High ph that I can't lower

Cupcakevirgo
  • #1
Hello. I had a 29 gal. That was fully cycled and had several fish in it. I had a problem with pest snails and we also had to move my tank from the living room to the kitchen because of home renovation. So the tank was basically torn down and the filter media was tossed because it was infested with a million tiny snails. We removed half the gravel and kept the airstone decorations, various plastic filter parts etc so that we wouldn't lose all the good bacteria.
At this time I also got an opportunity to purchase a used 75 gal aquarium which I did (3 hours of driving) but ended up with a beautiful aquarium, cabinet, and fluval fx6 canister filter. I bought black diamond blasting sand from tractor supply to use as substrate (one bag of fine with one bag of medium over it) I rinsed it all (i was surprised it wasnt very dirty) and set up the tank. I had a mesh bag of the bdbs in the old tank to start collecting bacteria. That went into the new tank.
So now I had a 29gal that was getting dirtier by the day and an uncycled 75 gal... the old tank was having problems from being only half set up and the kitchen was about to get refinished so I decided to finish my cycling with a fish in cycle in the new tank. I put all my old gravel parts etc into a mesh bag and put it in the new tank. I slowly acclimated the fish to the new tank, I moved my few live plants over. I'm using seachem prime and seachem stability for my cycle. Fish looked great for a few days. I got an ammonia spike as predicted and the fish were starting to look unhealthy. I had been doing 25%water changes. I decided to test all parameters and the ph was reading 8.8!! I removed various rocks and put them into buckets with water and monitored ph on those... not the rocks. I took apart my filter and tested the ceramic circles, not those.... I did 50% water changes, no budge in ph read. I tried ph down (I know, not the best thing but that didn't work either). 6 neon tetras and 3 kuhli loaches as well as a few assassin snails died.... finally decided to test small amounts of the bdbs and THAT spiked my small batch test water. Everything I read says that BDBS IS INTERT so I am shocked that it is causing this issue.
It's been a few more days. Ammonia still reading high and the ph is still reading 8.8. (Btw my tap water reads at 7.2)I am still doing water changes and dosing prime/stability. Today I added co2 booster because I read that can maybe have an effect on the ph since it is a minority planted tank. The remaining fish (opaline gourami, 5 danios, one loach and a few more assassin snails) seem to be looking better than they were. I guess they adjusted to the ph.
I am trying to figure out if anyone has heard of BDBS increasing ph? How can I lower the PH? Should I add peat moss? I have 3 small pieces of driftwood already in there. Do you think the BDBS will stop increasing the ph at some point?
I'm at a total loss.
 
BruinAquatics
  • #2
Peat moss, tannic acid (from Indian Almond Leaves) could work. I would reccommed first adding your fish to a qt tank with the 8.8 ph water then making all of these adjustments. Then I would slowly readjust your fish back to your normal pH.

The big question is, is what is your KH and GH values. If these two values are high, then IAL and Peat moss may not make any diffrence in your KH and GH values in your pH.
 
betchern0t
  • #3
Bit wierd. Overruns of ammonia and nitrite tend to reduce ph. There is a fairly direct relationship between ph and kh. I would check what the ph and kh of your tap water. If they are reasonable then you need to look for something in the tank or filter that is raising the ph. Coral, chalk, calcite etc will all raise ph. Once you know where the high alkaline levels are coming from you will be able to fix it.
 
SparkyJones
  • #4
The used 75g. Do you know what the previous owner was keeping? If saltwater or African cichlids they could have been using salts buffers and some remained on the tank or in the filter or hoses as deposits if that's what they were doing. and this is knocking up the pH still unless you heavy duty cleaned up everything and neutralized it.

I dunno. What's you pH of your source water... 7.2? It's gaining 1.6 pH just by entering the tank?

What if you leave out a bucket of source water and test it after an hour? Does the pH rise there?
Check your GH and KH what are those?

You tested the rocks, the next step would be to draw some water in a bucket and stick in a couple scoops of the sand and wait 24 hours and test it. If it's the sand doing that will tell you. BDBS isn't necessarily inert. It's coal slag. Coal slag is a glass matrix alumina-silicate which is produced as a by-product of coal burning power plants. As it burns, the residual ash becomes molten. When this slag is cooled, it vitrifies into a glassy, abrasive material, which is then crushed to produce blast media. An abrasive for sand blasting.

