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FAQs on Freshwater Test Kits

Related Articles: Freshwater Test Kits, A practical approach to freshwater aquarium water chemistry by Neale Monks,  pH, alkalinity, acidityTreating Tap Water, Freshwater MaintenanceFrequent Partial Water Changes

Related FAQs: FW H2O Quality 1, Aquarium MaintenanceTreating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, pH, Alkalinity, Acidity, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease

By order of increasing accuracy and precision: test strips, colorimetric assays, colorimeters, spectrophotometers, titrametric analysis electronic measures, non-reagent methods...

What's the least expensive/best deal you know of for testing pH?       3/8/16
<See the Net re>
I've got the one from Tetra and noticed that my solution is getting low. Is there anywhere I can order just the bottled solution alone without the instructions/color chart/etc.?
<Ditto. Maybe Dr.s Foster & Smith/Liveaquaria.com. Bob Fenner>
How would you compare the old fashioned pH Test Kits where you would squeeze out 7 drops of solution into a vial with 5 mL of aquarium water vs. the newer digital electronic pH meters vs. pH test strips?
Which is the most economical vs. convenient vs. accurate?       3/8/16

<Test strips are the least accurate but the most convenient, and often do lots of different tests at the same time, so therefore get used the most, and crucially, by people who wouldn't otherwise bother. So in that sense they're the ones that help the most people. Electronic meters can be the most accurate, but unless calibrated each time and used correctly, they won't be accurate at all. Fiddly but good, and also very expensive, they're the ones for expert fishkeepers. Bottles and drops fall somewhere between the two. Not as cheap and easy as test strips, but more accurate than test strips. Not as accurate as meters, but don't need calibration to work properly. In short, each has its merits, but which is best depends on your budget, competence, and need for pinpoint accuracy. Me? I use the strips! I reckon it's better for the causal aquarist to do approximate tests regularly than to do accurate tests hardly/not at all. Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>

varying results from different test kits       11/11/14
Hi Crew,
Thanks for the wonderful site, it’s been very useful for a number of queries! My question is about liquid test kits (API and Hagen) versus a colorimeter for freshwater tanks. I’ve been using liquid test kits for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate for years. Both the Hagen and API nitrite kits show 0 for my 75G community tank with nitrate consistently somewhere around 10-ish ppm. This afternoon a friend brought over his latest gadget, a Hanna freshwater low range colorimeter for nitrite - we tested it out and it showed 3 ppb. The liquid kits showed 0 ppm. I guess the colorimeter is probably far more sensitive than the liquid kits, but since anything above 0 nitrite is an issue, is 3 ppb something to be concerned about?
<It is not. This measure is so small and likely evidence of a simple transient trace.
Not to worry. Bob Fenner>
Thanks! Margaret
Re: varying results from different test kits       11/11/14

Thanks for the quick reassurance!
<Certainly welcome. BobF>

API vs. Nutrafin test kits  9/21/10
Hi you guys, this is my first time asking for help for my 55 gal tank. I've always done tons of research before doing anything to it. Well here's my question, I just acquired a GH KH API test kit and also have a Nutrafin GH KH test kit. They don't seem to come to the same conclusion. API results are KH 93 ppm and the Nutrafin shows KH 75 mg/l which is pretty much the same as 75 ppm.
<Identical in fact, these units are equivalencies>
Also my PH shows approximately 7.7 using the Nutrafin test kit. Could you please tell me which is more accurate, the API KH GH and PH test kit or the Nutrafin KH GH and PH test kit.
<Actually, both these cheapy kits are about the same inaccurate and imprecise. There are far better makes/brands... but these two are generally fine for a beginning hobbyist's use/needs. Please read here re:
I would appreciate very much your help on this matter. Thank you very much for your input.
<Please feel free to write back Jay if this input is not sufficiently clear, complete. Bob Fenner>

API water tester expiration  9/13/10
Hi, Crew
A buddy of mine got into pond keeping just recently and pulled out his Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater multi bottle liquid test kit that he has had for a few years. He saw that it does not have an expiration date on it. This got me wondering about mine. I checked my API multi bottle liquid freshwater kit for my aquarium and realized it does not have an expiration date either. I actually called API and talked to their front desk person.
He simply said retailers have asked them not to put the expiration date on the product. I didn't go into it more than that with them. But got to thinking that is a kind of strange reason. Wondering what you might think of this. Is this typical? Also, was wondering what the general concensus is with the crew on the API liquid testers (I do seem to be happy with these) do you guys like API or is there a different preference of a possible better freshwater tester out there.
Thanks for your time,
<Hi Joe. Assuming the test kit is only a couple of years old, it should be fine. If it's more than 5 years old, well, I'd probably throw it out. The chemicals should be pretty stable, especially if the test kit is kept
somewhere cool, dry and dark. But it's hard to be 100% sure, so if you're concerned the test kit is giving you odd results, bin it and buy a new one. As for test kits, they're all good because they all use much the same sets of chemical reagents. So use whichever one is best value. Me, I use the multi-test dip strip ones, each strip sliced down the middle to double to number of tests. Sure, they're not the most accurate, but they're close enough for freshwater fishkeeping. At the end of the day you really only need to have a nitrite and a pH test kit, so if you want to have two liquid test kits instead of one box of dip strips, then go with that instead.
Cheers, Neale.>

Test Kits, FW, choice in type 6/9/10
<Hello John>
I have a question regarding test kits. Liquid or test strips? I bought a Pleco for my 40 gallon fresh water tank from a LFS ... not my usual store.....I noticed at the third day he was dying. I put him in a container then I took some water out of my tank and ran all the tests on the water using my API liquid tester. Ammonia and nitrites were 0 and Nitrates were at 5.0 ppm which on my test kit is the reading right under 0. I took the water samples with me and they used dip strips. I dont remember the reading but the first thing he said after he did the test is " I can tell you your nitrates are way over what they should be". And he refused to give me a $6.00 refund or any store credit.
<I would not shop there.>
I took brought the remainder of the water with me to my normal LFS they tested the water with the same exact.... API liquid tester..... I used and said that the water was fine.
I am wondering in the crews OPINION on liquid kits versus dip strips.
<I personally do not like dip strips and do not consider them accurate, and I'm thinking the dip strip he was using may have been measuring total nitrogen (N), and not nitrogen (NO3) which could account for a reading 4.4 times higher than NO3. In our hobby we use the NO3 reading and not total nitrogen. Do keep in mind that NO3 levels over 30 ppm can inhibit growth, impair the immune system and cause stress in some aquatic species.>
If the results can really can really be that different and one is way unreliable? If so, again in your opinion which one is more unreliable.
<I'd vote for the dip strip.>
This question might be kind of weird but the type of tester that is least favored in your opinion how strong of an opinion is that?
<My opinion is that dip strips are OK for ball park testing of general hardness, but would not rely to heavily on them for nitrate, ammonia, and nitrite.>
Should I try at all costs to keep away from fish stores that use dip style strips,
<I'd keep away from stores that want to take you for a ride such as the one you mention. Is quite possible this Pleco could have been on his way out in the store and if so, I can see why the dealer wouldn't refund your money
or offer store credit.>
or am I the one that maybe is at fault and I have not been understanding the nitrate measurements this whole time.
<I believe you understand it well enough to be concerned about the incident. Your API nitrate kit does measure nitrate in the form of NO3 and is the reading I would go by.>
Do stores that use liquid strips "generally" refund or exchange if the nitrate measurement is at 5.0ppm.
<Any reputable store should if they don't want to lose a customer, and any reputable store is not likely to use dip strips for testing. Be aware of the fact that some stores do not guarantee life once it leaves the store.
The store I buy my livestock from offers a 48 hour return privilege dead or alive. Always make it a point to ask about return options. Best advice is, if you get a porkin' from a store, discontinue shopping there and pass the word on to others.>
Any side information regarding the two would be appreciated.
Thank you.
<You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

API Test Kit on Sale (RMF, affiliate program of interest?)<<Mmm, no>> 2/26/10
This probably isn't the thing you want to post on your board since your site makes such a wonderful archive and this is short term.
However, since test kits can be expensive for new hobbyists that didn't know they needed one, I thought I would pass it along for US customers.
<Go ahead.>
No problem if you don't post it but perhaps someone that is in bad shape in the US with water quality you can send them the link in e-mail. I'm not associated with any companies mentioned or the products.
<I understand.>
Petco.com has a sale on the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master Test Kit for only $23 which I received today. I'm pretty sure this will be web only and I'm not sure for how long. I had ammonia, and pH already but
this also includes High pH for those that need it and Nitrate. Free shipping on $60 orders but I was lucky to have a free ship on $30. The "other" major Pet* superstore sells this for $33 so this is a real good deal. It comes with four vials.
<A good deal.>
The link is
but if you decide to mention this you might want to tell people to search the big two websites so they don't get free advertising.
Better yet they have an affiliate program at
that you may want to check out.
<Bob may want to look into this.>
I also got a $1.25 puppy liquid food syringe that does 10ml. Much nicer than putting the vials directly in the water.
Still need a GH KH tester. Platies have seem fine for more than a month so I hope that's a good sign.
<I hope so!>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: API Test Kit on Sale (RMF, affiliate program of interest?) 2/27/10
Thanks Neale. The link isn't working but the SKU is 114146 and is still on sale as of this morning.
<Thanks for the update, Greg. Cheers, Neale.>

