How To Get Rid Of Bubbles In A Fish Tank

Are Bubbles in a Fish Tank Bad?

How To Get Rid Of Bubbles In A Fish Tank7 mins read

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How to get rid of bubbles in a fish tank
Image from Flickr

If you find yourself asking ‘why are there bubbles in my fish tank’, don’t worry.

Yes, fish tanks are natural environments. but bubbles can not only be unsightly, you may worry they indicate something is wrong.

Every avid aquarist desires to have crystal clear aquarium water. Therefore, this article will show you how to get rid of bubbles in fish tank water as well as some of their causes.

Unfortunately, with more advanced aquariums, bubbles may indicate a water parameter issue. This can be chemical or organic protein build-up, and in some cases defective, or equipment you did not install correctly.

However, there are plenty of ways to prevent this, and this article will help you get clued up – so read on.

How To Get Rid Of Bubbles In A Fish Tank

How to get rid of bubbles in a fish tank
Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, thus if cold water is suddenly heated the oxygen released forms bubbles. Image from Flickr

If you want to know how to get rid of air bubbles in fish tank water, it helps to know what causes them.

Below we will look at methods for getting rid of bubbles, along with the situations in which they arise. Remember, not all bubbles are a bad thing. Some can be beneficial, and a sign your water has lots of oxygen.

How To Get Rid Of Air Bubbles In A Fish Tank

Even though not all air bubbles are harmful, there are still methods to remove them.

  • Air Bubbles in a New Aquarium

New Aquariums are prone to have some air bubbles. These are not harmful in any way but may not look good. Thus, to skip waiting for them to dissipate you can:

    • Rinse or soak all décor and media before adding it to your tank.
    • Fill the aquarium with warmer water initially.
    • Use a scrubber to remove bubbles on the sides of the tank.
    • Perform a few small water changes to remove bubbles from the surface.
  • Air Bubbles from Filter or Air Stones

Air Bubbles from filters, and air stones, especially micro air bubbles may not always be aesthetically pleasing. Even though they are beneficial, they can linger for too long.

Ensuring that your filter and equipment are secure and that there are no air leaks, will prevent bubbles. Make certain that the equipment is fully under water. In addition, try to keep your air stone away from the filter to prevent agitation that could cause excess bubbles.

  • Reducing Pearling

Pearling is essentially a desirable trait in an aquarium. However, you can still dislodge and disperse these bubbles from the plants by slightly increasing water flow.

  • Air Bubbles from the Heater

Cold water holds more oxygen than warm water. Thus if cold water is suddenly heated, the oxygen released forms bubbles.

When using an aquarium heater for the first time, or after a water change, there may be some air bubbles present due to this. However, these will dissipate once the temperatures become more constant.

  • Removing Bubble Nests

Fish species especially bettas, Gouramis, and some Catfish build what are called bubble nests for breeding. These species will carry on with the instinct regardless if you are breeding them or not!

Betta fish especially enjoy building bubble nests as a form of enrichment. Ideally, it could stress them if you remove the bubble nests. Therefore, when removing bubble nests from the surface just be mindful of how your fish react.

How To Get Rid Of Micro Bubbles In A Fish Tank

How to get rid of micro bubbles in a fish tank
Microbubbles are quite common settling on surfaces in your tank, after a water change. Image from Flickr

Not all bubbles are created equally. If you want to get rid of microbubbles, you may need different methods. However, first you must know how to spot these.

Microbubbles are a much smaller form of bubbles. These can either be filled with oxygen and are harmless, or they are the harmful result of pollution. So, read on to tell them apart.

  • Micro Air Bubbles During Water Changes

Microbubbles are quite common settling on surfaces in your tank, after a water change. Generally, this happens because the new water is colder than the tank water. Thus, it would be wise to use heated water rather than cold water to replace water during maintenance.

  • Sealing a Filter Properly

Many times canister filters do not seal properly.

This allows microbubbles to escape in the aquarium. Always follow instructions for your filter precisely during set-up, and ensure the top is properly sealed. Similarly, keep Bubblers and air stones on the other side of the tank, away from the filter. This will help prevent micro air bubbles from forming.

  • Fixing a Leaky Hose Connection

Any hose connection in your tank that is leaky or not sealed at the connections may cause microbubbles. You should fix this properly so that no air gets sucked through the connections. In addition, water can get into or out of these which can be dangerous if it makes contact with your electrics.

