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Ph, Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate Problem... Need Advice & Knowledge&#

simonero

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Hello there!!!
 
Due to thievery of buckets and general busyness/laziness with perfectly maintained tanks... my tanks are no longer perfectly maintained and my water is crazy.  Now I have some questions.  For the stats, after the LFS telling me I had issues, I bought a test kit yesterday to test this myself, and that is how I got these values.
 
 
---  I have two tanks.  One's stats are: pH ~7.6 (or maybe higher, didn't do high pH test), Ammonia 0.25, Nitrite 0.25, Nitrate ~160?!  Scary red.  [Note: Ammonia & Nitrite were 0.50 yesterday immediately after partial water change.  And, tap water pH here is a little high]
 
1) My roommate is a marine biologist, and he told me to add lemon juice to my filter to lower the pH on my 1st tank.  Thoughts on this, or how to do this properly? (Amount, frequency, anything).  Or, suggestions of a better (free/inexpensive) way to do this?  I am on a serious budget.  Also, I'm aware they have bottled chemicals you can buy for this, but am looking for different solutions...  Also interested in long-term solutions to better maintain my pH naturally.
 
2) My ~160 nitrate.... based on my other values, is it possible I'm doing the test wrong?  If so, help??? lol.  If not, do I need to take action or will this most likely regulate as my other values equalize?
 
 
 ---  Tank two: pH 6.0, Ammonia 0.50.  Waiting to do the rest until I learn more to conserve supplies, and cutting back on food because I was overfeeding due to soooo many guppy fry.  Then doing the full testing tomorrow.
 
1) Why would my pH be so acidic?  [Note: I have apple snails/trumpets/lotsa guppies.]
 
2) Other than the water change I'm about to do, what is the best (inexpensive) way for me to regulate this?
 
 
Thank you so much!!!  Any advice or knowledge beyond basics to help me understand this better is appreciated.
 

Mamashack

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I wouldn't start messing about trying to change the pH of your water. It's a very difficult thing to do and maintain for the best of experts let alone most of us average hobbyists. Why do you want to reduce it in the first place? If your tap water has high pH then you should buy fish to suit that pH not adjust your pH to suit the fish. The only way to alter your pH if it is quite different from your tap water is to do a relatively big water change otherwise leave it alone. To establish whether this is the case you'll need to do that high pH test - it might well be in the 8s or it may only be something like 7.8. Whatever it is you should compare it with your tap water pH.
 
Sounds like your first tank definitely needs a water change because of the very high nitrates in there tho - your fish won't be very happy with it that high. Have you any fish in tank no.1? You mentioned the guppies in tank no.2 but not the other - type of fish and numbers if you can and also did you cycle your tanks before adding fish? There shouldn't be any ammonia present unless you didn cycle the tank or you've done something to kill the nitrifying bacteria off. Even infrequent water changes shouildn't lead to ammonia being present once a tank is cycled. The water changes in an established tank are to reduce the nitrates and keep the natural mineral levels etc refreshed.
Tank sizes (measurements and volume) and other water stats would also be useful for tank no.2 such as nitrites and nitrates
 

Ninjouzata

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If you do have fish in tank #1, how often do you do water changes?
Sorry I don't know enough about pH to really comment, except that like Mamashack says you really don't want to mess with that without doing quite a bit of research.
 

elmo666

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Both give good advice above. Don't get too hung up on the ph, try more so to create a stable environment for your fish. If we stop to consider their robustness, they are in an unknown ph with the breeder, the same at the wholesaler, and unless you ask your lfs as well. Most community fish will be content anywhere between 6.5 to 7.5, unless you want to look at breeding a particular species. What is important is a maintained level without big swings as these cause considerable stress.
Focus on those positive ammonia and nitrite readings, there shouldn't be any detectable level if you filter is mature and cycled. Are these new set ups, less than 6 weeks? If not you are somehow disturbing the filter colony in a detrimental way. Are you treating the water for water changing with dechlorinator? Are you sure you haven't had a prolonged period when the filter has been off?
Its imperative to get those readings to 0.
The nitrate level is very high, aim for 25 or lower. As long as your water supply is low a number of 30% water changes over several days will bring that down. Overfeeding is the most common cause of high nitrates, compounded by a lack of water changes/tank hygiene.
 
