Please visit our Sponsors

FAQs on Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality

Related Articles: Water Quality, pH, alkalinity, acidityTreating Tap Water, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality, Freshwater Maintenance

Related FAQs:  Treating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, Reverse Osmosis for Freshwater, pH, Alkalinity, Acidity, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease

A nice FW set up in Germany... Ambulia and Cardinals mainly.

I know certain fish can transition from freshwater, brackish, and saltwater.    5/11/07 Hello Crew, I hope everyone is having a good day. <So far, so good!> I know certain fish can transition from freshwater, brackish, and saltwater. <Indeed. Such fish are called "euryhaline fish" as opposed to "stenohaline fish" that are confined to freshwater or saltwater habitats their entire lives.> Does their food need to change also? <A good question. It depends upon on the fish. Certain fish live in one environment for part of their life cycle, and another environment the next part of the life cycle. In many cases, there are dietary changes along with these ecological changes. Atlantic Salmon for example live in freshwater as hatchlings and for the first few months of their life, feeding mostly on insect larvae. They then go to sea for a few years where they feed on crustaceans of various kinds and small fish. Once they reach a certain size they will migrate back into rivers to spawn, but during this spawning run they don't feed much, if at all. They then return to the sea and begin feeding again, in preparation for the spawning run the next year. Other fishes, like scats, simply eat whatever they find wherever they go. These fish move between freshwater and the sea all the time, and what they eat depends only on what they encounter. For the aquarist, one of the striking things about brackish water fish is their greediness. The problem is making sure you don't overfeed them and compromise water quality as a result. Some brackish water fish are predators, and need a primarily meaty diet, but most are omnivores and take a variety of foods including algae, plant matter, frozen foods, and pellets.> I know the salt levels change, but what other effects does it have on their bodies? <The change in salinity is the main thing euryhaline fish have to deal. So in freshwater a scat (for example) will be pumping out excess water while conserving salt, but doing the reverse when it is in the sea. Secondary issues will be differences in temperature (the sea varies more slowly than neighbouring rivers so may be cooler or warmer depending on the season), pH, hardness, and other aspects of water chemistry. Salt water also provides more buoyancy than freshwater, and euryhaline fish also need to adjust the amount of gas in the swim bladder to keep the same level of poise when swimming.> I am particularly interested in mollies. <The relationship between mollies and brackish water is complex. Mollies are naturally found in freshwater, brackish, and marine environments. But in aquaria they tend to do poorly in freshwater, being very prone to fungus, finrot, and the "shimmies". It is not 100% clear to me that they need brackish water, and some aquarists have suggested that it is the ambient level of nitrates that matter. In brackish water nitrate is less toxic than in freshwater, so the mollies will thrive even if the nitrate levels are quite high. It certainly seems to be the case that people who have luck keeping mollies in freshwater aquaria also keep the nitrates at very low (practically zero) levels. In ordinary community tanks where the nitrates are around 20-100 mg/l, mollies just don't do well.> Thank you,      Ann <Cheers, Neale>

Water Quality    1/5/07 Dear Crew: I have a Haque Water System which is a four wash filter (two carbon, bacteria, and then potassium tablets) set up in our house tap water for every sink.  I am worried about the potassium tablets.  The potassium tablets are a substitute for the salt. <Mmm, likely are a salt... any combination of a metal and non-metal compound is such... not just sodium chloride> I have checked the ph level and it is ok for fish from this tap water.  I need to know if this water would be ok to add to the aquarium. <Mmm, if it is designated for human potable use, very likely so. Potassium is almost never either a rate-limiting, or determining nutrient in captive aquatic environments (unlike nitrogen and phosphorus compounds)> I do also have a RO system that is only in the kitchen sink.  The ph was similar to tap in the house.  I just know that the RO does not get everything.   <Mmm, yes... but...> So would I be safe to use the water that has potassium in it or just use the RO water that may have potassium in it.   I have a ocean clear canister with drill holes for the filter that would run the canister and carbon.  So this would clean all the chlorine if there is any. <Maybe... in time... not likely to be an issue if only doing small water changes, especially if the water is (highly recommended) pre-stored... for days, a week ahead of use> The aquarium is not filled yet until I get good solid yes to go with the tap water or RO. <Not likely necessary> The aquarium is 150 gallons.  I plan on doing fresh water fish only. <And depending on the species used, in question, these may require a good deal of the solids removed by the RO> I have ways of getting to the main public water, but it is so dirty and has many parts which I don't even want to talk about in the Phoenix area.  That is why we have the filter for our own potable water, but for the fish is this ok? <Likely so... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i4/RO_systems/reverse_osmosis.htm and the linked files at the bottom. Bob Fenner>

Distilled vs. DI or RO/DI water for FW aquarium use  10/26/06 You've confirmed what I suspected.  However, I'm confused about the water.  I was specifically instructed by more than one pet store and some info from the internet that I should use only distilled water because it DOES contain trace elements. <Not true, according to reading/research I've done.> What is DI or RO/DI water? <DI = de-ionized water; RO/DI = reverse osmosis/de-ionized water.  Read here for more info: http://www.thetropicaltank.co.uk/purewatr.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i4/RO_systems/reverse_osmosis.htm www.airwaterice.com Again, since your Betta has been happy and healthy for 3 or so years, I wouldn't suggest changing anything on his tank now.  I just wanted to give you a "heads up" for future information.  Best regards, Jorie> Last question on RO water for FW   10/2/06 Hello <Hi Steve> This is my last question on RO water. <OK, well this is the first one I've seen - you've got Jorie today...since there was no forwarded message, I wasn't sure who on the crew had previously helped you, so I thought I'd just give it a shot! Hope you don't mind...> After my water is purified could I add a product such as Kent's Discus Essential and Tetra's Blackwater Extract to add to the purified water what the fish need instead of adding an RO Right supplement. I ask this because a friend of mine can works at a Petco and can get me these product for very cheap. The PetCo he works at doesn't carry any RO additives, so I would have to pay full price to get them. <Unfortunately, you are talking about two very different types of products.  I do understand wanting to save money whenever possible, but if you are using RO (or RO/DI) water, it is essential to add back essential elements and trace minerals; even a quick scan of websites such as this [ http://www.petstore.com/ps_ViewItem-SearchStr--action-view-idProduct-KM5691-idCategory-FWASDS-category-Kent_Marine_Discus_Essential_8_oz._Freshwater_Aquarium_Supples_Additives ___Conditioners_Discus_Supplements-vendor-Kent_Marine.html ] specifically state that you must use a product specifically designed as a RO or RO/DI additive before using the other.  I do not have any personal experience w/ Kent's RO Right, but instead use the combination of Aquarium Pharmaceutical's Electro-Right and pH Adjust after making my RO/DI water.  I know that some larger chain stores carry these two products, and they can be found right next to the "Tap Water Filter" made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, usually.  Ask your friend specifically about these two...each one shouldn't be more than $6.00, and a bottle will last you a long, long time (460 gal. or so).  Here's where I order from: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=4492&Ntt=electro%20right&Ntk=All&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Np=1&pc=1&N=0&Nty=1 Sorry about all the questions but I have absolutely no experience with RO systems... <No worries - we all learn through the question and answer process!> ...and I am only 17, so my funds are a little low... <Well, I'm nearly twice your age and I still understand that predicament!> , and if it is possible to use these products instead of the "RO Right" products, it would save me a lot of money that I could invest else where in the tank. <I understand, but you just can't do it without sacrificing the health of everyone in your tank.  Honestly, I make about 10-15 gal. of RO/DI for freshwater use weekly, and I've been on the same bottles of Electro-Right and pH Adjust for months now. Best of luck, Jorie> --Sbatiste RO remineralization   10/2/06 Hello everyone I'm back with another question regarding ro water. I want to keep soft water species such as angelfish. So I bought an ro unit to soften my water and lower my ph. <Good. A useful, appropriate tool> Now from what I understand you have to remineralise the water, but don't the product that do this such as Kent's RO right add stuff back to the water that makes it hard again, like calcium and magnesium. <Yes... to a variable extent... depending on how much you put in> I searched the forms but couldn't quiet grasp the info. Basically what I'm asking is, after you RO water do I have to add anything to it since I'm keeping soft water species such as angelfish, and if I do have to add anything what should I add, should I add the Kent RO right. <I would add some... use tests... likely Alkalinity... to gauge how much you want/need> Thanks, sorry for the drawn out question but I couldn't understand the information. --Sbatiste <Have recently "split up" the RO FAQs, but most relate to marine issues. Bob Fenner>

