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Old 01-16-2006, 01:43 PM   #1
waynephinney
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The real importance of PH, nitrates, etc?

Ok, I'm pretty new to the aquarium scene. I do a lot of business at my local pet store, and they tend to give pretty good advice. I ended up bringing home a 29 gallon tank because I didn't have room for a bigger one, and a smaller one just wouldn't be suitable for the various species of fish I was interested in. In fact, in 2-3 years I'll have a bigger place, and I will be upgrading the tank.

Anyways, I have one Iridescent Shark (it was the only one they had. I've got a couple from the next shipment reserved for me), Three Red Tail Sharks, a half dozen Neon Tetras, Some little orange tiger striped guys, a couple of guppies, and a few other fish that I honestly can't even remember what they are.

Well, to get to the point. I've been looking all over the internet and haven't gotten a consistent answer. Some places tell you to constantly monitor your PH and whatnot while other places tell me that newbies spend too much time worrying about that and neglecting other important things. Those particular sites said that if you clean your tank regularly, then you shouldn't really have a problem in that regard. After cleaning the tank for the first time last night and finding out how easy it is, I'm thinking I'll make it a weekly thing.

So, what is the truth? Should I be really concerned about PH, or am I pretty much in the clear as long as I clean the tank regularly (suctioning gravel and changing 25% of the water) and adding in the proper amount of that fish/water treatment fluid I got at the store? I've had three fish deaths so far out of just over two dozen, but I'm quite certain that none of those deaths were related to the water. One was a suckerfish who died in less than a day (environment shock? The other sucker and the rest of the fish were fine), and two got stuck to the filter intake.

So, should I be really concerned, or will I be fine with weekly cleanings?
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Old 01-16-2006, 02:33 PM   #2
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To answer your primary question, pH is not something you really need to concern yourself with unless you get massive swings. As a tank matures, the pH tends to drop. This is due to the natural biological processes of its inhabitants or, poorly buffered water. Please read the article on pH stability. It's a wealth of info.

What you should be concerned with is the nitrogen cycle. I don't know how long your tank has been established, but it seems fairly overstocked already. If your tank hasn't cycled you're going to have problems due to ammonia and nitrites. These (and nitrates), are things you should be testing for.
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Old 01-16-2006, 02:41 PM   #3
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Cycled? I don't follow.

As for being overstocked... while I could have been misinformed (not every pet store clerk knows what they are doing) I was told that a good general rule to follow is one gallon of water for every inch of fish. That should put me right where I need to be.

Back to this cycling thing. Is that when I let the thing run for a few days before I got any of the fish? If so, I did do that. I've had the fish for about a week, and I've done a 25% water change just yesterday.
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Old 01-16-2006, 02:46 PM   #4
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You need to read this article http://www.aquariumadvice.com/showqu...q=2&fldAuto=21.

Merely letting letting a tank run without allowing the nitrifying bacteria time to reach a point of equilibrium with your fish, will result in the fish poisoning themselves in their own waste products.
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Old 01-16-2006, 03:10 PM   #5
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The 1 inch per gal guideline is good for people new to aquaria. But the measurements are based on the adult size, not the current size. And it also needs to be taken into consideration how aggressive the specie is and how much swimming space that they need. Ie the redtail shark is semi-aggressive and needs alot more swimming space. Also, Red Tails should not be kept with each other. They become overlyaggressive to their own kind when they reach maturity.

And I agree with Brian, the pH really doesn't matter unless you're trying to breed or it fluctuates.
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Old 01-16-2006, 03:20 PM   #6
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The Iridescent Shark grows to 3 feet long. I wouldn't get anymore and I would return the one you have.
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Old 01-16-2006, 03:30 PM   #7
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Yeah, I understand that it's supposed to be adult size. I assumed that with this being my first foray into this that some fish would die before things got stabilized. I know the Iridescents can get rather large, but that's why I'm planning on getting a bigger tank in a year or so.

I have noticed that one of my redtails is moderately aggressive. The other is pretty passive, and the bigger one with red tail and red fins is only aggressive when he's snacking on some shrimp. He'll bully the other fish around just enough to show he's the boss, but he doesn't actually hurt any of them.

I was told that having another couple of red tails would actually be beneficial in that the aggressive one may back off a bit with more of his kind around. I don't know exactly how true that is though.

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Merely letting letting a tank run without allowing the nitrifying bacteria time to reach a point of equilibrium with your fish, will result in the fish poisoning themselves in their own waste products.
Even if I clean it and cycle the water every week?

I'm going to read that article though. Thanks!
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Old 01-16-2006, 03:43 PM   #8
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I found this in the article

Quote:
High nitrates are also said to lower your fish's resistance to disease. As a general rule, nitrates below 25-50 ppm shouldn't harm your fish or stunt their growth. Overall, for most people the easiest method to reduce nitrates is regular water changes. Your fish will love you for it!
So, in the case of nitrates, I should be in good shape if I clean the tank every week then, or is that still not frequently enough?
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Old 01-16-2006, 03:48 PM   #9
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Depending on what your nitrate reading is, once a week will probably be enough for a water change once your tank is cycled.

You shouldn't clean your tank (take apart filter, change filter media etc) very often at all because you will kill all of your good bacteria.
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Old 01-16-2006, 04:20 PM   #10
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I don't plan on cleaning the filter any more often than I have to for just that reason. I'm too lazy to do a full cleaning any more often than I need to. Once I know what my nitrate levels are, I'll let you guys know.