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simonero

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Tank #1 is 8+ months old, 20gal long, I have a black ghost knifefish, columbian shark catfish, 3 angelfish, bumblebee goby, and guppies (to feed angelfish when they give birth).  (Also, yes I'm aware I need a bigger tank soon, I'm in the process of locating/affording one this month!  I got my fish tiny on purpose so I'd have time.  It'll be upgraded before it's fully necessary, just to let them acclimate.)  I also have loads of java moss and hydrilla.  There were 0.5-2 days of no filter a week ago while I left town, but I fixed it immediately.
 
Tank #2 is over a year old, standard 10gal.  I've maintained the filters for both and use stress coat dechlorinator when i change/add water.  Filter has been going strong for tank #2.  I also discovered today I have a lot of tiny anthropods in this tank =D
 
I definitely think overfeeding is a big part of the problem - when I started breeding guppies I fed the fry often in tank 2, and probably fed tank 1 more often too, so the angelfish would stay friendly.  Just for spirulina (and baby brine for fry).  For tank 1, I give frozen blood worms every 3-4 days, sort of whenever I remember, and make sure the timid fish get their share.
 
My pH used to stay around 7.0-7.2, always, and that is why I am concerned.  Should I still not be concerned, even though this change is very sudden?  And why would one be very high but the other very low?  I'm interested to understand this, even if I should not try to change it.
 
Also, how long should I wait after a water change to test the levels?  Can I do this immediately or should I wait?
 
Thank you guys so much!
 

elmo666

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The two tanks having such different ph readings could be down to two things. Substrate or decor buffering the ph in tank one, or, as you've hinted at over feeding, tank two could be suffering from "old tank syndrome". This would explain your test results and lower ph. Rather than me burble on trying to explain it, google it, loads of info as its pretty common, caused by poor tank and filter hygiene
 

Ninjouzata

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I will ask again, how often do you do water changes? I am sorry if I missed your answer to this. Depending on how often you're doing them and how massively overstocked your 20g is that would explain the high nitrates.
I am not sure unfortunately on the ammonia and nitrite readings if you have had your tank for 8 months it should be cycled by now.
 
How come there was no filter on the 20g? Did it stop running and you discovered this when you came back?
 
I know you said you know about these big fish, and that you'll be upgrading soon. How much of an upgrade are you thinking of? As I'm sure you know the BGK gets quite large and therefore needs a large tank.
I have one, currently in a 129g 72x18x23" tank. It's fine for now, but I will still need to upgrade in the future. I am hoping for at least a 8x4x3' for him/her. These guys can get up to 20" and I have heard of 2fters.
 
The 3 angelfish I'm worried about as when they get older 2 of them may pair off and then kill the 3rd.
They also need tall tanks but if you're keeping them with the BGK and giving it proper accomodations the tank will likely be tall enough.
 
I'm sorry if you know all of this and I'm being redundant but it's hard not to be concerned about these very large fish. I hope someone can explain on that columbian shark as I believe it needs brackish or even saltwater eventually.
 

Ch4rlie

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simonero said:
Tank #1 is 8+ months old, 20gal long, I have a black ghost knifefish, columbian shark catfish, 3 angelfish, bumblebee goby, and guppies (to feed angelfish when they give birth).  (Also, yes I'm aware I need a bigger tank soon, I'm in the process of locating/affording one this month!  I got my fish tiny on purpose so I'd have time.  It'll be upgraded before it's fully necessary, just to let them acclimate.)  I also have loads of java moss and hydrilla.  There were 0.5-2 days of no filter a week ago while I left town, but I fixed it immediately.
 
Is that correct?
Not a typo on 20 gals, maybe you meant 200 gals?
 
Just a little info in case you were not aware, 
 
http://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/ariopsis-seemanni/
 
These guys grow about 30 cm / about a foot long, and need quite a big tank since they're fairly active. And they do best as a small group, so a tank of 200 gallons / 750 litres is the MINIMUM that should be considered for these guys am afraid.
 
Another important part is this, from the Seriously Fish site I linked -
 
Habitat
 
Mainly inhabits the mouths of rivers emptying into the Pacific Ocean, sometimes travelling many miles inland. It’s usually found in brackish conditions, but can also withstand full marine and to a lesser, extent, freshwater.
 
