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FAQs on pH, Alkalinity, Acidity 1

Related Articles: pH, alkalinity, acidity, In praise of hard water; How hard, alkaline water can be a blessing in disguise by Neale Monks, Treating Tap Water, A practical approach to freshwater aquarium water chemistry by Neale Monks, The Soft Water Aquarium: Risks and Benefits by Neale Monks, Freshwater Maintenance, Treating Tap water for Aquarium Use

Related FAQs: pH, Alkalinity, Acidity 2, pH, Alkalinity 3, pH, Alkalinity 4 & FAQs on: FW pH/Alkalinity Science, pH/Alkalinity Measure, pH/Alkalinity Adjustment, pH/Alkalinity Products, pH/Alkalinity Anomalies/Fixing, & Water Hardness, Freshwater Aquarium Water Quality, Treating Tap Water for Aquarium Use, Freshwater Algae Control, Algae Control, Foods, Feeding, Aquatic Nutrition, Disease

Low pH Levels Hello Crew <Randy> I have been reading your articles with interest in an attempt to understand why I cannot maintain a neutral pH in my fresh water aquarium. To be quite honest, there is so much information here I find it a little overwhelming, and also confusing. <Mmm, I frequently encourage folks to read the articles of a topic first... then the Related FAQs until they gain an understanding of facts, underlying principles... but it dawns on me that the accumulation, presentation of so much information, opinions may be disconcerting> I realize that this question must have come up dozens if not hundreds of times, but have found very few articles that match my problem. I have a 100 gallon freshwater setup that has been established for many years. I run an undergravel filter <Ahh, a source of enhanced reductive (acidic) activity...> with four powerheads, and a below the tank Eheim 2228. I do 50% water changes twice a month, with a gravel <A calcareous natural gravel I hope> cleaning, but find that the water in my aquarium is constantly too low in pH despite the fact that my tap water is very high in pH...off the scale in fact. <But of what alkalinity? That is, how much alkaline reserve? Water can be of nominally high pH, but not be well-buffered...> I use Seachem's neutral pH, but it seems to raise the pH for only a short while, usually only one or two days before it begins to rapidly drop off again. At one time I had some natural driftwood in the tank, but realized that this might be contributing to my problem, <Easily so> and eventually took it out. The tank is planted with artificial plants, and currently houses only Severums. I have six green and three gold, ranging in size from two to four inches. <How nice... and this species is tolerant, indeed appreciates soft, acidic water conditions> The fish seem to tolerate the low pH, but it seems obvious that they are not that happy. When the pH is closer to neutral, the fish are much more active. When the pH begins to drop, they tend to hide, and swim very little. <Yikes, good observations... most all life does not "like" sudden or drastic pH changes> It makes me nervous to be constantly adjusting the pH  artificially, and in addition, I can never seem to maintain a constant value, which can't be good for the inhabitants. It seems that most articles on your site deal with the opposite problem...people trying to lower their pH. I did read one article where you recommended the addition of some crushed coral to the gravel. <Yes, one approach... please see below> I understand that pH is related to many other things, and to be honest I find it all quite confusing. My question is...isn't there a good way to raise my pH and keep it up near neutral without having to constantly add conditioners and buffers to the water? <Yes, a few approaches> I would ask why my pH is always low, but I understand that there are many possible reasons, and would settle for finding a cure rather than understanding the mechanics involved. Any suggestions on how to raise my pH levels and keep them up without having to add lots of chemicals would be greatly appreciated. Randy <Your pH is low very likely simply due to a lack of bicarbonate, carbonate... content... If this were my system, I would develop a habit of using a designated bucket, plastic trash can... adding a teaspoon of simple Baking Soda (Sodium bicarbonate) per five gallons and letting it mix, heat it... for next time (I do weekly water changes on my cichlid tanks). Additionally, you might look into carbonaceous "natural" gravel, perhaps some stone/rock decor that will bolster your alkaline reserve, maybe add some "marble chips" to your canister filter... but not crushed coral to the tank. Do read about the concept of alkalinity, its relation to pH (one is a measure of "resistance" to change, the other a "point" on a scale...). You are close to a complete understanding here, and an operant solution to your vacillating pH trouble. Bob Fenner>

Re: Low pH Levels Hi Bob Thanks for the quick reply to my question. My tap water runs between 5-6 dKH, my aquarium water is near that, testing between 4-5 dKH. <Mmm, a  bit low... recommended that it be 10 to 12 dKH or 3.5 to 4.5 mEq/liter or 175 to 225 ppm...> I understand that gravel is a source for acidic activity, but I do clean it regularly with my water changes, <Mmm, the biological activity that results in acidification occurs whether the gravel is cleaned to a large degree> I use the Anaconda water siphon kit to accomplish this since I am dealing with rather large amounts of water. <Good idea> I have heard of aquariums with no substrate at all...do you recommend this in order to reduce the acidic activity? <Not in general... there are set-ups, reasons for some designs to do away with substrate/s, but the vast majority of aquarium systems are bettered by having them> As for the gravel currently in use, I have no idea as to its calcium content. As with all gravels I have seen at the local fish stores, it is merely labeled Mexican beach sand (gravel) or some other non descriptive label that doesn't give me a very good insight as to its actual chemical makeup. <Can be tested relatively easy... most simply with a bit of distilled or good RO water adding a bit of gravel, checking the resultant pH, alkalinity in a day or two.> This gravel is of varying sizes and colors and looks rather good in the aquarium, which was my primary reason for choosing it. If you can recommend a particular type/brand, or perhaps an online site that has a more complete description of its products, I would be sincerely thankful now that you have given me a clue as to what I should be shopping for. <At this point, I would add the more alkaline crushed material to your canister, add the baking soda to your change water... leave the gravel as is> As for the decor of the tank. I would love to add some rock(s) to the tank, not only for decor, but the fish also seem to appreciate having someplace to "hangout". <You are correct here> Would it be possible to give me some tips here on what kind/type of rock(s) I should consider adding. <Again, the simplest assay is mentioned above> Once again, it has been my experience that these things are displayed at the local fish store, but are seldom labeled as to their type...limestone, marble, or whatever. <You might even "collect your own", or check a local garden, rock and block supply outlet...> If you know of an online site where I could shop for these things, it would be most helpful to me. Locally there are only a couple of fish stores, and they are somewhat small with a limited selection of materials. <Dr.s Foster & Smith have about the best selection of aquarium supplies outright... seem to be fair priced, consumer-oriented> One other thing...I currently only clean my Eheim canister when the flow begins to bog down...maybe every eight weeks or so. Would it be helpful to clean it more often? <Mmm, yes... about once a month... a good idea to incorporate their Grob Flocken or such, or two "pads" that you can switch out just the outer, dirtier one, move the older into the "number one" position... to preserve nitrification> I read somewhere that flow should be your guide on this, but would be interested in your thoughts. <Better to not wait for diminished flow> I would like to thank you once again for your expert advise, and taking the time to share your knowledge with those of us with a somewhat...umm...lesser understanding. Randy <Glad to share, be of service. Bob Fenner>

Plan of attack for very soft, very basic tap water Hey, WWM-ites, <Hi Glen> I've seen lots of advice on what to do with low pH, soft water, and what to do with high pH, hard water.  We have high pH, soft water - details in a sec - and I'd appreciate your views on what I think I need to do. <Okay> Our tap water is pH 9.8-10, according to my newly calibrated pH meter (and in line with what the City reports).  Alkalinity is around 60 ppm, according to Austin's water quality report, and total hardness is 85 ppm.  Those are both in line with what I get at the tap with my strip-based test kit (GH registers ~75 ppm and KH between 50 and 80 ppm) and my reagent-based test (3 dKH).  (Hey, I'm an engineer - there's no such thing as too much testing or data!) <Agreed> We have a standard 55g tank and Emperor 400, and are three weeks into cycling it for a freshwater community tank.  We won't put anything into this one that requires weird water - tiny fish (Endler's, Tetras, Otos, small Corys) and a trio of Swordtails - so I set the tank up with water adjusted to a neutral pH, using sodium biphosphate (don't remember specific product or manufacturer). <Not important... all the same molecule> I started using a phosphate-type buffer to get it stabilized at 7.0-ish, but will stop using the phosphate buffer because we're going to replace most of our plastic plants (and some silk ones) with the real thing.  We have some petrified wood and "pagoda stone" (both tested pH neutral) for caves, and will be putting in a small piece of driftwood for the Otos.  Temperature is set to 77F.  1.5-2" deep small gravel for substrate. <Okay> Here's my approach to the water.  Please let me know if there's something I should do differently: 1.  20% water changes once a week, with substrate vacuuming. 2.  Dechloraminate 20-25 gallons at a time (in a dedicated new trash can) - easier and more uniform to treat a bunch all at once. 3.  Bring the pH down to 7.0 (using the sodium biphosphate product (anything better?)). <Mmm, in the long-er haul? I'd be looking into a reverse osmosis device... actually I would (and do) use this for your general cooking, drinking purposes as well... better for you> 4.  Boost the KH and GH into more the 125 ppm range using calcium carbonate.  (Would something else, or a different value, be better?  If we actually adhere to this rate of water replacement, does our tap water need additional buffering, or is the little bit that's there going to be enough?) <I would likely leave the present buffering, calcium as it is out of the tap... if you get, use RO or DI (or both!) you might want to supplement here> 5.  Aerate and tweak temperature overnight before a water change. 6.  Judicious chemistry monitoring between changes. <Sounds good, very thorough> Since RO water still needs to be tweaked with pH adjustment, buffer, and essential minerals - why not adjust the tap water? <Mmm, let's see... just easier to start with less stuff in it... more consistent product...> Also, I bet the pH of RO water around here is still quite high, given the tap water to start with - I'm going to get a gallon on the way home and test it. <Should start out near neutral to slightly lower than 7.0...> Also, since the tap water is so soft to begin with, the double-whammy of a buffer and an acidic product shouldn't have too much impact on osmotic pressure, right? <Correct> Thanks again for your help! Glen <Thank you for your involvement, sharing. Bob Fenner>

pH question for neon tetra Hi Crew, You have a really great site: I have been finding answers for most of my questions since I started my aquarium. But this one is still bugging me. What would be better for my tank to keep pH stable but fairly high or try to reduce in with chemicals risking its stability? It is 40Gals planted tank that have been running for about two moths, while fish is living there for a month. No detectable ammonia and nitrates. My tap water is about 7.0pH and very soft, but as soon as it is in the tank the pH goes up to 7.4pH and the hardness sets at 80 mg/l. I have been filtering water through peat from the beginning and doing weekly 20% water changes. I keep 8 neon tetra for now and plan to add a small shoal of Corys, gouramis and, possible, a couple of small loaches (if snails got out of control). Now I understand that pH 7.4 is too high for Neons, yet from what I learned the playing with pH is least desirable thing. Please, give me some advice on how to deal with this dilemma. It will be very much appreciated. <Something in the tank is buffering the water to the higher pH. Calcium in the water may be one source or even the sand/gravel may be reacting to the water. If you get your water from a well then check the water from the tap and then let it sit overnight and then check it again. If the pH rises then the real pH of your water is the 24 hour reading. Well water sometimes contains co2 and this temporarily lowers the pH until the co2 is off gassed. Assuming the true pH of your water is 7.4 I would recommend the following. Start getting some RO/distilled water and do a 5 gallon per week water change with it. Treat the 5 gallons of water with a buffer that will bring the water down to where you want it. After a few water changes your water will gradually be lowered to where you want it to be. Be careful . New fish from the store need to acclimated to the lower pH over time. If the local stores have water that is hard and alkaline then they may not appreciate the abrupt change.-Chuck> Thank you, Konstantin.

Re: pH question for neon tetra Thank you Chuck. From your reply I got that I do need to reduce the pH and the question is just how to do it properly. Following your advice I did left my tap water standing for a day, but pH and KH have not changed. After some head scratching, I began to do some tests. First I soaked stones there - no change, then put some gravels - no change. The next thing to test was a large piece of driftwood that is quite hard to get out without wrecking the whole set up. Fortunately, before doing that I decided to check water conditioner, and here it comes - the treated water immediately changed its pH from 7.0 to 7.4 and KH from 10mg/l to 50mg/l. A bit surprised I rushed for water conditioner from another brand and, no, this one has not changed water properties. As it might be of interest for some other beginner aquarists the "bad" brand is "TetraAqua" and the "good" one is "Hagen". I suspect it has something to do with my tap water being very soft, but, anyway, they might have put sort of a warning or something on the package. Konstantin. < Thanks for the feedback. I am sure others reading this on the website will appreciate your experiment.-Chuck.>

Too low pH, Too High GH & KH Hi Crew, I read some of your FAQ via search and found some useful information. I a problem I've not seen. I have a 55 gal fresh water tank. almost a year) My problem has been having well water that has a pH of ~5 and a KH of ~30. I've done frequent water changes to lower the KH. This also lowers my pH also. Can I do any of the following? 1.Use KOH to increase the pH. (Will this add too much Potassium to the tank?) 2.Treat RO/DI water to raise the PH before making water changes? 3. Of course your suggestions. My fish which range from various tetra's, angles, guppies and loaches seem to be happy but I am not comfortable with a pH of 5.5. The GH reads about 75-100 < Well water is always a little tricky. Take your pH readings directly out of the tap and then place some water in a 5 gallon bucket and let it sit overnight. The next day read the pH and compare that to the reading right out of the tap. If the pH right out of the tap is lower then there is probably some CO2 (Carbonic acid) in the well water. You should then let you water sit for 24 hour before making any changes to the water chemistry. I would recommend using a buffer to bring the pH up to a more stable 6.5. Check out some products by Kent or SeaChem to buffer the water. Add some to a bucket to get it where you want it and make sure it is stable before slowly adding it to the aquarium. All changes to the aquarium water chemistry should be gradual to avoid stressing the fish.-Chuck> Thanks, Johnny

