Help! Bad petstore advice! Added Ph Fixer and now don't know what to do.

Discussion in 'Aquarium Water' started by Dr. T, Nov 28, 2012.

  1. Dr. TNew MemberMember

    I have a 10 gallon tank that has been going for about 5 months. At first I lost a lot of fish (about 50%) which I now know is probably from the major change of PH from the pet store which has city tap water to my extremely hard, high PH well water.

    In any case, eventually I got a set up going with 4 neon tetras, 1 red platy, 2 cory catfish and 2 snails. I keep the tank at 80%, have a carbon filter and bubbler, and have changed about 50% of the water once a month.

    Everything was fine, but then in the last month, I lost a catfish, a tetra (apparently eaten by the other fish, as I never saw the body), and now my platy seems to be dying.

    I went to the pet store today to ask advice and brought a water sample. The guy told me my PH was way too high and that was why my fish were dying. He sold me API Proper PH 7. I came home and added it and it turned my water super cloudy with white stringy things everywhere. I came on here to research that, and saw that I should not have added the PH fixer. I immediately did a 25% water change.

    What should I do now? A few facts about my tank and water-- our water is very hard well water--about 800 ppm, and PH is off the charts--reads at 8.5 which is the highest my test strips go. The water in our taps goes trough a softener, but because it is so high in sodium, I have always used the well water straight out of the well pump (550 feet deep well in a previous gold mining area). Should I just keep my fish in the high PH water since lowering will really be impossible?

    I also think my fish could have been dying because I wasn't changing water enough. I have massive evaporation--about 25% a week, which is probably causing high concentrations, and the store had told me I only needed to change once a month, but from reading here, it seems I should be changing smaller amounts more frequently.

    What should I do now to try and get my tank back to equilibrium with clear water, and then what do you all think is causing the fish die off?

    I have also recently developed a little bit of brown algae on the tank decorations, but that doesn't really seem to be a problem.

    Thanks for any advice you can give me. It looks like I will lose the platy, but I hope to save the three tetras and the cory (I think the snails could survive a nuclear war. : )
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2012
  2. CichlidnutFishlore VIPMember

    How long has the tank been running, did the guy at the store tell you your other water parameters? I have a pH of about 8.4 and don't need to modify anything.

    When you use chemicals to change your pH, you cause a massive swing that harms fish.

    When bringing new fish home, it is good to slowly acclimate them. Here's some info on acclimating fish

    It doesn't sound like you got very good advice from the store. Feel free to ask lots of questions here :D

    Welcome to fishlore!
  3. FashoogaFishlore VIPMember

    I think the brown stuff is normal, I have some of it on my tank.

    What are your water parameters? Did the store use strips or liquid?
  4. CichlidnutFishlore VIPMember

    The brown stuff is most likely diatoms. Very common for a young tank.
  5. WaterSpiritValued MemberMember

    1) To answer your this question: "What should I do now to try and get my tank back to equilibrium with clear water?" I would suggest just simple water changes (about 25% every day) in order to get your water clear of all that API Proper pH 7.0. Water changes will also help keep your ammonia and nitrites at 0 ppm, and nitrates less than 20 ppm. This will definitely help your fish stay healthy and alive. The water changes will also help to reduce the brown algae that is present in your tank (this type of algae can take over if you let it).

    2) About pH: Neon Tetras prefer a slightly acidic pH (softer water) and the corys can tolerate either acidic or basic (basic being slightly above 7.0) and the platys are about the same as corys; however, all fish prefer a stable pH. A fluctuating pH is more deadly than a too high/too low pH. Your source of water is the source of the problem it seems. Since your fish are acclimated to these water parameters, I would not mess with the chemistry of your water. DO NOT USE water buffers, like the buffer your ill-informed LPS gave you (probably just to make an extra buck off of you). This person was only setting you up for failure. Leave the chemistry alone (leave the hardness and pH as is since that is going to be what is stable. Keep ammonia 0 ppm, nitrites 0 ppm and nitrates less than 20 ppm and your fish should live. I would say they are suffering now due to the extreme fluctuation of pH the store associate brought on to your fish. They will survive if you just do some water changes and leave the chemistry alone.

