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FAQs on pH, Alkalinity, Acidity: Troubles, Fixing

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, Acidity 2, pH, Alkalinity 3, pH, Alkalinity 4 & FAQs on: FW pH/Alkalinity Science, pH/Alkalinity Measure, pH/Alkalinity Adjustment, pH/Alkalinity Products, & Water Hardness, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality, Treating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease,

Testing is critical... determining the existing water quality, the sources of Alkalinity, Acidity, and solving these, adjusting for them.

High ph and low kh     12/23/19
My tap water is ph 9.6, the official listed value on the water department website is 9-9.5. It's buffered to this level by soda ash.
<? Am wondering why the pH is raised so high by your municipal dept. And using sodium carbonate for the purpose. Do you know?>
The kh is low, 4 degrees on a liquid kh test and .2 on a conductivity meter.
<... am surprised that the agency wouldn't use/avail themselves of calcium compounds... to save their plumbing?>
Is there any way to raise the kh without raising the ph?
<Yes; you can/could simple sodium bicarbonate (Arm & Hammer and such baking soda will do) along/WITH an acid buffer (DO THIS outside the aquarium; i.e. pre-mix and store such made up water in advance of introduction/use in biological systems). Alternatively... oh, I see you ask below>
The water is intended for Tanganyikan cichlids.
Is 100% RO water with buffer and salt the only option to make this water usable?
<THIS is one way; and perhaps the preferred for your use... Have you read Neale Monk's piece on making/using "Rift Lake Salts" on WWM?:
Do please do so.>
Or is there some mix of tap and ro water plus buffer that will work?
<Would depend on other ionic make up in your source water. Definitely worth investigating, trying out various Calcium and Carbonate, Bicarbonate buffers IF you're using a bunch of water. IF only a few tens of gallons a month, I'd mix the RO and Neale's salt-blend>
Thanks for any information.
<Glad to share. Bob Fenner>
Re: High ph and low kh     12/23/19

The water department website says the ph is raised to prevent leeching from old (lead) pipes.
<Ah yes; then they should be working on switching them out>
I will try the buffer method, the tank is 65 gallons and I would like to change 25 gallons per week.
Seems like a lot of ro water but I dont know, maybe that is a reasonable amount to have to use weekly.
<Some folks advocate for smaller amounts more frequently. I change out 20-25% of my freshwater in my systems weekly. BobF>
Re: High ph and low kh      12/24/19

I've heard that high kh water will crash and then rebound back up if you try to lower its ph, but dont remove its kh.
<Mmm; well; depends on what (chemical species) are elevating pH... once buffering at a given (pH) level is diminished/reduced, pH may drop (precipitously)>
If I use ph down along with the ph and kh increasing buffer will the ph hold?
<Likely so... you could ask the chemical composition from your municipal supplier, or have it checked out by an independent lab... or do a "assay" yourself (which is what I'd do), and mix up all, let stand for a few days (in a chemically inert container).>
I want to lower the ph from 9.6 to 8.5, not just keep it from going past 9.6.
<I understand the first, and barring the addition of something w/ a higher pH, it should not go higher. BobF>

Getting Frustrated... educated       4/1/17
I have written to WWM Crew many times and you are always so helpful and spot-on in your advice - thank you! I've been researching this particular problem for a month now and I'm getting no where, so I'm reaching out again. I use RO/DI water for my 6 tanks (All but one tank are single species tanks). I use Equilibrium, Alkaline Buffer,
Acid Buffer, and Stability to maintain appropriate water parameters for my various fish/axolotls.
<? Is your water "so far off" that you have to resort to this?>

Its been working perfectly and everyone seems to be doing very well. But when I bought my RO unit, the
salesman said I needed to remove all carbon from my filtration because activated carbon would remove my the Equilibrium and buffers from the water,
<?... No>
he also said because I use RO water, I don't need carbon.
<Not so either. You can just search re RO use re these matters>
Ok, he has more experience than I do, so I did what he said and everything seems to be fine - for a while. But now I'm noticing that my tanks are starting to smell, the water is not as clear, and I practically need a blow torch to clean off the algae on the sides of the tanks during weekly cleanings. I've sent 3 (to date) e-mails to Seachem asking if activated carbon would remove these products from the water,
<How would it...?>
but after weeks of asking, I have not gotten a response ('m sure its just some oversight over technical difficulty - they're usually excellent at answering questions).
<Yes; agreed>
I want my carbon back, but I don't want to send my tanks and animals into a water parameter "spin."
<Not to worry; put the carbon back on/in>
So I'm asking, in your experience, do you think carbon filtration would remove these products from my aquarium water?
<Not appreciably... activated carbons are mainly useful for absorbing organics. Bob Fenner>
*Renee *
Re: Getting Frustrated       4/1/17

But to answer your question, "<? Is your water "so far off" that you have to resort to this?>", I used to just use Equilibrium in the RO water, but testing revealed that as I got closer to water change/cleaning day, my pH was dropping. My local aquarium store said it was the pH was dropping as the nitrates were getting higher. It was frustrating to me as I always do my weekly water changes so the store suggested I test for kH. They did the testing for me and said it was between 0 and 1. So they suggested the Seachem Alkaline Buffer to bring the kH up, and the Acid Buffer to maintain a slightly acidic pH.
<? You shouldn't be adding both...>
Does that ring true?
<No; you need a very rudimentary understanding of pH, alkalinity/acidity>

I'd appreciate your opinion.
<Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwhardness.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Getting Frustrated

Thank you! With a capital THANK YOU!!!
Re: Getting Frustrated       4/1/17

Wow! That's a lot of information to go through and it will take me a while. I did read through a couple of the articles, but I haven't found one that relates specifically to my problem. I am not using RO/DI water to manipulate pH for a specific fish or set up, I use it because I live in a very rural part of Idaho and I am on well water.
Water right out of my tap tests from a medium green to a significantly darker green suggesting a level around .50 ppm to 2 ppm of ammonia (the color varies at different times of the year).
<Ah yes; and a need to "re-add" some mineral/s...>
Since I have neighbors who dump excess fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide in the irrigation ditches and bury large dead livestock on their properties, the potential sources of this ammonia are endless (we do NOT drink the water here - we don't even cook with it). Additionally, my neighbor's house failed to sell last summer because their only
potential buyer backed out when the water tests required at closing of the sale showed an extremely high level of cryptosporidium in their well as well as other unidentifiable pathogens. When that report was submitted to Southwest District Health Department (as required by law) they investigated and sent samples for further testing. The tests
came back positive for human remains.
It was then disclosed that the neighbors on the east side of my property have built over a paupers' graveyard dating back to 1859, and we are all on the same aquifer. If I had known then what I know now, I never would have purchased this property. But now I'm stuck. Without the RO/DI filter for the water, I wouldn't even try to keep fish.
<Eeyikes! Yes to reverse osmosis, AND carbon; and likely ozone use for all potable water. Bob Fenner>
Re: Getting Frustrated      4/2/17

Yeah! I keep my shower VERY SHORT until I can find a way to get us out of here! But, back to the Alkaline and Acid Buffers - you indicated I shouldn't be using them together, but is there a better way to stabilize my pH so it doesn't drop toward cleaning day?
<Yes; to provide sufficient alkaline reserve. It is indeed unfortunate, but the too-confusing terms for an "alkaline state" (a pH of higher than 7.0) and "alkalinity" (a situation with an aqueous solution containing molecules that resist downward changes in pH) sound/ARE so similar appearing.
Reciprocally the terms "acid state and acidity for pHs below 7.0 and resistance to raising pH.) WHAT you want is some alkalinity (mainly carbonates) that will sustain your pH (and hardness) in a typical captive setting (which is reductive... trends toward lower pH)... NOT adding any acidic component/s purposely>
After their weekly cleaning, with Equilibrium and Stability alone, the pH test is a fairly dark sage green color which looks to me to be around 6.6 - 6.8. I'm fine with that. But as the week wears on, it starts to drop. By day 4 its a very pale green looking like its around 6.4, but by day 6, it will be a very, very pale yellow - like its at 6 or below.
<This is indeed too much. The pH scale is base 10 logarithmic... Are you and I starting too far ahead in this discussion?>
Ammonia test has no trace of green at all, pure yellow, so I read that as 0, and the nitrite test is the same, a comforting pale blue, which I also take for 0. Now, I really hate the nitrate test because the oranges are so similar, but the orange that comes up on the last day before water changes is definitely darker than 5, but there is no red in it so I'm thinking its more than 5, but less than 40 - and this is and the pH drop is consistent with all 6 tanks. The
water change (30% to 40%) always brings the pH back up to 6.6 - 6.8, and always drops the nitrate to a dark yellow (maybe 0 - 10?).
<Ughh. Please practice adding a level teaspoon or so of simple baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per five gallons of water you're changing out each week... You should see that the pH is NOT shifting (as much) downward. This practice is very safe and effective>
But from what I've read, that's normal. Even though I don't have a lot of animals per tank, they're all pretty big (my 7 dojo loaches in my 125 range from 9" to 11"). But the tanks are well cycled and all have appropriate canister filters on them. But I think that the pH bounce every week is dangerous.
<Yes; it can be overly stressful>
Even though its only changing by .8, it does it every week and I'm worried the constant fluctuation will harm the
fish. That's the only reason for the buffers, to stabilize that pH.
I'm not using the acid buffer to try to chase a pH, I just don't want the pH to change from what they're used to. Seachem has been great!
<A very fine company>
They sent me the attached spreadsheet to help me calculate the minimum amount of alkaline buffer to bring the kH up by 1 mEq/l, and how much acid buffer to use to keep the pH from bouncing around.
<Mmm; I would (again) just add the alkalinity buffer>
Please disregard the multiple tabs, I keep a spreadsheet and a log for each of my tanks so I can keep track of what I'm doing for each tank. Each tank has a tab for the calculation based on the full capacity of the tank and for the calculations for replacement water. The last tab in the spreadsheet is the data Seachem uses for its formulas on the other tabs. So is using the Alkaline and Acid buffers dangerous for the fish?
<It is not... the materials (chemicals) used by them are neither "strong", nor "fast" proton donors/electron acceptors.... NOT likely to cause issues>
I didn't want to try to use crushed coral because I couldn't figure out how to bring the kH level of the replacement RO/DI water up to the level of the tank kH level and if I just put it in at the lower kH level and waited for the coral to bring it up to the current tank level I was afraid I'd have bouncing pH again. What do you think? Is there another way I can stabilize the pH?
<Yes... Please go back a few msg.s ago and re-read Neale's piece on making your own "hardness prep."... You can EITHER use the SeaChem line, OR simple  carbonate/bicarbonate as I allude to above, OR Neale's "African Salt" admixture to get where you want to go. DO please keep investigating till  you understand what you're up to here. Yes; I taught H.S. level chemistry and physics (and bio. courses); and have tried to explain these measures,
their implications and control for decades. Understand that what we discuss here is FOR the general public as well. Bob Fenner>
Re: Getting Frustrated      /Neale      4/2/17

Yeah! I keep my shower VERY SHORT until I can find a way to get us out of here! But, back to the Alkaline and Acid Buffers - you indicated I shouldn't be using them together, but is there a better way to stabilize my pH so it doesn't drop toward cleaning day? After their weekly cleaning, with Equilibrium and Stability alone, the pH test is a fairly dark sage green color which looks to me to be around 6.6 - 6.8. I'm fine with that.
But as the week wears on, it starts to drop. By day 4 its a very pale green looking like its around 6.4, but by day 6, it will be a very, very pale yellow - like its at 6 or below. Ammonia test has no trace of green at all, pure yellow, so I read that as 0, and the nitrite test is the same, a comforting pale blue, which I also take for 0. Now, I really hate the
nitrate test because the oranges are so similar, but the orange that comes up on the last day before water changes is definitely darker than 5, but there is no red in it so I'm thinking its more than 5, but less than 40 - and this is and the pH drop is consistent with all 6 tanks. The water change (30% to 40%) always brings the pH back up to 6.6 - 6.8, and always drops the nitrate to a dark yellow (maybe 0 - 10?). But from what I've read, that's normal. Even though I don't have a lot of animals per tank, they're all pretty big (my 7 dojo loaches in my 125 range from 9" to 11").
But the tanks are well cycled and all have appropriate canister filters on them. But I think that the pH bounce every week is dangerous. Even though its only changing by .8, it does it every week and I'm worried the constant fluctuation will harm the fish. That's the only reason for the buffers, to stabilize that pH. I'm not using the acid buffer to try to chase a pH, I just don't want the pH to change from what they're used to. Seachem has been great! They sent me the attached spreadsheet to help me calculate the minimum amount of alkaline buffer to bring the kH up by 1 mEq/l, and how much acid buffer to use to keep the pH from bouncing around. Please disregard the multiple tabs, I keep a spreadsheet and a log for each of my tanks so I can keep track of what I'm doing for each tank. Each tank has a tab for the calculation based on the full capacity of the tank and for the calculations for replacement water. The last tab in the spreadsheet is the data Seachem uses for its formulas on the other tabs. So is using the Alkaline and Acid buffers dangerous for the fish? I didn't want to try to use crushed coral because I couldn't figure out how to bring the kH level of the replacement RO/DI water up to the level of the tank kH level and if I just put it in at the lower kH level and waited for the coral to bring it up to the current tank level I was afraid I'd have bouncing pH again. What do you think? Is there another way I can stabilize the pH?
<<I'm with Bob when it comes to wanting to phase the common usage of the word "alkaline" out of the English language. At school I'm trying to get my students to consistently use "base" or "basic" as the opposites of "acid"
or "acidic". As Bob says, alkalinity is specifically the ability of a sample of water to neutralise acidity, something dissolved carbonate salts do very well. When keeping standard community fish, there's absolutely no need to maintain an acidic pH, as all the common species will do perfectly well in slightly basic water around pH 7.5. So if you have very soft water (which in practise means water without the minerals needed to neutralise acidity) you may as well add some carbonate hardness. Even medium hard, slightly basic water (10-15 degrees dH, pH 7.5) will be fine for all the usual community fish: Angels, gouramis, catfish, loaches, robust tetras like Penguins and X-Ray tetras, as well as most of the commonly kept barbs and Rasboras. Livebearers will actually do better in such water than soft, as will Rainbowfish. For sure a few fish prefer or need softer water (Neons, Cardinals and Ram Cichlids spring to mind) but I don't think any of these make particularly good community fish and would recommend against
them anyway. Assuming your water is very soft (less than 5 degrees dH) and acidic (pH 6.5 or thereabouts) I'd suggest mixing your tap water 50-50 with water made up with the Rift Valley Salt Mix that Bob has mentioned already. Make one bucket of this for every one bucket of tap water, and mix them in the tank.
The result should be something tending towards around 10-15 degrees dH, which should be commendably stable, and a pH around 7.5. If it's a little too hard and basic, then cut back the Rift Valley water, down to maybe 3/4ths or even 1/2 a bucket per whole bucket of tap water. Let me remind all readers here: do NOT use water from the tap if you have a domestic water softener. Despite the name, they only remove alkalinity, the carbonate hardness, and not the general hardness. They also increase the salt content. So what you get isn't particularly good for fish tanks. Hope this helps, Neale.>>
Re: Getting Frustrated      4/2/17

Very bad news. I came home tonight and one of my rope fish had died.
<Oh dear.>
I tested the water and got the same results - ammonia was yellow, nitrite was light blue, nitrate was orange (their water change was supposed to happen tomorrow, but in light of the death of the fish, I'm doing it tonight), and pH was a very pale yellow - almost clear. I've got to get a handle on this.
<Yes, yes you do.>
I'm going to stop using the buffers immediately and go with the baking soda, but how do I manage that?
<You do understand baking soda *is* a buffer? It raises carbonate hardness, increasing alkalinity (the ability of water to neutralise acids) and therefore buffers. Since it's a weak base, it tends to raise the pH no higher than 8.2 at maximum dosage, but if you use smaller amounts, a pH of around 7.5 is more normal.>
I'm inclined to add only Equilibrium and Stability for the next 4 water changes to get the buffers washed out of the tanks and THEN start the baking soda because I don't know if/what reaction could occur if I start the baking soda with the buffers still in the tanks and I'm desperate to stop this pH bouncing around.
<Indeed. Also understand that biological filtration is optimal at between pH 7.5-8.5, and below pH 6 largely stops entirely, so unstable pHs will cause filter bacteria to become stressed, even die off.>
I know using only Equilibrium will stabilize the pH at 6.6 to 6.8 for 4 days. Maybe I should do the Equilibrium only water changes every 3 - 4 days until the buffers are washed out and I feel safe starting the baking soda (in the meantime I'll practice with the baking soda in buckets). Does that sound right or should I add the teaspoon of baking soda to their replacement water now?
<I feel that you're trying a bunch of stuff without actually understanding what you're doing. So let me direct you (again) to some reading:
Use EITHER a commercial aquarium buffer OR the Rift Valley Salt Mix (at about half dose). Either of these should be used EXACTLY as described on the packaging or in the article, not in random spoonfuls that seem good to you. TRY on a single bucket of water first (either aquarium water or fresh tap water) and USE your pH and carbonate hardness test kits to see what's produced before AND after dissolving the chemicals. Thereafter add buffered water to replace existing aquarium water in stages, ideally across a week or so for the entire tank, and no more than 25% per day, so that the fish have time to adapt to the new conditions. While ammonia/nitrite are not zero, DO NOT feed the fish. I'd suggest you DO daily water changes to dilute these, though again. Make sense? Neale.>
Re: Getting Frustrated     4/3/17

Yes, I understand that baking soda is a buffer, but I have more confidence in a substance (baking soda) than the store bought buffers that seem to function off of a "tug-of-war" principle.
<Indeed. But all buffers work this way. I believe that the aquarium buffers that fix the pH at 6.5 or 6.0 are usually based around phosphoric acid.
While these CAN work extremely well, they rely on the tank being under-stocked and the water being fairly soft but not particularly acidic.
They are often used on Discus tanks, where the fishkeeper will under-stock the tank anyway, and likely do regular (often daily) water changes because of the sensitivity of Discus to nitrate. All well and good, but for the
casual fishkeeper these buffers are best left to tanks containing small, delicate fish (such as Neons or Cardinals) that pollute little and therefore don't push the background acidification that happens in all tanks too much. For everyone else, a slightly alkaline system using carbonate buffers (the buffers that fix the pH around 7.5 or 8.0) is better, depending on the fish being kept. For mixed communities, pH 7.5 is fine; for livebearers and many cichlids, pH 8 is better. As stated before, the Rift Valley Salt Mix is a cheap-and-cheerful way to achieve the same thing,
but it does require a few minutes' experimentation before you roll it out.
Use the recipe and then tweak the salt, bicarbonate, and Epsom salt up or down depending on what you get on your test kits. Failing that, just go with the mix as-is, but dilute 50/50 with soft tap water. Should get something about right for most community fish as well as most coldwater fish including Goldfish and loaches.>
And you are also right, I'm trying things I have no understanding of, going completely on faith in your experience, because my tanks are unstable and my fish are dying. I swear to you than once I get them stable, I will pour over every bit of information you given me and everything else I can find on WWM, and I'll probably bombard you with questions.
But I can't do that now because I'm so worried about the fish I can barely think straight.
<It can sometimes feel like this! When fish sicken, they seem to die quickly, often for no obvious reason. But trust me, this hobby is actually very easy. My aquarium takes up about three hours' work across a year. A
few water changes, pulling out the odd dead fish or sickly plant. That's about it. I mix rainwater with hard tap water 50/50 to get something that's got enough hardness to buffer against pH changes, and hard enough for my
Limia, but not too hard for my Amazonian species (an Anostomus and a Panaque). Don't even have to worry about algae given most of my fish are avid algae-eaters. On top of that, fish are actually very hearty animals,
and kept even moderately well, simply don't get sick until one day you find them dead in the tank after a long and normal life. Perhaps remarkably, they live longer than you'd think, certainly much longer than mammals of similar size. So please, have faith.>
Also, I live in Idaho (I'm not FROM here, I just moved here because land was affordable - now I know why, but its going to take time to get out of here), Idaho exists in a "black hole" in the universe so knowledge, information, and supplies outside of things that existed 20 years ago, are often not available here. I'm 35 miles from the nearest town (Boise) and UPS and Fed Ex won't come out here. The closest aquarium store is in Boise, but they're small and don't carry much in the way of new things.
Even though I've been getting my Alkaline Buffer from them, I have to buy every bottle they have when they have it because I never know if it will be available next time I come into town. At this point, I have about half of
a 300 gram bottle left of the Alkaline Buffer.
<Which is probably sodium bicarbonate. Have a look on the packaging. If it is, it'll do much the same thing as the Rift Valley Salt mix.>
I'm going into town tomorrow (Monday) and I'll ask them about the Rift Valley Salt Mix, but I'm pretty sure I'll get the same "blank" look that I get from every merchant in my area whenever I ask for something they haven't carried since it came in on stage coach.
<Understood. Now, let's simplify things for them. If they reach out and grab something called "aquarium salt" or anything like that, reject it!
Salt isn't what you need. Salt has its uses in fishkeeping, but it has zero buffering capacity. But if they get something called African cichlid salt mix, or Malawi salt, or Tanganyikan salt, something like that, then you're
onto something! Malawian and Tanganyikan cichlids like high hardness and alkalinity, and low pH levels are lethal to them. So products sold for their benefit should buffer against pH changes very nicely indeed.>
The people that run this store are great people, so maybe they'll surprise me, but I tend to think I'm much safer going with the baking soda as it is on every grocery store shelf.
<Indeed. And that's the idea of the Rift Valley Salt mix. Sea salt and bicarbonate are both at your grocery store; Epsom salt is widely sold in drugstores. The measurements are approximate, but so long as you use a test kit to check what you're making, slight errors either way aren't going to be a big deal, doubly so if you're diluting 50/50 with soft/acid tap water.
Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Getting Frustrated     4/3/17

Will the salts be safe for scale-less fish?
<Used as instructed, yes. The "scale-less fish are allergic to salt" nonsense ignores the fact many saltwater fish lack scales, eels and sharks to name but two. Quite why scale-less fish are meant to be more sensitive to salt ignores the fact scales aren't significant to osmoregulation, i.e., the way fish keep the salt/water balance right inside their bodies.>
I keep dojo loaches, rope fish, and axolotls among my other critters, but I keep species specific tanks.
<Indeed! Not much overlap in requirements among these three taxa.>
The dojo loaches are in my 125, the rope fish in my 75, the axolotls are split (boy/girl) between a 75 gallon tank and a 55 gallon tank, and then I have my tetra/Rasbora/bamboo shrimp in my other 55 gallon tank. Can I mix
the same water for all or do I have to do something different for the loaches, axolotls, and rope fish?
<I would not go out of your way make changes to the water chemistry of any tanks that are working well for you. But broadly, yes, the Rift Valley Salt Mix (or commercial equivalent) used at half-dose to produce water around 10 degrees dH, pH 7.5 should be fine for all of them. Please do use their test kits though. Cheers, Neale.>

Thank you, Betta recovery      12/4/16
No questions or cries for help today, just a thank you. Thanks to your site, and your responses to my emails, I know so much more about Betta care today than when I rescued that first Betta from a bridal shower centerpiece about 5 months ago. You, and Bob Fenner’s book, are the best resources I’ve found for learning how to keep a Betta. While the first two Bettas didn’t survive - one because he was too damaged when I got him, the other because I forgot I was using a domestic water softener - I think that I am now all set to enjoy our new Betta for a long time. Our Betta, Ting Krit, and I thank you. Here’s the happy little guy in his heated, filtered, treated RO water, stable pH, 0 ammonia and nitrite, low nitrate tank:
<Looks a nice fish in a nice tank! Glad you're enjoying your new pet, and it's lovely hearing how things turn out, so thanks for sharing. Cheers, Neale.>

No rush question - pH slowly rising in Betta tank      12/18/16
After much - and much appreciated - help from you, I put my new Betta, Ting Krit into his 5-gallon heated, biologically filtered (well cycled) aquarium. He went in 12/1. That day, pH was 6.9, temperature stable at about 77, ammonia reading 0; nitrite 0; and nitrate between 10ppm and 20 ppm. GH tested about 125.3 ppm (which I think is OK), but my KH tested only 17.9 to 35.8 ppm with API drop test. The water is RO, treated with SeaChem Replenish and a couple of Catappa leaves in the aquarium when Ting Krit went in. Readings have stayed stable except a slowly rising pH. (I have not tested GH and KH again.) The pH had been very stable for about 10 days before I added Ting Krit. On 12/3, I added a Brazilian pennywort plant to give him some shade. Since then, it has been a slow rise. Never more than 0.1 in 24 hours. I have changed 25-30% of the water twice now (weekly changes), using a slightly (0.2) lower pH water for the change. I have gradually added more and more Catappa leaves because, before Ting Krit, the leaves had a noticeable effect on the pH, gradually dropping it. With the water changes and Catappa leaves, the pH change has been about 0.2 per week. So, it was up to 7.3 when I did his water change on Thursday after 2 weeks. The water change dropped it to 7.2. Yesterday it was 7.3. Today, it was up to 7.4. I realize that stable pH is the most important thing - and these changes are slow. But, if it just keeps rising, I’m concerned I will have a problem eventually. I just added 2 more Catappa leaves (I’d never added more than 1 before), and hope I will be able to stabilize the pH with that gentle method. (I will check pH a couple of more times today to make sure I didn’t overshoot.) What truly mystifies me is why the pH has now started rising after being stable in the 6.8 to 7.0 range for an extended period before adding Ting Krit and the pennywort. And, I want to stop the steady rise before it becomes a problem. Thank you in advance for your help. A picture of Ting Krit - who is very active and apparently happy.
<Do try this: leave the next water change for 24 hours after you draw water from the tap. If you can, aerate the water for an hour or two before use. Why? Because tap water can contain a lot of dissolved CO2, and as the CO2 evaporates (or gets used by plants) the acidity lessens (dissolved CO2 = carbonic acid). This allows pH to rise. Alternatively, you could use a proprietary buffer (I'd go for something neutral) and see if that 'fixes' the pH between water changes. But if all else fails, if this chap is happy -- and it sounds like he is -- I'd simply adopt a "little, but often" approach to water changes, changing 10% every day or two, and simply allowing these frequent water changes to inhibit any severe pH changes. Hope this helps, Neale.>


Re: No rush question - pH slowly rising in Betta tank      12/18/16
I pour the RO water into a gallon bowl and let it stand for a week or two before I do use it for water change. That gives me time to add API pH Up (always necessary on the RO water) to get it at least in the 6.8 to 7.0 range.
<Understood. So, if your pH still isn't stable, you need more buffering. I'd probably be adding sodium bicarbonate, just the tiniest amount at first, maybe one-tenth teaspoon per US gallon. See how well that works for a week; if necessary, increase by one-tenth teaspoon amounts per gallon over successive weeks.>
So, no tap wager with dissolved CO2. (Had that problem before. Had to stop using any tap water because of home water softener.) When you say proprietary buffer, what are you suggesting? Last exchange I had with Bob before I added Ting Krit - when I was worried about the KH being low and maybe creating risk of pH swings - he suggested a tiny bit of baking soda if I saw drastic changes in my daily log of pH levels - or the frequent small changes you suggest.
<I would concur with either bit of advice here.>
Sounds like changing out some water every could of days might be the best solution, but we leave for a 2 week trip in a month and I worry about the fish-sitter being faithful to the changes.
<Your main problem is overfeeding. Fish can go without food for two weeks, no problems. But to be kind, the safest approach is to put tiny amounts in paper envelopes or sealable plastic tubs (the kind daily medication can be put into work great) then hide all the rest of the food. Leave enough meals for 3-4 meals across your 2 week absence. You'll be pleasantly surprised that your tank will be clean, your fish alive, and your fish-sitter without a sad face when you get home!>
Guess I’ll just have to convince her that this is real easy - and leave plenty of prepared water. Elaine
<Feed minimally, and she can skip water changes for two weeks. Unless she's a fishkeeper herself, she's likely to make a mess. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: No rush question - pH slowly rising in Betta tank      6/20/16
Thank you very much. I feel better about our Betta's survival chances during our trip after your advice about feeding. Ting Krit is a complete pig, like most healthy, happy Bettas, I guess (although so far he will only eat pellets; turns his nose up at the brine shrimp treat I tried to give him). I will make sure he is not overfed in our absence.
The tank is well cycled for almost 4 months and completely stable on everything except that niggling pH rise so it should hold for our 2-week trip in the absence of overfeeding based on the information you provided. I will start slowly adding the sodium bicarbonate this week and see if I can stabilize the tank’s pH before we leave. I checked GH and KH this morning - GH had risen slightly and KH had fallen slightly.
<If KH drops, that means there's acidification using it up. That the GH has increased would support that, implying new salts are being created.>
Looks like time for some additional buffers.
<Seems so.>
As always, WetWebMedia Crew has helped me with the information I needed. Thanks, Neale, to you and the rest of the crew for all the assistance you provide to us fish lovers without as much knowledge as you. Elaine
<Glad to help, and good luck! Neale.>

Re: No rush question - pH slowly rising in Betta tank - EEK, big rise after sodium bicarbonate treatment     12/24/16
After our last exchange about the slowly rising pH in my aquarium (with very low KH reading), I decided to follow your suggestion and add the sodium bicarbonate - in the form of baking soda - to the aquarium to increase the KH. I didn’t want to just dump it into the aquarium without knowing what would happen, so I dissolved enough for my 5.5-gallon tank in a 1-gallon “water change” container first.
I put in 1/2 teaspoon - the 1/10 teaspoon per gallon you had suggested since my tank actually holds about 5 gallons.
<No. Don't do it this way. Add only enough for the water being changed. Not the whole tank. So if you're changing 1 gallon, add enough for 1 gallon, i.e., 1/10th a teaspoon.>
The pH immediately went to 8.5.
<It would do. That's a lot of sodium bicarbonate.>
I didn’t want to dump that in the aquarium which was at about 7.4 at the time, so I used API pH down to get it down to 7.4.
<Why not just pour out half the water from the bucket, add fresh, and see what happens to the pH? Sodium bicarbonate is very cheap, and with these tiny amounts, you can experiment.>
Today, I did a water change and added the gallon treated with the baking soda. By today, the pH in the aquarium was up to 7.5. (My aquarium has been steadily rising .2 per week for 3 weeks, never more than .1 in 24 hours.) The gallon I added was reading a steady 7.4 for 2 days so I thought this would work. I kept a close eye on my Betta and he seemed his normal active, healthy self (always wanting to be fed and building a nice bubble nest). Tonight after I fed him, I did my normal check on pH. It read 8.4. I retested to make sure it wasn’t a bad reading and got 8.3. I double checked my meter by using the API drop test for pH and it was consistent with the meter reading - at least above the 7.6 that is the top of the API chart. Uh oh. Big pH increase in the 7 hours between 2 pm and 9 pm. I was frantic.
<I would be, too.>
I know that fluctuations, not absolute reading is the biggest problem, so I didn’t want to do anything to cause another drastic change. I did another water change with another gallon which had been sitting for several days at 7.4. (This last change had 1/10 teaspoon of baking soda in it.) I figured that was the most gentle way to treat this. I took another pH reading and it was down to 8. I checked GH and KH to see what they were doing. Sunday the KH had barely been reading - probably under 17.9 ppm. It is now reading right between drops on the API drop test, 89.5 to 107.4. The GH on Sunday had read 143.2. It is only slightly higher now - it only took one more drop with the API drop test which won’t give me precise readings between drops. So more than the 143.2 on Sunday, but no more than 161.1. So, I don’t think I’m stressing the Betta with big changes in GH. The only problem is that really big pH jump when I added the fresh water with baking soda. I don’t want to keep making changes which may do no good and just stress the fish. I’m figuring at this point I just monitor the pH closely and continue to make frequent water changes to lower it slowly. Any other ideas? (I don’t think you need this data, but my ammonia readings are consistently 0, nitrite 0, and nitrate about 10 ppm.)
<See above. The aim was/is to make a bucket of slightly hardened water, do the water change with that, and gradually, over the weekly water changes, raise the carbonate hardness. Again, to stress: my goal is/was to add a little sodium bicarbonate to the bucket of water, test that it make sure it's sensible for your fish, and then add that to the tank. At no time would I recommend adding chemicals sufficient to change ALL the water in the tank at once. That would be stressful. Let me repeat a third time: add a tiny (1/10th tsp) quantity of sodium bicarbonate to 1 gallon water; test the KH and pH; if these are sensible, then use this water; if not sensible, remove some water, add some fresh tap water, and test again. Don't add anything to the tank you think is "too hard" or "too alkaline". Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>
Re: No rush question - pH slowly rising in Betta tank - EEK, big rise after sodium bicarbonate treatment     12/24/16

I understand and will follow your instructions, except the bit about using 1/10 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate per gallon in the water I use for changes so that the entire aquarium is at that proportion eventually. The aquarium water WAS 1/10 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate per gallon - total tank - when I added the 1 gallon yesterday with enough dissolved (1/2 teaspoon) to bring entire aquarium to 1/10 teaspoon per gallon.
<This is where you going wrong. This is a 5-gallon tank, right? And let's assume we're sticking with 0.1 tsp per US gallon. So total would be 5 x 0.1 = 0.5 = half a teaspoon. But DO NOT add this much!!! Let's assume your tank starts off with no sodium carbonate. You take 1 gallon out. You draw 1 gallon of tap water into a bucket. You add 1/10 tsp sodium bicarbonate to this. Dissolve. Add to aquarium. Wait a week. Do another water change. Remove 1 gal; draw 1 gal new tap water; add 1/10th tsp sodium bicarbonate. Repeat for the rest of time. Make sense? Never, EVER add enough buffer salts for the whole aquarium during one water change. The aim is to make slow, incremental changes.>
I checked KH in the aquarium when it went way up, and in a gallon of water to which I added 1/10 teaspoon sodium bicarbonate - same KH - and both with pH over 8. It is obviously too much - made pH way too high.
<Can be; hence the need to experiment. Try filling a bucket with 2 gallons water, add 1/10th tsp (i.e., 1/20th per US gallon total). Dissolve. Measure hardness and pH. See what you get. If it's better, make a note of how much you used, and use that amount instead. Because sodium bicarbonate is so cheap, this approach isn't really going to waste that much money. Pennies a year.>
So I don’t think that water with that much sodium bicarbonate will work for the water changes if I expect to have any impact on the pH or the concentrate of sodium bicarbonate. I think I need less sodium bicarbonate, even though I know that lowers KH and makes pH less stable. But 1/10 teaspoon is clearly just too much in this water unless I want to maintain this pH of more than 8.
<See above.>
I’m now adding water with NO sodium bicarbonate to bring down the pH - and to dilute the amount of sodium bicarbonate in the aquarium (mixing it first with some water removed from tank to keep the pH difference of the water I add from being too big and stressing my Betta again - it doesn’t take too much of the tank water because of the high KH, high sodium bicarbonate concentration, in the aquarium).
<Do small water changes each day and your fish won't be stressed.>
When I get this down to a lower pH, I will start using water which has a small amount of sodium bicarbonate to maintain KH as best I can. My RO water starts out under 6.0.
<Which is very low. My concern is actually hardness and pH stability. Bettas are fine at a stable pH 6.0. But an unstable pH that low can quickly cause problems, and besides, very low pH levels affect biological filtration as well, so aren't ideal.>
I can add slight amount of sodium bicarbonate to get it up to about 7.0 - but it will be significantly less than 1/10 teaspoon per gallon I can tell from my experience now.
<Yes; this exactly!>
I will follow your suggestion and change out 10% to 25% per day of the water, no more. I did 10% this morning and will probably do another 10% tonight. The pH is back up to 8.2 after this morning’s water change fully circulated through the aquarium. I don’t think there is any possibility of changing pH more than 0.2 per day - probably it will be less, so it shouldn’t give him a shock again if I keep mixing the new water with the tank water before I add it. Does this sound correct or am I misunderstanding you in some way?
<Seems about right to me.>
Thank you for your help. Elaine
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: No rush question - pH slowly rising in Betta tank - EEK, big rise after sodium bicarbonate treatment     12/24/16

It’s clear. I misunderstood you and made a big goof. I have caused a huge pH fluctuation for my fish - probably great deal of stress - and if I had understood correctly this would not have happened. Now, the question is, how to remedy the mistake.
<Do nothing quickly.>
Since he survived the huge pH jump and acts healthy - swimming, active, no gulping at the surface, etc. - I don’t think another huge pH change down would be good. Seems slow correction is better.
<Correct. Even changes to the better should be done slowly. No more than, say, 10-25% volume of the tank per day.>
This morning his tank read 8.3 on pH. I did a 1/2 gallon water change with just RO water treated with Replenish, mixing it with some of the water I removed from the tank so the pH difference would be less.
<Yes, it would be.>
I took a pH reading right after that and it read 8.1.
<As KH drops, pH should drop too; but at the same time pH instability will increase. I would be doing small water changes, each time the new water being made up with 1/10th tsp sodium bicarbonate per 1 gallon. So ultimately the tank water has that ratio of sodium bicarbonate to water.>
I’ll check later to make sure what’s happening. My plan is to continue daily, or twice daily, small changes to gradually reduce the pH by no more than .2 per day. Does that sound like the best course to correct my major mistake? Elaine
<Pretty much. See above. I don't think you can change "0.2 pH per day" because the scale is logarithmic, not linear, and there isn't an easy relationship between pH and dissolved sodium bicarbonate. Cheers, Neale.>

Fwd: No rush question - pH slowly rising in Betta tank - EEK, big rise after sodium bicarbonate treatment - ADD       12/25/16
I know that big pH change last night was NOT a good idea for our Betta. But the darn little guy has created another nice bubble nest today since I did this morning’s water change and seems completely unaware that he should be stressed! No gulping at the surface as our first Betta did if the pH went up. No sign of gill irritation. Still just as active and hungry as ever. Maybe I got lucky. He’s a young (about 4-month-old) plakat, a Thai import. Elaine
<This all sounds very positive. I'd just leave things be this weekend, and carry out normal weekly water changes hereafter, with a tiny amount of sodium bicarbonate added to provide buffering; as discussed previously, enough sodium bicarbonate for that bucket of water, not the whole tank. Cheers, Neale.>

Persistently high water pH; Betta sys.      11/16/16
<Hi Elaine.>
I have been struggling to keep Betta alive, with limited success. My second died last week. I have a 5-gallon, filtered, heated tank. Chemical readings at zero ammonia, zero nitrite and about 5 ppm nitrate. Temperature maintained at about 78 (little fluctuation).
<Good so far...>
I foolishly used water that had been through our water softener and suspect that may have killed the last fish – not sure. The other possible reason is that our water pH is just too high for Betta. I tried to do more water testing. When our well was drilled, it tested general hardness at 29. (It was also tested at that time, and again a few years ago, for chemical and bacteria harmful to humans – it was fine for us, but not sure about fish because I can't find those lab reports. Only way to get a lab test is mail it to the closest lab a few hundred miles away and pay a substantial amount – if I have to, I will.) We now have a pH meter calibrated and get pH reading of 8.7, as did nearest aquarium store.
<8.7? I wish I could maintain that for my little reef tank ;) OK there are various ways to bring down pH, used by people who want to keep things like discus and other "softer water" species. Check WWM for info on that. It seems like you are using "liquid rock" well water like a lot of mountain areas get. A good rule of thumb is that if you drink it, then it's ok for general aquarium use. Any way you look at it, I am in agreement that the pH is the problem. Side note- check into your tank decor, it's not impossible that you have something in there that is messing with the water, although I doubt it.
Down to brass tacks here. Your tank water has most likely fluctuated dramatically in a short time. A very small tank will swing dangerously with what seems to be a minimal change. Maintaining a steady temperature like you do is an excellent practice and challenge due to this. One more reason to have the biggest tank you can. I recommend taking a second look, and taking measurements of space available, trying to upgrading to a 10g if you possibly can do so. A larger tank may not have a much larger footprint that you'd expect...a couple inches. Betta are not especially picky about pH but they do need it *stable* above all. Drip acclimate them over an hour or so when introducing them. Your goal is for close to neutral pH. Try to find out what the readings are in the store the fish has been living in. Moving it from a 7.2 tank to an 8.0 tank is a death sentence. Also, as standard practice, if your LFS is lacking, be a little pushy if you have to. Then order online. There are far too many excellent retailers who can ship you a healthy fish for a reasonable price especially compared to the cost of shipping out water for testing, etc.. And they will be more communicative.>
Even with 50% - or 75% - distilled water, we're not having any luck bringing it down, not sure why. I didn't tell the aquarium store - because the guy is obnoxious and insisted that we’d kill a Betta by mixing in distilled water - but the water he tested was 50% distilled which had sat for 36 hours, and it was still 8.7. Is there a way to bring down the pH which is safe for Betta? Should I give up on Betta and try a species that can tolerate our high pH? I'm limited to a small 5-gallon tank because there is no place for a larger tank where our 3 large cats won't go fishing – and they are Maine Coons quite capable of removing tank lids. So I'm not sure what species are feasible – and I would prefer another Betta. But, I do not want to kill another one. Perhaps buy jugs of drinking water and use it in the aquarium?
<Water "softeners" as we call them may involve salt, so there's that. Back to the stability thing though. Controlling the water with additives and such is not as good long term as adjusting the *fish* to what will be its conditions. Long story short (too late!) I'd personally probably just buy bottled spring water (not distilled), dechlorinate it simply by leaving it open overnight, and have this set up, heated and ready to go before introducing a new fish.
Please check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/bettasysart.htm and please use the site's built-in search, there's a lot of stuff about these nifty fish so always read these articles first. The F.A.Q.s are obviously very involved and can be a bit daunting, but a simple CTRL-F for your issue will help point you to what you need. Best, Earl C. >
Re: Persistently high water pH     11/16/16

