Aquarium water conditioners

Don't be a fish out of water when you come to buy a conditioner for your aquarium!

Safe water usually means happy fish. Getting the balance right isn't always easy, that's why aquarium owners use water conditioners. With so many different conditioners on the market, each one performing slightly differently to the other, its difficult to know which one is best for you.

This Loving Your Pet guide will help you to understand some of the differences and put a stop to any of those sinking feelings.

Introduction to aquarium water conditioners

Most new aquarium tanks will be filled with tap water, and this water will have been treated with an anti-bacterial chemical, namely chlorine or chloramines - your choice of water conditioner will be dependant on which of these chemicals your supplier is using.

Water conditioners can be separated into two types:

  • Conditioners that remove chlorine and either break-up, neutralise or remove chloramines, but leave ammonia behind.
  • Conditioners that remove both chlorine and chloramines and also neutralise ammonia.

If you find out from your supplier that your tap water carries chlorine, you can use either type of conditioner.

If you find out from your supplier that your tap water carries chloramines, you need the second type of conditioner.

As you might have noticed, the first type of conditioner doesn't neutralise ammonia; an important fact that is often omitted by manufacturers, leaving newly conditioned tanks still testing positive for that particular compound, which if left untreated, can be poisonous to fish.

Other Types of additives

There are a number of other additives used by water conditioning manufacturers who often use them as selling features, these include; nitrate removers, slime coat protection additives, metal dissolving chemicals to help render harmless metals such as iron, copper or zinc, natural healing ingredients such as aloe vera, homeopathic extracts, fluoride agents, electrolytes and anti-bacterial agents. The benefits of some of these additives remain unproven but there is enough evidence to suggest they might improve the health of your fish by varying degrees.

If you're worried about the health of your fish, it's well worth consulting an aquatics expert. This might involve you bringing in a sample of your aquarium water for analysis. High ammonia build-up remains one of the commonest reasons for tropical fish deaths, testing for both it and other compounds should be carried out weekly.

There is a wide range of testing kits available for purchase via online retailers, or you might prefer to visit your local aquatics centre for face-to-face advice. When shopping online it's always worth taking the time to read the product feedback reviews.

Best ways to maintain water quality in your aquarium:

  • Proper filtration
  • Proper balance
  • Avoid over crowding
  • Regular partial water changes

Unfortunately, beginners lose far more fish than experienced aquarium keepers, so if you are just starting out or interested in setting up a home aquarium, learn as much as you can beforehand.