Big Pleco in a New Tank Hello there. My name is Dayna and I have recently found your very helpful website. <Thank you> I was wondering if you could answer a few questions that I have? <Fire away> My husband and I recently (3 weeks ago to be exact) set up a 55 gallon freshwater aquarium. We only have a large 11" Pleco and no other fish. <That's a big Pleco to add to an uncycled tank> We are having a little problem with the ph. We bought Sodium Biphosphate recommended by our local fish store. It seems to work that day, but then the next couple of days the ph goes back to 7.6. <7.6 is not out of line unless you plan on keeping fish that require a more acidic level> Do you have to add this stuff daily? Is it toxic to the fish? Or could the ph problem be because the tank hasn't completely gone through it's "cycle"? <I would not add it at all unless the plan is for Discus or Rams. It is far, far better to get fish whose needs match, or can adapt to, your local water conditions. Once you change your pH you are committed to matching it with every water change. Should the need to do a very large water change arise, being off just a few tenths could cause pH shock. It's the swing in pH that kills, not an "incorrect", but steady, level> Also, the Pleco seems to defecate quite a lot. <Welcome to my world, normal for these large waste producers> I know that's what we all got to do, but could we be feeding him too much? We feed him one disc of the algae food. <No, that's not a lot at all for an 11" Pleco. Too little, if anything. Try giving him some fresh vegetables. A piece of zucchini, squash, carrot etc.. Also offer a small raw shrimp a few times a month. Attach to a rock and add at night. Remove leftovers in the AM. But wait until the tank is cycled to start target feeding him> The bottom of the tank and the plants have quite a bit of feces (looks very unattractive) even though we vacuum. But, when we vacuum it also takes a lot of the water out and I was wondering if it's okay to be taking out that much water that frequently? <Yes, in fact great! Small frequent water changes have many advantages in the long run. However it will slow down the establishment of your cycle. Keep them up so your Pleco does not have to go through a major ammonia or nitrite spike. Having the ability to easily do these frequent water changes is another reason not to mess with pH.> One more question. Do you recommend air stones and how many? The local fish store says that since we have the bio-wheel filtration <What size filter?> and under gravel filtration, with power heads, that we don't need any. <I would remove the UGF. They can have vast amounts of waste build up under them. If this decays in a "dead" spot (no O2) a deadly gas can be released into the water. They are also very hard to clean without tearing everything up and releasing the junk into the water. Your bio wheel, if it is the correct size, will provide far superior bio filtration than the UGF. The gravel vac will remove, not hide the waste. As to adding airstones, no problem either way. If you have the proper size filter they are not really needed, but can not hurt. I use two Emperor 400 filters on my 55 gallon Pleco tank and no airstones. My six Plecos do fine> Yet I have read that it's recommended to have 5 air stones for a 55 gallon. <That seems a bit excessive, but wouldn't cause a problem> Please help! We really want to get some pretty fish soon but are too scared to add any. <Good, do not add anything else yet. Check for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Do not add any more fish until ammonia and nitrite spike and crash to zero, and nitrates are rising. Until then daily partial water changes are called for. After your cycle is established you can adjust your water changes to keep nitrates below 20ppm. Keep your stocking level light. As you are seeing, that Pleco alone adds a lot of waste to the water. Heavy filtration is called for, but NOT undergravel filtration. Don>   Thanks! Dayna

Freshwater pH blues... Hi Crew, First let me add my thank-you to the hundreds of others -- you guys do a great job keeping us informed. <Thanks> This question is about my freshwater tanks, one 46 gallon, 1 29g, 1 20g, 1 5g and 2 2.5 gal. They all share one problem -- my tapwater, which I'm convinced is among the worst in the civilized world. Suffice it to say that WE don't drink it, and are the ideal demographic for Deer Park bottled water! :> I don't know what the actual pH is, since my tests show a maxed-out result on my high-range tests with a maximum 8.8 result, but it's HIGH. <Far too high! even high for salt water> All of my equipment and fish are from PetSmart (I know, my bad!) I'm doing different things in the different tanks -- goldfish, Bettas, schooling fish, angels, gouramis, etc. None of them are overstocked by even the most conservative standards I've seen. In all of them, the pH is off the charts, as I've mentioned. The KH ranges from 12-14 degrees (# of drops before the solution turns from blue to yellow), or 215-260 ppm . All of the tanks have cycled, so the Ammonia and Nitrites are zero or virtually zero. Nitrates are at negligible levels <Great, how are you keeping the nitrates from rising?> and phosphates are testing around 2 (perhaps slightly higher- the color shade is hard to read) on my Doc Wellfish liquid-tester scale of 0-10. (No copper at all, for what it's worth.) I've been surprisingly successful with the tanks -- most of the fish have survived --  but only because I've chosen hardy captive-bred fish. The goldfish in typical fashion have adapted, as have most of the schooling fish (mostly barbs, platies and mollies). The angels died quickly of course, but my daughter wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, so at least it was a good lesson learned! :> I have been experimenting with the 46 gallon tank, which holds 4 Rosy Barbs, 3 black mollies, 8 mixed Danios, and 7 platies. Filtration centers around a Penguin 330 with the standard activated-carbon-filled filters and BioWheels.  To reduce the pH, I first tried a half-cup of peat granules (Fluval) in the filter for a week, then added another 1/2 cup -- the pH did not drop below 8.8 after three weeks of this treatment, although my water looked like a nice cup of Earl Grey tea. As a next step, I started doing water changes every 2 week with bottled water. In the past six weeks, I've done two 10-gal changes and 1 5-gallon change. The pH is still off the scale. As a test to uncover alkaline elements in the system, I filled my 5 gallon quarantine tank (aerated tank, activated carbon filtration but empty except for gravel) with bottled water (Deer Park Drinking Water) with a pH of about 6.8-7.0. After four days, the pH moved up to 7.3-7.4.  My conclusion is that my pretty blue PetSmart gravel is leeching alkaline elements into the water. I've bought replacement gravel from a more reputable (I hope) LFS. I'm soaking the PetSmart gravel in the same bottled water in a separate container to confirm the result from my QT, and the pH IS rising after 3 days. <Wow!> Wow! This message is getting long. Short ending is this: I'm putting in a central DI filtration system primarily for my new 220 gal reef system, and plan to use the DI water with a Kent Marine buffer additive for all future water changes in my freshwater tanks. In addition, I plan to replace the gravel in all tanks with gravel that has tested in a small container as NOT raising pH. My questions are these: 1.) when I change the gravel, can I do this 'around' the fish, or should I remove them all into my 5 gal QT while I remove the gravel and replace it? <Stress either way, but I think I'd remove them to a tank that was filled with their original tank water.> 2.) should I worry about a 're-cycle' of the tank when I remove the gravel that presumably has established bacterial colonies (considering that I also have a bio-wheel, etc.), and then re-introduce the fish listed above a few minutes later? <The bio wheel should have enough bacteria to keep your cycle going. Of course watch for ammonia or nitrite spikes and be ready to do water changes. I'd wait an hour or more to re-introduce to allow any dust to settle.> 3.) am I missing some obvious, other solution here? <Just make sure that any change in pH is done slowly, days better than hours> Any and all comments welcome! Thanks for your time. Kind regards, Hal <Don>

Lowering PH in water Gentlemen: I would like to inquire of you if you have ever heard of a product called Basic H. I read on an Angelfish web site to use Basic H for lowering your PH in your aquarium water. The only thing I can find on the web in reference to this is something sold through Amway. I would like to know if you are familiar with this product and it indeed is the product sold through Amway. < I did a Google search on basic-h and could find no list of ingredients so I can't really comment on how or why it works to lower pH. I will assume that it has some sort of phosphoric acid in it. If this is true then you could do the same thing with Muriatic or phosphoric acid from a pool supply place. If you really want to lower the pH with chemicals and additives then put your water in a 5 gallon bucket and then add the chemical of choice. Read the ph every day until it is stable. Then adjust the amount of chemical needed to bring the pH down to where you want it and keep it there. Never add any chemicals to your tank directly. Radical changes in pH can be and are often deadly to fish. Many fish can handle hard water but their eggs have a difficult time surviving.-Chuck> Thank you; Keith

Buffering pH I'm nearly finished with fishless-cycling of my 55gallon tank.  My tank is currently consuming 2 or 3 ppm of grocery store ammonia in under 5 hours, my nitrite is 5~10 ppm and my nitrate climbing steadily. <Mmm, I'd cease with the exogenous ammonia use... maybe put a little dried food in this system... it IS cycling, will "cycle down" to useful bacteria "levels" (population, species dynamics, physiological activity> But, I'm concerned about putting fish in.  My tapwater comes out at about pH 8.0, but is insanely soft (KH 0.5~1.5 degrees).  As I'm cycling my tank, I'm consuming about 2 degrees of KH a day (whether from acid production or from my bacterial colony eating it, I know not). <Good guess, likely so>   I add about 2 teaspoons of baking soda a day, which bumps the KH up to 2.5~3.0, but forces my pH to hover above 8.0.  When the KH is consumed to below about 1.0, the pH drops to 6.0~6.5. <... Yikes! Time to utilize something else... Kalkwasser, or "Kalk plus" (sodium carbonate mainly)... as such or a commercial product/blend... Wait a minute! Is this intended to be a marine system?> This is obviously not an acceptable situation once I have fish.  What are good buffering products that will keep my pH reasonably steady?  I bought some Seachem "pH 7.0" product and added it to a bucket of de-chloraminated tapwater, but after two hours of aeration, it continued reading 8.0, not 7.0.  Can you make some suggestions before I give some innocent fish pH whiplash? Thanks! Chad <... Need to know whether this will be a freshwater or marine set-up... and if the former, what group/s, types of organisms you are planning on keeping. If it is FW, do consider starting with modified/filtered source water... the cheapest, easiest route here is reverse osmosis... and it DOES sound like you should use this technology for your own drinking and cooking uses as well. IF this is a marine tank, I would not be concerned re the eight or so pH reading... and go ahead with the materials mentioned above. Bob Fenner> Re: Buffering pH I'm planning for freshwater.  Probably a typical community tank: Angels, Corys, Danios, something like that.  So you like the "Kalk" buffers?  I'll look into that.  Thanks for the help! <Ah! Actually don't look into Kalk... but into practical (inexpensive, non-burdensome) means of starting with better water to begin with. Take a look here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/rofaqs.htm and the other FAQs (linked, in blue, above) re tap filtration. Bob Fenner>

pH Climbing Hi, I hope you can shed some light on this for me.  I am new to all of this but am trying to learn.  I got my aquarium up and running on June 3rd of this year.  This is what I currently have : Freshwater tank Aquarium -- 75 gallon (48L x18W x21H) Filter -- Rena Filstar 3 canister filter (suitable for up to 120 gallon) with spray bar About 60 lbs of gravel from LFS 2 live plants and the rest are plastic A Large sunken ship decoration from the LFS 2 clay pots one glass rock 10" bubble wand 6 zebra Danios 5 hatchet fish 3 Corridors 6 Pristellas 2 Chinese algae eaters About a month ago I had to treat my tank for ick (used RidIch+) and so far so good.  My question is my PH.  It stays pretty high but I don't know why. I use well water - out of the tap my water has no ammonia or nitrites, has a GH of 4 and a PH of 6.5.  After I set up my aquarium it took no time at all and the GH went up to 6 degrees and the PH was at 7.5 and has stayed around 7.5 the entire time.   As of last night my readings are : Ammonia = 0 Nitrites = 0 Nitrates = 10 ppm GH = 4 KH = 6 PH = 8.0 I am baffled as to what is causing the PH to rise.  I thought about adding some peat moss or getting some of the Blackwater extract for the tank but I think that also softens the water and I don't know if I should soften it any more than what it already is.  Could it just be that it still hasn't completely finished cycling and it will eventually even out???  Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. < Your well water has CO2 in it. When you pump it out of the ground it leaves the water and goes into a gas. The same thing happens when you open a bottle of soda pop. The Co2 makes a carbonic acid in the water. After the CO2 vaporizes after a couple of days the water returns to its stable natural state. The nitrates come from agricultural runoff into the shallowest aquifer from which I suspect you well is pumping its water from.-Chuck> Frances

Re: pH Climbing Me again, If CO2 is what is causing the PH to rise - what do I do to control it???? < CO2 causes the pH to drop lower. 7 is neutral. Above seven is alkaline or basic. Below 7 and the water is considered acidic. You are losing the CO2 from the water and the pH is rising. I recommend that you go to the Marineland.com website and check in on Dr. Tim's library and it will give you a very detailed explanation on pH and how you can safely change it and keep it stable.-Chuck> Frances

pH and Buffering... "White Diamond" = Zeolite  I don't think the ammonia is like I thought I got another tester and it shows no ammonia levels. Was using a test strip and had trouble reading it. What other method would be good for testing ammonia levels. <<Any reliable test kit will do; but make sure you are testing both NH3 and NH4, your White Diamond will change the ammonia that the fish produce into ammonium, so perhaps your current test kit isn't actually testing properly. Check your test kit to make sure you are testing for both!>> I have had this tank going for 10 years. Had an Oscar in it for 8 years until he died 4 months ago. In the 10 years I never checked any of the levels of anything in my tank. Until I was reading on this site about checking nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia levels. For those 10 years I have always used white diamond and black diamond. <<I understand. However, it really doesn't make sense to run White Diamond, while it won't harm anything in an established tank, it is just a waste of money. You do not need it, it serves no purpose whatsoever in a healthy, established tank.>> My weekly cleaning schedule goes as follows, 50% water change. First emperor change foam filter, second emperor rinse foam filter, and once a month clean and change all filters in emperor's but only on alternating weeks. I never clean or change the bio wheel. <<Okay, good.>> I had read on this site that Oscars like a 8.0 ph and I was thinking  about using proper ph 8.2 what do you think. The directions say I need to use African cichlid salts with it for it to work. <<I doubt any Oscar feels at home at a pH of 8.0. While they will tolerate it, why waste more money raising your pH unnecessarily? A bit of research will show you that Oscars come from the Amazon river, and the pH there is definitely not 8.2. They are more at home in a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.5. I would assume a neutral pH to be best, around 7.0 should be fine. As long as it is stable, and you are not constantly messing around trying to change it. If your tap pH is neutral, then leave it as is.>> <<-Gwen>>

pH in freshwater tank Hi, I had been using some cheap, not very accurate ph strips which told me that I had ph between 6 and 7.   Last night I received an order of supplies including some 5-in-1 test strips, called "scientifically and medicinally accurate" on the label. They place the ph of the tank (and our tap water) at closer to 8 or even a little higher.  Since the tapwater and the tank are the same ph I can only assume my tank has always been at that level.  As for the other readings, my water is listed as slightly over ideally alkaline (KH), between 180 and 300 ppm (but not as high as 300), between 150 and 300ppm total hardness or GH, 0ppm nitrite, and below 40 ppm nitrate. <<Hello. Perhaps you can take a sample of your tank water and tapwater to your LFS and have THEM test things for you, to see which tests the results compare to...for all you know, the old test strips may be the good ones. Impossible to tell unless you test these parameters with yet another brand of test kits. Two of them should match.>> The fish all seem perfectly happy in this environment and I don't want to really mess with it unless I am sure I am going to be able to make a permanent change.  I understand that slightly acidic water is generally better for freshwater tropical fish?   <<Which species? "Freshwater fish" like African cichlids need a pH of 8, while freshwater fish species like discus need a pH of 6.5. Yet both are members of the family Cichlidae. Same goes for all other species of fish, you need to research EACH species you want to keep, and try to choose species that have the same requirements, to keep together. Many fishkeepers have more than one tank, with more than one pH, keeping their various species happy. Also, remember to note the feeding requirements of the species that interest you...it can be difficult to feed slow-moving herbivores that are being kept with fast-moving omnivores... Also keep in mind that the pH of your tapwater can change seasonally, and will also change after being aerated overnight...your tapwater can go from 8.0 straight from the tap, to 7.6 after being stored in a Rubbermaid bin overnight...same water!>> I have currently harlequin and scissortail Rasboras, Cory and Otos, and am planning to get ghost catfish, cardinal and Rummynose tetras, and a Gourami or two over time (especially as I am able to get a good population of live plants going).   <<This sounds like a fine mix, most of these species will do well if you keep them in a pH from 6.5 to 7.5.>> Am I going to have to adjust the tank for these fish?  if so what do you guys recommend as a permanent, long term solution? Thanks, ~Anna <<If, indeed, you feel you need to lower your pH and soften the water for your fish, the easiest way is by using peat moss, sold at your LFS. But first double-check your pH with the LFS, like I said above. If the pH is still 8.0 from the tap, then store some overnight and test it again to see how far (or, IF) it drops. If you do these things and the tapwater still tests at 8.0, you can (as I mentioned earlier) store your extra water in a bin, run a powerhead in the bin to circulate the water, and keep peat moss in the powerhead media basket. It is quite easy to change your peat moss this way, and you will always have water change-water at the ready...the amount of peat moss you will need will depend on how far you want to drop the pH down. You may only need a small bit, you may need a lot. Depends on your source water. Test it and see. You may need to run a bit in your tanks filter, too, to keep the pH stable in the tank itself. Depends on your carbonate hardness. When it's time for maintenance, you then only need to siphon your gravel into a bucket, and hook a piece of Eheim hose onto your powerhead to refill the tank from your Rubbermaid bin. Piece 'o cake! :) One last thing...do you use an undergravel filter, and if so, how often to you clean it? You need to siphon your gravel (with or without an undergravel) quite regularly, since the detritus that builds up can lead to a low pH in the tank itself. All debris decomposes over time, and in the course of this becomes acidic, hence, a lower pH. Low pH problems in the tank water generally always means a good cleaning of the substrate is required. -Gwen>>