Many thanks. I'd tried site research first but your email was more useful. I'll check on larger tank but I only have just over 2 inches to spare on width and 3 inches in height. It's tight now. The pH readings were from the well, not the aquarium. I just checked aquarium and it was over 9, but I'd doctored it with ammonia to keep cycle going and that probably skewed it. I'll check when it cycles back to zero ammonia in the morning. With fish in, not big jolts of ammonia, ammonia stays at zero. I had already removed some aquarium gravel to a bowl with 8.7 pH water to see if it affects it. So, I'll check on larger tank and bottled spring water, finish testing on gravel from tank. - and keep close eye on aquarium pH. I've found an online seller here in Texas who sounds promising when I get issue resolved. Our well is through limestone (former sea reef) and dolomite with large reservoir in dolomite - yes it would do well for reef tank!
<Sounds good. Probably worthwhile to call the seller and ask about your concerns as well. Ideally they are keeping their Bettas in similar water to what you have, knock on wood. Your game plan seems solid. Let us know how it goes! -Earl C.>
Re: Persistently high water pH (RMF, Plus back to Earl)      11/16/16

I’m so sorry to take so much of your time with my high pH questions. I can’t get a larger tank, but I can use spring water instead of our very high pH tap water - problem solved, right? WRONG. The aquarium water itself tests about 9.3 or 9.4 - significantly higher than the 8.5 tap mixed with 50% distilled.
<Please.... Simply READ here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm
and the linked files above. You might well want to consider an RO device for your fishes/aquarium and potable uses...
Bob Fenner>
So I started trying to figure out if I had a problem with something in the tank. Most likely culprit seemed the gravel, even though it was intended for an aquarium. I put some gravel from the aquarium into a small bowl of distilled water and the pH went up from 7.0 to above 7.5 (still under 8.0). Ok, I think. That’s an issue although I still don’t understand the 9.4 aquarium water; I’ll just have to remove all the gravel. Then, the light bulb went on in my head this morning. The water in the tank is such a high pH because I was using 100% tap water until very recently and only 25% water changes since I made the change to add 50% distilled water to the changes. That water in the aquarium is still over 50% tap, I think - I’ll need to do a 100% change. Also, as I know from my cat water bowls, our faucets, etc, our water leaves deposits. Almost every thing in that tank has been in there since July (more than 4 months) so there’s a good chance the water left deposits on it, further raising the pH. I cleaned a handful of gravel from the aquarium very well in distilled water - a soak and 3 or 4 rinses in distilled water. Aha! It doesn’t affect the pH of the distilled water if it has been well rinsed. So, rinse the gravel and everything else in the aquarium as well as 100% water change. But . . . I have all that wonderful bacteria I took weeks to get established which is doing a great job of converting ammonia and nitrites. I don’t want to lose that good bacteria. I know your site says to usually rinse items from the aquarium in the water removed from the aquarium to preserve the bacteria - but that water is pH 9.4 or higher. Here’s my thought: I have a very large foam filter in the aquarium, about 4.5 inches in diameter and the same height. It has to be full of good bacteria by now. If I rinse everything EXCEPT the filter in spring water, rinse the filter in the water removed from the aquarium and squeeze it out most of the way, then return it to the fresh water, I hope that will leave me enough good bacteria while removing enough of the high pH water and its deposits. Does that sound workable? I don’t want to start over on building the bacteria colonies, but I need to remove the high pH water and its deposits as much as feasible. Elaine
Re: Persistently high water pH     11/17/16

Sorry to have bothered you.
<Not a bother; and have sent your ongoing corr. to Earl for his further input. Stay tuned. BobF>
I actually had “simply read" the entire page you sent by your link before I sent my first message to you because I had researched pH on your site to see if I could avoid bothering you at all I know that you are busy with people with ill fish and your site is a real blessing. From reading that page you linked, it really sounded like I should give up on Betta and find some other species for my tank due to our water. I stated that in my first email and asked for advice on feasible species, even though I would prefer a Betta. The response from Earl C. - first email below - seemed to indicate a Betta might be possible with spring water and careful monitoring. So I was trying to set that up. Really, I do read the material on your site before emailing and I do read any links I am sent. I guess I’ll keep fumbling along and do my best not to kill any more fish. I do not need an RO unit for potable water. Our water creates no health risks for humans. Most of my family lives to past 90 drinking the well water from these limestone hills. Perhaps I need one in order to keep one little fish. I’ll look at cost. Elaine
Supplementing RO Water   11/18/16

I'm sure the answer to this is probably on your site somewhere, but my internet is out till who knows when (joy of rural life) and I've spent the last 2 hours squinting at a 4-inch iPhone screen trying to research. I'm giving up and writing - sorry. After a long and useful exchange with you about my well water problems, I convinced a local aquarium store to sell me RO water at 25 cents a gallon if I bring in containers.
<A good deal... much cheaper than elsewhere.>
I asked them about necessary additives to keep a Betta healthy and they told me that they never add anything for any of their fish.
<Mmm; I would NOT keep any aquatic life in straight RO>
Since these are the same folks who were convinced I'd kill a Betta by mixing ANY distilled water with my well water because I'd mess up the electrolytes, I think they have a misunderstanding about RO and DI water.
Either that or this water isn't really RO - but that certainly looked like a very large RO unit. Can you advise me? I have seen SeaChem products recommended, such as SeaChem Replenish. Elaine
<This is an excellent choice. I'd add, mix, and use. Bob Fenner>

Just a few aquarium questions... <20 some Megs...>; residual NH3, U1 zots, Crypt melt, moving pH    8/7/16
Please re-size and re-send all... Your files are more than an order of magnitude too large.
Re: Just a few aquarium questions...   8/7/16

Yikes...I was wondering why they were taking so long to upload, didn't even notice they were that big.
Resized in PS, hope this is a little better!
<Yes; now just need you to delete the carats (<<<<) in the text below and re-send. BobF>
re: Just a few aquarium questions...   8/7/16

<Oh, found the original text here>
Hello crew! I just started up my old aquarium and I have a fair amount of questions about water quality, some of my old plants, etc.
My tank is a 10 gallon. Started it up a little over 2 months ago, let it cycle through, and added a single Betta after the cycle was finished.
The parameters are
pH: 7.5

nitrates: 0
nitrites: 0
ammonia: .12? (it's not exactly at 0 and not at .25 on the test kit, so I'm
assuming it's right in the middle)
<Toxic; and am wondering wherefore/why the residual ammonia here?
temp: between 74-78 degrees
My first question is about the ammonia. Both in the past and currently, I cannot keep the ammonia at 0 for the life of me because my tap water has a small amount of it.
<This should cycle through though... And you should eliminate w/ water conditioner use ahead of placing it in the tank>
It's not at a terribly dangerous level but it's enough to be worrying,
I've tried using ammonia-removing products, including prime, on the water I store away for water changes, but the ammonia tests as 0 and then has a huge spike occurs a few days later. Is there any way to get it down and stay down?
<Yes... a few ways. Let's have you review here (as I/we have no way of knowing what you already know
and the linked files above>
My second question is about this strange white and brown stuff growing on my driftwood. I'll attach some pictures, some of them I couldn't get to focus but I hope they're good enough. There are brown chunks of what looks like fish feces or a kind of fungus, mostly on the bottom half of the driftwood. It's kind of tough to remove so I had to scrub it off with a
toothbrush, but it just comes back anyway. Along with that are white specs, mostly on the top of the driftwood.
<This appears to be bits of decomposition... the wood, likely food, feces>

I can't tell you how many pages I've checked trying to find out what these are. The only answers I come back
with are black beard algae/brown string algae and white fungus/Nerite snail eggs, but whatever's on my driftwood doesn't look like any of those. The white specs even look like they're starting to spread to one of my crypts.
My Betta seems to be unaffected by either of them, but I've had a baby Bristlenose in a hospital tank and I wanted to move him in soon. I'm worried that this stuff could make him sick if he eats it. Any ideas what either of them are?
<As stated... you might benefit from more circulation, filtration here>
Third question is about the crypts (also in the pictures) I was growing them in a large bowl for a while and they were doing very well with API leafzone and some natural sunlight. They shot out very nice, healthy green leaves, but when I transferred them to the tank, they started turning a reddish brown and getting ruffles. I read that this happened to a few
other people that changed the way they were fertilizing their tank, though they stated that they were still very healthy. Mine are kind of getting this weird translucent reddish-brown look and a couple of the leaves have completely melted, but the leaves had been bright green and strong before.
<Crypts are susceptible to this sort of decomp. under stressful and varying conditions>

I have an LED light strip but others have been able to keep crypts just fine with them. Is there another reason they're not doing as well?
<Can't tell w/ the data provided. There may well be a nutrient deficiency going on here... N, P, K, Fe....>
My final question (phew) is about the pH. It's always been at 7.5 (or higher, not sure if it even shows up on the test kit..) I want to lower it to around 6.8 or 7,
<I would NOT do this. Leave it as it is... will drop a bit in time. See WWM re pH and Alkalinity for a bit of background>
but just like the ammonia, I've tried two or three pH altering products and they drop the pH rapidly and spike it a few days later.
<... yes... alkaline reserve is buffering it back up. Common >
I was thinking I could try Indian almond leaves or wood, but they would release a lot of tannins and I'm not sure if it would add to the ammonia or not. Have tried adding distilled water as well and there is no affect (but I do have 20 empty gallon jugs laying around) Do you have other suggestions of how to lower it safely?
<Time going by is the very best. Don't fuss w/ pH here, period. 7.5 is fine for what you have livestock wise>
I'm very sorry this is so long, I was debating on whether I should divvy the questions up into different emails but I thought it might be more troublesome to get them each separately. But I thank you very much for your services. I always go to this site first if I'm having any problems and it has been extremely helpful and informative! I greatly appreciate any answers and advice you can offer.
<Glad to be (hopefully) of assistance. Please DO write back if all is not clear here after reading. Bob Fenner>

Daily ph fluctuation.      1/17/15
Dear WWM Crew,
<Hey Bill>
My FW community, ~280 US gal system (240 DT, 40 sump) has softish water, with a highish PH. My concern is that within a single day the ph varies by about 0.2 units; however I have seen occasional 24 hour variations of
greater than 0.3.
I use a Pinpoint ph monitor (always in the tank), which shows the ph centered around 7.1, but it will go as high as 7.2, and as low as 6.9, again, this is all within 24 hours, pretty much every day.
<Mmm; well; photosynthesis can/could drive the pH thus diurnally...>
While the pinpoint says 7.1, API liquid tests put the Ph higher, at about 7.4. The Api tests are always 0.3 higher, regardless of what the actual values are. My concern is the fluctuations, not the ph itself.
<Understood; and agreed>
I am diligent at water changes, 10% (~30 gal) every evening at 9pm.
<Wow! I do these once/week>
Tap water Ph is generally in the 7.2 range, and I condition with Seachem Prime. I shut off pumps, remove 30g from sump, drip in 5ml of Prime, add 30g of temp matched tap water (so I am using some water heated by the house plumbing). Let is sit for 3-4 minutes, the turn pumps back on. Perhaps of importance, the 8 ft long tank sits in front of a 2 ft, south facing window.
<Yes; important. Had read over before making the statement above>

It gets a couple of hours of direct morning sun in winter. In summer, high sun along with a dense outdoor foliage provide shade from direct sun.
Where direct sun hits, I have to clean algae every 2-3 weeks. The rest of the tank has minimal algae accumulation.
To stabilize ph I am considering adding a low level dosage of Neal's Rift lake salt mixture. My goal is to stabilize the ph, but I do not want to raise the ph.
<Mmm; I wouldn't add anything here; nor change your maintenance regimen>
should I attempt to stablize the ph?
<I would not. Not worthwhile; and could be dangerous>
Or is such variation w/in 24 hrs normal?
<Not unheard of>

Should I use the recipe provided by Neal, including the sodium bicarbonate, even though I don't want to raise the ph? Or would using only epson salt suffice, since Neal's article says it has little effect on ph, but raises hardness.
<You could try a bit of MgSO4 if you'd like; again, I would not obsess here>
Thanks so much for this great resource, and let me know if you have any suggestions.
Bill M.
Parameters are as follows:
Ph- 6.9 - 7.2
Kh- 53.7 ppm (3 drops using api test)
GH- 89.5 ppm (5 drops using api test)
Ammonia- 0
Nitrite- 0
Nitrate- ~20-30
Temp- 77 F
Sump/pump turnover 1900 gph (measured)
No live plants
Minimal algae growth
Tank has been running for 2 years
Current stock, all full grown:
5 boesemanni rainbow
6 Congo tetra
3 roseline barbs
4 Angels (all female)
3 pearl gourami
2 kribensis
5 Celebes halfbeaks
6 peppered Cory
4 Botia striata
3 Syno multipunctatus (3-4" each, bred and grown in ph 7.0 at LFS)
1 Ancistrus albino
1 Sturisoma panamense
1 rainbow shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum)
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Daily ph fluctuation.      1/17/15

Bob, as always, thank you. If I may add some detail... I seem to have some chronic columnaris(?) manifesting as mouth threading on the rainbows and half beaks.
Then one rainbow developed a clear bacterial infection on its side, lower half--looks like missing scales about an inch in diameter, no thread or tufts (now in quarantine, Kanamycin, furan 2 cocktail not helping). In the main tank, I have tried using 3/4 dose of ParaGuard to deal w the threading,
<This fine SeaChem product really is only useful for/against some Protozoan parasites... not bacteria, true fungus, worms or crustaceans...>

which knocks it back, but then it returns again. My questions were motivated by wondering if these daily ph fluctuations could be weakening immunity thereby causing the chronic threading.
<It is possible there is a link here
. As you're open to suggestion, and appear a reasonable person, I will state that if it were me, mine, given what you state, I'd try adding (indefinitely for now) a "teaspoon" of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate... Arm & Hammer) along with your water changes... mix it in the new water>
Sorry for the long email, and thanks again.,
<Welcome. BobF>
Re: Daily ph fluctuation.      1/17/15
1 tsp baking soda per 30 gal of new water. I will give it a try and monitor ph.
Thank you.
<This likely won't be noticeably elevated, but your diurnal fluctuation will be depressed/suppressed (?) within a week or so... Cheers, B>
Re: Daily ph fluctuation.    1/20/15

Hi Bob, I followed your recommendation on 1 tsp baking soda w a 30 g water change. The ph increased to 7.26 (pinpoint monitor), and held nicely steady, varying only +/- a couple of hundredths through 24 hours.
Excellent. My next water change I did a half-tsp baking soda, not wanting the ph to go any higher. The ph locked in at 7.15. Also excellent.
<Ah yes>
I wake up this morning, ph 7.15, but the water is tannin stained. I should have mentioned the other day that I have a fair sized piece of driftwood in there, for 2 years since the tank's inception.
<Mmm; well... If the color doesn't "bug" you; it's likely not of consequence to your livestock>
The wood is 'regular', not Mopani anything, and it measures about 24" x 10". Fish are completely normal and 'happy', so I am not worried--and at first blush, it seems the threading has retreated a bit.
<Ah yes; it should go. Not to be disingenuous, or mysterious... we could chat over the effects here of adding the sodium bicarb.>
So, is it possible that the baking soda has caused the tannins to leach?
Thanks so much!!!--Bill
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Sudden ph drop       12/31/14
Our tap water since we moved here to Upstate NY has always has been 8.2 with the api tester.
<About what our "liquid rock" tap is here in San Diego; not a fan of API's cheapy colorimetric kits>
I noticed in the past couple weeks the water tasting kinda metallic.
<Yikes... I strongly encourage you to get/use an RO device for your potable means; AND I'd be calling re your water quality... look for the contact info. on your water bill.>
Anyway one of the angelfish was found dead this morning. I tested the ph and it came out 7.8. Just wondering if that would be enough of a drop to kill freshwater angels? Thank you
<Could be; depending on what the actual cause of the pH drop is here... the negative log (base ten) of hydrogen ion concentration... a move of 0.4 point is huge... and if brought about by some acid additions like the reductant H2S...
Bob Fenner>

pH spike in freshwater tank on well water     12/25/14
Merry Christmas! I have a 400 gal. holding tank (catfish, tilapia eventually) that I've just constructed with inert materials (fiberglass, pvc, polyethylene) and have dechlorinated my supply water (from a MUD well) through carbon before entering tank. MUD says they do not use chloramine or buffers, but we have a chloramine removal tower anyway. Supply water enters tank at pH of 7.7 and rises to 8.8 in 10-12 hours of circulation/aeration.
There are no animals in the system yet. Samples from nearby tap act the same with aeration. Hardness around 75, alkalinity around 300, TDS around 400, and pH has been tested via strips, colorimetry, and pH meter. Water is from a well located in far SE Texas and sodium approaches 400 mg/l as listed in their annual water quality report. Buffers such as API Proper 7.0
have a short-term effect (1 hour), and muriatic acid 3-4 hours, but the pH always spikes back up. System runs normally at 60 gpm, but this occurs at slower flow/aeration rates as well. Any ideas as to what may cause this?
Thank You!
<Dissolved CO2 is the commonest cause for these rapid pH rises. Under pressure and/or at low temperatures the water holds more CO2, but once drawn from the tap, the water pressure drops and the temperature rises, causing CO2 to be released. Without the dissolved CO2 (which produces carbonic acid) there is less acidity to neutralise the alkalinity in the
water, so the pH rises. This is very similar to the daily pH changes by day and night seen in ponds, where photosynthesis (which uses up CO2) causes pH rises and when photosynthesis stops (allowing dissolved CO2 to accumulate) the pH goes down. There's no fix as such, but you can draw the water, let it sit/aerate for a time, and then use it after the pH has stabilised.
Alternatively, if you make just small water changes (say, 10-15% at a time) then the bulk of the water in the aquarium will minimise the impact of the relatively acidic (lower pH) water added straight from the tap. Most fishes can handle minor pH changes quite well provided ambient hardness and alkalinity are relatively stable (obviously, Goldfish and Koi have to
tolerate this in ponds, as do most fish in densely planted shallow water habitats). Merry Christmas to you too, Neale.>
Re: pH spike in freshwater tank on well water

Quite impressive response time, especially on a holiday! Thanks!
<Most welcome. Neale.> 

Neale/Bob on pH, reduction of alkalinity through adding acids     5/29/14
<Which changes the pH but not the hardness.>
<<Actually... the addition of acids nicks away at hardness... and the buffers that ARE registered as, are actual hardness>>
<<<Hi Bob. I should have been clearer. Acid plus alkali makes salt plus water, as you know. So adding acid will neutralise the dissolved alkaline substances (the carbonate hardness, usually). But the produced salts remain dissolved (usually) in the water, raising the effectively non-buffering general hardness and presumably not changing the osmotic pressure much/at all. Since it's osmotic pressure that affects the health of soft water fish, and the aim of softening water is to produce water with less (if I recall correctly) osmotic pressure, neutralizing the alkalinity of (carbonate-rich) hard water has little/no benefit. There's also the risk that by removing the natural buffering salts but without deliberately adding something to buffer the pH at 6.5 or 7 or wherever you want it, the resulting mineral-rich but buffer-poor water will experience rapid pH changes (drops) between water changes. In short, adding acids to hard water doesn't produce useful soft water, even if it does lower the pH. Hmm...
what's the best marine aquarium parallel...? Maybe confusion between specific gravity and salinity. While the one is related to the other, they're not synonyms, and focusing on the specific gravity alone can lead
to all sorts of misunderstandings about marine chemistry. You could surely create a glucose solution with a specific gravity of 1.025 at 25 C, but it wouldn't be seawater! Cheers, Neale.>>>

Stocking question - 55 gal, FW, and fluctuating pH concern      6/7/13
Hello!  My dad turned me on to WWM and now we are both avid browsers and have found a lot of fantastic information on this site; thank you very much!
<Welcome Erin>
I am setting up a new tank: 55gal (48-1/4"L x 12-3/4"W x 20-13/16"H); HOB filter; consistent 76 degrees; ammonia 0; nitrite 0; nitrate >5.0ppm; pH is either 7.4 (high pH test) or 7.6 (low pH test).  I was having problems with the pH dropping to 6.0 suddenly but a small bag of crushed coral in the HOB filter is keeping the pH level steady.  I have two small airstones, several live plants, a couple plastic plants, some cholla branches, and there is also a large black decorative rock and several smaller matching rocks from our local plant nursery.
<Am concerned (enough to mention) re the Cholla (jumping cactus skeletons?)
and rocks... that these may be the root cause of your pH drops... I'd take out, boil them or place them separately in some boiled/hot freshwater...
let soak for a few hours and test the pH of the soak water>
 The substrate is a medium size pea gravel across approx. 2/3 of the tank and white sand in the other 1/3 of the tank. The tank has been set up and running for about 5.5 months.
<With you so far>
Both my dad and I have read many articles on stocking but thought maybe you could assist with some personal advice. I started the tank with 22 white cloud tetras and they made it through the entire cycle process however I lost all but 5 of them with the pH crashes.  The tank currently is home to: 2 pearl gourami's, 1 bristle nose Pleco, 5 speckled Cory cats, the 5 remaining white cloud tetras, 2 glow lite tetras and one neon tetra (foster fish from another tank). My LFS will take on the 8 tetras but the other fish are staying in the tank.  I would like to add at least 2 more pearl gourami's and 1-2 more bristle nose Plecos.  I am wondering how many Plecos are ideal
<Depending on the species, Ancistrus and related "Plecos"/Loricariids can be friendly to testy with each other... I use just one in this size tank (for function, not looks only), but likely two or even three will co-exist.
Just keep your eyes on for early evening, coming out tussling.>
 and if I have enough room for the 2 additional gourami's.
<These should fit here nicely>
 Is there a small size, mellow schooling fish that could be added to the tank that will not be too active for the gourami's?
<Ah yes... I really like the genus Hyphessobrycon... see the Net, WWM re...  and there are many others>
 And of course, is there room?!?
<Ah yes>
Thank you again all for all your expertise and advice; this site is one of the few available for us to find reliable information!
<Glad to share with you, your father, all. Bob Fenner>

PH Problem? FW   4/8/13
I love your site!  I have a question about ph and I have searched for hours for something similar to no avail.  So, I have a 55 gallon tank with 7 medium angelfish (who may be starting to pair off!), 1 full grown swordtail and 3 mini (stunted from small grow out tank I am guessing) swordtails.  I have some java moss, medium amount of Rotala, and a few stems of hornwort (plants are actually fighting hair and some other type of bushy algae that I still have to figure out that problem).
<Do see WWM re... only a few inputs, a similarly numbered counters>
  I do weekly 25% water changes with vacuuming.
<Good; tis what I do as well>
 I have a HOB with BioWheel and an Eheim canister. The fish seem pretty healthy, the angels I have only had for a few months but the swordtails have been in there for a year or two and have babies every now and then. 
My question is, why after a water change, why do a few of my fish surface breath?
<Mmm, could be a few things... an introduction of carbon dioxide or other gas/ses... Possibly either the sanitizer or your addition of chemicals to neutralize this>
 I have read that maybe its due to ph difference from tank to tap.
<Mmm, possibly>
 Which, I tested and the tank PH is at 8.0
<Well; this is high for Pterophyllum/Angels, but fine for the Swords and the plants you list>
and the tap was hard to tell because it didn't match any of the colors on the chart but it was higher for sure and the card went to 8.8.
<... Very high for source water. Please do the following experiment for me:
Fill a glass with new tapwater, allow it to set, and measure the pH over time... every few hours. >
 So, if it is the PH difference what should I do, if anything I guess..
<The simplest "thing to do", if, as I suspect your tap pH will "settle down" with time, is to just store the new/make-up water in a container for later use (days, even a week is a good idea). Additionally, knowing what is making the pH this high would be helpful, but I would likely get/use a home reverse osmosis unit (which I do as well) for mixing/blending your pet fish waters... and some of your domestic uses (e.g. tea/coffee making)>
after a short while the fish are fine.  The tank is over 7 years old and I have always done the same maintenance routine, but just recently became aware of the PH difference.  I pretty much never test my water but am having behavioral issues with my goldfish so tested that rank, which prompted a look see at the other tanks.
Thank you sooooo much for your answers and for keeping up the site! 
<Ahh, "the little sweet one"... Not to be mysterious, I suspect that there are aspects of your source/mains/tap water that transiently elevate pH (and possibly have other effects)... that can be easily avoided by storing your make-up water. As mentioned, you and your captive aquatic life may also benefit from mixing RO water. Bob Fenner>
Re: PH Problem?   4/10/13

Thanks for your speedy reply!!!!
I did the test that you suggested.  My results are that the water ph stayed the same for hours raised higher, then went back to the same this morning when I tested...  not at all what I expected it to do.  I will start looking into the RO system to see how much it is.. or go back to balas and swordtails... Thanks again Bob!
<Ahh, welcome Missy. BobF>

Tank Upgrade - Stocking, Water Chemistry, Compatibility, and More; low pH FW, 20 to 55 gal.  - 12/25/2012
Hi guys,
<Hi Jo, Sabrina with you today.>
I have many questions to ask that are all related to my current "upgrade the overstocked tank to a bigger one" project. I have searched online and on your site but since what I want to ask is quite specific and not general so I haven't found any answers to my myriad of questions - I would be very much obliged if one of you lovely people could answer them for me? :)
<Let's take a look!>
First some background information: I currently have an 80 litre (20 US gallons) planted freshwater tropical tank with a 3 year old 3.5 inch female Opaline gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus), a 3.5 inch false flying fox (Garra cambodgiensis), a 3 year old 6.5 inch iridescent shark (Pangasius hypophthalamus),
<.... much to say on this one, all of it's been said before....>
a 1.5 inch bronze Cory (Corydoras aeneus), and a single 1 inch harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha).
<Both of these are schooling fish....  And holy carp, you were not kidding when you said overstocked, were you??>
The shark was bought by my then-boyfriend (now ex) and was definitely NOT my idea.
<A surprise Pangasiid was very good reason to break up with him; I'd have done the same!  *grin*>
The Cory, Rasbora and garra were given to me by my cousin when her tank cracked - she said she would just flush them otherwise! (Needless to say I was  horrified by the idea so I took them).
<I am glad you did.>
The gourami was actually picked by me and she and the shark are the oldest fish in the tank.
Ph is around 5.5 - 6.0 (it fluctuates with water changes)
<Though that low pH might raise the hackles of most folks, if it's stable (I assume it goes up a tad when you add new water, and stabilizes again very shortly, yes?) then quite frankly, this isn't exactly "bad".  Many of the fish that interest me are only found wild-caught and come from water with very low pH - 4.5-ish even.  Keeping a tank at a relatively stable 5.0 - 5.5 was how I got Betta macrostoma and Sphaerichthys osphromenoides to spawn.  You won't find me frowning at your low pH, AS LONG as you have animals suited to it and can keep it stable.>
Ammonia is always at 0, nitrite always at 0 and nitrate fluctuates but is at 25ppm at the moment.
<High, but not horrific.>
The tank is obviously near impossible to keep pristine due to the overstocking,
<I'm sure.>
hence I've decided to upgrade them to a 210 litre (55 US gallon) aquarium.
I know that even the 210 litre will not be sufficient for the shark in the long run
<It will not.  No tank that fits in an average room in an average home will suffice, in the long run, when this fish grows to be the size of a person.>
(the shop he was bought at wouldn't take him back)
<Ugh.  Any chance you can boycott this shop, and explain to them why you're doing so?  No shop should EVER sell and animal that they won't be willing to take back.  If they have an animal they would not accept being returned to them, then they should NOT sell it in the first place.  Pangasiid catfishes should NOT be in this trade, and clearly the shop knows the growth potential of the animal or they'd take it back.  If you can vote with your dollars on this, and explain to the shop owner why you are unwilling to shop there and where you will shop instead, and what would bring your business back to them, then do so.>
but it is the best I can do short of building an outdoor heated pond (my flat is 2nd floor and I don't think it would take the weight of a tank larger than 210 litres).
<Understandable.  I'll fault that ex of yours, and not you!>
I had a local glass shop that also makes aquariums build the 210 litre for me to custom measurements (43cm tall, 40cm wide, 122cm long) and it is frame-less and unbraced. The shop assured me that due to the thickness of the glass it doesn't require bracing of any kind (glass is 10mm thick on all panels including the bottom) - are they correct?
<I think they are.  I hope that BobF will correct me if I'm wrong on that, but I do think you'll be okay.  Watch the dailies after you receive this reply; hopefully Bob will notice this and include any comments he has when he posts it to the website.>
Or will it pop the long panels due to bowing?
<With glass 1cm thick, I really think this is okay.  I do hope so, for the sake of your downstairs neighbor....>
I haven't tested it yet as I still have a little work to do to ensure the DIY stand I made for it is level - it seems the middle section of the stand's top is about 1-2mm higher than the front and back i.e. slightly curved upwards in the middle  - will this potentially break the tank if filled?
<Could, yes.  Glass tanks - more appropriately, their silicone seams - don't like torsion.  Can you sand this to become more level, and then place a Styrofoam or other sheet between the tank and stand to compensate some?>
I will have the tank (still currently unfilled) on a 1.5cm thick foam pad (the kind of stuff used for yoga mats)
<Ah!  Good.  If that's a neoprene pad, I think it should do well.>
to even out irregularities but should I use something more rigid to level the stand top? If so what should I use?
<Many folks use Styrofoam, but I think what you have will do.>
When I eventually get the stand ready I am planning to "jump-start" the cycle process with filter media from my mature tank. I have an extra sponge filter in there that has been running for a week and I'm planning to take one of the canisters off the main filter (it has 2) in the mature tank and put it in the new tank (connected to the new tank's pump) along with the seeded sponge filter. The purpose of this exercise is so that I can move the 3 largest fish (gourami, shark and garra) over to the new tank instantly (with a proper acclimation of course) without doing a fishless cycle.
<I think you'd be safe to move all at once, honestly, along with all water, substrate, filter media....  You might not even see an ammonia spike at all.>
I will be using a fair amount of plants in the tank, including fast growers like water sprite, Egeria and duckweed to eat up excess ammonia and hopefully reduce the possibility of ammonia/nitrite spikes. Would this work with these fish or will it cause them too much stress from the mini cycle that I assume would then take place?
<All of the fish you have are very sturdy "bulletproof" fish.  All should be fine with this plan.>
Would it be better to go one fish at a time with a week or so in between?
<No, I would do all at once and observe water quality, do water changes if/as necessary.>
If so should I leave the shark until last or move him first?
<As above, all at once will do fine.>
I have successfully upgraded a goldfish from a tiny tank to a much larger one in this way, without noticing any stress on the fish at all, but I understand that most tropical fish are more sensitive than goldfish to ammonia / nitrite.
<Your Rasbora is your most "delicate" fish, and actually, R. heteromorpha are pretty sturdy.>
Another consideration is the extremely low ph I have - this is probably partially due to fish waste and partially due to the large arch of bogwood in the aquarium combined with the fairly soft water we have here (our tapwater is a mixture of reverse osmosis water sourced from the sea and well water) usually between 0-3 degrees KH, 7 - 14 GH and ph around 7.0 - 7.5 when aged / degassed for a few days (the tapwater actually comes out of the tap at around 8.0, I really don't understand how this works as I had always thought degassing raised ph but that's what the test says).
<Sounds much like my situation and tapwater....  Our water comes out of the tap over 9.0 in the summer, artificially high due to the large amount of chloramine.  Once chloramine is neutralized, after aerating, it drops quickly to 6-ish overnight.  I suspect you have something similar going on.>
If I fill up the new aquarium with dechlorinated, aged tap water there will probably be a significant difference in pH between the two tanks - if I want to move a fish I will either have to do an extremely slow acclimation process or I will have to use tank water from the mature tank to at least partially fill up the new one.
<If all the fish are moving, you could use much of the entire 20 gallons and then add new water somewhat slowly over the next few days to fill the new tank.>
Bearing in mind my current tank's nitrates are still quite high which is the better option out of these two? I have been doing 25% water changes twice weekly to try to raise pH to a more neutral level but it doesn't seem to go above 6.0 (that or my test kit is inaccurate);
<I doubt that the kit is inaccurate.  Decaying organic matter - both the waste products built up in the substrate from fish, plants, and bacteria and also the bogwood - will keep your pH down.  You might never raise it without the aid of something that would provide significant buffering (aragonite sand, for example).>
I'd rather not take the bogwood out as I have 2 java ferns growing quite happily on it and I have nowhere else to put them!
<Were it me/my tank, I'd keep the bogwood, and I'd keep the low pH.>
I intend to keep the Rasbora in the 80 litre (keep it as a blackwater habitat) and get a few more to keep it company and hopefully form an attractive school.
<Ah, I see.>
I thought the Cory could stay too as the tank's bottom is sandy and the Cory loves rooting through it, and possibly I may get him/her a friend or two
<Two more at an absolute minimum.  The larger the school, the happier the Corydoras.>
(will Corydoras aeneus school with peppered or panda Corys?
<Will, but conspecifics are preferred.>
They have no aeneus in stock in my lfs and said they usually only get the albino ones which I dislike the colouring of).
<Man.  Some shop.  You sure there's nowhere else in town?>
I also wanted to keep cherry shrimp in the tank (if they can take the pH)
<They can>
but I'm not sure if they'll be ok with the Rasboras and the Cory;
<They will>
I've heard that harlequin Rasboras are small enough not to hurt cherry shrimp but I'm worried the Cory might eat them -
<Corydoras cats may eat baby shrimps, but I think the adults would fare okay.  Start with just a few and see.>
will some shrimp be able to hide in the large clump of moss (about 6 inches in diameter and 3 inches high) and the roots of the java ferns to survive to adulthood?
<I would think so.>
Or is it unrealistic to keep fish and shrimp together?
<Not unrealistic.>
If I can't have shrimp is there a small algae eater I could put in instead?
an Otocinclus perhaps?
<This would also do well, and would really appreciate that low pH.>
Will the pH be too low for them?
<They should approve of the low pH, as long as it's stable.  What they will not tolerate is the high Nitrate.  Get that down first.>
Also how quickly can I add new fish to the tank after moving the large fish out? Could I add the Rasbora school all at once for example or would it have to be one by one?
<Likely you can add several at a time after the other fish are removed. 
Let me also remind you to always quarantine new fish....  Or maybe you can move all the 20g's inhabitants and then use the 20g for quarantine, adding in all the new fish, and then after a reasonable quarantine (two to four weeks), move the Rasbora and Corydoras back.>
With the 210 litre aquarium I want to make a clear stream type tank with fairly high circulation, rounded river rocks and smooth small grained gravel. I'd like to keep the pH about neutral or just above so can I use some limestone rocks to this purpose?
<I wouldn't; instead, use something that you can control (read: remove) more easily.  A filter bag with some crushed coral in one of your canisters might be a good option; that way, you can use only as much as necessary and add more or remove some to achieve your desired results.  Frankly, you could do that in the 20g right now, if you really feel you "must" raise the pH before moving the fish (instead of keeping the pH of the new tank similarly low).>
Otherwise I can imagine that with the soft water I have, the tank will be below neutral with fish and plants living in it.
Will limestone be enough
<Would be "too much", actually.>
or should I use crushed coral too?
<Ah, as above.  I'd use this, or Aragonite sand, in a filter bag and adjust as needed.>
Is there a way to calculate the amounts needed or is it more of a trial and error thing?
<This latter.  But start cautiously; a little bit goes a long, long way.>
Are there any small schooling species that would like this type of habitat?
<Not with a Pangasiid present.  I'm surprised the Rasbora is still around, actually.>
Halfbeaks perhaps?
<A very touchy fish....  and bite-sized to the catfish.  I don't think I'd try these, or any small schooler, to be honest.>
Also I know that gouramis normally prefer a slightly acidic pH with soft water but I have also heard they can tolerate a wide range of conditions so is it okay to move the gourami to the larger tank or should I keep her in the "blackwater" tank?
<She'll be happy either place.>
Will she be very disturbed by the faster current I intend to have in the large tank?
<If it's way too fast, she might have trouble, but I would try it; she'd appreciate the larger space.>
Finally, sorry for asking so many questions and writing such a lengthy email - if you have read this far without falling asleep you are truly an angel!
<I'm still awake, I swear!>
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read and reply and keep up the good work!
<And thank you for writing in.>
Kindest regards and a merry Christmas and happy new year to you all!
<And to you, Jo.  Best wishes to you and your fish,  -Sabrina>

URGENT - mains supply pH crash tank at pH 5 1/27/12
Hi Neale
I was wondering what was going on. I did all my water changes yesterday and tested one of my 60L today as it is still a young tank. The pH yesterday was 5, today, was 5, after yesterday's 50% water change, so another 50% change today. pH still 5. Scratched head, pondered, tested mains supply. pH 5.5.
It there anything I can to bring it up to pH6, or get some buffering in there, avoiding pH+ product, of course? Bicarbonate of soda? Pet shops about to shut and don't want to rush and get something without knowing what to get. Panicking over potential loss of biofiltration.
Urgent help would be appreciated.
<Gordon, do read here:
See the Rift Valley Salt Mix? Use it. If the pH is 5, and that is amazingly low, you need to raise the carbonate hardness, stat. Obviously, don't change the pH all at once. Do a series of water changes, maybe 20% every day or two, across a week. Are there fish in this tank? Not many fish will be happy at pH 5, and biological filtration would be very unreliable. Are you sure this test kit is reliable?
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: URGENT - mains supply pH crash tank at pH 5 1/27/12

Hi Neale
My wife is off out for the Epsom salt while I sling you a reply back, the other 2 ingredients are at hand.
There are fish in this tank. 4 x harlequin Rasbora, I think it's making them a bit frisky more than anything else!
<Likely so. Could be the very low pH irritating them, but equally likely, it nicely mimics the blackwater streams of their natural habitat. Do remember, many Southeast Asian and South American streams have very low pH, even as low as 4, and the fish are adapted to these. The problem is providing stable environmental conditions (water quality and chemistry) in tanks with water as soft and acidic as those blackwater streams. On the whole, the risks outweigh the benefits, so even with soft water fish, it's best to go with only moderately soft, around neutral water. Most soft water fish will thrive in such conditions, while maintenance of the aquarium becomes very much easier. 5-10 degrees dH, pH 6.5-7.5 is essentially ideal for most general community fish from both Southeast Asian and South America.>
Just glad it WAS them I put in to keep the bacteria fed. It's annoying, I've just finished this tank's cycle and suspect that may be the bacteria dying off. I'm going to grab a full test suite a bit later and cross my fingers.
I've now realised another other tank is at pH 5.5, a 19 litre with a Betta, that is also worrying me.
The test kit is reliable, a few months old Nutrafin kit. The result was verified with a 6 month old API kit. My REAL concern is that the pH is even lower than the Nutrafin kit says, since it only goes down to pH5. I tried verification with pH paper as well, but I've never trusted those beyond "it's neutrelish, it's pH14-ish or it's pH1-ish". It says it's pH5-ish.
Thanks for your help, I know it's a Friday night and you probably just want to chill with a beer.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: URGENT - mains supply pH crash tank at pH 5 1/27/12

