Aquarium Tank Water Quality

Aquarium pH Test Kit

Maintaining your aquarium tank water quality is a challenge for many aquarium hobbyists. Many people think it takes a lot of work to keep your aquarium tank water quality to be clean and healthy but it’s really not that hard. Running water tests and partially changing the water only takes a couple of minutes and it only needs to be done once a week.

Although Guppies and most Livebearers are able to thrive in most water conditions, you should still maintain clean aquarium tank water quality to prevent any disease breakout and to create a more optimal living condition for your pets. Poor water quality is the cause for most aquarium fish diseases to develop, leading to sick fishes.

The number and size of fish, the size of your aquarium tank, aquarium live plants, and the ability of snails and other scavengers to consume excess food and algae can all affect your aquarium tank’s water quality.

Getting Started: Using a Water Test Kit

When you first want to startup an aquarium, it’s a good idea to run a test on the water from your faucet’s tap water first to find suitable specie of fish. Let the water sit for 24 hours before testing it to get a more accurate measurement.

If the pH test kit shows that the tap water has a pH level of 8 and above, then your water is alkaline. A pH level of 7, then your water is neutral. Or if it has a pH level of 6, then your water is acidic.

TIP: If you don’t have a test kit at home, you can also bring a bottle of your aquarium’s water to your local fish pet store and they can run a test for you. Most of them will even help test it for free.

After getting the reading on the water test kit, you can:

  1. Constantly treat and adjust the water with water conditioners to appropriate pH levels during weekly water changes.
  2. Choose species of fish that are suitable for your water conditions so the water maintenance is much easier to manage. Guppy and Livebearer fish are able to tolerate a wider range of pH values (compared to other fishes), between 6.5 and 8. That’s why they’re usually recommended for people who are first time fish owners due to their tolerance to thrive in most water conditions.

By using a water test kit, you’ll be able to identify what the problem is with your aquarium tank water quality. A water test kit can help analyze the pH levels, water hardness, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia. Try to monitor these parameters on a weekly basis initially before the aquarium tank’s water becomes stable to make sure it doesn’t change. You can do periodic check the aquarium tank water quality afterwards. If your fish develops any health problems, then it’s also a good idea to make sure the parameters are still at the correct levels.

Decorations and Rocks Affecting the Aquarium Tank Water Quality

A lot of times, the problem with your aquarium tank water quality starts before you even add water to it. Substrates and decorations that are added to the aquarium tank might be the cause of your water’s parameters. If you’re adding gravel, rocks and wood that you got from your backyard or garden shop, you might be bringing in unwanted guest like bacteria and parasites into your tank.

A common problem is when people adds rocks that contains limestone. Rocks that contains limestone will make your aquarium tank’s water harder, more alkaline and raise your pH level quickly since it. So try to set up your tank properly with all the appropriate substrate, wood and rock before adding in your fish, otherwise it will affect your aquarium tank’s water quality.

Biological Filtration

Biological filters contain media inside them that were specially designed to encourage beneficial bacteria to grow in order to help break down dangerous ammonia and nitrate in your aquarium tank. It can take several weeks for the amount of beneficial bacteria to grow in these filters, so wait a few weeks before adding fish to a new tank after setting up your biological filtration system.

There are several different types of biological filters available, they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Make sure that the filter you bought is properly rated for the size of your aquarium tank. Clean and change your filter cartridge on a regular basis so it’s filtering the water properly.

New Tank Syndrome

New tank syndrome occurs when you are first filling up an aquarium tank with water or when you do more than a 50% water change. New tank syndrome can also make the water in your tank look cloudy because of the ammonia and nitrate levels. It can take several weeks for the bacteria needed to break down the ammonia and nitrates from growing. Having a biological filter can help eliminate this problem since the beneficial bacteria that grows in it’s media will breakdown the dangerous ammonia and nitrate.

If you’re starting up a new aquarium tank, then keep changing 10% of the water weekly until the water clears up. It is very natural for your water to become cloudy as part of the system’s normal biological cycle. The reasons for this are fluctuations in the nitrogen cycle, and the release of gases in solution as the result of an increase in water temperature.

Keeping Your Tank Clean: Performing Water Changes

If you don’t perform water changes, the aquarium tank water quality will become dirty resulting in growth of bad bacteria and parasites. Your fish’s will become sick and they might lose the desire to reproduce. When changing the water, never replace more than 50% of the water at a time. It’s recommended to do a large water change (50% water) every four to six weeks.

