Fish in the horse tank experiment failing - why?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Phantomfyre, Mar 14, 2005.

  1. Phantomfyre

    Phantomfyre Black Cat Farm Supporter

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    Recently here, there was a post about keeping fish in stock/horse tanks to help keep the tanks clean. Sounded good. So DH and I waited until the tank was due to be cleaned, and then went and bought 4 "large" (2 1/2 - 3 1/2"long ) feeder fish. (Like little koi.) I scrubbed the tank out good the day beforehand with just baking soda, rinsed it well and refilled it with well water. The next day (Sunday before last), I added the fish, being careful to float them for a while to let the temps equalize before I turned them loose.

    One died the next day. OK, stuff happens.

    Saturday morning, I went out to feed the horses and found one floating on his side - thought it was dead, but it was still alive, barely, and another very listless and not very responsive at the top of the tank. The other seemed fine. So I collected all 3 of them in a bucket, brought them up to the house, ran some fresh water into the bucket with them right away to introduce oxygen and then kinda swished the 2 ailing fish around to run water over their gills. I kept gradually adding fresh water, and then changed them over to all fresh water, again taking care to float them first to let the temps equalize. Remarkably, the one that was nearest death recovered first. The other one also recovered, it just took a bit longer.

    I figured the reason to be oxygen starvation - too much hay in the tank and it was starting to decay already. I planned to keep them in the house until I clean the tank again, and this time, be more careful to scoop out the hay that the horses drop in there. (I did this before, but didn't get enough of it, apparently.)

    Last night, the 2nd one to recover died. Found it just sitting at the bottom of the tank, dead. Weird, it wasn't floating at the top.

    I changed the water again.

    Today, the remaining 2 had some kind of slime/whitish coating on them. I gently swished one of them clean (the one that had been nearest death originally) and left the other. Tonight, the one I cleaned off died. Again, at the bottom of the container they're in.

    I have one fish left in a gallon bucket. I admit to not being fish savvy, but didn't expect all these problems, because it sounded simple enough - put the fish in the tank, everyone's happy. What am I doing wrong? Are they really running out of oxygen that fast, or is something else wrong with them? :confused:

    Thanks,
    Diana
     
  2. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    When you first set up a tank ( I am going by "normal" fish tank rules here, they will apply), you have to get the water "aged", and get the necessary bacteria population. Put some kind of gravel in the bottom for the bacteria to live on, this makes lots of surface area for them. 1/2" gravel is the best. Then, you would want to put one little tough fish to start the circle, and get the bacteria population you will need. Remove 20% of the water once a week or so. Do not remove too much or you might mess up the bacteria balance. 50% would probably be the limit. Never clean it totally out. I really have no idea how this works out with horses drinking out of it, so long as they don't drink too much, it should be fine.

    Since you already have fish, you would just leave them in there, it's not optimum, but it should still work. Your real problem seems to be oxygen, they need to have some kind of water movement. You can get a tank aerater that will blow bubbles into the water. For a large outside tank like that, I'm not sure what would be best. Anything to make the water get air into it. Whether some kind of fountain or aerator.

    Having fish in the the tank livestock drink out of doesn't sound like the greatest idea to me...
     

  3. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

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    Oh, the slime is a stress reaction.
     
  4. poppy

    poppy Guest

    Countrygirl is probably correct. I would think a horse tank could support small fish easily. Goldfish can live in a small bowl for quite a while. Probably just a balance of bacteria and nutrients problem. I would think it easier to keep fish in a horse tank than a horse in a fish tank, but I may be all wet. :)
     
  5. SteveD(TX)

    SteveD(TX) Well-Known Member

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    I don't know exactly what kind of fish you had (little koi??), but it could have be a temperature problem. The fish you buy in pet shops are usually tropical fish and cannot stand colder temps. The wrong type of bacteria in the water from the horses or hay could also be the culprit. Fish don't just need water. They need the right environment to survive. If you filled it with well water, it might have too much iron or minerals. If tap water, chlorine would kill them. Research backyard ponds, etc. and do your homework. You might have better luck next time.
     
