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FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality 3

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: Cloudy Water, Smelly Freshwater, Bubbles, FW H2O Quality 1, FW H2O Quality 2, 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

Confused about water chemistry in freshwater tank; Pomacea sys.        9/12/15
Hi crew, I am trying to grasp the full concept of water chemistry, which has proven to be very difficult through Internet research alone! At least for me. As mentioned in the past I have a love for apple snails and separated them from my community tank a while back.
I have struggled with water parameters (mainly pH, KH, and GH). I think I have a better understanding of things now, but I just want to double check before making any changes.
<Fire away!>
My tap water has a pH value of 7.8, but a KH value of 3 (api drop test).
<So low carbonate hardness. This tends to mean whatever the pH you have, it won't be especially stable. Use of a buffer might be helpful if you're keeping animals that prefer alkaline conditions. Most tropical fish, however, from soft water habitats will be fine with this sort of water, provided you do regular (perhaps weekly) water changes to minimise the pH
drops/changes between those water changes.>
Adding calcium carbonate, calcium chloride and baking soda has a good effect on the KH and GH.
However it raises my pH to 8.2 according to my test kit.
<This is what carbonate hardness will do, specifically, the calcium carbonate you are using. If you don't want this, dial back the calcium carbonate (maybe to one-half the amount used) and the pH should drop back a bit.>
A few of snails seem sick (excess slime and lethargic), while others are prospering. I feel that the baking soda or maybe the high pH is the issue.
<Possibly, or at least, the pH changes. In itself high pH and carbonate hardness isn't a problem for Apple Snails.>
I so struggle with nitrates but have been able to decrease them from 160 to 40 with no improvement from the weaker snails. I was considering adding a pH regulator to my tap water before adding the alkalizing agents.
<Pointless. Select one buffering method and stick to it. Either the Rift Valley salt mix modified as needed, OR a commercial product. Not both.>
Hoping this will keep the pH at around 7.5-8.0 as opposed to the 8.2 and rising. The pH regulator is composed of sulfuric acid.
<It is?>
My questions are: does it make sense to lower the pH of my tap water before adding the agents that are causing the high pH?
Is sulfuric acid safe for inverts (mainly Pomacea diffusa)?
<Poured directly into the tank, then no, it isn't safe. But added to each bucket of water, as described on the instructions, it should be safe. Would I bother? Nope. I'd stick with the Rift Valley salt mix, perhaps halving the baking soda portion, and let the snails adapt to that. There may be a period of adjustment for them, but once settled, this is a cheap, reliable way to keep them.>
Is it possible for baking soda to irritate my snails or is it most likely the nitrates?
<Hard to say, but provided you have dissolved the baking soda completely, it should be safe. Apple Snails are somewhat sensitive to "old" water, and are a bit finicky at the best of times, so I wouldn't overreact to unusual behaviours or even occasional deaths. Few survive anything beyond a year, despite potential lifespans of 4-5 years. That's why so few reach
tennis-ball size. Quite why they don't do as well in tanks as they do in ponds or the wild is a topic for discussion; you might peruse AppleSnail.net for more on this interesting topic.>
Thank you! Danielle
<Cheers, Neale.>
<<PS. I would also test for copper in your water. Definitely lethal to Pomacea spp. Any good marine aquarium shop can do this for you, gratis/token cost. Cheers, Neale.>>

Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/18/15
Hi crew,
I recently acquired some store bought sea shells..discarded the dyed/altered ones and kept the real ones in a small bowl. I tested the water a few days later and the parameters showed no ammonia, but high nitrite levels. I only tested further for KH values which came out to be 6°(typically my tap water is 3°). I am wondering why these shells are causing high nitrites. Any info would be appreciated! Thank you
<Is this a freshwater tank? Unless you're keeping shell-dwelling Tanganyikans, you don't want to add seashells. Lots of reasons, but two critical ones: they affect pH, and they trap fish. As they dissolve they raise the carbonate hardness which causes the pH to rise. Bad for most common tropical fish (livebearers excepted). Secondly, small fish, especially benthic fish such as Corydoras, swim into them but can't always get out. Been there, done this, learned the lesson. Even if fish don't get inside them, bits of food and other organic matter will drift in, decay, and produce ammonia (and eventually nitrite and nitrate). So two good reasons to remove the shells. At some point you might set up a shell-dweller aquarium, and they're super cool little fish for nano tanks. Because they come from a hard water lake they like high pH and KH levels, and because they actively dig and clear out the shells, there's little/no risk of organic matter (let alone fish) getting trapped inside them. Much better. If you want to add ornaments and knickknacks to an aquarium, select things for that use such as plastic and ceramic doodads that'll not affect water chemistry and will be designed to be easier to clean than shells. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/24/15

Thank you for the thorough explanation.
<Born from experience... have lost a Corydoras to a rogue snail shell.>
I have been quite busy, so sorry for the delay. I was planning to add the sea shells to my apple snail tank, as well as my freshwater community tank.
<Apple Snail tank fine; community tank probably not.>
I think I am just confused about water chemistry. I have read endless articles , but still something just hasn't clicked yet for me. I still struggle with my apple snails and their eroding shells, despite adding cuttlebone, crushed coral and egg shell powder.
<Let me direct you here first:
There's a Rift Valley Salt Mix at the bottom. Use this at 50-100% the dose stated and you should be fine. Failing that, try buying some coral sand from an aquarium shop and stir that 50/50 with plain sand or gravel in your Apple Snail tank. This will help to buffer the water quite a bit, though over time it loses this effect so may need replacing every year or two, whenever you see pH dropping too much.>
This has been unresolved for about 2 months now with no improvement. The reason I wanted to add the shells to my community tank is because I believed it would help add buffering capacity.
<Can do. Tufa rock is cheaper and more effective though. But unpredictable in terms of how long either will work. You know those candy shells around the chocolate on M&Ms? How they stop the chocolate melting in your hand? Algae and bacteria do the same thing to calcareous materials in an aquarium. Over time the chemicals that would harden the water become isolated underneath a layer of algae and bacteria. Periodically you can remove the shells or tufa rock, scrub under a hot tap, and put them back in. So while it can work, it isn't a once-and-forget-about-it thing.>
My kH values remain low in that tank and although higher in my snail tank, the values are still low for snails.
<Do try the Rift Valley salt mix recipe. Cheap and effective. You can slightly change the proportions as necessary. If KH is your worry you could skip the marine salt mix and Epsom salt and just use baking soda alone. The baking soda provides the KH, the Epsom salt the general hardness, and the marine salt mix a bit of both plus various trace elements.>
At this point I believe I'm a helpless cause, but I sincerely appreciate the help attained from your site.
Thanks again,
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/25/15

Thank you. I had previously avoided the salt mix because I was worried the salt components would harm the snails.
<Understood. But at this very low concentration this is not a major concern. Nonetheless, you can leave it out if you want.>
My snails are having another issue at the moment (being addressed in a separate thread), so once that is settled I will try the salt mix. I also have a liquid calcium chloride additive intended for marine aquariums that I've been saving as a last resort.
<This will not change carbonate hardness, just general hardness.>
So assuming all else fails, would this be safe to use in freshwater and will it have a dramatic impact on pH?
<Yes, safe, no, not a big impact on pH. In fish tanks the above-7 pH comes from carbonate hardness, essentially the alkalinity of the water. General hardness is about the calcium and sodium salts in the water, and while some do affect pH, raising it slightly, they're far less important in that regard. Where they matter is osmosis, which affects fish and snails in how
they keep the salt/water balance inside their bodies.>
Would it make sense to add baking soda in combination with the calcium chloride.
<Baking soda will help with KH, the calcium chloride the GH.>
The pH in the snail tank is currently at 7.8 and kH is 5. I've considered an alkaline buffering product, but I would exceed acceptable pH values before achieving desirable kH values.
<Wouldn't be overly concerned. Standard Rift Valley cichlid mix, whether home-made or store-bought would raise the pH to between 7.5 and 8.5 depending on how much you used. Try a small amount in a bucket and see what you get. Regardless, Apple Snails are perfectly at home in this pH range.>
Thanks again.
<Most welcome. Neale.>
re: Sea shells producing nitrites...why?       8/29/15

Hi Neale. So I started with a 50% dose(baking soda only) and then increased it to 100%. I've been adding the calcium chloride as well. I'm much closer to reaching the optimum relevant values in this tank (thank you so much).
My only issue at this point is that I'm confused about how I can continue to maintain the results.
Should I continue to add the proper dosage of baking soda/calcium chloride to each batch of new water with every water change?
<Correct. So if you remove 5 gallons of water, you add the required amount for 5 gallons to the new buckets of tap water. The common mistake people make is to work out how much, say, their 20 gallon tank needs, and then add THAT amount each time they do a partial water change. That would end up raising the hardness and pH sky high after a while!>
I'm guessing this is a quick fix that I need to keep up with, but I just want to double check.
<Correct. One approach might be this: make up the correct ratio of baking soda and calcium chloride. I don't know what amount you're using, but let's imagine it's 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to 1 teaspoon of calcium chloride.
That would be about right for 5 US gallons. Since 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons, if you were to mix those salts up nicely, then 4 teaspoons would be correct for 5 US gallons. With me so far? Since the ratio is the thing, you could use 3 cups of Epsom salt and 1 cup of calcium chloride, stir them together in a big Tupperware, and get the right salt mix. Take 4 teaspoons out for 5 gallons, or just 2 teaspoons for 2.5 gallons (an average bucket) and off you go! You'd have a ready supply of salt mix all made up and ready to use. Just remember to give it a bit of stir before use to keep both salts jumbled up nicely. Make sense? Quick, simple, and very cheap.>
Also, back to incorporating the sea shells. Since my original message I have boiled them quite a bit and soaked them in dechlorinated water for 2 days. Then I rinsed them and re-soaked them in untreated tap water for 2 days. After testing that water I am getting very slight (but positive) test results for ammonia and nitrites. Is there anything else I can do to purify
these shells or should I execute the plan all together?
<I would not use them at all in this case. You can buy shells that are safe for aquaria, and among the best are the cleaned shells sold in up market food stores alongside tins of French garlic-snails. These shells are spotlessly clean because they're used for cooking food. The garlic-snails ("escargot") are delicious if a bit weird in concept, so there's no waste!
Just looked on Amazon and you can even by the empty shells ("Empty Escargot Snail Shells") for under $10 including shipping!>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Done being salty. Use of well-water, lvstk sel.           5/27/15
Hi crew! I've written to you all before about my 60 gallon reef tank, after 5 years I'm ready to convert to freshwater. I've had too many expensive losses in the salt world.
My question, we built a house 6 months ago and have a well. Can I use this water for a freshwater tank?
<Likely so... that is; by finding out "what sort" of water you have, you will be able to pick out organisms that favor that make up>
We do have a softener and an iron removal system.
<Likely you'll want to bypass the softener (and perhaps the Fe remover; again, depending... on how much, what types of iron are present...); the former to avoid excess sodium from the exchanger (if this is a salt regeneration resin system)>
I have one faucet that is not softened if that would be better I can use that.
<Ah yes>
We have an r/o system but it only makes a few gallons at a time.
<Am familiar. In S. Cal. our tap is very hard, alkaline and has too much (800 or so ppm) TDS... we make/drink RO>
Is there a species that is easy to keep in well water?
<Do have it tested... and write us back w/ the scanned results please...
Likely a quality assurance lab, or a local service can/will provide such analysis>
Thank you for your help; as always.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

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.>

Water chemistry; FW, ref.s      11/9/14
Mr. Fenner. I met you at the "Aquatic Experience" in Schaumburg, Illinois last Saturday. I attended the fish acclimation seminar. You said you could give me some info on books about water chemistry for the layman if I e-mailed you. Does TFH have any?
Lenny Olszewski
<Ah yes. Will write you in a day or two when I get back home to my references. Cheers, BobF>
<<Looked up two faves; one online:
the other a TFH book from 2009 available here on Amazon:
Oh, and Neale Monk's piece (and the linked files above on our WWM site):
Bob Fenner>

Sudden drastic water chemistry changes   10/19/13
> Hello! I have some big problems with my water chemistry I hope you can help! I did my weekly check 2 days ago and my levels were ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate 5 kh 6 gh 7 ph 7.8 temp 80. Occupants are 8 tiger barbs 3 blue rams 2 raphaels 1 dwarf gourami and plants. When I got home from work 2 days later one of my blue rams was dead. I thought he may have been a bit bloated but nothing substantial so I thought it could've been sick. I
> noticed the barbs were nipping alot so I decided to investigate further
> and
> test the water again to find that my nitrites rocketed to 2ppm
> <Yeeikes!>
>  ammonia 0 kh
> 4 gh 6 ph 8.8
> <... what?! Something has been added here... >
> so I immediately did a 30% water change added SeaChem prime
> checked the water again and nitrites dropped to .25 but my ph was still
> 8.8. The nitrites stayed at .25 over a day but I need to eliminate them
> and
> bring my ph closer to neutral again. My question is what could have
> the sudden spike in nitrites or killed my bacteria?
> <... this part, the suddenly elevated Nitrite could be from the dead
> fish... surprising that your ammonia is/was not similarly affected...
I'd test your tester... add a drop of cleaning ammonia to some water and test
> it>
>  I'm going to blame the
> ph on my haste to water change
> <... No... not possible... Or perhaps I should first ask, just what IS your
> source water test like?>
>  so I probably disproportioned my RO and tap
> water.
> <WHAT is this tap water?>
> I use api CO2 booster everyday with the correct dose and SeaChem
> flourish 1-2 times a week at the correct dose. I cleaned the tank and
> waste
> and excess food was minimal so I'm unsure what could have caused this
> nitrite spike or how to continue to fix it I'm checking the levels daily
> and plan on at least a 10% water change daily to keep nitrites minimal
> while the biofilter recovers.
> Thanks for your time and expertise,
> Coleton
> <Who else has access to this tank? Someone has dumped something highly
> alkaline into it. Bob Fenner>
Re: Sudden drastic water chemistry changes   10/19/13
Thanks for the quick response! My tap water usually tests kh 12+ gh 12+ ph 8.2
<High, like our water in S. Cal. right out of the tap; but NOT 8.8... Again, something very wrong here... either
your test gear is off... way off, or again; "something" has been introduced. DO contact your municipal water supplier re whether they have "pulsed" this something in the water supply. And AGAIN for browsers, my strongest advice to mix and store new water... even for a week or more, ahead of use... This SOP is gone over/archived on WWM>
I will definitely be testing my tap water and ro water. I have a few younger family members that have access to it but I don't know what they could've added.
<Perhaps alum, a "quat" to precipitate soluble phosphate... toward the end of warm seasons, lower reservoir depths... Happens>
Could they have cleaned the tank with some sort of cleaner on the outside and caused this?
<The livestock loss part, yes... Not the elevated pH though. There may well have been, be two events here>
 I will definitely be doing some more
investigating what do you recommend to stabilize the ph down again water changes?
<Just a return to your previous routine... mixing RO with source water, BUT the addition of a dedicated container for storing the new water (and testing) a week in advance. A plug here for Rubbermaid's "Brute" line. Bob Fenner>
Thanks again

Found out about my water.    2/17/13
I went to world of fish and my water is as follows.
PH 7.0
KH 6.0
GH 5.5
Ammonia 0
Nitrate and Nitrite 0
<Nice middling conditions. Not too hard, not too soft. Would suit most any South American, West African or Southeast Asian fish.>
Do you know of any dwarf cichlids that would do well/breed well in these water variables. I like Bolivian rams and Kribs,
<Both these would be fine. Do also look at Apistogramma species, especially Apistogramma cacatuoides, an outstanding species that is easy to keep, breeds readily, and is sold in numerous artificial colour forms that appeal to many aquarists (though I do prefer the wild-type).>
I also like some of the African shell dwellers.
<Rift Valley cichlids such as Neolamprologus "shell dwellers" need harder water, 10+ degrees dH, pH 7.5-8.>
What kinds of fish would do well make good dithers for them in a planted 20 gallon.
<Depends on the cichlids, but something that swims in the middle to upper levels of the tank and is moderately sturdy but not aggressive makes most sense. X-Ray Tetras are a good default, being adaptable and super-easy to keep, working well with robust dwarfs such as Kribs, but they might be too boisterous for Apistogramma. With shy dwarfs like Apistogramma you might have more success with very small schooling species like Marble Hatchets, Golden Pencilfish, perhaps even Dwarf Rasboras or Threadfin Rainbowfish if you don't mind going outside South America. Do also remember floating plants are even more useful than dither fish, even something otherwise considered a pest like Duckweed.>
Also what filtration should I use in this tank if I do get fry/etc.
<Anything air-powered makes most sense in breeding tanks, with sponge filters being exceptionally useful because they're gentle and also because they trap tiny organisms (algae, infusoria) that fry like to eat. You will often see baby cichlids pecking at sponge filters, clearly eating something, but who knows what! Cheers, Neale.>

Non-Potable water only source 9/25/12
Greetings all,
I could not find an answer in the previous postings, so here is my question. I reside in the Philippines, Leyte, the local ground/tap water is not potable for most people, would it be safe for aquariums?
<It depends on what's in the water. I would be very cautious here.>
I am starting a new tank, 15”x 34”x 20”, not sure of gallons or liters.
<About 44 gallons.>
I plan on keeping a Bichir or two, a Pleco, hopefully a stonefish. I will be getting a test kit, it is a few hours travel to the nearest tropical pet store. I am planning on a sandy bottom, and would like a critter that would burrow, maybe a spiny eel. This is not a first tank for me, I left a 120 and a 50 gal back in the states.
So if you can offer any advice, any and all is appreciated.
<I think you should invest in a reverse osmosis system and use only this processed water for the tank. When you aren't filling the tank, you can use the water for people.>

Setting up a tank (stkg.) and fighting chemistry    8/22/12
Hey, thanks very much for providing this site and service. I wouldn't be attempting this hobby otherwise, that's how valuable it is. It's a wonderful gift.
I am setting up my first tank, and am trying to do it correctly. It's a 15 gal "column" (13"x13"x19" tall) with 18 watts of 5500K compact fluorescent light, no fish and no plants yet. I have just started the fishless-cycling process, making my first ammonia addition yesterday to 4ppm. Some Java Moss, Anubias, and Bacopa are due this Friday.
<You don't have much light... the first two species may do okay... if not set too far down/deep in the system. Don't think the Bacopa will live though>
 My trouble, and the reason for this email, is working out the chemistry.
My goal is to have a planted tank with Neons or Cardinals (temp is at fixed 77, non-adjustable heater, so it's right between optimum for the two fish, so I'm not sure what to do), a Ram or two,
<One... not enough surface area for two behaviorally>
some marble Hatchets,
<Mmm, really need more room>
 and a couple of Otos.
<And these... too hard to keep in such a size, shaped system. Look instead to the three or so "dwarf" Corydoras species...>
 My source water is 2dKH, 5dGH, pH 7.2.
<I'd leave this as is>

 I bumped up the KH with baking soda to 5dKH, the GH remained at 5d but the pH jumped to the top of my test kit's range of 7.6. Herein lies the problem; the pH is now way too high for my goal community, but without the baking soda, it's way too soft. I don't want to fight the chemistry, but it seems to be a weird mix of soft and alkaline. I've not read of anyone having quite this issue
<Actually; quite a common situation>
and I'm stumped. I was hoping to get moderately soft and just slightly acidic.
<Will become more acidic w/ time... Again, I'd not modify this water quality directly... the species of Characins you list, the Callichthyids I do, are cultured, more resilient, flexible to a wider-range of water quality>
Peat isn't an option as crystal clear water is mandated by the better half.
What would you recommend here?
Thanks much,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Setting up a tank and fighting chemistry     8/22/12

Thank you very much for your advise.
I can fit higher wattage bulbs in my hood without a problem if needed.
<Mmm, yes... three times the stated wattage is about right>
 I was thinking that the Java fern and Anubias placed toward the bottom would give them lower light, and the Bacopa, which is supposed to get 14" tall, would get more being closer to the light source. Should I try that, or immediately go to 26 watts total?
<Even more if you can>
 I don't plan on CO2 addition, so I'm
concerned about over-illumination. Okay, I'll go with the untreated water.
You don't think the low KH will
cause problems though with pH stability or for the plants?
<The values stated will not. W/ regular partial water changes (weekly) all will be fine>
Only one Ram, got it. I was hoping that the smaller marble hatchets would find enough room, but you think it too small even for these guys?
<Yes.... Gastropelecines are very skittish... need surface area to "get away", feel comfortable>
That's disappointing as I really find not only their looks intriguing, but the evolutionary adaptation they represent fascinating, but I do want to act responsibly.
The Otos would be for algae control, so Corys, though cute, wouldn't really be a replacement. Should I go for Nerite snails and red cherry shrimp instead?
<Good choices>
Sorry about not finding related info. I'm terrible as coming up with searches, though I did find faq's with similar water parameters after reading your reply, by changing my wording. Thanks too, for your patience.
Is it possible that I'm seeing a bump up in pH due to my addition of ammonia to initiate the cycle, rather than actually having alkaline water?
<Mmm, no>
Should I finish that process first before I focus too keenly on the rest of the chemistry?
<I do encourage this, yes... you may well observe a "nicking down" of alkalinity and pH w/ the establishment of nitrification>
Much appreciated,
<Welcome. BobF>

Question regarding using drinking water for my fish room 7/10/12
I own a fish room and have a question about water. I keep getting huge bills from my water company, and complaints from my landlord because of my water usage. My question is can i use drinking water from a water company (not bottled) for my fish room?
<Mmm, likely so. Do ask re the make-up of this water though... no fluorine, chlorine added...>
 They can deliver with a water truck. I only breed freshwater fish, might do marine in the future.
<Am very surprised that the delivered water is cheaper than the mains... I'd make a deal w/ the landlord to just pay a bit more for the latter>
Looking forward to hear from you and Thanks.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

pH Fluctuations in planted tank     5/18/12
Hello WWM Crew!!
I have been reading a lot on your site (which is awesome) and others trying to figure out my problem or if there was a better way to solve the issue than what I am currently doing. I am also new to this hobby.
My issue is around the PH fluctuations and generally getting strong KH, GH, with stable PH in a planted tank. I also might be overly obsessing about it, or thinking this isn't normal.
Tap Water:
·         PH: 7.2
·         GH & KH < 1*
·         Nitrates, Nitrites, Ammonia all 0
Tank (9 or so months old / measured cycle):
·         15 Gallon "tall"
·         Cascade 1200 canister filter (150 gallons)
·         2 Turquoise rainbow fish (under 2 inch)
·         2 Clown Pleco's
<These can damage plants. Panaque spp. are herbivores. Panaque maccus is small enough it mightn't do any serious harm, but look out for the tell-tale scrapes on leaves.>
·         Mini T5 bulb (maybe 8-15 watts) that is on for 12 hours a day
·         Plants: Some type of grass looking plant which sends runners
<Vallisneria probably.>
and a Amazon sword plant. (I wouldn't consider it "heavily" planted as I have never needed to trim, but both plants are growing either by sending off shoots or new "swords")
o   I am also using SeaChem Flourish / Excel / Iron based on recommended doses.
o   I am also now using a DIY CO2 (2 liter bottle pushes gas into under gravel air stone)
<Not a big fan of DIY approaches to CO2. Doing CO2 right is difficult, and one problem you're having is getting the right amount of CO2 into the water at any given moment. Neither of your plants needs CO2, and honestly, unless you have very bright light and demanding plant species that need CO2, I recommend against it, at least for beginners and casual aquarists.>
·         Tank Water Parameters:
o   PH: 6.6-7.2 (used to be steady at 7.2)
o   Now GH: 5*
o   Now KH: 6*
o   Nitrates, Nitrites, Ammonia all 0 (I think the plants are using all the available nitrates)
·         I do weekly 10-25% water changes, and monthly filter cleaning where I clean 1 basket out of the 4.
My issues: I am now having a hell of a time holding a consistent PH, and don't know if this is normal or if I am on the correct path.
<See above.>
History of my water habits:
·         I first started by using straight tap water with SeaChem Prime with weekly water changes and light gravel vacuuming. At first, over time, the water would occasionally become slightly acidic (6.6 or so) from 7.2 but water changes seemed to solve this.
<Yes. Water changes reset the aquarium pH towards your tap water pH levels. Over time, the pH in the aquarium change.>
·         After a few months I decided to add an additional air stone type of thing, and this is when the pH really started to fluctuate.
<As it will. Airstones drive off CO2 (causing the pH to rise). They also move the water around more, allowing any other dissolved gases in the water to change and/or diffuse out.>
Now when I aerate the water the PH takes off up into the 7.8 8.0 range.
I used to be able to simply turn of the aeration and PH would hold. Since the fish never hung out at the top it seemed there was enough oxygen in the water.
<Possibly so.>
·         My first thought to solve both the above fluctuations of PH was to increase KH. However, increasing KH is not so easy while trying to maintain a 7.2 PH.
<Quite so. Carbonate hardness steadies pH, but will do so around 7.5 to 8. That's fine for most community fish, and for most plants too.>
o   I try adding baking soda or SeaChem Alkaline PH Buffer and my PH would take off (obviously to me now). So I would then use SeaChem Acid Buffer to lower it back to 7.2.
<pH down buffering products (I call them potions!) are basically phosphoric acid or some other weak acid. They lower the pH and steady the pH there, and work well if the water is somewhat soft already. There's no point to using them if you have moderately hard to hard water, and usually you use them alongside softened water, e.g., one part hard tap water to 4 parts RO or rainwater.>
o   After trying a lot of ratio's I finally had a mixture of SeaChem Buffers that would give me a PH of 7.2 with a KH of barely 3*.
o   I would add this mixture to my tank along with no aeration and the PH would still gradually creep up within a day or so to the 7.8-8.0 range.
o   After understanding more about what the SeaChem Buffers were actually doing it doesn't make sense to utilize this products. The Acid converts KH in CO2 (which gets used by the plants) but also lowers KH (and PH) but that was the whole reason to add the Alkaline Buffer to increase the KH ... you can see the circle here.
<Indeed so. Plants, by their very nature, change the pH. During the day they take in more CO2 than they give out. So overall the water contains less CO2, and the less CO2, the less carbonic acid (which is what dissolved CO2 is), and the less carbonic acid, the higher (less acidic) the pH can go. At night they stop doing photosynthesis, so they only release CO2, so the CO2 concentration in the water goes up. The more CO2, the more carbonic acid, and therefore the lower (more acidic) the pH.>
·         After reading more I also understand now that GH helps fish & plants metabolize. GH is ease to solve for thus the addition of Epsom salt and done deal.
<General hardness is to with osmoregulation, but doesn't much affect pH either way. Anything between 2-15 degrees GH is fine for most tetras, barbs, danios, etc..>
·         So I thought that maybe the reason I am seeing this problem now is that my plants are finally able to use up enough macronutrients causing the PH swings.
o   I added a DIY CO2 system (which is a mass amount of tinkering and fluctuating PH in the 6.6-7.2 range .. I am saving up for a PH controller and compressed CO2 system)
<Ah, I would keep saving up, and switch off the CO2 system you have now. Leave the aquarium be. Let the plants settle in, switch off the airstone, and just do plain vanilla 25% water changes every week adding nothing more than water conditioner -- no pH products, no buffers, no nothing! See how things go.>
o   This seems to be controlling the problem, but unsure as at night the PH decreased due to the increase of CO2 and during the day it increases due to use of CO2 (I think). This also required me to increase KH to raise PH so that the CO2 wouldn't lower it too much (this is good because now I can have a decent KH and lower PH). I also now have to run a restricted aeration to help in the PH swings and increase it at night so the CO2 won't lower it too much. (again not sure if this is normal)
So all of this normal?
<In the sense of being predictable from what you're doing, yes.>
Or do I have something going on? Is there a different way to take close to neutral water and increase KH without influencing PH (I haven't found / read anything that would do this). Am I addressing this all correctly? Is there a way I can slow down the growth so I don't have to tinker with the CO2?
Also my Amazon sword is growing, and seeding itself (the seeds on the back of the leafs, turn into tinny leafs with new roots), but the leaves are curled. I am thinking this is due to lack of nitrogen. Any thoughts on this would also be helpful.
<Once a month, push a solid fertiliser tablet into the roots close to the plant. Don't disturb the plant too much! Alternatively, you can add droplets of fertiliser on a weekly basis.>
I am learning with this small tank (as it is more difficult) and should make the 150 gallon set up easier. I also want to set up the 150 gallon correct out of the gate (same process, but with a CO2 and PH controller) so it is very stable.
Thanks, and any input would be gratefully helpful!!!
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
On a side note: I do SEO for a living. If you guys are ever interested in some SEO help/advice let me know, I am more than happy to give you advice .. since you are helping me!!
<What a kind offer. Thanks! Neale.>
Re: Ph Fluctuations in planted tank    5/19/12
Thank you for the input Neale!!!
So to make sure I am understanding it correctly.
Remove DIY CO2 (I will gladly do this!!)
Keep up with the 25% water changes with no additives
<Other than water conditioner, and perhaps plant fertiliser (iron is especially important).>
Stop the aeration
<Yes; this drives off CO2, and unless your tank is overstocked or poorly filtered, aeration doesn't make much difference.>
Don't worry about low KH tap water
<Yes, provided the pH is reasonably stable between water changes..>
Don't worry about PH getting into the 7.5-8 ph range or swings due to plants?
<pH rises by day and drops by night are ENTIRELY normal, and happen in ponds all the time, and no-one worries about that! Provided the pH change isn't massive, it's not a big deal. Going from, say, pH 7.5 in the night to 8.2 in the daytime will be a gradual enough process the fish won't mind. If the fish are gasping at the surface, that's a sign of pH stress, but otherwise, just see what happens.>
Or should I take the tap water up to a higher KH and a PH of 7.5-8?
<Nope. If you have soft water fish (barbs, tetras, etc.) then the low carbonate hardness and pH will be fine. Livebearers (like Guppies) are about the only commonly kept group of community fish that need hard, alkaline water.>
Add some plant tablets
<Yes, as indicated by the manufacturer, but you can try halving the recommended dose to save money. If the plants aren't turning yellow and growth is normal, then the half dose is enough for them.>
Thanks, and please let me know.
Just want to make sure I am reading it all correctly.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Fish Tank Help, FW too high NH3, NO3, too low KH...     10/26/11
Hello WWW crew. I have been an avid reader of your site over the years off and on. I did some research on my issue and was getting information overload.
I have a 75 gallon fresh water tank that has been running for over 6 years now. I had neglected regular tank maintenance for over a year and started to get crusty white buildup all over the outside of the tank/filters. I went through and did a major overhaul on the tank getting everything cleaned. In my cleaning frenzy I did the one thing I shouldn't have done, and cleaned all my substrate of the nasty "muck". Now my tank is going through the nitrogen cycle all over again and doesn't want to stabilize out.
<Not good>
I did all this last week on the 19th as I lost my fire eel of 5 years and figured the tank needed a good cleaning.
<Cleanliness is not sterility>
I tested the tank that evening after making the changes and noticed only ammonia in the tank, about 1ppm.
<Deadly toxic>
The next day I tested again and noticed about 3ppm ammonia and no Nitrates or Nitrites. I purchased a bottle of cycle
<Dr. Tim's "One and Only" is a much better, reliable product>
and snagged a bio wheel as well as a filter cartridge from another 75 gallon tank in the house that has also been going for 5 years and placed those in the filter (2 emperor 400's).
Since then my Ammonia has held at 3ppm and is not dropping, my nitrite levels are at 0ppm and nitrates is at 200ppm.
So I have the beneficial bacteria in the tank now, but the ammonia is not breaking down into something they can handle.
<Likely poisoned by the NO3... Yes>
I still currently have fish in the tank (a 12 inch tire track eel, 2 baby angels, a sedidontis cat and another form of cat) but since the levels are not dropping I'm going to have to find them some place to put them. At this point the other tanks in the house are full so not sure where I can put these guys. Any help you can provide on how I can get this water under control would be great.
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwcyctrbfix.htm
and the linked files above>
Also I think I should note the ph in the water is closer to the acidic side.
<Needs to be augmented... now>
As of last test it was around 6.
<Too low. Trouble>
The last action I took on the tank was yesterday morning around 10, I added a bottle of Tetra Safe Start thinking it would help kick my tank out of the funk its in. As of today though ammonia levels are still the same.
One thought I'm having but can't find information to back the theory is a log in my tank. It's a plastic aquarium log I have had in the tank since it started. It's very white and calcified...could this be causing the ammonia I'm still seeing?
<I don't see how; no>
I had a supposed petrified log in one of my tanks years ago that rotted and was giving off ammonia in the tank...I didn't think a plastic one could though. Thanks in advance for all your help.
<Bob Fenner>
Re: Fish Tank Help, chem.   10/26/11

Hi Bob, thanks for the reply and I apologize for being so dense. I did in fact read the articles you linked, which is what prompted me to realize my tank was probably re-cycling. From what I'm reading on the faq's it looks like I'm going to have to start doing water changes to get the ammonia lvls down. Would you recommend adding a bottle of Dr. Tim's once I do a water change?
<Yes I would/do>
Would I even notice a difference at this point?
<In time yes>
Also, on the PH issue, is there a product you recommend?
<Most any decent commercial buffer product. In the short/er term, just baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)... The system won't likely cycle w/o increase in KH/GH>
I have seen various products out there but have always been told to stay away from them and not use them.
<SeaChem's line is excellent... they have no "scam" products, unlike most other manufacturer's in our interest (unfortunately). BobF>
Re: Fish Tank Help  10/26/11

Oh and as a follow-up, I have not been feeding the fish any food, the only other thing added after I tried the cycle was the Tetra Safe Start as I heard other had better results with that over the Cycle product.
Re: Fish Tank Help  10/26/11
Thanks again Bob. My plan for today is going to be a water change.
Followed by some ph buffer (going to head to the LFS for some by Seachem) and then finally a bottle of Dr. Tim's. Other than that going to keep up with water changes as needed. I'll report back with how things are going once I get everything done.
<Sounds good. Thank you John. B>
Re: Fish Tank Help   10/30/11

Well it's been 4 days and wanted to provide an update. After my last email I contacted Seachem as I had some questions on their products. Their customer support was great. They answered my questions as well as made some suggestions.
<Ah good>
I ran out and picked up some neutral regulator and after reading on your faqs about others using prime I grabbed some of that as well. Did a 20% water change and used the prime and neutral regulator. The next day ammonia
was lower but still too high at 1ppm. I did another water 20% water change using prime and neutral regulator and the following day the ammonia was just about gone.
<Very good>
I didn't have a store that carried Dr. Tim's products locally but was able to get them through Amazon. That came Friday and I added enough for my tank and Saturday morning the ammonia was gone, 0 Nitrites and 50 Nitrates.
I had to add more than the dosage on the bottle for the neutral regulator but the pH is back up to 7.0. All the fish are doing very well and feeding will begin again this evening. Thank you for the advice!
<Thank you for the follow-up John. BobF>

weird water issues /Neale   10/19/11
55 gallon long tank
Uses 1 tetra whisper 45ex filter and MarineLand penguin 350 filter (has bio wheels and places for 4 filter media)
Tank has been fully cycled for 2 weeks and is home to 4 Corydoras and 1betta (formally were housed in 10 gall. Which was not cycled properly).
For the 2 weeks I tested almost daily with readings as:
And from the tap measurements were(this is a 40 foot hand dug well) tested 2x a week for month
pH=7.8 (sometimes tested up to 8.4)
alkalinity/buffering capacity=300
total hardness=near the 425 mark
<So, rock hard water. Good for hard water fish; bad for soft water fish. Do choose your fish accordingly. Start here:
Malawian and Tanganyikan cichlids are obvious choices, but there are lots of Central American options too, as well as some South American, Australian and other fish.>
Now here is the problem:
Four days ago, I did a regular 40% water change (treated water with tetra safe start) direct from tap. The next day, my fish started acting strange. They were lethargic, exhibited signs of scratching, some stopped eating, and I lost one Betta and one molly. I immediately did tests ammonia read .25, nitrites were 0, nitrates were 10, ph was 8. I figured I must have screwed up tank by vacuuming too much or something. So I did another water change, this time around 75%. No change in fish behavior. So on day 3 I tested again. The numbers were exactly the same as day two. I went out and bought the API freshwater test tube kit, thinking the strips must be wrong or something. I also bought Kordon water conditioner which is suppose to take out chloramines, ammonia, and other bad stuff from tap water. Test results were the same and I added the Kordon water conditioner to the tank. I added some Epson salt to tank (recommended by our local fish expert, who I trust). She thought fish may be constipated and the Epsom salt would help.
<Whoa'¦ you really don't want to add Epsom salt to this tank for no reason. Your water is VERY hard already.>
This brings us to today (day 4). I woke up and tested tank again. Results the same (ammonia=.25, nitrite=0, nitrate=10, ph=6.4, this is major change from the 8 I was getting before). I did a 50% water change, using the Kordon conditioner and more Epsom salt: although not the strength that was recommended, I decreased a little to see how the Corydoras reacted. I waited a few hours and ran test again. The numbers were exactly the same. Fish do seem to be doing a little better though, they ate and swam around much more than they did the past three days, but still not normal. At this point, I decided to test my tap water again. Results were drastically different than what I get normally.
From tap results:
alkalinity/buffering capacity=300
total hardness=near the 425 mark
<The low pH makes no sense here at all. Do double-check your testing method/test kit.>
That is a huge difference from when I last tested tap water a few weeks ago. Why would there be a spike of ammonia in my tap water and a huge decrease in the ph level almost overnight???
<It shouldn't; ammonia is a base, and RAISES pH.>
As I stated earlier, this is a 40 foot hand dug old time well system with NO water softener or filters attached. We had heavy rains last week that caused minor flooding in our yard (this is not uncommon as I am in low country). Could this rain water saturating the ground be the culprit? Our water has always been extremely hard, so I can only assume at this point it will return to normal levels of hardness and ammonia in time. Have you any knowledge of this type of happening? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
The fish that I am choosing to be in this tank in the future (the Corys and the Betta aren't staying) prefer really hard water. I chose them due to the fact that I had naturally hard water. I guess I won't be able to do water changes after large rains??
<Perhaps not. Or at least, do small water changes, 10-20% at a time. Small pH fluctuations won't harm your fish, even touchy species like Tanganyikans.>
Glad I held off on getting the cichlids I wanted as they won't tolerate large fluctuations in ph like that.
<Quite so; a sudden drop to pH 6 will kill them.>
One last question if I may? My husband said that since we have well water I shouldn't have to add the water conditioners since there isn't any chloramines, etc. in the water? This was before the craziness of last four days. Is he correct?
<In theory, yes, he's right. But I'd use the water conditioner anyway. Pond water conditioner is very economical.>
I am sorry for the incredibly long email. I just couldn't figure out how to describe my situation and I wanted to provide as much information as I could in hopes that you may be able to help me understand this and prevent in future. Thank you for whatever information you may be able to provide.
<Can't really explain what you saw, but hope this helps, Neale.>
weird water issues /RMF   10/19/11

