View Full Version : What causes the white foamy water in my fish tank?

06-03-2007, 12:31 AM
I've had my 28 gallon set up for 4 weeks now with 3 zebra danios, 3 mickey platies, 3 catfish and 1 ivory snail with 3 java fern live plants. The ammonia levels have dropped last week to zero but the nitrate level is 2.0 and nitrite is 0.50.

What I am concerned about is the white foamy water at the top of my tank around the filter? What causes this? I have a 30 gallon Aqua Clear filter with the sponge (I changed it three days ago because it was dark brown), carbon bag and biomax bag on top. The filter was dirty but I rinsed it out. I also scrubbed out the inside of the aquarium yesterday with an acryllic sponge (I have a glass aquarium but did not want to scratch it) b/c it had a white film on all 4 sides. Then I did a 20% water change hoping the white foamy water would clear up, but it hasn't yet. What's in the water? Phosphates? Proteins? Bad versus good bacteria? Or did I wipe out the good bacteria colony by changing the sponge media in the power filter? I only syphoned the gravel once three days ago during the 4 weeks of the tank's cycle.

I'm new at this. Help! Foamy water is bad isn't it?

06-03-2007, 12:46 AM
Proteins??? Not sure.

06-03-2007, 7:37 AM
How did you do the tank cycle?

06-03-2007, 7:47 AM
what brand of dechlorinator did you add, and did you add the correct amount?... In the past, some folks have posted with the same problem, to find out they were adding too much dechlorinator, which caused the problem...

06-03-2007, 11:17 AM
I cycled with the zebra danios then later added the other fish after the ammonia levels dropped to zero.

The water I use is spring water from the grocery store - I buy it in the 10 gallon jugs - so I don't use declorinator.

The only chemicals I've used have been:

Amquel - to lower nitrites, nitrates
Cycle - to establish good bacteria
Prime - same reason as Amquel but used separately from Amquel; found it works better than Amquel.
Flourish - liquid bottle form for my Java plants as a food supplement

06-03-2007, 11:20 AM
I don't think your tank is even cycled. Those nitrites dictate a water change ASAP. The cycle is basically a snake oil. ANd the bottled water is not providing the best in minerals. Is there something wrong with your tap water?

06-03-2007, 11:30 AM
This is just a suggestion but it looks like your adding a few different chemicals at roughly the same time, do a large wc like 50% and only add prime, as previously posted your tank is not cycled yet and with RITES at.50 mutable wc's need to be done anyway, i think there is a concoction of chemicals messing things up, not to mention an UN cycled tank....:)

06-03-2007, 1:34 PM
Ok. I'll do a 50% water change...that's 14 gallons. Do I need to take the fish and snail out for a 50% water change or can I leave them in the tank?

My tap water in my city is full of ammonia (1.5) chloramine, chlorine and other crap which is why I didnt think of using that water. Plus its really hard water.

Damned Petsmart. They are chemical pushers!! They told me to add cycle every day, add Prime and Amquel. When I asked one of their fish people about the white foam, they suggested it was high in phosphates and that I should spend more $$ for a phosphate remover.

06-03-2007, 1:43 PM
Yes you can leave the fish and snail in, make sure you dose with Prime {1 cap full will be fine or as per directions }when you add water back in, when ever you clean your filters just swish the in the tank water that you have removed, i think you stated that you replaced your sponge media, all you need to do is swish them, not replace.What kind of test kit do you have, a AMMO reading of 1.5 seems high.....:)

06-03-2007, 2:31 PM
The test kit I have is the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Master Freshwater kit with vials and bottles for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH testing.

The ammonia reading is zero.

The nitrate is 2.0. The nitrite is 0.050 based on that test kit results.

How often will I have to replace the sponge media then? What if the new sponge I put in gets dark brown again in 3-4 weeks? How will a dirty sponge help to clean and filter the tank water? The carbon and biomax bag that come with the AquaClear 30 gallon power filter, have to be replaced occasionally too, don't they?

