alkalinity and ph during tank cycling - question from newbie
I am in the process of cycling my 20g tank. My ammonia is at 0, nitrites at 5, and nitrates about 10 right now (I'm using the dip strips). I'm curious about the alkalinity and ph. I know they are related, but I don't know the specifics and I'm wondering if I should attempt to alter them or not worry about it until the tank finishes cycling.
In the beginning, my alkalinity was steady at 40 and my ph was 7 or 6.8. Over the past week or so though, the alkalinity has been anywhere from 20-60 on any given day (I have been testing the water every other day, and doing a 10-15% water change weekly). I have noticed that the ph has been hovering around 6.8-6.6, but is now down to 6.4. Should I take corrective action?
I do have some fish in the tank which I know people have differing opinions on. My LPS clerk recommended cycling with fish. I have 5 cardinal tetras, a betta, and 4 ADFs, all of which as I understand it, are fairly hardy and okay with lower ph. They all seem to be looking and acting fine. But I have also heard that the specific ph is not as important as maintaining a stable ph.
What do you think I should do?
How long has the tank been up?
Could you get the API liquid kit please?
The readings are not convincing. Nitrite at 5? Not 0.5? :? Test the KH and GH as well as the pH with API liquid.
Thanks, Lupin. I am planning to get the liquidI kit. In fact was at LPS yesterday and they were out. : (
The tank has been up for 5 weeks now. According to the dip strips' color coding, my nitrites are indeed 5ppm. I know that's high (it was higher before I did a pwc). But I haven't lost anyone yet (4 ADFs, 5 cardinal tetras, and a betta).
My GH has always been 75ppm which I believe is soft.
Oh! Where are you located? Maybe order online?
YIKES! Nitrite at 5 ppm??? Your fish would have died by now. O.O
I agree with Lupin, if nitrite really was 5 you would have a tank of dead fish, no question. Nothing can withstand that high a level of nitrite. Also, don't fiddle with pH and hardness, let the tank cycle and get established.
The advice from the store was bad. Cardinal tetra are one of the most sensitive fish, and should never be added to a tank that is not established (not only cycled, but then established with stable parameters). They are wild caught and very sensitive to fluctuating water, chemicals, medications, whatever.
They do need a lower pH and very soft water (the latter is perhaps even more important, as is explained in our profile of this fish, click on the shaded name to see the profile, or use the second tab from the left in the blue bar at the top. There are lots of fish in our profiles with info on this and that. If you tank pH lowers to around 6, the cardinal and Betta will do fine [though this is not a good combination, but I'll leave that for now].
The pH will naturally lower in soft water due to the biology in the tank. As mentioned, for these fish this is ideal [no idea about the ADF's].
Wow. How weird. I mean, I know the liquid test kit is the best, and I will definitely pick one up, but how can the readings be so off? The dip strips' color chart indicates it measures nitrites (NO2) in ppm (mg/L) and gives a color range from almost white = 0 to bright pink which = 10.0. It indicates 0 is safe, .5 is caution, 1.0-3.0 is stress, and 5.0-10.0 is danger.
A chart I found that explains the nitrogen cycle mentioned keeping your nitrites below 0.75ppm. I'd been wondering about the discrepancy. Clearly since all my fish seem perfectly healthy, levels can't be that horrendous. I can't wait to test with the API kit.
Byron, I've heard completely opposite advice from multiple sources regarding the cardinals. I've heard that they're both very hardy and also that they're very sensitive. Once article I read compared them to neons and said that actually they are hardier than the neons which are domestically bred. The article concluded that since cardinals are wild caught, they are used to fluctuations of the environment as opposed to the neons who are brought up in controlled tanks. Interesting. My cardinals seem great and get along fine with the frogs and the betta.
For now, I will not mess with the pH and GH. I'll let the cycle finish and the tank establish. I will let you know my readings once I get the good water testing kit. Now I'm really intrigued. I'll shop around tomorrow until I can find one.
Thanks for your comments!
Now I am totally convinced your test strips are crap. LOL! If your nitrite was 5, your fish should have died already. No fish can really tolerate nitrite that high! It's toxic once it infiltrates their bloodstream and can burn their skin and gills severely.
Then isn't it crazy that the strips' scale goes to 10.0??? Maybe it's 0.5, but they have the decimal point in the wrong place?
They weren't misplacing a decimal point. It's still inaccurate though because nitrite that high is no longer tolerable for any fish at all.:?
To the cardinal. These fish occur in very soft and acidic water. The water tests for their natural habitat streams always show hardness so low it cannot be measured, and pH varies depending upon the stream from 3.5 to 5.5, never (to the best of my memory) higher. Most aquarists find cardinals live 2-3 years, maybe 4. That is always because of the water. The great ichthyologist Dr. Jacques Gery wrote that he maintained cardinals for more than 10 years--but only in very soft, acidic water. Dr. Stanley Weitzman had articles in TFH during the 1990's, and in several he mentioned the effect of hardness on soft water fish. Dr. Hans Baensch in his Aquarium Atlas wrote of hard water causing calcium blockages of the kidneys in cardinals, and of the fish's "light phobia" as he termed it.
Fish have been programmed by nature over thousands and millions of years to suit their environment. Some fish seem to be able to adjust to differing water parameters better than others, over generations of being tank raised. All of the "neon" species [there are 3 regularly available, and a fourth was discovered a few years ago] are sensitive to water parameters, water conditions (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate), light and water movement. Neon tetra are commercially raised and have been for decades, yet they still retain this delicate sensitivity. They will absolutely do better in soft, acidic water, notwithstanding they have been raised for generations in basic harder water.
As for the fluctuations in nature, yes--but they are controlled over various periods of time, caused by environmental factors like the rainy season and the dry season, day and night (temperature and pH fluctuations occur every 24 hours). But never are these fish subjected to ammonia or nitrite above zero, and nitrates are rarely any higher either. Plus, relatively few fish in the enormous expanse of a stream is a very different environment from the confines of a closed system in an aquarium.
Appearance can be misleading too. Fish can look alright, but inwardly a calcium blockage is still causing trouble and ultimate death. People can have cancer and not know it--and I speak as someone who has been living with recurring cancer for the past four years. But it is doing its thing notwithstanding I outwardly show no signs of it.
I mentioned the source of an opinion. I have written most of the freshwater profiles here. To do so, I research highly respected authorities. And when I see such knowledgeable ichthyologists agreeing on this or that, I accept that it is most probably correct and worth listening to. Sometimes equally eminent scientists may differ; fine, I mention that when I see it. But you won't find many such cases, and I think that speaks volumes too.
Lastly there is personal experience, which should be worth something after 20+ years of fishkeeping. I have introduced cardinals to new tanks and lost the whole group within weeks; in established mature tanks, they settle in fine. Some say they don't care about light and filter flow, I say they do. In my 115g 5-foot tank I have a group of cardinals. The filter outflow is at one end so there is a gentle current down the tank, strongest at the left end under the outflow spigot, and scarcely moving at the right end 5 feet away. The cardinals always remain at the right end of the tank, and always under cover of plants except when they surface to feed. So do the rummynose tetra for that matter. This is not co-incidence; the fish when given the option will naturally choose what they are most comfortable with, and that is what is closest to their natural environment.
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