Please visit our Sponsors
FAQs on Cleaning Freshwater Systems

Related Articles: Freshwater Algae & Control, Tips for BeginnerspH, alkalinity, acidity, Treating Tap Water, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality

Related FAQs:  Freshwater Maintenance 1, Freshwater Maintenance 2, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality, Treating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, pH, Alkalinity, Acidity, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease

Using live plants can greatly reduce maintenance. Red Foxtail, Myriophyllum.

Strange stuff growing in tank.     4/30/18
Hi there,
<Hey Emma>
I have a new set up, only a few weeks old. This tank used to house frogs.
When all frogs had died I boiled everything, set the tank back up, new filtration, heater, air, everything. I let it run for a while, added conditioner and tank salt, then added 6 neons, then waited and added 3 guppies (daughter choice!!). I got the little fish to get the bacteria in place before adding the fish I actually want. I did have a bacteria bloom about a week ago, but I noticed this weird stuff on the bottom today. Any ideas and or suggestions would be appreciated.
<Yeah; my guess is on a mix of Protists and Protozoans... decomposers... funguses, single-celled organisms. Not likely problematical... will cycle out w/ time, or you can gravel vacuum once a week for a few weeks. As time
goes by other dynamics, organisms will use the same space, foods. Bob Fenner>

Re: Strange stuff growing in tank. Now also importance of FW pH     4/30/18
Ok great thank you. The little guys don’t seem bothered by it, just wanted to make sure the vacuum wouldn’t cause issues. Thank you for getting back to me so quickly.
<Certainly welcome>
Can I ask another quick question. I would like to have cichlids when my water matures. That is what I have always done and quite successfully. I haven’t done fish for a number of years as frogs last a lot longer than I had thought!!
<Ahh! There used to be a sort of general "natural progression" in hobbyists... goldfish, guppies and other livebearers perhaps; oddballs, cichlids, catfishes... Marines! >
When I was speaking to my local fish store, they were telling me that Ph levels didn’t matter, when I had always been under the idea that both Ph and Nitrites were equally important to keep at a proper level. She seemed to think that only the Nitrites mattered, is this correct??
<Not correct; pH of water/solutions has a great deal to do with important bio/chemical reaction expediency. Best to have organisms that live within a range of pH you intend to maintain, and do what you can to buffer (most all waters have some buffering capacity) your water to not have pH change too much, too quickly... Bolstering, restoring pH sustaining hardness with regular water changes... and if necessary, treatment of the change out water to add or dilute the hardness. To state another way, pH is as important as behavioral compatibility in optimizing the health of your livestock. Do see books (!), the Net re the natural ranges of this important variable. Fishbase.org is a fave for fishes. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Strange stuff growing in tank.     4/30/18

Thank you!!
<They slip away across the universe. B>

fresh water tank. Coating on inside glass panels        5/24/17
Hi, I have a 30 gallon tank. Two fancy tail guppies. Change filter every 30 days. My water is crystal clear but tank sides all the way around have a cloudy residue. I can wipe off with finger but is hard to remove with a
towel. Do I need to drain and re do whole tank?
<Mmm; maybe... being both lazy and adventurous myself, I'd first try a "razor blade" type aquarium scraper, or a single edged razor blade itself>
My fish are happy and healthy. Close to bearing young. My filter is running on high. I have a bright light on during the day and soft light at night. Help. Karen
<I suspect the material here is biological in nature... rather than a simple/r chemical "scale" type problem... as your fishes are healthy as you state. Bob Fenner>
Re: fresh water tank       3/25/17

Thank you!
<Welcome. Have seen/experienced such "light-white" glass (and acrylic) coatings at times... as the system "matures", other organism groups supplant... Bob Fenner>

A lot of poops?      2/20/17
Hey crew! I have a quick question with a photo attached.. I've done a large water change not too long ago to get rid of this weird 'slime' that keeps growing on my wood
<Mmm; not weird, but yes to slime of sorts>

but I also noticed that there was a lot. I mean a lot of poops (I think) everywhere and on everything. I have some shrimp with my Betta. And I've also added a plant that may have carried some snails as well.. any idea as to what this slime is and the cause of the fast growth?
<Yes; decomposition... Like the joke about Beethoven after he croaked>

As well as the fast accumulation of this poop?? Thanks so much hope to hear back from you soon!
<Well; you could try to (dry out, coat w/ chemically inert) seal this wood; but if not; it will continue to degrade till it's all gone. DO keep up w/ regular/weekly water changes, lest the decomp. over-foul your water. Bob Fenner>

Perfect aquarium towels; for aq. cleaning!       3/8/16
Hi Captain Bob and crew :)This is not a question. But a tip if any are interested.
<Yes; thank you>
The perfect towel I have found so far for cleaning glass or salt off of doors etc .is flour sack towels. You can order them online from Wal-Mart real cheap. They don't seem like much at first but after you wash them they get thirsty. They are a nice size and dry super quick! Just hang up and They are completely dry in a nifty. They are lint free as well. I use a man's handkerchief dipped in vinegar and water to clean glass and wipe with the other hand with the flour sack towel. Have a great day! Stace
<Thank you for this insight. Bob Fenner>

