Changing your pH

clinton1621

First off, I am not advocating changing your ph level for any reason other than a necessity... ie you have fish or plants that REQUIRE it to survive, most fish WILL acclimate to a good range of ph anywhere from 6 to 8.

What you need to understand first is what affects ph in your water... the main thing is the waters buffering capacity, this means your waters hardness (mineral content) there seems to be a lot of confusion that a low pH means soft water and a high pH means hard water.. this is NOT true. Hard water means a high buffering capacity (mineral content), and in reverse low buffering capacity means soft water. How does this affect pH?, simple if you have hard water the buffering capacity of the water is going to keep your pH HIGH... if you have soft water then there are less buffers and your pH will be LOW. Now, as far as using chemicals to LOWER your pH... this does not work with hard water, because you still have a high buffering capacity, so what happens is your pH level drops because of the acids in the pH lowering addtives... but shortly after your pH is going to spike, usually all the way back up to where it was before because you have hard water. This is VERY hard on your fish and will almost certainly result in death if done repeatedly to counter the effects of the pH going back up.

There are a few ways to safely LOWER your pH

1. Use driftwood or peat moss in your tank, this will slowly release acids that lower your pH gradually, however with hard water you will have to replace the peat moss regularly or it will go back up... this also applies to driftwood as the tannic acid levels drop the pH will go back up, but most likely you are not going to keep replacing driftwood due to cost.

2. Use a mixture of distilled or R.O. (Reverse Osmosis) water to dilute your main water source.... this will reduce the buffering capacity (mineral content) of your water, thus your pH will drop as well. A word of caution on this method... you MUST keep a safe hardness level with this, you CANNOT use 100% distilled or R.O. water, this will make your pH very unstable because of the lack of buffering capacity. You ideally need a hardness test for GH and KH levels to make sure when you dilute your main water that it still has a sufficient buffering capacity to keep the pH stable.

3. If you use method 2 properly then you can further dial in your pH level with the use of driftwood, peat moss or even live plants. Now that your buffering capacity is lower it will be easier to adjust it to the exact level you want, but it can still be tricky because you will need to monitor the pH so that it doesn't drop too fast or too low.

EDIT: Please note that you should still take care when using peat moss, as I mentioned before, you will have some ph swings if you use it in the tank and don't monitor the ph levels frequently.... Sirdarksol mentions a safer alternative to using in tank peat moss in his post below, and thank you for the advice SDS =)

On to RAISING your pH

This is much simpler to do and most people don't even have this problem, simply adding crushed coral or certain rocks (such as limestone) that leach out minerals will raise your hardness and buffering capacity, which will result in a higher pH level. I do not recommend using pH raising products, these will cause pH swings much like the pH lowering products do.


I hope this helps everyone with better understanding hard water versus soft water and how it affects your pH levels.... also in closing keep in mind that regular weekly water changes and maintenance go a long way in keeping your pH level and buffering capacity stable!
 

Pandora

Actually with pH, low is acid high is alkaline...
 

clinton1621

I know that, I never said anything about it because that's not what the topic was about, its about water hardness and how it affects ph and how to change your ph the proper way.
 

Pandora

lol was replying to someone else who had tried to correct you... but that seems to be gone now. Weird. Sorry for the confusion!
 

clinton1621

Lol sorry then, nevermind what I said in response... yes low ph is acidic and high ph is alkaline =)
 

Butterfly

Sounds good Clinton. The only thing I would add is that limestone is one of the rocks that will raise PH but it does it very slowly which is a good thing.
Carol
 

sirdarksol

Looks pretty good.
There are two issues I have with this:
First of all, you paint with pretty broad strokes when you say "hard water does not mean high pH." While this is technically correct, it is very infrequent that you will find municipal water that has one without the other. In general, the presence of minerals that raise the hardness of the water also raise the pH (this is because, for many water supplies, limestone is the source of the hardness. As was stated, limestone is also useful for raising pH).

Second, I would not suggest using peat directly in the tank to raise/lower the pH. It provides a roller-coaster ride similar to what chemicals do (though slower, because the leaching of tannins is a little slower). The best way I've heard of to use peat to adjust the pH is to make the peat water ahead of time. Fill a pillowcase with peat moss, toss it in a garbage can with your water supply and an air stone, and let it steep for the week before doing a water change. Then you can mix regular water and the peat water until you get the pH you want in your tank, and use that with your water changes.
 

clinton1621

Looks pretty good.
There are two issues I have with this:
First of all, you paint with pretty broad strokes when you say "hard water does not mean high pH." While this is technically correct, it is very infrequent that you will find municipal water that has one without the other. In general, the presence of minerals that raise the hardness of the water also raise the pH (this is because, for many water supplies, limestone is the source of the hardness. As was stated, limestone is also useful for raising pH).

