Monday, October 06, 2008

Aquarium Aliens

If it's not one thing, it's another.

A few weeks ago, my algae-eating plecostomus (that's a fish, for you non-aquarium folk) died. He was always hiding in dark spaces, so I didn't realize he'd kicked the fish-bucket until a film of algae began to cover the walls of the aquarium. I found him: a clean white pleco skeleton, skull and all still intact. Apparently, my other fish are cannibals.

The tank gunked up, and I gave it a good cleaning, and the filter gunked up, and...well, I'm not really sure what's happened, but one-by-one my fish have all been going to fish-heaven.

I came home today to note an alien life-form sitting on the rock in my aquarium. I gave it a poke with the net, and the slimy thing completely exploded, spilling its nasty guts all over the aquarium. Bad enough that the neighbors can hear me talking to my fish through the open window, but what must they have been thinking when they overheard "Hi babies, is everyone still alive in here toda...Eeeeeeeee! WHAT IN THE HELL IS THAT?!!"


On top of that, everyone was NOT still alive in there today; I'd lost two more fish. But they weren't belly-up like respectable dead fish: They were completely encapsulated by weird alien slim. Look at my poor long-lost guppy:

See? This is the stuff Steven King novels are made of!

I don't know what to do! I've sent off photos to all (1) of my knowledgable aquarium buddies, and we sit in the living room, wearing HazMat suits, waiting for a reply.

If you have any idea what in the heck has contaminated my aquarium, and what I should do about it...well, even though in the last post I blabbed about not wanting advice, I've changed my mind. Tell me what to do!



Clint just texted me to inform that the new Pleco is "DRT".

That's fireman talk for "Dead Right There."

I fear my aquarium is doomed.


  1. Anonymous3:12 AM

    Now this just after watching War of the Worlds! The end of the world is surely nigh!

  2. Do you have a snail? My sister used to have a tank and her snail kept things super clean.

    Of course, that doesn't help you right now.

    Your pics remind me of a horror film version of SpongeBob.

  3. OK, that's just shudder inducing. Watch me shudder...

    Personally I'd just dump everything and start from scratch. Oh, and get one of those fishies again - but not in skeleton form.

    I don't know a think about fish - except as sushi and I wouldn't go there with yours.

  4. Anonymous11:25 AM

    This looks like brush/beard algae. You should have a water sample tested to make sure that it's not something else. You may just need replace some water and vacuum the tank. There's also algaecide. Even fish that are supposed to eat algae - won't unless they are deprived of another food source.

  5. It is an algie and there is probibly some fungus going around too. I would drop in some algaeside. not sure how to spell that and here is a little trick you may want to try. Put a penny in the tank for a few days. It will give off a copper poison which will kill a lot of the ich that may be there. Start by cleaning that tank.

  6. I've done 1/4 water change every other day to clean it out, and the pH balance is perfect. I don't know how much cleaner I can get it--should I remove all the gravel and everything?

  7. And thanks for the penny trick!

  8. 1. Remain in HAZMAT suits
    2. Put lid on top of fish tank
    3. Carry fish tank and lid ~ whilst still wearing HAZMAT suit ~ to closest CDC office
    4. Return home
    5. Crawl under desk and hide (HAZMAT suit optional)

    At least this is what *I* would do.

  9. Tiffany2:46 PM

    Hey girl! I would take a sample of that water to Petsmart and have them test it for you. They will do that free of charge.

    Good luck!

  10. Before your mystery can be solved, it is important to know your water parameters.
    I would test ALL these parameters:
    (I also have included the recommended level for most community aquariums)
    *Ammonia/nitrites- 0
    *pH- stable (stability is the most important aspect of pH, not the actual ph scale number)
    *KH- 50 plus for pH stability
    *GH- 100 plus for ESSENTIAL minerals required for Osmoregulation
    See this article for the importance of GH, KH, and the correct concerns with pH:
    “The importance of Calcium, GH, KH, pH in aquariums”

    Next what are the fish that have had recently and still have?

