Cloudy aquarium water, fish dying en masse

arabis

Tank
What is the water volume of the tank? 20 G
How long has the tank been running? 3 months
Does it have a filter? Yes
Does it have a heater? Yes
What is the water temperature? 75*
What is the entire stocking of this tank? (Please list all fish and inverts.)
- 4 platys
- 4 guppies
- 1 neon tetra
- All other fish have died (~20 over three months)

Maintenance
How often do you change the water? Every week
How much of the water do you change? 10% (2 gallons) each change (and, in addition to treating the fresh water, we make sure it has the same pH and water temp as the tank before adding it to the tank)
What do you use to treat your water? API Quickstar and Stress+ with each water change and every time we add new fish. We have used API AccuClear and Prime to try and resolve issue.
Do you vacuum the substrate or just the water? We use a gravel vacuum when changing water.

*Parameters - Very Important
Did you cycle your tank before adding fish? The first time only briefly (approximately 30 hours), but after we drained, refilled, and treated the tank, we let it cycle for almost three days before adding the fish back.
What do you use to test the water? - At first API testing strips, then API Freshwater Master Test Kit
What are your parameters? We need to know the exact numbers, not just “fine” or “safe”.
Ammonia: 0-0.25 ppm
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
pH: 6.8

Feeding
How often do you feed your fish? Twice a day
How much do you feed your fish? I try to stick to the "what your fish can eat in <2 minute" rule
What brand of food do you feed your fish? Omega One Fresh Water Flakes
Do you feed frozen? No
Do you feed freeze-dried foods? No

Explain your emergency situation in detail.
We have had an extremely rocky experience with our first aquarium.

We set up our 20 gallon tank at the first of September. It included a beta, eight neon tetras, and four mollies with a gravel substrate (yes, we rinsed it rinsed extensively prior to adding to the tank). Within three weeks, all but the beta and two tetras were dead, and the water had gone from clear, to cloudy white, to opaque green. We tried water changes, limiting the length of time the tank light was on, reducing feeding, nothing worked. We switched out the API test strips for the API Fresh Water master testing kit, and we discovered that our pH was way too high (8.2), but everything else was zeros across the board (ammonia, nitrate, nitrite). We put the remaining fish in a nursery tank, drained the 20 gallon tank, rinsed it out multiple times with lukewarm water (no soap or cleaners of any kind), then filled it up again. We treated the water with pH down, API Quick Start, and API Stress+. We let the water cycle for 72 hours, we checked the levels with the API master testing kit, and then we added the fish back into the tank. Everything was great for about a week--no deaths, crystal clear water.

We were feeling confident, so we went and bought a few more fish (some platys and guppies--there were 14 fish total in the tank). However, after five or six days, the fish started dying and the water has started to go cloudy-white again. We have treated the water first with API Accu-clear, then with Prime. Nothing has worked. We check the levels every single day, and the ammonia can be between 0ppm and 0.25 ppm, but Nitrate and Nitrite are 0 ppm, and pH remains at 6.8.

I have absolutely no idea what to do. I have read that cloudy water is indicative of an ammonia spike, but our ammonia has consistently tested at or below 0.25 ppm. We moved the beta to its own tank a while ago, so it's not him either. We even removed the two live plants that we had in the tank, because we read that decaying plant matter + bacteria can cause a bacteria bloom (although I am confused, because the Internet seems to suggest that cloudy water isnt harmful in and of itself if ammonia is testing at 0-0.25). We have tried everything, but we can't keep our fish alive! Please help us. I love this hobby, and I just can't see what I am doing wrong.

(Also, post-script: we are aware that even mild cleansers are lethal to fish, and as such, we've never used cleansers of any kind in or near the tank. We don't even put our hands in the tank if we've washed our hands recently).

Thank-you for your help!
 

mattgirl

I am sorry to hear that you have gotten off to such a rocky start. I will try to help but first will ask a lot of questions.

Since I have to assume you are doing the nitrate test correctly and are seeing no nitrates it leads me to believe this tank isn't cycled. Please let me know if you are 100% sure you are following the instructions to a tee.

Cloudy water often means a bacterial bloom. I don't think it is normally connected to an ammonia spike. It seems you are and have been doing a fish in cycle. Can you tell me how you started out? Fish in cycles mean lots of water changes. You said you lost most of the original fish within 3 weeks of adding them. Were you watching the numbers and doing water changes to keep them down as low as possible.
 

Revan

Cloudy, murky water isn't lethal to the fish unless its an algal bloom, which would only come about if the tank receives direct sunlight (there are other ways to get an algal bloom but they wouldn't result in murky water) Bacterial blooms aren't as much to worry about, they indicate a relatively new tank. Here are my questions:

1. How long were you cycling, and how were you cycling? What ammonia source, what filter, etc.

2. You probably did this, but it's nice to confirm: Did you dechlorinate the water?

3. How often did you do your water changes?

4. How are you carrying out the water tests? (Are you making sure the indicators and water mix well by shaking like your life depended on it?)

Here's my current advice:

1. Put the plants back in, they help with taking in ammonia and make fish less stressed in an aquarium as well.

2. Don't add any more fish as of right now, keep the ones you have, and as mattgirl said, do water changes frequently.

I'm sorry to hear of this start, but I think we can help!
 

arabis

I am sorry to hear that you have gotten off to such a rocky start. I will try to help but first will ask a lot of questions.

Since I have to assume you are doing the nitrate test correctly and are seeing no nitrates it leads me to believe this tank isn't cycled. Please let me know if you are 100% sure you are following the instructions to a tee.

