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Curing Cloudy Aquarium Water

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Cloudy Aquarium Water

Cloudy Aquarium Water

Debbie Hauter
There aren't too many aquariums which have not experienced cloudy water at one time or another. Depending on the cause of the cloudy water, the problem can be either very easy to cure, or require more extensive procedures. Fortunately, the causes of cloudy aquarium water in each case can be determined by the color or tint of the water.

White Water

  • Caused by suspended sand (substrate) particles in the water column.
    • Usually appears in new tanks or when new substrate is added to tank.
    • In time, particles will settle out.
    • Mechanical filtration will help remove particles more quickly.
    • Reduce or redirect water movement in tank.
    • See Choosing the Right Substrate.
  • Caused by large Copepod or Amphipod population suspended in water column.
    • Mechanical filtration will temporarily remove the animals.
    • Introduce Copepod/Amphipod eating animals (i.e. the otherwise difficult to keep Mandarinfish) to the tank.
    • Reduce food (detritus & uneaten food) for the Amphipods and Copepods.
    • Reduce or redirect water flow from powerheads.

Yellow Water

  • Caused by DOC's (Dissolved Organic Compounds) or proteins.
    • protein skimmers are very helpful.
    • Reduce food offered to fish.
    • Vacuum substrate to remove detritus & uneaten food.
    • Increase the tank's biological filtration.
    • Clean mechanical filtration media.

Brown (Beige) Water

  • Caused by free floating Brown/Golden Diatom Algae particles.
    • Usually caused by Brown Algae blooms.
    • Use a good flocculent product (i.e. Kent Marine Pro-Clear) to bind the tiny bits of debris into bigger, easier to filter out clumps.
    • Remove bound particles with mechanical filtration (i.e. Magnum 350 canister filter).
    • Remove cause of algae bloom (nitrates & phosphates).
Green Water

  • Caused by a Nuisance Type Green Algae bloom.
    • Use a good flocculent product (i.e. Kent Marine Pro-Clear) to bind particles.
    • Remove bound particles with mechanical filtration (i.e. Magnum 350 canister filter).
    • Remove causes of algae (excess nitrates & phosphates).
    • Vacuum substrate to remove detritus & uneaten food.
    • Perform water changes to remove nitrates & phosphates (see Rapid Nitrate Reduction Water Change Method).
    • Check nitrate & phosphate levels in top off/make up water.

Clearing cloudy tank water isn't really all that difficult. In most cases, using mechanical filtration (including protein skimming) cures the symptom of the underlying problem, which usually goes back to poor water quality. Eliminating the causes (excess nitrates, phosphates and DOCs) will result in long term clear water in your tank.

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