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FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality 2

Related Articles: A practical approach to freshwater aquarium water chemistry by Neale Monks, In praise of hard water; How hard, alkaline water can be a blessing in disguise by Neale Monks pH, alkalinity, acidityTreating Tap Water, Freshwater MaintenanceFrequent Partial Water ChangesEstablishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for BeginnersIn praise of hard water; How hard, alkaline water can be a blessing in disguise by Neale Monks, The Soft Water Aquarium: Risks and Benefits by Neale Monks

Related FAQs: FW H2O Quality 1, FW H2O Quality 3, FW H2O Quality 4, Cloudy Water , Aquarium MaintenanceTreating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, pH, Alkalinity, Acidity, Water Hardness, Nitrogen Cycling, Establishing Cycling 1, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, Phosphates, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease

There is nothing better than live plants to promote and sustain high water quality

FW Systems, maintenance First, I apologize in advance for this basic question that I am sure has been answered in different posts previously. My Multiple Sclerosis makes it difficult to cull data from different sources and I need to make a card with preferred water properties for my tank so I remember.  I posted this in the freshwater forum and did not receive any replies. <A shame, perhaps there are few folks "home"> I have a 16 gallon freshwater tank with a Fluval 204 (with flow reduced of course) filled with Ehfimech, Eheim bio-substrate and Seachem Matrix Carbon. I am also running an Emperor 280 on it.  (I am switching from the 280 to the Fluval and am just running the 280 so I can keep the bio-wheel actively seeding the new filter.)  I also seeded the bio-filtration over time with several doses of Bio-Spira, Seachem Stability, & Fritz-zyme #7. <Sounds good> Population: (2) clown loach (1.5"), (3) lyretail mollies, (2) Mickey mouse platys, (4) Rainbowfish, (5) molly fry & (1) Pleco (4"). I have two live plants in the tank.  I have the temp set at 77 and it never fluctuates more than 1/2 of a degree.  I know to keep Ammonia/Nitrites at "0", I do 20-25% water changes regularly to keep nitrates <=20. Also currently the KH=4, GH=7.5, PH=7.2 (lowered from 7.5 after I did a 25% water change with R/O and Kent R/O essentials.) 1.  Is it OK to use Aquarium Pharma Proper PH 7.5? The tank's PH has been steady at 7.5-7.6 prior to the water change with R/O.  If not, should I adjust the PH and if so, how? <You could use this, but I would not... your water and maintenance practices are fine for providing steady, useful pH here> 2.  Also, what should I strive for with regard to the GH/KH readings and what is the best way to accomplish it? <Mmm, am hesitant here... due to not knowing you better, not wanting to mis-lead the public (all gets posted). Again, from your good information provided your source water, changes are fine for the livestock you list... I would not attempt to adjust the hardness of your water> 3.  What specific gravity should I aim for?   <I would not fool with this here... the mollies will do fine in the water quality you list, maintain... Put more specifically, I would not add salt/s to this system unless there was a treatment reason to do so> 4.  If I do a water change with R/O and Kent R/O Essentials does it contain the correct amount/type of salt or do I need to add salt? <Again, I would not intentionally add salt unless the water you are using is mineral deficient. That is, if you are using, are continuing to use the RO> 5.  Is the temp of 77 correct for this particular community rank? <Fine> 6.  Is there any chemistry I am overlooking and should monitor? <Mmm, no... that is to say, if this were my system, there is nothing more I would test for> 7.  I only have one tank.  So, when I bring home new fish is it a good idea to add MelaFix and/or PimaFix to the tank for three days or does it destroy the bio-filter? <I would not use these plant extract products period... I would take great care to avoid introducing disease, pests, other problems in your system through the use of quarantine... perhaps dips/baths with some organisms> Lastly, I did contribute to the site via Amazon.com .  Thank you for being such an awesome reference for all of us. Chris Mandala <Thank you for your conscientious participation in our hobby/interest and the planet. Be of good life. Bob Fenner>

Cloudy Tank Ok I figured out why my aquarium was getting cloudy. But now I need help on how to keep it clear. The problem was that the PH 8.2 was making the water cloudy. (Water hardness minerals will precipitate (grab onto) PROPER pH and cause hazy water. In very hard water, PROPER pH will make a thick white cloud in the water.) I just need to know what to do to get the PH to where my cichlids will enjoy it. I heard that drift wood would rise the PH. The PH is between 6.8-7.2 right now. So what should I do to make it the way it should be. <The tannins in the driftwood would actually lower the pH. I would recommend that you use a buffer by SeaChem. To match up the pH depending on where you want it. I have never heard of a problem with cloudy water using this product.-Chuck> 

Dirty Water Thanks for your time Don. I will start tomorrow. One more question and I'll leave you alone. I went to PetSmart this morning w/ and the lady there stated the fish were "doing their thing" and to just add this bottle of water clearer she had me purchase. Does this also work or did I just waste $5? Once again thanks for your time. Meka <I'm not a big fan of adding any chemical to my tanks when water changes will give the same results. All those water cleaners do is clump together particles in the water to make them large enough to be caught in your filter. They will not clear a bacterial bloom directly, but may help your filter remove some of it's food source. Make sure you clean your filter pads to actually remove the particles from the system. Water changes are far better, but the chemical may help a little. Don>

Cloudy Waters I'm a true fish novice so I apologize now. I've been reading your site and have found a lot of good advice but I still have one question. Recently I acquired a 7g hexagonal tank and 3 mollies.(2f, 1M). The tank was ran for 2 months before the insertion of the fish and was fine. A few hours after the fish were entered the water  turned cloudy. I'm rather anal about things like that and have been doing water and filter changes almost every 3 days - to no avail. I added 2 more fish (1 f, 1 small algae eater) due to the male always attacking 1 female in particular but the water refuses to clear. The chemistries are decent except for the nitrate which is pretty high. I'm concerned the filter is not working properly, it's a bio-wheel. Even before the fish were added it was never pristine. Please help! ANY help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time. Meka <Cloudy water is the result of a bacterial bloom in the water. The best way to deal with it is to starve it out. Stop all feeding for two or three days. Do 25% water changes each day. Use a gravel vac to get any uneaten food and waste out of the tank. Then feed very lightly once a day. It takes a little time but you will clear. The water changes will also help control the nitrate. If your ammonia and nitrite readings are zero and nitrate is spiking, then your filter's bio wheel is established and working fine. But no filter will lift all the junk out of the gravel. Important to use that gravel vac. Don>

Water Balance Issue Hi, <Hello there> We have a 20 gallon freshwater community aquarium with a curious chemical imbalance issue. We use Mardel 5-in-1 test strips. Currently our readings are: Nitrate 30 ppm Nitrite 0 ppm Hardness 120 ppm Alkaline 240 ppm pH 6.8-6.9 <Mmm, unusual... low pH for this alkalinity, hardness> The Alkalinity is the part that concerns us. It's definitely in the too-high region, a region which Mardel suggests adding pH-minus to correct. However, as I just showed you, our pH is already on the low end of what is acceptable, so this doesn't seem like a good solution. <Nope... I would just blend in some other source water that doesn't have as much hardness... Reverse osmosis if you have it readily accessible...> We tried a water change, but the tap water (after treatment) was nearly as alkaline as the aquarium water. Do you have a suggestion for a product or technique to use? Also, I don't know if it matters, but we've recently had a fair amount of green algae growth in the tank. <Likely related... much you can do re... see WWM re. Bob Fenner> 

FW White Cloudiness Hello, <Hi there> I have a white cloudiness problem that will not go away. 10 months ago I moved to a new place and in doing so I decided to give my fish a new place as well. I set up a brand new 75G tank, UG filter w/2 230GPH power heads in addition to a whisper 40 power filter hanging on the back. I only had 3 days to cycle before having to add fish, but with diligent (daily) water changes and the use of "Hagen Cycle", all the fish pulled through, although the 2 Pacu did seem a little weakened. The other inhabitant is a 12 year old silver dollar and she/he remained frisky throughout. <Neat!> This is when the cloudiness began. After about 5 weeks went by and the nitrates and algae were in full bloom, the water began getting cloudy. This has been a persistent problem now for over half a year. I have had aquariums since childhood (30+ years experience) and I have weathered many different water problems, all of which have usually gone away within weeks if not days, but this one seems to have taken up residence. I have tried water changes w/vacuuming, clarifiers (both particulate and bio enzymes, and both work great, but only temporarily!), and Kordon's Tidy Tank, Since all this came to no avail, I thought my UG filter was to blame.  <Mmm, only partly... likely "it's" the gravel part really... too thin/deep, of too large a grade, possibly of a bad chemical make-up...> Although I have had great results from them in 55G and smaller tanks, I have been told that they are not as effective in larger tanks, so I changed it out for a Cascade 1000 canister.  <Oh!> After the initial cloud from all the disruption dissipated, the tank was clear for only 3 days before the white cloud returned.  Specifics are...  1) The cloudiness increases during the night when the lights are off, and dissipates somewhat during the day when the lights are on.  2) Increases temporarily after a partial water change.  3) Conditions out of the tap are pH-7.6, Alkalinity-120ppm, Total Hardness-50ppm, NO2-0ppm, and NO3-20ppm. In my tank the water is pH-7.2 (down from the tap), Alkalinity-100ppm (also down from the tap), Total Hardness-50ppm, NO2-0ppm, and NO3-60ppm and climbing. Ammonia in both are zero.  4) In addition to particulate media, I have carbon, Zeolite, PhosGuard and bio-rings in the canister filter, and a sponge in the power filter.  5) Only 3 fish, no plants. Fish are 2 Pacu, 1 is 9 inches the other is 7 inches and 1 silver dollar at about 4 inches.  6) The 2 filters combined are moving about 475GPH. I have read elsewhere on your site the same basic problem that others have experienced, but the solution is usually a cycling problem that I don't believe I have. Or do I? Can you help? I can't think of anything else, so I hope I have given you enough info to arrive at a solution. <I do think you have an established "free floating" microbial population problem... adding some/more filtration might help... but for sure the approach I'd take is to add (the Silver Dollar and Pacus will love it) some floating "grass" type plant... like Anacharis, Hygrophila, Ceratophyllum... the added space, micro-life here will serve to re-establish a different balance in your system. Other issues like foods/feeding, perhaps adding/using a "diatomaceous earth" filter occasionally... we could chat up. Bob Fenner> 

Re: FW White Cloudiness Hi Bob, <Scott> Thanks for the quick response! <Welcome> When I removed my UG filter, I also changed out all the gravel, every-single-little pebble of it. The new gravel is Estes brand epoxy coated, and is about one-eighth inch grain size. <Very nice stuff> There is 100 pounds of it and the depth ranges from 1 inch to 3 inches. It is the first time I have ever owned a tank without an UG filter... <Heeee, welcome to the modern age!> ...so I am not exactly sure what to expect within the gravel now since I am sure it will be different from before. <Mmm, all will settle in... as you'll see> I will try the floating plant life. Question is, will it do ok with the Phosguard in the filter? <Likely so... HPO4 can be a limiting/ed nutrient (essential to most all life forms), but... some will get to this life> I can't stand the algae and the Phosguard seems to be the only thing I have ever tried that slows it down. <Mmm, there are other fronts of control...> Also, once tried, will it (plant life) become a continued necessity? Plants are messy and I am lazy. I agree though that the silver dollar will love it.  Scott <If you can get some to grow... that won't be quickly consumed... you should be able to have it be self-sustaining. Bob Fenner> 

Over-clouded Tank Hi. I am needing to ask you a question about my tank. It is a ten gallon aquarium holding one fish. It is soon going to have a sucker fish. It had one but he died. My fish tank is about 2-3 years old. It has not cleared up. I don't know why. When I cleaned it, it usually cleared up when I had two fish and a sucker, but when one of the fish died, it never cleared up after I cleaned it. Why? My tank is so cloudy I can barely see my fish now. I clean it monthly and I clean the filter and change the cartridge 1-2 times a month. Am I doing something wrong? I am going to buy a water tester. A lady at the pet store said it was going through the cycle. It usually will clear up but it hasn't. It has been cloudy for about 3-4 months. I really need your advice now.  < It is cloudy like pea green soup then there is too much organic matter in the tank from too much food. The algae is floating around in the tank feeding on the waste. I would recommend doing a 30% water change and vacuuming the gravel at the same time. Service the filter. Feed the fish only enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes once each day. If the tank is cloudy from ammonia and has a hazy grey color with a fishy smell then you have an ammonia problem. Test the water for ammonia and nitrites. They should be zero. The nitrates should be below 25 ppm. Check the pH. If you have rocks or sand that are not suitable for the aquarium then they will leach minerals into the tank that will stay in solution. If you tap water has a pH of 7 and the tank is 8 then the minerals like calcium are precipitating in the aquarium. You will need to change the rocks or sand.-Chuck>

CLOUDY TANK II I took out the coral and the rock and have them soaking in water in separate tubs and none of them are getting cloudy. But I noticed that the tank starts to get a little cloudy. I was told that it's the city's water and not the rocks and that is why the tank is getting the way it is now. I noticed that my daughter's 10 gallon tank was cloudy when I first set it up, and now it's starting to clear up slowly. Is it just because my 46 gallon is bigger so it will take more time to clear on its own, or do I need to put something else besides Chlor-out to get it to be crystal clear. I have also tried filling it up with filtered water and it still didn't work. < OK let's take it from the top. Fill a clear glass container with your tap water and watch it for a few days. Does the water get cloudy? Does it clear up after a few days? I suspect that it is pretty clear from the tap and stays that way. So it can't be the water by itself.  The water must be reacting with something in the tank. If the gravel was not well washed then dust in the gravel would continue to float around and cause the cloudy situation. But you said when you do a water change it is clear and then gets cloudy. So something is dissolving into the water from the tank. If it is not the rocks then it could be the sand. Minerals are leaching out and probably reach an equilibrium and eventually settle out as a precipitate. This may account for the clearing up after awhile. Try some PolyFilter to remove some of the excess minerals in the water and see if it helps.-Chuck> <Marina suggests "new tank syndrome", exacerbated by constant cleaning. Common, resolved by letting it alone, for several weeks if need be.>

