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what is this %*$ in my tank?!?

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Does anyone recognize this clumpy, sagey-greenish-gray stuff that keeps appearing on my 40-gal tank floor? I've done research literally for hours over the past several weeks and I'm finding a whole lotta nothing. I thought maybe algae, because I'm cycling the tank (taking forever), and the nitrates are high -- I keep running ammonia through and I haven't been doing many water changes since the tank has no inhabitants yet. It appears literally overnight. It's raised, in tufty clumps, pretty easy to siphon up, breaks apart and becomes kind of powdery when I disturb it. It will be gone for a couple weeks then it's back again. It doesn't appear little by little, it's literally not there on Tuesday, and there on Wednesday. It's mostly on the tile floor but now forming on some other horizontal surfaces (never on the glass). I've looked at every kind of algae I can find, nothing looks like this. It doesn't look anything like cyanobacteria. Now, after leaving it in the tank for a few days (had to go out of town), I've noticed my ammonia meter is green again. It was negative when I left. An ammonia spike...with no one in the tank?! I don't know what to think and I can't put my axolotl in here until I know this clumpy stuff isn't something toxic (and of course, until the ammonia is gone). And, I really need this tank to be safe because I *really* need to move her. I'm at a loss.
Thanks so much to anyone who has ideas. Happy to provide more specs about the tank if needed.
Sincerely,
Desperate in clumptown
 

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wolfen

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you mention that you are cycling the tank, are the clumps there when the nitrates are high?
what is the tank ph?
if you are adding calcium etc.. to the tank then it can be limescale deposits.
get some out in a shallow dish and add a bit of vinegar, if is disappears then it's just limescale and harmless.
 
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Hi Wolfen, thanks for responding.
Yes, clumps seem more present when nitrates are high, which is why i figured algae, but it just doesn't look like anything out there. Water is soft af here, unfortunately, I planned to adjust that before I put my axie in. Working on the other problems first (unless there's some indication to fix it earlier). pH generally stays around 7 or in the low to mid 7s. Planning on putting in a buffer.
 

wolfen

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get some vinegar and put some on the residue and see if it dissolves it.
 
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I imagine I would have to take some out of the tank to do that? It crumbles into powder when I try to lift it out.
 

wolfen

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if you have a pipette or syringe or even a baster get some out and put it in a clear glass, make sure you can see it then add a bit of vinegar and see if it reacts.
 
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if you have a pipette or syringe or even a baster get some out and put it in a clear glass, make sure you can see it then add a bit of vinegar and see if it reacts.
ok, I've done that, and at first it seemed there was no reaction, then I noticed that the powdery residue that was initially very diffuse, started forming clumps and settling. Does that mean anything?
 

wolfen

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sounds like they are bacteria, have you got an air-stone in the aquarium
 
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sounds like they are bacteria, have you got an air-stone in the aquarium
I do, but it's not hooked up yet. I just have two sponge filters running.
I'm assuming you mean this is a NON-beneficial bacteria, like an infection? I thought an overgrowth of bacteria would make the water cloudy? Or maybe that's just the nitrifying bacteria. Should I siphon the stuff out, and how do I keep it from coming back? I am worried I will have to start all over with this tank. It has taken me over a month to cycle it (and it's still barely there), even with a seeded sponge filter added on the first day.
 

wolfen

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at first I thought it might be calcium dropping out of the water column but the high nitrates and vinegar test ruled that out.
then I thought algae but it isn't growing when the nitrates are low as well as high, plus there's no growth on the glass.
now because it is in little clumps and not spread out shows that it is biological and not mineral, next it is growing when the nitrates are high shows it is feeding on nitrates, next because they reacted by clumping with vinegar shows that it is using vinegar (a source of carbon) as food, now because you have said that there isn't additional air it looks like it could be denitrfying/anaerobic bacteria, denitrifying bacteria aren't harmful and remove nitrates but what causes them and the end product can be.
when there isn't enough oxygen in the water the bacteria use the oxygen in the nitrates breaking the nitrates down, depending on where the bacteria colony is depends on what the end product is ie.. nitrogen gas, nitrogen sulphide and even nitrites.
now you have said you are having difficulty completing the cycle process, now assuming the you have enough filtration then this would also tie in with oxygen depletion as the aerobic/nitrifying bacteria require oxygen to consume/convert ammonia/nitrites.
at this point in time this is mainly theoretical and would require confirmation by increasing the oxygen levels in the aquarium as all information concerning anaerobic bacteria in the aquarium has substrate as the base medium,
 
