Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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pop 12-12-2012 03:19 PM

Popís opinion stress & ph
We are constantly bombarded by concepts that tell us watch ph monitor all possible aspects of our aquariums oh no nitrates are high. Itís so confusing there always something new that could be trouble. A picture is painted that our beloved fish feels pain and suffer. OH no how do I protect my finned friends from psychological stress and the concerns go on including emotional stress as well as external and internal stress. In order to combat these causes of stress, we work to stabilize the ph control dissolved solids and watch water hardness not to mention ammonia. We are told to recreate natural environments in our tanks with plants if we want our finned friends happy. I forgot my fish are from a woodland forest river.

I see him swimming over there in the river close to the shore. Yes my fish are happy here in this forested blackwater river in South America free and happy chasing a bubble and playing. In the river environment that my friend is adapted to is stress free and water chemistry doesnít change. This is a pastoral view that belongs in a Disney movie.

In a state of nature life is hard, stressful and always the potential of change is at hand. Living in nature is dangerous. My finned friend could be looking for a snack or if by poor choice be the lunch for some other fish. Maybe stress is a good thing for my friend being stressed could give him the advantage to escape being the lunch menu.
Stress is after all a selected process by adaption to help the fish survive and reproduce. I wonder if it is psychological stress a baby fish feels when his parents consider him to be supper, not a pleasant thought. Again the fryís stress might offer the possibly of survival.

As for water chemistry being static in nature is not a reasonable assumption. Lets think about ph. In this blackwater river the ph is dynamic and follows and established cycle that changes with river temperature, dissolved oxygen and the amount of carbon dioxide. This cycle occurs due to dissolved oxygen increases ph and carbon dioxide lowers ph. So in the morning the ph is low and because of respiration both animals and plants has increased the carbon dioxide concentration but as plants begin photosynthesis and produce more dissolved oxygen the ph rises and as the sun heats the water the ph is again increases until the apex is reached in the late afternoon when the ph is the highest. As the sun sets plant stop producing oxygen and begin to produce carbon dioxide which lowers the ph and when the sun sets the temperature drops further reducing the ph. In the cold morning the ph is at its lowest point and the cycle begins again. Fortunately in nature the fish donít seem affected by the ph swings and my way of thinking ph swings might give the fish an adaptive strategy.

Since there is a natural dynamic cyclic shift in ph, why am I told to always monitor it and be ready to stabilize the ph?? Because stress is a natural process that has been selected by adaptation why is it bad thing? I believe that stress in nature is a good thing and aids in survival of the species.

If we are dedicated to reproducing a natural environment in our aquarium that our fish are adapted too from generations evolving, then we should think about the value of stress and dynamic ph in our aquariums.

A word about open and closed systems, though a river is an open system and the aquarium is a closed system should not mean that thousands of years of evolution and adaption should be discarded by those with closed minds or predetermined goals, who do not comprehend evolutionary process.


Thoth 12-12-2012 04:54 PM

I dont subscribe to the thought that pH has to be stable and am well aware of the daily pH cycle and the natural acidifying of my water. I do think it is important to know your pH so that you are not keeping fish in a pH that is dramatically different then where it is from in the wild or what it has been adjusted to thru domestication. The suggestion of frequent measuring is provided as a tool for people that are new to the hobby as they possibly would miss when something is wrong in the tank. The main audience on this forum is for people that are new to the hobby so measuring is going to be a frequent suggestion.

mikejp67 12-12-2012 10:28 PM

Nearly all the fish on the market today are tank/pond spawned fish that are nothing even close to their natural environments or water chemistry. I think most fish are pretty well adapted to a neutral ph. I did a little digging to find out where the fish sold at LFS's and the big box retailers are comming from, nearly all of the stock comes from one distributor which nearly alll the stock are in neutral water. So what you see in Petco for $2 is the same fish that a LFS sells for $6.
If your getting wild fish then I believe we need to pay close attention to what environment they came from and try to replicate the chemistry.

I got a lg tank full of cichlids and some should be in water 8.0. I had them in a tank at 8.0 and they lost some of their color. After a few months, I put they back in a neutral tank and the colors came back and they are spawning like crazy. I personally dont check my ph any more in any tanks, im more concerned about the hardness

badxgillen 12-13-2012 12:31 AM

This all really depends on the species as it can go from rather adaptable fishes like many live bearers"guppies/platies" to the less adaptable deep water dart fishes"hielfrichis".Asides from that it would depend on your goal of wanting your animals to thrive or "survive".


