Tank Has Low pH, Tap has High(er)pH (Tolstoy)
Ok, so when I was gathering information on setting up my low tech aquarium, I saw a few references to a layer of peat as the bottom part of the substrate. I decided to go this route and set up 3/4" of peat under 2" of Eco Complete. After I had my problem, I did some more reading and found that this was probably too much.
I ran the tank on a fishless cycle for couple weeks, testing for ammonia and Nitrites. It didnít take long for me to get zero readings on those, but Nitrates were a little high (50ppm). At this point I wasnít sure what I was going to put in the aquarium but I was still adding ammonia to keep the bacteria fed. Once I decided to add shrimp, I started doing water changes to lower the Nitrates.
The water changes were being done every few days and once the Nitrates were down, I decided to add some Crystal Red Shrimp. While I was doing water changes, I would test the water and the pH was steady around 7.0. I acclimated the shrimp and they seemed happy for a couple of days until the first weekly water change. After the change most of them went into hiding and a couple of them died. Not sure what had happened, I thought that they were just having trouble acclimating. A couple of days passed and they came out of hiding again. The next week, I go to do a water change and the same thing happens.
At this point I know something is wrong. I start testing the water and ammonia and Nitrites are 0, and Nitrates are at 10ppm. pH was slightly below 7, but I canít remember exactly what it was. I wait a few days and test again, (without a water change) and find my pH is at the lowest reading of my API test kit, which is 6. I retest my tap water (even though Iíve tested previously) and it hasnít changed from what it had been, which is 7.4-7.6. I even let the tap sit for a couple of days and tested every day with no drop in pH. I haven't done a water change since the last one, which was about a week ago.
My tap water parameters
My aquarium parameters as of today
pH: 6 (possibly lower)
KH: 1 (turned with the first drop)
My thought is that the pH was lower when I was testing in preparation for tank inhabitants because of the water changes. Now the pH is bouncing around when I do a water change. At first I thought the water may have just been different out of the tap since we are in water shortage, but that doesn't appear to be the problem. My fear is that with the pH so low my beneficial bacteria is now dead.
My question is what to do next? Is there a way to lower the pH before I add it to the aquarium that doesn't involve chemicals. I would hate to add the lowered pH water only to have it bounce back again.
Should I re-home the remaining shrimp and take the tank down, removing the peat? This would be what I'd like to do the least but if it's the best in the long term, I'm not opposed. Thanks in advance. Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to try and be thorough in my explanation.