KEEPING FISH ALIVE
RULE ONE: Establish Your Nitrogen Cycle
The quality of the water in your fish tanks is of primary importance. Water quality for fish is like air quality to humans. Performing partial water change every month will keep your ammonia and nitrate levels at an acceptable level.
Ammonia is produced by the fish and overfeeding. Nitrates occur as a result of a natural process of the Nitrogen Cycle. You might remember learning about the Nitrogen Cycle in 4th grade Science class. Here is a quick recap of what happens in your tank.
Nitrogen Cycle Recap
Fish and uneaten fish foods (all types) create ammonia (NH3) and carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Ammonia is broken down by Nitrosomonas bacteria producing Nitrites (NO2). Nitrobacter bacteria will breakdown the Nitrites (No2) into Nitrates (NO3). Nitrates (NO3) can be used by aquatic plants if you have any.
This cycle is very delicate and can be disrupted when you do not do monthly water changes, when you add antibiotics to your tank to treat fish diseases or when you take all the gravel out of tank and wash it. This cycle is must be established when you set up a tank and it must continue if you want any level of success with keeping your fish alive.
You can use a variety of test strips and kits to periodically test your water for Ammonia (NH3), Nitrite (NO2), Nitrate (NO3), pH and hardness of the water.