Going crazy over CO2 and Ph levels - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-25-2018, 09:38 PM Thread Starter
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Question Going crazy over CO2 and Ph levels

Help please? I've am so confused about my CO2 and Ph levels in my 65 gal planted tank. The more I read the more confused I get.
My Ph is a natural 7.8 from the tap and in my tank. I have be injecting CO2 for about 2 yrs now and still can't get it right. I just purchased a CO2 regulator/reactor and thought my problem was over. However it's not.
Here's what I have. My Ph is 7.8 without CO2 I am trying to lower and keep it around 7.0 but in order to do that I have my Bubbles at around 10 bps just to keep it at 7.0. The regulator/reactor runs until it reaches 6.93 and turns on again when it gets to 7.05. It is takes only 15 mins. for it to turn on again. I think the amount of CO2 is too much. And it only takes a little while before the Ph rises again. If I stop the CO2 the Ph would go back up to 7.8 in less then 2 hrs. I have no rocks except gravel substrate.
Am I thing this all wrong? Should I not try to lower the Ph so much and just add just enought to lower the Ph slightly?

Stats: Ph 7.8 without CO2, KH is 5 degrees, GH is 18 degrees. I have 8 pieces of driftwood, a fist full of peat moss in a bag. Tetras of different verity, Ghost scrimp, snails, algae eaters and a few Barbs. Lighting medium to hight. Lot's of plants. And BBA which is most challenging. Weekly or ever two weeks I do a 25-30% what water change with aged water. Ph is 7.5-7.8. Which doesn't help my Ph problem.
I stopped fertilizing but nothing seems to help or change.
Any suggestion would be more the appreciated. Thanks

Go fish!
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 03:39 AM
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Your water has very little buffering capacity. Hence the swings, and rapid changes.

You have some options to resolve that.

Bump up KH a bit. Use a buffering substrate. Amazonia and dennerle scapers soil both will preferentially buffer the water down to 6.5-7.

You can also use amendments like seachem alkalike & acid buffers. When used in conjunction as recommended you can buffer your water around a specific pH. It'll prevent this from rapid fluctuations. It will also very slowly (when used as directed) bring your pH TO that target range, such as not to shock your livestock. I personally use them both in my shrimp tank to buffer around 7.25.

Raising kh/gh a bit might help. Look up Tom Barrs gh+ recipe. Is open source. Works great. Affordable to mix at home.

pH should definitely not be swinging that fast though.



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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 11:28 AM
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Try not to play mad scientist with you're water chemistry if you can avoid it.
Here in Florida all our water runs through limestone so you should be able to bounce a basketball on it.
I've slowly relaxed regarding the management of my water chemistry but it took awhile. PH swings that are CO2 induced don't effect fish because the water mineral parameters aren't swinging just the ph level based on the gas so no worries there. Drop checkers work really well for "an on the fly" or "at a glance" reference. A lot of my posted strings reference needing water help and a lot of posted data on how it developed over time. I now use 100% RO and use GLA for my mineral content. You're post of 18⁰GH if accurate is the same concrete I have here or very close. 5⁰KH is also plenty for stable PH without risk of acidic crash.
Couple shorter strings based on Florida tap from our aquifer.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...h-hazards.html
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...r-o-water.html
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Last edited by wkndracer; 10-26-2018 at 08:19 PM. Reason: fat finger spelling
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 12:59 PM
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pH and alkalinity are related. But not the same. And a change in pH that is due to dissolving co2 in the water, which creates carbonic acid, most definitely has an impact on the fish as it is changing the acidity of their environment, regardless of the mineral content.

If you're keeping fish, you *are* playing the role of a chemist. Maintaining water levels of ammonia/ammonium, phosphates, co2, etc, through supplements or water changes... Like it or not, that's your role. And continuously using co2 as the means of acidifying the water can lead to things like gassing your fish out and suffocating them, or, say a power outage happens. Water swings from 7.0 to 7.8 in the OPs case. Then when it comes back on, it swings back down to 7.0. In a period of 4 hours.

That's a 401% decrease, followed by a 401% increase in acidity. The fact that it's a log scale and each increase is actually a marked increase or decrease in the acidity is why a change if 0.2-0.3 in, say, our own blood's pH can lead to seizures and coma.