Follow up on Is this stream crowded? FW stkg. mostly, test kits, maint.  -- 02/25/10
I'm not questioning this because I think it's wrong, I'm asking because I want to understand.
<Perfectly reasonable!>
I think I've become pretty smart since learning of WWM but unfortunately that was after I stocked my tank. I relied on an ammonium detector that hung inside the tank that seems to be extremely under estimating.
<Yes, these things are fairly hopeless. They also only work for a certain period of time, and do need replacing.>
I relied on this and huge pet retailer that told me my water was "fine" for more fish.
<Unfortunately, many of these shops employ fairly generic staff, who may be fine retailers but are poor aquarists. So it's wise to take any advice offered with a pinch of salt.>
Later, I moved to strips that told a different story but I didn't know who to trust so I moved to vial testing which verified the strip tests were accurate. What I'm getting at is that I don't have a cycled tank and to make it worse I switched to an Aquaclear head after thinking my other filter was infused properly when it wasn't.
<To some extent, the best approach with test kits is to not rely on them.
Instead, go cautiously, doing things by the numbers, adding a low number of fish to an aquarium, and feeding as little as possible, filtering generously, and performing regular water changes. Most expert fishkeepers work that way, so if you ask people like me to honestly tell you how often they test the water, they'll reply "never"! They know how good the water is because they've insured it up front, and they also know what fish behaviour signs reveal the beginnings of problems.>
I'll go ahead and confess to the specs and make amends by making a video series on YouTube to show how to do a fishless cycle even though there are some good ones already that you may wish to check out and perhaps link to.
<Sounds good.>
The tank is a 36 gallon bowfront with sand substrate, 150 watt heater, standard kit lighting on timer and supplemented with a couple of Stunners to enhance and move the day/night cycle along with three timers.
<What's a "stunner"? In English idiom, it's normally a word reserved for uncommonly attractive women!>
The filter is a AquaClear 50 Power Filter (200gph). I liked the idea that you could pull out the carbon when needed and I also tried their ammonia resin catcher insert though that didn't help in my situation.
<Yes, ammonia removers are fairly useless in busy community tanks. It's important to recall what they're for, maintaining lightly stocked tanks where biological filtration isn't viable, e.g., hospital tanks where strong antibiotics are being used.>
The residents include:
6 peppered Cory cats
4 Red Platy
6 harlequin Rasbora
1 pearl Gourami
<All good fish, though you will need to be careful with temperature, since the Rasbora and Gourami prefer slightly warmer conditions than Platies and Corydoras; I'd aim for 25 C/77 F.>
The logic that this wasn't overstocking was because of the layers that the fish tend to stay at and the size of the filter.
<In a 36 gallon tank, this stocking should be fine.>
The water stats are:
Ammonia > .5ppm and < 1 (API water/vial)
<Here's one of the problems.>
Jungle Labs Strips:
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
GH: 25
<Is this mg/l? That is extremely low, far too low for Platies to do well.>
Chlorine: 0
KH: 100
<This surely is mg/l, and is again, somewhat low.>
pH: 7.0
<Do read here:
Make sure you avoid using water from a domestic water softener, and always choose fish that match your tap water conditions. That's the easiest way forward, since you won't need to adjust water chemistry at all; the 25% weekly water changes should take care of water chemistry automatically.>
I have kept ammonia lower than 1ppm by doing daily water changes of about 9 gallons. I read in an article here that to help cycling avoid water changes if ammonia is under 1ppm.
<Personally, I think that's false. The ammonia you detect is, by definition, unused by the filter bacteria, so isn't doing much of anything.
The growth of the bacteria population will be just fine even at less than 0.25 mg/l.>
It's held there at two days but I expect I'll need to bring it down with a change tomorrow.
Why wasn't the 20 gallon tank in the question I'm following up to not overstocked? Is it because of the second filter?
<Can't speak for the other tank, but this one is only overstocked now because the filter is immature and "not up to the job" yet. But after a month, when the filter has settled in, it should be fine.>
What percentage water should I remove when I do a water change on my tank since it isn't cycled but is loaded with life? I do test twice a day right now because I realize the mistakes.
<25% once a week is normally fine, but if the ammonia level gets above 0.5 mg/l, I'd change some water, perhaps 50% of it, if you can.>
The Aquaclear seems good at removing debris from this tank. I don't see anything hanging around on the bed very long. Are there any tricks besides raking for cleaning sand?
<Minimise raking the sand; it's actually better to leave the sand to mature nicely. There's going to be an excellent article on freshwater deep sand beds in the upcoming (next couple of weeks) 'Conscientious Aquarist' elsewhere on this site. Mature freshwater deep sand beds actually break down the detritus and stay remarkably clean. That's certainly my experience. It's much better to pipette away any unsightly detritus using a turkey baster rather than messing around with the sand too much.>
Not as easy as gravel but in my case it seems to stay cleaner because it isn't getting embedded. The catfish do a good job of stirring things up.
Should I consider a second filter of the same power?
<For the fish you have, a turnover rate of 4 times the volume of the tank should be adequate. So for a 36 gallon tank, if the existing filter is rated at 4 x 36 = 144 gallons/hour, you're fine.>
One thing I like about the Aquaclear is that it has a variable setting that for instance can be used to calm the water during feeding. I run mine on high because I want the catfish to have a chance.
<Would actually recommend giving the cats their own food at nighttime. Look at their bellies: it's very easy for half-starved Corydoras to have concave bellies. So, once or twice a week leave out a single Hikari Algae Wafer for your six Corydoras. They will wax fat on these!>
The Harleys are amazing even at their current tiny size as they can catch granules and chew them without spitting out. They do seem mad that they can't chew and put more food in their mouth at the same time.
<They're nice fish.>
So I could put a second power head with the same specs on the other side of the tank and operate it at low power. I'm afraid that putting anything stronger in would mess up the Harleys who struggle a tad when they hit the water column where the filter is now.
<More water current will be enjoyed by the Rasboras and Corydoras, but Gouramis and Platies are not so keen, so strike a balance. By all means experiment, but do watch to see how the fish react.>
If it would be good I could add a second filter and run it at a lower turnover.
Thank you.
Greg in Charlotte
<My pleasure.>
PS: Neale, I was born in Chicago.
<My mom got a letter published in the London 'Times' once defending Dan Rostenkowski, arguing that he may have been a crook, but at least he was a competent crook, and that's what matters in Chicago. I fear she'd be a little underwhelmed by President Obama and C-o-S Emanuel, dyed in the wool Democrat that she was. In any case, had a great trip to Chicago last year visiting family, though I was disappointed by the couple of aquarium shops I went to.>
And my Pearl doesn't seem to be building anything anymore but he's definitely king of the tank.
<These are very nice, weirdly underrated fish. Once mature, the males have just the most amazing fins, though both sexes are very pretty.>
I assume this is normal.
<Pretty much, especially when not kept with anything nippy or aggressive.>
He doesn't seem to be nipping anyone, just pushing them out of the way. I added plants to the front and rear of the tank so the Corys could get their favorite spot back. But where there is a will there is a way. I've got to get video of Pearl coming out of the cave almost completely horizontally.
<Cool! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Follow up on Is this stream crowded? FW stkg. mostly, now lambda
OK it sounds like things will be fine. The major LFS helped with the last round and they even do very good replies in e-mail so of course that is where I will get my in person advise.
I do not use a softener but like you said it's hard to trust these kits. I will be getting the API master kit tomorrow and will compare. Both GH and KH on this bottle are measured in PPM.
On their wellness chart for my numbers they translate as:
GH: 25 (Very soft)
<25 mg/l is indeed very, very soft water.>
KH: 100 being high moderate but under ideal.
<It's more middling than ideal. So a bit low for hard water fish (like livebearers) but acceptable rather than ideal for soft water fish (like tetras).>
Should I be looking at changing this and if so when/how?
<Depends on what fish you want to keep. If you're after a mix of soft and hard water fish, then aiming for moderately hard, very slightly basic water is the ideal (~10 degrees dH, pH 7.5) is the ideal.>
I'll test the tap water too when the API kit gets here.
The Stunner is a fabulous new light strip that comes in four colors and is LED. Each are 6 watts and one transformer can power up to six of them. They are cost effective since you only need one transformer. But I went with 10K for morning and day support on the stock tube and it mixes with a blue to translate to dawn and dusk. Blue is on by itself for the beginning and end hours of the day.
<Sounds nice.>
You can't really tell but I am going to make more videos with different lighting. The video here http://www.youtube.com/simplefishtank Only 1/4 the tank because I was trying to show off the Pearl. For some reason all the cats decided to jump into the shot at the same time too making it look like a 10 gallon tank! The Stunners are made by Ecoxotic and are just now starting to show up in LFS and some websites. It has the potential to be the "it" thing but even what the LFS guy says you have to be careful. He said they are fully submersible and they aren't even seeled (sealed?)
http://www.youtube.com/user/ecoxotic1 is their YouTube page.
<Looks nice.>
This appears to be a hobby with lots of snake oil salesmen, and trusted manufactures making bad products like 5 gallon tanks with a photo of 12 pics on it, poor Bettas, bad instructions as far as cycling and strange potions.
<Oh, the advertising of fish tanks with Photoshopped fish in them has been an ongoing argument in the magazine trade. The editors are stuck with whatever sells advertising space, but many hobbyists cry foul, saying all it's doing is setting people up for disappointment.>
I'm really concerned about the harm most people are inadvertently doing to their new pets.
At least I haven't lost anyone except 7 evil Tetras but that's another story.
Everyone seems well fed. Right now they get what they can eat in less than a minute except for the catfish who seem to have to "find" their food even if it landed on a plate in front of them.
<Remember, most catfish have poor eyesight. They find food by smell, and that means they swim upstream towards wherever the smell is coming from. if you add too much, they actually can have problems finding any of it because the smell comes from all around.>
I alternate these variety foods every other day. Basically it means every two days they get shrimp pellet or algae disc. And every other day whatever scraps but I try to get a bit of fast sinking granules to them when the other fish are eating flakes. ANYTHING that gets to the bottom the Pearl and Platies will go for. It's cute to watch the Platies and catfish "share" but not so much the Pearl. Like I said, he's getting to be a bully so I have to drop stuff for him in one section away from the catfish. Maybe I'm using the wrong size and this stuff is too big. They have to nibble quite a bit on it.
<Softens in time, so wouldn't worry.>
Please do look at the video and if you see anyone too thin let me know.
<They look fine.>
They look huge to me presently. I would like to know how much bigger you think the Harleys will get.
<Harlequin Rasboras are fairly small fish. They get to about 5 cm/2 inches long, but they're quite deep. Adults are nice looking fish.>
I didn't expect them to be so small compared to the other fish.
But the Pearl does leave them completely alone.
<Very non-predatory.>
Besides, the schooling fish are most interested in what is happening on the other side of the tank from them and are constantly checking it out. And when you mention the turkey baster, do you mean to suck out or push into the water column?
<Suck it out, and dump the waste and the water into a pot plant or something.>
Thanks again.
<Cheers, Neale.>

