An aquarium needs regular maintenance for good hygiene and health. Testing the water is a key part of this regime, as pinpointing a raise in toxins or a deficiency of a particular element can help you avoid problems.

Test kits can work via test strips which are simply dipped into the water or via a colour changing system. To use a test strip, simply pop the strip in the water for a few seconds, and then compare it to the colour chart. Other types may need a little more work, such as counting the drops of a testing fluid until the colour changes.

Whichever you choose, a good test kit should contain everything you need to carry out the test quickly and accurately. Swell UK have a wide range of test kits from leading manufacturers, all designed to make the best of your aquarium.

Looking at some of the main water problems, and why we should test for them offers more information about the importance of routine testing.


Always a big problem if levels rise too high in your tank. Ammonia is a by-product of fish waste and can quickly cause major health problems. In a new tank, or if you have just added more fish, test every few days to monitor ammonia levels.

Look out for:

  • Fish gasping for air at the water’s surface
  • Gills red/purple in colour
  • Fish become lethargic, and can even lie on the tank floor
  • Dead fish

If you see any of these signs act immediately. Use a good ammonia remover to counteract the problem. Make sure that the filter is adequate for your needs, especially if you have a large fish stock.


Nitrates and Phosphate

Both of these elements are relatively harmless in small amounts, and aquatic plants especially need a certain quota for healthy growth. However, if levels grow too high they can cause algal blooms to spread.

Testing regularly will help you to read the levels and treat accordingly. Performing regular water changes and removing uneaten food after a few minutes will stop these nutrients from becoming too high.


pH level

Monitoring the pH level of the water, especially of marine tanks is important to maintain the right balance in your aquarium. Too acidic or too alkaline, the pH can cause fish stress and inhibit healthy coral growth.

Regular testing will allow you to monitor the value and use a buffer to regulate the level.



If you fill your tank with tap water, always treat it with a water conditioner to remove chlorine and heavy metals which are harmful to fish and invertebrates. Chlorine burns the gills and can enter the bloodstream, burning from the inside.

Look out for:                                          

  • Fish swimming erratically
  • Gasp at the water surface
  • They may even appear to be ‘jumping’ out of the tank
  • Invertebrates may withdraw into their exterior skeleton, or withdrawing tentacles

When performing a water change, use a water treatment and then test the water to ensure that the chlorine has been removed.


These are just some of the parameters that should be tested for and treated. However there are many more. A good master test kit will contain various tests, specifically for your type of aquarium, be it cold water, tropical or marine. So not only will you always be prepared, you will save money too!

Tips to keep problems at bay:

  • Regular partial water changes
  • Remove uneaten food that can cause a waste build up
  • Ensure that the filter is adequate for your needs

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