Cloudy water. - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 3 Old 10-03-2007, 01:33 PM Thread Starter
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Cloudy water.

I just started a small aquarium spur of the moment(and by spur of the moment I mean I was at the 24/7 local supermart at 2AM staring at fish tanks) and in less than 2 days I have very cloudy water. I thought at first this was because I didn't rinse out the internal activated carbon filter but when I found a fish dead I opened the tank and it stinks. I found a site that advised me to slowly replace the water in the tank, and replacing 30% seems to have already made the fish happier in less than an hour. I'd like to prevent any more deaths as there's no fish in the tank cheaper than 2 dollars and I'm not made of money.

Now introduction aside, my question is what would cause a build up of bacteria this quickly? I admit I'm no expert, my attempts at keeping aquariums generally end in utter failure(such as the time i accidentally bought aggressive fish and they ate all the non aggressive ones then each other before I even knew there was a problem.) However in my experience water never gets that cloudy that fast. I am going to try to feed them slower next time so there is less waste, however, will a sucker fish help the problem by eating the leftovers on the bottom? I have another fish that is supposedly a bottom feeder and he doesn't seem interested in the flakes on the bottom. Another question, how frequently should I change out some of their water until this crisis is under control? My dad should be on his way home with more distilled water and possibly some water treatment and the sucker fish(wanted one anyway, they're cool).

For reference I bought a 2 gallon aquarium kit. It came with one of those cheapie under gravel systems and I hooked it up just because the stone in it would keep the water plenty aerated. Then I put in an internal mechanical/activated carbon cartridge filter. I filled the bottom with blue aquarium rocks I had left over from one of my previous fish concentration camps(i have to keep a sense of humor about my failures). It was never used, still in the bag it came from the store in. I put distilled water in so I could avoid worrying about contaminants in tap water and having to treat it. For decoration there is a plant and a little castle type thing(it's styled like some classical Greek structure), both of which are made for aquariums. I did not wash them before putting them in, probably a mistake, but I don't know if it's the root of my problem. The fish are 4 neon tetra(1 now deceased) 2 tuxedo platy and 1 rainbow shark. The rainbow shark loves the Greek pavilion thing too, such a shame that their water is all screwy.
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post #2 of 3 Old 10-03-2007, 07:00 PM
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Welcome to Fishforum, Hzuiel.

I would suggest posting your water parameters. I would recommend the use of API liquid test kit which should determine your ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH. Avoid test strips as they are entirely unreliable. In the meantime, I'd do 30-50% water change every other day.

Your tank, for future reference, cannot accommodate all your fish and any more new fish. Your current stocklist will require a 25 gallons minimum tank size noting that rainbow sharks reach 5-6 inches and will eventually harass their fellow tankmates which in your case, none of them will be able to stand abuse for long.

How long have you keep your carbon? Recommended minimum time allotment for usage is 2-4 weeks only or they'll leach back all the wastes absorbed.

As for leftovers, do gravel vacuuming. Using a fish will not help matters and will only add up to your problems.

If you are using tapwater, please dose it with dechlorinator before adding it to your tank. If you have not, chlorine and chloramine will kill your fish and beneficial bacteria resulting in odors due to ammonia.

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post #3 of 3 Old 10-08-2007, 01:53 PM
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Hi Hzuiel!
Let me see if I can be of some help to you here while we're waiting for those much needed water params.
I am assuming the cloudy you speak of is "white cloudy" which would indicate a bacterial bloom. This is not uncommon in a new tank, and especially under such circumstances as yours. Instead of viewing yourself as a "failure" thus far with fish, you should maybe approach things a little differently in your own mind. You are asking for help to fix the problems you've had, so instead of failure, try "beginner" and "learning the hard way" as a way to view your past problems. Let's see if we can't help turn that around for you, ok? I'd really like to see you successful, with healthy fish and happy about it instead of frustrated and/or discouraged.
For starters, there aren't many options for fish in a 2 gallon tank. Have you considered taking these fish back to your LFS and starting over? Let's go through the fish you have currently:

neon tetra: known to be very sensitive to water quality and stresses extremely easy. Neons are a schooling fish that need a large group of their own kind to be healthy. While I have successfully kept neons in a group of 5 for many yrs, I don't suggest a group of less than 10. Less than 10 is very difficult to achieve. Average adult size is 1 - 1 1/2 inches, and they are very peaceful fish.