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at first I thought it might be calcium dropping out of the water column but the high nitrates and vinegar test ruled that out.
then I thought algae but it isn't growing when the nitrates are low as well as high, plus there's no growth on the glass.
now because it is in little clumps and not spread out shows that it is biological and not mineral, next it is growing when the nitrates are high shows it is feeding on nitrates, next because they reacted by clumping with vinegar shows that it is using vinegar (a source of carbon) as food, now because you have said that there isn't additional air it looks like it could be denitrfying/anaerobic bacteria, denitrifying bacteria aren't harmful and remove nitrates but what causes them and the end product can be.
when there isn't enough oxygen in the water the bacteria use the oxygen in the nitrates breaking the nitrates down, depending on where the bacteria colony is depends on what the end product is ie.. nitrogen gas, nitrogen sulphide and even nitrites.
now you have said you are having difficulty completing the cycle process, now assuming the you have enough filtration then this would also tie in with oxygen depletion as the aerobic/nitrifying bacteria require oxygen to consume/convert ammonia/nitrites.
at this point in time this is mainly theoretical and would require confirmation by increasing the oxygen levels in the aquarium as all information concerning anaerobic bacteria in the aquarium has substrate as the base medium,
Thank you for the thorough explanation, this community is very fortunate to have your knowledge and willingness to help.
I will get the airstone going, and I guess wait and see if the stuff doesn't grow back? I'm really confused by why there is a sudden ammonia spike though...I did a water change tonight and hopefully something will give, I am just so discouraged. I need to get my girl in this tank asap but now even when parameters are good, I don't know if the tank is safe for her given whatever conditions are causing this weird stuff to grow. So, I'm at an impasse.
Thanks again.
 

wolfen

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are you able to get any hydrogen peroxide?
if you can add some to a jug of tank water stir then add to the tank.
12% add 20ml, 3% add 60ml, 1% add 100ml, this won't harm aerobic bacteria but it will destroy anaerobic bacteria and other pathogens.
it's quite difficult to find the proper information regarding aquarium bacteria but when you do its like falling down the rabbit hole, I didn't even know what AOA's were.
 
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are you able to get any hydrogen peroxide?
if you can add some to a jug of tank water stir then add to the tank.
12% add 20ml, 3% add 60ml, 1% add 100ml, this won't harm aerobic bacteria but it will destroy anaerobic bacteria and other pathogens.
it's quite difficult to find the proper information regarding aquarium bacteria but when you do its like falling down the rabbit hole, I didn't even know what AOA's were.
I agree, I've tried to research it and it's incredibly overwhelming. I've added the hydrogen peroxide. After suctioning out most of the debris yesterday, the free ammonia sensor is still reading positive. I just don't understand why that's the case, when the ammonia I added a week ago was processed in two days. Now here we go again with the ammonia, from some unknown source, and for some reason it's not being processed? Did that stuff crash my tank?? I'm about at the end of my rope with this tank. If I didn't love my axolotl so much I would just give up and let her stay in the 20. People cycle tanks all the time, but I can't even cycle this ONE MEASLY TANK (with a seeded filter, mind you) without a mystery problem every week.
 

wolfen

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where or rather what type of system was the seeded filter from.
if ammonia suddenly appears then something is either producing waste, has died or there is waste being broken down.
was the seeded filter fully rinsed out to remove any debris?
there is a way of increasing bio media in the tank and having rocks, this is by using pumice rocks, they have to be held down at first (place a plate upside down in the water and place pumice rocks underneath it, as the pumice becomes water logged they sink) they make ideal bio media and the axolotl can move them around. at this time of year you can pick them up quite cheap as they are used in bbq's.
oh and do a full test on the water, best to do it at least 24hrs after a water change as when chloromines are dechlorinated ammonia is left so you can get a reading of ammonia after a water change.
also make the water in the tank to 50% holtfreters with 0.1g per litre magnesium sulphate (the same that the axolotl colony used, link here https://ambystoma.uky.edu/genetic-s...Issues-1-12/archive/Issue 3/09-16brothers.pdf ) the salts and minerals will have an effect on the aerobic/nitrifying bacteria which should be beneficial and should also cause AOB's to be breed as well as AOA's (all that reading did help lol).
what make of ammonia sensor are you using?
 
