LOW ph and ammonia - Page 2 - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #11 of 13 Old 04-26-2013, 09:44 PM
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I wouldn't use sodium bicarbonate just due to the sodium. I crushed egg shells and added calcium carbonate and I was able to raise the KH this way without affecting the GH. It was on a much smaller scale though. I'm not sure that the plants were able to use it so it may only serve to raise your pH.

Adding CO2 back in would supply easy carbon for the plants as well as for the nitrifiers and might push both to keep taking up the ammonia at the lower concentrations.

I've heard of adding alcohol to do something similar but I have not looked at that at all.... and I haven't read the article to see what they did to get the biofilms working again... I'll see if I can do that this weekend as it may have more application than I thought. Perhaps the cycle is needed after all to continue to use up the ammonia right to zero... although I am sure that the plants can normally do this on their own.


Total years fish keeping experience: 7 months, can't start counting in years for a while yet.

The shotgun approach to a planted tank with an LED fixture

Small scale nitrogen cycle with a jar, water and fish food; no substrate, filter etc
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post #12 of 13 Old 04-26-2013, 10:08 PM Thread Starter
The sodium bicarbonate would be optimum for an experiment since I know how much to add and how much it will increase PH and KH. In the case of this tank .56 teaspoons would raise the KH by 1 dh and PH by 0.3. Trying anything else without knowing the end results would be difficult as I can't even read the actual PH since it is so low. I could have a too large swing and never even notice it from the tests.

I did a fishless cycle on my blackwater tank using pure ammonia and it was difficult to say the least. The bacteria I was trying to build would use up all the KH quickly and plummet the PH stalling my cycle. I eventually resorted to using Argonite sand in the filter. I still have that, but that definitely raised the PH too much. Adding it I went from below 6.0 to over 8.0 in a matter of hours. Most likely because I wasn't worried about adding a certain amount.

The alcohol is new to me. I will have to try and look into that. :D

Seems the safest thing to try first is definitely the CO2. I'll be able to pick up a new tank on Monday. If that doesn't work I can go from there. I mean intellectually that my fish are safe and aren't in danger. I just don't like seeing that funky test result.
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post #13 of 13 Old 04-27-2013, 09:32 AM
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I can't add to this discussion, except to say that sometimes leaving things alone is better. As one of you has mentioned in the last couple of exchanges, fiddling with KH has side effects, such as increasing TDS and raising the pH. Taken in context, both of these do and will affect the fish in this tank, being wild-caught soft water species, and we do know scientifically that increasing TDS shortens the lifespan of these fish. So while the ammonium may be present--or may not, frankly, since we can't scientifically determine if various factors might be affecting the test--it is not having a detrimental effect on the fish. In my view, the fish are better off as things stand than they will be with any sort of fiddling with KH.

Your observations on aragonite are spot on. I tried this, only as half a cup added to the canister filter, and within a day the pH rose from 6.6 up to 7.8, while the GH and KH remained near-zero. This was an experiment to raise GH marginally that failed. Back when I had tap water coming out below pH 6, I used 2 or 3 tablespoons of dolomite in the filter, same tank, and the pH remained steady at 6.4 for years until the dolomite gave out. I tried the aragonite, but at the same time the water authority raised the pH to 7 or 7.2 so that played into the equation as well [this lowers to around 6.4 to 6.6 in the established tanks]. But a sharp rise in pH is a detriment of this method.


Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada

The aquarist is one who must learn the ways of the biologist, the chemist, and the veterinarian. [unknown source]

Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
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