Safe for the environment? The sellers say it is.
But it's intended purpose is for sandblasting not water or aquariums. I would suppose one batch could be fine, another not so fine. Depending on when the slag was collected and how it was processed. It wouldn't matter if it were used as a blasting media.
It's testing is mostly done on dust particles, and respiration/lung damage.
Detectable levels of iron, manganese, titanium, and vanadium. And some samples had detectable levels of arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, and cobalt.

Use it if it doesn't give you a problem, remove it if it does. But it's not intended for aquarium use and not tested to be used in that manner. It's kind of a gamble and depends on where it came from and what areas coal was burned that the slag came from, how it was stored and processed. Ect.

Safer to use it than silica sand, 100%. Inert when used as intended. Sure also.
Some batches might be a problem and some may not, I'd also have to agree with.

You aren't the first to have a problem with it and there are just as many saying its not a problem for them and it's not the bdbs. I think it's hit or miss depending on when the batch was processed and where it was processed and you never know until you try.
 
Cupcakevirgo
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
My last kuhli loach passed away overnight. I had substrate in a cup with untreated tap water for 24 hours. The ph rose to 8.2 in that... so I think my sand is the problem. I'm wondering if it will continue to leech ph issues or if it will eventually even itself out.
I am terrible at the gh test. Best I can tell the gh test took 5 drops (but for the life of me i can't tell the difference between the green/orange. It looks kind of green to me the first drop. I feel like i am just adding green food coloring and it gets darker every drop lol).
I tested the kh this morning it turned yellow in 4 drops.
I really don't know as much as I would like to about gh and kh. I have crushed coral I can add to the tank if you think that would help balance things?
The previous owner had cichlids. The tank and filter looked very clean almost brand new when I got it. No visible deposits or anything. I cleaned with water, nothing special.... the filter is all new fluval brand media. The hoses are new. The heater is new.
 
SparkyJones
  • #6
My last kuhli loach passed away overnight. I had substrate in a cup with untreated tap water for 24 hours. The ph rose to 8.2 in that... so I think my sand is the problem. I'm wondering if it will continue to leech ph issues or if it will eventually even itself out.
I am terrible at the gh test. Best I can tell the gh test took 5 drops (but for the life of me i can't tell the difference between the green/orange. It looks kind of green to me the first drop. I feel like i am just adding green food coloring and it gets darker every drop lol).
I tested the kh this morning it turned yellow in 4 drops.
I really don't know as much as I would like to about gh and kh. I have crushed coral I can add to the tank if you think that would help balance things?
The previous owner had cichlids. The tank and filter looked very clean almost brand new when I got it. No visible deposits or anything. I cleaned with water, nothing special.... the filter is all new fluval brand media. The hoses are new. The heater is new.
crushed coral works as a buffer, to maintain a pH. it won't lower it. That said, fish can tolerate a stable high pH or a stable low pH, it's the rapid ups and downs they have a problem with.

It's the BDBS that's raising your pH I think, there couldn't be enough residue on the tank itself to do that, and it didn't come from the filter, you tested the bdbs and it's doing it in a bucket also, so there you have it.

Up to you if you want to keep the fish like that and slow acclimate them to the higher pH, or aim for fish that like 8.8 pH, or get rid of the BDBS and use something else.. or buy and test another batch of the BDBS and see if it gives you a different result.

As far as Ammonia, at pH 8.8 near all of it is going to be Ammonia and not as Ammonium. You'd need to extra dose the prime, just because of that. When I was doing tanganyika cichlids and had my pH up there at pH9. I cycled the tank low pH and slow first, then used the rift lake salts to bring up the pH after the cycle was completed, that was 30 years ago, a fish in cycle how I always do it with feeder goldfish.. it's just safer to cycle at lower pH, and after cycling bring the pH up, but you don't have that option here.

As far as prime dosage, it's normally 2 drops per gallon of water, that will treat 1ppm of Ammonia and bind it as Ammonium (non toxic) for up to 48 hours. you'd double the dose for 2ppm, triple the dose for 2ppm.
But because of your pH being high and not keeping any of it as ammonium, you'd start with a double dose, 4 drops per gallon, then 8 drops for 2ppm ammonia and water change to keep the tanks ammonia under 2ppm at all times. I don't recommend dosing heavier than than that really you should be able to water change and keep ammonia at 1ppm or lower and not need the 2ppm safety net. water change around hour 40 and redose the new water added at 8 drops per gallon, and that should keep it safe.