Cloudy water often means a bacterial bloom. I don't think it is normally connected to an ammonia spike. It seems you are and have been doing a fish in cycle. Can you tell me how you started out? Fish in cycles mean lots of water changes. You said you lost most of the original fish within 3 weeks of adding them. Were you watching the numbers and doing water changes to keep them down as low as possible.

I am truly grateful for your help.

I am 100% confident that I am following the directions for Nitrate and Nitrite to a tee. We even bought a digital egg timer to make sure that we were mixing/letting the solution sit long enough before comparing to the chart as per the instructions.

In terms of adding fish/checking levels, I have to explain this in two parts:

Part 1: early September to mid-October. We added fish to the tank after it was set-up for less than one day (i.e., virtually no cycling). We also did not treat the water prior to adding fish, which means that the fish were exposed to chlorinated water with a pH of 8.2. Unsurprisingly, the fish died off rapidly (we were losing 2-3 fish a week, and honestly, I am shocked they lasted as long as they did, given the conditions). We did weekly water changes, but we were relying on the API testing strips, which meant that I have no idea what the values actually were. By the time end of October rolled around, the water as a sickly, opaque green and we had lost virtually all of the fish we had initially bought.

Part 2: in Early November, another hobbyist educated me about the inaccuracies of API testing strips and the importance of treating water prior to adding it to the tank. We added all of our remaining fish (1 betta, four tetras) to a quarantine tank. We then drained our tank, rinsed it repeatedly with water, then refilled it, treated it, and let it cycle for three days. When the API testing kit came back good (i.e., pH of ~7.0, 0 ammonia, nitrite, nitrate), we added our fish to the tank. We then proceeded to test the water 2-3 times a week, and we did 10% water changes with treated water (i.e., we checked the fresh water for pH, ammonia/nitrite/nitrate and temperature AND we treated it with Quickstart and Stress+ before adding it to the tank). Things were great for about two weeks--crystal clear water, only 1 fish death (we think the beta killed a platy because the platy wouldnt stay out of its hidey hole). We were starting to feel confident, so a couple of weeks ago, we went out and bought some more fish (guppies, tetras). Things were great for a week or so, but over the last 7-10 days, the water has gone cloudy white (white, not green) and we have lost half-dozen fish. Since the water has started to go cloudy, I have been checking the levels every single day. We tried API Accu-clear, and when that didn't work, Prime. The water cloudiness has not improved at all. Our hobbyist friend suggested that it might be out live plants dying and contributing to a bacteria bloom, so we removed the plants about four days ago, but the water quality still has not improved.

Then, the thing that prompted me to make this post: we lost a tetra two days ago and a platy this morning. The fish are also swimming very quickly and erratically around the tank, which makes me believe there is something wrong with the water that API testing kit can't detect.

I would be worshipfully grateful for any thoughts/suggestions you can provide.
Cloudy, murky water isn't lethal to the fish unless its an algal bloom, which would only come about if the tank receives direct sunlight (there are other ways to get an algal bloom but they wouldn't result in murky water) Bacterial blooms aren't as much to worry about, they indicate a relatively new tank. Here are my questions:

1. How long were you cycling, and how were you cycling? What ammonia source, what filter, etc.

2. You probably did this, but it's nice to confirm: Did you dechlorinate the water?

3. How often did you do your water changes?

4. How are you carrying out the water tests? (Are you making sure the indicators and water mix well by shaking like your life depended on it?)

Here's my current advice:

1. Put the plants back in, they help with taking in ammonia and make fish less stressed in an aquarium as well.

2. Don't add any more fish as of right now, keep the ones you have, and as mattgirl said, do water changes frequently.

I'm sorry to hear of this start, but I think we can help!

First of all, thank-you so much--both to you and mattgirl. I have posted several times on Reddit, and I never received a single reply. I can't describe how appreciative I am to have received two replies already this morning!

1. Originally, we didn't cycle the tank at all. Being new to the hobby, we added fish directly to uncycled, untreated water. To exactly no one's surprise, they all died and we had a bad case of green water bloom. We emptied the tank at the beginning of November, rinsed it thoroughly, changed the filter, then refilled it and treated the water. We let the tank cycle for three days before adding the fish that time.

2. We did not dechorlinate the water at first, but after we refilled the tank, we have been using Quickstart/Stress+ as per the instructions.

3. At first we were lax on the water changes, but since we refilled the tank, we have changed 10% (2 gallons) every single week without exception.

4. I am extremely, fanatically diligent about my water tests. I follow the instructions to a tee, right down to timing the 30 seconds/1 minute/5 minute intervals I have to shake/wait with an egg timer.

Thank-you very much for your advice. Unfortunately, we tossed the plants when our hobbyist friend said that dying plants can lead to a bacteria bloom (some of the leaves were going black, and we don't have any fish that eat decaying plant matter, which he said is a concern). We definitely won't be purchasing any more fish until we can pinpoint the problem.

One last thing: I have read that hard water and soft water can negatively affect fish. I have no idea what kind of water we have, but I am leaning towards soft water since our soap lathers easily in the shower and we don't have mineral build-up around our faucets. Does this matter in and of itself? Or does hard/soft water only matter as it relates to pH? In other words, do I need to worry about hard/soft water so long as pH is good?

