Help required - KH and pH keep crashing - The Planted Tank Forum
 
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 01:07 PM Thread Starter
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Help required - KH and pH keep crashing

I have a 160L (approx 42g) corner tank (you can view it in "Your Tanks").

It was initially set up at the beginning of July.

I used a decent plant substrate from the local aquarist shop (I will attempt to find out the name), capped with a layer of pebbles.
I have one 15" hollowish piece of driftwood and some grapevine (both were soaked for 6 weeks outside of the tank, with regular changing of water, to leech tannins).

I used Nutrafin Cycle to help cycle the tank initially, along with water conditioner for soft water (we have soft water here in Melbourne) and Seachem Prime.

The tank has an integral 3 stage fliter system that is located in the hood.
The filter has been running as 1/8 fine and coarse pads then 6/8 a mix of fluval prefilter, fluval biomax and seachem rocks (forgot the name), and fine pad in the last 1/8). I recently swapped out the last 1/8 of fine pads and use Aquamaxx Ultramax AIO in its place (which has dropped the Nitrate levels nicely).

Tank is reasonably well planted, so I dose as recommended with Seachem Flourish (not XL) weekly. I do not run CO2, or use airstones. Fish have not been observed to be gasping.

Water changes are done every 2 weeks, at about 30%.
I test the parameters before the change and a day after the change.

Water added to the tank is dosed with both Cycle and Prime.

Local tap water is as follows:
pH 6.8 - 7.0
GH 3
KH 0 !!!

Below are my observations from about 6 weeks after the tank was set up to present.

pH
From the get go I've noticed I have been unable to maintain a pH level. It consistantly tanks. I've used Seachem Neutral Regulator dosing initially, which works for a few days but then I find pH is back down to 6.2 or lower.
GH
GH was upwards of 16 (API master kit). I used an API water softener pillow for 24 hrs which has brought it down to around 5 - 6. It has been constant ever since.
KH
I've only recently tested for KH. I have none!
Ammonia
Ammonia is 0. I have no issue with it
Nitrites
Nitrites have been testing at 0, but I had a reading today of 0.25ppm, which prompted me to do a water change.
Nitrates
Nitrates have consistently been between 40 - 80 ppm based.
Temperature
Water temp is between 24 to 26 degrees celcius.

ISSUES!

1) The constantly tanking pH. I've read that non-existent KH can cause this. I've read Baking Soda can be used to set the level, I also have access to 2mm crushed coral substrate (small African Cichlid tank leftovers). I don't really want to put a stocking of crushed coral in the back corner, but I'm worried about the adverse affects of using Baking Soda.

2) Past 2 weeks the water has become cloudy. At first I put polishing pads in the filter which worked for a while, but now it is constantly cloudy (even with new polishing pads and a weekly water change). Is this a bacterial bloom? Can people suggest ways I can fix this?

3) I use 2 x 8w HPLED lights (which doesn't quite work in the corners).
Have people built DIY HPLED systems (like Cree 3W LED's), and can they direct me to schematics/wiring diagrams/theory behind how to put them together?

I am pushed to ask this as I had only had one death prior to today, a zebra danio used during cycling. Unfortunately today saw the demise of a neon tetra and two rummynose. They all just became very lethargic, unco-ordinated in their swimming, eventually coming to rest on the bottom. No visible signs of attack/infection where evident.

Any help would be appreciated! A structured plan of attack would be ideal!

Thanks in advance.
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  • 160L corner tank
  • o/hd 3 stage filter (fine pad, course pad, fluval biological media, aquamaxx Ultramax AIO)
  • 1 x 8W HPLED blue/white & 1 x 8W HPLED white
  • Substrate for plants (I will get more info!)
  • Driftwood, Grapevine
  • Anubias, lace fern, pink babys tear, hygrophilia, amazon sword, chain sword, java fern.
  • 2 x lace gourami, 1 x blue 3-spot gourami, 15 x neon tetra, 3 x rummy nose tetra, 6 x congo tetra, 4 x zebra danio, 3 x chinese algae eater
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 01:19 PM
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KH is 0 here in Minneapolis as well. I use http://dataguru.org/misc/aquarium/calKH.asp to calculate how much baking soda to add.

Without adding some sort of buffer your pH will continue to crash. When this happens it will get to seriously low levels and kill off not only the livestock but the beneficial bacteria causing you to have to start your cycle over again.

Garrett Brueland

The Fraternity of Dirt #52
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-10-2012, 11:03 PM
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Agree with above.

add in some bicacarb to up your KH. The buffering ability will help maintain stability in your tank. You don't need a ton, but with zero your pH can swing pretty quickly.

and more importantly almost anything you would want to keep would be pretty unhappy in water with a KH of zero.
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2012, 01:28 AM
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http://www.melbournewater.com.au/con...rnes_water.pdf is the water quality report for Melbourne, AU. Down near the bottom of the table is Total Alkalinity, showing that the water doesn't have zero KH. It is low, for sure, but not zero. You shouldn't get pH "crashes" with that much alkalinity.

Hoppy
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2012, 04:03 AM
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Good point Hoppy.

Also, I didn't see what your lowest pH reading was but if you tap is 6.8 and after a couple weeks in a tank with wood your pH is 6.2, I wouldn't consider this crashing.

I know people with low KH buffer all the time and would likely be worth a try.

Oh also, not that its causing your issues, but is there a reason you are running your nitrates that high?
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2012, 01:52 PM
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That carbonate hardness is low. If the nitrate test is correct, it suggests water changes are not keeping pace with pollution. If I were trying to avoid adding "stuff" to the tank, which is never a bad thing, I'd try doing 50% water changes, once a week. Carbonate is the most prevalent base and is consumed in various ways in the tank. With a hardness that low it isn't hard to imagine that your pH is dropping with the kH being used up.

