Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality
One of the most important areas to address for care of your
tropical fish is the water quality. If you start with a brand new aquarium
that hasn't had fish in it before, you will find that you get an ammonia spike
soon after introducing your new fish. This spike can actually burn the
fins off your new fish, ultimately killing them and causing great
disappointment. It is difficult to resist filling up a new tank with fish,
but the most important way to reduce ammonia is to start with only a few fish
and add more after a few weeks. Once you have an established tank, you can keep a larger
number of fish with very little effort.
The most efficient way to cycle or establish a balanced aquarium is to
import your bacteria from another aquarium. The main catch is to ensure
the aquarium you use is disease free. You can use an existing filter,
gravel or plants. If you don't have access to an established aquarium,
resist the temptation to buy lots of fish to start with. For an interesting
article about a
fishless cycle and ways to balance an aquarium, visit the
Tropical Fish Centre.
Parts Per Million
There are test kits to test for ammonia, nitrites and nitrate
The Ammonia Spike
If you already have tested your water with a test kit and you
have an ammonia spike, here are some things you can do to help correct the
problem right away:
Do a 20% water change with dechlorinated water and continue
to do this every day until the ammonia level drops. The best ways to
dechlorinate the water is to let it sit in a bucket a few days or to use a
product like Seachem
Prime, which also removes ammonia. Be careful with other chlorine
removers as these can also kill the valuable bacteria you
are in need of.
Test the water daily for ammonia levels. If they
remain high, you'll need to change more water.
Keep good aeration in the tank to help develop bacteria.
Avoid using medications, as these kill bacteria.
Don't feed your fish at all if your ammonia readings are
high, as this will cut down on the ammonia that the fish produce.
Don't clean the gravel. You want to promote bacteria and
gravel is an excellent location for this.
Don't change your filter material. Allow bacteria to
Maintaining Water Quality
There are a number of products that can help you establish and
maintain water quality. There are test kits and additives to adjust the pH
and water hardness.
Prime is a very popular additive for de-chlorinating and it controls
ammonia levels too. Here's
an excerpt from the Seachem website about Seachem Prime: "Prime™
is the complete and concentrated conditioner for both fresh and salt water.
Prime™ removes chlorine, chloramine and ammonia. Prime™ converts ammonia
into a safe, non-toxic form that is readily removed by the tank’s biofilter.
Prime™ may be used during tank cycling to alleviate ammonia/nitrite toxicity.
Prime™ detoxifies nitrite and nitrate, allowing the biofilter to more
efficiently remove them. It will also detoxify any heavy metals found in the tap
water at typical concentration levels.Prime™ also promotes the production and
regeneration of the natural slime coat. Prime™ is non-acidic and will not
impact pH. Prime™ will not overactivate skimmers. Use at start-up and whenever
adding or replacing water."
Why Zeo-lite is Not Recommended
The following information has been submitted by "LittleHippyGirl".
Zeo-lite is a chemical that is widely available in fish stores for its ability to suck up ammonia like a sponge.
There are other brand names, but any ammonia-absorbing chemical would fall under this category. One would think,
"why is this so bad?" Well, this is why it can be.
1) Once zeo-lite sucks up a certain amount of ammonia, it will not suck up anymore. There is no way
you can tell how "full" the zeolite is until you suddenly have ammonia levels in the water and this could make your
fish sick or weak. Granted, zeo-lite can be re-charged by soaking it in a container of salt water, its powers are
not easilly monitered.
2) You can NEVER add salt to an aquarium with zeo-lite. Salt is useful in many ways, treating
many types of diseases, helping wounds heal, and of course its mandatory in aquariums with brackish fish. Like
said above, any salt in the water will cause the zeo-lite to let go of all the ammonia, immediately causing
highly toxic and dangerous levels in your aquarium.
3) The most important downfall is that zeo-lite hinders the more natural nitrogen cycle.
In a fully cycled aquarium, beneficial bacteria lives in the filter and changes ammonia into nitrite, and
nitrite into nitrate. The first two are highly toxic, but nitrate is only toxic in higher numbers and this
is reduced by vacuuming gravel and changing the water. In a fully cycled aquarium, the changes are so quick
that the first two chemicals can not be detected in test results and your fish stay happy and healthy.
However, zeo-lite will suck up the ammonia and starve the beneficial bacteria, crashing the nitrogen cycle.
Having said all that, zeo-lite isn't entirely bad. No, it typically shouldn't be used in the
home aquarium, but there are some situations that zeo-lite can benefit your fish. Sometimes aquariums under 5 gallons
have trouble keeping a nitrogen cycle stable. Another acceptable case would be a temporary aquarium, such as a hospital
or quarentine tank. Sometimes spare aquariums need to be unexpectedly and quickly set up, and you can not borrow media
from another aquarium to jump start the cycle. For these exceptions, empty the filter of any sponges, media, cartridges
etc and add zeo-lite. Do monitor the ammonia level carefully, and frequently re-charge the zeo-lite in salt water.
Keeping a lot of fish in an aquarium with zeo-lite will make this maintenence more difficult but even more mandatory.
Remember, you can not treat fish with salt in an aquarium with