Help Identifying what is growing in tank

alexk77

Hi all,
I’m currently trying to cycle this 3 gallon tank. It’s been cycling for 5 days, but I seeded it with water and lava rocks from my 50 gallon to help speed up the cycle.
Ive tried to cycle this tank a couple times already, each time i’ve noticed this white ish slime growing in the tank and the surface of the water having some sort of oily film. I was away for 3 days and found it’s there again, it wasn’t there before i left.
I have never been able to figure out what it is… Beneficial bacteria? harmful fungus? algae? Google hasn’t been helpful at all, unsurprisingly.
I have some pictures below, most of the white stuff is growing on the silicone of my leaf hammock and my heater. when i scrape it with tweezers it all flies off the silicone leaf in little flakes, but won’t budge off the heater.
 

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Flyfisha

I can put your mind at rest alexk77 but sorry a can’t give you the scientific name or be 100% about the exact makeup of what you are seeing growing in the tank.
I can say it is very common. Often seen on new wood but also likes silicone. Some people say it is a protein from the sap in wood or in the case of the silicone from finger prints.

I can also say it’s (most likely) harmless in fact some species of fish will eat it.

Is the filter running? And the heater on.
Are you adding an ammonia source?
 
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Jayce0

Oily films are often the result of no water current in the tank (and waste), it's completely natural but shouldn't be neglected as it can hurt fish when they go up for air. Not too sure about the fungus.. does it smell by chance?
 
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alexk77

I can put your mind at rest alexk77 but sorry a can’t give you the scientific name or be 100% about the exact makeup of what you are seeing growing in the tank.
I can say it is very common. Often seen on new wood but also likes silicone. Some people say it is a protein from the sap in wood or in the case of the silicone from finger prints.

I can also say it’s (most likely) harmless in fact some species of fish will eat it.

Is the filter running? And the heater on.
Are you adding an ammonia source?
This is great to hear.
The filter is indeed on but it’s an EXTREMELY weak flow, can barely see water movement which is perfect for the betta i plan on putting in there since they don’t like current.
Heater is also on, about 79 degrees fahrenheit. The tank doesn’t have any smell or odour, which i think means is a good thing!
Oily films are often the result of no water current in the tank (and waste), it's completely natural but shouldn't be neglected as it can hurt fish when they go up for air. Not too sure about the fungus.. does it smell by chance?
This is interesting since there are no fish in the tank and therefore no waste… unless waste produced by nitrifying bacteria. I plan to do a water change once all my nitrites turn to nitrates.
As i said above, there is little to no current produced by my filter, I meant to have it that way for my future betta.
The tank has no smell.
I’ll also note that i haven’t yet added an ammonia source but the tank still seems to be cycling really well… Right now my nitrites are really high so i am waiting for those to go down and for nitrates to start climbing. When i first put the water in the nitrites were at 0. I do believe the lava rock had some bits of leftover food in its pores, i thought i could maybe use that for ammonia, it seems to be working.
 
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Jayce0

This is great to hear.
The filter is indeed on but it’s an EXTREMELY weak flow, can barely see water movement which is perfect for the betta i plan on putting in there since they don’t like current.
Heater is also on, about 79 degrees fahrenheit. The tank doesn’t have any smell or odour, which i think means is a good thing!

This is interesting since there are no fish in the tank and therefore no waste… unless waste produced by nitrifying bacteria. I plan to do a water change once all my nitrites turn to nitrates.
As i said above, there is little to no current produced by my filter, I meant to have it that way for my future betta.
The tank has no smell.
I’ll also note that i haven’t yet added an ammonia source but the tank still seems to be cycling really well… Right now my nitrites are really high so i am waiting for those to go down and for nitrates to start climbing. When i first put the water in the nitrites were at 0. I do believe the lava rock had some bits of leftover food in its pores, i thought i could maybe use that for ammonia, it seems to be working.
Ah yes, nitrites and such can cause "oil slicks" too.

Betta fish surely don't like current, but that doesn't mean they prefer zero current. The current should be to strong enough to disrupt the surface so that "oil slicks" can't form. But of course not so strong that the fish will actually have to swim against the current actively in the tank. Is there any way you can modify it so that the current is a tad stronger?