55 gallon long tank
<48 by 13 by 20/22 inches nom.>
Uses 1 tetra whisper 45ex filter and MarineLand penguin 350 filter (has BioWheels and places for 4 filter media)
Tank has been fully cycled for 2 weeks and is home to 4 Corydoras and 1 Betta (formally were housed in 10 gall. Which was not cycled properly).
For the 2 weeks I tested almost daily with readings as:
<Yikes! High; like our "liquid rock" water here in S. Cal.>
And from the tap measurements were (this is a 40 foot hand dug well) <Wow!>
tested 2x a week for month
pH=7.8(sometimes tested up to 8.4)
alkalinity/buffering capacity=300
total hardness=near the 425 mark
Now here is the problem:
Four days ago, I did a regular 40% water change (treated water with tetra safe start) direct from tap. The next day, my fish started acting strange.
They were lethargic, exhibited signs of scratching, some stopped eating, and I lost one Betta and one molly. I immediately did tests ammonia read .25, nitrites were 0, nitrates were 10, ph was 8. I figured I must have screwed up tank by vacuuming too much or something. So I did another water change, this time around 75%. No change in fish behavior. So on day 3 I tested again. The numbers were exactly the same as day two. I went out and bought the API freshwater test tube kit, thinking the strips must be wrong or something. I also bought Kordon water conditioner which is suppose to take out chloramines, ammonia, and other bad stuff from tap water. Test results were the same and I added the Kordon water conditioner to the tank. I added
some Epson salt to tank (recommended by our local fish expert, who I trust).
She thought fish may be constipated and the Epsom salt would help.
This brings us to today (day 4). I woke up and tested tank again. Results the same (ammonia=.25, nitrite=0, nitrate=10, ph=6.4,
<?! What... re the pH... this is a huge drop... I suspect there is complicity w/ the test reagent/s and your reading... In other words, this is a spurious reading. DO test just the new source water sans conditioners>
this is major change from the 8 I was getting before). I did a 50% water change, using the Kordon conditioner and more Epsom salt: although not the strength that was recommended, I decreased a little to see how the Corydoras reacted. I waited a few hours and ran test again. The numbers were exactly the same. Fish do seem to be doing a little better though, they ate and swam around much more than they did the past three days, but still not normal. At this point, I decided to test my tap water again. Results were drastically different than what I get normally.
From tap results:
<VERY strange... DO try aerating a sample of water for an hour or so and see if what is depressing pH is released>
alkalinity/buffering capacity=300
total hardness=near the 425 mark
That is a huge difference from when I last tested tap water a few weeks ago.
<Again, the Ammonia may be spurious as well>
Why would there be a spike of ammonia in my tap water and a huge decrease  in the ph level almost overnight??? As I stated earlier, this is a 40 foot hand dug old time well system with NO water softener or filters attached.
We had heavy rains last week that caused minor flooding in our yard (this is not uncommon as I am in low country). Could this rain water saturating the ground be the culprit?
Our water has always been extremely hard, so I can only assume at this point it will return to normal levels of hardness and ammonia in time. Have you any knowledge of this type of happening? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
<There are many possibilities... but the one best solution. Store, treat new water for a week or more ahead of use. Read here:
The fish that I am choosing to be in this tank in the future (the Corys and the Betta aren't staying) prefer really hard water. I chose them due to the fact that I had naturally hard water. I guess I won't be able to do water changes after large rains??
<Again... a dedicated trashcan, lid...>
Glad I held off on getting the cichlids I wanted as they won't tolerate large fluctuations in ph like that.
One last question if I may? My husband said that since we have well water I shouldn't have to add the water conditioners since there isn't any
chloramines, etc. in the water? This was before the craziness of last four days. Is he correct?
<Mmm, maybe... it might well be that some applications of conditioner/s are of use in precipitating metals, other excess ions>
I am sorry for the incredibly long email. I just couldn't figure out how to describe my situation and I wanted to provide as much information as I could in hopes that you may be able to help me understand this and prevent in future. Thank you for whatever information you may be able to provide.
<Do write back after reading, if you still have questions, concerns. Bob Fenner>

soft water planted tank question   8/23/11
Dear WWM Crew,
Thanks in advance for any help or suggestions you might be able to give. I will start out with my tank specifics. My question concerns a 15 gallon tank with small grain ceramic aquarium gravel, HOB filter, 36W lighting, temperature currently at 28 degrees Celsius.
<All sounds nice, but do bear in mind 28 C is a bit warmer than many fish enjoy, and even some plants may have trouble adapting.>
Water parameters at last reading: pH 7.0 (stable, always around 7), NO3 25mg/L (higher than I would like), NH3 0, NO2 0, KH0 (tetra test color change at first drop, my KH has always been low, used to hover around 3, but never tested 0 before), and I don't have a test kit at home now for GH.
<I see. Well, if your pH is stable, then that's the main thing. Commercial "Discus Buffer" products can be used instead of carbonate hardness to fix the pH between 6 and 7 depending on the formulation.>
For water changes I use RO water with about 20% mineral water (KH 8-10). I don't really want to use the tap water here because quality is very unreliable (I live in China).
<Fair enough.>
Livestock consists of a trio of juvenile wild caught Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (one male and two females), 12 Cardinals, and plenty of shrimps (cherry shrimps and a similar looking shrimp which is colorless when young but very dark green/brown, sometimes black when adult, with a brownish stripe over the back).
<Shrimps may not do well in such warm water. Bear in mind they are largely subtropical, Cherry Shrimps come from Taiwan, if I recall correctly.>
The tank has a large piece of driftwood in it, 2 Anubias, 1 Cryptocoryne (largely melted away about 1.5 months ago),
<Does sometimes happen, though the robust species like C. wendtii are normally very adaptable. Do pick your species carefully, and don't expose to sudden changes in pH, hardness, temperature, or light intensity.>
Sagittaria subulata in the front of the tank, 2 moss balls, one banana plant and floating plants (duckweed, Frogbit and Salvinia).
Until about a month months ago, the floating plants grew very fast (had to take out handfuls weekly to avoid the surface being completely covered), but the submerged plants were not doing that spectacular.
<Is often the case. Floating plants are [a] close to the light and [b] may use atmospheric CO2, so overall, they're less demanding.>
The banana plant used to have new leaves at the water surface every week or so, but the leaves never stayed "healthy" for a long time and discolored and then rotted away.
<This is not unusual; indeed, Banana Plants are best treated as temporary additions.>
The crypt went through a melt for reasons unknown to me (no larger water changes than usual, no other changes I can think of, and this was before I started with the additives). About a month ago I decided to put some plant nutrients in the tank, upon checking online it seemed likely the plants might benefit from Flourish Excel and Potassium.
<Do be careful with plant fertilisers. Dose incrementally at first, to check you don't trigger an algal bloom or some other problem. Be sure to separate in your mind an "Amano" tank designed for a photograph on the one hand and on the other a community tank of various fishes. The biggest differences are that Amano tanks rarely need to run for more than a year, and secondly, they contain far fewer fish. When you have a well-stocked tank like yours, you have to be much more careful when you alter things, including through the addition of mineral nutrients.>
However, a little while after I started dosing these I had a fish jump out of the tank and so I put a glass cover on the tank.
<May not be related, though I admit, Ram Cichlids and Cardinals are not known for being jumpy.>
And now the current situation.... I don't see any improvement in the submerged plants, and I get much less growth on the floating plants (they are barely staying alive). The duckweed is almost not multiplying, and the Frogbit seems to be rotting away. The Salvinia has become much whiter in color than before, the leaves have become smaller and further separated from each other, and they don't grow as they used to. As for the plants in the tank, there is no difference noticeable for the Anubias, moss balls, or Sagittaria (there were not really any problems with these plants and still growing slow but fine). I don't think the banana plant is going to make it. The shrimp are not breeding as they used to either. Before I could always see plenty of baby shrimp when cleaning the filter and now there are usually none.
<Very curious. The lack of floating plant growth is very odd, but perhaps if the rooted plants were growing extremely fast, you might expect floating plants to do less well if there weren't any nutrients in the water column (as opposed to the substrate) for them to use. Seems unlikely in this situation though.>
Are the floating plants doing that much worse because of the tank cover?
<Can certainly be true. Floating plants vary in the ease with which they will grow. Amazon Frogbit is fairly tolerant of hoods, but if there are lots of droplets of water on its leaves, it may suffer. Generally you need about an inch air gap between the water and the plastic/glass cover for Amazon Frogbit and Indian Fern. Salvinia, Pistia, and the other floating plants that grow well above the waterline are MUCH more demanding and generally do poorly under hoods. Ventilation is crucial, both to carry away moisture and to minimise burning from the lights.>
There was not much condensation on the glass of the cover, so they did not continually get water on them or anything. Should I stop with Flourish Excel and Potassium, and return to my previous maintenance schedule with just water changes and nothing else?
<Is what I would do. And afterwards, try using them at a very low dosage initially, perhaps one-fifth the recommended. Run like that for a couple months. Over the following months, increase dosage by small amounts if you see the need.>
Is the problem maybe connected to my low KH and low GH (low GH value assumed), and should I maybe add something like Seachem Equilibrium to increase my GH, and something else to increase KH, or use more mineral water (but won't this affect the fish who are used to soft water)?
<You are correct to question water chemistry. Most plants do best in a middling range, say, 5-15 degrees dH. Rather few appreciate very soft water. The pH is an issue, and do understand how photosynthesis causes pH to fluctuate through the day/night cycle. In the morning pH tends to rise as the CO2 in the water is gradually used up, to a peak in the afternoon. In the late afternoon as light intensity drops, photosynthesis diminishes and the CO2 level rises again, causing pH to drop down again. Through the night CO2 accumulates and pH drops to a low by the morning. In ponds in the wild you can get cycles from pH 6 to 9 and then back to 6. Try taking pH readings before the lights go on, then at midday, then at about 4 PM, and then last thing at night, perhaps 10 PM, after the lights have been out a while. See if the pH stays steady or if it changes. Plants and fish will be adapted to these pH changes up to a point, but extremes can cause problems.>
Or has the adding of Flourish Excel and Potassium caused another element to deplete? I know there is often not really any certain fix for a problem, but am wondering if there's any obvious issues I have overseen. I don't have much experience with planted tanks at all!
I have taken off the glass cover but if the problem is unlikely to be related I will put it back on.
<Do also read:
Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Questions regarding plants, in bottled ("Spring") water 7/15/11
<Hi there Suzy>
I am turning to you after my web searches have provided me with so many conflicting results that I am completely confused and unsure of how to proceed. My first impression of your site is that your advice is very much sought after and extremely helpful. Therefore, I have decided to bounce my problems off your experts in the hope of resolving my planting issues.
I have four Betta tanks � each tank has one male Betta and one mystery snail. The tanks are 2.5 gallon Aqueon Mini-Bows. Lighting is provided with 10 watt fluorescent lamps. I have the lights on approximately 12 hours each day. Water quality: GH � 0 to 20; KH � 0 to 20;
<Not much mineral content>
pH � 7.0; nitrite and nitrate � 0;
<Really, zero?>
ammonia � 0. Water temperature is 79 degrees in all the tanks.
I feed the Bettas pellets and frozen bloodworms. I feed these one at a time by hand so very few fall to the bottom. I feed the snails zucchini, cucumbers, spinach and algae pellets. Sometimes, I remove the snails from the tanks to feed them, especially the pellets. I do 50% water changes every Sunday. I use bottled spring water
<Mmm, an unknown... highly variable product. Not likely of much use in supporting live plants>
and add Aqueon BettaBowl Plus water conditioner � 1 tsp. per gallon; API Aquarium Salt ½ tsp per gallon (making certain salt is fully dissolved before adding water to tank);
<Mmm, the plants don't like salt; neither the snails>
and four drops Seachem Flourish per gallon.
Tanks #1, #2 and #3 each have one Wisteria plant. Tanks #1, #2 and #4 each have one Rotala wallichii. I haven't given Tank #3 another plant because of the difficulties I have been having. Each tank also has a Marimo moss ball all about the size of a golf ball. I replace plants that are dead/dying once weekly with my water changes as I don't like messing about in the tanks too frequently.
I do remove dead portions daily with tongs. I buy my plants in bunches from PetSmart. I rinse the plants several times in the water I remove from the tanks for the water change. I have homemade anchors comprised of medium-sized substrate stones adhered together with aquarium silicone � these have a hole in the center. I put the entire bunch into the hole and let it sink to the bottom. If it doesn't land quite where I like, I move it but I do not push it down into the substrate, which is small gravel in Tanks #1 and #4 and pea-sized gravel in Tanks #2 and #3. I am having two issues. The first issue I am having is that in Tank #1 and Tank #3, the filter is very quickly covered in a very dark green slime.
<Likely a Blue Green "algae">
I have to change the filter at least every Sunday, sometimes more often. I have tried to wash the filter with the water I remove for the water change, but I can't get them clean enough where I am comfortable placing them back into the filter.
The other issue is that my plants don't survive more than two or three months.
<Mmm, easily understood. There's insufficient biomineral content in your water and no essential nutrient likely>
They do well for awhile and then the leaves start to become see-through. If I don't get the portions of the plant that are waning out quick enough, they �melt� when I try to get them. This, of course, makes my snails happy but my plants look �under the weather.�
Any suggestions you have regarding possible variations of plants that may do better in my setups or plant care would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time in reading my e-mail.
<I'd have you read Neale's work: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm
and the linked files above; particularly Rift Valley...
You'd do better to use other water... the bottled if you have issues w/ your tap quality, but adding the "Rift" mix to make it more suitable for your fish, snails and plants>
P.S. This is a little off the track but if you could answer another question � I have read recently that snails need a calcium supplement.
<IF their water, system otherwise doesn't provide this (is the principal biomineral alluded to above)>
I have never provided that for my guys. What is the best way to give them what they require without jeopardizing the Bettas?
<See the above reading. Calcium et al. can be added by way of foods, substrates...>
Also, when I am watching these
little guys, it seems to me they eat the healthy parts of the plants as well as the decaying portions. Is that common?
<For these species, yes>
Again, I thank you for helping me
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>

water parameters. FW   12/7/10
I have a few questions about water parameters. I currently have two 20 gallon tanks...one with a few male guppies and a platy, one with a group of Corydoras habrosus and neon tetras.
I have not used my tap water because it comes from a water softener and has a pH of around 8.2. I was under the impression that softened water is not a good choice.
<Certainly the case that water from a domestic water softener isn't worth using in an aquarium.>
For that reason, I started using RO water with buffers added.
At first, I used Seachem's Neutral Regulator and Replenish, but later switched to what the LFS adds, Kent Marine's R/O Right.
As chemicals and water are a constant expense, I'd like to know if my tap water is useable...you know what I mean, not just useable, but would the fish flourish in it?
<Hard water fish such as livebearers will flourish, yes. Hardy Corydoras species like C. paleatus will be fine too. But Neons and more delicate Corydoras will exhibit varying degrees of stress, and Neons in particular are very short lived in hard, basic water -- here in Southern England, they rarely seem to last a year in our "liquid rock".>
Also, I'd like to know if adding driftwood for the cories to hide under (boy, they are shy!) would be a good idea.
<Corydoras don't really want to hide. They live in very shallow streams, and their defence is largely that they're in waters too shallow for their predators. So long as you keep them in groups of six or more, there's no real reason why they should hide. A few floating plants or tall rooted plants will provide all the shade they need.>
From what I understand, it would add tannins to the water...good for Corys and Neons,
<Neither good nor bad. Tannins lower pH, but bogwood won't soften hard water, at least, not noticeably.>
but what about the livebearers (guppies and a platy)?
<Livebearers need hard, basic water; aim for 10+ degrees dH, pH 7.5. As it happens, at 10 degrees dH, pH 7.5 you should fine Neons and Corydoras do just fine. Substantially harder water will cause Neons especially some degree of stress.>
Thank you for your help!
L. A.
<Do read:
The Rift Valley salt mix, at 25-50% the stated dosage, can be used as a cheap alternative to RO salts. Tweak the amounts of Epsom salt (for general hardness) and Baking soda (for carbonate hardness and pH) as required until you get the precise chemistry you're after. Alternatively, try a 50/50 mix of tap water and RO water and see what you get. That's what I do, and it works very effectively. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: water parameters - follow-up   12/7/10
I have a follow-up question.
<Fire away, Leanne.>
Since it's been only a couple of minutes since I sent the original, it is attached in case you haven't yet seen it.
My hopes were to combine these two tanks into one and change over to a planted tank...current decor is artificial. However, the Corys and Neons seem to do well with low light...I keep their tank light off and use mostly indirect natural daylight or a set of recessed lights in the ceiling overhead. Anything brighter and the Corys run for cover.
<Yes this is natural enough, especially when Corydoras feel exposed or harassed. Neons by their very nature prefer shady parts of the tank -- the waters they inhabit in the wild are the colour of tea without milk, so they tend to feel exposed in brightly lit tanks. Floating plants such as Indian Fern are exceptionally useful in such tanks.>
I'm wondering how they'll do in the guppy tank...will the guppies be too boisterous or will that serve to bring them out of their shells? How can the light provide for live plants, yet be dim enough to make them happy?
Or, will the cover of the plant leaves serve that purpose?
<I wouldn't mix Guppies with Corydoras and Neons because they require different water temperatures and water chemistries. Corydoras and Neons need 22-24 C/72-75 F, with a water chemistry between 3-10 degrees dH, pH 6.5-7.5. By contrast the farmed fancy Guppies (as opposed to the much more adaptable wild Guppies) need 25-28 C/77-82 F, with water chemistry from 10-20 degrees dH, pH 7.5-8.5. As you can see, there's little overlap. Put another way, don't mix them. Choose fish that share similar requirements, and mix those instead. Good companions for Neons and Corydoras include Zebra Danios, Whiptail Catfish, and Bristlenose Catfish, all of which have approximately similar requirements in terms of temperature and water chemistry.>
The coolest thing is watching the Corys in the early morning...schooling and in all levels of the water column. The rest of the day is spent on the bottom, sometimes looking for food, but most of the time just hanging out. I understand from reading that C. habrosus spends more time that other Corys in the water column, but am wondering if there's anything I can do to make them feel comfortable enough that we can witness this activity during the day.
<Corydoras habrosus, along with the other pygmy Corys, will only school in midwater if they feel secure. That means no substantially larger fish, no aggressive fish, and maintenance in groups of at least six, and
realistically 10+ specimens. When Corydoras habrosus hides away by day, it's a good sign they feel scared.>
Again, thanks for your help.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: water parameters - follow-up  12/7/10

Interesting. So, I wonder what is scaring them (C. habrosus). The tank they are in has no larger fish...it's just them (7) and the Neons. The kids and I are careful about how we approach the tank...don't laugh, but we are often on our hands and knees approaching slowly so as not to startle anyone. The tank is kept in a living room, so no wild activities going on...the room is pretty quiet and goes mostly unused during the day.
<You could start by doubling the number of Corydoras habrosus. Do add some floating plants too -- floating plants aren't like other plants, because they provide good, dense *overhead* shade. There's really nothing else that substitutes for a good clump of Indian Fern!>
There are plants with a sand substrate, but no other decor. Would giving them a piece of hollow wood they can hide in or burrow near be a good idea?
<Won't make much difference either way. Yes, they'll use such hiding places if they're scared. But thickets of plants at the edges of the tank should be providing adequate shelter.>
Or, would a more active fish like the zebras serve as a dither fish and make them more comfortable?
<I wouldn't use Zebra Danios because they're a bit thuggish. Better choices would be Glowlight Danios, Celestial Danios (Danio margaritatus), Marble Hatchetfish, White Cloud Mountain Minnows, and perhaps Wrestling Halfbeaks or Endler Guppies if the water wasn't too soft. Why these fish? Because they're small and stick to the surface, so they're less likely to harass the Corydoras. Dither fish won't work if they're scary! Do also bear in mind any dither fish have to be schooling to work too, which means at least six specimens with the right ratio of males to females for those dither fish to get along happily.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: water parameters - follow-up  12/7/10
Increasing the number of C. habrosus is an option, but they are difficult to find. Would one of the other dwarf Corys (C. hastatus or C. pygmaeus) work? Do they accept each other and school together?
<They may well school together, but there are no guarantees. This is always an issue with Corydoras species. But all the dwarf species belong to the same group, the Corydoras elegans group, and they should get along quite well. At the very least, adding a big school of a second species should make the other species feel more settled, even if they don't completely gel together in one big school.>
Thank you. Your help is appreciated!
<Cheers, Neale.>

powdery substance on surface of aquarium 8/29/10
Hi - I "inherited" the care of a 55 gallon planted freshwater aquarium that was set up in our nature center by a former staff member.
He set it up in January of 2009. The plants are Rotala indica, Hemianthus callitrichoides Anubias, Bolbitus and Java moss. I change 10 gallons of water weekly and use NovAqua water conditioned and 1 teaspoon of baking soda for the 10 gallons of new water.
<Why this latter? Unless your water is incredibly soft, there's no real need to add baking soda, i.e., sodium bicarbonate. Also, there "teaspoon" amounts are very difficult to discuss objectively. Now, if you had a carbonate hardness (degrees KH) test kit, you could determine the carbonate hardness of the water, and thereby judge whether you're adding enough or too much for the fish being kept. Different fish evolved for different sets of conditions, some hard water and some soft water.>
The fish we currently have are Cardinal Tetras, a Siamese Algae Eater and 2 Blue-spotted Sunfish.
<This latter, Enneacanthus gloriosus, is a lovely fish, but not a tropical species, and shouldn't really be in here.>
Just recently I've noticed a substance on the surface of the water that looks like a fine powder, white or slightly grayish in color. They are individual particles, not a film.
<Indeed. Could be a precipitation of bicarbonate salts following over- or misuse of the baking soda. Also, certain plants will precipitate out carbonate and bicarbonate during photosynthesis under specific conditions, a process known as biogenic decalcification. Finally, silt particles will settle out over time if the mechanical filtration media needs cleaning or
I did some water tests with the Hach test kit left with the aquarium and the results were: Nitrite 0 ppm; Nitrate 0 ppm; Ammonia 0 ppm; and the pH is 7.6.
<Without knowing the carbonate hardness it's impossible to use this information to say anything sensible about your use of bicarbonate.>
I think the Tetras should have a lower pH, about 6.5.
<Cardinal tetras will be fine at pH 7.6 provided the water isn't excessively high; general hardness 2-10 degrees dH, carbonate hardness to about 5 degrees KH will suit them fine. Yes, they evolved to live in extremely soft water, but such conditions are difficult to maintain under aquarium conditions, not least because soft water tends to experience rapid
background acidification. Plus, plants despise very acidic water, and filtration works best around pH 7.5.>
Do you have any idea what could be causing the substance or what I can do about it? Thanks for your help.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: powdery substance on surface of aquarium 8/30/10

Not sure about the baking soda...Travis just told me to add it. I think it was to buffer the CO2 being added for the plants. I don't think I mentioned that in my original e-mail. I discovered the CO2 tank is low and not bubbling like it was. That may be part of the problem. Do you think it would be better to eliminate the baking soda?
Thanks for your comments.
<Impossible to answer this without knowing your water chemistry. If it's really soft, then the sodium bicarbonate is important. If your water is rock hard, then it's unimportant. As for CO2, that's only useful under certain circumstances, and in general community tanks can cause more problems than it solves, especially if you the aquarist don't understand
the chemistry going on in the background. Never forget that CO2 can kill your fish and rapidly change the pH of the water. The use of CO2 is something recommended only to experienced aquarists. Cheers, Neale.>

water chemistry, FW... as relates to fish lvstk. sel. and planted system CO2 maint.    7/6/10
Dear Crew,
Thank you for the assistance that you provide us fellow hobbyists.
<Kind of you to say so.>
My question is related to water chemistry. I am currently in the process of setting up a 29 gallon freshwater planted tank. I have tested my tap water in the hope of determining the most appropriate water for various moderate to high light plants for my community tank. The tank will probably house Nerite snails, cherry shrimp, a couple Otocinclus and a school of tetras, probably Rummynose or cardinals though I understand cardinals don't like a lot of light ( 2 62 watt T5HO's).
<Okay. Well, for this mix you're after soft water. Cardinals require warmer water than Otocinclus, so they're poor companions. Yes, Cardinals are "photophobic" which is why they always look so terrified in Amano-style tanks! Fish school tightly when scared, and if you've ever seen a photo of an aquarium where the tetras are all bunched up, it's because they're frightened. One of the reasons I'm not a huge Amano fan is precisely this, that the need to create an aquarium that looks good in photographs trumps the needs of the fish. Stream-dwelling fish like Danios would be better for a tank like yours. Danios do well in the cooler conditions Otocinclus and Cherry shrimps desire, and don't mind open water at all. You aren't limited to Zebra Danios by any means, and with a bit of effort you should be able to find Glowlight Danios, Leopard Danios, Pearl Danios, and others. Minnows might work well too, both White Cloud Mountain Minnows and Vietnamese Cardinal Minnows are brightly coloured and thrive in relatively cool, bright conditions.>
My question is in regard to my tap water. I live in Arizona and my home has a water filter in the garage that is attached to all water coming into the house. The only thing that I know about this filtration system is that it has a prefilter and the water is filtered through carbon. I used API test kit for KH and GH. The tap water measures 6 drops for KH and I stopped trying after 30 drops for GH.
<Liquid rock. Perfect for livebearers; terrible for tetras. Your Cardinals would be dead within a year, likely 6 months, in such conditions.>
I then mixed the tap water 50/50 with RO water purchased from the local Wal-Mart Culligan system and the mix resulted in GH 14 and KH 4.
<This is moderately hard water; too hard for Cardinals in the long term, but fine for Danios and Livebearers, as well as the hardier Barbs and most Rainbowfish.>
I am afraid to use this mix as I was planning on using CO2 DIY and don't want the pH to crash due to the unstable KH of the mixed water.
<You will have to dose the CO2 carefully depending on the carbonate hardness. If you don't understand the relationship between pH, KH and the required CO2 concentration -- READ before even thinking about proceeding.
Please start here, with our friends over at The Krib:
I cannot stress too strongly how much easier CO2 is if you use a semi- or fully-automatic dosing system.>
Please advise my on how this carbon filtration has affected my tap water
<Filtering through carbon has no real impact on water chemistry at all; it removes some toxins, but that's about it.>
and if you think it would be wise to use straight tap with such a high level of GH and low level of KH.
<If you choose hard water fish like Guppies, sure. There are numerous plants that love hard water, and these usually don't need CO2 since they use bicarbonate in the hardness as their carbon source. Vallisneria and Elodea are two classic examples.>
The pH of the tap measured 7.4 and was the same with the 50/50 mix.
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Aquarium Question: Over-abundance of calcium/minerals in tap water?  6/13/10
My name is Jessica, and I just have a quick question for you.
<Fire away.>
I have an aquarium and will soon be moving in to my fiancé's house. The problem is, the water at his house has a lot of calcium and mineral deposits in it. It is well water (as is mine), and I guess his must come from an area in the ground with a lot of rocks near it or something.
<I see.>
I am just concerned how his will affect my tank when I do water changes and that it will build up in the filter and/or harm the fish.
<Minerals will not "build up" as such; the hardness of the water will stay more or less constant all the time. But excessive hardness can be bad for soft water fish. It may not kill them, but it can reduce their hardiness and lifespan, so it does make a difference. Best to choose species adapted to hard water: livebearers, Rainbowfish, etc.>
Obviously, I don't think that it is possible to do water changes straight from the sink.
<Sure it is. In fact you want to avoid water from a domestic water softener. You want the unsoftened water from the drinking water tap.
Domestic water softeners replace hardness with sodium salts, which are as bad for your fish as they are for you.>
I was just wondering if you have a safe product or method or anything that you would suggest for this problem.
<In all likelihood mixing unsoftened tap water with RO or rainwater 50/50 will do the trick nicely. This won't be necessary if the hardness is no higher than 15, maybe 20 degrees dH. But if the hardness is above 20 degrees dH, and the pH is 8 or higher, you really shouldn't maintained your soft water cichlid and catfish in such conditions. Will significantly shorten their lifespan.>
Also, just to let you know, I have a small Oscar (about two inches) and a larger (about four inches?) Rhino Pleco, or Alligator Pleco.
<All soft water fish.>
They are currently in a 45 gallon aquarium with a Whisper 30-60 HOB filter.
<Obviously you will need an aquarium about three or four times this size for these fish once adult, and a hang-on-the-back filter isn't even remotely adequate for fish that produce as much waste as adult Oscars or Loricariid catfish.>
If you have any advice please let me know.
<Do read:
Thank you for your time,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Aquarium Question: Over-abundance of calcium/minerals in tap water?  6/13/10
yes, when I said "build up" I meant like as a solid. our shower gets white build-up in it very quickly from the calcium.
<You will see this where water dribbles out of the tank, for example if the filter splashes water, and so lime builds up inside the hood. But nothing serious that can't me removed periodically with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. As for the water itself, no, calcium carbonate and other minerals don't accumulate in the water over time: what you take out during water changes is matched by what's put back in.>
in order for us to be able to drink it we actually have a separate spout with a reverse osmosis unit, and we buy those huge jugs of drinking water (like for the water coolers) for our dogs. the water tastes really bad.
<The taste may not be likeable to you, but the water is certainly potable, and for the right types of fish, actually preferable. A wise fishkeeper chooses species that appreciate local water chemistry. If you have "liquid rock" as we call this sort of water in England, then livebearers, Goodeids, hard water killifish, Central American cichlids, Rift Valley cichlids, Goldfish and brackish water fish would all be very sensible choices. All of these would positively thrive in the water conditions you have. Keeping fish like Oscars and Loricariid catfish that require different water
chemistry to what you have is creating a rod for your own back. With plain tap water they'll never be happy, and mixing the tap water with RO or rainwater -- which is what you will probably need to do -- will be expensive and/or a hassle. But without knowing your precise what chemistry, i.e., pH, general hardness and carbonate hardness, anything I say here is speculation, albeit informed and intelligent speculation.>
and yes, I'm looking into purchasing a one hundred gallon tank in a month or two (right now they're teeny-tiny in the tank they're in), and a canister filter, or making my own "separate tank underneath" filter (sorry, I forget what they're called at the moment).
right now I do 50% water changes at least once a week, along with vacuuming the bottom. like I said, they're both still very small right now.
<Fine. But Oscars grow very fast!>
also, I didn't realize that the Plecos were considered catfish...learn something new all the time I guess. :]
<Yes they are. In fact they belong to the Loricariidae, the biggest family of catfish, with some 800 species.>
as for the hardness of the water, I can't test it right now, but I'm pretty sure it's not suitable for them...as I said, it tastes awful.
<Taste has nothing to do with. You really do need the numbers. Tannin-stained soft water from the Rio Negro tastes pretty horrid, like swamp or a overbrewed cup of cold tea. But Amazonian fish love it!>
also, they do have to add some sort of salt softener in order to make it that useable.
<Precisely. Do not use this for the fish, and don't drink it either. The drinking water tap in the kitchen is probably not connected to the domestic water softener.>
so as you said, the salt's no good. thank you again, and please email me back if you have further suggestions. I'll have to look into bringing water from my mom's house across town for my changes.
it's nice soft water (very delicious well water, not like this other stuff), and they've been doing very well in it.
<As expect. But conversely, hard water fish like Mollies and Goldfish would not do well in the soft water, and would love the hard water you have in the new house. It's all about horses for course. Instead of Oscars for
example, and pair of Nicaragua cichlids or a big Jaguar cichlid would be a great alternative. Just as pretty, but much more at home in liquid rock.
Actually, your Rhino Plec (Pterygoplichthys scrophus) should be okay in hard water; most of the other Pterygoplichthys species do okay in liquid rock, even if they don't actually prefer it. I've certainly kept Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps and Pterygoplichthys pardalis in hard water Central American cichlid aquaria.>
and I'll be sure to read that article (right now). thanks again,
<Cheers, Neale.>
p.s. -- sorry for no caps. I'm writing from my iPhone and it takes long enough to type as it is
<You're forgiven. Cheers, Neale.>
Sent from my iPhone
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Aquarium Question: Over-abundance of calcium/minerals in tap water?  6/13/10
Okay, thank you. Again, I already have and have had the fish and suitable water for them, so it's not a matter of "getting" fish that are suitable to the new water. These are my fish and they come first.
<Fair enough.>
The drinking water in the kitchen really isn't a spout..it's a tiny spigot, not even large enough to fill the dog bowl when it's empty [about a gallon maybe?]. It would definitely not do for water changes even in a five gallon tank.
<If you have domestic water softener, of the sort used to remove lime from the water so appliances don't "fur" up, then somewhere there should be tap that doesn't connect to the softener. A tap that bypasses the water softener. Certainly here in the UK that is absolutely standard and I believe a legal requirement. Certainly you shouldn't drink water from a domestic water softener, which is why it's normally the kitchen sink tap.
Wherever this tap is, that's the one you use. If the one in the kitchen is too small, then check the one in the garden for the hosepipe. If it isn't clear, there are two reasons you don't use softened water. The first is the sodium chloride added to it. The second is that it has zero carbonate hardness, which means that it is very unstable in terms of pH.>
I will have to keep some of the large water jugs from the dogs and fill them up at my mom's. That shouldn't be a big deal. And again, just to clarify, I know that the minerals won't "build up" in the sense that you keep assuring me that they won't [like, accumulate in the actual water, I guess].
I just meant the physical, solid build up [again, I'm not trying to be, like, rude or snotty or anything, just letting you know. Sorry if it sounds rude].
<As I said, yes, you can get lime scale where water from the tank splashes onto something, like the hood, and then drips or evaporates away, leaving the lime scale behind. But otherwise no, you won't get chunks of lime scale forming inside the aquarium, filter or anywhere else under the waterline.>
Anyway, thank you again and I'll be sure to make accommodations for them.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Aquarium Question: Over-abundance of calcium/minerals in tap water?   6/14/10
hi again. sorry to be annoying, but I seem to have somehow lost the link you originally sent me and I'd like to keep track of it for reference.
<This one?
would you please be able to send it again? sorry again..
<Cheers, Neale.>

