Please visit our Sponsors

FAQs on Marine pH, Alkalinity 2

Related Articles: pH, Alkalinity, Marine Alkalinity, Synthetic or Natural Seawater, Water Changes/Changing, Understanding Calcium & Alkalinity, The Use of Kalkwasser by Russell Schultz,

Related FAQs: Marine pH, Alkalinity 1, Marine pH, Alkalinity 3Marine pH/Alkalinity 4Marine pH 5Marine pH 6 Marine pH 7, Marine pH 8, & FAQs on: The Science of Alkalinity, Importance, Measure, Sources, Use of Additives/BuffersTroubleshooting/Fixing, Products by Name & FAQs on pH: Importance, Science, pH Measure/Test Gear, pH Controllers & pH Buffers/Buffering, pH Anomalies (Troubleshooting/Fixing), & pH Products by Name, Manufacturer, & FAQs on: The Science of Calcium & Alkalinity, Importance, Measure, Sources, Use of AdditivesTroubleshooting/Fixing, Products,

House too tight PH to low CO2 at work in your reef tank In 1970 Sweden and Canada did the most work on air tight homes. Sweden did the best on air quality. They tried air to air heat exchanger, but it did work well. Sweden went to using vents over the top of one window in each room of the house A ventilator of 160 cfm was put in the center of the home to vent the air out side. This system was because most homes in Sweden have hot water heat and no duct work. Hear in US the same size fan of 160 cfm close to the center of the house, and opening the top half of the window about 1" will due for each room, a plastic screen will keep the bugs out. Just opening the windows and not using a fan has not work very well in tests. Using duct work in a way if you have central heat and air. Run 6" duct from the return air of the furnace to a out side wall using a 6" dryer vent outside also take off the door on the dryer vent. A filter box is tied to the 6" duct in side to filter the out side air Make sure that no fumes from cars Nat. gas vents dryer vents it would be best to keep 8 foot away from them. If you open all your windows and turn a fan and your PH goes up the air quality for people will go up to. RGibson <Ralph... thanks for the follow-up and data. I got the equipment today too from you...thanks! I didn't get a chance to look at it yet... will tackle tomorrow, my friend. Anthony>

Re: pH decline Anthony <cheers> After your last reply, I decided to start over. Findings: The pH monitor that I use, a Pinpoint, is accurate, as confirmed by Fastest colorimetric and by the LFS. What was inaccurate was my aeration test.  <Ahhhh... good sleuthing> I took a sample from the main display, not sump, and aerated for 12 hours. This time the pH did rise substantially.  <interesting... and a sign that the circulation in the display at least (if not the system overall) needs improvement. For a really interesting test... draw a sample of water from the bottom and top of the display... test their pH before and after aeration and compared to each other. Very telling if they are different> After review, I believe that my protein skimmer is probably barely sufficient  <a common problem> (SeaLife model came with the sump, venturi style with Rio 3100 pump) and that I need additional turnover in the main display (currently I am turning the tank 10X). <yes...agreed. 4-10X has been bandied about for years and was only barely adequate for fish tanks 20 years ago... for modern marine tanks that is modest or entirely inadequate. For perspective... I'm running approximately 1600 GPH through a 50 gallon reef tank and still would not call it "very" strong water flow> My plan is to replace the skimmer with the AquaC EV180 and to increase the display turnover to at least 15X,  <awesome> which I believe might be about the limit the overflows will stand.  <unfortunately> What is your feeling about this plan; any other suggestions? <sure... Gemini or Tunze Turbelles top mounted powerheads would be very efficient and move a lot of water...perhaps one large pump (powerhead) in addition would be nice. Pricey but long lived> Regards Bob <kindly, Anthony>

pH, and stored water question Hello there and thank you for helping all of us out. You guys are doing a great job over in San Diego. I have been reading your FAQ's and read about leaving window's and door's open through out the day to raise pH. Is this true? <There are instances in which some houses that are well sealed have a buildup of CO2 which becomes a buildup of CO2 in the tank, depressing pH.> Another question that I have is; the water that I have in my 35 gallon trash can has two Aquaclear 802's at the bottom pushing water upwards for aeration. Should I take these out and use an air pump with a stone at the end of it to aerate the water or is the first method good? <I use the pump method.> Or keep the powerheads and add a pump to it? <You could do that too.> Are these two methods the same? <Actually, I like the pump pushing water up creating a lot of surface agitation vs. the air pump.> And yet another question that I have is, should I wait a while, say 12 hours of (aeration/circulation) and then add the salt (Instant Ocean) to the water for mixing? <At least 12 if not 24.> Or vice-versa? Also, I've been aerating the stored water about a week and then adding it to the tank for a water change. Does this timing period sound right, or could I add the water sooner? <After another 24 hours with salt mixed in you should be fine.> Alright, I think that's it for now, but I'll be back with more questions later. Thanks for all your help. Hamilton of Riverside, CA <Have a nice day! -Steven Pro>

Re: pH decline Anthony Just an update to let you know what I found (I think). I started by doing the 25% water change, but did take a bucket sample of this water and aerated it vigorously for 24 hours. No noticeable change from the aeration in pH. No noticeable change from the water change. I then left a window open slightly in the room for about eight hours; no noticeable change. As I had to travel last week, I then left the system alone. When I returned, I noted that the swing in pH had moderated, with the range being now 7.9 after 8 hours of darkness, and 8.02 after 8 hours of lighting. (Possible that the calcium reactor is having beneficial impact on alkalinity or water change removed some of the vagrant chlorides from the T Calcium, or both?). Carbonate hardness has now improved to about 10dKh. The curious part is that after feeding yesterday I noted that the pH had increased slightly; I realized that I had left the glass cover on top of the show tank open for a couple of hours by mistake. I have deliberately left this open today; will advise if this continues (?) to impact pH. I have 300 watts of compacts sitting directly on top of these glass covers, which are tight; no penetrations at all. (Tank is drilled with overflows and returns built in). Curious and curiouser. Regards Bob <an industrial engineer on heating and cooling informed me that an open window is not enough in some homes. Try opening the window and also running a small fan elsewhere in the house (bathroom or attic fan) to get airflow through the house. He gave a very convincing explanation of this... I believe he is writing a report to share with us all. But yes... stagnant air from heat in the summer around our homes cause this interesting dynamic with air-conditioning too. Anthony>

Re: pH decline Anthony, Thanks. Will try this, although the fan drawing Houston air through the house may be a bit unpopular in August.  <heehee...> No real impact from leaving the glass covers open, by the way.  <it would have indicated a SERIOUS problem it had> Currently the pH has continued to stabilize, now varies from 8.0 after 8 hours of darkness to 8.07 after 8 hours of light. Still too low?  <for some corals no... but for many yes. Target 8.3+> Got to be better than the 7.75 to 8.0  <agreed> I started with, but I noticed one of the leathers has decided to withdraw all polyps, the other is fully extended. Life with a reef system is never dull. <VBG> I did wonder if I do not have too much bio around, and that may be causing some depression. I am using a wet/dry in my 120 that is rated up to 200, and have ceramics in stage one of the Eheim 2028, plus the obligatory 100 pounds of live rock and 3 inch live bed. Too many bugs? <not likely... its the load not the media> Regards Bob <keep sleuthing ,my friend! Anthony>

pH Hi Robert, I am having a problem with Neolamprologus brichardi juveniles dying off, I think it is due to low pH. I am going to try to get it up to about 8-8.5 using Bicarbonate of Soda as I have some in the cupboard. Question is how much do I use per gallon. <You are going to have to add small amounts and then test for changes. Try not to increase your pH more than 0.2 each day. -Steven Pro>

Low pH Bob, <Anthony Calfo here again :)> I tried your test and saw a significant rise in the pH of the sample water when aerated.  <very fine... an easy solution. Sometimes a second or better skimmer alone can correct this problem for you. Any vigorous aeration in the tank will work, of course, but venturis on powerheads, for example, lead to snapping bubbles and a lot of salt creep sometimes. See what suits you best> I did this in a small tub (4" X 8") with a Minijet 404 and made a turbulent flow. I did this for 12 hours and then moved the whole kit outside for 12 hours. It appears that aeration alone was able to do the job.  <interesting... good sleuthing too> I understand your idea of the "closed-up house"; though I don't think that is the problem as I have 6 kids running in and out all the time.  <Yowsa! and I thought reefkeeping was expensive :)> I can only dream of them actually keeping the doors closed (and A/C in). Now the problem is that to produce the results in the little tub I had to spray water into the air and make quite a bit of a mess. That would not be acceptable in the display tank. I had always assumed that the water going through the trickle plate and falling over the area that used to have bioballs was (in conjunction with the protein skimmer) how the majority of the gas exchange took place. Please advise how to proceed from here. <the crash in the trickle is helpful, but the aerobic (oxygen loving) bacteria consume oxygen. One common trick with trickle filters to raise O2 and Redox is to infect a lot of air at the bottom of the filter but just above the water (low sump level). This dramatically improves the above plus trickle filter performance. As far as the skimmer: true... much O2 from there. Most folks however don't have a skimmer that works as well as it could/should. A good skimmer produces dark skimmate every day (a good cup full). Too many Prizms, Berlins and SeaClones out there as primary skimmers IMO.> As far as animal health goes, I did a 100 gallon water change. I was able to save 3 fish, several stars, a few snails and hermits, and the anemones, and corals. The shrimp, a few oysters, and most of the snails didn't make it though. <kudos for your efforts, and sorry for the losses> Just as a point of reference, I am using a Hanna pHep 4 pH meter that I calibrate with their cal solutions 4 and 7. <Nice piece of hardware> Thanks again, Tom <best regards, Anthony>

