Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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RandallW20 10-18-2009 09:28 PM

Cardinals In High pH
I was speaking to another member on here about his planted tank and it came up about cardinals needing a low pH water. I've heard this before as well. BUT.....................

I've had four cardinals for almost a year who were my first additions and they are thriving in my 20gal.
My pH has always been in the mid 7's. I just tested it and its 7.6 now.
How does this happen?

I tried keeping a German Ram once but he died about two weeks later. :cry: He still looked as if he was doing great. I figured that it was my pH. But if thats the case, how are the cardinals doing so well???


MoneyMitch 10-18-2009 10:11 PM

fish can adapt to any ph to a certain extent. they need to adapt to ph and prefer certain ph due to the natrual ph of the fishes blood. when they are dropped into a ph that is outside what they are found in in nature the fish has to go through a process called osmosis that makes their bloods ph match that of the water they are in. if the bigger ph diffrence the more energy the have to use to maintain the correct blood ph. if lets say you have piranna's that prefer way acidic water like high 6's. you can have them in a ph like 8 to like 8.5. now im not saying to go out and dop this jsut a fact that it can be done IF they are ACCLIMATED CORRECTLY and over a LONG amount of TIME like 3hrs on a drip.

But if you were to do something like that the fish would eventually stress and get sick all the time may not eat as good as it should and could even die from having to spend so much energy on regulating its blood ph.

Hope this helps.Money

RandallW20 10-18-2009 11:28 PM

Would I be able to acclimate a GBR to this pH?
I've heard they can't do high pH at all......... :(

MoneyMitch 10-19-2009 12:08 AM

GBR? sorry not familiar with that short hand.

RandallW20 10-19-2009 02:14 PM

German Blue Ram

Byron 10-19-2009 03:07 PM

As I was the "other member" mentioned, I'll just coment here for the record so everyone knows my thinking on this issue.

Fish have evolved to suit their specific habitat. While evolution is still occurring in nature, the changes generally occur over long periods of time in the case of vertebrates. The biological metabolism of a fish is geared for its environment, and while it is true to say that most fish can probably adapt to a different environment, such changes are complex and varied for each species. It is not something that can be done over a couple of hours such as introducing a new fish to one's aquarium. We are talking about altering the basic physiological metabolism that makes the fish a fish in that particular environment.

Second to nourishment (obtaining food), reproduction is the most basic instinct for all animal life. It is a known fact that many fish will not spawn in water that varies significantly from their natural habitat. If the fish is so affected by the water parameters or the environment that it cannot follow this basic instinct, it is illogical to say the different water parameters or environment is not of major significance. Also, pH and hardness can affect the motility of a fish's sperm, the hatch ratio of their eggs, and the survival of the fry.

The metabolism of a fish is complex. The pH affects how hard the fish must work (use energy) to maintain the physiological equilibrium--keeping the pH of its blood steady, feeding its tissues, and keeping its immune system functioning. Hardness can have other effects; cardinal tetras are known to develop calcium blockage of the kidney tubes when maintained in hard water. And it is logical that other fish from soft water would face similar issues. Such fish may "exist" for a period of time, perhaps a few years, with no apparent problems; but who among us can see inside the fish's body and metabolism? Cardinal tetras will llive for more than ten years in an aquarium with the proper water parameters; in less than optimum water this seldom occurs.

Which brings me to the common ram, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, mentioned. Although most of the fish now available in stores are commercially raised in the far east or (perhaps) Florida, the fish rarely live long in aquaria; and I believe it is solely due to the water parameters. In spite of captive breeding, this fish has obviously retained its need for very soft, acidic and warm water. Several members here have written of failures at keeping this fish, and some of them recognize the water chemistry to be the probable reason.

In nature there are fish that show considerable adaptation. Pristella maxillaris is found naturally in soft water and in brackish water. Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, the Bolivian Ram, is found in acidic waters and in basic (pH 7.6) waters in South America. These are fish that somehow have the ability to live and spawn in varying water conditions. Dr. Chris Andrews, Director of the Steinhart Aquarium in SF, said that the reason for this is still unknown. He suggests it is always better to match your fish to your water chemistry than the reverse.


RandallW20 10-19-2009 05:17 PM

Ahhhh... Thanks for the insight Byron. I appreciate that.
So I guess its safe to say that the cardinals have been breed for a while to accept the high pH better than the Ram per say, which has not succumbed to the ability to do very well in the water.

Byron 10-19-2009 06:39 PM


Originally Posted by RandallW20 (Post 260136)
Ahhhh... Thanks for the insight Byron. I appreciate that.
So I guess its safe to say that the cardinals have been breed for a while to accept the high pH better than the Ram per say, which has not succumbed to the ability to do very well in the water.

Unless you are thinking of tank raised cardinals, no. Most cardinals in NA are still wild caught. However, in certain stores you can sometimes get tank-raised cardinals. I have found the latter to be more problematic than the wild ones, but this could just be a bad experience with that particular batch. With the Ram, it is quite probable that this is one of those fish that simply cannot adapt; there are several. As I mentioned previously, Dr. Andrews has commented that it is still unknown why this is.

Cardinals come from water with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5 and zero hardness. You can't get any softer water. Fortunately, my tap water is also zero hardness (KH) and 0-1 d GH using the API test kit, so it may well be zero. I keep my SA tanks at pH 6 and GH 1-2 just to have some mineral for the fish. This doesn't seem to bother the wild cardinals. As I think I mentioned, it is the hardness more than the pH that affects cardinals and I suspect most similar acid-water fish. Having cardinals last for 2-3 years and then die when they can live more than 10 years in aquaria says to me that they are being negatively affected by the harder water.

They also have what I think Baensch calls a light phobia. They come from very dark waters (not just "blackwater" from tannins but in clearwater streams the vegetation is thick and/or overhanging to darken the water), and when such fish are forced to live in brightly-lit tanks, it is possible there is a side effect here as well. This is another reason I advocate minimum lighting on planted aquaria--the fish.

Ten million fish are exported from Manaus in Brazil each year [may be up from that now], and 80% of these are cardinals. This does not take into account the exports from Columbia [which incidentally is a different strain of cardinal in body shape and the pattern, possibly a separate species]. They are almost always available, and are constantly being purchased. This suggests to me that they are not living long in aquaria.


MoneyMitch 10-19-2009 09:29 PM

thansk for iterating further byron never got around to having you go indepth like that :D and randall i commented on your last post before reading this. byron stated about the rams being very sensitive hard to kep fish. disregaurd where i say it would be ok to throw him in there. sorry for the confusion

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