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Discus three

Discus three (Photo credit: weesen)

Days 4 and 5 of parasite treatments and the sickest discus shows no progress.  I’m almost certain at this point he’ll need euthanized.  It’s a shame, but it’s obviously suffering and I just can’t take watching him die slowly.  The other fish seem much happier and their appetites are ferocious now.  The medicine has done it’s job.

On a side note, noticing the dwarf hair grass starting to go insane with growth, I decided it’s now or never on the substrate change.  I wanted white sand and all the research I had done recommends pool filter sand.  I went to my local pool shop and told the cashier I wanted WHITE.  He said I needed zeolite sand.  It is not white. . . and at $24 per bag, I wasn’t entirely pleased.  Instead of lugging the 100lbs of sand back to the pool store which was twenty blocks away, I decided to stick with what I had.  The hair grass will eventually cover the bottom anyway, so the sand color will be irrelevant.

If you’ve been following my posts at all, you’ll probably already know that I do 30-40% water changes every 2 or 3 days, vacuuming the gravel each time.  I was certain my gravel was spotless.  I cannot even begin to describe the amount of feces and waste that was still buried deep within the gravel substrate.  It was absolutely disgusting, and I will never use gravel again.

I poured about 3-4 inches of sand into the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket and I rinsed.  Oh my god did I rinse. .  AFTER AN HOUR AND A HALF IT STILL WOULD NOT COME CLEAN!!!  Deciding it MUST be sand particles floating in the water I let the bucket sit.  The water settled and cleared so I thought “YAY!” and started adding it to my aquarium (the fish have been moved to a holding container).

The early morning ritual at the Radisson SAS h...

The early morning ritual at the Radisson SAS hotel – a diver in the huge fishtank. fishy fishy fishy)&t=h See where this picture was taken. [?] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was like a drop of water had never touched the stuff before.  My aquarium looked like 90 gallons of milk.  I waited for about 2 1/2 hours before kicking my filter back on in hopes it would clear out some of the cloudiness.  This morning (about 11hrs later) it’s only improved by about 25%. . . but it’s progress.

The trumpet snails are alive and burrowing wonderfully.  I left two of the Dalmatian molly babies in the show tank during the substrate change.  There was one main reason for this…  I wanted to see the effect of the cloudy water on the fish.  The discus won’t go back in until the water is crystal clear, but at least I would know how soon to start adding the others.  The mollies are alive and fine, by the way.

I reintroduced all of the plants except the hair grass plugs.  The rest are fairly easy to just stick in the substrate… the grass requires a bit of finesse and I simply cannot see enough inside the tank at this point to do any lengthy work.  There is a slight cloud swirl when I work inside the sand bed, but it doesn’t seem to cause the overall clouding to intensify.  The plants don’t have any issues staying in the sand which is a plus…

Overall I’m glad I’m going through the hassle of the substrate change.  After seeing the debris that was caught in the gravel even after very thorough cleanings, I think this project will definitely help improve the overall health of the aquarium.

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Česky: Pitná voda - kohoutek Español: Agua potable

Česky: Pitná voda – kohoutek Español: Agua potable (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve changed my water and reapplied the PraziPro medication for the amount of water replaced.  There’s still no sign of improvement from the sick fish, but we’re only half-way through, so there’s still time.  The other fish seem more eager to eat, and have started establishing a pecking order.  I take this as a good sign.  Unfortunately, the low man on the totem pole is the sick fish.  Their bowel movements, while still somewhat stringy, are darker in color and more typical looking than before.

I’ve discovered that my tap water contains a rather high amount of nitrates (approx. 40ppm) which is high for discus fish.  Since buying an R/O unit, or purchasing R/O water, is too impractical I’m going to try using Nitrazorb.  They’re pouches you place in your filter to knock out the impurities and it’s supposed to work wonders.  Better yet, it’s reusable so I won’t be running to the store constantly to keep in stock.

I’ve been keeping the lights at half-strength but it doesn’t seem to have any effect on the sick fish.    I’ve  been feeding them 4 times a day, alternating between bloodworms and brine shrimp.

 

This morning when I woke up, I went to the aquarium and turned on the lights to wake everyone up for their morning feeding.  Much to my surprise, the darkened blue diamond actually looked blue!  Granted, it was still darker than it should be, but it’s progress.  About 10 minutes after they ate I noticed he was losing color again.  This afternoon I f0und information that would suggest discus don’t like too much light…

Jesus…  is there anything they DO like??

