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FAQs on pH, Alkalinity, Acidity 2

Related Articles: pH, alkalinity, In praise of hard water; How hard, alkaline water can be a blessing in disguise by Neale Monks, Treating Tap Water, A practical approach to freshwater aquarium water chemistry by Neale Monks, The Soft Water Aquarium: Risks and Benefits by Neale Monks, Freshwater Maintenance, Treating Tap water for Aquarium Use

Related FAQs: pH, Alkalinity, Acidity 1, pH, Alkalinity 3, pH, Alkalinity 4 & FAQs on: FW pH/Alkalinity Science, pH/Alkalinity Measure, pH/Alkalinity Adjustment, pH/Alkalinity Products, pH/Alkalinity Anomalies/Fixing, & Water Hardness, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality, Treating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease

Do read and follow directions explicitly should you avail yourself of chemical means of adjusting pH.

What's the least expensive/best deal you know of for testing pH?       3/8/16
<See the Net re>
I've got the one from Tetra and noticed that my solution is getting low. Is there anywhere I can order just the bottled solution alone without the instructions/color chart/etc.?
<Ditto. Maybe Dr.s Foster & Smith/Liveaquaria.com. Bob Fenner>
How would you compare the old fashioned pH Test Kits where you would squeeze out 7 drops of solution into a vial with 5 mL of aquarium water vs. the newer digital electronic pH meters vs. pH test strips?
Which is the most economical vs. convenient vs. accurate?       3/8/16

<Test strips are the least accurate but the most convenient, and often do lots of different tests at the same time, so therefore get used the most, and crucially, by people who wouldn't otherwise bother. So in that sense they're the ones that help the most people. Electronic meters can be the most accurate, but unless calibrated each time and used correctly, they won't be accurate at all. Fiddly but good, and also very expensive, they're the ones for expert fishkeepers. Bottles and drops fall somewhere between the two. Not as cheap and easy as test strips, but more accurate than test strips. Not as accurate as meters, but don't need calibration to work properly. In short, each has its merits, but which is best depends on your budget, competence, and need for pinpoint accuracy. Me? I use the strips! I reckon it's better for the causal aquarist to do approximate tests regularly than to do accurate tests hardly/not at all. Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>

Checking your work on the PH Page... To do: corr on root, subwebs  1/6/2008 Hey Bob, I just tested my aquarium's hardness for the first time and was looking up the results to see if I should make any changes. I live in Florida, and all of our water comes from the (limestone) aquifer, so I shouldn't have been surprised to find it is rather hard. Sinkholes here (dissolved limestone!) occasionally swallow houses, roads, and seem to have a taste for Porsches (http://www.tampabaydisaster.org/fldisasterkit/sinkholes.html). <Heeee!> Anyway, I started reading articles about hard water conditions and what does well in them to make sure my plants and animals are going to be happy with hard water, and all. I got to your "PH, Alk, and Acidity" article (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm) and I have to offer some corrections to your "fancy mathematical expressions." (Cheeky kids these days. Think they know everything!) The fancy mathematical expression for pH is that it's the negative (or one over, the reciprocal) of the logarithm (base 10) of hydrogen ion concentration, or -log10 [H+] or *1/log10 [H+]* Underlined should be *log10 1/[H+]*. -log10 [10-7] = log10 [1/10-7] = log 10 [107] = 7* * In our example of "pure" water this is *log10 [10-7]* Should be *-log10 [10-7]* <Yes, the negative log, or the inverse/one over the base ten log..... some formatting is disappearing over time, and movement...> Maybe one last example (or two). Let's say the hydrogen ion concentration is *10-7.8 or 0.00000078. *What is this solution's pH. That's right,* 7.8, *like much of our beloved southwestern "liquid-rock" tap water. A pH of 7.8 is a concentration of [10-7.8], or [10+0.2 * 10-8], or [1.58 * 10-8], or 0.0000000158. A concentration of 0.00000078 is a concentration of [7.8 * 10-7], or [10-6.1]. pH of 6.1. Discus tank! Going *from a pH of 6.5 to 4.5* is a difference of *100 times less * concentration! In context, from 6.5 to 4.5 is 100 times MORE acidic. From 4.5 to 6.5 would be 100 times less acidic. But the articles were very interesting. As were the results of my tests. My planted livebearer tank's GH was 14 DH, but my KH was only 3! Hm. Probably time for some baking soda, then? <An inexpensive means...> I see in an article by Neale Monks that my range for livebearers (Platy fish, with some Corydoras) should be from 5-10. <About this, yes> It seems odd to me that water from a source rich in calcium carbonate should be high in calcium (& magnesium) but low in carbonate... Are my plants so hungry that they ate it all? :) <This and "escape" from the surface as gas, yes...> Thanks in advance, Bill <Thank you! Bob Fenner>

FW chem., too lazy to search WWM... pH Trouble    3/29/06 Hi! I have a Red-Bellied Piranha in a 20-gallon aquarium. <How large is this animal?> Recently I have had trouble with the PH. It has been at extremely high levels  (like 7.6). I've tried to lower it by using Ph Down, but even after using it 3 times the PH has stayed the same. Any other suggestions on lowering PH? Thanks! <... such changes need to occur outside the system... gradually, with water changes. Please see here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm and the linked files above........ Bob Fenner>

Goldfish pH Concerns  3/13/06 <Hi Greg, Pufferpunk here> I know there are many articles on your site about pH and I have read what seems like hundreds of them but call me dense--I still can not seem to solve my issue.  I have a terracotta tank outside that holds 20 gallons and 4 small gold fish in a "pond environment" with an aerator, filter, plant and waterfall.   I flush the water in the tank regularly and it has access to fresh rain water.  I also test the tank often and it tests great with the exception of alkalinity (ability to buffer) and pH, both are unbelievably low.   <Acid rain?> I have tried using the pH up drops but they move it only slightly and then the pH falls again.  I know changes in pH do not have a good effect on the fish, so I am concerned about continuing to use the drops only so they will drop again.  Do you have any suggestions on how I can increase the pH and therefore the alkalinity so that it will stay at a proper level?  Since low pH is acidic would adding a little diluted base like baking soda work? <You are correct.  It is worse to make a fish live in fluctuating pH, than low pH, so don't add buffers.  They will just break down & the pH will go down again.  I wish you had posted what your pH is.  What is the pH of your tapwater?  You should be doing large weekly water changes on a goldfish tank (90%).  Most fish can adjust to most any pH, so as long as you are doing regular water changes, I wouldn't worry much.  Eventually, 20g won't be nearly large enough for 4 goldfish.  ~PP> Thank you for all of your help.  Greg High ph tap water - 2/28/2006 My tropical tank has done very well so far, without me even knowing what my ph was...lucky my.  Recently I added 3 clown loaches...lost 1 of them on day 4, the 2nd one today (day 5).  My ph IS high, (8.0), but the last remaining loach is doing fine, and has always been the busy one in the tank.  Since I haven't done anything before this to adjust ph I must figure it is my tap water. <Mmm, not so fast... could be other materials in the tank... the substrate most likely... but other decor...> Is there anything I can do to lower the ph and keep it stabilized for water changes when I treat it for the chlorine? <Yes... posted on WWM> I saw some stuff called proper ph...but it was not recommended for tanks with plants, which I have 2 that are live.  I don't want to have to be constantly adding chemicals to lower ph when the other fish are doing fine right where they are... but also don't want to lose my last clown.  I won't get anymore until or if I find out I can remedy this and keep it fixed. Thanks, Kim <Good points. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: high ph tap water  - 3/1/2006 Okay, you asked about my substrate...large tank has the Fluorite under regular gravel....ph is the same as the small tank without Fluorite...regular aquarium decor from pet stores and 2 live plants... <Most natural gravels are alkaline, particularly when new/er> 2 of the decorations have airlines bubbling from them.  The small tank has 1 small fake plant, 1 live plant (not sure what kind but snails came with it) and one little ceramic decoration.  The next puzzling question comes from the PH of the water that came from the pet store that I purchased these clowns at...although they wanted me to wait until more clowns came in, I was leery of buying more clowns so I came home with 2 Cory cats since they are much hardier.  I decided to test the PH and found it was just as high as mine...so now I got to wonder if I put forth the effort to adjust my tank, will I just be shocking fish that come from a pet store because the pH change would be so drastic? <... small changes twixt systems, especially in the "right" direction, are fine. Best however to employ an intermediate "quarantine" tank... where mediation can occur over time. Bob Fenner>

Very low alkalinity/ KH   2/23/06 I live in south Florida, and I set up my freshwater, 29 gallon tank about two and a half months ago. I have one Angelfish, two Siamese algae eaters, four Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish, six Ghost Shrimp, and one female Betta. The tank is fully planted with CO2 and a Penguin BioWheel filter. The tank has 65 watts of compact fluorescent light and Fluorite gravel that I gravel vac about once a week. There is also a lava rock in the center of the aquarium (it is decently large, approximately 12" by 12" in the center, with three holes in it). My tap water has a pH of 8, <A bit high... typical for FLA> an Alkalinity of 40 ppm, GH of 75ppm, a nitrate of 0 and a nitrite of 0. The water in my tank has a pH of 6.8, a KH of 0, a Hardness of 75, 0 Nitrite, and about 20 Nitrate. The water has stayed the same for the whole time I have had my tank and I believe it is stable, but I am told by many sources that my KH should not be zero. <Correct... or there would be wildly fluctuating pH problems> Is there a way to raise the KH without using chemicals? <... yes... well, sort of. Adding a rock (which is of course, chemical), that is composed of calcium...> If not, what chemicals could I use that would be safe around my shrimp and plants? <Most all the commercial buffers... pre-mix in your make-up water for use during your weekly changes> Another question I have is should I count my shrimp as fish when stocking my tank? <Ah, yes. Bob Fenner>

Ammonia, water changes (now pH, too)   2/22/06 Hey crew! <Hey, Andrew!> I've already sent in a question similar to this once, and it could still be getting answered (in which case I apologize for sending this), but it's been 4 or 5 days since sending it without a reply, and this email explains the situation more fully, so I thought I'd try again (along with updates, so it is a different email) in case the original got lost in the shuffle.   <Oops!  Happens sometimes.  We get quite a bit of spam, sometimes real E-Mails get lost in the shuffle...> In the latest installment of my first time aquarium/didn't know about cycling fiasco, after doing 2x daily water changes for a couple of days like Jason recommended (which has diluted the ammonia back down to sub 1.0 levels), <Good!  You may want to back off a bit on the water changes, just enough to keep below the 1.0 PPM threshold.> my pH is now at 5.0 (could be lower, but my colorimetric assay doesn't go below that). My tapwater is at pH 7.0. The tapwater is also VERY soft (KH 1.5, GH 2). <Your KH is very low, you don't have enough carbonates to absorb the acids that come from the waste, carbon dioxide your fish produce.> I realize that with such a low alkaline reserve, the water's pH is subject to bigger/quicker swings in pH, but I don't understand what could have triggered the swing (was at 7.0 before water changes). <When KH is very low, it doesn't take much.> I have normal, natural gravel (from Wal-Mart), a fake log/plant, a fake rock/plant, two more silk plants, and some Cabomba planted in my aquarium--no peat or driftwood in this little 5 gallon. I condition the replacement water for the water changes with Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Tap Water Conditioner (eliminates chlorines and breaks the chloramine bond), and testing the conditioned water right before putting it in the aquarium shows a pH of 7 and the same hardness levels as the tap water. Any idea what's causing the pH to bottom out and what I should do to fix it? I realize changing pH all the time is a bad idea, but I feel like if it's this low, the nitrifying bacteria will never grow because I'll have all the ammonium I could wish for but no free ammonia for them to eat. Should I start adding baking soda to my water changes (if so, how much proportionally?) or possibly use the pantyhose w/ crushed coral in the filter box approach (if so, where do I find crushed coral, etc)? I also have Seachem's Neutral Regulator, but it says it works by softening the water (precipitating calcium and magnesium), which I don't really need, and it locks up ammonia just like low pH does, which I've been trying to get away from so that I can get an accurate ammonia test result and start cycling my tank. As much as I'd hate to do it, though, I was thinking of using the neutral regulator and then continuing 1x daily water changes but adding in the baking soda or pantyhose ideas. Anyways, I'm getting really bad about these long emails, so I'll apologize and stop here. Thanks again for the help so far! <It sounds like you've done quite a lot of research on the topic, took the time to understand alkalinity and buffering before you asked any questions.  Because of this, you have answered most of your own questions.  I would use Baking Soda to slowly bring KH and pH up over about a week if you can -- this will be hard, since you are doing daily water changes -- and use crushed coral to act as a more permanent buffer in the future.  A good target for KH is between 5 and 10, which is still pretty soft but much more stable. As for proper amounts of baking soda/crushed coral to use... trial and error!  Try adjusting a bit of tap water w/baking soda -- say 1 gallon -- and when you find the right amount, add that amount per gallon to your water changes.  Likewise, soak some crushed coral in tap water for a few days, and test your KH, see how much is leached in that time.  You should come up with a good estimate after a bit of trial and error. Since you are manually adjusting alkalinity and pH be sure to include these (and GH) as a part of your regular water testing in the future.> Thanks, Andrew... <Jason N.>

Losing Fish To Low pH   1/11/06 Hi All, My problem is the pH in my aquarium gets much too low.  I've lost 3 fish with no visible cause, but the pH was lower than 6.2 when I tested.  I've had my tank for about 6 4 months, and the bio-wheel is nicely full of bacteria. I have a 12-gal aquarium with what is still living - 1 female Betta, 2 Corys, and an Oto cat.  It's moderately planted, with plant substrate (I forget the name but it's not supposed to effect pH.)  I have fake driftwood. I do 25% water changes weekly.  I have well water.  My out of the tap pH = 6.2, GH 150, KH 40.  I have added coral in a mesh bag - about 1/2 cup, and the coral is the size of peas.  Within a day after a water change, the water shows pH of less than 6.2 and the KH is 0.  I've tried adding baking soda to the water, and I can keep the KH around 40, but I see the pH fluctuate between less that 6.2 and 7.2, and I have to keep adding the baking soda.  I keep reading that chemical buffers (those sold in pet stores) and pH chemicals and stabilizers shouldn't be added.  I had a local fish store tell me to change my water source.  That's not easy - I would have to drive 30 miles to get different water.  Oh, the nitrates are always less than 40, usually less than 20, and the nitrates are 0.Do you have any other suggestions?  I'm ready to give up on fish-keeping. Thank you. Chris Cope < Most fish can handle a pH of 6.2 with no problem. The exception would be rift lake cichlids, brackish water fish and many livebearers. No fish like rapid changes in pH. < Get a 5 gallon bucket and check the water right out of the well. Check it again in 24 hours. If the pH goes up then you had dissolved CO2 gas in the water. In solution it makes carbonic acid. After 24 Hrs the gas is dissolved and this is the true pH of your water. When you add this water to your aquarium the plants are removing nitrates and minerals from the water and they absorb minerals like calcium and magnesium. As the tannic acids leeches out from your driftwood the H+ ions are free in solution and decrease the pH and make the tank more acidic. Many aquarists would love to have your water because it is always easier to add minerals then to take them out. In that same 5 gallon bucket you can add a good quality buffer and bring the pH up to the desired level. Change 20% of the water each week with the buffered water from the bucket. In a couple of weeks you should see a more consistent pH reading. Without any  further details it is difficult to determine if this is what really killed your fish.-Chuck>

