PH 'Crash' in tank, how to solve?

triivk
  • #1
Hi, I have a 250 Litre freshwater tank;

Filtration: I have a Biomaster thermo with a heater, and a Fluval hang on filter. In addition, I have an airstone.

Stocking: 6 neon tetras, 3 buenos aires tetra, 3 emperor tetras, and a Chinese algae eater.
The tank is moderately planted, the hardscape consists of a few pieces of driftwood and slate rock. I have gravel substrate.

The tank has been running for about a year now - I do water changes weekly, but as of late nearly daily.

I noticed that my PH, usually around 6.5, had dropped significantly. Using my API master test kit, the PH was reading 6, the lowest the test goes. As such, I bought a 'wide range' PH test from API, and it's reading between 5 and 6.

My belief is that the PH drop reset/crashed my cycle, as I have been reading ammonia in my tank nearly daily. As such I obviously treat with prime and do daily 40-50% water changes.

Just to reiterate:
PH: 5-6
I have extremely soft water, KH: 0-1
Ammonia: 0.25ppm
Nitrite: 0ppm
Nitrate: 5ppm
Temperature: 25-26 Degrees Celsius

I noticed inflamed gills on my fish and even though I usually do weekly water changes, I began doing daily or every other day as I assumed this was ammonia poisoning. After noticing this in collaboration with my PH drop, I tried adding crushed coral and limestone. I was hoping it may raise my KH and in turn PH. I imagine the water changes make the addition of coral basically useless. My tap water is acidic but closer to 6.6ph or something, so I don't know why the water changes aren't helping. I don't want to add beneficial bacteria or other established filter media if it'll just die as soon as I put it in. I'm at a loss.

How do I raise the PH without chemicals? How do I reestablish the cycle? Do I need to begin using bottled water?
 
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jtjgg
  • #2
some fishkeepers use baking soda.

you can also put a mesh bag of the crushed coral in your filters to help circulate the carbonates.

the inflamed gills might be due more to the acidity of the water as opposed to ammonia, b/c at that low pH the ammonia is the non-toxic ammonium.
 
Frank the Fish guy
  • #3
Baking Soda, or soda ash.

You have no buffer (KH) in your water. When the pH drops below 6.0 the cycle stops and you get ammonia poisoning.

Get used to buffering your water with baking soda or soda ash for your fish. I inject soda ash into the whole house water system. This keeps the acidic water from corroding my pipes as well as making the water fish ready.

One teaspoon of baking soda per 50 litres will raise the KH level to 4-5 which is about where you want to be for buffering a fresh water tank. This will immediately restart your cycle. You can raise it up more slowly.

The crushed coral will take a while to work and goes very slowly. Since you have crashed I recommend that you get your cycle restarted ASAP.
 
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triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #4
Baking Soda, or soda ash.

You have no buffer (KH) in your water. When the pH drops below 6.0 the cycle stops and you get ammonia poisoning.

Get used to buffering your water with baking soda or soda ash for your fish. I inject soda ash into the whole house water system. This keeps the acidic water from corroding my pipes as well as making the water fish ready.

One teaspoon of baking soda per 50 litres will raise the KH level to 4-5 which is about where you want to be for buffering a fresh water tank. This will immediately restart your cycle. You can raise it up more slowly.

The crushed coral will take a while to work and goes very slowly. Since you have crashed I recommend that you get your cycle restarted ASAP.
Thank you so much, I've heard very mixed opinions of baking soda - have you ever run into issues with it yourself? I'll be doing a 50% water change when I get home and then give baking soda a try. Thanks again for your advice!

Will the baking soda influence my tank differently to a tank with harder water? I don't want to harm my fish.
 
MacZ
  • #5
I have extremely soft water, KH: 0-1
First and foremost: Under this condition pH-drip-tests do not work reliably anymore. Erratic results are to be expected.
With that stocking (I would rehome the buenos aires and the CAEs, they need a bigger tank with more space long term, but that's another story), a pH of 5 would be no problem at all. In their natural habitats these fish (especially the tetras) are subject to GH/KH 0, and pH between 4.5 and 6. The "inflamed gills" are a sign of adaption to lower pH. Also it is possible that previously unnoticed parasites are beeing flushed out with mucus.

