Aquarium Forum banner

1 - 11 of 11 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Recently I was given a beautiful 16 gallon tank with stand, heater, filter, plastic plants, ornaments and 3 fish (neon and 2 platys). To move the tank the water was drained to about 1/3 full with the fish left in the tank. Once I got it home I removed the fish putting them in plastic bag with water from the tank. After setup I filled the tank with tap water (from a well, pH of 7, and slightly hard) never thinking about cleaning the pea-sized gravel. ornaments or plastic plants since the tank water was crystal clear when I got it. I set the heater to 72 degrees F and placed the bag with the fish in the water to acclimate. The filter, I believe, is a Penguin 100 with a bio-wheel. I put in a new filter and was set to go. The first thing I noticed after the first week was the appearance of white fluffy material starting to collect on the plastic plants. When I moved some plants and the ornaments, disturbing this material, it just floated around the tank looking like little tufts of cotton. Then, a couple days ago I noticed the gravel taking on a brownish tinge. This not only came on very fast but increased in severity very quickly. I suspected it was algae but did not notice any on the glass and when I wiped the glass with my finger I could not feel or see anything on my finger.

Today I cleaned the tank and replaced almost all the water. Running the siphon through the gravel stirred up so much of the white fluffy stuff it looked like a snow storm in the aquarium. I tried to suck up as much as I could but it seemed like the more I removed the more it was increasing. I did a search on algae and think my initial suspicion of the brown stuff being algae (diatoms?) was correct. But I cannot find anything on the white stuff. I also think the reason the algea bloomed so quickly may be that there was a couple nights when I fell asleep and left the tank light on. When I cleaned the tank today I scrubbed the ornaments with an old toothbrush and replaced them back into the tank. However, the once green plastic plants still looked discolored after trying to clean them so I have not put them back into the tank. I also noticed brown growth along the corners of the tank.

So, regarding the algae, here are my questions. 1) Can I put the plastic plants back or will the algae still on them just cause more to grow? 2) Will the existing algae on the tank corners and what I couldn't get off the ornaments eventually go away by itself? 3) I have read that "algae eaters" are not always a good thing to have to address the issue because it means more fish and therefore more waste (and resulting waste by-products) but I would like some feedback on whether it would be a good idea to put a couple fish (suckers, cats) or snails into the tank. 4) Assuming the problem began with too much lighting and possibly the bulb being old (which I read changes the light spectrum and encourages algae growth, should I replace the bulb with a new one? 5) Should I consider putting in some real plants and if so, what is recommended.

Regarding the white stuff is it possible it could be uneaten food that has decayed? The fish food I use is TerraMin tropical flakes and I am unsure how much to put in to feed the 3 fish I have so I have been putting in maybe 1-2 teaspoons twice a day. Should I cut back or switch to a different type of food (like those worm cubes you stick on the glass)? If the white stuff is not food related what is it and how can I prevent/eliminate it? Some of the stuff is almost dime size and several times it has clogged the filter intake openings.

My mother has had freshwater aquariums and tropical fish since I was a kid (I'm 54 now) and I never remember seeing such a growth of brown algae (her tanks almost always some greenish algae and she always had algea-eaters) nor any white fluffy stuff collecting on plants or floating around the tank. I know that for quite a while her lighting was from incandescent bulbs - is that a reason for the different algae type and amount that grew?

Thank you for your help and replies.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,323 Posts
Whoa! I would say to begin with that you are way overfeeding as I would be putting in no more than 1 pinch and that a small one for that small group of fish. Technically they have stomachs the size of their eyes and so they cannot possibly eat that much and fish have been known to be okay eating one meal a day.

I would say that you are definitely correct and you have brown algae diatoms in the tank and the best solution for that is a school of about 5 or 6 otocinclus catfish that you will not probably see working but are the best eaters of brown algae imaginable. After the algae is consumed and the tank is algae free you will need to supplement their diet with some algae wafers (one a night ought to do it). They are nocturnal fish so do not be concerned if you buy them and never see them and they need to have at least one real plant in the tank to do well. You can get a small piece of floating plant like a hornwort if you do not want a lot of problems with a complicated plant. Just be sure to soak it for about 30 minutes in a quart of water with 1 heaping teaspoon of Alum and then rinse it well before adding it to the tank so that if it is infested with critters it will not transfer them to the tank.

