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Watersprite

Different Watersprite

        

Healthy fish tanks contain crystal clear water.  Cloudy water usually means trouble.

Green Water.  Single-celled algae growing in your water causes it to turn green.  While algae is actually good for your fishes, very few aquarists want green water.  Light and fertilizer encourage algae.  Decrease both and you will probably not see green water.  Water changes and small amounts of salt encourage algae.  Fast-growing plants such as anacharis compete with algae for food and will starve it.  In the past, algaecides killed algae (and other aquatic plants).  Algae Fix appears to do the job these days.

Brown Water.  New driftwood leaches tannin and humic acids into your water.  Soaking driftwood in bleach water will lessen those brown colors.  Water changes remove them mechanically.  Carbon adsorbs them.  Change it often.

Reddish Brown Water.  If you feed color foods, expect weird colored water.  When we put 1,100 white clouds in a 55 and feed them color foods, the water tints up fast.  95% water changes get rid of it.  Avoid these massive changes unless you have plenty of aged water on hand.

Colored Water.  Many of the colored gravels will also leach into the water.  If you have pink gravel and your water turns pink, don’t bother calling Sherlock Holmes for a second opinion.  Carbon will remove these colors fast.  You will need to keep changing the carbon as long as your gravel leaches.

Weird Colors.  Many medications contain strong dyes (or ARE strong dyes) that will discolor your water -- some ich cures will discolor your aquarium sealer.  After completing your course of treatment, remove the dye(s) with fresh carbon.

Grey Water.  Now we’re down to what most people mean by “cloudy water.”  This type of cloudy water comes from bacteria and infusoria growing in your aquarium.  In basic terms,  this results from excess organic matter in your tank (more than your filter can “digest”).  So let’s look into some of the reasons water turns grey.

No Filtration.  Goldfish bowls and other non-filtered aquaria cloud up nearly instantly.  Water goes bad fast in aquaria without filters.  The smaller the container, the bigger the problem.  Small sponge filters work miracles in goldfish bowls.  

New Tanks.  Your new under gravel filter contains insufficient bacteria to “digest” your fish wastes.  Change your water more often.  Add freeze-dried bacteria or liquid enzymes to clear it up.  We find the Bio-Spira works well at preventing new tank syndrome. Add it before the problem arises.  Our old-fashioned way to prevent or cure this problem:  Add a quart of “dirty water” siphoned from a functioning UG filter.

Overfeeding.  New tank owners especially like to overfeed their fish.  When you go on vacation, your helpful neighbor will also overfeed them.  Four-year old kids can always be counted on to overfeed your fish.  Make sure you keep your fish food in a hard-to-reach place.  If two people feed the fish, your chances of overfeeding double.  Sick fishes always eat less.  Overfeeding only adds to their health problems -- and their cloudy water.

Wrong Food.  Poor quality fish food or the incorrect fish food falls to the bottom and grows moldy.  Fish will not eat spoiled food.  Bacteria eat it and cloud your water.  Unrinsed thawed brine shrimp (or other juicy “bug foods”) can leach blood into the water.  Only bacteria can eat this bug juice.  

LA Pic
Tiny pond snails devouring uneaten food pellets.

LA Pic
When your snails all come to the top, you need to take extreme measures.

Lack of Snails.  Snails overrun your tank because you overfeed your fish.  Snails and bacteria are the only critters that will eat that layer of dead food on the bottom.  If you get tired of the snails and dispose of them, you can pollute your tank and cloud your water.  

LA Pic
All snails help clean up your aquaria.  Even the little guys.

Dead Bodies.  An unnoticed corpse in your tank can overload your filter system.  Get it out before you have a layer of belly floaters.  Ditto on dead plants and dead snails.

Non-working Filter.  Look for a loose airline tube, unplugged air pump, or clogged airstone.  Check your filter cartridges.

Flocculants.  After checking for and correcting the cause of your cloudy water, add one of the water additives designed to clear your water.  These make small lumps clump together so your filter grabs them more efficiently.  However, bacteria regrows again in a few days.  You need to fix the cause.

