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I'm on the web for work, college, and my interests. I help run a fish keeping business that supplies lots of aquarium and pond products to many fish/reef keepers all over the world. We specialize in providing information based on long term experience in the field. It's safe to say that we have 1000s of people reading our information each day! I have my own daily blog for different things that are on my mind. I enjoy my family, psychology, and spirituality. My God is number 1, my wife number 2, and my boys are number 3. I'm on my way to get my Masters in Psychology and hope to earn my Ph.D. I love to share my thoughts and hope to interact with many different people in my life.

Oxidative Stress | Fish Health and Disease Prevention | Sick Fish

Oxidative Stress

Fish regulate the water that surrounds them using the process of osmoregulation. This process is what allows fluid from the outside to be absorbed in, which brings essential minerals (ions) to compensate the ion loss that happens through urination and diffusion of the gills. This keeps the fish in a homeostasis state, which allows the fish to live and function. Saltwater fish have this same process, but it involves drinking the water, instead of absorbing it.

If this process is disrupted or isn’t able to happen by a lack of minerals being absorbed, this is a major stressor for the fish, which weakens the fish (all stress weakening immunity… being chased, temperature, poor diet, etc.) and once immunity is lowered, the fish is not able to resist disease.

This is why long term experience and research has pointed to osmotic stress being the number one reason for disease and osmotic stress has been able to be traced to oxidation (acid build-up) in the aquarium. This oxidative stress (along with other stressors) leads to poor osmotic function, which leads to weakened immunities then leads to disease.

This research and experiment below shows how oxidation leads to disease.

Please know this has been also tested on 1000s of aquariums long term to see true effect on fish as this type of stress harms long term health. It isn’t noticeable in day to day function in fish. Just like someone might not be able to measure the amount of stress a person is under everyday.

This may be considered pseudoscience, but really much of everything we know is applied pseudoscience and the major advancements we do know wouldn’t be known without it first being pseudoscience. Unfortunately for aquatics, very little research is done in this field as it doesn’t pay bills and cost more than some may think its worth. All work around this topic has been sponsored by Carl Strohmeyer from American Aquarium to help improve the aquatic industry and hobby. Applying this science has helps hundreds of thousands of people in the hobby, corporations such as Disney World, and universities. So, this research has reached millions of people.

If there’s still doubt about this research, than try to prove something else as the cause of disease in our fish. Not using red herring, logical fallacies, or personal attacks, which working and having conversions with thousands of people, yet not one has been able to do this. Simply, even say 30 years of keeping a 100 of tanks, still doesn’t come close to the experience of 1000s of tanks with the amount of observation and research that has been put into this topic of disease prevention.

This is a major cause to the onset of all disease including human disease. This information holds the key to defeating major disease, such as cancer.

Much more about Osmoregulation  <—-

Causes of oxidation in a fish aquarium or pond:

Oxidation is the loss of an electron by a molecule atom or ion. Reduction is the gain of an electron by a molecule atom or ion.

This is known as Redox Balance, a balance measure of oxidization and reduction. The simplest way to measure is pH- potential of hydrogen (acids vs alkalinity). rH- relative hydrogen is the new science to measure immunity potential of a given source. Oxidation Potential or Redox Balance Potential can also be measured by the amount of ions (energy) using a ORP (Oxidation Reduction Potential) meter.

Acids are the common form of oxidization:

Acid is not harmful in its self, but can be compounded with multiple oxidizers & stress causing a break down of the immunity. Example, a fish can prefer more acidic water, but with the loss of ions and the combination of other stressors the immunity is weakened. Acid removes positive charges of ions necessary for osmotic function, unless they are replenished.

In an open system, such as a river, stream, or ocean, these positive charges are constantly replenished, like an alternator on a car battery by water constantly running over rocks. This is why acidic water like the Amazon River with pH swings does not have this oxidative stress on fish. This is not the same as a close system such as an aquarium as there’s not this constant charge (unless an attempt to make one).

Constant charges can be attempted from many water changes, constant water drips, dosing mineral ions, or letting minerals constantly dissolve in the water from a block source.