I also actually meant to imply that you directly smell the fungus itself, but now that I think about it, it does seem to be a natural occurance as the other has mentioned. I remember by driftwood getting it, it eventually went away. When i first saw this post I initially started thinking about the smelly fungus that grew on the plant bulbs.. which is a different kind of fuzz.
 
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alexk77

Ah yes, nitrites and such can cause "oil slicks" too.

Betta fish surely don't like current, but that doesn't mean they prefer zero current. The current should be to strong enough to disrupt the surface so that "oil slicks" can't form. But of course not so strong that the fish will actually have to swim against the current actively in the tank. Is there any way you can modify it so that the current is a tad stronger?

I also actually meant to imply that you directly smell the fungus itself, but now that I think about it, it does seem to be a natural occurance as the other has mentioned. I remember by driftwood getting it, it eventually went away. When i first saw this post I initially started thinking about the smelly fungus that grew on the plant bulbs.. which is a different kind of fuzz.
Thanks for the knowledgeable reply. I actually got this tank very cheap so unfortunately I don’t think there is any way the filter can move faster to disrupt the oil slicks.
Is there anything I can do to remove or disrupt them manually?
 
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pagoda

Carefully lay paper towel onto the water surface for a second or two and peel it back off, anything like a slick will cling to the paper towel and can be thrown away. Do it gently, double thickness of towel so that it doesn't disintegrate before you lift it off.
 
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alexk77

Carefully lay paper towel onto the water surface for a second or two and peel it back off, anything like a slick will cling to the paper towel and can be thrown away. Do it gently, double thickness of towel so that it doesn't disintegrate before you lift it off.
Alright, will do. Thank you!
Once the tank is cycled i plan on getting floating plants, would that help as well by any chance? I also plan on putting a Java fern in there.
 
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Jayce0

Thanks for the knowledgeable reply. I actually got this tank very cheap so unfortunately I don’t think there is any way the filter can move faster to disrupt the oil slicks.
Is there anything I can do to remove or disrupt them manually?
Well, if you use the paper towel method, make sure to use one thwt doesnt have any chemicals in it. You could also use a cup that hasnt beem washed with soap to skim the surface, or use a small air stone (I use the latter for my tadpoles, though it does create a bunch of bubbles..).
 
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pagoda

Alright, will do. Thank you!
Once the tank is cycled i plan on getting floating plants, would that help as well by any chance? I also plan on putting a Java fern in there.

Using floating plants will help break it up so its not so visible.
 
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alexk77

That white “protein” now appears to be growing on my decorative rock and river rocks. It almost looks like white underwater dust, could this be something different?
 

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Flyfisha

The dust as you call it is Mulm.
Something that is in every tank. It’s harmless. It’s just organic solids as far as I am concerned. Other people may have a more definitive description?

Countless videos can be found of people saying it’s good to have in a tank . Saying it’s a home for good bacteria. Saying it’s a food source for tiny fry . Saying it’s a food source for the tiny creatures like Infusorea ,another food source that is in every established tank.

If it bothers you it’s possible to have more current in that spot blowing it around and around until it’s sucked into a filter.

This is one of the reasons a bare bottom tank can be part of the education of every fish keeper. With a bare bottom tank you soon realise every tank has a dead spot in the current where mulm settles. No matter how you move the filters around you will always have a spot where solids land. The mulm is just one of the solids we vacuum occasionally.

I watched this video tonight of a corydoras fry swimming in half an inch of mulm as happy as a pig in whatever.
Before you freak out about mulm because of what others might say please have a quick look at tonights video.

Fast forward to 7 minutes 22 seconds. To see the happy fry.

 
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alexk77

The dust as you call it is Mulm.
Something that is in every tank. It’s harmless. It’s just organic solids as far as I am concerned. Other people may have a more definitive description?

Countless videos can be found of people saying it’s good to have in a tank . Saying it’s a home for good bacteria. Saying it’s a food source for tiny fry . Saying it’s a food source for the tiny creatures like Infusorea ,another food source that is in every established tank.