RO waste water, RO FW use   8/18/06 Hey crew, I believe I remember a few times that Bob has suggested using RO waste water for water changes in outdoor ponds... <Yes... have done this for many years... only slightly more solute laden than the tap/source water> my question is, is this water safe for a FW community tank that has been using the same source water, dechlorinated, from the beginning? If so, would the waste water have to be treated in any way other than aeration for a few days before use? Thanks, Justin <I would mix in some RO along with the source water (for a source of mineral)... can be aerated, stored ahead of use... but most RO devices remove all sanitizer... and if done "properly"... i.e. only partial changes, not much use in aerating, using immediately. Bob Fenner>

Is An R/O Unit Needed?   7/7/06 Hello WWM, I am thinking of getting an RO or RO/DI unit in the near future and was wondering if I really need one with these Tap water parameters. Here they are: Nitrite <2.0  <<Should be zip... I would NOT drink this water. RMF>> alkalinity 84 ph 7.4 phosphate 17 <<Parts per million? Yikes!!! RMF>> silica 16 Is it necessary to get a filter. If so, do I need RO or RO/DI? Thanks so much for the help Mike < All of this is dependent on what kind of fish/organisms you are planning to keep. If you are keeping a sophisticated reef tank, then you might want to invest in an R/O unit so you have complete control over the minerals in the water. Fresh water fish that require soft water like wild discus would be better off with R/O water. With the water parameters you have given I would think you could keep the vast majority of fish in the hobby.-Chuck>

Ammonia in tap water - 6/5/2006 Hi folks. I am still stuck and unable to resolve my problem. I have several freshwater aquariums and am having trouble with my water changes and controlling nitrates. My tap water has .50 ppm of ammonia. <<Whoa. A big problem!>> When added to an established tank, the nitrates shoot way up within about 12 hrs. Just like adding a bunch of fish too quickly. I have tried Jungle Jim's ammonia remover...also tried Amquel...Also tried Novaqua to remove the ammonia in my storage water. How about a few drops of chlorine bleach first, then the Amquel to remove the chlorine? Do you think this would work? I can't afford to buy bottled water for a total of over 200 gallons of aquariums. Please Help!! <<A much better solution is to look into an RO/DI unit.>> Thanks...DR <<Glad to help. Lisa.>> Water Too Soft?    4/4/06 Hi! Thanks again for your informative articles and FAQs! Learned so much already, I am sure I'll learn more! I am hoping not to annoy you by asking something that is already answered, but I just need to know that I am not going insane. The 'problem' is that I am seeing extremely soft water coming straight out of my tap. I have measured it with a kit, and the colour changes with just one drop (<1degree) for both GH and KH. I thought this was wrong, so I bought a different kit -- same result. The pH of the tap water also seems inconsistent -- the chemical tests show 6.7 -- 7.0 (different kits), the electronic probe I recently bought and calibrated (Milwaukee) shows 7.6. I do have one soft, acidic-water fish (chocolate Gourami) and I condition her water with peat, which brings it down to 5.2 quite nicely (coated gravel). In my other tank with uncoated gravel and driftwood, pH is steady at 7.2; another one -- uncoated gravel, no driftwood -- 7.6 (those measurements agree between the probe and chemical kits). Am I seeing what I am seeing -- water so soft that its pH cannot be measured reliably coming out of my tap? Should I run and buy a lot of discus and hide from the aquarists who would kill for tap water like this (and in my case, just might)? Is there any further check I need to do before deciding I am the luckiest new aquarist in the world? Thanks! Yury < Depending in what area of the country you live in , it is entirely possible to have very soft water, especially if you live in the NW U.S. Very soft water with little mineral content may fluctuate  a great deal because it has no buffering capacity. Check your water out of the tap and then place it in a bucket and let it sit for 24 hours and check it again. This should give you a more reliable reading. Soft water can easily be hardened by adding buffers. Enjoy this water and all the fish you are going to be able to keep.-Chuck> Going back to FW From Brackish  - 02/20/06 Greetings Oh Mighty WWM Crew.  I discovered your site a year ago when I purchased a 10 gallon tank for my daughter for her 8th birthday and one of the fish subsequently had babies.  I felt like I was 18 and dating again!! Anyway, throughout the past year I have been reading the Daily Questions and the articles that were appropriate to us ( and many others as well) and have learned about quarantining, have purchased Bio-Spira for cycling (no mean feat up here in Canada), and have become quite well read.  Unfortunately in the beginning, due to my ignorance and a very unhelpful staff at the LFS, our first fish were Mollies.  It quickly became apparent that we as a family were not fond of the livebearer fish, especially due to needing salt, which of course limits the selection of fish available.  Well, we have just lost our last molly, leaving us with three gorgeous male fancy guppies, which were acclimated to the salt over the duration of their quarantine.  They were purchased in October, and we have about 1 tbsp pf salt in our 10 gallon.  My question (bet you were wondering if it was ever going to come) is this:  Would I be able to revert the guppies back to freshwater without harming them? < No problem. Do 25% water changes with FW weekly. After that, the guppies and you biological filtration should be accurate to the new water.> If so how long would be an appropriate time frame? < Check the water for ammonia , nitrites and nitrates. If the ammonia and nitrite levels are zero then the bacteria is doing well in the new water and new fish can be added.> Also, I would love to buy a couple of Otocinclus and a dwarf frog.  Can the Oto survive a month in my quarantine, as it has no algae and would be fed with only sinking pellets until it made it to the tank? < Good quality algae pellets should work fine if you can get him to eat them. Oto's are wild fish and sometimes don't convert from algae to pellets very well.> Lastly, after the first quarantine passes (presuming the fish seem to be free of disease), can I put the frog directly into the quarantine tank without dismantling it (I only have enough Bio-Spira for one tank change) or do I need to take it down and clean it? < If medication was needed for the first fish then I would change all the water, let it sit for a few days and then put the frog in. The bacteria that cause disease need to have a host fish or they usually don't survive.-Chuck> Thank you so much for answering and for all the hard work the crew provides.   Kathy

New FW Tank Questions  - 01/24/06 Good afternoon, Wet Web Crew, Let me start by first thanking Chuck for his advice as to what to do about the cloudy water in my new tank. I've talked to a couple of people at the nearby fish store, and they've said that Lincoln, Nebraska does indeed have hard water. I'm going to go ahead and take Chuck's advice and drain the tank and refill it, which shouldn't take too terribly long. I did a bit of research on the city's drinking water, and here's what I found: the pH is around 7.29, Total Alkalinity is 156 ppm, Total Hardness is 170 ppm (approaching very hard range), and the Calcium levels are 47.5 ppm. This information is current as of December 2004, so I doubt it's changed much since then. Given these numbers, will fish such as cherry barbs, rosy barbs, dwarf gouramis, swordtails, or platies be adversely affected? < All the fish you have picked are captive bred in Asia and will do fine in your water.> Gina Sandford's "The Tropical Aquarium Mini Encyclopedia" lists all of these fish as preferring "soft to slightly hard" water, and these levels are beyond the "moderately hard" range. < The livebearers will actually thrive in the harder water. The barbs really don't care. The gourami might be picked on by the barbs thinking that his long ventral feelers are actually worms for them to eat.> I have had people tell me that it is best not to mess with trying to soften the water, but I'd at least like to give my new fish (whenever I'm able to get them) a fighting chance! Will simply adding the Kordon's NovAqua+ water conditioner be enough to prepare the water for the fish? < It will remove any chloramine and chlorine but will not soften or harden the water much.> Lastly, I'll go ahead and stick with the Hagen's Cycle product. My first choice would have been Bio-Spira as well, but none of the shops up here keep either that product or TurboStart. Thanks again for the help! < Good luck with the new tank.-Chuck> Sincerely, Ivan St. John

