emergency goldfish deaths/water parameters ok?

mazelaSeptember 3, 2010

help help help...

Iam from australia, and here it is just spring.Just for background our winter temps are day temps 73 and overnight 42.

summer here can be 100 degrees easy. at the moment we have come out of coldish(for us) straight to 85.

I have a 1320 gallon pond that has has been up & going for a year now.lots of pond plants (on top as well as below the water)

a large outside biofilter a uv light. & a fountain as well.

never had any major problems till recently

.tested ph (6.5)no ammonia no nitrates.i have had 4 large deepbodied fancies die over the last month or so. listless behaviour followed by death about a week later, no obvious outward signs. parasites I thought. am in the middle of treating them with jungle antiparasite medicated food.

I for the first time just added plain non iodised salt to the pond on recomendation of a pet shop. HELP , will it kill all my waterplants(not told about this) I have added dissolved in a bucket of water 1kg to 1320 gallons of water.

I have also one fish that is swimming sideways but eating @ darting away when trying to catch it.

I was convinced that i had water quality issues but according to the tests,no. maybe a little low on the ph (but it was in the morning)Iam planning to add to few limestone rocks if the ph continues to test 6.5. iam told that will bring it up.

question. will the salt kill all my waterplants.(eel grass, water lillies)? really haven't got anywhere else to put them.

keep going with the parasite food?

what else could this be , have one sick at the moment. or are they just dud fish , mind you have had most of these fish for a few years, why now

its so depressing, i have spent so much time on the internet researching what it could be , so many symptoms could be so many similar thing.I am exhausted & confused.

I have never had many problems with my ponds (occasional deaths , no symptoms, only one dropsy case)hence water quality question) going back years

please advice if you can.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mazela, First, your question about the salt. Can't recall whether you're on the U.K. gallon or your 1320 refers to U.S. gallon. Doesn't matter too much, however, your salt dosage is much less than 0.1% so I'd be fairly comfortable with saying your plants and fish will have no problem with that level. In fact, if necessary you should be able to increase it significantly without any problem. Your pH is rather low. Given that it is a morning reading what is your afternoon value? And more importantly, what is your alkalinity reading? To be on the safe side, start adding a bit of baking soda (it's actually sodium bicarbonate). I'd start out with adding 1 cup, wait 15 minutes to an hour or so for it to distribute in you pond (pour it in by the water entry point to your pond) then add another cup. Check your alkalinity first before you start this...but you want to get it up to around 80 mg/L. This should help balance out your pH (it will read right about 8.3 when you're done). See if that helps. And, no, it won't hurt the fish or your plants at that pH. Not sure what is wrong with the fish but get your pH and alkalinity straightened out first.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 10:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

thanks for a speedy response.
firstly i converted our litres to gallons . it is 1320 us gallons. thanks for a positive answer (i needed one) on the salt.
some say, do not add any salt at all. what says you on that...
afternoon ph test is 7

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 12:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hi all again.
tested my water for alkinility. tested at 40 too low just like the ph. adding some bicarb as suggested & a bit more salt.
will keep adding bicarb until tests 80 and the ph is up to approx 8. what do you think about adding a piece of limestone under the waterfall, helpful or not.
then wait till morning. test again. and maybe some more joyful times. also did a 25 % water change this afternoon & vacumed the bottom of pond. was not too bad at all. also read an article from buried in this forum on alkinility

found it helpful to understand a few things, had no idea, learning still after 12 years of having goldfish.
will keep posting on updates.(by the way the sick one died)arggh

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 4:01AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sorry about the loss of your fish! Adding a piece of limestone under your waterfall is fine. It will add calcium and a bit of alkalinity as it dissolves...and it will do it slowly. The baking soda/sodium bicarbonate is great for fast correction of alkalinity. The limestone won't do too much come cool weather since the rate at which it goes into solution is temperature as well as pH dependent. Also, not sure what type of pH check you're using. If you are using pH strips you may want to use one of the systems using drops instead - they're more accurate and don't have the shelf life issues which are a problem for the strips.
As to the salt issue: if you check the various websites devoted to fish health -- ones where they are getting expert opinions from veterinarians -- you'll find that salt is usually one of the first things they will recommend you use to help your fish. Levels I've seen recommended are as high as 0.3% although 0.1% is more typical and these levels are not held there for a terribly long time maybe a couple of weeks. For your pond - (thanks for the clarification on which units you were using) - this means you could easily go as high as 7 kilograms of non-iodized salt with no adverse effects on the majority of the plants most folks use in their ponds.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 8:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The first thing I would look for as far as fish death would be parasites. As far as the salt goes the levels that you are going to have to stay with for the plants it is not going to do much for the fish. So I would think about scraping fish and looking at the slides under a microscope. Are the fish showing any other signs besides death?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2010 at 9:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hi everyone who is following my tale of woe
today is Sunday here. have put a total of 3 cups of bicarb in the pond to bring it up to approx 8 on the pH drop test. (brand new yesterday) i did take note that test strips were not as accurate..
now the alkalinity approx 120 ( probably that extra cup)
and have put 3 pieces of limestone in under the fountain..
ammonia 0 & nitrate 0..
i must say whether it is me being hopeful or it just is, all the fishes seem to be happier, in as more normal mooching around, picking at things goldfish behavior.

