Top 10 Mistakes New Fish Owners Make – #4

The #4 Mistake – Not Testing Your Water

Ponder the following situation: you have two glasses before you. One is tap water and the other is hydrochloric acid.

How do you know which one is safe to drink by looking at them? Which one would you put your fish into?

It is impossible to tell if water is safe for fish by the look of it.

Water that is safe for fish and dangerous for fish will look EXACTLY THE SAME. This is why we always test the water at all of our appointments and why all fish owners should do the same. Fish health is directly tied to certain water quality parameters. If you’re a regular reader, please, list them along with us:

You don’t have to test all of these parameters all the time, but regular tests of AT LEAST ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, kH and temperature are essential.

Test your water AT LEAST once a month. You will need the following tools:

All of these tools are easily purchased at your local pet fish store or online.

Safe levels for fish will vary on the species. For koi, goldfish and most tropical, including bettas, you want your water within the following parameters (please keep in mind that this chart was made using the API kit parameters and are general guidelines):

ParameterKoiGoldfishTropicals
Ammonia<0.25 mg/L<0.25 mg/L <0.25 mg/L
Nitrite0 mg/L 0 mg/L 0 mg/L
Nitrate<40 mg/L <40 mg/L varies
pH6.5-9.06.5-9.0varies
kH>100 mg/L >100 mg/L >100 mg/L
Temperature33-85F (1-29C) 33-85F (1-29C) 74-84F (23-28C)

As your fish systems progress, record your weekly/monthly readings and watch for any trends. How does your regular maintenance change your readings? By keeping a close eye on your parameters, you can significantly improve the overall health of your fish. 

Good water = happy, healthy fish.

Advertisements

Why Test My Water?

Why Test My Water?

As you have heard us say, time and time again, water quality is the #1 thing pet fish owners can do to take care of their fish. Why is this? Because, just like the air we breathe, the water a fish swims in has a significant impact on its overall health. Poor water quality can cause severe problems with secondary bacteria or fungus, swim bladder disorders and even death. It may sound like a lot to undertake, but we’ll make it easy. We have several helpful guides around our website (here, here and here) and great brochures you can order. Want more? Check out our awesome Water Quality Webinar!

How do I test my water?

You’re going to need a test kit! Yes, there are convenient test strips available, and are better than nothing. Keep in mind, however, that we’ve tested these products and gotten conflicting results on different strips right out of the bottle! A liquid, drop-based test kit is a much better option and they are not too hard to use. Once you practice using them a few times, it will become very easy.

What parameters do I test?

When testing fish water, your nitrogen cycle parameters are the highest priority. These are your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. pH and kH are extremely important as well. And don’t forget your thermometer! Fish activity and metabolism is directly linked to water temperature. Unlike us endotherms, able to regulate our internal body temperature, fish are ectotherms and rely on the water temperature to dictate their activity.

How often do I test?

With fish systems that have been in place for at least 3 months and have no changes to equipment or inhabitants, monthly testing is highly recommended. With systems that have new fish or other animals or new equipment within the last 3 months, such as pumps or filters, weekly testing is recommended.

What results are within parameters?

For koi and goldfish, your pond or tank should be within the following parameters: (These readings are based on the ranges given by the API Freshwater Master Test kit)

Ammonia: less than 0.25 mg/L, Nitrite: 0 mg/L, Nitrate: less than 40 mg/L

pH: 7.0-8.5, kH: above 100 mg/L, Temperature will vary seasonally

Tropical fish will have species-specific tolerances for ammonia, nitrate, pH, and temperature. Most communal species will be within the same ranges as koi and goldfish, but the temperature must stay between 75-85F.

Betta fish have a higher tolerance of ammonia and nitrate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a clean tank. Temperatures must be kept at 78-82F for betta fish. (Want to learn more about bettas? Check out our Betta Page or Betta Basics Webinar).

Can you recommend a good test kit?

Absolutely! For most pond and tank owners, we recommend the API Freshwater Master Test Kit with kH and a thermometer. We have full kits available at our Fish Vet Store.