Filtration Low PH Aquariums

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Filtration Low PH Aquariums

Postby Andrew Mc » Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:54 pm

I live in a rural area of Northern Ireland where my water supply which come from a private spring well is very soft and slightly acidic.

I have been keeping freshwater tropical fish successfully since I was a child and being aware of the extremely soft and slightly acid water from my tap, my main interest has been keeping fish from the Amazon region, Neon and Cardinal Tetras among my favourites with a few other species that prefer the same water conditions, or wide spectrum fish like Danios who’s water condition requirements are not critical.

Now in retirement, I would like to try breeding some cardinal and neon tetras and have therefore been recently reading and researching a lot about breading these and other soft water fish requiring water conditions in the range of 1-2 dH, and a
pH of 5-6. Many writers on the subject suggested the use of peat in the filtration system to achieve and maintain the water condition within these parameters. I understand the reasons for this but I don’t understand why they also recommend sponge filters as the best method of filtration for the main filters in such setups; since there is no biological filtration below a PH of 6.5. Does the sponge filters simply remove the solid waste partials; how then are the nitrites and ammonia removed in these set ups? Would I need to use chemical filtration as well, or live plants like Java moss or fern?

I would therefore appreciate if someone could explain to me the filtration process for aquariums with a PH of less than 6.5 and how to maintain good water quality in these low PH systems.

Thank you in anticipation to all who can help.

Andrew Mc
Andrew Mc
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Re: Filtration Low PH Aquariums

Postby Rockfish » Wed Feb 17, 2016 1:00 am

Hi, welcome to the forum.

I wouldn't say that there's no biological filtration below 6.5, just that it gradually tails off as you move away from more neutral pH values. When you get as low as pH 5 there's probably very little 'classic' nitrifying bacterial activity going on, but then one thing that has certainly become more apparent in recent years is the realisation that the specific bacteria involved are not as simple as originally thought, and that previously unknown groups of organisms such as Archaea play their part too - so it's possible/likely that different groups of organisms take over at different pH levels to some extent, so there's likely to be some biological conversion going on.

My local water is very soft too, and there never seems to be a problem in the tanks where I deliberately allow the pH to drop low. I think this is easier in more 'natural' setups - i.e. with wood, leaves, plants - probably because it encourages the growth of a wider range of natural organisms to break down wastes, and plants take up ammonia too of course. I personally don't use chemical filtration, not least of all because things like carbon and many mixed resins will remove organics and therefore work against the humic substances etc released from wood and leaves, or introduced with 'blackwater' tonics, etc.

Of course the other advantage of sponge filters is that they are safe for tiny fry, and many fry will feed on the microflora/fauna on the surface of them.
Sean


Remember there's lots of info at The Tropical Tank main site!
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Re: Filtration Low PH Aquariums

Postby Andrew Mc » Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:27 pm

Hi Rockfish,

Thank you for your prompt response and for sharing your experience with me.

It was very helpful in enabling me to approach my low PH breeding project much better informed and with a little more confidence, though the maintenance of a soft water, low PH aquarium with its high risk of rapid acidification will obviously be challenging to manage. I read else ware that, there is no ammonia in water at Ph range 4.5 – 5.5, this is something I was not aware of either.

I was not in disagreement with the use of sponge filters it was just that I couldn’t understand how they functioned in these low PH tanks. The Achaea phenomenon is new to me. It’s amazing that there are some unexplained or perhaps misunderstood exceptions where the general theory and practice don’t always seem to apply.

Thanks again for your help.
Andrew Mc
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