Heavy metals in aquarium? Best way to remove? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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Heavy metals in aquarium? Best way to remove?

Hi! I'm new to planted tanks and what got me into it was the idea of turning this small 5 gallon bowl into a paradise for snails and red cherry shrimp. However, I mistakenly have introduced a lot of heavy metals into the water. I wanted to decorate my bowl with lots of rough stones (mostly quartz's and jade) but I stupidly added some chunks of pyrite. The tank has been going with just plants and snails for about 3 weeks now and a friend pointed out to me that I should remove the pyrite because it would leech heavy metals into my water. Even after a water change, when I did some test strips the GH was 180, way too high for me to even consider adding RCH. I've been looking up ways to safely reduce the heavy metals in the bowl, but everything I've read is about removing them from the tap water before adding it in, which I already do with a water conditioner. Will the metals slowly be removed over time as I do more and more water changes? Or do I have to drain my whole tank and start over? I want to avoid doing that as the bowl has been cycled and the plants look like they are starting to establish a good root system and grow new leaves. Plus my nitrate and nitrite levels have remained safe and stable.

On a side note, the pH of my water is also very high, both probably from the extra metals but it comes out around 7.8 from my tap. I had an air rock bubbler going until I read that adding oxygen ups pH, so that's been turned off. Should I be adding CO2 if the pH is that high? or should I just stick to adding pH down to my tap water that I treat for changes?

Thanks for any help! Sorry if the answers to these questions are obvious but I'm so excited to add shrimp but I want to make sure i'm putting them into the best and safest environment I can provide!
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 03:47 PM
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You can do a 100% water change and not harm your beneficial bacteria / cycle. Very little of the bacteria is in the water column itself - it's mostly all attached to surfaces of glass, gravel, plant, decoration and filter media.


Edit: and 3 weeks isn't a long time. A water change or two should clear you up.

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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 04:00 PM
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What they said. I'd just do big water change and test again after it's settled out. I've never heard of air bubbler raising pH. Co2 will lower it, but water change should be good for you.

If youre running plants make sure your water has some buffering capacity. Otherwise in day when they're photosynthesizing AND respiring, the pH will rise. At night, when PS stops, and they are only respiring, the pH will swing down. If you don't have the buffering capacity in the water, that is

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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you both @kaldurak and @adkaquascaping ! I'll do a full water change then and for buffering capacity, I don't think I've added in anything to manage for that specifically with my plants. Is there anything you recommend for that specifically?

https://www.algone.com/adjust-ph-aquarium was where I read that decreasing aeration lowers pH, so I assumed that if I turned off the bubbler that I would help lower the pH. If that's not the case I'd be overjoyed since I was really loving having the sound of a column of bubbles floating though the bowl
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 05:10 PM
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I can't comment on buffering the water, I use inert sand and tap water and my pH is super low from co2 and Indian almond leaves.

I havent tested my gh/kh for a bit. Probably should, but my Cherries and Chilis are happy.

I change water 2x per week with EI dry fert dosing.

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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 05:12 PM
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I would ignore your pH, leave it at whatever it naturally settles at. However, it is worth checking your GH/KH just to check they are ok for shrimp moulting. Your water company may have a report that lists them or a local fish shop can usually do a test for you if you don't have a test yourself.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 05:19 PM
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If you have the GH/gh in water sufficient for shrimp you'll be fine. The kh specifically.

We have super soft water. Like 1/0 gh/kh. Have to use buffers like seachem alkaline/acid buffers to maintain a range. And keep things alive.

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
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@tamsin

That's a really good idea! I was able to find a sheet of my city's drinking water chemical analysis and the last recorded avrage GH was 154. I think that means for sure the high GH that was in my tank last time I tested was from having the pyrite in there for sure and that the hardness of my tap isn't something I should worry about too much? I don't think they have the KH available but when I tested it with the last strip I had in my home aquarium test kit, the color the KH spot turned was something that fell into the "ideal" color range, but once I buy more test strips I'll for sure test it again.

I've watch videos about how chasing pH is more harmful for the fish, and if you agree a pH of 7.8 is okay for cherries then I'll leave it alone, but I'm still a bit nervous it's too high.

@kaldurak

I'm getting a piece of driftwood in a few days and I think that might be enough of a buffer? I had to order it in the mail though, my petco never has any in stock. I was doing once a week ,water changes but I'll switch to two a week if that's what's working for you. I do 50% of the water when I change. I think I need to change my fertilizer, I read that flourish is better than leaf zone since it has potassium and I'm noticing tiny holes on some of my leaves which I think is from lack of potassium?

Again thank you all so much, I honestly was such a dunce about water chemistry, but since starting this aquarium I feel like I'm understanding things a lot better than when I had to learn about it in school.
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 06:09 PM
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Pyrite won't dissolve in the water. It is iron sulfide - most sulfides are very insoluble. The higher GH reading could just be the difference between when the city tested and when you did.

FYI too - "heavy metals" generally means things like lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium. The GH test shows the total amount of calcium, magnesium, and iron dissolved in the water - so heavy metals won't show up in a GH test.

More directly - you're on the right track, but you can fret less about most of the water chemistry. Especially if you get the RCS locally, they should be adapted to local tap water already.

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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 07:21 PM
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Your friend is right and Kevin C is totally wrong on this, get that pyrite out of there. Insoluble != inert.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_mine_drainage

Quote:
The chemistry of oxidation of pyrites, the production of ferrous ions and subsequently ferric ions, is very complex, and this complexity has considerably inhibited the design of effective treatment options.[6]

Although a host of chemical processes contribute to acid mine drainage, pyrite oxidation is by far the greatest contributor.
The sulfide oxidizes into sulfate (sulfuric acid) and it often does contain heavy metals, the lowered ph from sulfuric acid can make the heavy metals take their free ionic form.

I personally don't think you need to be worrying about your airstone raising ph or adding co2 or ph down at all, and for this purpose would advise against it. At least for RCS...
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Last edited by Wobblebonk; 07-27-2018 at 07:57 PM. Reason: ph questions?
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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-27-2018, 09:05 PM
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Sounds like your GH about right for cherries. Definitely don't fret on the pH, mine fluxates between around 7.7 and 8.3 depending on where in the light cycle it is (drops overnight due to the plants producing CO2) and the shrimp breed fine. It's low tech with no added CO2.

If you can get shrimps locally that's best as they'll be living in the same conditions. If not have a read on how to drip acclimate them.

Removing the rock and changing the water should remove anything. If you are worried you could also add a piece of polyfilter: Poly-Filter - Arcadia Aquatic and if you are still nervous about adding shrimp, you could also test with daphnia (live fish food) once you've cleaned in up. If they survive it's fine.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-30-2018, 05:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wobblebonk View Post
Your friend is right and Kevin C is totally wrong on this, get that pyrite out of there. Insoluble != inert.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_mine_drainage



The sulfide oxidizes into sulfate (sulfuric acid) and it often does contain heavy metals, the lowered ph from sulfuric acid can make the heavy metals take their free ionic form.

I personally don't think you need to be worrying about your airstone raising ph or adding co2 or ph down at all, and for this purpose would advise against it. At least for RCS...
My mistake - I was only considering solubility, not reactivity. I doubt that it occurs quickly (assuming a large crystal, not fine powder), but not worth risking.

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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-30-2018, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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@tamsin

Thanks for all your advice! I did a full water change and got some new fertilizer for my plants and got some more test strips. My Ph seems to have settled at 7.5 after the change and my GH is down to 120. They've got three little cherries at my local petsore and I'm tempted to bring them home, but I might end up waiting a few days. I'd try the daphnia but I don't think they carry them as a live fish food. But yeah! I think things are shaping up much better and I'm so happy! Again thank you so much to everyone who helped out!
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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-30-2018, 05:47 PM
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I don't know if it's quite the same near you but near me the lady I do the most fish / shrimp trades with sells cherries better than the LFS for waaaay less (I don't need cherries I have hundreds of my own) but it may be worth it to try to find a local "breeder" (afaik she doesn't cull them really, but started with good stock) vs what are likely to be imported shrimp from the LFS. My LFS may be particularly expensive though fluval 3.0s are "on sale" there for like 50$ more than msrp.

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Originally Posted by KevinC View Post
My mistake - I was only considering solubility, not reactivity. I doubt that it occurs quickly (assuming a large crystal, not fine powder), but not worth risking.
You're probably right that it's not that quick but it doesn't take much to mess up the parameters in a 5g tank.

Last edited by Wobblebonk; 07-30-2018 at 06:21 PM. Reason: quote and stuff
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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 07-31-2018, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wobblebonk View Post
I don't know if it's quite the same near you but near me the lady I do the most fish / shrimp trades with sells cherries better than the LFS for waaaay less (I don't need cherries I have hundreds of my own) but it may be worth it to try to find a local "breeder" (afaik she doesn't cull them really, but started with good stock) vs what are likely to be imported shrimp from the LFS. My LFS may be particularly expensive though fluval 3.0s are "on sale" there for like 50$ more than msrp.

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Originally Posted by KevinC View Post
My mistake - I was only considering solubility, not reactivity. I doubt that it occurs quickly (assuming a large crystal, not fine powder), but not worth risking.
You're probably right that it's not that quick but it doesn't take much to mess up the parameters in a 5g tank.

Agreed! Always check craigslist for local breeders!

My local guy sells cherries at or around $1 each and they are higher quality than the local fish store at $4 apiece.

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