Tuxedo Platy: livebearing fish, somewhat sturdy fish, prone to overpopulation in small tanks due to breeding habits. This is a fish you want to keep all males unless you intend to and are prepared to breed. For each male in the tank there should be at least 2 females, otherwise the males tend to chase down and harrass the females until they die. Average adult size up to 3 inches (yes, I have seen them this large). Usually platys are known to be peaceful fish.

Rainbow shark: known for it's aggressive nature and habits of eating smaller non aggressive fish. They tend to be a bit more nocturnal by nature, and are very territorial. Average adult size is 6 – 8 inches (yes, I’ve seen these at adult size, too). The rainbow shark is very similar to the red tail shark.

Sucker fish: This I have to assume is a standard pleco? This also will not fit into a 2 gallon tank. The common pleco averages about 18 inches full grown, are known to grow quite fast, and love to eat live plants. The pleco is technically a catfish, so will also eat scraps of food from the bottom of the tank if it’s available, including sick, weak, or dying fish if the opportunity allows.

Ok, now that we’ve covered the contents of your tank, let me explain to you what is happening in your tank and ways to fix it:
The first problem I see is the distilled water. None of your fish is going to live long term in distilled water due to lack of mineral content. If you feel the need to use bottled water to avoid the expense of water conditioner, then natural spring water or purified water are both safe, but not distilled. If you have very hard water (which we can help you to sort out once we have your water params) it can be safe to mix distilled with tap water, but then you will still want to use water conditioner to treat the tap water. Water conditioner in distilled water isn’t going to do you any good, either, so if you bought water conditioner, hang onto it.

When you start a new aquarium, it has to go through “the cycle” (the nitrogen cycle). All tanks have to go through this transition, and while there are ways to speed up the process, unless you are working from a completely established tank already to take water, gravel, and filter media to completely fill and start your tank, there is no way to cycle your tank in 24 hours. The nitrogen cycle is the build up of bacteria that will eat and breakdown the waste in the water, and the changes your water quality will go through in the process.
The safest way to start an aquarium is slow, and the one single thing that will make or break your attempts is patience. To be successful in aquarium keeping you must learn patience. The reason for water testing is to track the progress of the water quality as you go through the cycle and/or if you experience problems.

Now, you may not want to hear this, but if you don’t remove all but 1 of the fish in your tank, or move them to a much larger tank right away, they are going to die. It is impossible to keep all of those fish in a 2 gallon aquarium.

If this were my tank, I’d be starting it over, taking the fish back to the LFS, emptying the tank, rinsing and wiping it out, letting it air dry for 24 hrs, then start completely over again. To do this the safe way, the proper way, you’re best off using tap water and water conditioner. Fill the tank, hook up your filter, add water conditioner in the right dosage according to what the bottle says, and let it run for 1 – 3 days at very minimum. (3 – 5 days would be even better) Be very carfeful not to overdose the water conditioner.

Next, you’ll need to decide if you wish to keep tropical fish (which everything in there now qualifies as) or cold water fish. If tropical is your choice, then a heater will be needed. Add the heater and thermometer, and let that run for at least 48 hrs until the tank is steady at 76 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hrs straight. Once the tank has run a few days and is up to temp, it is time to add 1 fish.
The trick with a 2 gallon tank is to find fish that stay small.