Super low pH and no alkalinity... aquarist self-flagellating for negligence in FW aquarium "keeping"   1/11/06 Hi all!  Hope all is well.  I have an odd mixture that I haven't seen mentioned here yet. First, let me give some background... I have never before today tested my tank water as I didn't see any problems, I am a bit lax at water changes and recently any new introductions to my tank have perished within a month (although my original angels, Bala shark, paradise fish, and Opaline Gourami have been doing fine for the over 2 years that I've had my tank). <Classically habituated... and co-socialized>   I tested my tank this morning and imagine my shock when my pH read 4.24 (this wasn't though a test strip but through my pH meter at work, I work in a water quality lab. I know, how ironic that I never thought to check the pH sooner). <Happens... plumbers with leaks at home, car mechanics with vehicles that need oil-changing...>   The total alkalinity was ZERO (due to the low pH). <... Err...> Total hardness was 600 ppm, Calcium hardness=450 ppm. <Good gosh!> On my way home I finally purchased test strips and my results confirmed (the ones with the appropriate ranges at least, the others were off the chart).  Further testing revealed Nitrate at over 200  ppm (yes I am a terrible fish mother... how can my fish have survived this!!??) <Progressive resistance. make sure you start changing water... slowly>   Needless to say I have done changes and wanted to run them by you all to see if you can recommend anything else.  I took out the driftwood that I had in the tank, took out the carbon in my filter, changed 30% of the water with vacuuming the gravel (my tested tapwater is 0 nitrate and nitrite, hardness of 120 ppm, alkalinity of 150 ppm and pH=7.0).  The water that I added was about 60% tap water (treated for chlorine of course) and 40% DI water with 1 tablespoon baking soda dissolved in it.  I did this over an hour ago and now my readings are Nitrate =200 ppm, <Yikes...> nitrite=0, hardness=250 ppm, alkalinity=180 ppm, and pH approx. 6.4 (I know that probably will shock my fish to oblivion, but I have to raise that pH .   <Go slow... you have time... change some/more every week...> I have also added coral decor to the tank (it has an established aeration wand, powerhead filter and outside Penguin filter).  I am also planning on changing the water again in about 4 days to keep trying to get those nitrates down (me thinks this will take a while.)  Anyway, any other ideas would be greatly appreciated.   Thanks   Maegan in CA <The existing nitrate is not an issue... dilution will take care of this in time... I would add a bit of "floating grass"... Elodea/Anacharis is my first choice here... to ameliorate some of these differences... toward where you want to go. Bob Fenner>

Water chemistry question  1/8/06 Dear WWM Crew: First, I would like to start off wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.  Thank you for your ceaseless and selfless dedication to making this site what it is.  You all have helped me once in the past and I hope you will help again.  My question involves water chemistry.  I have done quite a bit of reading, but I am still somewhat confused.  In testing our tap water, we found that it is a bit unfriendly for our fishy family members: ammonia 4-8 ppm, nitrite .5-1 ppm nitrate 20-40 ppm, <... these readings are dangerous for your domestic use...> TDS 220.  We were buying bottled water from the grocery store but that grew old fast because we have 4 freshwater tanks totaling 245g with a 5th tank (75g rainbowfish) in the works.  We took the plunge and bought an AquaFX Mako 5 stage RO/DI with chloramine buster attachment (by the way, it is a phenomenal filter, if somewhat expensive) which gives us wonderfully pure water.  I do understand about reconstituting the water.  I understand it is better to aerate the water for 24 hrs before buffering, and I do somewhat understand the relationships between pH, KH and GH. <Good> I have read here on WWM that a stable pH is more important than an 'ideal' pH <Yes> and I understand the reasoning behind it.  In my first attempt to make up water, my parameters are as follows, pH 7.6, 9 DKH and 23 DGH.  The pH pretty much matches the pH in the tanks now, with 2 of the community tanks at 7.6 and the other community tank and dwarf cichlid tank at 7.4.  I am using 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1tablespoon of Epsom Salts and 1tablespoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons. <Mmm, this is a bunch of Epsom, and possibly too much aquarium salt... I would dilute this by at least half> I will be taking another container and split this between the 2 before making more water to lower the KH and DH, but my question really is: can too much KH and GH be harmful to fish? <Depends on 1) the species, 2) what they've been raised in/exposed to, 3) what you want them to do, and 4) "other" factors... All have some range, tolerance to change...>   We don't keep Discus, but we do have some interesting fish including a black Ghost Knife and African Butterflies.  I know that some fish like a softer water to breed in, but we are not really interested in breeding fish at this time. Also, is it more important to pay attention to the alkalinity for keeping the pH stable, or treat the KH and GH equally? <More important to gauge, adjust alkalinity overall in most cases/settings... the calcium hardness is good to "judge" or keep at about half or so of general hardness...> Am I using too much aquarium salt to add back the trace elements? <Yes... I would use either a good general buffering product (made for aquarium use) or make one up here. Salts (combinations of metals and non-metals) have other properties... You don't want to "knock yourself out" trying to avoid salts altogether (they are present in all waters to a degree), but I would not purposely add much "back" to adjust your water>   To paraphrase Dr. McCoy: "Dammit Jim, I'm a computer technician not a water chemist!"  Thanks again for any clarity you can offer and keep up the awesome job. Thomas N. (Tom) Bilello <Understood... With the number of gallons total in your systems... I would rig up a system to "batch treat" your make-up water... engage a calcium carbonate addition as well as the/a bicarbonate (baking soda)... and likely leave this as it... Bob Fenner>

Water parameters follow-up 12/10/05 Hello again.  Thanks for the advice! After aging, the Ph <<pH, not Ph, not PH, not ph, it is pH.>> goes down to 7.5. <Much better> My plan is to switch my water change schedule to 2 gallons weekly, and slowly raise the tank Ph to match the tap. Hopefully my cories won't mind the basic water. <Don't add anything to the water... more harm than good.... just do water changes. No need to mess with this pH.> According to Massachusetts literature, they artificially raise the Ph to 9.2 to keep lead and copper from leeching into the water from old pipes. <Makes sense... as you have found, this is righted after a day or two of vigorous aeration.> I do have a new question for you about nutrition, or lack of. As previously stated, I have a 10 gallon tank with one male Betta and a school of five Corydoras reticulatus, which had been mislabeled as agassizii at the LFS. For the first few weeks, I alternated daily between frozen brine shrimp, and Betta pellets and sinking wafer pieces. It was working fine with the Betta eating his own food and ignoring the cories. Recently the Betta got sick, he lost color and didn't want to move or eat. Lets just say eventually it became very clear that he had a bad case of constipation. Ever since his recovery, he has been a very different fish, apparently he spent his time sick contemplating his lifestyle. Now he eats off the bottom with the cories, and anytime they are active he'll hover over their shoulders trying to figure out what they are up to. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem, except he's discovered the sinking wafers as food, eating any small pieces I throw in, and carrying around and defending any pieces too big for him until they soften up. I've had to net out all the wafers I've thrown in recently, as I'm certain he'll eat himself to death if given a chance. Meanwhile, the cories have only been eating the brine shrimp, and I'm concerned they will become malnourished at some point if the situation doesn't change. Any suggestions? <As you seem to be aware, brine shrimp is pretty nutritionally poor. So there's not much point in continuing to feed it. Try a varied diet for the Betta... I have found they love (thawed) frozen bloodworms. Also, try feeding the cories just as the lights go out, to see if this helps. Best Regards.... John> Thanks again, -Sean

pH Swinging - 11/16/2005 Hello WWM crew, <Hi, Tiffany.> I just lost over half of my livestock in less than an hour!! <Yee-ikes!> I'm hoping that you can help me before I lose the rest. OK here's some background. I have a 20 gallon long tank. It has been up and running very healthy for about 2 years. Recently (about 6 mo.) I have converted the tank to live plants. The livestock is mostly tetras, barbs, small shrimp a few loaches, and one German ram female. I have found it hard to keep the pH at a safe level since the conversion. <Not good....> It keeps dropping as does the buffering capacity. I have been trying to combat this problem by frequent water changes. <This may actually be related to CO2 use by the plants.> About 30% every two weeks with pre-treated water. I am hesitant to put in any chemicals to control the pH because this is my first live plant tank, and I do not know what kind of effect it can have. <Mm, a buffer of some sort may be most urgent right now to get your pH stable. A fluxuating <<fluctuating, from the root "fluctuate", the result of being in a state of "flux". MH>>  pH is extremely hard on fish, and as you have experienced, can be fatal.> The last water change was about a week ago. My boyfriend took a look at the tank this morning and all of my fish were dying! He quickly did a water change about 50% but did not check the water quality. I have just checked it and it is fine. pH is 7.2, <.... need to know what it was prior. If it was much higher or lower, this big water change may have caused further damage with yet another fluxuation in pH. ALWAYS check pH prior to a water change and check that of your source water, so you know what's going to happen when you combine the two.> Buffering capacity 120, Hardness 120, and nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia tests read 0. I suspect that it was a major fluctuation in the pH, but why? <I agree with your suspicion. There are many things that affect pH, and there isn't enough detail on your system here for me to have much to go off.... Decaying plant material, bogwood/driftwood, peat, blackwater extracts, some different substrates, and CO2 levels can all have a significant impact on pH.> And why does the pH keep dropping anyway?  <Look to the things above.> Should I use the chemicals? <Mm, possibly - I would definitely do something to stabilize this pH pronto.> How can I prevent this from happening again? <Understand what in your system is the root cause/s of the fluxuation and rectify it. This may mean something as simple as keeping a tablespoon of aragonite sand in a filter sock in your filter, or it may mean removing a piece of decaying driftwood.... many possibilities here.> what can I do to help the fish that are left? <Hold that pH stable. Buffer, if need be, shut off CO2 injection and test CO2 and pH hourly if need be, but get the pH stable.> Some of them seem to be struggling to survive. One thing that I noticed is that all of the shrimp and cherry barbs survived and all of the loaches and tetras died? <Barbs are tough cookies. Shrimp can take quite a "beating" as well. Some tetras are very, very sensitive - and some/most loaches are, as well. The fluxuations in pH probably affected them a great deal more than it did the barbs and shrimp.> I don't know if that's a clue to the problem, but I thought I'd throw it out there. I really hope that you can help. Thanks for your time. <Isolate and neutralize the root cause of the problem, and all will hopefully be well.> Tiffany <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

pH Question from 11/25/05, Posted 12/08/2005 sorry...!  12/9/05 Thanks much for the reply, Gage. The decoration theme is more "ancient Rome" than Sponge Bob and burping clams, however. (Not what I envisioned, either, but someday I may be Master and Commander of my aquarium. :) I was interested in your statement that a pH range of 6.8 to 7.0 is a "potentially large swing". I will nail it down as you advised. Like so many before me have suggested, there is much to learn and digest. When I'm confident that the pH is stable, I'll look forward (anxiously) to adding the Panda Corys. Thanks again. Tom <Hey Tom, sorry for the lack of reply, just got my cable hooked up at the new apartment. 6.8 to 7.0 is really not a terrible change but it would be best to get it to stay somewhere in that range, rather than to have if fluctuating. You can read more on pH here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm . Best of luck with your tank, Panda Corys are one of my faves. Gage> 

Hard Water... proper nouns are capitalized, common courtesy  11/17/05 I have a 20 gal aquarium, Aquaclear 30 filter, 100 watt heater, sand substrate, a piece of African wood, a "rainbow" rock, and a piece of Utah glass rock. I also have a 10 gal aquarium, and i <I> am going to get a 50-75 gal for Christmas. I have a black ghost knife fish and I was told not to put him/her into the 20 gal because of the hard water, the 10 gallon is fine, has everything artificial except for a clay pot. My question is about the hard water, what is causing it, is it the wood and rocks? <Not the former, possibly the latter... can be tested...> As well, what can I do to lower it because the black ghost knife looks a bit uncomfortable in the 10 gal, plenty of hiding spots just a little too small for him, he's about 4-5" long. In the 20 gal all water parameters are fine, a very little ammonia <Should be zip, nada, zilch> due to the tank still cycling a little, but everything else is fine, pH and all others are fine. In the 20 gallon there are 2 Buenos Aires tetras, 3 cherry barbs and temporarily 2 comet gold fish. <Big mistake to mix tropicals, temperates> In the 10 gal there are 2 clown loaches only small 2" I know they get big :)  That's what the 50-75 gal is going to be for, as well a small Pleco and the knife fish. Well I guess that's enough info. I know you guys love lots of info, I searched for this question but couldn't find it, and I've read a lot of FAQs so I am trying to give as much info as possible. Thanks a million time for your help, Bob, or whoever else is answering. have a good day <... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm and the linked files above. Likely your best move is to seek out, blend some softer water with your source to lower overall hardness. Bob Fenner> 

pH Spike/Alkalinity in Freshwater Tank 11/4/05 Thanks: the comet and the fantail were both 1" when I got them and had them in a 3 gallon Eclipse tank. In 7 months, they grew enormously, thriving in that tiny tank. In the last 4 months, the comet added another 2 inches. I lost the fantail, but I think I know what happened: the BioWheel was not turning quickly since August, but I kept troubleshooting the filter according to instructions. Finally, I looked at it very carefully - the BioWheel was bent and not rotating properly for that reason. <Uh... irrespective of the spinning, this tank is too small> A new wheel has done the trick. I continued to overfeed my now-not very active goldfish and the nitrate load went up, with slowly increasing ammonia levels. So in a week when I had to do a 70% water change, the city also raised the Ph levels in the tap water. It had been running 7.3 or so all summer, but is now coming out at 7.9 or so.  <Yikes, good measuring, point> Tap Water for Washington DC: Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: 10 ( lots of sediment in the Potomac River) Carbonate: 7dKH General Hardness: 10 PH: 7.7-7.9 Here are my tank readings today (I have plastic plants, no overhead light and a fairly sunny living room in the AM: Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: 15 Carbonate 6 dKH GH:: 10 Ph: 7.9 Temperature is 72 His gills look at little white to me. I continue to worry about this Ph level and would appreciate advice on water treatments with this kind of tap water. <Would do as presented here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/taptrtmnt.htm and store the water a week in advance of use> The comet has been spending the days on the bottom of the tank under the filer outflow, but at night, in the near darkness, he comes out and swims. It looks like his red fins are almost gone. He does not move to eat though when I try to give him some small bits of food in the AM which is totally unlike him. I think I traumatized him with all the water changes and now the fantail is gone. <And the inherent instability of too small a volume of water> He was very close to the fantail and was pushing it along when it got weak. They spent most of last week sitting on the bottom and leaning against each other. I once had a similarly close pair and when my black moor died, the calico lasted all of a month more - no apparent reason for death. Thanks for your help.  <Mmm... please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/gldfshsystems.htm.  You need a much larger tank. Bob Fenner>

