How to Get Rid of Cloudy Aquarium Water

The easiest way to get rid of cloudy aquarium water is to ask yourself some questions as to what could be causing the problem. This article will deal with white, milky, hazy aquarium water, and not green aquarium water, which is a problem with algae.

How Long Has the Aquarium Been Running?

A fish tank that has been running for less than 6 weeks goes through a cloudy period, often called “new tank syndrome.” New tank syndrome occurs because not enough beneficial bacteria have had a chance to populate the aquarium. Adding water conditioner, beneficial bacterial supplements, and waiting it out (up to a week) are the only things a person can do to cure cloudy water in a new fish tank.

Is Regular Maintenance Being Performed on the Aquarium?

Cloudy water is often caused by a lack of, or improper, routine maintenance. The gravel should be siphoned and the filters should be changed at least once a month. If these actions are not carried out every month, particulate waste matter can build up and disperse throughout the tank, causing an unsightly haze. (Read here our list of the best gravel cleaners)

Has the Water Been Tested?

Cloudy aquarium water is one of the first signs of ammonia build-up in a fish tank. Ammonia is a waste product of fish and will kill them if there is too much in a tank. Ammonia build-up usually occurs in new tanks, when there are too many fish in an aquarium, or when regular maintenance has not been carried out. Testing for ammonia will tell if this is what is making the water cloudy.

A change in the ph value of the aquarium is an indicator of too many dissolved constituents in the water (such as ammonia, phosphates, silicates, and heavy metals). Water conditioners that neutralize these constituents, as well as adjust the ph will help clear the water. Regular testing of aquarium water is always a good idea.

How Old is The Gravel?

Even if the gravel of an aquarium is siphoned on a regular basis, it could still be causing the water to go cloudy. After several years, the gravel may begin to dissolve and break down. This could cause particulate matter to flow throughout the tank, and create a haze. New gravel will solve this problem, especially if it is epoxy-covered gravel.

Have any New Ornaments Been Added to the Aquarium?

New items placed in the aquarium can react with the water, altering the ph level, and making the water cloudy. Placing seashells or anything made out of metal can be very harmful to a freshwater aquarium. Only use ornaments that are aquarium safe (from an aquarium store) and not items (like rocks and pieces of wood) found outside.

If you’ve tried everything else and the water is still cloudy, take out all the ornaments, and see if the water clears. If it is the ornaments, a noticeable difference in the clarity of the water should be seen in 2-3 days after their removal.

Can Anything be Added to the Aquarium That Will Clear the Water?

There are chemicals that can be added to clear aquarium water, but these should be used as a last resort. It is always better to get to the root of the problem, rather than just treat the symptoms.

Products like Accu-Clear and Waste Control work by clumping the fine particles clouding the water together. This allows them to be removed by the filter. Extra filter cartridges should be kept on hand because the extra detritus formed by these products causes filter media to clog up at a much faster rate (2-3 days vs a month).


3 Responses

  1. I have researched all websites on how to clear a cloudy aquarium. All of their advice is the same, except for the fact that they do not address exactly what it is that you’re feeding your fish. Yes, they all say “don’t overfeed your fish”. But the problem may be much more exacting and should also ask “what are you feeding your fish?” I have a nano tank, 6.7 gallons, and problems are much more concentrated in such a small environment. Believe me, I tried everything and then hit on another idea, “is the actual food I feed them contributing to a cloudy tank?” My experiment would have to answer a resounding “yes”. I was feeding my two corys one or two Hihari Algae Wafers a day which they loved and ate them with relish. I assumed they ate all the food because I saw nothing residual the next day. But I decided to test the turbidity which this particular food may cause. So, I placed a wafer in a glass of water and lo and behold, the next day the water in that glass was just as cloudy as my aquarium. I didn’t feed them the algae wafers after a 50% water change and the next day, the clarity of the water was improved by 50%. So, my conclusion is don’t just be mindful of how much you feed, but also, how much are the products one uses contributing to a cloudy tank. Many products will contribute to this condition and no matter what you feed them, do so very sparingly, especially in a nano tank environment and always ask yourself “is this food causing a very dirty condition in my tank? Going forward, I intend to break those algae wafers into much smaller pieces that I know my corys can consume within minutes. I hope this revelation will help all those who suffer from cloudy aquarium conditions, with no other hope in sight. It has certainly helped my aquarium.

    1. Thanks so much Chad- I had the same issue (my tank is 55 gallons) and was a my wits end until I saw this post.

      Like you i used the same wafers as you but never gave a second thought that they may cause an issue.

      After stopping them for 3 days the tank was crystal clear – i’ve now reduced how many and often i use with no further issues.

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