High pH, Fighting Danios Hi guys. You have the greatest website! I got my first tank two weeks ago. It is a ten gallon freshwater community tank, several plastic plants, 50 watts heater, two thermometers one internal and one external, one fake rock with 3 holes on it, one undergravel filter, two inch deep gravel strata (rounded and more or less pea sized), one aqua-tech outside power filter, one small sponge filter. The pH of our tap water is about 7.4 to 7.6. I added water conditioner (Tetra Aqua Safe), Stress Zyme, five teaspoons of salt for freshwater aquarium. At the beginning the water got a little cloudy. I waited one week and added 3 Zebra Danios Next day I added one ounce of Bio-Spira freshwater bacteria from Marineland. The water became clear again within 24 hours. The Danios (one small male, one small female and a larger older individual whose gender is a mystery to me) were fine. They were exploring and racing around. Then the two smaller Danios began to dance in circles at the bottom of the aquarium. The older individual took possession of the upper and middle part of the aquarium and began to chase and bump-fight the small male while the small female was hidden in the plants. Within 48 hours the small male stopped racing and eating and died. I examined the body. There were no signs of disease or injury. The older individual still chases the small female every time they meet. The small female is fine but she is confined to a corner of the aquarium that is covered in plants most of the time. She ventures out often, but she goes back when the larger Danio chases her. When I feed the fish, I feed them very little food, twice or once a day. I try to feed them the minimum amount of food possible. I underfeed them because they are too busy fighting each other to eat all of it. Although the Danios come immediately to the food, they promptly begging to fight and some flakes end up sinking and the fish remain hungry. I worry about the food sinking. My last pH reading is in the range of 7.6 to 8. My ammonia reading is 0. My nitrite reading is 0.2. I have several questions: What could have happened to the small male Zebra Danio? <<Aggression, high ammonia, nitrites. What did your ammonia test at last week? Must have been some, there has to be ammonia for it to be converted into nitrite. Do you have nitrates yet? You should be testing this tank everyday.>> What is it with the large Zebra Danio (I was told they are peaceful fish)? <<They are not. And a toxic tank will not make them any nicer, either...>> Could the small female Zebra Danio be hurt by constant harassment? <<Certainly>> Is it a good idea to add other fish to the tank? <<No.>> If so is this list a good list: one male Beta, two more Zebra Danios, two female Guppies and two small Cory Cats? Are this fish too many (taking into account all my filters and that I am willing to do a 25% water change weekly and a mayor water change monthly)? Would they take my pH as it is? How can I modify this list to avoid disaster? <<Do NOT add any fish now. Your tank is still cycling. Hence the high pH, etc. And certainly don't add all of these at one time! And definitely avoid putting guppies and a Betta into a tank with Danios. Disaster awaits if you do.>> Until now I have resisted the impulse of applying pH-lowering product to my tank but What can I do with my pH (7.6 to 8.0)? Should I make a 25% water change now (taking into account that the food keeps sinking because of the fighting of my Danios)? <<As I said, your pH is high because the tank is CYCLING. It will stabilize in a month or so. Have PATIENCE, please. Do not mess with your pH, you will not be helping your fish if you do. The pH will end up all over the place, and your fish will end up dead from a combination of pH shock, nitrite poisoning, and stress..>> Finally, If Bio-Spira is so amazing, why are some dealers against it? Thank you for your help. <<I personally like Bio-Spira, it's an excellent product when it's being used properly. However, results will differ from tank to tank. Dealers simply don't like it when people with no experience try to cycle with it and end up with dead fish, as in your case. Please do some reading, buy yourself some ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate test kits, and be PATIENT. Test your water regularly, do water changes when readings become high, and do NOT add fish until the tank has NO ammonia and NO nitrites left. Keep two small fish in the tank during cycling. TWO! not more! Keeping a written record of your test results will help. :) -Gwen>>

- The pH is Falling! - Help! I am desperate to solve my dropping ph problem that has killed all my fish save one. I am totally at a loss as to what to do and I don't want to give up. I first set up my 25-gallon Eclipse tank about 3 1/2 months ago. I ran it for about a week with nothing but water, a couple of lava rocks, a presoaked piece of driftwood (it had been in the tanks at our fish store for a couple of weeks), live plants and gravel (natural looking regular gravel) and then added a modest number of really hardy fish (there were 2 striped Danios, 2 Bloodfins, 2 Callistus tetras and 2 cherry barbs).  I fed the fish very a very small amount of flakes every other day and added 10 ml of Kent Pro-Plant and Kent Plant Food on alternate days through the first cycle. Everything was fine. I regularly did 25% water changes once a week, added bi-aquaculture every 2 weeks and changed the carbon filter every 3-4 weeks. <Well... before we get much farther, I can pretty much guess that your problem is being caused by either that driftwood, the lava rock, or both. Even wood that's been soaking for years has the ability to release tannic and other acids which will drop your pH slowly to the floor. Lava rock is as well suspect - I'd remove both to a bucket or two of clean water and run two tests - one to see if the pH in your main tank returns to normal and the other test on the bucket of water to see if it is becoming acidic.> After the tank cycled, I added 4 Clown Loaches and 2 German Rams and some more plants. I continued to feed lightly but increased it to every day and added frozen blood-worms to the diet about 2-3 times a week. Everything was going great for about 3 weeks. Then all of a sudden, the water clouded over white and some of the fish developed ick and fin/tail rot. I had the water tested and the PH was as low as could be measured. The fish store recommended a buffer. I added that and did an additional small water change. Also, I got medicine for the ick and fin/tail rot, removed the carbon from my filter and on the first day, it seemed to help. They started to look better and the water cleared. Then the second day, I tested the water and the buffer had done nothing to effect the ph. <Well... again, the presence of something in the tank producing more acid than the buffer can remedy, and the acid will slowly deplete the buffers.> The fish started to look worse, the water clouded over again and that night, all the fish (except one of the German Rams) died. I took the surviving fish and some water to the store. They tested the water and the only problem was that the PH was off the charts low. They suggested that I do a complete water change and clean out the tank. I did that and changed the substrate to FloraBase to help my live plants. I tested the ph of the tap water and it was at 7.6. Within 24 hours of putting the water into the cleaned tank, the ph in the tank was under 6.  I tried the buffer again with no rise in PH. I did a 50% water change and added some baking soda. The ph then tested at 7.2 but within 4 hours has sunk to 6. Then I tried removing all the lava rocks and driftwood and doing another complete water change. The ph was 7.6 when the water went in and within 24 hours had sunk again to 6. I then tested the tap water but setting it out in a glass overnight. The ph in the tap did not change after as much as 36 hours. Luckily, my one surviving fish has been living at the fish store until I can correct this problem. We are at a loss of what to do now other than change the BioWheel, which I am loath to do because then I have to cycle the tank all over again (and change all the water and substrate again). Do you have any thoughts or ideas? I really don't want to give up but I am getting close to doing just that! <Yes, please take out the driftwood and the lava rock... try running without them for a while. I'll bet at least a dollar that this will solve your problems.> Thanks in advance for any help, Lynn Bartsch <Cheers, J -- >

- The pH is Falling! II - Thanks for your response. I have had the driftwood and lava removed for over three weeks and the problem persists. Even after a total water change to get higher PH water back in there. The Ph dropped again after 24 hours.  Any other ideas? <<Dear Lynn; Hello. Do not change your BioWheel! Since you have tried everything J recommended and nothing has worked, I think you would be wise to buy a small bag of crushed coral. You can experiment by either mixed it into your substrate, or putting it into a bag and running it (kinda like carbon) inside your filter, and then test the pH to see which method raises the pH to a decent level and keeps it there. Add a small amount at a time, until you can get your pH to measure, say, 7.0. You can do this over a period of a couple of weeks, keep testing the pH and see what happens. Normally I would recommend crushed coral as the sole substrate, but that may cause some problems with your plants. At any rate, I DO believe you need some coral in that tank to raise the pH and keep it there, and crushed coral is the most stable method, and cheapest long-term. Good luck. PS make sure you keep doing weekly water changes and vacuuming the gravel.. -Gwen>>

Re: Dropping pH syndrome II Thanks for your response. I have had the driftwood and lava removed for over three weeks and the problem persists. Even after a total water change to get higher PH water back in there. The Ph dropped again after 24 hours. Any other ideas?  <<Dear Lynn; Hello. Do not change your BioWheel! Since you have tried everything J recommended and nothing has worked, I think you would be wise to buy a small bag of crushed coral. You can experiment by either mixed it into your substrate, or putting it into a bag and running it (kinda like carbon) inside your filter, and then test the pH to see  which method raises the pH to a decent level and keeps it there. Add a small amount at a time, until you can get your pH to measure, say, 7.0. You can do this over a period of a couple of weeks, keep testing the pH and see what happens. Normally I would recommend crushed coral as the sole substrate, but that may cause some problems with your plants. At any rate, I DO believe you need some coral in that tank to raise the pH and keep it there, and crushed coral is the most stable method, and cheapest long term. Good luck. PS make sure you keep doing weekly water changes and vacuuming the gravel.. -Gwen> I'll try it. Thanks. >Please let us know how it goes :) -Gwen> 

How to lower dKH Hi. My dKH is 17 how can i lower it. I made water change, but it go up. Tks. < Check your tap water first. Some areas of the country have high levels to start with. Check your substrate. Some things like shells and crushed coral sand will kick it back up. Check your rocks and decorations. Sedimentary rocks have been cemented together and may leech carbonates into the water. If your tap water is too high then you will need to remove these carbonates with a reverse osmosis filter or a deionization unit.-Chuck>

Strange pH situation  >Hi,  >>Hi Caryn.  >First, I want to say "Thank You" in advance for offering the public such a service as this. Now I have a question that no one can seem to answer. My mother in law has a 26 gallon bow front tank that we got her for Christmas. I set it up (she knows nothing about fish but enjoys them) . We have goldfish in it. They have been doing great until the other day. There were 4 and 2 of them died. I tested the ammonia and the pH. I had a feeling it was the pH and it was.  >>So, you're saying that you've been monitoring pH, and saw that there was a big swing in a short amount of time?  >It was around 6.0 : ( very bad. I tested it out of the faucet and it was about 7.0 (still low). So my question is : What makes the pH go down???  >>Well, I'm not so sure that the pH necessarily dropped quickly, which is what would kill the fish very quickly. As for what can make it drop, lack of maintenance, excess food, certain types of decorations, all combined with water that has poor buffering ability (called alkalinity) can factor in.  >I can't figure for the life of me what would make it go down even lower than it went in.  >>See above.  >I did a 5gal water change and put a large sea shell in the tank and it's not come up at all.  >>A single shell probably won't do it, you'll need to add more than that, some crushed coral in a piece of pantyhose or similar calcareous substance.  >I am going to get some pH UP and use it. I don't like chemicals but have no choice at this time. I don't know what else to do.  >>I would strongly recommend against this, as it's going to be too easy to kill the remaining fish. I think that another factor here is that the fish in question may have simply reached a critical mass/density for the given water volume and filtration. I have none of this information, but can tell you that goldfish are very dirty as far as fish go. If the pH has dropped suddenly, then several large water changes is more in order, and only vacuum small sections of the gravel at a time (wait at least a week in between). If they're being overfed you'll see the results in the substrate, so that may need curtailing as well.  >I know it has to come up slowly. I just don't understand. Does anyone there have ANY ideas ??? Thanks so much for your time, Caryn  >>As above is what I would do, and don't add any more fish. Depending on the breed of fish, they may need larger quarters sooner rather than later as well. Marina

pH change & Dead Guppies  3/16/04 I had an excruciatingly painful experience last night with my guppies!  I had put a bowl with the water from the aquarium itself inside this aquarium.  So it was the same water - I thought.  I put fish in it that were pesky or causing trouble to the community and so it was kind of like a "jail house" for bad fish.   <Hmmm, that's what breeder nets or quarantine tanks are for.> I had this bowl inside the aquarium for at least a week, maybe two, with a male platy who kept trying to "eat" my albino cat fish.  I was afraid he'd eat him alive eventually, so I put him in there.   <Kind of odd... My Cory catfish can hold up against dwarf puffer teeth.> Then there was a female guppy which had given birth to about 6-7 babies and was being hotly pursued by about 4 male guppies, so thinking she needed a rest, I put her in there.  I noticed that she had scoliosis, so wasn't expecting her to fully recover.   Then about two days later, I found her dead in the bowl.  I thought she'd died from the skeletal deformity she'd had, or something related to the stress from giving birth. <Probably tuberculosis, extremely contagious to humans-- http://reefkeeping.com/issues/2003-07/sp/feature/index.htm> The thing that got me yesterday was this:  I saw these 4 male guppies had begun to harass the other female guppy and were relentlessly chasing her, so I put all 4 of them inside the bowl to "do some time for bad behavior," and to give the female guppy a little rest.  Then, to my amazement, about an hour later, I was going to turn off the light to go to bed and I looked and saw that ALL 4 MALE GUPPIES WERE LYING DEAD IN THE BOTTOM OF THE BOWL!    I fished them out, and thought I noticed one's tail had disintegrated, but I'm not sure about that.  There others' were all intact, but they were all dead. I then checked the ph in the bowl and found the ph to be acidic, about 6.2 or so.  The water in the main aquarium was at about 7.0 or maybe 7.2.  So that's about 1.2 points difference!  I didn't think the water would be that variant since it was the original water from the aquarium, but I hadn't tested it since I put it in there about two weeks ago. <If there is no water flow getting into the bowl (like it would in a net breeder) then the ammonia & waste produces by your fish will build up in there, causing the pH to drop.  Your fish probably died from ammonia poisoning.> Meanwhile, the original platy is still alive inside the bowl with the acidic water and is showing no signs of stress.  Why, then did all 4 guppy males die within one hour or so after being put into the bowl???  The only possible explanation I can think of is that the ph change was too drastic for them!  Is that a possibility?  I thought they would be maybe stressed out by such a change, but not DEAD!!!  Please advise.  Is there some other possibility that I am not able to see?    <I'm afraid your platy is doomed in that bowl also.  Get a breeder net, or set up another tank for quarantine or to keep your more aggressive fish in.> Thank you very much for your thoughtful advise! <You're welcome & good luck.  ~PP> Leslie Wilson

