The Aquarium hobby is filled with terms that can be confusing to the beginner. PH, KH, GH are just a few of the measures we discuss when talking about our tanks.
PH is a measure of the acidity of your water. The neutral state of water being measured at 7.0 with lower values being more acidic, and higher values being a base. PH is extremely important for shrimp, their bodies are designed to withstand and thrive in fairly specific ranges of PH. If shrimp are kept in water with an incorrect value, they can become very stressed and often times die.
KH, or carbonate hardness, is a measure of the alkalinity of your water. For the purposes of shrimp keeping, this acts primarily as a buffer for the PH in our tank. The higher your KH, the more stable our PH. Since stability is such a crucial factor in keeping shrimp this is a fairly important to keep track of. It is extremely difficult to control our KH level without also affecting our GH and potentially several other chemical
balances in our water. So it is not recommended to allow our KH to be too high, this way we can reach our desired levels for all our water chemistry. More technically speaking KH measures carbonate and bicarbonate anions. Most test kits and tools for measuring the KH of our water are expressed in PPM (parts per million). Above is a chart showing the relative levels for KH and GH as they pertain to aquariums. Most shrimp varieties will fall in the low or medium range.
GH, or general hardness, is usually a measure of calcium and magnesium levels in our water. This is a very important number to be aware of for shrimp keeping. Shrimp derive many of the nutrients that they need for molting and their general health from the water itself. This is usually measured by PPM of calcium carbonate in aquariums.
The Nitrogen Cycle – Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrates
The nitrogen cycle is a necessary process in our tank to help keep waste chemicals from becoming toxic in the water. The first stage of the process is ammonia being produced from fish or shrimp waste decomposing in the tank. As ammonia builds up in the tank bacteria begin to colonize various surfaces on the tank. This first wave of bacteria convert the ammonia in the tank to nitrites. New bacteria then colonize and convert the nitrites into nitrates. Nitrates are the final result of the nitrogen cycle, and are significantly less toxic to tank inhabitants than ammonia or nitrite. Over time though, nitrates can build up to dangerous levels, this is why regular water changes are a necessity for a healthy aquarium environment. For more specific information about the nitrogen cycle see Cycling a New Aquarium.