water is nice and clear, it must be good?
It may be surprising but its
not fish that prefer clear water, its humans. Just because
water looks clear doesn't mean it is right. To start with you
should always use a water conditioner
before adding water to the tank and then after that you need
to take further care.
making it dirty? I cant see any poop in the water?
If you look back to the diagram
above you can see at least three sources in the tank are
contributing to ammonia levels, the fish, the food you feed
them and any plant matter that is decaying. Ammonia is a
pollutant in the tank, it is causing harm to the fish at even
low levels. The fish will feel stressed and delicate tissue
will be being attacked by the chemical. Ideally you should
have an Ammonia reading of zero in tank or pond.
How can I
tell what the Ammonia level is, I cant smell it?
Next time you go to your local
fish store, go buy a test kit. Or if they offer the service
take a sample of your water in with you for them to test. A
test kit though is worth every penny invested, you should use
it regularly to keep an eye on what is occurring in your tank.
Ideally you need a kit that tests for Ammonia, Nitrite,
Nitrate and pH. Most kits give you a reading in parts per
million. The Ammonia reading should be 0 ppm, any reading
above this is unwanted, and above 0.1 ppm requires immediate
reading is above 0ppm what do I do?
The easiest and simple solution
is to do a water change. Treat the water with your
dechlorinator, get it to a matching temperature with the water
in the tank and then do a 25% change ( if your reading is
0.1>0.25 ppm) and a 50% change if its above that. You need
to keep changing the water until the level reaches a safe
limit. Avoid stressing the fish by changing too much in one
go, or too regularly, create a regime until you can be sure
the Ammonia level is 0 or close.
I cant be
expected to do this all the time can I?
Yes. You should perform weekly
or fortnightly water changes on your tank. There are chemicals
that will stop the ammonia being toxic that you can add to the
tank, but really there is no substitute for good tank hygiene.
When you get a tank to cycle the daily water changes are no
longer necessary ( though weekly changes still are) , you have
a bacterial culture removing the chemical for you.
Inside your filter you are
aiming to create an environment that the bacteria will love.
They are called nitrifying bacteria and eat ammonia/nitrite
and produce a far more harmless chemical called nitrate. You
need a filter in any tank you have, if not several, check the
forum for advice about filters. The ideal filter is one that
has cycled, or in other words, has all the bacteria it needs
to make the pollutants in your water not harmful to your fish.
Nitrite is harmful too?
Yep the bacteria that sorts out
the ammonia for you converts it into Nitrite. Its less harmful
than ammonia but still toxic to fish. Use your test kit to
find out what your level is. Once again a reading of 0 ppm is
what you are aiming for, and anything over 0.1 ppm needs
How can I
get rid of Nitrite if my reading is high?
Water change! Yep, you are
getting the idea now, water changes are one of the most
underrated cures for any problems with fish, stop being lazy
and start doing a regular water change. A cycled tank/filter
will remove nitrite for you, so its worth checking out how to
cycle your tank and even getting it done before adding a
single fish. Once you have the bacteria in your tank they
convert the Nitrite to Nitrate.
Nitrate lethal too?
Nitrates are far less toxic
than ammonia and nitrite though at levels of 100 ppm the fish
will be impacted by its presence. Ideally you want a reading
of 20 ppm and its worth checking out the Nitrate levels in
your water straight from the tap, you cant reduce it lower if
you "clean" water has a reading of 20ppm to start
with! The only effective way to control Nitrate levels is to
water change. Having a healthy planted tank can also go
someway to using up Nitrate in the water as can various
"nitrate removing filter sponges" available on the
market, they must be changed in accordance with instructions
to remain effective.
Yes I know, its a bit much, but
basically, you need a cycled tank, a bacterial friendly
environment and regular water changes.
Your test kit should
show a reading of 0 ppm for Ammonia and Nitrite and 20 ppm or
less for Nitrate. With water that clean, your fish really have
a much better chance of being healthy.
my test kit I got the pH test too, what does that do?
pH is the measurement of
acidity or alkalinity in the water. Thus the pH of battery
acid is 1 and the pH of Milk of Magnesia is 10ish. As you can
guess the pH of the water can really effect the fish. Each
species of fish has a range it prefers, for example koi prefer
pH7 to pH8.5 where as most tropical fish prefer the water
slightly more acidic. Its worth testing your water
source to find out what the natural pH of the water is and
then buy the appropriate fish rather than messing with the pH
of the water manually. Fish get really stressed by rapid
changes in pH and by fluctuating pH, so in general, leave the
pH alone. The test kit is useful to check its maintaining a
constant level. Its not only the fish, even the
nitrifying bacteria have a pH range they prefer!
pH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14. 7 is neutral. Lower than
7 is acidic, higher than 7 is alkaline.
experienced enough to mess with my pH, what should I use?
pH should always be done gradually.
wish to lower your pH you can filter your water over peat, or
add bogwood to the tank, though this has a minor effect. Often
using CO2 for plant life has the additional effect of lowering
your pH. An alternative is to use RO water ( Reverse Osmosis)
or even an acid buffer out the bottle, ask at you Local Fish
wish to raise your pH keep the water well aerated, remove
added Co2, add crushed coral or seashells to the filter/tank.
