Lowering pH? - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:11 AM Thread Starter
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Lowering pH?

I need some quick tips to lowering the pH of my tank. I've had three deaths and I'm afraid I'm going to end up with four soon if I don't do something.

I bought 8 fish for my tank and so far almost half have died. Tests come back with 0ppm ammonia and nitrite and a low reading of nitrate. No signs of ick. But yet the fish are dying. I spent a lot on these guys (ember tetra, dwarf emerald rasbora, and sparkling gourami) and I can't return the dead fish for new ones or get more when they die because the store is over 3 hours away.

Anyway, my pH is well above 8 and all the fish, the gouramis more so than the rest, need a pH of around 7. I'm thinking this is the problem.

I've heard peat moss works. Where can I get some?
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:17 AM
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Not exactly sure where to get peat moss, but it's said to lower pH.
So does Indian Almond Leaves, Alder cones, I think Barley straw as well. But it does take quite a bit of that stuff to lower the pH. I think the leaching tannins are what lower the pH. If that is so, possibly driftwood tannins would also do the same, but probably slower release and not as long lasting.

There are products made to lower pH, such as pH down, and others. Check the fish stores.
Although I cannot say whether or not the pH really is the problem with the fish dying or not, since there could be many possible reasons.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:17 AM Thread Starter
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And, any all around medications I could try???

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Originally Posted by WaterLife View Post

There are products made to lower pH, such as pH down, and others. Check the fish stores.
Although I cannot say whether or not the pH really is the problem with the fish dying or not, since there could be many possible reasons.
Yeah, I know. But there's no other symptoms other than the fish suddenly become stressed. Two I've found stuck to the filter, another floated at the surface for several days, and the last is floating head down around the plants with color loss and no appetite.

I've done a 50% water change today. The water's pretty warm; 80 degrees. Should I try to lower that as well?

I've heard bad things about pH down. I'd rather not use chemicals if possible...
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:26 AM
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Try to identify and mention any possible signs of disease. Medications can cause additional stress on a already stressed/weakend fish, but if you do need to treat them, you kind of want to know what to treat for as some chemicals in different meds are more harmful than others. So best thing to do is identify the disease (if they do have one) and then find out what med is the safest/least harmful to use. Keep in mind some meds harm inverts and/or plants.

Sounds like you might of just got them and add them straight to the tank. Acclimating them slowly eases their transition to their new home water parameters. If you did just add them, it's already been done, try leaving the light off (if no plants) and not causing excess stress on the fish (they can be scared of your presence at first), just anything really to minimize stress until they get settled in. Of course if they do have a disease, you need to identify and treat accordingly.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:38 AM Thread Starter
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I've had them a week or two and I did acclimate them properly. I learned that lesson a few years back when I nearly lost a rainbow shark.

I'll keep an eye on them, for sure.

Now that I checked, the temperature is up to 85 degrees... Way, way, way too high. I unplugged the heater (it's just a cheap thing) and I'm going to get it replaced. The tank will probably slowly drop down to the mid 70s over the next 24 hours. Hopefully it won't too quickly. That can't be helping any, for sure.

I found some peat moss pellets on Dr.foster and smith's website. I'm thinking about ordering some and giving a try. It can't hurt anything, right?
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:46 AM
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Yeah 85*F can be a bit high. I always keep my community tanks at room temp (no discus), they do get warm during summer, but happens in nature anyways and the fish don't seem too distressed.

Tannins are usually liked very much by most fish. Keep in mind though the water will turn a tea brown color. The tannins are actually said to also have natural healing properties (pretty sure it's little helpful microscopic lifeforms/bacteria) that can aid in healing as well as cure/prevent some diseases.
Don't go overboard on lowering the pH though, that could potentially cause more problems if you went too low (6ish range and lower).
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:51 AM
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'Acidic water' fish are really 'soft water' fish.

What is your GH and KH?

GH is general hardness. Calcium and magnesium. Fish and plants need these minerals, but the fish you list come from waters with very low levels.

KH is carbonates. This is one of the most common pH buffers in our tanks. If the KH is high then the pH will be high, and difficult to change. Peat moss, IAL and other things might drop the pH for a short while, but it will bounce right back up.

You need to lower the GH and KH of the water to under about 5 German degrees of hardness. If this does not lower the pH enough, then run the water through peat moss. This will help by adding organic acids, and may remove a small amount of minerals. Almost always this is done by blending tap water with reverse osmosis or distilled water. (These are just about the same as far as aquarium keeping goes).

I use pure Canadian peat moss available in garden centers. Read the label to be sure you are not getting surfactants or fertilizer.
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:56 AM Thread Starter
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I guess I can get a GH and KH testing kit. I only have an API master testing kit, so I can only test for pH. I don't think petsmart carries those kinds of tests, I'm going to go check though. If not I'll see what some online sites can do. I've heard a lot about them and have known I should get one but I've never had issues before now.

I'm going to also try this tank at room temp. I don't think it'll get below 72, but I'm not sure. It seems like my 55 gallon would drop below 70 in the winter. It has a heater now, though. I'll check one of my heated tanks as well after I look up the testing kits.

Thanks, both of you.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 03:06 AM
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You may be able to check what your tap water has been in the past through a water quality report from your water company. Some companies do not report it very well, though.
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 04:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diana View Post
You may be able to check what your tap water has been in the past through a water quality report from your water company. Some companies do not report it very well, though.
+1 on this. I just googled my county water report, and multiple years popped up. If you get ground water, then it will likely be pretty high. I mix 50/50 tap/RO now :/ If you do go 100% RO or distilled, just remember that you have to remineralize it or it won't be good for anything living in your tank.

