A very important aspect of aquarium maintenance is testing and sustaining the good water quality of your aquarium.
This seemingly simple task can be very tricky in reality.
It is, in fact, one of the most difficult tasks of aquarium maintenance. The water chemistry of an aquarium is significant for the health of all aquatic life inside the aquarium.
There are three main steps of water quality maintenance: filter maintenance, water changes, and water testing. Regular maintenance of your aquarium can help its aquatic life to thrive with health.
Testing the water of your aquarium with good quality testing instruments is very important to provide a clean and healthy environment to the fish in your aquarium. Your water test results will show the level of different chemical components and properties of your aquarium water including pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, general hardness, and alkalinity.
Chemical Properties and Components of Your Aquarium Water
We have put together a list of the components and properties that you should look into when maintaining your aquarium.
Additionally, to help you maintain the health of your aquarium without any issues, we’re also letting you know the ideal water test results of your aquarium.
The pH value of the water is an indicator of how much acid or base is present in the water in your aquarium.
It is an important property that needs to be maintained at a certain level for the health of fish in the aquarium.
If the pH value gets out of the healthy range i.e. if it is too high or too low, it can stress the fish and pose risks to their health.
The pH scale has a range of 0-14 in which 0 is the most acidic while 14 is the most basic. The neutral value on the pH scale is 7.
The most suitable pH range for your fish to thrive is from 6.5-8.2.
If the pH level of your aquarium water falls under or over this range, you will have to buy chemicals from a local pet store to raise or lower the pH level.
Maintaining a healthy pH level of your aquarium water is the first and most important step of aquarium maintenance.
Also read: How to Acidify Aquarium Water (Lowering the pH)
Ammonia is naturally present in aquariums. It is a component of fish waste and it is also a by-product created when the remains of fish food break down.
It is, however, so harmful for the fish that it can even kill them. The water test results of your aquarium should not have a reading of ammonia over 0 PPM.
You can find several products in a local pet store that help to break down ammonia in your aquarium.
Unless your aquarium completes its nitrogen cycle, ammonia will be present in small amounts in your aquarium.
We recommend you initially keep very hardy fish in your aquarium if you are going to introduce fish to your aquarium before it completes the nitrogen cycle.
After the completion of the cycle, the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium will break down the ammonia present in your aquarium.
Also read: How to Check Ammonia and Nitrate Levels in Aquarium
Nitrites are by-products of the nitrogen cycle in the aquarium. They are formed as a result of ammonia being broken down by beneficial bacteria.
Nitrites are not as harmful as ammonia but they still pose a risk to the health of fish in the aquarium.
As soon as the level of ammonia in the aquarium lowers, the level of nitrites starts increasing.
In an ideal condition, the number of nitrates in your aquarium should be 0 PPM. The only way to get rid of nitrites from an aquarium is to change 25% of the water in the aquarium every week.
The third and the last by-products of the nitrogen cycle are nitrates. They are formed when nitrites are further broken down by beneficial bacteria.
Nitrates are normally not harmful to fish and they pose no health hazards for them but a high level of nitrates in the aquarium can cause stress for the fish.
In addition, high levels of nitrates also make the aquarium water very cloudy.
For ideal water test results, the reading of nitrates in your aquarium should be within a range of 20 to 40 ppm.
Changing the water of your aquarium regularly is also a solution to lower the levels of nitrates in your aquarium.
Hardness Levels of the Aquarium Water
Hardness refers to the levels of dissolved minerals i.e. calcium and magnesium in the water of your aquarium.
When the water contains low levels of dissolved minerals, it is referred to as soft and vice-versa.
Soft water lowers the pH value which leads to stress in fish. The measuring unit for water hardness is degrees, denoted as dH.
The suitable reading of water hardness depends on the type of fish and aquatic plants you have in your aquarium.
More often than not, a suitable range of water hardness is 5-12 degrees.
If the water test results show that the water in your aquarium is soft, changing the water of your aquarium can increase the hardness level.
