Tropical Fish Keeping banner

Water test results:

3351 Views 21 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  badxgillen
Hey all, I have owned and operated tanks for about 10 years now and i'm 23 years old. I just re-set up a 29g after moving and this is the first time I've actually tried to get the water just right (I started a 20L saltwater tank and got it all squared away so i figured I'd get my freshwater tanks in line:

My 29G reads:

pH good fine appears to be about 7

Low alkalinity

Hard water

High Nitrates

No chlorine and my nitrites are low but a little caution.

I've read everything from add epsom salt to baking soda, what will optimize the water in this tank?

Thank you.

1 - 20 of 22 Posts
Welcome to the forum!

Do you have some actual numbers for us? Apologies, but I find that words like low/hard/high are defined differently by different people. Is this you tap water or water from the aquarium? Fish in there? The reason I ask is because if you do have fish in that tank then the nitrites should be zero, not just low.
Hey thanks for the quick reply:

pH 7

Alkalinity Between 0-40 (120-180 being ideal)

No chlorine

Hardness between 150 and 300

Nitrite .5

Nitrate 160 it looked like
See less See more
I'm going to assume those are in ppm and just convert them to degrees, since I at least am more familiar with it. 17.848 equals one degree.

So alkalinity is 0-2.2 while hardness is 8.4-16.8 dGH. Are you using strip tests? Those ranges you have as results are quite large for one tank.

In a cycled aquarium nitrites should be 0, while it is preferable to try and keep nitrates below 20 ppm.

Do you mind giving us some background info on this tank? You said it's been re-set up. How long ago was that? Any fish, and if so what and how many? Or are you fishless cycling? The reason I'm asking this is to see if it is in line with what I am thinking.

Do you have tap water results? What are you keeping and/or planning to keep to makes you want to change things like KH and GH? I don't mean that question offensively, only what is ideal for one species isn't always ideal for another.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Well, it was moved with a clown loach and a convict chichlid(which died after i moved it to a new tank I didn't let bacteria cyclethrough). I cleaned the filter, added water /dechlorinator and let the tank filter run adding bacteria daily for a couple days. Added a goldfish, some neon tetras, some glow tetras, a bumblebee catfish, and another tetra. They all seem to be doing fine.

My nitrates, alkalinility and water hardness are just on the high levels of the dip stick test, I was wondering what I could do to bring them back down to healthy levels.
I have never used test strips, so I cannot speak for their reliability. I've been told by others they are not trustworthy, but have no experience in the matter so I won't put forth an opinion. I will say though that the range given in the hardness test is so large as to be almost unhelpful.

Let's not worry about alkalinity and hardness for right now. Scratch that, let's not worry about them in regards to the tank. Can you test your tap water for us? I want to know if your tap water is naturally that low in alkalinity or if it along with the high nitrates are a sign that you are heading towards old tank syndrome.

Right now the concern has to be the nitrites (in a cycled tank they will always be zero) and the nitrates. Water changes are the key. Best way to remove nitrates. If your pH reading is correct then I don't think you are yet suffering from full blown old tank syndrome. If you were the pH would be much lower and not neutral. Just to play it safe for now I'd recommend treating it as if it did. Do a 10-15% water change every day for a week and then we can go from there. You can also add plants, or rather try since your goldfish may eat them (more on it in a second). I'd also fast the fish for a few days and test daily to see any improvements or worsening conditions.

Sorry to bring this up, but I'm going to mention your stocking. You still have the clown loach? If you do you will need to find a new home for it. Not only should they be kept in groups, but they need an aquarium vastly larger than a 29 gallon. Something more akin to 6'X2'X2' Clown Loach (Chromobotia macracanthus) — Loaches Online Similarly the goldfish isn't really a good mix as it requires cooler temperatures. If you have a comet, it will also grow much too large for your tank. The neons, glowlights, and other tetra should be each kept in groups of six preferably more. No sure if that is the case, so just throwing it out there. Your bumblebee catfish I can't really comment on since we could be speaking of several different species, namely African, South American, and Asian although there are others.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Thanks for all the info, let me get started here.

I ran a strip under my tap water, and these are the strips the aquarium shop guy uses to test my water when I bring it in (I just bought some today to get my freshwaters in check).


pH is a light pink which is not really on the spectrum but more red looks more acidic and more yellow looks to be more basic. Definititely more acidic, probably 8.