Water quality question 5/15/10
Hi guys! I really enjoy your site - both informative and fun!
<We're glad you find it useful, entertaining>
I have a water related question. We live out on an acreage. Our well water (hard water from a very deep underground lake) is potable, but it's not 'nice' water. The main concern (for aquarium use) are the tannins which give our water an unpleasant yellow tint.
<Mmm, tannins...>
I have noticed, while dismally attempting to clean the toilets and keep staining to a minimum (also some iron in the water, but minimal) that when I disinfect using chlorine bleach, the tannins seem to precipitate out of the water column, leaving it crystal clear. To date, we have been hauling our aquarium water in from the city (I have a 25g and a 55g tank) which is a fair amount of physical effort -esp. for me since I'm arthritic. I would like to be able to do water changes more readily and easily and reduce the hauling.
<I understand>
Would there be a problem adding chlorine bleach to our well water, letting it precipitate out, then treating the same water with water conditioner before using it in the aquarium? Self-proclaimed chicken that I am, I have been loathe to try this without advice.
<Depending on the "cause" of the coloration, the resultant quality of the water after such treatment, this should be fine...>
If so, how much chlorine should I add to the water (per gallon) and
<A few ounces of stock solution... household hypochlorite or pool quality>
how long should I let it sit before adding the dechlorinator?
<A day or so... then treatment with hypo (sulfite), likely Sodium Thiosulfate or such dechlorinator... subsequent testing for free chlorine (DPD, OTO kit)... aeration and storage ahead of use ideally>
Both my fish and I would be very grateful for any advice!
Thank you!
<It might be easier for you to look into an off-the-shelf reverse osmosis unit and storage... If you have sufficient water pressure, use for the by-pass effluent. Do read through WWM re water quality for various applications... Oh, and write back should you have further questions, concerns. Bob Fenner>

Help ! More from "Weird water Chemistry"   3/20/10
Hi Crew
<Hello again,>
Neale helped me a couple of weeks ago with my bizarre tap water when I was cycling a 55. The tank is cycled and stable and I also have two other aquariums with similar parameters. I am doing everything I know to do and everything that has been suggested and I still have unhappy fish. I am hoping someone can look over my specs one more time and perhaps also look at my city water site and see what I am missing.
my city water site is
<That's certainly rock hard water.>
My 8 week cycled 55 G has three fancy 3.5" fish in it.
Filtered with Filstar Rena XP3 (with Nitrazorb) an Emperor 280, Top Fin 40 and a submersible water pump for surface gas exchange. I vacuum thoroughly every 4th day and top off. I use water that has been aerated for 5 days ( this drops the tap PH of 9.5 to 8.4) I keep the Ph at 8.4 in all three of my tanks. I use Rift Valley salts to keep PH and KH stable ( KH at 120) My dechlorinator is KoiRX Detox Plus. Water temp is 70.
Change water is matched in temperature and PH at 8.4.
The fish mostly bottom sit, motionless.
<Not a good sign.>
They wake up and are lively when I feed them. After feeding or 15-20% water change, one fish returns to bottom sitting, one exhibits swim bladder problems and one floats gulping at the surface. They all yawn excessively.
I am feeding cooked, shelled green peas and cooked spinach, occasionally with blood worms. While the tank was cycling, I fed ProGold and they looked great for a few weeks.
I have Nitrazorb in the 55 and this holds the nitrate at 10 (the resident amount of nitrate in my city water) between 4th day water change.
<Should be fine.>
My 20 G with two small fish exhibits the same symptoms. My 40 gallon has three comets who eat well but one floats nose down and the white one is losing the orange spot on his head. I've had this fish 3 years and just this week, the color is rapidly fading. There has been no fluctuation in PH. I do not have Nitrazorb in the 20 and 40 and Nitrates test at 20 between 4th day changes. I cannot get them lower with water changes, only Nitrazorb will lower Nitrates.
<I don't think nitrates are the issue here.>
this week I purchased a GH test and have gotten some very strange readings.
I am assuming these are false high readings. I use API test.
Change water after aeration is 10 drops, 179
40 gallon tank 16 drops before it turns green
55 gallon (running 8 weeks) 30 drops before turning green
20 gallon (running 3 years) 45 drops and still orange..... I gave up at this point.
<As would I. The point is that the water is very, very hard.>
I have diatom problems in every tank which I try to keep cleaned away. I assume because the silica is high in my tap water. I added a Phosphate/silica pillow in the 40 last week, but no improvement yet.
<Diatoms will generally do well in aquaria anyways, and only things like snails make much impact on them. If you have some fast-growing plants then their growth is slow, but even then, I still need to clean diatoms from my tanks once every couple of months.>
If anyone can see what I am missing or unaware of...what mistakes I am making.... Please help !
I work very hard to keep my lovely fish healthy and well and this city water is incredibly frustrating !
Many thanks for your time.
<Amy, my gut feeling here is you have two options. The first is to use a certain amount of RO (or rain) water to create softer water. A 50/50 mix of RO and tap water would probably create something well within the tolerances of Goldfish and indeed most community tropical fish. This is precisely how I maintain most of my fish, using rainwater, which in England at least is almost "on tap"! In the continental United States rainwater may not be so abundant, but RO water is convenient if expensive. The second option is to keep just fish adapted to these very hard water conditions. Livebearers, Goodeids, Rift Valley cichlids, Central American cichlids and (with a bit of salt) brackish water fishes would all thrive under such conditions. A tank of orange Sailfin Mollies for example would make a nice alternative to Goldfish, and there are even some very nifty Koi Swordtails on the market as well. Another thing you might do is get in touch with a local aquarium club. I don't know if there is one on Topeka, but there are certainly clubs in Wichita, KS, and in Independence, MO. Both may well have online resources such as bulletin boards or forums, and you could find out from people in your local area precisely what fish do well and which ones don't.
Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Help ! More from "Weird water Chemistry" (RMF, any additional input?)<<>>
Thank you much for your fast reply. I have a variety of fancy Goldfish that I adore and I very much appreciate your help and thanks for hanging in there with me. Others that I have consulted simply disappear after a couple of email exchanges.
I can purchase water at my LFS until I can get an RO installed.
<<Have just re-read your prev. posts. I would blend such water about half with your tap/source... Let "stand" for a day or more before using>
I am thinking a unit that produces 50 G a day would suffice.
<More than enough for your pet-fish and potable uses>
Is there anything I need to know before buying one?
<Mmm... some basics re storing, using... These can be searched, found on WWM>
If I use 50/50 with tap water, are there any changes that I need to make in testing or additives required that I need to be prepared for?
<<There are, but I don't think you will need any for your purposes>>
Many many thanks.
<<Welcome. BobF>>

Follow up on Is this stream crowded? FW stkg. mostly, test kits, maint.  -- 02/25/10
I'm not questioning this because I think it's wrong, I'm asking because I want to understand.
<Perfectly reasonable!>
I think I've become pretty smart since learning of WWM but unfortunately that was after I stocked my tank. I relied on an ammonium detector that hung inside the tank that seems to be extremely under estimating.
<Yes, these things are fairly hopeless. They also only work for a certain period of time, and do need replacing.>
I relied on this and huge pet retailer that told me my water was "fine" for more fish.
<Unfortunately, many of these shops employ fairly generic staff, who may be fine retailers but are poor aquarists. So it's wise to take any advice offered with a pinch of salt.>
Later, I moved to strips that told a different story but I didn't know who to trust so I moved to vial testing which verified the strip tests were accurate. What I'm getting at is that I don't have a cycled tank and to make it worse I switched to an Aquaclear head after thinking my other filter was infused properly when it wasn't.
<To some extent, the best approach with test kits is to not rely on them.
Instead, go cautiously, doing things by the numbers, adding a low number of fish to an aquarium, and feeding as little as possible, filtering generously, and performing regular water changes. Most expert fishkeepers work that way, so if you ask people like me to honestly tell you how often they test the water, they'll reply "never"! They know how good the water is because they've insured it up front, and they also know what fish behaviour signs reveal the beginnings of problems.>
I'll go ahead and confess to the specs and make amends by making a video series on YouTube to show how to do a fishless cycle even though there are some good ones already that you may wish to check out and perhaps link to.
<Sounds good.>
The tank is a 36 gallon bowfront with sand substrate, 150 watt heater, standard kit lighting on timer and supplemented with a couple of Stunners to enhance and move the day/night cycle along with three timers.
<What's a "stunner"? In English idiom, it's normally a word reserved for uncommonly attractive women!>
The filter is a AquaClear 50 Power Filter (200gph). I liked the idea that you could pull out the carbon when needed and I also tried their ammonia resin catcher insert though that didn't help in my situation.
<Yes, ammonia removers are fairly useless in busy community tanks. It's important to recall what they're for, maintaining lightly stocked tanks where biological filtration isn't viable, e.g., hospital tanks where strong antibiotics are being used.>
The residents include:
6 peppered Cory cats
4 Red Platy
6 harlequin Rasbora
1 pearl Gourami
<All good fish, though you will need to be careful with temperature, since the Rasbora and Gourami prefer slightly warmer conditions than Platies and Corydoras; I'd aim for 25 C/77 F.>
The logic that this wasn't overstocking was because of the layers that the fish tend to stay at and the size of the filter.
<In a 36 gallon tank, this stocking should be fine.>
The water stats are:
Ammonia > .5ppm and < 1 (API water/vial)
<Here's one of the problems.>
Jungle Labs Strips:
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
GH: 25
<Is this mg/l? That is extremely low, far too low for Platies to do well.>
Chlorine: 0
KH: 100
<This surely is mg/l, and is again, somewhat low.>
pH: 7.0
<Do read here:
Make sure you avoid using water from a domestic water softener, and always choose fish that match your tap water conditions. That's the easiest way forward, since you won't need to adjust water chemistry at all; the 25% weekly water changes should take care of water chemistry automatically.>
I have kept ammonia lower than 1ppm by doing daily water changes of about 9 gallons. I read in an article here that to help cycling avoid water changes if ammonia is under 1ppm.
<Personally, I think that's false. The ammonia you detect is, by definition, unused by the filter bacteria, so isn't doing much of anything.
The growth of the bacteria population will be just fine even at less than 0.25 mg/l.>
It's held there at two days but I expect I'll need to bring it down with a change tomorrow.
Why wasn't the 20 gallon tank in the question I'm following up to not overstocked? Is it because of the second filter?
<Can't speak for the other tank, but this one is only overstocked now because the filter is immature and "not up to the job" yet. But after a month, when the filter has settled in, it should be fine.>
What percentage water should I remove when I do a water change on my tank since it isn't cycled but is loaded with life? I do test twice a day right now because I realize the mistakes.
<25% once a week is normally fine, but if the ammonia level gets above 0.5 mg/l, I'd change some water, perhaps 50% of it, if you can.>
The Aquaclear seems good at removing debris from this tank. I don't see anything hanging around on the bed very long. Are there any tricks besides raking for cleaning sand?
<Minimise raking the sand; it's actually better to leave the sand to mature nicely. There's going to be an excellent article on freshwater deep sand beds in the upcoming (next couple of weeks) 'Conscientious Aquarist' elsewhere on this site. Mature freshwater deep sand beds actually break down the detritus and stay remarkably clean. That's certainly my experience. It's much better to pipette away any unsightly detritus using a turkey baster rather than messing around with the sand too much.>
Not as easy as gravel but in my case it seems to stay cleaner because it isn't getting embedded. The catfish do a good job of stirring things up.
Should I consider a second filter of the same power?
<For the fish you have, a turnover rate of 4 times the volume of the tank should be adequate. So for a 36 gallon tank, if the existing filter is rated at 4 x 36 = 144 gallons/hour, you're fine.>
One thing I like about the Aquaclear is that it has a variable setting that for instance can be used to calm the water during feeding. I run mine on high because I want the catfish to have a chance.
<Would actually recommend giving the cats their own food at nighttime. Look at their bellies: it's very easy for half-starved Corydoras to have concave bellies. So, once or twice a week leave out a single Hikari Algae Wafer for your six Corydoras. They will wax fat on these!>
The Harleys are amazing even at their current tiny size as they can catch granules and chew them without spitting out. They do seem mad that they can't chew and put more food in their mouth at the same time.
<They're nice fish.>
So I could put a second power head with the same specs on the other side of the tank and operate it at low power. I'm afraid that putting anything stronger in would mess up the Harleys who struggle a tad when they hit the water column where the filter is now.
<More water current will be enjoyed by the Rasboras and Corydoras, but Gouramis and Platies are not so keen, so strike a balance. By all means experiment, but do watch to see how the fish react.>
If it would be good I could add a second filter and run it at a lower turnover.
Thank you.
Greg in Charlotte
<My pleasure.>
PS: Neale, I was born in Chicago.
<My mom got a letter published in the London 'Times' once defending Dan Rostenkowski, arguing that he may have been a crook, but at least he was a competent crook, and that's what matters in Chicago. I fear she'd be a little underwhelmed by President Obama and C-o-S Emanuel, dyed in the wool Democrat that she was. In any case, had a great trip to Chicago last year visiting family, though I was disappointed by the couple of aquarium shops I went to.>
And my Pearl doesn't seem to be building anything anymore but he's definitely king of the tank.
<These are very nice, weirdly underrated fish. Once mature, the males have just the most amazing fins, though both sexes are very pretty.>
I assume this is normal.
<Pretty much, especially when not kept with anything nippy or aggressive.>
He doesn't seem to be nipping anyone, just pushing them out of the way. I added plants to the front and rear of the tank so the Corys could get their favorite spot back. But where there is a will there is a way. I've got to get video of Pearl coming out of the cave almost completely horizontally.
<Cool! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Follow up on Is this stream crowded? FW stkg. mostly, now lambda
OK it sounds like things will be fine. The major LFS helped with the last round and they even do very good replies in e-mail so of course that is where I will get my in person advise.
I do not use a softener but like you said it's hard to trust these kits. I will be getting the API master kit tomorrow and will compare. Both GH and KH on this bottle are measured in PPM.
On their wellness chart for my numbers they translate as:
GH: 25 (Very soft)
<25 mg/l is indeed very, very soft water.>
KH: 100 being high moderate but under ideal.
<It's more middling than ideal. So a bit low for hard water fish (like livebearers) but acceptable rather than ideal for soft water fish (like tetras).>
Should I be looking at changing this and if so when/how?
<Depends on what fish you want to keep. If you're after a mix of soft and hard water fish, then aiming for moderately hard, very slightly basic water is the ideal (~10 degrees dH, pH 7.5) is the ideal.>
I'll test the tap water too when the API kit gets here.
The Stunner is a fabulous new light strip that comes in four colors and is LED. Each are 6 watts and one transformer can power up to six of them. They are cost effective since you only need one transformer. But I went with 10K for morning and day support on the stock tube and it mixes with a blue to translate to dawn and dusk. Blue is on by itself for the beginning and end hours of the day.
<Sounds nice.>
You can't really tell but I am going to make more videos with different lighting. The video here http://www.youtube.com/simplefishtank Only 1/4 the tank because I was trying to show off the Pearl. For some reason all the cats decided to jump into the shot at the same time too making it look like a 10 gallon tank! The Stunners are made by Ecoxotic and are just now starting to show up in LFS and some websites. It has the potential to be the "it" thing but even what the LFS guy says you have to be careful. He said they are fully submersible and they aren't even seeled (sealed?)
http://www.youtube.com/user/ecoxotic1 is their YouTube page.
<Looks nice.>
This appears to be a hobby with lots of snake oil salesmen, and trusted manufactures making bad products like 5 gallon tanks with a photo of 12 pics on it, poor Bettas, bad instructions as far as cycling and strange potions.
<Oh, the advertising of fish tanks with Photoshopped fish in them has been an ongoing argument in the magazine trade. The editors are stuck with whatever sells advertising space, but many hobbyists cry foul, saying all it's doing is setting people up for disappointment.>
I'm really concerned about the harm most people are inadvertently doing to their new pets.
At least I haven't lost anyone except 7 evil Tetras but that's another story.
Everyone seems well fed. Right now they get what they can eat in less than a minute except for the catfish who seem to have to "find" their food even if it landed on a plate in front of them.
<Remember, most catfish have poor eyesight. They find food by smell, and that means they swim upstream towards wherever the smell is coming from. if you add too much, they actually can have problems finding any of it because the smell comes from all around.>
I alternate these variety foods every other day. Basically it means every two days they get shrimp pellet or algae disc. And every other day whatever scraps but I try to get a bit of fast sinking granules to them when the other fish are eating flakes. ANYTHING that gets to the bottom the Pearl and Platies will go for. It's cute to watch the Platies and catfish "share" but not so much the Pearl. Like I said, he's getting to be a bully so I have to drop stuff for him in one section away from the catfish. Maybe I'm using the wrong size and this stuff is too big. They have to nibble quite a bit on it.
<Softens in time, so wouldn't worry.>
Please do look at the video and if you see anyone too thin let me know.
<They look fine.>
They look huge to me presently. I would like to know how much bigger you think the Harleys will get.
<Harlequin Rasboras are fairly small fish. They get to about 5 cm/2 inches long, but they're quite deep. Adults are nice looking fish.>
I didn't expect them to be so small compared to the other fish.
But the Pearl does leave them completely alone.
<Very non-predatory.>
Besides, the schooling fish are most interested in what is happening on the other side of the tank from them and are constantly checking it out. And when you mention the turkey baster, do you mean to suck out or push into the water column?
<Suck it out, and dump the waste and the water into a pot plant or something.>
Thanks again.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Planted Tank chem., hardness  10/5/09
I will be really brief because I used up so much space on your reef page but you were so personable and such a tremendous help.
<Will N. here with you today. I have no idea with whom you were previously corresponding, but I do know a few things about planted discus tanks, if I may say so myself.>
Luckily for both myself and my discus I am fairly successful with my discus tanks, all planted, mostly wild caught
<Sounds nice.>
My only question is, what is the safest way to RAISE hardness in planted discus tanks? This is
especially important as one of my tanks has metal halide lighting.
<Not seeing the connection here... faster plant growth?>
Using CO2 is not an even an option at this point because my tap water hardness is 0.6 dKH.<Yikes! Good for the discus, not so much the plants or overall stability of your system(s). The best way would probably be to use a small dose of African cichlid salt/buffer in combination with Seachem's Equilibrium or similar hardness buffer. I originally used a homemade concoction of various salts and bicarbonates to buffer my planted tanks; now I simply use a commercial product. I think you will find that the harder water and addition of CO2 will work wonders for your plants.>
Thank you kindly,
<Will N>

Re: Planted Tank chem., hardness  10/5/09
Whoa, that was quick. I will try that because I would also like to go back to using peat as my discus loved it and I saw the best coloration when I used it.
Thanks So Much Will

Stability vs. "recommended parameters" 6/27/2009
Dear WWM crew - first, thanks for your excellent site - I've learned so much from it and my tank is happier and healthier for your advice.
<Good to hear!>
I have a question about snails and pH. I have a 12 gallon Eclipse tank, and I did a fishless cycle in May, so the tank has been up and running for about a month now. It's a planted tank with 2 dwarf blue gouramis, a school of neon tetras, a CAE (yes, he will probably have to move on eventually, but for now he's small, not bothering other fish, and eating lots of algae), and an apple snail. (I also have an increasing population of Physa snails, but I'm cutting down on feeding and hoping they will come under control naturally - mean time, they aren't eating plants, so we're coexisting peacefully.) Water stats have been steady for a month now - 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 5-10 nitrate, pH 6.4 (pH of my tap water is also 6.4), temp kept at 80. I do a 15-20% water change once a week along with a gravel vacuuming. I have a HOB filter along with a small secondary submersible filter (I took out the BioWheel thingie). I feed flake food once a day and occasionally throw in some brine shrimp or an algae wafer as a treat.
Everybody seems happy and all my parameters are stable, but I was concerned about my apple snail with such a low pH (I've read they do best above 7).
So my question is this: does stability outweigh recommended conditions, or is his little shell being worn away by the acidic conditions?
<Apple Snails do indeed do better when the pH is over 7. It's not really anything biological and subtle, but simply that the calcium carbonate deposited by the mantle to form the shell dissolves faster in acidic water than in alkaline water. The more acidic, the faster it dissolves (think of how plaque acid dissolves teeth, and you'll have a pretty accurate analogy). Certainly there are snails in (slightly) acidic waters around the world, but they tend to have thin or pitted shells.>
If I do need to increase the pH, how do I do it?
<Simply raising the carbonate hardness should do the trick. The Cichlid Salt Mix here might be of use:
You probably wouldn't even need the full dose, and a half-dose may be all you need to nudge the pH above 7 (i.e., add the spoonfuls of minerals per 10 gallons rather than 5 gallons as listed). Note the balance of minerals used; although three ingredients are required, they're very inexpensive, and water changes will cost pennies a time. If this is too much work, the alternative is adding calcareous media (such as crushed coral) to the filter, but over time this gets covered in gunk so if you find the buffering effect weakens, i.e., pH level starts dropping below 7 again, you'll need to clean or replace the calcareous media. This typically needs to be done every couple of months, but if you deep clean with hot water the crushed coral, a single batch should last you several years before its irredeemably dirty.>
Or is there a way to add calcium for the snail without messing with the stability of my water?
Many thanks,
<Cheers, Neale.>

FW Water   5/2/09
I have a ten gallon FW tank with one blue lobster and an occasional guppy.
My tap water is atrocious. The average PH does not read on the charts, below 6.0ppm. Is there a store bought substitute that could work for water changes.
<Don't bother. See here:
Scroll down to the section on making water harder by adding home-made Cichlid Salt mix. Do that. Cheap, easy, and will be ideal for both Crayfish and livebearers.>
For example what would be the best option between distilled, purified, spring, and of course is one specific brand name preferable over another?
I have determined this would be the easiest way to combat my tap water problem but have received mixed messages from LFS about the best type of water to use. Any suggestions aside from an RO unit which I own but cannot set up at my current location. I would prefer not to have to adjust the waters chemical makeup with additives, if this is possible.
<Trust me, it's easy to add stuff to tap water to make it perfectly safe for your fish. Between the Rift Valley cichlid salt mix and water conditioner, even the worst potable water can be turned into spiffy aquarium water! And at just pennies a month!>
<Cheers, Neale.>

"Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality" addendum - 4/13/09
Hi Bob,
If you'd like to edit/adapt this article:
<Ah, will do on the morrow. B>

After the subtitle Creating hard and alkaline conditions could the following new section be added, as below?

By the way, on the FW se-up index, this article is entitled "Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality", which doesn't really make sense; shouldn't it be called Freshwater Aquarium Water Chemistry or similar?


Cheers, Neale

A Simple But Effective Rift Valley Cichlid Salt Mix (but it's good for Central American cichlids, livebearers, goldfish and community fish too!)

You can buy cichlid salt mixes from aquarium shops, but you can make your own very inexpensively. You'll need baking soda and Epsom salt, which you can get from most grocery or drug stores, and marine salt mix, which your aquarium shop will have. Note that marine salt mix isn't the same thing as "aquarium salt" or "tonic salt"; you want to buy the stuff used in marine aquaria. If in doubt, ask your retailer for salt to use in a marine aquarium. Common brands include Reef Crystals, Instant Ocean and so on. For our purposes, all are good, so get whatever is cheapest.

Per 5 US gallons (20 litres) add the following amounts of each ingredient:

* 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
* 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
* 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements)

If you're curious, the baking soda raises the carbonate hardness, ensuring pH stays steadily in the basic range. The Epsom salt has little impact on pH, but raises the general hardness, helping hard water fish balance their osmoregulatory systems. Finally, the marine salt mix adds some trace elements as well as more carbonate hardness, rounding out the salt mix here so that it more closely matches the water chemistry found in the Great Lakes of Africa.

Note the quantities used! A tablespoon is three teaspoons, so you're adding three times as much Epsom salt as either marine salt mix or baking soda. Teaspoon and tablespoon measurements should be level, not heaped. Do also note than baking soda and baking powder are not the same thing!

Remember to add the ingredients to the bucket of water you're preparing for the aquarium; don't add them directly to your aquarium! Stir the mixture well, allowing a few minutes if necessary for all the minerals to dissolve. The first time you use this recipe, use your pH and hardness test kits to check you've done everything right; you aiming for a pH around 8 and a hardness level above 15 degrees dH. The carbonate hardness should be above 7 degrees KH. It doesn't really matter much what the precise values are, provided they don't change much from week to week.

If you're adapting your fish from standard tap water conditions to the hard, alkaline conditions you want, don't change all the water at once! This will severely stress your fish, even if the change is nominally for the better. Do a 20-25% water change once per day, ideally once a week, but otherwise with at least 24-48 hours gap between each water change, depending on how delicate your fish happen to be (Tanganyikans tend to be more delicate than Malawians).

You can use this salt mix in lots of other situations besides Malawian and Tanganyikan cichlid aquaria. It's ideal for use with Central American fish including livebearers and cichlids, used at 50-100% the quantity described here for Rift Valley cichlids. Use a 50% dose if your water is already quite hard, but if your water is soft or the pH is prone to varying between water changes, use the full dose. Just to clarify, a 50% dose would be one teaspoon each of baking soda and marine salt mix and one tablespoon of Epsom salt per 10 US gallons (40 litres).

Goldfish like hard water, and again, a 50-100% dose will work well if your find the pH in your goldfish aquarium tends to drop. In community tanks with things like barbs, gouramis, etc., this salt mix can be used at a 25-33% dosage to buffer against pH fluctuations. At a 25% dosage then, you'd be adding one teaspoon each of baking soda and marine salt mix and one tablespoon of Epsom salt per 20 US gallons (80 litres). Check the pH and hardness with your test kit; for standard community fish a pH of 7.5 and a hardness level around 10-15 degrees dH is more than acceptable, with only the most finicky species, such as ram cichlids, likely to object. For most community fish, the benefits of a steady pH will more than offset the fact you're keeping them in slightly harder and more alkaline water than they'd enjoy in the wild.

Water?   4/10/09
I have been searching and reading and really trying to wrap my head around water chemistry and what is going on in my tank.
<By default, leave your water chemistry as it is out of the tap, while ensuring you don't do something silly like use untreated tap water or water from a domestic water softener.>
I have 25 gallon with 2 honey Gourami, 3 Guppies, and 3 Swordtails now.
<Not really a compatible selection of fish; Guppies and Swordtails need hard, alkaline water, and in the case of Swordtails, not too warm. So pH 7.5, 10+ degrees dH, at 24 degrees C would work fine for them both. As for Honey Gouramis, these are Asian stream dwelling fish that need warm, soft, acidic water. So for them to last any length of time you're looking for 5-10 degrees dH, pH 6.5-7.5, 26 degrees C. As you can see, there's not much overlap between these three species, so if you get conditions right for one fish, another will be under improper conditions, and therefore likely to get sick.>
I had 6 Guppies but 3 have since died as well as both my frogs and I think it has something to do with my alkalinity and my PH. I bought a package of a different kind of test strips because they were on sale ( my first mistake) and it was very vague on the readings and hard to get exact readings.
<Frankly, test strips are fine for ball park values, even if they're not especially accurate. All you really need to know is whether your water is hard or soft, has high carbonate hardness (alkalinity) or not, and whether
the pH is above or below 7.>
I thought I'd tough it out till I finished them and do my regular routine (second mistake). My nitrates, nitrites and ammonia are fine however since going back to my normal test strips have discovered my PH has gone from 7.2 to 6.8 and my alkalinity from 120 to zero.
<Why is the alkalinity so low? This is extremely dangerous, and likely why the pH is dropping. Are you using tap water or water from a domestic water softener.>
Should I leave it as is or should i do something like baking soda to raise my alkalinity?
<If your water really is this soft out of the tap, then yes, you should be raising the carbonate hardness somewhat, to around 5 degrees KH. I'd recommend using small portions of home-made or store-bought Malawi (Cichlid) salt mix, starting at about 1/4th to 1/3rd the recommended dose for usage in Malawi and Tanganyikan cichlid tanks. The recipe for making your own is on WWM if you want to save money; it's cheap and easy.>
I know it will probably increase my PH but can I do it in a way it will be real slow as to fix the alkalinity and not kill any more fish?
<Fish don't "feel" pH; but they do get harmed by pH changes.>
Thank you for your help,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Water? 4/10/09
Thank you so very much for your information. I'm on a well system, could this be the cause of my soft water?
<Every well is different! Usually wells are sunk into limestone or chalk, where the aquifers tend to be, so the usual thing is for well water to be somewhat to very hard. Use a test kit (test for carbonate hardness,
ideally) and find out what your tap water is like. Remember, don't use water from a domestic water softener, if one is installed; if one of these is installed, the drinking water tap in the kitchen usually bypasses it.>
I will definitely try your recipe and hope it all goes well. I lost another guppy this morning :(
<Oh dear. Do review water chemistry, and it's importance to successful fishkeeping. Once you know the hardness and pH of your tap water, it is ALWAYS best to choose fish that prefer such conditions.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Water? 4/10/09
Sorry to bother you again but I was wondering if my water conditioner may be causing the issue?
<Shouldn't do.>
I tested my water straight from tap and it showed PH 6.8 and KH 100 with GH at soft.
<OK. This is going to be good water for softwater fish such as tetras and Corydoras, but bad for livebearers (guppies and the like).>
I added a little of my water conditioner (stress coat+ from API)
<An excellent product.>
and tested again it showed PH 6.8, KH 100, but my GH when down to very soft.
<More likely to be variation in your test kit. Wouldn't worry unduly.>
Is there a better conditioner to use and would you still recommend the salt recipe if I change conditioners?
<Would recommend you accept the water for what it is, keep soft water fish that don't need hardness, under stock the tank, and do regular (25% weekly) water changes to offset background acidification. This would be the "easy" approach, anyway. If you wanted to keep hard water fish (such as livebearers) then yes, you would need to raise the carbonate hardness through the use of Malawi salt mix or similar. Do remember "tonic salt" and "aquarium salt" aren't what you need here! Often people make this mistake;
it isn't salinity you're raising, but hardness, specifically carbonate hardness, because that's the thing that raises and steadies pH at the desired 7.5-8 level things like Guppies prefer. Cheers, Neale.>

Question about nitrites (Symphysodon, Pantodon; water quality issues) -- 02/12/09 Hi. I have a freshwater 300 gallon tank (225 tank with a 75 gallon sump). It use to be saltwater and about 2.5 months ago converted it to a freshwater community, mainly discus tank. I have 8 discus- most around 5' inches, 5 gold nugget Plecos, 2 electric blue crayfish (no claws), 3 black ghost knife, 3 Bala sharks, a butterfly fish, 2 big snails and left over feeder fish swimming around. I plan on adding more discus and am trying to convince my boyfriend to make it a discus only tank which I'm sure will happen soon. Anyway- I noticed my nitrites went up the day I added feeders (mainly for butterfly fish) and added 4 discus the same day and according to my bf I feed too much as well which I am working on. I feed a mixture of frozen food (brine, blood worms, mosquito larvae, krill, shrimp, beef heart etc) 3-4 times a day maybe a large spoon full each time (maybe a tad more) :/ Anyway, I'm trying to get some expert advice on how to get my nitrites back at zero. We have a Fluval, two overflows and have a little circulation in the tank at all times (not too much because I know discus like still'er' water). I try to do a water change once every week or two. Now that my nitrites have gone up, I've done 3 30%+ water changes in the past 4 days. I keep my temps at 83, ph at 6.4/6.6 and have extra aeration (big round bubbler) in sump (does that even help with aeration in main tank water??) Thank you for any advice. I appreciate it greatly. Christina <Hi Christina. Well, one thing you can do is not use feeder fish. There's absolutely no reason to do so, and many good reasons not to. One key reason is that (commercial) feeder fish are reared in filthy conditions. That's how they're so cheap! And filthy fish are disease-ridden fish, and that's the last thing you want in this tank. Discus obviously are sensitive to diseases, and Black Ghost Knifefishes are killed outright by many medications (especially those with copper in them) so you can't easily treat this tank. Crayfish and snails will be killed by copper too. So adding feeders is just plain dangerous. African Butterflyfish will eat all sorts of other things, including flake. They have a distinct "kill zone" around each eye, in an arc about 90 degrees and extending outwards a few centimetres. If you start with things like small crickets or fruit flies, you'll get the African Butterflies trained onto other foods, and once that happens they'll take good quality pellets and flakes. Right, with that dispensed with, we can look at filtration. Yes, Symphysodon come from "slow" water, but that's not really an option in an aquarium. Filters for fish the size of Discus will need to be rated at 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. In your case, 6 x 300 = 1800 gallons per hour. Anything less isn't going to process ammonia and nitrite rapidly enough. Another key thing to remember is biological filters prefer basic pH levels. Below 7.0 they work less and less well, and below 6.0 don't work at all. So unless there's a darn good reason, you should run your tank at pH 7. Commercially bred Discus are just fine at that level, and the improved filtration is far more important to their health than the pH. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: question about nitrites (Symphysodon, Pantodon; water quality issues)  2/12/09 Ok Thanks so much. So for now what do I do about the nitrite?? I think I'm going to do a 40%/50% water change... let me know what you think. Thanks Christina <Water changes will of course dilute nitrite. But if there's inadequate biological filtration, e.g., from too many fish, or too little filtration, or not enough circulation, then the nitrite will keep coming back. So by all means do a water change, but look at the big picture too. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: question about nitrites (Symphysodon, Pantodon; water quality issues)  2/13/09 Ok Gotcha! I did a 50% water change and it didn't lower the nitrites as much as Id like but at least it did go down a little. Im confused on how my filtration might not be good enough- I have water flow, two overflows and a Fluval. Hmmm. <Well, first check the turnover. As I mentioned, there's a certain amount you need, and I'd recommend 4-6 times the volume of the tank per hour. Next up, check water chemistry. As the pH drops below 7, biological filtration becomes less efficient. Oxygen is also important. One key thing is that as filter media gets clogged, the bacteria get less oxygen, so biological filtration diminishes.> Maybe Im just overfeeding and I have heard that with discus some people do a water change every other day. <Simple way to test: don't feed the fish for 2-3 days. Won't harm the fish. If the nitrite goes away, that's your problem.> So maybe I will I have to do that... lower feeing and change water more often. One more question- what about adding real plants to the tank- right now I have fake plants but I heard real plants might help control nitrite, nitrate and just in all help the water quality. <Fast-growing plants (and that's the key thing!) can, will, remove ammonia and nitrate directly. Floating plants are especially good because they're closer to the light so able to grow most quickly. If you're removing armfuls of plants every week (as you will be if they're happy) then you can be confident your floating plants are removing a lot of nitrate.> I was thinking about putting them in the sump... what are your thoughts?? Thank You sooooo very much Christina <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: question about nitrites (Symphysodon, Pantodon; water quality issues) 2/14/09 Okay- so Im slowly raising my PH up to 7.0, I will get plants today (hopefully find some floating ones), Im almost positive my filtration is great- use to have saltwater with an overstocked tank and never had problems. Do you think maybe the sand is the problem? <Sand won't make a good tank bad, but if it isn't kept clean, like any substrate, it can trap uneaten food.> I hear nitrates and nitrites get caught in the sand... and how do i make sure theirs enough oxygen in the tank?? <Actually, neither happens. Sand is relatively anoxic, at least below about an inch or two, so that you get anaerobic decay. This breaks nitrate into nitrogen gas. It's precisely what happens in live rock and deep sand beds in marine aquaria, so nothing to be scared of. I like to add some fish or snails that sift sand to keep the top layer clean. This prevents excessive amounts of organic materials from being trapped in the sand. Malayan livebearing snails are the absolute ideal, but Corydoras and most Loaches work almost as well. The main thing with sand is to just rake the top inch or two every few months, just to make sure it's clean. Contrary to a widely held misconception, low levels of anaerobic decay don't kill fish, but you still want to keep the sand clean.> We have two powerheads, the Fluvals return and have a big round bubbler in the sump. Also, we have bioballs (used em from the saltwater- cleaned em very well and let them dry out before reusing them)...are they ok to use with freshwater?? <Should work fine.> Thanks so much- your a great help Christina <Suspect this is more an over-feeding, under-cleaning issue that anything else. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: question about nitrites (Symphysodon, Pantodon; water quality issues) I've done tons of research and combined with your advice I think I understand the way the system works now. I did a 60% water change yesterday then tested and the nitrite dropped a little, but then today I tested it again and back at 1.0- this makes no sense to me because for the past 5 days I've been doing 30%, 30%, 50% and now 60%(yesterday) water changes and the nitrites are still the same reading... why is this?? <If you do a water change, and the nitrite vanishes afterwards, that tends to mean the problem was a "spike" and it's fixed. If the nitrite comes back up again, it means nitrite is being produced. Ammonia gets turned into nitrite by the filter, so somewhere along the line there's an excess of ammonia *relative to the rate of filtration*. Your tank may be big enough for the fishes you have, but if your filter is somehow inadequate, then that's where the nitrite comes from. In effect, the ammonia is being generated by decay in the aquarium at rate X, but the filter converts it into nitrite at rate Y, and if Y is smaller than X, nitrite accumulates over time.> Somethings isn't right in my tank. <Indeed. Review filtration rate, the quality of the biological media, the cleanliness of the filter, the amount of oxygen getting into the filter, the pH, etc.> I read in a few articles a little salt would help solve the problem but also read no salt with plants- which I plan on getting Monday. What do you think- do the salt even with the fish I have (knife fish, gold nugget Plecos, crayfish, discus, ornate bichir, butterfly fish) or just do plants which seem safer but will it help out with nitrites?? <Salt should not be added to this tank. Filtration -- FILTRATION -- is the issue!> Or I was thinking about buying and adding refrigerated bacteria (turbo start etc)... <The bacteria are there already, so adding more is neither here not there. Improve the filtration. Cheers, Neale.> So confused... Thanks again Christina

