It’s all guesswork without water tests!
Imagine your physician didn’t use blood tests or stethoscopes. A glance into your body would be almost impossible! Water tests enable you to take a look at the structure of your pond. Water can look crystal clear but still can contain poisonous substances. If problems like green water or diseases occur, water tests are an important option to determine the causes.
Why do you need to test?
An analogy to a physician can illustrate the situation: Your physician can look deep into your eyes and guess what is wrong with you. Or they can take a blood test and a computer tomography. Precisely this corresponds to the water tests. The water can be crystal clear but contain invisible poisons, such as nitrite or ammonia. Only the water test can show you where the problem is coming from.
Which tests do you need?
You don’t need to carry out all the tests, just like a physician will not look into your ears to treat a pain in the knee. In the following table you will find a brief outline of when water tests can help.
What does the water value indicate, what’s its ideal range and how can you correct it? You will find all the information about every individual water test here:
This will tell you how acidic or alkaline your pond water is. The perfect pH value is between 7.5 and 8.5. Tip: Measure once in the morning at sunrise and once in the evening after sunset. If the values between morning and evening are outside this recommended range, you’ll need to learn more about water stability (carbonate hardness).
The carbonate hardness, abbreviated to KH, stabilises the pH value. Your pond water contains various minerals from your tap or well water. Plants, algae and microorganisms consume these minerals as time goes by and the rainwater “dilutes” your pond water’s mineral content. With carbonate hardness levels below 4 °dKH the pH value of your pond water is not sufficiently stabilised anymore and can fluctuate between 6.5 and 10.5!
With JBL StabiloPond KH you increase the KH to at least 4 °dKH and thus stabilise the pH level.
With the help of a carbonate hardness test you can find out in a few seconds how high the carbonate hardness of your source water and pond water is. Action is needed with KH values below 4.
In well-functioning and healthy ponds the oxygen content lies above 5 mg/l. There is no such thing as too much oxygen. High oxygen levels always have a positive effect for your pond. It is vital you test not only the water at the surface but also the water at the pond bottom (as deep down as you can reach without needing to dive). Especially at the pond bottom there is often an absence of oxygen! Always measure the oxygen in the morning when it has its lowest value.
Tip: when using anti-algae agents or during treatment with medications an additional oxygen enrichment and the testing of the oxygen level is highly recommended!
Generally your pond dwellers (incl. bacteria and plants) are not happy about copper (abbreviated as Cu)! From 0.3 mg/l a copper content can even be deadly for your fish. A typical reason for increased copper levels in your pond water is the entering of rainwater by means of copper gutters. You also can measure an increased copper content after the use of anti-algae agents.
Your plants love a bit of iron (abbreviated to Fe) in the pond water and grow better. Too high iron levels in turn have rather a negative influence on all pond inhabitants. Iron values between 0.05 and 0.1 mg/l are perfect. In many cases too high iron values are caused by using well water. Because of this and other reasons not all wells can be recommended as a water source. By using JBL BiotoPond you can reduce the unwanted high iron levels to the desired level.
JBL BiotoPond binds all kind of heavy metals, such as iron, lead, copper and zinc.
With the help of iron tests you can quickly and reliably check whether your source or pond water contains too much iron. Brown deposits in the water often show that the iron content is already too high.
Beneficial bacteria degrade the dirt accumulating in your pond water and at the bottom of the pond. Ammonium NH4) and ammonia (NH3) are created from protein. Both are further processed to nitrite (NO2) and then to nitrate (NO3). Ammonium is also breathed out through the gills of your fish. These degrading bacteria can be damaged by new ponds, after bigger clean-up operations or after the use of antibacterial remedies, causing the ammonium content in the water to rise. In healthy, well established and efficient ponds you will almost never measure ammonium values above 0.1 mg/l. Ammonium itself is non-poisonous but a chemical equilibrium reaction causes it to transform itself to poisonous ammonia. The percentage of this newly created ammonia increases at pH values from 7.0 onwards. As soon as your fish show symptoms of poisoning (gasping at the water surface, darting backwards and forwards, reeling etc.), measure the ammonium content! The remedy is (firstly) an extensive water change to dilute the ammonia concentration and to slightly decrease the pH value to transform the poisonous ammonia back into non-poisonous ammonium. And (secondly) add beneficial bacteria with JBL BactoPond so that they can process ammonium/ammonia.
