The health and well-being of all the inhabitants of the aquarium, whether fish, snail, plants or others, is directly dependent on water. And its quality is affected by the composition, or rather the compliance of its parameters with certain standards.
Their values can be measured and adjusted. About why all this is necessary, what exactly to measure and with the help of what tests, we’ll talk in this article.
Why do you need to test the parameters of the aquarium water? What are the tests?
Which is better?
So, first, let’s enumerate the values that are used to test aquarium water:
NH3 / NH4 is the concentration of ammonia and ammonium in water;
NO2 – nitrite concentration in water;
NO3 – nitrate concentration in water;
pH – “the acidity of aquarium water”, determines the neutral, acidic and alkaline reaction of water at a certain concentration of hydrogen ions.
GH – constant stiffness;
kH – variable stiffness;
Cl is the concentration of chlorine in water;
CO2 – the concentration of carbon dioxide in the aquarium;
O2 is the oxygen concentration in the aquarium;
Fe is the concentration of iron in the aquarium;
PO4 – phosphate concentration;
Ca is calcium concentration;
Cu is the copper concentration;
Mg is the magnesium concentration;
The values highlighted in bold type are the main – vital indicators, followed by the secondary values, which are tested in a given situation or as needed.
As mentioned above, an ecosystem in an aquarium can often get out of control, which can cause a serious imbalance in the normal functioning of the organisms that inhabit it. That is why it is recommended that at least once a week various water tests be carried out on:
It is worth noting that it is absolutely not recommended to purchase each test separately, significantly overpaying at the same time. The best option would be to buy a full test kit.
For a routine check, a standard kit will suffice. But if the vessel is intended for marine life, then it is recommended to acquire a special mini-set. To date, there are:
It should be emphasized that sometimes in order to obtain independent results it is recommended to involve a disinterested person. And already in his presence to conduct all the necessary tests. It is also advisable not to tell him about what a particular color means, but simply to ask him about it.
This approach will make the most accurate conclusions about the state of the water in the aquarium.
In addition, progress does not stand still and just a few years ago it became possible to learn some indicators, for example, pH, using electronic devices. It should also be noted that some tests are suitable exclusively for fresh water, and some only for sea water.
Therefore, we dwell in detail on the contents of some test kits.
Regarding the myths of the suitability of some aquarium tests for vegetable aquaria for me was a very revealing performance of the representative of the company JBL Heiko Blessin at a seminar for sellers of pet stores. He told the story that once nobody bought their test for iron.
Then they decided to tell buyers that the test for iron is a test for fertilizers. As a demonstration, it was proposed to drop fertilizer into the tube, after which the test showed a very bright staining of the test solution. And after that, sales of this test increased significantly.
That’s how myths are born among aquarists.
In fact, iron test completely unsuitable as a tool for determining the amount of nutrients in water for plants. In fertilizers, iron is partially or completely bound by strong chelates, which do not allow to correctly determine the concentration of iron in an aquarium by dropping dough, but ensure the availability of iron for plants in the aquarium. And the iron in tap water, which can be determined by the test, due to rapid precipitation is available to plants in very limited quantities.
With this test, you can only determine whether or not there is iron in the water, as in the case of the experiment with the fertilizers above. And how much iron and how much it is available to plants, this test does not allow to understand.
With a phosphate test, not everything is as bad as with a test for iron, but his testimony should also be critical. The fact is that this test allows to determine only the concentration of phosphates dissolved in water.
But many phosphates can be contained in the soil in the form of water-insoluble salts or organic compounds, which for obvious reasons, this test does not determine.
The phosphate test can give an idea of the phosphate content only in a new tank with a neutral ground (pebbles or coarse sand). Over time, the soil is silted and the phosphate content increases. The older the aquarium, the more phosphate it contains in the soil.
The value of phosphates in sludge is that they are available only to the root system of plants and are not accessible to algae, as in the case of dissolved phosphates in water. In this process, bacteria play an important role, as a result of the vital activity of which phosphates dissolve and are immediately consumed in the soil through the roots of plants.
Another situation in which a phosphate test can be confusing when nutrient soils are used. Such soils can absorb phosphates from water by converting it to insoluble salts. At the same time, due to bacteria, phosphates remain accessible to plant roots.
And the test for phosphate will show understated values or even zero.
Ignorance of the above-described features of phosphates and their consumption by plants has led many aquarists to introduce phosphates separately from other macronutrients in an effort to bring their concentration in aquarium water to some “ideal” value. In turn, this “ideal” value arose due to incorrect interpretation of the recommendations of the dosages of macro-fertilizers (nitrates and phosphates). Often, dosages of nitrates and phosphates are recommended as the number of milligrams per volume of water in the aquarium, which must be applied within a week.
For example, the dosage of phosphate is 1 mg / l per week. But the mg / L dimension is also used to estimate the concentration, for example, in the same phosphate test.
And so many aquarists mistakenly perceive this as a recommendation to maintain a phosphate concentration in water of 1 mg / l.
Generally aquarium test phosphates may be useful for herbalists, but you should not adjust the dosage of fertilizers on the basis of its indications.