Open Window pH Dynamic I tried the open window waited the 2 hours ...and nothing seem to be happening with my PH. We finally had a break in the weather and the temperature dropped enough so we could open all the windows last night. When I got home from work my PH was at 8.2!!  <yep... like clockwork> It has never gone above 8.0 when the lights have been on in the last few weeks....it took almost 24hours but the PH has definitely climbed.  <indeed> I am a bit dumbfounded as to why I would have excess CO2 in my house/tank that kept the PH depressed.  <an artifact or air flow and modern housing dynamics. Not quit like living in an old clapboard farmhouse :)> I'm not 100% convinced....but facts are hard to toss aside.  <agreed... it is a common realization every summer with aquarists> I will look at the site for more FAQ's on this interesting phenomenon. Larry <actually... we know an aquarist who is a very wise industrial engineer for heating and cooling dynamics among other things... I'll pass this along for him to enlighten us if he has the time. Best regards, Anthony>

Re: pH decline Anthony <cheers> Thanks, will try. I suspect that could be several issues, one being the chloride build up that you mentioned (I have used the Turbo Calcium for months),  <Arghhh! Yes... a problem IMO> I have a very tight system with a skimmer and fairly vigorous water movement (3 power heads) but the system is tight enough that even with air conditioning I don't add make-up water between changes every three weeks, and the air conditioning in a well insulated house that you pointed out may be a problem as well. <yes... very common and often overlooked> Will let you know what turns up. My plan is to run the test suggested, then as a short term solution make a significant water change (about 25%), <a good plan> then leave the sump cover open to encourage a little more gas transfer. Leaving a window open in Houston in August is a bit more problematic! <agreed... but you only need to purse a window open slightly for atmospheric balance... not fully open. Do try> Look forward to the Invertebrates! Regards, Bob <thank you my friend! best regards, Anthony>

pH Woes Hi Bob/Anthony/Steven, I have a constant battle with pH in my 300 gallon reef aquarium. I use makeup water that is RO/DI and run a pump for a minimum of 12 hours and then add Seachem reef buffer. With the pump running a minimum of 6 more hours, I then add it to the tank. I do the same when doing water changes but add the Reef Crystals and let sit for 6 more hours with the pump running before adding. <Your procedures sound fine.> My tank pH runs from 7.92 in the wee hours to 8.2 late in the day. <First guess, have you calibrated your monitor lately? A value of 7.92 only comes from people using digital meters. No one with a color wheel could read a measurement with that degree of precision.> I have tested the makeup water and it's at 8.1. I have a strong feeling that my new house is sealed too tight. <Quite likely. We have had several Q&A's recently about this same type of problem.> Because when the air conditioning is off, within 6 hours my pH rises significantly. <Bingo!> Is this possible or am I crazy! <No, sounds strange but quite true.> I have no windows in the fish room to allow for that room to be vented and it's way too hot to have the air off. Could I purchase an oxygen tank and slowly dose my intake of my skimmer with O2? <It would not help. A cheap solution is to have an air pump outside and run airline tubing into your skimmer or sump.> Thank you for your time. Dave Mart <You are quite welcome. -Steven Pro>

pH alk? Thanks again for all the help. I'm sorry to say I have another question... I use instant ocean mix with aerated RO/di water salted to 1.025. This new salted water tests kH of 13-14dkh with 2 different tests. Isn't this pretty high? Is it normal?  <quite normal. Good sea salts have slightly more ALK reserve on first mix than NSW. If you are not doing water changes more than weekly, then this slightly higher ALK is a blessing by design> the RO/di water premix after air is around ph 6.9, kH 0-1 or so low it wont measure. thank you, Neil <best regards, Anthony>

pH decline Bob <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have read your articles (and book) addressing the issue of the interplay between alkalinity and pH. I have a question though, about how to proceed with my reef tank. (120 gallon, wet/dry, canister filter with ac, phosphate sponge, 300 watts of compacts, moderately loaded with fish-herbivores, cleanup crew of usual suspects, hard and soft coral specimens). The tank has been set up for about 9 months, and began exhibiting a slight decline in both pH and alkalinity about two months ago,  <normal to some extent> from 8.4 to 8.2 colorimetric test; and from high to normal colorimetric test for alkalinity. I then purchased a Pinpoint pH monitor and SeaTest hardness test, which confirmed the above. As I was adding a good bit of Kent Turbo Calcium,  <please resist this habit... calcium chloride is meant to be used only as a TEMPORARY fix... else chloride ions accumulate and skew the ALK, can cause problems down the road with maintaining pH and ALK. Please use Kalkwasser or a calcium reactor for primary Calc dosing> I decided to go to a calcium reactor, Korallin 1502.  <excellent> Following the directions from the manufacturer, I am using a CO2 bubble rate of 10, and a drip rate of 60 (they recommend 40, but this resulted in an effluent of 6.5 pH, so I went to 60 to achieve an effluent pH of 6.85). I have been running this fairly consistently for about a week. pH now varies from 8.0 measured after 8 hours of lighting, to 7.8 measured after 8 hours of darkness.  <indeed too low by far> Alkalinity is still on the low side, at about 8dKh. All water quality parameters look good, no detectable nitrogen compounds, no PO4, no color, calcium about 400-450. All inhabitants seem pretty comfortable, I have a Tang and a Hammer Coral that I use for bellwethers and they seem happy. Question: Add baking soda or let the system stabilize? <first take a sample bucket of aquarium water, test the pH, aerate it vigorously for 6-12 hours and then test again. If the pH increases you have a CO2, off-gassing problem that is depressing the pH. That is not likely however if you have good current and a good skimmer. Instead, read today's FAQs (Sunday) and recent days regarding depressed pH in well insulated homes (open a window essentially and test to see if pH rises after a couple of hours... and interesting dynamic> Thanks and looking forward to the CRA being published soon. <me too :). In the meantime, look for our next book on Reef Invertebrates due to be released early 2003> Bob Williams <kindly, Anthony Calfo>

Low pH and Sealed Houses: Open a Window! I've been following your advice; using the Kent SuperBuffer and Kent Kalkwasser. I still can't maintain pH at 8.3. It is hovering around 8.1 instead of 7.7. Today I noticed my orange serpent star, cleaner shrimp, Condylactis, and even Aiptasia are all looking ill. Also, I have an algae bloom of green / brown hair and dust. Ca has taken a dive as well, it was about 400 now around 130. And KH is over 16 (all Salifert test kits) Where did I go wrong?  <perhaps nowhere my friend. In a recent query I suspected that the aquarists residence was very well insulated and thus created a unique situation (although nowadays more common with modern housing... especially in the summer with air-conditioning). In "closed up" houses, the atmosphere in the home makes the solubility of gasses a wacky endeavor. Do a test for us here... take a glass of water and test the pH before and then after 12 hours of vigorous aeration. If the problem was simply inadequate circulation/aeration in your tank... the pH of the sample should rise. If the pH remains the same, then the problem may in fact be atmospheric. Next test... the pH of your aquarium at a time when the pH should naturally be in decline (right as or after the lights go out). After testing and noting the pH... open a window in the room and test your pH an hour later to see if the pH remains the same or even rises at a time when it should be declining. Conduct the same test the next day when the tank is illuminated to see if you can get the pH up at a high point too. The window doesn't have to be wide open... just a bit to let equalization occur. Please do write back to let us know how this works for you>  I read up on the Ca, pH, KH balance but I'm having a hell of a time trying to get balanced. I am planning a large water change tomorrow. <indeed... water changes are always stimulating/helpful> Please help. Tom

Low pH and alk but high Ca Hi WWM Crew, I seem to be having a problem with low pH and alk in my 50 reef. My readings are as follows: pH-7.9 alk-2.5 Ca-490 I am adding daily Two Part ESV B-Ionic 25ml of each. I also add 60 ml daily of Kalk. Additives are all added manually. The tank is 3 years old and I do two 10% water changes monthly. For the last three months I have been using ocean water for these changes. <I would recommend going back to synthetic water.> I have noticed my green star polyps have not been opening full for about 3 weeks. Could the low pH and alkalinity cause this? <Yes> All other organisms doing fine. Any advise greatly appreciated. Mario <I would do several large (50%) water changes to bring your parameters back into line. Once they are good, you should be able to easily maintain them with the Two-Part additives. -Steven Pro>

