Managing pH In New Tank

CidProQuo
Member
First I'd like to say I appreciate anyone's time answering my ?s. I am no expert at this (new to fish tanks) and it is nice to have a community where I can solicit feedback and benefit from others' expertise. I also know that some of the things I'm going to put below were 'mistakes' (that I should have done differently). I recognize that but regardless I find myself needing advice now that I am in the situation I am.

Second, some details about my tank:
20 Gallon, Hang on the back filter (with what appears to be a charcoal bag in it), 100w heater, No live plants (only plastic)

I first setup the tank and used Tetra Auquasafe dechlorinator and also used API Quickstart for the nitrifying bacteria. Unfortunately, I only waited 24hrs after using these to introduce fish (2 mollies, 2 guppies and 5 tetra). I had not yet received my testing kit (I got the API master test kit a day later) when I introduced the fish. That first night, all 5 tetras dies and one of the guppies. The next day when I got the test kit, the water tested 8.0 on pH (which is what I assume killed the fish). The next day the pH went down to 7.8. The day after that it went down to 7.6. Then, suddenly, on the third day (yesterday) the pH went all the way down to 6. For all 3 days, the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite tests all produced zero.

I know I should have let the tank cycle (without fish) instead of taking the impatient approach, but everyone knows how the wife and family can be about not wanting to wait weeks for the tank to be truly ready for fish. That was a mistake and I recognize that now and learned from it.

When I read about 'low pH levels' most information assumes not a new tank situation. Other posts seem to indicate that increased ammonia could be causing the lower pH but with only 3 fish in a 20 gallon tank that is only 3 days old, I wouldn't think that they have peed/pooped enough in that time for that to be the cause of the lower pH (plus the fact that my ammonia test shows zero). Other explanations I've seen also don't seem to apply to my situation (old tank syndrome, needing a water change, needing to vacuum excess waste material from the gravel, as examples). These situations shouldn't really be my problem with a 4 day old tank.

Now, I am concerned about the reading of 6.0. That is as low as the test detects, so I assume it could be even lower than that. I don't want my guppy and mollies to die and I don't want to waste money on new fish just to have them die. I assume I need to get my pH to 7 (or at least 6.5) and keep it below 7.5 but the only things I see to accomplish that are things that I am not sure about. I don't want to put live plants in (which I know would be better but I'd prefer to start out managing just one living thing in here for now which are the fish). I've seen some say put crushed coral in a bag in the filter but my concern about that is whether I can do that 'wrong' and have my pH spike again too quickly for the 3 fish left.

Any suggestions? I'm trying to understand the 'cycle' here and why my pH 'crashed' overnight. I know that means that my nitrifying bacteria have (or will) die off in a low pH environment, eventually leading to ammonia suffocation for my fish, but I didn't think I should add more bacteria until I get the pH where it needs to be.

Apologies for being ignorant, just trying to figure out next steps without losing the last 3 fish. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
 
JPH1970
Member
CidProQuo said:
Apologies for being ignorant, just trying to figure out next steps without losing the last 3 fish. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
I'll let the others answer your questions regarding pH, cycling, etc. but never apologize for not knowing much about aquariums, or anything, really. Those that make you feel inferior for "being ignorant" are the ones that need to apologize. Unfortunately there are some of those people here, as there are on other forums of any hobby. It's the way people are.

I'm not sure about the quickstart that you used but with Tetra Safestart Plus that I, and others, have used, you're supposed to add some fish in right away.
 
LowConductivity
Member
That sure is some some curious movement on the pH front. You get your water from a well, or a municipality? If its city water, which one? I'd like to ready the water report before throwing my two cents in.
 
Tryne
Member
I can ensure you that adding some Anubias, or any other low maintenance plants, won't add any more work to what you already have. It will actually make the livestock maintenance a little bit easier.
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
JPH: Thanks for the kind words. It is people like you that make the internet useful.
LowConductivity: City Water (Lake Wylie, SC 29710). Not a large municipality.
Tryne: Thanks, I'll look into that. I was concerned about the added 'work' of live plants but if it is a good idea and not much additional concern (ie- things I can do wrong between now and learning all the complexities here) then I'll certainly take a look at this.

I'm going to test both my tank water and my tap water this afternoon and I'll post those results to help with the discussion. Thanks to all of you for your time, I greatly appreciate it.
 
Tryne
Member
One of my relatives has a tank that has been sitting in a corner for 2 years without any fish, half the water evaporated, no filtration or heater, a low light source and a hundred pest snail shells on the bottom. There is an Anubia in there, not sure what variety, a medium sized one. That plant looks amazing and healthy. I'm just speechless every time I see it. No one takes care of that plant, it just lives happily in there all by itself.
 
Dunk2
Member
CidProQuo said:
First I'd like to say I appreciate anyone's time answering my ?s. I am no expert at this (new to fish tanks) and it is nice to have a community where I can solicit feedback and benefit from others' expertise. I also know that some of the things I'm going to put below were 'mistakes' (that I should have done differently). I recognize that but regardless I find myself needing advice now that I am in the situation I am.