Second, I would not suggest using peat directly in the tank to raise/lower the pH. It provides a roller-coaster ride similar to what chemicals do (though slower, because the leaching of tannins is a little slower). The best way I've heard of to use peat to adjust the pH is to make the peat water ahead of time. Fill a pillowcase with peat moss, toss it in a garbage can with your water supply and an air stone, and let it steep for the week before doing a water change. Then you can mix regular water and the peat water until you get the pH you want in your tank, and use that with your water changes.


First, I think you misread the first thing backwards... I said high ph doesn't mean hard water, high buffering capacity equals hard water, which does affect ph as I stated making it higher, but its not the ph that makes the water hard =)

Second, you are right about the peat moss... and I also mentioned that peat moss would only lower the ph until the acids were leached out and that you would need to replace it to keep the levels stable or else it would go back up, and I agree with you that it is by no means a great way to go unless you monitor the ph closely or go with the method you suggested which would be the safest.
 

sirdarksol

It goes both ways, because the common source of high pH is often the limestone, which means high buffer.
I was saying that they usually go hand-in-hand in municipal water supplies. You can artificially make water with a high pH and little buffer, but it doesn't happen very often in nature, at least that I've seen or heard about.

And, we should reiterate, with this discussion, that the ideal method is still leave your pH alone. ;D
 

clinton1621

Yep that's what the very first paragraph of this thread states =)


And that's what I meant by the high ph, artificially creating a high level doesn't mean that you have hard water, just like artificially creating a low ph doesn't mean you have soft water =)
 

sirdarksol

Yep that's what the very first paragraph of this thread states =)

I know, that's why I said, "reiterate." I just wanted to make sure we said it again, because sometimes people get so caught up in reading the end of the discussion that they forget about the original post (and sometimes they do the opposite), and I didn't want people going through all the trouble of setting up a garbage can of peat moss when they didn't really need to.
 

clinton1621

I know, that's why I said, "reiterate." I just wanted to make sure we said it again, because sometimes people get so caught up in reading the end of the discussion that they forget about the original post (and sometimes they do the opposite), and I didn't want people going through all the trouble of setting up a garbage can of peat moss when they didn't really need to.

I completely understand lol, kind of like skipping to the end of a book just to get the good parts!
 

bryant

other than limestone what is another safe way to raise ph?
 

clinton1621

Any type of calcium substrate, such as crushed coral, will add buffers to the water to allow the ph to be higher. Its basically a mineral content problem, if you have soft water then you have low mineral content, low minerals means you have a low buffering capacity... which means the pH will be low.
 

Regal

This is great information on what, for me, has been a confusing subject. I think I'm finally starting to understand the connection between hardness and ph.

I'm having a difficult time interpreting the results from the API gh and kh test kit.

On the kh test, the first drop turns the water a slight yellow/orange color and the more I add the more orange it gets. The instructions say to add drops till the water in the tube turns from blue to yellow and I'm never seeing any blue at all.

The gh test turns green after 15 drops.

I can't figure out how to use the chart in the instructions. There is only one chart. The first column has the number of drops and the last has the results (I guess) listed as kh and gh. So is my kh/gh 17.9 (1 drop) or is my kh/gh higher than 214.8 (the chart only goes to 12 and I used 15)?

I know my city water is very hard and has high ph. My tap water ph is 8.8 on the apI high range ph test from the master test kit.

I'd appreciate any help on testing my water hardness because though I'm normally a somewhat intelligent person, testing for hardness clearly is like rocket science to me. lol I am using diy co2 made from two 2-liter bottles with the diffuser that came with the Hagor co2 that uses the prepackaged yeast packets. I want to figure out how to use the water hardness test so I can calculate the amount of co2 I'm adding.


My tank has been set up since Christmas. I have driftwod in the tank and a filter bag with peat moss in my canister filter. I try to be consistent with small weekly water changes to avoid big ph fluctuations. When I refill my tank during water changes I fill a container and add declorinator to that and then use the intake on the filter to fill the tank from the container. My thinking is that the water is passing over the peat moss on the way into the tank helping to lower it's ph on the way in. I have several pairs of angels that breed consistantly. Is that an indication that the water is OK?

My ph readings are always 6 to 6.6. Usually 6. It does not shoot up after a water change. I wonder though, when I'm getting a reading of 6 if the ph could be fluctuating under 6 because that is as low as the test goes.