Regardless of *why* it is swinging, it can be detrimental

Not to mention that the state ammonia is in is directly related to pH. So in that power outage example, as pH increases... It pushes the equilibrium towards ammonia. NH3. As it approaches pH 8.0, that increases more rapidly each step. Not in a linear fashion. So you have not only stressed the fish with a sudden change in the acidity of the world they live in, but pushed the ammonium in the tank (which, yes, can be deadly on it's own) into a far more impactful and harmful state. Shocking them with ammonia which can leave long term impacts. (This is why when you order fish online that do not come in breather bags, you rapidly remove them from the water they are shipped in, because as the pH of that water rapidly rises with exposure to the air, it drives the ammonium they excrete as waste the entire time they are in the bags to go from NH4+ to NH3. So they get a shock as acidity drops suddenly and then the nitrogenous waste in the bag with them suddenly becomes even more toxic to them). Keeping the pH buffered to remain lower, with or without co2 running, will keep them keep that equilibrium pushed towards ammonium, which is far less toxic to their fish than ammonia.




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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 01:04 PM
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pH swings from CO2 are completely harmless. As said above, the mineral and carbonate concentrations are not changing, only gas concentrations.

Do not use chemicals to alter pH.

The pH drop of 0.8 is good, you can even go higher than that if you want. Up to a 1.3 drop.

2 hours is normal for the pH to go back to atmospheric equilibrium.

10 bps seems about right, maybe a smidgen high, what filter are you running? Hows the flow / surface agitation? are you using any air-stones at all?

Edit: @adkaquascaping

how would you suggest running CO2 to avoid pH swings?
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 01:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
Try not to play made scientist with you're water chemistry if you can avoid it.
Here in Florida all our water runs through limestone so you should be able to bounce a basketball on it.
I've slowly relaxed regarding the management of my water chemistry but it took awhile. PH swings that are CO2 induced don't effect fish because the water mineral parameters aren't swinging just the ph level based on the gas so no worries there. Drop checkers work really well for "an on the fly" or "at a glance" reference. A lot of my posted strings reference needing water help and a lot of posted data on how it developed over time. I now use 100% RO and use GLA for my mineral content. You're post of 18⁰GH if accurate is the same concrete I have here or very close. 5⁰KH is also plenty for stable PH without risk of acidic crash.
Couple shorter strings based on Florida tap from our aquifer.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...h-hazards.html
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...r-o-water.html
Wkndracer's first statement is on the money. The rest is perfectly sound advise, but honestly messing with your water chemistry isnt usually sustainable. I worked in a chem lab for 3 years and we crashed solutions occasionally while standing over them (meaning dropped the ph too low and had a hard time getting it back up. That happens when you use up all the solution's buffer)I think the real queastion is, why do you need to lower your ph?

A ph drop of 1 is shorthand for the amount of CO2 in your tank, and is dependant on your hardness. A drop checker is a better way, because it uses the ph of off gassing in a solution with a known buffering capacity, which is much less dependant on your water hardness (so much so my gut tells me the amount affected, if any, is moot) .

If you are teying to lower your ph for livestock, i dont reccomend it. Most livestock can adjust to the pH of your water. Honestly, the risk of inconsistency in your pH is a larger Hazard than the pH itself.

If you use a drop checker and find that it indicates you have less CO2 in your tank than you should, do should start thinking about how your CO2 gets in your tank. CO2 doesn't like to stay in solution to begin with, and things like excessive water surface agitation from bubblers, and bad dissolution of CO2 in the first place can cause you to lose CO2 to the atmosphere. Also, high temps lower the rate of CO2 dissolution.

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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 01:19 PM
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Iíd like to expand upon the good comments, above.

PH is not the evil we once thought it was. What we used to think of as pH shock was, in reality, TDS shock. This is the combined minerals in our water and is easily measured with inexpensive TDS pen-type meters. TDS is mainly composed of the two minerals that GH also measures. PH just happens to also somewhat reflect changes in TDS, but itís better to focus directly upon TDS for the impact it has on fish. Regarding CO2-driven pH changes, as @wkndracer mentioned, they do not affect our fish in the way that TDS changes do.

