kH dropped like a rock and the pH followed... - Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources
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post #1 of 5 Old 05-26-2008, 04:05 PM Thread Starter
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kH dropped like a rock and the pH followed...

i recently had my fish shipped from back east. don't ask how much it cost me. :/

the idiot i am, i didn't set the tank at least a week before the fish arrived. the tank's a 29 gallon breeder.

when i did set it, the pH was around 8.4, the kH was 120-180ppm with the gH over 300 - basically, hard alkaline water.

since the fish were used to a pH of 6-6.8 (silver angels, golden killies, and one opaline gourami) back in jersey, (yes i know the fluctuations are bad, but central jersey water has no buffering capacity) i had a hell of a time dropping the pH because of the buffering capacity.

i used some diluted sulphuric acid, but abandoned that idea because nothing happened with 4 teaspoonfulls. i decided to handle other matters and then come back to this one.

my next step was to worry about the hardness. i went out and bought some jiffy peat discs. i dropped 4 in the filter, a marineland pengiun biowheel 200g, and two in the tank.

i then figured i'd best do something about the pH again. as a result, i went out and bought a non-phosphate pH reducer, acid buffer by seachem. i put a bit less than half teaspoon of the substance into the filter.

i couldn't get the pH to drop below 7.2. when the fish arrived via UPS 4 1/2 hours late, with a prayer, after the temperature adjustment and the water mixing, i put them into the tank.

it's alarming to see what's happened since. my kH has practically disappeared. from 120-180ppm it's gone to zero. the pH can't stay stable. it keeps dropping. before bed i did a partial water change. this set the pH around 6.8. this morning it was 6 or lower. i added a half teaspoon of baking soda to get it almost to 6.4 and i'm testing every half hour to every hour to check what the pH is doing.

and on top of all of this, what i really want to drop, the gH is still sitting over 300ppm.

let me give a quick run down:

pH - 7.2 down to around or less than 6
ammonia - 0ppm
nitrite - was at 1ppm, after a partial water change it dropped to 0.5ppm
nitrate - 5ppm
gH - 300ppm
kH - ~0ppm

i'd really like to increase the kH to around 120ppm and lock the pH at 6.8 while keeping the gH down to 0-75ppm.

one thing i noticed. this seachem acid buffer says it lowers pH and converts kH into CO2, which explains the drop in kH, but i didn't put much in the tank, could that amount sap all the kH in such a short time?
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post #2 of 5 Old 05-26-2008, 10:21 PM
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This is exactly the reason why I so often tell people to stay away from the chemicals. It's like playing with fire, you're bound to get burned.

Unfortunately, there isn't going to be an easy fix or safe fix for those fish. All of the rapid fluctuations are going to be deadly for animals that are already stressed from shipping.
My suggestion would be to stop using the chemicals, do small daily water changes for a week or 2 (10% each day), watch your levels daily (always do water testing before water changes, never after)... then when things begin to come up and balace again, then and only then, work to get them where you want them.
A higher pH is going to be safer for those fish if it's stable instead of a rapidly changing lower pH that is never stable. Many angelfish and gouramis are being bred and raised in pH of 7.8 - 8.0 now. Unless you have wild caught fish, they shouldn't need such softened water. While they may have adapted to it already, they can adapt back if it's done gradually. Also remember that just because they can adapt doesn't always mean that's whats good for them.

Also, don't forget to take into account that adding the fish to the tank means adding fish food... the waste levels will also play a small part in how things are fluctuating and how quickly.

Overall, get those chemicals out of the water, leave the peat if you want to... but do it slowly and very gradually. All of those params should start to level back off once enough of the chemicals are removed from the tank.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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post #3 of 5 Old 05-27-2008, 07:21 PM
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To add on to bettababy- chemicals can swing your parameters around like crazy. I just spent a few hours at the fish store experimenting with all those chemicals as a last resort for one of my tanks today. A dash of that powder can bring your kh down to zero (depending on many factors). So I'm not shocked in the least to hear that your dropped so dramatically.

Also, the bacteria in your filter that eats ammonia will also eat kh- kh almost always drops in a tank when you add fish. Peat will lower your ph as well as your kh, only more slowly than the chemicals, which is why your ph is continuing to drop.

I agree with bettababy that you should just cut out the chemicals entirely. You can leave the peat in which will gently lower your ph and hardness if you wish.
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post #4 of 5 Old 05-29-2008, 08:50 PM Thread Starter
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thanks for the responses. you're not kidding about the chemicals.

i've been doing the small water changes 5-10% 1 to 2x a day. the water changes raise the pH to about 6.4-6.8. unfortunately, even after all these constant water changes, the pH still crashes to <= 6.0 every night.

the ammonia is between .25-.5ppm. the nitrites started to drop from 1-.5ppm to <.25ppm. the kH is still at zero.

i'm curious. this seachem product, acid buffer, does it sit on the gravel bed? if that's the case, i'll need to do a gravel vac to get rid of those crystals.

i was told the fluctuation in kH is much more harmful than the fluctuation in pH. what's the story here? typically how much pH fluctuation can killies, gouramis, and angelfish take?
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post #5 of 5 Old 05-29-2008, 10:07 PM
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I'm afraid you were misinformed. The pH is actually more dangerous to the animals than the kh.

As for how much those fish can handle, that is dependent on the individual fish. There are so many things that factor into that, including genetics, immune system, stress levels, other parameters and things that would cause problems, etc.

Personally, I'd say your fish sound pretty tolerant so far, but to say they can endure much more would be a foolish thought to entertain. Strong or not, a fish can only handle so much before its too much, and the more frequent things change, the harder it will be for any tolerance of further change.

As a final solution to your problem, it sounds as if you would do well to invest in a RO/DI unit for your tap water. This would give you the control over your water params without the use of chemicals. One other solution would be to mix distilled water with tap water. For that you would need time to experiment to find out how many parts of distilled to mix with how many parts of tap to get the desired end result, but ones you figure it out, that would be a much safer long term solution than the chemicals.

Dawn Moneyhan
Aquatics Specialist/Nutritionist
Juneau, WI
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