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FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality 1

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 2, 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

Panaque suttonorum (formerly P. suttoni).


Water Quality, Plecos, and Praise - Oh My! Sabrina, <Hi again, Chris!> many thanks for the prompt and helpful reply. <Oh, goodness....  I hope you can forgive the delay on this one!  Computers crashing all around me....  I think I have bad computer vibes emanating from my fingertips, or somethin'!> As you suspected water quality was (is still not) ideal. Nitrites and nitrates are high and I'm getting them down with water changes <Ah, good.> although I'm equally cautious about doing too much too quickly. <Not much to be cautious of, here; just be sure to match temperature and pH to that of the tank.> We've added some bogwood and improved the hiding place. <Also good.> We've also left the light off for the last few days, room light is quite good. <That will definitely help soothe this primarily nocturnal critter as he settles in.> The tank bottom is all sand so he (or she - I wish I could tell) <Sex can be determined in adults during breeding time (or if you simulate conditions of their breeding season) - males of most Loricariids will develop "odontodes", these are fine bristles that will show up on their pectoral fins and on their 'face'/'cheeks', especially on the operculum.  Females will lack these odontodes.  Other than that, it can be extremely difficult to tell gender.> should have a soft place to lay up. I've also noticed its adhering to the glass more so I suspect there's some algal growth forming up. <It could also be that the sand is too sharp for him (er, her? it?).  Please watch for any redness/irritation on the plec's belly.> In general the plec is looking calmer but I'm not complacent. Its just getting the balance right of trying to do the right thing and not causing too much stress. <You nailed it on the head right there, mi amigo!> It's my son's tank and the fish, especially the plec, are real pets if you know what I mean. <I do know, indeed.> If I could ask you a couple more questions please: 1. How do you sex a plec? <Yikes!  I jumped the gun.  See above.> 2. We live in a very hard water area - I have access to deionized water - should I mix this in with the tank during water changes? <That is certainly an option.  Though, you could try using peat in your filter instead; this certainly does the trick for my tanks, and I recommend it highly.> 3. Does having hard water change the water parameters I should aim for? <No.  Ammonia and nitrite should be zero, and nitrate ideally below 20ppm, and as close to zero as possible - regardless of pH and alkalinity.> 4. The filter is within the tank and has a compartment for charcoal - do you have a point of view on using it as I've received mixed opinions? <It most certainly has its uses!  It can remove toxins that find their way into your water - which is quite important - among other things.  If you choose not to use it constantly, consider at least running carbon in the filter for a few days each month.> Lastly, I have to congratulate you on the web site - truly one of the best web sites I have been to (not just fish but all web sites). Highly informative, realistic in expectations and advice and welcoming to all levels. Well done indeed. <From all the crew, thank you very much for your kind words!  Erm....  I really hope the delay in response on this one doesn't change your view!> Thanks again for your help.  Chris <You're quite welcome, and thank you again for your praise.  Wishing you and your plec well,  -Sabrina> 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>

Greenwater.... Am new user, have set up tank and suddenly it goes green.  Have replaced 50% water now and tank still has green tinge; am lost on what to do. <If you haven't yet, please read the following article:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwalgcontrol.htm .  You might also search WWM using our google tool at the bottom of the page for "need clarity", as we very recently went in-depth with a similar problem.  There is a lot of information archived in the FAQs linked at the top of the algae article, as well.  If you need more, please write back with more information on your system (size, water parameters, what fish you intend, etc.), and we'll be better able to help you.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Missing Algae I recently wrote you a letter on my green spotted pufferfish, but I have another question. I have had a fifty five gallon tank of cichlids for a little over a month, and I have yet to see any algae. I have heard that algae is a sign of a well maintained tank. Until the past two weeks when two fish died, we had fourteen cichlids. Our tank has rock, live and artificial plants, and I don't know why we haven't seen any algae. <Algae is not necessarily a sign of a healthy tank, it just shows that there are excess nutrients in the water allowing the algae to feed and grow.  The real way to see how healthy the tank is to have happy and healthy fish.  I would be more worried about the death of the two fish.  something must not be right in the tank.  Check your water parameters.  (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, your pH things like that.)  If the parameters are all good, then you will know your tank is going well. -Magnus> Thank you, Rachel

New Tank Syndrome - Is It Fresh?  Is It Salt?  It Doesn't Matter! >I have a question, concerning my 29 gallon aquarium, and my Penguin Bio-wheel filtering system. >>Alright. >I recently started having problems with my aquarium getting cloudy, and not being able to clear it up. I've changed 50% of the water, and the filtering system has been well rinsed, and the filter changed. It still wont clear up.   >>Using these methods it NEVER will.  You are ensuring that you remove the very bacteria you're trying to culture.  These are benthic nitrifying bacteria (they convert ammonia from the fish's wastes into other, less noxious compounds).  When you do water changes and clean the filter, you're removing them and giving free floating bacteria the upper hand.  You have to stop, leave the tank alone. >The bio wheel isn't spinning.  Will that make a difference in filtration? >>Bad, it sure will.  Contact the shop you bought it from, it may be a defective unit.   >Should I replace the wheel? >>No, if this is a relatively new unit (under 3 months old) and you've been struggling with this in operation, they should be willing to replace it free of charge.  If not, contact Penguin and ask them to replace it.  In the meantime, do try to leave the tank be for a month.  It will clear up (assuming you're not overfeeding or the like) once the nitrifying bacteria finally get established.  Marina

Nitrite Ghosts Hi there, <Hi Jade, Sabrina here> Thanks for the reply way way back (about the sick tiger barbs). <Sure thing, hope all is going well.> I hope you can help me with this one since I am a bit puzzled with why my nitrites are still in the 0.1 mg/L for three weeks now. <Yikes> The ammonia is at 0 and the nitrate is a little above 25 mg/L.   <Nitrate's a bit high, but not awful.> I thought it may have been due to excess food but I have been vacuuming diligently. <Possibly too diligently?  How often do you vacuum?  Try to alternate what portions of the substrate you vacuum each time, so there's always some area with enough bacteria to keep the nitrogen cycle going.> I change the water (25%) every week and sometimes even twice a week when I get jittery about the nitrite. <Hmm....  If you're vacuuming thoroughly with every water change, this could very well be the root of the problem....> I am not sure now if the problem is with the amount of oxygen that is in the water or perhaps I am not providing enough filtration. I have a 20 gallon aquarium but I am only using an undergravel filter and an air pump (airlift). <Since all you've got in there is a handful of tiger barbs, this *should* be sufficient....> Do you think I should get a powerhead or can I just increase the airflow rate? <You could try either of these.> How much filtration should I really be ideally providing for 7 tiger barbs only? <Really, you *should* be alright with what you've got.  Obviously, something's going wrong though - those nitrites have to be there for a reason.  My first thought, as above, is that you might be vacuuming *too* much and removing all of your nitrifying bacteria before they can do their job.  If that's not the case, possibly overfeeding - tiger barbs don't consume a whole lot of food.  If not that, perhaps decomposing matter underneath the filter plate - for which you can try running an air hose down the lift tube, start a siphon, and see if you can pull any gunk out.> I am also thinking if I should get a BioWheel instead. <I do very much like the bio-wheel filters, for their ease of use and maintenance especially.> Thanks and hope you can help me this one. <I hope so, too, Jade - best of luck to you!  -Sabrina> Jade

Timing of Water and Filter Changes - II Thanks.  I should have mentioned that I vacuum the gravel with each 20% change...... <In that case, yes, I would change the cartridge at a different time.  I'd also recommend only vacuuming about half the gravel each time, also to prevent removing too much bacteria at once - of course, if you're not experiencing changes in water quality (test often/regularly for a while) with your normal routine, you may not need to change how you're doing things at all.  Hope all goes well,  -Sabrina> Salvatore J. Frontiero, Esq.

Clearly the water?  Or not so clearly not the water? Hi, I am twelve years old. I got my first aquarium with my birthday money in August. <Congratulations, and welcome to the fishkeeping hobby!> It is a 10-gallon freshwater aquarium with a power filter. This got my mom interested and she started a cool-water aquarium about a month ago, also 10-gallon with a power filter. <Fish certainly are addictive, huh?> We also have bettas in a one-gallon tank, 1.66 gallon and a 2.5-gallon tank. They both have under-gravel filters.  Our water is from a well. We adjust it to PH 7.0. It is really alkaline naturally. <What is the pH out of the tap naturally?  If it's not too bad, you may not have to adjust the pH; it's better to have a stable, not-quite-perfect pH than to run the risk of a fluctuating pH.> I have some small tetras, a catfish and a small cone snail in mine, and she has a male Betta, four white clouds and a small cone snail in hers. Then we added two ghost shrimp to each 10-gallon tank and one each to the two smaller Betta tanks. <Freshwater shrimp are my favorite animals - even just plain ol' ghost shrimp - what fun creatures.> My father also decided he had to have a glass cat and added one to my mom's tank. <Uh-oh....> The other fish and the snails are doing fine. The clear animals all died, most within a day or two. My mom is guessing there's something in the well water that kills clear animals. <Interesting guess, but it's very likely that the shrimp deaths and the glass catfish death are completely unrelated.  First, the glass catfish - these fish are very, very sensitive schooling fish.  They do not do well singly, and they can't tolerate ammonia or nitrite in the water at *all*; have you tested the tank(s) for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate?  Next, the ghost shrimp - I see two main possibilities why these died.  These cute little beasts are usually sold as food animals to feed to larger fishes.  Because of that, they are often kept in crowded, unhealthy environments before they are sold - after all, their ultimate goal is in the belly of a fish in most cases.  The last batch I got (not as food, don't worry!), I purchased two dozen, and only six survived; the rest died within a few days of purchase.  Those remaining six, however, grew up and bred, and now their young are breeding.  Basically, what this boils down to, is that very often, ghost shrimp are sick to begin with, so it *might* not be anything to do with your water.  HOWEVER.  (saw that coming a mile away, huh?)  Invertebrates, shrimps included, are very, very sensitive to certain metals (especially copper) in their water.  It is entirely possible that there is some mineral or metal in your well water that they can't handle - unfortunately, beyond copper, I don't have any idea what you might need to look out for, there are so many variables.> Do you know what it could be and if a water purifier would help? <If you mean something like a reverse osmosis unit, that would probably work to pull out any metals in the water, but the costs of such units are (in my opinion) not worth it for just ghost shrimp.  You might want to try one of the water conditioners available that neutralizes heavy metals - I don't know if this would work or not, but it's certainly worth a shot.> I would also like to ask about one more thing. <Alright.> A tiny brown snail came in on a plant to  the 2.5-gallon Betta tank.  It grew fast and looks like it laid eggs in patterns like horseshoes or other curves all over the place. It is less than an inch across, kind of a rounded shape and mottled brown. The eggs have started to hatch and there are already a few baby snails. Do you know what kind of snail this is and what I should do about them?   <As for what kind of snail, there are so many species - I suppose it's probably some sort of pond snail, you might find more at http://www.applesnail.net/ .  And for what to do with them....  Personally, since they tend to devour plant life and reproduce at astounding rates, I would remove them, they tend to make pests of themselves very quickly.  More information here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/snailsags.htm .> TIA, Joshua Ludlow, Vermont <Good luck with your fish/shrimp, Joshua!  -Sabrina>

Clearing the Fog I have a tropical fish tank which has developed grey water.  It has been set up for about 11 weeks. all the fish are very healthy but no amount of water changes will clear the water. Any hints, tips or clues to a solution? <Well, to help you find out definitively what is causing this, can you tell us more about your system?  Is it freshwater, or saltwater?  Are you testing for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH?  If so, what are your readings?  How large is the tank, and how many/what kinds of fish are in it?  Chances are, this cloudiness is a result of a proliferation of bacteria in the tank, often brought on by overfeeding or other means of getting too many nutrients in the water (overcrowding fish, etc).  Let us know more about your system, and we'll try to help you find a solution.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Yours,  Mark Holley

Need Clarity Hi www crew! <Hi, Don!  Sabrina here, this evening> Thanks for this great site! <And thank you for the kind words.> This is the second time I have ask a question, the first being about stocking. But before I can really begin I need to solve a little problem. I have a 2 month old 55 gallon tank filtered by an Emperor 400. No plants, just natural gravel (1/2 pea size), some slate caves, one coconut cave and a small driftwood arch. Current residents are 10 Zebra Danios and one Otto. The Danios were added to start the cycling, the Otto after the brown algae started to form. <Mmmm, algae....> Plan is to return them to the LFS and house a breeding colony of L260 Plecos. <Oh, you are after my very heart!!  Of all the Loricariids out there, this is by FAR my favorite!!  I absolutely LOVE these little plecs.> Cycling was textbook perfect, with all the spikes and crashes occurring as you would expect. Nitrates have never gone above 20 ppm due to daily, or almost daily, 5 gallon water changes. Ammonia and nitrites have been at zero since their initial spikes. <So far, so good....> That is until I added a very large knot of driftwood. It had been soaked for about 2 weeks, the soak water being changed daily. This must have changed my water chemistry enough to cause the tank to "re-cycle". The water went cloudy and ammonia started to build up. The driftwood started to break down and formed a white "mold" in the crevasses. <Oh, that sucks.  You might want to try running the wood through the dishwasher (no soap!), or, if it's small enough, boil it.> The ammonia spike crashed in about a day, but the resulting nitrites stayed around 2.5 ppm for almost 2 weeks. I gave up and replaced the large knot of wood with a the smaller arch and the coconut cave. <Okay, so the problem wood's out of the picture, eh?> Nitrites crashed in two days and the nitrates started to build up, but have been kept below 20 ppm with frequent water changes. <Sounds like you're having trouble battling those nitrates - there's gotta be something making that so high; in a new tank, nitrates should be rather easy to keep low.> All the fish are doing very well, the Danios are very active and colorful. The Otto appears to have doubled in length and tripled in weight. I feed the Danios twice a day with a very small pinch of Tetra crisps <Perhaps cut this back to once a day, and don't be afraid to skip a day every now and then.> and some dried blood worms twice a week. In the evening I drop half an algae wafer in for the Otto. <I'd cut this in half, too; a whole half of an algae wafer is a pretty big meal for a single oto.> Gravel is vacuumed during the FWCs.  The only thing holding me back from adding the Queen Arabesques is the water's appearance. It has always been crystal clear (expect during the initial spikes) until the driftwood started the second cycling. At that time the water became very white/cloudy. Today the white has turned to murk. Much darker, almost muddy. <Sounds perhaps like a sudden growth of bacteria, perhaps introduced or fed by something with that hunk of driftwood, or maybe even something that would have happened anyway - this is not an uncommon occurrence in new tanks, to be honest.> I did my water change last night and while pouring the tank water into the sink you could see it was tinted green. <Ahh, perhaps "greenwater" algae, then.> You can't see this color in the tank, only against the white of my kitchen sink. I never saw any green algae form anywhere in the tank, but with the Otto in there I assumed that was normal. <I would strongly recommend getting some hardy vascular plants in there (anacharis/elodea, Vallisneria, water lettuce, etc.), as this will help with removing nitrates which are probably feeding the bacteria and/or algae in the water.> I use treated tap water (Tetras "AquaSafe") for my FWCs, but nothing else. No salt. We do have Chloramine in our water supply and I do see a trace of ammonia in the new water after treatment. The tank continues to show zero ammonia after the water changes, I assume because it is so diluted. I took a water sample to a LFS to confirm my tests, all readings consistent with mine. Ph is 6.8.  So, what's causing this discoloration of my water? <Excess nutrients, likely from extra food.> I can understand the green algae, but what about the white haze? <Again, likely bacteria.> And am I causing harm to the fish by adding the trace of ammonia with all these water changes. <Consider making your water change water ahead of time in a seperate Rubbermaid-type container.  You might want to use a conditioner that neutralizes ammonia as well.> Would it help if I set up a slow siphon to replace the water though the filter rather than just pouring it into the tank? <As long as you match temperature and pH, you'll be fine.> Or should I just break everything down and start over? <Certainly not, I'm pretty sure you'd face this very same issue, anyway, if only to a lesser degree.> If I do start over, should I preserve the Bio Wheels or clean/replace them? <They're likely fine, let 'em be.> Although the fish do not seem affected, this tank is in our living room and "She Who Controls The Love Life" is threatening the basement as a new home for me and the tank if I can't get the water cleaned up. <Hey, you've got a basement??  Excellent!  No worries about spills, and you can set up a whole WALL of plec tanks!> So you see, this is becoming VERY personal. <Yes, I can understand.  Ask her to try to be patient, cut back on feeding, and your problem should start to solve itself.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina.> Don Clarke     

