If you have ever kept an aquarium, you may know that the pH of the water in the aquarium is very important. Most fish are very sensitive to the pH, and it must be monitored and controlled so that they stay healthy. What exactly does pH measure? The pH of a solution is a measure of its acidity. Acids and bases are very common substances that you encounter every day, from citrus fruits and other foods to soaps and cleaners. In many ways, you can think of acids and bases as being the opposite of one another. If a certain solution is highly acidic, its basicity is low. Conversely, a basic solution has a low acidity. The pH scale is a convenient way to keep track of how acidic or basic a given solution is. Environmental scientists, like the one in the image above, test the pH of natural bodies of water on a regular basis. If the pH is not within an ideal range, certain treatments may have to be considered so that the water can remain hospitable to the plants and animals that call it home. In this chapter, you will learn all about the chemistry of acids and bases.
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