Are These Even Compatible? Neglected Tank Help.

moorefish

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I've asked around on here before for my own potential fish tank project, and I've been trying to put this off, but I can't anymore. This is going to be a bit of a long explanation, but I really need help here.

Our family has had this god awful 75G for years now. I counted off the top of my head, and we've lost almost 30 fish in this house. I know I'm forgetting some. Everyone's too stubborn to change their ways, and refuses to sell it. This tank has never been okay. Nothing has been alright in that tank, and it makes me sick to my stomach seeing it in such a state. Now that our financial situation is better, though, and I've begged enough, I'm finally convincing my stepdad to fix this nightmare. Right now, it's got a single Fluval G3 filter with flashing warnings that say it hasn't had filters replaced for "> 99 days", and some generic heater. My stepdad doesn't even know how to use the fluval, mind you, but my mom got it because it was the most expensive one so clearly it had to be the best. Good news is we're gutting and cleaning out the filter, I'm going to actually teach him how to use it, and we're getting a second filter, either an Eheim 2217 or an Aquaclear 110 to run alongside it. I'm going to get a testing kit, figure out what the heck is going on since I don't think it's been tested in years, and bought up to wherever it needs to be.

He refuses to do weekly water changes, but he'll do them monthly, after we get the water parameters stable again. I want to keep the tank understocked to help with this, and hopefully having two filters will help. There's a lot wrong with this tank, but the biggest issue is the current stock. As you can imagine, if the tank is in this bad of a shape, so are the inhabitants. Right now we're down to,

1 Boesmani rainbowfish
3 Female swordtails
3 Zebra danios
1 Nerite snail

Yeah. It's that bad. I'm sick to my stomach and humiliated about this thing sitting in our front room. Even though I'm finally getting enough leeway to actually fix the filters and water, the stock itself is awful. I don't even know if these are temperature/pH/hardness compatible, and he never checks the **** water parameters so I can't even tell you what those are! I'm getting a test kit, and I'm going to help fix this **** thing, but I feel awful for the fish. The schools aren't rounded out. The rainbowfish is very old and neglected. His eye is fogged over and it hurts my heart seeing him like this. But I don't know what to do. I'm trying my best, but I don't have total control over this situation. I'm at wits end here, I know the danios need more numbers (8+) and the rainbowfish really needs help (6+), but I don't know where to go from here if they aren't compatible. It's like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, if they aren't compatible water and temperature-wise, then no matter what I do someone will be uncomfortable and unhealthy. But if I just sit here and don't add any more, then my stepdad is likely to get random things anyway, or we could round out one or two of the schools, but then someone would still be in less ideal conditions.

Please, if anyone has more experience, if anyone knows what to do with this stocking nightmare, let me know. I know this is awful. No, we can't sell the fish, or the tank, I know he won't allow it. Yes, I tried to get them to fix this before. Life has been hard for us though with a lot of family and financial changes, which didn't help the tank at all. It went from neglected to serious fish abuse. But I finally, finally have the chance to try and fix this disaster. I know how to fix the filtration and the water, I can help get this thing livable, but the stocking is giving me an anxiety attack. I hate that this isn't ideal. I'm so sorry it's not. But please try to understand the situation I'm in, and any advice to make this easier on the fish without mercy-killing, selling, or anything like that is appreciated.

Thank you guys, in advance.
 

kayla.s

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Sounds like you're doing all you can and that's truly great!
What are the reasons against selling however? Or potentially giving the fish back to an LFS if they're not in sellable condition? Perhaps an idea would be to get a nice list of fish and you can sit down as a family and look at pictures and decide what everyone likes. If there's a specific fish that everyone likes that is in the tank, maybe keep that one and up the numbers and then find some options that would be compatible and decide together after seeing pictures of what they can look like when in a healthy, clean tank it may inspire them to put more effort in maintenance wise too? They may even be stubborn about it in the beginning, but I'm sure they'll slowly come around after having seen some nice images of well stocked and balanced tanks eventually
 

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You personally are doing the best you can do, and that's what counts! I'd say first things first is getting the water perameters stabilized. Filter cartiges don't need to be (and shouldnt) changed untill they're litterally falling apart or if you're doing something special with chemicals and using the carbon in the filter. If you need to change the filter cartridge, put a new cartirgde in next to the old one for a few weeks. That way the benifitial bacteria can transfer over.

