Really, really need help with aquarium water

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Stormyrose786

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Mar 10, 2020
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Cassie
I will try to keep this simple....First, I know my main problem is very high KH, which also means very high PH. We have had aquariums in the past with much less trouble.

But my uncle decided about a month ago, I think, to start a new one, which I am left to care for, as he works out of state for weeks at a time. So he got a 20g tank, ran it for 24 hours or so, which I now know was not enough, then he got a bunch of fish, which most died by next day.

We ended up with 4 tetras, 1 guppy, 2 cory catfish, & a snail. All this time, I have tried to get the PH down, with no success at all. A friend - with experience - suggested adding a little aquarium salt. I apparently didn't give him enough details. By the next day, all had died except 1 tetra & the guppy. I didn't know the catfish & snail couldn't handle the salt at all, or I would not have used it.

So he realized my water was too hard, & suggested to test & get a water softener pillow. I was told at a pet supply store to use a KH test, but I didn't know about GH until now. It took over a week to get the pillow, & so I put it in last night, after a 50% water change & a little cleaning. Now before this, my levels were:

Nitrate - 0
Nitrite - 0
GH - 300, very hard
KH - 300, high
PH - 8.4, same as it has been

Today:

Nitrate - 0
Nitrite - 3.0, stress level
GH - 75, soft
KH - 300, still the same
PH - 8.4, still no change

And yeah, tap water measures the same on KH. And there is a lot of lime in our water, & the water filter apparently doesn't help much. I did take the pillow out, btw. And I did a smaller water change to hopefully help lower the Nitrites.

So, what is causing me a lot of stress is obviously the high KH, since I know PH won't go down until KH does. After lots of research, I am still not sure what to do. There are too many options, with too many varying opinions. I can not afford an RO filter, & I don't want to use almond leaves or peat because of it changing the water color, which my uncle wouldn't like or understand it's okay. And also, I don't think it would be effective enough. My thought is to use distilled water, regardless of the long-term cost - maybe can do something different later.

But, if I use distilled water - which one? And how? Can I do small water changes, replacing with distilled water every other day, so that most minerals, etc, will still be there, or will I have to add something? And if I do small changes, how much, or what ratio?

My uncle wants more fish, & I am trying to hold him off until I can fix the water, so don't want it to take forever. Also, I need catfish, at least, to help keep the tank clean, but I am worried about even getting those right now.

So really, any help would be greatly appreciated.
 

FreshyFresh

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What type of water change schedule and amount of water changed do you do on your tanks? Do you have a means to measure for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate in PPM? Like you say, setting up a tank and letting it run for a day or two does nothing in terms of establishing the nitrogen cycle the fish need to survive.

Unless it some specialized breeding project you're after or you are keeping some type of rare native species, why the stress over KH, GH and pH? The main thing is your tank is cycled and produces nothing but nitrate (no ammonia or nitrite).

To keep it simple, keep your tank's pH the same as your tap water pH. Captive bread, store bought fish will adapt or have already adapted to your source water's pH.

Trying to "fix" the water is a futile effort IMO. It will lead to wild swings one way or the other that your fish won't be able to tolerate.
 

Stormyrose786

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Okay, let's see...first...I have probably done more water changes than anyone should in a month...mainly trying to get the PH down...then, I did one when all the fish died from the added salt, & before I put the pillow in...btw, I have changed filters a few times - the one I changed last night was in about a week & a half, & was very dirty.

Second, the above numbers are ppm, so Nitrite is 3.0ppm, KH is 300ppm, & PH is 8.4ppm. The liquid test for the KH - I added 13 drops before the color changed, & the chart only went to 12 drops....I just rechecked, & Nitrites have still not gone down, & I feel that's important. But no, I don't have anything to test ammonia. (The pet supply place was not very helpful.)

And the reason I am so concerned, I haven't seen anything that says 8.4 is safe for a freshwater tropical tank, & also, I was told that, over time, the high PH would eventually kill whatever fish I have left. And I do plan to try to add more fish - a couple at a time - they will be store-bought, & I am worried, even if I can manage to acclimate them properly.

Obviously, I don't know much...I love fish aquariums, but I knew they were not easy, & this time seems extra hard. Also, it has been years since I took care of an aquarium. But my uncle left it up to me to take care of, & I managed to kill 6 things overnight...

Btw, I forgot to mention earlier...there is a much smaller tank he has had here quite a while. It has 1 tetra & a cory. He said he never did anything except add a conditioner when he topped it off. The reason there is only 1 tetra - it tortured the others til they died, neons, too, from what my uncle said. (I just moved back here in August after being gone 4 years.) So...yeah, I did wonder about the difference. No, I haven't tested that water, but will in a minute. That tank, though, is quite dirty, but It's so small, & bad enough, I would need to remove everything to clean it, & I'm afraid to touch it & chance messing it up....
 

Stormyrose786

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Catfish...well, I am sure you are right, but they do eat extra stuff off the bottom....I actually tried vacuuming, but got nowhere - no idea what I'm doing, I guess. But, that is one thing I know my uncle can do, & he'll be home this week.
 

Stormyrose786

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Wow...okay, so I checked the small tank (5 or 10 g - not sure)...

Nitrate - 200ppm
Nitrite - .5ppm
GH - 300ppm
KH - 160ppm
Ph - 8.4ppm

So...if this is right (after 3 tests), Nitrates are very high, GH is very high, KH is okay, & PH is high....

If you're wondering...yes, I am using strips. I did not see any liquid test kits at the store...I found one in my cabinet, but it is probably 8 to 10 years old.

I don't know why the Nitrates would be so high...
 

Rbishop

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What does your tap water test at? And what does "done more water changes than anyone should in a month" mean?
 
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FreshyFresh

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If you let a sample of tap water sit overnight and then test it's pH, is it still 8.4?

Sorry if I missed it, but is this municipal water supply?

In regards to your nitrate reading of 200ppm above, if that reading is correct, that's about 10x higher than you want it and is kept in check by doing water changes.
 
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