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satwood 03-10-2008 05:49 PM

Problems Managing PH
Hi Everyone,

I have not written in a while but I thought I would open a thread and share with you my experience so far managing a PH spike in my 20 Gal tank. To review my situation, 20 gal long freshwater tank started in August and fully opoulated by October. My town water has always been very high in PH, at least 7.6 or higher, and it tends to go towards 8 after 24 hours of bubbles. It is also very hard and buffers any attempt at lowering the ph. So, my regime has been to use Neutral Regulator in fairly large doses with each water change and until mid January I was able to keep the tank between 7.0 and 7.2.

In January I noticed the ph moving toward 7.4 and also problems with the fish. I called the folks at API and they recommended I increase the neutral regulator further, which I did. What I did not do, was continue testing the change water each time. Something very significant has changed in the formula of my town water. By early Feb the ph in the tank was off the scale high, north of 7.6, and the algae was running mad. (I since learned that the algea goes mad when you use phosphate buffers.) When I started testing my tap water again I found it was now near 7.0 from the tap, moved to 7.2 with aeration, but when I added neutral regulator it actually went UP to near 8.0. So, by ading extra NR I was driving the ph the wrong way. I called API back, and they had no idea what it was. They told me to stop using NR and gave me an alternate formula of Alkaline and Acid buffer that now seems to stabilize the change water right at 6.8 - 7.0. I put the change water in 5 gallon pails, aerate it for 48 hours, and add the buffers to it many days before using it in the tank.

The last few weeks of water changes has moved the ph down to 7.2 and I hope to get it further to 7.0 eventually. What I don't understand is:
1) What happened to my town water that it changed it's entire chemistry?
2) Why does neutral regulator drive the ph to 8.0 now?
3) Now that my town water tests closer to 7.2 can I just stop adding all this stuff to it, and maybe just give it a touch of acid buffer to lock it at 7.0? Do I really need to buffer in both directions with hard water?
4) What are other people's experiences with Acid buffer and Alkaline buffer and what amounts do you use? How much is too much?

Any of your thoughts would be appreciated. I have lost a couple more fish, but overall everyone seems much happier again in the tank now that I have it down around 7.2.


Oldman47 03-10-2008 08:52 PM

You don't say what kind of fish you are keeping but most fish will do fine at any pH that you would be willing to drink. The absolute worst case with pH is when you start trying to move it around and end up with a cocktail that you can't control. At that point the fish need to put up with huge swings that will end up hurting them. Best bet is to try to find out what your typical water will do over the year where you live. The water company's records will give you the information if you ask them nicely. The second step in my way of thinking is to either get fish that prefer that water or fish that can be acclimated to it. The last step is to stop adding the chemical cocktail because your fish are happy with what you have in the tap.
I keep everything from angels and cories (acidic preference) to endlers, mollies and platies(base preference) in the same exact tap water. Mine varies around 7.6 to 7.8 over much of the year but the agricultural runoff that ends up in our tap water has things like nitrites and nitrates coming out of the tap that is treated by the water company with chloramine and thus already contains ammonia. I figure that's enough of a chemical cocktail without me adding in acids or alkalines.

satwood 03-11-2008 10:47 AM

Thanks GHreed, I appreciate your insight. I have some tetras (neons, striped, etc.) and a few red wags, two small catfish, and a chinese algae eater. The neons are particularly hard to keep alive. I used to have several tiger barbs but they clearly hated the high ph water. They started hagning out in a 45 degree position and stopped eating. Now that the ph is closer to 7.2 the one surviving is much more lively and horizontal. The neons became very dormant as well and stopped eating but now they are back again.

So, maybe it's not just the ph, but something else in the water as well? I would certainly like to stop adding stuff I don't need to.


fish_4_all 03-11-2008 11:22 AM

What is your GH and KH? With water that hard, it could be the cause of the problems if the numbers are really high.

Also I have to ask, Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings?

satwood 03-11-2008 01:57 PM


Originally Posted by fish_4_all
What is your GH and KH? With water that hard, it could be the cause of the problems if the numbers are really high.

Also I have to ask, Ammonia, nitrite and nitrate readings?

I don't have measurements on GH and KH.
In the tank:
Ammon 0, nitrite 0, nitrate - trace more than 0, phosphate - off the scale of the test kit, even after 4 water changes.
Change water
Ammon 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 0, phosphate - 10ppm

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