Molly Behaviour, pH and Alkalinity - 10/27/2005 Hi there. <Ahoy.> We have 4 Dalmatian mollies 3 female and 1 male. They are in a 55 gallon tank. We have had them for a week and a half now. The male has seemed to claim the heater as his. He will chase off the females if they get to close to it. <I have seen territorial behaviour in mollies before. Usually males are more aggressive with other males than with females, though.> The temp in there tank stays 80. The first 3 days or so the male bugged the females all the time. Now he doesn't seem to chase them to breed any more. He eats and will come away from the heater for a little. <Probably a good idea to keep a close eye on him, just in case.> One of the females which I think is pregnant was claiming that same corner yesterday and ran the others off. <Typical of a pregnant fish to chase others away from "her spot". I would still observe these fish very, very closely for a while, in case there is something pathogenic at play.> I just did all the test and here are the results nitrite is 0,nitrate 0,amonia .25 ppm., alkalinity 120 ppm., pH is below 7.0. <Better for this to be higher for mollies.> I am not sure how to keep the pH and the alkalinity balanced. I have pH Increaser should I use this? <Mm, instead, I would add a small amount of crushed coral or aragonite sand in a filter bag in your filter. This will help quite a bit. Start with just a little bit, though, and increase slowly over some days - test your pH regularly as you do this so you don't let it increase too much too quickly.> We have not done any water changes since we set it up. <Probably a good idea to start.> Thank you Katina <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>
Buffers, Softeners, pH, RO/DI - II - 10/26/2005
Thanks so much for the speedy reply. It was incredibly helpful and accurate to my results. (From the guy with hard water and Onyx Sand, trying to start a freshwater community, reluctant to pay for RO unit. Originally answered by Sabrina) <That's me!> After adding Acid Buffer for 2-days, and adding nothing over the past 24hours, the pH is at 7.6. As you predicted, it's rising again.  <I am quite concerned that the onyx sand is the major contributor, here.> And if it's adding sodium as well, I suppose I'm better off without. <Likely.> Anyway, I've come to the point of seriously considering an RO unit.  <Try experimenting with a bucket of tapwater with no onyx sand.... see if you can augment the water chemistry with just peat or bogwood.... if the onyx is the major "problem" here, you may end up choosing to reconsider its use....> The cheapest I could find was ~$100 for a 2-stage (approximately doubling my original budget). I'd be willing to buy it if it seems like a good idea.  <It does, BUT, I would be concerned still about the onyx. I don't want you to go out and drop a hundred bucks on an RO system without knowing if it will make a difference.... if the onyx sand is buffering your water too much, RO water might just not do the trick. Uhh, any chance you might consider Tanganyikan shell-dwelling cichlids instead of soft water fishes? (grin)>  <<Ooooh.. that would look sweet!  MH>> Specifically the Aqua-FX Stingray 2. It has a TFC membrane and a 10" 2-micron carbon filter and has the option of 50 or 100gpd. I'd be using it exclusively for the aquarium. What could I expect the lifespan of the membrane to be?  <Mm, best to ask the manufacturer this one....> Should I get the flush valve kit?  <Again, I would consult the manufacturer, and explain how much/often you'll be using the unit. Keep in mind that they DO have something to sell you, so take advice with a grain or two of salt.> Would it be better to spend an extra $50 on a better RO-unit? <Nah, not for your purposes.... small tank, small amounts of water.... this two-stage unit would be fine, I think.> In the meantime, in my current water conditions (pH 7.6, KH 80ppm, GH 75ppm) would it be reasonable get a Betta?  <I would not, with concern for fluctuating water conditions. Big swings in pH are potentially fatal to fish.> <<Are fatal.  MH>> Also considering I will likely be making dramatic water changes when I find a source of soft water. People tell me they're a much hardier fish. Would it still be to still be too stressful?  <I fear so, yes.> A few kids on campus here have been keeping them (in the plain tap water) in those tiny little Betta Bowls or flower vases. I've tried to keep track of them. Of the two I've known, one lived about 2 months (tragic), and the other about 8 months... I may have answered my own question. They may also have been the victims of neglect (I didn't know them that well). Would a 20-gallon tank make any difference? <Oh, certainly, for their quality of life. Would you rather live in a linen closet, or a mansion?> If I did add a Betta (now, or at a later date with better water), would it still be happy later in that tank with the community of Otos, Neons, and Kuhlis? <Yes. Though do please keep in mind that some Bettas are very, very aggressive and some are absolute wussies - so you'd be best to keep a close eye on him and how he responds to the other fishes for the first few days.> I'm finding this water to be really frustrating (no fish, nearing a month now), but you've made this dramatically easier to understand and solve. <Oh, good! Glad to be of service!> Thanks again! You Rock! <Letting my hair down and head banging, now.... Wishing you well, -Sabrina>
Buffers, Softeners, pH, RO/DI - III - 10/29/2005
Hey, It's me again, with the Onyx Sand and hard water.  <Ahoy thar, matey!> My name is Mouse by the way. <Sabrina with you, again.> Thanks again for the speedy and helpful reply. <Sure thing.> I ran a test with a 2.5-gallon bucket of tap water and a filter (dropped in like a tea bag) filled with about a handful of peat. It's enough peat moss, that to scale it up for my 20-gallon tank (~8handfuls), I would need a different filter. Although, I didn't add bogwood to the equation, because I'm trying to grow java moss on my piece, and I didn't want to disturb it. I occasionally would pick the peat up, let the water drain through it, and drop it back in, to try and mix it a bit. I also ran a control, just a glass of water. <Sounds great.> After about 36hours, the results are: Peat in bucket: pH 7.0 KH 120ppm GH 150ppm Tap water: pH 8.0 KH 180ppm GH 200ppm Tank (before the Acid Buffer and Distilled Water, but with peat and bogwood): pH 7.8-8.2 KH 180ppm GH 200ppm. <About what you guessed, I imagine? Sounds right to me.> It seems to me that with a lot of peat and no Onyx Sand, I should be able to get down to neutral.  <The peat may increase in efficacy with time - I think you'd be impressed with it. But I don't know that it'll be able to do the trick with the Onyx sand present.> I think the water here is just naturally very hard. We have those white water marks all around our sinks and on our glasses and such (I never noticed before). <Heh, you notice a lot more about your water now, don't you?> I was wondering about cichlids as a solution (not having to change my pH). Originally when researching I didn't come across the shell-dwellers, I just saw that most of the cichlids that would like my pH were much to big. I looked up shell-dwellers, I didn't come across many good descriptions, are there many species within that category?  <Not many at all. Neolamprologus multifasciatus is about the most common in the hobby. Really cool critters.> I did see a couple pictures, and they are beautiful. Are there any other compatible fish that would appreciate the size of my tank and its conditions? I like variety.  <I understand smaller rainbowfish make good tankmates for these guys. So, maybe a few N. multifasciatus, and a few.... uh.... praecox rainbows would be pretty. Or other small rainbow species.> Would shrimp be okay with the cichlids?  <The ghosties should be. I think these cichlids stay too small to cause them harm.> I've become rather fond of my shrimp (I watch them instead of TV now). <TV? What's that? Oh, you mean that box in the living room I converted to a fish tank? Just kidding!> I'm thinking the RO unit may be worth it in the long run, since I'm already dying to start a 2.5 or 5 gallon shrimp tank.  <A small tank like that would be great to start a breeding colony of Neocaridina denticulata sinensis var. red - "cherry shrimp". Or, if you can find 'em, there's another Neocaridina sp. called "zebra shrimp". The alpha male (usually one, maybe two, to a colony) gets *vivid* blue with a red tail, black stripes.... the rest are clear with red tail, black stripes. This is by far my favorite of the small shrimps.> My other concern with the RO filter is all the water that just goes down the drain. I actually don't have to pay for the water on campus, but I do feel a bit bad about flushing all that water for a couple hours. <I've come to terms with this. In all reality, water that is "wasted" does work its way back into the scheme of things and keeps the water cycle going. The sad part is the energy wasted in pumping/moving about the "waste" water. If you were in a house, I'd suggest using it for watering your lawn and turn off the sprinklers, if you used 'em.> Once again, I can't thank you enough, this makes my life so much easier. <Both of us gain from this correspondence. I thank you, as well. All the best, -Sabrina> <<In fact, many more than just the two of us shall gain....  I hope.  -SCF>>