Re: question about nitrites (Symphysodon, Pantodon; water quality issues) 2/15/09 Okay. So what would you suggest in making my filtration better. <Making sure it has adequate turnover usually does the trick. Look at your filter, and read from the pump what it's gallons (or litres, as you prefer) turnover per hour is. Divide that number by the volume of the tank. if the answer is less than 4, you have too little filtration. You're aiming for at least 4x the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, and ideally 6x.> I have the biggest Fluval (450 I think)... <Fluval 405? That has a turnover of 340 gallons per hour. Your tank has 300 gallons capacity (including the sump?) so the turnover required is 4 x 300 = 1200 gallons per hour minimum. In other words, you'll need at least 3-4 of these Fluval 405 units just for the minimum level of filtration.> 2 overflows, and a 90 gallon sump with about 200 bioballs. I also have a 'sock' that the hoses go into to catch debris. Im now wondering if my sump is not set up correctly... hmm. <The sump is neither here not there. Just add its volume to the overall capacity of the tank. While it may well contain biological media (e.g., bioballs) if the rate of water turnover is too low, then the filtration just won't happen. Normally you get the 1200 gallons per hour purely using canister filters or whatever. But since you have a sump, you may be able to combine a canister filter with a powerhead water pump of adequate turnover that water passes through the sump quickly. In this case, if you have 340 gallons/hour accounted for by the Fluval, you'll need 1200 - 340 = 860 gallons per hour from the powerhead.> Can I send you a pic of my sump and tank and maybe you'd be able to point out where something is wrong? Also- I have a big protein skimmer from my old saltwater setup- would that be of some use on this 300 gallon freshwater tank? <Skimmers don't work in freshwater aquaria. Only in brackish/marine (or in some cases, ponds, though not regular aquarium skimmers).> Thanks Christina <Cheers, Neale.>

Trace Minerals in Freshwater 1/14/09 Hello Crew, Hope all are having a good day. <Yes, thanks for asking.> Just waiting for cold weather to come through tonight. Down in the 20s. But I think that is the way is should be in winter. Anyway, I would like to know if there is any reason to add a trace mineral supplement to a freshwater tank. <None at all, at least not for the fish. A balanced, varied diet should take care of all their requirements. Plants are different, and they will need periodic supplements, particularly of iron.> I use regular city tap water. I don't know how trace minerals get deleted and didn't know if on occasion I needed to put some in. I do have a little java fern and moss, but not sure if they take trace minerals out of the water or not. <They will take some, but slowly, and your water changes will compensate.> Thank all of you for your knowledge! James <Cheers, Neale.> Re: Trace Minerals in Freshwater Thank you. <Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

FW hazy tank and plant fertilization, AGA referral   12/28/07 I sent a message earlier regarding a hazy tank (same subject heading), I forgot to add an additional bit of info: I perform a 25% water change every 3 weeks and the water does not clear up afterwards. Hopefully you can piece my two emails together. <Have done so> Thank you Brent Hey, your website is absolutely amazing, I have spent hours reading your FAQs and find them incredibly helpful! However, the situation in my tank does not quite add up. Here's the run-down on my tank: Freshwater, 90 gallon, 2 Fluval 305 filters (no carbon media used), 100% Fluorite based, heavily planted, water test levels: 0 for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH 6.6 - 6.8, CO2 injection, KH 40 ppm, 270 Watts compact fluorescent lighting, temperature 79.8 - 80.3 F. Fish: 1 Pleco (6"), <Yikes... what species? Some of these will "bother" to consume most all plants> 1 redtail shark (4"), 5 Neons (tiny), 5 black skirts, 2 flying foxes (3" each), 3 clown loaches, 4 honey dwarf Gourami, 1 Danios (a lone survivor of a former school of 5). My tank has been running a little more than a month. I fertilize regularly (every two days) with flourish excel and iron and I use flourish (containing other trace nutrients) twice weekly. <Mmmm, okay... I do wish there were simple, available test kits (of use natch) to test for the principal ingredients in these mixed fertilizer products> Also, I inject CO2 into the tank and diffuse it with an airstone and the canister filter (seems to be about 90% efficient for diffusion). Also, there is minor minor algae on the glass, and a little amount of beard algae on the edge of one of my plants leaves. All the fish seem happy: no disease, no weird behaviour, excellent colouration, etc. I feed once every 2 days (4, 1cm diameter algae discs, and a pinch of granulated fish food). All the plants seem happy: excellent growth, thick stalks plenty of leaves, nice and green. Ok on to my question: My tank is still a little hazy (white) and I would like crystal clear aquarium water. I think the haze is from a bacterial bloom, will that go away with time? <Hopefully so... can be more of an unsightly nuisance... such microbial populations can "lead" to changes in water quality that are detrimental...> Also, if it is a bacterial bloom, and the nitrate levels are so low (zero), why exactly are they blooming (their nutrient sources should be all used up by the plants)? <Mmm, a bit of a conundrum, but likely what available Nitrate there is, is being "taken up" rapidly here... So, not that there is no NO3, but that it is concentrated...> Also, my nitrate levels are at 0. In a tank that is heavily planted, should I be fertilizing with nitrates (NPK fertilizers) or is this going to cause the bacterial bloom to get out of hand? <This form of Nitrogen is supplied via fish wastes and in the SeaChem products... sufficiently here> Thank your your help! Brent <I'd bet most anything that you'd gain by reading Diana Walstad's works... do a search and scan when you have some time on the Aquatic Gardener Association's website: http://www.aquatic-gardeners.org/ Bob Fenner>

FW cloudy tk.   9/30/07 Hey crew, <Chris> I have a 45 gallon freshwater tank. There are two catfishes, one platy, ten platy fries, two guppies, and four tetras. They have been well and healthy. However, the water seems really foggy. I do 20 percent water changes every two weeks. No fishes have died or had any disease and the nitrate and ph seem fine. The ammonia may be a tiny bit high though. <Should be and stay zip, zero...> I have not been overfeeding my fishes and only fed as much as they could eat. Do you know why the water gets cloudy? <This and the presence of detectable ammonia leads me to suspect inadequate filtration> Also, do you know any thing I can do or add any good chemicals to prevent it from fogging up. <Not a good route to go... Improve the filtration, circulation...> Thanks for all your help. I really appreciate it. <Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Community Tank Water Chemistry. 9/5/07 Hi Neale, <Lisa,> I'd appreciate your advice on "community tanks" concerning water chemistry. <OK.> I am "fostering" a 29 gallon tank. In the tank are 3 albino Corys, 3 black shirt tetras, 3 glowlights (I tried to identify them last night - their bodies are pinkish/flesh color with a red marking on the dorsal fin), 3 very pretty orange and red mollies and 1 pleco (plump and about 5-6 inches in length). <Those don't sound like glowlights. Glowlights (Hemigrammus erythrozonus) are transparent with a coppery band from nose to tail along the midline. Need a photo to identify them, as they don't sound immediately recognisable to me.> Due to the tap's very soft water (which I understand is preferred by Corys), my pH swings (as noted from my established community tank). I am not sure how to buffer it as in this situation it doesn't make sense to buffer using peat or crushed coral on either sides of the spectrum to stabilize. <Corydoras couldn't really care less about water pH or hardness. Anything from pH 6-8 and hardness 5-20 dH is acceptable, particularly with tank-bred forms (which is what you have). I've said this repeatedly on WWM in answer to many other questions -- the exact pH and hardness almost never matters: what matters is stability. So, if you have very soft water, then adding some crushed coral to the filter DOES make sense. Maybe you won't need much -- experiment! Perhaps half a cup to start with. Measure the pH and hardness each day for the following week, and plot a little graph. Once you've seen what effect it has, you can raise or lower the amount of crushed coral so that it meshes with the amount of water you change each week. What you're after is around 10 dH and a pH around 6.5-7.5. That's the "sweet spot" for virtually all tropical community fish.> Similarly, where does one draw the line in stabilizing pH and hardness/softness in a community tank where for instance guppies (tank 1: 5 guppies, 5 Corys, 2 bumblebee cats, 2 Plecos, 1 giant danio) and mollies (tank 2: combo mentioned above) prefer more alkaline water and Cory's like neutral, soft water? I also understand mollies prefer brackish water (no salt has ever been added to their tank). <Except for the mollies, what I suggest above will suit all of these. The guppies might prefer harder water, and certainly not a pH less than 7.0. Mollies, unfortunately, just don't do well in regular community tanks with 100% reliability. I know some people are fine with them, and that's cool. But 5 times out of 10, the mollies just don't thrive. So there's no way, ever, you're going to get me say "this set of freshwater conditions is ideal for all your fish, mollies included". Mollies just plain do better in brackish/marine aquaria. End of story.> Also, as you can imagine the pleco in the 29 gallon barely has room to turn around. I'd like to move him to the 55 gallon Mbuna tank. I have not yet moved my other pleco from my established tank to the Mbuna tank because I have not finished aquascaping it yet (I'm in phase 1). The 55 gallon has 11 2-3 inch Mbunas and the nasty CAE. Will both Plecos be okay in the 55? <This is a "suck it and see" situation. If you have two male plecs... don't bank on them getting along. Two females, maybe. One of each... who knows?> At least they'll have room to swim (I watched the video on YouTube you referred to about the Plecos in the wild!)...? <Isn't it cool!> One other question please! Can a tank have too much aeration? I'm running 2 powerheads in the 55 and a "full length" airstone - I have two filters that break the surface with the water flow. I'm trying to equip tanks according to biotope - I haven't been able to find if the Rift Valley Lakes have strong currents or are rather still... <Realistically, no, in freshwater tanks over-aeration and over-filtration aren't usually a problem. Yes, you can supersaturate water with gases, and these bubble out inside the fish, causing tissue damage. But this happens more in marine than freshwater aquaria, I think because of differences in gas solubility between fresh and salt water. Regardless, to get to this point you need A LOT of aeration and filtration, and freshwater fishkeepers rarely run systems with even 50% the water movement of comparable marine tanks. As for water currents in the Rift Valley lakes... it depends! Some parts of the lakes have strong currents, with some cichlids even living in the surf zone. But other parts are relatively still, particularly where there is a thick growths of plants (Potamogeton and Vallisneria, mostly). But provided you're aiming for about 6-8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, you should be fine.> Thank you Neale! Lisa. <Hope this helps, Neale>

Mollies, Soft Water, Hardness, SG, Corys, Community Tank Questions  7/29/07 Hello from a senior citizen and younger bride in Georgia, <Greetings.> Many thanks for your wonderful efforts on this site. It is superlative and has helped immensely since we transitioned from marine tank to community tank. <Thanks!> Our goal is to have a colorful community tank with high quantity, hence 3 filter systems are in place. <OK. But do bear in mind filters don't really let you overstock an aquarium. At the very least, an overstocked tank requires more water changes per week than otherwise.> We have 8 separate problems/questions, with sub-questions having to do with either water chemistry or Mollies. <Eight questions with sub-questions!? Oh boy...> Forgive my husband's engineering training in outlining our tank and some of the questions. He wanted you to have ALL the parameters and orderly questions with no room for your guessing what we have here. <Good.> From reading your forum, we think that the LFS may have led us astray on Mollies and water parameters and we need a definitive answer and think your advice is what we want to trust. <There's no "definitive" set of water conditions for Mollies; there's what they inhabit in the wild (anything from inland lakes to the sea) and then there's what suits tank-bred mollies in aquaria. All I can say with 100% confidence is that mollies kept in brackish/salt water are less prone to disease percentage-wise than mollies kept in freshwater aquaria. But then, there are people who keep them fine in freshwater tanks. Just not everyone: for every person who has success with them in freshwater, there's another who has nothing but trouble. So it isn't easy.> We thank you in advance for your kindness in replying and apologize for the lengthy email. <OK.> Our tank and tank water parameters: 125 gallon tank, 5' long, est. 115 gallons water <Nice and big tank, always a good start!> Tank operating 15 weeks, popped normally with danios/platys, a few platys survived it all. <Should be mature by now.> Water changes 10-15% (12-20 gallons) a week with gravel vacuum each time. <Bigger water changes would be better, especially if you're after a heavy stocking of the tank. 50% water changes weekly are not out of line. At the least, you want to be doing 25% water changes. Big water changes don't take any more work once you have the bucket and pipe out, and dechlorinator costs very little. But big water changes *massively* improve water quality.> 11 plastic 'plants' & no live plants <OK. Livebearer babies appreciate live floating plants though, or at least, they hide among them well and avoid being eaten.> 4 plastic 'coral heads'-'lava tower'-'caves.' 1 small piece of slate for hiding babies and resting Corys. <OK.> 2 - 2.5 inches thick new white gravel with under gravel filter on 2 large corner power heads (no air bubble venturis in use) <The gravel sounds hideous. Here's a thing people don't realise about fake coloured gravels -- fish alter their colours to match. If you have bright white gravel, the fish will fade their colours. Instead of a rich reds and blues, your fish will gradually become pink and grey. This varies of course -- some fish (like fancy platies and goldfish) can't change their colours, but many can. Without exception, the darker the substrate, the brighter the fish's colours will be. Black is the best, but even plain gravel is good.> Fluval 305 and Fluval 405 canister filters (F-405 added this week to allow our high fish capacity) <Both good filters. But I think you're expecting too much from them. Even together, these will provide *adequate* filtration for a 125 gallon tank, nothing special. Here's the deal. An aquarium with standard levels of stocking with small fishes (danios, platies, etc.) needs about 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Your aquarium has 125 gallons, give or take. The Fluval 305 gives you 260 gallons/hour, the 405 340 g/h. So, all told, 600 gallons per hour turnover. That's a bit under 5 times the volume of the tank in turnover. Doesn't sound so bad, does it? But those turnover quotes exclude two factors: filter media, and head pressure. When you add filter media (which you have to!) the turnover drops. Why do they give you the turnover without media? Marketing I guess. Secondly, when you place a filter under the tank, it has to pump water against gravity back into the tank (that's head pressure) and this reduces turnover further. Bottom line, you can lop 10-25% of the turnover quote for any given filter. By the time the filter has become clogged, that turnover will drop even more. So realistically, you have *adequate* filtration for your tank. More than enough to do the job, but provided you keep a reasonable number of fish.> Fluval's have the usual foam, poly-wool, charcoal, and ceramic. <I consider carbon to be useless in most freshwater tanks. Unless you clearly understand and have a specific reason to use it (as opposed to what the marketing says) I'd recommend putting its space to better use with some more filter wool or ceramic.> Charcoal changed monthly, poly twice monthly. <OK.> 1 air bubbler in plastic lava tower, 2 corner heaters Tank receives no direct sun. Ambient light is average. 2 fluorescent lights are on 8 AM-10PM. <OK.> Water crystal clear, no algae of any type present. <Famous last words.> Temperature 78 - 79 degrees. <Fine.> Salt added (2.25 teaspoons/gallon or 7.5 Tablespoons/10 gallons) to maintain SG of 1.004 (6 PPT) per 2 LFSs. (Leads to a question) <SG 1.004 is ideal for mollies.> pH 7.0 - 7.2 per LFS tanks where all fish are bought. (Leads to a question) Ammonia & Nitrites test zero using reagents, backed up with dipstick readings. Nitrates 20 on dip stick, might be as high as 30 with vagaries of the color chart. <Doesn't matter either way. 20 or 30 mg/l nitrate is pretty low. In a brackish water tank, where the salt detoxifies nitrate to a significant degree, this is basically very good water quality.> Well water only. (Please see Well water parameters below) Total Hardness GH always 75 on dip stick test at pH 7.0-7.2. (This leads to a question) <75 what? mg/l calcium oxide? mg/l calcium carbonate?> Total Alkalinity KH is always 40 on dip stick test with pH 7.0-7.2 (This leads to a question). <Again, 40 what? What's the scale on the test kit?> Food 2X a day: TetraMin Flake, shrimp pellets, and algae discs. <Fine.> Well water from tap: (we have our own well) Usually pH 8.2+ and will not drop over night alone, <For mollies, pH 8.2 with marine salt mix added is perfect, the champagne of waters.> We drive tap water pH down with powdered swim pool acid in a new trash can, let aerate for 3-4 days to stabilize at 7.0 - 7.2. <WHAT?????? You're using acid to change the pH? Look, pH doesn't matter if you don't soften the water as well. Since you're not softening the water, don't mess about with the pH. 99 times out of a 100, people do more harm than good playing around with the pH. Honestly, if you stick with hard water and brackish water fishes, your well water will be perfect for them. Add the marine salt mix, and bang, you'll have water they'll thrive in. Livebearers, glassfish, rainbowfish, gobies, various cichlids, various killifish, Monos, scats, archers... the list is very very long. So please put the bottle of acid down.> DeChlor is used. <Good.> It buffers back only slightly when we drive pH down and eventually stabilizes. <Your fish hate you for this, you know that?> Total Hardness GH always zero on dip stick test <WHAT???? Why on earth do you want zero GH afterwards? Nothing, not even cardinal tetras, appreciate water as soft as this. Mollies want something around 20 degrees dH (~200 mg/l calcium oxide). Even most soft water fish don't want anything less than 5 dH (40 mg/l calcium oxide). Zero hardness is practically toxic.> Total Alkalinity KH always 80 on dip stick test <Oh boy. I've kind of lost track really of what's going on here. What you've created is some weird cocktail of salts that your fish don't want. And then you're adding salt. Doesn't make any sense to me at all. Your well water is fine. Mollies will thrive in it. The harder the better, as far as they're concerned.> Addition of DeChlor and pH Down to make water 7.0-7.2 does not change GH or KH <Don't focus on pH; it's a mirage. The deal with pH is that it moves up or down depending on the hardness salts in the water. In most places, water either lacks hardness salts, and becomes acidic because of organic decay, or else has lots of hardness salts, and becomes alkaline/basic because of these salts buffering the pH upwards. But the pH isn't the "cause", it's a "proxy", a thing that changes alongside the thing that matters, the dissolved minerals in the water. Freshwater fish couldn't care less about pH really, and most will adapt to a wide range of values. What they care about is the "total dissolved solids", the minerals in the water, and the stuff the influences their osmotic balance.> Addition of aquarium salt to make SG 1.004 (2.25 teaspoons/gallon) does not change GH or KH <Don't use aquarium salt. It's rubbish. Use marine salt mix (instant ocean, reef crystals, etc.) Marine salt mix buffers the pH and does a lot more than just raise salinity. Your mollies will love you for it.> After sitting to stabilize for 3-4 days, either in clean 5 Gallon buckets or new trashcan, the GH goes to 75 and KH goes to 40 (Leads to a question) <At this point I've pulled out a lot of hair... so let's move on swiftly...> Live Stock: Total 36 fish, approx 73 inches. 15 Platys, various types. <They will enjoy your well water as it is.> 6 Cory Cats <Assuming you don't have anything delicate, these will adapt fine to well water. Not wild about salty water, but if you adapt them slowly, should be OK. But next time you're shopping for catfish, pick a brackish water tolerant species like Hoplosternum littorale or Hypostomus plecostomus.> 8 Swordtails, various colors <Like the platies, they'll thrive in well water.> 7 Mollies, Gold, silver, black, Dalmatian. (Which leads into a question). <Not only do they like well water, they positively hate the water you're trying to create with all the messing about with pH.> Question\Problem 1: Mollies are dying, mostly the males, all 4 color types in 4 - 14 days. We are selecting good fish at the LFS. The ones that get sick and die don't look any different to us in the store then the survivors. The Mollies that we lose begin to meditate head up, tail down, and stop competing for food or eating, mostly start to shimmy and not swim around, the fins droop and become limp, and then they die. Some settle listlessly to the bottom without shimmy, and then die. There is no sign of rapid gill movement, but the mouth opens and closes a lot (like a carp!) on some. Presently the male Dalmatian and male black molly exhibit this behavior; a gold male died this week, a female black died this morning after 14 days, last 3 days unhappy. The other 6 females (gold, Dalmatian, silver, black) appear normal in eating and swimming and are 14 days in the tank. We have lost about 8 previous Mollies in the last 6 weeks. All other fish are normal excepting two shy swords. No fish pick on other fish. No ich or sores evident anywhere. Pellets/flake food are spaced to give the ill ones equal time for food, which they ignore. The sick Mollies may prefer either the bottom or surface of the tank. We read about the shimmy medicine for lack of electrolytes but that seems a long shot as others posting have not indicated success with Shimmy Block or Molly Bright (and all our Mollies are not sick). Any thoughts so far, considering our pH, GH, KH? We do not know how to change KH if that is needed or what causes it to change from tap to tank. Ditto no knowledge on GH. The LFS (PetS) said they keep (and we should keep) pH at 7.0, slipping to 7.2. The LFS does this for the entire store of all fish except the cold water fish. Doesn't agree with your site. We elected to follow their lead believing the fish would be safer with the same water in our tank as the LFS. I tested the LFS water and it is indeed 7.0 pH and 1.004 SG and 78..degrees in the continuous community tank. <OK, I don't need to read much of this to know why. Knock off messing about with the well water. From now on, just add the well water plus salt plus dechlorinator. For the sake of the Corydoras, aim for SG 1.003 for now. Things will gradually improve and your mollies will recover.> Your forum says Mollies need 7.5 pH and hard water. Is raising pH slowly to precisely 7.5 really necessary? We can do it, but what effect will it have on the Cory Cats, platys, and swords? <Apart from the Corydoras, all your fish actually prefer "liquid rock" well water as hard and as alkaline as it is. It's what they like. The Corydoras not so much, but they'll adapt.> UGH. It appears this would stress all the fish. (If we were answering our own email, here is where we would say "UGH, indeed!"). <Your problem is trying to create water conditions with a certain set of values without understanding what all those values mean. Go read this: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm > What is the lifespan of a full grown Molly? Lastly on Q1, is this shimmy something only Mollies do when ill or stressed, and can it mean many things or only one thing? (My engineer husband threw that question in, hoping for a black and white engineer type answer). If you feel there could be multiple chemistry problems, we would like to try solutions one at a time to reduce stress on the whole community in the order of priority of change KH, GH, pH, SG, etc. <Mollies live a few years, maybe 4 or 5, all things being equal. They aren't really long lived fishes in the wild or in aquaria, and inbreeding hasn't helped.> Question 2: Can we successfully keep Mollies, Cory Cats, Platys, Swordtails in a tank together or are we beating our heads against the tank? We do not want to do an all Molly tank unless we could also do Cory Cats with them. We enjoy Cory Cats (like small puppies!), the graceful sword tails, and the "front of the tank" platy parade and could go Mollyless as an option, depending on your response. You can see we are trying to do it all, and of course LFS sells us all without hesitation. If our current whole combination won't work, what pH and SG do we need for only these two solutions: (1) Mollies and Cory Cats? (2) Cory Cats, Platys, and Swords? Is the SG of 1.004 ok for these fish if we go without Mollies or should it be no salt at all? Our book sez pH of 7.0 for Corys and no salt. Will they die at pH of 7.5 and the salt in the range we have (1.004) or the range your site suggests for Mollies (1.002-1.003)?. What effect is: The soft GH of 75? The alkalinity KH of 40? on either of tank (1) Mollies/Corys or (2) Corys, Platys, Swords? <OK, all three livebearers will thrive in brackish water at up to pH 8, "very hard", and salinity SG 1.005. Corydoras are adaptable, though this depends on the species. Your standard issue peppered and bronze Corydoras really will thrive at anything from pH 6 to pH 8, and from 5 dH up to 20 dH ("very hard") hardness. Wild caught and more sensitive Corydoras are a bit less adaptable perhaps, but still, they're pretty tough little animals. Mollies couldn't care less about the salinity. They can be kept at anything from 1.000 (freshwater) to 1.030 (hypersaline, more salty than the sea conditions). A low to middling salinity (SG 1.003 to 1.005) is probably the best in terms of getting the best health from them while leaving your options open in terms of tankmates.> Question 3: Why does the well water out of the tap, at GH zero, KH 80 (dip stick test, with no immediate change with DeChlor, pH down (to make 7.0-7.2), & salt added), change after sitting 4 days, to GH 75 and KH 40? It remains at these numbers in the buckets and when added to the tank, so it is not a change happening in the tank. If you didn't catch this in Q1 or Q2, Do we need to adjust KH and GH? How do we adjust KH and GH to your specs and not change pH? <I have no idea what's going on with your well water because you're doing crazy stuff to it. Just use it as it comes, and let the fish adapt to it. Adding the marine salt mix will stablise the pH and balance the minerals in the water nicely, making the whole issue academic. Tell me what the pH, GH, and KH are of the water you have STRAIGHT OUT THE TAP, and give me the UNITS on the test kit, not just the numbers. (Without the numbers, it's like saying it's 0 outside without stating if that's Celsius or Fahrenheit.> Question 4. We don't have algae on the tank walls for the LFS standard\common $1.00 gold color snail (Ramshorn or Florida Apple, sorry no species). It died in 6 days after crawling the clean walls and being quite active. It was not on the gravel much, preferred the tank walls. Do you think it was the SG of 1.004 or the lack of food? Was it supposed to find uneaten food on the gravel? If we were supposed to feed it, what do we feed it? Can we keep a snail under the water chemistry we have (salt added)? <Forget about apple snails. They're a poor choice in your aquarium for a whole bunch of reasons.> Question 5: We notice that our salt added to maintain SG 1.004 is triple the 1 Tablespoon per 5 gallons directions on the salt jar and over double your suggested 1 teaspoon per gallon and a higher SG than your suggested 1.002-1.003 in the forum. (We are following 2 of the LFSs with this SG of1.004). When we used 1 Tablespoon per 5 gallons, it did not register on our Instant Ocean Hydrometer, which seems accurate in measuring 1.004. How much latitude on SG do we have for the fish we want to keep, knowing the Cory's are most sensitive (at 6 weeks here, Corys are fine with SG 1.004). <OK, I'm not a fan of measuring salt by volume because, as you've discovered, IT DOESN'T WORK. For your aquarium, you're aiming for SG 1.003, which is roughly 6 grammes of salt per litre (about 0.8 oz per US gall.) Make up the salt by adding it to the bucket... and then test the SG using a hydrometer. A basic floating glass hydrometer will cost you all of $5 and make life 100 times easier. SG 1.003 should be perfectly safe for your Corydoras.> Question 6: The LFS operates all community/semi aggressive tanks on the one big tank plumbing system, is that a contagious disease worry on a fish buy? We don't have a hospital tank. Should we set one up and routinely quarantine each new fish from the LFS (PetS) with an anti-bacterial med as we used to do with copper on marine fish? If so, what medicine for routine use? We hope this is not necessary, but it goes back to these Molly problems. <Quarantine tanks are always a good idea. That said, the mollies are dying because of what you're doing to them, not because of the retailer.> Question 7: What medicines can be put in the big tank to prevent contagious disease (ich, bacterial) or cure one fish, without destroying the good bacteria? (Just planning ahead, since we don't have a hospital tank). <For now, don't worry about it. As and when something goes wrong, you simply buy an appropriate treatment. There are any number of brands out there. But for now, I'd sooner you bought/borrowed a book on fish health, and read that. A much better investment of your time.> Question 8: Is there one flake food for all live bearers? The Mollies are said to need veggie flakes in one forum and are said to be omnivores in another forum so that is confusing to see. How about swordtails and platys, veggie or fishy flakes or either? The TetraMin flakes we use says parts of: "Fish meal, shrimp meal, algae meal, rice, wheat, potato, oats, soy" and a list of stuff we can't pronounce or read. Is this OK for fish we have when used with shrimp pellets and algae discs? It seems to be an omnivore food, not entirely veggie. <There is livebearer flake. It's sometimes sold as Spirulina flake or guppy flake. Lots of brands. I happen to use Wardley Spirulina but other brands are just as good. The main thing with flake food I think is to buy *small* pots, as it loses its savour within a month or so. If you must buy in bulk, consider dividing the tub up, and freezing most of the flake you're not about to use.> Many, many thanks and cheers, Rosemary Brekka <Phew! I think we got to the bottom of all of this! Good luck, Neale>

Re: Mollies, Soft Water, Hardness, SG, Corys, Community Tank Questions 8/1/07 Hello Neale, <Hello Rosemary,> Many thanks, you are a gentleman and scholar to take care of our questions, and deserve a day off. <Cool.> We are digesting your suggestions and discussing it with the fish. We have read the suggested link on pH and hardness 3x, but could not understand how to apply it to our situation for livebearers (high pH and zero hardness water out of the well). And the PPM measurement Jungle Labs uses for total hardness and total alkalinity is not mentioned on your charts on the pH/hardness article. <High pH and zero hardness will generally only occur where water contains a lot of ammonia. Ammonia dissolved in water raises the pH, but it is of course not a mineral, so does nothing to the hardness. As for the PPM measurement, that's identical to milligrams per litre (mg/l) for all practical purposes.> Apologies for not sending the KH/GH scale fist time. It is PPM. We don't know if this is what you requested (mg/l calcium oxide? mg/l calcium carbonate?) <Doesn't really matter which one.> Here are the well water from the tap stats today and the type of measurement on the Jungle Labs dipstick: pH: 8.0-8.2 Total Alkalinity KH 100 PPM Total Hardness GH zero PPM <OK, what this is saying is that your well water has very low (apparently zero) levels of calcium and magnesium salts (the two usually occur together). But it has reasonably high levels of carbonate salts.> Jungle Labs www site nor instructions tell us how to convert the PPM to dH or the KH and zero is zero anyway under any system. <You don't need to convert between them. The numbers on the table on that web page are to help people compare the results from different test kits. All that matters are the descriptions, "soft", "hard", etc.> So we are at a loss on our soft water, which obviously needs to be hard for the livebearers. <I agree, you have an odd set of conditions here. The water you have here is very similar to the water people get when they use domestic water softeners. These replace calcium salts (which register on a General Hardness test kit) with sodium salts (which do not). Such water is not suitable for fishkeeping. As a simple no-brainwork required solution, add crushed coral to the aquarium filter as a source of calcium carbonate; as this stuff dissolves, it will raise the GH and provide excellent buffering. Of course, such water conditions will favour hard water fishes, but provided you keep the GH between 10 and 20 dH ("Hard" on your test kit) then Corydoras and livebearers should be happy.> We did see the Cory cats topping at pH of 7.5 and livebearers starting there so that seems an intermediate point pH to satisfy all we have. <Corydoras prefer a pH around 7.0, but they are tolerant across a range from 6.0 to 8.0; as with many fishes, what matters is the stability of the conditions rather than the absolute values. Many fishkeepers misunderstand this, and focus too much on the numbers. The numbers are guidelines. What fish want are stable conditions, even if those conditions are less than ideal, they can be expected to adapt to them. But unstable conditions, even within the optimal range, can cause problems.> Crux of this email: We thought the simple way was to ask you what we should do to the well water above, and we will do it. Knowing we have messed up the cocktail, this seems the easy way to be straightened out. <For now, use the well water. Make absolutely sure you are not drawing water through a domestic water softener first. Lots of people make this mistake. Draw the water from the drinking (unsoftened) tap. Install a source of carbonate hardness as described above. Start off with a small amount, perhaps a cupful, and see what effect that has. If, after a week, the GH is still too low, add another cup of crushed coral to the filter.> The duh portion remaining is our soft water. It just ain't hard, even with the pH 8.2. <Check the ammonia levels.> With this well water, the GH is zero PPM out of the tap and pH 8.2. We thought high pH = hard water. <Hard water does have a higher pH than soft water, but not all water with high pH is hard water. A pot of ammonia solution has a high pH, but no hardness at all.> We are confused with our reading on hard/soft water. If we need hard water, we don't know how to get that, with the well/tap pH already at 8.2. Is 'hard water' merely a euphemism for high pH and not related to our GH zero PPM? <Hard water is good, because it is wonderfully stable. A hard water aquarium is far easier to maintain than a soft water one. Admittedly, it's a (substantial) minority of aquarium fish that prefer hard water, but there's still a very broad range of species to pick from, as well as lots of plants. Hard water is NOT a euphemism for high pH; it is just that the two things are commonly, but not always, related.> Apologies, Please tap-dance through this chem. On the plus side, we are now salting to SG 1.003 and DeChlor only to the water changes today, this still leaves our water zero PPM soft. <Salt, tonic salt anyway, has no effect on hardness. Marine salt mix does though, which is why it is preferred when keeping livebearers. Marine salt mix contains both sodium chlorine ("salt") plus a vast array of other minerals including calcium carbonate that buffers the water raising its pH, GH, and KH. Tonic salt ("aquarium salt") is just re-packaged cooking salt and basically useless except for treating sick fish. There's otherwise no reason to add it to a freshwater aquarium. It's mostly a con.> On DeChlor, can there be 'natural' chlorine in well water? Should we skip the DeChlor as well, since we do not treat our water? <There's shouldn't be chlorine in well water, but use it anyway. I add the stuff to rainwater I add to my fish tanks as a precautionary measure. Dechlorinator should treat other things besides chlorine, such as ammonia and copper. So it's always worth using.> On acid to drop pH: Do LFS pH down products work differently than swim pool dry acid we had mixed and used prior? We thought acid was acid. <No, acid isn't acid. There are hundreds if not thousands of different kinds. When they react with the minerals in hard water, they produce different mineral salts. Some of these mineral salts may be harmless, but others might be toxic. You just don't know. Prussic acid, to give one extreme example, is hydrogen cyanide and obviously deadly; carbonic acid is merely CO2 in water and is the stuff that makes soda slightly acidic but obviously harmless.> We have some real (dead) coral in storage. This should buffer the pH to 8.2 and keep it there, as it did this when we set the tank up and I had to remove a dozen pieces of coral. Should we place a piece in the tank again or do we compound problems? <Probably won't have much effect either way. A problem with corals in freshwater tanks is they look kind of goofy, but if you're cool with that, stick it in. Yes, it will slowly dissolve into the water, but not as effectively as crushed coral in the filter because of water flow and surface area reasons.> Thanks for simplifying our self induced problems, we are following your suggestions so far, it is the soft water/high pH starting water that has us shaking our heads. Margaritas on us if you are down this way...... <Cool!> Cheers, we are most grateful. Rosemary <Hope this helps, Neale>