Hi Neale
I just re-read the mix for the Rift Valley salt and it's aquarium salt I've got, not marine salt and we can't get Epsom salts. Is it worth just going for sodium bicarbonate at the rate suggested in the mix until we can get the other ingredients together?
<Aquarium salt will work adequately well. Not ideal, but won't do any harm either, so feel free to use it until the box runs out. Cheers, Neale.>

pH Issues in Freshwater Tank, actually alkalinity, CO2 use... 12/18/11
Hi all,
The Tank: I have had this 29 gallon freshwater tank running for about 3-4 years. The backing is black pond foam with rocks jutting out. The substrate is Eco Complete. Lighting 2x24W T5HO. HOB Whisper 30 filter with Purigen and filter wool. Set it up as planted tank and this past year added a CO2 tank set up on a timer to run during the day, air stone at night.
<With you so far>
A couple months ago I picked up a pH controller to see about using that for shutting off the CO2 in case of a CO2 dump. I had one instance where the I found my fish struggling for air due to that.
<Mmm, too likely CO2 poisoning...>
The day I set up the pH monitor I did a regular water change. The next morning the tank was milky looking. A closer look I noticed the algae I had issues with had all died.
I also noticed the pH had dropped below 5.0
(I don't remember the exact measurement). Before this the pH of the tank always remained around 6.7-7.0, which I tested with an API test kit. I cleaned the tank and used a buffer to slowly bring the pH up.
<Likely a good idea to either add more (like half) substrate or take a good bit out and replace. THIS is your best source of alkalinity, buffer>
Water changes are done with tap water treated with Stress Coat, the tap water pH is usually around 7.2 +/-, and I usually change about 8-10 gallons weekly, the same system I've been using since the tank was set up. Since the first incident of the pH dropping significantly I have had an extremely difficult time maintaining pH.
<Yes... your system, its age... the soluble parts of the decor, gravel are exhausted>
The only plus has been that the lower pH has killed off the BB algae and kept it from coming back. Within a couple weeks of the issue I completely took the CO2 offline, and continued running an air stone. Since most plants started to do poorly, I have now switched to a fish only tank with just a few plants that seem to be doing okay. I have lost 2 fish during this and both were the following morning after a water change when the pH again dropped significantly. I've also lost my Amano shrimp (one by one), but I've had them for almost 5 years, and none died during the significant drops in pH.
<Crustaceans need available alkalinity AND biomineral concentrations (mainly Ca and Mg); your low pH denies them metabolically>
This past Friday I did a water change and Saturday morning two cory's were sort of belly up and the white cloud minnows looked lethargic. The pH had dropped from 6.9 to 3.94 overnight.
I spent all day adding buffer in small increments to get the pH up into the 6.0 area.
<Buffer should never be added directly to the system... ONLY through pre-mixed, prepared water>
The white cloud minnow quickly revived after the pH hit 4.4. My older female peppered Cory took most of the day to revive but as of last night was doing well and eating. But. one male Cory still isn't looking well and I doubt he will recover. I have a gravity top off feeding to a float valve and now have buffer added to the top off water to help keep the pH at a normal level. I've tried smaller increments of water changes, but the pH still drops significantly over night after the water change.
While I may be able to figure out ways to try and keep it balanced, I'm at a total loss as to the possible causes for such a huge drop in pH after a water change, and the cause is what I need to address. Thanking you in advance for any help you can offer.
Debra Piedra
<Time to send you where you will hopefully gain an understanding of basic water chemistry. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwmaintindex.htm
the second tray down. Bob Fenner>

are my mollies fighting? ph issues? 12/11/11
Me and my wife bought and set up a 14 gallon freshwater about 4 or 5 months ago and decided from the start that we were going with all live natural decor.
<Nice. However, do bear in my 14-gallon tanks are on the small side, and the lighting systems that come with them are often not that strong. There are some exceptions, small tanks designed for advanced aquarists, but most of the small, budget-priced tanks will have, at best, medium-strength lighting so you need to choose plants carefully.>
We began slowly stocking with just one of two fish at a time and started with 3 sunset platies (1 male, 2 females) of course and they have done spectacular throughout.
<Can be an excellent species. Not always good quality, sadly, but if you do get good Platies without any diseases, they're reliable fish, and should do well in a tank this size.>
We then added a few male lemon cobra fancy tail guppies and then two regular fancy tail guppies and a common Pleco.
<Here's where things go badly. A Common Plec has no business in this aquarium. It will get to 6-8 inches within 6 months, and 18 inches within 2 years. Return to the pet store ASAP. If you must have an algae-eater, choose 3-4 Nerite Snails; they won't breed, they eat nothing but algae, and they're basically hardy so long as you don't add medications to the tank.
Do also understand that Guppies aren't hardy fish anymore, and they tend to do better in tanks tailored to their specific needs. Slightly brackish water can be particularly helpful.>
Everything was still fine for a few days but we lost a guppy and then slowly started losing guppies thereafter, after noticing that the guppies tales had pieces missing and were swimming around crazily
<See above. Platies need fairly cool water, 22-25 C/72-77 F, and this doesn't suit Guppies. Both Platies and Guppies also need hard, alkaline water -- which you don't have. Fancy Guppies being so delicate, they'll be the first to succumb.>
we went back to the pet store and showed the local expert.
He said it was the Pleco harassing them and nipping at the because it was keep with aggressive fish and other large Plecos at the store.
We then removed the Pleco and since we lost all of our guppies eventually we got an albino Cory and 3 balloon mollies (one of which is a creamsicle lyretail, a silver, and a black molly).
<Mollies DO NOT belong in this tank AT ALL! Return them.
They need at least 25, 30 gallons, and they also need warm, very hard, very alkaline water, ideally slightly brackish. >
Everything was great except our creamsicle lyretail was a bit of a bully, terrorizing the entire community.
<Tank is too small, and Mollies are aggressive anyway.>
We then moved and because of the living conditions we were at had a horrible evaporation problem, losing about 3-4 inches a water in the tank a week. After we got to the new place we bought a gravel siphon and cleaned our gravel and the tank really well bought all new vegetation (3-tall grass like plants, 3-ferns, 1-large Anubis on a rock, 1-spongy like moss ball,1- wreath, 1- large piece of wood, and 1-bamboo).
<Take the Bamboo, Wreath, Grasses, and Ferns out. These are non-aquatic plants. Some aquarium shops sell what are basically houseplants as aquarium plants to what in the trade are called "suckers", people who don't (yet!) know any better.
From your photos, I believe the Bamboo is Dracaena sanderiana; I don't know what the Wreath is but it sounds dubious; the Grasses are Ophiopogon japonicus; and the Ferns are Selaginella willdenowii. Kept underwater all these land plants will die, rot, and pollute your aquarium. Feel free to print off this e-mail, show it to the retailer, and the two of you check online if you want to see that I'm right and he/she is wrong. Explain, forcefully, that you are no longer a sucker and do not want to be sold this sort of rubbish.>
After getting everything setup and running properly we have added a 14 inch bubble strip in the rear. We also run a bio-wheel filter for our filtration. We also have added 3 Otos and 2 more emerald green Corys to bringing our total to 3-sunset platies (1-male and 2-female), 3- mollies (silver and black Sailfin balloons, creamsicle lyretail) 3-otocinclus, and 3- Corys (1 albino and 2 emerald green).
<You're quite generously stocked for a small tank here. Getting rid of the Mollies should fix things, but don't add anything else. These fish will grow, remember, and some will have babies.>
One of our female platies did give birth to 6 fry but we made the mistake of letting them rejoin the community too early and now only have 1 left in a new 5 gallon tank we have specifically for that reason with a gold snail to clean. So now that you have a background of our newly acquired hobby here come the questions....As I said before the creamsicle molly has been the obvious dominator of the tank since we got him bullying the entire tank at his own will but within the past week the black molly and him have been going at it non-stop nipping at each other with their top fins all the way up the entire time. Now the creamsicle molly has been hiding often and when the black one does get near him he stays vertical tail fin down. The black molly also is now doing all the chasing of other fish in the tank.
Has the nipping order shifted in the tank or is the creamsicle molly sick and just losing strength?
<Either; both. Hard to say. Get rid of them anyway. They don't belong in this tank and will never be good pets.>
Second question is....We have the test strip for multiple testing of our tanks and do also take our water to the pet store to be tested regularly.
All the other levels, i.e. nitrites, nitrates, alkalinity, hardness, ammonia, all of that checks out except the pH levels consistently remain lower than neutral.
<I do need the numbers here, not your opinions. For example, your hardness cannot be "good" if your pH is 6.8. Platies need a general hardness of 10+ degrees dH and a carbonate hardness (~alkalinity) 5+ degrees KH. If you have these minimum level of hardness, you should have a pH around 7.5.
So you're not telling me something I need to know. Likewise, for me, an expert, the right ammonia and nitrite levels are 0 and 0. Yet some beginners think ammonia between 0 and 0.5 mg/l is "okay", and nitrite between 0 and 1 mg/l is "okay". They're wrong.>
On the test strips it appears to be around a 6.8 because the strips only go one level lower than neutral we are not exactly sure where it sits. We have the pH Neutral Regulator and the Prime and have added multiple doses and it stays at a constant level no matter what.
<Do not, Do Not, DO NOT try to change pH directly. Yes, your pet shop will sell your pH up or pH down products. But these have very specific usages involving water that has been pre-softened or pre-hardened and needs supplemental buffering for one reason or another. And surprise, those products are expensive and profitable, so pet shops will happily sell them. What you actually need to do is add some Rift Valley salt mix, as described at the above link, at one-half the dosage described there. That should create nice moderately hard water ideally suited to Platies and acceptable to Corydoras catfish and, if wanted some tetras, a school of X-Ray Tetras would thrive in this water perfectly well. Better still, this mix it costs pennies a month and apart from the marine aquarium salt, the Epsom salt and baking soda are things you can buy at the grocery store!>
None of the other levels are crashing or have been having any problems and we understand none of the levels will be solid until a complete nitrogen cycle has completed but because of the regularity we visit the pet store we have a pretty good relationship with a couple of the aquarium department specialist and they are stumped with this issue. None of our fish appear to be sick or diseased of any sorts and we even have a severely pregnant platy at the moment, the only strange or erratic behavior at the moment is the battling mollies, which is the reason I grouped the questions together. Do you have any insight on what to do about raising the pH to get it a little closer to neutral? We have came to conclusion as of now that we will just let our tank cycle a little longer and with the addition of the bubble strip that maybe things will even out itself because we don't want to take the risk of adding pH-up chemicals and disturbing the chemistry of the tank since all other levels tested fine.
Just wanted to add that your website is great and keep up the good work!!!!
<Thanks for the kind words.>
Thanks for any help,
<Cheers, Neale.>

PH woes, for FW use, adjustment 12/3/11
Hello Wet Web Crew
It has been a couple of years since I visited with you about my impossible water chemistry. At that time, Mr. Fenner finally suggested that I might have to resort to Muriatic acid. In the 2 years since, I have tried every other possible solution, without success. I am now seeking information on how to use Muriatic acid.
<Mmm, please realize my hesitancy here... is due to easy misunderstanding, danger in application of this 3 molar Hydrochloric Acid solution... Better to steer you to blending, mixing in water where much of the alkaline components are easily removed: Reverse Osmosis is not only what I'd use, it IS what I use>
First I will give you a brief rundown on my water situation.
I have fancy Goldfish, Butterfly Telescopes.
My tap water is PH 9.7 - 10 KH 2 GH 150 After consulting with the City Water Utility and water care specialists here, I have been told that the city creates these parameters they are not normal for the region.
<Mmm, IS done in places, mainly to protect "pipes"...>
A very large amount of chlorine is added to the city water supply and ammonia is impossibly high for use in the aquarium. Seachem also helped me with trying to manage this tap water, and all agreed to abandon the effort.
I had an RO unit installed in my home. The PH out of the RO collecting barrel is 9.7
<? Something wrong here
... the pH should be very near 7.0, perhaps a little lower... You need to look over, perhaps have someone who knows what they're doing, check this RO device>
In 2 days it aerates down to 8 and will lower no further.
<Again, summat is off here>

Because the PH is still high, when I buffer this water, I end up with a PH that is back up to 8.6 and still with insufficient buffering. I use Seachem buffers and the best i can achieve is a KH of 1efforts to build a higher KH result in the PH skyrocketing upwards again. Surprisingly, with water changes once a week, a PH of 8 remains quite stable with KH of 0-1. However, I am assuming that because there is no alkalinity, I cannot keep plants.
I understand photosynthesis cannot take place without buffering. I never have any algae growth what so ever. And my fish have very weak immune systems in spite of the fact that I have extremely low bio load and a lot of filtration. The beneficial bacteria are also not very strong. I do not generally have ammonia spikes, but if I add any salt, or take salt out, I immediately get a spike. A power outage of one hour, and I will have a spike.
My goal is to get a more healthy water chemistry for my fish in the hopes that it will improve their overall health and resistance to disease. After I have gathered a 50 gallon barrel of RO water and aerated it down to 8, I would like to add Muriatic acid to lower the PH sufficiently so that I can then buffer back up to a KH of 70 (approx. 4 dKH) if possible. I understand that this is a dangerous, caustic poison and I have resisted having to resort to this. There is little information about Muriatic acid and I am hoping you can give me some specifics on how to use it what to expect and any warnings that I may not be aware of.
<... Without being right there with you or anyone, I will not go over this... I have been party to lack of understandings, many years back... w/ people killing their Koi as a consequence... of NOT understanding the relationships twixt pH and alkalinity... You, indeed mis-write pH as PH...>
a few questions that come to mind but please know that I do not know enough about this to even ask intelligent questions!
How fast does RO water respond to the addition of acid?
<You don't have RO water... as attested by its high post-production pH>
After adding acid, how long before I can trust that the PH is stabilized and I can add buffers?
Can I then use the water for water changes, or does it need to aerate for a longer period of time after all parameters, including GH are in optimum range?
will this water be stable in my aquaria with 25% water changes, or will I have shifting PH?
I plan to keep the gallon jug of Muriatic acid in the garage, pull acid into a syringe and use that to dose my storage barrels. They are kept in my sunroom and I also have an African Grey Parrot in that room. If I discharge M. acid into the barrel out of a syringe, will there be fumes sufficient to harm my bird? I have a small pond pump for aeration, and there is a lot of agitation. I have lids for the barrels, but do not want to risk my birds health either. Nor mine !
Is there any risk or danger to my fish with water that is treated with Muriatic acid?
Thank you for taking time to help me with this once again.
<Have just skipped down: Amy: contact the maker of your RO device and chat w/ them re your results. Fix the RO, and consider using Neale's simple Rift Lake mix: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/RiftVlySaltMixF.htm
as the only addition. THIS is the best, easiest, most safe procedure for getting where you want to be. Bob Fenner>
Re: PH woes 12/03/11

Mr. Fenner
thank you for your time and I completely understand and respect your hesitancy to discuss Muriatic acid. I am not eager to venture into handling dangerous compounds either. However, I truly feel like I'm out of options here.
One last question for you. Can fish be healthy with 0 to 1 kH ?
<Vanishing few species can>
Are carbonate levels important for the well being of the fish?
Or does carbonate contribute only to the stability of the PH?
<No... are important components of metabolism, allow for reductive events of absolutely necessary microbial activity>
My RO system is installed and rented from a professional water company. They were here this week to check the unit. They insist that RO water does not necessarily have a low ph.
<What is it that is getting through their membrane/s that is elevating the pH here? RO doesn't always reduce/adjust pH to neutral, but am curious as to the chemical species remaining in your water post-production. This knowledge may help in defining a process for removal here>
They recommend a DI unit if I want a ph below 7. Unfortunately I would need two DI cartridges added to my RO system and replaced monthly. They also recommended a 50 gallon pressurized storage tank instead of the smaller one I have and all of this will run close to $200 per month. I just cannot do that.
<I understand>
I have visited the three local fish stores in town who sell RO and DI water and bought and tested the ph of the water at each of these stores. Across the board, the ph of RO water is between 7.5 and 8. Also very consistently, the ph of DI water is below 7. So perhaps we do not have RO water by your definition but it seems to be the best we can do in this town. No one has been able to explain to me why this is so or what the difference is between RO and DI.
<RO is a "by size" filtering process... larger than a certain size molecules being excluded from permeating a membrane via pressure. DI is a physical process in which ions, charged particles are attracted, bound to mainly specialized resins, allowing less-charged particle water to pass by>
So if I cannot afford the DI system and the ph of RO water is what it is in this town, I will be unable to achieve a reasonable ph with a reasonable level of carbonate. Perhaps I am doing all that can be done.
<Assuredly not. There are other means... I urge you to look into organic (vs. inorganic like HCl) acids... that you can utilize in/with your RO water while it's in storage... Even simple useful peat, followed by carbon use (to remove colour) will be simple, inexpensive>
So the only question left, is if my fish can live healthy lives with no carbonate in the water.
<Again, no>
I have suspected that this is the problem only because I have tried to rule out every other possible problem in their little fish lives. I wish someone would do that for me !
Thanks again for your time and effort.
Kind regards
<Thank you for your patience w/ me. Understand I want to provide useful, accurate information for you, as well as present ideas that are not potentially harmful to anyone or livestock. Cheers, BobF>

Tank in distress. FW, diag./troubleshooting w/o much to go on 11/26/11
Hello my friends,
I am hoping that you can help me, you are really my last hope. I have been trying for months to straighten around my 35 gallon hex tank, but to no avail. I have a wonderful community of livebearers and pygmy Corys, but I am losing fish at an astronomical rate. It feels like I will get everyone healthy and things under control for a few weeks, then lose another round of fish and start all over again.
<Something... very wrong here...>
I have seriously tried everything I can think of at this point. I have done HOURS of research online trying to find a solution, I have tried everyone ounce of advice I have been given and nearly every medication I can find.
<A poor situation>
I have been doing 25% water changes weekly, as well as vacuuming the gravel. I have tried replacing the
gravel, replacing the plastic plants, bottled spring water, treated tap water, changed the diet, changed the filtration, salt treatments, Melafix, Ich and fin rot treatments... nothing seems to stop my fish plague! I have my water tested weekly, my ph is perfect for live bearers,
<Slightly alkaline I take it>
the nitrates and phosphates are in a normal range,
<values please; not subjective commentary>
my temp is steady and perfect- yet my fish are still dying. And what is most troubling, is every fish has had
different symptoms. Some fish show no signs of distress at all, I just find them white and half eaten at the bottom of my tank.
<Ahh, data!>
Some fish will start shimmying and sink to the bottom and die in a few days, some get all "spastic" and dart like mad from the top to the bottom, and are found dead within days. Its just so bizarre and no one has answers for me. The fish that is currently in isolation is a sweet little balloon molly that I have
had for nearly a year. Her mate was the last to die, and it broke my heart.
I nursed him along ( ever hand feed a molly? yea.) for nearly ten days, but he finally slipped away. I tried everything I could to save him, including a vet visit.
<Did this Vet. examine (microscopically) the dead, live fishes?>
No one had answers. Now his mate is dying. Two weeks ago I noticed a bumpy ridge on her head, and brought her in for an inspection. I was told that since there was no discoloration she was fine and I had
nothing to worry about. The mass grew, became bulbous and turned a clear/milky color. This morning I found her with a massive crater in her head where this growth had burst. All the other fish were chasing her around picking at her face so I am assuming that everyone needs to be treated if I can correctly diagnose this issue. Someone please help me, I don't know what to do. I feel like I am torturing these fish. I am ready to give them all away and retire this tank for good. You are my last hope.
*sincerely, distressed fishy mom
<Through all these treatments, losses have you tested for chemical parameters other than what you note above? My first guess is that you have a toxic ornament/decor item/s in this system... Like a geode. Please list all the items found here and send along well-resolved images of the system.
What do you have for filtration, SOP for treating new water? What died first and symptoms? My next guess is a general fluke (monogenetic trematode) involvement. You don't list using an Anthelminthic in your blitz of dosings... Again, did the Vet. take a scraping from the bodies, gills of the lost fishes? Bob Fenner>

Re: Tank in distress 11/26/11
> Dear Bob, thank you so much for your fast response. It is nice to feel
> supported right now.
<My goal is to assist you; solve whatever the cause, source of mortality was/is here>
> To answer your questions-the vet was useless. He did nothing but look at
> my fish and say " yes, your fish has died." He ran no tests, he asked no
> questions, and he treated me like I was crazy for bringing in a lowly
> balloon molly. For tests I do not have actual ratings, levels, or even know
> exactly what was tested for chem. parameters as I had them done at the
> pet store and they simply said "everything looks normal". Ph I do myself, it
> is always between 7.6 and 7.8.
<Mmmm, a bit high. Is this the same as the pH of your source/tap water after it has sat for an hour or so?
I also have a question re the white object... rock, decor item in the pix you've sent along... Is this something intended for aquarium use? I might well remove it, soak it in new water... do a "bio-assay" w/ a fish or two to see if this is a source of toxicity>
and temp stays between 75 and 80 F.The first
> fish to die was a Chinese algae eater. He was "fat" when I bought him, the
> pet store guy said he was just "happy and fat" so i took him home and added
> him to my tank ( upon being educated I have discovered this in and of
> itself was a wrong move. I should have quarantined him, but I did not know
> this at the time) the next morning I found him LITERALLY exploded in my
> tank with all of his innards and guts hanging out.
<Yikes...! And possibly a good clue>
Everyone was eating him.
> So I removed dead fish and brought him back to the pet store. no
> explanation. just a new fish. ( big help huh?) From that point I began
> losing fish quickly and in rounds. I would find a mass of dead fish (
> sometimes as many as 10) clean them out, sterilize the tank ( boil rocks
> and decor) and move on. I have in my tank 2 rock structures (both plastic),
> several plastic plants,
<Mmm, I need to know if these are from an aquarium store or not. Artificial plants from other places can have metal "stems"... and be toxic>
and one very old Japanese moss ball ( this is the only living plant).
<Cladophora... this is fine, but do see my note re other algae below>
The filter is one that sits on the back and is rated
> for a 50 gallon tank ( mine is only a 35 so it should be sufficient).
For water I stopped using tap ( the tap water even killed my house plants) and
> I am using store bought spring water.
<Mmm, don't use this... a highly variable product. Best to just use tap...
Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm
scroll down to the water issues tray>
I am kind of a beginner with
> aquariums, this is really my first. The tank was given to me by a friend so
> I set it up and chose live bearers ( I like to see the babies).
> Reproduction at first was fantastic, everything was happy, all kinds of
> babies at all different stages, now the tank is nearly empty. I wont add
> fish until I know they are going to live. I've added some pictures, hopefully
> they will help. I only have my camera poe so they are not fantastic but the
> best I can do.
*update, my molly just passed. But maybe we can learn from her death and save the others. I did not think to take a pic of her before she died, I am so sorry.
RIP misty and Ike, at least you are together again.
<Mmm, now the bit about algae; in particular "blue green algae"... though it can be most any colour. IF you have a slimy feeling growth on your growth, plants... can't make this out in your pix. This could be a/the source of toxicity here... calling for (really) a complete break-down, bleaching and starting over. Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwbgafaqs.htm
Do read Crystal, make notes if you have questions... We'll fix this system.

Re: Tank in distress 11/26/11
> ok, I have read both articles, and I will switch back to tap water and
> move away from store bought. I took the 5 gallon container that I have been
> carting water back and forth with, filled it with tap water, and it is
> sitting under the table for a few days to "air out", I have several
> different water conditioners to remove chlorine and other harmful chemicals
> from tap water, so I should be all set to switch back to tap water.
> Wonderful info, thank you very much.
> All the plants and rocks in the tank are specifically designed for
> aquariums, the white one has small plastic plants imbedded, and the other
> rock structure was a gift to me from a guy who does tanks professionally
> he had given it to me as a "tank warming "gift.) so everything in the tank
> is specifically aquarium friendly. I have had this same man over MANY times
> to assess my tank, and he can't find anything wrong with either my tank, or
> the fish, yet my fish keep dying.
<Some other poison source then>
> I don't have any visible algae problems, though I'm sure there is something
> in there for the algae eaters to eat as they haven't starved. The other odd
> thing I wished to mention, the pygmy cories and algae eater are all fine,
I haven't lost a single one of them, but I have lost dozens of guppies and
> now two mollies. I don't know if that is pertinent, but as you say every
> detail helps.
<... Do please look up (Google, images) Columnaris... Chondrococcus... Much of the symptomology you list fits this bacterial problem. B>
Thanks again for listening-
Re: Tank in distress 11/26/11

> I have looked into this particular bacteria before, but it doesn't seem to
> visually match. None of my fish ever had any rot around their mouths or
> fins, no discolored patches, or white film. But then again, this is the
> first time I have had a visual symptom of any kind to go by. All the other
> fish showed no physical signs of illness beyond slightly distended stomachs
> or bloating.
You could barely tell they were sick, but they would have odd
> behavior patterns, then show up dead! I have treated the tank for fungal
> and bacterial infections ( a general umbrella treatment of salt and
> Melafix).
The ONLY thing I haven't treated for yet is internal parasites, I
> was cautioned against this until I know for SURE if that's what's going on,
> but I am thinking perhaps this is my last option?
<Mmm, no; not the last. Check back at our original interchange...
Microscopic examination>
Do you think I should
> treat for bacteria and fungus again anyhow?
For internal parasites?
Or do you feel this is this a water condition problem?
<Have already made my principal speculations... likely IS env.>
I am so sorry to ask so many questions, I am just incredibly tired of losing my fish. :/
> Would it help to know the actual tanks history? What was in it before I > started with it? Or will that affect it now, several years later?
<Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwtoxicenvdisfaqs.htm
and the linked files above. B>
I have > struggled with this tank since I first started it up to be honest. I've
> restarted from scratch 4 or 5 times since I set this tank up 3 years ago.
> Thank you again for your incredible patience with me, I think I should bake
> you a cake or something.
Re: Tank in distress 11/27/11
> That's it! this is the problem!
you figured it out! I have never before
> been educated concerning the difference between acidic water and hard
> water, I ( being in a small northern Maine town) don't have many outside
> resources pertaining to fish, no vet to turn to ( as I already stated) and
> this is something I would have NEVER been able to figure out myself! I know
> my water is hard here, that is why I chose guppies in the first place ( now
> you can see a bit of the incorrect thought process) and the ph kit I bought
> is a generic on that does not test the alkalinity! This quote has saved my
> fish tank!!!
> "Changing pH directly is dangerous. Concentrate on carbonate hardness --
> what your test kit calls alkalinity -- *aiming for around 150-200 mg/l
> calcium carbonate*... "by understanding that GENERAL hardness and
> CARBONATE hardness are different things. General hardness -- which you
> measure in degrees dH, and with the "GH" test kit, is how much calcium and
> magnesium salts are dissolved in the water, for example calcium oxide.
This stuff doesn't necessarily affect pH."
This article would have NEVER caught my eye if you hadn't pointed it out! I have been fiddling with the ph quite a bit over the past two years because I was told it was too high or too low etc., when it really isn't the PH that is killing my fish! Every week i scrape off a THICK layer of white crusty stuff from my filters edge and off the top of the tank where the water has evaporated.

I didn't know this wasn't normal, so i just kept cleaning it up without paying much mind to it! So I need to buy a GH test kit? Is this correct?
Will you please try to explain to me 150-200mgL calcium carbonate, or will a GH test explain itself?
<Is more completely explained by searching/Googling on the Net. This IS the principal source of water hardness... and resistance to change in pH ("buffering")There is, and should be some degree of General Hardness in all waters. Only distilled, reverse osmosis... other filtered or specialized waters lack it/this. Absolutely necessary in home aquariums, but not at too high concentrations>
I feel that part of my tank problems is me finding incorrect information on the web. I will NEVER
go anywhere besides your site EVER again. You are incredible! Thank you so much.
<Welcome. BobF>

Need help with figuring the amount of crushed coral. 10/07/11
GF Sys., loss, lack of alkalinity

Hello Wet Web Media, I hope things are going well for all of you. I've written for information and direction from your sight before and loved every treasonable pearl of information and insight that I've received actually applied. I want to say thank you in advance.
Here is what I have now:
The first tank is a 75 gallon tank
Filtration = 1 Penn Plex canister (265 gph) and a Marineland Penguin Biowheel 300.
I also have an Aqua Euro USA 1/10 Max Chiller.
Temporarily stocked with:
2- Black Moore <Moors>, one telescoped each are 1 and a Ã'½ inches long from mouth to tail. (This is there <their> permanent home)
3- Fantails each are 1 and Ã'½ inches long from mouth to tail. (Moving to the 240gallon)
3-Ruyunkin each are 1 and Ã'½ inches long from mouth to tail. (Moving to the 240gallon)
2-Blue Oranda each are 1 and Ã'½ inches long long from mouth to tail. (Moving to the 240gallon)
Ammonia = 0.ppm
Nitrites= 0.ppm
Nitrates = 20.00ppm
Ph= 7.6 when I do a 25% water change about every 2-3days, however this will quickly drop down to 6.0 within 8 hours.
<?! You NEED to bolster the alkalinity here. READ: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm
and http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm
And at least use a commercial buffering product, perhaps Neale's mix to kick up your alkaline reserve. Too-low pH and too quickly/vacillating can be real trouble>
I've actually tested to see what the water was doing every hour and watched my ph levels drop down so low.
I also have a 240 gallon tank (96"x24"x24") that I'm still setting up. I plan to have only 18 Goldies in this oneI also have a 10 gallon qt tank
I've read that to buffer the water so that it will stay stable at 7.2 or 7.6 you can use crushed coral. Now I've tried just using a mesh bag full of crushed coral however that wasn't enough.
<Mmm, no; wouldn't be>
My ph levels would just drop so rapidly down to 6.2 as though there was something gulping it down with a very wide mouth asking for more and laughing at my efforts.
<A lack of buffering capacity. Again, do STOP placing life/livestock till you understand, have solved this issue>
I toke liberty to clean and then mix some of the crush coral with my river rock substrate. Now, 1st: would this be okay to do. If so how much would you advise for me to use in this 75 gallon tank and anticipating having this same problem in my 240 gallon tank how much would I use in this one as well. I'm not concerned about the price because I have a 40lbd bag of crushed coral that I got from my lfs for $25. 2ndly, if this isn't good then please enlighten me with your valuable treasure of information so that my Goldies can thrive and live long healthy happy lives.
<Well... Am not a fan of the use of such gravel/substrate w/ fancy goldfish... Too sharp for their mouths, bodies when seeking food, flashing against the bottom... PLEASE look into additives you can place/mix in w/ your new water during change-outs... OR water that you have thereabouts that isn't run through a/the filtration process that is removing nearly all mineral. Do you understand?
Mmm, read here as well: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/GldfshH2OF.htm
Particularly the bits on GH and KH.
Bob Fenner>
Thank you for your time and insight; it's much appreciated by both me and my Goldies. Dedra
Re: Please help me save my babies; GF sys... water quality
Hello Neale;
I guest that I should have addressed my issue to you because I just don't understand what the last individual had said to me.
<That appears to be Bob Fenner, owner of this site.>
I've corresponded with you before in the past and had no problems understanding what you have instructed me to do.
<Good to know.>
Yes it is so obvious that I need to bolster the alkalinity.
<Well, only "obvious" if the pH drops down between water changes. If the pH is more or less stable, then leave it alone! Doing two water changes per week instead of one may be the best way to arrest small pH drops. Remember, pH drops in fish tanks because of the water pollutants accumulate over time. With each water change these are removed, so a water change is a bit like hitting a "reset" button. If you do two water changes in a week instead of one, you reset the tank twice, each time resetting the tank after a smaller pH drop. Now, alkalinity is the property of water that prevents pH drops. The more alkalinity, the less the pH can drop.
Freshwater aquarists hardly ever talk about alkalinity though; instead they talk about carbonate hardness. The two things are the same in terms of what they do, but the chemistry is looked at in very slightly different ways.>
I need to know with what being that I haven't a clue on what to use.
<My recommendation is simple. Use the Rift Valley salt mix described on the following page, but at only one-half the dosage recommended.
Where you see level teaspoon or tablespoon measurements per 5 US gallons, use half teaspoon or tablespoon amounts. The resulting mixture should create hard, alkaline water of the sort Goldfish love. You should find the pH somewhere between 7.5 and 8, and that it doesn't vary much between water changes, even if you happen to skip a week by accident.>
Could you please help me and instruct me through this faze.
The crushed coral is lying underneath the river rock so that my Goldie babies will not get hurt buy it.
<I would not use crushed coral in a Goldfish tank. Goldfish like digging, and plain smooth silica sand (sold in the US as pool filter sand) is the best thing, or else fine gravel. Coarse gravel is often used by sometimes they swallow pieces and it gets stuck in their throats. In any event, you can carry on using what you have, but do be aware that crushed coral in the aquarium or filter gets covered with bacteria, algae and dirt, and eventually stops buffering the water. So while it's useful in marine aquaria, even there it isn't relied upon to help with water chemistry.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Please help me save my babies; 10/11/11

Thank you so much Neale :). I understand now and will use the Rift Valley salt mix you recommend.
<Glad to help.>
Once again I've learned something from you and am very please and satisfied. Hope you've enjoyed your vacation.
Cheers, Dedra
<Thanks for the kind words. Best of luck, Neale.>

Strange pH and Snail-killing Killifish? 9/30/11
Hi crew,
I've been in touch with Neale (who's been MOST helpful) on and off regarding a new 4' x 1.5' x 1.5', 220L tank that has no lights and is sitting next to a window (no direct sunlight) with Val, Indian Fern/Watersprite, Java moss and fern growing very nicely in the 2.5 weeks it's been set up.
<Sounds nice.>
The filter was cycled in 10 days with pre-seeded media from an old bio-filter. 6 Melanotaenia praecox and 1 Aplocheilus Lineatus were added 4 days ago from my 60L home tank (they'd been in that tank 4 months or so).
Tank vitals today are:
Temp: 28 deg C
Ph : 7.4 (currently)
Ammonia: 0 ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm
Nitrate: 5-10 ppm (colour is between two on the chart)
GH: 4 deg.s
I have 2 questions if that's O.K.?
1) The pH of the water coming out of the tap is 7.0. Last week the pH was around this, but has been steadily rising since, until the last 3 days when the pH has been stable at or close to 7.4. In the tank is gravel, some small granite rocks (with java moss anchored to them) and river stones, 2 terra cotta pots and some bogwood/roots (as well and the plants and fish).
Do you have any idea what might be causing the pH to rise?
<Photosynthesis and biological decay. Providing the pH doesn't vary wildly, like from 7 to 8.5 and back again each day, don't worry too much. It's perfectly normal for pH to change slightly in any aquarium, and if animals and plants seem happy, and you keep up with weekly water changes, don't worry. If you want, use a pH buffer, but really, there's little need in a well-maintained, moderately-stocked aquarium.>
2) I had A LOT of baby tadpole snails and a few baby Ramshorn snails in the tank (piggy-backed in on the plants) until yesterday, when only a few (at most) remained. The fish (as stated) went in 4 days ago. Is it likely that the killifish (or one of the rainbowfish) took a liking to escargot?
<Possibly, but I'm not aware of a snail-eating killifish!>
Cheers, thanks a lot and awesome website as always,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Strange pH and Snail-killing Killifish - add on stocking questions 10/1/11

Thanks a lot Neale - good stuff.
<Glad to help.>
Definitely no snails at all now - something got to 'em!!
Of course, sending my previous email and reading your response has prompted a few more questions - hope you don't mind?!?!
Is it strange that my water should be so soft, yet have a pH of 7.4?
<No, not that strange. While pH and hardness are connected, the connection is not as clear-cut as beginners suppose. Carbonate hardness is the stuff that affects pH, and if you have low general hardness but high carbonate hardness, your test kit might tell you have both soft water and an alkaline pH.>
Next. After what I hope is some decent thought and planning, I intend to stock the tank as follows. Each new set of fish will spend two weeks in quarantine (60L/15g tank) and will be introduced in the order as listed. Please let me know if I'm off the mark with any of these, their order, or over-stocked when I'm theoretically done. Of course 6 Melanotaenia praecox and 1 Aplocheilus Lineatus already live in the tank, plus my tank particulars can be found in the history to this email. Filtering is handled by an Eheim 2215 canister with just shy of 3x turnover per hour (a bit on the low side I realise, but the current seems pretty scary, even put through the spray bar).
10x Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis - currently in quarantine and might add up to 5 more depending on how they go/stocking levels.
<A nice species. Not the hardiest tetra in the trade, and a bit bland under mediocre conditions, but an excellent species for soft, well-planted tanks. Blackwater extract makes all the difference when it comes to colouration, but failing that, shady conditions and a dark substrate are what you want.>
3x Crossocheilus siamensis - amazingly a LFS here has the real deal (based on the WWM article) for SG$2 each. Get 'em while they're hot (and available!). Will putting these 3 in a 60L quarantine tank for 2 weeks cause WW3 to break out? I'm not sure how else to quarantine them given my facilities
<These are schooling fish in the wild, and while a trio is a gamble, you might be lucky. They're far, FAR less belligerent than the look-alike Flying Foxes and various Garra species.>
2 or 4x Trichogaster leeri or Trichogaster fasciata (1:1 male to female ratio) - would prefer fasciata, but haven't seen them in a LFS in Singapore yet :-(
<T. leeri is generally a good fish, and if anything, T. microlepis even better, despite being a shade larger.>
1x Ctenopoma acutirostre - will this munch the Lemon tetras? The tetras are almost the size of the Dwarf Neon Rainbows.
<Potentially a threat, yes, but does depend on their size. If reared together from young and trained to take alternative foods, shouldn't be too much of a risk. On the other hand, throw some adults in there, and yes, they'll view small tetras as dinner.>
2x Pelvivachromis pulcher (1m, 1f). Would love these, but not sure if they'll work, esp. with the Anabantoids and SAEs, plus I haven't seen them in any LFS here in Singapore yet. Maybe could order them especially
<Could work well. Will breed all the time though, which gets annoying. A single female might be just as fun.>
That's my lot - thanks for making it this far! Sorry for the huge email.
Thanks so much crew/Neale, I think it's donation-time...
<Do feel free to buy us a beer at the front door of the website! It's been over 25 C here in England this week, a very unusual "Indian Summer" for this time of year. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Strange pH and Snail-killing Killifish - add on stocking questions 10/2/11

Thanks so much Neale,
<You're welcome.>
With the SAEs, if they're schooling fish in the wild, should I be getting more than 3 for my tank? I based my number of three on the advice in Bob's article on SAEs on WWM, where he gives specific information about much space each individual requires.
<Well, schools of 6 or more don't need "gallons per fish" because they school together. Yes, there's a hierarchy, but the bigger the group, the less likely that problems will occur. It's really not much different to keeping things like Discus or Angels. On the other hand, in smaller groups the dominant fish is prone to bullying the weaker ones. Complicating matters is the wide availability of non-schooling, distinctly territorial look-alike species such as Garra cambodgiensis and the Flying Fox, both of which are best kept singly. I have a single Garra cambodgiensis, and it's an excellent algae eater as well as an entertaining fish, but it throws its weight around at times, chasing loaches and other bottom dwellers.>
Also, regarding the possible Krib pair, I was thinking that the Killifish and Spotted Ctenopoma would eat most of the parents' fry, despite their best efforts at defense.
<A pair of Kribs will beat even adult Ctenopoma acutirostre into submission. Do not underestimate the strength of these little cichlids!
What they lack in sheer size they make up for in tenacity and teamwork. In any event, Ctenopoma acutirostre feed primarily at the surface, and in the wild mostly stuff like mosquito larvae as well as, I dare say, the occasional small fish. In terms of behaviour they are extremely similar to South American Angelfish, and I'd argue they're African fish occupying much the same ecological niche.>
Being a classroom tank where I teach, I was hoping to demonstrate some breeding behaviour to the kids. Would this be overly stressful/cruel to the Krib adults, or should I just give any fry away to a trusted LFS instead (assuming I get a male Krib to go with the female)?
<The Kribs will protect their fry extremely well for the first 2-3 weeks, after which point they lose interest and the fry go off and fend for themselves. Whether the other fish cull the fry then I cannot say; but possibly. There's some recent scientific research that suggests cichlids actually exhibit a true weaning behaviour similar to that of mammals and birds where the parents steadily make life more difficult for the offspring so that their offspring eventually choose to go off on their own. While tangential to your question, this does highlight the value of the Cichlidae as models for understanding "higher" animal behaviours within the confines of labs or classrooms. It turns out that cichlids are every bit as sophisticated as mammals and birds, and that fish aren't "lower" animals in any objective sense.>
Thanks crew/Neale, I'll stop asking questions eventually!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Brewing Water... ongoing FH env. issues... pH/GH 9/13/2011
Hi Crew, Neale to be specific,
<Hello Eric,>
Got question for you, I have decided to use my two old 75 gallon aquariums as brew tanks for the water that I am going to use for my water changes.
One tank for my Flowerhorns aquarium and one for my other aquariums. The questions I have are these. 1. Do I need aeration in these tanks or just water circulation, I was going to install a powerhead and a circulation pump in each tank. I am also going to install JBJ Titanium heaters in these tanks so I can guarantee proper water temps.
<Circulating with an airstone or powerhead is a good idea. It takes about an hour to fully dissolve salt mixes, so aerating for an hour is really useful. Some folks aerate overnight, and that's good if your tap water contains dissolved gases and tends to change in pH rapidly. Otherwise, it's overkill, and an hour is fine.>
2. If I decide to use the mix that you recommend for Flowerhorns and Parrot Cichlids (Per 5 US gallons (20 litres) add the following amounts of each ingredient: one-half level teaspoon baking soda; one-half level tablespoon Epsom salt; and one-half level teaspoon marine salt mix (Reef Crystals, Instant Ocean, etc.)) is it ok to use aquarium salt instead of the reef crystals or instant ocean? And can I just add this mix to my brew tanks?
<Yes, you can use aquarium salt, but marine salt is better because it has more trace elements and it adds buffering capacity to the water. So by all means use up aquarium salt, but if the cost isn't a major factor, switch to marine salt as/when you can. For Flowerhorn cichlids, half the dosage should be ample unless you have very soft water. In other words, where the recipe says per 5 gallons:
1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 tablespoon Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)
1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements)
Instead use this per 10 gallons/40 litres.>
3. I bought a new Nutrafin Master Test Kit and I checked my GH and KH of my Flowerhorns Aquarium, my dH is 14.56 but my KH is 220 mg/l, in your writings you state that the KH should be at least 5 degrees, what would 5 degrees be in mg/l, or do I use the same conversion for KH as I do for dH?
<1 degree KH is just under 18 mg/l calcium carbonate. So 5 degrees KH is 5 x 18 = 90 mg/l calcium carbonate. It's all here:
Don't be too worried about the exact value. Carbonate hardness is all about stabilizing the pH, and if your pH stays stable from one week to the next, you're fine! You have a nice high level of general hardness, 14-15 degrees dH, and that's perfect for these cichlids.>
Thanks so darn much for putting up with all of my questions. I am trying to d my best to learn as much as again about this wonderful hobby.
Thank You
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brewing Water 9/14/11