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where or rather what type of system was the seeded filter from.
if ammonia suddenly appears then something is either producing waste, has died or there is waste being broken down.
was the seeded filter fully rinsed out to remove any debris?
there is a way of increasing bio media in the tank and having rocks, this is by using pumice rocks, they have to be held down at first (place a plate upside down in the water and place pumice rocks underneath it, as the pumice becomes water logged they sink) they make ideal bio media and the axolotl can move them around. at this time of year you can pick them up quite cheap as they are used in bbq's.
oh and do a full test on the water, best to do it at least 24hrs after a water change as when chloromines are dechlorinated ammonia is left so you can get a reading of ammonia after a water change.
also make the water in the tank to 50% holtfreters with 0.1g per litre magnesium sulphate (the same that the axolotl colony used, link here https://ambystoma.uky.edu/genetic-stock-center/newsletters/Older_archive/Issues-1-12/archive/Issue 3/09-16brothers.pdf ) the salts and minerals will have an effect on the aerobic/nitrifying bacteria which should be beneficial and should also cause AOB's to be breed as well as AOA's (all that reading did help lol).
what make of ammonia sensor are you using?
The ammonia sensor is nothing fancy, it's just a Seachem free ammonia reader that hangs in the tank and changes color when ammonia is present. It's not the final word I just use it as a guide and if it changes I know to do a liquid test. This one went negative after the last dose of ammonia cycled through, then after a few days of the clumpy stuff, it turned positive again. I've had so much that I'm juggling along with the other tank with the axies in it that I haven't done a proper test of all the parameters but I plan to do that as soon as things let up a bit, which should happen tomorrow.
Interesting thought about the pumice, I hadn't heard that but I have definitely been wondering how to increase the biomedia in the tank...I really think no one talks about this enough, the first time I heard anything about it was in your response to a previous post, it was like this ah-ha moment. I mean of course. A lot of axolotl owners have bare bottom tanks and what is the bacteria supposed to adhere to? This is why I am seriously considering switching to canister filters (but you know, one crisis/overhaul at a time, lol). Do you know if it has to be a certain kind of pumice? I live in a very volcanic area and there's a ton of pumice laying around but I don't know if that would be the right kind? I can research this myself, just thinking out loud. My first thought is that pumice tends to be fairly sharp, that wouldn't be too sharp for the axies?
The seeded filter was from my LFS, but it's not a big-box store, it's a family owned place and they're very well-established and trustworthy. I'm sure the sponge came from a warm tank (I cycled mine warm first as well), we cleaned out all debris, etc. Hopefully that's not the cause of anything, We put it in...I just realized, wow, it was over six weeks ago...and everything was fine until a few weeks later when this slimy, pillowy stuff appeared that emitted the most wretched odor when punctured...tank crashed a little....then a while after that the clumpy stuff appeared. So yeah it's been loads of fun.
I have seen this holtfreter's solution mentioned but admittedly I've done very minimal reading about it. Thank you for the link, I skimmed quickly but will give that some attention as soon as I'm able. Great thought.
 

wolfen

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provided it has plenty of air bubble in it to maximise surface area then any pumice will do, any sharp edges are easy to rub down, small pieces can be used a media in the filter (ahem cough! seachem matrix).
holtfreters was the solution used to keep axolotls healthy but over the years like many things it seems to be forgot about.
 
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provided it has plenty of air bubble in it to maximise surface area then any pumice will do, any sharp edges are easy to rub down, small pieces can be used a media in the filter (ahem cough! seachem matrix).
holtfreters was the solution used to keep axolotls healthy but over the years like many things it seems to be forgot about.
ahh yes another reason I'm ready for a canister filter...the ability to add stuff into it! I've been jealously eyeing off Matrix for a while...will for sure be getting that once I have a canister. It's weird, like, info online is so conflicting...I haven't seen that with anything more than with axolotls. You can read 90 different pages and get 90 different opinions on what you MUST do to keep your axolotls healthy, and they all contradict each other. It's a lot to sort through. I've had my girl a year and I feel like I'm only just getting a handle on it all. It's taken hours and hours of research and sometimes just going with my gut. Sometimes I forget stuff I've read simply because it gets buried under everything else.
tonight I think I saw a bug in my tank, the one with the weird clumpy powder stuff that I siphoned up. a bug, skittering across the bottom of the tank. Didn't get a good look at him, but he was a decent size, not like a tiny hydra or something. Unless i was hallucinating, which at this point, isn't too much of a stretch. I mean...I just shake my head anymore. I've had so many WTF moments with this tank, I don't even think it would surprise me if one of the sponges started spewing lava. Good, free pumice.
 

wolfen

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ahh yes another reason I'm ready for a canister filter...the ability to add stuff into it! I've been jealously eyeing off Matrix for a while...will for sure be getting that once I have a canister. It's weird, like, info online is so conflicting...I haven't seen that with anything more than with axolotls. You can read 90 different pages and get 90 different opinions on what you MUST do to keep your axolotls healthy, and they all contradict each other. It's a lot to sort through. I've had my girl a year and I feel like I'm only just getting a handle on it all. It's taken hours and hours of research and sometimes just going with my gut. Sometimes I forget stuff I've read simply because it gets buried under everything else.
tonight I think I saw a bug in my tank, the one with the weird clumpy powder stuff that I siphoned up. a bug, skittering across the bottom of the tank. Didn't get a good look at him, but he was a decent size, not like a tiny hydra or something. Unless i was hallucinating, which at this point, isn't too much of a stretch. I mean...I just shake my head anymore. I've had so many WTF moments with this tank, I don't even think it would surprise me if one of the sponges started spewing lava. Good, free pumice.
there's a few place's I've found that have reliable information. 1. axolotl.org this is a site affiliated with this forum, 2. Newsletters | Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center this site contains the newletters and information regarding axolotl colony's and laboratories, 3. Z-Library. The world's largest ebook library. this site contains books and articles that are free to download, everything from Stephen King to Dictionaries.
as to the unknown visitor this can be any thing from a scud (quite harmless, good clean up crew and will feed small fish and axies) which can be easily transferred from tank to tank via filter media and plants to a variety of different fly larva which is possible as it is the time of the year so anything from mosquito to dragon fly.
 
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