Adding Chemicals to R/O Water For German Rams  1/16/06 I plan on using Buffer to do the 6.8 pH that you  recommended, but the R/O Right adds some salts and other "essential  stuff" that the water supposedly needs to be healthy--even for a soft  water tank.  I hadn't heard about the needing to do that, so that  is why I was confused.  So would you add it? Thanks again, Scott < I would recommend that you follow the directions on the package and see how the rams are doing. German rams are a domestic strain of rams that are much hardier than their wild cousins.-Chuck> Water chemistry question  1/8/06 Dear WWM Crew: First, I would like to start off wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.  Thank you for your ceaseless and selfless dedication to making this site what it is.  You all have helped me once in the past and I hope you will help again.  My question involves water chemistry.  I have done quite a bit of reading, but I am still somewhat confused.  In testing our tap water, we found that it is a bit unfriendly for our fishy family members: ammonia 4-8 ppm, nitrite .5-1 ppm nitrate 20-40 ppm, <... these readings are dangerous for your domestic use...> TDS 220.  We were buying bottled water from the grocery store but that grew old fast because we have 4 freshwater tanks totaling 245g with a 5th tank (75g rainbowfish) in the works.  We took the plunge and bought an AquaFX Mako 5 stage RO/DI with chloramine buster attachment (by the way, it is a phenomenal filter, if somewhat expensive) which gives us wonderfully pure water.  I do understand about reconstituting the water.  I understand it is better to aerate the water for 24 hrs before buffering, and I do somewhat understand the relationships between pH, KH and GH. <Good> I have read here on WWM that a stable pH is more important than an 'ideal' pH <Yes> and I understand the reasoning behind it.  In my first attempt to make up water, my parameters are as follows, pH 7.6, 9 DKH and 23 DGH.  The pH pretty much matches the pH in the tanks now, with 2 of the community tanks at 7.6 and the other community tank and dwarf cichlid tank at 7.4.  I am using 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1tablespoon of Epsom Salts and 1tablespoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons. <Mmm, this is a bunch of Epsom, and possibly too much aquarium salt... I would dilute this by at least half> I will be taking another container and split this between the 2 before making more water to lower the KH and DH, but my question really is: can too much KH and GH be harmful to fish? <Depends on 1) the species, 2) what they've been raised in/exposed to, 3) what you want them to do, and 4) "other" factors... All have some range, tolerance to change...>   We don't keep Discus, but we do have some interesting fish including a black Ghost Knife and African Butterflies.  I know that some fish like a softer water to breed in, but we are not really interested in breeding fish at this time. Also, is it more important to pay attention to the alkalinity for keeping the pH stable, or treat the KH and GH equally? <More important to gauge, adjust alkalinity overall in most cases/settings... the calcium hardness is good to "judge" or keep at about half or so of general hardness...> Am I using too much aquarium salt to add back the trace elements? <Yes... I would use either a good general buffering product (made for aquarium use) or make one up here. Salts (combinations of metals and non-metals) have other properties... You don't want to "knock yourself out" trying to avoid salts altogether (they are present in all waters to a degree), but I would not purposely add much "back" to adjust your water>   To paraphrase Dr. McCoy: "Dammit Jim, I'm a computer technician not a water chemist!"  Thanks again for any clarity you can offer and keep up the awesome job. Thomas N. (Tom) Bilello <Understood... With the number of gallons total in your systems... I would rig up a system to "batch treat" your make-up water... engage a calcium carbonate addition as well as the/a bicarbonate (baking soda)... and likely leave this as it... Bob Fenner> Modifying Aquarium Water  9/12/05 Hi crew, I have a 3g f/w tank in which I'm having trouble keeping the pH pinned where it ought to be.  I've been using chemicals to lower the pH but the results are unsatisfactory. I'm not keen on getting an RO/DI unit-- I don't have this problem in my larger tank and RO/DI seems like a big investment for such a small tank. However, since the tank is so small, it wouldn't be too costly to use spring or distilled water.  I imagine the chemical composition of spring water will change from brand to brand, and maybe even batch to batch, so I'm wondering if distilled water would be better in that respect.  I know I'll have to add buffers to the distilled water, but do commercial buffers also contain the minerals etc that are missing from distilled water, or are there other commercial products that would serve that purpose for a f/w tank? Overall, which would you recommend, spring or distilled? < Once a week buy a 1 gallon bottle of distilled water. Pour it into a bucket. Use a water buffer to put the water where you want it to be. Use that water to do your weekly water changes. Don't try and do this actually in the fish tank.> Related question-- during the summer months I use cooling fans to keep the temperature down on a different tank (12g f/w).  This results in quite a bit of evaporation, and during a hot week I'll end up adding up to 1 gallon to top off the tank, or even more-- i.e. I am evaporating/replacing about 5-10% of the tank volume per week.  Would it be a good idea to use distilled water to top off the tank, to avoid a build-up of salts/minerals/etc that don't evaporate?  Or should I do more frequent water changes? Thanks,-Dave < Topping the tank with distilled water will keep the water chemistry consistent. Adding tap water will probably increase the mineral content of the water and may have adverse effects with pH and overall water hardness. Soft water fish will generally be more affected that fishes requiring hard or brackish water.-Chuck> New Tank Problem Hello! I really liked your website and added to my favorite list and I now read information about my fish from your web portal. Thanks. I have 20 gallon tank, which I set up just 9 days before. I have three Mickey mouse platys (one male and two females) and two emerald green Corydoras (not sure about gender). I have some live and plastic plants and gravel at bottom. Yesterday, I noticed that one of the female platys has big stomach as compared to the another female. Her stomach is big in round in shape bulging under. she always swim on the top levels and the male chases her all the times. However, she is not hiding at any places and eating a lot all times. Is she pregnant? I am not sure whether she is pregnant or not. <A healthy adult Platy spends her entire life pregnant, so chances are very good.> I have also tested water for ammonia and found that ammonia in water is high level. I knew from discussion that it is because of the new tank set up and ammonia level would reduce by time. I have also added cycle liquid and freshwater BioZyme to minimize the cycle for the new tank. After adding, BioZyme powder I found that I have very small particles floating in all water and also have small white things sticking on the every surface of the aquarium. These small white things are attached to the surface of aquarium glasses, plants and gravels. I wonder what these white things are and are they harmful to the fish. Thanks a lot in advance. Min <I wouldn't worry about the white particles. You will remove them with the series of water changes you are about to start. You need to get that ammonia out of your system. No chemicals except dechlorinator, do 50% water changes daily until at zero. Then read here on establishing FW bio filtration. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm - Don> 

Trace Elements for Freshwater Aquariums 3.16.05 I was curious about your opinion on trace element supplementation on freshwater aquarium. <It depends on the application I suppose.> In that companies like Seachem produce liquid trace element products. The question is do I need them? The best way to restore trace elements is that of a frequent water change, i.e. once a week is good. <Bingo> But if the fish are using these 'trace elements' faster than I'm replacing with water changes or there is a lack of a certain element in my local water supply then the fish could be negatively influenced. What's your opinion? I don't mind spending a little money in the right direction for my fish, but there are many snake oil products out there. Thank you for your time, Jonathan <Well I am not going to lie to you, there was a time when I purchased a bottle of Goldfish Essentials; I wanted the best for my little buddies and I was going to try any product that offered them a better life. I can't say I noticed much of a difference with the addition of the trace elements, and if the fish did they never mentioned it to me. Nowadays I use buffers that include trace elements to buffer my water, but not because my fish might have used up all of the beneficial elements. Unless you are using RO/DI water or you know your tap water is lacking something, I would not use this stuff; it is just one more thing that has the potential to cause problems. That's my opinion; I will toss your query back into the inbox so we can get some others opinions as well. -Cheers Gage> 

Question of trace element supplements on fresh water aquarium Hello, <Hi there> I was curious about your opinion on trace element supplementation on freshwater aquarium. In that companies like Seachem produce liquid trace element products. The question is do I need them? <Possibly.... though, not likely... A few "generic" statements here. How in the deuces could we/anyone make such products... w/o knowing what is in folks' source water? What they had in the way of livestock? What their desires were with this livestock of unknown "like", range of water quality? Answer: You got me too> The best way to restore trace elements is that of a frequent water change, i.e. once a week is good.  <Agreed in almost all cases> But if the fish are using these 'trace elements' faster than I'm replacing with water changes or there is a lack of a certain element in my local water supply then the fish could be negatively influenced. <Or reciprocally, as much as there are possibilities of deficiency syndromes... there are over-treatments, antagonistic possibilities...> What's your opinion?  <Unless.... you have tremendous, make that TREMENDOUS high stocking densities, with LOTS of live plants... are using... reverse osmosis, deionized, even distilled water! I would just stick with the periodic, frequent partial water change mode> I don't mind spending a little money in the right direction for my fish, but there are many snake oil products out there. Thank you for your time, Jonathan <My usual response here: Don't (or I would not) "dose" with anything you cannot AND will not test for. Thank you for writing. Now I'll have to make up a whole new category of FW water quality! Bob Fenner> 

Having BIG Problem Setting up Fresh water Tank  I fill with water with air and underground filter running everything o.k. couple days then I start my outside filter running (whisper) starts smelling maybe like ammonia. No fish added yet. What's wrong I'm and going crazy with this, done this 4 or 5 times PLEASE HELP!! <Ok, take a big breath and relax! First off, I'm super glad to hear you haven't put any fish in the system yet - kudos to you in doing this the responsible way. Do you have a test kit, one to measure (at least) ammonia, nitrite and nitrate? I'd suggest you test your tap water as soon as it comes out of the faucet, then also test your tank. Take some time to do reading on what's known as the "nitrogen cycle" on WWM and other internet sites (you can search for that term on Google and come up with some helpful articles and diagrams). Also, I'd recommend either buying or checking out from a local library a great beginner's book called "The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums" by David E. Boruchowitz - he, too, does a great job explaining the cycling process, as well as helpful tips to setting up a first aquarium. Good luck, and take your time - there's a lot of information to absorb! Jorie> 

