Planted Tank Guru
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Contra Costa CA
What are the test results for the tap water (or whatever water source you have used to fill the tank?)
GH, KH, pH, ammonia, NO2, NO3, and any other tests you have.
You can look up some of these if you have a water company (not a private well) by looking up their water quality report.
.5ppm ammonia is terrible. I would do an immediate 50% water change, and use a dechlor that locks up ammonia.
ANY ammonia suggests the nitrogen cycle bacteria are not fully grown. It is highly toxic to the fish.
Then, run, do not walk, to the nearest store that carries a product including Nitrospira species of bacteria. Dr. Tim's One and Only is one, Tetra Safe Start is another. Read the label and do not waste money on anything that is not labeled Nitrospira. These are the species that the tank needs to be able to handle the ammonia and nitrite.
Can you research the PAR level of the lights? This is the photosynthetically active radiation, and needs to be high enough at the level where the leaves are to make sure the plants are growing well. Several of your plants are fast enough growing that if they are thriving they ought to be able to remove the ammonia produced by a small number of fish.
pH is not a stand alone value. Minerals and other things in the water control the pH.
Carbonates (measured with the KH test) are one of the more important buffers that control the pH. When the KH is high, the pH tends to be high, and is difficult to change.
If the KH is low then the pH may be controlled by something else. It might be high or low. It is probably going to be easier to change.
Certain rocks and gravel can add carbonates and other minerals to the water, and raise the pH.
To control the pH you need to control the carbonates. First step to controlling them is knowing what levels you are dealing with.
It is often easier to keep fish that like your water rather than trying to change the pH.