Related Article: How to Soften Water For Aquarium?
The alkalinity test, also known as carbonate hardness, expresses the water’s ability to maintain pH.
It shows the stability of the water quality of your aquarium.
If water has low alkalinity, it means that the pH will shift more easily.
A shift in the pH of your aquarium water not only puts stress on the fish but also hinders the growth of the aquatic plants in your aquarium.
The ideal alkalinity test reading should fall within a range of 7-12 degrees.
There are some products available in local pet stores that can help you increase the alkalinity level in your aquarium water or you can also increase it by changing the water.
Aquarium Water Changes
Regularly changing the water in your aquarium is also an important part of aquarium maintenance.
You cannot ensure a healthy and clean environment inside your aquarium unless you change the water of your aquarium regularly.
It is recommended that you change about 25% of the aquarium water every one or two weeks.
You can get a siphon from a pet store to take out the water while preventing the extraction of gravel as well.
It is important to avoid extracting gravel with the water from the aquarium because gravel contains uneaten fish food and is settled at the bottom of the aquarium.
It is also equally important to test the water that you are going to add to the aquarium.
We recommend you not to use tap water for your aquarium as it contains chlorine or chloramine.
Chloramine is the combination of chlorine and ammonia — both of which are harmful to your fish.
If you have to use tap water, you should leave it in an aerated bucket for 24 hours which will help the chlorine.
However, chloramines cannot air out of the water like chlorine does which is why there’s still a threat to the lives of the fish in your aquarium.
You can also use a water conditioner to treat the chlorine in the water.
Yet, water conditioners cannot treat ammonia which will have to be broken down by the beneficial bacteria in the aquarium.
Another important step of aquarium maintenance is servicing the filter regularly. We recommend you service your filter every month.
If you have stocked your aquarium with a lot of fish then frequent maintenance of the filter is absolutely crucial to provide a healthy and clean environment to the fish in the aquarium.
As the filter cleans the water of your aquarium regularly, contaminants and waste gather in it.
An unclean filter can further contaminate the environment of the aquarium rather than clean it.
Filter maintenance is fairly simple. All you have to do is change the inserts and media of the filter.
Every once in a while you can also wash the filter thoroughly.
Do not touch the bio wheels or any other beneficial bacteria supporting media while rinsing the filter.
It is also important to use fresh and clean water to wash the filter.
Do not use any cleaning products to wash the filter as it can kill the beneficial bacteria in the filter. Also, remember not to rinse the inside of the filter.
Related article: How Often Should You Change an Aquarium Filter?
Water Testing Kit for Aquariums
You can perform the water testing of an aquarium with the help of an aquarium water test kit.
Usually, these testing kits are easily available in local pet stores or you can also purchase them online.
There are many different types of aquarium water testing kits in the market but most master kits have all the equipment that you need to test the main chemical components and properties of water namely pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, hardness, and alkalinity.
Some reliable master testing kits are API Master Test Kits and Salifert Master Reef Testing Combo Kit.
To ensure the health of the fish in your aquarium, it is important to maintain the quality of water in your aquarium.
By maintaining the filter, changing the water, and testing the water regularly, you can ensure that the quality of the water remains perfect for the aquatic life in your aquarium.
We recommend that you note down the readings of your aquarium water test results to compare them with your future test results.
Apart from all the maintenance, the best tip for maintaining the quality of the water in your aquarium is to let your aquarium complete its nitrogen cycle before introducing aquatic life into it.
You may also like the following articles about aquariums:
- Can Distilled Water Be Used in a Saltwater Aquarium?
- How to Remove Hard Water Stains from Aquarium?
- Why Is My Aquarium Water Yellow?
- How to Lower KH (Carbonate Hardness) in an Aquarium?
- How Long Does It Take Hydrogen Sulfide to Kill Fish in an Aquarium?
- Can Cats Drink Aquarium Water? (Risks, Facts, & Precautions)
- How to Change an Aquarium Filter Cartridge without Losing Bacteria?