Swirling "smoke" in new tank, without fish or decor?

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Toasty3000

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Hi all. A few days ago I picked up a 5.5 gal tank, along with an adequate filter, thermometer, heater, and gravel substrate. Everything came from my local PetCo.

I rinsed everything as recommended by what I found online. By the time I finished rinsing the gravel there was only crystal clear water coming off it.

Filled the tank up from my kitchen tap, added 11 drops of dechlorinator, and let the whole thing run for two full days.

Now, I just noticed from certain angles under light I can see what looks like "smoke" swirling around in the water, and that it's somewhat cloudier than it was when I started.

I haven't added any fish, plants, food, or anything yet! What's causing this? Is it safe to introduce a couple hardy fish to start cycling? Or is the tank cycling without fish/food/etc somehow?

Could this be algae? My water temperature has been staying between 74 and 76F, and I keep the tank next to my desk well away from the window, with the blinds completely shut all day.
I've also been experimenting with a DIY tank light, comprised of 20 bright warm white LEDs I soldered and attached to a plastic hood. I've kept that light on probably only 4-5 hours a day, to see if it produces any noticeable heat. (It doesn't.) Could this have caused algae to grow?

I'd include a picture, but it doesn't show up very well on my phone camera.

TLDR, smoky swirls in water, only fresh gravel+water+dechlorinator in brand new tank. What gives?
 

UniqueShark

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Well, my best guess at first was protein scum, but you said it didn't have fish.

It's probably from the filter. Did your rinse the cartridge before putting it in the tank?
 
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Toasty3000

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I thought I did. Although I feel like I may have forgotten to and my brain simply tricked me into thinking I did.

What would you advise doing in case I did forget?
 

UniqueShark

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Toasty3000 said:
I thought I did. Although I feel like I may have forgotten to and my brain simply tricked me into thinking I did.

What would you advise doing in case I did forget?
If you forgot, it shouldn't be a problem. Just scoop it out with a net and leave the filter running to clean it up. It's just carbon and dust from the floss
 
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Toasty3000

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Would it be harmful to a couple zebra danios if I were to introduce them tomorrow? I don't have a net with me yet, I plan on picking one up tomorrow when I go to buy the fish.

Thank you for your help and quick response by the way.
 

LJC6780

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I'm no expert but I think zebra danios might need a larger tank. I would hold off on buying fish until someone with more stocking knowledge chimes in.
 

el337

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Welcome to the forum

Can you take a picture or a video of this smoke?

Your profile says you don't know the nitrogen cycle so I would read about it before putting any fish in the tank. You'll also want to determine if you're going to do a fishless cycle or fish-in cycle. We can help you with that once you decide. Do you own a test kit?

Unfortunately, zebra danios are schooling fish that need at least 6+ of their own species and are MUCH too active for a 5 gallon. How about a betta and some shrimp/snails?
 
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Toasty3000

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el337 said:
Welcome to the forum

Can you take a picture or a video of this smoke?

Your profile says you don't know the nitrogen cycle so I would read about it before putting any fish in the tank. You'll also want to determine if you're going to do a fishless cycle or fish-in cycle. We can help you with that once you decide. Do you own a test kit?

Unfortunately, zebra danios are schooling fish that need at least 6+ of their own species and are MUCH too active for a 5 gallon. How about a betta and some shrimp/snails?
I'll try to get a better picture of it after work today.

Well I've done a lot of research since I registered on this forum a couple days ago, I know the basics of the nitrogen cycle. The reason I was thinking about putting a couple zebras in there was to start a fish-in cycle. Didn't know about the schooling thing though. I do not own a test kit, however I plan on picking up some paper strip tests today. I know they are not very accurate, but I just want to be able to monitor the cycle's progress. I'll be getting the water tested professionally before putting other fish in.

What would you recommend fish-wise for a fish-in cycle in this size tank? I'd want them to be friendly with any fish I introduce in the future. (Had neon tetras in mind for the future)
 

abrooks12376

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Could be a bacteria bloom, it's been witnessed before.
 

el337

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Toasty3000 said:
I'll try to get a better picture of it after work today.

