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Aquarium Water Conditioners; how they work - by Carl Strohmeyer

AQUARIUM WATER CONDITIONERS; their ingredients (where available), what chemical functions they perform and uses based on my opinions of each based on using these products in a professional capacity (27 years of aquarium maintenance and research)


STRESS COAT;

Stress Coat contains a special non-toxic polymer that is attracted to the skin of the fish forming a synthetic slime coat envelope. Stress Coat also contains sodium thiosulfate electrolytes such as sodium and sulfides which helps reduce loss of electrolytes through the skin, gills, and damaged tissue. The Aloe Vera in STRESS COAT reduces inflammation of damaged fish tissue.
The effectiveness of Stress Coat with Aloe Vera has been proven by independent studies conducted at the University of Georgia, School of Veterinary Medicine. Researchers found that Stress Coat helped heal wounds and speed tissue re-growth. Dr John Gratzek summarizes the results: "Personally, I am satisfied with the results since my initial thoughts were skeptical to say the least. These definite statements can be made without equivocation: Stress Coat in no way harms aquarium fish, alters pH, or affects the biological filter. No ammonia or nitrite was detected in the test aquariums. The results indicated that the Stress Coat formula reduced the wound size compared to untreated fish tissue." Aloe Vera is high in mucopolysaccharides, an essential component of many tissues and believed to help in the healing process.

Use;
An effective water conditioner for the removal of chlorine, breaking of the chlorine/ ammonia bond (in water containing chloramines) and adding an aloe slime coat.
This is my favorite slime coat treatment for direct application to a fish that is wounded from transport or other reasons. I however have found it less effective for overall slime coat generation after a water change.
Ingredients are safe for both fresh and saltwater.



AMMO-LOCK;

Ammo-lock contains sodium thiosulfate pentahydrate. Ammo-lock works in both fresh and saltwater, to detoxify ammonia and remove chlorine and chloramines. Locks up ammonia in a non-toxic form (ammonium) until it can be broken down by the tank's natural biological filter and/or used by plants.

Use:
For the removal of chorine and chloramines. This product is useful for the detoxification of ammonia, especially in new aquariums. I usually only use this product when the aquarium is new, ammonia (NH3) is high (please note, most ammonia test kits will still show ammonia present in the form of NH4 after using this product) or in areas where chloramines are used.
Ingredients are safe for both fresh and saltwater.



START RIGHT;

Start Right contains allantoin (5-Ureidohydantion; Glyoxldiureide 2, 5 - Dioxo - 4 imidzolidinyle – urea) which is used in humans for the treatment of : skin ulcers, wound, scalds, burns and sunburns, carbuncles, acne and skin eruptions, fissures and abrasions, impetigo, eczema, psoriasis. This is a naturally occurring chemical even found in earthworms.
Start Right is a multi-beneficial water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramine, neutralizes heavy metals, aids in cell regeneration and in the additional production of the fishes natural slime coat, adds beneficial. It also contains chlorides of sodium and potassium, and polyvinylpyrrolidone.
which helps reduce loss of electrolytes through the skin, gills, and damaged tissue. It is a complete water conditioner that stimulates the natural secretion of slime to protect fish from the harmful effects of handling, shipping, fish fighting and other forms of stress. Removes chlorine and chloramine instantly, neutralizes heavy metals, adds beneficial electrolytes and guards against secondary infection.

Use:

For the removal of chlorine, breaking of the chlorine/ ammonia bond (in water containing chloramines), adding of electrolytes for stress, and the natural generation a slime coat.
This is probably my favorite basic overall water conditioner for established aquariums (I use this the most), Start Right will not remove ammonia or interfere with plant growth by removing nitrogenous compounds needed by plants. This product is also very economical.
Ingredients are safe for both fresh and saltwater.



SEACHEM PRIME;

Prime contains complexed hydrosulfite salts which removes chlorine, chloramine and ammonia. Prime also converts ammonia into a safe, non-toxic form (ammonium) that is readily removed by the tanks nitrifying bacteria. Prime may be used during tank cycling to alleviate ammonia/nitrite toxicity. Prime detoxifies nitrite and nitrate, allowing nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria to more efficiently remove them. It will also detoxify any heavy metals found in the tap water at typical concentration levels. The ingredients of Prime also promotes the production and regeneration of the natural slime coat and are non-acidic and will not impact pH.

Use:

For removal of chlorine, chloramines, and the de-toxifying of ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. This product adds electrolytes that aid in natural slime coat generation and proper osmotic function. This is my favorite conditioner to use in newer aquariums, aquariums with high ammonia or for use in areas where chloramines are in tap water. One reason I like this product is that is does what it claims!
Ingredients are safe for both fresh and saltwater.



