Shrimp, PH and Fluval Stratum - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-18-2019, 01:31 PM Thread Starter
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Shrimp, PH and Fluval Stratum

Hey All,

I'm starting my first CRS tank (in fact, my first shrimp only tank) but am having problems with the water chemistry.

I have a 20 gallon tank and added about 1 1/2" Fluval plant and shrimp stratum to the bottom. I did not pre-rinse this, but I added water slowly and it's visually crystal clear.

I used RO water that I make at a mixing station I have for other tanks in my house. I aged the water a few days till about 6.8 Ph (it always seems to level off at this according to my test kits). I then re-mineralized it with Salty Shrimp Gh+ to about 150 TDS.

I added this water to the tank and a week later I'm at around 4.0 Ph. So I made up new water and did about a 98% water change. Checked Ph and it was around 6.2ish. However, the next morning, the Ph is down to about 5ish. I'm guessing it's working its way to the bottom again.

What the heck am I doing wrong? The only other things in the tank are a large piece of drift wood, 1 almond leaf and some java moss. Why is my Ph hitting the floor? Is it Stratum? Can driftwood drop PH close to 3 whole points?

I'm thinking of scrapping the stratum and going with inert substrate and trying Gh/Kh from salty shrimp, but I don't want to thrown out anything yet if Im doing something obviously wrong.

I've had zero problems making and re-mineralizing/buffering RO water for planted tanks and keeping the Ph reasonable. But this is escaping me.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-18-2019, 02:04 PM
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I'm not too sure, and please some one with more experience chime in. I'm assuming the driftwood and the almond leaf are dropping your ph levels a bit. Also, how long have you had this tank up? Is it cycled? If its still new, the water parameters might need time to stabilize even further. Hoping you find your answer and good luck!


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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-18-2019, 02:11 PM
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I have exp with Fluval Stratum in a couple of my tanks, they do tend to pull down the pH a bit but I would not expect this to contribute to sub drastic drop in pH.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-18-2019, 02:26 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Econde View Post
I'm not too sure, and please some one with more experience chime in. I'm assuming the driftwood and the almond leaf are dropping your ph levels a bit. Also, how long have you had this tank up? Is it cycled? If its still new, the water parameters might need time to stabilize even further. Hoping you find your answer and good luck!
The tank is not yet cycled, but I ran it about 2 weeks before a water change to see what affect that would have on the PH. During this time it crept down to 4ish. Will a fully cycled tank really affect PH that much? So far this has not been my experience with my other tanks, where the PH was more affected by mineralization, KH buffers, CO2 injection, etc.

I've been testing the PH in this with a digital pen that's been recently calibrated, and, at worse, is off by maybe 0.2 in its readings.

I'm wondering if not rinsing the stratum maybe is a factor? Could this cause it to acidify the water more due to some kind of substrate particulate? On the other hand, the TDS does not change when I add the water to the tank in an appreciable amount.

Right now I feel like I'd have more success without a buffering substrate. Totally stumped.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-18-2019, 03:14 PM
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It's good that you didn't rinse the substrate - clay/dirt-based substrates like this should never be rinsed.

There's no reason to "age" RO/DI water because there's nothing in it. Just remineralize to 5-6 gH (usually around 100ish TDS, depending on a few factors) and call it a day.

"Cycle" your tank with an ammonia source. It's going to take you up to a couple months.

Driftwood can impact pH, along with your substrate, but it's more important to focus on hardness than pH (I didn't say it was unimportant, though) when keeping shrimp.

What's your tank's kH? What's the gH?

How are you testing pH and other parameters?

Let your tank get cycled and settled (this will require a constant ammonia source) and then worry about water parameters. You'll likely see your tank settle somewhere between 6 and 7 pH.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-18-2019, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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I'm testing the water with both a digital Ph pen and the API test kit. Normally I just use the API test kit but it wont read lower than 6.0 Ph, so for these readings I use the pen. I know both of these tools isn't giving me an exact dead-on reading, but as long as its +/- 0.2 Ph I'm happy with the results. I don't fret about getting Ph exact, but dropping from 6.8 to 4.0 alarmed me.

Kh, last time I checked is 0. I'm also not adding any Kh buffers to the water, just Gh.

I don't recall the actual Gh (though I did test a few days ago and remember the reading being what I expected), but the TDS is about 150ppm, using just Salty Shrimp Gh+ to re-mineralize.

