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Water Quality Testing TJ’s Cycling 30 Gallon Saltwater Aquarium

The saltwater aquarium that I have been setting up is going through the cycling process. During this period, it is important to test water quality for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. Here, I share a few pictures, and a few aquarium tips about testing the water quality of a tropical fish tank.

While a new aquarium is going through a nitrogen cycle, a spike in ammonia levels is the first change that should be noticed. Next, the ammonia levels start to recede and gives way to a spike in nitrite. Finally, the nitrite levels recede and a spike in nitrates occurs. This process occurs in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. To hear all about the nitrogen cycle in new aquariums, take a listen to Aquarium Tip Tank Podcast 011.

There are several test kits to choose from. I chose to use an API Saltwater Master Test Kit.

API Saltwater Master Test Kit unopened and off the shelf

This test kit contains tests for pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. These are the most important water quality parameters to test for in a cycling aquarium. The API Saltwater Master Test Kit uses liquid reagents to turn vials of aquarium water colors for comparison to a color scale. All of the necessary reagents, vials, instructions, and color scales are provided in the test kit.

API Saltwater Master Test Kit Color Scale Card

Of course, when anything that is going to be used in your aquarium water is first opened it should always be rinsed off with tap water. Then, prior to performing any tests, the vials to be used should be rinsed with the water to be tested.

Water Quality Test 3 Weeks into Cycling Saltwater Aquarium

These are the results of the water quality test that I performed after my saltwater tank had been cycling for about 3 weeks. Of course, I’d like the ammonia levels to be at 0 parts per million (ppm). However, I had just added some fish food to the tank a couple days prior in order to allow it to decompose. When held under a better light and against the white background of the color scale, the color was somewhere between 0 and 0.25 ppm.

The nitrates were at 0 ppm, and the nitrates look like they were around 10 ppm. At this point, there were some light brown diatoms growing in the tank, and these water parameters are almost exactly what was expected.

With the diatoms growing in the aquarium, and the water quality looking suitable it was time to start adding some livestock that will help keep the tank clean. Yes, it was time to start stocking with an aquarium cleaner crew. Stay tuned at Aquarium Tip Tank to find out how stocking the tank with some cleaners went!

How are the water parameters in your aquarium doing? Perform a test, and leave some comments below!


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