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Hey chem people...
Badmans Tropical Fish Message Center:
Tank health and maintenance: Hey chem people...
January 06, 2002 - 01:05 am
I've been noticing a lot of "my pH shot up"
questions lately, and after coming back from break, I noticed
the same thing with my tap water. Good thing I caught it
in time... I noticed a strong chlorine smell to the water
when it comes out of the faucet, and washing with it was
really drying my hands to the point where it hurt. I purify
my water before I put it in the tank anyway, but I'm
glad I checked... it went up from it's usual 7.0 pH
that is held in the summer to 9.0, and the hardness was
almost off the charts!
Well, I was wondering why they do this. I have a decent
understanding of chemistry and used to work in a biochem
lab. I know the chlorine is in the water to kill off bacteria...
but why the seasonal difference in the other minerals the
city adds to the tap water supply? Is this because the solutes
in the water will cause freezing point depression, making
it more difficult to freeze water in the pipes (same
reason they salt iced sidewalks)? Well, this is the
only thing I could think of, please get back to me with
Oh and before I go, just wanted to get on my soapbox one
last time and urge beginners not to use pH down acids to
lower their tank water drastically, when the hardness is
very high! This just won't work because the buffering
capacity will always cause pH to bounce back, and the flux
will hurt and possibly kill the life in the tank. I am lowering
it more naturally and slowly now with the aid of peat in
the filter, an ion exchange purification system, and I'm
in the process of buying an RO/DI system.
January 06, 2002 - 11:17 am
Pandora, thanks for stressing the use of pH chemicals again
for me. I have preached and preached this, but I guess a
lot of the folks first use it and "then" coming
looking for us when there are no results. This just cannot
be stressed enough, but the newbies take what the LPS people
tell them as gospel, and many times they just know what
the chemical is for, not that it will rarely gives you good
The differences in your water perimeters is a fairly easy
one to determine. Rainfall, or lack thereof, can cause the
differences. And if you have a period of excessive amounts,
the water company will increase the use of chemicals to
make the water safe for our drinking. The addition or deletion
of these chemicals can cause the pH and chlorine levels
to change. I have ongoing contact with my water department
(have a friend who works there who knows I keep fish),
and he is very good about notifying me if the water department
changes their usual practices on treating the water. Hope
this clears things up for you a little bit.
January 06, 2002 - 05:35 pm
pandora..I will agree with kick.. also,depending on your
city water source you can expect seasonal changes in your
water especially if your source is from streams,rivers and
reserviors..a decrease of hardness during high run-off like
spring.. and an increase in hardness is usually noticed
when your water is combined with surface and ground water
sources..sometimes these increases can be as big as you
noted..even deep wells which are usually pretty stable can
change when changing from old to new wells or one that has
been closed for a while..
January 08, 2002 - 10:37 pm
Hey thanks a lot you guys. That explains a lot. I guess
I never thought of municiple water like that, you know how
disconnected we city people are from where we get all our
more basic needs =P (You mean hamburger comes from a
cow and not the supermarket? Who knew!) I just never
even thought in detail about just where the water was coming
from, for some reason I had this picture in my mind of tap
water coming from huge purified storage reservoirs, who
knew where the original source was... manufactured molecule
by molecule? Ha!
That is weird, because we hadn't had much rainfall at
all in the time when my hardness shot up. I just had not
thought of the idea that there would be that much variation
in something I tend to take for granted... all this time
I thought city water would only change hardness and pH by
miniscule amounts, but I am definitely more vigilant these
January 09, 2002 - 12:46 pm
Newbie question: I have been using Proper pH to get my pH
up to 7.0 (it's very acid out of the well).
Is this a bad chemical thing or a good chemical thing? If
it's bad, how should I raise pH?