Second, some details about my tank:
20 Gallon, Hang on the back filter (with what appears to be a charcoal bag in it), 100w heater, No live plants (only plastic)

I first setup the tank and used Tetra Auquasafe dechlorinator and also used API Quickstart for the nitrifying bacteria. Unfortunately, I only waited 24hrs after using these to introduce fish (2 mollies, 2 guppies and 5 tetra). I had not yet received my testing kit (I got the API master test kit a day later) when I introduced the fish. That first night, all 5 tetras dies and one of the guppies. The next day when I got the test kit, the water tested 8.0 on pH (which is what I assume killed the fish). The next day the pH went down to 7.8. The day after that it went down to 7.6. Then, suddenly, on the third day (yesterday) the pH went all the way down to 6. For all 3 days, the ammonia/nitrate/nitrite tests all produced zero.

I know I should have let the tank cycle (without fish) instead of taking the impatient approach, but everyone knows how the wife and family can be about not wanting to wait weeks for the tank to be truly ready for fish. That was a mistake and I recognize that now and learned from it.

When I read about 'low pH levels' most information assumes not a new tank situation. Other posts seem to indicate that increased ammonia could be causing the lower pH but with only 3 fish in a 20 gallon tank that is only 3 days old, I wouldn't think that they have peed/pooped enough in that time for that to be the cause of the lower pH (plus the fact that my ammonia test shows zero). Other explanations I've seen also don't seem to apply to my situation (old tank syndrome, needing a water change, needing to vacuum excess waste material from the gravel, as examples). These situations shouldn't really be my problem with a 4 day old tank.

Now, I am concerned about the reading of 6.0. That is as low as the test detects, so I assume it could be even lower than that. I don't want my guppy and mollies to die and I don't want to waste money on new fish just to have them die. I assume I need to get my pH to 7 (or at least 6.5) and keep it below 7.5 but the only things I see to accomplish that are things that I am not sure about. I don't want to put live plants in (which I know would be better but I'd prefer to start out managing just one living thing in here for now which are the fish). I've seen some say put crushed coral in a bag in the filter but my concern about that is whether I can do that 'wrong' and have my pH spike again too quickly for the 3 fish left.

Any suggestions? I'm trying to understand the 'cycle' here and why my pH 'crashed' overnight. I know that means that my nitrifying bacteria have (or will) die off in a low pH environment, eventually leading to ammonia suffocation for my fish, but I didn't think I should add more bacteria until I get the pH where it needs to be.

Apologies for being ignorant, just trying to figure out next steps without losing the last 3 fish. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
I’ve used crushed coral to buffer and stabilize my very low pH for a couple years. Works awesome and won’t create pH volatility like chemicals can.

Rinse it very well, place it in a fine media bag and put the bag in your filter. For my 75 gallon tank, I only needed about a cup and a half of crushed coral to do the job.
 
JPH1970
Member
CidProQuo said:
JPH: Thanks for the kind words. It is people like you that make the internet useful.
LowConductivity: City Water (Lake Wylie, SC 29710). Not a large municipality.
Tryne: Thanks, I'll look into that. I was concerned about the added 'work' of live plants but if it is a good idea and not much additional concern (ie- things I can do wrong between now and learning all the complexities here) then I'll certainly take a look at this.

I'm going to test both my tank water and my tap water this afternoon and I'll post those results to help with the discussion. Thanks to all of you for your time, I greatly appreciate it.
You are welcome Cid
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
ok, so another apology. I must have tested something wrong yesterday. The pH today was 8.2, so i went from 8.0 to 7.8 back up to 8.2 over the course of 3 days. the ammonia and nitrate/nitrite tests all produce zero (the ammonia may have been .25 but i couldnt tell the diff between zero and .25 enough to call it but basically zero).

this poses another question i'd be curious about. when i first put the tank in, i filled the water up to within a half inch of the top of the tank. when i did that, the waterfall from the hanging filter did not cause very much turbulence at the top of the water and since i did not have a bubble device, i was concerned about oxygen. so i lowered the water level by about 1.5 inches, now there is a pretty good amount of turbulence (the waterfall seems to 'flow' visibly with bubbles about halfway down the tank depth). have i caused so much turbulence now that outgassing is increasing my pH?

i am just concerned about the 3 remaining fish. we are sort of attached to them at this point and i know that you need to change pH slowly not reactively with chemicals, so before I have a bad situation i'm hoping you all can help me evaluate the likely issue. thanks.
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
i just don't get it, i tested pH today (twice) and it was 6.0. So maybe the other day when i read it, i didnt make a mistake, because i certainly did it right tonight. Can it really swing from 8 to 6 to 8 in 72hrs? All others were near zero (ammonia was somewhere between .25 and .5, nitrite was 0, nitrate was 0).
 
Cinabar
Member
Hey Cid, welcome to fishlore! Like others have said, you shouldn’t have to apologize for not knowing things. Mistakes are bound to happen, and I guarantee that most people here had a very similar start.

Alright, let’s go through a checklist. Those are some wild pH swings you’ve got there.

1. Make sure you’re using the test correctly. Read the directions carefully to get the most accurate results. (You’re probably fine but I like to be very thorough )

2. Check the “true” pH of your tap water. Fill up a clean container with tap water, let it sit for 24 hours, then check the pH. Sometimes there’s a lot of dissolved gasses in the water that might affect pH

3. Do you know the gh and kh of your water? Your city or local water supplier should have a water quality report that lists the dissolved minerals and such. This could give us more insight to why you’re getting such crazy swings.

