How Do I Safely Lower My pH?
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How Do I Safely Lower My pH?

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How Do I Safely Lower My pH?
Old 05-20-2010, 08:22 AM   #1
 
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How Do I Safely Lower My pH?

Hi,

I sadly lost 3 tiny serape tetras, 6 small lemon tetras, and 1 cory catfish. Currently I have 8 Zebra Danios, 5 Platies, 5 cories, 3 Serpae Tetras in my 55gal. My tank was fully cycled and up and running since December. I recently added 6 small lemon tetras to my tank to finish my stocking scheme, and the stuff hit the fan. I thought everything was going really well. I was constantly getting a reading of 0 ammonia, a very small trace of nitrate, and 0 nitrite. Also the small trace of nitrate in the safe range is from my well water.

I had no idea what was going on and took a sample of my water to the LFS. He told me that everything was looking good until he got to the pH test. He told me that my pH level was around 7.8, and could be a problem for the small lemon tetras I just added. He told me that I needed to get my pH level as close to 7.0 as I can. He then asked me if I had any sea shell or coral in my tank, I said no. I ended up doing some research about what things could be raising my pH level. The only thing that I could think of was the "river rocks" I bought at the pet store for decoration. I have no idea what sort of rocks they are, but I removed them just to make sure.

I have now done two 50% water changes in two weeks and still my pH is around 7.6 to 7.8. The water coming straight out of the well is around 7.0. Although I do leave the water sit for a few days before my partial water change and it seems to raise a bit to about 7.2. I also have a large fake driftwood decoration that is constantly covered with brown algae/slime. I clean it off a few times a month but it keeps coming back. My question is what I'm I doing wrong? I really want to switch over to a fully planted aquarium and have been saving for the proper lighting. Would a fully planted aquarium help my problem? I'm I over feeding? Should I add a pH neutralizer to my well water before my partial water change? I have no idea, please help!

Thanks,

Kevin

Last edited by IceBerg; 05-20-2010 at 08:33 AM..
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Old 05-20-2010, 08:49 AM   #2
 
algae can raise ph.i would take out that fake driftwood piece and put a real piece in.real driftwood lowers ph.i would clean all the algea anywhere in the tank.ph is a real pain to combat and control and isnt as simple as doing water changes to change.it doesnt have the same properties as ammonia which is a simple linear equation.so if you have 1 ammonia and do a 50% water change you ll have .5 ammonia.ph doesnt work like that.

i would keep up on water changes weekly or biweekly and with the driftwood it should lower overtime.i wouldnt add anything to the water to alter the ph bc usually the water added to the tank will just rebound with the water in the tank.
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Old 05-20-2010, 09:27 AM   #3
 
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Originally Posted by RedBelly View Post
algae can raise ph.i would take out that fake driftwood piece and put a real piece in.real driftwood lowers ph.
What type of wood is best? I believe my LFS has a few pieces of real driftwood. It looks like it's cedar, would that work?

Last edited by IceBerg; 05-20-2010 at 09:31 AM..
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Old 05-20-2010, 12:11 PM   #4
 
i couldn't possibly speak for your LFS but my LFS sell de ionised water (just like the sort you put in car batteries) but in large volumes for not to much cash, de ionised water is very soft and slightly acidic, you could just mix it in your desired ratio with your water changes

this would be safe and gradual but it would need doing forever
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Old 05-20-2010, 01:49 PM   #5
 
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Before you start spending money for something that isn't needed, let's find the cause for the pH being high and eliminate it. This is not only less expensive, it is healthier for the fish in the aquarium. A stable pH is far better than one that is fluctuating.

In a normal aquarium, the biological processes will work to acidify the water and the pH will drop as a result. The degree to this varies with the fish load, objects in the tank, and the hardness of the source water. Adjusting pH will never be successful until these things are identified.

I said the pH will normally drop. However, calcareous objects (some gravel/sand, rocks, maybe decor) will slowly (or not so slowly) release calcium and/or magnesium into the water, raising the hardness and thus the corresponding pH. You have removed the rock (good idea, it may or may not be the cause, but removing it will help narrow down the cause); what type of substrate do you have?

Second, the hardness, particularly the carbonate hardness [expressed as degrees KH or ppm (parts per million) KH] acts as a pH buffer naturally, resisting the downward change. We therefore need to know the hardness of your source water, which is I believe you said well water. If you don't have a test kit, most fish stores will test water for GH and KH. Ask them for the exact numbers; "hard" or "moderate" tells us very little, and the degree of KH in particular will tell us to what extent pH fluctuations can be expected. Once the object that is raising pH is removed, the pH may lower depending upon the degree of KH.

Wood does slightly lower pH by acidifying the water, similar to what peat or dried leaves would do. In my experience the extent of this is minimal, but still significant enough to be considered in the whole picture. Most wood sold by a reliable/reputable fish store should be safe. The dark almost black wood i find to be the best; it is heavy and sinks without soaking, the tannins are less than the lighter brown woods so the water disolouration is less and shorter lasting, and it looks very natural. It comes under various names like ironwood, mangrove root, etc. I prefer buying it when it has been under water in a tank in the store, since most of the discolouring tannins will have leeched out.

I would be careful of any wood looking like cedar; real cedar is a disaster in an aquarium because it is soft and quickly rots, fouling the water. The wood for an aquarium should be very hard to the touch. The paler wood, sometimes called mopani wood, can be attractive but I have found it to be the worst for tannins, it can take weeks depending upon the size of the piece of wood. And it needs to be held down for a time, until it gets waterlogged; otherwise it just floats.

