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Distaff

When your new fish gets off to a bad start

17 posts in this topic

So, a lovely fish spends two days in shipping, and it is about to go from a warm FedEx truck to a comparatively cool tub.  I don't know what pH she was formerly in (I'm assuming the shipping water was low, to reduce toxicity), but my water is pH8, and, I've been advised by multiple reputable sources (plus, harsh experience with my first fish years ago), not to mess with that.

 

She was lively and actively swimming when un-boxed.  I floated the still sealed bag in the covered dark tub. When temps equalized, I used my cupped hands to transfer her to the tub, and discarded the dirty shipping water, and re-covered the tub.   But, at this point, she just wilted like a plucked flower in the hot sun. 

 

Every time a fish of mine has had trouble at the start, they have gone from warm to cooler temps.  Those fish have also all been female, FWIW.

 

Now, last night, we had a TERRIBLE wind storm.  We retained our roof, but half the roof from the house across the street ended up on our front lawn.  The fish tubs are mostly covered at night as protection from predators, but ended up with lots of debris and leaves in them, so they all needed water changes today.  I hadn't planned on bothering the new fish, but her tub was a mess too. 

 

Long story short, the added fresh water from the storage bins was slightly warmer than the tub waters.  She perked up a little! She swam around a little bit, and ate three Omega 3mm pellets for me.  IIRC, Dr. Johnson says he prefers warm water (low 80'sF?) for gold fish. 

 

Maybe keepers should aim for a slightly warm quarantine tank for a summer time shipped fish?

Edited by Distaff

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usually, when such a difference in temps and if you can't record a PH.. then new water should be slowly introduced into the bag with the supplier's water. this will help to slowly even out the PH, yes, even if you have the supplier's bag with fish resting on the surface of your QT tub.. temp is one thing, PH is another.

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Thanks, Helen.  Maybe I'm confused about the chemistry? 

 

It has been my understanding that mixing higher pH tank water into the shipping water would cause an ammonia spike and burn the fish.  I have come across the advice to mix from other sources, but took it as *outdated* information.  As for best practice, I thought one was supposed to keep the bag sealed until the temps equalized to keep the ammonia locked up in a less toxic compound.

 

This stuff gets complicated!  Any way to clarify?

Glad I don't have a marine tank.

Edited by Distaff

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I went back to Swiss Tropicals - he insists his science is accurate.  Apparently, I have been doing this all wrong (at least for my water chemistry) although my procedure followed the RainGarden advice. 

 

FWIW, he suggests upon un-boxing, immediately pouring the fish and some shipping water into a separate open container.  He says use a cup to add water from the new tank to slowly equalize temps. (In his description, fish always arrive in cold shipping water and go into warm tanks - hope the advice holds with tempsreversed - fish in cold water have a low metabolism.) 

 

It's rather contradictory, but he says you want to replace the shipping water quickly, but change the temp slowly.   (I suppose, working with smaller amounts of water in this separate container, one can more easily manipulate the temps - have on hand some extra refridgerated tank water, and some heated tank water.)

 

He says fish can be moved to tank once temps are w/i 3-4 degrees (F?).

 

I'm not trying to change how anyone else does this; I don't argue with good results.  However I need to understand some chemistry/metabolic principles, as my results haven't been good, and I want to know why.

Edited by Distaff

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SwissTropicals has some further advice for equalizing pH, but I'm not clear on it.  He says to get it with in .3.  pH is SO tricky to adjust, I'm really not sure that is likely to work well when the initial difference may be fairly large, say, from six-something to eight. 

 

Still unsure what to do about pH, or if I should do anything extra.  I remember reading somewhere that fish should not be exposed to a pH change of more than one gradient (ex.6 to 7 - it's logarithmic, after all) in a 24 hr period.  Then again, in certain circumstances, one must just deal with the emergency, and the fish have to adjust as they can.

 

I can't find any relevant info. in Dr. Johnson's book.  It would help if he had provided an index. 

Edited by Distaff

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Hope your new Goldfish does well.

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Thanks.

She is a bit better.  Eating and pooping, but not moving much.  Part of that may be soicalization - when my fish know I'm around they come up for treats.  It would be reassuring if she cruised around some, however.

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my fish have never been exposed to such a PH difference. i buy from a local supplier. we're rather close, running the same tap water, exposed to the same water params.. and i don't have any live stock shipped. i guess for me it is very different as well as incredibly convenient.

 

however, there has in the past been quite a few discussions from US members on how to better receive their mail order fish. i guess the first thing to consider is when you are buying from an established vendor, you will follow their care sheet since they are in the business of wanting to deliver healthy fish to their clients and you are also wanting to remain within their guarantee conditions by following their instructions on receiving an following that, their QT instructions.

 

i have in the past received fish considered as 'rescues' where the PH was very different, but again, not shipped and within driving distance. these fish are usually in buckets, so adding my water to them gradually to raise their PH was not an issue.

 

finally, if i were in a position to receive mail order fish, the first thing i would do upon opening a bag which has been closed for a few days is to squirt some prime in it, test the water and take it from there.

