If you own a fish tank, chances are you want the water inside it to be as clear as possible.
You want to be able to admire your fish, or any contents, easily, and clear water is the easiest way to do that.
Many people complain about dirty or cloudy water in their aquariums at various stages of the tank’s life, so what can you do to keep it looking amazing?
Depending on how old your tank is and the environment and nutrients in it, you might now have clear water for loads of reasons.
To find out what those reasons could be, and what to do about them, keep reading!
Here, we’re going to go through what could cause the water in your fish tank to be dirty or cloudy, and also how to prevent that from happening.
If it’s too late for prevention, then we’re got some cures, too.
To find out more, stay tuned and get ready to take notes.
What Causes Aquarium Water to Look Cloudy or Dirty?
There are a couple of things that could be the cause of unclear water in your aquarium.
Let’s have a look at the possible reasons below:
- Bacterial Bloom – bacterial bloom can turn your water cloudy and unpleasant. This is very common in new tanks, as the tank is busy finding its bacterial balance at this point.
If your tank is new, and you are experiencing this, it’s nothing to worry about.
Over time, this will sort itself out as the tank establishes.
- Algae Bloom – algae bloom can turn your water green and unsightly. This problem could also pose a more serious risk to your fish if it gets too far, as the algae will use the oxygen in the water to continue to grow.
When algae bloom happens, tiny bits of algae will be floating in the water, which will turn it green and hazy.
This is something that should not be left alone, and steps need to be taken to resolve the issue.
- Tannins – tannins from things like driftwood may turn the aquarium water yellow or brown. This isn’t usually a concern, and is actually a good thing for some fish. The tannins found in the driftwood will slowly seep into the water over time, which will give it its unusual color.
As tannins will lover the pH of the tank water, which will ‘soften’ it, it is good for some fish.
Many fish from South America need soft, acidic water in order to thrive, so depending on the type of fish you have, this brownish water may not be a bad thing.
- Organic Matter – organic matter within the tank will also make the water turn a cloudy white. This matter can include decaying plants, food, fish waste, or even the fish themselves.
The organic compounds will dissolve into the water and change the color of it.
When organic matter gets dissolved into the water, the chemistry of the tank changes, which can be incredibly harmful or even deadly to your fish.
How to Prevent Your Tank Water from Getting Dirty
There are several things you can do to prevent your aquarium water from getting dirty or cloudy.
While these problems aren’t always avoidable, like the initial bacterial bloom in a new tank, others can be controlled.
By following the below guidelines, you will significantly reduce the chance of experiencing any of these issues once you get past the establishment of your tank.
To avoid bacterial bloom after the initial establishment of the tank:
- Get rid of decaying organic matter – as we mentioned, bacterial bloom can happen because of decaying organic matter. A simple way to avoid this is to keep a close eye on your tank and get rid of anything dead immediately.
Any read fish or living things should be scooped out, and any dead leaves from plants must be clipped and disposed of.
Any decomposing organic matter will trigger a rise in the reproduction of heterotrophs, the bacteria that breaks down the organics.
- Limit how much you feed your fish – you should only feed your fish as much as they can eat in 5-minutes. Feeding them any more than this will result in food being leftover in the tank. This food will eventually start to decompose, which will have the same effect as rotting plants or animals in the tank, so heterotrophs will become plentiful.
To avoid algae bloom:
- Limit the light in the tank – algae required light in order to thrive, so when the tank gets too much light, the perfect environment is created. Do not place your tank by a window where it will get strong sunlight, and limit artificial light to a maximum of 10-hours per day. Doing this will help stay in control of the algae, which will inevitably be present in the tank.
- Limit the food intake – like bacterial bloom, overfeeding your fish can contribute to this issue. The food that your fish don’t eat will be perfect to help algae grow, too. The nutrients that seep out can be their source of food in the end.
- Don’t overcrowd the tank – having too many fish in a tank is bad for many reasons. In this case, having too many fish will increase the amount of waste in the tank and the food needed. This is the perfect recipe for a rise in nitrites and nitrates, which will ultimately cause algae bloom.
- Clean the tank regularly – this goes without saying, but you need to clean the tank regularly to help avoid all these problems. You should aim to clean your tank at least once a week, which includes completing 10-15% water changes.
Avoiding tannins in the water:
- Determine what is leeching tannins into the water – chances are, the tannins are there because of driftwood in the tank. If you don’t need a lower pH in your tank, remove the driftwood. Over time, the color should revert to normal as the tannins will disappear. If you do need a lower pH, leaving the driftwood in the tank is a good idea.
Dealing with organic matter:
- Dispose of decaying organic matter – the moment you see something decomposing in your tank, remove it. This can be fish, plants, or anything else.
Ways to Get Crystal Clear Water
There are five things you can do to ensure that your aquarium water is crystal clear.
These are all important, and should be done even if you don’t care about your water being clear.
Many of these points are beneficial to the fish and the environment they reside in.
- Add aquatic plants – having plants in your tank will help with ammonia and other compounds, which are linked to cloudy and green water. These plants will also absorb other nutrients in the tank, which will prevent algae from taking over and blooming.
- Get fish to clean for you – this is one of the easiest and best ways to keep your tank clean. Creatures like Nerite snails and Amano shrimp will at excess algae in the tank, which will keep in cleaner for longer. These creatures will also deal with the uneaten fish food at the bottom of the tank.
- Get a good filter – getting a good filter for your tank will play a huge part in keeping the water clear. A filter will get rid of the waste floating around in the tank, which will give you immediate results.
- Use activated carbon – activated carbon will bind particles of opposite charges when they pass through the filter. This will help remove things like large tannins, medications, and other waste products. Using this will also help your tank smell cleaner, as no bad smells will escape into the open air.
- Avoid overfeeding – as previously mentioned, overfeeding is one of the most common factors associated with unclear tank water. Feed your fish as much as they can finish in 5-minutes. If you are worried that you have overfed your fish, don’t feed them for a day. That way, they will eat the fish food that has fallen to the bottom of the tank.
It’s important to carry out proper tank maintenance regularly.
Doing regular tank cleans and water changes are incredibly critical for keeping your water beautifully clear.
If you don’t do the bare minimum that is required, your tank will not be a beautiful as it should be.
If you have tried the above solutions but are not getting results, you can always try a clarifier.
Clarifiers are products that can be bought and poured into the tank to force the algae, bacteria, and debris to bind together.
Once the matter has been bound together, it will drop to the bottom or get captured in the filter of your tank.
It’s always best to try the more natural remedies first, but it’s also worth knowing that clarifiers are there if you do need them.
More often than not, these chemical solutions are not long lasting.
It’s always better to figure out the source of the problem and deal with it that way, or else it will be a continuous cycle.
While it is possible to use a clarifier what not experience the issue again, it also isn’t uncommon for the issue to simply come back, or even be worse than before.
Getting crystal clear aquarium water can be easy, as long as you have the right tools.
If you follow the above guidelines, you shouldn’t have a problem with the water in your tank.
It’s important to remember that sometimes these problems take care of themselves in time, especially bacterial bloom.
Sometimes it’s best to wait a little while to see what happens, as there is a chance of things remedying themselves.
If the issue doesn’t go away after several days, then consider finding a solution.
Natural solutions are always best, but don’t feel bad if you are facing a problem that’s stubborn.