Bacterial bloom - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-29-2010, 06:50 PM Thread Starter
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Bacterial bloom

I have what appears to be bacterial blooms in 2 of my low tech (non-CO2) planted tanks out of the 4. All of these tanks are well established (2 years +). One of the tanks with the bloom has fish and one doesn't. The 2 tanks with fish get 2 30% water changes per week and the 2 non-fish tanks get 1 30% water change each week.

A bacterial bloom I could see in a situation where there was excess nutrients, like a plantless tank with fish, but plants and little or no fish has me baffled. Any ideas?

Here's the low down on the 4 tanks...

pH 8.4
Hardness not sure exactly, but its naturally high in the area where I live. Regardless, I don't think its a factor in this situation.
Ferts consist of Flourish Excel and Flourish liquid twice a week. They all got Floursh tabs about 3 months ago.

20 gallon with bloom.Cloudiness for about 3 weeks. I never have had cloudiness in this tank before.
Temp 78F.
Inhabitants are a temporary tank for a juvie Angelfish and a single Platy until it reaches the end of its life. (This tank will eventually be a shrimp tank, which it was originally.) The fish have been in there for about 3 months.
Plants consist of Najas guadalupensis, Bacopa carolina, a Rotala and a big Crypt clump. Forgive any incorrect spelling. At any rate, it's a jungle of plants that are fast growing in there. I have to regularly rip out Najas so it doesn't block out the light, as you would expect. The 2 stem plants have to be trimmed now and again as well.
The substrate consists of a minerialized soil topped with sand.
There is no filter or circulation and never has had it.
The lighting is a fluorescent but I'm not sure of the Kelvin. Its just a single bulb that's only about 2 months. The plants are growing aggressive for a non-CO2, so its not that the plants aren't getting enough photosynthesizing, I would think.

10 gallon with bloom. Cloudiness for about 5 weeks. Never had cloudiness before.
Temp 76F.
Inhabitants are maybe a couple pond snails, although I haven't seen any since I removed as many as I could find about 4 months back. This tank doesn't have any fish now. Up until 4 months ago this tank had a pair of BN and a Betta. This will eventually be a shrimp tank.
Plants isn't much. I've got about 6 or 7 clumps of Crypts in there that have been in there for 3 years. 2 weeks ago I added 2 clumps of Najas hoping it would help to get some fast growers in there, but it made no difference. The Najas has been slow to grow so far.
The substrate is just a thin 1/2 - 3/4 inch layer of gravel with the mulm allowed to build up over 3+ years.
Filtration. Previous to 4 months ago, when there were fish in this tank, there was a sponge filter. Currently there is no filter or circulation.
Lighting is a 6500K CF.

10 gallon without bloom. Never had a cloudiness issue. This tank is over 3 years old.
Temp 76F.
Inhabitants are 4 Platys and a recently deceased old man Betta. This will eventually be a shrimp tank after the Platys expire. About 2 years ago it was home to shrimp.
Plants are Bacopa carolina, a couple small Crypt clumps, an Anubias nana narrow leaf, Sagittaria sublata and Salvinia natans (which I thin weekly).
Substrate is 1 1/2 - 2 inches of crushed granite. Its that stuff that was used decades ago but isn't used anymore because of the sharp edges. (It was left over from my deceased father's tanks and I wanted to use it for sentimental reasons.) I've allowed a buildup of mulm.
As far as filtration, this tank did have a sponge filter and a whoosy HOB that I was using until the plants filled in. Currently there is no filter and not circulation.
The lighting currently consists of a 6500K CF. Plant growth is good for a non-CO2 tank with Salvinia.

10 gallon without bloom. Never had a cloudiness issue. This tank is over 3 years old.
Temp 76F.
Inhabitants are maybe a few pond snails, although I haven't seen any since removing as many as I could find 4 months ago. No fish. About a year ago this tank had a colony of Endlers'.
Plants are mostly Limnophila aromatica (I think), Lilaeopsis novae, some Bacopa carolina and an Anubias nana.
Substrate is a mineralized soil topped with sand.
This tank has never had a filter or circulation.
Lighting is a 6500K CF and the plants grow like crazy (for a non-CO2).

