Why Does My Well Water Smell Like Fish?

Why Does My Well Water Smell Like Fish?

Have you ever noticed a fishy smell in your well water all of a sudden? You might panic and think that your water is contaminated and unsafe to drink, but don’t worry – while this can be a bit unpleasant, it’s usually nothing to worry about. If you are on city water and are looking for potential causes, we’ve got you covered here, too.

If you notice your well water smelling fishy all of a sudden, it could be because of algal blooms, organic compounds in your groundwater, chloramines (especially if you are on city water) or it could simply just mean that your drain needs a good cleaning. Most of the time, these causes do not signify anything harmful to your health, but of course nobody actually wants to drink fishy-smelling water, so we’ll help you get figure out the source of the problem and get rid of it.

In this post, we’ll explore why well water sometimes has a fishy smell and what you can do to reduce or eliminate it. We’ll also cover some tips for keeping your well water clean and healthy. Read on to learn more!

What causes a fishy smell in well water?

1. Bacteria and organic material in your drain

The fishy smell in what you think is your well water could actually be caused by a smelly drain. If there is any decomposing material from food scraps left in your drain, bacteria may feed on it and cause a fishy smell in your sink area.  This is the easiest troubleshooting step and is what I would recommend checking first before looking at more complicated solutions. 

First, do a smell test: fill a glass of water at the tap and walk away from the sink. Give it a smell – is it the water itself that smells or is it just when you stand near the sink? By this point, you’ll have a better idea where the smell is coming from.

If the fishy smell is coming from the drain, you’ll need to flush it out. Start by giving your sink and faucet a good cleaning. Next, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a cup of vinegar. Fill a kettle and get some boiling water going. Let the baking soda and vinegar mixture fizz for 15 minutes or so, and then pour the boiling water down the drain to flush away the organic material and any bacteria that may be in there.

2. Algal blooms in the summer

One thing to keep in mind if you live near a body of water is that during the summer, algal blooms can occur. These blooms are often harmless, but they can cause your well water to have a fishy smell. Municipal water treatment plants get rid of algae, but you may still be able to detect the particles causing the smell in your tap water. If you are on well water, you might have to deal with this yourself.

First and foremost, I’d recommend getting in touch with a local water treatment company or your area’s department of health to ask if there are any algal blooms in the area you should know about and to make sure the algae isn’t harmful to your health.   

After that, there are a few things you can do to combat algal blooms causing a fishy smell in your well water. First, make sure that your well is properly sealed and that there are no cracks or leaks that could allow algae to enter the water. Second, you can always install a water filtration system. This will remove the fishy smell from your water before it comes into your home.

3. Organic compounds in groundwater

If you’ve ever noticed a fishy smell in your well water, it may be due to the presence of organic compounds in the groundwater. These molecules are produced by decaying plant matter, and they often find their way into groundwater. While organic compounds are not necessarily harmful to humans, they can cause a distinct fishy odor and can even make your well water turn yellow.

The good news is that there are several ways to get rid of the fishy smell. Firstly, the smell is very likely to go away on its own eventually. This has happened to us before. One option is to install a point-of-use charcoal filter, which will remove the fishy smell from the water as it comes out of the tap. You may prefer to just install a whole-home water filtration system. Another option is to have the well professionally cleaned and disinfected, which will remove any organic compounds that have built up over time.

If you’re not sure what’s causing the fishy smell in your water, it’s best to contact a professional for help. With some investigation, you should be able to eliminate the fishy smell and enjoy fresh, clean well water once again.

4. If you are on city water: chloramines

If you live in a city and get your water from a municipal system, the culprit is likely chloramines. Chloramines are a combination of chlorine and ammonia that is used to disinfect water and can sometimes give your water an unpleasant smell. While chloramines are safe for human consumption, they are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. As a result, many fish enthusiasts choose to use well water, filtered water or they add a dechlorinating agent to their city water before using it to fill their aquariums. If you’re not interested in keeping fish, there’s no need to worry about chloramines in your water. However, if you do notice a fishy smell, it’s worth investigating to see if chloramines are the cause.


If you’ve noticed a fishy smell in your well water, you know it’s not a pleasant experience. We’ve outlined some potential causes and solutions in this article, so hopefully one of them solves your fishy-water problem! Have you ever had this issue with your well water? What was the cause and how did you fix it? Let us know in the comments below!

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