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Summerskies 10-10-2008 05:41 PM

In real need of advice
(I'm very sorry for the length of the post, but I am a newbie when it coms to tanks and I am having persistant problems that I could really use some advice on.)


Last year I decided to try my hand at keeping a freshwater aquarium. I went to the local pet store and picked up a nice ten gallon tank starter kit and came home to set it up, putting my two cichlids into the tank 3-4 days later. This tank did not have any live plants, although when it came to test kits, chemicals and so on, I ended up getting everything that was suggested to me at the pet store. I used "start right" and "cycle" according to the instructions. When the tank began to cloud I assumed it was a ntaural part of the cycle and kept up with partial water changes hoping it would run its course. After a wile the clouding turned green and stayed persistant. I put the fish in a temporary tank and decided to try cleaning the entire aquarium out.
After cleaning it, I thought that my mistake may have been using tap water, so this time I used filtered water. Once again, it clouded over and once again it turned green. I gave it some time, hoping it would clear and it did! After my tank remaining clean and beautiful for a number of months, I thought the problem was behind me and decided to get a larger tank to give my current fish more space and allow me to get others.

I purchased a 29 gallon tank and stand and set it up in a similar way. Again, the water clouded and turned green...I thought that since it had cleared last time, it might clear up again...but it persisted. I kept up with partial water changes (changing maybe 1/3 of the water when I cleaned the gravel every week or so). When the green got darker I began seeing little squigly looking lines against the glass on the inside of my tank. At first I thought they were cat hair(I do have a cat), but as I watched them, they moved! To be sure I wasn't fooling myself, next time I did a water change I watched the ones that were on the glass above the water line. They were crawling! Needless to say, I was absolutely disgusted.
I immediately removed all of my fish from the tank and decided to take drastic measures to get rid of those worms (They couldn't possibly be good, could they?:-?). With my fish safely in another tank, I added some bleach hoping to kill the worms, and watched as they all sort of shriveled away as the water went from green to white/tan. I removed the water from the tank and scrubbed it down with paper towels before thoroughly rinsing it, the pump, and all decoartions several times. I filled it back up with bottled drinking water (like you buy by the gallon at wal mart) and went to the pet store where I picked up an undergravel filter, live plants, and a new pump/filter for the back of the tank, determined to prevent this problem again.

The new main pump/filter is an aquaclear, and it's got activated carbon and amonia remover. I left the tank for a few days, checked the water with my tests strips multiples times, and after everything coming up safe four tests in a row, I put my fish back in. The tank remained clear and beautiful for weeks, but at the beginning of this month it started to cloud over green again. My fish have become very lethargic (I would be too if I had to put up with that).
After describing the clouding to the people at the pet store, they suggested a few different products to treat algae blooms.
-Tetra Alage Cotrol drops
-API Algaefix drops
-API Accu-clear drops
-Algone packets

None of these have made any improvements in the tank...
Some other products I've used include:
Start Right
SuperBac Aquarium Nitrifying Bacteria
and the food I've been using is TetraMin Tropical Flakes

As if the persistant green cloud isn't bad enough, today I noticed that the worms are back and a few of the live plants are starting to die! I feel so defeated and stupid. I'm sure I'm doing something wrong but so far no one has been able to tell me what exactly that might be or more importantly, how to fix it. Is the green cloud this persistant normal? What are those white, hair-like worms? What caused it to clear up in the past but not now? Do I need to remove my fish from the tank and start over doing a fishless cycle? I've read a little about it, but this is all still relatively new to me. My father has had a number of freshwater aquariums before, and he's never had problems this persistant. He's at a loss as well. If anyone could tell me what I'm doing wrong, or what I need to do to fix this, I would be immensely grateful.

Alaris 10-10-2008 06:27 PM

Here's a long reply and I'm sure someone else will beat me to it.

Here are the simple facts: Stop putting chemicals in your tank. Tap water is ok to use in your tank as long as you dechlorinate it. Test strips are unreliable. The Green Water is an algae caused by light + ammonia. Your tank is not cycled.

