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Hi fellow fish lovers! Need a little help or advice.


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I have been into aquariums for years but recently my 36g Bowfront tank has been a nightmare to get cleared up very cloudy. It was nice and clear for a long time but recently I can't get it straight. It will just about get clear after filter media changes but then the filter media gets green and slimey. I have used a little bit of clear water stuff and algae control but with no success. I was using 2 HOB filters 1 Fluval 50 and Penguin 150 older version. But decided to try a new Top Fin Pro 50 HOB and hasn't got any better maybe worse. I have to change carbon  and rinse other media weekly or it overflows around the tube. I have 3 Bala Sharks one is big 5", 4 Tiger Barbs 1-2", 2 Gouramis 2", and 1 big Pleco 6-7". I know that's probably pushing it on being crowded but waste isn't really the issue I don't think. Water here does suck but I have always cycled my tanks and I never use tap water to clean up the media or filters without treating it first same when I do water changes I am sure to treat and use a all in with live bacteria. I use a master test kit regularly and don't have any bad levels of anything ph is also pretty good. I thought maybe I was leaving the light on too much so I cut back but it hasn't helped. My tanks clarity can change in a couple hours which I have never really experienced. Any help or advice would be great! Gonna go broke buying stuff for filter and chemicals! Also I love my fishes I want them to be happy and they are not! Thanks again!

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Welcome to Nermlandia,  @Mick!

Plecos are well known waste machines, and they are really sensitive to elevated nitrates in the water. The pleco (if it's a common pleco) and your sharks are going to need more space than the bow can provide. So that's one potential contributor to the cloudy water: combination of overstocked with the sharks and the pleco, and both are known for creating a LOT of waste.

I didn't see information for your water parameters. 

A lot of recommendations from people are about what works for them, in their parameters. What works for me living in the desert almost 2 miles above sea level did not work at sea level with soft water. 

So, we need to know your tap water parameters and your tank water parameters (pH, GH, kH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and chlorine if possible).

Do you use Prime to dechlorinate, or a different brand?

How old is your tank set up?

Do you have live plants?

Finally, activated carbon is not particularly effective at helping to establish a beneficial bacteria colony to keep the water clean.

Most frequent cause of cloudy, or milky water is a bacterial bloom in the tank due to aggressive cleaning of the tank, or overly cleaning the filtration system, or too many water changes (ironic that we do water changes to eliminate the cloudy water and it just makes it worse 🤦‍♂️).

What you will see a lot of us do, is remove the filter media from the HOP, and replace it with foam/sponges with big pores for the best beneficial bacteria action.

Never clean both sponges at the same time, or you risk crashing your cycle and having to start over again. 

If you use the search option, you can find information on water parameters and testing, the difference between a cycled tank and a seasoned tank, and the Aquarium Co-op tips for how to hack a better filter. 

I have accidentally crashed my cycle and gotten the cloudy white water. I added beneficial bacteria from another tank, and the water literally cleared up overnight. 

Not every tank will resolve the issue that quickly, I got lucky and had a sponge I could move from 1 tank to another. 

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@Torrey gave great advice. The carbon filters are expensive and not very good. The carbon fills in a few days and becomes no more affective than gravel. I only use aquaneat 30 ppi foam from Amazon.  30 ppi houses the most beneficial bacteria and never needs replaced. I can go months without it clogging. I squeeze it out in old tank water when my flow slows down. By getting a different filter you lost all the beneficial bacteria on the hard plastic of the old one so it will take a bit to regrow. Here is a very helpful video. Welcome to the forum  


Edited by Guppysnail
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  • 2 weeks later...

So sorry it took me so long to respond to everyone's advice and info! But I did take your advice and my tank is finally looking great and not changing from clear to cloudy over and over. The stuff in my media was like ectoplasmic goop very dense and almost like algae. That's why I think it was some type of algae or bacteria bloom. If it gets bad again I'll take pics to post . I am going to very careful not kill off my good bacteria or change all types of media at once. Unfortunately I do have a fish with dropsy probably from the water quality during the fight to get rid of the goop. Dropsy is bad I hate that disease or whatever it is. My poor Golden Gourami is swollen and not acting like her normal self. I am going to isolate her tonight and medicate heavily and hope to see a improvement. I lost one of my favorite fish of all time Pipsqueak the albino barb got dropsy last year and slowly died from it and I tried everything to save him. I am very attached to my fish and it was very hard to watch cause they suffer when they get dropsy IMO. Any advice on meds or any other treatment would be great! Anyway on to better things my two rescued turtles are doing great and I think they are super smart. To call them cute is a understament one is a slider and other is a musk I think. Those little jokers can eat! They are so funny to watch eat and sleep while basking! They look like they got ran over or something they way they sprawl out completely! When they eat  usually there's one shrimp left in the middle of the tank and it is a showdown who gets it! Lol! Going to post some pics and video if I can. Thanks again! 

Edited by Mick
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