4. Be careful about chasing parameters. Generally speaking, a stable pH is much more important than one that is “ideal”. Besides, livebearers like your mollies and guppies like harder water with higher pH anyways. (Tetras on the other hand, most certainly do not)

Best of luck, Cid. Keep us updated.
 
Flyfisha
Member
When testing water using the api liquid test kit rinse the test tube both before and after every test. Do not use your finger as a lid when shaking. Our skin will change the PH .

Just for your information fish breath out ammonia so I am told.

It’s normal for PH to swing around a little in an uncycled tank but you seem to have another issue? Perhaps slightly dirty test tubes?

A good shop will know your towns GH and not have to test your water. But may test a bit for you anyway?
 
RayClem
Member
Unfortunately, the API Freshwater Master Test Kit leaves out two rather important tests General Hardness (GH) and Carbonate Hardness (KH). The GH test measures the level of bivalent ions (Calcium, Magnesium, Iron +others) in your water while the KH test measures the carbonate and bicarbonate ions that stabilize pH. Thus, I suggest you purchase one of the combination API GH/KH test kits. You can get them for around $10-12, but they are well worth the cost.

According to your post, you have low conductivity tap water. That means the water contains a low level of minerals. That means the water is soft (low GH) and likely low KH as well. Water that is low in hardness (low GH} is good for some fish like Tetras, but it is not great for fish like Mollies and Guppys that originate from the hard waters of Central America. Mollies even tolerate slightly brackish water. Tetras tend to prefer slightly less alkaline or even acidic water while guppies and mollies like the pH to be closer to 8. If you can get the pH to stabilize near 7.5, you can keep many types of fish.

Once you determine both the GH and KH of the water in your tank and the water from your tap, it will be much easier to propose a path forward. If you water is super soft, you might need to add minerals to raise the GH. I have terrible tap water, so I use RO water (20 ppm TDS) as my source water, but I add Seachem Equilibrium to provide the minerals needed by my fish and plants. I maintain my GH around 7 dGH. Likewise, since my RO water is zero KH, I add small amounts of sodium bicarbonate to raise the carbonate hardness to maintain a suitable pH (in my case about 7.5), However, without knowing more about your current water conditions, there is no way I can advise you in how to adjust your water.

Some people simply use the water they have and then purchase fish that work well in that water. For example, those with soft, acidic water can have what is known as a blackwater aquarium stocked with fish that come from the backwater tributaries of the Amazon basin. Those with very hard, alkaline water (which you definitely do not have) can have an aquarium well suited to African Rift Lake Cichlids (Mbuna). Those with slightly hard, slightly alkaline water can keep many types of fish. Others want to keep fish that do not fit the water conditions they have. That is a little more work as you have to take steps to modify the hardness and alkalinity of their water.

Residents of the Pacific Northwest often have very soft water. You might want to view some of the videos of Cory, the owner of Aquarium Co-op. He has soft water, so he may be able to give you some great advice on dealing with your water.

At this time, my two suggestions would be:
1. Get a GH/KH combination test kit.

2. Test both your aquarium water and tap water. It would also be good to pour a glass of tap water and let it sit on the counter and test it after 24 hours. This will allow dissolved gasses like excess carbon dioxide to escape so you can get a true reading of your tap water conditions. Post your test results back to this thread as soon as you get them.

3. Do not purchase any additional fish until your tank has cycled. That normally takes around six weeks. There is nothing wrong with doing a fish-in cycle. That use to be the way everyone did it years ago. Mollies, platys, and guppies are typically tolerant of variations in water quality, so they are often used for a fish-in cycle. It sounds like mollies and guppies are what you have left after the tetras died. Thus, just try to keep them alive using water changes as needed. Try to keep the ammonia and nitrite levels below. 0.5 ppm. If it goes higher, do a partial water change to reduce the concentrations. If necessary, you can use a water conditioner called Seachem Prime to detoxify ammonia so it will be less harmful to your fish, but yet still be available to the beneficial bacteria that are trying to develop in your tank.

Welcome to the wonderful world of fishkeeping. Every one of us has made mistakes as we learned. However, with forums like this one, you have an opportunity to learn from our mistakes as well as our successes to minimize the number of mistakes you make on your own. Welcome to the forum and never be reluctant to ask questions.
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
Several of you made comments and asked questions and I'll speak to some of those here. Thanks again for all the support, it really helps given how new i am at this. I have additional questions at the bottom.

Using Test Correctly:
Yes, I factored in being careful about testing properly. Rinsing tubes out between, etc. are things I'm already doing. We even run them more than once sometimes just to make sure of this. I don't think dirty test tubes is my problem.

Tap Water pH:
I left some tap water out overnight and got a pH of 8.4

GH/KH:
I had already ordered a GH/KH test kit before it was suggested here just from reading posts about water quality and the volitility of pH that can arise from certain hardness. I tested that today (on the water that was left out overnight for the tap pH test) and got a value of 4KH, 35.8GH. The KH test took 4 drops to turn color (and it was very evident). The GH test took 2 drops (the color was very faint orange after one drop and very faint green after second).