Here's in the Nitrogen Cycle:
Fish create ammonia just by being in your tank. Ammonia is extremely toxic to fish. Then a beneficial bacteria eats the ammonia and releases nitrItes. This is also toxic to fish. Another beneficial bacteria eats the nitrItes and releases nitrAtes which are ok in quantities under 40ppm.

You need a test kit. I recommend API Freshwater Master Test kit ASAP! Test for ammonia and nitrItes EVERYDAY and if either are 0.5ppm or higher, do a 50% water change.

You need a dechlorinator. I recommend Seachem. Prime Test your tap water for ammonia. If it's 1.0-2.0ppm then use a double dose of Prime to any water you add to your tank.

Stop adding chemicals to your water. The only chemical you should add is Prime.

I suggest doing 75%-90% water changes daily. Make sure you match the temperature (do you have a heater and an internal tank thermometer?).

If you can give up your fish, then yes I do suggest starting over with tap water and doing a fishless cycle. You can find the link to a great guide in my signature.

Good luck! Remember: API test kit, Prime, and large water changes are going to get you through your cycle.

Sub-Zero 10-10-2008 06:30 PM

Wow, nice post.

I have briefly been reading through the post, things that stand out are... what sort of lighting are you using, and how much natural sun light do you have?

Water turn over? what are the water parameter like, ie phosphate and nitrate? Is there anything that could be leeching into the water over time. how many times do you feed and how much?

Generally algae blooms are caused by high phosphates and sunlight, well in my mbuna tank anyway, Try upgrading your filter media, try Matrix, its made by seachem also things like Matric carbon and Phosguard. Also a decent polyfilter/wool. These are all things that I have running on my mbuna tank, and have not changed the water in over 6 months. a UV filter will also remove you green water, but sometimes are more haslte in the long run.

How many fish/what fish do you have in your tank?


Sub-Zero 10-10-2008 06:33 PM

Alaris is correct! echo that post


bluerose 10-10-2008 06:40 PM

First off, welcome to AA! (What I'm writing here is redundant I see- but everybody else got to it first... oops!!)

You've been given some pretty bad advice. Not uncommon at LFS (local fish stores)... oftentimes employees don't know very much about fishkeeping.

The first thing that will be the most important for you to purchase would be a testing kit such as API's Master Freshwater Test Kit. Strips are notoriously inaccurate; reagent tests (where you add drops to a test tube of water) are much better. The full kits aren't cheap but are generally less expensive than buying separate tests.

There are three main water parameters you need to monitor: Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. Ammonia and Nitrite levels need to stay below .5ppm, or they begin to get toxic; between 0-.25ppm is best. Nitrate levels are fine up to about 40ppm although some like to keep them to about 20. pH levels are not as important as long as they are stable- most fish can adapt to a higher or lower pH than what they are 'supposed' to be in as long as it remains the same. Same thing goes for temperatures.

It would be best if you read up on fishless cycling; you'll be cycling with fish, but it will give you an idea of what a tank goes through to become 'established'/'cycled'. An cycled tank is one with an established biofilter- the bacteria that convert ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrate- and will have ammonia and nitrite readings of 0ppm and nitrate readings above 10ppm. I am going to guess that your tanks are not cycled at this point and give advice from there.

The ONLY chemical you should be adding is dechlorinator. Skip anything else for now. Your fish are likely pretty stressed from poor water quality/excess additives.

You will probably want to start doing daily 50% partial water changes (PWCs) until you get a test kit. Once you get the kit, test daily and do a PWC anytime ammonia or nitrites get over .5ppm. Watch your fish carefully for signs of stress (breathing fast, losing color). These changes will not affect your cycling much- the bacteria do not live in the water but mostly in the gravel and filter media. Do not change or rinse your filter media- the biofilter needs to get established. Once your tank is very stable, you can rinse the filter media in used tank water (suggested to do this after you pull it out for your PWC), but for the moment leave it as is. If you are still using an ammonia remover in the filter, remove it.

Cloudy water is often a bacteria bloom, yes. Green water is algae and I'm not sure exactly how to treat it- I believe it usually is caused by a combination of too much light and too much ammonia. If you do not have live plants, you may want to turn off the tank light for now. Otherwise cloudy water should resolve on its own or with PWCs.

