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-   -   Help! PH wildly high, no known cause. (http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/freshwater-tropical-fish/help-ph-wildly-high-no-known-25678/)

beckywhite1979 07-05-2009 11:21 AM

Help! PH wildly high, no known cause.
 
Hi there.

I have just tested my aquarium for the first time. The tank was set up about 7 months ago as coldwater, and I've had trouble keeping fish alive. I'm sure it's my lack of attentiion to water quality that's the culprit. Anyway, I am converting to tropical, and finally starting to do things right.

Back to my point... On testing just now, Ammonia was at 0.25, Nitrite and Nitrate 0, but PH was at 8.4!!! I've tested water straight from the tap, and that was pretty high at 7.4, but 8.4 in the tank has me scared.

Currently in the tank is a plec (although this is up for debate. I've had an I.D. of garra pingi, which is a whole other issue) and he doesn't seem to be too bothered by it, but my orandas didn't last very well. Could this mad PH level be the culprit? And what is the risk to any tropical fish I might get for the tank? Are there any (we're talking 10 gal tank, so small and placid only) which would thrive in these conditions if it's impossible to solve the problem.

But first and foremost, any reason you can think of, and how would I solve the problem. Should I do a water change?

Oh, while I'm writing, I also wanted to ask about the ammonia level. Like I said, I'm new to this testing lark, and while I know that ideally ammonia should be at 0, I don't know how significant a level of 0.25 is? The tank is currently in a kind of mini-cycle, waiting to receive tropicals in a week or so, or when the water issues are sorted out. As part of this I have replaced the filter medium and added some Nutrafin Cycle. I also did a 30% water change yesterday.

Sorry for the essay! Any advice highly appreciated.

Cody 07-05-2009 02:29 PM

Don't buy a pH buffer, that is for sure. It is a temporary solution to permanent problem. And IMO, NONE of that stuff works.

Your ammonia level is toxic. Do more water changes.

I m not a pro on how to fix pH, so wait until someone comes along. I am not 100% sure.

beckywhite1979 07-05-2009 04:29 PM

Thanks for the response. I have come to the conclusion that the PH was due to a silly decision regarding the wrong type of stones. It's probably limestone. I've taken them out, and the bottom of the tank is denuded. I hope this is the right decision. I'll get something better tomorrow.

I've also done another 30% water change, and checked the PH and ammonia levels. PH still around 8, lower than before, but still pretty high. Ammonia now at somewhere between 0 and 0.25 judging by the colour. It's definitely lower than before. Should I do a further water change now, up to 50/60%? Or wait til tomorrow? I don't want to stress out my one remaining fish poor fellow. He's been through quite a lot today.

Please let me know what you think regarding water changes.

Thanks.

beckywhite1979 07-05-2009 04:46 PM

P.S.

I want to get some plants for my aquarium sometime. Would it be a good idea to get them at the same time as the gravel/sand/whatever tomorrow, or will that cause more problems? I'm happy to go back and get them another time, once the water issues are sorted out, but it would be easier to plant at the same time as putting the gravel (or whatever) in, so I wondered if that would be ok.

And while I'm here, anybody got any suggestions regarding what should be purchased to replace the limestone pebbles? Is gravel or sand better, and for what reasons?

Not asking a lot am I.

I appreciate everyone taking the time to read this.

Becky

Byron 07-06-2009 10:26 AM

I concur with Cody's previous advice, and will expand on some things for you.

Ammonia at .25 with a pH of 8.4 is serious. However, you are on the right track with partial water changes. These will not hurt any fish, but to ease the stress of banging around inside the tank, if you are doing daily or alternate day 30% partial water changes, I would simply syphon the water from the top corner and replace it, rather than vacuuming the bottom. Also, Cycle does ease fish stress when the nitrogen cycle is getting established, so use it as directed on the label. No need to replace it after partial water changes, the bacteria colonize surfaces, not the water. so removing just water is not upsetting the colonization of bacteria.