Re: Low pH and alk but high Ca Thanks for the quick reply Steve, why would you not recommend natural ocean water? <Generally, chronically low in pH and possibly contaminated with pollution, parasites, or bacteria blooms.> I figured the plankton in it may help feed some of the SPS corals, clams, etc. <Parasites are also in that plankton. -Steven Pro>

Re: pH alk? Anthony, you are the man.  <immodest or not...it's sure nice to hear it :) Thank you my friend> check this out. My pH was 7.93 when I put my probe in my tank. I then opened a window and within 2 hours the pH was 8.16.  <yep...amazing isn't it. An interesting dynamic of modern housing (and better insulation) on aquaria> the lights had been on for 4 hours, so I wasn't sure it was the normal pH increase. the lights are scheduled to be on for another 8 hours which would mean the pH should keep going up if it was a normal daily fluctuation. to make sure your theory was right, I closed the window and watched the pH drop .06 within an hour. Pretty weird, huh? <amazing...yes. And it dropped at a time when it should have been going up confirming our suspicion> my apt is 950 sq ft. and air tight. now I'm gonna do a big water change and try to figure out how to crack a window and not go broke running a/c full bore. thanks again, Neil <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Re: pH, alk? which is better, or more user friendly if I'm dosing by hand... the Kalkwasser and a buffer supplement or the 2 part b-ionic solution? <The two part by a landslide... some individuals may be better with the former combo... but given a good sample size (100 or more folks), you will find more wipe-outs, burnings (of specimens), messes on the floor, people quitting the aquarium hobby due to mishaps, less steady biomineral, alkalinity and pH conditions... than with the pre- prepared B-Ionic Solutions. Now... this being stated, calcium reactor use is far superior to either. Bob Fenner, who encourages you to read through here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/suppleme.htm and the files beyond.> thanks again, Neil

Re: pH, alk? Anthony, thanks for your help.  <my pleasure!> I took your advice and I have a few more questions. once again, to recap my problem... my pH keeps dropping while my alk is way to high. 8.2 ->7.9 in 24 hours (same time of day) alk is around 16dKH. I cant buffer it any more w/out blowing the alk off the scale or snowing my tank. I bubbled a sample of my tanks water, and the pH went down from 8.09 to 7.91.  <down?!??!?!?> these happen to be the same readings of the main tank at the same time.  <holy cow...it just dawned on me what your problem is. You will be amazed... and so will I if you come back and tell me I'm wrong. That sample should have remained the same or INCREASED in pH. However, in well insulated houses, pressurization occurs (slight vacuum so to speak) and pH becomes categorically depressed. Open a window in the room that this tank is in and then watch the pH increase! If your sump is in another room do the same. A slight purse of an opening is all you may need in the long run but do test and tell me if that doesn't raise you pH by at least .2 Some aquarists with this problem have resorted to placing a weather resistant air pump outside and pumping air into the sump remotely to raise the pH!> I'm running my skimmer full tilt and had to put another baffle in the sump to reduce return bubbles, so I doubt its an aeration problem in the tank. I did however measure the pH of my pre-salt water. out of the tap its 7.86 and out of my RO unit its 5.86. is it normal for an RO unit to drop the pH that much. <absolutely.... demineralized water is very unstable and usually has a rather low pH. That is why it is critical to aerate then buffer it before use as evap top off or salting> the cartridges were replaced a few months ago. I'm guessing, since I'm only using the RO water, that is the problem source.  <not really... if your alkalinity is really 16dKH then it is sufficiently buffer. I'm not kidding... go open a window and tell me if the pH doesn't increase> when I mix in my salt, the pH will go up to 8.09 but then it will start to drop while I let it age.  <it should increase slowly... I think it drops because of the pressurized atmosphere in your house> is this why? if I drive out the co2 by aerating the RO water before I add the salt, will that keep the pH from dropping?  <yes...should help tremendously in most homes> keep co2 out? you recommend aerate then buffer then salt.  <correct> should I aim for 8-12dKH alk in the RO water before I add the salt?  <nope... salt mixes have extra buffers... experiment to see how much buffer to add before the salt to have a final product with a dKH in the targeted range> are the test kits independent of salt of fresh water?  <nope... some are not> will Kalk increase the pH w/out increasing the alk?  <sort of... yes. They do not contribute directly to alkalinity but do support it by tempering acids that would otherwise burden the alkalinity (because Kalk is caustic)> thanks so much for your help. sorry for all the questions. Neil <my pleasure... do write back to advise me of how wise or stupid I am :)>

pH alk? I have a few questions on pH and alk. I've seen in different books that dKH should be between 7-10 and also 12-18. which is correct?  <8-12 dKH is safe and healthy IMO. Closer to 8 if you run a high calcium level (over 425ppm). ALK over 12 dKH is dangerous (crystalline precip) and only recommended for hardcore coral growers that test water daily and have many scleractinians. Most people will have problems with such a high ALK in time> my problem is... my dKH is 16-17. my calcium is low, like around 300.  <typical... neither can easily or safely be at the high/max end. Still... the tank would be better off around 10dKH and 400ppm> my pH is around 8.0-8.2, but will drop without the addition of SeaChem marine buffer to 7.8ish within 48 hours.  <a lack of aeration (not circulation) may be indicated here (accumulated CO2). Aerate a glass of aquarium water vigorously with an airstone and see if the pH rises after 12 hours. If so... you have a CO2/aeration problem.> how can I raise the pH without increasing the alk? <Kalkwasser> my alk is so high right now that I can't seem to increase the calcium without clouding my tank.  <exactly... a crystalline precip. Do several large water changes to dilute this imbalance then add Kalk and buffer as necessary> also, why would the pH drop like that if the alk is high?  <many reasons... CO2 being one of them> I have a 50g breeder w/ 50lbs LR, and few snails and hermits and some polyps. no fish yet and I'm not feeding anything. 20g sump w/ skimmer that needs to be emptied every 3rd day. all other readings are where they should be. thanks, Neil <best regards, Anthony>

pH woes Hi everyone. After reading through you FAQ's I think I now realize why I am battling low ph values, between 7.8-8. I have never aged or aerated my tap/salt mix prior to use.  <indeed a significant burden on the pH/ALK of any system> My tap water has a ph of 7.8, <not too shabby in the big picture> thus probably giving me the low ph values stated above.  <agreed... unbuffered it was a burden> After adding buffer everyday for a week and the ph still not holding and the alkalinity getting very high,(16dkh), I tried to find the problem that was causing this.  <actually it is a common problem/misunderstanding. The difference here is pH versus alkalinity (the buffering ability of seawater). With tap water at 7.8... it was likely that your source water was already moderately to very hard. The pH simply wasn't as high as you would like it. So instead of adding buffer with the hopes of raising pH indirectly, you should have added something "alkaline" that didn't contribute to alkalinity (dKH) directly. Kalkwasser is one of the best supplements for this. Stop adding buffer and dose Kalk nightly until your pH climbs to 8.3 or better. Kalk impart calcium, raises pH but does not directly contribute carbonates> I have now got a 50 gallon garbage can to circulate and aerate new water, and after just 10 hours my tap water has a ph of 8.25 after aerating. This is where I don't know what to do next. Should I add a buffer now and raise the ph to about 8.4 and then add the salt mix? Or should I add the salt mix and then buffer if necessary?  <buffer then add salt> I don't know if I add buffer first to achieve 8.4 and then add the salt mix, will the salt mix make the ph value too high?  <nope... bicarbonate will not raise the pH much beyond 8.3> I'm hoping this will solve my ph woes. Thanks to everyone involved in this website. Michael <an easy fix my friend. If all else fails... some big water changes and resume with Kalk. Kindly, Anthony>

pH  Hi again, you said in your reply that it might have something to do with my husbandry or the way I handle my system. Could you be more specific? <<probably not as specific as you would like, being that we've never really met and I've never spent any time watching how you care for this tank. You need to examine your own behavior here...>> Do I need to do more water changes or something else? I do a water change about once a month on the order of about 60-80 gallons. <<This is a 180... right? If I were you, I'd do 20g every two weeks. 60-80 once a month is a little drastic. What is the pH of the water you are adding in these large changes?>> I will now be using the buffer in my make up water. <<And this means you weren't before? Could be this is one source of your low pH.>> I also have an All-Seas ozone generator hooked in to my skimmer. The skimmer is a CPR SR9 run by the mag 18 for the skimmer and the calcium reactor. I think the generator is the larger type, 125 mg per hour/day or the next larger size. <<How much are you dosing with this piece of gear? Mis-use of ozone can cause all kinds of water/system problems.>> I don't use a filter media of any kind and all water is free flowing through the system top to bottom. I have a mag 18 for the return from the sump and also 4 powerheads in the main tank. 3 Hagen 802s and a cap-2200 circulating the water. Please feel free to reply ASAP. Thanks again, Jeff Reed <<My thought(s) is/are this. With the problems you detailed with the calcium reactor, and now you mention ozone... I would scale back your efforts and do something Henry Thoreau would approve of - simplify. Try to get down to the basics, and get the system to a manageable state with less gear. Once your pH has stabilized, add one thing and allow that to stabilize for a month or two, and so on. You've built a really complex system in which too many things can interact and cause problems that really... only the person with their hands on the knobs can know - that's you. Is one reason a journal becomes handy. Cheers, J -- >>