ORP can be measured in the water column or substrate (such as for plant health). ORP can be augured that it effects fish, plant, and coral growth as it’s an electrical measurement and these are electrical creatures.

Common Causes of Oxidative Stress:

  • Fish food
  • Certain acidic water conditions
  • Medications
  • Lighting
  • Decay of plants/died fish/invertebrates

These can remove electrical ion charges of a mineral. The minerals will still be present in the aquarium, but will have no electrical charge. These minerals are seen in General Hardness readings of freshwater aquariums or Calcium and Magnesium readings of saltwater tanks. Again, you can have a higher GH, Calcium, or Magnesium reading, but that doesn’t mean the electrical charge is present. This lack of charge would be seen on an ORP meter.

The goal to health is to combat the oxidative stress with the addition of reducer or enabling negative electrical charges (such as what a sterilizer does).

Test 1

How reducing minerals effect oxidized water vs. water changes:

The belief that regular water changes will help keep a reduced replenished aquarium. There is also the belief that water changes can be stressful to fish, so they are limited.  The water change removes waste and also replenishes the electrical charge of the aquarium.

Strong oxidizing agent chemical used: Potassium Permanganate

Reducing agents used: Calcium & Magnesium

Simulating the acid (oxidizer) build up in the aquarium over time.

The idea behind a Redox balance isn’t that we want a completely reduced environment or a high oxidized environment, which is very typical in an aquarium. Oxidization is necessary to break down waste to have a Nitrogen Cycle, but all too often aquariums will have high amounts of oxidization long term.  What is needed is oxidization with a focus on steady long term reduction.


aquarium minerals, water changes
Potassium Permanganate – Pink/Reduction – Brown


The test above shows the same water being treated differently for reduction. On the right, a 50% water change was preformed. On the left a calcium and magnesium block was used. The results shown are an hour after. The mineral reduced the pink Potassium Permanganate.  The 50% water change remove about 50% of the pink hue from the Potassium Permanganate meaning there was some reduction done, but the oxidizer still present.

Fresh minerals are more more effective at reduction.

Conclusion– Minerals and water changes should both be used for good aquarium maintenance. While minerals are effective at reduction, the hard mineral amount will continue to increase and a water change is needed to remove the mineral. Fresh minerals will have the electrical charge, but then become depleted leaving the uncharged mineral behind in the water. If more minerals are added, it should be timed right after a water change. Water changes by themselves are not enough to control constant oxidizers. Constant water changes would have to be preformed to be as effective as minerals as it would constantly replenish the minerals like manually dosing minerals. Mineral blocks are suggested to let dissolve making a constant electrical release and then not having to regularly dose.

Test 2

UVc Radiation has been shown to have anti-oxidative properties, in the way it removes a negative charges ability to effect a positive charge. This results in reduction.

UVc effects on aquarium

Above shows the effect of UVc on tap water using an ORP meter. Generally, water is oxidized from chemical treatment and the UVc had 5-50 point reduction. The UVc has a strong effect when a stronger amount of oxidization is present. This can be seen on the last few readings after the water change on the graph.

To give some idea of ORP and their positive oxidization value or negative reduction value.

aquarium UVC effects
Potassium Permanganate – Pink/Reduction – Brown

Above shows effects of UVc on water when a strong oxidizer is present. Potassium Permanganate is used as a strong oxidizer. Aquarium on the right has the sterilizer running at level 1 sterilization. The aquarium on the left is neutral. Nothing, but water flow. The effect after 24 hours was the sterilizer clearing all the additional  oxidization.

Conclusion- UVc is impactful to oxidization and should be used along with minerals and water changes.  Level 1 or 2 is best for the most effect, so learning the amount of UVc and flow to run the sterilizer is important. Sterilizer has most effect when more oxidizers are present. Sterilizer should be used constantly as oxidization builds constantly in the aquarium.

The point of this article and study is to show that Reduction is an important part in keeping fishes immunities boosted as Oxidization is constantly wearing on a fishes immunity. Reduction will constantly combat this ware. Each method above should be employed to insure optimum health of fish.






Experiment 2- Light and Fish Health

The idea is, can light affect health of a fish?


