Need help with adjusting PH - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2008, 04:37 AM Thread Starter
 
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Need help with adjusting PH

My PH that comes out of the tap is 7.4 or a little bit more. I am trying to get the PH down to 6.8 without using any chemicals. I was wondering is there any filter or RO system i can buy that can make my PH lower down to 6.8? Please help me guys. Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2008, 07:02 AM
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re: need help with adjusting pH

I imagine you're going to get a lot of responses of people asking you why you want to lower your pH.

Just so you know, you can use an R/O unit to take everything out of the water. The resulting pH will be low and erratic because there is no buffering capacity in the water after you remove everything. Thus, the slightest amount of any acid in R/O water will cause a low pH. HOWEVER, as soon as you start making the R/O water suitable for use in the aquarium, the resulting water is going to have a resting pH around 7.4-7.6 (!) if there are no acids in the water. This assumes you are adding general hardness with Ca and Mg and a buffers like CaCO3 (calcium carbonate) or NaHCO3 (sodium bicarbonate).... for proper aquarium water chemistry.

So, by using an R/O unit, you are taking Ca/Mg/CaCO3... and everything else out of the water and then you are going to add some things back... this is what products like Seachem Equilibrium and Seachem Alkalinity are for. (Or, Kent R/O Right and Kent Buffer, if you're a Kent fan.) And if you want to know EXACTLY what is in your water, then this is something you can surely do. Therefore, people who have very hard and buffered tap water are probably going to see a lower pH in their prepared R/O water if they create a softer and less buffered version.

So, the R/O unit doesn't buy you much in terms of regulating the pH. To do this, you need acids.

Carbonic Acid is formed when you add CO2 to water. This is, in my opinion, probably the best method of controlling the pH. Many people inject CO2 into their aquariums because it is a much needed plant nutrient. They are not strictly trying to control their pH per se. But, to get the amount of CO2 that is required for the plants, they end up with a pH around 6.8! (That is, if their kH is 4-5 degrees).

Humic Acid is formed when you add peat to water. Peat also softens the water and has been used a very long time by aquarium owners... and it's very natural. However, you'll find that it is very difficult to control the pH because the release of the humic acids is slow and not entirely obvious to the casual observer and the peat will eventually need to be replaced. Also, for example, an aged aquarium is rich in humic acids simply because of the biological activity over a long period of time. I almost guarantee that if you ran an active aquarium for a year with modest monthly water changes, your pH would eventually dip down to 6.6-6.8 all on it's own without you doing anything (even if you started with water that had a pH of 7.8). The buildup of acids are what cause this.

pH Buffers... You are right to probably stay away from chemical products that attempt to set the pH. These can cause a huge mess and are a headache to say the least. In my opinion, these don't have any place in the aquarium hobby as most people don't ever take the time to really understand what is it that these products are actually doing.

----------

So the big question is WHY? Why do you want to lower your pH? What are you going to gain by lowering your pH... other than more acidic water? You'll find many respected words on the subject around here and the resounding advice is "don't fight your water's pH". Fish and plants thrive in a broad range of pH 6-8.

Just my 2 cents.

Cheers!

Jeremy Squires, Toronto, ON
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2008, 10:25 PM
 
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I always thought that tannic acid came from peat...or is that just from driftwood?

edit: Never mind, I just looked it up. Tannic acid comes from wood, humic acid from soil, i.e. peat.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2008, 10:37 PM Thread Starter
 
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I am trying to keep some shrimps. Every time i changed my water, my shrimps end up dying. My PH from the tap is around 7.4. I need to lower it down to 6.8. I was thinking to get a 5 gallon bucket of water tap water and drop a driftwood in it. But i was wondering how long would it take for the driftwood to lower the PH down to 6.8. The bad thing about that, is that i don't want to have that tanning color in the water. Thanks for all the help.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2008, 10:44 PM
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re: humic vs. tannic acid

Hi Carrisa, I found this on http://www.thekrib.com/Chemistry/humic.html

by Craig Bingman <cbingman-at-netcom.com>

----Begin Snippet---->

Humic acids are a complex mixture of partially "decomposed" and otherwise transformed organic materials. The chemistry of their formation is quite complex, and freshwater humic acids can come from a variety of cources, most of which are on land (decomposing terrestrial vegetation.) These substances wash into lakes and rivers, undergoing further transofrmations along the way, and ultimately into the ocean. Most but certainly not all of the marine humic acids also ultimately have their origin on land. Almost all of the lignins found in marine environments originate on land.