Re: Confused about the effects of my Water Softener Thanks for your quick response. I have re-plumbed my home water supply so that I have filtered, unsoftened well water available for my cichlids.  I also plumbed water lines pre and post softener over to my reef tank (which hasn't arrived yet).  When I get my R/O system for the Reef, do I supply it with water AFTER the softener, or BEFORE the softener (but still after the particulate filter)? < The R/O unit will take the minerals out of the water either way, but may last longer if it is run after the softener.-Chuck> Still reading your site daily.  Thanks again! -Tim

Big Fish, Tiny Tank Thanks for your reply were getting a bit worried now. The tank is 1ft 3 inch hexagon shape we have 1 other redcap with 4 small goldfish in there. It had fresh water changed today. We normally change water once a week. Hope to hear from you soon. Julie & Duncan Johnson <Far too many of these large waste producers for this tiny tank. Too small for even one to live comfortably. To have all six of these fish thrive you would need at least a 55 gallon with heavy filtration, IMO. Please consider an upgrade to the tank or retiring the goldfish and try a smaller species. Without a heater, White Clouds are a good choice. Add a heater and your options increase. Please research the adult size of any fish before buying. Don>       Peat! - 10/06/2004 Hi, <Hello, there.> I am trying to setup a South American tank (mostly for tetras and a few of the neat South American cichlids) and would like to lower the pH of my water (which is 7.8). <Fun.> My wife bought a bag of peat moss from Wal-Mart for really cheap.   <Ahh, peat.  The life-blood of my tanks.  I'd like to mention, I keep my tanks at a constant 6.2 with peat and bogwood alone - down from a daunting 8.5 out of the tap (higher in the summer).> Specifically, Gardenscape Sphagnum peat moss.  Is there a significant danger of adding this to my fish tank (i.e. due to pesticides or other undesirables?) <I am not familiar with this brand.  Inspect the bag very carefully, look for anything concerning "mildewcide" as well as pesticides.  Then call or otherwise contact the manufacturer and ask them the same - are there any mildewcide or other chemicals in the stuff.> If this brand seems like a bad idea, are there other specific brands of peat moss that you can recommend as aquarium safe?   <I use Sunshine.  I haven't bought any in ages, though, due to the size of the bale, and haven't seen it in a while, either.  IIRC, it cost me something like seven bucks at a Wal-Mart, was half a cubic yard, and was only available in the springtime.> I am aware that Fluval makes some peat additives, but they seem to be expensive <Expensive INDEED, compared to what I have.  But worth it, if you are terribly concerned.> (since I have a 75 gallon tank, my guess is that I'll need a lot of peat moss). <You'll be *very* surprised, I wager.  A few nice pieces of bogwood alone may do all you need.  A handful or two of peat will take you a long way.  I replace mine only very seldom.  Also, do be aware that it will stain your water a luscious tea-color.  I like this, and feel that it only adds to the "natural"-looking effect of my tank.> Thanks for your great site. <And thank you for your kind words!> Nate Terry <Wishing you and your new tank well,  -Sabrina>

Re: Tapwater issues, FW acid-base chemistry I wrote a few days ago about pH and buffering for a freshwater aquarium. Bob Fenner mentioned looking into an RO unit, saying my tapwater seems to be an issue; I've since tried some experiments with tapwater and various buffers in a bucket. <Ah, good> My tapwater comes out pH 8.0 but only 1.0~1.5 degrees KH <I recall... alkali influences that are not "hardness" (mainly calcium based> Adding Seachem's "Acid buffer," for example, to a bucket drops the pH to around 5.0.  Adding a little bit of alkaline buffer brings it back to around 6.0.  The bottles say to use a ratio of 1 acid:1.3 alkaline to get pH 6 or so; I end up with about 8.0.  From various experiments, I've determined that if my tapwater has measurable KH value at all, it will end up above 8.0 pH. <Yes... do you understand the concepts of pH as separate from alkalinity/acidity measures?> Even bubbling de-chloraminated tapwater in a bucket overnight leaves me with pH 8.0.  A month ago I tried the same thing and got pH 7.0! <Interesting, but not too surprising... think about this, your water is barely buffered... likely bubbling air in the night added more carbon dioxide, which is highly water-soluble, going into solution as carbonic acid... donating protons (or removing electrons depending on your model of an acid)...> Looking at my notes, it has only been in the last 2~3 weeks that the tapwater has been behaving like this.  Do you suppose that the city might have spiked the water supply with some chemical, perhaps a higher chloramine dose, that is jacking with my pH control? <More likely your house had less air-circulation... yes, the CO2 came from the occupants of the house, you and your houseplants, pets... Bob Fenner, who suggests you use the Net, maybe a high school level chemistry text, WWM articles to gain an understanding of what you're measuring, still look into means of starting with "just water" before trying to adjust it> Thanks Chad Source aquarium water problems Thank you for taking the time to help people with their aqua. problems. I need advice about my water problems. Both of our well and tap water are terrible for fish. I've read that water that's been through home water softeners shouldn't be used because of added and/or removed ions anyway.  Here's my water perimeters tested with a liquid test kit.  Tap water with aquarium conditioner: 7.6ph-3dgh-18dkh. Well water with aqua. cond.: 7.4-7.6ph-19dgh- 20dkh I have been diluting my well water half and half with bottled water to get proper perimeters for goldfish and diluting my well water 1/4 well to 3/4 bottled for tropical fish. Diluting isn't much of a problem with my mini aqua. but I would like to get a 20 gal. tank. I am not looking forward to mixing up 5 gal. of water for every water change, especially when new tank is being established (requiring frequent changes). Also can't get ph of water in the tank down below 7.6-7.8 when using 3/4 bottled to 1/4 well, even when using proper amounts of "ph down". The water has a ph of 7 when added.  The one local pet shop I tried to tell my problem to said not to worry about it , all area water is hard and I could try adding a piece of wood. The wood hasn't made any difference yet. Any advice you give would be appreciated. Thank-you! < For advice on softening water and lowering pH I will refer you to marineland .com and check out Dr Tim's library. There are many articles on how to lower pH and what is going on with your water.-Chuck> 

Starting with distilled water Dear Crew: What are the pros/cons/ramifications of using distilled water to start an aquarium and for water changes? < This all depends on what you want to do. Generally distilled water is pure H2O and has no minerals or salts. Bacteria need some minerals like calcium for nitrification. There is no buffering capacity to the water. As the fish waste builds up, the water could quickly turn acidic and kill off all your fish. You need to add something to the water to maintain a stable pH. Their are many buffers sold in the aquarium trade by manufacturers that will put your ph anywhere you want it. Very good if you want to maintain soft water fish like discus, dwarf cichlids, cardinals etc... If you were keeping hard water fish then you would have to add lots of minerals to stabilize the ph at a much higher range, but this is easy to do. If you wanted to keep marine fish and reef invertebrates then the advantage of using pure water is you can add all the minerals you need in the exact amounts you need without worrying about existing minerals in tap water that may throw some equilibrium off. Many salt mixes work best if distilled or R/O water is used.-Chuck>

RO/DI buffering for Amazonian tanks 8/15/04 After reading all the great advice on your site, I decided to purchase a Captive Purity RO/DI unit. It is installed and running. My source water straight from the tap is PH=8.3 GH=13 KH=18, <hmmm... very nice for marine and African cichlid tanks... but not so for Amazonian as you know> of course now after first passing through my water softener and then my RO/DI system the water has changed to PH=6.6 GH and KH=0. I was just wondering if after aerating and heating this water for 24 hours, should I add the salt mix before the reef buffer to bring the water to 8.3 or should I buffer it first then add salt? <aerate first... then buffer... mix/aerate some more... then ad salt: 24-48 hour process> Is this straight RO/DI water ok to use after heating and aerating for Discus and freshwater stingrays? <never use raw RO/Di or otherwise demineralized water for any fishes (FW or evap top off)... it can be dangerous. At least a little bit of buffering is needed to keep it stable. Add enough buffer to get to say 60-100ppm hardness> the PH and hardness seem right, unless I am missing something? <zero hardness is dangerous even for the most acidic Amazonian fishes (like Heckel discus). You can allow your pH to fall lower (to 6.0) for those strict acid-loving species... but always and only with adequate buffer to the water (60-100ppm for Amazonians) to protect the pH from crashing and stressing (acidosis) or killing fishes. Anthony>

