LOW ph and ammonia
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LOW ph and ammonia

This is a discussion on LOW ph and ammonia within the Freshwater and Tropical Fish forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> Up until now I've been relying on the water report from my water company ( Water report ). I however ordered my own test ...

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Old 04-18-2013, 05:44 PM   #1
BWG
 
LOW ph and ammonia

Up until now I've been relying on the water report from my water company ( Water report ). I however ordered my own test and it'll be here tomorrow or Saturday. The reasoning being that my aquariums keep wanting to dip in ph. My heavily planted stem tank is the worst. Even adding GH booster I still run a ph of >6. More worrisome is the .5 ammonia. At that ph I realize it is ammonium, and not ammonia but I still don't like seeing it.

By heavily planted I mean 25% coverage with Amazon frogbit and dwarf water lettuce on the surface and about 66% Rotalas. The tank has been set up for a year with no great fish losses (I've lost 2 in a year). Water changes of 50% weekly every Monday. Temperature is around 76. Stocking is 20 Boraras brigittae, 8 dwarf hovering loaches (typing the scientific name creates page problems. go ahead and try it), and 5 Dario hysginon. Feeding is once a day, 6 days a week. Other parameters in that tank 0 nitrites, 10 nitrates.

Just looking for some advice for now and after the test arrives.

Last edited by BWG; 04-18-2013 at 05:55 PM..
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Old 04-19-2013, 05:32 AM   #2
 
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Gurg, BWG. . .
So sorry to hear you're having issues with your lovely tanks. I really wish I could help, but super soft water is a thing of mystery that I still have a ton to learn about myself. When in doubt do a water-change? 's all I've got. :/

. . . hopefully someone will be along soon who can help you out.
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Old 04-19-2013, 12:14 PM   #3
 
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Lucky you, no problems in what you describe.

Your source water is very soft, and very low in KH (Alkalinity). In a healthy aquarium, the water will naturally become more acidic, and the pH will lower. The fish mentioned will love it.

Adding GH is not going to impact this, or shouldn't. The GH is just the mineral sulphates of calcium, magnesium, potassium basically. For the benefit of the plants, raising the GH in the tank to 5 dGH or at the most 6 dGH may be beneficial (to the plants). The pH should not change.

I have much the same situation, though my tap water is even softer, about 1/2 of 1 dGH and KH. My pH used to drop well below 6, I had a kit down to 5 and it was I think even lower than this. I just left it alone, with soft water fish. I now have the pH in the mid 6's because they are adding stuff to the water to raise the pH (without affecting GH or KH) and as this doesn't seem to be harming the fish or plants, I leave it alone.

Byron.
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Old 04-26-2013, 06:47 PM   #4
BWG
 
Just to follow up on this. The GH is 5 (what I was boosting it up to) and the KH is 1. The PH remains constant at 6.0 or below. The ammonia still reads about .5. The ammonium in low concentration is non toxic, but is there something I can do to help remove it so that I can eventually add more fish?
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Old 04-26-2013, 07:06 PM   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blackwaterguy View Post
Just to follow up on this. The GH is 5 (what I was boosting it up to) and the KH is 1. The PH remains constant at 6.0 or below. The ammonia still reads about .5. The ammonium in low concentration is non toxic, but is there something I can do to help remove it so that I can eventually add more fish?
Maybe I should start testing my tanks for ammonia. Might be surprised.

I assume you have tested the source water for ammonia? Though even if present at this level, it should quickly disappear via the plants. I would add fish. Ammonium is not harmful, though I agree that one wants to know why. My only thought is that it might be connected to the rapid breakdown of organics?
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Old 04-26-2013, 07:19 PM   #6
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Maybe I should start testing my tanks for ammonia. Might be surprised.

I assume you have tested the source water for ammonia? Though even if present at this level, it should quickly disappear via the plants. I would add fish. Ammonium is not harmful, though I agree that one wants to know why. My only thought is that it might be connected to the rapid breakdown of organics?
Chloramine in the tap water so I do get low readings. Ammonia is not present in any of my other tanks, just the heavily planted one. Organics might be possible if they are buried in the substrate. I only even vacuumed the surface.

