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High Ammonia, Cyanobacteria Returning, Blackout Advice

MyFishKaren

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6/5/18

I did a 40ish% water change, siphoning out to what I perceived was to be all of the cyanobacteria. I took this water test right after my water change. Refilling the water (dechlorinated, conditioned, and added bacteria) the parameters were as follows:

pH - 8.1
Ammonia - .50ppm
Nitrite - 0
Nitrate - 0

The fish (2 angels, 1 Dalmatian Molly, 1 dwarf gourami) seemed fine, happy and swimming around. I fed them and went as normal.

6/6/18

A day after 40% water change to remove cyanobacteria. The bacteria seems to be returning, and I might try a 72 hour blackout to eliminate the bacteria. Before I do a 72 hour blackout, any tips on what I should do? Do I continue to feed my fish, and will they be fine in total darkness? Any knowledge on the blackout subject will be greatly appreciated

The pH is now 8.0, it's still too high but it did drop .1 in less than 24 hours. Ammonia is now at 1.0ppm and has raise .50ppm since my last testing. Any advice for lowering my ammonia levels so my fish are okay? My nitrites have raised from 0ppm to somewhere in between 0ppm-0.25ppm. My nitrates have un-waivered and are still at 0ppm.

I need advice on how to go about eliminating the bacteria. If a blackout does not end up working, I'm half tempted in just getting new gravel. I'm not sure if cyanobacteria is something that dwells in the water or simply just stays on the rocks itself. How do I go about my high pH and ammonia? Also, what caused my nitrites to raise?

Thanks,
MyFishKaren
 

Colin_T

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Can one of the gms attach this thread onto the bottom of the one at the following link? It just makes it easier to follow when its about the same issue in the same tank, because there is relevant information there. :)
http://www.fishforums.net/threads/cyanobacteria-outbreak-help.448535/

-------------------------
If you are going to black out the aquarium then do not feed the fish during that time. They won't starve and will be fine. In the morning instead of turning the lights on, just leave them off and cover front back and sides with a towel or some dark cardboard or plastic, (black plastic bin liners work well). Leave it dark for a few days then in the morning after the black out period, remove the covers and wait an hour, then open the curtains or turn the room light on, wait an hour (or more) then turn the tank light on. This will prevent the fish going from complete dark to complete light suddenly.

The blackout is unlikely to fix the problem straight away and it is something that takes time. You need to remove the gunk that is in the gravel and increase water movement around the substrate. Sometimes it can take a couple of weeks to clear up, other times it can take months.

Changing the gravel is unlikely to fix the problem because the Cyanobacteria will be on ornaments, glass and right through the tank. So unless you strip the tank down and boil everything, you probably won't get rid of it by changing the gravel.

-------------------------
Don't add any plant fertilisers or medications or anything else to the tank. The only thing you need to add to the water is a dechlorinator and that should be added to the new tap water before it is added to the tank.

-------------------------
How long has the tank been set up for?

If you are getting an ammonia & nitrite reading then the filters have been upset and the beneficial filter bacteria have been killed off, or the tank is new and the filters haven't cycled yet.

What sort of filter is on the tank and is it run continuously (24/7)?

When did you last clean the filter and how did you clean it?

-------------------------
If you can find out how hard your water is, then that can provide information about the pH. Generally if you have hard water (water with lots of minerals in it) then the water will usually be alkaline.

If you have hard alkaline water and water to lower the general hardness (GH) and pH, then you either mix the mains water with rainwater, distilled water or reverse osmosis (R/O) water. However, this will have to be done every water change and it depends on how hard the water supply is?

Most people just use the water they have and let the fish adjust, or they keep fish that naturally occur in water that has a similar chemistry to your water supply.
eg: if you have hard alkaline water you could keep African Rift Lake cichlids, live bearers (mollies, guppies, swordtails, platies), rainbowfish and most barbs.

eg: if you had soft acid water you could keep tetras, angelfish & gouramis.

- - - - - - - - -
Other ways to lower the pH include having driftwood or plant leaves in the tank. These can help lower the pH a bit but they won't drop it a lot, and they tend to discolour the water and turn it brown.
 
