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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

April 16, 2012

Why Do We Underestimate the Power of Water Changes?

By Patrick Donston

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In my never-ending quest to keep fish healthy without the use of medicine, I would like to emphasize the effects of clean water. Water is the most basic substance on earth. Without water, life doesn’t exist. Without safe water, neither does good health for both humans and aquatic life.

Change fish tank water
By understanding aquariums and organism husbandry, we recognize the importance of pristine, germ-free water. Aquariums must be kept with the utmost care in order to achieve a high standard of water quality. Toxicity problems such as ammonia, nitrite or low pH levels are well understood to most of us in relation to fish’s health. The capacity of a host to resist disease depends on the ability to maintain an intact physical barrier between the internal tissues and the environment. This is known as “physical resistance.” If the slime coat, eyes or gills are damaged through toxicity problems, parasites and pathogens can find their way into the host much easier.

There are many times we have sick or dead fish and the water parameters listed above are in check. Although ammonia or nitrite may not be present, dissolved organics may be high, enabling pathogens to propagate to large numbers. If pathogen numbers are high in tank water, the “natural resistance” immune response can be compromised, and thus infections may occur. I call this “dirty-water syndrome.” The aquarium water becomes saturated with organic waste known as dissolved organic carbon or DOC. This occurs when gravel beds are filled with detritus, and sponges and/or pads are saturated with silt or waste. A lack of carbon, protein skimming or any chemical/mechanical filter maintenance may contribute to these problems as well.

With sick fish, it is important to examine these practices. Vacuuming dirty gravel beds, maintaining filter media and multiple partial water changes can help aquaria livestock immensely when it comes to healing disease or maintaining optimal health.


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