Chemicals, Additives and Other “Bottled Goods” [Guest Post]

Chemicals, Additives and Other “Bottled Goods”

This guest post is by Jayme Paladino

Goldfish were my first experience with aquariums. Fancy goldfish, no less. I went to the pet store, got what I “needed,” according to aquarium staff, and off I went. I ran the tank for a few weeks, just like they tell you to. Needless to say, I did everything incorrectly the first time around…

What confused me the most were the chemicals. The pet shop recommends some (which of course you buy automatically), and a starter kit comes with others you have no idea about. Can you use them together? Do you really need them? How often & how much do you put in? Many of these products don’t have the answers to most of these questions, and they are expensive products! So I’d like to let beginners know what’s necessary and what isn’t.

What Chemicals You Don’t Need

Bacteria “starters” are usually recommended by stores. You can add all you want, but without fish in the tank, your aquarium cycle will not begin. I don’t claim to know what is actually in these products, but I know that they don’t work. I’ve switched tanks at least three times, and they did not speed up anything with regard to making my tank fish-safe. In addition, when they tell you to run the tank, it is to check for equipment defects. It has nothing to do with the aquarium cycle itself.

With regard to pH products, don’t buy them. Don’t buy them. Don’t. Unless you live in a place where the tap water is absolutely on one end or the other of the pH scale, you will only wind up on an endless hamster wheel to keep your pH properly balanced. Goldfish (and many other fish) can tolerate a fair range of pH values. It is sudden changes in pH which will harm your fish. You put yourself at risk for just that when you use these products.

Ammonia reducers, and nitrate reducers are also to be avoided. There are products which claim that you can go six months without a water change. That is ridiculous, I don’t care what type of fish you keep. There is no cure for nitrates other than water changes. Repeat that three times in your mind, and your fish will thank you. As for ammonia, when your tank has completed the aquarium cycle, it should read ZERO ammonia from there on out. Any ammonia at all is a sign that you are not cycled, you should certainly not need it for maintenance.

So, Which Chemicals Should I Get?

What you do need is fairly simple. Get a good water conditioner (dechlorinator). There are many opinions as to which is the best. Ignore that, just be sure to use it every time you change the water (which should be at least weekly if your tank is properly stocked).

Buy aquarium salt. My store didn’t even mention this, but there are many, many illnesses and stressors which can be reduced if not cured by aquarium salt. The details are all there on a good goldfish site. I don’t use it all the time, but some people recommend doing so.

Finally (and this is sort of optional), get an ick treatment medication. You can try salt, but ick kills fish so quickly and is so common, it may be in your best interest to already have it when you get your goldies home.

I have a box full of products, now probably expired, which I never even needed. Get these products, ignore the rest, and you won’t empty your pockets (or your aquarium livestock).


5 100% from 1 ratings
Rating 5 100%


  1. Concerned Aquarist June 27, 2017 at 4:26 am - Reply

    GREAT advice. Some big chain pet stores teach their employees to recommend such products, but never teach them how they work. Most chemical treatments are unneeded, overkill, or are for very specific and rare circumstances, usually as a last resort for some sort of emergency that could have been prevented by proper water changes.

    Using water conditioner is a MUST. Leaving water in a large tub in the sun for a few days only does so much. It requires a bit 9f work to removing chloramine, it\\\\\\\’s half life from boiling water is about 27 hours, and about 2 hours for free chlorine.

    A note on bottled beneficial bacteria; they require ammonia to be present in the tank when adding. Also, most of these bacteria that are mass produced to help the cycle start, will not survive. They are supplanted by the natural developing nitrifying strains, which have issues sustaining viable product shelf life and low reactivation. Entire bottle should be used when opened. Other tank starters just contain enzymes that help the beneficial bacteria gain a foothold. Both DO NOT fully cycle a tank in a day from my experience, but significantly do speed up the process if used right.

    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish June 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm - Reply

      Completely agree 🙂

  2. Jayme Paladino December 10, 2017 at 6:43 am - Reply

    That’s a great point. I have since writing this article used a bacteria starter out of necessity after medicating my aquarium with great success. However the ammonia level in my tank was skyhigh. Unfortunately I was not aware of that until the last minute. But I am certain that the product that I used was of assistance in the matter. The only suggestion I can make here is to be sure that whatever product that you use has an expiration date on it. That being said if it does have an expiration date on it you can be sure that that particular product will expire meaning that it is time sensitive, and does indeed have live bacteria in it.

    Rating: 5
    • Pure Goldfish
      Pure Goldfish December 31, 2017 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Jayme!

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