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Old 07-29-2005, 11:13 PM   #1
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Newbie's attempts at altering pH and KH... any ideas?

First of all, please be forewarned that I am a complete newbie when it comes to maintaining an aquarium, excluding a few goldfish.

I have a 20-gallon tank set up that I would like to add some neon tetras to and maybe a pleco to keep the algae in control. After doing extensive research on the Internet, I have learned that tetras tend to do best in slightly acidic, soft water (please correct me if I'm wrong).

After setting up the tank how I want it, with the filter running and decorations arranged, I let it run for a couple of days before testing the water. Keep in mind that there are no fish in the tank as of now and the water is fresh, straight out of the tap. Also, the decorations are all "aquarium safe". Anyway, I use a test strip from Petsmart (5-in-1 nitrate, nitrite, GH, KH, pH) and everything is fine except for the KH and pH, which are both at the high end of the scale (8.4 pH, 300 ppm KH). The general hardness test amazingly reads "soft" (75 ppm GH).

Being the novice I am, I bought some pH down and ended up using a whole bottle 8O on the tank over a two day period. The pH would lower to 7.2-7.4 but rebound to where it was before in just a few hours.

After having tried and failed at chemically altering the pH and KH, I drained all of the water, afraid that I had perhaps over-medicated. After reading up on peat moss's ability to soften the water and lower pH, I committed to going with that method. After buying some sphagnum peat moss, I filled up a colander with it and poured hot water over the moss and filtered the juice through a towel into a bucket.

Once my aquarium was filled to the top with the dark tea-colored water, I performed a litmus test. Amazingly, KH went down to 40 ppm, GH went down to "very soft" (25 ppm), and pH dropped to 5.0-5.5. Even though water visibility is significantly reduced, I felt comfortable knowing that the peat was having the effect that I had wanted.

However, I went to check the water 12 hours later and much to my surprise the pH went back up to about 8.0 and KH back up at around 250 ppm. On a slightly positive note, the general hardness continues to stay at "very soft" with 25 ppm, where it was right after adding the peat water. What happened overnight? What would cause such a massive rebound for water with pH 5.5 and KH 40 ppm to shoot up so rapidly? The "pH buffer" was removed according to the KH test immediately after filling up with the peat water. Also, the water is still a murky, dark tea color so surely the tannic acid hasn't disappeared. As a precaution, I had removed all carbon filtration beforehand so that the tannins wouldn't be affected. Am I out of luck? I have always enjoyed watching neon tetras in other people's fish tanks, but now I'm starting to think I should just stick to keeping goldfish.
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Old 07-30-2005, 03:07 AM   #2
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first off the test strips are inaccurate.. you need a liquid reactant test kit..
and second off you dont need a perfect ph or KH to keep any fish (unless its wild caught) just stabile PH.. that said your going to have bigger problems trying to change your waters PH then if you just left it alone and did a good job acclimating the fish to your water.. I would suggest the drip method..
http://www.liveaquaria.com/general/g...ral_pagesid=19
PH buffers are full of PO4.. I would just drain the tank and fill it with fresh tap water, add some dechlorinator/tap water detoxifier, do a fishless cycle.. then once the cycle is over get the neons and (a small pitbull or BN) pleco do the drip method of acclimation and enjoy!
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Old 07-30-2005, 03:12 AM   #3
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rebounds in PH are from the carbonate hardness eating up the acids and returning the PH to its previous state.. This might be frustrating but its actually good.. it keeps PH stable and a stable ph is much better then an exact number. look at my signature.. you will see that I have a PH of 8 and a KH of around 6 (~100ppm) I am going to keep DISCUS in this water! your neons will be fine..
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Old 07-30-2005, 03:29 AM   #4
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Thanks a bunch. I suppose I'm just making the situation harder than it needs to be.

I'll drain the water tonight and fill it with regular tap per your advice and then put in the chlorine drops. How long would you recommend cycling the tank before adding fish? The tank has been running for five days now, including the one water change I did with the peat. Some other sites I've been to make it seem like your fish will die instantly if the pH isn't on track, so now I feel much better.

EDIT: You can have my kudos. I don't know what they are, nor do I care, so enjoy.
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Old 07-30-2005, 03:40 AM   #5
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do a search here on fishless cycle.. it can take as little as 2 weeks or as long as 2 or 3 months.. I would definatley recommend the fishless cycle for you considering your wanting to keep neon's (they are far from tolerant of poor water conditions)..
we have a article on fishless cycling..
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/showqu...q=2&fldAuto=15
and thanks for the kudos :P ... I had a few.. What they are are tank you points right now.. They might be something else in the future but... Thats been a long time coming (over 2 years) so its likely to stay that way for a while longer..
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Old 07-30-2005, 09:52 AM   #6
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Altering PH should be left to people with alot of experience. Definitley not for people just starting out. Your PH keeps shooting up because your KH is so high. Dont worry about it. You'll never have to worry about a PH crash! An eay non-chemical way to help lower your levels a bit, would be to use half tap water and half RO water. This is easy to do and you can always remember when you change the water, use half and half.

As for cycling, the amount of time depends on what method you use. Theres fishless, using fish, and using a commercial product. Fishless and fish cycles take about 3-8 weeks, it varies greatly. Two commercial products if youre interested that I know work I have used them personally, are Bio-Spira and Stability.

With bio-spira it is instant, you can add your fish the same day no waiting.
With stability, you cant add all your fish at once, but you start with a few then work your way up over the course of a week. But you can add your fish the same day also.

HTH and dont be too concerned with PH right now, youre actually on the lucky side of the spectrum people with low KH and PH can have alot of problems, while on your end you wont have ph crashes or any of the other problems people have with acidic water.
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Old 07-30-2005, 02:15 PM   #7
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one more good method of cycling your tank is getting old media from a friend with well established tanks. Cycled my 10gal in 2 days this way.
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Old 08-24-2005, 11:26 PM   #8
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UPDATE-

After about a month my tank is *slowly* but surely continuing to cycle. I've got five rosy reds that I intend to keep in my 20 gallon and all is doing well. None have died or shown any signs of stress (except for my snail- there's a thread about him if you're interested) and it looks like I'm about to finish Stage I of the process. The ammonia maxed out at around 5 ppm and is now at around 2. Just tested today and found that I now have NITRITE, which is currently at .25. I know it seems like it's taking forever for my tank to come around, but at least all of my fish are okay.

As a sidenote, I would like to thank you for all of your help. I have gained a trememdous amount of knowledge from this site since I signed up, and I truly appreciate the friendly and intelligent atmosphere here. Y'all are great.
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Old 08-25-2005, 12:23 AM   #9
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The reason why the cycle is taking a long time could be because of the high ammonia reading. Readings that high can stall the cycle. When cycling with fish, keep the level down around 1.

Did you invest in a Freshwater Master Test Kit? If not, the AP kit is accurate and simple to read. It comes very highly recommended on this site.
The only reading that may be hard to read is the Nitrates. But when it gets to the point that you can't differentiate between the numbers, a water change is a must.
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Old 08-25-2005, 12:44 AM   #10
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Hagan's nutrifin kit is also highly recommended. All test are suppose to be easier to read then AP's but it is more expensive.. $40 on bigallsonine
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