Snail question... actually FW water quality, cycling I have a 5 gallon Eclipse Hex 5 tank with a molly, Mickey [mouse platy] fish, and catfish that has been running for 3 weeks. The first black mystery snail we introduced to the tank died. The pet store indicated that we he wasn't getting enough to eat. <They aren't very "tough" nowadays... and your system is too new for this type of scavenger... Is it cycled?> We got a second black mystery snail and have been giving him 2 algae pellets to eat each day - one in the morning, one at night. My tank water is now turning green and is cloudy. <It's not cycled> I have been doing regular 10-15% water changes. I changed the filter on the system as well thinking that might be my problem. Are we overfeeding him? <Maybe, but doubtful> I don't have any natural plants in the tank. We give the fish a pinch of flake food twice a day. I have tested the water and except for a slightly elevated pH, the nitrates and nitrates are fine. Thanks for your help. <Do you have detectable ammonia, nitrite? Bob Fenner> 

Re: Snail question Thanks so much for getting back to me. I did a water test this morning and here are the readings: pH 8.4 alk 300 hardness 25 nitrate 0 nitrite 0 <Ammonia?> Someone else I e-mailed indicated that my tank was overpopulated with 3 fish and a snail. I'm attempting to find a new home for the snail so I can lessen the load on the tank. It's clear that it hasn't cycled yet. Should I continue to do water changes with the gravel vacuum or leave it alone? I'm afraid that I'm losing good bacteria. Kelly <You are wise here. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the Related FAQs linked above. Bob Fenner> 

Re: Snail question, actually continuing water quality Thanks for sending the links. Very helpful information. My test kit does not include ammonia. Sounds like I need to test for that. Am I not seeing any nitrate/nitrite readings because my tank has too much ammonia - an assumption?  <Good question, but no> Are water changes a good idea at this point? <... only if the water exceeds about 1.0 ppm of ammonia or nitrite> How much and how often? I know it's probably tough for you to comment when I haven't sent an ammonia reading. I really appreciate your advice - I worry about my tank day and night. I don't want my fish to suffer. Kelly <This information, and related matters that you will benefit from knowing is posted... BobF> 

Re: Snail question, actually FW cycling I tested my ammonia this morning and it read 4.0. <Toxic...> Still no nitrite or nitrate readings - still 0. <Umm, do you understand what is happening here?> The tank has been running for 2 weeks tomorrow. The snail now has a new home. Still have 3 small fish which appear to be doing well. Should I do a water change at this point? I did a 25% change on Sunday. The water is still cloudy. We're trying to be careful how much we feed them. Kelly <... you should be reading, not writing: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm.  Quick... before your animals are dead. Bob Fenner> 

Fishy Question? 13 Mar 2005 Hello, I am a fish owner. I saw your email on wetwebmedia.com and I have a very important question to ask you about a sick Tiger Barb. I have 1 Bala shark, 2 red tailed black sharks (1 is albino), 1 Plecostomus (or algae eater), and 2 tiger barbs. They are all in a 35 gallon tank which has enough space for them to swim freely... <For now... you know the Bala gets quite large?> ...but also enough hiding spots in vegetation.  However, I recently had 9 tiger barbs but all died but 2. I am really worried that those last 2 will die soon, because they act and look sick.  The Symptoms:  They frequently swim putting their tail towards the top of the aquarium and their mouth pointing down towards the bottom. Then they float upward for about 3 to 4 seconds and then resume swimming. Their eyes look cloudy and swollen and so do their gills. Also their fins are torn and frayed so I treated them with a medicine called "Mela-Fix," used to cure fin and tail rot, and pop eye. <I would not use this product period... it's an "herbal tea"... of little use> However this did not help at all. Now, one of the fishes noses are a bright orange color. Their gills still look swollen, and so do their eyes. So I discontinued the use of the MelaFix and I am now trying ick away, <Whoa.... what about your water quality? You did test your water... for?> but I do not see any white spots on the body. I have tried the fish disease chart and nothing seems to compare. Do you have any idea what it could be or how to treat it? Complete list of symptoms: 1. Tiger Barb 1: red orange nose, torn frayed fins, swimming weirdly, swollen gills and eye. 2. Tiger Barb 2: fat or large body with black spots in stomach area, loss of color, swimming weirdly, possibly swollen gills. I appreciate your help thanks, <... I would first and foremost check your water quality here... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwdis3setsfactors.htm and the linked files above... If you respond again, please include information on your filtration, the history of this set-up, what you feed, how long you've had these Barbs... Bob Fenner> 

Freshwater problem Hello, I have had a 55gal tank for three years. I have never had a problem with my water. I just set up a 125gal tank and suddenly I can not seem to maintain pH levels and I have these annoying bubbles at the top of my tank that will not dissipate. I have done nothing different with the set up except double everything. The water is clear but it looks like a I have a million "floaties", that are actually tiny bubbles. What does this mean and how can fix the problem? Thanks, Bubble blues <Hmmm, could be... your water is very soft.. perhaps an aerosol has settled on the top of the tank water (happens in houses... cooking oils and such), or fats from foods... At any length, I would try "wicking" the surface with plain/white, non-scented paper towels, dipping a pitcher in... to remove whatever is there.... and checking your water hardness, boosting it... simply... as with the addition of sodium bicarbonate/baking soda. Bob Fenner> 

Re: freshwater problem Thank you soooo much.  You're the best. My water softener was the problem!! <Ah ha! Bob Fenner>

Tetra Easy Balance Overdose! Please help! Hello! I have a small feeder goldfish, (named "Dude") about 2 inches long. I keep him at my work, in a 1 gallon fish tank with bubbler. <A small world...> I've had him about a year, and he's been a perfect companion, energetic and happy. I know this because he's on my desk at work, I can observe him often to see any changes. I use "Tetra Easy Balance" once a week to keep his tank in good shape, and still do regular partial water changes, even though the "Tetra Easy Balance" says I only have to do it every 6 months. (I still do it bi-weekly) <Good> Anyway, 1 week ago, I went to add the 1 drop of "Tetra Easy Balance" to his tank, but the "dropper" part of the bottle had come off and I didn't notice. The next thing I knew, I had dumped practically half the bottle (several tablespoons) of this stuff into his tank! The water was immediately yellow, and I panicked! I did a water change right away, putting him in a cup with some of the water and changing all the remaining water... <Good move> ..expect [except?] maybe an inch at the bottom (I didn't like the idea of doing a full water change, even with so much of the stuff in there!) He didn't seem to have any problems the first 2 days after the incident, but ever since, he has been getting very lethargic, and won't eat his food. 2 days ago, I prepared a gallon of new water with some "Tetra Aqua Safe" and used it to change his water today. The first hour after his water change, he seemed back to normal, but since then, he has been at the bottom of his tank all day, fins against his sides, not eating, and "gasping" for breath. I'm guessing it has something to do with the overdose of Tetra Easy Balance... <Or even just the large water change> ...but I don't know what it did to the water, or what to do. If he gets better, can I start using it again?  <Yes> It keeps his tank nice, and he seemed so happy before. He has fresh water now, should I wait and see how he does the next few days? <Yes... if "Dude" has made it thus far, s/he should fully recover. I do want to suggest you look into larger quarters for this fish... as it's being "bonsaied" by being kept in one gallon of water will severely shorten its lifespan... Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/gldfshsystems.htm > Please help, he's my "little pal" at work, and I would feel really bad if he died because of my clumsiness! Thank you. Nancy Lucas <Welcome. Bob Fenner> 

CLOUDY TANK Hi, I E-mailed you guys about a cloudiness problem I'm having with my 46 gallon cichlid tank. I'm running to filters on it, I had a sack of carbon in it and seems to not go away. The pH is at 8.2, water temp is around 80 degrees, [and] there is no sign of ammonia, or nitrite and the nitrate is where it always has been. The only time it has cleared is when I make my daily water changes. Then it just gets worse from there. What other options do I have? The dealer told me to put charcoal in those white sacks, but that doesn't seem right. So now I'm coming back to you guys. Could it be from the rocks that I have, I rinsed them off before I put them in there. -MIKE- < Usually a cloudy tank is the result of a new tank with an ammonia problem. But I think your problem lies in your choice of rocks. Check the pH of your tap water. If it is less than 8.2 then the additional calcium and minerals are leaching from the rocks into solution and making your tank cloudy. Carbon will not help. To be sure, remove the rocks and see if the cloudy situation goes away. If the tank is clear then add a rock. If the tank gets cloudy again then take the rock out and do a water change. Then try another rock. Eventually you will be able to tell which rocks will work in your aquarium.-Chuck>

Bacterial bloom Hello! Loved someone's "video fish" suggestion to the obnoxious whiner... <Easier for some so conditioned, lazy to "turn of/off"> My problem has been going on for close to a year now - lots of web search & tank screwing around... I have 20 gal with a "black moor" (that hasn't been black for years) about 6 inches or so, and 2 striped platys. Biowheel.  <Okay> I put sandbox sand in the tank about a year ago & started getting bloom but kept thinking it was algae (probably some of it was). <Maybe> I've moved the tank. I've started from scratch, water-wise but used an old (dry) bio-wheel that I had rinsed off. It wasn't enough. The tank is never unclouded now & the big guy is not doing well. I'm planning to start with all new water (again) with a commercial (Jungle) "Water Safe Plus" which advertises beneficial bacteria. I also bought a new bio wheel to start over. <Don't use the Jungle product, return the wheel> My plan is to just put all new water into the tank with the new wheel & the water tablets.  THE QUESTION Do I need to sanitize the tank & the filter holder box, etc? If so, how? <I would switch out the kitty litter... seek out a bit of "aquarium gravel" per here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubstrates.htm and look for Marineland's "BioSpira" product. Bob Fenner> 

Diatom filter I converted a 1000 gallon outside fiberglass spa (at level, sunk into the cement patio) to a gold fish bowl in which I presently have one Koi, 6-8 feeder gold fish and about 5 algae eaters "Pleco"?, little black ugly guys that stick on the side of the tank.  I've been doing tank changes once a week with Amquel because the water becomes green and murky in just a few days.  I run a filter 24/7, have two large pond pumps running, one through a waterfall with four water streams running through three levels of polished river rock and then free falling about one foot into the pond.  Live in Southwest Florida.  The pond is about 3-4 months old.  Fish all appear very happy and growing.  But I can't stand the murk!  A friend told me to buy a diatom filter to polish the water.  Do you agree and what size? Thank you for your help.  Pam Comstock < Check the nitrates. Your fish are messy eaters and produce a lot of waste. The waste is not gone it is contained in the filters and in the bottom of all the water ways. Their it will continue to breakdown and create lots of algae. The trick is to clean your filter often and vacuum the bottom of the spa and water falls when you do your water changes. The other problem is probably no biological filtration. Many filters for fish tanks have media for bacteria to grow on and break down the fish waste. I think you only have mechanical filtration, which removes solids and nothing else. A diatom filter would quickly clog up under the conditions described above. Try feeding you fish only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once each day.-Chuck>

Cloudy tank question Hi, I have a 55 gallon African cichlid tank with sand in the bottom and 10 cichlids and 3 Chinese algae eaters. I have had this tank for probably 6 months now. Everything was fine. I was doing 10% water changes every month and the water was crystal clear. I have other tanks that are all crystal clear and doing fine too. I always use purified water using my PUR water purifier on my sink that uses a charcoal filter. The algae eaters were doing their job and I didn't see any real visible algae. Then all of a sudden the water started getting hazy and cloudy looking. A couple days after this, a seashell was put into the tank. I only left it there 1 day and then it occurred to me to ask if this was ok. The pet shop employee told me that seashells are bad for tanks and to get it out of there fast and do lots of water changes. I have done that. But note that the tank was still cloudy even before the sea shell. At the advice of the pet store owner I have added anacharis plants, and tried a water clearer like Amquel and had the water tested, it was perfect in all respects, nitrate, nitrite, ph, ammonia, etc. I don't feed them too much. Every week I have done a 30% to 35% water change and it wasn't helping. The fifth week I did a 60% water change and it seemed to help for a day or two, but now it's starting to get cloudy again. The fish continue to act and look healthy. When I pour out the water to do a water change, the water looks greenish, like there is an algae buildup in the water, but I don't see any in the tank. We have cleaned the filter, which is an Emperor double BioWheel type filer by the way. I'm not sure what else we can do. Do you know what the problem is and how I can fix it? Thank you! Vicci < Try replacing the carbon cartridge on your tap water source. Some nutrient may be coming in to your tank through your tap water. The carbon may be exhausted so I would try that first. The seashell is usually a problem in a community tank, but not in an African cichlid tank. In the lake the water is already hard and alkaline so the shell actually acts as a buffer and prevents the hardness and pH to get too low.-Chuck

Cloudy water, long poops Thank you for you help before, but I have a couple more questions. Fist of all, I have 3 long finned black skirt tetras, 3 Mickey mouse platys and 1 algae eater. The water is good, although I started using purified water but the alkalinity was low and the pet store told me to change to tap water with Stress Coat and Zyme in it. I did the change and tested the water and it was perfect. But now the water is cloudy, should I be concerned or do anything about it. <Unless your livestock is "breathing hard", I would just wait... the water will clear of its own accord> The other question is a little weird, but better safe than sorry. My fish have been pooping a ton and they often swim around with a couple inches of poop just wiggling behind them. I'm cleaning the tank tomorrow (which is every week), but the gravel is filthy. Am I feeding them too much, but they do always eat their food very quickly and always hover around the top for it. Thanks so much Kelsey <It may be what you're feeding rather than the quantity. Do look into "switching brands", trying something other than dried foods for a while, mixing some frozen/defrosted and green based food daily. Bob Fenner> 

Re: Foggy Water and Breathing Hard Thanks for the help, this is hopefully my last question. Here is part of the previous e-mail and response.  Fist of all, I have 3 long finned black skirt tetras, 3 Mickey mouse platys and 1 algae eater. The water is good, although I started using purified water but the alkalinity was low and the pet store told me to change to tap water with Stress Coat and Zyme in it. I did the change and tested the water and it was perfect. But now the water is cloudy, should I be concerned or do anything about it? <Unless your livestock is "breathing hard", I would just wait... the water will clear of its own accord> So..  I guess they do seem to be hanging out near the top a lot what should I do?  Thanks a ton...you sure are saving my fish and me! <Do check your water to assure that the system has not lost its biological cycle/filtration (ammonia, nitrite)... IF so, use an adjunct (e.g. BioSpira) to re-cycle it... Check your water to assure that there is not a film (like a slick) at the surface...) and "wick" it away with a clean paper towel, or dipping a pitcher in at an angle to the water... Bob Fenner>

