Cloudy water, problem with undergravel filter.

  • #1
So despite my research, I have come across a problem that I'm not sure about. ???
About three days ago, over a period of a few hours, the water in my tank has become white and cloudy.
I have been doing daily water changes as well as daily testing. Other than relatively high nitrates (which has been a known issue for weeks, and I've been working on it with more frequent water changes), and a low alkalinity (not sure what I can do about that), the chemistry seems normal.
The most recent changes were the addition of two tiny otos, which was over a month ago, and the addition of two clumps of mondo grass, which was almost three weeks ago.
I still have all of my fish, so there isn't anything dead fouling up the water. I changed the filter in the Whisper yesterday, and the water quality hasn't changed.
There is one problem that I have discovered in my slow dissection of the tank. The undergravel filter may have problems. I bought new filter caps for it, and in changing those, I discovered that the airstones were coated with slime. It seems that I've been missing one thing in the cleaning of my tank. I broke the airstones in trying to pull them off to clean them, so I changed them. Also, in pulling that part of the filter apart, I discovered that it smelled absolutely foul.
My three questions are:
Could this be the cause of the cloudy water?
Is there some maintenance that I should be doing on the undergravel filter? Obviously I can't pull it apart periodically, but is there some other way I should be cleaning it?
What are other possible causes/solutions of the problem?

Thanks in advance. I have no doubt that I will get a bunch of info, based on responses to other peoples' problems.
  • #2
the white cloudy water means you are nearing the end of your cycle

as for the undergravel filter, there is no easy way to clean it, you have to pull the thing out from under the gravel, which is why it is one of the worst types of filters to have because it pulls all the junk in your tank under the gravel where its hard to clean, that's why the majority of the people here choose the penguin bio-wheel hang on back filter, that way you're not disturbing the substrate when you have to clean it
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  • #3
Thank you. I am the posterchild for not learning speed reading. I speed read, and I pick up most of the info really well. However, I managed to miss that part of the description of the cycle in reading two separate articles on it.

I've been hearing about the undergravel filters not being an optimal choice. I've also been contemplating pulling it out, but I don't want to disturb the aquarium more than I have to. I'm thinking that I might do it when I have my second tank put together, so I can move the fish out while I pull the darn thing out.
  • #4
HI sirdarksol .   Things with your tank are  progressing just the way they are suppose to.  You are having bacteria 'bloom' , and the white cloudy water will clear with just the normal tank maintenance. 

    What are your tests results for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate? You will be sure the nitrogen cycle is complete when they read 0 for ammonia and nitrite, and around 5 for nitrates.      DO NOT change your Whisper filter anymore unless it is falling all apart!  The object you are working toward is to keep as many of those bacteria alive and working in your tank as you can!  When you change your filter you just got rid of 1/2 of your work force!    Next time, if you want to rinse the filter take it out and hand wash it in a little saved tank water (from a water change), this way you will unclog it but keep a seed of those lovely little bacteria.      I don't even use any charcoal in mine unless I have used medication in the tank and want to clear it out.  I have added some polyfiber to give more area for the bacteria to grow.   Only change water if your ammonia or nitrites are up over .25 or your nitrate is above 20.   Then you can do 50% changes every day (or even more often) as needed to get those readings down.   Water changes do not disrupt the bacteria growing on the gravel or ornaments and in your filter.

As for the undergravel filter.   Some say yes, some say no.   I have an undergravel filter, and use a power head on one of the tubes instead of just air, that and I have a Whisper filter also.   I think that as time goes on, you may want to change but as you said, only after you have a new tank, and can easily tear this one down.   The #1 problem is to agitate the gravel on a regular basis to keep poisenous gas from being trapped in the gravel, you can do this by vacuuming the gravel, 1/2 one week, the other 1/2 the next.   The powerhead helps keep the  water flowing under the filter, but as the tank gets older this may slow because of a buildup of sludge, this is when you really need to consider a different filter system.    Best of Luck!

Fish in the Frozen North  8)
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  • #5
Out of curiosity, when you say you've added polyfiber to your Whisper, are you talking in addition to the bacterial medium pad that comes with the Whisper? If so, where did you add it?
Nitrates are 80, ammonia is 0, nitrites are next to nil (the test didn't even make it to the first shade, but it's not quite white). (The nitrates are why I'm doing frequent water changes)
All of this begs another question. When I was reading about the nitrogen cycling, I read about it taking a matter of a couple of weeks to a couple of months. The ammonia numbers bottomed out a couple of weeks after I got the tank. I unfortunately didn't know about nitrite/nitrate until a couple of months ago, but the nitrates have been the only number of the three that have been above negligible since I started paying attention to them. I got the tank in September or October of last year, so it's been running for six or seven months. Is it strange for the cycle to reach its last stage this late?
Thanks again.
  • #6
That is strange, although like I said any time I do something in my tank that causes a minI cycle like vacuuming, or scrubbing decorations, or changing filter material, it will cloud up again.

The poly fiber I am talking about I just put in the filter behind the regular fiber mat. I pack it VERY LOOSLY, and after a few days check to make sure the filter is still flowing well, it tends to start backing up a little when the fiber becomes filled with debris. You could use almost any filter media that would fit. The object is just to expand the surface area the bacteria can colonize.

What is your ph reading? Most fish can handle 6.4 - 7.6, and this should not affect your tank health (nitrogen cycle).

I am really worried about your nitrate readings. You said you have been doing daily water changes, how much?
It sounds like you need to start with 50% changes twice a day until you get it down to under 20. This can take several days. Test the morning after the changes to see if it is down, if not do two again. When it stabalizes under 20, test every day for awhile and change 50% each day it is 20 or above. It is really stressful on your fish to have nitrates above 20. They may not die, but will be much more successptable to fin rot, pop eye, and ich. :'( Depending on your fish load, you may be able to go back to once a week 50% changes after that.