I guess at this point I'll just let this thing ride out the cycle and then test and see where I'm at.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-18-2019, 07:52 PM
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Your pH meter likely needs to be calibrated before each use - even if you have a device that's supposed to remain stable.

Are you calibrating each time you use it? If so, how?


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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-18-2019, 08:02 PM
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Agreed... cycle tank first before worrying about pH.

Some shrimp can actually handle a pH within the 4.5 to 5.0 range... maybe even lower. Last time I checked my tank, using SL-Aqua substrate, the pH was sitting at 5.5 using a Sera test kit.


Fluval generally isn't known for keeping a low pH (thus not recommended for Caridina shrimp) so I suspect that the driftwood may be lowering it further, especially if the tank is 'tea' colored.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-19-2019, 12:21 PM
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This is a common problem with a new tank where the ph drops, due to either tannins decaying matter, nitrification, etc.
If the pH drops below 6 or so, the cycle will stall out / slow down significantly. Common remedies are to change out the water again, or add a touch of buffer like Potassium Bicarbonate to bump the pH back up to at least the mid 6's.

I asked a similar question a week or so ago and was advised to just let things be. But I lost patience and added the touch of KHCO3. And now my ammonia went to 0.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-19-2019, 01:30 PM Thread Starter
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I'm really beginning to suspect its the driftwood in the tank. I have a substantial stump in Malaysian driftwood in there. I just never imagined a hunk of wood could so drastically and quickly change Ph. The water isn't discolored by it at all which lead me to believe the water wasn't tannic. But really, other than the Stratum, it's the only other thing reacting with the water.

I do remineralize. I haven seen this affect Ph in one way or the other, but . . . . the moment that water hits the tank, the Ph is on a race to the bottom. I guess I'm going to just try to cycle this and do water changes as either the driftwood settles in (assuming this is my problem). Taking the driftwood out now would cause me to re-scape the substrate and at that point i might as well just break it all down and try again with a different scape.

I am a bit worried about the cycle stalling due to very low Ph, but I'll guess we'll see. I have plenty of well-seeded media to drop in there once I get the ammonia levels up a few ppm.

Thanks everyone for chiming in thus far.

I'll post back if this thing stabilizes over time, or with anything I discover.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-19-2019, 02:57 PM
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Your cycle probably won't stall but it may take a bit longer than it would otherwise. Don't change anything, though, and you'll be fine.

Plenty of us "cycle" tanks with super-low pH, no kH, all that.


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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-29-2019, 04:27 PM Thread Starter
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In case anyone is interested in the answer to my problem . . . It was the driftwood. I had a huge hunk of bog wood stump in a 20 gallon tank and that was dropping the Ph by more than a full point.

The stratum was keeping the water at about a 6.4 and then the bog wood was dropping it to a 5.0 ish range.

I replaced the bog wood (sad as I liked that piece) with spider wood and the Ph is a steady 6.4.
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-01-2019, 12:03 AM
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Originally Posted by tolstoy21 View Post
In case anyone is interested in the answer to my problem . . . It was the driftwood. I had a huge hunk of bog wood stump in a 20 gallon tank and that was dropping the Ph by more than a full point.
Thanks for following up with the answer!
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-01-2019, 01:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tolstoy21 View Post
In case anyone is interested in the answer to my problem . . . It was the driftwood. I had a huge hunk of bog wood stump in a 20 gallon tank and that was dropping the Ph by more than a full point.

The stratum was keeping the water at about a 6.4 and then the bog wood was dropping it to a 5.0 ish range.

I replaced the bog wood (sad as I liked that piece) with spider wood and the Ph is a steady 6.4.
It wasn't the driftwood! It was the driftwood vs the substrate. You should be able to save the driftwood to use with a different substrate.

Cheers from someone else who tried too much at once.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 10-01-2019, 02:37 PM Thread Starter
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It wasn't the driftwood! It was the driftwood vs the substrate. You should be able to save the driftwood to use with a different substrate.

Cheers from someone else who tried too much at once.
Yeah I was actually thinking that: which should I switch, the substrate or the wood? The wood turned out to be easier, since I had some decent spiderwood in the basement that I could use.

I might try the stump in another tank with inert substrate and see where that winds up in terms of Ph.
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