By Lois D
I had my own business & made salt water filters for reef tanks & counseled people on all the aspects of the thing.
When you 1st put in the fish, in a new system, you do have to cycle. This is the stages it goes through growing various bacteria that use by products of the bacteria & the fish as food for growth.
1st the ammonia goes up & it has to get really high, at which point a certain bacteria starts to grow. This bacteria has to have enough ammonia to get it to mature. This is when the nitrites start to grow another form of bacteria. The nitrifying bacteria has to mature, also when it grows, it goes sky high, too. Then when it starts to come down, it gets converted to nitrates. This is the final product.
When there is no ammonia or nitrites to detect, & the nitrates r elevated, you're done cycling. Do a water change then, about 25-30%. You stir up the gravel, clean the glass & siphon off the water change water. Replace it with good filtered water, good drinking water, do not use tap water or tap water with de-chloridizer. Tap water has things in it that will grow nasty algae & the de-chloridizer changes things into an amino acid that can b detrimental to the animals.
Every time you have evaporation, you only evaporate H2Oall of the other elements of the water do not go away, they become more concentrated, so to make the concentrations of all of them, less, you have to take out old water & put in fresh. This also dilutes the nitrates, which are not as harmful as the ammonia & nitrites, but they can still build up.
After cycling, if you start all over, you have to go through the cycling again. It can b a vicious circle. On feeding, you only feed once a day & only enough that they eat it all in about 10mins or so. Fish can eat & eat & eat, but it ends up just going through them & polluting the water.
The amount of ammonia put off by whatever amount of fish & waste from excess food, is the amount of bacteria you grow. This is why when you add a fish. You only do it 1 at a time to allow the bacteria to grow to the new load. It kind of goes through a mini cycle, just takes a few days.
In the beginning, when the ammonia is peaking, it has to keep peaking to get the bacteria to kick in to start the next phase, so if a fish dies at this time, you may want to add a cheap & hardy fish to keep the ammonia up, otherwise you only grow the amount of bacteria to that biological load.
I once cycled an aquarium, where the ammonia was so high, for so long, all the fish died & it still wouldn't start making the nitrites. It wouldn't go over the edge to take the next step so I added ammonia to the tank, to give them more food & it went through the cycle rather than adding more fish, cause they would have died, I just used the ammonia, same difference.
The more fish you have, the more bacteria that has to grow, the more end byproducts you will get nitrates have to be diluted with fresh water.. Always fresh in the amount of water you take out of the aquarium. Do not think of top off water, from evaporation, as water changes. This is not the way to think of it.
Water changes are just that, taking out old water & putting in new, fresh. Now, the kinds of algae you grow, tells you about the light & the dissolved elements in the water that is in your aquarium. Some water has more silica & phosphates in it. This does build up & can grow some nasty algae.
Just a little FYI..
Hope I answered all the questions. Remember, water changes are very important.
I found out that overfeeding is also a problem for this also and it was causing my tank to get grungy and green and yucky looking. I had to clean my tank and cut down to feeding once a day. Now there is no problem. I only change the filter in my aquarium once a month or every other month and the fish seem to do just fine. When the water evaporates to about 3 gallons, I add more water and it stays just as clear as the day that I set the aquarium up.
I think the poster who mentioned "cycling" hit the proverbial nail on the head. Overfeeding can contribute to the problem too, since the leftover food accumulates and there are no beneficial bacteria to digest it.
Cleaning your tank too often and replacing too much water at once can cause it to need to cycle again. My sister had this problem, and said she didn't understand why her water was cloudy because she changed all the water and washed all the gravel every other week! Well, THAT was the problem! Oddly enough, less cleaning equals cleaner water. Those benefecial bacteria which take up residence in a properly cycled tank are key.
To help speed a tank's cycling, some people (including myself) use water or gravel (unwashed) or a piece of used filter from an existing fish tank that has been running for a while (and that has clear water). Although there is some danger of introducing disease to your fish population, if you get the above items from a friend's clean, well-established tank of healthy fish (and NOT from a pet store that gets in new fish all the time), the risk is limited. Adding this "cycled" water or rocks that are full of the beneficial bacteria that help digest waste will speed the ccyling process of your tank. A couple gallons of used water, or a jar of unwashed rocks is enough to help establish a 14 gallon tank.
