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Old 09-25-2006, 04:42 AM   #1
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Beige colored goo

Our one and only fish in the tank isn't sick, but ...

My fish tank has had this beige colored goo in the gravel, and under the gravel. It's just one fish in a 55 gallon tank, so I can't figure out what the source of "food" for the goo is.

Worse yet, the undergravel pumps (well submerged) started occasionally emitting bubbles, and when I looked underneath, there was a bit of very dark goo. Not knowing what type of gas was being generated, I cycled the entire tank (steps below).

What is the biege goo, and how do I control or eliminate it?

My wife decided years ago to stop getting new fish for the tank and then get rid of the tank when the last fish died. However, we now have a Clown Loach that's doing just fine at over 10 years old (she named him Lucky).

The tank is a 55 gallon show plastic tank. There are two AquaClear 50 undergravel pumps, an Eheim Ecco 2232 external cannister filter, a Neptune tube type water heater, and an air pump driving two air stones. There are plastic trays connected across the tank under the gravel to provide a path for the water to circulate downwards through the gravel and out the pumps.

This is the procedure I used to cycle the tank:

Syphoned water from the main tank to fill a 5 gallon tank.
Transferred the external filter, heater, and air stones to the 5 gallon tank.
Transferred the fish to the 5 gallon tank.
Drained the main tank.
Removed the gravel, and undertrays.
Disposed of the old gravel.
Cleaned out the tank and gravel undertrays.
Cleaned out the underwater pumps.
Re-installed the gravel undertrays.
Rinsed out new gravel (50 lbs), and installed it into main tank.
Filled the tank with new water, monitoring temperature.
Installed the underwater pumps and started them.
Added Amquel and NovAqua (6 teaspoons each).
Waited 45 minutes.
Removed external filter from 5 gallon tank.
Cleaned external filter, and installed new filter floss and ammo carb.
Rinsed out the ammo carb section.
Reinstalled external filter back to main tank.
Transferred heater and air stones back to main tank.
Verified heater cycled to confirm water temp was correct.
Transferred fish back to main tank.
Transferred 1/2 gallon of the old water to main tank.
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Old 09-25-2006, 11:39 AM   #2
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Well, that's a thorough cleaning, but I'm not sure I'd call it cycling. By changing out all your gravel and filter media at once, you may see an ammonia spike in the near future. With only one fish in 55 gallons, this might not be too bad, but I suggest you test your ammonia levels daily for a couple weeks. Be sparing on the food at first for insurance. You'll need to re-build your benificial bacteria population.

As for the goo, what has been your maintenance routiene? How long was this system running before the goo appeared? I think this is just a symptom of an old gravel filter. They're really hard to get perfectly clean, so crud builds up over time and breaks down into nastier crud. The gas was likely sulfuric, nasty stuff. You were right to be concerned. This usually happens when a portion of the gravel isn't getting enough oxygen. Usually more of a problem with sand beds than gravel, but if there's enough junk built up, it can form a barrier that water does not circulate through.
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Old 09-25-2006, 09:18 PM   #3
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Quote:
Well, that's a thorough cleaning, but I'm not sure I'd call it cycling.
I'm not familiar with the terms, I used cycle, as if I was re-cylcing the tank with a ne one.

Quote:
By changing out all your gravel and filter media at once, you may see an ammonia spike in the near future. With only one fish in 55 gallons, this might not be too bad, but I suggest you test your ammonia levels daily for a couple weeks. Be sparing on the food at first for insurance. You'll need to re-build your benificial bacteria population.
I put 1/2 gallon (filled coffee pot) of the old water back in to the tank, this should help. I used Amquel and Novaqaua to get started, and put fresh ammo-carb, in the external filter.

Quote:
As for the goo, what has been your maintenance routine? How long was this system running before the goo appeared? I think this is just a symptom of an old gravel filter. They're really hard to get perfectly clean, so crud builds up over time and breaks down into nastier crud. The gas was likely sulfuric, nasty stuff. You were right to be concerned. This usually happens when a portion of the gravel isn't getting enough oxygen. Usually more of a problem with sand beds than gravel, but if there's enough junk built up, it can form a barrier that water does not circulate through.
The goo and the tank have been there for years. The issue is that I can only clean the gravel during water changes, and it doesn't get enough of this goo. The goo was also clogging up the old lower flow external filter and undergravel pumps. I replaced these with much higher flow external filter (Eheim Ecco 2232), and undergravel pump (AquaClear 50's). The undergravel pumps feel like a medium pressure hose. Fish seems to like to swim in the current produced by these a few times a day. I plan on getting an Eheim sludge remover (gravel vacuum that just recycles the water so you can use it as needed).

The new undergravel pumps may have been the issue. The flow rate and force is so high that it sucked the goo from the gravel to under the trays and built up there.

I'd still like to know what this goo is though. At another forum, someone though it might be cyano bacteria, but I didn't have any photos of it.
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Old 09-26-2006, 08:13 AM   #4
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Cyno is usually a problem in saltwater aquariums, but it does kinda match the discription. If it is cyno, try just aiming one of your powerheads down at the gravel, and see if it goes away in that area.

It's some sort of either bacteria or fungus colony, living on excess nutrients. It's possible you're overfeeding your fish, and the buildup of nutrients is more than the water changes takes out. It's also possible you need to step up your partial water change schedule, which is why I asked what you're doing now.

