What is cloudy aquarium water?
In short, it’s a bacterial bloom. However it is not the beneficial bacteria normally referred to as nitrifying bacteria. Before those get to work, another set of bacteria is needed. These “scavengers” are heterotrophic bacteria, which feed off organic waste in the fish tank. This feeding process represents the first stage of the nitrogen cycle, at which organic waste is converted into ammonia. The nitrifying bacteria on the other hand continue the process by breaking down ammonia into nitrites, and nitrites into nitrates, completing the nitrogen cycle. Heterotrophic bacteria can double in population every 20 minutes. Its growth depends on available organic waste in the aquarium. In other words, everything that decays in the fish tanks represents a food source for these scavengers. This excessive growth turns the aquarium water cloudy.
How do I clear cloudy aquarium water?
As a first course of action the gravel should be vacuumed using an aquarium siphon. This is where most organic waste accumulates and also where the scavenger bacteria initially grow. If large decorative ornaments are in the fish tank it’s a good idea to move these from time to time in order to vacuum the gravel underneath. The goal is to remove as much accumulated waste from the gravel as possible.
Some other things that will help clear cloudy aquarium water:
- Reduce feeding. Most organic waste introduced into the fish tank is from fish food. Overfeeding is common and probably the main cause for cloudy water problems.
- Do not perform large water changes. While the intentions may be good, large water changes can severely affect the balance of the aquarium leading to a further deterioration of the water quality.
- Consider your fish population. A severely overstocked aquarium will result in excess waste. The general rule of thumb is not to exceed 1 inch of fish per 2 gallons of aquarium water.
- Be patient. Taking any or all of the above actions is a step in the right direction. However, the fish tank will need time to balance and recover once favorable conditions are created.