Newbie - tank has cycled, but new fish died, high pH? - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 8 Old 06-28-2007, 02:59 PM Thread Starter
Newbie - tank has cycled, but new fish died, high pH?

Hi all,

I have an Eclipse 12 gallon acrylic tank (which I'm very happy with). I started the tank at the end of April with a couple of zebra danios (had read they were good fish for cycling tanks as they are hardy. Indeed they are ... they survived the cycling process and grew a good bit during it. I stayed on top of water testing and cleaning/water changes, and have seen ammonia and nitrite both go up and come back down again. For at least a few weeks now ammonia and nitrite have been zero, and nitrate very low. I've been changing ~25% of the water once a week or so.

So it seemed a reasonable time to add more fish. I should state that my goal is a community tank. Picked up another danio since odd numbers are supposed to be better (the first two did a bit of fin nipping), a male guppy and a plec to help with algae control.

Sadly the pretty little guppy expired after 24 hours, and the plec about a week later. The new danio seems to be doing fine, though.

I took the guppy back to the store along with a water sample, they told me their test picked up "some" ammonia and my pH was high. This was a surprise to me since my test kit has been saying ammonia was zero and pH around 7.2. All the same I picked up an in-tank ammonia monitor and a separate pH test for confirmation. Neither the ammonia monitor (which is supposedly even more sensitive than the test strips I'm using) or my tests show any ammonia, and pet store guy wasn't exactly being precise when doing the tests so I don't believe I have an ammonia problem.

My pH, however, is definitely high. The Mardel test strip continues to say it's around 7, it is clearly wrong. Turns out my local water utility is raising the pH to something like 8.6 to prevent corrosion in the lines. So I'm wondering if high pH alone could explain the death of the guppy and the plec.

A few questions - anybody else had a bad experience with Mardel test strips? (I have their "master test kit".) Should I pitch them and get a test tube/reagent style set? What about the SeaChem ammonia alert in-tank monitor I'm using now?

As far as pH, I have figured out by experiment that 16 drops/gallon of 5% acidity white vinegar will bring my tap water's pH down to neutral. I plan to do this to new water as I replace water 25% at a time, and so gradually bring my pH back down to something more reasonable before trying again with more fish. Any thoughts?


Edit: a couple more bits of info - the tank receives a fair amount of indirect natural sunlight. The tank has a compact fluorescent toplight that is on probably 6 hours a day. There are no living plants in the tank. Food is TetraMin tropical crisps.
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post #2 of 8 Old 06-28-2007, 03:31 PM
leifthebunny's Avatar
What did your LFS say was the pH of your water? I wouldn't rely on the test strips, they tend to not be very accurate. a test tube, liquid kit is more reliable. If you have access to the API Master Testkit, you will be better off.
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post #3 of 8 Old 06-28-2007, 03:55 PM
Amphitrite's Avatar
I would agree with leifthebunny here with regards to the test strips.

Liquid test kits give more accurate readings. Also, plecos in my opinion should only be added to a more mature tank.

My suggestion: don't get any more fish at this point. Monitor the ammonia readings carefully because if you still have readings your tank is probably still cycling, or undergoing a mini-cycle with the addition of the new fish. To bring the ammonia down if it gets too high - a series of waterchanges.

Keep feeding to a minimum in the meantime.

I never rely on shop test readings - I prefer to test for myself.

Sounds like you've done your research though, and just keep posting questions if you have any queries at all.

Good luck :)

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post #4 of 8 Old 06-28-2007, 06:18 PM
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Both Kate and leifthebunny have pretty much covered it here. The only things I would add is:

How often are you feeding? If it's every day, cut back to every second day.

I'm always very suspicious of Ph altering methods. If you want to decrease the Ph try putting some bogwood in the tank as this is natural and the effects won't wear off like with other methods so is not harmful to the fish. The best advice is just to find fish that will thrive in your water conditions, rather than finding water to suit the fish.

Good luck!
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post #5 of 8 Old 06-28-2007, 07:09 PM Thread Starter
Thanks for your replies. leifthebunny, the LFS (took me a minute to decode that abbeviation ) didn't give me a number (on either the pH or ammonia, aggravatingly enough) but the pH was basic enough to be off the scale (well over 8 ) on the test he was using.

Sounds like I will definitely be picking up a liquid test kit.

I've been feeding one crisp per fish twice a day (as suggested by the label on the food) but I'll back it off to every other day.

Any suggestions for fish that like high pH water and would work well in a 12 gallon community tank with danios? I'll be waiting a while before getting more fish but just looking for ideas.
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post #6 of 8 Old 06-28-2007, 07:36 PM
I've read on here somewhere that you shouldn't add plecs until your tank is six months old. I guess they prefer a more "seasoned" environment. I bought mine about four months in and never had trouble. My pH is 8.0 and I have panda corydoras, tetras, platies, bristlenose plecos and mystery snails. They all do well for me.
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post #7 of 8 Old 06-28-2007, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by somethingisfishy
Thanks for your replies. leifthebunny, the LFS (took me a minute to decode that abbeviation ) didn't give me a number (on either the pH or ammonia, aggravatingly enough) but the pH was basic enough to be off the scale (well over 8 ) on the test he was using.
Sounds like you might want to look around for another fish store. ;) I know my LFS is always good about showing the results and they have a large poster you can easily eye the colors yourself.

As Julie suggested, you should look at a piece of bogwood or driftwood. Be sure to boil it several times and let it soak in a bucket for at least a week. As the tannins leech out of the wood, it will stain the water, which is not harmful to the fish. It will help soften the water. Also, if your water is altered that much, you might want to see about having your tap water tested for copper and chlorine/chloromine levels as you will need to address the copper and if your chlorine is high, you will need to use extra dechlorinator (I found that out the hard way :().
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post #8 of 8 Old 06-29-2007, 09:24 AM
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i keep discus and to help the ph i use mopani driftwood and also some peat in the filter. it doesnt cause sudden ph issues but has lowered the ph a few points( about .5). Mind you my water is not crystal clear, it is a bit tea colored. Oh, and i'm not saying get discus, just added info on why i use those methods. :) It is best not to try to alter your ph to much though in case of emergencies and no matter what you do there will be fluctuations, in the course of a day it fluctuates some. Also a plec in a 12g will outgrow the tank pretty quick. I'ld look for some algae eaters that stay small. I like ottos myself.
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