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Discussion Starter #1
I have a slowly declining PH in my tank and I'm wondering why. It's a 55g community with plants, lots of fish, etc (look at my pics). It seems to be slowly dropping about 0.1 to 0.2 per week or so, starting out a month ago around 7.2 and now it seems to be below 7, almost 6.8. It's almost unnoticable, but I keep track of test results on a spreadsheet.

My municipal water PH is high - just tested 1/2 day old water sitting in a bucket in prep for a water change and the ph was off the scale using my API high PH test kit - which goes to 8.8. I've been using this water for my water changes (but not testing it prior to changes until now) which I do 10% every 2 to 3 days. My tank PH started out higher, I think it was closer to 8 after I filled it and let it run for a few days. At that time, I added Perfect PH 7.0 which didn't lower it to 7.0, but brought it down. But I've done a ton of changes since then (one 30%, and at least 10x10%) so that shouldn't matter.

So how can my PH be dropping if the water I keep adding is 2 points higher?

About 2-3 weeks ago I added 1 tsp API aquarium salt per gallon to the tank, and have been added 1tsp/gal to the new water during changes so it should be at that level system wide. Does salinity affect any of the API tests? Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, low/high PH?
 

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I would do a 'bucket' test for 24 hours instead of 8 so any PH that is going to 'air off' has a chance to. Since you are seeing 2pt PH swing I would think Aging your water would be a better solution. (let it set un covered for 24 hours and let the ph drop so you dont have a ph swing in your tank before adding it)

How much water do you change and how often? Until you get a grip on what your PH truly is I wouldn't be adding anything to adjust it or buffer it. These products tend to hide problems instead of correct them...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
How much water do you change and how often? Until you get a grip on what your PH truly is I wouldn't be adding anything to adjust it or buffer it. These products tend to hide problems instead of correct them...
I agree with the buffer issue - I didn't really think about it much at the time, but the original water is mostly changed out by now - won't be doing that again.

The pH started at around 7.5/7.4 (1/11), after 2 weeks was down to 7.2 (1/16). Around that time I added a piece of driftwood I had been soaking for a few weeks and then it dropped to 7.0 (1/19), stayed there for at least 10 days (1/27), now it seems to be at 6.8 (2/3), depending on how you read the test I guess. I have heard that driftwood tends to lower pH over time - could that be the case?

I do a 10% water change every other day regularly. I've let it go 4 days as of now since the water I had sitting got contaminated - wife sprayed something on some clothes in the laundry room right over the bucket!! So now I've got 2 buckets aging, I usually let it sit for 48 hours but occasionally have gone right from the tap or 24 hours (after treating, of course).

The tank has been set up for just over a month, jump cycled with dirty water, no spikes, no ammonia, no nitrates (thanks to plants). Nitrates steady around 10-20ppm, I use a Magnum w/diatom every so often (3-4 weeks) and test all levels at least once a week, usually more often at least right now.

Since you asked about getting a grip on pH, what is the proper way to read the tests for all chemicals? I use the API Master kit, when it's ready to read, I stand by a floor lamp, hold the card slightly off horizontal off to the side of the light, and hold the tube above it about 1cm away so I can see the color through the light reflected off the white part of the card. If you hold it right on the card, it's several shades darker. The local store told me to just use normal room light, set it on the card on the table and judge it that way. What is right or wrong?
 

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A drop in Ph can be caused by poor water quality.... you stated that you do a 10% water change every 3 days, you could do a 40% WC once a week and gravel vac the in 4 sections a different section every week. Cna you give a complete water perameters and list of fish you have in the tank as will as the number of fish.
 

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Agreed DJ. 'Old Tank Syndrome" is what it sounds like... Especially if the poster is using an UGF system..

CLINIC pictures by bad_boys_dixie_toy - Photobucket For what an UGF system looks like when it is pulled out of a tank. Notice the globs of things on the bottom? The layers of sludge in the gravel?

I just hold mine against the card and read it in good lighting... Nitrates should be kept under 20ppm.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
5 Platies
3 Mollies
3 Guppies
5 Neon Tetras
2 Barbs (around 2")
2 Gouramis (1 dwarf flame 2", 1 opaline 1")
2 Danios (small)
1 Scissortail Rasbora
1 Black skirt tetra 1"
1 Redeye tetra 1"
1 rainbow shark
3 Sworftails (painted 2", pineapple 1.5", mickey mouse 1"+)

I gravel vac at least 25% with each change, the kids like to feed the fish and they're little piggies (the fish, that is) so I do that to stave off the effects of possible overfeeding. The shark is a good cleaner though and the food almost never makes it to the bottom. We feed about 4-5 times a day and I tell them "if it looks like it too much, it is, and if it looks like it's not enough, that's ok". My philosophy is a hungry fish is a healthy fish. I also give them a little chunk of frozen brine shrimp once a day, thawed and rinsed so as not to foul the tank.