Well I've done a lot of research since I registered on this forum a couple days ago, I know the basics of the nitrogen cycle. The reason I was thinking about putting a couple zebras in there was to start a fish-in cycle. Didn't know about the schooling thing though. I do not own a test kit, however I plan on picking up some paper strip tests today. I know they are not very accurate, but I just want to be able to monitor the cycle's progress. I'll be getting the water tested professionally before putting other fish in.

What would you recommend fish-wise for a fish-in cycle in this size tank? I'd want them to be friendly with any fish I introduce in the future. (Had neon tetras in mind for the future)
I'd get the API Freshwater Master Test Kit to get the most accurate results especially when you're cycling. It may be a little more upfront but will last you more than a year and gives you over 800 tests so actually it's cheaper than the strips in the long run. You wouldn't need to rely on the pet store to test your water for you and then you can test whenever you want.

A 5 gallon is pretty limited as far as stocking goes. A betta would be fine as mentioned before but I wouldn't put any other fish with it, especially not in this tank size.
 

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abrooks12376 said:
Could be a bacteria bloom, it's been witnessed before.
This is what I was thinking too but after only two days and without any added ammonia I am not sure its bacterial.

Is the filter really stirring the water? It could be micro air bubbles.
 
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boxtop said:
This is what I was thinking too but after only two days and without any added ammonia I am not sure its bacterial.

Is the filter really stirring the water? It could be micro air bubbles.
It was right before I noticed the smoky stuff. Water level was about 1.5" below the filter output and producing a lot of bubbles, even large clumps of bubbles formed on the surface. I filled up the tank to just below the output, solved the bubble problem. It was right after I filled the tank and added a couple more drops of dechlorinator that I noticed the smoky swirls
 

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I've had this happen in my tanks before. After a new setup I put everything in and it looks great and the next morning it's like white smoke! I test the water and it's fine. Humm.... Best I can tell this is normal b/c I've had it happen on many tanks I've done. Just be patient, if you haven't tested the water do as it could be a nitrate problem but more likely it's a bacterial bloom as your 'good' bacteria are getting started up. If everything tests normal just wait a day or two and let the tank cycle and it'll probably clear up on its own.
 

ToddHendrix

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Im sure the smokiness is a normal thing. I'm with el337 on the betta and shrimp. It will look great with some plants and decor!
 

Drummindot

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How is the smokiness going? Has it cleared up?
 
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Toasty3000

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Drummindot said:
How is the smokiness going? Has it cleared up?
It's still there, but the 3 tiny guppies I put in there don't seem to mind. They seem quite happy actually. Eating regularly, swimming around, not showing any signs of stress. I've stopped worrying about the smokiness, it's not too bad. I think I just initially overreacted since the effect was amplified by the light.

Unrelated: I know I probably overstocked this 5.5gal tank with these guppies, but I do plan to get a 20 or 29 gallon in a month or so. Just waiting on this little tank to cycle
 

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Swirling "smoke" in new tank, without fish or decor?

Do you have another established tank? If you do you could transfer some of the gravel from it essentially "seeding" your tank with good bacteria. -or-maybe a friend with a heathy tank? I'm tryin';-)
 
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Drummindot said:
Do you have another established tank? If you do you could transfer some of the gravel from it essentially "seeding" your tank with good bacteria. -or-maybe a friend with a heathy tank? I'm tryin';-)
I don't have another tank, as this is my first time keeping fish. My budget for this was somewhat limited, so I opted to go for a nice cheap 5.5 gal tank instead of a larger one. When I do get a bigger tank, I will definitely be moving some or all of the contents of the smaller one to the bigger one.
 

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Ahh, I do understand. Once you get those good bacteria going you can keep the gravel and not rinse it and it'll seed tank after tank to help avoid what you're going through now. It sounds like you're keeping a good eye on your tank. Keep up with the water changes and I'm sure you'll do fine!
 
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