You have no buffer (KH) in your water. When the pH drops below 6.0 the cycle stops and you get ammonia poisoning.
The cycle will not completely stop, the microfauna in the filter will simply adapt, just takes some time. And at that low pH Ammonia (NH3) is present as relatively harmless Ammonium (NH4), so this is only a problem if you raise pH again quickly now.
I also see no big pH-crash coming as Nitrates are low. A pH-crash usually only happens when in a low KH-environment Nitrates build up due to insufficient (volume and frequency) waterchanges. Nitrates are dissolved in water as Nitric acid. A crash denotes pH dropping in short time by a big amplitude (like 1-2 whole points within 30 minutes or so).

Though there is indeed no buffer now anymore. That's true.
To solve this, I would not try to harden up the water and raise pH, this will be just a sisyphos work, I'd rather go the opposite route add some (not much, I'm NOT saying blackwater) humic substances as a buffer for low pH (4-6) and that's it. This way you only have to add some IALs every few weeks and maybe some cold rooibos tea or homemade alder cone extract. No chemicals, no testing and measuring all the time.

As I said, the full blackwater route is not necessary, clearwater is still softwater, but my article on the topic explains the most important water chemistry.

So the basic advice is: Take the water you have and make the best of it. I would kill for the OPs tap water parameters, although I have the relative comfort of a RO unit.
Will the baking soda influence my tank differently to a tank with harder water? I don't want to harm my fish.
You would have to premix very exact amounts into your waterchange water before adding it to the tank and it will cause fluctuations every time you do a waterchange. And never add that stuff to a tank with livestock directly.

I can really only recommend switching from high-pH buffering by KH to low-pH buffering by humic substances.

Also means no more crushed coral and no more limestones. Those would have to be removed from the tank.
 
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Frank the Fish guy
  • #6
The cycle will not completely stop, the microfauna in the filter will simply adapt, just takes some time. And at that low pH Ammonia (NH3) is present as relatively harmless Ammonium (NH4), so this is only a problem if you raise pH again quickly now.
OP, what this means is that you don't want to raise the pH so high that the ammonia becomes toxic. But if you only raise the KH up to 4-5, then the pH should become stable around 7.0 where ammonia is still not toxic. If you raise the pH up past 8.0 then you will can poison your fish. Experiment with some of your tank water first to find a reasonable amount of baking soda to use. Your cycle will restart as soon as you add even a small amount of baking soda.

This is your choice in what direction to go. Many of us buffer our soft water for the fish tanks. It is very simple and stable. I buffer my water supply directly.

This is good advice not to raise pH too high. That is where folks may have had problems using baking soda. They used too much.

Growing the new kind of bacteria for low pH tanks will take months if you want to go that route. Just keep an eye on nitrites then. At low pH the nitrites are what kills the fish (not the ammonia).

Since you already had established the cycle, you can get back to where you were by simply adding some buffers to the water.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
First and foremost: Under this condition pH-drip-tests do not work reliably anymore. Erratic results are to be expected.

With that stocking (I would rehome the buenos aires and the CAEs, they need a bigger tank with more space long term, but that's another story), a pH of 5 would be no problem at all. In their natural habitats these fish (especially the tetras) are subject to GH/KH 0, and pH between 4.5 and 6. The "inflamed gills" are a sign of adaption to lower pH. Also it is possible that previously unnoticed parasites are beeing flushed out with mucus.


The cycle will not completely stop, the microfauna in the filter will simply adapt, just takes some time. And at that low pH Ammonia (NH3) is present as relatively harmless Ammonium (NH4), so this is only a problem if you raise pH again quickly now.
I also see no big pH-crash coming as Nitrates are low. A pH-crash usually only happens when in a low KH-environment Nitrates build up due to insufficient (volume and frequency) waterchanges. Nitrates are dissolved in water as Nitric acid. A crash denotes pH dropping in short time by a big amplitude (like 1-2 whole points within 30 minutes or so).

Though there is indeed no buffer now anymore. That's true.
To solve this, I would not try to harden up the water and raise pH, this will be just a sisyphos work, I'd rather go the opposite route add some (not much, I'm NOT saying blackwater) humic substances as a buffer for low pH (4-6) and that's it. This way you only have to add some IALs every few weeks and maybe some cold rooibos tea or homemade alder cone extract. No chemicals, no testing and measuring all the time.

As I said, the full blackwater route is not necessary, clearwater is still softwater, but my article on the topic explains the most important water chemistry.

So the basic advice is: Take the water you have and make the best of it. I would kill for the OPs tap water parameters, although I have the relative comfort of a RO unit.

You would have to premix very exact amounts into your waterchange water before adding it to the tank and it will cause fluctuations every time you do a waterchange. And never add that stuff to a tank with livestock directly.