Many Problems, Common Cause Hi, I know you are busy, but you guys seem to know more than anyone I know. So, here goes I have a 55 gallon with 1 marble angel about 4-6 inches, 2 rosy barbs (I think one is male and one is female but I'm not sure, both are 1 inch long), 2 Plecos one is about 4-6 inches long the other is about 8 -9 inches, 3 two inch clown loaches that stay pretty much deep orange and black all of the time always thought this was unusual, 1 dragon fish or violet goby about 8-9 inches, 1 peacock eel about 4 -5 inches, 1 gold gourami about 3 inches and a blue gourami about 3 inches. I have had all these for 1-3 years in the same tank, I raised the angel from a nickel size. I have not ever checked the water parameters even though I know I should and am definitely going to buy a kit ASAP. I had another angel that pretty much grew up with the other angel, he was gold and also a veil tail like the one I have now, the two spawned and hatched the eggs. I noticed some of them appeared to have fungus because they never hatched and were fuzzy, but to my stupidity they all were either eaten or sucked up into my filter or diatom filter, the gold angel was dead about a week after the babies were dead and he didn't appear sick. Anyways, now my other angel, this is 3 months later has one of its eyes severely popped out with white stringy stuff coming out of it and a film almost completely over the eyeball and a speck of white stuff on its lip, and her mouth is gaping open like she cant close it, she also appears to be slightly leaning and hangs out in one corner of the tank at the top. One of my barbs also appears to have slight pop eye, and turned very pale and has frayed tail fins, but the other barb chases it all the time and vice versa. My gold gourami had a area behind his gill and eye that was bleeding, I think the angels got him when they were spawning, and then it looked like mold and his scales were missing and now its pink and shrinking, I treated with MelaFix and PimaFix 2 months ago. I am now treating the angel and barb with Maroxy and maracide2 because I am guessing they have pop eye and possibly a true fungus. Do you think this will work? I have heard that this could be constipation but I don't know if my clown loaches, eel and dragonfish can have Epsom salts, can they? How much can I dose? Also if I can, can I give the Epsom salt with the medicines? Please help I do not want to lose my angel or my barb or any of my fish! The angel is beautiful and so are the others, you would really have to see to believe! Also I should mention they all have been fed a diet of frozen blood worms, frozen brine shrimp, and the frozen green cubes that have lettuce, Spirulina or whatever its called and algae, and algae wafers for the Plecos and rich mix sinking tablets every now and then. I am so sorry for the long letter. I would greatly appreciate any comments and information. Thank You so very much, Shannon <Hi Shannon, Don here. All the problems you are having can be caused by poor water quality. You have a pretty heavy stocking in your 55. You should find new homes for the plecs right now. They produce tons of waste and will get even bigger. The loaches are OK for now, but also grow very large. Please do get that test kit. In the meantime I suggest you do a few large daily water changes with only Epsom and aquarium salts. A tbls of each per 5 gallons of water. Discontinue the meds for now. They will kill off the good bacteria in your system causing quality to drop even faster. We may have to go back to them, but for now I would just watch for any improvement with the water changes and salts. This may have started when the bad eggs started to decay. When choosing a test kit make sure you can test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Do as many water changes as needed to keep the first two at zero, nitrates below 20ppm. If you do not see improvement in a week, email us back with the test results. BTW, your Violet Goby really should be kept in brackish water and can hit two feet. You may want to consider moving him also>  Sick cichlids and water cloudy Hi, I have had a 110 gallon tank for about 15 months and recently have run into some problems that I can't fix. This is my first tank, and I keep getting different answers to my questions. I have 2 penguin filters that are supposed to filter up to 70 gallons apiece.  I have about 6 African cichlids, about 5 inches apiece( sorry do not know what kind) , 1 goldfish( 8 inches), 4 catfish (4 inches) , 2 parrot fish ( 5 inches). 1 African catfish (6 inches), I worm( 8 inches), 2 algae eaters (8 inches),1  giant giranmi(4 inches). and about 15  filler fish that I have had since I first got the tank that have never died ( 1-3 inches) .Is this too many fish? < If you are having problems with the tank then it may be too many fish. The filters should be filtering at least 500 gallons per hour all the time. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero and the nitrates should be less than 25 ppm. If you still have an ammonia and nitrite problem then you need more filtration. If the nitrates are too high then you need to change more water, or change more frequently of get rid of some fish.> Despite all the different species they all get along with each other , other than the fighting amongst the cichlids with each other. About 3 months ago my water started to cloud up, I started to increase my water change cycle amounts to every 2 weeks and 40%. It would seem to clear up but go right back cloudy again. It seems impossible for the water to stay dirty with that sort of water change cycle. About the same time the water started to fog up I did add a log and some more fake plants. I did since remove those items since the intense cloudiness, thinking that they where the cause.( to no avail) I also have some rocks as well, (should I remove the rocks as well)? < Many rocks are not suitable for an aquarium because they dissolve in water. Check the rocks with some Muriatic acid or vinegar. If they foam when a weak acid is applied then they will dissolve in the aquarium and cloud it up too until the minerals in the water settle out.> Now I am noticing that the skin on my cichlids is looking rough, I think they are getting sick. My ph level is fine, I haven't checked for nitrates in about 2 months , but last time I checked the local fish store said they where fine. I have not lost a fish yet but I think it is coming. I don't know what else to do - please advise < Next time you do a water change vacuum the gravel too to get rid of any crud that has accumulated in the gravel.-Chuck> Thanks, Phil

Nitrates in a 10 gallon freshwater aquarium Hello,             My husband and I set up our 10 gallon aquarium about a month ago and have a concern over the level of Nitrates we have in our water.  The tank itself has sand for substrate, live plants, river rocks and a resin cave rock.  We have the filter that came with the kit, a heater.  Currently we are housing three female betas (it has been an interesting time and one will be put in isolation due to aggression issues), three neon tetras, one gold molly and two snails (that we can find the stowaways!).  We had two black mollies but they succumbed to illness and we had to put them down.  We do a 10 % water change every week, scrubbing the tank and creating fish panic while we try to keep their water clean.  The tank is clear and not cloudy and the plants are doing well.  We have a bubble wall and 10 gallon air pump to oxygenate the tank.  We feed the fish twice a day using flakes in the morning and blood worms at night.               On to my question: We have purchased a freshwater testing kit and my husband has tested the water in the tank.  The ammonia is 0 and the nitrites are 0 but are nitrates are between 60 and 80 ppm.  Our pH is 7.2 to 7.4 (which we are treating with ph Down to help out the tetras).  With that concern we tested our tap water through the Brita filter we use to drink from and change the fish water and discovered that the tap water had the same nitrate level.  My husband (the mad chemist from all the testing) also tested our tap water without filtering it through the Brita and received the same result.  After researching your site (which is very informative) I couldn't find a solution for anyone with a tank lower than 55 gallons.  I did find a post about acquiring a reverse osmosis machine (see below, and will have to investigate this further if we can't figure another solution). What can be done for us small guys who have nitrate issues? < High nitrates can be a problem for those aquarists living in areas with lots of agricultural activity. Excessive nitrogen fertilizers leach down into the water table and are picked up in aquifers used for drinking water. Many fish cannot tolerate these high nitrate levels. Your best bet would probably use purified or bottled water for your aquarium. R/O will remove most nitrates but I cannot justify buying an entire R/O system for 4 gallons per month.-Chuck> Thanks for your time. Wendy Located information. "Nitrates in Tap Water Dear Mr. Fenner: <Bob is off in Australia right now leaving the rest of the WWM crew to pick up the pace.> I have a 135gal tank with African cichlids in it. They are all doing wonderful. Have even had Kenyi produce fry, and Jack Dempseys also. My question is the Nitrate level is always high. Have tried placing reducers in the canister filter, but it really doesn't help much <Not very cost effective either.> so last night I set some tap water out....and tested it this am........and found my problem......the Nitrates are high 50-110ppm in the tap water. <Wow.> What can I do to reduce them in the tap water before adding this water to the tanks. <The first thing I would do is request a report from your local water authority. By law they have to send you one every few years and whenever you ask. That seems really high. I know there is a federally mandated upper limit, but cannot recall the exact number at this time. Your only corrective course of action is a RO unit. You may want to consider a large unit to produce drinking water, too.> Please help......all my other parameters are great......do weekly water changes.....with gravel vacuuming...but still can not reduce the nitrates. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Sincerely, Shirley <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>"

Freshwater water quality Howdy aquacrew! I have a quick question about my little freshwater cichlid tank. I currently have four cichlids in it (I think it's either a 26 or a 28 gallon bowfront aquarium). Lots of rocks, fake plants, a piece of wood (not sure if it's drift), and gravel are the decorations. I just recently tested the water and I'm not sure the parameters are what I'd call ideal. The pH is good at about 8, the Nitrite is at about .25 ppm, the Nitrates are scary at like 80 ppm, and the Ammonia is at .25 ppm. Like I said, it's not exactly perfect. The ammonia and the nitrites are explainable. I just installed a new filter with a new BioWheel, so I'm not sure the biological filter has set up shop. However, this means that once it starts converting at full speed then there will be even more nitrates. Four fish in this tank don't seem to be overcrowded, but is this the case? I feed twice a day and sometimes there's extra food, but I always net it out.  What is the problem?  Hope you have happy holidays! Ty <I'm not sure what type of cichlids you have there. If African the pH is fine. If South American it's way too high. If they're Oscars you are overstocked. If they're Rams you are understocked. But in any case it's always good to add more bio filtration. But I have a feeling the problem is in the gravel. It's very important that you do frequent water changes using a gravel vac to remove the decaying waste and uneaten food. A dirty gravel bed can add more ammonia than the fish. All that ammonia ends up as nitrates at the end of the cycle. Doing the water changes with the gravel vac will lower the nitrates and slow their rising. Adding the extra bio filtration is good to ensure ammonia and nitrite is processed quickly, but that means the resulting nitrates will spike just as quickly. Make sure you clean under rocks, wood, etc. But you still must do water enough water changes to keep nitrates below 20ppm>      P.S.  While I have your attention: I have a 58 gallon fresh set up with rocks and fake plants. There is an underground filter, and a giant Emperor 400 piggy back filter. I think I'm gettin at least 4 turns an hour, plus whatever the undergravel filter is doing. I'm planning on a community set up (kinda boring but it's for my mom). I know this list coming up is overcrowding, but please advise me as to what to cut. 3 Silver Dollars, 7 Tiger Barbs, 11 Neon Tetras, 1 Parrot Fish, 1 Gold Nugget Pleco, 5 Hatchet Fish, and 2 Gouramis. Now as I said I know this is overcrowding but can I pull it off with the over-filtering or do I need to cut several possible inhabitants. Thanks for all the help. You guys are the greatest. Again have a very merry Christmas. <And to you> <First, you'll never hear this guy say that this tank is "overfiltered". No such thing in my book. I run a pair of those 400's on a 55 gallon. And I hate undergravel filters. The Bio Wheels give far greater bio filtration. A gravel vac removes the waste, a UGF hides it while it decays, adding more ammonia. You have a turn over of just under 7 without it. That would rate a good by most, and even an OK from me, so I suggest you remove the UGF. As to the stocking list. The Silver Dollars get way too big. The Tigers are aggressive fin nippers. Large ones will eat small Neons. Parrots are mutated hybrids that should not even exist. Don't buy one. You only encourage them to breed more. Gold Nugget Plecos can be sensitive, wait until the tank is well established. If you drop the Silver Dollars and either the Barbs or the Neons you should be OK. Less fish means fewer water changes, no matter the amount of filtration. Don>    