  • Clearing Oil Bubbles

Oil Bubbles or foam can be cleared by removing them with a paper towel. Prevention is key in this case though.

These forms of bubbles come from chemicals. Abstain from using soap and chemicals to clean your tank, or around your tank. Always wash your hands, and do proper tank maintenance to prevent foam bubbles that come from waste, or protein buildup. Similarly, you get a tool referred to as a protein skimmer that can be used to remove organic waste bubbles.

  • Ammonia and Algae Bubbles

Algae buildup is one of the main causes of Ammonia buildup. Most aquarists reach for chemical solutions to reduce algae, which in turn causes an ammonia spike, because of dead algae.

Bubbles forming on dead algae are most likely ammonia bubbles that are very harmful. In this case, try to remove all the dead algae naturally such as with an algae scraper. Then, do regular water changes, testing water parameters, and checking periodically to improve water conditions.

  • Tank Maintenance

Keeping your tank clean, and always washing any new décor before adding it will help to prevent bubbles. This is especially so for bubbles that come from dirt, dust and oil particles, or waste materials.

  • Removing Algae Bubbles

Also known as Bubble Algae (Valonia ventricosa) is a natural bubble formation on live algae with a greenish color. Cleaning algae with a scrubber on investing in algae-eating fish and snails may help keep algae under control.

  • Improve Water Quality

In some instances, poor-quality water will result in the form of microbubbles or even foam. Keep water parameters in check and perform regular maintenance to ensure that there is a healthy ecosystem in your tank.

Importance Of Proper Fish Tank Set-Up And Maintenance

If you want to know how to get rid of micro bubbles in fish tank water, it’s good to understand your equipment. As with any tank, proper initial tank set-up and regular maintenance are important to prevent harmful or unsightly bubbles. They are also crucial for your tank inhabitants to remain healthy and content.

Proper tank equipment will ensure your water parameters remain standard. Depending on the fish species you are keeping, a heater and filter are the main features in most cases. These can be a cause of bubbles if you don’t install them correctly.

Likewise, regular maintenance and water changes will prevent ammonia buildup. This form of excess waste in your tank can lead to bubbles. At this stage, ammonia levels are generally toxic.

Why Are There Bubbles In My Fish Tank?

Did you know a water molecule is actually made of bonds between hydrogen and oxygen?

Thus, sometimes oxygen can appear in the form of microbubbles or air bubbles in your tank. Though not always harmful, there are cases where bubbles in a Fish tank can indicate something that should not be there.

To summarise some of the reasons we mentioned in our ‘how to remove bubbles’ section, the two main bubble types are as follows:

1. Micro Bubbles

Micro Bubbles are mainly just very small bubbles. Usually, these bubbles form on the sides of your tank or décor after a water change.

This is because the water may be colder, holding more oxygen. On the other hand, Microbubbles may sometimes come in the form of a foamy residue on the surface. This is the kind you should keep a close eye on. These microbubbles can come from organic waste or chemicals that have a protein film around them.

2. Air Bubbles

Are Bubbles are larger water pockets filled with oxygen. They usually come from filtration, or an Air Stone in your tank providing oxygen.

Generally, any form of water agitation will cause them. Remember, you may not need to know hot to get rid of bubbles in fish tank environments if you’re only dealing with air bubbles!

Indeed, air bubbles from a filter, bubbler, or air stone are rather beneficial than harmful.

In addition, you may want to know all the ways you can prevent bubbles. Read on for a breakdown of all the causes of bubbles so you can fully understand how to optimize your tank environment.

Causes Of Bubbles In An Aquarium

Causes of bubbles in an aquarium
Noticing bubbles in your tank may simply be your filter causing water agitation, and these bubbles are nothing to worry about. Image from Flickr

It often help to know the main causes of bubbles in a fish tank, and how they are formed. In addition, this will aid you in terms of preventing or removing them from your tank.

  • New Tank Set-Up

Initially you will commonly see bubbles after you have set up a new fish tank. They may be in the form of small bubbles clinging to the sides of the aquarium and decorations. These usually come from oxygen that releases from new décor, plants, and substrates.

