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This is a discussion on Weird Fish Behaviour within the Tropical Fish Diseases forums, part of the Freshwater Fish and Aquariums category; --> There is one thing that jumped out at me and hasn't been questioned, and that is your use of "pH down." You mentioned in ...

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Old 04-28-2010, 05:54 PM   #21
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There is one thing that jumped out at me and hasn't been questioned, and that is your use of "pH down." You mentioned in post #13 that you ran out of this, so I'm assuming that you were previously using it. I would not recommend using these chemicals.

The pH is largely determined by the hardness of the tap water going into the aquarium at water changes and the biological processes at work in the aquarium. The degree of carbonate hardness determines the amount of "buffering" effect on the pH, and depending upon what this is, the pH may remain stable or lower. If it is rising above your tap water, and a tank pH of 8 compared to tap water of 7.6 [I know, you said probably, not definitely] suggests something is raising it, or alternatively the test is not accurate.

Corydoras are very highly sensitive to chemicals in the water; and while not meaning to suggest that this is the cause of the loss of two corys, I would suggest that the stress probably resulting from the use of such chemicals may well have added to the problem by weakening the fish further. If I may provide a suggestion, it would be to never add un-necessary substances like pH adjusters to an aquarium with fish.

A second suggestion would be to test your tap water (let it stand 24 hours before testing) for pH. Then you (and we) will know how much the pH in the tank varies from the source water, and if it does vary we can probably help you find the reason. Also, I have noticed both myself and from other members' comments that "high pH' and "normal pH" and "low pH" kits seem to read differently for the same water. Perhaps Dawn can explain why, I lack the chemistry and knowledge of these kits to determine this; and I would expect one should always use the same kit to ensure consistency.

I fully concur with Dawn's advice, and only wanted to offer the above in addition.

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Old 04-29-2010, 10:04 PM   #22
Thank you Byron. Although I just want to clarify that I lost one cory, not both. The other cory is still going strong.

I have a query about you advice on pH adjusters. If I can't adjust my pH, doesn't that ensure the decline of my fish?

And is it suggested I still treat my tap water pH before I add it to the aquarium?
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Old 04-30-2010, 02:22 AM   #23
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Ok, sorry it took me so long to get back here, it has been a busy week here.

First let me respond to Byron's post about the pH adjusters and test kits. I want to say thanks to Byron for picking up on that, I missed the part about the adjusters. (sorry, sometimes the longer threads are harder to keep up with all the details) Byron is correct in his info about them being bad news, and in all my yrs of fish keeping, I can count on 1 hand the number of situations that really required the use of those types of chemicals. There are easier, safer ways to adjust pH if really needed.

While corys are indeed sensitive to the chemicals, as Byron pointed out, the corys and all of the other fish are going to be even more sensitive to the changes in water chemistry happening in the tank where those chemicals are used.

If you were to run some experiments on your tanks/take water, testing them multiple times each day and track that for a few weeks, you would see there are fluctuations. There is no such thing as a perfectly stable aquarium, water chemistry is ever changing. When we add chemicals that mess with the buffering capabilities in the water, then begin to remove and add new water regularly, there are always going to be some fluctuations. Those alone are enough to harm the fish.

Tap water chemistry changes also, not just the "quality" of it, but the amounts of chemicals that are put into municipal water supplies to make water safe for human consumption, and weather changes causing the amount of minerals, heavy metals, and even fertilizers to change with the rainy/dry seasons. When you add to that with the pH buffering chemicals, essentially, long term, what you end up with in your tank is a mess that makes no sense to most people, and can be quite difficult to fix.

As for the test kits... thats another complicated thing to explain, but I will do my best. Each manufacturer of aquarium test kits holds a patent on their specific formulas for these kits, so no 2 are identical. Some are known to be more accurate than others based on testing I have done personally using digital meters, which are the most accurate results available at this point in time. I've had a great many yrs to do this testing with the majority of the most popular test kits found in the US. Some brand names read high, some read low, most are off to some degree.

The chemicals used in test kits also vary, even within a specific company/manufacturer. Test kits are produced in batches, so when you have a kit such as nitrate, where more than 1 chemical is used, each kit differs slightly from the one before it and the one after it from same manufacturer. Most of the cards used for reading them are also very difficult to determine an exact number, so it often depends on who is reading the results, under what lighting each time, etc. Even the time of day you do the testing will have an effect on results, so to track something you should always do the tests at the same time of day each time.

