Treating the Water:
It's time to Treat the waters!

What do we use to treat the water?
Establishing and maintaining a healthy aquarium is essential for your fish's well being. Making adjustments to your water quality is relatively commonplace. Now a few of you out there do have ideal water and may never have to make any adjustments, but for the other 99.9% percent of us, water adjustments are a necessity.

The most common adjustment a keeper has to make is to adjust the pH of the water. Now in the first article I did go over the importance of testing your water prior to buying fish, and closely matching fish to that reading. Doing this greatly decreases the chances you will have to continually adjust your waters pH week after week. Now granted a lot of us keep fish outside the range of our source waters pH, so constant, or infrequent adjustments are needed.

Low pH:

Well when the waters pH value is too low there is a couple of ways to easily adjust it. The most commonly sold product is a liquid drop additive called pH UP. pH UP is made up of dye, water and sodium Bicarbonate, if that sounds familiar it is because it is the same thing as the Baking Soda in your kitchen cabinet. If you continually have to battle low pH in your tank, a simple small box of Baking Soda added in very, very small amounts to your change water, mixed well and then added to your tank can save you hundreds of dollars over time. This is ideal for people who want to keep those African Cichlids that require a higher pH water. Now if you continually have a drop in your tank waters pH to below that of your source water, you may have a problem in your tank such as under filtration, over stocking, bad substrate or other object in your water like a piece of wood or coral affecting your pH.
(Side note, you should not add Beach wood, shells or corals to a freshwater aquarium)

High pH:

Now if the complete opposite is your case, the pH keeps rising in your tank, there again is a product or two for you. Most readily found adjustment chemical is pH DOWN, or Sodium BiPhosphate, water and dye.
You can find this Sodium BiPhosphate in powdered form if you like to keep low pH fish like Neon's and Discus. Now phosphates are not ideal for planted tanks, other products you can use to lower your pH do not contain phosphates such as True pH Minus by Kent Marine. Other things to consider using if you continually want to drop your pH is adding peat moss or peat fiber to your filtration system, as well as adding African bog wood to your tanks decorations, each of these can give you about a 0.2 drop in pH. (Never add peat fiber/peat moss to a marine tank.)
Now there are lots of other products on the market from drops, powders and even tablets that claim to instantly adjust and neutralize your pH, while these do sometimes work for the short term, they should not be used for long term maintenance of your tank.

Getting Rid of Ammonia:

Now one of the most dangerous things you will run up against as a fish keeper is elevated levels of ammonia. Usually weekly water changes of 15% or so will help to keep this in check, as well as your biological filtration system. But every once in a while elevated ammonia levels do occur and need to be promptly dealt with. Liquid additives like Ammo-Rid is a commonly used chemical, however be aware that this chemical does not actually rid your tank of ammonia, but simply breaks down the chemical components of ammonia, allowing for them to reform in a few days. Using these types of additives usually mean you have to keep using them, quite an expensive option. A better way to deal with ammonia is by the use of a mineral called Zeolite. Zeolite appears as a small chalky white pebble and can be purchased in prefabricated containers to fit on the top of an Under Gravel Filtration systems lift tube or in bulk cartons for use in canister, corner and hang on tank style filters. Zeolites, unlike the chemical additives actually absorb the ammonia out of your water into the porous stones. Since it does absorb the ammonia, they lose their effectiveness over time. A good general rule of thumb is to keep the zeolite in your filter for no longer than 28 days normally or 14 days if your tank is high in ammonia. You can also get zeolite/charcoal blends for your filtration units to use as a part of your regular tank maintenance, Ammo-Carb is probably the most commonly found premix blend of these on the market One very important note, If you add zeolites to your tank make very sure you rinse them off under running water for about a minute prior to using them, this gets rid of any excess chalky dust, preventing a white cloud from enveloping your tank.


The bacteria field of your tank normally converts nitrites into the more harmless nitrates. However if you run into elevated levels of nitrite the addition of a nitrite absorbing pillow and water changes are you best methods of defense. These pillows are very inexpensive and after being rinsed/recharged can be used thousands of times. As well as the pillows, nitrite removing powders and tablets are also available to suit the needs of those of you with larger or smaller aquariums.


The absolute easiest way to deal with excess nitrates is either by the addition of live plants if you are so inclined or simple weekly water changes of about 15% total tank volume.


Now as we previously discussed, different fish prefer different levels of water hardness. If you want to keep particular species but your water is either too hard or too soft for the fish you want to keep, easy to use liquid or powdered adjustment additives are readily available. The Mardel Company, and a number of others, produce a wide range of easy to use liquid or powder additives to help you keep your water its best for whichever species you want to keep.


Chlorine is not something that occurs in your aquarium, but rather something that is introduced to it. Water companies all over the country to help clear up the water and make it drinkable routinely add chlorine and other chemicals like fluoride. The easiest way of getting rid of chlorine from your change water is to simply pour your change water into a dedicated plastic container and have it sit open for 3 days. This way the chlorine and fluorides can naturally dissipate. Now while this may be an ideal, real life dictate that most of us just don't have the time to let our water sit out in the open for a few days. Stress-Coat by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals is probably the most widely used product currently to prepare water for immediate use in our aquariums. Stress –Coat also has Aloe Vera added to it to help with maintain your fish's health from stress and slime coat replacement.

Other Chemicals:

Now there are just a ton of other additives many companies encourage us to use in our aquariums, some work well, others just plain don't do a thing or can actually be harmful to your fish. Best thing to do is before you add any chemicals or additives to your fish's home are to do your research first. Don't just rely off the advice of a clerk at the store, it is their job to SELL you the product, not to determine whether you actually need it or not.
Note* I am in no way endorsing any of them companies or products mentioned above, nor have I been compensated by any of them to mention their products. I only mentioned these few because they are some of the most common products, which may be found in all markets across the U.S. and Canada. Alternative products may work as well or even better than then ones mentioned here.