Re: Mollies, Soft Water, Hardness, SG, Corys, Community Tank Questions  8/2/07 Thank you, thank you, Neale! Appreciate your help squaring us away. Don here today, Rosemary is off doing real work serving coffee on airplanes. <Hello Don,> We have added a cluster of old purple barnacles to the tank. Gives place to sleep & hide. And crushed some table top coral for one Fluval. It went peacefully into that dark place. <Cool. I hope you cleaned off the dust though from the coral.> On your comments: "....High pH and zero hardness will generally only occur where water contains a lot of ammonia. Ammonia dissolved in water raises the pH.... Check the ammonia levels." <Indeed.> As requested, we tested well/tap water 3 ways; our well water has zero ammonia; it passes thru no filter or water softener enroute from well to us. Just PVC pipes. It shows SG of 1.000 mostly, a smidge over (but less than 1.001) rarely. <Odd. Wonder where the salt is coming from? Perhaps your well water is slightly brackish.> On your comments: ..." as this stuff dissolves (the crushed coral), it will raise the GH and provide excellent buffering..." <Yep.> Will addition of crushed coral raise the pH? If so, how do we control it to keep at 7.6 (where it is now) or stop it by 8.0? (Corys still a worry here). We still don't understand pH movement in this case, given that ammonia is zero. <Corys are fine up to pH 8. If you want to check, go visit Fishbase, and their tolerances *in the wild* for most species are listed as pH 6.0 to 8.0. Sure, they prefer something around neutral to slightly acid, but assuming the tank is otherwise healthy and stable they will adapt to pH 7.6 or 8.0 just fine.> Our tank pH after two 20% water changes over 3 days (before coral was added: 7.6 on reagent test. Married our 7.2 tank water to the 8.2 tap water. The black male molly is out swimming laps a wee bit with top fin up, so someone is happy. Still hasn't eaten in a week. <Sounds promising; but try mixing up the diet a little. Mollies are plant eaters, so some vegetarian flake, Sushi Nori, blanched lettuce, sliced cucumber and all sorts of other things might pique their jaded palates.> Tank GH is unchanged at 75 PPM dip stick. <Still fairly low.> Alas, we were using tonic salt; Top Fin. LFS sells only Instant Ocean in marine type you describe. Pkg brags about buffering for marine tanks so I called the company. They said this salt will take us to pH of 8.2 like ocean water. <Yes, if used at full dose, i.e., seawater strength, it will raise the pH to 8.2. But not at the miniscule doses I'm talking about here. Think about this logically: any elevation in pH is proportional to the amount of stuff used. If I use a half-seawater strength dose, it will raise the pH only half as much as full dose. If I do a quarter dose, only a quarter as much. And so on. Since we're talking about a 10% dose for the benefit of mollies, the pH rise caused by the marine salt mix will be very small. Try it and see! A small box of marine salt mix doesn't cost much, and even if you discover it doesn't work as I say (though it will) you can always use it a Christmas to brine the turkey.> Buh-bye Corys?...... What brand do you suggest? We will just get it on the internet if it will keep the Corys happy buffering to less, and adding to the hardness we need. <The thing here Don is not to concentrate too much on the methods, but on the goal: we want water with moderately high levels of GH and KH and a low salinity around SG 1.002, 1.003. Your job is to experiment: mix up tap water and salt until you get this. If you have a source of softened water, mix some of that in. Play around until you find a combination of factors that comes out with what you want. Mollies *do* need salt 5 times out of 10, which is why I'm recommending adding it. Corydoras aren't wild about salt, but at very low doses it does no harm. Ideally of course you'd keep these two fish in different tanks, since they really have different needs, but since that isn't an option you'll have to see what happens. Aim for SG 1.002 to begin with. That might be enough to support the mollies without stressing the Corydoras. You certainly don't want to go above SG 1.003. Interestingly, there is a relative of the Corydoras, Hoplosternum littorale, that prefers brackish water and grows more slowly when kept in soft water. If you ever get the chance, swapping your Corydoras with a 'Hoplo' instead would be worthwhile.> Our black Molly bubbled thanks at you, Neale for help thus far with water hardness. <Bubble my regards back. I adore mollies, but they simply aren't easy fish, despite being widely sold.> On KH: Our tank KH unchanged 50 PPM dip stick & reagent. The charts we have both say 120-150 PPM for livebearers. Do we leave it at 50 PPM? Does curing the hardness cure the KH at the same time, or is it a different process? How will changing KH affect pH? <OK. Raising the KH should raise the pH somewhat. Crushed coral will raise both KH and GH. What you need to do is add the crushed coral and wait a week to sea what effect it has on the tank. The GH/KH rises won't be instant; they'll take a few days to work through. In the meantime, don't focus too intently on the numbers: if the fish seem healthy and they are feeding happily, leave things be for the time being. Your prime goal is to raise the hardness (both kinds) to a level the mollies enjoy. But once there, you don't need to fuss too much. You do have very odd water conditions, and the ammonia levels are unacceptable in the long term, but provided your fish are happy, let things settle down for a few weeks before deciding on whether to raise the hardness or salinity further. Fish adapt; what stresses them are sudden changes.> Thank you again for your kindness in reply. Cheers Don (and Rosemary) <Hope this helps... I suspect this has all become so complex now we're in danger of arguing ourselves back in a circle. But anyway, good luck, Neale>

Re: Mollies, Soft Water, Hardness, SG, Corys, Community Tank Questions... FW qual.    8/8/07 Hello Neale, <Hello Rosemary,> Black molly male getting slowly better, comes out to investigate, nibble food now. Still reclusive. <But at least the trend is upwards.> May we follow-up with minor Q on our low tank KH alkalinity? <Yup.> For reference, our well water tap water is this: pH 7.8-8.2 varies now with drought (or change of test kit) pH does not drop over night. <All good, and perfect for mollies, guppies, and other hardwater fish. Less perfect for soft water fish, but most will adapt fine.> Total Hardness GH always zero ppm on dip stick test from tap. <Not so good.> Total Alkalinity KH 80-100 ppm on dip stick test. Shows same KH on reagent test. <Bizarre. What you have is very soft water [hardness] with a moderate degree of buffering capacity [alkalinity]. In other words, almost no calcium or magnesium salts, but a fair amount of carbonate and bicarbonate salts. Why is this not normal? Because typically the mineral that makes water hard is calcium carbonate, the stuff in limestone and chalk, so you expect to get increasing amounts of both hardness and alkalinity the more limestone the water has passed through. Clearly, your water is coming up from something other than limestone, some other type of carbonate rock.> 125 gallon tank livebearers, Corys. 38 total fish. 2 Fluvals, UGF <Fine.> Following your suggestions, we no longer use pH down acid of any type. <Good. Best to leave things in the "default" setting unless you have reasons not to. Your Corydoras at least should be fine enough in this soft water, but I'm still worried about the mollies.> Well water goes into tank as is with DeChlor. <Good.> We eased SG to 1.003 from 1.004. <Good; this should support the mollies nicely without unduly stressing the catfish. But still, keep an eye open for odd behaviour in the catfish, such as gasping or loss of appetite.> We are 80 miles one way from LFS, so salinity is from aquar tonic salt. Had to make do with the huge container of tonic plain salt we have on hand. (We know you said it was worthless, we'll get some on our next big trip in September). <It is doubly worthless here, because it's adding no hardness (calcium/magnesium salts) to the system, since it doesn't contain any. Real marine salt contains a fair chunk of calcium carbonate, and this will help out the mollies infinitely more than plain NaCl, which is what you're using here. Still, cooking salt is better than nothing, because it detoxifies the nitrate, and that's something mollies seem to respond positively to.> Temp 78F Ammonia, nitrite = 0, nitrate < 20. Over 90% water change total in 7 days raised our acid addition driven 7.0 pH up to 7.8, maybe 8.0 depending on how test kit feels that day. Barnacles in tank & 1/4 C broken coral in Fluval didn't move GH much off zero for 5 days. So we added Epsom salt finally, and GH now reads 250-300 on (Jungle Lab) dip stick. Was the Epsom Salt move OK? <Epsom salt is magnesium sulphate, and as you've immediately observed this raises the GH (which measures calcium and magnesium salts, primarily). So this is raising the hardness up to where the mollies like it. Combined with the NaCl, the two make a reasonable stop-gap solution, I'd imagine.> KH remains at 40-50 ppm in the tank. This is our remaining concern. <Epsom salt contains no carbonate or bicarbonate, hence no effect on the alkalinity (KH).> Reading indicates KH does not offer enough buffering now. Do you agree? <To some degree. But provided the pH seems constant, don't worry about it too much.> I know my baking soda will raise KH. We do not want the pH to rise at all. (Corys again) <The Corydoras aren't the issue here. My concern is messing about with not less than three different mineral salts (NaCl, Epsom salt, and baking soda) is bound to make water changes complicated (and thus, inconsistent). I'd leave things where they are for now, and once you're done with the cooking salt and have access to marine salt mix, switch to that so you can phase out the Epsom salts as well. That way, you'll basically be adding just one substance at each water change.> Here it is: How do we raise the KH alkalinity without raising pH? <Don't. For now, just let things be.> Will this affect GH, which we now think is a tad high (but much improved over the old tank water of 75 ppm before your help)? <It's fine as it is. 300 mg/l (= ppt) calcium carbonate (if that's what your GH test kit is quoting) is well within the tolerances of Corydoras. If you want, you could reduce this slightly, to around 150 to 200 mg/l, but don't go any lower.> Again, our thanks for your superb help in getting us to this point. Cheers, Rosemary <Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale> 

Two fish dying after water change.... Freshwater 7/6/07 Hi... <Ave.> I have a 30 gallon octagon freshwater tank with danios (4 now), neon tetra, cardinal tetra (16), 3 Amano shrimp, 2 Siamese algae eaters, 3 kuhli loaches and 3 Cory. <Okey dokey, all nice fish. I'm not wild about octagonal tanks for a variety of reasons, but you have small fish so it should be fine.> I normally do water changes weekly but have been very busy and yesterday's water change came after 2 weeks. I replaced the old Wal-Mart filter entirely with a new Tetra Whisper but kept the old bio filter and trimmed it to fit. <I'm not familiar with the Wal-Mart filter, but I will say this, it's usually better to *add* a new filter rather than *replace* an old one. If nothing else, you have a back-up filter in case one fails. But you also have more water current (a good thing usually) and much better water quality.> Inside the tank I vacuumed the gravel, cleaned the glass with a scrubber (removing 5 gallons of water) and then added the new water. I had added Novaqua to the change water and lowered the pH of the tap water to 7.0 There was no odd fish or shrimp behavior at the time, everything appeared normal. <Now, my only issue here is the use of pH buffer. Only if you have very extreme conditions do I think this worth doing. Neons will adapt to pH 7.5 just fine. If you're lowering the pH but leaving the hardness alone, you aren't really doing anything useful. Fish don't "feel" the pH, they respond to something called Total Dissolved Solids, that is, how much "stuff" is in the water. Messing about with the pH but leaving the TDS (in this case the hardness) alone is sort of like painting an elephant from grey to white. It's still an elephant, not a mouse. Almost always, it is better to acclimatise your fish to your local water conditions, or better yet, choose fish that PREFER your local water conditions. Either way, this leaves you free to do as big water changes as you want without worrying about sudden deaths from water chemistry problems. If you live in a place with very hard and alkaline water, for example, choose things like livebearers, x-ray tetras, gobies, rainbowfish, cichlids, etc. that come from similar conditions in the wild.> Last night before I went to bed a flashlight check had everything looking okay. This morning I fed the fish as usual and watched them as I always do. The lights are on timer and that's "our" cue for feeding... the kuhli loaches are normally out in expectancy but could not be seen even after the food was in the water. Neither did the shrimp come out as usual. Then I noticed the gold danio having difficulty swimming and had prominent blood patches/lines... like the blood was more noticeable near the tail area. <All bad signs. Since a variety of species have gotten sick simultaneously, water quality or water chemistry is almost certainly the issue. Your first step here is *always* to do a nitrite test (for quality) and a pH & hardness test (for chemistry). If your fish are acclimate to the local water chemistry, you'd also do a 50% or more water change to dilute the problem and hopefully save the fish. But since you've been messing about with pH buffers, that's not an option. See my point?> I netted it and put it in a small container with tank water to observe. It kept floating upside down and then trying to right itself. I continued watching the fish in the tank and noticed one of my newer danios which hatched last July was near the top sort of picking at the floating food but a bit lethargic. I went to my office to work and checked later... it was flipping over and having difficulty swimming. I netted it and looked closely... it had the same blood type marking near the back tail area. Through a magnifier I can see the scales are slightly raised on the one side and it almost looks like a bloody bruise... the blood marking goes into the anal fin as well but not the tail fin or the dorsal fin. Another look at the tank fish with magnifier & flashlight the other danios have no blood markings at all and appear fine... also peeking in the normal hide holes for Kuhlis I saw one who appeared fine and good coloring. The shrimp had come out and were eating (2 females both carrying eggs) the male I rarely see. <Quite probably after the "crisis" things are recovering because the fish/shrimps are re-adapting to whatever the conditions are in the aquarium. Freshwater fish are usually very, very good at this compared with (say) coral reef fish or Rift Valley cichlids because they inhabit variable environments. But if you push them too far, they can die.> I always keep fresh pH and ammonia monitors in the tank. <Personally, I think they're a bit of a gimmick. Expensive for what they are, in terms of accuracy and replacement requirement. But each to their own!> After the second fish came up poorly, API tests of ammonia, nitrate, nitrite showed 0... I even tested for Copper just because I had it but it too was 0. The gold danio did not make it and I have moved the zebra danio into a small breeder tank to keep him from being tossed by current in a separate 5 gallon quarantine tank I have set up. But he doesn't look good. Any ideas what happened? <No precise idea. But assuming you did not accidentally introduce a toxin to the aquarium (such as paint fumes or insecticide) I'd place good odds on an extreme water chemistry change. The symptoms sound very like over-acidification, which is quite easy to provoke. Anyway, we need to know two things: Firstly, what's the pH & hardness of the water *out of the tap*. Second, what's the pH & hardness in the aquarium your tank is normally at. Unless the water from the tap is pH 8.0 or more and hardness 20 dH or more, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Most standard tropicals will adapt to those conditions fine, especially commercially bred varieties of things like angels and Corydoras which are a bit more sensitive when wild-caught. Neons and cardinals admittedly like conditions on the soft side, but I've kept them in "liquid rock" waters of Southern England and they do fine. When I've had mortalities, it's been from Neon Tetra Disease, not water chemistry, and once the infected fish died off and I broke the re-infection cycle, the fish become essentially hardy and easy to keep.> Thank you Debbie <Hope this helps, Neale>

Fish dying after water change-freshwater... follow up -- 07/06/07 Hello, <Greetings!> Thanks Neale for your reply. I live here in Dallas, TX. I tested the tapwater and the pH is way over 8.0 (API low pH test is deep blue (7.8) and using API high pH test appears deep brown/purple (8.8) and hardiness tested at 3 (using API). <That's an odd combination of results. What's the "hardness" you're using? A hardness of 3 degrees German hardness ("dH") would be incredibly low, practically nothing could live in that except fish adapted to very soft water conditions. But 3 degrees Carbonate hardness ("KH") would be only somewhat soft, and quite good for tetras and barbs, though bad for livebearers. Without knowing the system of hardness you are using, the number itself is unhelpful. Imagine as if I said something was 100 degrees, without saying whether Celsius, Kelvin, or Fahrenheit. 100 C is boiling water, 100 F is simply a warm summer day, and 100 K is abysmally cold deep space sort of frigid where even what we think of as gases are frozen solid!> I never use to buffer the water before a change, I usually would let it aerate and age for a week... until I got the Amano shrimp. <Non sequitur. Adding buffer does nothing to make tap water more or less safe to use in the aquarium. The only ESSENTIAL addition is dechlorinator (specifically, one that removes chloramine as well as chlorine). Aerating water is, in my opinion, neither effective nor economical. The electricity wasted aerating the water more than offsets the couple of cents' worth of dechlorinator. I buy the stuff in big "pond-friendly" bottles, and that lasts something like a year for an outlay of around $20.> So the very first water change I did with the shrimp in the tank they went nuts all over the tank. It kind of freaked me out... so that's when I tested the pH of the tapwater and made the assumption it was the high pH of the new water that made them go crazy in the tank. <Not sure that A follows B here. Your retailer is presumably keeping fish in water chemistry similar to that which comes out of your tap. So doing a water change shouldn't cause any serious problems. But not adding dechlorinator can cause all sorts of problems. Chlorine itself is toxic, and chloramine breaks down into chlorine plus ammonia, a double whammy for the fish.> The second water change I did with them I adjusted the pH to 7.0 before water change and had no reaction from them. (Note: Sometimes I did not aerate/age the water and simply conditioned and added to tank with no issues but I don't remember whether the first change with the shrimp was aged tapwater or conditioned tapwater straight from the tap) <Adding small amounts of "raw" water to an aquarium without dechlorinator is usually harmless. I confess to having done this when I saw a tank that needed a little topping up. As with anything, it's a question of concentration. A small amount of cyanide is harmless (as in almonds for example) but lots is obviously dangerous. If you're uncomfortable about your success with fish, a very good idea is to do lots of small changes instead of one big one. Two or three 10% water changes across the week should be adequate in most cases, but any potential changes in chemistry will be so small as to be relatively harmless.> Octagon tanks... now that I have one not my favorite either and do recommend against it ... but (A) it was my first tank and (B) neighbor had it in his garage sale for $5 with solid wood stand. <Sounds fine. I've had a hexagon tank as well for much the same reason. The problem with them is they have a poor surface area to volume ration (usually) meaning that for any given volume, a octagon/hexagon tank will hold fewer fish than a regular rectangular one. They also tend to limit the swimming space for fish. Fish that like to swim forwards, like danios, will find them less satisfying than fish that move up and down flat surfaces, like Ancistrus.> The new Tetra Whisper filter has a much stronger flow and a longer intake tube... two pluses for this deeper tank. <Yes, good call.> The remaining fish are still fine. The Kuhlis were out swimming late last night. The only other thing if not chemical is possibly during rearranging of decor and vacuuming they were accidentally pinned or hit causing this... but these fish are pretty fast moving and I move slow allowing them to get out of the way. <Banging a tank frightens the fish, but shouldn't cause serious harm, except with very highly strung things like needlefish (which freak out and damage themselves).> Thanks again. Debbie <So here's the game plan. Find out what hardness scale you on your test kit, dH or KH. Once you know that, we can decide whether modifying the pH and hardness is important. Also, confirm you are using a dechlorinator with chloramine remover. Skip the aerating thing. Waste of time. Long term, start phasing out the pH buffer if you can, and as and when you decide to replace fish, pick species that *prefer* the water chemistry you have. It'll make like 100x easier. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Freshwater 2 fish dying follow up - Carbonate Hardiness test  7/7/07 Hi again, <Greetings!> Sorry to keep writing I know you have many other emails to respond to. For the "hardiness" test that came out to be 3 I used API KH (Carbonate Hardiness) The pamphlet states 3 drops is equivalent to 3 dGH or 53.7 ppm GH. Does that make more sense now? In all honesty I had never used the test for the freshwater just my saltwater tanks. <There's no "conversion" between KH and dH so I have no idea what the pamphlet is talking about. These measurements are testing completely different things. It would be entirely possible to have a high dH but low KH, where the hardness salts were mostly permanent hardness minerals (chlorides and sulphates) rather than temporary hardness minerals (carbonates and bicarbonates). Anyway, be that as it may, 3 degrees KH is vert low. Too low really. Acceptable for softwater fish only. But even then, with very little carbonate reserve in the water, the water would be unable to buffer itself, and pH swings would happen easily. Over time, aquaria drop in pH because of the organic processes going on. Personally, a KH between 6 and 10 is much closer to what I'd consider safe and stable for the average aquarist. One thing I must mention because many ignore this: using "softened" water from a domestic water softener is nearly always a terrible idea. It isn't really soft water but water without temporary hardness. The "softened" water has lots of permanent hardness, and often in amounts and ratios of salts that freshwater fish aren't adapted to. Fish will often adapt well to even rock-hard well water or water from a limestone aquifer. What matters is stability rather than the actual values, unless you're trying to breed softwater fish. Have a read of this: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm .> As water conditioner I've been using Kordon NovAqua Plus. I used to use Amquel but switched because I didn't think I needed something that removed so much. <I checked up this brand, and apparently Kordon NovAqua Plus doesn't remove the ammonia produced when chloramine is present in the water. SO you need to use a dechlorinator that removes ammonia. Something like Seachem Prime or AmQuel Plus. Ammonia in the water will cause some/all of the symptoms you are describing, and certainly can kill fish very quickly. If you're curious, put some water from the tap into the bucket, add the NovAqua Plus, stir, wait a few minutes, and then do an ammonia test. If you detect ammonia, then there's your problem!> The main reason I do 5 gallon water changes weekly is first that's what I started but now mainly because the shrimp leave a lot of droppings on the gravel and so it's not just the water but vacuuming the gravel clean as well. <Don't get too hung up on visible waste in the aquarium. It's hardly ever a problem. The things that threaten the fish are the *invisible* wastes and chemicals. If you really feel the need to change substantial amounts of water but don't understand the background water chemistry, then doing numerous small changes, 5 or 10% at a time, several times a week is much safer approach. But much better to get a handle on the water coming out the tap, provide better buffering for the aquarium.> As far as replacing fish I actually hadn't planned on it... except the SAE when they get big because I just saw how big they can get, but mainly keep them all until they get old and gray so to speak. <A good approach. But sometimes adding fish when they're young avoids problems with territoriality when they're adults. So you need to moderate your rules according to the social behaviour of the species in question.> I think a nice school of cardinal tetras is nice... I've been told by a few people, different LFS staff/different stores, that "they don't count" because they only urinate in the water and that I could add more of them. Is that true? <No, its garbage. Fish produce waste proportional to their body mass and metabolic rate. Therefore 20 cardinals probably produces the same amount of waste as 1 blue gourami. There's no magic going on. They all produce CO2, ammonia, and faeces.> Personally, I think I've maxed out my stocking on this tank. <Perhaps. A use the old "1 inch of small fish to ever 10 square inches of surface area" rule but that's a guideline at best. I don't like the "inches per gallon" type rules because they ignore oxygen uptake at the surface. Either way, observing the fish and measuring water quality are the only real ways to know if a tank is overstocked or not.> Thank you again. Debbie <No problems. Enjoy your fish! Neale>

Art. on freshwater chemistry -- 06/14/07 Robert, It's all practical stuff rather than theory so doesn't take anything away from your (rather jolly) pH article. There are three bits of artwork, I hope they make sense. Do Americans use those Pearson Square things? Or maybe by another name? The only thing to watch for is I've used the 'degree' symbol. In the HTML version it's "&deg;" and should work fine. But cutting and pasting from the Word doc version will probably mess up. Anyway, hope this'll do. Cheers, Neale <Looks good Neale. Will you accept the not-so-princely sum of U.S. $200 (spend it like it's Argentina!) for this work? BobF>

Re: freshwater chemistry   6/5/07 Hi Robert, I'll look at doing something about water chemistry next week. <Ah, good... have just added your pc. on water hardness... and moved the bulk of FW water chem. pc.s. to the Set-up sub-index...> In some ways the marine side is leaps and bounds ahead of the freshwater side, with the result that a lot of freshwater aquarists don't really know about anything beyond pH. <Mmm, depends on what ones sample size may be... in mid-Europe and sophisticated parts of the Far East in particular there are a bunch of folks on the up and up...> Anyway, as for meeting up, as and when I have some money, definitely be on my list of things to do. Where's Interzoo? <In Nürnberg/Nuremberg... next May: http://press.nuernbergmesse.de/en/interzoo/ Am determined to get some folks out to there... and if they can help chip in likely... to a dive/adventure trip just following back down to Sharm>

Cloudy tank, FW  - 6/1/07 > Hello, > Over a period of about 2 - 3 weeks my tank went steadily more and more cloudy, I have no real idea why. <Cloudiness can be caused by a variety of things. Often it is silt, from new gravel or sand. Other times it is a bloom of diatoms, most common in new aquaria, and tends to clear up by itself. Yet other times it is bacteria, again typically in a new aquarium.> > Could it be the addition of a few drops of pH adjuster, I've slowly decreased it from about 7.6 to around 7.2 - 7.3 <Change the water chemistry always has the potential to tip the balance in an aquarium. That's one reason I prefer to recommend people not mess around with the water chemistry, and instead choose fish suited to their water conditions. That way, you can do big water changes as often as you want without worrying about changes in water chemistry. There's no real need to change the pH from 7.6 down to 7.2; that's a pretty trivial change, and any fish that would thrive at 7.6 will be fine at 7.2, and vice versa.> > The water went green and although the staff at my LFS were just being helpful, no one really was able to suggest maybe why it occurred. In the end we bought a chemical which is supposed to clear it in two hours, we gave it > one dose and nothing happened, a day later another dose and still nothing. <The chemical you used only works with silt. It binds the silt into clumps, and those clumps get caught in FINE filter media, such as filter wool. If the problem isn't silt, and if your filter doesn't have filter wool installed, the effectiveness of this chemical is little to none.> > I didn't add any more and yesterday I noticed that it was starting to clear, today it looked a lot better, about 75% clearer. Obviously its nice to be able to see the fish in my tank again but it would be even better to have an understanding as to why it happened in the first place. Algal bloom ? > Relative to high phosphates maybe? <Could be anything. Almost always nothing to worry about PROVIDING water quality and chemistry are otherwise correct. Most freshwater fish are used to murky, silt-laden water and couldn't care less about the clarity of the water. Very few freshwater environments have the sort of transparency we associate with the crystal clear waters of coral reefs, for example. So, do a water test tomorrow and another in a few days just to check everything is OK, but otherwise just let things settled down. Change the mechanical filter media in your filter this weekend, and give the biological filter media a gentle clean as well, since the filter will be clogged with silt/algae by now.> > Thanks. > S.Moore <Cheers, Neale>

New Tank, Cloudy water  -- 05/08/07 Hi Crew, Thank you for your excellent advice you gave me regarding a previous finned friend. New problem: I read your FAQ's but didn't see an answer that fits my situation. I have a 6.6 gallon heated tank for my gorgeous blue lavender female betta, Nigella. I conditioned the water and added Prime to make sure it was good. I tested the water, waited two days tested again and added my fish. Overnight the tank went hazy/cloudy. Is this new tank syndrome? < Probably, Check the ammonia with a test kit.> Will Nigella be ok or am I suffocating her? < Ammonia is toxic to fish and needs to be dealt with.> She has living plants and a lot of room to swim. On top of that she's very interactive and playful. I have had her for a few months and finally got her a larger tank. Last night the water was crystal clear and this morning it is cloudy. I feel bad that I did something wrong. Thank you, Elizabeth < Excess fish food and fish waste are broken down by bacteria into ammonia. When the biological filtration is established it will be broken down into a less toxic nitrite and then once again into an even less toxic nitrate. If you add Bio-Spira from Marineland the bacteria will go to work right away. If not it will take a couple of months to get the tank established. Feed your fish once a day, and only enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes. Remove any leftover food. Vacum the gravel to remove fish waste and do numerous partial water changes to keep waste levels under control.-Chuck>

Couple Questions; Cloudy FW   -- 04/29/07 I've been having a problem with cloudy water...the tank is 4 months old...and it's been cloudy for about 2-3 weeks and I'm very concerned. I used a product called "Clear-Ease" that is supposed to check microbial bloom and clear cloudy water. Worked great. Over the next couple of days, 4 fish died (clown loach, 2 gold algae eaters, and a platy), and a few days later it got cloudy again. What can I do? <Water changes, frequent rinsing of the mechanical media in the filter, replacement of filter wool weekly.> I've been doing regular water changes since I've had the tank, I've been doing them every 3 days since the cloudiness, it's a 46 gallon tank with an Emperor 400 with new filter media, have an airstone for aeration...I'm new at this but from what I've read thus far I haven't been able to find anything else... <Cloudiness tends to come from two things. Firstly, silt. If gravel or sand are put into the aquarium before being thoroughly cleaned, the silt goes into the water. This is worst in tanks with big fishes because these swish the silt up into the water as they root about in the gravel. The second source of cloudiness is an bacterial or algal bloom. Typically, this happens when a tank is first set up, and then goes clear. Since your tank is relatively young, it's possible either (or both) of these causes are to blame. Assuming the water quality is good and the water chemistry steady, cloudiness by itself shouldn't cause any problems. The waters most fish inhabit are *far* murkier than anything we tolerate in an aquarium! So, before blaming the cloudiness for the death of your fish, what are the pH, hardness, nitrite, and ammonia levels in the aquarium?> And my next question, what kind of fish is this? I just got it...I was thinking it was a Jack Dempsey but it doesn't look quite the same as others I have seen pictured. He is probably about 6" and mostly grey with yellow on his dorsal and tail fins, and fluorescent blue spots on his whole body and face. <It's Aequidens rivulatus, a.k.a. "the Green Terror", a gorgeous South American cichlid with a very mean personality. Although a South American cichlid, in temperament it is much more like a Central American, and should be kept only with other robust species. There's every chance it will view your 46 gallon tank as its personal territory and eliminate any other aquarium fish kept with it. Often mistaken (with disastrous results) for the similar but far milder Blue Acara, Aequidens pulcher. Cheers, 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>

Cloudy FW Aquarium  - 3/7/07 Dear crew, In my 55 gallon tank the water is constantly too cloudy to see the back of the tank; I looked on your site and found no comments on the subject. (I apologize if I missed something)  I have tried 75% water changes, but a couple of days later it's as cloudy as before. I have filtration enough for 400 gallons of water. I have 1 blue gourami, 1 dwarf red gourami, 2 tetras, a lone swordtail, two sharks (the type on these 2 is unknown) and finally 2 Plecos. My nitrate is about 10 my nitrite is 0 my hardness is 75-80, my alkalinity/ buffering capacity is about 40, and my pH is 6.4 (I know the last two are dangerously low, but in my aquarium history this is the best my tank has ever been) I would like to know how and why my tank is constantly too murky to see through. Thank you for your time, D .Throne < Two different things could be going on here. Number 1 is high ammonia levels. If the water is cloudy with a fishy smell then get an ammonia test kit and check it out. High ammonia levels could be caused from dead fish, over feeding or excess bioload in the gravel. I would recommend doing a 50% water change while vacuuming the gravel. You have water that is acidic. Any sedimentary rock like sand stone will dissolve in your water. Sedimentary rocks are lightly cemented by a lime like substance. In your water the rocks may be dissolving and releasing minerals and causing the cloudy effect. Make sure that your rocks and sand is aquarium safe. This may also be the reason that you aquarium is doing better than some of your past attempts. These minerals add a certain amount of buffering that prevent pH swings.-Chuck>

Re: Green Cloudy Water, FW    3/11/07 Dear Crew, I apologize that I didn't state this in my last e-mail, but my water isn't the normal," cloudy" it looks very similar to pond water (it's green, instead of the average cloudy), and as stated last time, 2-3 days after a 60-75% water change the water is as pond-like as before, is this due to the reasons you stated last time, or is there another problem? Thank you, for your time, D. Throne < This is caused from an imbalance of the nutrients in the water. Usually the waste from the fish and uneaten food is quickly broken down by the bacteria into less harmful and less toxic components. Under very bright light the algae in the water gets to these nutrients first and causes the green water problem. The algae needs two things, light and fertilizer. Start by doing a 50% water change while vacuuming the gravel. Clean the filter. Feed your fish once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes. Remove any leftover food after two minutes by using a siphon. Turn on the lights only when viewing the fish. If your aquarium is next to a window then cover that side of the aquarium with some paper to block out the window light.-Chuck>

Yellow Water Won't Clear Up    2/16/07 Hello,  I need to know a way to remove yellowish from freshwater other than  doing water changes and using carbon. I already do a 25% once a month and won't  do anymore and I use carbon and it clears the water but only for 3 days. I read that a protein skimmer works to take out yellow water for saltwater but it only   works because of the salt in the water creating a charge with the bubbles ... so  have any other ideas thank you, Anthony This is important to me. Just so you know it's a 29 gallon with an Eheim 2217 and a Pentair fluidized bed filter 300. I do gravel vac with water changes. < The biggest source of yellow water comes from driftwood in the tank. Take any wood out and place in a tub or bucket. Change the water every day until it runs clear. Some fish foods can make the water yellow too. Try a different brand as see if that helps. As you have already found out, good quality carbon will remove the yellow water too. Changing only 25% of the water monthly may not be enough. If you are not able to change more water you may want to consider less fish.-Chuck.>

Iron In The Aquarium, FW    2/12/07 Hey Chuck, I have the wire artificial plants in my tank and the metal is actually rusting.  I can see it through the plastic and on the bottom glass of my tank.  Is this ok for the fish and the water? < A little iron is naturally found in many sources of tap water due to rust found in the pipes. Many newer homes have copper or plastic piping but a little iron will not hurt the fish but would be relished by live aquatic plants.-Chuck>

Magnesium for freshwater?  2/1/07 Hi, I just recently moved and thought it best to test my water parameters. A customer at the LFS I work at told me that the water was very hard well water, but a friend told me that he thinks it is run through a softener. <Mmm, by whom? The municipality? You can check with them (look for contact info. on your water bill)... If this was being done at your residence/business you would know about it... see the gear...> My test seem to indicate the later. Here are the water parameters that I tested; kH 5*-6.5* (tetra tested 5, Salifert tester 6.5), ph 7.6, phosphates are low if any at all, MG turned blue before I could even start the test (Salifert) so I guess it's 0ppm, CA 30ppm, and copper 0.06-0.10. my main concerns are the copper and the MG. I should have also pointed out that, while I may do a coral tank or two, my main focus is breeding freshwater. At this time Amazonian species are my main interest, so low MG and CA is a pleasant surprise, but is it ok to have 0 MG? <Mmm... for most FW, yes> also, copper is a major concern for me. In addition to breeding fish, I like to keep plants and shrimp. I have not installed the sink that will be used for my aquariums yet, is there a filter you would recommend installing with the sink? <Yes... reverse osmosis... along with a couple of covered trash cans... maybe on wheels... See WWM re> Also, do you know of a company that would test water parameters that would be helpful to an aquarist, and not just organics? thanks for any help, cro. <See your more local "Yellow Pages" re Quality Assurance Laboratories... call them re. Bob Fenner> FW filtration - white particles  1/12/06 Hello, guys and gals of WWM! I hope everyone is doing well. <<And we hope as is well with you, Nicole. Tom with you today.>> I just have a silly little question that is slowly driving me nuts. <<Can't have that!>> How come any brand of hang-on power filter that I purchase eventually ends up emitting little white particles? I know these diatoms are not at all harmful to the livestock, but I am just wondering if there's anything I can do to minimize them because they just bother the heck out of me! <<Diatoms are unicellular organisms, Nicole. In freshwater aquariums, they usually manifest themselves as fairly short-lived (relatively speaking) brown algae that disappears on its own over time. Doesn't mean a lot except that this doesn't strike me as what your 'little white particles' are.>> I clean the filters religiously every week, using filter brushes, bamboo skewers, white paper towels, a sink sprayer, to force the debris out. I even shine a flashlight in the filters! I kid you not. <<Wouldn't be appropriate to pull each other's legs after so short an acquaintance. :) Out of curiosity, are you cleaning the 'entire' filter, media included, in tap water? If so, don't do that. You'll slaughter the beneficial bacteria. The media should only be rinsed in used aquarium water.>> Except for some hard water deposits which I can't remove, the filters are clean as a whistle. <<Hmmm'¦hard water deposits, eh?>> I have tried filter floss, Chemi-Pure, flocculants, and all of them seem to help for a short while but the particles always return. <<Another 'out of curiosity' question. How 'hard' is your water, specifically regarding your calcium levels, and, what are your pH levels? (Does that count as two questions?)>> I am thinking about switching to canister filtration on my new 55 gallon tank - just because I am tired of eventually having to replace my hang-on power filters every couple of years because these diatoms won't go away! <<If what I'm thinking is correct (collective WWM Crew snickering in the background), a canister filter isn't the answer.>> A brand new filter doesn't emit these particles, so I don't think it is my tap water. <<Not too sure about that one, Nicole. Calcium and magnesium contribute largely to 'hard water' conditions. Calcium, in particular, is held in solution at lower pH levels but 'precipitates' at elevated pH levels, i.e. drops out and lands somewhere. (Bob loves it when I provide 'elegant' descriptions of chemical processes. He'll, no doubt, ask me for permission to use 'drops out and lands somewhere' in a published work. Can't blame him'¦ :) ). Kidding aside, what I believe is happening is that you're accumulating calcium deposits in your filter at just the correct precipitate level where it's still soft/flaky. Once it's built up sufficiently, it begins to break loose and re-enter the tank via the filter. The precipitated calcium may be so 'soft' that you won't even note a real accumulation when you remove your filter for cleaning. Variables involved here, Nicole, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.>> Do you have any suggestions, tricks of the trade? <<I would try to verify what I've suggested, if possible. Even test kits that test for gH and/or kH (more important in this context) would give you an idea if the theory has any merit. We'll work on the 'tricks' when we know more.>> Thank you so much for your time. Nicole <<An interesting 'silly little question', Nicole. I'll look forward to hearing more. Tom>>

Re: FW filtration - white particles Thank you so much, Tom! <<My Lord, you are quick, Nicole!>> Sorry for the misuse of the word diatom, that was very insightful. <<I misuse words as if it were a 'science', Nicole. :)>> I guess that I made a wrong connection. Since a diatom filter removed particles I figured that diatoms were at play here. The breaking off of calcification makes much more sense. <<Does to me as well in this case.>> I honestly can't remember how hard my water is, but the pH is in the high 7s. <<Maybe we're hitting on something'¦>> I can't remember any other value such as alkalinity or hardness...I just remember that it was within "acceptable" levels which, I know, tells you essentially nothing! I know it's considered a sin in fishkeeping, but I don't have a test kit right now - otherwise, I would tell you. <<Not a sin by a long stretch, Nicole. Just saves the keeper from running up to the LFS and getting 'questionable' information. You know, stuff like 'safe', 'fine', 'good', etc. Doesn't do us much good.>> I haven't had a problem whatsoever for over a year, since I started doing between 10-20% water changes twice a week for all my tanks, and using lots more biological media in my filters. Which, incidentally, I do only rinse with tank water! :) Thank you anyway for the tip, I know how important that is. <<You've let me off the hook, so to speak. You'd be surprised, though, as to how many people don't realize this.>> Even though I have a slightly obsessive maintenance protocol, nothing is sterile in my tank except the filter units themselves, after I clean them. I just don't like to see gunk building up in filters, or household drains. Say no to gunk! <<Huzzah to that! (Read a post in a different forum from a fellow who hadn't cleaned his Bio-wheel in three years. Hope he's still married 'cuz it sounded like he was close to being single again!)>> I will pick up another master test kit soon so I can write back to you with the info. Would that be ok? <<You know exactly where to find me, Nicole, and that would be perfectly okay. The 'new' generation Master Test Kits reportedly have tests for gH and kH included. Haven't verified this personally, however. I'm due for an upgrade myself, though.>> Thank you again so very kindly, Nicole <<My pleasure, Nicole. Tom>>

