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    Thread: Smelled Chlorine

    1. #1
      Roark's Avatar
      Roark is offline Senior Member
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      Nov 2004
      South of Latitude 89

      Now we get to the forensics. Call it bench-racing if you like.

      When you have a problem like this, it's important to get rid of the emotion and go for the data: Here is the only data Marie posted as to the fish health issues: "...all the fish were pale and slow, several of them hiding somewhere under the bakki bridge..." And she stated that she "smelled chlorine". These are the only two bits of info we have to work on, so lets take it from the top.

      "Chlorine Smell": FWIW, if you smell chlorine, what you're smelling is really chlorine which has already reacted with something in the pond. In other words, organics.... typically algae and "stuff" (DOCs) which were in the water. Believe it or not, if you add chlorine gas to distilled water, the resulting "bleach" has very, very little "chlorine smell". It isn't until it reacts with something organic, or undergoes a temp change which causes it to directly outgas, that you smell much of anything. The smell doesn't necessarily mean there is *currently* chlorine in the water... but it does mean something WAS there. If you smell this in a pond, and the fish are still moving, you're about halfway home. Chlorine is reacting with the stuff already in there and lots of it is evolving from the water into the air as THM's (trihalomethanes). The pond, in a left-handed way, is dechlorinating itself.

      Slow Fish Hiding Under Bridge: Fish will undergo this type of behavioral change anytime a significant environmental change occurs. It isn't cause for panic... just investigation. Fish will hide after a hard rain (pH change, fresh water), after the dog jumps-in, or someone spills a keg of beer (don't ask) into the pond. So it's just a universal signal that something isn't the way it was a few hours ago. The important data is what she did NOT say: No gasping. No rolling. No flashing, jumping, banging-against-the-sides. So to me at least, this doesn't sound like a pond in major trouble. Something just changed, which when you say "chlorine smell" is understandable. The position under the bakki shower is understandable and means they had more air and less chlorine in that zone. (Chlorine will outgas somewhat, and if her bakki shower looks like most that are well-seasoned, I'd be willing to bet most of the chlorine had reacted with the surface-growing biomass resulting in an effulent with a barely-measureable chlorine level. Smart fish!).

      Chlorine kills in minutes usually... and over an hour or two if the dose is borderline fatal. The general rule is if the fish are still swimming 8-12 hours later and are in not in very visibly dire straights, you've dodged the bullet. That describes Marie's fish perfectly. What Marie had here was a close call. She had an "oops".

      We can all learn from her oops. Lets look at what we threw at her as possible recovery positions now that the immediate crisis has past:

      Peroxide: Peroxide is a useful tool in skilled hands, but it is for *extreme* emergency use only. It does three things: 1). It reacts with KMnO4 to crash-out permanganate into oxides, dioxides, and hydroxides. 2). It can be used at very low levels as a microbicide in holding tanks with ulcered fish. 3). It can be used to add oxygen in *extreme* emergency situations provided the pond HAS some mulm, algae, etc in it. The key point is that at levels where it can add measureable oxygen, it is directly corrosive to the fish. So you properly use it at therapeutic levels only where things have gone completely to hell, your back is up against the wall, and the fish are going to be flat-dead in a matter of minutes if you don't at least try it. From Marie's data, there was no indication that these fish were in an oxygen emergency of any kind. No gasping, rolling, etc. No dosing data was given, either, which can be very dangerous indeed. One other issue, and it's an important one, is that it violates the "2-oxidizer" rule. Simply put, you never want to add an oxidizer (ie, hydrogen peroxide) to an oxidizer (chlorine) unless they will react and cancel-out the effects of the other. Given a double-shot of oxidizer, if the fish weren't dead before... they will be very shortly. So while the intent was very clearly to help, I think this tool should have been left in the toolbox.

      Salt: Salt is a "med" which also does three things: 1). It kills "bugs" at levels of 0.3% to 0.8%. 2). It irritates the fish and causes the production of extra "slime coat". 3). It unloads the osmotic equasion a bit and can be helpful when you've got a fish which is expending a bunch of energy trying to pump chloride ions against a large wound (ulcer), etc. In Marie's case, there isn't anything to recommend salt *yet*. (But in a couple of days or so, this may change). Introducing salt is basically a "no-harm" move, but it was somewhat unnecessary and only further stressed the fish. (I think the idea would have been a good one *if* the fish were burned and reacting with spiderwebbing, etc).

      Dechlor: Now THIS stuff is what these fish needed... and fast. Anytime you "smell chlorine", you need to be reaching for the dechlorinator quickly. It doesn't much matter which you use as long as you get it in there FAST. In a perfect world, I'd prefer sodium thiosulfate over anything else because it's lightning-quick and doesn't bother the fish even at very high doses. It's also very cheap, which means in a pinch you can simply pitch it in there by the handful. Or you can use Amquel, Prime, etc. The fish won't care one bit as long as you get it in there. (Note that a really *smart* ponder would run a couple of pounds of ST through an old coffee mill until it was just a fine dust, pack it in a jar with a wedgie of desicant, and leave it on the shelf against future need. Microfine ST dust broadcasted on top of the water dissolves instantly, nukes the chlorine in just seconds, and gives the fish a chlorine-free surface where they can come to gasp. In contrast, chunks of unmilled ST crystals go right to the bottom, dissolve slowly, and takes precious time to work. When seconds count, giving the fish a dechlored zone into which they can quickly move improves your odds substantially).

      So we had three "chems" suggested, of which one was IMHO an error, one of which was a "no-harm", and one of which very clearly saved the day.

      Further Rants: As a hobby, I think we're becoming too quick on the draw. We are using "stuff" that we really shouldn't be using or don't fully understand. IMHO, as a hobby, we've become a bunch of "pushbutton ponders" who favor these heard-it-on-a-chat-board-reactions over actual thought-it-all-the-way-through recovery (or prevention) strategies. When something goes wrong we're all primed and ready to reach for syringes, meds, chemicals, etc. Most don't have the knowledge to effectively use these tools under battlefield conditions... and that way lies disaster.

      I had a flight instructor who used to say that "Good pilots always stay three mistakes high". What he meant was the first response to any sudden crisis is usually a reactionary mistake by the amateur pilot. The second mistake comes when you try to recover from the first one... and thereby over-correct. The third mistake happens while you're cussing yourself for the first two and are now rattled intellectually as well as physically and emotionally, and you're watching that ****** altimeter unwind. If you stay three mistakes high... you avoid making those painful craters in the side of hills. He used to say the biggest threat to an aircraft in straight and level flight is the pilot. I tend to agree.

      A fish crisis isn't much different. In a fish crisis, the first thing you need to do is... Stop. Look. Think. Then act once you understand what is in play and what you've got in the arsenal to deal with it. Do not add random stuff to the water. Instead, review what the fish needs to survive the next 10 minutes. It's a very short list:

      1). Clean Water
      2). Air

      If you've got those two things, you've got a 50/50 of keeping the fish alive... at least in the short-term. If you have doubts about the quality of water... CHANGE IT. Or move the fish to new water if possible. If you have doubts about sufficient air... ADD MORE. Want a bit of profound wisdom given to me by a battle-tested breeder?Nobody ever killed a fish by giving it more water or air. (c.f: Brett Rowley). Given water and air, you'll generally have enough time to sort-out the other issues instead of correcting reactionary mistakes you may have made.

      So... it was an interesting experience. Nobody's fish died, and we all learned something. (And Marie got a few more gray hairs, yes? Hehehehe).

      Last edited by Noahsnana; 10-08-2007 at 12:30 PM.
      You're just jealous because The Voices only talk to me....
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