New Tank, clownfish dead in 9 days. What did I do wrong? Please help me

raklassen

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Hey everyone, I need help (obviously from the title of this thread). I'm brand new to the hobby and before starting I did MONTHS of research, watched tons of videos, talked with the employees of the local fish store, I thought I was ready. I was not and now my clownfish pair (the only thing in my tank) are dead and I'm extremely upset and honestly don't know what to do at this point. I feel so terrible that they died and I feel like an idiot because I'm obviously doing something wrong.

Here's a brief break down:

I have an Innovative Marine 30L AIO

On May 21'st I added reef saver dry rock, carib-sea alive sand, and water from my LFS. That evening I also dosed Fritz-Zyme fishless cycle (ammonia) and 24 hour later I added about 2oz of the Fritz-Zyme turbo start 900.

I tested Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate daily using Salifert test kits. First off, I will admit that its hard for me to tell what the range is on the salifert ammonia kit. I've kept a log of everything I've done to the tank and I believe it to have been around 1.5ppm. My nitrite and nitrate were very high, but I soon learned that I was reading the Salifert test kits wrong for those two parameters.

One week later I dosed ammonia again and added the rest of the turbo start 900 (about 2oz) this time making sure I was reading the nitrite and nitrate test kits properly. 1 hour after dosing I was at 1.5ppm on ammonia. 12 hours later I was at .5ppm, 24 hours after dosing I was somewhere between 0 and <.15 on the ammonia (again-its hard for me to read the salifert chart). My nitrates also dropped in half after 24 hours from dosing the ammonia.

From my understanding the cycle was pretty much complete. I made a post on this forum and researched as much as possible and the consensus is that turbo start 900 has a tank ready in 48 hours. So I thought I was good.

I then proceed to do a 20% water change 3 days in a row. I wasn't reading any ammonia, nitrite is at .1 and nitrate is 10. I was told that nitrite (within a reasonable amount) isn't bad for marine fish. So I decided to add some livestock.

on June 4th, I added two clownfish, a small male and a large female. For 7 days everything was good. Fish were active, did what I later found out to be typical clownfish behavior, and were eating. The female had a massive appetite. The male wasn't nearly as aggressive, but I would see him take a few bites every time I fed. I was feeding TDA Chroma-Boost 3-4 times a day, in small amounts. Typically the female would have it all gone before the pumps left "feed mode".

Saturday, June 12th is when I noticed something was wrong. I started by testing water parameters. It had been a week since adding fish, and I knew it was time for a weekly 10% water change. Ammonia and Nitrite both showed small amounts. I believe the ammonia was at .25 (again SO hard for me to read for some reason) and nitrite was at .2 nitrate was 25. I also went ahead and checked alkalinity and phosphate because I had just bought new test kits from Hanna and wanted to try them out. Alkalinity was at 6.2 and phosphate was .04. I wasn't too worried about those numbers because I only had the two clownfish. So I did my 10% water change and while I was in there I also moved around a few rocks in my aquascape.

Not long after maintenance, I noticed the large female was acting strange. She didn't show much interest in food, only eating a few bites. The next day I woke up and she was hiding in a small cave in my aquascape. This was strange, but after doing some research, I realized its not uncommon for clownfish to move around the tank and even hide a few days. I assumed her first water change and the aquascape change had her stressed out. The small male didn't seem bothered at all. The female came out of hiding briefly once or twice but quickly went back. And she had no appetite. I'm starting to get concerned at this point, but I just assumed it was stress and so I left her alone. Again, the male was 'normal'. I tested parameters since it was 24 hours after that first water change and nitrite was .1 and nitrate was 10. I went ahead and did another 10% water change to try and get that nitrite down.

This morning I woke up and the male was dead and the female was dying. She only made it a few more minutes before she was laying on her side, not moving. Both fish were pale and had chunks of skin missing. I noticed wat appeared to be floating skin flakes in the water last night after doing the second 10% water change in 36 hours, but thought it was perhaps some debri that had been kicked up from the water change. I now believe those to have been from the actual fish.

So that's where I'm at now guys and I need help. I don't really know how to proceed next. Was it the ammonia and nitrite in the water? It didn't seem like very much, and from my understanding, the turbo start 900 has the tank ready in just a few days. And even though I wanted to avoid exposure to ammonia, I was under the assumption that clownfish could handle it, that's why people use them to start the cycle. Is it brooklynella? the symptoms for brooklynella and ammonia poisoning seem to be very similar. It's unbelievably frustrating and sad. I hate that they died that way. I wanted to do a fishless cycle to avoid cruelty to animals! UGH!!!