Re: Low pH, etc. You mentioned using baking soda. Would I use that in lieu of the super buffer?  <yes, but only because it is cheaper. Either will run you up to 8.3 and no higher> Should I stop with the Restore?  <likely yes... the two part mixes are balanced and carry you on further with balanced numbers. BUT... if you are imbalanced... it will continue to carry you imbalanced just the same> Yes... balance first with dilution/water changes and/or baking soda, Kalk, etc> On using the Kalk... can I mix other additives (Mg, Iodine, ...etc) into the top off water with the Kalkwasser and let the auto top-off do all the work? <really not the best application at all. Although some can be mixed... some cannot (no buffer/ALK). Kalk left to stand forms a bit of insoluble bicarbonate, etc. Best to dose all fresh and separately. Please do scan the wetwebmedia.com archives for handy discussions on dosing Kalk slurry at night like I wrote in my book.> That would turn a daily chore into a twice a week chore. <you desire is not uncommon, but really, my friend... for optimal health of the aquarium, just a few minutes each day for dosing, feeding, maintenance check is required for optimal health of the aquarium. And indeed it is a lot less time than owning a dog (cleaning, feeding, walking daily) and many other pets> Thanks again for all your help. Tom <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

pH OK, Alk too low Hello answerer of questions today! <<Ah... the wheel spins and you win... JasonC - hello to you.>> I have been reading and rereading the FAQ on pH and Alk these past few days and I still have some questions. My Alkalinity has fallen and can't seem to get up. <<Oh... ha ha... sorry. Good pun.>> The tank has been set up for one year now with no problem, but I want to start adding soft corals and thought I better get this Alk, Ca thing under control. So I began to dose the tank with 15mls each of ESV B-Ionic buffers. That didn't seem to get anything up so I have, for the first time, began to dose Kalkwasser into the tank at night. <<As a quick aside, you could have safely tried 20ml of the ESV...>> Drip, drip about 1/2 gallon from 8pm-6pm. This has been going on for about a week now. (I have dosed the tank with the buffer only twice since beginning to add Kalk.) I am adding about 1/2t. of Kalk. per 1/2 gallon of RO water. Before beginning this regime and still now, my pH = 8.2-8.3 (solid - rarely changes and I know because I have been testing it SEVERAL times a day, all hours of the day - yes, am looking into a pH meter for investment.) and Alk = 1.7 meq/L AND IT WILL NOT GO UP!!! (Ca has increased from 350pmm to 400ppm with addition of Kalk.) In fact, Alk. has gotten a little lower since I started this Kalk. drip thing. <<Well, before we continue, I'm going to steal and paraphrase an analogy from our friend Anthony Calfo. Calcium and Alkalinity at high concentrations [ppm] become mutually exclusive. What this means is... say you have a fish bowl and you fill it with red and blue marbles. Through manipulation you could get an even number of both red and blue, but never more than 50% of the volume for an 'equal' concentration. If 90% of the volume were consumed by blue marbles, by law you can only have 10% of the volume filled with red marbles and vice-versa. Now this example is crude, but [and I've read ahead] with that Chem minor of yours hopefully/probably turned on that little light bulb over your head.>> Tank is as such: 55 gal. main tank, 30 gal. sump (about 15 gal. divided off as refugium), 384W Compact fl. lights on top, 64W Compact fl. lights on refugium (alternating cycles to avoid drop in pH at night), 75 lbs. live rock; in both main tank and refugium there is a 1-2 inch layer of crushed coral, then about 3-4 layer of fine sand on top of that; lots of small brittle stars, isopods, etc. within the sand; 1 Kole tang, 2 cleaner shrimp, 1 small rock with button polyps on it, LOTS of Halimeda algae (need to get some non-Calcium hogging algae down in refugium). The temp of the tank stays around 79-80. (don't know if that has to do with pH and alk, but am trying to provide as much info as possible. When I first set the tank up, I purposely put in a thick sand layer. I read somewhere that the anaerobic bacteria down below in the sand will make CO2 which will bubble up through the thick sand bed and help dissolve the Calcium, thus adding calcium to the tank, thus helping to raise and stabilize Alk - like a natural Ca Reactor (does this sound right?). <<Oh yes... quite right, but still not really at the demand level of some reef-tank inhabitants: SPS, clams, etc. Probably fine for some of the soft corals. But still, because it's a closed system... the calcium being freed-up from the substrate and live rock just isn't enough.>> I see lots of bubbles all trapped inside my "ant farm" looking sand bed, but I have no sand sifter to speak of (Ole the Kole tang does the best he can but doesn't stir up much). Would a sand sifter goby help out, maybe? <<you mean stir sand, release those bubbles, free up some calcium, etc? Not an appreciable amount I'm afraid to say, but without any sand sifters at all, the system would probably benefit, sure.>> Also, a Calcium reactor is NOT within my budget right now, maybe later (and maybe I could build one; built my own 3 ft. protein skimmer and it works great). <<Ahh, well - is actually a pretty easy DIY project, and not really a complicated device at all. But... a calcium reactor is really an alkalinity reactor, so it certainly wouldn't hurt. If you haven't check out the calcium reactor page which has some pictures of a DIY project: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/calcreactors.htm >> I am just reading that Kalk. probably isn't the way to go especially if I don't have much CO2 in my tank water, and it seems I don't since my pH is NEVER low. This is all just very confusing (and I minored in chemistry while in college, didn't say I liked it, just took it.) <<Did my analogy help?>>  Thanks for all of everyone's help. I don't know what we would all do without all of your past mistakes and learning experiences to pass on to us. Jana p.s. if there is any additional info I can provide please let me know, I probably left something out. <<I think I'd stop dosing the Kalkwasser, and continue with the ESV at the 15ml dose for the moment. That and start adding a buffer to bring up the alkalinity - perhaps the Seachem Super Reef Builder or failing that, Arm & Hammer baking soda. Just add a small amount to a glass of tank water and add back to the system. Test, rinse, and repeat... isn't that what Homer Simpson says, "Always repeat." Cheers, J -- >>

Low pH, etc. Bob, <<Actually JasonC here, but let's see what we can do...>> I'll start off with the basic 125 gallon reef with 20 gal refuge. running wet dry with skimmer. 400 watts of PC lighting on reef and 26watts of PC lighting on refuge. About 80 pounds of live rock another 50 of live sand. Critters of interest: Mushroom frags, several closed brains (came with rock), Condylactis anemone, Ritteri anemone, 2 flame fish, 2 damsels, Dogface Puffer (by itself in the refuge until the fish only is setup), several oysters (came with rock), spiny urchin, flame scallop, several small stars (came with rock), large orange brittle star (serpent?), humpback cleaner shrimp, snails, hermits, small emerald crabs. 1st question - By looking at the attached data sheets you'll see that my pH remains very low (7.7 - 8.1) I've tried Kent A&B then switched to Restore A&B and now I'm also dosing Kalk. How Do I get the Ph and Ca stable? <<Are you taking pH measurements throughout the day, or is this just a one-time measurement? pH shifts all day with its value being lowest before the lights come on, and highest before the lights go off. It sounds to me like there may be a problem with your buffers. You could try using a ph/alk additive like Super Reef Builder, or perhaps save a buck or two and use Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. Add this to a glass of fresh water and then add this mix to the tank. Test and add again if needed... remember that you don't want to move more than a tenth of a point per day.>> 2nd question - I had one cleaner shrimp and two percula clowns disappear. I was told by LFS that the shrimp fell to the large brittle and that the clowns were eaten by the Ritteri anemone. Does that sound right? <<Well, if this large brittle star is green, then chances are that it went three-for-three. Green brittle stars are known fish predators, and most certainly opportunistic. I'm guessing you also looked behind the tank to make sure the fish didn't jump out.>> 3rd question - The Ritteri sometimes doesn't look so hot. <<You may need more intense lighting.>> It has found a home on the back glass high near the surface. It has two mouths (getting ready to split?) <<perhaps>> and sometimes they open up to extremes. It looks as if it's about to turn itself inside out and it discharges long stringy waste. After about 12 - 24 hours it looks great again. Is this normal? <<on the quick description, no, it doesn't sound 'right'.>> 4th question - I was trying to keep seahorses in the refuge but they all(4) died. I assume it was the diet. I was trying to feed them ghost shrimp and frozen brine. I've since then found silversides and krill for the puffer and anemones. Am I on the right track for keeping these wonderful but delicate critters? <<The seahorses... no. They need live foods to stimulate their interest. There is a company, Ocean Rider, who specializes in seahorses, and their specimens are trained to eat frozen mysis. These are probably your best bet.>> Any advice? <<Read up... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/tube-mfi.htm >> I apologize for asking so many questions at one shot. You have helped me out in the past and hopefully you can educate me again. <<I hope I've been helpful.>> Tom Peterson <<Cheers, J -- >>