And what exactly is this cycling thing I'm hearing about. Everything I read about mentions it, but I don't see anything that says what the exact process is.
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Old 01-16-2006, 04:36 PM   #11
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To put it simply your tank will cycle itself once fish are introduced. This is because they eat and produce waste (ammonia). Bacteria convert the ammonia to nitrites, and then other bacteria convert that to nitrates (the end product of the cycle). When your tank reaches a point of equilibrium (no more ammonia or nitrites), it is cycled.

Having this occur with too many fish in the tank will poison them because ammonia and nitrites are poisonous and harmful to fish, and you have alot of fish producing waste just by normal biological processes.
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Old 01-16-2006, 04:40 PM   #12
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I don't know if it makes much of a difference, but I had one fish in there for a couple of days. So, fish are required for this cycling, but just not too many.

Would have been nice if someone at the pet store knew to tell me that. I bought over 20 fish that night and not one person said "You should really just be buying these a few at a time until your tank stabilizes."

Well hey... that's why I did a google search and found this place. Thanks! you guys rock!
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Old 01-16-2006, 05:53 PM   #13
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A cycle takes about 6 weeks, longer if it is done using fish. Fishless is the ideal way to go and is the shortest method.

Right now you won't have Nitrate readings. You probably won't even have Nitrites. Chances are you are in the ammonia stage. Do water changes daily of about 25% until you can get a test kit and determine what the levels are.

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Would have been nice if someone at the pet store knew to tell me that.
Don't rely on the lfs for info. They are there to sell their product. Think about it. You buy a tank and stock it with fish BEFORE cycling. You come back to the store saying that your test STRIPS (they will sell ya the strips because they are more expensive) show high ammonia. So then they sell you ammo-lock or similar product and tell you to change the filter every 2 weeks. So every two weeks you come back to the store and buy filters. During this process your fish die because of an uncycled tank. Off you go back to the lfs to buy more fish, thus giving them more money. It's an endless cycle that they do until you realize that they have NO clue what they are doing and you end up on AA. The advice that you were given is pretty standard. I think just about everyone has gone through the same thing you are. But it's great that you came here so quickly to get advice. Kudo's to you!
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Old 01-16-2006, 08:35 PM   #14
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I had to come here. Three fish dying in such a short period of time is not a good thing. Even I knew that much.

BTW, the strips were much less expensive, which is good since that's about all I had the money for today (stupid banks were closed).

I know strips aren't nearly as accurate, but it's better to have a rough idea of where things stand than have no clue at all. Anyhow, here goes.

pH - 8-8.5 This is not where I wanted this to be at all. I wanted to stay near the 7 mark since that would be decent for most fish and it would be considered average. If I could even get this down to 7.5 I think I would be better off.

Alkalinity - 220-250 which is ok according to the box the test strips came into.

Hardness - 10-30 THe box says I should be between 50 and 150. Odd... I thought we had hard water... I suppose it's not hard enough. Must be the softener we're using.

Nitrite - 0.1-0.3 - According to the box, this is within the 0.5 limit.

Nitrate - 5-10 which is below the 40 they say is the limit.

So, it seems that I need to try to get my pH down and my hardness up. Are there any home remedies for this? I spent most of my money on fish, the tank, and accessories, so I really don't have a lot to spend on much anything else. Is there anything that I would find in my home that would lower the pH? While I don't recall if it was related to the pH, I remember someone saying something about driftwood helping with something in some situations. If that would help anything I need help on, I can at the very least throw in a piece of kindling that we were going to use for the fire. How do I get hardness up? Throw some Tums in the tank?

If at all possible, home remedies please!
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Old 01-16-2006, 08:39 PM   #15
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Test the hardness of your tapwater. What was the ammonia?
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Old 01-16-2006, 08:48 PM   #16
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You know, I just now realized that those strips didn't test for ammonia, but given that I've only had the fish a few days and already done a pwc, I can't possibly imagine that's the problem. I mean, I suppose it's possible, but it just doesn't seem likely.
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Old 01-16-2006, 08:51 PM   #17
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I would think it is likely, especially since you are showing nitrites.
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Old 01-16-2006, 09:16 PM   #18
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BTW, the strips were much less expensive
Actually, check the math.

Freshwater Master Test Kit =$20. 700 usages per kit. $20/700 = $.03 per test

Test Strips = $10 (don't know how much shipping is for them, so I'll just say a total of $10). 25 usages per kit. $10/25 = $.40 per test

Quote:
pH - 8-8.5
Don't worry about the pH. Don't try to alter it. It usually ends up just fluctuating and stressing the fish.

Quote:
Nitrate - 5-10 which is below the 40 they say is the limit.
I would suspect that your tap has natural Nitrates in it. There is no way that a few days into the cycle that Nitrates could be present unless using BioSpira or seeded media. Have you tested the tap?

Quote:
I can't possibly imagine that's the problem.
You'd be suprised at how much ammonia fish produce. Anything over 1 is bad news.

Also test for Nitrites in the tap since it is possible to have both.
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Old 01-16-2006, 10:26 PM   #19
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The number one thing I have learned in this hobby is that you should never take anything for granted. (The number two thing I learned is not to listen to a thing that they tell you in the petstore. )There are so many different factors that can fluctuate over time, that you have to test for all possibilities.

You might even want to start a log with the results of all of your tests. This will be extremely helpful especially as you cycle your tank.
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Old 01-16-2006, 11:13 PM   #20
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Freshwater Master Test Kit =$20. 700 usages per kit. $20/700 = $.03 per test
They didn't have the master test kit there. May have to get some money and order it online.

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I would suspect that your tap has natural Nitrates in it. There is no way that a few days into the cycle that Nitrates could be present unless using BioSpira or seeded media. Have you tested the tap?
I have not tested the tap. I'll do that tomorrow after work since I'm headed to bed in a few minutes.
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