The Water Lab


Your aquarium water has many different characteristics that will influence how much success you will have. Your knowledge of water quality will improve once you gain some experience, but for the moment we will look at some common properties.


This is a measure of the number of hydrogen ions it contains. The number determines the water’s relative acidity or alkalinity. pH is measured on a scale ranging from 0 to 14, with acidic water being under 7 and alkaline water over 7. pH of 7 is therefore considered neutral. A range of 6.5 to 7.5 is suitable for most tropical fish. Some African Rift Lake cichlids (pronounced: sicklid) prefer a much higher pH, while tetras and discus prefer a lower pH. This is by far the most common and easiest test to perform. A keen hobbyist will test the pH of their water once a week.


This is a highly toxic substance that is produced from fish waste, rotting food and any decaying matter. Fortunately there are beneficial bacteria that naturally consume this toxin for us. Ammonia can be easily tested. Ask our staff about an appropriate test kit.


This is a by-product of the bacteria that consumes the ammonia. It too is considered toxic. Again there are beneficial bacteria that convert nitrite into less harmful nitrate.


This is the final stage of decomposition. In nature, nitrates are absorbed by plants, algae and other micro-organisms. In the aquarium however, nitrates tend to build up far more quickly and therefore need to be diluted. High levels of nitrate will stress fish, thus lowering their immune system. This is one of the main reasons we encourage partial water changes.

Unfortunately these beneficial bacteria are not present when we first set up the aquarium and it can take up to 2 months to properly establish itself.

By following these simple rules you can enjoy an absorbing and rewarding hobby.

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