Thanks again for your help!
Cloudy, murky water isn't lethal to the fish unless its an algal bloom, which would only come about if the tank receives direct sunlight (there are other ways to get an algal bloom but they wouldn't result in murky water) Bacterial blooms aren't as much to worry about, they indicate a relatively new tank. Here are my questions:

1. How long were you cycling, and how were you cycling? What ammonia source, what filter, etc.

2. You probably did this, but it's nice to confirm: Did you dechlorinate the water?

3. How often did you do your water changes?

4. How are you carrying out the water tests? (Are you making sure the indicators and water mix well by shaking like your life depended on it?)

Here's my current advice:

1. Put the plants back in, they help with taking in ammonia and make fish less stressed in an aquarium as well.

2. Don't add any more fish as of right now, keep the ones you have, and as mattgirl said, do water changes frequently.

I'm sorry to hear of this start, but I think we can help!

First of all, thank-you so much--both to you and mattgirl. I have posted several times on Reddit, and I never received a single reply. I can't describe how appreciative I am to have received two replies already this morning!

1. Originally, we didn't cycle the tank at all. Being new to the hobby, we added fish directly to uncycled, untreated water. To exactly no one's surprise, they all died and we had a bad case of green water bloom. We emptied the tank at the beginning of November, rinsed it thoroughly, changed the filter, then refilled it and treated the water. We let the tank cycle for three days before adding the fish that time.

2. We did not dechorlinate the water at first, but after we refilled the tank, we have been using Quickstart/Stress+ as per the instructions.

3. At first we were lax on the water changes, but since we refilled the tank, we have changed 10% (2 gallons) every single week without exception.

4. I am extremely, fanatically diligent about my water tests. I follow the instructions to a tee, right down to timing the 30 seconds/1 minute/5 minute intervals I have to shake/wait with an egg timer.

Thank-you very much for your advice. Unfortunately, we tossed the plants when our hobbyist friend said that dying plants can lead to a bacteria bloom (some of the leaves were going black, and we don't have any fish that eat decaying plant matter, which he said is a concern). We definitely won't be purchasing any more fish until we can pinpoint the problem.

One last thing: I have read that hard water and soft water can negatively affect fish. I have no idea what kind of water we have, but I am leaning towards soft water since our soap lathers easily in the shower and we don't have mineral build-up around our faucets. Does this matter in and of itself? Or does hard/soft water only matter as it relates to pH? In other words, do I need to worry about hard/soft water so long as pH is good?

Thanks again for your help!
Cloudy, murky water isn't lethal to the fish unless its an algal bloom, which would only come about if the tank receives direct sunlight (there are other ways to get an algal bloom but they wouldn't result in murky water) Bacterial blooms aren't as much to worry about, they indicate a relatively new tank. Here are my questions:

1. How long were you cycling, and how were you cycling? What ammonia source, what filter, etc.

2. You probably did this, but it's nice to confirm: Did you dechlorinate the water?

3. How often did you do your water changes?

4. How are you carrying out the water tests? (Are you making sure the indicators and water mix well by shaking like your life depended on it?)

Here's my current advice:

1. Put the plants back in, they help with taking in ammonia and make fish less stressed in an aquarium as well.

2. Don't add any more fish as of right now, keep the ones you have, and as mattgirl said, do water changes frequently.

I'm sorry to hear of this start, but I think we can help!
Sorry, here's a second quick question: your feedback was to change the water often. Is 10% (2 gallons) once a week sufficient? Or should I be changing the water more often so long as the water is cloudy?
 

mattgirl

I can actually understand why the first fish didn't make it but that is behind us now. Unfortunately the test strips aren't as reliable as they should be. You were doing a fish in cycle and when doing one we need to be able to trust out test results.

I am going to recommend you stop adding anything to this tank other than Prime. It is going to protect your fish while we work this out. STOP adding the product that is lowering your pH. Your pH is high but that isn't a problem. A stable pH is much more important than a specific number. Lots of very successful fish keepers right here on the forum have a pH as high as yours.

The most important thing right now is the safety of the remaining fish. There are lots of water change to be done before we get this tank fully cycled but I am confident you will be able to get it done. you are experiencing a bacterial bloom right now. This is actually a good sign of forward progress.
 

arabis

I can actually understand why the first fish didn't make it but that is behind us now. Unfortunately the test strips aren't as reliable as they should be. You were doing a fish in cycle and when doing one we need to be able to trust out test results.

I am going to recommend you stop adding anything to this tank other than Prime. It is going to protect your fish while we work this out. STOP adding the product that is lowering your pH. Your pH is high but that isn't a problem. A stable pH is much more important than a specific number. Lots of very successful fish keepers right here on the forum have a pH as high as yours.

The most important thing right now is the safety of the remaining fish. There are lots of water change to be done before we get this tank fully cycled but I am confident you will be able to get it done. you are experiencing a bacterial bloom right now. This is actually a good sign of forward progress.
You have no idea how much I appreciate this--both your feedback and your support.

You indicate that I will need to do lots of water changes before the tank is fully cycled. Should I be cycling more than 2 gallons (10%) per week? If so, what would you suggest? Secondly, you advise me to stop using everything but Prime. Does that include Quickstart and Stress+ with my water changes as well?

Thank-you again. I appreciate the time you are taking out of your day to help a perfect stranger.
 

mattgirl

You have no idea how much I appreciate this--both your feedback and your support.
I am happy to help.
You indicate that I will need to do lots of water changes before the tank is fully cycled. Should I be cycling more than 2 gallons (10%) per week? If so, what would you suggest?
Cycling a tank simply means growing bacteria in the tank not changing water. There are 2 types of bacteria we need to grow. The first one is one that eats the ammonia the fish are producing. The second one eats the nitrites the ammonia eating bacteria produces. Once we have grown enough of both types of bacteria we will no longer see either ammonia or nitrites in our tank. All we will see will be nitrates.

