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New tank with High Ph

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Hey everyone,

I just started my first planted tank last week and I'm off to a great start aside from a higher than usual Ph. I have a standard flourite-based substrate and some river sand. I used RO water from the LFS and they sold me on some Acid Neutralizer and Alkaline Neutralizer to balance the water. Ran the tank for a day and then put in 4 bundles of starter plants and 6 fish (3 cardinals and 3 silver tip). Tested the water for Ph and was amazed to see it at 8.2. I used an acid/alkaline ratio of 1:1.5, which based on the instructions should set me up for close to 7.0. Upon seeing the 8.2, i dropped the ratio to 1:1.3 and within a day it's down to 8.0. The LFS said to do a 1/3 water change to try and adjust it a big quicker.

What should I be doing to reduce the Ph? Maintain my dosing with the neutralizers or do a water change? Will it naturally bring itself back towards neutral? Will this immediately effect my fish and plants? (The plants already have new buds/leaves starting).
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IMO. You shouldn't be trying to change the ph at all. Otherwise, when your tank is established and there are more fish, you'll have the get the ratio perfect during water changes. The fish and the plants will be just fine at that ph, they'll adapt. But messing with it and trying to get it perfect during each water change you run a high chance of a huge pH swing and shocking/killing most of your fish quickly.

The fish will adapt to higher pH, my ph out of the tap here is around 8.4 and the fish do just fine (it is eventually brought down by co2 introduction to around 7.6).
 

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My tap is 8.2 which has been just fine for many years
 

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stability is the main thing. adding those chemicals that change the ph are a losing battle IMO . i have never found them to hold ph steady.
i found the fluval shrimp stadium substrate lowered my ph from 7.6 to 6.5. I'm told its because it has peat in it. you can get peat and add that to your filtration. but if you don't have critters that need lower ph i would not mess with it.
also im not sure what sand you used but sand thats meant for a saltwater system ( marine sand) will raise ph. as will dead coral , shells or any of that kind of stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Well, I hope this thing turns around pretty quick. I had two cardinals die yesterday with no apparent cause. They were fine in a school the day before and now two dropped out and one just kind of hovers over a hole next to a rock...Plants seem to be doing great as they area all rooting and making new leaves. The PH is now around 8.2/8.4....not sure what to do. Ammonia is 0.25ppm and nitrates and natrates aren't even measurable yet. Water was first put into the tank on Saturday and fish were put in on Sunday. Advice?
 

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Set the bottles of "acid neutralizer" and "alkaline neutralizer" on the shelf. Leave them there. Do a couple of 50% water changes, which will get rid of 75% of the stuff you added to the water. Then, put the pH test kit alongside the other bottles on the shelf. Now, you should find your fish and plants will do much better. I would also find a different store clerk, or different LFS to deal with when I shop for aquarium products.
 

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Walnut Creek CA is mostly on the East Bay MUD water system. VERY soft water. So soft that the water company has to add something to keep the water alkaline or else it would destroy the pipes. Are you on a well? If so, can you post a water report?

Stop using the acid and alkaline regulators.

Your (EBMUD) water is superb for soft water fish like cardinals with just a normal dechlorinator. Prime, Chloramine Buster... It does have chloramine, so make sure the dechlor will lock up the ammonia.

You will have to use some fertilizer for the plants. The water is so soft that it practically has nothing for the plants. Fish food supplies some fertilizer as it breaks down, but usually lacks K, Fe and Ca. With a low fish load there will not be enough of anything for the plants.
 

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Well, I hope this thing turns around pretty quick. I had two cardinals die yesterday with no apparent cause. They were fine in a school the day before and now two dropped out and one just kind of hovers over a hole next to a rock...Plants seem to be doing great as they area all rooting and making new leaves. The PH is now around 8.2/8.4....not sure what to do. Ammonia is 0.25ppm and nitrates and natrates aren't even measurable yet. Water was first put into the tank on Saturday and fish were put in on Sunday. Advice?
Just curious but the water was first added last Saturday?..I wouldn't add any fish until the tank cycles first.
 

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Water was first put into the tank on Saturday and fish were put in on Sunday. Advice?
Return the fish and do a fishless cycle.

Here it is:
Cycle: To grow the beneficial bacteria that remove ammonia and nitrite from the aquarium.

Fish-In Cycle: To expose fish to toxins while using them as the source of ammonia to grow nitrogen cycle bacteria. Exposure to ammonia burns the gills and other soft tissue, stresses the fish and lowers their immunity. Exposure to nitrite makes the blood unable to carry oxygen. Research methemglobinemia for details.

Fishless Cycle: The safe way to grow more bacteria, faster, in an aquarium, pond or riparium.

The method I give here was developed by 2 scientists who wanted to quickly grow enough bacteria to fully stock a tank all at one time, with no plants helping, and overstock it as is common with Rift Lake Cichlid tanks.

1a) Set up the tank and all the equipment. You can plant if you want. Include the proper dose of dechlorinator with the water.
Optimum water chemistry:
GH and KH above 3 German degrees of hardness. A lot harder is just fine.
pH above 7, and into the mid 8s is just fine.
Temperature in the upper 70s F (mid 20s C) is good. Higher is OK if the water is well aerated.
A trace of other minerals may help. Usually this comes in with the water, but if you have a pinch of KH2PO4, that may be helpful.
High oxygen level. Make sure the filter and power heads are running well. Plenty of water circulation.
No toxins in the tank. If you washed the tank, or any part of the system with any sort of cleanser, soap, detergent, bleach or anything else make sure it is well rinsed. Do not put your hands in the tank when you are wearing any sort of cosmetics, perfume or hand lotion. No fish medicines of any sort.
A trace of salt (sodium chloride) is OK, but not required.
This method of growing bacteria will work in a marine system, too. The species of bacteria are different.