Ammonia, shipping water, freshwater tank, oh oh Chuck: Your expertise, please: I just added a school of 6 blue tetras (various sizes) yesterday in addition to 1 gold gourami.  This is the 4th group of fish I've added, and my largest number at one time.  My ammonia reading today was 0.15 and my nitrite reading was .25.  I've noticed this slight spike every time I add fish, but it usually tapes off pretty quickly.  Is this normal? < If you added the water from the bag with the fish then this is to be expected. It could have come from the aquarium water that the fish were purchased in.>   Is there anything I should add to the water? < As long as the ammonia levels stay low then I might do a water change or add some Amquel plus or Kent ammonia Detox but I only would use these for sporadic use.> I've kept bubble wands going continuously to keep the oxygen level elevated.  I just need either reassurance or advice-whichever is needed. P.S. Water is still nice and clear and fish look happy and comfortable. < The water chemistry should be fine. Don't over feed. Your gourami doesn't like too strong a current. -Chuck> Cyndy Monarez/Thomas Nelson

Questions on oxygenation Hi there, <Hi, Magnus here to help> Hope you can help me out with my queries. I have a planted tank with overflow system and sump. At present, there are no fishes in it except for aquatic plants. My question is can I  inject air (by means of air pump) into the sump tank instead of main tank as I will be introducing fishes later on or there's not even the need to. Will introducing air bubbles into the sump (just before water pump back into main tank) gives oxygenated water to main tank? Kindly advise. Thanks. <Yes, in my opinion it will definitely raise the oxygen levels in your tank.  I was amazed at the how much adding a simple air stone and pump to my tank had altered my O2 reading.  It will be a good idea for the soon to be added fish, though, I'm sure the plants in there are doing an amazing job at pumping out O2.  Good luck. -Magnus> Ammo-Loc Will use of the product Ammo-loc negate the nitrification process in a freshwater aquarium's biological filter. Thank you for your assistance. < Sometimes these products hang on to the ammonia but the bacteria are still able to break it down into nitrites. As new formulas come out all the time I would recommend that you try these things with caution. You may not get an ammonia spike but then you may get a large nitrite spike which can be just as bad depending on the pH and the concentration.-Chuck> 

Treating Tap Water I realize that you have gone through this topic extensively.  I recently set up a 90-gallon freshwater planted aquarium.  The pH from the tap is fairly high (approx 8.2). <About the same here in San Diego, California> I am using CO2 to keep the pH more bio-friendly (approx 7.4). <This will only effect a temporary change likely> I also bought a product called Prime made by Seachem.  It states on the label that it removes chlorine, chloramines, and ammonia.  It also states that it detoxifies nitrite and nitrate as well as providing a slime coat and essential ions.  There is no list of ingredients, but it does state on the bottle that it contains hydrosulfite salts.  The website lists thiosulfate and hyposulfite (does hydrosulfite fit in this group as a sulfur containing compound?)... <Yes> ... as dechlorinators, not as Dechloraminators.  Does the statement that it provides a slime layer imply that it contains formaldehyde? <Could, but does not in this case... formulations are proprietary, but contains a PVP (Poly vinyl pyrolidone) substance...> Should I stop using this product and buy something else? <Not necessarily... but depending on your wishes, time to do such, I encourage you to consider "making" make-up change-water in a separate container (a sturdy trashcan with lid will do, small circulating pump, heater)... and treating it with peat, perhaps starting with a mix of Reverse Osmosis treated water (this is what we do)... and storing said water for a week or more before use> Oh, one last thing.  Is driving the pH down from 8.2 to 7.4 with CO2 gas dangerous? <Could be... depending on the livestock, the make-up of your source water... but not likely>  Do fish get CO2 narcosis like people? <Yes> My fish aren't unconscious, but they don't seem real happy either.  Thanks, Neil Markus <Time to do a bit more research... on water chemistry, your livestock and easier means of accomplishing a more agreeable pH (and likely alkalinity). Bob Fenner>

Salt In Fresh Water Tanks Hi guys- have sort of a dumb question for you. <No question is ever dumb!> They say to put 1 Tablespoon of  aquarium salt to every 5 Gal. of tank water in a fresh water tank. Ok so now I make a ten gallon water change so in that 10 Gal. change do I put in 2 Tablespoons of salt or 1/2 that amount. So over  lets say 1 years time with all these water changes you really don't know if you have the right amount of salt in the tank . <Yep- you're right- it can be a bit confusing...But I'd just stick with the same amount of salt in the same amount of water each change...consistency is best, IMO> Ya know you might get a little more or less salt in there on different water changes. How do you tell how much salt you really have in the tank at any one given time. <Well, if you start to notice pulsing xenia taking over your tank- then you have too much salt...Seriously, though-theoretically, you could use a hydrometer that's sensitive enough to measure the small amount of salt in the water...> And what good does it do to put salt in there anyway? <I think that a lot of the argument for adding salt to freshwater tanks is that it is thought to help with disease prevention. Guppy and other livebearer breeders have been advocating the use of salt in their tanks for decades. And, judging by some of the gorgeous, healthy fish they breed, who can argue with that? I suppose that you would not want to add salt in every situation (i.e; fishes that prefer very soft, acidic water), but if it works for you, why not? Thanks a lot for your help for about the 6th. time.  Bill <Hey, Bill- even if it's the 63rd time, it's okay- that's why we're here! Regards, Scott F>

Well water for fresh water fish Hi, I have a old (approx10 years) freshwater fish tank and up to the present 5 years it held tap water. When I got it I cleaned it and changed everything in it, including using well water which is what I have at my home. For the past 11/2 months the water has been cloudy (whitish color) and I have tried everything including changing my filter more than usual, I have a whisper quiet filter system in it and cutting back my fishes food amount during feeding. I have maintained a schedule of replacing about 5 gallons of water a week like always and nothing is working. I don't know what else to do. I check the chemical amounts every week and everything. I have not had this type of problem since the tank was given to me 5 years ago. My fish aren't dying off and are still as active as usual. The only thing I can think of is my lighting. The bulb is going to be replaced as of 11-02-02. What is or how high of wattage is safe for my fish or is the problem that this tank is just needing replacing and if so we would like to purchase about a 35 gallon octagonal shaped tank with a stand but cant find one is the tiny little town. Do you sell anything of that nature and what kind of price am I looking at? Thank you so much Ms. Mickie McCauley <Hi Mickie, You don't mention your water parameters (pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, hardness) for the aquarium, your well water, or the type of fish you keep. I would test your well and tank water pH and adjust as necessary for the fish you keep. There is more on this at WetWebMedia.com (freshwater fish). Change your filter media as usual and rinse in old tank water. Replacing the media constantly prohibits the development of beneficial bacteria that consume aquarium wastes. Replacing carbon every thirty days under normal circumstances is acceptable. Do you have hard or iron water? If so you should think about investing in a reverse osmosis or deionization water filter to remove any well water contaminants. If this is only in the last 1 1/2 months, I would think about what changed. Did you change your maintenance, feeding, food, filtration? Is that when you started replacing the filter cartridge more often? It is not at all uncommon for well water to change composition. Do you test your well water and know if it contains any chemical or mineral contaminants that could be problematic? You can have well water tested for some of these elements for free at Sears and outlets like Culligan, or usually for a small fee at your local fish store. You mention your bulb is old. These usually need replacing every 9 months to a year, depending if you have live plants, etc. Speaking of live plants, these could cause clouding for reasons specific to plants. There is more on this at WetWebMedia.com. I don't advise buying a new aquarium unless you really want a new aquarium. A new aquarium won't necessarily alter what is happening with your water. If you have decided to get a new aquarium for other reasons, you can see some of the various manufacturers and materials available from the sponsors of WetWebMedia. If your well water is hard or contains other contaminants, they also stock filtration devices for your source well water. I would focus on hardness, pH, wastes, (plants? and light?) and any changes in husbandry in the last month and a half as the source of the problem. Maybe slow down on the water and cartridge changes to give the tank a chance to become stable as long as this is verified with tests for nitrates. There is much, much more at WetWebMedia.com, freshwater fish. Craig> 