Need Clarity - II Hi Sabrina, or whoever gets this one, and thanks again for this great site. <Sabrina here for ya> I took your advice and have cut down feeding to once a day. I also cut back on the algae wafers for my oto to a small (1/4) piece. About a week now and I still have very cloudy green water. In fact it's now greener, you can see the color in the tank, not just when poured in the sink as before. <Not good, not good....  Well, not harmful, not a problem to the fish, but very much not desirable, I'm sure....> I knew that something has to be feeding this algae/bacteria, but the amount of food I was giving the Danios was small enough that it was consumed in seconds. A "whole half" of a wafer is a big meal for one oto, but the Danios always ate any leftovers after it softened in the water. <Yeah, if the problem is getting *worse*, despite less feeding....> Still adding waste though, so I took your advice and cut all feeding in half. But I also started looking for another source of the problem. Real easy, I check my treated tap for more than just ammonia. It shows 20ppm of nitrate and 0.5 nitrite! <Yikes!  Bad news, indeed!  You might want to double check this with a different brand of test kits, just to be sure.> Kind of explains why I can't get the nitrates below 20. So, am I banging my head up against a wall in trying to clear this water? <With nitrates that high in your tapwater - zowie!  You are in for a tough haul, at least.> I really did not want to plant the tank as you had suggested, <Well, something has to eat those nutrients - without vascular plants, algae has a fine chance to grow.> but adding ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to the tank during daily 10% water changes can't be a good thing. <Certainly not!> My filter (Emperor 400) gives me 7+ turnover per hour and I never see any ammonia or nitrite reading in the tank. It seems well cycled and doing it's part.     <Good, that's very reassuring, especially with nitrite present in the tap - yikes again!> At first I was leaving the light (single 48" florescent) on from around 6:30am until I went to bed around 11:00pm. (I know, way too long.) I know this could contribute to the green water, so I now leave it off until I get home from work around 5:00pm and off at bedtime. <Good, that's at least a bit of a start - but I'm pretty much convinced that the nitrates are the biggest issue.> Hasn't seemed to help. The tank is not set up against a wall, but is sticking out from the wall, dividing our living and dinning rooms. The dinning room side does get direct sunlight for about an hour in the AM, so I added a solid background to that side last week. Plan was to be able to view the tank from either side, but why double the viewing angles of green water? <Might be nice, if you like the color green....> Not much light enters from the front of the tank. Just a few lamps in the evening. <Okay.> So I've got the nutrients down to the same level as my tap and darkened the tank. Not sure what's next. Is there anyway to safely remove the nitrates from the tap short of an R/O unit? <An RO unit is an excellent option - perhaps the best option.  You could also use a UV sterilizer, which would kill the "greenwater" algae, but still leave the door open for other algaes, which might have to be manually removed.  You could install an overflow/sump system and set up a sort of a freshwater refugium (seperate tank on the system packed full of hardy vascular plants).  You could purchase RO water from a water store for your water changes, could cost anywhere from fifteen cents to a dollar a gallon.  There are a few filter feeding animals, such as bamboo/wood/Singapore shrimp and freshwater clams that would feed on the "greenwater" algae, but I doubt that they could keep up with the amounts of it.  There is some evidence that using barley straw in ponds inhibits algae growth as the straw decomposes; but to be honest, having tried it in my own ponds, I am not at all convinced of its effectiveness.  Here is an article on it, in case you're interested in trying this in your tank: http://www.aquabotanic.com/barleyarticle.html .  Be sure to open and read the PDF file linked at the bottom of the page, as well; lots of info there - but again, I am very skeptical about the effectiveness of this method, and do not know how it would affect an aquarium.  Again, planting the tank will probably help, as well....> If I stop doing water changes for a while will the algae/bacteria starve itself out? <I doubt it.  And sooner or later, you'll have to do a water change, and the nutrients will be back in the system, feeding the algae again....> Seems to me that I need a nutrient removal system that does not include adding my tap water and it's 20ppm nitrates. Are plants the only answer? <Still an option, but other options are available, as above.  There are also chemical algicides available, but I really do caution folks to use them as an absolute last resort, as that is treating a symptom, not the problem, and can lead to other problems, as well.> I really want a rocky river bottom look for this tank. (I also really want a Porsche, but drive a Ford, so I can handle disappointment) <There are plants that can do well in many substrate types.  Or even better, you could use a regular sand/gravel substrate and cover that with your "rocky river bottom" look, which would give you even more aquascaping opportunity, perhaps look more natural, allow for better biological filtration than large rocks alone, and give you a planting medium for some vascular plants.  Might be something worth implementing.> Anything I could put in the extra media baskets that came with the filter? Just a little extra charcoal in there now. <Again, might try the barley straw idea....> Any FW filter feeders that I could start a mutually beneficial relationship with? <As above - freshwater clams, filter feeding shrimp (which, incidentally, are some of my favorite animals of all time).> Anything but algae killing (fish/filter harming) chemicals. <Ahh, good, glad to see you are not fond of that method!> I fear that would just leave me with the white haze that started all this and a dead bio filter.   <Likely.  Again, algicides treat a symptom, not the problem.> One the bright side, the fish are all doing great. The Danios came to me very thin, pale and with clear fins. Now filled out and well striped on all fins, tail. Beautiful gold edge on the dorsal. <Wonderful!> But this is going to be a pleco tank, not Danio Paradise. I need to get past this water clarity problem so I can feel safe adding the Queen Plecos and get SWCTLL off of my back. <As for the plecs, the presence of the algae will not be an issue to them, but I personally would hold off until done playing around for a solution, especially with the readings from your tapwater....  Yikes again!> Don        <I do hope you get this sorted out, Don.  Please keep us updated.  Wishing you luck,  -Sabrina>

Need Clarity, concluded! Sabrina, Clarity has been achieved! Water looks so good I want to use it to brew Coors! <Excellent, wonderful!  I'm so happy for you!> Startling difference a few plants can make. <Truly amazing, isn't it?> Happened in the reverse order that it grew. First the green algae died off, but left me with the white bacterial cloud that started this mess. Then within 2 days; CLARITY!  You could almost watch it happen when it finally did. Water reads 0/0/>5! Thanks for all your help with this. <You bet, Don!  I know it can't be nearly as exciting for me as it is for you, but I really am very, very happy that this worked out for you.  It's always wonderful to be able to follow along with a problem and see it finally fixed.  Congratulations.  Wishing you well with your sparkling tank,  -Sabrina>

Persistent nitrites/nitrates (11/22/03) <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> I have high readings of nitrate and nitrite in my aquarium. <Gack! Time for water changes! Check for possible dead creatures in the tank.> I tried everything to get rid of the problem and it only seemed to be getting worse. Today I notice that I had a dead snail. <Bingo.> I didn't know it was dead but I figure that it's been dead for a bout two weeks. Would that have caused my water problem? <Yup, that could definitely be the cause of it, especially if it was a big snail that's taken a while to decay. You may want to institute some fairly large water changes, and check your source water to make sure it doesn't have any ammonia or nitrates. --Ananda>

Freshwater Nitrate Control (other than water changes) (11/21/03) Greetings Bob, Anthony, and Crew! <Hi! Ananda here today> Does anyone have experience with Seachem's Matrix series (Matrix or Pond Matrix) or Kent's Cell-Pore slabs for use in nitrate control? <I've not used any of those. The cell-pore slabs are supposed to be great for bio-filtration.> Both products claim anaerobic break down of nitrates occurs within each product, but I am suspicious as to the validity of these claims. <Me, too.> I have several very large fresh water cichlid tanks, and anything that would allow me to reduce the number or volume of water changes would be a big bonus! <Take a page from the marine aquarists and add a refugium. This would be a separate tank that is plumbed to the main tank, rather like a sump. Check out the WetWebMedia site for more info on plumbing a refugium. I would use Fluorite substrate and any Vallisneria species or other fast-growing plant. Val.s are tolerant of a wide range of conditions, so they should grow even in an African cichlid tank. You want to plant the tank about 1/2 full of val.s, I think, to allow them room to grow and multiply. Lighting for the refugium should be some sort of fluorescent or compact fluorescent, depending on the size of the tank. When the val.s grow so much that their tops are floating on the water surface, either trim them severely (I use scissors) or pull up some of the large ones and trade them in at the fish store for smaller ones. --Ananda>

"I love that clean tank water..." My husband and I are having trouble with our water turning cloudy.  We use spring water because we thought that was better than using tap water treated.  When we cleaned both of our tanks we cleaning them completely.  The water will not clear up at all....what do we need to do? <You are over cleaning your tanks.  This is recycling your tanks causing a constant "New Tank Syndrome".  Read this article & all the recommended links:   http://www.tomgriffin.com/aquasource/newtanksyndrome.shtml.>                                 Thanks.....Julie <Good luck--Pufferpunk>

Water quality Hello. We are having real problems wit hour new tank. we have a 30 gallon tank with about 8 fish, semi-aggressive. <Yikes... how big will all these fishes grow to?> The problem seems to be the water. We live in Florida and the water here isn't that great. <Generally very hard and alkaline, yes> e have an undergravel filter and a power filter but we still get bad water readings. Should we use non-tap water instead? <Depends... mainly on the sorts of conditions that the particular species of fishes you have enjoy, or will tolerate... Some groups like most Great Lakes of Africa cichlids really enjoy the sort of water you have right out of your tap... other areas of origin (the larger part of the Amazonas) prefer water that is much softer and acidic... You can look up your livestock's preferences on fishbase.org on the Net> What would be the best thing to do with the fish if we changed all the water to non-tap? Should we do this in spurts or all at once? Is this not a good idea? HELP PLEASE!  :) Thanks for your time. JJ <Might well be that blending some filtered (RO, Deionized...) water with your tap to a degree is beneficial... Again, you need to investigate your fishes needs... including how big they are likely to get. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Another tank in the clouds Thank you for taking the time to help me.  I have a 55 gallon FW tank, which I restarted after taking a few months off from fishkeeping, I have been keeping fish for 4 years.   <Well, welcome back!!  Sabrina here today> My 55 gallons' water turned a milky white within one day.  The ammonia and nitrite is 0, the nitrate is about 30 ppm, and the pH is 6.9.  It was stocked with 6 Clown loaches, 4 angels(2 large, 2 small) 4 small Danios, 8 various tetras (all small) , and a small Albino channel cat. <That high nitrate level and the stocking density are making me think this cloudiness is from excess nutrients in the water causing a bacterial bloom; essentially harmless, just an indicator of things getting a bit out of whack.> I lost all but one Loach, 2 of the Angels,  a tetra, and the channel cat, all within 3 days of this whiteness.  The waters chemistry has remained constant.   <Hmm....  was the nitrate level so high for a long time before the cloudiness started?> About 2 weeks before this, I had added one large piece of Malaysian driftwood, and 2 small driftwood branches. I did not soak the Malaysian driftwood, for the dealer said it would darken the water if I didn't, and I wanted to.   <Even after you soak it, it will still release the tannins that stain the water.  Some ways to clean driftwood to prepare it for the aquarium are to put it in the dishwasher (no soap!), or boil it in a pot of water, pour pots of boiling water over it, or bake it in the oven (not sure about that last one, have heard of it being done, though).  This will prevent any nasties from being brought in.  If you really like that dark stain (I know I do), if the driftwood doesn't get the water to where you like it, add some peat moss in the filter - this will also reduce the pH, so may be desirable, may not - but will certainly stain the water quite well.> The 2 small pieces had white "furriness" all over them after 2 days, which I scrubbed off.   Any suggestions as to what happened to my tank, it seems to be improving after a 50% change, and new sponge and carbon media (Fluval 304)??   <The cloudiness, a result of excess nutrients - the fish deaths, not sure.  *Possibly* something brought in off the wood, but that is a bit far-fetched.  What symptoms did they exhibit?> Also, while I was vacuuming the gravel during this, I noticed dozens of thin, long, greyish worms.  All were in the gravel, mostly near low current spots.  What might these disgusting little things be??   <Worms exactly.  Also due to excess nutrients in the water; channel cats are messy (and not the greatest aquarium denizens, either), so he might have been *partly* to blame, but excess food, overfeeding, not enough water changes, not enough cleaning of the canister filter, all of these will add to the excess nutrient issue.  As you reduce these problems by feeding less, vacuuming the gravel more, cleaning the filter out more regularly, avoiding extremely messy fish, the worms (and cloudiness) will go away.> Thank you, your website is an excellent resource for me. <And thank you very much for the kind words!  Hope everything proceeds well for your tank, and again, welcome back to the hobby!  -Sabrina>

Foggy Fish tank I have 3 tanks all freshwater-1 75gal, 2-20gal.  One of my 20gal tanks has become extremely cloudy  I moved the fish and plants did a complete cleaning including the gravel. <Cloudiness in established tanks is usually due to a bacterial bloom in the aquarium, which is often caused by an excess of nutrients in the water (overfeeding, etc.).  Cleaning out the tank so excessively isn't at all necessary; just a vacuuming of the gravel, a water change, and reducing feeding amounts will cure this.> The first day the water was clear day 2 back to extreme cloudiness. <Cloudiness in a newly set up tank is normal, will go away in a couple of days (sometimes a bit longer).> I tested the water (ph-ammonia-nitrite)  nitrite showed 0 ppm, ammonia 0 ppm, <After such an extensive cleaning, the tank will have to cycle again - do be prepared for that.> ph 7.6 - I purchased liquid neutral regulator which claims to adjust high or ph to 7.0   <This might also be unnecessary, depending upon what fish you are keeping, etc. - what is the pH in your established tanks?  And your tap water?  If the fish are used to 7.6, it might be best to leave it there (again, depending upon species, etc.).  A steady pH is more important than an exactly right pH.> I also purchased Proquatics water conditioner, its been about 3hrs since I used current purchases  and there seems to be no change    <It'll take a little bit (2-3 days) for the cloudiness to go away.  Again, do be prepared for the cycle when you add fish again - be testing for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate daily, and do water changes as necessary.  You should be just fine.> any suggestions or reasons my 1 tank is in trouble   <No trouble at all; just natural things going on.  A little less food, perhaps more frequent water changes will prevent this from happening in the future.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Cloudy tank with green water (10/17/03) <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> Hi guys, your website has been very helpful, but I can't seem to find a case quite like mine.  The water in my aquarium is cloudy; it has been this way for MONTHS!  I know that this is probably due to improper amounts of "good" bacteria in the water (the cycle hasn't been established?). <That's one probable cause, yes. The other is that you simply do not have sufficient biofiltration capacity for the number of inhabitants in the tank. How big is your tank, what's in it, and what are you using for filtration?> And I know I'm not supposed to make large water changes of more than 25 or 30 percent, BUT...when I do change the water, the water I remove is GREEN!  I thought maybe this was due to a lot of algae in the water ( I don't have any Plecos or algae eaters. they all died!).   <Sounds like algae to me, too. You probably have a phosphate problem in addition to the insufficient filtration problem. Check your phosphate levels...for this situation, the SeaTest/FasTest kit would be a good one.> So I've been trying to change a lot of the water to get rid of all the algae, and use an algae kill chemical treatment...it's not working and my water is still cloudy because of the large water changes!! <Your algae kill treatment may also be adversely affecting the bio-filter!> I regularly put in "stress zyme" to add good bacteria to the water and I've tried a chemical which is supposed to get rid of "new tank" syndrome... <"Stress Zyme" won't help cycle your tank. The one and only thing I've ever seen that will is Bio-spira. It's refrigerated, contains live nitrifying bacteria, and is thus expensive. But it won't immediately help with the algae problem; it will do nothing to reduce the phosphate levels. And if you don't have sufficient filtration equipment, your cloudy water may return shortly after using the Bio-spira.> How do I get rid of the green water (Algae?) and the cloudiness????  Or should I just start the tank cycle from scratch?  Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated! Thanks <Test the tank water *and* your source (tap) water for phosphates. If you have high phosphates in your source water, you're going to need to use either RO/DI (reverse osmosis/de-ionized) water for the tank, or keep a phosphate absorber in the system (do check the WetWeb forums at http://wetwebfotos.com/talk for opinions about the various products available). Regarding whether you should start from scratch, that depends somewhat on whether or not you have sufficient filtration equipment for your tank size and bio-load... if I could get an idea on what you've got for that, I'd be able to give you a better answer about that. --Ananda>

RE: Cloudy tank with green water (10/18/03) HI,  it's me again with the green water...   <Hi! Ananda back again...> I checked the levels in my tank today.. pH was 6.6, no ammonia or nitrates .  I do not have a way to check for phosphates as of yet. <Definitely something to get soon...> I have a power filter 30 (up to 150 gallons per hour) with 3 way filtration (a mesh strain and carbon chips...I always keep the same frame in the filter. I only change out the mesh and carbon).   <The frame doesn't do much for bio-filtration... the carbon itself probably contributes more to the bio-filtration than the frame does. Saying the plastic frame helps with the bio-filtration is, IMO, a bunch of hooey. However, there should be a "retrofit" available to add some real bio-filtration: it's a sponge, shaped to fit between the cartridge and the outflow. I would definitely get one of those for the filter.> My tank is a 20 gallon.  I have 9 fish (4 gold barbs, 2 ghost glass catfish, and 3 black tetras) which I feed a little every other day.   Do you think the filtration is OK? <I think you need a lot more bio-filtration than what you have. If you can swing it financially, you might also consider an additional filter, either one with a bio-wheel, or a sponge filter and air pump.> Should I continue to use the algae kill treatment?   <I would quit using it.> Do you still recommend checking for phosphates?   <Definitely.> Thanks again. you've been a big help! <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Short cycle, stagnant water Hi there, <Hello, Sabrina here today, watching minutes tick by> I have an aquarium that just lost 3 guppies.  Did a water change and cycled for about 3 days.   <Three days is not long enough for a tank to cycle completely....  I assume there were no fish in it at the time?> Now have a few cherry barbs and gold barbs (2 each).  Now I have an oil slick at the top of the tank.  My ammonia is 0. <Please test for nitrite, nitrate, and pH, as well - and keep testing for ammonia.  I expect you'll be seeing a spike in ammonia very soon (unless it's happened and fallen back already), then shortly after, a spike in nitrite, and as that falls, nitrate will rise.  You'll need to do water changes to keep ammonia and nitrite down until the cycle's complete.  After that, when adding fish, only add one or two at a time.> What is this slick and what should I do about it?   <This film is likely indicative of inadequate circulation in the tank - what kind of filtration are you using?  Any aeration?  It may also be a result of using aerosols in the room (hairspray, air freshener) or from any other airborne contaminants.  For a quick fix, dip a small cup in at just the top of the water and pour the filmy water out; do this repeatedly until it's gone.  Another quick fix is to get a paper towel and lay it on the surface of the water, then quickly remove it.  You might have to do that several times.  For a long-term fix, be sure you have a good lid on the tank, use adequate filtration, add aeration if you have none, and do not use aerosols in the room.  This is important, as too much buildup on the surface will prevent gas exchange and effectively suffocate the fish.> Help!  I don't want to lose my new fishies! <Hope all goes well for your and your new finny dudes!  -Sabrina> Thanks from a novice in Texas

