Cloudy Water In An Established Aquarium (Prevention & Treatment)

Well, if you’ve seen cloudy water in your aquarium, you’ve probably panicked. My first piece of advice that I have to give to you is, don’t panic. It happens to everybody and we can fix it with no casualties if we act fast enough.

In this post we’re going to be talking about cloudy water in an established tank.

Why is my fish tank cloudy?

So there are two reasons that I will be looking at today that will provoke cloudy water in the aquarium. The first is bacteria bloom, and the second is an unclean substrate.

Bacterial bloom

This is one of the most common reasons that you will witness cloudy water in your aquarium. Bacteria bloom will happen when the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium are proliferating like crazy. Usually, this will happen, because there’s been a spike of ammonia, and/or nitrite in your aquarium.

Why would you get an ammonia spike in your aquarium? it usually happens when there is too much ammonia brought on by too much fish waste or just regular waste or bioload in your aquarium. And there aren’t enough beneficial bacteria in your filter to eat it all up and transform it into non-toxic nitrate.

This will usually happen in the first weeks of starting a new aquarium. You’re not supposed to add fish in right away because while there are no bacteria in your filter when you started off brand new, that is completely normal.

How to stop cloudy water in a fish tank?

Leave the aquarium the time to cycle. If you add fish too soon before your filter is ready to receive them, while you might have another ammonia spike as well. If you have fish in your aquarium and the ammonia spike can happen either if you are feeding way too much and there is just so much waste in your aquarium look at your substrate if there is food rotting on it, that is not good and the rot also is toxic for your fish.

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Another reason is if you added new water to your aquarium and it is chlorinated. Well, we add chlorine in the drinkable water to kill bacteria, so, when you add it to your aquarium and you don’t use standard chlorinators, it can kill the bacteria in your filter.

Cloudy aquarium water after filter change

It can also happen if you have cleaned your filter badly. Basically, if you cleaned it too much. You’re not supposed to clean your filter that much. If you don’t do anything while there is a bacteria bloom in your tank, it will stabilize over time. We don’t do anything if there are no fish in the tank just be patient, they’ll pass.

If ever you get cloudy water, and you have fish in your aquarium, well, now it’s time to stress out, because ammonia is toxic for fish. Ammonia will burn and the nitrite will make it hard for fish to assimilate oxygen. So they’re burning and suffocate, so we got to act fast.

Cloudy water aquarium remover

First of all, we have to protect our fish, because this is precious cargo. So, lucky for us there is a product on the market, it is called Seachem prime. This product will detoxify the ammonia, and nitrite in your aquarium. So this makes the environment bearable for the fish.

You should take about a week for things to get back to normal. So you have to use this every day for a whole week. Okay so now our fish are protected we can relax a little bit.

Now let’s talk about those bacteria. Use bacteria enhancers, these products usually either add bacteria to the tank or feed the bacteria. Whichever, this will accelerate the proliferation of the beneficial bacteria. The more bacteria you have eating the ammonia nitrate, the faster you will fix your problem.

Finally, let’s help out with the ammonia and nitrite reduction. Obviously, we can’t eat ammonia nitrate to transform it into nitrate because we are humans that’s not how we work, but there are products that we can buy that will help absorb it.

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So there are ammonia resins, and they’re also nitrite resins that will definitely help you out. You can also do every day, a 10% water change, adding new water, and don’t forget your de-chlorinator.

If you have specific fish such as African cichlids, discus, guppies, or whatnot, always add the appropriate products. So back to what we have to do so we protect our fish with the Seachem prime, we use bacteria enhancers to help feed the bacteria, and we use resins to absorb the ammonia and the nitrites, we also do 10% water changes.

That is my recipe for success. Let’s say you still have cloudy water after a couple of days and you’re testing your water you have zero ammonia zero nitrites, what is going on? Well, I have found that sometimes our filters, could be too powerful. And if you’re able to reduce the flow rate, just for about a week or two until the bacteria actually goes into the filter, that can help as well.

In this case, it’s not stable but it’s a lot less dangerous for the fish because they’re not living in unbearable conditions. Sometimes just adding on a second filter that will help absorb all that extra bacteria will just help you out and it’ll be gone within a day.

Cloudy water in the aquarium from sand and substrate

While adding substrate to your aquarium, it’s important to clean it thoroughly. If you don’t clean it the dust that would have come out during the cleaning stays inside it, and since that this is so light and tiny well it just floats around in your aquarium.

Even if you cleaned it well sometimes there might be a little bit of dust while adding new substrate. Don’t worry about this at least this environment is not unbearable for your fish. So a trick to minimize the dust coming up is when you’re filling your water to put either a plate or a rock under where the water is coming in.

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If this really annoys you there are some products on the market like ‘Fluval quick clear‘ that will help precipitate the dust. You can use this if let’s say you have a dinner party coming up and you really want your tank to look good and oops… there’s dust everywhere.

But if you don’t use this, the dust will clear within a week or two. It’s important to know that if you change the substrate in an active tank, you have to check your water parameters for about a week afterward.

There’s actually a lot of beneficial bacteria that get into the substrate, and when you change it you get rid of a lot of that bacteria, obviously, and the new one doesn’t have any in it, meaning that there can be ammonia spikes and your filter is just a little bit more unstable.

When I change the substrate, I usually put a Seachem prime in for a couple of days afterward just as prevention in case there’s an ammonia spike and I’m not there to manage it.

In conclusion

Keep in mind that cloudy water happens to everybody, at least once in the aquarium hobby. If you act fast you’ll be able to regain control quickly.

If you’re punctual with your aquarium maintenance you do your water changes at least once a week, and you have good filter maintenance habits, you shouldn’t encounter this problem during your aquarium adventure, and if you do well Don’t be so hard on yourself.