  6. Phantomfyre

    Phantomfyre Black Cat Farm Supporter

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    Thanks guys. I honestly don't know what kind of fish they are - they look like your average, garden-variety goldfish - yes, like little koi. No fancy fins, not the roly-poly ones with the flashy fins, just little orange and orange and white fish. The ones they sell for next to nothing as feeder fish, in the tanks that seem totally overcrowded. I got the bigger size because I thought they'd fare better than the smaller ones. They were out in the tank in the cold for nearly a week and seemed fine. Swimming around, poking at bits of hay floating at the surface of the tank. The nutrient/bacteria levels thing sounds most likely. I doubt I'd ever be able to get that just right for them in the horse tank, so this is not something I'm likely to try again. :no:

    As for the one that's still alive, if it's exhibiting signs of stress already, is there anything I can do for it, besides stopping the water changes? It might be "just" a $0.25 fish, but I bought them and I'm responsible for this mess, and I want to try to do what I can to make this right if I can.

    Thanks again,
    Diana
     
  7. longshadowfarms

    longshadowfarms Well-Known Member

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    Just curious since I'm no fish expert but how would you add water to the stock tank without disturbing the temperature too much? Our cows clean out the tank every other day and I just refill with a hose. It would seriously shock fish if I had them in there not to mention the times when I forget to plug in the heater and it freezes over. :eek: I think I'm not understanding this concept. Sounds like more work than gain to me. I keep my two siamese fighting fish in two bowls on the counter in my kitchen. Their names are "One Fish/Red Fish" and Two Fish/Blue Fish." ;)
     
  8. silentcrow

    silentcrow Furry Without A Clue

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    Hi,
    I remember when I was growing up in Calif, my mom's friend kept fish in her water bathtubs for the horses. I don't recall her doing anything special for oxygen content. I think goldfish are kinda like Beta's and can take oxygen from outside the water, but I'm not sure. I know those buggers got pretty big, tho!
     
  9. Corgitails

    Corgitails Well-Known Member

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    We used to do that at my grandparents place, and IIRC, we had the same problem... I could be wrong, but I think your problem is a lack of aeration, so... putting a fountain or something in there ot really get the water circulating could definately help. Make sure you've got GOLDFISH (ie, a species of carp- they're cold water fish.) I think our eventual solution was to move the pipe the water pours into the tank from from the middle of the tank to the top so it splashed into the water (not hard, I think dad just chopped the end off) and bought a massive quantity of goldfish to start with, figuring we'd lose lots.
     
  10. GREEN_ALIEN

    GREEN_ALIEN Sunny, Wet, Tornadoey SD!

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    The trick is to start with a bunch of fish. Go to the pet shop and buy a couple of hundred feeder goldfish. They run about 07 - 08c ea here. The strong will survive and bacteria will develop in a matter of days. Don't worry about cleaning the tank or changing water, just add as the horses drink it down. Contrary to popular belief goldfish could care less about the temperature for the most part and will survive being frozen solid all the way up to about 85F water temps.
     
  11. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    As Southerngirl stated, you did not let the tank age long enough.

    Secondly, don't float them. It's the not temperature change that kills them (if they are otherwise healthy), it is the Ph change. Put the fish into a container with their store water, and gradually add tank water until it is half and half. Then start taking out the water and adding more tank water. Give yourself a half hour or better to go through this process.

    Third, does your water have any additives, such as chlorine? This will kill the fish. If you spray the water, fountain style, into the tank, the chlorine will disipate into the air. Chloramine will not.

    Fourth, is there an extreme temperature change between the tank water and the fresh water? Goldfish can take extremes in temperature, if given sufficient time. So, the water could warm up during the day and cool off during the night, but suddently adding a great deal of cold water to warmed up water could be too stressful. Measure the temp of your tap water, and the temp of the nighttime or early morning tank water (coolest time) How different? You could use a smaller second tank, filling it with fresh water and leaving it overnight to reach same temp (and dechlorinate if necessary).

    I doubt that you are having an oxygen problem. A breeze floating by will ripple the water (breaking the surface and allowing an exchange of gases between the air and the water), as will livestock taking a drink, as will adding water.

    Also, pay attention to the daytime temps as we move into summer. The warmer the water, the lower the oxygen. If you only have half a dozen goldfish in a stock tank, this will probably not be a problem for you. But, consider having a drip faucet into the tank to keep the water from becoming too warm. Goldfish are not tropical.
     
