Why is my water cloudy? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 01:31 AM Thread Starter
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Why is my water cloudy?

I have a 20 gal. I've had it for about 1 mo. The temp. and other levels seem ok. Why is my water slightly milky? Any Ideas?
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post #2 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 02:17 AM
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Since you've only had the tank for 1 month, my guess is that it is still in the cycling proccess. Are there any fish in the tank? if not, there is no need to worry about it as it will settle it self down.
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post #3 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 02:36 AM Thread Starter
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yes, we have several fish, balloon belly platys / Wag tail platies, some tetras, albino cats/ a loach/ a dwarf african frog and a mystery snail. When you say "Cycling" what is that? Thanks for answering btw.
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post #4 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 02:43 AM
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No problem, i enjoy helping people out.
Cycling is a proccess that every new tank needs to go through when it is first set up.

At first there is no bacteria in your tank which is what decomposes ammonia (ammonia is toxic to fish, produced from fish waste/food). The cycling procces is when the tank is growing the bacteria that is needed to kill down the ammonia, this bacteria grows in the filter media and on objects inside the tank.

Now that the cycling proccess has started the ammonia levels will rise very quickly becuase the bacteria has not yet built up, this means frequent water changes need to take place. i would say about 30% every day if possible to keep the ammonia down.

do you have a test kit? if not i highly reccomend purchasing one and testing the water frequently.

Im not sure if i've missed out on anything here. if you have any questions, please ask.
Good luck with the fish.
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post #5 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 03:02 AM
First welcome to the site! What's happening is a Bacteria Bloom, that's the "good Bacteria" growing in your tank, that`s normal. And you need that to break down the fish waiste, Check the "Beginners cycling" at the top of the fresh water thread it will help you alot. That`s alot of fish to have in your tank if it`s only been running for a month. Do you have test kits for your Ammonia, Nitrites, PH, and Nitrates, if you don`t I would get them soon. Hope this helps, and be patient, cycling an aquarium can take time. It took me almost 4 months to fully cycle my tank, I made alot of mistakes. But I also learned alot during the time.
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post #6 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 03:20 AM Thread Starter
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Yes I've been testing the water every day/every other day. All levels are within the stated optimal levels. Thanks so much for all your help!!! I've been changing out about 25% of the tank water once a week. I guess I should step up the changes? or should I leave the "bloom" to work things out on it's own? We waited a week b4 puting any fish in the tank. The LFS said 24-72 hrs. humph. anyway, we have some live plants too. The fish all seem ok. The fish are all pretty small (young??) and what I have read, will get along well with one another. You are all so great! I am learning alot by just reading your posts. Thanks again!
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post #7 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 07:31 AM
There is a bit of misinformation in the thread so let me clarify a couple of points.
Cloudy water is a bacteria bloom, but has little to do with nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria responsible for what we refer to as the cycle.

(aerobic nitrosomonas bacteria oxidize ammonia, converting it to nitrites. aerobic nitrobacter bacteria oxidize nitrites, converting it to nitrates. ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish. nitrates are less toxic and are typically removed with weekly water changes.)

The cloudy water is most likely facultative (decomposition) bacteria that break down organic waste. You may have dissolved organics in your tap water, or perhaps you have over fed the fish and should cut back on food?
Presuming good tank housekeeping, the cloudy water will pass.

There is a very good 'sticky' post here on the nitrogen cycling process. It is recommended reading.

In your situation, the key is to be on guard for a spike in ammonia levels that if you do not catch will kill your fish! Be prepared to do a partial water change if/when ammonia levels rise.

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post #8 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 01:16 PM Thread Starter
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Oh Ok, that makes sense to me. I was told by my LFS personnel that I should feed them everyother day, then by someone else there, every day. SOOO I've been trying to feed as much as they will eat in 15mins-30mins every day. What do you recomend? Thanks for your help!
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post #9 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 04:32 PM
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That is definitely wrong, the fish should only be fed what they can eat in 2-3 minutes, and if the bacteria bloom was cause by over feeding, even less.
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post #10 of 13 Old 04-16-2012, 05:24 PM
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As has been mentioned, a bacterial bloom in a new tank is common. And mention has been made of some causes.

To your question on feeding, if the fish are not fry (which need more feedings as they are rapidly developing) a feeding once a day is sufficient, and even missing a day or two a week will do no harm. Healthy fish can easily go a week or longer without feeding [something to remember if you go away for a few days]. They should clean it up within a minute or two. The only exception to this is substrate fish for which we drop in sinking foods that will remain there for a couple hours sometimes, as the fish pick at them. But upper feeding fish being fed flakes or pellets should consume everything offered in a couple minutes.

A hungry fish (appearing to be hungry) is a healthy fish. By instinct fish will eat if food is present, so resist the temptation to overfeed which can cause trouble for the fish as well as the tank's biological balance.

I would increase the water change volume a bit, say 40-50% once a week. Nothing is so good for an aquarium and the fish than water changes. Be aware that water changes usually worsen a bacterial bloom, but since this is not a problem for the fish, just put up with the unsightliness until it naturally clears, which it will.

And, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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