 
Basically means as young, they're ok in FW for a short while, then need to go to brackish water as juveniles / adults.
 
Sorry this is probably not what you want to hear, but it is imperative you know about this before its too late
 

GriffinC18

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I feel ya bud, im having problems with cycling also, except my tanks r small, 1, 2.5, and 10 gallon.
 
I would also think that your 8 month old tank would be cycled unless you did a total clean and reset the bacteria, i do not have any knowledge on what happens when your tank gets older though.
 
(not saying anything about overcrowding cause i dont know about that stuff with bigger tanks)
 
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simonero

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Sorry for the late response, I want to say thank you to everyone who responded!  I've managed to get the ammonia and nitrites under control, and the pH is closer to level.  I'm about to move out of state so I'm going to see how the water there interacts with my tank environments before doing anything else besides the constant water changes.
 
I bought the columbian shark & BGK really small so they were fine in my 20 long.  I'm moving them into a 55 as soon as it cycles and then soon slowly turning it into a low-end brackish environment, where if necessary I will block off a small portion for my bumblebee goby, as he definitely cannot stay with the angel fish!  So far the 3 angels seem OK - they killed off the 2 weakest pretty immediately when I first got them as a gift actually.  They have plenty of feeder guppy to attack who will soon fit nicely into their hungry little mouths......  Also needless to say I only ever get to see fry in my guppy breeding tank heh, don't last long enough with the angels.
 
Also, I think Old Tank Syndrome seems very likely in my 10gal snail/guppy breeding tank.  I had not heard of that before.  Thank you!!!
 

Ninjouzata

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Are you turning the 55g or 20g into brackish? The BGK and angelfish are not brackish fish so they should not be in the tank you're doing this to.
 
I'd look into getting at least a 125g for the BGK within a year, I imagine you'll want another of the same or larger for the shark and ofcourse you'll still need to upgrade after that but it'll hold them a bit longer than the 55 will.
 
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simonero

simonero

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Ninjouzata said:
Are you turning the 55g or 20g into brackish? The BGK and angelfish are not brackish fish so they should not be in the tank you're doing this to.
 
I'd look into getting at least a 125g for the BGK within a year, I imagine you'll want another of the same or larger for the shark and ofcourse you'll still need to upgrade after that but it'll hold them a bit longer than the 55 will.
 
I'm turning the 55g into brackish.  20g freshwater stays with the angels for as long as it's humane, with no other fish aside from some feeder guppies, though i suppose eventually i'll need to trade them out.  I can't get another big tank any time soon.  The BGK is still pretty little (he hasn't actually outgrown the 20g yet at all), so I'm hoping I have ample time, and plan to keep the bioload low so I can make 55 work for a long time.  Eventually, if/when they outgrow, I'll donate them to a bio department or trade them to an LFS that I trust.
 
I think I'm confused about the BGK water conditions - for a long time my LFS had a huge one in their brackish 200g+ tank, and the owner told me that a low end brackish environment would be ideal/necessary for both my BGK and columbian shark cat.  Is this not accurate?
 

Ninjouzata

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You want to upgrade your angels soon as well as it's not tall enough for them to grow properly. :/
 
I have never heard of anyone putting BGK in brackish water. They come from freshwater. Your columbian shark does need brackish though.
 
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simonero

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Ninjouzata said:
You want to upgrade your angels soon as well as it's not tall enough for them to grow properly.

 
I have never heard of anyone putting BGK in brackish water. They come from freshwater. Your columbian shark does need brackish though.
 
Oh boy.  That's disconcerting.  I guess I should post something in the brackish forum and see if there's any support or my LFS guy is really the only one?  I hate thinking they are wrong and lied and hurt their gorgeous fish, but I know its possible.  I did notice that the more knowledgeable I've become the better information I get, but I know I should always take LFS info with a grain of salt....
 
How big would you think the 3 angels can get in my 20?  Not ideal but max within fairness for them, with nothing but feeders and them.  Maybe top to bottom height if you can swing a number that describes your opinion.  I'm really wondering how much time I have left..  I'm particularly worried because apparently the best fish store in the city I'm moving to is Petco and that is FRIGHTENING.  I wouldn't trade my fish to them.  I'd have to travel or find another hobbyist I think.
 

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