Nitrite (NO2) occurs in the normal biological degradation process from ammonium and is processed to nitrate (NO3). During this nitrogen decomposition (nitrification) the pond water consumes a lot of oxygen. That’s why a good oxygen enrichment for the pond water is not only important for the fish. Without the required oxygen your pond bacteria are not able to do their work properly.
From 0.3 mg/l nitrite is toxic for fish and from about 0.5 mg/l it is usually deadly. This is because nitrite prevents the transport of oxygen by haemoglobin. It has the same shape as oxygen and blocks the docking of the oxygen to the red blood cells (similar to the lock-and-key principle).
An increased nitrite value in your pond water is an extreme alarm signal that there is something wrong in your pond! The nitrite value should ALWAYS be below the detection limit! It’s important you then immediately find out why your bacteria didn’t process the nitrite to harmless nitrate.
Possible causes: If your pond is still quite new (max. 3 weeks old), nitrite still can accumulate because your beneficial bacteria have yet to develop. With JBL FilterStart Pond and JBL BactoPond you can help your pond and accelerate the running-in process enormously. If you have added salt to your pond (why? This does more harm than good), your bacteria won’t like that at all. Bacteria can’t get used to fluctuating salinity. If you insist on adding salt, you will have to restart the bacterial fauna AFTER the adding of salt with JBL FilterStart Pond and JBL BactoPond . Neither do your bacteria like you adding antibacterial medicines to your pond because the medicines can’t differentiate between beneficial cleansing bacteria and pathogenic bacteria. Also in this case a bacterial reactivation with JBL FilterStart Pond and JBL BactoPond is urgently advised.
Nitrogen decomposition usually ends with nitrate (NO3). Nitrate is non-poisonous and serves as food for plants and algae. The more plants you have in your pond the more nitrate is removed from the water and is no longer available as nutrition for the algae. Nitrate values above 10-20 mg/l can promote algae. In case your tap or well water has nitrate values below 10 mg/l we would recommend a partial water change (more about partial water changes in Pond cleaning ).
Phosphates (PO4) are completely harmless for your pond dwellers, but being the main nutrient for algae, they unfortunately promote algae growth. Therefore you always need to keep an eye on the phosphates. Your algae welcome phosphate levels above 0.05 mg/l. You can quickly and reliably remove the unwanted phosphates with JBL PhosEX Pond Filter or JBL PhosEX Pond Direct (if you do not have a filter).
Tip: As long as your algae are growing well the phosphate content will stay low, because the phosphate is absorbed by the algae. But as soon as you combat the algae and they die off, the phosphates are released into your pond water to fertilise the next algae generation. The best time to remove the algae is in winter and 24-48 h after the algae control has killed them off.
Most phosphates originate from organic matter (dying and decaying leaves and excessive fish food). But inferior feed also leads to increased phosphate values, caused by poor digestion. JBL ProPond foods are precisely formulated for your fish and have the benefits of needing to be given less often and of considerably improving your fish's digestion.
You can find more about that here: Feeding .
In only a few minutes this quick test will help you to determine whether your pond water is stable (mineral content, here: whether there is sufficient carbonate hardness) and within which range the pH level (acidity) falls. For this simple test you don’t need to have studied chemistry to gain two important water parameters and to find out whether these values are okay or not.
Phosphates dissolved in the water promote unwanted algae growth. With the help of this water test you can find out within 5 minutes how high the phosphate content of your pond water is. With values over 0.25 mg/l you will need a phosphate remover to lower the phosphate content. While the phosphate removers are in use the test will continue to monitor the results.
This ”small test case” contains the most important water tests for the analysis of pond water, with result sheets, a syringe to easily measure the right water amount, colour charts to compare the colours resulting from the test, test liquids and cuvettes to carry out the tests.
It is especially important for Koi owners to know that their valuable fish are doing well in the pond at all times. Using this test case you can check ALL the relevant water parameters and then optimise them if necessary. You can check whether your well water is suitable for your pond, how many nutrients there are inside your pond, how hard your tap and pond water is, and whether substances are accumulating in the water which can pose a threat to your fish. In addition to a pen and result sheets the waterproof plastic case includes all the utensils you will need for simple but professional water tests.
Use the technical capacities of your smartphone for an extremely accurate water analysis in only 60 seconds! With special test strips you can precisely measure and evaluate six important parameters of your garden pond with a free app.