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I re­cently set up a 60 x 30 x 30cm Aquael trop­i­cal fresh­wa­ter aquarium which came with an Aquael 300 in­ter­nal fil­ter.

The wa­ter has been milky since the start! I be­lieved this to be a bac­te­ria bloom and as­sumed it would be re­solved within a few weeks but it has now been over a month!

I’ve got car­bon in the fil­ter and I’ve just added some Pure bac­te­ria balls to the fil­ter be­cause I was told I may be lack­ing in ben­e­fi­cial bac­te­ria. I do reg­u­lar 10–20% wa­ter changes, once a week to be pre­cise.

Re­gard­ing fish, I started with a three tetras and a Bristlenose and after two weeks I added a Betta and two Endler gup­pies. I also have four Amano shrimp but I haven’t seen them since I put them in.

Please can you ad­vise? WES­LEY OAK­LEY, EMAIL.

AIt sounds as though you didn’t cy­cle the tank be­fore you added the first fish, so as you sur­mise, the bloom is prob­a­bly caused by bac­te­ria in the wa­ter col­umn liv­ing off the fish waste that the fil­ter is as yet in­ca­pable of fully deal­ing with. You don’t men­tion the re­sults of any wa­ter tests you’ve car­ried out but I sus­pect they will show el­e­vated lev­els or am­mo­nia and ni­trite as well as the ex­pected ni­trate read­ing. Four weeks into a ‘fish-in cy­cle’ then things should at least be im­prov­ing bac­te­ri­ally and the fil­ter slowly catch­ing up with the bi­oload of the stock in the tank. The reg­u­lar wa­ter changes will have helped pre­vent the death of the fish but they may have suf­fered some long term dam­age from pro­longed ex­po­sure to am­mo­nia and ni­trite, so keep a close eye on them for signs of dis­ease and par­a­sites. The ad­di­tion of the bac­te­rial sup­ple­ment should be help­ing speed the whole process a lit­tle as well.

Bac­te­rial blooms are com­mon-place in new tanks and usu­ally come and go dur­ing the fish­less cy­cling process we rec­om­mend, so while un­sightly, they are usu­ally harm­less. Yours is prob­a­bly tak­ing a lit­tle longer to clear as you are hav­ing to carry out reg­u­lar wa­ter changes to keep the fish alive which di­lutes the waste the bac­te­ria in your fil­ter feeds on. In a fish­less cy­cle, you can sim­ply let things take their course but you don’t have that lux­ury as the fish would suf­fer should you stop the wa­ter changes.

As long as there is no green tint to the bloom (which would show an al­gal con­stituent), carry on with the wa­ter changes and maybe re­duce the feed­ing slightly. Given time the bloom should clear by it­self.

Re­gard­ing the miss­ing shrimp, crus­taceans can be ex­tra sen­si­tive to poor wa­ter con­di­tions so may have fallen vic­tim to the wa­ter qual­ity if you haven’t seen them for a while. Don’t give up on them just yet though, they may just be hid­ing away some­where. BOB MEHEN

Cloudy wa­ter in new tanks is of­ten caused by harm­less bac­te­rial blooms.

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