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Aquarium Water Basics You Should Know

Aquarium Water Basics

The key factor of the environment for your fish is aquarium water. But, many owners ignore this environmental element. In this article, we will help you learn how to not only provide but also maintain the ideal water conditions for your aquarium.

Ammonia Poisoning

This is one of the biggest killers of aquarium fish.You normally have to face ammonia poisoning when setting up a new tank. But, it may be caused by adding too many new fish when the filter fails because of power or mechanical failure. Once you see your fish are in distress or die suddenly, it’s time to consider ammonia as the reason.

Aquarium Algae

The fact is thatevery aquarium owner will have to suffer from aquarium Algae sooner or later.Some of them grow normally, but the growth is unsightly. Actually, it can be hazardous to fish as well as plants.

Aquarium Water Testing

Some people say that aquarium water testing isn’t necessary. But, some others test everything. It’s not easy to answer what should be tested as well as how often. When setting up a new aquarium, it’s important to test the water. It helps to avoid fish loss. This helps to ensure the continued health of your fish as well. To do this, you need test kits.

Cloudy Water

Many owners wonder about the baffling phenomenon of cloudy water. There are a couple of basic causes of the cloudy water. So, you need to try to solve cloudy water. Most importantly, you need to determine the root cause in order totake the best steps to deal with the problem.

Do Rocks Affect Water pH?

It’s hard to know about the impact of rocks on water chemistry before you put them in the tank. If you use limestone, it can be able to cause for the pH elevation in your aquarium water. Limestone is known for the ability to both harden the water.

Also, it can increase the pH. In fact, placing limestone can raise water pH. In addition, to increase water PH, you can also place crushed coral or any highly calcareous material. Once your water becomes hard and alkaline, it’s time to test the rock. You need to make sure the rocks you will toss in your tank are safe for your fish and plants.

Do Water Changes Kill Fish?

The water change can kill all your fish. So, how to do water changes? You shouldn’t make a sudden massive change, especially when you didn’t do any your water changes for months and years before. But, you still need to change your water regularly. First, you should just change less than 5% of the total. After a week, you can perform another change.

Go on doing this process for several months. But, you should raise the percentage of water changed slightly after each time. By this way, you can make a slow change in water chemistry that allows your fish to adapt to without harm.When you are familiar with the water changing routine, you will have to take less time to complete.

Nitrite Poisoning

This problem is also considered as a major killer of aquarium fish.It can be able to make you lose half your fish to ammonia poisoning even all of your fish. The fact is that ammonia levels are increased, elevated nitrites also follow soon. In order to deal with this problem, you need to test your new tank when setting it up.

Nitrogen Cycle

This problem is also called cycling, biological cycle, nitrification, start-up cycle, the nitrogen cycle, or break-in cycle. Older aquariums also experience periods that the bacterial colonies fluctuate. It’s important to understand the concept of this. Also, you need to know how to handle critical periods during the nitrogen cycle. Just by this way, you can increase your chances of successful fish.

Phosphates in the Aquarium

This condition occurs inevery aquarium while many owners don’t know about it. If you don’t maintain the aquarium properly, the phosphate levels will increase. And, it will contribute to algae growth. This problem will be harmful to your fish. That’s why it’s important to find out the causes as well as the way to deal with them before they become harmful to your fish.

Water Changes

Many owners wonder whether they should change their water or not. This is another problem often passionately debated. Even when you see your water seem to be clear, you may still be shocked because of detritus when stirring up the substrate a bit. The debris may be the result of the food eaten released back into the tank. That’s why it’s a must when it comes to water changes.

What is pH?

This is one of the things that can make many owners cringe. You know, water is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Neutral water comes with a pH value of 7.0. It consists of equal amounts of hydrogen ions as well as hydroxide ions. These values can be able to rise or fall. As a result, the water becomes more acid or alkaline.

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How Often Should You Change Aquarium Water?

How Often Should You Change Aquarium Water

Even if you see your water is clear, you still may be shocked at how much detritus there just by stirring up the substrate a bit. So, what’s the source of it?

The fact is that your cat or dog can escape their wastes when they go outside to potty or use a litter box. But, there is no choice for your fish friends. Their particles of food still are in their wastes until you take action.

That’s why you need to change water weekly. But, you need to pay more attention to sick or stressed fish signal.
How Often Should You Change Aquarium Water

Tank Setup

It’s important to keep your tank cycled for the health of your fish as well as your regularly scheduled water changes. Actually, a cycled tank is a mature one. This is considered as an established colony of nitrifying bacteria.