A Question about Cleaning Gravel Vacuums, and a Farewell       9/9/15
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
Will hydrogen peroxide and hot water be sufficient to clean mold out of a gravel vacuum? One of my gravel vacuums grew mold/mildew inside it. I replaced it, but I'd like to know for future reference.
<Mmm; it should... though a soak (for ten, twenty minutes) in a dilute vinegar (and water) bath would be more effective>
That's really the only question I have left.
The blue Acara are in the main tank, and they're doing great. I attached a picture of them sharing an algae wafer with the weather loaches.​
I want to thank you for everything. Before I spoke to you, all my fish were sick and dying. Now, you've helped me save a silver dollar with brain damage, the geophagus's lateral line is almost completely healed over, and my fish aren't sick anymore. I also attached a picture of what the tank looks like now, with the full community of fish inside it.
I'm heading out to Los Angeles for graduate school Thursday. This will probably be the last time I'll speak to you for a while. I wrote a care guide for my parents, who will be taking care of the fish in my absence. If you have any advice for what to do here, let me know.
Thank you guys for everything,
P.S. Where in S. California does Bob Fenner live?
<Am in sweltering San Diego (next to Mexico). Cheers, BobF>

 full-size pix

white crust (lime??)       4/13/15
Hi Crew, I live in an area known for its hard water. I have been getting a build up of white crust and it seems to be plugging up the holes on my water filter tubes that make my bio wheels turn. I am guessing its lime or calcium from the hard water.
<Likely so.>
I am wondering what would be the best way to cut down or get rid of it.
<Physical removal is easy enough. Limescale is more soluble in hot water, so running under a hot tap helps loosen it. A "safe" acid such as vinegar or lemon juice can also be used to remove stubborn spots, followed by rinsing to remove any acidity.>
Are there chemicals to add?
<No. This is a classic misunderstanding. Hard water, in your case water with high carbonate hardness as well, is water with a lot of chemicals in it. So removal of chemicals, specifically the dissolved minerals, is what you're thinking about. Pros and cons to doing this of course, but the biggest cost is that softening hard water is expensive and requires investment in, for example, an RO filter. Whatever pet stores and some websites might suggest, there's nothing you can buy in a bottle that
magically softens water for pennies a time. If there was, we'd all be doing it. Instead, people either buy RO filters or collect rainwater (what I do) and use that, often mixed with some tap water to produce softer, less alkaline water some fish prefer.>
I have read to put peat in the filter. Which way is recommended and if its the peat, would any peat I find in the pet store work? Is all peat created equal?
<Peat performs a kind of ion exchange that does soften water. But, and it's a big but, it does this in an unpredictable manner. Unless you test the water daily for a few weeks after installing a bag of peat in the canister filter, you simply won't know what (if anything) it's doing. Some other downsides to peat: For a start, it's wildly unsustainable, taking thousands of years to grow, and one of the most threatened habitats on Earth. (As fishkeepers, there's an irony to using something that damages watery habitats, is there not?) Secondly, it colours the water brown, which enhances the look of some fish to be sure (glowing species like Neons especially) but blocks light and thus makes it harder for plants to grow.
Finally, it uses up space in the filter that could be used for biological media, reducing the efficiency of your filter. So while peat is often mentioned in older aquarium books especially, it's actual use in the hobby is extremely limited. Some breeding tanks perhaps, but even there, sustainable "coir" (coconut fibre) is often used instead. Coir doesn't lower the pH much or stain the water much, but provides the soft substrate burrowing egg-layers like Killifish appreciate. Like peat though it's very
messy if used directly in the tank as a substrate, and really only viable in tanks with small air-powered sponge filters and very small fish species that won't stir it up.>
If I use chemicals what would be recommended?
<Review RO filters elsewhere on WWM; these cost a few hundred dollars to set up, and at least as much to run and maintain per year. Not cheap, but the only "on demand" way to produce softened water at home. Cheap ion exchange resins are sometimes offered instead, but these are pitifully limited in terms of production, and work out a lot more expensive per
gallon, hence they're hardly ever used except by inexperienced aquarists alarmed at the higher initial cost of RO. Finally, there's collecting rainwater. Cheap, easy to do if you have a house with gutters and old fashioned clay or slate roofing tiles, but only viable if your need for water is matched by local rainfall.>
My tank is 40 gal. Here is a list of fish I currently have.
3 Madagascar rainbow,
2 julii Cory
1 albino Pleco
<None of these care about hard water all that much. The Corydoras are likely more upset by being in too-small a group and, if you have gravel, the fact there isn't sand used instead.>
Future probability-1- black ghost
<A mite fussier, but normally killed through lack of care rather than water chemistry. Me? I'd not worry about the limescale. Remove periodically, and instead optimise the tank in other directions: substrate, planting, water quality, nitrate level, etc. Cheers, Neale.>

Methane buildup       12/16/14
Hi there. I have a 200 gallon goldfish tank, with about 2 to 3 inches of sand for substrate. I have heard here in there about problems with methane build up
<Mmm, usually hydrogen sulfide... but...>
in the sand and I am wondering what is your suggestion I do to prevent this? I don't want my fish dying due to a methane build up. Thank you so much for your help!
<Right; all you need to is when doing regular (weekly) maintenance, is gravel vacuum the tank during water changes... Yep; vacuuming to waste the water while systematically going through the gravel... about 20-25% of the water.
Cheers and happy holidays. Bob Fenner>

To sanitize or not sanitize?      7/21/14
Background: I have a 50 gal freshwater tank (with a 70-gal canister filter)
that happily housed three goldfish until we moved about a year ago. When I set up the tank again, I struggled with water quality issues/bacterial infections (I assume, based on the symptoms) and ultimately lost the goldfish.
<Yikes; am wondering what the cause/s were here>

I know goldfish have their challenges--which is why when I decided to start again with new stock a few months ago, I went for tetras to start. Things were stable for a while, then I started losing them with similar symptoms: general lethargy followed by difficulty swimming, no signs of external parasites. On advice of the local aquarium shop guys, I treated the whole tank with a broad-spectrum antibiotic to try to kill whatever bugs were lurking.
That worked until a few days ago, when another tetra died following a similar pattern. This is getting to be pretty crazy-making for me, and I imagine the fish aren't especially thrilled either.
At this point, I'm contemplating breaking down the whole tank and trying to sterilize everything, which brings me to my question: should I?
<Possibly; do have some fish-friends come by and look... am wondering if there's something toxic in your system. Perhaps a geode... or metal containing something>
And if so, what method would you recommend to make sure I really, really get all the bugs--
<Bleach washing... here is an SOP: http://wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm
The same procedure applies for sterilizing a complete system. DO read through this thoroughly and get some help... Take CARE to not splash bleach on you or the surroundings>
because the only thing that might make me crazier would be going through that monumental effort and then having the problem crop up again.
Final note: current stock is 7 tetras, one angelfish, water parameters are good last I checked, and I do 25% water changes every 2 weeks.
<Ah, welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: To sanitize or not sanitize?      7/21/14

