water parameters?
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water parameters?

This is a discussion on water parameters? within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Just about to buy my first aquarium! Payday's on Thursday-CAN'T WAIT. I've been trying to figure things out since I've never done this before. ...

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Old 08-24-2010, 03:57 PM   #1
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water parameters?

Just about to buy my first aquarium! Payday's on Thursday-CAN'T WAIT. I've been trying to figure things out since I've never done this before. I read about cycling, but everything I read mentions testing the water parameters. I have no clue what that is or how to do it. What am I testing when I test my water parameters? And how do I test them? Thanks!
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Old 08-24-2010, 06:10 PM   #2
Before buying an aquarium, especially before buying any fish you need to read and learn, patient is virtue in this hobby.

When you buy an aquarium, put gravel, decorations and fill it with water. Then you need to switch on the filter and heaters.

After you have a good and stable temperature and everything is running smoothly, feed the tank some flakes or frozen food to the aquarium.

Now you have to wait because it's time for the nitrogen cycle. Nitrogen is a component of proteins and other biological molecules that we also call bacteria. This cycle in water consists in 3 important parts that every fishkeeping hobbyists should know before maintaining an aquarium. These are Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates. Normally the cycle will take approximately between 3-6 weeks but not always the same. In the begining days if you monitor your water with test kits you will notice that the first to rise is Ammonia, then Nitrites. After these are 0 Nitrates start to rise.

You are cycled when both Ammonia and Nitrites are 0. These 2 are toxic to fish, while the nitrates is not.When you are cycled it is time to put fish in your aquarium.The best way to do this is to put a fish or two every 1-2 weeks, so you give time to bacteria and filter to handle the bioload and wastes the new fish produce.

There are various test kits that you could buy. That goes down to your own choice/budget.
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Old 08-24-2010, 07:02 PM   #3
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This is a good test kit to have. It has all the tests you need.
Aquarium Water Testing: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master Test Kit
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Old 08-24-2010, 07:54 PM   #4
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Hello and welcome to the forum. You will find everything you need here to help you along and don't be afraid to ask questions.

A good test kit is important especially at the beginning of setting up a tank so you can monitor your ammonia, nitrites, nitrates during your cycling of the tank. Otherwise, you'd end up throwing fish in before it was safe and you can guess what will happen to your fish.

Once your tank is cycled and you add some fish (slowly) , you should still check your levels every few days or so to make sure you don't have spikes in the levels of ammonia and nitrites (both lethal to fish).
After your tank is fully established, you really only need to test weekly before you do your water changes.

What size tank are you getting and what type of fish are you interested in keeping?
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Old 08-25-2010, 07:55 PM   #5
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Wow! Thanks for the link, jeaninel, that is awesome-it has everything. Is cycling hard? It sounds like it's mostly just a waiting game (I'll be so impatient the whole time, ha ha). How often do I need to check the water while cycling? And after the tank is cycled and I get fish?

I'm looking at getting a 15-20g tank with otos, african dwarf frogs, and black phantom tetra. I wanted to add a betta to the mix, but I guess its not a good idea. I think I'll get a betta tank too (betta are the only fish that I've ever had, but I love them! I'm pretty excited to try something new though). I've never cycled a betta tank before, but I probably should, huh?
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Old 08-26-2010, 01:24 AM   #6
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Hi and welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping.

Yes, you should cycle the tank unless you want to kill the poor fish. There is a cycling article at the head of this section, what we call a "sticky", here's a direct link for you:

Others have mentioned the cycling issues with ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, but water "parameters" actually refers to something quite different. The physical makeup of the water, known as hardness and pH (and temperature is also considered in parameters).

Hardness is the degree of mineral in the water, primarily calcium and magnesium but other minerals impact hardness too. It is expressed either in degrees or parts per million (ppm). There are two types of hardness measurements, GH (general hardness which is the calcium/magnesium) and KH (carbonate hardness, the bicarbonates). The KH is important to know at the beginning (the KH of your tap water), since this acts as a buffer for pH, preventing the pH from fluctuating--which is why attempts to adjust the pH often fail, the buffer works against them. Won't go into this more at the moment.

