Water quality is an important aspect in the keeping of fish as there are many factors that can affect it. Water for human use may be potentially harmful for fish and aquatic invertebrates. The main reason for this is the presence of chlorine and chloramines, which control harmful bacteria, making it safe for human use, but detrimental to fish gills and other sensitive membranes and tissue.

Fortunately, the solution is simple. Adding water conditioner helps neutralize various undesirable compounds found in tap water. This, in combination with biological enhancer, will seed the aquatic environment with friendly supportive bacteria for both fish and inverts.

The aquatic environment within your aquarium is dynamic. Adding fish, feeding and just doing regular maintenance will impact the environment. Maintenance is key, and if it insufficient, your aquarium may suffer. With this said, below are some of the basics to help you understand what is important.

TEST YOUR WATER REGULARLY

Water hardness and pH are two basic parameters that are easily measured with test kits. They are important in providing an optimal aquarium environment. KH is particularly vital, as it is directly related to the stability of pH.

Testing aquarium water every few weeks will help you stay on top of any imbalances, and prevent any serious build-up of undesirable chemicals. Check regularly for KH/GH (carbonate hardness & general hardness) and low or high range pH.

WATER PARAMETERS: PH, GH AND KH

Your local tap water may necessitate the use of certain filter media to help achieve favourable conditions for fish and plants. If you choose an external filter, peat is probably one of the most useful media for hard alkaline tap water when acidic and soft water originating species of fish and/or plants are being kept.

Here are a group of fish and their preferred pH ranges:

  • Livebearers: 7.0 to 7.6
  • Rasboras: 6.2 to 6.8
  • Tetras: 6.2 to 6.8
  • South American Catfish (e.g. Corydoras): 5.8 to 7.0
  • Rainbows: 7.0 to 7.4
  • African Cichlids: 7.8 to 8.5
  • Goldfish & Koi: 7.0 to 7.5
  • South American Cichlids: 6.2 to 6.8

TIP: Make sure you check compatibility, temperature, pH, and hardness requirements for each species.

THE NITROGEN CYCLE

Filters provide an ideal habitat for key nitrifying bacteria that remove toxic ammonia and nitrites from your aquarium water. As these toxic nitrogen compounds are converted there is a process that takes place, known as the NITROGEN CYCLE. This cycle reflects the conversion of toxic to non toxic end compounds that you need to control by water changes and a proper maintenance schedule.

Ammonia and nitrite (nitrogen compounds) are introduced by you as you add fish and feed them. Nitrate, the nitrogen compound that accumulates as toxic nitrite is converted, is relatively safe. When an aquarium is first set up, the bacteria that help regulate these harmful compounds take a while to establish. The bacteria which begin the process are called nitrosomonas. They reproduce every eight hours, and convert ammonia to nitrites. This will take about ten days during which time ammonia levels can be high. That is why you should always start your aquarium with just few of the more hardy species, change water often, and use biological enhancer to introduce ideal strains of ‘friendly’ bacteria.

After ten days, the second type of bacteria, called nitrobacter, begins to populate the tank. This strain converts the still dangerous nitrites into relatively harmless nitrates. This takes about 21 to 30 days, after which all the nitrite should be gone. You can help accelerate the elimination of nitrite with substantial, extra water changes and the addition of double doses of biological enhancer.

Once the friendly bacteria are established, levels of ammonia and nitrite will be kept under control naturally, unless something occurs to dramatically reduce bacteria levels.

TIP: When doing water changes during the nitrogen cycle, especially when Ammonia is present, make sure the pH is NOT INCREASED. Keep it the same as in your aquarium, or slightly lower.

A FULL RANGE OF TEST KITS

There is a comprehensive range of test kits available. All are high-quality, user-friendly and come with easy to follow instruction providing fast accurate results. The success of your aquarium may depend on them.

Here is a quick checklist of symptoms and the recommended test kit(s) to help you potentially diagnose the cause of any issue:

FRESHWATER: FISH

Gasping for air or listless at tank bottom1,2: NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO2 (Nitrite)
Stress-related illness (e.g. white spot, fungus, etc.): NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO2 (Nitrite), NO3 (Nitrate), pH, GH (General Hardness)
New fish do poorly when introduced into established tank: NO3 (Nitrate)

 

FRESHWATER: WATER QUALITY

  • Green or red algae: NO3 (Nitrate), PO3 (Phosphate)
  • Brown algae3: NO3 (Nitrate), PO3 (Phosphate)
  • Black (hair) algae: NO3 (Nitrate), PO3 (Phosphate)
  • Cloudy water: NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO2 (Nitrite)
  • Yellow-coloured water4: NO3 (Nitrate)
  • Bad odour5: NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO3 (Nitrate)

 

FRESHWATER: PLANTS

  • Poor colour: Fe (Iron)
  • Yellow spots or leaves falling off: Fe (Iron), KH (Carbonate Hardness)
  • Poor general growth: NO3 (Nitrate), pH, KH (Carbonate Hardness)
  • Poor stem growth: NO3 (Nitrate), Fe (Iron), KH (Carbonate Hardness)

 

SALTWATER: FISH

  • Gasping for air or listless at tank bottom1,2: NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO2 (Nitrite)
  • Stress-related illness (e.g. white spot, fungus, etc.): NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO2 (Nitrite), NO3 (Nitrate), pH, GH (General Hardness)
  • Erratic movements and jumping2: NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia)
  • New fish do poorly when introduced into established tank: NO3 (Nitrate), PO3 (Phosphate)

 

SALTWATER: WATER QUALITY

  • Green or red algae: NO3 (Nitrate), PO3 (Phosphate)
  • Brown algae3: NO3 (Nitrate), PO3 (Phosphate)
  • Cloudy water: NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO2 (Nitrite)
  • Yellow-coloured water4: NO3 (Nitrate)
  • Bad odour5: NH3 / NH4 Ammonia, NO3 (Nitrate)

 

SALTWATER: LIVE CORALS

  • Corals won’t open: NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO3 (Nitrate), pH, KH (Carbonate Hardness), Ca (Calcium)
  • Poor or no coral growth: NO3 (Nitrate), pH, KH & GH (Carbonate & General Hardness), Ca (Calcium)
  • Corals are dying6: NH3 / NH4 (Ammonia), NO2 (Nitrite), NO3 (Nitrate), pH, KH & GH (Carbonate & General Hardness), Ca (Calcium)

Remember, maintaining optimum water quality requires some preventative actions. Regular attention and check-ups to thwart potential issues is up to you, so check on temperature and filter operation daily (takes a few seconds) and stock your tank responsibly. Regular and scheduled water changes and basic, bi-weekly water tests are key – stick to this regimen and get ready to enjoy a spectacular aquarium you can be proud of.

FLUVAL TV

THE AQUARIUM NITROGEN CYCLE SIMPLY EXPLAINED
Tom Sarac demystifies the aquatic Nitrogen Cycle, while offering several tips on how to get the most out of ‘cycling’ both new and existing aquariums.