High Nitrites, pH Swings Hello again Don, or whoever picks up this message :)Thank you very much for your quick and helpful reply! I am so glad to have found your site - it seems to me that many many fish's lives and wellbeing have been saved by the huge amount of information. But I'm afraid I've got a couple more questions if that's ok. <Fire away> I have just bought a water testing kit, which has tests for general hardness, carbonate hardness, pH and nitrite, and a chart for working out carbon dioxide - are these the correct tests that I need? There doesn't seem to be one for ammonia. It tests by dripping substances into samples of the aquarium water and then either seeing how many drops were necessary to make the colour change or comparing to a colour chart, which seems at least a little bit inaccurate to me, but I expect probably ok.  Anyway, having just got the test kit, I tested my aquarium water and found to my horror that most of the tests came out unsatisfactory according to the information in the test kit. The results were: General hardness 1 or 2 degrees dH, carbonate hardness about 2, pH roughly 8-9, nitrite (most worryingly) right at the top of their scale at 3.3-33 mg/l and I made carbon dioxide about 0.2-0.4 mg/l. I immediately changed 20% of the water (using water that had sat for about 18 hours and had "Tetra AquaSafe" water treatment, and a gravel cleaner that I've also just got) and retested, but there was virtually no difference. pH was maybe closer to 7.5 or 8 than 9, but the nitrite hadn't changed at all.  I've put another bucket of 20% of the water to sit so that I can do another water change tomorrow.  Help! What should I do? <The four most important tests are, in order, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. You need to get the ammonia and nitrate kit. Don't worry about testing your hardness or CO2 for now. The pH is important in planning the size and frequency of water changes. Test both the tank and your treated tap. Hopefully they are within 2 or 3 tenths. If so, do 50% water changes. Do one right away and another in a few hours. Repeat with at least one a day until that nitrite is at zero. If your two pHs are off by more than .3 you need to make the water changes smaller and more frequent. If they are off by over a full point, reduce water changes to around 10%, but do them several times a day, a few hours apart. We need to balance the risk of nitrite poisoning with a killer pH swing. The actual pH reading is less important than trying to keep it steady, or to change it slowly. It's a sudden change in pH that kills. Take your time doing the tests and get good numbers. No need to age the water more than a few minutes after the AquaSafe is added. The water will turn gray with tiny chlorine bubbles. When they clear you're good to go.> This all seemed quite worrying to me because I had thought that I was doing everything about right. I'd changed 20% of the water just two or three days ago, at which point I'd also changed the mechanical filter (they recommend that you change this once a week). Btw the filtration system came as part of the tank (made by Juwel) - it has several layers, from the top down: a thin layer of white "wool" (which they say is the mechanical pre-filter), an active carbon sponge (apparently "removed chemical impurities which cannot be removed biologically"), and two coarse and one fine filter sponges (all biological). I realize that as the tank has only been going a couple of weeks the bacteria won't yet have built up - could this be part of my problem? <No, it's not part of your problem. It is your problem! Of the three types of filtration, biological is by far the most important. Never clean those two pads! Never rinse them with tap. The chlorine will kill the bacteria. It seems your "ammonia eating" bacteria are doing fine. The nitrite you see is their waste product. Now another bacteria must become established to consume the nitrite. Their waste product is the less dangerous nitrate. When the two bacteria eliminate all trace of ammonia and nitrite and nitrate is rising, your filter is cycled and your out of trouble. You can then slow water changes to keep the nitrate below 20ppm.>    I have noticed that, especially the larger fish, seems to be gulping at the top of the tank fairly often, he sometimes sort of jumps out so that the whole of the top of his mouth is out of the water, and have also been slightly concerned about this.  Apart from this they seem happy though, very active and enjoy playing with the current from the air diffuser, and constantly (enthusiastically) searching through the gravel for food. <A sign of high nitrites and of great concern. The reason I'm suggesting all these water changes. Nitrite will destroy the gills. We need to get those nitrites out quickly, but without causing a large ph swing> As for the feeding, I have so far fed them on TetraFin flake food, which I have been holding under the water for them so they don't eat air with it (lovely fishes, they like to nibble it from my fingers) but I will be starting to feed them some veggies this evening. I feed them twice a day, as much as they eat in around 3-5 minutes - they do love to eat. Am I overfeeding them? By the way, I wanted to completely stop feeding them the flakes etc. as none of them seem to be vegetarian - the one I'm using at the moment, for example lists fish and fish derivatives, mollusks and crustaceans as ingredients. Is this advisable, or alternatively do you know of any brands that are vegetarian?  I live in the UK btw. <Yes, you are over feeding. And it is adding to the high nitrites. They will be fine for a month on a tiny pinch once a day. You can increase feeding once the filter is cycled. You control the amount of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate in the tank. You add it as food. Right now your nitrites are at killer levels. The more you feed, the more water changes you will have to do to keep them alive. Good move to sink the flake. I would also hold off on the veggies until the cycle is established. Stick to the flake. As to flake content, I can not recommend an all vegetarian food or diet. Goldfish by nature eat mostly vegetable matter. But in the wild they will also take any worms, bugs, egg, etc. that they come across. They need this animal protein, IMO. A varied diet is of the utmost importance for long term health> My final questions concern the fact that around the beginning of January, I will be moving onto a boat (can't wait!)  But, because the boat moves around with the waves (and will sometimes be sailed) it seems like it'll be a good idea not to fill the tank to the top (to stop the water from slopping over the sides). I would guess by doing this, the capacity of the tank will reduce to about 45-50 litres (12-13 US gallons), and I'm getting more and more concerned that this won't be enough for them (one fish is about two inches long, the other maybe a fraction over three). What do you think? I would also appreciate some advice on how to transport them from their current home to their new one - they'll have to be out of the tank about three or four hours.  I was thinking of getting a small plastic tank to transport them in. My local pet shop (who I don't really trust) said it'd be better to use a bag that they gave me, but I don't think it would be very nice for them in this little polythene bag. Also obviously I'll have to take the tank empty and fill it up with water when I get there, so it'll be a complete water change - will this cause problems for the fishes?  And will it be necessary to heat the water if it gets too cold, what sort of temperature should they be living in? <I have no clue how you're going to deal with a fish tank living on a boat. Sorry, never did that. You may need an internal canister filter. A HOB would be hard pressed to siphon out the water if kept low. And would splash a lot on return. To move them use as large a plastic container as you can fit in the car. Keep as much of the old water as possible and use it to refill. Check the two pH's as above and add slowly if they are off. Put the bio pads in with the fish to save the bacterial colonies. Don't let them dry out> I'm sorry to have inundated you with such a long e-mail and so many questions, and thank you again for such a wonderful service that you provide. I don't know what I would have done without you! All the best, Chris <No problem, Don>

Why Test Nitrates? Hi Don. Thanks for your quick reply! I used to do water changes once a week but the local fish/aquarium store said to tone that down to once a month. I have compromised and do it about every two weeks. My tap water pH is about 8, so I usually lower it with an aquarium pH decreaser to about 7.2. I always test the pH of the tank before the water change and try to match it. I have changed the 10 gallon tank a bit more frequently because of the fry and the liquid fry food I have been feeding. It tends to muck up the water a bit. I have not tested for nitrates cause the kit I have doesn't have that test. I will take some water in to the store tomorrow to have them check it. Last time I tested it, it was ok. In October it was quite high so I bought some Green-X and some live plants to help control the nitrates. That brought the levels down in both tanks at that time. The readings for the nitrites is less than 0.3 (the lowest the kit will read - the next level is 0.3) I will do a partial water change tomorrow after the water is tested and then follow the instructions from the web site you recommended. Thanks so much for your advice. I really appreciate it.  I must also say that I have learned a lot by reading some of the advice you give other enthusiasts! Thanks again Susan <Hi Susan, Don still here. Pick up that nitrate kit. You need it to set a good water change schedule. Assuming you are cycled (ammonia and nitrite always zero), nitrates will always be on the rise. You want them below 20ppm. I test for ammonia and nitrite maybe twice a month. But nitrate is checked two or three times a week. You will soon learn what it takes to keep your water pristine. Rules like "20% every week" may work for some, but not others. We all have different bio loads in our tanks. We all feed different amounts. Testing nitrates in an established aquarium takes out the guess work. Be careful when messing with pH. Your 8.0 is high, but it is a sudden swing that kills the quickest> 

Water Tests Hi again Don - I did not receive the complete email again but I did find it on the Daily Q's and thanks very much. Re the ammonia test: what kind do you recommend? I've been using Jungle Quick Dip test strips; I've gone through a few containers of them thus far and have always received the same reading. What's better but not too expensive hopefully?  And re the Oranda, no, she did not lose any tail. She lost about half her width and has not grown in length at all since then - I got her at the same time I got my Cali gold, both were exactly the same size at the time and now the Cali is twice the size as the Oranda. Oranda is still alive although I don't think for too much longer. Will keep doing frequent water changes but other than that just not sure. Thanks for your help - Robin <I use Aquarium Pharmaceuticals tests. Around here they cost $10-$12. They work well. Far better than the strips. Hope your goldfish pulls through. Don>

Cloudy 75 gallon tank First off, I love your site. I have a 75 gallon tank with 4 small Oscars (6 inches for now) I know I will need another tank for them soon. Anyhoo I have a whisper 4 and a penguin 170 filter hanging from it, but the tank is still in a state of perpetual cloudiness. I put extra diamond blend in the whisper .my water test good- 0 chlorine, 0 nitrites, pH of 7.2.i do partial water changes once a week including vacuuming the stones. I don't believe I am overfeeding them, I feed them floating pellets a few at a time and make sure to stop as soon as they lose interest in the food. any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated. oh and by the way its a white cloudiness not green < White cloudy water can come from a few different sources. First check the ammonia levels in the tank. The readings should be zero. If there is any ammonia level readings what so ever then you are over feeding the fish. You should only give them enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes. There should be no fishy smell to the water either. The second possibility is that the sand was not well washed when it was purchased and as the Oscars move the sand around then they disturb the sediment and it is too small to be caught in the filter. A third possibility is that your water is soft and acidic and it is leaching minerals from the rocks and or sand. Something to check out.-Chuck>

Re: cloudy 75 gallon tank First of all I want to thank you for your super fast response. my ammonia level is 0, so I don't think that's it .I try to make it a point not to overfeed. my water does smell a little however, I'm not sure what that's about. < Could be the type of food you are feeding too. Fish oils tend to float on the surface of the water and may create a scum.> I use Mardel test strips and it reads that my water hardness is 120 ppm. I washed the stones good when I put them in. < Washing the stones is not enough. You water is fairly soft and you could still have a chemical reaction with the stones or gravel. Check the water hardness from your tap water and then check the water in your tank. If the hardness of the  aquarium water is much higher than the tap water then the additional minerals came from the water chemically dissolving the stones. So this may be a source of the cloudy water.> do you think that I may need more filtration for this setup ,and if so what would you suggest? < I usually recommend that a filter turn the water over at least 3 times the total tank volume per hour. So you would need a filter or filters that pump at least 225 gallons per hour. Many of these filters state on the box how many gallons per hour they pump when they are clean. As these clog they start to slow down. The key to a good filter is how much water it pumps and how easy it is to surface. If you wanted to cut down to one filter I would recommend one of the Marineland Emperors with the 280 being very good and the 400 being the best choice depending on your budget.> they also I usually keep the light on ,do you think this may have any effect on my problem? < No probably not. Too much light usually reflects green water.>-Chuck> Thanks again     Jerry

Green Smelly Water        Hi, again. <Hi, Don here today. Just got done reading your earlier questions to get up to speed with the advice given by Jorie and Mike D.> Well, I didn't know that about being able to tell about how far along a fish is in pregnancy. As you probably can tell I am a beginner at all this. <As we are all/were> I just want to try to do things right, I am very much an animal lover and I don't want to hurt any animal (fish or otherwise) in any way. <Agreed>         To answer your question on the 2 green-spotted puffers I just got, no they have not killed each other yet. <"Yet" being an important part of that sentence. Some will get along fine then one day you wake up to only one puffer> Actually, they seem quite content with each other. The only time they show any slight irritation with each other is when they eat. All they do then is if one is going for food that the other one is trying to get, it will chase the other one off a little bit. Other than that they are always by each other. I do plan to move them to a bigger tank in the near future, but right now they are both small and have plenty of room to swim and play and eat. <They will grow to about 6" and need brackish to full salt to live a healthy, full life. Read here for more info from Pufferpunk, our keeper of all puffer knowledge. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm >        Thank you for the compliment on my persistence. I don't work and I always wanted to have an aquarium full of fish (and now I have 4 aquariums) and like I said before I love animals of all kinds. <An aquarium "full of fish" is not a good aquarium. Much better to have a few well kept "display quality" fish then a bunch that are small and unhealthy from overstocking> Oh, by the way still no babies, but that's ok she will eventually have them. <Yep, I assume you are referring to the guppies from the earlier post here>            Sorry, I do have another question. <No problem> I am looking to give a home to 11 different varieties of goldfish. I can't keep them, I am having trouble with my 55 gallon tank that I have them in. My water is always green and smells horrid, <If it smells bad to you, imagine what your fish are thinking> I was told that the goldfish are the reason the water is like that. <Yep, Too many of these large waste producers> I have to change the water at least 2 -3 times a week to keep the water from smelling so bad and to keep the ammonia levels down. I have carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my hands <Ouch, I understand the pain> and I just can't keep up with that tank. Do you know how I can try to find them a home? I am not looking to get any money off of them, I just want them to go where they will be taken good care of. I have tried calling a few local pet stores but they said they weren't interested. Again sorry for taking your time up, I just finally found someone who knows what they are talking about. Trust me I have gotten some really bad advice. <Wow, eleven goldfish in a 55 would be a challenge. Look into a Python siphon system. It hooks to your tap and will both drain and refill your tank. No more bucket lugging and lifting. Even has a gravel vac nozzle to get all the waste out. I'm sure it will save you a lot of pain in maintaining four tanks. But you still need to lower the number of fish in the 55. Just take them to the LFS, don't call ahead. I'm sure they get that call several times a week and have been told to say no. But if you just show up with some nice fancy goldfish, I bet they take them. As to the green, smelly and ammonia tainted water, you are under filtering and over feeding. Even if you are feeding the fish the perfect amount to thrive, it's too much for your filter to process into nitrite, and finally nitrate. Reducing the bio load, cleaning the gravel and adding more bio filtration will clear the tank. I like Marineland's Bio Wheel design. They take a little work to maintain, but do a great job of removing ammonia and nitrite. But even the best filter will not slow the water changes needed for this many goldfish. You'll still be doing 2 or 3 a week to control nitrates. Lowering the number of fish and removing waste via a gravel vac will help greatly. Don>     