Alkalinity and pH Problems Hello Bob and Co., Bob and Anthony; I have CMA and the Book of Coral Prop. Both are great, thanks. Now onto my problem. I have an 8 gallon reef tank, LR, sand, and a sump with some sand and LR as well. Total water volume is approx. 10 gallons. I have 2 tomato clowns, 2 cleaner shrimp, one pistol shrimp, one emerald crab, one sand stirring star, <Tank is far too small for this starfish. Will starve to death in time after eating all the live parts of your livesand.> a few blue leg hermits, and a few snails. I also have one Capnella, some brown button polyps, anthelia, and some green star polyps. The tank has been set up for almost two years, however it was changed from a crushed coral substrate to live sand about 4 months ago. There is a Seaclone skimmer hanging on the sump, and an airstone in the sump (the airstone is a new addition). I have two 36watt PC's (one 6300K and one blue) from AH supply. About a month ago I started having a lower than normal pH. I was typically running between 8.0 and 8.1. I wanted to raise that up to an average 8.2 so I added the airstone in the sump. About the time I added the airstone, pH readings were down to about 7.8. I cut back on my calcium supplements and tested a few days later and pH was down to about 7.7. Calcium levels were higher with each test, now at about 500ppm. I stopped adding calcium at this point. At the first sign of the lowering pH, I started using NatuReef's hardness plus and alkalinity plus. I felt that a balanced two part additive may help. After my pH reached 7.7, I stopped adding the hardness plus and have only been adding the alk. plus. I should also mention that I did a water change with day old, aerated water (4 gallons over two days). Alkalinity before I started the water changes was 9dKH. After each water change, and an addition of alk. plus, alkalinity has not changed. It is still at 9dKH. Oh by the way, my Mg was low at the time pH was discovered to be low, hence the water changes. I have also added some Mg additive. Why, with a significant water change, addition of a buffer and Mg has my alkalinity not been coming up? <Are you sure that your new water has the parameters you want?> I tested alk this morning; 8dKH. Added two ml of buffer about two hours ago. Just now tested alk again; still 8dKH. <Do make up more water as before; aerated, heated and such. This time confirm that the pH, alkalinity, calcium, and magnesium levels of this new water is in the ranges you want. -Steven Pro> Confused in Florida, Mark (spearo) Joseph

Canopy fans PH I have 180 gal reef tank with a canopy top with two 55 cfm fans blowing in for cooling and it works well. The house is vented with out side air to keep the co2 low. Four days ago one 55 cfm fans stop, I replace it with a 100 cfm fan that I had until the new one could come in the next day. The ph that night was 8.3 the next morning it 7.7 that day I put the new one in the next morning ph 8.0 I put the 100 cfm fan in a day later just to see if the ph would go down it did why. RGibson <Ralph, cheers my friend. Steve and I are here visiting our good friend Bob here in San Diego and answering e-mail. I just chatted over the observation you have made with Bob and we are in agreement. If anything, the increased airflow should increase pH. It is most likely the drop is unrelated but do experiment more to confirm or deny please. Kindly, Anthony>

Salifert ph buffer, pH & Alkalinity Dear Bob, I purchased a 250ml Salifert KH + ph buffer today from my stockist, who said they'd never used it before & couldn't help re: measurements. How I wish I'd paid attention in science classes now! Don't understand the term meq/L! According to a Nutrafin pH test, I have a reading of approx. 7.8. <Yes, that is low and in need of attention.> I have a marine tank, 70 UK gallons, and meq/L aside I've worked out that to increase it to 8.2, I need to add approx. 9-10ml. <I would much prefer to see you do some water changes to increase pH and decrease the amount of dissolved organics that are lowering your pH.> Can you help with the definition? <Alkalinity is a measure of the water's ability to resist changes in pH and is measured in meq/l or dKH.> To put it into context, the bottle reads: Every 10 ml powder per 25 gallons will approx. increase the alkalinity by 1.2 meq/L. <But not necessarily change your pH if there is a large amount of acidic compounds that consume the Salifert pH Buffer.> Can't wait until I can fly on my own with all this! <You will eventually get the hang of it. Keep reading and learning.> Thanks, Hamish, UK. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Water Change & pH Problems Dear Mr. Fenner, I have recently diluted my 100 gallon tank from 1.024 to 1.022 during a water change and observed a drop in PH from 8.2 to 7.9. I have checked the water quality from Ammonia, Nitrite and Nitrate, almost zero concentration. Water buffer is still high. However, the PH remains below 8.0. What should I do? Change more water? <Usually the best move. I would first double check the pH and alkalinity of the new water to ensure it is in the proper range. Please search through WWM regarding saltwater mixing issues.> Best regards! I-Ching Liao <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

High Alkalinity & Calcium VII Steven, I think we have finally found the problem regarding our low pH. Our house is not very well-insulated, but after exhausting all other options in trying to figure this thing out we decided to just see what would happen if we left a window open for a day (which you suggested to my wife in a previous e-mail regarding low pH in our top-off water). Within just over 24 hours the pH in our main tank went from 7.8 to 8.2. <Amazing!> So, we must have somewhat of a build-up of carbon dioxide in our house. This makes sense because it was about four weeks or so ago that we began to have problems with our pH, and that's also just about the time that the weather started warming up and we started to close up the house and turn on the air conditioner. So, now that we think we know the problem, what can we do about it? <You may consider having a HVAC person install a heat exchanger. These devices perform air exchanges on your house in a cost-effective manor. Else wise, just crack the window occasionally.> We live in Minnesota, so we can't keep the window open year-round. There is quite a bit of Caulerpa and Halimeda in the tank right now, but obviously not enough to keep the CO2 down. Your assistance in helping us to determine the best way to deal with this would be most appreciated. Thanks so much, Chip <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Reef W/ Low PH Hi Bob and/or Steve/Anthony! <Anthony Calfo in your service> I have been trying to solve a low ph issue and I have read several articles and posts, chatted w/ Anthony in the past, etc. and I unfortunately still cannot get "PH/Alk/Calcium" equation to work as "advertised" (e.g. as alk goes up so does the ph). <Hmmm... buffers are not great for this purpose, but Kalkwasser can easily bring pH up with tempering acids that would burden ALK (thus indirectly supporting alkalinity)> My problem is that my ph is now barely making it above 8.0 by the end of the day and dropping to 7.7 (or lower) by morning.  <did you try the trick of leaving a window in the room open for a few days to see if the problem isn't a well insulated home and a buildup of CO2?> My calcium level is now 490 and my alkalinity is 15 dKH and I pretty much drove these values high by dosing Kalkwasser to keep the PH up, <they are both too high and unnatural at that, one is likely to precipitate the other out (could be dangerous). Ca and ALK are not meant to be kept simultaneously at their extremes for fear of a "snowstorm" precipitation. Do allow to fall again. Max 450ppm Ca and max 12dKH for ALK but still not both that high> I think (this had been 8.2 at end of day and 8.0 by morning and w/o Kalk it would drop further...I was shooting for 8.3-8.1ph range). I had been dosing B-Ionic and a Kalkwasser "slurry" but felt that it would be better to flatten out the dosage to flatten out the PH a bit more (and also slowly raise it) so I built a Nilsen styled reactor. Since bringing the reactor on-line and evenly dosing Kalk my PH has dropped from the 8.2-8.0 range to 8.0-7.7 range, alk stayed about the same but my calcium level has increased from 450 to 490.  <a second reactor without CO2 inline with the first is likely to raise the pH> pH of my Kalkwasser being dosed via the reactor is 12.3 which I believe is about right. I double checked my ph monitor and it is properly calibrated. Thinking I may have overlooked the obvious I double checked my makeup water (ph 8.6, alk 3 dKH) but for the first time since setting up the tank I also measured more than just the SG in my saltwater used for water changes and was somewhat surprised to find the ph was 7.9 and the alk was ~5 dKH (SG .024), is this normal, why would the alkalinity increase and the PH decrease with the addition of salts (I am using Aquarium Systems Reef Crystals) - not sure how this factors in if at all but it seems like there may be something in the salts that are driving the pH down...kinda like what I am seeing in the tank? <hmmm... are you aerating raw water first (drive off carbonic acid) 12-24 hrs, then buffering and mixing (say 6-12 hours) and THEN salting your water? A good habit and addresses the depressed pH somewhat (lingering carbonic acid in makeup water)> Here is why I mention the impact salts have on my makeup water, I was planning on a large H2O change to try to bring the PH up and the alkalinity down ("solution to pollution is dilution") but now I am a bit reluctant to do so until I better understand this....seems to me I could drop the alk (with a huge % h2o change that I really would not want to do) but the ph may remain about the same...so I question doing this w/o understanding why salts bring the ph down... <it is doubtful that the salts are bring the pH down... they can only bring it up to 8.3 predominantly through the bicarbonates in the mix (just as buffers do)> is something in them counteracting my SeaChem Reef Builder I use to buffer my makeup water (which I use as the base for my saltwater)? Can you tell me if this if is normal and/or advise an action I should take? <hmmm... it really shouldn't be this hard. Indeed, enough water changes alone should bring you back to par. Try the open window trick and also try aerating a glass of tank water for 12 hours and test eh pH before and after: it should not change. If it does... you have lingering CO2 short and sweet and need better aerating/off-gassing in the tank (airstone at tank bottom, second skimmer, etc). Also, if you have noticed a slightly oily sheen at the surface of the tank (common with siphon overflow box tanks)... that could be keeping the CO2 in... need to break surface sheen/tension.> TIA <please do let me know what if anything works. Best regards, Anthony> - Scott - p.s. other tank info; 125 gal, ~ 25 g sump, flow in/out of sump ~ 1600 gph, ~900 gph internal flow via powerhead ~175 lb live rock ~12 fish (all small), ~ 75 member cleanup crew ~ 600 w/ PC SG - 1.024 (based on a cheapo plastic gizmo, my old homebrew making days hydrometer calls it 1.026, not sure which is most accurate?) ammonia - 0 Nitrite - 0 Nitrate ~ 15 MG - 1350-1400 PH 7.7 - 8.0 Calcium 490

