Alkalinity/Hardness

Trio123
  • #1
One more question for you wonderful folks on fishlore!

My farlowella cat is acting sickly again (he was doing this same thing a few weeks ago). He can't seem to get comfortable and is laying in very strange positions on plants... I know it's hard to explain but trust me there is something wrong with the water quality.

I brought a sample of my water to a fish store (cause I couldnt find a test kit for hardness anywhere) and he explained to me how there are two measures of hardness GH and KH. He said my alkalinity was low and that I should use this alkaline buffer stuff. A teaspoon for my 65 gallon tank. Because I still don't completely understand I would like a second opinion... should I do this? It says it will raise my pH too and my pH is already 7.6. And I thought the whole point was to stabilize the water so the pH doesn't fluctuate. I failed chemistry once in college... I need help understanding this! Thank you!
 
RiffDawg15
  • #2
What are the current water parameters reading for Ammonia, Nitrites, and Nitrates??
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
0 for ammonia and nitrite. 5-10 for nitrate. Been pretty stable the last few months. pH is between 7.4 and 7.6 when I measure it in the evening.
 
RiffDawg15
  • #4
As far as the pH goes I wouldnt try to change it. The fish in your tank will adapt to it. Changing it can cause stress and open the door for sickness. That's if its not extremely high.

As far as your alkalinity buffer goes I have never used anything like that before so I'm not going to tell you not to/or to use it. Hopefully someone will post on here that is familiar with alkaline buffer.

I don't like adding chemicals to my water unless I absolutely have to. Adding chemicals tend to screw up your balance in your tank. So if you are thinking about using something, make sure you absolutely have to use it.

Sorry I can't be of further help to you. Everything else looks great as far as water parameters go.

Actually I just thought of something that could be making your water alkalinity low. What types of decorations do you have in the tank? Rock, driftwood, plants, etc.

Those things could be making a difference in the alkalinity.
 
Jimold
  • #5
OK, here's the breakdown. gH and kH are Genreral hardness and Carbonate hardness. General hardness is the measure of total dissolved minerals in the water. Carbonate hardness is the amount of dissolved carbonates in water, and usually isn't too important unless you're running CO2 (which I do). BUT, the guy at the pet store was right, and adding a pH buffer, especially a carbonate based one can possibly raise your pH. But I don't think it'll happen unless you have live plants, I'm not positive.
Now, you have a Farlowella catfish, which is an Amazon region fish. And Amazon fish like very soft water (low gH) and low pH (between 6.5 and 7.0). Right off the bat your pH is too high for a farlowella cat , but unless you have an ammonia spike I would think it isn't so high as to make him sick. You're big 3 (ammonia, nitrites and nitrates) are ok, but how hard is the water? Did the guy at the pet store give you the readings? If your water is really hard that might be adding to him being uncomfortable. Please post all the readings the LFS guy gave you and I'll try and help all I can. Dropping the pH and the hardness isn't too difficult.
One thing, unless your buffers are VERY low, I would hold off for now, if you have to lower your pH you could have a problem getting it to drop if the buffers are too high.
Get all the readings you can and I'll help if I can.
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Ive got one piece of driftwood and one small piece of coral. And this rock I got from PetsMart when I first set up the aquarium.

Thanks Jim! If I remember correctly he said it was 3... does that make any sense to you? If not he also said they would have a test kit available next week so I could get one then and check it. He said the same thing about the kH not being that important in my case. So far his advise is scoring well
 
RiffDawg15
  • #7
That drift wood looks like it has been painted or dyed. Something has been done to change the color of the wood. Maybe that could be a good source of why your alkalinity is low.

JI'm what do you think??
 