It purposes to turn ammonia and nitrite into nitrate. You need to control the nitrate level thanks to weekly water changes. If you don’t keep ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 parts per million, your fish friends can be sick.

In order to cycle your tank, you can use a bacterial additive, according to the manufacturer’s directions. The additive has the beneficial bacteria within a day or two.

It’s best to take some gravel as well as filter media from an established tank. Then, you need to add them to the new tank. Then, it’s time to add fish to the tank immediately.

Water Tests

Water tests are important for some main reasons. First, thanks to them, you can determine the time your tank is cycled. Also, you can know if ammonia, nitrate levels, and nitrite have spiked.

If you own a healthy established tank, you just have to test the condition of your water. You can do this monthly. If you overfeed your fish, they may die. So, you need to maintain your weekly partial water-change schedule.

Standard Water Changes

We recommend you to replace 10 to 20 percent of the tank water in order to keep your fish friend healthy and happy. The water change helps to keep the nitrate level low as well as your substrate free of waste.

You just need to avoid sucking up one of your fish buddies. It’s not essential to vacuum around plants in order not to disturb their roots.

Emergency Water Changes

Once your test tells you the presence of ammonia or nitrite, you have to change the water daily or more than once per day. Do this until the levels are lowered. You may resume weekly 10 to 20 percent water changes once your nitrite, ammonia, as well as nitrate levels, are back.

Hospital Tank

Once your fish becomes ill, you can help him recover. The thing you need to do is medicating him in a hospital tank. Also, remember to separate him from his buddies.

Some people think that it’s best to change the water of a sick fish daily. But, the fact is that this can render the medication ineffective. That’s why you need to follow the instructions for the medicine before changing the water.

Replacement Water

The fact is that your fish need good water, not just any water. Don’t fill your tank straight from your tap otherwise you will cause a spike of ammonia, nitrate, or nitrite. You should fill jugs with the fresh water.

Then, you need to treat each jug by using an aquarium water conditioner. It has the purpose of removing chlorine, ammonia, and chloramine.

In addition, it helps to convert nitrite and nitrate into a harmless form to fish. Also, these conditioners can be able to detoxify heavy metals. If you want to purchase bottled spring water or distilled water, don’t forget to add conditioner. This is safe.

Nitrate and Phosphate Waste

Aside from the junk, you can see, invisible waste byproducts are shown in the form of phosphates as well as nitrates. Your fish is stressful by this. Also, this can make them vulnerable to disease. Elevated nitrates may be able to stunt the growth of young fish.

In addition, nitrates help to promote overgrowth of algae. It’s best to change the water to keep nitrate and phosphate levels low. You don’t only need to change water due to wastes. In addition, there are other important factors in the water, including trace elements and minerals.

They are also important for the stability of the water chemistry. If you don’t replace them, the pH of the water may drop. Moreover, the vigor and health of the fish will be affected by the lack of trace minerals.

How Often You need to Change Aquarium Water

It’s important to change water as a part of regular aquarium maintenance. The frequency is different depending on many factors.

For smaller and heavily stocked tanks, you need to change the water more frequently, compared with larger and sparsely stocked aquariums. It’s best to change 10-15 percent of the water per week. If you have heavily stocked tank, it may bump up to 20 percent per week.

Water Changing Tips

Age the water

If you allow the water to sit for a day, dissolved gasses may be dissipated. But, this is harmful to the fish. Of course, it can let the PH stabilize before you add to the tank.

Clean the gravel

When you siphon off the old water, you need to vacuum the substrate at the same time. By this way, you can avoid some of the detritus building up.

Don’t touch the filter

It may disturb the beneficial bacterial colonies when it comes to cleaning the gravel. The other place to grow these colonies is the filter. It’s wrong to disrupt both locations at the same time. It’s essential to time your filter cleaning. This can take places between water change days.

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Refugiums

Simply put, a refugium is a separate but connected component of your aquarium. The refugium may be located within your tank, hanging off the back or side of the tank, sitting on a table next to your tank or stashed underneath the tank inside the aquarium stand.

The one overriding requirement is that it must be connected to your main tank and share the same water. You may use the refugium to increase your water volume, provide a means of adding additional live rock and sand, grow out macroalgae and or provide a safe refuge for a huge assortment of tiny critters that would not otherwise survive within your main tank.

If you so desire, you can also house your protein skimmer, heaters and other maintenance gizmos within a chamber of the refugium. Many people setup their refugiums with large growths of macroalgae with 24 hour lighting to ensure full time photosynthesis. This ensures full time oxygen generation and limits the nightly pH drop.