FW cloudy water Hi, <Hello - Jorie here> We are rather new to the whole fish thing (just since July). <Welcome to the wonderful world of all things piscine!> We have a 10 gal. tank and started with a few feeder fish to get the bacteria levels right. <OK, what's done is done and hindsight is always 20/20, but I wouldn't have recommended that.  First of all, feeder fish are many times loaded with disease that you wouldn't want to introduce into your aquarium system.  Next time, look into a fishless cycle with a piece of cocktail shrimp - it will accomplish the same thing, and is less cruel, in my opinion, since there are no live fish involved.  I'm glad you realized the need to cycle the tank, however - that is something many newbies overlook!> After several weeks, we took a water sample to our local pet store and were assured that the bacteria level was just right. <When you are relying on someone else to take these measurements for you, it's always a good idea to ask them to write down the precise levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, as everyone's definition of "just right" varies.  Also, they should be able to tell you the water's pH, something that is good to know.  You may want to consider purchasing your own water testing supplies - most of the kits are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. If you plan on staying in this hobby, having your own testing supplies is crucial, as so many problems are often related to toxin buildups, etc.> We removed the feeder fish and then put in two Priscilla tetras and three neon tetras. <I'm not sure about Priscilla tetras, but I know Neons are somewhat fragile...do ensure good water conditions for these guys.> Right after that we began having brown algae.  I checked your website and tried all that we could find to eliminate that problem. After bi-weekly water changes of at least 25%, the bacteria levels were still okay, but the algae was barely letting up. <Do you mean twice per week or every two weeks, with regards to water changes.  Hopefully it's the former, but in cases of severe algae outbreaks, there's nothing wrong with doing even more water changes.  Perhaps consider taking 50% out at a time every other day for a few days to see if the problems clears itself up.  Also, another main contributing factor to algae growth is overfeeding...be sure that you are feeding your fish 2-3 times per day *only* the amount they can consume within a few minutes.  Neons are really tiny fish, so I might recommend Hikari's Micro pellets for them. I'm not sure about the others, but the point is to minimize excess food floating around and eventually polluting the water.> Our fish people at the pet store recommended a snail, so we added a small yellow shelled snail (not certain of the species). <Ask them to write down the scientific name of the snail for you; that way you can do some research on the internet to learn more about your little guy.> The algae is definitely improving, but now we have cloudy water.  Could this be because of the snail? <It could be...again, I suggest stepping up the water changes. The more, the merrier, I wouldn't suggest anything over 50% water change at a time, though, so that you don't destroy your nitrogen cycle.> We've tried changing the filter pads twice in the last week and we've done a 25% water change twice, but though with the water change things drastically improve, the cloudiness is still there and gets worse as each day progresses. <Keep in mind that much of your beneficial bacteria lives in the filter pads, so you don't want to change them too frequently. Once a month is usually sufficient.  The two 25% water changes are good, but again, I suggest more. I've checked your website for solutions, but can't seem to find anything not related to salt water or in similar situations as ours.  Can you help us??? <To summarize: 1. more frequent and larger water changes. 2. find out exactly what species of snail you have. 3. cut down on feedings.  In all reality, you shouldn't need a snail to control the algae in your tank (numbers 1 and 3 above should do it), so if you can find a suitable home for him, you can certainly try removing him (unless you've grown attached to the little guy!) Thanks! Jennifer (& Dane) <You're welcome! Jorie> P.S.  Sorry for being so long-winded.  I didn't know how much history you would need!?!?!? <More is better, so thanks for the thorough e-mail.  If you do want to write me back, please let me know what type of food you have been using and how much.  Also, where is this tank physically located? Is it getting direct sunlight? That can cause algae outbreaks as well...>

Water treatment follow-up, FW Hi Jorie, <Hey Antonio, MacL in for Jorie. I hope she's off somewhere exotic.> thanks for your reply. You have mentioned that using DI or RO is the best way to remove impurities and other substances contained in tap water....for the aquatic life. I currently have a baby arowana (jardini) in a 30 gallon tank (36 inches long w/ an emperor 400 power filter, and a 250 watt heater). As of the moment, I do not have the funds to buy the expensive tap water purifiers/filters (DI or RO) that cost around $200...plus cartridges.  Plus I do not have the patience of waiting for the 20-50 gpd they offer. <understood> Anyways, I have a plan for inexpensive way for me to do 25% water change to my current 30 gallon tank.  Since I have an extra 10 gallon aquarium, and an extra emperor 280 power filter..........I am planning to just use this to have a "filtered tap water" to use....to put 25% of water to my 30 gallon tank. <Good idea, having already done water to use as needed> I will put tap water into my extra 10 gallon tank......and run the emperor 280 power filter with black diamond cartridge and use Seachem matrix bio on the extra media container......for one whole week.   After a week, I will use this water to supply the 30 gallon on its "water change". Since the tap water will be run for a week using black diamond carbon.....and Seachem matrix bio..................ammonia, chlorine, nitrite, nitrates, chloramines, and other impurities will be removed.   Plus through time, the bio-filter of the emperor will create "bacteria" and the Seachem matrix bio will do the same.......so every time I filter the tap water into that 10 gallon for a week............good bacteria will also be present......and will be transferred into the 30 gallon that I use for my baby arowana. Is this inexpensive plan of mine.....a good one?  Any pros and cons? <I think it works well. One thing you might want to do is have your tap water tested just to see what's in it.>  Any suggestions to make this plan of mine work......and replace the expensive tap water filter (RO and DI)? <I think what you are doing sounds lovely> thanks so much! Sincerely, Antonio

Re: MIA Nitrates Hi Don. Thanks so much for the quick reply. The tank has been up and running now for about a year.<OK, plenty of time to cycle> I have been experimenting with new types of fish. Started with some coloured widows and the long tail Danios, the widows weren't real happy and slowly died off, however the Danios never had a problem. Went to the fish shop to figure out why they were dying and found out pH and immediately started testing the water. The pH was fairly high, >7.6, which they thought was the probable explanation. Have bought the pH down to 7/7.1 over the past couple of months. Otherwise, the nitrites are in trace amounts, barely readable, <Must be zero> and the nitrates are zero.<???> I think that's how they should be right?? <You sure about this? Every time you feed, ammonia is added to the tank. Two different bacteria then convert it to first nitrite, then nitrate. So, ammonia and nitrite are usually (and must be) at zero in a cycled tank. Nitrate should be rising as the bacteria do their thing. Please check for ammonia. You may have lost the bacteria in your filter.>   I went and bought some frozen shrimp this arv, so we'll so how that works. They seemed like they enjoyed it though! <Keep all feeding light until we find out if there is ammonia in the tank> Don't mean to keep you, but would you know of any other species that seem to work well with the barbs? <Tiger Barbs are known fin nippers. Choose fast hardy fish as tankmates. No Bettas!> Have been struggling to get info from the aquarium places I go to. Again thanks very much for your time and assistance. It is much appreciated. <My pleasure, Don> Cheers, Brenton

Fighting Off Cloudiness Scott: <Hello there!> I just had a Red Swordtail die for no apparent reason.  My tank's been up and running since March 2004, and the last two months have been uneventful (no deaths or anxieties that I can see in my fish), so I am kind of stumped.  I just did a water change and put an airstone in there to increase the oxygen, but I'm not sure it was really necessary-but I felt it couldn't hurt until I figured out the problem. <Additional aeration and any tactics to increase water quality are always good things to do...Nice thought!> My nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia readings are all zeros, so there's no problems there.  My pH reading is pretty high at around 7.5, but that's not unusual for my tank.  FYI-I removed my only piece of driftwood a couple of weeks ago, (it algae on it was getting pretty heavy and bits of the wood were flaking off into my water) and haven't replaced it yet. I know that adding another piece will lower the ph, but do you think that's a contributor to this problem? <Not specifically in this case, but widely swinging water chemistry parameters are a definite source of stress. Sounds like you have a good handle on water quality, however.> What's the lifespan on swords? <In my experience, at least two to three years. Many factors contribute to life span, such as diet, water temperature, etc., so there is no "absolute" here.> I've also lowered the lights in the last 24 hours to combat a slight cloudiness that's been in my water for about a week-even though I did my weekly water change.  Any thoughts? I've tried to give you all the information that might help you to assist me. Cyndy Monarez. <Cloudiness can be a result of a number of factors, ranging from a bacterial bloom or an algae bloom of some sort, to simple cloudiness caused by disturbing substrate. Look for probable causes here: Disturbances of the gravel, disruption of biological filtration, etc. Your idea to add additional aeration, coupled with regular small water changes should help. If you don't already, incorporate some activated carbon into your mechanical filtration, and replace it regularly. Stay on top of things with regular monitoring of water quality and careful feeding. I'm sorry to hear of the Swordtail's untimely death. I'm inclined to believe two possible theories: One is simple "old age", the other would be some sort of environmental lapse that triggered his rapid demise. It sounds like you really have a handle on water quality in your tank, and will pass through this sad episode just fine. keep doing what you're doing, along with some of the minor suggestions that I've made, and I think that the cloudy water should be a thing of the past. If you need any additional assistance, please let me know! Regards, Scott F>>

Fighting Off Cloudiness (Pt. 2) RE: Your suggestion to "incorporate some activated carbon into your mechanical filtration" <Okay...> Please tell me exactly what I need and how to do this-as this is a completely new element to fishkeeping for me.  There's all kinds of carbon in the bottom of the box my tank filters came in, but I wouldn't think I could just pour it in the filter without any kind of bag, or could I?   <Nope. You do need a media bag of some sort to contain it. Otherwise, you'll create a mess!> Also, what about putting a new filter in the body of that tank-in other words, in addition to the two filters already in use.  As I said, be as specific as possible in regard to how you'd accomplish incorporating this carbon, as I don't want to make the problem any worse than it already is.   <Sorry for the confusion. I'm basically advocating that you use (or continue to use, as the case may be) activated carbon in your filters. You can either use mesh filter bags to keep it in, and place them in your filters- or many manufacturers incorporate activated carbon in their filter cartridges. Either way, carbon is a great way to remove impurities and cloudiness in your water.> Lastly, and this may seem like a idiotic question, but should I get another Sword to keep the remaining Sword company? <Not an idiotic question at all! By all means, do add another if your tank can safely accommodate it. Many fish, like people, do enjoy companionship!>   Initially, I purchased 3, but one didn't survive the transition from store to tank and died quickly.  The other two seemed to be doing fine, plus my tank was starting to get crowded, so I didn't replace him.  Right now, the little guy/gal is swimming around with the other fish and seems to be okay, but I'd like your opinion on whether I should buy a buddy for him. He runs with the Mollies pretty well, but there's nothing like family, I suppose.  Your thoughts, please.   <Perhaps two female Swordtails would be the trick, if you can accommodate that> Thanks for all you do-it's great to have a fish friend and resource like you. Cyndy <So glad to be of service, Cyndy! We're all here for you every step of the way! Regards, Scott F.>

Betta vs. Guppy Death Match? I have a bit of a problem with my tank.  I have a 10 gallon tank. Originally I had two female fancy tail guppies, two male fancy tail guppies, and a sunrise guppy that I'm positive is male even though the store said female,  <To be sure look at the anal fin. Tube shaped in a male, fan in a female> and a male Betta.  One of the fancy tails and the betta got into a fight (after going nearly two weeks without one...) and actually killed each other. <I doubt a guppy could kill a Betta> The other male fancy tail was active in the store but inactive in the tank. He hovered around the base of the plants until he died.  Now all of the remaining fish are acting sort of... lazy?  They are either floating at the water line or lying on the bottom of the tank. <Could be lack of O2. Is the tank filtered, or at least an air stone?>  Concerned I managed to track down a 5-1 test for the water (nitrates, nitrites, hardness, pH, and alkalinity). <Great, but add an ammonia test. A liquid test kit is far more accurate.>  The Nitrate and Nitrite levels were right where they should be <Where is that? Both ammonia and nitrite MUST be at zero. Nitrate below 20ppm. How long has this tank been up and running?>  but the water is "extremely hard" with a pH around 8.4 and an alkalinity of 240-300ppm.  <With a bigger tank you could keep most African cichlids in these conditions> Since so many of the numbers are off what would you advise me to correct first?  I don't want to shock them to death with changing everything at once.  Also, what are the correct ranges for guppies. I've seen so many different ranges listed at various places that I'm not sure. Thanks, Rhyesa <First, I normally advise people not to mess with pH. Better to allow the fish to adapt to our conditions as any change in pH must be done slowly. A sudden swing is far worse than a steady, but incorrect, pH. But yours is very high. Peat in the filter will lower pH but stain your water a rich tea color. Charcoal will remove the color. Hardness can be lowered by doing water changes with bottled or RO/DI water. Small, say 10%, to make the change slowly. Since your pH is so high, the bottled water will lower it. Small changes are very important in this case. If adding more air to the tank causes the fish to be more active, don't mess with the pH. Don>  

Freshwater Quality Thanks for such a quick reply. <Surely, Ryan helping you today> I love the fact that you are very specific and use the scientific names. <All in the name of the informed aquarist> I'm not at all upset about the amount of negative comment as I hope to be a "fish" vet and criticism is always welcome. <Brutal honesty!  Sounds like you had Bob answer your last query? ;) > I've done a little research in order to be more clear as to what type of fish I have. I was actually incorrect in the naming. I do have one blue Gourami (4in, female), a feeder goldfish(2in), a snail, an albino African clawed frog (yes he has grown since I've got him, however he's male so I hope he doesn't grow too big:), one tiger barb (1in), and a Cory cat (Sterba's Cory). The "gold Gourami" I mentioned earlier is in fact not. <I see! Glad you're in learning mode> I think he might be more of a gold barb (1 1/2 in) since he resembles a rosy barb but gold, with a series of black spots in a line along it's back orangish tipped fins and a red glint to the eye. <Sounds very attractive> The bottom feeder is not a plec. It is in fact a albino algae eater (4in), possible a Chinese albino algae eater (that's what he resembles). <Can be aggressive, be warned!> I've had this tank set up since Mar 04 and am as surprised as you that it's doing as it is. The only recent entries have been the goldfish and the tiger barb. I've had barbs in the past but they died over the summer. <Are you letting the temperature change in excess?> There were once three barbs since Sept 04 but the blue Gourami killed them and the frog then ate them (that is what I meant when I mentioned trying to keep them in groups/schools). <Yikes> I'm currently afraid to introduce any more fish incase the Gourami tries to kill them or the frog tries to eat them or that the tank is simple not good. I will advise my roommate to get her own tank to put the goldfish in. <Yes, please do.  Not a great idea to mix these species for bacterial, ecological reasons> I would like to get a larger tank, however I have restrictions as I am in college and only have limited amount of space. <I'm in college as well-And really have had trouble keeping as much life as I'd like.  29 gallon tanks are pretty easy to move around, and not overwhelming to break down.  Even a 55 isn't too bad...Anything more is a real pain to move around regularly> I've been considering starting with an all new set up, but I feel bad simple flushing them. <Craigslist in your area?  Even a petstore is a better idea than flushing perfectly healthy fish!> There for I sit and wait. I've been waiting seven months now and they're still swimming. Now all I want to do is make sure the specific water levels and such are good and that they don't get sick. <It's impossible for fish to get "sick" if they're not being introduced to pathogens of some type...In a sense, they can't be infected without your aid.  The water conditions, and temperature however, are still in your hands.  Two different areas of accountability.> Thanks to your advice I shall go and get the appropriate equipment so that I can test their water on a monthly basis. The algae eater appears healthy. There are no changes in its eating behavior or swim pattern, in fact its been more active these past few months. The only thing new are the purple streaks I've noticed on its sides near the dorsal side on the left side (one) and sporadic near the back   dorsal and tail on the right side (four). <Could be water quality issues...You'll know once you test the water.> There is no sign of the belly "caving in". The goldfish does not contain these white spots on it's operculum rather they are on the dorsal, anal, and tail fins. The "gold barb" had these on the dorsal and tail fins but closer inspection show's that they are nearly nonexistent now. Also the upside catfish is dead. I believe you were right in diagnosing it with a bacterial infection. <Pictus and Upside down Catfish are especially prone to this...Have lost many in quarantine from the same ailment.> The spots on the goldfish are a little hard to describe since the fish won't stand still. <Or swim still?> From what I can tell there are one on the dorsal and anal fin, along the front edge that appears raised, small and white. The ones on the tail appear more flat and sparse. They aren't in a "dusting pattern", do not look like "chicken poxes". The fish still eats, swims, and grows (it has grown at least twice its original size since late Aug). I hope to put it in its own tank soon for it is constantly picked on by the blue Gourami (although not as much since originally). I'm am curious to if constant "gaping" or opening of the mouth is an symptom for anything. <Possible oxygen level problem...Do you have an air pump or powerhead running?  Could also be nitrite levels out of whack...Or just a weird fish.> The goldfish tends to do this a lot and I was wonder if I should be concerned. The spots on the gold barb are hard to describe. They originally looked like the spots on the goldfish, but are really no longer visible. My tank includes about an inch and a half of gravel, a plastic pipe, gargoyle, and plant. There is a bubble bar, a filter large enough to accommodate a 15 gallon tank, and a heater (which hasn't been on since lately since the water has been too warm). There are two lights, one green the other yellow (I've been looking for fluorescent lights since the color combination makes the tank look sick)<Yes, a good idea>.My thermometer has recently ripped off so I am unsure of the exact temperature, I've check it using a direct hand method.  I feed them twice a day using TetraMin tropical flakes, TetraMin variety wafers, and occasionally freeze dried blood worms. They get about two pinches of flakes and three wafers. The frog, thankfully, keeps his appetite mostly on the wafers, flakes or worms. (I have seen the upside catfish eat in the past). I have a container of Jungle Aquarium Salt which I add in a teaspoon or so either weekly or whenever needed. I hope some of this is helpful. I wish I could describe better or at least offer a picture, but alas I can not. Thank you for your quick replies. You can be sure that I shall keep in touch. Thank you again. <No problem Nicole! Glad to help you through this, Ryan> Nicole P.S. This really has nothing to do with anything but...do you know if there is a way to specialize in marine animals in the vet career? I can't find much information on it. <Contact the University of California at Davis- A wonderful vet program, and many classes tailored for "wet heads" like us.>