pH Drop Hello gentlemen, <<And hello to you, JasonC here... >> A short question today - My 90 gal reef has been up an running for about 8 months. I have been having a hard time getting my calcium level above 340. <<That's not really out of line with conditions found in the wild.>> I have recently started adding two part Kent Marine additives but it hasn't budged. My latest set of checks show a drop in PH from 8.5 to about 7.8-7.9 (during the day). <<Morning - mid-day, when exactly, pH is often low before the lights come on. You might want to take two or three measurements in a day, and average those results.>> I added some baking soda yesterday as suggested by Bob in his book, but it still is the same. <<It can take a little time - you really don't want the pH to shift back to 8.5 in a single day.>> My checks are as follows - Ammonia - 0 Nitrite - 0 Nitrate - 0 Phosphate - 0 PH- 7.8-7.9 (tested by two kits) Alkalinity - over 300 ppm Salinity 1.024 Temperature - 78 F I have always had pretty good PH. I have never tested for alkalinity, but I bought a kit today and it shows over 300 ppm. Could this be a problem? <<It would be a problem, yes - calcium and alkalinity live on opposite ends of a sea-saw. An alkalinity of 300ppm [roughly 17 dKH] is on the high side of the 'desirable' numbers. Something closer to 175-250ppm would be fine [10-15 dKH]. You might want to lay off the baking soda and which-ever Kent additives you are using and give the system a reprieve from the supplements. Let the system gain some balance on it's own.>>  Although I am somewhat confused, I understand that there is a relationship between the buffering capacity, and PH. <<Buffers in a present in a solution of water will help keep pH of that solution in a given range, either acidic or basic, depending on the type of buffer used. In marine systems, the goal is to keep things towards the basic end of the pH scale.>> All my corals and fish are just fine, but I have noticed that a few of my yellow polyps are not coming out which is unusual. That's actually what made me do my latest round of checks I add iodine each day, Strontium every four days, and two part calcium every other day. Thanks once again for your advice, and this resource. <<I would just comment that unless you are testing for iodine, strontium, and the like, you might not want to add them so consistently unless you own stock in Kent Marine ;-) . It may be that your system doesn't actually 'need' these trace elements in such high quantities. Likewise, I am of the opinion that striving for high calcium and alkalinity ppm is not a practical goal. Calcium ppm of 360 isn't terrible and you would be surprised to find that on some of the major reefs in the world, the number is actually much lower. Strive for balance.>> Cheers! John <<And cheers to you. J -- >>

High Alkalinity & Calcium VI Steven, Thanks for the extra early reply! <You are welcome. Not much else to do at 4:00 AM.> My wife has corresponded with you in the past regarding our inability to maintain an acceptable pH in our top off water. We still have not figured that one out - aerate heavily for 24 hours, buffer and continue aeration, but the pH still plummets in a matter of hours. For our new saltwater we also aerate heavily for 24 hours and then I usually add salt (Instant Ocean) and then buffer it right before using it so that the pH is at 8.3. <That is good.> However, I know you recommend aerating, buffering, THEN adding the salt so I did this when mixing my last batch three days ago. I just checked the pH of my new water and it is 7.8, same as my tank this morning. <I usually do it the other way, too, aerate, salt, and then buffer. I would go back to doing it the way it was when your water was 8.3.> It sounds like we are doing everything right. Could there be a problem with the RO water that we are purchasing from our LFS? <I don't think it is very likely. You may want to consider buying your own unit. It is usually much more cost-effective and convenient that way.> We just can't think of anything else that could be causing this. Chip <Make up so new water the way you did for a pH of 8.3. Then do a series of 50% water changes every week for three weeks. That should sufficiently dilute your problem. Make sure the new water is well aerated, matched for temperature and salinity to the tank water, and has the correct ranges for pH, alkalinity, and calcium. If this corrects your problem, then fine. If it is only temporary and your pH tends to drop after you resume your normal water change schedule, then we will know that something is wrong in the tank (overfeeding, inadequate nutrient export, etc.) and not your water, salt mix, or preparation of either. -Steven Pro>

High Alkalinity & Calcium V Hello again Steven, Anthony, or Bob, <Steven awake incredibly early answering emails because he can't sleep.> As you can see from the previous correspondence below, we have been battling low pH accompanied by high alkalinity (5 meq/l) and high calcium (450) for some time now. We really thought the missing piece was inadequate aeration, but our pH only came up from 7.8 to now around 7.9 or 8.0 after being heavily aerated for several days. It maintains this pH day and night, despite a good crop of thriving Macroalgae. Is there anything else we're missing here or is it just part of being an unstable new tank (approximate 2 1/2 months old)? <No, should be higher, particularly in young tanks.> The fish are not overfed and we're doing 15% water changes every week (tank is 72g FOWLR). The only additives I use are Kent's Osmo-Prep in my RO top off water, and Seachem's Marine Buffer in my new water for changes. <I reviewed the past correspondence (thanks for including it) and I do not see anywhere having you check your new water for pH, alkalinity, and calcium levels. Also, check the top-off water. Either could be giving you problems. Both should be vigorously aerated prior to use or adding anything to drive off carbon dioxide and maximize dissolved oxygen.> Any additional insight into this low pH problem that you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Chip <Keep in touch. -Steven Pro>

High Alkalinity & Calcium IV Steven, I e-mailed a couple of days ago regarding high alkalinity and calcium and low pH (see below). Here is what I think has been happening. Please let me know if you agree. Several weeks ago we read (with much confusion) the WWM articles and archives on gas bubble disease. In an effort to avoid this malady, we tried to reduce all bubbles in our tank. We accomplished this by raising the level of the water in our sump so that there was no splashing from our trickle filter or protein skimmer. We avoided turbulence on the surface of the water in the tank, too. However, after battling low pH for a while now and waking up to a 7.8 pH this morning we scrambled to try and figure out what was going on. Our alkalinity is 5 meq/l, and calcium is 450, so this is not an issue. We think that maybe in our effort to reduce bubbles that we are now not driving off the carbon dioxide in our system and hence getting a build-up of carbonic acid which is bringing down the pH. Does this sound like an accurate assessment? <Possible. You can test your hypothesis by increasing aeration and looking for a change. If that is all that has happened, you should notice a difference in 24 hours.> So, here is the source of our confusion -- are air bubbles okay in the tank or not? <Not wanted in the tank, but fine in the sump.> Some of the archived FAQs make reference to adding airstones for aeration, and others say how dangerous it is to have any bubbles in the tank. We have lowered the water level in our sump to create more turbulence and added the aeration option to one of our Maxi-Jet powerheads. Consequently, we now have a fair amount of various-sized bubbles in our tank, and some are sticking to our fish. Are we on the right track or not? <I do not like the part about bubbles on the fish. Aerate the water in your sump like crazy, just keep bubbles from getting sucked up by your return pump.> How long do you think it may take for us to see a change in our pH with the additional aeration? <In 24 hours, if that is your problem.> Thank you for your help. Chip <No problem. -Steven Pro>

