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Old 05-13-2022, 02:24 AM   #1
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Foggy water

It has been many years since I setup my last tank... like over 25 years.


I'm having a problem that I've never experienced. It involves a 20 gallon cube thank. It came with built in filtration which I have bypassed going with under gravel filtration. What can I say, I'm a bit old school. Plus the filtration pump is just too strong for the rope fish I eventually want. The built in pump move like 200 gallons per hour. Totally off the wall for a 20 gallon tank especially as I want a couple of rope fish and they don't like fast water.


Anyway I can't get the tank clear. The under gravel filter plates cover in the area of 2/3 - 3/4 of the base with a 2-3 inch gravel base, it varies. I suspect that it may be my air flow through the risers but that does not really fit as I gone from fine bubbles to course bubbles but the actual air flow could be a factor.


Right now the tank only contains 2-black skirt tetras, a small pleco and an even smaller cory cat. (I inherited thees critters). With the extremely small population I can't see it being an ammonia or other waste issue. Also the fish seem totally content, active and eat well with no signs of stress. Also there are currently no live plants. The tank is only about 10 days old which could be a factor but, like I said, I've never experienced this before.


My previous tanks were in north east Ohio and Ft Worth Texas which might as well be considered sea level. I am now in Wyoming at an altitude of 3700 feet. I sort of think that could be an issue as what air does in water is different between sea level and 3700 feet. Shoot, even the boiling point is different.


Anyway I'd appreciate any advice that could be offered. The tank actually seems healthy and the current fish are calm and seem happy. At this time I have not done PH or other tests but will soon.

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Old 05-13-2022, 02:37 AM   #2
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How long has the tank been running?

What do you mean by "foggy"? Is it milky white water? Brown tea like water? Green water? Bits of debris floating around in the water?

All of these different symptoms will indicate a different cause.

Going out on a limb, ill assume its a new tank, and you are seeing cloudy white water. This is called a bacterial bloom and is a normal stage pretty much every tank goes through as a tank establishes. Goes away on its own after a week or two as your cycle establishes.

What do you understand about the nitrogen cycle? Do you know how to cycle a tank?

You say you dont think its an ammonia or waste issue, but do you know what your water parameters are (pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate)? Even though you have a low bioload in comparison to your tank size, if you arent doing regular water changes in an uncycled tank waste will build up.
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Old 05-13-2022, 03:08 AM   #3
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The tank is only about ten days old and the fog is a light milky/grey. Fish have been in for about a week.


No, I have yet to do water tests as my only source in my small town is a Petco and I don't trust their quality. I have yet to find a test kit on-line that gets good results.


To be honest I'm not sure what you mean by nitrogen cycle. I DO know about establishing bacteria colonies in the gravel to migrate ammonia from urine to nitrites then nitrates but don't know if that is what you mean. To help with this bacteria buildup I used to put dead feeder golds in the gravel to help speed up the process but the closest thing I have locally to an aquatics store is a Petco. I'm thinking about getting a 'bacteria starter kit' but am a bit leery about such products.


As to your advice as to the probable cause of the light milky fogginess I'll give it another week before I actually get concerned as the current fish seem quite happy with no signs of stress. I'll also keep looking for a test kit with good recommendations. I'm really not dumb on this stuff, just way out of date. Any recommendations on test kits either as a kit or individual? It has been long enough that I just don't know what outfits to trust anymore.



You may be totally correct in that the tank is setting itself up but I've just never experienced this before but then I've never had this small of a tank.
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Old 05-13-2022, 03:40 AM   #4
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You are correct on the nitrogen cycle. Its the processes that consume ammonia and turn it into nitrate.

If you are looking for a recommendation on a water test kit i would look at the API freshwater master test kit. It covers what you need it to (pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate), is accurate enough for the purposes you are wanting, and as you get 100s of tests from a test kit its more cost effective than test strips. I would have thought any petstore chain would carry these (although im not from america, so we dont have Petco here) and they are easy to find online.

Your tank is uncycled. Typical timescales to cycle a tank is 6 to 8 weeks. Ill post a process for cycling a tank with fish in it. As you currently are unable to test your parameters i would change say 1/3 of the water every 2 to 3 days. When you can test your water you should change water as dictated by the test results and fish in cycle process.

