Can you answer these questions about the water in your aquarium in less than 30 minutes?
- What are the pH and related alkalinity levels?
- Is ammonia present. If so, how much?
- Is nitrate high, or is it within the acceptable range?
- Are there any nitrites showing on the test?
If you said yes, that's great. You already know or can quickly get the answers to these and other primary water quality awareness issues.
For those that said no, why? An essential part of being a successful saltwater or a reef aquarium keeper is taking the time and responsibility to learn how to test the water in your system, to test it regularly, and more importantly be able to do so at any given time.
Reasons You Should Test Your Aquarium Water
- It tells you what is happening inside your aquarium, providing you with an analysis of the condition of the environment your tank inhabitants are living in at all times.
- The test results will alert you to any particular problem that may be starting to arise, which gives you time to correct a situation before it worsens.
- If a test shows a critical level reading, this allows you to take immediate action to lessen the effects of the problem or resolve it all together before it turns into an even more dire situation.
- If you are an aquarist that relies on a local pet or fish store to test your water for you, if the store is closed, or you just can't get there, what do you do? If you are in the middle of a critical situation, such as you are losing a lot of fish over a short period of time, or even hours, if you have to wait several days before you can get the water tested, all could be lost.
In this day and age of technology, it doesn't take a degree in rocket science to test your aquarium water and understanding the results. From the many different types of inexpensive, simple to use and read test kits to choose from, anyone can do it, and should!
Most aquarists, when they first start out, will have their water tested for them at their LFS as their new tank is going through the cycling process.
This is very helpful in that it lets your know where you are in the cycling process. But, once their tank is cycled, thinking that they are saving the money for a few tests, they completely stop testing their tank water until an emergency (all their fish are suddenly dying?) suddenly arises. By that time, it is often too late to save everything in their tank.
Many experienced aquarists can tell when something is starting to go wrong with their tank just by observing the way their tank critters are behaving and by simply sniffing the tank water. You don't have to have a keen sense of smell to detect ammonia. Anyone who has changed a wet baby diaper knows what it smells like. If you see that your fish are acting a little weird and the water smells like ammonia, test the water, read the results and takes steps to reverse whatever is happening.
Being an aquarist means live animals are in your care. They not only depend on you to feed them but to keep their environment clean and provide them with the best quality of life you possibly can. A large part of accomplishing this comes from testing your aquarium water!