Holy gamoly this took a long time to write!
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post #2 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-31-2010, 12:40 AM
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Here is something I wrote a while ago that covers most of the common reasons for cloudy water in aquariums. Some of the issues you have cleared up in such detail in your post, but look it over, perhaps something will trigger an idea for a further test that leads to a solution. I have added a sentence or two with each paragraph that is suggested by your post.

In an aquarium there can be several causes for cloudy water. Cloudy water is not generally in itself toxic to the fish, but the reasons may point to some conditions that may become toxic.

1) pH or water hardness issues.
Sometimes the water company changes the components in the tap water, then you do a water change and that creates cloudy water when the old water and new water mix. Why in 2 tanks, not all 4 I do not know. Anyway...
Changing the pH is a tricky thing to do, and pet stores are all too ready to sell you pH Up and pH Down sorts of products without helping you understand what you are trying to do or to even hint that there is anything complex about water chemistry. If you think you need to alter the pH of your water please post:
-Tap water pH right out of the tap, and tap water pH after sitting out for 24-48 hours.
-Tap water GH and KH.
-The species of fish you are interested in keeping, and if you want to breed this fish.
This sort of problem can also show up if the water company changes the composition of the water, for example if they get their water from more than one source.
Another way that pH can be altered to the point of causing cloudy water in a tank is if some decorative rock or substrate is a rather soft form of limestone and the water is slightly acidic. This can be tested by putting the rock or gravel in a clear glass of tap water and testing the pH, GH and KH over several days or a week. You can see the water clouding up in a clear glass, and you can monitor the water chemistry changes.

2) Ammonia, especially from dead matter such as dead fish or snails, fallen food or similar source.
If the ammonia tests have been consistently 0 ppm all along, there still might be traces of it that are coming and going, in between testing, or the test equipment might not be accurate enough to show very low levels. Or the water company might be using a bit more chloramine, and this is introducing just enough ammonia to trigger some bacterial growth.
The cure for this one is to do enough water changes to keep the ammonia under .25 ppm, the nitrite under 1.0 ppm, and nitrate under 20 ppm. As you are doing these water changes vacuum the substrate well to remove fallen food and other debris. Feed less, so the fish clean up the food right away, and skip a day’s feeding once a week. This problem should go away when the tank is fully cycled, and when you find the dead fish or whatever is contributing to the steep rise in ammonia.

3) Pretty much every form of substrate (sand, gravel, planting soils) have fines in them, even a graded product like pool filter sand or gravel. The mulm that builds up can also cloud the water when it gets stirred. The tank can get cloudy from the dust if you stir up the substrate when you were moving a decoration or planting. Or did not wash the substrate before using it (new set up). Or poured the water in so fast when you were filling the tank that it stirred up the substrate. Usually this sort of cloudiness will settle in several hours to a day or so. If you do a water change and deliberately stir the gravel or sand so there is more dust in the water then remove this water with the water change then there is less dust overall in the tank, though the water may be cloudy with the debris that you have not removed. Cichids and some other fish are notorious diggers, and will keep clouding the tank this way. If you have a bad substrate that keeps clouding the water change it for something that does not. (Or has a lot less dust to begin with. The filter will gradually remove whatever the fish stirs up)

4) Heterotrophic bacteria will grow wherever there is food. These species can grow fast enough to cloud the water. They are feeding on organic matter that might have gotten in the tank while you were setting it up, for example your own skin cells and oils. Usually these bacteria settle down within a few days to a week, These are not nitrifying bacteria, but are beneficial. They are usually triggered by a new set up, or some change that has provided more food for them.
In an older tank a change such as feeding more fish food can also trigger these bacteria.

5) Green water algae will begin growing looking like white or grey cloudy water before it turns green enough for you to see that it is algae. After a few days to a week you should see it as green, though. If you have any white polyester floss in your filter this might show green before the tank water looks green. If you have no live plants you can turn off the tank light and hope the green water algae dies, and there are other things you can do without buying algaecides. The early growth of algae on the glass can also make it look like the water is cloudy.

6) Other: Someone put something in the water: Cheerios, Jell-O, paper or cardboard, all the fish food you just bought…
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post #3 of 4 (permalink) Old 12-31-2010, 12:51 AM
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Great post Diana. Thanks.

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post #4 of 4 (permalink) Old 01-14-2011, 04:25 AM
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what kind of bacteria is it? is it cyanobacteria? i have that problem and im pretty sure that is just a lack of dissolved carbon.
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