Help with PH again: Ph drop

isaacfish
  • #1
Hello everyone:

So I have almost completed my cycle on my 110 gallon tank. My readings are
0 ammonia
0-.25 nitrites (everso slightly purple)
nitrates: 80ppm

I use an api master kit

Now I was adviced by very helpful community members that My water params of

PH 6.6
KH 2
GH 3

would be more than fine with regular water changes (once per week) in my heavily planted tank. I was worried about KH but I am keeping south american species that like these water conditions. However yesterday I tested my water and PH and it was reading 6.0 the lowest it will test (so i guess it could even be lower). I strategically did a 40 percent waterchange to see if replentishing the water would fix the issue. My last water change was 5 days ago. The tank is heavily planted and has 2 large peices of driftwood. I also added some almond leaf litter after boiling them for 30 minutes. probably 10 or 12 3 to 4 inch leaves. I know they lower ph but could that few leaves do that?

My tap water after being bubbled for 24 hours is
ph 6.6
kh 2
gh 3

I thought since I tested it in the morning it might be a normal ph swing, So i left the lights on and came back 6 hours into the 8 hour light period a I got the readings from below. I am quite nervous about getting fish until I figure out if this is okay as I dont want to experient with live animals.... If anyone has any guidence on where I should go with this that would be great.
 
GlennO
  • #2
I think the advice that you were previously given is still relevant. Following cycling and with regular water changes your pH should stabilise and will likely be close to your tap water levels. In any case I wouldn't be concerned about pH. Your tap water is great for soft water species. Many hobbyists would love to have that tap water.
 
isaacfish
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
I think the advice that you were previously given is still relevant. Following cycling and with regular water changes your pH should stabilise and will likely be close to your tap water levels. In any case I wouldn't be concerned about pH. Your tap water is great for soft water species. Many hobbyists would love to have that tap water.
Thanks I know i was told the PH test kits are ehh at my PH levels. It just concerns me seeing the yellow at the bottom of the scale and not knowing if Im in the 5's or im actually at 6.0...
 
MacZ
  • #4
nitrates: 80ppm
If that reading is correct, there's your culprit. NItrates are dissolved as nitric acid. High nitrates lower pH.
This is almost a classic pH-crash situation, which usually involves overstocking, low KH and lack of waterchanges. Which is in this case not possible, but anyhow, same parameters for it to happen.
Please make sure the reading is not an error.

The IALs do nothing to the water if boiled for 30minutes, all the good stuff is extracted by that time. The wood should really only lower pH to maybe 6, not below that. And even if so... if you go for South American most fish should be fine down to a pH of 5 and the changes take hours, not minutes.

Anyhow... the pH fluctuation otherwise sounds normal. I would recommend getting a TDS/EC meter. Those are the only readings in softwater you will want to stay somewhat stable.
 
GlennO
  • #5
Yes I failed to notice the 80ppm nitrates and also I made the assumption that your pH was 6 but in fact it could be well below that. Perhaps a large water change is justified, and re-test.
 
isaacfish
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
Thank you guys both. Makes a ton of sense. I meant to reply but got slammed at work. Did a big waterchange all is good now. Tank is fully cycled and doing well and stable!
If that reading is correct, there's your culprit. NItrates are dissolved as nitric acid. High nitrates lower pH.
This is almost a classic pH-crash situation, which usually involves overstocking, low KH and lack of waterchanges. Which is in this case not possible, but anyhow, same parameters for it to happen.
Please make sure the reading is not an error.

The IALs do nothing to the water if boiled for 30minutes, all the good stuff is extracted by that time. The wood should really only lower pH to maybe 6, not below that. And even if so... if you go for South American most fish should be fine down to a pH of 5 and the changes take hours, not minutes.

Anyhow... the pH fluctuation otherwise sounds normal. I would recommend getting a TDS/EC meter. Those are the only readings in softwater you will want to stay somewhat stable.
Im currently researching a TDS meter. Seems great to determine the total amount of stuff in my water but not so much for ph, maybe im wrong. I only managed to look into it for a few minutes on a break. I took the leafs out and let new ones naturally sink over a few days as well.
 
PeterFishKeepin
  • #7
i would suggest adding some crushed coral and shells to the tank to boost the pH level naturally back to around 7 or slightly high pH levels, for eg. i have a 20gal high which had a 6.4-6.6 pH level after adding driftwood after adding crushed coral in the tank the pH level was 7.2 pH just two weeks later ! its an effective, natural and interesting way to boost/neutralize pH without chemicals.
 