We let the test results determine how much water we need to change and how often we need to do it. When doing a fish in cycle it is possible for us to need to change out half the water daily. Personally I would never just change out just 10% of the water. As long as I have the water changing equipment out I may as well do a big water change. Your fish will thank you for it.

Secondly, you advise me to stop using everything but Prime. Does that include Quickstart and Stress+ with my water changes as well?
Yes. specially the Stress+. Both it and Prime are water conditioners. There is no need to add both. Prime is going to help protect the fish. The fewer things we add to our tank the better it is. The quick start may help some but isn't needed at this point.
Thank-you again. I appreciate the time you are taking out of your day to help a perfect stranger.
You are so very welcome. I can tell you are very willing to do what it takes to provide a safe home for your fish.
If you've not done so already I will recommend you read this thread Fish In Nitrogen Cycle Simplified | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 414083

It will guide you through my thoughts on doing a fish in cycle.
 

Revan

You indicate that I will need to do lots of water changes before the tank is fully cycled. Should I be cycling more than 2 gallons (10%) per week? If so, what would you suggest?
You’ll have to do a lot more than 10%, 50% is more adequate to keep levels low. There are articles regarding fish-in cycles here on fishlore, I’d recommend checking those out.
Secondly, you advise me to stop using everything but Prime. Does that include Quickstart and Stress+ with my water changes as well?

Yeah, stick to ONLY prime. Quickstart is bottled bacteria made to speed up the rate of the cycling process, however bottled bacteria in general is a very tank-specific variable, and is unnecessary for your tank. Prime is the dechlorinator and de-toxifier, its all you need.
 

arabis

I am happy to help.

Cycling a tank simply means growing bacteria in the tank not changing water. There are 2 types of bacteria we need to grow. The first one is one that eats the ammonia the fish are producing. The second one eats the nitrites the ammonia eating bacteria produces. Once we have grown enough of both types of bacteria we will no longer see either ammonia or nitrites in our tank. All we will see will be nitrates.

We let the test results determine how much water we need to change and how often we need to do it. When doing a fish in cycle it is possible for us to need to change out half the water daily. Personally I would never just change out just 10% of the water. As long as I have the water changing equipment out I may as well do a big water change. Your fish will thank you for it.


Yes. specially the Stress+. Both it and Prime are water conditioners. There is no need to add both. Prime is going to help protect the fish. The fewer things we add to our tank the better it is. The quick start may help some but isn't needed at this point.

You are so very welcome. I can tell you are very willing to do what it takes to provide a safe home for your fish.
If you've not done so already I will recommend you read this thread Fish In Nitrogen Cycle Simplified | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 414083

It will guide you through my thoughts on doing a fish in cycle.
Thank-you very much. I took the time to read the thread you provided, and I just want to reiterate what I think I understand back to you to make sure I am understanding this correctly:

1. Stop adding anything but Seachem Prime to my water. Dose the fresh water according to the directions on the bottle.

2. Test the tank water every day for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. If the levels are low, then I can stick to changing ~20-30 percent of the water every few days. If the levels spike, then I need to change up to 50% of the tank water to compensate.

Is that correct? If so, I have some questions for you:

1. Do I leave my fish in the tank during big water changes? Most of my fish die the day of or the day after water changes. I assumed the water change itself was traumatic, and it led to them dying--and I was only changing 10% of my water at the time!

2. My tap water is 8.2 pH, but my tank is currently at 6.8 pH. Do I add the tap water to my tank without treating it with pH down, knowing that the pH shock could kill the fish?

3. Another commenter suggested that I should re-add my live plants to my tank. Unfortunately, I tossed them. My tank is exposed to natural light, gravel is my only substrate, and I don't have any fish that will eat decaying plants. With that in mind, do you suggest I go out and buy more live plants? Or should I stick to fake plants instead? And regardless of the answer to that question, I wait to add anything to my tank, live plants, fake plants or otherwise, until after the cycling process is complete?

Thank-you again. I am dedicated to doing whatever it takes to establish a thriving aquarium.
 

mattgirl

Thank-you very much. I took the time to read the thread you provided, and I just want to reiterate what I think I understand back to you to make sure I am understanding this correctly:

1. Stop adding anything but Seachem Prime to my water. Dose the fresh water according to the directions on the bottle.
While the tank is cycling go ahead and add enough Prime with each water change to treat the full 20 gallons. Once the cycle is complete you only need to add enough to treat the amount of water you are replacing but as long as there is even a chance of ammonia we want to add enough to treat all the water to detox the ammonia.
2. Test the tank water every day for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. If the levels are low, then I can stick to changing ~20-30 percent of the water every few days. If the levels spike, then I need to change up to 50% of the tank water to compensate.
There is no need to be running the nitrate test right now. You probably won't see them until nitrites spike and then start going down. We want to keep both ammonia and eventually nitrites as low as possible by changing enough water with each water change. Keep in mind. The bacteria we are growing isn't free floating in the water so water changes aren't going to be removing any.
Is that correct? If so, I have some questions for you:

