Hard water, low PH

stevo3stevenz

Member
Disclaimer: these are not my fish, I work for a pet store that sells fish, and having some troubles. Feeder fish to be exact. They are kept in ~80-90 gallons separated into 20 gallon tanks that run to a sump system. The filter is good and we do water changes weekly which show improvements to nitrate and ammonia (slightly). Any advice is helpful, not sure if doing bigger water changes would be bad considering how bad the water seems to be here.

I have a couple aquariums that have really high hardness (not sure GH or KH we just have the Tetra test strips, but hardness is at 300) but PH and alkalinity basically zero as well.

The problem is the ammonia and nitrates are high, so I need to do a water change, which would further lower my ph, if I'm not mistaken.

So how would I go about changing water and raising PH, without also making the water harder. Is there any solution without knowing KH or GH (not familiar with those)

I know that peat moss or sphagnum moss can soften water, I have some at home. And I know sea shells can add PH. But that's not exactly an option with the sump system.

Exact test results:
Ammonia- 3-4
Nitrate- 160-200
Nitrite-0
Hardness-300
Chlorine-0
Alkalinity-0
PH- the readings stop at 6.2 and orange, my PH is basically yellow. So below 6.2 probably.

Any help is GREATLY appreciated.
 

jkkgron2

Member
You could try adding in crushed coral. I have very hard water and a high pH so I’ve never used it but a lot of people have had success with it.
 
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stevo3stevenz

Member
jkkgron2 said:
You could try adding in crushed coral. I have very hard water and a high pH so I’ve never used it but a lot of people have had success with it.
I use some crushed coral in my home aquarium to raise PH. I use it along side some moss though, because my water is hard too. My concern is that the water is already at 300 hardness, and wasnt sure if adding more minerals to the water would be detrimental or is there a limit to how much hardness can even exist in water. That's just the max on the strip so who knows if it's even higher.. plus I'm not sure how I would put either crushed coral or moss in the sump system without making a huge mess or messing up the filter.
 

Fahn

Member
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stevo3stevenz

Member
Fahn said:
High nitrates make water more acidic. Do partial water changes daily to resolve that issue. Placing a bag of crushed coral in the sump would also help increase alkalinity and pH.
Good to know! What percent of the water would you recommend when you say partial? Also, does it have to be crushed coral? Or is that just the best stuff? We have sea shells at the store if I crushed those up would it work the same or not?
 

Fahn

Member
stevo3stevenz said:
Good to know! What percent of the water would you recommend when you say partial? Also, does it have to be crushed coral? Or is that just the best stuff? We have sea shells at the store if I crushed those up would it work the same or not?
You could also use baking soda to raise pH, my neighbor uses it for his goldfish pond.

I would do 20% water changes daily and cut back on feeding to every other day. Dosing Prime will help keep ammonia down and Stability will add beneficial bacteria. High ammonia and nitrates with acidic water are signs of an overstocked tank with too many fish added at once.
 

-Mak-

Member
Alkalinity pretty much is KH, for our purposes. So you have a low KH, which is why the pH is low. Anything made of calcium carbonate will help bring that up when dissolved
 
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stevo3stevenz

Member
Fahn said:
You could also use baking soda to raise pH, my neighbor uses it for his goldfish pond.

I would do 20% water changes daily and cut back on feeding to every other day. Dosing Prime will help keep ammonia down and Stability will add beneficial bacteria. High ammonia and nitrates with acidic water are signs of an overstocked tank with too many fish added at once.
This is really helpful, thank you so much. And yeah, it's a feeder fish tank so theres usually at least one hundred fish if not more.... and it's in 2nd place for reasons I hate working at a petsmart... right after bettas in cups.
 
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stevo3stevenz

Member
-Mak- said:
Alkalinity pretty much is KH, for our purposes. So you have a low KH, which is why the pH is low. Anything made of calcium carbonate will help bring that up when dissolved
Gotcha, that makes sense actually. I need to do some more research. Covid has my tanks messed up lol. Had a good teacher but hes gone now :/
 

Fahn

Member
stevo3stevenz said:
This is really helpful, thank you so much. And yeah, it's a feeder fish tank so theres usually at least one hundred fish if not more.... and it's in 2nd place for reasons I hate working at a petsmart... right after bettas in cups.
Been there man, our feeder tanks always had problems with pH and high everything. Managers just throw Neutral Regulator in it and I couldn't pull dead fish out faster than they were dying.

