FAQs on Cleaning Freshwater
Related Articles: Freshwater Algae & Control, Tips for Beginners, pH, alkalinity, acidity, Treating Tap Water, Freshwater Aquarium Water
Related FAQs: Freshwater Maintenance 1, Freshwater Maintenance 2, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality,
Treating Tap Water for Aquarium Use,
pH, Alkalinity, Acidity, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease,
Using live plants can greatly reduce
maintenance. Red Foxtail, Myriophyllum.
Strange stuff growing in tank. 4/30/18
I have a new set up, only a few weeks old. This tank used to house frogs.
When all frogs had died I boiled everything, set the tank back up, new
filtration, heater, air, everything. I let it run for a while, added conditioner
and tank salt, then added 6 neons, then waited and added 3 guppies (daughter
choice!!). I got the little fish to get the bacteria in place before adding the
fish I actually want. I did have a bacteria
bloom about a week ago, but I noticed this weird stuff on the bottom today. Any
ideas and or suggestions would be appreciated.
<Yeah; my guess is on a mix of Protists and Protozoans... decomposers...
funguses, single-celled organisms. Not likely problematical... will cycle out w/
time, or you can gravel vacuum once a week for a few weeks. As time
goes by other dynamics, organisms will use the same space, foods. Bob Fenner>
Re: Strange stuff growing in tank. Now also importance of FW pH
Ok great thank you. The little guys don’t seem bothered by it, just wanted to
make sure the vacuum wouldn’t cause issues. Thank you for getting back to me so
Can I ask another quick question. I would like to have cichlids when my water
matures. That is what I have always done and quite successfully. I haven’t done
fish for a number of years as frogs last a lot longer than I had thought!!
<Ahh! There used to be a sort of general "natural progression" in hobbyists...
goldfish, guppies and other livebearers perhaps; oddballs, cichlids,
catfishes... Marines! >
When I was speaking to my local fish store, they were telling me that Ph
levels didn’t matter, when I had always been under the idea that both
Ph and Nitrites were equally important to keep at a proper level. She seemed to
think that only the Nitrites mattered, is this correct??
<Not correct; pH of water/solutions has a great deal to do with important
bio/chemical reaction expediency. Best to have organisms that live within a
range of pH you intend to maintain, and do what you can to buffer (most all
waters have some buffering capacity) your water to not have pH change too much,
too quickly... Bolstering, restoring pH sustaining hardness with regular water
changes... and if necessary, treatment of the change out water to add or dilute
the hardness. To state another way, pH is as important as behavioral
compatibility in optimizing the health of your livestock. Do see books (!), the
Net re the natural ranges of this important variable. Fishbase.org is a fave for
fishes. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Strange stuff growing in tank. 4/30/18
<They slip away across the universe. B>
fresh water tank. Coating on inside glass panels
Hi, I have a 30 gallon tank. Two fancy tail guppies. Change filter every
30 days. My water is crystal clear but tank sides all the way around
have a cloudy residue. I can wipe off with finger but is hard to remove
towel. Do I need to drain and re do whole tank?
<Mmm; maybe... being both lazy and adventurous myself, I'd first try a
"razor blade" type aquarium scraper, or a single edged razor blade
My fish are happy and healthy. Close to bearing young. My filter is
running on high. I have a bright light on during the day and soft light
at night. Help. Karen
<I suspect the material here is biological in nature... rather than a
simple/r chemical "scale" type problem... as your fishes are healthy as
you state. Bob Fenner>
Re: fresh water tank 3/25/17
<Welcome. Have seen/experienced such "light-white" glass (and acrylic)
coatings at times... as the system "matures", other organism groups
supplant... Bob Fenner>
A lot of poops? 2/20/17
Hey crew! I have a quick question with a photo attached.. I've done a large
water change not too long ago to get rid of this weird 'slime' that
keeps growing on my wood
<Mmm; not weird, but yes to slime of sorts>
but I also noticed that there was a lot. I mean a lot of poops (I think)
everywhere and on everything. I have some shrimp with my Betta. And I've
also added a plant that may have carried some snails as well.. any
idea as to what this slime is and the cause of the fast growth?
<Yes; decomposition... Like the joke about Beethoven after he croaked>
As well as the fast accumulation of this poop?? Thanks so much hope to hear
back from you soon!
<Well; you could try to (dry out, coat w/ chemically inert) seal this wood;
but if not; it will continue to degrade till it's all gone. DO keep up w/
regular/weekly water changes, lest the decomp. over-foul your water. Bob
Perfect aquarium towels; for aq. cleaning!
Hi Captain Bob and crew :)This is not a question. But a tip if any are
<Yes; thank you>
The perfect towel I have found so far for cleaning glass or salt off of
doors etc .is flour sack towels. You
can order them online from Wal-Mart real cheap. They don't seem
like much at first but after you wash them they get thirsty. They are a
nice size and dry super quick! Just hang up and They are completely dry
in a nifty. They are lint free as well. I use a man's
handkerchief dipped in vinegar and water to clean glass and wipe with
the other hand with the flour sack towel. Have a great day!
<Thank you for this insight. Bob Fenner>
A Question about Cleaning Gravel Vacuums, and a Farewell
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
Will hydrogen peroxide and hot water be sufficient to clean mold out of a gravel
vacuum? One of my gravel vacuums grew mold/mildew inside it. I replaced it, but
I'd like to know for future reference.
<Mmm; it should... though a soak (for ten, twenty minutes) in a dilute vinegar
(and water) bath would be more effective>
That's really the only question I have left.
The blue Acara are in the main tank, and they're doing great. I attached a
picture of them sharing an algae wafer with the weather loaches.
I want to thank you for everything. Before I spoke to you, all my fish were sick
and dying. Now, you've helped me save a silver dollar with brain damage, the
geophagus's lateral line is almost completely healed over, and my fish aren't
sick anymore. I also attached a picture of what the tank looks like now, with
the full community of fish inside it.