( Crushed coral is often available at your Local Fish Store.)
You could also try adding rock that contains limestone or
alkaline buffer out the bottle, similar to the acid buffer
if my pH seems to slightly vary during the day?
pH value of ponds and tanks varies during the daytime and night time
cycle. Plant growth changes the amount of CO2 in the water -
as they grow they absorb the CO2. Thus the pH may
slightly rise during the day and drop back again during the
night. A heavily planted tank will see this happen more noticeably
pH is very high, should I worry?
general - No - however you should be aware that a higher pH
can lead to the harmless chemical ammonium ( NH4+) being
converted to the harmful chemical ammonia ( NH3) far more
readily, so checking your ammonia levels regularly is a good
idea. The temperature of the water can also effect this
process, but as it is quite complicated, I suggest further reading if you want to know more.
keeping being asked what my KH is, what's that?
same way as you can buy a kit from the LFS (Local Fish Store)
for pH you can get them for KH and GH ( come to that next.)
The KH of your water is its "temporary hardness".
The carbonate and bicarbonate ions in the water effect its
buffering capacity. This means that it will buffer/hold stable
the properties of the water, importantly the pH. So if your pH
fluctuates quickly you probably have a low KH, and if you have
decided to make you hard tap water more acidic a high KH may
make it extremely difficult. The more alkaline the water
normally the higher the KH value.
I alter the KH then?
to raise it aerate the water ( thus driving off CO2), add
baking soda ( 5ml for every 50 litres of water) or try a
product off the shelf to increase " buffering
lower it inject Co2, use RO water or one again buy a product
off the shelf.
KH is really low, do I have to do anything?
should be aware that a particularly low KH reading can lead to
inaccurate pH testkit readings. The levels of the components
needed to determine the pH are not present in sufficient
quantities to get you an accurate reading. Other readings
however should not be effected.
KH can unfortunately result in some rapid changes in water
parameters that can be harmful to fish a reading of 4dH and
above is preferable and in most areas tap water is above that
how is it different from GH then?
is you water hardness, and that is created by magnesium and
calcium ions. So when someone says a fish prefers hard water,
it is the GH they are refering to. Generally though this will
go hand in hand with the pH, an alkaline water being hard, and
and acid water being soft. The measurement scale for GH is
called OdH - degrees of hardness. If you are given
figures in ppm (parts per million) rather than OdH then
1 OdH is equal to approx 17.9 ppm.
to 4 OdH = very soft
to 30 OdH = hard
fish prefer different levels of hardness so its often a good
idea to seek out fish that prefer the hardness you start with,
or invest in RO technology. Live plants often enjoy a softer
water ( 0 - 6 OdH) as do Discus, Angelfish and most tropical
fishes. Goldfish and brackish fish prefer a harder water ( up
to 22 OdH)
I alter my GH?
much the same way as you KH you can, Add limestone to increase
your KH which in turn will raise your GH or add Calcium
Carbonate ( CaCO3). To lower it though you will really need to
invest in the RO technology or an off the shelf product.
GH is really high, is that a problem?
very high GH can lead fish to be stressed and there may be
problems getting them to breed. Stressed fish are more susceptible
to other problems. You only really need to be concerned if
your GH is above 17 OdH or 300 ppm.
do I have to use a water conditioner?
some people have their own well water or natural sources most fish keepers
have to get their water from the tap. Water
suppliers disinfect their water with Chlorine and/or
Chloramine. Chlorine is a highly toxic gas and Chloramine is
similar but a liquid. Both are toxic to fish. If you would
like to know if either are in your water supply you can
generally ask your local water authority to supply you with a
list of everything contained in your water.
thought you could just leave your water to stand overnight?
only chlorine was added to the water this was mostly true as
the gas will dissipate from the water over a period of time,
however Chloramine is not removed in the same way. Another
advantage of using a water conditioner is that they will often
remove any other elements in the water that may be harmful to
I use distilled water or just RO water then?
need a number of trace elements in their water to be healthy,
these include, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc etc.
Not only do these metals form with carbonate to create your GH
but they play a roll in your water health. Both Distilled and
RO water do not contain these elements and would need
supplementing with minerals for best fish growth.
is RO water?
stands for Reverse Osmosis.
RO water is the purest drinking water possible. A cellophane
type membrane separates treated water from non treated and due
to the natural tendency of chemicals to reach the same
pressure on either side of the membrane and pressure being
applied to the untreated side the membrane filters the water.