How to clear a cloudy aquarium tank

Written by christine jonard
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How to clear a cloudy aquarium tank
Many factors can affect your aquarium tank resulting in cloudy water. (fish image by JASON WINTER from

Several things cause a cloudy aquarium tank. If the aquarium is new or you've recently acquired new fish, for example, the water becomes cloudy due bacterial level adjustments in handling extra waste. Alternately, if your aquarium tank has no new additions and the water becomes cloudy, it requires investigating possible causes to safeguard your fish.

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Things you need

  • Water test kit (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite tests)
  • Gravel vacuum and hose
  • Measuring cup

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    Test Water for Cause of Cloudiness

  1. 1

    Collect 1/2 cup of aquarium water to measure the amount of pH, nitrate, nitrite and ammonia in the water.

  2. 2

    Perform the tests according to the test kit manufacturer's directions. Read the instructions carefully.

  3. 3

    Determine whether there is an excess of ammonia, nitrate or nitrite by comparing the results of the tests with the colour chart that accompanies the test kit. Make sure the pH is stable by checking frequently, especially if your tank is new. A pH that is too alkaline, or above 7.0, makes the water appear cloudy due to the excess dissolved phosphates, silicates or heavy metals.

  4. 4

    Add an appropriate water treatment to counteract the problem. For example, an ammonia neutraliser will change ammonia into a non-toxic form. Excess nitrates and nitrites contribute to cloudy water by encouraging algae growth. If nitrates are the problem, then adding a nitrogen removing media to your filter helps.

    Steps to Clear Cloudy Water

  1. 1

    Change 20 per cent of the aquarium volume. This removes some of the debris and bacteria that cause cloudy water. Do this every day for a week.

  2. 2

    Vacuum the gravel with a gravel vacuum to remove debris and excess bacteria. This temporarily clouds the water by stirring up organic material settled in the gravel substrate. Filters then remove the debris.

  3. 3

    Get a handful of gravel from an established tank. This gravel contains beneficial bacteria that digest the waste material in the water and reduce the cloudiness. Most fish stores provide this if asked.

    Other Tips to Clear Cloudy Water

  1. 1

    Feed the fish only the amount they can eat in 10 minutes. Overfeeding causes bacterial overgrowth, resulting in cloudy water.

  2. 2

    Add aquarium salt and water conditioner to the tank. Salt helps fish fight diseases. Water conditioner removes harmful chemicals, like ammonia, chlorine and chloramine.

  3. 3

    Avoid overcrowding the tank. Too many fish in a tank stress the fish and overwhelm both the filter and beneficial bacteria.

Tips and warnings

  • Prevent cloudy water by cleaning the gravel thoroughly at least once a month.
  • Once your water is no longer cloudy, change 20 per cent of the water volume twice a week to keep it clear.

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