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Dealing with Foam Build-up





Foam build-up is a common problem in the saltwater tank. While freshwater aquarium hobbyists may experience this problem as well, it is more common in saltwater tanks. This problem is easily solved if caught quickly and you can avoid detrimental effect on your aquarium fish.


One of the possibilities of building up of foam on your tank surface is that it is simply the result of agitation. When liquids are shaken or otherwise agitated, air bubbles form and they may give the surface of your tank a foamy appearance. If you have a spray bar or power head installed in your tank, it could produce sufficient agitation to result in air bubbles. Another possibility is that the foam is the result of soap or another product used to clean the tank. The most likely reason for foam build-up is protein. In the saltwater tank, protein based waste molecules often bond to air bubbles which collect on the tank surface, giving it a foamy appearance.

If the foam is the result of surface agitation, the bubbles are generally not harmful. You may want to adjust the flow of your filter or spray bar. If it is producing too much agitation, some fish prefer a slow current and may not thrive in a tank with too much water flow. If you are able to determine that the foam is the result of soap or another cleaning product, it could potentially harm your fish if you do not remove it from the tank. Your first step should be the removal of fish from the tank and then re-cleaning the tank. To prevent his problem, set aside a bucket for use in water changes and do not use it for anything else. If the foam is the result of protein build-up, it may not directly harm your fish but it could be a sign of other problems in the tank. Protein build-up generally occurs in tanks where there is a high quantity of organic debris, this may happen in cases of over-feeding, failure to perform routine water changes or if a fish dies and is left to decompose in the tank.

The best way to control the build-up of protein foam in a saltwater tank is to install a protein skimmer. Protein skimmers are devices that actively remove waste particles from the tank before they are able to break down. These devices have the added benefit of also reducing nitrate build-up which helps to control algae growth and to improve water clarity. A protein skimmer works by producing myriad thin air bubbles in a reaction chamber. Protein particles in the tank water bond to those bubbles and are transported to the tank surface. The protein particles are then skimmed from the tank surface and collected in a cup which should be emptied on a regular basis. In combination with regular water changes and replacement of filter media, a protein skimmer is a great way to keep your saltwater aquarium clean.

You need to follow the instructions given with the model of skimmer you purchase. You may choose to install it directly in the tank, or if you have a sump, you may install it there. You should also perform routine water changes and water tests to make sure the water parameters in your tank are balanced.