Here are the levels I've seen since starting my tank last weekend, the order of the numbers is pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate
Day1: 8.0, .00, .25, .00
Day2: 7.8, .00, .00, .00
Day3: 8.4, .25, .00, .00
Day4: 6.0, .50, .00, .00
Day5: 6.0, 1.0, .00, .00

My lay reading would lead me to believe I need a small water change (maybe 2 or 3 gallons of my 20 gallons) to prevent the increase in ammonia. However, if my pH is that low, I wouldn't think I'd want to put in my tap water with the high value of 8.4. I do have all the recommended water treatment chemicals in the event any of those are appropriate (api quick start, api stress coat, seachem prime). Am I just early in my 6 week cycle? So next the first bacteria will consume the ammonia and my nitrite levels will start going up, then after that happens, the second bacteria will consume the nitrite and my nitrate levels will go up? Should I add the nitrifying bacteria from API in now instead of waiting another week or two for the bacteria to manifest on its own?

Some Additional Questions:
1. Does how deep in the tank I am pulling the sample in the test tube (top few inches versus way at the bottom) make a difference in reading? My pump and filter seem to really be moving the water around notably so I'd assume there is no settling of things (like ammonia building up more at the bottom versus the top) so if I have good circulation does depth for sampling matter?

2. The cycle in general, 'with fish'. Does it eventually get stable? Meaning if I take the 6 weeks, expect the cycle to occur (first increase in ammonia, followed by increase in nitrite, followed by increase in nitrate, etc) and I manage those well with testing, water changes, additions, etc. will it end with a stable environment or does the cycle repeat itself uncontrollably? I know that sudden external factors could affect a stable tank (like addition of plants, new fish, etc) but I mean if nothing changes like that will i eventually expect things to settle down?

I can't thank you all enough for the help. Having a community like this for noobs like me is what makes the internet so great. Thanks!
 
Flyfisha
Member
I will address a few questions CidProQuo and others will jump in if I get an answer incorrect, I hope?
To double check, there is still 3 fish in the 20 gallon? and you are using the Prime in any water being added?

The GH is low and needs to be increased to help stabilise the PH . Equilibrium or replenish could be used with every bucket of change water.
Or
Crushed coral could be in the tank permanently.
I have no experience with crushed coral

Adding replenish or equilibrium is easy enough and soon becomes part of the routine.

My understanding is ( edit 6 degrees ) or 60 - 70 ppm KH is a minimum to hold the PH .

What you write is correct in theory. Don’t worry if you never see nitrites in a test but go straight to nitrates. You can’t have nitrates without the bacteria consuming nitrites. It may be gone before you ever see it?

The API bacteria.
I would say you wasted your money. Or add it now regardless. There are only a couple of manufacturers bottles that had the correct living bacteria in them when they were seal in an air tight bottle without food and put on a shelf for who knows how long at whatever temperature.
Doctor Tims one and only is one brand, sorry I forget the other brand ( tetra safe start maybe? ) Anybody?

#1
Take the water from wherever you like. It does not matter. Take it from the same place each time if you are that kind of person that has to be a perfectionist. Honestly it should make no difference. You could double check for yourself with a sample from the lower level taken with a turkey baster.

Actually a $2 turkey baster has dozens of jobs around an aquarium. Picking up poop ,picking up the extra food you dropped my mistake. Even feeding certain foods like frozen bloodworms.

#2
Once this GH is raised you should eventually have a stable tank that goes months with only seeing nitrates. No ammonia and no nitrites. The nitrates may go up slowly over many months if you are not removing enough with routine water changes. After a few months you will change your weekly routine and have stable nitrates of approx 40 ppm (or your choice of 20 ppm ) before each water change.


I think we all enjoy seeing and sharing a picture at some point mate?
E07CB1B1-8FEB-4F15-A865-8859D6925985.png
 
RayClem
Member
Your KH is 4 drops (4 dKH) which is about 70ppm carbonate hardness, which is surprisingly low considering your pH of 8.4.
Your GH is 2 drops (2 dGH) which is about 35 ppm general hardness which is very soft. Anything up to 100 ppm is considered soft.

Soft, yet alkaline water is a very unusual combination unless your water is going through some type of ion exchange water softener that is removing calcium and magnesium from the water.

If that is the water you have to deal with, you will need to decide what level of hardness, alkalinity and pH you want to maintain in your aquarium. However, no matter that you decide (hard, alkaline water; soft, acidic water; or moderately soft; neutral water) you might have to add supplements to adjust either the hardness, alkalinity or both.

You can adjust hardness by using supplements like Seachem Equilibrium, which is the one I use. Kent Marine also makes one called RO Right. Equilibrium is derived from Potassium sulfate, Calcium sulfate, Magnesium sulfate, Ferric sulfate, and Manganese sulfate. It contains no sodium, no phosphates, and no carbonates or bicarbonates. Thus, it is designed to increase General Hardness without affecting alkalinity or pH.

There are buffers that use carbonate, bicarbonate, phosphate, biphosphate and bisulfite salts to adjust alkalinity and pH. Depending upon your target pH, you can obtain buffers that will stabilize the pH anywhere from 6.0 up to 8.3. The most common targets seem to be 7.0 (neutral), 7.5 ( slightly alkaline) and 8.3 (moderately alkaline). Seachem sells a pair of buffers called Acid Buffer and Alkaline Buffer which used in combination can achieve a stable pH anywhere between 6.0 and 8.0 depending upon the ratio of the two buffers.

