How To Maintain a Clean and Healthy Freshwater Aquarium


German blue ram
Fish guru
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Chicago Area
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Part of the responsibility of having an aquarium is to properly monitor the condition of the water that is present in your aquarium. Nearly every problem associated with aquariums can be successfully detected and intercepted before it develops into a larger problem through timely and accurate water monitoring. The best way to achieve this is by using aquarium test kits.

Methods for Interpreting Water Condition Data

Test kits use one of three methods for displaying the results of the water tests. The most common method used is the color comparison method. This involves using a strip-like device to dip a reagent tip which will change color according to the conditions present in the water. This color is then compared to a color chart in order to analyze and interpret the results.

Another method for data interpretation in aquarium test kits is the titration method. This requires one to collect a predetermined amount of aquarium water and add the testing chemical to the water drop by drop. The number of drops required to initiate a predetermined color change indicates the results of the test.

A more modern method for reading water test readings is through the use of digital monitors. These devices get their readings from probes placed in the aquarium water and display them on a screen. Some of these devices can even be attached to sophisticated automated water filtration systems which can make the necessary adjustments to the water in order to achieve optimum conditions.

What Exactly Does One Test For?

There are different types of testing kits, each capable of detecting different anomalies in your aquarium’s water condition. The most important of these are test kits designed to test the level of ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH and chlorine.

These aquarium test kits can be purchased individually or as a master test kit which tests for all of these levels and a few more.

Ammonia and nitrite levels in a freshwater aquarium should be at 0. Elevated levels of either are one the leading killers of aquarium fish. If high levels are detected an immediate 25% to 50% water change should be realized and the test repeated. This procedure should be done as many times as is necessary until the readings are at 0.

Nitrate levels should also be kept as close to zero as possible, but permissible levels include those below 20ppm.

The level of pH that is best for your aquarium will vary based on the species present in your tank. Since most aquariums are multi-species, a pH range of 5.5 to 7.0 is considered best.

Chlorine is present in most municipal tap water supplies. Chlorine can be extremely toxic to fish and cause death. If you use tap water in your aquarium it must be tested to make certain that there is no chlorine present. The best way to remove chlorine from tap water is to allow it to aerate for 24 to 48 hours before adding it to the aquarium. Of course, even when aerated the water should be tested for chlorine prior to introducing it to the tank.

Frequency of Testing

In an established aquarium, these aquarium test kits should be used at least once a week. This frequency should be increased in new aquariums or when new specimens are added to the tank. Likewise, whenever filtration equipment is changed or disease is suspected among the fish population the water should be tested immediately. Sudden changes to the color or clarity of the water would also merit immediate testing.

In short, the best way to assure a healthy fish population and keep your aquarium looking crisp and clear is through regular testing. Allowing a testing schedule to lapse is toying with disaster. Make it a point to always have your essential aquarium test kits on hand.


Site Owner
Fish mentor
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Salt Lake City, UT
Liquid test kits are far more accurate and they are cheaper than test strips. I used to use test strips, but now I have an API freshwater master test kit. One project that I have always wanted to do was to build an aquarium controller with digital monitors, but my soldering iron dosen't work :(.