MacZ
  • #8
Im currently researching a TDS meter. Seems great to determine the total amount of stuff in my water but not so much for ph, maybe im wrong. I only managed to look into it for a few minutes on a break. I took the leafs out and let new ones naturally sink over a few days as well.
pH is a variable and relatively unimportant in softwater. You can still leave the old leaves in, the mulm they break down to is a boon for the tank's stability.

i would suggest adding some crushed coral and shells to the tank to boost the pH level naturally back to around 7 or slightly high pH levels, for eg. i have a 20gal high which had a 6.4-6.6 pH level after adding driftwood after adding crushed coral in the tank the pH level was 7.2 pH just two weeks later ! its an effective, natural and interesting way to boost/neutralize pH without chemicals.
Why messing around? There is no need. The OP has added fresh leaf litter, the humic substances will buffer in low pH, a crash is not possible anymore.

And sorry, crushed coral may be a product of nature but the water parameters it produces are all but natural.
 
PeterFishKeepin
  • #9
Why messing around? There is no need
im just making a suggestion if the OP and others reading were interested in other pH buffers.....
 
MacZ
  • #10
im just making a suggestion if the OP and others reading were interested in other pH buffers.....
Well intentioned, but I don't see the benefit in adding this after the problem is found and corrected.
 
TClare
  • #11
I have a what seems to be the opposite situation where in one particular tank my pH will not go lower despite having a lot of wood and leaves in the tank and very soft water. Out of the tap the KH is 0-1, pH 6.6 or 6.8 (varies). In the tank in question I yesterday measured KH at 1-2, pH 6.8. Nitrates are very low in this tank, barely readable, maybe has something to do with it? My other tanks tend to stay around pH 6.6, in these tanks nitrates are still low, below 5 usually and never over 10.
 
MacZ
  • #12
I have a what seems to be the opposite situation where in one particular tank my pH will not go lower despite having a lot of wood and leaves in the tank and very soft water. Out of the tap the KH is 0-1, pH 6.6 or 6.8 (varies). In the tank in question I yesterday measured KH at 1-2, pH 6.8. Nitrates are very low in this tank, barely readable, maybe has something to do with it? My other tanks tend to stay around pH 6.6, in these tanks nitrates are still low, below 5 usually and never over 10.
You know very well that pH-tests are unreliable at that KH. Maybe it's just that.
 
TClare
  • #13
You know very well that pH-tests are unreliable at that KH. Maybe it's just that.
Maybe, I have wondered. Is that true of all kinds of pH tests and/or pH meters?
 
MacZ
  • #14
Maybe, I have wondered. Is that true of all kinds of pH tests and/or pH meters?
The chemical reaction drip tests are based on limits them to be only reliable over 2°KH. PH-Meters usually give erratic results under 100µSI/cm conductivity.

Strip tests usually are out, as their overall ranges usually end at 6.5, but if they can go lower they are the most likely to still work.
 
TClare
  • #15
Been looking through my old collecting notes from Peru lately and wondering what we used to measure pH then, it was a very long time ago and I can't remember.
 
MacZ
  • #16
Been looking through my old collecting notes from Peru lately and wondering what we used to measure pH then, it was a very long time ago and I can't remember.
If it was before roughly 1995 very likely simple litmus paper. That's independent of KH and EC, but also doesn't have a very fine scale. After 1995 either the Tetra or Sera drip tests or a generic from the same chemicals. That first generation of drip tests was largely also independent.
 
TClare
  • #17
If it was before roughly 1995 very likely simple litmus paper. That's independent of KH and EC, but also doesn't have a very fine scale. After 1995 either the Tetra or Sera drip tests or a generic from the same chemicals. That first generation of drip tests was largely also independent.
Yes it was before 1995, in the 1980s. We had some readings as low as 5. Just out of interest I might try to get a different brand of pH test and see if I get the same results.
 
MacZ
  • #18
Yes it was before 1995, in the 1980s. We had some readings as low as 5. Just out of interest I might try to get a different brand of pH test and see if I get the same results.
Good luck. To my knowledge nowerdays all are based on the same mechanisms so the brand doesn't make much of a difference anymore.
 
SparkyJones
  • #19
Hard to argue with the advice here. If isaacfish is using leaf litter and wood, then I'd think the lower pH is wanted, and no reason to raise it, He'd need to keep up on water changes, there isn't room for slacking on it though.

