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Witnessing a Natural Death???

mark4785

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4 Jan 2011
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Derbyshire, UK.
Exactly 1 year and 3 months ago, I purchased a Mikrogeophagus Ramirezi (German Blue Ram) from an aquatic store. At the time the fish looked as though it was around a year old which means that, at present, it's age could be 2 years and several months old. As some of you may know, the life span of a GBR is around 3 years so given that my GBR is demonstrating very different behaviour, I am quite concerned that he may be in the process of dieing naturally.

The behaviourally change has involved listlessness; he is sat on the substrate (still very colourful) and has a lack of appetite. Some days his mouth opens and closes very quickly and the gill rate can also be affected.

I recently discovered that the nitrate level in my planted tank had snuck to over 80 ppm so to rule out depletion of oxygen in the fishs' blood (induced by nitrate toxicity) I did a 50% water change. This helped reduce the gill rate, however his behaviour is still as described above.

Before conducting the water change, I applied Kusuri Wormer Plus (contains Flubendazole), presuming there were gill flukes that are causing the increased respiration, and this seemed to have no effect. I normally associated rubbing/flicking with a gill fluke problem and he has NOT once done any of this, although I have witnessed some 'yawning'.

I have a dilemma on my hands at the moment; am I witnessing a natural death or has the high nitrate level caused opportunistic parasites to affect the functioning of the gills? I have had the planted tank for over a year now and, based on advice given on this very forum, cichlids such as Discus are supposedly able to withstand nitrate levels above 150 ppm in a planted tank environment so I'm very reluctant to blame the nitrates on the gill issue.

One thing I ought to mention is that I am currently dealing with a definite gill fluke issue in a separate tank which has it's own equipment (i.e. syphon, buckets etc) so the likelihood of the flukes contaminating the tank containing the GBR is very low.

Any input would definitely help me in terms of de-stressing!

Mark.
 

tyrophagus

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You need to remove the fish to an isolation tank. Buy a cheap 30cm cube and filter. Do daily water changes at first while the filter stabilises. Best to preload with material from current filter.

If high nitrates or other water parameters are to blame you can eliminate them this way. It also allows you to treat him in isolation.

Ideally he needs a gill biopsy.
 

George Farmer

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Tom Barr appears to have no issues with high nitrates and apparently sensitive fish using EI, so I guess you shouldn't either. Of course, if the high nitrates were a result of organic build-up via poor maintenance etc. then it's a different story.

I would follow the excellent advice from tyrophagus.

All the best,
George
 

mark4785

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Derbyshire, UK.
Re: Re:

Tom said:
tyrophagus said:
Ideally he needs a gill biopsy.

Yep, a gill scrape would be the best way for diagnosis, but you might struggle on a live fish. You'd then view your sample under a scope to check for flukes.

Tom

Well I inspected him and the gill rate is back to normal. I nevertheless did a 50% water change has I found that the total ammonia level was 0.25 ppm and the nitrate was around 80ppm. I believe dieing ramshorn snails are introducing ammonia into the tank; I have removed as many of these by hand as possible. I'm not sure if the Flubendazole ingredient in the Kusuri product will have killed all of them at once (hopefully not).

I put 3 times as much de-chlorinater in the tap water so as to protect the gills (the stuff contains chemicals that aid with this). After filling the tank back up I found that the gill rate had further decreased which I'm happy about!

According to my Seachem free-ammonia indicator, there is a concentration of 0ppm so the Total Ammonia test kit by API may be showing 0.25ppm as a respresentation of the less deadly ammonium. I am lowering the temperature and PH to ensure that ammonium concentration to ammonia takes precedence.

I will continue to remove snails and do many W/C's as there should be no form of ammonia in the water since I am relying on nitrate as a fertiliser instead of ammonium; I'm very confident that there is no flukes in the tank at THIS STAGE.
 

mark4785

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Re:

tyrophagus said:
You need to remove the fish to an isolation tank. Buy a cheap 30cm cube and filter. Do daily water changes at first while the filter stabilises. Best to preload with material from current filter.

If high nitrates or other water parameters are to blame you can eliminate them this way. It also allows you to treat him in isolation.

Ideally he needs a gill biopsy.

I do have a microscope but I'll only remove him for a scrape if the problem I've described continues after the total ammonia and nitrate are back to reasonable levels. As mentioned, gill rate is back to normal for now.