January 09, 2002 - 04:49 pm
Have you tried letting the water sit overnite with an airstone
running.? Lots of people with well water say lack of oxygenation
in deep wells causes false ph readings. Raising ph is not
as risky as lowering ph since it's the phosphate in
the down which really causes many problems. Also you don't
have to worry about losing the buffer when you are going
up! Please make sure you aren't getting a bad reading
or if you add the up you may end up with the ph too high!
Do the bucket test and let us know what the ph is afterwards...you
may not have to change it at all.
January 10, 2002 - 04:20 pm
Joe, it really depends, but I think you should try to exhaust
all other avenues before really trying to change your water,
unless you've had a few years of experience with fishkeeping
and water chemistry, and would like to breed. My opinion
anyway. It depends on just how acid your water is... what's
the pH when it comes right out of the well? Also, heed what
joyce is saying, I think that's a good point. pH will
change sometimes because of dissolved gases, although I
don't believe it has to do with oxygen level of the
water. I think it has more to do with dissolved gases which
can affect pH as they come out of solution... CO2 is a big
one (unrelated to amount of oxygen dissolved), for
example. In dissolved form, it is carbonic acid (also,
bicarbonate), which acidifies water. It is usually dissolved
when it is deep in the well because of greater pressure
there, but as it comes up, not only does the pressure decrease
at sea level, but also the increased temperature causes
the gas to come out of solution. When the gaseous CO2 dissipates,
the water can have a different pH... test it right when
it comes out, and then test it again the next day; let us
know what both values come out as, as joyce suggested.
January 11, 2002 - 10:50 am
Joyce and Pandora, the problem is that my water is more
acidic than my testing kit can register (it's a
mid-range kit and only begins to respond at 6.0-6.2),
so I have no idea how low the pH actually is. I've tried
letting the water stand, but the pH is still too low to
register. The testing kit I use outside on our soil registered
5.4 when we moved in five years ago (which explained
the almost total absence of grass in the yard) and it
takes hundreds of pounds of pelletized limestone every year
just to keep green stuff under foot. I'm told this is
normal soil conditions for this part of the country, especially
in the presence of oak trees (of which we have bunches--nice
shade, but lots of leaves and squirrels). So I am not
surprised at having acidic water. I would like to avoid
using the buffer, but do not presently have a workable alternative.
I did try using baking soda at first, but found the pH continued
to creep up and I was unable to control it. With the buffer,
at least I am getting a steady 6.8 to 7.0.
By the way, Joyce, your suggestion (made last year when
you were helping us with cycling problems) has just
been put into effect. We waited until after the first of
the year to allow our 10 gal. tank to finish cycling, then
moved the three Rasboras from the 5.5 gal. into the 10.
The 10 now has 3 Danios, 3 Rasboras, and two very small
Guppies. We have now added 2 small Corys to the 5.5, so
it now contains 5 fish (the Corys and 3 White Clouds).
This was your suggestion, and we're hoping this will
make a good mix for the little tank.
One of the Danios has proven too foul-tempered and generally
anti-social for a community tank, and the lps is going to
let me trade him in. Right now, the 10 has mostly upper
level fish, and I need to fill out the population with a
scavenger and mid- to low-level swimmers (to go with
the two Guppies). We're thinking of a Loach for
the scavenger--maybe a Clown, though the store currently
has some neat looking tiger-striped ones--and maybe a couple
of Cherry Barbs. My daugher is lobbying for a small frog
and painted Tetras (she knows the paint wears off, but
says that doesn't bother her). What would you folks
suggest to eventually complete the population of this tank?
And no, I've learned my lesson--I won't add them
all at once!
January 11, 2002 - 11:31 am
I have cherry barbs and they would make terrific mid water
swimmers for you tank. Actually mine really go mid to bottom
and don't really stay in one specific area. IMO the
loach is not a very good idea as the tank is small. I think
clowns do better in groups and usually get about six inches.
That would put your stocking load too high. The cherry barb
stay really small and cute. Corys are about the only scavengers
I would suggest for a 10 or 15 gallon tank.
