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Help With Apisto Agassizii


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Hi All,

I've had two male agassizii's die on me over the last few weeks. All other apisto's and fish I've added to the tank have been fine. I can't figure out what happened to them both. Before I purchase a replacement I'd like to try and determine the cause. I got the second male from the same supplier after the first one died. But they displayed different symptoms.

1. Description of the symptoms, obvious signs of disease and behaviour of your fish:

1st male: Fine for a few days. Then stomach swelled up a little (not dropsy) and he went off his food. Dead after 5 days.

2nd male: Ok for first day. Then started to just sit on the bottom of the tank. Never saw him eat. Would show a lot of life at times then just go back to sitting under a plant on just on the bottom. Dead after 9 days.

2. List the fish that are exhibiting the above symptoms/behaviour: genus and species name.

Both males were german bred agassizii double red imports of about 4 cm's.

3. When and how did the symptons/behaviour start?

As above, 1st male after 2 days, 2nd male after 1 day.

4. How old are the affected/sick fish? (age can also be a determining factor)

Not old.

5. Have any new fish been added to the tank? (if "yes", when were they added, how many, from where did they originate and what type of fish were they?)

Yes, have added numerous new fish both before, after and at the same time as these agassizzi's were added. No other fish, including female agassizii's and other apisto varieties show any sign of sickness. Including females from the same supplier.

6. Has anything 'special' happened recently? (eg. water change, power failure, change of water conditioners/addition of chemicals, new plants/decor/substrate, treatment for other diseases, been away for a few days, house painted/fumagated, new pets, grand children banging on the glass etc.)

CO2 unit not working properly. Flow rate not stable. Has lead to large changes in pH from 6.5 to 7.2.

7. What are the water parameters? (where relevant)

- pH = 6.6

- kH = 4

- gH =

- Temp = 25.5

- O2 content =

- CO2 additions = Yes. See 6) above.

- NH3 = negligible

- NO2 = negligible

- NO3 = negligible

- Metals (copper, iron, lead) = Iron very low. Am adding iron supplements for plants.

8. Describe the aquarium and its contents (age, size, filter size/capacity, rocks/substrate/coral type, fish and plant species still in the tank)

Have rebuilt and restocked the tank over the last 3 months. 6x2x2. Large sump filter. Heavily planted. Gravel substrate. Extras: Drift wood, terracotta pots, fake (clay) woods and caves.

9. When was the water last changed and how much was changed? (include description of procedure)

Weekly water change of 30%. Water siphoned out. New water put into a 200ltr tank where water conditioner is added, then pumped into main tank.

10. When was the filter last cleaned? (describe procedure followed)

4 weeks ago.

11. What brand and type of food has been used over the past month? (include treats/live foods/vegetables)

Tetra bits. And added vegetable flake food when 2nd male was purchased.

I performed a mini-autopsy on the 2nd male last night. Could not notice any parasites.

Both males were put into a hospital tank after 3 (1st male) and 4 (2nd male) days, where pH was set at 6 and a small dose of Bactonex added.

Would love some ideas.



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Such a thorough post, and no takers!

Possible one to put in the too hard basket for most keepers?

I too have kept a planted tank in the past, and was surprised at the size of the pH swings. I have found that a tank with fully established fish, took these swings in their stride, and if it wasn’t for the LCD showing the pH I would have been none the wiser. You don’t mention what sort of co2 unit you have, whether it be automated with a co2 bottle, or if a home made yeast system.

However, I wonder if these deaths aren’t still related to the stability of the tank. Keeping in mind that these fish have had a large number of other stresses on them before they got to you, and perhaps the one more of going into your tank may be the last straw.

A change of diet may impact too, and swollen stomachs may indicate this. So perhaps it is a combination of a number of issues, pH swings and a change of diet? The fact they happened so soon after you got them lends strength to this thought.

I think that perhaps it may be one of those things that I put down to “it lives, it can die”, so perhaps the best advice I could give to you would be to get a quarantine tank, without any sort of co2 injection, and try to rule out some of the things that may be present in your tank. Get the pH stable, and a fully cycled filter (put a sponge into another tank for a few weeks then move it to the quarantine tank when you have the fish). The other thing I would do is feed live food to them in the quarantine tank as you can't go too far wrong with daphnia or wrigglers.

The last time I did this was when I had triple red Apistogramma cacatoidies, I put them into a 10 litre tank, and they bred before I got them out…..


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Ow Peter sad.gif Sorry to hear about your aggies.

In my past experience aggies in particular the males have been prone to do this. Basically go into hiding, stop eating and die after 3 - 4 days. I believe ? its possibly a bacterial infection hence the swollen stomach and the time between first symptoms and death. I have once successfully treated it with Melafix - I dosed the whole tank according to instructions and managed to save the male.