pH and Instability - 10/26/2005 My tank's pH is about as unstable as I am! <Yikes! Stabilize yourself, first, hon!> I have a 150 gallon show tank that I converted to a central/south American planted tank 2 months ago. The source water is unfiltered, treated for chlorine/chloramine, and has: pH: 7.5, GH: 3, KH: 5. The tank has a day time pH of 7.8 and night time pH of 8.3, <Yeee-ikes!> GH: 0.5, KH: 5. How do I stabilize and lower the pH without the normal non-plant-safe buffers? The substrate is layered 2" peat, <Mm, I usually recommend keeping peat in a container in the filter instead of in the substrate.... it can become a bit of trouble.> 1.5" 1/8" quartz gravel, and 2" play sand. I did solubility tests on all substrates and they were all null. Decorations are all granite, slate, and driftwood. Lighting is 250w 10000K Ushio MH and 65w 6500K PC (both stolen from my old reef system). I have a small amount of green algae on the sand that the Plecos and snail won't touch. Livestock: 1 med. Angel, 1 sm. Severum, 1 sm. Clown loach, 6 lg. Giant Danios, 2 sm/med. Plecos, and 1 2-inch yellow/orange snail (unidentified thus far)...I don't want to put any more in it until the pH is stabilized but I want to do Kuhli loaches and Discus. Oh, I also haven't put any plants in yet for similar reasons...as well as current budget. Please help! <Uhh, are you adding CO2 to this system, perhaps? Though I suspect the peat may have something to do with this, I am really starting to wonder what else might be going on. pH changes with changing CO2 levels, which is why I ask.... Also, is this tank aerated? 24/7? What sort of filtration? Any other system details you can think of? Also confused, -Sabrina>
pH and Instability - Addendum - 10/26/2005
Oh, I forgot to include my temps....night time temp drops to 78 F and day time high (because of the Metal halide) is 80 F. I feed twice daily from various Tetra, Wardley, Omega One, and OSI flake foods and occasional Nori for the Plecos and snail. Thank you. <All sounds good so far. -Sabrina>
pH and Instability - II - 10/27/2005
Thank you for the response! <You bet!> I'm at my wits end! <A tough place to be. Take a deep breath and chill, everything resolves with time, one way or another. Take it all in stride....> I'm not using CO2 and I haven't a clue what's going on. <Nonetheless I still wonder if CO2 might have something to do with this.... Uhh, have you got a CO2 test kit? Or can you find one inexpensive enough to purchase just for "the heck of it"? I'm curious as to the CO2 levels in the morning, midday, and an hour or so after lights-out. I don't want you to go out and drop several bucks to satisfy my curiosity for something that might totally not be the issue, though.> I've done the peat moss thing before without buffers and had no problems, though source water was a little bit harder and only pH 7.3. Do you have any more ideas? <Aside from how the peat may be breaking down, my only other thought is toward that hefty lighting. Would you try decreasing the lighting for a couple of days? Maybe to half of what it is? See how that affects the pH, if at all. Though I still think very strongly that the peat may be a contributor, here.> I do se a fair amount of gas bubbles in the sand and the on the algae on the sand directly below the MH. Any and all help would be appreciated! Branon. <Please do keep me updated if you test CO2 or try augmenting your lighting - I would like to see how this plays out. Also confused, -Sabrina>
pH and Instability - Another Addendum - III - 10/29/2005
I forgot to send in the additional particulars of my tank! <Alrighty> I have a 200gal rated Wet/dry with bioballs and a Surge 3500 as the return pump ( I know it is small, but the 9000 we were using burnt out on us). I use a 650gph pond pump to power a 3-jet Under Gravel Jet (different from UG filter....forces water through without buildup as a sort of closed loop) <Understood> and a Maxi-Jet 900 for additional surface disturbance. I pulled out a .5 gal sample during the day (pH 7.8), checked nighttime pH to be 8.3, and then treated the sample with1.5g of Proper Ph 6.5 to see if it is buffer-able...is that a word?... <If not, it's close enough for me.> and the pH is a constant 6.5, both night and day. Granted, there aren't any real heat, gas, or nutrient exchanges going on, but that was at least somewhat encouraging. I'm also looking at filtering my source water (Sediment, Carbon, Poly-Filter idea previously posted or an RO or DI). What do you think is going on and how do I fix it...short and long-term? <Here I'll ask if any of the system components you've mentioned above were not thoroughly cleaned after using in the saltwater system.... and chance of salt creep, calcium deposits, and so forth in/on any of these? -Sabrina>
pH and Instability - IV - 10/29/2005
Sabrina, you're a doll...an absolute doll! <Hey now, I haven't really done anything yet! If we get this figured out, THEN we'll go for those kudos.... ;) > I've been unable to find a CO2 test kit...is there a DIY kind of thing for this? <Mm, I really don't know. Plenty of online etailers sell them, if that helps any. You might try a Google search on CO2 test kits.... maybe including DIY in the search.... I imagine if you could find out the reagents used, it could be done.> <<Simple aeration... will drive off CO2, raise pH is this is the cause. RMF>> I'm gonna try the light thing. Here are my questions re: the whole thing: 1. The lighting should only affect things if there's photosynthesis going on? <Correct - and if there's enough algae growth to affect CO2, that might be affecting pH.... Just an idle thought at this point.> 2. Is that a significant issue when the only photosynthesis going on is via algae? <Possibly. Just trying to explore everything I can think of, here; to be quite honest, I'm really not sure what's causing these fluctuations.> 3. Would using RO stabilize the system? <If you have an RO unit, it's worth a try. Again, though, I don't know that this will "fix" the problem. I'm still not sure what the problem is. And I'm more than hesitant to suggest you go spend the bucks on an RO system when I totally don't know that it will help.> Should I consider CO2 injection? <With the tremendous amount of light you'll be offering to your plants? I would. Or back off on the lighting quite a bit instead.... lots of options, really.> 4. I thought peat and bog wood were supposed to buffer acidity? <They release tannic acids which do drop the pH - I really think there's something else at play, here, and my biggest thought now is toward the equipment and filter media you're re-using from when this was a salt system.> 5. In my original setup I had aragonite sand and I wasn't able to get some of it out, like 40 grains...could this be having some effect? <That's, what, like a quarter of a teaspoon of sand? I don't think that's significant.> If so, when would it wear off? Is there anything to accelerate it? <The more acidic the water is, the faster the aragonite will dissolve.> 6. Would water changes vacuuming the sand surface (thus reducing the algae) be effective? <Water changes might help.> 7. Will the CO2 in the peat reach an equilibrium? If so, when? <Uh, oh man, I wish I were still sitting in Hawai'i next to Bob answering these things.... I'd be looking for a chemistry lesson on this one.... Uh, if I'm getting this somewhat right, organic (carbon-based) things breaking down do produce CO2.... I think.... But.... looking for this to "reach an equilibrium"? Not sure what you are expecting here. And, as you mentioned above, I would not be expecting this to RAISE your pH. Quite the opposite.> 8-20. I just had to make up the difference, since I've already come so close to '20 questions.' :-) <Ah, fair enough. Hope we're getting closer to some ideas for yah - I do very much want to know how this plays out!> Thanks. Branon. <Your partner in confusion, -Sabrina>
pH and Instability - Some Headway! - V - 10/30/2005
Sabrina, I just checked my day and night-time pH after reducing the lighting to a 25W PC (6500K). Daytime pH is @ 7.6 and night-time is 7.6....that's lower than it was before and actually stable! <Alright, some headway indeed! I would be curious to know if it remains stable over the course of a few days, and if you can recreate the problem by turning the bright lighting back on.> I cleaned all the equipment well after the saltwater but didn't after the Mbuna...though that has been 2 months ago now. <Probably not an issue, then - but I wonder if perhaps there were mineral deposits left over on the bioballs.... just a thought.> Ok, so if the pH is steady with the lowered light...what does that mean? Does it mean that the CO2 put off from the algae is so outrageous that it is raising the pH at night that much...? <Mm, actually, as CO2 concentration increases, pH decreases. During the light hours, plant life uses CO2 during photosynthesis and pH can/should rise as a result. In the evening, you'll get your highest pH reading, and an hour or so after lights-out you should start seeing pH drop, and CO2 increase. This is why folks who inject CO2 usually employ a pH controller that will turn on/off the CO2 system at proper times to keep pH stable.> I sent you those pictures of the system and it really doesn't seem that over-run by algae.. at least not to me. <The pics never did come through, so I don't have input on this for you.> Does this rule out the breakdown of the peat as a causative agent? <Again, I would suspect this to *lower* the pH, not raise it.> I don't have any shielding on the MH...yet (haven't put it on yet)...could the unshielded UV be the cause? <In all honesty, I just don't know.> The water has seemed quite green, could it be I'm working against ....that 'd' algae (sorry, I forgot the name)? <'Damn'? 'Detestable'? Oh, you mean 'diatoms'? Uh, at least 'green water' algae, for sure.> Could that be the ultimate culprit? <Could be a contributor.... But again, I'm not certain of this. That you have decreased the lighting and pH has stabilized does make me think that there was some sort of connection there.> I'm just grabbing at straws here. <Me too, hon.> Oh, the pH of the separated, buffered .5 gal sample is still holding at a pH of 6.5. On a side note, do you know anything about FW snails? <A little bit, not a great deal. Mostly just which ones can/will be eaten by Botia striata.> We have had an unidentified 2" yellow/orange snail in our system for almost 3 weeks. <Probably an apple/mystery snail.> Until 3-4 days ago it was very active and ranged all over the aquarium. Our water quality hasn't changed (out-side of the now stable pH) but he suddenly started floating around the aquarium. <I understand they will do this to find preferable water conditions - in the wild, they just start floating about, and when they're happier, stick around again. I suspect the pH fluctuations have caused him problems.> I haven't ever had snails, so left him alone. He 'settled' onto a spot on the substrate and didn't move for 2 days. I was about to take him out as dead, but tonight we found him on the opposite side of the tank, down in some rock, and the wife and I both swear it is moving, though only slightly. I've only target fed it once, a 2" sq. piece of Nori, hoping that it would get enough algae and detritus to help the tank and take care of him...what do you think? <Keep an eye on him for sure. If he's not moving about, pull him out - you'll know the second he comes out of the water if he's dead, and you'll learn an absolutely unmistakable and unforgettable smell. Uhh, and it'd be a good idea to wear a plastic glove or something, lest the smell "stick" to your hand. I learned that one the hard way. I also recommend you check out http://www.applesnail.net .> OH, my Severum and Angel are both taking turns trying to eat a fly from the other side of the glass...! <Mmmmm, tasty!> ...I love cichlids...what other group of FW fish has such character!? <The bony tongues, and the Potamotrygon rays.... ;) > Anyway...Thanks. Branon. <Still have my fingers crossed.... -Sabrina> 
pH and Instability - uh, V? - 11/02/2005
Sabrina, I think I'm more confused than when we started this. <Rockin'! Bring it on.... I'm caffeinated, I can take it!> I turned the 250w MH back on yesterday and have checked the pH. It has stayed at a solid 7.6 without varying. <Uh....> The snail has also come around and is back to his normal self. <Well.... that's good, to be sure.... I bet he's enjoying the stable pH.> So...what was the problem <Hon, I really, really don't know. I am led to believe that there may have been mineral deposits in/on some of the re-used equipment that, as they dissolved, brought up your pH. Perhaps now these mineral stockpiles are exhausted, and you've nothing more to worry about. Or perhaps I'm completely and entirely wrong.> and do I need to worry about it happening again? <I would be cautious for a couple weeks, at least. Give it some time. Monitor it daily, or twice daily - if you see no fluctuation in a couple weeks, I will hazard a good guess that you're safe.> Thanks, Branon. <A delight to correspond with you. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>
pH and Instability - VI, Thanks - 11/03/2005
Thanks, Sabrina, it's been fun. <True enough!> Take care. Branon. <Wishing you well in this and all your endeavors, -Sabrina>

pH and gravel algae 10/25/05 I have a 55 gallon tank with 6 neon tetras, 3 platies, a Pleco, and a dwarf blue Gourami. My nitrates are around 20-30 with weekly water changes (about 10 gallons). No ammonia or nitrites. pH is currently 7.0. No natural light - fluorescent lighting 10hrs daily via a timer. During cycling as our nitrites went up gravel algae began to take over requiring a weekly scrubbing of the tank and decorations. I've read and read about gravel algae and I think I'm contributing to feeding my pest. Our water PH is 7.8 out of the tap. I use Proper PH 7.0 to lower and keep it at 7.0 (never had a problem with pH swing though as our water is loaded with buffers). But on the bottle it even says you can't have live plants with this product as it is a phosphate buffer. (I was hoping to add live plants to my tank eventually to help with my nitrates and gives my fishies some snack food.) Not to mention that this gravel algae is driving me insane... <Mmm, with the fishes you list, you would be better off giving up on pH modification through chemical means, and using live plants... for all sakes. I would leave off with the pH treatment, make weekly water changes with gravel vacuuming (gone over on WWM), and start with some hardy, floating plants... these will eliminate your algae problems, make the system far more viable for your fishes> I thought of a solution that might help - as I do my weekly water change if I add a slight bit less PH 7.0 every week until it gets to 7.8 (using no PH 7.0) <Ah, yes...> that would reduce my phosphate to quit feeding the algae as much. But would a PH that high be harmful to my current inhabitants? <You will find the pH doesn't "rise" to 7.8... but is moderated by influences in the system itself... just do the frequent partial water changes, add the plants... and you will see. Bob Fenner> 

pH Lowering, Stability - 10/07/2005 Hello, I want to set up a freshwater tank, but have some questions about my pH/KH. My tap water has a pH of about 8.0. I have a KH (alkalinity) of about 80 ppm. What would be the best way to lower the pH to about 7.0. and keep it stable? <You ask for the "best" way.... The best way, in all honesty, is to start with RO (reverse osmosis) or RO/DI (deionized) filtered water. This would give you a completely "blank slate" to work with, and you would/could add whatever you like to make the water what you want (Kent and Seachem both make products for remineralizing RO/DI filtered water for aquarium use).> Would something like Proper pH do the trick? If not what would be your suggestions? <Aside from RO/DI water, my preference tends toward the use of peat and/or bogwood. I like the rich stain given to the water with the use of these (really looks excellent in a planted aquarium), and the tannins released by the peat and wood do a great job of lowering the pH. Once you've found a good place to keep your pH, a buffer may help maintain stability. There are many on the market. Also, you might want to step back a moment and consider *why* you are lowering your pH - are you interested in fish that absolutely must have a neutral pH? If not, why alter it at all? A stable pH is FAR more important than a "perfect" pH, so if the fish you will be keeping are not immensely delicate or wild-caught fish, you might consider keeping your water as-is. Just some things to think about. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

New Tank Woes  9/27/05 Hello <Hello, Catherine here.> Your site is great - a bit overwhelming for a newbie, but excellent.  I would like help with my ever decreasing fish population.  I purchased a 30 gallon aquarium about 10 days ago.  Set it up and let it run for 24 hours.  I bought 2 barbs, 2 albino barbs, an algae eater, a dwarf Gourami, 4 zebras, 2 mollies, 2 hatchet fish and 2 codo loaches.  Big mistake.  <Yep.  You should shoot your LFS for letting you do that.>  Almost everything has died.  <Not surprising.>  I have done partial (about 20%) water changes almost daily with care to match the temperature in the tank.  We have well water that is very hard with lots of lime.  <Excellent.>  When I test the pH it still registers very high on the hardness scale with a pH of at least 8.  <Some areas of the country have hard, alkaline water.>  I have added the pH "fizzing" tablets and also add the pH liquid stabilizer when I change the water.  <Can help, can also cause bigger problems due to pH swings.  The mollies actually like the high pH.  Until your tank has stabilized, I wouldn't try to modify the pH.>  Nitrates are  reading in the stress level even with the frequent water changes.  <That is surprising.  New tanks have to cycle. Basically, fish poop contains ammonia.  Ammonia is toxic to fish.  Bacteria (from the air) colonize the filter and the gravel in the tank and change ammonia into nitrites.  Nitrites are toxic to fish.  Another type of bacteria colonize the tank that change nitrites into nitrates.  Nitrates are toxic to fish, but only at higher levels.  Your tank should read 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites and nitrates less than 20.  It takes about 6 weeks for a tank to cycle, which means you usually don't get nitrates for a while.  I suggest checking your tap water for nitrates.  Some regions have really high levels of nitrates naturally occurring or from agricultural waste.  If your tap water is high you either need to get a reverse osmosis water system for your home, or you need to buy the fish distilled water.  For more information on cycling, read here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm.  You may also want to use the product BioSpira by Marineland, if you can find it.>  Now the fish have ich, which I have been treating for the last three days. <Treating with what?  Many treatments are toxic and others kill your good bacteria.  I suggest raising the tank's temperature to ~85F over a few days and adding 1 tablespoon of Epsom salts per 5 galloons of tank water.>   Any suggestions that could help us out?  I am almost ready to tear everything down and start from scratch again.  I hate to see the fish suffer.  Thanks so much for your time.  <Keep asking questions, Catherine>
Re: New Tank Woes
 9/27/05 Hi Catherine <Hi Karen>, Sorry to bother you again.  <No problem.>  I was thinking about a couple of things today and had a few questions for you.  I was able to locate some BioSpira and it is being shipped to me.  <Great!>  However, would it be better to break down the tank to help get rid of the Ich parasites and also to change to distilled water.  Also, is the Ich now imbedded in the bio filter?  I know you are not supposed to replace it but should I in this circumstance.  I don't want to waste the BioSpira (liquid gold) while I am doing all these water changes and adding Epsom salts.  What're your thoughts on this?  I really, really appreciate your time and help. <The problem is your fish probably still have ick on them.  Are they still spotted?  Even if you totally break down the tank, wash everything in hot water and continue, you will still have some of the parasites.  If you immediately dump the fish into distilled water, they will all die from the pH shock (Your water was quite basic, right?).  If you haven't changed the carbon in your filter, I would add more carbon just to make sure all traces of the ich medication have been removed.  Continue the daily water changes.  Once the BioSpira arrives, my advice would be to do a 50% water change with the salt.  Then add BioSpira.  Don't do a water change for a day or two.  Then, if you still have ammonia and nitrites, start doing the smaller water changes with distilled water.  Once the tank has cycled, do the weekly water changes with distilled water.  That way the pH will change slowly.  You might want to look into getting a product that will add trace elements.  They are normally present in tap water but absent in distilled water.  The Kent's brand sells one. Hope it helps.  Catherine>
Re: New Tank Woes
 9/27/05 Thank you so much for your help and quick response as I only have 5 or 6 fish left - who knows how many by the time I get home today.  <I hope the situation stabilizes.>  I will try the salts and BioSpira.  Thanks for reassuring me about the pH.  I was really worried that was doing them in.  <Some fish don't like a pH that high, but many just need a constant pH.>  I will check the tap water today.  I forgot to tell you that I was vacuuming the gravel because I thought maybe I overfed the fish and read on other notes on your <not my site, I'm just on the crew> site that may not be a good idea right now.  <You may not want to vacuum the gravel, or just run the vacuum lightly over the top.  Feed the fish less, maybe only once a day and only what they consume in a minute or so.  It's better to have the begging for more than have leftovers.>  Again, THANK YOU! <Anytime.>
Re: New Tank Woes
 9/27/05 Well, I got home tonight and nobody in the tank was dead- yeh!  <Great!>  I checked the tap water and indeed we have 20 ppm of nitrates.  We do live in a farm area.  I did a partial water change and cleaned the filter, etc.  I rinsed out the bio filter by mistake.  <Oops.  Not too bad, but I'd avoid doing that until you are cycled.  Also, whenever you rinse them, use old tank water.>  Regarding the ich - do I add all the Epsom salts at once?  I just added 3 tablespoons so far because I wasn't sure.  <Easiest to do when you are doing water changes.  Grab a jar and stir/shake salt until it dissolves.  Add a few tablespoons at a time.  Remember that salt doesn't evaporate; only add salt to replace water you've taken out of your tank, top the tank off with treated tap water.>  The product I used to treat the ich was called Ick Guard II by Jungle.  <I don't know that one in particular.>  During start up I also added Tetra Aqua Safe and Tetra Easy Balance per the store.  The pH stabilizers were Wardley Bullseye 7.0 and Jungle correct pH - per the store.  <Not dangerous products as far as I know.  However, the pH stabilizers are typically not long lasting and lead to pH going up and down.  It's also hard to get pH down if you have hard water.>  I do have one larger live plant and a banana plant.  <Cool.>  I think that is all for now.  I really do appreciate your help.  You are great!  <:-), now if I can only convince my advisor of this opinion.  Keep asking questions.  Also, you might want to check out the chat forum on WWM.  People there are really helpful.  Catherine>
Re: New Tank Woes 10/13/05
Thanks again. I was thinking about a bumblebee goby or two,  <These are brackish fish.>  and a few catfish for the bottom. <Cory cats? They like to school and are neat fish.>  Found out last night that are water softener went out with the power outage a couple of weeks ago. No wonder my water was so hard. Hopefully that will be better. I am enjoying my tank so much now I want a bigger one - HA!  <Addiction has commenced.>  I will get the food treats for them - they really are beggars. Take care and have a great day! It's nice to be able to have someone to chat with : )  <Have a great day! Check out the WetWebMedia Chat Forum. The link is on the lower right part of the home page. Chat with lots of nice, knowledgeable folks all day, every day. Catherine> 