Maybe you can take on the weekly 25% water changes and your step dad can do a monthly 50% water change

Don't give up, I believe you can turn this tank around and give your family's fish a happy tank to live in just by giving them better water quality. Even if they're not in propper schools quite yet, the better water quality will make them less stressed, and allow for them to heal from any damage they've encountered.

Maybe give them some more hiding spots if they don't have any, and when you're ready, round out the schools. Just remember that the tank is an ecosystem, sick or not, that is used to where it's at right now. If you change everything at once, it'll shock the inhabitants, and you'll have to start over from scratch, including with new fish. So make sure to go slow and give it time to adjust. I'd say start with weekly 25% water changes with a gravel vaccume here and there. And add a new filter cartridge next to the existing one. When you clean out the filter, put the filter cartridge(s) in a bucket of tank water so you don't loose your cycle. Then week 2 add the 2nd filter. And then maybe a week or two later add a few fish, wait a week, and add some more untill your schools are rounded out.

There are others on here that are better at stocking suggestions than I am. But I hope this'll get you started!!

Good luck!
 
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moorefish

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Oh my goodness. You guys have me in tears. You have no idea how much grief and anxiety this tank has caused me. I hate seeing animals suffer, so it's been rough not being able to change this until now, and it means the world to me that you're being understanding. Thank you.

To respond to all of these points:

What are the reasons against selling however? Or potentially giving the fish back to an LFS if they're not in sellable condition?
The issue with selling them, I think, is that my stepdad means really well, he doesn't want to give up animals but. This is difficult to explain. It's one of those situations of being too stubborn to change their care for the better, but then life took a bad turn. It's a big reason the tank got this neglected, and things are only just getting better again. Luckily, there's been a great turn of events today, and he'll be much less stressed and have more opportunities to focus on the tank and other things again. It's like...he's attached to the tank and the fish, he's had them for ages, and it was never "great" but it plummeted to "extremely neglected" due to life, the universe, and everything. He's not willing to sell it or the fish due to attachment, but he finally has the chance to fix things, and is willing to listen to me now, so it's better than nothing. I'm rambling, does this make sense?

If there's a specific fish that everyone likes that is in the tank, maybe keep that one and up the numbers and then find some options that would be compatible and decide together after seeing pictures of what they can look like when in a healthy, clean tank it may inspire them to put more effort in maintenance wise too? They may even be stubborn about it in the beginning, but I'm sure they'll slowly come around after having seen some nice images of well stocked and balanced tanks eventually
Yes!! The good news is he's finally listening to me, he likes the sound of getting an easier to use filter, and since the last time he let me work on the tank, I think he was excited about it. Last time, I helped redecorate and we got some nice pieces of driftwood, reworked the old generic artificial decor, and got lots of fake plants in. I made a lot of hiding places along the sides and part of the back of the tank. When it was done, he seemed really happy about it, and seemed enthusiastic about working on it again. We were doing a little at once, but again, life has a way of getting in the way, so we didn't get that far. I hope working on it again and seeing it improve will help even more, and get him to maintain it better. But until then, I'll keep doing my best and we'll work together to make it easier to maintain in the future.

I'm not very good at using forums, I'm not sure if I can @ someone, so bare with me, but thanks for the advice on fixing the water!! The advice on the filter is great, I didn't know to do that, I'll make sure to remember this when we start working. First thing to do is to fix that, and get the second one set up too. We won't be adding any more fish until the water is nicer. I think you're right though, if we at least just get the filters running and do little water changes, maybe it'll help. They've lasted this long, especially the poor old man rainbowfish. Poor guy. He's used to the conditions by now, so I don't want to shock him. I'll follow your advice and see what we can do.
 

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I would do the following:

- Clean (gently) and sort out the filter first
- daily 10% water changes until the water is clean and clear, to avoid shocking the fish
- then 2- weekly 30-50% changes. No reason your step dad has to do this, you can. I took over maintenance of my family tank when I was 10.
- get more zebra danios. You canix and match with leopard danios, they will school together. I would leave the rainbowfish to live out his days and not replace. Stick to hardy fish.
- get a bunch of easy live plants. They will look nice, help the fish be more comfortable and keep the water healthier

You are right in your instinct to keep the tank very lightly stocked, if you don't have the freedom to maintain it as you would wish.

