Water Testing

Basic water test instructions Video of water tests

4 comments to Water Testing

  • Gilles Pitre

    Newbie here
    trying to find out what to do in the event
    of problems with water.
    What if PH is to low or to hight?
    Same for Nitrate or amonia
    Where can I get this information before I start my system?

    • TCLynx

      Before you start cycling (adding fish or ammonia) your system, you should get the test kit and learn what your base water parameters are.
      pH (keep in mind you should let the water circulate or air out or bubble for a while before this test will be accurate)

      There are other water tests that might be of interest but are not necessarily mandatory like water hardness or alkalinity.

      If you have really super hard water you might want to collect rain water or use an RO (reverse Osmosis) filter to reduce the amount of carbonates going into your system to keep the pH too high.

      Desired range for starting up a new system. pH between 6.5-7.6 but it could be as wide as 6.0-8.0. If the initial pH is at 6 you might want to add a little caclium carbonate or potassium bicarbonate to bring the pH up over 6.5. If your pH is up around 8 or above, you might want to bring it down. I don’t recommend using acid on a regular basis to deal with hard well water but for a one time initial start up, I’ve been known to use some muratic acid (hydrochloric acid) to adjust the pH down to below 7.6 but only do this in a system without any fish or plants yet. Once you have living things in your system, do all acid dosing in a separate tank and let the pH settle before using that water in the system. Again, I don’t recommend using acids in living systems, you would be better served to find some other way to deal with your source water.

      If the pH in your system is falling, that is natural, you will use small amounts of some buffer to keep it from falling too far. Be careful not to add too much and cause the pH to change rapidly. If you pH is rising, you may have an issues with anaerobic areas, algae, or be topping up with too much hard water. Shade out the algae, clean out anaerobic areas or fix your leak.

      If ammonia is too high, you stop feeding, if you are worried about the fish, do a partial water change. During cycle up with fish, you are going to see an ammonia spike, it is important not to have too many fish in a new system since there will be an ammonia spike and that is the only way to get the system to cycle up.

      If a system is cycled up and running smooth and you later have an ammonia spike, it means you need to figure out why. Do water tests, make sure pumps are working properly, and make sure you don’t have too many fish for your filtration. In general if there is an issue, STOP FEEDING. that should always be the first reaction to a problem.

      If Nitrite is high, you can salt the system to 1 ppt to help mitigate nitrite toxicity to the fish but that will only help to a point. Nitrite is bad for fish and the spike in nitrite comes after the spike in ammonia. If you have fish that you need to keep alive, you might want to do some partial water changes but that will likely slow the cycle up process since again, you need the nitrite in there for the bacteria to colonize and start converting it to nitrate.

      High nitrates mean you need more plants or less fish. Nitrates are not immediately dangerous to fish and they can get quite high without immediate danger. I like to keep my nitrates in the orange just because that is the range my eyes can figure out in the API test kit without me having to do more complex dilution tests.

      If your nitrates are really high and you can’t get more plants going to use them up, you need to feed the fish less or you need to do water changes to remove some of the nitrates. This is wasteful of water but your potted plants or plants where ever you dump the removed water will appreciate it.

  • Brian

    I have a 2 tote system with tubes and a raft bed circulating through a swirl filter – good oxygen pumping away . Fish are happy and everything seems good – PH 7 Nitrate 0 Nitrite 0 but the vegetables arent growing!
    sooooo frustrating – the system is one year old Any suggestions?

    • TCLynx

      your nitrate is 0, are the plants showing signs of nitrogen deficiency?
      What does your ammonia test say? If it is also 0, then you need to feed your fish more and/or higher quality feed.

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