6 in 1 test strips 9/29/2009
Hi again,
I was reading over some of the articles about the interactions between calcium, ph, and alkalinity (very interesting) and thought of something that I may or may not be doing wrong. I looked over the website for an answer and found that the article on tests/testing gear is blank.
<Oh? Have to fix that...>
I have had my tank running for about 8 months now and have been using the 6 in 1 test strips for water quality testing.
<I use strips of this type myself. While they might not be terribly accurate, they're cheap and convenient. If you slice them longitudinally down the middle, you can even the double the number of strips per packet.>
There have been no serious problems with nitrites or nitrates after the cycle completed. My question is in the validity of my testing method. Do these strips give a reasonably accurate view of the status of the tank, in
terms of water quality?
<They're accurate enough for most freshwater and brackish water tanks. For marine tanks, there are probably good arguments to make in favour of liquid test kits. On the other hand, there's an argument to make that says the best test kit is the one you'll use most often. If a 6-in-1 test kit is something you'll happily do on a regular basis, then that's better than a whole set of liquid test kits that hardly get used.>
Also, what does the alkalinity measurement given by these strips actually show (KH or ???)?
<Depends on the test kit. On the kits I use, eSHa Lab test kits, "alkalinity" will indeed be carbonate hardness, and is calibrated on the two systems used to measure that, degrees KH (0 - 20 degrees dH) and mg/l calcium carbonate (0 - 356 mg/l).>
The only other tests that I perform at this time are for calcium and that is done using titration. Any recommendations will be appreciated.
Thanks, Nick
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Water Testing-Water Life To Be Tested (RMF, something here for you too.)   2/25/09 Greetings gentlepeople! <Hello,> I just have a super quick question for whoever is available and/or has an opinion on this query. I apologize in advance if this question has previously been addressed, but I was stumped at a good way to compose a key words search for this topic. I often test water for my mom's freshwater aquarium at her work, and I simply wondered what the life was of the aquarium water being tested before the results would no longer be accurate? Is it a matter of hour(s), day(s), or indefinitely? <Impossible to say, but probably hours rather than days. Not aware on any object experiments on the issue though, so anything said about the issue is going to be speculation. Would have to assume that temperature changes would affect dissolved CO2, so that would affect the pH for example. Depending on the carbonate hardness, this variation would be different in size. Lack of oxygen would presumably kill some of the waterborne bacteria, so ammonia could perhaps increase while denitrification went down. But all these things would take some time, surely. So if you did the test within an hour or so, I can't imagine the problems would be serious.> I'd hate to give her test results and advice only to find out that the results are skewed since too much time elapsed for the water to be chemically similar to what is in the aquarium. Thanks kindly as always for answering my questions as well as all the others-I learn as much through reading others questions and your replies as I do when posing my own. You are all the tops! <Happy to help.> P.S.-Mr. Fenner, I loved your Basslet article in FAMA! Basslet's rarely get any print time that I've seen and I've always wondered about their suitability to aquarium life and you certainly answered those questions and more. Thanks as always! <I'm sure Bob will be pleased to hear your comments. Thanks for writing! Neale.>

pH/Ammonia Issue, barb sys., env. dis.      1/6/09 I have a 26 gallon bow front tank with 7 different types of barbs (Rosey, long finned Rosey, ruby, Odessa) and 1 rainbow shark. I have a whisper filter and an undergravel filter. The temp is set at 78 degrees. This tank used to be for goldfish but has only had the barbs for about three months. When I first started up I slowly added the fish and everything checked out. After awhile the water was somewhat cloudy and the fish were swimming near the bottom and not really eating which I think resulted in over feeding since I kept feeding them. <Do understand that "overfeeding" in itself isn't the issue. When you put food in the tank, it pollutes the water. It doesn't matter much whether it goes through the digestive system of a fish or not. The point is that if the tank is too small, the filter flow too weak, or the biological filter media insufficiently mature, the food ends up as ammonia. That ammonia stresses the fish, and commonly this reveals itself as fish that are lethargic, nervous, poorly coloured, or sick. Prolonged exposure invariably leads to disease and ultimately death.> I took my water to a local pet shop and they tested it and said everything was ok (I never asked for the actual numbers). After talking with a friend he suggested I buy a PH kit and test that since he thought the water might be too acidic. It turned out to be very acidic and he told me to add 3/4 teaspoon baking soda every four hours. I did that and got the PH up. <the pH of the water is generally not a factor in keeping freshwater fish except insofar as the pH is stable from week to week. All the fish you list will be fine between pH 6 and pH 8. Adding baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) will raise the carbonate hardness of the water and that in turn raises and stabilises the pH. But it is critically important not to change the water chemistry rapidly. I'd actually investigate a couple other issues before adding baking soda. Firstly, are you using water from a domestic water softener? A very common mistake is to do this! Secondly, how often do you change the water? Your tank is extremely heavily stocked for its size, assuming you have sensible numbers (5-6 specimens) of each species of barb. My guess is that you're in a soft water area, which is fine by itself, but because the tank is overstocked, the pH is unstable. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebindex/fwsoftness.htm> However the water stayed somewhat cloudy and the fish started dying. This time I went and bought my own water test kits. The nitrate and nitrate were 0 but the ammonia was high. I did a partial water change and got the ammonia down. However then the PH went back down so I added more baking soda and the cycle continued. All the while I was losing fish. <Again, my assumption is not that the pH or hardness are "wrong" as such, though they may be relatively low, let's say pH 6 to 7, 5-10 degrees dH, right out the tap. The sheer biological loading on the tank means that the water volume just can't buffer against acidification.> After reading different things on the internet I am very confused as everyone I talked to or everything I read keeps giving me different information. At present the ammonia is 0.25 and the PH is 6.6. I have been doing 25% water changes every other day and adding BioZyme every day. <Water changes a good remedy for situations like this, but clearly not something you want to do in the long term.> So far the fish are ok, although I am expecting to lose one of my Odessa barbs anytime since its stomach is bloated and its scales are sticking out which seems to be dropsy. Everything I read indicates there is nothing I can do to save my fish and it will die. <Indeed.> Please advise me on what to do with my tank. I need advice on the ammonia and the Ph in keeping them stable and getting my water to clear. Anything at this point will help. Kelly <Rosy Barbs (Puntius conchonius) don't belong in tropical tanks anyway (they're subtropical fish) and get too big (15 cm/6 inches) for this aquarium. The Odessa Barb (Puntius padamya) are a bit smaller (8-10 cm/3-4 inches) and a group of six or so would be borderline acceptable in this tank. Ruby Barbs (Puntius nigrofasciatus) are smaller still (5 cm/2 inches) and a group of 6 would be ideal additions to this tank, though they are very feisty and best kept only with other barbs and not with anything long-finned, slow, or nervous. In other words, start by bringing us some actual numbers about the water from the tap: pH and general hardness. Then think about which barbs you want to keep. Stock the tank slowly, taking care not to overfeed, and to be honest, feeding once every other day would be ample while the tank is unstable. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: pH/Ammonia Issue   1/6/09 You indicated that you wanted the PH and hardness of the tap water. When I tested the PH of the tap water it came out to be 7.6. I waited about an hour and tested it again without adding anything and it was still 7.6. I do not believe I have soft water as I do not have a water softener. <From the pH, it does sound as if you probably have moderately hard, basic water. When writing pH, note the lower case "p", upper case "H".> Also, I get water from the city sewer system. <Eh? How/why do you put sewage into your aquarium? Mains water -- i.e., drinking water -- is just fine and dandy for most aquarium fish. Except in very specific situations, you usually don't need to add or alter anything beyond adding a good dechlorinator/water conditioner.> Is there a way to test the hardness of the water so I can give you those numbers? <I'd heartily recommend getting a carbonate hardness (or KH) test kit. Some test kits come as paper strips, sometimes with multiple different tests per strip, so that each strip does pH, carbonate hardness, general hardness, nitrite, and nitrate. Such test kits are usually inexpensive and easy to use.> If so, please suggest specific tests. I guess I was not very clear when I said I have 7 different types of barbs, I meant 7 total fish. I have 2 Odessa Barbs (one on its way to death), 2 rosy barbs, 1 ruby barb, 2 tico barbs, and 1 rainbow shark. <Remember when you were reading aquarium books and they mentioned how barbs become aggressive sometimes, and nip other fish? This is how. They are schooling fish. That means their whole psychology works around groups. Six is the minimum number PER SPECIES. Keep less than that and they'll either be terrified or psychotic. Barbs are wonderful fish, but you have to get the fundamentals right. Stocking an aquarium isn't like putting a bunch of different cut flowers in a vase. You can't just choose shapes and colours you like. You have to understand the needs of each animal (yes, fish are animals) and work around them. Generally fishkeeping is a very easy hobby if you do things correctly (i.e., exactly as a good book or expert fishkeeper like me tells you!). But try to go it alone, and things often get messy...> I was told with my 26 gallon I could have about 20 barbs at some point if I can get things stable. <Not a chance. For a start, "barbs" covers a variety of species from one-inch dwarfs to giant barbs bigger than a dog. So obviously "twenty barbs" has to be mediated by the size of the barb species concerned. Since you need six of each species, at least, twenty barbs would be, at most, three different species (seven of one, seven of another, and six of a third). While you could keep twenty dwarf species like Puntius gelius or Puntius vittatus, bigger species like Puntius conchonius (the Rosy Barb) are right out.> However I have never been able to add more because the water has been unstable. You also asked how often I change the water and I normally change 25% of the water once every 7-10 days and change the carbon filter once a month. However with the ammonia spikes I have been doing it every other day or so because it has been getting so high. <The tank is almost certainly overstocked relative to the maturity of the filter. If I were you, I'd return all the barbs except the Ruby Barbs, since they're the only species that make sense in this tank. Let the tank settle down. After 2-3 weeks of careful management I'd fully expect the filter to mature safely and the pH to stabilise. You can then add some more Ruby Barbs to bring the school up to a sensible size. I'd make sure to keep six of them, three males to three females. While females aren't so strongly coloured, they help the males settle in and dilute the aggression. They also encourage the males to acquire their breeding colours as they mature, in which condition the males are extremely handsome. Ruby Barbs are pretty aggressive fish though, so don't expect to keep anything dainty or long-finned like Guppies or Angelfish -- just isn't gonna happen! The Rainbow Shark Minnow should be returned too, though you could try keeping it if you felt like a challenge. Shark Minnows are aggressive and very territorial once mature, and my assumption would be it will become a bit of a terror in a tank this small! But that's your choice. All the other fish should go, period.> So, I guess I still need advice on how to stabilize the ammonia and PH and once I get all that situated I will need to know which barbs can go together since I was told all barbs can go together. <No they can't.> I will be happy to provide all the information I can so you can provide me with the most accurate solutions as all the advice I have been given so far has not helped me. Kelly <Do also check your filter is appropriate to your needs. Don't waste your time with "ammonia remover" or carbon media; what you need is biological and mechanical media, a good mix of sponge and/or ceramic noodles. Choose a filter with a turnover of NOT LESS than four times the volume of the tank per hour (in your case, at least 4 x 26 = 104 gallons per hour). The more filtration, the better. If budget is an issue, it's hard to beat an undergravel filter. Otherwise any decent internal or external canister filter should do the trick nicely. Read the instructions carefully, but don't get distracted by sales pitches that involve replacing sachets of carbon and what not every month! Carbon is pretty useless in a tank like yours, and mostly a way for manufacturers to make money. Read up on what each filter medium type does, and choose accordingly. Take it from me: biological media is what makes or breaks your aquarium! Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: pH/Ammonia Issue First off I want to thank you for taking the time to help me. <Happy to help.> This whole process has been so frustrating as the people at the pet stores seem to know little to nothing about fish. I spoke with the store where I purchased the fish and they will not take them back (even for free). I explained it was their bad advice but they still would not take them. I also called several other stores but none of them have the types of barbs I have and won't take them. They have a few have tiger barbs but not the other varieties so they won't take them. So far it does not look like I am going to be able to get rid of the fish and just keep the one ruby like you suggested. Any thoughts on this? <I wish I had some magic solution to this. But there isn't one. Without "getting on your case" too much, the lesson here is that it always pays to research the fish first, and then buy them, rather than buy them first, and then find out about them afterwards. Since you're stuck with these fish for the time being at least, you can always hope for the best. But at the end of the day, the biology of each fish species will be working against you, so there's no guarantees I can give you that all will work out. Things might, but I just can't say for sure.> In terms of filtration...I have a Whisper power filter for up to 30 gallons. According to the packaging it has mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration components and a turnover rate of 150 gallons per hour. I also have a Perfect-A-Flo undergravel filter that is powered by an air pump and air stones. <All sounds fine. The undergravel filter will be doing most of the work in terms of biological filtration.> I also left work and purchased a water test kit and went home and tested the water. I tested both the current aquarium water and the tap water without any chemicals added to it. (I stated before I got the water out of the sewage system...haha, I meant the city tap. That would be gross). The results are as follows: Aquarium Water: Tap Water: Nitrate - 0 Nitrate - 0 Nitrite - 0.5 Nitrite - 0 Total Hardness (GH) - 300 ppm GH - 300 ppm Chlorine - 0 Chlorine - 0 Total Alkalinity (KH) - 40 ppm KH - 180 ppm pH- 6.2 pH - 8.4 <Ah, very interesting. Firstly, nitrite is going up, which implies one of three things: [a] the filter isn't mature (or isn't being maintained properly); [b] the fish are being overfed; or [c] there are too many (or too big) fish for the tank/filter provided. Secondly, the carbonate hardness (that's the KH measurement) goes down. Carbonate hardness is the stuff that prevents acidification. In brief, all tanks tend to become acidic over time for a variety of reasons. Decaying organic matter produces acids, bogwood leaches acids, nitrate dissociates into nitric acid, and so on. In a hard water tank there is usually enough carbonate hardness that this process is so inhibited that any acidification (i.e., pH drop) is minimal between water changes. Hence, while aquarists often bemoan hard water because it's so different to the soft water of the Amazon, in reality it is something of a blessing! Now, since your carbonate hardness is being dramatically "used up" (i.e., goes from 180 ppm [10 degrees KH] to 40 ppm [2.2 degrees KH]) between water changes, this means one of two things: [a] you aren't doing enough water changes to keep topping up the carbonate hardness; or [b] there's an AWFUL lot of acidification going on in your aquarium. By default, do 25-50% water changes weekly, and make sure that there isn't any organic matter in the tank likely to lower pH (bogwood, dead plants, uneaten food, etc.). If the aquarium is honestly going from pH 8.4 to 6.2 between water changes, that is more than enough by itself to kill your fish. In all honesty I can't imagine what's happening to cause such dramatic pH changes, as water with carbonate hardness of 180 ppm is essentially liquid chalk! You certainly shouldn't need to be using buffering chemicals or potions. But one possible result is loss of biological filtration: the filter media bacteria are sensitive to pH, and prefer a pH above 7.0; as the pH drops below 7.0, they work less and less happily, stopping entirely around pH 6.0.> I also used a separate test kit to get the current ammonia levels of the aquarium and the result was 0.25. <These low levels of ammonia and nitrite are pretty typical of tanks through their cycling phase; by gut feeling is that this tank is either not fully cycled or else dramatically overstocked. Some of your fish have the potential to get pretty big: how big are they now? I've been assuming they're all babies under 5 cm/2 inches.> I don't know what this all means except that my tank water is not of good quality for the fish which I already knew. <Your tap water is actually pretty good. It's on the hard side, but as mentioned, that's not a bad thing. Barbs don't care about hardness really, and this water would be perfect for livebearers as well as most catfish and cichlids.> Seeing as I can not return the fish I am not sure what you will suggest next, but I am willing to try anything. Is there any possible way to stabilize the water with the current fish in the tank? <Here's what I'd do. Put the fish in a bucket, filled with water from the tank. Drape a towel over it to stop them jumping. Switch off the heater and filters. Remove the electric filter, and at the least place its biological media (sponge/ceramic noodles) in a shallow basin of aquarium water so it stays wet but well oxygenated. (Dry media is dead media!) Empty the tank of water down to an inch above the gravel, all the while giving the gravel a really good clean to wash away any detritus. Once you're happy the tank is spotlessly clean, add fresh water from the tap, with dechlorinator of course. Put the heaters and filters back, and switch them on. Check everything looks good, in particular the temperature is where it should be, around 24-25 C/75-77 F for barbs. Now, slowly replace the water in the bucket with water from the tank. The idea is to slowly introduce the barbs to the "new" water conditions one small change at a time. I'd recommend changing one litre (about the size of an ice cream carton) every ten minutes. So after an hour or two, your barbs should be completely converted to the new conditions. Using a net, move the barbs to the new tank. Don't put any old water from the bucket into the tank! Over the next week, do a pH change each day. Don't feed your fish more than one small pinch of food per day! (A small pinch is just that, and all the food should be gone within 30 seconds. Each barb only needs a single flake to do just fine.) You might decide not to feed them at all this week. In any case, check the pH daily, and with luck, the pH will not drop dramatically. After seven days, change 25-50%; the smaller amount is fine if you find pH is steady and nitrite/ammonia are at zero.> By the way when I do water changes I add NovAqua plus and AmQuel plus, both Kordon products. One other note, I get an accumulation of crusty white stuff around the edges of the outside of the tank hood. I am assuming this is cause by something from the tank, some sort of deposit buildup, perhaps you know what it is? <The white stuff is likely just lime. Harmless. Can be brushed off. A little lemon juice or vinegar can be used to safely work away at stubborn patches, but try not to get too much of these into the water! Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: pH/Ammonia Issue Yes, all the fish are smaller, I think the Ticto Barbs are the biggest and may be slightly over the 2 inches but not by much. I am going to try your suggestion of draining out the water. One thing you mentioned in your suggestion was "Over the next week, do a pH change each day". Did you mean do a pH check every day? <Oops. Yes, "check" or "test" was precisely what I meant.> Hopefully this will work and I just have too much acidification going on, perhaps from overfeeding in the past and it not getting properly cleaned thus causing this problem. I have been very careful about feedings lately so I now at least with the past two weeks I have not been overfeeding. I also know it can not be due to lack of water changes because I have been doing them every other to every two days for the past several weeks and once a week before that. I am going to make sure I take out all the plants and decorations when cleaning this time. If the pH happens to crash I will email you right away. I guess all I need confirmed is that you meant a pH check not change. Thanks again! <Happy to help, Neale.>

