Do You Have UTS?

If your anything like myself you just love your fish keeping hobby and you just love scouring the local fish stores and going to your local fish club auctions a lot. But you can’t help yourself when it comes to new and interesting species that you don’t have at home in your tanks right. So you buy this species here and that species there or the club auctioneer expertly convinces you to buy that bag of fish at the auction. And now you have to find somewhere to put them at home in your tanks. So put some in this one, some in that one. Everything is all right for a few days. One morning you go down to the fish room to do your morning feedings ” zap on goes the lights and UGHHH. What’s wrong with this tank or that tank over there? The water was crystal clear yesterday but now it’s cloudy milky white. OH NO! What to do? I know what I’ll do, put another aged power filter on and it should be OK. Next day the tank looks the same. The extra filtration isn’t working ” oh ya do a water change, say 50%, right? OK, lets do that. But a few days later the tank is still cloudy. What’s going on? You have what I’ll call UTS – Ugly Tank Syndrome.


You’ve just bought some beautiful plants again from the local fish store or the club auction. Well they’ll look really nice here or over there and presto planted and out of your mind. Again a week later what do we see? There is this dark blue green algae growing all over the place. Oh no ” it must have come from those new plants. I didn’t have this much before. So get the algae cleaner and scrub it all off. Over night it all comes back everywhere, on the leaves, on the decorations, simply everywhere. OK, put some algae control medication in, or maybe I need to change the lighting or something ” right? Well a few days later the stuff is still growing everywhere. It fact if the fish stood still for a while it looks like it would even grow on them. This is what I’ll call UTS ” Ugly Tank Syndrome.

There are many stories of UTS from different causes that we can come up with. But let’s look at scenario number 1. Again if you’re an avid hobbyist like me you tend to not follow the cardinal rule of 1 inch of fish to 1 gallon of water and maybe overstock the tank thereby stressing the filters and the good bacteria that is vital to good filtration. So why is it that if you add another power filter that the water still stays cloudy? It doesn’t make sense : supposedly the more filtration, the cleaner the water should be. I struggled with a couple of UTS tanks for almost a year. It wasn’t until one day I was browsing on the Internet at one of the FAQ sections on a web page. Another person also had UTS in their tanks and was as confused as I was. Luckily for us a hobbyist from Germany answered this question and here was the reply. It seems that the manufacturers of power filters and filtration are all scrambling to design and make the biggest and faster filters in the market. The problem according to this German hobbyist is they are breaking some rules about the efficiency of filters. First they are using too small filter media and not giving enough surface area for the good bacteria to live and attach to. Secondly they are also increasing the strength of the magnetic impellers so much that the water stream going through the small filter media is so fast and powerful that it is literally blowing away the bacteria from the filter media straight into the tank and thus you get cloudy water. This is not unlike an infusoria culture. Their advice was to either increase the filter surface area or slow down the speed of the flow going through the filter. Wow! So simple! I thought, “let’s try this at home”.

So that night I slowed down the filters on the problem tanks to half speed and quietly waited for any results. To my surprise within 24 hours the cloudy tank was disappearing and within two days it was all but gone. Thank you, very much Germany.

So let’s deal with scenario number 2 and the blue green algae all over the place. It grows faster than wildfire and covers everything right. I clean it all off once, twice, three times and it comes back as fast as before. I tried algae medications, tried fish that are supposed to like algae and all they do is stay away. I tried adjusting my light times, tried changing the type of bulbs to those with a different spectrum. I tried, tired, tried all with no success. What to do? Well again I went to the Internet site that gave me the answer to my filter problems. And again another person had similar problems in their tanks and again another German aquarist gave good advice to the problem. This German hobbyist said that my blue green algae are not algae but bacteria that grow and disguise themselves in the algal form. According to this learned person if you use a medication that has erythromycin in it will all go away in a few days. I’ve never heard of such a thing before but I’m desperate. So off to my local fish store I go and buy a product called EM Tablets that has this erythromycin in it. I religiously follow the directions and within hours I noticed that all of the air bubbles coming from the UG filters are all very, very small instead of the size they were before. Well something is happening but the algae are still there. The next day again to my delight I notice that the algae are somewhat diminishing in certain heavy areas. Within three days it is all gone and none is to be seen anywhere even on the downspouts of my power filter. The tank smells normally instead of like the rotting things you might smell in a fish factory, and all the fish are still alive and happy. Thank you, Germany again.

As an aside some of the other interesting facts that I have also learned from the FAQ’s on the web might be of interest to the readers. One of the other types of mistakes that hobbyists tend to make, myself included, is using too much air for your sponge filters or too big of bubbles through them. The reason this is an error is that if the bubbles travelling through the uplift tubes are too big (or too many) there is no room for water that the bubbles are suppose to carry with them to fit. This decreases the efficiency of the sponge filter and, well, you get my not-so-likeable UTS. So hopefully this information is of use to you, the hobbyist, and will prompt you to take the time to look at your tank setups a little more closely. It also reaffirms for me that bigger and newer doesn’t necessarily mean better for my fish. ?