Good luck!
 

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this is not good to read the fish are compatible but u need to clean the filter 100% but clean it in a bucket of the tank water and do a 75 % water change twice a week till the water is better once things are balanced do 30% water change once a week the rainbows get very big
 

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Reading some of the advice above, some people didn't read your detailed and well presented message. There was a lot of information in your message for a good reason, clearly. Not bothering to understand the question's the curse of fish forums.

So forget the predictable rehoming advice and the water change advice. The rainbow won't get big in its described state.

It isn't a disastrous community. Those fish will get along fine - as they have been doing. So relax, take a step back and worry about your human community. You stressed yourself without reason when you thought the fish weren't compatible. Calm. Do a water change and get a new filter on the tank. In about three weeks, clean the old one. Give the new one time to seed. If the best you're going to get is monthly water changes, keep stocking low.

If you are not in control of the tank and another family member is, don't waste money on an API kit. It will just add stress, if no one will act on the info in the readings. Slow and steady will let you gradually improve the tank, and if you take over maintenance 100%, then you can start testing and responding to the tests.

Add a few zebras once the two filters are running, research any new additions and consider that a neglected 75 with no plants and a monthly water change should be stocked like it's a 25 or 30 gallon. It can work without being cruel or harmful to the fish, if only because it is a lightly stocked 75 gallon. A 20 treated like that would be the disaster you feared, but large tanks are more stable.
 

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Cleaning out at least the mechanical and chemical cartridges on the G3 would be ideal, since these aren't the biological filtration and will help a little with water flow and clarity. Depending on the severity, you may need to do daily mechanical cartridge cleaning to remove particles from the water.

(I have the G6, they extremely easy to use IMO... so it was a wise investment! If you have any questions about the G3, I can easily help since I have prior and current experience.)
 

Kamaile

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this is not good to read the fish are compatible but u need to clean the filter 100% but clean it in a bucket of the tank water and do a 75 % water change twice a week till the water is better once things are balanced do 30% water change once a week the rainbows get very big
I disagree with the water change advise here, but I agree with the people above. There is no reason to shock the fish with large water changes right off the bat, small ones every day will be better. I do agree that you should rinse the filter cartridge just to make sure water can follow through easily, though. Make sure to wonder in treated water you would feel comfortable putting in your tank - nothing chlorinated, or you run the risk of killing your beneficial bacteria.
 
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There's a lot to talk about here, so this is going to be a ramble and a half, but I'll try to respond to everything I can and provide more information. It's a lot, but there's so much to discuss, I'm trying my best here, haha.


First, specifically to NavigatorBlack, reading what you wrote helped so much more than I can express. Thank you. I apologize for being so anxious, and there's a lot to take in here, so I'll try to respond as best as I can. First things first, thank you specifically for taking the time to read the entire original post. It's a complex situation, and I'm glad that it was worth writing everything I did. Second, I think with all the information presented, we're in good shape for fixing the filtration and water, which is a great help. I'm confident with how we can fix that, but I'm still concerned about a few things:

On the topic of water parameters, I am still confused. I understand not bothering with a test kit if no one else is going to use it, but this tank and our tap water hasn't been tested for. Years. Would it be worth testing it just to see what its currently at, and what our tap water is contributing? We don't even know the pH. Wouldn't it be worth getting something to at least test that, just to see what we're working with? Is there anything else I should test that's mandatory? And when I say "compatible", that's mostly what I mean. If these guys have adjusted to their conditions, that's one thing. But if we got more of a species, for example, the rainbowfish, and it turns out the temperature/pH/hardness/etc. isn't ideal for them, then even if the original has adjusted, the new ones would suffer. So it's more complex then just getting more of what we have, if I have no idea what's in the water. I hope that makes sense.

And for stocking lightly, here's what I'm thinking, now: since the swordtails get bigger than we expected at the time (I blame myself for this one, confusing their size with platies) and the rainbowfish is very old and not as hardy as the others, I don't think we'd be adding any more fish of that size or species. We'd round out the danios for sure, and I like the idea of getting a second species of them. Anything beyond that...I'm not sure yet. This is why I mentioned testing the water parameters, I'd like to use that as reference to see what we could do. I don't want to get fish that like it more acidic when the waters actually more alkaline, or vice versa. On that topic, are there ways of adjusting pH? Is it difficult? And what effects water hardness? That confuses me the most. It sounds like livebearers prefer hard water, but something like loaches prefer soft. I'm assuming you can test for it, and if so, would it be worth it? There are some species I have in mind, but most of them seem to prefer different water hardnesses, and the swordtails especially are throwing me off since they seem to like particularly hard water, but a lot of other species like the opposite.