Re: pH/Ammonia Issue 1/7/08 It seems your suggestion has worked at least for the time being. We will see in the long run. <Indeed!> So far the water parameters in the aquarium are what I reported for my tap water (Nitrate - 0, Nitrate - 0, Total Hardness (GH) - 300 ppm, Chlorine - 0, Total Alkalinity (KH) - 180 ppm, pH - 8.4). <All sounds fine. The pH is on the high side, but nothing dangerous.> I will check the pH daily as advised and let you know of any major changes. I do have one question though, the current level of my pH is 8.4 according to the all-in-one test (it has a range of 6.2-8.4). I also have an API test but that only goes up to 7.6 (range of 6.0-7.6). If my water stays that high at 8.4 is there anything I am going to need to do lower it? <One battle at a time. Adjusting pH isn't something to worry about unless you're an experienced fishkeeper. You see, what kills fish is variations in pH within short periods of time. Broadly speaking, most fish will adapt to a wide pH range, provided that pH is stable. While it would be worth lowering the pH a bit, to around 7.5-8.0 eventually, I'd rather you focused on keeping a steady pH and good water quality for now. If, after a month, you find the nitrite stays at zero and the pH stays stable from week to week, then get back in touch and we'll talk about some of the options. But right here, right now, one thing at a time! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: pH/Ammonia Issue (RMF, never come across this, any ideas?) 01/09/09 Well, the tank was stable for a day and a half! <Good stuff!> Today when I tested there was an ammonia spike. It went from 0 to 1.0. (I could tell right away something was wrong because the water was slightly cloudy). I checked the pH and it is 7.6. I originally told you it was 8.4 but when I checked it yesterday it was 7.8. <Much more typical.> I didn't know if it dropped or I read the strip wrong <<Strip type tests are notoriously imprecise and inaccurate. RMF>> so I checked the tap water again and the tap water is closer to 7.8. (The strips I got can be tricky to read and when I first read it, it was at night and when I read it during the day with natural sunlight, it was a bit easier to read). At any rate the pH has dropped a little from 7.8 to 7.6. The kH also went from 180 ppm to 40 ppm. <Something is -- very rapidly -- consuming carbonate hardness. For the life of me, I can't think what would do this in the space of 24 hours short of pouring in a bunch of acids! My suspicion is that the water you have is "unstable" prior to use, and that the test kits are giving misleading results. Try this: put a bucket of water out overnight, and test the hardness and pH immediately after you fill the bucket and then 12-24 hours later. If you can, add an airstone to keep the water turning over, otherwise just stir every once in a while. I wonder if your water is actually rather soft after the minerals or whatever in the freshly drawn tap water have broken down. If that's the case, you'll need to treat or store your water prior to use.> Nitrate, Nitrite, are at 0. Last night I did give the fish a very tiny pinch of TetraColor fish flakes. There was about 6 flakes total that I put in the tank. I am not feeding today. So, I guess I am at a loss. I have no idea what could be happening in my tank, but maybe you can shed some light this situation. <I'm confused too, and asking Bob for advice.> <<I concur... something is anomalous here... Does this tank have a very large amount of live plant material? Driftwood? RMF>> Is there something I should do to get the kH/pH stable? <Certainly, a stable pH is what you want.> <<Yes... I would use a commercial buffering product myself, or advise it here... If this were a store setting, we'd likely add a source of carbonate in the recirculating water flow path... Perhaps dump in some baking soda on a regular (maybe daily) basis. RMF>> Is there something I should do for the ammonia spike or will that take care of itself if I get the kH/pH under control? <Ammonia should settle down once water chemistry settles down. I'm guessing that variations in water chemistry are stressing the filter bacteria, making it difficult for them to work properly. Cheers, Neale.> <<I would make sure and have zero ammonia BEFORE fooling with pH or alkalinity here... Too high in all these areas is synergistically very toxic. RMF>>