To take on such a question, we would have to have a general ideal of how to measure health of a fish and understand what might be causing the improvement or the decline in health.

Being this back to basic chemistry 101, atoms can have negative charge, natural, or a positive charge. As these positive molecules build-up in the tank, we come to a point, where these build-ups can cause harm to the fish’s osmoregulation, which in turns affects fish’s immunity. These build-ups are oxidation and the reserve affect is reducers. Having too much oxidation can harm long term health. Having swings in oxidation and reduction can be harmful. The idea is too balance the aquarium, which is known in the aquatic industry as a balanced Redox Potential.

Anything which is added to the aquarium will affect the water electromagatism either in an up-shift of oxidation or either a downward shift in reduction. Fish detritus needs oxidation to be broken down, having too much reduction in the aquarium will not allow for decomposing of detritus. So, the best plan is to have good oxidation in the aquarium, with constant down-shifts of reduction. We don’t want to be completely oxidized or reduced.


Much more information on aquarium Redox

Redox Potential

A Healthy Aquarium-Basics

In this study, we explored if aquarium lighting acts as an oxidation or a reducer.


30gal Aquarium


(2) 12 watt GroBeam 600 LED

ORP Redox Meter


Each day, the aquarium started out in a dark room, with a starting ORP reading. This reading was noted. The aquarium lighting was switch on, which is 24 watt of TMC AquaRay 6500K XB-D GroBeam lighting. The aquarium would sit in a normal lit room with the aquarium lights on. A second reading was taken towards the end of the day, about an hour before the lights were shut off. The second reading was noted. The aquarium lights were turned off at the end of the day and the aquarium sat in a dark room all night. The readings where then retaken the next day. The experiment was ran for about a months time.



Results of light health redox acid and alklineReadingResults11


Results of lighting on aquarium


  1. The large downshift at the beginning of the readings was a difference in calibration. The readings after the 29th were much more standard with the proper calibration.
  2. The rise for oxidation are not explained.
  3. The series of days is not explained, where there was oxidation instead of the normal reduction.



There was overall a reduction affect when 6500K TMC lighting is applied to water with no other variables. While there was some days where oxidation happened, the overall affect of the lighting was a slight reduction every. Overall, the ORP reading would shift upward, then with the presence of the light, there would be a reduction. So, the line on the graph shows, a slight upward drift, with downward reductions to Redox each day.



A slight up-shift, with reductions each day due to light reduction.

Additional Discussion-

So, what can’t be explained is why on some of the days, when no variables were changed, the lighting caused a oxidation affect on the water and not reduction. There’s no explanation as to what could cause this. It could simply be a meter issue. So the reading were still noted for later exploration.

This is also our findings for 6500K lighting from one brand only.Further research could be done on specific lighting nanometers to see how different light can affect Redox. Some nanometers may cause reduction, when other causes would case oxidation. Knowing each would also to use light depending on what is happening with the tank. Like having oxidizing light, when there was an over feeding of the aquarium. These different nano meters still have to be explored.


ORP Redox Meter

TMC Aquarium LEDs

Easy Aquarium Lighting

Aquarium keeping is getting more technical, but there are some good options for low tech tank keepers. Cheap and easy option most people don’t know about. T-2 Florescent lighting. No not T-12/T-8/T-5. Watt per Watt, T-2s have more Lumans than the other Florescent lighting. Great for plants, corals, or just appeal.

best fluorescent aquarium lighting, T-2 versus T-8 T-5
8 watts of T-2 lighting on a 10 gallon aquarium



Experiment 1- Cycle Aids: Fritz vs. SeaChem

The purpose of this study is to find which aquarium cycle aid will cycle an aquarium faster and maintain more stable water parameters during the process. The idea of this experiment is establishing a healthy Nitrogen Cycle for an aquarium.

