High pH/Low KH Tap Water - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 07-31-2019, 04:39 PM Thread Starter
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Question High pH/Low KH Tap Water

Inexperienced tank owner here, mainly just looking for some feedback on my current plan to deal with high pH/low KH tap water:

My tank just finished cycling a few days ago and the pH has normalized at 6.6, so plenty suitable for the tetras I am planning on adding. It also has super low KH levels (between 0-50 ppm; API test kit turns on the very first drop) and although I realize tetras like a low KH, I would like to raise it between the 50-100 ppm level.

The issue is that my tap water comes out at around a pH of 8.4, and also has a low KH (2-3 drops with the API test kit). I've done a few 50% water changes and the tank pH rises drastically at first and then the levels always normalize back to a pH of 6.6 - 6.8 overnight. I'm about to add my first fish, and I am worried about shocking the fish with a drastic pH change after any water changes.

My plan is to do twice weekly 30%~ water changes and balance the tap water to around a 6.8 pH using combination of Seachem Acid Buffer and Alkaline Buffer before adding it to the tank. I am hoping this will reduce any pH shock for the fish and also hopefully raise my tank KH a bit in the long-run so there is less of a chance of pH fluctuations.

Does this sound like a reasonable plan moving forward?

Would really appreciate any feedback/advice!

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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-01-2019, 02:40 AM
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You were right to stop and think, yes this would cause great stress to your fish. But there is a simple solution that will most likely work for you.
Prepare your water one day in advance. Add an air stone in and run it overnight or 24hrs before water change. Check PH again. I would expect to see it drop a whole point or more. Making the water change much safer.
My honest advice as far as alkaline buffers etc etc, as much as you possibly can, stay away from additives to control PH. They are a band aid for a bigger issue.
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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 02:21 PM Thread Starter
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You were right to stop and think, yes this would cause great stress to your fish. But there is a simple solution that will most likely work for you.
Prepare your water one day in advance. Add an air stone in and run it overnight or 24hrs before water change. Check PH again. I would expect to see it drop a whole point or more. Making the water change much safer.
My honest advice as far as alkaline buffers etc etc, as much as you possibly can, stay away from additives to control PH. They are a band aid for a bigger issue.
I'll give your air stone idea a try as I'd definitely prefer to avoid having to use chemicals if I can. I had actually previously tried letting water sit out overnight to see if the pH would drop but it only fell from 8.4 to 8.2.

Hopefully the air stone will be the missing element I needed. Will update in a couple days.

Thanks for your help!

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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 02:26 PM
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What's causing the PH reduction in the tank?
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 02:40 PM
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What's causing the PH reduction in the tank?

Ya I am curious what is lowering your PH and dKH. Are you running peat or something?
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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:02 PM Thread Starter
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What's causing the pH reduction in the tank?
To be honest I'm not 100% sure and would definitely appreciate any input. Here's my thought process and working theory thus far though:

Originally the pH was stabilizing at 6.6-6.8 while the tank was cycling and nitrites were spiking at 5.0 ppm+. I read that the nitrite phase of a new cycle can lower your pH so my original theory was that after nitrites dropped and I did a large water change, the pH would stay at a higher level that was closer to the tap value.

After the nitrites had remained at zero for a few days, I did a 50% water change and tested the tank water immediately after. The tank pH tested at 8.2 so very close to the tap (was glad I didn't have any fish at that point!). The next morning though I tested the pH again and it had dropped back to 6.6 in the tank overnight.

From what I've read, water utilities can artificially raise pH levels in their water to prevent acidic water from affecting old pipes. My working theory is that my pH is being raised in this way, but is eventually dropping back to a lower level more in line with the very low KH of the water. My understanding of this is admittedly very limited but if I'm following correctly, typically low KH = low pH and high KH = high pH? Definitely correct me if this is wrong, I'm still trying to get a grasp on all of this.

I was hoping that simply letting the tap water sit out overnight would be enough to drop the pH but it only went from 8.4 to 8.2. Fingers crossed that the air stone will be the missing element that I need as I would love to avoid using chemicals.

Any suggestions/feedback would be greatly appreciated!

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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:08 PM
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What is your substrate?


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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:16 PM
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Honestly if there is no buffering element in your tank, then I believe you are right about the utility water being altered.
The difference between the air stone is the agitation of the water surface, the disturbance will allow for more gas exchange. Whilst I do not know the science behind it...I do know that it had a strong effect on my tap water.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:22 PM
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It's gotta be the substrate. Way too much of a difference.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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It's gotta be the substrate. Way too much of a difference.
Substrate is Fluval Stratum. On day 23 since flooding the tank if that makes any difference.

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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:25 PM
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Substrate is Fluval Stratum. On day 23 since flooding the tank if that makes any difference.
We have a winner!!!
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:27 PM Thread Starter
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I read about it lowering pH but didn't figure it would have that much of an effect. How would this change how you approach water changes in the future?

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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:31 PM
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I read about it lowering pH but didn't figure it would have that much of an effect. How would this change how you approach water changes in the future?
It doesn't. They fish shouldn't be affected by the drop in PH. My PH out of tap is around 7.8 with a KH of 1-2 and with co2 or when I'm using ADA aquasoil it goes down to 6.4-6.8 there is no effect on inhabitants and I do 50% weekly. I really haven't seen negative effects on fish with a PH drop from a buffering substrate and/or co2 differences.

Do a google search on it, I'm sure you'll find plenty of videos/threads about it.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 03:51 PM
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It doesn't. They fish shouldn't be affected by the drop in PH. My PH out of tap is around 7.8 with a KH of 1-2 and with co2 or when I'm using ADA aquasoil it goes down to 6.4-6.8 there is no effect on inhabitants and I do 50% weekly. I really haven't seen negative effects on fish with a PH drop from a buffering substrate and/or co2 differences.

Do a google search on it, I'm sure you'll find plenty of videos/threads about it.
On the contrary I have had negative side effects on my shrimp.
Sensitive creatures and could not take the swings so regularly, especially in KH rather than PH.
@Asteroid is right, fish may not be so affected, but personally I still think you should be trying to get your fresh water closer to that of the tank it is going into, overall it is better for the inhabitants.

Glad the cause was found!
Eventually the buffering capacity of the soil will degrade and the tank will stabalise at a higher PH, but this may take some time!
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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 08-02-2019, 04:09 PM
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On the contrary I have had negative side effects on my shrimp.
Sensitive creatures and could not take the swings so regularly, especially in KH rather than PH.
@Asteroid is right, fish may not be so affected, but personally I still think you should be trying to get your fresh water closer to that of the tank it is going into, overall it is better for the inhabitants.

Glad the cause was found!
Eventually the buffering capacity of the soil will degrade and the tank will stabalise at a higher PH, but this may take some time!
Yeah, I can't account for every shrimp species. OP only mentioned fish shock. Actually his KH is already low out of tap it's really the PH that has a huge swing. My tap is KH 1-2 and my tank is 8 due to Seiryu stone and my amanos, otos, black neons, nerites nothing is affected by the KH swing during water changes, but I believe you that certain shrimp species might be.


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