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Video:How to Control Water Quality in a Salt Aquarium

with Jonathan Wolf

Once you've started a salt water aquarium, it's important to maintain the quality of the water in order to maintain the well-being of the inhabitants. Here's a guide to controlling water quality in a salt aquarium.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Control Water Quality in a Salt Aquarium

Hi, I'm Jonathan Wolf with Blue Planet Aquarium Services in Chicago, Illinois, for About.com. In today's video, we're going to discuss how to control water quality in a salt water aquarium.

Materials Needed to Control Salt Aquarium Water Quality

Some items you'll need to control and test water quality in your aquarium are:
  • Salt
  • Hydrometer
  • Thermometer
  • Salt water test kit
  • Alkalinity and pH buffers
  • Nitrate and phosphate absorption resins

Controlling Ammonia and Nitrite in a Salt Aquarium

Maintaining good water chemistry is vitally important in any salt water aquarium. Specifically, let's look at what we should test regularly and how to control those. Typically speaking, after the nitrogen cycle is completed in your aquarium, we should have no levels of ammonia or nitrite. These are both very toxic and deadly to fish, and in the event of a power failure, a filter clogging, or pump failure and we do have presence of ammonia or nitrite, aggressive water changes are the best way to treat them.

Keeping Nitrates and Phosphates Out

These can basically be thought of as an ongoing measure of pollution in the aquarium. In very high levels, they are dangerous to fish, but even in very low levels, they're dangerous to corals. Also, they're an excellent food for algae and will fuel a great deal of algae growth. We want to keep these as low as humanly possible. There are absorption resins available to collect nitrate and phosphate out of the water; however, good old fashioned water changes and gravel cleans, as well as consistently feeding as little food as possible, is always the best way to combat nitrates and phosphates.

Keeping Salt Levels Even

Typically salt levels won't vary much in the tank since salt doesn't evaporate from water. However, it is important to monitor it. With a hydrometer, we want to see that we're at a level of 1.020 to 1.024 in most salt water aquariums. When adding salt to the aquarium, be sure it is completely dissolved in fresh water before adding it back. Any un-dissolved salt will not only be dangerous to fish, but after it dissolves, it will raise your salt level.

Maintaining Temperature in a Salt Aquarium

It's important to have a thermometer on your aquarium, as monitoring temperature is vitally important for any salt water aquarium. If you find that your aquarium is typically running over 80 degrees, old tricks such as opening the cabinet doors, turning off the lights and opening the tops is always a good idea. Our problem is oxygen will start to drop like a brick in the water as soon as we hit 80 degrees. The higher it goes, the less oxygen; that's going to be a problem for fish. If you're constantly high in temperature, we will probably have to look into something called an aquarium chiller. On the contrary, if we have a hard time maintaining a temperature up to 74 degrees, a simple aquarium water heater is a great investment.

Test pH and Alkalinity in Your Salt Aquarium

pH is the one parameter that is probably most likely to fluctuate in your aquarium and is vitally important to monitor closely and maintain. pH is a measure of acidity verses alkalinity and, in our aquarium, we want to see anywhere from the range of 8.0 to 8.6. Alkalinity needs to be in a range of 8 to 14 degrees of carbonate hardness, or DKH, in order for our pH to be stable. Adding alkalinity buffers, whether in a powder or liquid form, or frequent water changes will help maintain a stable alkalinity, which in turn will help maintain a stable pH.

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