Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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faronem 01-17-2012 01:21 PM

Do you treat your tap water?
After removing several fish and performing a 25% water change on a well cycled 16 gallon tank, I was very surprised to see a spike in ammonia the next day--from 0.0 to .50. I did dechlorinate the water.

About 6 months ago, I tested my tap water (Boston MA) and found:
pH 7.6, NH3 .25, NO2 0.0, NO3 0.0

Today, I'm looking at the tap water readings:
pH 8.4, NH3 1.0, NO2 0.0, NO3 0.0

Yikes. No wonder my ammonia went up--and thankfully no serious signs of stress yet from the tetras.
I threw in several floating plants to help.

This makes me wonder what people do to treat their tap water for partial or more significant water changes?
Do you test your tap water regularly?

Thanks for any advice.

Byron 01-17-2012 02:56 PM

We often assume our tap water is going to remain consistent with respect to whatever is in it, but as you have found out that is not always the case. Which is where the water conditioner comes in.

I always recommend to beginning aquarists that they first check their tap water for hardness, pH, ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Any of the latter three may be present; there are means of dealing with them. In your situation, a water conditioner that targets ammonia would be a good investment, especially since the ammonia fluctuates. I'll explain how this works momentarily. Not all water conditioner deal with ammonia, but it will say if they do on the label.

Water conditioners detoxify ammonia by changing it to harmless ammonium. Both ammonia and ammonium will test as "ammonia" with our basic test kits, so don't worry over that. And bacteria take up ammonium/ammonia equally, whichever is present, so no harm there. During a water change, there will be an influx of ammonia, so the conditioner handles that. By the time the conditioner wears off, usually in 24-48 hours, the bacteria will have multiplied sufficiently to handle it. So while you may test and see "ammonia" during this, it should be harmless. Observe the fish, and if they are behaving normally, then it is OK.

Live plants in an aquarium help in all this, as they grab ammonium as their preferred source of nitrogen, and they can use ammonia too by changing it to ammonium themselves. Same idea as the bacteria mentioned above. Floating plants are especially useful, as they are fast growing which means they use even more ammonia/ammonium.

I would be more concerned with the pH fluctuation, if I am correct that your tap water pH has changed from 7.6 to 8.4. Some fish--livebearers, rift lake cichlids, and other hard water species--will have no issue with this, but some soft water species might. I'll leave this for the present, but feel free to question.

Hope this helps you.


PonyMan 01-17-2012 03:46 PM

What floating plants are recommended Byron?


Byron 01-17-2012 05:28 PM


Originally Posted by PonyMan (Post 954128)
What floating plants are recommended Byron?


Any true floaters will work in this respect; some are in our plant profiles. Beyond that, some stem plants do very well floating. A good criteria is if the leaves are at or even above the water surface. This is because such leaves can assimilate CO2 from the air which is much faster than taking it from the water, plus CO2 is more plentiful in the air. This increased supply of CO2, plus the more intense light at the surface, means the plant can grow (photosynthesize) faster, and thus assimilate more nutrients of which nitrogen (ammonia/ammonium) is a major macro-nutrient from the water.

PonyMan 01-17-2012 07:03 PM

Thanks Byron! You sure are the man with the knowledge around this place! Thanks again! :)


Moleen 01-17-2012 07:24 PM


I live 1/2 hr north of Boston and I have the same problem. My tap usually tests at .25 ammonia and my PH always tests at least could be higher but 7.6 is as high as it goes on my color chart. I treat my H20 with Prime. I've got tons of plants and recently bought a Seachem Ammonia Alert and it reads in the "safe" fish seem very active and healthy so I've decided not to worry too much about it. Oh, Market Basket bottled H20 is zero for everything and has a PH of 6.4...same for Poland Springs. Kath

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