Fish, food, bubbles... where's the filter??? Thank-you for the advise!  <quite welcome> And for your good deed of answering, you get more questions! <what... no hairy kewpie doll?!?!> You said not to use my water from my water softener.  <yep> Without it, my water has a high iron content...thus the need for the softener.  <nope... you have an iron problem, not a hard water problem (calcium and the like). Someone snookered you into an water purifying unit for "deadly" iron when there are/were much cheaper and better alternatives. To be specific, if your water softener was a deionizer, I would have less of a problem with it. DI imparts nothing and produces pure water that you can reconstitute to harder more stable water with baking soda (and cheaply too). Water softeners that use salt pellets or pillows however are junk. Not that great for us to drink and worse for fishes (accumulated chloride ions). For your fish... all you need is a metal "sponge" (resin) or better yet... a simple poly filter pad in your filter. It will take our all of the iron and so many other bad things and leave most all of the good stuff behind. Yes... a simple poly filter pad from the LFS or mail-order (made by Poly Bio Marine). Less than $10 and will take care of the whole tank for 2-4 months. That's about $50 bucks a year> When I filled my Koi pond, I used it too! I have a well, not town water, no chorine, if that makes a difference.  <hmmm... we need to be clear here. I assumed that your purifier was a salt recharged unit. Am I mistaken? Do you have an RO or DI instead?> You said chloride ions, so I assume that you were talking about a reaction between the chlorine in community water systems, and the salt in a water softener. Is that true?  <nope... as per above. A type of water softener. Sounds like you may not have it if you don't use pellets in your water filter> So, for us country folk, is a water softener better than our high iron well water?? <indeed, you do not want to be drinking high iron or untreated well water at any rate. Still... a whole house Deionizer is a fine unit too> (gallons of Poland Spring are not an option) I put a few of my nice local rocks in the tank, so there should be plenty of hardness (doesn't that mean dissolved minerals?)  <no guarantee they will dissolve at all, enough or too much. You need to test to confirm this or fishes could suffer in the long run> I made nice caves with them for the fishes. Since I do have quite a lot of fish/gallon, as you said, I want to be sure that I do the filtering right! Right now, I have an Aquaclear 150 from a smaller tank. Ammonia levels are still zero, but since my fish will grow, I was considering buying an Aquaclear 300, since I have been happy with that brand. (Or should I go bigger? The 500?)  <surely you have another large filter on this tank? An undergravel filter or a canister? If not... you will be experiencing a massive fish die off in the next 4-8 weeks. Seriously, my friend. You see... I don't have enough information here so I'm extrapolating. But if the AquaClear is your only filter... not only is it not big enough or the right style for primary biological filtration... but what little bio-filtration you get from it will be destroyed every time you clean or change the filter cartridges! You need to stop buying fish immediately at any rate until the tank and biological filters mature more. Please, my friend... these are living creatures. Do buy a handy book instead of a fish for your next purchase <G>> Remember from my previous note, I have a 46gal with...ok 47 fish now. Yes, I will stop buying fish....really.....soon.  <now please> I also have 2 Wall of bubbles that go all across the back of the aquarium, which makes for nice movement of the water, and a nice playtime for the fish. Do I need an undergravel filter as well?  <oh, my... I suspect the AquaClear is your only filter. Please get a large canister filter or wet dry trickle filter ASAP. Weekly water changes too... I assure you. This tank with 47 fishes will see a massive Ammonia spike and fish kill within the month run only by an Aquaclear filter> That would be instead of the wall of bubbles if I use it.  <the bubbles are just oxygen... you need biological filtration from bacteria en masse> The people in the local pet stores say no, it just makes more work, but I was just wondering about your opinion. I would like to do as much biofiltering as possible. <as per above> Also, I currently have a 30watt strip light, and have just ordered a 110 watt compact fluorescent to try to brighten up the tank and keep all my live plants nice and happy.  <and see the bodies easier... heehee> I am thinking I should have asked you this before (but little did I know where all the answers lived at that time), but is 110 watts a bit much?  <not at all for many plants. Fine lighting for good plant growth. Do enjoy> I'm wincing as I listen for the answer, as it is already ordered. <rest easy... a fine light> ALSO (yes, I'm new to this, I ADMIT it) The fish store says to add 1 teaspoon of salt per gallon of water, and I have so far added about half that. Won't that make my live plants unhappy?  <yes... it is a bit heavy for plants but does benefit the fishes. Half dose is a good compromise> I hooked up the heater as you suggested, and have it set at 74. Is that good for the mollies, platys and guppies? <cold indeed... these are tropicals: 76F minimum... 78/79 ideal... warmer is still OK> Oh, and the local pet store was so fascinated with the long worm thing, that they have it in the pet store, set up in a little tank with just one fish in it, to see what it will do or become. I will keep you posted on that. --Thanks, Lisa <I wish you the very best, my friend. Indeed... do consider reading more to become a good educated consumer on these topics rather than depend on the local fish store (LFS) for advice. They are not honest or competent if they let you buy 47 fishes for a 46 gallon tank with only one secondary filter. Do seek more information from people and places that aren't trying to sell you something :). And then when that advice agrees with a good local merchants advice... please support that local dealer. Best regards, Anthony>

New FW Tank Bob: <<Actually JasonC, Bob is off on another diving excursion.>> I am in the process of starting a 55 gallon Fresh water aquarium. To filter the water I have an Emperor filter system by Marineland in Moorpark CA. Now as to my problem, I set up my tank and have let is stand for a week. It Remains cloudy. I have no fish or plants in the tank and it is not in direct sunlight. Any Suggestions? <<Check your source water.>> Philip J. Rossomando  <<Cheers, J -- >>

Re: cloudy freshwater Hi Bob thank you for replying so quickly. I will certainly try the baking soda and hopefully it will help, My next water change is scheduled for the end of the week. One other question about all of this. What exactly causes the white cloudiness? thanks again Dela <Could be a few things... likely an actual "bacteria bloom"... actually a mix of a bunch of microscopic organisms... that do settle down to a more sedentary, less populous, less speciose community in time. Bob Fenner>

Re: cloudy freshwater > Hi Bob, > Thank you for the response. I took out the softening pillow and it's been > out for about a week and a half. I did another water change with prepared > water last Friday hoping that it would clear the water with no luck. > <More time, patience> > I have the tank sitting next to a window and had a backing on the tank as > well as blinds and thought that would be enough to control the amount of > light coming into the tank. My water still started turning green so I went > out and bought a second layer of backing and made sure my blinds were > completely closed 24/7. With these changes the green went away in about 2 > days, but the white cloudiness is still lingering. I'm not sure what to do > at this point I thought It would have cleared by now after being this way for > nearly 3 weeks. > Any suggestions would be appreciated, > thank you again > Dela > <There are clarifying agents, but if it were me I'd first try "the baking > soda trick"... add one rounded teaspoon of baking soda, aka sodium > bicarbonate, to about a quart of system water, dissolving it completely, and > slowly add/pour this into the discharge area of rapid mixing (like near your > filter outlet) to the tank... The addition of alkalinity and ions will speed > the clearing process. Do this addition once a week during water changes. Bob Fenner>

Soft Water, High pH Hi! <Howdy!> Regarding keeping a 100 gallon Discus Fish tank: My tap water measurements- pH 8.6 dh Total hardness 7.1 dh Alkalinity 2.1 dh <holy cow! way too high on the pH for the SA discus fish.!!! How involved would it be, and is it practical to try to bring the water parameters in line with what discus require, that is a much lower pH, keeping the water soft, but having enough of a buffer to keep the pH stable. <all with reason. And if you want to have the best color and even any prayer of them breeding... this pH must come down. Some buffer is good indeed for a stable pH, but 7dKHis just plain hard water and will significantly if not severely affect the fertility of your discus spawns. Eggs may still be lain... but the fertility will be awful. I used to own a 3,000 gallon discus hatchery in a region with similar medium hard water.> I know its all a juggling act, but at my modest skill level I can't evaluate the complexity of what may be involved. Is it as simple as lowering the pH with peat moss, or Muriatic acid or other product) and keeping a close eye on the pH?  <peat is stimulating for other reasons and recommended if you like or don't mind the tannins... but it is too tedious for water softening. Resist the use of acid (use only to tweak chemistry on occasion). Control softness and pH easily by learning to mix DI or RO in with your tap water to get a pH closer to or below 7.0 and a hardness closer to or below 100ppm> Is the buffering capacity of the water high enough to help maintain a stable, lower pH, or would I have to add a carbonate buffer to insure that it remains stable? Will determining this be a process of trial and error, and if so can you advise on the best way to go about it in a logical fashion. Thanks for any help you can give, Bill<as per above, my friend... best regards, Anthony>