Jimold
  • #8
I see 2 problems. Definitly if the wood has been painted or dyed it could be a problem. Also you said you have a piece of coral? I've been told that salt water corals and shells and such can contain large amounts of salt. This could also be affecting things.
I'm not sure what to tell you, it's up to you. But my personal opinion for my tanks has been if you don't trust it, yank it out. If you think the wood is leaching something, then get rid of it. Wait, I forgot to ask, was it something you bought that was made for fishtanks or something lying around? This could make a huge difference. Did you boil everything really good before you set the tank up? If not it could also be bacteria from the wood or even possibly the coral.
Anyway, if you decide to get rid of one of them; I would do a 20-25% water change after and run some carbon for a few days (if you don't already) to make sure yu get whatever it was back out of the water.
Now, as for the hardness.. if he said 3 then he's most likely talking degrees (it can be read 2 ways). I'm not sure which he's talking, gH or kH, probably gH. Either way 3 is OK for now. If it's gH then 3 is fairly low and not bad for a farluwella. If it's kH then it's the buffer and that's not too terribly low and I wouldn't screw around with it yet. Oh, and BTW, if he gave you calcium carbonate (a.k.a. baking soda...no kidding) to raise the kH, then a teaspoon to 65 gallons won't do much, maybe a degree at best.
At this point, from what you've said, I'm more suspecting either the driftwood or the coral the more I think about it. Most fish can handle a little salt in the water, and you have a good sized tank. I'm leaning towards the driftwood. I had a HORRIFIC experience with a piece back around New Years that was loaded with bacteria (or something) and lost my best breeder Angels (rest in peace Sparkle & Elvira). I'm very distrusting of Driftwood, and always boil the out of it now. BTW, bought a huge old lobster cooker at a flee market just to boil big pieces of wood in.
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #9
The driftwood isn't painted or dyed. The object in the picture is the rock I got from Petsmart. Now I don't know if that is painted. The coral is new and he was acting that way before it was added so I am kinda ruling that one out. All of that stuff was supposed to be aquarium safe. Everybody else is healthy which makes me kinda doubt a chemical release or bacteria. But maybe the Farlowella is just more sensitive? The buffer is sodium bicarbonate according to what I found online. It is Alkaline Buffer by Seachem. I might have it backwards. He showed me the reading for the city water that said the hardness was at 450, this must have been the kH. And the 3 must have been the gH of my water? So I should probably should just leave it alone... One more random thing in my fish drawer I will never use
 
Jimold
  • #10
The driftwood isn't painted or dyed. The object in the picture is the rock I got from Petsmart. Now I don't know if that is painted. The coral is new and he was acting that way before it was added so I am kinda ruling that one out. All of that stuff was supposed to be aquarium safe. Everybody else is healthy which makes me kinda doubt a chemical release or bacteria. But maybe the Farlowella is just more sensitive? The buffer is sodium bicarbonate according to what I found online. It is Alkaline Buffer by Seachem. I might have it backwards. He showed me the reading for the city water that said the hardness was at 450, this must have been the kH. And the 3 must have been the gH of my water? So I should probably should just leave it alone... One more random thing in my fish drawer I will never use

OK, we can rule out the decorations...

He said the hardness was 450?? Wow, that's hard. He was talking gH, because if it was kH he definitly wouldn't have you increase it, he'd have you drop it. So your gH is 450 ppm and your kH is 3. kH is fine, but 450 is hard as a rock. I have the same problem here in Florida, and this could definitly be upsetting your cat.
OK, if it was me, I would first go buy some cheap (but not cheap, if you know what I mean) test strips, the ones that cover gH and kH as well as other stuff, and double check your findings. FYI, I have a RedSea test kit, an API test kit, and also Tetra test strips, so I can double check any weird readings if I get them. If your water is reading really hard, then what you'll want is a water softening pillow. I have a couple, they're pretty easy to use. You just sort of stuff it however yo can into your filter and run it a couple days and it'll remove the heavy minerals from your water. Just remember, like everything else, don't drop it too fast or you'll stress out your fish. I would also get a pH reducer and slowly drop your pH to 7.0 or a little lower, maybe 6.8. again, and I know I'm repeating myself, do it SLOWLY, no more than 0.25 to 0.5 points a day drop for the pH if possible.
Lastly, hold onto the buffer. Once you get your water where your catfish is acting more comfortable, then you can add some to help keep the pH fixed and stable.
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
I have pH Down but I'm terrified of it cause I accidently crashed my pH in my 10 gallon with it. I added it to the water when I did water changes and I brought that water down to where I wanted it and added it... apparently it built up in the tank and after two water changes I crashed the pH. It was like there was a buffering line and once I crossed it, it just shot down in a matter of hours. I was measuring the pH then after the last water change it just shot down from 7.4 to 6.4. Luckly everyone survived, but I'm scared now. So do I add it to the tank directly? Or am I missing some vital component?
 
Jimold
  • #12
WAIT WAIT WAIT!!!!!