I can really only recommend switching from high-pH buffering by KH to low-pH buffering by humic substances.

Also means no more crushed coral and no more limestones. Those would have to be removed from the tank.
Hi, I know this is probably too late but if you see this I'd really like to ask a question? All good if you've not got the time/don't see this!
I've purchased some indian almond leaves and they're on the way (that is what IALs stand for I think?), in adding these to the tank would I need an extract to add to each water change as well? Would you advise adding these straight into the tank or filter media?

Thanks again for all you're help.
 
Shrimpee
  • #8
i have no solution to offer. However, reading this threads i am amazed by the level of knowledge of those who contributed to this thread. Really an insight and very informative! I have learnt a lot just reading these though i don't have a PH issue. thank you for sharing your immense knowledge about keeping fish. :)
 
MacZ
  • #9
(that is what IALs stand for I think?),
Yes, correct.
in adding these to the tank would I need an extract to add to each water change as well?
You can, it would be beneficial, but the leaves alone are enough. Question is - With which of the options above did you go? Raised KH or not? If you raised KH, the leaves won't do much except releasing beneficial humic substances with no influence on water parameters.
Would you advise adding these straight into the tank or filter media?
Straight to the tank, never add botanicals to the filter.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #10
Yes, correct.

You can, it would be beneficial, but the leaves alone are enough. Question is - With which of the options above did you go? Raised KH or not? If you raised KH, the leaves won't do much except releasing beneficial humic substances with no influence on water parameters.

Straight to the tank, never add botanicals to the filter.
Thank you so much, that makes sense. I did not end up removing the coral/limestone (though I now have in preparation for the IALs) and despite the addition of said coral, it did a whole lot of nothing. KH is still the same as it was, so I am hoping the introduction of the IALs will still be useful.

Otherwise, all seems well, besides the persistence of the inflamed/red gills on nearly all of the tetras. The ammonia (or ammonium in this PH) is still ever-present at 0.25ppm regardless of how many water changes I do.

Thanks again so so much for all of your advice and knowledge.
 
MacZ
  • #11
What are the current readings of KH and pH again?
(though I now have in preparation for the IALs)
I have no idea what you want to say by this. Are you additionally preparing KH addition?
The ammonia (or ammonium in this PH) is still ever-present at 0.25ppm regardless of how many water changes I do.
That's within the error margin, the API testkit is known to produce this result all the time.

I repeat myself probably, but I'll do it anyway: Either significsant amounts of humic substances or coral/limestone to add KH. You should decide. Otherwise your water might show a lot of irregularities.

Otherwise, all seems well, besides the persistence of the inflamed/red gills on nearly all of the tetras.
Can you possibly post a picture? I'm getting the feeling you're intepreting something you see wrong. Because if it was really that bad you should have experienced losses by now.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #12
What are the current readings of KH and pH again?

I have no idea what you want to say by this. Are you additionally preparing KH addition?

That's within the error margin, the API testkit is known to produce this result all the time.

I repeat myself probably, but I'll do it anyway: Either significsant amounts of humic substances or coral/limestone to add KH. You should decide. Otherwise your water might show a lot of irregularities.


Can you possibly post a picture? I'm getting the feeling you're intepreting something you see wrong. Because if it was really that bad you should have experienced losses by now.
The image attached is the worst case of the afflicted fish (buenos aires tetra). The neon tetras show a paler less prominent circle of red around the gills. I hope this helps. I should also add that none of the tetras are behaving particularly unusually, no glass surfing, tail nipping occasionally though, but otherwise seem normal.

Sorry that was unclear, I just meant I have now taken out the coral and limestone as you advised so I can add the IALs.

KH is 0, and the PH is around 5-6. Anywhere in between, the drip test says PH6 which is the lowest it goes, and the wide range PH test says above 5.

Thanks again for all your help. I have read your article on blackwater and although I am not taking the full blackwater route, you mention that it's invaluable to do 50% water changes weekly. I already do this but does that rule still apply to me, only adding some botanicals?
 

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MacZ
  • #13
The image attached is the worst case of the afflicted fish (buenos aires tetra).
That's not a H. anisitsi, it's an albino H. bentosi. And in albinos the gills always look like that.
The neon tetras show a paler less prominent circle of red around the gills.
I'd have to see this.
I should also add that none of the tetras are behaving particularly unusually, no glass surfing, tail nipping occasionally though, but otherwise seem normal.
Which makes me think there is no problem after all.
Sorry that was unclear, I just meant I have now taken out the coral and limestone as you advised so I can add the IALs.