Soft, Alkaline Water?? - 08/22/2005 Hi, I have a 29 gal. tank (long) with guppies I raised (started with 2 females). 4 months old and colors are beautiful and they are doing well. <Ahh, good.> The city water company tells me the city water is soft and the ph range is 8.5  I thought if water is soft, then the ph is low? <Not necessarily.  pH and hardness usually ARE related in that manner - but not always.  Take a look here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm .> I test the water and it is at 8.5 so I bring the ph down with a buffer, if I don't, the guppies rub themselves against what ever they find, including gravel. Is it true if the water is soft, the ph is low? <I recall in Sunnyvale, CA - our pH outta the tap ranged from 8.5 in the winter to 9.4 (not a typo!) in the summer - and hardness was nearly 0 all year.  Crazy.  At least it was easy to age it and have the pH drop to a usable value.> TY, DG <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Persistent alkalinity in new tank Hi, I just set up a new 3-gal freshwater tank with 1 Betta, about 3 weeks ago, and I can't get the pH to stabilize.  Here's my routine... - I have been doing daily 30% water changes for the past few days because my nitrites were spiking hard.  Nitrates are coming down now. - Tap water comes out at about pH 8.0-8.2. - I add SeaChem liquid acid buffer to bring it down to 7.0. - I then let the water sit for 24 hrs, retest and add more acid buffer if needed before I add it to the tank.  My tap water seems to have some moderate alkaline buffering but after a 2nd dose of acid it remains stable. - After the water change, I test the pH of the tank and then add some acid buffer directly to the tank to bring it down to around 7.0.  (I do take some water out and mix in the buffer in a separate container so I'm not just dumping concentrated acid on my poor fish.) - Within 12 hrs, the pH is back around 8.0-8.2 ! All that's in the tank is a fish (who seems to be doing ok for now, btw), a couple of plants, and the gravel, so I figured it must be the gravel.  I've confirmed this by testing a sample of the gravel in a small container.  Every day I add pH neutral water to the test container, and 24 hrs later the pH is way high again.  I've been doing this for 4 days with the same test sample.  I also took some fresh gravel out of the bag and sprinkled some vinegar on it, and I can hear it fizzle slightly. My LFS tells me this is the same gravel they use in their own tanks. (They only have freshwater tanks.)  They said I should have rinsed/boiled the gravel more thoroughly-- I did rinse for a couple of minutes to get the dust out, but they said I should have washed it for a couple of *hours*. They also say this is "normal" and that the pH will come down "eventually".  It's been about 3 weeks now. So, my question is, what should I do?  I see a few potential courses of action but am not sure which is the best: 1. Continue doing daily 30% water changes and adding acid buffer to the tank (the water changes alone don't bring the pH anywhere near neutral), i.e. keep forcing the pH down until it stabilizes. Based on my results so far, this would result in pH varying between 7.0 - 7.8 on a daily basis. 2. Continue doing daily 30% water changes with neutralized water, but do NOT add acid buffer to the tank, and just let the pH stay high until it comes down on its own. This would result in pH varying between 7.6 - 8.2 on a daily basis, based on my results so far. 3. Take the gravel out, boil the heck out of it, and add it back. 4. Get different gravel. 5. Something else I haven't thought of? Thanks, and best wishes for the new year! -Dave <Hi Dave, Jorie here.  Wow, you certainly are diligent, my friend! While I applaud your efforts, in all honesty, I believe that a stable pH is far better than a forced specific one.  And, since Bettas are fairly hardy fish, I personally think you should just leave well enough alone, stop adding buffers and allow the pH to remain at it's natural level.  Of course, continue with the water changes, etc. to ensure proper water conditions, but your Betta should be just fine in such an environment.  Just keep things stable and your Betta will be a happy camper! Good luck, Jorie>
Re: Persistent alkalinity in new tank
Hi Jorie, What is the highest pH I ought to subject my Betta to?  I've read elsewhere that 8.0+ is very bad for freshwater fish so I was surprised to hear you say that-- although, believe me, I'd be happy if I could be a bit less diligent. ;) <Hi David, you are definitely on the higher end of acceptable pH with yours at 8.0-8.2.  It's really hard to make specific rules, but I probably wouldn't want to go over 8.5.> Also, is it reasonable that new gravel (natural, non-epoxied) would raise the pH like that, or do you think this is a bad batch? <I don't think the gravel has anything to do with it - didn't you say the tap water is coming out at 8.0 - 8.2? To me, this just shows that the chemicals you are using don't work, something I've been saying for quite some time now!> And is my LFS being honest when they say that this will stop eventually? <Personally, I think the best way to combat the pH issue if you so desire is to stop using tap water.  Either purchase a full-fledged RODI (reverse osmosis/de-ionized) water unit, or the simpler version which works fine for producing small amounts of water, the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals brand tap water filter (in essence, just a DI unit).  After the water has gone through these types of filtration, it will come out of the unit (either one you choose) at 5.0; you will then need to add back essential trace elements and adjust the pH.  I personally use the combination put out by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals: ElectroRight and pH Adjust (two teaspoons of the former and one of the latter...gives me a pH of 7.0 right on the nose.)  If you go this route and you are still having problems, then I'd say it's pretty safe to assume the gravel is the culprit.  If it were me, though, and if this is the only fish in question, I'd try leaving well enough alone at the pH of 8.0 or so and see how the fish reacts.  Of course keep a close eye on him, but I imagine he'll be just fine.  Now if you wanted to take the plunge into saltwater, or even more fragile and demanding FW fish, you'll definitely need to worry about pH a lot more.  For the Betta, though, I honestly believe you'll be OK as is. Here's a link to the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals website, so you can see the products I've referenced.  Most LFS carry the filter and the two liquids.  I believe the replacement cartridges run around $20-$30 and should last a few months (depending on your source water and how much water you produce, of course...this is the whole reason we decided to upgrade to a full RODI unit.   http://www.aquariumpharm.com/aqfilter.html > Thanks for the help! -Dave <You're welcome.  Hope this helps, Jorie>

High pH Hi guys, I have a goldfish in a 25L tank, by herself and with a carbon filter + sponge set-up that actively aerates her tank. A few weeks ago, I noticed she had white streaks through her tail fins which were fraying, and there was a white rim at the water surface on the tank. I took a sample of her water to the pet store who tested it and found that while ammonia levels are 0, the pH was around 7.6. I bought a kit with "pH DOWN" (which I think is a salt of Hydrochloric acid), and have since been doing weekly 25% water changes with neutral H2O, since my untreated tap water was definitely alkaline. Simultaneously I treated the tank with "Bactonex" which contains Malachite Green, and her tail healed well. However, a few days ago, I noticed that the streaks & fraying had returned. She tends to hide a bit, which is odd behaviour - she's normally very friendly. I checked her tank water, and found that the pH was in fact much higher than that of the untreated tap water! (I'd estimate tank pH at around 8.0 - it was off the colour scale in my kit). I notice on your site you mention a water conditioner TetraAqua as a culprit, but unfortunately, I don't have the ingredients in the conditioner I use to compare them. In her tank the gravel is white in colour, and appears quartz-like. There was definitely a powdery residue when I washed it before setting up the tank, but I thought I had removed it all. I will check the gravel today by putting it in some distilled H2O & pHing. There is also one live plant, and 3 small plastic plants. The live plant is so-so; it's certainly not as lush as when it came from the pet store, but it isn't dead yet. I also tend to get a little algal growth too. My questions are as follows: 1. Do you have any suggestions for culprits? And is there a "checklist" of factors I can follow if this problem crops up again? < Check the rocks and sand/gravel for calcium leaching from the them. The glass of distilled water with some rocks and sand is a good idea. The pH should not change. If is does than switch them for something else.> 2. What would you recommend (some sort of additive or substrate perhaps) to lower the pH and keep it stable? < Any inert medium sized gravel that is smooth and not rough to the touch.> 2. What sort of gravel would you recommend? < Stay away fro coral sands and dolomite. For growing plants there is nothing better than Fluorite by Seachem.> 3. What sort of water conditioner would you recommend, and are there any active ingredients I should look for? <Amquel by Kordon is great for water supplies with chlorine and chloramine. Biocoat by Marineland is very good when adding new fish that are stressed during shipping.> 4. How soon should I start dosing my fish if I see her tail fraying? I'm worried about bacterial resistance. < Fish do not like rapid changes in pH. Get the pH stabilized outside the aquarium. Clean the filter every two weeks. On the weeks that you don't change the filter do a 30% water change by vacuuming the crud out of the gravel. Go to Marineland .com and look under the Dr. Tim's library for articles on water chemistry that will give you a better understanding on the best way to lower the pH. Treat with Nitrofuranace and follow the directions completely on the package. Don't over feed. feed you fish a high quality food to keep the fishes resistance to disease up.-Chuck> Thanks very much for your help. Che

pH Shock Hi. We have very hard water in our area and hence we use water softener (that uses potassium pellets). Apparently, this increases the alkalinity of our water. I just recently installed a 10 gallon freshwater aquarium in my home and used this water. I bought some fish like platy and zebra. These fish died after a few days and apparently none of them survived. I checked my water: Everything looked fine except the alkalinity and the pH. The pH was high around 7.7. I treated my water with PRIME which removes all the nitrites etc and I also have a filter with carbon. I used a pH reducer also. It brought down the pH to around 6.8-7.0 but the very next day the pH again increased to its initial levels. I am frustrated and don't know what to do. Can you give me some advice on how I can use my home tap water (which goes thru the softener) in the aquarium. Any advice/suggestions you can provide is appreciated. Thanks, Kumar <Ok, I'm going to assume you are still fishless. Right now I would drain down 90 to 100% of the water and refill with water from the tap. Your pH of 7.7 is high, but not killer high. It's a change in pH that kills. Not a steady but "incorrect" pH. Then do a fishless cycle by adding in a raw shrimp. Test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. When the first two have spike and crashed to zero AND nitrate is on the rise, you are cycled and can stock the tank. Expect this to take 4 to 6 weeks. Do not add anything except dechlorinator. One time when refilling. When you add fish, check the pH of the bag water. If it's the same as your tank float it for 20 minutes or so to match the temps and release them. If they are not the same, add about 10% tank water to the bag about every 20 minutes or so. When they match, release them. The more the two pHs differ, the slower you need to adapt them. If they are way off, more than a full point, you may want to put them in a small bucket with their original water and set up a drip system. Use regular airline tubing with a knot tied in it. Adjust the knot so only a slow drip is siphoned from the main to the bucket. As you are seeing, changing the pH of your water is a touchy subject. Hard to maintain and makes water changes a hassle and a danger. Best to let the fish adapt, IMO. Don>

Homemade Chemicals for adjusting FW pH Hello, <Howdy> Read some of your articles on Wet Web Media '¦they're pretty informative.  I wanted to reduce the PH in my 50 gallon tank and ran out of discus buffer. Though about adding a few drops of vinegar (on suggestion of a colleague at work)  to the tank on a daily basis.  Would this work or is this harmful to the fish? Thanks, Sam Rahal. <Can work, though in the long/er term would look into other organic acids, means rather than acetic... tannins and flavins are better here... starting with water with less mineral to begin with a plus. Bob Fenner>