Question about ammonia and nitrites Hi Chuck, I have a plant and some rocks in my container. I usually like to wait a 3 to 5 days before changing the water. To avoid frequent water changes: < Frequent water changes are good as long as the water is similar in temp. and pH.> If I remove both the plant and rocks, also remove all uneaten food and fish poo, will this help reduce any ammonia and nitrites, also reduce the chance of cloudy water or smell in the water? < Removing organic waste is beneficial to the fish because the fish waste and uneaten food are broken down by the bacteria into ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. When these are absent there is no fishy smell.> Will it make a difference in the Beta's (I have a male and a female)  behavior  (happier, unhappier or more active), if they are in a space that contains plants or it does not matter to them? < The will be more healthy and that should reflect in their behavior (More active and better color).-Chuck> Thanks, Mario D.

Cloudy water Hi guys, <Hi, Mike D here>     I have a question. I have a 125 gallon tank with 2 Oscars each about 6 inches, 3 Severum, a blood parrot, a snakeskin Gourami, and 2 plecos. I am using an aqua clear 500 a Fluval 401 and a regent 30-60 (came with my 55 gallon) for filtration. The question is, how do I get rid of the cloudy water<This question is trickier than it appears on the surface as "cloudy water" can be caused by several things, such as suspended matter in the water, bacterial levels and algal blooms being the most common>. I've used the test strips to check the water, levels are good on everything. My fish are healthy and eating and growing. Should I cut back on the feedings. I feed them 3x a day. The Oscars have a bad habit of discharging particles.<This is a tip, but not necessarily the key or most important one. Often cloudy water can be reduced or eliminated by changing the TYPES of food being offered as much or more than the quantity being fed.....a basic rule of thumb is that all food particles should be gone within 15 minutes of feeding the fish.> I did a water change, 1/4, about 4 days ago, with no change. Any help will be appreciated. The tank is about 5 months old.<Here's a couple of questions that may help to get a better picture of what's going on in your specific tank....1) How long are you tank lights on each day and how intense/strong is the lighting? 2) What foods are you using and are they appropriate for the species that you are keeping? 3)Are the foods that you use known for causing cloudy water? In most cases addressing these three issues will lead to the solution of your problem.> Bill Danner

Cloudy Water Hi, <Hi back...MikeD here>   To answer your questions, I have the light on for about 12 hrs. a day. I had two fluorescent lights on top of a glass hood, but it seem to be too much light for my fish. I took one of the lights off and placed the other in the middle of the tank. This gives an area of bright light in the center of the tank that fades to shadow on the ends<Thanks...that almost definitely rules out algae in the water as a causative factor unless your tank is situated near a window so that enough ambient light enters to account for it> . I feed my fish three times a day with a mixture of color enhancing flake food, freeze dried Tubifex worm cubes (Oscars really like these) and some floating cichlid sticks. I rotate which ones I use, not all of them at once. They all say they aren't suppose to cloud the water. But I think this could be a contributing factor since the Oscars are messy eaters. The water has a slight white appearance to it<I suspect that your filtration and food choices are almost definitely the source of your problem, with enough very fine food particles and oils from same remaining in suspension. Factors that can help are moving towards solid, meaty foods (Oscars, for example, have pharyngeal teeth in the throat that "chew" prey as it's swallowed, and with the foods you've listed, this is happening to an extreme and will get worse as the fish grow.....solid foods, rather than ground and compacted cubes and flakes will be a big assist) as well as water polishing filters, pre-filters or even a cleaning filter, such as the Diatom filter that removes particles down to .05 of a micron will likely clear it up for you.> . You can see through it but it looks like a slight fog from the sides of the tank. Thanks for your advice Bill

Fresh water tank question.    Hello,        my question is about my freshwater tank.  It has been cloudy recently and I was wondering about the keystone rock that I had just put in there.  Is it not good to have the keystone rock in my tank? < Don't know specifically what keystone rock is. But remove it and place it by itself into a glass container and see if it makes the water in the container cloudy. I think is some sort of sedimentary rock and it is dissolving in the water making it cloudy. As it dissolves  it will be raising the pH and making your water cloudy. Usually not a good thing and probably need to be removed.-Chuck>         Thank you ,                    -al- Troubled Waters (Cloudy Water Situation) Dear WWM crew, <Scott F. at your service!> I enjoy your web site, and have learned much. I wish that I had found your site a year ago when I first bought my aquarium. I have a problem with algae (or maybe diatoms) in my aquarium. Last week before my weekly water change, I noticed that my water was looking cloudy, just a light brown tinge. I figured that the activated carbon needed to be replaced; it was about a month old. I have heard that activated carbon is only effective for a short time (hours according to one source, I dont remember which one). <Quite true...Carbon has a very limited effective life span, which is why you need to change it frequently to gain maximum benefit from it> I do like to keep it in my filter (Aquaclear 300) as a back up biological filter when I clean the sponge in the filter. The activated carbon has not helped, and I have red/brown algae growing everywhere in my aquarium, and the water is still cloudy. <Well, carbon alone will not solve the problem. Sounds like you need to review some husbandry issues, such as your water change schedule, feeding, and tank population. Where is your source water from? Do you pre-treat it to remove undesirable compounds?> In the past I admit that I have had a significant problem with nitrates. I plead ignorance; unfortunately many tiger barbs were sacrificed during my learning. <As long as you learned, they did not die in vain. Don't be too hard on yourself!> Statistics for my aquarium; 36 gallon Hex Aquaclear 300 filter 1 ½ in. gravel 18-watt fluorescent light Livestock; 1 Paradise Fish 2 Clown Loaches 6 Tiger Barbs (healthy for 6 months now!) 1 Java Fern 1 Crinum bulb Chemistry; pH 7.2 Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 5ppm GH < 40ppm KH < 30ppm <Not bad parameters at all, really> I feed the fish a variety of foods twice a day; krill, Betta bits, tropical fish flakes, and freeze-dried Tubifex worms. All food is eaten with relish, and doesnt last longer than 60 seconds. I provide the plants with Seachem Flourish, 0.75 to 1 ml twice a week. <Good work!> I change 6 gallons of water weekly, and added the plants 6 months age to reduce the nitrate level in between water changes (a key learning from my initial trouble with the tiger barbs). <Nothing wrong with a good water change schedule! Well done!> I wish I had brighter light for the plants, but the hex limits my choices (Im not ready to retrofit a compact fluorescent fixture in yet). Two things have changed in the last 3 weeks. One, the weather changed and it started raining (I live in Portland Oregon). At the time I noticed that the tap water tasted like rust, and it had a light reddish tinge to it. <Interesting...Kinda goes back to the source water question I asked earlier...Maybe you should consider pre-treatment of your tap water in the future (i.e.; using an RO/DI unit, or simply filtering source water with activated carbon before use> Two, I started rooting a spider plant in the aquarium. My logic is that the aquatic plants dont have enough light to grow (their still alive, but not much bigger than they were when I bought them). The houseplants are thriving in the living room (where the aquarium is) and they could help with the nutrient export. The spider plant is helping, the nitrate level dropped about 2ppm. <Good to hear. Yes- plants will assist with nutrient export. An interesting idea.> Can I ride out this algal bloom? <With your continued good habits and attention to detail, and maybe just a few "tweaks", you should be able to!> The fishes behavior has not changed (the Paradise Fish and the Tiger Barbs are better than TV, always active and chasing each other). I believe that the houseplant will reduce the algal nutrients as the roots become more established. I dont care for the cloudy water, but I prefer gradual changes for my fishs health. <Agreed...> Should I invest in filtering my tap water for the fish? The expense for a RO/DI unit is the cost of clothing my oldest for the beginning of the school year. However, the water here does seem to change over time (moved from Salem Or. 3 months ago). <Well, I won't disagree with you there. An RO/DI unit can be an expensive initial investment, but it will reap significant benefits over time. Perhaps you could purchase RO/DI water from a "water store" or local fish store, just to give it a shot. I'll bet that you'll see a difference. Another thought: Do regularly clean/replace any mechanical filter media that you have in the Aquaclear. Make sure that the media is fresh and the water is flowing well through the filter.> Thank you for your time, and knowledge, Quinn <My pleasure, Quinn. Hang in there- you're doing' fine! Keep it up! Regards, Scott F.>

Water clarity, FW? Hi there, I'm new to all this , I have just set up a new tank , just put water and sand in no fish , heater is on and filter but the water seems hazy ? will this disappear in time ? or is something wrong ?? < You should have washed the sand first before placing it in the aquarium. It will settle out over time and get picked up in the filter. I would recommend that you go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's library. There is an article there titled the first 30 days that I think you will find useful.-Chuck> please help

My Fuzzy Tank HI, Ok, I have a long question because I want to tell the situation.  Very long actually, I'm sorry, but I need help and I'm dumbfounded with this problem...PLEASE help! :o( I have a ten gallon black seal tank.  I placed a live sword plant, lace rock, bubble bar, and black gravel in the tank.  I used tap water to fill the tank and then removed chlorine from the tank and adjusted the PH to about 7.0.  I was fascinated by some small Ram Dwarf Cichlids at my local aquarium store and purchased one.  My tank, being a beginning tank, was not yet cycled, but I added TLC aquarium cycler to speed up the process and aquarium salt to soothe the stress of the fish while the tank spiked in ammonia and nitrites.  I now understand from reading on your site about Rams that the water conditions were not up to par and my poor little Ram was probably very stressed for this reason.  But, anyway, my Ram contracted Ich and I wasn't able to identify his sickness because I wasn't aware that "over-hiding" was a sign of ich.  By the time I realized my mistake I had already added another ram and two phantom tetras to the tank.  Needless to say, the first Ram died from ich and the two tetras died during the treatment process.  So, I'm left with my one Ram once again, but now I have noticed a white "dusting" you might call it, of my tank.  I assumed that this was Ich extremely out of control because I had read on other website (I didn't know of yours then) about extreme breakouts where the parasitic  cysts would show on the gravel.  So I raised the temperature to speed up the parasites cycle hoping the white "dust looking spots" would disappear from covering everything, and I did daily to every other day water changes and re-medicated my tank with an ich medicine from PetSmart.  Anyway, this didn't work to get rid of the white stuff, and the algae in the tank steadily got much worse, but my little Ram was actually quite healthy and happy looking.  So, I stopped the ich treatments thinking that I obviously didn't have ich.  I read about using a "medicine tank" to treat fish, so even though my Ram was healthy looking and acting, I got an old tank and transferred the Ram to the other tank.  The other tank was newly cleaned with new gravel and all the materials (such as the heater, filter, and thermometer) were boiled to kill any disease.  So the only transferring thing "un" desanitized was the Ram.  The day after I got the tank all set up with the Ram, I used the ich medicine just in case I was wrong so that any parasites swimming would be killed.  A day later, a white "dusting" occurred all over my tank.  On everything there were these same little white specks, dots, or dust that clump together to make bigger chunks.  I had to leave for the summer and my mother fish sat.  She watched my Ram closely and fed him and changed out about 25% of the water.  When I came home, the whole tank was overcome with algae and chunks of white stuff.  My filter was broken, I think from the white stuff clogging it.  I went to my local fish lady and asked her what to do and she gave me fish pond sludge digester....what a cock that was!  It didn't remove anything but she told me that after using it I  should syphon out as much of the white stuff as possible.  Yesterday, I syphoned out a lot of the white stuff and stressed out my little Ram who had been doing fine.  I refilled the tank and fixed the water conditions accordingly.  Then, when I came home from college class, the water was foggy, new white stuff had appeared all over the gravel and walls and this time it was more fuzzy than speckled.  My little Ram had white stuff all over him and strings of it coming out of his gills.  I was very sad to see this of my little fish who had persevered through so much already. Thinking it was fungus, I added a tank buddies fungus killer but I knew that it was too late.  So he died last night.  All I can think is that me cleaning the tank stirred up fungus spores that like attacked him. Now I have a white fuzzy tank and my dead Ram.  I want to start all over but I want to be sure I get rid of this fuzzy stuff so that I don't have a repeat and IF it happens again....what should I do??  How can I kill it/ get rid of it?  How should I clean out my python hose to be sure that it does not transfer to my other 15 gallon tank which is healthy?  Please help....I'm new to the aquarium hobby and dumbfounded with all this....Thanks Emily ***Emily, In all the years I've been doing this, I've never seen Freshwater ich   show up on anything but the fish themselves, and the same goes with any fungus. I don't feel comfortable saying "that's impossible", because this just may be outside my experience. Suffice to say that I used to work at a large wholesaler, treated fish daily, and never saw this after medicating hundreds of tanks, day in and day out. My suspicion is that something is very wrong with your water supply, or that something you've added to it had caused the "dusting" problem. I have to say, I've never seen this before. I would start over with the 10 gallon. Clean the tank, wash the gravel, and any equipment you use around the tanks. Make sure your filtration is adequate. A hang on power filter with a BioWheel would work fine for your tank, as would an undergravel filter. Let the tank cycle with a hardy fish this time, and keep your ram in the hospital tank for now. Give the new tank a month or so to cycle     before adding your ram back. You might even consider using water from another source, bottled water, etc, to begin your tank again. As I said I'm suspicious about your water supply. Jim***

