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Brandy13 03-07-2013 12:01 AM

Insane Ph spike! What to do? *pics*
Ok folks so I ran into a pretty nasty issue today, I was doing a video for my vlog and I was testing Ph and noticed it was pretty high. So I got out my high range ph test and I'm above 8.0 from what it looks like. The only thing I added besides dechlorinated tap water was some black gravel from the LFS, a piece of driftwood and some cabomba. I doubt it's the plant or the driftwood. I have a newer HOB filter. My tank only hold 3 molly and 3 endler fry.

Well I need to stabalize this tank that is the #1 priority but I dumped the other tank I was cycling and filled it with snow. I mixed a bowl of snow with some tap and tested it just to see what I would get, but even if I mix my water this way, won't the high ph just buffer the water back to the high end again?
So I took a pic of my 5 different ph tests... Let me know what you think the Ph values are. Maybe I'm going color blind... I mean heck I'm already going crazy. I just started and seeded 3 new tanks and already dumped one ( I know someone out there feels my pain).

#1 is pure snow - #2 Is snow/tap mix 50/50 - #3 is regular ph test from my tank - #4 Is high range ph test out of my tank and - #5 Is my tap waters ph (tested with high range test)

What do you guys think? The gravel shot the ph up? I could shove some peat in the filter but honestly with that high of ph it won't do much good right?

If I can't get my ph below 7.4 what fish would you recommend for an intermediate breeder? I think I'll be buying that RO unit alot sooner than I planned *keels over*

Any ideas would be helpful and appreciated.

I made a video on youtube asking my users the same question. You can check that out to if you like. Really crazy Ph spike! - YouTube

Oh and here is a pic of the API master test chart. If you think I'm way off, tell me what you think tubes 1,2,3,4, and 5 are reading. Thanks a bunch folks. I do appreciate it.

AbbeysDad 03-07-2013 09:07 AM

Welcome to TFK!

A pH of 7.4 is just fine....mine from my well is 7.6. With some very rare exceptions, pH is acceptable at a very wide range. What can be a serious problem is when there are rapid changes in pH that fish simply can't adjust to quickly enough. This is why you need ensure that source water used for water changes is not dramatically different than tank water (and/or the volume of the change is <=20%).

Also just a caution... I have a problem with high nitrates in my well water so for a while during the summer, I tried using rain water (treated for pH and minerals) for modest water changes. This crashed my tank - Anacharis plants began to wither and die. Fish became stressed with some flashing...and yes, before I caught on, there was some fish loss. I fear our rain (and SNOW) contains too many pollutants (at least in the northeast) for us to safely use in our aquariums.

If you really feel that the pH of your source water is too high, you could dilute (say 50/50) with RO, DI, RO/DI or distilled water. (I'm collecting water from my basement dehumidifier).
Since my home well system does not have the pressure to support an RO system w/o an additional pump and the fact that it takes 4 gallons of source water for each gallon of RO water produced (requiring a drain in addition to the pump) I decided against a home RO system. I purchased an API Tap Water Filter (TWF) to produce deionized (DI) water. I works really well, but the cartridge use life is dependent on the source water. I get about 50g per cartridge. In my case, the problem is nitrates so I am experimenting with a spent TWF cartridge filled with API Nitra-Zorb which sortof emulates an in-line nitrate filter. So far the results are excellent. I mention this only since a similar approach might be used with a different media to alter just source water pH without stripping minerals too (for water changes).
For example, lets say the pH from your tap was 8.0 and you wanted to breed acid loving Angel fish. Perhaps you trickle source water through a media that naturally lowers pH (rather than adding chemicals).
Of course, I'm just 'spit balling' here... as I said, most often fish are fine in a wide range of pH as long as their not shocked with rapid changes.

JDM 03-07-2013 09:23 AM

What is the tank GH and KH? Was it filled from the tap and how long before the test? What is the black gravel? The tap looks like 7.8 and the tank is 8.2. Obviously the regular pH tank test is off the low chart and you don't want to be using snow... besides being unavailable in summer, snow acts like a great sponge on it's way down through the air collecting all sorts of things that you don't want in your tank... I expect that even rain water would be an issue as well.

As far as fixing it is concerned, I suppose it depends on what fish you are trying to keep in it. Personally I would fit the fish to the water source and consider that lots of plants may lower the KH affecting, a little bit, the pH buffering. Of course water changes will bring it back up so there will be a balance reached eventually but the swings will be small.

I've no idea about fish breeding.