Hoo boy, and some more information, in response to some of the points bought up...I can help the tank as much as I'm aloud to, while I'm here, but around the start of summer I'll be moving out to rent somewhere else, and otherwise it's just the two of us here, now. Life is what it is, and it's why this tank has gotten so awful. Due to work, he would get up at 6 am every day and get home around 10 pm. Commute was killer, the car business is killer. It changed for a while, but his job cut his pay. We thought we were going to lose everything, until yesterday, when he got the call he was looking for and got what is pretty much the job he's needed for the past ten years. He's so much happier, I can see it already. He wants to work on projects, fix the house and the fish tank and everything. Please understand that while he can be a stubborn old man and loves the "I had fish longer than you" card (even though he doesn't know how to do it right) and the tank was never great to begin with, he didn't want it to get this bad. He never did have ideal care of the tank, but he never wanted to abuse it like this, either. I don't blame him. The fish tank is the last thing on your mind when you might be losing your house and everything you know within a month.

Things are different now, and we're finally in a position to be able to focus on fixing this tank, which is why I'm here. I CANNOT make this tank "ideal." I can't get live plants, it's way too much complexity, I can't/won't be selling any fish, I can't make him do weekly water changes, and I can't stay here forever to take care of this thing myself. I've accepted that it can't be perfect, but what I CAN do is undo these many months of neglect on this tank, and set it up so it's easier for him to maintain in the long run. If we can get the filter fixed and established (also, aussieJJDude, I appreciate the offer about explaining the G3, I'll need to ask more about it), finish remodeling the decor and cleaning it, it'll be a lot easier for him to do the little maintenance it needs to stay that way. I hope when we're done, it won't be the most incredible thing out there, but it'll be something for us to be proud of, and something that's much simpler to maintain on top of whatever life throws at us.


Sorry this is like a short novel, heh. But I hope the information clears up some things, and I tried to elaborate on my questions too. This has been a really beneficial discussion so far, thank you everyone for being understanding and offering advice. I was really worried about being ripped to shreds for asking what I am, honestly. You bring up something like this in the reptile communities I'm in, and you're basically asking for a witch hunt. God forbid someone want to change some some neglected animals lives for the better. But I'm glad I asked. Even if it's not perfect, I'd rather change something than leave them like this.

Ah, a few other quick things on water and filtration...I should've specified but a couple of you already bought up water clarity. Yes, I made a mistake (I blame myself for this) and didn't soak the driftwood or anything beforehand. It stained the water with tannins, and that was months ago. The water cleared slightly, but the filters haven't been washed or maintained for a very long time. I think they aren't allowing water to flow through well, so I hope following this advice will help. I think most of our problems are coming from filtration issues coupled with infrequent water changes, so I hope that will clear the water and help out. I'll also be sure to research how to properly add driftwood next time, haha.
 

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In response to testing, I definitely think you should test to see where you are. You can get test kits at Walmart or pet stores that aren't as complex as complete test kits, and I'd advise either using those or taking a water sample to a fish store for testing. I also think it would be a good idea to test your tap water pre-tank while you're at it.

As for WHAT you're testing for, ammonia, nitrites, and nitrites are the most important factors to look at, even above pH. Do you know what the nitrogen cycle is? If not, we would all love to help. I don't have links on hand (on my phone) but I can get on my computer to send some as well as typing up some explanations.

I understand that this situation isn't ideal, but I'm glad you're helping it get so much better. Most fish tanks are under cared for (even, for example, my brother's tank - I'm not there to help him - as well as sometimes my own many tanks when life throws curve-balls) and even making the situation BETTER will help the fish and your state of mind. Don't stress too much - it's not all under your control, and you're doing the best you can.