Thanks for the info but this brings me to another question, when I tested my tap water the pH is 7.0 but after three days in a Rubbermaid tote with dechlorinator, a heater set to 80 and a circulation pump ( not a power head) the pH is all the way up to 8.5 and higher. How can I get this to stabilize?
<The higher pH is likely the correct one. When water is underground it can absorb CO2 or minerals that lower its pH. When the water is "aged" in a barrel, some of those chemicals leave the water, and the result is a change in pH, typically a rise. The pH shouldn't go up above 8.5, so a 24-hour period of ageing should be fine. On the flip side, if you're worried, then do smaller, but more frequent, water changes so that the fish isn't exposed to dramatic changes. Instead of changing 30% once a week, change 15% twice
a week.>
Is that were the KH comes in and if so what can I do to keep the pH at the appropriate number for my Cichlid or the rest of my tanks for that matter?
<No; carbonate hardness, measured in degrees KH, is usually picked up when water flows through limestone-rich places, such as chalk aquifers underground. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brewing Water 9/14/11
Hi Crew, Neale to be specific
So in reading some of your writings I came across this: The carbonate hardness scale is based on the concentration of carbonate and bicarbonate and is a reflection of the *buffering capacity* of the water. *Water with a high buffering capacity resists changes in pH either up or down, resulting in very stable water conditions.*
When I start my brew tanks my pH right out of the tap will be 7.0-7.5, how can I keep the pH at that level? Will the mix that you suggested boost the buffering capacity of this water so that when the water ages in the brew tanks the pH doesn't rise so bad? Or do I need to do something else to keep the pH at the acceptable 7-8 for my Flowerhorn?
<Yes, the Rift Valley salt mix contains lots of carbonate hardness -- the bicarbonate of soda -- and even at half-dose should provide very stable water conditions. Aerating the new water overnight helps it "de-gas", a really good idea if your water has unstable pH levels. Stir in the Rift Valley salt mix as well, and the result should be extremely stable water. Try it out with a bucket of water, and see what happens!
Cheers, Neale.>

Alkalinity & P.H. in a large system- 8/20/11
Dear Crew, I work for a large pet store chain {yeah, I know]
<There is no shame in this work. I was employed by Petco in the early nineties for three years, as a consultant and buyer, assisting the bringing in of livestock>
& have for 10 years. I have always used your site as a reference & it has helped me in many ways in trying to give correct information about freshwater aquariums. My question is about the comet system in our store. I don't know the exact gallons but we have 6 tanks about 30 gallons each. The water is supposed to be tested twice a week using the test strips that are dipped in water. For the past 5 weeks when I test the water in the comet system it shows Nitrate 80 Nitrite 0 ammonia .5 . This is high to me but I understand it, what I don't understand is why the P.H. is so low at 6.0 & the alkalinity is off the chart below 75.
<The prevailing acidic, reductive conditions, borne of the biomass and metabolism of the goldfish nick away at the alkaline reserve, dropping the pH. Actually good/better by far that the pH is low considering the presence of ammonia here>
We have 2 systems that are not connected but the water comes from the same source. The water in the main system stays the same at P.H. 7.8 & alkalinity at 120, nitrates & nitrites 0.What would make the comet system this way if they have the same water source?
<See above... "simple" nitrification really>
I have brought this to the attention of several managers but with no answers. This system didn't used to be like this, it would stay around 7.2 P.H. & 120 alkalinity with a little fluctuation in the nitrates usually 0 to 20 & nitrites & ammonia at 0.
<Likely contributions to the alkalinity from substrate here. These are largely exhausted, melted away... you could add a soluble carbonate based gravel... or baking soda, or a commercial prep.>
Although I would never do anything to the system except change the filter, I am curious as to how it could have gotten that way & how you would fix it in a system this large.
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/pHAlkTroubF.htm
and the linked files above... for background, explanation. >
Any is information is much appreciated. I just want to understand this for myself. Thanks Lisa B.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

I can't get the pH up . . . and my tap water measures just fine. So what gives? 8/18/11
Hi ya'll and greetings from Dallas, Texas!
<Greetings from Berkhamsted, England!>
This is my first time asking WWM a question, so please bear with me.
<Fire away!>
I have a tropical 30-gal. tank with 3 albino Corys (1 adult and 2 small), 1 angel, 4 mature silver dollars, and 1 van Rio tetra. Ultimately, I want to add a plecostomus
<No space for a Plecostomus; these are typically Pterygoplichthys species (pronounced terry-gopp-lick-this, if you're wondering) and grow to about 35-45 cm/14-18 inches. Even in a tank twice as big as yours, such a fish will grow too big, too quickly. On the other hand, the Bristlenose Catfish, Ancistrus sp., is an excellent alternative. Very hardy, eats algae better than a Plec, and only gets to about 12 cm/5 inches at most.>
and 3-4 additional van Rio tetras to keep my "Mother's Day gift" tetra company. I read ya'll's suggestion about having more than one angel, but I am not sure how they would get along with the van Rios. I read that Neons are the angel's natural prey, so I wondered about the van Rios. If I did add them, I was thinking about 2 more angels. But, they can be bullies. So much for existing/potential fauna.
<Hmm well, in your tank, a single Angel is the best idea. Yes, Angels can/will eat Neons given the chance, but not all farmed Angels get that big, so some folks have mixed them together without problems. Use your own judgment there, and the best approach is to add the Neons and the Angels to the tank when they're both small. With luck, the Angel will grow to adult size without thinking about the Neons as anything other than scenery. That's the theory, anyway! You do have a slight problem that Neons and Peppered Corydoras (which is what Albino Corys usually are) prefer cooler water to Angels, 22-25 C for the Neons and Corydoras versus 25-30 C for the Angels. Your Von Rio Tetra (a name I'd not heard in England before) is Hyphessobrycon flammeus, a fairly adaptable species that does well between 22-28 C, so they aren't a problem, and the same holds true for Silver Dollars. So you do need to keep the temperature at 25 C, or 77 F in old money. Hyphessobrycon flammeus is usually shy and very peaceful but Hyphessobrycon species can sometimes be nippy, so do watch out for signs of fin-nipping on the Angel especially.>
As a point of history, I inherited the fish with no warning from someone who had kept them in a 10-gal. tank for the past 3 years. I recently replaced 2 of the albino Corys who did not survive the following abrupt change in circumstances, and the van Rio replaced 2 other tetras who likewise did not make it. I had to set up the tank or the prior owner was going to throw them away! When I was in the kitchen getting more water, my daughter let him in and he just netted them into the partially filled tank and threw the existing water down the toilet! I was dumbfounded and horrified! Needless to say, I fought a "sick tank" for the next two months. But that is now behind us and the survivors are doing well -- finally! I added the two Corys two weeks ago, before I identified the low pH problem, but they have done well nonetheless.
<Actually, all these fish prefer soft, acidic water, so a low pH shouldn't be an issue.>
I have a 40 gal. pump with a bubble stone in one corner and a bubble screen across the back (so aeration is not a problem). I have arranged the tank so that there are calm areas for all the fish to rest in as well as areas of current. I have an appropriate submersible premium heater, an Aqueon filter, ornaments and artificial plants, and a gravel base all made for a tropical tank. All of my live plants keep slowly dying back. I read ya'll's suggestion that a sand base would be better for the Corys and will move that way once everything is stabilized. (Okay, "ya'll" is a quaint colloquialism, but live with it. It is how we speak!)
<And you'll have to forgive me having been brought up with a Midwestern parent with a typically Midwestern opinion of Texans! Here in England all we know about Texans is Ewing Oil, Bush 43, and those great big hats.>
I feed the fish Omega One Freshwater Flakes and add Top Fin Algae Thins. I usually do a 10% weekly water change cleaning lightly each time with a gravel cleaner. About once a month, I do a more thorough cleaning and about a 20% water change, because I take out that much more water doing the more thorough cleaning.
Up until about a month ago, I had the fish in a 15-gal. tank. I transferred all of the 15 gal. of water from the prior tank, then added water treated with API Stress Coat and, finally, the fish. I felt it was important to place the fish into the larger tank as quickly as I could in order to reduce temperature fluctuations as much as possible because I lost 3 fish the prior week due to the heat.
<I see. As stated, some of these fish prefer cooler conditions. One of the surprises for many people is that the hottest parts of the world are not in the tropics but in the warm temperate zone, including the Southwestern United States. Many tropical fish simply can't cope with such extreme conditions. The key issue is usually lack of oxygen. Understock the tank, and ensure lots of water movement. Don't confuse air bubbles from an air pump with oxygen. All air bubblers do is circulate the water; they don't force oxygen into the water. Beneficial, yes, but only if water is thoroughly mixed at all levels of the tank.>
We have had one of the hottest summers on record, with almost 60 days above 100 F, and many in the 108 F range up to 111 F, and they still keep coming. (We average only 16 days above 100 F.) As a result we have not been able to keep the room temperature as cool as the fish (dogs, guinea pigs and humans) would like it, with some afternoon-through-early morning temperatures reaching 88 F up to 95 F in the living room where the tank is located. Very unpleasant. I have finally been able to get the tank temperature down to 77 F in the past few days after relocating it under the path of the air conditioning vent and through evaporation and an arrangement of four fans. So far, I have not had any fish become ill since the transfer to the larger tank. The heat should break in the next 2-3 weeks, if it follows the usual larger weather pattern (a hurricane/tropical storm making Texas landfall).
<Now, do try this in summer. Grab some litre-sized food cartons. Fill with tap water, then freeze. When it gets hot, float one of these (unopened) in the tank. That should cool the aquarium down quite a bit. Replace with another one when it has melted, and refreeze the used one as often as required. A second technique is to open the top of the tank and place a fan nearby. Evaporation will remove heat from the tank. The main danger here is some fish may jump out, typically loaches, eel-shaped fish, and surface swimmers like Danios and Minnows. On the whole midwater tetras and Angels should be fine, as should catfish. Finally, if all else fails, you can buy a marine aquarium chiller. These aren't cheap -- typically $150 upwards -- but they work very well, and given you'd only need the thing for 2-3 months per year, would be economical to run.>
The problem is that my tank tests as low a pH as my Tetra 5-in-1 test strips will register. Our water comes from dammed artificial lakes which are fed by streams/creeks/rivers that run through a limestone base, resulting in water which is hard to very hard.
<In itself not a bad thing. As it happens, I have an article in this season's WWM Digital magazine that you can read online all about hard water community tank options, here:
Other than the GH and pH, the readings are in the "ideal" range. I have done 20% daily water changes for the past ten days but have been unable to detect any rise in the pH. My LFS expert (and he is the best of the ones in the area) is stumped except to suggest it might be a reaction to something put in the water to reduce algal growth (a problem with the municipal system every summer), but that is just a guess. I believe that if that were the problem, it would be more common. I have the same water source as three LFS's and they are not reporting the problem.
<Don't worry about it. If the general hardness is about right, and the fish are healthy, ignore the pH.>
Now, I do have a possible problem reading the test strips, particularly the bottom of the 3 GH tests and the pH. The vast majority of the readings are as I have stated, but there is a very thin rim (almost a shadow) of a different reading around the edges; i.e., the pH reads yellow at 6.4 (as low as it shows), but the square is barely rimmed in orange which matches 7.2 to 7.6. I have assumed that the greater majority of the square is the correct reading and provided that.
<These dip strips can be difficult to use. Have your retailer use a liquid test kit on your pH.>
In addition, during the past 3 weeks, I have noticed a brown bloom of some sort on my original ornaments (the rest came with the gifted aquarium and were dried out). This stuff is 3-dimensional and slimy. I think it is algal because there appear to be tracks where it has been eaten off (by the Corys?).
<Snails leave distinctive zig-zag "tyre tracks" as they graze with their snouts from side to side, so it might be those. In any case, likely diatoms if a flat film, or else red algae (the name is misleading) if like tufts of grass, threads, or bushy lumps. Red algae typically occurs in overstocked tanks with mediocre water quality and too few (or no) fast-growing plants.>
I have read what ya'll have written and learned a lot about high pH and soft water, but I have not found my exact problem. Please continue my adventure in water chemistry.
Thank you so very much for your time and assistance.
<Do have your water tested for general hardness and carbonate hardness (KH) as well as pH; then get back to me. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: I can't get the pH up . . . and my tap water measures just fine. So what... 9/7/11

Hi ya'll!
<What ho!>
I have been unsuccessful finding a LFS who has a liquid pH test. (They really trust the strips that much??)
<I guess.>
But my tank is doing well. All the fish appear healthy. I have successfully added some tetras. I have added plants, again. Thanks for encouraging me to "chill" and ignore the pH reading. I was able to keep the tank temperature down with your tip.
<Glad to hear this.>
The extreme heat broke on Sunday, but it is coming back up again. We desperately need rain. Wildfires have been continuously raging all over Texas since December. We are one day short of the all-time record 69 days above 100F, and probably will top it in the next two weeks.
Just so you are up to date on truly important world affairs . . . they are bring back "Dallas" this fall. Watch for "big hair" on the ladies, a Texas signature even we make fun of.
<Have to admit to having enjoyed 'Dallas' the first time around, even though I was just a kid at the time.>
FYI -- I haven't seen a cowboy hat, an oil well or any cattle since a road trip two years ago.
<I wear cowboy boots about half the days of the week. But I buy them when I'm visiting Nebraska, so they might not be quite the real thing! Corn-fed rather than longhorn cattle hide!>
But, someone is keeping horses on the undeveloped land adjacent to the new state-of-the-art Children's Medical Center of Plano. Agricultural usage lowers property taxes significantly. And, we do have a frequent problem with suburban coyotes and the occasional mountain lion.
Thanks again. I appreciate your commitment to helping as well as your ability to educate and communicate your tremendous expertise to us average enthusiasts.
Nancy in Dallas
<Thanks for the kind words, and I'm really pleased you're enjoying your hobby. Good luck, Neale.>

All is well until the pH spikes. 6/22/11
WWM Crew,
First: Accolades for your hard work and dedication to our water friends. I am sure you have saved many a fish. Second, sorry this is so long I just wanted you to know the history and time frame. Now on to businessI had not the foggiest idea about fish tanks or fish for that matter when my husband purchased a Marineland Eclipse 6 (full hood, filter, light and Biowheel) for our daughter.
We set it up 2/11/11 never bothered checking the pH, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates or anything, we just added some water conditioner (tetra-safe) then when the tanks temperature was stable at 74 degrees we stocked it with 1 Male Guppy, 2 Glow Fish and 1 Albino Corydoras cat, all was good for about 10 days then the water started fogging up and the Cory died. We took a sample of the water back to the LFS (Petco) and then from the employees advice, just made the situation worse, they gave us another Cory for the deceased one and told us we needed to bring the ammonia levels down and the livestock should be fine, just do 20% water changes every 3-5 days even though my ammonia levels were through the roof (1.0-2.0 ppm). I went through 3 more Corys before finally giving up on Corys all together. The fish that have survived the tremendous ammonia were still for the most part pretty active, a couple weeks later I tried an Oto Cat, big mistake again because I could not get my ammonia levels down, I got another batch of terrible advise <advice> from the Petco people and finally after about 2 Ã'½ months of terrible advice and trying the limited water changes repeatedly I decided to go to a proper fish supplier located about 20 miles away, I am glad I did. I took my water sample to them and they proceeded to tell me I have pH so low it wont even turn the water any color at all and if the pH is too low the good bacteria will not grow, I have to fix the root problem before I can tackle the ammonia problem, and likely the cats were dying because of the tank water being way too acidic, it was burning their gills. That was a start, I found your website and I have followed your recommendations since the beginning of May, by doing up to a 50% water change (even if it means cycling the tank-and thanks to you guys I know what that means now) and I have added Ã'½ teaspoon baking soda to a five gallon bucket of treated tap water and let it sit for a minimum of 48 hours before using the water. I had a nitrite spike (3.0 ppm), which was easily cleared up with a water change. I thought my tank has finally fully cycled (May 15)not so fast, the ammonia started spiking again and I was doing at least 30% water changes daily to keep the ammonia levels down to below .25 ppm. I was maintaining the pH at 7.6 for 2 weeks and finally getting no ammonia readings either, yeehawI finally got this whole tank thing down so I added another Guppy (May 29). Uh Oh, I spoke too soon, its been a good 5-week run for my tank. I tried looking for my latest problem on your site and found little to work from hence my contacting you now. I have Eclipse System 6, 2 Guppy, 2 Glow Fish, and a thriving/growing great Cryptocoryne Wendtii (added in March per some more bad advise that it would help with the ammonia, but the little plant just loves it in our tank) my API Master Test Kit tells me that yesterday my pH was 7.6, Ammonia 0 ppm, nitrite 0 ppm, nitrate 0 ppm, my quick-dip strip tells me my GH is between 25-50 ppm, chlorine 0, and KH between 120-180. So all looks fine yesterday, today is a different story everything tests the same except the pH and the KH, now the pH is at 8.2 and the quick dip test strip shows the KH is over 180 ppm (not as dark as the 300 color block but for sure darker than the 180 color block). My four fish are very active, chasing each other (not aggressively as they all chase each other and get along really great) around the tank and eating like normal, everything seems to be ok with them so should I start to worry and what would you recommend for this situation?
<I would not change a thing here re water quality... and stick w/ your protocol for water changes, make-up, the blending in of baking soda. The most important aspect/measure of health/success here is the "apparent" behavior of your livestock, and your testing/results are fine as indicated. Bob Fenner>
Thanks in advance for your advice and recommendations.

Freshwater Tank Setup with Coral Sand PH too High 5/31/11
I was wondering what you would recommend that I could do in order to lower the PH in my tank.
<Remove the coral sand. It has no place in an aquarium like this.>
Unfortunately I was sold coral sand for setting up a planted freshwater community tank. Now that it is setup and all plants and fish, driftwood, rocks, etc. are in the tank I don't want to go through the process of taking everything out of the tank, including the fish who may die in the process to replace the substrate with gravel.
<No, no risk of that. Remove the coral sand. Then, over the next few weeks, replace 20% of the water as per normal each weekend, and you should find that as the pH and hardness changes, the fish adapt just fine.>
My PH hovers between 8 and 8.4 and a bunch of my fish have died because of it, tetras, catfish, platies, etc.. The PH of my tapwater is about 7.7 and I believe most of those guys would live if my PH stayed in that area.
<Now, like most beginners you're concentrating on pH, which isn't the key thing. Hardness is what matters! Let's assume you have hard water. That being the case you want to choose species that thrive in hard water or tolerate hard water. Livebearers and Rainbowfish are consistently good choices, and among tetras, species such as Bloodfins, X-Ray Tetras and Penguin Tetras are notable for their tolerance of hard, alkaline water.>
I have a large piece of driftwood in my tank (56 gallon bow tank) and I did some research and found that adding driftwood can lower the PH.
<Yes, but not in hard water, unless you have tons of the stuff!>
One question that I have is will adding more driftwood to the tank, counter act the PH raising effect of the coral sand?
<Won't work.>
If not is there anything else I can do, as I have tried chemicals such as Neutral Regulator from SeaChem and that seems to do nothing to help the situation.
<Yikes! Don't try and change pH before altering water chemistry first. In this case, remove all the coral sand so that the water hardness drops, and then accept the hard water you have from your tap water. Determine its water chemistry, then choose species for your community accordingly.>
Any information would be greatly appreciated!
<Read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwh2oquality.htm
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: water hardness and high pH 3/17/11
Hi doc, I re-did the water hardness test - did a bit of research and reading first (thanks for the links) to understand what the hell it all meant, and ultimately got a reading of "5" (the JBL test appears to depict KH, and measures the number of drops it takes to change the solution from blue to orange).....so does that equate to 5 degrees of general hardness, or 89 ppm? Which is actually soft, is it not?
<The JBL carbonate hardness test kit is the green/yellow one. The JBL general hardness test kit is the reddish-brown one. Remember, general and carbonate hardness are complementary things. You cannot simply convert one into the other. You can, in theory, have water with high carbonate hardness and low general hardness, or vice versa. A carbonate hardness of 5 degrees KH is not a particularly high level of carbonate hardness, but without knowing the general hardness as well, it's impossible to say if the water is "soft" or "hard". If for example you lived in Southern England, chances would be good you have hard, alkaline water -- in other words, you'd have a general hardness between 15-20 degrees dH, and a carbonate hardness between 5-10 degrees KH. Such water typically has a pH of about 7.5 to 8.5, depending on the carbonate hardness more than anything else.>
Assuming I've understood it correctly, I seem to have soft, slightly alkaline water. Now I'm really confused, I thought high pH and hard water went hand in hand.
<Not at all. Bleach has a high pH but no hardness at all. Yes, water with a high carbonate hardness ("alkalinity") does indeed usually have a high pH, usually around 8, give or take a bit. But general hardness effects pH much less so, so you have high general hardness with a low carbonate hardness, and end up with a weakly basic pH, say 7.2 to 7.5.>
But in any event, soft water appears to be more unstable and more likely to suffer broad fluctuations in pH.
<Yes, but I don't think that's what you have here. In any event, 5 degrees KH should inhibit pH changes extremely well.>
I have no idea what to do with that information now......does it affect any of the existing community fish, any part of my regular maintenance routine, or scupper my plan to have a couple of Bolivian Rams?
<If your general hardness is 10 degrees dH, and your carbonate hardness is 5 degrees dH, you should be able to have a good mix of fish including Bolivian Rams, hard water tolerant tetras like X-Ray Tetras, Corydoras catfish, Cherry Shrimps, and even some of the less fussy livebearers such as Platies.>
Ta v much
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: water hardness and high pH - 3/22/11

Hi Neale,
Ok, thanks, I'm getting there now on my understanding of carbonate hardness and general hardness. Perhaps best thing to do would be to take a sample to MA and get them to do a definitive test on pH and water hardness, so I know for sure.
Whilst my mini-cycle was extremely short-lived and nitrite went back to zero after 2 water changes, I also thought you might be interested to know that I have moved out the last of the Loaches (de-planting the whole tank in the process of catching them, again) and all of the Gouramis. The weak panda Corydoras appeared to spring to life within hours of the loaches being gone, and was feeding voraciously on anything he could get his barbels on and then whizzing around the tank with the others. Let's hope he's now properly on the road to recovery.
<Interesting. Corydoras are easily bullied, and a singleton even more so.>
I also have some new residents. I know I know, I was supposed to hold off for a few weeks, but a pair of Bolivian Rams appeared at my local MA branch! I saw them last weekend but resisted until I'd removed the other stock as you recommended, then I just had to reserve them......there were none at any of the other branches, and none expected in either.
I picked them up on Sunday and they've been settling in.....what very beautiful, captivating fish they are, I am instantly smitten. They're very shy, I don't see much of them at the moment! Hopefully they'll settle in in time and grow bolder - there is plenty of plant cover, I have bogwood breaking up portions of the tank, and they have been creeping out for food. They are wary of the bossy Ancistrus, but unfazed by the Corydoras fluttering all over them.
<They will settle down. These fish are quite outgoing in a happy tank.>
I gather that they are difficult to sex, the LFS suspected that they are both males. From the little I've seen, they are more or less similar in size (2.5 inches) and appearance and colouring, although one definitely has a more intensely yellow chest/shoulders than the other. They have been doing some very mild chasing, but no lip-locking, and they have been seen to cruise the tank and feed as a pair. I'll have to observe them for a few more days/weeks and see what transpires. Once they are bolder I'll try to get pics!
<As always with cichlids, look at the spawning tube, also called the genital papilla. This is the thing that sticks out just ahead of the anal fin, close to the anus. In males it is often visible even when not spawning, and looks like a sharp pointed tip. On females it is sometimes not visible, but when it is, it looks blunter, thicker and more rounded at the end. As you'd expect, one is for squirting out a jet of sperm, and the other for squeezing out eggs one at a time.>
That's all, really.......thanks for all the help you've provided, invaluable as always. Any hints and tips for the Rams appreciated, you know me, always learning..
<Glad to help, Neale.>

soft water with high pH? 2/27/11
I live in San Francisco and I'm setting up a tank for Fire Red shrimp, the selectively bred red cherry shrimp. My problem is that the pH of my tanks (and tap) is 8.6-8.8, although the kH and GH are 3 and 4 degrees... it could be the other way around as I'm not at home to check... but it was soft. I've read that pH does not matter as much as kH and GH, is this true?
What would you recommend I do? Thanks!
<Hello Lenee. The problem is that pH is a measure of how acidic or basic the water is, rather than a test of water hardness. So while hard water tends to be basic, while soft water tends to be acidic, there are indeed exceptions. Ammonia, for example, will raise pH, even though it isn't adding anything to either general or carbonate hardness. As a rule, if your fish and/or shrimps look happy, and the pH itself is stable between water changes, and the water quality is good, I would not worry too much. Get some Cherry Shrimps or Fire Shrimps, leave them in the tank, and see what happens! Cheers, Neale.>

High alkalinity, FW 1/24/11
Hi guys, how are you?
<The usual Sunday evening blues not looking forward to waking up at the crack o' dawn tomorrow.>
I recently set up a 55 gallon fish tank, and I have had it running for about two weeks. My pH coming out of my tap which is city water is 7.6.
<What's the hardness though? The pH hardly matters, but the hardness matters greatly.>
In my tank I have a regular white colored aquarium gravel, two pieces of Malaysian drift wood, a couple fake plants, and ten cichlid rocks that I purchased from aquariumfish.net.
<What on earth are "cichlid rocks"? Some sort of hole-filled limestone? These will raise your carbonate hardness (alkalinity). Lava rock, by contrast, is generally inert. In any case, confirm with your retailer or check whether the material is alkaline using the vinegar test.>
I would like south American cichlids in this tank so I'd like my pH to be neutral, between 6.8-7.0. I have used pH down from an API pH test kit several times in an attempt to reduce the pH level with no success.
<No, no, no! You DO NOT lower pH. You lower carbonate hardness. When carbonate hardness is lowered, then pH goes down automatically. What you're doing is not only unstable but won't actually help. Fish come in two flavours -- hard water fish and soft water fish. You can go happily through life without even testing for pH provided you know the hardness. For South American cichlids you're after something around 5-10 degrees dH. If you have hard water out of the tap, then a 50/50 mix of tap water with RO or rainwater should work just fine by itself. If your tap water has a low carbonate hardness, say, less than 5 degrees KH, then you may need to use a pH buffer to fish the pH around 7.0, the optimal for these fish (when pH drops below 7, biological filtration slows down, so there's no real need to lower the pH to 6.5 unless you have a darn good reason AND a lightly stocked aquarium).>
After going to a fish store they told me to try a discus buffer after doing a 50% water change. This did not work.
After several more doses the pH still has not dropped. I returned to the store only to be told that my alkalinity is off the charts.
<There you go. You have hard water with a high carbonate hardness.>
He wants me to remove everything from the tank, refill it with my tap water, try to drop the pH and then slowly begin to add one thing at time to see what could be causing the pH to be so high.
<Your retailer is selling you stuff you don't need, and obviously hasn't a clue about water chemistry.>
I would like to get second opinion. I have bought everything from fish stores and I have soft water.
<You may have a low general hardness but a high carbonate hardness. Not uncommon with water filtered through limestone or chalk.>
Also, I have two Aqueon 55gallon power filters. One 150 watt tank heater and two 3 inch air stones with the tubing. I would really appreciate any advice that would be helpful in helping me fix these issues.
<Do read:
Then either choose fish adapted to your water -- Firemouth cichlids for example make hard water alternatives to Geophagine cichlids from South America -- or else bite the bullet and invest in either a rainwater butt or an RO filter. If creating soft water was as simple as adding a pH potion, we'd all be doing it. But it doesn't work, and that's why we spend money on RO filters or set up downpipes to collect rainwater. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: High alkalinity
Thank you very much that.
<No problem.>
So my next step would be to buy a kH and dh test kit?
<Yes, you need to measure general and carbonate hardness.>
Maybe a pH buffer?
Also if I buy a RO filter does that mean I can't use the ones I have?
<You have an RO filter already?>
Also I was advised to put aquarium salt in the tank as well.
<Ordinary aquarium salt has no impact on general hardness, carbonate hardness or pH. It's sodium chloride. Do understand the difference between salinity and hardness.>
I don't know if this made it worse.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: High alkalinity
So is a RO filter something that goes on before the tank or something that goes on the houses water system?
<It's a device for producing pure water from tap water. Expensive to buy and expensive to run, as well as wasteful of water, but reliable and highly effective. Read here:
Do note that making hard water soft has always been dangerous, difficult and expensive, which is why it isn't recommended for beginners. Much better to choose fish suited to your water chemistry. If you have hard water, there are lots and lots of good cichlid choices from Central America and East Africa.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: High alkalinity
Are there any other options than that or just going with different fish because I want to try a cichlid tank and I like the variety of shapes south Americans have. I feel like Africans all have same shapes just different colors. Sorry to be a bother
<I didn't say "Africans". Lots of aquarists have this idea that "African cichlids" is the same thing as Mbuna. It is not. Try looking at the cichlids of Lake Tanganyika for a start, for example Julidochromis and Lamprologus, or if you want a challenge, Tropheus. In Lake Malawi, there are the non-Mbuna types including Aulonocara, Cyrtocara, Nimbochromis and lots of others. These are all very different to the drab, blue, hybridised "African" junk widely sold in American pet stores especially. There are some South American cichlids that will do well in hard water, including Mikrogeophagus altispinosus at the smaller end and Gymnogeophagus balzanii among the Eartheaters. When it comes to Central America, yes, many are bruisers, but not all of them: little Herotilapia multispinosa for example, and the bigger "Nicker" Hypsophrys nicaraguensis, both of which are colourful, and, with care, suitable for the right sort of community tank. A pair of Herotilapia multispinosa might be kept alongside some Mexican tetras and fast-moving livebearers like Swordtails, and these would positively thrive in hard, alkaline water. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: High alkalinity 1/24/11
Thank you so much for all your insightful advice Neale. I am definitely going to look into the types of Africans you mentioned. Thanks for your patience and help. It's nice to know someone is always willing to help.
<Happy to help. Good luck with your selections. There are many articles here at WWM on cichlids, including some recent additions by Mary Bailey, a noted expert on Rift Valley cichlids. Cheers, Neale.>

Discus dilemma! Sys., substrate/pH issue 12/24/10
<Hello Rob!>
First of all many thanks for taking the time to provide this site, it's a fantastic repository of knowledge and it's been absolutely invaluable to my fishkeeping adventures.
Based on this I would very grateful for any advice you don't mind offering on a (long!) dilemma I am facing.
I have a 55 gallon long tank that has been set up for about eight months and which has successfully housed five juvenile 2"-4" discus (tank-bred S. aequifasciatus) and ten rummy nose tetras for about the last five months. There is a reasonable amount of bogwood in the tank interspersed with lots of Cabomba and other assorted plants with one corner kept clear and covered with Pistia stratiotes to provide a darker refuge spot for the discus. The plants are rooted in a 1.5" deep substrate of white 'river sand' and the whole tank is filtered with a very large 2200lph canister filter with large spray-bars set-up to minimise the current in the tank. The water parameters are: 0mg/l ammonia and 0mg/l nitrite (or there abouts), between 10mg/l and 30mg/l nitrate depending on how recently there has been a water change (which I try to do bi-weekly to keep it below 30mg/l)
<I'd do more often... or use other techniques to keep NO3 under 20 ppm max.>
and a KH usually around 6. The pH, until recently, was hovering around 6.8-7.0 and the discus were feeding and displaying themselves nicely.
Unfortunately some of the Cabomba wouldn't stay rooted in one of the corners of the tank and after replanting it a dozen times I decided to increase the depth of sand in that corner to provide the plant with more space to root in properly. Instead of taking the sensible option and driving the long distance to the specialty discus retailer I normally use I opted to buy a generic brand 'white aquarium sand' from my very LFS, a product the clerk assured me would be fine in a discus tank.
<Mmm, some types of such substrate are okay, others...>
About 24-36 hours after I replanted the Cabomba I noticed that my normally resplendent discus were huddling in their refuge spot, leaning and turning brown. I immediately did a water test and found to my horror that, while the other parameters were normal (slight rise in KH), the pH was now about 8.2!
I immediately started doing small water changes using RO water mixed with a small amount of dechlorinated tap water to help give the water some buffering capacity (the tap water here is very hard with pH 8.0+ and KH 6.0-8.0) in an attempt to lower the pH of the tank again.
<You'll have to remove the substrate>
Even after slowly changing a large volume of the water in the tank over the course of several days the pH kept climbing back to 8.0+, so I went back to the LFS that sold me the sand and the manager confirmed that the white sand I had been sold was in fact 'marine sand' (a fact which you think they might write on the packaging!) and so it seems any attempt to lower the pH of this tank is now entirely pointless until I break the whole set-up down and remove all the substrate.
<This is so>
Surprisingly enough the rummy noses have not been noticeably affected by the change in pH; although they did school a lot more tightly for a while so there was probably some stress.
<Good observation>
Unsurprisingly the discus were extremely stressed for about three or four days and lost most of their colour. Since then however the discus have calmed down and regained much of the colour they lost, and are feeding and displaying well again.
So my dilemma is this: do I break the tank down, start again with new substrate and quickly drop the pH of their water which will be a huge short-term shock to the discus (?),
<I would break the system down, or alternatively vacuum out the new (and some of the old if necessary) substrate... and return all the "sucked out" water... of the currently too-high pH... over time (weeks) of regular water changes, the hardness and pH will drop>
or, now that they have apparently
acclimatised to the new alkaline conditions, is it safer to leave them as they are? Internet opinions about discus and pH seem to be deeply divided on whether discus can live happily in high alkaline conditions, with one half claiming that any pH over 7.5 will kill discus overnight
<Perhaps wild-collected specimens>
and the other half claiming that tank-bred discus will live happily in anything 6.0-9.0 pH so long as the water parameters are stable.
<Captive-produced stock/s are much more resilient to such ranges>
The only other tank-space I have spare is in an unused ten gallon 'Nano' which I don't think would work very well even as a temporary solution.
I am planning on moving the discus in the next year or two into a very large 5x3x2' tank which is currently under construction (and given that the weight of water in this tank will be just under a tonne I'd rather not rush this construction either).
<Best to take your time>
I would also prefer these discus to
be at least 6" or so before they make the move to this new tank as I'm also planning on adding several other large adult discus as tank-mates.
With all these facts in mind what is the best course of action for the well-being of the fish?
<As stated above>
I'd obviously prefer not to break the tank down and further stress the fish if it is unnecessary. Will my discus prosper for a year or so in 8.2 pH water (with heavy filtration) now that they appear to have adjusted to the high pH, or do I need to get them back to a low pH fast?
<Slowly enough... and again, I'd remove the new/calcareous substrate>
Am I right in assuming that there is no way to lower the pH with the sand in place?
<Practically speaking, yes; there is no way... The gravel will dissolve, re-buffering the pH till it is all about dissolved>
I know very little about marine fish-keeping but the sand in question appears not to be aragonite as it is very fine and white and was very cheap to purchase so my guess is that it is a limestone-based brand (?). There was no information on the packet other than "Aquarium sand. For use in Aquaria"!
I apologise if this has been covered elsewhere but from my research I appear to be the first person stupid enough to poison their discus with marine sand.
Many thanks in advance,
<Do write back Rob if this isn't clear, complete. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Giving up or solution? (Bob, do you suspect CO2 here?) 12/13/10
I'm not sure the purpose of this email. I'm hoping whoever responds, can give me some insight and perhaps guidance.
<Will try.>
It is with a heavy heart that I write, frustrated, upset and at the upper limits of my emotional stress levels. Compounded with this, I know it is not fair, my emotions, when compared against the suffering of the fishes I am responsible for.
<I see.>
I have a local water chemistry with a high pH and absolutely no buffering capacity. In the past two years, I've experienced just a handful of stable, nice moments and several long periods of total freak out.
I guess one of my main questions is when do you know this hobby is not for you?
<Almost never the case. It's usually more about choosing the right FISH for you.>
At what point, how many deaths of fishes you have kept for months, years but ***ked up the environment for, do you throw in the towel? I just can't seem to get it right or at the very least keep up with regular maintenance in this crappy water chemistry with my limited resources.
I neglected my tank for some (months) time in regards to regular water changes, stocking and overfeeding. The point I am at is that I can't seem to raise my KH and subsequently pH levels with 25%-40% daily water changes without throwing my fish (surviving 7 Corydoras, 15 full grown platies, 15-20 few days to few months old platies) into severe stress. I don't know if I am overstocked or not.
<For a 40 gallon tank, you should be fine.>
I don't know enough, or know just too much to be dangerous. Right now I can raise my KH from below 3 to about 7 and pH to 7.6 from below < 6 in my 40 gallon planted tank via a 3/4 Malawi seat salt mix posted on this site.
<That's good.>
However, at this point my fish start exhibiting signs of extreme stress.
<Do not do this all at once! Fish will adapt to even the "wrong" water chemistry, and trying to force them across to "good" water chemistry can undo that adaptation. Go slow, i.e., change no more than 10-20% of the water per day if you're changing water chemistry. Let your new water sit overnight if you're not 100% sure it's stable. If you have funky tap water, let it sit overnight, then add Malawi Salt mix, and then use it.>
I've been trying to raise to about 10+ KH to stop the rapid drop in acidification that occurs within 12 hours after reaching the 7 KH levels (after 12 hours of reaching a 7 KH level, it drops to 3-4 KH and plummets my pH).
<Carbonate hardness, what you're measuring using KH, drops when exposed to acid-forming chemicals. Assuming your tank isn't a morass of peat, bogwood and leaf-litter, the likely source of acidity is CO2. Some tap water contains lots of CO2, and it takes 24 hours to properly de-gas. Perhaps even longer in some cases. If it isn't de-gassed, once you add Malawi Salt mix, there's a gradual reaction between the CO2 (as carbonic acid) and the bicarbonate that makes up the carbonate hardness. The two react, and in the process, the KH you measure goes down. You can actually buy CO2 test kits, but instead, why not take a sample to an aquarium shop and see if they can test it for you? Failing that, get a glass of tap water, test the pH, then test the pH again after 6 hours and then 12 hours. If you see the pH rising after 6 to 12 hours, it's very likely the water has de-gassed, the CO2 leaving the water and going into the air.>
Any jump I make above that, has a stable effect on my KH and pH levels but throws my fish into extreme distress. I don't know what to do.
<See above.>
The next step I am considering is changing 40% of the water every 6 hours, but even then I don't know if that will work.
<That's too much work! The aim here is to perform 20-25% water changes every 1-2 weeks. Done that way, this is a low cost hobby, not a nightmare of buckets and test kits!>
Does any of this make sense? I apologize. These fish were a Christmas present two years ago. I'm attached to many of them but just seem to be torturing them.
<Try what I mention above, and see also anything Bob suggests beyond my comments. If you can, consult your water supplier, or even better, members of a local city aquarium club. One last option, the nuclear option I suppose, is consider going brackish. At 25-50% normal seawater salinity, any funky water chemistry should be totally overridden by the marine salt mix. Guppies and Mollies will thrive in such conditions, but so will a wide range of other species like Figure-8 puffers, Knight Gobies, Orange
Chromides and so on. Since these animals a pre-adapted to deal with fluctuating water chemistry, they tend to be far less fussy than freshwater fish.>
Please help,
<Good luck, Neale.>
<<There is almost assuredly some other source of acidification here, not just source CO2/carbonic acid in solution. Gina DO you have driftwood, other soluble organic material in this tank? There are other means (soluble gravels i.e.) to raise and keep alkalinity up... RMF>>
Re: Giving up or solution? (Bob, do you suspect CO2 here?) 12/13/10

