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Old 03-15-2005, 03:32 AM   #1
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fish, pH, and hardness problem

A couple months ago I sold my brother (Dustin) and his girlfriend (Mandi) our old 55 gal tank. I brought it over to their house, set it up, and cycled it. It was basically already cycled because of the filtration unit and sand. It's a long story but I'll just get to the point.

Anyways, the problem: There is a water softener in the house, running on well water, water coming from a limestone bed. The house is built ontop of a huge limestone bed and a well was dug so all the water coming from the well goes through this limestone bed. The pH out of the tap is around 8.8 to 9.0. The water is being softened once it comes into the house so it's soft water with a high pH. How can this be?

They have not had ANY luck with their fish. They started with Neon's who all died but 1 within a week. Then they tried bala sharks, died. Then clown loaches, dead within 24 hours, Jewels (still living after 3 days), Oscar, dead witin a week, catfish, all dead. The only survivors through this whole ordeal is a little Neon who has figured out how to escape the chase and a Banded Leporinus. The Jewel's were added three days ago and they are still living. The lfs gave them a green spotted puffer and said that it would be fine in a freshwater tank. They bought him yesterday and now he is laying on his side on the bottom of the tank breathing VERY hard. The parrot also died within 2 hours.

Specs: Ammonia .5 (normally 0), Nitrite 0, Nitrate 10, pH currently 8.4. The ammonia increase is most likely due to them adding 6 fish three days ago and them all dying. It is normally 0.

To try and reduce the pH we have tried driftwood, but it hasn't altered it in any way. Mandi asked the lfs how she could lower it and they gave her chemical tablets that disolve in the water. That didn't do anything. They tried Seachem's 7.0 Buffer, that didn't do anything. I mentioned peat to her but is this just going to be a total loss?

I reccommended that she try African Cichlids because they prefer the higher pH. She's going to try that but she doesn't want to buy them and they just die. Then again, her water is soft. Can anyone give any suggestions?
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Old 03-16-2005, 01:40 AM   #2
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Hi fishyfanatic,

Do you have a test kit for KH and GH? Those values, along with the pH, will help give a better idea of what's going on with your water.

How long did you leave the driftwood in? I had driftwood in a bucket, soaking until the tannins leached out, and I did pH tests on the bucket water. It seemed like the pH dropped, and then stabilized, after about 5 days. So, give the driftwood about 5 days before you decide if it works or not. If it didn't, though, I don't know if peat would be any different. I have never bought a peat cartridge for a filter. If it's cheap enough, you could try it; then you would know for sure.

Another thing to try: Pour a glass of water, and test the pH right out of the tap. Then let this glass sit for about 24 hours and test the pH again. See if the second reading is different from the first reading. My tapwater pH drops a bit as it sits out.

People with a high pH value can mix the tap water with RO water to lower pH without chemicals. I use a mix of tap and RO water.

Is there a faucet in the house that bypasses the softener? If there is, you may want to get readings of pH before and after sitting out, GH, and KH.

Here's a post I found that may help explain the relationship between pH, KH, and GH.

http://www.aquariumadvice.com/viewto...er=asc&start=0
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Old 03-16-2005, 02:22 AM   #3
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I took Mandi to a fish store tonight and picked out all the stuff that she needed. She got a hardness test kit and I tested it as soon as we got back and the GH was really low. The water started to change blue after one drop, but just faintly. Then around 8 drops it was REALLY blue. The KH turned yellow at 23 drops. I'm not exactly sure what that reads out to be because I don't have the test kits here, they are at her place. But it is the Aquarium Pharmacuticals brand test kit.

The driftwood has been in the tank since day 1 of the tank setup. It isn't doing anything for the water. There are two large pieces in it right now. The pH drops barely after being out overnight, I BELIEVE the readings were 8.8 straight from tap and something like 8.4 after being left out.

There is an outside faucet that by-passes the water softener but it comes out at like 40 degrees. There is another faucet over at the shop that pumps out water at 120 degrees so she's going to start hauling buckets of water. From my understanding of the whole hardness and pH thing (and I could be wrong) is that with a higher pH you would have a harder water. And if you have soft water and high pH then you will have big pH swings. Is this right? Because again, I could be wrong. I've never have this problem with ANY of my tanks at my house. Ours is 7.0 out of the tap and we add Crushed Coral to the filter and it's at a steady 7.8 right now.

She's becoming very frustrated and I can understand how she feels (our fish disease outbreak) so I'm trying to make it as easy as possible on her. We went to the lfs tonight and she brought home 3 African's to see how they would react. Before adding them the specs were: 0 Ammonia and Nitrite, 10 Nitrate, 8.6 pH. Lets see how they are doing tomorrow!

The small jewel died this afternoon so she took out the banded fish and has him in a small container to take back to the lfs. He's been causing aggression problems. After taking him out of the tank, all the fish are looking and acting very well together. The Pictus cats are out and about playing. I know that it's a gamble having this combination of fish but it appears that the only option will be African's with a pH that high. Right now she's just waiting it out to see if they will all live harmoneously together.

The current fish in her tank: 1 Johanni, 1 Nimbochromis Venustus, 1 Jewel, 1 Socolofi, 1 Common Pleco, 2 Pictus Cats, 1 Clown Loach, and 1 baby Neon (the fish that will outlive them all). She started just buying pretty fish, not really checking for compatibility. And the kicker, the lfs told her that it would be fine mixing Africans, SA, Neons, and sharks. Then again, they sold her a brackish puffer and said he would do GREAT in freshwater.

Does this info help?
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Old 03-16-2005, 02:47 AM   #4
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Yes, the KH and GH values help. I have the Aquarium Pharmaceutical tests and I'll look at the package insert tomorrow for you, if you don't have a chance to get back over there to see the insert.
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Old 03-16-2005, 03:04 AM   #5
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I pulled up AP's website and found the figures. With GH, each drop equals 17.9 ppm GH. Would I multiply from the initial drop (when it was a faint blue) or when it REALLY got blue?

The KH is also 17.9 ppm KH. SO, if you multiply the 23 by 17.9, that' 411.70 ppm KH. The instructions only show from 200 to 400 being Rift Lake Cichlids. They don't have another category for anything above 400.
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Old 03-16-2005, 03:44 AM   #6
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wow thats a high pH there

personally i would go with the African Cichlids i cant believe they want their pH that high

you might as well keep them in a bottle of ammonia!
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Old 03-16-2005, 12:00 PM   #7
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No wonder you can't get the pH down with an alkalinity (KH) of 23 degrees!
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Old 03-21-2005, 03:25 PM   #8
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Well it's been 6 days and the fish are still living! With the exception of the little baby neon who I'm sure got eaten. They are all happy, healthy, and doing their thing. The Nimb. Ven. is having one heck of a time with the maxi-jet. He keeps swimming against it, then finally gets past the current and turns around and rides it. It's really funny to watch. The Banded fish was put into a 10 gal tank all by himself. Mandi put him in a water pitcher for two days before being able to get the 10 gal tank. Once she had it she didn't have a filter on it until last night. I can't believe the guy is still living! It's one tough cookie to kill! I am just happy to report that the African's are working out beautifully. I knew that they would, but just wanted to double check with you guys before making any purchases.
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