One common mistake made with test kits is that people mix the chemicals from old and new kits of the same kind, thinking they are saving money because 1 of the chemicals runs out faster than the other. This will usually result in erroneous results. The test kits, when they are made in batches, this applies also to the combination of chemicals that are in each kit. When they are formulated, it is done together at the same time, and then they are packaged together to ensure accurate concentrations stay together. So if you have ever done this, or considered it... remember to always throw out the entire kit and buy a new one when 1 of the chemicals is used up.

Now, as if this wasn't all complicated enough, when you begin adding pH buffering chemicals to the water and then run it through your test kits... you have to expect some margin for error as the chemicals react to each other. Some chemicals will show false positive results on test kits, while other chemicals may mask a problem by showing a false negative result (such as the test shows low nitrate but the actual amount is quite high).

In trying to keep this as easy to understand without going into a text book chemistry lesson, lets just say that to get completely accurate results you would have to use digital meters... liquid kits are 2nd best and a few of the specific manufacturers offer better quality kits than others. Top of the list for liquid kits is Sera, but their price tag is also the most expensive. Next to Sera, API comes in 2nd for accuracy while still being affordable.

Byron had a good idea with testing your tap water, so we know the difference between the 2. IF we find that your water does indeed need to be buffered, the safer, easier, and cheaper way to do this would be to mix it with RO or DI water until you have your desired range. You may find that just 1 gallon of RO water to 15 gallons of your tap water is just enough to put it in the right range, and its much easier to keep it stable and each bucket of clean water in the right range, without the need for any chemicals. This also avoids any bad reactions that the buffering chemicals may have to something else that is in the tap water, such as a specific heavy metal, and it avoids pH swings in between water changes, as happens with chemicals when they are used up/altered/broken down between changes. The RO/DI water will help to keep your water chemistry stable because it doesn't affect just the pH, but also GH, KH, and everything else you can think to test for. It helps to keep balance that a pH targeted chemical cannot.

As for whether or not to treat your tap water with anything before it goes into the aquarium, aside from water conditioner, we can't say until we know the difference between tap water and tank water.

Sorry if this sounds confusing, and even sorrier if I forgot anything. I wasn't prepared for a chemistry lesson tonight, lol, and have a lot of other things going on at once. I'm sure Byron can step in and help clarify anything you may need. I will get back to this thread as soon as I can, but will be away for at least part of this weekend, so please be patient.
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Old 04-30-2010, 10:49 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by shootingstar26 View Post
Thank you Byron. Although I just want to clarify that I lost one cory, not both. The other cory is still going strong.

I have a query about you advice on pH adjusters. If I can't adjust my pH, doesn't that ensure the decline of my fish?

And is it suggested I still treat my tap water pH before I add it to the aquarium?
Dawn (bettababy) has responded and explained things [thanks Dawn], so this is just a follow-up. As she mentioned and I earlier said, we need to know your tap water pH and hardness would help if there is going to be any need to adjust [more on this in a moment]. You may find this info from your water supply board, some have websites with water testing results, some will respond directly. Or you can take a sample to your fish store--if you do this, leave it sit out overnight as explained previously. Ask them to test the pH, the general hardness (GH) and the carbonate hardness (KH), and make sure they give you the actual numbers. "It is fine" or "it is slightly hard" tells us nothing, and again, if there is to be any adjusting up or down, we need to know these numbers to be able to offer the safest method.

As for adjusting, from the list of your present fish there is no need to be adjusting the pH if the tap water is in the mid-7's for pH. This is ideal for livebearers and shrimp. If your cory is tank raised it will probably manage; if wild that may be a bit troublesome, but as the cory is there now it is best to leave things alone until we know more.

If the tank pH is actually much higher than the tap, then something in the tank is causing this. However, the last test results have the tank pH at 7.8, so I still think we need to know the tap water numbers. But while waiting for those, we can explore this avenue. What type of gravel do you have? And is there any rock in the tank? Both of these can, if calcareous, work to raise hardness and pH.