There is also a product called Salty Shrimp Mineral GH/KH+ that is supposed to contain minerals for both raising GH and KH and also providing trace minerals needed by shrimp (and plants). I have not used it and I have not been able to find a MSDS sheet to learn what is in the product. Thus, I cannot recommend it personally. It is designed to be used with rainwater or RO water with a very low mineral content. Although your water is very soft, it still contains some minerals, so I am not certain how much of the product you might need to add.


FlyFisha suggested using crushed coral in your tank. Crushed coral is aragonite which is a mineral comprised of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. along with other trace minerals. Thus, it adds both calcium and magnesium which will help raise your general hardness. Unless you plan to keep a blackwater aquarium with fish from the backwaters of the Amazon basin who like soft, acidic water, adding crushed coral would be a great idea.

Crushed coral also adds carbonate ions which will raise the KH and stabalize the pH. If you add a lot of crushed coral, you can achieve hard, alkaline water. Those who keep saltwater tanks do that. So do those who want to keep African Rift Lake Cichlids who like hard, alkaline water. If that is not your intent, add a small amount of crushed coral to your filter and then monitor the hardness and alkalinity. The lower the pH, the faster the crushed coral will dissolve so you will get to a point where the it will dissolve quite slowly.
I hope I have given you enough information so you can do additional research and decide on a path forward. Good luck!
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
you guys rock!

yes, still 3 fish in tank, 2 mollies 1 guppy that seem to be doing fine even with my poor water problems.

odd with the gh/kh aspects of the water. i am on city water and nothing (at least by me) is being done to the water after my main. i dont know what the city i live in may be doing.

I think I'll try replenish/equilibrium to raise the gh. to answer your question about target pH, we want to end up with a small school of 5 tetra in addition to 2 mollies and 2 guppies. since 1 of the original guppies died that first night along with the 5 tetra, i plan to wait and add the second guppy and the 5 tetra to the tank after i work all this out and hope the 3 in there live until then. So for target, i'd think i need a lower pH for the tetras (as my tap is 8.4 and that seemed to kill them the very first night, or at least i'm assuming that is why the tetras died). So target pH of maybe 6.5 (or somewhere below 7) so that i can keep that list of fish?

That brings up another question, do i have the right number of fish, meaning it would be unwise to plan for more than the 9 i listed above? I'd probably only want 2 or 3 more than that but curious about what you think on my 'inch count' for a 20gal.

I'll put the API bacteria in I suppose, i didnt think about shelf life. I assume dumping it in will just 'maybe help if any are alive' and 'wont hurt water or fish at all'? Should I pour it in back in my filter water well or straight into the tank?

Turkey baster sounds like a good idea, thanks for suggesting that.

So based upon what you are seeing, what should i add suppliments to my water change each week rather than putting it in and treating the tank? meaning, if I take out 3 gallons and add 3 back, seems like i should pull my 3 gallons the night before from my tap, treat it, let it degass, then do my change the next day. this seems least invasive on the fish, yes? if so, what additions do you think? the stress coat or seachem prime to dechlorinate and the replenish/equilibrium?

And here is a photo, Flyfisha! Thanks for asking:


IMG_2641.JPG
 
RayClem
Member
Tetras do well in soft, slightly acidic water, but they can also do just fine in slighty harder, slightly alkaline water. They do not do well in very hard, alkaline water. So avoid pH levels up around 8.

Guppies and mollies do best in harder, somewhat alkaline water, but they can adapt to slightly hard, slightly alkaline water. They are unlikely to do well in soft, acidic water, so avoid pH levels below 7.

I keep a variety of fish in my tanks including guppies, platys, cory catfish, and various tetras and barbs. They all adapt well to slightly hard, slightly alkaline water. Thus, in my tanks I target a hardness of 7 dGH and a pH of 7.5. Those numbers do not have to be exact, but I think you will find that something between 6-10 dGH and a pH in the mid 7s will accommodate all the fish you have planned.

Also, if you have any plans of adding shrimp or snails to the tank, they need minerals in the water to construct their shells. If the pH is too low, their shells will dissolve. Thus, the will like the moderate hardness and pH levels as well.
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
Now I am a bit concerned about the guppy. the mollies are doing great, they look and act very healthy. The guppy is now spending a good deal of time at the very top of the tank. i think it may be getting ammonia suffocated in conjunction with low pH water.

Thoughts on the addition of the Seachem Prime (to detoxify the ammonia for the guppy)? If so, add to the hanging filter area or add it directly to the tank?

Still looking to reduce the ammonia level itself (versus just detoxifying) so I'm wondering if I should also put the nitrifying bacteria bottle I have in as well. I still would like to confirm that even if adding a bunch of the bacteria does not help (because of the shelf life comment), it at least won't hurt the fish. Also, if I add it, would it be best to add to the tank or the filter area)?
 
