Everyone knows that keeping a fish tank requires a lot of work.
But what most people don’t know is that one of the most important aspects of keeping a fish tank is maintaining the ideal pH level.
What if your tap water is too high or low? Perhaps it’s in the correct range, but you would like to maintain the pH at a certain level.
All of these are common questions that aquarium enthusiasts face.
Fortunately, there are ways to maintain the pH level in your tank, no matter what the situation.
In this article, we will provide you with some tips on how to maintain the ideal pH level in your tank.
So, let’s start.
What Is pH?
Surely, before we get into how to keep the pH level stable, we should first understand what pH is.
The term pH stands for “power of hydrogen,” and because the “H” in pH is always capitalized, it represents the atomic symbol for hydrogen.
The pH is the acid-base equilibrium in a solution, which tells you how acidic or alkaline a substance is.
The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, solutions with a pH of less than 7.0 are acidic, while solutions with a pH of more than 7.0 are basic.
But, what if the solution is in the middle? What then?
Well, let’s explain it, if a solution measures 7 on the pH scale, it is neutral; it means that there is an equal number of H+ ions and OH- ions.
However, water’s mineral content and ions’ balance can be altered by dissolved chemicals and minerals.
If there are more hydrogen ions than hydroxide ions or vice versa, the pH of water may shift from a neutral state to an acidic one, or it may shift from basic to acidic.
Therefore, that’s the reason why it’s important to constantly monitor and adjust the pH levels in your aquarium so that the aquatic life inside it can live in a more stable environment.
What Is the Appropriate pH for Your Aquarium?
The ideal pH for each species of fish is different, as the majority of fish originate in ponds, rivers, streams, lakes, and seas with various pH levels.
For example, a basic pH of 8.0 or higher is ideal for saltwater fish.
Also, African cichlids are frequently raised in lakes with a pH greater than 8.0.
On the other hand, in Brazil, tropical fish may survive in water with a pH of 5.5 or lower.
So, you can easily notice how different the pH level is from one fish to another.
How pH Affects Your Fish?
The pH of your aquarium water can have a direct impact on the health and vitality of your fish.
When the pH level is not stable or within the desired range, it can cause your fish stress, which makes them susceptible to disease and illness.
Although some fish can tolerate wide ranges of pH levels, sudden changes can be fatal for them, the fish can die if this happens.
Further, an acidic environment can corrode your tank’s equipment and decorations over time, which will decrease the overall health of your aquarium.
So, it’s best to avoid these risks by keeping your pH level stable and within the desired range.
Note: It’s essential to keep an eye on pH level while setting up a new aquarium.
When you carry out water changes, a significant pH swing is possible.
Water changes are beneficial to your fish, but you must ensure that the new water is comparable in pH and temperature to what is already in your aquarium (except cleaner!).
How pH Impacts Other Compounds?
The pH of your aquarium water influences a variety of water quality and chemical elements.
1. Nitrification Bacteria
If your pH drops below 6.0, the nitrification bacteria that keep your ammonia and nitrites (toxic chemicals to fish) at zero ppm will begin to die off.
This may cause your tank to re-cycle and kill your fish if they are not robust enough.
2. Toxicity of Ammonia
The pH of your water also has a major impact on the toxicity of ammonia.
Ammonia is a nitrogenous compound that occurs in two forms: as ions (NH4+) and as ammonia (NH3).
The pH of your water plays a crucial role in the relative proportions of these two chemicals.
The higher the pH of the water, the less alkaline it is.
The amount of ammonia (the more toxic of the two substances) in alkaline water (pH above 7.0) will be greater than that in acidic water (pH below 7.0).
As a result, keep in mind that as the pH rises, any ammonia in the tank becomes more dangerous to your fish.
It is due to this fact that pH adjustments during the cycling process of an aquarium are not suggested.
There should not be any ammonia in your aquarium after the cycle is finished.
How Often Should I Check pH?
1. Regular Checks
It is essential to detect the small changes before they turn into big problems.
Therefore, the pH should be tested at least once a month, but preferably every two weeks.
And it is also better to keep test results in a logbook for future reference.
Remember that even though nothing is wrong, pH can differ depending on the time of day since it varies greatly.
As a result, testing should be done at the same time of day, usually in the afternoon.
2. When Fish Get Sick
Any time there is a fish illness or death, the pH must be checked.
The pH should be tested at any time the tank is treated with medication.
When treatment begins, check the pH every day until it returns to normal.
Water changes may be required as the pH approaches outside of its optimal range for the fish.
3. Before Buying New Fish
It’s also a good idea to test the water before you buy new fish.
Check with the vendor where you are buying the fish to see what their water pH is.
The pH of the water in which your fish is currently living must not be significantly different from the pH of water at home (ideally within 0.2 units above or below the home pH value).
How to Check the pH of Your Aquarium
You don’t need to be a math or science genius to use this method; all you have to do is purchase yourself a pH testing kit.
Most of these items are sold at pet specialty shops, but if you can’t find any, check online.
These goods have a wide range of prices depending on the brand and type, but they are almost always inexpensive.
Some businesses will do a free water test for you if you don’t want to pay anything.
You must provide them with a sample, though.
This takes time, making it hard to check your water every week, so it isn’t a long-term solution, and we wouldn’t recommend it.
1. Digital pH Testers
Digital pH testers are the most costly, but they are also the handiest.
All you have to do is dip the probe’s end in water and wait for it to display on the digital screen.
2. Manual Testing Kits
Manual testing kits are far more widespread and considerably less expensive.
Watering these will cause them to change color.
Compare the hue of this with the provided color-coded chart to determine pH.