Replacing your filter media would have removed bacteria so the filter is cycling all over again. The nitrosomonas bacteria need time to establish themselves, as do the nitrospira (second stage handling the nitrite). Don't touch the filter until the tank is cycled. Once it is, regular filter maintainance should consist of rinsing the media in water from the tank or declorinated tap water (again to avoid killing off bacteria) when it needs it, that is, to prevent clogging and keep the water flowing through the media easily. The media does not need to be replaced until it no longer functions because it literally is falling apart.

Don't add any fish until the tank is completely cycled, which can be anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks. Ammonia and nitrite readings will be "0" for several consecutive days when the tank is cycled, and you will see nitrates.

You were probably correct, the rocks were leeching mineral into the water and raising the pH. Assuming from your post that all the rock is gone, the pH in the tank should drop to the same as the tap water. Let it do it naturally, pH fluctuation is extremely stressful on fish; Cody is absolutely correct, never use chemicals in a tank with fish to adjust pH, the buffering agents in the water (and possibly the rocks/substrate) will keep working counter to the chemicals. In a biologically established aquarium, the pH gradually drops slightly, but the buffering agents in the water plus the regular weekly partial water change balance this.

Re the plants, these can be added once the substrate is in. Use regular aquarium gravel, the smalles-grain size you can get at the store. Small grain size is best for plant roots, the larger pea gravel is not so good (some plants clearly do not root well in larger gravels) and there is also the issue of food getting down easier so maintainance is a bit easier with small gravel. Sand is another option; personally I favour gravel because plants grow very well in it and there is less chance of gravel compacting and causing nitrogen problems in the substrate. Gravel will compact too, but not as readily and it is easier to keep it loose by vacuuming with a Python during the wekly water change; sand can't be vacuumed this way because it gets sucked up. But sand will work (as others will attest), you just have to be vigilant. Whichever, just make sure it is regular quartz gravel, not dolomite or crush coral, or regular sand (not sand intended for marine tanks or swimming pools) which can (will in the case of dolomite, coral and marine sand) raise pH. Regular aquarium gravel is inert (does not affect the water chemistry at all), and you can buy it in bulk (less expensive) from most aquarium stores, in natural (buff/brown) or darker (grey/black) colours that look good with plants and bring out the fish colours. A darker substrate is easier on most fish, and looks "natural."

You will need a good light over the tank for plants. We can go into that issue later.

beckywhite1979 07-06-2009 01:07 PM

Hi Byron

Thanks again for replying, and at such length! I have small gravel in the tank now, and some plants. Don't ask me what becuase I don't have a foggy!

Anyway, this morning, following my 30% change last night, I tested the water to find Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20. I had read in some other threads that if Nitrate reagent no 2 is not properly shaken it can give false results, so I shook it to hell and back, and hey presto I came up with a result. The PH is still at 8.0, but when I tested some 24 hour old tap water, I found that to be 8.0 too, so I guess I'm stuck with it.

I did another 30% water change when adding the gravel and planting, and will test again in the morning.

Should be doing anything else at the moment?

Also (another complication!) I ordered an apple snail online before all the water stuff kicked off, and I think it will arrive tomorrow. What should I do when it arrives? Will it be ok to put it in the tank, assuming the tests are still ok?

Byron 07-06-2009 01:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by beckywhite1979 (Post 212457)
Hi Byron

Thanks again for replying, and at such length! I have small gravel in the tank now, and some plants. Don't ask me what becuase I don't have a foggy!

Anyway, this morning, following my 30% change last night, I tested the water to find Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20. I had read in some other threads that if Nitrate reagent no 2 is not properly shaken it can give false results, so I shook it to hell and back, and hey presto I came up with a result. The PH is still at 8.0, but when I tested some 24 hour old tap water, I found that to be 8.0 too, so I guess I'm stuck with it.

I did another 30% water change when adding the gravel and planting, and will test again in the morning.

Should be doing anything else at the moment?

