Originally Posted by el Mattador
Thanks for the info. I did a search and found a page that told all about these guys and it says they prefer a ph of 5. I don't think my other fish would like this, but I suppose I should bring it down before I try another. It also says they like to be in pairs so I might try that next time as well, and I will deffinately take more time to acclimate the fish.
So how should I go about getting my ph down and my water softer? I'm sure I could go get chemicals from the store, but I don't want to stress the fish in my tank. I use tap water and it would be expensive to buy lots of water from a store every week, so what ideas do you have about how to slowly change my ph downward and soften the water? Is there a filter I could buy to use on my tap water when I do water changes that would make the water more suitable?
I second 1077's comments on the fish itself, its maintenance and on how to introduce this fish to your aquarium. I will now respond to your subsequent comments/questions cited above.
I wouldn't recommed you attempt to maintain your tank at a pH of 5. As an aquarist who has for 12+ years researched, studied, maintained and spawned many South American characins and dwarf cichlids, I know that many of them come from waters with a pH of 5 and even 4 (the Rio Negro River has recorded pH readings of below 4 even) but maintaining an aquarium at that low a pH has its problems and risks. I won't get into the details, but a pH of 6.4 is generally considered to be about the lowest pH for a normal aquarium. I have had great success with all these fish in aquaria with a pH of 6.2 to 6.8 (not varying that much in each aquarium, but this is the range within which I have maintained my South American aquaria).
Re the other fish...except for the platys, your other fish would be fine in a slightly acidic pH and softer water. Platys are livebearers, and all livebearers prefer a neutral to slightly alkaline pH, 7.0 and above, with some mineral content (hardness) in the water. If you decide to lower your pH, I would either move the platys to another tank where their water could be more to their liking, or give/sell them to another aquarist. Another thing to consider is temperature. As 1077 mentioned, rams like it warmer than many community fish. Your zebra danios (which prefer temperatures below 76F) would not appreciate a temperature that would please the ram (80+F). Before you consider another ram, you might want to do some research on each of the fish you have. A community aquarium (one having different species of fish) must only have fish that are compatible in terms of their water parameters (temp, pH, hardness) and behaviour. Mixing fish with widely-differing requirements can be done (some fish are more adaptable than others in this) but it always carries the risk that the fish may be stressed because of internal or external issues, and stress in fish leaves them more susceptible to disease. Not to mention the fact that they will not exhibit their natural behaviours when they are under severe stress, and that is much of the enjoyment in having an aquarium.
A warning on lowering the pH...I do not recommend uysing any chemicals to do this. As your water is moderately hard, it has natural buffers that will work to maintain the pH where it is at 7.8 and you would have to add an enormous amount of chemical to lower it down to anywhere near 6.6 or 6.8 (which at this stage is the lowest I think you should aim for if you do decide to go that route). Once you got it down to 6.8, the next day it would bounce back up to 7.8 due to the natural buffering action, and it is all but impossible to avoid this fluctuating pH, and that is very stressful on all fish. Fish are very closely tied to their environment. As an example, fish "drink" by taking in water through their cells by osmosis. The fish must adjust its internal pH to equal that of the water passing into its cells. Both salinity and pH affect how hard a fish's body must work to maintain its physiological equilibrium--that is, the complex chain of internal chemical reactions that keep the pH of its blood steady, its tissues fed, and its immune system functioning. When pH and/or salinity stray outside the ideal range for any given species, or fluctuate beyond a small range that the fish can handle, the fishes' bodies must work harder and use more energy to maintain this equilibrium. This leads to stress...and possible disease. As 1077 noted, this is quite probably why your ram died; it simply couldn't manage to change its internal equilibrium so much.
Lowering pH and hardness is possible by filtration through peat. It is best to use the available water (out of the tap) as it is readily available and hopefully constant in its composition, and buying bottled water is expensive plus the risk of what minerals may or may not be in the water. Peat filtration over time will lower the hardness and pH. Obviously the supply of peat has to be regularly replaced (it wears out). Another method is RO (reverse osmosis) water treatment. All of this can be explained by those with more experience if you ask. I've never had to do this fortunately, as my tap water is exactly what I want, soft and slightly acidic.
Hope this helps to explain things a bit.