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jeffboomhauer 03-11-2012 11:02 PM

My tap water pH is 5.5...what to do?
Hey folks.

New here, but not new to fish keeping. It has, however, been many many years since the last time I had an aquarium. In the past, I had a tap pH of 7.5. I kept many different fish over the years, as most fish can tolerate to that pH.

However, my new house has a tap pH of 5.5 with basically no alkalinity. I only have the test strips, and not the chemical test kit, but the strip reads as low as possible for alkalinity. The water is super soft, too. I realize the easiest thing to do is keep fish that can tolerate the pH you get out of the tap. That way there are no chemicals to mix, and thus, fewer screwups to make.

What sort of fish can live in that type of water? I know tetras like a lower pH and soft water, but 5.5?

My original plan was to keep African cichlids. Obviously, they can't live in 5.5. I have never messed with ph or buffer products in the past, as I believe they can be complicated, but I found this by googling. Aquarium pH Buffers: Microbe-Lift African Cichlid pH Buffer Stabilizer by Ecological Labs. Would it solve my problem? The only thing I see as an issue, however, is that water changes would be a pain. My 55g would require 15g changes or so to reach the 25% mark, which was the rule back in the day. That is a bunch of 5g buckets that I would have to mix up and adjust properly every water change:-(

Basically, I have been out of the game awhile. I am open to any and all comments.


Christople 03-11-2012 11:10 PM

f you are bent on keeping africans than crushed coral or a substrate of argononite sand. With other fish, a lot can go in that tap, discus, german rams,and basically any amazonian fish.

Byron 03-12-2012 08:16 PM

First off, welcome to Tropical Fish Keeping forum.:-D

I have near-zero GH and KH in my tap water, and the pH is 7.0 because the water folks add soda ash to raise the pH (this has no effect on GH). My tap water prior to 2001 was like yours, down below 5 in all likelihood.

Hardening the water and raising pH is much simpler than having to go the other way. There are many members here who would give almost anything to have your or my tap water.:lol: Soft water fish from South America, SE Asia and Central Africa would be right at home.

But, if you really want the opposite, the easiest way is by using a substrate that is calcareous (primarily calcium and magnesium based). CarribSea make one of crushed coral and aragonite, available in a fine gravel and a sand, and there are certainly other manufacturers with similar products. Since rift lake cichlids should have a sand substrate, using their sand product as the substrate solves your problem. It will add calcium and magnesium to raise the hardness, and the pH will naturally rise too, well over pH 8 with a full substrate. Which is what you want for these cichlids. There is a specific rift lake cichlids sand product, much the same sort of thing, but likely more expensive.

Given the fish, this is the easiest and least expensive method. You can use the buffers and such, but that will be much more costly. The calcareous sand is exactly what you want for much less money long-term.

With respect to water changes, once the tank is established, the natural buffering will partly over-ride new water, but I wold keep the volume per change lower than otherwise so as not to push the envelope, so to speak. This will sort itself out once the tank is running, and as every aquarium is rather unique due to the biology, you may have to experiment a bit.

If you want to read a bout the relation between hardness and pH, here's a fairly straight-forward article I prepared:

There are also some members with vast experience in these fish, and they will likely comment when they see this thread.


Adamson 03-12-2012 08:55 PM

Byrom when I lived in Langley my Ph was at about 5, I never really understood why.

Christople 03-12-2012 11:31 PM


Originally Posted by Adamson (Post 1011531)
Byrom when I lived in Langley my Ph was at about 5, I never really understood why.

Do you get water out of a well, have you tested for GH and KH and pH.

Adamson 03-13-2012 03:34 AM


Originally Posted by Christople (Post 1011741)
Do you get water out of a well, have you tested for GH and KH and pH.

This was back in 2008, I had city water then.
Now, in Minnesota, I have city water as well and my pH is about 7.6, I have not tested GH and KH.

jeffboomhauer 03-15-2012 08:41 AM

Good stuff! Thank you!

I will let yall know what I decided to do.

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