Some fish options for a 2 gallon tank, and how many will fit:
White cloud minnows (can live in tropical or cold water); room for 2 fish total in a 2 gallon tank. White clouds average about 1 inch long full grown.
1 betta; male or female, but only 1 fish (this would be the only fish in the tank, and the 2 gallon is a perfect tank for a betta) With a betta the issues during cycling the tank aren't quite so demanding, they are very sturdy fish and breathe air from the surface. With a betta I would disconnect the undergravel filter, as this is known to stress them quite heavily. If you choose to go this direction I can help tell you more about the betta and it’s habits/needs.
Fancy guppy; this is a tropical fish so will need a heater. 2 males would be the total number of fish, average adult size of a male fancy guppy is 1 – 1 ½ inches. I would not put a female fancy guppy into a 2 gallon tank. Any female livebearing fish coming from a store tank is likely to be pregnant, and once the fry are born, the shift in water quality would be lethal to all fish. 2 males would also be more colorful and they will get along just fine as long as there is decoration in the tank.
Sphenops molly and gold dust molly; this is a smaller species of molly, also live bearing, so I would work with a male fish, and they stay smaller than most other species of molly. Although smaller, adult size is still approx 1 ½ - 2 inches, so there is room for only 1 fish in a 2 gallon tank. If a molly appeals to you, adding marine salt to the water would help a lot. If you choose mollys, let me know and I’ll help you to dose the salt and find the right kind of salt.
Rasbora het; this is a sweet little fish, average adult size is about 1 inch, you could finish with 2 total fish in a 2 gallon tank. While the rasbora het is a schooling fish, it can be kept in smaller groups or even 1 alone in a tank if it has good water quality and hiding places. This is a tropical fish, so a heater is needed.
Choprae danio; another peaceful fish known to be very sturdy. A bit more colorful than zebra danios, and also less aggressive and smaller. You could fit 2 – 3 of these fish into a 2 gallon tank, adult size averages ¾ of an inch. While better to have a heater, if kept in a warm place, this is a fish that could live without a heater.
Zebra danio; cool fish! Zebra’s can be aggressive and average 1 – 1 ½ inches full grown. There is room for 2 of these in your tank; zebras are very busy fish and tend to hang out mostly at the top. This is a good beginner fish due to their strong immune system and ability to survive in less than perfect water quality.
Leopard danio; same basics as the zebra, can be mixed with the zebra

There are a lot of other options, PM me if you need more choices or added details about them.
Most important, no matter what fish you choose, start with just 1 fish! Leave that fish in the tank for at least 2 wks, then test water params to see where you are in the cycle. Wait until the cycle is complete before adding a 2nd fish, if possible.
You’ll want to wait about 6 wks before adding any algae eating fish or bottom feeding fish, to allow a food supply to build up first. In a 2 gallon I would not suggest “feeding” an algae eating fish other than natural food supply because of the risk of polluting your water quality due to the small amount of water you have. Once you are more ready for one, I can give you some safe and cool options for algae eating and bottom feeding animals that can mix in safely. There are a few to choose from.
In a 2 gallon tank, during the cycle, it’s a good idea to change about 2 cups of water each day, but do not touch the gravel or filter media. This will help keep the water quality safe without hurting your good bacteria growth. It will also help to ensure that you don’t experience another bacteria bloom (different kind of bacteria).

Important note for you pertaining to feeding: At no time should you ever see food hit the bottom of the tank. This means you are overfeeding the fish and it will destroy your water quality very very fast in such a small tank. You cannot rely on a bottom feeding fish to clean up large amounts of waste. During cycling it is best to keep feedings very light, only a few small flakes every other day. After cycling, you want to make sure your fish can completely finish the food within 1 – 2 minutes and can feed once/day, but every other day would still be best.
If there is anything more I can do to help, please let me know. I don’t get here often enough anymore, I know, but I am always available for help via PM (because I have it set to notify my email, I am able to reply faster that way). Feel free to ask at anytime, I can usually reply within 24 – 48 hrs.
The group here is good and knowledgeable and always willing to help. If you read through the threads marked as “sticky” in the beginner’s section, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of help there, too.
Good Luck and get those water params posted as soon as possible so we can help you further!

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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