game fish he was, and now sole survivor. Finally in desperation and after exhausting all other possibilities, the forum and I concluded that to reduce the off the chart ammonia levels, I would have to change out the gravel. The decay from left over algae plus killing the other bacteria necessary for the normal ammonia conversion process was creating a bigger problem than I could solve with a few water changes.
I learn a few other facts during this period. For example, most people that start a new tank will buy several feeder gold fish and use them to start the process. These fish usually die off and then you stock your tank with what you want. Also, bigger tanks are more forgiving of errors than small tanks. Most aquarium enthusiasts only use ten gallon tanks as breeding or quarantine areas.
So the best solution was to go to the pet store to get some feeder fish and new gravel and start over again. Off to the pet store I reluctantly went. I picked up some gravel on sale and some feeder fish and headed home. Once again I cleaned out the tank and took out all the old gravel. Fresh gravel and fresh water made the tank look deceptively healthy.
Poor Gourami, he never had a chance. Neither did the feeder fish, 5 in all, make it. As my luck would have it, no one told me that there are special types of gravel for saltwater tanks. They do not react well to fresh water; releasing chemicals into the water and raising the Ph level to a lethal dose of acidity. I had unknowingly created a tank full of acid rain and put the fish in it.
Upon putting the fish in the water, the goldfish spiraled tail first into the gravel. Gourami, veteran of my other mistakes, did likewise. I hastily fished them all out and put them back in the bucket. Sadly, within a few short seconds they were all belly up in the flush me position. By this time, all the kids realized that trying to name the fish was a bad idea. Instead, they started giving them numbers. A mass flushing funeral was held for Gourami, and numbers five through nine.
I hit the internet and a state of shock descended on me after I researched what I had done. The forum was sympathetic, but I was beginning to get a sense of wariness and doubt amongst the answers. Could I really be that ignorant? Yes, I admit, I was. I was also angry. The pet shop I had been faithfully going to was letting me buy things that they knew were either harmful or not necessary. I had had enough.
Now, I was bound and determined to master the art of owning an aquarium. It had become more than a desire to give my son a pet, save a fish or get around a rule. This was “A Quest”. I would, no matter how many goldfish had to die, get this tank to cycle and have fish living and thriving in it. I would not be denied!!! I would start again…