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Old 02-09-2014, 04:23 PM   #1
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PH crash

Hi all

I have decided to put together a fish tank, last time I had one was over 20 years ago. Because of the large gap and the advancement of technology, I have to consider myself a noob.

So here is my problem. I have been doing a fish-less cycle in accordance to the guide I found on this site written by eco23. Got a link for you all - http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums...ng-148283.html

Everything has been going according to plan, until now. My PH is crashing. There is a section in the guide that talks about how this could happen, and recommends using crushed coral to bring the PH back up. So I did a PWC as recommended and picked up some crushed coral yesterday. I put a few hand fulls in a cheese cloth bag that is now hung in my tank. After 24 hours, I am still seeing the PH drop quickly. My ammonia is no longer dropping to 0 in 24 hours, and my Nitrites have stopped dropping. So it looks like my cycle has stalled.

A few more facts for you all before you give me advise on what to do.

I get my water from an osmosis machine at a grocery store down the road. Normally the water comes out of the machine with very low chlorine, no nitrites, and no nitrates. When I first started to get water from this location the water was around a 7.5 PH. They must have services the machines because the water now comes out at about 6.2 PH or less. I had not done any water changes between the time it was 7.5 and now that it is 6.2. So the crash started before the PWC, but the PWC only helped a small bit.

So am I using the crushed coral wrong? Is there a better way to bring the PH up and stabilize it? Any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 02-09-2014, 04:49 PM   #2
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Calling threnjen. (You'll thank me later op) good luck!
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Old 02-09-2014, 04:59 PM   #3
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Calling threnjen. (You'll thank me later op) good luck!
Ok, I can only assume that Threnjen is a member. If so and s/he can help, I will be grateful.
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:24 AM   #4
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The ro water you are using has almost no buffering properties so the ph will change a lot. You will also need to remineralize it for your fish as its not particularly healthy for your fish.

Is there a reason you want the ro water?
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:53 AM   #5
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LOL Brookster! Thanks for thinking of me!

OK first I have to agree with Mebbid's question - how come you are using RO water? I assume there is some problem with your tap water? What are you tap water parameters?

The pH crash thing occurs because the Ammonia-eating bacteria literally "eat" pH doing the ammonia conversion to nitrite. So in a system with no buffers (such as RO water), the pH is going to crash pretty constantly. The bacteria use up the alkalinity (high pH) and produce acid (low pH). In normal water there is a certain level of buffer that helps protect your water from pH crashing, but RO water does not have this.

If you MUST use RO water as your permanent water source, you will need to use Seachem Equilibrium (or equivalent) once you have fish to add these important trace minerals back to your water. (that's the remineralization that Mebbid mentioned). You might also need Seachem Stability which is a buffering agent (to keep your pH stable) but I am not totally sure as I am not super familiar with the different chemicals. Crushed coral will also increasing the buffering capability of your water, so it's a good addition. It just can't raise the pH fast or enough to offset the challenges of cycling.

As far as pH for cycling - that is VERY easy to fix WHILE you cycle if you are fishless, simply using baking soda. You can take your pH up to 8.5 easy by adding baking soda, which will take a while for the ammonia oxidizing bacteria to eat. However you'll need to test it every 2-3 days and add more as needed while you cycle. This will get you through the cycle but is not a proper long-term solution once you have fish.
Another important element that your bacteria need in order to cycle is phosphorus. You can get this by finely crumbling in some fish flake - not too much, just a pinch. The flake has phosphorous, I can't remember if it's a binding agent or preservative, but it's there. RO obviously does not have this either and without it you will see a cycle stall.

The BETTER solution is for us to help you figure out your source water and why you think it's unsuitable, as long term, using RO water is going to be more expensive and more work for you (but if for some reason it must be done, it can indeed be done)
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:56 AM   #6
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Oh, how far are you in the cycle? Just realized that has not been mentioned. Have you been using RO the entire time? I assume yes because you mention its changing parameters, but just in case.