75 gallon with live plants, 13 angelfish, 10 rummy nose tetras, 6 corydoras, 6 oto cats, 3 lamp eye tetras and sometimes a pleco. Penguin 330, marineland c series 220 with carbon and peat moss.
API freshwater Master test kit
API gh/kh water hardness test
ph 6
Amonia 0
Nitrate between 5.0 and 10
Nitrite 0
 

clinton1621

GH and KH levels are usually fairly close to the same, so if your GH level is 200 or higher then your KH is probably around the same range (maybe a little lower)

At any rate it sounds like your GH and KH levels are fine considering the pH of you tap water and that you already stated that it is known to be hard water, I would say your pH level of 6 is a combination of...

1. live plants which are using minerals from the water for growth (which is another reason you should add fertilizer for live plants)

2. the driftwood and peat moss leaching acids into the water

3. regular waste accumulation that naturally lowers ph

4. the addition of co2, which directly affects ph as well

You may be going a little overboard with the peat moss, especially since your pH is so dangerously low.... take the peat moss out and test the water periodically to see if this helps. Also remember to do gravel vacs at least once or twice a month to remove excess waste, which can also lower your pH.
 

Regal

Thank you Clinton1621!
I appreciate your help on the hardness test. I don't know why I'm having such a hard time using that thing.

I'll take your advice on the peat moss and pull it out this weekend when I do a water change and clean the filter. I use a gravel vac each time I change the water. I try to do a water change each weekend to keep things consistent.

I'm also planning to pull out the carbon after spending some time on the forums here reading about it leaching toxins back into the water.

Thank you for explaining about the plants and fish waste lowering the ph, I was not aware of that so its good to know. I wish the ph test was capable of measuring ph lower than 6 so I'd know where I'm at. I noticed that the ph meters that clip in the tank with a suction cup go down to 5.2 so I'm going to pick up one of those to see if my ph is actually less than 6. Hopefully they are more accurate than testing strips which are useless.

I thought people that have Discus keep their ph at like 4 or 5 or something so there must be test available that go that low.
 

clinton1621

I'm also planning to pull out the carbon after spending some time on the forums here reading about it leaching toxins back into the water.

Heres a thread I have for filter care that you might like to check out...
 

Regal

Lol that's the thread I was referring to that I read last night. I didn't notice that you wrote that too. Your a busy guy. And a night owl too it looks like.

Well all my tanks are officially carbon and peat moss free. I'm a little skeptical about the carbon, its hard to change something you have done forever. Reminds me of hearing how bad UGFs are. Couldn't imagine a tank without an UGF till I took them out and saw how detrimental they were. Hopefully I'll have a similar experience taking out the carbon.
 

clinton1621

Lol, yep I work second shift, so I am definitely a night owl. I used to use carbon all the time myself, until I researched it and found out that it does more harm than good. I don't think the leaching is really a major problem though, it doesn't leach out anything that wasn't in the tank to start with... and it would have to be in the tank for over a month before it started to leach, as the carbon dissolving and breaking down with age is really what the "leaching" actually refers to.

The main issue is really that it doesn't discriminate what its removing. So it actually removes all the good minerals and metals that the fish and live plants (if you have plants) need to be healthy. It will also remove fertilizers (which are minerals and metals) that you add to help the plants grow... so why would you want to remove something that you paid money for and then have your plants all start to die lol. The removal of trace minerals can also lead to mineral defficiency in your fish, and or poor osmo-regulation (how fish absorb and release water)... so once again why would you want to possibly make your fish mineral defficient if you don't have to?

Carbon does have its good qualities, like removing meds from the water after you use them... but even this can be done without the use of carbon, simply change all the water and voila, no more meds!
 

Regal

Well I took it all out so I'll see how it goes.
LOL I opened the top of my canister to take out the carbon and peat but forgot to shut the valve. Instant water change! god I'm dumb. I literaly had all my weight on top of the lid and it was still shooting out all around the sides. I was panicking, do I keep trying to close the lid or run around and pull the hoses from the back. 75 gallon tank dropped bout 3 inches in seconds before I figured out to shut the stupid valve off. LOL Not my best moment
 

Sarcastic

This is my favorite thread ever. Thanks.

......adding crushed coral or certain rocks (such as limestone) that leech out minerals will raise your hardness and buffering capacity, which will result in a higher pH level.....

As to that, any tips on how much coral or limestone to use to get a desired/preferred kH?
 

msbabb

2. Use a mixture of distilled or R.O. (Reverse Osmosis) water to dilute your main water source.... this will reduce the buffering capacity (mineral content) of your water, thus your pH will drop as well. A word of caution on this method... you MUST keep a safe hardness level with this, you CANNOT use 100% distilled or R.O. water, this will make your pH very unstable because of the lack of buffering capacity. You ideally need a hardness test for GH and KH levels to make sure when you dilute your main water that it still has a sufficient buffering capacity to keep the pH stable.