I'd let the tank settle before jumping on an RO unit, see where it falls. Perhaps you can setup one of your tanks without the black gravel and see what it does or even just do a bottle test side by side with and without the gravel giving them both a good shake to off gas the CO2 and letting them sit to settle first. If it's the gravel, easy fix, switch to sand.


Brandy13 03-07-2013 09:28 AM

Thanks so much for taking the time to make that post. I really wanted to get an RO unit this Spring because I wanted to try breeding a some fish that like softer water. The issue was that the Ph spiked pretty bad. I tested the tap water in this house when I moved in and it wasn't in high range yet. I think I seen the spike while monitoring some of my fish. They dropped color badly but today they seem fine. I Haven't done a water change yet. I think I'll leave them for a bit and just monitor. I cycled the particular tank with mature media from an established tank and let it run for a few days before adding some hardy mollies. I know the Ph swing isn't so bad and the fish will adapt but I've had my heart set on getting some blue rams and taking a shot a breeding them. A few years ago I had a great pair of bolivians and I adored them. I'm going to take your advice and check out that filter you have. Seems like a good choice. Thanks again for the great advice.

I went from feeling pretty good about my breeding set ups to feeling like a total rookie. Ahhh such is fish keeping. Have a great day :)

Edit: I did test my other tank that doesn't have the gravel and it tested the same. I think the Ph kinda went up after my first initial test of the tap. I have to run a few more tests and see what I come up with. I can't remember the brand of gravel and of course I threw the bag out. I have some peat to run through as filter media by in my experience, with the ph that high, peat won't do much even after 2-3 weeks.

You are right the snow can't really be used but I wanted to use the "snow test" as a reference point. I'll update when I get off work.

smit3183 03-07-2013 11:03 AM

My ph from the tap is 8.0 and rises to 8.4 within 24-48 hours and that's what my tank runs (8.4) I have Molly's , cherry barbs , bloodfin tetras , bronze cories and zebra danios and have had them for awhile with no issues. Most fish can adapt to higher ph as long as you keep it stable without huge fluctuations .

Byron 03-07-2013 01:01 PM

Brandy, welcome to TFK forum.

When testing tap water pH, always outgass the CO2; depending upon the level of CO2 in the water, it can cause an inaccurate (= lower than actual) reading. This can be done by letting the water sit for 24 hours, or more quickly by shaking it very briskly for a couple minutes before testing.

Second, don't use two different range tests. Find the one best suited to the tap water pH [you might confirm this with the municipal water people] and stay with that. It will give you a much more reliable result from the tank compared to tap. Of course, if you eventually adjust the tank water, to an acidic level, using a lower range kit would be OK just for the tank, as it would be consistent. But the test kit for tap and tank should be the same range.

Third, diluting tap water that is initially basic (pH above 7) by rain or snow melt will always lower the pH because rain/snow is acidic. If the rain/snow is safe to collect, this is a less expensive method of diluting basic water.

The GH and KH is important as pH is connected. You might find my article on this helpful:


AbbeysDad 03-07-2013 01:25 PM


Originally Posted by Byron (Post 1458517)
Third, diluting tap water that is initially basic (pH above 7) by rain or snow melt will always lower the pH because rain/snow is acidic. If the rain/snow is safe to collect, this is a less expensive method of diluting basic water.

Again, with the exception of wilderness areas, I caution against using rain or snow as it captures significant air pollution (e.g. acid rain, known to have killed some lakes). And pH may be the least worry... A lesson I learned the hard way.
It is much safer to lower pH by diluting with RO, RO/DI, DI, distilled water, or pseudo distilled water captured from a dehumidifier.

beaslbob 03-07-2013 01:49 PM


Originally Posted by Brandy13 (Post 1457966)
Ok folks so I ran into a pretty nasty issue today, I was doing a video for my vlog and I was testing Ph and noticed it was pretty high.
. I doubt it's the plant or the driftwood. I have a newer HOB filter. My tank only hold 3 molly and 3 endler fry.


Don't dismiss the plant action causing a high pH.

Plants consume coarbon dioxide which rasies pH. Of course with lights on. So I always measure pH just before lights out. And in all my past tanks FW amd marine the pH was well above 8.

To me it is not the values of pH but why. If the pH is high soley because you have low carbon dioxide and high oxygen, I doubt any fish would be adversly affected.

my .02

smit3183 03-07-2013 01:51 PM

Plants raise ph? Never heard of that before

JDM 03-07-2013 02:47 PM

CO2 in water increases the acidity= pH goes down.

Plants consume CO2 during photosynthesis = pH goes up

Plants produce CO2 in darkness through respiration = pH goes down

Bubblers, breaking the water surface off gasses CO2 = pH goes up


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