The white stuff could be uneaten food or it could be a start on what we would call a bacterial bloom and a mix of uneaten food. This sometimes happens when the nitrogen cycle of the filter is compromised by the filter being turned off for more than 30 minutes and loss of beneficial bacteria in the filter media due to drying from the loss of action of the filter. This will correct itself through consistent use of the filter and not replacing the whole filter media. It just is reseeding itself it sounds like and the uneaten food needs to be removed by syphoning the gravel for gravel maintenance.

Have you ever done this before or do you have the equipment to do it? It is not expensive and not hard to do and I have a syphon that has a hand bulb on it that is self priming. it is just a matter of getting it started and letting it run out into a large bucket or in my case with a 50 foot piece of 1/2" tubing out into my flower bed. If you have one without the hand pump it is still not hard and it is a matter of filling the large tube you will be using to clean the bottom of the tank with and holding the smaller tubing up until you are ready to put it down to start the flow. I have even seen people use cheap turkey basters to start the flow in the tube if they wanted to do it the easier way. Just put the large tube in the tank and use a turkey baster to suck the air out the end that fits into the bucket. When the water begins to flow move the larger tube about on the gravel surface and slightly under the surface to bring out the debris in the gravel. On other occasions when you want to deep clean your gravel you can dig into your gravel deeper as you go. But this time while you are trying to establish the bacteria bed in the filter again you do not want to do a really deep cleaning of your gravel.

Rose
 
  • Like
Reactions: Divelucaya

·
Pleco n bn breeder n BOSS
Joined
·
7,685 Posts
It also sounds like you are going through a mini cycle since you replaced the filter where most of the beneficial bacteria is housed. I wouldn't put otos in the tank until its stablized. Have you checked your water parameters? What are the readings of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates?
 

·
Water Chemistry/ LiveBearer Specialist
Joined
·
343 Posts
As Chickadee said, the white stuff is probably all decaying fish food. I have 20 tanks that are fairly full of fish and do not use as much fish food in a day as you do. Between all 20 of them I might use 1 tsp a day. By now, with all that decaying food, you probably have quite a bit of ammonia in the tank's water so the water change has likely perked up the fish a bit. Unless you have gotten all of the waste food out of the tank, you will need to do frequent large water changes to control the explosion of ammonia that will be happening in that tank.
Right now I would suggest that you get a test kit, the kind that uses little test tubes, to measure ammonia and nitrites. That will allow you to monitor the water quality and give us numbers to help you control the build up of these poisons in your tank.
The algae bloom is likely caused by the huge excess of nutrients in your water from the decaying food. In addition, the only light that you need on your tank is enough to be able to see the fish. Since you don't have live plants, any light when you are not present is not needed at all unless you keep the fish in an unlighted basement or a similar location.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
67 Posts
As the previous posters stated,you are overfeeding your fish causing uneaten foods to grow mold(the white stuff floating)This can kill your fish not only from ammonia but the mold can also grow on your fish. Scaleless fish such as cats can die very quickly from this.I agree with chickadee on the use of octocinclus cats to help control algae but not until you get the mold problem under control.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Thanks to all of you; quite a prompt response for just posting yesterday. I have not tested the water other than the test for potable water. There was a dip stick for either nitrates or nitrites and it looked like the reading was one step above 0. Unfortunately I misplaced the booklet, as I do most paperwork and bills, where I recorded the data. When I was at PetCo I considered buying a test kit but backed off because of the price and my declining financial situation. But I see that I will have to get something. I hope they do not all rely on matching to a color chart as I have problems with colors, especially if the gradients are increasing shades of one color. Any suggestions on a good reliable and easy to read test kit that is not too expensive?

