pH up, KH down and loosing fish HELP - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-30-2014, 10:27 PM Thread Starter
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pH up, KH down and loosing fish HELP

Hi, very frustrated here. My planted tank, has been fully cycled for a 4 weeks, added 6 furcata, lost 2, replaced and lost 2 again; added 6 cory all fine, added 6 harlequin lost 3, replaced 3 and 2 now iffy again. Fish were added with 7 to 10 days in between, slowly acclimated. Currently - ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 0+. pH has climbed from 7.4 to 8.8! KH dropped from 4 or 5 to 3. 75g, excel, just started low dosing of ferts. Using filtered tap water which has been steady at pH 7.4 and KH of 4, GH 8. GH climbed to 12 so I did a couple of small water changes with RO. What did/should I do? Water change with RO and remineralize? add acid buffer? Sorry so long, trying to share info. HELP please!
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-31-2014, 01:37 AM
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Are there any rocks in the tank? What substrate do you use? How big is the tank?

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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-31-2014, 02:02 AM Thread Starter
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The tank is a 75 gallon, no rocks, eco complete, driftwood all from day one, only added 1 extra piece of driftwood since cycling.
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-31-2014, 03:15 AM
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Hmm, I know eco complete has some reputation for sometimes having a short-lived pH spike.. but that should have been done and over with a long time ago if you've been cycled for 4 weeks already (so probably running for 7-10 weeks total).

Be aware the RO is going to drive your KH down, not just the GH... Personally, I would stick with tap water changes, but I'm hardly an expert here.

You said you started low-dose fertilizers recently.. how much and what are you dosing? in what size tank?

I'm wondering if your water has phosphate buffers, and the plants have been raiding it.

I'm also a little surprised your nitrates are near-zero, not good for the plants, and also a little weird if you've got stock. Did your nitrates go up measurably during cycling? I'm wondering if your nitrate test is inaccurate (they notoriously are.. I have one that reads rather high).
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-31-2014, 02:29 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, thanks for comments. Tested nitrates again, API test kit, still at 0. They went up to 10 during cycling. Should I try a new test kit?

Started a 1/2 dose of seachem as per their chart. 75 g tank, dosing 5ml excel daily, .5 ml iron daily, 15ml trace 2x/wk, 5ml flourish 2x/wk, 21.5 ml nitrogen 2x/wk, 29.5 ml potassium 2x/wk. Water change 5 gallons 2x/wk.

What are phosphate buffers; how would I know?

Tested pH again this morning and it is down to 7.4 again. Is there oxygen depletion at night? Should I run an airstone?
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 10-31-2014, 02:57 PM
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*some* water supplies buffer ph with phosphate compounds like potassium dihydrogen phosphate. Buffering water basically adds chemicals to it that resist pH change, mostly done to prevent the water from becoming corrosively acidic and damaging pipes.

The phosphate compounds are nice in that they create a buffer that is very resistant to pH change.. adding acids or bases doesn't trigger nearly as much pH swing as water that is buffered by carbonates or bicarbonates.

However, plants will probably use it as a source of phosphorus if nothing else is available, stripping the buffering capability. I notice that you aren't adding any phosphorus fertilizers, so this could be the case. (note: I'm going on a theory here.. I've never observed this myself, so don't take this as expert advice).

If you really want to know how your water is buffered, call your local water supply and ask what they do for pH adjustment. They might have it on their website, but this is doubtful. In my area they don't really buffer, instead they drive the pH up to 8-ish with lime (CaO), and generally expect that it won't drop below 7 before it gets to a tap. (Mine comes out at 7.8, and moves to about 7.6 after equilibrating with air.)
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-01-2014, 01:32 AM Thread Starter
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So still not sure why fish are dying? Should I try to run an airstone at night?
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-01-2014, 02:07 AM
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I thought the dropping KH and rising pH were the culprits we are considering here. I'm mostly trying to figure out why that could be happening. Certainly unstable parameters isn't a good thing.

As for the airstone... are you seeing fish come to the top sucking water at the surface? If so, run an airstone for sure..

What kind of behaviors are you seeing out of your fish (other than dying)? Anything unusual? bottom sitting? top sucking? flashing? lethargy? hyperactivity? anything at all?
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-01-2014, 01:18 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, thanks for hanging with me on this. I am considering all possible culprits so I can narrow it down, dropping KH and rising pH were the first that came to mind and still not sure why that is happening. I always test in the morning but tested at night and that is when pH was high and kh low. Will test again this am.
No visible signs of disease on fish, one will just start hanging out by himself & lethargic. No gasping at surface or sitting on bottom. The furcata and harlequin are active at top.
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-01-2014, 03:13 PM
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KH at 4-5 degrees should be high enough to keep the pH fairly stable.
But when it drops to 3 dKH, or lower, it is allowing something else to dictate the pH.

Some organic processes will use the KH, for example many microorganisms that are decomposing the organic matter. Some substrates will remove the KH from the water (I have not heard of EC doing this). About half the plants we grow can use the KH as a source of carbon.

