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Sean quoted Innes:
Oxygen deficiency: This occasionally occurs in poorly maintained
aquariums, including, too large a fish population and only a few plants,
dirty or clogged filters, muddy bottom material, and large accumulations
of leftover food, poor lighting which reduces photosynthesis capability,
starved plants suffering from nutritional deficiencies...if the O2
content is less then 2 milligrams per quart (L), the fish will be at the
surface gasping for air."
And I comment:
It can also happen in perfectly maintained, sparkling clean, heavily
planted tanks. How? High altitude and hot summer nights. I find that
in all of my tanks, I have to run an airstone at night. An air pump
failed on me a couple of months ago in a 4 foot tank that is covered
with hygrophila (sp?) and lightly populated with rainbow fish. All but
one of the smallest dwarf neon rainbows and the cory cats, died,. The
cory cats can utilize atmospheric air. The remaining rainbow perked up
immediately upon me lowering the water level and turning the spray bar
into an aerator. ( he was hanging at the surface, gasping) Its not a
one time observation on my part, but this was the worst incident.
I wish someone would write a book that gives some alternative
explanations to "bad" things happening. They all uniformly cite poor
water conditions for all maladies, and it just isn't the ONLY answer.