  12. DayBird

    DayBird Big Bird

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    You said you didn't get all the hay out of the tank when you cleaned it the first time. You also said that you cleaned the tank with baking soda. You didn't get all of the baking soda out of the water, did you? Baking soda will raise the pH of the water dramatically. The feeder fish kept in big tanks in the petstores (I manage one and keep about 1000 in a 75 gallon tank) are used to water with a really low pH due to the nitrifying bacteria.

    Contrary to popular belief, fish rarely die from "oxygen starvation." Rather they usually die from high carbon-dioxide concentrations. Same problem, different causes. The problem being lack of "airation." Air stones, fountains, bubblers do not "pump" oxygen into the water. They pump air into the water that very, very quickly rises to the surface in little bubbles. When these bubbles burst at the surface of the water, the miniscus (that funny "skim" that forms on the surface of the water due to molecular tension of the H2O molecules) bursts and allows carbon dioxide to escape into the water. Sure, lots of oxygen is added to the water this way, but tests done by Dr. Herbert Axelrod (the grand-daddy of aquarium keeping and founder of TFH [Tropical Fish Hobbyists and producer of hundreds of pet products]) done in the 60's using mineral oil on the surface of the aquarium found that it was not oxygen starvation, but rather the aformentioned buildup of carbon dioxide that causes the fish to die.

    Fish do not have lungs. They have gills which are very similar to mammal's lungs. Just like our lungs, the fish's gills remove gaseous waste products form the animals blood and expells them into the water. When there is an over concentration of carbon dioxide (or ammonia, more on that in a moment) in the water, the carbon dioxide cannot leave the fishes blood due to the laws of osmosis. Osmosis is the process by which substances (carbon dioxide molecules) pass through a semi-permiable membrane (the fish's gills) from an area of greater concentration (the fish's blood) to an area of lesser concentration (the water the fish is in.) To simplify things, if the water if full of carbon dioxide, then the carbon dioxide that is in the blood cannot get out and the cells the fish is composed of suffocate.

    Ammonia is produced by the fish as a waste product, from the feces expelled decomposing. Cellular metabolism within the fish's body also produces various nitrogen compounds, one of them being ammonia. There are several "nitrifying" bacteria in the genera Nitrobacter and Nitrosomas that commonly live in aquariums. Hence Southergurl's recommendation of adding some gravel from an established aquarium to the horse tank. These bacteria also form cysts (Botulism does this also which is why that bacteria can survive boiling and you have to process your greenbeans at high pressure for long periods of time) that allows them to live in a form of suspended annimation and can be purchased in a liquid form from the aquarium store. I personally like, use and recommend a product called Stress Zyme. This will "seed" your horse tank with the good bacteria.

    Start over. Empty out the horse tank. Do not use baking soda or any other cleaners. Get out all of the hay. Rinse it very well. Figure out some way to airate the water. A cheap air pump and bubble stone from the fish store will work well if a power supply is nearby. Buy a dozen more feeder goldfish and start over. I would not recommend, however, buying hundreds of them and letting the weak ones die off. This will only cause the ammonia problems to worsen. You'd actually be better off buying one at a time. If any fish die, you want to immediatly remove them from the water and their decaying corpse will cause the water quality to plunge.
     
  13. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

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    I just let the tanks get moldy. Never seems to bother anything.

    Jena
     
  14. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    always adding clean water MAY be makig the salt saturation to low, goldfish like a little salt in the water, it helps them breathe better.
    not enough salt to make the water even taste salty... i think its like a tablespoon to 5 gal.
    that amount shouldnt harm the horses either.
    also the tank might be to small.. and to clean. goldfish [carp] dont like clean water, if its green and black growing on the bottom and walls, they like that.

    temp shifting to fast will cause dropsy, they will swell up and theiur scales will pop out and they will liik like a pinecone....
    water trickling in a little at a time as the horses drink, like with a float valve or a spring feeder, shouldnt bug them...
    water thats to clean and not salty enough will kill em. pure rainwater will suffocate them, [no salt].

    your better off starting with SMALL little comets, they will grow and adapt to the tank, largwer fish have a hard time shifting conditions.
     