RE: My Fuzzy Tank Thanks so much Jim for your advice.  I will definitely buy some bottled water to fill the tank and follow the other steps.  Hopefully I'll get everything off to a "clean" start this time!  The only other question that I would have is what kind of "hardy" fish would you suggest using that would go well with a Ram once it's time to add it back??  Thanks so much again. Emily ***Hello again Emily, Most freshwater fish can handle the cycle, I just didn't want you further traumatizing your ram after all he's been through. :) You can try a Cory cat, as they are small and make good residents for a tank that size. Cheers Jim***

Cloudy Aged Freshwater Tank 8 Aug 2004 Hi  <Hi Steve, MacL here to try to help.>  I have an established freshwater 50 gallon tank that suddenly , after 5 years, turned cloudy. Any ideas as to how to get the water to clear up? <It depends on why the tank has suddenly gotten cloudy.  Has the gravel broken down, Do you think you are having some type of algae bloom? You don't mention your filtration method, what type are you using? Have you checked your levels of anything? Without knowing what's causing it the thoughts are to do partial water changes for a couple of days and perhaps use some carbon filtration. Do write us back and let us know, I am sure we can help you.> Water changes, chemicals?  Thanks for your help Water quality, FW fish incompatibility Hello- Being a newbie at fishkeeping, I have kind of made a mess of stocking my tank and now need some advice on the best route to take to slowly correct the problem.  I have a 55 gal with an Aquaclear 300 filter, medium amount of live plants, gravel substrate, and an airstone for extra aeration.  My water is the big problem.  Its well water and really suitable for rift lake cichlids which of course is not what I put in there. (The only ones I've seen that I might like are Tropheus duboisi and I assume they would eat all my plants.)  I do weekly 25% water changes.  The water is well water and has a pH of 8.5, ammonia is zero as are nitrites (in the tank I mean).  Nitrates consistently measure 40 ppm by the end of the week.  Hardness is over 300 and I forget the exact measurement for alkalinity but its basically off the charts too.  The inhabitants are 2 gold gourami, 5 pearl gourami, 2 mollies, 4 otos, 6 Corys, 2 rosy barbs (bought to eat hair algae which I later learned to control with Seagel), and more platys than I can count.  Now I know that almost none of these poor fish should be in this hard and high pH of water but I am stuck with them and they with me for now.  My options are to continue with weekly water changes and increase the amount (50% maybe) or do more frequent changes but then I would have to acclimate them to water from a water softener which I understand is bad too. Which do you think would be most beneficial? <You have a couple of problems going on. The first is the hard alkaline water. The water is actually very typical of water found in the south western US. As you have said it is great for African cichlids. Too bad you haven't seen any you like. Many fish that are commercially bred really and don't require the soft acidic water that they originally came from in the wild. Your local fish store probably has similar water so fish that are doing well at the store should do well in your aquarium. The other problem is the high nitrates. Ideally they should be around 25 ppm or under. In many areas of the country that get their water from wells, they soon find that the first aquifer that they get their water contains high nitrates levels from years of nitrogen fertilizers being leached into the water. Some areas have as much as 50 ppm nitrates coming out of the tap! The solution to both problems may be found in an R/O or D/I unit. Basically these filters absorb/filter minerals like calcium and magnesium out of the water as well as others and leave behind pure H2O. This is too pure for fish and can be blended with your tap water to almost any range of alkalinity. The other good thing about these filters is that they will reduce the nitrates to almost nothing. Go to Marineland.com and look under Dr. Tim's library and you will find all kinds of info. on the subject.> The other problem is how to keep the platys from procreating!!! < There are lots of predatory fish available to eat your baby platies. Look at the freshwater gars. They will eat the babies first and then the smaller males. Then you will only have female platies. Trade the gar back to the fish store. If the store is not interested in the gar then ask him what type of fish he would consider taking back after it has feed on all that live food.-Chuck> None of my LFS will take them and I don't really want to feed them to my friend's Oscar.  I was thinking I could get an angelfish or two to eat the babies and in a year or so, voila no more platys!  But of course angels aren't suitable for my water either.  Assuming I'm stuck with what I have, what would be your advice as I want the healthiest tank that I can have under the circumstances. Sorry so long but advice greatly appreciated!!!!! Holli

Freshwater KH/PH problems Hi Bob, I am having a terrible time trying to maintain a halfway decent KH and hence pH.  I recently added some apple snails to my tanks and since then the pH has been dropping alarmingly and my KH and GH dropped to 1. I have very soft water (KH and GH of between 1 - 3 out of the tap) and I have been trying to stabilize using baking soda with not much success I'm afraid. I seem to be able to raise the pH to the blue zone (7.0+), but am barely able to raise the KH to above 1 or 2.  I have been adding 5 drops of Kent's Liquid Calcium to my tanks (20 gallon and an emergency 10g apple snail only tank) and have managed to slowly increase the GH to between 10 and 11.  BUT the KH refuses to increase.  Is there anything I can do???? I noticed the pH problem because the apple snails have shell erosion caused by the acidic lower pH.  I am trying to reach a happy medium both for them and the fish I have. I hope you can shed some light and solutions on this problem! many thanks Anthea < Well I guess the question is where do you want your water to be. Soft acidic water is great for lots of fish but not so good for snails. Your situation is very similiar to aquarists using straight R/O water. You need the right additive to put some buffering capacity back into the water. This is much easier that trying to take the minerals out. Fortunately there are lots of aquarium buffers out on the market that can get you anywhere you want to go. Seachem makes a product called "Neutral Regulator" That will keep your pH at 7. If you want to go higher then they also make product called " Alkaline Regulator" that will take your ph all the way up to 7.6 if needed.-Chuck>

Freshwater KH/PH problems Chuck, Bob My problem is not raising the pH it is STABILIZING the KH.  Neutral Regulator is not doing a thing to increase my KH value.  It is still at 1.  If all I wanted to do was raise the pH then I'd add baking soda, and according to the tests I have already done, I test way over the testable purple range of 8.8 on the Aquarium Pharm High Range PH test kit. Is there anything I can add that will stabilize my KH at around 5 without raising my PH way, way up?? < No. I asked many researchers that I know and all of the products in the aquarium trade will raise the ph while raising the KH. They all expressed the same concern with soft water that you have. The biological activity will slowly utilize the minerals in the water and slowly generate weak acids that will build up and drive the ph down. The buffers I recommended do not raise the KH as you already found out, but they are better than nothing to stabilize the pH.> For example, will Seachem's Reef Builder, Seachem's Reef Carbonate or Kent's pro dKH do anything to raise my KH without hugely raising my PH? < All will probably raise the pH to above 8.-Chuck> many thanks Anthea

FW filtration, water quality question I have a question....I have a 29 gallon freshwater aquarium and I have a penguin 330 for the filter........and my problem is that the water is always cloudy, the ammonia level is high, and for some reason the water is pouring from where the tube goes into the filter.  Can you tell me what's wrong with my filter or do I just need to return it and get a better one?  I really need help......thanks < Your filter is actually one of the best on the market. If you have a new tank then the elevated ammonia levels are normal. Pull out the filter insert and rinse it off with a spray nozzle from a garden hose until it is the clean blue color and then reinsert it. Most of the water should be coming through the filter pad and under the bio-wheel. The good bacteria will colonize the wheel and convert ammonia to nitrite and then nitrate. A little water may be coming through the overflow area around the intake tube. This is normal. The high ammonia levels are causing the cloudy water. They need to be controlled with water changes until the bacteria catch up with the rest of the tank. Make sure that you are only feeding enough food that the fish consume it all in a couple of minutes. Go to Marineland .com and go to Dr. Tim's library and read the article on the first 30 days. It will make things clearer to you on whats going on. -Chuck>

RO, PH, and additives. Hi, I have a single 7" Oscar and a 4-5" striped Raphael in a 90g that I've had for a year. I use tap water, but I've thought about RO and I'm thinking about it again. I have seen that you strongly endorse the use of RO. You probably know that you're in the minority on this, usually people will say that if you can, then you should use tap water. Anyway, I have 1.0 - 1.5 ppm phosphates in my tap water, which I guess isn't that high, but its constant freaking hair algae on the glass and decorations, film on the water, and media clogging with no sun, no tank light, weekly or more 50% changes (I have to change that much to get to all the gravel in my 90, emperor 400, emperor 280, eheim 2028) etc.. Despite all this, my water is clear, but it's a pain nonetheless. The big think that scares me is that so many people have said that you can get crashes using PH chemicals, and I'm unhealthily attached to my little buddy. So really what I'm wanting to ask you is what would you consider to be the very best pH chemical and buffer out there? I've seen some replies where you said things to the effect of "any of the good brands etc." well you might notice I'm paranoid about it.  And I don't really want to add any phosphates back into my water. If you could give me a specific recommendation for pH and buffer products I'd really appreciate it. What exactly should I add to RO water, tell me man, please tell me. If I do start using RO I think I would ramp up to water changes of all RO water starting at 25% of the added water being RO. My tap and tank water are 7.8 pH, but as long as I'm going to be trying to 'set' my pH I think I'd like it a bit lower.  Is it accurate to say that, for example (not that I would do this) If I have a tank with 8 pH and I do a 50% water change with 6 pH water, my tank will be at 7 pH? Seems obvious I know.  Oh yeah, I frequent another board, would it be possible for you to answer me without publishing this? :) I just don't want to hear about it later. You know how some of these damn forum people are. OK, I'll tell you the truth, the last time I asked about RO on AquariaCentral, it turned into a religious debate. Thanks, Karl < IF things are Ok then why change. If you are only concerned about the algae then check your ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. The ammonia should be zero as well as the nitrites. The nitrates can be as high as 25 ppm. All of these will enhance algae growth. Why change the pH. You fish don't need it. The two fish you have can easily tolerate a wide range of pH values. If you really want to go through all the time and expense of an RO unit then after it is run through thru RO membrane it needs to be buffered so it does not crash with organic wastes from the fish. Seachem makes very good buffer that locks the pH in at 6.5. The pH values are logarithmic. Water with a pH of 6 has 100 times the hydrogen concentration that water with a pH of 8 has. There aren't that many common fish that really require soft acidic water. They usually are dead from transhipping and acclimating in wholesalers tanks long before you even get a chance to see them.-Chuck> 

Doesn't that 'chemical routine' just make your skin crawl? RO, PH, and additives. Hi Chuck, Thanks for your reply. It's the constant algae that's motivating me, and this is the point of my confusion. You say you need to add some buffers. My impression is that one needs to use a product that's specifically for adjusting pH, and one that adds trace elements. But here you say 'buffers'. I have to say I'm a little surprised by your response, I got the impression that you guys were an unofficial RO cheerleading team, which gave me hope that you had your own chemical routine. My ammonia and nitrites are 0 and nitrates are 10 ppm always. < Karl , Go to Marineland.com and click on Dr. Tim's library. Lots of good info here about water chemistry that will answer all of your questions in depth.-Chuck> Karl 

Cloudy water Hi, I was wondering what is the cause of cloudy milky water in my freshwater fish tank  < There could be a few causes lets look at some,  #1) In a new tank the gravel or sand should of been well washed. Bags contain lots of dust that take quite a long time to settle or filter out.  #2) Ammonia levels in a new tank or one that has been thoroughly cleaned. The bacteria that break down the ammonia into nitrites and nitrates have yet to become established or were removed in a major tank cleaning. Check the ammonia levels with a test kit.  #3) In areas with soft tap water you may have your rocks or substrate actually dissolving into the water. Sedimentary rocks were formed under water and are cemented together usually with calcium or magnesium. They may be dissolving if your water is acidic. Check the pH of the tap water and compare it to the tank water. These are a few areas I would start to check. -Chuck>

Accidentally Added Test Solution to Tank !! 3/23/04 Hi,  I am in desperate need of experienced guidance. I have accidentally added a little over 1/4 teaspoon of Ammonia Test Solution to my 10 gal quarantine tank. Within 3 minutes I removed the one fish (a baby platy) to my 30 gal freshwater community tank - he's not looking so good. I am currently performing a 60% water change. Is this sufficient to remove the toxicity? Should I replace the filter media? What about the bio-wheel? Should I remove the substrate and rinse it? Wash down the tank? How will I know when it is safe to add fish? Did the small amount of water transferred to the larger tank on the fish net taint that tank as well? Prior to this the tank chemistry was perfect with the exception of pH (7.3). Ammonia - 0, Nitrite - 0, Nitrate - 15. Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much, Denise DiCesare <Hi Denise.  You did the right thing to move the fish.  Now that it is out, I would discard all of the water and disposable filter media from the Q-tank.  I would also use some water from your display to rinse all of the equipment before setting the Q-tank back up.  After all of that, it should be fine.  You could also call the manufacturer of the test kit.  They can tell you if any of the reagents are dangerous, but I doubt that a small amount of "tainted" water will hurt your main tank.  Best Regards.  Adam>

