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Old 11-08-2011, 05:12 PM   #1 
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Severe Water Issues: Low pH & Alkalinity, high Hardness

Hi guys,

I posted a few days ago asking about whether or not to add some glass ornamentation to my tank to entertain what I thought was a bored betta, but now I did a thorough water test, and I don't think The Stig's issue is boredom. :/

In fact, I'm having some very frightening water issues and I don't know how to fix them. Let me give some background on the situation:

I have a 7.9gal Fluval Ebi Nano tank that houses just the one male betta. It is semi-planted (three live plants, but at the moment I don't remember their species). It has a heater, a filter, and a bubbler. The water temp stays pretty stable at 77-78 F.

I do semi-regular water changes with aged tapwater. I condition the water with either AmQuel Plus or Seachem Prime, and I let the water sit at least 24-48 hours before I use it.

I occasionally dose the tank with Kordon Fish Protector (Maintenance Formula).

I don't overfeed my betta, and I fast him two days a week. I feed him a mix of pellets, dried bloodworms and daphnia, and occasionally some spirulina flakes. I know I need to get him on a diet that includes more frozen or live foods, which I'll do as soon as I fix the water issue.

Overall, my betta has been happy as a clam since I got him several months ago. His appetite has always been great, and he is normally a very active fish who spends most of his time watching me.

However, last week, I noticed that his nerite snail companions were dropping dead en masse. There were five larger snails and three smaller snails, and all of them are now dead but for one large snail, and that survivor spends all of his time stuck to the portion of the filter that is above the waterline.

Around the time of the snail die-off, my betta's behavior changed. He became much more lethargic, and spends most of his time sleeping/resting on the plants. He even goes into his chichlid cave now, which he never did before. He also seems to be a bit constipated, which I am treating with the boiled pea method.

I tested the water parameters of both my tank and my current bucket of treated tapwater.

Aquarium parameters:

-Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite are 0 ppm.
-pH is extremely low, 6.0 or lower.
-Hardness is very high: 425+ ppm
-Alkalinity is extremely low: 0 ppm

My aged tapwater:

-Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite are 0 ppm.
-pH is extremely high, 8.4 or higher
-Hardness is high, 250-425 ppm
-Alkalinity is high, 300 ppm

I also have access to Arrowhead bottled Spring Water, which I tested as well:

-Ammonia, Nitrate, Nitrite are 0 ppm.
-pH: ~6.8
-Hardness: ~50 ppm
-Alkalinity: ~80 ppm

I don't know what to do. Should I start doing water changes exclusively with the spring water, or should I mix it with my aged tapwater when I do water changes?

Any advice is appreciated :} Thank you.

Here is a photo of my tank, if a visual is helpful:

And The Stig himself:
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Old 11-08-2011, 05:35 PM   #2 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
What kind of testing products are you using, do you know what the cichlid cave is made of, how long has the tank been running, anything copper based added to the tank, any plant food, are the plants thriving, how many snails and how long in the tank before they died, did you make a water change after they died..

I would go ahead and make 25% daily water changes for 2 days- with your current source water and dose the tank for the full volume using just the Prime....don't use aged water-use fresh from the tap and a different container than you have been using to age the water...this is to rule out contamination....
Be sure and let the tap run for a second or two to clear the lines

When you let the water sit for the 24-48 hours (not needed) is it covered and when do you add the dechlorinator-

Edit...never mind on the snail already gave that information,,,, a test on tap water right from the tap and post those numbers

Last edited by Oldfishlady; 11-08-2011 at 05:44 PM.
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Old 11-08-2011, 05:53 PM   #3 
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I got my betta in mid-June, so the tank has been running since then.

I have both strip-based testing products (Mardel, Precision Labs, Eco-Check) and a brand-new Aquarium Pharmaceuticals vials-and-dropper-bottles kit.

No copper products or medications have ever been used.

I have not used any plant foods either.

There were probably 5 or so "larger" nerite snails, and three tiny snails that might not have been nerites - they were stowaways on the plants, but they were algae eaters, so I left them. All the snails were fine since I got them in June, until they recently died.

Three of the plants are fine, green, and healthy, but one of them (a floating plant) dropped all its needle-leaves around the time of the snail die-off.

Yes, my water bucket sits uncovered, and I add the dechlorinator immediately after adding the water to the bucket. I also drop in a bit more dechlorinator right before I add the water to the tank.

The cichlid cave is ceramic:

I'll do the water changes immediately. Thank you!

I'll do the tap water test shortly as well.

