Aquarium problems and how to solve them



Google up “aquarium,” and you’ll get numerous breathtaking photos of beautiful bluish water tanks, filled with most precious and healthiest-looking fish specimens out there. Call your aquarist friend, and he’ll tell you how he is trying to solve the murky water issue and revive those dead plants. Aquarium problems are numerous but usually, have the same or similar cause. 

There is a thin line between owning an aquarium and being an artist. Even the simplest aquariums are masterpieces. But, even the most beautiful, most-taken-care-of kind of aquariums face rainy days. Nothing is as devastating as seeing your aquarium all cloudy and your fish friends suffering. One small mistake can lead to irreversible damage. Luckily, this doesn’t happen that often, but some more minor problems occur regularly, and here are a few ideas on how to solve them.

aquarium problems algae forming on the glass wall

A layer of algae forming on aquarium background

Although many aquarium owners prefer the more natural look, some are going for the clean & pristine theme. Most aquarium backgrounds are glued (with silicone) to the glass, and it is risky and complicated to get them out. Hence, cleaning the algae must be performed inside the aquarium. This then means that you can either transfer the fish and other living creatures to another tank and clean the background and aquarium with chemicals. For most, this is still too complicated.

So here’s an easy solution to aquarium problems caused by algae – clean the algae with a plastic brush. But, make sure that the background you own is a high quality, rubber-made aquarium background, to avoid any damage. All you need is a plastic brush, clean and unused for other purposes. Submerge it in water, while your fish are still in it and gently brush away the unwanted algae. Have in mind that this is an organic residue so make sure to pick it with a mash-cloth net, or something similar.

High nitrate levels

If you are battling the algae in your aquarium, the chances are that you have an issue with high nitrate levels. In nature, nitrates are relatively low (5ppm). It is not as easy to keep them so low in fish tanks, simply because of the amount of water. However, keeping it at 10ppm-25ppm should be your goal.

Just explain this in a few sentences, nitrates are the by-product of decomposing. Organic waste goes through a thing called the “nitrogen cycle.” Organic waste in the aquarium produces ammonia, which then transforms into nitrites, which finally become nitrates. These nitrates are not necessarily a bad thing. You need to have them in your aquarium, just at the optimum level. High level of nitrate can result in algae overgrowth, murky water and bring much stress to fish.

Solutions for aquarium problems caused by nitrates

The simplest solution is to buy nitrate-killing chemicals and products, but simple is not always the best way to go. Although it is useful and sometimes even necessary to use chemicals in your aquarium, in case of nitrates you are only “killing” the result, and you must deal with the cause, to prevent another nitrate episode from happening.

So, how to do it? Well, the main cause of nitrate overproduction is an organic waste, so getting excessive organic waste out of the aquarium is the key. Always take out the uneaten food out, using an aquarium net. Also, trim all sick and damaged leaves or even whole plants. Same goes for fish, isolate the sick ones and take out the ones who have “swum” out of this world.

Nitrates are denser than water, so you may find them more concentrated in deeper areas of an aquarium. It is always a good idea to suck out the water from the bottom. That way nitrates and debris will exit the aquarium, with the water. Keep your filters squeaky clean and change the water regularly to prevent nitrate-related aquarium problems from occurring in the first place.

Cloudy water

In most cases, the number one cause of aquarium problems is the previously mentioned debris. It can mess up so many thing in an aquarium, directly and indirectly. It is also a known cause of cloudy water. Small particles freely float inside your aquarium and slowly decompose. Usually, filters do a good job of removing the debris from the water, but sometimes we overlook the size of a filter. Make sure it is properly sized for your fish tank, and change the filter itself on a regular basis.

Maybe your fish tank is getting smaller, or you put too much food. Try decreasing the amount of food, and see what happens. But, first, clean the aquarium, do a gradual 50% water change and change filter cartridge. Fish like cichlids produce more waste than others, so either switch to a bigger tank, if the problem persists, or transfer some cichlids to another fish tank.

Green water

Green water is sometimes caused by the same reasons, but usually, it is a result of too much sunlight exposure. Especially if you are using tap water with high phosphate levels. Scrub down all aquarium surfaces using a plastic brush, take out all removable aquarium decor and equipment, clean it with vinegar and water, and wash it out thoroughly. Remove the debris using a net, and then change the water.

Make sure that nitrates levels are low and change at least 25% of the water. In case that you are facing high phosphate levels in the water, you usually use, switch to bottled, or change small amounts of water more frequently.