Protein Film? (Filmy surface PICS) - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 6 Old 04-19-2012, 08:32 PM Thread Starter
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Protein Film? (Filmy surface PICS)

Don't usually get this in my other tanks but the planted one.

This this some sort of Protein film?

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post #2 of 6 Old 04-20-2012, 05:49 AM
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Yes it is.

You can suck it up with your siphon during water changes by having the hose just barely breaking the surface. You'll still suck up water, but will also skim the surface.

I have seen surface skimmers for freshwater tanks that attach to a filters intake (might only work with HOBs) and constantly skim the surface, but due to the nature of how they work I think they'll produce noise.

I had this problem for a couple weeks, but it appears to mostly be gone now. I'm not sure exactly what the cause of it is though.
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post #3 of 6 Old 04-20-2012, 06:24 AM
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I got that when there wasn't enough surface agitation. I just directed the output tube (canister filter) so that it pointed toward the surface to keep the water moving.

Not sure what type of filter you have tho.

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post #4 of 6 Old 04-20-2012, 06:38 AM
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I've had that too, in my tank that has a HOB filter. I added floating frogbit, and having plants move around I think does help, because I don't see it anymore. Romad's right, it's related to surface movement.
Won't hurt anything however, just a bit ugly.


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post #5 of 6 Old 04-20-2012, 08:01 AM Thread Starter
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Yea, the reason its able to build up in my tank is because I run my surface agitation low to lessen the chance of gas exchange.

But it seems we only know how to rid it and not know the actual cause?
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post #6 of 6 Old 04-20-2012, 11:25 AM
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It is commonly termed a protein scum. It is a bacteria that feeds off of nutrients. It will find these in any fish food. We tend to see it in planted tanks because of the high level of nutrients. It also occurs (I am told) in reef tanks, which is where they use protein skimmers; these are not practical or recommended for freshwater planted tanks. Below I've attached some data and photos from Dusko Bojic, an aquarist.

Getting rid of it: you can't, as far as the "source" because if you did, you would have a lifeless tank. Other members have mentioned the control methods, they are all fine.

As suggested above, this is natural in a healthy aquarium. I see it to varying degrees in different tanks. It is worse (quite thick sometimes) in tanks high in organics--the same sort of conditions that cause cyanobacteria for instance.

Here's Mr. Bojic's info:

This is a protein bio-film, probably triggered by hi organic levels, poor circulation and low CO2 levels.
Neuston organisms readily develop in it (or underneath it), like bacteria/zoo-spores/protozoans, hydras, worms even small snails.
This scum is very compact and often green. It is impossible to break it with the finger. I have tried it, and the film just grows back together in a second. Visually it appears "oily".
I have removed the film by using paper kitchen towels, laying them over the surface many times, until the scum was gone. After that I have performed a huge 80% water change, rinsed the filter media very well (that in fact was dirty) and have introduced one extra filter pump (extra circulation and surface agitation).
Also, I started using Easy Carbo (like Excel) instead of the CO2.
Everything seems to be in order now.
One more thing, I didn't prune plants in a long time so they covered the entire surface. And because of that, the tank circulation was poor, causing probably lower O2 levels as well. All this induced the surface scum.

There is another type of surface film caused by the Eisenbacteria (Iron bacteria). This film appears to be whitish, much thinner and breaks easily on touch. Improving surface agitation will help in combating this kind of film.

I have fixed this surface film (white and green) in 3 different tanks by simply introducing an air pump or aplying the venturi air diffuser to the power head (without removing it the film would disapear by the next day). The air bubbles seem to be breaking the surface tension causing the surface film to break into tiny particles which sink to the bottom or get trapped in the filter (in both ways bacteria will break them down).

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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