Last Word.  When all else fails, slap on another filter -- even those little corner filters invented by Orville and Wilbur Wright’s grandfather.  They actually work wonders -- especially if you fill them with used gravel out of an African cichlid tank.  LA

Bob, Virginia, January 22, 2011
Hi Larry! I really would appreciate some advice on how to get rid of grey hazy water. I read your page on it and have done about 3 partial changes on the 20 gallon tank but the water is still hazy and the pH of the water drops like a rock even though it comes out of the tap a tad above 7. I know yours comes out much higher. I have had an under gravel filter in that tank for a few years now and I'm wondering if maybe the filter is decomposing somehow?  I'm getting heavy milky colored stuff when I use the gravel vac and have even seen it come out of the filter tubes before.
The tank had a heavy algae build up a few weeks ago before I scraped the glass and discarded lots of java moss. I also messed up and cleaned the sponge filters and I should have left them alone. It was a dumb mistake. I have 14 neons, 7 velvet swordtails and two cory cats in the tank. Filtration is with one power filter, 1 UG and 2 sponge filters. Normal temps but the pH is a little above 6 which is probably safer for the fish at the moment.
Should I relocate the fish, pull up the UG filter and clean again and fill with aged water to help cycle quickly or just keep doing the partial changes everyday until the water clears up? Thanks

A:  Sounds like you have diatoms (a floating micro-algae).  Water changes encourage its growth.  Usually it's green or tan, but your symptoms sound like diatoms.  Look for a product called AlgaeFix.  If it clears up in two days you have diatoms (or used to).  If it doesn't clear up, call me in the morning.  LA

Bob, Virginia, January 22, 2011
I'll find the AlgaeFix today and try that. Couldn't hurt. I really didn't notice much problem until last weekend when I added fish to the 20 gallon that I bought from PetsMart. Some of the water from the fish bag got in my tank and I started seeing haziness in the water right after that which grew worse over time. I tried the stuff to clear up the aquarium and that backfired and made things worse so I had to change the water shortly thereafter. The fish are fine and seem to be loving the hazy water, but I'm not. The water looks clean and I can see from one end of the tank to the other easily but the haziness just won't go away. Can diatoms affect the pH and cause it to drop? I usually don't keep tabs on the pH that much because the fish seem less bothered than I am when the pH is on the low side.
I can see lots of small particles of something floating all through the water when the air is on with the sponge filters and UG filter running but when turned off things settle but the water stays hazy either way. Really weird.
Well, time to read up on diatoms. So you don't think that the UG filter could be deteriorating in some way causing the problem. I think I need to probably check the airstones because now I'm getting suspicious about them because they haven't been changed in ages. I know those long airstones fall apart over time. I'm thinking about buying a powerhead for that tank. I never bothered before because it's only a 20 gallon tank. Any thoughts on this? Thanks!

A:  I doubt diatoms would decrease the pH.  I'd think they absorb carbon dioxide and increase the pH.  I don't think UG filters deteriorate.  I've had several dozen for at last 35 years.  In our area, lime clogs up airstones in six or eight weeks.  I just take them off.  The air tubes also eventually clog with lime where the bubbles come out.  I use a piece of technical equipment to remove 5he lime (a paperclip).  Sorry for the late reply.  LA

Bob, Virginia, January 23, 2011
Dear Dr. Arnold, I bought the Algae Fix and gave the 20 gal two tiny doses 8 hrs apart and things are looking better already. I'll give it another dose later today.  I bought one of those Aqueon Water Changers and I can't get it to siphon out anything. I've tried doing what the instructions say and still no go. If you have the time to give me some input on this one it will be much appreciated!
In the meantime I'm gonna search Google for awhile and try for an answer there. Thanks

A:  I'll have to check into the Aqueon water changer,  I've never used one.  LA

Bob, Virginia, January 24, 2011
Thanks again for helping me with the hazy tank problem. The AlgaeFix worked great! The tank was better after one day of treatment and it's nearly clear now! I've had this problem for over a week before I tried your idea.

A:  Once in a while I get one right.  LA

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