Antheridium94 Antheridium94
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  • Posted on: 1/11 22:41
New tank pH problems whilst fishless cycling #1
Hello,
I was wondering if anyone would be able to offer some advice:

I am sorry for the lengthy post and questions in advance, but I am new to the hobby and want to get things correct and safe before thinking about adding any fish.

I recently set up my first aquarium, a fluval roma 240L (Currently holding 205L due to substrate, plants and decor) with the intention of creating a freshwater tropical community. Furthermore, my substrate is inert and resin coated, the plants are artificial and I do not currently have any live rock or wood in there that would affect test readings.

I am also currently undergoing a fishless cycle using Dr Tim's ammonium chloride and Tetra Safe Start as my source of bacteria (this has been going for 1 week so far). I am aware this can take quite some time, but I have a few questions about the test results I have been getting over the past week. I have measured pH and Ammonia every day and Nitrite every other day using the API liquid master test kit so far and have been confused with the results regarding the pH.

For reference, my tap water pH after sitting out for 24H reads 7.2.

The aquarium water also started at this last week, but has been rising every other day to the point where it is unreadable on the colour chart, past the maximum reading of 7.6 (the colour in the test tube is the same as it comes out of the bottle, a very dark blue). I used the high range pH test to obtain a reading of 7.8 on the 30th and 7.4 on the 31st. However, when I used the normal range test on the 31st, the pH was off the chart again, despite the high range test stating it was 7.4, which should have been detectable in the normal range test.

For comparison, I took a sample of water to my local aquatics store on the 30th October (who used both JBL and Interpret strip tests) and they stated my pH was 6.8 – 7.2. I proceeded to purchase a set of the JBL strips which also read my tank water as 6.8 -7.2 for the past 2 days (the colour was in between the two options, so I am not sure of the precise pH value).

I am very confused with these results and I assumed that the API liquid test would be the most accurate, but with such a large gap between the two I am not sure which value to settle for.

If possible I would appreciate any insight as to what could cause this and if there are any other test kits out there that people would recommend trying as an alternative if there is a chance the API one could be faulty.

Thank you for your time
Fishlady Fishlady
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  • Posted on: 2/11 14:15
Re: New tank pH problems whilst fishless cycling #2
Hi

In general, test strips are less accurate than liquid tests and the API liquid pH tests are pretty reliable. I use them occasionally and also use a calibrated electronic pH probe and the two agree.

However, in a tank that is cycling, pH can swing a lot and the addition of ammonia in itself can raise the pH, plus pH varies across the day with the temperature, the amount of dissolved C02 or oxygen in the water etc. Another possible reason for the pH rising is any rocks or substrate that contain limestone as this leaches into the water, raising the kH level and then also the pH. Unless you have something like that in the tank I wouldn't be too concerned at this stage, while the cycling period is ongoing.

It's worth bearing in mind, too, that pH isn't the most important factor for the fish as it's actually the underlying gH and kH that are the critical factors. Fish that need a low pH actually need a low amount of dissolved solids in the water. It's just that in the UK in particular, a high pH usually means a lot of calcium, carbonates and other substances in the water which are also raising the pH and it's those that are the problem for soft water (or low pH) fish.
Antheridium94 Antheridium94
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  • Posted on: 2/11 16:07
Re: New tank pH problems whilst fishless cycling #3
Hi,

Thank you very much for your advice and for getting back to me so quickly

In terms of pH probes, are there any that you would recommend? If this is the most accurate method then I would prefer to invest in one of these to use as a comparison to my liquid test.

I don't have any rocks or substrate that would leach calcium carbonate into the water, just polyresin rock replicas and inert quartz substrate that is coated in resin as well. I do have an airpump running in the tank, which may agitate the surface and reduce the CO2 amount slightly, but I am not sure how much of an effect this could have.

Furthermore I have been measuring the GH and KH using the API liquid test and they have repeatedly given the same results: GH - 9dGH (I think this is medium hardness? and for reference I live in the northeast, where the water isn't particularly hard) and KH - 4 (which i think amounts to 71ppm). Could my KH be too low to effectively buffer pH changes? Again, please correct me if I am wrong, I am just trying to learn things at the minute .

I will definitely keep monitoring whilst I am cycling and hopefully it will settle down.

Again, thank you for your time and advice.