pH Swings Dear Don:  I am at my wits' end with my tank and you were such a huge help to me before I thought I'd try one last time to see what on earth I'm doing wrong.  To refresh, I have a 10-gallon freshwater tank with 1 Oranda, 1 calico goldie and 1 Pleco.  >>Too little water for a Pleco. RMF<<  Major new tank syndrome which you advised me to do daily water changes until tank was established.  Things improved until Oranda got white body slime on her so I contacted WWM again - advised to continue water changes, wean from ammonia pillow and medicate in qt tank if necessary, which was not necessary as Oranda improved.  However, she seemed to "shrink" - she was somehow smaller and skinnier overnight.  My whole family noticed it.  But she was eating well and had lots of energy and very friendly.  Ammonia pillow was removed and levels did not change for the worse. >>This tank is too small. RMF<< Then my filter motor went kaput  Nov. 30.  Had not changed filter yet as I'm still trying to establish tank and was advised not to until levels were better.  Old filter was gunked out with slime and was disposed of; new filter was installed - have done almost daily water tests but started again with daily/every other day water changes as seemed necessary due to increased levels of nitrate and ph.  I have not changed more than 50% at a time and last 2 changes only 25%.  Nitrite level remains at 0.  Have added up to 1 heaping tablespoon of salt each water change depending on amount of new water. My Pleco up and died 12/5.  No signs of problems before, just dead in the tank that morning.  Water test that day: nitrite 0; nitrate 20; Alk 120; ph 7.8; ammo .25. Ammonia level has remained at .25 forever - my water is well water - even RO water is .25.  Aging water does not lower level.  Did 50% water change. 12/6 got new Pleco; rocks and plants (plastic) are slimy; water is clear; new Pleco is sucking on everything and his digestive system works QUITE well if you know what I mean.  He's just a tad smaller than my original.  Have not noticed any waste from either Oranda or goldie but goldie is growing like mad and noticeably healthy so I know it's happening even though I don't see it, so really not sure about Oranda either. 12/7 Oranda not eating and not moving right front flipper fin.  I'm thinking she rubbed up against a rock maybe? and hurt herself so she's not hungry?  Is it possible for a fish NOT to be hungry?  No visible signs of problems on fin.  Tested water: nitrate 20-40; nitrite 0; Alk 120; ph 7.2; ammo .25.  Did small vacuuming/25% water change. 12/8 Oranda eating flakes and peas; hangs out at top of water in corner of tank and barely swims so not sure of condition of fin; water test nitrate 20-40; nitrite 0; Alk 120; ph 7.2; ammo .25.  Did small vacuuming/25% w/c. 12/9 Oranda not eating; refusing peas which she loves; still hanging at top corner of tank, no swimming; water test nitrate 20; nitrite 0; Alk 120; ph 7.8; ammo .25.  ph has climbed again but nitrate has lowered. At this point I just don't know what to do.  I'm afraid I'm doing too many water changes but still have not established tank.  Don't know how to get the ammonia out of the water but have been advised not to use bottled water.  How do you establish if you keep changing the water?  How long should all this take?  How do you keep your tank established when you replace filters?  Should there be a bunch of green slime where the water empties out of the filter into the tank?  I don't have that but I've seen it elsewhere.  Any idea why my Oranda is getting smaller instead of bigger even when she eats?  or why she's at the top of the water only? or why she has no energy?  Even when I vacuum the tank there's still a bunch of gunk and debris in the gravel afterwards but unless I do a huge water change I can't get all of it.  How do you do that, or should you?  Am I supposed to be washing this stuff off?  Because if so how do you get established? I am unemployed and can't afford the more expensive aquarium or test equipment.   I feel like everything I'm doing is prohibiting development of fish and tank but when I don't, fish either get sick or die.  After 3 months, shouldn't I be farther along than this?  I'm trying not to get too discouraged, but... Any advice you can give is certainly appreciated.  Thanks very much for your time and your help.   Robin <Hi Robin, Don again. I see two problems. Your pH is jumping all over the place. Not good. One of the signs of pH shock is excess body slime and white patches on skin. Check the pH of your tap water and the tank. If they are off by more than 2 or 3 tenths do smaller water changes more often. If they are very close together increase to 50% to control water quality until your filter is established. For help with that please read here.   http://www.marineland.com/articles/1firstthirty.asp Doing water changes will slow, but not stop, the process. but you need to do them to save the fish in there now. The other problem is replacing the filter. I forget what type you have, but the idea here is to establish that bacteria. Replacing the filter starts the process all over again. If your filter has some sort of "Bio Media" that is what you should NOT clean. The charcoal and floss can be replaced. If this is a sponge filter, either leave it alone or rinse it out slightly with old tank water. Never tap. It usually takes about four to six weeks to cycle. And if you are getting a reading of .25 on every thing you test, the problem is the test. R/O water will read zero. Why your fish seemed to get smaller is a puzzle. Thinner I can understand, but not shorter. Did he loose some tail?>    

Calcium Snow in a Freshwater Aquarium? - 08/16/2005 Thank you for reading this. I have looked for my problem in your database but can't seem to find an answer. I have recently purchased a 29 gal tank. I set it up for the 1st time about 1 week and a half ago. I bought it at Wal-Mart and it came with an aqua tech filter with the bio fiber and the carbon filter as well. I added tap water to it, and used a conditioner they recommended to me at Petco (API Stress Coat) to treat the water for chloramines and chlorine. About 5 days after cycling I added 3 Corydoras which I still have and seem ok so far. That same day, before I added the Corydoras, I used a Wardley Bullseye 7.0 pH regulator, because test strips were showing my pH to be 8.4 or so. <Some of these "regulators" can be iffy, at best, if you're starting with a high pH and alkalinity.  Most will just be useless from that standpoint.> Nitrate and nitrite seemed fine, hardness high, about 300 ppm, and alkalinity (KH) about 300 ppm as well. <Quite high, on both.> Now, here is my problem, if I not mistaken, it was after I added the pH buffer that this white stuff is all over my tank now. It looks like if you had sprinkled the entire tank with snow. <And there we have it!  This is seen in marine aquariums sometimes, when using buffers - I very much think you have a calcium precipitation.  Basically, the water has become so saturated with calcium that it simply can't hold any more, so any calcium in the buffer will precipitate out.  Hence the snow.> It is like dust, that will come off the artificial plants I have, an ornament, the water heater, the filter pump, and the air tubing connected to 2 air stones I have. If you shake the gravel with a brush, or the artificial plants, this "white dust" will spread around all over the tank to the point where it may be hard to see the plants, fish etc. Once you let it settle for a few hours, you can see it back on the plants, etc, but water is clearer. <When it settles, start siphoning it out with a gravel vacuum.> I checked the filter for the first time today and this white stuff was all over both the carbon filter and the bio fiber. <Can just rinse these out in aquarium water, once some/most of the precipitant has been removed.> I looked at the water coming out of the filter and it is coming out with this white stuff, so I do not know if it is just cycling around and only little of this stuff if being trapped, or if it has anything to do with the bio fiber. <Just passing through the filter(s).> I took the bio fiber out and rinsed it a little with tap water (which I now read should not have done, so please advice me how much this could affect my tank and what to do). In any event, I went to PETCO yesterday and talk to an expert? about my problem, didn't seem to know what to do, recommended to me to do water change with RO water. <Though I do agree, to an extent, that this will help, I do not believe it will make the calcium go back into solution....  Gah, it's been a while since my last chemistry class!> She told me at Super Wal-Mart they had RO water, I went there, read their brochure, and in fact is RO water. Got a few gallons. Tested the water, came out with 0 nitrates and nitrite, total hardness GH of almost 0, so very soft water, alkalinity of 0, and pH of about 6.2, so pretty  acidic. <This will help bring your pH, hardness down, as well.> According to this lady at Petco, I did not have to treat this RO water, so I did a 2-3 gallon change today, and added that much of RO water. I have been testing for ammonia and it shows about 0.5-1 mg/L so I added today a Jungle Ammonia chloramine eliminator to see if it works. <It does "work" in a sense, but really the only way to remove ammonia while you're establishing a cycle is to do water changes.> In any event, the main problem is that white stuff which does not seem to be ich <No....  ich does not manifest visibly in the water.> because I cannot see any on the fish (so far) and it just doesn't look like it to me. Like I said, it looks like if I had sprinkled the water with a white powder in enormous quantities. <An excellent description.  First time I've heard of it in freshwater, but the principle is still the same....  I am confidant (never positive!) that this is just a calcium precipitant.> Please let me know what to do about this, and about the bio fiber I rinsed with tap water lightly. <This will be okay.  Just do water changes to try to pull the stuff out.  You may be in for a long haul (several days) of water changes before it's all gone.> Thank you for your help, your web site is great.  <Thank you very much for the kind words!> Where do I look for an answer, what section I mean and when? <Where?  Aside from your email inbox?  On our Daily FAQs, either later today or some time tomorrow....  Then after, perhaps the Freshwater FAQs, then on to its final resting place, probably somewhere in our water chemistry section in the Freshwater index.> - Ezequiel - <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina
Calcium Snow in a Freshwater Aquarium? - II - 08/16/2005
Thank you for your quick reply. Now, one more question regarding my calcium precipitation/saturation in my freshwater tank. How often should I do these siphonings of the water? Because every time I siphon I have to do a water change essentially, and there is only so much I can take out, because I do not want to replace too much water at once, so I want to know how often I should/could do these water changes while the calcium saturation problem lasts, <I would do no more than a 50% water change at a time, daily if necessary.> and once it is controlled, how often should I do water changes for regular maintenance? <Just as normal....  Whatever you must do to maintain nitrate at below 20ppm....  Once the precipitant is removed, do not use buffers that contain calcium....  To bring your pH down, I suggest using peat or driftwood - or investing in a RO or RO/DI unit of your own for making up your aquarium water.  It's much easier to start with a blank slate and ADD "stuff" (buffers, etc.) than to REMOVE stuff....> Thank you once again, - Ezequiel - <Always glad to be of service!  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>  

Lowering pH - 08/08/2005 Hey <Hello.> The pH from the tap is about 7.6 or 7.5 and because the fish I need around 6.8-7.0 <Most fish, unless they are very delicate, wild caught fish, can adapt to a pH that is not "ideal" for them....  Stability is far more important than accuracy.> When I do water changes what should I do? <Lots of options.  Start reading here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm , and also read the FAQs linked at the top.  You'll find that I'm an advocate of using peat and bogwood for lowering pH.> Thanks <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>
Lowering pH - 08/09/2005
Hey <Hello again.  For future reference, please capitalize proper nouns like "I" and the beginnings of sentences, and use punctuation.  Retyping emails takes away from our time to help others.> I am not sure you understand what I mean.  What I mean is my tank's ph is 6.8 and my tap's water is 7.5. <Understood.> When I do water changes does the tap water change my pH because it is higher <Yes, it can/will.> or will I have to add more PH down to the water? <I do not suggest altering the pH of the new water if avoidable.  Again, please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm and the links, in blue, at the top of that page.  My suggestion is to age the water in a separate container (aquarium, new clean Rubbermaid-type bin or trash can, etc.) and include peat or bogwood to bring down the pH.  Please read those FAQs for this and other ideas.  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Lowering pH level in freshwater aquarium 7/30/05 Thanks so much for your very helpful site, and for all the information on pH, which has started, dimly, to make sense. <Ah, good> My daughter has a 55 gallon FW tank that we are slowly stocking.  Currently it has 5 platys, 10 spotted Danios, and 7 Corys.  We are adding fish gradually and monitoring nitrogen levels.  Ammonia and nitrite are always at 0, nitrate is below 5ppm.  Our pH, though, is high (7.8) and seems very reluctant to come down.  Our tap water (from a well) is 7.8, with 17.8 ppm GH and  142 ppm KH. <A bit high...> Tastes fabulous, but I know this pH level is stressful for the fish, so I've tried various pH stabilizing stuff that claimed to be able to set and hold the pH at a lower level. <Mmm, I would not... 7.8 is okay for all you list... will "come down" in time on its own>   These just produced pH swings, and the pH went back up to 7.8 within 12 hours (bad, I know).  Finally I invested in a tap water filter (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) to produce deionized water. <Too much money for too little water... for your pet-fish and cooking, perhaps drinking use I would invest in an inexpensive reverse osmosis unit> This morning, the pH in the tank was up to 8.0, and we did a 25-30% water change with filtered water, which we treated with electrolyte and pH stabilizer so that the pH of the new water was 7.0.  This brought the tank pH back down to 7.8.   We are wondering how to gradually lower the pH further.  Should we do small partial water changes with deionized (untreated with the add-back electrolyte stuff) water? <You could. I would not>   I don't want to be dumping chemicals into the water, which (a) doesn't seem to work, and (b) creates the risk of even more stressful pH swings. <We are in total agreement here>   Optimally, I'd like to get the pH to 7.0 or slightly below. <... I would not do this... unless there are some species (else) that you intend to keep that enjoy a lower pH, hardness range, your water is actually fine> A second, partially related question - can we store deionized water in drinking water gallon jugs for a week or 2, or does stored water absolutely have to be circulated, aerated, etc. for it to be healthy for aquarium use? <Yes> Antonia <Thank you for writing so well, sharing. Bob Fenner>