I'm heading out to Los Angeles for graduate school Thursday. This will probably
be the last time I'll speak to you for a while. I wrote a care guide for my
parents, who will be taking care of the fish in my absence. If you have any
advice for what to do here, let me know.
Thank you guys for everything,
P.S. Where in S. California does Bob Fenner live?
<Am in sweltering San Diego (next to Mexico). Cheers, BobF>
white crust (lime??)
Hi Crew, I live in an area known for its hard water. I have been getting
a build up of white crust and it seems to be plugging up the
holes on my water filter tubes that make my bio wheels turn. I
am guessing its lime or calcium from the hard water.
I am wondering what would be the best way to cut down or get rid of it.
<Physical removal is easy enough. Limescale is more soluble in hot
water, so running under a hot tap helps loosen it. A "safe" acid such as
vinegar or lemon juice can also be used to remove stubborn spots,
followed by rinsing to remove any acidity.>
Are there chemicals to add?
<No. This is a classic misunderstanding. Hard water, in your case water
with high carbonate hardness as well, is water with a lot of chemicals
in it. So removal of chemicals, specifically the dissolved minerals, is
what you're thinking about. Pros and cons to doing this of course, but
the biggest cost is that softening hard water is expensive and requires
investment in, for example, an RO filter. Whatever pet stores and some
websites might suggest, there's nothing you can buy in a bottle that
magically softens water for pennies a time. If there was, we'd all be
doing it. Instead, people either buy RO filters or collect rainwater
(what I do) and use that, often mixed with some tap water to produce
softer, less alkaline water some fish prefer.>
I have read to put peat in the filter. Which way is recommended and if
its the peat, would any peat I find in the pet store work? Is all peat
<Peat performs a kind of ion exchange that does soften water. But, and
it's a big but, it does this in an unpredictable manner. Unless you test
the water daily for a few weeks after installing a bag of peat in the
canister filter, you simply won't know what (if anything) it's doing.
Some other downsides to peat: For a start, it's wildly unsustainable,
taking thousands of years to grow, and one of the most threatened
habitats on Earth. (As fishkeepers, there's an irony to using something
that damages watery habitats, is there not?) Secondly, it colours the
water brown, which enhances the look of some fish to be sure (glowing
species like Neons especially) but blocks light and thus makes it harder
for plants to grow.
Finally, it uses up space in the filter that could be used for
biological media, reducing the efficiency of your filter. So while peat
is often mentioned in older aquarium books especially, it's actual use
in the hobby is extremely limited. Some breeding tanks perhaps, but even
there, sustainable "coir" (coconut fibre) is often used instead. Coir
doesn't lower the pH much or stain the water much, but provides the soft
substrate burrowing egg-layers like Killifish appreciate. Like peat
though it's very
messy if used directly in the tank as a substrate, and really only
viable in tanks with small air-powered sponge filters and very small
fish species that won't stir it up.>
If I use chemicals what would be recommended?
<Review RO filters elsewhere on WWM; these cost a few hundred dollars to
set up, and at least as much to run and maintain per year. Not cheap,
but the only "on demand" way to produce softened water at home. Cheap
ion exchange resins are sometimes offered instead, but these are
pitifully limited in terms of production, and work out a lot more
gallon, hence they're hardly ever used except by inexperienced aquarists
alarmed at the higher initial cost of RO. Finally, there's collecting
rainwater. Cheap, easy to do if you have a house with gutters and old
fashioned clay or slate roofing tiles, but only viable if your need for
water is matched by local rainfall.>
My tank is 40 gal. Here is a list of fish I currently have.
3 Madagascar rainbow,
2 julii Cory
1 albino Pleco
<None of these care about hard water all that much. The Corydoras are
likely more upset by being in too-small a group and, if you have gravel,
the fact there isn't sand used instead.>
Future probability-1- black ghost
<A mite fussier, but normally killed through lack of care rather than
water chemistry. Me? I'd not worry about the limescale. Remove
periodically, and instead optimise the tank in other directions:
substrate, planting, water quality, nitrate level, etc. Cheers, Neale.>
Methane buildup 12/16/14
Hi there. I have a 200 gallon goldfish tank, with about 2 to 3
inches of sand for substrate. I have heard here in there about
problems with methane build up
<Mmm, usually hydrogen sulfide... but...>
in the sand and I am wondering what is your suggestion I do to prevent
this? I don't want my fish dying due to a methane build up. Thank you so
much for your help!
<Right; all you need to is when doing regular (weekly) maintenance, is
gravel vacuum the tank during water changes... Yep; vacuuming to waste
the water while systematically going through the gravel... about 20-25%
of the water.
Cheers and happy holidays. Bob Fenner>
To sanitize or not sanitize?
Background: I have a 50 gal freshwater tank (with a 70-gal canister
that happily housed three goldfish until we moved about a year ago.
When I set up the tank again, I struggled with water quality
issues/bacterial infections (I assume, based on the symptoms) and
ultimately lost the goldfish.
<Yikes; am wondering what the cause/s were here>
I know goldfish have their challenges--which is why when I decided to
start again with new stock a few months ago, I went for tetras to start.
Things were stable for a while, then I started losing them with similar
symptoms: general lethargy followed by difficulty swimming, no signs of
external parasites. On advice of the local aquarium shop guys, I treated
the whole tank with a broad-spectrum antibiotic to try to kill whatever
bugs were lurking.
That worked until a few days ago, when another tetra died following a
similar pattern. This is getting to be pretty crazy-making for me, and I
imagine the fish aren't especially thrilled either.
At this point, I'm contemplating breaking down the whole tank and trying
to sterilize everything, which brings me to my question: should I?
<Possibly; do have some fish-friends come by and look... am wondering if
there's something toxic in your system. Perhaps a geode... or metal
And if so, what method would you recommend to make sure I really, really
get all the bugs--
<Bleach washing... here is an SOP:
The same procedure applies for sterilizing a complete system. DO read
through this thoroughly and get some help... Take CARE to not splash
bleach on you or the surroundings>
because the only thing that might make me crazier would be going through
that monumental effort and then having the problem crop up again.
