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Old 11-18-2012, 11:10 PM   #1
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Tank in big trouble

I just checked the pH in my 125 gallon African Cichlid tank. I used a test strip with 5 different readings. Nitrate, Nitrite, Hardness, Alkalinity, and pH. I don't understand Alkalinity. I thought that was part of the pH. Anyway, that's 120 - "ideal" for a community tank. My well water is very hard. (No surprise there) My tank pH is 5.5 with Nitrates through the roof. Strange thing is that my tap water is 7.5. I don't understand. How can that be??? Can Nitrate levels affect pH? I never heard of that. I even had seashells in the tank.


I don't do a lot of water changes so I can understand the nitrates. I know, shame on me. My double Tidepool Bio-wheel filtration system requires 3-4 buckets of water every 4-5 days to maintain sump levels. I have no idea where all that water goes. I guess I was hoping that all that added water would take care of the nitrate level without doing the bottom water changes. 25% of 125 gallons is a lot of bucket hauling twice a week.

My filter owner manual also says to change the carbon pillow and filter pads every 21 days. Yep, don't do that either. I rinse them real well but not replace them. If I changed them every 30 days it would cost something like ~$600 a year. OK, I'm being lazy and cheap.

I bought some pH Increase but I'm not sure how much of an increase will take place with one treatment. I want to do this slowly - like .2 or .3 per day maybe? Directions say no more than 1 unit in 24 hours. That sounds way too fast. Another concern is if 5.5 is really accurate. My gosh, everything in that tank should be dead!

I changed the pillows and filter pads, but am holding off on the pH changes until I hear your suggestions. I'm afraid I lost 2 of my 4 Loaches I put in the tank a few days ago. They were all there this morning, but not now. They have been very visible. I know they are very sensitive to large pH changes, and store to my tank is really huge. Tomorrow I'll work on water changes. (Joy)

I await your input.........
(Sorry for the length. I'll try to do better.)
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Old 11-18-2012, 11:35 PM   #2
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Get a liquid test kit and a liquid test for GH and KH.

You may have old tank syndrome since you said that you don't do a lot of water changes. By not changing enough water in your tank frequently, you have excess ions in your water which is causing your PH to go down.

Old Tank Syndrome

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The same processes that reduce ammonia to nitrite to nitrate also produce an abundance of hydrogen ions, which, if left to their own accord, acidify the water. In water from some sources that contain few "buffers" (ions that help stabilize pH by combining with excess hydrogen or hydroxyl ions), pH will tend to decline steadily just as the nitrate increases, and again regular pH testing may help alert the aquarist to impending trouble. However, in more heavily buffered water, an interesting but more threatening phenomenon occurs. As hydrogen ions are produced, they are immediately tied up by the buffer ion, and the pH remains roughly the same - until all the buffer ions are used up. At this point, the pH drops rapidly, and this sudden "pH crash" can be very damaging to fish.
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Old 11-18-2012, 11:43 PM   #3
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I would start by doing water changes look up rift lake buffer recipe to help get your ph up and stable. Also buy API master test kit. The strips are garbage and inaccurate most of the time. I don't trust them. When your rinsing your filter what are you using? If you use tap water your killing all the bb. You gotta use tank water in a bucket and wash out the filter media in that. Also adding water doesn't help nitrate levels as nitrates don't evaporate. The levels will just get more and more concentrated. I'd do a 50% pwc then 25% pwc daily after that until your nitrates are under 20 ppm
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Old 11-18-2012, 11:46 PM   #4
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Also get your substrate vacuumed out real good as your doing your pwc
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Old 11-18-2012, 11:47 PM   #5
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+1 on old tank syndrome. Can cause you to lose your entire tank pretty quickly if not dealt with.
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:23 AM   #6
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Geesh your brilliant! You're over my head already. OK, I have the GH and KH kit. Never used it. I was looking for my liquid pH kit I lost and found that. I'll get another. Where do I go from here? How do I turn this around? Must I do 25% water changes twice a week for life? Please say no...................... I can do the carbon changes once a month. I just won't tell my husband how much I'm spending on fish. Of course, he pays the bills - busted.

I'm also a show/breeder of long hair Miniature Dachshunds. Very expensive hobby. Trying to balance things, but I'm afraid the Doxies have the front seat. I'm trying to create a few short cuts, but it's obviously not working.
Tell me what my next steps are. I'll try to follow:0)
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Old 11-19-2012, 12:41 AM   #7
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Sorry, I missed part of your reply before I replied. Thank you! I'll do this.
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Old 11-19-2012, 01:32 AM   #8
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Whoa, there, not so fast with the water changes.