Last edited by LakotaWolf; 11-08-2011 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 11-08-2011, 06:06 PM   #4 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: USA
Are the test results you posted from the API kit or the strips.....if the full API test on the tank-aged water and water from the tap without anything added and post them....

*Note-on the #2 nitrate reagent-be sure and shake the heck out of it and bang it on the tends to settle and will give skewed results and follow the directions to a "T" with all the test...high user error on them until you use it for awhile....and do both the high and low pH....

With a tank this mature your numbers are off in more than one area.....but this may be the strips.....

I suspect contamination since you had sudden mass die off....or anaerobic spots-have you moved anything around in the tank before the deaths or noticed a rotten egg smell or plant stems looking darker or are the plants planted and what species are they.....

Also, how much and how often are the water changes.

Remove the plant that is dying and place it in a clear container with dechlorinated water in a window...sound like hornwort and not uncommon to drop needles...maybe you can save it...

Last edited by Oldfishlady; 11-08-2011 at 06:11 PM.
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Old 11-08-2011, 07:04 PM   #5 
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Something else that I forgot to mention that may be relevant is that the tank has a 10-hour light-cycle (the aquarium light is on a timer.)

I've taken a few more photos that may help.

And I've looked back in my email and I think I've determined the species of my plants.

The largest plant is a sword, I think either an Amazon or a Red Melon (Echinodorus species). It's very large, green, and healthy, except for a few leaves going a bit "lacy" (as seen in the photo), but I always assumed this was due to snails nibbling on it.

The smaller plant is a Vesuvius Sword (Echinodorus Angustifolia). It's healthy, and is in fact shooting off runner "pups". A few of the leaf-tips are getting transparent and wispy, though.

I also have a small ball of what I think is Java Moss (Vesicularia Dubyana). It looks pretty healthy, maybe a little pale and brownish.

I think you're right that the "needle"-plant is a Hornwort. I also bought a few sprigs of "Cabomba Green" (Cabomba carolina), but I'm pretty sure the needle-plant is Hornwort.

The stems/roots of the plants don't look dark or anything, and I don't notice any smell other than the usual "aquarium" smell. I don't think I moved anything around in the tank, and it's been a few weeks since I changed the carbon in the filter.

Here's a photo I just took of The Stig himself, looking a bit bloated but okay:

The strip reports, for my tapwater straight from the tap:

pH: 8.0
Alkalinity: ~180 ppm
Hardness: ~120

I'll do full kit tests on my tapwater (aged and straight) first thing tomorrow and post the results.

This IS an office building, but it's a family business so no one has access to the office itself except myself and two family members. I am usually the only person who does anything to the betta or his tank.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I WAS away from October 13th-14th. I trusted one of the other family members to feed The Stig while I was gone, but they had strict instructions to give him ONLY one pellet of his betta food per day. I don't think they would have done anything else to the tank, and everything seemed fine when I got back. I suppose the tank could have been contaminated at that time, even though the snails only died off last week...?

Last edited by LakotaWolf; 11-08-2011 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 11-09-2011, 11:39 PM   #6 
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I ran some tests on my tapwater:
-pH somewhere in the 7.6 - 7.8 range
-Ammonia/Nitrite/Nitrates were 0 ppm.
-The Hardness was listed at 6 or 7 dKH (my kit only shows dKH... I'm thinking of picking up a better kit.)

I live in a fairly large city in California, and my betta's tank is at my family's small business office, and according to my city's website, "twenty-five percent of the City’s water supply is imported from a water district which uses a different disinfection method known as "chloramination", a combination of chlorine and ammonia." -- So, it sounds like my office's tapwater very well could have chlorine in it... though it didn't show any ammonia on the test.

So, I guess since my tapwater doesn't have any ammonia, nitrites, or nitrate in it, it's possibly safe to use as-is?... I'm not sure about its chlorine content. Do I have to "age" the tapwater at all?
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Old 11-10-2011, 08:14 AM   #7 
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You still need to use a good dechlorinator that covers both chlorine and chloramines (ammonia) due to city water supply treatment..Prime by Seachem is good and API makes a good product....

I like the API brand test kit for KH/GH

Even with the plants I am surprised that you are not showing any nitrate at this point....if this system has been running since June-you should have at least 5ppm nitrate......unless you have broke the tank down to make a full water change or turning off the filter and even some medication can kill the good bacteria....hard to say....I don't always trust the test strips results and on the API liquid reagent can sometimes have a high user error.....often its best to base some thing on the fish itself and not testing products.....
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