New Tank (cycle incomplete) - 1 Clownfish seems sick.

Empti

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Hi, I'm new to owning an aquarium and stocked my aquarium a little bit early.

I had set the 52L tank up for 6 weeks prior to putting fish in (3 trochus snails on week 6, 2 oscellaris clowns on week 7). Tested along the way and had 0 ammonia, 0.25 nitrites for weeks and thought it'd be fine.

Last week I put my two clowns in and after 2 days it was clear the cycle wasn't properly completed. I've since been battling cycles of ammonia and nitrite spikes, one day its down to 0, next its back up at 0.5/1ppm. Have been doing daily water changes (20-40% depending on how bad it is) and dosing with seachem prime/stability daily.

Past 2 days have been great on the parameters, 0.25ppm or lower so I stopped doing daily water changes but just kept dosing prime daily and checking parameters 1/2x daily. This morning however I woke up, checked and had highly elevated levels 1ppm ammonia - 1ppm nitrite. So did a 40% change and was watching my fish closely.

The smaller of my two clowns seems to be sick, his mouth has been open all day, gills are flared/puffy, has long white stringy poop and appears to be breathing a little heavy. He isn't swimming at the top of the water gasping for air, has been eating enthusiastically (pellets 4-6 daily) and otherwise seems to swimming/acting normally. I rang my LFS today and they said to do a fresh water dip and observe for a day or two, am worried I should be dosing for internal parasites/infection.

Current Water Parameters after 40% change

PH 8.0 (tends to drop to 7.8 but put in marine buffer occasionally)
Nitrates 10-20ppm
Ammonia 0????
Nitrites 0.25

Confused how it dropped so quickly after the water change, did remove quite a lot of detritus off the bottom (may have been overfeeding fish cause LOTS of poop)

What should I do about my sick little guy? I feel guilty for putting them in too early and certainly don't want them to die.

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Post a full tank shot.

Please detail your cycling method. 6 weeks is more than enough time to cycle a tank with an ammonia source like a dead shrimp and nothing else.

What are the symptoms of the sick fish? The mouth area looks a bit beat up from what I can see.

@brandon429
 
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Empti

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I would stop adding Prime. It is not intended to be added regularly to cover up an ongoing ammonia problem. So what happens to the ammonia level if you don't add Prime?
Ammonia is the same regardless of whether I've added prime or not, I've just been putting it in there so long as ammonia is detectable. Its definitely gone down on average in the week that I've had the fish in.
 

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Ammonia is the same regardless of whether I've added prime or not, I've just been putting it in there so long as ammonia is detectable. Its definitely gone down on average in the week that I've had the fish in.

I would not rely on prime and do water changes instead if the tank isn't cycled.

There is debate that prime actually does not detoxify ammonia at all (lots of false claims in this hobby).

To establish the bacteria, you can add Biospira.

How did you cycle the tank?

It sounds like it an eat so I assume it can close its mouth to eat?
 
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Empti

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Post a full tank shot.

Please detail your cycling method. 6 weeks is more than enough time to cycle a tank with an ammonia source like a dead shrimp and nothing else.

What are the symptoms of the sick fish? The mouth area looks a bit beat up from what I can see.

@brandon429
Cycling method was horrible advice from LFS - they told me because I had detectable ammonia in the water 0.25-0.5ppm I didn't need to add a ammonia source. I asked two different stores cause I was concerned the bacteria wouldn't have had enough food and would either never exist or starve both told me to leave it... Basically added seachem stability for a week then let it sit for an additional 5 weeks with nothing because nitrites/nitrates were detectable even though ammonia was gone after 2 weeks. Week 6 I assumed the bacteria was probably dead against their advice and put in some trochus snails and overfed them to create ammonia, was up to 0.5-1ppm and after a full week had 0 ammonia, 0.25 nitrites, 40ppm nitrates. The snails seemed like they were doing well so I water changed to bring down nitrates and just added some clowns hoping the rest of the cycle would be quick. Since then adding daily prime + daily/every other day water changes (20-40%). Tested this morning and have 0.5ppm ammonia, 1/2 ppm nitrite (hard to tell), 7.8 PH (drops from 8 overnight and returns by afternoon), 20ppm nitrates.

