nitrite or ammonia?

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Aquarium Advice Activist
May 30, 2002
I've been told by one LFS that I should watch nitrites in my tanks
Another LFS said don't sweat the nitrites but watch out for ammonia

Both? Neither? Water change or not? What is the deal?

And what about Ph?

Hi Ed:
Are we talking about a tank you're going to establish, a newly-established and still cycling tank.. or an established tank?

Ammonia and Nitrites will/should only be a problem with new and cycling tanks. If you're just setting up a tank, test kits for these are good to have (and, by the way, I recommend cycling a tank without fish). If you have detectable ammonia or nitrites in an established tank, it's a sign that something's wrong with your biological filtration.

If "Water change or not?" is a question about whether or not you need to perform water changes.. yes, you do.

Testing the pH of your tap water (do it twice: once straight out of the tap, once after letting the water sit for 24 hours) is a good idea, since different fish come from different areas, they have different water requirements and it's a good idea to keep fish that are a match for your water.

if it's a new tank, then you need to worry about both and monitor them closely and change your water to keep the levels at acceptable levels for your fish until the cycle ends...depending on your fish's particular needs, as long as pH stays stable you shouldn't really have much of a problem--most fish are tank bred and can tolerate a range if it's stable, some fish are more sensitive than others, so i would suggest a little research--if your tank is established then you have to figure out why you have the spikes--have you used antibiotics lately, or done a very vigorous cleaning? added a bunch of new fish? i would strongly suggest you do some reading on aquarium water chemisty, believe me it will pay off--fishkeeping will be much easier and enjoyable, with many fewer fishee fatalities! :D
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