It is important to check the levels of ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, and hardness in the aquarium on a regular basis. If possible, carry out these tests every week and keep a record of each one and the date it was performed. It is also possible to test for the presence of certain nutrients, but this needs to be done only when plants show signs of a deficiency or excess of nutrients. Keeping a record of test results is a good way of checking any trends in the aquarium, such as rises in nitrates or softening of the water over time. In most cases, regular water changes, using at least half tap water, will keep the aquarium water in good condition. The frequency of water changes depends on the individual requirements of the aquarium. For most planted aquariums, a small (10-15%) water change every week or two should be sufficient. Remember that water changes do not only reduce toxins, but also replenish nutrients, so even if the water quality seems good, you should still carry out water changes.
Tap water often contains high levels of chlorine, which will need to be removed before the water is added to the aquarium. There are many proprietary dechlorinators available for aquariums, but use these with care in a planted aquarium. Many water conditioners contain properties that remove metals from tap water. Normally this is beneficial for both plants and fish, but many metals are also nutrients vital to plant health. Using metal-removing dechlorinators to condition water will not only remove useful nutrients from the new water, but also nutrients already present in the aquarium. There are various ways of preventing this. First, if you use dechlorinators, stick to the simple products and avoid those with "added benefits," such as metal removal, aloe vera and "conditioners." Second, remember that water can be naturally dechlorinated by aeration over a 24-hour period, without any need for chemical dechlorinators. This method is often preferable to using dechlorinators. Special "prefilter" units are also available that remove chlorine from tap water, but these are expensive and often unjustified.
Over time, water in a planted aquarium may appear to turn a slightly tea-yellow color. This happens as humic acids are released from organic material, particularly bogwood, and is sometimes unsightly, although the water is perfectly healthy. The coloration has no effect on .plants or fish and is not a sign of poor water conditions. However, if you wish, you can remove the coloration using absorptive chemical media such as activated carbon. These types of filtration media should be used only for short periods, as they will also remove many useful nutrients (as well as medications) from the water.
The occasional use of chemical media in the planted aquarium may be valuable not just for removing water discoloration, but also to eliminate buildups of unwanted metals and other chemicals. When using chemical media, do not carry out additional fertilization (other than C02 fertilization), as the introduced nutrients will simply be taken out by the chemical media.
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