1. Do I leave my fish in the tank during big water changes? Most of my fish die the day of or the day after water changes. I assumed the water change itself was traumatic, and it led to them dying--and I was only changing 10% of my water at the time!
Yes, leave the fish in the tank during the water changes. By doing so it will be less stressful on them than netting them each time. If you weren't adding your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in there the chlorine may have been what was affecting your fish. If you add your water conditioner, in this case Prime and temp match the fresh water it should not affect the fish.
2. My tap water is 8.2 pH, but my tank is currently at 6.8 pH. Do I add the tap water to my tank without treating it with pH down, knowing that the pH shock could kill the fish?
I would very gradually raise the pH up to the level of your tap water with water changes. You need to do it over a period of time. Change out 15% of the water today. Tomorrow change out 20%, the next day 25%. Continue increasing the amount by 5% daily until the pH in the tank is the same as the tap. Run your pH test an hour or so after each water change. Your livebearing fish should thrive in this higher pH water.
3. Another commenter suggested that I should re-add my live plants to my tank. Unfortunately, I tossed them. My tank is exposed to natural light, gravel is my only substrate, and I don't have any fish that will eat decaying plants. With that in mind, do you suggest I go out and buy more live plants? Or should I stick to fake plants instead? And regardless of the answer to that question, I wait to add anything to my tank, live plants, fake plants or otherwise, until after the cycling process is complete?
If you are ready for live plants by all means yes. Put some in there. If you aren't ready for live plants yet, artificial will work just fine. Add them now. Your fish will appreciate having plants, either live or artificial for cover. Bacteria is going to grow on everything in our tanks so go ahead and add them now. Adding decor while cycling isn't a problem. We just don't want to remove things that may already have the good bacteria growing on them.
Thank-you again. I am dedicated to doing whatever it takes to establish a thriving aquarium.
I can tell that you are. We can get this tank cycled. It is just going to take time and work to accomplish it.

What kind of filter are you running? We want to be sure it is adaquite for this size tank. We can never have too much filtration but it is possible to not have enough. Not enough and the tank struggles to cycle.
 

arabis

While the tank is cycling go ahead and add enough Prime with each water change to treat the full 20 gallons. Once the cycle is complete you only need to add enough to treat the amount of water you are replacing but as long as there is even a chance of ammonia we want to add enough to treat all the water to detox the ammonia.

There is no need to be running the nitrate test right now. You probably won't see them until nitrites spike and then start going down. We want to keep both ammonia and eventually nitrites as low as possible by changing enough water with each water change. Keep in mind. The bacteria we are growing isn't free floating in the water so water changes aren't going to be removing any.

Yes, leave the fish in the tank during the water changes. By doing so it will be less stressful on them than netting them each time. If you weren't adding your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in there the chlorine may have been what was affecting your fish. If you add your water conditioner, in this case Prime and temp match the fresh water it should not affect the fish.

I would very gradually raise the pH up to the level of your tap water with water changes. You need to do it over a period of time. Change out 15% of the water today. Tomorrow change out 20%, the next day 25%. Continue increasing the amount by 5% daily until the pH in the tank is the same as the tap. Run your pH test an hour or so after each water change. Your livebearing fish should thrive in this higher pH water.

If you are ready for live plants by all means yes. Put some in there. If you aren't ready for live plants yet, artificial will work just fine. Add them now. Your fish will appreciate having plants, either live or artificial for cover. Bacteria is going to grow on everything in our tanks so go ahead and add them now. Adding decor while cycling isn't a problem. We just don't want to remove things that may already have the good bacteria growing on them.

I can tell that you are. We can get this tank cycled. It is just going to take time and work to accomplish it.

What kind of filter are you running? We want to be sure it is adaquite for this size tank. We can never have too much filtration but it is possible to not have enough. Not enough and the tank struggles to cycle.
Thank-you so much for this. You have taken a great deal of time out of your day to provide both advice and support, and for that I am sincerely thankful.

Alright, so rather than treating the water with pH down, I will change 15, 20, 25, 30 percent of water each consecutive day until the pH in the tank is the same as the water from the tap. The only reason why I purchased pH down in the first place is because neon tetras, guppies, mollies, and platys have an ideal pH in the 6.8-7.8 range. I assumed 8.2 was wildly outside of their habitable range (although I did read that stable pH is more important than low pH.... I just assumed that stable, low pH would be even better).

(Also, I always added my water treatment to the fresh water before it was added to the tank, so chlorine shouldn't have been an issue in some time)

I am more than happy to add live plants. Is there anything in particular I need to know about maintaining live plants in a fresh water aquarium? As I said, my tank is exposed to indirect sunlight, it only has gravel as a substrate, and I do not have any fish that will consume decaying plant material. With all that being said... would you still recommend live plants? If so, I will go purchase some today.

Lastly, I purchase a Top Fin 20 gallon starter tank, which came with a 20 gallon filter, a heater, a thermometer, and lights. We don't trust the thermometer, though, so we went out and purchased a soup thermometer that we use instead.
 

Bwood22

While the tank is cycling go ahead and add enough Prime with each water change to treat the full 20 gallons. Once the cycle is complete you only need to add enough to treat the amount of water you are replacing but as long as there is even a chance of ammonia we want to add enough to treat all the water to detox the ammonia.

There is no need to be running the nitrate test right now. You probably won't see them until nitrites spike and then start going down. We want to keep both ammonia and eventually nitrites as low as possible by changing enough water with each water change. Keep in mind. The bacteria we are growing isn't free floating in the water so water changes aren't going to be removing any.

Yes, leave the fish in the tank during the water changes. By doing so it will be less stressful on them than netting them each time. If you weren't adding your water conditioner to the fresh water before pouring it in there the chlorine may have been what was affecting your fish. If you add your water conditioner, in this case Prime and temp match the fresh water it should not affect the fish.

