07-07-2007, 12:02 PM
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Water parameters are the levels of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your water. A new tank needs to cycle: fish produce ammonia through their gills and in their waste. Ammonia is toxic to fish. Bacteria develop that convert the ammonia into nitrite (still toxic to fish, but less so than ammonia), and then other bacteria develop and turn the nitrite into nitrate (much less harmful to fish). Once nitrates appear in your tank, it is done cycling. This process can take several weeks to complete. You will need to get an ammonia test kit, a nitrite test kit, and a nitrate test kit, and I would also recommend getting a Ph test kit (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals is a good brand). They are expensive, but they are necessary for the well-being of your fish and they do last a long time.
Once the tank is cycled, a weekly water change of 25% is recommended so that the nitrates do not get too high. While nitrates are not as harmful as ammonia or nitrites, they are still not good for fish and a high concentration of them can also lead to unwanted algal growth and other problems.
If your tank is newly set up, this cycling may have more to do with your sick fish than the light situation. There are several good explanations and such in the section "starting a freshwater aquarium."
Best wishes to you and your tank! It is a fascinating hobby.