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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

Ok, so when I was gathering information on setting up my low tech aquarium, I saw a few references to a layer of peat as the bottom part of the substrate. I decided to go this route and set up 3/4" of peat under 2" of Eco Complete. After I had my problem, I did some more reading and found that this was probably too much.

I ran the tank on a fishless cycle for couple weeks, testing for ammonia and Nitrites. It didn’t take long for me to get zero readings on those, but Nitrates were a little high (50ppm). At this point I wasn’t sure what I was going to put in the aquarium but I was still adding ammonia to keep the bacteria fed. Once I decided to add shrimp, I started doing water changes to lower the Nitrates.

The water changes were being done every few days and once the Nitrates were down, I decided to add some Crystal Red Shrimp. While I was doing water changes, I would test the water and the pH was steady around 7.0. I acclimated the shrimp and they seemed happy for a couple of days until the first weekly water change. After the change most of them went into hiding and a couple of them died. Not sure what had happened, I thought that they were just having trouble acclimating. A couple of days passed and they came out of hiding again. The next week, I go to do a water change and the same thing happens.

At this point I know something is wrong. I start testing the water and ammonia and Nitrites are 0, and Nitrates are at 10ppm. pH was slightly below 7, but I can’t remember exactly what it was. I wait a few days and test again, (without a water change) and find my pH is at the lowest reading of my API test kit, which is 6. I retest my tap water (even though I’ve tested previously) and it hasn’t changed from what it had been, which is 7.4-7.6. I even let the tap sit for a couple of days and tested every day with no drop in pH. I haven't done a water change since the last one, which was about a week ago.

My tap water parameters
pH: 7.4-7.6
KH: 4
GH:7

My aquarium parameters as of today
pH: 6 (possibly lower)
KH: 1 (turned with the first drop)
GH: 8
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate:0

My thought is that the pH was lower when I was testing in preparation for tank inhabitants because of the water changes. Now the pH is bouncing around when I do a water change. At first I thought the water may have just been different out of the tap since we are in water shortage, but that doesn't appear to be the problem. My fear is that with the pH so low my beneficial bacteria is now dead.

My question is what to do next? Is there a way to lower the pH before I add it to the aquarium that doesn't involve chemicals. I would hate to add the lowered pH water only to have it bounce back again.

Should I re-home the remaining shrimp and take the tank down, removing the peat? This would be what I'd like to do the least but if it's the best in the long term, I'm not opposed. Thanks in advance. Sorry for the long post, I just wanted to try and be thorough in my explanation.
 

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I second that. If you don't want to go through the trouble or redoing the tank - maybe you could throw a bag/nylon stocking of peat in your water change bucket the night before a water change. Just test it to see where you're at before dumping it in.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Well your peat is most likely the culprit. It lowers ph... plain and simple. Either take the peat out, or add quartz to your tank which naturally raises ph..
Right, that's what I figured it was. Also, there is driftwood in the tank, so I'm sure that's not helping either. I just wanted to know what the options for me would be. If I added something like quartz, would that prove problematic after a few days and lead to bouncing pH, or would it just help to buffer and raise with out too much worry?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I second that. If you don't want to go through the trouble or redoing the tank - maybe you could throw a bag/nylon stocking of peat in your water change bucket the night before a water change. Just test it to see where you're at before dumping it in.
I thought about this. I wasn't sure how much a bag of peat would help, even for just a night. I guess I would just have to test and see.
 

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You can also do smaller water changes, and do them more frequently if desired. I have a similar issue where I have low GH, so the PH drops over time. I was having trouble when I started, same experience with my live stock, and it took me awhile to figure it out.

Now I can do larger water changes as my fish are much more hardy now. Shrimp or more sensitive to changes in water parameters so you may not want to risk this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
You can also do smaller water changes, and do them more frequently if desired. I have a similar issue where I have low GH, so the PH drops over time. I was having trouble when I started, same experience with my live stock, and it took me awhile to figure it out.

Now I can do larger water changes as my fish are much more hardy now. Shrimp or more sensitive to changes in water parameters so you may not want to risk this.
That's a pretty good idea. I had thought about it, but was wondering if there was another way. This may be the best option, coupled with the peat bag in the water for a day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Have you tested the Ph of you tap water after letting it sit for 24 hours? If not, do that.

Trying to fight to bring the tank pH up is just going to end up causing even worse problems.
I did test. I let it sit for two days and tested each day. Same reading of 7.4.