Symptoms - Flared/Puffy Gills (can see a tiny bit of gill flesh when he faces away from me but not full blown flesh hanging out), mouth open, rapid breathing (looks like a rapid heartbeat where his gills are), little bit weak but otherwise swimming/eating like normal, yesterday had a long stringy white poop attached to him for quite some time (looked mucinous). Symptoms improved slightly after fresh water dip but today pretty much the same as yesterday. Other fish is fine.

Full tank shot - Attached pictures of tank 52L and filter (top of tank Carbon pads > Polyfilter > Seachem matrix layer). Other factors - ~8 pounds of live rock + ~5.5 pounds of aragonite sand. I think I need to add more sand so theres more surface area for biological filtration since the cycle is taking forever + I have chronically low PH even after adding an airstone and opening the window next to the tank.
 

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Empti

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I would not rely on prime and do water changes instead if the tank isn't cycled.

There is debate that prime actually does not detoxify ammonia at all (lots of false claims in this hobby).

To establish the bacteria, you can add Biospira.

How did you cycle the tank?

It sounds like it an eat so I assume it can close its mouth to eat?
I'm doing water changes as well just scared for the guy so far I've just been putting it on the assumption that even if it doesn't work hopefully its doing more good then harm.

I've went through a whole bottle of seachem stability as far as bacteria in a bottle goes, might just buy a different brand and see if that works since clearly the bacteria just isn't sticking.

Cycle details are in post above - TLDR the classic tale of **** advice from a LFS to a 1st time saltwater tank owner who should of done their own research first.

He doesn't really close his mouth to eat kinda just vacuums it in to his open mouth.
 

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Well eating is a good sign.

There is something called lock jaw that fish can get. Not sure if this is part of the issue though...


This post has a video, also read post #8 as your clown sounds similar

 
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Empti

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Well eating is a good sign.

There is something called lock jaw that fish can get. Not sure if this is part of the issue though...


This post has a video, also read post #8 as your clown sounds similar

Jaw injury is definitely possible, the pellets I am feeding them seem a little too big for them so maybe he hyperextended trying to eat or fighting the other clown (they have their moments but usually get along). So long as his eating I guess I'll just sit and watch for further signs of infection.
 
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It’s not possible the tank isn’t cycled.

ever seen a cycling chart show ammonia not controlled at six weeks? How about day 25, ever seen a cycle chart say ammonia isn’t controlled by then? of course this tank is cycled. It would be cycled even if he just put two clowns in the tank and gave nothing else but time.

these api readings tripped up tenured cycle umpires? Is this not the fifteenth billionth post of .25 nh4 among massive surface area, happy normal fish other than a disease malady common to just one (they’re swimming perfectly normal, positioned well vs hovered at the top unable to breathe and the water is laser clear)
:)
 
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brandon429

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There isn’t one time in the history of reefing this much rock shown above at six weeks wasn’t cycled and nh3 was not well controlled, so it wouldnt make sense to assume this tank might be the first example ever seen

the problem is, we are not getting nh3 ammonia readings here / do we ever

not one time


the only examples anyone reading can find of six week duration cycle not completed will be of api readings exactly like this one, and that’s not an example.

ammonia was never out of spec to need prime in the first place here, he’s been feeding these fish for a long time and that’s cycled the tank given no other help. there is no cycle issue here, and never was. A clown with a mouth malady is no indication of a cycle issue requiring all these offsets and neither is a set of api readings matching every running tank on file. Nobody expects api to read zero, ever, why did we expect that here?

an ammonia alert badge (nh3) will read safe zone on this tank
 
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brandon429

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The reason updated cycling science is important to use here is so that 0% effort goes into cycle doubt remedy, and 100% effort goes into disease prevention.

so far, half or more of all efforts are aimed at getting api to absolute zero here, but we all know api doesn’t run zero on hardly any reef tanks, even by year six. Adding un prepped pet store fish to the tank is the sole problem, no future testing for ammonia is needed for the life of this tank. It will remain in control as long as water stays in the tank.


time for fallow, and quarantine
 
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Well eating is a good sign.