January 11, 2002 - 11:36 am
Maybe Pandora has some suggestions on the water chem. I
do use a buffer in my Lake Malawi tank(costs a lot).
You might want to track the GH (general hardness of
your water) also as I don't think it's always
tied to the ph and kh.
January 11, 2002 - 10:07 pm
joe and joyce can I help here?..joe run this stuff by me
again..you are doing what and why to accomplish higher ph...
January 12, 2002 - 08:44 am
Yep please drop in and advise all you can Jeff. His water
from the well seems to have very low ph even though he has
done the aerate/bucket method before testing it. I think
Peter or somebody suggested aerating well water to get a
true ph reading about six months back. I'm not sure
where Joe is from and this is a strange problem since everyone
around here has to deal with high ph and hard water. I was
just curious as to the gh parameters because I thought Iboy
said on the West Coast USA he had strange readings on the
ph and gh(one being high the other low).
January 12, 2002 - 08:50 am
We are just a little concerned since the ph is so low it
is approaching acid. He thinks it may be below 6.0 since
it won't even register on the test kit.
January 12, 2002 - 06:58 pm
ok..joe firstly..you need to find out exactly what you are
dealing with..get a low ph test kit and also a KH/GH test
kit..you need to find out what is going on first before
moving on...well water can be a funny thing to play with..sometimes
raw organic material in the well can have a hugh effect
on what is going on..we can fix all the ph problems you
have but onle if you are way concerned about your particular
fish..a ph between 6-7 is no biggy...so get to the testing..first
right out of the well..then leave it in a bucket a few days
and test it again..also re-test the water in your tank get
back with those readings and we will see..OK.
January 12, 2002 - 10:15 pm
Yeah, I agree. Once you start messing with pH, you have
to establish a level that you can keep up, otherwise your
fish will be battling a pH fluctuation every time you change
or mess with the water... if you are not able to keep it
buffered at a certain level. I personally would look into
fish that do well in low pH, such as hatchetfish and neon
tetras, and stick with those. Some people dream all their
lives to get such a low pH, hehe, to breed fish such as
discus. Joe, have you ever heard of a product called Electroright?
Discus users use it to add some needed electrolytes to totally
deionized water, and it does have a buffering quality also.
But I would do as Jeff suggested, and see just what it is
you are dealing with, you don't want to be guessing
with something so important.
Lastly on why it is so low to begin with... that is very
rare in our country, because in almost every part of the
nation, either natural sources of dissolved minerals or
city additions to municiple water will usually cause it
to hover in the neutral range. My only guess as to why it
is so naturally low is that your well water has a high amount
of dissolved organic material in it?
January 14, 2002 - 03:31 am
Thanks everyone! I'm on my way out of town for a couple
of weeks (going back to school, if you can believe it)
and won't be able to mess with things for a bit. So
hang on, and don't be offended if I don't respond
for a bit. I'll try some of your suggestions when I
Jeff S, I am using Proper pH 7.0 to treat my water prior
to adding it to my two small tanks (5.5 and 10 gal).
The results have been outstanding from my beginner point
of view--a steady pH in both tanks of 7.0. Hearing all the
concerns Joyce, Pandora, Kick and others have on this site
about chems, I asked them if I was doing something wrong.
Pandora, so far what I am doing is working in that pH is
very steady at 7.0. I have White Clouds, Rasboras, Danios,
Cory Cats, and Guppies (not all in the same tank).
I live outside Richmond, Virginia, and the soil experts
in the local forestry office tell me acid soil is common
in this region, which is why logging is a major industry
here--acid soil is fantastic for trees. Anyway, the pH of
my water seems to correspond to the pH of the soil it comes
out of. But when I get back in a couple of weeks, I'll
look for a lower range test kit and see what's up in
the well. Or maybe I can send a sample in through the local
farm bureau--they have a testing arrangement with Virginia
Tech in Blacksburg.
Anyway, folks, I'm heading out the door, so please don't
think I'm ignoring your advice if I don't get back
with you real quick. For the next two weeks, I'm living
in a dorm and eating in a dining hall and going to classes.