??? So is it safe to use distilled water if used 1 to 1 with tap water. This is the first I've read that says its safe. I hope so because I can get distilled water cases at a time for free from work they're just damaged packaging. Please let me know because I really don't want to mess anything up.
Michael
 

aecw

As to that, any tips on how much coral or limestone to use to get a desired/preferred kH? [/QUOTE]

I added coral to one of my tanks because the ph kept dropping. Be conservative - I added not quite 3 cups to a 150 gal and that did the trick so depending on the size of the tank I would probably use a mesh bag that you can put in the filter so you can start light (1-2 TBsp for a 20 gal would be my starting point) and slowly adjust amount if needed after a week. I would also give each adjustment a week just to be on safe side.
 

sirdarksol

Distilled water can be used in a mix with tap water. The exact amount will depend on how hard your tap water is. If it's pretty hard, 50/50 (maybe even more distilled than that) would work.

Or, you can use distilled water and mineral additives made for freshwater aquariums.
 

msbabb

GREAT!! Thank you. My water is of the charts for hardness ( I don't think our whole house softener is working right). And really what's better than FREE!
Thanks Again Michael
 

Sarcastic

As to that, any tips on how much coral or limestone to use to get a desired/preferred kH?

I added coral to one of my tanks because the ph kept dropping. Be conservative - I added not quite 3 cups to a 150 gal and that did the trick so depending on the size of the tank I would probably use a mesh bag that you can put in the filter so you can start light (1-2 TBsp for a 20 gal would be my starting point) and slowly adjust amount if needed after a week. I would also give each adjustment a week just to be on safe side.


Thanks, aecw
 

howsay306

I have a new, 3 day old aquarium, with a higher PH of 7.4. Everything else seems fine as the aquarium is cycling. I bought two larger pieces of driftwood in an attempt to lower the PH naturally without using chemicals. In the past I have usually kept South American Cichlids, breeding Convicts more specifically. With an empty tank and limitless possibilities at this point, I am just wondering if there are any fish that prefer water with a higher PH or would my usual Cichlids do just fine. Please let me know as I have moved and have never ran into this problem before. Thanks
 

bryan87

so driftwood would keep my ph level low correct even if I add ph up? mine is at 6 and will not rise. crazy thing is my tap water ph is 8.6.
 

sirdarksol

so driftwood would keep my ph level low correct even if I add ph up? mine is at 6 and will not rise. crazy thing is my tap water ph is 8.6.

That's really odd to have such a low aquarium pH and such a high tap pH. In general, high pH in tap water comes along with a high buffer, which makes it really hard to lower the pH.
The answer to your first question is: Not necessarily. Water with a lot of buffer likely won't be affected much by driftwood.
 

msbabb

so driftwood would keep my ph level low correct even if I add ph up? mine is at 6 and will not rise. crazy thing is my tap water ph is 8.6.

Just wondering...How are you testing (what test or brand)
 

kaze88

HI i've read the thread but still have some questions.
My ph has always been 7.0 since I use Seachem's Neutral Regulator and today the guy at my LFS told me I need a buffer because my water is soft, so he sold me Seachem's Alkaline Buffer. I measured and mixed both chemicals into a bucket and tested the ph and its not even on the chart.. its an aqua colour. I have no idea how these chemicals interact with each other, but the ph is definitely not 7.0. Is this safe to put in the aquarium? I'm guessing no? sorry i've never used a buffer before
 

sirdarksol

No. The neutral regulator has a buffer in it, I believe. The Alkaline buffer is made to raise the pH.
 

kaze88

can the alkaline buffer be used safely to raise mineral levels without changing the PH?

thanks, sirdarksol
 

sirdarksol

Nope, the alkaline buffer is made to raise the pH and the mineral levels.
 

bryan87

Just wondering...How are you testing (what test or brand)

API. it is less than 6 months old.
 

David593

I'm with byan, my tap water is around 8-ish. My tank has only a large peice of driftwood (the tank is 55g) and the water is reading at 6.0 or lower since 6.0 is the lowest. Its really weird and has me slightly concerned as the why the ph dropped so much. I have the same issues with my ten gal. it has ph of 6.4 but it only have like 1 java fern and some ornaments, even though my tap is around 7...

Can my driftwood really be bringing it this low? (it was boiled)
 

bryan87

I am guessing so. I took mine out because it was covered in a white fuss. I boiled it to get rid of it. did a 100% water change because all my fish died. I am starting over. I think if you are using driftwood you need to off set it with a peice of limestone or something that will raise th ph.
 

Lucy

NTICH's question has been moved to a thread of it's own.

Here's the link:
 

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