I am SO STUPID!!! And I apologize for not remembering this sooner. The problem isn't chemical, it's behaviorial!!! You said Farluwella catfish... singular? He's all alone? THAT'S the problem! I had this happen about a year ago, and again I am so sorry I had forgotten. I'm going to copy a quote from the Encyclopedia of Exotic Tropical Fishes that might explain everything:

Farlowella acus (and F. knerii) are best kept in small groups numbering 5 or more individuals. Sadly, they are often sold as singles and many perish a short time later.

I would almost guerentee this is the problem! Before you screw with the tank chemestry, go get him some company!!!
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
one more question just to test this theory... the store where I bought the Farlowella filters the city water (you know instead of what we do at home, adding dechlorinator), would that have taken down the hardness? Because he lived at the store for months with out a problem. (I work there )
 
Jimold
  • #14
one more question just to test this theory... the store where I bought the Farlowella filters the city water (you know instead of what we do at home, adding dechlorinator), would that have taken down the hardness? Because he lived at the store for months with out a problem. (I work there )

If the water is filtered, especially thru an RO unit (reverse osmosis) then it would defintly be softer, yes.
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #15
Really! He had a buddy at the store too.... wow. His buddy was sold though a few weeks ago... I don't have any room for another one anyway... and if that is really the problem then there is no place I can bring it back to because none of the other pet stores are currently carrying them...

It is just odd because I also had a lot of cory cats die in my system for unknown reasons (some of them were with friends, I thought we were maybe onto their cause of death too...)
 
Jimold
  • #16
Really! He had a buddy at the store too.... wow. His buddy was sold though a few weeks ago... I don't have any room for another one anyway... and if that is really the problem then there is no place I can bring it back to because none of the other pet stores are currently carrying them...

It is just odd because I also had a lot of cory cats die in my system for unknown reasons (some of them were with friends, I thought we were maybe onto their cause of death too...)

Well, I'm not saying I'm positive, I may be wrong. But knowing he had a companion at the store definitly backs it up. maybe you can get the store to order a couple baby ones? I don't think size would matter (no pun intended...lol). Or I don't see why another store wouldn't take it, even if they don't carry them. They're pretty cool fish, and definitly an oddity for any store.
As for Cory's, they're notorously sensative to any water changes, and anything could have taken them out. Even with my swamp I had problems with them.
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
Oh I didnt mean they wouldnt take him... I just meant he would be in the same situation there except with more miserable conditions. I will look into that. Ok well I have learned lots of stuff from this post. Thank you Jim, very helpful!
 
Jimold
  • #18
Oh I didnt mean they wouldnt take him... I just meant he would be in the same situation there except with more miserable conditions. I will look into that. Ok well I have learned lots of stuff from this post. Thank you Jim, very helpful!

hey, no problem, that's why we're here. If you have any problems just post it and if I don't catch it there's a ton of people that'll be glad to help if they can.
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
So mister Fleco is back to acting like a normal Farlowella cat again until the next water change I suppose... I think what I am going to do is like I've read and "pay detailed attention to water quality". Think I will do weekly water changes and stick to 10 gallons and measure the temp of the water going back in (usually I estimate with my hand). And if another small Farlowella becomes available I will get him a buddy.

I also bought a test kit for hardness and it is between 125-250. The alkalinity is 80. I was thinking about buying another large piece of driftwood and using the Alkaline Buffer but I am worried that may be a bad idea being that I don't know about this sodium bicarbonate stuff. I do still think there is something environmental going on because his behavior changes every time I do a water change. what to do what to do...
 
Jimold
  • #20
So mister Fleco is back to acting like a normal Farlowella cat again until the next water change I suppose... I think what I am going to do is like I've read and "pay detailed attention to water quality". Think I will do weekly water changes and stick to 10 gallons and measure the temp of the water going back in (usually I estimate with my hand). And if another small Farlowella becomes available I will get him a buddy.

I also bought a test kit for hardness and it is between 125-250. The alkalinity is 80. I was thinking about buying another large piece of driftwood and using the Alkaline Buffer but I am worried that may be a bad idea being that I don't know about this sodium bicarbonate stuff. I do still think there is something environmental going on because his behavior changes every time I do a water change. what to do what to do...

yeah, this is where it can get tricky, trying to pin down something you can't really identify, but still you know from long term observation that something is just off a bit. Been there. As for the dritwood, go for it. Make sure it's really dried good, and then boil the out of it (literally..lol) for a couple 3 hours. It will leach most of the tannins when you boil it. What it releases into your water won't hurt an Amazon fish a bit. It will lower your pH a bit and soften the water, just like in the wild when the rainforests flood. And Farlowella's LOVE wood to attach to. They're obviously camoflage fish, you need to give them the wood to camo with and feel secure, preferably something long and stick like, just like the fish itself, get it?

