OMG pH! - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 12 Old 05-24-2008, 01:43 PM Thread Starter
okiemavis's Avatar

I'm one of those people on this site who always says not to worry about pH- that the fish can adapt to most levels unless it's something extreme. Well, I seem to have found an extreme case.

I must admit, I've been slacking on the water testing. I generally just check for nitrates in between water changes. I probably haven't checked my pH in any of my tanks in a month or two.

Today I went and did a full testing of my puffer tank- cuz that's a good thing to do. Last time I tested my pH it was somewhere between 7.4-7.6, the same as the tap. It had been steady at that since I moved in a few months previous.

Today I found the pH in my tank to be 8.4! I tested the tap water and that is also coming out at 8.4, perhaps even slightly higher.

What has caused the sudden change? Are there any natural methods that will lower pH that much? I'd ideally like my puffer tank below 7, and my other tanks within my normal range of 7.4. What sort of damage could this be doing to my fish? Thanks so much for the help!

Ammonia: 0 in all tanks
Nitrites: 0 in all tanks
Nitrates: 5 in puffer, 25 in community
soft gH and kH
C02 is just up an running in the puffer tank, none in the community, heavily planted in both
Temp is a steady 79 degrees
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post #2 of 12 Old 05-24-2008, 02:10 PM
Sounds like your ready for SW. :)

Ok, really. pH is often raised by having a lot of CO2 exchange near the surface of the water. The CO2 system could be a problem, but I dont see why it would be high in your community. Are you running any extra powerheads? What ttype of filter are you using?
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post #3 of 12 Old 05-24-2008, 02:18 PM Thread Starter
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My community is in 86 gallon running a Magnum 350 and my puffer actually has a mini canister filter, so it has very little surface agitation (enough for puffer to breath just fine tho!). I was under the impression that co2 would lower my ph, not raise it, which is part of why I added it to my puffer tank.

However, the ph problem is entirely caused by tap water, as it's coming out that way. My water is quite soft, so I shouldn't have too much trouble altering the pH, I'm just wondering the best method I guess? I'm so not into chemicals, and I'm also not interested in having to replace peat moss every 2 weeks or having tannin stained water.

On the other hand, I've been planning a Tanganyika tank, so I'm half way there right from the tap!
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post #4 of 12 Old 05-24-2008, 02:19 PM
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8.4 out of the tap? Geeesh, I'd start complaining to your water company. I'd also start shopping for aquarium peat for your filter and maybe some new driftwood.
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post #5 of 12 Old 05-24-2008, 02:45 PM Thread Starter
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Yeeeah...I just don't like my water stained with tannins! Plus, it's not a very accurate method, and it means I will be adding water vastly different to the tank water in the water changes. Hmm. I will research the EPA stuff and find out if my tap water is OK by them.

Ah, I just googled and the first link I clicked said that in 2003 the boston tap water was 9.4. And apparently that was acceptable. I shall research further later.
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post #6 of 12 Old 05-24-2008, 02:54 PM
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I have had great success with Proper pH 7.0, by Aquarium Pharmasuticals. I have used it for at least 5 or 6 years now on multiple aquariums. I treat my tap water directly during the weekly water changes and then dose the tank 1/2 dose mid-week. Testing pH weekly has shown this to be a quality product.

My tap is also >8.0 at all times in the Louisville KY area.
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post #7 of 12 Old 05-24-2008, 11:19 PM
I have found pH buffers to not be a permant solution, as you keep having to add it over and over. If you dont want to have to worry about doing so, then you would need a more "natural" way. But, since you are not a fan of tannins/peat (I love em :) ), then I would say that is the best way. I know some of my LFS occasionally use the Proper pH as Pasfur mentioned, so look that up.
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post #8 of 12 Old 05-26-2008, 12:09 PM Thread Starter
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It's not just the tannins, but how would I treat the water before adding it? If I have water at 7.2 and then take out 25% and add water at 8.4, it seems like that would be a HUGE shock to the fish. I honestly don't have the time to do mini water changes every day to avoid that. Whereas with the chemicals I can add it before putting it in the tank which would completely circumvent the problem.

Anyone else have thoughts on chemicals vs. peat? Pleeease? I'm generally very opposed, but it's kind of a sticky situation I find myself in.
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post #9 of 12 Old 05-27-2008, 02:38 PM
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I also am not a big fan of chemicals, but in this case, chemicals like Proper pH are going to be the safest way to handle this.

If you wish to use the peat or wood to soften it naturally, running a rubbermaid tub with a fitler with peat and/or welaby wood would ensure you have "safe" water for water changes without having to add the peat/wood directly to your tank.
Proper pH should be used in a bucket or seperate container to treat the tap water before it goes into the tank as well, to avoid the huge swings from high to low.

As for why this has happened... a lot of it has to do with the weather. At different times of the year and during weather changes, such as change of season, the water params in our source water change. Water treatment plants add chemicals to help make it "safe" but they are allowed quite a wide range for "safe". While this won't hurt the people, which is what they are treating for, this can be quite deadly to aquarium animals.

Watch your tap water params now, because as we get further into the year, things are likely going to change again, and can be just as drastic as this time. This is another reason why I would suggest the Proper pH instead of the peat/wood in this instance. It is much easier to control when your tap water goes through more fluctuations, which is unavoidable.

It's always a good idea to check pH in both tank and tap quite often. You might want to stock up on pH test kits... but also watch ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, because those will fluctuate in tap water as well. Complaining to your water treatment plant won't do any good for something like this because they are within the legal limits for human consumption, which is all they are required to do.

If you need more help, let me know.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #10 of 12 Old 05-27-2008, 07:07 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks so much! I did end up coming to the same conclusion and went to the fish store today, but it's very reassuring to hear your agreement. A friend of mine, B, was working and he was incredibly helpful. We spend about 2 hours talking and went through all the different products to figure out what would work best (this was extra tricky because I needed to raise my KH and lower my pH).

In the end we settled on Seachem Alkaline Buffer followed by Discus Buffer. He made me test it out on a 5 gallon bucket of water before leaving (they have the same tap water as me, but use a different system for their tank water so that they aren't affected by this). We tested the water about a million different times, after trying out every single product in the store. Luckily they had electronic testers or it would have been a pain in the butt!

I got home and made up 3 gallons of water at 6.9 ph with a KH of 125 ppm. I tested before adding anything, and several times after as I perfected the amounts to add. I will continue to test this rigorously. I'm glad I just got some new gh and kh tests! The one lucky break was the room temp of my house was 79 degrees, so I could mess around with the water for as long as I wanted and it would still be the perfect temp.

In conclusion, I highly recommend the Seachem products for my tricky situation. Alkaline Buffer will raise KH & pH and Discus Buffer will lower the pH and only slightly lower the KH. I'll be sure to let you know how things continue to work out!
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