Saturday, September 1, 2018

How to Fix Cloudy Aquarium Water for Axolotls

Axolotls are one of the messiest pets I’ve ever owned, so how do you keep their tank water nice and clear? Well, there's a lot of different reasons why your aquarium water may be cloudy, but if you have a pet axolotl, most likely it’s because of their poop! ๐Ÿ’ฉ These cute little creatures can produce big ol’ brown logs that look like miniature dog turds. Unfortunately, axolotls just seem to have a knack for stepping right on them and then poof, you’ve got poo dust all in the water column. Yuck!

4 Ways to Fix Cloudy Axolotl Water

So to keep your water clean of axolotl poo particles, here are my top four suggestions, listed from least time intensive to most time intensive:

Axolotl poo
Axolotl poo (source: headFeed from

Tip #1: Bigger Tank

Get a bigger tank with more water volume. The more volume you have, the more diluted the waste will be and the clearer the water. This advice can also be rephrased as “Don’t overstock your aquarium.” For example, I started off with two juvenile axolotls in a 20 gallon and they were doing fine. However, as they grew closer to adult size, they were eating more and going to the bathroom more, and that 20 gallon tank just wasn’t gonna cut it anymore.

Tip #2: Better Filtration

Improve your filtration. What does that mean? Get better, bigger, or more filtration. I have a whole video on this topic, but for the purposes of water clarity, focus on improving:
  • Mechanical filtration: You can add filter floss, filter sponges, or filter socks of different porosity that will physically strain out the poo particles. Just remember, the mechanical filtration is just collecting the waste for you, so in order to fully remove the detritus from your aquarium, you’ll have to either throw it away if it’s a one-time use product or wash the mechanical filter media regularly.
  • Water circulation: Consider your water turnover rate. Filters are rated with a “gallons per hour” (or GPH) rating, and the higher that number, the greater the circulation to make sure dirty water actually reaches the filter and isn't stagnating in certain pockets. However, axolotls hate strong currents, so you may need to use a spray bar, a sponge to cover the output, or other type of filter baffle to lessen the flow.
  • Bubble aeration: Cory from Aquarium Co-Op mentioned that air stones and sponge filters can help clear water because they create lots of large bubbles that carry up small particles in the water. And when the bubbles pop at the surface, those particles fly into the air and collect onto your tank lid, for example, which you can then wipe off. So it kinda works like a saltwater protein skimmer.

Water circulation for axolotl tank

Tip #3: Spot Cleaning

Use a turkey baster to manually suck up waste anytime you see it. I know people who spot clean their axolotl’s tank every time they pass it or after each feeding, and it seems to help the tank stay clearer between water changes. (Too much work for me... Plus, I hate sticking my hands in cold water. Brrr!) Also, speaking of feedings, it will help water clarity if you don’t overfeed and make sure to remove any food that isn’t eaten right away.

Tip #4: Water Changes

Finally, the last and most important tip: do more frequent water changes. ๐Ÿ‘ There’s nothing like physically removing a lot of water that will improve not only your water clarity but your water quality as well.

Other Water Clarity Solutions

So there are a couple of cloudy water solutions that I didn’t talk about, like water clarifying chemicals. I personally haven’t used them, but most people I’ve talked to either say that they're only a very temporary solution or they just flat out don’t work. Another solution I didn’t mention for cleaning detritus is UV sterilizers. I think they can really help with algae or bacterial blooms, but they’re not as useful for breaking down large particles like axolotl poop dust.

Other Causes for Cloudy Water

Lastly, I know this article is mostly about how to deal with cloudy water caused by messy axolotls, but if detritus isn’t your issue, here are some other causes of cloudy aquarium water that you may want to look into:
  • Green water caused by free-floating algae: Try decreasing light and nutrients, and consider using a UV sterilizer.
  • Milky water caused by a bacterial bloom: This is usually seen in new tank setups or if you over-clean your filter. Don't do anything (easy peasey). Just wait one to two weeks and it should clear up on its own once the bacteria settles down.
  • Microbubbles caused by your filter: Limit the amount of contact the water has with air (e.g., raise the water level so the water is falling out of the hang-on-back filter doesn't make as much of a splash). Also, make sure filter media is evenly laid out in the media compartment of the filter.
  • Dust coming from your substrate or aquarium dรฉcor: Next time, thoroughly rinse the items before placing them in the tank. Do multiple water changes to remove the dust from the tank.

Bacterial bloom in cichlid tank
Milky water caused by bacterial bloom (source: Ron deezzee)

Question of the Day

What tips do you have for cleaning up cloudy aquarium water? Comment below to help others in the axolotl community. Don't forget to take time to enjoy your aquariums and I’ll see you next time!

Related Links
Axolotl Care Guide

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