by the way, should i add salt regularly or just add when i think i have a problem.I would think that one should not add it regularly but i would defer to the wisdom of others.
I will keep on with the parasite food I think it would be wise.
As to the last question, no, no other symptoms other than death, I have now got anti-parasite food from the good old USA.
In australia nobody seems to medicate their fish for internal parasites regularly, we only have tablets that you can put in the water, but to do a pond of my humble size it would cost 120 Au dollars once a year.
I now intend to do this twice a year.
As an update, one fish i had that seemed to have a slight balance problem in the water is all good with that.
my new mantra is now.. water quality... water quality... water quality.
i never realized that i should have to test for water hardness,
i am hoping all is good now in water-world.
I will keep an update going for awhile, and keep testing till it all settles. i hope this is the end to my problems.

thanks for the advice given

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 3:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don't worry about the amount if salt you added. It's not enough to hurt anything. If it were *my* pond, I'd bump it way up. maybe take out the sensitive plants for the salt treatment time to be safe.

You mentioned you checked pH, ammonia and nitrates. What about *nitrites*?

Parasites could be a possibility. As your fish are coming out of winter, so would parasites. My advice would be to get your fish scraped to see what your dealing with before adding random medications.

In any case, check your nitrites. The behavior you describe is similar to how fish with nitrite-poisoning behave.

Best of luck!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 3:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hi fish guru.
looks like its off to the pet shop again. tomorrow for a nitrite test kit. cannot answer your question yet,
so now i have a ammonia drop test kit
a nitrate drop test kit
a ph drop test kit
a alkalinity drop test kit.
QUESTION/ Can you have no ammonia, no nitrates and high nitrites?
what about the nitrates? none there either?
QUESTION 2/what do people think about regularly adding salt, is it done when there is a problem or every time there is a water change.?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 5:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would not add salt regularly. Salt is somewhat of a general panacea for a number of ills but don't add what you don't need. You mentioned you were "measuring hardness"...I think you meant you are measuring alkalinity. They are not the same thing. It is possible to measure for hardness but I personally don't bother.
As to your ammonia/nitrate/nitrite question. Nitrites are considered to be an intermediate step in the oxidation of ammonia to nitrate based on the conventional bacteria involved: nitrosomonas and nitrobacter. However, studies in recent years have indicated there are several bacterial groups involved some of which appear to be able to take ammonia directly over to nitrate. I would be highly surprised if you found any significant nitrate present given your other parameters. But the presence of nitrite is worth checking specially, as mentioned by fishguru, if you are seeing symptoms which may be related to nitrites.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 7:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

this article seemed helpful.
i probably did not have to buy the nitrate test as it seems on reading this article nitrate is largely non toxic to the fish as its the last parameter in the water cycle.
the hardness i am referring to is carbonate hardness , when tested mine was 30, a bit low as it seems it should be 80-120.
i have since added the limestone to help buffer out the ph and add a bit of calcium to help the plants, bio filter and fish to do well.never knew i had to do that.
so since it is an established pond ( 1 year old)
the basic tests i should be doing are
PH test
nitrite test
ammonia test
would that be ok ( i have become in 2 days a water testing nut )
mind you i have now an kh carbonate hardness test & a nitrate test as well. i will use it all until I am advised further as to what i could cut it down to (if I can)
by the way. this morning PH is 7.5 - -ammonia 0-- nitrate 0


Referred to as "total hardness", hardness is the measure of calcium and magnesium in the water. Water around Atlanta is soft, less than 50 ppm. The importance of hardness in pond water is that koi and goldfish hold their best coloring in moderate hardness, 50-150 (this was from pond doc )
any comments please

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 8:34PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I wish this website offered a way to go into a post I'd made (after I've submitted it) to correct some of my usual stupid errors!!! In my last post I said "...significant nitrate.." and it should have been "...significant nitrite...". Oh well. Amazing how you can overlook something even after you've proof read it a few times!!

Mazela, first let's clarify some of the definitions you've got.
Total hardness is the measure of all divalent and trivalent cations. In most waters - both surface & groundwater - calcium and magnesium account for 95-98% of all the divalent and trivalent cations so many folks assume that's all there is. But things such as lead, strontium, aluminum, etc. will also contribute to total hardness - we just hope to not have much of those things in our water!
Carbonate hardness - this is not hardness; it is a measure of the alkalinity. Many, many decades ago when they developed the lime-soda ash method for treating hard waters (total hardness>>60-80 mg/L) this terminology - carbonate hardness - was developed (as was expressing thing in mg/L as CaCO3 - which REALLY messed things up!). It was meant to simplify calculations but unfortunately it also confused the underlying concepts. So here's an easy test: take some of your water - measure the "carbonate hardness". Then add a bit of gypsum (calcium sulfate) to it or add calcium chloride - since these compounds will release calcium you would increase the hardness. You will see that the "carbonate hardness" doesn't change. Take a new sample of water; add some sodium bicarbonate - your "carbonate hardness" will increase and yet you added no divalent or trivalent cation in this latter case. I desperately try to make sure I never use that term because of the subsequent confusion it creates.
Increasing your total hardness, i.e., calcium & magnesium - I agree. But I tend not to worry about it too much since you'll probably find that in addition to the Ca & Mg in your water supply there should be an adequate amount in the food you feed them. If you search on this site you'll find a recipe for making your own fish food - it includes the shells from the shrimp. Excellent source of calcium for the fish. So using your limestone rocks...it doesn't hurt.