Small hang on back unit

In the basic saltwater aquarium you run your lights for 10 to 14 hours during which time plants and zooxanthellae convert carbon dioxide to oxygen utilizing a process called photosynthesis.

This higher oxygen level helps to stabilize your pH level in your tank. Once the lights are turned off, plants and animals use the oxygen and convert it back to carbon dioxide. This process tends to have an adverse effect on your pH levels.

Depending on biological load, the oxygen level may decrease severly and take the pH down along with it. To combat this process you simply fill a refugium with macroalgae, keep the lights on for 24 hours and you have full time oxygen generation. No more oxygen related pH crashes.

In the basic saltwater aquarium you run your lights for 10 to 14 hours during which time plants and zooxanthellae convert carbon dioxide to oxygen utilizing a process called photosynthesis.

This higher oxygen level helps to stabilize your pH level in your tank. Once the lights are turned off, plants and animals use the oxygen and convert it back to carbon dioxide. This process tends to have an adverse effect on your pH levels.

Depending on biological load, the oxygen level may decrease severly and take the pH down along with it. To combat this process you simply fill a refugium with macroalgae, keep the lights on for 24 hours and you have full time oxygen generation. No more oxygen related pH crashes.

Not only does macro algae filled refugiums help to stablize oxygen levels they also provide one other VERY important and in some cases critical function.

The macro algae converts phosphates, nitrites and nitrates into new plant growth. This takes these pollutants out of the water and stores them within plant tissue.

As long as you don’t allow the macro algae to die off you are in great shape. Keeping the macro algae trimmed back is not much of a problem, in fact many of your fish and invertebrates will dine on a piece placed in the aquarium.

Caulerpa is one of, if not the most common form of macro algae utilized in refugiums. This alga provides all the benefits described above and is also a favorite snack of tangs.

Caulerpa does have some serious drawbacks. It is very invasive and can quickly gain an almost permanent foothold in your tank. It is very difficult to completely get rid of.

Also, certain species of Caulerpa, such as Grape C. pictured on left can go sexual and place a large bio load into your tank very quickly. Continued pruning and 24-hour lighting has proven to minimize these risks. But, there are no guarantees.

Chaetomorphia, better known as Cheato is quickly becoming the preferred macro algae for refugiums. It tends to be much more stable than Caulerpa in that it does not go sexual nor does it suffer from periods of quick die off.

Cheato grows slower than Caulerpa and therefore does not remove nutrients quite as fast as Caulerpa but that seems to be a good enough trade off.

Cheato tends to grow in a large ball. Try to keep the ball of Cheato tumbling around in your refugium (using water flow) or turn the Cheato over every couple of days to ensure that the entire ball gets plenty of light.

Give some serious thought to running a refugium with your reef tank. Have any questions; come on in and see us!

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Aquarium Saltwater Information

Aquarium Types & Sizes

Glass versus Acrylic

Simply put, you can buy an aquarium of almost any size and shape, acrylic or glass, expensive or inexpensive. A good rule of thumb might be to buy an aquarium as large as you have both room for and can afford.

Water chemistry is by far the most important aspect of maintaining a marine aquarium. The more water you have in your tank the slower the chemistry will change, therefore the easier it is to maintain. It’s like insurance, the larger the volume of water, the more insurance you have.

Shorter and wider tanks are much easier to maintain then tall, thinner tanks. This is due to the fact that the more surface area that you have in relationship to the total volume of water dictates better oxygenation, gas and heat diffusion. Good rule of thumb, the more surface area….the better it is for your aquarium!

You must also consider both the stand and the location. Water is heavy, almost 7.5 lbs per gallon. A 75 gallon tank with a 3 or 4 inch sand bed plus live rock can easily top out over 650lbs. Make sure that whatever stand or piece of furniture that you plan to use can safely support this load.

Place the tank where it makes best sense for your viewing pleasure but keep in mind that you should keep the tank out of direct sunlight and areas of the home the have large temperature shifts throughout the day.

It’s also advised to keep the tank in an area of low to medium traffic. Placing the tank in a hallway where the boys (or girls) run through on their way to the TV or computer is not a wise idea.

Glass versus acrylic, both materials make for excellent aquariums. Which should you use?

GLASS ACRYLIC
PriceMuch less expensive More costly due to manufacturing methods
Shape
Most often in built in squares and rectangles
Can be molded into almost any shape. Curved or bowed fronts are quite common
Age Glass ages wellSome acrylics begin to yellow with age
Stability / Cracking Glass cracks or breaks easier than acrylic when struck by somethingAcrylic takes much more punishment before breaking BUT will scratch much easier
ScratchabilityDifficult to scratch. Simple razor blades may be used to scrape off algaeEasily scratched. Special tools must be used to clean and scrape acrylic
Weight
Much heavier than acrylic

So, which one is right for you? Many beginners start off with glass as it’s less expensive and easier maintained. While many more experienced reef keepers eventually move up to acrylic as they want the more customized sizes and shape. Both are great choices.