There is something called lock jaw that fish can get. Not sure if this is part of the issue though...


This post has a video, also read post #8 as your clown sounds similar

I’d agree with this. Looks like a jaw injury due to getting in a fight with the other clown to me.
 
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Empti

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Sorry for the late responses, spoke to my LFS and said I could return the fish and he'd pop him into a quarantine tank for me in case it is something infectious.

I appreciate all the responses on cycling and yeah I've just been stressing based off the API test kit, given you guys say that I hardly even need to test for ammonia the same would go for nitrite right? I've been getting 2-5ppm nitrite readings but considering nitrates still being produced and ammonia is fine enough that shouldn't stop me from no longer dosing prime (except for use as tap water dechlorinator when I can't get RO water).
 
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I will never own either test kit, that’s how unnecessary ammonia and nitrite is to know starting day one. Nitrite is neutral in saltwater keeping start to finish, so we skip measuring it always. Ammonia can harm if left untended in a cycle, but quickly comes under control in aquatic systems and then doesn’t ever get uncontrolled unless fish dieoff happens and ammonia doesn’t cause that…hardware issues or disease always causes fish death in multiples.

that doesn’t mean I’m ignoring raw ammonia burns in the reefs we cycle either... it means we have alternate markers and measurement points for reefs that make api unnecessary at all stages start to finish

and these markers, when verified on digital testers that don’t mislead us wildly, always pass safety nh3 tolerances.

valid markers for testless reefing (cycle testless, some reefs still need calcium and alk monitoring):

-time frame: anything with feed or any type of bottle bac + 10 days wait (the ammonia drop line from a cycle chart) will carry a common starting fish bioload. Change water on day ten for a clean start, begin.

-bottle bac: any use of Dr Tims cycling bacteria, biospira or Fritz, carries fish on day one when the bacteria are added. Lots of times it says so on the label, because they’ve studied bac in bottles and have already measured ability to oxidize ammonia out of the bottle in their qa testing and logging at the factory. Some bottles are dead, but so few I’ve never seen one instance of it in any of my cycling threads. Disease is always the sole stressor, occasionally it’s bad acclimation and floating shipment bags too long killing by ammonia within the bag, not from the tank.

-visual benthic cues: any tank pic showing diatoms in the sand or rocks, or new algae growth, or new cyano, means cycled for base ammonia control. Those secondary growths come after ability to control ammonia, not before, always. Any use of live rock from another reef skip cycles the whole reef it’s transferred to, without dieoff. We can see attachments latched onto real live rock…not all cycles have to be fed bottle bac as some cycles using live rock are instant ready tanks with zero wait.

-shipped ocean rocks don’t need ammonia testing. Hand cure off all the tunicates, large algae tufts and unidentified growths likely to die off in a tank. Cure the rocks for ten days in the cleaned condition, they’ll stop leaking ammonia by then, always.

every form of cycling already has a known completion date and no cycle is ever a challenge to solve. None are mysteries, all are compliant depending on the tester we choose to believe.

see how ammonia performance is already charted for every way we can cycle? It’s why I’ll never own the tests. day ten wait is a big deal in cycle start date assessment, all cycling charts agree. Six weeks with water is beyond all known charted timing maximums by a few times over.
 
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Sorry for the late responses, spoke to my LFS and said I could return the fish and he'd pop him into a quarantine tank for me in case it is something infectious.

That's not going to help your tank, though, as removing the fish doesn't remove the risk to your tank. If you've introduced a pathogen into your build you're going to have to consider treating it, or run the risk of infecting any other fish that you put into it. You may have to go fallow if you diagnose a treatable disease or parasititc infection.
 

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