UGF and High pH? - 04/14/2004 Hi guys.... <Hello> I have a 39G high tank that has been set up for 10+ years. All of a sudden my ph is 7.6 , no ammonia, no nitrates, I do a 25% water change 1-2 x a month. <"All of a sudden"....  Have you added any new rock recently?  New substrate?  Anything at all new in the system?> I have a undergravel filter. LFS says that is the problem with the pH. <If the UGF is properly maintained, I doubt that this is likely at all.  Do you regularly vacuum the substrate?  Any large pieces of decor that would create a "dead spot" under the UGF plate?> PH used to be 6 and then it went up and won't go down. My live plants are not enjoying it. Should I just remove UGF.... I know the plants would be happier? <The plants would certainly do better without it, that's for sure.  But I am not convinced that the UGF is the cause of your problems....  Have you tested your source water?  Removed peat or driftwood from the system? Changed the manner in how you go about regular maintenance?  Added or removed anything at all in the system that may have contributed?> Please advise.  Monica <Hope to help you get to the bottom of this....  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

UGF and High pH? - 04/18/2004 Nothing has been added; no rock, substrate, nothing.  I'm doing everything the same. Source water is 7.0 or greater, but has been that way, and ph has always stayed down, 6.4-6.8 or so.   <Accumulated organic debris under the filter plate will tend to drop pH.  Ah, is it at all possible that you were more thorough than usual on your most recent gravel vacuuming before the jump in pH?  And again, any large decor items that might create a "dead spot" under the filter plate, where you don't/can't vac under, and where there is no suction through due to the footprint of the item?> I tried SeaChem buffer to get ph down a little but it did not budge... <What product did you use, specifically?> That is when LFS said it was UGF set up for 10 yrs + , don't know what to do.... oh, and yes, I regularly vacuum <It is not my experience that an aged system using UGF will go *up* in pH, but the exact opposite - pH should drop due to decaying organics trapped beneath the filter plates.  Another thought, perhaps your test kit reagents are old/expired; try testing with another kit (new, a friend's, even the LFS, if necessary) to verify your readings - and keep in mind the dipstick-type tests can be grossly inaccurate.  I do hope we can help you figure this out.> Monica <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

UGF and High pH II (03/01/04) <Hi! Ananda here with some ideas...> No....nothing new....yes I vacuum, nothing has changed, it was 6 for so long and now 7.4-7.6 ....tried SeaChem acid buffer/alkaline buffer.....for a few days and ph did not budge....I am clueless <Do you, by chance, have kids? Is there a possibility that the kids sent something into the tank that you haven't seen? Or perhaps your municipality has changed the way it treats its water supply? Or have you recently started to use a different household cleaner? Are you using the same brand/type of pH test kit? Is it possible the test kit chemicals have expired, giving you an inaccurate result? Or did you recently get a new test kit, and your old test results may have been inaccurate? Also, if you've had the windows and such closed all winter, perhaps you've had a high level of ambient CO2 in the house, which would depress the pH. If  you've recently had a bout of spring weather and opened up the house, the pH could go up as the CO2 levels in the house drop. Hope this helps.... --Ananda>

UGF and high pH III (03/12/04) no kids, ? municipality changing the treatment, no new cleaner, same brand/type kit, bought new a few months ago....but old one was showing the same results. just have recently opened windows, but ph was up before that. Hope this does not mean that ph will go up more. I have also lost a lot of fish just recently. I added some Otocinclus (spelling?) algae eaters on a Sat. lost one oto the next day, another one the day after, then in one day (Thursday) I lost 2 dwarf cichlids, and a turquoise rainbow....all were behaving normally that morning....and were dead by the afternoon. 2 days later I lost my Siamese algae eater. I have left 1 clown loach, 2 boesemanni rainbows, 2 red tetras , 2 Otocinclus....they all act fine..., I have never (in 10+ years) lost that many fish in that short of time frame. I am beside myself trying to figure out what is going on, the tank at LFS that the Otocinclus came out of is fine....they were with some discus that have been there awhile. LFS tested my water....everything within normal...but they came up with ph of 8.....but said that would not of killed fish since they have been living like that for a few months. I am clueless....any more ideas? thanks, Monica <<Hello. From what I've read so far, it sounds possible that your municipality has changed the water. Even where I live, which is a major city, the pH in our tap water can fluctuate from 6.8 to 8 within weeks. This would wreak havoc in your fish tank, and even result in fish deaths from pH shock if you were unaware of the problem. The pH from your TAP needs to be tested, and compared immediately to your tank pH. I recommend buying a new pH test kit, and make sure the new test kit is Wide Range, and that it will register pH from 4 or 5 right up to 10. Perhaps your old test kit was simply giving you a false reading. Also, you must realize that, for example, if a pH test kit is rated from 6.0 to 7.6, and you test your water and the test reads 7.6, it means the test kit is not capable of showing you a higher reading, so it will show the highest one possible, even if your pH is 8. Same with low range test kits, if your pH is 6.5 and your test kit is rated from 7.0 to 9.0, then your reading will show the lowest on the test kit, which would be 7.0, even though your pH is lower. Also, I recommend you stop adding anything to "adjust" your pH until you figure out what's going on. So far, you have added products to change the pH to no avail, this is probably because your water lacks sufficient buffering capacity, in other words, your carbonate hardness (KH) is probably quite low, even though your pH is high. They are not the same thing. If you could find out your KH, it would help. One last thing that I highly recommend is that you get your water tested for ammonia, nitrite, AND nitrates, as pH will fluctuate when cycling a tank...in other words, have you cleaned your filter lately?  Changed the filter media? Added medications? Added salt? (salt in high enough concentrations, e.g. brackish, can affect bacteria) Anything that interferes with your biological filtration can result in ammonia/nitrite spikes, and hence, pH imbalances. Hope this helps. -Gwen>>

pH and Hardness I have checked the FAQ and search but have not quite found an answer. Thanks for trying to help me. <Any time, Ron.> I have kept saltwater for 25 years and recently switched a 45 gallon tank to be a cardinal/neon tank. My question seems elementary...but I am stumped.   <I think that pH and hardness are the least understood subjects (by hobbyists) in dealing with freshwater chemistry.  Not an "elementary" question, at all!> My cardinals keep dying after 4-5 days. My pH is 6.7 after I added a buffer to lower it.  My tap water is pH 7.9 with a hardness of 150. The hardness in my cardinal tank is 250! <Are we talking carbonate hardness or general hardness, here?  I assume general hardness (total dissolved solids)?  And I assume you're measuring in ppm?> I added "Amazon Rain " but it did not lower the hardness. <Usually adding something will not remove something....  in this case, adding the buffers, etc., won't remove the dissolved solids.... uh, did that make sense?> Do the softening "pillows" work? <I'm afraid I have no experience with these....  You might try experimenting with a few gallons of tapwater in a Rubbermaid container and see what results you come out with.> I do not like the look of peat colored water.   <You *have* been reading the FAQs!  And you knew exactly what approach I would've suggested.  Well, let's explore other ideas, then.> I have 2 suspicions: the tofu (lava) rock or the driftwood decor. Would these cause the hardness to raise?   <The lava rock may very well be contributing to this issue.  The driftwood, on the other hand, is your friend in arms, and will help (perhaps only minutely, but help just the same) in keeping your pH low.> What are "safe" rocks that won't leech and raise hardness?  Slate?  Sandstone? Quartz? <Yes, yes, and yes, all safe> White Tofu? Red/Brown Tofu?   <Nope and nope/nope, both are suspect in this> Petrified wood?   <Perfectly safe> Shale?   <Won't affect your pH, *but* - depending upon where you collect this, it can leach other nasty stuff into the water.  This is a very, very absorbent rock, I would avoid it.  Use similar caution with sandstone.  I do use sandstone, but only collected from very natural areas; none from rock yards where who-knows-what has been spilled.> Thanks for your help! <Please read here: http://www.thekrib.com/Plants/CO2/ there is *so* much information, in that page and in the links within it, that you'll be reading for days.  Also read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm , there is a wealth of knowledge in there, as well; I hope these will clarify your situation.  Please let us know if you have further questions; this is a confusing topic.> Ron <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Re: more questions about aquarium problems I have some more questions. This time about ph and snails. I have had an ongoing problem of low ph. I raise the ph with some buffer I purchased and then I notice that the ph is down again the next few days or so.   <Better to keep the pH stable than let it swing back and forth...> I also notice there was a significant relationship between the ich and "shimmy" problem showing up on/in my mollies and the low ph because they prefer a more alkaline ph.   <Yup, they do. I've seen the ich/shimmy correlation, too, though whether it's coincidence I don't know.> I also noticed that there was a shell in my aquarium that dissolved at a very fast rate almost completely dissolving before I removed it!   <Good grief. You probably have *extremely* soft water for it to dissolve like that.> Could there be a relationship between the dissolving shell and the low ph and is it possible that the over abundance of snails could be the cause of the lowered ph? <The dissolving shell will release calcium. Many people use crushed coral as a substrate to raise the pH in their brackish or cichlid tanks, and the coral skeletons and snail shells both have a fair bit of calcium.> If not, what else could be causing the low ph, because the ph is usually high due to tap water changes and the shells sloughing off their calcium. <Some of the things that reduce pH include bogwood in the tank, decaying plant matter, peat in a planted tank substrate... Sabrina says undergravel filters are often a culprit in low pH cases, due to decaying organics accumulating under the filter plate(s) where it's hard to clean. Have you checked your alkalinity? I bet it's quite low.> I now have no visible ich on my mollies and I did not have to use ich medication (the bottle I purchased is AP PLUS+ CURE-ICK by AP Aquarium Products). Anyway, I didn't have to use the medication because when I raised the ph the ich disappeared!   <That may not be due to the pH change, but to the ich parasite's life cycle. There is a stage when it drops off the fish. If that's the case, the ich may reappear in a week or so.> The ich problem was probably exacerbated by the detrimental condition of the water (for mollies).  The ph is at about 6.8 + or -. I'm trying to get it up to 7.0, but seem to be having problems maintaining that level. <What's your substrate? You might consider switching to crushed coral.> No rush, but please advise with you opinion and or experience.  Thanks a lot! Leslie <To see how much crushed coral might help, you could put some in a filter bag and into a power filter or canister filter. --Ananda, with help from Sabrina>

Evaporation Chemistry Hello, A quick first question or two from a long time reader. <Welcome back> If water lost to evaporation is mostly pure water then why do I need to buffer the DI water I use to replace the lost water? Don't the buffers stay in the tank when water evaporates? <Mmm, they get "used up"... very basically (bad pun), the overall reactions in closed systems are reductive (as in Redox)... they tend toward making the water more acidic... in effect exhausting the alkaline reserve> Second, how do I determine how much buffer to put in the DI make up water? I'm using Seachem Marine Buffer per a recommendation in one of the FAQs. <Best way is to measure your water (new) and try adding your buffering product/s with testing... per your particular livestock, desires for GH, dKH...> Thanks for providing such a terrific service to all new folks. Regards, Jim C <Thank you for your participation. Bob Fenner>

Can't Keep it Up!  >I read the FAQs, but still have a question.  >>Ok, SHOOT!  >My pH is around 6.0 to 6.2, comes out of tap at 7.6, no ammonia or nitrites, temp 78. 40 Gal. tall, undergravel filter, power head, lots of bubbles...  >>"Lots of bubbles"? From what? If from the powerhead, then I'm wondering if you're using the venturi (which means superfine bubble-action), which isn't very good for your fish. The bubbles can get caught in the gills and cause something similar to the bends. Just an FYI, and a "heads up".  >...planted, do have 2 pieces of driftwood. My existing fish seem happy. Just can not seem to keep pH up.  >>Ok, if they're happy, why do you want to change it? Especially if you've got a planted tank, the plants will be less tolerant in their acceptable pH range than most of the freshwater fish we have available to us today.  >Don't like to add chemicals for this. LFS said it is because I live in Atlanta, GA, and it is hard to keep pH up with undergravel filter in this area.  >><giggle> Oh yeah? So, what they're saying is that if you used, oh say.. a BioWheel it wouldn't be so low? I'd be looking at the driftwood first, the alkalinity of the water second (or maybe first).  >We do 25%-30% changes every 3-4 weeks, vacuuming gravel. I do not overfeed. I have 1 Angel, 3 tetras, 2 Siamese algae eaters, 2 boesemanni rainbows, 2 turquoise rainbows, 2 Otocinclus catfish, 1 clown loach (I know he needs a friend, his partner died)  >>No he doesn't, he'll be fine. You do need to watch that fish load, though, which can be another contributor the dropping pH.  >1 dwarf Gourami. Could the problem be the undergravel filter?  >>No, not the filter itself. The substrate might be taken into consideration, but if it's actual aquarium gravel then it's highly unlikely.  >Or should I do the aeration test, have taken samples to LFS... did not say anything out of ordinary... just low pH... but I have tested theirs and it's about the same.  >>Alright, so, if their water is from the same municipality then I think we can safely assume that this water has very low alkalinity--in terms of "buffering" ability, as opposed to alkaline in terms of pH--this means that the water cannot hold the pH stable very well. It is VERY easily fixed, Monica.  >Also have a 10 Gal. quarantine tank with 2 guppies... also with undergravel filter... pH is low there as well.  >>We have terrific consistency here, all pointing to the same thing. I don't think I'd even spend the money to test for what's pretty much in our face.  >I have checked hardness before but can't remember what it was.... didn't really understand all of that... but reading the FAQ's enlightened me some.... thanks. Thanks in advance for any help. Monica  >>Alright Monica, your solution here is VERY simple, all you need are two things, a length of old pantyhose (no holes, please) and some crushed coral or dolomite. Just make a "snake" of the crushed coral with the pantyhose, and bury it in the gravel. That's it. It will take a while, but after about a month or so the crushed coral will help to bring the pH up as well as buffer the water. Do watch your plants during this time, they may not respond well to this. If you don't feel comfortable with this method, then consider looking into some of the many fine freshwater buffering products, especially those offered by SeaChem (an excellent company that offers very good quality products). This may ultimately be a better route to take to avoid bringing your pH up too high (in the >8 range), which is far more detrimental to your fish and plants. A quick Google search has netted me products from both Kent and Seachem that will achieve this at very reasonable prices. They may seem to be "chemicals", but are usually in actuality mineral in content. Marina

Buffering Fresh, 2.1 >Marina, Thanks for the advice. >>Quite welcome. >!ST bubbles from the bubble stones, not the powerhead. >>Gotcha, so you've got excellent oxygen/carbon dioxide (O2/CO2) exchange. >I did check KH and GH.... both WAY TOO LOW...... so I guess the best thing to do is to find some of the Seachem products. I do like Seachem best, as I said.  The products were quite easy to find online, and relatively inexpensive. >I have read that clown loaches do much better as a pair or more? Is that not so? >>They may be a bit happier, but honestly I've never known them to do poorly if kept singly, either.  They can grow quite large, though, something to consider. >Thanks for all the help. Monica >>Again, very welcome, I'm glad I was able to answer your questions.  Marina