CO2 fine-tuning and measuring tools can be fun to play with, but (as @wkndracer mentioned) you donít need to be so precise and will never achieve precision, anyway, because the crude tools we use (dcís, charts, formulas, etc.) only get us into the ballpark. Here is another one that I use as a guide: Rotala Butterfly | Planted Aquarium CO2 Calculator

Most of us do try to keep ourselves comfortably within the 30-40ppm CO2 area. Generally, a one-point pH drop from fully degassed water gets you to the 30ppm area. However, the most useful recommendation is to raise your CO2 Ė gradually Ė until you see your fish struggling, then back off, let them adjust for a day and try again. Once you reach the point where they can no longer adapt, leave it there. You will find that this is the best way to maximize CO2 and usually gets you near the 40 ppm level, which is a greater pH drop than one point.

Virtually all community fish will be fine at Ďlowí pH levels and, I believe, shrimp prefer pH in the 6-7 area. Many of us run with pH in the 5ís. KH will be a big determinant of your pH level, as you can see in the link I supplied, but it doesnít affect your CO2ppm level. It just moves your pH level which, again, is not harmful to your fish. Some of us also believe that maintaining pH in the 6ís increases the ability for the plants to uptake ferts. Although I havenít seen studies that definitely support this in aquatic environments, it is well-established to exist in terrestrial plants (especially in my lawn). So, I happen to be a believer in this.

Now, the other things you mentioned: I donít like the fact that you stopped fertilizing. Healthy plants are critical to minimizing algae. Healthy plants only come from the right balance of light (drives everything), CO2 (most important nutrient) and ferts (must be non-limited). If you are having particular problems with plant health, you might want to start a new thread detailing those problems along with your parameters and dosing.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by thanatopsian View Post
A ph drop of 1 is shorthand for the amount of CO2 in your tank, and is dependant on your hardness. A drop checker is a better way, because it uses the ph of off gassing, which is much less dependant on your water hardness.
It is not that simple. If it was we could come up with a simple chart saying "at x hardness, you need an x pH drop to achieve x ppm CO2"

Every tank on this forum uses different amounts of CO2, even at the same hardness. pH drop is a much more accurate way than waiting 2 hours for a drop checker to turn colors. My tank is fine up to a 1.2 drop, others have issues at 1.1 or success at 1.3. It's all relative to individual tanks, drop checkers are less accurate and offer more room for error than measuring pH drop.

We can get into science all we want, but for our needs a pH drop seems to offer the easiest / best way of determining where our OWN tanks are most happy.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 01:58 PM
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Also should mention that the "happy tank" mentioned by @Quagulator and fish struggling that I mentioned can be greatly improved by good gas exchange via the breaking of the waters' surface tension (many ways to do this). Doing so, allows for greater levels of CO2 before fish will struggle.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 02:03 PM
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Increased CO2 will demand an increase of O2 for fish to thrive as if we weren't injecting CO2 in the first place.

You will use more CO2, but it's worth the cause/price to have healthier fish / shrimp.

Youtube has some great videos on gas exchange in a CO2 injected tank. Worth watching 100%.
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post #11 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 06:04 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkndracer View Post
Try not to play made scientist with you're water chemistry if you can avoid it.
Here in Florida all our water runs through limestone so you should be able to bounce a basketball on it.
I've slowly relaxed regarding the management of my water chemistry but it took awhile. PH swings that are CO2 induced don't effect fish because the water mineral parameters aren't swinging just the ph level based on the gas so no worries there. Drop checkers work really well for "an on the fly" or "at a glance" reference. A lot of my posted strings reference needing water help and a lot of posted data on how it developed over time. I now use 100% RO and use GLA for my mineral content. You're post of 18⁰GH if accurate is the same concrete I have here or very close. 5⁰KH is also plenty for stable PH without risk of acidic crash.
Couple shorter strings based on Florida tap from our aquifer.
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...h-hazards.html
https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...r-o-water.html
So my tap and tank water is 7.8 and I want to inject CO2 for my plants. In order for me to have 25 ppm of CO2 I need to run my BPS at around 12 in order to reach that point. As shown in this calculator from https://aquariuminfo.org/co2calculator.html . Or should I just raise my control setting to a PH of lets say 7.5 rather then 7.0 which is what I have it set for now just to get to around 20 PPM of CO2. I hope you understand my question.
And Thanks for your reply.

