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Cloudy Tank Water


Melle

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Okay folks, I searched the board for old posts (and read current posts as well) regarding cloudy water but none of them describe my situation--which is probably not as unique and unusual as I think it is...

I'm in the process of removing the gravel from my 20 gallon tank that I've had for about 3 1/2 months now because I want to convert to bare bottom...it is fully cycled with two 3-inch moors; the nitrites and ammonia consistently = 0. (I don't have a nitrate test but I do grow live plants so hopefully it's not too high). Every Sunday I change about 15-20% of the water and I test the chems before I change the water. I have an Emperor 280 biowheel filter so am confident the tank has adequate bilogical filtration. Prior to this episode the water has always been crystal clear.

So: last Sunday (almost a week ago) I took out about 1/3 of the gravel. The next day the water looked hazey and the following day it was definitely cloudy, like a foggy day. The cloudiness is white and kinds of swirls around, like fog. My fish seem fine with it but it looks really bad. I've cut down on their food by approximately 1/3 and I changed the filter cartridge. I figured it was some bacterial bloom but why would removing gravel cause it and at what point will everything re-equilibrate? I wanted to take another 1/3 gravel out this Sunday but now I'm not so sure. I tested the chems 2 days ago and ammonia/nitrite = 0 like usual.

Any suggestions/ideas?

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Guest goldfix

If it's cloudy, and looks more like diluted milk, then it's probably the bacteria that was living in your gravel looking for a new place to live. If it looks like small dust, then that's another thing.

They make something to clear up bacterial blooms, but why would you want to? It will clear up on it's own.

If it's dust, well then it's a good idea to use a floculant like Hagen Clear-P or vvvv water clarifier (or many other brands), which gathers the small particles together so they will either sink or be big enough for the filter to trap them.

Fish can handle the bloom, but some say too many particles can irritate their gills. But then again, others say water clarifiers can irritate their gills.

I've made that gravel to bare bottom and back again trip before.

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I've made that gravel to bare bottom and back again trip before.

Did you not like bare-bottom?

I would say the cloudiness is definitely more like diluted milk than particulate matter.

Thanks for the comments--do you think I should wait for the cloudiness to disappear before removing any more gravel?

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Guest goldfix

If I was doing it again today, I'd take the fish out and then make the changes, instead of stressing them and myself out trying to do everything gradually.

I've had bare tanks and all kinds of substrate. It's just a personal preference, they both have their pluses and minuses.

I'm using carib sea ecco blend now. It is very expensive, almost a dollar a pound, but I really like it better than bare or the other substrates I've used. But somebody else might hate it.

When I had a bare tank, I had fun finding different pieces of pottery and interesting items to put in the tank. I grew some java moss in Japanese tea cups.

oh, oh, I'm starting to change my mind again!

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Oh...I'm mostly doing it b/c I've seen my cuties get gravel stuck in their mouths--I don't think they're the brightest bulbs... I was thinking of planting in bonsai pots, in fact I'm going to look for some down in LA this coming weekend.

Then I have some 1-2 inch smooth river rock that will be their "substrate". We'll see, the gravel isn't going very far, just to mulch indoor plants.

:-)

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  • 2 weeks later...
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Sorry to bring this up again but I'm still having cloudy water issues. I went out of town for 3 days and when I returned it seemed even worse. Also the brown algae is really taking over. I was thinking of changing out the light bulb.

Is the cloudy water bad for the fish--I keep thinking about all the bacteria that must be passing through their gills. Would rinsing my biowheel off in a bucket filled with tank water help?

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Ammonia and nitrite still 0, I change 30% of the water once/week and the last change was on Sunday so it's due for a change tomorrow. Too frequent?

It's a 20 gallon tank with two 3-inch black moors and 1/3 the original gravel (as of 2 weeks ago). Live plants (doing very well might I add) and silk plants, Emperor 280 biowheel filter, been running about 4 months now. There is brown "algae" growing but no green so that's why I was thining of changing the light.

The problem began when I started to take out the gravel but I stopped 2 weeks ago, with 1/3 of the gravel still in the tank, because of the apparent bacterial bloom. My fish are acting totally normal and look okay but the cloudy water looks really turbid and you can see the stuff swirling around.

Oh, I've cut back on their food as well (partly because they seem less active now that it's cooler and partly to help the cloudy water problem).

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It could be that your bacteria are looking for something to attach too and haven't found a suitable replacement for the gravel yet. Do you have any decorations you can drop in? How about filtration? You could pick up some 'bio-balls' that will act as surfaces for the bacteria to adhere too and place those in the filter. Every filter cleaning just set aside and put back in with a new cartridge.

Goodluck!

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In addition, if you can actually see the particles making the water cloudy, then it probably isn't bacterial. They are probably things that settled into the gravel that, with its removal, have got no place to settle again. The filters cannot take them out because they are two small. There is a product out there that is called a floculator, it makes the small particles clump together and form bigger particles that can be filtered out. I am not sure the name though.... I think it is "clear water". Thats just an alternative idea.

Cheers!

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Obsidian--I don't have any other decorations to add. I have many 2-inch river rocks, silk plants, live plants, and some glass dishes in there. Oh, the biowheel as well.

My filter has a cartridge that I could add "bio-balls" to I guess (currently I don't use it), I'll have to check those out at the pet shop. If I add bio balls would it be okay to go ahead and remove the rest of the gravel? I figured the cloudiness was caused by "homeless" bacteria. I just kind of hoped they would go away somwhere.

Thanks for the suggestion. :-)

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I can't see the individual particles, I can just see the swirling underwater "mist", kind of like fog. I've cultured bacteria in the lab and the solution will look kind of swirly even though I can't see the individual bacteria. Also, the cloudiness seems to increase as the tank gets closer to a water change so I think you're right that it's displaced bacteria.

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I made an executive decision and took out the rest of the gravel. The water is still cloudy and the ammonia/nitrites at zero. I was thinking of changing 30% of the water every three days to try and deplete the bacteria of nutrients so the bloom will disappear.

What do you guys think?

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In case anyone is still reading this old post, I think my idea worked (30% water changes every 2-3 days following the removal of the remaining gravel). I added some additional river rocks (1 to 3 inch size) and fed my fish about 1/3 less their usual servings. Finally I rinsed the biowheel in a bucket of tankwater (to free up space for any new opportunistic bacteria) and rinsed the filter pad in the same bucket of tankwater.

Even though after the water changes the water did not appear less turbid, each day after the water became progressively clearer. The ammonia/nitrite levels remained at zero. Not sure of the science behind it but the bacterial bloom appears to be under control. :happydance

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  • 6 months later...
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That's great! Maybe one of these the water clearness with be back to cystal clear.

Princess (my telescope) is in a hospital tank and even after water changes it becomes cloudy in the water clearness. So what I did was reposined the filter. It's a canister and under the water - a Fuval. And I put it in the middle of the side instead of to the side. That helped a bit.

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your water cloudiness sounds alot like what mine is doing....i can't figure it out for the life of me.....i don't have gravel, just polished river stones, and glass stones...and 2 bubble wands........the water is always kinda cloudy...can't really see particles, but sometimes i do, but it looks like wee tiny air bubbles. It doesn't seem to bother my fish though.

-does lighting matter with algae? brown algae seems to be getting out of control in my tank for some reason. the light i have is one of the long tube (flourescent i guess) lights...

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