What’s the importance of testing pH, dh, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates in my fish tank? Is it just a money making scheme or does it hold any actual importance? I have never tested my water and my fish seem fine. Sure I have the occasional death but nothing more than almost everybody else!
Initial tests on nitrite levels is important when cycling a new tank but is not necessary if, and only IF, you allow the cycle to persist for six to eight weeks. My advice is to start the cycle by adding fish food every day. It starts to decay causing ammonia and thus causing the nitrifying bacteria to start growing. After about two weeks add hardy fish like Zebra Danio’s or Guppies. Many species of Tetra’s are also very hardy and in my experience Glass Blood Fins are the best. You could also use feeder fish since they are inexpensive; you could also use Apple Snails; adding a few live plants also helps the process.
pH is very important – but that is dependent on your tap water alkalinity. If it is too low or too high you could instantly kill many fish species. Obviously, in your case, your water seems just fine. Certain species of fish however, need a very stable and precise pH such as Ramirezi Cichlids. For this you will definitely need a pH testing kit to keep your levels right.
Hardness (dH) isn’t always important and the I would provide the same advice as above for pH.
Ammonia is almost always said to be released by fish through respiratory and excretion. However, I have come to find out that fish release Ammonium which is quickly converted into Ammonia. Both are extremely dangerous to fish. Ammonia is converted to nitrites (still harmful to fish but not as harmful as Ammonia) by Nitrosomona Bacteria and then nitrites are converted by Nitrobacter Bacteria into Nitrates. Nitrates are not as harmful as nitrites but still pose a threat. Nitrates are removed by water changes and live plants as the plants use them as a food source hence encouraging the use of live plants.
“Sure I have the occasional death but nothing more than almost everybody else!” – is a statement I personally do not like. Fish should live their lifespans and some fish live very long. If you did test your water for ALL these parameters at least once every six months maybe you would have NO deaths at all.
My direct answer is this; YES, it is important. It isn’t a money making scheme. Your fish are in a closed loop environment and unless you keep your water healthy you will always lose fish. Your fish are only as healthy as your water!