Thanks for the quick reply-- a couple more questions (below in red):
<Ahh, the webmail program removes such (color) coding>
> Subject: To sanitize or not sanitize?
> Background: I have a 50 gal freshwater tank (with a 70-gal canister filter)
> that happily housed three goldfish until we moved about a year ago. When I
> set up the tank again, I struggled with water quality issues/bacterial
> infections (I assume, based on the symptoms) and ultimately lost the goldfish.
> <Yikes; am wondering what the cause/s were here>**I was having trouble
> getting the tank to cycle when I set it up again, though the system had
> been stable before. I assume that had something to do with it**
> I know goldfish have their challenges--which is why when I decided to start
> again with new stock a few months ago, I went for tetras to start.
Things were stable for a while, then I started losing them with similar symptoms:
> general lethargy followed by difficulty swimming, no signs of external
> parasites. On advice of the local aquarium shop guys, I treated the whole
> tank with a broad-spectrum antibiotic to try to kill whatever bugs were lurking.
> <Mmm>
**I'm willing to try that again as an alternative to bleaching. I don't want to lose any more fish, but (aside from the epic work of taking apart the tank) I'm a bit concerned that I'd just be swapping one problem (possible bacteria) for another (non-cycled tank, stress of moving fish).**
> That worked until a few days ago, when another tetra died following a
> similar pattern. This is getting to be pretty crazy-making for me, and I
> imagine the fish aren't especially thrilled either.
> At this point, I'm contemplating breaking down the whole tank and trying to
> sterilize everything, which brings me to my question: should I?
> <Possibly; do have some fish-friends come by and look...**Guess I need to
> make some fish friends?** am wondering if
> there's something toxic in your system. Perhaps a geode... or metal containing something>
**Interesting thought. I have had the same things in the tank the entire time I've owned it (4+ years) with the exception of the heater and thermometer I bought when I got the tetras...unless something was
introduced inadvertently during the move (can't think what that would be?). Any input on what sort of symptoms would I be seeing in the fish if this was the case? Would they be any different than what I might see with an internal bacterial infection?**
<<Not necessarily... and there are such things as "olde tank syndromes"...
What seems to happen as systems age, they become more depauperate (less speciose) and even toxic; with some few microbes overpopulating and poisoning their own world w/ metabolites... An important human lesson as well>>
> And if so, what method would you recommend to make sure I really, really get all the bugs--
> <Bleach washing... here is an SOP: http://wetwebmedia.com/clnornart.htm
> The same procedure applies for sterilizing a complete system. DO read
> through this thoroughly and get some help... Take CARE to not splash bleach
> on you or the surroundings>
**Thanks for the link, a couple additional questions about bleach washing an entire system: Would you recommend bleaching the gravel I have for the tank bottom, or dumping it? What about the ceramic rings in the canister filter?**
<<I would bleach all, in place... sans livestock... filter, media, all>>
> because the only thing that might make me crazier would be going
> through that monumental effort and then having the problem crop up again.
> Final note: current stock is 7 tetras, one angelfish, water parameters are
> good last I checked, and I do 25% water changes every 2 weeks.
> Thanks!
**I checked the water parameters again and notice that the pH is a bit elevated (7.6 maybe?). Could this be the issue?**
<<Not likely; unless it's wildly vacillating (too little alkalinity).
> <Ah, welcome. Bob Fenner>

How often should I change the water/ filter maintenance..– 6/24/13
Right now I do about a 50% or more percent water change every Saturday. the fish seems to like it and does well But Kim says this is too much, because of water bills. How much water can you/should you change in a tank And how often?
<Assuming an aquarium is not overstocked and you aren't overfeeding the fish, you should be fine with 25% every week. I deliberately under stock tanks and use lots of fast-growing floating plants, and this keeps nitrate levels very low. As a result, some of my tanks get water changes 3-4 weeks apart. Your own mileage will vary. A lot depends on the fish being kept -- most cichlids for example are much more sensitive to "old" water
(basically, nitrate above 20 mg/l) than common barbs and catfish.>
Also I've not done anything to my sponge filter since i set it up about 4 months ago do I need to clean the filter too. would i kill the good bacteria i really don't want to do that.
<Empty some aquarium water into a bucket, and clean the sponge filter in there. Bacteria will be left alone. In reality filter bacteria are actually quite tough, and even a luke-warm tap shouldn't cause any real problems.
Cheers, Neale.>

White substance on gravel   6/24/13
I have a 45 L Aquael pearl freshwater tank with a breeding pair of Albino Bristlenoses with fry (60 very small fry).
<I see these. Neat!>
The PH is 7.4, Ammonia is 0, Nitrite is 0 and Nitrates vary between 20 and almost 40 (prior to a 5 day water change cycle where I take 15 litres out).
<I'd change a bit more... frequently... vacuuming out this mess>
Filtration consists of a sponge filter, the integrated top filter (part of the tank) and an internal Hailea power filter  (HL-BT200) operating at 200 L per hour.
<Good to have redundancy>
Every month or so I take about 10 of the largest fry out and take them to the Aquarium. I have kept about 4 larger ones and introduced two 3-4cm peppermint bristlenoses.
This system has been taking place for 1.5 years.
We have live plants- 2 Anubias and java fern.
I believe that when we introduced the live plants on driftwood, a snail population developed which has remained and increased gradually.
<As they're wont to do>
I discovered Bristle worms about 6 months ago and they have also remained in the tank steadily.
<Of use here>
I usually feed the fish every second night with several Hikari regular sized wafers- between 4 and 6 usually. If I feed them mini wafers (Hikari also) I feed them a dozen or so.
<I'd feed during the day...>
I have noticed in the last week a white dusty like film over a subsection of the gravel (see attached photos). I did a water change/gravel vac 2 days ago and much of this film disappeared. I initially thought this film was the result of disintegrated wafers as I left 3-4 wafers out the previous night which did not get eaten quickly enough as I had the light on and they usually come out after dark.
<Ah yes>
 I sometimes feed them before the lights go out so the smaller fry eat first as when the lights go out the larger ones tend to eat the wafers ahead of the smallest ones. Usually I turn the lights off after 15 minutes but on that occasion I left them on for over an hour and noticed the wafers disintegrating.
Would you please see the attached photos depicting the white film and advise if known  what the substance is and it's possible cause?
<Is a mix of food, wastes, decomposers (fungi, Protists); not a worry unless there's too much of them... as evidenced by your high nitrate (I'd keep under 20, possibly 10 ppm; mainly through water changes, vacuuming)>
Thank you and kind regards,
Tania and
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: White substance on gravel     6/25/13
Thank you very much for your time and advice Bob.
Kind regards,
<Glad to proffer it Tania. BobF>

