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Old 04-26-2004, 01:30 AM   #1
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Low pH question

I have been really struggling with my tank. It has been set up for about 3 years, but has been really hit or miss. Every time new fish have been added one would die right away and the rest would hang on for longer. I took a water sample into the pet store the last time I lost a fish. the store tested it and I had high nitrates and a low pH. I was told to do a weekly water change and instead of using the liquid water treatment to use Neutral Regulator. After a month of water changes, I brought another sample in and got a different employee. Nitrates still high, pH still low (according to test strip it is 6.2). She told me to add baking soda in 1/4 tsp increments. And to stop doing weekly changes, and just do monthly water changes. I have added the 1/4 tsp for the last 2 weeks and them tested the water 2-3 days after adding the baking soda. There hasn't been any change.

I have a 29 gallon tank with 2 corys, a plecostomus, 4 neon tetra, 1 molly, and 2 red fish that I can't remember what they are, but they are docile community fish. (obviously I'm a real expert here )

After reading through the forum a bit I have realized that I have been making a potential booboo. When I have been doing water changes I have also been rinsing out the filter and the sponge like thing behind it (it gets so gross), but I think that is my biological filter?

Any advise for me?

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Old 04-26-2004, 01:50 AM   #2
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i think that you should try not rinsing out the filter, i am no expert either but it is worth a try
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Old 04-26-2004, 02:04 AM   #3
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is your tank cycled? check out this:
http://www.aquariumadvice.com/showqu...q=2&fldAuto=21

Water changes: I think you were doing a good thing when you were doing weekly water changes! That's how you'll get those nitrates down... they are nitrAtes right? Not nitrites? I'd invest in your own test kits. You'll be happier when you can monitor your own tank. What are your ammonia and nitrite readings?

Don't rinse your filter and sponge every time. You may kill too much bacteria. I'd switch off rinsing them. So one week do the sponge, then 2 weeks later do the filter. When you rinse them, do it in your old water from the tank. Yeah, they get gross, but they should still filter properly.

As for your ph, try getting a filter bag with some crushed coral in it. This will naturally raise your ph. What kind of filter do you have? You may be able to but the filter bag in the filter if you have room for it there.

Do you add co2? do you have drift wood? both lowers ph. Can you tell us your kh?

What is your ph (and kh) before you add the baking soda? That's important too. Do you add anything other than nuetral regulator? I personally avoid chemicals and buffers, but thats me.

The only reason I tell you how to raise your ph is because 1. it sounds rather low before you add baking soda. 6.2 isn't that bad, in fact some of us would kill for it, but that depends on the fish you keep. Some cichlids, like discus, apistos, etc. breed in 6.2 water. Mollies, however, I believe prefer water closer to 7.5

get back to me on your amonia and nitrite... also on your ph BEFORE and AFTER baking soda (and how much baking soda you add)

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Old 04-26-2004, 03:59 AM   #4
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Medge pretty much covered all the questions I would ask, mostly what is your source of water (tap, bottled, etc.) and what is the pH of that water without any additives. To get the proper pH of the water (if it's from the tap), it is necessary to put some in a container, put an airstone attached to a pump, and bubble the water for a few hours to release any dissolved gasses. Additionally, how much water are you changing with each water change? Are you vacuuming the gravel? It almost sounds like you have what's known as "old tank syndrome."

I don't think that rinsing the filter media will hurt the biological filter. The filter is for mechanical and chemical (i.e. activated carbon) filtration. Most of the bacteria for the biological filter are on the substrate and decorations--basically on every available surface. If you are in doubt, do what I do for maintenance. At each water change, siphon a little tank water (about a gallon) into your bucket, and swish the filter media around in that. That will clean out the filter without killing any of the bacteria. I don't think the media should be neglected, it will compromise the mechanical and chemical filtering abilities.
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Old 04-26-2004, 10:23 AM   #5
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Let's see if I can answer all these questions. My water is tap water--I will have to test it later today to see the pH, it is nitrATEs, not nitrITEs, so that is a good thing. The test kit I have is a strip multiple-test. The last time I tested (yesterday) my nitrates were at 200, nitrite 0, GH 75, KH 40, pH 6.2. I don't have an ammonia test kit. The gal at the store said my ammonia looked great so I didn't need an ammonia test. I have a charcoal filter, I don't have any driftwood, and I have a large aeration bar. Oh, and I vacuum the gravel at each water change. I haven't been adding anything other than the Neutral Regulator (just when treating the new water) and the baking soda.