Re: Tank Water ... and terrifying tanks <Greetings! Ananda here tonight...> One last thing, (hopefully) we went and purchased some bloodworms which we were told were good for the fish.   <Frozen or live? Live bloodworms have a chance, however slight, of carrying disease...> This is the only thing 'new' that we have put in the water within the last week and a half.  Tonight one of our neon tetras began swimming around as though they were paralyzed on one side, in the water bubbles upside down and just nonsensically.  We have had our greatest success with our tetras than platys or any other fish we have tried to keep.  It's like it cant keep control of its body at all, what's wrong with it? <Could be a pH problem. Tetras prefer acidic water, with a pH of below 7. Platies, on the other hand, prefer alkaline water, with a pH of about 7.2 or more. What is the pH reading in the tank?> The other thing is we also went to a Wal-Mart and went to their fish dept and was horrified by what we saw.   <We've heard this all too often...> Numerous dead fish in 90% of the tanks and many infected with ich and ready to die in others algae slime build up on the bottom and on the glass, it was really putrefying really, I got a manager to look at the conditions of the tanks with a promise that something to be done about it, however Wal-Mart is not notoriously known (here anyways) as being good fish keepers.   <I have heard of exactly three Wal-Mart's with uniformly good, healthy fish and clean tanks. In all cases, someone working in the store keeps fish (in two cases, saltwater fish).> I plan on revisiting the store in the next few days to see whether or not anything has been done about it but if it hasn't, couldn't you call the humane society even though they are a merchant? <Hmmm. Definitely a possibility, though I'm not sure what the humane society could do.> Or what can be done because its just cruel to have them in such a neglected environment.......... I am by no means no expert but any expert could and would tell you that this is uncalled for. <Agreed...and a pity that the department manager has not realized the cost to the store in lost revenue, due not only to dead fish, but also to the fact that customers will see the poor conditions and be less likely to get *any* pet supplies there...as it seems a fair number of fish-keepers have other pets as well, the store is also likely losing on the cat/dog/other pet supplies fronts, too. I would write a letter to the manager of the local store, with a copy sent to the regional and national headquarters. Those addresses should be available at the company web site. It may seem like a drop in the bucket, but with enough drops, the bucket will fill up! --Ananda>

Salad for fish? (10/11/03) Hi, <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> I have a freshwater 45 gal hex tank. The filter is the bio-wheel. I started feeding my fish romaine lettuce and frozen bloodworms. <Romaine lettuce is not something I would recommend for many fish... a commercial food based on spirulina algae would be more suitable....> Before this the water was crystal clear.  But now the water is cloudy.  I test the water frequently and so far no problems. What might be causing this?   <Likely the filter cannot keep up with the extra fish waste from the lettuce.> Is there anything to clear this up? <Yup. Start with a few water changes (maybe 30% the first day, and another 20% the next day). I would quit feeding the lettuce, as it has extremely little food value for your fish. Algae tablets for your bottom feeders or spirulina flakes for your other herbivores would be a good replacement. Also be careful to not overfeed.> Thanks, Judy Yocom <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Help! Thank you very much. <Any time.> I checked my tank last night when I got home and sure enough,, Major ammonia spike. (between stress and unsafe level according to my testing kit).   <Sounds like one of those 'ammonia indicator' thingies?  I've heard that those can be inaccurate, but haven't used them myself.  I'd recommend to get liquid reagent test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH.> I hadn't tested the water levels before I left and I had found another dead barb that had been a victim of Chiclet the Severum that I was not aware was whacked (found it pretty much after I got home from taking her to her new tank). So I have a feeling the ammonia may have been high when I left. Did about a 30 % water change and put fresh ammo carb in the media basket.   <Plan on some more water changes, if necessary.> Found I had run out of filters, so I'll replace that this weekend.  I was definitely worried about bothering the clown loaches w/ all the medicine and one of my plants didn't look so great.  My ph is typically 8.0-8.2.   <Yeah, that's worth bringing down.  If you don't mind the stain, get some peat.> I think I will get a common Pleco for about the next 3-4 months to make sure everything is stable as I am considering using distilled water to make my water changes from now on. (do you think that is a good idea?) <Not really, to tell you the truth;  the plecs sold as 'common' plecs get, well, monstrous, given the opportunity.  Some reach a good two feet; all 'common' plecs are destined to be well over a foot, in any case.  Best to just keep testing your water for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH, and when all is stable and healthy, just get the plec you want.> Tested my tap water last night and the ph is 8.4! Also, it had some trace nitrates as well. <Blah.  Might want to start preparing your water in a large container (Rubbermaid trash can works great) with a bunch of peat in it to bring the pH down (again, if you don't mind the stain).> Once I know all is well, I will be ordering another gold nugget.  I have a huge driftwood centerpiece (is that the same as bogwood?)   <Yup.> It discolors the water, but only very slightly. Most of the time my water is pretty crystal clear.  Oh and I was wrong on the filter. It's 240 (or is it 260?) w/ one filter and basket and bio wheel.  The 330 is on the 20 gal tank. (there's a whole other story as to why that one is so over-filtered, but once again thanks to my husband and bad advice from a LFS I don't go to anymore) <heh, okay> That tank is being upgraded to a 55 gal at the end of October.  I will eventually be putting a 330 on the 37 gal as well. <Wonderful.  Sounds like you've got a good plan going, glad to hear it.  -Sabrina>

-Tetra Freshwater Additives- Hi everybody, I started out with a fish bowl with two goldfish in it, as a present from my girl friend. Next day I was at the book store looking for a book on goldfish. The day after the small bowl was changed with a 2 gallon bowl (it had to be a bowl to preserve the original present :). I slipped in a small filter and started doing 50% water changes every three days. Next, I added some Tetra NitrateMinus, thinking it would help me keep the nitrate level low. <Hmmm...> MISTAKE. Too little water, too much bioload. As it says on the package, using NitrateMinus with high levels of nitrate did increase the Kh to 15dH Ph to 8.5+. The little guys were doing fine, but I owed them a proper tank. So, I bought an 18 gallon tank, transferred the substrate (with the NitrateMinus mixed in it), the filter and the little guys into their new home. It's been three weeks and I have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and less than 5ppm nitrate. <I wouldn't get so hung up in nitrate, it's the least toxic of the three. You need to be concerned with ammonia, nitrite, and pH. The nitrate level makes little difference.> This time the KH is stable at 5dH but the PH has gone up to around 8.3 from first fill measurement of 7.2. The package says that the product has a stabilizing effect on PH and KH. What do you think about this product, it looks I don't need to make any water changes yet, but it somehow doesn't feel right. <I would suggest a 25% water change every two weeks for these critters with a gravel vacuum.> Should I do water changes to try to bring PH down slowly. <I would stop using the NitrateMinus, and as the pH goes back down to around neutral, pick up some Seachem Neutral Regulator to keep the pH buffered at 7 if needed.> With Kh being around 5dH, I'm afraid to have a sudden Ph crash. The fishes seems to be doing fine. Should I change anything? <Like I said, once the pH drops back down (with goldfish this should happen on it's own) use some Neutral Reg.> Tetra also has  another product called Easybalance, which is supposed to decrease the water changes to %50 every six months. Sounds too good to be true. Still you'd have to remove the solid waste from the tank bottom somehow I guess. <They can come out with any magic juice and make any claim they want but you'll be hard pressed to surpass the effectiveness of a good water change with a gravel vac. I would save your money!> So, do you have any ideas about these products? Are they any good, or needed? <In short, you don't need either. Frequent partial water changes with a gravel vacuum combined with conservative feedings are all you'll need to keep these guys happy. Good luck! -Kevin> Thanks, Husnu

Bettas don't like nitrites! <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> I have a 2 week old tank containing a Betta splendens (male), 2 zebra Danios, 2 platy and 2 black molly. <Ack! Your tank is far too new to be holding that many fish. You should have let it cycle first.> Everything was fine for the first week and a half until the nitrite level raised to about 5ppm. I carried out a 25% water change and then things started to go wrong with my Betta. He started to turn white, loosing his colour, his skin is rough and raised and he sits lifeless at the top of the tank refusing to eat. As the black mollies started to pick on him I put him in a large isolation net but it has made no difference. His fins appear thin and straggly. What can I do? It's my daughters fish and I can't let him die. <Your Betta can *not* survive in water with nitrites. You need to temporarily move him into his own tank, or, if you must, a bowl or something that can hold at least a half gallon of water. There is a nice little 1-gallon tank with a filtration system for under $10 that I've seen available at chain store pet stores and even Wal-Mart and Meijers stores. Or if you can't do that, cut off the top of a milk jug! This guy really needs pristine water conditions, pronto, if he's going to survive. You will be doing *daily* partial water changes to keep his water quality good! I would change about half of it a day, or more if necessary. You need to keep the ammonia at zero, too, or his gills will get damaged. Mollies, platies, and Danios are hardier fish, but I would continue with daily partial water changes in the main tank so they are not stressed too much. --Ananda >

Cloudy Water Although I have read several articles on cloudy water, non relates to my present problem. I'm hoping you can help. I have a 46 gal freshwater tank which has done fine for two years. Suddenly the water has turned cloudy. Recently there was a buildup of algae on rocks, so I boiled them in sea salt and rinsed them well before replacing them. I also recently added a few new plants, which I removed and tested in my guppy 10 gal tank, which didn't turn cloudy after 24 hours, so I reintroduced them into the big tank. pH and ammonia levels are fine. Also there is a film of bubbles on surface. Any ideas?<I wouldn't add any chemicals to the water... those wannabe miracle cures, etc. I would just perform water changes ...once maybe every other day, until the water isn't cloudy anymore... also check your filter cartridge for blockage, buildup. Good luck, IanB>

Treating Tap Water Pt. II?  No, Pt. III! >Thank you again for your advice. >>Quite welcome. >When you suggest that I filter through some peat, is this something that I can add directly to my filter.   >>Yes indeed. >As I stated before, I am using an Ehiem Pro 2.  It pulls water into the bottom of the canister and then filters the water up through the material.  I have the mechanical filter (ceramic material covered by a sponge) in the first stage.  In the second stage I have the biologic filter substrate with the ammo-chips resting in a bag on top of it.   >>Absolutely, but I want you to put the ammo-chips immediately after the mechanical filtrant, and I would mix carbon with those as well, then the peat, then the biological filtrant.  You want the biological filtrant portion to receive completely cleaned water.  The peat, if it will not fit with the ammo-chips, can also be placed along with the biological filtrant, or you can even fill a used piece of pantyhose or knee-highs with the peat and bury it in the gravel where it will receive some flow.  (I just love old pantyhose!  Too bad I never wear 'em!) >Can I put peat (in a bag or not in a bag?) in the bottom of the canister?  There is about an inch and a half space between the bottom of the canister and the bottom of the first stage.  There is almost no room elsewhere in the system.  Neil Markus >>Yes, you could do that, and I see no reason why it would cause any great problems.  However, you may find that you want to substitute at least half the ammo-chips with good quality carbon, because peat tends to stain the water (think of South American streams that are stained dark with tannic acid).  Best of luck!  Marina

Raising KH >Hi Marina, >>Good evening. >I am using tap water for a planted freshwater aquarium. My tap water has a GH of about 7 and a KH of about 2-3. What can I use to raise the KH safely? Is it baking soda maybe? I have a 58g tank. >>Yes indeed, you can, though if it's particularly soft or well-buffered it may bounce.  I would suggest in addition to that using a bit of dolomite or crushed coral in a bit of old pantyhose buried in the substrate or placed somewhere with decent water flow.  This will instead slowly buffer the water and hold it there. >Thanks, Ken >>Most welcome, and best of luck.  Marina

Red Wag Platy - and a Whole Slew of Other Stuff Please Help a newbie to the hobby, <Sabrina here, to try to do exactly that> I am VERY new to the fish experience and am learning quickly.  Three weeks ago,  I gave each of my six year old twins a 1 1/2 gallon fish tank for their birthdays.  We followed the pet stores set-up instructions.  Came back a week later had the pH tested and then bought our first fish.  We purchased two red wag platies.  They were small, so we put them in the same tank.  One died within the week.  So we took a water sample to the store and got a swordfish for replacement.  In the other tank we got a red tail shark and a male guppy.  The red tail shark died within two days.  We took a water sample in ( they didn't test it) and got a female guppy.  NOBODY in all of this tested my water or said hey you should test your pH. <Okay....  It's definitely time for a new fish store!  Where to start....  Well, first off, please understand that 1 1/2 gallons is a really, really small space.  Not many fish can squeeze into there comfortably - the only fish I'd recommend for a 1 1/2 gallon tank is a single male (or female, if you like 'em) Betta splendens (Siamese fighting fish) - please never put two males in a tank together, though, as they will fight to the death.  They don't require filtration or aeration, nor do they need a heater, and they're very tough, beautiful fish.  Next, the red-tailed shark reaches nearly five inches in length, and gets to be an aggressive fish - won't even fit in a 1 1/2 gallon tank, shame on your fish store!  Also, double shame on them for not testing your water!  Definitely get a test kit for pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, if you don't have them already.  These are the things your fish store should have sold you, not more fish!  Also, are you using a tap water conditioner, to remove chlorine/chloramine?  This is also quite crucial, as chlorine/chloramine is toxic to fish.> The male guppy aggressively chased my female guppy, so I had to separate them within a few hours.  So, we put the original red wag platy (now about two weeks with us) in with the male guppy (now about 1 week with us).  This combination worked well.  HENCE, my first discovery that male guppies can be very territorial. <Well, it's not so much a territory thing as that the male was trying desperately to breed, and the female probably wasn't very interested.  Best to keep these fish in something larger (even a 10 gallon tank would suffice) where you can keep 2-3 females per male.> The sword fish ( about a week with us) and the female guppy ( one day with us) were paired together in the other tank.  This seemed to work well.  We had harmony for two more days.  Then our female guppy dropped about 15 babies.  She proceeded to die the next day. <I'm sorry you lost her!> So, now we chose to move the swordfish into the male guppy's tank while we set up a third 1 1/2 gallon tank so that he would not eat the babies.  The male guppy tormented the sword fish so bad that we had to put the swordfish into the third tank before the guppy killed / stressed it to death.  HENCE, our second lesson swordfish that have swords are males and won't get along with testosterone driven guppies that are 1/2 their size! <Well, check and see if your swordtail is a female, too; the easiest way to tell is to look at the anal fin (that's the fin on the belly of the fish, near it's tail).  If this is round and fan-like, it's a female.  If it's pointed and thin, it's a male.  Look at your male guppy for reference on what it should look like.  I've seen male guppies try to breed with female platies, and swordtails aren't that far off.> Now the swordfish started swimming funny.  He died 24 hours later.  I didn't think and didn't know to test its pH.  WOW, was it off.  Hence,  third lesson always keep an eye on pH. <Well, unless the pH is changing drastically, or is way out of the fish's tolerance range (most livebearers can take anything from 6.5 on up to 8.0), it shouldn't be the root of the problem.  I'm thinking this (and the other deaths) is more likely related to ammonia or nitrite, as those are very toxic to fish.  Please check out the 'cycling' FAQ's at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/estcycfaqs.htm - this will give you a bit of an idea of what's going on in your tanks.> Within two days the male guppy and the red wag platy developed ICH.  Hence, fourth lesson - It is great to live near a 24 hour super Wal-Mart so that you can get ich treatment at midnight. <Oh, yikes!  Anything that can go wrong....> We lost the male guppy before I figured out the ammonia is a second important component to healthy fish.  Now we have got the water "de-ammonia-ized" and my red wag looks great.   <Indeed, ammonia is extremely important - the best way to be rid of it is simply with water changes.> We have experienced all of this in less than 3 weeks.  My red wag is still in isolation because it has been only a week since the first signs of ich and she has only been totally ich free for about two days.  Plus, I don't want her to eat my 3 week old baby guppies. <Here's an article on freshwater ich, so you can better understand the lifecycle of this nasty parasite: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwich.htm .  Hopefully it's been wiped out by the medication - NOT a fun parasite to deal with (not that ANY are....)> Now lesson #5,  Female guppies have a tiny black spot on their bellies and they should be sexed and separated from their male counterparts by week 4 if you don't want more babies! !  Wow, I can't believe I am still hanging in there. <Yup.... this little livebearer is sometimes known as the "Millions Fish" due to its extremely prolific nature.> I now have perfect pH and non-existing ammonia in all my tanks. <Good.  What about nitrite and nitrate?> MY QUESTIONS ARE - 1.)  How do I tell a male from a female in the red wag platies? <Same way as swordtails, guppies, and most other livebearer - look for that pointed anal fin of the male, rounded fan-like anal fin of the female.> 2.)  Will I have the testosterone driven issues with a male red wag plates that I had with my male guppy? <Well, possibly, but again, this is a drive to breed, not aggression.> 3.)  My water has a tendency to get cloudy in my small  1 1/2 gallon tanks.  The tanks don't have any filtration.  They use only a air stone.  Am I doing something wrong or do I just need to get one of those very small filtering systems for small tanks?  In the one tank, I only have the red wag ( that been receiving medication for ich over the past week).  The other tank had the 15 baby guppies.  I moved the 5 females out of there today.  I think there is another one or two females I can move out, but they need another week for me to make sure they are females. <Well, part of the cloudiness is probably attributable to the tanks cycling.  I would very, very strongly recommend getting a ten gallon aquarium for all your fish (perhaps minus the babies).  This can be gotten quite inexpensively as a kit at a Wal Mart or most any pet store, but please be sure to get one with fluorescent lighting, NOT incandescent lighting, as the incandescents get too hot and can really mess with your tank's temperature.  It may cost a touch more, but it's worth it.  Most kits come with a hang-on power filter, which is far and above what I recommend to new aquarists.  The kit should also come with a tap water conditioner for removing chlorine/chloramine from your tap water.  The reason I am recommending this is that, as I mentioned earlier, 1 1/2 gallons is really a TINY space to try to keep fish in, and it will be nearly impossible to keep ammonia and nitrite at zero; it's also impossible to filter these tiny tanks efficiently.> 4.)  How important is it that I check for Nitrates? <Well, nitrates are only toxic to fish in very high amounts, and livebearers are tough little fish - but in such tiny, tiny spaces, water quality can quickly get out of hand, and the nitrates can easily get to toxic levels.  It's definitely a good idea to have a test kit on hand and check occasionally.  Far more important, though, it nitrite, which is nearly as toxic as ammonia is to the fish, and definitely needs to be checked, as it is the second step in the nitrogen cycle (again, I recommend you to the Cycling FAQ's).  Ammonia and nitrite, anything above zero should be considered toxic, and should be remedied with a water change.> 5.)  I read from your site that guppies and plates like a little salt in their water.  How do I know how much to put in?  What should my pH be if I add salt? <In my tanks, I use one tablespoon of aquarium salt to every ten gallons of water.  Some people prefer to use one tablespoon to every five gallons.  In a 1 1/2 gallon tank, probably one-third to one-half of a teaspoon would be about right.  But do keep in mind that salt does NOT evaporate, and after adding it initially, do not add any more when adding water due to evaporation, ONLY when you do a water change.  Again, tanks this small are going to be so difficult to dose, I really, REALLY recommend upgrading to a 10 gallon tank.  Or even larger, if you like.  As far as the pH goes, again, livebearers are tough little fish, and can tolerate a very wide range of pH - the important issue is to not let the pH fluxuate - a steady pH that's a little low or a little high is far better than a ph that is constantly fluxuating.> Thanks for all the help.  I have two local pet stores and they do not seem very knowledgeable in the fish area!  Lisa Stubbings <Unfortunately, it seems a lot of pet stores don't seem so knowledgeable, at times.  Try to find a small, privately owned store dedicated to aquarium fish only - they often have much more knowledgeable staff and might be better able to help.  But even with their advice, I also urge you to do research on any fish you are interested in before purchasing, to prevent ending up with things like a five-inch mean red-tailed shark.  I wish you much better luck, and keep us updated!>

