milky cloudy smelly water Help

Discussion in 'Cloudy Aquarium Water' started by MsNiC, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. MsNiCNew MemberMember

    Ok so a friend of mine was moving and he gave me his 25 galon fish tank with 2 angel fish and a sucker fish already in it. I've had it for 3 days and I've introduced 3 new fish mates... a Pictus catfish and 2 gold fish from his 55 gallon tank. Now yesterday I noticed that there was a strange smell coming from the tank. It smells like hot fish water.. really gross smelling and it has been getting more and more cloudy by the day.. it looks a little milky.. like a mixture of milk and water. Also the fish have started to hang out at the top of the tank. They swim back and forth just aound the surface of the water. None of the fish have died so I would like to know what I need to do. Also, the pump has started to run at a trickle.. sounds like someone left a faucet on real low.. Im really worried about the fish dying.. what should I do?? Please Help. I don't have more information than that since I didn't start this tank form scratch so...
  2. Beth1965Well Known MemberMember

    Welcome to Fishlore!

    I understand that you got the tank from someone else but has the tank been cycled? How long has the tank been going?
    If you fill out your tank informatin if would help. Have you done any testin of the water NitrIte and NitrAte, amonia)?
  3. LyndaBFishlore LegendMember

    It's quite possible that your filter is broken. Or clogged.

    Your tank is also very overstocked. I believe goldfish need 20 gallons for the first one, then 10 gallons for the next.

    I love pictus, but was told they need a lot of room, not so much due to their size, but because of their habits.

    When was the last time the tank was cleaned? By that, I mean a gravel vac. When you moved it?

    As Beth said, it's crucial we have your tank readings in order to really help.

    Hope the fish make it.
  4. midthoughtWell Known MemberMember

    Hi MsNic, welcome to Fishlore.

    Your tank sounds like it's going through a minicycle, and the milky stuff is a bacterial bloom. The fish are going to the top to gasp for air. Please read this link to understand more about the nitrogen cycle, if you haven't already:

    In short: a healthy tank is cycled and has the necessary stable ecosystem of bacteria to neutralize the toxic waste that all fish produce. Slightly longer: fish produce ammonia as a waste product, and ammonia is toxic to fish. It's not just gross, it burns them and can temporarily or permanently damage their gills. Bacteria exist in the water that eat ammonia, which is good, and those bacteria produce nitrite as a waste product. Nitrite is also toxic to fish, but there's one more step, and that's bacteria that eat nitrite and produce nitrate. Once you have enough bacteria to neutralize ALL the ammonia and nitrite in the tank (i.e. you do tests and ammonia and nitrite read zero), all you wind up with is nitrate which is only bad for your fish in large quantities. Once it's cycled, you can do regular partial water changes to reduce nitrates in the water.

    Your fish are unfortunately also incompatible and very overstocked as mentioned above. The goldfish in particular produce a lot of waste compared to fish of similar size (or even smaller). You would be fully stocked if you had just ONE goldfish in the tank and nothing else.

    You should do a water change as soon as possible, probably 25-50%. Treat new water with a water conditioner such as Prime, which neutralizes ammonia and nitrite as well as remove chlorine (which all tap water is treated with). You'll have to continue to do water changes, ideally everyday, until the tank stabilizes again -- assuming you got it from your friend already cycled. Introduction of the new fish (and especially the very messy goldies) threw a lot more ammonia into the system so the beneficial bacteria are trying to catch up.
  5. MsNiCNew MemberMember

    Thanks for all the useful info.. Im not sure how often he cleaned it or when he last did it. So far I believe I need to take the gold Fish out and put them back in th 55 gallon tank I got them out of and just leave the Angel fish, the sucker fish and the pictus.. I bought him because I heard that they do well with them. I filled out as much information as I could about the tank so that's all I have. Nitrates and ammonia.. omg, that sounds scary...Should I just take them all out and clean the tank before I refill it. Also, I heard from my friend that he was rinsing the filter that should have been replaced and he wasn't rinsing the other filter that should have been rinsed.
  6. midthoughtWell Known MemberMember

    Just so I'm clear, what do you want to clean the tank of? Food debris, etc. or do you mean to remove the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate?

    Unless you have another *cycled* tank for your current fish to go to and/or you have one that is larger and more appropriate for overcrowded fish to go to (consider compatibility here), your best bet as your tank is going through his minicycle is to just do regular partial water changes (50% if you can manage it) everyday. Make sure to treat the new water with a conditioner such as Prime, which will neutralize the ammonia and nitrite in the water for 24 hours. This is the safest you can make your water until your beneficial bacteria can grow enough to process all of the ammonia that your new fish are producing. When you are doing your partial water change, you generally don't need to remove the fish. It's stressful to be moved and most fish just don't *want* to be sucked up the gravel vac. :) And just a tip for when you are putting water back in: If you have a substrate that you don't want to get really messy as you put it back in, you can put a dish in the tank and aim the water for that. It will disperse the water so that it doesn't disturb the substrate too much.

    I know it sounds kind of scary but it's a very common mistake and it happens to practically everyone. It's mainly just important that you know what's going on so you can take the proper steps to correct it.

    Your friend is right, it's not necessary to replace the filter media as quickly as the manufacturer says (usually every month). You can just take it out of the filter, swish it around in the tank water (NOT tap water as the chlorine will kill the beneficial bacteria! very important!) and then replace it. If you filter media really is too clogged and should be replaced, you should definitely avoid just throwing it out entirely -- instead put in new filter media and let both stay in your tank for 3-4 weeks so that the bacteria populate the new media. Then you can remove the old media (or if it's me, I keep it around somewhere in the tank so that I can use it as quick seed media for another tank if I need it. I haven't thrown out a filter cartridge yet.)

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