Ah, a few other quick things on water and filtration...I should've specified but a couple of you already bought up water clarity. Yes, I made a mistake (I blame myself for this) and didn't soak the driftwood or anything beforehand. It stained the water with tannins, and that was months ago. The water cleared slightly, but the filters haven't been washed or maintained for a very long time. I think they aren't allowing water to flow through well, so I hope following this advice will help. I think most of our problems are coming from filtration issues coupled with infrequent water changes, so I hope that will clear the water and help out. I'll also be sure to research how to properly add driftwood next time, haha.
Adding driftwood properly depends on why you're adding driftwood. In my case, I would clean, but not soak driftwood because I add driftwood and leaves in order to put tannins into my water. Tannins are the easiest and safest way to lower water pH, so keep that in mind when you're looking at pH compatibility.
 
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moorefish

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Ok! And yes I do know what the nitrogen cycle is, but I'm not sure how it effects our situation. This tank was never cycled properly, I know that for a fact. The tank has been in use for around 7-8 years give or take, and it was never cycled. I understand that cycling is vital, and I know how it works when starting a tank, but I never thought about it in terms of an old, but never cycled, tank. How does that even work? If I find that the ammonia/nitrites/nitrates are off, even though there are fish living in it, is it possible to adjust those levels safely without restarting the whole tank?
 

david1978

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If its been up for 7-8 years it cycled on its own. With a very light stocking it is possible to push water changes to monthly but not recommended. I have to agree with smaller water changes till you get nitrates down as to not shock the fish. Test kits are nice after 20 years i finally broke down and bought one. I hate it lol.
 

NavigatorBlack

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Your tank is thoroughly cycled. The process doesn't matter - you have the result. It's why I suggested if you run a new filter, you keep the old one kind of dirty for a few weeks - you need the bacteria in there to seed the new one and make it effective.

As water evaporates, the minerals in it don't. They get left behind. They begin to accumulate with every top up. So my 80ppm softwater could become a very hard water tank in a year or more with no proper water changes.
A sudden drastic water change will drop the hardness, and that will upset the balance between water inside and outside the fish. Their bodies adjust to mineral content. A lot of 25% changes are way safer than the 75% suggested way up above.

Ideally, whatever the pH of your tap is is what your tank should be. You have fish that have adjusted. Often, a municipality will have a website that tells you what your pH is. A small pH kit is way cheaper than the API monster, which sells for $35 in my country.

I'll apologize for presuming, but you do seem to be a person who worries. I find API test kits can be rough on new aquarists with anxiety about how they are doing things. They cough back numbers that are hard to interpret and manage. They are useful to see if your tank is cycled, but yours is. It was 2 months after it was set up. You can never know too much, but all you can manage is to keep the water clean and the filter alive.

It takes somewhat expensive technology to change high pH permanently to low, because you have to remove minerals. But your fish are well adapted to your water, and are generalist species. It shouldn't be a concern.

Pop on a new filter. Do slow and steady water changes over a couple of weeks. Hopefully, the tank can become a cause for relaxation and not stress. I hope that new job is as good as it looks. It sounds like you guys needed a break there.
 

Kamaile

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Yes, your tank is absolutely cycled. Ammonia is given off as fish waste. A type of bacteria acting to change ammonia to nitrite colonizes. Then a type of bacteria in that acts to change nitrite to nitrate colonizes.
Your water tests would show no ammonia or nitrite, but soaring levels of nitrates. While they're not toxic in small amounts like ammonia or nitrite, nitrates in high levels are bad. This will be fixed by small and frequent water changes until you get to acceptable levels, as will the lack of beneficial minerals and the buildup of other minerals in your tank.
Don't worry! You're on the right track!!!
 

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It takes somewhat expensive technology to change high pH permanently to low, because you have to remove minerals. But your fish are well adapted to your water, and are generalist species. It shouldn't be a concern.
I get the intent, but this is wrong - or slightly mis-informing.
pH is the measure of acidity (specifically H+/OH- ions in a body of liquid) a lower pH means you have a more acidic water; and visa versa for a high pH value.
Water is an interesting compound since it is both an acid and a base - or it can be. This is refered to as a amphiprotic substance. When its in an acidic environment water actually forms a slight covalent bond with a H+ ion, forming a new species called a hydronium ion (H3O+). Not all water molecules will do this at the exact same time, but they will continue to associated and disassociate with the H+ ion.

Reverse for basic conditions, which have a low H+ environment. Water will briefly loose a hydrogen ion to form an hydroxide (OH-).

