The most important thing you can do to maintain a healthy
aquarium is to monitor the water conditions in your fish
tank. Problems can be detected and corrected quickly when
test kits are used. High Ammonia or Nitrite levels will
result in cloudy water and fish loss. High Nitrate and
Phosphate levels can cause an unsightly algae bloom.
Incorrect pH levels will strip a fish of its slime coat,
cause stress and could lead to an out-break of disease.
These are just a few examples of the importance of water
Test kit methods:
1. Color comparison
Most test kits use color comparison charts to give you
the reading of what you are testing. The chemical reagent
is added to the water sample and the color develops within a
certain time period. This color is then matched to the matching color in the chart to tell you the reading
Titration test kits use a color change to indicate the
reading. A liquid reagent is added slowly drop by drop into
the aquarium water sample until a color change occurs.
Usually the number of drops needed to cause the color
change is the reading. This type of testing is more
accurate than color comparison.
3. Digital / Electronic monitors
These electronic microprocessors take information from the
aquarium water by a probe placed in the fish tank. They
convert the information from the probe into a digital
reading displayed on a central monitor. These monitors can
be connected to controllers that will automatically adjust
the water conditions to whatever you set them for. These
the most accurate and expensive testing devices available.
Helpful and recommended test kits
- Basic kits
Useful when starting up a new tank The test indicates when the Biological cycle has begun in the aquarium. It also can
indicate an unseen dead fish or excess pollutants in the water.
The second stage in the Biological cycle, not as toxic
as Ammonia, but still harmful. Often included in the so
called "master" kits but not really needed.
The final stage in the Biological cycle, not toxic
until present in high concentrations. This test is probably
the most important one to check regularly, as it will tell
the general health of the aquarium. When the levels get to
high it can be used as an indicator that a water change is
Measures the amount of acid (base) in the aquarium
water. It is important to know the pH of your water as
different species of fish have different needs. You may
have to raise or lower it depending on the fish. A lowering
of pH can also indicate a loss of the buffering capability
of your water and indicate the need for a water change.
- GH / KH.
Measures the amount of dissolved salts or "hardness" of
the water. KH or Carbonate hardness is very important
because it directly affect the pH level, If your KH is low
you may have to add buffers to maintain your pH level, if it
is high you may have to soften the water. GH or total
hardness measures the sum of the Carbonate and non
Optional or specialized kits.
Measures the amount of dissolved organics in the water.
Too high a reading will result in excess algae growth.
Measures the amount of dissolved Iron in the water.
Helpful in fresh water plant tanks as the plants need a
constant supply for proper growth.
Measures the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the water.
Useful for plant tanks as they need a constant supply for
growth. A must if you are adding Co2 supplements to your
tank, as it will directly influence your pH levels.
As it says it measures the amount of oxygen in the
water. It can help you determine if your fish load is too
Tap Water as a water source?
Good aquarium water quality starts with the water you
originally fill the tank with and do your partial water
changes with. If your tap water is of poor quality it will
be impossible to provide and maintain good water quality in
the aquarium. With an increase pollution and the heavy use
of agricultural fertilizers it is rarer and rarer to get
really pure water from our taps. Unwanted Nitrates,
Phosphates, Silicates, Chlorine, Chloramine, Copper, Heavy
metals Zinc and Lead all can be present in our water
supply. The best way to determine what is in your water is
to test it or contact your water supplier for an analysis.
Two ways to insure a pure supply of water are the Reverse
Osmosis and the Deionizer filter systems. Both these
systems will remove over 98% of pollutants. I will briefly
describe the two systems here.
Deionizers remove unwanted molecules through a process
known as Adsorption.
Positive and negatively charged resins are placed in two
separate containers. Water is then passed through each
container. Oppositely charged molecules are attracted to
the resins where they remain until the resins are
re-charged. Deionizers provide a large amount of water in a
short period of time and produce no waste water.
Reverse Osmosis units use a semi-permeable membrane
that prevents unwanted molecules from passing from one side
to the other. The filtered water passes through one line of
tubing, while the waste water passes through another to a
drain. The Reverse osmosis units should be pre-filtered
with a micron and Carbon filter to remove material that
would clog the membrane and cause premature failure.
Reverse Osmosis systems are rated by the number of gallons
of filtered water a day. They are slower than Deionizers
and waste a lot of water.
Distilled or spring water?
Spring water may taste better and be purer than tap
water, it still can contain many elements not suitable for
the aquarium. Distilled water although pure is sometimes
collected in Copper pipes and could add high levels of
copper to your tank water. Home Distillers are very
expensive and not cost effective. Deionizers and Reverse
Osmosis units are the only way to guarantee that no
unwanted elements are introduced to your aquaria. Some
larger fish stores sell the treated water that you can
bring home in your own containers.
Remember to replace
all the needed trace elements and pH buffers to the treated
water as both these systems remove just about everything.