Monday, January 13, 2014

Heavy Metals in Aquarium Tanks

Heavy metals
Heavy metals

What are heavy metals?

Some of the most common heavy metals include lead, zinc, copper, and cadmium. These are chemical elements that readily dissolve in water and are dangerous to aquatic life when present in abnormally large quantities.

How do heavy metals get into bodies of water?

Contamination of water supplies with heavy metals can often be traced to industrial mining. Since they are elements and not chemical compounds, heavy metals will continue to pollute bodies of water for a long time.

Aside from your water supply, heavy metals can enter your aquarium when they leach from copper or galvanized water pipes. Old pipes can also be a source of lead, zinc or copper. Water from a well can also contain high amounts of iron.

There are also certain kinds of rocks where heavy metals may be present thus you should bear this in mind when you collect rocks for your aquarium tank.

Copper is also used in fish medications for external parasites and in algaecides. If you are using gravel or other porous material in your aquarium, copper can be absorbed and released later.

Harmful effects of heavy metals

Heavy metals are important to living things however they are only needed in small amounts. On the other hand, the presence of high amounts of heavy metals in the aquarium water can be stressful to your aquatic animals.

Heavy metals have a cumulative effect, which means that once they get into an animal, they cannot be eliminated and the levels can build up gradually over time. The presence of heavy metals in the body can damage the respiratory, nervous and reproductive organs. Fish kills as a result of heavy metal exposure for a considerable period of time can eventually occur.

As for iron, even at low levels, the presence of the element in water creates a favorable environment for growth and abundance of algae.

Ways to eliminate heavy metals from your tank

  • There are chemical sponges which are commercially available that can remove some heavy metals as water passes through them. 
  • Water purifiers which are resin-based can also remove heavy metals. 
  • Activated carbon can remove only small amounts 
  • The use of chelating agents is by far the most popular method among aquarium owners. Chelating agents are chemicals which are dissolved in water and neutralize metals, converting them into a non-toxic form by the process of chelation. There are also water conditioners that contain chelating agents. 
  • Water-softening pillows are best for soft water aquariums. These pillows contain resins which can remove soluble heavy metal ions such as iron and copper as well as calcium, magnesium. 
  • Carbon filters and polyfilters together with a good mechanical filter can be fitted in the aquarium filter to remove iron and copper. 


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