I don't think the fish loss comes from the pH. Your GH sounds like 5dGH and you KH sounds like 4dKH.
I think the fish loss is coming from ammonia. Normally closer to pH 7, there's a lot less in Ammonia form and more of it in Ammonium form. Up around pH9 all of it is Ammonia and toxic. Down around pH6 it's all Ammonium and doesn't even matter what the Ammonia test says because it's not toxic like that.
You have a fish in cycle, and it's going to be a high pH cycle, double dose Prime, then double it again to cover 2ppm and the moment ammonia breaks 1ppm or hour 40 is reached, water change and redose the Prime to get through the cycle.

it also won't hurt to dump in a "bacteria in a bottle" product to speed the cycle process along in your situation, I don't use it but I'm sure someone on here could recommend a good product to use to get you something cooking for bacteria and get you through cycle faster.

Another option would be to borrow a sponge or filter media from a friend that keeps fish, or try to buy a seeded sponge from a LFS if you can trust their tanks are healthy, that would kick start you better than any bacteria in a bottle would.

PS, keep an eye on your pH and how much of a water change you can do at one time without pH getting knocked down until the substrate brings it back up again. if you over do it, lets say you take out 40% and find your pH dropping from 8.8 to 8.7 to 8.6 as you add back, it's better to stop with the partially filled tank then to keep going downward. The substrate will bring it back up again and then you can continue to add water, just less of a pH roller coaster on the fish.
 
Cupcakevirgo
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Thanks for your reply. I will try and digest all the info you gave me as the day goes on and make some adjustments based on your thoughts. I really appreciate everyone's help.

I'm usually pretty good at figuring out my trouble shooting stuff on my own but my brain isn't working like it normally does. I am having to read everything 5+ times to understand it. I just got diagnosed (on friday) with demyelinating disease (its likely MS and I am going through a flare up -will know more next thursday) so I really appreciate borrowing someone else's brain right now haha.

Sadly I don't know anyone local. I just moved to Delaware about 9 months ago. The only people I know here aren't fish loving people haha.
 
Cupcakevirgo
  • Thread Starter
  • #8
Ok I have tap water sitting on the counter so I can check its parameters tomorrow.
I ordered some peat pellets. Wondering if I can put them in a small mesh bag and put them in the filter inlet or outlet so I don't have to undo the canister filter again for an experiment. Any thoughts?
I'm doing a 40% water change right now. Going to add the water back in slowly based on your previous advice. No more fish loss at this point.
 
betchern0t
  • #9
Yes. You can also just sit it in the tank where the water is moving. The only reason they say to put it in the filter is so that there is plenty of water rushing past it and that is the easiest way to do it.
 
Cupcakevirgo
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
I did a test on my water before adding in clean water. It's coming out as 8.8 ph, 0.25 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and somewhere in between the color of 0 and 5ppm of nitrate. What do you guys make of this? I'm surprised the ammonia is testing as low as it is. Should I add less clean water so I don't break the cycling?
 
betchern0t
  • #11
If the ammonia isn't coming in from from your water changes ie from the tap, then it indicates something breaking down in the tank producing more ammonia than your bio filtration can handle. If there is not plant material, over fed food or dead animals breaking down then it is from normal fish waste. In which case your bio filtration is not sufficient for the biological load on the tank. If your filter will take more bio media then you should put it in. Otherwise you need more bio filtration - another filter or a bigger filter. Generally you should run enough capacity so that you only ever see nitrate which is removed by water changes and or plant growth.

If there is unusual biological material that is breaking down, remove it as part of your water change/cleaning process or as soon as you see it.
 