What you describe sounds very much like bacterial bloom. As your cycle establishes it should go away on its own.
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Old 05-13-2022, 03:40 AM   #5
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To cycle a tank you need to grow denitrifying bacteria to consume ammonia and nitrite that your tank produces. The bacteria needs an ammonia source to grow colonies sufficient in size to consume all the ammonia and resultant nitrite and turn it into nitrate which typically you remove through your regular water changes.

A fish in cycle uses fish waste as an ammonia source and regular water changes are undertaken to ensure that water parameters are maintained at relatively non toxic levels.

Set up your tank. Make sure everything is running smoothly. Make sure you have used a water conditioner product with any tap water you have put in your tank. Seachem Prime is a water conditioner that will also detoxify some ammonia for a day or two, so is a good choice for a water conditioner while cycling a tank with fish.

You should have a test kit. Preferably a liquid test kit. It should test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.

In ideal circumstances you should be starting a fishless cycle with a low bioload (number of fish). 1 small fish per 10 gallons/40 litres is a good number of fish, but this can be tweaked a little for fish that are social and don’t do well on their own. Ideally a hardy type of fish. You may have fully stocked (or overstocked) your tank before you knew about cycling. In these circumstances, if its not possible to return fish, you will have to make the best of it.

If you haven’t already done so, add your fish. Acclimate them to the water in your tank before doing so.

Feed lightly to start with. Daily as much as is eaten in 2 minutes, or as much as is eaten in 3 minutes every 2 days. You can increase to full feedings if you are confident your parameters aren’t getting too elevated too quickly and water changes don’t become a daily thing.

Start to regularly test the water for ammonia and nitrite. At least daily. Depending on your bioload you could start to see ammonia quite quickly. Nitrite will likely take a little longer to appear.

Your target should be to keep ammonia + nitrite combined no higher than 0.5ppm by changing water whenever your water parameters exceed this target. 0.5ppm combined is a level of waste that is sufficient for your cycle to establish but relatively safe for your fish.

If you see 0.5ppm ammonia and 0.0ppm nitrite (0.5ppm combined) then leave things be. If you see 0.5ppm ammonia and 0.25ppm nitrite (0.75ppm combined) then change 1/3 of the water. If you see 0.25ppm ammonia and 0.75ppm nitrite (1.0ppm combined) then change 1/2 the water. If water parameters get worse than these levels it may require multiple daily 50% water changes to maintain safe water conditions. This is more likely to happen with a fully stocked tank.

Remember to add water conditioner whenever you put tap water in the tank.

Over time the frequency of water changes and amount you need to change to maintain your ammonia + nitrite combined target will reduce. You can also start testing for nitrate and should see this rising. If you are finding the ammonia and nitrite in your tests are consistently low, and you aren’t already fully stocked, you can add a few more fish. It may take a few weeks to get to this point.

Once you add a few more fish, continue to regularly test the water and continue to change water if you exceed the 0.5ppm combined ammonia + nitrite target. With added bioload the frequency of water changes and amount you need to change may increase again until your cycle has caught up. Again once you are consistently seeing low ammonia and nitrite you can add some more fish. Rinse and repeat with testing, water changes, and adding fish when safe to do so until you are fully stocked.

You can then cut back on water changes to control nitrate only. Typically you want to keep nitrate no higher than 40ppm, but I would recommend changing some water every 2 weeks even if your water test says you don’t need to.

A fish in cycle from an empty tank to fully stocked can take several months.

A good way to speed up this process would be to put a small amount of filter media from an established filter into your filter, or get a sponge from an established filter and squeeze it into your tank water. Perhaps you have a friend who keeps fish who could let you have some? This will seed your filter with the bacteria you are trying to grow and speed up the process.

Another option is bottled bacteria like Dr Tims One + Only or Tetra Safestart. These products wont instantly cycle a tank as they claim but in a similar manner to adding established filter media they can seed your filter with the bacteria you are trying to grow to establish your cycle. These products are hit and miss as to whether they work at all, but are an option if established filter media isnt obtainable and may speed up the process from several months to several weeks.
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Old 05-13-2022, 04:21 AM   #6
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Thank you SO much for the info!



Like I said I pretty much know what I'm doing but it has been ages so I'm not familiar with the newer filtration systems... Call me old school. For instance I still believe in under gravel plates to setup a biological filtration system within the gravel. I've been told that this is obsolete but it worked years ago so should still work. The tank I got came with built in 3-stage filtration including sponge, carbon and ceramic. Right now I have this totally bypassed except for the ceramic as water will still move through the back filter area and could add a secondary bacteria bed. I removed the sponges and carbon.


