Problem With Ph/kh

TheBettaSushi

hey all! I’m almost 3 weeks in on cycling my tank with 2 zebra danios and a few plants with some driftwood that has been boiled and soaked for weeks prior to introducing into the tank. However, I’m having problems keeping my pH and KH stable. I am using spring water because my tap is too high in ammonia/ph for the dwarf puffer fish I want to keep (danios are lenders. They’re going back to the store once my cycle is complete... if it ever will be). I have heard that crushed coral will do the trick. I have also heard that seachem alkaline buffer works too. Which one is better and easier to use/adjust accordingly? If there are any other suggestions, please do share. I need something that will help my ph and KH remain steady and not drop the way it has been.

The spring water (right out of a 1 gallon jug) I use has:
pH 7.4
GH 107.4ppm
KH 71.6ppm

But, my tank readings are (6 gallon tank):

Jan 23 my ph was 7.8 GH 107.4ppm KH 17.9 - did ~25% water change using spring water to get GH/KH because I had 6 gallons of RO water

Jan 24 my ph was 6.6 GH 8 (143.2ppm) and KH 4 (71.6)

Jan 25 ph in between 6.8-7 GH 143.2ppm KH 17.9ppm - did 25% water change with spring water

Jan 26 ph 7.2 GH 143.2ppm KH 35.8ppm

Jan 27 ph 7.2 GH 125.3ppm KH 71.6ppm

Jan 28 ph 7.2 GH 125.3ppm KH 35.8ppm

Jan 29 ph 7 GH 125.3ppm KH 35.8ppm ~25% water change with spring water because I had .25ppm ammonia readings

Jan 30 ph 6.4!!!! GH 125.3ppm KH 17.9ppm did ~25% water change because ph and KH were low

Jan 31 - pH 6.6
GH 125.3ppm
KH 0
Ammonia .25ppm

Feb 1 - pH 6.6
GH 143.2ppm
KH 0
Ammonia .50ppm

Ammonia is most likely ammonium as my seachem alert states the parameters are safe. I have dosed with prime just in case. I need help in figuring out what to do to get my ph and KH stable without having to add so many additives each and every time. I have tried partial water changes thinking that it would help, but it hasn’t. One of my Anubias Nana plants stemmed a new leaf so I’m assuming the plants are sucking up all of the KH??

What I don’t understand is, if my spring water has good ph/kh/GH then why isn’t it showing up in the tank? Is my cycle stalling because of this? I have had no traces of nitrites and nitrates and only showing a small amount of ammonia.

What do I do???
 

nikm128

As long as the PH doesn't keep dropping, that should work just fine.
Crushed coral would raise the PH yes, but it will also give you harder water, which isn't what you'll want
 

TheBettaSushi

As long as the PH doesn't keep dropping, that should work just fine.
Crushed coral would raise the PH yes, but it will also give you harder water, which isn't what you'll want
I definitely don’t want harder water. My goal is to get it to 7-7.2 max otherwise dwarf puffer will suffer from what I read.

I honestly would prefer to use tap water so I can get the same temp of 78 degrees much faster but my readings for tap water are:
Ammonia 1.0ppm
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 5.0ppm
Ph ranges anywhere from 7.8-8.0 depending on the day.
GH 7-8 drops of apI liquid kit
KH 4 drops of apI liquid kit

This is why I used spring water but even then, my ph and KH are dropping. I am just trying to cycle my tank with these two danios I have but nothing is working. Should I gradually switch over to tap and just dose prime every 24-48 hours until my tank turns the ammonia into nirtrite then nitrates? I know that nitrates will be absorbed by my plants (so I’ve read). But I just don’t know what to do here. I’m trying to do this the easiest way possible without affecting the fish.
 

Mr. Kgnao

To be overly simplistic, stabilizing pH means harder water.
 

TheBettaSushi

To be overly simplistic, stabilizing pH means harder water.
So what do you suggest I do per my last response?
 

