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I have a 55 gal tank that has been set up for 2 years. I initially tried to get the PH to 7.0, but it would never go there no matter what I did. I didn’t want to make my tank a chemical soup. I have done my water changes every couple of weeks, only feed fish once a day. About 6 months ago I added live plants. Now I get algae blooms.

So I began testing the water again. I don’t have a KH/GH kit yet. After 24 hrs of letting it sit, my tap water tested this way with quick dip test strips: Nitrite 0, Nitrate 0, Total Hardness 25, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 40, PH 6.8. After 48 ours of letting it sit the readings became Nitrite .5, Nitrate 20, Total Hardness 0, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 80, PH 6.2.

I tested my tank water for a few days with the following results:

Day 1 (test strips) – Nitrate 20, Nitrite .5, Hardness 300, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 0, PH 6.2

Day 2 (test strips) – Nitrate 20, Nitrite .5, Hardness 150, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 0, PH 6.2

Day 2 (test tubes) – Nitrate 0, Nitrite 0, PH 6.0, Phosphate 10

At this point I added some PH up. After 24 hrs the results were:

Day 3 (test strips) – Nitrate 0, Nitrite .5, Hardness 150, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 40, PH 6.2

Day 4 (test strips) – Nitrate 20, Nitrite .5, Hardness 150, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 40, PH 6.2

Here I did a 12% water change and vacuumed the gravel. After 24 hours the results were:

Day 5 (test strips) – Nitrate 20, Nitrite .5, Hardness 300, Chlorine 0, Alkalinity 0, PH 6.2

Day 5 (test tubes) – Nitrate 0, Nitrite 0, PH 6.0, Phosphate 10, Ammonia .25

Can anyone suggest why my tank water is hard if my tap water isn’t? Is there anything I can do for the PH? Any other suggestions would be helpful. I read the forums on water chemistry, but somethings not right with mine.

I stock mollies, swordtails, gouramis, danios, plecos, tigerbarbs. I added a red tail shark recently and he died.

Thanks for any help you can provide.
 

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the high ammonia may be because the tank is overstocked, high phosphate is caused by overfeeding. for pH, u can add some crushed coral to the filter. hardness may be because of substrate, or something to do with the filter or tank decor.
 

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Can anyone suggest why my tank water is hard if my tap water isn’t? Is there anything I can do for the PH? Any other suggestions would be helpful. I read the forums on water chemistry, but somethings not right with mine.
Does the tank water collect in a concrete tank? They can raise hardness.

The strip tests are not completely accurate and can give false readings, you would be far better using the chemical type tests...
 

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UPDATE: Nitrites, Nitrates, Ammonia all test at 0 ppm. PH is still 6.0, Phosphate 10. I tested KH and GH and it came out to be KH = 6 degrees dkh and Gh = 12+ degrees dgh.

I tried water softener pillow, but maybe I have too much volume. It didn't work. If I have hard water why is it acidic (according to PH)
 

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1.) What kind of water conditioner are you using for your tap?

2.) Test strips are ok at giving you a yes or no answer like Nitrites 0 or not 0...not very accurate at exact ppm. I see that you do have test tube data for day 2 and 5. I would believe those results over the strips....especially the nitrates and pH.

3.) How many plants do you have, what kind of lights, and how long do you keep them on? Are the plants healthy or dying/covered in algae?

Not that you really need to adjust the pH for most fish but if you are still wanting to adjust it you need to "buffer" the water. Simply addind a pH up or down is not recommended. Your pH up might also be your source of phosphates. Phosphates over 1-2ppm can lead to algae blooms.

Your kH is good so you should not see to much fluctuaion in pH once you get it set. I use Seakem's acid buffer and alkaline buffer in combination to get my pH to a specific number. The combo buffers your pH and it does not contain phosphates.

Test the kH and GH of your tap. This will really help us!

My guess is that your tank's GH is higher because of natural evaporation and you just top it off with more tap water. So it keeps getting harder since metals don't evaporate. You also seem to do fairly small water changes (12%). If you do larger water changes every week at 25%-50% the GH in your tank should be closer to that of your tap. If your tap turns out to be just as high, then you are stuck unless you want to use DI or distilled water. A high GH is not really bad though.
 