Re: pH/Ammonia Issue (RMF, never come across this, any ideas?) 01/09/09 I will definitely test the tap water over the weekend. <Cool.> When I emailed you last night I said there was a drop in pH, but now I am not so sure. The strips I have to test kH and gH (as well as nitrite and nitrate) are hard to read the pH readings. The kH and gH are easy to read, but not the pH. <Ah, would suggest buying a liquid test kit for pH.> They are all a shade of pink. When I test the tap water and compare it to my current water they look the same, right around 7.6 and 7.8. When I use another pH only test kit and test the tap water and the tank water they also read the same about 7.6 (however that test only goes to 7.6). But at least the shades are the same. <OK.> So now, I do not think the pH is really dropping, but there was a definite drop in kH and a definite ammonia spike. The pH was stable this morning around 7.6-7.8 and the kH was still around 40. The ammonia is around .50 to 1.0 when I test. I have not added anything to the water and I did not feed yesterday and probably won't feed today. I will email over the weekend and let you know the results of the tap water experiment. I do have an extra air stone to add so I will do that. <Starting to suspect a tap water issue: will see what Bob says.> <<Are you adding anything to this water period, before testing it... a conditioner perhaps? A few of the common dechloraminating products will give a false positive for ammonia. Otherwise there should be NO detectable ammonia in mains/tapwater. Test just the raw source water. RMF>> Since I do not think the pH is dropping anymore is there a chance my tank is recycling? <Quite possible the ammonia comes in the tap water. Or alternatively, your dechlorinator doesn't treat chloramine (check!) and if this is the case, produces free ammonia when it breaks the chloramine down.> I know this would cause an ammonia spike, but would it cause a decline in the kH as well? <Ammonia and carbonate can react, yes.> This is the only thing I can think of, but my knowledge is not as good as yours, but I thought I would throw that out there. <I'm in the dark, too!> I will continue to check the water daily to see if there is a major drop in pH and if there is a spike in nitrite or nitrates (they are currently at 0). If it is recycling there after the ammonia spike there will be a spike in nitrite then nitrate, correct? <In theory. But if the ammonia comes in the tap water, then the nitrite produced by the filter will likely be used up quickly, without being detectable.> Thanks again for all your help. If you have any other thoughts or ideas, let me know. I will try anything at this point. <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: pH/Ammonia Issue (RMF, never come across this, any ideas?) 01/10/09 Alright so here is the result of the tests I did on the tap water. First off, I did get a new test kit that is easier to read. <<Ah, good. RMF>> This test showed different results from the original tap water results I had given you. Namely the first time I told you the kH was 180 ppm but this test shows that it starts off at 120 ppm. Anyway here are all the stats of the tap water immediately out of the tap without any chemicals added: Ammonia=0 Nitrate=0 Nitrite=0 gH=150 ppm Chlorine=0 kH=120 pH=7.6 (keep in mind the test kit only goes to 7.6, the other strip test was between the 7.6 and 7.8 but closer to 7.6) After about 18 hours of the tap water being in the bucket with an air stone the results were the following: Ammonia=0 Nitrate=0 Nitrite=0 gH=150 ppm Chlorine=0 kH=80 ppm pH=7.6 So basically the kH dropped off from 120 to 80 in less than 24 hours. <<Mmm, these test results are "fine", much more easily accounted for... the "loss" of KH here may well be due to precipitation of material/s added by your water supplier (flocculant and temporary hardness) to improve (low) water supply on their end, protect pipes et al. in their plants and distally... Not uncommon more and more... RMF>> Now, I keep my fish tank in the basement of our house, which is finished off and very nice. But I dump the old aquarium water out in the wash basin where the wash machine flows into. There are two sides to the basin and I make sure when filling the bucket with tap water that is to go into the aquarium I use the side the wash machine does not dump into. My husband made a point of saying that the pipes down there are very old and he suggested using water from the bathroom where the pipes are more new. I was leaving the water run in the sink a bit when using the old faucet, but he said it might make a difference. <<It may...>> So I tested the water straight from the tap from a newer faucet and all the numbers were the same except the kH came out to be 80 ppm, right out of the tap. I guess I am thinking that this water might be more stable, if this even makes sense. I put this water in a bucket and do the same 12-24 hour test to see if it changes. Right now the current kH of the aquarium has dropped is closer to 80 ppm. But there is still a lot of ammonia in the water. <<Am thinking this is spurious... do you have a DPD test kit, or someone about who does... maybe someone with a pool or spa nearby... Something is up here.>> But I am surprised to see the pH staying steady. Is it possible that the ammonia level spiked because the kH dropped from 120 to 80 in the course of 24 hours? <<No>> By the way I use Amquel plus to dechlorinate my water and it says that it takes care of both the chlorine and chloramine. <<This fine Kordon product can/does yield a false positive for ammonia with many types of test kits... Nessler's rgt. Again, you aren't adding this ahead/before testing for ammonia I take it. RMF>> Let me know what your thoughts are on all this. <Apart from the carbonate hardness issue, your tap water is otherwise very good. Zero ammonia is obviously what you want when doing water changes, and the moderate level of general hardness (GH) suits a goodly range of tropicals including barbs, tetras, catfish and South American cichlids. It's a bit low for livebearers and species from hardwater habitats like Mbuna, but otherwise this water is good. Because the carbonate hardness varies -- for now obvious reason to me -- I think I'd concur with Bob's comment that adding some type of buffer to each batch of water would be beneficial. If you're keeping mixed community tropicals, then any standard buffering potion that fixes the pH at 6.5, 7.0, or 7.5 would be ideal. There's not much to choose between any one pH value in terms of community fish, so going for 7.5 would probably be the easiest option in terms of usage, cost and usefulness. If you fish are skewed towards hardwater species like livebearers (Guppies, Platies, Swordtails, Mollies, etc.) I'd actually not use a buffer but instead use a Malawi (African cichlid) salt mix. This will both steady pH and raise carbonate hardness. You can buy Malawi salt mix from an aquarium shop, or else make your own for pennies per water change. Per 5 gallons/20 litres, stir in: 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) 1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements) Once done, test the water chemistry of the bucket of water to confirm everything is as it should be. If all your fish are hardwater species, then use this "hardened" water entirely; if you have a mix of hardwater and regular species, a 50/50 mix of hardened water with tap water should do the trick. Hope this helps, Neale.>

20L FW... water quality testing  8/22/08 Ok so now I have another question off topic. Hope that is ok? <Sure.> I have a 20L freshwater tank set up. I tested it tonight for the first time, I know should have done this already but just got around to getting the strips. <Strips are not terribly accurate.> Anyway my Nitrate was 0, Nitrite 0, Total Hardness was Soft (75 GH ppm), total Chlorine was 0, Total Alkalinity was high (300 KH ppm) and my PH was between the 7.8 and 8.4 colors. <Quite a wide range.> My Ammonia was 0. Should I be concerned about the PH and Alkalinity and if so what should I do? I have searched your site and the web and I am getting conflicting stories, some say it is good to have a high alkalinity helps stabilize the PH and others say it isn't good so I am confused. <The Alk will give you a more stable PH, if you need to do anything really depends on what you keep or want to keep in the system. The needs will vary greatly depending on livestock. Many times it is just easier to pick your livestock based on your water conditions.> Thanks again for your time. <Welcome, a link with related articles and FAQs re this below, Scott V.> http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm

Guidance on Water Analysis   -- 07/10/08 I would like to ask for your guidance on what components of my well water would need to be analyzed in order to use it for my Bettas. <As with ANY freshwater fish, the minimal test kits are pH and nitrite. The pH gives you a first-pass approximation on water chemistry, and nitrite tells you about the water quality in the aquarium. There are other tests you can use, but these are the two best ones to start with. Bettas are almost completely indifferent to water chemistry, and will do well between pH 6-8, 5-20 degrees dH.> I am presently using bottled water for my many Bettas. Using bottled water has been expensive over the years. They are all in 5 gal. filtered, heated tanks and until recently seemed to be thriving. When I noticed signs of stress I started checking water quality and found everything was good. I also began using PolyFilters to see if that would improve things. Nothing changed so I decided to check the PH for each bottle of water and found it varied from bottle to bottle. (from 7.5 to 8.2) When I started using this water two years ago the PH was pretty constant at 7.5 so I never suspected the water. <Sounds a complete waste of money in my opinion. No need for Polyfilters, though use them if you want. I'd be keeping them in plain tap water, with dechlorinator of course.> All of this to say that I would like to use our well water for these fish because I am paying a fortune for bottled water that doesn't seem to be very reliable. I originally decided to use bottled water because the well water is hard with a PH of around 8. This week I inquired about having the water analyzed at a Lab. and I was presented with 28 pages of possibilities. I just have no idea of what analysis should be done and was hoping you could give me some guidance on what to have checked. <Right. Now, what you need to measure is pH, general hardness, and carbonate hardness. Your local pet store will certainly have these test kits in stock, and many stores do the tests on the spot for a nominal fee (here in England, often one pound). With that data you can compare your well water with the tolerances of Betta splendens, which are broad. pH 6-8, 5-20 degrees dH, 3-12 degrees KH would all be fine. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwh2oquality.htm > The following may help. We live in a rural community outside of Ottawa, Ontario. We are on a 4 acre bush lot. There are no agricultural or industrial properties close to us. Our well is drilled. It is 149 feet deep, mostly through limestone and shale. It has no colour, or odor. We have it tested yearly (most recently June of this year) and it is 0 for all of the things humans need to be concerned about for drinking water. This may be perfect drinking water (if you are not prone to kidney stones) but I know that the requirements of fish are different so any thoughts on what should be checked/analyzed would be very much appreciated. If everything checks out and I am able to use the well water do you feel I should dilute it with RO water because it is so hard. <None of this really means much in fishkeeping terms. Fish obviously thrive in waters unfit for human consumption (e.g., the sea). But it's likely you have standard issue hard water that's been filtered through limestone or chalk. Contrary to popular myth, such water can be very good for fishkeeping: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/fwhardness.htm > Your help with this would be very much appreciated. If someone has a chance to get back to me please respond to the cc'd e-mail address as well as I will be on vacation for a few days. Thanks again. Jeanette <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Guidance on Water Analysis 7/10/08 What a relief I was thinking that I would need a fairly involved analysis of the water chemistry. Unfortunately I do not have access to tap water so well or bottled are my only options. Thank you so much for simplifying things for me. I certainly won't miss paying for or lifting the many bottles of water I use each week. Thanks again Jeanette <Hello Jeanette. By "tap water" I really meant whatever water you get supplied to drink and wash with. If it's fit for that, it's fit for fishkeeping -- assuming you choose species that tolerate whatever the local water chemistry is! One other thing: if you're going to change water chemistry in the tanks from Brand X bottled water to local well water, do so in stages across a few days (maybe 3-4 days) so the fish can acclimatize safely. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Guidance on Water Analysis  7/12/08 No worries I plan to introduce the new water very gradually. <Cool.> Just want to mention how wonderful it is that you (and everyone in the crew) give the same care and consideration to a Betta or goldfish question as you do to one concerning an expensive or rare fish. <Never thought of it that way. But thanks for the kind words!> Thanks again. Jeanette <Most welcome, Neale.>

