As an aquarium owner, you’ve got a bit of a balancing act to perform whether you’ve got a freshwater or saltwater aquarium – keeping temperatures at the right level, managing pH levels and attending to the specific needs of the inhabitants, whether they’re coral or clown fish. Not to mention, keeping the water free of pollutants and bacteria is vital to the health of your aquarium. You can make sure the substrate is clean and sterile, see to it that you use a non-toxic lining material for the base and take various other safety measures but even the cleanest-looking aquarium will need water filtration to keep things on an even keel over time.
Common Aquarium Water Quality Problems
pH Imbalance: The pH is particularly important since fish can easily die off or become ill with even a slight shift. Various factors like water hardness and waste from fish can readily cause a pH shift.
Nitrites and Nitrates: Nitrites and nitrates can cause health problems or even kill fish if not kept under control, whether due to bacteria breaking down fish waste products or due to the water introduced into the tank.
Phosphates: While phosphates aren’t dangerous to fish directly, they serve as a source of nourishment for algae in the aquarium which can lead to algal blooms that consume the oxygen in the tank, leaving little or none for the fish.
Bacteria: Some bacteria are beneficial to the health of your tank, but others introduced via the water supply can be potentially dangerous.
How Water Filtration Keeps Your Aquarium Healthy
Depending on the water quality in your area, you have a range of options to help prevent problems with your water before it even enters the aquarium.
Reverse Osmosis: Reverse osmosis systems have become an increasingly popular choice with aquarium owners since reverse osmosis removes a wide variety of contaminants, rendering the water very safe for use in an aquarium. However, reverse osmosis also removes minerals and other trace nutrients that may be needed by fish and other aquarium dwellers, necessitating additives to your aquarium to restore them. It also is not totally effective against phosphates, often necessitating the use of a deionization filter as well.
Deionization: Deionization operates similarly to a “standard” water softener – it neutralizes phosphates, producing water that is free of these ions that can contribute to algae growth. Deionizers are often paired with reverse osmosis since the two methods combined can produce almost 100% pure water that simply needs some additives to restore lost minerals that are essential to aquarium health.
Water Softening: Hard water can cause pH shifts and harm your fish – making water softening via a deionizer particularly important if your water contains high levels of calcium and magnesium.
Ulraviolet Treatment: While medications and additives can prevent bacterial growth, they can also cause added stress to the fish or even discolor lining materials. Ultraviolet filtration passes aquarium water over a UV emitter, killing bacteria naturally without the use of additives.
Justin Krutz has written about a variety of water filtration solutions for use in the home including reverse osmosis systems and water softeners for aquarium use.