Are you sure you are reading the ph right? In my test kit the ph measures between 7.8-8. I am not sure how you are getting .5? .5 is basically pure acid. Your fish would be dissolved by now. Are you sure you don't mean ammonia?
Hmmm. I don't think I stated this right to you guys, my fault! The kit is called "Ammonia NH3/NH4+ Test Kit". It's made by API, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. The values I gave are in ppm. The directions (if you read them completely, which I didn't till now) say the ideal value is 0. Does this makes sense? So I'm guessing I'm close to normal levels but not quite. I work nights letting the sunlight in isn't an option, just regular houselights, but not much.
Oh I see, LOL my bad. Yeah ammonia should always be below .25 ppm, .5 is bad, 1 ppm is lethal. If you are getting readings between .25 and .5 you should do more water changes.
Also if you want to grow plants but are worried about lighting you can get a proper light bulb at the hardware store for like 5 dollars. I bought one to put in my lamp since I don't have a hood, and the plants are doing great.
I have a .25 ammonia reading in my tap water straight out of the faucet. That's why I use Prime water conditioner. It removes ammonia as well as chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals. It's possible your kit is reading ammonium in your water (I think that's what I'm reading in mine), the test doesn't know the difference and can still read ammonium as ammonia. So, switch to Prime water conditioner just in case, but I wouldn't be concerned unless your fish is showing signs of distress.
So I borrowed some cash and bought a new tank today! It's a 10 gallon with a filter and heater so I'm hoping things will improve. I also got some kind of bacteria assist stuff which is supposed to help grow beneficial bacteria faster. I'm happy with the setup but not the price :) Harley seems to enjoy his 10x increase in space. I'm still not 100% about the ammonia level but maybe I just need to get another type of kit. Either that or I'll have to figure out how to convert mmol to Ph values. I'm glad I finally have a heater to get/keep a stable temp. I'll update everyone on the status. Thanks again everyone.
Ok. Now I know what I was doing wrong. I thought ph levels and ammonia levels were the same thing. I learned now that they're not. And the ammonia was in ppm not mmol. Sorry for the confusion. Apparently I need a different kit to test Ph. I learn something new everyday owning a new fish. My memory isn't great as I had a brain injury a few years ago. This site and its members have been amazing help! Sorry and thanks again.
Well it is a bunch of chemicals to remember, so it can be confusing.
Ph is a measure of acid and base. Something acid would be like a lemon, something basic would be like milk.
Ammonia is like measuring how much waste in the water there is.
So one tell you how acidic the water is (7-8 is fine) and the other tells you how often to change the water. Ammonia should always be below .25 ppm.
Ok. Thanks, its all getting a little clearer now. You mentioned the Ph (acidity) of the water should be between 7-8. I thought most people were pretty adamant about Ph being as close to 7 as possible otherwise you could be asking for health problems. The other day I finally was able to test the Ph of my new tank. It had a reading of 7.8-8, so now I'm confused. Before I read your reply I was freaking out and headed right to the Petsmart to find something to reduce the Ph. I spoke with a lady (she's helped me before) and she said our local water is traditionally higher in Ph, around the values I had. She said it wouldn't be worth it to use a Ph reducing product as it would constantly have to be added / adjusted to maintain a constant level for the fish. She advised that since he had "grown up" in this water it would be fine to keep him in it always. I told her I was concerned about Harley's health and she advised that constantly adding "stuff" to adjust the Ph could also be a health concern and I would have to monitor very closely for small changes once he got used to the new level (~7.0), not that it would be a problem for me. Does this advice make sense? I don't want to make him sit in acid if I don't have to but at the same time I don't want to have to disrupt his health by constantly tweaking his Ph ranges dramatically after and during water changes. Any thoughts?