One more question, Neale, if you don't mind... Water quality, test strips...  -- 07/10/08 I got the test strips that you suggested before (thanks for the tip about cutting them in half!). My readings are 20ppm for nitrates, 0 for nitrates, 300ppm for total hardness (GH), 300ppm for total alkalinity, and 8.8 for pH. In an article I read on WWM the pH should be 8.1-8.3. My tap water tests the same as above (right when it comes out of the faucet and after sitting for awhile), so I'm not sure if the high numbers are completely my fault. Should I be worried about this and work to lower the pH? Thanks for answering my unending questions. Jasmynn <Jasmynn, this can be short and sweet: Unless you're an expert fishkeeper, leave the pH alone. Almost all fish will adjust to a steady pH, even if it is slightly outside their optimal range. (By way of example, the water in Southern England has a pH around 8, yet lots of people keep Neons, Angelfish and so on without problems.) What fish hate much more is a pH level that fluctuates. Adjusting pH safely involves altering hardness, specifically carbonate hardness, as well. Otherwise the results are too unstable because you have to constantly add just the right amount of pH buffer. Add the wrong amount, of delay a water change for a few days, and the pH can suddenly change, severely stressing your fish. So unless you can soften water (not using a domestic water softener, but by, for example, diluting with rainwater) there's no point worrying about pH. Your pH value is very high, but this is indicative of a very high level of alkalinity. Remember, the pH itself doesn't matter: we measure the pH because it tells us something about the water chemistry. While certainly far from ideal if you were keeping freshwater fish from soft or moderately hard water environments, hard water fish (like Mbuna) and brackish water fish will not be fussed at all. Quite the reverse in fact; the high alkalinity will be positively beneficial to them. Cheers, Neale.>

FW test kits, liquid or strip  2/23/08 Hiya crew, I just wanted to know, from your experience, which is better, liquid water tests or strips. I don't know which one to get and is there a specific brand you recommend that is very accurate or are they all pretty much the same? Thanks for your time and help. <Both are better than having no test kit! So my advice is this: if you're more likely to buy the inexpensive and simple to use dip strips -- go for it! Yes, liquid tests are probably more accurate, but the most useful test kit is the one you'll use regularly. For freshwater fishkeeping at least, any inaccuracies will be well within the tolerances of most species. Another plus with dip strips is many have multiple tests on a single piece of paper. Inexperienced aquarists often test pH and nitrite, but neglect the others. Looking at lots of tests at the same time, those aquarists can learn about water quality and water chemistry more quickly. Here's an extra tip: slice the paper strips down the middle, and get two tests for the price of one! In terms of reliability, most tests are much of a muchness, so get whatever ones you like. Cheers, Neale.>

Sick jack Dempsey I haven't got a clue!!! Poor English, no reading...   2/8/08 hello, my jack Dempsey and 2 Plecos have something sticking out of their anus and he appears to have a white film on the top of his head. It doesn't appear to be nematodes its little (less then a centimeter) on all 3. The tank is a 75g with a1 one and a half inch flower horn, a one inch jewel, 5 or 6 inch convict,5 or 6 inch ob peacock, two 3 inch clown loaches, the 5 or 6 inch jack, one 1 or 2 inch Texas ,and a 4 or 5 inch Brazilian. The ph has been at 6.2 for 3 months plus <This is much too low... indicative of?> but everything else seems to be fine when I test the water. <... data> Iv been doing 20%water changes weekly and just noticed that they were sick a few days ago. His body isn't swollen but maybe a little sunken in and he is still eating. My fish now have ich. <Also indicative of poor water quality, stress> He and the convict are the only two that don't have visible symptoms I am using Maracide <...> and hope to get ether get Maracyn or Maracyn 2 but don't know what med. to treat <None> him with??? So the description as I see it is its white and short kind of stubby there is no sign of his anus being swollen as in swim bladder (which I had a case of also not to long ago which has been treated) if you could offer any help I would greatly appreciate it!! Iv been looking every where and have found nothing. thanks a lot, Kristin <Likely the root problem here is environmental stress... I recommend reading, water changes and the use of your spelling/grammar checker. Please start here with the second: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/cichliddisfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: sick jack Dempsey I haven't got a clue!!! 2/9/08 Thank you, <Kristin> I've tried chemicals and nothing seems to work for the ph. <Mmm, what did you use? We should start as far back as you think... to see what needs doing here> So I put some sea shells in Tuesday night. <Can we start with your tap/source water? What is the pH, and alkalinity or hardness?> and tested the water last night to see if there was any change, the alkalinity was up to 40 from 0 <!?> so I thought that was a good sign. I did use the spell check!! Thank you for your help!! I was also wondering I have a turtle also and I put one of his decorations from about a year ago in the fish tank sun. night after washing it off and Monday the fish had ich could it be that they got the ich from the decoration??? <Mmm, no... the ich had to have been in the tank, on the fish already... but in a low population... not a very infectious state...> Thanks again, Kristin <Will you please test your water again and report to me? In the meanwhile, do keep making partial (10-20%) water changes daily. Bob Fenner>

Thank you for your help!!! Re: Sick Jack Dempsey, Water Testing f'   2/14/08 hello, I contacted you last week about a sick jack Dempsey. I took a sample of water both from the fish tank and the tap to the LFS and everything was fine the ph is 7.2 the nitrates are fine!!! I was using a test strip which they said is inaccurate after a couple times of opening the bottle. I had no clue, the gave me some different ich med. because my fish are dying fast!! I would have not taken my water up if you hadn't suspected a problem so thank you very much for all of your help!!! Kristin <Welcome! BobF>

Mail Order Water Testing Kit  -- 02/07/08 Hello, I am new to fish and aquariums. My husband turned our 10 gallon tank over to me recently (about 6 weeks ago). I have been in "information gathering mode" for quite some time. I only wish I had found your website much sooner. <Ahh!> From your site I now understand that I should not be relying on the Mardel dip stick testers that I have been using and that a reasonably priced significantly more accurate test kit would be the Freshwater Master Test Kit by API, correct? <Mmm, yes... or at least to a degree... "dip test strips" can be useful as "yes/no" indicators... They're just not very accurate> My other question is... does freezing harm the reagents? <Not the types of the API one mentioned as far as I'm aware> We live in North Pole, AK (near Fairbanks in the middle of the state). I can find this item much cheaper on the internet, but it will only be cheaper if it can be sent parcel post...which does not include climate controlled shipping and now (winter) will certainly mean freezing during shipping. However, savings is not really savings if the product were to be damaged in shipping... better to just spend the money at our LFS (although the choices are not excessive, we do have some). <Mmm... I don't think this is/will be a concern. If so, and the extra expense is not a concern, there are dry reagent type kits... mostly repackaged Hach product... available in the trade. Maybe look for the Kordon Products brand if so...> Thank you for the great website. I have many other things that I have done wrong and will be working on as I read the FAQ's on the site, but this is the only one I haven't seen addressed and water quality definitely seems to be the place to start. Thanks, Jackie <There are lifetimes of material to be accrued, organized, shared, enjoyed to come. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia test strip question - 11/20/07 Hi Crew, <Leah,> I saw one white spot on the tail of one clown loach. Unable to decide if it was ich, I decided to be proactive and treat with Rid-Ich+. The spot was gone within 24 hours, and no other fish developed any other spots, and no one seemed itchy or otherwise uncomfortable. I began to wonder if the original spot had been ich at all, but I intended to treat for a week to be safe. I removed my carbon filter, did a daily 25% water change and used a half dose of Rid-Ich+, although I later read conflicting reports online over whether half doses are effective. <Depends. Sometimes half-doses work acceptably well, without putting sensitive fish at risk. More often though, the salt plus heat method works better and more safely for treating Ick on Clown loaches, Mormyridae, etc.> I treated through day 5. Today was supposed to be day 6 of treatment, but I noticed that my Mardel ammonia test strip had gone from plain yellow (0.0 ammonia) to a kind of off-yellow. It's hard to describe, and it does not match any of the other colors on the test strip, which grow from pale green to dark blue-green. It looks for all the world as if the Rid-Ich+ has slightly stained the test strip. Is this likely? <Certainly possible. If the nitrite level is zero, I'd assume that's the problem here. If the nitrite isn't zero, then perhaps there's something else going on.> How reliable are these strips, compared to other kinds of tests? After 5 days of half doses of Rid-Ich+, do you think I've harmed my good bacteria? <No.> This morning I did a 40% water change with dechlorinated water, and no meds. I also replaced my carbon filter. When I return home this afternoon, I will put in a new ammonia test strip and see if it stays yellow. (I'm waiting until the afternoon because I don't want any remaining meds to stain the new one.) Do you think I should take any other actions? <Not really, no.> I have an ammonia locking agent, and something called stress-zyme that is supposed to help replace good bacteria. <You shouldn't need either of these things in a stable aquarium. Traces of ammonia in your tap water should be removed by any decent dechlorinator, and the ammonia produced by your fish gets used by the filter bacteria. Bacteria supplements are, in my opinion, more about selling stuff to hobbyists that actually doing anything useful.> Unfortunately I will be unable to observe the tank again until the afternoon, but I can check my email and drop by the pet store on the way home if you recommend buying a different test kit. Thank you very much, Leah <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Platy parasite? Test strips, NO2 danger   5/2/07 Good morning, <Morrow!> Whew!  You don't disappoint on the "brutal honesty!"  Thanks (wry  smile).   <Ah, must've been Neale...> So far, since Saturday night's water change the nitrites &  ammonia have been at "0,"  but I am keeping a close eye on them.   I think I was lulled by the test strip's wording regarding nitrite levels:  "caution" for .5 ppm, "stress" for 1 ppm, etc.  Since mine never quite made  it to .5 ppm, I never fully realized the danger, though I knew the goal was  "0". <Yes> I don't say this as an excuse, as the info is out there, but as a  warning to others new to fishkeeping.   <Thank you... will post appropriately> I also didn't realize the charcoal  element, made for the Aqua-clear 30 filter, was useless or worse with  a cycling FW aquarium.  Thankfully, I did have the biological element  in!   <Good> Also, I was thrown by the long, white stringy stuff, and the fact that only two of them appeared actually stressed or unhappy.  You never said, but  should I assume you are implying that the fecal symptom is water quality  symptom, or food issue? <Could be either, neither... more likely the former than latter> They had been eating both veg.s and omnivore  flakes.  I could pass the Omni food off to a neighbor. <I would keep, use intermittently> Also, I am afraid a lot of us newbies are making the mistake of putting platys in tanks under 10 gallons, as I have seen a number of posts that show   that.  Thank you for letting me, and others, know.  Of course,  the LFS wouldn't tell us that.  As for the salt and platys, it is sometimes  recommended at WWM, though perhaps in "aquarium" form rather than plain old NaCl  (?). <Yes> I won't argue the point with you, as I planned to phase the salt out  after cycling, for the benefit of the plants.  And what do I know  anyway?  Apparently, not much!  (again, wry smile) Thanks again... I'm sure the fish would thank you too, if they could. V. <They have by your increasing their vitalities. Bob Fenner>

