PH crashed. 2 fish dead
I've lost my African Knife Fish and my Silver Dollar (two of my favorites) and i'm so upset with myself i cant think clearly.
Its been a few days now and I followed the advice to condition the tap water (using Amquel plus) and did 20% water changes every other day. I've been re-testing the water a couple times a day. good news is the nitrate levels continue to rise, so i know the cycling process has been occuring. Nitrites went down from 2-3ppm to .25-.5ppm a day after the first water change, and only 24 hours after my original post. From what i understand about the nitrogen cycle, this rapid decline in nitrites is concerning to me, due to these reasons:
1. The PH crashed to 6.0 (it doesnt read lower than that on my test kit, so it could have been lower)
2. I'm aware that the PH crash could cause the nitrosonomas that was producing the nitrite to die/hibernate. if the bacteria was set back by the tap water/water change (remember, high ammonia and chloramines in my tap water, and I have no RO filter), i'm not sure how to remedy that. I did add a ton of gravel from my retired tank since it still had water in it (tap water, I wasn't able to move the established water during the move to my new apartment). i realize that this could have helped, but based on what i understand about chemistry, i believe there's no way it sped up the cycle that quickly. the PH crash came after the Nitrites dropped/nitrates rised. the tap water used during the water change raised ammonia back up to .25ppm
3. ammonia levels and nitrite levels have not changed since this massive fluctuation a few days ago (i think it was 4 days ago). the only thing i did was a 25% water change, added amquel, and turned on the UV filter.
I realize this is not a solution, but because of the low PH i added 1 tsp baking soda. Ph returned (a few hours later) to about 6.5, and as i expected, the following day it was back to 6.2 or 6.0. I'm very against altering the tank conditions/chemistry during a cycle for obvious reasons, but with a PH that low and with fish in the tank i had to do something immediately. right now its reading 6.6, and i HATE making rapid changes to water but these guys are visibly stressed. by the looks of it my COry Catfish is next.
I raised the temperature to 88 degrees 2 days ago (very slowly, from 77 degrees, over a 24 hour period). as expected, the ich looked worse before starting to look better. the UV filter i'm sure is helping along with the high temp. i am not using salt. I will keep the temp at 88 for 11 more days before dropping it back down.
I'm sure that my fish are dying due to the following stressors/reasons:
2. extremely high nitrites for a few days
3. temperature well outside their ideal range
4. the PH crash
i know the PH can drop as nitrates rise, but considering this tank was setup only 3 weeks ago, and has been stocked for only 2 of them, why is the nitrate reading at 40-60ppm? if this helps, here are the levels over time:
day 1 (tap water):
ph = 7.4
ammonia: .5-.7 ppm (due to ammonia in tap water)
nitrite = 0 ppm
nitrate = 5-10 ppm
ph = 6.8
ph = 6.8
(20% water change after reading)
ph = 6.7
nitrite: 4 ppm
(20 % water changed after this reading. nitrites seemed unchanged after water change, ph was slightly higher (because tap water ph is 7.4)
ph 6.0 (or lower)
nitrate: not checked
day 20 (today)
ph 6.6 (after 1tsp baking soda on day 18 and another this morning)
nitrate: somewhere between 40-80 PPM, cant tell which color it is
NOTE: I re-dosed amquel based on 55 gallons, even though i only changed 20% of the water. i fear this was a mistake, as it can contribute to low oxygen levels and ph crashes, but i only mention this because i really dont feel like i overdosed them, but i'm not adding any other chemicals so i fear it is the only variable that can cause this problem (that i had control over)
so, in short:
1. my favorite fish are stressed and dying, but others look fine.
2. the ich is resolving, which is good
3. the PH is insanely unstable and i need to know what i should do to keep it stable during the rest of the cycling
4. since ammonia isnt being removed by nitrosonomas anymore i fear the PH crash/water changes messed up the cycle.
5. Nitrites are not moving unless i change the water. i know it takes time, and .25 is way better than 4, but why did it stop at .25 if it dropped so much in one night after i added the gravel? why did the PH crash promply after that, and how do i stabalize it in the middle of the tank cycle without killing more fish? i fear it is simply a "wait, wait, wait" and just watch at this point. i dont want to change the water anymore because i know the first 20% change messed up the cycle pretty bad.
I know theres alot here and i'm all over the place, but if you are an expert on water chemistry, particularly PH, i'd love to hear your thoughts. i've even considered paying someone with 20 years more experience to consult on my tank and give in-person advice. craigslist maybe? lol