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Old 05-21-2010, 03:38 AM   #6
 
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You could also try testing your rock to see if that's the source of the problem. Drip an acid on it to see if you get a fizzing reaction. Some recommend vinegar but that's a very weak acid. If you have access to muriatic acid or the hydrochloric acid for your nitrate test kit (I believe it's bottle #1 but the acid reagent will be the one with the acid warning on it) those would be better. You could also try leaving the rocks in a bucket of tap water for a couple of weeks, periodically monitoring the pH to see if the rocks cause it to go up.
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Old 05-21-2010, 06:59 PM   #7
 
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Originally Posted by Byron View Post

I said the pH will normally drop. However, calcareous objects (some gravel/sand, rocks, maybe decor) will slowly (or not so slowly) release calcium and/or magnesium into the water, raising the hardness and thus the corresponding pH. You have removed the rock (good idea, it may or may not be the cause, but removing it will help narrow down the cause); what type of substrate do you have?

Second, the hardness, particularly the carbonate hardness [expressed as degrees KH or ppm (parts per million) KH] acts as a pH buffer naturally, resisting the downward change. We therefore need to know the hardness of your source water, which is I believe you said well water. If you don't have a test kit, most fish stores will test water for GH and KH. Ask them for the exact numbers; "hard" or "moderate" tells us very little, and the degree of KH in particular will tell us to what extent pH fluctuations can be expected. Once the object that is raising pH is removed, the pH may lower depending upon the degree of KH.
Thanks for all the great advice Byron. I have regular store bought aquarium gravel as my substrate. Also my LFS said my well water was soft, but didnít give me a number. I have also used some at home test strips with the same result, getting a soft reading. Although my well water is very high in iron. I have to let it sit for a few days to let it all sink to the bottom of the barrel. It doesnít make sense to me that I have soft water that is also high in iron, but I'm new to the whole water chemistry thing.
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:21 PM   #8
 
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Originally Posted by RedBelly View Post
algae can raise ph.i would take out that fake driftwood piece and put a real piece in.real driftwood lowers ph.i would clean all the algea anywhere in the tank.ph is a real pain to combat and control and isnt as simple as doing water changes to change.it doesnt have the same properties as ammonia which is a simple linear equation.so if you have 1 ammonia and do a 50% water change you ll have .5 ammonia.ph doesnt work like that.

i would keep up on water changes weekly or biweekly and with the driftwood it should lower overtime.i wouldnt add anything to the water to alter the ph bc usually the water added to the tank will just rebound with the water in the tank.
Thanks for the advice RedBelly. I have removed the river rocks and my large fake driftwood decoration. The thing was an algae magnet. I did some more research on my "river rocks" and I believe they are some sort of marble. Which I found out can raise your pH. Now I just need to find a suitable peace of driftwood and go from there.

Last edited by IceBerg; 05-21-2010 at 07:24 PM..
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Old 05-22-2010, 01:05 PM   #9
 
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Originally Posted by IceBerg View Post
Thanks for all the great advice Byron. I have regular store bought aquarium gravel as my substrate. Also my LFS said my well water was soft, but didnít give me a number. I have also used some at home test strips with the same result, getting a soft reading. Although my well water is very high in iron. I have to let it sit for a few days to let it all sink to the bottom of the barrel. It doesnít make sense to me that I have soft water that is also high in iron, but I'm new to the whole water chemistry thing.
Kevin,

According to what I have read, calcium and magnesium are the two chief minerals that determine the "hardness" of water. I do know that the hardness of my very soft tap water (near zero GH and KH) will rise considerably with the addition of either of these minerals, calcium or magnesium. I don't know to what exact extent iron or other mineral might affect hardness, but I suspect minimally from my reading.

Given that your source water is soft, then without calcareous items in the aquarium the pH should lower over time as the aquarium stabilizes. In other words, the well water pH (which you said is around 7) will become lower in the aquarium, down into the 6's. Wood will assist in this, if minimally. Removing the rock was good if it is marble; you are correct, marble will raise pH and I suspect that was the issue with the higher pH.

My recommendation then is to just sit this out. Over the next few weeks, now that the rock is out, the pH will slowly lower as the aquarium matures. Do a regular weekly partial water change (40%), and test the pH before the water change and then about a half-hour after. Test it once each day or alternate days over the week, always at approximately the same time each day; the normal diurnal pH variation in a planted tank means the pH will be lower in the early morning and higher in the evening, so testing it the same time each day gives a truer reading of what is occurring long-term. We can provide further advice if warranted when this has settled.

On the iron, use a good water conditioner with each water change, one that detoxifies heavy metals. Most, but not all, do this. Iron is one heavy metal, but it is also a vital plant nutrient. Without plants, algae was using the iron in the presence of light (algae is a plant) and plants will assist in controlling algae, to answer your earlier question. I would get some plants for the tank. Echinodorus (swords) are ideal in your situation, they love iron and soft water. Crypts would also do well.

Liquid fertilization will be necessary given your soft water, and I would recommend Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Supplement for the Planted Aquarium, or Nutrafin's Plant-Gro (liquid), or Aqueon's Aquarium Plant Food. I use Flourish [make sure it is the exact one named, they make several products in the "Flourish" line] but from the ingredients and info on the web I believe the other two are good. Whichever, use it the day following the water change, since the conditioner will detoxify the heavy metals (iron, copper, zinc, manganese) that are micro-nutrients in the fertilizer if used simultaneously.

Byron.
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Old 05-22-2010, 10:16 PM   #10
 
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On the iron, use a good water conditioner with each water change, one that detoxifies heavy metals.
Byron.
I was using Tetra Aqua Safe but I was fearing that is was raising my pH and making my water too soft. What water conditioner would you recommend in my situation?
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