  15. Phantomfyre

    Phantomfyre Black Cat Farm Supporter

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    Thanks, everyone.

    I really think these are the carp type. They handled the cold out there fine.

    The water I put in the tank is well water, so no chlorine.

    I only have 2 horses: they don't go through enough water for me to have had to refill the tank (or even add any water) since I filled it last. In the summer, I have to fill the tank about once a week, in the winter, about once every 2 1/2 to 3 weeks. I clean the tank every time I fill it - was hoping that with the fish, I could reduce the frequency of the tank cleanings.

    When I cleaned the horse tank the first time to prepare for the fish, it was spotless - ALL hay out, all corners scrubbed, even the tank heater was cleaned. What I meant was, that as the days wore on and the horses dropped hay in, my daily "reach in and scoop out the hay" cleanings didn't get all of the hay out. So a small buildup of hay on the bottom of the tank to built up, but it was absolutely clean to begin with. And I rinsed it really well to make sure I got out all the baking soda.

    The tank should be plenty big - it's a 110 gallon tank.

    I'd have to get a pump to put in the tank for aeration, because I can't leave the hose hooked up to drip in there - it will freeze. The tank is inside the run-in for the horses, so is sheltered from the wind, but my gelding likes to dip his hay in the water, so with every mouthful of hay, he breaks the surface of the water, which should help with gas transpiration - would a bubbler or something still be necessary?

    I added the fish to the tank right after I filled it, so the water in the tank was about 55-60 degrees, having come right from the well. So no big temp shock there. After that, 110 gallons should have taking long enough to drop in temp to match the outside temps not to shock them. Beyond that, the only fluctuations in temp were when the tank would cool down when the tank heater was off, and back up when the tank heater was on - just enough to keep ice from forming, but not warm, by any means.

    So I'm left with pH differences between the store's water and mine (but wouldn't that have done them all in the first day or two?) and no nitrifying bacteria in the water.

    If I seed the tank with the right bacteria, could I add a mesh bag of gravel to the tank that could be easily removed for tank cleanings (because the tank would still need to be cleaned periodically), clean the tank, then drop the bag of gravel back in to re-seed the new water, let it sit a day or so before re-introducing the fish each time?

    Thanks again everyone! I really appreciate your help.

    Diana
     
  16. Wolf mom

    Wolf mom Well-Known Member

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    I used to put goldfish in my tank, but got so I didn't like the scum. Fish need to eat. They eat from the algie that also produces oxygen. If I had a horse that liked to dip his hay, I wouldn't do this as it'd get too dirty. When I stop to think where horses drink in the wild and on large ranches, sometimes I think we coddle them too much.
     
  17. Suzanne

    Suzanne Well-Known Member

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    We bought 2 smaller Koi at Walmart for our tank. They did wonderful and got huge. But we have the downspout off the barn that goes to the tank, so it is flush with alot of rain water during rainy weather or melting. In the summer we try to never let it get to low, but of course it has and they did fine. So maybe its just the fish!! We always brought ours into the basement in the winter, as we don't use a heater for our tanks. But now they are in our large wetland pond, got tired of forgetting to catch them before the tank started to freeze :eek: And they were getting so big.... I haven't seen them, but sorry I did it as I would like to put them in our much larger tank....
    I'd try it again.....
     
  18. pamda

    pamda Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Where did you by these fish? Some places have very stressed fish, due to mis-care by the staff. I would try again with new fish from another store.
     
  19. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member

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    I buy a couple bucks worth of the the 8 cent feeder goldfish for the water troughs. I do not scrub the tanks first before putting them in. There is algae and the horses usually slobber grain into there. I figure the horse slobbers have enough salt for the fish. If it gets scum on the top, I flood that off.

    One possibility why your fish died is too much oxygen in the water if you did not let it set long enough after filling the trough. Fish die of bubble disease, which is similar to us getting the bends.(sp?)

    We have a pretty good survival rate and have some that are huge 8 year old fish.
     
  20. bethlaf

    bethlaf Homegrown Family

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    any of the feeder goldfish you buy can get up to 18 inches , basicly they are colored carp , i mean lets get real , they are bottom feeders, i would agree its a ph thing, and unless you were feeding thefish in that nice clean tank , i would think starvation