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Old 06-17-2009, 09:00 AM   #1
pumpkin14
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Default My Aquarium Water Smells Bad

I've had my aquarium for about a month and a half now... and I haven't experienced this yet. The water smells absolutely disgusting. I did a water test and it seems that the nitrite level is high, which probably means the ammonia level is dangerously high, right?

How did this happen all of a sudden? My water was perfect and then it suddenly turned deadly! I woke up to see my favourite guppy dead.

Would I just do a water change to fix this? If so, how much water should I replace?
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Old 06-17-2009, 09:06 AM   #2
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do a water change of about 20% it wouldent hurt to do more in your situation.. make shure you use declorinater in your fresh water.. this is an ammonia spike.. hense the nasty smell
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Old 06-17-2009, 09:24 AM   #3
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Dechlorinator, as in water conditioner?
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Old 06-17-2009, 09:46 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by pumpkin14 View Post
Dechlorinator, as in water conditioner?
You can check out at your lfs - it just removes chlorine (and more importantly chloramine) out of your tap water.

I probably would check the filter and add some activated carbon as well.
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Old 06-17-2009, 11:24 AM   #5
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Ok, so I changed about 1/3 of the water and added water conditioner/dechlorinator and beneficial bacteria. I just checked the water about an hour after changing the water and the nitrite level is still really high... in the 'stress' range. How can that be? Does it have something to do with activated carbon, like maxpayne is suggesting?
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Old 06-17-2009, 12:22 PM   #6
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It might have been very high to start with, so it'll probably take a couple more water changes, over the next few days, to fix this.

For a new tank to smell this bad.. I think you are possibly feeding them too much.
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Old 06-17-2009, 01:14 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by pumpkin14 View Post
Ok, so I changed about 1/3 of the water and added water conditioner/dechlorinator and beneficial bacteria. I just checked the water about an hour after changing the water and the nitrite level is still really high... in the 'stress' range. How can that be? Does it have something to do with activated carbon, like maxpayne is suggesting?
Activated carbon can help remove phenols - fishy smell/hospital smell. I think the bigger component for your current situation is ammonia tho.

Keep on with the partial water change and monitor food excess.
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Old 06-17-2009, 02:53 PM   #8
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actually ; just what kind of smell is it..does it smell like ammonia?... or just kind of like something died or is rotting... there isn't much "stench" with high ammonia alone... i have to agree with tos here..either there is no filtration or you are overfeeding.. and overfeeding can foul the tank in a hurry.. like less than overnight...
do more water changes..if the tank is a month and a half old ; you shouldn't need to add bacteria..there is plenty in there from all the extra food....
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Old 06-17-2009, 07:31 PM   #9
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@ Lohachata: It smells... really bad. I'm not sure how to describe it. Probably closer to the smell of something dying. I noticed a dead fish and a dead frog in the past two days, so that might have been it.

I'm feeding them once every other day... is that really too much? I took my water in to the LFS for testing and the guy said the water was pretty bad, despite my regular water changes and feeding. He said that for now, feed them once every four days until the water starts to clear up. Also, do a 10% water change every other day for about a week. Should I take his advice?

Thanks everyone for your help.
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Old 06-17-2009, 07:47 PM   #10
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Just curious, have you had fish the whole month and a half? How did you cycle? The dead fish and frog could have caused this little mini cycle or could be the result of it.

The LFS guy's advice sounds good. Feeding less adds less ammonia to the water and more water changes will help with the ammonia and nitrite levels.

Let us know how it goes.
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Old 06-17-2009, 08:34 PM   #11
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I like the advice about reduced feeding and more water changes, but I would be more aggressive about the water changes. You don't want the nitrite sitting in the stress range. Do repeated, increasing % water changes until all the numbers are good and recheck twice a day until you know the tank is ok (no ammmonia, no nitrite, low but increasing nitrate)

Overfeeding or even just a single dead fish in a small tank can indeed foul the tank quickly. If the ammonia level gets too high, it can kill your filter bacteria and force you to "recycle", but usually an established tank will bounce back in a week once the source (dead plant, fish, uneaten food) is removed.

Last edited by emc7; 06-17-2009 at 08:38 PM.
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Old 06-17-2009, 08:56 PM   #12
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if it were me; i would tear down the tank and start all over.. if by chance you have killed the beneficial bacteria as emc pointed out; you might as well get a fresh start...
what size tank and what kind and capacity filter???? if you have a 10 gallon tank ; then your filter should be pumping at least 100 GPH..
it is not so much how often you feed ; but how much you feed..
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Old 06-19-2009, 08:50 PM   #13
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@ SouthernBelle: I started off cycling my tank with no fish for the first two days, then added about 5 fish on the third day, as per advice from my LFS. I guess this might have been bad advice...

@ emc: I did a 20% water change today... should I follow up with another, higher one tomorrow? Or wait a day?

@ Lohachata: Ahh, I really don't want to start all over... that will be my last resort, I guess. I have a 29 gallon tank and a Tetra Whisper EX30 which came with my tank kit. And I always thought I was feeding them the right amount, but maybe it was too much. I'll start to cut down on the amount of feedings and the number of times I feed them.

I'm still in the high stress range, even after two water changes. I'm hoping that in a week with daily water changes, it will go down at least. If not, I guess I'll have to start over.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:07 PM   #14
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Pumpkin, if you are using a Whisper 30 filter for a 29 gallon tank, you are always going to have cleanliness issues. That filter is way to small for that tank.

In general, all fish tanks have a little bit of an odor. It usually is benign or at worst slightly unpleasant.
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Old 06-20-2009, 10:45 AM   #15
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Change 30 or 40% the next day or even the same day to get the nitrite back down.

Tanks should smell like algae, maybe or fish food. If they smell 'bad', change water.

A 100% (put the fish in a bucket) water change with a thorough gravel cleaning (maybe even wash it in the sink with a dish drainer) might be in order if your nitrites keeps popping up even though you cut way back in feeding. If you have something nasty in the tank (lots on uneaten food, dead, rotting, plants or algae) that can be only way to get it out without waiting for it to decay and go out with the water changes. New water has 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate. You'd fill the tank with new, dechlorinated water and 'drip acclimate' the fish in the bucket by letting a little of clean water from the tank siphon slowly into the bucket with a pinched or valved airline. Contrary to popular belief, you won't need to recycle. Most of your filter biology is, oddly enough, in your filter.

I'm with COM on the whisper 30, it works great on a 15. Add a second filter if you can.

Cut way back on feeding until your numbers are in the safe range. Fish can safely go a week unfed. For now, I would give them a little every 3rd day. Once the numbers are safe you can increase feedings slowly.

Last edited by emc7; 06-20-2009 at 10:51 AM.
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