You have two overriding decisions to make; how big will your tank be and what will it be made of. For most beginners it’s recommended that you start off with at least a 30 gallon tank, probably glass to keep your initial costs down. If you choose to upgrade to a larger, more fashionable tank you can then use your 30 gallon as a hospital / quarantine tank.

Marine Aquariums

So, you’re considering entering the world of marine aquariums.

Congratulations! Let us start off by saying we wish you all the luck in the world. Many people will say you will need it to succeed. Experienced reef keepers will disagree.

Reef keeping is relatively easy once you understand the dynamics of marine chemistry, reef make up and proper stocking levels. In this section, we will go over the basics such as aquarium size, water quality, filtration and stocking.

Many of these topics will be discussed in more depth in other sections of this site. Needless to say, your success at reef keeping is directly related to your knowledge level.

Experience is always a plus, but years of experience failing or minimally succeeding at something does not outweigh good, solid research. Building a strong knowledge base before starting your tank is critical.

Again, let us state that reef keeping can be as easy………. or as hard as you make it.

We strongly recommend that you do as much reading as possible on this topic while at the same time spending as much time as you can here at our store. You might also want to join a local marine reef club. These clubs or associations are always looking for new members.

Existing members are an excellent source of knowledge and many of them will gladly show off their aquariums to members of their clubs. As you’re visiting our store or club members homes begin to try to decide what type of tank you would like to build.

What types and sizes of fish and corals make sense to you. What amount of room do you have to dedicate to this hobby and how much money do you want to invest, both start up costs and on going costs. It’s up to you to set your goals realistically based on desires, available space and financial investment.

PH And Alkalinity

Natural seawater in shallow reef zones has an average pH of 8.4. With this in mind, the normal recommended pH for a reef tank is 7.9 – 8.4. Keeping a balanced pH can be difficult. It is imperative that the marine aquarist understand the roles Carbonate Hardness / Alkalinity, oxygen / CO2 levels and water quality play in helping to maintain a specific pH.

Simply put, pH is the measurement of a liquids acidity level. The pH scale runs from 0 to to 14 where a pH of 7.0 is considered neutral meaning its neither acidic or basic. A pH level greater than 7.0 is considered basic while less than 7.0 is considered acidic.

Lower pH substances would include battery acid while higher pH substances include items such as bleach and drain cleaner. The pH scale is logarithmic based, meaning that each whole number increase or decrease is a tenfold difference.

A liquid that changes pH from 8.2 to 7.2 became ten times more acidic. Keep this scale in mind when trying to modify the pH of your aquarium, pH adjustments should be done gradually over time.

Alkalinity is the measurement of a substance resistance to change in pH. The higher the resistance the higher the alkalinity. Substances that help to minimize change in pH by raising the alkalinity level are normally called buffers. Some of the most widely used buffers in the marine hobby include carbonate and bicarbonate. By properly maintaining your alkalinity level you go a long ways towards maintaining a stable pH level.

Alkalinity can be measured in a number of ways. One of the easiest and least expensive methods is by measuring the carbonate hardness of your tank water. The measurement is in degrees of carbonate hardness or dKH. It is recommended that you maintain carbonate hardness between 8 and 10 dKH.

Note: The pH of your tanks changes slightly throughout the day and night. As a aquarist it is our desire to minimize these swings in pH. To that end it must be noted that the oxygen / CO2 levels in your water will certainly affect your pH level.

During the day algae undertake a process called photosynthesis whereby they convert light energy and CO2 to oxygen. This reduction of CO2 will keep the pH higher during daylight hours. You lose this natural process when the lights are off.

Therefore the more algae you have in your tank the larger a swing you will have between lights on and lights off pH. For this reason many hobbyists keep a refugium stocked with macroalgae and run the refugiums light schedule opposite of the main tank thereby keeping the photosynthesis process going 24 hours a day.

Getting back to water quality, decaying food, nitric acids and phosphate all tend to push your pH level down. As these items build up you will most certainly see a slow drop in your pH. This process can be slowed and or halted by consistent water changes and properly maintaining the buffering capacity of your water. High particulate matter, older water and low alkalinity could be a recipe for disaster.

Test your pH on a normal schedule. Monitor your pH levels, work diligently to maintain a proper alkalinity level and strive to keep your water quality as high as possible . Do all this and you are well on your way to succeeding as a marine aquarist!

