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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone.
So, over the last 2 weeks I noticed that my 16 gallon tank was starting to get a little cloudy or milky looking. I've been monitoring all of the basic parameters (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, Ph, salinity) and to my knowledge everything seems to be in check. Well, over this last week since my last water chance, the tank has gotten a lot worse. It almost looks like swirling clouds within the water.

Well, after doing all the research I could, I think it may be calcium carbonate precipitate in the water column but I really don't know for sure. I have 2 fish (both fire fish) and a cleaner shrimp as the only livestock in the tank. I did a larger WC yesterday evening (30%) since it was the first time that I noticed a change in mood of my fish and my 1 small zoa colony. The 2 firefish went into hiding and my zoas were partially closed. I'm sort of at a loss as to how to clear it up at this point.

I did read somewhere that the salt mix can make water cloudy and since I was at the bottom portion of the bag, I bought a new bag of instant ocean salt mix. I also changed feedings to every other day when I first noticed the cloudiness but it hasn't seemed to affect the water clarity any.

Attached is a picture of the tank just for a visual reference (Sorry about clarity, its from my phone.)

Water parameters:
Temp: 78
Ph: 7.9
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 5-10
Salinity: 1.025
 

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Active Anemone
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Its been like that for 2 weeks??? really?

What filtration do you have in there? I see a powerhead. Do you have a skimmer?

We need some water movement and maybe a filter just to clear things up.

How old is the tank? Is that powerhead pointing down or up?

Sorry a lot of questions but usually the cloudiness is a 2-3 day period thing. Sped up obviously with filters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hey. Thanks for the replys. Sorry. It's started 2 weeks ago, but was only very light. I fully expected it to clear up but after my last water change, it only increased in cloudiness. So, it only been this bad for about 3 maybe 4 days.
The tank has been set up for 3 months. I have 2 power heads, 1 pointing up and the other into my rock structure. I have an AC 30 hob filter for filtration.
 

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I would leave your powerhead on that is up high and the one in the rocks turn off for the time being.

Water change isn't a bad idea but if you are pouring it into the tank it will make the sand rise and create more of a mess. (this is the reason i use small pumps for water changes, easier on the fish and no sand whirlwinds to make a mess)

I would say keep an eye on it and we can make bigger moves if it isnt clear by Monday.
 

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Is your sand like sugar? If it is that powerhead on the right pointed at the rocks might be the cause of this. It might be hitting the rocks then dispersing and making the sand swirl up into the water.

If your sand isn't very fine then is there powdery accumulation on your heater or powerheads? If there is I would think more of calcium precipitation, esp if you got to the bottom of your salt supply and you have not been mixing your salt supply each time you make new water.

And finally it could be a bacterial bloom. Your ph is on the lower side, although it's not really 'low', but could be used as an indicator for bacterial bloom.

First I would suggest repositioning the powerhead on the right so it's not blowing sand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I've never had a problem with it kicking up sand over the past few months. The sand is like sugar though.... I'm just getting home from work, I will turn off one of my power heads just to see if it alleviates some of the cloudiness.

Attached is what the tank normally looks like... up until recently....

Would it hurt to turn both power heads off for a few hours and see if anything settles?
 

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I doubt anything noticeable will settle in a few hours, but if that powerheads been there the whole time it's probably not the sand. I wouldn't shut a powerhead off tho, just reposition it upwards to help with gas exchange. I disturbed the sand once and made my tank cloudy, IMO it takes more time to settle without flow then with flow
 

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Underwater Demolitions
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I'm thinking bacterial bloom. Calcium carbonate precipitation will settle from the water onto the sand and rocks. You don't dose and you are not using an "amped up" salt, which makes it even less likely.

During a bacterial bloom, the bacteria consume a lot of oxygen. Make sure to aerate the water while this is going on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I was just thinking, It very well could be my sand bed. I bought a new gravel syphon about 3 weeks ago since I hadn't been cleaning my sand much. Even though I have only used it twice and not on the whole sand bed, it probably loosened up everything enough for the water flow to kick up the sand... At least I am hoping that is the problem. It fits the time line now that I think about everything.

If it is just a problem with stirring up my sand bed, how long should it take for the debris to settle?
 

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Usually less then a day from siphoning the sand. But unless you can see a crater in the sand being made by the powerhead that's probably not the case. However loosening detritus from the sandbed from cleaning it could help fuel the bacteria bloom.

How old is your tank? Was the sand sold as 'live sand'? How long did the sand go before vacuuming it?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The tank has been up and running about 4 months. The sand was sold as live sand. The sand bed went close to 2 months without vacuuming... The dog chewed up the hose on it and I just kept putting off repairing it until a few weeks ago.

