Why should I test my aquarium water?

Why should I test my aquarium water?

Brian B on Nov 14th 2021

We all hate testing our water and probably are a little intimidated by just what it all means. With a minimum of basic information it's not really that complicated. If you look at the big picture we are really taking care of the water quality. The fish for the most part take care of themselves. That why it's important for us to understand the basic chemistry of the fish's water in order to correctly and safely adjust it. Once you have a basic understanding of how it all works it will become routine and a lot less intimidating.
The first step is breaking it down: Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates
Ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are all byproducts of waste breaking down in an aquarium, all of which are toxic to some degree to your fish and marine life. Items that build up in our aquariums are fish waste,uneaten food, algae and bad bacteria. This buildup needs to be broken down and either eliminated or turned into something which can be utilized by another organism. In an aquarium, there is a population of bacteria that is responsible for this process.
First the waste from fish,and food breaks down and releases ammonia.
This ammonia is very toxic to fish and must be converted to nitrite by bacteria.
Nitrite is also toxic to fish, and must be converted to nitrate by bacteria.
Nitrate is not nearly as toxic, and is consumed by algae to help it grow.
Since high levels of ammonia and nitrite are lethal for fish and coral, it is critical that these products be efficiently removed or converted to nitrate. Nitrate can be removed through weekly water changes.
Maintaining a population of bacteria that can convert ammonia into nitrite is an important part of your tank's water chemistry; a process known as biological filtration. Biological filtration will occur naturally in most tanks that have been up and running for a couple of months. New aquarium filters often contain a special area for media or wheel made specifically for providing an optimal habitat for growing these bacteria. While the bacteria will live in a traditional filter and on rocks in the aquarium, these new biological filters harbor a much larger colony and can, therefore, do a better job of removing ammonia and nitrites.
Tanks that are overcrowded ,or where waste builds up due to overfeeding, even with a good biological filter may not be able to keep up which will spell disaster for your fish and coral. Which is why we need to routinely check ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels in your tank to make sure the biological process is still functioning properly.
Brian B