Here is the daily cycle of CO2 and KH:
At night the plants are using oxygen, and producing CO2. The pH can drop. If you test in the morning before the light comes on the pH will be at the lowest, most acidic.
Through the day the plants are using the CO2, and can use it up just about as fast as it enters the tank from all sources. This will raise the pH.
The pH can change quite a bit from early morning to mid afternoon. Usually the fish are OK with this, because the pH change is not accompanied by changes in the mineral levels. If you test the TDS through the day it should be stable.
Some plants can use the KH as a source of carbon. They only do this when there is no other source of carbon such as CO2. It is possible that the plants are part of whatever is removing the carbonates.

Did you quarantine the fish and treat them for things like internal parasites before adding them to the tank?
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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-01-2014, 09:55 PM Thread Starter
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Hi, yes the fish were quarantined separately at my LFS. So what could/should I do to raise the KH? The GH is also high so maybe a water change with remineralized RO?
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-01-2014, 10:20 PM
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If the tank was normally filled from the tap and the parameters have drifted, then a water change would get the GH and KH back where the fish are used to.
If the GH is higher than it normally is then a water change might lower it back to its normal range.
A water change is also a good idea to get the KH back where it should be. Do this first, and test. To add carbonates you can use baking soda or potassium bicarbonate.
1 teaspoon of baking soda added to 30 gallons of water will raise the KH by 2 degrees.

Did you find out what the water company does to keep the pH up?

Another possibility is that the water company changed something. Perhaps a different source for the water, or perhaps a different additive. This would not make any difference to people, but could have an effect on fish.
Do you have some tests on the tap water before all this started, and some tests now?
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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-01-2014, 10:54 PM Thread Starter
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I ran an airstone last night timed to come on after lights went off, no fish lost.

My tap water initially was 8 GH, 4-5 KH, 8.4 pH with high chloramines and is now 11 GH, 4-5 KH and 8.8 pH. I use a double carbon filter to help remove chloramines (filtered water initially tested at 8 GH, 4-5 KH, and 7.4 pH). It is now at 11GH, 4-5 KH, 8.8 pH.
All I can find out for now is that Ann Arbor softens itís water; lime softening uses calcium hydroxide to remove calcium, magnesium and iron. phosphate is added to stabilize the water after the softening process. pH 9.3 7.8-9.5 Controlled by water treatment process. So it looks like my water source changed? Hope this makes sense ?
Should I do a water change with remineralized RO?
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-08-2014, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
KH at 4-5 degrees should be high enough to keep the pH fairly stable.
But when it drops to 3 dKH, or lower, it is allowing something else to dictate the pH.


Some organic processes will use the KH, for example many microorganisms that are decomposing the organic matter. Some substrates will remove the KH from the water (I have not heard of EC doing this). About half the plants we grow can use the KH as a source of carbon.

Here is the daily cycle of CO2 and KH:
At night the plants are using oxygen, and producing CO2. The pH can drop. If you test in the morning before the light comes on the pH will be at the lowest, most acidic.
Through the day the plants are using the CO2, and can use it up just about as fast as it enters the tank from all sources. This will raise the pH.
The pH can change quite a bit from early morning to mid afternoon. Usually the fish are OK with this, because the pH change is not accompanied by changes in the mineral levels. If you test the TDS through the day it should be stable.
Some plants can use the KH as a source of carbon. They only do this when there is no other source of carbon such as CO2. It is possible that the plants are part of whatever is removing the carbonates.

Did you quarantine the fish and treat them for things like internal parasites before adding them to the tank?
Helpful to understand that cycle, thank you, but not sure what to do next. I did a water change and have a dKH of 3+, GH of 11 and pH rises in pm from 7.4 to 8.4. I would like a more consistent pH and a bit her KH and lower GH. I added sodium chloride, but KH only stayed up to 4 for 1 day. If my plants are using KH as a source of carbon, should I increase my Excel dosage? If I use RO mixed with my tap water do I use acid buffers?
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-12-2014, 12:21 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattinmd View Post
*some* water supplies buffer ph with phosphate compounds like potassium dihydrogen phosphate. Buffering water basically adds chemicals to it that resist pH change, mostly done to prevent the water from becoming corrosively acidic and damaging pipes.

The phosphate compounds are nice in that they create a buffer that is very resistant to pH change.. adding acids or bases doesn't trigger nearly as much pH swing as water that is buffered by carbonates or bicarbonates.

However, plants will probably use it as a source of phosphorus if nothing else is available, stripping the buffering capability. I notice that you aren't adding any phosphorus fertilizers, so this could be the case. (note: I'm going on a theory here.. I've never observed this myself, so don't take this as expert advice).

If you really want to know how your water is buffered, call your local water supply and ask what they do for pH adjustment. They might have it on their website, but this is doubtful. In my area they don't really buffer, instead they drive the pH up to 8-ish with lime (CaO), and generally expect that it won't drop below 7 before it gets to a tap. (Mine comes out at 7.8, and moves to about 7.6 after equilibrating with air.)
Hi again! I did not have any luck calling the city. Should I try adding phosphorus fertilizer? I stayed away from this because of potential algae risk.

I thought that if I kept KH steady at 3 to 4 I would be ok, but guess the pH swing was too much? How can I keep pH steady, keep KH at 3-4 and lower GH? Just with RO in water changes?

The new Seachem Aquavitro KH seems to be a better option (I contacted them) to try other than their old acid and alkaline buffers as it has less affect on pH. What do you think? PS - hope I am posting all this in the right places; gets confusing!
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