I kind of liked doing water changes on betta cups... it was my time off the floor away from my micromanaging supervisor and I color-coordinated them by lid-color lol.
 
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stevo3stevenz

Member
Fahn said:
Been there man, our feeder tanks always had problems with pH and high everything. Managers just throw Neutral Regulator in it and I couldn't pull dead fish out faster than they were dying.

I kind of liked doing water changes on betta cups... it was my time off the floor away from my micromanaging supervisor and I color-coordinated them by lid-color lol.
Luckily my managers (usually) let us do our thing. Considering I'm smart enough to actually research our animals instead of going by default petsmart standards. Which they've proven fish are a second class animal. I do my best. It's blatant that nobody who makes these schedules or standards know how much time or care is needed to keep fish. Especially when our store has 100+ tanks, yet every week they are put on hold for something, or I have to do someone else's work lol.
 

Kjeldsen

Member
If those ammonia readings are correct, wouldn't raising the pH be a bad idea?
 

Frank the Fish guy

Member
The ammonia is very high and deadly (4 ppm kills). The KH is 0 and the pH has bottomed out.

The tank has crashed and no longer supports the nitrogen cycle. Changing the water may hold things at that level without getting worse, but there is no biological filter here.

To keep a tank with lots of fish you need buffers (KH). Add baking soda to buffer the water at a rate of 1 teaspoon per 50 litres to raise the KH by 4 degrees which will restart the cycle immediately. Ammonia should start to go down after that.

You don't want to raise the pH above 7.0 since the ammonia is already high as said above by Kjeldsen.

So you will need to pull out some water, see how much soda you can add to raise the pH to 7. Then do a big water change with the buffered water to pull out the ammonia and get the soda into the water to restart the cycle.

Baking soda will not increase the GH, just the KH (and pH).
 

Jerome O'Neil

Member
Frank the Fish guy said:
The ammonia is very high and deadly (4 ppm kills). The KH is 0 and the pH has bottomed out.

The tank has crashed and no longer supports the nitrogen cycle. Changing the water may hold things at that level without getting worse, but there is no biological filter here.

To keep a tank with lots of fish you need buffers (KH). Add baking soda to buffer the water at a rate of 1 teaspoon per 50 litres to raise the KH by 4 degrees which will restart the cycle immediately. Ammonia should start to go down after that.

You don't want to raise the pH above 7.0 since the ammonia is already high as said above by Kjeldsen.

So you will need to pull out some water, see how much soda you can add to raise the pH to 7. Then do a big water change with the buffered water to pull out the ammonia and get the soda into the water to restart the cycle.

Baking soda will not increase the GH, just the KH (and pH).
About the only thing I would add to this excellent advice is to put a zeolite pad in your filter to help control ammonia, particularly as the Ph comes back up.
 

Fahn

Member
stevo3stevenz said:
Luckily my managers (usually) let us do our thing. Considering I'm smart enough to actually research our animals instead of going by default petsmart standards. Which they've proven fish are a second class animal. I do my best. It's blatant that nobody who makes these schedules or standards know how much time or care is needed to keep fish. Especially when our store has 100+ tanks, yet every week they are put on hold for something, or I have to do someone else's work lol.
My managers were extremely by the book and only cared about conversions and sucking up to corporate.

I don't miss working for them.
 

SanDiegoRedneck

Member
stevo3stevenz said:
This is really helpful, thank you so much. And yeah, it's a feeder fish tank so theres usually at least one hundred fish if not more.... and it's in 2nd place for reasons I hate working at a petsmart... right after bettas in cups.
Your just the person who gives petsmart and Petco a GREAT name. I got 2 betta from petsmart and both now have 10gal home.
For as long as you work there understand everyone from brand new to hobby, to medium level, to experts walk in your store and it takes patients and care to try to cater to each different need.
It's just like how a smile can be contagious. Your passion to do your job correctly and care for fish may rub off on another employee, in the long run benefitting fish.

So thanks for caring.
 