The GH is more important for the fish; they care nothing about KH, it has no effect whatsoever on them directly, but GH does, significantly. Some fish need harder water, some do not; many are somewhat adaptable and do OK in a "median" range. This is why in our fish profiles we always include the GH for each species; this is given as the range in which the fish will be comfortable, which means not under stress due to the water hardness. We use the degrees scale (dGH) but it can be converted to ppm by multiply by 17.8, and similar you can convert ppm to dGH by dividing by 17.8.

pH is also critical, for the same reason; the internal workings of the fish, it physiology, is tied up with pH along with other water issues, and--without going into detail--fish have to adjust their blood pH to equal the water, which is why sudden fluctuations are so detrimental.

The test kit jeaninel referenced is one of the best. It will include a pH test and hardness. Once you know the GH and KH of your tap water you may never use it again, so I usually suggest beginning aquarists get the kit that has pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. pH andnitrate are tests frequently done over time to monitor things. Ammonia and nitrite are critical during cycling, then they should not appear again unless something drastic occurs. You can find out the hardness of your tap water from your water board, they may have a website. The hardness and pH of your tap water will help you decide what type of fish will work and which will not work in your water "as is." Adjusting pH and hardness is not easy, and the chemicals and products sold for this purpose should never be used in a tank with fish. There are natural and safe ways to adjust parameters if this is necessary, but it is easier to keep fish that work in the tap water.

Hope that has helped answer your question about water parameters.

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Old 09-02-2010, 06:48 AM   #7
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I bought that kit. It had a test for pH, high range pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Not hardness. Do I need to test my water's hardness? I know that my city has slightly hard water, but I'm not sure how hard it is. Where could I find a test for hardness? I went to Petsmart and Petco and neither had one.
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Old 09-02-2010, 11:19 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by kaythenewbie View Post
I bought that kit. It had a test for pH, high range pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. Not hardness. Do I need to test my water's hardness? I know that my city has slightly hard water, but I'm not sure how hard it is. Where could I find a test for hardness? I went to Petsmart and Petco and neither had one.
Unless one intends to adjust hardness in the aquarium, I would not waste money on a hardness kit. Once you know the hardness of your source water (tap) that's it. And to get this, contact your water board. Many have websites with the numbers listed for hardness and other substances, or if not they will tell you; it is public record.

The degree of hardness, GH and KH (get both if you can), will tell you what to expect in the way of pH buffering should you wish to adjust that either way. This is why hardness is important, but only for the source water.
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Old 09-02-2010, 03:53 PM   #9
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So I called my city's public works office. My dGH is (after a little math) 13.43 and my pH (after a little testing) is around 7.8-8.0. So I have moderately to hard water and slightly high pH. Would the fish that I was looking at do okay? I was thinking of getting: otos, glowlight tetra, african dwarf frogs, and either platies + betta or guppies. I'm really wondering about the tetra and otos. Could they handle my tank? (I have a 20 g) Sorry for all the questions, I'm just overly excited to try fish keeping. Thank you, you've all been really helpful.
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Old 09-02-2010, 05:19 PM   #10
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The hardness is quite good, what we would call medium hard. The pH may tend to lower a bit over time due to the acidification of the water as the tank matures (over several weeks or months), but the hardness is probably sufficient to prevent any significant drops.

Some fish have clear preferences for better health. Livebearers need basic hard water; what you have is perfect. Molly, platy, guppy, swordtail, gambusia, and a few rarer types are livebearers from Mexico and Central America (mainly). There are also other fish that prefer this basic water, some are indicated in the profiles under Cyprinids.

Fish that are soft and acidic water in origin sometimes require that, esp if wild caught. Many today are commercially raised and over time have somewhat adapted to higher values. In our profiles the range for hardness, pH and temperature is indicated, with comments where the higher end may cause some issues. Have a read through the profiles of your intended fish (second tab from the left in the blue bar at the top). Tetras are under characins, otos are under catfish; livebearers I've mentioned.

A 20g is not a lot of space. Many of these fish need to be in groups, the glowlight tetra for instance must be in a group of 6 or more, so consider that requirement for each fish as you research them. Compatibility means having identical or very similar water parameter requirements, along with environment (plants, wood, rock, still water or a flow, etc).
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