PS just tested again:

pH 6.8 to 7.0 depending on how you read it
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate 10, maybe 15
 

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I think you are feeding wayyyyyyy too much! One time a day is very sufficient for most fishes even every other day. 4-5 times a day unless youre feeding fry is way too much.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Agreed DJ. 'Old Tank Syndrome" is what it sounds like... Especially if the poster is using an UGF system..

CLINIC pictures by bad_boys_dixie_toy - Photobucket For what an UGF system looks like when it is pulled out of a tank. Notice the globs of things on the bottom? The layers of sludge in the gravel?

I just hold mine against the card and read it in good lighting... Nitrates should be kept under 20ppm.
How can it be old tank syndrome if the tank is 1 month old, and I do 10% every other day?

If I hold the tube right against the card, it reads 2 colors higher. There's gotta be a right and a wrong way...
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I think you are feeding wayyyyyyy too much! One time a day is very sufficient for most fishes even every other day. 4-5 times a day unless youre feeding fry is way too much.
I would agree with you if I was feeding them so much that it took them 3 minutes to clear the food, and a lot went uneaten. I have read in several places that feeding several smaller meals a day is better than 1 big meal, because less food per feeding means less uneaten food makes it to the bottom.

I have been closely watching my feedings and the kids' feedings, and the food is literally 100% gone in less than 30 seconds, and minuscule amounts make it to the gravel bed. Like I said, they're little piggies. And though they may excrete more waste, I make up for it in water changes & extra vacuuming.

Or am I completely off base?
 

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You are only changing 5.5 gallons (10% of 55g give or take) every water change Every other day. If you change 5.5 gallons of water 3xs a week your're changing out less than 20g of water a week. Not even half of the tank water. I personally wouldn't even bother with that small of a water change. I generally do between 50 and 75% 2xs a week on my Oscar tanks. I closely match temps, unplug filters, and de-chlorinate with prime. (I also use a PYthon water change system...) I should also mention that my PH swing is no-where near what yours is.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I personally wouldn't even bother with that small of a water change. I generally do between 50 and 75% 2xs a week on my Oscar tanks.
I guess that depends on your philosophy. I've heard that Oscars are very dirty fish, so yeah, you would have to do a larger change, but I guess I don't understand the need to do such a drastic change if the tank just isn't that dirty, and the chemical levels aren't dangerous - which is why I vacuum the gravel more often - keeps it clean and keeps the gunk from making it's way under the filter plate. Of course, there is the 'toilet' philosophy - fish are essentially swimming in a toilet...gotta flush sometime...But the pH issue...

I should also mention that my PH swing is no-where near what yours is.
Are you referring to the pH drop from 7.4/7.5 down to 6.8/7.0 in 6 weeks, or the fact that my fresh-from-the-tap pH is over 8.8 (deep purple on the API High pH card)? The tap pH is my biggest concern. I will be posting 48hr pH in...about 24 hours!!
 

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Even people that I know that do not have Oscars do 40-50% once a week on a standard 55g tank with normal stocking. Personal preference of where they prefer their Nitrates to sit. The tank has been set up for just over a month, jump cycled with dirty water, no spikes, no ammonia, no nitrates (thanks to plants). Nitrates steady around 10-20ppm.

It is widely accepted that Nitrates should not be over 20PPM between water changes and should not exceed 20ppm ever.


Yes, I mean from where your PH comes from the tap to the Tank then settles.. Mine comes out of the tap at 7.0 and settles around 6.8.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thank for all the info HeatherM it is appreciated. Like I said, I've been on and off for 20 years, but I've never really bothered to pay attention to chemical levels, just kind of did everything by the seat of my pants (at least that's what I remember).

So 20ppm on Nitrates, goo to know. I had heard in other places that you shouldn't let it exceed 50ppm, I suppose that would be lethal over 50 and keeping under 20 is going to keep the stress down. I may have to boost up my water change schedule.

That brings me to the pH issue again. Just tested my 36+ hour and 36 hour buckets, they're both around 8.4/8.8 - still that deep purple, just not quite as deep as before. If I have to let water age this long or longer to get the pH down, I'm going to have buckets of water sitting all over the house, and the wife is not going to like that. I'm wondering if I should just start doing water changes out of the tap and let the pH slowly acclimate upwards, then I can start doing larger changes so there's not so much of a pH swing during the change. This stinks!!

I might have to get another tank and stick it in the basement and use it as a reservoir tank.

What would you do?
 

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How deep is your substrate?

The 180g I took over maintenance on had UGF and a PH like 6.8 ad the water comes out of the tap at 7.5. Soon as we did a thorough clean and took the UGF out and put good filters on the PH leveled off and has stayed for a week. Sounds like you need to do 10% daily changes for 4 to 5 days then bump it to 20-25% for another 4-5 days to get the PH adjusted and start doing 50% or more twice every week and don't use any buffer to it. You DO NOT want to rush into doiing large changes right now. Slow but steady in getting them adjusted to more ph. When you do WCS vaccumme the whole talk well. You aren't going to suck your beneficial bacteria all to crap. Clean it good!! BB (Beneficial bacteria) grows on every surface of your tank and gravel. I would also recommend a Canister Filter. I use the Rena series and love them. If these are out of your budget a couple Hang On Backs will do wonders for your aquarium. I use a canister plus a HOB oon all of my tanks.

What is in BOLD Is what I would do on a COMPLETELY CYCLED Tank. Yours is not... (As the mod has kindly pointed out... I had a dumb moment)
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Yes, my tank had completely cycled. Check out my post yesterday 2:42pm. I jump cycled it by dumping (very) dirty water from a squeezed out sponge filter on the second or third day I had it set up, all chemical levels have leveled off within a few days and it is steady at 0 ammonia/0 nitrites and I was testing every other day for about 3 weeks. There hasn't even been a minor spike in ammonia/nitrite when I added a bunch of fish last weekend.

That being said, I think I'll still wait a few more weeks before starting to modify my cleaning schedule, just to make sure I have good solid BB community. I'm pretty sure there already is one, but it never hurts to be safe. Plus it will allow me to further monitor the tap pH to see if it varies from week to week.

So it sounds like your pH can be affected by the type of filtration method you use, is that true and why if you don't mind expanding on your thoughts on that.

Thanks!!
 

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Multiple small WC's are better than single large WC's unless you are having a tank crash then do large WC's. Old tank syndrome, CO2 and your Drift Wood can all cause a PH drop. I would never vaccume the entire substrate at one time but do just a quater of it at a time so you dont remove too much of the BB in your tank. Try running an air stone in your tank and see if that will raise your PH at all.
 

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I agree with you archer.... small moves are best.... he was over feeding and the water quailty dropped, but he only been running for a month. so he has been changing the water daily at 10%...myself I would do a 35% WC without vacuming, and the air stone. Feed only one time a day. Than I would start a weekly schedule where I vacume one section of four each week while doing a 20% WC. Let the tank finish cycling and see where I was at in a month. As long as the levels don't raise up, you fish should be ok. If they do start to raise up do a 10% WC without vacuming.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Ihe was over feeding and the water quailty dropped
DJ, there hasn't been a water quality drop - that wasn't the reason for my post. I was questioning why the pH would slowly decline over time. I don't have high ammonia or nitrites, and nitrates are relatively steady, not at a dangerous level at all.

I think archer hit the main point that driftwood would cause a pH drop. Ironically, I added the driftwood to attempt to lower the pH instead of using a buffer after I determined that the tap pH was so high.

I don't use CO2, so that's not it, I just let the fish breathe it out and the plants - anacharis, cabomba, vallisneris, echinodorus, wisteria (look at pics) breathe it in. I don't want to put an airstone in there, because that would get rid of all the CO2, but that brings up an interesting question, why would running an airstone raise the pH?

But could the pH dropping slowly be related to an incomplete cycle?

I've noticed in a couple of recent posts that you state that even though a tank cycle process is jump started, it still takes 6 weeks to complete. I'm assuming that mean that even though the bacteria added effectively takes care of any spiking in the cycle process, it still takes time for a sufficient colony of 'sticky' BB to grow & adhere to the glass/plants/substrate. I am currently at the end of week 5.

As for overfeeding, I guess that's still up in the air in my mind - like I stated in a previous post, I have read in several places that several smaller feedings throughout the day instead of one main feeding daily will help maintain better water quality. I feed them no more than they can eat in 30 seconds, and no food goes uneaten. Most of the time, it hardly makes it 1/2 way to the bottom.

I also remember from 20 years ago that someone told me that you can't really overfeed a fish, but you can definitely overfeed a tank - and what that meant was that you should not feed the fish so much that uneaten food makes it to the bottom and decomposes before getting eaten.

So is that an incorrect statement/philosophy after all?

How deep is your substrate?
3 inches of gravel (see my pics)
 
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