So at least until I notice some long-term improvement I’ll keep my lighting at half.  Fortunately I selected plants that can survive under low light conditions, so other than probably slowed growth, I shouldn’t have any issues.

I had expressed my desire to own a saltwater tank to a fellow fish blogger, but I thought it seemed terribly intimidating.  The blogger told me they thought discus were harder to care for than a reef tank, and I’m beginning to understand why.

The number of articles and websites I’ve had to pour over recently have been a bit mind numbing, and frankly that drives me even harder to keep this fish blog.  Hopefully it will be something of a one-stop-shop for information if you’re planning on trying your hand at keeping these fish.

 

God be with you, if you do.

 

Yesterday I added 3oml of PraziPro with a 30% water change/gravel vacuum in my 90 gallon tank.  Since the medicine’s instructions boldly state 7 days is all it needs, I’ll be tracking the daily progress here.  Among other things I’ll be tracking color, eye clarity, and poo.  Yes, poo.

It appears keeping discus requires you to be something of an expert in poo.  Since discovering juvenile discus need to be dewormed every 30 days, I’ve found myself darting toward the tank every time I see the event taking place.  Fortunately they all seem to relieve themselves at the same time which makes it easy to tell which animal is having issues.

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The fish in the middle is the one that has me concerned.  He’s a blue diamond, and should look like the one on the left.  Note the greyish body, dark fins and blackened eyes.  Based on the information I’ve encountered, the blackened eyes (cloud eye) can be caused by flukes, or more typically poor water conditions.  Since he’s the only one showing signs of stress and cloud eye, I feel I can safely rule out water conditions.  Some strains of discus, such as pigeon blood (pictured below), don’t generally darken to show stress, so the condition of the second blue diamond is going to be my golden compass.

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I haven’t noticed any fin clamping, but the sick one tends to be lethargic and spends most of his time hanging out at the back of the tank, or away from the group in general.

After day 1 of treatment, there are no changes.  I know it’s too quick for a cure, but since I’ve never used this stuff before I’m also watching for signs of worsened stress.  One thing I have noticed is the other fish seem to be having darker bowel movements.  I can’t be sure if this is a side effect of the medication, or the new brand of bloodworms I’ve started using which claims to be worm and parasite free.

The sick one seems to have less of an appetite than before, but I’ve read a few comments from users who say their appetites might dwindle some from the medication, so I’m not alarmed yet.  I’ll do another 30% water change in two days and, of course, treat the new water.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sponges, plastic balls, ceramic tubes and grav...

Sponges, plastic balls, ceramic tubes and gravel are all suitable for aquarium filtration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After my water has aged in my handy 35 gallon bin, it’s time to do a water change.  The instructions on the bottle of PraziPro recommends adding the medication directly to the filter box if possible.  Using a canister filter, it’s not very practical to open it up and apply the meds so I’ve shut off the water intake hose and moved it from the tank to the aging container.  This will suck the water from the container, run it through the filter, and push it into the aquarium.  Since I’m going with this particular route, I’ve medicated the water in the container for the full 90 gallons which will be distributed into the tank.

A single treatment of PraziPro left in the tank for 5-7 days is sufficient according to the directions.  It allows for treatment as necessary but no more than once every three days.  Since it gives no specific instruction on how to account for water changes, I’ll assume I will only need to replace the medication for the amount of water I’m changing out.  I’m nervous about adding more treatment at every third day, but I’m equally as nervous about not doing any water changes for 3 or more days.  We’ll see how it goes.

A shot of our 10 Gallon tank. Hopefully being ...

A shot of our 10 Gallon tank. Hopefully being used as an example of a personal water tank. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think it’s also worth mentioning that some of the information I’ve come across recommends giving juvenile discus worm/parasite treatments every 30 days.  Apparently the discus can come in contact with the parasites through their most beloved food… the bloodworm.  From what I’ve gathered, adults are generally capable of warding off or safely dealing with the parasites through their own immune systems… but as juveniles they are more susceptible.  I cannot guarantee how accurate that  information really is, but it sounds legit. . . . besides, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

I’ve also come across a bit of information that would indicate discus don’t react well to salt in their water, so starting with this water change I’m phasing salt out of the aquarium.  If this proves to be problematic, the frequency of water changes that discus require will make it easy to re-introduce salt to the tank.

At any rate, the tank has been properly medicated and now I can only sit and wait.

Wish me luck!