Many test strips check for several factors at the same time, such as nitrites, nitrates, carbonates, and hardness.
Manual test kits, on the other hand, generally necessitate you to combine a sample of your water with a chemical solution that changes color. This is a little less handy.
You’ll have to purchase more strips or chemical solutions once you’ve used up all of your existing ones.
In general, unless the tester breaks down, a digital tester will operate indefinitely.
There are several options, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The one you choose will be determined by the price.
How to Lower pH in Aquariums?
If you find that the pH in your aquarium is too high, you will need to take corrective measures to lower it.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to do this
1. Reverse Osmosis (RO) or Deionized (DI) Water.
RO and DI water are two of the most popular methods for lowering pH levels.
They can be expensive, but they are extremely effective in this regard.
RO water is made by passing pressurized water through a membrane that only allows pure water to pass through.
This water is then collected in a storage tank.
DI water, on the other hand, is made by passing water through two columns of resin beads.
The first column removes the minerals, while the second column removes the dissolved carbon dioxide.
Both of these methods are popular because they not only lower pH levels but also remove other harmful compounds from the water.
2. Natural Driftwood
If you don’t want to or can’t afford to purchase RO or DI water, you can try natural driftwood.
This is a more eco-friendly option and can be found at most pet stores.
Driftwood will slowly leach tannins into the water, which will lower the pH over time.
This is a slow process, so it may take weeks or even months to see a significant change in pH levels.
3. Peat Moss or Peat Pellets
Peat moss and peat pellets are another popular, although less expensive, option for lowering pH levels.
When added to water, peat will release tannins that will also lower the pH.
Peat moss is sold in compressed bricks, which you will need to chop into smaller pieces before adding it to your tank.
Peat pellets, on the other hand, are small and easy to add to your aquarium.
Just be sure to follow the instructions on the package, as overdosing can lead to problems.
4. Carbon Dioxide
If you have a CO2 system in your aquarium, you can use it to lower the pH.
Carbon dioxide will react with the water to form carbonic acid, which will lower the pH.
This is a more expensive option, but it is very reliable and easy to use.
How to Raise pH in Aquariums?
Raising the pH in an aquarium can be just as important as lowering it, especially if the fish you keep need a higher pH to survive.
There are several ways to do this.
1. Crushed Coral or Dolomite Gravel
One of the most popular methods for raising pH levels is to add crushed coral or dolomite gravel to your tank.
This will release carbonates into the water, which will raise the pH.
Just be sure to avoid overdosing, as this can also cause problems.
2. Creating a Marble Top
Another popular method for raising pH levels is to create a marble top for your aquarium.
You can do this by boiling limestone or coral rock until it turns into a soft paste.
Then, apply it to the top of your aquarium and let it dry.
This will create a natural filter that will slowly release carbonates into the water, raising the pH.
3. Mesh Bag Containing Crushed Coral or Dolomite
If you don’t want to add any additional décor to your aquarium, you can also use a mesh bag filled with crushed coral or dolomite gravel.
This will act as a filter, and the carbonates released by the coral or dolomite will raise the pH.
4. Water Changes
One of the simplest ways to raise the pH in your aquarium is by performing water changes.
This will replace some of the water in your tank with fresh, pH-neutral water.
Just be sure to use a pH-neutral water source, like RO or DI water, to avoid further pH fluctuations.
If your aquarium is not adequately aerated, it can lead to a decline in pH levels.
Aeration will help to dissolve oxygen into the water, which will help to keep the pH stable.
If you have an air pump and airstone, be sure to use them to help aerate your tank.
6. Baking soda
Baking soda is a chemical compound that is commonly used to raise the pH in aquariums.
It is safe for fish and will help to stabilize the pH levels in your tank.
Just be sure to add it slowly, as too much can also cause problems.
You should also be cautious not to give your fish too much all at once, as this might kill them.
Certain corals, like Live Rock or Tongue Coral, can also help to raise the pH levels in your aquarium.
They will release carbonates into the water, which will help to stabilize the pH.
Just be sure to add them slowly and monitor the pH levels regularly, as too many corals can lead to a decline in water quality.
8. Removing Anything that Can Lower the pH.
For example, you might have placed driftwood in your tank without realizing it would lower the pH.
Remove any driftwood from your aquarium if this is creating difficulties for you.
Should pH Be Altered?
We advise sticking to the adage “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
Don’t respond just because the textbook claims that the best pH for your fish is 6.4 and your water comes out at 7.0.
It’s usually okay to keep the pH at the same level as your local tap water as long as it is stable, and the fish don’t appear to be in distress.
Also, the majority of today’s freshwater fish are produced in ponds that do not have a specific pH requirement, so they should be fine in most water conditions.
However, some fish do require a specific pH to survive, so if you are keeping fish that need a higher or lower pH, you will need to take steps to adjust the pH levels in your aquarium.
Water maintenance is always the greatest protection. The most essential things you can do to maintain water pH stable are performing frequent partial water changes and vacuum the gravel.
Over time, the biological filter bacteria that break down fish wastes will use up the alkalinity (carbonate) in the water, and the pH will gradually decline (become more acidic).
By doing water changes to remove the lower-pH water and adding fresh, dechlorinated water with higher alkalinity to raise and stabilize the pH level, you can avoid this.
In general, if your fish are in good health and show no signs of stress, there’s no need to alter the pH of your aquarium.
Maintaining a stable pH is one of the most important aspects of keeping an aquarium, and there are many ways to do this.
By using some of the methods mentioned in this article, you can keep your pH levels in check and ensure that your fish are healthy and happy.
We hope that this article has been helpful and that you now have a better understanding of pH and its importance in an aquarium.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to leave us a comment.