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Hyposalinity killed my Fish??

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I bought a blue hippo tang about three weeks ago. It apparently was infected with ich. At that point I did not have a quarantine tank (I know, I know. Don't start with the elitist comments. I'm still learning from my mistakes). The fish had been in the LFS for several weeks already. It had been thriving in my display tank and was eating vigorously. About two weeks after I bought it the salt grain looking white spots started showing up on that fish and several others. I set up a quarantine tank at that time (with an old 20 gallon used for freshwater in the past). I used water and crushed coral from my tank to jump start the cycling process.
I elected to wait while the fish was still vigorous for a week. On Sunday I put all my fish (the hippo with a yellow tang, two sebae clowns, a six-line and a strawberry pseudochromis) while they were all reasonably healthy; the white spots seemed to go away then recurred but only about two dozen spots on the hippo which had the infection the worst). The next day the fish were still vigorous and ate well. By Monday evening the pseudochromis seemed to start lying around. By Tuesday it had died and more fish became lethargic. This am my six-line died and the other fish are gasping and lying on their sides. What did I do wrong??
I had been gradually bringing the salinity down (usually removing five gallons at a time and then adding 1 gallon back hourly of premixed aerated preheated saltwater with a specific gravity of 1.010. The specific gravity Monday was down to around 1.017. I am measuring specific gravity with a floating hydrometer and have a refractometer on order and didn't want to shock the fish as long as they were reasonably healthy going into the tank.
By Tuesday I have started 25% water changes twice daily as my nitrites became detectable. Now my parameters are as follows:
Temp 80
pH 8.2
Alkalinity normal
Ammonia - 0
Nitrites - 0.2
Nitrates - 20
Specific Gravity - 1.014
I am doing water changes frequently to try to save the fish that are left but my premixed water is gone so I will not be able to add aged water. What did I do wrong? My wife is mad at me that I even tried to treat the ich as she didn't even think the fish were sick.
What did I do wrong? Did hyposalinity kill my fish???
post #2 of 17
very sorry for your loss...what probably happened was that there was a small cycle in the 20gal with the introduction of the fish (which is why you have nitrites a fully cycled tank has no ammonia or nitrites). this put stress on the fish and combined with being moved into a smaller tank casued some fatalities.
obviously hindsight is 20/20 but i would have performed hypo in the display and put all the inverts and LR in the 20gal.
that is what i had to do when ich broke out in my fish were too large for my 55gal QT
Hopefully the rest of your fish pull through
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
I figured that I had a cycle. Is there anything except water changes which might save the other fish?
Does hyposalinity kill off bacteria that build up with a cycle?
Obviously hyposalinity kills off ich, I assumed that bacterial growth would also be inhibited so you never get a fully cycled tank. Otherwise I might have waited until the fish actually looked sick. Am I correct on this?
I planned on using this tank for a quarantine tank after this cycle. I am planning on not subjecting future fish to hyposalinity on a precautionary basis and am more likely to use copper (even though it my be an immunosuppressive agent).
I am still wondering if I did the hyposalinity correctly? Did I miss anything?
post #4 of 17
Hyposalinity is actually a benefit to sick fish. It does not effect bacteria.

Also, so many fish in a smaller tank would be extremely stressful, thus I would say that that would have had something to do with the deaths as well as the cycle.
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your reply. The hyposalinity didn't help these fish! I had read previous posts recommending frequent water changes to make up for the uncycled tank. I will be doing another water change soon to lower the nitrites.
Do I continue the hyposalinity? Should I continue to lower the specific gravity or leave it the same until the fish recover from nitrites? Putting the fish back into the reef tank is probably not an option and it would take a while to get the salinity back up again. I don't think that 120 pounds of live rock would even fit into the 20 gallon tank. I am hoping that the display tank will be much healthier without ich in it and that this will never happen again. I have an order with on line for invertebrates to upgrade the display tank while the fish are gone. I am planning on not feeding the fish until they are swimming around again.
Since my last post the yellow tang and the larger clownfish have died but the blue tang (allegedly the "sickest" fish) and the smaller clownfish are swimming around again. At this time I will only have about 4 inches of fish in the 20 gallon tank. If the only mistake I made with this tank was putting too many fish in the tank I would hope that these two will survive.
post #6 of 17
First of all sorry about your loss.

