Your Tank Check Cheat Sheet

March_2013_1Remember the feeling you had when you first got your fish tank? You were excited about your new pets, very attentive to their needs and checked the tank often. But like a new pool owner, you’ve slowly let more time lapse between water tests and tank maintenance has become a chore. Does this sound like you? Use this cheat sheet to get back on track with your tank checks.

First, make sure you know the ideal water temperature and chemistry for your tank. Temperature and other levels may vary, depending on the tank size, amount and type of fish and whether or not you’re breeding fish.

Testing kits

If you don’t yet have a water testing kit, getting one should be your next step. There are two types of kits: those with test strips and reagent kits with liquid drops. For the casual fish keeper or hobbyist, test strips are fine. They’re easier to use, but they do provide less information. (They’ll tell you if there is or isn’t ammonia, but won’t give you a number.) Reagent kits take more time and are a bit more costly, but will give you more detailed information. Another option is to take a sample of your tank water to Pet Supermarket for a free water test.

Daily checks

Your daily check is just a short look to make sure everything is in order.

  • Check for tank leaks
  • Check the water temperature (You should know the ideal temp for your tank)
  • Look at the water level
  • Review your fish for any signs of parasites or illness

Weekly or biweekly checks

Weekly checks will require your testing kit. If you have a new aquarium, it’s especially important to test water frequently. A more established tank can be tested biweekly, as long as the tested levels are in comfortable ranges.

  • Test for changes in pH, the most frequent cause of fish stress. Most freshwater fish prefer a pH between 5.5 and 7.5. Saltwater fish prefer a pH of 8.0 or above. Learn the appropriate pH for your fish.
  • Ammonia is highly toxic to fish. Test for it at the same time as pH and especially after setting up a new tank or after a fish death or illness. The level should be zero, but ammonia rises as the pH rises above 7.0. Switch to daily testing if ammonia rises.
  • You should have zero nitrites, which can be as toxic as ammonia.
  • Nitrates can rise over time and stress fish. Keep levels below 50ppm, ideally 25 ppm or less.
  • Check for phosphates, which can lead to algae. Keep it to .05 pmm or less. At 1.0 ppm or higher conditions become ripe for algae growth.

Consistent tank checks are the key to maintaining an aquarium with thriving fish. For more help with water tests and water testing kits, stop by your nearest Pet Supermarket.