Problem Solving Your Aquarium Pt-2

Discussion in 'User-Created Articles' started by jhnrb, Sep 25, 2005.

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  1. jhnrb


    Mar 9, 2005
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    (CONT. FROM PT-1)

    Problem Solving Your Aquarium

    After your testing is done you should compare the numbers with the ones that are generally recommended for the type of aquarium that you maintain. Below are some guidelines to go by:

    pH : morning: around 8.2, evening: around 8.4

    s.g.: 1.023 to 1.025

    Nitrate (total): as close to zero ppm. as you can get it. 5 ppm total nitrate is an acceptable level.

    Phosphate: 0.01 to 0.03 ppm

    dKH: 8 to 9 in a reef. If you are using a kalk reactor the dKH may be higher (up to 12/13)

    Ammonia: 0.00

    Nitrite 0.00

    Calcium ion: in a reef 450 to 480 ppm. In a fish-only tank not that critical (300-350 ppm.)

    Silicic acid: as close to zero ppm., as you can be, max. 0.5 ppm (again there may be no need to test - see above)

    Temperature: 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit

    Oxygen: dissolved oxygen levels should be as close to saturation as possible (> 7 mg/L) It is better even to have higher dissolved oxygen levels.

    ORP: Redox potential should be between 350 and 400 mv as measured in the tank. This is a morning reading. The level will be closer to the higher number in the morning and closer to the lower number in the evening (at least that is the typical scenario). Those who use ozone may find that this is different.

    Having established what all the water quality parameters are, you can quickly scan the table above and see where the readings you came up with are off. You will more than likely find that several are not in line with generally recommended parameters. If such is the case intervention on your part is necessary to solve these problems.

    Note that there is no magical cure and that getting an aquarium back in shape is and can be a lengthy process. Not only is this so because several parameters need to be brought back in line, but in addition to that, they need to be brought back in line slowly and not quickly. If you make changes too rapidly, you will create stress and stress leads to problems (or I should say: more problems).

    The next step is to bring them back in line. The more readings are off the longer it will take you to get the aquarium back to normal. That should make sense. If only one reading is off then fixing the problem is going to be a lot easier than if many are off.

    The key to getting your aquarium back in shape though remains the same. The water quality parameters need to be adjusted so that they all fall in the recommended ranges. This is not an overnight task either as, if you do so, you may bring about too much stress.

    Make changes slowly, but steadily, until the parameters of the water in your tank are close to the recommended levels. Test regularly to see how conditions change and keep notes so you know what you did to solve the problem. These notes may come in very handy the next time you encounter the same problem.

    You can work on several changes you need to make at a time and need not bring individual ones back up to par before you can begin working on another one. The only difference is that some need to be modified in the tank itself and not by means of water changes. This will require the use of certain additives. Make sure you have an ample supply available.

    Say, for instance, that your dKH is way too high and that you have decided to lower it by means of seltzer water. Make sure that you have several gallons of it if you have a large aquarium, as that is what it may take. You will not be adding a lot at one time, but you will be adding it frequently throughout the day and for days on end. This will bring a gradual reduction of the dKH about without stressing the animals.

    Assume your pH is low. You will probably need a complete buffer and may need sodium carbonate. Again make sure you have all you need on hand. Read up on how to use the products. Make sure you are aware of how to use the products correctly. When in doubt contact the manufacturer. Do not use a product if you not sure how to use it. This can be very dangerous and lead to very stressful situations for the animals. Caution is the word here.

    If you are dealing with disease and have decided to use the Vitamin C method, calculate in advance how much Vitamin C you will actually need for a full therapeutic treatment for the size tank you have. Order that quantity so you do not run out in the middle of the treatment period. Actually, it is best to order a little more so you have some excess tablets should you need them. It is all to easy to underestimate what you will need. Don't fall into that trap. In the case of Vitamin C it is also a good idea to go from the therapeutic levels slowly back to the prophylactic ones when the therapeutic phase is completed.

    After you have done all that is necessary, your tank should look a lot better and you should not be experiencing the problems you were. Note that the animals make take a little longer than you expect to recuperate. The stress they have been under does not go away overnight. Patience is needed when problem solving an aquarium, especially when quite a number of parameters are out of hand.

    When things are really out of control, often the best method to use is to perform large, daily, water changes. Make sure though that the water you add is not greatly different from the pH, s.g. and the temperature of the water in the tank. By large I mean 50 to 75 % ones.

    If the pH, S.G. or temperature are out of line in your tank, you must first bring them in line slowly before you start the water change approach. Indeed, say you pH is low and the pH you want in your aquarium is 8.2: you cannot start adding large amounts of water to that tank that has a pH of 8.2 to adjust your tank's pH, as that would stress the animals too much. You must first bring the pH in the tank up to 8.2 by adding buffers, or KW, or sodium carbonate. Once the pH in the tank is in line, you can start your water changes. The same applies to specific gravity and temperature. If these need to be adjusted, do so in the tank first before you begin the water changes (which are usually meant to lower nitrates, phospahtes, silicates, organic matter that is dissolved, lower yellowing matter, terpenoids and so on).

    Changing the nitrate, phosphate and silicate levels through successive water changes will not create stress. On the contrary, it will reduce it. Their high levels is what creates stress to begin with.

    So before resorting to large water changes (fifty or more percent a day) you need to adjust the important tank parameters first. These certainly include temperature, pH and specific gravity. Again you can work on all three at the same time if you need to, but do so slowly. Take you're time. Too drastic changes in a short period of time stress the animals even more than they already are.

    When all is well and the tank looks good again (meaning the animals) keep monitoring conditions and if you discover that one or more are again getting away from the norms, you will need to try to determine why that is happening. Correcting the situation is one thing, preventing it from happening again is yet another and a more important one. Indeed, stability within certain limits of all tank conditions is a requisite to success.
    jhnrb, Sep 25, 2005
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