Extreme low TDS tap water, how to ammend for large WC?

MrMuggles
  • #1
I am trying to cycle a new 29G tank with a single fish in it, and Nitrite spikes to 2ppm every night. This is expected. So I did large water changes with chlorine-treated and temperature-matched tap water, but the incoming water always makes the fish act like he is dying, for hours. The only way I can get him to stop laying half dead and gasping is by using water drained from my established 120G for a large WC in the 29G. but this is very cumbersome and not a daily task type effort, I simply can't keep it up.

The tapwater TDS here is so low that no pH measurements are reliable. My digital pH probe swings wildly between 7.5-8.0.

My tap water is around 10-20ppm TDS, so there's basically nothing in it. For the 120G I have crushed coral in the sump plus I add a small dose of Equilibrium for GH, and my water changes are smaller only 10-15% but frequent.

So I tried amending water for the 29G by adding to my treatment reservoir both: some GH minerals and KH (crushed coral). Also the usual dechlorinator. I let it sit for an hour, but then the pH in the reservoir read very high >8.0 so I was afraid to use it for fear of shocking the fish.

I have tested the tap for N compounds and found only the typical 0.25 ammonia reading I always do. going nuts here trying to figure out what I should do for this guy.
 
MacZ
  • #2
What species of fish is it?

I'd kill for such TDS readings and have to use RO. You have water predestined to do softwater (clear/black) tanks.
 
MrMuggles
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Resident is a small electric blue acara. They haven’t been picky for me in the past, I’m just grasping for anything to explain why he’s so offended by the incoming treated tap water.
 
Cherryshrimp420
  • #4
Nitrite spikes to 2ppm? Nitrite is more toxic in lower pH, so that's one reason for the distress.

Remineralizing the reservoir is fine. Just let the water sit longer, ie a few days. The high pH is just the natural equilibrium of crushed coral in pure water. Not sure if the electric blue acara is a hardwater fish though
 
MrMuggles
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Nitrite spikes to 2ppm? Nitrite is more toxic in lower pH, so that's one reason for the distress.
I totally get that, and I know that is 100% is true, however the problem I'm trying address is not Nitrite, and not necessarily pH related. pH was just one guess.

All I know from the fish's behavior is there is a problem is with incoming water, so I'm trying to address that.

The fish is having a way more pronounced and prolonged negative reaction to incoming fresh tap water than he is to the 2ppm of nitrite. When he was at his worst yesterday, looked barely alive and tipping over on the bottom, the Nitrite was at the lowest i've seen in several days. As soon as I added more water from the established larger tank (which has stable pH and no excess N compounds) he acted 100% fine.
 
Cherryshrimp420
  • #6
I totally get that, and I want to believe that is true, but the problem I'm trying address is fish behavior tells me something else completely, and it doesn't make sense to me either.
The fish is having a way more pronounced and prolonged negative reaction to incoming fresh tap water than he is to the 2ppm of nitrite. When he was at his worst yesterday, looked barely alive and tipping over on the bottom, the Nitrite was at the lowest i've seen in several days. As soon as I added more water from the established larger tank, he acted 100% fine.
Incoming fresh tap water is lower in pH than your main tank water so this can increase the toxicity as you do a water change. Tap water also contains less dissolved oxygen so if it is not aerated then it will also affect the fish
 
MacZ
  • #7
Not sure if the electric blue acara is a hardwater fish though
They are not.

All I know from the fish's behavior is there is a problem is with incoming water, so I'm trying to address that.
Incoming fresh tap water is lower in pH than your main tank water so this can increase the toxicity as you do a water change.
It's not necessarily pH, as water companies want the water more on the alkaline side. Also the fact that the water is soft, does not necessarily mean it's acidic. With the tank having accumulated KH and GH from the crushed coral countering this that's almost not possible.

It's rather the simple difference in TDS that causes osmoregulation problems. The fish might already have permanent damage to gills and kidneys from this.

I would remove the crushed coral and do small waterchanges with de-chlorinated but otherwise unadulterated tap until the water is at the readings of the tap this can take a week with 10-20% waterchange every other day. To pH-stabilize that soft water it's easier to use humic substances. Acclimation problems will be gone then.

By the way, the nitrite should also come from the TDS fluctuation. Same principle that says it's best to cycle a tank in the pH one wants to run it at. With conditions the composition of the microorganisms in the filter varies.
 
Cherryshrimp420
  • #8
They are not.



It's not necessarily pH, as water companies want the water more on the alkaline side. Also the fact that the water is soft, does not necessarily mean it's acidic. With the tank having accumulated KH and GH from the crushed coral that's almost not possible.

It's rather the simple difference in TDS that causes osmoregulation problems. The fish might already have permanent damage to gills and kidneys from this.

