How to test a fish tank or aquarium for water quality

Sunday, October 25, 2020

fish tank test kits

Just as you drink and bathe in fresh water, your pet fish need clean water to drink and swim in too.

Given that fish can be extremely sensitive to chemical treatments being added to their water and even to temperature changes (tropical fish are famous for needing water within the right ranges or they die) then as a pet owner, there's a moral duty on you to ensure the quality of the aquarium water is just right.

You just don't want a dead fish in the tank right?

So, when checking the quality aquarium water, what are you actually testing for??

The correct temperature is a pretty easy starting point. 

As a responsible pet owner, you will already know the temperature that is correct for your fish and you will simply use your thermometer or digital meter to take a reading to check. 

Some aquariums simply have a thermometer permanently placed inside the water so readings can be regularly monitored.

Fish also need to be able breathe without a struggle.

Naturally then, you’re going to want to ensure your aquarium has a working oxygen pump

When testing specifically for fish water quality, these are your typical checks using a test kit:
  • Nitrite
  • Nitrate
  • Ammonia
  • pH level

Like all animals, fish excrete and then have to swim around in it. Over time this can build up making their water pretty disgusting so a health check on the water so you know when to change it or to work out how efficiently your filter is working is good practice.

High nitrate levels will stress your fish and also provide a catalyst for algae growth (phosphates too) and everyone hates it when fish tanks get overgrown with green algae (and all over the gravel). You can't enjoy your fish if there's nothing but green on the glass.

Many fish experts stated that if you detect ammonia in your water then you should immediately add 20 percent fresh water to reduce stress on your fish. Then gradually make adjustments to the water over time.

As aquariums ‘bed in’ over time, the pH level can change. Too much alkalinity is not good for fish so keeping an eye on that level at the start of getting a tank up and running is quite crucial for supporting healthy fish. 

Any sudden changes in pH due to a new addition to an aquarium (e.g. plant material, food, new water) will likely stress your fish somewhat so bear that in mind and don't make too many changes at once.

The good news is that there are plenty of test kits out there for both freshwater and saltwater which allow you do a health check on your water very simply, and just like testing most pool water, it is just a matter of taking a test strip and dipping it into the sample and then comparing the results to the color chart to determine the level of pH, nitrate or ammonia.

Did you know you can add salt to your beer to reduce bitterness?
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