Weekly Water Changes

It’s important to change your water weekly to maintain good aquarium tank water quality. Changing 15-25% of your aquarium tank weekly will help eliminate many potential water quality issues as fresh mineral water is added back in. Fish, plants and the beneficial bacteria that you’ve cultivated in your gravel or filter require these minerals to survive.

When removing the dirty water, you’ll also help reduce the nitrate, toxins, pollutants and ammonia that were built up from uneaten food or waste from the fish.

To clean the gravels or sand in your aquarium tank, you can use a siphon vacuum cleaner. Siphon vacuum cleaners are able to suck up waste, and any left over food from the rocks but they’re not strong enough to remove the gravels or sands from your aquarium tank.

It’s important that the water that is added is the correct pH and free of chlorine.

Chlorine Tap Water

Almost all tap water contains chlorine which is a chemical used to kill bacteria build-up so we can drink and use it safely. However, chlorine from the tap water can burn a fish’s delicate membranes and might even kill the fish. It will also kill all the beneficial bacteria that you’ve cultivated in your aquarium tank over time. Think of how your eyes feel when you go swimming in a pool. Your eyes burn and sometimes even become red. That’s how your fishes feel when they swim in chlorinated water.

You can get rid of the chlorine from the tap water, simply by allowing it to sit for 24 hours before adding it to your aquarium tank. The chlorine would dissolve over that period making it safe for use in an aquarium. If you have to remove the chlorine from your tap water right away, you can use dechlorinator water conditioners that should be available at your fish pet store.

Adding Live Plants To Your Tank

Live plants can help absorb carbon dioxide and nitrates, which are required for algae to grow. Live plants also provide oxygen that helps improve the water quality. They add to the look of your tank and make is more attractive to the eye. Live plants can be purchased at any pet store. Start off with only a few because live plants do grow in time.

When buying live plants, make sure to inspect the plants well before you buy them since live plants can carry parasites. Make sure to wash them off in a sink before adding them to your tank to avoid any unwanted guests.

Green Tank Water

Green tank water can indicate that there are algae growing in your water. Algae can be growing because your aquarium tank is positioned in direct sunlight or you’re leaving your aquarium lights “on” for longer than 8 hours, which encourages algae growth.

An overcrowded tank or overfeeding your fish can also indirectly lead to algae growth because it increases the ammonia and nitrite levels — which algae feeds on.

Green tank water can also usually occur when the tank is not cleaned thoroughly or not often enough. Also make sure that your filter is functioning properly and your media cartridges are changed on a regular basis as instructed by the product’s manual.

To eliminate algae from growing in your tank:

  • Scrub the tank with a algae magnet scrubber, then do a 50% water change.
  • Scrub and clean any plastic plants and tank decorations until they’re algae free. If you still can’t get the algae off of them then take them out of the aquarium for 24 hours to dry them. Then soak them in hot water for 5 minutes followed by toothbrush scrub, should do the trick.
  • Avoid positioning your tank in direct sunlight as the sunlight encourages algae to grow.
  • Installing a UV clarifier if you have a canister type filter, this will help kill the algae when the water flows through it.
  • If you have been overfeeding your fishes, cut back on the feeding.

If you follow the steps above, it should help get your fish’s aquarium tank back in good shape — algae-free.

Cloudy and Foul Smelling Water

If your aquarium tank’s water is cloudy or there is a foul smell, it’s usually because you are overfeeding your fishes, you have an overcrowded fish tank or it’s the result of new tank syndrome.

The best way to remedy the problem is to add 50% fresh water one day, and then another 25% fresh water the day after that. Cleaning your tank weekly and having a proper filter system should eliminate foul smelling water.

When feeding your fish be sure to only give them what they will eat within two minutes or less. Any uneaten food and will accumulate and decay in the tank. Which often results in high ammonia and nitrite levels.

An overcrowded fish tank can also lead to cloudy and foul smelling water. You should have one gallon of water for every one inch of fish. Be sure to use the species’ adult-size length, as your fishes will grow up. For example, if you have a 10-gallon tank then your aquarium tank can safely house five adult Guppy fishes since they can grow up to two-inches.


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