High pH During Cycling

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FishFixation

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I am in the middle of cycling a new 6 gallon aquarium. I checked the pH, and it is 8.2. I'm worried that this is a) going to be bad for my beneficial bacteria, and b) going to be bad for the plants which will be arriving in the mail today. The pH of my tap water is 7.6.

The other water parameters were as follows:
ammonia: 0.25 ppm
nitrite: 5 ppm
nitrate: 40 ppm

I added more ammonia this morning to get the levels back up to ~4ppm. Could that be raising the pH? Is ammonia basic?

How high a pH can plants tolerate? How about fish? I have some API "pH Down" drops that I'd rather not use if I can avoid it... is there a better solution? A buffering powder maybe?

Thanks in advance.
 

toosie

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Welcome to FishLore!

First congratulations on doing a fishless cycle! Your PH will fluctuate during cycling. Nothing to be alarmed about, and please don't ever use a PH up or down product, no matter how desperate you feel over PH levels. There are fish and plant friendly ways to alter PH if it is ever necessary, and with your PH I highly doubt that will ever be necessary, unless you decide to go into wild caught soft water fish, which isn't what you would want in a 6 gallon tank.

Some plants enjoy higher PH levels than others, but at 8.2 there isn't much cause for concern there either. Your higher PH level is likely just temporary. The True PH of your tap water won't likely be 7.6 either, unless you have done a degassing process before you took the reading. Typically to degass water to get an accurate PH reading, you put some water into a container and add an air stone to agitate the water. Leave this run for 24 hours and then test it, leave it run for another 24 hours and test it again. If the two numbers are the same, that is your True PH reading, if they are different, run the air stone for an additional 24 and test again. This time the last two readings should be the same.

How long have you been cycling the tank?
 
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FishFixation

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Thanks for your reply.

I guess I worry about the pH because most of the sites I read about freshwater aquarium plants say that they prefer a pH of 6.5 to 7.5... and 8.2 is wayyyyy outside of that range. I spent a lot of money on these plants ($40) and I don't want to kill them.

The tank has been cycling for about six days, and I haven't done any water changes on it, although I might do a partial one today to bring my nitrites back down to Earth...

I don't have an air pump or air stone, and I really don't want to spend the money on one... could I just let a glass/bowl of water sit for a few days and get the same effect? I made a mistake in my earlier post too... my tap water was 7.2, not 7.6... if that's accurate at all (and apparently it isn't).

I also don't have a GH/KH test kit. Do you recommend I get one? I don't know what I need to have in order to take care of live plants since this is my first time doing a planted aquarium.

Thanks again for your help.
 

toosie

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Lots of people cycle tanks with plants in them, with PH bouncing all over, and I haven't heard of anybody having problems with their plants due to it, it's not that it can't happen, but trying to alter the PH at this critical time would likely do them more harm than good. The up and down products never stay up or down, and make PH fluctuate even worse, which doesn't do many living organisms much justice and when fish are involved (not in your case at the moment) it can be deadly.

Leaving a bowl out in the open for a few days will degas your water, it will just take longer.

If you are going to attempt a heavily planted tank with good lighting, that you dose CO2 and the use of fertilizers, then a GH/KH test kit can be useful to monitor the KH reading in particular. KH is the buffer for PH, but because it is a carbonate, there are instances when plants may start to use the KH for a source of carbon, so it's good to become familiar with your normal KH readings so that you can better tell if they are remaining constant in your tank or being used faster than you are replenishing them. I find that with weekly 50% water changes, it keeps KH levels good and stable, so obtaining the kit isn't 100% necessary, but can be helpful. Also, GH/KH and PH can fluctuate in your source water at different times of year, so it's never a case of "this is what my GH/KH and PH is in my source water" and that's it, end of story, it will change from time to time.

You should never have to do a water change during a fishless cycle until the cycle is complete and then you do one to bring the nitrate levels down below 20ppm, but I do see that you are using a recipe that calls for a lot of ammonia. Sometimes too much ammonia can cause problems in a cycle, but really your nitrites aren't out of line for this type of cycle. If these numbers make you uncomfortable I'll provide a link below that you can use to dose less ammonia. Less ammonia will still give a good biological bacteria colony, maybe not as strong of a colony as when you use more ammonia, this I'm not sure of, but I've used the following recipe without problems when it came time to stocking my tank, so I'll provide it so you have an option. It's under the heading "Alternative Recipe".

http://www.tropicalfishcentre.co.uk/Fishlesscycle.htm
 
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Hm...

The tank is going to be moderately heavily planted (8 is a lot for a tank this size), but it's low-light, low-tech. Maybe I will buy the test kit so I can have it around in case I am having trouble with my plants and someone asks me what my FULL water parameters are.

I'll leave a bowl of water out for a few days to see what my tap pH actually is. I just hope the cats don't think it's for them.

Is there any chance my substrate could be doing this? It's eco complete that I just bought... have you ever heard of it affecting pH?

As per the nitrites, I don't know if the level is 5 or if it's 50. It's the darkest color on the card, but if it works the same way as the normal range pH test kit, the level could be much higher than the maximum reading on the card. The test is maxed out... that's all I know. I want to bring it back into the readable range.

Thanks for the reference. I'll have a look at it now and maybe adjust the way I'm doing the cycle. The rationale behind the high ammonia levels was to build a really strong bacterial colony because I do plan on stocking this tank to its max, but I may have overdone it and stalled myself out in the nitrites. Hm...

Fish tanks are so complicated!
 

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Eco complete is usually pretty inert. There was a bit of an issue with it a few years ago, but since they corrected that issue, I haven't heard of any other ones. So,... no, eco complete shouldn't be affecting your PH.

What plants did you choose?
 
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I picked a variety of anubias (from petite to lanceolata) and a couple of java ferns. So all low-light. They should arrive in the mail this afternoon. I can't wait!
 

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Well then you have no worries. Most anubias do good up to a PH of 9, Javas are good to at least 8, and 8.2 would just mean they aren't quite as happy as they would be at a ph of 7.8. Your ph is likely to drop quite significantly once your tank has finished cycling and the water chemisty has a chance to stablize.

Do you have items to tie these plants to? Neither of these plant varieties should be planted into the substrate, they like their roots exposed to the water column.
 
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Well, no... I was going to bury them in the substrate, just being careful not to bury the rhizomes. Can they survive with their roots buried?
 

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In my experience they really don't like it, roots tend to rot off, or because they don't really have the type of root to stay anchored in most substrates, they come unplanted and hover above the substrate. I have had luck just letting them float above the substrate, but I find the ones that do the best are on a rock, driftwood, or I've even drilled tiny holes in an ornament that I could feed fish line through and have tied them to that, but their roots anchor to these types of surfaces and I find these plants do the best.
 
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That's interesting, because most of the information out there says that they're fine to be planted in the substrate so long as you don't bury the rhizome. Because I don't have anything to tie them to, I'm kind of forced to try it anyway, so we'll see what happens...
 

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Hey, ya, keep me posted on how it goes for you! Just because it didn't work for me, doesn't mean it absolutely won't work for you. Different substrates may hold different results! So, I would like to keep up to date on how it goes for you.

Best of luck!
 
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Ok, thanks for everything!
 

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It's been a pleasure!
 
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