Alkalinity and pH Problems II Steve, Thanks pointing out that my tank is too small for the starfish. I will look for a good home for him. <Your starfish thanks you. Look for someone with a big tank (at least 12 square feet) with a sand bed.> I have another question regarding my low pH and alk. I understand that high calcium levels and high alkalinity levels can be mutually exclusive. <Correct> When I had my water tested one week ago, calcium had risen from my normal 350ppm up to 500ppm. I stopped adding the calcium portion of my two part liquid solution. Still adding the buffer portion. I also performed a 30% water change. I had my water tested again (one week since last full test) and calcium is still at 500ppm, pH and alk are still low (7.8 and 8dKH). Is it possible that something is leeching calcium back into the tank? <Possible, but unlikely that is your problem.> Also, I will be going on vacation. Read the vacation FAQs page, and I am very interested in the 2 liter bottle idea. Are there any pre-made brackets for this purpose? <I have never seen any, but ask around on the message boards. Ours is at http://WetWebFotos.com/talk/index.jsp> Thanks again, Mark Joseph <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Low pH Bob, I have been replacing my evaporated water in my marine tank with regular tap water. I make sure that I add water conditioner in it and air stone for a while. I almost have to add a 1/2 gallon of conditioned water everyday, I believe this is causing my ph to go down. <Mmm, better stated that whatever is the make-up of the water being added, it's not causing the pH to go up> Is there another way for me to keep my ph up? <A bunch of methods... adding materials of higher pH... by supplementation (store bought or home made), calcium reactors of different sorts... techniques like protein skimming, ozonation, U.V. sterilization that help remove organics, reductant influences... Photosynthetic livestock metabolic boosting... Take a read through WetWebMedia... maybe starting with the homepage: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ with the search tool at the bottom... put in "pH", "alkalinity"... read on brother> I add the proper amount of Kalk. Ammonia .25, Nitrite 0 Nitrate 20 Ph 7.4 Calcium 350-400 ppm, Alk 3.2 meq/l, Phosphate 0. I know I have to get my ammonia down to 0 which is no problem (water change is due anyway). I have used proper ph for a long while in my hospital tank, because I do not have substrate on the bottom. Could you give me some suggestions?  I might have to go to a buffer type system. Thanks <Study my friend. Bob Fenner>

Buffer Bob, in order for me to keep my Calcium @ 450 ppm, I must have my salinity @ 1.025. <Not so.> Does higher salinity cause future problems with fish? <No, unless they're not marines> I am trying to find a good buffer system. I have used Kent Buffer A&B with Instant Ocean salt, however I could not maintain a Calcium level of no more than 300-350 ppm. I have switched over to Reef Crystal which seems to keep my Calcium about 350 ppm without any additives. I need a good solution to my buffer problem. <You need to study... please see our previous email. Bob Fenner> Thanks

Re: Buffer Is there a book or some kind of resource other than the website that I can get more information? <There are piles of books and magazines available. Eric Borneman's "Aquarium Corals", Sprung & Delbeek's two volumes, Anthony Calfo's "Book of Coral Propagation", Freshwater and Marine Aquarium Magazine, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, Aquarium Fish, etc. etc. One just needs to look. -Steven Pro>

Top-Off Water pH Problems Sorry to bother you with another question again so soon, but I am at a loss as to what to do about my top-off water's pH. <No problem.> I purchase RO water from my LFS. I've tried Kent's Osmo-Prep as well as Seachem's Marine Buffer, but what keeps happening is that the pH is fine as soon as I add it to the RO water, but by the next day the water is highly acidic and below my pH test scale. I aerate the water as soon as I bring it home and keep it aerated as I use it throughout the week, but it will not maintain an acceptable pH. What I'm trying to do is have freshwater constantly aerated and pH adjusted so that I can just pour it in the tank once or twice a day to make up for evaporation. Can you recommend a way to do this? Or do I need to pH adjust the top-off water each and every time I add it? <You should not need to keep adding buffers everyday. Perhaps you are just testing too quickly and the RO water has not had enough time to mix with your buffers. I use Seachem Reef Builder and Marine Buffer, about 1/2 teaspoon of each for every five gallons, and have not had a problem.> Thanks so much again for your assistance! Karen <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Dropping PH & Send in the Clowns Greetings WWM Crew, <Hello, Steve Pro in this morning.> The sun came out and all the questions dried up! I decided to fill in with my quandary. <Yes, what we all thought originally.> My experience into the hobby started at Christmas last year with a statement that "someday" it would nice to get an aquarium again. Next thing I knew I was hip deep in aquariums (three now - display, small tank I thought would be a QT, and a 20 gal QT). My gift was the display tank listed below with only the Eclipse hood and stand. Little did I realize that my wife's generous gift would turn into such a great experience. Since Christmas my education has been pushed along by three books worth noting: Fenner's The Conscientious Marine Aquarist, Calfo's Book of Coral Propagation (#1152 thanks Anthony), and Wilkerson's Clownfishes. All three books have made an impact for the better on how I maintain my livestock. I only wish that I had read them before making that statement about getting an aquarium someday! I've been a daily reader of WWM since about the 1st of the year - too bad I didn't start in November 2001 tee hee! Would have angled for a much bigger tank! I'm maintaining a 30"x12"x24" glass tank (40 gal) with an 8 gal sump - FOWLR (50lbs of liverock) Filtration: Eclipse 3 hood and Aquaclear aquatics Pro 75 sump minus bioballs plus 5" fine aragonite sand. Pumps: Eclipse 3's 250gph pump and the Mag 7 externally mounted for the sump providing about a 15X turnover/hour. Too much? <No, sounds fine.> Lighting: 2x65 PC (6500K and Actinic) - (upgraded from NO bulbs that were running 14 hours/day) - finally up to 8 hours of the 6500K with zero from the actinic. BTW - it was a huge trick to shoehorn the overflow under the Eclipse hood along with the 2x65 PC - I need to get pictures together. Livestock: Royal Gramma (Grace), Kole Tang (RoscoeP as in RoscoePKoleTang), Coral Banded Shrimp, 3 Peppermint shrimp, some (3-8) blue leg hermit crabs, 3 red leg hermit crabs, and 6-8 zebra hermit crabs, assorted snails (Cerith, turbo, etc) I have a neon goby (G. Oceanops) in QT - started today. Water changes: 8 gal every two weeks (water is dechlorinated, aeration + heat overnight, Instant Ocean added, mixed at least 24 hrs in that order before adding. Substrate: No verbal tongue lashing here please - Its bad: 3" crushed coral. I want to switch to aragonite sand but I'll miss all those cool critters (brittle stars, bristle worms, all sorts of pods) <Not really bad, but can trap a lot of detritus. In your case, the trapping of detritus is fueling the population of critters to eat it. If you keep up with it, regular vacuuming, it can be ok. It is just a lot more work.> Water specs: Ammonia and Nitrite zero, Nitrate 20, SG 1.023, PH 8.1 to 8.3 (morning and just after lights out), Phosphates 0.2, calcium 350, alk 7dkH Problem 1: pH dropping and calcium low. (small patch of Cyano algae everyday disappears by lights out and reappears in the morning) <The Cyano is caused by nutrients. The pH problems are related to your low alkalinity.> My solution so far: Dosing with Seachem's Marine buffer every other week - opposite the water changes along with topping off with Aragamite solution. I've been doing this for six weeks and my PH does not seem to hold well, alk seems on the low side, and calcium seems a little low. <Try Seachem's other product, Reef Builder. It is an alkalinity booster/additive. Also, test your water change water and make sure everything is ideal in that.> I am thinking that replacing the crushed coral substrate with 5" of fine aragonite sand would address this issue along with the nitrates. <Will address several issues. Removing the possibility of trapped debris will help nitrates, phosphates, and Cyano issues.> The process of replacing the substrate seems extremely painful. Any good short-cuts (other than doing it different the first time ;-]) <No real short cuts. It will be labor intensive.> Problem 2: I plan on getting a pair of tank raised A. Percula or A. Ocellaris. I know an anemone is not necessary, however, the sight of the clownfish with an anemone is very cool. Compatibility charts point toward the Ritteri anemone (Heteractis magnifica) for either or the Sebae Anemone (Heteractis crispa) for the A. Percula only. I'm not through with Wilkerson's book so my decision here may firm up later. Do I have enough lighting? <No> Would another 6500K or 8500K be preferred over the actinic for either anemone? <Keep the actinic and add another two lamps for a total of 4 96 watt PC's.> I would like to add three Chromis (Chromis viridis or C. cyanea) or three Firefish (Nemateleotris magnifica) to school near the top of the tank. If I still have room (probably not) a coral beauty (Centropyge Bispinosus) or Flame Angelfish (C. loricula) would be the final fish. <You have a Kole Tang, a Gramma, and a Neon Goby. To which you will add a pair of clownfish. After that, pick one of the above, three Chromis or Dwarf Angelfish to round out your tank.> Looking forward to your reply. Maybe this week will perk up with a couple dozen messages! Thanks for the help, advice, direction. Kinzie <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

pH Problems Hello Mr. Fenner, or Steven, or Anthony, <Steven in this evening.> Will one of you please tell me WHY I cannot get my Ph to rise? <A variety of reasons; low pH of source water, high level of dissolved organics buildup in tank, etc. Many more probably discussed on the main page of WWM.> Every time I check it, it's very low at about 7.8. <Yes, that is low and would be a problem. Have you ever double checked it with another kit?. Perhaps your LFS could do it for you.> All the other numbers are starting to cooperate with my efforts, but the Ph, Ahhhh! I don't recall if one of you okayed sodium bicarbonate. Please advise. Pam <I prefer one of the buffering mixtures that are commercially available. These would have sodium bicarbonate as well as other compounds. -Steven Pro>

