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Testing your Aquarium's Water


One of the keys to successful fish keeping is maintaining and understanding proper water chemistry. It is very important to provide a consistent water environment for your fish. Fish can be hurt more by rapid fluctuations in pH or temperature than by any other one factor.

Most fish keepers rely on water from the faucet when setting up thier aquarium or when doing a partial water change. City water has many chemicals such as chlorine and chloramine.  

These chemicals in  tap water kill bacteria (both good bacteria and bad bacteria). Because chlorine and chloramine are deadly to fish, you should never keep your fish in untreated tap water! 

Fill the aquarium with water, treat it, and then once treated properly, add your fish. This will ensure that the water is stabilized before your fish enter thier new environment.  

After doing a partial water change, the water in your aquarium will  need to be treated again to insure that the chemicals have been neutralized.

pH Levels
pH is the measure of how acidic or alkaline the water is. pH levels should be monitored weekly and adjusted to suit the type of fish you have. Most tropical fish can live happily in a range of pH values from 6.8 to 7.8. It is critical however, to maintain a stable pH level in your tank.  Remember, drastic pH changes can cause harm to your finned friends.

There are many kits available to test the pH level like Freshwater Deluxe pH Test Kit.  Products are available to bring the pH up or down (like pH DOWN and pH UP ) as needed. Home test kits with pH adjusters are also available.

Chlorine and Chloramine
Chlorine is found in city tap water and should be neutralized with a water treatment product that removes chlorine, like:  Insto Chlor (Liquid)

Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia. It is a stronger chemical than chlorine by itself and is used in areas where extra water disinfections are needed. If you are unaware of these chemicals in your water, you can call your local water department to find out, or you can buy a Chloramine/Chlorine test kit like:  Chlorine/Chloramine Quick Dip Test Strips

Chlorine and Chloramine should be neutralized with a aquarium water treatment product that removes chlorine and chloramine.  We suggest:  Ammonia Chloramine Eliminator - ACE (Liquid).  Water with chlorine and chloramine in it should be treated with a product formulated to neutralize both chemicals.

Slime Coat Protection
When fish are moved, or they are weakened  from being transported, their stress is increased and their protective slime coating may be diminished. A slime coat product Stress Coat Fish Protection Formula should be used in together with chlorine / chloramine removers to help in reducing stress and provide a protective slime coat on the fish that has been diminished..

Ammonia
Ammonia poisoning is the leading cause of fish death and is most likely to happen in a newly created tank where the process of biological filtration has not been established, in an established aquarium where the pH has become alkaline, or in an over-crowded tank.

Ammonia destroys the mucus membranes of fish.  It is secreted by fish directly through the gills as a waste product.  The bacterial breakdown of fish waste, uneaten food and plant by-products creates ammonia. This, in itself can cause the ammonia levels in your aquarium to reach toxic levels, commonly referred to as ammonia poisoning.

Proper filtration, and regular water testing with a product like:  Freshwater Ammonia Test Kit (Nessler) can keep toxic ammonia levels from developing. Products are available to keep ammonia levels in check - like:  Ammo-Lock 2 to Detoxify Ammonia. There are many ways that ammonia can be removed.  Liquid ammonia removers are placed directly in the water.  Ammonia chips are put into your canister or power filter.

Water Hardness
Water hardness refers to the amount of calcium and magnesium salts present in the tank water. Hard water causes a white crust to develop on parts of the aquarium. Hard water also makes it hard to adjust the pH. Products like Water Softner Pillow are available to help soften the water.

Buffering Capacity (Alkalinity)
Sudden changes in pH, as mentioned above, are very stressful to your fish. Water without the proper level of alkalinity is susceptible to alterations in pH.  Properly buffered tank water has a 120 to 240 parts per million (ppm) total alkalinity reading.  Hardness/Alkalinity Quick Dip Test Strips

Nitrites and Nitrates
Nitrites are converted by bacteria into nitrates. (Wow .. this might be difficult to read when the words are so similar in sound!!)  High levels of nitrites really indicate that the breakdown of organic materials hasn't  completed and that the aquarium does not have the proper amount of  biological filtration. Nitrites are less toxic than ammonia, but they can still kill fish if the levels are abnormally high. Nitrates, on the other hand, are  harmless to freshwater fish and are used by plants and algae as food. Test kits like Nitrate/Nitrite Quick Dip Test Strips are available that test the levels of both nitrites and nitrates.

Salinity
Although salt is in marine aquariums, freshwater aquariums can benefit from salt in small doses as well. A lack of sodium in the tank water will break down the slime coat of fish. One tablespoon per five gallons provides sufficient salt for most fish.  Only use salt that is recommended for aquariums!  Never use regular table salt which may contain iodine. There are also products that can reduce the salt in your aquarium: Coralife Salt Creep Eliminator

Temperature
Freshwater tropical fish should have a stable water temperature within the range of 75 to 82 degrees.  Changing water temperature will cause stress on your fish. It is always a good idea to buy a quality aquarium heater:  RENA Cal Excel Aquarium Heaters and a floating thermometer to help you maintain your water temperature. 


















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