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Two different types of hardness being talked about here. One is concentration of Calcium and the other is pH. They really have nothing to do with each other. The one to be really concerned about is the pH moreso than the other one. The Hardness of the water can be quite high (mine runs off the scale over 300 all the time) and the fish can adapt to it quite nicely and the inverts usually love it to be high like that as it is very good for them. The pH on the other hand can be problematic if you have delicate or not very tolerant fish. The levels you have are quite low and I wonder, do you have any driftwood or anything like that in your tank? That can seriously lower your levels. You could get and populate your tank with fish that do very well with this level and do fine and there are those that would but there are also some that would not. It just depends on what you are setting the tank up for.

Chemically your water is fine for a type of fish, but not for all types of fish. Please do resist the temptation to try to "regulate" your pH chemically or artificially though as even with the best of the buffers, a small deviation can be fatal or at the very least dreadfully harmful to a whole tank and you may suffer a loss of many fish. One more thing, I would remove the "Water Softener Pillow" it is working against you.

Rose
 

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A kH of 6 is not low. Dangers of pH fluctuations occur at a kH of 0-2. Here is a general table, meant to be used as a guide. Most fish can do just fine outside their "ideal" range, but these are watched closer when trying to spawn. Again...the GH is not as critical as the kH.

GH & KH RANGE - Aquarium Life
0°-3° (0-50 ppm) discus, arowanas, elephantnose, neons, cardinals, live plants

3°-6° (50-100 ppm) Most tropical fish including angelfish, cichlids, other tetras, botia, live plants

6°-11° (100-200 ppm) Most tropical fish including swordtails, guppies, mollies, goldfish

11°-22° (200-400 ppm) Rift lake cichlids, goldfish, brackish water fish
 

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You are correct a KH of 6 is not low but a pH of 6 is low. Too low for many of those fish. They (most of them do a little better in the 7 to 8 range) Better a little higher than a little lower in the pH. There are some fish that will do fine with a pH of 6.0 they just need to be a little choosy about what fish they put in that tank. That water does not sound bad at all if they choose the fish to fit that tank instead of manipulating the pH and taking chances of losing a lot of fish with a buffer problem. The fish will adapt to a certain degree on their own but a fish that does the best at a high 7+ will generally not adapt to a low 6 pH well before it succumbs. Better to get fish that do well with a pH not far from what they have and then they will have a healthy tank. Sometimes Mother Nature is best left to her design and for us not to play with it too much. Buffers are just to dangerous IMHO.

Rose
 
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You are correct a KH of 6 is not low but a pH of 6 is low. Too low for many of those fish. They (most of them do a little better in the 7 to 8 range) Better a little higher than a little lower in the pH. There are some fish that will do fine with a pH of 6.0 they just need to be a little choosy about what fish they put in that tank. That water does not sound bad at all if they choose the fish to fit that tank instead of manipulating the pH and taking chances of losing a lot of fish with a buffer problem. The fish will adapt to a certain degree on their own but a fish that does the best at a high 7+ will generally not adapt to a low 6 pH well before it succumbs. Better to get fish that do well with a pH not far from what they have and then they will have a healthy tank. Sometimes Mother Nature is best left to her design and for us not to play with it too much. Buffers are just to dangerous IMHO.

Rose

Ahhh, sorry I thought you were referring to the kH not pH as being low, since you were comparing the 2 different hardness and referred to one as the "pH" one. I took this to mean the kH since kH directly affects pH and how buffered it is. I agree with you 100% then. :D Ironically both his pH and kH are 6....and I agree, his pH is a bit low for the live bearers.

Buffers are fine if you use 2 from the same company, and make sure your kH is above ~2....and you can measure. Once buffered it takes a lot to swing the pH up or down enough to phase the fish. Keep in mind that people who use pressurized CO2 get daily swings in pH from ~7.0 down t0 6.0 with no ill effect to the fish. This occurs naturally as plants take in CO2 during the day and give it off at night. I buffer my tap before every water change to my 75g tank. I fill a 20g trashcan with water the night before and buffer it to my desired pH and kH. Once I know how much to add, I just do it blindly from week to week. This also lets me heat the water, and add other chemicals like potassium nitrate, Prime, and Fluorish.
 