KH is 0, and the PH is around 5-6. Anywhere in between, the drip test says PH6 which is the lowest it goes, and the wide range PH test says above 5.
With KH under 2° the drip-test for pH is useless. You can get around that with a pH-meter and some table salt to raise the conductivity in the sample. But honestly... i such soft water pH is almost irrelevant, a conductivity/TDS meter is more useful.
Anyhow, an extra addition of humic extract would be good, since it's that stuff that has to stabilize the pH from now on.
Thanks again for all your help. I have read your article on blackwater and although I am not taking the full blackwater route, you mention that it's invaluable to do 50% water changes weekly. I already do this but does that rule still apply to me, only adding some botanicals?
You're basically going clearwater, so with a much lower bioload from botanicals you will have to see. Stick to 50% a week and maybe try and see what happoens with 30% weekly. But I would not go lower than 50% every 10-14 days.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #14
That's not a H. anisitsi, it's an albino H. bentosi. And in albinos the gills always look like that.

I'd have to see this.

Which makes me think there is no problem after all.

With KH under 2° the drip-test for pH is useless. You can get around that with a pH-meter and some table salt to raise the conductivity in the sample. But honestly... i such soft water pH is almost irrelevant, a conductivity/TDS meter is more useful.
Anyhow, an extra addition of humic extract would be good, since it's that stuff that has to stabilize the pH from now on.

You're basically going clearwater, so with a much lower bioload from botanicals you will have to see. Stick to 50% a week and maybe try and see what happoens with 30% weekly. But I would not go lower than 50% every 10-14 days.
The photo attached shows the neon tetra's gills in question. I'm very happy to hear that it isn't an issue in the albinos. My only other issue is probably completely negligible, where the neon's colours darken and they bloat from time to time. I assume this may be stress. (I apologise for the low quality photo)

Is it worth buying humic extract online or should I make it myself?

I will continue to do the water changes I do and if things are looking good I'll also test out the 30%, thank you.

I'll also do some research on making humic extract now to see what I can do, thank you again!
 

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SparkyJones
  • #15
My tanks been running for like 7 years now, I had pH drop out due to old tank syndrome and not water changing, fish survived it mostly being lower pH fish to begin with.
Anyways I spent months water changing to take down the nitrates, and lower the GH and hoped to raise the KH but that never happened. As it stands, I am well overstocked so in a week I'll have 100 nitrates, but although I've got it mostly sorted out, my KH and pH has never come up again. pH is below 6, KH is always testing zero.
What I don't have is any plants or green matter, no algae, nothing, I think this would play a bigger roll with no KH present and swing the pH with photosynthesis and respiration which would be a detriment to the fish, but without it, there's no change with the light on or off to the pH.

I can't necessarily explain why it's doing what its doing, but its doing it and I don't see it as a problem anymore. The tank is clean, I go between 20 and 100 nitrates a week and pH is low but stable, while KH is basically nonexistent but for my angelfish it works quite well.

The coral or limestone or whatever is only going to work if your low pH is caused by acids in the water, it doesn't necessarily need to be caused by acids though, that just the likely suspect. The coral or limestone may increase KH but its not going to affect pH unless acids were stripping the kH buffer significantly.

I'd say get a test of your source water for all parameters pH, GH KH, check for ammonia and nitrates also. Check the water on the draw, then after 12 hours, then after 24, then after 48 hours, in a bucket with aeration.
But you say you regularly water change so I'd think your more likely reason is a CO2 and carbonic acid issue that is your pH issue, as opposed to a nitric acid issue from nitrate buildups... Which over time a ton of crushed coral as substrate could cure, but wouldn't do much because it's more of a gas exchange issue in the tank as the water ages. Taking on CO2, creating an acid, than off gassing CO2 again.

Nitric acid from nitrates and the nitrogen cycle can be easily buffered through water changing and keeping a clean tank. The routine maintenence. I don't think this is your problem, even with the low starting KH.

What I think is happening in your case is high oxygenated source water, and as it sits its absorbing CO2 and CO2 and H2O forming carbonic acid, which is cutting your low KH value to nil, then in time the Carbonic acid is breaking and releasing the CO2 again and off gassing or plant use, but the carbonic acid that's created is killing your low KH.