This tank did have pressurized CO2 previously, but I stopped that as there was slight leak. The ammonia seems to have appeared after that (to be completely honest I think it did. I don't test for ammonia in established, cycled tanks and this one hasn't had any additions in about 6 months). Not sure if that fact is relevant or not.
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Old 04-26-2013, 07:24 PM   #7
 
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Originally Posted by blackwaterguy View Post
Chloramine in the tap water so I do get low readings. Ammonia is not present in any of my other tanks, just the heavily planted one. Organics might be possible if they are buried in the substrate. I only even vacuumed the surface.

This tank did have pressurized CO2 previously, but I stopped that as there was slight leak. The ammonia seems to have appeared after that (to be completely honest I think it did. I don't test for ammonia in established, cycled tanks and this one hasn't had any additions in about 6 months). Not sure if that fact is relevant or not.
I just threw that out, because the breakdown of organics produces ammonia obviously, so any excess organics might create this. Soil based tanks frequently have this issue for the first 6 months or so.

The tap may be connected too, though again one would expect the plants to deal with this. But I am not familiar with how ammonia breaks down with chloramine...another thought.
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Old 04-26-2013, 07:38 PM   #8
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Even my unplanted black water tank handles the ammonia from the chloramine breakdown.

I've come up with dozens of theories on why just this tank, the latest being low KH with the stems using it as a carbon source and the already limited bacteria being unable function without it. No idea if that makes sense given all the stem plants I have. Like I said I had lots of theories lol.
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Old 04-26-2013, 09:22 PM   #9
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I was just reading an article today that touched on nitrifying bio films and a lack of KH (not quite how it's worded but it amounts to the same thing) affecting their ability to process ammonia. As an experiment you could bump up the KH and see if the low ammonia disappears all together. Of course I would expect that raising the KH would result in an increase in the pH as well.

If the plants are enough, I would expect the ammonia should be zero. What if the low KH and its components was affecting the plants ability to suck every last bit of ammonia out of the water? No basis for this idea at all, but it's possible that the plants aren't taking it all up when the concentration gets low enough and the nitrifying organisms may not be working up to snuff at the same time due to the same reason.

Result, non-zero ammonia readings.

Having said all that, I had a period where my tank had "non-zero" ammonia readings for days, GH and KH are both high though.

Just some "out loud" thoughts.

Jeff.
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Old 04-26-2013, 09:34 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by JDM View Post
I was just reading an article today that touched on nitrifying bio films and a lack of KH (not quite how it's worded but it amounts to the same thing) affecting their ability to process ammonia. As an experiment you could bump up the KH and see if the low ammonia disappears all together. Of course I would expect that raising the KH would result in an increase in the pH as well.

If the plants are enough, I would expect the ammonia should be zero. What if the low KH and its components was affecting the plants ability to suck every last bit of ammonia out of the water? No basis for this idea at all, but it's possible that the plants aren't taking it all up when the concentration gets low enough and the nitrifying organisms may not be working up to snuff at the same time due to the same reason.

Result, non-zero ammonia readings.

Having said all that, I had a period where my tank had "non-zero" ammonia readings for days, GH and KH are both high though.

Just some "out loud" thoughts.

Jeff.
Your "out loud" thinking though is exactly what had been running through my mind. There are calculators that allow you to figure out how much sodium bicarbonate you can add safely without spiking your PH high. I could do it as an experiment, had even considered, although it's not feasible long term because of the increase in TDS. Still might be worth trying.

I had also wonder if restarting CO2 would achieve the same effect. My thinking is that it would give the plants their preferred carbon source and allow them to photosynthesize more. Right now I think they are limited to whatever CO2 occurs naturally in the tank, since there really isn't any carbonate for them to use as a secondary source. If that makes sense.
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