Monday, May 07, 2007

A Case for Quarantine

Well, crap. Things have gone horribly awry. Shortly after my last post, I decided the aquarium was ready. It really only took about 3 weeks of cycling to reach acceptable levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrate. I was starting to develop a problem with algae on the glass, so I went to the store to pick up a couple of cleaners. I was looking for a bristlenose Ancistrus, but all anybody had was the albino variety.

A guy at the fish store pointed me toward some Blue Seam Plecos, and they were perfect. Small like a bristlenose, but jet black with tiny white dots everywhere, and white/blue edges on the fins. I got two of them. I also picked up 5 Emperor Tetras, as they were part of my original stocking plan. Also, a few new plants made it into the bag, including Dwarf Saggitaria, Ozelot Sword, Elodea (Anacharis), Cabomba, and a small Chain Sword.

I took them home, washed and planted the plants, and acclimated the fish to their new home. For a few days, everything was good. The plecos were great--munching on the driftwood, roaming about the tank, and making a small dent in the glass algae. The tetras adapted very well, occupying just about every part of the tank. A couple of days later, when I confirmed that the water was good and everyone was getting along, I picked up 4 Otocinclus to do a better job on the glass, which they did. But then, it happened.

Maybe a week after I put the newbies in, I noticed some of the Platies were "scratching" themselves on the rocks and driftwood. The next day, one of the tetras had little white spots all over him. My tank had become infested with Ich. At the same time (I don't yet know if it's related), one of my Plecos started acting very ill...just floating around, kind of listless and not anchored to anything. I found him upside-down a couple of times.

Well, I immediately changed about half the water, read what I could about Ich, and then went to the store. There, they recommended I get some Aquari-Sol to treat the Ich. I was concerned, though, that it would affect my plants and/or the Plecos. Sure enough, some people online suggested I instead use the "heat treatment" to rid my tank of the parasite. It involved raising the temperature to 86F, which I did slowly over the course of several hours. I also dropped the water level a bit to mix in more oxygen.

But, things just went downhill from there. The sick Pleco died. The next day, the other one went belly-up as well. The tetras were very stressed, so I dropped the water some more and turned the lights off. It was no use. Over the next 2 days, despite daily water changes, I lost all the tetras and an Oto.

So, I'm pretty much back where I started. I have 5 Platies, 5 Danios, and 3 Otos. And I've still got the Ich (only been treating for 4 days, but it seems to be subsiding). Everyone else looks like they will make it. I've been changing water regularly, and I'm holding the temp steady at 86 to keep the Ich from reproducing and infecting other fish. In the picture, you'll see I situated the heater in the filter outflow in order to get the temp that high.

This all really sucks. Things were going so well. My plants were growing and propagating, the fish were happy, and I was pleased. But then I brought home some fish from the store and plopped them right into my happy tank, and the parasite they brought with them ravaged everything I had spent so much time and money to set up. Alas.

So, a word to all you folks out there who have your eye on some new members for your aquarium community—buy another (small) tank and keep the new guys in quarantine at least for a few weeks. It will save you a lot of stress in the long run.