too much driftwood?
Random question about driftwood. Is it possible to have too much? I guess it's more like a series of questions. I should be nearing the end of my fishless cycle as nitrates are present. My cycle keeps stalling however and I was told it's because of my ph which keeps dipping to at least 6.0 (as low as my test goes). I was told the bacteria stop working around there but if that's the case how can I complete my cycle? Also how are acid loving fish kept below there? I really wasn't trying to acheive an ultra low ph. I know a stable one is better. I just bought a lot of driftwood and put it all in, not thinking it would do this much.
You can't have too much driftwood, in my opinion, but poorly "seasoned" or new driftwood can release a lot of tannins and that will shift the pH of your water. Driftwood can leach tannins for many, many, months or even longer. Oak is particularly bad about that, in my experience.
Bacterial activity can be impacted by pH, but I know of at least one forum member who has tanks that dip into the <6 pH range. He has no problems and my overly simplistic assumption is that the bacterial makeup of the tank shifts slightly to a version/mix that tolerates the higher acidity a little better.
To determine more about your pH issues, we'll need more info. How long have you been cycling? Have you tested the water from your tap? What are those parameters? What, exactly, are your water parameters in the tank, other than the pH being very low?
How often are you changing the water? I have one tank that the pH creeps "up" in due to it's substrate characteristics, but I manage the pH shift with 2-3 large, 50%+ water changes per week instead of one. Fortunately, it's only a 10 gallon tank!
How are you testing the water? API master kit? Test strips?
I have been cycling since 8-24 so not overly long, although my cycle has been well strange. I didn't take a true reading of the tapwater ph, but straight from the tap it is 8.4 with .5 ammonia. I don't have a KH or GH test by the way. Currently my aquarium is 6.0 or less PH, .5 ammonia, 5.0 NO2, and 40 NO3.
I change water perhaps irregularly due to it just cycling. I've had an unknown ammonia source that caused ammonia to skyrocket. This has finally been conquered or just run it's course. I would do as much as 90% water changes whenever the ammonia reached 8.0 or ph reached where it is now, which was fairly often.
It is true that at very low pH the nitrifying bacteria slow down and will even cease. However, the irony is that little harm will occur, due to the fact that in acidic water the ammonia changes into ammonium which is basically harmless. And without bacteria, nitrite will not occur in levels as it would in basic water. Live plants also help all this, by assimilating most of the ammonia/ammonium which they do faster than the bacteria anyway. You can read more detail in my article on bacteria:
Depending upon the fish species, the pH should be somewhat controlled. Some species occur in very acidic waters (pH 4-5), but other soft water fish will have problems this low.
I have a lot of Malaysian driftwood in my tanks. While wood will acidify water it is usually very minimal. The most I have read about is .2 or .3 degrees, example from a pH of 6.5 down to 6.3 due to the wood. This of course can be impacted by the hardness, and you can read about that relationship here:
As mentioned, too low a pH can cause trouble for some fish. The low GH and KH associated with a low pH as explained in that last linked article can be detrimental to some plants. We have a current thread [I think its in the Aquarium Plants section] on the problem of excess iron in swords caused by too low a GH.
You should contact your water supplier and ascertain the GH (general hardness) and KH [Alkalinity]. A pH as high as 8.4 is usually associated with hard water, though not always; and lowering to 6.4 without fish in the tank is not normal. Again, this is explained more in those articles. My point here is that it needs investigating before fish enter the tank.
My cycle has been etremely out of whack. This is my first fishless cycle and it has not gone at all according to plan. I've shown high levels of nitrates before and have never once added a source of ammonia myself beyond the smallest of pinches of fish food to feed the bacteria. No where near what would be needed to cycle with. I've also never even opened my bottle of ammonia. For the last week and for the first time since i started I have had ammonia steady (when the ph was low) and decreasing (when the ph was higher).
My GH being low due to the ph explains why my original plants died after showing good growth. Some had told me it was excessive iron but I'm new too plants and didn't understand how that could be. Thank you for the link about that.
What is my best bet? Try finish the cycle and see if the tank reaches a level more akin to my tapwater? Get some tests first for GH and KH (do I need both?) and then if necessary run crushed coral in the filter? I kept fish as a kid and kept didn't aquatic herpes since then and have never run into the kinds of problems I'm having now.
First, find out about your source water. Hardness is critical to know, since it impacts on pH long term. But you also want to know what if any other minerals might be present. Some, such as copper, can be high, and while safe for humans can be lethal to fish and plants. Limestone would suggest harder water, but at the same time more buffering to maintain the pH.
I just e-mailed them so I only need to wait for a response. This is still strange as I know plenty of people with the same water authority that have kept fish easily.
Question: (since you mentioned the strips) do the test strips work for KH and GH? I know it was accurate as far as my pH when I had the test strips.. I know that everyone's opposed to the test strips, but I wasn't sure if the KH and GH aspects of the test strips were worth trying at all.
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