My last tank was 50 gallons with three air risers. The side risers were air powered and the center directly attached to an external power head. I had two corys, a pleco, single blue and yellow acara, a green terror, a jack dempsy, 2 convicts and a rope in the tank without issues. Also had an African Cichlid that I can't remember the name but they had a big bump on their forhead. I went over two years before doing a water change... Ya, I know that is against the 'rules' but I would test the water and it was always fine. I just don't understand why one would draw out a bunch of water that tests perfect and replace with water that you add chemicals to try to make it like what you just removed. BTW, I am a STRONG believer in Stress Coat as a water conditioner. Is there anything better these days?


Here is what I'm working with. (image below) I want my main fish to be ropes but am finding them REALLY hard to find. I KNOW that a 20 gallon tank is really small for ropes but they will will do fine with my setup. The dark thing to the left is a fake tree trunk with 6-7 openings to give the ropes plenty of 'travel space'. Normally I'd get chunks of broken slate to build caves for the ropes but, in this size of tank. I think the tree trunk thing is a better option. My Pleco also likes the trunk thing.



Sorry, I know I'm rambling a lot but I'm excited as I haven't had a tank in ages and have really missed. I also have to admit to being rather frustrated as I can't find a source for rope fish and, also, can't find brass or stainless air valves for my air risers. The plastic ones I've been able to find are pretty much total garbage.


Sorry! I'm posting a lot of different issues in one thread and should put each is a separate thread. I run a computer help forum and that is what I'd prefer. I'm just frustrated as to some things and already typed so I'm going to leave as is and hope that you understand.
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Old 05-13-2022, 04:43 AM   #7
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Old school still works.

While i dont have first hand experience of UG filters, they still work the same as they used to work. If thats the system you are familiar with then its fine.

But, the process of cycling a tank is the same no matter what filtration system you use. One thing that has changed is understanding of the nitrogen cycle, safer methods of cycling tanks and the effects of nutrients (ammonia) in the water. You can actually see understanding increase by reading through historic threads on this forum, and the processes getting refined over time. Come back in another 10 years and im sure understanding will have increased further and the processes that are common now will again be superseded.

Stresscoat is fine. I used to use stresscoat, but changed to Seachem Prime based 100% on cost per water change. Stresscoat is expensive, and one water conditioner that removes chlorine is the same as another water conditioner that removes chlorine IMO. Prime has added benefits of detoxifying ammonia for a day or two which can be an important safety net, especially in an uncycled tank. And as I said, Prime is much cheaper than Stresscoat. IMO a better product at a lower cost is an easy decision to make. But stresscoat is fine if that's the product you want to use.
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Old 05-13-2022, 05:22 AM   #8
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Does Prime also contain nutrients to help with the replenishment of the protective surface on the surface of a fish (slime) as does Stress Coat? I have found this important especially when adding new fish to a tank as there will always be some level of stress.



I'm always open to a new product but it must be shown to be better. Price is not always the final factor.
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Old 05-13-2022, 07:32 AM   #9
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Prime does claim to have a slimecoat additive too. Prime is the go to water conditioner, used by the vast majority of fish keepers.

I would say to not take all these claims at face value, and i include Stresscoat in that too. The industry is full of chemical additives that make claims they cant back up, intended to get you to buy stuff you dont need and dont do what they say. The aloe vera additive that supports slime coat in stresscoat is a polymerised sugar, and its the opinion of some fishkeepers that adding sugars into the tank isnt a good idea and can cause cloudy water, adversely effect gill function etc. There is similar widespread opinion about Primes claim that it detoxifies ammonia, nitrite and nitrate is not true as well. Thats why the only thing you can take from a water conditioner is that it removes chlorine as thats something you verify every time you do a water change. If you are happy with stresscoat and you trust the brand then thats fine. Ive not noticed any difference in performance between stresscoat and prime, and prime does its intended job at 1/3 the price.
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Old 05-13-2022, 07:48 AM   #10
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Thanks again, Aiken Drum I DO use Stress Coat but, sometimes, wonder why. Ya, any such product is great as to removing chlorine from tap water quickly but you can do the same just by putting in a container and letting it sit for a day or two. If the tank is healthy I doubt that these additives are really needed but they make me feel better.
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Old 05-15-2022, 12:26 PM   #11
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That's a beautiful tank.
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Old 05-15-2022, 01:09 PM   #12
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Thanks if you mean mine.
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