I would very gradually raise the pH up to the level of your tap water with water changes. You need to do it over a period of time. Change out 15% of the water today. Tomorrow change out 20%, the next day 25%. Continue increasing the amount by 5% daily until the pH in the tank is the same as the tap. Run your pH test an hour or so after each water change. Your livebearing fish should thrive in this higher pH water.

If you are ready for live plants by all means yes. Put some in there. If you aren't ready for live plants yet, artificial will work just fine. Add them now. Your fish will appreciate having plants, either live or artificial for cover. Bacteria is going to grow on everything in our tanks so go ahead and add them now. Adding decor while cycling isn't a problem. We just don't want to remove things that may already have the good bacteria growing on them.

I can tell that you are. We can get this tank cycled. It is just going to take time and work to accomplish it.

What kind of filter are you running? We want to be sure it is adaquite for this size tank. We can never have too much filtration but it is possible to not have enough. Not enough and the tank struggles to cycle.
This is all great, spot on advice.
Follow these steps and you will be in a much better place.

arabis You got this!
 

arabis

This is all great, spot on advice.
Follow these steps and you will be in a much better place.

arabis You got this!
I never could have imagined how informative and supportive this community would be! Thanks everyone.
 

Bwood22

I never could have imagined how informative and supportive this community would be! Thanks everyone.
We want to see everyone succeed.
I can tell that you are very dedicated and thorough, and you will be just fine.

I mean this in as an encouraging way possible.
We have all killed fish before. It's all part of it, and I'd be lying if I told you that no more of your fish are going to die. But once you get that tank cycled properly things will start to settle down and your fish will start thriving and you will finally be able to enjoy them instead of constantly trying to save them.

Just stick with it. Study up a bit on the nitrogen cycle. That is the number one aquarium fundamental concept that you need to have a basic understanding of. There are some great resources here on Fishlore and even YouTube that can break it down for you.

We won't steer you in the wrong direction. Just stick with it and you will do great!

P.S. Oh....and throw that bottle of PH Down in the garbage. :)
 

mattgirl

Thank-you so much for this. You have taken a great deal of time out of your day to provide both advice and support, and for that I am sincerely thankful.
I am retired so do have a bit of time on my hands. On top of that I love helping folks. None of us knew a great deal about this hobby when we first got into it. If we stop and remember what it was like when we first started we will be more than willing to help others avoid the mistakes we made.
Alright, so rather than treating the water with pH down, I will change 15, 20, 25, 30 percent of water each consecutive day until the pH in the tank is the same as the water from the tap. The only reason why I purchase pH down in the first place is because neon tetras, guppies, mollies, and platys have an idea pH in the 6.8-7.8 range. I assumed 8.2 was wildly outside of their habitable range (although I did read that stable pH is more important than low pH.... I just assumed that stable, low pH would be even better).
Most of the numbers we see online are based on the water these fish originally came from. Most of the fish available to us have been bred and raised in water vastly different than their wild counterparts. Your 8.2 should not be a problem.
(Also, I always added my water treatment to the fresh water before it was added to the tank, so chlorine shouldn't have been an issue in some time)
In that case I don't know why a water change would have hurt the fish. It is possible a parameter change was at the bottom of it. I think we can prevent it happening again.
I am more than happy to add live plants. Is there anything in particular I need to know about maintaining live plants in a fresh water aquarium? As I said, my tank is exposed to indirect sunlight, it only has gravel as a substrate, and I do not have any fish that will consume decaying plant material. With all that being said... would you still recommend live plants? If so, I will go purchase some today.
Some folks will say yes, by all means add live plants. Live plants have both their ups and downs. If they like your water they will thrive. If they don't they will melt. You will have to decide if you are ready for live plants. I have been in this hobby for many years. I finally decided to switch to live plant about 3 years ago. To be perfectly honest I often wish I'd not made the switch.

There are some plants that aren't actually planted. They are just tied or glued to something in the tank. Java fern is the first one to come to mind since it is the one plant that does very well for me.

Right now the most important thing is getting this tank cycled. Live plants may help if they thrive or they may produce more ammonia if they don't. You may want to consider starting out with artificial until the cycle is done and make the switch to live plants sometime in the future.
Lastly, I purchase a Top Fin 20 gallon starter tank, which came with a 20 gallon filter, a heater, a thermometer, and lights. We don't trust the thermometer, though, so we went out and purchased a soup thermometer that we use instead.
Unfortunately the filters that come in kits aren't as good as we need. All filters are highly over rated. I recommend replacing this filter with one rated for a much bigger tank. For a 20 gallon tank I recommend one for at the very least a 55 gallon tank. Instead of just replacing it adding another filter and running both would be even better. The tank will eventually cycle with the filter you have but it is going to struggle to do so.
 

arabis

We want to see everyone succeed.
I can tell that you are very dedicated and thorough, and you will be just fine.

I mean this in as an encouraging way possible.
We have all killed fish before. It's all part of it, and I'd be lying if I told you that no more of your fish are going to die. But once you get that tank cycled properly things will start to settle down and your fish will start thriving and you will finally be able to enjoy them instead of constantly trying to save them.

Just stick with it. Study up a bit on the nitrogen cycle. That is the number one aquarium fundamental concept that you need to have a basic understanding of. There are some great resources here on Fishlore and even YouTube that can break it down for you.

We won't steer you in the wrong direction. Just stick with it and you will do great!

P.S. Oh....and throw that bottle of PH Down in the garbage. :)
Thank-you very much.