Water Parameters for freshwater Angel Fish Hi, <Hello> I have a 20 gallon aquarium and am new at this hobby.  I bought the aquarium as a kit from my LFS.  They gave me everything I needed including a heater and all the necessary water conditioning agents for my new tank.  I let it run for 24 hours as they said and then bought a small angel fish for it.  I had my water tested a while back and they said it was at the stage where I could add another fish if I wanted too.  Well a couple months have passed and I have done 10-20 percent water changes weekly adding stress coat with water conditioning in it to the water when I change it. <Nice record keeping.  Stress coat may not be necessary, as long as you are adding something to dechlorinate the water.> I looked all over your sight and could not find a part where it told me what my values needed to be in my aquarium for angel fish. <The best site for this info is http://www. fishbase.org - search for freshwater angelfish.  Best pH range: 6.0 - 8.0> I want to test my own aquarium so that I don't have to drive to the store every time I want it tested. <Right on> What are the pH ranges for angel fish? <As above.> What should my nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia levels be at? <Ammonia and Nitrite should be at zero, Nitrate should be as close to zero as you can get.  Your regular water changes will keep the Nitrate in check.> When reading what I could find it said that my ammonia should be very close to 0 if not 0.  And my nitrates should be around the same. but I'm getting confused with all the information and sometimes get confused what is supposed to be 0 and what is supposed to be 5.0 and the like.  If you could tell me what I the values need to be at for angel fish I'd much appreciate it. thanks for reading this lengthy question, Sam <Thanks for asking.  Sounds like you are on the right track, keep it up. -Gage>

Surface Film Hi All, I have a small (but lovely) freshwater aquarium. I continually get a surface film on the water (it looks cloudy). Will this inhibit gas transfer between the water and the air? <It is possible, and can also affect light transfer.> If so are there ways of removing it (cheaply?)? <It is possible that it is related to what you are feeding, make sure you are not overfeeding, if you are feeding frozen food, thaw it out and toss the juice.  Sometimes a paper towel will soak up the surface film.  If really thick, a fine net.  Running carbon in your filter could help.  They make surface skimmers that you might be able to incorporate into your filtration scheme so the surface water is getting filtered.  Best Regards, Gage> Thanks, Adam L

Discus, peat and carbon Hi Guys, <Hello Adam> I am about to setup my first discus tank! I hear peat is a good thing to add in the filter system. <Can be, yes... as a "natural" source of pH, alkalinity adjustment, addn. of tannins, flavines...> But, as with most things, there is a down side - the yellow colour it turns the water. If I use carbon as well will I get rid of the colour AND the other good stuff as well. If so then the carbon will defeat the purpose. <Mmm, only to some extent. Fine to use both> Some people suggest that peat leaches ammonia and phosphates. Is this true? <Not "good" peats (non-alkaline treated, well-decomposed, "darker" types), that have been properly prepared (lightly boiled, left to cool)> Also, if I do use peat how long should I use it before replacing? <A month or so is about right. Best to place in (Dacron polyester) bags that you can easily place, remove... twixt mechanical filter media... as in in-between "fiber" in a corner, outside power or canister filter> Some suggest only a day or two and others about a month! I tend to think that more regular changes would be best otherwise the peat will act as a bio filter (I'm assuming that is a bad thing ... is it?). <Really best to "just experiment" here. For your type of source water, substrate in the system, other interactive effects, to see what "goes on" over time> I know that the fish don't mind the yellow colour of the water but I do and I want to have my cake and eat it too. Are there any additives that you recommend in place of peat. <A few "black water tonics" (e.g. those by Tetra, Dupla, others) that are "extracts" from peat> Thanks for having such a great site. Cheers, Adam Langman Australia <Thank you for being part of it. Bob Fenner>

FW environmental disease >Hi my names Cora I've been doing tanks for years and until recently I've never had any trouble.   >>Hello Cora, Marina here. >A lady contacted me because I take in unwanted fish.  Due to her moving from Ohio to Maryland she needed a home for her fish (black mollies).  She told me to come get tank and all so I did.  Needless to say when I got there the water was black! >>Ack!  (And uh oh.) >I felt bad for the fish caught them drained the tank and loaded it all up into my car and brought it home.  I gave that tank a good cleaning no chemicals used of course and used water from my 55 gallon tank that had just had a partial water change the night before. >>Personal experience: mistake #1.  (Groaning, because I learned my mistake with a customer's fish.) >I let the fish float for 15 minutes and then released them.  Needless to say a little while later I notice the fish were starting to act really funny.  I checked the temperature it was a little high so I lowered it the water then started to get a milky white. >>Free floating bacteria found plenty of nutrients--new tank syndrome. >And the fish were still acting funny and 2 died.  I pulled the fish from that tank and floated them in my 55 gallon released them and they did fine. >>I wouldn't have done that, but you saved the rest.  My concern is the very real risk to your well-established tank by introducing the new fishes with no quarantine whatsoever, coming out of a foul-looking (but apparently healthy) tank. >I left them in the 55 over night and by morning the other tank had turned clear (no chemicals were used at any point of my set up ) so I put in 2 clown loaches and a few mollies needless to say they started to fly through the tank and act as though they were going to die I immediately put them back into my 55 and now they are fine but the other tank is milky white again.  Can you give me any ideas as to what might be going on?  I've worked in pet shops and have had tanks for years and never experienced anything to this effect.  Any information would be greatly appreciated!   Totally Confused,    Cora                                                                 >>Again, this sounds like new tank syndrome, though it usually takes a few hours for the bacteria to get a good foothold.  You never mentioned the size of this new tank, and I cannot recommend adding so many fish so quickly unless we're talking about a 75 gallon or larger set up.  At this point you MUST remove everything from the tank and fill it with water, then add bleach at a ratio of 1Cup/5 gallons.  Let it sit like this a few hours, then drain and allow to dry.  I would do this with everything that was associated with that tank as well.  If you're very worried about the tank, do this procedure twice, and then when ready to set it up again start with feeder gups first.  Beyond that it's difficult to say what to do, I'm assuming you know to match temperature and pH when transferring fishes, and to never introduce water from one system into another.  I hope this has helped answer your questions.  Best of luck with your new wards, Marina 

Re: Green With Something Other Than Envy (07/27/03) <Hi! Ananda here today...> Perhaps both salutations would be appropriate: learning and learned ones! <Well, okay. :-) > I am curious what kind of bio-media should I be running in the Fluval?  It came with carbon packs and the ceramic pieces for capturing larger items. What else should I have? <Hmm. Those ceramic pieces (short tubes, yes?) are the ones I was thinking about -- they are often sold as a bio-media for the Fluval filters. The other mechanical- and bio-media they usually have is a piece of sponge or two. With either or both of those, you won't need any additional bio-media.> Now one piece of information that I left was that I have been using only RO water in the tank.  So I know my tap water cannot be source since there isn't any in there.   <Are you buying your RO water from someplace, or do you have an RO unit at home? Have you tested it? I have heard of people finding that their RO water isn't as clean as it might be -- that is most often caused by filters that need to be cleaned or replaced.> Now I did a 30% water change last Friday and that seems to have helped. <Ah, good.> Regarding the angelfish, I misspoke, it's not a dwarf angelfish. <That's a relief. I didn't mention it last night, but there are some retailers who sell the runts of a spawn as "dwarf" angelfish. These are the fish that good breeders usually cull. I'm glad you don't have one of those!> This past Friday I added a CO2 infuser to help the plants along. <That will definitely help decrease the pH.> Any suggestions on softening the water? <Since you're using RO water, your tank water *should* be soft! So the hardness in the tank is coming from some other source. The most likely possibility is your tank decorations: besides water, gravel, fish, and plants, what's in the tank? Also, what kind of gravel are you using?> Thanks a lot for your help!!! <You're quite welcome. --Ananda>

Bacterial Blooms Hi Guys, Thanks for such a great website and expertise on all things fishy! <Surely!  Ryan with you> I have a question about bacteria bloom in my 42 cichlid gallon tank.  I recently installed a nitrate reductor (www.Aquamedic.de) to help eliminate nitrate from my tank  It really does a great job at reducing the nitrate levels and I feel that my fish are better off without changing water too often (which causes fluctuations in PH, Salt levels, etc.).  Although I like the effect of the nitrate reductor, I think that it also seems to create the right conditions for a bacteria bloom (milky white). <Interesting> Each time I shut off the valve for the nitrate reductor, the cloud disappears over the course of a few days and then reappears of the course of a few days when I open the valve back up. <Bizarre> My question is two-fold:  1.  Is it possible that the nitrate reductor is, in fact, creating the right conditions for the bacteria to bloom or is it possible that the milky white cloud is caused by something different like lime production or some simple reason like overfeeding my fish? <Overfeeding, under filtering my first 2 guesses.  Do you have lots of rockwork/ driftwood?  Proper circulation?> And 2. I have ordered a UV Sterilizer to kill off the free-floating bacteria (if that is what I am seeing).  Once dead, will the bacteria be filtered out by the filtration system or do dead bacteria cause clouds just like live bacteria?  <Depends on the type of filter you're running.  If you're looking to truly remove the particles, a micron filter is your best choice.  You may be able to rent one in your area.  Good luck! Ryan>  I'm looking forward to your answer. Kind regards, David Colcolough

Cloudy Water >HELP!!!!! >>Ehh..Hello.   >I have had a 55 gallon tank up and running since February of this year.  Since the late part of June, I have "chalky" or white clouded water and if you look close it seems small particles are floating in the water.  I also have a 30 gallon tank that I've had for ten years and it is crystal clear!  I've been changing the water in the 55 gallon weekly now to see if that helps.   >>Odd that it's only recently become cloudy if it's been up since February, but everything you describe sounds like new tank syndrome; a situation in which the benthic bacteria are being out-competed for available nutrients by free-floating bacteria.  The "cure" is to let the tank be, and then when restarting regular water changes do NOT vacuum the substrate or scrape down the tank walls.  By doing this the benthic (attached to surface/floor) bacteria are being removed.  The same is true since you're changing out the filter pads so frequently.  As long as ammonia and subsequent nitrogenous compounds do not reach harmful levels, the fish suffer not. >Still cloudy.  The water seems to clear for about 24-48 hours and then clouds again.  I have tested the pH, ammonia, etc., all of which are fine.  I use the same water for the 30 gallon.  The fish eat and are active, no difference in behavior.  The store I buy the fish from suggested Curel, but that makes the water worse!   >>Indeed. >The filtration is on the back of the tank and seems to "run over" every week.   >>I'm assuming you mean a hang-on-tank power filter, not sure what you mean by "run over", but that implies to me that the pads are becoming clogged far too quickly.  This does not equate with the "fine" test readings, I am suspect of the kit itself.  If there is enough debris/detritus to be clogging these filter pads weekly, it does not make sense that this waste would not be decomposing and creating nitrogenous wastes. >I am changing the carbonated filter pads every weekend as well as 25-30% of the water.  I only feed the fish 2 times a day.  I am concerned about my buddies.  I love my fish and this has me wondering what to do to help them!  Please help! >>As long as behavior is normal, not to worry.  Continue feeding, but if there is excess food (read: ANY food) leftover do know that you're overfeeding.  Give only what can be eaten within a very few minutes (five or less).  Other than that, do try to let the tank be.  Do not change out the carbon pads, but rather simply rinse them in tepid water.  This will help boost your population of desired bacteria.  Everything you speak of points to an issue of excess nutrients with insufficient desirable bacteria population. Thanks in advance!  Dawnyel Barrett >>You're welcome, I do hope this helps and best of luck.  Marina

Working with Poor Source Water I have been reading for hours on your site, both looking for answers to my questions, and reading your responses.  You seem to have great answers for everything so here we go:  I live in Kalamazoo, MI, which has some of the worst water I have ever had in my life.  I have both a water softener, and a reverse osmosis machine.  In the past, I have set up my freshwater tanks with tap water (with the softener off, obviously), and topped off with R/O, as to not build up minerals and "stuff" from the tap water.  I recently purchased a 29 gallon tank (emperor 400 filter) for my new treasured electric blue crayfish, Sebastian (girlfriend named him).  I filled it up with all R/O water, that pH at about 5.5. <Seems odd... RO/DI water should be at about a 7.0 pH.> I rose the pH to seven using pH up (potassium carbonate, potassium hydroxide, and potassium silicate were all mentioned on the container).  I just put a 3" Gourami in the tank now that it has been running for 24 hours.  Here come the questions....When is it safe to put my EB crayfish into the tank (he is only 3" or so)? <Once the water parameters are stable, any time you want.> And should I use any additives in the water? <I think you've already added them, yes? The 'answer' is, whatever you need to make the water compatible with the livestock you intend to keep. In your case, raising the pH... but once that is done, it's done. Just make sure the replacement water is of similar quality.> My local fish store told me that I don't need additives because I am using R/O... is that true?  Is that because additives only treat for impurities in water? <Depends on the additive.> I have read that EB crayfish don't need or like heaters, however, I am planning on making a community tank.  Is it okay to put a heater in the tank, and keep it set to 75 degrees or so (it is 77-78 now, but in the winter)? <Of course.> Are there side effects to using too much pH up? <Not in RO... in some cases the alkaline reserves can be depleted, but in the case of RO/DI water, there are none so all should be well.>  Should I only use it to adjust pH values when performing a transfer, or is it safe in my tank before it enters solution? <I would mix in water outside of the tank and give it a day before I present that to any livestock.> Should I turn my filter off if I do use pH up or down to prevent any damage to the filter? <It won't harm the filter.>  My filter has an empty compartment for what ever you want to put in it... is there something you would recommend to do the job? <Perhaps not in that filter box, but baking soda will work pretty well at helping bring up the pH. Best to add a little, mix, test, and repeat if necessary.>  I have used peat granules in a nylon in the past with good luck, but that doesn't help me raise it. Is limestone my best option? <I don't think that would work either unless the water is already acidic... the limestone does not readily dissolve. You might want to look into some of the RO/DI buffer preparations available to the marine part of this hobby. Marine systems need to be in the pH range of 8.2-8.4 so you can see... keeping the pH up is important for these folks.> I appreciate your time, and look forward to reading your response.  Ian <Cheers, J -- >

- RE: High Ammonia in established tank - Hi again, <Hello, JasonC here this time.> I put in more Cycle this morning and my ammonia was at zero when I got home.  I did do a water change anyway and everything seems okay in my tank now.  I know I am overstocked, but it's hard to decide who has to go, as I just upgraded to the 48 gallon 2 months ago.  I know eventually that 2 of the blood parrots are going to have to go.  It's hard to give up fish you're attached to. <I hear you.> Thanks...Irene  <Glad we could be of service. Cheers, J -- >

Purified Water? (7/1/03) Hey, this might be a stupid question... but I'm a 16 year old with only the experience of cats, dogs, and snails. I searched for this in your faqs but couldn't find anything that could confirm my question for sure. Didn't want to take risks. So, the question: is it harmful to my betta's if I use purified drinking water? Like from Deep Rock? I was told from an unprofessional that it has chlorine in it.. but I think they might be wrong... <As long as its not distilled or has no chlorine your OK.  Cody>Thanks for the help!!

