Friday, 11 November 2011

Aquarium Water Management

Maintaining the right water condition is essential to ensure that your fish that depends on it stay healthy. Thus understanding water chemistry is very important and every aquarist should put in some effort to at least grasp the basic knowledge. Different fishes have different demand. Some live only in freshwater, some require saltwater while others require a little bit of saline such as the brackish condition. There are also certain species of fish like the puffers which can live in different water salinity depending on its age. Apart from that, aquarium water can also be defined as hard, soft, acidic, alkaline, high or poor in oxygen content including some other parameters like nitrite, nitrate and ammonia which can determine how stable or polluted the water is. Pet fish which are confined living in the aquarium has no means to escape if suddenly the water turns bad and thus you need to put in the best effort to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Going deeper into water chemistry
As mentioned earlier, for a fish to survive, its body must be in tune with the changes of the environment and failure to adapt can result in condition which is life-threatening. Certain fish which are considered hardy can adjust its metabolic condition to suit the alterations and whatever changes happening around and no matter how strong they can be, they will need time to adjustment themselves. That was why any sudden new introduction that can cause pH, temperature and water hardness level to shift has to be perform with care in order not to upset the condition. Sometimes sudden changes can be fatal, and this often happens in certain species of fish which are less hardy and are very sensitive to the environmental change. Therefore, when you hear the term “hardiness” what this basically translates to is the ability of the fish to adapt and not every species has the same tolerance level. Some of the pets which are hardy are the platy, swordtail, catfish while those which are extremely sensitive are discus and neon tetra.

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The fresh water that comes out from the tap is usually not suitable to be directly added to the aquarium. It must be treated in order to modify the water chemistry to meet the needs of the demanding species. Depends on which type of pets you have and the overall water quality, the treatment step to add conditioner and pH buffer can sometimes be quite expensive in the long run. There is another trick whereby you can always do dilution in order to not change condition in extreme manner. Basically how to achieve this is very simple. If let’s say you are changing the tank water, try not to take out more than 50% of the whole volume and thus new top up level that you add in will not suddenly cause the water parameter to shift. Usually sudden increases in hardness level, temperature or pH are the ones that can have dire effects, therefore make all effort to control these 3 so that they will not run off too much. The process becomes even more complicated when it comes to marine aquarium systems because you can longer use ordinary tap water. Usually it has to undergo another extra treatment process to convert it to RO water so that most of the impurities are removed.


Water hardness
Hardness is determined by the amount and concentration of mineral salts present in it and what it means is that the more salt it contains the harder the water is. Water can become hard through natural process like leaching of mineral salts coming from the soil and rocks or by manual means if you decide to add and dissolve salts into it. Certain rocks like granite and slate has very little up to none soluble material in it but there are others for example like limestone which can leach and change the hardness level quickly. If you are thinking of setting up a soft water aquarium for discus, then make sure you add in the d├ęcor that will not affect and the water chemistry drastically. Even if you have plans to add gravel, sometimes check carefully as it may contain fragments of limestone which can alter the water condition. However, this is the opposite if let’s say you want to set up a hard water tank for keeping cichlids, then you should consider these options to increase hardness level.

How to get started with new aquarium

There are several actions you can do to change the condition. Increasing mineral salt content is much simpler as you only need to add shell and limestone which can instantly alter the water chemistry. But however, the opposite of decreasing it can become tricky as basically you will need to dilute the water with softened water such as rain water or distilled water which you will need to collect. There are other terms which you will need to familiarize as well such as carbonate hardness (those salts comprising only of bicarbonates) expressed in unit of KH while GH is the general hardness which takes into account all the dissolved salts present in the water.

pH
pH scale measures between 0 to 14 with 7 being neutral, 0 being extremely acidic while 14 extremely alkaline. Most aquarium fishes have their requirements fall within the range of 6 – 8 while there are other extraordinary species that require beyond that. Normally most common aquarium fishes has the preferences fall at the neutral pH zone. In order to find out your pH reading, commercial aquarium test kits can provide fast results and these days, there are even electronic pH meters dipped into the aquarium water which can give online reading and up-to-date information. pH of the water is caused by presence of different substances dissolved in it. Mineral salts which you add to harden the water can at the same time make it alkaline while soft waters are normally slightly acidic. Peat and wood that normally contain decaying materials can cause the water to acidify. Apart from these natural occurring materials, some commercial liquid pH adjuster can also be added to obtain the desired pH reading. There are also buffer pH tablets which are added to control and regulate the pH level to a certain desired range. For example, if the water becomes too acidic, then it will release a certain chemical compound to raise the pH level and vice versa if the water becomes too alkaline.

Temperature
This is also another parameter to watch out because certain pet fish can be very sensitive to changes and sometimes extreme fluctuation can cause temperature shock. Some species like discus fish are known to develop complications as a result of temperature change and most of the time, some can end up becoming sick and will be prone to disease. Usually temperature shock can be avoided by controlling the amount of volume taken out and replaced during water change. Temperature can also be affected by the surrounding environment, thus if you can afford it, use a heater or chiller to regulate and control the temperature. Apart from maintaining health and ensure survival of the species, temperature also plays a part to induce spawning. Certain fishes like the goldfish react to temperature change which can cause the male and female to release the milt and eggs. At times, when the fish is sick, you will need to adjust and increase the level slightly in order to expedite the healing process.

Learn about fish tank filters and its role in maintaining clean water condition. Aquarium decoration.

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