Do you think that the best option is to tear it down and take out the peat? I'm not opposed to the extra work if that is going to save me work in the long run. I was just thinking there might be an easier way.
 

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That's a pretty good idea. I had thought about it, but was wondering if there was another way. This may be the best option, coupled with the peat bag in the water for a day.
Many soak a bag of peat in water for a week before a water change. That is easy but you may not have the room for it.


My tank actually began to stabilize over time as well. It still isn't at where my tap water is, but as it established, I didn't get large PH fluctuation. Now, I did not artificially change my PH, the tap water only had about 1-2 of GH so it had no buffer. Over time, the tanks PH has stabilized and has more like 6 degrees (haven't checked in awhile, can't remember). Still on the low side but it's much more stable. I am not saying this will happen in your tank but it may if your GH goes up. You will still have some fluctiation on a WC but if your buffer is higher, the new water will adapt to the tanks PH more quickly.


-Note-
I am not sure I am even correct on this, and as said, I don't know how this works with the PH is artificially changed (I don't know the word, it's a natural occurrence but isn't natural to your water)
 

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1. Quartz does nothing to the pH, GH or KH. It is inert. Limestone or other calcium carbonate containing rocks do raise the GH and KH, thus raising the pH.
2. pH is not affected by GH, only KH, although KH changes my also involve GH changes.
3. It is KH that buffers water against pH changes, not GH. But, if you have even 1-2 dKH you have as much buffering as you can get that way.
4. Peat lowers the KH, thus, the pH. Peat under the substrate is for keeping that level of the substrate at a more favorable pH for beneficial bacteria to grow. To keep the tank water at a lower pH the peat should be in the filter. Or, better still, just dilute the tank water with distilled or RO/DI water. If you start doing this you face having to do it for every water change, so don't do it if it isn't essential.
 

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4. Peat lowers the KH, thus, the pH. Peat under the substrate is for keeping that level of the substrate at a more favorable pH for beneficial bacteria to grow. To keep the tank water at a lower pH the peat should be in the filter. Or, better still, just dilute the tank water with distilled or RO/DI water. If you start doing this you face having to do it for every water change, so don't do it if it isn't essential.
True. But the amount of peat the OP has added (3/4 inch) is obviously part of the problem with the pH in the tank dropping.

While I doubt it is an "issue" I am sure it is the cause. A "dusting" of peat is plenty.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
True. But the amount of peat the OP has added (3/4 inch) is obviously part of the problem with the pH in the tank dropping.

While I doubt it is an "issue" I am sure it is the cause. A "dusting" of peat is plenty.
Yes, the addition of so much peat was my mistake. Most of the sources I have read since have suggested the dusting of peat. If I were to do it over again, I would definitely use less. Live and learn.

So, having said this, what would you do if you were in my shoes? I'm leaning towards taking the whole thing down after a couple of weeks and reassembling. While waiting to do that, I was thinking I could set up another tank to start cylcing for the shrimp. Thoughts?
 

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KH below 4 will usually allow your pH to crash.
That isn't true. You get no more buffering from 4 dKH than from 2 dKH, and the pH won't crash in any case if you have even 1 dKH. With less KH the pH is unstable, not necessarily crashed. Don't add any buffer to the water other than baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, and the only reason for adding that is if you have fish or plants that must have a KH well above what your tap water is.

True. But the amount of peat the OP has added (3/4 inch) is obviously part of the problem with the pH in the tank dropping.

While I doubt it is an "issue" I am sure it is the cause. A "dusting" of peat is plenty.
I agree completely.
 

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CO2 can lower the pH to around 5.5, but not lower. I can't remember all of the details, but at typical aquarium water temperatures water doesn't dissolve more CO2 below that which leads to 5.5 pH (as I recall). That alone prevents any pH crash due to CO2, and 5.5 is not too low a pH for almost all plants and fish, where the cause of the low pH is CO2.
 

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CO2 can lower the pH to around 5.5, but not lower. I can't remember all of the details, but at typical aquarium water temperatures water doesn't dissolve more CO2 below that which leads to 5.5 pH (as I recall). That alone prevents any pH crash due to CO2, and 5.5 is not too low a pH for almost all plants and fish, where the cause of the low pH is CO2.
Just for information, CO2 at normal temperatures cannot reduce the pH below 5.5 because the pH of carbonic acid is 5.5. Same as baking soda cannot increase pH above 8.2. Vast oversimplification but I always like to think of pH as the result of a tug of war between all the acids and bases in tank.
 
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