If it bothers you it’s possible to have more current in that spot blowing it around and around until it’s sucked into a filter.

This is one of the reasons a bare bottom tank can be part of the education of every fish keeper. With a bare bottom tank you soon realise every tank has a dead spot in the current where mulm settles. No matter how you move the filters around you will always have a spot where solids land. The mulm is just one of the solids we vacuum occasionally.

I watched this video tonight of a corydoras fry swimming in half an inch of mulm as happy as a pig in whatever.
Before you freak out about mulm because of what others might say please have a quick look at tonights video.

Fast forward to 7 minutes 22 seconds. To see the happy fry.

This makes total sense considering my filter creates barely any current, the water flows little by little out and it’s slow. This explains the mulm settling evenly across the entire bottom of my tank, it’s just easier to see on the river rock as opposed to the black gravel.
It doesn’t bother me as long as it is harmless!
haven’t had much experience with mulm or that white protein because my 50 gallon hasn’t shown any of that stuff, and my big canister filter creates quite the current!
Thanks again for your very informative reply.
 
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alexk77

Update on the tank:
- Still cycling out nitrites
- Worms have appeared! they’re tiny and white and they’re on the glass, I’m hoping they’re detritus worms since that makes the most sense. There’s a good amount of mulm at the bottom of my tank so i’m hoping that’s where they came from, praying they aren’t planaria. They barely move though
-I must have a ridiculous amount of bacteria in this little tank already!! Which i also heard was a good thing.

Question: should i do a small water change now? or should i wait until all the nitrates appear as originally planned?
^ with my 50 gallon, i waited for the nitrate spike as well.
Tried to post a picture of the worms but they’re too tiny. They’re all over the glass and on my leaf hammock and also some are floating in the water. I’m quite concerned.
I managed to get some pictures but they are hard to see
 

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Flyfisha

You can tell the difference between the worms by the head shape. Planaria has a triangular head .

As you have a cycled tank why are you going through the drama of a fishless cycle?

Moving any hard surfaces like ornaments rocks etc will speed up the cycle by transferring bacteria.
Its common practice to squeeze out a dirty filter into a new tank as well.

Or just running the new filter in the old tank . That would have been an option if you had not already started.

As to if you should change some water.
Its only been a week. Normal a change is not done unless you mistakenly add to much ammonia.
I would be more inclined to add ornaments rocks and rinse an old filter in the tank.
 
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alexk77

You can tell the difference between the worms by the head shape. Planaria has a triangular head .

As you have a cycled tank why are you going through the drama of a fishless cycle?

Moving any hard surfaces like ornaments rocks etc will speed up the cycle by transferring bacteria.
Its common practice to squeeze out a dirty filter into a new tank as well.

Or just running the new filter in the old tank . That would have been an option if you had not already started.

As to if you should change some water.
Its only been a week. Normal a change is not done unless you mistakenly add to much ammonia.
I would be more inclined to add ornaments rocks and rinse an old filter in the tank.
I had my ceramic media for this tank sitting in my already cycled tank for about a week…
I’m a little confused by your question, i did seed my 3 gallon with water and rock from my 50 gallon to speed up the cycle, but the cycling process is still happening. my nitrites are still way too high to have any fish in the 3 gallon quite yet.
Sorry if i’m not understanding what you’re saying lol
 
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Flyfisha

Hi alexk77,
A week in an old tank will do very little, 3 or 4 weeks is more like the time needed for bacteria to START to move in as the bio film ( slime) grows on a hard surface.
A week might transfer something? The old rocks are great they will have some bacteria on them most likely?

The water has no bacteria in it. Well almost no bacteria in it and none living permanently in it.

You do not mention feeding the bacteria any ammonia. Ether from a bottle of ammonia or from fish waste. Without ammonia the first kind of bacteria will starve. The second kind that eats nitrites has low numbers or none.

The bacteria in the tank needs ammonia or fish waste to grow and stay alive. It may last a while without food but it will not grow in numbers.

I ask why you are doing a fish in cycle because you have an established tank . Running the new filter in the old tank for 4 plus weeks will “ instantly cycle” the new filters for the new tank especially with rocks and ornaments added. After 4 plus weeks everything is moved over and some of the fish can go straight in . In the case of a single betta in a smaller tank it goes in and a few extra water changes are given as you watch the water test results.

The easiest thing to do today is squeeze out your dirty filters into the new tank . Rinse them only as you would normally and a small amount of bacteria is likely to be transferred.
The tank needs ammonia as food.
 
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alexk77

Hi alexk77,
A week in an old tank will do very little, 3 or 4 weeks is more like the time needed for bacteria to START to move in as the bio film ( slime) grows on a hard surface.
A week might transfer something? The old rocks are great they will have some bacteria on them most likely?

The water has no bacteria in it. Well almost no bacteria in it and none living permanently in it.

You do not mention feeding the bacteria any ammonia. Ether from a bottle of ammonia or from fish waste. Without ammonia the first kind of bacteria will starve. The second kind that eats nitrites has low numbers or none.

The bacteria in the tank needs ammonia or fish waste to grow and stay alive. It may last a while without food but it will not grow in numbers.

I ask why you are doing a fish in cycle because you have an established tank . Running the new filter in the old tank for 4 plus weeks will “ instantly cycle” the new filters for the new tank especially with rocks and ornaments added. After 4 plus weeks everything is moved over and some of the fish can go straight in . In the case of a single betta in a smaller tank it goes in and a few extra water changes are given as you watch the water test results.

The easiest thing to do today is squeeze out your dirty filters into the new tank . Rinse them only as you would normally and a small amount of bacteria is likely to be transferred.
The tank needs ammonia as food.
Ah, now i understand what you’re asking. I know that the tank needs ammonia, but my readings still show that there is some ammonia in the tank, about .25 ppm. Is this too low? i can make up a little bag of fish food if this is the case, i just never deemed it necessary unless my ammonia readings were 0.
As for squeezing out old filters, i will do that to add even more bacteria. i also have bottled bacteria that i could use as well.
the lava rocks have worked in the past and they have been in the old tank for months :) I am also aware that bacteria lives in the rocks and plants, not the water. I just thought seeded water wouldn’t hurt.
Ive never heard about the new-filter-old-tank method, i wish i had before. :/
 
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Flyfisha

At the risk of confusing you . Yes perhaps 0.25 ppm ammonia is a bit low? Just because of how inaccurate the API liquid test kit and colour chart is.
Depending of your lighting the colours can be misleading in my opinion.
#1
We colours on the chart are hard to differentiate between.
#2
The test kit just is not very accurate.
#3
The difference between house lighting and sunlight.

This is a couple of old snapshots of my water test 30 seconds apart. This is the colour my tanks always have. I believe my tanks are cycled and this is as low as my ammonia ever goes.

Picture one is house lights. Picture two is a few seconds later in sunlight.
9995D0C2-CAC3-4187-BC42-BFE9752B62DD.jpeg
02E51E3C-DD77-4443-9D7E-0B0BE0F00A11.jpeg
it will do no harm to add a little ammonia to your tank?
 
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alexk77

At the risk of confusing you . Yes perhaps 0.25 ppm ammonia is a bit low? Just because of how inaccurate the API liquid test kit and colour chart is.
Depending of your lighting the colours can be misleading in my opinion.
#1
We colours on the chart are hard to differentiate between.
#2
The test kit just is not very accurate.
#3
The difference between house lighting and sunlight.

This is a couple of old snapshots of my water test 30 seconds apart. This is the colour my tanks always have. I believe my tanks are cycled and this is as low as my ammonia ever goes.

Picture one is house lights. Picture two is a few seconds later in sunlight.
9995D0C2-CAC3-4187-BC42-BFE9752B62DD.jpeg
02E51E3C-DD77-4443-9D7E-0B0BE0F00A11.jpeg
it will do no harm to add a little ammonia to your tank?
Alright, will do. thanks for all your help
Flakes added. didn’t have mesh bag so i made one using a fish net and a safe coffee filter. works well so far :)
 

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