So you’ve set up a gorgeous reef tank. What do you need to monitor to make sure it stays that way? Well, quite a few things — and the specific fish species you’re caring for will have very specific needs. But before getting into the nitty-gritty of your particular fish’s needs, there are some universal things every aquarist needs to regularly test in their tank:
- Salinity: Measured in parts per thousand (ppt). Too much or too little will stress out your tank, but healthy levels really depend on the fist you keep and what environment they’re native to. Fish native to high-salinity regions like the Red Sea require higher salinity levels, while fish native to estuaries will need lower levels.
- Ammonia: Measured in parts per million (ppm). This comes from fish waste and uneaten food. When checking with a saltwater test kit, you want your ammonia levels to be either undetectable or nonexistent (0ppm). It’s the leading cause of stress and death for fish.
- Nitrites and Nitrates: Also measured in ppm. Ammonia is broken down into nitrites, which are then broken down into nitrates. Nitrites are just as toxic as ammonia, so you want as close to 0ppm as possible. However, you have a bit more leeway with nitrates — it’s different for every fish, but generally speaking, levels under 40ppm are healthy.
- Acidity: Measured in potential hydrogen (pH). Saltwater fish generally do best in more basic water (pH above 8), but they’re also very sensitive to changes. Even a small change may lead to your fish dying off.
- Alkalinity: Measured in degrees of carbon hardness (dKH), milligrams per liter (mg/L), or ppm. This is a good measure of how easily your aquarium can buffer changes to your pH levels. Alkalinity saltwater test kits check “carbonate hardness,” which are the carbonate (CO3-2) and bicarbonate (HCO3) levels in water. These determine alkalinity. Healthy alkalinity and carbonate levels (which can differ between fish species) ensure healthy coral calcification and fish skeletal formation. Depleted levels means rapid changes in water pH, which as we mentioned earlier will stress out your fish.
These are just the start, however. Fish and Coral Store offers saltwater aquarium test kits for magnesium, calcium, and more for your specific aquarium needs.
Fish and Coral Store is operated by two aquarists with a deep love for saltwater fish. We’re here to help with anything you need, from saltwater test kits to aquariums. Our experts are ready at any time to answer your saltwater fish questions. We’re your saltwater fish experts on the East Coast.
Salinity, ammonia, nitrate, nitrate, pH, and alkalinity test kits are the top kits you’ll need for taking care of your aquarium. However, your specific fish may require monitoring other factors, like magnesium and calcium levels.
Saltwater fish and coral are very sensitive to their environment. If there is anything more than a slight change in their water, the inhabitants of your aquarium will get stressed and likely die. Saltwater aquarium test kits aren’t just helpful — they’re critical.
The more frequently you test, the better. A safe amount is once a week and after water changes. Any longer and you run the risk of slowly shifting parameters that may have long-term effects your reef can’t recover from.