Thank you Neale.
<You are welcome.>
I was rather intoxicated when I wrote that last night and am glad I only got a little mushy in the beginning of the email, I woke up and read what I wrote and your response prepared for the worst but I seem to be able to make sense after multiple shots of tequila. Some people drunk dial old boyfriends, I drunk email WWM! I wonder what that says about my personality in general.
<It says you care about your pet animals.>
Anyhow, I will see about the CO2 testing as soon as possible. I have question about the seat salt mix in general. When I leave the source water overnight, do I just let it sit in a 5 gallon bucket or do I put in an
<Airstones will speed up de-gassing, as will anything that churns the water, like a powerhead or a small cheapo internal canister filter, perhaps stuffed with carbon to remove any other gunk that might be in
there. In theory though, it should de-gas within a day.>
Typically I use an airstone to mix the water and solution (after manually stirring it a bit) for a few minutes and just want to make sure this is not contributing to the issues.
<No, don't worry about this. An airstone has little/no impact as far as putting gases from the atmosphere into water goes. The idea they "pump" oxygen into water is widely held but completely erroneous. There's not enough pressure. Compare an airstone in a bucket with a soda water maker.
You need to pressurized the water and then force gas in. Now, that can certainly happen underground, which is why come water from aquifers has high CO2 concentrations.>
Also, in reviewing what you said about leaving the source water for 24 to de gas and "sometimes longer" and going over what I've tried this past week and old notebooks, one trend I do see happening is that about 2-3 days my water chemistry stops changing. I figured it just dropped to a point it could go no further but is it possible that it has taken this long to de gas?
<It should de-gas in a day, probably less. But it all depends on the size of the bucket, water temperature and a variety of other factors. A big bucket will de-gas more slowly than a small one for the same reason a glass of pop loses its fizz faster than a 2-litre bottle.>
I've ruled out other causes of acidification such as filter, substrates, decorations, etc. I experience this same trend in my 20 unplanted gallon tank and to a lesser degree my 10 gallon tank (the 40 and 20 drop pretty rapidly and the 10 holds levels longer it seems).
<You might also try this: set up a tank explicitly for hard water fish, like Platies. Use coral sand for the substrate, and perhaps even add some crushed coral into the filter. Fill with hard water, and do small water changes, 20%, every week or two. Don't overstock. Don't overfeed. With luck, the coral sand will buffer against pH changes -- as pH drops, the coral sand dissolves more quickly, reversing the pH drop constantly. You may want to remove the coral sand every 6-12 months and give a really good clean under a hot tap to remove sludge, because algae and bacteria eventually isolate the coral sand grains so well this buffering process stops. This approach can work really well though, and was standard practise when people started keeping marines.>
Thanks again.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Giving up or solution? (Bob, do you suspect CO2 here?) 12/13/10

Also, I've wondered before but just written it off as pH bounce stress - when I've done too big of a water change, my Platies will eventually go to the top of the tank and fight over a position next to the outlet with
bubbles produced from my sponge filter. Does this have any significance at all?
<Possibly, but hard to say what. I do wonder if CO2 is pushing out oxygen, and so the fish are keenest on the water with the most oxygen, which will be precisely where you describe. If the water contains a lot of CO2, it won't contain much oxygen, the two gases pushing one another out, given the chance.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: More re: Giving up or solution? (***Again Bob, any comments***)<<>> 12/14/10
Hi, thank you for your help.
<You're welcome.>
The 40 gallon tank has about 1.5 inches of a mineralized soil substrate
<<This is the source of the acidification; not, as I alluded to in yesterday's emails, not a dissolved CO2 gas source. The tank/s need to be broken down, the soil rinsed out of the gravel, and re-set up. RMF>>
(I followed these instructions:
<This contains topsoil, pottery clay, dolomite, potassium chloride, gravel and/or sand. Should be pH neutral, except for the topsoil, which will be acidic. Whether significantly so, hard to predict. Decaying organic matter lowers pH, but the rate at which it does so varies. I favour pond soil rather than topsoil for this sort of thing, precisely because it is both nitrate-free (so less nitric acid produced) and contains less of the peaty material likely to lower pH.>
covered by 2 inches of aquarium sand, plants (3 Amazon swords, 1 Rotala, 1 big bushy something and watersprite) and a couple of rocks - all purchased at LFS. I have made sure to keep the tank clean of dying plant matter.
Prior to transitioning this tank to a planted tank, I experienced similar issues and eventually got it worked out using the Malawi sea salt mix. I'm *assuming* since my tank has aged a few months and I let the levels fall so drastically that I'm fighting an uphill battle combined with more rapid acidification than was occurring several months ago.
<If the tank was stable with plain vanilla gravel plus Malawi salt mix, but has become a pH see-saw since replacing the gravel with this soil mix, I'd be suspicious of the soil mix, unless I could see a similar pH drop in another aquarium without the soil mix.>
I experience this same trend in my unplanted 20 gallon tank that has 12 platies, plastic decorations, pea gravel and a couple of rocks, again from trusted LFS source. 48 hours ago my pH was 7.4 and 6 KH. 24 hours ago my pH was 7.2 and 3 KH. Right now the pH is 7.0 and 2 KH.
<So, something is clearly amiss there too, even without the soil mix.
Something is using up carbonate hardness, and thereby lowering pH.>
And also in my 10 gallon tank with 1 golden wonder killifish (new for platy control, quarantined for now and until I get things sorted) pea gravel, plastic decorations, no rocks. 48 hours ago pH 7.2 and 6 KH. 24 hours ago the same numbers. No water changes done and as of right now pH 7 and 4 KH.
<I see.>
? I am going to try Neale's suggesting of monitoring my source water's pH for change over 24 hours and see where that leads me. I can/will try his suggestion of setting up a tank with coral sand and crushed coral but right now I have 60ish fish in the 3 tanks, I'm trying to keep alive and get things stable.
Would it help to put crushed coral into my existing filters right now?
<Yes. Get something called a media bag (the foot from an old pair of tights/pantyhose works fine as well) and stuff with, say, a cup of crushed coral rather than coral sand. Crushed coral is sufficiently chunky it won't stop water flow dead; coral sand may well do that. Pop into the canister of hang-on-the-back filter, and then see what happens.>
I would like to preserve the planted tank if at all possible as I put a ton of effort into that substrate and it seems to be great for my plant growth.
<I bet! But do understand also that many plants thrive in brackish water, so the two things aren't mutually exclusive. At SG 1.003, anything happy in hard water should be happy at this low salinity, too.>
I called an LFS and they referred me to a "plant" store to test for CO2 so it might take a while before I can find some place.
Thanks again,
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: More Re: More re: Giving up or solution? (***Again Bob, any comments***) 12/14/10
Hello Bob,
Thanks for this. I don't disagree... but the recipe linked to -- topsoil, pottery clay, dolomite, potassium chloride, gravel and/or sand -- should be inert or even slightly basic if the dolomite component is significant.
<I suspect there is more mixed in here... an appreciable amount of organic component>
It's very strange.
I will observe I get excellent plant growth from plain pond soil mixed with gravel, then topped with silica sand or gravel as preferred. By guiding light is this -- aquarium plants are "weed" species -- if the aquarium is properly illuminated and has the right water chemistry, they should adapt to a very wide range of substrate types.
Cheers, Neale
<Wide indeed, but if there is significant digestion of this soil in the substrate, there can be very real problems. Cheers, BobF>
Re: More re: Giving up or solution? (***Again Bob, any comments***)<<Nada mas>> 12/14/10

Hi again,
I just saw Bob's email and Neale's response. I appreciate all the input and I am still so confused. At this point I would love to say it is the mineralized soil substrate and move on but as I detailed, this trend occurs
in both my other unplanted tanks with different substrate. I'm testing pH and KH every 6-12 hours currently and all tanks are dropping at close to the same rates.
<I see. So, it sounds like the substrate isn't a factor.>
I can say that the dolomite was only a "sprinkling" that lightly covered the floor of the aquarium and I couldn't find the right kind so I substituted crushed coral into the mixture as was suggested by the discussion there. Which, through this discussion, seems that maybe that was a very bad choice to substitute as crushed coral will stop working at a certain point. I thought I had researched that substrate extremely well and I spent 2.5 weeks and 4 cycles of soaking the topsoil for 48 hours, pulling out the floating materials and air drying in the sun. I'm not trying to argue about it and will pull it if I need to but if it doesn't solve my problems, well, I'd be very sad and broken.
<Indeed. If both tanks experienced pH drops, and only one has the soil mixture, it would appear that the soil mixture isn't a key factor.>
The pH and KH in a glass of water sitting out did not change over the last 20 hours. I have put crushed coral in all my filters (1/2 cup in the 20 gallon and 1 cup in the 40 gallon, a sea shell in the 10).
<I'd be surprised if a seashell has much impact, but we'll see. The issue is surface area rather than merely the material, which is why a bag of crushed coral works so well.>
In the past I have asked employees of LFS stores about my city's water supply and the most informed answer I ever got was it was 'bad'.
<Meaningless statement without details. Ask him specifically whether the water is "hard" or "soft", and what the pH is. In fact, you should be able to find this information out from your water supplier. Do also make sure you aren't using water from a domestic water softener, i.e., the appliances used to "soften" water prior to use for baths, showers and washing machines. Use only the drinking water tap, which normally bypasses any softener.>
I spoke to the Fish guy at PetCo, of all places, last night, and he said that the city water supply is compromised with all sorts of nasties due to the several year drought that we came out of about 4-5 years ago and that it is expected to get worse before it gets better. I had a flashback to a field Biology class I took a year ago regarding stratification and weather changes churning the water bringing up the decaying matter from the bottom of the lakes.
<Possibly, but not really sure what might be happening. Commercial water suppliers are obligated to deliver water within fairly narrow chemical parameters. Certainly the case here in England, and I assume in the US, Canada, Europe, etc.>
He said "It's like a broken record" with people coming in because their systems are crashing and that our pH settles around 5.
<Yikes! That's very, VERY low.>
My test kits only go to 6, so I assume this number is accurate. He said to not use the water for drinking, cooking and do not use it for fish and drinking water for other pets. He had a bit of a doomsday tone in regards to our water which was humorous and concerning at the same time. I remember several months ago I had to dose for 4 ppm Ammonia with Amquel Plus and now I'm only having to dose for 2 ppm. So it seems my source water is unreliable to say the least. I'm not convinced that even if I get this worked out now, that I won't be going through it all again in a few months if things keep shifting.
<It does sound very depressing. There are really two options here that would be easy. One is to get a reverse-osmosis filter that produces deionised water, i.e., pure water, and then add the appropriate chemical mix to that as required. For soft water fish, so-called Discus Salts would work perfectly, otherwise 25-50% of the Malawi Salt Mix should work for community tropicals and hard water fish. Alternatively, add marine salt mix to override the background water chemistry, and keep brackish water fish -- such as Mollies and Guppies, even if Puffers or Scats don't appeal.>
So I guess I will go about this another way. Currently, the tap water comes out testing at 5 KH and 8 pH and at some point shifts down to 0 KH and 5 pH (which has always confused me as to why). Are RO devices just for hard water areas?
<Far from it.>
I can afford to purchase one in about 4-5 weeks if this can solve my issues. The 3/4 Malawi mix supposedly fixes (well apparently not anymore, if CO2 isn't the issue, I'm at a loss) my pH at 7.6 and KH of 12, dH about 20.
<Yes, this would indeed work. The water chemistry pH 7.6, 12 degrees KH and 20 degrees dH is very hard, but ideal for livebearers, goldfish, Central American cichlids, and other fish that enjoy hard water. If you halve the Malawi Salt mix, you should get something around pH 7.5, 10 degrees dH, ideal for a wide range of community fish excepting those needing very soft water (e.g., Cardinals) or very hard water (e.g., Mollies).>
In the meantime, my fish in the 40 gallon seem to have recovered from the massive water changes I did on Sunday with their pH having dropped back down to around 6.6 and 2 KH which is what I closer to what they were used to. I know from experiments last week, if I don't do a water change, this will drop in the next day or two to below 6. I lost 5 of my 6 peppered Corydoras this exact way last week. I raised the pH, didn't do water changes for 3 days, it dropped again, and they couldn't handle the stress.
That is when I freaked out on Sunday. Additionally, I'm battling spikes in ammonia and nitrites and need to control these some how.
<My guess would be varying water chemistry is stressing the biological filter, hence the lack of success ensuring good water quality.>
I know the crushed coral takes some time to get worked out to proper amounts and I think the LFS stores only sell pre mixed salt water.
<Which, mixed one part to one part tap water would create strongly brackish conditions, and one part seawater to four parts freshwater slightly brackish water. In either case, such conditions should be quite stable because of the high alkalinity of seawater. You might ask for a cup of seawater, mix it with four cups of tap water, and see how stable the pH is across a few days. If it is stable, then this would be a cheap way forward.
A tank maintained that way could have Mollies and various other nice colourful fish, just not salt-intolerant species like Corydoras. Of course, you could also keep marines! A basic community tank with some damsels or clownfish need not be expensive or difficult to set-up. See Bob F's writings on this topic, e.g., here:
Some of the damsels are MUCH HARDIER than many of the freshwater fish! It's staggering to see what they'll put up with. Not suggesting you go abuse them, but you'd be surprised how easy Domino Damsels and Humbug Damsels are to keep!>
The Petco guy said to use spring water from the grocery store but I believe I read on here that important trace minerals are missing but at this point until I can figure out the best permanent solution this may be my best option. Am I going in the wrong direction here of eschewing tap water altogether?
<I do think you are gathering useful information now, and working towards a solution. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: More Re: More re: Giving up or solution? (***Again Bob, any comments***) 12/14/10
Hello Bob,
Have just replied to another message from Gina, and since her pet store sells artificial seawater, have suggested it might be easier to keep a basic fish-only system with damsels rather than wrestling with her tap water chemistry.
<<Mmm... not satisfying. I would like to know what the real source of trouble is here. If she writes back, or if you deem it worth doing, I'd ask that she contact her water municipality. I don't know re the U.K., but in the U.S. the water districts are compelled to send on results of mandated testing, and processes they utilize in treating mains/tapwater. Something is amiss here, and I am hoping it is "simple". Does Gina have a CO/CO2 monitor in her home, where these tanks are? I would definitely use one.
Many "eastern" homes in the country are too-well air-sealed... Perhaps there is a good deal of carbonic acid contribution from indoor air here>>
Asking for trouble or worth considering?
Cheers, Neale
<<Am asking Gina here directly. IF their/her source water is this "bad", she should look into a filtration process for her potable uses as well as pet-fish. BobF>>
Re: More Re: Giving up or solution? (Bob, do you suspect CO2 here?) 12/14/10
Hi ya. Thanks again.
I'm close to resolved on purchasing an RO device especially if this remains a mystery or turns out to be not so "simple". I, too, would like to know the root explanation.
I have a CO monitor and have it near my bedroom but have tested the areas directly by my fish tanks before and all was well. I will find and purchase a CO2 monitor shortly. I have thought of moving my 10 gallon tank to my sister's house 3 blocks away to completely rule out if it is environmental to my house or not. My 40 gallon sits in front of my fireplace that has not been used in 4 years and I have occasionally wondered if that was contributing to the issue however my other two tanks are in the office down the hallway. Are there other environmental issues aside from CO2 that would cause issues - like sewage line problems or mold?
<Mmm, not likely, no>
I found the testing posted online for my water district. I've got a limited idea of how to interpret them as a whole. The pH over the last year fluctuates from 7.5 to 8.5 and CO3 is always 0 but the total alkalinity is around 100 mg/l.
<All reasonable measures>
However, the PetCo fish guy said that other residents experience the same issues I do with the pH settling at about 5
<? From what? If the mains water pH is as stated, and total Alk. is 100 ppm, there should be NO drop in resident pH>
- although it most certainly tests out at around 8 from the tap initially. The water district refers to our area as moderately hard.
<Agreed. BobF>
Water Reports - I live in the area treated by the Wylie plant.
<Nothing... "jumps out" here as significant, dangerous>
Also they have a walk through on how they treat the water on a link on the left side of the page called "Our system and Processes". It seems to be very high level. Should I contact them to find out what "disinfectants" they are using? I don't know what I'm looking for. Or should I just call them and be all "What the ****!" Kidding. I have called them before and the person I spoke with knew less than me - I could try harder and work my way to someone who could provide me with insight if I knew what questions to ask.

Ph 10.5 ~11 what fish can survive? 11/30/10
My wife and I are looking at a new home and the Ph levels of the water are 10.5 ~ 11. VERY hard water. The home is piped into a natural hot spring.
I was wondering if there were any fish that could tolerate this, or would we have to have our water purchased?
<There are some fishes that live in very alkaline water... one Tilapia species is highlighted in a recent TFH magazine article, but as far as I'm aware, none of these organisms is offered in the trade. You'd do well to
investigate appropriate technology (likely RO, and maybe other moda) for your potable (drinking, cooking, maybe even bathing and house plant uses!) and pet-fish. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/h2opurifiers.htm
the linked files above>
Thanks in advance,
<Welcome. B F>

Re: Very high pH in freshwater aquarium (Bob, anything else to add here?)<<>> 11/28/10
I've made some headway since our exchange below... now with ammonia/nitrite/nitrate at zero. I am mixing tap with RO water (both still have an original PH of 9.5 which I battle down to 8.4 with aging in
vats and Seachem acid buffer) and using 50% Rift Valley Salts. Neale M. and Seachem both have advised me that there is no buffering additive that will prevent my Ph from rebounding. But I still have 6 fish in a 55 and 75 G that deserve the best I can give them. I see no other choice but to control the PH with Acid buffer. My question is on General Hardness. Mine is between 250 and 300, but my calcium tests very low at 40-50. Are my API tests skewed ? Or do I need to add that much calcium/magnesium to bring it up? How much? what is the desired balance between Epsom and Calcium Chloride that I would need to use?
My fish frequently seem mildly stressed which is small wonder considering the PH situation, but I'm always looking for other ways to make them as comfortable as possible.
many thanks
<Amy, your very high pH remains mysterious. Normally pH is raised to between 7.5-8.5 by the carbonate hardness in the water; in other words, carbonate hardness is more or less equivalent to what you learned about in school as alkalinity as the "opposite" of acidity. General hardness has much less impact on pH. Of course pH can be raised by other things than alkalinity, which is why the opposite of an acid is actually a base, with things like ammonia raising pH despite not being alkaline substances. So, if you have a carbonate hardness that's quite low, which is what I assume you mean by your "calcium test", then something else is raising the pH in your water. Perhaps ammonia, if tap water has non-zero ammonia levels, but could equally easily be something else. Your water supplier may be able to help here.
<<Yes. Do contact your source... Their contact info. can be found on your water bills. I fully suspect they are adding chemicals to your tapwater for drought and-or pipe reasons...>>
In any case, if bubbling your water overnight doesn't lower the pH very far, and the use of commercial pH buffers isn't particularly helpful either, then you really have one of two options. FIRSTLY, and most flexibly, you can mix your tap water with RO or rainwater. I collect rainwater for precisely this reason, because my local tap water is quite hard. A 50/50 mix of rainwater and tap water should produce something useful for a wide range of community fish. Rainwater is cheap and easy to collect here in England where it never stops raining, but elsewhere RO water may be more convenient. RO water is extremely pure and consequently much safer to use than rainwater which has a slight risk of collecting
airborne pollution and toxins used to treat certain types of roofs, particularly flat roofs.
Okay, now the SECOND approach would be to choose fish species adapted to extremely basic water conditions. These include things like Sailfin and Liberty Mollies, Swordtails, Desert Gobies, Persian Killifish, Ameca splendens, Xenotoca eiseni, to name but a few of the more colourful forms, as well as the hardier Malawian and Tanganyikan species. Yellow Labidochromis, for example, are extremely colourful fish, and a tank of these would be every bit as fun as a collection of Goldfish. Tanganyikan Shell Dwellers would be a miniature alternative suitable for tanks down to 10 gallons! The brackish water fishes also tend to tolerate very high pH levels, more because of their phenomenal adaptability than their preference for such conditions. Scats, Monos, Green Spotted Puffers and Colombian Shark Catfish are among the most attractive fish in the hobby, and together with the other brackish water fishes provide some great fishkeeping opportunities. Scats for example are famously friendly fish that constantly beg for food, though they do get rather big. So in other words, you've got two ways forward: dilute your tap water with pure water, or else accept your tap water for what it is and choose fish species that can cope. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Ph Drop [Bob, any ideas?] <<RMF>> 07/16/10
I hope you can help in pinpointing what happened or what I did to make the ph in my tank drop. I have a 20 gallon qt tank that I have two angels, two gold gouramis, two albino Corys and multiple plants.
I have my co2 tank hooked up to this with a diffuser for it. I did a large water change (maybe 75%) because my ammonia was really high
<<!? This is a HUGE concern. Deadly toxic>>
since I have my limit of fish with this tank I monitor it bi weekly if not more.
<It's not a good idea to change so much water at once... better to do 25%, then wait a few hours, do 25% more. If you need to change all of the water, instead remove the fish to a bucket, change all the water, and then drip-acclimate the fish to the water in the aquarium *as if they were going to a new aquarium*.>
As I put water back in, I added dechlorinator and ammo loc to the tank. I usually don't add ammo loc but just do more water changes. After an hour I noticed my tank becoming cloudy.
<Bad sign; may be silt, may be diatoms, and may be bacteria.><<... the dechlorinator may have "gone bad"... could be both a source of acid as well as cause of the cloudiness. Smell this product?>>
I thought that I must have taken too much water out and it was trying to cycle itself again.
But then I noticed that a whitish film covered the pieces of driftwood I have in the tank for decoration.
<Does sound like silt if you stirred the gravel. But could equally easily be particulate matter of some sort from the water, or a precipitation of some sort. No idea what though.><<And this decomposing wood as well>>
Its never done this before so I kept an eye on my fish. The angels seemed to have labored breathing and I was starting to get concerned. This is nothing that I have not done before, except the ammo loc.
<I see.>
So I measured the water again. Ammonia still there, so I was going to do a water change again tomorrow, but I also noticed the pH had dropped.
Normal pH out of the faucet is anywhere from 7.6-8.0 but this was down to 6.0.
<Such a change is lethal, and precisely why the fish are stressed.>
AHHHH, so I did another partial water change (50%) to slowly increase the ph back up.
<No, no, no... you need to leave the fish to adapt. Little footsteps, please!>
It's 10 pm at night and got so worried about their water conditions I put them in my main tank. It was at the end of their quarantine (4 weeks instead of 6) and they seem to be doing better. Now the tank is milky with the white film on the wood.
This has never happened to me. I have a 10 gal qt tank that has the similar white film that I also did a water change today, adding the dechorinator and ammo loc but that ph is around 7.6, like it should be.
The only other thing I added was the small diffuser about a week ago for the co2 and not the bubble counter any longer. Could the diffuser or ammo loc cause such a drop.
<In themselves, no. But some water, particularly water drawn from aquifers, can change in various ways after it's drawn from the tap. If you only do 20-25% water changes per week, such changes don't matter too much, and
hardy community fish will adapt to the relatively small changes. On the other hand, if you do a big water change you present your fish with a massive water chemistry change, and that can be very stressful. Filter bacteria can be just as strongly affected, and it's important to remember below pH 7.5 filter bacteria operate more slowly, and they stop working below 6.0, so rapid acidification can cause major problems. A good approach is this: ensure your aquarium is lightly-stocked and well-filtered, so that relatively small weekly water changes are all that's required. If you can, let your new water stand for 24 hours before use. Check the pH and hardness immediately after the water is drawn and then again after 24 hours. If it's different, then you have "funky" tap water and need to act accordingly. One option is to choose hard water fish and then add a 50-100% the dose of Rift Valley cichlid salts described here:
The high carbonate hardness in that water will override anything odd about your tap water, making life much easier. Hard water fish include livebearers, Rainbowfish and Goldfish, as well as Central American and Rift Valley cichlids. There are even some tetras such as x-ray tetras and catfish like Hoplosternum littorale than do fine in hard water as well. So there's lots of options.>
I have read that co2 can do that which is why I try to keep it down to a minimum but since it replace the bubble counter, I don't know how to gauge how much I'm putting in.
<If you don't understand how to measure carbonate hardness, and how that is related to pH and CO2, you shouldn't be using CO2. Again, if you can, stick with hard water plants like Vallisneria and Java ferns, and forget about CO2.>
I try to be vigil about checking the water quality in my qt tanks since they don't get a chance for cycling before I stick fish in there. Any ideas? Thanks.
<Do read the above-linked article, and the links from that article to related topics. Without data on carbonate hardness and general hardness of your tap water, your tap water after 24 hours, and your aquarium, it's difficult to say why you're getting these potentially dangerous pH changes.
Cheers, Neale.><<Read here re Ammonia: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/NH3TrbFixF.htm
and the linked files above. STOP feeding if you have appreciable NH3... Remove the driftwood and test it (by leaving it soaking) to determine if this is the acid source... RMF>>
Re: Ph Drop [Bob, any ideas?] 07/16/10
Hi Neale,
The CO2 is something I am still getting used to.
<Do take the time to buy at least one high-end aquarium plant book and read it. Manufacturers often make CO2 sound simple and safe, when in fact it's neither of those things. Remember, "easy" fishkeeping is all about getting
rid of CO2 and increasing the rates of water circulation and mixing with the air. When you start adding CO2 you're doing the precise opposite, you're increasing CO2 concentration and reducing the amount of mixing between the water and the air. On top of that you're creating a system that actively alters the pH, whereas "easy" fishkeeping is about creating a system where pH varies as little as possible. If you look at the high-tech planted tanks where CO2 is used, they rarely contain many fish, and usually those fish are an afterthought, a few small Neons or whatever. I'm not saying CO2 is incompatible with fishkeeping, but once you start using CO2 you're setting about fishkeeping in a very different way.>
My quarantine tank was supposed to be just to qt these plants, then a friend wanted me to take these fish, so I reduced the CO2 and monitored them. Everything has been fine for 4 weeks. Because its a qt tank, there is no gravel of any kind in it. Just plants attached to wood pieces to anchor them down. As for the PH,
I always use the water directly from the tap along with the dechorinator.
I don't usually have any problems with it dropping since there is nothing to add but the dechorinator. The water change was a large one, yes, only because of the high ammonia. I didn't even bother to test the PH before I
did the water change because I haven't had any problems with it.
<If you don't know the carbonate hardness (measured in degrees KH usually) then you have no idea if pH will be stable, and doubly so once you start adding CO2. I cannot stress this point too strongly. You MUST measure the
carbonate hardness, determine the pH, and then dose CO2 accordingly. Do read here:
If you don't understand what those graphs and charts mean, then don't use CO2, or at least buy an automatic system that will dose CO2 correctly with minimal effort on your part.>
The ammonia was too high so the large water change was to reduce that immediately. It just so happens that the water change became milky (again, thought it was because I took too much out) but then the milky was not only
in the water but also like a film on the wood, ewww. Then the fish started looking funny so I just decided to test everything again...Ammonia still present but not as bad. Nitrates .5 and Nitrites 0. But the PH was way down to 6.0 or so. when just and hour or two ago (when I did the water change) it was 7.6, or so, from the faucet. I decided to do a second water change to try to bring up the PH thinking something I had just put in the water made it drop so I was trying to bring it back to what it should have been before the water change. I honestly thought it had to do with something
<Resist the urge to make matters worse by doing even more changes to a changed situation. It's the change that's damaging, not the final value. Angelfish are fine anywhere between pH 5.5 and 8, but what will kill them is being moved from one extreme to the other and then back again.>
I put in the water since all my other tanks (my other 10 gal qt and my 55 gal) are all at around 7.6 PH. I do the same thing with them that I did with my 20 gal. Fish are happy in my 55 gal...its been 12 hours and no losses. I just wonder what I did so I can definitely avoid it. Thanks for the help.
<Do read, understand water chemistry as described/linked in the previous e-mail. Do further read, understand the effect CO2 has on aquatic systems. Cheers, Neale.>

Question on Low pH and High Ammonia 7/4/10
<Hi! Melinda here.>
I've searched the WetWebMedia FAQs for a solution to my problem, but I can't seem to find an exact match yet. I wonder if you could help me.
I transferred a 5� Oscar from a 10 gal tank to a 29 gal tank a little more than 2 weeks ago. The Oscar had developed a case of �hole-in-head� disease and I was looking to improve the water quality, change to a higher quality food (New Life Spectrum), add some vitamins (Boyd's Vita-Chem) and a little more varied diet (an occasional mealworm, cricket or krill). The little guy seems to have responded very well � he is more active and his appetite is �voracious� and insatiable. I think that the hole-in-head is healing since the whitish areas in his head are much darker now (like the rest of his coloration). I can't thank you enough for your very informative FAQs on
<This move is a good, good thing for him. Keep in mind that you'll eventually need about a 55 gallon to keep this guy at his full, mature size (around 12 to 14 inches), and a 75 is even better. Please do review filtration along the way and ensure it's turning the tank's volume over eight to ten times per hour. Big, beefy canister filters are really great when it comes to these lovable, messy fish!>
My problem now is that my 29 gal tank pH has dropped to 6 (or below, since my test kit only goes down to 6) and the ammonia is staying at 4 to 5 ppm.
Nitrite and nitrate are 0 ppm.
<Reading ahead, it sounds as if you've done what you could to cycle this aquarium, but since you're still having problems, I'd first start by doing huge, frequent water changes to dilute Ammonia.>
The water quality test results kind of
hovered at pH � 7.2 to 7.3, ammonia 0.25 to 0.4 ppm, nitrite � 0 ppm and nitrate � 0 to 2 ppm for a little over a week after I moved the Oscar to the bigger tank. I also put some of the old gravel into the new 29 gal aquarium
and stuck the 10 gal AquaClear �BioMax� biological media into the 29 gal tank power filter (AquaClear 50) to help along the establishment of the biological filtration system. Soon after this I transferred the AquaClear 20
power filter over from the 10 gal to the 29 gal tank to help out the AquaClear 50.
<I do like these AC filters; they're a great compromise between the media choices offered by canister filters and the ease of a hang-on-back filter. However, do ensure that your tank's turnover is somewhere around what I mention above.>
The 29 gal tank remained slightly cloudy for a little over a week in spite of all my efforts - 25% water changes and gravel filtration every other day, the two AquaClear power filters and limited feeding.
<He represents a very large bioload for an uncycled system. I'd stop feeding, for now. He can go a while until things clear up -- it's really harmful to him to continue feeding until the tank is under control, because the more you feed, the more waste he produces, and more toxic Ammonia levels become.>
Then, yesterday the water turned VERY cloudy, almost opaque, overnight. Now I am really worried and I think that I need to do something real soon to correct the pH and clear up the water � something is really wrong in that aquarium, but I can't figure it out.
<It does sound as if this system is very out of balance, but I think this may be a fairly easy fix.>
I am thinking that;
1. My tap water may be too �soft� and have very little buffering ability. I am thinking of adding either baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), Seachem Neutral Regulator (pH 7) or Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Proper P.H 7.0. Is the low pH in the 29 gal killing off the bacterial in my power filter and in my gravel? What do you recommend?
<Yes, I have had this problem myself. I tried everything (Really... everything!) to reduce Ammonia levels to zero in a newly-established pond with a good-sized bioload. Nothing would work, and my pH and KH were at rock-bottom. I employed the rift valley salt mix as detailed here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwh2oquality.htm. I experienced Ammonia levels in my pond for many weeks until employing this salt mix; within four or five days, Ammonia was at zero, and pH went from 6 (or below) to 7.2, KH from 0 to 4. It's an amazing mix. Often pH cures in a bottle cause rapid fluctuations in pH and lend very little stability. This mix provides for elevated, steady pH and KH levels, and for folks in our situation, gives the biological filtration a "leg up," so to speak, and makes it easier for the bacteria to do their job. My tapwater comes out with a pH of 6 or below, so I actually treat every tank/pond I've got with this mix. It's easy to use and very cheap to make.>
2. If you think that I need to adjust my pH back to 6.5 � 7.0 should I then add some API �Stress Zyme� or other similar product to inoculate my filters again with live bacteria?
<I would be extremely careful when choosing this beneficial-bacteria-in-a-bottle. Frankly, a lot of them aren't any good. One I have experienced good results with is Dr. Tim's One-And-Only. Another thing you could do, if you have any fishkeeping buddies, is borrow some cycled media and place it into your filter. I'd avoid adding products which claim to "improve stress coat," as these products often irritate fish more than anything, and your fish is no doubt irritated enough right now. Water changes are really the best medicine right now -- large, and frequent ones would be best.>
Here is some more data on my setup that may be helpful � about Ã'½ inch of gravel, temp. - 80 degrees and a 5500 K fluorescent tube. Food was changed from an old bottle of Omega One Cichlid (floating) pellets, that was never
refrigerated, to New Life Spectrum (sinking) pellets to improve nutrition.
That food was making a real mess in the tank so I changed to Hikari Cichlid Gold (floating) pellets.
<A lot of my fish, Cichlid or no, really enjoy this food. However, in order to avoid issues with digestion and bloat, it's good to feed wet-frozen foods or fresh foods (such as fish filet, like Tilapia, peas, or earthworms) from time to time. The crickets and mealworms you're feeding as treats don't count, since they have such dry, tough body parts, and as a matter of fact, in my experience (er... rather, my fish's!), mealworms are pretty much non-digestible altogether. If you check out his poop after he eats them, you'll likely see big fragments, or even possibly whole mealworms, in it. In addition, krill isn't really as good a treat as the options I list above, due to the presence of thiaminase in this food. Please do read here about the negative effects of thiaminase: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm.
As far as your temperature, I'd decrease this to 78. Since fish are cold-blooded, keeping them very warm leads to increased metabolism, which is going to lead to him processing food more quickly, and producing waste more quickly, as well as being hungry more quickly. 78 will be just fine for him, and will help him "weather" these hard times a little easier.>
I have also used several different products to deactivate the chlorine/chloramines in my tapwater (Stress Coat, etc.).
<There's no need to use more than one if it removes both chlorine and chloramine. Just use it at the manufacturers' recommended dose every water change, and you'll be fine.>
Recently, in a panic, I have been using Ammo Lock to try to de-toxify the ammonia.
<I would, instead, go ahead and start doing big, big water changes to dilute the amount of Ammonia in the water. I'd begin with the salt mix, and either attempt to get a hold of some cycled media to "boost" the biological cycle, or get a well-recommended beneficial bacteria. Since, at this point, you really do need some Ammonia present (even though it's not ideal AT ALL, and you should keep it as low as possible) in order to feed that biological bacteria, I wouldn't use the Ammo-Lock. If ammonia is no longer available (has been "locked," so to speak) then that bacteria isn't going to grow to meet the needs of the system.>
I would appreciate any suggestions that you might have. Sorry for the long, rambling message.
<No problem. I hope this helps some, and please do write back if you have any questions after reading.>

