Water quality is the most important factor in ensuring a healthy pond, but quality is not the same as clarity. Even if a pond has crystal clear water, there can still be pH imbalances and high contaminant levels. When it comes to water quality, you are not going to get any clues simply by looking; a little bit of science is what you need and the good news is that with today’s readily available and decidedly user-friendly test kits, it has never been easier to do.
Water quality tests should be conducted monthly and should be more frequent in the summer. Bi-weekly water tests in the warmer weather let you catch any imbalances before they cause water quality problems or health issues for your fish.
You can purchase at-home water quality tests for your pond at Home Depot or take a water sample to your local fish retailer. The two most common at-home tests are liquid test kids and dry test kits. When using liquid test kits, you take small samples (vials) of your pond water and add a provided liquid to each sample. A chemical reaction occurs, turning each vial a specific color and, which you then match to a chart to determine the level of what you're testing. Dry tests use the same color and shade method, but instead of using vials, the tests come with strips that you dip into the pond water and then wait for a reaction.
There are seven main things to keep an eye on when doing a water quality test – ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, dissolved oxygen, carbonate hardness, pH and general hardness.