What do yall recommend my next move be? The tank has no livestock in it now. 50-60% water change? 100% water change? Leave it? I have another 4oz bottle of turbo start 900, should I add more to boost the bacteria?

Any and all help would be appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read all this. I feel like a total piece of **** for killing those fish. It had only been 9 days, but I was already starting to get attached and see their personalities come out.
 
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raklassen

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I would like to add that I also test salinity every day and it's stayed spot on at 35. Also, the only thing that changed during the week I had the fish is that I dosed a small amount of Phyto from the LFS. I was told this would help with growing beneficial bacteria. And two days before they passed, I noticed a small string like object attached to the male. I assumed it was possibly fecal mater that was 'stuck' because it was gone the next day and that was the one and only time I noticed it.
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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your cycle was fine, and skipping fallow and quarantine brought in disease that killed your fish but nothing else in the tank. post tank pics for closure.

why would I claim your cycle is fine though you reported errant params such as nitrite and ammonia? because the levels you reported werent the real levels is why. in the research for cycling you can see how misreading test kits factor in nearly all cycles.

fritz is the best bac you can buy, it didn't let you down. you'd have never made two nights and two feedings in an uncycled tank. disease
 
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raklassen

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your cycle was fine, and skipping fallow and quarantine brought in disease that killed your fish but nothing else in the tank. post tank pics for closure.

why would I claim your cycle is fine though you reported errant params such as nitrite and ammonia? because the levels you reported werent the real levels is why. in the research for cycling you can see how misreading test kits factor in nearly all cycles.

fritz is the best bac you can buy, it didn't let you down. you'd have never made two nights and two feedings in an uncycled tank. disease
At first I thought it was ammonia, but after getting off work and researching, I'm starting to think it was some type of disease like a brooklynella. But I just don't see how that's possible. Those two fish were the only creatures to ever be in this tank. They couldn't have caught a disease from a tank mate. These were captive bred juveniles.

But again, I'm trying to learn.
 

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Should have waited a month before adding a fish, that’s the problem. Can it be done is a week or 2, yes! But for a newbie, no. Had you acted upon all that research you did, you would have known to wait at least a month before adding any livestock. That is why your fish died. Too new of a tank, that was rushed with zero experience or education in marine sciences.
 
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brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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hey can you post a tank pic, those always show core filtration layouts. mainly we're looking for typical combinations of sand and rock in the display/high flow area, then that coupled with fritz dosing will seal up any cycle issues. need pics if possible


agreed I have no idea what disease works that quickly but at least we can begin ruling out some params. there was one time a year ago I typed exactly all this above, and when they posted pics the whole tank was empty

i had a homer simpson moment

their goal was to cycle the water, add in dry rocks after cycling. you wouldnt do that to meh, only a spy from reefcentral would do that to me :)
 

brandon429

why did you put a reef in that
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let the scrolls of irony reveal I just dared the entire chemistry forum to post me one example of a failed cycle. lol

that doesnt mean I think your cycle failed, it means timing is awesome when screeding online. what you posted other than quick fish loss is like all other cycles and testing issues we can search.


now if your water was totally cloudy and smelled, we might have a dead cycle and the first fritz fail I've seen. that's why pics are so important.
 
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raklassen

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hey can you post a tank pic, those always show core filtration layouts. mainly we're looking for typical combinations of sand and rock in the display/high flow area, then that coupled with fritz dosing will seal up any cycle issues. need pics if possible


agreed I have no idea what disease works that quickly but at least we can begin ruling out some params. there was one time a year ago I typed exactly all this above, and when they posted pics the whole tank was empty

i had a homer simpson moment

their goal was to cycle the water, add in dry rocks after cycling. you wouldnt do that to meh, only a spy from reefcentral would do that to me :)
 

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brandon429

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very very nice large system, plenty of surface area the fritz had it all coated in 24 hours (source: Dr Reefs bottle bac thread, fritz coats in 24 hours and even after a 100% water change the system processes all waste, because coated bac aren't removed in water changes)


additionally, your max posted ammonia numbers when divided out for TAN conversion per test kit instructions yields hundredths ppm and that's not lethal to fish. Honestly in a non self-serving manner I claim this is a disease, whew.

Id expect a max spike on ammonia vs the most often returned numbers we can find, you're in that range for ammonia, and Id expect gray water that can't control any waste at all. it would take quite a large bioload to overcome that dosed, high surface area setup.
 