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stevo3stevenz

Member
Kjeldsen said:
If those ammonia readings are correct, wouldn't raising the pH be a bad idea?
Would it? That's why I'm asking. It's a feeder tank and when we throw a ton in there its spikes.. would I want to keep the ph that low?
 
  • Thread Starter

stevo3stevenz

Member
I
Frank the Fish guy said:
The ammonia is very high and deadly (4 ppm kills). The KH is 0 and the pH has bottomed out.

The tank has crashed and no longer supports the nitrogen cycle. Changing the water may hold things at that level without getting worse, but there is no biological filter here.

To keep a tank with lots of fish you need buffers (KH). Add baking soda to buffer the water at a rate of 1 teaspoon per 50 litres to raise the KH by 4 degrees which will restart the cycle immediately. Ammonia should start to go down after that.

You don't want to raise the pH above 7.0 since the ammonia is already high as said above by Kjeldsen.

So you will need to pull out some water, see how much soda you can add to raise the pH to 7. Then do a big water change with the buffered water to pull out the ammonia and get the soda into the water to restart the cycle.

Baking soda will not increase the GH, just the KH (and pH).
I know, that is why I am seeking help, they may be feeder fish but I'd like them to at least be healthy and not suffering. Thank you for the detailed instruction.
 

jkkgron2

Member
stevo3stevenz said:
Would it? That's why I'm asking. It's a feeder tank and when we throw a ton in there its spikes.. would I want to keep the ph that low?
Correct me if I’m wrong but some of the ammonia your seeing may be ammonium? It appears in tanks with low pH and is a lot less deadly than ammonia, but it still registers as ammonia. It’s harder to do a cycle with so that’s probably your issue. Raising the pH would definitely help.
 
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stevo3stevenz

Member
jkkgron2 said:
Correct me if I’m wrong but some of the ammonia your seeing may be ammonium? It appears in tanks with low pH and is a lot less deadly than ammonia, but it still registers as ammonia. It’s harder to do a cycle with so that’s probably your issue. Raising the pH would definitely help.
I have no idea. Assuming ammonia levels that high would kill all of our fish, and I only lose a couple of them a day then it likely could be ammonium. Would prime still help with that?
 

jkkgron2

Member
stevo3stevenz said:
I have no idea. Assuming ammonia levels that high would kill all of our fish, and I only lose a couple of them a day then it likely could be ammonium. Would prime still help with that?
I’m not sure, maybe someone with experience could chime in?
 

Jerome O'Neil

Member
jkkgron2 said:
Correct me if I’m wrong but some of the ammonia your seeing may be ammonium? It appears in tanks with low pH and is a lot less deadly than ammonia, but it still registers as ammonia. It’s harder to do a cycle with so that’s probably your issue. Raising the pH would definitely help.
Raising the Ph would result in the ammonium converting back into ammonia. That's why he should be cautious about it.
 
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stevo3stevenz

Member
Jerome O'Neil said:
Raising the Ph would result in the ammonium converting back into ammonia. That's why he should be cautious about it.
Gotcha, so I should try and do daily water changes and go slow on the ph? Dosing prime would help with the ammonia as it converts, right? New to the chemistry part of fish keeping. Not sure exactly what the recommended treatment is for ammonium, just water changes I'm assuming?
 

jkkgron2

Member
Jerome O'Neil said:
Raising the Ph would result in the ammonium converting back into ammonia. That's why he should be cautious about it.
I hadn’t thought about that. I figured the ammonium would just go away. Thanks for pointing that out!
 

Jerome O'Neil

Member
stevo3stevenz said:
Gotcha, so I should try and do daily water changes and go slow on the ph? Dosing prime would help with the ammonia as it converts, right? New to the chemistry part of fish keeping. Not sure exactly what the recommended treatment is for ammonium, just water changes I'm assuming?
Prime converts it back into ammonium, but it will be less effective at higher Ph. The advice Fish Guy gave up thread is spot on. Change water a lot, add bicarbonate to slowly increase your Kh and you will get your colony back eventually. Zeolite in your filters will help control the ammonia as well. Just be aware that you'll need to swap it out somewhat regularly as it does load up. If you're in a pet store, you've probably got some on your shelf right now.
 

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