New Substrate

New Substrate (Photo credit: Cylindric)

I had mentioned in one of my previous posts that my dwarf hair grass, while green and lush, was not spreading.
I noticed today that two or three runners have started (little blades of grass poking up through the substrate around the plugs).  I’m not sure if it can be attributed to late blooming, or a change in the water conditions as I’ve been adjusting for discus issues, but it’s taking off like crazy.

I’ve been considering switching my substrate to sand, and it looks like if I’m going to do it, it probably needs to be sooner than later.  I’m afraid I’d have to start all over again with the plugs if the root system became too established and the spread becomes thicker.

I’ll probably continue CO2 and fertilizer treatments to keep the plants strong and healthy until I make the switch to sand.  Maybe I’ll reduce the treatments by half to keep them strong, but maybe slow growth.  My plan is to do it in a week or two after the parasite issues have been resolved. . . but if the grass starts to spread too quickly, I may transplant the fish to a holding tank and make the substrate switch.  Looking back, I very much wish I had used sand from day one.  Gravel tends to catch anything that falls, and is very difficult to keep clean which the discus don’t particularly like.  Sand is smooth, so the feces and excess food waste will glide along the bottom and pile up in a corner with the water current and wait there for you to vacuum it out.  99% of the information I’ve encountered says a cheap, simple pool-filter sand works just fine as it’s a silicate and very clean.

Aquarium rebuild photo with flash

Aquarium rebuild photo with flash (Photo credit: Mike’s…Seat related tales)

I’m going to do a little more research on eco-complete sands which are said to house bacteria that munch down the fish waste and turn it to plant food.  It sounds too good to be true.  I’m not concerned about the plants getting nutrition, (although a natural approach appeals to me more than adding chemicals to the water), but I’m very intrigued about the waste-to-food conversion.  Anything to help keep the water clean and maybe reduce water change frequency will be much appreciated by the fish as well as the caretaker.

 

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

The discus, Symphysodon spp., has been popular...

The discus, Symphysodon spp., has been popular among aquarium enthusiasts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the last few days, there are some things I’ve learned are absolute requirements for keeping discus.  The first thing, and probably the most important, is to have a quarantine/hospital tank.  Period.  There’s no way around this and if you don’t use one you are destined for difficulties.

The second most-important thing I’ve learned is – YOU MUST AGE YOUR WATER.  Again, there’s no way around this.  If you don’t have an R/O (reverse osmosis) unit or your tank is too large to reasonably purchase R/O water, you must age it.  If you go about doing the regular 50% water changes as recommended for these wonderful fish, and you don’t use R/O or age your water, you will most likely kill your livestock…  Here’s why.

Like a lot of people, I live in a large city (over 2 million) and our water is balls deep in chlorine and chloramine.  I tested the water out-of-the-tap using my API master kit, and the pH was so ridiculous, it surpassed the readout range for the high-range pH test.  It took a double dose (10 gallon treatment for 5 gallons of water) of pH reducer to even make the change in pH register on the test kit.  The pH kit maxes out at 8.8 –  It’s insane.

The pH of the aged water in my aquarium sits at about 7.2, which means there’s an overnight reduction in pH by AT LEAST 1.6 points.  I’ve found information that suggests hobbyists keep their discus in pH that ranges from 6.0 to 8.0 and they do fine.  But even if you keep a higher pH, the constant fluctuation due to regular water changes will kill… or lead to weakened immune systems and the subsequent disease will kill.  Either way, it’s lethal.

Water Colour

Water Colour (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

If you’re like me, the prospect of aging water seemed overwhelming.  With a 90 gallon tank, it seemed ridiculous to have 45 gallons of water just lying around my apartment.  I had decided it would come down to purchasing a 45 gallon fish tank simply to age my water, or keep 9, 5-gallon buckets laying around.  Both ideas seemed absurd, but since I already have the discus there didn’t seem to be much choice… until I called Midwest Reefs.

The guy on the phone recommended a large, watertight trash can.  It was pure freaking genius.  I got in my car and went to my nearest walmart and bought a 35 gallon Rubbermaid trash can.  Boom.  Water aging container.

With an aging container it’s much much easier to add treatments for chlorine, chloramine, salts, and whatever else you might need.  Stick a bubblestone in it, let it sit for 24 hours to release the chemicals from any municipal water treatments, and to allow the pH to drop to it’s natural state.  Then add your pH adjustments (if any), and add to the tank.  If your fish require a water temp higher than most room temperatures (such as discus), you’ll certainly want to add a water heater to the aging container.