Final note: current stock is 7 tetras, one angelfish, water parameters
are good last I checked, and I do 25% water changes every 2 weeks.
<Ah, welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: To sanitize or not sanitize?
Thanks for the quick reply-- a couple more questions (below in red):
<Ahh, the webmail program removes such (color) coding>
> Subject: To sanitize or not sanitize?
> Background: I have a 50 gal freshwater tank (with a 70-gal canister
> that happily housed three goldfish until we moved about a year ago.
> set up the tank again, I struggled with water quality issues/bacterial
> infections (I assume, based on the symptoms) and ultimately lost the
> <Yikes; am wondering what the cause/s were here>**I was having trouble
> getting the tank to cycle when I set it up again, though the system
> been stable before. I assume that had something to do with it**
> I know goldfish have their challenges--which is why when I decided to
> again with new stock a few months ago, I went for tetras to start.
Things were stable for a while, then I started losing them with similar
> general lethargy followed by difficulty swimming, no signs of external
> parasites. On advice of the local aquarium shop guys, I treated the
> tank with a broad-spectrum antibiotic to try to kill whatever bugs
**I'm willing to try that again as an alternative to bleaching. I don't
want to lose any more fish, but (aside from the epic work of taking
apart the tank) I'm a bit concerned that I'd just be swapping one
problem (possible bacteria) for another (non-cycled tank, stress of
> That worked until a few days ago, when another tetra died following a
> similar pattern. This is getting to be pretty crazy-making for me, and
> imagine the fish aren't especially thrilled either.
> At this point, I'm contemplating breaking down the whole tank and
> sterilize everything, which brings me to my question: should I?
> <Possibly; do have some fish-friends come by and look...**Guess I need
> make some fish friends?** am wondering if
> there's something toxic in your system. Perhaps a geode... or metal
**Interesting thought. I have had the same things in the tank the entire
time I've owned it (4+ years) with the exception of the heater and
thermometer I bought when I got the tetras...unless something was
introduced inadvertently during the move (can't think what that would
be?). Any input on what sort of symptoms would I be seeing in the fish
if this was the case? Would they be any different than what I might see
with an internal bacterial infection?**
<<Not necessarily... and there are such things as "olde tank
What seems to happen as systems age, they become more depauperate (less
speciose) and even toxic; with some few microbes overpopulating and
poisoning their own world w/ metabolites... An important human lesson as
> And if so, what method would you recommend to make sure I really,
really get all the bugs--
> <Bleach washing... here is an SOP:
> The same procedure applies for sterilizing a complete system. DO read
> through this thoroughly and get some help... Take CARE to not splash
> on you or the surroundings>
**Thanks for the link, a couple additional questions about bleach
washing an entire system: Would you recommend bleaching the gravel I
have for the tank bottom, or dumping it? What about the ceramic rings in
the canister filter?**
<<I would bleach all, in place... sans livestock... filter, media, all>>
> because the only thing that might make me crazier would be going
> through that monumental effort and then having the problem crop up
> Final note: current stock is 7 tetras, one angelfish, water parameters
> good last I checked, and I do 25% water changes every 2 weeks.
**I checked the water parameters again and notice that the pH is a bit
elevated (7.6 maybe?). Could this be the issue?**
<<Not likely; unless it's wildly vacillating (too little alkalinity).
> <Ah, welcome. Bob Fenner>
How often should I change the water/ filter maintenance..– 6/24/13
Right now I do about a 50% or more percent water change every Saturday.
the fish seems to like it and does well But Kim says this is too much,
because of water bills. How much water can you/should you change in a
tank And how often?
<Assuming an aquarium is not overstocked and you aren't overfeeding the
fish, you should be fine with 25% every week. I deliberately under stock
tanks and use lots of fast-growing floating plants, and this keeps
nitrate levels very low. As a result, some of my tanks get water changes
3-4 weeks apart. Your own mileage will vary. A lot depends on the fish
being kept -- most cichlids for example are much more sensitive to "old"
(basically, nitrate above 20 mg/l) than common barbs and catfish.>
Also I've not done anything to my sponge filter since i set it up about
4 months ago do I need to clean the filter too. would i kill the good
bacteria i really don't want to do that.
<Empty some aquarium water into a bucket, and clean the sponge filter in
there. Bacteria will be left alone. In reality filter bacteria are
actually quite tough, and even a luke-warm tap shouldn't cause any real
White substance on gravel 6/24/13
I have a 45 L Aquael pearl freshwater tank with a breeding pair of
Albino Bristlenoses with fry (60 very small fry).
<I see these. Neat!>
The PH is 7.4, Ammonia is 0, Nitrite is 0 and Nitrates vary between 20
and almost 40 (prior to a 5 day water change cycle where I take 15
<I'd change a bit more... frequently... vacuuming out this mess>
Filtration consists of a sponge filter, the integrated top filter (part
of the tank) and an internal Hailea power filter (HL-BT200)
operating at 200 L per hour.
<Good to have redundancy>
Every month or so I take about 10 of the largest fry out and take them
to the Aquarium. I have kept about 4 larger ones and introduced two
3-4cm peppermint bristlenoses.
This system has been taking place for 1.5 years.
We have live plants- 2 Anubias and java fern.
I believe that when we introduced the live plants on driftwood, a snail
population developed which has remained and increased gradually.
<As they're wont to do>
I discovered Bristle worms about 6 months ago and they have also
remained in the tank steadily.
<Of use here>
I usually feed the fish every second night with several Hikari regular
sized wafers- between 4 and 6 usually. If I feed them mini wafers
(Hikari also) I feed them a dozen or so.
<I'd feed during the day...>
I have noticed in the last week a white dusty like film over a
subsection of the gravel (see attached photos). I did a water
change/gravel vac 2 days ago and much of this film disappeared. I
initially thought this film was the result of disintegrated wafers as I
left 3-4 wafers out the previous night which did not get eaten quickly
enough as I had the light on and they usually come out after dark.