Hazy Water I have 35 gallon freshwater tank with an Emperor 280 filter.  I have 3 angels, 2 small rainbows, 2 Gouramis, a Congo tetra, Bala shark and a Pleco.  I have been having a problem with hazy water.  It is white so I am assuming a bacterial bloom.  I did not feed them for two and did a 20% water change.  It has been established for three years. Ph, ammonia, etc are all normal. should I continue the water changes and, if so, how often? <From the description I would have to say Algae or Bacteria as well.  Did you make any recent changes that would cause the tank to cycle, cleaning the filter, changing the substrate, adding some sort of product?  Weekly water changes of about 1/3 of the tank volume should get things straightened out.  Test your water frequently to make sure nothing is fluctuating or out of whack. -Gage >

Fish with problems Hello there. My name is Miranda and I recently was given a 55 gallon tank along with a iridescent shark. I have only had the tank for about 2 months maybe 3. The fish: 2 silver dollars 4 gold Gourami 2 blue Gourami 1 kissing Gourami 1 hatchet 1 tetra 1 upside down fish (?) 2 "sucking fish" Pleco....... 1 iridescent shark that has been in the family for about 6 years. <a beautiful fish> were doing fine for about the first 3-5 weeks then the water started to turn cloudy (due to overfeeding)<or a bacteria bloom, algae bloom> I quit feeding them as much and did a 25% water change.<good, should do a 25% water change every other week> The tank looks 100% better now.<good to hear> Then the shark got fin rot some how.<bacterial infection   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm>    I treated that about 2 weeks about and he now looks better.<good> Well I thought things were fine but when I got home from work today my hatchet fish was dead. He was stuck to the filter sucker with some form of growth on him already.<take a look at this link-should help to find what was wrong with him (don't have a pic so really can't tell, some peoples interpretations are different   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwfshparasites.htm> I do not understand what I am doing wrong to cause my fish to die ( glass catfish died earlier this month as well as a tetra ). if you have any idea as to what I could be doing wrong or maybe a suggestion on how to save my fish please let me know.<keep the water quality in excellent condition and keep reading about diseases and treatments/prevention at WWM> My stepmother would kill me if anything happened to the iridescent shark. Thank you so much for your help!!!<good luck my friend, IanB> Miranda

Cloudy Water   5/27/03 Hello to the Crew!<And hello to you Corinne, you've got lucky crew member Phil with you tonight.  Sorry it took so long for an answer back.>I love your site and all the help it offers, but I can't seem to find a cloudy water question that matches my own. (Doesn't seem possible, does it?)<WWM has tons of info, but we still don't have it all.> First, my tank: 20 gal. lightly stocked community tank. Whisper 30-60 power filter. pH-7.4, Ammonia-0, Nitrites-0, GH-6, temp-78 F. Substrate is a small gravel, and the only decorations are lava rock and plastic plants. (Both of which I use in my other tank, and it's crystal) The tank has been set up for 5 weeks, and the water has yet to clear. From a distance it appears white, up close tiny particles are visible. A neighbor has the same tank and recommended the Whisper to me. (her tank, also crystal) I feed twice a day, Hikari micro-pellets, along with Hikari sinking wafers ( for the Corys). I've been doing water changes once a week ( alternating use of the gravel vac every other week)  trying to clear this up. Even after the water change (about 30%) the water still looks cloudy. Could it be the food causing this? They seem to eat every drop I put in. (I heard a hungry fish is a healthy fish!) I understand that a bacteria bloom usually causes the white water, but is it normal for it to last so long? Is it possible that the water changes are to frequent? Thanks in advance! ( or do I need to send a bribe? whatever works!)<Sure... please send a check to Phil Bozek... lol!!  No bribe needed, the crew works for free.  I'm willing to bet that your tank wasn't fully cycled when you added your fish.  Adding the fish only made the cycle take longer and never fully complete.  Your best bet would be to remove your fish for 1-2.5 weeks and allow the tank to cycle on its own over time.  Just put your fish in the hospital tank.  Hopefully you have one as they are something EVERY aquarist needs.  10 gallons would be plenty.  Keep doing water changes, 20-25% over the course of a week is a good amount.  The fish are eating so that is good.  Just let the tank cycle and you'll be in business.   Corinne<Hope this helps!  Phil> Filtering with Peat Moss I'm thinking about filtering through peat in my planted Discus aquarium.<have heard/seen this done before> I understand that it will bring down the pH and Kh, which would be very desirable in Discus aquarium.<yes, can> I also understand that peat contains many trace elements needed by plants and Discuses, which is also good.<agreed> I'm wondering though, doesn't peat (Hagen brand, granules) contain phosphates, like certain brands of carbon?<yes, "Initially, for the first two months, some soils will release a significant amount of nutrients such as nitrates, ammonia, phosphates and iron." I will give you the link to where I found this info.   http://www.easyfishkeeping.com/tropicalfish/succesfulplants.htm  hope this information helps, IanB> Thank you, Luke Spooked Corydoras Hello, <Hi there> It seems as if all sources I go to between the Pet Shops, the Internet and even Books and Articles are inevitably contradicting each other.  After going the rite of novice passage of purchasing too many ornamentation and aquarium chemicals, and other, non-essential items, I've decided to go au natural (which a friend of mine who used to work in a fish store told me to do from the beginning) and leave things be for while. <I have to agree with your friend here. The less chemical products we add to our tanks the better off our tanks are.> I started my 36 gallon bow front tank four weeks ago with two albino clawed water frogs and 6 neon tetras.  They are healthy to this day.  Two weeks ago I added three Corys.  After water checks my ammonia level is between 0 - 2ppm, PH is 7.4, my water is on the hard side (200 to 250 ppm) and I keep the temp between 75 and 80 F.  I've been told that while the PH is not optimal, it will be a problem long term and I should get it down. Otherwise, the tank is going through its cycling process just fine.  I used Stress Coat after each addition and handling of the fish.  I also have been using the Stress Zyme for the bacteria colonies.   <OK, your main concern here is the ammonia (and probably nitrites too although they aren't mentioned). This is still a relatively new tank so it's not going to be fully cycled yet but your goal is to get the ammonia (and nitrites) to a consistent 0ppm. The pH is not really something I'd be too concerned with. Yes, it's a bit high but not enough that you need to worry about and it's not going to cause any long term problems. My pH in my own community tank is kept at a pH of 7.8 and my tetras and Corys are all doing fine in it.> This past Sat, at the recommendation of a pet store owner, I added 1 tsp of PH Down to my tank each hour for three hours.  He said to do it once an hour for four hours, but I was going out and figured this could only help and the less additions to the tank, the less osmotic stress. I returned home about 6 hrs after the last PH Down tsp was added.  I turned on the light and looked in the tank to see that all 6 of my tetras lost their blue and red coloring and where a milky white and seemed kind of bloated.  The Cory's seemed to be doing fine, hanging out w/each other behind a plastic plant.  I could only locate two of the three Corys but figured he was hiding elsewhere.   <The problem with products like pH down is that they do lower the ph but then within a few hours to a day it will go right back up to almost what it was before. It takes a long time to get your ph to stay down and it's very stressful on your fish while it's happening. This fluctuation is probably what caused the color fade of your tetras.> After seeing the tetras I did a 50% water change.  That seemed to do the trick as their colors came back within 20 min. of completing the water change.  The Corys looked good too.   <Very good. Now just leave your ph alone and toss the ph down in the trash> The next day, I still could not find the third Cory.  The other two Corys however were exhibiting completely opposite behavior than they were for the past two weeks.  Originally they all hung together, swam vertically up and down quickly, in both plain water and the air bubble currents.  They were sociable and fun to watch.  They never bothered or were bothered by any of the other fish.  Now they seemed spooked.  These two Corys were hiding in either corner of the tank, sometimes alone, sometimes on top of each other. Each time I approached the tank and they saw me or other movement outside the front, they darted around as if in a panic (almost as if a predator was after them). <Probably a residual effect of the fluctuation. Make sure your ammonia and nitrites are at 0ppm and then give them a few days and they should calm down. If necessary, leaving the lights out for a day or two will help relieve some of their stress.> I figured they were behaving this way because they do good in schools and the other Cory was missing.  I decided to do an all out search (thinking I may have mistakenly thrown him out in the garden with the bucket I used for the change - never do water changes after you've had a few is the moral there... <ROTFL! I'll definitely remember that.> However, after checking the floor around the tank and futilely the garden I went back to the tank. I took out the two plastic rock formations I had and found the third Cory was stuck in the bottom of one which had a hollow back.  He wedged himself in such a way that he could not move up or back:  the only ways out. He was like this for what must be approx 12 to 16 hrs.  I freed him from this by slowly swaying the ornament in the water.  He popped out and immediately went to his friends.  Figuring he was stuck, I put the decoration back.  Within seconds he wedged himself in there again. I took him out again and removed the ornament.   <Some fish do this and removing the decoration is the only solution. Even then, they'll often find something else to hide in.> But instead of solving the problem, I got three paranoid, skittish, darting and panicky Corys on my hands now.  The behavior has been consistent for the last three days.  I see no signs of disease on their bodies, their whiskers are only getting longer, eyes are okay, gills and fins are functioning and full - if not puffed out as if in a defense mode.  These are among the hardier species, so I'm not sure what's going on.  The tank is still cycling, and when the ammonia level passed the 0-1 ppm on the chart, I added the Ammo Lock (but that was three days ago - before the Cory got stuck even). <The darting may actually be caused by the ammonia/nitrites. If these have risen again it's causing your fish some discomfort, even at the small amount mentioned. Ammo-lock helps but the best way to get your tank cycled and get the ammonia/nitrites down is water changes.> I thought perhaps one of the water frogs may have gone after the Cory (as everyone is telling me they will eat one of the tetra's any day now, but I see no sign of aggression from the frogs to them - actually, the other way around, they will poke at the frog's back, distract him, while others run in to nip at the wafer he's guarding.  If anything, the Cory's chase the frogs around in their bottom feeding ventures.   There are no signs of any aggression in my tank. <Well, the frog may eventually eat any of the fish he can catch. But the Corys should be a bit safer than the tetras because of their barbs. That's not saying it WILL happen, just that it MIGHT. Sometimes these frogs (and other species) live peacefully with fish for ages, other times they'll eat every fish in the tank.> I did make another change:  I added twelve more neon tetras.  I figure cycling for an appropriate volume of fish, given my other parameters, should be the priority, ph being second as it's not at such a highly noxious level. I've got the ammo lock on hand in case of anything and am checking the ammonia and ph daily. <That's a lot to add at one time so keep up with your testing and water changes. Rely on the water changes the most and only use the Ammo-lock if it's an emergency.> Thanks for reading all that but I wanted to be sure to convey all the detail. Here are my questions: <Thank you for being thorough> What is going on with my Cory's?  I was thinking that I should add 2 or 3 more as all info says they do better in schools of 5+.  But I don't want to add if there's any diseases, yet there are no signs of any.  Could this behavior have developed because they are "under - schooled" (no pun intended)?  Or could they be traumatized by the removal and replacement of the ornaments and the large water change?  But the others seem fine. <I don't think there are any diseases but don't add anything else until the tank is fully cycled. Then you should be able to safely add another 2 or 3 Corys.> Am I right in my priorities:  cycling first and ph second? (given my PH is on the low side of high) <Definitely. Like I said above, don't even worry about the ph at this level.> I was thinking of adding the PH Down 1 teaspoon per day until I've achieve 6.8-7.0, but am not sure it that's what caused all the stress to begin with. <Nope, toss that stuff in the trash. Your fish are better off in a high but stable ph than in a lower fluctuating one.> I added 12 more tetras yesterday and everything seems fine.  The frogs seem to be a little annoyed at the increase no.'s of tetra's which swarm around them and their wafers, but are otherwise fine.  The Cory's are still darting, spooked and skittish, but this morning they came out to feed - tentatively and cautiously (as if watching for something) in the center of the tank.  My wife just called me now to say that they are still "going absolutely crazy".   <You may notice your frogs going after the fish a bit more now that there are more of them in there. And just give the Corys a bit of time, they should calm down.> so...what's happening with these Corys?  Also - in order for them to school, am I obligated to get the same species of Cory or can I get three of a different species and still have a school of six? <They will probably school with other types, most of them will.> Also - what additional fish (colorful - as per the wife) would you recommend adding (down the road, of course) to this hopefully successful community tank? <Some options would be: Platies (these are livebearers so get 2 males unless you want tons of babies that will get eaten by the other fish and frogs), some of the less aggressive Barbs. I like the Cherry Barbs and the Rosy Barbs although the Cherries turn more brown as they get older where the Rosies turn a gorgeous red and green, or some of the other Tetra species like the Cardinals (basically larger versions of the Neons), head & tail lights, Penguins (these can be a bit ornery but not too bad), etc. Stay away from any fish that gets more than about 2'-3' long because your Neons will become food for them. A great place to look at pictures of different fish species is at http://www.wetwebmedia.com  in the photos section and also http://www.fishbase.org > Thanks in advance for your help CJ <You're welcome! Ronni>

Re: Cloudy, light green water! Hi.  I am hoping you can help!  We have a 20 gallon aquarium with one live plant and 5 fish.  We have had the aquarium for 6 months (and our neighbor had it for years before that) and it has always been sparkling clear until about 2 weeks ago.  The water turned a very cloudy, faintly green color!   I am guessing the cause was either: 1)  over-feeding; I had a sick fish that didn't seem to be eating so I started putting in "extra" food for him to get or 2) my plant has been disintegrating and may have polluted the water.   <It's most likely an algae bloom brought on by excess nutrients from when you overfed.> In any case, I have cut back on the food, pulled out the disintegrating plant stems, changed 1/3 of the water every other day, and changed the filter.  There appears to be improvement immediately after the water changes but by the next morning the water is as bad as ever.  I tested the water and there is no problem with nitrates or ammonia. <Keep up the frequent water changes, it's the best way to handle this problem. You can also get a small amount of barley straw and put it in a mesh bag (a nylon stocking works good) and place it in your filter. This helps eliminate the algae/green water.> Can you give me some advice?  Should I change more of the water...like 1/2 or 3/4 of the tank?  It seems like that might be hard on the fish.  Should I buy some sort of algae-killing solution?  I don't like the idea of introducing chemicals into the water.  What would you suggest?  Thanks so much for your help! <Avoid the chemicals, they often cause more problems than they solve. Do smaller, frequent water changes (20% daily will work) for about a week. And try the straw, many people use it in ponds to prevent and control algae blooms. Ronni> Re: Overcrowded Oscars I have a 10 gallon tank with 1 sucker fish and 3 other fish.  The other fish are small (1-2 inch) Oscar fish.   <Whoa! Way too many fish for this tank! A full grown Oscar can reach nearly 18 inches long so even one Oscar is way too much for a 10 gallon tank. These 4 fish should be kept in no smaller than a 75 gallon aquarium, 100 gallon would be better.> I'm having a problem however with the tank. The water stays clear for only about a day and then no matter what I do, unless I do a full water change it stays cloudy.  The pH is 7.0, I've added "algae fix" to help keep the algae in control.  I've tried "tetra aqua-easy balance" to try to get rid of the cloudiness, as well as "clear water" which is supposed to remove cloudiness.  Nothing is working.  It's getting frustrating because the tank just isn't as pretty when it's cloudy.   <This is all probably a result of the tank being overcrowded. The water quality is probably very poor because of the feeding necessary and the wastes from the fish. Algae is not causing the cloudy water here, it's probably ammonia.> Is there something I'm missing?  Something else I should be testing, like ammonia and nitrate levels?  If so what should the level for my fish be? <Ammonia and nitrites should be at 0 in any aquarium. You need to either get a much bigger tank for your fish or get rid of the Oscars and get some fish that stay small for your current tank. Be sure to do lots of research on the fish you plan to keep *before* you buy them. There's a ton of info available on http://www.wetwebmedia.com  and also at http://www.fishbase.org > Thanks...Kendall <You're welcome! Ronni>

Water chemistry off, pH too high Hi Bob, I work in  a large chain pet store in the aquatic section. i had a customer who said her ph was very high in an established tank although everything else was ok. another employee recommended she use a powder to keep the ph at 7.0. she said it worked for a couple days & was back up again the water in this area is very hard with a lot of minerals. <More common everyday> I suggested to try doing a water change with distilled water since the chemical didn't work. was this ok advice? <Mmm, well, kind of expensive... but yes, mixing in another source of water with less alkalinity would lower this reserve and likely pH> if not what would have been? <Good idea to suggest this person test/have their water tested for alkalinity in addition to pH. Refer them to here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm for basic information on how these measures can be manipulated, what they are> would a water softener pillow been an option? <Possibly>  Also, I always recommend doing a periodic water change as part of regular tank upkeep, yet the so called fish expert at our store says you shouldn't have to do that once the tank is up & cycling. I want to give the best information I can.  what is the best thing to do? Thanks for the help <I am a very big fan of frequent, partial water changes. Many benefits. What does the "expert" there thinks happens to the solids one keeps adding as foods, that are left behind as the water evaporates and is replaced? Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2ochgs.htm Bob Fenner>

- Oxygen Testing - Crew, <Good morning, JasonC here...> My 3rd grade daughter is performing a science project involving oxygen replenishment in fish tanks. She has set up 3 2.5 gallon bowls with goldfish. One is fed from a whisper pump, one has an Amazon Sword plant, and the third has no outside oxygen source. My question is where to direct her to find testing procedures to validate her research. She is from a gifted cluster class and has a very good grip on science. Can you recommend an avenue to explore please. <Sure... there are test kits for dissolved oxygen available, although they may not be in stock in your local fish store, they can be ordered there or online. The Salifert kit will probably be the most economic.> Thank you for your consideration. Steve Conrad (Science assistant dad) <Cheers, J -- >

High Ammonia Levels (I'll say!) To whom it may concern: I have a three-year-old aquarium that has suddenly developed an ammonia problem.  I've never had one before, but now the ammonia reads 4-5 ppm.  The pH is about 5.8.  I know this can't be good for the fish, but I can't figure out what suddenly changed.  I've done water changes and tried using Jungle's Ammonia Chloramine Eliminator, but the ammonia continues to rise.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated. <I suspect either your test gear is faulty, or you're getting  "false positive" readings from it due to the use of water conditioner. Do try testing some new tapwater with a bit of your water conditioner added to it to see if this is the case. Otherwise you may have a dead, decaying animal, a terrible overfeeding incident going on. Finally, if none of these proves the case, do take an aquarium water sample to your local fish store and have them test it for ammonia. Bob Fenner>