Cloudy Water   12/31/06 Hello WWM crew! I first would like to say that I am impressed none of you have spontaneously combusted after having to go through so many emails containing that have already been answered several thousand times. The email I sent a few weeks ago was about something similar to cloudy water, but was NOT the same thing. The response I got was this: < If the cloudiness is caused by organics then a good quality carbon should take care of it. Fill a clean clear glass with tap water and look for impurities. The water should be clear and free of sediment. If you notice anything then contact you water supplier and tell them you think there is a problem. If your tap water is OK then we need to assume that the cause is from the aquarium itself. Feed the fish once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. If there is still a problem then change fish food because the binder may be getting old and breaking down.> This would have been an excellent response, but I am not sure that it was not referring to the common problem you are sick of reading of. I have been putting fresh carbon in my filter regularly, the flake food I am using is from Tetra and is not more than a month old, our tap water is clear, I am almost positive it is not the filter, the gravel, or the water because the problem showed up in my three separate tanks at the same time. I know that would mean it's obviously the tap water but I checked it and the particles are not in it. The cloudiness in my water is not like the regular cloudiness I have gotten during cycling. I am sure it was not from a bacterial bloom or sediment from the gravel or algae or my tap water because my filter would have cleared up solid particles within days, and a bacterial problem wouldn't have caused the particles to look the way they did. It was almost like underwater dust, and the particles were easy to tell apart from each other and they were nothing like the big solid gray mass that appeared when I didn't realize a plant was dead in time. I tried adding a Accu-clear, but nothing happened. The only organic thing I could think the "dustishness"  could be from is a coconut shell in one of my tanks. There is no shell in the other tanks and after removing it, nothing happened. The gravel did throw up some sediment when I first added it but the filter cleared that up and the gravel has not been disturbed since, except for vacuuming, which never caused a problem. I recently left town for 5 days and upon returning, found nothing had changed. I did not put in a vacation feeder for obvious reasons. If I am wrong, and the cloudiness the usual thing, I apologize for wasting your time. If dust-like particles ARE out of the ordinary, please help. John O. P.S. One of the rocks in my 20 g tank has started growing little dark blue-green plumes on it. I do not think it is blue-green algae because the plumes look almost like anemones except for the fact that they are about a quarter of an inch in diameter. They look like small fluffy blue trees. Thank you for any reply you may deem fit to bestow upon me, and sorry for anything I did wrong. < If there are three different aquariums with the same problem then you have to look at the common denominator. What is the same in all three tanks? Or what happened in all three tanks prior to the tanks getting cloudy?  You are going to have to do a little detective work to determine the cause, but here is a couple of suggestions. The dust could be from a rock or piece of gravel that is breaking down and dissolving in the aquarium. Sedimentary rocks are clays, silts and sands that are cemented together over time. When wetted up again the cement starts to dissolve and the clay particles break off into solution. In an aquarium with a current they will never settle out. They will remain a cloudy dust and can only be filtered out with a water filter with a very fine micron screen. Water wells sometimes suck particles of dust through the sand filters too. The anemones are probably hydra and are dangerous to small or baby fish.-Chuck>

Cloudy Water  12/29/06 Yes, this subject again! <Ok> I haven't seen a question pertaining to a brand new fish tank. There are no fish in the tank, no live plants. The tank has been sitting for two days. It is cycling through a filtering system. I have two air pumps running. I dechlorinated the water and added pH down because the level was about 7.8. <Ok for many fish.> The tank is cloudy. I don't know whether to add more chemicals, do a complete water change, or wait. Any suggestions? <It could be from the chemicals if you added too much.  Also if you are feeding/cycling the tank it could be a bacterial bloom.  But most likely it is dust from your substrate.  Either way cease using the chemicals and give it a couple more days and see what happens.  Most likely nothing that won't pass soon.> <Chris>

Cloudy FW   12/8/06 Hello WWM crew!  The last time I asked a question, it was answered in less than a day. Thank you! I have a 20 g aquarium with a heater that is a shade too small but still works, and an Aqua-clear filter rated for 20-50 gallon aquariums, so I don't think under-filtration is the problem. I have a swordplant and it's offspring, some Cabomba, some water wisteria, 2 zebra danios, male and female, a pair of distressingly prolific guppies, a pair of platies, 3 Corydoras catfish, a small "pleco" (no idea what kind it is), a single cherry barb and a single kuhli loach. I am working on getting the schoolers some more friends ASAP.  I also have a separate 10 gallon tank with two goldfish rescued from my sister's Bowl of Death. About a week ago, I noticed that the 20 gallon tank had something in the water. I have experienced cloudy water, and it wasn't quite as cloudy as that. There were a lot of tiny, tiny particles in the water, almost like what is in tap water after you turn it on really, really hot. They are kind of hard to describe, they looked kind of like really really small bubbles. They did not look like the usual bits of poop and food and plant debris floating around in there, they were smaller and more dust-like. A few days later, I noticed the same problem in the goldfish tank, so I turned off the filter and aerator for a few hours to see what would happen. The particles did settle to the bottom, a little, but there were still some left, and they all came back once the water was stirred up again. Water changes do nothing that I can see to help. I tried adding  Accu-Clear, but all that did was turn the water gray for a day. The male guppy looks like he has a few black spots on his tail, could that have anything to do with it? The black spots looked similar to the ones that have caused every batch of platy fry to die off... they never affected the guppy babies though, who were sharing the baby saver at the time. This next bunch of information is probably irrelevant, but here goes. I have a half of a coconut shell that the bottom feeders hide in, a rock that I have seen in pet stores, it is white with an orange stripe and porous.  I am growing parsley with the roots in the tank, but there is no soil, so no soil contamination. The gravel was thoroughly washed, and the tank has been running since mid-summer, with no particles from the gravel in the water. I have been less-than-religious about water testing besides the pH, which is about 6.8. The tank has no odor, one aqua-Glo bulb, and close inspection of the sponge in the filter has revealed that stringy things connect the holes in the surface, like a spider web. The ten gallon used to be a warm water tank for several years, and I noticed that whenever I messed with the filter, stringy things just like I mentioned, except bigger, would pour out. That particular problem has not occurred in the 20 gallon tank, as I clean the filter more often. Sorry about the long email and rambling, I tried to include as much information as possible. Many thanks, John - P.S. The reason the heater is too small is that is was my spare. The right sized one wouldn't turn on unless it was turned up way too high, and after having heated the aquarium to about 82 degrees, it would turn off and not turn back on unless I pushed down on the dial. After my fish went through several cycles of not moving at all and gasping at the surface, so the heater went bye-bye. < If the cloudiness is caused by organics then a good quality carbon should take care of it. Fill a clean clear glass with tap water and look for impurities. The water should be clear and free of sediment. If you notice anything then contact you water supplier and tell them you think there is a problem. If your tap water is OK then we need to assume that the cause is from the aquarium it self. Feed the fish once a day and only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes. Do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. If there is still a problem then change fish food because the binder may be getting old and breaking down.-Chuck>

10 Gallon Tank Cloudiness   12/6/06 Dear Crew, <Koda> My 10 gallon aquarium is constantly getting cloudy.  I know I am not over feeding due to the green 'fuzz' growing on my gravel and the green colored cloudiness.  I have tried repeated water changes, but only 2-3 days afterward the water gets cloudy to the point were I can't even see the back of the tank. <A common situation... likely an out-of-balance equation with too little filtration, non-cycled circumstance, mis-over-feeding...> I would like to know the constant cause of the cloudiness and what the 'fuzz' is growing on my gravel; I also think the fuzz is the cause of the cloudiness, <Kind of> also due to the fact that my water is tinted green when cloudy. <An algal component> If this helps, my tank contains, 1 blue gourami, 2 dwarf gouramis, 2 tetras( these are unknown , they are roughly ½ the size of my dwarf gouramis, and have 2 black stripes down their sides) 2 swordtails, and 1 sucker fish( I cannot spell this name correctly, it's name starts with 'P'). <Mmm, likely a Plecostomus of some sort/species... needs larger quarters> It also has a waterfall filter, <Take care to not "clean" this till your water clears permanently> a triangular rock with 3 'caves' in it that reaches 7/8 the way to the top, two fake plants and a bubble wand (the 'fuzz' is more abundant here). My tank is constantly getting cloudy and I do hope that you can help me out. Thank you, for your time. D.Throne <Mmm, what are you feeding? Your answers are posted here on WWM: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oqualfaqs1.htm and the linked files... Bob Fenner>

FW ORP readings    11/28/06 I would like some advise <advice> regarding ORP readings on my fresh water tanks. <Plural...> My first tank is around 1200l housing only 1 Arowana, ORP reading on this tank is 442 mv. My second tank is around 800l also housing 1 Arowana ORP reading on this tank is 549 mv. <Mmm, too high> The readings are obtained from AM pin point monitors, both probes have been calibrated using pin point 400 fluid. <An important clue> Please note I am using no agent in either tank to increase the ORP. The PH on both tanks is around 6.5, reading obtained using calibrated AM pin point monitors. After checking some spec on various expected ORP readings, it seems strange to have a high reading of 549 mv. Thank you for all the help that you have previously provided. Alan <Is high... what is the ORP reading for your tap/source water? How is this treated before your use? Do you use UV, Ozone? Bob Fenner>
Re: FW ORP readings   12/4/06
The ORP of my tap water is around 400 mv straight from the tap, and next day it reads around 335 mv. Prior to using this water for partial changes, i use 2 trash buckets and add Seachem prime. Seachem neutral buffer is also used, <Ahh, these are likely the cause of the boosted ReDox readings> and i leave a power head running for around 24 hrs. I use no ozone or UV. Please note no other additives are added to my water. After leaving the probe in a small bucket of tap water for two days, to obtain the above readings, i have since returned the probe back in the tank, reading now is at 431 mv. I am not sure if the reading will creep back up or not. <I would not be overly concerned here either way... almost assuredly this reading/condition will diminish with time, life in the water. Bob Fenner>

Help with smell/y liner pond/FW system  - 11/02/06 Hi, <Hello> I am sorry to bother you but I searched your website but did not find exactly what I was looking for.  I have an unique situation and hope you can help.  I built an enclosure for several animals and marine life and the pond has a smell to it. I built a cage that is 6.5 feet long, 2.5 feet wide and 2 feet high. The main compartment is 4 feet X 2.5 feet X 8 inches.  I have a pond liner in it and filled it with just over 100lbs of potting soil.  I then put in plants, rocks and decorations.   <The soil is trouble here> In the last 2.5 feet I built a wooden box that is 9 inches high with about a 2 foot round hole in the center.  I then bought a 2 foot round 10 inch deep pond tub (one of the round black tubs sold at local Lowe's made for ponds) and put that in the hole. It holds about 15 gallons of water.  I placed rocks all around the pond and built a rock water fall up the far end of the cage.  The cage is made from wood and chicken wire on the rest of the sides and the lid.  It has one small aquarium filter, and one small pond pump. I have (4) medium sized Anoles, (1) 2.5 foot Iguana, (1) Blue Tailed Skink, (4) small Mud Puppies, (1) large Golden Gecko,  and (1) large Salamander (not sure what kind it is green with black spots and about 8 to 10 inches long that all live happily in the dirt and plants and under some of the rocks.   In the Pond I have (2) Gourami, (1) Fan Tail Goldfish, (1) Algae Eater (not sure of the name always called them sucker fish), and (1) common Water Frog that lives in the water fall and the pond. The problem is that I have to drain the water once a week and clean the bottom and sides of the pond and then refill it or it gets a smell that really stinks. <Yes... organic portions of the soil are decomposing> It is a cross between a fishy smell and something dead. I also clean both the water fall pump and the aquarium filter about three times a week.  The water fall pump has no filter type material just take it apart and clean the plastic parts.  The filter has two small sponge like things and one small charcoal container.  I take it all apart and wash everything.  I have also bought a medium sized bag of charcoal that I keep up against the inlet side of the filter. <May help some...> I know part of the problem is that the iguana gets in the pond and goes to the bathroom before he gets out.  Is there a better filter that I can use? <Maybe... an outside, sealed unit... like a large size canister filter... with a good volume of high quality carbon... But, in all likelihood you will continue to have this smell...> Is there something else I can do to help?  I don't mind cleaning it once a month or so but once a week (and by the time it gets to Saturday, the day I clean, it REALLY needs it) is quite a bit I feel.  Are there other fish I can put in that will help clean it? <Not really... even with removal of the soil, this volume will be stinky into the future... more frequent, even daily partial water changes, the addition of a "bog filter" with live plants, and the canister filter or such are moves, actions that can/will help. Bob Fenner> Any help you can give would be much appreciated. Thank you, Kevin L. Harris

Not urgent. Calcium, and worms. 11/01/06 Hello Crew! <<Hi, Rachel. Tom>> I know you're all terribly busy, and this isn't terribly important, so please feel free to skip over this one! <<Can't do that Rachel. Your's is important to you which makes it important to us.>> I have a 2.5 gallon tank with a 25-watt heater, 10-watt fluorescent lighting, and in-tank Whisper filter set on low, in which I keep a spoiled-rotten Betta of about a year and a half old. The system was started about a year ago, and was moved/remodeled two months ago. About a month ago I added a Java fern and some red Ludwigia. I added a lovely blue mystery snail (Pomacea bridgesii) a week ago, and he is doing a remarkable job on eating the algae (working on getting the plants to thrive instead!). <<I completely understand'¦>> Temperature is 80, ammonia and nitrite 0, nitrate usually under 5 now since adding the live plants... I think the pH is 7.4, though I'm not at home right now to look it up. I try to do 25% water changes every week or two, though I've been lax lately. Anyhow, my water is on the soft side, and the snail's shell is already looking a little worn. I am planning to add "something" to the tank for calcium. I've heard of crushed coral or marble. However, since I also keep a cockatiel, I have cuttlefish bone handy as a source of calcium for the bird. Could I put a well-rinsed (and obviously unused) piece in the aquarium? <<I've not run across this for aquatic snails but I have for land snails. Frankly, I find it a good option to try especially given that your pH is already at ~7.4.>> And how big a chunk are we talking? <<Try a piece with a surface area of about one square inch, or so.>> The bones are about five inches long by two or three inches wide, half an inch thick, and can easily be snapped into smaller pieces. Was just planning on tucking it behind a rock somewhere with a little water flow to help it dissolve. Right? <<You might find that your snail will actually 'feed' on the bone as land snails do. (I'm somewhat curious about this myself.) Obviously, you'll want to monitor pH levels though I don't believe that this should prove to be a problem.>> Secondly, I've noticed "the little white worms" floating around and wiggling on the tank walls. White, threadlike, about 1 cm long. I had these once maybe nine months ago. Up until yesterday I was assuming they are harmless Planaria, and I was stepping up the water changes as I know these are a sign of excess nutrients. However, yesterday I noticed Terrence the Betta eating them as they floated by. If they're just free-living Planaria I'm pretty sure this is harmless, but is there any chance these could be parasitic worms which Terrence has passed and he is re-infecting himself somehow? <<Parasites, by definition, require a 'host' in order to survive. In all likelihood, they're Planaria.>> His feces are never stringy-white, but very occasionally his normal feces will include some little clear sections that look like mucus. I believe I'm just paranoid, but better safe than sorry! He is acting quite normally, swimming around, flaring and nipping at the snail, eating voraciously -- he has even started to pick at the algae wafers for the snail, and will steal them out from under him! <<Don't be overly concerned about the occasional clear sections in his feces. This isn't uncommon or an indication of a problem any more than a very occasional sneeze means you're getting a cold. Just happens'¦>> Thanks for all your hard work! Rachel North Carolina <<Thank you kindly, as well, Rachel. Best regards. Tom (Michigan)>>

Hard Water With High Phosphates Won't Soften  9/6/06 I've spent a good deal of my morning reading through www FAQ pages as well as any other source I can find online to help with my high phosphates.  Here's the deal, I have two 55 gallon tanks, one is a planted discus tank, the other, a nice little reef tank.  I've managed to keep the water quality on my reef tank at optimal levels by introducing Chaeto to my refug. Works like a charm.  The freshwater tank is another story all together.  I have about half the 55 gallon planted, DIY CO2, 4 various sized discus, 10 cardinal tetras, 5 Glo-lights, 5 black neons, and 3 Cory cats. I am currently using PhosGuard (SeaChem) and it works very well, but the problem is my source water, everything out of my tap runs phosphate, ammonia, and pH off the charts (literally), because of the poor water I bought an RO/DI unit, the phosphates and ammonia still come out off the charts. I've thought about purchasing a better membrane but seeing how I have to replace current filter cartridges every 2 months to keep them working, I'm looking for alternatives.  I could always purchase water from a LFS but I'd rather have access to my own source in those times where we need alot of water quickly. I'm open for any ideas you guys might have for me this time. Thanks! <You need to do some detective work here. Run your water quality tests on the following: 1)Distilled water. You know that this water is distilled from the store and has no minerals in it. The phosphates and ammonia should be zero. The pH should be close to 7.0 but can vary depending on what it can pick up in the air. If your tests show anything then you know the test kits are bad and need to get a new kit with fresh reagents. Powdered reagents work best for me. 2)Now that you know how the test kits are performing then you need to check your tap water. Many areas of the country have high phosphates in their tap water. This is a naturally occurring mineral that come from sand in the aquifers from which well water is pumped out. High nitrates can come from some minerals, but much of it comes from the agricultural practices of using high nitrogen fertilizers.  If your tap water still reads high then we now know that the numbers are accurate. 3)Check the R/O water. The readings should be very close to the distilled water (O ppm). If they are not then replace the R/O cartridge. Measure the R/O water weekly. It should start  out at zero ppm for both. See how many gallons needs to flow through before the readings start to climb. As they start to climb you may need to back flush your R/O unit more often. If you don't have a back flush valve then the membranes won't last too long. You could try getting a bigger R/O unit. If you have a  5 gallon per day unit then a 50 gallon per day unit would take longer to clog just by simple increased surface area. Check out the different R/O units for sale online. 4) Check the tank. These are the most important readings. If the water going in, is pure and the nitrates and phosphates are going up, then the source of the phosphates and nitrates are from the tank itself. The nitrates are from the fish and the phosphates could be from the rocks or sand. Put the rock or sand in a container with distilled water. Check the water in the container in a couple of weeks and compare the test readings. If phosphates show up in the water then you know they are from the rock or sand. Remove the problem materials and replace with inert materials like Fluorite. Do more water changes to dilute the nitrates.-Chuck>

Cloudy Water  - 08/05/06 Hi. <<Hi, Sal. Tom>> I have a 55 gallon aquarium with two full grown silver dollars, three giant danios (not full grown), a 2 inch pangasius <<Pangasius, perhaps?>> catfish, a two inch striped African glass cat, a three inch pictus cat, two orange  barbs (they're about two inches each, not sure of the species.  They look a bit like goldfish, but they're not) and two high finned tetras.  It's been set up about a year. <<Your Pangasius catfish (aka Iridescent shark (catfish), Iridescent catshark) will grow - given the opportunity - to leviathan-like proportions, relatively speaking. Even your 55-gallon tank won't be a fraction of the size this rascal will need down the road. Not talking hundreds of gallons but thousands. Healthy, full-grown adults may easily reach 40 inches in length. I ran across an article quite a while back that cited one instance of a 55-inch specimen. That's over a foot long! :)>> About three months ago, I started experiencing cloudy water.  This may be a coincidence but it coincided with my changing brands of fish food.   <<You and I don't really think this is "coincidence", do we?>> I feed them once a day and I don't feel like I'm overfeeding.  PH, ammonia and Nitrates are fine.  The fish appear healthy. I can't get rid of the cloudy water.  Water changes help temporarily.   <<Good old water changes...>> I vacuum the substrate every other water change (when I'm not changing the filters). I use a Penguin Biowheel 350 filter. <<I'm familiar with this filter, Sal, so am I correct in assuming that you're merely "rinsing" the media in old tank water and putting it back into service? Under normal operating conditions, there shouldn't be a need to actually change this...ever.>> I tried using Biozyme, to no avail.   <<Won't be effective.>> My water was crystal clear before this.  What gives?    <<Let's discount dissolved particulates from new gravel, rock, etc. based on the length of time that your tank's been up and running. I'd also write off an algae bloom since the cloudy water would be green(ish) and this isn't mentioned. Last at the top of the list is a bacterial bloom and this is the one I'd, personally, hang my hat on. Since all aquaria contain bacteria, both good and less-beneficial types, I'd wager that the food change sparked a "feeding frenzy" that wasn't occurring with the old food. Worst case, the bacteria responsible may be "in" the food itself. Hard to know this for sure. In any event, I'd switch foods since this seems the likely culprit to me.>> Thanks. P.S. I do a twenty percent water change every 2 or 3 weeks. <<I'd increase this to every week, Sal, which is what I do with my 50-gallon tank. Also, I'd vacuum the gravel with every water change, regardless. The substrate is where bacteria of this type take up residence and it's not simply on the surface of the gravel. You need to push the vacuum deep into the gravel right to the bottom of the tank. I'd be surprised if you weren't shocked at what comes up! Best of luck with this, Sal. Tom>>

Cloudy Tank - 06/17/2006 I've Googled and searched and can't find an answer. I've a 29 gal. with some plastic plants and a few natural. Stock is 2 Mollies 1 ½'; 1 Platy 1 ½'; 3 Cory cats 1'; 4 tetras under 1 ½'; 1 small CAE, 1 ½'. The water is cloudy and it doesn't clear. Ph, ammonia, everything test ok, <At what levels?  "Ok" doesn't help diagnose a problem like this....> I do a 10-20% change every week or ten days, and still cloudy. The fish are all active and appear quite healthy. Any guesses? <Probably an algae or bacteria bloom....  either way, from an excess of some sort of nutrient(s) in the water.  Please do take a look through our freshwater algae control articles and FAQs, especially regarding green water, as it may be a sort of free-floating algae in the water which is causing the cloudiness.> Thanks Carlo <All the best to you,  -Sabrina>
Re: Cloudy FW Tank  6/5/06
Chuck, Thanks for the advice.  I had a couple more fish contract this illness and began treating them in a hospital tank.  Two of the four survived and are recovering well in the hospital tank.  I suspect the other two died because I was late identifying the problem and the additional time it took me to secure the medication.  Now I have a new problem with the same 125 gallon tank.   All of a sudden, the main tank started clouding over last week.  This is the gray, milky clouding similar to what you would see in a new tank.  It took place quickly too, only in a matter of days.  I heeded your warning on the erythromycin and only treated the fish in my 10 gallon QT.  I have tested for everything.  The pH remains stable at 6.8 which is where it ought to be.  The ammonia & nitrite tests came back 0.0 and I tested several times on different days to be certain.  My nitrate readings are down to under 5 ppm, probably because I did a 75% water change to alleviate the clouding.  A week has now passed since the aforementioned water change and the cloudy water has returned, equally as bad as before.  Strangely, the fish still in the tank are acting perfectly normal.  In fact, the rainbows are in rare form when it comes to courtship display. I don't know what to do.  This tank has been up and running for about a year now.  The tank is planted with Seachem Fluorite gravel, two Whisper 60 filters, and a Rena XP3 can filter with CO2 being fed through the outflow.  I have shut off the CO2 tank since I have doubts about the plants ability to even utilize it, given the poor clarity of the water.  All totaled, I'm straining the water at a rate in excess of 900 gph.  I even changed the carbon in the two Whisper filters hoping this might do the trick.  It didn't help.    As always, your advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks // Brook < Smell the top of the tank. If there is a fishy smell to the water then it may be an ammonia spike, regardless of the test kit results. If you took you tap water an added any kind of pH decreaser or water softener then the chemical in the additive has replaced the calcium in the water and formed a calcium precipitate which would cause the cloudy water.-Chuck>

Yellow Water  - 5/11/06 I was just wondering what cause the yellowish tint to my water.  I have a fresh water planted tank.  I have done water chances twice a week because of my discus fish.  But I can't seem to get my water sparkling clear.. What do I need to do different?? Thank you for you time. Bobbi < Driftwood can leach tannins into the water. Some amendments to the substrate that you may have added for the plants may have organics in them that will turn the water yellow. Add a good quality carbon to the filter and it will remove the color.-Chuck>

Regulating of pH  - 4/11/2006 Hello there wise ones! I have a 55 gallon tank with 6 Gouramis  a few scavengers and sundry danios.  I have not been able to effectively manage the acidity in the tank for the past 18 months.  No matter what I do, it returns to pre-treated levels, what am I missing here?  Help. Thanks, Lee Stickle <Perhaps just a simple understanding of pH/Acidity-Alkalinity. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm Bob Fenner>

Cloudy White Water among other Problems   3/28/06   Dear WWM Crew, <Tom with you today> I started a 20 gallon tank about 2 months ago. After about 3 days of having the tank I added 3 giant danios <Too soon> and about 4 days after that I added 3 red-tailed sharks. <Again, too soon, will grow too large for a 20G and very likely won't get along well with each other in the future>  Later I received 5 smaller tiger danios, and bought a Pleco algae eater. <Kyle, you're way over-loaded for this size tank!> For as long as I can remember now the water has been cloudy white. <Not surprising given what you've shared>  From going to my local fish store (Aquarium World) I was told that this was due to bacteria bloom <Would be my call as well>, after I told him that I had been changing the filter and rinsing out my bio-fiber to try and remedy the problem.  He told me to leave the water alone so that bacteria could build in the filter and the tank could cycle. <As a general rule, this is the way to go> It has been two and a half weeks since he told me this.  My fish are all acting weird, there is white buildup swirling around on the top of the water, the water is still cloudy white, and there is algae buildup like no other. There is all kinds of junk on the bottom of the tank, and I don't believe I've been overfeeding my fish. <The evidence would indicate that you have been over-feeding, though. An algae bloom suggests, in part, that the water is nutrient-rich which typically comes from food being left to decay at the bottom of the tank> I changed the filter last week because the water couldn't go through it anymore and was going over the edge by the intake tube as opposed to through the tube, and it is close to this point again.  I've no clue what to do. Please help. <Start with water changes in the range of 20%-30% every few days including, at this point, superficially vacuuming the substrate/gravel to remove uneaten food/detritus. Additionally, do NOT "replace" any of your filter media. Rinse the media in water removed from the aquarium only, just enough to clear the media of mulm/debris. Do not tap water as the chlorine/chloramines will kill your beneficial bacteria. Make certain that your tank lighting is minimal, i.e. out of direct sunlight, etc., to reduce/inhibit algae growth. Go easy on feeding. No more than will be consumed in two to three minutes. Let's start with this and see if we can't get things cleared up. Tom>  Sincerely, Kyle

Strange smelling from my Freshwater Aquarium  3/22/06 Hey there, <Hi, Steve. Tom here today> got a quick question for you.  My 20 gallon freshwater aquarium has had a very strange smell lately.  For the past two weeks, the water has literally smelled like bad BO, and it's cloudy. <Can go hand-in-hand with one another> I keep doing water changes but that doesn't seem to do anything. <Water changes alone or are you vacuuming the substrate, as well?>  I have 5 other tanks (2 other freshwater, a 55gallon Saltwater, and a 10 gallon newt), and none of them exhibit the same conditions. <Thank goodness> The pH is 7, Nitrate, Nitrite, Ammonia are all 0, temperature is 75 F. <Excellent> Is it an algae or bacteria bloom? <Possibly either. Both will cloud the water but my thinking is that the foul odor is more consistent with dissolved organics, i.e. livestock detritus/decaying matter> I've had 2 fish die in the past month, but I've immediately taken their bodies out and did a 20% water change.  Any ideas? <Deeply vacuum your gravel. Superficial vacuuming will not clean the substrate of built-up detritus/sludge that will settle deep down over time. Also, rinse your filter media in used aquarium water to prevent overloading and reintroduction of particulates into the tank> Thanks, Steve <Happy to be of assistance. Tom> Cartoonist- See my art at http://sunspot01.deviantart.com My aquariums at http://www.angelfire.com/planet/sunspot01

Cloudy water, yuck!   3/10/06 Hi. Me and my Mom like your website. We have 7 Gouramis. They are 1- Moonlight Female, 1-Gold Female, 1-Opal Female,1 Three Spot Female, 1-Pearl Male, and 2-powder blue Male. (When they get bigger we might get a 50 gallon tank)! We also added a baby albino algae eater last week who is already getting bigger but doesn't look like he eats the algae at all. But he is fun to watch because he scurries around the bottom of the tank like a freak. It is a 29 gallon tank. We have many live and fake plants and float some on top and also plant some on the bottom. They all seem happy. The water temperature stays around 76 degrees and the test strips show: no chlorine, 0.5 nitrite, <Mmm, this is a clue... you want to have 0.0...> 120ppm for total hardness, and now 7.2 for ph. When we tested a few days ago the ph was about 8.0 so we bought Seachem ph 7.0 which is a white powder "ph regulator." The problem is the water is real cloudy now. <Best to adjust the pH slowly... by adding such products to new water that you intend to use during water changes> Is that normal because of this or could there be another problem? <Likely both the treatment and insufficient filtration (hence the detectable nitrite)> My Mom did a water change of about 20% but it is still cloudy. <Best to limit the amount changed any given time to about this %> Savannah G. <Do consider adding more filtration, circulation, aeration here... maybe by way of an added power filter (hang on, canister, internal...) and in the meanwhile be very careful re feeding... until the nitrite is zip. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia, water changes (now pH, too)   2/22/06 Hey crew! <Hey, Andrew!> I've already sent in a question similar to this once, and it could still be getting answered (in which case I apologize for sending this), but it's been 4 or 5 days since sending it without a reply, and this email explains the situation more fully, so I thought I'd try again (along with updates, so it is a different email) in case the original got lost in the shuffle.   <Oops!  Happens sometimes.  We get quite a bit of spam, sometimes real E-Mails get lost in the shuffle...> In the latest installment of my first time aquarium/didn't know about cycling fiasco, after doing 2x daily water changes for a couple of days like Jason recommended (which has diluted the ammonia back down to sub 1.0 levels), <Good!  You may want to back off a bit on the water changes, just enough to keep below the 1.0 PPM threshold.> my pH is now at 5.0 (could be lower, but my colorimetric assay doesn't go below that). My tapwater is at pH 7.0. The tapwater is also VERY soft (KH 1.5, GH 2). <Your KH is very low, you don't have enough carbonates to absorb the acids that come from the waste, carbon dioxide your fish produce.> I realize that with such a low alkaline reserve, the water's pH is subject to bigger/quicker swings in pH, but I don't understand what could have triggered the swing (was at 7.0 before water changes). <When KH is very low, it doesn't take much.> I have normal, natural gravel (from Wal-Mart), a fake log/plant, a fake rock/plant, two more silk plants, and some Cabomba planted in my aquarium--no peat or driftwood in this little 5 gallon. I condition the replacement water for the water changes with Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Tap Water Conditioner (eliminates chlorines and breaks the chloramine bond), and testing the conditioned water right before putting it in the aquarium shows a pH of 7 and the same hardness levels as the tap water. Any idea what's causing the pH to bottom out and what I should do to fix it? I realize changing pH all the time is a bad idea, but I feel like if it's this low, the nitrifying bacteria will never grow because I'll have all the ammonium I could wish for but no free ammonia for them to eat. Should I start adding baking soda to my water changes (if so, how much proportionally?) or possibly use the pantyhose w/ crushed coral in the filter box approach (if so, where do I find crushed coral, etc)? I also have Seachem's Neutral Regulator, but it says it works by softening the water (precipitating calcium and magnesium), which I don't really need, and it locks up ammonia just like low pH does, which I've been trying to get away from so that I can get an accurate ammonia test result and start cycling my tank. As much as I'd hate to do it, though, I was thinking of using the neutral regulator and then continuing 1x daily water changes but adding in the baking soda or pantyhose ideas. Anyways, I'm getting really bad about these long emails, so I'll apologize and stop here. Thanks again for the help so far! <It sounds like you've done quite a lot of research on the topic, took the time to understand alkalinity and buffering before you asked any questions.  Because of this, you have answered most of your own questions.  I would use Baking Soda to slowly bring KH and pH up over about a week if you can -- this will be hard, since you are doing daily water changes -- and use crushed coral to act as a more permanent buffer in the future.  A good target for KH is between 5 and 10, which is still pretty soft but much more stable. As for proper amounts of baking soda/crushed coral to use... trial and error!  Try adjusting a bit of tap water w/baking soda -- say 1 gallon -- and when you find the right amount, add that amount per gallon to your water changes.  Likewise, soak some crushed coral in tap water for a few days, and test your KH, see how much is leached in that time.  You should come up with a good estimate after a bit of trial and error. Since you are manually adjusting alkalinity and pH be sure to include these (and GH) as a part of your regular water testing in the future.> Thanks, Andrew... <Jason N.>

My aquarium looks like it has tiny air bubbles in it! Good intentions, poor information  - 2/11/2006 Hello , I have set up a freshwater aquarium (5 gallon tank) that is heated to 75 deg f.  I had a problem with high ammonia levels which I am sorry to say consumed a few fish.  I have since rectified the problem with 10% water changes.  I have since added an ammonia bag and air stone.  At the time of the highest concentration which was off the scale I am sorry to say the only fish that survived was my albino catfish.  He is known for his constant swimming in front of the tank so when I put the air stone in shortly after regaining control of the ammonia level it place it in the front.  I was not happy with the control as it is very cheap and the stone would sometimes put out less air after a while.  I therefore removed the control valve and pumped full volume air in.  At night I would pinch the hose to lessen the flow and allow the fish to calm.  He loves swimming through the bubbles.   After getting another fish (calico) which was not very good at the store I bought him from (Wal-Mart) I didn't notice much change in water till shortly before he died.  He seemed to be doing better everyday, swimming stronger and such until I added a red cap and black moor the following week.  In between the calico and the other two I noticed the water to be getting hazy. <Common... a "break in" phase... bacterial>   I expected this as I treated the water with Melafix <... not a good idea> as is suggested when adding new fish.  1/2 teaspoon every day for 3 days.  removed the carbon filter as instructed the first time but left it in the second time when I added the red cap and moor.   changed it after the second time and rinsed out the bio filter.  changed my ammonia bag as well but the hazy look is still there .  Got some clearing drops and put them in but no good still hazy.   last Saturday the 4th of February a friend said I got to much air going in. It looks just like tiny bubbles so they turned it down to what they set their stone to.  Though now a week later its still hazy and looks like crap.   The fish appear to be ok so my wife said to turn off the air stone which I did tonight the 9th of February.  What am I supposed to do.  I have a sample of water to take to another fish store in town .  if it is air how do I get it out, as I've heard and read that to much air in the water and a fish can get an air bubble in his body.  Please help me anyway you can. Thank you, Ryan <... the haziness is likely mostly due to the system being uncycled... and adding "fix", "drops" is just forestalling this cycling... Do you have a filter? Just waiting, being careful to not overfeed will see this tiny system (ultimately too small for two fancy goldfish)... Please see WWM re FW Cycling, Goldfish Systems... Bob Fenner>

Aquarium with bubbles  - 2/11/2006 I woke this morning to find my Pleco had died overnight.  I took my sample of water in and I have a high nitrite level. <How high?> Lady at the store told me to do 25% water changes every two days via vacuuming the rocks and bring in another sample 1 hr after the third change on Tuesday. <Samples change with time/travel... you should have your own kits> She believes the air is actually from overfeeding the fish and its not air at all. <?> Guess the rest of the fish are going on a diet.  See my first email which was forwarded to you from Robert Fenner.  Let me know if this is what you expect as well. Thanks for your input Ryan <... is this that five gallon system? It's not cycled... See here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above... Bob Fenner>

