What I Did About My Murky Yellow Aquarium Water

In Aquariumsby PaulK

Well, when I got around to starting my first fish tank, I made a classic newbie mistake. I filled the bottom with gravel substrate that I had rinsed first and some rocks that I rinsed too, but I collected some tree branches out back so that the plants had something to root on.

Oops, I didn’t boil the branches, so when I went to put water in my fish tank to cycle, the water turned a murky, yellow color. What I didn’t realize was the branches would release tannins in the water.

Thankfully, I didn’t fill the whole tank and I haven’t stocked it with any fish yet so I can start over. I need to either empty the tank and put in new water until the tannins go away, or pull the branches and boil them first. Eventually, the tannins will dissolve and the water will be clear again.

One good thing happened though. The tannins lowered the pH of the water. When I tested the water source originally, it was a very high 7.6 pH. When I tested the murky, yellow water, the pH had gone down to 7.2. That’s in the acceptable range for most fish.


That I’m not sure about yet. I’m going to give it a few days and keep refilling the water to see how long it actually takes. Hopefully, it will only be a week max, but I’ll let you know how long it took me to get the water back to clear.


Well after about a week of the water soaking the tannins, I decided to empty out all the water and removed all of the branches. I then boiled the branches until all of the tannins were gone. I kept boiling the branches over and over, but could not get the tannins and whatever else is in the branches after 4 tries.

Aaaaaarg.. Now what?

On to the next step.

So I decided to scrap the branches and go with a nutrient-rich substrate under my regular substrate. I think it’s a better solution because it’s cleaner and easier to work with plus the water will be clean and the plants will be healthy. Eventually, the nutrients will be depleted, but I will use plant tabs to supplement.

I went with CaribSea Eco-Complete. It has good ratings on Amazon. The only problem I see is that it will raise my pH level which is already high at 7.6. I just need to keep that under control and get fish that can survive in higher pH water.

This is what my fish tank looks like now…

Nice and clear. Ready for some fish.

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