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Thread: Sudden fishy death

  1. #1

    Default Sudden fishy death

    So this is weird. I consider myself a good fish-mum, I understand cycling, do regular water changes, test my water, watch pH levels, watch the temperature, etc so I'm at a complete loss as to why my betta suddenly developed dropsy and was dead less than 24 hours later.

    The backstory:

    The weekend before last I did a 30% water change, trimmed some plants, removed some snails (by hand, no chemicals), and did a minor re-scape which included adding in a piece of driftwood that had previously been in the tank for about 8 months until I took it out 6 weeks ago. It had developed some furry green algae so I removed it, scrubbed it with a brush (again, no chemicals) and dried it on my balcony for a few weeks. Figuring the algae was long dead, I gave it a rinse and popped it back in the tank.

    A few days later I noticed it was leaching tannins quite quickly which it never had done before, and a day later one of my ember tetras was dead. I put it down to embers being nervous and she probably freaked over the re-scape and didn't think much of it as everyone else in the tank seemed fine.

    However the driftwood kept leaching tannin and the water looked noticeably darker this weekend just gone, so I did a 50% water change on Sunday. Everything looked ok but before I left for work yesterday (Tuesday) morning my betta looked a little pale, so I checked levels which were all ok (ammonia and nitrite were 0, nitrate was just above zero, pH was about 7), heater was fine and sitting on 26, everything seemed good. But when I got home my poor betta had died. He had that bloated, pine-cone look and I immediately new it was dropsy. I did a 70% water change, removed the driftwood just in chase it was causing issues and laid poor Mustang Sally to rest. So far the other embers and otos seem ok, and the water is much clearer now that the guilty driftwood has gone.

    Is it possible there was something in the driftwood that caused the issues? Can tannins cause stress on fish? And if so, why was this piece of driftwood suddenly leaching tannins into the water when it had been fine for months before? Am I missing something obvious? Are my other fish in danger?

    tl;dr Removed a piece of driftwood, dried it out, put it back, water suddenly stained and two fish died, sad and confused.

  2. #2

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    No more deaths so far, everyone seems happy and healthy. I'm at a complete loss as to what happened.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainVader View Post
    Is it possible there was something in the driftwood that caused the issues? Can tannins cause stress on fish? And if so, why was this piece of driftwood suddenly leaching tannins into the water when it had been fine for months before? Am I missing something obvious? Are my other fish in danger?
    Tannins do not cause problems to fish, especially not tetras and labyrinths that naturally occur in blackwater (tannin stained water).

    If the wood was contaminated with something when it was out of the tank that would theoretically affect everything in the tank.

    The driftwood released tannins after you scrubbed it because you scrubbed it. Before that the algae and biofilm stopped tannins leaching out of the wood. When you removed this layer it allowed water to leach tannins out.

    --------------------
    Your Betta might have died from tuberculosis (TB). Mycobacterium (TB bacteria) live inside a fish for months or even years gradually building up in numbers. Then one day the organ they have infected ruptures and the fish bloats up, stops eating, and dies from major organ failure within 24-48 hours. Organs can be infected by other bacteria and protozoans too but they tend to affect a lot of fish at the same time.
    The only way to definitively identify the problem is a necropsy (autopsy) of the fish but that is too late and costs a lot of money.

    The other thing that can cause this is bad food but that usually affects a number of fish and they bloat up and die over a period of days.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainVader View Post
    So this is weird.

    tl;dr Removed a piece of driftwood, dried it out, put it back, water suddenly stained and two fish died, sad and confused.
    Unfortunately this is most of us most of the time.
    Without serious scientific analysis of the problem then this is how most of us will stay most of the time.
    I have worked in an industry, for most of my life, that is so easy when things are going right that a monkey could do my job. When thing start to go wrong, however, it can cost the company millions or tens of millions. To keep the monkeys away here is how i go about a problem. START at the basics. Work your way up.
    WP ok ?
    Poisons introduced ?
    Age of fish ?
    WC water ok ?
    etc down to possible long term diseases (colin-t) and other unlikely causes that are not simple and require scientific analysis.