I sometimes feed them before the lights go out so the smaller fry eat
first as when the lights go out the larger ones tend to eat the wafers
ahead of the smallest ones. Usually I turn the lights off after 15
minutes but on that occasion I left them on for over an hour and noticed
the wafers disintegrating.
Would you please see the attached photos depicting the white film and
advise if known what the substance is and it's possible cause?
<Is a mix of food, wastes, decomposers (fungi, Protists); not a
worry unless there's too much of them... as evidenced by your high
nitrate (I'd keep under 20, possibly 10 ppm; mainly through water
Thank you and kind regards,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: White substance on gravel
Thank you very much for your time and advice Bob.
<Glad to proffer it Tania. BobF>
Easy Balance and cycling questions 10/16/12
Right, I'll ask the quick one first. I recently bought a new 70 litre
tank and it came with whatever Tetra's version of tap safe is, a small
tub of food and some mystery product called "Easy Balance" that claims I
only need to do water changes once every six months if I use it. It also
seems to "stabilise pH and KH". Is this stuff snake-oil, consignable
only to the bin or is it worth using it until the bottle is empty? I'm
always hesitant to believe extraordinary claims and anything that mucks
with my water chemistry makes me uneasy.
<Personally, I'd probably donate it to a local fish club for the next
auction. Nothing can replace water changes in my opinion.>
I won't buy any more of it, anyway, since I'm not paying for something
that elbow grease can accomplish just as easily, just curious.
<Set up another small tank and play with it if you are curious.>
The purpose of the tank was to set up the Betta Splendens "Sorority"
scenario as per this thread (amongst others):
I know it's a risk but I am keeping a really close eye on them and have
backup nanos to use as hospital tanks or outright isolation tanks. So
far, I've not seen any real open aggression, just a few nips, chases and
a bit of flaring. No worse than Danios, so far. Fingers crossed! I've
got some lovely specimens too, with some of them really similar in
colouration to wild betas.
<Females can often live in a sorority tank. Depends on the individuals.>
Into this new tank went a mature bubbler filter and a new All Pond
Solutions 600 litres per hour internal filter. I rubbed the wetted
media from the 600lph over mature filter media from my other tanks. The
media from each mature filter was also rinsed in the new aquarium's
water with the "pumps running". I want to go with the 600lph since the
trick to this setup seems to be slight overstocking to disperse
aggression. I thought over filtering might not be a bad plan in this
<Just watch your water currents. Bettas are still water fish.>
I didn't expect the bubbler to keep up with 8 female betas in a 70 litre
tank, but I didn't expect it too be too harsh on them either, especially
with frequent partial water changes (plan was 10% per day, depending on
analysis) and light feeding. Sort of an "assisted" fish in cycle. Well,
it seems like the bubbler is keeping up after all, two weeks in and not
a jot of ammonia in my daily tests. I'm now feeding normal amounts and
doing my standard 20% weekly water change. The issue I have is that I'm
not sure how long to leave the bubbler running in parallel with the new
filter. Normally I'd set up a tank with a new filter, go fishless and be
able to monitor the cycle but this isn't really an option here.
<I have a sponge filter going in all my tanks in tandem with HOB
filters, unless I don't want currents, then it's only sponge filters.
I think you can just use common sense here. Just turn it off for a few
days and leave it in the tank so you don't lose the bacteria. If trouble
starts, turn it back on.>
Just as an aside, so far I really like these internal filters from All
Pond Solutions for Betta setups. They come with an optional spray bar
that you can adjust the angle of egress on. The spray bar really reduces
the force of water and with the outlet holes angled toward the back of
the tank it does so even further. I have another smaller one cycling in
another tank to use with my male Betta. I can get rid of the ugly
home-made baffle on the outside of his internal filter soon. Still, they
are dirt cheap, so I'll be interested to see how much life I get out of
<Have not used them myself.>
Anyroad, thanks for any advice you can give, both on the new filter
cycle issue, the Easy Balance and anything else you might spot that I've
overlooked. Also, thanks again for all the help you've given me in the
<I think you are right on track.>
Re: Easy Balance and cycling questions 10/16/12
Thanks for your input. I always like an experiment, so I might just do
I'll stick the bubbler in it's final destination (a soon-to-be cherry
shrimp nano) and once I'm sure the Bettas are fine then go ahead with
Thanks again, your advice and reassurance is very much appreciated.
<Let us know how it turns out.>
Betta Tank has a White Film – 05/13/12
I have 3 male Betta (all in separate tanks) General-a dragonscale,
Admiral- veiltail and Halo a halfmoon. I have had Admiral for over a
year happy as a clam in his tank. However, General has developed
something in his tank and it's spread to my 3rd tank(Halo) due to
accidental cross contamination :( I have since been a lot more careful
in avoiding that. All three of them get their tanks cleaned once a week
and I had the water tested when this problem first occurred and the guys
(from a tropical fish store) said the water was fine and that the issue
was “rotting uneaten food.” However I very much doubt this because I
feed only what they will eat – interactive eat this bite and then you
can have another – I feed them 3 Betta bites and sometimes blood worms.
The dragonscale tank developed a white translucent film over the entire
surface of his tank. I can make it go away by carefully pulling all or
rather most of it off the top. I've scrubbed his tank and rocks
thoroughly many times using extremely hot water. Originally his rocks
were also developing a film the first few weeks and I thought that was
what was causing it but after a while they are no longer slippery now
and the film still develops after each cleaning. All three of them are
in glass tanks and only when I got the dragonscale did this start
occurring. Never had this problem before, it's not in my 15 gal tanks
and wasn't in my *original * Betta tank. It shouldn't be something in
the water because I use the same tap water for all my tanks and both my
15 gal and Admiral are completely free of contamination. I've noticed
that the film if I'm not paying attention will cover the entire tank and
this morning it was actually trapping air bubbles below its surface I
took pictures of all 3 tanks and then cleaned it up best I could. What
do you guys think this is? And what should I do about it? I've included
pictures of both tanks that are affected- the picture that looks mostly
clear is after you start cleaning up the gunk it sticks together, it was
easiest to show in the badly affected tank. Their tanks do sit at room
temperature without heaters or filters and are each a little bigger than
half a gallon. However, other than the fact that it's there it doesn't
seem to be bothering the fish himself, he's just as active and isn't in
Excuse the mess at the bottom of the
tanks I need to clean them today.
