The Importance of Proper Water Quality in Aquariums

Nothing is more important in aquarium keeping than water quality management. There are many excellent products available out there to assist in water quality management, but in my opinion, there is still no replacement for water changes, good filtration, and good feeding habits.

Water Changes; changing water in more frequent, smaller amounts is preferable to larger less frequent changes. Make sure the water going in has the right chemistry (PH, ect.) and temperature. I like to use reverse osmosis water, then add the elements I need back in (especially for saltwater or soft water aquariums such as discus). Well or spring water is also usually excellent. Otherwise use a de-chlorinator (sodium thiosulfate), if chlorine or chloramines are present (Wonder shells remove chlorine, stabilize KH, and add electrolytes). Water changes are important for Nitrate removal and buildup of toxic organic and inorganic material.

Good filtration consists of biological, chemical, mechanical, and germicidal.

-Biological: Sponge Filters are excellent bio filters (generally used in smaller aquariums, but there are larger ones now available, as well a sponge pre-filters for intakes of other filters, such as canister and HOB filters), wet/dry on a larger scale, fluidized bed, and under gravel filters (Your canister filter, power filter, ect also can be biological filters- just make sure to not change all media during cleanings. You want to wash some of the media out in used aquarium water. Ceramic bio rings are excellent in canister filters for bio filtration). Live rock in marine aquariums also acts as bio filters. Biological filtration removes ammonia and nitrite from your water (anaerobic bacterial can remove nitrates in limited quantities in saltwater). Nitrates are best removed by plants such as Hornwort in freshwater. There is much more information available about Bio-Filtration here: “The Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle”

-Chemical filtration is achieved by carbon, zeolite (freshwater only for zeolite), and many other inorganic filter media such as resins.

-Mechanical filtration is the removal of debris from the aquarium via filter floss, cartridges, ECT. Canister filters excel at mechanical filtration. HOB (Hang on the back- power filters) are also reasonable mechanical filters (The Aqua Clears are not very good mechanical filters, but generally good bio-filters)

-Germicidal filtration is the use of uvc radiation or ozone to kill disease pathogens in the water. I highly recommend UV sterilization in ANY aquarium, especially fish tanks with high disease risk rates for disease such as goldfish or discus.

Good feeding habits simply means feeding what the fish will consume in 2-3 minutes (very general rule), twice per day. Also using a quality food that is highly digestible is very important for less waste (Spirulina 20 flake, HBH, Omega, Sanyu, Hikari, and Ocean Nutrition are excellent, TetraMin in my opinion has too much cereal and indigestible amino acids). Most fish foods available have too high of a cereal content and not enough fats and fish proteins.

This is a VERY general discussion about water quality; See our full Aquarium Information site below.

Carl Strohmeyer

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