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pH slowry Rising for unknown reason

1628 Views 9 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Poleren
Hello! I'm new to fishkeeping, had fish a long long time ago but everything is new to me again. My tank is a 4 gallon that has been up for about 6 weeks. Cycled it without fish, added 2 guppies and two shrimp two weeks ago. Ammonia and Nitrates are 0 and have been since before adding fish, and the Nitrates are less than 5. There are several plants, and a piece of Mopani driftwood (all added second week). My question is about pH which has been slowly rising for the last 10 days. It was a constant 7.4 until recently, and all I added about that time is a very small heater of7.5W to raise it a bit from the 70-72 we had in the house on cooler days. I also had a bag of aquarium charcoal in the back to absorb some of the tannin color, then took it out for a short time when I put the heater in. Then the water got darker and I put the charcoal back in (the filter compartment).

So my first question is, even with the tannin from the driftwood and plants in, my pH is rising to what is now 8.0-8.2 as of this morning. What could be causing this?

I have been using tap water with conditioner that I treat and pour into clean gallon jugs to use when needed. (doing two small water changes of about 10% twice a week). I also just discovered after testing my tap for ammonia, that it contains a.25 or more. So I don't think I should use tap water any more! I have a couple gallons of "purified" water that is marked for use in nurseries for babies.

Second question is what would be the best water change water to use? I've read so far to mix tap, or use spring water. What is the consensus on this?

Thanks for listening!
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Unfortunately you have not said what the pH of the water you are using for changes. Test it after it has stood for 24hrs to get a true reading. The ammonia reading for your tap water could well be a false reading, the colours on most test kits are very hard to distinguish.

I suspect your pH is creeping up as you are removing the tannins from the water with the carbon. Tannins soften water which tends to lead to a drop in pH.
Purified water isn't best for fish, stick to your tap. As far as the pH, RSVBiffer is correct, it needs to stand for 24 hours for a correct reading and the tannins make the water softer, not the driftwood itself.
purified water has as much as is possible to remove from the water (based on the process)
Reverse osmosis water has pretty much everything removed.

sounds good so far right ?

it has no minerals, it is completely sterile, it has nothing that can be of use to anything in your tank.
kinda like breathing pure O2 (you would die of asphyxiation as your lungs dried out)
similar to excessivly purified water.

Tannis/tanin (often from wood) will lower pH. i don't know what it tends to try to push for (before other buffers in the water reach a mutual balance) i have looked to find what the pH is of tanic acid, ... i am still at a loss, i gave up, ... but it is known for lowering pH ... good for certain fish.

many minerals that are present in water will have their own preferences on desirable pH (calcium wants to make the water about 8.4 i think.

chemistry here is ... enough to give you headaches :(

a high pH phosphate will try to bond with calcium in the water, removing phosphate (which is usually limited to begin with) and leaving enough calcium to still want to keep the pH high

life is a struggle isn't it :(

mineral water 'should' be good, ... i am no expert at all on water, ... i should look into that actually.

all i have seen for 'healthy' water purifiers amount to purifying the water, then adding their own intended minerals to the mix, (looking at redox here - another chemistry thing :( ... based on human health, ... all of our anti-oxidant hype and propganda are related to this.

they have found (for humans) that a natural pH that is slightly higher than 7 (i don't know what the goal is, 8.4 sounds like the magic number - although it's more of a range) to bring the body to a state of the right oxidizing potential & resistance balance for our health.

now putting 'human health' aside (we don't live in our tanks)

our fish have their own desired pH range they want for their health. the idea is the same though, and there is enough general knowledge around for each fish species out there to know what the optimal range is

it's also known that stability is more important than a set pH number, as finding your tank at 8.0 when your fish are happiest at 6.7, ... and suddenly changing the tank to 6.7, ... well you'll induce shock to your fish at a sudden change where the fish (while not happiest) have adapted to your current pH, ... so long as it's stable.


as for what kind of water to use. the topic at hand.

the million dollar question.
i'm a little paranoid, not good. and i worry about heavy metals. and other toxic levels.
aluminum isn't healthy but i have red plants can benefit from some aluminum present as it bonds with heavy metals. (higher levels it's just toxic)
copper is another good one, in low concentrations, higher concentrations it's just toxic
lead, pretty sure it's toxic at all levels
uranium well we know this isn't good for anything ... and yet average human elemental compossition estimates we may have a few atoms of these in our bodies, largly undetectablely low levels, but i red somewhere it can be expected to be present (if only a few atoms)

these are all minerals that may be present in water, "MAY" not "IS" and while what comes to mind as 'well water' may be perfect as it's high in all the micro-nutrients and minerals to help things out, it's also completely uncontrolled.

mineral water is (i am assuming here) what is bought from a store, ... either collected from a stream and filtered for water clarity & sediment, ... or purified water that is then mineralized with whatever the company decided was appropriate.

(don't you like our aquariums, no end to what to learn and how far you can go in learning, ... yes, that headache again :( it's not simple damn it :(

back to that human healthy water

great for fish that want a high pH

otherwise i can only think of this as a place to start and is something you can own to purify your own water.

it's a place to start if you want to get paranoid and tinker with your water too much.

otherwise, you can go simple.

