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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I did not anticipate how difficult it would be keeping fish! Boy. Anyway, I have a 30 gal planted tank that has been up and running for 3+ years now. I am on well water. I have a HOB filter, eco-complete substrate, and the light is a coralife fixture with 2x 18watt T5NO 6700K bulbs.

The pH of my tap water is 6.0 and is soft. I believe a 1 for both GH and KH. It has 10 ppm nitrates and all of a sudden 5 ppm ammonia. I use Prime as a conditioner.

The pH in my tank last month was 7.6, and has a 5 or 6 KH and I think the GH was about 4 IIRC. ammonia and nitrites were 0 and nitrates were 5 ppm. Fish have a hard time living in my tank. And there was a black residue I couldn't scrub off with my fingers on all the plants and tons of algae.

In the tank I had 6 ocelot danios, a female betta, a male betta temporarily in a breeding net, and 5 japonica shrimp and 2 red snails. I've had other fish but they all died. However I seemed to be stable with these guys. Even the male betta in the little net looked good and had a bubble nest.

Then I set up a 17gal riparium and I got RO water from an LFS. I moved the bettas two the riaprium with a divider down the middle of the tank.

Meanwhile back to my 30gal. The way I had been doing water changes is the following: Put 5 gal of water from the tap in a bucket and let it sit 3-4 days. The pH comes up to 7.6 after that amount of time and then I changed out the water. But then in the winter the pH stopped rising so the 5gal would sit in the bucket for 2-3-4 etc. weeks waiting for it to get a pH of near 7.6 so I could change the water. By the time it was close enough to the pH of my tank, the water level in my tank had dropped so low I ended up having to just add the new water to top it off.

It was really frustrating! But I couldn't just add the water straight from the tap because it seemed like when I did that, that is when I would get dead fish. But obviously topping off with tap water isn't idea so about a month ago my mom (I have moved out of the house now and am renting, I'm waiting to bring the tanks down) has been using the RO water to top off both tanks.

I came home today and noticed three things: 1) no more algae 2) no more black residue on my plants 3) no more japonica shrimp. Those are the main observations but also, the danios are now in permanent hiding. They used to always come out if someone came to the tank and they would beg for food. Now they hide all the time. The snails are breeding nicely. har har. And also in the riparium which is straight RO water with equilibrium, the male betta's fins look like [censored][censored][censored][censored] and he has no bubble nest and is not eating as enthusiastically as he used to.

So I have tested the tank water today and this is what it is now (I have not done any water changes on it in several months, it has only been topped off with RO):

pH - 7.2
ammonia - 0
nitrite - 0
nitrate - 0

GH - 6 °dKH
KH - 2 °dKH

Help?
 

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To start, getting ammonia in well water is very normal

Percolation


Especially in rainy times or anytime high organic soil is the prefilter before being pumped to tap...so the surprise ammonia is no surprise and through many factors it may be inconsistent...usually zero and then an ammonia spike.

Many possibilities for the black growth


Number one contender is a moneran mat of cyanobacteria feeding on good po4, sulfur and ammonia (thereby N) stores

Well water isn't all bad. When its good its good and Many prefer some of the natural percolated inclusions to the insanely powerful chems (chlorine, fl etc) used in public water processing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
But the problem is my shrimp all died. And I liked my shrimp. And also I now don't have any nitrates in either of my tanks when I used to have 5 ppm nitrates. Although I don't have any ammonia nor nitrites in either tank. And the pH in the smaller tank with the bettas is 6.0 now. KH of 1 and GH of 5.

I think maybe for the betta tank the problem is just the pH is too low and I should raise it with a little carbonate? But how to do that carefully while the bettas are in there?
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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pH is not nearly as important to livestock as kH and gH. pH can be influenced by all sorts of dissolved gasses, and those make little to no difference to fish (as long as there's enough O2 and CO2 is not at toxic levels). So as long as the kH and gH are consistent between all your tanks, you really shouldn't have any issues moving fish between them as long as the other water parameters are in good shape.

How often do you usually do water changes, and how much do you usually change at a time?

Do you use any water conditioner product? And what type of water treatment system does your well use?

I used to be on well water, and still treated my water with Prime during water changes to be on the safe side. I figured at the least, the Prime would help detoxify any heavy metals that might be present in the well water.

I suspect your issues are more related to overall water quality than pH.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I use Prime. I haven't done a water change on the bigger tank for several months. I did a small water change on the smaller tank 2 weeks ago.

I don't know how the well water is treated. It is filtered. I'm kind of just stumped and thinking about how much of a headache the tanks have been and how much money they have cost me and feeling like I should just give it a rest. But my mom would kill me because she bought the riparium for me for my christmas preasent and it cost a lot of money to put everything together.

I never get many concrete answers, maybe I'm not asking the right questions? Except that my pH is fine and my fish should all be fine. Except they aren't fine at all. So maybe in someone's book it doesn't matter that the pH is 6.0 or 7.6 but obvious my fish haven't read that book. Maybe it is the hardness. But I've also been told that shouldn't matter.

Why would I suddenly have no nitrates in my tanks but the ammonia and nitrites are absent? I've always had 5 ppm nitrates in my 30 gal tank. Suddenly, start topping off with RO water and they disappear, the fish all go into hiding and all my shrimp die off. But the plants are now fine and the algae is gone.

How did the water become hard in my 30 gal tank if it comes out of my tap soft? I have a piece of slate in there, eco-complete, lots of plants and some driftwood. That's it. Ok maybe topping off with tap water could increase GH. But the tank had a high pH and was hard way before I started doing that this winter.