I would think if you test the water in a bucket with aeration you'll see this process happen and the KH drop out and the pH drop withing two days time, and this would happen over and over in the aquarium, but without the acid active at the end, the carbonates can't get released, at best it leaves you at a low KH of where you started and then depletes quickly with the nitrogen cycle.

I think if this shows to be true, you'd need to age the water before using it, so it balances with the atmosphere, and then ammend it with baking soda before adding it to increase the KH, and then your crushed coral would be able to maintain the KH at the amended level.

With your water changes, it's not likely nitric acid doing it although nitric acid is likely continuing it between water changes. But if carbonic acid is running down your KH to zero in that first two days as it balances, then there's really no way a locked buffer like crushed coral that requires an acid is going to be able to increase the pH. You can increase pH if you increased KH to 3dKH or more, then the buffer would be sufficient to take over themaintenence.

I don't recommend amending water in tank with the fish, this should be done in a separate container and once stabilized, then used for water changes.

All this said, a stable pH is more important than getting a pH you want if it's hard to keep. Stability is always better for the fish.
The fish you have shouldn't have a rough time at pH6 or a bit lower.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #16
That's not a H. anisitsi, it's an albino H. bentosi. And in albinos the gills always look like that.

I'd have to see this.

Which makes me think there is no problem after all.

With KH under 2° the drip-test for pH is useless. You can get around that with a pH-meter and some table salt to raise the conductivity in the sample. But honestly... i such soft water pH is almost irrelevant, a conductivity/TDS meter is more useful.
Anyhow, an extra addition of humic extract would be good, since it's that stuff that has to stabilize the pH from now on.

You're basically going clearwater, so with a much lower bioload from botanicals you will have to see. Stick to 50% a week and maybe try and see what happoens with 30% weekly. But I would not go lower than 50% every 10-14 days.
My tanks been running for like 7 years now, I had pH drop out due to old tank syndrome and not water changing, fish survived it mostly being lower pH fish to begin with.
Anyways I spent months water changing to take down the nitrates, and lower the GH and hoped to raise the KH but that never happened. As it stands, I am well overstocked so in a week I'll have 100 nitrates, but although I've got it mostly sorted out, my KH and pH has never come up again. pH is below 6, KH is always testing zero.
What I don't have is any plants or green matter, no algae, nothing, I think this would play a bigger roll with no KH present and swing the pH with photosynthesis and respiration which would be a detriment to the fish, but without it, there's no change with the light on or off to the pH.

I can't necessarily explain why it's doing what its doing, but its doing it and I don't see it as a problem anymore. The tank is clean, I go between 20 and 100 nitrates a week and pH is low but stable, while KH is basically nonexistent but for my angelfish it works quite well.

The coral or limestone or whatever is only going to work if your low pH is caused by acids in the water, it doesn't necessarily need to be caused by acids though, that just the likely suspect. The coral or limestone may increase KH but its not going to affect pH unless acids were stripping the kH buffer significantly.

I'd say get a test of your source water for all parameters pH, GH KH, check for ammonia and nitrates also. Check the water on the draw, then after 12 hours, then after 24, then after 48 hours, in a bucket with aeration.
But you say you regularly water change so I'd think your more likely reason is a CO2 and carbonic acid issue that is your pH issue, as opposed to a nitric acid issue from nitrate buildups... Which over time a ton of crushed coral as substrate could cure, but wouldn't do much because it's more of a gas exchange issue in the tank as the water ages. Taking on CO2, creating an acid, than off gassing CO2 again.

Nitric acid from nitrates and the nitrogen cycle can be easily buffered through water changing and keeping a clean tank. The routine maintenence. I don't think this is your problem, even with the low starting KH.

What I think is happening in your case is high oxygenated source water, and as it sits its absorbing CO2 and CO2 and H2O forming carbonic acid, which is cutting your low KH value to nil, then in time the Carbonic acid is breaking and releasing the CO2 again and off gassing or plant use, but the carbonic acid that's created is killing your low KH.

I would think if you test the water in a bucket with aeration you'll see this process happen and the KH drop out and the pH drop withing two days time, and this would happen over and over in the aquarium, but without the acid active at the end, the carbonates can't get released, at best it leaves you at a low KH of where you started and then depletes quickly with the nitrogen cycle.

I think if this shows to be true, you'd need to age the water before using it, so it balances with the atmosphere, and then ammend it with baking soda before adding it to increase the KH, and then your crushed coral would be able to maintain the KH at the amended level.