Easy Balance and cycling questions 10/16/12
Hi folks
Right, I'll ask the quick one first. I recently bought a new 70 litre tank and it came with whatever Tetra's version of tap safe is, a small tub of food and some mystery product called "Easy Balance" that claims I only need to do water changes once every six months if I use it. It also seems to "stabilise pH and KH". Is this stuff snake-oil, consignable only to the bin or is it worth using it until the bottle is empty? I'm always hesitant to believe extraordinary claims and anything that mucks with my water chemistry makes me uneasy.
<Personally, I'd probably donate it to a local fish club for the next auction. Nothing can replace water changes in my opinion.>
I won't buy any more of it, anyway, since I'm not paying for something that elbow grease can accomplish just as easily, just curious.
<Set up another small tank and play with it if you are curious.>
The purpose of the tank was to set up the Betta Splendens "Sorority" scenario as per this thread (amongst others):
I know it's a risk but I am keeping a really close eye on them and have backup nanos to use as hospital tanks or outright isolation tanks. So far, I've not seen any real open aggression, just a few nips, chases and a bit of flaring. No worse than Danios, so far. Fingers crossed! I've got some lovely specimens too, with some of them really similar in colouration to wild betas.
<Females can often live in a sorority tank. Depends on the individuals.>
Into this new tank went a mature bubbler filter and a new All Pond Solutions 600 litres per hour internal filter.  I rubbed the wetted media from the 600lph over mature filter media from my other tanks. The media from each mature filter was also rinsed in the new aquarium's water with the "pumps running". I want to go with the 600lph since the trick to this setup seems to be slight overstocking to disperse aggression. I thought over filtering might not be a bad plan in this situation!
<Just watch your water currents. Bettas are still water fish.>
I didn't expect the bubbler to keep up with 8 female betas in a 70 litre tank, but I didn't expect it too be too harsh on them either, especially with frequent partial water changes (plan was 10% per day, depending on analysis) and light feeding. Sort of an "assisted" fish in cycle. Well, it seems like the bubbler is keeping up after all, two weeks in and not a jot of ammonia in my daily tests. I'm now feeding normal amounts and doing my standard 20% weekly water change. The issue I have is that I'm not sure how long to leave the bubbler running in parallel with the new filter. Normally I'd set up a tank with a new filter, go fishless and be able to monitor the cycle but this isn't really an option here.
<I have a sponge filter going in all my tanks in tandem with HOB filters, unless I don't want currents, then it's only sponge filters.  I think you can just use common sense here. Just turn it off for a few days and leave it in the tank so you don't lose the bacteria. If trouble starts, turn it back on.>
Just as an aside, so far I really like these internal filters from All Pond Solutions for Betta setups. They come with an optional spray bar that you can adjust the angle of egress on. The spray bar really reduces the force of water and with the outlet holes angled toward the back of the tank it does so even further. I have another smaller one cycling in another tank to use with my male Betta. I can get rid of the ugly home-made baffle on the outside of his internal filter soon. Still, they are dirt cheap, so I'll be interested to see how much life I get out of them.
<Have not used them myself.>
Anyroad, thanks for any advice you can give, both on the new filter cycle issue, the Easy Balance and anything else you might spot that I've overlooked. Also, thanks again for all the help you've given me in the past.
<I think you are right on track.>
Re: Easy Balance and cycling questions 10/16/12     10/18/12

Hi Rick
Thanks for your input. I always like an experiment, so I might just do that!
I'll stick the bubbler in it's final destination (a soon-to-be cherry shrimp nano) and once I'm sure the Bettas are fine then go ahead with that.
Thanks again, your advice and reassurance is very much appreciated.
<Let us know how it turns out.>

Re: cleaning tank 11/2/11
What's the best way to clean a tank that's on the floor? Filters and siphons don't work since they're level with the tank
<Then you will probably need to use a powerhead or some other pump to move water out of the tank, or do it with a water pitcher taking out a little at a time.>