Another 'Cloudy Water' question (It's a novel!)   2/1/06 Hi guys, 'Sit right back and you'll hear a tale...' <Bob Denver R.I.P.> Once again we are stumped. We've scoured the WWM FAQs and can't find a solution related to our situation. We recently purchased a 60 gallon tank to relocate our pair of Green Terrors (5" female & 6" male), Featherfin Squeaker (5"), Common Pleco (maybe 6-7") and Pictus cat (4") (The GT's outgrew the old tank). We set up the tank as we normally do... with the exception that the 'fish salesman' said that we should also use a bacteria additive. (We first noticed minimal white clouds after we added this) This is something that we hadn't done before... in the past we just let the bacteria grow naturally. <The way I do it...> Anyway, when we moved our fish, we added three small (3") Firemouths and another Pictus Cat to the mix. We set up the tank with all new everything (Using a Penguin Bio-Wheel 350), Stealth heater, bubble walls for aeration, and are using a natural stone gravel (We rinsed it before adding it to the tank). A couple days went by, and we wound up with what we suspect is New Tank Syndrome... major ammonia explosion. Incredibly cloudy water with a smell resembling a dirty litter box. We have the Ammonia pretty much under control. It's now .5-1 ppm and dropping. We used Ammo-Lock, changed the filter cartridges, vacuumed the gravel and did a 25% water change. We reduced feeding even though they like to eat 2-3 times a day. The pH is a bit high (7.2) for what Cichlids like, but nothing to be worried about (we think). Nitrates are at 0. The KH is at 125.3ppm. What concerns us is the GH Test. We use a Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Master Test kit. The GH chart stops at 16 drops (286.4ppm). We were up to 21 drops of test solution before we stopped. The color still did not change. Either our test chemicals are old or there are outrageous amounts of Calcium/Magnesium in the water. <Looks like it> We can't figure out the cloudy water problem. Near the lights you can see clouds of white washing by. We used Accu-clear and it still didn't clear up. <... not advised> What do you suspect the problem is? <Is "just" a bacterial bloom...> Is the Bacteria additive the culprit? <Nah> Can Calcium/Magnesium leech out of the gravel, and if so, would it cause cloudy water? <Not by itself... though could be a contributing cause> If so, how do we clear up the water? <... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above...> Are there too many bottom feeders? <For this new a tank? Yes> Any help you can lend would be greatly appreciated. Our Cichlids are gorgeous... after a $500+ investment it sure would be nice to be able to see them. <Look to getting BioSpira, quick, moving old substrate, water, filter media... don't feed if the ammonia excess 1.0 ppm...> Absolutely Stumped, Ian & Kristin in Los Angeles PS: We upgraded our Community tank into the old Cichlid tank and followed the same process, same gravel, etc. The water in that tank is crystal clear. <Happens. Bob Fenner>

New Tank Cloudy Water   1/22/06 Hey all: I went over the questions I asked in my last e-mail. and I found most of the answers on your web-site, so, sorry about that. I was able to find answer to a lot of the questions that I had, a testament to the extensive articles you have here. I did, however, still have one or two "new tank" questions. First, here are the parameters of my tank: I have a standard 29 gallon tank, a Neptune 100 watt submersible heater, a Penguin 200 Bio-Wheel Power Filter, and just a few silk plants, a resin decoration, and garden gravel (thoroughly washed) from Home Depot. I filled the tank up and started everything two nights ago and used Kordon's NovAqua+ to dechlorinate; I put the filter cartridge in, turned the filter on, and started up the heater. The pH of the water tested a bit high after the first day, so yesterday I used Seachem's 7.0 Neutral Regulator to bring it down. The water has gone all cloudy, but I know that this is expected in a brand new (no fish) tank, but I was wondering two things: how long should it be until the water clears up, and what specifically causes the initial cloudiness? Is it just dissolved gasses in the floating around, or is it something else? < You probably have hard water high in calcium. When you added the regulator it replaced the calcium in the water. The calcium has nowhere to go so it drops out of solution as a precipitate.  It may go back into solution and your tank may clear but your pH will go back up.> One other question I had regarded the bacteria started that I decided to go with, Hagen's Nutrafin Cycle. I added the standard measurement (2 capfuls per 10 gallons of water) and put it in the filter between the cartridge and the Bio-Wheel, and I'll continue to follow the directions on the bottle (doses again in 7 and 14 days). Again, a multipart question: should I let my tank "mature" for a week or so before putting the fish in? Is the initial cloudiness going to interfere with the bacteria cultures? And, finally, is it necessary to continue to use the weekly maintenance doses indicated on the bottle (one capful per 10 gallons every week)? < Go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's Library. Look for his article titled "The First Thirty Days". This will help you understand what is going on. I have no experience first hand with the Hagen product. I have friends in the aquarium maintenance business that set up new tanks all the time for clients. They don't want to wait for a month to fill their tanks with fish. They use Bio-Spira from Marineland, so that is what I usually recommend here. I would drain the tank and start all over again with fresh water. Leave the pH alone so it will match the pH of the local fish store.  Adding the product weekly probably doesn't hurt, but I don't think it is really needed.-Chuck> Thank you in advance for your help, and I will do my best to make certain to more thoroughly comb the database before firing off questions! Sincerely, Ivan St. John

"Red, red wine..." Not in the tank!  1/21/06 Gentlemen, Thank you for the service you provide.  I have a 36 gallon tank.  6 fish, 2 clowns, a tang, strawberry Pseudochromis, a blue damsel, maroon clown.  Two clusters of green star polyps and a few mushrooms.  Coral banded and cleaner shrimp and the usual assortments of small hermits and snails.  Tank has been up and running about 6 months.  Lots of spectacular dead coral, only live rock in what came with the polyps. I have an under gravel filter with rotating power head, a Fluval filter and an air pump hooked up to a lime wood air stone.  I use only Catalina brand real ocean water. Two nights ago about a glass of relatively decent chardonnay got spilled on the lid and most made its way into the tank before I could sop it up. All seemed OK until yesterday.  I came home at noon and the water had turned cloudy and greenish overnight.  Fish were up at the top gasping for air - the inverts seemed relatively unaffected. Since then I have done the following:   Changed 15 gallons of the water immediately.  Put a new 75 gallon size charcoal pad in the Fluval. 5 hours later, after a trip to Petco for more water, I drained 20 gallons out and put 10 back in.  I let the tank run over night down 10 gallons so the heater could keep up with the new water.  I also thought the reduced volume might make the charcoal more effective.  A few minutes ago I added 5 more gallons back in and will probably put the last 5 in night.   The tank is clearer but still cloudier than it should be.  Fish seem OK, although I haven't seen the maroon clown yet. Could 1 glass of wine do that much damage?  Anything else I should do besides drinking only bottled water around the tank!? Thanks again for all you do. >> Hello Bruce, Wine does contain alcohol, which - you may know, is a poison. While it affects you and I only at a reasonably high concentration it is very toxic to fish and many other animals. The water change was a good idea, but you should always have some high end carbon and maybe some Polyfilter pads on hand for cases like these.... you are not the only one that drinks around their tanks. I would suggest you add a pound of carbon for at least 36 hours to remove any remnant alcohol in your tank. A friend had his kids add a 1/4 bottle of bubble bath to one of his tanks at a party, and most of the goldfish survived even that! If your fish are fine now they will be alright, but I would avoid drinking single malt scotch in the vicinity, since you may not be so lucky again. Good Luck, Oliver

F Cloudy W  1/20/06 Hi. I have a few questions, for you regarding my 37 gallon eclipse tank. As of now it only has different snails in it.  2 Apple, about 3" in   diameter,  8 mystery 1" in diameter , and 2 baby snails acquired  from   some plants. My questions are:  My tank water is always cloudy.  I have read that   80% of the reason for this is because of overfeeding, <Mmm, I'd say about this percentage for lack of useful filtration myself> but I believe it is from the algae disks that I put in there.  I have   also heard that lettuce that snails eat will cause cloudy water....... <Yes, can> Well anyway, I am afraid to underfeed my snails because I don't want   them to starve, but then if I overfeed them I have cloudy water? <Not necessarily> How much should I feed them, and should I feed them one  or two times   a day?   <Once is fine> Is there any kind of food that will make all these guys happy, and not get my water so dirty?  Will cucumbers cause cloudy water   like lettuce?  Is it there crap that is turning my water dirty?  PS -   I am a very good caretaker when it comes to my water..... <I would look into improving filtration here... adding a Dacron bag with activated carbon, or a pre-made one... e.g. Chemipure or Aquarium Pharmaceuticals similar... and leaving it in, placed below the Eclipse filter pad...>   I also have a 16 gal tank with   Cichlid, and have NO problem, and a 55 gallon with a Red Eared Slider Turtle, and believe me, his poop is WAY bigger, but his tank is WAY clearer. <I... understand> I would also like to add some fish to  the snail tank, but am afraid   of tentacle loss of my lovies.......... any ideas on some fish that   behave, and how many I can add without overcrowding?   <Many, yes... most livebearers, danios, rasboras... Bob Fenner>   That is when I get my cloudy water under control! <Do move some water from the other tank (not the turtle!) as this will help as well> Thank-You Kathleen

FW, toxic/new, bad water chemistry   1/13/06 Hello, Your site is very informative, I like it a lot. I have a 10 gallon tank with 2 blue danios, 2 zebra danios, and 2 black sailfin mollies. Is it okay to have a ph of 8.4, a nitrite level of 10 mg/L, <... I hope your decimal point is off here... nitrites of near 1.0 mg/l (equivalent to ppm) at this pH are deadly toxic> and an alkalinity of 300? <... too high> Everything else is normal. I also add a little bit of salt. Should I add live plants. If so, what kind? <Covered on WWM...> Also, My 2 mollies seem to be eating algae on the side of the tank and they never come up to eat. Could you please answer these questions? Thank you very much. <Your system is not cycled... Please see WWM re... and stop feeding, adding any more livestock till you fix your water chemistry, cycle the tank... Bob Fenner> Cloudy Water   1/13/06 I am having is cloudy water. Now my 55 gallon aquarium has been setup for 3 months and I have treated my tank several times with polywool and P clear, and it has cleared the aquarium in 24 hours, and when I take out the polywool and put everything back in the tank goes cloudy again in a couple of days. Now there are only 20 fish in the tank and I feed them 1 every 2 -3 days. Please HELP. Roger. < First check the ammonia and smell the top of the tank for a "fishy" smell. Ammonia should be zero. If that checks out then remove everything again, do a 50% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean the filter. With everything out, the water should stay clear. If not then your substrate is leaching minerals into the water and should be changed. Rocks should be replaced one at a time over a couple of weeks to see if the rocks are causing the problem.-Chuck>

Super low pH and no alkalinity... aquarist self-flagellating for negligence in FW aquarium "keeping"   1/11/06 Hi all!  Hope all is well.  I have an odd mixture that I haven't seen mentioned here yet. First, let me give some background... I have never before today tested my tank water as I didn't see any problems, I am a bit lax at water changes and recently any new introductions to my tank have perished within a month (although my original angels, Bala shark, paradise fish, and Opaline Gourami have been doing fine for the over 2 years that I've had my tank). <Classically habituated... and co-socialized>   I tested my tank this morning and imagine my shock when my pH read 4.24 (this wasn't though a test strip but through my pH meter at work, I work in a water quality lab. I know, how ironic that I never thought to check the pH sooner). <Happens... plumbers with leaks at home, car mechanics with vehicles that need oil-changing...>   The total alkalinity was ZERO (due to the low pH). <... Err...> Total hardness was 600 ppm, Calcium hardness=450 ppm. <Good gosh!> On my way home I finally purchased test strips and my results confirmed (the ones with the appropriate ranges at least, the others were off the chart).  Further testing revealed Nitrate at over 200  ppm (yes I am a terrible fish mother... how can my fish have survived this!!??) <Progressive resistance. make sure you start changing water... slowly>   Needless to say I have done changes and wanted to run them by you all to see if you can recommend anything else.  I took out the driftwood that I had in the tank, took out the carbon in my filter, changed 30% of the water with vacuuming the gravel (my tested tapwater is 0 nitrate and nitrite, hardness of 120 ppm, alkalinity of 150 ppm and pH=7.0).  The water that I added was about 60% tap water (treated for chlorine of course) and 40% DI water with 1 tablespoon baking soda dissolved in it.  I did this over an hour ago and now my readings are Nitrate =200 ppm, <Yikes...> nitrite=0, hardness=250 ppm, alkalinity=180 ppm, and pH approx. 6.4 (I know that probably will shock my fish to oblivion, but I have to raise that pH .   <Go slow... you have time... change some/more every week...> I have also added coral decor to the tank (it has an established aeration wand, powerhead filter and outside Penguin filter).  I am also planning on changing the water again in about 4 days to keep trying to get those nitrates down (me thinks this will take a while.)  Anyway, any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.   Thanks   Maegan in CA <The existing nitrate is not an issue... dilution will take care of this in time... I would add a bit of "floating grass"... Elodea/Anacharis is my first choice here... to ameliorate some of these differences... toward where you want to go. Bob Fenner>

Possible Water Quality Issues/Goldfish  12/20/2005 Crew-- <Jason>      Before I begin, my water parameters are listed at the bottom.      I have 4 Fancy Goldfish in a 55 gallon aquarium.  In the past few days, two of the four have spent most of their time in the upper corners of the tank, fins clamped. They also occasionally, but not always, breathing near the surface.  When I approach the tank they begin to begin and behave normally (begging, etc), but still with fins clamped.  I see no redness in their gills or on their bodies.      I understand that these could be signs of Nitrite poisoning, <Mmm, not only> but my Nitrite kit gives me 0.0.  The tank is well aerated, with lots of surface motion.      My first reaction was to do a water change, 50%.   <Good> In case of nitrite that I am not detecting, I have added aquarium salt at the rate 1 TBSP/5 Gallons.  The only other chemical I added was dechlorinator.      Although my experience with fishkeeping is still limited with only little more than six months, that experience points me in the direction of some sort of water quality issue. <Yes, most likely>   However, my water parameters seem to be those of a healthy tank.      So, what else could be wrong? Jason AMMONIA: 0.0 PPM NITRITE: 0.0 PPM NITRATE: 10.0 PPM (approximate, hard to read the card that low) pH: Between the 7.2 and 7.6 mark, same as tap water Temp: 76 degrees <Likely some other (non-tested) aspect of water quality... An aerosol, cooking oil/surface scum on the tank surface... Perhaps something as simple as low oxygen concentration... I would increase aeration, surface disruption, skim or wick some water from the surface. Bob Fenner>

Little white things and cloudiness  12/20/2005 Hello, I was browsing over your site and think it is much better than the others I have looked at. I have had a 45 gallon tank that used to hold several newts, waterdog, salamander, Cuban tree frog, guppies, reed fish, and other various  things. <Hopefully not all at the same time!> It has been up for about 7 years now. I stupidly didn't bother to learn about fish tanks until more recently. Before everything just worked itself out.  I had problems several times but managed them alright until now. All I have left  is a warty newt (or something very similar to it). In the past 2 months I have had a water cloudiness issue. And a problem with little white bug things on the  glass at the water line. I have had both these before but this time they won't  go away. <Likely a filtration and/or maintenance issue...> I do have snails that are in my tank (not by choice they just  appeared). I feed my newt black or bloodworms. I thought it was overfeeding  because they would get all over the tank but have since cleaned the  majority out. I may have don't too many water changes and messed up my biological filter. And I treated my water (incorrectly for ich). <All possible to probable influences here> I am using an underwater filter and also using polyester, foam, carbon, and ammonia reducing media. I use cycle and Amquel and Kordon ammonia/chlorine remover. I live in long beach CA they use chlorine and chloramine in our tap water. <Sometimes a lot more than usual> I don't know what is  causing the cloudiness! Or what those little things are. Please   help!!!!   I am beyond frustrated. Anything you can tell me would be  greatly appreciated!!!!  Thank you very much!!  Jason  M <Is the lack of filtration (need more than UG) and your maintenance... Issues covered on WWM... Please read there. Bob Fenner>

Surface scum - 12/20/05 My Elite 799 (I Think) air pump leaves many small  air bubbles on the waters surface. <Due to organic (protein) build-up at the waters' surface.>   This happened four days ago when I  added 2 new sacks of gravel. (They were washed well.) I also added two ornaments.  I have a 10 gal tank with two 4-5 in. Ryukin goldfish and  one 1-2 in Red Cap Oranda. I know I heard all of you GASP!!!) <Gasp!> I'm buying a new 60  gal soon.  I also have an AquaClear 20 filter. <Water changes may be in order. A bit of paper towel laid flat over the water surface and quickly removed may also help mop up the surface layer. Adjusting the filter such that it breaks up the water surface, and adding carbon, may also help somewhat. Best regards, John>

Stinky Cloudy Tank, "It's Not a Good Thing," says Martha  12/10/05 Why is the water in my aquarium so cloudy and smells with an odor. It has been running for almost two months now and has had fish in it for about the past five weeks. I have done a partial water change twice now trying to clear up this problem and also rinsed the filter. Nothing seems to be helping, the cloudiness and odor only seem to be getting worse not better. Why? <The odor and cloudiness is probably excess ammonia. Do a 50% water change, clean the filter and vacuum the crud out of the gravel. Feed you fish only once each day and only enough food so that all of it is eaten in two minutes. Any food left over after that needs to be removed. Do a routine 25% water change each week. Vacuum the gravel every other week. On the weeks you don't vacuum the gravel you need to clean the filter. You should already have enough bacteria established to break down the fish waste.-Chuck> 

Improving Water Quality, Follow-up?  12/1/05 Sorry for all the questions but I have one more; what did you mean by improving the water quality and how would I do that. Thanks for all the info you guys been a great help. < What this usually means is reducing the nitrogenous wastes in the tank by water changes or by chemical resins.-Chuck>

Guppies, Water Quality, Cycling - (IV?) - 09/13/2005 Replies threaded in... <<Ahh, okay....  it's going to get a bit tough for you/us/our readers to go through, but we'll try these double-carrot-thingies for my current replies>> WWM FAQ Crew wrote: > Guppies, Water Quality, Cycling - (III?) - 09/11/2005 > As a follow-up to my below message, > <I do realize it's a follow-up, but I can't quite discern from your previous correspondence who was helping you....  so ya get me (Sabrina) today!  I hope to be of service.> Bob answered my first post. I'm awaiting an answer on post #2. This is #4. I take it you don't see all the quoted text? <<Nope, it didn't come through intact, apparently.  I'll blame this on our Webmail system (grin)>> The previous topic (post #1 and #2) was "Guppy food question & a few other Guppy questions" <<Okay>> > I got a water test kit today. It's made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Inc and is a Freshwater Master Test Kit. Everything seems good (well, acceptable) except one item that really sticks out. Here are the specs: > pH  6.6 > <Probably low for guppies, but do-able.  Is the pH from your tap this low, as well?  I'm not a proponent of augmenting your pH when avoidable, but I'd really like to see this a bit higher.> My tap water specs are as follows: (all ppm except pH) pH      NH3/4 (Ammonia) NO2 (NITRITE)   NO3 (NITRATE)    7.1 0.10 (almost 0) 0.00 2.00 So I think that's pretty good. Before I got your reply, I did a 50% water change which lowered the NO3 to 20, but that still seems too high. I'm not sure what is causing this. The gravel was also cleaned (which I do every time I change the water). <<Yes, agreed.  I begin to think that your tank has some "stockpile" of organic waste somewhere....  I'd like to see that ammonia hit zero, as well.>> > NH3/4 (Ammonia) 0.25 > NO2 (NITRITE) 0.25 > <Any ammonia or nitrite above zero should be considered toxic....  Please bring these down with water changes.> As I mentioned above, this is already started. <<Quite good.>> > NO3 (NITRATE) 40 > <Pretty high, indeed....  Again, water changes....> Will do. <<Cool.>> > Also, water temp is about 79-80 degrees. > <Not too terribly high, this is okay.> I had it a little higher for the fry. <<Yes, no worries on the temp at all.>> > The pH is a little low, but I don't think it's way out there. The NH3 and NO2 specs are pretty good. > <As above, bring these to zero.> Will do. These test kits never really say what things should be. I just thought low was good. <<Yeah, I do wish test kits could be a little more clear/obvious on this point.>> > But the NO3 seems high. Could this have been caused by a algae tablet I put in for my Plecostomus a couple hours before the test? > <Unlikely.  Nitrate accumulates over time from dissolved organics (fish waste, dead plants, etc.) and of course can be influenced by stocking too many fish and not having the biological filtration capacity to handle them.> Until the latest fry, there were 10 guppies - 6 adult and 4 fry (or was it 5 fry...).  I was going to save this until later in the post, but I just got a great deal on a 30 Gallon tank complete with an oak stand (base and top) that looks like a piece of furniture much more than most wood stands I've seen. It was $89 complete! <<Ooh, rock on!!>> The tank was made in April, 05, so it's not very old. The stand looks about the same vintage. <<Sounds wonderful.>> I filled it last night with tap water and started the filter (also used but better than my current one). It's made for up to 60 gallons, I think so it should handle the 30 fine. It has a dual outlet. It's a Whisper model 60. <<This is fine.>> Anyway, I've started it and will wait until it gets cloudy then clears up which should indicate that the bio cycle is up to speed (or close). <<Mm, usually the cloudiness (and clearing thereof) is just a bacterial bloom....  Test results will tell you the real tale.  Try to get some "filter goo" and/or gunky, used gravel from your current tank to add to this new tank.  That'll help the cycle immensely.>> Then, I'll transfer the adults to the 30 Gallon and leave the fry in the 20 gallon tank (although I'll likely upgrade the filter on that one, too - 16 is a lot of fry). <<Sounds great.>> > In hindsight, I know - I should have done the test first. I put the tablet in because it seemed the Pleco was doing such a great job on the tank it may have been underfed the last couple weeks. > <Ah, no worries.> > After I put the tablet in, I noticed algae starting to build up on the glass again. The Pleco seems OK with the tablet, but the Guppies seem to really like it. > <There's no accounting for tastes!  Have you SMELLED those things??  Yuck!> Honestly? No. :-) I don't think I want to from your question. <<Heh!  Completely understandable!>> > OK, the questions: > <Okay.> > 1. Due to the algae build-up on the glass that I didn't see (you have to get really close to see the small algae spots), was the algae tablet a mistake? > <Nah.  He'll get to it.  Furthermore, please consider foods like blanched zucchini or cucumber for the Plec, as this is a better nutritional option.> For the Pleco or the Guppies, too? <<Sure.  Err, yes?  Uh, that is to say, the guppies will probably appreciate the veggies you feed the Plec.>> As for the algae, I tried to wipe some off while the water was low. I can't wipe it off with my finger. It must be some kind of super algae! I did get some off with a scraper. <<Sounds like normal.  If the tank is glass, at least you need not fear scratching it with your algae scrubber.  A bit of "elbow grease" will help.  Just use caution if its an acrylic tank, as acrylic is so easy to scratch.>> > 2. Is the tablet OK for the Guppies? > <Sure.  They like their veggies.> > 3. Is the NO3 level something that I should be concerned with? (will it > drop on its own?) > <It won't drop on its own, but you can (should) lower it with water changes.  Try to maintain it below 20ppm, if possible.> > Note that I change the water about 10% every 3 or 4 days. That seems normal (works out to 20% per week). Should I be changing more? > <Mm, in this initial/cycling stage, yes, probably.  Anything to get those levels down.> How long (roughly) until the cycle gets stable? (rough estimate) <<Highly dependant upon your system....  all are different.  And, again, I am starting to think there may be something "wrong" to be causing you so much trouble with nitrate.>> > Also, I have no live plants, but have 5 adults, 5 near adults (almost a month old) and 16 fry that are almost 2 weeks old. > <I don't see tank size listed in your previous correspondences; please just try to ensure that the tank is not overstocked.> 20 Gallon, but adults will be in the 30 gallon tank in a few weeks if all goes well. <<That's quite a few guppies, but you should be able to keep up with these, especially with your maintenance.>> > (oh, and the 2" Pleco as the maintenance engineer for algae control - he was only about 1.25" when I got him a few weeks ago) > <He will reach a couple feet given proper space, care, time....  You might consider trading him for an Ancistrus "Bushynose" Plec, which also eats algae, and stays a more manageable 4-5 inches.> I wish I had known that a few weeks ago. I asked several LFSs about a smaller one that would do the same job. None knew of any. One LFS owner wasn't sure about the Chocolate Pleco, but said it was possible it might stay smaller. I would have certainly gone with the Ancistrus "Bushynose" Pleco. Do they look the same as a young regular Pleco? (so I can more easily find them in the stores) <<They're actually a bit more nifty.  They can be found albino or "plain", and have "fronds" on their noses....  hence "Bushynose" or "Bristlenose".  Try a google search on either of these for images.>> When I had an active tank 15 or so years ago, I had a variety of fish (guppies, mollies, kissing fish, angelfish, and a Pleco). My Pleco outlasted everything and grew over a foot in the same 20G tank, so I'm familiar with their size issues (and waste issues). Back then I didn't know anything about checking the water conditions. I only came to know that through your site. Without that info, I might have well lost the entire tank. THANK YOU! <<I can't tell you how glad I am that you have gained this information.  Water quality is perhaps the single most important thing to understand, with regards to fish.  Thank you for these kind words!>> BTW, I'm not interested in anything but Guppies now. Not showing them or anything - just as pets. I have the Pleco for housekeeping and since they are usually not aggressive. <<Sounds fun!>> > 4. I understand Guppies would rather have a higher than neutral pH rather than lower. If the pH is too low, what is the best way to raise it? Is 6.6 too low? I know it's not that great a figure. > <Check the pH out of your tap....  if it is higher, try to determine what in the tank is dropping it.  Driftwood, overly gunky filter pads, an un-vacuumed substrate, undergravel filter....  Otherwise, consider using a buffer or adding a small filter sock of aragonite sand in your filter.> It's 7.1 out of the tap, so something must be an issue. <<Agreed, very much.>> No driftwood. I do have undergravel filters in everything I've ever had - including the new one. While I'm on the topic, how do you clean those without total removal of everything? <<AHH!  I fear the undergravel filter plates may very well be the culprit - not only of your pH issue, but of your nitrate issue, as well.  Organic material will build up under the filter plates over time and make a pretty awesome amount of "gunk" which, as it decays, can and does increase nitrate and acidity (drops the pH).  You could *try* feeding an airline hose down your lift tubes and start a siphon, and try to pull some of the "gunk" out that way, but in all honesty, when you have that 30 up and running, I would move everyone over and pull those undergravel plates out.  You will be seriously amazed at what you find.  I can almost promise that.>> Filter pads are not bad, and were replaced a couple weeks ago. I'm getting ready to change it again soon. My bio filter is the air type that uses air to draw the water through the filter. I thought this was better than the power filters I had in the past that put out a huge volume of water out into the tank. I wanted to keep the currents down. This new filter does that but is a power filter. <<.... is this like a Duetto filter?  Or....?>> Unvacuumed substrate? Is that the gravel filter plastic? <<??  I'm getting lost, here....  Err, I guess I'll rephrase:  Do you use a gravel vacuum (a big, clear tube attached to a siphon hose) to clean the gravel when you do water changes?>> What is a buffer and what would the sand do? <<A buffer is any material that will (safely) raise and maintain pH....  Aragonite sand is made of calcium carbonate, and is a good option for using as a buffer for this fact.  I do not believe you will have need of it, or any buffer, once you fix the root of your problem (the mulm under your undergravel filter plates).>> > 5. Do you think these numbers had anything to do with the adult female I lost (reference previous message quoted below)? They don't seem that bad all things considered. > <Entirely possible the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate contributed.  The gill irritation may have been evidence of this, as well.> > Any comments on how you would deal with these figures would be appreciated (if you feel it's necessary to deal with them). Would just more frequent water changes do the trick? > <Or larger water changes.  Probably better to do larger changes right now to get those readings down.> OK. I was concerned about the chlorine. <<Just be sure to use a chlorine/chloramine neutralizer when you add new water.>> I didn't want to make too drastic of a change all at once. How much of a change and how often would you recommend? (what % water change and how often?) <<With the major different in pH from your tap to your tank, you'll want to make sure you don't alter the pH more than 0.2 per day if possible.>> > I don't want to change the water too often (is that even possible?) > <Mm, not really.> You can't stop the bio cycle once it's started? <<Well....  If you do something that kills a bundle of your bacteria, you can.  Medications, HUGE changes in water chemistry....>> > 6/7/8. As I understand it, the cycle is NH3 --> NO2 --> NO3. Then what? > <Then either a water change to dilute NO3, or plants consume NO3, or denitrification (very difficult to achieve in typical freshwater tanks) breaks it down into nitrogen and oxygen.> I think the live plants are starting to look good if I continue to have high NO3 levels in the new tank. (if the filter doesn't take care of it) <<Live plants are great.  Look into java moss, java fern, and Anubias sp.  These are low-light, easy maintenance plants.  Your Plec won't eat them, either.>> > Is the NO3 the last step before the fish turn the NO3 back to NH3? > <The fish don't use NO3.  They're too busy turning fish food into NH3 (grin).> Understood. ;-> > If that is the case, wouldn't abundant NO3 be a good thing? > <'s not the case.> > 9. Is it NH3 that makes the water cloudy? > <No....  usually algae or bacteria cause this.> Visible algae? (I have very little visible, and what is visible is very small and sparse) <<Visible, yes, inasmuch as microscopic floating algae can be when massed together.  Usually a pale or greenish cloudy tinge to the water.>> How could I test for bacteria? <<Mm, can't, really; but can look at 'em under a microscope.>> > Mine is slightly cloudy, but nothing like the first startup about 7 weeks ago or so. > <Probably just bacteria feeding on excess nutrients in the water.  Larger water changes are in your future!> Yep. So, you can be overly conservative, as witnessed by my tank. <<Yes.>> > Sorry for all the questions, but I'm sure I'm not the first nor will I be the last with them. :-) > <True on both counts, my friend!> > BTW, I'm one of those "don't really care for chemicals unless absolutely necessary" types (even for myself). > <I as well.> > But, I will go with whatever advice you give. > <Hey, that's a lot of pressure!  Definitely feel free to shop around and form your own opinions after you've accumulated information.> I will once I learn all this stuff. Until then, I'll be relying on your (collective) advice. <<Do please make use of all resources available to you....  there is so much information out there....>> No pressure - I trust you much more than I would trust my own judgment at this stage. <<Yikes!!  Uh, I mean, thanks!!>> > Would adding salt help? If so, how much? If not, when would you add salt if ever. I've read that some people like that solution since it's OK for the Guppies. I know - salt is a chemical. But, it doesn't seem as bad as some of the other solutions (pun intended). > <I don't use salt most times.  Guppies tend to do well ("enjoy?" Dunno) with it, but I don't use it in my guppy tanks.  You could.  Might be worthwhile.> What exactly would that do? (raise this / lower that - wise) <<Might increase the buffering capacity of the water a bit.... but.... I really wouldn't do anything until the fish are in a more stable environment (minus the organic sludge under the filter plates).>> How much would you add per gallon? <<1-2 tablespoons per ten gallons, and no more.  Keep in mind, salt does not evaporate, so only replace when you do water CHANGES (and only for the amount you change out), not just when you top off for evaporation.>> > Well, back to trying to absorb all the info on your great site! > <Good luck!  Three years after stumbling upon WWM myself, and I STILL haven't found the end....!> OK, but you're way ahead of me! <<You're getting there - just keep going.>> > Oh, one more question. Should I test all the factors every week? Should I test some more than others? (sorry - that was two questions) > <Test until your water quality is optimal, then as often as you deem necessary to monitor levels until you get a feel for how much/often you need to change water to keep up.> > As always, thank you again! > <Any time, my friend!> > Joe M. > <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina> Thanks again, Joe M. <<Good luck with this and all your endeavors,  -Sabrina>>

Film On the Water  9/10/05 Hey Crew! I have a 55 gallon tank with 1 Oscar, 1 Red Devil, 1 Jack  Dempsey, 1 Jaguar, 1 Pleco, and 1 Raphael. All of these fish are between 7 and 5  inches. I know... Crowded... I'll get a larger tank. Though that is not my  predicament now. About a month ago I noticed a film on the top of this tank's  water, almost like oil, but without the rainbow colors... Do you know why this  might be there and how to get rid of it. I was thinking of adding another filter  to the tank so the added circulation would break it all up...Your advice would be splendid, Christine < Change fish food. Oils from the food are floating on the surface. Usually from feeding pellets. Switch food and use some activated carbon in the filter. It may won't get rid of it but it will help.-Chuck>

Need some help please with cloudy FW 8/18/05 Hi Friends: <Hi there.> I am very new at fish care and I must be really stupid because I seem to be having problems in spite of reading a great deal on your excellent site. <Don't feel stupid...everyone's a beginner at some point.> The problem is cloudy water. <Very common.> I have a 10-gallon fresh water tank with approx 15 small Dalmatian mollies. <How small is "small"?  I think this is probably pushing it as far as stocking.> My filter is a Whisper with a bio bag and I have an anti-ammonia pillow in there also. All my water tests are good except the nitrate which is a steady 20. Nitrite is zero, hardness 75, ph 7.8. <Okay.  I'd like to see nitrate lower, but it's definitely nothing to lose sleep over.> The tank is about three months old and I had it up and running about two weeks before I put the fish in there. They came from my daughter who has an identical set-up except she has probably too many fish but her water is crystal clear. <I'm guessing hers has been set up longer though, huh?>   My fish are all healthy. I have cut back on feeding a bit in case it was the problem. <Definitely a contributor.> They get flakes and then either Tubifex worms or peas or something like that two times a week. <Do mean they are only fed at all two times per week?  Or flakes daily and then Tubifex/peas twice per week?  You should feed the flakes once or twice daily, no more than the fish can totally consume in a couple of minutes.> I have been vacuuming the gravel and doing a 1/3 water change every week. <Very good.> I noted that I should not clean the filter with chlorinated water so have stopped doing that. <Definitely not.  Good plan.> The plants are all plastic and I have only rocks which are for aquariums. I am wondering if I have not had sufficient gravel as a base. Someone (he was supposed to be a fish expert) told me that a small layer of gravel was better but after the things I have read here, I am wondering if I don't have enough. I have about ½" <Less gravel is indeed better for freshwater systems, unless live plants are involved.  Gravel beds that are too thick are impossible to keep clean of detritus and fish waste which leads to water quality issues.> Oh and temp is stable at 80F. <No problem there.> Any suggestions would be most gratefully accepted. <Vivienne, your tank water cloudiness could be a couple of things, neither of which are at all uncommon in new setups.  If the water is a hazy, milky whitish grey (as I suspect), then this is a bacterial bloom likely caused by stocking too much too fast.  Your tank wasn't cycled fully when the fish were added and adding a lot of fish quickly overloaded the fledgling bacterial population with nutrients, causing a population explosion.  The other possibility is if the tank water looks an almost neon green pea-soup colour.  In this case, it would be an algae bloom which is also generally caused by a lot of excess nutrients in the system (uneaten food).  Since you vacuum your gravel and change water weekly, I am leaning towards the first solution.  In either case, at this stage of the tank's maturity, I would honestly leave it alone (continuing weekly water change and gravel vacuuming of course).  The water should clear on its own on a few days/weeks, once the bacterial populations are better balanced.  Good luck!> Vivienne <--Glenn>
Re: need some help please 8/21/05
Thank you so much for the help. <No problem at all.> At least I feel like I am doing some of the right things. Sorry I did not make it clear about the size of the fish (very small babies) some of which will be going to my other daughter when her tank is set up. <Okay.> I feed them twice a day with flakes and give the other tidbits twice a week or so.  The tank in indeed a milky color. <Might want to try just feeding once per day until water clears up.  However, with babies, more than once a day in small quantities is best so it's your call.> One last question when you have time. What levels of nitrate should I aim for? <Ideally, zero.  In the real world, however, anything under 10 mg/L is excellent and anything under 20 mg/L is no major concern.  With a freshwater set-up, having zero nitrates is very difficult to achieve and maintain.>   Many thanks and I love this site - it has so much great information. <Thank you for the kind words.> Vivienne <--Glenn>

FW water quality, puffer 8/9/05 Bob, <Erik> Update and 2 quick questions for you... My tank appears to be cycled. Ammonia and nitrites are zero. Nitrates are between 20 and 40 PPM. I did a 50% water change yesterday to bring these down a bit. My tap water is not as loaded with Nitrates as I'd originally thought. Your comment made me rethink my original tests so I did a control and tested straight tap water, only 5 PPM nitrates. <Ahh> But I did notice one strange anomaly, and I double checked it several times to be sure, my tap water does appear to have ammonia in it! I did a control with distilled water, and of course it registered zero, the tank is registering just above zero, but less than .25 PPM, way less. The test tube appears pure yellow until I put a control of distilled water next to it. You can then tell it has a very slight green tint to it which indicates some level of ammonia. Am I correct in assuming that a control test of distilled water will always look a little purer than tank water? <Generally> There will always be trace amounts of ammonia in the tank because of waste that hasn't been converted by the bacteria yet correct? <Umm, no... not detectable amounts in a completely cycled system> Any way, I retested twice and yes, my tap water appears to contain between 1 and 2 PPM of ammonia! <Trouble> I'm going to try a different test kit, I find it hard to believe that the city would allow such high levels. I don't drink tap water anyway but I worry about the fish and my cat. He'll get bottled water until I find out what's going on. <A good idea> Anyway, my important question is this... Is it normal for a Cholonodon patoca (Milk Spotted Puffer) <Mis-spelled... Chelonodon: http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=6610&genusname=Chelonodon&speciesname=patoca> to spend quite a bit of time resting on the bottom? <Yes> When he moves, he's moving and healthy looking, but he rests quite a bit. I've seen you tell other puffer owners that they do this, but there is very little info out there about my little guy. As passive as he is, I'd expect the Milk Spotted Puffers to be more popular. Haven't seen him even threaten to fin nip his tank mates to date. I know this will change with age but he's pretty friendly right now, even shares his food with the sharks! Salinity is about 1.008 and I am gradually bringing that up so as not to hurt the other fish. Water temp is about 80 degrees F and the pH is about 7.6-7.8. Thanks Again, Erik <Keep studying... prevention... Bob Fenner>

