Aquarium Basics: Adjusting pH Levels

A healthy aquarium is a delicate balance. Water chemistry such as hardness and pH play an important role in a thriving fish population. Most water problems are easily solved. A few simple adjustments can give you a stable pH environment for your finned friends.

What Is pH And Its Importance?

In order to talk about adjusting pH levels in an aquarium, we must first understand what it is and why it is important. In its simplest definition, a water's pH is the measure of its acidity on a scale of 1-14, with 7 being neutral. The lower the number the more acidic, the higher the number, the more alkaline it becomes. 

The pH of an aquarium is measured in tenths. For example, water with a pH of 6.8 would be slightly acidic. The type of fish you are housing will determine what you want your pH to be. The pH of your aquarium is affected by variables such as hardness of water, plant life in the tank, decaying organic matter and the number of fish in the space. 

The proper pH is an essential element to the health of your fish. Levels should be checked about every 2 weeks. Check once a week if you notice a trend of pH changes and immediately if you notice sick or dead fish in the tank.  

Do I Need to Increase or Decrease Aquarium pH?

To determine the pH level of your aquarium you can purchase a test kit. This is a good starting point to understanding if a change in pH is necessary. Generally, fish in an established tank can tolerate a fairly wide range of pH levels, so if your fish are happy and healthy, it is best to just monitor the situation. If you begin to see a trend of rising or falling pH, you can take the next steps to resolve the problem. 

How Do I Change The pH?

In order to successfully change the pH of your aquarium water, we first need to determine the water hardness. Hard water (high mineral content) is inherently alkaline and soft water (low mineral content) is inherently acidic. Your water composition can be determined with a test kit.  If you find that the tank water is too hard, add Sera Super Peat. This will both soften the water and stabilize slightly acidic water. If the water is soft, add a mineral-based substrate such as calcium rock or limestone.

Once you have made these changes wait a week and test the pH again. If you need to lower or raise the pH it will be easier to keep stable. 

To lower aquarium water pH:

You can naturally lower pH in your tank by placing a piece of untreated, undyed driftwood in the tank. Pre-soak or boil it first. Another natural option is almond leaves. The tannins in these natural options cause the pH to gradually become lower and keeps your tank stable. 

To raise aquarium water pH:

A common cause of pH taking a dive is a tank that has an excessive amount of decaying matter or unconsumed fish food. An easy way to correct this is by cleaning the filter and a partial water change. You can also consider a crushed coral substrate to naturally raise pH. Baking soda is a quick fix but use caution, a little goes a long way. 

Commercially available products are also sold to adjust pH levels. You should use the smallest amount possible over several days to slowly change the pH level. Fish do not tolerate rapid changes and can become sick or die if you change the pH too quickly.

A Stable Tank Is A Happy Tank

As the saying goes "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". Clean or change filters regularly. Do partial water changes when necessary. Monitor your pH for trends. Reach out for help, if you have questions contact us.  Your fish will appreciate your effort!

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