Red Slime Algae Removal

The basic instructions to rid your tank of Red Slime Algae are as follows:

  1. Clean off as much red slime as you easily can before treatment.
  2. Remove activated carbon, phosphate remover or other chemical media from filters and turn off protein skimmer (if you have one).
  3. Put 1 tablet Erythromycian (200mg) per 30 gallons in the tank.
  4. Wait 2 to 3 days and repeat the dosage. Wait another 3 days and repeat dosage again. Within three days of this last dose the Red Slime should be gone.
  5. Four days after the last dose you may replace your activated carbon and restart your filters.
  6. Turn your Protein Skimmer back on and set it at a very low setting. Note: If you turn your Protein Skimmer on too high it will quickly fill with foam. Gradually increase the setting back to a normal range over a number of days.
  7. To prevent the return of Red Slime Algae we highly recommend that you run Chemi-Pure in the filter system.
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WATER QUALITY

When it comes down to it, water quality is the single most important factor in the success or failure of your marine aquarium. Almost everything you do in regards to your tank influences the quality or lack thereof of your water. Stocking, filtration, water source, top off water, aeration, total surface area, water movement and even heating all affect your water quality.

Let’s start off with some very important basics. Whenever possible it’s always best to start off with RO/DI water. Yes, natural seawater would be the preferred source of water for your tank, but few of us live near a facility that provides filtered, safe seawater to the public.

For the most part, seawater taken directly out of the sea is full of microorganisms that will most likely have a devastating effect on your tank. Most of these organisms in the natural seawater will die shortly after the water is placed in your tank meaning that you will need to do more not less water changes.

In addition, fish in your tank may come from parts of the world never exposed to those organisms specific to the area from which you are getting the water. This could easily kill your fish and invertebrates. So for the most part RO/DI water is the way to go.

There are some excellent RO systems on the market that will provide a reasonable amount of water a day without costing you a huge sum of money.

Much of this water will go towards mixing for saltwater while the rest will be used for freshwater top off. Come in and talk to us about We have a number of different RO systems available at the store.

Your choice of a synthetic salt mix is also very important. A high quality salt mix from a reputable company will give you consistent batches of water if mixed and aged properly.

A high quality salt mix will provide saltwater with acceptable levels of trace and minor elements and will help you better manage the quality of your water. Talk with us, we can and will make recommendations based on your specific needs.

Some of the things we need to consider include:

Does the manufacturer provide a guaranteed analysis or mix results? Besides high quality results, consistency is just as important.

Consider some specific guidelines. What specific gravity do you want to wind up with?

What calcium and pH levels are you shooting for?

Does the manufacturer provide a website or contact information? The manufacturer should either list a telephone number or website where you can get more information on the product?

Bottom line, start off with good quality water, free of chlorine or chloramine, minimal to no dissolved solids and organic life. Add to this water the right choice of synthetic salt and you are well on your way towards building a fantastic reef aquarium.

Quick note: it is highly recommended that you age your saltwater mix. Many sources claim that the aging process should be given a minimum three days while others tell us to wait at least a week before using the mixed saltwater.

Many of you may not have the time or storage capacity to age water much over a few days. Just keep this information in mind and do the best you can.
Salinity

When looking at the salinity level of water you are simply looking at the amount of dissolved salts within the water. This is measured in parts per thousand.

Specific Gravity is the measurement that compares the density of a liquid to the density of water. Any liquid with a specific gravity greater than 1 is more dense than water. Saltwater has a SG of approx. 1.025. Specific gravity is much easier to measure than salinity therefore it is the measurement of choice for aquarists.

There are a number of tools available for the hobbyist to use to measure SG. Plastic hydrometers that may simply be dipped into the water and read and or glass tubes designed to float in your water. Or you can use a refractometer a device where you place a drop or two of saltwater on the lens, close the lens top and look thru the refractometers eye piece to read the SG.

All work well and will normally provide reasonably accurate readings. Although refractometers are more accurate and are becoming more and more affordable.

Recommendations for specific gravity run from a low of 1.020 to a high of 1.025. Many successful aquarists simply aim for 1.023 and do everything they can to maintain this SG with as little variation as possible. Using a high quality salt mix goes a long way towards meeting this goal.

Natural seawater in shallow reef zones has an average pH of 8.4. The normal recommended pH for a reef tank is 7.9 – 8.4. Carbonate Hardness or Alkalinity play a significant role in helping to maintain a specific pH level. Further information on pH, Carbonate Hardness & Alkalinity can be found here.