Also (another complication!) I ordered an apple snail online before all the water stuff kicked off, and I think it will arrive tomorrow. What should I do when it arrives? Will it be ok to put it in the tank, assuming the tests are still ok?

Becky,

The tap water pH earlier was 7.4, now its reading 8. Unless the earlier reading was faulty for some reason (or this one is) you may have fluctuating tap water. I would check it before each partial water change just so you know; if it is within range of the tank, no problems; as I just replied in another thread, a difference of .4 to .6 doesn't pose problems provided the tank pH is stable, and the pwc is 30-40%. If you want to lower it eventually, I and others can offer suggestions that are safe for the fish. Dn't use the chemical pH lowers, they will not work in the long term due to the buffering capacity of the tank water, and this means constant fluctuation in pH which is very stressful to all fish and will bring on more problems, believe me.

Your readings suggest to me the tank is cycled (this mini-cycle caused by replacing the filter), but you need to take the same tests for several days consecutively to be sure. If they remain "0" for ammonia and nitrite and 20 (or anything) for nitrate, after several days the tank is cycled for what is in it. Then you can slowly add a few fish. I don't recall mention of the tank size, but new fish should be added a couple at a time (more if this is a larger tank) and wait a few days before adding a couple more, etc. This is to allow the respective bacteria time to multiply in order to handle the additional ammonia and then nitrite. Once the biological equilibrium is established in a tank, relatively slight increases in ammonia are easily handled by the bacteria multiplying.

The snail will add ammonia but not that much and the bacteria will deal with it, so add it when it arrives.

The nitrate reading may climb a bit, but that is not a worry since nitrate is non-toxic except at high levels; plants utilize nitrate, and there are anaerobic bacteria in the substrate that feed on it (or there will be when the tank is matured), and the rest we remove/dilute with the weekly partial water change. Monitor the nitrate and if it climbs near 40ppm I would do a pwc. Most fish have no real problems at 40ppm on a temporary basis at least, although 20ppm or less is best long-term.

I think you're on track, so keep us posted.

Cheers, Byron.

beckywhite1979 07-06-2009 04:04 PM

The tap water PH confused me too. The first reading was from fresh water, the second one had been left to stand for nearly 24 hours. I'm going to do a series of tests to see if it varies a lot, or if the first was a fluke. I suspect the second test is the right one, as when I spoke to the man at the lfs earlier he said their (local tap water) ph is around 8.0.

beckywhite1979 07-07-2009 05:18 AM

OK, I now have a veriatable jungle of a tank, having just added a couple of pieces of planted bogwood and two apple snails (I ordered one, but received two, only charged for one!) I ordered online before the water quality panic. I'll keep a close eye on it all. However, this morning, while keeping a close eye on it, the ammonia was 1.0! Last night it was 0. Don't understand this. Can the addition of plants and different substate have that effect? Snails were added *after* this reading because I had to do something with them when they arrived. I did a 30% water change first thing this morning. How long should I leave it before testing again and repeating the water change if needed?

Prams this morning were: Ammonia 1.0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 10, PH 7.4 (?!!!!!!) Have left tap water standing to test again later, and will check all prams in the tank again later. No idea what's going on!

My other question, is how long does it take dechlorinator to dechlorinate the water before it can be added to the tank. I'm using the nutrafin variety.

Thanks.

beckywhite1979 07-07-2009 07:08 AM

OK, about 6 hours after last water change, params were:

Ammonia 0.25, Nitrite 0.25 (first reading I've got for nitrite, maybe not as cycled as I hoped) Nitrate 10 (have had readings for Nitrate all along, apart from the first reading, presumed faulty due to insufficient aggitation of reagant 2) and PH still 7.4. Still haven't done full params for tap water, as waiting for it to 'mature' for 24 hours before testing.

Another 30% water change carried out following these readings.

Will test again later and do another change if necessary.

Am I doing the right things still? Is there anything I am missing?

Sorry for the overload of information and questions.


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