TClare, pH is a measure of hydrogen ions in the tank .the water can be acidic or basic, not alkaline, the alkalinity is the carbonates and KH.

Hard water or soft water, These terms are used too loosely to have meaning in an aquarium sense, since it's either acidic or basic as far as water (pH) , and alkalinity (KH) is a measure of buffing capacity and neither hard nor soft. very common for people to say "hard water" and to be talking about calcium or iron or phosphates, and not just calcium and magnesium like it would be for an aquarium. pH can be independent of KH or GH in a sense. it can be affected by Hydrogen Ion production from natural processes or the addition of CO2, but lowering or raising KH won't necessarily lower or raise pH along with it depending on how much Hydrogen ions (acids) are there or not there. while water could be acidic or basic on the pH scale, this isn't necessarily actual acids or bases, and just a measure of Hydrogen ions in the water being tested.

CO2 , from fish, from plants from respiration, will create carbonic acid, and this will decrease pH. The nitrogen cycle will decrease pH, from ammonia to nitrate, and nitrite to nitrate, the conversions produce hydrogen ions (nitric and nitrous acids).
low levels of hydrogen ions result in a high pH, high levels of hydrogen ions will result in a lower pH.
Bases, like carbonates and bicarbonates works against the other, the buffer neutralizing those produced acids.
When CO2 dissolves in water it mostly becomes bicarbonate ions and hydrogen ions. This increase in hydrogen ions is what decreases the pH.
Some of the hydrogen combines with carbonate to form more bicarbonate, decreasing the concentration of carbonate, this is the "buffering" and why KH lowers over time if not replenished and the hydrogen ion buildup is why pH ends up lowering.

You might not have a pH lower at all or quite slowly if there isn't a lot of acid being produced, which that acid would be creating hydrogen ions and bicarbonates, and hydrogen binding with carbonates and creating more bicarbonates, but this is where the "old tank syndrome" from not water changing comes in, the acids (hydrogen ions) deplete the Carbonates, and then eventually the bicarbonates, nothing left of the buffer at all, then then the acids (hydrogen ions) run amok, and pH drops out.

I'm sure some real deal water scientist can beat me up on this, I didn't go to school for it. and I have a hard time explaining the processes, but it's possible to have a low KH, a very stable pH that doesn't degrade as long as the Hydrogen Ions are low. In fact, pH could actually increase in that situation. if the buffer (KH) isn't very busy working on acids and just dissolving into the water over time instead with not much to do.
 
TClare
  • #20
You might not have a pH lower at all or quite slowly if there isn't a lot of acid being produced
Well this could be the case in the tank I am talking about as it is understocked, I don't use Co2 and do do regular water changes. But what about all the wood and leaves, do they not produce acid?
 
SparkyJones
  • #21
I'm not a wood and leaf kind person, but as I understand it mineral acids and natural humic substances function differently, the acid from humic substances are much weaker, than those from minerals like carbon or nitrate, which are strong enough to even burn off KH over time, or like sufuric acid and other acids burning off the buffer in a short period of time. Humic susbstances it's just a really slow, slow, process of release. And a balance of decay, depletion and rejuvenation, with anitmicrobal qualities.

woods and leaves release humic substances slowly over time, and gradually can lower pH. But I think the real benefit is the antiseptic properties of the substances rather than the pH lowering ability.

Also as I understand it, as leaves decompose, pH can drop initially with acids being produced, and increase again further along in the decomposition process and increase pH and add KH (carbons). the effect being strong or light, depending on the species and amount of leaves.


Someone well versed in humic substances feel free to correct me as you see fit.
 
TClare
  • #22
I'm not a wood and leaf kind person, but as I understand it mineral acids and natural humic substances function differently, the acid from humic substances are much weaker, than those from minerals like carbon or nitrate, which are strong enough to even burn off KH over time, or like sufuric acid and other acids burning off the buffer in a short period of time.

woods and leaves release humic substances slowly over time, and gradually can lower pH. But I think the real benefit is the antiseptic properties of the substances rather than the pH lowering ability.

Also as I understand it, as leaves decompose, pH can drop initially with acids being produced, and increase further along in the decomposition process and increase pH and add KH (carbons). the effect being strong or light, depending on the species and amount of leaves.


Someone well versed in humic substances feel free to correct me as you see fit.
Well its not really a problem for me at the moment, the pH at least seems to be stable and my fish (all soft water species) are all fine. I just wonder what the situation would be if by some miracle an interesting true blackwater species becomes available (I live in hope!), I just hope my water would be OK.
 