    3) For future reference: when acclimating your fish to your extreme pH and water hardness, use the drip acclimation method as shown in this video: You can purchase a drip acclimation device from Drs. Foster and Smith here:  . The purpose of this method is way beyond the purpose of merely floating your bag. Your not just acclimating your fish to the temperature of your tank, but also to the pH and hardness; further ensuring your fish will not die due to pH shock.
    4) Do not rely on a pet store to test your water. You NEED to have your own test kit on hand for emergencies. You can get one here for cheap that tests ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH and high range pH:  .

    Hope this helps! Come back here to get your questions answered honestly and accurately (i'm sure someone else will give you more advice) and just search the web for every question you have: google!!

      This is where you can purchase an acclimation kit too!
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 28, 2012
  6. AquaristFishlore LegendMember

    Good morning and Welcome to Fish Lore!

    starhanging.gif If you would be so kind, please complete your Aquarium Profile Information. This information will aid others with any responses they may have to your questions.

    To access the Profile, click on Forum Actions in the bar close to the top of the screen. In the drop down box, click on Edit Profile. Be sure to hit SAVE when you are done.

    starhanging.gif In post #1 above, I have edited the post to create paragraphs for easier reading. One big block of text can be difficult for many members to read. The easier your post is to read, the more responses you will receive.

    Thanks! Best wishes for your tank and fish. Some very good advice given above by other members.

  7. Dr. TNew MemberMember

    Thanks for your replies. I do realize I got bad advice, and will not use any more buffer. My platy died today, and I am just hoping not to lose anymore fish. I did a 25% water change today and will keep doing that each day this week. I also rinsed the filter with RO water (I had just changed the filter, but it was really clogged with the white Proper PH stuff). Is that okay to do? For the future, should I add in a bit ofRO water with my well water during water changes to lower the hardness some? Do I need to add anything else to my well water--like a conditioner--or just add it straight in? Finally, my well water is ultra cold (about 40 degrees) so I have been warming it in the microwave before adding it. Is that okay to do?

    Again, thanks, and I will complete my aquarium profile. I also plan on going to the store and getting a test kit and I will get s water conditioner if you guys think I need it.

  8. Dr. TNew MemberMember

    Oh, and thanks for the acclimating advice, although I will not buy any more fish unless I get the water issue dealt with. And, honestly, this is my daughter's tank, and I am kind of burnt out with the amount of time I have to spend on it. If the other fish die, I might just give up. : (
  9. fishyluvWell Known MemberMember