One last question: I am about to do my first 15% water change. The directions on the Seachem Prime bottle say "dose 1 ml for every 10 g of new water". Is that correct? Or should I be dosing based on aquarium size? In other words, I am changing 15% of the water or 1.5 gallons. Should I add 2 ml Prime to the fresh water since it is a 20 gallon tank?

Lastly, how long after you treat the fresh water do you add it to the tank? Can you add it immediately or do you need to let it sit for a while?

I apologize for the painfully basic nature of these questions. I want to make sure I'm not making any stupid mistakes now that I have a battle plan for cycling this tank.
 

Bwood22

Thank-you very much.

One last question: I am about to do my first 15% water change. The directions on the Seachem Prime bottle say "dose 1 ml for every 10 g of new water". Is that correct? Or should I be dosing based on aquarium size? In other words, I am changing 15% of the water or 1.5 gallons. Should I add 2 ml Prime to the fresh water since it is a 20 gallon tank?

Lastly, how long after you treat the fresh water do you add it to the tank? Can you add it immediately or do you need to let it sit for a while?

I apologize for the painfully basic nature of these questions. I want to make sure I'm not making any stupid mistakes now that I have a battle plan for cycling this tank.

No worries....If you have ammonia or nitrite present then you need to detoxify it and you dose Prime for the entire tank volume....other than that, you can dose Prime at 2 drops per gallon. I use one of these.

You must be registered to see images


You don't have to treat the water first. Just add the correct amount of Prime straight into the tank then add the fresh water. It works pretty quickly, almost instant.


Ask your questions, this is your thread and that's why we are here.
 

mattgirl

You don't have to treat the water first. Just add the correct amount of Prime straight into the tank then add the fresh water. It works pretty quickly, almost instant.
I know folks that use a python type system to do water changes do it this way but I highly recommend adding Prime to the water before pouring it in the tank. I never put any untreated water in any of my tanks.
Thank-you very much.

One last question: I am about to do my first 15% water change. The directions on the Seachem Prime bottle say "dose 1 ml for every 10 g of new water". Is that correct? Or should I be dosing based on aquarium size? In other words, I am changing 15% of the water or 1.5 gallons. Should I add 2 ml Prime to the fresh water since it is a 20 gallon tank?
Add enough for the full 20 gallons with each water change until the cycle is complete.
Lastly, how long after you treat the fresh water do you add it to the tank? Can you add it immediately or do you need to let it sit for a while?

I apologize for the painfully basic nature of these questions. I want to make sure I'm not making any stupid mistakes now that I have a battle plan for cycling this tank.
Water conditioner work almost instantly so no need to age the water.

When there is the slightest doubt ask away :)

One question. Are you using buckets to do your water changes? I still do
 

BradleyH2O

I love this community :D
 

arabis

No worries....If you have ammonia or nitrite present then you need to detoxify it and you dose Prime for the entire tank volume....other than that, you can dose Prime at 2 drops per gallon. I use one of these.

You must be registered to see images


You don't have to treat the water first. Just add the correct amount of Prime straight into the tank then add the fresh water. It works pretty quickly, almost instant.


Ask your questions, this is your thread and that's why we are here.
Ooof! Well, there's another problem identified. I have been adding 2 ml to every fresh water change--not two drops per gallon. Thanks for the heads up.
I know folks that use a python type system to do water changes do it this way but I highly recommend adding Prime to the water before pouring it in the tank. I never put any untreated water in any of my tanks.

Add enough for the full 20 gallons with each water change until the cycle is complete.

Water conditioner work almost instantly so no need to age the water.

When there is the slightest doubt ask away :)

One question. Are you using buckets to do your water changes? I still do

Thank-you so much for the clarification! I was worried I had irreparably damaged my fish by adding the full 2ml with each water change. Glad to know that it's okay to include 2 ml with each water change until the cycle is complete. (Also, I added the Prime to the fresh water, stirred it around, retook the temperature for a second time to make sure it's within 1 degree F of the tank water, and then slowly poured it into the tank.)

And lastly, yes, I use buckets for my water changes. I have two Top Fin aquarium buckets with volume lines marked every 0.5 gallons so I know that I am removing and adding precisely the right amount of water.
 

Bwood22

I know folks that use a python type system to do water changes do it this way but I highly recommend adding Prime to the water before pouring it in the tank. I never put any untreated water in any of my tanks.
Definitely a good practice...and yes, I use a Python ;)
Ooof! Well, there's another problem identified. I have been adding 2 ml to every fresh water change--not two drops per gallon. Thanks for the heads up.
That's ok....its going to be incredibly hard to overdose Prime. You didn't hurt anything, that's fine.

I was just letting you know how 1ml per 10 gallons breaks all the way down to drops.
I always put in a bit extra myself :)
 

mattgirl

You would actually have to be overdosing to the extreme to over dose Prime. Some folks were being told too much Prime would affect the oxygen level in the tank. A member here with the equipment to run the test stopped the test after adding about 40mls of Prime. The test showed no affect at all. The only thing overdosing will effect is having to buy more before long :) I am guilty of adding a bit more than recommended with each water change.

All this to say. you have not hurt your water pets.