Mr. Kgnao

Use tap water and don't worry about it. (Not trying to be rude or facetious, more stoic.)
 

nikm128

In a cycled tank 1ppm of ammonia should be processed within 24 hours which is how long prime renders it harmless to fish
 

TheBettaSushi

Use tap water and don't worry about it. (Not trying to be rude or facetious, more stoic.)
Even when I’m trying to cycle with danios in there? I’ll do whatever it takes to get this tank cycled so I can take these fish back and get a pea puffer

In a cycled tank 1ppm of ammonia should be processed within 24 hours which is how long prime renders it harmless to fish
But my tank isn’t cycled and I’ve got fish and plants in there... so should I gradually change my current water source to tap and dose with prime daily? My only concern is that my ph in my tap won’t be adequate for a pea puffer. My tank is too small to house anything other than one pea puffer or a betta and both require a ph of 7 from what I’ve read.
 

Skavatar

you don't have to strictly use RO water or strictly Bottled Spring Water. you can mix in a % of tap water.
 

nikm128

Even when I’m trying to cycle with danios in there? I’ll do whatever it takes to get this tank cycled so I can take these fish back and get a pea puffer


But my tank isn’t cycled and I’ve got fish and plants in there... so should I gradually change my current water source to tap and dose with prime daily? My only concern is that my ph in my tap won’t be adequate for a pea puffer. My tank is too small to house anything other than one pea puffer or a betta and both require a ph of 7 from what I’ve read.
I meant once it is cycled the ammonia in the tap won't matter. Your tap ph is also perfectly fine and consistency is better than perfect anyway
 

Mr. Kgnao

If you have ammonia out of the tap, then you don't need fish as a source of ammonia to establish a cycle.
 

TheBettaSushi

If you have ammonia out of the tap, then you don't need fish as a source of ammonia to establish a cycle.
But I’ve already got fish in there so should I just use tap anyway?

I meant once it is cycled the ammonia in the tap won't matter. Your tap ph is also perfectly fine and consistency is better than perfect anyway
So pea puffers do fine in 8.0 pH??? Because I’ve read that they’re extremely sensitive and they need a ph of 7.0
 

Mr. Kgnao

But I’ve already got fish in there so should I just use tap anyway?

Yes, and take the danios back.
 

TheBettaSushi

Yes, and take the danios back.
So pea puffers will do fine in a ph of 8.0??
 

Mr. Kgnao

I don't know, most fish aren't super picky about pH, but they'll definitely do better in stable 8.0 then something lower that's bouncing around.
 

TheBettaSushi

I don't know, most fish aren't super picky about pH, but they'll definitely do better in stable 8.0 then something lower that's bouncing around.
My tap isn’t stable though. It ranges from 7.8-8.0 and sometimes as even as high as 8.4. This is why I started using spring water but even then the ph in my tank keeps stalling at 6.4-6.6 with no KH. The spring water alone has a ph of 7.4 with a KH of 4 so I don’t know what is going on. I’ve added more water to try and get the ph and KH back up per others suggestions to no avail.
 

Mr. Kgnao

That's not a huge amount of fluctuation. I don't think any reasonable person would suggest bottled water is a better alternative than tap.
 

TheBettaSushi

That's not a huge amount of fluctuation. I don't think any reasonable person would suggest bottled water is a better alternative than tap.
You’d be surprised. A lot of people have told me to use spring when they saw the difference between my tap water and the spring water. So therefore, that’s what I used. Unfortunately, the ph keeps dropping and I no longer have any traces of KH. I’m sure my cycle has stalled because I haven’t seen any nitrites in a months time. I’m debating on whether or not to mix my tap with spring. Then again I may kill the fish and my plants that way.
 

Mr. Kgnao

I don't know who those people were, but I can honestly say that none of the people whom I've ever known to keep fish with any success, have ever recommended, or used themselves, bottled spring water. I would seriously question the knowledge, reasoning, and motives of anyone who did. Maybe, maaaybe, they could suggest an actual RO system (not saying you need one, just playing devil's advocate), but using nothing but bottled water is absolutely bananas.
 

dojafish

HawaiI has naturally alkaline water and Dwarf Puffers are sold in nearly every LFS here, I had never seen any stock in poor health, even when I worked at a LFS a few years ago. In fact, they seem to thrive pretty well here.

Honestly, and this is my belief, I think it's too much of a hassle and too much of a risk to change the kH and pH to a certain point. Especially in a smaller tank, a good enough swing could just wipe you out. You're better off just keeping your tank balanced and clean. I have actually read that puffers are sensitive to the water quality... and that could effect your pH and hardness after a while if left without maintenance long enough.

Ultimately, it's your call. Only experience can help you, but you won't figure that out until you dive in and see what works and what doesn't work for you.
 