Re: Parasites in my tank with other illnesses...please help! I'm desperate!   10/3/11
I have one more thing I was hoping you can help me with. I have learned so much from your website but the thing I just cant seem to get a straight answer to no matter what website I'm on is about the cycle. I've read that your <<you're>> supposed to vacuum the gravel,
<If you want; I rarely bother.>
change the filter regularly
<No; clean the filter media every month or two, yes, but never replace more than 50% of the biological media in any 6-8 week period. Carbon needs to be replaced weekly, but there's so little reason to use the stuff in a freshwater tank I wouldn't waste money on it.>
and do a water change regularly cause the uneaten food and fish waste is toxic to the fish and produces ammonia.
<Something like that! Water changes are for diluting nitrate, which builds up as the end product of biological filtration. But the biological filter is the bit that handles ammonia and nitrite, and these two chemicals should be 0 mg/l at all times in a healthy, cycled aquarium.>
Then I have read that the good bacteria is not necessarily in the water but in the gravel and the filter.
<The latter, mostly. Filter bacteria sit on the very top of the gravel, but not enough to clean the water in the aquarium, so you can largely ignore them. The main population of "good" bacteria live in the biological filter, typically sponges or ceramic noodles in the filter.>
So, am I supposed to change the filter regularly and vacuum the gravel regularly and if I do, will I be removing the good bacteria?
<Water changes and gravel cleaning are both good. Do them. Filter media needn't be replaced very often, with sponges and ceramic noodles lasting for years and years. But you can, and should, *rinse* these media in a bucket of aquarium water every month or two. This will remove the brown silt without killing the bacteria.>
I ask this cause I have been doing water changes and vacuuming the gravel at least every 2 days since my ammonia levels are just a little bit high but no matter how many times I do that my ammonia levels wont go down. Is that cause I need to change the filter?
<No. But is your filter big enough for the fish you are keeping? For a community of small fish like Neons, you want a filter rated at 4 times the volume of your tank in turnover per hour. In other words, if you have a 20 gallon tank, you want a filter that's rated at 4 x 20 = 80 gallons/hour (sometimes written GPH or gph).>
Cause I haven't changed the filter cause I thought that's where the good bacteria was?? I'm sooo confused...lol!!! Thanks again for any advice you may have to offer :)
<Do buy/borrow, then read an aquarium book for beginners. You will find life much simpler if you understand what's going on. Cheers, Neale.>
Okay so the helpful bacteria will be killed as well which is a problem.
<If the tank dries out, or is treated with a steriliser like bleach, then yes, the bacteria will be killed alongside Finrot, Velvet, Whitespot, and most other pathogens.>
But cycling the tank is not a problem for me.
<So long as you understand how to cycle the tank before adding fish, then great!>
So just to recap sterilising the tank will kill the parasite?
<Should do so, yes. But do remember sterilising is more difficult than many assume, and pathogens can survive in cracks and crevices. Best to discard what you can (gravel, filter media), sterilise the bare minimum you need to keep (e.g., tank, filter components, heater), and buy new whatever you can
-- if this is really what you want to do. Sounds massive overkill to me.
Many medications available that kill Velvet, alongside other types of pathogen too, e.g., Seachem Paraguard, and these won't harm filter bacteria.>
Thanks for your help Neale
<You are welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: question about Ich....   8/28/11
quick question....
our vacuum pump is dirty.. can I use vinegar and hot water to clean it out?
<Yes. Lemon juice, strong brine, and vinegar are all safe, easy to use cleaners. Bleach can be used, but at a "barely smellable" concentration, and then rinsed thoroughly afterwards. I prefer hydrogen peroxide for
sterilising though. It's cheap, easy to buy, and breaks down very quickly into harmless water and oxygen. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: question about Ich....   8/28/11
Thank you again!
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Hard water stains on bowfront tank   6/9/11
<Hey Jude>
We purchased a used 46 gallon bowfront. There were hard water stains near top all around. I got advice to use a paint razor for windows to scrape it off. It is working great on the sides and back, but not on the curved front. Someone said to put Vaseline on the stain
<I would not do this>
and let it sit for a few days. I was wondering if there is anything I can do at this point??
<Mmm, yes>
We got the tank used from a LFS a few days ago and still have the receipt.
I hate to have to try and return it, but I do not know what else to do at this point. Can hard water stains really be permanent???
<Not really, no... easily to "melt off" w/ simple organic or inorganic acids (only when the tank is empty), but while filled, simple plastic scrapers will remove... one can even use "olde credit cards". Do look for
the plastic scrapers at your LFS or online. Use at an oblique angle, with some tank water if above the water line... chipping away... don't scrub such deposits against the glass, as they can make small scratches.>
Thank you!!!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Betta Tank has a White Film – 05/13/12
I have 3 male Betta (all in separate tanks) General-a dragonscale, Admiral- veiltail and Halo a halfmoon. I have had Admiral for over a year happy as a clam in his tank. However, General has developed something in his tank and it's spread to my 3rd tank(Halo) due to accidental cross contamination :( I have since been a lot more careful in avoiding that. All three of them get their tanks cleaned once a week and I had the water tested when this problem first occurred and the guys (from a tropical fish store) said the water was fine and that the issue was “rotting uneaten food.” However I very much doubt this because I feed only what they will eat – interactive eat this bite and then you can have another – I feed them 3 Betta bites and sometimes blood worms. The dragonscale tank developed a white translucent film over the entire surface of his tank. I can make it go away by carefully pulling all or rather most of it off the top. I've scrubbed his tank and rocks thoroughly many times using extremely hot water. Originally his rocks were also developing a film the first few weeks and I thought that was what was causing it but after a while they are no longer slippery now and the film still develops after each cleaning. All three of them are in glass tanks and only when I got the dragonscale did this start occurring. Never had this problem before, it's not in my 15 gal tanks and wasn't in my *original * Betta tank. It shouldn't be something in the water because I use the same tap water for all my tanks and both my 15 gal and Admiral are completely free of contamination. I've noticed that the film if I'm not paying attention will cover the entire tank and this morning it was actually trapping air bubbles below its surface I took pictures of all 3 tanks and then cleaned it up best I could. What do you guys think this is? And what should I do about it? I've included pictures of both tanks that are affected- the picture that looks mostly clear is after you start cleaning up the gunk it sticks together, it was easiest to show in the badly affected tank. Their tanks do sit at room temperature without heaters or filters and are each a little bigger than half a gallon. However, other than the fact that it's there it doesn't seem to be bothering the fish himself, he's just as active and isn't in stress colors.
Excuse the mess at the bottom of the
tanks I need to clean them today.
Thanks so much for your time!
<Hello Brittanie. The while film is a combination of organic wastes, bacteria, and stuff that's in the water or fallen out of the air. Normally the agitation of the surface layer of water stops this forming, but if you have a tank with too little water movement, then you'll see this slime form. You can see the exact same thing on stagnant ponds. As a short-term, you can remove by draping kitchen paper on the water and pulling it away, but you really do need to find out what your aquarium is so dirty (and it is, and that's why this film is forming). Too much food (or at least too much oily or protein-rich food) will be part of the problem, and insufficient filtration, water movement, and water changes will be the other part of the problem. Review, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale.> 