No one at Petsmart (I should never have trusted them) told me to keep the filter despite it turning a dark brown.

I can't use my city's tap water b/c its no good. I thought spring water will be better b/c of the lack of bad stuff.

06-03-2007, 3:02 PM
Do a round of tests, ammonia/nitrite/nitrate and pH on your tap water. When you take the pH test on your tap, let the water sit out overnight in a shallow dish first.

The Prime will neutralize the chlorine and chloramine in it. It will make it okay for your fish, yet still available to feed your bacteria that you need to cycle your tank.

Squeeze/rinse the sponge clean in some of the tank water you are taking out. Until it is falling apart, there is nothing wrong with it. Your good bacteria will be growing on it.

What makes you think your tap water is no good?

06-03-2007, 5:19 PM
I tested the tap water with the master freshwater kit and it showed really high ammonia and chloramine and chlorine levels which is why I buy the reverse osmosis drinking water in three 3 gallon jugs for small water changes.

I probably should not have thrown out the sponge media but it was really dark brown after only 4 weeks so I panicked and threw it out and replaced it, thinking the good bacteria were already established in the gravel bed. But now I won't worry about it since i put a new sponge media in the Aqua Clear power filter. I'll leave that one alone for the next three months and just change the carbon bag out b/c I know that carbon only lasts a month in those mesh bags.

Thanks for the Prime tips too. I think Amquel is just poison to the fish tank. I allowed myself to get caught up in the Petsmart sales pitches about all the supposed chemicals I needed to use,when all I really want to do is let nature work her magic, and do water changes/gravel syphoning as needed.

06-04-2007, 3:15 AM
Agreed with everyone else. The best thing you can do to reduce nitrites/nitrates is water changes. And the next time you want to use a "chemical" to help cycle your tank try Bio-Spira instead. It's actual bacteria. Everything else on the market that claims to cycle your tank is crap.

07-02-2007, 8:07 PM
One day I found my 10G tank "oversudsing"...just like a bad 70's sitcom episode when they put too much soap in the washer. Yes, it was coming out the top and running down the sides. :eek3:

I'd done a 50% change the day before...I figured I'd gotten some soap residue in there.

So, panic-ing I did a quick 50%+ PWC and went to add dechlorinator.
I was using NovAqua, a sister product to Amquel.

Hmm...could this be my problem? I'd developed the bad habit of guesstimating dosages. :headshake2: I put a drop in a glass of water and shook it up...instant foam. (might want to try this individually with all your additives)

I still had some small amount of foam over the sirstone, but it cleared after the next PWC.

I measure my additives properly now :)


12 Volt Man
07-02-2007, 8:42 PM
proteins from fish waste often cause foam.

and some dechlorinators can too.

eg. put a squirt of Aquaplus into a bucket and put it under the tap. instant white foam, but it goes away quick.

07-02-2007, 9:03 PM
Thanks for the Prime tips too. I think Amquel is just poison to the fish tank.

I wouldn't say AmQuel is poison! I've used it for 2 years and have had no problems.

07-02-2007, 10:03 PM
I learned the same lesson after many $$$$ and headaches.
Throw most of the chemicals away - keep the Prime and do Water Changes.

It is really the best route to take and the cheapest!

07-03-2007, 6:54 AM
what they said above about prime is true, it should be the only thing you add to your water.

It detoxifies ammonia, keeping harmless ammonia available, and keeping your cycle in tact, as well as breaking down nitrites, and chlorine AND chlorimine.(read directions for chlorimine)

so what your saying is wrong with your tap water, prime will fix.

never replace your filter media until it is literally falling apart, NEVER rinse it in tap water. always wash it off with a bit of old tank water.
and when you do need to replace it, keep it in the filter with the new media for a while to seed the new one with beneficial bacteria.

now im not sure about the following statement, but based on a couple of threads i found here, that brown stuff all over the filter might have been the benefical bacteria.... and you just threw it all out.
it could have been poop too though.... like i said, im not sure how true the above statement is.... i could be totally wrong.

but being the human i am, i like to think im right :D