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If we are dealing with a really experienced aquarist here I would say fine, but buffers are not for the faint of heart or anyone who would blindly estimate their use or get to being over confident. I am sorry but I think they are just too dangerous to recommend to someone just starting out. I have seen too many tanks go south in a hurry and fish lost because of them if the aquarist is not super careful. Let the ones who have a lot of experience use them if needs be but the newbies need to use what nature gives them and let the fish do the adapting and they will be happier. I really think that they are not ready to be adding chemicals wholesale just yet. Since I am unaware of this person's acutity level and former experience I would rather err on the side of caution. Although if they are very experienced then they can go ahead with the buffers. But I would still urge much caution in their use as I truly believe of all the things out there they pose some of the biggest threats in fish care.

Rose
 
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1. I use stress zyme and stress coat when I change the water.
2. Stopped usig test strips
3. I have more than a dozen wisteria, a few a amazon swords 4 banna plants an onion plant, 2 bocapas they same to be doing ok. I got new lights in Sep. They were the special ones to simmulate sunlight 5500 I think.

As far as buffere: Sodium Bicarbonate wouldn't help? You suggest Seachem?
 

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If I maintain what I have and select suitable fish for my environment, how do I transistion them from a petstore PH 7 tank to my tank? I have had a few deaths within 24hrs of purcahse I'm sure due to my PH.
 

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1. I use stress zyme and stress coat when I change the water.
2. Stopped usig test strips
3. I have more than a dozen wisteria, a few a amazon swords 4 banna plants an onion plant, 2 bocapas they same to be doing ok. I got new lights in Sep. They were the special ones to simmulate sunlight 5500 I think.

As far as buffere: Sodium Bicarbonate wouldn't help? You suggest Seachem?
1.) I was going to guess stress coat after seeing your data. The API stress coat is probably why you get a small spike in ammonia and nitrites after your water change. It removes chlorine and chloramine. However chloramine is made of chlorine and ammonia and API only removes the chlorine portion. This leaves the ammonia, which a setup tank can reduce to nitrite-->nitrate fairly fast. However, the larger your water change the higher your ammonia/nitrite spike. I would recommend a different dechlorinator that removes chlorine and detoxifies ammonia and nitrite. Prime is one, AmQuel is another.

3.) How many wpg and how long do you keep them on? Adjusting this may help your algae bloom.
 

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1.) I was going to guess stress coat after seeing your data. The API stress coat is probably why you get a small spike in ammonia and nitrites after your water change. It removes chlorine and chloramine. However chloramine is made of chlorine and ammonia and API only removes the chlorine portion. This leaves the ammonia, which a setup tank can reduce to nitrite-->nitrate fairly fast. However, the larger your water change the higher your ammonia/nitrite spike. I would recommend a different dechlorinator that removes chlorine and detoxifies ammonia and nitrite. Prime is one, AmQuel is another.

3.) How many wpg and how long do you keep them on? Adjusting this may help your algae bloom.
The light is a 5500k (I assume kilowatts) so on a 55gal it would be 1000K/gal. I have run them for 11-12 hrs. Then I put them on a timer to break up the cycle. I read algae hate that. I had it on for 5 hrs off for 2 and on for 6 more before turning off. It still grew. So I went back to having the lights on for 11 hrs.
 

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The light is a 5500k (I assume kilowatts) so on a 55gal it would be 1000K/gal. I have run them for 11-12 hrs. Then I put them on a timer to break up the cycle. I read algae hate that. I had it on for 5 hrs off for 2 and on for 6 more before turning off. It still grew. So I went back to having the lights on for 11 hrs.
The K rating is the Kelvin (or temp rating). This dermines if the light looks soft and warm or bright full spectrum and on the blue end. Yours probably looks a bit yellowish like an incadescent bulb. This is not your watts. I am guessing that you might have 24-36watts, which means you are running less than 1 watt per gallon. I would shoot for close to 1wpg if possible.

To reduce your algae, I would run the lights for 8-10hrs a day max. Do you know what kind of algae you have? Brown, green water, black brush, green spot, green hair/fuzz...etc.
 
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