Which water quality parameters to measure? Everyone has their favorites. I only bother with alkalinity and then only about once a month or so but especially right before the cold weather sets in and we "go under ice" - the pond freezes over. I'll probably measure pH about 1-2 times per year. Why so little? Because I know if I've got the alkalinity where it needs to be then pH is going to be fine. I used to measure ammonia/nitrite/nitrate but the only time I now do it is to take a sample in February or March to make sure my aerator is stripping the ammonia out sufficiently. I feel I can get away with this rather lazy approach to an important facet of "tending the garden" because I have rather large biofilters relative to the size of the pond/fish load/feeding amounts. If I thought my biofilters were more marginal I would then be forced to monitor the ammonia and certainly nitrate more often.
So if you are measuring your alkalinity (aka, carbonate hardness, KH) at 30 mg/L that is indeed quite low. I would start adding sodium bicarbonate (good old Arm & Hammer!!) until you got it in that 80-120 mg/L range. The limestone rock won't hurt but it is a relatively slow response to an important water quality parameter.
Hope all this helps.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 11:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

yep david
got it at 120 now .due to sodium bicarbonate.
thanks for the explanation. by the way nitrites was zero.
I also have a large biofilter so i thought how could there be a problem.
so I will keep on testing for the time being. my ph is approx 7.5-8 in the morning & 8-8.5 in the afternoon after the sun on it. is that too high now??
would you bring it down if i need to with rainwater or vinegar I have access to both(rainwater in my tank is 4.5)
or should I just leave it alone now to sort itself out & keep an eye on it. does the water gradually go down in PH by itself or should it stay reasonably stable now.
thanks in advance for all the help you have been.. the fish seem happy

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 12:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

yep david
got it at 120 now .due to sodium bicarbonate.
thanks for the explanation. by the way nitrites was zero.
I also have a large biofilter so i thought how could there be a problem.
so I will keep on testing for the time being. my ph is approx 7.5-8 in the morning & 8-8.5 in the afternoon after the sun on it. is that too high now??
would you bring it down if i need to with rainwater or vinegar I have access to both(rainwater in my tank is 4.5)
or should I just leave it alone now to sort itself out & keep an eye on it. does the water gradually go down in PH by itself or should it stay reasonably stable now.
thanks in advance for all the help you have been.. the fish seem happy

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 1:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A pH of 8 is fine. Don't worry about it...fish/plants will be quite happy. That high would only be a problem if you were attempting to raise certain types of fish which require slightly acid pH. But gold fish/comets and koi will do just fine. And you may have to add more bicarb specially after you do a water change just to keep that alkalinity where you want it. Now that you've got it adjusted you can sit back and have a Schooner of your Foster's! LOL

    Bookmark   September 6, 2010 at 8:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

david thanks to all that have given advice here.

is it true that does not matter how much sodium bicarb i add it will not raise the ph more than 8.4, does not matter of how much you add it will just raise the kh (alkalinity)
because today the kh has dropped to approx 90 from 120 (1 1/2 days ago)
i have put the limestone back in the pond and if it does not go up i will add more bicarb.correct?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 4:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yep...you can now add bicarb until the cows come home (a local expression!). The more you add the higher the alkalinity but the pH will just hang tight at about 8.3 or so. However, I'm a bit surprised at your drop in alkalinity in just a little over a day. Keep track of it over the next week to see if it continues to drop that fast. If it does then you'll need to go on the hunt for what is causing it. Are you by any chance bubbling air into the pond (other than the usual water feature/waterfall type of thing)?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 8:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

hi there
its gone back up to 120 approx alkilinity.
i did put back the limestone although i am surprised it worked that quick, ph is stable at 8-8.5 am & pm.
I did on the weekend an extra bubbler apart from the fountain
thought they might need more aeration.

that fish i spoke about in my earlier posts is still a bit wobbly when he turns corners, but eating well not hiding as much , do you think he will come good..

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 3:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sounds as if everything is stabilizing.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 7:25AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
New 50g pond in SE FL...fish & plant suggestions?
Hi, My SO just installed a new in-ground pond in our...
My fish is sick - treating for dropsy
Am attempting to treat one of my fish... classic dropsy...
Pond Heat
What is the best method of heating water to 70 degrees...
New container water garden/fish pond
Hi everyone! We have wanted to create a water garden/fish...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™