Aquarium pH Level Testing
Anyone who has had an aquarium knows the frustration of losing fish. Different fish require different pH levels, something that beginning aquarium owners may not realize. The best thing to do is to first determine the type of fish you want in your aquarium. Then determine the pH level you will need to maintain to keep them healthy.
What is pH and what is the Range for Aquariums?
The measure of the acidic or basic value of a substance is the pH balance. The value of 7.0, applied to water, is considered to be neutral, which means that it has an equal number of hydroxide and hydrogen ions. Any chemicals or minerals added to this neutral water changes the pH so that it has either an acidic or a basic (alkaline) value. The pH range for a freshwater aquarium is between 5.5 (acidic) and 7.5 (alkaline), depending on the fish you have in your tank. Saltwater fish usually like a higher pH – 8.0 and higher, which is alkaline.
Setting up the Aquarium
If you are like most aquarium owners, you will use water from your sink faucet to fill your tank. This is not a problem as long as you treat the water. Tap water is usually full of chemicals and minerals. The chemicals are often added by the city to make it portable if you live within city limits. They can also be absorbed from natural land sources due to pollution and run-off. Minerals are what determine if your water is soft or hard. In order to treat your tank, one of the things you will need to know is the pH level.
Water Hardness and pH Balance
Different areas of the world have different levels of minerals in their water. The hardness is determined by the quantity of calcium and magnesium dissolved in your water. Soft water has a lower measure of these minerals, which can stress your fish because it causes your pH levels to drop dramatically. Soft water is acidic, while hard water is alkaline. Hard water will cause fluctuations in your aquarium’s pH levels.
How Often Should pH Testing be done and should the Levels Be Changed?
Once your aquarium is established, testing once a month is not a bad idea. However, if you want to catch any trends in pH fluctuations, testing twice a month is better. If you have had a fish die or there has been an outbreak of some kind of disease, do a test. It is also a good idea to do a test prior to putting any new arrivals into the tank. You will want to keep a record of your test results, so that you can watch for any patterns. It is best to test at the same time of the day, since results can vary depending on the time of day that you test. Avoid changing pH levels if it is not necessary; it will only stress the fish.