Need advice on pH and bioload
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Need advice on pH and bioload

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Need advice on pH and bioload
Old 10-13-2009, 01:12 AM   #1
 
Need advice on pH and bioload

I am starting my first tank and am in the process of cycling it. This being the case every small change leads me to searching the internet for an explination

The tank is 29L and contains 8 zebra danions and 1 pleco. The pH started well at 7.0 with the ammonia very stable (and continues to be). Bacteria in the tank died quickly leaving the water grey and now the pH is dropping. It has been at 6.6 for 3 days now. I have put a pH buffer in the tank which is meant to maintain the pH at 7.0 but it had so far changed nothing. Is it possible that my chosen substrate is releasing a buffer which is counteracting the one I have added myself?

My second question is regarding bacterial suppliments. Is it suggested to use them or is it better to gradually build up the bioload over several weeks? I have read information supporting both methods.

Thanks so much
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Old 10-13-2009, 02:54 AM   #2
 
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first off STOP USING PH BUFFER if you have to ask about why your ph wont stabilize then you are not qualified to use such a item. while your tank goes through its cycle it is normal to see it drop by .3 -.4 the only way something can effect the ph in a tank is when it goes UP, just keep up with your partial water changes and all will be well. your fish will naturally acclimate to the changeing ph. and remember the only things that happen fast in a aquarium are bad things~
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Old 10-13-2009, 12:06 PM   #3
 
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first off STOP USING PH BUFFER
Sorry I just read back to my question and realized how that was written. The buffer was added under the suggestion of a friend and on the day I added the fish at which point the pH was at 7.0. That may lead you to ask why, then, would I feel the need to add the buffer. I have absolutely no idea!

This is also the same friend that suggests using bacterial suppliment. From what I have read regarding this, the bioload with stabalize as ammonia levels rise. Waiting the weeks for this to happen rather than using the subbliment will result in a more stable tank long-term. Is that up for debate??
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Old 10-13-2009, 01:19 PM   #4
 
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First on the pH, MM is correct, it is not good to add any chemical stuff to adjust ph in a tank with fish. A stable pH even if not where you might prefer to have it is better for the health of the fish than one that fluctuates. Fish can adjust to very slow and relatively minor fluctuations over a 24 hour period; for example, in all planted tanks the pH fluctuates by about .3 or .4 during every 24 hours, and the fish are fine. [Won't go into the reason it does unless you ask.]

A pH of 7 is not recommended for any fish; it should be either above (for fish like livebearers and rift lake cichlids that prefer/require basic (alkaline) water, or below for acidic water fish lke almost all the tetras, gouramis, catfish, loaches, etc. Your danios and pleco fall in the latter group, although they would adjust fine to a pH slightly above 7. A neutral pH is unnatural; no water in nature is at 7 because it is too pure, like distilled or RO water with nothing in it so it can't support aquatic life. Not that you or I would have much luck maintaining an exact 7 pH, but my point is that it is not something to aim for for the afore-mentioned reasons.

The pH will lower in most aquariums due to the natural biological processes, at least once the tank is cycled and biologically established. Regular partial water changes help to keep the pH stable, within a few decimal points. The degree of carbonate hardness in the tap water will act as a buffer to aid in stable pH long-term. It is useful to know the hardness, both KH (carbonate hardness) and GH (general hardness), either with your own test kit (API make a good one) or take a sample of your tap water [not tank water] to your fish store and ask them to test it and tell you the specific numbers, just for reference.

In your case with a new tank that is going through the initial cycling, a temporary "clouding" is nothing to worry about. Monitor the ammonia daily, it should rise and then start to drop down to zero, and during the latter phase the nitrite will rise and then drop to zero in a few days. Nitrates will then appear; they are not a problem at normal low numbers, below 20 ppm, and usually remain there with regular weekly partial water changes of 30-40%.

Bacteria supplements: Some work well, others don't. In a new tank with no live plants, I always use one, Seachem's "Stability" is good, and there are a couple of others I have personally not used. Stability (and some of the others) are live bacteria that "seed" the surfaces in the aquarium to quicken the colonization of the good bacteria (nitrosomonas and nitrospira) that perform the nitrification cycle. Bacteria will lessen the stress on the fish caused by ammonia and then nitrite, which can permanently damage if not kill fish at high levels such as often occur in new tanks 9the "new tank syndrome"). Having live plants avoids this, if there are sufficient of them, since plants need ammonium which they can obtain from the ammonia and probably the nitrite. So, if you have no live plants, I would use Stability for a couple of days, no longer. Some of the other similar products are chemical, not pure bacteria, and some do other things best left undone in my opinion; if you can't get Stability, there is a frozen one called Bio-Spira that I understand is good.