On a side note, I have not been adding any salt--should I? I know many years ago when I had a tank I did, but I was not advised to this time.

Cichlids are great--but I need EASY community fish so I would really like to get the pH up.

I think I answered everything other than my tap water. I will test that and get back to you.
Thanks for your help,
flutterby
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Old 04-26-2004, 01:57 PM   #6
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[center:be51c808c7] Welcome to AA, flutterby! [/center:be51c808c7]
The strip tests are not nearly as reliable as a liquid test kit. No matter what your ammonia readings are, you should have your own kit. IME, emergencies don't happen during business hours.
Aside from baking soda, you could try adding crushed coral or shell to the filter.
To combat the nitrates, you may want to add a plant that likes low light.
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Old 04-26-2004, 04:14 PM   #7
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Ok, I'd get your own liquid test kits. You should probably have an amonia kit.

Get back to us on those original tap readings, but I'm guessing adding crushed coral will help get your water up to a ph of 7.

I'm not sure on the salt. I'll have to look into that. Mollies do much better with a little salt added, but i don't know about the others. For now, don't worry about it.

Get an easy plant like anachris or hornwort to help with the nitrates. they're cheap/easy.

sounds like you're getting on track!
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Old 04-26-2004, 05:15 PM   #8
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Before I head out to the pet store (alas, Petco and Walmart ran off the "real" aquarium shops), I want to double check what I should be getting.
Liquid test kits for ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, pH. Do I need to be testing KH and GH as well?
As far as the crushed coral--does it come in a bag like my charcoal filter or is it really crushed coral that I put in the bottom of the filter?

I'll see what kinds of plants they have, never tried live plants before, this will be fun.


thanks again,
flutterby
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Old 04-26-2004, 05:42 PM   #9
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200 ppm NO3??? That's really high--it should be about 10-20 ppm. Is that the upper limit of the test? If the test is accurate, you definitely have old tank syndrome. Basically that means there is a lot of crap in your tank that needs to come out. The fish that have been in there a while get used to the high level of nitrates, but any fish that is introduced gets shocked by that high level. This is why you lose a fish or two every time you add them--only the hardiest survive. In the three years you have had the tank, have you gone for a month or more without a water change? Has the tank ever just been run without fish for a period of time? Do you have a UGF? sorry for the 20 questions, but we will nail down your issue.

The problem is compounded by the fish that are already in there. You need to find a balance between effectively lowering the nitrates and keeping your existing fish alive. I would suggest a 25% water change once a week, vaccuuming the substrate the best you can. Another thing you can do is check your tap water parameters with the same tests.
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Old 04-27-2004, 12:10 AM   #10
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yes, the 200 ppm is the upper limit of the test. Unfortunately there have been several times over the past 3 years that I have missed doing water changes, but over the last 6 months it has been pretty regular--maybe 6 weeks instead of a month. I clean the gravel with every water change and I have been doing weekly changes for the past 6 weeks so the gravel is pretty clean. My filter is the kind that is attached to the side of the tank.

today was pretty hectic, so I couldn't get more reliable test kits or test the tap water--so I will do that tomorrow
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Old 04-27-2004, 01:32 AM   #11
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I think the crucial piece to this puzzle is the pH of the tap water. If your tank pH is much lower than the tap pH, then you have old tank syndrome for sure (actually with nitrates of 200+ it is pretty likely).

I think you need to bring down the nitrates to something like 20. Don't do this all at once - as the change will shock the existing fish. Perhaps do a 10-15% change every week (or twice a week) until you bring down the nitrates. Thereafter keep doing weekly water changes to prevent further problems.

A sign of good water husbandry is that your tank water has apporx. the same pH, KH, of your tap water <in the case of doctoring the water -say adding baking soda, then it should be that of your change (doctored) water>. Any significant deviation would indicate accumulation of "stuff" in your tank - various waste products that we are not measuring, yet bad for the fish. So you need to do more frequent water changes to remove them.

Also KH of 40 & GH of 75? Is that in ppm? If so, you have pretty soft water. Adding baking soda is good to prevent pH swings, but to do that properly, you'll need your own KH test kit.

So get your own test kit & do more frequent testing, at least until you get a hang of how much & how frequently to do your water changes to maintain good water.

"Look after the water, the fishies will look after themselves!"
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