New Tank Syndrome

Did you recently start a new aquarium?...

Basically this happens when a new tank isn't setup correctly. When there's no bacteria to breakdown fish waste, ammonia and then nitrite levels rise to dangerous quantities making the water itself poisionous to fish.

Online Diagnosis

What to Look For

  • Sudden Death
  • Cloudy Water
  • Unexplained Death
  • Smelly Water
  • New Tank Setup

What's going on?

Also referred to as "spiking" or "recycling", new tank syndrome (NTS) is something we have all experienced at one time or another. One of the main objectives in a new aquarium is to establish sufficient numbers of bacteria to breakdown the toxic waste (ammonia) produced by your fish into nitrite, and finally relatively harmless nitrates. This can then be removed by frequent partial water changes.

In a newly set up aquarium, those bacteria are not present in any quantity, and it takes time - about a month under normal circumstances - for those bacteria to multiply to the point of being able to keep up with the waste output of the fish. "New Tank Syndrome" and "The Break- In Cycle" describe the period in which ammonia and then nitrite levels rise to dangerous quantities before being converted into relatively harmless nitrate.

How to Fix It?

Get the water conditions correct to save any of your fish. IF you water is cloudy or smells bad, your in trouble. Start by doing daily water changes of 20%, check you filter. Gravel wash and feed very little food. Hopefully your cycle will come around sooner rather than later.

How to Prevent this?

It is best not to add any fish to a newly established aquarium until the biological cycle has been established and ammonia and nitrite levels are zero. This requires variable lengths of time, but it should generally be safe to start introducing fish after 21 days, but use test kits to monitor the process. All hobbyists should have an ammonia and nitrite test kit and know how to use them. One great way to speed up the process is to add some water or gravel or ornaments from an already established tank.

Stocking the tank slowly can prevent new tank syndrome, giving the whole system enough time to adjust. Another way to avoid the new tank syndrome is by cycling the tank using the fishless cycling method. This method allows stocking the tank as soon as the cycle has been completed.

Disease & Tank Problems

Common Problems

(80% of all problems aquarium issues)
New Tank Syndrome - Is your tank new? Do you have cloudy water?
Ammonia Poisoning - Fins are torn, red steaking on body.
Vitamin Deficiencies - Scoliosis (Curved Spine), Reduced Growth, Lack or Loss of Appetite
Bad Water - Gravel washed this week? Add new water? See Ammonia Poisoning
Swim Bladder Problems - Erratic Swimming Position, Loss of equilibrium.
Physical Injury - From fighting, bumping into things, etc
Stress - Acting weird? Hiding all day? Not eating?
Walmart Syndrome - Did you buy your fish there?


(Usually visual things/bugs)
Anchor Worms - Tiny white-green or red worms in wounds, Frequent rubbing or "flashing".
Black Spot - Small black speckles on body.
Ich - Small white "salt-like" pimples on fins & body.
Skin / Gill Flukes - Fish gasps for air at the water's surface, gills covered in mucus.
Oodinium (velvet) - Fine grey-gold to whitish 'dust' on the body.
Parasites (External) - Large ugly sores on body.
Planaria - Small White Hairlike Worms in the tank.

Bacterial Diseases

(Mostly Internal Problems or invisable problems)
Pop Eye - One or both eyes protrude from the head in an unusual fashion.
Dropsy - Huge, Fat, Bloated Belly, Lethargy and loss of appetite.
Fin Rot - Fins turn Jagged or whitish and die back.
Hole in the Head - Small holes in and around the head.


(Usualy white foggy type things)
Cataracts - White or grey "foggy" eyes.
Cotton Mouth - White "Cotton like" fungus on the mouth.


"My Fish is ALIVE! Thank you so much for your wonderful interweb site..."
- Jack R.