test kit failure?

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test kit failure?

Hi All.
About five weeks ago, I moved my single goldfish from a ten gallon tank to a 29 gallon tank. It’s an Eclipse system with a bio wheel. Testing told me that both ammonia and nitrogen were at zero, so I felt safe to go and buy a second fish.
Within 24 hours, the new fish was acting stressed, hiding behind the filter system and tilted at a 45 degree angle. Tests still read perfect, but I changed about about 20% of the water to be safe. Next day, fish 2 was no better, and my first fish seemed a little agitated in his movements. I changed about another 30% of the water over a period of a number of hours.

Today things are much better. My original fish is behaving normally and the new guy is getting there.  I am going to just keep doing water changes every day. But this experience has me spooked. Both test kits (API brand) were purchased within the past six months from my local aquarium shop. Do these things sometimes just fail? It seems very clear to me that despite the readings, the water was not safe.


BTW, I removed the charcoal filter from the system a few days ago, as I remember reading here that these can sometimes seriously backfire.


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  1. Venus July 22, 2017 at 10:38 am

    Here’s a great example https://www.target.com/p/pond-boss-225-gph-pump/-/A-50928515 Love the pond boss

  2. Venus July 22, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I know just how you feel. We’ve all felt the guilt and the loss, and that’s just why I’m here

    You might find a pump at a local lawn and garden center; something like this; 200 to 300 GPH If you can get, you’ll love the basket over the intake. If you can find a cylinder sponge to fit; they slide on and off easily for rinsing. Some pumps come with sponges; a must have as they act as filters

    Leave your old filter up and running for a few months. In that time, the friendly bug colony will transfer over to the pond pump; the location is preferred by them. If you old filter has a volume control, turn it down gradually; a little bit every week. Reducing the flow encourages them to go elsewhere. If there’s no volume, fasten an aquarium safe sponge of the intake to reduce the flow

  3. Gweenie July 22, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Thank you, Venus. I will get some epsom salts and a pond pump. They sell them at the hardware store, so I can get right on it. How many GPH for my 29 gallons?

    My only concern with getting a pump and ditching the current system is getting through the cycling period again. Is their anything I can do to help establish beneficial bacteria quickly? Like rubbing the sponge in the pump against the current filter?

    Both fish are behaving very normally now.

    Thank you for all of your help. I have inadvertently killed goldfish in the past. I want these two to live out their full life cycles.

  4. Venus July 21, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    It sounds like KH is well within the comfort zone, but GH could use a little push. Pick up a bag of Epsom (no other additives) salt. Dissolve one tablespoon per 10 gallons of tank water in warm water. Premix in freshwater before a water change. Epsom is magnesium, and makes up the largest part of GH. GH is an important parameter, but at the same time, if it drops now and then; it’s not a big deal

    KH is another story, but your reading is healthy. Strips always read high. So do drops, but just not ‘as’ high

    KH gives water the ability to support oxygen. KH is responsible for alkalinity, and is a part of pH. The other part of pH is oxygen. Because your KH is high, and your pH is low, this means oxygen levels are low

    Open the entire top of your tank so the surface is exposed to fresh air. If the top has a filter connected, open the flap. Set up a fan so it skims the surface. A computer fan is fine

    Lower water temps to 64f by chilling tank water if necessary; just do your best. Goldfish use less oxygen in colder water, and until we can get the set up right, this will be beneficial

    Add a pond pump to your set up. Only a real pond pump provides the necessary action to eliminate gases from water. These gases are created from waste, and take up space keeping oxygen from entering. Until you have a pond pump, push a pitcher deep into the body of water filling it. Bring it up and pour it out; repeat 10 to 15 times or until you arms ache. This action eliminates gases from water, doing the job a pond pump does, only manually. Test pH after performing this therapy. Is it higher?

    If the pH hasn’t jumped up quite a bit, test pH in tap water. Is the tap the same as the tank water; 7. ppm? If so, you’re probably mistaken at the KH reading. If it is quite a bit higher, all you need is a pond pump to have heavily oxygenated water, and this is what all goldfish and their environments need to be healthy

    The set ups we buy at the pet shop are designed for tropical fish, not goldfish. We have to make a few adjustments if we’re to keep them in aquariums, and this means treating our aquarium more like a pond

    Let me know if you should decide to get a pond pump, and I’ll guide you. All that being said, it’s possible that removing the entire top and setting up a fan could make the difference. The gases (carbon dioxide) I was referring to, if being expelled from the water, hang out over the surface, blocking it from oxygen

    Yes, the strips aren’t easy, but practice makes perfect.

    You might contact your water department and ask for carbonate mineral readings. Then you could compare that to your reading. My guess is, yours is closer to 120 ppm than 180 ppm, that is, unless you live by the sea or if there’s a lot of limestone in your region. Both contribute to a high KH

    How is the fish now? Any more symptoms? It sounds like the fish was without oxygen for an extended time. Pet shops are notorious for bad water

  5. Gweenie July 21, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Venus.
    I got my my test kit today. I should have re-read your post before ordering and noted your recommendation about getting drops. I got the strips, and I am finding the results confusing.

    I am rather unsure about my results, especially for GH and KH. As you know, the tests change both in hue and darkness after dipping. My results aren’t a match for both, but best as I can tell, my KH is about 180 and general hardness about 120.

    PH for both aquarium and tap read- I think- 7.0.

    So from what you were saying, it sounds like the KH needs fixing?

  6. Venus July 17, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Gweenie, you did the right thing by performing the water changes. Your new fish was losing consciousness; more than likely dying. My thoughts are, the water at the pet shop was lacking in oxygen, and then being bagged was extremely stressful. It was all too much for the fish

    So no worries about impacted eggs or floating issues

    Still, let’s look at that water of yours, and see if we can figure out why the pH is so low. This fish is going to need the best water you can give

    Good job

  7. Gweenie July 17, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Yes, tilted sideways. I wrote my last response from work, and was going from the visual I had in my head- not checking. In fact, her head is up.

    Sorry for the confusion about what constitutes a floating issue.

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