Really, really need help with aquarium water

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Stormyrose786

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My tap water does test 8.4, but I haven't left it out overnight to check. It's city water. But also, this place is old, the pipes are old, & the lime in the water just builds up to where sometimes it blocks pipes. Idk all the details on that.

And yeah...I realized I answered my own question on the nitrates....& I went ahead & did a water change & cleaning on the small tank. I changed the filter, too.
 

Stormyrose786

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Oh, & by that many water changes, I mean I lost count, & we've only had the 20g about a month...I know I've done at least 10 or more water changes in that time, because I kept trying to get the PH down or other reasons.

I just checked both tanks, & even after water changes, the Nitrite is still 3.0 in the 20g tank, & Nitrate is still 200 in the smaller one. So that is now still a concern, as well.
 

FreshyFresh

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When you do your water changes, how much water are you changing each time?

Reason I ask, if you do a 50% water change, your nitrate number should be reduced by about half. If you're still showing 200ppm nitrates after doing WCs, the nitrate level it's probably way higher than that.
 
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Apr 2, 2002
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One thing has me worried about possible measurement error in your readings. You show two readings the first of which has GH at 300 ppm then at 75 ppm. Something there is wrong. Turn 300 into 75 would require a massive water change using RO/DI (pure) water. I would say it would take a 75% change at least.

When it comes to chemistry, water can be strange stuff. For many fish keepers things work out without much thought or effort. For the new fish keeper, this is as much luck as anything else. Things behave differently when dissolved in water than they do elsewhere. This creates the potential for two areas where one might have problems. The fiirst is cycling and then next is in the choice of fish.

The second problem happens when one tries altering ones tank water parameters from their normal tap levels. It is an almost impossible challenge for new fish keepers. The exception might be if you are familiar with chemistry. So, the first thing I am going to suggest is that you get some input on the basic chemistry most fish keepers should know. To that end please go here http://fins.actwin.com/aquariafaq.html then click on Your First Aquarium. I suggest you read through most of it twice. But please pay particular attention to the sections on Water Chemistry, It is pretty basic and written in an easy to understand manner. it will give you some grounding in what is going on in your tank.

I have only been in the hobby for 20 years and I have had 20 or so tanks for most of the last 15 of them. It took me about 14 of those years before I was willing to attempt altering the parameters in one tank to keep some difficult fish. It took me some time to get it right and a few dead fish. I have a $250 continuous monitor on the tank now which tells me TDS/Temp/pH.

One of the best pieces of advice frequently given to new fish keepers is to chose fish which will normally thrive in one's specific tank parameters. In your case this would appear to be more towards African rift lake cichlids than S. American fish. This would eliminate problem #2 above.

As for your water parameters. You do not list ammonia. In your water parameters ammonia is pretty toxic even at low levels. Basically, ammonia gets more toxic the higher the pH and temperature. Nitrite is best handled by adding small amounts of salt to one's water, This will prevent more nitrite from entering the fish. It also allows the nitrite that is already doing harm inside the fish to be removed. Nitrate levels should be kept below 20 ppm longer term.

One thing appears clear, your tank is not cycled and that is what harmed the inhabitants. Doing a fish-in cycle in your water parameters is pretty tricky because the ammonia gets dangerous fast.

An observation about fish, water changes and stress- one of the major things that facilitates health related issues in fish is stress. The more they are under, the less effective their immune system is. When we set up a new tank and put in new fish, consider things from the point of view of the fish. it has been caught an bagged several times in the recent past, it has likely been moved to different parameters a time or two along the way and it is almost certainly underfed. So it is in a strange environment which in unhealthful due to cycling issues. Now we poke a hose into the tank, likely move it around some and we drop water levels fast. This is simply more stress. It also has the effect of slowing down the cycle. Assume things work out over the next couple of months, the tank gets cycled and the fish are settled. Now you go to do your normal weekly water change and you are having to chase fish away if they come to close to the hose removing the water. You may even be feeding some by hand. The problem now is new = stress levels are greater.

The challenge of doing fish-in cycle is to find the balance between keeping the cycling process moving along as fast as possible while at the same time minimizing any harm to the fish. The only other advice I will offer here is that on any site you will get suggestions which are not uniform and sometimes at odds with each other. This only confuses things. Therefore, I suggest you pick one person from whom to get advice and tune out the rest. Either this person's advice will help you or it wont. But this way you will know what works and what doesn't. This is pretty much how every successful fish keeper has done it.
 

Stormyrose786

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FreshyFresh, I did do a 50% water change, so you are probably right.

TwoTankAmin, that difference in GH was after the water softener pillow had been in the filter for a while, but now the reading is 150. But I am using strips, so...and I don't have a way to test the ammonia yet, but I am going to get a kit that will test everything asap.

The reason I have the fish I do is because that is what my uncle wants, & all he wants, & it's his tank - even if I am the one here taking care of it.

You have given me a lot to think about, though, & I appreciate it. And I will check out that link, thanks.

I find it interesting, though, that in the small tank, the fish in there have lasted in high KH & PH levels for months. But I still worry those levels are too high, esp. If I add new fish to the 20g.
 
Apr 2, 2002
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Please read at the link I posted. You will see it states the following which is relevant to your situation. I understand you inhereted it and did not choose it. Nonetheless, you had it dropped in your lap and are left to deal with it.

