How Do You Test Fish Tank Water without a Kit

How Do You Test Fish Tank Water without a Kit?

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Water parameter analysis is part and parcel to having a successful aquarium. If you don’t, you will kill your fish. But, sometimes situations come up where a test kit isn’t financially prudent or the aquarium shop in your area closed. So, you’re going to have to figure out a way to keep your tank clean. It’s not difficult to do, but it can be cumbersome.

There are actually several things you can do, but you’ll have to be creative and resourceful about it. The best method is to have a strict and rigorous cleaning schedule. Performing a 30% water change every week should work just fine. But, you’ll want to do some other things too, like checking the health and appearance of your fish.

How do you test fish tank water without a kit?

Even though it’s a little tricky without a kit, you can do it rather accurately. This will be especially useful if you don’t have an aquarium store nearby or won’t be able to get to one any time soon.

But, you have to remain dedicated to doing it. If you forget or fail to stay on top of it, you may bring your fish to their ultimate doom. So, you will want to devise a systemic cleaning and maintenance schedule that will be foolproof and easy for you to follow.

Aquarium Stores

As best as you can, try to locate an aquarium store that’s somewhat accessible. Oftentimes, these shops will test your water for you for free. All you have to do is bring them about 100 ml of your tank water.

Most of the time, they will use test strips. So, when you go into the store, ask them to measure specific parameters that are going to be important for your fish. Be specific with nitrites, nitrates, pH and ammonia. Make a note about the numbers they give you.

Look at the Fish

When you can’t make it to an aquarium store, you have to be somewhat meticulous about observing activity in your tank. The best way to determine a decline in water quality is by how your fish are acting and the way they look.

If their behavior and appearance are abnormal with a horrid odor from the tank, the water quality is poor. If everything seems fine, then you’re okay for the time being. Peruse the following list of possible indicators and match them against your fish:

  • Yawning or lethargy
  • Darting around the tank more than usual
  • Erratic swimming
  • Heavy or strained breathing
  • Listless movement
  • Resting at the bottom more than they should
  • Gasping near the filters or at the water’s surface
  • Red gills
  • Lack of appetite or spitting out food
  • Changes in slime coat
  • Attempting to jump out of the tank
  • Hiding or isolating themselves more than is normal
  • Discoloration

The Nitrogen Cycle

The most important aspect to any tank is to ensure there’s a good, solid nitrogen cycle. In the event your tank is new, then it most likely doesn’t have one yet. Change the water about 25% to 30% every day for a week. Then do these changes once a week until you see a slight cloudiness in the tank. When it clears, the nitrogen cycle is in place.

With this in mind, if your tank is brand new, you shouldn’t yet have any fish in there. This is because the process of building the Nitrogen Cycle is rather stressful that can cause fish to get sick or die. So, it’s crucial to establish this cycle before adding any aquatic life.

Change the Water Often

Test kits can be pricey. So, if you don’t have enough money and can’t always observe your tank, then stick to a strict cleaning schedule. This will be the surest way to keep your tank clean without having to make educated guesses about the health of your fish. Whatever you do, don’t wait until the water gets cloudy.

Change the water every week. When you do, only remove about 30% but less than 50%. Anything less may not clean the tank and too much will stress your fish. Always remember to add all the good stuff to recreate your fish’s native habitat like minerals and water conditioner.

Also, be sure to monitor the bottom of the tank for fallen, uneaten food. This means you have to stay on top of vacuuming the substrate and cleaning decorations. Do your best to keep algae, fungus and mold at bay. All this will help maintain a healthy aquarium with happy fish.

Feeding Amount ; Frequency

To help you keep water conditions under control, don’t overfeed your fish. Overfeeding is the most common cause of throwing parameters out of whack. So, ensure you’re feeding your fish small amounts twice per day. If you can feed them in several tiny meals throughout the day, that will be better.

As a rule of thumb, ensure you don’t give more food than what your fish can eat in two minutes. If there’s leftover food, try to remove it as soon as possible with a siphon or net. The longer uneaten food stays in the tank, the more it will destroy the water quality.

Inexpensive Alternatives 

Having a freshwater or saltwater tank doesn’t have to be an expensive pursuit if money is a factor. So, it may seem like a waste of money to buy a kit for your 10-gallon tank and you only have one fish. However, try to reserve a tiny portion of your budget for supplies, even if your tank is small.

In the case you can’t keep an eye on your tank all day, you’re going to have to find a way to monitor it while also pinching pennies. Aquarium test strips are one solution. They provide accurate results and are easy on your bank account. There are many kinds available and cost $8 to $10.

Also, many aquatic manufacturers have meters for temperature, ammonia and pH that you can stick to the tank. Seachem Laboratories have several of these available. They range in price from $10 to $20, depending on whether you get a multipack or not. You put it inside the tank and it constantly monitors the water quality for a whole year.

Final Notes

Although it’s advisable to have an aquarium test kit, you don’t necessarily have to use one. But, keeping a tank will take more effort and work on your part. The first dead giveaway that your tank has poor water parameters will be the behavior and appearance of your fish.

But you shouldn’t wait until the tank has poor water quality to change it. As long as you adhere to a rigorous tank-cleaning schedule, it should be fine. In the case you find yourself in a situation where you have to test the water, attempt going to an aquarium store and have them test it for you.

In the meantime, you may want to consider making a small investment in things like sticker meters or aquarium test strips. These won’t cost you more than $20 and it’s worth it to ensure your fish remain happy and healthy for as long as possible.

See Also:
Can Fish Die from Overfeeding
How Long After Conditioning Water Can Fish Be Returned to the Tank
How Do You Know if Your Algae Eater Is Dying