High Ammonia Levels Thanks for the advice.  I tried testing the tap water, and then tapwater with conditioner, but both had a reading of 0 ppm.  all the fish are still alive, and we don't have any live plants.  As for taking a sample to a pet store, we don't have one.  Our local pet supplier is Wal-Mart.  If you have any other ideas, I'll give them a try.  Thanks again! <I would wager that the Wal-Mart has and uses an ammonia test kit, this being such an important parameter of water quality. I would visit them with your sample. In the meanwhile do take care to not elevate the pH of your water with the high concentration of ammonia present. The two together are deadly. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia Madness Hi! <Ahoy!> I'm hoping to get some professional advise on what to do about an  ammonia problem.  I have a 55 gallon freshwater tank that was set up (around the first of the year) and allowed to cycle for a little over a week before any fish were put in.  (I have South American Cichlids and just random semi aggressive I have 12 fish) <hmm, any idea what type they are South Americans can be big and messy.> Originally, I bought a starter kit (and a heater) but when I was unsuccessful in getting rid of the ammonia, I opted  for a HOT Magnum with a BioWheel.  This has been running for approximately 3  weeks along with the filter in the kit (2 sliding carbon bags).  I'm using  carbon and ammonia chips for media. <How many gallons per hour does the Magnum filter?  And what type of filter came in the starter kit? Undergravel?> I have tried numerous water changes, siphoning the gravel well, I've only  ever fed the fish once a day...each water change I have added stress coat,  salt, Cycle and have used Amquel occasionally when ammonia gets above 2. <No need for the stress coat, or the cycle for that matter, save your money.  Just add a dechlorinator to the water, something that will neutralize chlorine and chloramines. Salt is good too.> To water change or not to water change??? <Change, and change regularly.> .....some people have told me to change 25-50% of my water every 3 days and only add stress coat and salt.  Other say only once a week at 25%  adding stress coat, salt and cycle.  Changing more than once a week will not allow my tank to cycle and I'm just  chasing my tail. <If you are going to change every 3 days 15%-25% is good.  Weekly 30%-50%.  Just how out of control is this ammonia?  When trying to get your water quality back in line small frequent water changes are best.> This has been an ongoing problem for nearly 3 months and I have been very  diligent to no avail.  Please advise the best way to rid of this problem. <Small frequent water changes, no left over food, do not over stock your tank, should start to clear up.  Are there any other things we should know about the tank, decorations, substrate, any fish gone missing recently?  How often are you replacing the filter media in the filter? Have you tested your ammonia with more than one test kit?  We'll get this sorted out sooner or later.  Best Regards, Gage> I appreciate any and all advice you can give. Thank You, Brenna Finley  

Ammonia Madness Hi! <Hello> I have 4 Parrot fish, 2 Silver dollars, 1 Leporinus, 1 Iridescent shark, 4 Gouramis, 1 Pleco, 1 Lace catfish and 3 Clown Loaches.......these fish are between 2-3 1/2 inches. <sounds a little crowded, especially once the start growing.> The H.O.T. Magnum (with BioWheel)  pumps 250 gallons per hour. It's media contains carbon and ammonia chips.  I also have a Top Fin 60 filter (with 2 sliding media bags) I'm not sure what it pumps per hour ( I think 3-400 gallon)......that was in the starter kit.  I have one bag of carbon and one bag of ammonia chips in it.  No under gravel filter.  I'm replacing the media about every 4-6 weeks. No fish are missing...everyone is alive!  My decorations include live plants (all thriving) artificial plants, plastic type driftwood and clay pots. I have tested the ammonia with many test kits...all are high.  Is it true that with multiple water changes that I will never cycle and will always be chasing my tail? <At this point in the game I would not worry about it.  In the first few weeks it can be a problem. Right now I would concentrate on getting the Ammonia levels down. A wise man once said "Dilution is the solution to pollution". -Gage> Thanks again, Brenna

Hazy water I set up my tank about 3 weeks ago, the water was clear for the first 2 days then it began to get cloudy. I have a 10 gallon tank with a Penguin 170 Bio-wheel power filter. I've been doing 25% water changes 3 times a week and feeding the fish once a day. The water is still cloudy. I am aware the tank is still building up bacteria to consume the ammonia. Is it possible I started out with to many fish, there are 11, 2 catfish, 1 Suckermouth catfish, 2 white kissies, 2 Gouramis, 2 Tiger barbs, and 2 tetras. I also tested the PH, its neutral; the ammonia is also at an acceptable level approximately .03. At this level shouldn't the water be clear?  I even tried adding Acurel F, it didn't do a thing. What can I do at this point? Should I continue the water changes? What about the number of fish? <Good morning! Ronni here answering your questions today. I think your problems are indeed coming from an overstocked tank. At full grown sizes, depending on the species of your Gouramis and Catfish you have a fish load of somewhere between 30 and 60 inches and you really shouldn't have more than about 10 inches. You need to eliminate some of the fish and I think you'll see a major improvement in your water quality, you ammonia will go down to 0 where it should be and the water will clear up. What fish you keep are up to you but you might do some research on their adult sizes at http://www.fishbase.org to help with your decision. You may eventually have some problems with the Tiger Barbs, they are notorious fin nippers unless kept in schools of at least 5-6 of their own species so those might be ones to remove. You will need to continue with the water changes as long as there is any ammonia and as long as you have this large a fish load. Once you reduce the fish load and the ammonia/nitrites read 0ppm then you will be able to reduce the frequency of your water changes to once every couple of weeks.>

Relatively new...reading...and still confused! I am new to the hobby, set-up with a 10-gallon FW for just over 2 months. I have one dwarf Gourami, two Serpae Tetras, two Guppies, and two Spotted Cories. A month ago we experienced (and for the most part survived ICH), but we continue to have high ammonia (2-4ppm) and high pH (7.5+). >>This means that your tank is more than likely not fully cycled.  Ease up a wee bit on feeding, do NOT vacuum the gravel when you do your next few water changes until that ammonia and nitrite drops to zero. Water temp is a consistent 80 degrees F.   Fish are healthy...good eaters and active.  I have always treated replacement water with Amquel and Novaqua.   >>Good way to go. The water here is very hard, so I have begun to use softened RO water in my weekly water changes.   >>None of the fish you have will be negatively impacted by hard water of the pH you've indicated.  Where I live it's so hard that if you add sand you have concrete, with a pH consistently at 8.0, sometimes above. At this point maybe 25% of the water is RO.  Also have added acid to no avail. >>You'll more likely kill your fish playing around trying to change the buffering capacity of your water and the pH.  Please let it be. Removed initial substrate (a black-coated calcium carbonate substance) and have replaced with all glass beads (they are rather large...is there a smaller alternative?).   >>This calcareous substrate would explain why the water won't change pH.  You're quite lucky this is the case.  You should be using gravel only, the glass beads are what's allowing (or rather NOT allowing) the ammonia levels to drop.  This is because you are trying to culture benthic bacteria that oxidize the ammonia and nitrites that are so harmful to your fish.  This will be greatly exacerbated by the bead size and the fact that it's quite smooth.  It will be further troublesome to you if you utilize an undergravel filter, as the beads will render it null and void.  Please replace the beads with gravel, and expect to have to go through the entire cycling process again.  Ease up with the feeding, the fish will be fine.  However, you'll need to be make frequent, small water changes.  Do NOT try to adjust the pH of the new water, just dechlorinate and be sure it's to the correct temperature. I asked my LFS about plants and was told I probably wouldn't have enough light...What else can I do to SAFELY lower pH and ammonia? >>There is no way plants would grow (unless we're talking about Anacharis or some such) with the glass beads as a substrate, unless they're small enough to allow root growth.  At this point, I feel you should solve the immediate problem first, then worry about plants later.   >>To bring the ammonia down immediately, you can use Zeolite placed in pantyhose (this way it won't become mixed with your new substrate), there are also one or two products that will relatively instantly remove ammonia (sorry guys, I cannot for the life of me recollect the NAMES of these products!) >>Do not play around with the pH (I know I've said this before), this shock of changing the pH is simply bad for the fish.  Everything you have listed is more than likely bred and raised in Florida, a place not known for soft water.  Almost all our readily available freshwater species have become quite well acclimated to this kind of water, so it's truly no worry. Thanks for any advice you can offer >>May I suggest you get a copy of "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium--A Practical Manual and Scientific Treatise for the Home Aquarist" by Diana Walstad.  It does get a bit technical, but I know of no one who has used this tome and not found a good degree of success.   Marina

Tank cycling Hello I moved a 55 gallon a week ago and Steven Pro said if I did it all in one day it may not need to recycle. However I did not bring any of the original water. I do have all the same filter media and all the LR that was in the tank before. Is it still possible that it would not cycle? Ammonia was @ .4 3-4 days ago and has declined to 0. I have not detected any nitrites or nitrates but I have not tested the water every day either. Please tell me what you think. Thank You Amanda <Hi Amanda, if you kept the same filter media, the same live rock, and the same substrate there is a good chance that your tank will not go through any major cycles.  Best thing to do is keep testing your water, if you notice anything getting out of control change some water.  Regards, Gage>

Too much flow from filter? 3/7/03 Thanks for the reply. My question is not whether or not it is a good idea, but whether or not this would be like creating a tsunami in my 10 gallon!! <ahhh... no worries. Simply diffuse the outflow with a foam block or bury it strategically in a pile of course rock> Also, no worries on the nitrates as I am doing freshwater only. Thanx <still be mindful of nitrates with FW... some fishes can be quite sensitive. Anthony>  

Re: PH problems Hi!  Thank you so much for your help!  I have a question regarding PH, GH and KH levels. I have two tanks, a 29 gallon with 7 adult angel fish (about 5 years old now) and a 55 gallon community tank established about 6 months ago.   In the community tank I have 8 6-month old angel fish (former babies from the other tank) one silver dollar fish, 6 mollies and 2 Cory pandas.  I also have a Bala shark and three gold barbs.  Also there are about 10 ghost shrimp that escaped being eaten and now live in the plastic plants and caves. The mollies are reproducing and there are a few babies swimming around.  For both tanks the ammonia is 0 and the nitrite level is also zero.  However my PH is reading at 6.0 on both tanks.  I checked the PH coming out of the faucet and it is 7.8.  I checked the 55 gallon tank for GO and it reads 13, the KHZ reads 2.  This is really confusing to me...I'm not sure how the GO and KHZ can be so different.  All my fish are eating well, swimming normally and the water appearance is clear.  The temperature on both tanks is about 76-78.  After reading the articles on the site, I am assuming the best thing to do is add small amounts of baking soda to the water.  I am concerned about the CO2 which I really don't understand.  Could you explain better how this could affect the water PH and also how could I check this in my home? Thanks!  Rosemary <Do check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/h2oqualagfaqs.htm and especially http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/acidalkagfaqs.htm for more info on how the baking soda works and some other FAQ's that are similar to what you're experiencing. Ronni>

Bacterial bloom?? Hi All, <Hi Tracie, Don here tonight> I have a questions concerning the clarity in my tank.  I have about 20% visibility and it is a glowing green.  I believe it to be a bacterial bloom, but I don't have a clue what to do about it?  What do you suggest would clear this up?  Thanks for all your help, and I  love your website! <Thanks. Well Tracie, without any additional information and from your description I would guess free floating algae. See here and beyond for more info: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oqualfaqs1.htm. Good luck, Don> Tracie

Ammonia Inquiry (02/19/03) Greetings! I love your site...but didn't know who to send this question to and thought perhaps one of your team could help (I'm seriously stuck on this one): <Thanks for the kind words. Ananda here to give it a shot at answering, with some ideas from Phil....> I am a Washington DC resident and have a 28 gallon freshwater tank (with about 25 gallons of useable water volume due to 1/4 inch gravel, rocks etc).  I currently use a Penguin bio-wheel 170 filter.  The tap water here has 1.0 ppm of ammonia right from the tap that resists ALL efforts to remove it (PRIME, aeration, conditioners, dechlorinators etc.).   <Some water conditioners don't totally remove the ammonia; they neutralize it. Some tests measure *total* ammonia, which includes "neutralized" ammonia as well as "free" ammonia.> Ultimately, I decided on using spring water instead - and added 22 gallons of spring water and then simply 3 gallons of 'conditioned' tap water to supplement an ammonia source for the nitrifying bacteria.   <Reverse osmosis water would work, too.> The 'fresh' tank now had a measurable ammonia amount of .25 after the spring water change.  I also added 1 oz. bio-spira bacteria starter (the live refrigerated pack that's good for 30 gallons) and then 24 hours later, added my single guppy (the water wasn't safe for more than that and I didn't want to push the bio-load).  The guppy is fine but 3 days later, the ammonia as hit nearly 1 ppm again and seems to grow.   <Could be your decorations are hiding something that is decaying and causing the ammonia increase.> Nitrites are 0 and Nitrates are about 8 ppm (they've been holding).  I changed out 5 gallons of water (using spring water) and the ammonia didn't drop...just continues to climb (the spring water I'm adding has 0 ammonia).  My thoughts were this:  perhaps something in the tank is toxic and causing the ammonia to accumulate but everything in the tank came from a well established pet store and is listed as very safe for fish. <I would try testing it in a 5 gallon bucket -- put the rocks in a bucket with RO water (e.g., from grocery store water machines) and then let it sit for a few days. If the ammonia goes up, perhaps you got a bad batch of stuff. The other thing to do is completely clean your Penguin filter, including removing and cleaning the impeller and taking a cleaning brush to the intake tube. There may be something hidden that is decaying.> My additional thought was maybe something in the DC water (even 3 gallons of it) are causing a build-up of ammonia but I can't imagine what that would be.   <Phil suggested it just might be something in your pipes. If you're friends with the neighbors, ask if you could test their water.> (One guppy doesn't seem like enough to raise a tank from .25 to 1.0 ppm in 3 days...especially when I'm limiting his feedings big time). <When I was cycling my first tank, my fish-wise friends would tell me "one flake per fish per day -- and not the biggest flake you can find, either!"> The tank simply won't cycle - despite many good reviews, I'm having large questions about the Penguin 170 bio-wheel.  I find the carbon pack clogs frequently.   <I found that was the case with a fairly heavy fish load, which is why I usually don't use them. I use filter floss (ordinary polyester fiberfill from the craft store!) in the refillable cartridges for mechanical filtration. I use the open-topped bins for chemical filtration.> Is there something in water that can cause a build up of ammonia (or have you heard of anything in DC that would cause nitrifying bacteria to not establish)?   <Ammonia buildup is usually caused by something that is decaying. And no, I've not heard of anything in anyone's source water that would prevent nitrifying bacteria from becoming established.> And, would a canister filter (or different filter that allows for media like zeolite clay) be a better alternative to the bio-wheel 170?   <I have never used a canister filter. Most, I'm told, are more of an annoyance to clean than power filters. I would stick with the Penguin and investigate using other media in a cartridge.> I am totally vexed as are all my friends with experience.  If you (or anyone you know) has thoughts you'd be saving me (and my fish) tons of stress! Thanks so much! Scott G. <You're quite welcome. --Ananda>

Re: cloudy water all the time HI I have a 10-gallon tank with 10 fish some barbs some tetras; my question is my water is always cloudy. I went out and bought a gravel cleaner but I find it easier to move the gravel around with my fish net and pick up all the dirt. I have done water changes and cleaned the gravel everyday, changing 25% water for a week it went to crystal clear for about 3 days and went cloudy again so I started all over again with the cleaning. It doesn't seem to bother my fish at all, but will changing the water everyday harm my fish eventually. Will I have to do this all the time everyday? Thank you <<I really need more information such as water parameters and how old is the tank? This could be caused by high ammonia/nitrites if it's a new tank. Overfeeding which will lead to high ammonia/nitrites can also cause it. Changing 25% daily may be affecting your good bacteria levels also and this may also be a problem. Test your water and write back letting me know the results if this continues. Ronni>>

Re: cloudy water all the time Hi I brought my water to my pet store before I got my fish it tested fine for everything. My tank is about 4 months old now which isn't that old I guess. I always try very hard to not over feed I always watch what the fish are eating. But I also use shrimp pellets for my 2 dwarf frogs I have could this be clouding my water? I also use cycle weekly. <<The shrimp pellets may be causing it if they aren't getting eaten right away. I would also recommend not using the Cycle every week. Ronni>>

"New" Tank cycling Recently, I decided to keep fish in a 75-gallon tank in which I formerly kept a fairly large pair of red-eared sliders. The turtles were adopted by someone else about a year ago and the tank has been running with a Fluval 304 all the time the tank has been empty, with no heater and with no maintenance other than topping off the water level. About a month ago I did a 100% water change, vacuumed everything from the gravel and washed the filter and the media with tap water. Assuming bacteria had been killed, I refilled the tank and started the filter. About a week later I added three little tetras and started waiting for the tank to cycle. In the three weeks since, I have noted that ammonia and nitrite levels have remained at zero; pH is 8; general and carbonate hardness both 5; Temperature is 78. I am a novice at this, but after reading quite a bit on your website, I am concluding that the lack of any ammonia so far means the tank in not cycling. There is a substantial amount of algae growing on the back wall of the tank--only the back wall. The water is clear. The three fish seem to be healthy and happy. 1) Is it possible the system isn't cycling because the bacteria in the gravel/tank were never killed? <It is possible that the bacteria that was remaining from the prior setup is enough to handle the small bioload that you have currently.> 2) What should I do about the algae, if anything? <I'd scrub it off and see if you can figure out what is fueling the algae growth. http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwalgcontrol.htm > 3) Should I add more fish now? <It would be safe to add a few more.  Maybe make a list of the fish you would like to keep in the long run and start adding them slowly.> Thanks for your help with these questions. Your site has been very helpful already. <Awesome, Best Regards, Gage>

Re: salt in a tank hi, <<Hello>> I've always used salt in my tank (1/2 of a cup of coarse salt in a 180 gallon tank). I bought some Winsor water softening pelletized salt 99.5% pure. I would like to have your advice on this please, and what amount per gallon. <<Personally I would stick with what you are currently using because you know it works. I've heard of people using water-softener salts successfully but I've also heard warnings not to use the pelletized kinds because they contain binding agents that can affect your tank. As for how much per gallon, I really don't know since I'm not familiar with these salts. How pure was the salt you were using before? If you can find this out you should be able to figure out approx how much of the new stuff to use.>> I have a freshwater tank with an Arowana, lungfish, moray eel, stingray, Oscar. <<Wow, sounds like an interesting tank!>> My last question is that I would like to lower my ph by using peat moss in my filtration, would like to know what you think and would it change the color of my water a lot (my ph is 7.4 right now). <<Peat should help lower your PH. Again, this is something I've never tried but it shouldn't cause any discoloration. For more info check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/h2oqualagfaqs.htm Lots of info on peat there>> thank-you <<You're welcome. Ronni>>