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Old 04-30-2010, 10:21 PM   #25
Thank you both so much for you help. I appreciate the time you are taking to help me.

bettababy, thank you for your explanation on the dynamics of water testing. I am certainly enlightened by your information - I am currently going through organic chemistry classes, so you're fine with the chemistry. =P

Byron - I have what I believe is called "pea gravel." I actually recently added an extra 5lbs (recent = past 5 months; probably early january) The rocks was actually a point I was going to bring up. I also got two rocks, but I'm not sure if they're calcareous. Is there anyway I can tell, or somewhere with pictures? If it helps, I have posted pictures of my aquarium.

I will get my tap water tested and post results.
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Old 05-01-2010, 12:31 PM   #26
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On the gravel, was it aquarium gravel from a fish store, andif so, do you have the bag still? It will usually say on the bag somewhere that it will not affect pH/hardness or that it will, whichever. It is only the white gravel that concerns me a bit, sometimes this can be calcareous.

On the rocks, the white ones again might be. A test is to take them out of the tank, and put a drop of two of acid on the rock. If it fizzes at all, it is calcareous. Some people use vinegar but it is a weak acid that may not always be accurate. A better one is the acid in the Regent #2 of a nitrate test kit; this is a stronger acid, and a couple drops would probably be accurate.

Another thought is to remove the three rocks when you next do a partial water change, change 50-60% of the water then, and leave the rocks out for a week and monitor the pH daily. If it does not rise at all, or even drops a bit, then the rocks are the answer.

In my experience, rock works very slowly so the rise in pH would be small say during a week, unlike gravel which usually works faster so the rise is greater. When we have the tap water and tank water results we'll have a better grasp of things.


Last edited by Byron; 05-18-2010 at 12:53 PM.. Reason: correct spelling
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Old 05-02-2010, 12:05 AM   #27
I would like to add something, in case it is of any importance; today one (maybe two) of my amano shrimp died. The one I saw was really white in the aquarium, when I brought it out of the aquarium, it turned its normal shade. The reason why I say "maybe two" is because I swear I saw a shrimp tail that was fleshy - but I never saw a dead body, and there are pieces of shed, so I wasn't sure if it was a shed piece or a body eaten to the tail.

And sadly, after I posted my pictures, I had added a little buffer - but there were no directions on how to slowly rise pH - so I added a quarter of the recommended amount, and yet my molly died. I'm fairly certain I added too much and the pH shock killed it.

I will have results after a couple of days.
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Old 05-03-2010, 02:53 PM   #28
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Just a quick note on the rocks in your tank... the one with the stripes in it... that appears to be rainbow rock, and should not affect pH or calcium levels in a freshwater tank.

In regards to the pea gravel... if it is standard pea gravel such as is found at Menards, that also is not anything I would worry about. I have pea gravel in most of my freshwater tanks and have been using it for years. That also should not affect pH or calcium.

Hard to say about the shrimp... pH shock will kill shrimp even faster/easier than it will kill fish. Sorry to hear of your losses.
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Old 05-05-2010, 09:04 PM   #29
Thank you bettababy.

So I got my tap water tested...but I realized that the guy at PetCo used the paper tests. Not sure if I have to re-test the water (I'm guessing probably so.)

Nitrate: 0
Nitrite: 0
Hardness: 0 (The label says "Very soft" for the color it turned)
Chlorine: 0 (Wait. 0 chlorine in my tap water? Is this significant?)
Alkalinity: 180 ppm
pH: 8.4
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Old 05-06-2010, 12:04 PM   #30
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Assuming the test results are reasonably accurate, we now know your tap water is pH 8.4 with little hardness (hardness 0 with alkalinity 180) and the tank test was 7.8 so this to me seems normal. The pH in an aquarium will naturally slowly lower unless something (like calcareous rock) is countering this. Regular water changes work to keep this change minimal.

I would do the weekly partial water change using just the water conditioner, no pH adjusters whatsoever, and monitor pH. Test the tank before the water change, and each day following for the week, at approximately the same time every day; pH fluctuates each 24 hours, moreso in planted tanks, so testing the same time each day will give a more accurate indication for the week.

Let us know the results. We can decide if any adjustment is needed for the fish you intend to maintain.

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