Softening Your Water (i.e., lowering GH)
Some fish (e.g., discus, cardinal tetras, etc.) prefer soft water. Although they can survive in harder water, they are unlikely to breed in it. Thus, you may feel compelled to soften your water despite the hassle involved in doing so.

Typical home water softeners soften water using a technique known as ``ion exchange''. That is, they remove calcium and magnesium ions by replacing them with sodium ions. Although this does technically make water softer, most fish won't notice the difference. That is, fish that prefer soft water don't like sodium either, and for them such water softeners don't help at all. Thus, home water softeners are not an appropriate way to soften water for aquarium use.

Fish stores also market ``water softening pillows''. They use the same ion-exchange principle. One ``recharges'' the pillow by soaking it in a salt water solution, then places it in the tank where the sodium ions are released into the water and replaced by calcium and magnesium ions. After a few hours or days, the pillow (along with the calcium and magnesium) are removed, and the pillow recharged. The pillows sold in stores are too small to work well in practice, and shouldn't be used for the same reason cited above.

Peat moss softens water and reduces its hardness (GH). The most effective way to soften water via peat is to aerate water for 1-2 weeks in a bucket containing peat moss. For example, get a (plastic) bucket of the appropriate size. Then, get a large quantity of peat (a gallon or more), boil it (so that it sinks), stuff it in a pillow case, and place it in the water bucket. Use an air pump to aerate it. In 1-2 weeks, the water will be softer and more acidic. Use this aged water when making partial water changes on your tank.

Peat can be bought at pet shops, but it is expensive. It is much more cost-effective to buy it in bulk at a local gardening shop. Read labels carefully! You don't want to use peat containing fertilizers or other additives.

Although some folks place peat in the filters of their tanks, the technique has a number of drawbacks. First, peat clogs easily, so adding peat isn't always effective. Second, peat can be messy and may cloud the water in your tank. Third, the exact quantity of peat needed to effectively soften your water is difficult to estimate. Using the wrong amount results in the wrong water chemistry. Finally, when doing water changes, your tank's chemistry changes when new water is added (it has the wrong properties). Over the next few days, the chemistry changes as the peat takes effect. Using aged water helps ensure that the chemistry of your tank doesn't fluctuate while doing water changes.

Hard water can also be softened by diluting it with distilled water or R/O water. R/O (reverse-osmosis) water is purified water made by a R/O unit. Unfortunately, R/O units are too expensive ($100-$500) for most hobbyists. R/O water can also be purchased at some fish stores, but for most folks the expense and hassle are not worth it. The same applies to distilled water purchased at grocery stores.
As I mentioned, I have 20 tanks running, they are all filled with my well water save the Altum angel tank which has 50%+ RO/DI water. I can guaranteed you if you take a sample from each of my tanks and send it to a high quality lab to be analysed, no two tanks will be anywhere near identical. Similar yes, but not the same. I have several species of fish where I have acquired them over an extended time period, they two have their differences.
 
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Stormyrose786

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Thanks, I did read the link, & what you just posted. I took the pillow out & decided not to bother with the GH after the reading changed. Unless I need to?

I am mostly concerned about the KH & PH being too high.
 
Apr 2, 2002
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Some of what was on that site to which I linked you can also bee found on the Dyke University site https://users.cs.duke.edu/~narten/faq/chemistry.html

Here is the fact about KH you may have missed because is is so short: "KH doesn't affect fish directly, so there is no need to match fish species to a particular KH."

The next thibg to know is as a general rule, pH is less important than TDS or conductivity. These are a measure of how much stuff is dissolved in water, It inckudes all of GH and KH plus salt and then IONs as well. This is more important to handle than pH. This does not mean pH is irrelevant.

GH of 150 ppm is considered medium hard and nor far from soft.

I still believe your issue is cycling related. Nitrite is never present in a cycled tank nor are the level of nitrates you had reported unless they come in with your tap water. It takes ammonia to see nitrite and to have nitrate.

A given reading of total ammonia on an API type (salicylate based) test kit may or may not be harmful to fish over the short term- a few weeks. It depends on the pH and temperature of the water.
 
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Stormyrose786

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Okay, so basically, stop worrying about the other stuff so much, & focus mainly on Nitrates & Nitrites? I think the small tank getting so dirty is what caused the high Nitrate reading. As for the Nitrite reading in the 20g...it was 0ppm before I did the big water change & used the water softener pillow, so I was thinking maybe too much of a water change? It was more than 50%.

I will look at that link in a minute, thanks.

But...what about adding more fish in the future. After, of course, getting the Nitrites back down to 0ppm. I would mainly be adding fish to the 20g tank. I do want to add 1 more cory to the small one, but no more fish, because that one in there is aggressive. Anyway, that would be after I get Nitrates back down in that one, of course.

But back to the 20g...if I can get the Nitrate level back down to 0 (& if that's all I do to the water other than conditioner), could I add more fish - slowly - assuming I can properly acclimate them?

I do want to add cories & snails first.

Again, thanks so much for your help & patience.

Thanks to everyone else, too....Obviously, I need all the help I can get!
 

Stormyrose786

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Btw, I know cycling is one of the biggest issues here, because he didn't let it cycle completely. But I really don't know what else to do now with the fish. I have read about cycling with fish in the aquarium, but Idk....
 
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