-the more expensive side (buy mineral(ized) water from the store - make sure without flouride, that's a toxic marketing blunder too much of the public believes is good for your health
-or the cheaper tap water (there is usually enough additives to the water to reduce lead & copper from being present - this is intentional as it's cheaper to add these things to the water to reduce lead and copper from eroding/corroding from the city water piping infrastructure to ensure they last longer (repairs can be expensive)

while i don't know for certain, ... my guess is these additives amount to phophates and such things that are not inherantly toxic and could be more on the beneficial side of things.

the additives taht are toxic are usually intentional ... call your municipal water company and inquire on chlorine/chloramine/flouride additives (and you can take appropriate measures if your concerned.

on the whole, ... thousands of fish keepers use tap water from all kinds of areas with all kinds of treatment options and for the most part their tanks do rather well


so ...

depends on your level of paranoia
depends how much you want to spend
depends on what your fish preferences are.

above all, regardless, ... stable is always better as things drastically different from your tap water can cause fluctuations with your tank water

again that's the more paranoid side, ... your tank water will more likely have it's own dissolved solids and natural buffers in place to keep your water parameters stable with all but the hardest tap water you would be using.
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Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! This water source/quality issue really is the million dollar question! And yes, I'm paranoid about the water quality.

The driftwood tannins lowering pH I have read about, that's why I am surprised that the pH is going up. The charcoal was not in the tank during the time it went up. First I thought the charcoal was keeping the pH down.

You're right, I didn't include what I measured. After letting my tap water sit 24hrs, it measures 8.0. or as close as I can tell because as you say those color cards are hard to read. (Different topic altogether.) But definitely more than the 7.4 I had for the 4 weeks before adding fish and starting water changes. My next thought was, I originally set up the tank with half purified water and half tap water. So slowly doing water changes with conditioned tap water could have diluted and raised the pH. But scratch that too. The conditioned tap water I keep in the jugs, after sitting for several days to a week or more, reads 7.4! So water changes are not the culprit either, if my thinking is right.

Additional info: the purified water I used 50/50 with my tap says on the jug: "Source, public water supply in nearby city. Purified using reverse osmosis or distillation and enhanced with a balance of minerals for taste. Contains purified water, calcium chloride, sodium bicorbonate (wth), magnesium sulfate."

My city's last water last (2012) water quality report online says, copper .47 ppm, Chlorine Dioxide 743 ppb, hardness 127-200 ppm or 7.4-11.7 grains/gal. Alkalinity 111-117 ppm, pH 7.93-8.34 at whatever water treatment plant they checked. And as I added originally, I'm also measuring ammonia at least .25.

So what does all that mean? First, Is the tap water safe enough with the water conditioner drops? Does the water conditioner (Tetra safe start plus) I use remove the copper and the chlorine, as well as lower the pH?? I failed chemistry so I'm not too good at this. ;-(

I'm hesitant to use the tap water because of the above, including the copper since I have 2 shrimp along with the two guppies. I understand the consistency is most important. And I am trying to keep it stable, hence the concern about the pH continuing to rise. From what I read, comfort range for guppies is 6.8-7.6, and shrimp 6.5-8. Bottom line my tank pH water is ok. I'm just trying to understand the rise and keep it from getting too high.

Thank you!
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if your tap water includes chlorine, letting it sit (and preferably agitated - bubbler) will greatly remove the chlorine

if your tap water include chloromine, ... sucks to be you, you're using chemicals to neutralize it.

if your tap water include fluoride, ... i wouldn't use it ever.

(if you have payed any attention to beaslbob)
-a highly organic substrate (entirely peat moss) WILL raise your pH as it releases nutrients into the water column, not changing your water appears to have the same effect.

i'm not saying this is the case, ... just coincidence that once you added fish & their poop (organics) the breakdown could be releasing nutrients into the water column and raising your pH

now the confusion, ... you're changing your water, so i don't think this is the case at all :(

almost nothing you add to a tank will ever remove anything, your best bet is what you are adding to your tank will neutralize toxins you don't want


whatever is going on in your tank is beyond ideas i have, unless the tap water you are adding is hard enough to have an effect on the tank water, ... and as it evaporates the minerals will increase in concentration, ... and calcium loves a high pH, ...

i'm looking at simple explanations, ... not necessarily plausible ones, ... as after that i'm guessing like you are, looking for the needle in the hay-stack, and finding nothing :(
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What kind of substrate are you using?? I was using black gravel that was discoloring and raising my ph.
Whatever the ph of your tapwater is after sitting for a few hours should be your goal for the tank. That way when you do watetchanges you won't shock your system and you won't have to doctor your tapwater to match the tank.
I think you should go a bit bigger for your water changes. 25-50% once per week or so. Just my opinion because your tank is only 4 gallons. Don't get me wrong, small tanks are nice, but they do need a bit more to stay healthy.
Good luck!
Thank you Jay and skylight, you bring up great points. I don't mind the challenge of the small tank. I'm enjoying the learning experience. Yes I have some black gravel, the rest is natural pea gravel. Once my baby shrimp are out of danger of being vacuumed up, I will attempt to make a change to that scenario. Second, I am experimenting my with my tap water under different conditions, testing after sitting 3 hours (8.0), testing after adding conditioner, testing after sitting 24 hrs., testing after mixing 50/50 with spring or purified water. The bigger issue than high pH I have discovered, is it has a lot of ammonia. As in 1 on the scale. Which is terrible because that didn't go away after treating with Tetra aqua safe plus. Looking more and more like my tap water is unsafe to use for water changes. I plan to hit the small LFS in my city that specialize in fish to see what they advise. Should be interesting. :shock:
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If you are cycling your tank much of your water parameters will fluctuate which might be causing your high pH. Considering that you have guppies if the pH gets higher than 8.5ish then I would worry. But I doubt that would happen.
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