As I understand it you put a blue hippo tang into a tank with a yellow tang. And about two weeks later the hippo started developing spots and then the other fish. What may have happened is the existing yellow was territorial and harassing the blue hippo. That weakened the hippo and started the ich outbreak.

Perhaps someone can comment on this analysis and what might have been the best method of prevention.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Both tangs were introduced at the same time. They got along together great and would often cruise along together picking at the live rock together. The blue tang would occasionally be chased by the pseudochromis but it usually only chased the six-line. The salesperson had told me that the blue tang had gotten over a case of ich (I hadn't researched it much at the time) but was very vigorous (he ate flake food in the store ) and recommended just feeding it well and it would get over the infection. He told me that he had another blue tang from the same shipment which had gotten over ich 4 times??? (I am assuming he was referring to phases of an ich infection). The yellow tang had had a few spots during the week that I just observed the infection and fed garlic-soaked food but it seemed to go over to the cleaner shrimp often and was minimally infected. I also remember seeing the blue tang scratch itself on rocks about two days before I saw the spots.
Can fish shake ich by themselves? Should I have waited until the hospital tank had cycled more completely?
I know I should not have introduced the fish into the tank without a quarantine. I also know that there were probably too many fish in the tank (13 inches in a 20 gallon). However but at this point I feel that the treatment (hyposalinity/hospital tanks) was worse than the disease. In the future, I'm not sure what to do if a quarantined fish gets ich? :confused: The people at the LFS told me to just care for the fish well and they would get over it. Acting on the advise of this board I probably killed the fish.
I don't trust hyposalinity. Won't I have to change water frequently during the quarantine procedure? I am allowing some bacteria to grow on the crushed coral and in my cannister filter which Beth seems to think will propagate in the midst of salinity changes but nitrites may develop again.
post #8 of 17
Get yourself some beneficial bacteria you can put in there. Here in Raleigh it's called biozyme. I think Cycle will do it too. Just make sure its for saltwater. It will help to add nitrogen bacterias to the water and clear up the nitrite problem you may be having. Don't know if you know but ammonia will burn a fish and nitrites mess up their breathing. Large PH swings will also cause stress in a fish, which may have happened as well during the cycle. Thats my guess as to why the fish were being lethargic and breathing hard
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the suggestion.
I don't think that I will be able to get anything like that as I cannot leave the county until the weekend after next as I have to available for obstetrics. I order a lot online and will look that product up but I suspect the cycling would be finished by the time that could get here. I think the nitrites could explain the symptoms. I'm just surprised considering I was changing the water frequently and only gradually dropping the salinity. pH never changed (probably from the crushed coral which I intentionally left in both for the beneficial bacteria (from my existing tank) and for the buffering).
This evening the surviving clownfish and blue tang are both much more active and do not appear to be breathing rapidly. They are not back to normal activity, especially the blue tang who is staying in a corner halfway up the side with his head down. Nitrites are still detectable but I have done a 25% water change this evening and will do another one before bedtime and in the morning before work. Other parameters are stable although my specific gravity is down to 1.013.
post #10 of 17
Well you did the right thing by hypo but puting 6 fish in a 20 will do it. Water changes can only hope to slow down the inevitable unless you did maybe twice a day. You had some massive fish as well in the tank and sebaes, all 4 being the equivalent mass wise to 4 or 5 times the size of your purple pseudo that died.... So that can do it. It is also possible for them to live through it but odds are not all of them can make it....
post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
I guess that overcrowding is much more toxic then ich. I knew that that was a risk and was hoping water changes would alleviate that. I am surprised at how fast the fish went downhill, being fine the morning after transition and 4/6 fish being dead within 2 days after that in spite of the equivalent of a 100% water change during this time. I hope to never have this problem again, but if I do I will not treat any fish unless I had had one death or the fish showed obvious signs of distress.
I think that reading this forum made me scared enough to treat a mild outbreak. I had tried to do the best I could and feel frustrated because I had my first losses (no prior fish deaths) by attempting to treat a disease that the fish may have been able to keep under check.
I am still looking for suggestions as to what to do now with my two remaining fish. They are looking more vigorous and both of them actually ate a tiny amount of flake food I put in tonight!:)
Would you continue hypo? There are no spots on the tang even though I haven't even got the specific gravity down to 1.009 yet.
post #12 of 17
Yes follow the hypo regime to the T or the ich will come back. Ich is persistant. You need a solid backbone of cultured bacteria to absorb the waste produced by all those fish not to mention whatever food gets to the bottom of the tank will rot and add on to the problem. It can all happen within a day and water changes only delay the inevitable.
post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the reply.
Are you still saying I have too many fish? I only have the two fish left, each being only two inches long. I had been following the rule of 1 inch of fish for every four gallons of water until the tank had been in operation for over a year at which you could gradually increase to 1 inch for every 2 gallons. I realize that the new tank is not finished cycling so any fish may be too much but I can't do anything about that now. The FAQ post by Beth never mentions any rules for how many fish/gallon or that the tank had to cycle first. This was the "largest tank available" and I thought that treatment would be better than watching fish die in the tank. I had been expecting one or two fish to die but to nearly lose all of them seemed excessive.
why is hyposalinity pushed so much on this forum but not many other places? Even you are saying that if I don't follow hypo to the T, it may not work. The only situation that I can envision that using hypo with a smaller quarantine tank would be effective would be if most of your fish had died already so your fish per gallon was smaller. So if there is only a mild case of ich in a display tank, I would recommend trying something mild like KichIch or garlic even if its cure rate is lower.
One of the previous threads that I read was from someone who worked in a fish store who figured that over 90% of his fish were infected with ich. Do you do hypo on every incoming fish?
post #14 of 17
On top of the amonia stress, they probably died from too many fish taking up all the dissolved oxygen in the tank. Lesley
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your reply. I have a large cannister filter moving over 100 gallons per hour but that may be on the low side.

