Ph too Low KH too Low what to do - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 08:56 PM Thread Starter
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Ph too Low KH too Low what to do

Hello everyone,

I have a problem with my aquarium parameters. My tank is just a mess as far as Ph goes. I have a high tech planted tank, but my Ph won't come back up so active my CO2. My KH is 3 at best and my Ph wants to stay down at about 6.3-6.4 I know some people keep theirs down that low, but mine used to be higher and every time I lower my reader to turn on at a lower PH it drops even further. Also, it never seems to come up during the day when you would think the plants would be using it.

This had led to a nice outbreak of algae multiple times. What should I do? I us RO water with RO Right which I understand does not effect KH, so should I add baking soda? Coral won't dissolve until CO2 is constant. I'm very frustrated and don't like faking my water parameters.

Kent Hi S RO, Oceanic 125, florite, Malaysian Drift Wood and medium number of plants, 2+ watts/g, 83F

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 09:00 PM
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If your KH is 3, then you should have a pH of ~7.4 without CO2, therefore the proper level of CO2 (assuming we accept 30ppm as the proper level) would drop your pH to basically the pH that you're reading. There's nothing wrong at all here with the pH. Lowering of the pH is a normal effect of injecting CO2, you won't see it 'go back up' as the plants use it, it doesn't work that way.

Inconsistent CO2, fiddling with it, that'll lead to algae for certain, as will not supplying your plants with appropriate levels of nutrients.

Please don't go adding anything to "fix" your pH. It's just not necessary. According to Kent, RO Right does add some alkalinity, though they don't indicate just to what level it'll bring the KH.

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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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I hear what you're saying, but there isn't any CO2 being injected. It never gets triggered to come on. The PH stays at 6.3 without injection and then goes even lower if I turn it on even a little, such as 1 bubble every 2 sec.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 09:08 PM
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You probably have lots of humic acid from the driftwood dropping the pH. This is a perfect example of why pH-based CO2 controllers should not be used, it's creating more trouble than any possible worth it may provide.

Unplug that controller and chuck it into a box, pick up a drop checker, fill it with 4dKH solution and indicator, tune your CO2 to get the indicator solution green.

Chuck the pH kit in a drawer, you'll only need it for the drop checker indicator, it's otherwise irrelevant.

Your KH kit could also be completely wrong, it's been known to happen, but either way, pH is an incredibly unimportant test, there is far too much emphasis put on pH, simply because there's so much misunderstanding regarding how it effects fish. The TDS is what matters, not pH.

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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 09:11 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, say I toss the unit, but won't adding CO2 until I reach my ideal 30 mark just drop my PH even more? The drift wood is really old. Its been in and out of my tanks for years, but for the sake of giving it a try; I'll pull that too.
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 09:13 PM
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Yes, but that's the point, you need to add CO2 to drop the pH one complete point from wherever it starts at. The fish don't care if your test reads the pH as 5, or 6, or 7, your TDS (including KH & GH) aren't changing.

You can leave water sitting out of the aquarium overnight, then do the KH & pH tests, if when you look at a CO2/pH/KH chart it reads that you have more than 3ppm CO2 in the water, then you'll know for certain that the tests aren't correct, that there are other buffers and/or acids present -- and that's why we use drop checkers instead of relying on pH and KH (of tank water) to determine CO2.

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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 09:27 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, so that is where I'll start. I do a full set of tests tonight on RO & the tank itself and then leave some water to sit over night and see what it reads in the morning.
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 10:06 PM
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I have an aquarium that the pH stays so low that the pH controller won't come on sometimes.

It's my oldest aquarium and it has some anaerobic pockets which causes some parts of the substrate to release H2S gas. The H2S mixed in the water is what's causing the pH to stay low.

I fix it during a water change by poking around the E-C substrate many times with a small diameter rod. I can see the bubbles of H2S gas going to the surface when I do this. When I'm done poking around, I finish my water change which is about 75%+ when I do this.

When I fill the aquarium back up, it's good to go for several more months. I do my regular weekly water changes. The fish seem fine when I do this.

My tap water is very soft and I don't add anything to increase the KH. I add a little bit of Equilibrium at water change to increase the GH slightly for the plants' needs. The tank gets EI dosing.