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MyFishKaren

MyFishKaren

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Can one of the gms attach this thread onto the bottom of the one at the following link? It just makes it easier to follow when its about the same issue in the same tank, because there is relevant information there. :)
http://www.fishforums.net/threads/cyanobacteria-outbreak-help.448535/

-------------------------
If you are going to black out the aquarium then do not feed the fish during that time. They won't starve and will be fine. In the morning instead of turning the lights on, just leave them off and cover front back and sides with a towel or some dark cardboard or plastic, (black plastic bin liners work well). Leave it dark for a few days then in the morning after the black out period, remove the covers and wait an hour, then open the curtains or turn the room light on, wait an hour (or more) then turn the tank light on. This will prevent the fish going from complete dark to complete light suddenly.

The blackout is unlikely to fix the problem straight away and it is something that takes time. You need to remove the gunk that is in the gravel and increase water movement around the substrate. Sometimes it can take a couple of weeks to clear up, other times it can take months.

Changing the gravel is unlikely to fix the problem because the Cyanobacteria will be on ornaments, glass and right through the tank. So unless you strip the tank down and boil everything, you probably won't get rid of it by changing the gravel.

-------------------------
Don't add any plant fertilisers or medications or anything else to the tank. The only thing you need to add to the water is a dechlorinator and that should be added to the new tap water before it is added to the tank.

-------------------------
How long has the tank been set up for?

If you are getting an ammonia & nitrite reading then the filters have been upset and the beneficial filter bacteria have been killed off, or the tank is new and the filters haven't cycled yet.

What sort of filter is on the tank and is it run continuously (24/7)?

When did you last clean the filter and how did you clean it?

-------------------------
If you can find out how hard your water is, then that can provide information about the pH. Generally if you have hard water (water with lots of minerals in it) then the water will usually be alkaline.

If you have hard alkaline water and water to lower the general hardness (GH) and pH, then you either mix the mains water with rainwater, distilled water or reverse osmosis (R/O) water. However, this will have to be done every water change and it depends on how hard the water supply is?

Most people just use the water they have and let the fish adjust, or they keep fish that naturally occur in water that has a similar chemistry to your water supply.
eg: if you have hard alkaline water you could keep African Rift Lake cichlids, live bearers (mollies, guppies, swordtails, platies), rainbowfish and most barbs.

eg: if you had soft acid water you could keep tetras, angelfish & gouramis.

- - - - - - - - -
Other ways to lower the pH include having driftwood or plant leaves in the tank. These can help lower the pH a bit but they won't drop it a lot, and they tend to discolour the water and turn it brown.
- So when adding new water during water changes, only add dechlorinated water? I've had other advice saying only add the conditioner and bacteria and not to add dechlorinater. I'm just trying to clear things up because I've had mixed advice.

- My tank has been running for little over a month now. This was my second water change, and I haven't changed the filter yet. It runs 24/7, and I am not sure when I should change it. Is it a monthly thing? Bimonthly? I am very new to fishkeeping.

- I do not know exactly how hard my water is, as my test doesn't provide me with something to test it. But, I do live in Houston, and we have very hard water. I am not exactly how hard down to an exact number, but we generally have harder water than most.

- My parameters were all safe and were safe before this ,and seemed to have spiked due to recent water changes and trying eliminate the cyanobacteria. I'm going to test my water everyday until I figure out a definitive game plan. I'll wait one more day and check the water and cyanobacteria tomorrow, and if it doesn't seem to be getting any better I'll do the blackout the next day.

Also, during the water change I didn't mess with the filter in any way. It just sat there with no water running through it as I did my water change, and shortly thereafter was plugged back in and up and running. It's the same filter I've used since I set the tank up about a month back.

Thanks,
MyFishKaren
 

Colin_T

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Whenever you add new tap water to an aquarium, you should use a dechlorinator in it before adding it to the tank. This is to remove any chlorine/ chloramine in the water supply. In most of the USA they use chloramine in the drinking water.
Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. The ammonia & chlorine molecules stick together really well and kill bacteria in water for a lot longer than chlorine on its own. Chloramine is commonly used in hot climates or when drinking water has to be piped long distances.

If you have chloramine in your water supply, the dechlorinator will break the chlorine/ ammonia bond and neutralise the chlorine leaving free ammonia in the water. This is usually only a small amount of ammonia and it gets picked up pretty quickly by the filter bacteria. Some dechlorinators will also bind with the ammonia and make it less harmful for a period of time (about 24 hours), allowing the filter bacteria to use it but without the ammonia affecting the fish.

Your water supply company's website should have a list of what is in the water, including chlorine or chloramine and it should also tell you the hardness of the water.