1b) Optional: Add any source of the bacteria that you are growing to seed the tank. Cycled media from a healthy tank is good. Decor or some gravel from a cycled tank is OK. Live plants or plastic are OK. Bottled bacteria is great, but only if it contains Nitrospira species of bacteria. Read the label and do not waste your money on anything else.
At the time this was written the right species could be found in:
Dr. Tims One and Only
Tetra Safe Start
Microbe Lift Nite Out II
...and perhaps others.
You do not have to jump start the cycle. The right species of bacteria are all around, and will find the tank pretty fast.

2) Add ammonia until the test reads 5 ppm. This ammonia is the cheapest you can find. No surfactants, no perfumes. Read the fine print. This is often found at discount stores like Dollar Tree, or hardware stores like Ace. You could also use a dead shrimp form the grocery store, or fish food. Protein breaks down to become ammonia. You do not have good control over the ammonia level, though.
Some substrates release ammonia when they are submerged for the first time. Monitor the level and do enough water changes to keep the ammonia at the levels detailed below.

3) Test daily. For the first few days not much will happen, but the bacteria that remove ammonia are getting started. Finally the ammonia starts to drop. Add a little more, once a day, to test 5 ppm.

4) Test for nitrite. A day or so after the ammonia starts to drop the nitrite will show up. When it does allow the ammonia to drop to 3 ppm.

5) Test daily. Add ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. If the nitrite or ammonia go to 5 ppm do a water change to get these lower. The ammonia removing species and the nitrite removing species (Nitrospira) do not do well when the ammonia or nitrite are over 5 ppm.

6) When the ammonia and nitrite both hit zero 24 hours after you have added the ammonia the cycle is done. You can challenge the bacteria by adding a bit more than 3 ppm ammonia, and it should be able to handle that, too, within 24 hours.

7) Now test the nitrate. Probably sky high!
Do as big a water change as needed to lower the nitrate until it is safe for fish. Certainly well under 20, and a lot lower is better. This may call for more than one water change, and up to 100% water change is not a problem. Remember the dechlor!
If you will be stocking right away (within 24 hours) no need to add more ammonia. If stocking will be delayed keep feeding the bacteria by adding ammonia to 3 ppm once a day. You will need to do another water change right before adding the fish.
__________________________

Helpful hints:

A) You can run a fishless cycle in a bucket to grow bacteria on almost any filter media like bio balls, sponges, ceramic bio noodles, lava rock or Matala mats. Simply set up any sort of water circulation such as a fountain pump or air bubbler and add the media to the bucket. Follow the directions for the fishless cycle. When the cycle is done add the media to the filter. I have run a canister filter in a bucket and done the fishless cycle.

B) The nitrogen cycle bacteria will live under a wide range of conditions and bounce back from minor set backs. By following the set up suggestions in part 1b) you are setting up optimum conditions for fastest reproduction and growth.
GH and KH can be as low as 1 degree, but watch it! These bacteria use the carbon in carbonates, and if it is all used up (KH = 0) the bacteria may die off.
pH as low as 6.5 is OK, but by 6.0 the bacteria are not going to be doing very well. They are still there, and will recover pretty well when conditions get better.
Temperature almost to freezing is OK, but they must not freeze, and they are not very active at all. They do survive in a pond, but they are slow to warm up and get going in the spring. This is where you might need to grow some in a bucket in a warm place and supplement the pond population. Too warm is not good, either. Tropical or room temperature tank temperatures are best. (68 to 85*F or 20 to 28*C)
Moderate oxygen can be tolerated for a while. However, to remove lots of ammonia and nitrite these bacteria must have oxygen. They turn one into the other by adding oxygen. If you must stop running the filter for an hour or so, no problem. If longer, remove the media and keep it where it will get more oxygen.
Once the bacteria are established they can tolerate some fish medicines. This is because they live in a complex film called Bio film on all the surfaces in the filter and the tank. Medicines do not enter the bio film well.
These bacteria do not need to live under water. They do just fine in a humid location. They live in healthy garden soil, as well as wet locations.

C) Planted tanks may not tolerate 3 ppm or 5 ppm ammonia. It is possible to cycle the tank at lower levels of ammonia so the plants do not get ammonia burn. Add ammonia to only 1 ppm, but test twice a day, and add ammonia as needed to keep it at 1 ppm. The plants are also part of the bio filter, and you may be able to add the fish sooner, if the plants are thriving.
 

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Note:
EBMUD water is so soft that it will not cycle very well.
Add baking soda and GH booster and perhaps some KH2PO4 so the bacteria have the minerals they need.

When the cycle is done you will do a really large water change, and can go back to the really soft water that your fish will want.

I think the pH is too high for Cardinals and similar fish. I would try a few tests to see what can be done. The GH and KH are probably under 3 degrees (again, EBMUD water- if you are on a well, please post the numbers).
Try adding peat moss to some water and see what the pH does overnight.
My water (Contra Costa Water District) is a bit harder than yours, but not by much, and the pH is in the upper 7s to low 8s most of the time (sodium hydroxide added by the water company), and peat moss will make it about neutral to somewhat acidic, but not alter the GH or KH by much.
 
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