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Poorly Tetra?

Author Topic: Poorly Tetra?  (Read 1844 times)

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Offline fish-friends

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Poorly Tetra?
« on: January 12, 2017, 04:46:51 PM »
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Hi, I wondered if anyone could help me, I have four flame tetras and since yesterday one of them hasn't been swimming with his friends, he is staying near the bottom a lot and has rapid gill movement I've now also noticed he isn't eating, I've done a water test yesterday and today and according to the test everything is ok, but this little guy is not himself 😢 🐠
I've been to the pet shop to ask for advise but they just suggested aquarium salt
He doesn't have any other symptoms so i don't know how to help him?

Offline Sue

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2017, 04:58:23 PM »
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Hi fish-friends,

Did you add the salt? If you didn't, don't. Most tetras don't cope well with salt.


Are there any symptoms besides staying on the bottom and the rapid gill movement?
How long have you had the tank, and how long have you had the flame tetras?
Are there any other fish in the tank and how long have you had them?
What did you test for, and what were the readings? The only 'OK' readings for ammonia and nitrite are zero.
How often do you do water changes and how much water do you change?

The symptoms you describe are a bit too general for a certain diagnosis, a bit like us having a headache or stomach ache could be due to lots of things.

My questions will hopefully gives us more information to go on. For example, if this flame tetra also has sticking out scales, it has dropsy. If it is doing stringy poo, it could be an internal infection.
If they are new to your tank, or if you've just added new fish, the tetra could have come with a disease or a new fish could have infected it.
If the readings for ammonia and/or nitrite are above zero, and particularly if it's a new tank, these could be responsible.
If your water changes are not often enough or big enough, you could have nitrate building up in the tank, along with other things we can't test for.


If you could fill in a few details it would help greatly.

Offline fish-friends

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2017, 05:40:14 PM »
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Hi sue,
Thank you for the fast reply, I haven't added the salt because after I bought it home I looked online (which is how I found your website) and read lots of posts saying tetras do not like salt! I drove back to the store and asked them the question but they said it would be fine, I haven't added it though as so many other people say not too and you guys seem to know Your
fish!!  :fishy1:
I've just re tested and it's really hard to tell with the top two reading which are for nitrates it shows being white as 0 and pale pink as 0.5 and any other shade of pink as not ok I guess my bottom one might not be pure white it's very nearly white, I've only had the tank 3 weeks and the tetras 10 days after reading I wish I had of let the tank cycle properly first : ( again the pet shop said we would be fine, but I'm guessing we made a mistake getting the little fish too soon!
There are no other fish in the tank we did a water change Saturday my partner did the water change so not sure how much he changed, I keep looking at him but can't see any other symptoms.

Offline Sue

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2017, 07:12:40 PM »
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I think we may have an answer.

The strips you are using don't test for ammonia and that is the first thing to go up when fish are placed in an uncycled tank. Nitrite only appears once the tank has enough ammonia eating bacteria to turn the ammonia made by the fish into nitrite.

What happens is this.
Fish excrete ammonia, it is their version of urine. When there are no bacteria in an uncycled tank this ammonia builds up. It is toxic to fish, unfortunately. Gradually a species of useful bacteria grows in the tank - mainly in the filter but also on every other surface in the tank - which uses ammonia as food and turns it into nitrite. Once nitrite starts to be made that also goes up until a second species of bacteria starts to grow which uses nitrite as food and turns it into nitrate. Nitrate is only toxic at higher levels so that can build up a bit without harm. Those two words, nitrite and nitrate, are very similar and we have to be careful to talk about the right one.

The first thing you need to do straight away is a water change. Remove at least half the water and replace it with dechlorinated water warmed to roughly the same temperature as the tank water - feeling it with your hand will get it close enough. And do the same tomorrow and the day after, and the day after etc.
The next thing is to buy an ammonia tester. Liquid reagent ones with test tubes work out cheaper and you will be doing a lot of testing. If you run out of strips, get a liquid nitrite tester too (nitrite not nitrate!). When you have a tester for ammonia you will be able to determine how often you need to change the water but until you have a tester, change 50% every day. Doing these changes won't harm the fish but not changing the water if there is ammonia present will harm them.