    You can do 80% wc on your 10 gal and it will be fine and will help to go ahead and get those chemicals out of your tank. Put in some carbon also to absorb the chemicals. I have a 10 gal and i often do 80% and the fish in there are platties and they are fine with it! I would not wait! I would try to get those chemicals out ASAP! Never try to adjust your ph ever. Fish need a stable ph more than the ph you want them to have. When adding anything to change ph,it will ALWAYS dive back up or down and that is what is so deadly for your fish. I recommend using nothing in your aquarium but prime. It is a water conditioner that you use when doing water changes. It is some great stuff but it is very concentrated and it takes very little. It will keep your fish safe when using prime as it detoxes ammonia,nitrites ect for 24 hrs. Now ypou dont have to add prime every day, just when you do your wc's or when you test and you are showing ammonia or nitrites. Just dont add it to the tank without doing a wc. You need a API MASTER TEST KIT. They have them @ amazon really cheap, well alot cheaper than petsmart that is. Ammonia and nitrites should always be 0. Nitrates should remain no more than 20. Mine stay between 5-10. When your filter media needs rinsing, dont put it under the faucet! Always take out some tank water off the top and put in a clean bucket just for fish and swish your filter in that and pop back in. Do not throw away filter media unless it is falling apart! It has all the good bacteria on it that keeps your filter cycled and healthy. If you need to ever add new media, keep in the old even if you have to cut it away from the plastic frame and stuff it back in with a new filter. It will keep your tank cycled and will start seeding your new media. After you feel like your chemicals are out of this tank, i have always done at least 50% on my 10 gal. Fish love clean water!!! It is a must to keep the nasties out. You dont want them swimming in their poop and pee right? You can do 50% weekly just like i do and alot of others on here and you should have some happy fish! Oh, you said your water is really cold and you heat it in the microwave. Why dont you just take a 5 gal bucket and set it in the tub and fill about to 4 gals and then turn the hot water on and just add a little at a time until your themometer reads the SAME tempeture as your tank has. That is what i do on my small tanks. After you have the temp right,then add the prime conditiner and swirl around. You can get a smaller bucket to pour out of into your tank and i always have a clean hand to pour the water over my hand so it does not disturb the fish or anything in the tank. Please the first thing when doing a wc is to unplug your heater and let it cool for at least 15 mins before draining your tank. Then after filling let it set at least 15 min before plugging back in! I sure hope this helps. I know how you feel. I have and alot of other people have been in your shoes before. It gets easier,it really does! Dont give up! Your fishies need you!!! Just remember all you need to put in your aquarium is water conditioner. Nothing else. The less in there the better for your fish. Dont be shy about asking questions on here. We are always here to help!!!!
  10. oscardudeValued MemberMember

    LFS's are notorious for bad advice. If you need advice I recomend asking here first. I hope everything gets worked out.
  11. oscardudeValued MemberMember

    Dont give up. Fish keeping is a very rewarding hobby. We have all had problems and if you stick with it, everything becomes easier. Good luck and feel free to ask anything. Their are no dumb questions.
  12. FashoogaFishlore VIPMember

    Once you get it all together the reward is great...usually in a 55+ gallon reward...
  13. Dr. TNew MemberMember

    Thanks fishyluv, That's very helpful! I can't use my tap water because it goes through a softener. I take my water directly from the well, which is why it is so cold. That's why I heat t in the microwave. KInd of a pain, but I'm not sure what else to do.

    Is it okay to do an 80% water change if I just did a 75% water change a few days ago? Also, I'm not sure what you mean by the filter media. My filter has little "bio-bags" that you fill with carbon. ONce a month I just toss the bag and fill a new one. Are you saying that I should keep the same bag and just re-fill with the carbon?

    Again, thanks for the help. Maybe I'll do a 50% water change tonight--already did a 25% this morning. I want to head by the store and get some prime though, first.
  14. Dr. TNew MemberMember

    With two cats, a dog, a six year old, two organic gardens and a high stress job, I just get to thinking that the fish are more trouble than I bargained for!!!!!
  15. oscardudeValued MemberMember

    A good piece of advice I received long ago was " feed the fish, take care of the water" if that makes sense. If the water parameters are good then the fish need only food.
  16. fishyluvWell Known MemberMember