Don't that sound like fun???? My daughter's got
January 15, 2002 - 02:36 am
Ahh, that explains things. I would actually count yourself
as lucky... having water which is fairly soft makes some
things easier... for example, you won't have the hard
water deposits that others battle; and if you decide to
grow live plants later, it will be easier.
Hey, Joe, you are probably gone right now, but when you
get back, I've got a suggestion for you. While you are
waiting to find a good low pH water test kit for sale, there's
a free one being offered online... I got one for myself,
and it was great. It's a free water kit really made
for drinking water, actually, but has 6 one-shot water testers
for things like pH (wide range), hardness, iron,
chlorine, nitrite, ammonia. This goes for any beginner actually...
it's just a promotion for a water company, and just
a sample, but still free and fun to try:
PS: Just make sure your daughter follows your directions
carefully! Well-meaning pet sitters can sometimes overfeed
January 15, 2002 - 06:27 pm
Pandora, I just checked the site on the university's
computers and saw your message. Thanks!!! I'll check
out the test kits. I think my daughter will do okay--at
15, she's pretty understanding of what's up with
the fish, and one of the tanks is hers (and in her room).
January 17, 2002 - 08:50 pm
MESSAGE TO ALL BEGINNERS
Free chem test kits at that site I linked, just thought
it would be useful for anyone who wants a starter sample
kit, before they invest in a real one (though I strongly
suggest you still buy one for the long term health of your
tank... but it's nice to have something to tide you
over that's FREE)
Joe, good luck, hope it works out for you.
January 31, 2002 - 12:28 am
Okay, I'm back from school and have ordered the free
test kit. Next time I'm in town and have a chance I'll
look into a lower range test kit. For now, all the fish
seem happy and pH is steady at 7.0.
January 31, 2002 - 06:46 am
Hi Joe and welcome back.
January 31, 2002 - 11:11 pm
Thanks! Glad to be back. I haven't lived in a dormitory
for nearly 30 years, and I don't recall the showers
being quite that small!
February 02, 2002 - 10:20 am
Great Joe! Hope it works out for you... your pH sounds good
and hopefully your other test results are good too. Good
luck in school! It's hard for people going back to school
as adults (my mom did the same thing), so I congratulate
you on this next step in your life... I think the dorm showers
have shrunken, too, even since I was last there, and that
wasn't too many years ago!
March 01, 2002 - 12:10 am
My water also is very acidic with almost no KH or GH. Is
there anything I can buffer my water with except chemicals
from a pet shop? Thanks, Gilbert.
March 01, 2002 - 11:05 am
How acidic and what kh or gh? Many people think the water
is too acidic when it is actually fine for many fish. Is
your water well? You can get a false reading on well water
until it sits overnight with aereation. Baking soda raises
ph, epsom salts can increase hardness, but it is very difficult
to play around with water chemistry unless you do a lot
of research. Actually your buffer from the pet store may
be a safer idea if you are sure your reading is correct.
If you have city water call and check the test for accuracy.
March 01, 2002 - 04:40 pm
My PH is about 6.4 straight out of the tap and after a short
time it drops lower than my test kit can read. The carbonate
hardness is less than 1 degree and the general hardness
is less than 1 degree. I have city water and it has been
this way for years. I called the water department a few
years back and no one knew what I was talking about. I live
in a small town in TN. I have kept fish for years and my
ph drops drastically evev with weekly water changes.
March 02, 2002 - 04:30 am
gilbert...without getting into a way bunch of water chem....you
have zero buffering ability in your soft water...hence you
ph problems...what are you tyring to do as in fish keeping
that you cannot adjust for?...heck we can play chem lab
forever but why?...unless you have specific reasons and
knowledge of what will occur then adjust your type of fish
to your your water type first..
March 02, 2002 - 10:48 am
I agree with Jeff if you've kept fish for years in this
water why worry now?