FW tank slime 8/3/05 Robert- <Janett> I own a pet store in Decatur TX, and have run across a problem with a customer's 55 gal freshwater fish tank that I have never encountered before. They have had this tank established for at least two years populated with Cichlids. Around the first of the year they told me their tank was getting slimy, they didn't however let me know this until about three weeks ago. They only have rock, and petrified wood as decorations, no live plants or plastics. They have an Emperor 400 filtration system with a Whisper 50 as a helper. It is located in the waiting room of their dental office. They don't get any direct sunlight in the tank, but the sun may catch just the front corner in the morning. They have put "Slime Away" (made by Jungle) in the tank, and antibiotics as well to no avail and seems it has just progressed rather rapidly to a dead tank. The slime appears to be thick and clear, smells like dead fish and you can actually see this slime floating in the water. They took the whole tank apart at one point, bleached everything and started over. It did return and kind of quickly. Is it possible that the fish food is causing this? <Yes. At least it is a principal cause, co-factor> The food is "Professional Cichlid-Growth Flakes" and is more than a year old... <Time to replace, toss> Any help or feedback you could give me would be greatly appreciated. Janet Smith Noah's Ark Pets and Supplies <Massive water changes... weekly, new food (try Omega-Sea, or Spectrum... very good products). Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Milky Water Problem 7/22/05 Hi Gang, <William> I know that the initial "cloudy/milky" water should dissipate within a couple of days, but my tank(s) do not clear. They thicken! I have tried: more light/no light, partial water changes/not changing water, under feeding/over feeding, over stocking/under stocking, fresh water/salt water. And of course, all of the available chemicals. I have started over several times, sanitizing the tanks and lastly purchasing a new tank. But still no luck. The fish die if left unaided. Have y'all (Yes I am in Texas) ever heard of such? What else can I try? <Mmm, to figure out the root cause/s here...> I have carried hundreds of bottled, purified water up the stairs of my apartment just to have the same result. Twenty years ago all I had to do was fill a tank with tap water, add a few drops of de-chlorinator and viola! My last thought is that there must be something dwelling in this apartment that adds the milky solution to my water over night. <Heeee! The evil midnight dwarf hypothesis> Eventually, if left too long, it will chokes the fish and they die. Currently I am raising cichlids knowing that they are hearty enough to withstand the water changes. The last option for me is the Diatom filtration scheme. A Vortex is on its way. <Mmm, a diatomaceous earth filter might help...> Any new advice/thoughts will be appreciated. William <What sort of filtration do you employ? Substrate... do you have some funky ornament/s, a geode from that trip to Arizona in there? Bob Fenner>
Re: Milky Water problem 7/22/05
I tried the GEODE/quartz crystal as well as ornamental, silica based "shiny" rocks too! They just slimed up. Now every thing in there is plastic. <Mmmm> As far as filtration, I use the old standard undergravel filters in both the 29 and 10 gallon as well as external 30-60 Whisper with pads and a Regent with a refillable pad for the 10 gallon (housing 6 baby Texas cichlids given to me as fry by PetSmart, now 1 inch each). <Mmm, they're likely digging up the gravel a bit...> Both tanks have a flat bubble stones for extra aeration: a 10 inch and a 6 inch. The pads seem to slime up after a week, so they are rinsed bi weekly and/or changed weekly. The substrate is common colored rocks, one purchased from Wal-Mart the other from the local dealer. Both tanks have 2 1/2 inches of this stone. <Lots of slime... what are you feeding?> I have been on the phone with the local tap water supplier to get a faxed copy of the current contents of the water. Maybe this will offer a clue...maybe too much phosphate or ammonia. <Maybe a factor... dang, sounds like you're doing most all okay... How deep is the gravel? I would make this a good two, three inches... natural if you can... and switch to less "slimy" food/s... maybe a pelleted type, made for cichlids... Hikari, Spectrum, Omega-Sea are my current faves. Bob Fenner>
Re: Milky Water Problem 7/23/05
The gravel levels are 1 1/2 in the 10 gal and 2 1/2 in the 29 gal. I just got in the water analysis performed by the state in March of this year, and all of the major contaminants are safe for humans! But there are a lot of things there. The water flows from the Brazos river into holding reservoirs. The one used this season is deep, the second is shallow and gives a swampy odor taste near Christmas. <... I do hope you use R.O. for your drinking, cooking purposes> But this inlet is near Dow Chemical USA and may well hold many contaminants that have to be pre-treated before passed through their activated charcoal. Well, I've been reading more on your site and will try many of the suggestions. I'm going out to get 9 gallons of our tap water treated with UV and RO from the local "Wind Mill." Then age it a week. Of course I'll treat it with a Jungle product that removes chlorine as well as the chloramines and ammonia. I have extra air pumps to add aeration as it ages and temperature adjusts. So, the DE filter will arrive in 6 days, the water will be ready. Thanks again for your help,  William <I do hope your water clarity improves. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: Milky water Problems 7/23/05 Can you send a link to the FAQ or have one that you can send that details the "Cloudy Water Cycle" in a new aquarium? I've looked and can't find it. Thanks again for the help, William <Heee! Is there such a thing? We index/archive freshwater water quality issues here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm Bob Fenner> Re: Milky water Problems 7/26/05 http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm <Ah, yes> Here is your article on the cycle. Thanks again for your help. The RO/UV treated water from my local "Windmill" is doing much better in my tank than plain, dechlorinated tap water, although they are from the same water supply. I've left the lights off and fed sparingly and yet to have a cloud, much less a progression toward the Milk! <Good> Thanks again for being such a great help in working with me to solve this problem with persistent and deadly Milky water that developed with each tank in both fresh and salt configurations. <Congratulations on your success. Bob Fenner>

New 45 gallon freshwater tank - novice needs HELP 7/21/05 I have recently set up a new 45 gallon freshwater tank.  I have not put the fish in as of yet and my artificial coral has just arrived (I know a bit unconventional to set up a saltwater look for a freshwater tank).  I have had the water in and the filtration system (a Cascade Canister Filter 700) running for 2 weeks, while I was waiting for the artificial coral to arrive.  The water has a bit of a cloudy haze to it.  I have already taken half of the water out and filled it back up, but that did not help. <The opacity is to be expected... in new water... there is a need to "cycle" such systems> I am concerned that maybe I made a bad decision on my filter. I am planning on adding my fish this weekend and wondered (HOPED!!!) that you would have some advice.   <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oqualfaqs1.htm and the linked files... where you lead yourself> Also, if you have nay advice on brightly colored tank mates for my 5 inch Bala Shark, <Mmm, this fish will get too big (and take care... that it doesn't "jump" out! for this size, shape system. But other compatible livestock is listed on WWM for this minnow. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/minnowshks.htm> I would appreciate any suggestions for that too!  I have really enjoyed your website and look forward to learning more and more about my exciting new hobby!   <Ahh, good. Keep doing so... Bob Fenner> Cloudy Water/Algae Bloom 7/14/05 Hello Crew, <Susan> I can't get rid of cloudy water in my 72 bow since I've started it (3 months now).  We've tried one dose Algae Destroyer <Toxic... and a waste of time, money> and 25%-50% water   changes twice a week since--which have somewhat helped, but it has never really cleared completely. <Mmm, is it cycled?> My husband decided to get a canister filter (Rena Filstar xp3) to hopefully remedy the problem, thinking we did not have adequate filtration previously.  At the same time, we replaced our lights with two 40w Hagen Power-Glos because we added 10 plants.  Since the new filter was installed (4 days) we've had a nasty algae bloom (pic attached) even with daily 10% water changes. I thought we might be going through the nitrogen cycle all over again   <Me too> since the nitrites started rising, so I went ahead and did a 10% water change and added two packets of Bio-Spira yesterday. <Stop doing the water changes, unless ammonia, nitrite approach 1.0 ppm> Our tank is situated in a East facing room, with several draped windows, but still gets plenty of indirect sunlight throughout the day. <An algae accelerator> I'm beginning to wonder if because of this, cloudy water will be a recurring, never-ending problem. I have cut down on the feeding (small quantities of pellets twice a day) and I have a timer on the lights (for 10 hours). Please advise on how to proceed.  I want to enjoy my fish.  Your help is MUCH appreciated! Here are my current stats: Nitrate 30 ppm Nitrite .1 ppm Hardness 300 ppm Alkalinity 240 ppm pH 7.8 Ammonia .15 ppm <... look into more biological filtration, better foods> Temp 80 degrees Thanks in advance and keep up the fantastic work! <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oqualfaqs1.htm and the linked files at top. Bob Fenner>
Re: Cloudy Water/Algae Bloom 7/14/05
SORRY I forgot to mention I have 15 Mbunas (4 saulosi, 5 Kenyi, 3   red zebras, 1 Msobo, 2 cobalts) and 4 peacocks (1 OB, 1 unknown--dark   blue with yellow fins, 2 red peacocks). <Beautiful animals... look into one of the better pelleted food lines... Spectrum, Omega-Sea... Bob Fenner>

Hate that cloudy water 7/11/05 Hi again, <Hello> First I want to thank you for the site and your previous responses.  Over the last 4 months or so I have written you several times on the same problem, but have yet to zero in on the cause.  Since you have many readers let me refresh the stats.  The problem is persistent cloudiness.  The cloud, or if you look closely, rolling clouds began a year ago when I started a new 75 Gal FW tank.  The tank started with a transfer of fish from a 55 gal tank it replaced.  Also, was a move to a different part of the city w/ accompanying change in water quality.  There were 3 fish; 1 silver dollar 4", and 2 Pacus, 6" and 8".  Initially, I started the tank with plastic plants, epoxy coated gravel, UG filter and a whisper filter, and a 40 watt Oceanic florescent light.  The tank cycled with a lot of hands on to keep the fish alive, but did so according to plan and without any casualties. Right away, after cycling, it got cloudy.  It has been this way ever since. The first thing I tried was antibiotics which did nothing. <Likely just extended the cloudy period>   Then I tried clarifiers, both particle and biologic, neither worked. <Ditto> Then I tried just ignoring the problem hoping it would resolve itself, which helped to some degree by replacing the cloudiness with excessive algae.  When the algae was removed the cloudiness returned.  I then decided to replace the gravel and filters and did with a different brand of epoxy coated gravel, a Cascade 1000 canister filter, and a Tetra-Tec 300 filter.  Had to re cycle and after cycling the cloudiness returned.  By this time 8 months had passed.  I came home from work one afternoon and found my tank empty, floor soaked, and fish lying on the gravel. <Arggghh!> I must have got home in the nick of time because as I was mourning the loss I saw a gill move on one of the Pacus so I quickly tossed the fish in a 5 gal bucket, hung the old whisper on its side, poured in about half a cup of Novaqua and saved 2 of the three fish.  Lost was the biggest of the Pacus.  No worry really since I don't like the Pacus to begin with. <...? Trade them in... they'll only get larger>   Anyway, this resulted in a new tank the same night (warranty replacement from the store replaced the broken Oceanic with an AllGlass), also changed was the Oceanic light for a 32 watt AllGlass.  Cycled the tank yet again, this time being fast.  I guess the gravel retained its bacteria. But no remedy to the cloudiness.  It was about this time I began writing you guys/gal, and got some new ideas.  I got some plants and as I thought my silver dollar had a nice feast on them.  I also got a water report as you recommended since my water at my new place was very soft with super high Ph 7.8-8.0. <Too high> I could not make head nor tails of what the report had to say other than to read that there was arsenic, barium, and lots of industrial wastes in it, it scared me enough to go get an RO unit to go under the sink. This being as much for me as for the tank.  I also got some Kent's RO right, Low Ph controller, and Neutral Ph controller to treat the RO water and to bring down the Ph.  Since getting the RO unit I have made many water changes and the Ph in the tank is now down to 7.0 w/TDS at 120.  The cloud is still here.  It is more of a green color now than it has been in the past, but it still worsens at night and clears a little bit during the day.  I forgot to mention that I have tried leaving the lights on 24/7 as well as leaving the lights off 24/7.  Lights on did not help, but turning them off made the cloud horribly worse.  The cloud also worsens after vacuuming the gravel. Right now I have a thick layer of green algae on the gravel, but am leaving it to see if the cloudiness will not go away if I let the algae take control.  I don't like my black gravel being green, but if it clears this $@#%$& cloudiness problem I'll live with it.  I guess I should mention that the ammonia and nitrite are zero and the nitrate varies between 10 and 20 ppm, and the KH is about 1-2 degrees, GH is undetectable with my kit, but as I mentioned the TDS is 120. Is there and other ideas you can give me?  I'll pay good money for a magic wand.  SSL <... what do you feed these fishes? Do you still have the undergravel filters? I'd replace these, add more gravel... to a depth of 2 1/2 or more inches... Look into more mechanical filtration rather than the one hang-on unit you list. Bob Fenner>
Re: cloudy water 7/12/05
Bob, <Scott> Thanks for the quick reply.  My gravel does average 2 inches, and the UG filter was replaced with a Cascade 1000 Canister. <Add at least another half inch of gravel, and more outside filtration> In the canister I have sponge and fiber mechanical media, 2 cups of carbon and one whole tray filled with ceramic tubular bio-media.  In the Tetra-tec I have the 4 supplied cartridges with carbon in all of them and in 2 of them I have a little Phosguard to lower the phosphates and silicates.  Then there is the sponge covering the outlets.  The food I feed the fish is Hikari Cichlid Staple mini floating pellets (about 1/8 inch diameter size). Is there such a thing as over filtration, or not having enough fish?  SSL <Overfiltration is rare... I would skip cleaning your outside power filters till they were about clogged (obvious lower flow)... and re-add the UG, more gravel on top. The food type is fine, but I'd use larger pellet size. Bob Fenner>

FW Green water I have a 180 gallon tank and it has been up for 2 years. 2 days ago the water turns green like lime green and is very cloudy. I don't know what's going on. I changed the carbon and sponge and poly filter in the sump and have a large skimmer running. I changed half the water yesterday and I look at it today and its better than yesterday but still cloudy and still green. What is this and what do I do? How's it caused? >> The green water is caused by a free floating algae. The source is likely a change in lighting conditions, perhaps your tank is getting more sunlight than usual, or you have changed the artificial light. Best way to get rid of this is complete darkness for a week or two, coupled with 50% water changes every 4 days or so. You can use a blanket - with the lights off - and keep the tank dark. The algae will die off, so you will have to be sure to do the water changes. Good Luck, Oliver

Cloudiness Hi again, I am convinced that there is an invisible barrier around my tank separating it from the laws that govern the rest of the world around it. I have written you twice about my little slice of the twilight zone, but let me give some history since you may not remember. I set up my tank 11 months ago.  I had moved to a new house, and setup a 75 gallon FW tank to replace the 55 gallon I had the previous 12 years. After cycling the tank, cloudiness began to appear.  First I tried several water changes; no effect.  2 nd, I tried Maracyn Two Gram Neg antibiotic; no effect.  3 rd I decided to just leave it to nature, but after a month I could not even see the fish anymore do to a blanket of algae that had completely covered the entire perimeter of the tank.  I cleaned it off and the cloudiness was still persisting.  4th, I decided that sooner or later it would just go away on its own and have just been pretending it's not there and performing my standard maintenance. Almost a year had gone by and still the cloudiness is persisting, so 5th, I changed out all the gravel; no effect.  6th, I changed out the filters from an UG and hang-on-back Whisper to a Cascade canister and a Tetra-Tec; cloudiness is now worse.  7th, I read lots and lots of faq's on your site and decided that maybe my dKH and Ph was too high, 6 and 7.8 respectively.  I began adding stuff to reduce it; no effect.  I added more, and more and more, but could not budge either.  8th, I wrote you and got some advise. I got a water report, but all I gathered from trying to understand it was that there is too much scary stuff in my water, so I went out and purchased an RO setup.  For the last three weeks I have been filling the tank as well as myself with the RO water and although it has changed nothing for the better in the tank, it has been tasty for me.  The tank is still getting cloudy.  It clouds up at night, worse now than it ever has, and then clears up during the day.  My Ph is still 7.6 even though I have brought the dKH down to 3.  In total, I have added 12 tablets of Ph-correct 7.0, 37ml sulfuric acid, and 750ml of vinegar over the last 5-6 weeks and the Ph will not move.  Even after 5 10 gallon water changes with the RO water.  The only thing you recommended that I have not tried yet is adding plants, but if my 12 year old silver dollar is anything like she used to be, no plant would survive longer than an hour or two because she devours them.  Since the cloudiness goes away during the day I thought that some light therapy would kill it off for good, so I got the light from the old tank and added it to the current light and ran it 24 hours/day for 2 days straight while the other light remained on the timer.  Although the cloudiness remained at bay while the light stayed on, it came back with vengeance when I returned the lighting to normal.  I have purchased Kent 's Discus stuff to make the RO water good for the fish, and Kent 's 6.5 buffer and 7.0 buffer to take a different stab at the Ph since the amount of vinegar I am adding is probably becoming dangerously concentrated.  Although I've already placed the order, I have not received the new chem's yet, so your advice if any would be welcome before I begin the new phase of operation hopeless.  I have given up however on the cloudiness.  Unless the Ph has something to do with it, then I can't think of anything else to try except maybe a gram pos antibiotic, but I'd really rather not since previous experience with the stuff wound up killing more than just bacteria.  Any more ideas? Scott from the Twilight Zone <Something in your tank is fueling these bacterial blooms. Look for anything organic, even driftwood, that may be breaking down. Got a feeling you are way past this step though. The RO water has got to help. I think that changing 10 gallons at a time may be too little. Get a new thirty or forty gallon plastic trash can on wheels and a power head to pump it to the tank. Try changing 40 to 50% at a shot. Just adjust the pH to the tank. I would not worry about what that pH is, just match the RO water to it and do the change. Then do not feed for two or three days. The other thing you could try is a UV sterilizer. This will clear any algae or bacteria from the water without harming the good bacteria in your filter. Good luck. Don>

Cloudy Water 6.7.05 Greetings! I was hoping you folks might be able to point me in another direction to try and solve the cloudy water issue I have been having with my freshwater tank.  I've been testing regularly for Ammonia (zero), Nitrites (zero) nitrates (under 5ppm), and PH (7.6). Temp has been around 76-78, but summer is coming and unfortunately will probably rise with the ambient temperature.  I've also checked for sediments in the tap water, but there doesn't appear to be any. The tank itself is a 29 gallon freshwater that has been populated for about 2-3 years now.  In the past I've had my battles with one type of algae or another, though I thought I had them solved about 6 months ago finally.  Then, I began having issues with green water algae during this winter.  I've tried reducing the feeding, reducing the duration of lighting to about 8-10 hours per day, accelerated the water changes from monthly to weekly, new filter cartridges every two weeks and added a few live plants. At the time,  the filter was a bio-wheel 330. Since then, I've gotten the algae (I believe) under control.   I don't get anywhere near as much green slop out of the gravel anymore, and the filter cartridges don't clog up as often.  But the water simply will not get clear, it's no longer green but is now just cloudy.  I've lately upgraded to a Penn-Plax Cascade 700 filter to increase the media capacity and to try different media, currently it has about 100ml of Purigen and a 10oz bag of Bio-Chem Zorb, along with some carbon in it.  (This is in addition to the bio-sponge and white floss).  But after about a week and a half of this mix, still no change.  I had tried a couple of "clear water" additives in the past, but never had any luck with them and don't want to start resorting to adding chemicals to solve just the symptoms. I'm wondering if there might be something else you recommend testing for, or if there is something I might be doing wrong.  I am considering trying either a UV sterilizer in case the problem is still algae, or possibly a diatom filter, but I don't want to start buying expensive gadgets without a reasonable idea what is causing it.   -Hans <Wow, sounds like it has been a heck of an ordeal.  If all the changes have caused your tank to cycle a few times and you have a large bacteria bloom of sorts, especially if you have been adding bottled bacteria products to help cycle faster.  I vote you take a break, leave it alone for another week or so, other than regular maintenance, and see if it clears up.  I do not think a UV sterilizer would help the situation.  Best Regards, Gage>

New Tank Green Water Hi. I received a 6.6 gallon plastic aquarium for my birthday, but I seem to have a problem keeping it clean. The water turns green within a week. I put new filter cartridge in and after a week it's pretty green. I tried the changing 20% of water, it makes no sense to me. I use a bubbler, I have upgraded to a better filtration system. I only have 2 swordtails in it, is this a problem? One pet store told me this is natural process. This is very confusing to me, my mother always had an aquarium & her water was never green! I don't get any joy out of looking at a nasty looking fishtank, when I go to the pet store and they have a hundred fish in 10 gallon tanks & always bright & sparkling water! I also have a Betta in a huge jar & a smaller tank with 3 guppy's. I am already loosing interest as I can't seem to get the problem corrected and I seem to get a different story each time I speak to the pet store. It always costs me more money and I'm not seeing any results! Would I be better off with different fish in it? Is using a plastic tank causing the problem, would I be better off buying a glass tank? Any help would be appreciated, thank you. LLG <New tanks take a little while to get going. To solve you problem you need to feed your fish only enough food so that all of it is gone in two minutes once a day. Extra food needs to be taken out after two minutes or else the bacteria begin to break it down into ammonia that is bad for fish a great for algae. Do a 30% water change once a week with vacuuming the gravel. This removes the excess crud and fish waste that is contributing to your problem. I think you will start to see difference in a couple of weeks as you tank begins to cycle and then stabilize.-Chuck>

New Tank Problems Hello, Been reading through your forum and can't seem to find the exact answer I need. As far as I can tell, we are new to Fairbanks AK, there is no one here to ask. Set up a new 10 gallon on May 8, 80%Flourite, 20% gravel. Outside over the edge carbon filtration. Airstone. TetraMin flakes and Tetra Color flakes for food, live Anacharis. Added stress coat with water changes and to zap chlorine etc. Water temp 78. Introduced three guppies on the 11th of May. On the 14th added 1 Creamcicle Lyretail molly male, 5 Harlequin Rasboras, 6 Neons, 1large spiral  snail with Turquoise tinted shell.  Next day, 15th, added Creamcicle lyretail molly female, noted at store neon tank now had ick. Started treating mine with IckClear tablets, removed carbon from filter. On the 16th Neons started Ich spots, over a week spread to the Rasboras and Neons and killed them all (Now know that despite the aquarium starting manual I read those fish did not work well together or with my water readings, to late :^() Male molly developed many spots and swam vertically at times. Added Doc Wellfish's aquarium salt for freshwater, 2 TB to the 10 gallons. Throughout this period had done 10 and 20% water changes daily as directed by ich meds. Followed up with Fungus Clear tablets. Snail died on the 24 (the meds or the salt?). < Probably a combination of both.> As of the 27th Ich finally all cleared out fish seem healthy. On the 19th my water test strips read: pH  8.4 , 300 alkalinity, very hard water 300, Nitrite and Nitrate 0. Performed a 75% water change and again added the Doc salt on the 28 to remove traces of meds, added the carbon filter which I had let dry out all this time, it was a bit gunky and I rinsed it before adding (could this cause a problem?). < Letting it dry out is probably not good. The good bacteria living in the filter may be affected.> Today, the 31st, Ph 8.4, Hard 150, High 300 alkalinity, Nitrite 5.0, Nitrate 4.)!! Please help. I have read the cycling article but am not good with science and do not understand it, I'm trying, what should I do??? < Go to Marineland.com and go to Dr. Tim's Library. Look at an article titled " The First 30 Days" for a more in depth explanation of the nitrification process.> Both molly's and the three guppies are left. Neither the female molly nor the guppies took Ich. The female gave birth and all promptly died or were eaten on the 17th of May. She is of course hugely pregnant again.. and I assume that somewhere around the 17th of June there will be more fry.... Thank you, anxiously awaiting a response. Star < Many of the problems you describe are common with novice aquarists. You will get it all worked out in no time.-Chuck>

Cloudy Tank Thanks You Again Chuck. I did put a glass of water aside and as you suggested, lots of sediment at the bottom of the glass now. With one of my fish being impacted by this water since the gravel change, should I do lots of small water changes frequently until it clears, or major water change? Take fish out altogether until water clears? As for UV, just meant that I further committed instead of giving up. A big investment so far and one I had enjoyed for yrs. UV will help with as you say, any free floating algae in the future. Will get through this recent problem and look forward to enjoying our tank and fish again :-)Regards.....Robyn < I don't like the sound of that sediment accumulating in your tank. I would change the substrate to something inert and non-toxic. The gravel and or rocks seem to be chemically reacting with your water. I would replace the substrate and or rocks with artificial or epoxy coated items that will not react with the water.-Chuck>

Cloudy Water Chuck, The gravel I just replaced was the epoxy coated gravel purchased at the local aquarium store. As I said, I did rinse and rinse and rinse all day small quantities at a time in placing them in the tank. Something's gone wrong. Actually it has come to my attention that it may be the fact that our town has just gone through a "flushing" of our water system a few weeks ago. It may not be the gravel alone, it may be what they flushed the system with. I don't know how long remnants of anything would stay in the water. I'll have to research this. The goldies are hanging in there. ~Robyn~ < If the problem is coming from your tap water then take the same drinking water glass and fill it with tap water. If the sediment falls out and the glass is clear then it is the water. If this is the case then you could get a black plastic bucket and fill it up with tap water. When the sediment settles out then use the clear portion of the water to do your water changes and try not to disturb the material that has settled out.-Chuck>

I Have Floaties in my Tank! Hello all... I have 3 freshwater aquariums... one 30 gallon tank and 2 10 gallon tanks. We decided to try guppies about 4 months ago after having just goldfish in the larger tank for about 4 years. We started with just a few guppies in the larger tank but could not seem to get any to live. We then started the 2 smaller aquariums as well and then added baby guppies into all three tanks from my mom's aquariums. These fish (unlike all from the pet store) have survived very well. A few days ago, I started noticing small floating things in one of the tanks. I didn't think much of it at the time. At the same time I noticed a couple of pregnant females.  I set about isolating these females. I then removed all of the other adult fish from this small tank and moved them to the other tanks to make room to put all of the baby fish into this small tank. I again noticed all of the small floating things. They are small tannish white specks that are either truly moving or my eyes playing tricks. I have no idea what these are, they are no bigger than the tip of a pencil and there seemed to be hundreds of them in this tank.  We took all the fish out of this tank and completely cleaned and reset it up. There are no fish in it for now until a few days have passed. My question is.. What could these small floating specks be and how did they multiply like that? Should I worry about my other tanks as I see now there are just a few in either of those, probably from moving the other fish around? Any help would be appreciated. <The small specks could be a number of "little life forms"... You've likely heard the term "infusoria"... there are many organisms that are labeled as such collectively. It is unlikely that the initial problems you had with store-bought guppies were/are related to this wee-life... But instead the quality of imported livebearers... is dismal... More the reason, rationale for our encouraging folks to "share the wealth"... for local breeders to sell, disperse their excess to other hobbyists. Bob Fenner> 

Environmentally Safe Fish Additives Greetings! I am a former Green Guide writer www.thegreenguide.com, and was really surprised to learn, when I set up a small freshwater tank for my children, that so many home aquarium products (algae controllers, fish medicines) contain chemicals considered carcinogenic in the state of California. And I know there are additional issues with acquiring marine fish - cyanide, certainly. So - the Green Guide has authorized me to write and research a very brief 200-word piece of advice to consumers on Earth-friendly and non-toxic aquarium practices. Would you have any time soon to talk briefly, and being a principal source for this piece?  < Fish live in water. Almost all tap water has a carcinogen (Chlorine or Chloramine) in it to make it sake for drinking. While humans may be able to handle this many fish cannot, so it must be removed. Chlorine can be removed by aerating the water. If fact in very old fish books it would recommend filling aquariums using a watering can. They didn't know why it worked but they knew that it did make the water better. Chloramine cannot be removed this way so chemicals are added to make it safe for fish. After that the pH or hydrogen concentration of the water may need to be adjusted. This is usually done by adding or removing minerals in the water. The minerals affecting the pH can be removed with reverse osmosis or deionization. The minerals added to the water could be as simple as baking soda. Weak acids used to lower the pH are usually ineffective and only work for a short time. When fish get sick then the world of capitalism takes over with a chemical cure for everything. Unfortunately 95% of these are ineffective and a waste of money because they contain so little active ingredients. Check our FAQ's and you will find most responses come with a water change and a good tank cleaning. I recommend only a handful of medications for specific ailments. I have 40 aquariums full of fish and the only chemicals I keep on hand are some water conditioners and Rid-Ich (malachite green and formalin) by Kordon. The antibiotics I use I buy so sparingly they would expire before I would need them another time. The salt water guys are pretty savvy to the cyanide fish situation and the seasoned dealers that have been around for awhile know who to buy from. The key to a successful aquarium is education and not chemicals and that's what we do here at WWM, educate the novice aquarist. Sorry, no time for calls, need to get to another question.-Chuck> 

Cloudy water, Ect! Hello, I have a 2.50 gallon aquarium with a whisper filter it was set up April 30 I have three Tequila Sunrise guppies in it. Every thing was fine until today when I finally got a Mardel 5 in 1 test kit I tested the water and then made the adjustments till the water read in the ideal range for ph hardness etc. I also used Cycle and a small amount of Easy balance by tetra and everything read ok. I went outside for approximately two hours and when I came in the water had turned cloudy. Forgot to mention I made a 25% water change before I adjusted the ph ect then adjusted the water to the test. It still reads everything is ok so why is my water cloudy?  Thank you ever so much going NUTS in Texas....Cherryl Keppler <There is no such word as ect... Ect! Oh, let's see, please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> 
Re: Cloudy tank
-Hello Bob, This is true but from the day after I got my fish one of them started scratching itself on the gravel I could not see any spots but I got some Mardel... <A manufacturer...> ..removed the charcoal filter and treated for the amount of time stated the fish seemed fine no more rubbing so I did a water change and put the filter back in on Thursday. Well here it is Saturday and he's doing it all over again. So I also have some Quick cure and started this this morning filter removed. <... not good... toxic... to all, including your microbes that are the biological filter> I read somewhere to keep the lights off and to up the temp well the temp is already 80 and the only other way I can up it is to put the lights on as I cannot go out and buy a heater till next week when my hubby gets paid they changed paydays from every week to every two weeks now. Then when I am done with this treatment if it works do I get started all over again I know I must make a water change afterwards I'm lost at what I should do get rid of the fish and start all over or what . Thank you ever so much for your help........Cherryl Keppler <Please stop what you're doing... and read on WWM re freshwater set-up, water quality, maintenance... There is no need to keep using the chemicals you list... You simply lack useful knowledge re aquarium keeping... Read. Bob Fenner> 

Cloudy FW New Tank Hi! You have a great site here, but I haven't found the answer to my question so I thought I'd go ahead and ask. I am setting up a new freshwater aquarium. It is a 30 gallon tall acrylic tank with an Eclipse bio wheel filter. On Saturday, I set up the aquarium and filled it. So far the only decoration it has is aquarium gravel (which I rinsed before adding) and a piece of driftwood which I used in a tank about 7 years ago. (That was a 55 gallon freshwater tank that we had to give up when we moved cross country.) I kept this driftwood since it was very attractive (not to mention kind of expensive). Anyway, I put this driftwood in the tank and filled it up. I used Stress Coat to condition the water and added freshwater aquarium salt. <Why Salt? It is not needed.> Just before bed I checked the pH of the water and it was 7.6, or since the kit only tests that high it may have been off the scale. I added some pH Down to the tank before retiring for the night. The pH is now steady at 7.0 . The problem is that sometime during the night, the water, which was crystal clear when I went to bed, had turned cloudy. It looks like someone poured a glass of milk into the tank. I have kept the filter running, expecting this to clear in a few days, but I have seen no improvement in three days. The water is also taking on a kind of yellow color (I assume from the wood. I think I remember this from before, but my water was always clear.) So I am wondering, will this cloudiness clear up on its own or do I need to do something about it? < When you added the pH down you essentially caused a single replacement reaction and displaced the calcium ions which are now in solution. Sometimes the calcium will rebound and go back. In this case I don't think it will. If the tank is left alone with no aeration then this precipitate may settle out where it can be vacuumed out of the tank. Otherwise you need to clean the tank and start over.> There are no fish in the tank and I am waiting for the water to clear before I add any. Is it possible that putting this old driftwood into the tank could cause a bacterial bloom, even without fish? < If there is a fishy smell to the water or an ammonia test kit has any readings then that could be the problem.> Or is this something totally different? <I still think it is caused by the pH down.> Also, I was wondering if I need to aerate the tank? < Not needed with the filter you have.> I saw somewhere that it is not necessary to aerate when using a bio wheel since the water is aerated by the filter. The noise from the air pump is driving me crazy and I'd like to just pull the airstone out of the tank if it wouldn't harm the (eventual) fish. Regards, Andrea <Pull out the airstone. Think about what kind of fish you want to keep. A pH of 7.6 may not be too bad depending on the species. There are better ways to soften the water than by adding chemicals. Check out the WWM webpage for more info.-Chuck> 
Cloudy New Tank II
Thank you for your quick response, Chuck. I really appreciate it, but I am a little confused. Are you saying that the pH Down caused the cloudy water because my tap water is hard and the water needs to be softened? < This all depends on what type of fish you want to keep. If your local fish store has a pH of 7.6 and you have a pH of 7.6 then why change it? There are certain soft water fish like discus and cardinals that like soft acidic water. This usually requires some water treatment. If you want to keep soft water fish then go through the site to find out how to soften the water and keep it stable for a long time period.> Obviously, I don't want to siphon out all the water and start over only to have the water cloud up again, so I'd like to get this right this time. < Clean the tank, start over and add your water conditioner to remove chlorine and chloramine. Add Bio-Spira by Marineland to get the bacteria up and going. Carbon in the filter will remove the tannins released by the old driftwood.> I added freshwater salt to the aquarium because it was recommended to me by the LFS I used with my first tank. At that time, I had a tiger barb with a swim bladder problem and I was told that adding salt to the water would help him and indeed it did. He was able to swim properly again. Whenever he would start to exhibit problems we would add a little extra salt, and we would also add some when changing the water. The fish seemed to thrive with it. Is this salt contributing to my cloudy water problem? < Could be, depending on how much salt you have added and what the initial water chemistry is for your tap water. Soft water fish really don't like salt.> As far as the pH goes, my past experience is that fish (at least those I had in the past, preferred slightly acidic water. My normally vibrant red-tailed black shark would go gray and pink if the pH got up to 7.2 .) I am planning on angelfish this time, and I have read they prefer a lower pH. Is there something better to use than pH down? Regards, Andréa < If you have hard alkaline water and want to keep soft water fish like angels ,discus, etc... then I would get bottled water or buy distilled and or an R/O unit to remove the minerals from the water. With the minerals removed you can add buffers by SeaChem that will keep the water at 6.8. If you do any water treatment with chemicals I would recommend that you first try it outside the tank, like in a 5 gallon bucket and see how it turns out before you do it to the aquarium. For now I would fill up the tank with treated tap water, cycle it and add the fish from your local store. Get it cycled with Bio-Spira and change water as needed to keep the ammonia and nitrites close to zero. Once the tank is cycled then keep the nitrates below 25 ppm. As you change water I would replace the tank water with distilled/filtered water that essentially has no hardness in it. This way the fish and tank acclimate to less calcium in the water and the pH will naturally drop through biological activity and the reduction of minerals. Keep in mind that once the tank is going at 6.8 that new fish will have to get use to a much lower pH and a sudden drop of a point may kill them.-Chuck> 

Re: Cloudy tank Hello again I forgot to add I do not over feed my fish I am careful not to let any food float to the bottom and it is easy to see as I also do not have any gravel at all in the bottom of the tank. The temp in a tiny tank like this runs 84 I cannot get it to go down unless I leave the lights totally off and then it runs 82 and summer is not even hear yet Texas gets hot early. Thank you for your help. Cherryl Keppler <Mmm, sounds like your tank may not be biologically cycled... Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm

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