TheBettaSushi

I don't know who those people were, but I can honestly say that none of the people whom I've ever known to keep fish with any success, have ever recommended, or used themselves, bottled spring water. I would seriously question the knowledge, reasoning, and motives of anyone who did. Maybe, maaaybe, they could suggest an actual RO system (not saying you need one, just playing devil's advocate), but using nothing but bottled water is absolutely bananas.
The problem is that there are too many conflicting opinions and so far nothing they have suggested has worked. I want to forgo spring water since it’s obviously not working and try to gradually introduce tap water into the tank. What do you think about that? This way I can still keep the fish for now until I’m ready to trade them in for the puffer. Also, if that sounds like a good idea, do I need to use RO water to top off? Or can I just use the tap? I usually need to top off every other day.

In all honesty, I’m trying to stay away from adding buffers, and heating up 1.5 gallons of water every time I have to do a water change, which I have to do now with the spring water. It’s a pain in my a$$

HawaiI has naturally alkaline water and Dwarf Puffers are sold in nearly every LFS here, I had never seen any stock in poor health, even when I worked at a LFS a few years ago. In fact, they seem to thrive pretty well here.

Honestly, and this is my belief, I think it's too much of a hassle and too much of a risk to change the kH and pH to a certain point. Especially in a smaller tank, a good enough swing could just wipe you out. You're better off just keeping your tank balanced and clean. I have actually read that puffers are sensitive to the water quality... and that could effect your pH and hardness after a while if left without maintenance long enough.

Ultimately, it's your call. Only experience can help you, but you won't figure that out until you dive in and see what works and what doesn't work for you.
Thanks. I live in Southern California but municipal water varies from city to city. I have not seen any pea puffers in my area so I have to go to the next LFS that is 30 mins away. And you’re right, I really don’t want to mess with the ph and KH because I just don’t feel comfortable doing so. As of right now, my tank is spotless because I’m still trying to cycle it. Some have suggested I do a 1 gallon water change to remove uneaten food and poo so I’ve been doing that and have done it a few times. They have also suggested that I gradually switch the RO water I had in there with spring so I’ve been gradually changing it over as well. I did have stable ph at some point but now not so much. I’m just trying to find the easiest way possible to keep a stable environment.
 

Mr. Kgnao

I'd only use tap water, make the switch gradually, using tap water for water changes, because that would be the easiest, and dose something like Seachem Prime or HikarI Ultimate as a dechlorinator, as they also detoxify the ammonia for a time.
 

dojafish

Thanks. I live in Southern California but municipal water varies from city to city. I have not seen any pea puffers in my area so I have to go to the next LFS that is 30 mins away. And you’re right, I really don’t want to mess with the ph and KH because I just don’t feel comfortable doing so. As of right now, my tank is spotless because I’m still trying to cycle it. Some have suggested I do a 1 gallon water change to remove uneaten food and poo so I’ve been doing that and have done it a few times. They have also suggested that I gradually switch the RO water I had in there with spring so I’ve been gradually changing it over as well. I did have stable ph at some point but now not so much. I’m just trying to find the easiest way possible to keep a stable environment.
I commend you for actually going out of your way to try those suggestions. You just gotta find what works for you, everybody is always gonna tell you what worked for them, but it doesn't always work for just anyone. There's too many factors involved. Can't let it get you down for too long though, you just gotta bounce back and give it another whirl. I believe in you!
 

TheBettaSushi

I commend you for actually going out of your way to try those suggestions. You just gotta find what works for you, everybody is always gonna tell you what worked for them, but it doesn't always work for just anyone. There's too many factors involved. Can't let it get you down for too long though, you just gotta bounce back and give it another whirl. I believe in you!
Thank you for the encouragement. It’s been tough. I really didn’t want to cycle with fish but the fishless cycle wasn’t working for me. One of my Anubias plants got a new leaf so maybe that’s why my KH is zero? I’m not sure. It’s tough to find solutions because as you stated, not everything option that worked for some will work for me. I’m going to try and make gradual changes from spring to tap as the previous member suggested... maybe change 1 gallon every few days... and test the tank every day like I have been for the past month and see what happens. I just hope I don’t kill my fish or my plants during that process. Because if that happens, I’m going to be devasted for sure.