With your water changes, it's not likely nitric acid doing it although nitric acid is likely continuing it between water changes. But if carbonic acid is running down your KH to zero in that first two days as it balances, then there's really no way a locked buffer like crushed coral that requires an acid is going to be able to increase the pH. You can increase pH if you increased KH to 3dKH or more, then the buffer would be sufficient to take over themaintenence.

I don't recommend amending water in tank with the fish, this should be done in a separate container and once stabilized, then used for water changes.

All this said, a stable pH is more important than getting a pH you want if it's hard to keep. Stability is always better for the fish.
The fish you have shouldn't have a rough time at pH6 or a bit lower.
Hi, both of you, thank you so much for all of your advice.

I did add IALs and the fish reacted very poorly. I left it for 2 days to see if any improvements occurred, however, the glass surfing, reduced appetite, and flicking persisted. I have since removed the IALs and done a 50% water change.

It was worth a shot but I guess it just didn't work out for me!
KH is still 0
PH: 5-6
Ammonia(ammonium): 0.25ppm
Nitrate: 5ppm
Nitrite: 0 ppm

Thanks again.
 
SparkyJones
  • #17
With KH 0. I'd suggest not doing live plants. With the light on photosynthesis occurs and the plants produce Oxygen, with the light off plants respire and create CO2. This shift back and forth with the light on or off will affect the pH and lower it or raise it.

You really can't afford this shift in pH which can be drastic with no KH which depending on how drastic it is, can be stressing to the fish and lead to early deaths.

So I'd say there's like 2 options here.
1. Get rid of plants and see if you have a stable low pH through the day, they can Go in a bucket of tank water to test it without scrapping the plants totally. Stability is more important than right, The fish can and have adjusted to what's gone on.
2. Ammend water change water with baking soda in a bucket before adding to increase the pH or buy a more expensive pH or KH up product and make an ammendment to the water for water changes and maintain the KH and pH higher every time.

Ammonia at pH 5 or 6 is meaningless, it's all bound as ammonium and non-toxic to the fish.even if it tests for it it does nothing to the fish. However if you mess with pH and brought it up to 7- 7.5- 8 pH, what ammonium you have would unbind, even temporarily, as it adjusts back down, and can injure or kill the fish.

Another reason to see what the water is doing from your source and as it sits. If it's coming out at pH8 and 0-1KH and as it sits takes on CO2, creates acid, depletes the KH and then drops the pH, the window of the water change doe direct to tank, would injure the fish in which case it would need to be done in advance of using it and let it balance first for a day or two and stabilize.
 
MacZ
  • #18
I did add IALs and the fish reacted very poorly. I left it for 2 days to see if any improvements occurred, however, the glass surfing, reduced appetite, and flicking persisted. I have since removed the IALs and done a 50% water change.
How many did you add in the first place? There is no reason to remove them and they are not supposed to be a treatment. They are in this case mostly supposed to stabilize the pH in a low range and not as a medication.

Also... Earlier in this thread you said this:
should also add that none of the tetras are behaving particularly unusually, no glass surfing, tail nipping occasionally though, but otherwise seem normal.
So what is it now?

With KH 0. I'd suggest not doing live plants. With the light on photosynthesis occurs and the plants produce Oxygen, with the light off plants respire and create CO2. This shift back and forth with the light on or off will affect the pH and lower it or raise it.

You really can't afford this shift in pH which can be drastic with no KH which depending on how drastic it is, can be stressing to the fish and lead to early deaths.
Erm... the pH won't shift within 20-30 minutes but will take hours. The danger in pH-changes is in the ratio of amplitude vs. time. High amplitude, short time is the problem, not the process you describe in itself.
With a low pH-buffering system this is then completely unnecessary. I don't see any necessity to mess around with KH.
It's more expensive, more work, more things that can go wrong.

SparkyJones : Instead of advising different options to the OP, we should probably agree on which to advise at this point. If the OP follows both of our advises this is not going to work out at all. If you want me to, ok, I'll step aside. Just say so.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #19
How many did you add in the first place? There is no reason to remove them and they are not supposed to be a treatment. They are in this case mostly supposed to stabilize the pH in a low range and not as a medication.

Also... Earlier in this thread you said this:

So what is it now?


Erm... the pH won't shift within 20-30 minutes but will take hours. The danger in pH-changes is in the ratio of amplitude vs. time. High amplitude, short time is the problem, not the process you describe in itself.
With a low pH-buffering system this is then completely unnecessary. I don't see any necessity to mess around with KH.
It's more expensive, more work, more things that can go wrong.

