Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Hawkian 11-11-2009 06:59 PM

Question About pH
 
So I've recently come back to the hobby of fishkeeping after a 15 years hiatus and I'm loving it! It seems like either the hobby has made great strides in the past 15 years or I am simply better informed (or both), but my tank today is easily 3X bigger than it was 15 years ago and I am finding the maintenance so much easier than it was on my 10g back trhen. Granted I've read that bigger tanks are easier to maintain but back then I was doing full water changes, remove all fish, wash the tank, replace all fish, etc., and it was a royal pain in the a$$. I don't know if it's just because I was ignorant back then or if the concept of partial water changes has been introduced since I quit the hobby 15 years ago but the whole concept rocks... and works!

But enough of my rambling. My pH question is as follows:

I have been monitoring the pH of the water of my tan since I set it up 2 months ago and it has been pretty consistently hovering around the 6.0 mark. I have not been modifying the pH of my tank at all since its setup, which I take to mean that it's probably the pH I'm going to get from my tap water for the foreseeable future. Now let's say that my tank contains a school of White Clouds, which most reference material say that they are hardy but that their desired pH is around 7.2. I know I can buy a pH + kit to raise de pH of the water in my tank but if I do that, is it something I am going to have to add to the water after each water change? Does trying to reach a certain pH become a chore everytime I need to change something in the tank?
What is everyone's experience with these pH kits?
Thanks all.

Angel079 11-11-2009 07:21 PM

You can also always simply up the KH, which will up your pH automatically (cause they go in line to explain that in easy terms and you'll never just amend 1 w/out the other 1 changing as well lol).
The issue I see with chemicals used to up anything...each weekly water exchange you'll have to fiddle around with the 'new' tap water until you have an exact or close to exact mix of water that's chemically 'upped' that IMO is a pain in the rear. And not done right if you exposes your fish to a weekly up & down oh pH will not be good for their health at all.

Me personally I'd get the water harder with Dolomite or crushed coral by hanging it either in your filter or in the tank, making the water harder up's the pH.

That said what is your KH?

Fishin Pole 11-11-2009 07:25 PM

Hello and welcome back to the hobby.....Yes their has been alot of advances in the hobby since you left and alot of new ways of doing things for successful fish keeping.......Now to your Ph

You are correct in your thinking as far as PH adjusters go..........The products that rasie and lower your Ph are only temporary fixes and would needed to be used at every water change.........Using these products can cause your fish alot of unneeded stress and health issues..........Fortunately their are easier and more stable ways to raise your Ph...One way is crushed limestone in your filter or gravel (substrate) bed......My opinion is to use the limestone in small increments till you achieve the desired Ph you would like adn continue to test to make sure it stablizes itself.....

With your water's Ph being low, its perfect for most of the SA species of fish, with the exception of the livebearers (guppies, platys, mollies)......Tetras would do very well for you in your water, so depending on the species you are interested in keeping you might not have to do anything to adjust your Ph.....My opinion, its always best to find out what your water parameters are from your source (the tap or well) and try to build your tank around your water.....

I hope this was some help and wish you the best of luck with your new hobby!......Feel free to ask questions, their are alot of very knowledgable people here who are more than willing to help

Byron 11-11-2009 07:38 PM

I second the two previous responses. Just adding a bit.

Stay away from pH adjusting chemicals.
Your water has a pH because of certain aspects and until you know what those are it is dangerous to go fiddling with the tank's pH.

It would help to know your tap water pH, KH and GH. If you don't have a test kit (liquid) for the hardness (the KH is carbonate hardness, the GH is general hardness) some fish stores will test your water; if you go this route, ask them for the exact number, whether degrees or ppm. Or the water board in your area may tell you or have it on their website. The KH is the aspect of water that buffers pH so the two are related, and it is good knowing GH as hardness is actually more significant for fish than pH.

My only change on FP's suggestion is to use dolomite or crushed coral rather than limestone. In my experience limestone works much slower, by which I mean it takes a lot more limestone to raise the GH and thus pH, but a very little dolomite or coral will do more. Marble chips are another substance. These are all calcareous and increase the calcium and thus the pH. And they are stable. But knowing the KH will tell us how effective this will be.

You (like me and a few others who are blessed with acidic water) will be the envy of many others on this forum who are stuck with very hard basic (alkaline) water. The fish species of the entire South American continent and SE Asia are well suited to soft, acidic water. And all we need do is turn on the tap.

Byron.

Hawkian 11-11-2009 08:35 PM

Thanks all for the fantastic answers!

It is good to know that my reasoning wasn't flawed. The truth of the matter is that all the fish in my tank seem to actually be enjoying it tremendously in there and that a pH of 6.0 is actually pretty perfect for them:

Fish Avg rec. pH
------------------- ---------------
Rainbow Shark(1): 6.0
Cardinal Tetra(5): 5.4
Kribensis(1): 5.9
Tiger Barb(7): 6.5
White Could(3): 7.2

The white clouds were the very first fish in the tank and were a "gift" (i.e., they sort of came with the tank) but they have adapter to a higher water temperature than they are supposedly used to as well as to a lower pH. So really everything in the tank is going well.

It was mere curiosity that got me asking the question as I sat watching the tank tonight going "why and how would I ever want to play with the pH and if I do so, what's involved?"

You guys confirmed my concerns to fo that so thanks a bunch! :-P I will follow my initial instincts and forget about ever wanting to fiddle with the pH.

