Questions of Chemistry
(The First Tank Guide)
This is a big one. There are all kinds of chemicals that you could buy to put in your aquarium, however, most of these are unnecessary.
What Chemicals Are Recommended for an Aquarium?
- The first will help you with your water changes. Before adding new water to the aquarium, you will need to treat it to neutralize any chlorine or chloramine in the water so that it will not harm your fish or your biological filter. There are many different products on the market, and would recommend one of the droplet types. They are easy to use and usually fairly cheap.
- The Ick medicine... Well, I think that it is just something you have to have. You will get Ick, not may, but will. Save yourself some headache and pick up some medication before you have a problem. This is really about the only diagnostic or treatment recommendation I will give out, because Ick is about the only illness that can be reliably diagnosed accurately by a non-veterinarian. Get a product with Malachite Green as the active ingredient. It is the best stuff I have found. Personally I would recommend QuICK Cure by Aquarium Products (this is probably about the only product endorsement you will see here unless I decide to start doing product reviews). I have had the best luck with this. It can usually treat ich in just a couple of days.
What About pH?
The most common chemistry questions I get are about pH. Either someone has used a pH buffer to try to adjust the pH in their tank, and has had disastrous results, or someone is trying to figure out how to adjust their pH unnecessarily. Other people are trying to troubleshoot pH changes or differences between the pH in their source water and their aquarium water. Many people don't seem to realize that most fish live in water with a wide range of pH, and very few fish require any specific pH.
Don't I Need an Ammonia Remover?
The second most common question I receive about chemicals for the aquarium is in regard to ammonia eliminators and ammonia detoxifiers. Like pH adjusters, chemicals to remove or neutralize ammonia are unnecessary and are likely to cause more problems than they solve.
What About Bacteria Boosters to Jump-Start the Cycle?
I also get a lot of questions about bacteria boosters and why many people don't seem to get any benefit from themor seem to have disastrous results from using them, even if they only use them once or twice. Even though bacteria boosters are not really chemicals, I thought this would be a good place to list them...
How About Algae Destroyers?
Many pet shops sell algacides - algae poisons - to try to control algae growth in an aquarium. Though these may work in some cases, the side effects usually don;'t make them worth while, and there are much better ways to control algae in your fish tank.
OK, How About Water Clarifiers?
Though many people have problems with water clarity in their fish tank at one time or another, water clarifiers rarely work, unless there wasn't a problem in the first place. Proper aquarium maintenance is the solution to the problem of cloudy aquarium water, not some chemical additive.
Medication, when properly used, can be beneficial. However, when improperly used, medicines can be disastrous for your fish and your tank. use medication with caution, and preferably under the guidance of a veterinarian.
What Is a Dechlorinator?
What Do You Need to Know About Aquarium Chemicals?
As a general rule, you don't want any chemicals other than a dechlorinator. Before you consider purchasing any chemicals for your aquarium, make sure you can answer these questions:
- Why am I adding these chemicals?
- What does the chemical do for me and for my aquarium?
- What are the side effects of the chemical?
- What do I do if the chemical doesn't do what I expect it to do?
- What happens if I do not use the chemical? Is there actually any drawback to not using it?
- How will this chemical interact with other chemicals I am using in the tank?
- Does this chemical address any need in the tank or for the fish?
- How do I know that the chemical did what it is supposed to have done for me?
- How do I know if the chemical is not working or is having a negative side effect?
- How do I correct for over action of the chemical?
- Can I overdose my fish on this chemical? how much does it take?
- Will this chemical interfere in the short term or in the long term with my filtration?
- Will this chemical interact with any medications I may need to use or prevent me from using medications (or some type of medication) at some time in the future?
- If I'm using chemical filtration, particularly carbon, will that remove this chemical from the water before this chemical does whatever it is this chemical is supposed to do for me?
- If I am correcting something with this chemical, what is it that I am correcting? How do I know that that thing is wrong I the first place and needs corrected?
If you can easily answer and understand the question, the answer, and why to ask the question in the first place, then you may want to consider using some other chemicals in your aquarium. Otherwise, you (and your fish) are probably better off without the chemical.