Low ph and low alkalinity 28 Jun 2005 Hi there! <Hello> I had previously written to you about my Betta and his very aggressive behavior towards some black skirt tetras.  I'm happy to report that, based on your advice, I took the black skirt tetras back to the pet store and have since added a lyre-tailed molly to the tank and Butch (the Betta) seems to be doing fine with him. <Ah, good> I have a few questions about my tank's pH and alkalinity.  I've had some trouble with fish deaths in our tank. I was unsure about what was going on so I recently purchased a test kit (hoping for clear answers to my troubles) and have found that my water is steady with parameters of 40 ppm Nitrate, 0 ppm Nitrite, 75 ppm hardness, 40 ppm alkalinity, and pH of 6.2.  I'm concerned that the low alkalinity and the low pH are harming my fish. <I see... you can bolster both pH and alkalinity if you'd like... with simple commercial preparations... or addition of baking soda... sodium bicarbonate.> I've been looking through your FAQs and feel a little overwhelmed and unknowledgeable about how to go about correcting the situation. Could the low (but steady) pH and low alkalinity be causing the death of my fish? <Could be a contributing influence, yes> If so, how do I correct the situation?  I've been doing weekly vacuuming and water changes (about 25%) using distilled water. <No need to use the distilled... it has no buffering capacity (alkaline reserve) at all> Any help you could provide would be amazing! Diana <Do please read here (again?): http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm and the linked files above. Altering these water quality parameters is not difficult, and the science behind their chemistry is important, of use to us in everyday life. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater, alkaline well, Acid Buffer use? First off, let me say thank you for such an informative website.  It has been extremely useful and fun as I read it nearly daily. <Glad to find it useful, of interest to you> I'm writing with a question regarding the use of SeaChem "Acid Buffer", specifically I would like to know whether it can be used alone to reduce the KH and pH of our naturally hard, alkaline well water for use in our freshwater tanks, or if the ingredients in Acid Buffer are designed to interact only with those in SeaChem's "Alkaline Buffer" and would therefore be inappropriate if used alone. <Can be used by itself... but am wanting to offer a bit more input here... Especially if you're going to be using a bunch of water... far better to investigate R.O., Deionization technology... for your drinking, cooking use as well as pet-fishing...> We do own/use a Coralife RO/DI filter, and would like to mix RO/DI water with well water in order to produce water change water with a GH and pH appropriate to the fish in our three tanks. <Oh! Good idea... sheesh, I ought to (wake up, and) read ahead...> Let me preface my questions by saying that our fish currently appear to be healthy, but after moving from Connecticut to Vermont in Aug 2004 our tank went from a steady pH around 7.0, up to a steady pH around 8.0-8.1, apparently as a result of our use of the well water here. <Yes> The root of my discomfort comes from the fact that I still don't have what I feel like is a going-forward water-change plan as to the contents of my make-up water - do I use 80% RO/DI and blend in 20% tap, getting soft water with little alkalinity buffering, yet still a high pH, or do I need to move to simply using pure torn-down RO/DI water and doing an add-back of everything that has been lost?   <I would go with the first approach... try the one-fifth source water and measure what this looks like pH, alkalinity wise> I've been trying to find SeaChem "Equilibrium" and "Alkaline Buffer" at LFS with no luck, even to the point of their ordering it for me and not having any arrive. I would like to know how I can best go about creating water for water changes, given the difficult well water that we have.  Is it possible for me to simply buffer the well water down to a given pH using "Acid Buffer" alone? <You could (I would not)... as this may well take quite a bit of doing... lots of buffer, time to mix, stabilize, test...> If so my plan would be to mix this water with RO/DI water at a ratio giving my desired GH values (more than the 3 dGH resulting if I just mix well water with RO/DI until a reasonable sub-8.1 pH results, but not quite the 14 dGH that is in the well water right out).  I'm also a little concerned about the phosphate levels in the tanks (~ 1mg/L) impacting the buffering provided by Acid Buffer and/or Alkaline Buffer if I ever manage to find any of that product. <Mmm, I strongly advocate the use of storage containers, dedicated to holding your water... ahead of use. Perhaps something in the way of an "intermediate" tank/container with live plants that will "take out" a good deal of the biomineral, alkaline content here... e.g. Ceratophyllum... We should chat up the types of livestock you keep, want to keep... if you're intending to breed fishes that require soft/er, more acidic water... but starting with "cleaner" RO and adding back some source/well water is likely the route to go here... or to switch to Great Lakes African Cichlids! This is what I have and they relish large water changes with our "liquid rock" S. Cal. tap> My apologies for the length of this message, and thanks for any assistance you may be able to provide. Test kits: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals (KH, GH, NO3, NO2, NH3/NH4) (After seeing how inaccurate the AP pH tests are in comparison to the pH meter, not sure I trust these) Milwaukee SMS 120 pH meter (calibrated to 7.001 and 10.000 buffers) Salifert PO4 Well water parameters: Fresh from the tap KH 12dKH, GH 14dGH, pH 7.0, PO4=0, NH3/NH4=0, NO2=0, NO3=0 120min of aeration KH 11-12dKH, GH 14dGH, pH 8.4, PO4=0, NH3/NH4=0, NO2=0, NO3=0 Tank parameters: 10g - Swordtails (1 full-sized, many fry), 1 Otocinclus affinis, 76 deg F pH=7.8, KH=3dKH, GH=6dKH, NH3/NH4=0, NO2=0, NO3=20ppm, PO4=1mg/L planted: 1 Lg Amazon Sword, 1 Java Fern, 1 Crinum, much Bacopa up since: 1 Jan 2005 Products used: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Stress-Coat Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Aq. Salt (1tsp/3gal w/H2O changes) Nutrafin "Plant-Gro - Iron Enriched", very occasionally (N=0.15%, B=0.0005%, Cu=0.0005%, Fe=0.26%, Mn=0.05%, Mo=0.0007%, Zn=0.003%) Tetra Whisper 10 filter (Bio-bags + activated carbon) 60W incandescent lighting gravel (believed inert, not yet tested) Food: TetraMin large tropical flakes TetraColor color-enhancing flake Tubifex worms (occasionally) 29gA - 1 Blood parrot Cichlid hybrid, 6 Corydoras spp., 80 deg F pH=8.1, KH=4-5dKH, GH=3dGH, NH3/NH4=0, NO2=0, NO3=25ppm, PO4=1.5mg/L no plants no CO2 infusion, occasional Aqua up since: 15 Aug 2004 (after a move), several years beforehand Products used: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Stress-Coat Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Aq. Salt (1tsp/3gal w/H2O changes) Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Nitra*Zorb, occasionally TetraAqua "Easy Balance" (1tsp/5gal w/H2O changes), for the last three H2O changes without apparent effect -- claims to stabilize pH and alkalinity Tetra Whisper 40 filter (Bio-bags + activated carbon) Penguin 330 filter gravel (believed inert, not yet tested) Food: TetraMin large tropical flakes bloodworms (San Francisco Bay Brand) Penn-Plax Pro Balance "Red Parrot Fish Food Diet" 29gB - 1 Honey Gourami, 4 med. swordtails, 4 Corydoras panda, 78 deg F pH=7.8, KH=3-4dKH, GH=4dGH, NH3/NH4=0, NO2=0, NO3=10ppm planted: 2 Amazon Sword, some Bacopa, 1 sm Barclaya no CO2 infusion up since: 21 May 2005 Products used: Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Stress-Coat Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Aq. Salt (1tsp/3gal with H2O changes) Nutrafin "Plant-Gro - Iron Enriched", very occasionally (N=0.15%, B=0.0005%, Cu=0.0005%, Fe=0.26%, Mn=0.05%, Mo=0.0007%, Zn=0.003%) - less than in 10g Tetra Whisper 40i filter gravel (believed inert, not yet tested) Food: TetraColor color enhancing flakes Tubifex worms (occasionally) Thanks! -Brian Pardy <And you. Bob Fenner>

Differing pH levels ...continued (6-13-05) Thank you. <You're welcome Adam!> Yeah I am no longer going to be purchasing anything from this store.<Sounds like a good decision.> They did not show any interest in helping out a long time customer of theirs (I have been buying various products from them for about 10 months, when I started my Cichlid tank, although I only purchased one of the Cichlids from them). This whole ordeal just showed me that this store does not care about the fish, they only care about making their sales.   <It's unfortunate that some shops are like that, thank goodness it is not the majority of shops.> Thanks and your site has some terrific information, Adam <Your very welcome and thank you for the kind words. Be chatting, Leslie>

High Ph in soft water!? Hello, <Hi there> Almost everything I have read concerning Ph and KH associate a high Ph with a corresponding high KH and visa-versa. <Yes, usually these two are linked as you state... but not always>   However I have a high Ph and a low KH.  Readings are vague because the test kits are so hard to read, <Mmmm, there are better kits, methods> (different shades of color that change depending on how you hold it, light it, etc) but safe to say that the Ph is between 7.2 and 7.8 and the KH is between 3 and 4 dKH.  My general hardness is the hardest to test since the color change between red and green is hardly noticeable, but I think it is between 0 and 2 dGH.  The same results are obtained in both the tank and the tap with only a very small difference. I have been trying to prepare my tank for Discus and Severum and want to lower the ph to 7.  Peat is out of the question since I don't want tea colored water, so I have been using a Jungle brand product called Correct Ph 7.0.  My reason for choosing this stuff is because it claims to not only bring the Ph to 7.0, but it also holds (buffers) it there.  My results with this product though have been a rise in KH and no change at all in the Ph. <Now this is interesting. Might I ask, have you taken the opportunity to query your water supplier (should be listed on your water bill) re your water quality? Contacted Aquarium Pharmaceuticals re?> After a few days of using this, my Ph is the same and the KH is up to 7 dKH. I have no idea what is in this stuff since it has no ingredients on the label.   <I think, though am guessing that it's a mix of biphosphate (mono and disodium) and carbonates, bicarbonates... These last will raise the KH...> I put some specks in my test tubes, and there it initially brings the Ph down, but within a few minutes of agitating the Ph comes back up, and the results on KH are a seemingly permanent rise in KH.   <Mmm, yes, the shaking introduces a good deal of oxygen, drives out carbonic acid (CO2 in solution) will temporarily elevate pH... with resting you'd see it drop again> My question to you is how can I lower my Ph and keep it (buffer it) there? <Mmm, there are a few ways... am going to attempt to make this subject/monologue simple... You can/could start with "cleaner" source water (the cheapest, easiest to get, haul about: Reverse Osmosis... but deionized could do... you might go broke, but end up with big muscles hauling such prepared water about from other sources (outside your home)... You might just treat batches of your source water in a dedicated "trash can" (my fave the Rubbermaid "Brute" line... with cover, rolling cart...) with organic or inorganic (the last especially can be dangerous in concentration) acids, some understanding of alkalinity, testing...) You could utilize Discus (and even Severums) that are from generations that have been cultivated in captivity... and not worry (really) at all re your water chemistry... You could have another system with a good mass of live plant material that would condition new water, and move said water to your cichlid tank weekly and replenish it ala Boris Karloff...> I have spent days reading your site and it is fascinating.  I often get side tracked reading through the plethora of information, but nothing yet directly addresses my issue. <Will (gladly) admit to this disingenuous method of getting folks to read, consider "collateral" information, consider issues we deem important... If you have input re how to improve this process, please remit>   For all that I understand to this point, with water as soft as I have I shouldn't have a problem with high Ph at all.     <Ahh, my friend... this is so. You really don't... You will/would see in actual practice, using "just" the source water you describe, that likely you would have to add (bicarbonate likely) buffer to it, as with use/time your low buffering capacity will be exhausted and the pH slide downward... My real "advice" (what I would do) is to go forward with using the tap/source water, monitor pH, alkalinity, hardness... and adjust, along with good sized weekly water changes as time goes by. I wish you well. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Scott  

HIGH SUDDEN pH Hi, I have a 29 gal. tank with the eclipse filtration system and it has been stable for at least 6 months. It is a planted tank with driftwood, 3 young angel fish, two aquatic frogs, 2 Kuhlii loaches, a long nose whip tail catfish, and two thread fins. We do 25-30% water changes every two weeks. Found two dead angel fish today, they had not shown any signs of sickness that I picked up on, feed well the day before. I tested the water and the pH and alkalinity were off the dipstix chart... very alkaline! I did a water change of 30% and the water reads much better now but I am wondering what triggered this big change. Do you have any ideas why this would occur, I have not done anything different and my other tanks are all fine. I do not have any limestone or shells in the tank. We do have a lot of Malaysian trumpet snails and a porcelain decoration. Thanks for you help. Sandy < Check the pH of you tap water. In some areas of the country the water source changes or the water company adds lime to stabilize the water. In San Francisco for example the water used to be very soft, but recently the water dept has added lime to the water and the aquarists there are really having problems right now. If the tap water checks out all right then I would check the water conditioner. Some really kick up the pH. Topping of the tank with tap water may bring the pH up by adding minerals while pure water evaporates making it harder. Minerals in food may accumulate in the water band bring up the pH.-Chuck>

High pH We have a 38-gal. freshwater tank that has been set up for a month. We cycled with 5 zebra Danios (that seems like a lot now but it was in keeping with the first material I read) and just recently added 2 Corydoras catfish. In my preoccupation with ammonia and nitrites, which are both at zero now, I completely overlooked the pH, which is 8.8. <Yikes> At first I thought it was something in the tank or that it was because it hadn't finished cycling, but we tested the water from the tap and found it also is that high. It's well water, going through a softener... <Really? I wonder what sort of softener, what is elevating the pH like this?> ...with Kordon Novaqua Plus conditioner... <A good product> ...added as recommended by my LFS. I found your website a couple of days ago, and have learned a lot. Thank you for making this information available! I would appreciate your advice about this situation. Based on what I've read, I need to change the pH (although the current occupants seem active and happy for the moment). <You are fortunate in your choices... some groups of aquatic life would take exception here> Before I commit to adding anything to the tank or buying water, I want to make sure it's the right decision. The LFS has suggested that I buy RO water from our local grocery store and start phasing it in with each water change. <One solution, yes> If I do that, how quickly should I change it, and what do I need to do with the water before adding it to the tank?  <Gradually... like ten percent of the total volume every water change... weekly or so> I've seen a lot of discussion of purchasing RO units, but I'm a bit confused. Would that lower the pH sufficiently? <Yes> Would you recommend something else entirely? Thank you for your help. Julie <A few things to consider... One, maybe going with aquatic life that tolerates or enjoys high pH... Using biological mediation to lower it (live plants, time...), using inorganic acids (phosphorics mainly... commercially produced).... But if it were me, my home, water, I would look into reverse osmosis... for myself (drinking and cooking) as well as the aquarium/s.... Water of this high mineral content is actually not good for you... I would have it checked (if you haven't recently) through a water quality lab... We use RO for these purposes (though the African Cichlids get straight tap) and our pH is a paltry 8.2... Bob Fenner> 

