Aquarium Water Testing

There are various important reasons to have your aquarium water regularly tested. Tank water parameters have a direct influence on the life span and well-being of the tank inhabitants. Needless to say, keeping your water parameters within proper levels will certainly save you money and time.

The enclosed environment within a tank demands not only regular maintenance, but also your knowledge of how to test your tank water and interpret the results correctly.

You have to bear in mind that even if the aquarium water appears to be clean and clear, that does not necessarily mean the water is perfect for the tank inhabitants. Dangerous elements and compounds that are lethal to fish may be present, and may not be detected without using good quality water testing kits.

Every hobbyist should have water test kits available at all times and be able to interpret the test results. Specific test kits are available for the four basic parameters that you must check on a regular basis— ammonia, nitrates, nitrite, and pH. It doesn’t really matter whether you have an aquarium that has been newly set up or one that’s been maintained for many years, water test kits should always be on hand and available when needed.

There may be several tests indicated to maintain water quality, however there are tests that should be carried out on a regular basis. Aside from the four parameters already mentioned above, you will also need to test for GH and KH.

General hardness (GH) is a measure of magnesium and calcium dissolved in water. On the other hand, carbonate hardness (KH) refers to the concentration of carbonate and bicarbonate ions that is dissolved in water. Each of these parameters has a specific test kit that you can buy from any fish store or in online shops.

aquarium water testing



Ammonia is a normal waste product of fish. It is also produced when organic matter and uneaten food breaks down inside the tank. High ammonia levels in the tank can cause poisoning and may be fatal if the situation is not addressed as soon as possible.

Exposure to high levels of ammonia can cause damage to the protective coating of the fish and compromise their respiratory and immune systems. Ammonia toxicity can eventually cause internal and external bleeding that can be life-threatening.

When testing for ammonia, make sure that levels should be zero, and maintained at that level. Any trace of ammonia in the water can stress fish out.


Nitrite is a by-product of ammonia and is slightly less toxic. However, it is still harmful to the tank inhabitants, thus should not exceed zero during testing.


Nitrate is a byproduct of ammonia and nitrite. Although not quite as toxic, very high levels of nitrate can stress fish and decrease their immune function, making them more prone to developing disease. If you are breeding fish, nitrate levels should also be kept very low.

In a suitable environment, nitrate levels should be maintained at 40 ppm or below. Low nitrate levels can easily be maintained by doing regular water changes.


Basically, water pH specifies whether aquarium water is acidic, alkaline or neutral. A pH of 7.0 is classified as neutral, while pH that falls below 7.0 is acidic and alkaline when it is above 7.0.

About the Author:

Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a proud Australian company that provides excellent online aquarium supplies for betta fish tanks, goldfish tanks and also aquatic plant care products carrying top of the line brands including API, biOrb and Exo Terra.

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