NOVAQUA;

The formula of NovAqua is proprietary, so not all ingredients are available. It is assumed that Novaqua contains sodium thiosulfate (a common
Redox Reducer) and Edetates. Novaqua also contains phosphates for buffering to stabilize water after water changes (often when water is added from the tap it immediately picks up O2 and CO2 and is unstable in pH, this aspect of Novaqua helps here). The phosphate buffer system of Novaqua produces a 5 mg/L of phosphates in the aquarium as compared to the 30 mg/L shown in labs tests to grow algae. NovAqua also contains electrolytes; cations (Positively charged atoms or molecules) and anions (negatively charged atoms or molecules) that are required by freshwater fishes. Freshwater fishes remove these ions from water via the gills. The need by fish for these ions is increased during times of stress.

Use:

The original conditioner that adds a slime coat, adds electrolytes buffers water, and removes chlorines. NovAqua is useful for use water changes where buffering is needed do to pH drops after water changes. The level of phosphates used for buffering are not usually a problem for most aquariums, however if you already have high phosphates or algae problems I would avoid this product. Otherwise this is an excellent product when one desires a conditioner that adds a slime coat and buffers a well.
Ingredients are safe for both fresh and saltwater.



AMQUEL;

The active ingredient in Amquel is hydroxymethanesulfonic acid, sodium and salt. Amquel converts ammonia to a non-toxic form (ammonium) until it can be broken down by the tank's natural biological filter and/or used by plants. Amquel works by virtue of the hydroxymethane- end of the molecule reacts with ammonia to form a non-toxic, stable water-soluble substance which is acted upon by the bacteria in biological filtration.
This reaction effectively removes the toxic ammonia from solution. Even in water of low pH (under 7.0) the above reaction proceeds to completion. This is because even at pHs below 7.0 there is always some "free" ammonia (NH3) and the AmQuel will scavenge it from the water. This is why AmQuel works faster at higher pH's and in saline waters.

Use:
One of the first products for chloramine and ammonia removal. It is very effective in binding the ammonia (NH3) where that it stays non toxic even when nitrifying bacteria are not fully active. Although safe for saltwater, I have seen this product lower pH (although use with Novaqua counters this), for this reason it is not my first choice in this type of conditioner (Prime is my favorite as stated earlier).
Ingredients are safe for both fresh and saltwater (when not over used).



AMQUEL +;

Since this is a new product, the ingredients are proprietary and not yet disclosed.
AmQuel+ (also known as AmQuel Plus) is a recent chemical invention that has the ability to make the
"Nitrogen Cycle" (involving ammonium/ammonia/nitrites/nitrates) totally nontoxic in aquarium and pond keeping, without interfering with its process in any way, and without interfering with the beneficial bacteria that are involved with the cycle. Further, AmQuel+ detoxifies/removes all of the toxic nitrogen compounds that can appear in aquarium and pond water over time.

Use:
A new product without a lot of practical experience (including by me). The claims by Kordon sound very promising, and this may turn out to be an excellent product for new aquariums in particular, although use in established aquariums seems unnecessary.
Ingredients are safe for both fresh and saltwater.



NOVAQUA +;

Novaqua + is a new product and again has proprietary ingredients that the company will not totally divulge. NovAqua+ claims to provide, in a single product, everything necessary to handle all of the needs when treating tap water for aquatic life (except for handling nitrogen compound removal such as ammonia, nitrites, nitrates). For the removal of toxic nitrogen compounds, Kordon recommends the use of AmQuel+

Use:
Again a new product without a lot of practical experience (including by me). If this product lives up to claims such as aiding in osmotic function as well as chlorine removal and heavy metal removal, this may be a very useful product as well. Due to claims of iodine removal, I would not recommend use in marine reef tanks (as many soft corals need iodine)
Ingredients are safe for freshwater.



CONCLUSION;

This is an incomplete list that I will add to as time goes on in my
Water Conditioners Article and I will also update as new products and information becomes available (especially in relation to Kordons new Amquel + and NovAqua +)
Also it should be noted that most water conditioners of all types (basic, artificial slime coat replacer, and chloramine/ ammonia remover) have similar properties and ingredients and some of the outrageous claims I have read on the internet such as "Start Right is not safe for marine aquariums while Novaqua is" are without any scientific merit (if anything the phosphates in Novaqua can cause more problems than any ingredient in Start Right!

It is also important to note that without adequate filtration and circulation, water conditioners cannot work as well or solve these problems such as lack of oxygen. A good air pump such as the ReSun Air Pump line of aquarium pumps or a good basic filter such as the Via Aqua VitaLife Power Filter are important as well.

For more in depth information about water conditioners, with more resources and references, please visit this article:
AQUARIUM (& Pond) WATER CONDITIONERS; their ingredients, chemical functions


Professional aquarium maintenance experience since 1978 as the owner of one of the larger aquarium maintenance companies in LA, CA.

I have been in the hobby since 1969.

http://www.americanaquariumproducts.com/Aquarium_Information.html

 



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