My fish have indeed perked up quite a bit. The reasons I was feeding them so much food is 1) it seems like it is impossible to get just a little food to come out of the container when you shake it and 2) the food floats around the top and then when it gets near the filter discharge it is pushed under and most of it flows along the front glass where the fish won't go after it. I have seen a lot of the food go quickly down to the gravel and it appears the fish only eat what they see floating around which ends up being less than a quarter of what I put in. It's funny because I remember watching my mother's fish dart up to the top to snatch the food and also feed off the food that ended up on the gravel. My fish just seem to swim around mid-lower quarter of the tank and wait for the food to come to them or at least in their vicinity. Maybe I will try a different food or mash up the flakes much smaller so they don't float around on the surface until they get near the filter.

Regarding washing live plants with alum; where the h*ll do you buy alum? I believe styptic pencil are made of alum but other than that I have no idea where to get it.

Can I get some feedback on using freshwater snails for algae control? If they are good for algae control is it necessary to get them from a pet store? The reason I ask is because the lake I go swimming at with my son has tons of snails (we used to call them whelkies although they may not be a true whelk) on the bottom. I know there could be a concern about transmitting some disease to my tank but I almost have to believe that the lake snails would present less of a problem than those from a pet store, although I do have to say my local PetCo had very clean tanks and no (at least that I noticed) dead fish floating on the top.

Regarding the filter; 1) what is a goood changeout schedule for filters cartridges (I have a Penguin 100)? I want to get as much life from them considering their cost but also do not want to jeopardize my fish. Also, it seems like I can fit a 2nd cartridge behind the 1st so would this help build up the beneficial bacteria on the new cartridge before removing the old cartridge? Can the filter cartridges be cleaned and re-used?

Thanks a whole lot again for your help, all of you.
 

·
Pleco n bn breeder n BOSS
Joined
·
7,685 Posts
Your fish store can test the water for you if you don't want to purchase a good test kit. And most will do it for free.

If you feed less, the less food will reach the bottom. So less problems there. Weekly water changes are good for your fish and plants.

I wouldn't put snails from the lake in a tank with tropicals, you never know what parasites they are carrying.

With your filter cartridges, I haven't purchased one in years. I usually just rinse them off with old tank water that has been removed and put them back. The only time I have ever replaced one is when they start falling apart. If the second cartridge would fit behind the one, you can do that but it will take a couple of weeks to colonize it then you would feel it would need replaced to as it will be just as dirty as the first if not dirtier.

Alum you can usually find in a health food store, sometimes in a grocery store with the canning supplies, and a few pharmacies will carry it.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,323 Posts
Alum will be found in the spice department in any grocery store as it is used in making pickles.

The Penguin 100 has the bio-wheel right? You never change that out in spite of the fact that it will get to looking kind of yucky. That is your bacterial bed and it is the part that keeps your tank healthy. The other part that looks like a flat pancake type thing you can change every month or so, but if you get the generic type of bonded fabric which does not contain carbon which I use you can just rinse good and put back in until it falls apart. It is like this and you cut it with scissors to fit the spot in the filter and just reuse until it is ready to fall apart. The reason you don't reuse the ones with carbon in them is that the carbon can release phosphates in the tank that they have removed and cause you problems.

Aquarium Mechanical Filtration Media: Blue Bonded Filter Pads

This is a large pad and will make probably a dozen or more filter pads for your filter so would make a year or more of filter replacements even if you do not rinse and reuse. If you do reuse you can use this for several years worth of media replacements.

You may be able to make a baffle for the outflow of the filter to decrease the flow of the filter to allow the food not to be buffetted about too much Just take a small square of the filter media like above and put some wide tape like duct tape or packing tape on the upper edge of it and put in the front of the outlet of the filter just to slow the flow of the outlet at the surface of the water without stopping it. Just use the tape to attach the top of the media to the filter and let the bottom of the media square flow loose on the water surface like this: (I staple the tape to the media in a couple places to keep it in place)
 