------------------------
Beneficial filter bacteria can be added to the tank to help get filters going faster but once the filter has established you don't need to add them again unless the filter dies, but that doesn't normally happen unless you turn it off for a day or let it dry out.

------------------------
What is the conditioner called?
Some conditioners can be added but most are not necessary when the filters have established.

------------------------
If you are adding aquarium fertilisers then stop adding them until the Cyanobacteria problem is sorted out. Any extra nutrients going into the tank will simply feed the Cyanobacteria and help them grow. Not that they need much to grow :)

------------------------
What is the brand/ name of your filter?

Normally you do not replace anything in the filter unless you have carbon or an ammonia absorbing granule in it. I don't recommend using these because they are not necessary and can interfere with the filter development.

Carbon is a small black granulated substance that is used to absorb chemicals from air or water. If you have heavy metals in the water you can use carbon to remove them, but the carbon needs to be replaced fairly regularly and you should use Activated or Highly Activated carbon for best results. I doubt you have heavy metals in your water and carbon should not be necessary for normal drinking water.

If you have an ammonia absorbing granule in the filter then that can stop the filter bacteria developing and interfere with the filter cycle. Ammonia absorbing granules are small white granules like a dry white gravel that usually leaves a white powder on your fingers when you handle it.

If you have carbon or an ammonia absorbing granule in the filter then they should be replaced with sponges. If you have both carbon and an ammonia absorbing granule, then remove the ammonia absorbing granule first and replace it with a sponge. Wait a few weeks and then remove the carbon and replace that with another sponge.

- - - - - - - - - -
You should clean power filters at least once a month. A power filter is simply a filter that gets plugged into a power socket. They are usually a water pump with a case that holds various filter materials like sponges, ceramic or plastic beads, and carbon. However, I do not recommend cleaning new filters until they are well established because you can upset the bacteria trying to grow in them if you clean them too soon. If the filter has cycled and there has been no ammonia or nitrite, and there has been some nitrate for several weeks, then you can clean the filter.

To clean a power filter, turn the filter off and unplug it from the power socket. Get a clean bucket that hasn't been used for anything except the fish and half fill it with tank water. Remove any filter sponges from the filter and squeeze them out in this bucket of tank water. If you have ceramic beads then shake them about in the bucket of tank water too. (Don't do this on carpet because the water can splash out of the bucket ). When they are reasonably clean, tip the bucket of water out onto the lawn or garden, then add some more tank water to the bucket. Squeeze the sponges and wash the ceramic beads again. Then put the sponges/ beads in the tank.

If you have carbon in the filter then throw it away.

Take the filter case and rinse it under tap water. There should be instructions that came with the filter showing how to clean the filter case and pump. The pump should have an impellor in it. This is a cylindrical grey magnet with a plastic blade on one end. The plastic blade will usually have 3 or 4 fins sticking out. There might be an impellor shaft (thin steel rod) that runs through the middle of the impellor and this might have a rubber bit on one or both ends. If the impellor has the rubber bits, be careful with them because they can disappear down the drain and the pump needs them to work properly :)

Disassemble the impellor and shaft and rinse them carefully under a tap. You can wipe the steel shaft to remove any slime on it. If you can, rinse the motor out where the impellor sits, then put it all back together. Put the filter back on the tank and fill it with tank water, then plug it in and turn it on.
*NB* Make sure your hands and the plug are dry before plugging the filter back in and turning it on.

------------------------
Blue green algae (Cyanobacter bacteria) can occur in any tank at any time. It is most frequently seen in new tanks because the microscopic organisms haven't established a nice balance. This allows the Cyanobacteria to get a head start and grow rapidly out of control. :)
 

essjay

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In addition to Colin's excellent advice, can I ask that you tell us the name of both your conditioner and bacteria products. Some people use the word 'conditioner' to mean dechlorinator, so we need to know what exactly you are using.
 
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MyFishKaren

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Whenever you add new tap water to an aquarium, you should use a dechlorinator in it before adding it to the tank. This is to remove any chlorine/ chloramine in the water supply. In most of the USA they use chloramine in the drinking water.
Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. The ammonia & chlorine molecules stick together really well and kill bacteria in water for a lot longer than chlorine on its own. Chloramine is commonly used in hot climates or when drinking water has to be piped long distances.