One last thing. The water here in Florida sucks!!! So way back I went to Publix and bought one gallon of every type of bottled water and went home and tested them for hardness, pH, etc... Turns out Publix purified was the best here, so now instead of using the tap, I go blow $10.00 or whatever on the bottled. Believe me, in the long run, at least here, it's definitly worth the few dollars!
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #21
I'm all worried about the farlowella cat and I walk up to the tank this morning and Cory the Cory Cat is dead... the last one I had. That make 13, I think, that have died in this tank (obviously not going to put anymore in there). But he didnt look fine like all the rest I pulled out. It looked like his gills and throat area hemoraged badly... he was fine yesterday though... my head hurts... what am I doing wrong... I'm sorry Cory.
 
Jimold
  • #22
wow, did you retest your water? That sounds like Ammonia or Nitrite burn
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #23
Just retested everything. Nitrite 0 Ammonia 0 Nitrate is between 5 and 10 with the API test and 20 with the dip stick test (I got it so I could test the hardness, at least get an idea where it was). I did the water change three days ago.

I need to go to work now but I took a video of the tank that I will post when I get home. That way you can get an idea of tank's dynamic... watching a tank gives you a better idea than someone describing it.

Here it is... but I understand that figuring out what is killing my catfish is probably a hopeless cause and I may just need to stick to mid-level fish.

 
Jimold
  • #24
Here it is... but I understand that figuring out what is killing my catfish is probably a hopeless cause and I may just need to stick to mid-level fish.


no, understanding what killed your cory may help understand everything... I'm going to post a new thread to get some help...brb

alright, I put put a cry for help, so to speak Hopefully some of the more experienced members can give us a hand trying to figure out what's going on...
 
Shawnie
  • #25
I'm wondering, the test kit for ammonia and nitrites, is that the dip sticks also?? cause they aren't reliable and it sounds like ammonia to me also....
 
Butterfly
  • #26
So all the other fish are doing fine except the catfish, right?
Your African Knife fish is very sensitive to water quality and if that were the problem I would expect him to show symptoms first.
What size is the Farlowella and Corys in relation to the size of your Knifefish? Knifefish will eat other fish, could he be harassing the other bottom dwellers at night? could he have killed the corys?
Just some thoughts.
Carol
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #27
I've got three test kits. Tetra, API, and Mardel (dip sticks). All read 0 on the ammonia and nitrite. The Knife is much larger but I am 100% positive he did not harrass the cory cats (I watch him at night for fun and he gets picked on by the pearl gourami, a little, but does not pick on anyone else). The congo tetras picked on this last cory cat (the congos werent around for all the other cory cats). But only this last one and that appeared to have stopped after they were in the tank a few days (a week ago). The farlowella was picked on by the pearl gourami when I only had one algae rock in the tank... a couple weeks ago I put another one in and that seemed to have stopped that behavior. I watch my tank pretty closely so I think I am correct that no one is has picked on the farlowella for a couple weeks. Plus he's behavior seems to be a reaction is after a water change or after I turn off a filter (jetting around the tank then laying on his back or laying lifeless in the fake plants or occasionally going for a jump at the surface). This behavior continues for a couple days then he goes back to normal. One of the cory cats had this exact same behavior for weeks then didnt make it through the spaz one time and died. The corys always died sporadically. They would be in the tank for weeks then one at a time die off. One would die... then a week later another. They never looked starved but I did find out that African Knifes really like the TetraMins I was throwing in specifically for them. So maybe they were starving...

Whew that is all the info I can think of to tell you.

I also have a half-black veil tailed angel (my Precious) that I think would be affected too... knock on wood
 
Wolfgang8810
  • #28
your ph seems high but I wouldnt change it. Also if your water is harder than the LFS water you should acclimate the fish slower. float 15 mins then add small amounts of water every 10 mins after. That being said I don't think its the problem in this case. This is really confusing..... could it be copper pipes leeching into the water you put in your tank?
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #29
It's very confusing and gives me a head ache trying to figure it out... I tested the copper a few weeks ago and it was 0. I also tested the stores water and they are running the same hardness, alkalinity, and pH as me... the only difference in their water and mine is that it is being filtered while mine is being chemically dechlorinated (we use the same city water). I acclimate by floating the bag a half hour then drip acclimating them in a bucket until the water is over 50/50.
 