This morning the two remaining fish are looking much better. They are swimming around more and ate well (only a tiny amount given but was eaten quickly). The hippo tang still likes to hang in the corner with her head down but I realize that she thinks she is hiding as this spot is near the top of the heater. It slept in one of the PVC pipes last night but went back to her spot in the corner this morning. It was nice to see it race over and steal one of the food fragments from the clownfish.

I have still been adding ~1.010 water and now the tank is down to 1.012. My refractometer should be coming today or tomorrow and I will bring it down the last bit when that comes. I am doing another 25% water change this am and will do another tonight. Any other suggestions regarding what to do now?
post #16 of 17
with ich they multiply rapidly, once you see them on your fish you have to move rapidly or all of your fish will die . you wont even see them on the other fish the free floaters attach to gills and soffocate them. i did the same thing you did set up a qt out of a 10 gl tank used cc and water out of display and dead coral with algae onit put in a juvi hippo and a coral beauty that had ick on them and brought salinity down in 48 hours watching close eye on ph. its been over 2 weeks and they are doing great , yes people will say my qt is way to small but with coral in it they are happy to hide and swim around and in it. the key is giving them structure. refractometr is a must. the bottom line is act fast dont wait . you hear this all the time ( i saw spots on fish then they went away ). they never go away by themself, just reproducing to do in the rest of the fish. yes test qt water after salinity is brought down daily. i am a newby less than 1 year in saltwater , i never immagined how much there is to learn in this hobby compared to freshwater. also make salinity lower by removing tank water and adding buffered r/o water no salt in and use air stone that way your changing out less of the aged water and killing off ich faster , 48 hours max time to 1.009 your fish should have lasted a little longer with all that water change out which makes me think that their gills wre covered more than that of a water quality issue which an air stone i think would have helped alot. could be wrong thats how we learn.
post #17 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your reply.
I am aware that ich can spread rapidly which is what scared me into acting when I did. However if the fish are otherwise healthy it seems that they can keep it in check for a while. I am thinking that I could have waited a month until the hospital tank was cycled before beginning treatment.
If nitrites were the only problem that killed my fish why would one of my clownfish be one of the fish to die and not the hippo tang? I thought that clownfish were relatively nitrite tolerant and can survive a cycling tank.
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