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Old 04-13-2004, 12:36 PM   #1
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pH chemicals -good or bad? hardness too!

General consensus in these forums seems to be not to use any chemicals in the tanks other than the chlorine remover for new change water. Well, I am at a loss. I keep loosing fish for unknown reasons. Until yesterday I was testing for ammonia and nitrites only and everything was A-OK. I went to the lfs last night and was going to give a couple more catfish a try again. Right now I don't have any bottom feeder/scavanger fish and I would like a few. I explained to the fish guy that I had lost a few. 2 died from some bacterial infection and the other 2 were really unexplained. I also lost a dragon fish (see my photos - Mr. OOOooglayfish) the same way. They seemed VERY happy as they were active for over a week and then they slowed down dramatically and died within a day or two. No bodily harm or disease was detectable on any of these fish. The 2 catfish and dragonfish deaths were about 1 month apart so there is no relationship there.

Fish guy suggested I test pH or bring in a water sample and let them test my water (free service!). I decided that's was a good idea so I didn't buy any fish last night, but instead I went home with a pH test kit. The highest reading that it can do is 7.8 (liquid test... not stick test) and low-and-behold that's what my tank water reads. I have no real idea what my actual pH is since it maxed out what the test kit can read.

Currently the tank is home to 2 tiger barbs, 2 albino barbs, 2 red barbs, 2 boesemani rainbows, and a red tail shark. This morning, I looked up the profiles for all these fish and the red tail shark seems to be the most flexible for different pH levels. The barbs don't show much tolerance to pH in the profiles which may explain why I lost quite a few small green barbs when I was trying to add those. I'm not sure why the rest of the barbs are still alive if the pH is possibly the problem I'm having with the water.

So - my question - does pH really make that BIG of a difference? I have some powder that corrects the pH to 7.0 and I added the recommended ammount last night after testing. I waited about an hour and the pH has dropped to 7.2. I will test again tonight and see what I get. I'm also going to test my tap water and see what I'm getting from the city so I can make a comparison. Maybe I should be testing for pH at every water change and adding this powder as needed (every 2 weeks I change out about 15~20 gallons of the 70 gallon tank.)?

Ok - so that's pH. This is my first tank ever. Fortunately I found this forum/web site when I just started the tank and was looking for answers on cycling the tank. That's when I was advised to do a series of water changes day after day and not add any corrective chemicals. I also asked about water hardness at that time since I was using these little 5-in-1 test strips that tested for it. I found my tap water and tank water to be a bit on the hard side. Answers were that hardness didn't really matter. Is that 100% true or should I be checking hardness and adding softeners to get those levels withing the recommended specs?
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Old 04-13-2004, 01:36 PM   #2
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Didn't the driftwood work..?

Are you doing a solid QT now?

And you have coral earlier (that may have been a dif James) but have known your water is hard a while..?
Who said pH doesn't matter..... most here of say it does, but are against using the chemicals to do it because you miss or misdose just once and BAM..it is a tank of dead fish with pH shock.
And when you first came at the same time as me, you were adding salt in one hand, and the 7.o stuff with the other.. you had a boatload of fish..off the chart readings adn were using methods that were working against your cycle.... (People with odd, non-numerical names or fish I wish I had, stay in my trivia memory drawer..^_^)

Anyway another con against monkey fiddling with the ph chemically is you have to test a lot..that can get expensive by itself! You can't afford miss the water reverting


If I were you..I'd work with my water and have a killer tank of the many jewel colored Lake cichlids Why fight so hard against nature ?
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Old 04-13-2004, 01:56 PM   #3
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PH does matter. But a stable pH is generally more important for most fish than a specific one. As was mentioned don't try and change it, find fish that work.

See if you pH fluctuates during the course of a week. Perhaps it is dropping after being int he tank awhile and this is hurting the fish.

Also if you pH is really high why not try a brackish tank. Get some marine salt and add some great looking fish.

Or add soem live berrers. They tend to do well in harder water with a higher pH.
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Old 04-13-2004, 02:39 PM   #4
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Christmasfish - the coral crud is LONG gone.

QT is in place. I have a 10 gallon tank that does the fish for 2 weeks before they go into the big tank.

All chemical addition has stopped completely for over 3 months. After the stuff I read here I stopped it and just used decholirined water and nothing else.

I haven't tested for hardness so I have no idea what it reads now. That is one I remember as being not very important.

I never had a boatload of fish. Right now I have the most fish I have ever had and that's 9 relatively small fish that hardly occupy much space in their 70 gallon tank.

One of the other possible issues what if there was enough suface to air transfer, but with a dual biowheel and a 28" bubble screen I doubt that's even a factor anymore.

I don't really want a brackish tank. I like the selection I'm finding with the semi-aggresives. If there is no way to "fix" this then I will have to go with the brackish fish.
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Old 04-13-2004, 02:45 PM   #5
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There's no need to go brackish. Semi-aggressives that like a higher pH (African cichlids) and harder water are colorful, fun and pure FW!
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Old 04-13-2004, 02:56 PM   #6
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Hi James,
I agree with the others. You don't want to be adding pH chemicals to your tank every week. Besides getting expensive, and taking time to test for pH frequently, it's like Christmasfish said -- if you forget a dose, or accidently overdose, it's bad. Also, pH chemicals, in my experience, are fuel for algae.

Sometimes the pH will fall naturally. My water, when mixed up, is pH 7.4. After being in the tank, exposed to the wastes of the fish, the pH is 7.2. That's not a bad drop, but if you try to adjust pH too much, it can end up swinging out of control when you do introduce it into the tank.

