Tested everything else. pH was a a little lower but they were acclimated. They were fine all afternoon and until I went to bed. Morning revealed wanton death. Tank has been running for an additional 3 weeks almost now. So we will see.
Dying that quick, I'd be worried that it was something other than hardness. I'd put the new batch into your community tank and just try one or two in the first tank.
I think maybe pH difference was a bit much and I didn't acclimate them long enough, get them close enough to new tank. The seller keeps them at ~7.2-7.3, my tank was on the lower end of the range at 6.42 (exactly, tested with my lab equipment haha). They got a few splashes over an hour but I think the 10-fold change in pH might have been too much. They told me it was my hardness and failed molting which seemed strange considering they had just gone in tank the day prior.
This time when they come in they're getting taken from their breather bags, going in a 5 gallon bucket, and slowly acclimated to my water over the next 24h. No chances. Hardness is fixed. pH is buffered by more than just my soil (Dennerle scapers soil) and Driftwood. The ones that managed to survive until I got home from work the following day in a tank so full of death got 24h splashed into a tank at 7.52. They're still alive as of this morning. So I know that very gradual and complete acclimation to new pH works (I brought them up to 7.4 before making final step into 7.52 tank). Idk what actually killed them. But I hope it doesn't happen again.
Putting in community isn't an option if I ever hope to get them out of it hahaha. Too heavily planted to net them back out except if I tear tank down completely. Nope.
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