Attachments

  • Like
Reactions: Divelucaya

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
Thanks again for the replies. One thing the replies do is prompt me to do a little more research online and I learn more (I love learning about almost anything). I found out that snails can multiply very rapidly and in large numbers which can be detrimental for a tank. So no snails for me. I also found out that charcoal in filters remove chemicals (I should have known this as we used charcoal beds in the nuclear industry to remove radioiodines and other airborne chemicals - see I also forget things I learned) but that once loaded they will start "unloading" these chemicals back to the tank. I would rather save money by just using non-carbon filters than replacing them every two weeks or so. I'll save the carbon ones I still have for times when A-N-N levels rise. As for having the pet store test my water it seems like if I am having a problem and need to test somewhat frequently it would be better to do so myself as the pet store is not close and with the rising price of gas and the fact my Tahoe gets only 14 mpg it could be costlier to have the store run the test. I may get a test kit and a couple otos today as I don't see a lot of the white fluffy stuff anymore. I did try rubbing the food flakes between my fingers but I just made most of the food too small and the fish just didn't seem to see it, going after only the larger pieces. Today I tried releasing the flakes under the water but they just floated to the top until they reached the filter discharge. The one thing I observed is that the fish do not go after the larger flakes and that the platys seem to prefer flakes of a particular color. The larger flakes are the ones that end up uneaten on the bottom. So I am going to run a knife down through the flakes to try to break them into a more "edible" size.

Has anyone observed a big difference between their heater setting(s) and thermometers? Supposedly the Aqueon heater I have is supposed to be accurate to within +/-1 degree F. I currently have it set to 72 degrees yet my in-tank thermometer shows 80 degrees. It is a PetCo brand thermometer but unless poorly assembled with the scale being off, I would think the thermometer should be more accurate. The thermometer is at the opposite corner of the tank from the heater and closer to the filter discharge so I would think the reading would be in "cooler" waters than that near the heater. So we are talking about a temperature differential of 8+ degrees. The other thing is I do not have the heater submersed although it is a submersible one. I am afraid of electricuting the fish because if the heater is in fact inaccurate, then how well would the seal be around the wiring. Any comments on submersible vs. non-submersible heaters and Aqueon vs. other brand heaters?

Chickadee: the one thing I did read about within a day of tank set up was that bio-wheels should not be replaced no matter how "yucky" they look unless the wheel is somehow damaged. And believe me, mine has a really gross brown color. Thanks for the link to the filter pads.
 

·
Water Chemistry/ LiveBearer Specialist
Joined
·
343 Posts
The thermometer is much more likely to be accurate than the dial on a heater. Try removing it from the tank and check its reading, once it dries off, against the room temperature. The +/-1F may be a reasonable control range but the thermometer is the best way to gauge the setting. I have no doubt that your heater can hold a 1 or 2 degrees band once it is set right. Put the darned thing under water so that even when you are doing a water change it will stay submerged. The temperature sensor is usually at the opposite end from the heating element so you might have it half way out of the water which would skew the setting quite a bit.

Carbon filters are not used to remove ammonia or nitrites since they will exhaust to those chemicals in a very short time, instead we use a biological filter composed of bacteria to remove ammonia and nitrites by converting them right through to nitrates which are much less toxic. The nitrates are removed by the weekly water changes. We use carbon to remove color or odor from tank water or to remove medication after a disease treatment. It is fairly good at reducing the TOC of the water. I still work at a nuc plant and understand the delay effect that carbon is used for there but in a fish setting we discard the carbon before it releases anything back into the tank.
An on line source of test kits will probably cost you much less than the LFS will charge for the same kit. As you say, the "free test" that costs a fortune in fuel is not exactly free but there are lots of people who don't understand that. Try a search for the API master test kit. It will test for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and pH, all of which are useful information when analyzing the tank's water for problems.
 

·
Goodwill Ambassador
Joined
·
377 Posts
An easy way to keep your food from floating -- first, don't shake the food into the tank. You get too much food that way. I take a pinch between my fingers, submerge it into the water, and then gently 'swish' any that remains floating so it will sink. Try not to feed next to the filter, you may need to turn off your filter for a few minutes while you feed, then plug it back in.
 
1 - 11 of 11 Posts
Top