Nitrification ceases below a pH of 5.5. It starts decreasing well before that. The fact that your ammonia is 0 is an indication that ammonia is reacting with those excess hydrogen ions mentioned above and forming non-toxic ammonium ions. A large water change will increase buffering capacity and free up those hydrogen atoms, causing a spike in ammonia to toxic levels. Yes, you need to get the pH and buffering up, but tryin' to do it all at once is gonna be as bad as the problem ya now have. The change needs to be made gradually over the next several days.

Nitrifiers do not resume activity as if a switch was turned on. You'll wanna watch for an ammonia spike and be prepared to do a second water change soon after the first one if necessary. I'd keep the water changes to 10%/day over the next 2 or 3 days, then increase to 25% for a coupla days, and then go with 50% changes for a coupla days. This will limit the amount of ammonium converted to ammonia, will give the nitrifiers time to become active again, and will reduce the stress a sudden large change in pH could cause to your fish.

In addition to an ammonia spike, a sudden change in pH of more than 1 point can be stressful to fish and cause osmoregulatory problems. pH is a logarithmic scale, so a pH of 6.5 is 10 times less acidic than a pH of 5.5, but a pH of 7.5 is 100 times less acidic than a pH of 5.5. That is a big change in water conditions.

Unfortunately, I've had to help numerous people out with "old tank syndrome" over the years. Slower is better, IME. Yer initial instinct to do it slowly was correct, but your solution of adding a chemical to do so was wrong. As for doing water changes twice a week for life, yes you might. I do 50% weekly on my cichlid tanks. Instead of hauling buckets, though, look into a Python or similar product. It makes hauling buckets obsolete. Here's a link: Python Aquarium Gravel Cleaner: Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance System at Petco

WYite
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:39 AM   #9
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I have a python, but it's just a long vac hose. Very ancient and inefficient. No way of attaching it to the sink. Must have gotten lost. I did locate one though at a local pet store - and no Pet Smart either. Costs are doubled there.
I never used a newer model. Is 50 feet harder to work with than a 25 foot, and should you get the shortest length you can get away with? With buckets the gravel keeps getting clogged and then I lose the vacuum. A real mess.

I thought I was going to have to take all the rocks out etc to fix this, but it sounds like I might just have to remove the plants.

What about the carbon pillows. Water changes really stirs up the crap - at least the way I do it. Then the water flows over the trays and bypasses the Bio-wheel. How do I rinse them? Tank or fresh water? Seems to me, using the same dirty water kind of defeats the purpose. I'm hoping a better water changing system won't stir up the tank as much.
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:07 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjsans
I have a python, but it's just a long vac hose. Very ancient and inefficient. No way of attaching it to the sink. Must have gotten lost. I did locate one though at a local pet store - and no Pet Smart either. Costs are doubled there.
I never used a newer model. Is 50 feet harder to work with than a 25 foot, and should you get the shortest length you can get away with? With buckets the gravel keeps getting clogged and then I lose the vacuum. A real mess.

I thought I was going to have to take all the rocks out etc to fix this, but it sounds like I might just have to remove the plants.

What about the carbon pillows. Water changes really stirs up the crap - at least the way I do it. Then the water flows over the trays and bypasses the Bio-wheel. How do I rinse them? Tank or fresh water? Seems to me, using the same dirty water kind of defeats the purpose. I'm hoping a better water changing system won't stir up the tank as much.
Never ever rinse in fresh water it kills the beneficial bacteria. And I would think about switching from carbide to something with like a bio ball media. They grow bb cultures much better. I only use carbon when trying to remove any meds or trying to clarify the water. And it's not bad to stir the substrate when doing pwc. It will help get the waste out and siphoned out then as it settles on top of gravel you can vacuum that out then too. Gotta get as much waste out of your gravel as you can.
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:10 AM   #11
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Also when you need to change filter media you should run it with the old media for a few days to seed the new media with bb before you remove the old.
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Old 11-19-2012, 11:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjsans View Post
I have a python, but it's just a long vac hose. Very ancient and inefficient. No way of attaching it to the sink. Must have gotten lost. I did locate one though at a local pet store - and no Pet Smart either. Costs are doubled there.
I never used a newer model. Is 50 feet harder to work with than a 25 foot, and should you get the shortest length you can get away with? With buckets the gravel keeps getting clogged and then I lose the vacuum. A real mess.