Use of Purified Water for Freshwater Greetings, WWM Crew, I maintain several aquariums in my local area (fledgling service biz) <Do look over Bob's writing on aquarium businesses. They have been very helpful to me in my maintenance business, http://www.wetwebmedia.com/indarts.htm.> and use only ro/di water. I have recently been asked to set up a freshwater tank for a client and friend. I was wondering are there trace elements I can/should add to the water. <Yes, various buffering compounds to stabilize and reconstitute the water.> I know that marine salts have some trace elements in them and expect the same for the cichlid salts, but what about goldfish or discus.  <For the discus, I would refer you to the monthly writings of Jack Wattley in TFH. For most other freshwater fish, treated tapwater is fine. I would use the RO/DI for discus and planted tanks.> Thanks for all your help. Commendations to all @ WWM for taking the time to share the wealth. QT's WORK USE THEM EVERYONE! thanks again Ron <Thank you and very well said. -Steven Pro>

New Ten Gallon Tank and Freshwater Hobbyist Mr. Fenner, <You reached Steven Pro working his shift answering the daily questions. Anthony Calfo and I are helping out for awhile.> I am new a both the computer and aquarium. <Glad to welcome you into this great hobby!> I have owned this ten gallon aquarium for two and a half months now. All went well until this past week. The water is very clouded. I changed water once since I've had it and I used bacteria drops once and clear once. All was well. This past week I had the water tested and the pet shop clerk showed me it was good. He put some drops in the sample I brought and it turned blue. <Sounds like he tested your pH which is good to know but not a complete test of your water quality by any means.> I then purchased a small cylinder stone for the filter but nothing changed. I know this is dumb of me but I don't know what to do next. Do you think I need a new filter? <I do not know what kind of filter you have so it is hard to say if it is adequate or not.> Any help you can give me will be appreciated. <Please send info on what kind of fish you have, how many, and have your water tested for pH, ammonia, and nitrite. Also, please begin reading up on the basics; water quality, nitrogen cycle, maintenance, etc. This should get you started http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWtopicsHP.htm Thank you. -Angee <Hope to hear from you soon. -Steven Pro>

Using well water Mr. Fenner, You had a person saying that his ph was 7.5 and no3 zip. I am on a well and I can say do not trust one reading from one day to the next. <Good point> If you have heavy rain storm or no rain for a while it can change that fast. He should, I feel do a test for everything just as if testing tank water. This is extreme, but when hurricane Floyd hit jersey, three of my friends had to have new wells put in for one reason or another. One of them had water that smelled so bad you almost got sick. It was such heavy rain they think the underground steams got diverted, blocked or just fouled their wells. I had to a softener knock ph so far out of whack that it ate the piping and lost about 100 bucks in three days because of it. <Wowzah!> So from my own experience don't trust well water it is not worth the chance, just my opinion. <Thank you for this input. Will post. Bob Fenner>

Deionized water for fresh water aquarium question Hi Bob: Love your web-site, read a lot of very useful info. there, but couldn't find answers to my questions - so I hoped that you could help me. I am switching from reg. "treated" tap water to DI water that has been processed through Aquarium Pharm. TWP. I have written the AP cust. serv., but can't get the exact answers to my questions which are: Is DI water stable? <Hmm, yes... stable in the sense that it doesn't change much or quickly to other qualities> Once I add back in the trace elements and Ph adjuster will the water stay Ph stable? <Should, yes. There are chemical species that can/do not get changed/removed by deionization that can/do aid in stabilizing pH...> Do I put in DI water when topping off evaporated water in tank or does it need trace elements and ph added to it first? <For what application? Likely fine just adding for make-up water. Better to add whatever you intend to for the system/s before adding all to the tank/s> Can I use the R/O Right by Kent Marine instead of the Electro-Right by AP or are they both the same product? <Essentially same.> Would R/O Right be compatible with the Ph adjuster by AP? <Yes, can be used together as far as I'm aware.> Is there anything else that I should know about using DI water in freshwater aquariums? <Hmm, well, yes... A good idea/practice to "have a handle" on specifics re content of source, treated water... to modify this consistently for the types of livestock you keep. There are likely specific changes you need for your particular circumstances (what your water is like pre-after treatment, the types of livestock...)> I know that you feel RO water is "better", but I don't have the budget for it. This TWP by AP seems to produce a more suitable water for my Bettas - well better than just treated tap water, ours is 8.2 - 8.4 PH. I have a 3 gal. Eclipse tank, so I don't use as much water as the hard-core hobbyist. <Ah! Yes. For this size system, types of livestock, the TWP is a very good choice> I am trying to get my water at a stable 7.4 for my Bettas, I don't want to cause a Ph shock, so I hoped that slowly adding the new water processed with TWP would get the results. What do you think? <Yes, should work> Also, "if" the TWP removes all bad stuff from the tap water and doesn't remove the bacteria, I am wondering will the bacteria hurt the Bettas? <Hmm, should not be any appreciable (definitely not pathogenic) bacteria in your tapwater (it's tested for TBC, Coliform...). I wouldn't be concerned> Bob, Thank you so much for your time and assistance, Your consideration is greatly appreciated. Thank you. <You're welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Water clarity, lighting, UV questions (FW) Robert, I found your name off-line and I wanted to ask you a question in regards to my lighting in my aquarium. I have a 150 gallon tank (standard size) with an assortment of African Cichlids. I'm trying to get some more clarity in my water and I don't know what I should do?  <Mmm, a few approaches, likelihoods here...> I have two large filters running, so I know that that's not the problem.  <Might still be... do you measure parameters of water quality... like accumulation of nitrogenous compounds like nitrates? How about using chemical filtrants? Like periodic use of activated carbon in your filter flow path... this can really help water color, clarity and fish health wise... What about your maintenance procedures. Most African Cichlid systems do best with periodic substantial water changes, gravel vacuuming... What sorts of foods, feeding practices do you employ?...> I have one row of two lights that came with the tank, they aren't performing as well as I would like them to. My local fish supplier said that I should add a row of white lights and a row of blue lights (which would give me my 2:1 ratio of white to blue). <Hmm, "blue lights" like actinics? With Africans?> This would cost me around $250 with the housings if I went that route. Do you recommend any other alternatives? <I would look into either compact fluorescents here or VHO types... much more info. on our site (www.WetWebMedia.com) re these issues and the science behind them. Please read from here and beyond: http://wetwebmedia.com/lightfxtagb.htm Including the sections on Marine Lighting (same technology)> What are the advantages of having a U.V. stabilizer, and what size would be appropriate? <A UV sterilizer? Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/marphysf.htm> Thank you for your time. Jon Lugenbill <Thank you for your involvement, sharing. Bob Fenner>

Cleaning my tank Dear Robert, I understand that you may get a lot of e-mails asking the same questions, but i would greatly appreciate it if you could help me with a couple of problems. I recently started my own small fresh water fish aquarium. I have only tetra's in my tank at the moment, which as now been running for about 3 weeks. However i read that I have to change a 1/4 of the water monthly by 'siphoning' from the bottom. I really don't know what or how to do this and it would be great if you could help me out. <Thanks for writing. Am placing a URL link here: http://wetwebmedia.com/water.htm Even though it is in the Marine Index, the same principles apply. Don't change any of the water this month though. Your tank is too new... and it would be better for your tetras to leave it all run for another month or wo before starting this good maintenance practice. Please write back if any of this is unclear, incomplete.... and welcome to the ever-fascinating hobby of aquariums. Bob Fenner> Regards , Danny Taylor

Ammonia in a new freshwater tank Dear Mr. Fenner, <Hi Melissa, Lorenzo Gonzalez responding for Bob, on fish-safari in Indonesia.> I am a beginner hobbyist and am trying to establish a 10 gal. freshwater tank.  <Welcome to the hobby!> I purchase the tank and related paraphernalia and let it stabilize for 5 days.  <Good so far...> I added 2 neon fish and 2 glass fish about 5 days ago.  <Ah. This tank is probably not really cycled yet. Freshwater typically takes 2-3 weeks, with fish, no matter WHAT the cans of bacteria goop say.> The ammonia levels in the tank are about 1.5ppm (yikes). I have tried doing 25% water changes, unfortunately, my tap water is tainted with ammonia (about .25ppm).  <Good trouble-shooting! I take it you had your tap-water tested? Few if any hobbyist test-kits can detect 0.25ppm...> I have continued to add bacteria starter in amounts equal to that for the water I am replacing.  <Uh, you don't really mean equal amounts, but 'appropriate dosage', right? Certainly not one gallon of bacteria goop for every gallon of water, I hope! :-) > A few days ago I also purchased a new attachment for my undergravel filter with zeolite rocks (the pkg. said it would reduce ammonia levels). Unfortunately, none of this seems to be working. Do you have any recommendations?? <Don't add any more fish, get some plants (your neons will especially appreciate this, but hopefully you have fluorescent lighting), and maybe use a product like Kordon's AmQuel or similar, to treat your tapwater when you do water changes. Also, you can buy fish from an LFS (local fish store) that you trust, and that can tell you that they have similar tap water to yours. Their fish will be accustomed to the chemistry, and will do better in your tank. Again, welcome to the hobby, and please read all you can (Bob's writing's are almost all available, free, on www.wetwebmedia.com) -Lorenzo >