If you have chloramine in your water supply, the dechlorinator will break the chlorine/ ammonia bond and neutralise the chlorine leaving free ammonia in the water. This is usually only a small amount of ammonia and it gets picked up pretty quickly by the filter bacteria. Some dechlorinators will also bind with the ammonia and make it less harmful for a period of time (about 24 hours), allowing the filter bacteria to use it but without the ammonia affecting the fish.

Your water supply company's website should have a list of what is in the water, including chlorine or chloramine and it should also tell you the hardness of the water.

------------------------
Beneficial filter bacteria can be added to the tank to help get filters going faster but once the filter has established you don't need to add them again unless the filter dies, but that doesn't normally happen unless you turn it off for a day or let it dry out.

------------------------
What is the conditioner called?
Some conditioners can be added but most are not necessary when the filters have established.

------------------------
If you are adding aquarium fertilisers then stop adding them until the Cyanobacteria problem is sorted out. Any extra nutrients going into the tank will simply feed the Cyanobacteria and help them grow. Not that they need much to grow :)

------------------------
What is the brand/ name of your filter?

Normally you do not replace anything in the filter unless you have carbon or an ammonia absorbing granule in it. I don't recommend using these because they are not necessary and can interfere with the filter development.

Carbon is a small black granulated substance that is used to absorb chemicals from air or water. If you have heavy metals in the water you can use carbon to remove them, but the carbon needs to be replaced fairly regularly and you should use Activated or Highly Activated carbon for best results. I doubt you have heavy metals in your water and carbon should not be necessary for normal drinking water.

If you have an ammonia absorbing granule in the filter then that can stop the filter bacteria developing and interfere with the filter cycle. Ammonia absorbing granules are small white granules like a dry white gravel that usually leaves a white powder on your fingers when you handle it.

If you have carbon or an ammonia absorbing granule in the filter then they should be replaced with sponges. If you have both carbon and an ammonia absorbing granule, then remove the ammonia absorbing granule first and replace it with a sponge. Wait a few weeks and then remove the carbon and replace that with another sponge.

- - - - - - - - - -
You should clean power filters at least once a month. A power filter is simply a filter that gets plugged into a power socket. They are usually a water pump with a case that holds various filter materials like sponges, ceramic or plastic beads, and carbon. However, I do not recommend cleaning new filters until they are well established because you can upset the bacteria trying to grow in them if you clean them too soon. If the filter has cycled and there has been no ammonia or nitrite, and there has been some nitrate for several weeks, then you can clean the filter.

To clean a power filter, turn the filter off and unplug it from the power socket. Get a clean bucket that hasn't been used for anything except the fish and half fill it with tank water. Remove any filter sponges from the filter and squeeze them out in this bucket of tank water. If you have ceramic beads then shake them about in the bucket of tank water too. (Don't do this on carpet because the water can splash out of the bucket ). When they are reasonably clean, tip the bucket of water out onto the lawn or garden, then add some more tank water to the bucket. Squeeze the sponges and wash the ceramic beads again. Then put the sponges/ beads in the tank.

If you have carbon in the filter then throw it away.

Take the filter case and rinse it under tap water. There should be instructions that came with the filter showing how to clean the filter case and pump. The pump should have an impellor in it. This is a cylindrical grey magnet with a plastic blade on one end. The plastic blade will usually have 3 or 4 fins sticking out. There might be an impellor shaft (thin steel rod) that runs through the middle of the impellor and this might have a rubber bit on one or both ends. If the impellor has the rubber bits, be careful with them because they can disappear down the drain and the pump needs them to work properly :)

Disassemble the impellor and shaft and rinse them carefully under a tap. You can wipe the steel shaft to remove any slime on it. If you can, rinse the motor out where the impellor sits, then put it all back together. Put the filter back on the tank and fill it with tank water, then plug it in and turn it on.
*NB* Make sure your hands and the plug are dry before plugging the filter back in and turning it on.

------------------------
Blue green algae (Cyanobacter bacteria) can occur in any tank at any time. It is most frequently seen in new tanks because the microscopic organisms haven't established a nice balance. This allows the Cyanobacteria to get a head start and grow rapidly out of control. :)

- The filter I have is the "Top Fin Silentstream 20 Power Filter". I am using the cartridge it came with. I actually lost the paper it came with, and am not sure how it actually cleans. I read that it adds carbon to the water, but thats the extent of my knowledge. Another thing I observed about the filter cartridge is that it felt like it had beads in it.

- My tap water dechlorinator is from Top Fin.

- My water conditioner is also from Top Fin.

- My Aquarium bacteria is from MarineLand.

I'll be doing another water testing today and will post my newly tested parameters. The cyanobacteria is not heavy and is only covering very few pieces of substrate, is a blackout too drastic of a measure for such little bacteria?

Thanks,
MyFishKaren
 

Colin_T

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If there is only a small amount of Cyanobacteria then you don't have to black out the tank but leave the tank lights off for a couple of days so the tank gets room light but isn't completely blacked out. Don't bother feeding when the lights are out.

-------------------
Your filter should have a white cartridge (thin rectangular of white material like a scouring pad for pots and pans). It will have carbon inside it. Do not throw this cartridge out because it is the main filtration media. There should be a black sponge in there too but it is smaller than the white cartridge.

You can cut a small slit in the bottom of the white material and shake the carbon out and throw the carbon away. Then rinse the white cartridge in the bucket of tank water. The black filter sponge can be squeezed out in a bucket of tank water too.

You can add a round aftermarket prefilter sponge to the intake tube of your filter. Rena does a round sponge for their internal filters and so do a number of other companies. You find a sponge that fits over the intake tube of your filter and leave it there. It will add more filter media to the filter even tho it is outside the filter but in the tank.

You can also get some other filter sponges for other brands of filters and put them inside your current filter. This will give you more filter media and help trap more dirt, as well as hold more beneficial bacteria. I have put a YouTube link below, which shows a Top Fin filter with a few extra sponges. It's a bit hard to follow but the pictures help. You don't have to add the Fluval beads but can use them if you get them. I just use sponges only :)
 
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MyFishKaren

MyFishKaren

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If there is only a small amount of Cyanobacteria then you don't have to black out the tank but leave the tank lights off for a couple of days so the tank gets room light but isn't completely blacked out. Don't bother feeding when the lights are out.

-------------------
Your filter should have a white cartridge (thin rectangular of white material like a scouring pad for pots and pans). It will have carbon inside it. Do not throw this cartridge out because it is the main filtration media. There should be a black sponge in there too but it is smaller than the white cartridge.

You can cut a small slit in the bottom of the white material and shake the carbon out and throw the carbon away. Then rinse the white cartridge in the bucket of tank water. The black filter sponge can be squeezed out in a bucket of tank water too.

You can add a round aftermarket prefilter sponge to the intake tube of your filter. Rena does a round sponge for their internal filters and so do a number of other companies. You find a sponge that fits over the intake tube of your filter and leave it there. It will add more filter media to the filter even tho it is outside the filter but in the tank.

You can also get some other filter sponges for other brands of filters and put them inside your current filter. This will give you more filter media and help trap more dirt, as well as hold more beneficial bacteria. I have put a YouTube link below, which shows a Top Fin filter with a few extra sponges. It's a bit hard to follow but the pictures help. You don't have to add the Fluval beads but can use them if you get them. I just use sponges only :)

Thank you for all of your help! It's definitely making me way less panicky that I would've been. The advice I've been getting from other sources have been counterproductive, and yours has definitely helped my understanding and general knowledge of the subject.

I'll definitely get on improving my filter as soon as possible.

Thanks,
MyFishKaren
 

Colin_T

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if there's any other issues, or you have any concerns about anything just ask, and someone should be able to help you out :)
 

Lunar Jetman

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I had an outbreak of this stuff a few years ago and was able to get rid of it without the need for a blackout. My tank is 75 gallons and I have live plants which i was dosing with fertilisers.

I managed to avoid the blackout with a combination of increased flow around the tank, I had a wavemaker I got hold of which allowed for increased current around the tank and I also increased the dosing for the ferts.

Cyanobacteria is often caused by poor water circulation and low nitrates in a tank so could be a factor here for you if you're reporting 0 nitratres.

You can keep removing it and changing water but unless you get to the root cause of the issue you won't get rid of it.

Personally I would be looking at a better filter rather than messing around with the media as it won't make that much difference. Increasing the flow in and around the tank is more vital than this. As you say you only have a small amount of the GBA I'd look to see how you can increase the flow of water over that area which should probably sort it out.

Also, it doesn't sound like your tank is cycled properly if the nitrates are zero/low and you have ammonia present so I'd also keep up regular water changes to try to keep on top of that. Once in a month is not enough so I'd be doing it 2-3 times a week at the moment if it was me.
 
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