Here's how I fixed my pH problem (8 or 8.2 out of the tap) -- I mix half tap water with half RO water. I get a few gallons of water a week from the RO machine at our grocery store. (Thanks for that idea, tkos!) It's cheap -- .39 a gallon. I get an empty gallon jug, fill it halfway with RO water (I actually measure out 8 cups) and then fill the rest with tap water. This pH is 7.4, down from 8 or 8.2, with no chemicals.

But I only have two 5-gallon betta tanks. Your tank is much bigger. You may want to think about getting an RO unit in your house, if you would want to do this. You would also want to experiment with your "mix". Half and half worked well for me. Otherwise, you'll have to find fish that naturally live in high pH water, like the cichlids. There are many types of gorgeous cichlids!
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Old 04-13-2004, 03:07 PM   #7
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The problem with the pH chemicals is they are generally phosphates and this will more than likely lead to algae problems.
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Old 04-14-2004, 06:51 PM   #8
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Last night I did some more testing. My tap water is 7.2. I read someplace that I should put tap water in a bucket overnight to allow the water to settle down since it was just poured out and picked up some changes with air contact. I didn't do that test so I guess the number I got isn't the "true" ph, but I think it's suitable for a base line number.

I also checked the pH of the tank again. This water was treated the night before with a buffer powder. The night before I was getting 7.6+ (test kit only reads to 7.6) before adding the buffer and after threating the water I got about 7.4. Last night and I got a 7.6 again. The buffer wore off that fast? It doesn't seem possible, but maybe it did.

I also found some pH down additive made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals that doesn't contain any phosphates.

I'm trying to steer away from any additives and try to solve this some other way. I did some reading on the internet. This page seems to be pretty good for ph and hardness information - http://www.drhelm.com/aquarium/chemistry.html

After reading through that and compared it to what I have in my tank I woudl like to know how much air is TOO much. It seems that more aeration drives off the Co2 and thus the pH goes up. kH can also be raised by aeration. I don't know my kH, but I would just about bet that its probably on the hard side. When I started the tank I had those test strips and the water was acceptable, but leaned on the hard side of the scale just a bit. Since then I have add a big log of driftwood. That should have reduced the hardness some. BUT I also added a bubble screen which in turn does more aeration and apparently should raise the kH and pH. From what I read, with hard water the additive pH stuff I have shouldn't work as well as it would with softer water.

hmmm?!?!?

So today I think I will try adjust the air valve to slow down the bubble rate I have and see if the pH will drop any.
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Old 04-14-2004, 08:08 PM   #9
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Your water hardness is the reason you are having probs changing the pH; if you haven't read this article on gH, kH and pH and how they are intertwined, do check it out: http://faq.thekrib.com/begin-chem.html . It will explain about buffers and why the chemicals aren't working for you.

I really wouldn't go the chemical route for changing pH in your case; all you are doing is causing the levels to bounce, and thats a lot nastier on fish then high pH.

The reduction in aeration may reduce the pH/kH levels, but not much in your case. The amount of buffer in the water is the key for you IMHO.
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Old 04-15-2004, 12:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JamesShall
After reading through that and compared it to what I have in my tank I woudl like to know how much air is TOO much. It seems that more aeration drives off the Co2 and thus the pH goes up.
If you have not added CO2 (people do that for planted tanks), adding air will not change your pH. It is true that aeration will drive off excess CO2, and thus raise the pH. But if you have no added CO2, the level in the water is the same as in the air. So aeration won't change anything.

If your pH is 7.2 out of the tap, you would have fairly soft water - unless there is CO2 dissolved in it. Some places use well water & that can have high levels of CO2. The pH then comes out initially low, and as the CO2 goes out (in a day or so) the pH rises. Letting the tap water sit for a day or so & then measuring the pH will tell you if this is the case.


BTW - I second & third the posts against using pH altering chemicals. It is usually pretty easy to increase the KH/GH (eg. adding crushed coral) and increasing the pH that way. But adding things to decrease the pH is hard. The "natural" way to reduce pH (& KH/GH) is to *remove* some of the base in the water (eg. using R/O, or peat filtering). But to drop pH by adding something means having to add enough of a secondary buffer to overwhelm your native buffering system. This is hard to do, and more importantly, hard to do consistently - resulting in pH swings that is bad for the fishies.
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Old 04-15-2004, 10:27 AM   #11
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Guys, please remember that aeration doesn't affect Kh.

Also, my tap pH is 7.8, Kh of 8 degrees. I've been able to keep all sorts of fish that prefer more acidic, or at least less alkaline water, with no problems. the ONLY fish I've had issues with are german blue rams, as they like a 6.6 pH. however i think BGA is what caused their deaths.
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Old 04-15-2004, 01:38 PM   #12
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[quote="malkore"]Guys, please remember that aeration doesn't affect Kh.[quote]

A quote from the site I was refering to in my previous post says that pH and kH are both affected by the Co2 in the water. Adding an air stone helps drive off some of the Co2 resulting in a pH and kH change.

I don't have a planted tank with injected Co2 so I don't think this applies much in my case.
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Old 04-15-2004, 10:03 PM   #13
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Although the site you quoted is correct in saying that KH can change with aeration, it is kinda misleading & confusing.

Aeration will only change pH/Kh when there is added CO2. Without CO2 injection, you should see no change at all.

Adding CO2 will increase the KH (CO2 -> H+ + HCO3-, and HCO3- is KH). However, with the typical CO2 levels of 15-30 ppm, the increase is miniscue (about 0.1% of a typical KH). Driving off the CO2 will likewise involve a miniscue decrease in KH. But your home KH kit will never see this change (up or down), since this change is less than 0.1 dH. So in practical terms, the KH may as well be considered constant.
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Old 04-17-2004, 11:06 PM   #14
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Urk! I always thought CO2 dropped pH but didn't touch the KH.

I will nix it as a method immediately if it raises it. I'll just pick easy plants instead.
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