Cupcakevirgo
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
Thanks for the reply. Yeah, my tank is currently doing an unplanned fish in cycle. It's a new tank with very high ph that I can't control. The BB haven't had much chance to build yet but the filter is more than enough once it gets going. I'm doing daily dosing of prime and stability along with water changes every 2 days. Feeding less than I usually do and I've removed the few dead fish as soon as I saw them. I check my fish multiple times a day for signs of stress.
 
w0walana
  • #13
There are no liquid products that detoxify ammonia so the only way to get your ammonia toxicity down is by lowering your ph with buffers like neutral regulator or adding zeolite to your filter. Prime is best used as a water conditioner only.
You’ll also have a hard time cycling your tank since nitrification levels work efficiently at ph 7.2-8.3. You need to get buffers like api 7.0/7.5 or seachem regulators asap if you want a chance at helping your tank. I would also get the sand out of there if you can since it seems to be the source of the problem :(. You can also buy some distilled water and test the sand in that. Distilled is pure water with very low pH
Thanks for the reply. Yeah, my tank is currently doing an unplanned fish in cycle. It's a new tank with very high ph that I can't control. The BB haven't had much chance to build yet but the filter is more than enough once it gets going. I'm doing daily dosing of prime and stability along with water changes every 2 days. Feeding less than I usually do and I've removed the few dead fish as soon as I saw them. I check my fish multiple times a day for signs of stress.
Dump the whole bottle of stability in the tank and buy more BB
 
SparkyJones
  • #14
If where you are uses chlorimine to treat the water that will test as ammonia. Chlorimine is chlorine and ammonia. That's how you'd know at least some part of your water is treated with chlorimine. If you wanted to know how much you need to test free chlorine and then total chlorine the difference is the chlorimine.
Most test kits just do total chlorine.
The ammonia in chlorimine is ammonium and non-toxic but it will show up on the ammonia test because that's a total ammonia test.


At higher pH your ammonia will be ammonia and be unboundfrom being ammonium. But still your tanks biological filter should be able to break that ammonia right away when cycled. It's correct there's nothing that can detoxify ammonia at high pH. At lower pH it can be bound as ammonium and kept as that as non-toxic. it's still there it will get broken down by the biological filter but with the pH being so high its going to take forever for you to cycle and build a bacteria colony.

If it's the bdbs, take it out. If it's the water, use a different source or a buffer to bring the pH down. It's the only answer I have to getting where it needs to be to cycle.

You can test your tap water from the tap by drawing it into a bucket then test it again after 24 hours, and again after 48 hours. Just to see if the pH drops as the water ages. Sometimes this happens and if that's the case you'd need to draw your water for water changes and let it sit for however long to naturally drop the pH before using it.

With having fish, I don't like messing with the pH especially how much you'd need to lower it by and then every time you add water putting in 8.8 pH again. It's not workable. There has to be a more stable solution here .

If it were fishless I'd say drop the heck out of the pH, cycle, then let it go wherever it settles after it's cycled and be real slow adding fish and acclimating them to your pH.... with fish in there thats not gonna work and keep the fish alive. A high or low stable pH is better than a constantly moving pH.

I dunno, let's get you cycled and then maybe just keep lake Tanganikya African ciclids and don't bother messing with the pH... but even then you have to be careful of what pH the source of the fish is keeping them at before you get them.

Cycling should lower the pH some. Again why I say we gotta figure out how to get you through the cycle and build a colony and then address it from where it stands after that, right now it's a rock and a hard place.
 
FishDin
  • #15
I did a test on my water before adding in clean water. It's coming out as 8.8 ph, 0.25 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and somewhere in between the color of 0 and 5ppm of nitrate. What do you guys make of this? I'm surprised the ammonia is testing as low as it is. Should I add less clean water so I don't break the cycling?
Can you clarify for me please? Is the pH 8.8 of your tap water that sat out on the counter, or is it of your tank water before you put new water in?
 
SparkyJones
  • #16
Can you clarify for me please? Is the pH 8.8 of your tap water that sat out on the counter, or is it of your tank water before you put new water in?
Thank you, I should have asked this question, I read that post wrong and replied thinking cupcakevirgo meant the tap water was 8.8. Going back and reading the tap water was 7.2.


"I did a test on my water before adding in clean water. It's coming out as 8.8 ph, 0.25 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and somewhere in between the color of 0 and 5ppm of nitrate. What do you guys make of this? I'm surprised the ammonia is testing as low as it is. Should I add less clean water so I don't break the cycling?"