AbbeysDad 12-13-2012 09:47 AM

I agree that most of the fish we keep were raised in tanks, pools, and ponds in the south, but never saw native life in central or south America. As such, they were never prey for larger fish...well except for fry eluding mom and dad!

pH is nearly a non issue too (with one exception) as fish can adapt to a very wide range of pH values. The exception is SUDDEN SIGNIFICANT CHANGE. Rapid changes in pH can have disastrous results.

It is generally held that a neutral pH is best for community tanks. HOWEVER, I caution anyone that attempting to manipulate pH is full of potential pitfalls. I would recommend not trying as typically buffering will fight you and any perceived gain will often not out weight the potential risk.

I like to use drip acclimation to better ensure any new stock is slowly acclimated to my water.

lakemalawifish 12-13-2012 10:11 AM

Very well written article Pop, you made it sound so real that I was actually visioning fish swimming around in the wild trying to avoid being a lunch snack. Nature is indeed an awesome thing, that is why we bring it into our homes :) Great info here, thanks!

This big guy obviously avoided being someone's lunch snack. He is a 10" Wild Caught Oscar - "Astronotus SP Orinoco Colombia Rio Caqu" that was hand caught in Columbia. We have taken him in temporarily because his owner had to move and could not take him along. Mr. Oscar is in a 55 gal tank by himself and doing great, eating very good and doing his little dance at the front of the glass when I walk by to let me know he is hungry. I am falling in love with this fish, but I want him to have a larger home. I think I have found a great home for him with a person who has a 500 gallon indoor pond. Ya'll this pond is incredible :) Maybe I can snatch a video of it and post it here.

Anyway here is a pic of the big guy :)

Byron 12-13-2012 01:13 PM


Originally Posted by badxgillen (Post 1347203)
This all really depends on the species as it can go from rather adaptable fishes like many live bearers"guppies/platies" to the less adaptable deep water dart fishes"hielfrichis".Asides from that it would depend on your goal of wanting your animals to thrive or "survive".

This is the crucial issue. Fish sometimes show a remarkable capacity for tolerating what we force them into, but that does not mean they are healthy and at their best. And there is plenty of evidcence that they are not. Sadly, some prefer to ignore that.

We know that inappropriate water parameters [TDS/GH and temperature primarily, pH less so] and environment [tank size, decor, water flow, other fish in the tank] do impact fish. This is explained more in the article on stress, so I'm not going to get into all the specifics. They speak for themsevles.


pop 12-13-2012 01:48 PM

Hello Al Bundy:
I like your opinion on the current state of tropical fish breeding and I am sure you are correct. Bryon is some thread posted, sometime in the past, interesting thoughts about in breeding of certain fish I think maybe neonís and the tendency for poor health.

I donít regularly check ph though the idea of raising ph by aeration interests me as does the concept of lowering ph by adding carbon dioxide this has led me to start thinking about ratios between dissolved oxygen and CO2 in the water column. I may be wrong but I have started to consider that carbon dioxide has a greater affinity for water than does dissolved oxygen. You know the ideas just keep jumping at me.

I have an idea why the drip thing is such a good way to go. Itís not balancing the temperature but controlling the cliff of total dissolved solids in the water column..

I am surprised that you did not catch the implication that adaptation of a process is always a positive event. It was only kindness on your behalf not to point out that most species have gone extinct therefore adaptation is more like a roll of the dice where adaption can lead to success or more likely extinction. I watch the nature station on pbs.

pop 12-13-2012 01:53 PM

I have read your article on stress and found some interesting information that leads me into unconsidered areas.

beaslbob 12-13-2012 02:10 PM

FWIW my planted tank with no circulation have very high pH levels. Yet fish reported as needing pH values of 7 or less live for years and years. Even though my pH values of 8.4-8.8 with the api high range test kit.

As you already know pH rises with lowering co2. With my plant action combined with the lack of mechanical circulation what I think is happening is the tank has become a net consumer of co2 and producer of oxygen each 24 hour period.

I find it very hard to believe that any fish would not thrive in an environment that is very low in co2 and high in oxygen.

So to me it is not the pH level but rather the means by which the pH was at that level.

my .02

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