Caution on using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to raise pH
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Caution on using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to raise pH

This is a discussion on Caution on using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to raise pH within the Beginner Freshwater Aquarium forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> The use of sodium bicarbonate, i.e., plain baking soda, to raise pH was mentioned in one or more threads recently. In doing some research ...

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Caution on using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to raise pH
Old 03-22-2010, 02:10 PM   #1
 
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Caution on using baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to raise pH

The use of sodium bicarbonate, i.e., plain baking soda, to raise pH was mentioned in one or more threads recently. In doing some research on Mimagoniates, a family of characins the reproduce with internal fertilization, I came across some pertinent information on the use of sodium bicarbonate in the second of several articles authored by Stanley Weitzman, Lisa Palmer, Naercio Menezes and John Burns, dealing with the preparation of suitable water for forest-adapted fishes. The article recommends methods used to adjust hard, basic tap water into soft, acidic water suitable for fishes requiring such water. The authors provide a caution on the use of baking soda, and below I am citing the relevant passage verbatim.
Sometimes in an emergency, when the pH becomes too acid and we are temporarily out of reverse osmosis water, we will slowly adjust the pH with a dilute solution of sodium bicarbonate, bringing the pH level from 5.5 to 5.7 over a period of an hour. Usually 24 hours later the pH will have again turned somewhat more acid than pH 5.7 and we will adjust it further, to a pH of 6.0, with a small amount of sodium bicarbonate solution. However, sodium bicarbonate has no effective buffer action and cannot stabilize pH in the face of additional acidic waste products. Also, one must not continually add sodium bicarbonate to adjust the pH because eventually the sodium ions present will reach intolerable levels. Adding a buffering solution that contains ions of calcium or magnesium of course produces undesirable hard water. There are commercial pH buffers sold for soft water use. These are sold primarily for use in caring for and breeding discus, which also need a soft water environment. These buffers may be quite suitable for controlling the pH of soft water and not affect the sperm or fertilization of externally fertilizing fish species. However, we have not used any of them, preferring to adjust the Ph in a more "natural" way by exchange with freshly prepared soft water. [my emphasis]
This article, entitled Maintaining Environmental Conditions Suitable for Tropical and Subtropical Forest-adapted Fishes, Especially the Species of Mimagoniates (Part 2), appeared in the July 1996 issue of Tropical Fish Hobbyist. Part 1 of the series discusses the specific water parameters required to maintain the long-term health of soft acidic water forest fishes, and the second part describes their recommended method of doing so (which happens to be RO).

At the time of the articles (latter 1990's), John Burns was a member of the Department of Biological Sciences at The George Washington University, Washington DC; Naercio Menezes was a biologist with the Universidade de Sao Paulo, Departamento de Zoologia, in Brazil; and Lisa Palmer and Stanley Weitzman were members of the Division of Fishes, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Dr. Weitzman is (currently) Honourary Research Scientist at the Smithsonian, and is unquestionably the foremost authority alive on characoid fishes.
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Old 03-22-2010, 02:26 PM   #2
 
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Thanks for the heads up! A goldfish site that I frequent advocates the addition of baking soda to maintain proper kH. Now I'm happy I opted to use crushed coral instead!
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:12 AM   #3
 
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Wow. That's something that completely escaped me until you pointed it out just now. The lack of buffering ions is also noteworthy as a good reason not to use baking soda.
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:49 AM   #4
 
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Is another reason I do not recommend trying to adjust water to suit fishes, but rather try to purchase fishes that do well in the water that I have from the tap.Baking soda does not raise ph but does provide some additional buffering KH, where some buffering capabilities of the sample of water exist.. In softwater ,R/O ,or where peat and or distilled water was being used, I would expect the use of baking soda to be negligible due to the acidic properties of the sample of water always working to lower the KH. Or at least that is my thinking.
I would much rather premix a mixture of R/O and tapwater to achieve a more stable enviornment with regards to KH.pH.,With regular water changes .
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Old 03-23-2010, 04:53 AM   #5
 
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I think you've got that the other way around. NaHCO3 raises the pH of the water but contains no calcium so does not contribute to KH.
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Old 03-23-2010, 05:08 AM   #6
 
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[quote=iamntbatman;349274]I think you've got that the other way around. NaHCO3 raises the pH of the water but contains no calcium so does not contribute to KH.[/qu


Perhaps I'm confused. I am/was, under the impression that Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)Raises carbonate hardness,ensuring that ph stays within a steady range rather than raising ph directly.
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Old 03-23-2010, 05:57 AM   #7
 
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Reading up on it, it seems as though we're both right. KH is a measure of carbonate ions but under normal circumstances the only way you get carbonate in your water is because of calcium carbonate being dissolved in it. Baking soda doesn't contain the calcium usually associated with KH. It does raise your pH because of the resulting hydroxide ions but it doesn't help buffer your water like dissolved calcium carbonate does.
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Old 03-23-2010, 06:22 AM   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamntbatman View Post
Reading up on it, it seems as though we're both right. KH is a measure of carbonate ions but under normal circumstances the only way you get carbonate in your water is because of calcium carbonate being dissolved in it. Baking soda doesn't contain the calcium usually associated with KH. It does raise your pH because of the resulting hydroxide ions but it doesn't help buffer your water like dissolved calcium carbonate does.

Yes, If I wished to raise both GH and KH simultaneously, would use CaCo3 (calicium carbonate).
In an event, I have found it to be way less complicated to simply keep fish that do well in my water that i draw from the tap. no mixing of chemicals or storing of water. Just add dechlorinator and see that the water is not too cold, or too warm.
I'm a long way from being well versed on the manipulating of water and am thankful that I haven't had much need to.
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Old 03-23-2010, 06:55 AM   #9
 
I am far from being a professional with the aquarium and different chemical, but has always lean toward the more natural way of balancing Ph and acids more naturally and let time take it's course.
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Old 03-24-2010, 04:10 AM   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1077 View Post
In an event, I have found it to be way less complicated to simply keep fish that do well in my water that i draw from the tap
Good point. Me too!

...Although at some point I am going to start a rift lake tank, in which case I'll need to make things a bit harder and more alkaline...
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