Tank GH—71.6 (4 drops). Tap the same.
Tank KH—35.8 (2 drops). Tap 17.9 (1 drop)
ALSO— my of ich was correct. The skinnier clown is sporting white spots today. Getting ready for a partial water change and redosing.
When you do a water change I would prep the water before adding it to the tank. Make sure the KH is about 2-3 degrees in the new water.
One way to minimize the Ich is to keep up frequent water changes that emphasizes vacuuming the bottom of the tank. This removes a lot of the Ich that falls to the floor to breed. The water changes do not need to be large, just so long as you skim the whole floor area pretty well. About every other day is good at tropical fish temperatures.
Happy fish keeping!
Prepping your change water means adding the water conditioner and any additives and mixing it in the bucket before you put it in your tank. For example the way I do my water is I have a small circulation pump in my water container and I add dechlorinator, seachem alkaline buffer which raises the kH, and then depending on if the water is for my planted tank, guppy tank or shrimp tank I use a different additive to raise my gH. Lots of people just use sodium bicarbonate to raise their kH but I don't know if the sodium can cause problems (maybe that's all the seachem product is!). Anyway the circulation pump mixes all the powders and liquids thoroughly into the water. You probably don't need to worry about all those additives for your tank, in my case I have to use RO water as my tap water comes 500km by a pipeline and is heavily treated. I find the kH additive dissolves pretty well and I don't have to add lots every single time, just enough to keep the tank parameters where I want them.
I already have crushed coral in filter and it's keeping PH stable at 7.2 ish. I hear aragonite may be better for stabilizing KH. I use Prime at water changes which I add to the bucket I'm filling from and pump into tank (because the Python does't fit to the faucet). I would think any additive to the water to alter KH would eventually crash once it sits for a couple of days in the tank, no?
I have used "play sand" mixed in the substrate of almost all of my tanks - here in AU, that refers to an extremly finely ground and soft carbonate sand. When I switched to RO water and was working out how much of each additive I needed for each tank, I eventually found out that one scoop was not enough in my corydoras tank, which was the only tank with no playsand. I only needed to switch to adding 2 scoops each water change to keep my pH under control. It's not a huge amount and it's certainly affordable. The trade off when I switched to RO was that I was no longer spending heaps of money on water conditioner (sometimes having to use 4 times the recommended dosage to get rid of all the chloramines) and instead spending it on KH and GH additives. The bonus being instead of my tapwater being a mystery, I now know exactly what is in the water in my tanks, because I measured it out and put it there!
OK so crushed coral vs aragonite - they're both calcium carbonate. The only real difference is that aragonite has more surface area because it is composed of fine particles instead of chunks. This means more contact with water, more opportunity to dissolve, but also a bit harder to contain in a media bag! I don't know much about how fast calcium carbonate is able to dissolve, so if your water is very lacking in KH and the natural processes of fishkeeping are acidifying your water, it might not be enough to keep up with a falling pH. Only the substances that are already dissolved in the water can affect the chemical processes that are happening in the water, which is why having some kind of extra buffer dissolved in the water at water change time is a good idea - I don't think it has to replace crushed coral either. Crushed coral is possibly a good medium for filter bacteria to grow on. Actually I wonder if that would inhibit its ability to dissolve in the water?
Anyway to me part of the fun of fishkeeping is experimenting with different things to find that balance point where everything in the tank becomes stable. Change one thing at a time, watch, wait and measure, then assess whether things got better or worse! Maybe aragonite would help, maybe a KH additive would help! It's up to you what you can afford and what you're willing to try - there are many different right ways to keep fish and I don't believe there is a single "true" perfect way - just find what works for you.
1 teaspoon of baking soda added to 30 gallons of water will raise the KH by 2 German degrees of hardness.
I think potassium bicarbonate is similar, but you might test it before you use it.
Either of these will almost instantly raise the KH (they dissolve very quickly), so are a good way to prep the water.
As noted by fossphur, any plants or microorganisms that can utilize carbonates will remove carbonates from the aquarium. It does not matter what the original source was. This is why you want to monitor the conditions. Nitrifying bacteria get their carbon from carbonates. About half of the plants that we plant in our aquariums can utilize carbonates if CO2 is low in the tank.
Keeping crushed coral, limestone based gravel or sand, or aragonite or similar sources of carbonate (and usually calcium) are OK in the filter, but they dissolve slowly. Do not depend on them during a water change. They react too slowly, so the water parameters can swing quite a bit before enough of the material dissolves to bring the parameters back to where you want them. Keeping these in a nylon stocking in the filter makes it easy to remove them if the GH or KH climb too high.
Happy fish keeping!
In my case the tap water comes out very alkaline so the crushed coral is preventing a crash right now. I will check PH weekly.
So to be sure I'm understanding correctly, it is ok to change the KH somewhat significantly without harming the fish? Eventually the baking soda will be eaten up too but won't affect the PH. Will there be a detrimental crash to the fish if the KH gets up to 4 but drops back to 2, for example, the next day?
Thanks again for the patience and advice.
"... so the crushed coral is preventing a crash right now. I will check PH weekly."