- Carbonate Hardness is Too... Well... Hard - Hi Guys, <Greetings.> I have had my new tank (250L) up and running for about a month now. I put two of my existing bristle nosed catfish in the tank to cycle it. I know that these catfish are very sensitive to ammonia so I have monitored it closely. I added a bacteria solution (called CYCLE) as well to kick start the process. Doing this has worked very well. I have never been able to detect any ammonia but I am now seeing nitrates. <Sounds like your cycle has come full circle.> But on to my problem; I like my plants. I understand that they need a certain level of carbonate hardness. My tap water has low carbonate hardness (1-3 dH varying) and I have tried to raise it. I thought 5-6 dH would be OK. I bought some "KH up" powder from my local fish store (who are usually excellent) but all it seemed to do was raise my pH (from 6.5 to 8!). I asked them about this and they said that some pH rise was expected but that by adding acid this would go down and all would be fine. So I tried adding acid, I had to add a very large amount (around 100g which is 10 times what I would normally have to use). At this point I was concerned (the catfish would have had a hard time with the pH swing) but thought this would be OK. The pH was back were I wanted it and nothing had died. I checked the carbonate hardness again and to my horror it was 0. From this I had two thoughts: 1- The "KH up" powder was not "KH up" powder (but proved to be a very good way to raise pH and buffer the water) or 2- That some how the addition of the acid "removed" the carbonate hardness. <Bad move on the acid addition, or perhaps better said, shame on the fish store that recommended it. Essentially, the acid consumed the few buffers you had, and that was that... dH of zero.> I haven't tried to raise my KH since this rude shock but I want to keep my plants going strong. Can I have a low pH (6-6.5) and 5-6 dKH? <I think so, but likely not much higher.> If so how? <Well, first off you really shouldn't be making such drastic changes in pH - although your catfish have made it this far, I'd be willing to bet they're under tremendous stress. I'd just add baking soda - sodium bicarbonate - to the water you do water changes with, and change about 5% of your water each week. Give the tank some time, it is rather new, and I think things will stabilize.> Is my situation unusual? <Not really.> What chemical should I add to increase carbonate hardness? Are there any products available that raise KH and not pH? <Not that I am aware of.> Any help would be appreciated. Cheers, Adam, Australia <Cheers, J -- >

- Softened Source Water, Follow-up Again - A marine buffer in a fresh water tank? <I'm sorry, my bad - just stick with the baking soda, it's really the primary ingredient in just about any commercial buffer product, fresh water or marine. Cheers, J -- >

Safe lowering of pH I'm sending this email for my dad. We're not sure if you can answer this, but we thought we'd try anyway. <We'll certainly try to help.> He would like to add rams to his tank which already includes discus, cardinal tetras, angelfish, and Neons. <Tank size?  How many of each fish, currently?  Please do be aware that cardinal and neon tetras will be midnight snacks for the angelfish (perhaps the discus, too), eventually.> The PH of the tap water is 7.4  He has been unable to keep rams. <Woah.  I'm surprised the cardinals and Neons are alive.  They almost require low pH.> Do u have any suggestions to lower the PH? <Using peat moss in your filter and adding bogwood to the tank will help.  The pH out of my tap is a whopping 9.2, but after filtering with peat, it comes down to 7.0-ish.  I imagine, starting with a pH of 7.4, you can get yours lower.  However, this will stain the water kind of a tea-like brown.  Personally, I find this extremely natural and gorgeously attractive, but some people dislike the coloring tremendously.  Another alternative would be to use reverse osmosis/deionized water (RO/DI), which is a pretty involved topic.  Begin reading on RO/DI here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/rofaqs.htm and also the other RO/DI FAQs.> Adding PH drops hasn't helped at all. <Not surprising.  Chemical means of altering pH is not very effective, often short-termed, and will result in a pH roller coaster that may ultimately end up killing the fish.  Try peat and bogwood - and to keep things stable for water changes, use a Rubbermaid container/trash can for making water change water ahead of time, so you can soak some bogwood or peat in it to get the pH to that of the aquarium, so as not to shock the fish.  Peat moss that can be purchased at landscaping/gardening stores is okay, as long as there are *no* fungicides, pesticides, etc. added to it.  I believe the brand I use is "Sunshine".  -Sabrina>

Freshwater Sting Rays pH changing... To change my Ph level is it ok to use Muriatic Acid in my aquarium with Female Sting Rays which might be pregnant Thanks, John <I caution against (I would not do this) using Muriatic (aka non-stock molarity hydrochloric) acid. Use sodium biphosphate (the most common pH reducer sold as such in the aquarium interest), or peat, or other means. Bob Fenner>

Hardness in whatever units I was using a test kit that had the dKH norm as 8-12. I have since switched to a La Motte alkalinity test kit that gives the reading in ppm. I am not having any luck in finding the normal range for alkalinity in ppm. Can you please help? (a previous email to you guys about 2 weeks ago on the same subject was answered as we do not have a clue and good luck. That really is not the answer you guys meant to give, was it?) <Mmm, here's a link to Ozreef's conversion twixt ppm, milliequivalents per liter... for dKH: http://ozreef.org/reference/alkalinity_conversion.html Bob Fenner>

Hardness values Thank you Mr. Fenner. Your book is great and I  read it all the time. This chart shows a normal range of 151.8- 303.6 ppm or dKH of 8.5- 17.0 as the normal range. Do you agree with that range. Thanks again! <Yes to the "normality" of this range. There are certainly municipal waters that are harder (and are best dealt with by diluting with R.O. and/or Deionized water) and a scarce few that are softer that can be added to with commercial preparations. Bob Fenner>

Water too basic     I'm having some trouble with my water ph levels.  I'm a new aquarium owner of a 20 gallon tank and about a week ago I tried to increase the buffering capacity of the water by adding some alkalinity buffer drops.  But then the ph sky-rocketed off the charts when I tested it and hasn't gone down since.  Even when I made a 60% water change the other day! What can I do to lower the ph (I have 4 red eye tetras currently) without having it just bounce right back up? <Exactly how high is it? If its high but still under about 8, your fish will adapt and do fine in this, just make sure to fully acclimate new arrivals. If its over that, youll need to isolate that cause of why its staying so high. Generally when pH goes up it will also come back down, especially if it was raised with chemicals. To get it back down now you can do water changes with reverse osmosis water (many LFS offer this for sale), you can slowly but consistently bring it down with products like pH Down, or you might be able to do it with baking soda. Baking soda will generally raise your pH but a little experiment a friend and I tried found that it will only raise it to a certain point and then it will begin lowering it. I would try the RO water before anything else but definitely make sure theres nothing in the tank causing it to stay high and also check the pH of your tap water. Ronni>

Mollies acting odd! Hi, just got a 29 gal kit March 7th, and currently have 12 mollies (Gold Dust and Marble), and 3 young Albino Corydoras.  I'm having water quality problems.  I think my ammonia test isn't working (it's the water tube test, not the strips) because when I use it, I show NO ammonia, but when I have my water samples tested at Petco (they use the strips), then they show ammonia! <Very possible, this happens once in a while. It sounds as if you may be overfeeding the fish. After this amount of time your biological filter should be established and the ammonia and nitrites should stay at 0. Cut back on the amount and/or frequency of your feedings and it should help.> I also was having a nitrite spike and had high pH, which Petco people told me to bring down.  So, I've been doing water changes over the last few days and have finally brought my nitrites down to 1.0ppm (they were at 5.0ppm).   <Ouch! Even 1.0 is still quite high and its a wonder any of the fish are still alive after 5.0!> I also treated each bucket of new water with Stress Coat, Water Conditioner, and pH balancer (my tap water was off the charts when I tested it...must be 8.0+).   <Just make sure that the water in the tank stays at the lowered pH, sometimes it will spike back up.> MY PROBLEM IS...my mollies are acting weird, MANY are hanging around the surface moving their mouths a lot, they're not moving and swimming around like usual, and some will swim in place, others will sit on the bottom and move only every now and then. <Sounds like they are uncomfortable with the ammonia and nitrites. These are common symptoms of poor water.> Some still swim around, but only a few. I noticed 1 molly jump around on a rock, rubbing his body on it a few times. <This could be the beginnings of ick or just a reaction to the ammonia and nitrites.> I found 1 molly dead this morning, checked his gills and they're nice and pink, no parasites, or weird markings on him.   <Probably a reaction to the nitrites then.> My Corys act fine.  And there is about 3 tsp.s of aquarium salt in the tank.  My nitrites are at 1.0ppm, nitrates 0ppm, ammonia=??? (need a new test kit, I'm still showing no amm.), but my pH is 6.8 which is a drop from 7.0 an hour ago!!!!  Is this the problem?   <pH will fluctuate a little throughout the day so I wouldnt be concerned about this.> Have I over treated my water in trying to decrease the danger to my fish?  I don't know what to do, they are clearly stressed!  They still eat, but I don't know how to help them.  I don't want to damage my biological filter by doing ANOTHER water change, but should I? <For now, just keep up with the water changes and bring the ammonia and nitrites down to a consistent 0. I dont think you over-treated the new water although you could probably get by without adding the Stress Coat. Small water changes arent going to damage your bio filter, theyre actually going to help it.> And should I use something to INCREASE my pH now that it is falling?   <Nope, they are adapted to the lower pH now and raising it would cause more problems.> Aren't mollies supposed to be in water with a higher pH?   <Yes, a little higher than what yours is. They do best in a pH of 7.5 to 8.2. You can bring this up by not treating your newly added water with as much of the pH reducer but the pH level needs to be brought up slowly or it can cause even more problems.> What am I doing wrong?--fish_puppy <Do some reading at http://www.wetwebmedia.com and at http://www.fishbase.org to find out more about your fish but I really think the main problem is overfeeding. Ronni>

Clown Loaches & German Blue Rams... I've really enjoyed your website and have a question for you regarding water parameters for my Freshwater Aquarium.   <Thank you, Ill do my best to answer> I live in Northern New Jersey where we have relatively hard water and Im trying to keep my German Blue Rams and my Clown Loaches comfortable.  I have read that both the Clown Loaches and the Rams prefer softer water.  I have a 55 gallon tank with 3 German Blue Rams, 8 Clown Loaches (four 6" loaches, two 3" loaches, two 1 to 1-1/2" loaches). In addition I have two 5" - 6" Pink Tailed Chalceus, four 4" Iridescent Sharks, three 2" tri-color sharks, one small Pleco, and 3 small Cory cats.  I am planning on upgrading to a larger tank in about 6 months knowing that my sharks are probably going to outgrow this one. <Yes, youll definitely need a larger tank very soon. Your Clown loaches could reach sizes of 12 each and the Pleco can get around 20.> My Tank: PH - 7.6 Ammonia - 0 Nitrites - 0 GH - 9 KH - 4 I have recently put some of Fluvals Peat Granules into my Fluval 304, hoping to soften the water and lower the PH levels.  I have been doing small (10%) water changes weekly.  And I have provided ample hiding places for the Clown Loaches (there is a house/cave on either side of the tank for them to hide in, as well as plants and rocks for additional cover).  So my question is what can I do in addition to the Peat Granules in my filter, in order to give my Loaches and Rams better water quality (Softer - Lower PH).  I am currently just using tap water with conditioner to do my water changes and would like to provide the ideal environment for my fishies. < The peat should help and really theres not a lot else you can do that isnt going to cause fluctuations. The best thing to do is provide a stable environment. Theyll be much better off in a stable but slightly hard condition than in a fluctuating softer one.> Any suggestions or information you can offer would be much appreciated!!! Thanks, Stephanie Ward <You're welcome! Ronni>

pH is dropping! I have an 80 gallon tank with African cichlids and have lava rock as hiding places for them.  I measured the ph in the tank and was really surprised to find out that the ph was 6.3 instead of 7.5 to 8.2 and was wondering if the lava rock will lower the ph that much.   <Generally a pH drop like that happens when the water hasnt been changed in a while. The longer a tank runs without water changes, the lower the pH will get. Lava rock shouldnt drop it like that.> I plan on adding Seachem Malawi Victoria buffer to raise the ph but was concerned about ph shock.  The Malawi Africans that are in there are healthy along with some babies and I was also wondering if I should let things go or go ahead and add the above buffer. <Rather than adding a chemical at this point, see if you can gradually bring it up with water changes. Chemical fixes are only going to be short term solutions. But whichever way you go, the pH should be brought up gradually, not all at once. Ronni>

Re: New Tank Problems and General It seems my Ph was off. I have bad eyes. It took me a few hours but I got it neutral finally, and I plan on doing a 20% water change soon. My store is giving me a refund on my 2 guppies (14 day guarantees are so cool). Ill keep you posted :) -Ray in Texas <Glad you were able to pinpoint the problem and that your store is working with you. Good luck! Ronni>

Re: GH in aquarium Hi Ronni, thanks for heater/temp response- so how are you at chemistry? This has me stumped... <Uh-oh, chemistry has never been a good thing for me> I have been using AquaPharm tap water r/o conditioner because the tap water in NJ is 8.2 or so out of the tap- then I realized lots of bad stuff is in tap water. <Yep, there really is.> I use the AquaPharm electro right and ph adjuster that they recommend to use with this r/o system. After I used it the ph is now between 6.8-7.0 and rasbs and white clouds were brighter in color etc., and I assumed healthier. The KH also dropped and is down between 3-4 (using the AquaPharm fresh water kit and the 5ml tubes and drops) so I knew that conditioned water from r/o was working. BUT... The GH still remains high- it is now 20 (meaning 20 drops to get it to turn to green endpoint). I can't figure out why r/o use dropped the KH but not GH. <Honestly, I don't know why it would either. These generally stay pretty close.> I don't want to use a water softener pillow because of ion exchange and increasing salt in tank. <These can also increase your Ph and cause other problems.> So, what to do- especially since I have these new Otos (it's now a week and they are great knock on wood)- maybe the rasbs and clouds are use to high GH- but what about the Otos- and the other fish I want to add. So, other than continue to do the water changes with r/o, what can I do? <Really, there's not a lot else to do. Check out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/plttkmaintfaqs.htm theres a post there similar to this that may help. I would venture that after a week of being in this, its not going to hurt the Otos.> I have SeaChem fluorite as substrate, use Kent Pro and Flourish, flourish excel. Use StressZyme every other day- tank is almost at 5 weeks cycled now. (BUT EVEN with the old tank levels of GH were high)- and the only thing in there is driftwood, no seashells, etc. <This is just a thought but I wonder if the driftwood could be affecting it? Ive heard of driftwood doing some pretty odd things to tanks.> I just started to use Zoe Marine Vitamin liquid from Kent Pro, but only used it once, so that can't be it - any ideas....??? <Lots of thoughts but not really any that would be of help here! You might also use the Google search box at www.wetwebmedia.com and search for plant GH to see what else it pulls up besides the above FAQ.> Thanks again, Rosa <You're welcome! Ronni>