Ammonia must be kept below 0.25 by doing water changes. Your job is to keep the ammonia level below that number by doing water changes. After a few weeks you will notice that it takes longer for the ammonia reading to go up, and soon it won't go up at all and will stay at zero. But you also need to test for nitrite at the same time. At first there will be no nitrite but as the ammonia eating bacteria start to grow they will start making nitrite. That will go up faster and faster and you will need to do water changes to keep that below 0.25 as well - even if ammonia stays low you will need to do water changes for nitrite. Then you'll realise it is taking longer for nitrite to go up and that too will eventually stay at zero. Once you have zero ammonia and zero nitrite for a week without having to do any water changes, the tank will be cycled.
However, it will take a few weeks.

After 10 days you might well have grown some ammonia eaters; enough to make a bit of nitrite. But you still need that ammonia tester to keep the fish safe.

You can also help keep the ammonia and nitrite levels slightly lower by feeding the fish every other day rather than every day.


But I have to warn you that the sickly tetra might not make it. If this does happen, don't buy another fish yet. You can get another one (or better, a total of six rather than 4) once the tank is cycled.
You don't mention the size of the tank but if it is big enough for more than just the tetras you need to add more fish a few at a time. You will have grown just enough bacteria to eat the ammonia made by the fish you have now. When there are more fish they make more ammonia so you have to grow more bacteria. Adding too many fish at one go means the bacteria would have a lot of catching up to do.




Shops in general do not tell you how to cycle a tank properly. They rarely mention fishless cycling and very few tell you what to do during fish-in cycling. As you are finding out, they often give bad advice. The first lesson of fishkeeping is don't listen to the shop. Do your own research  :)

Offline fish-friends

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2017, 09:53:52 PM »
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Wow thank you so much for all that advice! It's been very helpful! I did a water change as soon as I'd read your first reply, and I wish I had of come here before the shop & adding my fish I feel they have basic advice but if your fish do die just happy to sell you more, but I'm quite attached to my little fish already :fishy1:
I will be sad if the poorly tetra dies as it's my fault for not having enough information but I guess this is looking likely 😔 I will get a amonia test tomorrow and do the daily water changes, I wanted at least 6 Tetras and maybe a couple of other fish like a bottom feeder originally we were going to top up the tetras so they have more friends & feel happier this Saturday but now with the water not being right I will wait, it's a 55 litre tank so not that big,I got it for my son when we are in Cyprus he loves sitting really still letting the fish swim near him he calls then fish friends🐠 So I'm doing my best to learn as much as I can!! Also the feeding tip is great
I really really appreciate all your help this is a great site i wish I'd of come here first!

Offline fcmf

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2017, 11:12:14 PM »
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Welcome  :wave:

Just to add to the helpful advice above that I'm familiar with those test strips as I use them myself, as well as liquid-based ones, and I can see that you do have a nitrite reading ie 0.5 nitrite and 25 nitrates (as you suspected). With 0 nitrite, there's no mistaking that it's clear white whereas yours does have the pink tinge.

What are the dimensions of your tank? That may help us advise on future stock.

Offline fish-friends

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2017, 03:29:24 PM »
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Hey  :wave: I'm Samantha happy to have found this forum!
My tank is 40cm by 40cm by 40cm cube 55L
Yes definitely found the problem which makes me feel sad because it's my fault my shop didn't have any ammonia tests in stock so I will order one online, any recommendations would be great as I'm clearly new to all this! I feel bad I've made my little fish poorly  :fishy1:
I'm taking sue's advice above and doing a daily water change & feeding every other day I will get my water right then can add more fish to a healthy tank and yes advice on new fish will be very appreciated 😊
I also was wondering when I do get more I know you have to add them a few at a time which is why I only have four tetras and they prefer to have more in a group so if I wanted 6 tetras do they like to be in a group of 6 of the same tetras or does two different types of tetras still make a shoal?

Offline Sue

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2017, 04:40:17 PM »
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I use API testers, they can be bought singly or as a master set containing pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate for less than the price of buying them all singly. There are other makes as well, other members will be able to tell you their favourites.

Shoaling fish like tetras need to be all the same species. They live in groups of hundreds if not thousands in the wild, and all the same species within the group. Six if the minimum for shoaling species with some being better in higher numbers. Once the tank is cycled, you can get more flame tetras. If the sickly one dies, adding 3 in one go is pushing it, but as long as you are prepared to test the water daily and do water changes if there is any ammonia and/or nitrite, I would risk it. If the sickly one pulls through, getting another 2 shouldn't be any problem.
But it is good practice to monitor the water for several days after getting new fish to be on the safe side.