SparkyJones : Instead of advising different options to the OP, we should probably agree on which to advise at this point. If the OP follows both of our advises this is not going to work out at all. If you want me to, ok, I'll step aside. Just say so.
I added the IALs by first washing them just in some treated tap water, and then put them in the tank. I added 2 medium/large-sized leaves. The fish before adding the leaves were, like I said, acting normally. However, the next day after having added the leaves, all 3 sorts of tetras were glass surfing and flicking, the same with the Chinese Algae Eater.

I'm not sure if this was just them adapting to the leaves, but I was worried and so removed them, and did a water change. The leaves didn't change any water parameters according to my tests, but the fish were upset so I wasn't sure what else I could do.
 
MacZ
  • #20
I added the IALs by first washing them just in some treated tap water, and then put them in the tank. I added 2 medium/large-sized leaves. The fish before adding the leaves were, like I said, acting normally. However, the next day after having added the leaves, all 3 sorts of tetras were glass surfing and flicking, the same with the Chinese Algae Eater.
That's not the usual reaction. The usual reaction is quite the opposite, especially with the tetras. Could be contaminated.
The leaves didn't change any water parameters according to my tests, but the fish were upset so I wasn't sure what else I could do.
I would have put in maybe 10-15 to have at least some effect.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #21
That's not the usual reaction. The usual reaction is quite the opposite, especially with the tetras. Could be contaminated.

I would have put in maybe 10-15 to have at least some effect.
Hi, unfortunately, you may be right about the contamination. Today, one of my emperor tetras (the one that yesterday was breathing rapidly), seems to be very unwell. At times almost unable to swim. My Chinese Algae Eater is also rapidly breathing and flicking. Despite having done a 50% water change just yesterday.

I have added back in the limestone and coral, as I cannot add the IALs without perhaps further hurting the fish.

I'm fairly certain it is just the leaves I bought so I may have to try again from a different source.
 
ruud
  • #22
My usual rant on Fishlore, not sure if it is applicable:

Thick layer of very course substrate, no plant roots > waste trapped, microbial activity > very low oxygen, bad bacteria + possible other stressors (e.g. social stress) > immune system in overdrive, prone to infections.

...no quick or manifest causes, so we point our finger to things people usually talk about (the cycle).
 
MacZ
  • #23
Thick layer of very course substrate,
Right, now that you say.
no plant roots
I see live plants in the pictures. Maybe not enough, but we don't get a full picture.
> waste trapped,
Likely.
microbial activity
Also.
> very low oxygen, bad bacteria + possible other stressors (e.g. social stress) > immune system in overdrive, prone to infections.
The point at which I have deficient data.
...no quick or manifest causes, so we point our finger to things people usually talk about (the cycle).
Yep.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #24
My usual rant on Fishlore, not sure if it is applicable:

Thick layer of very course substrate, no plant roots > waste trapped, microbial activity > very low oxygen, bad bacteria + possible other stressors (e.g. social stress) > immune system in overdrive, prone to infections.

...no quick or manifest causes, so we point our finger to things people usually talk about (the cycle).
Right, now that you say.

I see live plants in the pictures. Maybe not enough, but we don't get a full picture.

Likely.

Also.

The point at which I have deficient data.

Yep.
Hi, here is the whole tank. I think that explanation also ticks a lot of boxes. I do vacuum gravel with most water changes but with so much hardscape it's likely there is a lot trapped as you say. I have 2 filters running, and an air stone.

Thanks again for all of your help.

As for the social stress, it's very likely that only having 3 of the emperor tetras is the explanation, I intended on getting more but with the fluctuation of my tank conditions I have decided against it for now.
 

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ruud
  • #25
Lovely tank.

These very coarse substrates seem to be a cause of trouble. Not by definition, not due to the material, but they trap waste easily. I have the impression the bottom of the tank is lower than what is visible.

Waste really gets everywhere; if you would add a colored substance in the tank, and you would be able to look from under the tank, you would notice the color eventually reaches the bottom of your tank in every corner.

There's nothing wrong with waste as long as it can be processed by microbes in aerobic conditions. The hypothesis is that in course substrates with trapped waste, microbes will deplete all the oxygen, leading to hypoxic conditions in the substrate (say below 2ppm oxygen), and issues can start to happen.

If you vacuum clean the substrate, you are removing the microbes that actually live in aerobic conditions, and at the same time, you could introduce bacterial toxins from the hypoxic substrate. Especially, if you stir the substrate.