RayClem
Member
If your tap water has a pH over 8 with a KH or 4 dKH, I do not see how your pH could be dropping as low as 6. What is the dKH in your tank itself. The end point of the dKH test is a pH of 6.0 as indicated by a yellow color on the bromothymol blue indicator. Thus, if your pH is 6, you would show a dKH of less than one drop.

Fish have water in their flesh as well as the water in which they swim. If the mineral content of the water in which they swim is much different than the water in their tissues, the tissues will either lose or gain water to restore the balance in osmotic pressure across the cell wall. The cell walls function very much like a RO membrane. Water passes through, but minerals do not. Thus, if fish are placed in water that is too soft (not enough minerals), water will pass through the cell wall of the fish. This is very stressful and can kill the fish if it is severe. Likewise, if the water in which they swim is too hard, water will pass from inside the cells through the cell wall to the outside. This can result in the cells becoming dehydrated, This is also stressful and can kill. Fish can usually adapt if changes in pH and hardness are adjusted slowly, but their systems can only adapt so far. Some fish can migrate from ocean water into fresh water to spawn; salmon, herring and striped bass are a few examples, but they make this migration of weeks so their bodies can adapt.
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
ok, i tested the tank separately for hardness like you asked. For tap, my KH is 2 drops and my GH is 4 drops. For the tank, the KH is 1 drop (it is yellow as soon as i put the first drop in) and my GH is 2 drops (second drop makes it turn green). So the hardness of my tank is half that of my tap, and if my tap is already 'soft' then my tank is super soft. not good. So I will put the additives that you suggested (replenish) and see if I can raise the hardness.

On another note, I am really confused about my pH. I know it shouldn't swing a bunch but i'm also SURE that i'm not doing the test wrong and I keep getting odd results. I just tested the tank and got the following photo.

not only is the pH not 6 but the normal pH test puts it at or above 7.6 and the high pH test seems to me to put it 'below 7.4' (because it looks yellow and orangish brown is the 'lightest' color on the band. Ammonia seems to be at 1.0 which is concerning me also. Here is the photo:


IMG_2645.JPG
 
Corylover123
Member
Do a water change and add baking soda to spike your kh
 
RayClem
Member
Since your KH is less than one drop, there is nothing in there to stabilize the pH. That is why it is dropping so quickly.

Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate which has a pH of around 7.8-8.2 if you added a lot of it, is useful for raising the KH. As the KH goes up, the pH will go up as well. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and pour it in your tank. then the next day, check pH and KH again. If you do a water change, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per 5 gallons of water replaced. When the KH gets up around 6 drops and the pH is around 7.5, you can stop adding baking soda to the tank, but you will always need to add some when you do a water change. You might need to adjust the amount up or down slightly as required to maintain the kH and pH.

See if your LFS has some crushed coral. Normally, you will find it in the saltwater tank supply section. It may be called reef sand or something like that. Take a half cup of the crushed coral, place it in a mesh bag and place it in your filter or on the bottom of your tank. As it dissolves, it will help both the general hardness and carbonate hardness. When things get near where you want them to be you can pull out the mesh bag. You should mix the crushed coral in with your substrate, but then there is no way of removing the excess, so the mesh bag is helpful.
 
Pfrozen
Member
This is all very unusual. Soft water should not have a high pH like that. My recommendation is to just switch to RO and remineralize it. I get mine from Culligan and it costs 2 dollars per week. The liquid minerals cost 44 dollars for a 2-year supply.

Honestly, after battling with strange tap water and losing multiple colonies of shrimp and dealing with algae problems, it has been SO, SO worth it.
 
RayClem
Member
Although the tap water is high in pH, the GH and KH are pretty low. Thus, the tap water is not much different than RO water or rainwater. There should be no need to purchase RO water or install a RO system like I did.

Just add slightly less minerals to the tap water than the product recommends for RO water and you will get pretty close to what you need.
 
Pfrozen
Member
RayClem said:
Although the tap water is high in pH, the GH and KH are pretty low. Thus, the tap water is not much different than RO water or rainwater. There should be no need to purchase RO water or install a RO system like I did.

Just add slightly less minerals to the tap water than the product recommends for RO water and you will get pretty close to what you need.
RO and rainwater has low pH, not high. I suspect that something foreign may be in OPs water source. It doesn't make sense to have high pH and low KH/GH
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
OK, you guys are going to think I am nuts. I left tap water our for a few days and tested the pH. I also tested the tap directly again at the same time. Both pH came back at 7.2. I just check the tank, it is still 6.0. I swear to you guys I'm being very careful about the testing (cleaning tubes, using right drops, etc). I don't know how I got 8.4 for the tap that first time but looks like that may not be right. This seems to align with what Pfrozen said about soft water shouldn't be so high in pH.

I double checked the hardness and confirmed my tank is 1 drop for KH and 2 drops for GH, my tap is 2 drops for KH and 3 drops for GH, so we know for certain i have soft water as those readings have not really changed at all.

I am going to do a water change of about 2 gallons since my ammonia is getting higher (1.0) and I needed to add some baking soda for hardness boost, I was curious about something. Since my tap water is so low in minerals, am I making that worse adding a de-chlorinator like seachem prime? I would think chlorine is not good for fish but if if the de-chlorinator will reduce other minerals too, I want to make sure I either don't do it or add the baking soda.