    From your description above we can see that all was good until something changed. Wood out, cleaned and back in. Fish died. From this, with the other things being the same like fish eating, no introduced fish, WP and WC water being the same, you would have to say the wood introduced something. Well the wood did introduce some more tanin than normal so when you cleaned it you obviously scrubbed off the top layer and exposed a new layer of wood. Tanins are good for most fish so that is not a problem but trees are made up in layers. One ring per season or year. If that tree was anywhere near me in the 90's then it would have got a good dose of systemic insecticide as i thought that shit was the bomb. A guess and possibility is that the wood had some nasties hidden deep in it and as it rotted in the tank and then was cleaned up those nasties came out.
    Without testing of the dead fish or the wood we will never know but if the wood is out and the fish are doing good, then assume the wood was the problem. Put it on the shed roof for 10 years to weather and leach in the rain before using it again, or just throw it away (depending on how much it cost).
    Monitor your fish without changing anything for a few months and if all is good then introduce a new bit of wood, if that is what you want to do.

  5. #5
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    Agree with Merv on this one. Unlikely to know the full extent of it so jumping to extreme conclusions like fish TB is not a great idea IMO (this can be dangerous to the fish keeper too...), but if you've removed the wood since and no further issues than it possibly something introduced from within the wood after scrubbing the outside layer down. It is also possible a mini cycle was caused after rescaping, but not as likely to kill so fast I guess.

    Dropsy is usually a secondary infection and more so a sign of something else happening than a disease in itself IMO.
    "The stuff I buy is a bit pricey however it is as dry as a nuns nasty" - BigDaddyAdo

  6. #6
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    Pretty hard to explain this one. As Indir said perhaps a mini cycle. Was the wood exposed to potential pesticides when out of the tank? Rotting would could reduce BOD and reduce your O2 levels also.

    Sorry to hear of your loss.

  7. #7

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    low oxygen levels might cause problems to tetras but would not affect Bettas. I think there are 2 different issues that happened to occur within a week of each other. Unfortunately without pics it's hard to say yay or nay

  8. #8
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    Tru about the O2 and betta. Good thought ColinT.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rebel View Post
    Was the wood exposed to potential pesticides when out of the tank? Rotting would could reduce BOD and reduce your O2 levels also.
    No pesticides, the wood was on the balcony for a few weeks so would have been exposed to a little rain but that's about it.

    I'm guessing it was the driftwood. I didn't realise that drying/picking off algae could cause them to bleed/leech again, so I guess it's possible there was something in the wood that previously had been trapped but was now let loose. And I guess a mini cycle was also possible, although it's weird the betta reacted and not the more sensitive fish like embers and otos.

    Everything seems fine now, the embers are red and happy. The otos are hooning about. The water is clear. I'll chalk it up to one of those "who knows" moments and keep an eye on things for a few more weeks before I consider replacing the betta.

    I just feel awful that there was something I did that caused fishy pain and there was nothing I could do to fix it.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainVader View Post
    I'll chalk it up to one of those "who knows" moments and keep an eye on things for a few more weeks before I consider replacing the betta.
    Yep, this is usually the way with the hobby. It's hard to measure and know all the variables. Some are so transient but the damage is all we see.

    Good to hear your other fish are doing well.

  11. #11

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    Yep, this is usually the way with the hobby.
    Ahuh, now I remember why I gave it up a few years ago!

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainVader View Post
    I just feel awful that there was something I did that caused fishy pain and there was nothing I could do to fix it.
    You didn't necessarily cause this. The ember tetra could have been unwell and putting the wood in the tank simply coincided with it dying. Why would only 1 ember tetra die if it was poisoning from the driftwood?

    And if the Betta had TB then it had it for a long time before it died, and probably had it before you bought it. Again why would the Betta die a week after you put the wood back in? Poisons act quickly and kill fish within minutes to hours. Even if it leached out of the wood over a day, why didn't it kill all the fish then and there? Why did the Betta die a week later?

    Did the ember tetra have a bloated stomach like the Betta had? If no, then they died from different problems.

  13. #13

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    Thanks guys. When I first started in this hobby, I was completely gung-ho and oblivious to cycles, incompatible fish, etc and I lost many due to my own enthusiastic ignorance and really wanted to avoid it this time round.

    Did the ember tetra have a bloated stomach like the Betta had? If no, then they died from different problems.
    It's hard to say as I think the ember was a female - she/he had always been rounder and fuller looking than the others. So yes, she looked bloated. But she always looked bloated and I assumed she was carrying eggs.

    I guess you're right, whatever happened was probably a result of multiple things coming together that I had no control over. Just bad luck I guess. Thanks everyone for their help and kind words!

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