Now, on to the disease with which I’m currently struggling. . . . .

Discus

Discus (Photo credit: niomix2008)

Here’s a word you need to add to your fish tank vocabulary,  “PraziPro”.  It comes highly recommended by discus enthusiasts, and covers the gamut of discus parasitic issues like, flukes, tapeworm, flatworms and turbellarians.  It’s a little pricey, but in the end it’s much cheaper than replacing your discus, (same thing goes for the hospital/quarantine tank).  Make sure you read the instructions oh so thoroughly.  That’s the third most-important thing.  Always read the directions thoroughly.  This stuff is supposed to make magic happen in about a week. . . I’ll start treatment tomorrow.  It requires a large water change before treatment, and my new water is currently aging in my handy trash bucket.  If this treatment doesn’t cure what ails him, I’ll probably end up euthanizing it.  I hate taking a life (even that of a fish), but it comes down to one simple rule… the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  It will be much cheaper to replace one discus, than to replace all four when they too become infected.

It’s All About The Discus

Symphysodon aequifasciata

Symphysodon aequifasciata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After further research and a couple forum posts at simplydiscus.com, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that parasites are the cause of the cloud eye in one of my blue diamonds.

Being internal, the parasites are more aptly handled with medicated food instead of water treatment. This proves insanely difficult since my discus snub basically everything that doesn’t rhyme with ‘bloodworm’… including the medicated food.

I was intending on feeding them a mix until they start eating the medicated stuff, but that’s obviously not going to work. I’ve decided to skip feeding for a day and then only offer them the medicine. If that fails too, I may have to look into alternative methods of treatment. I’ve read a few articles in which people have created their own medicated food using beef hearts. Apparently, beef heart is nearly irresistible to the discus.

A few people have indicated I wouldn’t have this issue had I ordered my discus from a breeder. I disagree. Though I’ve never ordered from a breeder, I prefer to see the fish and their environment before I drop $50-$75. You wouldn’t buy a car from someone just because they claim it runs great would you? I certainly wouldn’t. To me, it’s the same principle… but I guess in reality, it’s all a matter of opinion.

I was pulled back into fish keeping by a marine tank I saw in my local pet store.  I was picking up some treats for my Chihuahua and found myself lost in the small biocube sitting next to the register.  A friend of mine had recently given me their 90 gallon acrylic tank, and my imagination ran wild with the possibilities.

I began doing some research, and decided it would be far too complex and too expensive to simply play around with a saltwater setup.  Since it was the vibrant color that attracted me to saltwater, I decided to imitate the look with tropical fish.  Cichlids are incredibly colorful, but I find their body shapes a little unappealing and decided against them.

Already having the danio from my fish-in cycle, I decided another schooling fish was in order.  I went to my local pet store to browse their wares and came across some glofish tetra.  Considering my want for vibrant livestock, these seemed like an obvious choice.

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It turns out they were incredibly territorial and became aggressive toward one another.  I added a few more, hoping to blur the territorial lines but it only resulted in the new fish huddled in a corner, corralled by the current inhabitants.  I took them all back.

After all was said and done, I had accumulated 18 various danio, 6 red wag platys, 6 yellow guppies, four Dalmatian mollies, two blue dwarf gourami and 3 peppered cory cats.

In my head, I thought the Dalmatian mollies would look better, but after I added them I realized they reminded me too much of goldfish… don’t ask me why.   One of the mollies had babies.  I lost several fish in the two days afterward, and I can only assume they choked on the fry.  After the dust had settled, I lost 4 yellow guppies and 3 danio.

I had been doing a lot of research on discus.  So much research in fact, that I was starting to scare myself out of trying.  But after some deep thought I decided I just have to take the plunge, but that would mean downsizing my tank load.  I sold the remaining danio, guppies and Dalmatian mollies on craigslist.  The fry are still in the tank, but once they’re big enough to catch, they’re gone too.

I found a pet store specializing in fish geared toward the hardcore hobbyist with a huge supply of discus.  Everything I had read online suggested straying from pet stores to buy discus, but these were in extremely good condition and the tanks were pristine.  I bought three.

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The discus are actually what inspired me to start this fish journal.  The greatly varied opinions online are confusing and intimidating.  This will be my step-by-step trial and error.  As it turns out, we’ve hit a possible bump already.  I’ve noticed one of the discus has cloud eye.  The other two are fine, and from what I’ve gathered on the computer webs, cloud eye can be brought on by stress, poor water conditions, or worse, parasites/infection.

