High pH with low KH
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Old 03-04-2013, 04:48 AM   #1
aroo
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High pH with low KH


The reservoir serving my area has very soft water. The water company, according to its reports, modifies the water to come out of the treatment plant pH 9.3 and alkalinity of 40 mg/l. By the time the water comes out of my tap the pH has dropped to around 8.3, and both GH and KH are 2-3 degrees. The water in my tank tends to settle at pH of 7.8-8.0. (Neutral substrate, no wood, no CO2)

My eventual goal for the current tank is to keep softwater fish, like tetras, which prefer a pH in the 6-7 range.

I'm trying to figure out what to do with my current water conditions, or if indeed I should bother to do anything. If I were to cater to the preferences of the fish I want, I need to drop the pH. However, most methods I know to drop pH involve dropping the KH. Since the hardness is already under 3, I'm not comfortable with dropping it even more. I don't want to trigger pH swings by removing the little buffering capacity the water currently has.

LFS staff didn't really have any advice beyond noting that the local bottled water has a pH of around 6.5. Uh, no. I'm not doing water changes with bottled water. If it comes to that, I'll keep endlers and danios instead of tetras.

I'd rather not get into chemical buffers if I can avoid it. I'm not confident I can keep the water parameters stable. Should I leave well enough alone and figure the tetras will deal with the pH as long as the water stays soft? Drop in oak leaves or something acidic like that? Cultivate a love for livebearers instead of tetras?
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:41 AM   #2
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Default Re: High pH with low KH

Is adding a co2 setup off the table?

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Old 03-04-2013, 05:55 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aroo View Post
The reservoir serving my area has very soft water. The water company, according to its reports, modifies the water to come out of the treatment plant pH 9.3 and alkalinity of 40 mg/l. By the time the water comes out of my tap the pH has dropped to around 8.3, and both GH and KH are 2-3 degrees. The water in my tank tends to settle at pH of 7.8-8.0. (Neutral substrate, no wood, no CO2)

My eventual goal for the current tank is to keep softwater fish, like tetras, which prefer a pH in the 6-7 range.

I'm trying to figure out what to do with my current water conditions, or if indeed I should bother to do anything. If I were to cater to the preferences of the fish I want, I need to drop the pH. However, most methods I know to drop pH involve dropping the KH. Since the hardness is already under 3, I'm not comfortable with dropping it even more. I don't want to trigger pH swings by removing the little buffering capacity the water currently has.

LFS staff didn't really have any advice beyond noting that the local bottled water has a pH of around 6.5. Uh, no. I'm not doing water changes with bottled water. If it comes to that, I'll keep endlers and danios instead of tetras.

I'd rather not get into chemical buffers if I can avoid it. I'm not confident I can keep the water parameters stable. Should I leave well enough alone and figure the tetras will deal with the pH as long as the water stays soft? Drop in oak leaves or something acidic like that? Cultivate a love for livebearers instead of tetras?
Hi aroo,

Do a little search here at TPT on high CEC substrates like Montmorillonite clays such as Safe-T-Sorb #7941.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:13 AM   #4
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pH has nothing to do with the water hardness. It just tells you what the water behaves like in a chemical reaction.

Dose CO2 or use blackwater extract to tone it down.
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Old 03-04-2013, 11:13 AM   #5
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pH has less to do with the quantity of acids/bases in water, than the relative balance between the two. A single drop of vinegar in a gallon of pure distilled water will make it measurably acidic, because there are no bases to balance it. Yet the same drop will have no measurable effect in tapwater. And tapwater, with even 0.1KH and no acid content, will be very high in pH. There are numerous other nuances too.

Fish care more about the softness/hardness/TDS of water than pH. pH recommendations for specific fish are commonly made because it's simpler to state and test, than go into all the factors that influence pH.

You already have nice water for tetras. Addition of CO2, oak leaves, etc. will make it a little nicer, but isn't necessary. I'd recommend against using strong chemical buffers, too easy to go wrong for such a small benefit.
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Old 03-04-2013, 05:41 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by DarkCobra View Post

Fish care more about the softness/hardness/TDS of water than pH. pH recommendations for specific fish are commonly made because it's simpler to state and test, than go into all the factors that influence pH.

You already have nice water for tetras. Addition of CO2, oak leaves, etc. will make it a little nicer, but isn't necessary. I'd recommend against using strong chemical buffers, too easy to go wrong for such a small benefit.
I completely agree. When fish are said to prefer soft/hard water GH is the major factor refereed to not PH alone.
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Old 03-05-2013, 02:31 PM   #7
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Quote:
Is adding a co2 setup off the table?
It's not off the table, but it's not my first choice either. It's one more piece of equipment to maintain.

Quote:
Do a little search here at TPT on high CEC substrates like Montmorillonite clays such as Safe-T-Sorb #7941.
Interesting. I hadn't known they tend to drop the pH. I'll file that nugget away. My familiarity with this kind of product comes from looking into Turface as a potting soil additive years ago. At that time the wisdom on Turface was that it had fantastic CEC properties, but it tended to break down over time. That prejudice has stuck with me to the present. At any rate, breaking down the tank to replace the substrate is not a project I want to embark upon at present. Maybe with the next tank.

Quote:
pH has less to do with the quantity of acids/bases in water, than the relative balance between the two. A single drop of vinegar in a gallon of pure distilled water will make it measurably acidic, because there are no bases to balance it. Yet the same drop will have no measurable effect in tapwater. And tapwater, with even 0.1KH and no acid content, will be very high in pH. There are numerous other nuances too.

Fish care more about the softness/hardness/TDS of water than pH. pH recommendations for specific fish are commonly made because it's simpler to state and test, than go into all the factors that influence pH.

You already have nice water for tetras. Addition of CO2, oak leaves, etc. will make it a little nicer, but isn't necessary. I'd recommend against using strong chemical buffers, too easy to go wrong for such a small benefit.
You've talked me off the ledge! You've explained why the low GH/KH levels kept niggling at me. Plus, leaving well enough alone is always easiest and cheapest. Extra bonus!

Thanks everyone for the insights.
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Old 03-05-2013, 03:09 PM   #8
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Initial tap water is
pH 8.8 - 9.0
Conductivity 19 - 22 mS/m
Total Hardness 51 - 65
mg CaCO3/L
Calcium Hardness 33 - 46 mg CaCO3/L
Alkalinity 35 - 46 mg CaCO3/L
TDS 94 - 136

I have four trial tanks with amazonian or blackwater species.

1 tank with Seachem neutral reg - 7.2, little alga, fish spawning.

1 tank R/W with leaf and humus 6.2. little alga, fish spawning.

1 tank with nothing 7.8 little alga fish OK but no spawning.

1 R/O tank with nothing 7.8 little alga fish OK but no spawning.
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Old 03-06-2013, 05:39 AM   #9
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While the most important parameters for fish are the GH and TDS, pH is not to be ignored. There are specific ranges of all the things we test that are optimum for the fish. Fish that 'like low pH' also thrive in very soft water, very low GH, KH and TDS. In nature these parameters are almost always found together.

My local water company adds sodium hydroxide to the water and this makes the pH out of my tap test in the upper 7s to low 8s. GH and KH tend to hover at 4-5 German degrees of hardness. TDS is in the upper 200s.
I have Soil Master Select in many tanks. Not available any more. I am using Safe-T-Sorb in new tanks.
These materials remove the carbonates in the water.
They have a high cationic exchange capacity. I think, but do not know for sure, that this is removing enough of the sodium hydroxide so the pH is free to 'do something'.
When I then run peat moss in the filters of these tanks the pH drops, to the bottom of the test. If I run coral sand in the filters the Safe-T-Sorb keeps on removing the carbonates, so the pH may hover around neutral. I just have a little bit of coral sand in that tank's filter.

My point is that I think you should try one of those clay based products.
I just picked up several bags, 40 lb, at Tractor Supply for 4.99 each. One bag was enough to do a tank 5' long x 16", but barely 2" deep. Now that I have more, I am going to make it a bit deeper in there.

You could run a test in several buckets:
Run some tap water in the first, and test it daily for 2-3 days. Any changes?
Set up a bucket with a cup or two of one of the Montmorillonite clays, also called Fullers Earth and a few gallons of water. Stir this as often as you can, and test once a day.
Set up another bucket with peat moss, a cup or two and a few gallons of water. Stir often and test daily.
Make one more bucket: 1 cup each Montmorillonite clay and 1 cup peat moss in one gallon of water. Again, stir often and test daily.

Figure out which works for you.
Here is how I do it:
Set up water for water changes ahead of time.
Put a knee-hi stocking of peat moss in a garbage can of water (20 - 44 gallons, I have several garbage cans). Run a fountain pump overnight. Add dechlor.
Do water changes with the prepared water. TDS of the water in the tanks and the new water are similar enough that even when the other parameters vary some (not a lot) the fish are OK.
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