High pH question Hello WWM Crew... <Hello, Gage here avoiding real work as best I can.> I'm setting up a 75-gallon FW community tank and I have a concern about pH. My tap water is 8.2 and I have done nothing to adjust it. I have read here and elsewhere that it is better to have the pH too high than to play with it and risk sudden changes. <I agree> On the other hand, I have heard of a great number of people who adjust their pH to exactly where they would like it to be. <can work as well, its up to you.> I have three Buenos Aires Tetras and three quite small Bala "Sharks" now and intend to ad Rainbow Shark, Clown Loach, Pleco or maybe Pictus Cat. Am I doing the right thing by leaving the pH alone? Thanks. --Charlie <My tap water has a rather high PH as well.  I do not adjust it and get along ok.  If you would like to adjust it get a separate container dedicated to mixing water, the large 44gal Brute garbage cans work well.  Mix your water and adjust the PH in there before adding it to the tank.  If you do decide to adjust the PH, bring the PH down in your main tank slowly.  There is a HUGE difference between the ph measurements.  We have got some good articles on the subject.  If you have not checked them out already I strongly recommend it. -Gage http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm  >

Low dKH Hello Ladies and Gents of the Crew, <<Hello, hello>> I've recently set up a 29g freshwater tank - 10 days ago.  Water is cycling nicely.  In the tank I have 40lbs of gravel, several rocky caves, one piece of bogwood, Proquatics power filter at 200gph, an Airtech pump with bubble wand type thing, and a submersible heater.  Temp has remained steady at 77F.  There are five plants: 1 green Cabomba 1 green Lloydiella 1 red Ludwigia 1 Rotala indica 1 marble sword I add 1 tbls Kent freshwater plant supplement per week.  Will the plant supplement be necessary after I have fish established in the tank? <<Possibly. It certainly wont hurt to keep using it as long as it says its safe for fish (I would certainly assume it is!) but you can try going without it and see if your plants start failing. I dont think they will, I have several of these same plants in a tetra tank and they are all doing fine with no supplements.>> I ran tests last night (AquaPharm liquid) Ammonia - 0 Nitrite - 3 Nitrate - 5 pH - 7.1 GH - 3 dGH  (53.7ppm) KH - 2 dKH  (35.8ppm) I tested the tap water and the pH, GH, and KH are all the same as the tank water. Okay, my real question is this:  Is this very acid water going to create a problem with the pH stability? <<The low dKH could cause problems with Ph stability. Since your tank currently has no fish, this is the perfect time to raise the DKH. There are commercial products that will help with this.>> And what kinds of fish will thrive in this environment?  I know Discus like the softness, but the pH is still 7.1 and besides that the tank is way too small.  Will the hardness rise as the tank completes its cycle?  Any suggestions on fish?  Is it too soft for Corydoras catfish?  (Just love those little guys.) << There are many fish that will do fine in these conditions and its fine for Corys. There is quite a range for what Corys can handle, pH range: 6.0 - 8.0; dH range: 2.0 - 25.0. >> One more thing, I am in the planning stages of my first saltwater tank.  It's either going to be 90g or 125g.  But, since testing this water, I am greatly concerned about its buffering capacity.  I want a FOWLR with a DSB.  Have been reading your website for about 3 weeks now.  So much info to process!  It's wonderful :o)  Thank you for your time.  It's greatly appreciated. <<Im by no means an expert on saltwater but I believe if you use a substrate specifically for saltwater tanks these will help greatly with your buffering capabilities. Crushed coral should do nicely.>> Jen

Increasing buffering capacity in FW tanks Dear Crew, I have 5-gal. and 10-gal. freshwater tanks that are well-established.  Municipal tap water (ozonized, not chlorinated) is pH 6.2, GH 6 degrees, KH 6 degrees, zero nitrates. I have platys, Cory cats and algae eaters in both tanks. Both tanks test pH 6.0, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, GH 6, KH 6.  I just bought a nitrate test kit and was shocked to find out both tanks are off the chart!  I do 20-30% water changes weekly but both tanks are somewhat overstocked (those oversexed platys keep having babies) and I do tend to overfeed a bit.  After using Aquamarine Nitrate Reducer (a bacterial product) an algae bloom cleared up completely so I thought I had solved the nitrate problem.  I plan to get Coralife Nitrate Remover and I will do more water changes, so I am not so concerned about the nitrate. <I would be. If you are concerned with buffering, this is to counteract acidic wastes, IE: nitrates. Overfeeding, fouled substrate, filter media, filter sponges, bio-wheels and bio-balls all produce nitrates from nitrites. It is best to reduce these sources of nitrate pollution.> My question is about pH and buffering capacity.  I am of the school of thought that you should not adjust pH, simply require that your fish get used to whatever your tap water is. <This is a complete fallacy and is inhumane to your fish. Fish don't just adapt to improper pH, alkalinity and salinity that took perhaps millions of years to evolve to. That's why we don't see marine fish in the Amazon or sharks in your toilet. You are blessed with soft, acidic water.  This means you can either choose fish from soft acidic conditions (Discus lovers would die for your water) OR you can add buffer to add alkalinity/hardness and raise your pH. You only need to raise your pH to 7 and hardness a hair for all your fish. The nitrate is a bigger concern.>   However, since my water is so soft, I am afraid it doesn't have much buffering capacity, and am worried that it will get too acid if I should be late with a water change.  Do I understand correctly from previous posts, that adding baking soda increases the buffering capacity (alkaline reserve)?  Or does it simply make the water more alkaline?  Also, live plants use up the carbonate and reduce the alkaline reserve?  Both tanks have flourishing Java Ferns and Water Sprite, which grows so fast that I have to weed out great handfuls of it. <Again, this is nitrate, the key ingredient to most fertilizers. That your plants are growing profusely in acidic, soft water is an indication that these nutrients aren't that necessary as opposed to the nitrate levels.> I had thought to get Kent pH Stable. Would that be appropriate?  I have some Seachem Equilibrium because I thought the fish or plants might like the water a bit harder.  Would that increase the buffering capacity? <If these are FW buffers, only enough to raise the pH one point.> I thought about Seachem Neutral Regulator or Kent pH Precise Neutral Regulator, but both soften the water!  Do they precipitate out the calcium and magnesium?  Shouldn't I be making my water harder, if anything? <Just a simple buffer and waste reduction/prevention. Get the numbers down, stop overfeeding, OR get up to speed on maintenance for the load you have.> Another question that NO one in the LFS has been able to answer -- I add 1/2 tsp. salt per gallon to make the platys happy (and they do indeed do better with the salt).  Is this enough salt to prohibit using "freshwater only" water treatments such as Nitra-Zorb, which is regenerated by salt? <It may leach *some* by ion exchange with sodium ions, but not like the saline solution required for complete regeneration.> I do not have a phosphate test kit.  Do I need to be concerned about the phosphate level, if I don't have an algae problem?  Does it hurt the fish?  Thank you for your assistance. Your web site has been invaluable. Sincerely, Marron <An adequate program to reduce nitrates should also reduce any phosphates. If you are trying to stretch your maintenance schedule or are having nutrient problems, then test kits are vital. Better get after those water changes and gravel vacuuming!  Craig>

Re: acidifiers Hi, I just had a quick question.   I have used citric acid for farm uses to reduce the PH of drinking water for swine.  I was wondering if this could also be used to lower the PH of my aquarium water?  I am thinking if it is safe for animals to drink, then maybe it is safe for fish to swim and breathe in? <Yes, this is a not-uncommon additive to some marine fish medications, particularly copper compounds, that otherwise "fall out of solution" due to the alkaline nature of seawater. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Jess

Re: acidifiers Do you have any idea of a measurement to use to lower for instance 1 point. I only have a freshwater aquarium. Thanks for the quick response!! <This is reliant on the alkalinity of your existing water. How to put this... water is more than just H2O... it has buffering capacity, mainly carbonates, bicarbonates that "resist" pH change... and all waters are different in this capacity (alkalinity). You can get/use an alkalinity test kit... or just try adding some citric to a given volume (outside the tank) and recording how much it shifts pH. Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm Bob Fenner>

Re: acidifiers sooooo if i am going to have a freshwater tank and currently our water measures about 8.5, would you use citric acid to get it down to that 7 range?? thanks again <If that is the range your livestock enjoys, sure. Most commercial "pH adjusting solutions" are phosphoric acid... a few are dilute sulfuric... Citric is safer, to use than these, but can't be as easily stored in aqueous products (microbes start growing in it over time). Take a look on the Net re Citric Acid... it's very commonly used, relatively safe. Bob Fenner>

PH shock-- curable? I did something very stupid just over a week ago-- I introduced an old piece of mahogany driftwood I had into my discus tank. I had used the driftwood years ago in another discus tank, and it provided a good buffering pillow. I was about to introduce two new discus and also thought they'd like the shelter it provided, as the three discus already present had pretty much staked out their favorite spots around their piece of driftwood. Darned if the new/old driftwood didn't leach scarily-large amounts of nitrate into the water (which I didn't even think to check because everything else-- ammonia, nitrite, PH all tested fine), and drive the carbonate hardness down to near zero-- and, of course, cause an acid fall -- from 7.0 to 6.2 between Friday afternoon and Sunday night. Well, I've pulled out that hunk of driftwood and carefully and slowly corrected the water conditions (PH back to 7.0, carbonate hardness 50 ppm, general hardness 80 ppm or 4.5 dh, no detectable nitrites or ammonia, nitrates still high at 50 ppm but much better than the 110 they were!) and the discus are now looking a lot less stressed, as long as I don't walk up to the tank, since they now connect me with Big Scary water changes instead of yummy food. Their fins are barely clamped and are spread full much of the time, body colour a bit dull but not dark anymore, eyes better-- still a bit dull, but the red colour's back But nobody's eaten a thing for six days. And they're still not at all frisky. They mostly hang about their old pieces of driftwood Obviously, they endured PH shock. Can they recover? Can I help them recover? <More than nitrate was released by the wood... I would make a large (25%) water change (with pre-conditioned water) today, maybe another tomorrow... and place some activated carbon (several ounces) in your filter flow path. Do your discus have favorite food items? I would try these. Bob Fenner> Judy Waytiuk

- Freshwater pH - <Greetings, JasonC here...> Another question for ya guys I have a 55 Gal freshwater tank Ph 7.0 Nitrates are off the chart. Am doing water changes to lower the nitrates. The tap water Ph is 7.8 every time I make water changes the Ph in the tank goes up what is the best way to control a steady Ph rate of the 7.0 in the tank during water changes? <You might try the product, pH Down, which is a weak/mild acid that is safe to use in aquaria. Do add to the change water sparingly and test before adding to your tank.> Also I have a fine film floating on the top of the water what is it and how do I get rid of it? <Not really all that uncommon, you might try finding a surface skimmer for that Emperor filter.> I am running a undergravel with 2 power heads and an Emperor 400 with Bio wheels and carbon. Thanks again as always and Merry Christmas Bill <Cheers, J -- >

Malaysian Driftwood, pH Reduction Hello. <Scott F at your service> Where I live the pH is high; therefore, the pH in my 10 gal tank is also high. <Just how "high is "high"? It may be acceptable, depending upon the kinds of fish that you keep> Someone suggested that I purchase some driftwood since it would help lower the pH in my tank, but I should let it soak since the wood would tint my water until the water becomes clear. Is there any way to speed up the process of getting rid of the brownish water?  <Activated carbon in your filter should do the trick. Using driftwood, peat moss, etc. to lower pH may be hard to control-much depends on the rate of dissolution of the tannic acids, etc. present in the wood. If you are dead set on lowering the pH, you may want to use one of the prepared products designed just for this purpose > Are there any other "natural" ways to lower the pH in a high pH area?  <Do read this faq: "pH, Alkalinity, and You" in the freshwater articles section of wetwebmedia.com> Thanks, Rachel <And thank you for stopping by!>

pH (freshwater) I have recently set up a 20 gallon freshwater tank. It has been about two weeks in cycle and I am struggling to keep my Ph under control. I use tapwater, which has a Ph of 7.8 to 8.0 to fill the tank and have used tap water conditioners, as well as a Ph control powder to bring the Ph down. However, I am only able to bring it down to around 7.6 with treatment and once in tank the Ph just continues to climb <How high?>. If you can offer any suggestions I would appreciate it. Thanks. William <Depending upon what type of fish you are planning on keeping this may be ok. It is always a good idea to test the test kit against another one to make sure you are getting an accurate reading. Do you have any decorations in the tank that could be causing the high ph? You could try a different brand of buffer to bring the ph level down, but if it keeps shooting back up it sounds like there is something in the tank that is causing the change. The links below may help you solve the mystery. The first one refers to marine tanks, but the information on ph and alkalinity are still valid http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/phalkbrackish.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/rkwduseaq.htm Best of Luck, Gage>

pH/Ammonia Problems I have a 20H freshwater aquarium with nine fish in it. I have had it set up at least a month if not longer and still cannot keep the ammonia from going through the roof. My fish are not overly big and I am careful about not over feeding. Also, my ph has just dropped to 5. My nitrates are zero though. I also make weekly 1/4 water changes. My fish are healthy and acting fine. We have a green spotted puffer, two clown loaches, red tail shark, Gourami, spotted catfish, Pleco, a cichlid and a blood parrot fish. The blood parrot fish is a relatively new addition and has come down with black spot which is obviously from my water. What can I do to correct these probs.  <you have two primary problems: 1)water quality and 2) horrible fish incompatibility problems> In case you were wondering, we have a penguin 125 w/bio filter, an underground filter with a powerhead for a 30 gal tank. I change the filter at least 2 times a month. Help. Thanks, Lori. <if the gravel bed is less than 2 1/2 -3" (fine gravel) or 4" course gravel then the Ammonia problem is because the substrate is too shallow for a biological colony to establish. Large gravel pebbles are especially poor for UG filters. You want fine media of a size closer to large grains of rice (2-3X) rather than pea sized. Regarding your fish selection, however... you need to prepare for serious problems with disease and aggression or separate these fishes properly: The puffers need brackish alkaline water, the loaches need somewhat soft acidic water, the sharks are near neutral to medium hard water. The gouramis and cichlids vary by species. Some of these fishes are going to suffer because of the homogenized mix. Furthermore, the puffers are severely aggressive in time and will literally pick the eyes out of the other fishes. The spotted catfish will swallow all smaller fishes whole in time (and die from eating the toxic flesh of the puffers if so) and the clown loaches grow to over 12" long each and may stunt and die if crowded. Sheesh, my friend. Someone has steered you terribly wrong. Do take the time browsing this site (WetWebMedia) and beyond to get a better knowledge of the fishes before you buy them. My advice would be to keep the gouramis, shark, Pleco and possibly the cichlid (if a smaller or more peaceful species) and have an active semi-aggressive community tank. Get rid of all other inappropriate fishes or get more, bigger aquariums :) Best regards, Anthony> 