Bump: Thank you all for your great advice. I much appreciate your time and knowledge on this subject.
Great fishing.

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post #12 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-26-2018, 08:32 PM
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The way I tuned my tanks gas rate was / is always monitored by using a drop checker with 4dkh solution in it. The color shift of the solution is how I base the controller set points. The valve tuning based on whether my down flow reactor passed bubbles or not. Light limit the tank meaning plenty of ferts and CO2 will always help with algae control shorting ferts only aggravates things. Healthy plants and controlled photo period got me a thumbs up from John Barr once. Google / get a drop checker and skip the charts is my recommendation.


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post #13 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 12:06 AM
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IMO, a drop checker is a poor way to tune in CO2. Takes too long to change, and is a rough estimate at best.

Best method is using a correctly calibrated pH probe.

Don't focus on a CO2 ppm amount. Based on our methods, it's little better than a guess. A one point drop might be 30ppm, 15ppm, or 50ppm So many variables you will never know.

Focus instead on plants and livestock. Watch them closely.

When you increase CO2, you also create more demand for ferts. They go hand in hand.

If livestock shows stress, back off. As others have mentioned, good surface agitation/oxygen levels is important, and gives you more leeway with CO2 injection. Don't worry about the bubble rate. Treat CO2 like it's free.

It takes time and effort to dial in the optimum pH drop for any tank. But if you want to grow plants well, it's worth the effort. And once you do find it, you want to keep it stable. Even relatively small changes can have a quick affect on plants.


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post #14 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 03:17 AM
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In the Tampa area and with reasonably high PH, I might guess there is some treatment going on before the water reaches your tap at such a low KH, since limestone is the primary reason Tampa will have high PH. Guessing there, as I have no idea how they do treat the water.
But from a low stress point of view, I would suggest doing a more natural way to get the KH higher, not using commercial products. The products do alter the water but only as long as the treatment lasts so that leaves me using things that last longer like adding limestone, shells or other things that do last longer. If you have acidic water and low KH, folks will scream that limestone changes the water too much. But that is a time when we can take advantage of the natural process and let the rocks set and very very slowly degrade and raise the KH. That higher KH buffers the water PH and makes it slower to change, which is good for your tank.
For simple thinking, KH and TDS might be thought of as near the same but a bit different measurements. Total dissolved is not all mineral content as it does include things like mud but when we have lots of limestone, it can pretty much be the larger part of the TDS we might measure. So whether we want to speak of raising TDS or raising KH, it gets the same result as an increase in buffering. The higher buffering will let you add more CO2 and not get such sharp PH changes. But how much each tank needs is also very much changed by how much actually STAYS in the water. We may need to add way lots more if we let lots more go out the top! I deal with tanks in Florida, California, and Texas and each takes a different level of "playing" with them to get near what I might want.
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post #15 of 18 (permalink) Old 10-27-2018, 10:59 AM
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Trying to keep it simple and do no harm while sharing experiences. Having more than one reference gives me comfort. I decided on using controllers (Pinpoint), chemical tests (mostly using API now), TDS (conductivity), quality regulators along with good solenoids and even better needle valves.

I went through periods where I spent stupid money on better / higher end test kits. Had water samples run through a local lab three times. Silly enough to even order some stuff from Germany and Japan.
Hobbyist test kit quality control can vary, the age of the chemicals etc. Testing source samples well or central supplied I always allowed the water to stand and off gas in an open container before testing. I purchased Pinpoint controllers and was 'schooled' at that time by others on it being an unnecessary expense yada yada but this is a hobby so each spends funds and time as each chooses. I set the drop and span on the controllers just like everyone else and watched my tanks making adjustments. Having the glass drop checkers in each injected tank with 4dkh solution is the cheapest thing I have in my tanks. With the equipment hidden in cabinets from across the room glancing at the drop checker informed me of a fried solenoid. One tank had a "pretty blue" globe in it instead of the yellow/green.

My wife laughed herself off the couch at how excited I became the first time a tank full of plants pearled during peak photo period.

I use to spend around two hours a week testing almost everything but have dropped WAY back on all that. My early posts here were full of tank parameter postings. Once I built my RO system and settled into a routine with known materials fish, plants and one added water box after another almost ran me out of my house LOL! I was a tank hoarder but I'm much better now.

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