For a complete understanding of the Nitrogen Cycle, please see:

Nitrogen Cycle Basics

In-depth Nitrogen Cycle Info


API Ammonia NH3/NH4+ Test Kit

API Nitrite N02- Test Kit

API High pH Test Kit 7.4-8.8

Fritz Zyme 7 Original- Live Nitrifying Bacteria 16oz

SeaChem Stability 100mL

(3) 10 gal. glass aquarium (38L)

(3) Hydro Sponge Small(5-15gal)

(3) MA 80 Air Pump

(3) ViaAqua 50 watt heaters

(3) 5’ airline tubing

(6) Mollie Fish

(1) Spirulina fish food


Same (2) Mollie fish were placed in (3) same size aquariums (10gal). One 10gal aquarium was a control (no aid). The fish received (.5ml) of food once daily. The same weight and amount of food feed represented the same bio-load per aquarium. All aquariums had to new sponge filters ready to “seed” the aquarium. Fritz Zyme (FZ) and SeaChem Stability (SS) were used as directed (a.1) for a new aquarium “cycle” in the aquariums. Ammonia, Nitrites, and pH were check twice daily for the recommend dose time as per the directions of cycle aids. API test kits were used as directed. Results were recorded twice daily.

A high bio-load test is also preformed, by using (5mls) of fish food daily (5 days). This was to simulate poor aquarium maintenance and an increase in bio-load over a long period of time due to the maintenance. No fish were present in the aquarium. All three variables continued to be monitored.


Ammonia Readings

Nitrite Readings

pH Readings

Ammonia for Fritz SeaChem cycle aid experiement, best cycle aidNitrates for Fritz SeaChem Cycle experiment, best cycle Nitrogen CyclepH Testing


AmmoniaResults– Ammonia was the main variable measured in this experiment. SeaChem Stability was able to keep the lowest reading overall through-out the whole test. Fritz allowed for more ppm of Ammonia, but stabilize over time. The Control was able to be fairly comparable to both cycle-aids.

NitriteResults– Nitrites were the second variable of measure for toxicity of the aquarium water. Both aids were able to manage the Nitrites, while the Control had a much higher spike. During the high-bio test, Fritz did not do as well managing Nitrites.


  • SeaChem was able to keep the lowest parameters for both Ammonia and Nitrites.
  • Both aids were able to complete a healthy cycle.
  • Both aid did best controlling Nitrites, but not for a high bio test.
  • No aid or control allowed for an unmanageable reading. These levels are not best for long-term health, but are also tolerated for short periods.
  • The high bio-load test showed Fritz was not able to keep an established parameter for Nitrites. This could be because the bacteria in both cycle aids for Ammonia and Nitrites are different. The control for Nitrites for Fritz is weaker.
  • Both aids and even the Control can all be used for aiding in the Nitrogen Cycle of an aquarium. Both could also be considered for establishing a cycle. Aid and establishing are not the same.
  • pH was a secondary reading, no reading affected pH and is not really considered in this test.

Additional Discussion:

The Control was able to keep up with both aids fairly well for both aiding in the cycle of the aquarium and establishing the cycle. This is in part, because nature does a good job in managing toxic water.  The results could have also been as good as they were, because a Sponge Filter is a highly efficient filter. This experiment could have also been done using a different form of filtration, such as a Hang on the Back (HOB) or canister filter.

Fritz and SeaChem are two different approaches to live bacteria cycle aids. While both were able to aid in the cycle, but Fritz used much more aid (oz), then SeaChem. Fritz used two whole bottles (160z) for the experiment, while SeaChem used a half of a bottle (50ml total) too do the same Fritz did. The two aids also have their own smell to them, but Fritz is much stronger than SeaChem.



 Fritz Zyme:

Shake well, add directly into aquarium. Add Livestock*

New System 4oz (119ml or 1/2cup) per 10 gal (38L)

(*live stock used for bio-load of the nitrogen cycle)

SeaChem Stability:

Shake Well, Use one capful (5ml) for each 10gal (40L) on first day with a new aquarium. Then use 1 capful for each 20gal (80ml) daily for 7 days. Fish and other aquatics species may be introduced at an time as long as dosage is maintained for 7 days.

Recommend place to purchase:


The TestTest with .5ml food 20150108_103941 FritzSeaChemHigh Bio-Load Test 5ml

.5ml Food.5 ml Spirulina Food