Would you consider linking this to the daily FAQs, so it gets more exposure?  - 03/10/07 Hi Bob, <Jor>    This isn't an article, really, but just a little blurb I wrote after yet one more baaaad PetSmart visit. And, it's not a "bash the big chain stores" thing, but merely a plug for ALL hobbyists, even beginners, to have their own quality test kits.  I posted it in the Forums, under    "Equipment and Dry Goods", but was wondering if you'd consider either re-publishing it on WWM, or simply providing a link? I was hoping I could maybe reach a wider audience that way.  If this isn't something you do, no biggie, just thought I'd ask...    Here's the link:     http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/thread.jsp?nav=false&forum=5&thread=42493    Thanks!    Jorie <I definitely will place this... In fact... If you have the time (ha!), I encourage you to expand this a bit and we'll feature as an article... Perhaps a couple examples... A bit of detail as to what can/does happen when samples "age" during transport... B>

Perfect example why you shouldn't rely on ANYONE to test your water for you Posted: Mar 10, 2007 4:05 PM
In my experiences answering queries here and on behalf of the crew via e-mail, I come across many folks, usually beginners, who don't have their own water parameter test kits, and thus must rely on their LFS to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, etc. I *always* tell folks that in this hobby, it is essential to have your own quality test kit, and by using the word "quality", I generally mean one not of the "dip stick" variety. My experience at my local PetSmart this afternoon is a perfect illustration of why I say this: I had bought a couple of fancy yellow guppies from PetSmart about a week ago. These guys must not have been healthy to begin with, as one perished late last night (I found him stuck to the filter intake), and early this morning, after replacing about 70% of the water (a bit more than I usually do on a weekly basis, to compensate for last night's dead fish), the other one died. There are three orange fancy guppies living in this tank also, and they are all perfectly healthy - I've had them for around a month. And, I do regular water changes, feed quality food, etc. Not to say I can't make a mistake, but I really don't think I caused these yellow guppies to die. I brought the one deceased guppy back to the store today (I didn't think to save the one from last night), along with a water sample in a separate container. At the store, the young man helping me (who was very friendly), started testing the sample with the "dip stick" kits. After first running the pH, he exclaimed: "Wow - your water is really acidic - no wonder the fish died." I asked him exactly what the reading was, and he said "oh, around 6.2". I was astounded - this is slightly brackish water (1.005), which I explained to him, and he didn't seem to understand the significance of marine salt on pH (for those reading who don't know, it raises it). I asked him to double check, which he did, and he got the same result. I asked him if he had another type of test kit (liquid), and he said no. He ran all the other tests (chlorine, ammonia, nitrite, etc.) and all were "fine" (I asked for the numbers, but he couldn't read them). The store did ultimately exchange my guppy after I insisted, but I drove home in a panic, wondering if perhaps the MelaFix that I had used in the water (the orange guppies are a bit nippy!) somehow drastically altered the pH. And, I entertained all sorts of other horrible possibilities. In fact, I was so upset, I almost ran a red light! I got out my Freshwater Master Test Kit from Aquarium Pharmaceuticals as soon as I got home, and on the "low end" test, the water in question's pH read 7.6. I tested again on the "high end" test, and this one came out to 7.4. And, just to be extra sure, I used BF's electronic pH meter, which gave a reading of 7.3. So, I think it's safe to say the water's pH is around 7.4 or so. I did call the manager back, and told her what had happened. Not so much for myself, as I ended up with another fish - no charge - but for the people who do in fact rely on LFS advice/test kits. She assured me she'd look into it, and even said that at home, she never used the "dip sticks" either, as she doesn't trust them. I didn't want to get the employee in question in trouble, as he was only doing what he was taught, by the store, to do; but I did want to make my point that the store should consider switching to a more reliable method of testing. Who knows if that will happen, but at least I tried. So, in sum - ANYONE who's keeping fish needs to have his/her own test kit. It's no good to rely on the LFS, or a friend or someone else, to do water parameter tests for you; rather, run your own tests so you can be sure you're reading numbers correctly, etc. Also, even if it saves a few minutes or a few dollars, DON'T buy those ridiculous "dip stick" tests - they obviously DO NOT WORK! I'm very pleased with the API Freshwater Master Test Kit mentioned above, but there are other brands than some folks successfully use. Hope I've helped educate folks and maybe even saved some fishy lives today! Best, -JKJ

Lost Color Chart from Test Kit  5/23/06 Hey Guys and Gals, <Hi David, Pufferpunk here>    This is an odd question but I am kind of stumped.  I have some water quality tests for pH, nitrate, hardness (the drop 3 drops into the vial kind).  My problem is after moving, I lost all of the color charts for these drops.  I still have the bottles and the vials.  Do you know of anywhere online I can find the color charts? maybe something I can print out or just keep bookmarked so I can use the tests? <Try contacting the manufacturer.  They will probably be happy to send you new ones.  ~PP>    Sorry for the weird questions, David

Test kits and bosses going bad - 11/28/2005 Happy Holidays!  I work for a LFS. My boss is a great guy, very smart and loves his work.  However, he and I have a standing argument. <That's what bosses are for. Remember to let them win sometimes ;)> He refuses to acknowledge that test kits go bad. The tests that we perform on our customers' water is performed with some kits going back to expiring in '97. I have taken chemistry in college. I was taught that reagents go bad. I have a problem with testing my customers water and not being 100 percent confident about the results. <Absolutely. I applaud you for being so responsible> Can anyone settle this argument once and for all? What's the longest a test kit can go? <Certainly. As long as the expiry date on the box :D. If not stored correctly (sealed, cool, dry, dark place), they may not even make it that long -- as an example, some reagents in nitrate tests are photosensitive and exposure to light will denature them over time.> Thanks so much. <Thank you for writing... John>

Strippin' the Strips Thank you again for your prompt response. I did not know that the test strips were not very good. I have been having trouble keeping my nitrates and nitrites down. Because I do not have a good test kit, I cannot tell you the numbers. On the strips, it says my nitrates are at about 80 ppm. The nitrites on the other hand are above the chart, which goes up to 10. I can get it down and then it just shoots right back up. The lowest I can get it down to (the nitrites that is) is about 1-3 ppm (according to the strips).  I have ordered a good test kit and I am expecting it any day now. When I get it, I will be able to tell you exactly what the numbers are. I have two rainbow sharks, 3 piranha tetras and three other tetras, plus two Plecostomus. I had three swordtails in there, but I have removed them and put them in their own tank. Once my babies are ready, I will put the ones I keep plus the three adults into a ten-gallon tank by themselves.  I am cycling that tank right now with some betas. Is this a good fish to use to cycle a tank? < Just as good as any other.> As you can tell, I am new to this and I do not want to kill any of my fish, but I do not know what else to do about my nitrate and nitrite problems. Do you have any suggestions? I have tried adding the salt. I have done regular water changes and have changed the water 3 days in a row, about 30-40 %. I do not want to change any more because I know it can hurt my fish, but I know that the nitrates and nitrites are more dangerous. Thank you in advance. < Once you get a decent test kit check the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates for both your tap water and your tank water too. In agricultural areas the nitrates may be as high as 50 ppm straight from the tap. Ammonia is converted to nitrites by bacteria. The most limiting factor is oxygen. I would recommend that you vacuum the gravel. Make sure you get crud under the rocks and ornaments. Then clean the filter. The organic matter is breaking down into nitrite and nitrates. By removing this organic matter you are removing the source of the problem. Without plants, chemicals, expensive water treatment systems or bottled water it will be difficult to get your nitrates below your tap water levels. Only feed your fish enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes each day. Siphon out any additional left over food.-Chuck> 

Second time "TEST KIT" user needs guidance Hi Crew, <Mario> Thanks to Don for your insight on my previous question about how to read my test results. I changed the water siphoning from the bottom and waited 6 hours before I did another reading the results were has follows: Ammonia at .50 down from 1.0, the Nitrite at ZERO down from 0.25, the Nitrate remained at 5 and the pH remained at 7.4. Question #1 When I get the Ammonia and Nitrite to ZERO, high should I let the Nitrate get before doing a water changes (some articles I read say at 10, while others say 20)? <Either one should be fine, lower is better> Question #2 How long in time (i.e. hour, day) should I wait after doing a water change to test the water the second time? <Not critical. Any time it's convenient> The test kit I have uses color that are very closely shaded, which makes it difficult for me to be 100% sure. <Yes... there are other test kits with different, better colorimetric discrimination> Question #3 If the test kit you (or someone you know) use also contains colors that are closely shaded, what method do you (or they) use to figure out the best possible result? <Holding the cuvette/test vial up against a white piece of paper... in good light helps...> I place the tube under a light and place the card behind the tube, and slowly move the card forward or backward until I find a color that closely bends in with the color in the tube. Thanks Again, Mario D. <This is about it. Bob Fenner>