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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 10:16 PM Thread Starter
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That and to much phosphates where what I had thought too for a while. I have discus so I do large water changes and keep up on my filter cleaning. I used to use sand and I had a hard time with gas build up, but I haven't ever seen that with florite yet.

Thanks for the firt. link; once I get my PH / CO2 figured out I will try the EI method
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 10:28 PM
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I probably have other acids, like nitric acid, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, etc, in the substrate too, but the plants are doing fine.

That version of EI uses GH Booster at water change and no K2SO4 dosing. It works great for me. I'm using Equilibrium for the GH Booster and Tropica's Plant nutrition liquid (TMG) for the trace.

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post #11 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-21-2008, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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I've heard that RO Right and Equilibrium are about the same and I would have to mail order Equilb. So are I have just been using Flourish, my algae outbreaks have scared me from doing anything else.
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post #12 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-24-2008, 04:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indiboi View Post
You probably have lots of humic acid from the driftwood dropping the pH. This is a perfect example of why pH-based CO2 controllers should not be used, it's creating more trouble than any possible worth it may provide.

Unplug that controller and chuck it into a box, pick up a drop checker, fill it with 4dKH solution and indicator, tune your CO2 to get the indicator solution green.

Chuck the pH kit in a drawer, you'll only need it for the drop checker indicator, it's otherwise irrelevant.

Your KH kit could also be completely wrong, it's been known to happen, but either way, pH is an incredibly unimportant test, there is far too much emphasis put on pH, simply because there's so much misunderstanding regarding how it effects fish. The TDS is what matters, not pH.
Ok, so you're saying that other variables that effect ph (and the reaction of a controller to that ph change) will skew it's function to the point that it is totally ineffective? What are the possibilities that the KH kit is also completely wrong? I used to use a timer for co2 injection (and a drop checker from DUPLA-that probably dates my setup as ancient) and I've now found that a controller works very well for me. Why would a controller be an ineffective way to dose CO2? Has KH/CO2=PH been proved erroneous? What ARE the effects of PH on fish? No longer relevant? Sounds to me like he needs to boost up his KH some to buffer the acidic nature of his tank and the controller will work just fine.


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post #13 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-24-2008, 05:13 AM
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Setting the CO2 to deliver a consistent 20-30ppm of CO2 for the volume of water is just so much simpler of a way of going about this. It isn't effected by any other variables than the volume of water in the tank.

The use of a controller simply introduces far too many possible points of failure. If the water supply KH changes, suddenly the controller will inject the wrong amount of CO2. If there are other sources of acids in the tank (driftwood for example), the controller will dose the wrong amount of CO2 because the pH will fluctuate with every water change. If the probe fails or isn't calibrated regularly enough, again, wrong amount of CO2. On and on...

Why on earth people pay for controllers is beyond me, that element of safety is really just introducing several unnecessary risks.

So, yes, there are so many possible variables that will effect pH as to make using a controller a foolhardy endeavor in my opinion.

The KH/pH/CO2 relationship only works when CO2 is the only acid and you know all of your buffering agents are covered in the KH test. This is why we use drop checkers with calibrated solutions; testing in the tank has too many unknown variables.

What folks in the past, and sadly even today apparently, thought were pH changes effecting fish were really changes in GH, KH, TDS, the whole pH craziness is just that.

Clearly the OP is worried about the water quality for the Discus (as mentioned in another thread); they come from ultra soft, practically zero TDS water, adding buffer that will raise the pH, adding buffer that the fish will notice as a TDS change, that doesn't seem at all a wise choice. CO2 based pH changes, on the other hand, are an 'invisible' change for the fish, provided one hasn't turned the tank into a gas chamber of course.

The KH test could be bad, any test can be. I have a GH test that gives me fantasy land results every time. However; with the OP adding "RO Right" we know there is KH being added, it says so on the label of the product. Has anyone here, other than me, read the description? It's a complete reconstitution product, meant to replicate the soft river water that is so ideal for these fish -- including alkalinity.

The emphasis that is continually being put on pH should be instead put on TDS.

In any case, it was not my intent to debate the topic, I was just offering my help in the form of practical advice.