With nitrates there are no such features as with phosphates, since nitrates are always soluble in water and do not accumulate in the soil. The test can be useful in caring for a plant aquarium with one condition – the test must be calibrated with a standard nitrate solution at least once a month.
The big drawback to nitrate tests from any manufacturer is that over time they begin to lie. In the laboratory, to determine the concentration of nitrates, test solutions are prepared on the day of analysis and in the following days they are little trusted. Drip aquarium tests have a stated shelf life of one year or more, but throughout this period they do not serve at the proper level.
If you do not calibrate the test for nitrate, you can use it only to understand whether there is a lot of nitrate in aquarium water or not enough, but you shouldn’t carry out any accurate calculations, for example, fertilizer dosages.
The ammonium test is even more unstable than the nitrate test, and there is no point in using a standard ammonium solution without calibration. Whatever manufacturers tests for ammonium did not come across to me, all of them after calibration were corrected not just plus or minus 50%, but literally several times in the direction of underestimation of real indicators.
Even in the first half of their shelf life. If we talk about the use of this test in plant aquaria, then its use (of course, with a preliminary calibration) makes sense only if you bring large doses of ammonium salts as a plant feeding.
After all, ammonium and especially ammonia are very toxic to living organisms, even in low concentrations.
Despite the fact that this is the easiest aquarium test, it is the value of the indicator of water acidity (pH) that has the most significant effect on the processes associated with the growth of plants in the aquarium. Whatever values of nitrates or phosphates you have in a plant aquarium, if pH tends to 8, you will not see good growth and appearance of most plants.
This is a very common problem, especially in hard water. More information about the availability of plant nutrients depending on the pH can be found in the article on Diseases of aquarium plants. This is enough to classify this aquarium test as a must have.
Aquarium test for determining the carbonate hardness, CN (or more precisely, alkalinity) can allow you to understand why you have a high pH in your plant aquarium. Since the higher the KN of water, the higher its pH.
An experienced user who has a KN test does not even need an acidity test to understand whether his pH is low or high in aquarium water. For example, in water with a KH of 15 degrees, the pH will be above 7 and sometimes significantly higher.
Also, using pH and CN tests, one can estimate the concentration of carbon dioxide in water using a special table.
For a plant aquarium, testing the overall water hardness is not as important as testing carbonate hardness and pH. As it is correct, the total hardness is higher than the carbonate one by several degrees and it does not affect the pH values.
But there are rare cases when carbonate hardness is higher than the total. This happens when carbonate hardness is due to the high content of sodium and potassium carbonates in water.
It is in this case that alkalinity is most correct, and not carbonate hardness. In such water it is very difficult to keep aquarium plants.
Therefore, in practice, the GH test is needed only to determine if the value of total hardness in water is too low compared to carbonate.
It is not difficult. Each test is provided with detailed instructions. Most often, a specified amount of aquarium water is poured into a measuring cup and a reagent is added dropwise.
Then either consider the number of drops made before the color change, or compare the color of water with a scale. Decrypt the tables, figuring out whether this is the norm or deviation.
If the tests show any abnormalities, first of all it is necessary to ensure the inflow of fresh clean water. Options for how to do this:
Next, replace the prepared one of these methods with water, a third or a quarter of the liquid in the aquarium.
Refresh the water with special commercial reagents to quickly neutralize harmful impurities.
In addition to the minimum set of mandatory tests, there are additional ones that the aquarist may or may not do in his own way. These include:
Phosphate Test (PO4). Ideally, the result should be zero.
It means the stability and steady growth of plants. If an increase in the phosphate content has gone, the algae will immediately begin to grow.
If the threshold is exceeded 1-2 mg / l, then urgent measures should be taken.
Iron Test (FE). The normal concentration is 0.05-0.1 mg / l. When it is raised, fish will suffer, and growing algae will inhibit and destroy the plants.
A deficiency will lead to yellowing of the leaves and chlorosis of the plants.
Carbon Dioxide Test (CO2). It is relevant for plant aquariums, as well as the appearance of a grayish powdered deposit on the leaves of plants.
Copper test (CU). Very poisonous heavy metal, which even in small concentrations destroys invertebrates and causes poor health in fish. May contain tap water or stand out with some decorations and ground.
In the aquarium should not be.
Chlorine test (Cl). Very toxic and toxic.
Present in tap water, but evaporates when it is left standing for 2-3 days in an open container.
Oxygen test (O2). Its presence depends on the water temperature (in cold – more, in hot – less). It is necessary both for the life of the inhabitants, and for the purification of water from poisons, since oxygen-dependent bacteria decompose them.
Not only the lack of this gas is harmful, but also a glut of it.
Calcium Test (Ca). The amount of its salts affects the hardness of the water.
For example, for marine inhabitants, corals, mollusks, turtles a lot of calcium is required. And for some fish that live in soft water, its high concentration is unacceptable.
Now that you know about the interrelation of all water parameters, their impact on the life and health of aquarium inhabitants, how to measure and adjust them, we hope your pets will be less likely to get sick and die, and your home water will delight you with its blooming all year round. kind of.