HAve you seen your nitrites drop before?
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:54 AM   #7
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I am also wondering why the RO water instead of tap water?
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:15 AM   #8
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Thanks for the replies everyone.

As for why I use the RO water.

Chemically my tap water looks OK. PH 7.4 - ammonia 0ppm - nitrites 0ppm - nitrates 10ppm. The problem is the dissolved solids. Check out the picture attached. That is my kitchen faucet that we just replaced a little over a month ago, about the same time I put together the fish tank. The water here in wonderful Dayton NV destroys water heaters, dish washers, shower heads and faucets. Sometimes we can recover the items with lime away. Because of that, I worry about what the water will do to my filter pump, the tank glass, and just about anything else I put in the tank. If anyone out there has similar water, please let me know how your tank and equipment handles it.

I have been working on the cycle for about 36 days. That includes some mistakes i made. Like way over dosing the ammonia. Had to do two 60% water changes to get it back down to a readable level. Also forgot to plug in the water heater for a couple of weeks. My first PWC during the "normal" cycle time, I got the water from a friends tap in Reno. He does not have the dissolved solids issue I do. Unfortunately, I found out after I put the water in the tank, it had oil in it. A full water change later and a week with a bag of carbon finally cleaned that out. His water company is currently digging up the water lines in his neighborhood.

So you said that the crushed coral will help maintain the PH. Should I mix it in with my current substrate or put it in my filter. Also, if I do, will it raise the salt levels making the water unsafe for fresh water fish?
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:21 AM   #9
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Hu.... the picture didn't show up. Lets try that again. It shows up in the post preview. maybe its getting filtered out because I'm a new member.
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Old 02-11-2014, 04:18 AM   #10
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Have you had the GH and KH levels as well as TDS tested in your tsp water? Is it public or well? If you have a decent lfs (nit a chain stire) near you (particularly one with a sw section), they will likely check these for free.

By your description, you water likely runs on the hard side (higher gh/kh) but not terribly so because your ph is only 7.4. Unless you plan on keeping a difficult and/or sensitive species of fish that prefers soft, acidic water, there honestly is no reason not to use your tap water along with a good water conditioner. Your water will not destroy filters or impellers or pumps or anything else. You may need to make a bit of extra effort to keep things clean but this is not a big deal.

I honestly would change out the RO for all tap water ( properly conditioned) and move forward from here. Please ask if you have questions !
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Old 02-11-2014, 10:18 AM   #11
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It's like Goldilocks. You tried to avoid papa bear's hard bed and ended up in the squishy mama bear's bed. Neither are ideal. If you knew how hard your hard water is, you would be better able to judge whether you need to mix it with RO. But, those minerals messing up your faucet also buffer the water and you won't have any more wild swings. I used very hard water before and have moderately hard water now. The equipment survives it. Most everything is plastic. The worst part is cleaning the glass top where it gets splashed but vinegar or CLR is your friend.
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:32 AM   #12
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I'm headed up to Reno today. Ill take a sample of water to the fish store i prefer to shop at.

For cleaning, vinegar does absolutely nothing to the deposits the water leaves in this area, and wouldn't CLR be very toxic to the fish if it got onto the tank water?
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:44 AM   #13
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I'm headed up to Reno today. Ill take a sample of water to the fish store i prefer to shop at.

For cleaning, vinegar does absolutely nothing to the deposits the water leaves in this area, and wouldn't CLR be very toxic to the fish if it got onto the tank water?
You don't put it in the tank! You take the glass top off and clean it away from the tank. Then, you rinse well and dry before putting it back. The crust will come right off the plastic support with just water and wiping because there is nothing for it to bond with. Just don't let the water level be low and wipe up drips promptly. I used to keep a gallon of treated water in the stand for quick evaporation top offs.