Can you clean an aquarium too much  4/10/10
I want to make sure I'm not over doing it on cleaning my tank.
<Haha okay! Melinda with you here tonight.>
I have a 90 gallon freshwater with about 20 smaller fish (Barbs, Mollies, and Killifish) and the filter is an Aqua Clear 110.
<Sounds nice, if stocked correctly (numbers-wise).>
The filter is cleaned once a month
<Okay. For these filters (my personal favorite, when it comes to hang-on-back filters), I also do maintenance about once a month. A little different than you do, but I'll discuss that later.>
Clean or replace the mechanical media
<What are you using for mechanical? The sponge that is included with AC filters should really require nothing more than a squeeze in some old tank water... this has to do with the "overcleaning" you mention... I wouldn't allow chlorinated (tap) water to touch this filter. Yes, it is "mechanical," but due to the meager amount of actual solid waste which is collected, you could easily clean it in old tank water and preserve the biological bacteria which reside on that sponge.>
Rinse or change the carbon (replace about every 6 months)
<Okay, so the carbon is included in the box. I don't use it unless: I'm trying to remove medication from the water, or something has leached tannins into the water, such as a clay pot, or driftwood. Otherwise carbon is really useless. I mean, what are you removing? In any case, it's "used up" within a month, month and half, and at that point, becomes "biological media" -- just something else for bacteria to grow on. I've had AC filters for years before actually using the carbon included in the box!>
The bio media stays in tank water during this and if it's really dirty I gently shake it in the aquarium so I don't kill the bacteria.
<I'd shake biomedia, as well as sponges, in old tank water -- the stuff that comes from when you siphon gravel. If it's coming off of the media, it's probably something you don't want in your tank; old tank water is "friendly" to biological media, and the solid stuff still sloughs off.>
The tank is cleaned twice a month
Scrape off all the algae
Siphon the rocks all the way to the bottom.
<First of all, algae exists for a reason. Please read here:
and linked files.
Try to figure out why you've got algae; and you can fix that problem.
This, at least, will save you time in cleaning! Secondly, water changes are good. But there is a problem with doing these "whole tank" cleanings:
the biological filter can suffer. I'd be interested to know if you test, and if you do, whether or not you see any Ammonia spikes after doing this thorough cleaning. In addition, the water chemistry (pH and KH) can fluctuate wildly during whole-tank changes.>
Clean any ornaments that look really bad
Am I cleaning too often?
<Personally, I change about 30% of my tanks' water weekly. It really does help the fish to have some of the old tanks' water remaining in order to stress them less. In order to do this type of change, you must be removing the fish, which isn't necessary in a more frequent, but less drastic, water change. In any case, it's all going to come down to test results.
If, after doing this cleaning, you notice an Ammonia spike, then you are cleaning too much. However, I've always felt that the majority of your biological filter exists not in the gravel, but in your filter, and if you care for it properly, you'll be okay. I'd be more worried about the stress on your fish (what is the pH/KH of your tap water, as opposed to pH/KH of the tank after this length of time, and what type of changes are your fish going through during this drastic change?) than the biological filter, because it sounds like you're caring for the bacteria somewhat, though, in other aspects, I'm not sure (my suggestions above).>
Am I hurting anything by cleaning the rocks as much as I do?
<Please see above. Any "damage" you are doing can be detected by testing.
A year and a half ago, my husband and I decided to begin "chronicling" parameters on index cards. This then turned into an Excel document, which I couldn't deal with (English major, you know!) so then turned into a Word document, with charts for each tank/pond that we own. This wouldn't be a bad approach to take. Weekly testing, with some notation as to the weeks that you performed maintenance, would probably indicate what you need to do in order to create a more consistent water quality/chemistry for your fish.
Please write back if you have any questions.>
Thank you,
BTW; You guys (gals) have the best advice I've found on the web
<Thank you, Tim.. This (gal) is certainly appreciative of your praise!
Again, please do write back with any questions.

Re: Can you clean an aquarium too much 4/10/2010
<Hi Tim!>
Thank you.
<You're welcome!>
The mechanical media is a sponge and some bulk media I buy which white and blue (I think it's a common product). I have well water with no chlorination but I like the idea of using siphoned water to clean it.
<Glad you're thinking of employing this technique. I've always favored it over cleaning with tap water.>
I've heard the same comment about carbon before so maybe I'll quit using it.
<Yeah, keep it around in case you need it, but really isn't necessary to use in the regular maintenance. You could throw in some extra biological media, or a finer-grade sponge to catch smaller particles, etc., in its place, too.>
I never change more than 30% of the water. By whole tank cleaning I mean that I clean the glass and siphon the gravel but only remove about 30% of the water.
<Ahhh!! Now I understand... I think this is a perfect amount.>
I do test the water (Aquarium pharmaceuticals) and the Ammonia and Nitrite stay at 0.
<Then I do not suspect you are overcleaning. If you were making a dent in the biological filter, these tests would show it!>
The amount of algae I clean off the glass is very small, with a scraper and scrubber it only takes about 10 minutes to clean all the glass so I think I'm okay on build up. There is always some algae in the tank on ornaments and other things in the tank.
I've included a picture of my setup.
<Looks good!>
Thank you for the advice.
<You're welcome! With some things cleared up for me as to your cleaning process, I'd say this sounds good. If your Nitrate creeps up above 20 between water changes, you might consider adding an extra water change a month to compensate, but otherwise, this sounds good.