Re: pH/Ammonia Problems <Steven Pro in this morning handling the follow up questions.> This is very weird because I have had this exact community of fish (except the puffer and blood parrot) <The puffer was one of your biggest problems, along with the Clown Loaches.> when I was a kid in a 50 gallon tank and our fish lived for years w/o any problems. <50 gallons is considerably larger than your current 20, but even then I am sure the Clown Loaches never reached their full size, nor lived a full life.> As far as growth stunting, I can see your point if you buy larger fish to start off with but again we were always told that fish will only grow to the size of their surroundings for the most part. Is this not true? <It is somewhat true and it is called stunting. The fish do not reach full size, do not develop healthily, and do not live for their expected life.> As for the puffer, he is a green spotted puffer and so far is very peaceful. I did do extensive research on puffers before we chose one. All info suggests that they are freshwater totally (a little aquarium salt for gill function for all fish) and not aggressive and he is the biggest fish in our tank (3") and does not seem to notice any other fish. <True on the salt, but way off on not being aggressive. Please see here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/fwbracpuffers.htm  and the related FAQ files.> <<GSPs are brackish water animals. RMF>> In fact, our reason for having the tank in the first place revolves around our puffer. Let me ask you this, is it not true that a ph of 7 will be acceptable for all of our fish? <Acceptable and optimal are two very different things. You could be kept alive constricted to only your bedroom and fed a diet of Ho-Ho's, but you would fail to thrive and live a full life.> Also, won't grain size gravel clog up our UG filter? <You want to big enough so that it does not go through/under the filter plate.> Pea size gravel at 2" deep was what we were told to use. <Two inches seems a bit shallow for a large size gravel.> Don't get me wrong, I trust your advice far more than any pet store around our area. They would sell you anything. We just don't have the room or the time for another tank and would hate to give up our fish when they all seem to be doing quite well despite my water dilemmas. Besides the UG filter, what chemicals to you recommend to keep everything balanced etc? <Nothing.> Thanks, Lori. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

Re: pH/Ammonia Problems Hello again. So do I can I keep the gravel I currently have but just add enough to equal 4" high? <Yes> And please tell me again how more gravel will help make the UG filter work better? <The 4" should be fine.> So are you saying that chemicals for pH are not necessary/recommended? <No, there are some occasions when I would use buffers to raise pH, but if you want to target a pH of 7.0, water changes alone should do it.> Thanks. <You are welcome. -Steven Pro> 

Freshwater aquarium water hardness question! Hey guys, I was wondering if someone could give me a couple ticks and help me with this dilemma? My modest 20 gallon aquarium is about six weeks cycled and most all levels are in the 'kosher zone' ammonia at or around 0 ppm and nitrite about the same. Now to the crux of the problem, my ph is at 7.3 - 7.6 and my KH is at 2 dKH and my general hardness is only registering a reading of 1 dKH!  <wow! Very soft... you should breed Discus, Angels or killifish...Ha!> I'm using municipal water which I treat with ammo lock2 before water changes. I'm using the liquid reagent type kit from aquarium pharmaceuticals. The only store in my area sadly enough is Petco and seems most are under educated in regards to true water chemistry (wow imagine that, right!?!) So I have a sample tested and I get a line from the clerk that goes to the tune of, everything is looking good, ammonia, cl2, nitrite and so on... then she say's I have a very high ph and to do another huge water change maybe as much as 90% and it won't bother my tetra. I have one of two tetras left, however the day before I had done a 25% change, anyway so I buy the master freshwater test kit I spoke of earlier and do all of my tests and registered results noted above, my tap water when tested twice on different days read when tested: ph 7.0 - 7.2, GH 1 dKH, KH 2 dKH, is my test right if so what should I do to increase the GH for a rounded community tank?  <if you like tetras and South American fishes as a rule, you won't need to bother too much with it. It will be a blessing to have such soft water. If however you get rid of the tetras and add livebearers, goldfish or African cichlids (not all together...<G>!), then you will definitely want to add a buffering product like those used for marine aquaria. In the meantime... some carbonate material like a bag or crushed coral in the filter or some sea shells/coral in the tank will help a bit. Do keep up with regular water changes too... very important> I probably won't ask for advice from the mega-pet-mart's anymore either -the girl at Petco didn't know what effect the KH & GH had on the tank! (I'm nearly positive all they know is how to test samples and then tell folks to do huge water changes at any type of anomaly, I suppose that's fine if it corrects the problem,  <yes... as a rule, when in doubt: do a water change> but not always as I'm having issues with my water source. I had to research to find out about buffering for ph and the likes. Thanks in advance. another happy fish person, Lonnie <cheers! Anthony>

Raising the pH Naturally I currently have water that my Mbuna cichlids absolutely love. As a matter of fact I pull it straight out of the tap and do nothing else. It's well water don't ya know. Anyhow, I am moving to city water that is 7.1 as opposed to the 8.2 I enjoy now. Is there a way to raise the ph of the water up to around 8.2 naturally. By that I mean without adding buffer or something to that effect. I understand that between Aragonite Sand and crushed Coral as a substrate I might get it up to around 7.5, but how do I get it up around .6-.8 more? By the way it is a 125 gallon tank.  If it matters I have the following fish. Labidochromis Caeruleus-3 Ps. johanni-2 Ps. demasoni-2 Ps. flavus-2 Ps. polit-2 Ps sp. Msobo-2 Ps. zebra-OB marmalade-5 (I think it is the right species) Maylandia Greshakei-2 Thanks for any help or advice. Charles <The easiest, safest way is going to be with a buffering compound. I like Seachem's buffer and salt for African cichlids. -Steven Pro>

pH, Freshwater Hey there Mr Fenner..  <Anthony Calfo in your service> My god,, I so need an expert on aquariums.. I am so scared I'm going to screw mine up!!! <aquariology is a peaceful hobby...relax> I set it up about a year and a half ago and have lost a total of about 8 fish. One to definite illness two to an ice storm w/ no pwr for five days when the temp in my tank got to about 40 deg (brrr) <did you ice fish to pass the time?> 4-5 mysteriously dead when I got up. (not all at once over several mo.s) One died after 2 wks, but I got it at Wal-Mart and the lady accidentally dropped her on the floor.  <dain bramage> One I nursed all night and he just didn't make it and I was told my nitrates were off the charts. <regular water changes and careful not to overfeed> After I got over calling myself a fish killer, I have been trying to be more diligent and have learned that just cuz the water looks good doesn't mean it is. I recently tested my ammonia which from what I hear is a measure of pretty much how everything else would be and it looks great. I have been doing about a 40 % water change and gravel suction once a month and change filters 2 wks to once a month.  <reasonable> My question is, my ph seems to be high, but it always has been.. as far as the little chart on the tester it's at least 7.5. <its not so bad and safe for many systems...natural tendency is downward> I have a white fin shark, 2 pictus catfish a rhino Pleco and two regular Plecos a head light taillight tetra a red eye tetra and my two newest additions a green Severum cichlid and a tiger barb. <the Severum will grow way too large for the tank! not a great mix> I found out that tiger barbs need playmates and I am concerned about overcrowding..  <agreed, plus they are terrible fin nippers> My tank is a 20 gal  >Oh, my goodness!!! You have been given (or really allowed yourself to be given without reading up first) some really bad advice. All of your fish except the tetras and the barbs will outgrow your tank or die within a year. Severums get to be plate sized, and all three catfish can easily reach 8". You need to trade these fish in or get a bigger tank, my dear> w/ a penguin 170 BioWheel filter and two aeration devices (that the fish love to play in) and keep the tank at 78. They all seem to be happy and healthy but when the others died it was usually pretty suddenly.  <could have been a critical threshold for the bio-load from overstocking> What can I do to insure my fish are happy and healthy  <read and research species, please, before you buy them...critical> and do I need to bring the ph down?  <don't bother for most fish if it stays under 7.8 unless your books <wink> indicate that your species like more acidic water for breeding> If so how is the safest to do that? What else can I do to keep a good aquarium?  <besides reading...join a local aquarium society...very good information and camaraderie> Sorry this is so long.. as you can tell, I'm a little neurotic about some things!! :)) <kindly, Anthony Calfo>

Welcome Aboard! Hello, I just started my first fresh water tank and wish to test the ph levels. I bought a test kit from the local pet store here in Israel and low and behold all the directions are in Chinese. I have searched and searched on line for info about how to perform the test. ( it came with a test tube which contains 10 cc of water and 10 cc of some chemical ) If you could please advise I would really appreciate it. I enjoyed your article on about.com. <What is the name of the company that makes the test kit? -Steven Pro> Thanks, Shevi Miller

pH in 29 gal FW Hello! First of all, I've really enjoyed your site. Very informative. <Ah, good> I have recently moved my 29 gal FW, and completely started over. I cleaned all the gravel and decor and the tank. I let the system sit for a week before adding fish. I have only added a barb and a diamond tetra and a Cory catfish. I am familiar with "new tank syndrome" and thought I knew what to expect. Even before I moved the tank, I was having problems with the pH going down. It was staying around 6.2 - 6.4 for the last 4 -6 months. <Sounds like your source water is lacking in sufficient alkalinity... you can easily add alkaline reserve... with simple baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, for instance> I have all plastic plants and rocks, a sunken ship and one ceramic (?) decoration. I have had this aquarium for over two years and have just started getting the pH drops within the last 6months. I thought that starting over might help but it has only been 3 weeks and the pH has dropped already from 7.2 - 7.4 (out of the tap, treated) to 6.2 - 6.4. Ammonia levels are normal. <Hopefully zero concentration of ammonia> The drop occurred after I put the fish in. It has been so long since I have had a "new" aquarium, I can't remember all. I knew to expect an increase in ammonia and nitrates, but don't remember pH going so low. Am especially concerned because it was happening before I moved the aquarium. I don't think it is our tap water because I have a 10 gal and a 5 gal that are doing just fine. <Mmm, they likely have some basic (as opposed to acidic or neutral) materials in them... like natural gravel, rock, other decor that is buffering the pH> I usually do approx. 10% water changes every 1 -2 weeks in all tanks, but have not started water changes in the 29 gal since moving it. (wanted to give the "good" bacteria chance to grow) <Yes, good idea> The fish do not seem to be stressed or unhappy, so I haven't done anything to change pH levels. I don't see much of the Cory, but then I never have. These fish are all over 1.5 years old. Should I just leave the pH alone and start with water changes? Should I go ahead and add more fish? <I would hold off on the new fish for a few more weeks... and consider either getting an alkalinity test kit (please read on the WWM site re the relationship between pH and alkalinity), or add about a tablespoon of baking soda (mixed in ahead of time in tank water) every day till you see your pH starting to be nudged upward to where you want it (about neutral, 7.0 or so). The baking soda is very safe added at this rate, and by keeping good records you can learn about how much you may want to add during your periodic water changes.> Thanks for your help Leigh Walker <You are welcome my friend. Bob Fenner>

Question@Smaller Tanks & Rising Ph. . . Hi Mr. Fenner, My wife and I are two beginners who have recently started two smaller aquariums; a five gallon and two gallon freshwater tanks. After reading through the basics on your site (www.wetwebmedia.com); we decided on one 2gallon, and one 5gallon acrylic tank(s), both with undergravel filters. After cold water soapless washing of all equipment, we started with a beginners chemical testing kit; which had the basics: Ph test; Ammonia test; Nitrate, & Nitrite; as well as Stress Coat, Stress Enzyme; Ammo Lock (a detoxifier), & Perfect Ph (7.0). We allowed our water to "aerate" for @ 48 hours, and after adding the recommended amounts of Stress Coat, Stress Enzyme & Ammo Lock, we began testing; all levels were "normal" ie; Ph@7.0(down from 8.0 via "Perfect PH"); Ni@0;Na@0 and Ammonia @ 0/ So we went fishing at our local pet store; and after having them test our water as well, and getting the same test results that we did (experience counts!); we bought some fish! We started with: In the two gallon tank~ One Male Cory Catfish, Two (Hopefully!) Male Guppies; and One Male Platy. Leaving the five gallon empty. But after @ two days of close observation, we realized one of our male Guppies was consistently chasing and "nipping" at our Platy (which we thought was odd; everything we have read and been told indicated the Guppies were peaceful good community fish; any ideas on why one would be aggressive?) <Actually... not uncommon for Guppies to act this way... particularly toward other small livebearers like platies...> ; so two days ago, we reluctantly moved everyone except the guppies to the five gallons; and added 2 Neon Tetras(unknown gender), another Cory Catfish(male); and another Platy(female). . . The idea being to give everyone a "like" species playmate; as well as to try to get the biological cycle to "kick in". I know, probably a beginners' mistake moving fish around this quickly after the original shock, AND then introducing new fish; but we decided to try to save everyone rather than lose our one Platy{what can I say?, we liked that Platy! :)}. So, I put 1 gallon of water from the original 2 gallon tank into the 5 gallon tank to help normalize the water in the 5-gallon; and effectively started everyone's' nitrogen cycle over, and have ended up with: In 5 Gallon: 2 Neon Tetras(unknown gender), 2 Cory Catfish(both males), 1 female & 1 male Platy. In 2 Gallon: 2 Male Guppies. The chemical tests are as of today, registering: Nitrate@0; Nitritr@0; Ammonia@0; Ph@7.5 I have began using a brand name (Wardley) chemical tests, they seemed to provide more specific test results than the generic test kit we started with. After reading your very informative article (Ph, Acidity, Alkalinity and You!) I have realized my need for Acidity & Alkalinity test kits; but am limited to a Ph test kit as of right now. <No worries... but would have suggested you let the water "aerate" a week or so instead of two days... and would still suggest you place some live plant material in both tanks> My questions are: 1) Is my undergravel filter(one in each tank) enough to effectively filter out the toxins. etc. that these fish will create in their extremely small environment(s)? <Mmm, with live plants, careful feeding, periodic, regular water changes... minimally... a small outside filter each would greatly aid in keeping conditions optimized and stable> 2) My Ph level in both tanks has over the last two days, slowly climbed back up to @ 7.5 and seems to be staying there. Is this to high of a Ph for the fish that I have mentioned? <Perhaps for the Neon Tetras...> If it is, are these tanks large enough to support the plants required to naturally bring down the Ph?;  <Yes, to some degree> OR should I slowly introduce reverse osmosis water to bring down the Ph?  <A good plan> Or should I WAIT; it is my understanding that the Ph and Ammonia levels will go up as the Nitrate/Nitrite cycle kicks in; but I am afraid that the Ph has went up too quickly to be just the natural cycle; if my water is resisting the "Proper PH" I think I could be in for a hard time. <Perhaps... your livestocks appearance will tell you> 3) We have added a smaller airstone to the 5-gallon for aesthetic purposes; do I need to be concerned with pumping too much air or having too much current within the tank water? <No worries here> 4) OR, are we just being paranoid new parents? :) <Maybe, but it's far better than apathy> I would greatly appreciate any help you could give me here; I would like to try to keep this fish around, needless to say, we have quickly become attached to everyone! :) Thank You for Your Help! Chuck & Belinda Moreland <Please write if you have further concerns or any of the above isn't clear. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Re: Question@Smaller Tanks & Rising Ph. . . Mr. Fenner, Thank you for your reply. It was very informative. But now I have some other problems. As of this morning, I realized that my more aggressive guppy was missing. How do you lose s fish in a 2gallon tank is beyond me. <Often they jump out (yes), and can "dissolve" quite quickly on perishing as well...> After a close inspection though I found the guppy laying on the bottom of the tank, hiding in the fake plants I have. I scared the guppy out and realized that he had a bulging eye, so I quickly removed him from the tank. He is in a small Tupperware container for lack of a quarantine tank. He swims in a small area in circles and then stops and it looks like he is sitting up on his tail. I feel really bad for him and the other guppy who was in the tank with him. The guppy in the 2gallon tank has been sitting at the bottom ever since I removed the other guppy. All the other fish have been exposed to this guppy. I have not read up much on diseases and would like to know what it is and what I can do (if anything) to help my poor little guppy? <Mmm, perhaps a bit of salt as a cathartic... there may also be some value in adding a broad spectrum gram-negative antibiotic to their food... or buying/using one that is pre-made (check with your retail fish store here> Should I be concerned with the other fish that were exposed to him? <Likely not... perhaps a "bump in the night" or the cause may not be a priori... may be consequent to another cause... > Also I have two platies in the 5gallon tank that have small black dots on the top of their heads to their dorsal fins. The original platy did not have this and with the addition of the new one they appeared. The guppies were also exposed to this and so were both Cory cats and neon tetras. What should I do? <I would do nothing re these black spots... likely nothing to be concerned about...> All my fish are starting to get sick and I really want to keep them. Help me!! Yours Sincerely, Belinda Moreland <Do study, read a complete work on freshwater aquarium keeping... you will best serve yourself and your livestock by having a more complete picture of what is going on en toto in your small tanks. Bob Fenner>