BTW, you can run CLR in an empty dishwasher and washing machine to clean it, too. But you probably knew that.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:03 PM   #14
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If you're still worried about it why not just do a 50/50 mix of ro and tap?
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Old 02-11-2014, 04:23 PM   #15
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(as usual) I agree with Mebbid - 50/50 RO and tap is probably your best bet. But totally have a fish store test it. It might be ok from the tap. But even if it's too high, don't use 100% RO water, because that comes with its own set of complications.
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:36 PM   #16
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OK, I got my water tested. GH 146ppm and KH 161ppm. The fish store guy says it should be fine to use in my tank. Unless anyone else has a different opinion, I'm gonna stop using the RO water.

Also, my cycle has not completely stalled, thanks to the baking soda trick. The ammonia bacteria seem to be doing well. The little bugs took the ammonia down from 4ppm to 0ppm in 24 hours. However, the Nitrites have spiked back up off the chart instead of dropping like they were. The good news is that my Nitrates have also spiked from 5ppm to off the chart as well. So it looks like my Nitrite bugs may have suffered a bit but still survived.

As for the crushed coral I have. Should I use it, or not use it? If yes, should I mix it in with my current substrate or do something different?


On another note. Thank you everyone that have given me advice. If I keep getting this kinda response to my questions. You'll make an expert out of me real quick.
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Old 02-12-2014, 02:23 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Ddredar View Post
OK, I got my water tested. GH 146ppm and KH 161ppm. The fish store guy says it should be fine to use in my tank. Unless anyone else has a different opinion, I'm gonna stop using the RO water.

Also, my cycle has not completely stalled, thanks to the baking soda trick. The ammonia bacteria seem to be doing well. The little bugs took the ammonia down from 4ppm to 0ppm in 24 hours. However, the Nitrites have spiked back up off the chart instead of dropping like they were. The good news is that my Nitrates have also spiked from 5ppm to off the chart as well. So it looks like my Nitrite bugs may have suffered a bit but still survived.

As for the crushed coral I have. Should I use it, or not use it? If yes, should I mix it in with my current substrate or do something different?


On another note. Thank you everyone that have given me advice. If I keep getting this kinda response to my questions. You'll make an expert out of me real quick.

If you switch to tap water then you shouldn't need to worry about your ph any longer. In order to get a true reading of your tap waters ph you should leave it to stand for 24 hours then test it.

If your tap water has a decent buffering capacity then your ph should remain stable.

It's important not to confuse alkaline with alkalinity. Crushed coral will raise ph by adding phosphate and calcium. But if you are using up alkalinity ie nitrifying process and creating acid. Then the crushed coral will be no use.

Kh (alkalinity and buffering capacity) is carbonate hardness. This is the waters ability to absorb acids before they can affect the ph. So as stated adding bicarbonate of soda is a good way to raise alkalinity to keep ph stable.

Ph is a logarithmic scale meaning that say a ph of 6 is 10 times more acidic than 7 and 100 more acid than 8. Large ph swings therefore can have a bad effect on the fish and highlights the. Importance of keeping a stable ph rather than adding chemicals such as ph up/down.
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Old 02-13-2014, 01:46 AM   #18
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Great information, thanks.
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Old 02-13-2014, 12:09 PM   #19
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Your tap water is fine! No additives should be needed as you have plenty of built-in buffering straight from the tap. When you do normal, regular water changes, your minerals will be replenished. And keep the CLR around but you really don't have super hard water. I know it seems like it because you've lived someplace with soft water before but your numbers are quite moderate. Folks who buy softener salt in bulk at Fleet Farm have hard water. They would love to trade with you.
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Old 02-13-2014, 12:50 PM   #20
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Between you all and the fish store, my worries of destroying the tank eqipment and killing the fish with my tap water has been squashed.

On another note. My water tests from last night show that my cycle may have finished. Ammonia and Nitrites have dropped to 0 in a 24 hour period. So I'm planning on doing a PWC with tap water (properly conditioned) to get the Nitrates back down to readable area. Then see how things are progressing.

If any one has and advice or comments, they are welcome.
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