Stratum and PH

Abby974

So I am still in the midst of the nitrogen cycle to get my tank set up and I have been testing my PH also to see if it stays the same or if anything changes. Luckily I am planning on keeping fish that like low PH ranges, but I am worried about my PH being a little to low. I did a test yesterday with some water and stratum and watched the PH drop from 7.2 down to 6.0 at least it is not showing any lower because it can't read any lower although I believe it probably is lower. Today as I was testing to make sure my water was ok I tried to figure out what was causing my PH to go so low. I believe after reading about other people's issues with Stratum lowering their PH that I may also have the same issue. This is my first time using stratum is there anything I should worry about or just not worry about it. Will the swing in my PH differences affect the fish when I eventually have the tank set up and ready? Luckily I have caught the issue before fish are added but I still want to figure it out.

Edit to add:
Before I do end up adding fish I do need to go get a KH and GH test kit as that may also have something to do with it that I just remembered I have to pick some up. Maybe the swing is due to that?
 

John58ford

There's some science to this that gets you to an interesting position.

First challenge; is it's very hard to fishless cycle a tank in super low pH. The normal bacterias prefer to be above 7. But don't fret all the smalls, there are some bacteria that work in lower pH, additionally ammonia is not usually "toxic" below 6.5 pH.

Plants can consume many forms of nitrogen and one of them is ammonia. Not that it is the preferred, they will use nitrate preferentially. The lower the kH and pH the easier you can get your plants to use up the nutrients so now we start to see why these fancy substrates do what they do.

The caution section is to carefully manage your fertilizer which typically contains some of the nitrogen and your stocking which will also produce nitrogen. If you have an excess of nitrogen for your plants to use from your fertilizer package in a better form the ammonia will have no choice but to wait and be converted. Another caution is to make sure you don't spike pH up, while fish in, while maintaining any significant amount of ammonia, as that is when it will quickly become toxic. You can reference several different anomia toxicity charts to try and find your specific situation.

When moving fish from a 7.4ish tank to a sub 6, you will want to set up a drip acclimation and take your time. There is a member here that has stated the recommended amount of change per hour for most ornamental fish but I do not remember the number. I know personally (but likely incorrectly) I do about .2ph per 30 minutes on the drip and have had good luck.

Now the caution on my advice, I'm a low tech-planted sand-no ferts kind of guy. I haven't specifically ran below 6ph at home (though I have gotten a few to hover at 6.5), but I can help you find the references and theory involved in doing so.
 
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MacZ

The pH lowering effect of soil literally washes out with waterchanges and time, so after 1-2 months and several waterchanges the pH should stabilize higher.

And tanks do cycle below 7 pH, no problem. Just the speed is very slow.
 
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John58ford

And tanks do cycle below 7 pH, no problem. Just the speed is very slow.

This is true, but it's a different bacteria than what the standard tank is cycling with, or it's outside of the efficiency range.

A solid reference is an EPA PDF document titled "nitrification". A direct quote "Nitrosomonas has an optimal pH between approximately 7.0 and 8.0, and the optimum pH range for Nitrobacter is approximately 7.5 to 8.0."

When the first 2-3 months are in the extreme low pH area, is just a caution to be aware of, not saying it can't be done, but that waiting on a tank that low to turn around 3ppm ammonia per day or something could be a task with no reward.


Edit due to not seeing OPs edit: while you may not "need" the gh/kh test, it will be very beneficial to you if you want to watch the relationships to the nitrogen cycle, plant uptake or other tank health details yourself. It's also very helpful if you ever decide to try mixing your own buffers or ditching fertilizers in favor of your own mix.
 
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MacZ

This is true, but it's a different bacteria than what the standard tank is cycling with, or it's outside of the efficiency range.

It's not even bacteria, it's archeans. Low pH is very much within their range, but they take ages to multiply. Once the colony is established I find them more effective than what is going on at higher pH.

Aquarium Nitrification Revisited: Thaumarchaeota Are the Dominant Ammonia Oxidizers in Freshwater Aquarium Biofilters

Freshwater Recirculating Aquaculture System Operations Drive Biofilter Bacterial Community Shifts around a Stable Nitrifying Consortium of Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea and Comammox Nitrospira

A solid reference is an EPA PDF document titled "nitrification". A direct quote "Nitrosomonas has an optimal pH between approximately 7.0 and 8.0, and the optimum pH range for Nitrobacter is approximately 7.5 to 8.0."

The links above explain, why these bacteria definitely have no impact on lower pH environments and how tanks with lower pH can still be cycled. Outside the optimum ranges Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter have far too low metabolic rates to have any significant impact on the cycle.
Otherwise a tank below 6.5 or above 8.5 (the 0.5 margin is the range within they still work efficiently enough) is unable to establish enough bacteria in the first place.