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If we had nice local fish, or any fish, for that matter, I would consider them.  The closest LFS was 20min away, and a few years back in time. They changed location, ownership, and no longer carry fish.  (My eyesight is poor - I don't drive unless I have to.)  That was the creepiest, most horribly managed pet store you can imagine!  The place was dark, dingy, there were snakes from floor to ceiling (even now that I have a few, I think I'd still be creeped out), and the owner chewed me out for not saying "Hi" to her screaming kid who startled me just after I walked in, disoriented in the poor light. 

 

They had some fish...I came for fish...but I didn't stay long. 

 

____

 

Thanks, Helen.

I'll check around some older threads and see what comes up.  At this point, I also think I have a better idea of how I want to proceed next time.

Edited by Distaff

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If we had nice local fish, or any fish, for that matter, I would consider them.  The closest LFS was 20min away, and a few years back in time. They changed location, ownership, and no longer carry fish.  (My eyesight is poor - I don't drive unless I have to.)  That was the creepiest, most horribly managed pet store you can imagine!  The place was dark, dingy, there were snakes from floor to ceiling (even now that I have a few, I think I'd still be creeped out), and the owner chewed me out for not saying "Hi" to her screaming kid who startled me just after I walked in, disoriented in the poor light. 

 

They had some fish...I came for fish...but I didn't stay long. 

 

____

 

Thanks, Helen.

I'll check around some older threads and see what comes up.  At this point, I also think I have a better idea of how I want to proceed next time.

 

:o  :scared

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I think/thought/presumed the difference between the recommendations for acclimation for shipped goldfish/koi and tropical/saltwater were because carp produce so much more waste/ammonia than most of those other fish (in general) and carp are generally more tolerant of changes in water chemistry (pH, GH) than more delicate species.

The carp produces large quantity of ammonia during transit in small volume of water (water volume esp small relative to fish size comparing goldfish to tropicals). Ammonia (NH3) is toxic but less toxic in a lower pH (ionizes to become NH4+ ammonium ion). pH decreases in bag water due to CO2 accumulation in sealed bag. Open bag and add water, CO2 off gasses and bicarbs in added water help to increase pH but same concentration of ammonia/ium is in bag which becomes toxic ammonia (NH3) in the now higher pH environment. Bam, burnt fish. That is basis for shippers recommending temp equalization in sealed bag and then direct transfer of fish to tank.

I think this is all theory but what drives the recommendations for koi.

Edited by Butterfly

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My guess regarding temperature is that it is harder for a big fish to go from hot (high metabolism) to cold (low metabolism) in a short time than the other way around? Like for us it always seems harder to go from a hot environment (leaving that nice southern beach vacation) to a cold one (back to the frozen north). But that is pure guess.

What are the temperature differences you're experiencing?

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Thanks, Helen. Maybe I'm confused about the chemistry?

It has been my understanding that mixing higher pH tank water into the shipping water would cause an ammonia spike and burn the fish. I have come across the advice to mix from other sources, but took it as *outdated* information. As for best practice, I thought one was supposed to keep the bag sealed until the temps equalized to keep the ammonia locked up in a less toxic compound.

This stuff gets complicated! Any way to clarify?

Glad I don't have a marine tank.

Sorry, I just more clearly read your post and it seems we had the same understanding. Look forward to others thoughts in this thread. Maybe in the future a longer slower temperature acclimation would be best? Maybe heat the tank water to the bag water, transfer fish and then let the larger body of water cool down to your ambient temperature more slowly. Just thinking out loud. I've done what you've done for shipped and store bought fish and I haven't had a problem that I recall.

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Butterfly, that is exactly what I am thinking.  Have some hot tank water on hand.  Upon unboxing, measure shipping water temp with laser temp gun (VERY handy tool) so bag can remain sealed.  and adjust the tank water temp as needed.  Then, fish can go straight in, and cool down slowly.

 

Thanks for the input, everyone!

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I have heard persuasive arguments from knowledgeable people for not opening the bag until you are ready to scoop the fish out and into the tank.  I have heard other knowledgeable people say to open the bag and drip in your water.  I would suggest you always follow the instructions of the seller.  The "keep the bag closed" argument sounds stronger to me, but the other side sounds sensible as well.

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I'm mostly with the school that says, keep the bag sealed.  Joey over at King Of DIY has a new video about this topic.   He says that once you open the bag, you have 30 to 60 seconds before the pH rises from the fresh oxygen exchange and ammonia subsequently burns your fish. 

 

He also said that even though the fish can reach your tank temp in twenty minutes, it can take up to a week for its system to get used to the temperature.  That would explain the fish not looking well, even if you did everything right.  My new fish is doing much better.  I still wish she were a bit more active, but she moves well, and is lively when I feed her.  That quarantine tank is a boring place to be; I expect she'll swim more with some friends.

Edited by Distaff

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Thanks, Helen.  Maybe I'm confused about the chemistry? 

 

It has been my understanding that mixing higher pH tank water into the shipping water would cause an ammonia spike and burn the fish.  I have come across the advice to mix from other sources, but took it as *outdated* information.  As for best practice, I thought one was supposed to keep the bag sealed until the temps equalized to keep the ammonia locked up in a less toxic compound.

 

This stuff gets complicated!  Any way to clarify?

Glad I don't have a marine tank.

Yeah when I had a Marine tank you had to mix the water from there water they where in and the water you have in the tank. It was a pain in the butt.... But I when I got fish shipped to me I would do the same thing... :)

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