Accurate Test Kits ? Just wondered if anyone had an opinion or input on this : I have a 90G cichlid tank. It has been running for about 3 months no problems until recently. Filtration is Fluval 304, AC500, AC200 and a Penguin 125. I also have a 75G planted with an assortment of rasboras, barbs, Corys and 5 clown loaches ( Fluval 304) and 20G with about 13 tetras in (AC200 & Penguin 125). I haven't really had any problems with any of them. The 75 & the 90 are recent purchases, the 20 is a new set up and I have just taken down a 65G. I have always checked my water parameters weekly they are always consistent for all tanks. PH - 7.4 GH - 8-10 KH - 4-6 ( I may have got the kH and GH mixed but you get the idea) Nitrates I have never let get above 5 mg/l No ammonia, Nitrite, Phosphate etc. I have some algae growing in the 20G although not a problem just a new set up I think.( This is really my son's tank. No plants in here. I think I have blue green algae in here. The algae in the 75 seems to have peaked in the last week and the plants now seem to be talking a hold. (oldest plants are about 2 months). I have about 6 Otto's in there which seem to be helping too. Seems like regular green algae in this tank. The 90 is rockwork and a couple of plastic plants to hide the filters. Have algae on the rocks a little bit occurs on the glass but nothing out of the ordinary. It's mainly a brownish algae in this tank. Anyways hopefully this gives you some background on the tanks, now the problem. In the 90G I have, or did have, 5 Black Tanzanian Acei. (Not the Ngara White Tail but actual Black Tanzanian's) Around the beginning of Dec one of them started to turn white ( doesn't really appear to be fungal) I didn't pay too much attention at first because I thought the fish was maturing and maybe changing colour, it seemed fine, still eating still swimming around fine. Then last week I came down in the morning to check everything like I usually do and it was dead. ( I am not exactly sure it was the same fish because I have two others that where starting to change as well but I think it was). I thought that it may have been killed by a dom. male L. caeruleus I have in the tank as all of them appeared fine before lights out the night before. I had phoned the store I bought them from when it first started happening as I cant find a lot of info on the net about them. The manager wasn't there and the guy said it was maybe a colour change but he didn't have much experience with them. Anyways two of the other 4 fish have gradually gotten whiter and whiter so I phoned the store back again this time I got the manager. ( I trust this guy's opinion he belongs to the CRLCA , is a moderator on cichlid nation and has been keeping and breeding wild caught Africans for years ) I have bought fish from there over the last two years and this is the first one that has died. I did QT these fish and they where purchased at the beginning of November. When I talked to him on the phone he told me that it sounded like maybe the fish where being burned by nitrates. I told him I checked and Nitrate was 0. He asked me what test kit I used. I said a Hagen kit. He suggested I use a Tetra kit. I went and purchased a Tetra kit, did the test and to my surprise that showed 25 - 50 mg/l. I then checked all my tanks which with the Nutrafin kit where 0-5 and they all showed 25-50. At the moment I am confused, does anyone have experience with these kits ? Which is reliable ? I have since done water changes on all tanks. Two on the 90. I can't get the nitrate below 12.5 mg/l which is a concern though. The planted I will leave between 12.5 & 25 because of the plants. The 20 won't drop below 12.5 either. I am going to test the tap water today. I am sorry this is so drawn out but I thought it may serve as a warning to others as well. I just wanted to show I do look after my tanks take all the precautions , tests , water changes etc. By the way the other fish in the 90 including the other two Acei seem to be showing no ill effects. The two fish that are still white are eating and swimming around although they are spending a little time at the top of the tank. The guy also told me to put some salt in the tank I assume he is thinking to use this to kill any bacteria etc that may be causing this. Anyway thanks for taking the time to read this I just really wanted to let other people know about test kits and also if you think that I am on the right track with the Nitrate burning and what may be causing the nitrates to remain above 0 Thanks great site as usual < He is my 2 cents on test kits. Check the date on the kits because reagents expire. Liquids reagents expire rather quickly while powdered forms last a long time if properly stored. Check your kits against some distilled water. Both should read zero. I have a personal preference  for LaMotte kits. They are expensive but accurate.-Chuck>
Re: Accurate Test Kits ?
I did check the dates and they are fine the kit I was using for nitrates expires 2007. I have never heard of LaMotte kits. I had to go to 4 stores to find Tetra Test kits. It was either that or the strip kind of tests. Thanks for the info anyway I will try and find LaMotte kits. About the fish though I was checking back in my records and it appears I have not checked PH since the beginning of December in the 90 but looking at the records for the 75 it seems the PH has changed from 7.4 to 7.8 since the end of December. Could this have caused the problems for my fish ? < No, this pH range is well within the normal range for Lake Malawi Cichlids.> All the other fish in both tanks seem fine although the barbs seem to be scratching in the 75. I thought that a gradual change in PH is ok but a sudden change would harm all the fish ? < Gradual is ok but sudden shifts in pH especially below pH 7 usually mean that the buffering capacity of the tank is gone and it may be ready to crash.> I have tried to include a couple of photos to see if you can see the difference in colour between the two fish . Image 471 shows the sick fish and 473 shows a healthy fish. < Sorry, the photos did not make it.> Any ideas ? < If the tank is in good shape with no excessive nitrogen problems then I would start looking at possible protozoa infections. It is similar to ich but does not develop any white spots. Try treating the tank by heating up the water to 82 degrees and see if that makes any difference. Then I would think about treating the tank with clout.-Chuck.>
Re: Accurate Test Kits ?
Would it affect all the fish ? <Usually parasites pick on weakened or diseased fish. Fish low on the pecking order are usually the first to show any distress.> I have 19 fish in this tank and only two of them seem ill, both are still eating. Although one spends a lot of time at the top of the tank in the corner. How long should I keep the temp at 82 ? < Try it for a week and then let it back down.> I have looked at all kinds of info on the net and stuff and just can't find an explanation for this. I called the LFS manager back again and he said he is stumped two. I really appreciate all the help < We try.-Chuck>

Test Kits Hi there, I need to know if those multi test kits (Jungle Labs Aquarium Quick Dip Multi-Test Kit) that will test pH, Nitrate, Nitrite, Hardness and Alkalinity in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums with just one strip are accurate? <No> Or are the kits that have solutions in them more accurate? <Yes, by far> Do you recommend any brand that are reliable? <I use and like Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Test Kits. Get the "Master Kit" and a Nitrate kit, which for some reason is not included in the "Master Kit". Don> Thanks, Antonio

Accidentally Added Test Solution to Tank !! 3/23/04 Hi,  I am in desperate need of experienced guidance. I have accidentally added a little over 1/4 teaspoon of Ammonia Test Solution to my 10 gal quarantine tank. Within 3 minutes I removed the one fish (a baby platy) to my 30 gal freshwater community tank - he's not looking so good. I am currently performing a 60% water change. Is this sufficient to remove the toxicity? Should I replace the filter media? What about the bio-wheel? Should I remove the substrate and rinse it? Wash down the tank? How will I know when it is safe to add fish? Did the small amount of water transferred to the larger tank on the fish net taint that tank as well? Prior to this the tank chemistry was perfect with the exception of pH (7.3). Ammonia - 0, Nitrite - 0, Nitrate - 15. Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.  Thanks so much, Denise DiCesare <Hi Denise.  You did the right thing to move the fish.  Now that it is out, I would discard all of the water and disposable filter media from the Q-tank.  I would also use some water from your display to rinse all of the equipment before setting the Q-tank back up.  After all of that, it should be fine.  You could also call the manufacturer of the test kit.  They can tell you if any of the reagents are dangerous, but I doubt that a small amount of "tainted" water will hurt your main tank.  Best Regards.  Adam>

New to the hobby and all its water quality issues, arcane terminology! Bob,               I am new to this whole fish stuff.  My fiancé convinced me to do it and it's not going so well.  I have a 30 gallon tank with a heater and a penguin 170.  Currently there is 3 Plecos and 4 Dempseys and 3 convicts in the tank. < Your Jack Dempsey's get up to 8 inches long and will eventually get too big for your tank.>    I am having some real ammonia problems lately, and after contacting my LFS I have done everything they told me to do. Frequent water changes.  And use ammo lock.  But I hesitate to do that; I gave it a try anyways.  Now for some reason my ammonia has spiked beyond even 8.0ppm (I know its higher but my testing kit only goes to 8.0) Anyways the nitrate is going up as well but the ammonia has not changed a single bit.   I do not know exactly what is going on. < Here is what is going on and how to solve it. First check the ammonia of your tap water. Many water systems now use chloramines instead of just chlorine. Chloramines are a combination of Chlorine and ammonia! Check your tap water with your ammonia test kit. Not all water conditioners get rid of chloramine and this is what you could be reading on your test kit. Use Amquel from Kordon or a new product called Ultimate. Both will tie up the ammonia. Usually what happens in a new tank is the fish excrete waste and any left over food is broken down into ammonia, especially in an aquarium in which the pH is greater than 7.0. In an established tank the ammonia is broken down into nitrite. This is less toxic than the ammonia but is still not good. This may take a couple of weeks. Eventually the nitrites are once again broken down into nitrates. These are not good either but they are the least toxic of the three. Nitrate levels should be kept no higher than 25 ppm, but some fish can take them as high as 50 ppm. Make sure you are not overfeeding and make sure you clean the filter often. The excess food may be accumulating in the filter and adding to the problem. You need to get the waste out of the system on not just let stay in the filter.> After calling the same LFS they told me to do a huge water change.  90%, which I did very carefully as to not harm the fish.  I ran the test again and my ammonia is still sitting at 4.0ppm.  And all I left was 1 ½ inches of water. < Fill up the tank and keep the system running. You may have too many fish to get things started. The good news is your fish are fairly tough. Fill up the tank, feed once a day with only enough food that you fish will have it all consumed in a couple of minutes. Get a 5 gallon plastic bucket and check the water for chloramines and treat according to the directions on the bottle. Check again and make sure it works. You may still have the ammonia in the water but it may be ties up by the chemicals and reading on your test kit. The water should be clear and have no odor. Ammonia makes the water very cloudy. If the water is clear and the fish are doing fine then I would not worry too much about the test kit results.-Chuck> I do not know what is going on any insights as to help with this?   I am attaching some data below for you're review as well.  

Urgent- Reagent spill in tank Hi to whoever is covering, I had a major accident. I think. I accidentally spilled reagent from my LaMotte Nitrate testing  kit into my 75 gallon plant tank. It is called Mixed Acid Reagent. I spilled approximately 30 ml. The ingredients say: 2% acetic acid, 1% copper sulfate, 17% ammonium chloride, 10% sodium chloride, 4% citric acid, 2% sodium phosphate, and water to make 100%. Do you think I damaged, fish, plants, filter? I did a 25% water change as that is all the water I had made up at the moment. <Hopefully not much of this material actually got into your system... whatever damage was done, is done... The rapid water change was a good idea. I would add some activated carbon or the product "Polyfilter" to your filter flow path. Do conduct further assays "in the sink". Bob Fenner> Thanks for you help. Ken
Re: Urgent- Reagent spill in tank
Hi Bob, <Ken> Thanks for the reply. It is 12 hours now and I had one fish death. Even the baby lemon tetras survived so far. I did add Hydro Carbon 2 from Two Little Fishes as well as Seachem Purigen last night to my canister filter. Do you think I am out of the woods yet? <Yes, likely so. The mention of the Tetras is indeed useful, telling.> Also do you think that the readings that I get when testing the water will be thrown off since that reagent was added to the tank? <No, the material involved is not only rapidly diluted, but reactant and gone almost immediately> Thanks again for your help. Regards, Ken <Good luck, life to you my friend. Bob Fenner>
Re: Urgent- Reagent spill in tank- Last Question- PROMISE
Bob, I just tested my water for ammonia using Aquarium Pharm test kit and I got 4.0 ppm ammonia. <Yikes!> I don't know if this is where it will stabilize or not. Is there anything I can/should do? <Yes... cut out feeding entirely, keep monitoring the ammonia, and pre-prepare water (of the same or lower pH) to make a massive (25-50%) water change if your livestock show signs of poisoning> Also I see that Purigen says that it removes ammonia from the water. I don't know how accurate that is si I don't know if my readings should be higher. <The chemical filtrant product may be "exhausted"> I have about 40 fish in my tank of the barb, tetra, rasboras, SAE types. I also have a very heavily planted 75 gallon tank. I probably have at least 200 plants. Do you think the fish can make it through this ammonia period and how long should it take for things to cycle through. <The plants definitely... I would keep monitoring the ammonia... hope for the best. Bob Fenner> Ken

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