The reason why water does this is that it wants to balance the pH - hence 7. At a pH of 7, the concentration of hydroxide and hydronium is equal, forming the equation:
2 H2O <=/=> H3O+ and OH- (<=/=> refers to the equation both going backwards and forward at the same time)


So in saying all that, it is rather easy to change the pH. Add some H+ ions, this will lower the pH. Add some OH- ions, this will increase the pH.
 

Kamaile

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I get the intent, but this is wrong - or slightly mis-informing.
pH is the measure of acidity (specifically H+/OH- ions in a body of liquid) a lower pH means you have a more acidic water; and visa versa for a high pH value.
Water is an interesting compound since it is both an acid and a base - or it can be. This is refered to as a amphiprotic substance. When its in an acidic environment water actually forms a slight covalent bond with a H+ ion, forming a new species called a hydronium ion (H3O+). Not all water molecules will do this at the exact same time, but they will continue to associated and disassociate with the H+ ion.

Reverse for basic conditions, which have a low H+ environment. Water will briefly loose a hydrogen ion to form an hydroxide (OH-).

The reason why water does this is that it wants to balance the pH - hence 7. At a pH of 7, the concentration of hydroxide and hydronium is equal, forming the equation:
2 H2O <=/=> H3O+ and OH- (<=/=> refers to the equation both going backwards and forward at the same time)


So in saying all that, it is rather easy to change the pH. Add some H+ ions, this will lower the pH. Add some OH- ions, this will increase the pH.
All water molecules are both a base and an acid, yes. Adding H+ or OH- ions will change the pH, yes. The problem with chemically altering pH is that it's very difficult to keep this altered pH constant, not to mention that the swings in pH will hurt the fish more than just leaving pH at an unhealthy level.

When you add H+ or OH- to a solution, you cause a very rapid change in pH. The fish are already used to the pH the tank is currently at, so this will shock them unnecessarily. They aren't at optimal health, so this could even potentially kill them. Then you factor in subsequent water changes. It is almost impossible to get ahold of pure water (and you wouldn't want to add it to your tank anyway - it would be missing many minerals that are important to fish health) so the water you add will have a different pH than the tank water whether or not you alter the pH of the tank. So (unless you treat and test the water pH EVERY TIME you do a water change) you have ANOTHER pH swing when you do water changes until the pH of your tank matches the pH of the added water.

Like I said, these fish are currently used to the pH as is, so gradually changing pH to more optimal levels will cause the least amount of stress and will help them more in the long run.

And that's not to mention the fact that your step dad probably won't be on board with treating and testing the pH every time he does a water change.
 

aussieJJDude

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All water molecules are both a base and an acid, yes. Adding H+ or OH- ions will change the pH, yes. The problem with chemically altering pH is that it's very difficult to keep this altered pH constant, not to mention that the swings in pH will hurt the fish more than just leaving pH at an unhealthy level.

When you add H+ or OH- to a solution, you cause a very rapid change in pH. The fish are already used to the pH the tank is currently at, so this will shock them unnecessarily. They aren't at optimal health, so this could even potentially kill them. Then you factor in subsequent water changes. It is almost impossible to get ahold of pure water (and you wouldn't want to add it to your tank anyway - it would be missing many minerals that are important to fish health) so the water you add will have a different pH than the tank water whether or not you alter the pH of the tank. So (unless you treat and test the water pH EVERY TIME you do a water change) you have ANOTHER pH swing when you do water changes until the pH of your tank matches the pH of the added water.

Like I said, these fish are currently used to the pH as is, so gradually changing pH to more optimal levels will cause the least amount of stress and will help them more in the long run.
Yeah, of course. But its not hard, difficult or expensive like others claim it to be. It's extra work, but can easily be done if one has the patience for it.

But most tropical fish can be kept in a wide range of pH values, so as long as its constant its fine.
 

Kamaile

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Agreed. But I feel like in this case, it'll be more extreme of a change right off the bat than is good for the fish, and it'll end up swinging again when the step-dad takes over the tank.
 

aussieJJDude

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Agreed. But I feel like in this case, it'll be more extreme of a change right off the bat than is good for the fish, and it'll end up swinging again when the step-dad takes over the tank.
Totally... i never said otherwise...?
 
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