Thanks so much for your time!
<Hello Brittanie. The while film is a combination of organic wastes,
bacteria, and stuff that's in the water or fallen out of the air.
Normally the agitation of the surface layer of water stops this forming,
but if you have a tank with too little water movement, then you'll see
this slime form. You can see the exact same thing on stagnant ponds. As
a short-term, you can remove by draping kitchen paper on the water and
pulling it away, but you really do need to find out what your aquarium
is so dirty (and it is, and that's why this film is forming). Too much
food (or at least too much oily or protein-rich food) will be part of
the problem, and insufficient filtration, water movement, and water
changes will be the other part of the problem. Review, and act
accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: cleaning tank 11/2/11
What's the best way to clean a tank that's on the floor?
Filters and siphons don't work since they're level with the
<Then you will probably need to use a powerhead or some other pump
to move water out of the tank, or do it with a water pitcher taking out
a little at a time.>
Re: Parasites in my tank with other illnesses...please
help! I'm desperate!
I have one more thing I was hoping you can help me with. I have learned
so much from your website but the thing I just cant seem to get a
straight answer to no matter what website I'm on is about the
cycle. I've read that your <<you're>>
supposed to vacuum the gravel,
<If you want; I rarely bother.>
change the filter regularly
<No; clean the filter media every month or two, yes, but never
replace more than 50% of the biological media in any 6-8 week period.
Carbon needs to be replaced weekly, but there's so little reason to
use the stuff in a freshwater tank I wouldn't waste money on
and do a water change regularly cause the uneaten food and fish waste
is toxic to the fish and produces ammonia.
<Something like that! Water changes are for diluting nitrate, which
builds up as the end product of biological filtration. But the
biological filter is the bit that handles ammonia and nitrite, and
these two chemicals should be 0 mg/l at all times in a healthy, cycled
Then I have read that the good bacteria is not necessarily in the water
but in the gravel and the filter.
<The latter, mostly. Filter bacteria sit on the very top of the
gravel, but not enough to clean the water in the aquarium, so you can
largely ignore them. The main population of "good" bacteria
live in the biological filter, typically sponges or ceramic noodles in
So, am I supposed to change the filter regularly and vacuum the gravel
regularly and if I do, will I be removing the good bacteria?
<Water changes and gravel cleaning are both good. Do them. Filter
media needn't be replaced very often, with sponges and ceramic
noodles lasting for years and years. But you can, and should, *rinse*
these media in a bucket of aquarium water every month or two. This will
remove the brown silt without killing the bacteria.>
I ask this cause I have been doing water changes and vacuuming the
gravel at least every 2 days since my ammonia levels are just a little
bit high but no matter how many times I do that my ammonia levels wont
go down. Is that cause I need to change the filter?
<No. But is your filter big enough for the fish you are keeping? For
a community of small fish like Neons, you want a filter rated at 4
times the volume of your tank in turnover per hour. In other words, if
you have a 20 gallon tank, you want a filter that's rated at 4 x 20
= 80 gallons/hour (sometimes written GPH or gph).>
Cause I haven't changed the filter cause I thought that's where
the good bacteria was?? I'm sooo confused...lol!!! Thanks again for
any advice you may have to offer :)
<Do buy/borrow, then read an aquarium book for beginners. You will
find life much simpler if you understand what's going on. Cheers,
Okay so the helpful bacteria will be killed as well which is a
<If the tank dries out, or is treated with a steriliser like bleach,
then yes, the bacteria will be killed alongside Finrot, Velvet,
Whitespot, and most other pathogens.>
But cycling the tank is not a problem for me.
<So long as you understand how to cycle the tank before adding fish,
So just to recap sterilising the tank will kill the parasite?
<Should do so, yes. But do remember sterilising is more difficult
than many assume, and pathogens can survive in cracks and crevices.
Best to discard what you can (gravel, filter media), sterilise the bare
minimum you need to keep (e.g., tank, filter components, heater), and
buy new whatever you can
-- if this is really what you want to do. Sounds massive overkill to
Many medications available that kill Velvet, alongside other types of
pathogen too, e.g., Seachem Paraguard, and these won't harm filter
Thanks for your help Neale
<You are welcome. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: question about Ich....
our vacuum pump is dirty.. can I use vinegar and hot water to
clean it out?
<Yes. Lemon juice, strong brine, and vinegar are all safe, easy to
use cleaners. Bleach can be used, but at a "barely smellable"
concentration, and then rinsed thoroughly afterwards. I prefer hydrogen
sterilising though. It's cheap, easy to buy, and breaks down very
quickly into harmless water and oxygen. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: question about Ich.... 8/28/11
Thank you again!
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Hard water stains on bowfront tank
We purchased a used 46 gallon bowfront. There were hard water stains
near top all around. I got advice to use a paint razor for windows to
scrape it off. It is working great on the sides and back, but not on
the curved front. Someone said to put Vaseline on the stain
<I would not do this>
and let it sit for a few days. I was wondering if there is anything I
can do at this point??
We got the tank used from a LFS a few days ago and still have the
I hate to have to try and return it, but I do not know what else to do
at this point. Can hard water stains really be permanent???
<Not really, no... easily to "melt off" w/ simple organic
or inorganic acids (only when the tank is empty), but while filled,
simple plastic scrapers will remove... one can even use "olde
credit cards". Do look for
the plastic scrapers at your LFS or online. Use at an oblique angle,
with some tank water if above the water line... chipping away...
don't scrub such deposits against the glass, as they can make small
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Can you clean an aquarium too much
I want to make sure I'm not over doing it on cleaning my
<Haha okay! Melinda with you here tonight.>
I have a 90 gallon freshwater with about 20 smaller fish (Barbs,
Mollies, and Killifish) and the filter is an Aqua Clear 110.
