Why should I test the water in my aquarium?

In nature, waste products from decaying matter, fish waste, and other animal waste are naturally filtered. The harmful ammonia and nitrites are removed by bacteria and plant life. The substrate at the bottom of a body of water will absorb harmful chemicals and decaying matter like a natural filter. The actual size of rivers and lakes will keep water healthy for animals. The larger a body of water, the less lethal any harmful chemicals will be to its inhabitants. In an aquarium, the natural filtration is replaced by equipment, which filters the water. The larger the aquarium you own, the easier it is to keep the water balanced and healthy. To ensure the ammonia and nitrite levels have not reached harmful levels, be sure to test the water.
To understand how filtration occurs, one needs to understand the cycle. Fish waste and other decomposing material will produce ammonia. In high quantities, this chemical will kill animals in an aquarium.

A new system will not have nitrifying bacteria present. Ammonia levels and then nitrite levels can reach deadly amounts. If this happens, partial water changes will bring levels down without destroying all of the nitrifying bacteria. This will only last about four to six weeks before the tank “cycles.” Or, you can add Tetra SafeStart® to your new aquarium. SafeStart® accelerates the establishment of the bio-filter in newly set-up freshwater aquariums. The live bacteria start working immediately to provide a safe and healthy environment for your fish without the long wait. SafeStart can also be used after a water change, when adding new fish or after medicating.

Elevated levels of ammonia and nitrite should not occur in a “cycled” tank. Causes of elevated levels in a mature system would indicate overstocking or over-feeding, and should be corrected immediately.