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NFC: Why Test Water....

A  lo tof people ask me this question every now and then... Why should I
test my water regularly?  Once the tank is cycled, shouldn't everything be
fine?  If my tank is cycled, and I'm doing regular water changes, why
should I spend all that money on an expensive water testing kit?

So.. should you regularly test water even though the tank appears to be
doing fine?  The answer is yes.  Its still very important to check your
pH, NH3, and nitrate.  Nitrite, Hardness, and all those other paramaters
are nice to test too, but they're typically not as important as those

One parameter I didn't mention there that is extremely important to watch
is... Temperature.  This test kit costs about 2$ and lasts forever.  I've
had tanks experience amazing swings based on all sorts of things.  Without
watching the temperature, its amazing how quickly O2-run out and ich can
set in.  During the day, your plants and algae are producing lots of
oxygen, allowing the fish to live happily.  However, when the tank lights
go out, its a whole different story.  The plants start using oxygen,
rather than making it, and your fish may suffer as a result.   Other
sources of heat may be keeping the tank at a fine temperatur.  These may
be such things as the oven, lights, and other electrical appliances.  When
you turn in for the night, you may also cool the house a little, resulting
in serious problems.  Its also not unusual for a thermostat in an aquarium
heater to slowly uncalibrate.  When this occurs, your tank can slowly get
warmer or cooler, without you noticing.

The biological activities of the tank slowly lower pH.  With frequent
water changes and good water quality, these are minimized.  However, the
pH still slowly drops.  THis is especially true in soft water.  (Speaking
of which, water tends to harden up over time.  Since you're constantly
replacing water lost to evepaouration with water having some hardness, the
water is naturally going to get harder and harder over time.  Something to
watch for those with really soft water and soft-water loving fish. )
Because this change in pH can be so slow, your fish can adapt over time.
But try to add some new ones, and they're floating ina  few moments.  This
is a true headache to those of us in the pet shop business.  "My fish have
been living fine in there for five years, your fish are defective!"

NH3, even in a cycled tank, can suddenly rear its ugly head.  This
morning,  I dropped some remaining feeder guppies in with my lion fish.
They swam eratically for a few moments and died.  The H3 had jumped to 1.5
PPM.  Most likely, this was due to frequent feedings of brine shrimp for a
goby.  It had slowly climbed back up, even though the tank was cycled.
The fish were doing, more or less, allright.  They'd adapted to the slow
climb.  THe guppies, no matter how hardy they may typically be, couldn't
tolerate the change.  Umnfortunately, they're now adding to the ammonia in
the tank.

This slow climb and the adaption to it is something a proff of mine once
called, "The Boiled Frog Syndrome."  It goes something like this:

You take one pot of water, and get it up and close to boiling.  Then, you
take a nice big frog, and drop him in.  He screams and leaps out of the
water.  The water is waay too hot for the frog.  (This is a cartoon frog,
folks -- no one sick PETA on me. :)  You then take the same frog (after
he's forgotten all about it, of course) and drop him in a pot of nice cool
water.  You slowly turn the heat on.  The frog thinks this is great, nice
comfortable water.  The heat slowly, slowly heats up the water... Pretty
soon, you've got a nice frog soup.  The change was so gradual that he
coudln't notice.   

Joshua L. Wiegert
NFC Lists Administrator                          JLW at pi_dune.net
www.geocities.com/RainForest/Jungle/1680/        owner-nfc at actwin_com
ICQ 69551951                                     AIM UID: Etheosoma
Feel free to contact me by any of the above means for any reason.
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