pH crash and unhappy fish 6/23/10
Good afternoon:
I live in Vancouver and have been trying to get my tanks to cycle for months now. The city water is basically RO (pH is 7.0 and KH and GH are zero).
I thought I had it figured out when I realized that nitrifying bacteria need KH to help them develop.... so I used Victoria/Malawi salts to bring the KH up to 100 and Epsom to bring the GH up to 150.
However, because my tanks aren't cycled the higher pH was causing my goldfish to be more sensitive to any ammonia present in the tank (despite very frequent water changes there is some ammonia present- especially
before I do a water exchange).
<Ah yes, a conundrum indeed. The bottom line though is that poor water quality kills fish quickly, so regular water changes are essential until the filter is mature. Tweaking the water chemistry won't really fix things.>
I decided to reduce the amount of Malawi salts that I was adding when I found my two smallest fish on the bottom of the tank, fins clamped (and one with what looked like bleeding gills).
I am afraid that I may have reduced the pH too rapidly- my two smaller fish (in their 36 gallon tank) are happy now and are fine.
<Changes to water chemistry should always be done slowly, incrementally, even if for the "better".>
My large Oranda (in a separate 50 gallon tank) is acting very strangely- darting around the tank very quickly and nervously when I approach. The water was at a pH of 7.6 and I reduced it to 7.2 over two days. Looking at letters from other people on your site his behaviour is in keeping with too great of a pH change.
<May be a reaction to low pH (acidosis) or sensitivity to ammonia, both of which can make fish nervous.>
What is the best course of action- should I leave the pH as is and let him adjust or should I raise it up a bit (slowly- say over a day) to target 7.4?
<I would certainly make sure to use about one-half the dose of Rift Valley salt mix in this aquarium, and if that means doing a series of 25% water changes daily to raise the pH and hardness, so be it. I'd also add maybe a
teaspoon per gallon of the marine salt mix on top of what's already being added. Goldfish tolerate salt well and salt has a mild effect that reduces the toxicity of nitrite, so does help fish survive the cycling process.
Regardless, I'd be planning on 25% water changes every 2-3 days for the next four to six weeks until the filter is mature. If the filter has been running for more than six weeks and still isn't mature, then you have some other problem. Check the filter is adequate and configured properly, that it's large enough for the fish, that the media are being cleaned the right way, that you aren't overfeeding, and so on.>
Will he calm down once he has adjusted or have I damaged his CNS?
<He will likely calm down once situation returns to normal.>
He is eating and his fins are up- he is not bottom sitting- but I am afraid he will harm himself (or jump out of the tank) if he is startled. I have his light out and am not going near the tank so I don't stress him further.
He is normally quite friendly and likes to splash me or nibble my hand when I'm cleaning his tank: I feel terrible to have caused him distress.
Thank you for your help- and I like the new forum!!
<Glad to hear it.>
Gina de Almeida
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tadpole nursery... re pH, Alk... hardness... reading... 6/14/10
Good afternoon/evening Neale,
<Hello again Diana,>
I have been having lovely luck with my tank since we last traded e-mails, my two adult frogs are doing great and my one surviving tadpole has blossomed into a full fledged frog named Spike.
Performing my weekly water changes and feeding frozen brine shrimp or blood worms every other day. However, two days ago two of my cherry shrimp kicked the bucket leaving me with one female cherry, one male, and four
<Oh dear.>
Tested my water today before my usual Sunday water change and the ammonia was off the charts high (somewhere between 4.0 and 8.0) and the Ph was off the charts low (between 6.0 and 6.4).
My usual Ph out of the tap is around 7.6. Nitrates are 0 temp is around 75-78 as the weather has been warm.
<I see.>
All frogs are accounted for but my shrimp go missing on a regular basis, hiding among the plants.
They usually reappear at some point so I never worry much.
<Me neither. I often find gaggles of them hidden inside filters or behind ornaments.>
That being said, I have only been able to account for 3 small Amanos and 1 female cherry over the last few days which means the big amano and the little boy cherry are missing. I have a feeling that they may have died as well and are hidden among the plants. If this is the case could it cause the ammonia spike?
<Possibly, but a single dead shrimp shouldn't overly tax a biological filter, so I'd be open minded on this. Do the usual things first. Check the filter is working properly. That the air pump is bubbling nicely, and that there's nothing blocking any air pipes. Use a pencil or chopstick to root around the plants a little, and see that there isn't a dead fish or lump of uneaten food sitting there. Plant roots keep gravel clean, but any gravel more than an inch or two from the plants should be gently raked down to a depth of about half an inch. Take out the filter sponge or ceramic noodles and gently rinse them in a bucket of aquarium water -- or, lukewarm water no hotter than the aquarium but not much colder either.>
And, what could cause the Ph to crash?
<Check the carbonate hardness. If it is very low, less than 3 degrees KH, you might want to add some of the Rift Valley salt mix at 0.25 to 0.5 the usual dose for Rift Valley cichlids. If you have Platies, Frogs and Shrimps, they all like high carbonate hardness so this is a low-risk, low-cost strategy. Do also read:
All aquaria experience pH drops between water changes; what limits those pH drops is the buffering capacity of the water, normally carbonate hardness, but you can also use commercial pH buffers. For Platies, Frogs and Shrimps, the aim is a pH around 7.5.>
My tank is pretty heavily planted with Java Fern, moss wrapped bog wood and grass; the plants are very full and bushy making it virtually impossible to see what is going on underneath it all.
Should I pull everything apart to find everyone or should I closely monitor the tanks chemistry, up the frequency of water changes and let nature take its course with anything that has died?
<Oh, I wouldn't uproot anything, but a stick of some sort can be used to stir the leaves a bit.>
I have included a picture of my tank to help you envision my predicament.
<Looks charming!>
I did a 50% water change and ammonia is showing 0 and Ph is 6.6.
<Is rather low for frogs, Platies and shrimps.>
Thanks for your constant support,
<My pleasure.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tadpole nursery/// reading...............
Good Morning Neale,
<It's about quarter to seven PM here -- but thanks anyway!>
OY!!! KH is 1 degree!
<Very low.>
two small Amanos dead this morning. I am down to 1 cherry, 1 amano, three frogs and a gaggle of snails. Ammonia is back to 0.25 Ph is down to 6.4.
Filter operating properly, rinsed ceramic media yesterday, will rinse sponge today.
<Right, now, when water is this soft and this acidic, your biological filter is going to work less and less reliably. At about pH 6 biological filtration usually stops completely.>
So, it is clear that I need to raise the Ph and increase KH.
<I agree.>
I see your recipe for the rift valley salt mix but I also happen to have a bottle of Nutrafin African Cichlid Conditioner - can I use this?
Each dose provides 20mg/L (ppm) as CaCO, or by 1 percent of GH. Guessing I should raise the hardness and Ph slowly over a few days...what is the best way to do this?
<General hardness and carbonate hardness are different. Think of them as the way both "volts" and "amps" are about electricity, but different aspects. General hardness has little/no impact on buffering. Carbonate hardness is what you want.>
Dosing instructions on the bottle are 5mL per 10 US gal, my tank is 5 gal so I should use 1/4 of the half dose (I'm not sure I can even get my head around computing that!)?
<Here's an idea. Go buy a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. Make up some dechlorinated tap water, and then add the amount of Rift Valley cichlid salt mix -- or at least the sodium bicarbonate -- needed to raise the carbonate hardness to 3-4 degrees dH. You can then use that water for water changes across the next few weeks. As/when you need more, you can make some more up. Does that make sense?>
And, how do I maintain this stability during water changes?
<Do 25% water change today and then daily for the next 3-4 days. That should level things off.>
If I change 50% of the water on a weekly basis would I simply add a 1/2 dose of the salt mix to the replacement tank water?
<Yes, but once settled down I'd only be doing 25% changes weekly unless the tank got really messy.>
Thanks Neale. Once again I am finding myself in an unenviable crisis situation!
<The sudden pH drop and resultant death of fish is actually quite common.
This is why "old hands" like me tend to focus on carbonate hardness rather than general hardness.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tadpole nursery... Hey, look at me!
Thank you. Yes, your big bucket of rift valley salt mix makes perfect sense. I'll whip up the recipe this evening and begin treating immediately and continue over the next few days. Thank you again.
<My pleasure. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tadpole nursery... now reading in Nova Scotia... Good day all!
Hi Neale,
I just re-read the salt solution recipe and I want to clarify that I am understanding you correctly. My tank has only snails, ADFs and shrimp - no fish.
If I prepare this solution in a 5 gallon bucket should I mix it at 50% (1/2 teaspoon soda and aquarium salt, 1/2 tablespoon Epsom) and than add that after a 25% water change? And, will my frogs tolerate the salt?
<Yes, this will be fine for the frogs. It's really a trivially small amount of salt.>
Clearly Chemistry is not my strongest subject!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tadpole nursery... Monty Python future skit content...
Okay thanks! Off to buy a bucket and some Marine salt.
<Cool. At a pinch, non-iodised (e.g., Kosher) sea salt will do too. Cheers,
Re: Tadpole nursery... no, really
Good to know! Thanks.
<Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Pet store Aquarium System pH Question! 4/23/10
I hope you can help me....I work in a pet store and am having very significant losses with our fish right now... The aquarium systems are just over a year and half old. When the systems were new we had very low losses for months and months. Our pH has always been high...generally 7.8-8.2.
The past few months our losses have been on the rise. We have Marine land systems with Biowheels and sumps underneath. We do regular small water changes a couple times a week of ~10%. Until the past few weeks our water ALWAYS tested 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, less than 20 nitrate and as I said, pH around 8. For months not long after the systems were installed we did not use any aquarium salt...
but then we got a TDS pen and began adding salt
<For what purpose/s?>
which didn't seem to make a difference in losses one way or the other for some time. With all the losses we've been having we recently began trying to troubleshoot... One thing we did was to realize the kitestring filter (that I didn't even know existed) that the aquarium water runs through was on BACKWARDS and had NEVER been changed....so we got that installed correctly and replaced the material. There is also a large Culligan filter thing...I think its a carbon thing?...
<Possibly... get the part/service number from it and call them re>
I don't know anything about it except that it exists and the water for the aquarium systems runs through it.
<... how often is this serviced?>
The last couple of water tests I've done showed nitrates at ~50 for all of our systems and pH has been 7.8 for our feeder/pond fish system, 8.2 for the rest of the goldfish and African cichlids (don't get me started on them being in the same system......not my choice!), and a whopping 8.4 for remaining 2 systems with south American cichlids, tetras, rasboras, danios, and livebearers..... I tested the water that goes directly into the
systems a couple days ago and got 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and ~40-50 nitrates (note again that our water USED to always test at under 20 nitrates in the systems)....pH tested at 7.8. The water in the 2 systems with pH's of 8.4 (these 2 systems have had the highest losses) recently received ~50% water changes (last week) with smaller changes of 10-20% every day or two since....what could be causing the pH to jump that high that fast from the pH coming in at 7.8???
<Something either that is being added to it, or how it is being processed (filtered)>
We are also now being told that we are going to have to start adding a pH down chemical, which I KNOW is a BAD idea...but my opinion has no pull. I also tested general hardness in one of the systems, which came to 240, and free iron which showed nothing. I would greatly appreciate any advice, opinions, or ideas with this situation!
Thank you!
<Am referring you to Neale Monks here for his FW input. BobF>
Hello Christina,
If I'm understand your problem, you're finding the system has more nitrate than it used too, and a higher pH level than it used to. Correct?
Nitrate gets into the system either through tap water or from decay within the aquarium. You can test the tap water easily enough. If the tap water still contains trace levels of nitrate, but the nitrate levels of the aquarium are dangerously high, then that narrows things down. Nitrate sources within the aquarium system will be either [a] overstocking; [b] overfeeding; [c] under-maintained biological filters, especially canister filters; and [d] organic detritus elsewhere in the pipe work, e.g., a dead rat.
The pH can go up for several reasons. These include [a] non-zero ammonia levels; [b] rapid, large-scale photosynthesis which removes dissolved CO2; [c] the addition of mineral salt mixes containing carbonate hardness; or [d] the presence of calcareous materials inside the aquarium, such as coral sand or tufa rock.
Do understand that deliberately forcing pH down without understanding why it's high is EXTREMELY dangerous. Standard commercial pH buffers that lower pH do so using things like phosphoric acid. These neutralise the carbonate hardness and lower the pH. But since there's a background source of carbonate hardness somewhere in the system, eventually the lower pH will speed up the dissolution of that carbonate-containing material, raising the carbonate hardness level in the water once more. Since the phosphoric acid will by now be used up, the pH will rise until you add some more. The result is a yo-yo-like situation where pH goes up and down all the time, stressing the fish far more than simply exposing them to steady, if suboptimal, pH/hardness levels. DO NOT DO THIS!
If you want a lower pH, you have to reduce the carbonate hardness as well. For most community fish, from neons to guppy, moderately hard, slightly basic water is absolutely fine. Since biological filtration is best at pH 7.5, lowering the pH below that can cause other problems. Aim for around pH 7.5, 10-15 degrees dH if you want to stock a wide range of fish. This will be acceptable to virtually everything with the exception of those that need really soft and acidic water, like ram cichlids and wild-caught discus. You'd have those on their own soft water system anyway (that's the usual approach here in England, anyway).
Cheers, Neale

Help...New Aquarium/Fish Loss: Water Too Soft and Nitrite Spike 1/5/10
Hi there -- New, highly stressed, and sick-with-grief aquarium owner here.
Not sure what I was thinking when I decided to move forward in getting my son an aquarium. He loves fish. I think they are beautiful, but I do not handle animal loss very well at all. As such, haven't slept a wink and think I have given myself an ulcer.
<I don't like this>
Set up a new 20g Tetra deluxe aquarium well over a week ago. Was led to believe by the fish store that the Tetra AquaSafe product would cycle the aquarium in a few days.
<Mmm, no. Decidedly not>
Assumed that was the case when test strips showed ideal/safe readings of 0 ammonia, 0 nitrate, 0 nitrite.
<Just not cycled period... You'd get the same readings from new/tap water>
Added 4 platys (2 red wag/2 tri color) two days ago (Sunday afternoon).
Woke up to one loss yesterday morning and the others not seemingly well.
Took readings with new test strips we brought home, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite were the same. Hardness was Very Soft (0)
<... too low for these fish>
and PH / Total Alkalinity at their very highest readings.
<? What? Very strange>
Also discovered from my fairly new landlord that what he told me was a water dechlorinator on the house is more specifically a water softener system.
Really not good for the fish. Ugh.
Did two smaller water changes yesterday (for a total of 5 gallons or 25%) using treated water (Big Al's Water Conditioner and Bio Support) from different water source (bottled spring). Lost two more fish by the end of the day. But the largest of the platys made it through the night.
This morning took additional readings. Ammonia and Nitrates are at 0 (shows "safe" on the chart) but slight spike in Nitrites .5 to 1.0. Hardness has increased at 75 but still soft. PH and Alkalinity are still at highest readings/off the chart. Water is a bit cloudy.
I want to try to fix this/save this last fish. What do I do and when?
<Use "outside water"... i.e. not water that has been "softened"... Heat up to about aquarium temperature on the stove... and this will likely "do it" in terms of alkalinity and pH... And stop feeding period... read here:
I'm reading a lot about the Nitrogen process but am at a bit of a loss over the "water softener" water still in my tank.
<Change some of this out daily... with the "outside water" (likely all taps out of the house are not softened>
I know this was a big mistake and now know that platys obviously need hard water. Additionally since my tank was surely not cycled properly, I am just not sure what is priority at this stage.
<You can use products that will speed the cycle/cycling... don't add to the trouble with food/s>
The hardness/ph/Alk or the nitrite?
<Both need to be addressed. Separately>
Do I need to let the Nitrite spike (and likely lose the last platy) in order to see the necessary Nitrate develop?
Or should I address with treatment? Can I tackle all at once?
Please help.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
pH and ALK Not Budging and now Platy Tail Missing?? 1/6/10
Thanks for your quick reply. I did another 25% water change yesterday.
Hardness has improved to 150 (Hard) which is the good news. Also see a slight increase in Nitrate (maybe 5-10 ppm? hard to say as it is quick dip but definitely darker than yesterday's 0 reading).
<This is fine>
Nitrite reading is just slightly lighter/better. Working on it.
FYI, so far I have never detected any Ammonia reading/spike -- always 0.
<Likely this phase "passed you by" unawares>
The PH and Alk are not budging??!! Still at highest reading 8.4 and 300 respectively?? Is this not strange considering the above? I will do another water change today.
<Do consider blending in some water that is less hard and alkaline... Perhaps RO... about half>
Most concerning this morning is I woke up to find my single platy's tail fin missing. It appears almost a straight, slightly diagonal edge. A closer look shows fraying, but it is definitely mostly gone. Assume this is fin rot from all the stress and water issues. I know this condition can be treated and I will do so today. At this level, can this be corrected/will he survive/will it grow back?
<Hopefully so. Fins can regenerate if not gone "too far back", with time, good care.>
So hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks much,
<Welcome. BobF>

Freshwater Tank & pH problems 9/21/09
I have a 26 gallon tank with five Ticto barbs and two black ruby barbs. I originally had four black ruby barbs but have recently lost two.
<Odd; usually a pretty robust species.>
I have a biofilter, undergravel filter, and air stone in the tank.
<Do check your undergravel filter is sufficiently deep (around 2-3 inches) and that you give the gravel a good stir every few weeks.>
My tank's pH keeps dropping and I am wondering what is causing this since it is an established tank and I have not had this happen before.
<If you see consistent pH drops, then there's usually a lack of carbonate hardness.
My tap water readings are Nitrate - 0, Nitrite - 0, GH - 300 ppm, KH - 180 ppm.
<Actually sounds pretty good. This water should be hard and fairly basic.>
These ratings are after having the water sit in a bucket for 24 hours with an air stone.
My current tank water's readings are Nitrate - 0, Nitrate - 0, GH - 300 ppm, KH - 40 ppm, and pH - 6.
Ammonia is currently at 0.
I am afraid to do water changes since that will cause the pH to rise up and since the KH is low, I am assuming that the pH will drop rapidly again and I know rapid pH changes can be harmful to the fish.
<Indeed, though precisely how harmful has been argued in recent years.>
Can acidic water be harmful as well?
<Oh yes.>
Is it possible that my tank is recycling and it is going to be a slow process since the water is so acidic right now?
<Don't see that that's the issue here. If you have zero nitrite and ammonia, and the tank is more than, say, a couple of months old, it should be properly cycled and nicely matured.>
When I did a water change yesterday I did add some StressZyme. Last week I had a large amount of brown algae so I did a larger cleaning on my tank and now I am wondering if that is causing the tank to recycle.
<Diatoms thrive in unstable water conditions seemingly better than other algae, and are just plain common in newly established tanks. They go away eventually, or at least, reach proportions easily managed with algae
scrapers or things like Nerite snails.>
Please provide any advice you can.
<It's actually not clear to me why your hard water suddenly becomes soft.
But stepping backwards through the issue: The reason the pH drops is that the carbonate hardness goes from fairly high, 180 mg/l, to very low, 40 mg/l. This in turn allows background acidification -- which is quite normal -- to create conditions where the pH drops abnormally fast. My gut reaction here is that your water chemistry test kits are misleading you about the amount of carbonate hardness (KH) you have. Your GH reading stays the same, so that's probably fine. But under some circumstances it appears that carbonate hardness test kits can be misled by other minerals and/or chemicals such as flocculants added to drinking water. For whatever reason, this is something I've never heard of in the UK but seems quite common in
some parts of the US, particularly where people use well water. Your water supply company might be able to enlighten you here. Anyway, given that the KH value is perhaps bogus, I'd use a little of the Rift Valley cichlid salt mix outlined on this page:
Since you already have a reasonably high level of general hardness, I'd perhaps skip the Epsom salt and marine salt mix portions, and concentrate on the baking soda. Instead of adding one teaspoon per 5 gallons as you'd need for Rift Valley cichlids, add a third of that amount, i.e., one teaspoon per 15 gallons, and see how that works. If you find the pH stays stable, then you're fine. If not, up the dose to one teaspoon per 10
gallons. Don't make sudden changes, but over the next few days do a series of small water changes, say 5 gallons. Add an appropriate amount of baking soda (in this case, one-third a teaspoon to start with per 5 gallons). Do this each day for the next week. That should give your fish ample time to adjust to any pH changes. By the weekend, see where the pH is, and if you're happy with the results, stick with this dosage each time you do your water changes. Remember, dose the baking soda per bucket of water, not for
the whole tank! If you change 10 gallons, then add as much baking soda as you need to each bucket of water ONLY.>
<I've asked Bob to chime in if he sees anything obvious I've missed. Good luck! Cheers, Neale.>
<<Mmm, maybe I'd encourage the addition of "crushed coral" or similar source of solid/bulky calcium carbonate in a bag (Dacron or such) in the filter/flow path; but otherwise your response is complete. RMF>>

Re: Freshwater Tank & pH problems (RMF, ideas?) 9/21/09
<<Mmm, maybe I'd encourage the addition of "crushed coral" or similar source of solid/bulky calcium carbonate in a bag (Dacron or such) in the filter/flow path; but otherwise your response is complete. RMF>>
Hi Bob. I'd offer a caution to this approach: once such material becomes covered with algae or organic detritus -- as will quickly happen inside a filter -- it's ability to dissolve reduces dramatically.
The analogy I like to use is to compare the bacterial slime around such material to the candy coating around the chocolate inside an M&M; with the coating, the chocolate can't melt; take the coating away, and the chocolate warms up easily and melts more quickly. Adding carbonate hardness direct to the buckets of
water is precise and more or less fail-safe provided water changes are regular. By contrast, the bulk use of calcareous material is imprecise (how quickly and how much the water hardens is difficult to predict) and can fail after a while without regularly cleaning, replacing the calcareous material. I'm sure Bob will be aware of the danger of "pH crashes" in old marine tanks where too much reliance was placed on an undergravel filter made from coral sand and coral rubble. So, in short, by all means install a filter media bag with a half-cup of crushed coral into an external canister filter and see what happens, but be aware that such an approach may not work as well, or as reliably, as you'd expect. Cheers, Neale.>
<Thank you for this input. BobF>

Re: Freshwater Tank & pH problems (RMF, ideas?) 9/21/09
Thank you for the information.
<Happy to help.>
I will try changing out 5 gallons per day and adding the baking soda to see if this helps. Could adding fish cause the water to get acidic?
<Only in extreme situations, e.g., adding a giant catfish to a 10 gallon tank. Not the issue here, I expect.>
I recently added the four black ruby barbs. I wanted to only add two since they were on the larger side to begin with but the guy at the aquarium shop said when adding a new species of barb I need to have more than two, and he suggested four. Could that have caused the pH drop?
I have since lost three of the black ruby barbs. I have one left and the Ticto barbs seem to be ok. My largest Ticto seems to be harassing the ruby barbs and one by one they have died.
<Ticto Barbs are generally pretty well behaved, but all barbs are highly social and have an intense "pecking order". As a general rule, keep 6 or more. The more you keep, the less trouble they tend to be. If that means sticking with a single species in your aquarium, so be it, though they usually mix fine. I'd suggest keeping an open mind here: are the Ticto Barbs being bullies because the Rubies are sickly, or are the Rubies sickly because they're being bullied...>
About two months ago I was out of town for two weeks and other people were feeding my fish. When I got back fish were dead and the water was gross so I did a massive water change. I think the fish were overfed while I was gone. I believe my tank did a mini cycle at that time. It finally seemed back to normal, although I did add StressZyme to help it cycle and then I got a major brown algae bloom, but the water readings where all good with the pH around 7 at that time.
<Very rarely do such problems as this cause long term issues. Assuming an abused tank gets a chance to recover, it should settle down fine, and the fish inside likewise.>
I did clean out the water again to get the brown algae out and then I added the new fish and now it is all out of whack. I think maybe I cleaned out all the beneficial bacteria, but I am not sure.
The bacteria are in the filter; provided the filter media is left alone, or merely rinsed in buckets of old aquarium water, then you can scrub down the rest of tank if you want, and it couldn't matter less.>
Is brown algae a sign of poor water quality?
<Diatoms are generally not a sign of poor quality; rather, they tolerate varying conditions well, and thrive under less light than most other algae.
Funnily enough, this month's CA has an article on algae; might be useful:
Again, any further thoughts would be helpful.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Odd Water Parameters, FW... no Alk! 09/03/09
Hey there WWM Crew- I have planted two tanks, one 10g other a 29g. Recently I discovered some very unhappy fish and tracked it down to a drop in my tap pH. All parameters (nitrates, nitrates) are appearing okay. Buffering capacity is 0! (NOT OKAY!)
pH is showing up as below 6.5 (that's as low as both types of my strips go!)
<Not good...>
I've been reading and am totally confused as *how to raise the buffering capacity and the pH on a regular basis and keep it stable*.
<Surprisingly easy. Do read here:
Typically, unless you're keeping fish that need hard water (e.g., livebearers, goldfish) simply use one-quarter to one-half the dose recommended for the Rift Valley cichlid salt mix will increase and stabilise pH for pennies a month.>
I tested two different water taps, and I was wondering (also) if it's normal for one tap to have a pH of 7, and another to have 6.5 or lower.
<Not normal, no. Do watch that some tap water, especially well water, has variable readings across a period of time after it is drawn from the tap.
Testing water, then leaving it for 24 hours, and then testing a second time, is often revelatory. Also, all aquaria tend to become acidic over time: accumulation of nitrate, decaying organic matter, tannins will all
lower the pH. Conversely, photosynthesis raises pH because it uses up dissolved CO2 during the day. Within reason, fish tolerate these changes reasonably well, but sudden changes can cause problems if there's ammonia in the system, because ammonia becomes more toxic as pH rises (if I recall correctly). So overall you want a steady pH.>
Shouldn't the entire house be using the same water source? I would like to use the tap with the pH 7, but cannot as the water siphon cannot connect to that faucet. Any help would be appreciated. City water reports state that water should be in the 7.2 range. I'm guessing this may be a plumbing issue- is that even possible?
<Use the Rift Valley salt mix suggested, at 25-50% the dose required. A pH between 7 to 7.5, hardness 10-15 degrees dH is ideal for most community fish.>
-- Thanks! Anitra
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: My fish died last night ... culprit might be pH? 9/1/2009
Hi Neale. A month ago I had a convoluted set of issues. Earlier note is attached below. Your recommendations were great!
<Glad to hear it!>
My main problem was low KH. So ph was crashing.
<I see.>
I've been fiddling around with different percentages of Rift Valley.
Trying to find the best mix. Before I add more fish. Now I only have a couple platys left. Would like a mixed freshwater tank. Following are test results. Using a dropper test kit. No more pesky test strips.
My tap water is (ammonia, No2 and No3 all zero):
ph 7.2 ... KH 2 ... GH 8
<Somewhat low carbonate hardness, but with regular water changes, this would be ideal for soft water tetras, cichlids, etc.>
Using 50% Rift Valley mix (although can't remember if this was seasoned water or right out of the tap). The bucket tested at:
ph 7.8 ... KH 9 ... GH 22
<Ideal for livebearers, Goldfish, Mbuna, Tanganyikans and Central Americans.>
Elsewhere for a mixed tank. I think you said KH should be 5-10. GH 6-18.
So I figured this GH is too high.
<Actually less of a deal than many suppose, unless you're breeding. Visited Southern Ohio last couple of days where people are breeding Angelfish in "liquid rock" very similar to this.>
First, I reduced just the Epsom salt % in the mix. To knock down GH only.
Did baking soda @ 50%, Epsom @ 33%, marine salt mix @ 50%. That bucket tested out at:
ph 7.6 ... KH 8 ... GH 15
<This would be ideal for a wide range of fish that don't need especially soft water. Livebearers would thrive, and barbs, rainbowfish, catfish and many other community species would also do well.>
I figured that was pretty good. But when I put it in the tank via 20% weekly water changes. Half way through the week KH is down to 2-3.
Although ph stays pretty stable in that time frame. I've been afraid to wait much longer (for a 20% water change). Afraid of another ph crash.
With so-low KH.
Then I figured to boost KH only. Try goosing the baking soda %. So I did baking soda @ 100%, Epsom @ 33%, marine salt mix @ 50%. That bucket tested out at: ph 8.0 ... KH 13 ... GH 14
<Somewhat too high for standard community fish, but the hard water fish mentioned earlier (livebearers, Mbuna, etc.) would thrive.>
To me that sounded like probably acceptable KH and GH. But ph too high.
I'm scared to dump it in my tank.
<I'd actually use one bucket of that mix, and one bucket plain water, and see what you got. 8 degrees KH and 7 degrees dH wouldn't be a bad mix for a wide range of community tropicals.>
I thought of trying. Baking soda @ 50%, Epsom @ 33%, marine salt @ 100%.
But figured let me ask first. If this makes sense. Or I'm going down the wrong road. Fiddling with these percentages. Chemistry was not my thing in high school. As you can probably tell (yuck, yuck).
<Pretty much everyone comes down to this. While the Rift Valley salt mix is a good starting point, many people find they have to "eyeball" the dosages to match whatever comes out their tap/faucet. Someone with hard water probably won't need as much salt mix as someone with very acidic soft water.>
In other words. Does the ratio of the 3 Rift Valley ingredients NEED to stay constant? E.g. 50%-50%-50%. Or 25%-25%-25%. But NOT 50%-33%-50%.
Or 100%-33%-50%. The way I've been trying.
<You are free to experiment as much as you want. Don't expose the fish to wild changes in pH or hardness (like from pH 6 to 8 in 20 minutes!) but broadly speaking, making changes from one day to the next doesn't usually harm most community species. Indeed, many fish are quite able to adapt to changes in water chemistry, and have to, e.g., when photosynthesis cases pH to rapidly changes during the day, or rainstorms suddenly dilute the amount of hardness in the water.>
If so, how high is too high for GH?
<For most community fish, somewhere around 10-15 degrees dH general hardness is ideal. Lower levels will suit soft water fish, but livebearers and other species that need hard water will complain. Most community species will adapt to 20 degrees dH, including most barbs and Corydoras,
even though they inhabit softer water in the wild. But there are some fish, like Cardinals and Ram cichlids, that never quite adapt fully to very hard water, and tend to be disease prone or simply short lived above 10 degrees dH.>
Sounds like fish can get used to almost anything.
<Pretty much. Oddly perhaps, hard water fish are more sensitive to soft water than soft water fish seem fussed about hard water.>
But I'm worried if my GH is sky high. Vs. the pet store tank. I'll shock new fish I'm adding to my tank. Even if I slowly transition them. By adding small amounts of tank water (to the bag they're in). Over 2 hours or so.
<Should work fine. See the "drip method" as used by marine aquarists.>
Any thoughts? Of the best way to increase KH. Without driving GH through the roof. And I don't want to raise my ph too high either.
<I'd think about the ph 7.8, KH 9, GH 22 mix as a starting point, but for each bucket of that you add, add a plain vanilla bucket of tap water. I suspect you'll get something around pH 7.5, 4-5 degrees KH, and around 10-12 degrees dH. That would suit virtually all but the fussiest community fish. Provided you did regular water changes, I wouldn't expect pH to drop much between weeks. If you find pH changes rapidly from one day to the next, check your water isn't "funky". Some folks find their water drawn from the tap *before* adding salts has a certain pH and hardness when fresh, and then 24 hours later is totally different. It seems the test kits are "fooled" by unstable chemicals in certain types of water (often well water, but sometimes water treated with flocculants and other chemicals).
So, you need to leave the water overnight, test it, and then add your salt mix. That way, you'll have a more reliable product.>
I'm anxious to decide what Rift Valley mix is best. Then I'll stick with it. Looking forward to adding more fish. These platys are getting lonely.
<I bet!>
Thanks! Rich
P.S. mixing Rift Valley. After swirling the water in a circle. When the current settles down. I notice a decent amount of black granules collecting in the center. Seems like the mix isn't dissolving completely.
Even after a day or two. I figure it's no big deal don't worry about it.
<Don't worry about it. Cheers, Neale.>

Fw: My fish died last night ... culprit might be pH? 9/1/2009
Amendment to yesterday's note (attached below). Turns out my prior "bucket tests" were right out of the tap. Instead of 24 hour aerated water. So pH is higher (about .4) than I thought. Sorry!!
<A-ha! Yes, this is often the case, as I just wrote in my preceding e-mail.>
Yesterday I re-did prior tests using 24 hour seasoned water. Seems like anything close to 50% Rift Valley mix. Gets my pH up to 8.0.
<Which, in itself, isn't a big deal. Most community fish tolerate this just fine, and livebearers love it.>
So I'm going to go with 25%-25%-25% (consistent percentages) Rift Valley mix for a while. And see where that gets me. If I have to change water more often I will. I figure gauge how long it takes for KH to drop to say 2-ish. Hopefully I catch it before a pH crash.
FYI here's what my 25%-25%-25% Rift Valley bucket tests out to (using 24 hour aerated water):
pH 7.6 ... KH 4 ... GH 8
<Not bad at all... keep on top of the water changes and you should be fine.
A little soft for some livebearers, particularly Mollies, but Platies should be fine.>
My tap water (24 hour aerated water):
ph 7.2 ... KH 2 ... GH 7
<Very soft indeed, or at least, very lacking in carbonate hardness.>
Thanks you're the best! Rich
<Glad to have helped. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: My fish died last night ... culprit might be pH? 10/17/09
Hi Neale. During my first 6 months of fish keeping. You were a GREAT help. That's why I just made a donation (to WetWebMedia). It's only right. You're a volunteer. Without you, I probably would have given up.
And put the tank in the basement. To gather dust.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
Thought I'd give you a status report. Things are MUCH better now. Your guidance below was invaluable. Along with all your prior guidance.
<Glad to help.>
I ended up choosing Hagen Aquaclear for filtration. It's made a HUGE difference. My water is like glass now. I find it stunning. I never had water like that with the Penguin. Algae seems less of a problem. The sour odor is gone. When I vac my gravel, it's not as funky looking. And my fish seem more active. Especially the Corys. Before, they would inevitably become lethargic. Float to the top. Then die. It happened a couple times over. Now they're happy, energetic & getting bigger. Yea!
That tells me they're healthy.
<Sounds as if the filter was the key!>
Instead of one Aquaclear 150 for my 28 gallon. I got two. Turning the speed control down halfway. That way the current isn't too strong for my small fish. Someone suggested this. I thought it was a GREAT idea.
<Indeed. Because hang-on-the-back filters have the inlet and outlet next to each other, having two smaller units rather than one big unit allows you to ensure better circulation throughout the tank.>
1) two filters vs. one = twice the filtration volume (without too strong of a current, when you turn filter speed down to medium),
2) to quickly clean up dirty water, you can temporarily turn the speed up to maximum (i.e. 300 gph in my 28 gallon tank). It works perfect. I do this to clear up the junk vacc'ing stirs up. The fish huddle in a quiet spot for a while. Seems like no problem at all for them. They're fine when I turn the filter speed down.
3) you've got an automatic backup (if one breaks down or to start a new tank),
4) you can alternate cleaning the filters. So you'll never destroy enough bacteria to cause problems. Like I think I did with the Penguin. When I changed cartridges. Or that pesky BioWheel stopped. Which it did a couple times.
<All well said.>
I almost didn't go with Aquaclear. Because online I read it's difficult to prime.
<This is an argument made against canister filters, but to be honest, "difficult" merely means there's a trick to learn. Once you've done it, it's easy.>
And wouldn't restart after a power outage. But if the water level hasn't dropped. So the "siphon" isn't lost. The Aquaclear restarts just fine.
No need to prime at all. So I'm not that worried about a power outage.
Frankly, the Aquaclear restarts with less ruckus than the Penguin. And I always had to re-prime the Penguin.
<Not familiar with the Penguin filter, but I'm sure you're right.>
Also, I had to shut off the Penguin for 20-25% water changes. Because the water level went below the upper intake opening. So it had to be re-primed every water change. Vs. the Aquaclear doesn't draw water from the top level of the tank. So I can leave it running during partial water changes.
I don't even shut off the Aquaclear during feeding. Which I did with the Penguin. Because its return water hit the surface like a bucket of bolts.
Knocking food to the bottom before the fish ate much. So I had to re-prime my Penguin. Each & every time I fed my fish.
<Leaving the filter on while feeding fish is sensible, and I rarely do otherwise.>
Vs. you can leave the Aquaclear running during feeding. Just turn the speed control all the way down. The water hits the surface so gently. It barely knocks any food to the bottom.
The only time I shut off the Aquaclear is for cleaning. After which it needs to be re-primed. But doing so is no harder than re-priming the Penguin. Taking about the same time. As long as you turn the speed control all the way up. Until the siphon restarts. It's fine. No problem at all.
<Sounds a good filter.>
Sorry, this wasn't supposed to be an advertisement for Aquaclear. But I'm so impressed with it. Vs. the Penguin. It's better designed. And more effective. Even in terms of noise level Aquaclear wins. It's practically silent. Vs. the Penguin could be heard all around the room. And down the hall.
<Don't worry about sounding too "commercial". Folks do ask us about whether a particular brand is any good, and it's useful to have reports from users we can direct them too. This is doubly so with filter for which we have no personal experience, as would be the case here.>
Anyway ... I'm still using your Rift Valley mix (100-33-50) for water changes. It works perfect. And it's inexpensive (I can't thank you enough!!). Tank is a steady 7.8 pH. GH is a steady 10-12. KH goes up to 5 after a 20% water change. Which I still do 2/week. To avoid KH dropping too much. I learned the hard way that KH of less than 2. Is trouble about to rear its ugly head. Having had a couple pH crashes.
<Great! I'm glad you have the water chemistry issue fixed.>
Now I'm experimenting with Purigen & Chemi-Pure in the AquaClears. Instead of plain carbon. Thinking these might (indirectly) help the dropping KH.
And yes, I still have that hunk of driftwood in the tank. I know it's an aggravating factor. But my fish are in love with it (me too yuck, yuck).
And carbon/Purigen seems to suck all the yellow tinge out of the water. So not a negative, appearance-wise.
The bottom line is. Things are great now. Because of you. So thank you!!
<My pleasure, and thanks for writing back to us with this update.>
P.S. someone else said the AquaClears draw so little current (6 watts each). I should plug them into a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) designed for computers. These are inexpensive. And also protect against power surges (that fry electrical equipment). I have one for my work computer. Which draws a lot more current than a couple AquaClears. So I imagine it would keep them running for a long time (during a power outage).
Sustaining filtration + aeration + keeping my bacteria alive. I just need to do a little more research. Re the right size (capacity) UPS.
<Bob and many other of the experienced reefkeepers do strongly recommend the purchase of UPS devices for their tanks. While freshwater fish are more tolerant of power outages than marines, there's no question at all that having a UPS is better than not having one.>
A UPS setup to run one's chosen filter. Seems a lot more sensible. Than buying that Azoo battery powered air pump. Which would only aerate the water. No filtration. No keeping bacteria (inside the filter) alive.
<Indeed. But one way to keep filter bacteria alive outside a filter is to put the sponges or whatever in a shallow bowl or basin, just covered in water. This allows oxygen to get in. The bacteria die when kept in enclosed spaces (like the inside of a filter) because they can't get enough oxygen.
External canister filters are notoriously bad in this regard since they have almost no opportunity to get oxygen from the air, being connected to the water via narrow hoses.>
FYI link below is the UPS I got for my computer. 390 watts. WAY stronger than I'd need to run two 6-watt AquaClears. So I'll probably choose a less expensive, lower capacity model. Although $64 isn't bad. Considering the Azoo "battery backup pump" is $59 on sale (in drsfostersmith.com). And it's only an air pump. Vs a UPS could power anything you plug into it.
Except for a heater I suppose. They draw so much current. It would probably wipe the battery out pretty quick. Unless you bought a huge UPS.
Too pricey for me. I'd rather bear hug the tank to keep it warm.
<Do read Mike and Merritt's article on surviving power outages, here:
As I say, while freshwater fish tolerate power outage problems for longer than most marines, there's certainly a good argument in taking the same precautions for a freshwater tank as you'd take for a reef tank. Cheers, Neale.>

pH levels 8/22/09
My boyfriend has a 40 gallon corner freshwater aquarium. Its been in constant use for at least the last 6 years with no trouble. Recently, however, the pH has dropped to 5.0 and we cant get it back up, despite
water changes and adding pH balancers.
<What's the water chemistry? For a stable pH, you need a reasonable amount of carbonate hardness:
Soft water poses particular problems:
The fish tank houses several angel fish, a Cory cat, a couple swordtails, and until a couple days ago, a Pleco. Last week, we removed the old gravel and went with all natural rock as well as added live plants in place of the fake, plastic ones. We were wondering if the new plants, the new rock, or the plant food would have an effect on the pH and if there was something we are/aren't doing that we need to, to get the pH up?
<Potentially changing things can lower the pH. A small number of plants -- most importantly Elodea-type things -- can remove carbonate from the water, allowing pH to drop. Bogwood will also tend to cause pH to drop between water changes. Again, these are issues where carbonate hardness is low. Aim for a carbonate hardness around 5 degrees KH. If you don't have such a level, then use the "Rift Valley Cichlid Salt" mix as described in the article linked above; a half should be ample, added to each new bucket of
water as required. In other words, if you take out one 5 gallon bucket, add one new 5 gallon bucket with the 1 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1 tablespoon doses of marine salt mix, baking soda, and Epsom salt respectively.>
The fish seem fine (other than the death of the Pleco).
<Biological filtration stops below pH 6, so you do have a major problem. Fish will die, and soon, without a repair. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Ph levels 8/25/09
Thank you so much for your advice! We added some crushed coral (with more to add in a day or two) and already the pH is up to 6 and a couple of the plants grew several inches over night! This website has been the most helpful I've found. Thank you!
<Glad to have helped. Now, do remember that as the crushed coral gets covered with algae and bacteria, it will lose contact with the water, and this in turn means it can't dissolve into the water, and so it can't buffer
the pH. If you find the pH starts falling once more, you may need to "refresh" the buffering capacity of your aquarium. Taking out some of the substrate and replacing it with a fresh gravel/coral sand mix may help. But
the best approach is to use a media bag (or the foot from an old pair of tights/stockings/pantyhose) and parcel up a portion of crushed coral or coral sand. Empty this out every 2-3 months or whenever you find pH isn't buffering properly. The easiest, lowest-tech approach is to make up some Rift Valley Salt Mix, as mentioned here:
The basic formula for Rift Valley cichlids and other fish that need really hard water is to each 5 US gallons (20 litres) of water you stir in 1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), 1 tablespoon Epsom salt
(magnesium sulfate), and 1 teaspoon marine salt mix (sodium chloride + trace elements). Since you're keeping community fish, one-quarter to one-half this dosage should be ample. Add the right amounts of these to each bucket of water you add to the tank every time you do a water change.
You'll find it costs pennies per month, and works very well. Cheers, Neale.>