Oftentimes, people talk about hydrogen sulfide produced by anaerobic conditions, that kill fish after stirring, but I strongly suspect it's "bad bacteria" from hypoxic conditions.

The same can happen with clogging (canister) filters, that are partly cleaned and switched back on.

Perhaps I should collect some studies from waste treatment plants one day, that offer more insight into these matters than aquarium literature offers.

If you add more rooted plants, you'll create more oxygen in your substrate. For this, you need to stir your substrate again...

I see a lot of epiphytes in your tank; they can have their roots in the substrate (nothing wrong with that), but I don't think they give off oxygen via the roots to deliberately feed the microbes. Epiphytes are terrestrial plants that live mostly on other plants. Besides, photosynthetic rate of epiphytes is very low also.

Stop vacuum cleaning. Just take out any decaying plant matter.

Perhaps you could gradually start taking out some substrate. You don't need this for the epiphytes anyhow.

(In the future, I would choose a sand substrate.)
 
TClare
  • #26
Sometimes I find the pH thing a bit of a mystery - I also have low KH (0-1) but pH stays around 6.8 (occasionally I have measured it at 6.6 or 7). That is if my drip tests and cheap pH meter are accurate, which they are probably not, but at any rate the pH seems to stay pretty constant. I would actually like it to be lower. I have sand substrate, rooted plants in all tanks, use a lot of leaf litter in 3 of 4 tanks, don't vacuum the substrate, do weekly water changes, have low nitrates in all tanks. At least the pH stays stable and soft water fish seem to do well, but pH won't go lower, even in the tanks with leaves.
 
triivk
  • Thread Starter
  • #28
Lovely tank.

These very coarse substrates seem to be a cause of trouble. Not by definition, not due to the material, but they trap waste easily. I have the impression the bottom of the tank is lower than what is visible.

Waste really gets everywhere; if you would add a colored substance in the tank, and you would be able to look from under the tank, you would notice the color eventually reaches the bottom of your tank in every corner.

There's nothing wrong with waste as long as it can be processed by microbes in aerobic conditions. The hypothesis is that in course substrates with trapped waste, microbes will deplete all the oxygen, leading to hypoxic conditions in the substrate (say below 2ppm oxygen), and issues can start to happen.

If you vacuum clean the substrate, you are removing the microbes that actually live in aerobic conditions, and at the same time, you could introduce bacterial toxins from the hypoxic substrate. Especially, if you stir the substrate.

Oftentimes, people talk about hydrogen sulfide produced by anaerobic conditions, that kill fish after stirring, but I strongly suspect it's "bad bacteria" from hypoxic conditions.

The same can happen with clogging (canister) filters, that are partly cleaned and switched back on.

Perhaps I should collect some studies from waste treatment plants one day, that offer more insight into these matters than aquarium literature offers.

If you add more rooted plants, you'll create more oxygen in your substrate. For this, you need to stir your substrate again...

I see a lot of epiphytes in your tank; they can have their roots in the substrate (nothing wrong with that), but I don't think they give off oxygen via the roots to deliberately feed the microbes. Epiphytes are terrestrial plants that live mostly on other plants. Besides, photosynthetic rate of epiphytes is very low also.

Stop vacuum cleaning. Just take out any decaying plant matter.

Perhaps you could gradually start taking out some substrate. You don't need this for the epiphytes anyhow.

(In the future, I would choose a sand substrate.)
OP, your fish may be suffocating - sudden fast breathing, lethargy, panic.

If you are adding Prime to this tank regularly as a supposed tonic against ammonia, you may be depleting the oxygen.

See: Very odd fishless cycle parameters | Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle Forum | 520496
Hi all, you were absolutely both right. Unfortunately, my fish (Chinese algae eater) of 7 years jumped out of the tank overnight. None of the other fish have done this, the others are fairly calm (not lethargic), besides one of my albino buenos aires tetra has a sudden inflamed scale, a bright red.

I imagine he was suffocating and I am currently at school but when home plan to do another water change and test. I do add prime to the tank fairly liberally which may have been the issue as well.

Thank you for your very helpful suggestions, do you know what other ways I can help oxygenate the tank?

Thank you. (rest in peace Suckerpunch)
 
Frank the Fish guy
  • #29
To oxygenate the tank:
  1. Stop adding Prime.
  2. Aerate vigorously.
  3. Use the filtration outlet to ripple the water surface.
  4. Keep the water temperature from getting too high.
  5. sera O2 plus | sera
 

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