I plan to just switch it over to RO water but obviously I haven't gotten the RO situation under control either seeing as how my betta is not doing so well in the straight RO tank. They have been in that tank for more than a month. Sometimes I wonder if what people on the internet say about bettas is all bull[censored][censored][censored][censored] and they really do like to be squished into little jars because this is the second time I've had a male betta start having crappy fins and making no bubble nest the moment it go put into a bigger space. This guy was doing great when he was in the little tiny breeder net. It's very frustrating.
 

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Fresh Fish Freak
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If you've got plants in this tank, they "eat" nitrates and kH. So if you're not keeping up with regular water changes then your water parameters will shift over time.

Well water can definitely shift in parameters, too. Depending on location, depth, etc, well water parameters may shift dramatically from season to season.

Your slate may be leaching into your tank.

If you've got differing amounts of plants between your different tanks, then your tanks won't "shift" at the same rate... leading to widely different parameters between the tanks, and issues when the fish shift between them. Stability is much more important to most fish species than any ideal kH, gH, or pH.

Did you slowly acclimate your betta to the RO water over a period of weeks (coming from very hard water to RO is a very dramatic change), or just move him between the tanks?

What was the reason that you started using RO water?

It seems like there are a whole bunch of factors at play here... I think there's not just any one cause of all your issues, but rather several issues all playing into each other.
 

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Plant Whisperer
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I haven't done a water change on the bigger tank for several months.
This is likely the reason your fish are dying. They have adapted to high waste levels and when fresh water is added they experience shock. By not doing water changes for months and months you allow a lot of dissolved organic wastes (from fish food/poop/decaying plants/dead bacteria) to build up in the water. Proteins, fats, and sugars do not fully degrade to nitrate in aquariums like they do in nature without long periods of time and huge bacterial loads.

These waste products cause long term stress in fish (lowering immune systems, stunting growth, damaging organs) which make them much more vulnerable to minute environmental changes. The wastes also promote algae growth (certain algae species directly consume organic wastes and use them to grow). This is the reason regular water changes are an absolute must. Not doing water changes to save effort does not work, a water change free tank is simply not possible at the hobbyist level.

So maybe in someone's book it doesn't matter that the pH is 6.0 or 7.6 but obvious my fish haven't read that book. Maybe it is the hardness. But I've also been told that shouldn't matter.
The pH will tend to rise as minerals from top-off water keep getting added to the tank. Evaporation loses water only allowing minerals to accumulate in the tank. These minerals and other dissolved compounds raise the pH over time. Also, if there is no CO2 system on the tank a heavily planted tank will often start to consume the carbonates in the water as a source of CO2 (the KH), this removes buffering capacity and further raises the pH.

For healthy fish pH fluctuations and other environmental changes are not a problem, but for a highly stressed fish it can easily be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Why would I suddenly have no nitrates in my tanks but the ammonia and nitrites are absent? I've always had 5 ppm nitrates in my 30 gal tank. Suddenly, start topping off with RO water and they disappear, the fish all go into hiding and all my shrimp die off. But the plants are now fine and the algae is gone.
Plants use nitrates, 5 ppm is very low and can easily be used up in a day or two. This is why most people maintain a minimum of about 15 ppm nitrates for plant growth.

How did the water become hard in my 30 gal tank if it comes out of my tap soft?
Evaporation, followed by constant topping off without a proper water change.

I plan to just switch it over to RO water but obviously I haven't gotten the RO situation under control either seeing as how my betta is not doing so well in the straight RO tank. They have been in that tank for more than a month.
Using RO water may help your current situation, but what you need to do is start doing several small water changes a day (5-10%) of your tank's volume. These small water changes will remove small amounts of waste that have built up in the tank water and allow the fish time to adapt. After you have done this for at least a week, you can start doing regular 50% water changes once a week or once every other week.

Any photos of your tank?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My computer is about to run out of battery so I have to write this quickly. (forgot my charger back home)

I used to do regular water changes and the fish always died after my water changes.

The reason I have stopped is because I don't have any water to do changes with. Because the water coming out of my tap is so different than water in my tank, I don't want to do a water change with it because that is when I have had fish die in the past.

I only started topping off this winter. Before that I never topped off I would always just do a water change because, if I let the water sit in a bucket for 5 days it would get a higher pH like the tank (probably because of CO2 gassing off). I've tried putting a heater in it and aerating it but it doesn't seem to speed up the process. It currently takes a month for the water in the bucket to go up to a pH similar to the tank. By then the level in my tank is so low and also the level in the bucket was lower.

So I didn't really have anything else to do but top off the tank. So I finally had had enough of that so I started using RO water. When I set up the riparium I just went with straight RO and I started topping the big tank off with RO. I'd would like to switch it to RO completely but I'm hesitant to do that seeing as how I can't even get my riparium RO water to stabilize.

But I guess I just have to do it since I don't have much choice. I have only 6 fish in my 30 gal tank and it is heavily planted so I don't feel that they are swimming around in tons of waste. There are several planted tank methods that involve no water changes at all, am I wrong?

But obviously something killed my shrimp and is bothering my danios even though the plants look much better and the algae is gone. I used to have horrendous algae.

Regarding the bettas, I drip-acclimated them. I'm not sure how you take a week to change a fish over to a different tank? Most fish people I talk to think I'm going over-board just to drip acclimate fresh water fish. I'm apparently the only person who has trouble with fish.

I'm sorry to sound snippy. I appreciate the help, I really do. I'm just so frustrated and disheartened about it. I'm upset about my shrimp, they were the oldest/longest fish I've kept so far.

PS. I have pictures but no idea how to post them on here now that the image site I used to use decided to start charging money for hosting images. I have looked around for other image hosting sites but haven't found anything yet.
 
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