You’re going to think I’m dumb but I had a betta that lasted 2 years in RO water with no buffers. I never knew that I needed to re-mineralize and add extra buffers. Oops. The tank probably never cycled properly, if at all, because of my mistake of not knowing. Now I know all about GH/KH so I’m trying not to make the same mistakes again. This time I want to find what water works best, especially for the fish I want to keep.

I would prefer to use tap because I can get the same temp of water that’s in the tank now, but because of the ammonia and high ph, I’m hesitant. The spring water did seem like a good option, but again, I was having issues with keeping the ph stable and it was hard for me to warm up 1 gallon of water. It’s pretty frustrating.

This hobby isn’t as easy as some may think. Let’s hope that my tap water doesn’t kill off anything this time around.
 

dojafish

Thank you for the encouragement. It’s been tough. I really didn’t want to cycle with fish but the fishless cycle wasn’t working for me. One of my Anubias plants got a new leaf so maybe that’s why my KH is zero? I’m not sure. It’s tough to find solutions because as you stated, not everything option that worked for some will work for me. I’m going to try and make gradual changes from spring to tap as the previous member suggested... maybe change 1 gallon every few days... and test the tank every day like I have been for the past month and see what happens. I just hope I don’t kill my fish or my plants during that process. Because if that happens, I’m going to be devasted for sure.

You’re going to think I’m dumb but I had a betta that lasted 2 years in RO water with no buffers. I never knew that I needed to re-mineralize and add extra buffers. Oops. The tank probably never cycled properly, if at all, because of my mistake of not knowing. Now I know all about GH/KH so I’m trying not to make the same mistakes again. This time I want to find what water works best, especially for the fish I want to keep.

I would prefer to use tap because I can get the same temp of water that’s in the tank now, but because of the ammonia and high ph, I’m hesitant. The spring water did seem like a good option, but again, I was having issues with keeping the ph stable and it was hard for me to warm up 1 gallon of water. It’s pretty frustrating.

This hobby isn’t as easy as some may think. Let’s hope that my tap water doesn’t kill off anything this time around.

I don't think you're dumb at all. We all start off in this hobby and on this website and many others like it doing something horribly wrong simply because we didn't know. Unfortunately, not a lot is said about what the hobby is really about especially by the big name manufacturers and retailers. There are so many scientific components that makes up fish-keeping; chemistry, biology (zoology and botany), husbandry, agriculture, optics, and probably a few others. RO water is quite the curveball in my opinion, because many people who suggest RO water don't ever seem to be able to give a good enough explanation about what this process is, what it does, and what you have to do with it. When people first started talking about it, I noticed it was difficult to find information about it but now there is a lot of in-depth guides and explanations around.

I am just a firm believer in not messing with something that isn't broken. When I was first getting into the hobby I, too, was worried because HawaiI has naturally alkaline water and I thought I just couldn't keep a lot of the acidic-loving fish and plants which are many of the characins like tetras and whatnot. Tetras were among the last to be added to my tanks, because as I was bringing home other fish from the different stores I go to I tested their waters. It was all very similar to mine in terms of pH and hardness, and the more down-to-earth shops that thoroughly take care of the fish and aspiring hobbyists had really healthy fish thriving just as much as any video and picture I have seen online. So I thought to myself, if they can do it then so can I. The only tetras I didn't do well with was Neon Tetras, but I later came to realize that they were incredibly susceptible and weak to bacterial infections which is what all but one had succumbed to. I have super red Rummy-Nose Tetras, Yellow Phantom Tetras, Bleeding Heart Tetras, and Diamond Tetras.

In time, you will find what works for you. I know I said that like twenty times lol. Just take it one step at a time and soon enough you will find the thing that makes all your hard work and frustrations very much worth it. The gradual transition back to tap water is a good first step in the right direction. So long as you keep it gradual, mixing maybe half a gallon of spring and tap water each water change, it should be gradual enough. I believe the danios and the anubias should be tough enough to handle it.
 

TheBettaSushi

The gradual transition back to tap water is a good first step in the right direction. So long as you keep it gradual, mixing maybe half a gallon of spring and tap water each water change, it should be gradual enough.