And earlier:
"It's been a few more days. Ammonia still reading high and the ph is still reading 8.8. (Btw my tap water reads at 7.2)"

if tap is 7.2, and tank is 8.8, and you've exhausted all options it could be, and BDBS is raising pH in a bucket of tap water,,,,, take the BDBS out of the tank then run water changes to bring the pH down to 7.2 slowly. Don't do a big change (50%, 75%, 100%) , do small ones of 10-20% and dose prime and keep an eye on ammonia and keep Ammonia as low as possible.
the pH will drop too much at once and shock the fish if you change too much water without the BDBS in there I think. .

It's just got to be the BDBS, maybe some contaminant in it from storage in a warehouse or something, I don't know, but if it was tested in a bucket like the rocks and the ph went up, it's safe to say that's what's raising your pH.

Get rid of it and bring the pH back down safely through water changes, and it should be smooth sailing through the cycle. Don't bother trying to use the peat to try and make the BDBS work. I think even if you did it, and makes it go acidic, that's just going to release more of whatever is in the sand and the pH stays put, buffering it back up to 8.8 again.

that BDBS clearly doesn't work for you, I don't know if it's your tap water with it, or if it was exposed to a contaminant during storage from the supplier, or what the deal is, but from everything I read your solution is taking the BDBS out of the tank completely and doing some water changes to get the pH down over time to not hurt the fish. when it's down around pH7 pH7.5 some of the ammonia will be bound as ammonium by the pH, the rest can be bound by the Prime at the lower pH and make it safe.
with the pH being so high, it can't become Ammonium, so even a little on a test reading it's all as Ammonia and toxic.

The answer is to remove the BDBS. not try to make that stuff work. You can buy more and test some and see if a new batch does the same thing when added to a bucket of tank water before using it. Not sure what the deal is, just saying everything you've done points to the problem being with the BDBS for whatever the reason, get rid of it and get rid of the pH issue most likely, and get it cycled.
You can always use it again if you want a pH close to 9 later after the tank is cycled.

And I have to also say, if the deaths are basically pH related, and not related to ammonia (maybe still ammonia related due to the pH sunning the bacteria colony)... Cupcakevirgo did mention moving media over from the other tank in a mesh bag.
Possible the media is colonized, and staggered with the pH shift from 7.2 to 8.8 (stopped working for a period of time), and now settling in, and the reason there's .25 ammonia showing on tests is chlorimine needing to be broken, and otherwise it's 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite and a few nitrates, because the base ammonia from the fish is processing full cycle, it's just the chloramine that would take longer to be broken for that ammonia to disappear on the test.
So basically about what's expected from a cycled tank.

I'm not sure about this, But it sounds at least plausible. The pH of 8.8 is still no good for your fish, I'm still going to suggest that BDBS has to go regardless. it's not worth it to try and make it work.
 
Cupcakevirgo
  • Thread Starter
  • #17
Sorry for the confusion. Tap was 7.2 but I will be testing it again when I get home from work.
Tank is 8.8

It seems to be my substrate... I really don't want to have to buy new substrate and change it all out haha.
Interesting... the tap water went from 7.2 to 8.2 in 24 hours from just sitting in a cup.
 
FishDin
  • #18
That's the answer I was asking for. Thanks. So, your tap water is part of the problem and is actually 8.2, not 7.2. Maybe you should consider keeping fish that like the high pH. Africans.
 
SparkyJones
  • #19
Yep. African cichlids would work, synodontis catfish.

At 29g though you'd need smaller Africans, like the shell dwellers. And the synodontis catfish is likely out, they get big.

You could do guppies, mollies, platties, swordtails, they are all really pH tolerant even in the higher range.
 
Cupcakevirgo
  • Thread Starter
  • #20
Thanks. I actually upgraded from the 29 to the 75 gallon. I will post a thread asking some questions about cichlids for my set up. I am feeling so discouraged with my tank. I am losing another fish as we speak.... im going to post another thread with some questions more specific to a new question. I have never kept cichlid fish before (I always liked schooling fish) and I used to breed crayfish a million years ago.
That's the answer I was asking for. Thanks. So, your tap water is part of the problem and is actually 8.2, not 7.2. Maybe you should consider keeping fish that like the high pH. Africans.
Yeah I was pretty surprised about the change in ph! Thanks for the suggestion.
 

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