There are several subclasses of humic acids, (tannins, lignins, fulvic acids) which are partially "resolvable" based on some fairly simple physicochemical criteria, but the criteria for these separations is primarily the convenience of the methods used, and to some degree elucidating their origins, as opposed to their functional impact on aquatic ecosystems, so I won't go into the different classes or how they are distinguished. They all tint the water yellow and they all bind cations.

-----End Snippet----->


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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2008, 10:59 PM
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re: dying shrimp :-(

Mpham, I have tons(!) of shrimp that live just fine in water with a pH higher than 7.0. I'm no expert, but I really don't think it's the pH directly that's affecting your shrimp. However, a higher pH can cause some chemicals in water to become more toxic. But, alas, you shouldn't have any of those kinds of substances in your water to begin with. If I were in your shoes, I would search for a source of toxicity. Perhaps your tap water has a high concentration of copper. Also, what about your ammonia/ammonium/nitrite/nitrates?

It might be better if you post under the subject of "Help, my shrimp are dying!" to get a better sampling of people who have more experience on the subject. I'm sure there would be a lot people who want to help save your shrimp and get to the bottom of your problem. No one likes to see the little guys die unnecessarily.


Good luck!
Cheers.

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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2008, 11:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by i4x4nMore View Post
I'm no expert, but I really don't think it's the pH directly that's affecting your shrimp.
I agree. There is something else at work here. If there is some unidentified toxin in your tap water, perhaps this is one case where using RO water would be advisable; not from the pH standpoint of course (which really is unimportant), but from the water purity standpoint. Checking for the more likely culprits is definitely advisable before making that drastic of a change.

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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-17-2008, 11:32 PM
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re: one possible case for R/O water

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Originally Posted by imeridian View Post
...perhaps this is one case where using RO water would be advisable; not from the pH standpoint of course (which really is unimportant), but from the water purity standpoint.
This is one reason I go through the extra effort of making R/O water. I simply don't trust the water supply of Los Angeles when it comes unidentified toxins. I'm happier chasing my own water chemistry rather than all of Los Angeles'. Recently, there was a report that was released that showed several different pharmaceuticals(!) contaminating the Los Angeles drinking water. Unbelievable.

Cheers?

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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2008, 02:31 AM Thread Starter
 
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Thanks guy. I think i am going to get a R/O system. Any brand you guys would recommend? I heard when using R/O water you would have to mix it with your tap water, because the R/O would take out some mineral thats needed for the shrimps. I am not sure about this, but its what i heard.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2008, 02:39 AM
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You wouldn't necessarily want to mix your tap into RO water, considering the reason here to use RO is to avoid, in theory, some unidentified toxin. I'm not saying that is actually the case, of course. What you're referring to is remineralizing the water, which Jeremy discussed in post number two. As mentioned already, check your NH3/4, NO2, and Cu levels.

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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2008, 03:35 AM
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re: R/O suggestions

imeridian: nice catch on the bit about NOT mixing with tap water (in this case)!

Mpham:

Wow, I couldn't even begin to recommend a particular brand since there are just about as many brands as there are aquatic plant species! I bought mine years ago and it is by Kent Marine. But I can mention a few things that might point you in a good direction regardless of brand:
  • Just get a 'normal' R/O unit, no need to go crazy with all the DI (deionization) and High Silicate options.
  • I use a simple three stage: Wound-cotton sediment pre filter, carbon filter, and 0.5 micron membrane.
  • They make R/O units up to seven stages, I've always used a three stage.
  • Get a unit that makes the amount of water that you're going to need, when you need it. I use a 24gallon/day unit.
  • I used to just collect the R/O water in an open "reserve" aquarium, but now I have a pressurized tank... and the output of that feeds into an open tank where I can do my re-mineralization. Then this open reserve has a pump in it which delivers the prepared water to my aquariums. (No lifting!)
  • Definitely think about getting a Permeate pump to install with the R/O unit. These pumps are "passive" and are designed primarily for people that have low water line pressure. BUT, they have the added benefit of reducing the 'brine' (the water that is thrown away). Without the Permeate pump, you get 1 drop of R/O water for every 4 drops of brine. WITH the Permeate pump, I get 1 drop R/O for every 2 drops of brine. In my opinion, it's the only responsible thing to do.
  • Know that you'll have to replace the cartridges (all three stages) about every 18 months depending on your tap water.
  • Even a modest R/O filter will remove more than 95% of anything that is in the water. I actively measure the total dissolved solids (TDS) of my R/O water and as the TDS ppm's start increasing, I know that it's time to start thinking about changing the cartridges.
Hope that gets you on track.

P.S. R/O water tastes Mmmm good!

Cheers!

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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2008, 05:22 AM
 
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TO i4x4nMore

I just pray to god that you'll be around this forum a lot longer. Its very rare to actually find someone as knowledgable and as thorough as you. What frustrates a person that's asking a question the most is getting half answers or the politician versions of an answer (answers that responds to the question but doesn't really answer it)

Just don't burn yourself out and leave, you're very much appreciated here. Are you a professor or something?

I was dropping by and reading some of the posts. Have a nice day.
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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2008, 07:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Natty View Post
TO i4x4nMore

I just pray to god that you'll be around this forum a lot longer. Its very rare to actually find someone as knowledgable and as thorough as you. What frustrates a person that's asking a question the most is getting half answers or the politician versions of an answer (answers that responds to the question but doesn't really answer it)

Just don't burn yourself out and leave, you're very much appreciated here. Are you a professor or something?

I was dropping by and reading some of the posts. Have a nice day.
I second that.
Great to see i4x4nMore here.

Kevin

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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2008, 08:05 AM
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re: compliment

To Natty & Kvntran,

Wow, thanks, that's a huge compliment. But really, it is I who ought to be giving the compliments... You see, I've been reading, absorbing, testing, verifying, and pushing the limits of my knowledge mostly based on the footwork of others.... others, such as those and yourself that post on these forums. And out of all the incomplete responses and mis-information, there are a ton of gems that more than make up for it. And we realize very quickly how to filter through all of it.

In reality, I'm just a newbie. I've only ever had two planted tanks. A 5gallon and a 15gallon. But, I'm the kind of guy who will sit and stare at an empty tank for two years contemplating how it works, how it will work, and how to make it better. I try to be thorough because that's the way I expect to be treated in return. And like you mentioned, half-information doesn't do anyone any good.

Whenever I encountered a question or a roadblock, in the past five years, I always hit the forums because I know that there's a thousand people that have come before me with the same issues. And without everyone sharing information (good and bad), I don't think I would be half as experienced today. But like I mentioned, I'm still just a newbie. Question everything I write!

To answer your question: No, I'm not a professor but I have this growing fantasy of working with a 5th-6th grade class to do a year long aquarium project. Of course, there's the awe and beauty of the aquarium that they would love. But, I'd also like to tie in the science behind it with what they already learn in their classes; To show them a connection between the "boring" stuff they learn in class and something like an aquarium. I don't feel quite worthy yet, but the seed is planted.

Natty, thanks for your compliment!

Cheers!

Jeremy Squires, Toronto, ON
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 04-18-2008, 12:39 PM
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My alternative to using a permeate pump is to do my laundry with the 'waste' water. I just fill up the washing machine, it just so happens that I mostly fill it by making a 5 gallon bucket of RO. My needs for RO are quite minimal though, as I don't use it for water changes. My 5 gallon bucket has a Kent float valve that connects to a Kent pressure switch on the RO unit. So, once the bucket is full it switches off water to the RO membrane.

My RO unit is a 4-stage Coralife and I recommend against it, they're rather poorly constructed in my opinion. I have read many good things about the units from http://www.airwaterice.com/, though I have no personal experience.

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