SA Dwarfs need super super clean water far more so than africans. I wouldnt worry about the pH swings, I think they actually handle it fine, unless you have too rapid an upswing - but low pH is not a problem for these guys. Things to think about would be stiocking levels, water changes, oxygen availability - but if everyone else is fine then its probably down to the individual fish and horrible luck. Try looking for a male from a different source if at all possible.



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Thanks heaps Steph (I need to get a new bottle of Melafix) and Craig.

For quarantine tanks I usually use about a third of the main tank's water and then put fresh [treated] water for the rest. (It's a 2 foot tank.) I don't have filters or anything else in there just a couple of air lines with air stones on them. For a single fish how often should you do a water change and how much. I usually wouldn't feed them the first night, but after that will drop in small amounts of tetra bits (although I'm raising brine shrimp as we speak). Also have flake vegetable based available now. I'll usually leave the food in their for a couple of hours then siphon out the residual and then do a 1/3 water change every couple of days. Is that enough / too much?


PS. Steph, hope all your new little guys are doing good.

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It's a good suggestion to use Melafix.

The quarantine tank needs to be just as cycled as the main tank. Putting in water from the main tank is a good thing in regards to keeping the pH the same in the main tank and the quarantine tank, but it won't do JACK for cycling the quarantine tank. With one fish in a two foot tank, I'm sure there are enough surface areas in there to host enough bacteria to keep your quarantine tank cycled...while there is a fish in there. Between uses, what lives in the quarantine tank? If nothing, then there may not be enough bacteria surviving between uses to maintain the bacteria’s life. This was why I suggested using a small filter in another tank, then swap it over. The bio load of one small fish will be very small, but never the less, where is the line in the sand drawn were the tank's ammonia reaches before it impact on the fish? I don't know, and no one could really answer it and be 100% certain. Take out the guessing, put an extra box or sponge filter in the main tank 2-3 weeks before purchasing any new fish, then simply put it into the quarantine tank when you put the new fish into the quarantine tank.

A water change for a single fish in tank of this size is not a great issue, if you are dosing the tank with medication, a water change will be a good thing to get out old medications. So the water change frequency should be timed in with medication, and how long the fish lives in quarantine. If the fish is only in there for a couple of weeks for example, with no significant loses to evaporation or medication use, I wouldn't bother with a water change.

In regards to your comment on feeding. This was why I suggested live food, particularly daphnia in the case of these fish as wrigglers will spend most of their time at the surface and not in the face the fish as the meanderings of a daphnia will take it. If you use live food you will not have to worry about the food going off. If you can’t grow your own, follow your current procedure.


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Thanks for all that Craig.

If you do a water change every couple of days for a quarantine tank with only a single fish in it, won't that stop any cycling spike?


Yes it should when starting from zero, but from my perspective why take the risk when there is a fully available/doable alternative? What happens if you’re a bit late on a water change, or don’t remove enough water? I have seen smallish tanks, around two foot, with ammonia reading of .05ppm, with two 50% water changes per week, without reducing the ammonia.

I should add too, that it is not so much the cycling spike you have to worry about. A cycling spike to me more indicates the peak the ammonia level gets to. When in fact what you have to be concerned about is not getting any ammonia, that is Zero ammonia traces at all.

With sufficient water changes, and only one small fish, you may (?) be okay.

At the end of the day, they’re your fish so your choice.


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A really simple filter Ive used in emergencies in the past is to take an aquaclear sponge and make a small hole in one end and then just shove an airstone into the sponge. NOt perfect but good enough for a light bioload, as its already well seeded with bacteria.

This way you can keep the sponge going in the aquaclear on your main tank until you need to set up your quarantine tank. The best way is to use 2 sponges in an aquaclear on your main tank, take one out for the quarantine tank and replace it with a new one. After using it in quarantine make sure its properly cleaned and I like to dry them out completely before returning to the main tank for 'recharging'



PS: my new guys are good, I lost one of the A. baenschi sad.gif but still have a male and 2 females and the male trifasciata is busy wiggling at the female who is showing absolutely no interest in him at all rolleyes.gif

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I cannot add too much to the help that Craig and Steph have given you.

You said

NH3 = negligible

- NO2 = negligible

- NO3 = negligible

NH3 and NO2 MUST be zero...if there is any elevation in either of these compounds, it will indicate a problem.

It sounds very much like a water quality problem to me. I have found Apistos to be less forgiving of "bad" water than most other fish. The swinging CO2..hence pH values will possibly be contributing to the problem.

I would work out why you have elevated (even if only slight) ammonia and nitrite and stabilize the CO2/pH levels. Make sure your water changes are frequent and regular. Check for uneaten food....in fact, for the next few days I would stop feeding altogether. Food will only exacerbate their condition as it further irritates the gut.

Andrea smile.gif

Andrea smile.gif

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