Nitrates (FW) Hi.  I have gotten a great deal of information from your site and would first just like to thank you for all the work everyone has put into it.  I have tried to read most everything and probably have some of the answers in my questions but just want to make sure. <Hey Bill, I'm still trying to work my way through the archives as well.> My tank: 75 gallon African cichlid Approx 12 mostly peacocks + 2 Cory cats that came with the aquarium) PH: 8 Ammonia: 0 Nitrites: 0 Nitrates:  continue to spike up to 40+ from less than 5 within a week. this past weekend I had to replace approx. 50 gallons over 2 days to get the levels down to 5. The tank has been set up since Feb of 2002 (purchased the whole lot from someone getting out of the hobby) with a switch to the aragonite in the middle of December along with the switch to African from South American Cichlids.  All the filter media was kept active in the switch. Filtration:  HOT Magnum 250 with mechanical filter mostly.  Activated Carbon 12 hours a week in one day. Eheim 2227 Wet/Dry with one basket of Matrix and one of Ehfisubstrat.  Also includes a bag of Purigen. Substrate:  80# of aragonite.  Also has approx 40 lbs. of lace rock.  Fake plants. Air Pump with 48" Air Curtain - Have for looks but also understand it may be beneficial for aeration.  Is this needed or good with the rest of the tanks set up? <Not needed, but extra aeration is always good.> I use prime for the tap water along with Seachem buffer and Cichlid Lake Salt. Some of the other things I use or have used: Microbe-Lift TheraP - Is this good and/or necessary? <Not familiar with it, I am going to say leave it out for a while until we figure out what is causing the nitrate problem.> Seachem Liquid Trace Elements - From what I have read on your site unnecessary. <Trace elements are ok for tanks with a high bioload or for fast growth.> Seachem Stress Guard when making water changes - Is this product good/necessary? <not necessary.> I have read that you feel Wet/Dry filters are a Nitrate factory.  Would removing one of the baskets of Media from the Eheim help to reduce the nitrate problem?  Would it correct the nitrate spike problem? I have considered dropping the Wet/Dry Eheim and switching to an Eheim Pro II series.  Would switching this filter help to alleviate the nitrate factory problem? <possibly, but it might also cause a lack of biological filtration.  In marine tanks the live rock handles a lot of the bioload, freshwater tanks do not have this magical rock.  So the idea is if you have a bunch of live rock, remove the biomedia and let the live rock do the work, or replace the biomedia with live rock.  But in a freshwater setup I would keep the biomedia.> I have heard that Microbe-Lift Special Blend is a product which would help to reduce water changes.  Is this a good product or are there any that are really able to do such a thing? <If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.> I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you would have to my set up outside of the nitrate problem as I am still trying to learn.  If you need any more information please let me know. <I think the setup sounds fine, it is just a matter of figuring out where the nitrates are coming from.  Usually some extra water changes would take care of this, but if it is shooting from 5 to 40 there is something fishy going on. ha ha ha.  I'd go with weekly water changes, adding only the prime, clean all mechanical filtration, leave the biomedia, and keep testing for nitrates.  Then we will go from there.  Best Regards, Gage> Thank you very much for your help, Bill West

Cloudy/murky water Hi....We recently purchased a 10 gallon fish tank.....we did everything we were supposed to.....but the water for some reason looks murky.  We have two small suckers in the tank and 4 very small fish.  They are fed once a day....we did not use tap water we used  spring water...could that have made a difference????.. <no harm at all with the spring water... just be sure to never use distilled water undiluted (too pure). Your problem may be mechanical (particles in the water) or biological (bacterial bloom). I'm assuming you have a strong biological filter (undergravel with 3" of fine gravel or more if large pebbles) and some sort of hang on filter? If you only have a hang-on filter, there's your problem (temporary biological colonies that are purged with every cleaning of the filter). If you have a UG filter, then be sure that the gravel is deep enough and not too large (finer is better) to attain the same. Check ammonia and water chemistry to be sure that is not an issue. If all checks out, then use Aquarium Products "Filter Aid" as per instructions to clear particulates> I hope u can help... Thanks and hang...Marty and Al <best regards, Anthony>

Re: Cloudy water Going on one month now for a 55 gal. FW. Two inches of large gravel with a UG filter. Two powerheads (Penguin 660s) + a Proquatics 200 power filter. Six Tetras, two Swordtails, two Platys & three Clown Loaches. Fish seem to be fine but the water is cloudy. What can we do to clear this up? Any ideas on why it's cloudy? PH is about 7.5 (it was from the start), nitrates "0" but ammonia fluctuates between "0" & one between vacuuming & water changes. Any help is really appreciated. Thanks <I'd just wait along with moving some of the "gunky water", possibly used filter media from an "old" tank. Please see here re establishing nutrient cycling: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the related (in blue at top) FAQs files. Even though this article is directed to marine aquarium keeping, the same principles apply. Bob Fenner>

Re: cloudy water My husband and I have set up 4 tanks (90,29,two 20's) in our home.  Two of these tanks  are new set ups and they both have cloudy water.  Is this new tank syndrome ?  Do we try additives to clear this up or do we wait. These tanks have been going for between one and three weeks. <I'd just wait along with moving some of the "gunky water", possibly used filter media from the "old" tank. Please see here re establishing nutrient cycling: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm even though this article is directed to marine aquarium keeping, the same principles apply. Bob Fenner>

Re: "re-mineralizing" RO/DI water for freshwater Hello WWM Crew: You guys are awesome and so is your website. I can't believe we hobbyists can get such great information for free! <knowledge is for sharing.> I'm thinking through a plan for setting up and maintaining a planted freshwater aquarium. Right now I'm focusing on the topics of top-off water and water changes. For top-offs, I imagine straight RO/DI water would be ideal. Correct? <I'd buffer it first> I'm reluctant to use tap water or RO/DI water mixed with tap water for my water changes, though, because my tap water quality and character is variable. Most of the time we're on our main water system (it's mountain runoff) that supplies fairly soft, neutral pH and low-nitrate water. Probably pretty good for planted aquaria. At times however, the city switches to an alternate supply from a well field. This water is quite different: harder, higher pH, and higher nitrates. You never now when the switch is going to happen so without testing every time it seems to me that I'd never really know what my water changes would be introducing. <knowing that just saved you a lot of problems.  Using RO/DI will also require you to test every time.> I was thinking that if I started with RO/DI water and always amended it the same way, I'd have a very consistent and high quality water for my changes. The question is, what do I need to do to the RO/DI water? Am I correct in assuming that the RO/DI water should have a pH of 7.0? <can be lower> I think that would be fine. Am I correct in assuming that it would also have zero buffering capacity, not to mention a complete (or nearly so) absence of any other necessary minerals or trace elements? If so, I need to add something to raise the buffering capacity as well the general hardness and, perhaps, other minerals as well. True? <You are correct my friend.  Have you been reading our articles?> I've seen several products that seem to promise just these things (among them Marc Weiss "R/O-Vital", Kent Marine "R/O Right", Seachem "Equilibrium", and, I think, Dolphin Pharmaceutical "Freshwater Total"). I'm not completely clear on how they should be used, however. <aerate, heat, and buffer. I've got some R/O Right that has not caused me any grief, and I hear the Seachem is good as well.> I think what I'd like to do is keep the tank water and the water change water at or slightly below a pH of 7.0 and the carbonate hardness around 3-5. I'm not sure where the general hardness should be. I plan to keep the pH stable with a CO2 controller. <sounds like a good plan depending upon what types of fish you will be keeping.> If I start with RO/DI water, what would you recommend I do to my initial fill and subsequent water change quantities? <Get a separate container for mixing water, mix it up and fill the main tank.  After that, start mixing up some water a few days before water change day so that it is ready to go, and that is about it. Oh yeah, test kits, you will need test kits ph, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, gh, kh, and alkalinity would be good> Thanks, Tim <please check out our freshwater planted aquarium articles as well as aquabotanic.com they have some good info as well.  -Gage>

Freshwater Nitrate Help Please <Ananda here, answering freshwater fish questions...> Well I have 2 tiger Oscars (I know that I will have to upgrade within the year to a larger tank and am looking at 100 Gallon tanks) and one blue channel catfish.   <You will need a much larger tank than that if you have a blue catfish or channel catfish...both get very large. Do check the illustrations and text at http://floridafisheries.com/Fishes/catfish.html to determine which one you have, and to learn more about these fish. The graphic that you missed was a listing of two weeks worth of water readings of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.  Ammonia spiked and then dropped back down to 0.  Nitrite is currently 2 ppm which is the highest it has been so far.  Nitrates however are skyrocketing and are around 80 ppm. <Time to start doing water changes. Depending on the size of the fish, and how fast the nitrates increase once your tank is finished cycling, you may need to change 25% or more per week.> They get fed Oscar Grow, Cichlid flakes, and Shrimp pellets only at night when the lights are out for the catfish.  They get small meals about twice a day excluding a few pellets at night for the catfish.  The Fluval media is from bottom to top: cotton, charcoal, prefilter ceramic, and BioMax ceramic.  There really is no way for me to do anything more with this tank due to my living arrangements. <Perhaps consider upgrading your power filter....> My lease is up within the year and I will be moving into a larger place, which is why I will be upgrading then to a much larger tank.  Any additional help would be great. Thanks! Jim <You're welcome. --Ananda>

Freshwater Confusion Hi guys I got another question for you .I have a 55 Gal freshwater tank. The ph is 6.6 I have got 5 Black fin Tetra,3 High fin tetra ,2 Guppies & 2 Gold Platy. I want to add more fish. The problem is reading on the net these fish like different ph. The Serpae tetra 5.8-7 the Black Tetra 6-8.3 Congo Tetra 6.2- 7 The Guppies 6.6-7.6, Platies 6.9 -8.2 Then the Guy down at the LFS says if you want to keep Tetra's you should only keep Tetras. Because of the different pHs Will I thought these were all community fish. Now if I was to keep the Ph around 7 to 7.1 wouldn't all these fish fit into this category. Then he said it would not be wise to put Mollies or Platies with the tetra's and Guppies because they need more salt in the water. I already put what it says on the salt box 1 Tablespoon for each 5 Gal of tank water. He said to go and pour half of the 33oz.box in there which I didn't do. Man I'll tell ya I getting confused here. I guess what I'm asking you is can't I successfully Keep all species of Tetras, Guppies, Platies, Mollies, Catfish, and Swordtails in this same tank. And if so what should I keep the PH at? And is there any special things I should do. He also said to feed them flake food every day and never give them frozen brine shrimp more than once a week. Thanks again for all your help    Bill <Hi Bill, there is more involved in this than just the Ph, Tetras prefer softer water, while mollies, platies, and guppies prefer harder water more alkaline water.  I would pick either or and go with it, you will have much more success that way.  I would also test the ph of the water straight from the tap, if it is within an acceptable range I would not mess with it. fishbase.org is a good reference for the requirements of potential inhabitants.  Flakes are ok, brine shrimp are not very nutritious, but there are other types of frozen food available for tropical community fish.  -Gage http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/poecillidfaqs.htm

Water EMERGENCY, and ick too !!!! Hello, I had a question that my local pet store could not answer. I have a forty gallon tank and I have all live plants with 2 inches of sifted red rock ( the rock is more like a soil so that the plants can root good in it).  I keep the temperature at 78 degrees.  I do a 40 percent water change weekly.  I have two whisper filters with bio sponges. I always add the same temperature of water back into the tank. I have 1 blue Acara female, 3 Australian rainbow fish, two checkered barbs,1 talking catfish, 1 Cory cat, 1 dojo, 4 head and tailights,1 fresh water oyster, 1 apple snail, and 1 Oto (auto? sp). My question is: I have never had a problem with my water changes and this last water change I lost 7 fish.  I have well water that has no added chlorine.  I did the water change and about 15 min later my 5 Siamese algae eater where swimming very fast and flipping around.  They were also twitching, seconds later, they were dead.  Later that evening, one of my rainbow fish did the same thing and died, then about 10 minutes later, my Silver dollar also died, doing the same thing as all the others.  The very next day I took my water down to the pet store to be tested and everything was perfect.  So I bought some more fish to replace the others lost.  My Gourami I bought died that very night.  There were no skin abrasions indicating that it may have been picked on by another fish.  I took a second sample in and again, every things was perfect.  I am lost to what may have been the problem. I am wondering if maybe the food was bad that I had given them after the water change.  It was a new food I have never used before.  It was zoo plankton that you keep in the refrigerator.  Could this have been the problem?   I hope that you can help me out with this problem. Thank you, Brooke Howard <Alright Brooke, have you tested your well water?  How long do you let your well water age before using it in your aquarium? You may have ammonia/nitrite in your well water. Or your well water may be a high enough pH to increase the toxicity of any wastes in your well water or aquarium. 40% is a lot of water, if there is a problem with lack of oxygen saturation, high carbon dioxide content, etc. or ammonia alone or combined with a higher pH would do it. Test your well water, determine all water parameters (ammonia/nitrite/nitrate/pH/hardness) aerate and heat it for 12-24 hours, test and adjust pH, then use for water changes.> Second question: I sent the above question out to another website and it has not been answered, so your the lucky recipient of the questions.   Since last week, my fish now have ich and since then some have died.  I bought ick guard by jungle, and now it is all gone and no improvements.  I also have been using Melafix ( about a tsp.)  I have no carbon in the filters and have been changing 25 % every 24 hrs.  I am out of money, and don't want any more fish to die.  My mother in law has a bottle of Greenex, but says for marine only....could I possibly use a little of this in my freshwater tank ?   Please if you can read right away,  I have little time left till the rest die. <Use copper as per label directions, best in a QT tank if possible. No Greenex for anything including marines...No Melafix, etc. just copper.  For more surf over to WetWebMedia.com and type "copper" and "ick" into the google search engine at the bottom of the page. You may have to cycle your tank again, please check your well water as I think it is the source of your trouble.  Best of luck. Craig>

Nitrate Levels I have scoured your articles and FAQs but have not found the answer to this question: What is the danger of nitrate buildup?  I know it is the final and non-toxic stage of the cycle, yet I've been warned that high nitrate levels are bad.  Is this true?  If so, why? <Good question. Nitrate in and of itself is not "toxic", per se. It can, however, create some long-term health problems for fishes. The buildup of nitrate indicates a general decline in water quality. Declining water quality and organics can create instability and swinging pH values, causing stress. And stress, as you know, can create potential for disease. In marine tanks, particularly, the accumulation of nitrate can contribute to heavy growths of undesirable algae, among other potential problems.> I have two 55g freshwater tanks, one with mainly goldfish and shubunkins and  one with African cichlids and a few small barbs and Danios.  My goldfish tank has nitrates in the 50ppm range, and the cichlid tank is lower, the 15-20 ppm range.  Should I be concerned about these levels?  What is an acceptable/unacceptable threshold? <Again- it's a general indicator of overall water quality. No general rule here- I'd shoot for 20ppm or less, if possible.> I've been told the one way to reduce nitrate levels is more aggressive water changes.  I normally do a 5g (approx 10%) water change weekly for each tank.   In the past week I have changed much more water to see if it would work (40% in the goldfish tank, 20% in the cichlid tank), yet it hasn't had a noticeable effect on the nitrate level.  Is there any other way to get nitrate levels down?  Would live plants address the issue?  (I understand goldfish and cichlids feast on live plants, so I only have artificial.) Thanks, Jeffrey M. Zegas <Another good question and some good thinking on your part, Jeffrey!. Your water change procedure seems good. What you may want to do, however, is to verify if your source water contains detectable amounts of nitrate to begin with. If, for example, you're starting with water that's 10ppm nitrate, that could a big reason why your nitrate levels don't decrease greatly. Consider an R/O unit to produce high quality source water. As you surmised, active plant growth and harvesting can help. Investigate species of plants that tend to be distasteful to fishes, or that are tough leaved, such as Vallisneria and Anubias. Do look in the plant FAQs in the wetwebmedia.com site for more information. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Fine Particulate Matter Floating in Water Hey Steven, one more question for tonight. For the last 3 or 4 days there has been a lot of fine particles floating in my tank. It looks like dust. I did a water change, rinsed the bio-bag in my power filter and changed the carbon yesterday and I still don't see any change. What could be the cause? <Hard to say. Cloudy water could be due to a bacterial bloom (white cloudy) or free floating algae (green tint). Depending on the cause, treatment varies. You can look up both on www.WetWebMedia.com.> Also, should any salt at all be used with Otocinclus? <You could use some, but not as needed as with livebearers or certain cichlids.> Thanks again! <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Ammonia Chips If I rinse them in cool water & put them with the color stones I already have in the bottom of my 55 gallon fish tank, which includes 11 different sizes of gold fishes, 2 sharks & 2 or 3 algae eaters, will the ammonia chips hurt my fish? <I doubt they will hurt, but they are unlikely to help. If you are experiencing ammonia problems, I would suspect it is due to overstocking. Goldfish are messy and get large. I would place no more than 5 in a 55 gallon tank.> I already have some in a filter plus that charcoal stuff in the other filter. <A better use of this product, but you really need to get to the root cause of the ammonia. -Steven Pro>