I thought I was going to have to take all the rocks out etc to fix this, but it sounds like I might just have to remove the plants.

What about the carbon pillows. Water changes really stirs up the crap - at least the way I do it. Then the water flows over the trays and bypasses the Bio-wheel. How do I rinse them? Tank or fresh water? Seems to me, using the same dirty water kind of defeats the purpose. I'm hoping a better water changing system won't stir up the tank as much.
Using a 50ft versus a 25 ft is not really that different. I still have my python from 1998. I use gravity to just siphon the tank water out to the yard. When refilling you can connect the hose portion to the faucet. You don't need the green adapter. Any home improvement store should carry faucet adapters to allow the python hose to connect.
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:19 PM   #13
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Filter system and Python

The carbon pillows come with the bio-wheel system. I have 2 Marineland, Tidepool Filtration modules. Pillows and filter pads come with the unit and when I replace them the bacteria starts all over. I rinse it in the same temp as the tank when not discarding them. Manual says to replace the pillows and prefilter pads every 3 weeks. Pads can be rinsed, stored, and used at a later time if not being replaced. The bio-wheels should be brown and discolored if properly cultured. They appear pretty brown. The manual doesn't stipulate using tank water to rinse anything. It just says "rinse". Not saying you're wrong, I'm saying that I'm not just doing my own thing. I'm trying to follow the manual - about that anyway. (Definitely not the replacement schedule.)

Now, about that Python I'm about to buy - does length have anything to do with ease of use? I have gravel jams with 36 inches of tubing. Can't even imagine 25-50 feet.
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Old 11-19-2012, 02:37 PM   #14
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Water Change #1

Did it again. I'm talking to 2 different people. Glad to hear length doesn't matter:0) I'll get the 50.

Got to run. Getting my master testing kit and a decent Python.



PS - The tank is 6 ft. long and 20 inches high. I'll do about 2 inches of water change. I need to turn it off first, right? It will stress the pumps.
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Old 11-19-2012, 04:37 PM   #15
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You don't need to turn off the filters if you are only draining 2 ". Add water conditioner in the tank before refilling. Put the return tube of the python as far away as from the filter inlet tubes as possible.
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Old 11-19-2012, 06:01 PM   #16
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Two inches equal ~10 % water change. What water conditioner - you mean like Startright? I have no chlorine in my well water. I've never used a "conditioner" with fresh water. Like what? Am I missing something??

The guy at the pet store told me the same thing about leaving the filter on. But he did suggest I put the return tube in the sump. I'm afraid I'll overfill. It has to cycle a bit to find the actual water level.

The inlet tubes are at either end of the tank. I'd have to put it in the center.

How do you regulate water temp on return? He didn't think it was necessary. I do.
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Old 11-19-2012, 07:40 PM   #17
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well if you have well water, then there really isn't a need for water conditioner.

If you are using well water, you are going to have to store in a container like a 5 g bucket and use a heater to bring it up to temp if the well water is more than 10 degrees below the tank temp (assuming that you are doing a 50% change). I haven't had any issues with fish as long as the temp rise or drop was not more than 5 degrees in the aquarium.
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Old 11-19-2012, 08:37 PM   #18
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Tank Trouble - Not so much

Aaah, I don't believe this. I got the master kit and checked levels again.
pH = 7.6 Yep! the strips are garbage.
Nitrates still extremely high
Ammonia 0
Only difference is that I added plants. Everyone looks happy. Occasional shimmying behavior seen with a few. Nitrates???

I need a PhD to understand this s...crap. I held off on the water change because the device on the Python doesn't fit my faucet and I need some sort of adapter. I figure that with a pH like that I have a little time to regroup. I'm not sure what is going on now.

As far as increasing the pH to 8, (still necessary, right?) Could I just add some crushed coral? I don't really have that much gravel in there. It could really use some more substrate. I'm just not sure how much and how fast. I'll add slow and do daily levels to monitor. Should I wait until the Nitrates are under control through water changes before I start this?

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Old 11-19-2012, 09:55 PM   #19
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At 7.6 you should be fine, I'd just do the water changes to get the nitrates down first and worry about the rest later.
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:17 PM   #20
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So I was reading through this just to gain some knowledge. I'm lost about using this python. Rocksor mentioned to add the water conditioner before refilling. I get that, but what about the buffer and salt? I have a python but have only used it to drain my tanks
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