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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just started a new 2.5 gallon planted tank, and I've been having a problem keeping the pH up. This is the smallest tank I've ever had, and I've also never had a tank with as much as 4 W/gallon before. Therefore, it's very possible that I've made some simple mistakes that a more experienced person wouldn't have. If anyone knows what might be causing my problem, I'd appreciate any suggestions.

It's only been up and going for about a week. The substrate is just small size aquarium gravel with a few handfuls of gravel from an old tank mixed in. I filled it half with water from the same tank, and half with new water treated with tap water conditioner. It has a small hang on the back Deco Art filter, a 10 W compact fluorescent, and a small heater. The temperature is kept at 78 degrees F, and the lights are kept on 10-12 hours a day. My water is very soft. Once the plants were in, I added a very small amount of Fluorish Excel, Kent fertilizer, and Seachem Stability.

So far the only plants are a clump of java moss, a medium sized java fern, a small A. nana, some H. callitrichoides, and 2 dwarf sags. To start the cycle, and, with any luck, to grow up, I put in 4 Endler's liverbearer fry, 4 A. cacatuoides fry, and 4 cherry shrimp. I fed the fish a tiny amount (about this much -->()<--) of microworms 2-3 times a day, and I continued to dose with Stability daily.

After a few days, I found that one Endler had died, a cherry shrimp had died, and at least one cichlid had died. I assumed that I must have had a waste spike. I immediately tested the ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH. Surprisingly and unfortunately, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate were zero. However, pH was at 6.0 or less although the tap water here is normally ~7.2.

I immediately did a 50% water change. The next day I did a 10% water change. Today I found 2 more dead cherries, one more dead Endler, and I couldn't find any cichlid fry. I checked the pH again, and it was down at 6.0 or less, so I did another 50% water change. I also added some crushed coral to harden the water and bring the pH back up. I also added two more ferns, some water sprite, and some nara grass, because I figure that if the problem is waste, more plants won't hurt.

With ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate at zero, I assume the problem isn't decay from food, plant matter, or dead cichlid fry. All the rocks and gravel added were either from another tank or a fish store, and all were rinsed, so I don't think those could be the problem. I don't think the plants themselves could be the culprits either.

Three things that I am worried about are the filter media, the woolly stuff the HC came planted in, and the amount of lighting. The filter media is a black and white layered cottony mesh that came with the filter. As far as I can tell, it's just a mechanical filter and a good place for bacteria to collect. I don't know what it's made out of though, so it could be the problem. Next, because the HC was so small, I just took it out of the planter that it was commercially sold in, cut off most of the woolly stuff, and partially buried the rest. I wouldn't think that this stuff would be the problem, but it could be. Finally, since there is a decent amount of light, I'm concerned that the photosynthesis might be somehow causing the pH crash.

If anyone has any idea what might be causing this pH problem or what I might do to cure it, please let me know. Thanks!
 

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I can't help you, but a kh reading may be helpful to the people who can help you!

Get a kh reading out of the tap and in your tank when its at a low ph.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the responses.

sandiegoryu - I'll do water tests as soon as I get home from work today, and this time I'll include the kh test.

eklikewhoa - The tank has only been up for a week, so it's not fully cycled yet. I did start it with 50% water and some gravel from an old tank with 10 ppm nitrate so I would have expected to see about 5 ppm of nitrate. I didn't though, and maybe that's due to the small number of animals and relatively larger number of plants. There shouldn't be a problem with the testing kit because it's new, I regularly test the water quality of my 7 other tanks (all fairly low light, all larger than 2.5 gallons, and all well-established now), and those tests do show some nitrate as well as more neutral pH.

Thanks again for the replies so far.
 

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I've done the swapping of materials from one tank to another to kickstart the cycle...I'd say the cycle had the ammonia at 0 in a couple hours and the nitrates at about 5. I don't think it's the cycle as you are probably already cycled...

What kind of water were your fish in before? Are you doing CO2? Maybe it was stress from the water chemistry change? kH would be a good reading to know. Try adding water from your established tanks instead of new water and see what happens.

Adam
 

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rymeyer - A couple of questions for you:

1. Exactly how much Excel, Kent & Stability are you dosing?
2. What is the pH in your other tank?
3. Did you remove the rock wool from the HC before you planted it?
4. KH of tank? KH of tap?

The filter media you are using is a floss pad (white) and a carbon pad (black) - not likely the culprit. It is also possible to keep most livestock at a pH of 6.0. You may not see the typical cycle occur in a 2.5 gallon with that many plants in it. I wouldn't look at the tank as a 4wpg high-light tank, these guidelines do not apply to a tank that size. The pH issue probably doesn't have to do with the light. When you get the KH test kit, test the tank, and test your tap water - let us know what you come up with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Okay, first to answer some questions.

- No CO2 dosing.
- I'm adding a very small amount of Stability every day, less than 1/16 of a teaspoon probably. Pretty much the smallest amount that I can pour into and out of the bottle cap. I'm adding about that much Kent fertilizer and maybe a 1/4 teaspoon of Excel a week.
- I left some rock wool on the HC when I planted it. About 1 1/2 inch across and 1/2 inch thick.
- KH of my tap water is 2 dh, pH is about 7.2. That's also the hardness of the 2.5 gallon tank, but only after adding some crushed coral and the water changes I mentioned in my previous post.
- The only animals that have ever been in the 2.5 gallon tank were the cichlid fry, the Endler fry, and the cherry shrimp. It's a very new tank, though the cycle was jump-started with old tank water and gravel.

So here is the part where I feel really, really stupid because I think I know what the problem was. I got the old tank water and gravel from a 10 gallon tank housing A. cacatuoides figuring that water from the parents' tank would be good for the young cichlids. Since I give all of my tanks the same care and they all get water from the same tap (no Reverse Osmosis, no other treatments), and since the animals in that tank had been doing well, I assumed that the water would be close to neutral like my other tanks. However, I completely failed to take into account the fact that that tank also has several large chunks of bogwood. Tonight I checked the pH and KH in that tank and found that they were 6.0 and 0 respectively. The pH could be even lower, but that's as low as my test kit goes.

So, I imagine that what happened is this. The shrimp and Endlers succumbed first because they came from water that was both harder and more basic than the water I used from the cichlid tank. Too much of a change and too little acclimation. Next, when I tried to correct the pH by doing a big water change, it probably disturbed the little cichlid fry too much. The end result is that I now only have a couple shrimp and a couple Endlers in there. Kind of sad.

If anyone has any further comments or constructive criticism, I would appreciate it. Also, if anyone knows whether the stone wool from the HC could be the source of problems, please let me know. Finally, for Surje, could you explain what you mean about the wattage guidelines not applying well to small tanks? Thanks again for all of the replies so far.
 

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I'd also stop all the dosing until you see signs that you need it. Your fish (or what's left of them) plus any excess food, might be all the ferts your nano requires for now. I have a very healthy 29G under 55W of CF that receives ZERO added fertilizer, with the exception of CO2. I love this forum, but I tend to think people get a bit crazy with the ferts. Just my $.02, and sorry for your fauna loss. That's never fun.
 
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