5 Issues You Can Solve By Testing Aquarium Water
Updated: Apr 24
By testing your tank constantly you’ll keep your water conditions in perfect order for your inhabitants and lower chances of any fish diseases or infections and this is just a couple of benefits!
There are many different types of water test kits available and we’re going to explain why you should be testing your water weekly to check the levels of Ammonia, Phosphates, calcium, chlorine and the pH Levels. For any aquarium, keeping on top of your water quality is the best way to protect both your plants and your animals. By testing the water, you can find any problems as they occur and they’ll help you treat the unbalanced levels accordingly. By keeping on top of these checks you can save a fish from becoming ill or even dying and it also helps to keep the tank looking fresh all of the time. Preventive supplements like Nualgi Aquarium will help keep your tank free of chemical unbalance, but no matter what additives you are using, a test kit is a necessary complement. Let’s have a look at 5 issues that can arise that negatively impact your water quality and how they harm your fish. You can even add a dose of established bacteria to help your tank keep on top of the nitrites and ammonia with API's Quick Start Nitrifying Bacteria. This will give your tank cycling a helpful boost!
The first issue you’ll run into is Ammonia Spike.
Fish waste creates ammonia which is quite detrimental to fish health. If you don’t test your water then the first thing you’ll notice with high ammonia levels is ill and dying fish. High levels of ammonia is caused either by over feeding your fish, having too many fish or it can be part of the cycling process. By cycling your tank before you add fish you can dramatically lower your ammonia levels.
Symptoms of high ammonia: - Your fish gasping at the surface of the water - Lying at the bottom of the aquarium or being lethargic - Dead fish - A red or purple colour around the gills If you see any of these signs then perform a water change of around 30-40% and then add an ammonia remover. To prevent ammonia levels from rising in the future avoid overfeeding or overcrowding and keep a clean tank while continuing regular testing. The next issue is having Green Water/Algae Growth. If you wake up to murky water with a green tinge to it, it’s probably caused by algae blooms in the water. Testing for phosphates in this scenario will probably show a high level if your water appears unclear. Algae thrives on light, water and nutrients (phosphates). It can quickly spread through your tank but good maintenance and treatment can remove the problem. Testing at regular intervals will help prevent this. You can also add fish that eat algae. For more information on algae eaters, read through our top list of them here. Issue 3 is Calcium in a Coral Reef tank Testing the calcium levels is essential for a healthy reef tank. Corals use calcium to form and strengthen their skeletons. They draw the calcium from the reef water, and as a result it can quickly be depleted. Testing for calcium levels and adding the appropriate supplement will restore the nutrient into the water. Most reef aquarists aim to keep the calcium level at about 380 – 420ppm. This is also true for aquarium snails and shrimp - there needs to be a small amount of calcium in the tank or their shells/bodies will become damaged as they grow. You can either add some Cuttlefish bone to the tank (about 1 inch at a time, just let them nibble it down before adding more) or you can use powdered egg shells. Just boil the empty egg shells for 10 minutes to get rid of bacteria, then either peel off the membrane layer or bake in an oven for 10 minutes then crush it into a thin powder, add a pinch every now and then. Chlorine is number four on our list. Tap water contains chlorine as part of the water treatment procedure - it makes it safe for human consumption. Not for fish consumption though. When filling your tank or topping it off with tap water, you need to treat that water with some dechlorinating treatment. We recommend Tetra’s Aquasafe Or Seachem Prime - they're the only products all of the fish owners at Your Pet Guides use and they're both highly rated by everyone who uses them! Tetra is one of the biggest names in aquarium products, so they’re a brand you can trust. You can pick up a bottle of Aquasafe here Or check below for Seachem Prime.
Lastly, the pH Level should be kept under control. In all tanks, the pH level is important. Marine tanks especially need regular testing to ensure that the pH level is correct. The pH level denotes how acidic or alkaline the water is. In saltwater aquariums, it’s generally more acidic which is beneficial to reef and marine life. If the pH is higher than around 7, it’s more alkaline than necessary. Add a suitable buffer to restore the balance and support a healthy tank. Your pH may rise due to the removal of CO2 and addition of oxygen, water changes will usually fix this. Test Often to Protect Fish & Prevent Algae Overgrowth Algae overgrowth is one of the largest dangers an aquarium owner faces and only gets harder to treat as time progresses. It is easier to tackle the many types of algae if you catch it in its early stages, which is where test kits will show if there is a chemical imbalance in your tank. If you’re particularly worried about algae growth then it will be handy to keep some phosphate test strips in your tank supplies. What Should I Use To Test Water Quality in my Tank? For anyone who's new to fishkeeping we recommend the “5 in 1” test strips from API. They’re really easy to use and give you a colour indication that you match up to a chart, this is how you determine your levels. They’re the quick and easy way to test the 5 most important aquarium water parameters – pH, KH, GH, nitrate, and nitrite – in one easy step. Just dip one test strip directly into the aquarium, and compare the colors on the strip to the color card provided to help prevent invisible water problems that can be harmful to fish. Each kit includes detailed information on how to interpret the test results and correct unsafe water conditions. Kits come in packs of 4, 25 or 100, with the 100 pack being the best value, lasting almost 2 years with weekly water testing.
Using a test kit is a key part of maintaining a healthy aquarium, so whether you’re a novice or an experienced fish keeper, a good kit should be used at least once a month or before each water change. Preventive maintenance and testing will stop potential algae control problems in your tank, if treated correctly. Prevention vs. Cure of Aquarium Issues As you can see prevention is better than cure when it comes to your aquarium. Testing at least once each month will let you see the onset of toxins and treat the water accordingly. Different aquariums will require different types of test kits, however all will usually contain tests for ammonia, nitrate, and pH levels. Good maintenance is the key to prevention. Keeping the filter clean, not overfeeding the fish, and removing any uneaten food within a few minutes will lower the risk of a nitrate or ammonia build up. Use extra supplements to prevent common issues and reduce time spent on tank maintenance. Testing While Cycling your tank Recently we’ve seen guides that have said “water testing while your tank cycles is important so that your fish stay healthy!”. This should definitely not be the case. Never put your fish in a tank that’s still going through cycling. Testing is important while your tank is cycling, but not for fish health, because there shouldn't be any fish in there to start off with. Testing is an important part of the cycling process because you use the test strips to determine if the tank is making progress. You’ll be able to use the strips to monitor the levels of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Here’s a small how-to for cycling your tank so that you can understand why this process is important. By cycling the tank we mean you need to let your tank build up beneficial bacteria so that the tank can go through a nitrogen cycle. This beneficial bacteria builds up in your filter and in your substrate and helps ammonia (a substitute for fish waste, harmful for your fish) break down into nitrite, which is also harmful to your fish, the bacteria then convert the nitrites into nitrates which are only harmful in high amounts. It takes time to build up the first set of bacteria that break down the ammonia, then colonies start developing which break down the nitrites into nitrates, which also takes time. After this process has occurred though and your nitrite levels turn to 0ppm, you know you’re ready to start adding your fish and that you have enough beneficial bacteria in there to tackle your fish waste. To build up more of these bacteria colonies you simply add more ammonia for them to consume. Having more of the bacteria means that waste can turn to nitrates quicker. If your level of nitrates start to spike, just conduct a partial water change of around 10 to 20 percent, and keep the cycle progressing. Live plants also help to cycle through nitrites too, as well as removing CO2 and adding oxygen to the tank. In the beginning you may have to add your own CO2 to the tank unless you’re using an air pump.
We always recommend cycling the tank without any fish, so that they aren’t exposed to any toxins in the water. To begin the cycle process for Freshwater tanks, add some ammonia to your tank. Depending on which you buy, the instructions will say whether to add a big dose at the start, or smaller doses daily. You can buy some ammonia here (it’s generally fairly cheap). The ammonia acts as the substitute to what will become your fish’s waste. Carry out water tests on your tank each week to check it’s levels. You’ll see high levels of ammonia, which will then convert into high levels of nitrites, which will then drop off as it becomes nitrate. Once ammonia and nitrite levels drop off to 0ppm, you’re all set for your fish to join the tank. There are a few ways you can speed this up, the best is to add a filter from an established tank so your bacteria colony just has to reproduce, which it will do a lot quicker than starting from scratch. Another step to speed it up is to increase the water temperature which causes the bacteria to reproduce quicker. Also by adding oxygen to the tank with an air pump you can further speed this process up.
For a saltwater set up, the most common way to cycle your tank is by using live rocks. Whilst the rock isn’t actually alive, it is referred to as live rock, because this is where the bacteria build up. Always choose rocks which are light – this means it will have plenty of tiny nooks and crannies for the bacteria to build up, or a bigger surface area. Always transfer the rock from wherever you’ve bought it to your tank as quickly as possible to prevent the bacteria dying off. This will usually be done by keeping your live rock in a bag of tank water, which you then remove from the bag and quickly place in your tank. To test your water the only brand we go with at Your Pet Guides is API’s water test kits. For new fishkeepers, you can opt for the “5 in 1” Test strips found here. These are the quick and easy way to test the 5 most important aquarium water parameters – pH, KH, GH, nitrate, and nitrite – in one easy step. Simply dip one test strip directly into the aquarium, and compare the colors on the strip to the color card provided to help prevent invisible water problems that can be harmful to fish. Each kit includes detailed information on how to interpret the test results and correct unsafe water conditions. However, the best kit is the Master Kit, which is slightly more expensive but will last twice as long and it’s also more precise. The API Freshwater master test kit measures the same five parameters as above with scientific accuracy and provides professional results. It comes with four glass test tubes, a holding tray, test tube rack and computer calibrated, laminated colour card. Just fill the test tubes, add the test drops and compare results to the colour card. Then follow the recommendations on the card if action is required. You can pick the Master Kit up here.
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