Cloudy water is a common problem that new Betta fish keepers experience. There are several types of cloudy water, each with a different cause. However, cloudy water can be easily remedied.
So, why is your fish bowl getting cloudy? Cloudy water is usually caused by a bacterial bloom. This bacteria may be a sign that toxic conditions are present.
The good news is that cloudy water is not always harmful, and it is easy to fix. Many new fish keepers are given false information about caring for bettas, which results in nasty looking cloudy water. Today we will teach you how to get rid of cloudy water and maintain crystal clear water.
Why Does My Fishbowl Get Cloudy so Fast?
As previously mentioned, most fishbowls are not able to support a filter. The curved edges of their tops mean that H.O.B. filters won’t fit, and internal and sponge filters would take up most of the limited space inside. Filters are essential to fish health, as the bacteria in the media convert lethal ammonia and nitrite into less harmful nitrate.
The bacteria inside of filters are capable of handling normal levels of ammonia and nitrite and convert them without causing cloudy water. However, if there is a sudden spike in ammonia and/or nitrite, or there is no filter, different species of bacteria will begin to metabolize the ammonia/nitrite, which causes cloudy water.
Cloudy water often appears to be white or gray, though yellow and green are also possible, and will be discussed more later. In a way, this foul looking water can be a good thing, as it is a clear indicator that there is a problem with your aquarium water. Without proper tests, it may be your only indicator that toxic, or even lethal, levels of ammonia and nitrite are present.
Is Cloudy Water Bad for Betta Fish, and Can it Be Lethal?
Cloudy water itself is normally not harmful, but as previously mentioned, it is an indicator of potentially lethal conditions. However, if the cloudy water is caused by disturbed sediment (normally found if your substrate is poorly washed sand) or suspended particulates, it can be harmful to your fish.
The exact long-term effects are unknown, but if the particulates are dense enough, your fish can suffocate or suffer moderate to severe gill damage. This is more common when the cloudy water is caused by sand particles, as those tend to be quite sharp.
Cloudy water caused by suspended particulates, normally fish waste or uneaten food, will get worse. These particulates release high amounts of ammonia, which turn into nitrite, and cause even more cloudy water. The levels of ammonia and nitrite will also become toxic very quickly, so it is essential to remove them.
How Often Do You Clean a Betta Bowl?
The normal rule of thumb for cleaning aquariums is changing 20-30% of the water per week, though this does vary from tank to tank. For example, a 20 gallon with one betta would be fine with 5-10% per week, while a goldfish tank may need multiple 50-80% water changes per week.
You should be changing your aquarium water at least once a week. The best way to figure out how much water to change and how often is to look at your nitrates. While bettas can survive 40ppm nitrates, it is best to keep the nitrates at or under 20ppm. Each week, keep an eye on your nitrates to figure out how much to change. If they get up to 20ppm at the end of the week, you should change at least 50% of the water.
However, these rules are only applicable to cycled tanks with filters. Without a filter, there won’t be enough water flow and bacteria buildup to convert ammonia all the way to nitrates. Ammonia and nitrite become toxic at as little as 0.25ppm, so you will need to do water changes as soon as they buildup to those levels. Unfortunately, it could take as little as a few hours, and no longer than a day, to reach these levels in a fishbowl.
This means to properly take care of a betta in a fishbowl, you will need to do daily water changes. If this works for you, great! If not, it may be time to consider getting a nice 2.5 to 5 gallon aquarium and a simple filter to do all the work for you.
How to Fix Cloudy Water
While there are many products that claim to clear cloudy water, they are not the easiest method to use. In addition, some have reported fish death after using the products, though this could have been through misuse or preexisting issues.
Given that cloudy water can be caused by lethal levels of ammonia and nitrite, it is important to address the underlying issues rather than the cloudiness. Installing a filter is a good first step, especially if you have filter media from an established tank. This will quickly get rid of the ammonia and nitrite, which starves the bacteria causing the cloudiness.
Water changes are always a good idea for cloudy water, no matter the cause. However, if it is caused by an improperly washed substrate, be sure to use a gravel vacuum and focus on vacuuming the whole substrate. When pouring the water back in, do so very gently to avoid disturbing the substrate further.
Adding a bacterial booster, such as Tetra Safe Start Plus, is also a good way to clear the cloudy water. It has about the same effect as adding a filter and established media, but without adding a filter the effect will be short-lived.
Green Cloudy Water
Unlike white or gray cloudy water, green cloudy water is always caused by an algal bloom, which is completely harmless to your fish. It is not unusual to have some form of algae in your aquarium, but bloom is unusual. Excess algae always results from an imbalance of carbon dioxide, fertilizer/nutrients, and/or light. If you do not have injected CO2, you can narrow it down to either nutrients or light being the problem.
Most aquarium lights sold for betta fish tanks are low tech lights, and while they are good for supporting some plant growth, they also support algae growth. In addition, if your tank gets direct or indirect sunlight, that is almost always the issue. The way sunlight is refracted through windows makes it perfect for algae growth. Keep your aquarium lights on for just 6-8 hours each day.
On the other hand, if you dose fertilizers or have hard water, nutrients may be the issue. If you are dosing fertilizers but only have a few plants, the fertilizers will build up each week, leading to excess. The same can happen with hard water.
For green water, the cause is normally light, but it can be a mix of a lighting and nutrient problem. The best way to fix it is to blackout the tank for 3 to 4 days. Turn off all the lights in the tank and the room. Plants will be fine with this blackout, but algae will die quickly.
In conclusion, cloudy water is normally caused by a bacterial bloom. Luckily, it can easily be cleared up by doing water changes and installing a filter. The primary issue is that the bacteria that cause the bloom feed off of toxic compounds, so if you see cloudy water, your fish’s life is in danger.