**EDIT**
OK, so I have a large container of about 2 gallons that I'm going to change out today assuming you all don't come back and say not to do it this way. I just treated that water (seachem prime and 1/4tsp baking soda). The pH of that water just sitting there right now is just over 7.5. The tank is at 6.0 (just tested it twice). So I am going to remove an equivalent amount of tank water, put this water in, and I'll measure pH tomorrow morning and see what it is. Hopefully I'm doing the right thing here, I really do appreciate all the help.
 
RayClem
Member
Soft water is typically low in pH due to the presence of dissolved carbon dioxide which forms carbonic acid when dissolved in water. There are some alkaline chemicals like ammonia which when dissolved in water can raise the pH. It would take only a very small amount of sodium hydroxide to raise the pH.

However, that being said, I am much more comfortable with your new tests of 1 dKH and 2 dH in your tank with the tap water being just slightly higher than that. That makes a lot more sense.

Armed with that information, adding baking soda will help the KH and pH, but won't do a thing to help the GH issue. I hope you can pick up either some crushed coral or some Seachem Equilibrium soon to address that issue.

Chlorine is quite toxic to fish and to the bacteria responsible for the nitrogen cycle, so never add tap water to your tank without using some type of dechlorinator. These water conditioners also sequester heavy metals, but since your water is so soft, they is not likely to be a big issue. Using Seachem Prime will perform the first two objectives of detoxifying chlorine and treating heavy metals. However, it will also help prevent the ammonia from harming your fish. Thus, do not skip adding it. Once your tank is fully cycled, you might want to consider switching to another water conditioner and save the Seachem Prime for occasions when you get an ammonia spike. However, once your tank is cycled, such occasions should be rare.
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
thanks rayclem, your info makes perfect sense. qq on the seachem, it says add a capful (5ml) for 50gal but to add it to the water before and base quantity off that. based upon that, 1ml is all i'd want for the 2gals im doing (well, i'd want less than 1ml but adding less than that i hard to measure). i was thinking of adding a capful into the tap water before introducing to the tank a few hrs later, would that be ok you think? i dont want to over-treat with chemicals but 1ml seems like such a tiny amount going into 2 gallons.

i have equilibrium arriving via amazon in 2 days. i am going to get some crushed coral for the hanging tank well.

so, after adding 1/4tsp baking soda to the 2 gallons about to be used in my water change now has seachem prime (about 1ml), 1/4tsp of baking soda, and a pH of 8 and KH of 10 drops.

Edit: Did the water change (took out only about 2 gallons) and my tank pH is now 6.8. The ammonia is still up at 1.0 (but the color was on the lighter side this time so made a small difference there i think). Zero on nitrites and nitrates, i'm assuming i dont have enough bacteria built up yet in my 1 week old tank. I'll keep measuring each day and posting results. thanks again for all the help guys!!!
 
RayClem
Member
It takes water conditioners about 15 minutes to fully react with the chemicals in the tap water. Thus, filling your bucket with water and add water conditioner. The go about your business of removing water from the tank, cleaning the front glass, etc. By the time you finish with your maintenance tasks, the dechlorinated water will be ready to to into the tank.

The pH scale is a logarithmic scale. Thus, when the pH in the tank is 6.0, there will be a bigger jump in pH than you will see when the pH gets to 7.0 and higher. Baking soda has a pH of between 7.8 - 8.2 so when you add directly to the tap water, you are seeing the 8.0 pH. Keep doing water changes using this recipe on a daily basis until the ammonia level drops down below 0.5 ppm. Continue to monitor the pH in your tank as well. Once the pH gets up to about 7.5, only add the baking soda when you see the pH start to drop below that level. Also check the KH in the tank. You will want something in the 6 - 8 drop range.

Two thumbs up on the Equilibrium and the crushed coral. My initial calculation is that you will need to add about 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of Equilibrium to 2 gallons of your tap water to get the General Hardness up to around 6-8 dGH (6 drops of test solution). Try that amount for each water change and monitor the GH in your tank. You can then adjust the level of Equilibrium as needed to maintain the hardness level you want.

By the way, only add Equilibrium when doing water changes. If you are simply topping up the water level due to evaporation, use dechlorinated water, but skip the Equilibrium and baking soda. The water that evaporates is pure water (no minerals) so you do not need to add minerals to top-off water.

Since your tank is quite new and you are doing a fish-in cycle, just remember to monitor both the fish and the ammonia levels. If ammonia levels go up or the fish looked stressed, then it is time for a water change. Do them daily if necessary. There is nothing wrong with doing 2 two-gallon water changes back to back, either. Some people change out 50-60% of their water each time. I would consider 2 gallon water changes once per week in a 20 gallon tank to be a minimum. However, that depends on your stocking level and filtration quality. For now, you should probably do water change more than once per week. Once the tank is cycled, you can establish a water change routine that fits your schedule. I normally change 2 1/2 gallons per week in my 20 gallon tanks, but then I increase that to five gallon on the first week of the month. In my 40 gallon tank, I do five gallons per week. Every aquarium is different; figure out what works best for you and for your tank.
 
Flyfisha
Member
Please help me understand where you got the 15 minutes for water conditioner to work from RayClem?

The standard answer is instantaneously but my research found something written by Seachem ( I think) that said 2 minutes.