<Sounds nice, if stocked correctly (numbers-wise).>
The filter is cleaned once a month
<Okay. For these filters (my personal favorite, when it comes
to hang-on-back filters), I also do maintenance about once a
month. A little different than you do, but I'll discuss that
Clean or replace the mechanical media
<What are you using for mechanical? The sponge that is
included with AC filters should really require nothing more than
a squeeze in some old tank water... this has to do with the
"overcleaning" you mention... I wouldn't allow
chlorinated (tap) water to touch this filter. Yes, it is
"mechanical," but due to the meager amount of actual
solid waste which is collected, you could easily clean it in old
tank water and preserve the biological bacteria which reside on
Rinse or change the carbon (replace about every 6 months)
<Okay, so the carbon is included in the box. I don't use
it unless: I'm trying to remove medication from the water, or
something has leached tannins into the water, such as a clay pot,
or driftwood. Otherwise carbon is really useless. I mean, what
are you removing? In any case, it's "used up"
within a month, month and half, and at that point, becomes
"biological media" -- just something else for bacteria
to grow on. I've had AC filters for years before actually
using the carbon included in the box!>
The bio media stays in tank water during this and if it's
really dirty I gently shake it in the aquarium so I don't
kill the bacteria.
<I'd shake biomedia, as well as sponges, in old tank water
-- the stuff that comes from when you siphon gravel. If it's
coming off of the media, it's probably something you
don't want in your tank; old tank water is
"friendly" to biological media, and the solid stuff
still sloughs off.>
The tank is cleaned twice a month
Scrape off all the algae
Siphon the rocks all the way to the bottom.
<First of all, algae exists for a reason. Please read
and linked files.
Try to figure out why you've got algae; and you can fix that
This, at least, will save you time in cleaning! Secondly, water
changes are good. But there is a problem with doing these
"whole tank" cleanings:
the biological filter can suffer. I'd be interested to know
if you test, and if you do, whether or not you see any Ammonia
spikes after doing this thorough cleaning. In addition, the water
chemistry (pH and KH) can fluctuate wildly during whole-tank
Clean any ornaments that look really bad
Am I cleaning too often?
<Personally, I change about 30% of my tanks' water weekly.
It really does help the fish to have some of the old tanks'
water remaining in order to stress them less. In order to do this
type of change, you must be removing the fish, which isn't
necessary in a more frequent, but less drastic, water change. In
any case, it's all going to come down to test results.
If, after doing this cleaning, you notice an Ammonia spike, then
you are cleaning too much. However, I've always felt that the
majority of your biological filter exists not in the gravel, but
in your filter, and if you care for it properly, you'll be
okay. I'd be more worried about the stress on your fish (what
is the pH/KH of your tap water, as opposed to pH/KH of the tank
after this length of time, and what type of changes are your fish
going through during this drastic change?) than the biological
filter, because it sounds like you're caring for the bacteria
somewhat, though, in other aspects, I'm not sure (my
Am I hurting anything by cleaning the rocks as much as I do?
<Please see above. Any "damage" you are doing can be
detected by testing.
A year and a half ago, my husband and I decided to begin
"chronicling" parameters on index cards. This then
turned into an Excel document, which I couldn't deal with
(English major, you know!) so then turned into a Word document,
with charts for each tank/pond that we own. This wouldn't be
a bad approach to take. Weekly testing, with some notation as to
the weeks that you performed maintenance, would probably indicate
what you need to do in order to create a more consistent water
quality/chemistry for your fish.
Please write back if you have any questions.>
BTW; You guys (gals) have the best advice I've found on the
<Thank you, Tim.. This (gal) is certainly appreciative of your
Again, please do write back with any questions.
Re: Can you clean an aquarium too much
The mechanical media is a sponge and some bulk media I buy which
white and blue (I think it's a common product). I have well
water with no chlorination but I like the idea of using siphoned
water to clean it.
<Glad you're thinking of employing this technique.
I've always favored it over cleaning with tap water.>
I've heard the same comment about carbon before so maybe
I'll quit using it.
<Yeah, keep it around in case you need it, but really
isn't necessary to use in the regular maintenance. You could
throw in some extra biological media, or a finer-grade sponge to
catch smaller particles, etc., in its place, too.>
I never change more than 30% of the water. By whole tank cleaning
I mean that I clean the glass and siphon the gravel but only
remove about 30% of the water.
<Ahhh!! Now I understand... I think this is a perfect
I do test the water (Aquarium pharmaceuticals) and the Ammonia
and Nitrite stay at 0.
<Then I do not suspect you are overcleaning. If you were
making a dent in the biological filter, these tests would show
The amount of algae I clean off the glass is very small, with a
scraper and scrubber it only takes about 10 minutes to clean all
the glass so I think I'm okay on build up. There is always
some algae in the tank on ornaments and other things in the
I've included a picture of my setup.
Thank you for the advice.
<You're welcome! With some things cleared up for me as to
your cleaning process, I'd say this sounds good. If your
Nitrate creeps up above 20 between water changes, you might
consider adding an extra water change a month to compensate, but
otherwise, this sounds good.
Freshwater fungus...? 2/25/10
I'm wondering what this white "fungus" growing on
my gravel and driftwood is. It's almost like a film.
<Most probably some type of bacteria, perhaps a Cyanobacteria.
Fungus certainly does grow in freshwater aquaria, but usually on
organic-rich substrates, like freshly cut wood. Bacterial films
tend to develop where
the substrate is dirty (i.e., rich in organic matter) and when
water current is weak. Cyanobacteria likewise, but with the
additional issue of direct sunlight often being the trigger.
FAST! Cycling, umm, of what? FW and cleaning
tk.s -- 12/09/09
I'm going to get a 55 possibly 75 gallon tank for Christmas
and what is the fastest way to cycle it?