Weird water chemistry Hi, <Hello there> A couple of weeks ago I wrote in about some persistent pH issues. I had been unable to keep my pH below 7.5 even with repeated treatments of acid buffer over several weeks. At the time I had thought the problem was due to alkalines in my gravel, which I had confirmed by testing a sample of gravel in a jar (with a second sample of plain old water as a control) and by testing the gravel with vinegar. <Good> Since then I have purchased a larger tank and am using a new substrate--Fluorobase (sp?). My water is pH 8.2 out of the tap, and the Fluorobase seems to have stabilized the pH at 6.6 ~without~ the need for RO or any acid buffer treatments! I've only had this tank running for a week now, but the Fluorobase really does seem like absolutely miraculous stuff for those of us with highly buffered tap water. <Likely has a good deal of laterite content> The transition from old tank (high pH) to new tank (low pH) revealed another factor in the pH change. I removed all the plants from the old tank to ensure there was no pH variation due to CO2. I also removed all of the gravel, which should have removed the alkaline source and allowed me to slowly bring down the pH until it matched the new tank-- or so I thought. What actually happened was that the pH ~kept rising again~. I'd add some water from the new tank, or a few drops of acid buffer, and I'd observe a small drop in pH as expected. But, when I'd test again an hour later, the pH would be exactly where it started! Ultimately I had to push the pH change much faster to overcome this effect. Fortunately everyone seems to have survived. <Dangerous... I recommend the use of an alkalinity test kit... treating new water OUTSIDE the system... like in a dedicated plastic can... ahead of use by a few days> I have since done some tests using the old tank, which is an Eclipse 3g. First, I thoroughly rinsed the tank. I removed the filter media but left the pump running. I filled it with dechlorinated tap water (pH 8.2) and added enough acid buffer to bring the pH down to 6.6. 12 hours later, the pH was up to 7.5. I added more acid to bring the pH to 6.6 again, and sure enough, 12 hours later, we're back at 7.5. Meanwhile, a control sample (water in a jug) remained at exactly 6.6 the whole time. <Okay> There is nothing in this tank besides tap water, dechlorinator, and acid buffer. So, it seems that the water circulation itself must be causing the pH to keep rising to 7.5! Speculations: (a) the acid buffer is evaporating, (b) the acid buffer is reacting with dissolved oxygen and losing its acid properties, or (c) oxygenation is affecting the pH through some other mechanism-- something else in the tap water. So, I shut off the filter, and 12 hours later the pH had dropped to about 7.0. This seems to definitively rule out (a), and point to (b) or (c) as the culprit.  <B likely> Has anyone ever heard of this phenomenon or care to hazard any guesses as to the chemistry of this? I am using Seachem Liquid Acid Buffer. All I know is that it is a non-phosphate buffer. Thanks, Dave <Oxygenation is driving the carbon dioxide from the water... it's leaving is allowing the pH to rise... again... you are almost "there" in understanding the relationship between pH, alkalinity/acidity and what you're doing... Read a bit more and you will know. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm  Bob Fenner> 
Re: Weird water chemistry, take tres, David gets very close 
Hi Bob, <Dave> Ok, so the "acid buffer" is reacting with bi/carbonates (KH) to produce carbonic acid plus insoluble carbonates, i.e. Ca(HCO3)2 --> H2CO3 + CO3= and then CO3= + ???. Carbonic acid then dissociates, H2CO3 --> CO2 + H2O. The CO2 is subsequently removed via circulation, allowing more H2CO3 to dissociate, so pH eventually rises again. <A good model, explanation> This would also be resulting in increased GH, and this is indeed what I observe: <Yes> Tap water: KH 60, GH 65, pH 8.2 Test tank w/ 2 doses of "acid buffer" w/ circulation: KH 25, GH 70, pH 7.5 But I also have: Display tank w/ Flora Base substrate: KH ~5, GH 80, pH 6.5 Seems like the Flora Base (I believe this contains volcanic ash) is doing a very good job (too good, really) in holding down pH, and it is eating up all my KH. I need to raise KH to minimize pH fluctuations, right? <Possibly... not be disingenuous, or overly-slippery here... it "depends" on a few other factors... For instance, will you have a "large" bioload of plants? These can/will aid you (and themselves) in ameliorating pH, KH and GH changes... types of foods added, amount of fish, invertebrate livestock will add their reductive influences (production of acidic wastes, carbon dioxide)... and regular maintenance... it may be that changing part of the water out on a... weekly basis? may be fine for keeping KH about right... Understand that the matter that makes up the KH is not necessarily irrevocably gone... but may be only weakly, temporarily bound up in your fancy substrate... this is what happens VERY often in "the real world"... with the hardness coming back into solution under certain conditions (particularly drops in pH)> So what is the best way to do this-- in a stable, consistent way?  I would like to achieve a pH of 6.8 with a decent amount of hardness-- this is a new tank w/only a couple of fish, so I haven't even begun to see any biological acids appear yet. Will adding crushed corals or seashells (in a bag in the filter) do the trick? Thanks,  Dave <I wish all aquarists had your good, inquisitive mind... The "best" way at this point is to proceed with actual stocking... and observe, test what actually ensues with the weeks going by... and then, if necessary, in addition to regular water changes, you might add calcium chloride to increase GH without elevating pH... Please see here re: http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/CO2/  Bob Fenner>
Re: Weird water chemistry
Bob, <Dave> > [...] Seems like the Flora Base (I believe this contains volcanic ash) is doing a very good job (too good, really) in holding down pH, and it > is eating up all my KH.  I need to raise KH to minimize pH fluctuations, right?  > <Possibly... not be disingenuous, or overly-slippery here... it "depends" on a few other factors [...] Understand that the matter that makes up the KH is not  necessarily irrevocably gone... but may be only weakly, temporarily bound up in  your fancy substrate... this is what happens VERY often in "the real world"...  with the hardness coming back into solution under certain conditions > (particularly drops in pH)> Hm.  Now that raises the concept of "buffering" to a higher, hence juicier, order of complexity.  However, I talked to a tech at the company that distributes the stuff, and he assures me that the KH is indeed gone, not bound.  A little experimentation is in order here... <<Could be and sounds like it>> > So what is the best way to [raise KH]-- in a stable, consistent way? [...]  > <[...] you might add calcium chloride to increase GH without elevating pH [...]> I do want to add KH, and raise pH, so that I can begin injecting CO2.  But, since my fancy substrate vaporizes KH, I need a way to do this slowly and constantly, as opposed to adding pinches of baking soda or CaCl or what not. <<These are the safest methods...>> I recall reading somewhere that CaCO3 and MgCO3 are more soluble in acid water (i.e. something like CaCO3 + H3O+ => Ca++ + HCO3- + H2O) <<Calcium more so than Magnesium carbonate...>> so wouldn't adding a small amount of limestone to the tank/filter therefore not only raise the KH and pH (which is desirable here) but also to buffer the system against drops in pH?   <<Yes...>> My continued thanks for your guidance... -Dave <Do experiment here... there are a few "formats" of calcium carbonate... limestone, marble, aragonite... powdered, aggregate... Bob Fenner>
Re: Weird water chemistry
Any recommendations as to which CaCO3 supply would be best given my environment (ready solubility in mildly acidic environment, small tank, heavily planted, desiring enough buffering to permit CO2 injection)-- viz. limestone, marble, aragonite?  Crushed coral? <Yes... I would use a Dacron bag to hold a given (weigh it) mass of Aragonitic sand of a given grade (3-4mm or greater diameter) and place this in your water flow path. Not too soluble (low enough Ksp, http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2004-27,GGLD:en&q=solubility+product+constant ) Bob Fenner>

Re: Weird water chemistry Thanks! <Welcome... I look forward to our further chatting... there IS a great deal that could/can be discussed re petfishing and chemistry... but not much that REALLY is of practical consideration... relative to all the other fields the hobby entails! Bob Fenner>

Re: Weird water chemistry Same here, Bob.  I am a tinkerer at heart, project manager by trade... have yet to see a better example of a "dependency-driven resource management system" than an aquarium.   <Ha!> I must admit that I do take perverse pleasure in contemplating the complexities of water chemistry (pain/pleasure being another complex buffered system) but your point is well taken. <Ah, good> So, on another topic-- livestock selection for a specific niche.  I have a 12g cubical tank, more-or-less Dutch-style, back 1/3 forested up to the top of the water column, medium-height plants front-left and (hopefully) a Glossostigma bed front-right.  Population is currently 1 Betta, who lurks around the bottom when he's not coming up for air or gearing up for an attempted leap into the sump, and a small school of H. Rasboras who more or less stick to the large front-right open area, plenty of room for their shenanigans there.  I may also need a SAE or flag for algae control, though I've been warned about flag/Betta combo. <Can become irksome "riders"...> I am looking for a species that will prefer the mid/upper planted areas, ideally small (<1") schooling fish (I think I can support 4-5 more if they are really tiny).  I am not fond of tetras in general.  Do you have any suggestions? <Some of the smaller Danios, livebearers like Endler's, Hatchetfishes if you have a cover (your allusion to the Betta leaping out), even other labyrinth fishes like the smaller gouramis of the genera Colisa and Trichogaster come to mind. Bob Fenner>

Please help with General Hardness! I have two goldfishes in a tank capacity of 38 gal of water but after I filled it with 40 pounds of gravel, the water capacity became only 28 gallons. <Ah, yes> Now when I do condition my water should I condition it for the capacity of the tank which is 38 gal or for the actual amount of water inside the tank which is 28 gallons? <The actual gallonage> My second question is this one: This new cycled tank has ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 10ppm, ph 7.5, carbonate hardness 107ppm but the general hardness is very low 71ppm (for goldfishes). <Mmm, not likely a problem> What product can I use to increase my GH without affecting any other values like the Ph one? I thank you very much Marcellino <Mmmm, you could use simple sodium bicarbonate (Baking Soda)... but I would not do this. Your water is fine as you state its composition. More here: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2004-27,GGLD:en&q=raising+GH Bob Fenner>

What causes my high ph? Hi there, I have a 10 gallon semi-planted tank, w/ Aquaclear 150 filter, medium light and only 6" of fish (for now.)  Also have generic purple gravel but am switching it out with onyx sand soon.  I rarely do water changes or clean the gravel, but have no problems at all with ammonia and nitrite levels. <When water evaporates, you just add new tap?> The issue is, my tank ph is always on the high end (7.5+).  Every time I add water, I adjust the new water to a low to neutral ph. <With?> I recently looked into the KH, but it seems ok at about 50 ppm.  (Still don't quite understand the relationship between KH and ph though.) <Oh, and this is important... and a hoot as a life lesson in reality. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm>   I got some Hagen peat moss to add to the filter in an attempt to bring down the ph and also bought a piece of driftwood off eBay to add to the tank. Am looking into a co2 diffuser as well. <Neat! Good ideas to try>   Any advice /suggestions would be greatly appreciated!  Thank you. -Kristina <You've got most all the "parts of the puzzle" obviously... now, putting them together. There are parts of your water dissolved in it that make your water "hard", the pH "high" (or at least more than neutral, 7.0)... the means you are using of lowering the pH may well be temporary in nature... and not doing water changes, and hence diluting these solids may be the root cause of your elevated pH here... putting this another way, simply doing regular water changes may well solve your pH issue here... Otherwise, if the mid sevens are too high for your livestock, blending in "some" reverse osmosis, deionized, or otherwise filtered (demineralized) water with your changes, will likely bring the pH down... do this slowly, over a period of weeks. Bob Fenner>

Using peat to lower the pH I have a 25 gal aquarium. I use a canister filter filled only with biomedia (material that provides bacteria with a large colonizing surface) and the regular mechanical filter pads. My local tap water has the following water parameters: pH around 8 (+- 0.2) and KH=7. The fish I want to keep (central and south American cichlids) require neutral water (pH range: 6,8-7.3 appr.). The aquarium is decorated with driftwood, but it doesn't have a measurable effect on the water chemistry (pH and KH are the same with tap water). Zeolite (which I used in the past) did lower the pH and soften the water. With Zeolite I got a pH of 7.3 and KH around 3-4 (Germ. deg.). Zeolite is a cation exchange material which can bind ammonium and other cationic compounds (possibly calcium and magnesium and thus the low KH value). <Yes> However, this not only deprive Nitrosomonas colonies of their food source (disrupting the nitrogen cycle), but it releases species of cations in the water (possibly sodium) which in high concentrations can be fatal for the fish. <This is a little discussed possibility> Now instead of using Zeolite, I am thinking of using peat. Peat binds calcium and magnesium cations and exchanges them for hydrogen cations. So it lowers both water hardness and the pH of the aquarium's water. Moreover blackwater will bring out striking fish coloration! <Yes to all> I have seen many commercial brands that sell aquarium-safe peat. This is probably intended to be used in a canister filter. <Mmm, or a box filter... or in a Dacron bag placed in an area of water flow...> However, I am not sure about what amounts of peat to use in order to bring the water to the desired pH values. I think that using a plastic barrel (with dechlorinated and properly heated water) pre-treating it with a nylon bag filled with peat is safer, as the effects can be controlled before the water change is made. What methods do you have in mind, concerning the use of peat for lowering the pH? <What you describe is fine... the amount cannot be accurately guessed as peats are not consistent in their quality in this application... best to soak, even boil them in a bit of water, let cool, strain (and pour the boiled water in with your mixing water) and use> Does a KH reading of 7 germ. deg. indicate a sufficient buffering capacity or should I experience sudden pH shifts? Thank you in advance. Spyros <Good questions. A dGH of 7 should be fine for buffering. Bob Fenner>

Re: Accurate Test Kits ? I did check the dates and they are fine the kit I was using for nitrates expires 2007. I have never heard of LaMotte kits. I had to go to 4 stores to find Tetra Test kits. It was either that or the strip kind of tests. Thanks for the info anyway I will try and find LaMotte kits. About the fish though I was checking back in my records and it appears I have not checked PH since the beginning of December in the 90 but looking at the records for the 75 it seems the PH has changed from 7.4 to 7.8 since the end of December. Could this have caused the problems for my fish ? < No, this pH range is well within the normal range for Lake Malawi Cichlids.> All the other fish in both tanks seem fine although the barbs seem to be scratching in the 75. I thought that a gradual change in PH is ok but a sudden change would harm all the fish ? < Gradual is ok but sudden shifts in pH especially below pH 7 usually mean that the buffering capacity of the tank is gone and it may be ready to crash.> I have tried to include a couple of photos to see if you can see the difference in colour between the two fish . Image 471 shows the sick fish and 473 shows a healthy fish. < Sorry, the photos did not make it.> Any ideas ? < If the tank is in good shape with no excessive nitrogen problems then I would start looking at possible protozoa infections. It is similar to ich but does not develop any white spots. Try treating the tank by heating up the water to 82 degrees and see if that makes any difference. Then I would think about treating the tank with clout.-Chuck.>

Crushed coral to pH buffer a FW system Hello guys, <Jon-Jon> Here is my set-up: 8 inch Arowana, 125 gallon fish tank, 2 emperor 400, 1 Eheim canister 2028, and two 250 watt titanium heater set at 82 degrees Fahrenheit. I do water change (25%) twice a week, and uses Amquel plus and Novaqua. I am concerned about my PH since it is low :( here are my test results: water in tank's PH = 5 tap water = 7 GH and KH for both tank water and tap water = 3...and states that I have soft water <Yes... would very likely benefit from the addition of something in the way of a buffer> with these tests, it tells me that I have soft water (tap) ....and it decreases once it is mixed with my tank water (PH becomes 5). I just bought 15 pounds of crushed corals.  I used 2 nylon bags and each bag is around 3 pounds.  So the total in my tank right now is approximately 6 lbs. My plan is to just continue to do 20% water change twice a week....and hoping that w/ my 6lbs of crushed corals and my tap water (7 PH)...will eventually bring up the PH of my tank water...w/o having any drastic change in ph. questions: 1.) 6 lbs of crushed coral is enough?   <You'll soon find out... this amount should have a measurable effect> 2.) how many lbs of crushed corals do I need to slowly increase the PH of my tank...w/ twice a week water change (20%)? <Not able to state very accurately w/o knowing the solubility of your given coral substrate (varies) or its placement near circulation... but I suspect that this change will bring the pH somewhere closer to six for a few months... then when the more easily soluble parts of the coral are gone, slip back to the fives> 3.) how will I avoid big fluctuations of PH while I am trying to increase it? <The best route is to pre-mix your change water (in a designated bucket, trashcan) and add buffering material... like the crushed coral or if it were my choice, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) with a recirculating pump/powerhead and a heater... for a week or so... and test for its pH and possibly alkalinity before using> 4.) how will I avoid crushed corals to spike the PH? <It won't... it isn't "that soluble" or that "strong" or rapid an alkalizing substance> 5.) Once I reach my desired PH (6.5-7).....how will I be able to maintain it?  Can I remove the crushed corals?  As much as possible, I want to have a bare bottom tank. <Mmm, you will find a "happy medium" in the amount of alkaline buffer/capacity you're adding, manipulating. You will need to leave the coral in place, periodically replenish it to maintain an elevated pH> 6.) do you have any recommendations on how I can safely maintain the desired PH w/o having any crushed corals? <Yes... as mentioned above, by pre-treating, storing your new water> 7.) any recommendations on how I can safely increase my PH w/o a drastic change? <The above will do it... by adding enough (you will need to experiment, but a few teaspoons per ten gallons is about right) baking soda to the new water, changing this out during maintenance, you will find the pH stays a bit higher with each change... Not dangerous. Bob Fenner>

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