Dave

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2012, 02:17 PM
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Wow! Send me some of that water! I have serious trouble keeping my pH below 8 here in Oklahoma (US). I believe that is due to the overwhelming amounts of lime and flagstone in the ground. Even with half RO I can't seem to keep my pH down. I recently got lucky and found some inert chert stone I could add for decor, but before that I was super careful about what I put in my tank. Neither peat, nor driftwood, or even the RO water has been able to battle our hard water. :/
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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2012, 03:12 PM Thread Starter
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Ok, to clarify for Sotty, pH dropped from 6.8 in the morning to 6.2 in the afternoon - on the same day.

Substrate I used was RedSea FloraBase, which should keep the pH about 6.8 according to packaging.

I lost all my rummy nose, and a few neons to what appears to be columnaris or something similar. I quickly set up a hospital tank and used some Tri-sulfa (water donated from main tank).

I removed all plants and hard scape from the tank. found the gravel was covered in extremely thin coat of a really dark algae and water was green tinged.

Forced my hand on a rescape, which stirred up a lot of crap, followed by about an 80% w/c.

I think my wife was over feeding the tank and the photo period was too long.

How long should I leave the lighting off for to get the algae under control?

I will post water stats and a pic when I get up in ooooh 4 hrs!

  • 160L corner tank
  • o/hd 3 stage filter (fine pad, course pad, fluval biological media, aquamaxx Ultramax AIO)
  • 1 x 8W HPLED blue/white & 1 x 8W HPLED white
  • Substrate for plants (I will get more info!)
  • Driftwood, Grapevine
  • Anubias, lace fern, pink babys tear, hygrophilia, amazon sword, chain sword, java fern.
  • 2 x lace gourami, 1 x blue 3-spot gourami, 15 x neon tetra, 3 x rummy nose tetra, 6 x congo tetra, 4 x zebra danio, 3 x chinese algae eater
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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-11-2012, 03:53 PM
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Ok sounds like a lots going on.

I'm not saying this is the perfect answer but this would be my approach.

Manually remove as much algae as possible.
Water changes to get Nitrates down to 10-20
cut photo period to 6 hours until algae is under control
use calculator to add enough baking soda to raise KH to 3
test twice a week for time being.
50% WC weekly with NaHCO3 supplementation (baking soda)

Given the high nitrates I would probably pull back on the flourish dosing by half for the time being.

After two weeks or so hopefully things will have stabilized out. I'm really sorry this really sucks.
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-13-2012, 12:28 AM
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The dose for baking soda:

1 teaspoon (5 ml) added to 29 (American) gallons (110 liters) will raise the KH by 2 German degrees of hardness.
This is straight math, no fancy formulas:

To create the same change in 160 liters I would add 1.5 teaspoons, or 7.5 ml of baking soda. I really would start with a bit less, just in case there is less water than you think in there due to substrate or decor.

Do not make a greater change than that at any one water change. Allow the fish to adjust to that, then go ahead and add more, if you want. You might need to keep on adding it, perhaps a couple of times a week if the KH is dropping that fast.

Another way to deal with this:
When you are preparing the water for a water change test the KH, and add baking soda as needed.

In the tank keep some material in the filter that will add minerals to the water. These things act slowly, and do not depend on them to adjust the water when you do a water change. These sort of fine tune the water through the week.
Coral sand, Oyster shell grit (sold here for caged birds), limestone sand.
These may also raise the GH. I keep about 1/2 cup to 1 cup (roughly 1/8 to 1/4 liter) in a nylon stocking in the filter. You could also add sea shells or coral as decor in the tank. Looks out of place, though, in a fresh water tank.
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-24-2012, 11:53 PM Thread Starter
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ok for those following. I added a couple of airstones and pumped in the O2. This caused the pH to quickly (4hrs) rise to over 7.6. Dosed to bring it down with no effect! I think that the O2 to CO2 balance, or rather imbalance may have been the issue. Now to get the right balance. Have basically eliminated all other possibilities. Am now dosing excel and comprehensive as I have a low light situation. hopefully the plants will take off and the algae won't be able to compete.

Thanks to all for your help!

  • 160L corner tank
  • o/hd 3 stage filter (fine pad, course pad, fluval biological media, aquamaxx Ultramax AIO)
  • 1 x 8W HPLED blue/white & 1 x 8W HPLED white
  • Substrate for plants (I will get more info!)
  • Driftwood, Grapevine
  • Anubias, lace fern, pink babys tear, hygrophilia, amazon sword, chain sword, java fern.
  • 2 x lace gourami, 1 x blue 3-spot gourami, 15 x neon tetra, 3 x rummy nose tetra, 6 x congo tetra, 4 x zebra danio, 3 x chinese algae eater
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 10-25-2012, 12:09 AM Thread Starter
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Double post. Sorry

  • 160L corner tank
  • o/hd 3 stage filter (fine pad, course pad, fluval biological media, aquamaxx Ultramax AIO)
  • 1 x 8W HPLED blue/white & 1 x 8W HPLED white
  • Substrate for plants (I will get more info!)
  • Driftwood, Grapevine
  • Anubias, lace fern, pink babys tear, hygrophilia, amazon sword, chain sword, java fern.
  • 2 x lace gourami, 1 x blue 3-spot gourami, 15 x neon tetra, 3 x rummy nose tetra, 6 x congo tetra, 4 x zebra danio, 3 x chinese algae eater
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