One day I may have to change over to an easier way to do water changes but as long as I am still able I will continue using buckets.
 

arabis

Well, I lost another platy tonight—that’s two fish in one day. I’m not surprised, but I am sad. I love those little guys.
 

mattgirl

Well, I lost another platy tonight—that’s two fish in one day. I’m not surprised, but I am sad. I love those little guys.
I am sorry to hear this. :( hopefully the losses will soon end. I feel sure once we get this tank cycled and stabilized the losses will stop.
 

jpm995

Just skimmed through this thread. The advice given seems spot on. I think it's been mentioned that zero nitrate indicated the tank hasn't cycled. Thats key in my opinion. Check out the Nitrogen cycle info on this site, it's important to understand why the advice given is necessary. Cloudy water is normal in new tanks but not a concern for fish health. Usually its the water contains nutrients that feed the algae. When they consume it and theres none left they die off. I didn't notice any info on your filter [sorry if i missed it] just know that the bacteria responsible for keeping the water parameters right mostly reside in the filter media. Don't change the media, gently rinse in tank water. I would not mess with the ph. 8 is acceptable for most fish and adding chemicals to change it could cause problems. As the tank is cycling try not to add any chemicals/meds that can affect it. A dechlorinater/stresscote like Prime is all you should be adding. The cycle goes like this. Fish waste breaks down to Ammonia when it gets to @ 1.0 it becomes dangerous to fish. Small water change with Prime keeps it from being deadly. Bacteria forms, consumes ammo into Nitrite, more bacteria, consumes Nitrite to Nitrate which is less harmful to fish. So you see you don't really need to change much water until the levels [ammo, nitrite, nitrate] get too high. They do sell bacteria to speed up the process. If your fish don't have any sickness [ick mostly] they should survive the cycle. Sorry for long winded post hope i'm not confusing you.
 

arabis

Just skimmed through this thread. The advice given seems spot on. I think it's been mentioned that zero nitrate indicated the tank hasn't cycled. Thats key in my opinion. Check out the Nitrogen cycle info on this site, it's important to understand why the advice given is necessary. Cloudy water is normal in new tanks but not a concern for fish health. Usually its the water contains nutrients that feed the algae. When they consume it and theres none left they die off. I didn't notice any info on your filter [sorry if i missed it] just know that the bacteria responsible for keeping the water parameters right mostly reside in the filter media. Don't change the media, gently rinse in tank water. I would not mess with the ph. 8 is acceptable for most fish and adding chemicals to change it could cause problems. As the tank is cycling try not to add any chemicals/meds that can affect it. A dechlorinater/stresscote like Prime is all you should be adding. The cycle goes like this. Fish waste breaks down to Ammonia when it gets to @ 1.0 it becomes dangerous to fish. Small water change with Prime keeps it from being deadly. Bacteria forms, consumes ammo into Nitrite, more bacteria, consumes Nitrite to Nitrate which is less harmful to fish. So you see you don't really need to change much water until the levels [ammo, nitrite, nitrate] get too high. They do sell bacteria to speed up the process. If your fish don't have any sickness [ick mostly] they should survive the cycle. Sorry for long winded post hope i'm not confusing you.
You're not confusing me at all. I appreciate the time you took out of your day to educate me!
I am sorry to hear this. :( hopefully the losses will soon end. I feel sure once we get this tank cycled and stabilized the losses will stop.
Thank-you.

Also, question: how do I know when the cycling is complete?
 

Bwood22

Since you have fish in the tank, we will know that the cycle is complete when we test the water and see:
0ppm Ammonia
0ppm Nitrite
Nitrate steadily rising

The cycle is not finished until we have NO ammonia and NO nitrites. At that point you will have grown enough bacteria in your system to efficiently convert all that the fish are producing. The by product of all of this conversion is Nitrate.
So you will see your nitrate level climb over the course of a few days to a week. It should be noticeably higher. But this only matters if there is zero ammonia and nitrite.

If you see the nitrate rising but you still have ammonia and nitrite present...you're not done yet.
 

arabis

I am sorry to hear this. :( hopefully the losses will soon end. I feel sure once we get this tank cycled and stabilized the losses will stop.
So, I have been following your advice religiously (20% daily water changes until pH was same as tap water, then 30% changes every other day.)

However, I woke up this morning and my water has gone from cloudy-white to cloudy-green (see attached).

How in the world do I begin to address this? I’ve read a big water change and zero light until the issue is resolved. Is that what you’d recommend?
 

mattgirl

What are your test telling you? At this point we let our numbers tell us when and how much water we need to change instead of just doing water changes on a schedule.

Now that we have the pH stabilized keep a close eye on the ammonia and nitrites. If the total amount of both is up to one change out half the water. If they are less than that skip doing water changes until they do. Don;t go more than a week between water changes though.

From all I've read an algae bloom happens when lights are on too long and the tank has excess nutrients in it. Leave the light off as much as possible. Hopefully we can also hold off on the water changes for a few days. Eventually the algae will have used up the excess nutrients it is feeding on and will start dying off.

you may want to read this thread Need help with murky water in my 20 gallon tank | Cloudy Aquarium Water Forum | 512198 This tank was experiencing basically what you are seeing right now and is now clear.
 

jpm995

So, I have been following your advice religiously (20% daily water changes until pH was same as tap water, then 30% changes every other day.)

However, I woke up this morning and my water has gone from cloudy-white to cloudy-green (see attached).

How in the world do I begin to address this? I’ve read a big water change and zero light until the issue is resolved. Is that what you’d recommend?
An algae bloom is normal, i wouldn't address it. It should go away on its own. What happens is a new tank is filled with new tap water. There's lots of nutrients in the water. Like in the cycle algae [instead of bacteria] forms and consumes the nutrients. When their depleted the algae dies off and your tank is clear again. A really big water change provides more food for the algae. Algae need food [nutrients] and light to thrive so shorter or less bright lights will probably help. Edit to add it may take a few weeks for the algae to die off.
 

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