I would remove the crushed coral and do small waterchanges with de-chlorinated but otherwise unadulterated tap until the water is at the readings of the tap. To stabilize that soft water it's easier to use humic substances.
From what I understand, hes not using crushed coral in the new tank
 
MacZ
  • #9
I missed the "120G" in one sentence.

Then we need the actual TDS, GH and KH readings of the 29. As, if I see that right, we don't know those. pH is relative and not a useful value.
 
brhau
  • #10
The tapwater TDS here is so low that no pH measurements are reliable. My digital pH probe swings wildly between 7.5-8.0.
If you add 1 or 2 grains of salt (NaCl) to a 20 ml sample, it will raise your TDS into the hundreds so you can get a good pH reading.
 
MrMuggles
  • Thread Starter
  • #11
i actually do have crushed coral in the 29 as well, a small handful. I failed to mention this.
I will run an airstone in the pre-treatment reservoir as well. Thanks, y'all
 
RayClem
  • #12
I use RO water as my source water for my aquariums. My RO water has a TDS level similar to your tap water. The reason I use RO water is that my tap water is extremely hard and also contains chloramine.
Because the cells of the fish have to maintain equilibrium with the water in which they swim, water that is very low in TDS does not work. Fish need calcium, magnesium, iron and other minerals to survive.

I use Seachem Equilibrium to provide minerals needed to raise General Hardness. I target a dGH of 7, although you can adjust higher or lower based on the fish you are keeping. My target is suitable for many community tank species. Some South American species such as tetras like softer water and some species like guppies, platies, swordtails and African Rift Lake species like harder water.

The Equilibrium does not contain either phosphates, carbonates or bicarbonates to increase Carbonate Hardness and pH. For that you need other minerals. For example, you can add small amounts of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to increase dKH, but a commercial buffer might be a better option. Fish and other aquarium inhabitants can adapt to widely varying pH levels, but it takes them time to adapt. If the pH is not stable, it can affect the health of the fish.
 
MrMuggles
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
As I said above, I use crushed coral for KH and Equilibrium for GH amendments. But for the 29G when I tried adding both it threw my pH too high, I should have only added Equilibrium to incoming water.

I'm going to do incremental fills with aerated, treated water, including Equilibrium....
 
MrMuggles
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
my fish in the 29G is much better with the water from the tap getting a good dose of aeration and Equilibrium. Tonight he was so stoked about the incoming treated tap water that he was begging for food and ate a snack for me during the water change!
I continue to leave crushed coral in a bag in the corner of the 29G, pH buffers can be absorbed as needed from the coral.
 
SparkyJones
  • #15
You and the fish are better off with the wrong pH that is stable than a constantly moving pH.

My opinion, your tank is not cycled, yes you have a water issue but your tank is not cycled. It not being cycled is compounding the stress on the fish that the water issue might cause due to various factors mostly osmoregulation and trying to adjust to a shifting pH.

Not bragging I got where I am by neglect and ignorance, but I've got a tank with old tank syndrome, KH is absent, GH is high high, nitrates were over 500ppm at one point and now down to about 200 and 0-0 for ammonia or Nitrites.
My pH is 4 at this point, all fish including the angels adjusted to it over years. I do small water changes trying to get it back to Good slowly that don't seem to do anything to the parameters at all. I'm worried I'll hit a tipping point between bad returning to good and the pH will rise quick and shock the fish (my tap water I add is 7.6).

Main point is, wrong pH by a lot, super hard water, insane nitrates, doesn't make a difference if the fish has time to adjust to the changes slowly.

If this is happening every time you do a water change, take the fish out to a bucket with some tank water, do your water change and then drip acclimate the fish to the new conditions slowly and there won't be so much osmotic shock occurring.

And as a note, you shouldn't do a fish in cycle with your water conditions. The fish has enough stress from ammonia or Nitrites, it doesn't need to battle osmotic shock every day also.

Personally I'd ammend the water how you feel you need to, easily so it can be consistent and not overly complicated, and more importantly replicated with future water changes, do the first time with a drip acclimation before returning the fish and then he should be adjusted to the parameters of the newly added water from then onward.

It's a matter of time before the fish can't push through and adjust to it and dies. It's better to be consistent and stable, then to be "right on the money". If you slowly climb a mountain or go deep in the sea, your body has time to adjust, if you just get dropped there all kinds of bad things can happen.
You can adjust up or adjust down with enough time at a slow, steady pace, so can a fish.

Currently your fish is better off moving to the 120g until the tank is fully cycled and you're done playing with the water and have a system in place to keep it right. Even if he has to fight and fend for himself in the bigger tank at least he won't feel like he's dying every waterchange and maybe one day not making it through.

I've made gross mistakes along the way I'm not proud of, and I'm not preaching or belittling, so please don't take it all wrong. We all think we know best until we figure out we don't know anything, myself included. Best way to save the little fella is to put him somewhere stable, get the cycle done, and play with the water until you get it stable and where it needs to be then reintroduce the fish to it through drip acclimation.
 

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