Understanding your aquarium water.

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Understanding your aquarium water.

Post by Star on Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:26 pm

The biggest pitfall for the new aquarist is understanding what goes on inside their aquarium. Poor water (not necessarily dirty water) is the biggest killer of fish in an aquarium.

Aquariums are closed systems, everything you add to the tank, fish, food etc stays in the tank until you remove it. Weekly water changes are of vital importance to keeping a healthy tank. The biggest myth regarding filters is that they are there to remove fish waste and dirt, this is not the case, filters are there to keep a colony of "healthy, good bacteria" which helps to remove ammonia produced by fish, decaying plants and uneaten food. However there are constant changes within the tank that you cannot see or smell.

Carbonate Hardness (KH)

KH is the measure dissolved bicarbonate and carbonate ions. This is most commonly referred to as "the buffering capacity", it is this buffering capacity which will keep your pH stable. Carbonate ions bond with hydrogen ions (power of Hydrogen your pH). This process is continuous, the more carbonate ions bonding with Hydrogen the higher the pH, the more carbonate ions that are used up, the process slows, resulting in the pH level dropping making the water more acidic.

Power of Hydrogen (pH)

H20 (water) is comprised of Hydrogen and oxygen moleclules. Neutral water has a pH value of 7.0. It contains equal amounts of hydrogen ions (H+) and hydroxide ions (OH-) Increase the amount of hydrogen ions (H+), and the water becomes more acid ("low pH"). Increase the amount of hydroxide ions (OH-), and the water becomes more alkaline ("high pH"). Adjusting you pH is very difficult as you also need to adjust your KH (carbonate Hardness). There are many products on the market claiming that they adjust ph, but sadly many do not work and just cause further problems. Maintaining a steady pH is more important than a "correct" pH. pH can and will change throughout the day, nightime pH levels are usually slightly higher than daytime.


Phosphate are a by result of mineralization of dead matter. Plants, bacteria, feces, uneaten food, fish slime etc. are all internal contributors. This collection of matter is also called Detris and will accumulate under ornaments, within the gravel and inside the filter. Regular cleaning will reduce the phosphate accumulation from detris.

Water Changes

Weekly water changes, not only remove phosphates, but also replenish carbonate hardness (KH) which in turn keeps your pH stable. Just because your ammonia, nitrate and nitrite readings are zero, it is not a true indication that all is well within the tank. You are better off sticking to a strict weekly maintenance shedule to keep happy healthy fish than relying on testing the water and acting when there is a problem.

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