<I'm guessing you're going to set it up for
Is there anything that will speed up this process?
<There are ways to "cheat" when it comes to cycling. If
you run any other tanks or have any friends that do, you could borrow
some "seeded" media from one of those filters after
you've got the tank filled, dechlorinated, etc. There are products
sold in fish stores which claim to cycle a tank, but beware, because
some of these products don't do much at all except put a dent in
your wallet! One I have used and can personally vouch for is called
"Dr. Tim's One and Only." Basically, what either of these
options is going to do is place the nitrifying bacteria directly into
your tank, rather than you having to wait for it to grow. Still,
though, I would stock carefully at first, which you should always do,
anyway. Make sure you've got your test kits handy so that you can
monitor the new tank for any possible ammonia or nitrite
Also how do you clean a used tank?
<Well, I guess it depends on how dirty it is! A good spray with the
hose is usually plenty, but if there's crusty residue on the glass,
you can try scrubbing with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water, and
then rinsing. Be careful not to use sponges which may come with
detergent or anti-mildew agents already inside; a clean washcloth or
one of the plastic pot scrubbies from the dollar store is going to be
your best bet.
Any suggestions? Bleach residue on polyethylene
plants 2/19/09 I read your article Cleaning
Aquarium Decor on the WetWebMedia site. Unfortunately, I put my plastic
plants in the bleach water and had to take my son to the E.R. Needless
to say, they were in there for about 4 hours. I have rinsed them
several times (more that 3) and they still have a faint, funky chlorine
odor. Should I throw them out and start again? <Nah... can be
fixed...> I had a well planted 55 gallon tank so it's a lot of
plants. I have dechlorinator for when I do water changes (25% every
week) but not sure if that is strong enough. <In sufficient dose it
will be... along with air drying for a day after soaking> I feel
kinda sick over the whole thing. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance for
any help. I am going back to rinse them again. Deb in Colorado
<Good. Please read here Deb: http://wetwebmedia.com/clncarta.htm Bob
Fenner> Dear Bob - Thanks for the quick response and the link! Deb
in Colorado <Welcome my friend. BobF>
Crust, tank cleaning, FW in this case
12/16/08 Hi there, I have a 29 gallon freshwater tank
that has two Priscilla Tetras, two Neon Tetras, and a Pleco. My
tank has continuously formed some sort of crust on the rim of the
tank, the glass, all fixtures, and the wall behind the tank. Some
of the crust can flake off but some bonds to the surface areas.
Do you know what this crust is and, if so, how to get rid of it?
Thanks! John <John, this is nothing more than lime, i.e.,
minerals such as calcium carbonate. It gets left behind as water
evaporates. When you see large amounts like this it usually means
there's a lot of splashing, for example from an airstone.
Repositioning the airstone, filter or whatever to water splashes
into the tank and not onto dry surfaces will help. In any event,
it implies your water has at least some hardness content. Lime is
best removed with a mild, non-toxic acid next time you clean the
tank and have the fish waiting in a covered bucket. Lemon juice
or vinegar should both work fine. Dab the acid onto a cloth, and
wipe. Repeat as required. A scouring cloth or pad may help. Give
the aquarium a good rinse to remove any traces of acid and any
flakes of lime. By the way, your tetras need some friends! Groups
of six for both species, please! Cheers, Neale.>
29 G BioCube... FW stkg. 6/23/08 Hello, I
had a 29 gallon BioCube with a small yellow tang. <... needs more
room than this> After awhile I realised I didn't like saltwater
as much as fresh so I decided to convert, after draining the tank and
taking everything out and giving the tang to a petstore I cleaned it
with biodegrable soap and such. <Mmmm> that day though the tank
started to smell so I filled it up with water and put vinegar into it.
<... CH3COOH... an organic acid... food> after a few days of
running a white fuzzy mold started to grow. I really want to put stuff
in this tank but I think this tank isnt ready. any tips on how to make
it ready? <Dump and really clean it, start again. Read here:
http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwclngtkfaqs.htm> PS can a BGK
fish go with a Senegal Bichir? thanks for your time <Neither in this
sized/volume system. Bob Fenner>
How to clean a very dirty 120 gallon without filling
it. 3/12/08 Hello, First of all, i love the site. Very
valuable information available. Anyways, i just have one quick
question. Recently, i was given a 120 gallon tank. My friend had given
it to me as he was moving. So, he had it filled with only about 40
gallons of water, and had three different types of frogs, turtles,
newts, some kind of fish, and crazy amounts of plants. Long story
short, he didn't really clean it before giving it to me. (filter
and all) I really want to start a new African Cichlid tank in it and i
would love to thoroughly clean it. Any suggestions? He said i might be
better off using his substrate, and keeping the filter dirty for
cycling purposes. It doesn't seem rational to me. There is a lot of
algae built up on the sides, and i would like to scrub it before adding
water. Not really sure how to go about this. Any help would be greatly
appreciated. You guys rock. Thanks for your time. =)Sincerely, Jasin
<Cleaning a used tank isn't terribly difficult, but the most
important things are these: [a] Don't use water so hot it will
crack that glass. Trust me, I've done this! [b] If you use anything
toxic, like washing-up liquid, rinse thoroughly. Better yet, use
something non-toxic or easily degradable. Vinegar or lemon juice, for
example, work well for removing limescale, and hydrogen peroxide is
good for sanitising things. Whether or not you re-use the substrate is
a matter of personal preference. The risk of diseases surviving a wash
in hot, soapy water are low, and if you let the substrate air dry for a
day or two before use, that helps even more. Realistically, it's
your new livestock that are more likely to bring in diseases. On the
other hand, if the gravel is so mucky that cleaning it would take a
long time, through it into the garden (good for soil drainage!) and buy
some more. If you're after Rift Valley cichlids for example, then
coral sand would be appropriate, and for that to work best as a buffer
it needs to be clean and fresh. Cheers, Neale.>
Minerals, cleaning from a glass tank
2/22/08 I was wondering what the easiest way to remove the white
minerals that accumulate on my fish tank by my filter and also in back?