I have set up many new tanks using this method, and have used my own water or gravel to help others set up theirs, and it has never failed for me in over a dozen tries.
Also, as other poster have said, just rinsing your filters will not only extend their life and save money, but they will keep the balance in your tank. I only clean my filter cartridges in a 55 gallon tank every 6 weeks or so, far below the recommened time they suggest to change them out entirely! I buy new filters about twice a year. And the water is very clear, even with two 8-inch and three 4-inch goldfish and several small crayfish living in it.
Best of luck in establishing your tank. Really, the less you fuss with and clean your tank, the better it will be in the end!
Dont change your filter so much. Every tank has to go through a phase called cycling. Your amonia will go up your water will be cloudy and nitrates will be high. There is not much you can do for this but wait it out. After the "cycle" is done all of these things should return to normal. In your gravel and in your filter you develop a layers of good bacteria that help your water, if you vaccum too much or change that filter you remove those good bacteria and send your tank back into the cycling mode again. My 55 gal tank started the same way but after about a month or so it all cleared up. I change my filter about every other month and vaccuum half of my tank 1 month and the other half the next month. During this phase you might want to have hardy fish like guppies, platies, mollies..ect. go to the web and search on fish tank cycling and it will help you out. This cycling can also happen any time you make a chenge to your tank.
THANK YOU for the info...I am willing to bet it is over feeding....husband JUST retired and whenever I go to feed the fish he tells me he already did it...this is something new to him....I don't think I have too many in the tank - 14 gallons with 5 fish - I was careful of how many I put in...asked at the pet store....and I only use bottled water - we have well and I wasn't sure if that would hurt the fish to I have been buying water as needed at Walmart. I will also stop using the tablets for clear water...if they just cloud it up they are useless. The water basically looks like it is "foggy" if that makes any sense...does not look dirty, just foggy, white-ish. And that is a great tip about the filter...did not know I could just rinse and reuse and it may be better...I will definately try that this weekend when it is due to be changed. Again, thanks for the feedback and help
I am wondering if you are feeding your fish too much. I have had fish many times, and sometimes neglected them terribly, with all sorts of green algae growth on the tank and on the plastic plants, but when I look into the tank, the water is crystal clear.
Are your fish healthy? How many of them do you have in the tank? These things would make a difference. Snails, plecs, and so on are mainly for taking care of algae growth on the tank and on the ornaments & artificial plants & rocks. They probably have no effect whatever on the cloudiness.
Once I set up a totally new aquarium, and got green algae growth in the water -- it turned absolutely green -- nothing to do but start over. I suspected that that was too much light.
However, if I am interpreting your problem correctly, and you mean that the water is murky, like it is polluted, I would guess that you are overfeeding the fish, and that this is bits of food in the water.
If it is not, try setting up your aquarium and running it for a week or so with no fish in it. If you get the cloudiness, then it is something in the water or something that you have in there -- like a dissolving rock or seashell or something, that is polluting your water.
Watch for over-feeding. I have had aquariums for over 50 years (not the same one!) and have found it to also be part of the natural cycling of the tank.
My husband feeds the fish, he ONLY uses a little food and "grates" is as he sprinkles it in the tank, it is over feeding that clouds and makes the tanks dirty...
For one thing, fish that clean the tank and snails and plecos can do a good job cleaning, but you cannot and should not rely on them to maintain it for you. Sometimes also, the capsules that you buy for fish sicknesses and the capsules you buy to keep the tank clean can sometimes make it much worse. These capsule have granules and the granules can dirty up a tank faster that 10 adult oscars. I have had that problem before and no longer use any tablets. I use a water conditioner to purify the tap water and that is about it. The steadier the natural ecosystem of the tank is, the healthier your fish will be and the cleaner the tank. It is important that we do not upset the natural flow of things in our tank and always remember to not take out any more that half of the water at a time. This can extremely upset the fish and can cause damage to their outer membrane or kill them. Also, alot of times, with my tank, I do not change the filter as frequently as suggested. Sometimes reusing the filter is the best option. I just rinse it out really good with hot water and then reuse it until it cannot be used anymore.
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