My fish died last night ... culprit might be pH? 07/28/09
29 gallon. 6 weeks old. Have been using Kordon products. Novaqua+ for new water. In the beginning I started with dry "Amquel plus buffers". I misunderstood, thinking it was "Amquel+ and buffers". 3 weeks ago I switched to regular Amquel+. I put it in weekly or so. Everything seemed fine.
<Whilst maintaining a steady pH is important, it is usually a bad idea to do this by adding pH buffers. Why? Because aquaria have a background tendency to acidify anyway, so even if you tweak the pH of a bucket of water one way or another, that may not prevent acidification in between water changes. Ideally, choose fish suited to your local water chemistry.
If you must, add a Rift Valley cichlid salt mix at a half- or full-dose to make water that is moderately to very hard, depending on your needs. For most community fishkeeping, moderately to very hard water is the optimal, since high levels of carbonate hardness inhibit pH changes. Do see here:
There's a Rift Valley cichlid salt recipe there, and it's a lot cheaper and easier to use than buffering potions.>
Got ich about 10 days ago. Started with Kordon Ich Attack. Seemed to work in a couple days. Lost 2 Cory cats & 1 platy. The 2 Corys were floating up to the surface. They struggled but just couldn't stay near the bottom.
They kept floating up. Same problem I had with the first 2 Corys. Then switched to Rid Ich+ 4 days ago (took out the carbon). When I noticed clear jelly like stuff collecting around the base of a couple artificial plants. Seemed like part of the ich or fungus. Figured I needed something stronger. Also because Rid Ich+ mentions ok for Corys, figured it might be less of a problem. Everyone seemed to be doing ok.
<Catfish react to certain copper- and formalin-based medications, and while Brand X might be safe under one set of conditions, if there's something else going on in the tank stressing them, that medication could cause harm.
By default, choose the heat/salt method when treating Ick in tanks with catfish, loaches, and other sensitive species.>
Testing all along has shown ammonia, NO2 & NO3 zero or very close. With the Amquel+ I figured. The only problem has been the ph. My municipal tap water (Connecticut) tests @ 7.2. But, the tank is 6.0. Even with water changes it barely raises.
<It sounds as if your water has little to no carbonate hardness.>
Anyway, last night I got another test kit that goes below 6.0 ph. The test indicated 5.5 I think. I read online that's too low.
Less than 6.0 and the bacteria won't grow, all that.
<Oh, there certainly are bacteria that thrive in acidic conditions -- just not the filter bacteria we want!>
So it said you can raise ph by putting some sea shells in.
<Not really worthwhile.>
I put a couple in and everything was ok. One platy even hung around the sea shells. Then at the store a guy told me they have to be crushed up sea shells. So I came home and crushed them up. Leaving them in a net so they wouldn't all get mixed in.
<Hmm... solid chunks of calcium carbonate (crushed shells, crushed coral) can work, but only if placed somewhere with a strong water current, i.e., inside a canister filter or else as part of an undergravel filter.
Otherwise, there simply isn't enough water moving past the calcium carbonate to "absorb" carbonate hardness at the required rate. Furthermore, such calcium carbonate only works while it is clean: once covered with bacteria and algae, it's insulated from the water and stops working.>
Two hours later I came back because the room had a horrible sulfur (rotten egg) smell. Really strong. And every fish was dead except 3 platys. I lost 3 Danios, 5 Neons & 2 Cory cats. This am the strong sulfur smell is gone it's ack to normal pretty much.
<The sulphur could be caused by simply decay, particularly anaerobic decay.
Hydrogen sulphide is certainly toxic to fish, though almost never is it available in sufficient quantities to cause serious harm. You see, hydrogen sulphide reacts instantly with oxygen, so as soon as it bubbles out from the anaerobic pocket in the sediment where it formed, it reacts with oxygen in the water, becoming sulphur dioxide. This is why the hydrogen sulphide produced in the black, anaerobic mud in ponds doesn't kill your goldfish.
Anyway, if you smell sulphur, it's likely to imply decay, but rather than being the direct cause of death, you should be more concerned about the decay in the aquarium, and the effects that'll have on acidification and oxygen availability in the water.>
I figure it had to be those damn shells. But with < 6.0 ph I thought I better try to get it up. Figured the shells would do it slowly. Didn't put a lot in. Maybe 1/4 cup (crushed up). And what was that sulfur stink all of a sudden.
<Were the shells clean? It's a silly question really, but it is important
the shells were cleaned and didn't containing dead snails or whatever.>
Also that new test kit (dip strip type) last night showed: total hardness: 25 (scale 0-1000)
<25 what? 25 mg/l? If so, that's a trivial amount, and far too low for most fish.>
total alkalinity 0 (scale 0-300)
<Here's your problem. Right here. Zero carbonate hardness means your water has zero ability to prevent acidification.>
Ammonia, NO2 and NO3 0.0.
And again, ph under 6.0 it looked like. But the colors aren't exact so hard to tell. And these test strip types aren't too good I've heard.
<The precise pH doesn't matter. Yes, it should be around 7 to 7.5, but precisely where doesn't matter within the range so long as its steady from week to week. On the other hand, pH 6 is far too low.>
The only other thing is I had a piece of driftwood in the tank. Pretty good size. That's why I figured the ph dropped vs. the tap.
<Yes, driftwood produces tannins, and these lower pH.>
Plus in the beginning, I was thinking the Amquel with buffers might have messed up the pH. But I've probably done a dozen 20% water changes since then. Periodically & due to the Rid Ich+. And I figured the driftwood would have less of an effect over time. It's been soaked a lot. Now, barely turning the water a tea color any more. Well, hard to tell I suppose with the GREEN/BLUE Rid Ich+ in there huh! But the guy in the store said it should be fine. They prep the driftwood before they sell it.
<Even cured driftwood will lower the pH over time. It's what driftwood does, period, end of story.>
Just for grins retested the water this am (after the fish died). It's all the same except hardness looks like 75 not 25 like last night (before the fish died).
<Still too low. You're aiming for something like 100-300 mg/l, with about 200 mg/l being optimal for the widest selection of community fish.>
Any help you could give me would be appreciated. I'm thinking the shells did the deed last night. Big mistake. But can't understand why I've had two sets of Cory cats. And the same thing happened to both. They start floating up to the top and stay there. It's a struggle to get down to the bottom of the tank.
<May be insufficient water circulation, at least in part. Catfish get their oxygen from the water at the bottom of the tank, and if the water quality down there is dire, they're going to be the first fish to die.>
A couple times they got themselves pinned under some overhang. To keep down. Or they'd just float back up. Seems like they just get exhausted and die. That's why I did the shell job. I was thinking pH is the only measure off whack in my tank. Ammonia, NO2 & NO3 seem pretty good all along. I hope that made sense! Thanks!
<Do read the article mentioned earlier on. Read, digest, and if you're still stuck, write back. Don't add any more fish until you've stabilised pH from week to week, and have learned how to mix a Rift Valley salt mix such that you produce buckets of water with adequate carbonate and general hardness. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: My fish died last night ... culprit might be pH? 07/28/09
The site you provided was incredible
<Glad you liked.>
Re the Rift Valley salt mix. It's ok to use in a freshwater tank? Sounded like it.
But I got a little concerned reading the section titled, "Aquarium Salt".
When it said, "marine salt is not really a viable option...". So with freshwater would it be safer to:
1) invest in a commercially available freshwater product (if I can find one with no salt)?
<Marine salt mix is a key ingredient, and at the dosage used, won't harm freshwater fish in the least. Yes, you can buy commercial Rift Valley cichlid salt mixes, and these will work very well. But the recipe given in the article here at WWM is just as good, and costs pennies per month to use.>
2) prepare the Rift Valley mix but skip the marine salt ingredient?
(only use baking soda & Epsom salt)
<Don't skip the marine salt mix if using this recipe.>
3) mix Rift Valley as indicated. But reduce the dose to 25-33%. Plus choose soft water fishes. Not sure where to check what fishes are particularly adverse to salinity.
<You misunderstand... my point here is you can't use marine salt by itself to harden water for freshwater fish unless you know they tolerate both salinity and hardness. Mollies and Guppies for example will do perfectly well in brackish water, or even seawater, so if you live in a soft water area, one way to keep these fish successfully is to switch to a brackish water aquarium. But other hard water fish won't tolerate such conditions.
Mbuna cichlids for example don't tolerate brackish water, and are in fact made sick by it.>
Re the sulfur smell. Wow maybe you're right. The last time or two vacc'ing the gravel I was surprised what came up out of there. Pretty dark and rude looking. Maybe the cycle never got going. With that way low pH (since day 1). Vacc'ing weekly I have noticed the gravel getting skunkier. I gassed my poor little Cory's!!
Re circulation. I have a 12" bubbler buried under the gravel. And a Penguin 150 filter (whose return makes some bubbles).
<When was the last time you checked the diaphragm in the air pump? Most need this little bit of rubber changed every year or two. If you don't, they push less and less air, and your bubbler won't be doing much good.>
Maybe a canister filter would be better. This was a cheap setup.
<Well, there's certainly an argument that says one big, decent filter is better than a poky filter and an airstone. The Penguin 150 filter has a turnover of 150 gallons per hour. For small fish, turnover should be at least 4 times the volume of the tank. Since 4 x 29 = 116 gallons per hour, your Penguin filter should be adequate. But do check it's working properly, that the media selected are logical, and that you are maintaining it correctly. Specifically, make sure the media are mostly biological in nature (carbon and zeolite are largely useless in this type of tank). Clean the filter every 4-6 weeks, but remember to rinse biological media in buckets of aquarium water so you don't kill the bacteria.>
Also I've been shutting off the bubbler at night. To make it easier for the fish to sleep. I figured a less strong current to fight. Means better sleep. Maybe not.
<Not. Leave filters and air pumps running 24 hours.>
Thank you Neale. You're da best!
P.S. I didn't clean the shells. Rinsed & crushed them. Then microwaved to sterilize.
<Ah, while microwaves will *kill* bacteria and such, and organic debris, like dead, dried snails, will still be there.>
Until the towel they were inside got charred--whoops.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Problems with PH. FW Community 7/2/09
WWM Crew,
Id like to start by thanking you for the immense amount of work that goes into creating and maintaining a site such as this, as well as the time spent responding to issues such as my own.
<Thank you.>
I do hope not all of my questions have been answered in the recent past, as I have checked and did not find solutions. Ill start with some information on the tank( 36 US Gallon) up and running for 3 months.
Stocked with:
6 Julii Cory Cats
4 Sword Tails 1M 3F 1.5 2 in.
4 Assorted Platy 1M 3F 1.5 in.
<These should all be compatible, and share a similar preference for relatively cool water, around 23-24 C.>
1 Red Tail Shark 2 in.
<Will likely become too aggressive for this tank as it matures, so be prepared to move it to a new home; typically needs a well-planted tropical tank at least 120 cm in length.>
4 Badis Badis .75 in. New Additions
<Would be extremely surprised if the Badis does well in this system. They're almost always impossible to wean onto anything other than live or wet-frozen foods, and even then, they feed very slowly. They're suitable for single-species tanks, or else tanks where the tankmates pose no threat in terms of competition for food; Hatchetfish and halfbeaks, for example, would be ideal because they only take food from the surface.>
1 Dwarf Gourami
<My thoughts on these fish are surely well known by now!>
Tank Water:
PH 6.4 7.0
<Far too acidic for livebearers!>
Ammonia 0
Nitrites 0
Nitrates 10ppm before water changes and 5ppm after
KH 0
<Yowser! You do need a bit more carbonate hardness than this for livebearers, and indeed most tropical fish, since without carbonate hardness, pH will be prone to dropping between water changes.>
GH 300ppm (currently)
Tap Water
3 dKH
<This is too low for livebearers, but acceptable for soft-water fish.>
140ppm GH
<Too low for livebearers.>
PH 8.4
I recently made the novice mistake of adding fish directly to my tank with no quarantine period. 12 hours after the introduction Ich had infected all my livebearers. I raised the temp to 82 and used an Epsom Salt treatment and rid the tank if Ich. This was last week and Im still changing the salt out of the water, explaining the very high GH tank reading.I think.
<Epsom Salt doesn't cure Ick.>
My main problem lies in the fact I cant properly maintain the PH of my water. I have very high PH tap water but I cant keep the tank over 6.6.
<Of course not. Without sufficient carbonate hardness, you'll never have a stable pH.>
Just changing 25% of the water raises the PH from 6.4 to over 7. The PH falls back within 3 days. Im assuming the swings are not good for my fish. I selected primarily livebearers because of the high PH water and would like to maintain the tank in the mid to low 7s. I acquired, after reading many of your PH crash FAQs, a hardness test kit to see just how much KH my water had out of the faucet and in the tank. I was surprised to find my tap water so low, but also to find a difference between my tap and tank water. Can water lose buffering capacity naturally?
<If there's sufficient acidity being produced in the aquarium, yes, all the carbonate hardness can be used up. Similarly, if you have a lot of fast-growing plants that perform biogenic decalcification (not all do, but species like Elodea and Vallisneria will) this also reduces carbonate hardness.>
Ive read many suggestions to use a marine/Epsom/baking soda salt mix to add KH, but I dont think my non-live bearers would appreciate the addition.
<They'll be fine. Read here:
Use the Cichlid Salt mix, but at, say, one-third to one-half the dose per bucket of water added during water changes (don't add it all to the tank in one go!). The Badis can't stay in this tank anyway, but the other fish will be fine at pH 7.5, 10-15 degrees dH, 4-5 degrees KH. Try a one-third dose on a single bucket of water, do water tests, and then adjust the amounts you add per bucket up or down as required. You'll need to experiment a bit, but once you've established how much to use, you'll be able to do this each time you do a water change.>
Is there a way other than salting to add KH without sending the PH too high considering my tap water?
I bought a buffer/stabilizer that claims to set water at 7.5 by bringing it down if above and maintaining if at of below. My worry when reading the ingredients is it uses a proprietary blend of sodium and potassium salts. Would a 5g per 10 US Gallon addition raise the salinity enough to bother the cats? Any recommendation on what to do would be very much appreciated.
<Wouldn't bother; it's always best to adjust all water chemistry parameters at once, rather than just pH.>
My second and hopefully final issue has to do with the death of two Dwarf Gouramis. I lost the two fish suddenly two days apart after the Ich treatment. There were few outward signs of distress. One fish went from normal to dead, and the other skipped an evening and morning feeding and died in the afternoon. Neither had Ich spots but were subjected to the eight days of 82F temps and 1 TBS per 5 Gallons of Epsom salt. Did I do something wrong, other than selecting such a weak species?
<It's tonic salt (sodium chloride, kosher salt) you need, not Epsom salt. In any case, Dwarf Gouramis are rubbish, unless you can secure locally-bred specimens.>
Thanks in advance,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Freshwater Community Tank 7/6/09
Dear Neale,
<Hello again,>
Thanx a bunch for the speedy reply...in spite of the huge number of mails you people probably getting every day and I sincerely apologize for the spelling mistakes :-)
<It's the "text messaging" speak I really don't like... misspellings are fine; we all make them!>
I would like to further get some more Professional advices on my new tank...as I stated earlier I have 5 fancy goldfish with one serpae tetra in a 60 gallon tank
<I see.>
With one UG filter and one top-box filter...this tank is actually new and the cycle is not yet fully established.
However my problem is that one albino goldfish has ragged fin for almost one week from now. I guessed that the tetra Might be nipping its fin but in that case other GFs should have show ragged fin too...to some extent...however they r fine.
<I'd still put money on the Serpae tetra. Let's be clear about this: Serpae tetras (Hyphessobrycon eques) are notorious fin-nippers; in the wild they view the fins of slow-moving fish as food, and when kept in small groups --
or singly -- they become even more aggressive. Serpae tetras also have a true "feeding frenzy". This means that when they're feeding, they bite at anything, and often this means other fish! Serpae tetras were the first tropical fish I ever kept, and I learned the hard way that they are not -- repeat NOT -- community fish.>
So plz tell me if its fin rot disease and if yes how to treat it.
<Remove the Serpae tetra to another aquarium. If the Goldfish gets better, that's your answer.>
My second question is that I tried to use live plant (short Amazon sword) in this new tank and used coarse sand as substrate...
But almost all plants died and so others I returned to dealer...now I read in a book to use clay+sand as substrate...also I think the clay might make a cloudy water.
<No real point using plants in this tank: Goldfish will uproot plants, and they eat many plant species as well. Would recommend floating plants, such as the excellent Indian Fern (Ceratopteris spp.). These will provide lots of shade as well as food for your Goldfish, while removing all the nutrients they need from the water. This would allow you to use plain sand on the bottom of the tank.>
Will it be ok for the fish?
My current ph is b/w 7-7.5.The tap water here is normally mildly hard.
<Cheers, Neale.>

FW biomineralizing life water supplementation 4/5/09
Done a lot of research and haven't found a straight answer. I have a freshwater community aquarium that besides tropical fish has apple snails, golden clams, and shrimp. Should I be adding any kind of supplement for the
invertebrates like liquid iodine or calcium? And if so what dosage to you recommend. Thanks for any help.
<Is a good idea to periodically (I'd add in conjunction with your routine for water changes... right after refilling) an iodine/ide supplement... Calcium can be an issue if in short supply... along with (in concert) alkalinity. These issues can not be entirely generalized... as in "just plop in X on Y schedule)... the Iodine should be pulsed to avoid
over-exposure... and Calcium and alkalinity re testing (kits) to assure appropriate range. Bob Fenner>

Please help - pH going up in fw tank 04/03/09
Hi Neale,
you very, very kindly helped me with a fantail with dropsy last September, and I'm after your help again!
I recently managed to buy a 190 ltr tank for my two goldfish, one common and one shubunkin and Hillstream loach. I had a 60ltr before and was struggling to keep up with things. Well, I have to admit that I really thought that getting a bigger tank would help a problem that I have had really since I got my fish, 11 months ago. My pH seems to increase quite quickly over several days, obviously this concerns me because when I do a water change it decreases rapidly too.
<It goes *up* between water changes, and then resets to a much lower value *when* you do a water change. How odd. Usually the other way around.>
I have tried to research this on your site but everyone seems to have the opposite problem, pH going down.
<Quite. Aquaria tend to have an acidification tendency because of the way the nitrogen cycle works and the organic acids produced from decay. But pH can go up for three reasons. The first is calcareous media in the aquarium; as these dissolve slowly, they raise carbonate hardness and pH. The second is ammonia, which is a 'basic' chemical and so raises pH. Finally, the low pH you register in new tap water can be caused by some unstable chemical in the water, such as carbonic acid, that leaves the water within a few hours or days. When it's gone, the pH of the water goes up. This would be like if you have a bottle of fizzy mineral water, poured some into a glass, and took a pH test. This would be, say, pH 6. The next day all the carbonic acid (i.e., the carbon dioxide bubbles) would have gone, so the water would now have a higher pH, say, 7.5, caused by the minerals in the water. So: the three things you can do to help yourself are [1] look for anything calcareous in the aquarium; [2] test for ammonia; and [3] draw some tap water into a glass, leave it for 24 hours, and then do a pH test.>
I will give you a detailed run down of what I am doing as I must be doing something fundamentally wrong.
I got my tank almost 3 weeks ago, I have my old filter running in it at the moment, but plan to put my bioballs and filter media into my new filter in the next few days. I don't have any carbon in my filter. I used all my gravel from my old tank - it's at a depth of about 1". There is a piece of bogwood in there, 11 months old, lots and lots of live plants, a couple of plastic ornaments and some smooth rocks for my loach.
<All good. Bogwood will tend to lower the pH over time, but not usually dramatically.>
I don't feed them much as there are loads of plants in the tank, I give them broccoli, peas, spinach, cucumber, frozen daphnia etc. I have learnt from my poor Daphne (ex fantail) experience. I do give then flake food perhaps once a week, but soak it first.
<All fine.>
During every water change (except today's) I normally take all the plants, wood and ornaments out. I started taking them out after I found that debris got stuck under the ornaments etc.
<Been there, done that!>
I trim up the elodea etc, but don't normally clean much more unless its getting black, my loach likes munching on it.
I gently vac the gravel, just enough to stir up any debris laying on it. I use Tetra AquaClear de-chlorinator in my water which is the same temperature as my tank water. My fish don't mind the clean and seem to be
happy and not at all stressed.
<They're used to it, I'm sure.>
I have an Aquis 1050 external filter with an operating flow rate of 750 litres per hour. I have my internal Tetra filter working too - I did work out that they turn 5.5 volume of the tank per hour - you recommend 6 don't you?
<It's good enough! So don't worry.>
My tap water is about 7.4 (south east England!) I use API liquid test kit and even got a new pH high range kit in case it was that! Sadly, no. My KH is 14 and GH is 18. My nitrite always reads 0 and my nitrates around 6.
<Rock hard water; should be very stable in terms of pH.>
All was great the first week, I did 1x25ltr w/c and 1x35ltr w/c as there was a bit of ammonia in the water about 0.1, and it stayed around pH7.9.
After 4 days it had crept up to 8.2, then 8.3 two days after that. I then did a 30ltr w/c which took it to 7.8.
The next day the tank tested 8.0, two days after 8.2.
The evening after I did a 30ltr w/c which dropped it to 7.9, at 8:30am next day it was 7.9 (yay!) by 7:30pm it was 8.0. Then 7:30am it was still holding at 8.0, but by 5:15pm it was 8.2!
Did another 30ltr w/c yesterday to take it to 8.0. Today 7:30am = 8.0,
2:50pm it was 8.1, then by 4:05pm it had got to 8.2. Had a reading of 01. for Ammonia today, so did another 30 ltr w/c, back to 7.8.
<These variations are relatively small, and to be honest, I'd worry more about the ammonia than the pH changes. Indeed, the ammonia could be a factor.>
My old tank used to rise from around 7.9 - 8.2 - I figured that perhaps too much load on too little space with a small filter. I was unprepared for it to be an issue in my big tank.
<What time are you doing these pH tests? Do you have bright lights on this tank? Bright enough that the plants are able to grow rapidly? There are some plant-related factors to consider. During photosynthesis plants use CO2 from the water, and so pH tends to drop as the day wears on. Elodea also happens to be one of a select group of plants that can do something called biogenic decalcification -- a fancy way of saying they absorb carbonate and bicarbonate ions from the water, and use these as a carbon source for photosynthesis. This reduces the buffering capacity of the water. So until you do a water change and top up the concentration of carbonate/bicarbonate ions in the water, each day pH stability will get worse and worse as carbonate hardness gets lower and lower. Now, before we get paranoid here, for this to be a major factor you need strong lighting and a reasonably large quantity of plants. One bunch of Elodea under
indifferent lighting will have minimal effect.>
I obviously realise that this is just way too much in the way of pH change and I have become desperately worried about my fish.
<Unless they're obviously distressed, e.g., gasping at the surface, I wouldn't worry too much. In the wild they will experience pH variation within this sort of level through issues such as photosynthesis anyway.>
They are always busy and my loach loves the new flow in the tank. However, my shubunkin seems to have a couple of scales sticking out on one side, viewed from about it looks horribly like dropsy, but she is swimming, eating fine.
<A couple of loose scales does not Dropsy make; remember, the scales thing about Dropsy is how the scales are pushed out as the abdomen swells. If the fish has a normal shape, but is just shedding a couple of scales, that's nothing too serious.>
I don't want to loose another one and I know dropsy can be caused by poor water quality. Please help me - I feel like such a fishkeeping failure.
<I don't think you're failing. Do focus on the ammonia issue here, checking the filter is properly configured and that you're not over-cleaning it (once a month is usually fine, and when you do that, don't replace more
than half the media at any one time).>
Sorry about the novel but I thought you'd be better off knowing what I have been doing.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Please help - pH going up in fw tank (RMF, thoughts?> for Neale 04/07/09
Hi Neale,
thanks ever so much for your reply- it has helped me to focus a bit, and I am so, so relieved that I am not doing anything really silly! Thanks too for your easy to understand explanation of the chemistry stuff, I get a bit confused with this sometimes.
<Happy to help.>
I will get the ammonia situation under control first. I think I must have unwittingly killed off some of my biological filter in my old filter last week. I did just do a quick dip of my bioballs in tank water, but perhaps I
was a bit rough with the sponge I 'gently' rinsed out. I will be more careful next time.
<"Roughness" isn't usually a thing because bacteria don't fall off when knocked about! What matters is exposure to dry air, being trapped in an enclosed pocket of water with no oxygen; or being exposed to dramatic changes in temperature, water chemistry or salinity.>
My ammonia seems to be 0 in the morning, around 7:30, but it seems to show up in the evening, coincidentally with the rise in pH. I will keep testing for both at these times.
<Ah... Perhaps coincidentally with when the fish are fed...? In which case, the filter is likely not up to the job, or you're overfeeding the fish.>
I've been testing my pH in the morning about 7:30, then around 1 - 2pm, then again around 4:30 - 5:30pm. It seems to rapidly increase during this late afternoon period. I got all concerned as I had read that pH swings of more than 0.1 were bad - perhaps that was relating to different fish than goldfish? I will relax a bit now!
<Definitely something going on...>
Once I have addressed this I can do some eliminating. My rocks are smooth beach pebble type ones - I have no idea if they are calcareous or not.
<<Easy to test for... either directly with an acid of some strength applied to (outside the tank of course) or "soaked" in a small container with water of known pH, alkalinity over a few days time... and tested later for. RMF>>
As for the plants I have the following: 6 bunches of quite long and bushy elodea (20 - 30cm in length), 2 bunches of Cabomba, 1 Amazon sword plant, 5 Vallisneria of varying sizes and 5 unknown plants (can't seem to find out what these are).
<Send photo.>
I have 2 x AquaOne T5 230v - 50H 39w x 25 bulbs. I'm really sorry but I have no idea if these are bright or not - they came with the tank. Do you think this may be part of the problem?
<Hmm... 190 litres is about 50 gallons. Two 39 watt T5 tubes on that is about 1.5 watts per gallon. Not a huge amount of light, but T5s are a bit brighter than plain vanilla T8 tubes, so could be a factor. Really, the
proof is in the pudding: are the plants growing rapidly, i.e., enough you need to (or could choose to) crop them back every couple of weeks. If that's the case, then certainly Vallisneria and Elodea both remove
bicarbonate from the water and so can dramatically alter pH through the day.>
Have a glass of water standing for 24 hours and will test that tomorrow.
My Shubunkin's scales seem to have flattened back down a bit this morning.
I've done another 25ltr w/c this evening as the ammonia was back up to about 0.1, I'll just keep at it!
<Should settle down... you shouldn't need to do water changes daily... once a week is ample. Would look long and hard at the filter. Is it up to the job? Does it contain sensible media options? Is it set up properly? Does it get clogged too quickly?>
Thanks again for such a fabulous site - I am very grateful that there are kind people like the WetWeb crew who are willing to help us newbies! I'll let you know how I'm doing. Michelle
<Have been on vacation, so forgive delay in reply. Cheers, Neale.>

Please help - pH going up in fw tank - update 5/4/09 for Neale 04/07/09
Hi there Neale,
Michelle again!
<Hi Michelle,>
Have been doing water changes every day to sort out my ammonia situation.
I'll say this for it - I have got used to doing my bigger tank much faster.
It's a bit like writing lines at school - I will be more careful cleaning my filter, I will be more careful cleaning my filter........
<Hmm... not sure I want a hobby that reminds me of school...>
Anyway, I let my water stand as you recommended. It started off at pH 7.0 within 24 hours it was at 7.6, and it has now leveled off at 8.3 after 48 hours. No wonder I had a problem.
Do you think I should let my water sit for a couple of days before I do a water change?
<Yes. Grab yourself one or more 5 gallon buckets with lids (I got mine from a DIY store). Fill with water, and leave with the lids on loosely for 48 hours. Do your water changes using these once a week, such that you're doing around 25% per week.>
Is such a change a problem with my goldfish?
My shubunkin isn't that happy, her scales are raised and she has started to glance off the filter pipe from time to time. She seems to have periods of inactivity hanging around the top of the tank. When she is doing this her dorsal fin is clamped down. Once she sees someone she swims about begging for food as usual. Her poop is a bit thin and stringy.
<Can be dietary, but Shubunkins are more pond fish than anything else, and don't always settle into home aquaria all that well. Depending on the other types of fish, adding more water movement might help.>
She is still eating algae in the tank and the occasional pea I put in there for my other fish. Is there anything more I could do to help her other than water changes every day?
<Not really; the daily water changes are overkill, I suspect. Certainly not normal. I'm really wondering what's going on here, and wonder if the rapidly changing pH has meant the filter has never become properly matured.
25% weekly water changes should be ample.>
Many thanks for your help once again, Michelle
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Please help - pH going up in fw tank (RMF, thoughts?> for Neale 4/7/09
<<Re: pebbles effect: Easy to test for... either directly with an acid of some strength applied to (outside the tank of course) or "soaked" in a small container with water of known pH, alkalinity over a few days time...
and tested later for. RMF>>
<Bob, thank you, good catch. In my haste to clear the backlog, I missed this key thing. Michelle, in any event, by default you should always use a lime-free substrate... these are widely sold... gravel, smooth silica sand, etc. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Please help - pH going up in fw tank (RMF, thoughts?> for Neale 4/7/09
Hi Bob,
thanks for the suggestion - I will test my rocks. There are 5 of varying sizes in the tank - I do have ordinary gravel from my LFS for substrate, I guess I could test that whilst I'm at it.
Many thanks for your help, Michelle
<Ah, yes... good to test both. BobF>

Re: Please help - pH going up in fw tank - update for Neale 4/7/09
Thanks Neale,
I will let my water stand as you suggest.
I will have another look at my new filter and make sure everything is working ok, as I haven't really touched it much yet. It's got bio-noodles, 2 types of sponges and a fine wool filter pad which is the pad I am assuming I change regularly.
<Personally, I don't change filter pads until they're really falling apart!
Too expensive. Instead, simply make sure you rinse them off regularly. So long as the pad is clean enough for water to pass through easily, it doesn't need to be brand new to do its job.>
I'm pretty certain that I washed everything with old aquarium water. I guess that if the filter is not up to the job I can just add another external filter to the tank.
<Often makes all the difference. You'll note I stress turnover rather than what size aquarium a filter is recommended for. But even so, some filters are best suited to small fish. I write repeatedly on WWM about the limitations of hang-on-the-back filters and some types of internal filter in this regard; in large tanks with big messy fish, you want to have the inlet and outlet pipes as far apart as possible, so there's lots of
As for my plants, my elodea does get chopped back every few weeks; perhaps I'll reduce the amount for a while and see what happens.
<Certainly worth a shot.>
Once the tank is stable I may have a go at re-introducing it and see what happens. My Vallisneria is not growing that strongly.
<Then the lighting is perhaps not too strong to be a factor. Vallisneria, when happy, spreads wildly!>
If my shubunkin is more of a pond fish could she be moved to my mum's pond?
<In most parts of the world, yes, Shubunkins do well outdoors. Like Standards and Comets, they do very well in ponds, and love swimming space!>
If she can, when would be a good time?
<Since she's been indoors this winter, I'd not take her out until late spring/early summer. >
Thanks very much for all your help again, Michelle
<Cheers, Neale.>

pH always increasing 2/27/09 Hello- My question is in regard to the water parameters of my planted freshwater tropical tank. The 20 gallon tank has been set up for two or three years. I used two large bags "eco-complete" black aquarium gravel, which I got because it seemed like the best choice for plants. I also have driftwood and two rocks that did not fizz when I put vinegar on them (I think quartz). It is moderately to heavily planted with many species of plants. When I initially filled it I used conditioned tap water, which has a pH of 7.6 to 7.8. I continued to do water changes using tap water until about 8 months ago, when I decided that I wanted to gradually lower the pH to about 6.5. I began doing monthly 25% water changes with RO water, (and topping off evaporation with too), but I mixed the water change water with an electrolyte and trace element product called "electro-right". The pH of this prepared water was about 6.4. I added the clean water gradually, (over several days), so I wouldn't shock the livestock. I did this for a few months, and each time the pH would initially drop but then rise back to 7.6-7.8 after a couple days. I collected some dead red oak leaves from my yard and put in six. A few weeks ago I bought a peat granule product which I have added to my filter. The pH is still 7.5-7.8! How do I naturally lower it and keep it low? <Mmm, remove the "quartz" rocks methinks> Oh, and I have tested it with my own digital pH monitor, which I calibrated and tested 3 times in the last month, and brought a water sample to the LFS which they tested with a titration kit. Any thoughts/suggestions would be appreciated. Sam <Likely the rock is continuing to dissolve... particularly in the presence of your added acids. Try removing them. Bob Fenner>

Re: pH always increasing 3/1/09 thanks, I'll give it a try right away. <Ahh, please do report back your observations. BobF>

Fish suddenly sick, FW, pH shock 3/3/08 Hi Crew, This is unfortunately an emergency. I have been keeping my fish (6 zebra Danios, 3 Cory cats) in a separate tank for about a week and a half while their normal tank cycles with added ammonia. The tank they're in now is a half-full 20 gallon tank with a heater (temp has been constant at 74F) and bubbler instead of a filter because the filters are in the normal tank, hopefully building up bacteria. I have some "Ammo-Chips" in the temporary tank to soak up the ammonia since there isn't any established bacteria. I've also been changing the water in the temporary tank often with tap water conditioned with Amquel. I did this yesterday (actually, I added about 20% additional water since there is extra space in the tank) and I swished the net around to grab some of the floating "gunk" and cleaned a lot of that out. All seemed to be well this morning, but I came back tonight after being gone the whole day and my smallest Cory was dead and the rest of the fish were looking very sick. Some were hanging near the top; others at the bottom. They don't seem to be breathing hard, just very listless. Ammonia and nitrite are zero. I don't have a nitrate test kit, but I change the water regularly and I doubt it could make them sick this fast. It would seem like it had something to do with the water being added or the "gunk" being taken out, although I did what I always do (add Amquel and get the water to about the same temperature as the tank water). I now have the fish out of that tank in a Tupperware container with the bubble wand. I added some Prime and some Stress Coat even though there isn't an ammonia or nitrite problem. (I didn't know what else to do!) The water has been pretty cloudy in the tank, but I think it's because there isn't a filter, only a bubbler for oxygen. If it were a lack of oxygen they would have been showing signs of distress earlier. And if it was poisoning due to the decomposing "stuff" in the water, wouldn't I see some ammonia or nitrites? I have antibacterial food on hand and I'm going to feed that to them, if they'll eat. I have no idea what happened, unless the water wasn't dechloraminated well enough, but I feel like I always add more Amquel than necessary just to be safe. I don't have any clues! They all look like they're barely hanging on.. I appreciate any help you can offer. Thank you so much, Allison Hey Crew, I just realized the problem: pH shock. I tested the tank - pH 6.0 - and the tap water - pH 7.8 or more. Basically, the tank and the tap are at opposite ends of my testing kit's scale, I guess because of aeration in the tank bringing the pH down. I guess all I can do now is just hope for them to survive. Please let me know if there's anything else to do. I'm going to put them back in the tank (since now they're in the Tupperware container). Thanks, Allison <Hello Alison. Glad you figured out what the problem was. Yes, pH can make a big difference to how well (or otherwise) fish settle in. Maintaining a steady pH between water changes is essential. If the pH in your aquarium is dropping from 7.8 to 6 within a week, then you have a serious instability problem. Have a read of these two articles: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsoftness.htm Essentially the problem is likely that your water has no carbonate hardness (use the "KH" test kit for this) and so pH drops rapidly. One common mistake people make is to use water from a domestic water softener: do not do this! However hard your tap water might be, it's fine for most fish. In some ways hard water is a positive asset. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm In the meantime, your fish should recover from the pH shock. Obviously don't feed them, and don't fuss over them either, as that'll stress them. Leave them somewhere dark and well oxygenated to they can recover at their own pace. If they don't survive, at least learn from the experience and read up on water chemistry. Note that everyone thinks they understand pH, whereas the pH value itself actually doesn't matter all that much -- what matters is pH stability. And for that, you need carbonate hardness. Cheers, Neale.>

pH stuck at 6.6. 7/25/07 Dear WWM, <Hello Giuseppe,> I have the following setup: 10 G planted tank started 8 months ago 2 cories 1 Otocinclus 2 neon tetras 2 male guppies (planning to add 3 neon tetras and 3 rosy tetras...would that be ok?) <You'll get best results from all those fishes by keeping them in groups of 6 or more. Schooling fish tend to be shy and nervous when kept in pairs or trios... and then they die, prematurely. The fact you have a 10 gallon tank complicates things somewhat. Rosy tetras are FAR TOO active for a 10 gallon tank, but Neons and Otocinclus are fine. Corydoras are borderline. Small species are OK, but the bigger ones less so.> The tank values are: Nitrite 0, Nitrates 5, Ammonia 0, PH 6.6 <All good except the pH -- too low for guppies.> I do 30% water changes once or twice a week by deeply siphoning all the gravel (should I clean only the top part of the gravel to avoid any damage to the bacteria living in it?). <What you're doing is fine. But I'd kick up the water changes to 50% weekly or 25% twice weekly, since you have a small tank. By the time you have the bucket out, how much water you change doesn't add to the workload. But the bigger the water change, the healthier a tank is.> The two guppies are not doing well (see photo attached). The yellow one is always hiding behind a plant and close to the surface. The blue one is always resting on the gravel. I treated them with Maracyn/Maracyn 2 combination for 3 times over the last couple of months due to suspected fin rot, each treatment lasted 5 days. Since the PH was stable at 7 and dropped to 6.6 only in the last few months, I suspect that this may be harming the guppies. <Low pH is bad for guppies. But it isn't specifically the pH that causes the problems. Low pH generally goes along with low hardness, both general hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH). Guppies, like most other livebearers, need high levels of both of these. Ideally, at least a GH of 15 degrees dH and 10 degrees KH. Or thereabouts, anyway. Basically the harder the better, and in fact guppies will do better in seawater than they'll do in the soft/acid water Neons enjoy. It sounds as if you have a lack of carbonate hardness in your water. All aquaria have a pH drift towards the acidic. It's caused by the accumulation of organic wastes. Water changes "resets" this upwards, which is why water changes are so good. But increasing the carbonate hardness slows down the pH drop by buffering the water against acidity. Now, Neons and Otocinclus don't care much, since they come from soft/acid conditions. But guppies DO care, and this is why yours are getting sick.> Even after changing filter and carbon and doing two 30% water changes weekly there's no way to lower the PH under 6.6. <Well, you can start by throwing out the carbon in my opinion. Other than the fact it removes medications, making your treatments a complete waste of time and money, it's wasting space that could be given over to more useful biological filtration.> To be honest I would like to keep the PH at this level due to the other fishes in the tank and the ones I'm planning to introduce, but I'm worried for the guppies. <You do not want to mess about with pH until you 100% understand water chemistry. There are articles here on the topic, and any good aquarium book should explain the subject too. More fish are killed by people misusing pH buffers without understanding them than die from simply being kept at the wrong pH to begin with. My suggestion would be to aim for medium hard water at around pH 7. This will suit all your livestock. The idea Neons and other South American fish need acid water is erroneous. They prefer it, yes, but they don't need it. They'll do much better at a neutral pH and moderate hardness than your guppies will do at an acid pH and low hardness. So, start by adding portion of crushed coral to your filter and see how that changes the pH and carbonate over the next few days. A tablespoon or two should be fine to begin with. If the pH goes way over 7.0, then remove some. If it stays below 7.0, add some more. What you're aiming for is a carbonate hardness around 8-10 degrees KH and a general hardness around 10-15 degrees dH. All your fish should thrive at this level. If you get the portion of buffering material right the effect will be slight but steady, and between this and the water changes, you should find the aquarium nice and stable. If this all sounds like too much work, you could alternatively use some Malawi or Tanganyika cichlid salt mix, at around 5-20% dosages, mixed into each bucket of water, so that you the sorts of values suggested above. Or, you could just get rid of the guppies and be done with it.> I would greatly appreciate if you could take a look at the attached photo and tell me if you see any sign of sickness and also give me your advise on the situation I just described. <They look fine, just unhappy.> Thank you, Giuseppe <Hope this helps, Neale>

Re: pH stuck at 6.6. 7/25/07 Hi Neale, thanks for your prompt reply. I have one more questions based on your comments? You suggest to get rid of the carbon and replace it with a better media. What media should I use and how frequently should I replace it. Thank you, Giuseppe <Greetings. I should perhaps explain my objection to carbon first. The only thing carbon is useful for is removing dissolved organic waste, specifically the stuff that turns water yellow over time. If you're doing regular water changes, it becomes redundant, because you're removing organic waste through dilution before it reaches a level where it affects water colour. Freshwater fish don't care about this organic material (called by biologists "gelbstoff", literally "yellow stuff" in German). It's purely a cosmetic problem, and carbon doesn't remove bacteria, parasites, nitrogenous waste, or inorganic toxins like copper. What carbon *does* do is remove any organic materials you deliberately add to the aquarium, such as medications. It is very, VERY common that people treat their aquaria for whitespot (or whatever) and then wonder why their fish don't get better. The answer: they didn't remove the carbon, and the carbon removed the medication before it had a chance to cure the fish or kill the parasites! Hence by default, unless you have a specific reason to want to use carbon, I always recommend people leave it out of the filter. So what to put in its place? Nothing beats more biological filter media. Doesn't really matter what sort you use, so shop according to your budget. High-end ceramic media like Siporax are the "best" in the sense of providing the highest population of bacteria per unit volume and for lasting the longest period of time before they need to be replaced (10+ years). But even plain old filter floss has its place. As we've discussed previously, some crushed coral in a filter media bag (or the "foot" from an old pair of nylon stockings) could also be used to provide some chemical filtration by adding to the carbonate hardness and moderating the pH a bit. Livebearers especially appreciate this. As for replacing/cleaning media this depends on which you're using. If a durable biological medium like ceramic hoops or sponge, you want to rinse these off in a bucket of aquarium water but otherwise avoid replacing them as much as possible. Good quality ceramic and sponge media lasts for years. Filter wool tends to get clogged quite quickly, and depending on your aquarium you may decide to replace 50% of the stuff every couple of months. Chemical media need (generally) to be deep cleaned or replaced monthly. In part, because they wear out (this is the case with carbon, zeolite, and nitrate-removing media) but also because bacteria coat them, isolating the medium from the water (this is what happens to crushed coral). In some cases you can clean these using hot water and sunshine (e.g., crushed coral) but others simply need to be replaced (e.g., carbon). I hope this helps. Neale>

Re: PH stuck at 6.6. 8/25/07 Neale, your comments are not just useful, but an eye opener for me. I totally understand now and I agree with your point. I will need a big help shortly to confirm the fish community that I would like to have in my tank. As you know I have a 10G tank and it's extremely difficult for me to decide which/how many fishes I can add, even reading the books I have. As I said, I now have 1 Otocinclus, 2 cories (fairly big unfortunately), 2 male guppies and 2 Neons. I'd like to add 3 more Neons and maybe 2 sparkling gouramis or fish a bit tall such as Pristella that would differentiate from the slim Neons. Any suggestion would be highly appreciated. Thanks for your help, Giuseppe <Hello Giuseppe. Glad to help. Now, on to your tank. When selecting species for a 10 gallon, you not only have to consider size, but also how active the species is. Neons and Danios are the same size, but the Neons are inactive and basically lurk all day under the plants, while the Danios bomb around the aquarium all day long. So guess which species does best in a 10 gallon tank? Sparkling gouramis are among my very favourite fishes and an excellent choice. They view space more in terms of up and down than front to back, and if you have lots of floating plants (Indian fern for example) they'll be as happy as anything. Pristella tetras are lovely fish, but in my opinion slightly too active for this aquarium, though it's a borderline case. They are very adaptable and exceptionally hardy, and in my opinion the single most all-round reliable tetra on the market. But I think you'll find your aquarium "more fun" if you went for a large school of one type of tetra than two or three of a bunch of different tetras. 10 Neons, for example, would school nicely and be very eye-catching, especially if you made the tank "dark" by using black sand, shady plants, and blackwater extract to tint the water. Under those conditions, Neons and cardinals really put on a heck of show, equal to anything you can do with coral reef fish or Malawi cichlids. I find Neons and cardinal tetras great small tank fish, because you can use their "glow in the dark" colours to brighten up a dark corner of a room without the need for a huge fish tank. Getting them to school is the trick -- in small groups, they spread out randomly and the colours aren't that impressive, but in big groups, they swim together, and become really amazing fish. Cheers, Neale>

