Summary: White flies, also known as whiteflies, can suddenly appear uninvited in your pretty fish tank. The fish don't mind, but it takes something away from the beauty and serenity of the fishy environment to see all these flies inside your pristine aquarium.
Cassie B writes:
I have a twenty gallon hermit crab terrarium and last night I walked in and the entire tank was covered with thousands of tiny white bugs. I am freaked out. My skin is crawling. I never saw them before this. Help!
Ask the Exterminator
It's most probably white flies or whiteflies. Your choice. That said, there is a long explanation about the white fly category. Let's start by saying white flies are soft bodied insects that are not true flies, but belong to the same order of insects as aphids, scale insects and mealy bugs.
So, we'll talk about your flies before jumping around. Your white flies are prospering in your aquarium because there is a food source. That food source is tank scum which develops from improper water filtering caused by malfunctioning tank filtration systems.
The tank filtration systems are supposed to keep water clean and clear of fish excrement and all sorts on stuff that floats in the water. It's easy to tell if the filtration system is not working. Just look at the inside of the aquarium glass. If it looks like a film is building up, something has gone amuck. Time to pull that system out of the tank and boil it. Tubes, casing and whatever is coming into contact with the water. Don't even think about re-using the filter medium. Throw it out and get a new filter insert. And please, remember to let the parts cool down before putting them back into the aquarium. Nothing like putting a boiling hot piece of plastic into a fish aquarium. Dunk it in cold water to make sure the temperature is neutral.
To take away all the food sources for the white flies you also need to vacuum out the fish poo that has floated down into all that pretty orange rock-stuff at the bottom. Get it out of there. Wash it. Replace it. Just make sure it's clean.
To avoid repeating this time consuming process, which I'm sure your fish would pass on if they had a voice in the matter, you should stop over-feeding your fish. Regardless of how gratifying it is to see your little fishy friends chase a piece of dried shrimp, it's the little pieces they don't chase that become your future headache. Feed them only what they will totally consume. Read up on it or visit your local pet store to inquire if you are not sure. Change the filter more frequently, too.
Now, if you really are interested in making a study project out of this you can start your research by investigating the greenhouse whitefly. This is most likely your specific white fly pest although the list of white flies is long including the silverleaf whitefly, the ash whitefly, the sweet potato whitefly and the iris whitefly, to name only a few. Big world. Lots of insects.