    If you did a 25% this morning i think i would do a 50 % and add prime to your water after you get the temp right. Add the prime to the water though BEFORE you add it to your tank. Just make sure whatever you are heating in that it is new and has NEVER been washed with any kind of soap. Soap is toxic to fish. I bought a medium size glass bowl at the dollar store and use that for my fish when steaming veggies, heating water, etc... I also bought a cheap stainless steal stock pot to heat water in on my stove. What kind of filter do you have? Please dont ever throw away a filter that has media in it. The manufacture want you to throw them away and replace every month so they can make money that way. Always keep your old in there with your new so the old can seed your new filter. When you throw away your filter and replace with a new one, you are throwing away ALL the beneficial bacteria that the tank NEEDS to stay cycled. You should never have to replace your filter media UNLESS it is literally falling apart. Then you still keep the old in there like i said for at least 1 month but i always leave mine in unless it is falling apart. It gives your tank more of the good bacteria the more media you have in there> Does this make sense? I hope so. Now if it is carbon(charcoal) you are talking about, you need to replace that monthly for sure. But for regular media that the bacteria grows on, you should always leave that in there or you will never have a cycled tank and your fish will suffer from it. Let me know what kind of filter you have and i will check it out and let you klnow what needs replacing! :) Dont get discouraged! I have 14 dogs and cats. I have 8 fish tanks and a gold fish pond and a husband! I know how stressful life can be but we have to keep going. Just stay positive and it will work out! :) Once this is under control you will only have to do weekly wc's. I have went 10 days before. It only depends on what your nitrate reading is right before youe wc's. Just keep them uner 20. Mine stay between 5-10. P.S Fish only need food 1x a day. Feed very lightly. They need very little. I just re-read your first post. Do you just have a bubbler and a carbon filter? If so, I would really recommend a aquaclear 30. You really need to have some filteration going on. Aqua clears are good filters and they are not expensive. They have them at petsmart. I use all aquaclears and i love them! They hold a good place for media to keep your tank cycled. Just a bubbler isnt going to do it. Your water needs to run threw a filter so it remains healthy for your fish.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2012
  17. Dr. TNew MemberMember

    Thanks again for all your help fishyluv. My filter is a tetra whisper--it came with the tank set up. It has these filter bags that you fill with charcoal (sorry, I thought it was carbon!) and also something called a bio scrubber.
    Had to deal with an emergency today, so couldn't go and get the prime. I'll do that tomorrow after work and do the water change tomorrow evening.
    14 dogs and cats! whoa! I love my furries, but my daughter wanted the fish, not me, so I am a bit frustrated that nobody else helps me out with them. If I can get the water situation turned around and the tank clean again (everything covered with a nasty white film from the Proper PH chemicals), I'll be much happier!
  18. fishyluvWell Known MemberMember

