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What's killing my White Clouds?


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I was watching my fish last week and noticed that for the first time in a long time one of my White Cloud Mountain Minnows was acting unwell. She was breathing quickly, gills looked a little inflamed and very red, and it looked like her mouth was stuck open. This has happened to some of my minnows before but not for a long time. They are always dead by the next day.

Next day I couldn't see her so I thought maybe this time she'd actually gotten well and was one of the ones swimming in the school. I checked the gravel and the plants for her body just in case and it's impossible to count my fish, so I just hoped for the best.

Two days later, I looked for my baby minnows and there were none. =(

I checked again the next day... still no babies. So I decided I'd better do a proper water change. I found the dead minnow. She was so pale I barely saw her on the gravel. I netted the body out and put it in a clear plastic bag I had lying around, and she was so decomposed that by the time she was out of the net the only thing I could recognise was the red of the tail. The rest of her just disintegrated. I'm guessing that's what killed my babies.

So I'm wondering what it is that might be killing them, and can I prevent it happening again? Does anyone have any ideas? It has so far killed two males and three females, and they always have the same symptoms one day before death: distressed, unable to close their mouth, isolating themselves in one corner... I do a proper water change after every death and this is the first one in at least a month. Ideas?

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Hi janelle. Really sorry to hear about your minnows. Can you give us a few details about the tank itself too? Perhapes what filter you use? any changes you may have done? Any new plants, ornaments, fish? how often do you normally do water changes? I will have a flick through my books to see if i can find anything useful but i find it can be so hard to pinpoint what is wrong with fish a lot of the time.

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OK... I will try and measure the pH and ammonia tonight although I find pH really hard to measure. It's high, I think, but the test kit says the colour is 7.2 or higher, so I can't be sure exactly. It's straight Christchurch tapwater anyway.

I can't imagine ammonia levels being high but I will ask my flatmate if I can borrow his test kit tonight and let you know. However, I change one third of the tankwater faithfully every week using a gravel siphon, sometimes in two small changes but failing that I do a large change to equal one third, and once a week I add Stress-Zyme after one of the changes. The fish were dying in the same manner before they had babies, but when the babies were born I slacked off a little because I didn't want to accidentally suck them up, so it was just a bit off the top instead.

My filter is a Shark ADV powerhead? Quite powerful...

My stock level is a dozen WCMM and two Borneo Suckers. There are also various plants in the tank, all rooting in all directions - a few bunch plants and a big, broad-leafed plant... The plants were all added at different times to replace plastic decorations but I've had three of the plants since before there were even fish in the tank. I also added a log decoration about six weeks ago.

The fish that have died so far were all quite well-grown adults. I have one small one growing in there (still glows bright blue under the blacklight, so still a youngling) who has been happy ever since I released him from the breeder net some weeks ago. At first I suspected that it was old age, but there are some which are not dying which are bigger.

Anyway, I'll work on getting a new pH and ammonia tested tonight but might not be until late as we're stacking firewood tonight, bah. There is also no algae left in the tank (thanks, Borneo Suckers) and I have a cat but he ignores my fish in favour of the tropical ones, so I don't think it's stress from him. But like I said.... the fish have been dying since I got the first lot from *gasp* Animates, but only slowly, one at a time.

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I checked pH and ammonia.

pH is "7.6 or higher"

Ammonia is 0-0.5ppm... I think it's actually 0 because the test tube was a little yellowed from previous use already. The liquid remained clear.

Should I be lowering the pH?

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Haven't used stress-coat before and haven't tested my tapwater.

I'd have to wait until I got home again to test the tapwater (I'm still at work for a couple of hours). Ummm.... I don't have any stress-coat. I thought it was just for removing chlorine from tapwater and I've only ever had goldfish before which were fine with straight tapwater from wherever. I'll have a look and get back to you again.

Thanks for your help so far, everyone.

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As far as I can tell the pH in my aquarium is higher than the tapwater (which measured at 7.2 last night), but I tested my tankwater the end of the day so maybe that was just my plants? I don't know how plants affect the water.

Anyway, since it's not a mass die-off by any means I might just continue as I have been and hope it doesn't happen again soon. I'm still wondering if this is unique to my tank or if anyone else has ever seen a WCMM with it's mouth "stuck" open the way mine were.

Thanks everyone.

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Hey janelle, dont know if this will help you much but i just read that you were testing your tapwater, and you're just down the road from me so our water supply must be the same. This is from the council.

Dear Michael

Thank you for your enquiry regarding water quality.

The chemical analysis shown on Council's website is an average or typical representation of the water chemistry in Christchurch.

In reality, the water supply is sourced from about 150 wells dotted around the City from which water is pumped around the different suburbs.

I have checked the chemical analyses for the wells associated with the pumping station closest to you (Spreydon) and have found the following:

pH = ranges from 7.3 to 8.0 (slightly alkali)

CaCO3 = ranges from 40 to 80 g/m3 (parts per million) - this is deemed to be soft to medium soft water.

Please let me know if there are other chemicals you would like to know the levels of for your area.


Gareth Phillips

Christchurch City Council

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  • 4 months later...

Hi, I thought one of my WCMM was sick too because he was isolating himself and not swimming around much, had what I thought were inflamed-looking gills (could have imagined it?!) and he was gasping - none of the others were doing that - they open their mouths occasionally, but not like this one was - just gasping on the spot in a still corner of the tank.

Seems OK now after a brief quarantine with some white spot treatment but his colour is still pale.

I hate not knowing what's wrong... Hopig everything rights itself now as he seemed fine this morning.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hey Janelle

I was just re-reading this old thread, and I've had the EXACT same thing happen to 8 of my WCMM's in the last few weeks.

They all get tehir mouths stuck open, and then are dead within 24 hours - what the heck is this??!

I thought it was nitrite poisoning as we had issues for a while there with that, but it seemed uncanny that you had the exact same symptoms and timeframe for death etc.

Did you ever find out what was causing it??

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Hi Kelsta,

I never did find out what caused it but the last time I posted about it was the last time it happened to me. I have had other white cloud deaths but they were all explainable... some kind of tumourous growth, a murderous goldfish.... etc...

Sorry I can't help to enlighten you. I just found that eventually they stopped dying off and the ones that were left are all very hardy.

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  • 5 weeks later...

Unfortunately, that doesn't accurately describe the manner of my own WCMM's deaths. They were not gasping at the surface (I have seen oxygen starvation before in my mum's goldfish). In fact, they were not gasping at all, they were TRYING to gasp but it seemed like they had some kind of lockjaw, and they were staying at the middle of the tank but just looking very dispirited.

It only happened one fish at a time and I would think if it had something to do with oxygen levels in the water the other fish would've also been gasping instead of swimming around normally and eating healthy and otherwise being their usual selves. I also had a Shark ADV powerhead filter aerating my water which was quite powerful. It certainly did not look like oxygen starvation to me.

I have not had a single WCMM die in the same way since the one that died when I started this thread and since then my tank has been hotter and more overstocked than ever. I would say it was just the weak ones dying off for some reason... Still don't know why though.

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Yep, same with me Janelle. I know it wasn't oxygen starvation because mine were dying one by one as well, while the others remained happy & healthy. There is heaps of airation in the tank, and and there was no gasping - just the lock jaw. Still don't know what it was, but the two survivors are still OK.

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