I guess I should have left well enough alone, but I recently converted my community tank to a African cichlid tank and now I have problems. I gave my tropical community fish to a friend and then used some API Ph Up to raise my ph to what appeared to be around 8. I purchased a few Af. Cichlids and really enjoyed them for the first two days. I then wanted to add a few more and while at the store the sales person told me about 'Proper Ph 8.2'. I purchased a couple of fish and the buffer, came home and added both. I went by the instructions on the bottle for the buffer.
That's when problems started. My water got cloudy and has stayed that way. I've lost 3 fish! And my ph is reading really high. I'm using the 'high ph' test solution (API) and it's a dark purple-redish color. Really doesn't match anything in the chart. I get the directions that I threw away from the proper ph box and begin reading the section on Af. Cichlids and it says to never use this product without first using some special API Mineral Salt because if the water is mineral poor and you add the buffer you will get a very high ph. *Why doesn't the bottle instructions match the paper?!?! I go back to the store and show this to the sales person who calls the manager and neither were aware of this. The manager said to buy some 'reef rock' which will naturally enrich the water with minerals and adjust the ph, so I did.
Day 3 - the water seems to be clearing out some, but very little. I've not lost another fish - yet. Can anyone tell me what I did or didn't do? Is what I've done okay? What should I do now?
I assume that your water may be very soft which means a low alkalinity (KH). This buffers the pH and typically the harder the water the higher the KH the higher the pH. The trouble is that without the minerals to buffer the pH it can swing wildly and trying to adjust it with chemicals is just asking for problems. What are your source water hardness, alkalinity and pH?
I know the first thing I did was to figure out what my water parameters were at the source (well water) then chose fish that were suited to them... No need to adjust anything that way other then perhaps reduce the hardness if I chose to.
I don't know all the water adjustment products, as I don't need them, but one that comes to mind would be seachem's equilibrium which raises the hardness and I think the KH as well. Once you get this into range you may find that the pH naturally rises with it.
Hindsight, get the water set THEN add the fish as playing with water chemistry can always be hard on the fish if you don't know exactly what you are doing.
As far as cichlids are concerned, I don't know what they need.
afircans are some hardy fish - almost hard to kill them unless you try. majoryly swinging ph is a sure way to do them in =X theyt will do well in most phs 8.2 is a good breeding ph for them but not absolutely nessicary. id say if you were no lower then 7 you should be fine.
the loss of fish could be attributed to the ph swings or have you cycled the tank? if not could of been ammonia poisoning and the ph swing both that did them in. in my personal experience mesing with ph is a giant headache and a pain to mess with. if I were you I wouldn't mess with it.
Be careful with store stats. They don't bring fish in to keep long term as they want to turn them over as quick as they can. As long as they survive for that short term, they are happy.
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After much Internet Research on this issue, seems like the best possible avenue for me to go is to buy a substrate like Carib Sea Cichlid Substrate that will get my ph where it needs to be and keep it stable. Would you agree with this? The link is for the one I was considering. Can I just add this on top of my current gravel substrate since it is pretty close in appearance?
Freshwater Aquarium Gravel: CaribSea Eco-Complete African Cichlid Substrates
ive kept Africans with much success in ph rangeing from 7 all the way to 8.3. if I were you I wouldn't waste the money on any special substrates. Africans like sand to dig in =)
One very important question asked earlier in this thread hasn't been answered, and it is crucial. What is the GH [general hardness] and KH [carbonate hardness, or Alkalinity] of your tap water? And the pH too for that matter?
As someone mentioned, these three are interconnected, and changing pH will be risky and may be dangerous [as you have found out] without knowing and managing the GH and KH. Rather than go into the details, have a read of my article on this relationship:
Once we have the numbers [and you can get the GH and KH from your municipal water people, probably on their website] we will be better able to advise how best to achieve what you want.
The African rift lakes have some of the hardest freshwater in the world. And the GH is more important than pH when it comes to fish,generally speaking. Fish like the cichlids in the rift lakes require "hard minerals" in the water, primarily calcium and magnesium, and their metabolism is designed to suit this state. At the opposite end of the scale, soft water fish come from waters with no such minerals, and they have a physiology designed for this lack of any minerals. The two are not interchangeable.
There are easy and safe ways to increase GH (and corresponding pH). Using the rift lake mineral salts is one, though expensive long term. A less expensive method is to use a calcareous substrate, similar to the one you mentioned previously. A sand composed of dolomite/limestone/aragonite/crushed coral [any of these, or a mix] is best. These will naturally raise the GH considerably, which is fine for these fish. We can discuss further when we have numbers for GH and KH and pH.
A final comment on the store's pH 7 for all their tanks. This works short-term, but not permanently for fish. A store will usually have fish with varying water needs, and today most stores use a circulating water system whereby the water runs continuously from tank to tank and back to the filter. Adjusting individual tanks is thus impossible, unless they are on separate systems. But the store hopes to sell their fish stock within a few weeks, and with some exceptions, this "middle of the road" approach to water parameters is not usually critical to the fish. Bong long-term in the home aquarium is a very different thing.
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