How to Get Rid of Cloudy Water in a Fish Tank

fish tank

Getting an aquarium can be an exciting hobby and centerpiece for your home. Of course, caring for these exotic marine animals or even pet store goldfish comes with a lot of responsibility, and any seasoned fish aquarium owner will tell you to proceed with caution when cleaning your tank.

How you clear up a cloudy fish tank is different from how you clear cloudy pool water fast. This is because you are focused on swimmer hygiene and safety for pools, and humans can withstand certain chemical exposures better than fish can in many cases. However, what causes cloudy pool water can often be very similar to what causes cloudy water in your fish tank.

What Causes Cloudy Water in a Tank?

There are several reasons why your aquarium could be looking murky. For example, having a poor filtration system is a common reason for cloudy water in both pools and aquariums. Other common reasons are:

  • Switching to a new tank

  • Overfeeding your fish

  • Your substrate

  • The glass on the tank

  • Having too many fish

  • Dead fish or decaying matter in the tank

Murky water is not only an eyesore, but a health risk for your fish. Below, we’ll explore the different types of cloudy or dirty aquarium water, their root causes, and solutions to return your tank to a clear and glittery oasis!

Causes and Solutions to Cloudy Water

When you’re looking at your fish tank and see cloudy water, it’s easy to see that it’s unappealing. Before you start on any solutions or fixes, pour a sample of the aquarium water into a cup or bucket that is solid white on the inside. This way, you can more clearly inspect the color and cloudiness of the water without the interference or distraction from your fish, reflection from the tank decor, or anything else.

Bacterial Bloom

Peek into your cup–if it looks like diluted milk with very few or no visible particles, it could be a sign of bacterial bloom. Bacterial bloom occurs when there’s an excess of nutrients in the tank’s water, but not enough beneficial bacteria to consume it. This can cause the bacteria to rapidly reproduce to compensate for the excess; that sudden repopulation in the bacteria colony can make it look like someone poured milk into your tank.

This can also occur when you’re cycling your aquarium or introduce a big group of fish to the tank suddenly. When these things happen, there isn’t enough beneficial bacteria in the tank to support the ecosystem yet, or because a large portion of the beneficial bacteria were killed from overcleaning the filter, changing large volumes of tank water, or using specific medication that kills off that bacteria.

The solution is to just wait it out. Adding UV sterilizer or changing out the water won’t remove the cloudiness and will continue the cycle of killing beneficial bacteria, forcing the existing bacteria to overcompensate. If you simply wait one to two weeks, it should start to clear up on its own.

Particles Floating In Water

When you see specks or particles in your water, it’s likely:

  • Fish waste

  • Excess food

  • A dusty substrate

  • Miscellaneous debris

  • A combination of all of the above

We recommend setting a regular cleaning schedule that suits the needs of your tank, and even altering it when changes are made. Even planting new plants in your tank can upset the water, because bits of substrate may flake off and float into the water column. 

You may need to clean more thoroughly when making changes to your tank. An easy solution in this case is to invest in an aquarium siphon to vacuum particles and substrates to keep the water clean and clear. 

If you’re overfeeding your fish or giving them certain types of foods, this can either turn into dusty fish feces that cloud the water, or the food sits at the top of the water and creates cloudy particles. Opt for fish foods that have live ingredients or single-ingredients, because this will result in solid fish waste that is easier to clean.

Finally, using water clarifiers can clear out debris in your water. These clarifiers contain special clay or chemical bonds that cause particles to clump together, allowing them to get caught in the filter more easily instead of floating around in your tank. Keep in mind that this can cause your tank to look cloudier at first before the filter has a chance to clear up the debris.

In Summary

When you have a fish tank, you want to be able to see your aquatic buddies in all their glory. Cloudy tank water can prevent light from reaching the plants in your tank, cause illness for your fish, or even stress them out if it deviates from the environment they need to thrive. 

Pool Care Guy has all the tips and tricks you need to keep your aquariums, hot tubs, pools, and manufactured ponds in tip-top shape. It’s more than aesthetics–it’s also about health. With our advice, you can keep your water sparkling and clean in no time!

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