When the first 2-3 months are in the extreme low pH area, is just a caution to be aware of, not dating it can't be done

I find this especially interesting to know for when possible ammonia becomes toxic. Though within 2-3 months a tank can be cycled in low pH.
 
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John58ford

It's not even bacteria, it's archeans. Low pH is very much within their range, but they take ages to multiply. Once the colony is established I find them more effective than what is going on at higher pH.

Aquarium Nitrification Revisited: Thaumarchaeota Are the Dominant Ammonia Oxidizers in Freshwater Aquarium Biofilters

Freshwater Recirculating Aquaculture System Operations Drive Biofilter Bacterial Community Shifts around a Stable Nitrifying Consortium of Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea and Comammox Nitrospira



The links above explain, why these bacteria definitely have no impact on lower pH environments and how tanks with lower pH can still be cycled. Outside the optimum ranges Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter have far too low metabolic rates to have any significant impact on the cycle.
Otherwise a tank below 6.5 or above 8.5 (the 0.5 margin is the range within they still work efficiently enough) is unable to establish enough bacteria in the first place.



I find this especially interesting to know for when possible ammonia becomes toxic. Though within 2-3 months a tank can be cycled in low pH.
This is why I love nerding out here. I agree 100% with having a grasp on all this, especially if going with an "advanced" aquarium concept. Also, sorry for referring to our archaean friends as "a different bacteria" I wasn't planning on taking this particular thread this far down the rabbit hole lol.

Would you agree with a tank in this situation it would be preferable to drip in a low stocking of fish vs feed ammonia for the cycle?

The thing I would find hardest about a low pH tank using a different mechanism than the others in the home for nitrification is a source of seed material and balance. There may be a solid number of archaea to get rolling with a media transfer or sponge squeeze in a tank with a pH that low but as you do cross into the 6.5+ range would everything keep up with the toxicity curve or would you think a second seeding would help at that point?
 
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MacZ

Would you agree with a tank in this situation it would be preferable to drip in a low stocking of fish vs feed ammonia for the cycle?

Preferrably ammonia, but best would be organic matter breaking down. Which is given with the soil. Soil can cause ammonia spikes in the first weeks, too. So basically it's self-cycling right now. I would add some dead leaves after 2-3 weeks and keep adding 2-3 a week during cycling. That way a mulm layer is also started already. This is useful in any setup and no blackwater or low-pH specialty.

There may be a solid number of archaea to get rolling with a media transfer or sponge squeeze in a tank with a pH that low but as you do cross into the 6.5+ range would everything keep up with the toxicity curve or would you think a second seeding would help at that point?

Seeding by media transfer is best. I find squeezing into the tank is literally a mess. Rather squeeze directly into the filter. Good thing about archaea is, they work between 4.5 and 9.0. So when the pH crosses into higher readings the toxicity is irrelevant, as the tank should be cycled by then.
 
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John58ford

Which is given with the soil. Soil can cause ammonia spikes in the first weeks, too.
So maybe this was a misunderstanding or over generalisation of mine: I thought stratum was a volcanic clay, rich in mineral and slightly charged(ion) that would absorb carbonate and other minerals/metals with an opposing charge. Those typically are mineral rich but any nitrogen would have to come from the fertilizers and stocking. Does stratum boost ammonia like you get running potting soil/dirted? If so, my mistake entirely as no one has worked through troubleshooting that with me.
 
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MacZ

I was of the impression stratum is the same type of soil as by JBL or Tropica but it seems indeed to be without fertilizers.

All the more a reason to use leaves.
 
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Abby974

I was curious as to what my gh/kh was so I went out and bought a gh/kh test kit. The low ph is very understandable when you have a 6dgh and a 4dkh...I think I read it right. Also the tank is absolutely cycling something. Actually I have mostly Nitrates and Nitrites right now and my ammonia is only at . Maybe the plants do help. I had already started cycling the tank around a week and a half ago maybe? I just don't want to have unstable ph ranges and for it to affect any fish I put in. Luckily all of the fish I do want mostly want soft water and lower ph. Thank you for all of the ideas, theories, and replies.
Also I would assume some of the ammonia has been leaking from the stratum although at the moment it does not bother me. No fish in the tank means there's nothing to worry about yet. I personally still use liquid ferts and root tabs so even if stratum did or didn't give extra ferts my plants should be fine. I had the stratum bag sitting in my room since 2016ish? I was getting ready to set up a new tank and completely redo a tank when life hit kind of hard so I just saw it in the corner when I was remaking my tank and was like what's the worst that could happen.
 
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