"So to be sure I'm understanding correctly, it is ok to change the KH somewhat significantly..." Well, not really. It is best to keep it as stable as possible. A drop of 2 German degrees of hardness is not much, but I would not want to drop it more than that at any one time. "...without harming the fish? Eventually the baking soda will be eaten up too but won't affect the PH" Anything that raises or lowers the KH has the possibility of altering the pH. When the KH rises the pH will usually rise. When the KH drops the pH may do anything. Other chemicals in the water can act on the pH. Most often the pH will drop when the KH drops. Adding baking soda usually will raise the pH. "Will there be a detrimental crash to the fish if the KH gets up to 4 but drops back to 2..." A drop from 4 to 2 overnight is OK under most conditions., "...for example, the next day?"
Fish are in balance with the minerals and salts in the water. These are tested as TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). Some of the minerals that make up TDS can be measured as GH and KH. Other things that we do not usually measure can also contribute to the TDS.
When the water has a low TDS then water tries to enter the fishes' cells. The fishes' metabolism must work hard to pump out this excess water. Fish that come from soft water (often tropical rivers) are good at this. Waters that have low levels of minerals have pH that can vary pretty easily. Organic matter such as fallen leaves generally lowers the pH.
When the water has a high TDS then the water does not enter the fish cells so easily. The fishes' metabolism does not have to work so hard, and the fish get used to not having to work so hard. Fish from certain lakes (Rift Lakes of Africa) and streams that flow through limestone (often in temperate zones) will have higher levels of minerals. Since these minerals are often calcium or magnesium carbonates (limestone, calcite and related materials) these waters will have high GH and KH. The pH will pretty much always be fairly high in such waters.
When fish are moved from high TDS to low TDS (or when a water change alters the parameters) the fishes' metabolism must work harder to remove the excess water. As long as the change is fairly small (10-15%) the fish can generally adapt pretty well. If the change is more than about 15% it takes the fish longer to adapt, and if that much change happens all at once (like with a big water change using soft water, or buying fish from a store with hard water and adding them to a soft water tank) the fish can take on too much water and die. For example, a change from 100ppm to 90 ppm is about the most I would want to do to sensitive fish, and not much more of a drop for hardier fish.
When fish are moved from low TDS to high TDS (or when a water change alters the parameters) the fishes' metabolism can relax a bit, and does not have to work so hard. Most fish can handle a change to harder water easier than a change to soft water. Still, a change over 20% is a bit extreme for sensitive fish. For example, a change from 100ppm TDS to 120ppm is about the most I would try, though a bit more is probably fine for hardier fish.
Now back to your situation:
KH is just one of the materials that is part of TDS. If the other minerals and salts are more stable, then a change just in the KH is not much of a problem.
However, KH is linked to pH.
Fish can handle quite a change in pH as long as the TDS stays the same. For example, some people with live plants in their tanks will add CO2 for the plants. If something goes wrong, and a lot of CO2 gets added this can drop the pH really fast. But, since CO2 does not affect the TDS, the fish are generally OK with the change in pH.
Conversely, a change in pH that is linked to adding minerals to the water (either pH altering products you buy in the store, or things like coral sand, baking soda and other materials) can be a problem. It is not so much the change in pH, but it is the changing mineral levels that cause the problems.
Here is how I handle this set of problems:
1) Research the fish for optimum GH and pH. At the same time, test the tap water for GH, KH, pH, TDS.
2) Blend the water as needed to suit the fish. Add GH products such as Seachem Equilibrium to raise the GH. Add KH materials such as potassium bicarbonate or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to raise the KH. The fish don't usually care what the KH is, but the KH controls the pH. Since the fish usually tolerate a wide range of pH, the actual KH level could be whatever keeps the pH in that range.
3) As the tank develops microorganisms, as the plants get going, as the fish get established, monitor the GH, KH, pH, TDS. All these organisms can affect the mineral levels, often using the minerals for their growth.
When I make up new water for a water change, I will alter the minerals in the new water so when it is added to the aquarium the end result is the correct parameters for the fish without making too great a change at one time. If the parameters in the tank have drifted too far from optimum then I will add a small amount of whatever it takes to correct it in smaller doses daily or every other day. Adding a slow dissolving material to the filter is a good way to gradually add minerals to the tank. Coral or limestone sand, crushed oyster shell and so on are various forms of calcium carbonate so add both calcium (GH) and carbonate (KH) to the water.
4) If whatever material you use does not do the job, then dig in deeper and find out what is going wrong. Is there something removing a mineral from the water in greater amounts? As I noted above, microorganisms that turn ammonia into nitrite then nitrate get their carbon from carbonates (lowering the KH). Organisms that decompose organic matter can use other minerals from the water. These may make greater demands on you to keep the mineral levels stable.
Happy fish keeping!
As far as the Ich goes it seems to be getting worse before getting better. I'm going to keep the full regimen going for two weeks, and the tank temp usually doesn't go below 80 although the house will be cooling down this weekend. I may bump the heater up a bit to maintain the higher temp.
Sighhhh. Thank you, Diana.
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