When I was given my Aquarium last July for my birthday. It will come as no surprise that coming from Grimsby I love fish and not just to catch and eat them but to also watch them as they swim around. For me watching fish swimming around is really relaxing and I am genuinely fascinated by them. That said having an Aquarium can be quite hard work to look after, it is no longer a case of putting some stones in a tank, topping it full of water and shoving your fish into it. My aquarium had to be established for 3 days and at the right 'values' before I could entertain the idea of putting fish into it. To do that I had to take some water from my aquarium to the Marine Centre where I intended to purchase my fish and allow someone to test it. Once they are satisfied that your aquarium is set up correctly you can then purchase fish and are advised what to purchase as a first time owner plus further advice on what extra items to purchase to ensure you keep your water at its correct values.
Starting with items such as water filters, thermometers, testing sticks and water conditioner you need to be fully prepared to care for your fish.
The correct values within an aquarium are really important for your fish to thrive and remain healthy. The last thing you want to find in a morning is all your fish floating dead in your tank because the water wasn't right. Having the water condition in your aquarium as close to a fish' natural environment as possible is really important and this is why the Tetratest strips are so important. I also have a separate testing kit for ammonia on the advice of the marine centre because again any rise in levels are harmful to the fish.
The Tetratest strips are also known as dip testing sticks and they will determine the most important 6 values within your aquarium in 60 seconds. By that I mean the following:
---> general hardness (GH)
---> carbonate hardness (KH)
---> nitrite (NO2)
---> nitrate (NO3)
---> chlorine (Cl2)
All of these values are really important for the wellbeing of your fish and you can help things along by not over-feeding your fish, or having too many fish within your tank. To ensure you don't overstock, I would always suggest talking to your local marine shop for advice. You also need to ensure the gravel is cleaned regularly along with the your pump.
The sipping sticks are sold in a blue cardboard box which has pictures of fish on, it details exactly what you have bought. You are told that they are for "Fast and easy testing of water quality". Inside the box is a tube which has a flip top lid wherein which you find about 25 testing strips, known as dip sticks. The sticks themselves feel like photograph paper and are quite smooth, then running down the stick there are 6 separate coloured squares on them which are for the 6 values mentioned above and they change colour when dipped into the water.
When it comes to using these sticks, it is a really simple process. The sticks themselves are about 10cm in length and 2cm wide and to use them you simply dip them into your aquarium for approximately 1-2 seconds, ensuring that the arrows printed onto the stick remain outside the water and that your fingers don't touch any of the testing squares, then removing it from the water, do not shake it, simply hold it and then wait for a further 50-60 seconds for the strip to change its colour. On the back of the tube is a colour coded diagram and you simply hold your dipping stick against the tube to check that each value is within the right reading to determine whether or not you need to change your water. Whilst all of this does sound quite difficult, as long as you read the accompanying leaflet that explains everything really well and it does tell you what the right values are. If any of them change and become what is determined to high or too low, for example if the nitrate levels are too high, then undertake a partial water change, by that it means changing at least 1/3 of the water in your tank and replacing it with conditioned tap water, you do this by using Aquasafe or a similar product, which again your marine centre can advise you on.
I have used these testing strips ever since I have had my aquarium, mainly because I was shown how to use them properly when I first acquired the aquarium. When you first set up your aquarium it is recommended that you check the water every 2-3 days until your aquarium becomes fully established (usually after 6-8 months) and then it is recommended that you test the water every week. The reason that the water should be checked so often is that the smallest of change can result in stress and illness for your fish and ultimately their death. However if you do follow all of the advice you are given then you should have very little problems.
Having said all of this, I have had my aquarium for 15 months now and I am still checking my aquarium on a weekly basis and performing the rest of the tests that I was advised to do and once you are into the swing of things and have performed these tests regularly, you quickly come to understand what is right and wrong with your water and know how to deal with it. Having had my aquarium for 15 months I have had two fish die on me, for what reason I am unsure but I immediately checked the water to find that it was fine.
I really do recommend these sticks, they are simple and easy to use, they are easy to understand and they come with user-friendly instructions which help put your mind at rest when performing so many tasks with so many checks at once. These dipping sticks are readily available to purchase either online or from your local pet shop and for a tube which contains 25 sticks you can expect to pay between £8.00 and £12.99 depending on where you shop and with these it is definitely worth shopping around to keep a stock of them because you never know when you need them.
Test strips for the determining (literally in seconds!) the 6 most important values in freshwater aquariums now with an additional chlorine parameter.