BENEFITS AND DEFICITS OF ACTIVATED CARBON.  Dear sirs or Madam, As a long time reader and subscriber to FAMA, I, and I'm not alone, would greatly appreciate a comprehensive article about activated carbon. All of us are familiar with it, some swear by it, and others against it, but what, where and exactly how it should or shouldn't be used has always been ambiguous. <For almost all types of aquatic systems periodic use of activated carbon is a very good/useful practice> I've kept Discus for fifteen years and at various times have been strongly advised against. I've had success with it, but have also seen adverse reactions to my fish by fresh, unpolluted additions of it. What are it's properties? <Need to write a comprehensive piece here as you say...> Is it good for removing unwanted heavy metals from tap water? <Yes> Is a separate water conditioner necessary if it is present or is this redundant and just foul up the carbon faster? <Should use the conditioner ahead of activated carbon... or better still, just use the activated carbon while storing the water you will be using...> Does it remove any vital trace elements from the water?  <Hmm, minimally... most all supplied by foods...> Is there such a thing as carbon burn? <In a manner of speaking yes... too much carbon use too soon can burn fishes gills, skin.> An article of this type would be of great and invaluable service to many of us. <Will add to my list... do know of Discus breeders around the world who do use activated carbon regularly. Have "Chemical Filtrants" section posted on the Marine Index part of our website: www.WetWebMedia.com> Sincerely, Stuart Serchuk Fort Lee, NJ <Bob Fenner>

Cloudy water We have a new 55 gallon cube shaped tank and the water appears cloudy. We have tried water changes, etc.. and it still appears cloudy. What should we do or should we leave the tank alone?  Is this freshwater? Marine? I would "leave it alone"... it will clear of its own accord> My partner did a complete water change several days ago and I did not think it a good idea because of killing off all of the beneficial bacteria. However, she is determined to have "clear" water. She did add stress zyme to help with the lack of good bacteria. Should she just leave the tank alone? Will the cloudiness take care of itself?  <Yes...> Could it just be the lighting making the tank appear cloudy? I am worried that we are going to kill all of the fish trying to obtain crystal clear water and does it really matter whether or not the water looks cloudy?? Thank you. <Do not feed the livestock any more than a bare amount during this "cloudy period"... much going on in the system, so much that the populations of microbes getting situated are obscuring your water quality... Do you have test kits to monitor aspects of nitrogen cycling? Namely ammonia, nitrite? I would get/use them, and cease feeding if either value approaches half a part per million. Bob Fenner, who encourages you and your significant other to read over the "Set Up" sections posted on our website: www.WetWebMedia.com>

Milky Water Hello Bob, I live in Vancouver Washington. I bought my wife a small ten gallon freshwater tank. We read all there is to read about setup. We prepped , etc., before adding fish. It was clear for a month then went to milk. We do not feed too much. I bought a better filter. Bigger than we need. I put Clear solution. We were told to wait a few days. I am getting anxious. Why will it not clear? I did about 50% water change. Fish are fine. Water is ugly??? Thanks, Beginners, But, Careful. Ted <Good to be careful... Some sort of "un-balance here... and you did what I would do first in getting a bigger/better filter. Do read over the freshwater set-up and maintenance sections of the website: www.WetWebMedia.com... and especially the associated FAQs files... and consider the advice proffered there to folks with similar cloudy water... the placement of a bit of live plant material... This is the easiest, safest, surest way of resolving/solving your biological-microbe population explosion. Bob Fenner>

Cloudy water I have a 60 gal. fresh water tank which I change 1/3 the water every 2 months. Recently, the water has become cloudy. I have cleaned the gravel and changed the filter but it continues to return and gets worst each day. I've also noticed white strands of hair like material coming up from the gravel. Do you know what this is and what can be done to get rid of it? Thanks for your help. Howard <Your algae problem could be due to a few things here... For one, you do want to make more frequent, but smaller water changes... for all the reasons you do them... Every week, five or ten percent would be ideal... Every two weeks okay... more than a month, dangerous.  Do read about frequent partial water changes, algae control, use of Loricariid catfishes on the site: www.wetwebmedia.com for much more... And consider getting at least some simple live plant material. This will really help to keep your system balanced in your favor. More about live plants on the above site as well. Bob Fenner>

Water quality Hello Bob, I've been reading a lot on the WetWebMedia sight, and hope you can help me with a couple of questions. (I've only had my aquarium since August, and am new to the hobby, but have been reading and learning a lot). <Me too.> Consider this table of various readings of water: Tap Water: pH 7.8 8 dGH 5 dKH Brita Water: pH 6.6 6 dGH 3 dKH Boiled Water: pH 9.0 8 dGH 4 dKH <This is certainly interesting> Tank Water: pH 8.1 11 dGH 5 dKH First, my tap water is higher pH and GH than I would like. This means my tank starts out high, and as you can see both are getting higher. <Still no problem... the reductive events in your system will very likely conspire to never allow "things" like biomineral content, alkalinity, pH to get "out of hand"... oh, wait... I see below that this is not a marine system... let's read on...> I have a bunch of V. spiralis which I understand can make the water more alkaline, <Not in any long term set-up... during day(light) will elevate pH via photosynthesis, but eventually will exhaust alkaline reserve at a given "point" and drive down to next...> plus I have some "Pagoda" stones, which were supposed to be neutral, but I think are also leaching into the water. <Easy enough to test... Boil in some distilled water... test water (after it cools)> There is a large piece of driftwood, which should eventually help with acidity.  <Yes> Other plants are Rotala, Amazon Sword, and some Cryptocorynes. The tank is 72G, and the fishes are 6 Black Tetras, 6 Brilliant Rasboras, 4 Algae Eating Shrimp, 3 Otocinclus, 3 Corydoras Paleatus, 2 Dalmatian Mollies, 2 Guppies.  <The livebearers will/do appreciate the higher mineral content, pH...> I had added some aquarium salt with the addition of the mollies and guppies, but am now thinking that I probably shouldn't have (for the benefit of the other plants and fish). <A little is no problem> I would like to lower the pH and GH of the tank (to suit both new plants I would like to add, and new and existing fish). I am considering the following: - removing the "Pagoda" stones (although I'd rather not) - adding peat to my filter (but I'm afraid of discoloration of the water) - partial water changes with Brita filtered water <These are all good ideas... do test the stones... even "just" soaking some in a glass/plastic container with distilled water and time going by to assess their role. Maybe make your own peat moss "juice" (aka blackwater tonic) and practice with how much color this will involve... easy to remove with a bit of activated carbon (the color). If it were me, I'd invest in a reverse osmosis system for you and your aquarium... Your tapwater uses (cooking and drinking) and pet-fish will greatly benefit... and it's the cheapest, safest route to go... Just a home improvement store version... it's what we use...> Is it possible that the Brita filtered water is really 1.2 lower in pH, and 2 dGH lower than my tap water?  <Yes> Will this help with my tank? <Likely, to mix it... bring the differences to center over a few weeks time, yes> If I change 20G every two weeks, and want to lower the pH and GH using Brita water, how much Brita water should I include in each 20G change? I don't want to cause pH shock. <Agreed, and about half> If I decide to filter through peat, how gradual will the pH change be (again I worry about pH shock)? <Depends on how much, what type of peat used... it won't be much, too soon likely... the effects here are generally moderate> With a KH of 5, will either the Brita or peat be able to change the pH and GH much? <The pre-filtered water by dilution, slowly... the peat moss, more slowly still> Lastly, the pH reading for boiled water was off the scale, which I don't really understand. Does the temperature of the water affect the pH reading? <An artifact of air introduction by boiling and loss of carbonate portion of the hardness... if you let the water settle for a while you'll find the pH returning to something in the middle of the beginning/ending values.> (I waited about 20 minutes before testing, but the water was still hotter than my tank water). It also looks like boiling didn't help much with the GH or KH, so I guess boiling isn't very useful? <Hmm, should have reduced both... esp. the KH... mysterious, as I stated above... maybe have another type of test kit used to re-try> Thanks very much for any advice you can offer. - Sean McKinnon <Be chatting, Bob Fenner... who really would just get that R.O. filter and blend your current water and the R.O. about half and half...>


Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: