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Cichlids: A Knowledge Base .: Chat Logs .: 09/03/22 Water Chemistry with glaive

09/03/22 Water Chemistry with glaive

Glaive: The goal of the chat is to provide a thorough synopsis of the broad subject that is water chemistry.

Glaive: I will take you through the usual suspects of pH, GH and KH

Glaive: This will be following by an explanation of the nitrogen cycle from a more chemistry oriented view

Glaive: we will wrap up the chat by discussing your homeopathic types of medicines.

Glaive: With out further ado lets begin chemistry 101

Glaive: ---

Glaive: What is pH?

Glaive: pH is the measure of how acidic or basic our water is.

Glaive: It works on a scale of 0.0 to 14.0, with 0 being the extreme of acidic, 14 being the extreme of basic and 7 being neutral.

Glaive: Typically in our hobby we are most concerned with 6.5 - 8.6 as this range that most of our cichlids are found in. There are exceptions however they would only make for complications and this would do best to remain simple

Glaive: ---

Glaive: Are there any questions about pH at this point?

geotlyrae: not me yet..

Glaive: Any one else?

Glaive: ---

Glaive: Whats is GH or hardness?

Glaive: GH is known as general hardness, this is what we are referencing when we talk about hard and soft water.

Glaive: It specifically deals with the dissolved concentration of cations (positive ions) such as magnesium and calcium in our water.

Glaive: GH is typically what "sets" our pH, do not confuse GH with buffering as it does not buffer.

Glaive: The reason why GH is important is because our fish have evolved over many years to live in specific conditions. Their biological functions are affected positively and negatively by GH.

Glaive: I think this is a good time to take any questions you have about GH before I dive into the next part

Glaive: I take it people either fully understand or are so confused they do not know what to ask.

williebone: Hey gang

Glaive: That or the crossword puzzles just got very interesting

Glaive: hey willie

Glaive: Hi Kevin

geotlyrae: hey Willie

tchill93x: you explain it so well..no need to ask!

Redeye75: hey guys welcome

williebone: The topic is water parameters?

StructureGuy: Hi, Looks like I missed everything

Glaive: water chemistry, you missed the basic description of pH and GH

geotlyrae: ok, my GH is always a little too low, while Ph is 8

williebone: Got it

Jeff F.: )

Glaive: wait until we cover KH and then tie them all together geo

geotlyrae: ok

Glaive: Then we can talk specific situations

Glaive: ---

Glaive: The last part is KH or alkalinity, this is our buffering capacity and a regular source of confusion.

Glaive: First off this is alkalinity not to be confused with alkaline, they are two different things. Alkalinity is the buffering capacity and alkaline is another term for basic, ie it describes pH.

Glaive: In our hobby KH means the same thing as alkalinity, in chemistry it does not, for the sake of this discussion just trust me. Know that when you buy a KH test you are buying a buffering test.

Glaive: Buffers do not harden water like GH does they merely stabilize the pH.

Glaive: Our buffers are carbonate and bicarbonate.

Glaive: ---

Glaive: Any questions about what KH is?

Glaive: ---Now how do they all relate?

Glaive: GH "sets" the pH and KH buffers it.

Jeff F.: ?

Glaive: yes Jeff

Jeff F.: Not to backtrack but how can GH be adjusted to start the process right?

Glaive: GH can be adjusted by introducing sources of magnesium and calcium, two common sources are limestones and Epsom salts, I personally prefer limestones.

Glaive: This is why we see cichlid salt recipes calling for Epsom salts.

williebone: why?

Jeff F.: Is it possible that my water contains this without additives? I never need buffers?

williebone: why on the limestone over salt?

Glaive: Yes it is quite possible, most of the water in the Unite states is fairly hard aka has a significant amount of GH, however do not confuse GH and buffers

Glaive: Because the Epsom salt is a diuretic (exlax) while the limestones are not

Jeff F.: Correct, my point is that it's possible to have healthy water without additives(limestone) at times. Correct?

Glaive: it is possible yes

ZK1975: .

Glaive: I would still err on the side of caution and buffer my water

Redeye75: by buffer you mean like adding crushed coral? or something of that nature?

Glaive: Limestones are a family of calcerous rocks including limestone( Texas holey rock for example) and aragonite (crushed coral for example)

Redeye75: how does coral raise and stabilize a pH

Glaive: Depends on the desired chemistry of the tank Red, if the case of maintaining a higher pH and GH then yes I recommend crushed coral.

Glaive: In the case of a more acidic tank with a low GH I would suggest a small amount of baking soda as it is a buffer and not a hardener

Glaive: coral is made up of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, when water comes into contact with it some of it dissolves into the water

geotlyrae: I have used them both, and also have crushed coral

Redeye75: how much of an effect does a water change have on a buffered pH

Redeye75: if i said that right

Glaive: depends on how well buffered it is, ie how high your KH is.

Redeye75: even I did say a 50% water change?

Glaive: If you have a significant amount of KH then a water change will have no effect on the pH and GH

ZK1975: Can using a limestone rock and crushed coral create water that's TOO much for rift lake cichlids?

Redeye75: by KH you mean buffer

Glaive: Yes even in the case of a 50% change

Glaive: No Z limestones will only dissolve so much before they are considered saturated.

ZK1975: the rock or the water saturated?

Glaive: Yes for the purpose of this chat and the aquarium hobby KH = buffer

Glaive: The water Z.

Redeye75: ok so is it possible for coral say that is 6 months old lose its buffering capability?

geotlyrae: good question, I never changed my

Glaive: There is a theoretical limit governed by the dissolution constant of the materials. In English, the rock can only dissolve into the water so much then it stops.

Glaive: Over time coral can lose it's buffering capacity, how quickly depends on the water it is buffering.

Redeye75: but does it still act as a buffer at that point?

ZK1975: by that then a rock will at some point become 'spent'

ZK1975: or substrate

geotlyrae: so, I should change the coral

Glaive: However it is not like a light switch it will continue to buffer until it i completely gone, it will just taper off

Redeye75: nvm i responded to the rock answer

Redeye75: so the ph will slowly lower?

Glaive: No the KH will slowly lower, the pH will only lower if the KH is exhausted.

Glaive: Which can happen because the cycle has acidic byproducts.

Glaive: does that make sense or do I need to take another stab?

ZK1975: So i would assume it's only fair to say that the only way to know if your rocks have finally stopped is to have been noting pH levels dropping over time?

Redeye75: but a water change after the point of coral exhaustion will affect the pH?

Redeye75: and could it cause a fatal change?

Glaive: I would note my KH levels Z, they are a much safer indicator

Glaive: if you start to notice that the KH is not recovering as well/quickly after water changes then I would change out my buffer

geotlyrae: so, the KH can actually go to zero

ZK1975: k

Glaive: Yes it can and even in a software/acidic tank that would likely spell disaster.

Redeye75: is there an estimated length of coral life or does it all depend on the water chemistry

Glaive: If the KH goes away there is nothing to prevent the pH from crashing.

Glaive: completely dependent on water chemistry it is one of the reasons people suggest watching your water chemistry.

Redeye75: :)

Glaive: I change out my Aragonite every two years because my tap water is rock.

Redeye75: guess i better buy a few more test kits...

Redeye75: didn't realize KH and GH were so important to monitor

Glaive: Red i would test my water before and after a couple changes.

Redeye75: to get a baseline?

Glaive: once you have a grasp on where your levels are I would test monthly.

Redeye75: ok I'm ready to continue

Glaive: You can really get by on strips for a generic test, sure drops are a little more accurate but not enough to really make or break the deal.

geotlyrae: I haven't tested for a while.. better do it tomorrow

Glaive: This is where Rusty's log book can come in handy

williebone: should I assume that I'm safe with my well water?

ZK1975: so if your buffering media dies out, you best hope your natural tap has been or already is high enough to keep pH from crashing... though i guess if that's the case, you're not using crushed coral or limestone rock for anything but aesthetics and personal taste

Jeff F.: Whats "ideal" GH and KH for an African tank?

Redeye75: well if your tap is good then you shouldn't need a buffer should u?

Glaive: Z the best place for a buffer is in your filter.

Glaive: which Africans Jeff?

Jeff F.: Labs or.........Vics!!:)

ZK1975: heh, my filter holds nothing but mechanical filtration..

Glaive: The rift lakes are pretty hard, Lake Victoria and its satellite lakes vary rather wildly depending on the location and the season

williebone: brb

geotlyrae: the test kit says 11-22

Glaive: in the case of labs and vics together I would aim for 7-14 degrees GH (120-250ppm)

Glaive: in the case of KH I would say the sky is the limit aka the higher the better

geotlyrae: on both

Glaive: degrees or ppm?

geotlyrae: degrees

Glaive: your water is fine

Glaive: what is the pH of your tap geo?

Glaive: a ball park is fine

geotlyrae: no, the directions.. will test tomorrow

geotlyrae: around 7

geotlyrae: I'll test again everything

geotlyrae: my rolling head is getting me dizzy

Glaive: you should be able to get away with up to 50% water changes and the crushed coral should be able to replenish the KH

Glaive: Don;t freak out if the KH drops after a water change, this is expected, freak out if a it does not recover within a day or two ;)

Glaive: okay are we ready to hear Alex's rules about water chemistry?

tchill93x: yes!

Glaive: My first rule is to not mess with water chemistry. :D

ZK1975: I second that motion

Glaive: If you must break rule #1 then tread lightly

Glaive: Try to achieve a reasonable goal in the most natural way possible.

Glaive: If you have fish from the rift lakes, Lake Victoria basin or Central America and your water has a pH of 7.4-7.6 consider buffering with crushed coral in a filter and leave the rest to nature

Jeff F.: )

Glaive: wb chrome

Glaive: the fish do not need the perfect water they need stable water

Chromedome: I'm being uncharacteristically quiet, so I got kicked.

ZK1975: Shame on u Chrome :)

williebone: So you're saying do nothing to my well water?

Glaive: crushed coral in a filter to naturally buffer and leave it be otherwise

Glaive: occasionally test the tap for ammonia and nitrates

williebone: I always add Stress Coat & Cycle with water changes

Redeye75: lol mt

Glaive: kevin was typically quiet and got dropped

Glaive: skip cycle it is a waste of your money, stress coat is good though I prefer prime

williebone: k

williebone: just bought a gallon of it LOL

geotlyrae: I always use salt, buffer, stability and trace

williebone: cycle

Jeff F.: I second the Prime!

geotlyrae: and prime after water changes

williebone: expensive

Glaive: you can use it until it is gone but you already have an established tank

williebone: prime that is

williebone: got it

geotlyrae: too much??

Glaive: what type of salt Geo?

geotlyrae: cichlid salt

geotlyrae: Lake Malawi

williebone: that's a buffer

Glaive: so you match your new water to your tank?

geotlyrae: yes

Glaive: How much crushed coral do you have in your filter and how much surface movement do you have in your tank?

geotlyrae: 2 emperors and crushed coral in one

geotlyrae: the new tank will be more challenging

Glaive: roughly how many cups of coral and what size is the tank?

williebone: may not be enough movement with emp400s

Glaive: that could be a limiting factor

geotlyrae: 36" tank . Just inside one of the pockets

williebone: I moved it the canisters

Glaive: sorry T this one is going to be a beast to edit

williebone: to that is

geotlyrae: sorry

Glaive: No worries Geo it's my fault lol

Glaive: Maybe I should explain KH a little further

Jeff F.: Does T edit her Coral?

Glaive: naw just the first round on the chats ;)

tchill93x: ?

Glaive: go ahead T

tchill93x: they are all beasts to edit

Glaive: lol

geotlyrae: I'll listen now

Glaive: no geo asking questions is good, but let me explain limiting factors and then take more questions

Glaive: This might get a little ugly as it is a little technical and I am flying by the seat of my pants

Glaive: First lets take a look at pH.

Glaive: pH is the measure of Hydrogen ions in a solution. (our tank water is our solution)

Glaive: Now we remember that GH is calcium, magnesium and a few others in solution (aka floating around)

Glaive: KH/buffer is carbonate and bicarbonate floating around

Glaive: hi kim

Kimberly: Evening

Glaive: the KH buffers by combining with the hydrogen which neutralizes it

Glaive: so slowly the buffer is used up

Glaive: However there are limiting factors on how much buffer and GH we can have in our solution

Glaive: One limit is how much of each is already in the solution, aka how saturated it is.

Glaive: say our GH is completely saturated but our KH is not.

Glaive: in that case crushed coral would no longer dissolve because a limit was hit, so no more KH

Glaive: The opposite can also occur

Glaive: This occurs very rarely in the aquarium

Glaive: hat does happen is the next "limit"

Glaive: give me a sec to collect my thoughts on this one

Glaive: Carbon dioxide and carbonate (KH/buffers) exist in a special balance, KH is inversely dependent on the amount of Carbon dioxide in the water

RustyNut: dang I am late again... :(

Glaive: what this means is that if your Carbon dioxide is high then your KH will be low, if the Carbon dioxide is high enough the KH will be zero

Glaive: we're still in pH, GH and KH

Glaive: now if your Carbon dioxide is low you can boost up your KH by the methods I have mentioned.

Glaive: This is why I always preach gas exchange.

Glaive: The water in your tank wants to reach an equilibrium with the air at its surface

Glaive: so carbon dioxide is looking to escape the tank, but it can only do that where the water touches air

Glaive: better surface movement = more water touching air = better gas exchange = more oxygen and less carbon dioxide in the water

Glaive: Now to test if we get this idea, if we have less carbon dioxide in our water then we can have more what in or water?

Glaive: or = our

Glaive: Any one?

RustyNut: KH?

zac: more KH?

Glaive: Yes

Glaive: And of course to drive home a point, more KH = more stable water.

Jeff F.: ?

Glaive: yes

Jeff F.: So the carbon dioxide eats up the contributing factors that make KH, Correct?

Jeff F.: correct

Glaive: The carbon dioxide does not allow the KH to dissolve, or limits how much can dissolve

Glaive: so Carbon dioxide is a contributing factor, make sense?

Jeff F.: Yes

geotlyrae: yes

Glaive: cool then at least one brain hasn't been mushed yet

Glaive: woot two :)

Glaive: I was concerned for a few minutes :)

Glaive: It's one of the more dangerous aspects of injecting carbon dioxide in the water for plants, Seedy has a horror story about that one

Glaive: Inject CO2, crash KH, no buffer = crash in pH.

Glaive: ---

Glaive: Okay lets shift gears and talk a little about acidic water and buffering

RustyNut: Excellent!

Glaive: Remember KH/buffer is not hardness so a soft water fish like discus can be in water with a decent KH

Glaive: Say you have a tank that you want to sit at a pH of 6.5 and a negligible GH, maybe 3 degrees or less.

zac: yet its often talked about with hardness?

Glaive: It is a mistake in the hobby zac

Glaive: but yes it is discussed

zac: ah

Glaive: remember hardness (GH) kind of sets pH, but KH/alkalinity is a buffer specifically a buffer against acids

Glaive: KH alone will not change pH, it will make sure pH does not change

zac: so like higher KH, more stability?

Glaive: Now in the case of an acidic tank adding crushed coral is a bad idea because it 2ill add GH which will change pH

RustyNut: Ding Ding Ding

Glaive: Yes zac

RustyNut: zac is a Winner

zac: ha, yes!

Glaive: In the case of an acidic tank I would add a small amount of baking soda for buffer.

Glaive: I might even consider running some peat moss to keep GH in check

zac: how about limestone as a buffer, which is what I'm using

williebone: ?

Glaive: stability is a much more serious concern in a soft water acidic tank as they typically contain less buffers

Glaive: limestone is fine as a buffer for a hard water tank

Glaive: yes willie

williebone: Is it natural for PH to fluctuate at different times of the day?

Glaive: in nature it can be willie

Glaive: in our tanks we should avoid it

williebone: Is .2 to .3 bad?

Glaive: in nature plants are "breathing out" oxygen during the day and "breathing out" carbon dioxide by night, based on the earlier parts of our discussion I think you follow

Glaive: Most fish can survive up to .3 over a day

Glaive: it's all about being gradual

williebone: k

Glaive: I have acclimated fish from 8.6 to 7.6 over several hours. The key there was a reasonably similar GH

williebone: may be due to shutting off power heads at night to save energy

Glaive: that could very well be willie

Glaive: you can counter this by adding an air stone to one of your hobs

Chromedome: Shutting off the power heads reduces water flow, which reduces CO2 exchange, which will lower pH slightly.

williebone: got it

Glaive: Okay now to fully understand why buffering is important in all tanks we should shift gears to the nitrogen cycle

Glaive: Now before i do this I have a question

Glaive: Can everyone handle a 3-5 minute intermission?

zac: yes

geotlyrae: yes

Jeff F.: Sounds good

Chromedome: sure.

Glaive: cool I am going to go smoke and collect my thoughts, then I will come back and grace you with an amazing piece of custom artwork ;)

williebone: sounds good to me, my auratus is killing my chipokae gotta run

williebone: not so good experiment. LOL

zac: ha, poor fish

Glaive: bad combo lol

Glaive: okay so is everyone bright eyed and bushy tailed, or at least not sleeping]

tchill93x: yes.. we are awake!

Jeff F.: I'm not sleeping.

Glaive: lol

Glaive: Nitrogen cycle diagram

Glaive: That there is a diagram of the nitrogen cycle

geotlyrae: I'm ready

Chromedome: Most of this is good info for the hard water cichlid keepers. However, for those of us who keep soft water fish, TDS (total dissolved solids) - usually measured by conductivity - is more important than the balance of GH, KH, and pH. Because you are intentionally maintaining low GH and KH, pH tends to swing toward acid. It's a matter of keeping it from getting too acid. (Chromedome did a little research and provided an addendum for soft water/acidic tanks)

Chromedome: Certain bodies of water, such as the Rio Negro, are so close to zero in conductivity that they are nearly sterile. The pH can range as low as 4.5 for some species of Apistogramma.

Glaive: Chrome why don't you take the helm for a few in the acidic area

Glaive: including how you would go about preventing a total pH crash in such a difficult environment (pH 4.5 is an extremely challenging situation)

Chromedome: Well, actually, you're fixing to cover the more important information for that. The nitrogen cycle is the key in keeping an acid tank from crashing.

Glaive: Then perhaps you'll slip in information in the middle or towards the end. Just give me a ! when you ant to interject

Glaive: ---

Chromedome: Okay, I just was tossing that out while you were puffing!:whistle:

Glaive: Okay so now we have the nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle is the natural process by which bacteria convert ammonia and ammonium in to nitrites and the nitrites in nitrates.

Glaive: Ammonia and ammonium come from our fish, excess food, and general decaying matter like plant parts.

Glaive: Side note ammonia is more toxic at higher pH

Glaive: the nitrogen cycle has acidic byproducts(which is where KH becomes critical in many tanks)

Glaive: One byproduct is nitric acid, which can be a very powerful acid, should one not manage their water chemistry properly the nitrogen cycle alone can crash a tank.

Glaive: When we first set up a tank we must establish the nitrogen cycle.

Glaive: This means we must provide ammonia to begin colonizing the bacteria that will convert it

Glaive: This creates a problem (new tank syndrome anyone?) ammonia is highly toxic to animals and our fish have to swim in it

Jeff F.: )

Glaive: Ammonia literally burns the gills reducing the ability to breath.

Glaive: Considering that fish excrete ammonia by urinating and by the very act of "breathing" this is a major concern

Glaive: we now have a fish that can not take in oxygen as well and it can not rid it's body of ammonia as well, so it is being burned and poisoned at the same time.

Glaive: What can one do? Well you can keep the ammonia lower via water changes and apply a water conditioner like prime which w\ill detoxify the ammonia while leaving it in a form the bacteria can still consume

Glaive: Do be aware that prime will "mess" with your ammonia readings as our tests do not differentiate between ammonia and detoxified ammonia

Glaive: ---

Glaive: Does any one have any questions about the ammonia side of the cycle

williebone: Damn what I missed?

Glaive: ammonia

williebone: k

Jeff F.: I never knew fish urinated.

williebone: lol

Glaive: Jeff fresh water fish urinate constantly

williebone: wouldn't see anyway. lol

Jeff F.: How?

Glaive: through their nether end and their gills

zac: is prime a new tank syndrome preventer so to speak?

Jeff F.: Wow. I'll investigate later Thanks.

Glaive: It can be used in that fashion zac and I would recommend it provided one follows the directions on the bottle

zac: i asked because i used a similar product, stabilize, which worked pretty well

Glaive: Seachem stabilize?

zac: and I'm on my 2nd week of cichlids and no deaths!!

zac: yep

geotlyrae: too much prime can mess up your tank.. correct?

Glaive: yes geo, don't exceed the amount in the directions

Glaive: Stabilize is supposed to be the next biospira which was an insta cycle

Glaive: hi Larry

Larry: hey folks

Glaive: I have heard mixed results, about 50/50

zac: well so far, i believe i can say its done its job

Glaive: Alright so now we have burned gills and a poisoned fish thanks to ammonia

geotlyrae: is that stability that I use?

zac: but i only stopped the 7 days as instructed on Friday

zac: so we'll see how well the bacteria established

Glaive: Seachem stability geo?

geotlyrae: yes,, it worked well

Glaive: that's two thumbs up for the product

geotlyrae: I still use with water changes

Glaive: you don't need to geo

Glaive: once a tank is cycled there should be no need for a product like that

geotlyrae: ok..

Glaive: save your money ;)

Glaive: Okay so now we have ammonia converting to nitrite, this is the stage where most people see fish death.

Glaive: what happens here is that nitrite enters the blood stream through the gills, once in the blood the nitrite attaches to red blood cells which prevents oxygen from attaching to the red blood cells, you ask how can a fish drown?

Glaive: so now we have a fish with a limited ability to take in oxygen, toxins built up inside it and now the oxygen that does get in can not get where it needs to.

Glaive: What can we do?

Glaive: Well if you are already at this stage you can add aquarium salt to the tank

zac: ?

Glaive: yes zac

zac: what does salt do to help?

Glaive: wait and learn ;)

zac: haha, k

Glaive: Salt changes the direction of osmosis at the gills, now instead of water entering the gills and nitrite catching a ride water comes out the gills. ( too much salt and you will have other problems which is why 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons is the norm)

Glaive: That same tablespoon counters a hair over 1ppm of nitrite, I would not go in excess of 2 table spoons for every 10 gallons, in fact I never suggest it

Glaive: That is nitrites in a nut shell, again there is acidic byproduct at this stage.... any questions?

zac: do you just add the salt straight in, or mix it up prior with some water

Glaive: I would mix it with some tank water

zac: would you recommend salt even for when there isn't a nitrite spike, does it benefit?

Glaive: The third stage is where nitrites are converted into nitrates. Nitrates are the least toxic of the three, however if they build up and remain high they will cause permanent damage to the fish internal organs

Glaive: Salt should be treated like a medicine, only used when needed

Glaive: the third part of the chat will talk about when to use salt and why it works

zac: k thanks

zac: great!

williebone: ?

Glaive: shoot willie

williebone: regarding measurements, how volume displacement effect measurement?

williebone: rocks and decor

williebone: say 40gal of actual water when filled with rocks

Glaive: You can ball park it

geotlyrae: is there a difference between aquarium salt and cichlid salt? is it all the same?

williebone: in a 75gal

Glaive: in that case I would go for 4 tablespoons

Glaive: very big difference

Glaive: aquarium salt is standard table salt with no additives NaCl

Glaive: cichlid salt is a mixture of buffering salts

williebone: I wouldn't treat the 75gal, instead I would treat the 40gal?

williebone: salt measurements

DoctorV: hi everybody

Glaive: Yes willie

geotlyrae: hey doc...

Jeff F.: Hey Val

Glaive: we really should make a practice of saying 1 tablespoon per 10 gallons of water

tchill93x: Hi doc!

Glaive: hey Val

geotlyrae: so no aquarium salt..

Glaive: unless you need it as a medicine

williebone: Well how would on go about getting actual water volume when they have a ton of rocks/

Glaive: Ball part it

tchill93x: ball park it?

Chromedome: Educated Guess.

williebone: what's the down side if treated the 75gal vol by mistake

williebone: or didn't know that it was important when measuring

geotlyrae: I'm still with the salt.. thought cichlid salt for medicine..

Glaive: in the case of you example: 75 gallon tank 40 gallons of water you would have pretty ďthirstyĒ fish after say a week

williebone: k

Glaive: they won;t die they just might be a little annoyed

williebone: got it

williebone: so salt is ok, but other meds be worried?

Glaive: salt has a fair margin of error other meds might not

williebone: only say this because I have 180 lbs of rock displacing water

Glaive: My 100 pounds displace about 5-6 gallons, but granite is very heavy

Glaive: we'll touch more on the salt in a bit

Glaive: So now we have nitrate, which is mush safer than the other two but still and issue.

Glaive: Ideally we want nitrates below 40ppm, realistically below 80 can work. above 100ppm for even two weeks and damage can set in in the more sensitive species

RustyNut: Hey val

RustyNut: OK I am asleep never mind me

Glaive: The hardier species may be able to handle 100+ for a while but you are still risking permanent internal damage including but not limited to their sex organs.

Glaive: lol rusty so was val

Glaive: High nitrates = unhealthy fish.

Glaive: So what do we do about it?

RustyNut: Oooh OOoh Water Changes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Glaive: You can add plants if your fish don't eat them, you can encourage algae growth, heck some may even gas off if you are lucky(pipe dream with out a nitrate reactor) and you can do regular water changes

geotlyrae: water changes win...

Glaive: You can certainly manage your bioload by reducing temperature and feedings, both within reason. Do not freeze or starve your fish.

RustyNut: Define Freeze........

geotlyrae: I can never tell between 40 and 80..I do a change anyway..

williebone: Prolongs their life right?

RustyNut: yes

zac: Define starve... (its hard to tell when they're hungry or just begging( I have juvies))

Glaive: Depends on the fish Rusty, my Julies are very happy at 75 F, they were not happy when they experienced 65 for 8 hours.

geotlyrae: I cut feeding to once a day..

RustyNut: lower temps = longer lives

zac: geotlyrae only once

zac: i think ill do 3 a day

Glaive: It can also mean less aggression

RustyNut: Most of my mbuna will tolerate 60's for long periods

Glaive: I feel fish should never look caved in

Jeff F.: But it can affect breeding also.

why_spyder: I'm kind of jumping in the middle here (I apologize), but I have acclimated my Malawians to live at around 65.

geotlyrae: yes... my water had lots of sediment..

Glaive: I think why_spyder has his cynotilapia down in the 60s

geotlyrae: wow

why_spyder: I have almost hit as low as 60.

Glaive: what kind of sediment Geo?

RustyNut: Lower temps also means less aggression too

geotlyrae: too much feeding.. although my fancy plants also were dirty

Glaive: I think if I acclimated my Julies to 65 they would have been okay, but it was fast, though it did trigger their breeding

geotlyrae: I took one plant off

geotlyrae: I keep my water at 78

Glaive: I feed my fish enough so that one or two pellets hits the substrate for the little guys

RustyNut: 78 is good

Glaive: one day a week they get nothing

williebone: Y Spy your cichlids need a Parka. lol

Glaive: and the day after they get lettuce until they eat it

Glaive: ditto rusty, 78 is fine

zac: ah, thats clever

why_spyder: The lower temps have definitely lowered aggression some, but also slowed growth. I also can get away with less feedings and longer periods without changing the water. I don't recommend trying what I have done - but it can be done if you are in a bind.

Glaive: hello mr mac

zac: make em hungry enough to eat their veggies

RustyNut: just like a child

maccichlid: good crowd for three hours later!

Glaive: does everyone understand the cycle? both the cycle establishing and the cycle in general?

zac: yeppers

williebone: got it

geotlyrae: so you guys still recommend feeding twice a day??

geotlyrae: yes......

Glaive: zac, day one they look at me like I am retarded, night one they nibble day two they eat

why_spyder: I feed once a day - second feeding is only for fry.

Glaive: twice a day is fine geo just feed less each time

Glaive: it's not how many times you feed it's how much you feed in total

why_spyder: Adults don't need that extra food most times. However, fry are in need of more nutrition for growth so I will opt to feed them a bit more.

Glaive: and fry should eat regularly if you want them to develop quickly

zac: but ive read places more often is better than lump sums

geotlyrae: I have 3 survivors

RustyNut: very true zac

geotlyrae: ?

Jeff F.: Nick A. had a good debate on the fry feeding recently.

Glaive: I have algae and snails if they get hungry

Glaive: Nick is very knowledgeable

williebone: more food = more poop & more poop = what?

geotlyrae: read an article that wet-dry filters can be a "nitrate factory" True??

zac: more ammonia willie

RustyNut: I hope so!

Glaive: more ammonia, more nitrite, more nitrate, more acidic bi products, more buffer needed, more water changes

RustyNut: Being a nitrate factory is GOOD

Glaive: more food can = hurt back ;)

zac: and that^

RustyNut: at least for freshwater

williebone: here I thought it was just a dirty tank. lol

williebone: hey y'all know I'm just kidding right?

Glaive: any article on a fresh water tank that extols the negatives of a filter being a nitrate factory is, well this is a family forum :D

Glaive: lol willie

geotlyrae: lfs explained that fish in the wild sometimes don't eat for weeks.. That is why I cut down..

Glaive: very true geo

Glaive: also think about how nutritionally packed our food is versus what they eat in the wild

maccichlid: brb... my chat is messing up

geotlyrae: yes, I did feed tooooo much...

Glaive: there is likely as much nutrition in one ounce of nls as there is in a pound of algae

williebone: explains the difference in size

Glaive: size difference is caused by other factors too

geotlyrae: another reason for me cutting down..

Glaive: small size can be an advantage in the wild

geotlyrae: I'll just have to cut portions......

Glaive: especially for a rock dwelling fish

Glaive: first step feed them what they can eat in a short time, not 3 minutes more like 1 minute or say 30 seconds if two/day

williebone: and that's for how many fish?

zac: in 30 sec they'll eat a lot!

williebone: that's

Glaive: any number

Glaive: hey sudden

SuddenUrge: Hey Glaive and folks

Jeff F.: Ok, gotta sleep!(12:30) Thanks Alex! I'm glad I wasn't looped tonight. I literally took notes. Now to figure this stuff out some more. Great info.!!:up:

geotlyrae: yes, for how many.??? I may have too many right now

Glaive: kk Jefff

zac: same here, thanks Glaive

Glaive: we'll get the transcript for the last bit in a couple days

zac: k hopefully ull discuss some more about salt, cause i bought some knowing ill prob need it someday but don't know exactly how/when

Glaive: geo hold the thought for the end, let me hammer out homeopathic medicine first

Glaive: good purchase zac

why_spyder: whoops

why_spyder: I'm staying1

Glaive: kk

geotlyrae: k

SuddenUrge: oh thought i missed everything

Chromedome: I'm still here.

geotlyrae: got my eyes closed

Glaive: Alight so we had the cycle and we now know what it's purpose is, how it can affect water chemistry and what establishing it does to our fish.

Glaive: We probably appreciate fish-less cycling, seeded media and products like biospira and stability more now

maccichlid: i distinctly remember when geotlyrae first joined and was asking about stability... i was very skeptical at the time...

Glaive: The last portion of this chat goes back to homeopathic medicines, when to use them and why they work

Glaive: we got two thumbs up for stability tonight alone

Glaive: okay so I detailed using salt to counter nitrite poisoning and explained why it worked

Glaive: how ever that is not the only use for aquarium salt (NaCl)

Glaive: It can be used to treat external parasites such as ich and other hangers on

RustyNut: Nite all... I got work in am... Take Care!

williebone: laters Rusty

why_spyder: Night Rusty

Glaive: Typically 1 tablespoon/10 gallons of water is an adequate treatment

Glaive: night rusty

Glaive: Salt can also help with fungus as well

Glaive: salt does two things to a fish, it draws water out of the fish and it mildly irritates the skin so that the fish increases mucous production (now you know why fish are "slimy")

Glaive: The same salt will completely dry out and kill organisms that are much smaller than the fish

williebone: Well is it ok to have salt in as a preventative measure, any harm?

williebone: Half the dosage on reg wc?

Glaive: It's all osmosis the water out side is salty and the water inside is not, so the water tries to balance out by moving outside to dilute the salt and find an equilibrium

geotlyrae: the stores use it all the time

Glaive: I do not like permanent salt dosage and I believe it unnecessarily stresses a fish, there are a few American cichlids that can exist in it but most will have a shorter life span

tchill93x: Good Night folks... past my bedtime.

why_spyder: Nite T

Glaive: the stores use salt because they pack way too many fish into way to small a space

geotlyrae: nite T

Glaive: night T

williebone: laters T

Glaive: small confines allow for easy transmission of disease, salt can help prevent this, remember these fish are usually not in a store like pet smart or petco for very long

Glaive: any decent lfs does not practice this, they instead keep healthy tanks ;)

geotlyrae: yes, pet supermarket

Glaive: salt is not useful for internal parasites

williebone: I stay away from the chains, I've seen sick fish there

Glaive: Another homeopathic medicine is Epsom salts, they are a natural diuretic and alternative to exlax

williebone: good for a sore body. lol

Glaive: Epsom salt can help clear digestive issues, it is often used in conjunction with a medicine like clout to treat bloat

geotlyrae: didn't work on my poor wife's goldfish

Glaive: Epsom salt is a medicine that I would use very carefully, I feel 1 tablespoon per gallon of water as a several day treatment is the limit

Glaive: one can in extreme situations use it as a bath,but this is very stressful on the fish

Glaive: a bath of Epsom salts is 1 tablespoon per gallon of water and typically performed in a bucket which is matched to the tank in chemistry and temperature

Glaive: The fish is netted and placed in the bucket for 5 minutes or until it rolls

Glaive: rolling is the fish turning on its side or even upside down in shock

williebone: rolls?

williebone: k

Glaive: this is an extreme measure and should not be done by the feint of heart not should it be done more than once in a 48 hour period... I would even say 72 hours

SuddenUrge: Could you give an example of when a Epsom salt bath would be needed?

Glaive: That's Epsom salts, very useful but very powerful they should be respected. I don't like them as a chemistry modifier due to their medicinal purpose.

Glaive: Intestinal blockage

Glaive: extreme case of bloat

Glaive: if I had a fish doing a death spiral I would consider an Epsom salt bath followed by antibiotics

Glaive: sometimes Epsom salts will take pressure off of the swim bladder allowing a fish to stabilize long enough to treat a serious infection

geotlyrae: the goldfish did that. Its body turned almost all the way around

Glaive: he might have been a candidate for a bath geo, but I know how hard it is on the fish and really the person giving the bath and that is why I stopped short of suggesting the treatment

geotlyrae: i did it anyway, but it was too late..

Glaive: Okay folks I think that ends any lecture portion, now it is Q and A and geo is up first with his two many fish question and then I get another smoke break

maccichlid: seems like it would be a tough call on an Epsom salt bath to decide if the cure is worse than the disease

Glaive: that is a very tough way to lose a fish geo, you have my sympathy

geotlyrae: thanks

geotlyrae: I'll be upgrading the tank soon..

Glaive: when I treated my fryeri the first bath was good and the results were positive I'm not sure he would have survived but I gave him a second bath after 28 hours and that was too much, he died 12 hours after that

Glaive: the necropsy revealed a blockage and no infection but the blockage was bad enough that he was 50/50 either way maybe worse even

geotlyrae: Doc just lost one like that too..

Glaive: okay so you have a 36 inch tank with three fish, what fish are they and how big are they?

Chromedome: Goldfish are similar to Mbuna in that their system is not made for high protein type foods. Also, I have seen a number of people who had a goldie that fed too aggressively at the surface and ingested a great deal of air. They will float upside down for a day or two until they pass all the gas.

geotlyrae: you should know...

geotlyrae: 7 afras, 4 labs, 4 rusties 3 cats

Glaive: is that like the fronts that end up needing an air release Chrome?

Glaive: still juvenile?

geotlyrae: oh , one tangerine...

Chromedome: Could be, I don't deal with Fronts. I like attractive fish.

geotlyrae: oh... 3 fry..

why_spyder: I have heard of Frontosa getting 'Float'... not usually good.

Glaive: rofl chrome

williebone: is it inevitable (spell check) that I will after only 2yrs experience these sort of episodes with fish?

Glaive: that's what I was referencing why, I have known people who kept needles around to fix it

williebone: is it just a streak of good luck

why_spyder: Willie - I think everyone has it happen at one time or another

why_spyder: You just have to be prepared to deal with it.

why_spyder: Being prepared is the biggest part.

Glaive: geo the only answer is a larger tank, you could get by on a 55 but I would suggest a 75 if you can swing it

williebone: I'll just keep pounding on wood. lol

geotlyrae: one guy lost all his demasoni

Glaive: demasoni are weird little fish

geotlyrae: I'm getting a 125...

Chromedome: willie, I'd say your "luck" is just a matter of doing things right the first time.

williebone: got it

Glaive: yep rinse lather repeat willie

geotlyrae: Its a matter of changing water, like we do it here.. A lot of people don't

why_spyder: I am not sure why Ps. demasoni and Melanochromis exist, but apparently there is a reason...

maccichlid: i have a great case study right now

Glaive: water changes are the best medicine and preventative measure

Glaive: lol B

maccichlid: two 40 breeder tanks, very similar stock levels, similar feedings, etc

williebone: like religion

maccichlid: one gets 40% water changes weekly like clockwork

maccichlid: the other is on a haphazard maintenance schedule

geotlyrae: the lfs guy laughed at me for changing once a week

SuddenUrge: Regarding water changes how dose evaporation effect the chemistry?

maccichlid: the difference in water parameters is definitely noticeable

maccichlid: but more noticeable is the difference in algae, and in debris levels in the substrate

maccichlid: the 40% a week tank is under filtered, but the environment is pristine

Glaive: if you evaporate 10% of your water you still have all of your KH, GH and anything else floating around

maccichlid: the haphazard is over filtered --- supposedly -- but it suffers

Glaive: pH would likely remain the same

Glaive: there is no such thing as over filtered ;)

maccichlid: true dat!

Glaive: a filter will only do so much no matter how big it is

why_spyder: I believe evaporation is a mostly a bigger deal in saltwater, correct?

maccichlid: the moral of my story is, do your water changes

Glaive: yes B

Glaive: lol good moral Mac

why_spyder: With salinity...

SuddenUrge: not true...Fluval 304 on a 10g ended in a mess for me when i was testing one lol

why_spyder: lol

Glaive: lower the water level and the output sudden

geotlyrae: yes

Glaive: ;)

Glaive: brb smoke break

SuddenUrge: I know that now lol just saying lol

why_spyder: I am fortunate to have a LFS not far away with fairly knowledgeable staff, however I would not let them tell me how to run a Malawi tank ;)

geotlyrae: Alex... Its been fun.. learned a lot.. Good night. need to work tomorrow.

why_spyder: Night geo

maccichlid: good night geo!

why_spyder: geo***

SuddenUrge: night geo

williebone: laters geo

Chromedome: Later Geo.

geotlyrae: night all..

williebone: makes u wonder how ofter lfs do water changes.

Chromedome: Some of them do worse than no water changes. They use a centralized filtration system.

SuddenUrge: How do they account for any water lose than Chrome?

Chromedome: Strictly top off.

Chromedome: Centralized systems can be done properly, but few shops are able to afford the proper systems.

SuddenUrge: Sounds like it'd be a pain to trouble shoot or any outbreaks of anything

Glaive: are we calling chemistry side of chat done?


Soft Water chemistry info by Chromedome


Okay, since I opened my big mouth during the talk, Glaive asked me to add a few notes about water chemistry and biological filtration in a true soft water tank. First thing to know is that the microfauna for a soft, acid tank are not the same as those for a hard, alkaline tank. For example, if you tried to ďseedĒ a filter on an acid environment with filter media from an Mbuna tank, it would fail. Iím not certain, but I believe filtering a soft water tank through peat, even after it has been dried for some time, does introduce the appropriate organisms. Other sources are certain plants and bogwood, and no, I donít boil it for use in acid tanks. I donít want to kill off the bacteria that I need, and I certainly donít want to leach out the tannins!

Buffering in an acid environment involves certain weak acids, rather than carbonates, which are actually weak alkalis. Natural acids are released by some types of wood (tannic) and peat (humic), and these will actually prevent the pH from dropping too low. Like carbonates, these are buffering agents; however, carbonates are alkaline buffers, while these are acid buffers. The idea that carbonates and bicarbonates are pH neutral is erroneous. The acid buffers also limit the amount of CO2 that can remain in solution, just in a different way. This prevents the pH from dropping too far, thus buffering the tank. Monitoring the pH in a softwater tank is still important, however, as it is a closed environment. And just a bit of overfeeding can still cause a crash. Just like crushed coral used for buffering an alkaline tank, acid buffer media such as peat needs to be replaced regularly to continue to be effective.

True blackwater species, such as Rio Negro fishes, or those from parts of Southeast Asia, or West Africa, generally survive quite large changes in pH and temperature with the different seasons. However, the one constant in their lives is an extremely low conductivity, generally indicating a very low Total Dissolved Solids (TDS). In a blackwater tank, it does not take as much of the acid buffers to do the job as it does for alkaline buffers to do theirs. Despite the dark color of the water, it actually has very little material dissolved in it. However, because the aquarium is a closed environment, water changes are still needed to keep other pollutants under control. This is best done with Rain, distilled, or Reverse Osmosis water.

For most of the fish from blackwater environments it is still possible to live a long and healthy life with some hardness in the water, up to about 10 GH, or about 180 ppm, and even slightly alkaline pH. However, frequent and massive water changes are required because they are extremely sensitive to free ammonia, having come from an environment where it is quickly bound up as ammonium. Also, the larger species that live in the river currents are used to overall lower pollutant levels. Breeding them usually requires an extremely low TDS (under 3 GH or 50 ppm), as that has been proven to have a major effect on egg fertilization and survival. The acid conditions are also known to keep down the levels of organisms that might be harmful to the eggs. This can be overcome in aquaria by pristine conditions, but a low TDS is still needed for good fertilization percentages.

As alluded to above, ammonia is much less of a problem in very acid environments (generally anything below 6.0). Thatís because there are more hydrogen ions as the pH drops, and this combines to convert the highly toxic ammonia to much less toxic ammonium. Now the shocker: the nitrogen cycle is mostly non-existent in natural acid water environments. Because of the acidic conditions, decay is slow (I recommend reading up on Peat Bogs), and the ammonia/nitrites/nitrates take a very long time to seep into the water column. This is seen in the fact that some backwater pools can go months without an influx of fresh water, while virtually no aquatic plant life exists in these environments.

This brings up the last point. Very few plants are biotope appropriate in blackwater tanks. Most of those that are found in the wild are bog plants such as Swords, Anubias, or Crypts, and during the dry seasons they survive and usually flower out of the water. Their roots must go into the substrate to find the nutrients they need. However, a tank full of dead leaves and rotting wood isnít particularly attractive. There are ways around the limitations of aquaria, but adding CO2 isnít recommended. These are low light environments, and in fact the plants that live under low light need relatively little carbon dioxide. (This info came from some very knowledgeable plant guys.) However, fertilizers might be needed due to the absence of the natural plant nutrients in normal aquarium substrates. I have never worked with any of the special plant substrates, so I cannot say what they will do in a soft water environment, or to it.

Having spent a few decades breeding killifish, Tetras, and a few other species, Iíve had more dealings with soft and acid conditions than your average Cichlid hobbyist. Some of this information was used to breed Apistogramma species, and can also be applied to many other soft water Cichlids. The information above is somewhat generalized; one should always do detailed research on the individual species you are planning to keep.


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