    These exploding balls and “encased” dead fish appear to be decomposing organics, likely from an anaerobic condition in your aquarium.
    I would change water at about 25%, increase minerals such as calcium (Wonder Shells are excellent for this), add 1 tablespoon of salt per 5 gallons, increase circulation, and clean filter media in de-chlorinated water.

    This problem likely started with a sick fish and/or poor water conditions and likely has “snowballed”
    You may have had a Saprolegnia or Columnaris Infection in your aquarium, see this article:
    Columnaris, Fungus, Saprolegnia in aquariums

    I have been in the Aquarium maintenance and research profession for 29 years and would strongly recommend referencing many of the articles in these two sites based on their accuracy and non-anecdotal research:
    Aquarium Information
    Aquarium Answers

    I also would highly recommend this Aquarium Forum that has some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable aquarists on the internet:
    “Everything Aquatic Blog and Forum”


  11. Awwwww girl...looks like that aquarium needs an exorcism!!

    Never seen anything like that.

  12. Anonymous4:30 PM

    what I would do is dump everything out. Wash the rocks,and everything you want to keep with vinegar. Then rinse.Send the rest of the fish to fishie heaven and start over.Thats just me though. Sorry about your fish. Kelly

  13. Thanks for all of your advice!

    Kelly, I can't just send off the rest of my fish to fishie heaven (via the toilet?) I still have 3 beautiful Blackskirts, 1 headlight-taillight, and a zebra danio left, all of which I've had for a long time [considering].

    If they all slime over though, I've already decided to go with TigerBarbs next go 'round.

    We shall see.

  14. Someone sent me over here in the event that I might help you with your aquatic problems.

    First off, let me just say, I'm so sorry that these fish are adding to your stress. It sure looks as if you have a lot going on in your life right now. You're a blessing in that you care enough to try to save them. A lot of people don't.

    Let me follow that up by saying that you may very well know more than I do about aquariums and fish, and if that's so, please accept my sympathy and disregard the rest of what I'm going to say.

    -- Aquarium lights: check/change 'em. Should be done every 6 months or so.

    -- Nitrate/Nitrite levels: Especially high nitrate levels can cause algae growth. Best way to reduce those levels is what you've been doing, water changes, with gravel vacuuming. I've been known to do 75% water changes, making sure that the temperature of the water I'm putting in is consistent with what's in there.

    --Observe your fish: When you feed them is the best time. Are they all eating? Do they appear bloated? What color is their poop -- long, white stringy poop indicates an internal parasite. Treat with metranidazole (aka FishZole).
    Are their scales sticking out, do they look like a pine cone? Are they hiding in dark corners? Does their breathing appear distressed?

    --Medications: The only medications I keep are metranidazole, tetracycline & something to treat ick (aka ich). If you put the penny in the tank like greg c. suggested, i would recommend removing it. If you wanted to try something along those lines, I would recommend going with Coppersafe -- pennies are filled with zinc, which if they decompose, and they will, are not good for fish.

    I have reservations about using salt (definitely don't use table salt) in a freshwater tank, but that may be my own naivete. I know you can use Epsom salt in specific amounts to help with fish bloat (it's actually magnesium sulfate, which helps with constipation/internal parasite riddance).

    Re: your pleco... sigh... I never have been able to figure those fish out. They are the weirdest fish ever, in my opinion. half the time I think mine is dead, but he's just sleeping on his back. Soooo... yeah, I get that.

    Also, like Carl said, it sounds like something happened, a spike in one of your levels (likely nitrate) and/or a decomposing fish just contributed to it and you have mass aquarium destruction.

    Sorry if this is too overwhelming... I just understand how frustrating it can be to lose fish, and how lost one can feel when nothing seems to work.

    I presently have two fish that I've been saving since July, if you can believe that. They're still alive, though, and that's saying something.

  15. I should also note that I'm not in any way disputing or questioning Carl's advice.

    I'm merely contributing some suggestions from my own meager experience...

  16. My only advice - Don't drink the water!

  17. Okay, I admittedly didn't read all your other comments, but I'd talk to the folks at Sailfin. I haven't had experience with them in a few years, but I've been going there since I was a kid and I think they are great and know a lot. Good luck! I've been saying I want an aquarium. Now I'm not so sure. hehe


Back talk! Comment here!