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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just set up a 10g low tech tank. I have a betta, a nerite, a 5 ghost shrimp. Also a variety of plants, java fern, anubias, wisteria, java moss, cryptos, and a few others. I'm using Eco-Complete flora max substrate. The PH has been holding at 7.4, which was higher than I'd like but it was still safe parameters for my livestock. I just tested the water this morning and it's at 8.8! Could be higher, but that's as high as the reagents go (I'm using the API master kit).

I am going to tear the tank down and switch it over to a new one today, since I found a crack in my current tank, and I was wondering if there are any safe, cheap ways to lower the PH. Any stores around here that carry fish supplies are too far for me to bus, and the earliest I can get a ride is tomorrow. Is there anything I can do today though? I'm really worried this will kill my critters.
 

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Carpe Diem
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Vinegar, if you must.
 

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pH is not a stand alone value.
The salts and minerals in the water determine the pH.
The water company may add something to the water to make the KH high.
You may have some stone, or perhaps the substrate is releasing some minerals into the water.
In aquariums, the KH test will tell you if these levels are too high. If the KH is high, then adjusting the pH is going to be difficult. Whatever acid you add is going to get counteracted by the carbonates and the pH will go up again.

Test the KH. (acts like a buffer, and keeps the pH stable)
Test the GH. (Calcium and magnesium- more important than the pH for the fish)

Find a way to lower these. One way is to blend tap water with reverse osmosis water. This will lower the levels of everything in the water.
Try a few blends of tap + RO, and see which blend gets closest to what you are looking for.
25% RO + 75% tap
50/50
75% RO + 25% tap
Post back here, lets see if you need to fine tune the recipe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I don't have testers for KH and GH, but I can see if the fish store can test the water for me. I have no idea how to get RO water where I live. Will distilled water work? I know I can buy that at the grocery store.
 

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I've used distilled water to bring down my pH. Mixing it with tap is helpful. I'm not sure what the pH is of store bought distilled water is, but I distill my own and it comes out around 6.0 (my tap is 8.7). I usually use Acid Buffer by Seachem because it's quick. If you have any driftwood, that will also bring the pH down more naturally.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Alright. I'll get some distilled water and test it before I change my tanks over, and use that until tomorrow. I have some driftwood in my tank (my only hardscaping, no stones), but it doesn't leech very much, if any tannin. I know my LFS has some that will tho, and I'll see if I can pick some up. I've been wanting to get some anyway since betta prefer acidic/neutral water, and I kind of like the idea of having a "tea stained" tank. I'm mostly worried about the shrimp tho. I eventually wanted to replace the ghosties with some neocardinia and I know they can be sensitive.
 

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Don't use vinegar or any other acid to drop the pH. At best the drop in pH will be temporary, because the KH of the water, plus the CO2 that dissolves into the water from the air, forms a buffer that will soon return the pH to where it started. At worst you are adding a substance that neither the fish nor the plants can use, and you will not be helping either.

Most big grocery chain stores, like Safeway, carry gallon bottles of distilled water, costing about one dollar per gallon. If you add a few of those to a 10 gallon tank you can dilute whatever is causing the high pH, thus reducing it.

I agree with Diana that you need to get KH and GH test kits so you can better figure out what is causing the high pH. Amazon carries a good brand for those, Neutrafin, at a reasonable price, about $19. Don't use the API kits, because their GH test kit doesn't work very well, at least all of those I have tried haven't.
 

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When you want to make a change like this, go slow. The fish need time to adapt to softer water. Figure out the recipe you want to use and prepare the new water. Then do small water changes every few days so the change in mineral levels is small each time.
You might start with a 10% water change, twice a week, then increase it to 20% and do 2-3 of these a few days apart.

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So the tank's pH is normally at 7.4?
Is the water out of your tap/faucet at 7.4 as well?

If so, something in your tank is raising your pH.
Got any rocks in the tank? Or using any crushed coral/oysters? Dosing baking soda?

By the way, I use API liquid GH/KH tests and they seem to be accurate for me. Don't have another brand kit to compare them to, but they seem to read correctly when using reference solutions and they correspond appropriately to concentrations.
 

