Is Water Clarifier The Same as Water Conditioner?

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clarifier versus water conditioner discussions online or in your local fish store will absolutely leave you scratching your head. You'll hear people talking about them all the time in the aquarist communities, but you'll definitely have some questions about them when you're caught on the outside of the conversations. Things like, 'What are they?' 'What are they used for?' And 'if so many people spend so much time debating about them - is water clarifier the same as water conditioner?'

Well, no, water clarifier and water conditioner products are not the same. In fact, you might need both products to properly care for the fish in your tank. Water clarifier works by using natural enzymes to cause chemical reactions in the water. This captures small solids in the water and clumps them together so that your tank's filter system can then process it - making the water much clearer. Water conditioner, on the other hand, is a product that removes chloramine and chlorine from tap water to make it ready for the aquarium. This is important because chlorine and chloramine, whilst safe for humans, are incredibly harmful for fish and can lead to sickness and even death. So, no, water clarifier and water conditioner are not the same, and they have different uses.

Of course, there's always more to it than the short answer above, so stick with us as we explore water clarifier versus water conditioner - what they are, when they're needed, and how to use them both to improve your tank conditions!

Water Clarifier versus Water Conditioner: What Are They?

As we mentioned above, water clarifier and water conditioner are not the same thing. Water clarifiers work by using natural enzymes to react with the water and cause a chemical reaction. This reaction isn't harmful to the fish in your tank, and all it does is clump small solids in your water together to make them large enough to be captured by the water filter in your tank and thus make your water cleaner.

Water conditioner, on the other hand, works by removing chloramine and chlorine from tap water to make it safe for aquarium use. It will neutralize these two chemicals that are incredibly harmful to fish. Before aquarists had access to water conditioner, we would simply pour tap water into a bucket and leave it for a day or two before using it. That's because chlorine is unstable, and will naturally reduce when they aren't in the perfect conditions for them. Nowadays, water conditioner speeds up the entire process.

What Do They Do?

In order to understand more about water clarifier versus water conditioner, you need to understand why you might need to use them to begin with and what they do to help.

Water Clarifier Usage

Water clarifier is needed when you look at your water and it appears cloudy. Before reaching for the water clarifier, it's a good idea to wait for a few days. Why? Because more often than not, the cloudy water is caused by a disturbance with your substrate, and usually your water filter system in the tank will be enough to clear up this problem and get the water looking great again, or else the substrate will simply settle once more and the water will clear up.

If, after a few days, the problem seems to be continuing, then reaching for water clarifier is best. This will then force all tiny solids together to be cleared up by your water filter, and your water clarity should be much better and your tank conditions will be much more pleasant for your fish too.

Water Conditioner Usage

Water conditioner is a product you'll need to use before adding any tap water to your tank. This is non-negotiable, unless you have another method of removing chlorine and chloramine from tap water, such as leaving the water to sit out for a day or two. However, water conditioner is the best product you can use for guaranteed, quick removal of these harmful chemicals in tap water, so you should aim to use water conditioner for peace of mind as an aquarist. There's also a lot of debate as to this method's effectiveness anyway, so using a water conditioner is probably best!

Once added to the water, the chlorine and chloramine will be removed, and your tap water will now be safe for aquarium use without being a risk to your fish.

How Do You Use Them?

Now you know what they are and when to use them, it's a good idea to know how to use them. Please be aware that the information we provide in the following two subsections is general advice only. To know how to use your specific water conditioner or water clarifier product, you must read the packet instructions and follow them closely. This will guarantee your fish's health. For general guidance to prepare you for how you'll most likely use them, though, follow our advice below.

Directions For Use: Water Clarifiers

For water clarifiers, you'll mostly just need to add the specified amount of the product for your tank size directly into the tank itself. For 20 gallon tanks, it's usually less than a capful, and for smaller tanks, it's usually only 3 or 4 drops to help clear up the water. However, we would advise shopping around and speaking with experts at your local fish store before picking out a water clarifier to use. Some are harmful to specific species of fish and live plants, so getting detailed advice from an expert you can talk with in person is best here.

Once the drops are in the tank, you will only need to carry on with your regular cleaning schedule to remove it (water changes as required, making sure the filter is working, and cleaning the substrate as required) as you won't need to take any special cleaning measures to remove the product after it has taken effect like you might have to with some medicines, etc.

Directions For Use: Water Conditioners

If you buy a complete water conditioner, it will take care of almost everything before you place the tap water in your tank:

  • It will protect fish by forming a slime coat
  • Help balance pH levels
  • Remove copper
  • Remove heavy metals and toxins from water
  • Neutalize ammonia
  • Eliminate chlorine and chloramine

To use water conditioner, you'll simply need to mix the specified amount of product with the tap water you're planning on using. Wait for 15 minutes or so for the product to take effect, and then add it to your fish tank. Water conditioners are safe for fish, so there's also no need to remove fish if you're doing a water change or topping off the water with tap water that's been treated with water conditioner.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, water clarifiers and water conditioners are not the same thing, and they actually have different uses. As an aquarist, you'll need to get used to both products to keep your tank conditions as you want them and your fish healthy and safe.