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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I teach at a high school and inherited a 120 gallon tank with rocks and wood and some inhabitants. This was in August.

When I moved in to my classroom, the outlet everything was plugged into had been off for a while, and there were fish, rocks, wood, and two sad anubias. There is no plan, because the tank existed pretty much as is, and I planted around the existing rocks and driftwood because I just didn’t have the time and funds to tear it down and build it back up - I had just been given a different job at work and purchased a house within a few weeks of school starting. Not to mention, I would have needed to move the existing fish. Anyhow, here is what I’m working with...

I plan on redoing it at some point, but I haven’t decided how I want to set it up when I do get in there this summer.

The fauna:
American Flagfish (female, 2, inherited)
Black Skirt Tetra (8, 4 are inherited, 2 others I added are transgenic... just because)
Cherry Barb (5, inherited 3 males, added females to change their dynamic)
Buenos Aires Tetra (3, I'm having a hard time recalling why I still have these guys, and am about to move them in with a Rio Grande Cichlid next door)
Dwarf Ram, Gold (1 male - this guy is awesome!)
Pea Puffer (1, recently added)
Snails, misc - 3E8, hence the dwarf puffer

Anubias, assorted
Amazon sword (dead?)
Tiger lotus
Narrow Leaf Saggitaria
Dwarf Saggitaria
Java Fern (barely)
Bacopa – two varieties
A couple other species I should have written the names of down, but didn’t...

Four Home Depot specials with 13 W (I think, and that’s actual wattage, not equivalents) Daylight spectrum CFL bulbs
One standard fluorescent bulb across the whole length
Giant canister filter that I’ve never messed with
Power head in the corner
No heater (stays pretty well between 72-80)

My pH is high, and I have some fish health problems.

I recently bought the dwarf puffer and the ram. I went for the puffer to control my snails and the ram caught my eye. I don’t know why, but I’m not a fan of clown loaches and I’d been reading about puffers for a while with mixed reviews. I wasn’t planning on picking the ram up, but the lady was like, “Yeah, they’re fine in a community tank.” And, “No, no real special requirements.” I’m not one to make a purchase with too limited information, but he was a good looking fish, and peacocking all over. He behaves fine in the tank, and I’ve only seen a barb chase him once. However, my water comes out of the tap at about 7.6 plus. I made a chart of the different required water parameters for each fish, and that is unacceptable for most of them in there.

I decided to test the water in the tank, and it was high. Like, top out my test kit past eight-point-whatever high. You can see in the top right current picture that it’s still high, but I’ve been adding acid every day to keep bringing it down. So far I’ve dumped in two 118 mL bottles of pH Down over the last week and a half, and have one more on reserve. It does keep bumping back up a little though every day. I’d like to know how to get it down and keep it down. I noticed that one of the rocks already in there is a giant chunk of limestone, but I’ve read that that won’t necessarily do too much to the pH (even though the test for limestone involves it bubbling in the presence of acid). Also, that is a huge piece of the stuff, and I would need to pretty much redo the whole thing if I pulled it. As far as I can tell, pH Down is just 1M H2SO4, (with nothing else?), and I was thinking about buying some more concentrated stuff and diluting it myself, since I have access and am tired of paying more for less, but I also wanted to make sure there were no serious side effects to that. The whole internet says sulfuric acid is “bad for aquatic life,” and it is part of acid rain. However, API sells it for aquaria, and the only academic paper I could find determined that when you put aquatic plants and animals (except hydrilla) in sulfuric acid solution at a pH of 3 it kills it pretty quickly. Yes, someone funded that – no surprises in the findings. Other than that, nothing. Would that be terrible, or is there a better way? I’ve heard about using peat moss and read something about Miracle Grow to lower pH, although that is highly cautioned against somewhere here. For 120 gallons, should I just keep dosing H2SO4? I’m concerned because my ram is ok, but that’s still above the recommended pH for him. I can probably get distilled water at work, but I can’t replace all 120 gal with that either.

My other concern is my fish health:
1. One of the transgenic tetras has been swimming around at an odd angle like he has a swim bladder problem. It has been in the tank since early January, and that only happened just before a few weeks ago.
2. I’ve also got some of the black skirt tetras that have packed on the pounds – the worst is in the picture alone. There are two more noticeably smaller than this one, but still too big. Again, this popped up a around the same time. I thought they were gravid, but they’ve been like this for a little while. I’d stop feeding, but the others look fine, and these fish seem to be more avid eaters than the rest. I’m currently feeding once a day (there’s no way I’m overfeeding right now), M-F, with a random second feeding one day per week.

3. I did have one of my flagfish die the day I brought in the puffer and ram, but I noticed as I put them in the tank that she was sick – not swimming much, literally sitting on the plants, and was pretty bloated. I pulled her immediately and set up a bucket with clean water, a filter (without charcoal) and bubbler (recommended somewhere) and dosed with meds. The next day she was jammed under the bubble wand and then swirled around. I have no idea how old the fish was. I also seem to be missing a 3rd female cherry barb – they don’t hang out together and tend to have different areas they stay – I haven’t seen her in a couple of days of active looking but my nitrates still seem to be fine and my ammonia hasn’t budged.
4. My last concern is that I noticed a white spot on my ram’s dorsal fin two days ago. I’m going to get meds, but this is kind of my biggest concern, since it can spread, and I love this fish.

I’m reading this as a general indication of declining tank health. I’ve never had a problem all year. I don’t do water changes since my pH is high out of the tap, a 10% change would be 12 gallons, and I have a ton of plants in there. My Ammonia is steady as a rock at 0. I have a 10 gallon planted tank at home that I ran for two years with no water changes, just top offs, and I had it dialed in so I didn’t even have algae problems, but my plants were thick. I got a 10 gallon for school as a hospital tank for the fat fish (was going to give them peas but I wanted to cycle the hospital tank), but there seem to be more problems. Will meds hurt my plants? Do I need to do anything about the canister filter with the meds? I’ve never messed with the filter, but will I need to when I dose? I’m assuming that I need to dose the whole tank since once you see white spot, it’s been there a little while, but that’s not just from having his immune system compromised due to the high pH, is it? I’m kind of lost, and I’d like to get on this before my fish really start dropping.

18 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I don't really want to start a new thread, so I'm going to resurrect this one that I already started. I had everything go pretty smoothly for two years and I had to move classrooms, so I tore it down and moved it, but I really want to do an Austin specific aquarium, so I'm doing research on that at the moment, but I wanted to try to start things growing and cycling (going to add some water from a turtle tank to speed that up).

My plan is to add some peat to the bottom and mulm, maybe some soil on top, and then throw the gravel back in over that, and go from there. Looked at leonardite, but it seems like peat on its own will do just as well unless I'm mistaken. I'll also be using some Jobe's plant food spikes (broken up) in place of tablets in the gravel. I'll post as I go here.

Here goes nothing.
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