! I should have read this before I dumped a gallon of tap water in the tank! I figured a gallon out of 5 gallons of spring water that is already in there would be good enough in terms of gradual. Too late now. I’ll do half spring and half tap in a few days... what do you think? As of now, I need to keep a close eye on the full gallon of tap I just used. Again, another mistake on my part.
 

dojafish

! I should have read this before I dumped a gallon of tap water in the tank! I figured a gallon out of 5 gallons of spring water that is already in there would be good enough in terms of gradual. Too late now. I’ll do half spring and half tap in a few days... what do you think? As of now, I need to keep a close eye on the full gallon of tap I just used. Again, another mistake on my part.
Sorry, I had a good chuckle out of this response lol. It's diluted enough with the other 5 gallons. My suggestion was an extra step of caution to make the transition as smooth as possible. You can continue it that way, what's done is done. It should be fine.
 

TheBettaSushi

Sorry, I had a good chuckle out of this response lol. It's diluted enough with the other 5 gallons. My suggestion was an extra step of caution to make the transition as smooth as possible. You can continue it that way, what's done is done. It should be fine.
I tend to make people laugh with the things I’ve done so far with this tank. You live and learn. I’ll do the 50/50 tap/spring next time until my spring water is finished. I have 3.5 gallons of that left. How often should I be changing the water during the cycling process anyway? since now I have 3 different variations of water in my tank (leftover RO, majority spring, and now a gallon of tap). I know that once I reach a certain ammonia level, I should change it but, considering I have ammonia in my tap already, it’s going to be hard to distinguish if it’s free ammonia or the non-toxic form.
 

TheBettaSushi

I'd only use tap water, make the switch gradually, using tap water for water changes, because that would be the easiest, and dose something like Seachem Prime or HikarI Ultimate as a dechlorinator, as they also detoxify the ammonia for a time.
Hi! So I changed 1 gallon yesterday morning and used tap water with prime. I just checked my tank and I have a ph of 6.0! My KH is 0 and GH is 8. Should I wait it out or do another 1 gallon water change with tap now?
 

Mr. Kgnao

That's a tough question, since you've already got fish in the tank, but an insufficient colony of nitrifying bacteria, and yet changing water is adding ammonia into the tank. I'd probably keep changing a little bit of water every other day. And maybe consider switching from Prime to HikarI Ultimate which supposedly acts as an alkalinity buffer, or adding something like crushed coral to boost your KH.
 

TheBettaSushi

That's a tough question, since you've already got fish in the tank, but an insufficient colony of nitrifying bacteria, and yet changing water is adding ammonia into the tank. I'd probably keep changing a little bit of water every other day. And maybe consider switching from Prime to HikarI Ultimate which supposedly acts as an alkalinity buffer, or adding something like crushed coral to boost your KH.
So even tap water isn’t helping I guess. I have no ammonia in the tank as of today. The ppm is zero. I’m considering emptying out the tank and just filling the whole thing with either tap or spring water since they’re both testing the same after I leave tap out for 2 days. I’m about to throw in the towel since my tap drained my ph to 6.0 in less than a day when it was at 6.6 right before the water change with tap. I don’t know what else to do.
 

Mr. Kgnao

I'd just use tap water with some kind of buffer, I wouldn't dump the water out and start from scratch though. A thing to remember is the danios are still alive, so clearly it's not all that bad.
 

TheBettaSushi

I'd just use tap water with some kind of buffer, I wouldn't dump the water out and start from scratch though. A thing to remember is the danios are still alive, so clearly it's not all that bad.
Well a betta survived 2 years with just straight ro water and nothing else besides plants in my previous tank... I can make anything survive if that’s the case. I’ll start doing tap water changes every couple of days and see if that will help ? And if nothing changes once 6 gallons of tap water is in the tank, then resort to buffers with tap water?
 

Mr. Kgnao

That's what I would do.
 

TheBettaSushi

TheBettaSushi

Hey all! So I’ve finally stabilized my ph and it’s been at a constant 7.6 since I first posted on this thread. I’ve been using spring water (even though some of you advised against it) as I tried to use tap (as some of you suggested) only to have my danios show distress (staying at the bottom of the tank, rapid breathing... it started with only changing 3 gallons to tap within days apart, letting the tap sit out for 24 hours in between, etc). I switched it to 100% spring and they are doing much better and seem much happier. Some of my Anubias even sprouted leaves until my KH dropped from 3 to 2. It has been at a consistent 2 for over a week now yet my ph has stayed the same. I have tried doing 3 gallon water changes to no avail. The spring water itself has a KH of 4 right out of the gallon jug. What gives??? Why has my KH dropped while my ph has remained the same?
 

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