Thanks, Brandon <A cloth dipped in hot water should do the trick. If
the minerals are really thick, dabbing with vinegar or lemon juice can
be used, but try not to get too much in the aquarium. In the long term:
figure out why water is drying out on this bits. Usually the white
stuff (lime) appears where there is splashing or dribbling; the bits
immersed in water should be lime-free. Cheers, Neale.>
Vinegar + Water + Oxygen =??? FW microbial
culture 11/07/07 Hi; I bought a 70 gallon tank a while
ago, used. Scrubbed all the hard stains off it with white vinegar, then
did my best to rinse it out with water. Must not have done a good
enough job. <Mmm... doubtful... Vinegar, the simplest organic
acid... Acetic, solubilizes, rinses freely with water> I filled the
tank half full with water, ended up letting it sit because I realized I
didn't know how to use the oldest looking Fluval canister filter
I've ever seen in my life (had a leak too, so I bought a new 305).
Well some white slimy growth started appearing free floating in my
water. Rather puzzling since none of my Internet searches gave me much
of anything other than fungus that grows on fish and food, neither of
which are in my tank. I took out 90% of the water, replaced it, still
had this stuff in there. So I hooked up two filters and let them have
at it. Couple of days and hardly anything was left in the water. Did a
chemical check, things looked fine (aside from horrendously hard water
and a pH of 8.x.... tap water) Got a little curious, put my flying fox
in there (all prepared to take him out if things looked funny) to my
surprise he nibbled on a bit of the white stuff, thought about it, then
raced around gobbling up as much of it as he could find. Nothing was
left in the span of 20 minutes. He had no change in behaviour after
that. color was fine, alert and happy my RB shark wasn't chasing
him. Couple of days went by, he still looked good. Eating, swimming,
and staking out territory (which was quickly lost to the RB shark
later) So that was that. I never learned what it was, but I guess it
tasted awfully good. <Seems so> Now, recently, I've been
playing with vinegar again in a small 5 gallon tank with a DIY sponge
filter and peat moss bag. 6 tablespoons of white vinegar to 5 gallons
water, let sit for two days, then feel the thick slime on the walls.
Kinda "ew". I still want to know what this stuff is. pH is
sitting around 6.8 . I don't know if its the same since its not
free floating. Nor do I want to test it with any of my fish. Wonder if
it will grow on an agar solution (got some laying around).
<Interesting speculation...> I did manage to come across
something called "Mother of vinegar". appearance isn't
the same, but its a Bacteria that turns alcohol into vinegar and is
supposedly harmless if eaten. (can think of a few people I might want
to do that to) however it doesn't "look" quite the same.
Well that's about all I can think of. Side note; the tank has been
up and running for 1.5 months, everyone is healthy and happy, in
crystal clear "tea" colored waters (from the peat moss which
has boosted my plant growth by double!). Bottled water (pre aged with
peat, etc) will be added gradually to lower ph in the near future. Also
hoping that my tetras will stop flirting and finally produce something
before the males get a complex. Thank you for your time! Cera
<CH3COOH is a good feeder stock in some situations... for
decomposers... likely bacteria and/or fungi here... in dilute
solution... not an avid, "strong" proton donor... Thanks for
sending this along. Bob Fenner>
Cleaning My Substrate, FW
8/19/07 Hello there, hello here, hello everywhere! A question
pls...i have 3-4" of gravel & sand mixed. How deep should i
vacuum? Sorry but i tried reading & looking for it, but been doin
so much reading on your website, that i cant anymore, my eyes are
killing & got a bit of a headache! Thanks in advance. Ghulam
<Hello Ghulam! Cleaning gravel shouldn't be difficult. In fact,
you shouldn't need to do it very often. Siphon across the top of
the gravel when you do each water change (once a week, ideally) and
make sure you suck away all the obvious dirt (like dead plant leaves,
uneaten food, fish faeces). If you need to, stir the gravel with a
pencil, bamboo cane or something similar. Malayan livebearing snails
(Melanoides spp.) are excellent gravel/sand cleaners, and prevent
anoxic decay from happening. Plants also "clean" the
substrate indirectly, by passing oxygen into the substrate (via their
roots) and by absorbing the products of bacterial decay. If you have
plants in an aquarium, you really shouldn't stir or move the gravel
at all -- plants HATE having their roots moved! Hope this helps.
Tank is Too Clean 3/30/07 I have no idea what is going
on. I cleaned my tank a month ago and two weeks after the
water turned foggy. So I washed everything in the tank
filled it with new water. now three days ago, the water
turned muggy again and my smaller angel fish tail is slightly torn
along with her fins and she has white stuff on her eyes like cataracts.
Im going to put her into a separate tank put sea salt into it and aqua
plus, what else could I do? < When you cleaned the tank a month ago
you did too good a job. You removed all the good bacteria that breaks
down the fish waste. The foggy water is an ammonia spike. This is
deadly to fish. If it doesn't kill them outright then they get
bacterial infections such as the one you are witnessing. In the
separate tank treat the angelfish with Nitrofuranace. In the main tank
add Bio-Spira from Marineland to the bacteria up and going
Cleaning a Bare Tank 9/6/06 Hi, sorry to bother you on
your e-mail account, but I cant find the answer that I am looking
for. If my tank is empty, and I clean the inside of the
walls with vinegar to get the scum or deposits off, do I need to do
anything special with the tank afterwards so when I fill it up and
begin cycling it, it doesn't kill the fish? I used white
vinegar and took an algae scrubber pad and scrubbed on the inside of
the walls. I just need to know if this is going to affect the fish
later on. I will rinse it out with warm water and all, but
just needed to know if it will ever cause any damage. Thank
you for your time, Kyle. < Fill the tank up outside with clean water
and let it sit for a few days. Get yourself some single edged razor
blades from the paint dept of the local hardware store. With the tank
full of water you should scrap down the calcium build up from the
inside glass. After soaking for a few days it will become softer and
easier to scrub off.-Chuck>