A link to nowhere.

How Fast Does Prime Work? | Freshwater Aquarium Discussion Forum | 337596

A link to Seachems site.



I am Looking for more information to post soon in an edit .

This is no great help?
https://www.amazon.com/Seachem-Prime-Fresh-Saltwater-Conditioner/dp/B00025694O?th=1
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
Flyfisha, I had googled how long dechlorinator takes to work prior to seeing his reply. I did find things like chlorine in 2mins and chlorimide in 5mins. I also found that agitation (mixing) theoretically increases that speed. I think his 15min point is that you would know for sure it has worked by the time you spend the 15mins doing the other routine (which you have to do anyhow) and I dont think he was implying it actually takes a full 15mins for it to work sufficiently. At least that is how I read it.

As for the other water change and addition info, that is great info Rayclem. Thanks again for taking the time, all of you! I'll do another change this evening and post updated values and such over the next couple of days.
 
Flyfisha
Member
As chlorine kills fish and our bacteria this is a pretty important part of fish keeping.

I mix up a number of large 200 litres/ 55 gallon containers of change water each week. Adding a tiny 5 ml syringe its always a worry that it mixes in fully. I have 360 litres of water sitting in a heated room tonight for tomorrows tanks. Having done a couple of 100 litre rubbish bins today after 5 minutes I am all to familiar with the concern of waiting and mixing. Let’s not over complicate something that does not need 15 minutes is my suggestion?

For those people in a cold climate in winter without a heated room 15 -20 minutes is long enough for the change water temperature to be affected.
image.jpg
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
agree we shouldnt over complicate. to do that, i'd suggest taking temperature out of the discussion since it by definition complicates it. you are absolutely right, if you live in cold climate, you have to be concerned about leaving your water out too long. i dont, my climate is very moderate. my house temp is literally mid 70s all year. on the other side of complication, i am in this as a new hobby for me and my daughter, i doubt i'd ever get to a staging method like your photo.

frankly, if i had known that my tap water was so problematic-ly soft and lacking in minerals, I dont know if I'd have signed up for this level of pH and mineral management. i should have researched better up front, but oh well, here i am. now my goal is to find a happy medium, which it sounds like i might be able to achieve using all the suggestions above.
 
RayClem
Member
The reaction between dechlorinator (typically based on sodium thiosulfate) and chlorine is a oxidation-reduction reaction. The speed of reaction will depend upon the concentrations of each and the temperature at which the reaction is occurring. The higher the temperature, the more rapid the reaction. The pH of the water can also affect the reaction.

Since I do not know how much chlorine or chloramine is in the water, how much dechlorinator is being added, what the temperature and pH of the water might be, and how well the water is stirred after addition of the water conditioner, I picked 15 minutes as a reasonable time to insure that the reaction is completed.

Most acid-base reactions occur nearly instantaneously. However, oxidation-reduction reactions usually take longer. The marketing hype on dechlorinators often state that the product will "instantly remove chlorine and detoxify heavy metals). However, the reaction is not instant. That is similar to the marketing hype used on bottles of beneficial bacteria that indicate the product will "instantly cycle your tank." That just is not possible. Such information is put out by the marketing department rather than the engineering department.

It may well be that 2-5 minutes will be more than sufficient to render the chlorine harmless in some situations. However, it other situations, more time might be required. I used a conservative time estimate to insure that the reaction will be completed. If anyone choses to allow less time, that is your decision.

I know some people even add the dechlorinator to their tank as they are refilling it with tap water using a hose such as the Python system. Perhaps that will work if you add sufficient dechlorinator to treat the entire tank volume. However, I have not tried it, nor do I plan to do so. Water conditioners affect the oxidation reduction potential of your water, so I prefer to add no more than is needed to treat the tap water I am adding to a tank.
 
  • Thread Starter
CidProQuo
Member
ok, doing another water change tonight, ill post how it goes. currently, my tank pH is somewhere between 7.0-7.2 (which is good). The pH of the 3 gallons of water that I'm using today for my water change is 7.4 (and this water is currently sitting in a bucket with the dechlorinate in it and since my replenish was delivered today i went ahead and put 4 capfuls of that in the bucket).

what is odd is that even though i added replenish, the KH of the bucket (out of the tap but with 4 capfuls of replenish) is still only 2 drops, i dont get it. should i not be able to simply keep adding replenish to my bucket until i get a reading of 6 or 8 drops or is it not that simple?

ammonia in the tank read a moment ago was closer to .5 than 1.0 so the level of that did diminish slightly yesterday, hopefully that will mean ill start seeing some nitrite in the next few days indicating i'm moving along through the cycle.

i'll post updated stats tonight and see what thoughts are on it before doing another water change tomorrow.

**EDIT**
so all went well at the end of the evening, tank pH is 7.2 and ammonia is down to closer to .25 than the .5 from yesterday and the 1.0 from the day before. moving in the right direction. still confused about how my KH wont go up (even in the bucket alone adding several capfuls of replenish) so I am concerned about getting the KH up to help stop the pH from crashing like i think it did the other day. i know the crushed gravel should help with that (and the GH) but in the meantime seems like i need to either add more replenish than i am or use baking soda on top of the replenish. still interested in thoughts here.

thanks guys!
 

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