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post #14 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-24-2008, 01:09 PM
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The directions for Kent's R/O right suggest that you measure the TDS and not the GH because GH test kits mainly measure calcium and magnesium.

The product does add alkalinity and they suggest using a KH test kit to determine the KH and adjust it with Kent pH Stable as needed. Then you check the pH and adjust with Kent pH CONTROL MINUS or pH CONTROL PLUS as necessary. Wow!

Here's the directions:
"Directions:
Dissolve teaspoon for Discus (or 1 teaspoon for soft water fish such as bettas and barbs or 2 teaspoons for goldfish and Koi) of R/O RIGHT for every 10 gallons of purified water, for initial tank setup or for water changes, depending on the type of fish and the desired water total dissolved solids (TDS includes all ions in solution. TDS is better measured electronically or by conductivity meter. General hardness or GH tests usually only measure calcium & magnesium content and are a poor substitute) Do not greatly exceed the recommended teaspoons even if your test indicates different! Use plain R/O or DI water for additions for water lost to evaporation. Next: Test alkalinity (carbonate hardness or KH) and adjust with Kent pH STABLE as necessary. Next: Test pH and adjust with Kent pH CONTROL MINUS or pH CONTROL PLUS as necessary. For best results, add Kent Freshwater or Discus Essential weekly as directed. Frequent water changes will help insure a healthy environment. Kent Zoe added to food will supply needed vitamins.

Conductivity:
If measuring conductivity adjust to 200 to 300 uS (micro Siemens) for mixed freshwater or 100 to 150 uS for Discus and softwater fish.

Contents:
Nearly neutral pH salts of sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium with all necessary trace minerals."


I like having the GH and KH as separate dosings. My tap water is very soft and I dose this version of EI that adds a little bit (0.5 dGH) of Seachem's Equilibrium weekly and I don't add anything for KH.

I have drop checkers and pH controllers. I think the two work together really well. If I see a drop checker that is blue, I'll check it out. Either I have to adjust the bubble count or the CO2 cylinder is out. I really like the combination of drop checkers with pH controllers.

Another reason that I got pH controllers is that my Azoo regulators have an "industrial" needle valve and it's temperature sensitive. If I didn't have a controller on them, I may have trouble with too much or too little CO2. To add an Idea needle valve to them was about $20 less than adding the Milwaukee pH controller. So, I bought the Milwaukee controllers. I've had to replace one probe in the 2+ years that I've had them. The probe going bad was my fault. I had to be away for two weeks and a CO2 cylinder ran out while I was gone. I had a case of BBA everywhere in that tank. It was even on the probe. After I cleaned the probe, it wouldn't work and I had to replace it.

I also have an AquariumPlants.com's "The Best' regulator and I've had nothing but trouble with it. The solenoid stuck open and I caught it easily by the yellow color of the drop check. Twice, the low pressure gauge quit working and the drop checker was blue these times. My "The Best" regulator is one of those devises where simpler is better as you mentioned, indiboi. Remove the solenoid and add an Ideal needle valve. Then set it and forget it.

I not arguing that one way is better than another way when it comes to adding R/O right or Equilibrium or even adjusting the KH. I'm not arguing that adding a pH controller is a better than using a simpler regulator w/o a solenoid, with a good needle valve and no pH controller either. I'm just saying that I like the way that I am doing it and it works fine for me. It's like the old expression: "to each in their own way"

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post #15 of 22 (permalink) Old 02-24-2008, 01:41 PM
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"Clearly the OP is worried about the water quality for the Discus (as mentioned in another thread); they come from ultra soft, practically zero TDS water, adding buffer that will raise the pH, adding buffer that the fish will notice as a TDS change, that doesn't seem at all a wise choice. CO2 based pH changes, on the other hand, are an 'invisible' change for the fish, provided one hasn't turned the tank into a gas chamber of course."

If I'm not mistaken most discus breeders do not use such low ph/soft water environments to raise discus. Raising the KH a couple of degrees or more, slowly, is not going to have any effect on the health of the fish. His tank has low buffering capabilities which is not good. If he has humic acid from his driftwood then that acid needs to be buffered with alkalinity so he can add more acid-CO2= carbonic acid.


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