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Pronk I googled images of Eco-Complete flora max substrate. It looks like black pebbles, something heavy which will sink immediately upon placement. Substrates which will not cause alkalinity (of neutral water) are elements which float when initially added, e.g. peat moss, Catappa leaves, etc. Their saturation and eventual sinking process acidifies neutral water. Driftwood, touted on forum after forum after forum as an acidifier, does in fact not acidify neutral water or acidic water if it has already been saturated and sunk (which is how most aquarists like it, saturated enough to sink and stay put). I’ve played with my pH monitor for many, many years, I know this. Do not associate what you are calling "tea stained" water with acidic water. As I write this I have "tea stained" water of 7.2, which is considered alkaline, which was 4.43 10 days ago. Time alone can cause water to become alkaline though the color remains. Just because wood makes your water dark does not mean it’s lowering the pH, especially if your pH level was below 7 to begin with.

You write, “The PH has been holding at 7.4 … I just tested the water this morning and it's at 8.8! … “ Please quantify “holding.” Weeks, hours, months, days? An increase from 7.4 to 8.8, in less than 1 week for example, is significant, I’d even go so far to call it a spike. And WaterLife would be correct, something in your tank is raising your pH.

But over months the increase may merely be the result of infrequent water changes. If the increase was gradual you should not have to worry that it will kill your critters, but regardless of how long the process has taken a pH level 8.8 is high for Betta splendens and you should eventually get around to lowering it, and maintaining a lower reading.

If you have come to the point where you are going to tear the tank down and switch it over to a new one then go without substrate. You can add it in slowly over time to increase the pH level to where you want it. And if you are truly a serious fish addict, invest in a pH monitor. Those inexpensive kits in PetCoLandMart are not for you.

Safe, cheap ways to lower the pH means peat moss. (I’m assuming you live in a temperate climate where you can’t rake up Catappa leaves.) A few USD purchases a cubic foot which can last for months. Do not go to stores around there that carry fish supplies, go to a gardening store and get peat that has not had any fertilizer added to it - this is important - if fertilizer has been added the packaging will clearly indicate so, as it’s a marketing gimmick.

If you are in a pinch and don’t have transportation I would suggest Oak leaves, if you have access to Oak trees perhaps in a park nearby. Surf google images if you don’t know what they look like. You want the dead ones and you’ll get strange looks picking them up off the ground, I know this. Go at sunrise, the joggers won't hassle you. Oak leaves aren’t nearly as effective as peat or Catappa, especially during the Spring (I’m assuming you are in the Northern hemisphere) after lying around all Winter. Best time to collect is during the Fall.

Diana is correct pH is not a stand alone value. Salts and minerals in the water play a role in pH level. I too suspect the substrate is releasing minerals into the water. Using reverse osmosis (RO) water dilutes levels of everything in the water, but not for long, and the pH will creep back up again. RO, distilled, and rainwater has no buffering capacity. The pH can spike, or plummet, very easily.

Distilled water = RO water = rainwater. The differences being that the latter is free (and in the Northeast USA is acidic), while distilled will cost you > 0.75 USD per gallon, and you’re gonna have to lug it on and off the bus, 8 pounds per gallon, for your biceps.

Cheetah2 the cyber world says the pH of store bought distilled water is neutral, i.e. 7.0. But my monitor says 5.87. I trust my monitor, it’s calibrated monthly. Driftwood can naturally reduce pH if and only if the pH is high to begin with, which certainly seems to be Pronk’s case.

Pronk if you’re going to test distilled water with the PetCoLandMart kit you might get a reading of 6.0. That’s the lowest those kits read, right?

quangtm your Black water extract from indian almond leaves can do in a pinch, but extracts of anything should not be relied on in the long run. Whenever possible go with the raw product.

Here’s an interesting comparison of 5 acidifying elements Lowering Aquarium pH ? the Most Effective Methods | Aquarist Magazine . Unfortunately neither extracts nor peat moss were used in the comparison. Had they been however, I'd bet extracts would be the least effective while peat moss would be equal to or even surpass Catappa.

Diana, slow changes may be best for certain species of fish + plants. But a species such as Betta splendens, in 8.8 water, does not need time to adapt to softer water anymore than a human breathing air pollution needs to slowly adapt to fresh mountain air. I’ve brought Gourami home from PetCoLandMart that were clearly sick. Clamped fins, white spots, the whole shebang, and plunged them straight into peat treated, very soft water of pH <6. The transformation is miraculous.

Some readers will believe I’m OCD when it comes to pH and to post such a long message. But over the years I've become an ardent believer in water <6.0 as the surest way to prevent fish from becoming sick (I work nearly entirely with bubble-nesting species however, not livebearers which require alkalinity), to quickly cure fish which are sick, and to induce spawning. Ich, velvet, fin rot, etc, just simply get dead in acidic water. Peace.
 
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