Cloudy Cichlid System Hi there, I have a 48" Hagen Fluval 1200 tank, approx 200L,currently I have convict and firemouth cichlids in my tank, small pea gravel for substrate, and a Fluval 4+ and a Fluval 2+ internal filters in both back corners of the tank, i also have two bits of Mopani wood in my tank, and around 16 tufa rock clumps along the back and sides of my tank. My problem is that my water is really cloudy constantly, even if i do a 50% water chance the water becomes cloudy again shortly afterwards, I've tried to use carbon pads in my filters and also poly pads in my filters, however neither of these seem to help cure the cloudy water, to me it seems that all of the water has floating parts of the tufa rock, however I don't understand why the filters wouldn't be picking this up, as it seems to be just floating there in the water. Its getting to the stage where I'm thinking of taking out all of the tufa rock and replacing it with something along the lines of slate rock and then doing a water change to get rid of any leftover tufa rock suspended in the water also thinking of changing my light bulbs as they are 40w which might be too strong) Are there any suggestions you could have for me, as I've asked at four different stores as to how to cure this problem and also read at least four different books yet everything I ask and everything I try short of replacing the tufa rock) seems to have no effect. < Check the ammonia levels in the tank. A new tank could experience an ammonia spike that would make the tank look cloudy. If the ammonia levels are fine then something else could be a problem. Take a sample of the aquarium water and place it in a large clear jar or container. After a few days see if the water is clear and if there is any sediment in the bottom of the jar. I am not familiar with the tufa rock but I think that it may be the cause of the problem. The term "rock" can mean several things. Some of this rock can be very dusty and can cloud a tank if it is not thoroughly washed. The dust can be made up of extremely fine particles that typical aquarium filters will not pick up. The other possibility is that the rock is breaking down in the water into these fine particles. Take sample or piece of the rock and place it in the clear jar. Add an airstone to the water to keep it moving. After a few days discontinue the airstone and let the water settle for a few days. Once again look for sediment. If there is sediment then the rocks may indeed be the problem and will probably need changing. If the rock itself is not the cause then vacuum the gravel. Sediment or dust in the gravel may cause this too. -Chuck> Any advice would be most gratefully appreciated, thanks, Craig Pettigrew

New Tank Hello...we have a new tank in our household. Have a few Tiger Barbs for it and maybe 2 others. My problem is this. We got the tank 2 weeks ago. I transferred some plants from our other tank when I did a water change in it and added some new decoration. I have had the tank running and filtered for the past two weeks, have a small Pleco in it that is doing great, but the Nitrite and Nitrate are off the chart. How can I help this before I put any fish in the new tank? Thanks. JJ >>Hello Jeff; The best thing you can do is to let the tank cycle. Chances are you have too many fish in the tank to start with. How many gallons is it? How many fish? While there are products you can add to help keep your fish alive, they will slow the cycling process. What exactly do the nitrites and nitrates measure? Nitrites are the more toxic...and anything above 1.0 or 2.0 nitrite should have a water change, keep testing and do the water changes every time the nitrite measures that level. Some fish are more sensitive, so choose your level according to how the fish react. If it is higher than 2.0, you may add some Nitra-Zorb or other product from your LFS to help lower the nitrites. Unfortunately, the tank will still need to cycle, but it will give you a chance to catch up on your water changes. You have another two to three weeks to go before your tank will be completely cycled, give or take. -Gwen<<

Clearing the Clouds - 02/02/2004  I have a 30 gallon freshwater aquarium that gets cloudy whenever we top it up with new tap water. The problem is new to us as we have relocated to a different province and thus different water. When we first set up the tank, we had a water softener that filtered out chlorine.  <Okay>  The water tests were always on the money. We have a filtration system that we were told runs 50 gallons through every few minutes. We have a three layer filter system that was recommended. Then were instructed to change the one medium to another sponge. So now we have a carbon bag between two sponges.  <Sounds like a canister filter, perhaps? These are usually nice filters.>  The tank is an upright hex. We have presently two gouramis, one female Betta. three clown loaches, one golden algae eater, and nine small fish whose names escape me now, four of which are Neons.  <This might be a bit much fish load for the system, do keep an eye on ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, and increase water changes if necessary.>  I'm told this cloudiness is phosphate bacteria  <Erm.... phosphate is not a bacteria, but high levels of phosphate in the source water (or other nutrients) may be spurring a sudden growth in bacteria or algae - a bacterial or algal "bloom". I think this likely.>  but don't understand what this is or why it develops so fast when fresh water is added to the tank...even if only a gallon is added.  <With fresh water come fresh nutrients, which will feed the bacteria or algae, causing a sudden burst of growth.>  The water here in Victoria is naturally soft and we treat for the chlorination. Add a small amount for aquarium salt. When we treat the bacteria, it clears up completely, only to develop again when new water is introduced.  <You need not "treat" this.... it should clear up on its own. It is essentially harmless to the fish, nothing major to worry about - but it *is* a concern, as it may contribute to algae growth down the road, or if you find the cloudiness unsightly (I know I would).>  Can you shed some light on this problem?  <Speaking of light.... One thing that may help quite well with this is to add some hardy live aquatic plants to the tank; Vallisneria sp., Anacharis/Elodea/Egeria, floating water lettuce, water sprite, and many other good, easy-to-grow plant options are available. These should use up the influx of nutrients from water changes before bacteria have a chance to take advantage of them. Other options might be to incorporate a UV sterilizer into the system, or to use reverse osmosis water as your source water. Planting the tank is probably the simplest route to clear water. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Sick fish and cloudy water Hello All, <Hi. Steve Allen tonight.> I have to say I love your guys' website. A lot of useful information. I've gotten a lot of help previously when I had an ich outbreak that wiped out half of my tank. <Glad the site was helpful. It has certainly helped me.> Which is the reason for me writing this to ensure I do treat them in time and correctly and to find out some more info.  All 5 of my blood parrots have died but my cichlids are still alive!!!! They were Jellybean parrots which I found out later that they were all injected/dyed <A horrible, barbaric practice indeed> which made them susceptible to disease, but we won't get into that.  They've been replaced by more cichlids and catfish. With that said, I think I have too much information stored in my brain in a short period of time and now I'm somewhat lost in which direction to go.  Let me tell you what I have before I get started. I currently have a 90 gallon freshwater tank, nothing but fake plants, gravel and some driftwood. Inhabitants are no more than 2 inches <Fish grow you know.> big except for the catfish. I have 1 of each species/genus: Electric Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Kenyi, Auratus, Red Zebra, Bumble Bee, Snow White Socolofi, I think it's a Labidochromis Textilis, can't really find much info on that species though since it's not as popular, Albino Fairy Cichlid, and Daffodil. <I'll be shocked if you can get this many (10!) cichlids to grow and thrive and get along in a tank of this size. You have too many.> I recently purchased 2 Synodontis upside down catfish about 2-3 inches big. A common pleco about 5 inches and a chocolate pleco about 3 inches. (I think it's a chocolate/rusty pleco, it has the closest resemblance to what I can find on the web) I had quarantined all 4 of them for about a week <1/4 of the time recommended.> and acclimated them slowly into the main tank. They disappeared for several days. They've been in the main tank for about a week now. Didn't realize that they were nocturnal. <I often didn't see my Synodontis for weeks at a time.> I've had them for about 2 weeks. Up until a few days ago, I started seeing them chase the cichlids out of the caves they were hiding in. I was starting to get worried that they were dead or something.  I did have some algae growing on the wood, the fake sword plant and along the sides of the tank, but now they're spotless!! So I assume they're eating, not only that, they're poop is soo long so they are definitely eating something. Ammonia 0.25 ppm (probably due to overfeeding or from adding the catfish) <And having too many messy fish in your tank.>  I did cut down feeding to half now and will continue to do so until zero, maybe even stop feeding them if anything. Nitrite 0 Nitrate 40 ppm  Is this level okay or should it be lower? <I'd try to keep it under 20 with a good regimen of frequent water changes.> What is considered to be a safe level of nitrate? What is enough to keep algae growing? <Keep at 20 or less.> pH is at 7.6 Water temp is at 75-78 I've been doing weekly water changes since about 4 months ago I tore down the main tank due to all the parrots dying. At the time I had 5 cichlids left which I ended up using to get the tank to start cycling again. After about a month, I purchased bumble bee, snow white and the Textilis cichlid and added them to the tank. (I know I shouldn't have done that because I didn't know at the time that the tank hasn't fully cycled yet PLUS me had no test kits either...I'm so bad...) A week later I bought the 2 fairy cichlids and added them too. This is when I started doing my research on the Nitrogen cycle and then I went out and bought test kits. About 6 weeks went by and test readings dropped to zero and Nitrate was at 20 ppm that's when I started adding the quarantined catfish. I resisted the temptation of adding more fish. yay!!! <Yes, you already have too many.> I've been changing about 30% of the water weekly <good>, vacuuming the gravel <good>, adding Amquel <bad>, Stress Zyme <not very useful> and Stress Coat <why?>. Last time I changed the water was on Monday 1/26/04, 2 days after the catfish were added. I WAS using aquarium salt when ammonia and nitrite levels were peaking to aid the cichlids in breathing. <not really much help> I knew that this were to help during my research and the cichlids were all at the surface gasping for air so I added extra aeration too. <a better choice> But after getting the catfish I wasn't too sure if they were sensitive to salt so I didn't add any when doing the last water change.  Up until last night I noticed that my chocolate pleco had one white spot on his tail. I checked again today and it wasn't there. Without panicking, I knew it was ich but the source of it was a mystery to me. <One spot may not be ich, but wise to be cautious.> I'll be trying to catch Mr. pleco tonight and move him to a separate hospital tank which is housing a baby black Dalmatian molly (Nemo) about 1cm, the ONLY survivor out of 15-20 fry and the mommy died the day after. <What are you going to do with the Molly?> All the other fry were probably eaten by the bigger mollies or from the red worms hanging from the mommy's butt. Eww I know. Sad to say I tried to save her but I couldn't. I ended up inheriting her when all of my boyfriend's family's fish had died except a few mollies and gouramis. That's a whole different story, won't get into that.  Anyway the cichlids are displaying A LOT of scratching which is starting to worry me. <I'd worry too. Could be ich or perhaps irritation from high nitrate.> Bumblebee is scratching itself against anything non-stop and it's not looking too pretty. And the Lab Textilis is swimming in a funny circular motion. A few of them also hang out by the heater and water current. And they're colors have been changing as well. The chocolate pleco was the only one who had any ich visible on his body but all other fish seem to be displaying infection as well but no spots.  Should I treat the whole tank since they all seem to be showing signs of distress or should I just remove my chocolate pleco into a hospital tank and treat him there for ich? <Start with the pleco and getting the nitrates way down with a big water change. Stop using Amquel. It is only a stopgap measure.> I know if I treat the whole tank, the meds might destroy most if not all of my good bacteria but since I've been doing weekly water changes and is in that MODE, <more like DAILY if you kill your biofilter.> I wouldn't mind to continue for a few more weeks...just a few weeks.  <Do it forever.> BTW, I haven't changed the filter in the water pump yet, but will do so soon. It's been about 2 months since we cleaned it. <Could be pumping out a lot of nitrate.> What about the catfish, are they sensitive to medications or salt? <Salt is not helpful in with this problem. I suggest you read through the FW Ich FAQs for info on correct treatment.> They seem to be fine, no scratching or spots.  Can high levels of ammonia cause ich outbreaks? <Can weaken fish immunity> Right now it's at .25ppm What about cloudy water? <Bacterial bloom. If green, then algae.>After I did the water change, my tank got cloudy, it was cloudy even before the catfish were added....I haven't used activated carbon before but I did purchase a box of AmmoChips. Would this help? <Will absorb ammonia.> In case the cause is from the ammonia. I know it might help with my cloudy water situation.  Can ich occur when other fish are picking/nipping at the new inhabitants? <Yes, or perhaps they already had it.> I'm asking this because I've been seeing Bumble bee nip my Pleco's fins which are raggedy and torn right now. Will Maracyn used to treat fin and tail rot help? <Antibiotics will help with fin rot.> The catfish are good "fighters" so none of the cichlids are bothering them and the common pleco is the biggest fish and I don't think they bother him either.  I do have Rid-Ich from my previous experience, which didn't go too well because by the time I found an answer, it was too late to save any parrots. <Check the FW Ich FAQs for the best options.> But the cichlids still lived through it!!! Poor fish, they've been through a lot in the last few months...the good thing is that they're growing pretty rapidly. <And soon will not fit in your tank.> I apologize for slapping you guys with a rather long email and it's been months since I've had an ich outbreak. I have somewhat of a clue of what needs to be done but I'd rather be safe than sorry. Any help or advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you!!! Sandy <My main advice is to stay away from the fish store. Don't buy any more fish until you have another or a bigger tank. You are going to need one just for the fish you already have. Do you have some good aquarium books to read? Hope this helps.> 

Smelly Tank! O, Smelly Tank..! Hi WWM Crew, <Hi Magnus on Call> I recently got a 15 gal. fresh water fish tank. I washed all the rock and plants and decorative stuff before putting them in the tank. I had the tank up and running for 2 days. <You should let the tank run about a week or so, this give it time for it to cycle and the beneficial bacteria that breaks down the fishes waste to build up.> I bought 3 Tetras. A week later, the water smells horrible. <This is due to the tank cycling through.  Next time you set up a tank remember to give it a bit more time.  Also another trick is to add some fish flakes before fish are in there, that will feed the bacteria and speed the cycle faster.  Also, tetras like having a tank that is more mature, so watch the fish and make sure they do okay...  They are sensitive and the tank might be a bit hard on them.> Is there something I can do to get the water to lose it's terrible smell or am I at the point of starting all over again? <Starting all over won't really do much except cause this problem again a week or two from now.  What you should do is be Filtering the water with Activated Carbon/charcoal.  Those nice little filter bags you see in the whisper filters.  The Carbon removes that nasty smell and impurities (which cause the smells) from the water.  So, just bump up the filtration and things should go much better.  Also, check our FAQ area in the freshwater section to get some more ideas.> Thank you, <No Prob.  Hope all goes well.-Magnus>

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