PH in water Mr. Fenner, I have a 20 gal tank that I started about 2 weeks ago. I set up the tank (used tap water and treated) and let it run for a week w/out fish. On Sunday, 8/5/01, I introduced 2 tiger barbs and 2 gold barbs. Just before I introduced the fish, the water began to cloud up. I thought it was the level of the ph (7.6). My questions are: 1. Is 7.6ph safe for a tank and what fish will do well? <This pH should be fine for your barbs> 2. What could be causing the cloudiness? <Very likely this is a "population explosion" of microbes... common when a tank starts off sterile... as in all new. Do take care not to overfeed, and monitor ammonia, nitrite if you can during this "break-in" period> 3. When would be a good time to introduce other fish and add plants to the tank? <After the cloudiness is gone... likely in a week or two. Please do use our site: www.WetWebMedia.com for more input. Be chatting, Bob Fenner> Thank-you for your time. Scott Re: PH in water What other types of fish could I introduce to the tank? <A very large selection... but do take care to check on their compatibility and average maximum size... the Rasboras, Danios, larger livebearers, perhaps some of the medium size/temperament gouramis, loaches, many, many catfishes... Take a look on our site under livestock selection and the various groups surveyed. Bob Fenner>

HELP! (concerns about high pH, use of muriatic (?) acid) hi This is Bonnie Vest I would like to ask you a question is it safe to put food grade neorotic <Muriatic> acid in my freshwater tank to lower the ph and possibly clear the tank up?? <Think your spelling is off... but no to using this likely inorganic acid... unless it is very dilute and you absolutely understand what you're doing (particularly the relationship of alkalinity/alkaline reserve and pH, and have test kits for the former... very easy to get into trouble here. Unless you have livestock that requires a water of a pH outside this range, I would just wait, and your pH will drop in time.> My tank is very cloudy and the ph stays @ 7.4 & higher I need help Please!! <Take a read through the materials on "pH, alkalinity" on the freshwater part of our site (WetWebMedia.com) and read through the associated FAQs file... locate a bit of live plant as proscribed there, and relax... If set-up properly, your system will clear on its own soon enough. Bob Fenner> Thanks again Bonnie M. vest

Re: HELP! (concerns about high pH, use of muriatic (?) acid) we have had our tank since January and the ph has stayed high and the tank cloudy are you sure there is nothing we can do to keep at least the cloudiness down?? <Hmm, all sorts... what sort of system is this? What filtration, substrate? Livestock? What do you feed? Is your tapwater cloudy right out of the source? What if anything do you treat it with before using? What is your maintenance routine? There are definite reasons for your system to be "out of balance" and easy ways for you to correct it. I will help you. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater pH, alkalinity Hello, <Hi there> I have a new tank and I filled the 20 gallon tank with tap water and then I tested the water to try and get it right before getting any fish. My question is, the PH level is high and I have tested it for a week and put the chemical from the test kit which is PH Down for the amount that the bottle says, so finally my question is that how do I get the PH down if this chemical is not working?  <A few possibilities... there are commercial products that will bring and even hold the pH down to about where you may want it... Please read over the "pH, alkalinity and you" section on the "Freshwater Index" on our site: www.WetWebMedia.com here. If the pH isn't too terribly high (along with alkaline reserve) I would likely place some tolerant live plant material ahead of the fishes... Suggestion re this can be found on the site as well> The PH is still where it was a week ago, so do I just keep testing and putting that PH Down in? Can you help? <You will understand the relationship between alkalinity and pH soon... do have your water tested for the former to ascertain just how much resistance to lowering pH you're likely to continue to encounter. Look into livestock that enjoys your particular water chemistry or endeavor to change it simply and inexpensively... like by blending with some reverse osmosis water. Bob Fenner> Best Regards, Mike Coleman

PH levels a rising! Hi Bob, I've just started my first freshwater aquarium.  <Welcome to our ever-fascinating hobby> I bought a 55 gal used tank, it came with a Hot Magnum and I bought a Python BioWheel setup, (I was advised by the man at the fish store to run the carbon filter in the hot magnum, not the other filter is this correct??) <Yes, this will do> a friend who has had a freshwater tank for years gave me her bio-wheel to get "things started."  <Good idea> I first added 20 Neons, they did great so then a week or so later added a dozen cardinals, the third week I added 3-4 types of various tetras (equaling another dozen fish) and 2 clown fish and a couple of guppies. For about 10 days everyone was happy--- then it happened--- the PH shot up to 9.0... it had been between 7.0 and 7.2 up until then, my ammonia and nitrates are still fine. I did a 1/2 water change and nothing changed over then next 2 days, then the Neons and cardinal fish began dying! <Yes... they don't "like" high pH nor sudden changes in same...> I went to the fish store, took in a water sample and they concluded that my ph was 9.0 and they told me I needed a tap water purifier... so I bought one and did another water change to 1/2 the tank. This dropped the ph to 8.0. The fish at this point were dying in front of my eyes--- long story short I've lost almost all of the fish and know if I do another water change I'll shock the few I have left to "death." I have a couple of guppies and 2-3 tetra's left and that's it... What do I do... I added PH neutralizer yesterday and am now down at about 7.4... another person has told me I should add tetracycline to the tank "just incase"...????? <I would leave off with antibiotics, any other "medicines" at this point... not likely to do any good, maybe some bad... > Thanks for your help, I read your articles several times a week and have learned a ton from you. Keep up the good work. Us fish novices really appreciate you! Deb <You're certainly welcome, and will do... Am curious as to the "why" of your sudden jump in pH... Do you have materials (rocks, gravel, decor...) in the system that might have dissolved in the water and changed your water chemistry? Did you initially add "something" to your water to drive, keep the pH lower? What does the water "right out of your tap" (before doing anything, running it through your purifier...) measure out as in terms of pH? Do you have an alkalinity test kit or would your fish store be so kind as to test your source water? We should investigate these matters and come to a "best approach" for you to treat your water now and ongoing... In the meanwhile, please just keep the few fishes you have going... and we'll chat as your system settles in. Bob Fenner>

Re: PH levels a rising! <You're certainly welcome, and will do... Am curious as to the "why" of your sudden jump in pH... Me to... I have 6 plastic plants and 2 live plants, 4 of the six plastic ones came with the tank when I bought it, I also have gravel, that also came with he tank, we washed it really good before setting up my tank. I added a fake rock to my tank  <This "fake rock" may be trouble... would pull it, put in into some pH near-neutral water and let it soak for a few days, re-test the water it's in...> and two additional plastic plants about a week before things went wrong. Do you have materials (rocks, gravel, decor...) in the system that might have dissolved in the water and changed your water chemistry? Did you initially add "something" to your water to drive, keep the pH lower? No, other than dechlorinator... What does the water "right out of your tap" (before doing anything, running it through your purifier...) measure out as in terms of pH? It's a perfect 7.0 Do you have an alkalinity test kit or would your fish store be so kind as to test your source water? I have one and have been testing daily... that's how I noticed the spike, it literally went from 7.0 to 9.0 is a day. <Hmm, no... this is not pH but a measure of resistance from change in pH... Please read over the section "Alkalinity, pH" and related water quality areas and FAQs on our site here: www.WetWebMedia.com... something/s adding to the alkaline reserve in your system... very readily... We need to find and remove this nefarious influence ASAP> When I added the rock and plants I just washed them off with warm water do you think I should remove them and bleach them or something? <Not the plants but the gravel perhaps... Do you know what type this is? Is it "white" colored, chalky? Does it give off powdery dust when washed, moved? And the fake rock... and any other questionable decor (like coral, shells... What is in there? A simple "spot test" with a dilute, weak acid (like vinegar/acetic) put on a dry (out of the tank of course) part of these materials will likely reveal the culprit/s through foaming (an acid/base reaction). Bob Fenner>

High pH, alkalinity, and calcium Bob, We have a 20 gallon freshwater tank with cichlids. WE are trying to move them into a 46 gallon tank. The water in the new tank has been set up for almost 3 weeks and the ammonia and nitrite levels are fine. The problem lies with the pH, Alk, and Calcium. We cannot get the levels down. WE have tried water changes, proper pH, pH down, and water conditioner. We have been adding bacteria daily, and put trace elements, cichlid salt, and gravel from the old tank. The pet store said to get feeder fish to get the cycle going, they have been in there a week (only 4 have died) and no change in any levels. We have tested the tap water and the levels are not nearly as high as in the tank. What should we try next? We are becoming quite frustrated. Thanks, Jennifer <Many things to relate to you here... but do need to know more specifics... as you can appreciate I have no idea what sorts of cichlids you have (some enjoy very hard, alkaline, high pH water...), nor what your readings are for pH, Alk, and calcium... By and large however, I will tell you that systems tend toward acidity (they're reductive environments due to crowding, over-feeding in a small volume...) and so pH trends down... Your water may not be that unfavorable is what I'm trying to say... Get back to me with what your actual readings are, your type of cichlid fishes... Re the feeder use... not a good idea... very often these Comet Goldfish have parasite problems that they transfer to a new system... Next time, just some food sans fishes, or a bunch of live plants, used gravel, used filter media... Bob Fenner, www.WetWebMedia.com>

29g FW Tank...pH=6.2 Bob, Hi, looking for some advice from the pro. I have a 29g FW tank that is experiencing drops in the ph, to about 6.2.  <Perhaps your water is alkaline/reserve deficient...> My tank was overgrown about 3 weeks ago with sword-like plants, they were just too big with all of my fish. I now have 2 smaller species of sword plants, some water sprite and a very small green and red leafed plant, sorry don't know the names of them.  <Ah, these plants are using carbonates... lowering pH, and adjusting your water to their desires> I have a heavy bio-load in the tank, but that hasn't changed for several months, but to inform you I will list them: 2 Opaline Gourami's, 1 clown loach, 2 long-finned rosy barbs, 5 small Corydoras catfish, 4 serpae tetras, 1 small plecostomus, 1 Otocinclus, 3 zebra-striped Danios, 4 neon tetras, and 1 Betta. All the fish SEEM to get along fine, the catfish and loach usually camp out under a small African driftwood piece, the others are usually out swimming around. Here lately, the fish are a little shy, I checked the ph about 1 week ago and it was 6.2, I initiated several water changes over the last week and the ph keeps hanging around 6.2 to 6.4. <Would nudge the pH slightly up... nearer 7.0 would be fine for all your livestock... with simple additions of dissolved baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)... about a teaspoon per trial (daily at most, weekly, with water changes ideal) Filtration consists of a Penguin 330 BioWheel and a Penguin Mini BioWheel. Temperature is 76 degrees. Ammonia is 0.25 today, was 0 last week before the water changes.  <Stop all feeding till the ammonia is back at zero> I wonder if I need to decrease the fish population?  <Perhaps... but if you enjoy it as is... I would not add more fishes> I also wondered if an oxygen bubbler or additional circulation, ie powerheads would help.  <The plants wouldn't like aeration much... but do encourage you to get/use either an internal power/sponge filter, or a small canister type...> The tank is lit with a 55w Britelight by CSL. My wife and I are attached to these guys and don't want to lose any of them due to poor care-taking by me. Suggestions would be very appreciated. Thanks, <I understand, and am here to assist you. Do the suggestions above make sense? Do consider them, and get back with me if not, or you seek elaboration. Bob Fenner> David Bayne

pH Problem? WE HAVE A 10 GALLON TANK AND MY PH IS ALL SCREWED UP! I HAVE THE TESTER KITS AND THE PH IS COMING UP HIGH LEVELS OF ACID....I'VE PUT THOSE CHEMICALS TO BRING IT TO A SAFE LEVEL, BUT NOTHING HELPS! WE HAVE ABOUT 9 FISH AND 1 GOLDFISH.....ANY IDEAS OF WHAT KEEPS CAUSING THIS? ANY WAY TO REMEDY THIS? <Could be that your tapwater is the root of the problem here... but I would offer you some cautionary remarks... If your livestock is doing fine, don't fool with your pH too much, too fast... If you'd like to elevate it (the pH), do consider using small amounts of simple baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)... a teaspoon per ten gallons per day maximum... dissolved in some of the system water and poured in around the tank top... Do you understand the relationship between pH and acidity/alkalinity? You should be measuring the latter value(s) as well... to ascertain the buffering capacity of your water... lest you accidentally use up the buffer in your system and cause a sudden (toxic) shift in your system's pH... Bob Fenner>

high ammonia level and ph.  the 20 gallon tank,(the first one)the only thing wrong with it, is the ph, and  it is real high. the 10 gallon tank,(the new one)has a kind of high ammonia  level, about half way of the scale. the ph in that one is ok. this is where i > stand.  Jeff. <Once again, your subjective evaluation of what is "high" escapes my understanding... What is the actual reading? Bob Fenner, who asks you to please re-key or cut and paste the ongoing string  of our "conversations"> ok, first, i am new to computers, and i don't know how to do the cut and paste, i am sorry. but the test kit i have is made by aquarium pharmaceuticals, inc.(the scale is theirs if it makes a difference).the ph factor is about 8.4 and should be 7.4(the scale runs from 7.4 to 8.8).does this give you the information you need? <Ah good... and don't worry re the computer issue ( we're here to help each other learn as we go along) or the Aq. Pharm test kit... it's accurate and precise enough.  Now, let me be of some assistance re the pH and why I am so concerned. Elevated pHs are problematical for a few reasons. Most importantly for their link to higher toxicity of metabolites... like the principal waste of fishes, invertebrates: ammonia... Just as important to the actual pH is how much it vacillates... you don't want pH to shift or to shift it too much, too fast... this is why folks who want to change their pH need to know the alkalinity (resistance to change) of their water... two identical pH systems can be very different to change due to this buffering capacity... chemicals in solution (and often the gravel, rock decor...) that affect the waters chemistry. So, if you're going to change your pH (not necessarily advised, or a good idea, see below), you should get/use an alkalinity test kit... And the question of whether to do this... What sorts of livestock do you have? Many types have a preference for more basic or acidic water, but most have a tolerance for a range of pH... need to know what sorts you have.  As your tank ages, the pH will tend to drift lower... as many of the processes in crowded, relatively overfed (compared to the wild) aquariums are reductive: acidic in nature... You can easily counterbalance these effects by frequent partial water changes as part of your regular maintenance routine. If you still have measurable ammonia, nitrites, hold off on feeding your livestock... they won't starve, and the lower ammonia, nitrite may save their lives. Bob Fenner, who says there are articles on all this new terminology and concepts for both freshwater and marine systems stored at www.wetwebmedia. com under the marine and freshwater indices.>

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