I just can't get my aquarium clean...

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sleepycloud

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I don't know how well you can tell by the picture, but I've had an issue with getting my aquarium clean for weeks now and it seems to be getting worse.

My aquarium has no fish; it's a 10 gallon aquarium currently going through the cycling process.

Everything in my aquarium is covered in "dirt," this brown, powdery substance. Every time I remove it through water changes or by scrubbing off the ornaments (sometimes by taking it out and rinsing it, as well) the "dirt" that's in the water column settles back down onto all of the leaves and the branch and everything else within an hour. The water is also extremely foggy, even though I do major water changes every few days (35-40%, sometimes more). I've also done multiple gravel-vacuums.There are detritus worms floating all throughout the tank now, as well.

I think the reason for all of this is because I initially tried doing a fishless cycle with FISH FLAKES and it made an ABSOLUTE mess! I had "cotton candy" all over my tank and the smell got bad, so I removed it all and gravel vacuumed up as much as I could. Still, I could see pieces laying around, turning black, so I feel like the "dirt" is the decomposed fish flakes. I have a mix of Aqueon and Fluval shrimp & plant substrate, but I feel like it shouldn't have caused me this much of a long-lasting problem.

I don't have any fish in yet, I haven't added any food since then (switched to a liquid ammonia), and the ammonia levels are elevated, yet my tank is thriving with life... ramshorn, trumpet, and bladder snails... nematodes... detritus worms... amphipods... some other, tiny (almost microscopic) creatures... it seems the fish flake leftovers are keeping them well supported? Help!
 
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Salem

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The brown powdery stuff is almost certainly from the driftwood. It's basically just debris, some wood seem to release more than others but pretty much every piece will. With the presence of both plants and snails there is also definitely bits of snail poop and dead plant matter in there too.

I'm not sure about the foggy issue- your water looks pretty normal to me. It looks slightly yellowed from tannins but that's normal.
 
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david1978

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The brown could be diagoms. Its normal. The other fun critters are fun to have. Just keep your ammonia and nitrates down and they wil thrive. They are fun to have and are food at their worst.
 
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sleepycloud

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Salem said:
The brown powdery stuff is almost certainly from the driftwood. It's basically just debris, some wood seem to release more than others but pretty much every piece will. With the presence of both plants and snails there is also definitely bits of snail poop and dead plant matter in there too.

I'm not sure about the foggy issue- your water looks pretty normal to me. It looks slightly yellowed from tannins but that's normal.
Oh, really?? I've taken the branch out twice and have scrubbed it down... It keeps releasing a biofilm and always gets yucky within an hour after I clean it. Will it ever stop releasing dirt? Dirt piles on every surface, the leaves of my plants literally get slightly weighed down by it! The water looks worse in person; it's foggy, and when you look at it from the side throughout the aquarium, it's foggy and the decor looks hazed over even though the aquarium is small. The waters were nearly crystal clear before, and the aquariums I see online (or on YouTube) are always crystal clear, and I was hoping to get my water to that quality as well...
 
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Mcasella

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Diatoms, new tanks are extremely prone to it, i've seen it cover a cleaned surface in less than 30 minutes before, which can be frustrating. And the cloudiness is likely bacteria bloom, which will go away on its own as your tanks gets closer to cycles end (as the bacteria that resides in the filter will out compete the free flowing bacteria or the free flowing will make a home in the filter media by colonizing it).
You'll have to be a little patient with it as these are all natural parts of tank keeping, specially new ones.
 
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Nicolademee

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I find if it doesn't go away after awhile you can sort of sweep it under the rug with a strong filter to "blow" it off surfaces. It works to get it off the plants and wood and let it settle on the substrate or in the filter itself. I've only had this issue majorly but that worked then. There will always be some debris in a healthy tank though, so I just try to get it off the main decor.
 
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KinderScout

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maybe leave the tank alone (except for adding ammonia for the cycle) stop doing water changes and wait....
once it's fully cycled for a while do one big cleanup and see if your cloudiness clears up of its own accord?
 
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altwitch

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Agree with KinderScout - sometimes less is more and taking a break from messing with it will likely allow things to settle down. Cloudy water is usually due to a filtration problem and my best advice is to add a secondary filter, even if not rated for a full tank that size. It works as an emergency solution and can aid in clearing water. Partial to sponge filters myself and 2 x spares running in my main right now to prep for follow on tanks...
 
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KinderScout

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If it turns out that it is diatoms or some sort of critters in the tank you can't get rid of I'm sure you could sterilize it somehow without harming your plants (it is a great looking set up by the way! Maybe adding hydrogen peroxide to the water?). Then you could do a 100% water change with untreated tap water (to make sure) and thouroughly clean your filter media. Once you're sure that all the cloudiness & brown bits have gone add dechlorinator and start the cycle process from scratch with ammonia. At least the lack of fish gives you plenty of options!
 
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Jakea333

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I certainly wouldn’t sterilize and start over, it’s likely to just recur even with a pure ammonia fishless cycle. I experienced massive diatom outbreaks during my last new tank cycle. Near the end of the cycle, the growth slowed and became more manageable but didn’t completely go away. A few months later I added a Bristlenose Pleco and the remaining traces disappeared overnight and haven’t recurred. The cloudiness will likely clear up on its own as your tank parameters normalize. Your biggest ally here is patience.
 
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Elkwatcher

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I think your tank is still "evolving" I agree with altwitch about more filtration, perhaps a small sponge filter. Also if you make your HOB filter central placing it in the middle of the tank, this can help with water flow so the diatris doesn't cover everything. Is your's a box filter, it doesn't look familiar? Wondering if the anemone shell is causing some cast to the water? Your scape is lovely! :happy:
 
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KinderScout

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Jakea333 said:
I certainly wouldn’t sterilize and start over, it’s likely to just recur even with a pure ammonia fishless cycle.
Sorry I should have made it clearer that starting over is an absolute last resort which you are able to do as you have no fish.
 
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StarGirl

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I have that heater too! I like it so far!

I agree with the quit messing with it for a while and see what happens.
 
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mattgirl

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sleepycloud said:
the aquariums I see online (or on YouTube) are always crystal clear, and I was hoping to get my water to that quality as well...
It takes a lot of time and patience to get those tanks you are seeing to get ready for the photos you see posted on youTube. It wouldn't surprise me to find that a lot of them went through what you are going through before their tanks were ready for the photos.

Since you are fishless cycling just give your bacteria the food it needs and once you get a good colony of it your tank should settle down and will eventually clear up.

I had to deal with cloudy water for a good 6 weeks while my tank was cycling. Once done the water cleared right up.

I can;t tell from your photo as to what kind of filter you have on it. Is it possible that it isn't strong enough to pull the excess "stuff" out of there?
 
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sleepycloud

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StarGirl15 said:
I have that heater too! I like it so far!

I agree with the quit messing with it for a while and see what happens.
Yay! I haven't seen anyone else online who has this heater yet (and I look at a lot of pics and videos lol) but I love it so far too! Easy to see the temp and to set the desired temperature, though I keep a thermometer in the tank as backup in case the heater's displayed temp is malfunctioning :D
 
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jpm995

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I think it more likely an algae bloom more than driftwood issue. Usually driftwood causes a yellowing of the water not what you describe. Waiting it out [it may take weeks] is probably the best solution. They used to make a diatom filter for stuff exactly like this. It was ment for quick cleanups only but would clear even big tanks in hours. I used to cycle it on all my tanks every few months and ran a syphon on it to clean the gravel. Kind of a pain to use but worked great.
 
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sleepycloud

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Jakea333 said:
I certainly wouldn’t sterilize and start over, it’s likely to just recur even with a pure ammonia fishless cycle. I experienced massive diatom outbreaks during my last new tank cycle. Near the end of the cycle, the growth slowed and became more manageable but didn’t completely go away. A few months later I added a Bristlenose Pleco and the remaining traces disappeared overnight and haven’t recurred. The cloudiness will likely clear up on its own as your tank parameters normalize. Your biggest ally here is patience.
Ah, do you know what cause a diatom outbreak for some cycling tanks but not others?
 
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Jakea333

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sleepycloud said:
Ah, do you know what cause a diatom outbreak for some cycling tanks but not others?
Silicates are said to be the primary cause of diatoms in new tanks. Usually the substrate or decor (like rocks) release silicates for a few months until they’re used up by the diatoms. Some water sources will also contain silicates that can cause the issue to linger long term.
 
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