    Is this tank cycled? What are your parameters? Ammonia,nitrites and nitrates. You should really buy a API MASTER TEST KIT. It is a liquid test kit. The strips are not really accurate. It should be cycled for your fish to survive. Anyways this is what i would do if it were my tank. I would break the tank down and take everything out and rinse the tank with warm water to get all those chemicals out. I would take the fish and put them in a clean bucket that is only used for your fish. You can get buckets at walmart,home depot, or lowes. I think mine have the # 2 or 5 on the bottom. They are safe if you see a 2 or a 5 # in the triangle on bottom of bucket. You will need a couple of buckets, 1 for the fish to be in, 1 for the decor and rocks. 1 for your water that goes back into tank. Put about 3 gals of tank water in the bucket and take a clean never used or washed plastic cup and catch your fish( i dont like nets but you can use it if you have too) and place all the fish in the bucket with tank water. Try to place the bucket on a towel or rug so the bucket doesn't get cold on the bottom and cool the fish down quick. You could also cover the fish with a lid to hold in their heat while you drain the tank. Take another bucket and put enough tank water in it to keep all your decorations and rock covered. Everything in the tank like rocks and decorations have the good bacteria on it also so it is best to keep it wet with tank water until you get it all back in the tank. Dont forget to unplug your heater! First thing and let it cool for at least 15 mins before you drain it. Also your filter bags with the carbon and the bio sponge needs to stay wet also. When you unplug your filter, just take the intake out and make sure the filter stays full of the tank water. Just remember everything in the tank and the filter has to stay in water while you do matenience. You could maybe hang the filter on the back of a chair or just stand it up so it doesn't tip over or you could place the media in a smaller bucket with some tank water. After the heater cools, and you have all the fish and the decor out , rinse the tank with warm water really well. Set it back on your stand and get your water ready that needs to fill the tank. Try and make sure you get the temp about the same as what the tank was before you emptied it. Take a spare themometer and check your water temp before you put it in the tank. When you have the temp right then you add your prime or your water conditioner that you have to the water. If the rocks and decor are covered with the white film, i would probably pour the tank water out of the bucket holding the rocks and decor and pour new conditioned water over the rocks and decor and swish them around somewhat before adding them back to the tank or the white film will just get back in the tank. After the rocks and decor are rinsed with the new conditioned water, add them back to the tank and start filling it with your warmed conditioned water.Try poring the water over one of your hands so it doesn't stir things up in the tank. I do this with my wc's. You will also want to take the bio sponge and rinse it with new conditioned water and the bag that holds the carbon also. Empty all the water out of the filter box also and rinse with the fiter box with conditioned water too. It wont kill the good bacteria to rinse it in new CONDITIONED water, only if you used tap water without the conditioner would it kill off your good bacteria. Okay after you have the rocks and the decor and the water in the tank,put your heater back in BUT wait 15 mins before you plug it in.You can now go ahead and plug in your filter to get your water circulating and to start filtering.if the temp is close to what you had it before draining, go ahead and add back your fish. If you think that the bucket water they are in is cooled off alot, you could take and put them in a ziplock bag and float them in the tank for 15 mins to adjust back to the temp. You dont have to float them if it doesn't take you very long to get them back in the tank. I never had to float mine when i drained miy 10 gal. They will probably be fine without floating if you dont take a long time. I know this seems like alot but if you have a white film in there this is really the fastest and best way to get it out. I have drained my 10 gal several times and put my platties in a bucket and they have never shown any ill effects from it. They are probably used to it! lol Another thing i would do is to do water changes more than just 50% a month. A 10 gal is a small tank and should have fresh water every week in my opinon. You could maybe go 10 days but i would NOT go monthly. There are too many things that can pop up between monthly wc's. Like disease or infection. The more clean water the fish have, the less trouble with disease and infection which means less headache for you! Healthy fish need healthy waters. Think about it like this. If you were a fish in a 10 gal, would you want to swim around in your pee and poop for a month at a time until you get fresh water? Of course you wouldn't! That is why i and almost everyone i know does weekly water changes. You could do 50% or you may be able to get away with just taking out 3 or 4 gals. Thats if you do it weekly and your nitrates are below 20. My nitrates stay between 5-10. I dont let them climb high. High nitrates leads to big problems. Just remember test your water before your weekly water change and if your nitrates are low, you could probably take out less then 50% if you wanted. If they happen to be higher then say 20, i would do at least 50% for sure. I am so sorry this is so long and it may not be in the best order etheir! I just wanted you to know each step so you would not have a mini cycle. And putting all new water in your tank will not hurt your good bacteria.Your good bacteria is not in the water, it is in your filter, on your rocks, and on your plants and decor. Oh and for the filter media, i have an old whisper that i still use but i just put sponges in it with some bio max. I turned it into an aqua clear! lol Anyways never throw away or change out the bio sponge. Just swish it in tank water that is put in a bucket if it becomes dirty, say every month maybe sooner.For the bag with carbon, i would NOT throw the bag away! You dont even have to use carbon. I dont unless i am trying to remove medication from my tanks or the water is discolored or if it is smelly. If you do use it, it does need to be thrown out every month like you are doing but keep the white bag and roll it up and place it somewhere in your filter box. It will give you extra place for the colony of bacteria to grow! And if you need to throw out carbon next month, just empty the one that is holding the carbon and add your new carbon. You dont have to keep adding a new white bag unless the old one is falling apart. Always try to keep a old seeded bag in your filter at all times. As many as you can get really is good. I have my filters stuffed with media!! I apologize for this being a book but i wanted you to know that it is okay to drain your tank to get the tank back like it was. It will really be best i do believe! Good Luck and stay in touch and let me know how it goes and if you have any more questions, dont hesitate to ask!! :) Dont feel bad about nobody helping you with the tank. I am the only ony that does all the water changes here on my 8 tanks! My husband just watches as i do it all like he is helping! lol
  19. CichlidnutFishlore VIPMember

    Want to buy paragraphs.
  20. carolo43Valued MemberMember

    Wow. That about made my eyes fall out.