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>

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>

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>

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>

pH levels a rising! Hi Bob, I've just started my first freshwater aquarium. <Welcome to our ever-fascinating hobby> I bought a 55 gal used tank, it came with a Hot Magnum and I bought a Python BioWheel setup, (I was advised by the man at the fish store to run the carbon filter in the hot magnum, not the other filter is this correct??) <Yes, this will do> a friend who has had a freshwater tank for years gave me her bio-wheel to get "things started." <Good idea> I first added 20 Neons, they did great so then a week or so later added a dozen cardinals, the third week I added 3-4 types of various tetras (equaling another dozen fish) and 2 clown fish and a couple of guppies. For about 10 days everyone was happy--- then it happened--- the PH shot up to 9.0... it had been between 7.0 and 7.2 up until then, my ammonia and nitrates are still fine. I did a 1/2 water change and nothing changed over then next 2 days, then the Neons and cardinal fish began dying! <Yes... they don't "like" high pH nor sudden changes in same...> I went to the fish store, took in a water sample and they concluded that my ph was 9.0 and they told me I needed a tap water purifier... so I bought one and did another water change to 1/2 the tank. This dropped the ph to 8.0. The fish at this point were dying in front of my eyes--- long story short I've lost almost all of the fish and know if I do another water change I'll shock the few I have left to "death." I have a couple of guppies and 2-3 tetra's left and that's it... What do I do... I added PH neutralizer yesterday and am now down at about 7.4... another person has told me I should add tetracycline to the tank "just incase"...????? <I would leave off with antibiotics, any other "medicines" at this point... not likely to do any good, maybe some bad... > Thanks for your help, I read your articles several times a week and have learned a ton from you. Keep up the good work. Us fish novices really appreciate you! Deb <You're certainly welcome, and will do... Am curious as to the "why" of your sudden jump in pH... Do you have materials (rocks, gravel, decor...) in the system that might have dissolved in the water and changed your water chemistry? Did you initially add "something" to your water to drive, keep the pH lower? What does the water "right out of your tap" (before doing anything, running it through your purifier...) measure out as in terms of pH? Do you have an alkalinity test kit or would your fish store be so kind as to test your source water? We should investigate these matters and come to a "best approach" for you to treat your water now and ongoing... In the meanwhile, please just keep the few fishes you have going... and we'll chat as your system settles in. Bob Fenner>

Re: PH levels a rising! <You're certainly welcome, and will do... Am curious as to the "why" of your sudden jump in pH... Me to... I have 6 plastic plants and 2 live plants, 4 of the six plastic ones came with the tank when I bought it, I also have gravel, that also came with he tank, we washed it really good before setting up my tank. I added a fake rock to my tank <This "fake rock" may be trouble... would pull it, put in into some pH near-neutral water and let it soak for a few days, re-test the water it's in...> and two additional plastic plants about a week before things went wrong. Do you have materials (rocks, gravel, decor...) in the system that might have dissolved in the water and changed your water chemistry? Did you initially add "something" to your water to drive, keep the pH lower? No, other than dechlorinator... What does the water "right out of your tap" (before doing anything, running it through your purifier...) measure out as in terms of pH? It's a perfect 7.0 Do you have an alkalinity test kit or would your fish store be so kind as to test your source water? I have one and have been testing daily... that's how I noticed the spike, it literally went from 7.0 to 9.0 is a day. <Hmm, no... this is not pH but a measure of resistance from change in pH... Please read over the section "Alkalinity, pH" and related water quality areas and FAQs on our site here: www.WetWebMedia.com... something/s adding to the alkaline reserve in your system... very readily... We need to find and remove this nefarious influence ASAP> When I added the rock and plants I just washed them off with warm water do you think I should remove them and bleach them or something? <Not the plants but the gravel perhaps... Do you know what type this is? Is it "white" colored, chalky? Does it give off powdery dust when washed, moved? And the fake rock... and any other questionable decor (like coral, shells... What is in there? A simple "spot test" with a dilute, weak acid (like vinegar/acetic) put on a dry (out of the tank of course) part of these materials will likely reveal the culprit/s through foaming (an acid/base reaction). Bob Fenner>

pH/Ammonia Problems I have a 20H freshwater aquarium with nine fish in it. I have had it set up at least a month if not longer and still cannot keep the ammonia from going through the roof. My fish are not overly big and I am careful about not over feeding. Also, my ph has just dropped to 5. My nitrates are zero though. I also make weekly 1/4 water changes. My fish are healthy and acting fine. We have a green spotted puffer, two clown loaches, red tail shark, Gourami, spotted catfish, Pleco, a cichlid and a blood parrot fish. The blood parrot fish is a relatively new addition and has come down with black spot which is obviously from my water. What can I do to correct these probs. <you have two primary problems: 1)water quality and 2) horrible fish incompatibility problems> In case you were wondering, we have a penguin 125 w/bio filter, an underground filter with a powerhead for a 30 gal tank. I change the filter at least 2 times a month. Help. Thanks, Lori. <if the gravel bed is less than 2 1/2 -3" (fine gravel) or 4" course gravel then the Ammonia problem is because the substrate is too shallow for a biological colony to establish. Large gravel pebbles are especially poor for UG filters. You want fine media of a size closer to large grains of rice (2-3X) rather than pea sized. Regarding your fish selection, however... you need to prepare for serious problems with disease and aggression or separate these fishes properly: The puffers need brackish alkaline water, the loaches need somewhat soft acidic water, the sharks are near neutral to medium hard water. The gouramis and cichlids vary by species. Some of these fishes are going to suffer because of the homogenized mix. Furthermore, the puffers are severely aggressive in time and will literally pick the eyes out of the other fishes. The spotted catfish will swallow all smaller fishes whole in time (and die from eating the toxic flesh of the puffers if so) and the clown loaches grow to over 12" long each and may stunt and die if crowded. Sheesh, my friend. Someone has steered you terribly wrong. Do take the time browsing this site (WetWebMedia) and beyond to get a better knowledge of the fishes before you buy them. My advice would be to keep the gouramis, shark, Pleco and possibly the cichlid (if a smaller or more peaceful species) and have an active semi-aggressive community tank. Get rid of all other inappropriate fishes or get more, bigger aquariums :) Best regards, Anthony>

Re: pH/Ammonia Problems <Steven Pro in this morning handling the follow up questions.> This is very weird because I have had this exact community of fish (except the puffer and blood parrot) <The puffer was one of your biggest problems, along with the Clown Loaches.> when I was a kid in a 50 gallon tank and our fish lived for years w/o any problems. <50 gallons is considerably larger than your current 20, but even then I am sure the Clown Loaches never reached their full size, nor lived a full life.> As far as growth stunting, I can see your point if you buy larger fish to start off with but again we were always told that fish will only grow to the size of their surroundings for the most part. Is this not true? <It is somewhat true and it is called stunting. The fish do not reach full size, do not develop healthily, and do not live for their expected life.> As for the puffer, he is a green spotted puffer and so far is very peaceful. I did do extensive research on puffers before we chose one. All info suggests that they are freshwater totally (a little aquarium salt for gill function for all fish) and not aggressive and he is the biggest fish in our tank (3") and does not seem to notice any other fish. <True on the salt, but way off on not being aggressive. Please see here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/fwbracpuffers.htm and the related FAQ files.>
<<GSPs are brackish water animals. RMF>> In fact, our reason for having the tank in the first place revolves around our puffer. Let me ask you this, is it not true that a ph of 7 will be acceptable for all of our fish? <Acceptable and optimal are two very different things. You could be kept alive constricted to only your bedroom and fed a diet of Ho-Ho's, but you would fail to thrive and live a full life.> Also, won't grain size gravel clog up our UG filter? <You want to big enough so that it does not go through/under the filter plate.> Pea size gravel at 2" deep was what we were told to use. <Two inches seems a bit shallow for a large size gravel.> Don't get me wrong, I trust your advice far more than any pet store around our area. They would sell you anything. We just don't have the room or the time for another tank and would hate to give up our fish when they all seem to be doing quite well despite my water dilemmas. Besides the UG filter, what chemicals to you recommend to keep everything balanced etc? <Nothing.> Thanks, Lori. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: pH/Ammonia Problems Hello again. So do I can I keep the gravel I currently have but just add enough to equal 4" high? <Yes> And please tell me again how more gravel will help make the UG filter work better? <The 4" should be fine.> So are you saying that chemicals for pH are not necessary/recommended? <No, there are some occasions when I would use buffers to raise pH, but if you want to target a pH of 7.0, water changes alone should do it.> Thanks. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

pH shock-- curable? I did something very stupid just over a week ago-- I introduced an old piece of mahogany driftwood I had into my discus tank. I had used the driftwood years ago in another discus tank, and it provided a good buffering pillow. I was about to introduce two new discus and also thought they'd like the shelter it provided, as the three discus already present had pretty much staked out their favorite spots around their piece of driftwood. Darned if the new/old driftwood didn't leach scarily-large amounts of nitrate into the water (which I didn't even think to check because everything else-- ammonia, nitrite, PH all tested fine), and drive the carbonate hardness down to near zero-- and, of course, cause an acid fall -- from 7.0 to 6.2 between Friday afternoon and Sunday night. Well, I've pulled out that hunk of driftwood and carefully and slowly corrected the water conditions (PH back to 7.0, carbonate hardness 50 ppm, general hardness 80 ppm or 4.5 dh, no detectable nitrites or ammonia, nitrates still high at 50 ppm but much better than the 110 they were!) and the discus are now looking a lot less stressed, as long as I don't walk up to the tank, since they now connect me with Big Scary water changes instead of yummy food. Their fins are barely clamped and are spread full much of the time, body colour a bit dull but not dark anymore, eyes better-- still a bit dull, but the red colour's back But nobody's eaten a thing for six days. And they're still not at all frisky. They mostly hang about their old pieces of driftwood Obviously, they endured PH shock. Can they recover? Can I help them recover? <More than nitrate was released by the wood... I would make a large (25%) water change (with pre-conditioned water) today, maybe another tomorrow... and place some activated carbon (several ounces) in your filter flow path. Do your discus have favorite food items? I would try these. Bob Fenner> Judy Waytiuk

Mollies acting odd! Hi, just got a 29 gal kit March 7th, and currently have 12 mollies (Gold Dust and Marble), and 3 young Albino Corydoras. I'm having water quality problems. I think my ammonia test isn't working (it's the water tube test, not the strips) because when I use it, I show NO ammonia, but when I have my water samples tested at Petco (they use the strips), then they show ammonia! <Very possible, this happens once in a while. It sounds as if you may be overfeeding the fish. After this amount of time your biological filter should be established and the ammonia and nitrites should stay at 0. Cut back on the amount and/or frequency of your feedings and it should help.> I also was having a nitrite spike and had high pH, which Petco people told me to bring down. So, I've been doing water changes over the last few days and have finally brought my nitrites down to 1.0ppm (they were at 5.0ppm). <Ouch! Even 1.0 is still quite high and its a wonder any of the fish are still alive after 5.0!> I also treated each bucket of new water with Stress Coat, Water Conditioner, and pH balancer (my tap water was off the charts when I tested it...must be 8.0+). <Just make sure that the water in the tank stays at the lowered pH, sometimes it will spike back up.> MY PROBLEM IS...my mollies are acting weird, MANY are hanging around the surface moving their mouths a lot, they're not moving and swimming around like usual, and some will swim in place, others will sit on the bottom and move only every now and then. <Sounds like they are uncomfortable with the ammonia and nitrites. These are common symptoms of poor water.> Some still swim around, but only a few. I noticed 1 molly jump around on a rock, rubbing his body on it a few times. <This could be the beginnings of ick or just a reaction to the ammonia and nitrites.> I found 1 molly dead this morning, checked his gills and they're nice and pink, no parasites, or weird markings on him. <Probably a reaction to the nitrites then.> My Corys act fine. And there is about 3 tsp.s of aquarium salt in the tank. My nitrites are at 1.0ppm, nitrates 0ppm, ammonia=??? (need a new test kit, I'm still showing no amm.), but my pH is 6.8 which is a drop from 7.0 an hour ago!!!! Is this the problem? <pH will fluctuate a little throughout the day so I wouldnt be concerned about this.> Have I over treated my water in trying to decrease the danger to my fish? I don't know what to do, they are clearly stressed! They still eat, but I don't know how to help them. I don't want to damage my biological filter by doing ANOTHER water change, but should I? <For now, just keep up with the water changes and bring the ammonia and nitrites down to a consistent 0. I dont think you over-treated the new water although you could probably get by without adding the Stress Coat. Small water changes arent going to damage your bio filter, theyre actually going to help it.> And should I use something to INCREASE my pH now that it is falling? <Nope, they are adapted to the lower pH now and raising it would cause more problems.> Aren't mollies supposed to be in water with a higher pH? <Yes, a little higher than what yours is. They do best in a pH of 7.5 to 8.2. You can bring this up by not treating your newly added water with as much of the pH reducer but the pH level needs to be brought up slowly or it can cause even more problems.> What am I doing wrong?--fish_puppy <Do some reading at http://www.wetwebmedia.com and at http://www.fishbase.org to find out more about your fish but I really think the main problem is overfeeding. Ronni>

pH and Hardness I have checked the FAQ and search but have not quite found an answer. Thanks for trying to help me. <Any time, Ron.> I have kept saltwater for 25 years and recently switched a 45 gallon tank to be a cardinal/neon tank. My question seems elementary...but I am stumped. <I think that pH and hardness are the least understood subjects (by hobbyists) in dealing with freshwater chemistry. Not an "elementary" question, at all!> My cardinals keep dying after 4-5 days. My pH is 6.7 after I added a buffer to lower it. My tap water is pH 7.9 with a hardness of 150. The hardness in my cardinal tank is 250! <Are we talking carbonate hardness or general hardness, here? I assume general hardness (total dissolved solids)? And I assume you're measuring in ppm?> I added "Amazon Rain " but it did not lower the hardness. <Usually adding something will not remove something.... in this case, adding the buffers, etc., won't remove the dissolved solids.... uh, did that make sense?> Do the softening "pillows" work? <I'm afraid I have no experience with these.... You might try experimenting with a few gallons of tapwater in a Rubbermaid container and see what results you come out with.> I do not like the look of peat colored water. <You *have* been reading the FAQs! And you knew exactly what approach I would've suggested. Well, let's explore other ideas, then.> I have 2 suspicions: the tofu (lava) rock or the driftwood decor. Would these cause the hardness to raise? <The lava rock may very well be contributing to this issue. The driftwood, on the other hand, is your friend in arms, and will help (perhaps only minutely, but help just the same) in keeping your pH low.> What are "safe" rocks that won't leech and raise hardness? Slate? Sandstone? Quartz? <Yes, yes, and yes, all safe> White Tofu? Red/Brown Tofu? <Nope and nope/nope, both are suspect in this> Petrified wood? <Perfectly safe> Shale? <Won't affect your pH, *but* - depending upon where you collect this, it can leach other nasty stuff into the water. This is a very, very absorbent rock, I would avoid it. Use similar caution with sandstone. I do use sandstone, but only collected from very natural areas; none from rock yards where who-knows-what has been spilled.> Thanks for your help! <Please read here: http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/CO2/ there is *so* much information, in that page and in the links within it, that you'll be reading for days. Also read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm , there is a wealth of knowledge in there, as well; I hope these will clarify your situation. Please let us know if you have further questions; this is a confusing topic.> Ron <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Re: more questions about aquarium problems I have some more questions. This time about ph and snails. I have had an ongoing problem of low ph. I raise the ph with some buffer I purchased and then I notice that the ph is down again the next few days or so. <Better to keep the pH stable than let it swing back and forth...> I also notice there was a significant relationship between the ich and "shimmy" problem showing up on/in my mollies and the low ph because they prefer a more alkaline ph. <Yup, they do. I've seen the ich/shimmy correlation, too, though whether it's coincidence I don't know.> I also noticed that there was a shell in my aquarium that dissolved at a very fast rate almost completely dissolving before I removed it! <Good grief. You probably have *extremely* soft water for it to dissolve like that.> Could there be a relationship between the dissolving shell and the low ph and is it possible that the over abundance of snails could be the cause of the lowered ph? <The dissolving shell will release calcium. Many people use crushed coral as a substrate to raise the pH in their brackish or cichlid tanks, and the coral skeletons and snail shells both have a fair bit of calcium.> If not, what else could be causing the low ph, because the ph is usually high due to tap water changes and the shells sloughing off their calcium. <Some of the things that reduce pH include bogwood in the tank, decaying plant matter, peat in a planted tank substrate... Sabrina says undergravel filters are often a culprit in low pH cases, due to decaying organics accumulating under the filter plate(s) where it's hard to clean. Have you checked your alkalinity? I bet it's quite low.> I now have no visible ich on my mollies and I did not have to use ich medication (the bottle I purchased is AP PLUS+ CURE-ICK by AP Aquarium Products). Anyway, I didn't have to use the medication because when I raised the ph the ich disappeared! <That may not be due to the pH change, but to the ich parasite's life cycle. There is a stage when it drops off the fish. If that's the case, the ich may reappear in a week or so.> The ich problem was probably exacerbated by the detrimental condition of the water (for mollies). The ph is at about 6.8 + or -. I'm trying to get it up to 7.0, but seem to be having problems maintaining that level. <What's your substrate? You might consider switching to crushed coral.> No rush, but please advise with you opinion and or experience. Thanks a lot! Leslie <To see how much crushed coral might help, you could put some in a filter bag and into a power filter or canister filter. --Ananda, with help from Sabrina>

UGF and High pH? - 04/14/2004 Hi guys.... <Hello> I have a 39G high tank that has been set up for 10+ years. All of a sudden my ph is 7.6 , no ammonia, no nitrates, I do a 25% water change 1-2 x a month. <"All of a sudden".... Have you added any new rock recently? New substrate? Anything at all new in the system?> I have a undergravel filter. LFS says that is the problem with the pH. <If the UGF is properly maintained, I doubt that this is likely at all. Do you regularly vacuum the substrate? Any large pieces of decor that would create a "dead spot" under the UGF plate?> PH used to be 6 and then it went up and won't go down. My live plants are not enjoying it. Should I just remove UGF.... I know the plants would be happier? <The plants would certainly do better without it, that's for sure. But I am not convinced that the UGF is the cause of your problems.... Have you tested your source water? Removed peat or driftwood from the system? Changed the manner in how you go about regular maintenance? Added or removed anything at all in the system that may have contributed?> Please advise. Monica <Hope to help you get to the bottom of this.... Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

UGF and High pH? - 04/18/2004 Nothing has been added; no rock, substrate, nothing. I'm doing everything the same. Source water is 7.0 or greater, but has been that way, and ph has always stayed down, 6.4-6.8 or so. <Accumulated organic debris under the filter plate will tend to drop pH. Ah, is it at all possible that you were more thorough than usual on your most recent gravel vacuuming before the jump in pH? And again, any large decor items that might create a "dead spot" under the filter plate, where you don't/can't vac under, and where there is no suction through due to the footprint of the item?> I tried SeaChem buffer to get ph down a little but it did not budge... <What product did you use, specifically?> That is when LFS said it was UGF set up for 10 yrs + , don't know what to do.... oh, and yes, I regularly vacuum <It is not my experience that an aged system using UGF will go *up* in pH, but the exact opposite - pH should drop due to decaying organics trapped beneath the filter plates. Another thought, perhaps your test kit reagents are old/expired; try testing with another kit (new, a friend's, even the LFS, if necessary) to verify your readings - and keep in mind the dipstick-type tests can be grossly inaccurate. I do hope we can help you figure this out.> Monica <Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

UGF and High pH II (03/01/04) <Hi! Ananda here with some ideas...> No....nothing new....yes I vacuum, nothing has changed, it was 6 for so long and now 7.4-7.6 ....tried SeaChem acid buffer/alkaline buffer.....for a few days and ph did not budge....I am clueless <Do you, by chance, have kids? Is there a possibility that the kids sent something into the tank that you haven't seen? Or perhaps your municipality has changed the way it treats its water supply? Or have you recently started to use a different household cleaner? Are you using the same brand/type of pH test kit? Is it possible the test kit chemicals have expired, giving you an inaccurate result? Or did you recently get a new test kit, and your old test results may have been inaccurate? Also, if you've had the windows and such closed all winter, perhaps you've had a high level of ambient CO2 in the house, which would depress the pH. If you've recently had a bout of spring weather and opened up the house, the pH could go up as the CO2 levels in the house drop. Hope this helps.... --Ananda>

UGF and high pH III (03/12/04) no kids, ? municipality changing the treatment, no new cleaner, same brand/type kit, bought new a few months ago....but old one was showing the same results. just have recently opened windows, but ph was up before that. Hope this does not mean that ph will go up more. I have also lost a lot of fish just recently. I added some Otocinclus (spelling?) algae eaters on a Sat. lost one oto the next day, another one the day after, then in one day (Thursday) I lost 2 dwarf cichlids, and a turquoise rainbow....all were behaving normally that morning....and were dead by the afternoon. 2 days later I lost my Siamese algae eater. I have left 1 clown loach, 2 boesemanni rainbows, 2 red tetras , 2 Otocinclus....they all act fine..., I have never (in 10+ years) lost that many fish in that short of time frame. I am beside myself trying to figure out what is going on, the tank at LFS that the Otocinclus came out of is fine....they were with some discus that have been there awhile. LFS tested my water....everything within normal...but they came up with ph of 8.....but said that would not of killed fish since they have been living like that for a few months. I am clueless....any more ideas? thanks, Monica <<Hello. From what I've read so far, it sounds possible that your municipality has changed the water. Even where I live, which is a major city, the pH in our tap water can fluctuate from 6.8 to 8 within weeks. This would wreak havoc in your fish tank, and even result in fish deaths from pH shock if you were unaware of the problem. The pH from your TAP needs to be tested, and compared immediately to your tank pH. I recommend buying a new pH test kit, and make sure the new test kit is Wide Range, and that it will register pH from 4 or 5 right up to 10. Perhaps your old test kit was simply giving you a false reading. Also, you must realize that, for example, if a pH test kit is rated from 6.0 to 7.6, and you test your water and the test reads 7.6, it means the test kit is not capable of showing you a higher reading, so it will show the highest one possible, even if your pH is 8. Same with low range test kits, if your pH is 6.5 and your test kit is rated from 7.0 to 9.0, then your reading will show the lowest on the test kit, which would be 7.0, even though your pH is lower. Also, I recommend you stop adding anything to "adjust" your pH until you figure out what's going on. So far, you have added products to change the pH to no avail, this is probably because your water lacks sufficient buffering capacity, in other words, your carbonate hardness (KH) is probably quite low, even though your pH is high. They are not the same thing. If you could find out your KH, it would help. One last thing that I highly recommend is that you get your water tested for ammonia, nitrite, AND nitrates, as pH will fluctuate when cycling a tank...in other words, have you cleaned your filter lately? Changed the filter media? Added medications? Added salt? (salt in high enough concentrations, e.g. brackish, can affect bacteria) Anything that interferes with your biological filtration can result in ammonia/nitrite spikes, and hence, pH imbalances. Hope this helps. -Gwen>>

- The pH is Falling! - Help! I am desperate to solve my dropping ph problem that has killed all my fish save one. I am totally at a loss as to what to do and I don't want to give up. I first set up my 25-gallon Eclipse tank about 3 1/2 months ago. I ran it for about a week with nothing but water, a couple of lava rocks, a presoaked piece of driftwood (it had been in the tanks at our fish store for a couple of weeks), live plants and gravel (natural looking regular gravel) and then added a modest number of really hardy fish (there were 2 striped Danios, 2 Bloodfins, 2 Callistus tetras and 2 cherry barbs). I fed the fish very a very small amount of flakes every other day and added 10 ml of Kent Pro-Plant and Kent Plant Food on alternate days through the first cycle. Everything was fine. I regularly did 25% water changes once a week, added bi-aquaculture every 2 weeks and changed the carbon filter every 3-4 weeks. <Well... before we get much farther, I can pretty much guess that your problem is being caused by either that driftwood, the lava rock, or both. Even wood that's been soaking for years has the ability to release tannic and other acids which will drop your pH slowly to the floor. Lava rock is as well suspect - I'd remove both to a bucket or two of clean water and run two tests - one to see if the pH in your main tank returns to normal and the other test on the bucket of water to see if it is becoming acidic.> After the tank cycled, I added 4 Clown Loaches and 2 German Rams and some more plants. I continued to feed lightly but increased it to every day and added frozen blood-worms to the diet about 2-3 times a week. Everything was going great for about 3 weeks. Then all of a sudden, the water clouded over white and some of the fish developed ick and fin/tail rot. I had the water tested and the PH was as low as could be measured. The fish store recommended a buffer. I added that and did an additional small water change. Also, I got medicine for the ick and fin/tail rot, removed the carbon from my filter and on the first day, it seemed to help. They started to look better and the water cleared. Then the second day, I tested the water and the buffer had done nothing to effect the ph. <Well... again, the presence of something in the tank producing more acid than the buffer can remedy, and the acid will slowly deplete the buffers.> The fish started to look worse, the water clouded over again and that night, all the fish (except one of the German Rams) died. I took the surviving fish and some water to the store. They tested the water and the only problem was that the PH was off the charts low. They suggested that I do a complete water change and clean out the tank. I did that and changed the substrate to FloraBase to help my live plants. I tested the ph of the tap water and it was at 7.6. Within 24 hours of putting the water into the cleaned tank, the ph in the tank was under 6. I tried the buffer again with no rise in PH. I did a 50% water change and added some baking soda. The ph then tested at 7.2 but within 4 hours has sunk to 6. Then I tried removing all the lava rocks and driftwood and doing another complete water change. The ph was 7.6 when the water went in and within 24 hours had sunk again to 6. I then tested the tap water but setting it out in a glass overnight. The ph in the tap did not change after as much as 36 hours. Luckily, my one surviving fish has been living at the fish store until I can correct this problem. We are at a loss of what to do now other than change the BioWheel, which I am loath to do because then I have to cycle the tank all over again (and change all the water and substrate again). Do you have any thoughts or ideas? I really don't want to give up but I am getting close to doing just that! <Yes, please take out the driftwood and the lava rock... try running without them for a while. I'll bet at least a dollar that this will solve your problems.> Thanks in advance for any help, Lynn Bartsch <Cheers, J -- >

- The pH is Falling! II - Thanks for your response. I have had the driftwood and lava removed for over three weeks and the problem persists. Even after a total water change to get higher PH water back in there. The Ph dropped again after 24 hours. Any other ideas? <<Dear Lynn; Hello. Do not change your BioWheel! Since you have tried everything J recommended and nothing has worked, I think you would be wise to buy a small bag of crushed coral. You can experiment by either mixed it into your substrate, or putting it into a bag and running it (kinda like carbon) inside your filter, and then test the pH to see which method raises the pH to a decent level and keeps it there. Add a small amount at a time, until you can get your pH to measure, say, 7.0. You can do this over a period of a couple of weeks, keep testing the pH and see what happens. Normally I would recommend crushed coral as the sole substrate, but that may cause some problems with your plants. At any rate, I DO believe you need some coral in that tank to raise the pH and keep it there, and crushed coral is the most stable method, and cheapest long-term. Good luck. PS make sure you keep doing weekly water changes and vacuuming the gravel.. -Gwen>>

Re: Dropping pH syndrome II Thanks for your response. I have had the driftwood and lava removed for over three weeks and the problem persists. Even after a total water change to get higher PH water back in there. The Ph dropped again after 24 hours. Any other ideas? <<Dear Lynn; Hello. Do not change your BioWheel! Since you have tried everything J recommended and nothing has worked, I think you would be wise to buy a small bag of crushed coral. You can experiment by either mixed it into your substrate, or putting it into a bag and running it (kinda like carbon) inside your filter, and then test the pH to see which method raises the pH to a decent level and keeps it there. Add a small amount at a time, until you can get your pH to measure, say, 7.0. You can do this over a period of a couple of weeks, keep testing the pH and see what happens. Normally I would recommend crushed coral as the sole substrate, but that may cause some problems with your plants. At any rate, I DO believe you need some coral in that tank to raise the pH and keep it there, and crushed coral is the most stable method, and cheapest long term. Good luck. PS make sure you keep doing weekly water changes and vacuuming the gravel.. -Gwen> I'll try it. Thanks. >Please let us know how it goes :) -Gwen>

High pH, Fighting Danios Hi guys. You have the greatest website! I got my first tank two weeks ago. It is a ten gallon freshwater community tank, several plastic plants, 50 watts heater, two thermometers one internal and one external, one fake rock with 3 holes on it, one undergravel filter, two inch deep gravel strata (rounded and more or less pea sized), one aqua-tech outside power filter, one small sponge filter. The pH of our tap water is about 7.4 to 7.6. I added water conditioner (Tetra Aqua Safe), Stress Zyme, five teaspoons of salt for freshwater aquarium. At the beginning the water got a little cloudy. I waited one week and added 3 Zebra Danios Next day I added one ounce of Bio-Spira freshwater bacteria from Marineland. The water became clear again within 24 hours. The Danios (one small male, one small female and a larger older individual whose gender is a mystery to me) were fine. They were exploring and racing around. Then the two smaller Danios began to dance in circles at the bottom of the aquarium. The older individual took possession of the upper and middle part of the aquarium and began to chase and bump-fight the small male while the small female was hidden in the plants. Within 48 hours the small male stopped racing and eating and died. I examined the body. There were no signs of disease or injury. The older individual still chases the small female every time they meet. The small female is fine but she is confined to a corner of the aquarium that is covered in plants most of the time. She ventures out often, but she goes back when the larger Danio chases her. When I feed the fish, I feed them very little food, twice or once a day. I try to feed them the minimum amount of food possible. I underfeed them because they are too busy fighting each other to eat all of it. Although the Danios come immediately to the food, they promptly begging to fight and some flakes end up sinking and the fish remain hungry. I worry about the food sinking. My last pH reading is in the range of 7.6 to 8. My ammonia reading is 0. My nitrite reading is 0.2. I have several questions: What could have happened to the small male Zebra Danio? <<Aggression, high ammonia, nitrites. What did your ammonia test at last week? Must have been some, there has to be ammonia for it to be converted into nitrite. Do you have nitrates yet? You should be testing this tank everyday.>> What is it with the large Zebra Danio (I was told they are peaceful fish)? <<They are not. And a toxic tank will not make them any nicer, either...>> Could the small female Zebra Danio be hurt by constant harassment? <<Certainly>> Is it a good idea to add other fish to the tank? <<No.>> If so is this list a good list: one male Beta, two more Zebra Danios, two female Guppies and two small Cory Cats? Are this fish too many (taking into account all my filters and that I am willing to do a 25% water change weekly and a mayor water change monthly)? Would they take my pH as it is? How can I modify this list to avoid disaster? <<Do NOT add any fish now. Your tank is still cycling. Hence the high pH, etc. And certainly don't add all of these at one time! And definitely avoid putting guppies and a Betta into a tank with Danios. Disaster awaits if you do.>> Until now I have resisted the impulse of applying pH-lowering product to my tank but What can I do with my pH (7.6 to 8.0)? Should I make a 25% water change now (taking into account that the food keeps sinking because of the fighting of my Danios)? <<As I said, your pH is high because the tank is CYCLING. It will stabilize in a month or so. Have PATIENCE, please. Do not mess with your pH, you will not be helping your fish if you do. The pH will end up all over the place, and your fish will end up dead from a combination of pH shock, nitrite poisoning, and stress..>> Finally, If Bio-Spira is so amazing, why are some dealers against it? Thank you for your help. <<I personally like Bio-Spira, it's an excellent product when it's being used properly. However, results will differ from tank to tank. Dealers simply don't like it when people with no experience try to cycle with it and end up with dead fish, as in your case. Please do some reading, buy yourself some ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate test kits, and be PATIENT. Test your water regularly, do water changes when readings become high, and do NOT add fish until the tank has NO ammonia and NO nitrites left. Keep two small fish in the tank during cycling. TWO! not more! Keeping a written record of your test results will help. :) -Gwen>>

pH Climbing Hi, I hope you can shed some light on this for me. I am new to all of this but am trying to learn. I got my aquarium up and running on June 3rd of this year. This is what I currently have : Freshwater tank Aquarium -- 75 gallon (48L x18W x21H) Filter -- Rena Filstar 3 canister filter (suitable for up to 120 gallon) with spray bar About 60 lbs of gravel from LFS 2 live plants and the rest are plastic A Large sunken ship decoration from the LFS 2 clay pots one glass rock 10" bubble wand 6 zebra Danios 5 hatchet fish 3 Corridors 6 Pristellas 2 Chinese algae eaters About a month ago I had to treat my tank for ick (used RidIch+) and so far so good. My question is my PH. It stays pretty high but I don't know why. I use well water - out of the tap my water has no ammonia or nitrites, has a GH of 4 and a PH of 6.5. After I set up my aquarium it took no time at all and the GH went up to 6 degrees and the PH was at 7.5 and has stayed around 7.5 the entire time. As of last night my readings are : Ammonia = 0 Nitrites = 0 Nitrates = 10 ppm GH = 4 KH = 6 PH = 8.0 I am baffled as to what is causing the PH to rise. I thought about adding some peat moss or getting some of the Blackwater extract for the tank but I think that also softens the water and I don't know if I should soften it any more than what it already is. Could it just be that it still hasn't completely finished cycling and it will eventually even out??? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. < Your well water has CO2 in it. When you pump it out of the ground it leaves the water and goes into a gas. The same thing happens when you open a bottle of soda pop. The Co2 makes a carbonic acid in the water. After the CO2 vaporizes after a couple of days the water returns to its stable natural state. The nitrates come from agricultural runoff into the shallowest aquifer from which I suspect you well is pumping its water from.-Chuck> Frances
Re: pH Climbing
Me again, If CO2 is what is causing the PH to rise - what do I do to control it???? < CO2 causes the pH to drop lower. 7 is neutral. Above seven is alkaline or basic. Below 7 and the water is considered acidic. You are losing the CO2 from the water and the pH is rising. I recommend that you go to the Marineland.com website and check in on Dr. Tim's library and it will give you a very detailed explanation on pH and how you can safely change it and keep it stable.-Chuck> Frances

Freshwater pH blues... Hi Crew, First let me add my thank-you to the hundreds of others -- you guys do a great job keeping us informed. <Thanks> This question is about my freshwater tanks, one 46 gallon, 1 29g, 1 20g, 1 5g and 2 2.5 gal. They all share one problem -- my tapwater, which I'm convinced is among the worst in the civilized world. Suffice it to say that WE don't drink it, and are the ideal demographic for Deer Park bottled water! :> I don't know what the actual pH is, since my tests show a maxed-out result on my high-range tests with a maximum 8.8 result, but it's HIGH. <Far too high! even high for salt water> All of my equipment and fish are from PetSmart (I know, my bad!) I'm doing different things in the different tanks -- goldfish, Bettas, schooling fish, angels, gouramis, etc. None of them are overstocked by even the most conservative standards I've seen. In all of them, the pH is off the charts, as I've mentioned. The KH ranges from 12-14 degrees (# of drops before the solution turns from blue to yellow), or 215-260 ppm . All of the tanks have cycled, so the Ammonia and Nitrites are zero or virtually zero. Nitrates are at negligible levels <Great, how are you keeping the nitrates from rising?> and phosphates are testing around 2 (perhaps slightly higher- the color shade is hard to read) on my Doc Wellfish liquid-tester scale of 0-10. (No copper at all, for what it's worth.) I've been surprisingly successful with the tanks -- most of the fish have survived -- but only because I've chosen hardy captive-bred fish. The goldfish in typical fashion have adapted, as have most of the schooling fish (mostly barbs, platies and mollies). The angels died quickly of course, but my daughter wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, so at least it was a good lesson learned! :> I have been experimenting with the 46 gallon tank, which holds 4 Rosy Barbs, 3 black mollies, 8 mixed Danios, and 7 platies. Filtration centers around a Penguin 330 with the standard activated-carbon-filled filters and BioWheels. To reduce the pH, I first tried a half-cup of peat granules (Fluval) in the filter for a week, then added another 1/2 cup -- the pH did not drop below 8.8 after three weeks of this treatment, although my water looked like a nice cup of Earl Grey tea. As a next step, I started doing water changes every 2 week with bottled water. In the past six weeks, I've done two 10-gal changes and 1 5-gallon change. The pH is still off the scale. As a test to uncover alkaline elements in the system, I filled my 5 gallon quarantine tank (aerated tank, activated carbon filtration but empty except for gravel) with bottled water (Deer Park Drinking Water) with a pH of about 6.8-7.0. After four days, the pH moved up to 7.3-7.4. My conclusion is that my pretty blue PetSmart gravel is leeching alkaline elements into the water. I've bought replacement gravel from a more reputable (I hope) LFS. I'm soaking the PetSmart gravel in the same bottled water in a separate container to confirm the result from my QT, and the pH IS rising after 3 days. <Wow!> Wow! This message is getting long. Short ending is this: I'm putting in a central DI filtration system primarily for my new 220 gal reef system, and plan to use the DI water with a Kent Marine buffer additive for all future water changes in my freshwater tanks. In addition, I plan to replace the gravel in all tanks with gravel that has tested in a small container as NOT raising pH. My questions are these: 1.) when I change the gravel, can I do this 'around' the fish, or should I remove them all into my 5 gal QT while I remove the gravel and replace it? <Stress either way, but I think I'd remove them to a tank that was filled with their original tank water.> 2.) should I worry about a 're-cycle' of the tank when I remove the gravel that presumably has established bacterial colonies (considering that I also have a bio-wheel, etc.), and then re-introduce the fish listed above a few minutes later? <The bio wheel should have enough bacteria to keep your cycle going. Of course watch for ammonia or nitrite spikes and be ready to do water changes. I'd wait an hour or more to re-introduce to allow any dust to settle.> 3.) am I missing some obvious, other solution here? <Just make sure that any change in pH is done slowly, days better than hours> Any and all comments welcome! Thanks for your time. Kind regards, Hal <Don>

pH question for neon tetra Hi Crew, You have a really great site: I have been finding answers for most of my questions since I started my aquarium. But this one is still bugging me. What would be better for my tank to keep pH stable but fairly high or try to reduce in with chemicals risking its stability? It is 40Gals planted tank that have been running for about two moths, while fish is living there for a month. No detectable ammonia and nitrates. My tap water is about 7.0pH and very soft, but as soon as it is in the tank the pH goes up to 7.4pH and the hardness sets at 80 mg/l. I have been filtering water through peat from the beginning and doing weekly 20% water changes. I keep 8 neon tetra for now and plan to add a small shoal of Corys, gouramis and, possible, a couple of small loaches (if snails got out of control). Now I understand that pH 7.4 is too high for Neons, yet from what I learned the playing with pH is least desirable thing. Please, give me some advice on how to deal with this dilemma. It will be very much appreciated. <Something in the tank is buffering the water to the higher pH. Calcium in the water may be one source or even the sand/gravel may be reacting to the water. If you get your water from a well then check the water from the tap and then let it sit overnight and then check it again. If the pH rises then the real pH of your water is the 24 hour reading. Well water sometimes contains co2 and this temporarily lowers the pH until the co2 is off gassed. Assuming the true pH of your water is 7.4 I would recommend the following. Start getting some RO/distilled water and do a 5 gallon per week water change with it. Treat the 5 gallons of water with a buffer that will bring the water down to where you want it. After a few water changes your water will gradually be lowered to where you want it to be. Be careful . New fish from the store need to acclimated to the lower pH over time. If the local stores have water that is hard and alkaline then they may not appreciate the abrupt change.-Chuck> Thank you, Konstantin.
Re: pH question for neon tetra
Thank you Chuck. From your reply I got that I do need to reduce the pH and the question is just how to do it properly. Following your advice I did left my tap water standing for a day, but pH and KH have not changed. After some head scratching, I began to do some tests. First I soaked stones there - no change, then put some gravels - no change. The next thing to test was a large piece of driftwood that is quite hard to get out without wrecking the whole set up. Fortunately, before doing that I decided to check water conditioner, and here it comes - the treated water immediately changed its pH from 7.0 to 7.4 and KH from 10mg/l to 50mg/l. A bit surprised I rushed for water conditioner from another brand and, no, this one has not changed water properties. As it might be of interest for some other beginner aquarists the "bad" brand is "TetraAqua" and the "good" one is "Hagen". I suspect it has something to do with my tap water being very soft, but, anyway, they might have put sort of a warning or something on the package. Konstantin. < Thanks for the feedback. I am sure others reading this on the website will appreciate your experiment.-Chuck.>

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