I have an overcrowded tank, and have to do 50% changes every day or every other day, and will keep it up until my new 50 gal is cycled, then move half the fish over.

Yes, my name is Susitna-Flower, and I am an AQUAHOHLIC. I now have 3 tanks, and am looking at and haggling over price on a 125 gal.!

Fish in the Frozen North 8)
  • #7
High Nitrate readings can be from plant decay also, since Mondo Grass isn't an aquatic plant I suggest you pull it out

It could also be clouding your tank

  • #8
Just a note about the Whisper filters as I use one too. I recently have switched over to using . I'm stubborn and like to use charcoal to get rid of the smells, etc. Weather it lasts the full month or whatever time it is between filter changes isn't important... it's psychological reassurance :. However, that isn't the important part of this filter set up. What is important is that blue sponge and the reusable clamshell. Once that sponge gets filled with the good bacteria then you are gold, because your whisper filter also came with a black more porous sponge that you should also have in there. So now you have 2 sponges doing your biological filtration and you don't have to worry about changing out your filter pad. What's more, if you don't want to use the charcoal filled filters, then just get and cut out rectangles that fit the clamshell case. Then you have a clean efficient filter layout that won't clump like the lose filter floss material as well as a double layer of permanent bio filtration. Just my 2 cents.
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  • #9
Thank you to both of you. Either I was lied to by a local petsmart employee or the employee was lied to by her employer (or the information that came with the plants). Because I've got a couple of fish that eat aquatic plants and no special lighting setup, I was looking for a decent growing plant that didn't need the ultra-bright lighting setups. I asked the employee, and she said that the Dwarf Mondo grass grew really quickly and would stand a chance of surviving my fishes' attention. (Ok, I guess not a lie, but misinformation at the least, as I was looking for an aquarium plant, and either the woman didn't know or didn't share with me that this wasn't an acceptable aquarium plant. Guess I've got to learn to put less faith in professionals and more faith in checking/double-checking info. At least this lesson didn't cost any fish their lives, and I can still plant the Mondo Grass.
Second, I like the look of that Bio3 package. I'll be looking into that.
Thanks again.

Once again, this information begs more questions.
Alright, so Mondo Grass has the opposite of the intended result, to "eat" nitrates/nitrites. Now, I'm going to be looking to replace the Mondo Grass. I don't have problems with the koi and goldfish nibbling on whatever I get. At worst, I buy a kind of expensive treat that they'll be able to snack on for awhile. Any suggestions for decent low-light, actually aquatic plants?
  • #10
just to add my penny, there is an easy and effective way to clean an undergravel filter! Take a wet/dry vacuum cleaner, remove the cap and airstone from the UGF, bodge a connection between the riser pipe and the hose on the wet/dry, switxch it on for about 30 seconds, then top the tank back up. It will not only clean out all the gunge from under the filter, but does a really good number on the gravel itself. saves an awful lot of time too. Just don't breathe in when you empty the vac! And just to add another point, UGF are probably wore effective than power filters in the long run IMO. Other WILL disagree, I know!
  • #11
I have an UGF on my 10 gallon and it works great...

BUT I do not use the airstones... The flow they produce is sub standard IMO so I use power heads and hang on back filters and hook those up to the UGF riser tubes to increase flow. So far so good...

I can see the bottom of the tank and so far it looks pretty good.. ;D
  • #12
just to add my penny, there is an easy and effective way to clean an undergravel filter! Take a wet/dry vacuum cleaner, remove the cap and airstone from the UGF, bodge a connection between the riser pipe and the hose on the wet/dry, switxch it on for about 30 seconds, then top the tank back up. It will not only clean out all the gunge from under the filter, but does a really good number on the gravel itself. saves an awful lot of time too. Just don't breathe in when you empty the vac! And just to add another point, UGF are probably wore effective than power filters in the long run IMO. Other WILL disagree, I know!

Genius, I'm going to try it! Sometimes it takes people with a whole new perspective to point out the obvious, in areas that don't use one set of expertise, like power tools, to apply them can make a hard job simple! Thanks for the idea, I'll let you know how it works out.

Land of the Midnight Sun 8)
  • #13
Cloudy water, UGF, cycle complete?

So I'm going to resurrect this thread because I'm not sure about my UGF as well. 5.5G tank, 4 weeks old, ammonia and nitrites 0, nitrates at 5. From what I've read, this means that the tank is cycled?

Water has been getting cloudier and cloudier - greenish cloudy, but there's no algae (that I can see) on the tank walls or tank decor, or substrate. Nothing apart from the white wavy ones (mentioned in the algae thread).
Kinda looks like those. Did anyone ever figure out what these are??? I have added plants in, so I'm really, really, really hoping they aren't snail eggs, as mentioned in that thread.

I'm guessing there is algae, because my oto has never looked more fat and contented, albeit lonely. No space to add another oto. (On an offside, Spike the oto sure is a fighter. Added him into a brand spanking new uncycled tank before I knew any better, and still thriving!) Also hesitant to do a blackout because of Spike - I don't want to kill all his food!

I do 25% changes every other day, but i've never messed with the filter components. Is this something I need to do more regularly? Not even sure how to clean the UGF!
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  • #14
Yes, your tank is cycled.
Green cloudy water is an algae bloom. You don't need to completely black the tank out to stifle this. If you can, try to make a break of about two hours in the middle of the day. If you're worried about the oto's food, stick a piece of cucumber in there.
I had white cloudy water, which turned out to be a mini-cycle, I think.
I'm sorry to say that the wavy things sound like snail eggs. Fortunately, they aren't as bad as many people believe. Your oto should actually help keep them under control by eating their food.

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