Eek.

It Begins

I’ve kept fish for most of my life.  I won my first goldfish at a carnival in 1987 when I was a wee lad of 5, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  Within the past 5 years, becoming bored with the ease of goldfish, I started dabbling with tropical fish.  My first attempt was angelfish and some diamond barbs.  I failed, but it was only because I didn’t put enough effort into the task to be quite honest.  Moving from goldfish to anything else can be a challenge in the beginning.  The routine requires much more attention.  When I moved into a much smaller apartment, I was forced to get rid of my tank and surviving fish due to space and weight restrictions.  Well now I’m back at it, and daddy’s got a brand new bag.

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Let’s talk about my tank.  It’s a 90 gallon Clear For Life acrylic tank with a blue background.  I prefer acrylic simply because it’s lighter than glass and reduces the weight of the overall setup… not by much, mind you… but every little bit helps.  I use an Eheim Professionel canister filter and a 500gph power-head for water circulation and surface disruption.  This isn’t a marine tank, so a strong current isn’t necessary but you don’t want dead spots forming in the tank (i.e. the water next to the heater is the correct temp, but the water on the other side of the tank is cooler), so a power-head is a plus in a larger tank in my humble opinion… not to mention, the fish seem to thoroughly enjoy playing in the mild currents.  I imagine it feels like a gentle breeze, and who doesn’t like a breeze?

For heat, I’m using a 250w fully submersible heater set to the tune of 87F.  This seems to keep the overall temp at around 80-82.
I set up my tank initially using some zebra danio for a fish-in cycle.  I don’t recommend this after having tried it myself.  It’s just as stressful for the caretaker as it is for the fish, and it’s much easier for things to go wrong.  For example, during my fish-in cycle process I developed a nasty outbreak of ich.  It most likely came from the pet store, but the harsh water conditions didn’t help… and your treatment options are limited because you don’t want to disrupt the bacteria cycle.  I also developed a few separate issues as a direct result of stressed fish in poor water conditions, which can be very difficult to reverse.  Moral of story… don’t do fish-in cycles.  Don’t do it.

Once the water stabilized and the ich was fully eradicated, I began adding fish.  My original plan was for a community tank, but my ADD couldn’t resist and took over the project which has taken more turns than Anne Heche on hiatus.  For this reason, I’ll discuss the fish in separate posts… right now I’ll try to stay focused on the aquarium itself.

My tank is graveled and planted.  I would call it a medium-density setup, but most of the plants are faux.  Toward the end of my cycle process I began adding live plants to replace the faux.  I’ve added a dozen plugs of dwarf hairgrass in hopes it will carpet the tank.  It’s growing like a weed, (pardon the expression), but doesn’t seem to be spreading.  I add fertilizer once a week and do CO2 injections about every third day.  The directions say daily is okay, but I don’t like adding crap to my water if I can avoid it.  Once I’m confident the plants are well rooted and growing, I’ll phase out the carbon injections entirely.  I always advocate a planted tank because it helps complete the chemical food chain found in natural waters.  They’re honestly not that difficult to keep, there are a decent variety that grow in plain ol’ gravel, and your fish will thank you for it.  If you had to live in a glass box for the rest of your life, wouldn’t you be much happier if you could sit in the grass under a tree?  Exactly.

 

I’ve also added some anubias nana, some wisteria, and Kyoto grass for the background.  It’s pretty sweet.

The tank is kept in a basement, so it gets next-to-zero natural light so I have two light fixtures set up, one with four metal-halide lights and another fixture with four acitinic lights.  I alternate lights to simulate local weather patterns.  If it’s bright and sunny, I kick on all the lights.  If it’s dark and overcast, I only kick on one or two.  I don’t know if this has any effect on the aquarium, but it looks cool.  I assume since light doesn’t occur with the same intensity in the wild day after day after day after day, neither should my aquarium.  It seems reasonable to me that simulating a natural environment as accurately as possible can only benefit the inhabitants. . . but that’s just my opinion.

Before I forget, I should mention that I use freshwater aquarium salt in my water.  It helps prevent a lot of the diseases that require medication, and helps boost the general health of the fish.  Salt doesn’t evaporate, so you should only add salt with your water changes.  If you change out 20 gallons of water, add salt for only the 20 gallons of new water.

If you’re terribly new at fish keeping altogether, I’ll post a separate section talking about bacteria cycles, why it must happen, and what to expect during the process.