What are you doing for air in the tank? If you have a submerged return on your canister filter, and no venturi hooked up on the pumps, you might not have enough oxygen down in the gravel. A spray bar return on the canister, or a venturi air line might help. (Most of the nicer powerheads have a little venturi vent you just need to hook an air line to, or adjust so the powerhead is partially out of the water.)
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Old 09-26-2006, 08:48 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by dskidmore
Cyno is usually a problem in saltwater aquariums, but it does kinda match the discription.
After visiting a few web sites, it's more likely that it was brown slime algae.

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need to step up your partial water change schedule
Yeah, with just one fish, I wasn't doing these very often, doing a 40% change about every 6 weeks. I got a new syphon setup so it's a lot easier than it used to be.

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What are you doing for air in the tank?
An air pump driving two air stones. The gravel pumps flow about 200 gallons / hour (each), the stream is pretty strong. I'll check out hooking up the venturis, but concerened that it may be excessive. There are two levers on the pumps, one controls water flow, and the other maybe the air flow, but I won't know until I try the venturis out. I was concerened you could get too much air in a tank. Plus the could the noise of the bubbles bother the fish (then again, they do live in streams with some noise in real life).
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Old 09-26-2006, 09:47 AM   #6
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If you have two air stones, the venturi is overkill, you're right.

Freshwater fish are not usually bothered by lots of bubbles. Waterfalls are interesting places where food might drop from above...

You however might be annoyed by the noise of too many bubbles.

I think your best bet is stepping up the water changes. Concentrate on cleaning one area throughly each week instead of the whole tank on the surface.

*backing up* Cycle usually referes to the Nitrogen Cycle, the process of turning ammonia into nitrite, and nitrite into nitrate. Most people say "cycle" and mean they are building up the benificial bacteria population to the point where ammonia and nitrite test out at 0 ppm.
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Old 09-26-2006, 01:12 PM   #7
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Well after about a day and a half, the tank smelled like cat pee, actually our bedroom did, the tank odor was a bit different.

I've already did a water change (80%), adding Amquel and Novaqua for each 10 gallons of tap water during the re-fill. I keep the temperature within 1 degree during the re-fill so the only concern is the fill rate versus the time it takes for the Amquel and Novaqua to get rid of the chlorine.

I'm getting an ammonia kit (couldn't find the old one), and planning on doing more water changes until I get this fixed.

It's just the one fish (10 year old clown loach) and I'm trying to do my best for it.
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Old 09-26-2006, 01:22 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jeffareid
Well after about a day and a half, the tank smelled like cat pee, actually our bedroom did, the tank odor was a bit different.
There's the predicted ammonia spike. With dilligent water changes, it will pass without too much harm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffareid
I've already did a water change (80%), adding Amquel and Novaqua for each 10 gallons of tap water during the re-fill. I keep the temperature within 1 degree during the re-fill so the only concern is the fill rate versus the time it takes for the Amquel and Novaqua to get rid of the chlorine.
Good start. The Amquel should act nearly instantly, just swish the water around a bit after you add it. 80% is a bit drastic, I'd rather see you do two 50% changes, giving the fish a chance to adjust for a few hours in between. When you run out of Amquel, consider switching to Prime. It's more cost effective and is also good for battling Nitrite. If you're going to the LFS anyway, might also pick up some aquarium salt to help your fish ease through this stressful time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffareid
I'm getting an ammonia kit (couldn't find the old one), and planning on doing more water changes until I get this fixed.
Good idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeffareid
It's just the one fish (10 year old clown loach) and I'm trying to do my best for it.
I'm glad you're trying so hard for this last one.

Might withold food for a few days until the ammonia level goes down a bit.
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Old 09-26-2006, 03:16 PM   #9
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Thanks for the answer.

Quote:
Swish the water around a bit after you add it.
I turned on the undergravel pumps, at 200 gallons / hour each, that's more than enough swishing, it's like a small high pressure hose.

Quote:
80% is a bit drastic, I'd rather see you do two 50% changes, giving the fish a chance to adjust for a few hours in between.
I was concerned that the exposure to the high ammonia could kill the fish right away, so I reacted drastically. I waited and did another 80% change. The refill rate is slow, and I monitor the temperature making sure it stays within one degree. The fish stays at the far end of the tank, so there's little exposure to the fill in point. I added the Amquel and Novaqau every 10 gallons of refill (I have tape on the side of the tank at 10 gallon boundaries).

I also replaced the ammocarb in the middle chamber of the external cannister filter. May switch to 2 chambers of ammo carb until things settle down. Since I have the gravel, undertrays and gravel pumps, how important are the round balls in the external filter that I assume are to hold the bacteria? Could I go with just one chamber for the bacteria and two for the ammo-carb?
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Old 09-26-2006, 07:47 PM   #10
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The gravel filter should have plenty of surface area for bacteria.

Don't go overboard with the ammo-carb though. Once your ammonia dropps below .25, start taking that stuff out. If all the ammonia is abosorbed, you won't get bacterial growth. Ammo-carb should be a short term solution, bacteria is the long term solution.
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Old 09-26-2006, 10:46 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by dskidmore
The gravel filter should have plenty of surface area for bacteria.

Don't go overboard with the ammo-carb though. Once your ammonia dropps below .25, start taking that stuff out. If all the ammonia is abosorbed, you won't get bacterial growth. Ammo-carb should be a short term solution, bacteria is the long term solution.
Again, thanks for the response. I have one of those syphons that I hook up to a water tap (in my case I use a nearby bathroom faucet, replacing the aerator, with plastic insert that I can hook up the syphon). The syphon can draw (end of venturi open) or fill (end of venturi shut) the tank. So I'll just monitor the ammonia levels and keep doing partial water changes now.
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