High Alkalinity- Alkalinity is a nice sky blue, which is not on the spectrum provided on the strip container, probably moderate; low is a yellowybrwown to greeny brown moderate is light forest green and ideal is forest green with high being dark blue. it might be high alkalinity because the bluer it gets the higher the alkalilinity.

Light Chlorine.

Very hard.

No nitrates or nitrites.

I'll move the clown loach over to my 75 gallon. He is a pretty chill clown loach and just hangs out most of the time though in my 29G. I'll probably put the goldfish in the 75 G as well. I'll get him a buddy though tomorrow. I recently got him that catfish and algae eaters to keep him company, but i guess fish discriminate against each other (jk). Just put a shrimp in my 29g to maybe keep waste down. My 75 G holds a red tail black shark thing and an all white coi, a fat black goldfish, a light tan carp goldfish looking fish and a plecosthemus (sp yea right) autocorrect would be Polyphemus in that tank.

Moving the goldfish and the clown loach into the 75G would leave mostly tetras. I could put one of the two algae eaters in the 75g if they don't mind being solitary. One is gold one is normal color.

Thanks a bunch for your feedback in balancing my tanks.

My saltwater is doing well. It is brand new and the first i have tried my hands at saltwater creatures. I have a striped cleaner shrimp, a clown fish, a damselfish that's blue and yellow, and a couple crabs and a snail. working on my live rock but I have a couple tiny pieces of coral (noticible in a 20gLong) so so far about 12lb/20g of live rock.

Tested high for nitrates and he gave me some saltwater cycling nitrifying bacteria that I will check to see if it helped tomorrow.

Tested my 75 G and everything looked perfect. I'll turn the heather down a couple degrees for the goldfish and carp and koi.

Thanks again for your time and info.

See less See more
First, and please don't take this as rudeness, please no more fish right now. I know I did say clown loaches need a group. In this case however we're talking about 6-10 fish capable of reaching a foot in length, enjoy actively swimming, and require pretty pristine water. Ideally clown loaches shouldn't be kept in any aquarium less than 180 gallons. The 75 gallon is bigger, but it's still nowhere near big enough.

To test pH it is best to fill a container and test it after 24-48 hours. Some people chose to use a bubbler. The reason for the wait is to allow CO2 to off gas and that will give you a more accurate reading, since CO2 is acidic and will off gas in an aquarium on it's own.

Again, I can't speak for test strips, but it seems they are giving you difficulty with reading them. A test isn't much good if you can't figure out what it's telling you. You might wish to instead get a liquid test kit.

You have algae eaters in the 29 gallon too? Do they look like this? If so those are Chinese algae eaters and they prefer to not be with each other due to being aggressive and territorial. If there are that moving one to the 75 gallon might not be a good idea either since the redtailed black shark is also territorial and definitely doesn't like species like Chinese algae eaters. The 29 is too small as well if I guessed the right species. I'll let you read on your own about the attacking other fish.

Does the catfish have nasal barbels right in front of its eyes? I'm trying to figure out if it's a small, peaceful species or a larger one that is quite possibly capable of eating your tetras.

More bad news. A koi is only suitable for a pond. They aren't aquarium fish at all.

The light tan carp looking fish I have no guess at. Well I have several, but not one that I think it may be over all the others. Any chance for a picture?

Plecostomus could refer to a number of species. I've found that when most people say just that they mean this. I could be wrong, let me know.

Lowering the temperature would be fine for the goldfish, koi (which you should seriously consider rehoming), and even pleco (if I got the right species), however it won't be as well liked by the others. The carplike fish I can't even say.

A shrimp won't actually remove any waste. No clue what kind you have, but none actually take out nitrates from a tank.

I'll ask someone with saltwater experience to come help, or else you can post in that section. Sorry, but I'm not very familiar with those setups. The use of nitrifying bacteria though doesn't make sense to me. Unless things with saltwater are completely different. Those types of bacteria are added to cycle an aquarium. Nitrates are the end result of the ammonia cycle (well in aquariums at least) and require water changes to remove. In other words if things are the same as in freshwater the bacteria you were told to add will do nothing for you.

I feel really bad about giving you what amounts to a ton of bad news.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Oh you didn't weren't the bearer of bad news at all. You're just a to the book type of person, and I don't think anything bad will become of anything here.

The test strips are giving us a pretty decent idea of what the levels are, so I think they're serving their purpose.

A koi is a type of carp, and so and it is small in it's current level of maturity, soon enough it will have a pond to swim around in this summer or as soon as it gets a bit bigger. Koi are commonly kept indoors in aquariums in Asia. Not that Asia is known for doing logical or doing things the best possible way (lol rhino horn). A goldfish is also a carp, and that other fish is probably some type of goldfish so likely to fit well.

The algae eater you linked- yep i have one of him and a golden one. Reading that page they don't do much eating algae, I should have just gotten the yellow one.

And that pleco is him. He's not too big, not too small. Dinosaur looking fish, do they do much good for tanks?

Anyways, I'll move that clown loach over into the 75 and get him at least another companion tomorrow. I've never seen one get very big at all. 16-20". Wow.

Thanks again for all the info. I'll check up tomorrow on the fish swapping and water changing results,

Really thanks a bunch for the info.

Have a good night.

Edit: and I'll check on the catfish, he's been hiding most of the time i've had him the past couple weeks.
See less See more
Perhaps I am by the book. Did I fail to mention that I have kept neon tetras, glowlight tetras, common plecos, Chinese algae eaters, redtail black sharks, and goldfish as well as help with the care of koi? Sorry, my mistake. I was.

Clown loaches easily reach 8-12 inches. The reason you haven't seen any that big? Improper care in too small of a tank.

I realize that goldfish and koi are both species in the Cyprininae subfamily of Cyprinidae, but then so are many other species. Assuming fish have identical care because they may or may not be related based on your perception of their looks is foolish and wrong.

The test are not working well for you as evidenced by your guessing. Take the tapwater pH which you believe to be more acidic so probably 8. Acidic values are those below 7, basic above 7. We honestly have no clue what the result is. Likewise a range of a 150 ppm for hardness is not helpful. Is it 150 or 300? Quite a big range there and easy for fish to fall out of it if the reality is towards one end or the other.

Look I'm just some guy on the internet that you don't know. I don't expect you to take my word for gospel. Ideally you'd take what I said and run to Google to do your own research and find out if it's correct or not. To come on here though and say you want to do things right and then later turn around and say how I'm "a to the book type of person" is just wrong. They are your tanks and your fish, so you are welcome to do as you please. You just can't have your cake and eat it too, which in this case means saying you want things done right and refusing to learn about the fish you have. I'm sorry, but it is the truth.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 4
I would be in agreement that a liquid test kit should be in order to get more accurate readings. You can get them reasonably cheap now and they last a long time. Aquarium Water Testing: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Freshwater Master Test Kit

You really want to know you salt water parameters if you are going to keep them in check.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
I agree with everything that BWG has said. he has personal experience with many, many different species of fish and is well versed in their individual care. He has never lead a member astray.

Your tank is stocked quite poorly, and I'm not sure if this is due to bad petshop advice or your own lack of research. Fish can survive all kinds of unfortunate conditions, but as responsible hobbyists we strive to provide conditions that are ideal to the fish, including tank size, water parameters, decor, and stocking.

Your strips show varying levels and vague descriptions which really are not helpful. A liquid test kit gives you a much closer range that is much easier to work with.

I also agree that clown loaches can reach enormous sizes, although this is unfortuantely a rare treat in the hobby as many individuals house them improperly and they die stunted and young.

Here is a video of a full grown clown loach to give you an idea of the sizes these fish can reach.

As for the common pleco, they can get much, much bigger (specimens have been recorded reaching 20 inches in length), and also have an enormous bioload due to the constant grazing in the aquarium.

If you do further research (with reliable websites) you can see that the information we are giving you is genuine. No is condemning the situation you have currently found yourself in, as most of us have started on the wrong foot as well. It's your actions from this point forward that will show whether you truly intend to keep fish in a responsible manner, with an eye to their comforts and your own limitations.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
I suppose I'll have to get a full test kit, I just i just refuse to give $40 to petco. I need to order one online, any suggestions?

jentra, thanks for that video, that was cool. I'll attach some images of my tanks here this afternoon.


I am learning a lot from you, and like I said in my OP, I'm 23, and this is my first step into actual aquarium knowledge.

The tapwater pH reading was a mistake, by being more red, higher number, basic. I haven't taken chemistry in a few years or had to know the pH scale :p

That hardness gap is quite large, but no doubt the water here is hard. What does this mean? I one of the two leaves soap on your skin when showevering and I can't stand it, but I think since my fish are fine, overfiltered, it may not be an issue. Just curious about what water hardness means.

And BWG, there is no telling tone over the internet. I am taking nearly all your advice, I just made that comment out of hubris, and I apologize if you took it as a bad thing, I was just trying to keep myself from looking like a total idiot.

Thanks all. Would you be interested in pictures after I do my water changes and move my goldfish and clown loach?
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
That's the clown loach clicking to show it is happy isn't it?
Welcome to the forum Tcat!

Quick word of advice for you - don't trust the PetCo employees! I (and many others on this site) have gotten into a lot of trouble by taking the bad "advice" of people in shops. Not saying that they're ALL bad, but until you have a better understanding, and can verify for yourself who is giving good input, it's safer to just ask here. Don't be afraid of "looking like a total idiot," either. XP The only way that will happen is if you choose not to listen, and bring harm to your fish! It's true that there's no such thing as a stupid question - this hobby is amazing, and there is so much to learn! You've got some great members posting on this thread already - they know their stuff, and the advice you've been given here is good. Glad to hear you're listening. :)

PetSmart sells the API test kits for less than $40, but if you watch them on Amazon, they often go on sale. I've seen them for as little as $15! I'd say the average you'd expect to pay is between $25-$30, but the kit will last you for a VERY long time, and is worth every penny (IMHO). Nothing in this world is perfect, but those strips can be very unreliable.
I also recommend you pick up the Kh/Gh test kit. It's usually around $6-7, but the hardness of your water should play a huge role in what you stock. In your situation, it sounds like you may be wanting to alter your parameters, so you'll definitely want to know where you're starting, what your target is, and how quickly you're getting there. Quick shifts in GH, KH, and pH can cause a lot of harm to your fish, and even kill them.

Water hardness can be very confusing - I think we were all confused by it at first - and sometimes still are :p This article helped me out a ton when I was first learning: Water Hardness and pH in the Freshwater Aquarium I suggest you give it a read-through, and feel free to ask any questions you have. The science behind what goes on in our tanks is fascinating, but can be mind-boggling at first. . .

Hope this helps out a bit, and again - welcome to TFK!
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
I got about a 50% water change done in that 29g and moved my clown loach, goldfish, catfish, and golden algae eater over into my 75g. The nitrate levels are already reading in the safe zone on the dip stick test but I went ahead and ordered one of those tests on Amazon (suprise, it was about half of what Petco was selling them for), so it looks like my 29g is on the mend. Thanks again for all of your advice!

The water hardness is the only thing left that is a potential problem, I will check out that article but I'm not sure I understand what hardness means. I know soft water won't get the soap off of you when you take a shower which is annoying so I'm glad my water is hard but not for my fishtank water.

I thought the shrimp I got for that 29g would clean up any extra food and stuff at the bottom of the tank, would that not have an nitrate/ites BWG?

Once I get my plants and decor back in order I will take some pictures of my tanks for y'all.

Thanks again.
Additionally, there are fresh water test kits and salt water test kits. Is there one that has everything I need for both?
Well decaying food would release ammonia. A shrimp however will do the same thing since ammonia is waste. So let's assume the shrimp does convert some of the uneaten food to energy, it's not using it all (btw it's best not to have an animal and just rely on them eating what's there. Everything in the tank needs fed). Compare that to feeding less and removing uneaten food which by comparison greatly reduces waste.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
Aggregating waste perhaps, gathering little bits off the bottom into a waste excretion that can be filtered. Plus you have a shramp. I guess they're more important in salt water tanks.

"Additionally, there are fresh water test kits and salt water test kits. Is there one that has everything I need for both?"
The kit for fresh water can be used for salt as well you will just want to get a high range PH kit as the regular one will not go as high as you will need for salt water.
  • Like
Reactions: 1
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.