Byron 11-12-2009 10:17 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hawkian (Post 272506)
Thanks all for the fantastic answers!

It is good to know that my reasoning wasn't flawed. The truth of the matter is that all the fish in my tank seem to actually be enjoying it tremendously in there and that a pH of 6.0 is actually pretty perfect for them:

Fish Avg rec. pH
------------------- ---------------
Rainbow Shark(1): 6.0
Cardinal Tetra(5): 5.4
Kribensis(1): 5.9
Tiger Barb(7): 6.5
White Could(3): 7.2

The white clouds were the very first fish in the tank and were a "gift" (i.e., they sort of came with the tank) but they have adapter to a higher water temperature than they are supposedly used to as well as to a lower pH. So really everything in the tank is going well.

It was mere curiosity that got me asking the question as I sat watching the tank tonight going "why and how would I ever want to play with the pH and if I do so, what's involved?"

You guys confirmed my concerns to fo that so thanks a bunch! :-P I will follow my initial instincts and forget about ever wanting to fiddle with the pH.

I think you're going the correct way, good thinking.

You haven't indicated your tap water pH and hardness though, so there is still an issue over time. As tanks run the pH tends to drop due to the natural biological processes. The KH in the water keeps the pH buffered and stable. It is worth knowing the GH and KH of your tap water, and the pH, so you will be prepared. A sudden drop in pH can be disastrous. If your tap water is around pH 6.0 like the tank, and if there is some degree of hardness in the tap water, there won't be a problem provided you do weekly partial water changes of 40-50%. But if your tap water has little or no KH, the tank pH will start to drop; usually after 3-4 months, and this can be sudden once it starts. I can explain how to handle this once I know your tap water parameters.

Byron.

Hawkian 11-15-2009 09:22 AM

Thanks Byron!

So I just did the pH test on my tap water and it is lower by about 0.5 - so I guess that means my tap water's pH is somewhere between 5.0 and 5.5. That seems consistent with what you describe, but my Nutrafin pH test kit states that a pH below 6.0 is too acidic for most species of fish... should I be concerned at all here that my tap water is below 6.0 and that my tank is right on the threshold of fish mass genocide?

I don't actually know the hardness of the water b/c I don't have a kit to test hardness... yet.

Byron 11-15-2009 10:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hawkian (Post 274401)
Thanks Byron!

So I just did the pH test on my tap water and it is lower by about 0.5 - so I guess that means my tap water's pH is somewhere between 5.0 and 5.5. That seems consistent with what you describe, but my Nutrafin pH test kit states that a pH below 6.0 is too acidic for most species of fish... should I be concerned at all here that my tap water is below 6.0 and that my tank is right on the threshold of fish mass genocide?

I don't actually know the hardness of the water b/c I don't have a kit to test hardness... yet.

Most fish stores will test hardness; take a sample of your tap water (not the aquarium water) and ask for the GH and KH, and get the numbers. A response like "it's soft" means very little, we need to know how soft/hard it is. Once you have that we can consider if anything is needed to maintain stability.

As for pH below 6, the reason most recommend keeping it above 6 is the nitrification cycle. Nitrosomonas and nitrospira bacteria are believed to be basically unable to multiply at a pH below 6, perhaps even a bit higher. In a planted aquarium this is not a problem because the plants are using most if not all of the ammonia produced by the fish and biological processes, and in acidic water ammonia automatically changes to ammonium which is harmless and plants grab it. It is believed by some that plants can use nitrite as well, by changing it back to ammonium. So in well-planted aquaria, the lower pH is not an issue. However, it also depends upon the fish.

Acidic water fish like most (but not all) of those from South America and SE Asia come from very soft acidic water. Wild caught fish will be right at home. Cardinal tetras occur in streams with pH anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5 and no hardness whatsoever, and the other forest fish are the same. If the fish were tank raised commercially, they may have been adapted to harder water, so that can be an issue. This is why I maintain a half cup of dolomite in my filters; it keeps the hardness at 1-2 dGH [out of my tap it is less than 1 and probably zero dGH and KH], and the pH doesn't drop below 6. I have a lot of wild caught fish, and in 15 years this appears from what I can tell to have worked fine.

In the 1990's my tap water had a pH so low I couldn't measure it, down around 5. In 2001 the water board raised it to around 7 and now out of the tap it is 6.8, and in the aquaria it lowers due to the normal biological actions and the lack of buffering (no KH) except for the dolomite I add. Most other aquarists where I live do something similar to "buffer" the pH and maintain a slight degree of hardness. As I said, we can consider if that is practical once we know your tap water KH and GH.

Byron.

cerianthus 11-15-2009 11:25 AM

I find the pH of tap water (drinking water) to be that low at 5.0-5.5.
From my experiences, such low ph should have shown some complications on cetain fish thus I am thinking perhaps the testing is off.

How about taking small jars full og tank and tap water to lfs to have them double check using another test kit if possible.
i am not familiar with Nutrafin test kit,yet your fish seems to be doing OK but something is not right here.

Therefore, I would not take any actions until testing results are double verified.
If lfs dont have GH/KH test kit you could p/u your own or simply post the test results from the beginning to see how pH changes ocurred up to now, that is if have recorded the results.
By understanding the changes involved with this tank from beginning, we may be able to find the solution , hopefully w/o any addtives.

Whatever you do, DO NOT raise pH without checking Ammonia/Nitrite.


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