Freshwater fungus...?   2/25/10
I'm wondering what this white "fungus" growing on my gravel and driftwood is. It's almost like a film.
<Most probably some type of bacteria, perhaps a Cyanobacteria. Fungus certainly does grow in freshwater aquaria, but usually on organic-rich substrates, like freshly cut wood. Bacterial films tend to develop where
the substrate is dirty (i.e., rich in organic matter) and when water current is weak. Cyanobacteria likewise, but with the additional issue of direct sunlight often being the trigger. Cheers, Neale.>

FAST! Cycling, umm, of what?  FW and cleaning tk.s  -- 12/09/09
Hey crew
I'm going to get a 55 possibly 75 gallon tank for Christmas
and what is the fastest way to cycle it?
<I'm guessing you're going to set it up for freshwater?>
Is there anything that will speed up this process?
<There are ways to "cheat" when it comes to cycling. If you run any other tanks or have any friends that do, you could borrow some "seeded" media from one of those filters after you've got the tank filled, dechlorinated, etc. There are products sold in fish stores which claim to cycle a tank, but beware, because some of these products don't do much at all except put a dent in your wallet! One I have used and can personally vouch for is called "Dr. Tim's One and Only." Basically, what either of these options is going to do is place the nitrifying bacteria directly into your tank, rather than you having to wait for it to grow. Still, though, I would stock carefully at first, which you should always do, anyway. Make sure you've got your test kits handy so that you can monitor the new tank for any possible ammonia or nitrite spikes.>
Also how do you clean a used tank?
<Well, I guess it depends on how dirty it is! A good spray with the hose is usually plenty, but if there's crusty residue on the glass, you can try scrubbing with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water, and then rinsing. Be careful not to use sponges which may come with detergent or anti-mildew agents already inside; a clean washcloth or one of the plastic pot scrubbies from the dollar store is going to be your best bet.

Any suggestions? Bleach residue on polyethylene plants   2/19/09 I read your article Cleaning Aquarium Decor on the WetWebMedia site. Unfortunately, I put my plastic plants in the bleach water and had to take my son to the E.R. Needless to say, they were in there for about 4 hours. I have rinsed them several times (more that 3) and they still have a faint, funky chlorine odor. Should I throw them out and start again? <Nah... can be fixed...> I had a well planted 55 gallon tank so it's a lot of plants. I have dechlorinator for when I do water changes (25% every week) but not sure if that is strong enough. <In sufficient dose it will be... along with air drying for a day after soaking> I feel kinda sick over the whole thing. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance for any help. I am going back to rinse them again. Deb in Colorado <Good. Please read here Deb: http://wetwebmedia.com/clncarta.htm Bob Fenner> Dear Bob - Thanks for the quick response and the link! Deb in Colorado <Welcome my friend. BobF>

Crust, tank cleaning, FW in this case   12/16/08 Hi there, I have a 29 gallon freshwater tank that has two Priscilla Tetras, two Neon Tetras, and a Pleco. My tank has continuously formed some sort of crust on the rim of the tank, the glass, all fixtures, and the wall behind the tank. Some of the crust can flake off but some bonds to the surface areas. Do you know what this crust is and, if so, how to get rid of it? Thanks! John <John, this is nothing more than lime, i.e., minerals such as calcium carbonate. It gets left behind as water evaporates. When you see large amounts like this it usually means there's a lot of splashing, for example from an airstone. Repositioning the airstone, filter or whatever to water splashes into the tank and not onto dry surfaces will help. In any event, it implies your water has at least some hardness content. Lime is best removed with a mild, non-toxic acid next time you clean the tank and have the fish waiting in a covered bucket. Lemon juice or vinegar should both work fine. Dab the acid onto a cloth, and wipe. Repeat as required. A scouring cloth or pad may help. Give the aquarium a good rinse to remove any traces of acid and any flakes of lime. By the way, your tetras need some friends! Groups of six for both species, please! Cheers, Neale.>


29 G BioCube... FW stkg.    6/23/08 Hello, I had a 29 gallon BioCube with a small yellow tang. <... needs more room than this> After awhile I realised I didn't like saltwater as much as fresh so I decided to convert, after draining the tank and taking everything out and giving the tang to a petstore I cleaned it with biodegrable soap and such. <Mmmm> that day though the tank started to smell so I filled it up with water and put vinegar into it. <... CH3COOH... an organic acid... food> after a few days of running a white fuzzy mold started to grow. I really want to put stuff in this tank but I think this tank isnt ready. any tips on how to make it ready? <Dump and really clean it, start again. Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwclngtkfaqs.htm> PS can a BGK fish go with a Senegal Bichir? thanks for your time <Neither in this sized/volume system. Bob Fenner>

How to clean a very dirty 120 gallon without filling it.  3/12/08 Hello, First of all, i love the site. Very valuable information available. Anyways, i just have one quick question. Recently, i was given a 120 gallon tank. My friend had given it to me as he was moving. So, he had it filled with only about 40 gallons of water, and had three different types of frogs, turtles, newts, some kind of fish, and crazy amounts of plants. Long story short, he didn't really clean it before giving it to me. (filter and all) I really want to start a new African Cichlid tank in it and i would love to thoroughly clean it. Any suggestions? He said i might be better off using his substrate, and keeping the filter dirty for cycling purposes. It doesn't seem rational to me. There is a lot of algae built up on the sides, and i would like to scrub it before adding water. Not really sure how to go about this. Any help would be greatly appreciated. You guys rock. Thanks for your time. =)Sincerely, Jasin <Cleaning a used tank isn't terribly difficult, but the most important things are these: [a] Don't use water so hot it will crack that glass. Trust me, I've done this! [b] If you use anything toxic, like washing-up liquid, rinse thoroughly. Better yet, use something non-toxic or easily degradable. Vinegar or lemon juice, for example, work well for removing limescale, and hydrogen peroxide is good for sanitising things. Whether or not you re-use the substrate is a matter of personal preference. The risk of diseases surviving a wash in hot, soapy water are low, and if you let the substrate air dry for a day or two before use, that helps even more. Realistically, it's your new livestock that are more likely to bring in diseases. On the other hand, if the gravel is so mucky that cleaning it would take a long time, through it into the garden (good for soil drainage!) and buy some more. If you're after Rift Valley cichlids for example, then coral sand would be appropriate, and for that to work best as a buffer it needs to be clean and fresh. Cheers, Neale.>