Good luck- you'll get a lot of useful advice on AA. Most of us have been through this at some time or another and are glad to share what we know. :)

Summerskies 10-10-2008 08:16 PM

Thank you for the fast replies. I'll begin with the 50% water changes right away and I'll head to the pet store for a good test kit tomorrow morning. I have seen signs of stress on my fish (not eating as much, loss of color) and I'm very concerned about them. Currently, I have one plecostomus, two purple spotted goby, and one parrot cichlid. They all seem to get along just fine, and before the water clouded up they were all a joy to watch. I had started with two cichlids, but sadly lost one because of this mess. I've been feeding them twice a day, in the morning and in the late afternoon, and only what they can manage to finish off in a few minues.


I have briefly been reading through the post, things that stand out are... what sort of lighting are you using, and how much natural sun light do you have?
The tank is not within direct sight of a window and does not get much natural sunlight, however when I bought it, it came with the hood and light, which is fluorescent.

I just want to fix this so that my fish can have healthier lives, I feel so bad knowing they're stuck with this mess. I'm so glad for all of the helpful replies and I'll be following this advice closely. But still, can anyone tell me what those worms were that I mentioned?

Purrbox 10-10-2008 09:22 PM

Okay there are several ways to get rid of green water, some of which have already been discussed.

1. With a planted aquarium, you can get your nutrients in balance and wait it out. This can take months to clear up, and most are not this patient.
2. Perform a black out. This means doing a larger waterchange, then turning of the light and completely covering the aquarium so no light gets in. Leave it this way for 3-5 days with absolutely no peaking, not even to feed the fish. Uncover the aquarium and do another large waterchange to remove the dead algae.
3. Get a UV filter and run it on the aquarium. This kills the algae as it passes through the filter.
4. Get a diatom filter and run it on the aquarium. This physically removes the algae.

All of this are just a fix to the symptoms. You need to make sure that the cause is fixed or the Green Water will just keep coming back. Since you've been cycling the aquarium (both after initially adding the fish, and then again after your bleach treatment killed your biofilter) there has likely been a Ammonia spike which triggered the Green Water outbreak. The good thing about it is that it will have helped to protect your fish by consuming the Ammonia and Nitrite. As a result I would recommend making sure that your aquarium is finished cycling before dealing with the Green Water.

Oh. One more thing. Only turn on the light when viewing your fish, unless it is planted. If planted the light should be on for only 8-12 hours, closer to 8 since you are experiancing algae issues.

As to the worms, they are probably just nematodes which are perfectly harmless and a good snack for your fish.

Sub-Zero 10-11-2008 07:12 AM

"I've been feeding them twice a day, in the morning and in the late afternoon"

At this point in time, feed every second day, plus when you do... only once. As adding food to the tank will also accumulate to the ammo spikes.


OldMan 10-11-2008 01:15 PM

All that it takes to get green water algae is too much light. I do it on purpose so that I can feed daphnia which become fish food every few days. I do keep a few fish in my green water to keep the green water fed with fish wastes but I don't let the water deteriorate in terms of ammonia and nitrites. The green water tank is probably the cleanest of all my tanks in terms of water quality. Between daily water changes to feed my daphnia and all the green water algae growth in that tank, there is never any chance for the water to go downhill. In my case, I run well over 4 WPG of light on the tank for 16 hours a day so I know it gets more light than any other tank I have. The photoperiod alone is enough to result in lots of algae growth. The fish in the green water tank can be a bit hard to see through the pea soup but they are some of the healthiest fish that I have.
On the other hand, I would be a bit concerned about the worm-like things in the tank if you don't know what they are.
My first suggestion to get rid of green water algae is to examine your lighting situation. If your lights are on more than about 8 or 10 hours a day or the tank gets much natural light, you probably have a light issue. Leaving lights on longer because your lighting is not bright enough for your plants is inviting algae to prosper. The only way to fix it is to reduce the time to less than 10 hours and up the brightness if you need to.

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