Being a cube does restrict your choices a bit as a cube has less horizontal swimming room than a rectangular tank - I recently closed a 50 litre tank that was 60 cm wide x 30 cm front to back, for example. So you need smallish fish that don't dash around. Fish that pootle around are better.

Have you found the Community Creator? If not, click on fish profiles in the menu bar at the top, choose flame tetras from the tetra section and scroll down to the bottom of the profile. Then just enter the tank details and click add this fish. To change the number of fish use the up and down buttons.
6 flame tetras will put you at about a third stocked. However, the website Seriously Fish reckons that with 8 to 10 flame tetras of mixed sexes you get more interesting behaviour and better colouration, another aspect of fishkeeping to consider.

You have a few weeks before you can add a second species. Have a play with the community creator in the meantime, and we can help fine tune your wish list  :)

Offline Littlefish

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2017, 06:02:42 PM »
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Hi @fish-friends   :wave:
You are not the first person who has taken advice from a fish or pet store, only to wish that they had found this site prior to purchasing fish (and you won't be the last).
I was in a similar situation with my first tank, but at least I was lucky enough to have found out about fishless cycling before I purchased fish. Unfortunately I bought fish suggested by Pets@Home, and my tank was way too small, even for the platies and danios suggested. Luckily I found this site, lurked as a guest for a considerable number of months, reading up on loads of stuff and playing with the community creator, before finally joining.
The advice and resources available here are pretty cool.  8)

Offline fish-friends

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2017, 08:50:14 PM »
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Thanks again sue, just about to do another water change it seems to be working already with the test for nitrite and I am going to order your  sugested kit for the ammonia, I'm glad I asked about the tetras because I was sure that they did have to be all the same species in a shoal but my partner said tetras are tetras glad you have confirmed this for me! More flame tetras is definitely going to be my next purchase and I will get them gradually until I have 8  :fishy1: I'm going to check out the community creator 😊
Hey little fish
Pets at home is where we went hopefully I'm not too late to save my fish!! 🐠
You are right this forum is definitely the best place for correct information and advice, I'm looking forward to being more informed and getting some friends for my fish 🐠🐠🐠😊

Offline Sue

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2017, 09:54:04 AM »
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Glad to hear your nitrite is under control  :)


Your partner is making the same mistake that lots of people do  :) Some tetras will shoal together if forced to but they are less stressed with more of the same species.

Offline Paddyc

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #11 on: January 14, 2017, 10:08:14 AM »
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My 2 cardinals (and the recently deceased 3rd one) always shoaled happily with the other neons but this is probably because I got them like that from the shop, you often find neons and cardinals together in stores. Very very similar looking which is why I think they get on...

I can vouch for larger numbers of fish helping them to relax and thrive... I got a single glowlight tetra by mistake while buying neons and until I added another 5 the single one would hide under the bogwood. Now they are all rather brave and are always out and about despite testimony that they tend to hide a lot even when they are in great numbers. My planned next addition is to double my harlequins from 8 to 16 then I will add more glowlights to see if this changes their behaviour even more...

Offline Sue

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2017, 10:14:42 AM »
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Quite right Paddy, cardinal tetras and neon tetras are both Paracheirodons so they are related. Years ago when I had cardinals, my last surviving green neon tetra shoaled with them - and green neons are also Paracheirodons.
But Paracheirodons won't shoal with Hyphessobrycon, Gymnocorymbus, Hemigrammus or any of the other tetra species.

Offline fish-friends

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2017, 03:51:12 PM »
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I've showed him your post so more flame tetras is definitely the next thing to do I've just got home from the pet shop and had my water tested the nitrite is now fine and the ammonia is coming way down I will keep the water changes going daily, I think this forum may have just saved my tank!!
Hey paddy
Yes I will be getting more to make them happier  :fishy1:  :fishy1:

Offline Paddyc

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2017, 04:01:16 PM »
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I 100% believe that the success of my own community of fish is down to research on this forum, specifically the fishless cycle process Sue wrote, even if she is quick to correct me that it is shamefully borrowed from another author.

If you haven't read my own progress thread @fish-friends , I actually moved house almost immediately after cycling my tank and adding fish. Again I have the members here to thank for helping me pull that one off... My tank ain't small!

Offline fish-friends

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Re: Poorly Tetra?
« Reply #15 on: January 14, 2017, 04:24:32 PM »
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I agree I think this site is going to make a big difference to me & my fishies 😊

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