Concerns/questions about rising pH
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Old 11-24-2012, 01:28 AM   #1
Snailetta
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Concerns/questions about rising pH


I have well water and high pH. Out of the tap it used to be around 8.2. I mix the tap water with about 25% distilled and it kept the tank reading fairly consistent at 8.0. Since I only have diffusa/mystery snails and red cherry shrimp, I was never concerned about lowering it any further and they seemed fine. Until lately.

About a month ago I purchased some more young adult mystery snails. A few of them are not adjusting very well to my water. The biggest one floats and slimes constantly. My original snails seem fine, except for one that hangs near the top and siphons air all the time now. I started looking at my pH again. It's now about 8.4 in the tank. Out of the tap it's around 7.8. How can this happen? I know tap water can fluctuate, but why would it be higher in the tank now? Especially since I'm mixing it with distilled water..?

Other parameters: Ammonia and nitrite are both 0, nitrate is 20. I've never tested the KH (should I start?) Copper tested 0. I also have mopani in the tank and gravel substrate. Heavily planted with crypts and anubias mostly. No CO2.

I'm trying to understand pH better and hopefully save my snails, if that is the problem. What factors will cause it to rise in the tank? How about fertilizer? I use Flourish Tabs and Flourish liquid (not Excel). Can the tabs start leeching out of the substrate and affect pH? How can I safely lower the pH just a tad and keep it there? Should I increase the distilled mix to 50/50? Anything else?


ETA: Would calcium tablets affect pH? I feed the snails a lot of Caltrate. When they poop it out it sinks into the gravel and stays there. It's heavy and doesn't suck up well in the gravel vacuum.

Last edited by Snailetta; 11-24-2012 at 01:47 AM.. Reason: added something
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Old 11-24-2012, 03:02 AM   #2
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Calcium (probably in the form of calcium carbonate?) would cause the pH to rise. Other things (substrate, rocks, decor, etc) could be leeching out to cause your pH to rise as well.

Another factor to consider is that while your tap water might be 8.2 straight out of the tap, there is some dissolved CO2 in it, which would slightly lower the pH. If you let the CO2 off gas (just let the water sit for a day), you would probably see the pH go up slightly.

As for decreasing the pH slightly, you can try mixing in a bit more RO/DI water.
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Old 11-24-2012, 03:29 PM   #3
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Thanks, I'll increase the distilled water. I did have Petoskey stones in the tank which are made of calcite, I believe. I don't know if they were the culprit but I took them out. No other decor except for the mopani now. Maybe it is all the Caltrate. I serve it on a reptile dish now instead of laying it on the gravel. Less mess now, but they still poop it out all over the tank. It's almost like sand when pooped out and does not suck up at all. I wish I understood the chemistry better.
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Old 11-25-2012, 05:44 PM   #4
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I certainly would start checking the GH and KH.
TDS, too.

Here is why:

Water that passes through the ground dissolves whatever rock is there. If the rock is high in limestone or related materials then the rock dissolves quite easily and these minerals show up in the water.
Calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate are the most common minerals in limestone and related materials.
Calcium and magnesium are measured by the GH test.
Carbonates and bicarbonates are measured by the KH test.
Any other minerals would show up using the TDS meter. This is Total Dissolved Solids.

Carbonates are the most common buffer of pH in the aquarium. When the KH is high then the pH tends to be high, and does not change easily. If the KH changes, then the pH can change. I think this is what is going on in your tank.

Caltrate is calcium carbonate. So you are adding calcium and carbonates to the tank with every pill. The GH test would show if the Ca is rising. The KH test would show that the KH is rising. Rising KH = rising pH (almost always).

Hard water (high in GH or KH or both) is good for snails, up to a point. You can go to the apple snail web site and get the optimum levels for them.
Blending your well water with distilled (or reverse osmosis) water is a good way to keep the GH, KH, pH and TDS exactly where the snails like it, even when the well water may vary. This means you will need to test every time.

As you add fertilizer or anything else (caltrate, snail food) to the aquarium the TDS is rising. Doing water changes is the only way to drop this. Some people use the TDS as a way of knowing when to do water changes. Allow the TDS to build up slowly then do a water change.
Top off the tank with distilled or RO water so you are not adding more minerals to the tank.
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Old 11-25-2012, 06:04 PM   #5
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This is great Diana, thank you. I'm definitely going to copy this info into my aquarium notes. Good to know the distilled water mix is the right thing to do. I do mini water changes daily (1/2 to 1 gal. nightly when I siphon waste) and 50% once a week. I probably overfeed so I'm trying to cut back a bit. Maybe the snails don't need the Caltrate every night. Will start testing for GH, KH and TDS as well.
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