There is a slight crater in the sand next to the glass around the rock work but have never had a problem with sand getting in the water column from it... Might be the root of the problem since I started cleaning the sand bed again.

I also just moved my power heads around. I'm going to keep both running high in the tank for a couple of days and see what happens.

If it does turn out to be a bacteria bloom, what would be my next course of action?

Thanks for all the help! I really appreciate it.
 

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I also lean towards bacterial bloom. If critters are acting up then continue with water changes, ensure the new water matches and you dump it in in such a way as to not dislodge the sand. Even if you think its due to flow treat the tank as if there is a biological issue just in case. If you were to only react as if it was the power head and it turned out to be biological then you lose time to care for it which can be critical especially for a smaller volume. Consider keeping some new water mixed and ready to go, beyond what you plan for water changes, with a power head for circulation. This will allow you to react if something gets worse. Backup is always good.
Keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hey guys, just in for an update.

Its been about a day and a half and I cant see any noticeable difference in the water clarity since I moved my power heads to ensure that I wasn't kicking up sand. With that being said I would assume I'm looking at a bacterial bloom. What should my immediate plan of action be to deal with a bacterial bloom? I know that a bloom can consume a lot of oxygen but I have a good surface agitation so that shouldn't bee a problem. I am planning on doing a large WC this afternoon as soon as I am back home as well.

Are there any other immediate actions I should take? or are frequent WC's until the water clears the way to go?

Thanks again!
 

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Wc's, regular maintenance and patience. Your not dosing any carbon correct? I've seen a lot of luck with people using UV lights and clearing it up within a week or so. Do you have a lfs or a buddy that you can borrow a UV from? I don't see a UV being a practical expense in a 16g tank..

Try and not overfeed your fish, any extra food is going to be a prime source for the bacteria to keep doing what they are doing. You can also try a major water change, like 90% but if you do I would suggest acclimating everything just like you brought them home from the fish store. The only thing is I doubt a major water change will help, however I haven't read about it being done yet, just smaller water changes and those never helped.

Have a look here:

http://www.fishforums.net/index.php?/topic/246850-bacterial-blooms-explained/
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yeah, I doubt I'm going to invest in UV quite yet, and unfortunately, I do not have any friends that I could borrow any from. So, here's to hoping that I can do a series of intermediate water changes will help some.

The only carbon that is in the tank is in my HOB filter.

I cut back feedings when I first noticed the tank beginning to cloud up to every other day trying to limit any excess nutrients that may fuel whatever is going on.

I guess my question is now, if I do not use UV lights and I only do WC's will the bacteria bloom subside on its own?
 

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Sounds like overall your problem is that there are a lot of nutrients in the tank, causing the bacterial blooms and algae.

Let the bacteria and algae consume all of the nutrients until there are no nutrients left (Or the correct, lower levels), which is the recommended "cycle". When this is done, the tank will be very clean and you will see your levels balance out.

Water changes WILL NOT HELP. If the levels have still not subsided after your water changes, there are nutrients in your water or salt mix that are feeding the bacteria. Just let the tank cycle! C'mon; we all go through this! It just takes patience and time, but the results are VERY rewarding! Excessive water changes will make cycling impossible, since you are removing all the healthy bacteria in the system that are growing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Phane, thanks for the link in your previous post! Very informative!

Yeah, I agree that there are more than likely excessive nutrients. I am going to give 1 more cleaning this afternoon with a WC since I already have the water ready to go. Then its gonna be just a waiting game.

I am still fairly new to the hobby and am learning the in's and outs and the do's and dont's. I really appreciate all the advise!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
In with another update!

I'm continuously learning as I go and again have come away with another valuable lesson. I discovered the root of my cloudiness and within 12 hours the tank is 100% better! I have a very small Xenia plant growing in the tank and evidently a small branch became sick and died. I remembered that a small piece on the back of the frag didn't quite look right a couple of weeks ago but it had completely slipped my mind when the tank became cloudy as I couldn't really see it. I guess the old saying "Out of sight, Out of mind" applies here.

Well, during my water change yesterday evening I decided to move some stuff around in an attempt to see if I could locate a source of the cloudiness. Soon as I picked up the xenia it hit me that this was probably it. I transferred it to a bucket of old tank water, trimmed all the sick/dying/dead plant matter off of it and returned it to the tank. When I woke up this morning I could notice an immediate difference in the water clarity.

Thanks again to everyone that helped out! Its good to have the resources of this forum at my finger tips!
 
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