Die off!! All Mixed Up Ohhhhh Anthony!! <Steven Pro in this evening.> My ph. is 7.2 Ugh!! <You can add an Ugh! from me too.> Buffering capacity, @170. Double Ugh!! Salinity 1.020. Let me tell you something about my salinity. I think maybe it was never properly calculated at set up because it's always been on the low side. Then, about 2 weeks ago, I mixed up about a cup of salt and put it into the tank through the course of 12 hours. Was this a mistake? <Not if you intended to increase salinity.> Does this effect my Ph.? <No, not really.> Ahhhhh, I'm all mixed up! What do I do about the low Ph. now? Add sodium bicarbonate? <At this point, several large water changes are your best course of action to bring up the pH and to remove dead and decaying plant life. Begin mixing up a large amount of water for use tomorrow. Please match the temperatures and do not increase the SG too much. 1.020-1.025 is my preference for most fish-only tanks. -Steven Pro> Thanks Anthony! Pam

pH Gia sou Anthony! <Greetings Thanassis!> Today's question concerns my PH. It has always been 8.5, according to the readings of my test, the Waterlife PH test kit. I also read on the test kit that the range between 8.1 and 8.5 is acceptable. <actually, I think that 8.3 to 8.6 is safer and more natural> Today I have been by co-incidence discussing about PH in my retailer's shop and I have been told that my PH is too high, may be dangerous for the health of my fish and that I should urgently reduce it to 8.3 or even better 8.2. For this reason they gave me a liquid, which is called "PH DOWN" by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. What is your opinion? <that would truly be dangerous! pH naturally declines and systems consistently under 8.3 tend to be systems with a nutrient export problem *or some facet of poor husbandry). You are fine at 8.5. If it naturally wanes down to 8.2 or 8.3 by the end of the month before the next water change... it sounds fine and very normal> Best regards, Thanassis <kindly, Anthony>

pH Hi Bob.<Bob is out of town right now and Anthony Calfo & I are filling in for him.> I am new to reef aquariums and have been struggling to get the pH from 7.9 to 8.1+. The tank is 40 gallons, contains live sand, live rock, along with two Domino fish. By using a table spoon of bicarbonate of soda to one cup of water, I have been dripping a cup of this mix in daily. The reading does not change from 7.9. How many cupfuls of bicarbonate of soda can I add to the tank during the day. Regards, Colin <You are going to be far better off to increase the frequency and/or amounts of your water changes to bring your pH up to an acceptable level. Also, you may want to double check your test kit against another kit to verify the results. -Steven Pro>

Re: PH Thanks, Anthony, I am relieved. My PH is stable at 8.5 and does not drop below 8.4. I think that according to your answer I should be happy! Thanks again (I just wonder about the knowledge level of my retailer.....) <very good my friend. Rest easy about the pH. The confusion about pH comes partly from the fact that marine fish are found in waters 7.9 to well over 8.6.. so recommendations have everywhere in between. Most experienced aquarists run their pH close to the 8.3-8.6 for safety... aquariums naturally acidify all too quickly... especially with a heavy fish load. Anthony> Thanassis

Rapid Gill pumping.... Anthony,  Any tips on how to raise and maintain the ph level, and alkaline buffer, of my tank? <simple tri-buffers usually do the trick (sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, and a borate)> This has been a constant source of intrigue for me. I have previously tried to use calcium carbonate to increase the ph to a more acceptable 8.3 , <was it even soluble? many are not in pH water above 7.6!> but every time I would do a water change it would dip down to around 8.0-8.1- and stay there. <likely a reflection of your source water...naturally mild or soft...or, purified water that is not aerated and adequately buffered before use as evap makeup or for synthetic seawater mixing> My concern is that the constant increases, and subsequent decreases, in ph would more adversely affect my fish more than just leaving them in a ph that is only just slightly below what it should be. <yes... agreed> I use water that has been run through a reverse osmosis unit, but can never get water that has a ph higher than what is stated above. Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated. <yes... this is a common problem. It is important to first aerate RO water for 12+ hours to drive off CO2 (carbonic acid) to temporarily raise pH, THEN buffer it (remineralize to stabilize ALK), and THEN it can be used to make seawater or for evap top off. Else, the soft acidic RO water naturally depletes hardness in the display tank> On to the tang..... (please see below if you need to refresh your memory on the plight of my tang) I hear you on the quarantine tank. Normally I quarantine without question, <excellent> but the size of the fish gave me concern. I only have a 20 gallon QT, and I experienced not a little trepidation at putting that large a fish in that small a QT. <agreed...but the problem wasn't the fishes size, but the QT tank size <wink>. You could certainly use a plastic garbage can or a storage container in a pinch... the fish won't care... just harder for you on inspection. Plastic under bed storage vessels are low and long and cheap (Wal-mart) and hold only around 30 gallon with a huge foot print. In such shallow vessels it is just as easy to inspect marine fishes as pond Koi (very easy). As such, it is a cheap QT vessel in a pinch. $8 more and a piece of egg crate will cover the top. We live and learn. Future reference.> Well to make a long story short; I thought what the heck he came from a trusted dealer, with excellent water quality. <yes... but reputable dealer or not, how many new shipments of stressed fish came into that system in the last two weeks (at least one... 3-4 if it is a busy store). Too great a chance to transmit disease. An easy sense of false security when the fish has been at a vendor for a month looking disease free, but a new fish was added to that dealers system the day before you buy yours...Murphy's law.> So I placed him in the tank, after acclimating him. Which puts me here. I woke up this morning to find him rapid gilling, just like last night. Only this morning I noticed that he may have a minor ick outbreak, and he is definitely loosing slime coat. <no worries...we can deal with this> Also he refused food. First time that has happened with this fish. <expected and not so great a concern on a big/fatty fish> Eyes look pretty clear, but the fins and actual body look terrible. Also his activity levels since last night have dropped considerably. Have grave concerns that we may heading down a road which ends up with my tang dead. I still haven't seen any change in physical condition, or behavior, of the Passer Angel. <good... we are hoping for resistance with this hardy and established angel> I didn't see the rapid gilling immediately after the water change-btw. It was more like 5-6 hours later, and then only after he ate. Unsure of what would be the best thing to do at this point. I am concerned about actually transporting him to a QT, have been in situations where moving the fish seems to cause more harm than good. <really not possible... a good move is a good move, and a fish that dies in one was not going to make it anyway.> So I'll follow the advice you outlined below, unless otherwise directed. <QT, freshwater dips and medication are necessary at this point. Copper if it seems sure to be Cryptocaryon... other meds and/or more freshwater dips if it may be other parasites (Velvet, Brooklynella). For catching the fish, try this copied from another recent post: Best way to catch a fish is in the AM and to simply turn the power off and drain most or all of the clear undisturbed tank water into a clean garbage can. Only after it is drained to the water level of the fishes back do you begin to catch the fish (now in a less dimensional plane..). Much less stress on you and the fish this way with so little water. Only takes minutes to drain with one inch straight tubing/hose and not much longer to catch fish scooting in [just enough water to cover their back]. After the targets are caught, pump the water back in with a pump or tank powerhead and some tubing. A WWM crew member just did this on his 90 gall in 35 minutes complete!> Thanks, Michael Mariani <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Re: Rapid Gill pumping.... Anthony, If I'm not making a nuisance of myself, I'd like to respond to some of your statements. <not at all.. I can shovel as fast as folks can query... hehe> First of all I don't think you're too rigid at all with your advice. I know too many people in the hobby who think nothing of killing some rather rare fish. <thank you for saying so> In my opinion some of them deserve a good scolding (wink). Especially when you consider all of the legislation that is bandied around attempting to restrict the hobby so. <yes...very good point. If we do not police ourselves, then we stand to have our privileges legislated away. We cannot forget that... keeping exotic animals is a privilege and not an intrinsic right.> I think this is a sad shame. While I'm not a nature nut, abject killing of some truly beautiful animals is disgusting. <agreed we are> I thought your advice was solid, and straight from the hip. <excellent... I wouldn't mind a reputation of being honestly opinionated <wink>!> If nothing else it was a shot in the arm and served to cure my anxiety. I would have been not a little angry and depressed if my stupidity had killed such a great, and personable fish. If there is one thing that my 2 years of experience in this hobby have taught me it's that this is one of the most difficult, not to mention expensive, endeavors that one can find. I'm not ashamed to say that even though I have two masters degrees, unfortunately not one in biology! (wink), <no regrets here either for you... many biologists know little about the science of practical aquariology (and vice versa!)> I really know very little. A website where experts, such as yourself, make themselves available to offer sound advice to those who are novice' to the hobby is a God send. So long as you set me straight, and I don't have to pay you, you could swear at me till you're blue in the face, all while wearing a pink tutu; <[In a soliloquy:, "Hmmm... how could he know that?! Must be a web cam somewhere... dag nabbit!"]> and I'd still come back. LOL Once again...many thanks. Michael <my great pleasure... keep learning and sharing. Anthony Calfo> 

Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: