Fixing a Stinky Aquarium

A specific smell will always come from the aquarium only when you put your nose directly over it, and it is perfectly fine. However, things become unbearable when this smell spreads all over the room, and the entire space gets stinky. If such a situation arises, it requires immediate action.

Let us find out the reasons of stinky aquariums and the ways it can be eradicated.

What causes a stinky aquarium?

The presence of an overpowering odor from an aquarium could make a place unwelcoming. Aquariums are known to increase the appeal of the room. But the awful smell does the reverse. Some major reasons that could cause such situations are the following-

Check for the dead fish– Dead fish is one of the most common causes that lead to a stinking aquarium. Most of the time, a dead fish remain unnoticed for several days, especially if you have multiple fish in your tank.

The body lies at the bottom and may hide at the corner of the tank or below the plants and some other aquarium décor. Gradually, the body starts decomposing and start leeching proteins and oil. These by-products of a dead fish come over the surface and keep on floating that eventually evaporate, causing the dreadful smell in the entire room.

Excess of fish food in the tank– If none of your fish are missing, but still you are experiencing an unpleasant odor, overfeeding could be the cause. How much to feed the fish comes with experience. Overfeeding is a common practice among beginners.

When the food remains uneaten, it settles down at the bottom of the tank. It becomes a preferable spot for the bacteria and other microbes to dwell. As soon as the bacterial colonies proliferate, they start releasing waste gases that have a stinking odor.

Overstocked tank– Overstocking the tank is always harmful. It means there are too many fish in a small volume of water. Overstocking not only alters the water chemistry but also poses a danger to the fish.

When a tank is overcrowded, there is excessive of bio-waste. The quantity of poop will automatically increase with the number of fish. It becomes hard for the aquarium filters to filter this large overabundant excreta or bio-waste. Moreover, bacteria also take too much time to process it. All these lead to the production of terrible smell due to accumulated excreta.

Decomposing plants– People who have live aquarium plants in their tank needs to take special care with the decomposing plants. Regular removal of decaying and yellowing leaves make sure that they won’t rot.

When the dead leaves and stem fall down and start rotting, they emit an awful stench. If they remain unattained for many days, the entire room fills with the stink, which is hard to bear. Furthermore, with time they will turn brown or black and deteriorate the water chemistry too.

Other than these common reasons, using an old and dirty filter could also cause a stinking aquarium. Since the function of a filter is to collect the gunk, which is floating in the tank, it gets accommodated with more sludge than your tank alone could have. And due to a dirty filter, the entire tank can smell really bad.

Likewise, your substrate could be the culprit for the awful odor. If you are using sand or fine gravel, they get compact over time, producing no oxygen zones. These zones trap bio-waste like fish poop, uneaten food, and dead and decaying plants, converting into smelly gases.

So the question is how to get over the fishy smell from the aquarium.

Let’s divide the entire process into the following steps:

  1. Maintenance of the tank– Once you know the underlying cause of the smell, it becomes easy to get over it. However, the foremost step is cleaning the tank thoroughly. You have to make sure that each and every piece of rotting and decomposing material is removed.

Please note that you have to work harder than what you used to do during regular cleaning. Give extra time while doing the following:

  • Wiping the glasses
  • Carefully watching for the presence of waste on the substrate and its cleaning
  • Trimming off the dead leaves from the live plants
  • Swiping the dirt from the decorative items and rocks or pebbles
  • Checking the inflow and outflow of the filter and cleaning it
  • Rinsing the filter to remove the trapped gunk

Later, perform partial water changes as well. You should include the maintenance and cleaning of the tank as a regular practice to escape the emergence of bad smell from the tank. Lastly, monitor the water parameters with a test kit and make sure everything is within the range. A strict maintenance schedule will never let your aquarium to produce a stinking smell.

  1. Change water daily– It is not easy to get over the smell so easily. After properly checking the root cause and its eradication, you may have to perform 10 to 15% of water changes daily. This process will keep on adding fresh and odorless water into your tank, helping you get over the bad smell fast.
  2. Use carbon filter– Although this step is completely optional, activated carbon work wonders in clearing the stinking smell. Activated carbon, also called a carbon filter, has the property to absorb the bad smell. Besides, it also makes the water clearer and removes the discoloration. All that you need is to buy an activated carbon filter and set it in the tank. The only thing that needs attention here is you need to replace the carbon filter regularly. It is because once the carbon has absorbed up to its limit, it will start stinking. Therefore, you need to change it, preferably once every month.

Every aquarium is a closed water eco-system wherein regular cleaning is necessary. It will maintain the water chemistry and thereby the life of fish and other water creatures. Moreover, the problem of the stinking aquarium will also subside.

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