Minerals, cleaning from a glass tank   2/22/08 I was wondering what the easiest way to remove the white minerals that accumulate on my fish tank by my filter and also in back? Thanks, Brandon <A cloth dipped in hot water should do the trick. If the minerals are really thick, dabbing with vinegar or lemon juice can be used, but try not to get too much in the aquarium. In the long term: figure out why water is drying out on this bits. Usually the white stuff (lime) appears where there is splashing or dribbling; the bits immersed in water should be lime-free. Cheers, Neale.>

Vinegar + Water + Oxygen =??? FW microbial culture   11/07/07 Hi; I bought a 70 gallon tank a while ago, used. Scrubbed all the hard stains off it with white vinegar, then did my best to rinse it out with water. Must not have done a good enough job. <Mmm... doubtful... Vinegar, the simplest organic acid... Acetic, solubilizes, rinses freely with water> I filled the tank half full with water, ended up letting it sit because I realized I didn't know how to use the oldest looking Fluval canister filter I've ever seen in my life (had a leak too, so I bought a new 305). Well some white slimy growth started appearing free floating in my water. Rather puzzling since none of my Internet searches gave me much of anything other than fungus that grows on fish and food, neither of which are in my tank. I took out 90% of the water, replaced it, still had this stuff in there. So I hooked up two filters and let them have at it. Couple of days and hardly anything was left in the water. Did a chemical check, things looked fine (aside from horrendously hard water and a pH of 8.x.... tap water) Got a little curious, put my flying fox in there (all prepared to take him out if things looked funny) to my surprise he nibbled on a bit of the white stuff, thought about it, then raced around gobbling up as much of it as he could find. Nothing was left in the span of 20 minutes. He had no change in behaviour after that. color was fine, alert and happy my RB shark wasn't chasing him. Couple of days went by, he still looked good. Eating, swimming, and staking out territory (which was quickly lost to the RB shark later) So that was that. I never learned what it was, but I guess it tasted awfully good. <Seems so> Now, recently, I've been playing with vinegar again in a small 5 gallon tank with a DIY sponge filter and peat moss bag. 6 tablespoons of white vinegar to 5 gallons water, let sit for two days, then feel the thick slime on the walls. Kinda "ew". I still want to know what this stuff is. pH is sitting around 6.8 . I don't know if its the same since its not free floating. Nor do I want to test it with any of my fish. Wonder if it will grow on an agar solution (got some laying around). <Interesting speculation...> I did manage to come across something called "Mother of vinegar". appearance isn't the same, but its a Bacteria that turns alcohol into vinegar and is supposedly harmless if eaten. (can think of a few people I might want to do that to) however it doesn't "look" quite the same. Well that's about all I can think of. Side note; the tank has been up and running for 1.5 months, everyone is healthy and happy, in crystal clear "tea" colored waters (from the peat moss which has boosted my plant growth by double!). Bottled water (pre aged with peat, etc) will be added gradually to lower ph in the near future. Also hoping that my tetras will stop flirting and finally produce something before the males get a complex. Thank you for your time! Cera <CH3COOH is a good feeder stock in some situations... for decomposers... likely bacteria and/or fungi here... in dilute solution... not an avid, "strong" proton donor... Thanks for sending this along. Bob Fenner>

Cleaning My Substrate, FW    8/19/07 Hello there, hello here, hello everywhere! A question pls...i have 3-4" of gravel & sand mixed. How deep should i vacuum? Sorry but i tried reading & looking for it, but been doin so much reading on your website, that i cant anymore, my eyes are killing & got a bit of a headache! Thanks in advance. Ghulam <Hello Ghulam! Cleaning gravel shouldn't be difficult. In fact, you shouldn't need to do it very often. Siphon across the top of the gravel when you do each water change (once a week, ideally) and make sure you suck away all the obvious dirt (like dead plant leaves, uneaten food, fish faeces). If you need to, stir the gravel with a pencil, bamboo cane or something similar. Malayan livebearing snails (Melanoides spp.) are excellent gravel/sand cleaners, and prevent anoxic decay from happening. Plants also "clean" the substrate indirectly, by passing oxygen into the substrate (via their roots) and by absorbing the products of bacterial decay. If you have plants in an aquarium, you really shouldn't stir or move the gravel at all -- plants HATE having their roots moved! Hope this helps. Neale>

Tank is Too Clean  3/30/07 I have no idea what is going on.  I cleaned my tank a month ago and two weeks after the water turned foggy.  So I washed everything in the tank filled it with new water.  now three days ago, the water turned muggy again and my smaller angel fish tail is slightly torn along with her fins and she has white stuff on her eyes like cataracts. Im going to put her into a separate tank put sea salt into it and aqua plus, what else could I do? < When you cleaned the tank a month ago you did too good a job. You removed all the good bacteria that breaks down the fish waste. The foggy water is an ammonia spike. This is deadly to fish. If it doesn't kill them outright then they get bacterial infections such as the one you are witnessing. In the separate tank treat the angelfish with Nitrofuranace. In the main tank add Bio-Spira from Marineland to the bacteria up and going again.-Chuck>

Cleaning a Bare Tank  9/6/06 Hi, sorry to bother you on your e-mail account, but I cant find the answer that I am looking for.  If my tank is empty, and I clean the inside of the walls with vinegar to get the scum or deposits off, do I need to do anything special with the tank afterwards so when I fill it up and begin cycling it, it doesn't kill the fish?  I used white vinegar and took an algae scrubber pad and scrubbed on the inside of the walls. I just need to know if this is going to affect the fish later on.  I will rinse it out with warm water and all, but just needed to know if it will ever cause any damage.  Thank you for your time, Kyle. < Fill the tank up outside with clean water and let it sit for a few days. Get yourself some single edged razor blades from the paint dept of the local hardware store. With the tank full of water you should scrap down the calcium build up from the inside glass. After soaking for a few days it will become softer and easier to scrub off.-Chuck>

Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: