Some people jump right into fish keeping, and it’s so easy they don’t understand when people have issues. After bashing my head against issues when others tell me they aren’t even cleaning their tanks and everything is fine, I concluded.
Water is different.
Silly to say, I know, but true. My water is different from your water, which is different from Flynt Massachusets water. After all my water chemistry research, I don’t know any more about chemistry. Still, I hypothesize that those who have an easy time with fish might have a water source that their chosen fish love and thrive in, while those of us that fight to maintain have just the opposite water from the fish we love.
Water is life. So let’s discuss fish water for awhile.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water:
You can sometimes purchase RO water from your local fish store, or you can buy a system to use at home. RO water is perfectly safe to drink because it has been stripped of everything and is just water. Perfectly safe for drinking, but not for adding straight to your aquarium.
Fish need more than water to survive. I mean, they live and breathe water. It is essential to your fish’s health that there are just the right amount of minerals in your water. If you use RO, you will need to re-mineralize it with the important calcium, magnesium, and other minerals, that your aquatic friends need to survive. I use Seachem Equalizer to get the job done in my aquarium, and I’ve had fewer issues with unexplained die off.
Whatever is in your house is what is commonly used in fish tanks. Just add some de-chlorinator to your tap water, make sure it is close to your aquarium temperature and add it to your aquarium. If it works, why question it?
But if your tank is clean, the temperature is perfect, but your fish keep dying, then it’s time to take a serious look at where your water is coming from and what is in it. Most aquarium test strips don’t check for copper or lead that is leached in by aging pipes. If your fish like harder water, but you have a water softener, this could spell disaster. Know your water and know-how to test it.
I really wish I would have taken a chemistry class. I’d really love to give out all the nitty-gritty on this, but really, I’m still confused. Aquarium Co-Op has a nice beginner’s video to help you understand the chemistry at work in your aquarium.
Even if your tap water is acceptable, you will need a water conditioner like Seachem Prime to dechlorinate and ready it for your fish’s use.
Then there is the Nitrogen Cycle to know about.
Buying a fist tank, filling it with water, and adding fish right away is dooming them to illness in a toxic environment. Once you set an aquarium up and start it, you start a mini-ecosystem. Your fish will start pooping in this sterile, clean environment releasing ammonia, and excess food will rot, creating an unhealthy environment for some time. But, beneficial bacteria will start to flourish by eating all the ammonia in your aquarium, creating a bloom that makes the tank hazy.
You may be tempted to do a large water change to clear the haze, but don’t. You need beneficial bacteria to eat the ammonia and toxins. Once the bacteria take care of the toxic environment, the water will clear up nicely. It just takes time for that cycle to start. Fish would appreciate it if that cycle was completed before you introduced them.