Also if you are topping off, it's best to use RO/DI because as your water evaporates, the minerals will become more concentrated. If you top off with tap, then you're just adding more and more minerals, and your water gets harder and harder.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 05:22 AM
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Originally Posted by hellofishies View Post
Also if you are topping off, it's best to use RO/DI because as your water evaporates, the minerals will become more concentrated. If you top off with tap, then you're just adding more and more minerals, and your water gets harder and harder.
Hmm, I never thought much on that. Can anyone confirm this?
I've never cared for GH/KH really (thinking it's not as big of a factor as thought to be, except maybe for shrimp) and have had no problems at all with fish or plants.

I would think water changes would remove enough minerals that the build up wouldn't be so much. And say, more and more build up over time from not getting the full amount out, the next water changes would pick up more since there is more in the water. Assuming there is a lot of minerals, I assume the plants use it and/or maybe the minerals get locked/absorbed in the substrate?

I did just order a API liquid GH/KH test kit (to test shrimp tanks) and it should be here soon. I will then test all my tanks (all vary in age since they were set up at different times and the accumulation of minerals should be different as we as the different plant life loads) and see if this is indeed true of mineral build up. And will test my tap water, which has tested the same for a long time in every other test, and will compare to most recent water quality reports.

For what it's worth, my pH always stay at 7.4, tap and tanks, even if I don't do a water change for a whole month. From what I heard, pH and hard/soft/acidic/alkaline water go hand in hand, generally staying within a certain range/degree based on pH level. So if that is correct, my stable 7.4 would mean the hardness is not increasing or decreasing majorly.
But my knowledge is very limited in water hardness so I can very well be completely off. Do phosophates play any role in pH stability?
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 06:01 AM
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For what it's worth, I have extremely hard water with a high pH and I have always been able to keep soft water, acidic fish provided I acclimate them properly.

What happens with fish kept in too high of a pH or hardness usually is not premature death (unless they are a really sensitive fish, or perhaps a coral or something). Usually they just won't breed; potentially, they won't live quite as long (kidney damage has been observed in neon tetras kept in hard water; though those specimens lived a typically long lifespan), but dying after a couple of weeks does not sound like fish being in too hard of water. That sounds like disease, poor water conditions of some other variety, or even the issue of the water just being too hot. Potentially, it could be an issue of shock.

You said the LFS is 3 hours away. It's possible, very possible, that their water conditions are very different than yours. Drip acclimation, potentially even several hours worth, may be necessary to prevent shock. This sort of shock doesn't always kill instantly; sometimes it just makes the fish that much more susceptible to disease or causes them stress, permanent damage, and death days or weeks later.

ESPECIALLY when water conditions are different, acclimation doesn't mean simply floating the bag. Mixing water is essential.

I have had Lake Malawi fish, which is the 'perfect fit' for my super hard, 8.4+ pH water. But right now, everything I've got is a soft/acidic water fish. And I have not experienced these issues. One thing is for sure though, drastically lowering the pH quickly will just create more shock.

The best way I've found to naturally soften water has just been plenty of good driftwood. I like it because it only makes a small difference, and it seems to do it slowly. I'm a firm believer that consistency is an order of magnitude more important than having similar water parameters to the fishes "homeland". Big swings from trying to change those parameters will kill fish fast.

FWIW there's a lot of things I'm willing to cheap out on. Lights on non-planted tanks, power heads, stands. But heaters, no way. My preferred heating setup is two heaters, each about half the wattage you need. Two, together, get the temperature up to the appropriate level. If one fails in the 'on' position, the other will shut off and the tank will not overheat, because your two heaters are not, individually, powerful enough to overheat it. (for example, if you determined you needed 200 watts of heat; use two 100 watt heaters instead of a single 200 watt heater). I have two heaters in all of my tanks except for my 10 gallon, where it's just impractical. And all of my heaters are good quality heaters. Cheap heaters wreak all kinds of havoc. There was a fiasco some time ago of a particular brand getting water in them, which turned to steam and built up pressure, and exploded! Eek! I like Eheim heaters but, any good quality heater will do.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 06:11 AM
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It is true that constantly adding water high in minerals can raise the mineral levels in the tank.
How fast, and to what level depends on the frequency of water changes, and the volume.

Most simply, a 100% water change will set the tank back to the tap water parameters.
Anything less than this will allow the minerals to accumulate.
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 10:19 AM Thread Starter
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I don't know what the store's conditions were. I didn't test the pH of their water like I normally would have. They'd been in the bag far too long in my opinion and I just wanted to get them out.

That said, I didn't rush my normal acclimation method. I took a 1/4 measuring cup and slowly added tank water to their store water. After about another hour I moved them into the tank. I did do a pH test of their water and the tank water at that point to make sure they matched.

About the heater; This heater came with the tank. It was just a "kit" that hardly is worth anything, anyway. For now I'm going to leave it without a heater. If I end up deciding it needs one I'll get one.

I have a Jager TruTemp on my 55 gallon. It seems to be a pretty good little heater.

Update on the fish:
The gourami's still not doing good. Now it's circling around instead of swimming straight... My idea now is that if I loose most of the fish I'm just going to get some more ember tetras and start over. They're doing the best so far. Hopefully the other gourami stays healthy, I really like them.
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 08-28-2015, 01:20 PM
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I would've acclimated them longer. I understand the desire to get them out of the bag quickly, but the shock of changing water conditions is more severe than the temporary exposure to ammonia during the bagging.
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