Butterfly
  • #30
Have you changed dechlorinators to see if there may be something wrong with the bottle you have since they are showing symptoms right after water changes?
Carol
 
Jimold
  • #31
Have you changed dechlorinators to see if there may be something wrong with the bottle you have since they are showing symptoms right after water changes?
Carol

Oh.. opps, hadn't thought of that... what brand de-chlor. are you using?
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #32
right now I am using TetraSafe. I was using Prime but I can't remember if I switched before or after I got the Farlowella. Can you add too much? Because always added what it says for each 5 gallon bucket but it seems like so little. And our tap water seriously smells like a swimming pool sometimes. Maybe I should add a little more? Go back to Prime... or Amquel I've got that too My fish cabinet is fuller than my kitchen cabinet!
 
Jimold
  • #33
right now I am using TetraSafe. I was using Prime but I can't remember if I switched before or after I got the Farlowella. Can you add too much? Because always added what it says for each 5 gallon bucket but it seems like so little. And our tap water seriously smells like a swimming pool sometimes. Maybe I should add a little more? Go back to Prime... or Amquel I've got that too My fish cabinet is fuller than my kitchen cabinet!

You can definitly overdose them, so be careful there. My water treatment of choice right now is AmQuel Plus. It not only handles Chlorine, Chlorimines and Ammonia like regular AmQuel, but it also tackles Nitrites and Nitrates. And it seems safe enough for the fish if your cycle gets thrown off and you need to dose them.
 
Butterfly
  • #34
Prime is an excellent dechlorinating agent. I was just wondering if the dechlor you were using wasn't getting all the chloramines by any chance or that there might be something wrong with the individual bottle you had.
It would be worth it to try something else and see if you have the same problem.
Carol
 
Jimold
  • #35
Prime is an excellent dechlorinating agent. I was just wondering if the dechlor you were using wasn't getting all the chloramines by any chance or that there might be something wrong with the individual bottle you had.
It would be worth it to try something else and see if you have the same problem.
Carol

I agree with butterfly. Try another bottle, or another brand. Who knows, maybe you did get a bad, or perhaps very OLD, bottle.
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #36
well I am doing a water change today, I will use the Prime instead of the TetraSafe. Wish Fleco luck!
 
Jimold
  • #37
Definitly good luck. Let us know what happens...
 
Trio123
  • Thread Starter
  • #38
10 gallon water change successful... he is eating now... so he is fine. There are two things I can think of. TetraSafe adds a protective coat to the fish maybe that is detrimental to Farlowella Cats. Second, is the water temperture of the water I was putting back in. My hand test failed when actually tested I was off be 12 degrees. I thought the water was 75ish it was really 63. Although I never noticed a significant temp change when I did water changes maybe there was a change that stressed the cory cats out. I feel bad... I should have just measured the temp... oh well what is done is done... live and learn... I will take the extra minute from now on.

Also one more random question for you... is there any negative side effects of leaving the back glass algae cover. I was thinking of not cleaning it so first Fleco can have another food source (that I'm not always wiping away) and second I don't think the algae really looks bad. I really apprieciate all the advise!
 
Butterfly
  • #39
I never wipe the back in my tanks with plecs. if you have it covered nobody can tell and a little algae just makes it look more natural.
Glad Fleco is doing well. The temperature change wouldn't have killed your corys, Dropping the temperature and a large water change is one of the ways to condition them for spawning. I still think something was up with the dechlor.
Carol
 
Jimold
  • #40
I never wipe the back in my tanks with plecs. if you have it covered nobody can tell and a little algae just makes it look more natural.
Glad Fleco is doing well. The temperature change wouldn't have killed your corys, Dropping the temperature and a large water change is one of the ways to condition them for spawning. I still think something was up with the dechlor.
Carol

Ahh, I agree it that might help some fish spawn, couldn't a sudden water temp drop possibly caused a fungus or ick problem? What I wonder is I agree it sounds like the DeChlor, but combined with a sudden water temp drop would have definitly messed with the more sensative fish, like a double whammy.

I also agree, always leave some algae somewhere or your pleco's, etc will starve. I like letting it grow on the tops of my driftwood actually. Believe me, as strong as my lights are it's easy on the top of the pieces nearest the lights...lol. Somehting about the green on the brown wood looks incredably natural to me, and all my algae squad love to munch on it..
 

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