  • Filter

Filters, Air Stones, and Bubblers are methods to introduce dissolved oxygen into an aquarium. Fishkeepers use them to improve circulation and aeration in their tanks.

This is beneficial for the well-being of the tank inhabitants. Noticing bubbles in your tank may simply be your filter causing water agitation, and these bubbles are nothing to worry about.

  • Maintenance

Without a doubt, regular water changes are at the top of the list in maintaining a clean and healthy aquarium. Because of water agitation, or the new water being colder than the tank water, small bubbles may form and stick to décor and the sides of the tank.

  • Oil on Surface

This is not the kind of bubbles, or foam that you want to see in an aquarium. A foamy top layer or bubbles that have an off-white color usually come from natural contaminants such as fish waste.

This causes a layer of oil and proteins around the bubbles. On the other hand, it could be chemicals. these may come from tank cleaning agents, or even chemicals from outside the tank, which can be dangerous.

  • Medication

Certain medication can cause bubbles that linger for longer, or even bubbles with an unusual shimmer. In rare cases these may even have a foamy structure. These will usually clear with proper water agitation.

  • Dirty Water

Ammonia buildup can be an issue in your tank causing bubbles to appear suddenly, out of nowhere. When the water quality is poor, or there are not enough beneficial bacteria to break down ammonia it can be harmful for your fish, and similarly cause bubbles.

  • Bubble Nests

Sometimes you may have exhausted all rational causes, but still find Bubbles. In fact, if you are wondering ‘why are there bubbles on top of my fish tank’ this may be the cause you ar looking for.

If you own fish with a labyrinth organ (they can breathe air from surfaces) such as Bettas, or Gouramis, which may be them building bubble nests. Though not the perfect sight in an aquarium bubble nest means the fish are happy in their environment, indicating that they want to breed.

  • Pearling

Pearling is a desirable phenomenon, and is caused by plants releasing oxygen into the water. The oxygen from the live plants is released faster than the water can dissolve and is usually a sign of a very healthy tank.

  • Air Bubbles

These are essentially just regular water-filled air pockets, or microbubbles. as we have mentioned initially. Ideally, these bubbles should contain only oxygen and are a good sign. They consist of bubbles such as those released by air stones and your filter, water agitation, plants, and water maintenance. Air bubbles are generally not essentially good or bad, depending on their cause.

  • Bubble Algae

Bubbles algae are small greenish-colored bubbles usually covering the surfaces of décor or substrate in your tank, and can sometimes be present in the aquarium filter. Most aquarists do not like the appearance of algae or bubble algae in their tanks and try to eliminate it with chemicals or maintenance.

Final Thoughts

Even the most advanced aquariums will occasionally have a few bubbles, especially new aquariums that are still cycling. Mostly air bubbles that are clean and clear do not pose any problems but rather indicate higher oxygen levels.

However, when it comes to smaller foamy bubbles caused by chemical or protein buildup, and bubbles caused by ammonia, it means your tank has not established balanced parameters, or that there are harmful chemicals present. On the other hand, you may just have one of the fish species that likes to build bubble nests in your tank.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Protein Foam in a Fish Tank?
Protein foam is mainly a result of a build-up of organic waste such as fish waste, leftover food, dead plants and algae, or dead fish. You may notice a thin oily film on the surface of your tank. Ideally, protein foam is more prevalent in saltwater aquariums than in freshwater aquariums.
Are Bubbles in a Fish Tank Bad?
Ideally, it will depend on what is causing the bubbles, generally, air bubbles are small oxygen-filled pockets that are more beneficial and neutral than bad. However, trapped dirt or bubbles caused by Ammonia build-up could potentially be detrimental.
Why Are There Bubbles on Top of My Fish Tank?
There are a few reasons that you may be noticing bubbles on the surface of your tank; Water Agitation or bubbles from plants and filters that have risen to the top. Poor water quality, a protein or oil surface trapping bubbles. Bubble nests are created by certain fish species such as Betta fish.
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Tal Halperin

Tal is an avid fish keeper and has been raising ornamental fish for decades. As a little boy, he drove his father crazy to buy him an aquarium with all the necessary equipment. Now, after a career in the field, he has set up Your Aquarium Place to offer the most comprehensive guide to ornamental fish keeping available and share his passion for the different species he has looked after.