Treating Tap Water for Fish Tank Dear Robert Fenner, <Steven Pro in this morning.> Your articles on "How to treat tap water" was informative but too technical. I enjoyed reading them but after reading them, I still am not sure how to make the tap water safe for my fish. I am an Arrowana enthusiasts (about 1 year experience through trial and error). I had 3 Arrowanas which have died due to, I suspect, tap water (chlorine) poisoning. The first 2 died 4 hours after I did a 75% water change. The last one, a 16 inch Arowana died after 2 days, after a 45% water change. I would appreciate very much if you could enlightened me on some of my questions. These are my questions: 1) Should anti-chlorine crystal sold in fish shops be used to get rid of the harmful chlorine? <I prefer the liquid reagents. Kordon's NovAqua and Amquel, Tetra's AquaSafe, Aquarium Pharmacueticals' Stress Coat and Ammo Lock 2 are all good products I have used previously. Some of the crystal formulations have dechlorinating ingredients as well as medications added, too.> 2) If I do change one quarter of the water in the tank, should I just add the anti-chlorine crystals into the water already in the tank? <That is how I do it. I use a Python water changer for most freshwater tanks I service and pump straight tapwater back into the tank after adding the appropriate amount of dechlorinater.> 3) If I use more than the recommended dosage of anti-chlorine crystals, will it be even more poisonous for the fish than not adding it at all? <I do not think you could ever overdose with any of the liquid water treatments I mentioned above, but with some crystal formula that use a medication too, there does exist that possibility. Although, you would have to drastically over do it.> 4) How much does a chlorine tester kit cost? <It should be no more than $25 and available at your LFS or online e-tailer.> Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks and bye! Yours sincerely, Victor Seow <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: milky water (Oscars... FW...) Hi Rochell and Chris>> Hi I have a 66 gallon with a Fluval 404 2 heaters 2 aerators 3 oscars 1 convict its been set up for 2 months and I cant get rid of the milky white water iv tried weekly water changes and it just wont go away if you have any ideas I would appreciate it thank you <<We're going to need more information. What are your water parameters? Do you have the necessary test kits? If not, run a sample of your *source* water and your *tank* water to a local fish store you trust and have them test your water for you, or, invest in some good quality tests for pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and hardness. I don't know how big the Oscars are, but unless they are small this tank is overloaded, and regardless, will be overloaded in short order by the Oscars, let alone the convict. My bet is on poor water quality with these big eating messy cichlids. Testing will tell you what is going on. You will need to either sell/trade a couple fish, or plan on a bigger tank. Adult Oscars get big. Craig>> 

Cloudy Water I have a 33 gallon freshwater tank and have never had cloudy water. Recently after a routine 50% water change my water has become extremely cloudy. I'm writing to ask what might have caused this. <Most probably caused by a bacterial bloom, beneficial bacteria that usually live happily in your filter media have been urged to free-float in the water column. Why they are doing this, I cannot determine from your email.> The only thing that has happened out of the ordinary is a recent heat wave moved my tank temp up to about 84 degrees from the 79 degrees that I keep the tank at. The temp stayed this high for about 4 days and is now back down to the 79 degree mark again. Any help would be much appreciated. <The temperature increase could be contributing by increasing your fish's metabolism. Other possibilities include inadequate filtration, something wrong with the way you performed your last water change to damage your biological filtration, overfeeding, overstocking, etc.> Thank You, James <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: cloudy freshwater Hi Bob thank you for replying so quickly. I will certainly try the baking soda and hopefully it will help, My next water change is scheduled for the end of the week. One other question about all of this. What exactly causes the white cloudiness? thanks again dela <Could be a few things... likely an actual "bacteria bloom"... actually a mix of a bunch of microscopic organisms... that do settle down to a more sedentary, less populous, less speciose community in time. Bob Fenner>

Re: cloudy freshwater > Hi Bob, > Thank you for the response. I took out the softening pillow and it's been > out for about a week and a half. I did another water change with prepared > water last Friday hoping that it would clear the water with no luck. > <More time, patience> > I have the tank sitting next to a window and had a backing on the tank as > well as blinds and thought that would be enough to control the amount of > light coming into the tank. My water still started turning green so I went > out and bought a second layer of backing and made sure my blinds were > completely closed 24/7. With these changes the green went away in about 2 > days, but the white cloudiness is still lingering. I'm not sure what to do > at this point I thought It would have cleared by now after being this way for > nearly 3 weeks. > Any suggestions would be appreciated, > thank you again > dela > <There are clarifying agents, but if it were me I'd first try "the baking > soda trick"... add one rounded teaspoon of baking soda, aka sodium > bicarbonate, to about a quart of system water, dissolving it completely, and > slowly add/pour this into the discharge area of rapid mixing (like near your > filter outlet) to the tank... The addition of alkalinity and ions will speed > the clearing process. Do this addition once a week during water changes. Bob Fenner>

Amazon River Basin Tank Mr. Fenner: I was unable to open your message, but I hope it was yes, that you would be willing to help us!  <Yes, certainly> I've been getting some strange water quality readings on my Amazon River Basin Tank. The specs: *fresh water, 300 gallons *normal pH 6.8-7.2 *traditionally low NO3 (10-20ppm) *3 mid-size Red Belly Piranhas *water changes - 100 gall every 4 weeks *recently tested positive for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, despite UV sterilizer with bulb changes every 6 months (have not treated with antibiotics yet) <Best not to... if avoidable. We can talk re injection...> Within a week's time, and for no apparent reason, except possibly overfeeding, the pH plummeted to ~5.0, KH<10 ppm, NH3>2.0, O2=0, CO2~20.  <... is this a closed system? Do you folks augment alkalinity? Your source water, what is its dKH? I would strongly suggest changing your water changing protocol to weekly amounts, the addition of a tablespoon of baking soda/sodium bicarbonate per change... and something more to reduce the ambient nitrate concentration> I immediately cut feeding, aerated the tank, did a huge water change, and added crushed coral to raise KH. The fish showed no symptoms of stress, as the NH3 is not toxic as NH4 at the low pH.  <All good moves, agreed> Gradually pH, KH, and O2 rose back to normal, but NO2 rose, which led me to believe my biological filter was destroyed from the low pH.  <Possibly> I reseeded and a few weeks later, everything returned to normal and stayed that way for 4 weeks. Here's where it gets weirder. After a routine 100 gall water change, this exact series of events occurred again. We have eliminated the most obvious causes like abnormal tap water and malfunctioning testing equipment. <Mmm, do you aerate, store the new water ahead of use? I would...> My concerns: 1. Water changes are supposed to help! <They do...> 2. Why do high NH3 and low pH occur together? High NH3 should raise pH, right? <Not necessarily. A possible scenario is the loss of nitrifiers by abrupt toxic change (coupled with something to do with the water changes, and/or lost alkaline reserve), elevated ammonia, reductive events as a consequence...> 3. I looked up the metabolism of P. aeruginosa, and it is capable of producing NH3 from NO3. This could be the source of the NH3, but the NO3 has not gone down. Also, this does not explain the low pH. <This is not a likely possibility here... the ammonia produced would be of small, transient concentration, and the fish livestock very likely dead> 4. Could you recommend an antibiotic compound that will not stain the water? (The culture we did was sensitive to tetracycline). <I might administer chloromycetin... succinate as an injectable if I thought this would help. I do not... Please consider the environmental manipulation mentioned above, and the change to pre-treating new water... and something as an adjunct to lower nitrates down to a few ppm maximum. Please see our principal site: WetWebMedia.com and use the search tool there under the term "Nitrate" for a bunch of input> Any information, recommendations, or referrals you could make would be extremely helpful. I have tried several sources and contacts, but no luck so far. Thank you! Kristen Schmid Senior Animal Keeper The Newark Museum Mini-Zoo <My academic and practical backgd. encompasses aquatic system design, construction, install, maintenance and fish pathology... I have seen/heard of similar circumstances to what you relate here... poorly buffered systems with an abundance of metabolic activity, loss of nitrification... We can/should keep discussing if any of this is unclear, incomplete. Bob Fenner>

Cloudy water FW Hi,  I have a 55 gal freshwater tank and been changing water regularly but recently I noticed that it has been turning real cloudy almost white gradually within like two days after water change.... I MEAN COMPLETELY like MILK. do you have any idea what the cause may be?  I have no idea and it seems even if I do a full change of water in a couple days it comes back..... <many possibilities... at any rate it sounds like a primarily harmless bacterial/biological bloom. Still it is indicative of a bigger problem. My guess is that you have one or more of the following problems: larger pebbles for a substrate rather than fine gravel, a less deep substrate with an undergravel filter (under 3" which really should be more like 3-4" with fine gravel or deeper with course!), you are gravel siphoning too aggressively (stir the top inch... but do not dig down deep to the floor), and/or you have large or overfed fishes (any Oscar cichlids?)> let me know thanks appreciate it.  Sydney chow <just some suggestions based on your general query. Best regards, Anthony>

Stingray, FW, test kit units of measure Hi..! I have three freshwater stingrays, I tested the water before put them in, reading form ammonia and nitrites were low but on your site are referred to ## ppm but I have a scale of mg/lt so which is the right amount of of nitrites in mg/lt for this stingrays ( teacup ) <The units of measure, milligrams per liter and parts per million are equivalents... the same. The concentration you want is 0.00, none for nitrites, ammonia... and as little measurable nitrate as possible. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwstingrays.htm and the links beyond.  Bob Fenner> Best regards. Attn. Carlos Gorgon

Cloudy water Dear Robert: <Anthony Calfo here fielding queries for our friend Bob whilst he ponders the meaning of life (I think he is actually watching Monty Python's "Holy Grail"...same thing>  My 75 gallon tank has been set up since beginning of December 2001. Got the initial cloudy water and algae bloom. I have two plecos to take care of the algae as recommended by a pet store. <I'm surprised and honestly doubtful that your tank grows enough microalage to need/sustain even one pleco at three months old...but if you enjoy the creatures, so be it with supplemental feeding> Water is still cloudy. pH is over 7.8.  <you tank's cloudiness is unrelated to the pH (you may simply have source water that is hard/mineral rich... no worries)... three months is about 10 weeks too long to still have cloudiness. If the haze is the milky startup cloudy color...you have a flaw in the filtration somewhere. What kind of filtration do you have? I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you have an undergravel filter with course(larger)pebbles. This is a surefire way to have cloudy water (even more so if you have less than three inches and/or it is air lift operated)> Can't get it down to save my life. Fish seem okay and happy. Three tetras and four tiger barbs. <only because the tank is so lightly stocked...if you had more fish you would have an ammonia problem and dying fish> I feed one flake of fish per day per fish. One algae disk per pleco three times a week. There are no live plants.  <no where near enough food my friend, your fish will starve in time. 1-3 small feedings daily...make sure all food is consumed at the surface (none sinking for filter fodder). The algae discs you'll have to simply watch the plecos weight and growth to see if you are feeding enough. Add some frozen meaty foods to the diet too like bloodworm, plankton, etc> Will I ever get this tank clear? <if the haze is not milky white (biological/bacterial) then simply use Aquarium Products "Filter Aid" to drop suspended particles out of solution. Follow directions strictly on the label. Best of luck to you. Anthony Calfo> cmr

temperature of water What is the right temp. to keep my freshwater aquarium at. Itsa 20 gallon with bala sharks in it. <For a standard community tank, 78 should be fine. -Steven Pro>

Holy Cow! Too many fish HELP!! I have a 5 gallon tank with 1 Pleko, 2 Jully eye, 2 red velvet sword tails, about 4 sword tail babies (1 week old).....my 2 angel fish died at the same time. My tank is 1 1/2 weeks old my ammonia level is 8.0 What should I do? Thank you, I appreciate your help. <my friend, you were allowed to buy way too many fish way too fast!!! Furthermore, you were sold some very wrong fish for your setup...please return some. The pleco will starve to death in a young tank without algae...plus the tank is too small for that animal. The "Jully eyes" are Julii cichlids and become aggressive and like specialized water as African cichlids. Return them too. The sword tails were a fine choice although only 2-3 adults can be kept in a tank that size. The angelfish never had a chance in a tank that small. The ammonia will kill everything soon if you don;t remove fish and start doing water changes. My advice is to find a better fish sales consultant after you correct the water quality issues. Best regards, Anthony>

Cobwebs? help. i am relatively new to this. i have been keeping a 10 gallon tank for about 2 months with no problem. there is some driftwood, medium plants and the following fish - 3 albino corys, 1 chinese algae eater, 7 betta fry and 2 female guppies. i suddenly (almost overnight) got this thick cobweb like plant/algae over a lot of the plants and it is spreading . i tried to siphon it out with a small tube. some came off but most were stuck to the plants. what is it and how do i control/minimize/get rid of it? <Gerard... some organic material/fungus are common from overfeeding. As a new aquarist with new tank you are a likely candidate for this. Food should generally not sink and hit the bottom of the tank or it is an indication that you are feeding too much or too fast. Try small frequent feedings daily (1-3) with absolutely no visible food sinking to the bottom. Don't worry...the catfish learn to come to the surface. Keep doing water changes in the meantime to control the growth (10-20%). Anthony>

Cloudy Water <Chad... Anthony Calfo here in your service> > ok here is the run down on my problem i filled my 29 gal. about 5 days ago with softened water. its well water that has been softened with salt. there is just pea gravel in it, and a few plants and driftwood. now after looking at it for a few days the water has always been sorta milky and you can see little bubbles floating around. <nothing out of the ordinary... perhaps bacterial "break in"> so today i added some black skirt tetras to it...im not sure if this was a mistake .. <not necessarily... a good test and help for the biological filter> or if i should start all over with R O water..which i hear is better anyways... <yes... compared to salt softened water, but do not use raw/pure... cut with a little hard water> but so far it has not cleared up.. <can take up to a week or more> and im just wondering if i should just start over because i am planning on getting some more peaceful ciclids such as severums and exotic plecos. <have patience... it will clear in time. Be careful not to overfeed the new fish. Kindly, Anthony>

Soft Water/ Cloudy Water <Chad... Anthony Calfo here, answering mail for the inimitable Bob Fenner. Well... maybe, not INIMITABLE to everybody...but I know that I could never drink that much beer and still stand> i have a 29 gal. that i just filled with softened water. <what kind of display? Freshwater, cichlids, tetras, etc?> it has been treated <what kind of softening treatment...R/O, resins, salt pillows, etc?> and is up to temp, but looks a bit milky... <what kind of gravel or substrate and how long has it been set up...any fish?> any thing i should be concerned about? or treatments recommended? i live in the country if that means anything...thanks <could be a normal "biological" bloom, could be sediment...most likely nothing to be concerned about but don't add anymore fish until you determine the nature of it. Should clear either way in 3-5 days. Anthony>

Freshwater tank set up (toxic decor) I am in the process of setting up a new 35 gallon freshwater tank for angle fish. I purchased some coral and starfish shells for decoration. Put all in a bleach bath, but the stars floated.  <Yikes... am glad they did... so that you wrote here instead of placing them in the tank... these decorations are NOT for freshwater systems...> I then rinsed all and placed in the tank, but have not added fish yet. after about 24 hours the tank got a very strong fishy smell. I removed the starfish which are now waterlogged and returned to the bleach bath, for several hours. after 12 hours the smell was gone from the tank. I have not introducer any fish as yet, nor have I replaced the star fish shells. My question is will it be safe for my fish if I return the star shells to the tank?  <No, sorry to state, you should remove all these sea-skeletons from your tank, and thoroughly clean it out and re-set it up. Please read through this link: WetWebMedia.com re freshwater systems, planted tanks...> Or is there something else I need to do to prepare the shells so that they will be safe? or can I not use them at all? <Ahh, here we go. Yes, do not use these at all. They will negatively effect the water chemistry, at least partially poisoning, weakening your livestock. Look to other, more suitable freshwater decor materials. We'll be chatting. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Nadia

My tank is cloudy!! I have a 45 gallon freshwater tank. Lately it has been very cloudy. I've tried changing the filter, I've put in stuff to make the cloudiness go away, and I've checked the pH levels and also the ammonia levels. I'm at my wits end. If you have any other suggestions it would be greatly appreciated as I'm sure you know an aquarium with cloudy water is not very attractive. Thanks so much, Lisa <Agreed. There are a few approaches to ending the water cloudiness. The most important deal with understanding what is involved in establishing "biological cycling" in a new tank. Please read this: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm And consider adding a bit of live plant material (for freshwater, a good way of introducing beneficial microbes, using up nutrients...). If you'd like, there is a live plant section on our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqGardHP.htm that will grant you an idea of what your selections might be. Bob Fenner>

African Cichlid First off I would like to say I really enjoy the site.  <Ah, glad to find this is so> I have just started (2 weeks now) a 62 gallon cichlid tank with 8 one inch assorted lake M cichlids.  <You're inspiring me to "get on" with writing, placing the huge amount of material/short pieces in the African Cichlid section of WWM...> The ph, and amonoia levels are great. The nitrates are high 25mg/l. Should I make small water changes untill this is fixed? <Mmm, maybe... but other approaches would likely be more satisfying, homeostatic (constant) and automatic. Do you intend to culture any plants in this system? Perhaps in a tied-in sump tank with its own lighting?...> will that harm the colony of bacteria I am trying to foster?  <Not likely... at this point... but only experience, trial will tell. I would just wait at this point, be very careful about over-feeding, placing much in the way of livestock.> I know the bacteria changes amonoia to nitrates, but is a water change the only way to get rid of nitrates? <Oh no, assuredly not. Please read through this FAQs section on nitrates. Though on marine systems, the same principles apply: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/no3probfaqs.htm and the links beyond. Bacterial denitrification can be urged on, uptake by plants/algae, export through chemical filtrants, water changes as you state... many possibilities> My tank is also still very cloudy when will this go away.  <A few days to a couple of weeks> I think that this alage cloud may feed off the nitrates. Would a product like cycle help the nitrate situtation?  <Yes. But just time going by will accomplish the same ends> If I should make small water changes how often can I do them? After all this water cycle bussiness I have become somewhat interested in it what books do suggest on the subject. <Read this bit on cycling a system as well: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Unfamiliar terms? Hi again Bob! Just a quick question. I'm currently planning the rest of my livestock for my 55-gallon freshwater tank (this is tank #6). I definitely want mollies, swords, and platys. I'm trying to figure out what the best water parameters would be if I also wanted to include a sailfin pleco, perhaps some corydoras, and some tetras (Congo, most likely). I keep coming across the notation "dH", right after "pH". What is dH? How can I measure this? Thanks! Gina <There are test kits for measuring all sorts of aspects of water quality... mostly simple "colorimetric" assays (add so much of this or that reagent to a water sample, compare color/concentration with a standard) made for aquarium keeping. Do investigate what these qualities are... hardness, pH... in a good, complete aquarium book. The values for ranges for many species are posted by their name (common is fine) on www.fishbase.org  Bob Fenner>

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