Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in your shrimp tank

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) is a measure of all the organic and inorganic content dissolved in water, including mineral salts, plant matter and waste from fish and other microorganisms. TDS, together with pH, KH and GH, is an important factor to take into account when assessing the quality of your tank water.

KH (Alkalinity / Carbonate Hardness) and GH (General Hardness) usually fluctuate together, and when they do, TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) is also affected. KH also always has an impact on pH (Acidity / Basicity levels). pH may or may not change KH and TDS, depending on whether the change is due to an increase in acidity or some other factors.

Is a high TDS water harmful to shrimp?

Very high levels of TDS may indicate high salinity and cause stress in shrimp and other organisms in your tank, including plants. That said, high levels of TDS are not necessarily a sign of that harmful compounds are present in your water, and you better look into what kind of solids you are measuring before deciding whether it’s the case to worry. For instance, if you have recently fed your livestock or applied fertilizer, you should expect your TDS to rise. The presence of limestone or calcium is also relatively harmless to most species of shrimp, and such minerals may actually help prevent common molting issues.

What is an ideal TDS value for a shrimp tank?

The majority of freshwater shrimp who prefer soft water (e.g. water with low pH) will also thrive in low TDS environments. High levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium in the water, while not harmful to the shrimp per se, may even harder the shell of eggs and prevent hatching. It is therefore important to keep an eye on TDS level even if the pH and water hardness are low. While high TDS levels shouldn’t be concerning, low TDS values are are a good sign as you don’t have to worry about any unknown compounds stressing your livestock.

TDS shock in freshwater shrimp

TDS shock is a harmful and potentially deadly phenomenon that can affect all kind of shrimp. It occurs when sudden changes in water TDS levels occur quickly, usually due to water changes or overfeeding. Shrimp may find themselves swimming in water that is excessively cloudy and if not given enough time to acclimate themselves to the new environmental conditions, they can get sick and perish. TDS shock can be prevented by performing slow and gradual water changes while keeping an eye on TDS levels using a TDS pen or meter, and by removing leftover food residues that are left uneaten in the tank.

How to measure TDS in a shrimp tank?

It is good practice to measure TDS levels in your shrimp tank or aquarium regularly and it is fairly easy and economic to do so. For simple readings you can get your hands on an inexpensive TDS pen. If you are keeping more sensitive species of shrimp, such as Sulawesi shrimp, it is recommended to invest in more accurate, high-precision TDS meters. Both are easily available at local hardware stores and aquarium pet stores.

How does a TDS meter work?

A TDS meter essentially measures how “pure” your water is by sending a small electrical charge. A water that is entirely composed by H20 cannot in fact transmit electricity – but the more solid material dissolved in the water, the more electricity can be discharged. Both TDS meters essentially measure the Electrical Conductivity (EC) of water and then convert the outcome into TDS by measuring the electrolytes in the tank.


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