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raklassen

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let the scrolls of irony reveal I just dared the entire chemistry forum to post me one example of a failed cycle. lol

that doesnt mean I think your cycle failed, it means timing is awesome when screeding online. what you posted other than quick fish loss is like all other cycles and testing issues we can search.


now if your water was totally cloudy and smelled, we might have a dead cycle and the first fritz fail I've seen. that's why pics are so important.
Not the best quality, but pics posted. Water is clear as can be (Ignore the streaks on the glass lol).
 
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brandon429

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we cant rule other other nonspecific contaminants here like we do in other posts where corals and shrimp live, fish die. we have nothing else to base on for this current go.

Last time we think a contaminant unspecific killed fish, I can't link a single time.


Last time we think disease killed fish: all one hundred pages of the fish disease forum, so I legit go with disease here.
 
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raklassen

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very very nice large system, plenty of surface area the fritz had it all coated in 24 hours.


additionally, your max posted ammonia numbers when divided out for TAN conversion per test kit instructions yields hundredths ppm and that's not lethal to fish. Honestly in a non self-serving manner I claim this is a disease, whew.

Id expect a max spike on ammonia vs the most often returned numbers we can find, you're in that range for ammonia, and Id expect gray water that can't control any waste at all. it would take quite a large bioload to overcome that dosed, high surface area setup.
The more I'm researching, I'm thinking brooklynella. And I think the stress of the first water change and aquascape change perhaps lowered their immune system, allowing them to be overtaken.

I'll do a fallow period of 6 weeks. That should give my tank time to get more established.
 

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So, while this thread is going. Is there a difference in cycling a tank ( few weeks )- while fish are in a QT (30 days)? Both systems are different. So wouldn't OP been able to run both?
Not attacking OP here.
Should have waited a month before adding a fish, that’s the problem. Can it be done is a week or 2, yes! But for a newbie, no. Had you acted upon all that research you did, you would have known to wait at least a month before adding any livestock. That is why your fish died. Too new of a tank, that was rushed with zero experience or education in marine sciences.

I'm going to ask, where does one start to gain experience in marine science?
 

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The more I'm researching, I'm thinking brooklynella. And I think the stress of the first water change and aquascape change perhaps lowered their immune system, allowing them to be overtaken.

I'll do a fallow period of 6 weeks. That should give my tank time to get more established.
You might still want to get QT setup. It will help you diagnose illness much quicker. Cheaper to medicate a smaller aquarium.
 
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Where did the captive bred clowns come from? I've cycled with fritz and it is an awesome bacteria. For future, I'd still say feed lightly for the first few weeks after adding the first fish. Clowns do not need 3-4 feedings a day, just one is fine.

Water change information:
Are you making your own water, if yes what salt brand? If no, what is your LFS using?
Have you calibrated your refractometer? I ask because not many salts are that low in alkalinity at 35.
Are you matching temperature on your water changes?
 
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raklassen

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Should have waited a month before adding a fish, that’s the problem. Can it be done is a week or 2, yes! But for a newbie, no. Had you acted upon all that research you did, you would have known to wait at least a month before adding any livestock. That is why your fish died. Too new of a tank, that was rushed with zero experience or education in marine sciences.
I know. I screwed up and got in a hurry. The one thing I said I wouldn't do. I just thought the cycle was good, so it was time to add livestock. I guess there is a difference between cycled and established beneficial bacteria.
 

Jekyl

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I know. I screwed up and got in a hurry. The one thing I said I wouldn't do. I just thought the cycle was good, so it was time to add livestock. I guess there is a difference between cycled and established beneficial bacteria.
Your cycle was not the culprit here
 

Mibu

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I know. I screwed up and got in a hurry. The one thing I said I wouldn't do. I just thought the cycle was good, so it was time to add livestock. I guess there is a difference between cycled and established beneficial bacteria.
Everything you said sounded like brook. Not tank water. Somehow you got a disease in your system and they needed help. How long they had it, I don't know.
 
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raklassen

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Where did the captive bred clowns come from? I've cycled with fritz and it is an awesome bacteria. For future, I'd still say feed lightly for the first few weeks after adding the first fish. Clowns do not need 3-4 feedings a day, just one is fine.

Water change information:
Are you making your own water, if yes what salt brand? If no, what is your LFS using?
Have you calibrated your refractometer? I ask because not many salts are that low in alkalinity at 35.
Are you matching temperature on your water changes?
Fish came from the LFS. And the LFS was the one to suggest 4-5 feedings a day (VERY small feedings) while they are young to ensure they get nutrients.

As far as water change goes, I'm currently using water from the LFS. I'm not sure what salt they use, but I believe its Tropic Marin, because that's the main brand they sell. I calibrate my refractometer about every 3-4 uses. And I did not match temp on the 10% water change. I was under the impression that wasn't necessary for small water changes like 10%.
 
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