SparkyJones
  • #23
Well its not really a problem for me at the moment, the pH at least seems to be stable and my fish (all soft water species) are all fine. I just wonder what the situation would be if by some miracle an interesting true blackwater species becomes available (I live in hope!), I just hope my water would be OK.
I don't know how long you've been working on this tank, but it takes a long time to get to "true blackwater" and having it functioning as such, like 3-6 months or more. it needs 30 days and more just to get the decay cycle working never mind the releases of tanins an humic substances and it all to get into balance and the right saturations.

Plenty of stained water tanks out there, plenty of tanks with an added handful of leaves. Very few "true" blackwater tanks are out there though from what I've seen, they exist, but for the most people the majority of them are an aesthetic and for the look, and not for the actual function.

It's the humic substances themselves that make it possible for fish to survive insanely low pH (like 3.9-4.2) and the decomposition (I think lowering the pH along with drought or flooding changing the parameters. and waste factroing to the lower pH happening over long periods of time.
Alkali and Acid lakes and bodies of water are unique sets of circumstances, and animals or organisms that have learned to live in them, and adapted to them are few and far between.
 
MacZ
  • #24
I'm not a wood and leaf kind person, but as I understand it mineral acids and natural humic substances function differently, the acid from humic substances are much weaker, than those from minerals like carbon or nitrate, which are strong enough to even burn off KH over time, or like sufuric acid and other acids burning off the buffer in a short period of time. Humic susbstances it's just a really slow, slow, process of release. And a balance of decay, depletion and rejuvenation, with anitmicrobal qualities.

woods and leaves release humic substances slowly over time, and gradually can lower pH. But I think the real benefit is the antiseptic properties of the substances rather than the pH lowering ability.

Also as I understand it, as leaves decompose, pH can drop initially with acids being produced, and increase again further along in the decomposition process and increase pH and add KH (carbons). the effect being strong or light, depending on the species and amount of leaves.


Someone well versed in humic substances feel free to correct me as you see fit.
I'm on it.
The stuff releases humic substances and organic acids during decomposition until it is degraded down to mulm. But that means small amounts and constantly. That's why leaf litter has to be added regularly to have an effect.
I add 2 liters of humic extract made of leaves (whatever I got: oak, beech, IALs), alder cones and rooibos tea with every waterchange on a net tank volume of about 90-100 liters. I change 40% every week. The leaves get added to the tank as well, the cones are re-used for a second brew with the next waterchange, the tea bags are done for.

You also overstate the antimicrobial properties. Big part of why the method works is that we grow beneficial microbes ON the botanicals. The stuff that most people only have in the filter media or "that back corner" is out in the open. Fish love it btw.
The antimicrobial properties used in fish medicine are only in the initial bout of humic substances. After that low conductivity and long-term low pH are the only things that keep specifically potentially pathogenic bacteria low. Archaeans, yeasts and fungi as well as adapted bacteria are what keeps such a tank running.

I know Clare is a capable and experienced user of botanicals and keeping excellent biotope tanks for her South American fish and I love her tanks. She's just mostly keeping clearwater, which is still very soft, but doesn't have to go as low with the readings as blackwater and also doesn't require the amounts of humic substances I use in my main tank.
 
TClare
  • #25
But what if I ever manage to find Dicrossus filamentosus or Crenicara punctulatum or a blackwater Apistoramma for example, would it be OK? Or maybe I would have to start making extracts as well. At the moment this 240l (120cm, 4ft long) tank has only some Copella and a few otos, it is just begging me to find some suitable small cichlids to enjoy that leaf litter. I usually add leaves to most of my tanks but to this one I have been adding them regularly and in larger quantities for about 4 months, except for a 3 week period when I was away. Anyway I don't want to derail the original thread, but hopefully its all relevant information, thanks.
 
MacZ
  • #26
But what if I ever manage to find Dicrossus filamentous or Crenicara punctulatum or a blackwater Apistoramma for example, would it be OK?
For keeping: Yes. For breeding: No.

Or maybe I would have to start making extracts as well.
I can only encourage you. The fish you have will love it too.
 
brhau
  • #27
Yes it was before 1995, in the 1980s. We had some readings as low as 5. Just out of interest I might try to get a different brand of pH test and see if I get the same results.
Get a pH meter and add salt to your sample!
 

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