Edit: What will a gill fluke resemble if I was required to look for it through a microscope? I have some books that illustrate what it should look like but I'd like a second resource.
 

mark4785

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Update: The GBR's gill rate is still normal. He is starting to move around to different areas of the tank so the listlessness is improving. Still no rubbing/flicking etc.

The total ammonia (TA) level is still 0.25 ppm (virtually none of it is ammonia; just ammonium). I've been scooping up many many dieing ramshorn snails with a toothbrush; I'm confident this is the source of the high TA readings.

So in order to remove the TA i'm relying on the plants; I've given them c02 and Easycarbo after 1 day of darkness which usually induces a growth spurt. They do need TA and Nitrate to grow so I'm hoping that the plants will do their bit to remove the TA. If not, I will have to continue doing water changes together with blacking out the tank as the plants will begin to contribute to the TA without ample c02 and nutrients.

Mark.
 

mark4785

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Update: Total ammonia is still 0.25 ppm but all of it must be ammonium otherwise I'm sure the fish wouldn't be smiling.

I've done 4 W/C's to get my nitrate level down from 120+ ppm to 20 ppm and the GBR's behaviour and appetite has returned to normal. This is proof that nitrate-poisoning was the cause and that there is a ceiling/limit which you can hit with regards to nitrate concentration.

As a result of the nitrate issue, every time I dose nitrate as part of my EI regime, I'm going to test the water as I don't want a repeat of this problem.

I think in all honesty, most of the nitrate was converted from Ammonia and nitrite due to ramshorn snails decaying but the EI ferts exacerbated this.

Mark.
 

Johno2090

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I'd be very surprised if it was Nitrate poisoning. If anything it would be the Nitrite that leads to the high Nitrate levels that caused the gasping and loss of appetite.....
 

mark4785

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Johno2090 said:
I'd be very surprised if it was Nitrate poisoning. If anything it would be the Nitrite that leads to the high Nitrate levels that caused the gasping and loss of appetite.....

Nitrite was at 0 ppm at the time of gasping/loss of appetite.
 

Johno2090

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mark4785 said:
Johno2090 said:
I'd be very surprised if it was Nitrate poisoning. If anything it would be the Nitrite that leads to the high Nitrate levels that caused the gasping and loss of appetite.....

Nitrite was at 0 ppm at the time of gasping/loss of appetite.

And we all know how reliable test kits are! Lol
 

mark4785

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Johno2090 said:
mark4785 said:
Johno2090 said:
I'd be very surprised if it was Nitrate poisoning. If anything it would be the Nitrite that leads to the high Nitrate levels that caused the gasping and loss of appetite.....

Nitrite was at 0 ppm at the time of gasping/loss of appetite.

And we all know how reliable test kits are! Lol

I use the nitrite test kit by API. It's extremely reliable. I wouldn't knock it to be honest.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I use the nitrite test kit by API. It's extremely reliable. I wouldn't knock it to be honest.
Nitrite is easier to measure than ammonia/ammonium, and test kits can measure nitrite at low ppm values to some degree. They need to use the "colorimetric method", "requiring the addition of NED dihydrochlorite reagent to a filtered sample to produce a colored azo dye that can be measured photometrically."

I still wouldn't recommend tests, unfortunately unless you have enough ammonia or nitrite to kill all your stock, these are all fairly meaningless values.

cheers Darrel
 

Fred Dulley

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mark4785 said:
I've done 4 W/C's to get my nitrate level down from 120+ ppm to 20 ppm and the GBR's behaviour and appetite has returned to normal. This is proof that nitrate-poisoning was the cause and that there is a ceiling/limit which you can hit with regards to nitrate concentration.

No it doesn't. It doesn't prove that nitrate was the problem at all.
I agree that at some point a toxicity level will be reached and studies have been done before. Fish (dont remember the species) showed ill signs at 400ppm or near about. Shrimp 120ppm.

1. Nitrate test kits are utter rubbish. If they were always 50ppm out from the real value then we could accomidate but they're not! They are inconsistenly innaccurate. From liquid test kits, you have no idea what the nitrate level is therefore in no position to conclude.

2. Water changes dont just lower nitrates. They remove lots of nasties.

It's this sort of false, unproved, missassociations that lead people to fear nitrate.
 

AndyOx

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Just a quick reply, it is nitrites that suffocate fish NOT nitrates. Nitrites are for fish what carbon monoxide is for us in terms of oxygen transportation :)
Good luck with the ram tho
 
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