If your pH remains acidic, below 7, it is actually good during the cylcing. Ammona basically changes to ammonium in acidic water, and ammonium is not toxic on fish. The bacteria still use it to establish the nitrification cycle, so with a slightly acidic ph you're actually better off. The nitrite will still occur of course, and Stability will help with that stage, so the sooner you add it the better. But once cycled, biological supplements are not necessary and i don't suggest using them beyond the initial startup.

Byron.
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Old 10-14-2009, 10:58 PM   #5
 
Thank you so much for that information
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Old 10-14-2009, 11:03 PM   #6
 
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byron is the go to man on here definitely for plants and most questions that arise about your freshwater tank. hes something like a genius of freshwater planted tanks.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:40 AM   #7
 
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Agree with testing the water daily for ammonia levels. Your 29L ? tank is a little over seven gal. With the pleco ,and other fish you have ,I would expect ammonia readings to appear quickly.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:16 PM   #8
 
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Agree with testing the water daily for ammonia levels. Your 29L ? tank is a little over seven gal. With the pleco ,and other fish you have ,I would expect ammonia readings to appear quickly.

Lol, sorry, another correction to be made. In Canada we use Litres so I wasn't really thinking. It's 29 US Gallons and has 8 Zebra Danions, 1 Pleco, and now 3 long-finned black skirt tetras.

The ammonia spiked over Tuesday night after a 40% water change Tuesday evening so it is now sitting at 0.02. I just did another water change of 5 gallons to clear more waste out. The fish seem totaly happy and very active despite my little ammonia monitor saying that 0.02 is in the stress range. Byron, you mentioned that the ammonia levels will rise and then drop down followed by nitrite levels rising, should I expect to see elevated ammonia levels for long?
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Old 10-15-2009, 01:05 PM   #9
 
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Lol, sorry, another correction to be made. In Canada we use Litres so I wasn't really thinking. It's 29 US Gallons and has 8 Zebra Danions, 1 Pleco, and now 3 long-finned black skirt tetras.

The ammonia spiked over Tuesday night after a 40% water change Tuesday evening so it is now sitting at 0.02. I just did another water change of 5 gallons to clear more waste out. The fish seem totaly happy and very active despite my little ammonia monitor saying that 0.02 is in the stress range. Byron, you mentioned that the ammonia levels will rise and then drop down followed by nitrite levels rising, should I expect to see elevated ammonia levels for long?
The degree of stress or internal damage caused by ammonia can vary a little depending upon pH. The higher the pH above 7, the more serious are the effects of ammonia. At an acidic pH (below 7) it is basically harmless because it naturally changes to ammonium which is not toxic to fish and plants [just noticed I already explained this]. Nitrosomonas bacteria use ammonia and ammonium, so the cycle still works the same but the fish are under no stress because it is ammonium as long as the pH is below 7. The rise in nitrite will stress them though, so daily pwc during that phase is recommended.

The time of the cycle stages is variable depending upon temperature, water conditions, fish, plants, bacteria, pH... etc. Ammonia levels decline when the nitrite increase because as the nitrosomonas bacteria multiply they consume more ammonia faster, converting it to nitrite, and then the nitrospira bacteria have to catch up and they will multiply as the nitrite increases to the point where they are in sufficient numbers to consume all the nitrite and it will read zero. At that stage, nitrates appear, the third stage, and the regular weekly partial water change keeps nitrate levels acceptable.

I realized after reading 1077's post that I had misread 29L as gallons, but as you've explained that it really is gallons, my oversight made no difference fortunately.

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Old 10-15-2009, 01:42 PM   #10
 
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I realized after reading 1077's post that I had misread 29L as gallons, but as you've explained that it really is gallons, my oversight made no difference fortunately.

Byron.
Exactly, lol. I was thinking gallons and wrote litres

Sounds like my tank is okay then, eh? This will be alot less worrisome the second time around
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