Kind regards,
Jade
Fishlady Fishlady
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  • Posted on: 3/11 11:12
Re: New tank pH problems whilst fishless cycling #4
A kH of 4 should be plenty to keep pH stable so it's not that. I do think it's just the fact that you're currently cycling the tank. Fluctuations during the cycle are common, and the ammonia you're adding raises pH itself. Once the tank is cycled and you've done a large water change to reduce the nitrate that will have built up, I would expect the tank pH to settle close to the level in your supply.
Antheridium94 Antheridium94
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Re: New tank pH problems whilst fishless cycling #5
Ah OK that's good to know, it was just that i remember reading the KH was close to the minimum stable level so I was a bit worried.

It's reassuring to hear that its normal during this period and I do apologise if I've said anything daft, but as I explained, I am completely new to this and have never cycled before, so I wasn't 100% sure what to expect, even with the research I had done.

I will definitely continue to look into pH probe reviews and see if I can get a suitable one and I will keep monitoring my pH as usual and hopefully in the next few weeks I will start to get some consistent readings. Haha, I was starting to worry I'd have to look into starting an African lake Cichlid tank if the pH was going to remain that high, which doesn't sound like a beginner friendly idea

Now I need to figure out how to close a thread as I am new to forums as well as fishkeeping!

Once again, many thanks,
Jade
Fishlady Fishlady
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  • Posted on: 3/11 15:02
Re: New tank pH problems whilst fishless cycling #6
No need to close the thread :)

Sorry, I forgot to make any recommendations for pH probes, but HM Digital probes are reliable and well-made probes. I use one of theirs, the pH 80: https://www.amazon.co.uk/HM-Resistant- ... g-Aquariums/dp/B01CP9Q192

You can get much cheaper ones via eBay and various places, but they're cheap for a reason - not very accurate and need constantly recalibrating so I would steer clear of those.
fcmf fcmf
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  • Posted on: 3/11 22:05
Re: New tank pH problems whilst fishless cycling #7
I have both test strips (I use either Tetra or JBL) and liquid-based test kits (various different brands). I find both brands of test strips give a lower PH reading than the liquid-based test kits. I find the test strips helpful for reading/interpreting the nitrate and nitrite readings which I find difficult to read from the liquid-based test kits and it's good to have the chlorine reading too, but I find they tend to give an artificially high GH and KH reading whereas the liquid-based ones are more accurate.

It's worth also checking your water/utility website, input your postcode, and find out what the PH and hardness levels (in CaCO3 and German degrees hardness) are from that, as that will give you an idea of what levels ought to be once the cycling phase has passed.
Antheridium94 Antheridium94
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  • Posted on: 4/11 0:29
Re: New tank pH problems whilst fishless cycling #8
Hi and thank you everyone for your replies,

Fishlady - Sorry for the late reply and thank you for your recommendation I'll check it out and do a little research on how to use them properly :). It would definitely put my mind at ease knowing I had something more accurate.

FCMF - I've just checked our local water provider and they reckon that, for my postcode, the tap water should be at 5.18 dGH (which is stated to be moderately soft) and the levels of Calcium are 37mg/l (ppm) and CaCO3 as 92 mg/l (ppm). Just to check, is it correct that calcium is relevant to GH, whereas the calcium carbonate compound is relevant to KH? If so, the detailed report doesn't mention magnesium levels, which I've read are the other main factor for measuring GH. If this is the case, does the 5.18 dGH from the water company represent just the KH or the GH as well? Also I'm very sorry if I've gotten anything mixed up, please correct me if I've gotten it wrong.

Either way, the results from the water company are quite a bit different to what I was getting with my API test kit, which, as I mentioned earlier was 9 dGH for the GH reading, but the KH seems to match up slightly better, being 4 dGH or 71ppm (according to the API conversion chart).

I'll definitely keep re testing every week for GH and KH. Does that sound reasonable? I'm not sure how often is best to measure hardness whilst cycling. I know its daily for the other tests, just to clarify.

I agree that its good to have the chlorine test on the strips, even though I'd added a dechlorinator (Tetra Aquasafe), it was reassuring to see it had done its job and I had dosed correctly .

Once again, thank you both for your time and advice. Sorry if I've rambled a bit as well I'm sure you will get this from all the newcomers.

Jade