pH in fishkeeping - fact or fiction

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16 Sep 2016 11:23 #1 by Damian_Ireland (Damian_Ireland)
Interested in peoples view on pH in fish keeping and how relevant it actually is. With the exception of trying to get certain wild caught species to breed i would like to hear some arguments as to why you should play with the pH of your water.

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16 Sep 2016 22:11 #2 by gunnered72 (Eddy Gunnered)
African Rift Lake Cichlids need high alkaline PH

Sensitive Discus and Altum Angels need low acidic PH

Otherwise most fish can live in varying PH levels...Breeding techniques over the years have evolved meaning fish are being bred in all kinds of different water chemistry and as a result are adapting.....Its man made evolution in a way...

Wild fish are an exception though...Its best to try mimic where they originally came from to help them thrive....Most will survive in our domestic tap water but wont do as well as they did in their natural home water....

Using any chemicals to adjust PH is just a disaster waiting to happen....Unless you know exactly what you are doing.....

Far more important to most fish is PH stability and good water quality rather than a particular PH level....

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17 Sep 2016 08:42 #3 by LemonJelly (Johnny Cowley)
I'd second all that. I'd say specific pH requirements are more important for plants than fish, funnily enough. Some do better in certain pHs. I personally have a preference for the more acidic end mostly because I find I get less algae at a lower pH.

"The only thing that burns in Hell is the part of you that won't let go of your life; your memories, your attachments. They burn them all away. But they're not punishing you.They're freeing your soul."

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17 Sep 2016 16:49 #4 by robert (robert carter)
Agree to a degree that stabilily is extremly important , but certainly with koi i do try to keep the ph around 7.5 certainly the fish seem to prefer it and this may be just me but i think the colouring looks better

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18 Sep 2016 22:53 #5 by igmillichip (ian millichip)
pH is important, but often the context or the reasoning folk give for its importance can be wrong.

Now, the means by which a given pH is obtained is even more important.

Disasters have been seen in keepers attempting to get a pH at one of the extremes of fishkeeping eg high pH for Rift Valley or low pH for fish such as altums by "whatever means it takes" yet ignoring the vitally important parameters such as RedOx (ORP as some say) and conductivity or genuine TDS.

Then to further add injury to injury, keepers may not even ascertain if the water is buffered or not.................thinking that changing the pH is "buffering" the pH is a serious mis-understanding.

You can raise the pH to being quite high, but that does not mean it is "buffered".
Similarly, you can increase the pH but do nothing to the alkalinity.

Just as pH in our bodies is vitally important to us, it is vitally important to fish (and more so).

pH can affect the biological processes (eg nitrosofication/nitrification efficiency) within the environment of the tank; it can have an effect on carbon dioxide levels; and flux of a number of chemical processes within the water.

pH can affect the toxicity of chemicals within the water.
eg whilst a low pH may decrease the percentage of the more toxic form of ammonia (unionised ammonia), low pH increases the toxicity of unionised ammonia.

Now, then we come to effect of pH on excretion (or getting rid of waste products from the body): pH can either help or hinder those processes.............and that will depend upon the species of fish.

There are some species of mudskipper that have active ammonia pumps to pump ammonia out of the fish against a concentration and pH gradient..............hence, those species able to do that can survive extraordinarily high pHs where other fish would simply die of ammonia poisoning at such pHs (apart from maybe fish from Lake Magadi where the pH is around10 !!............... I would image energy usage is high, and energy conservation low.).

pH of the water will have an effect on energy conservation within the fish (as I hnited above).....................if the fish is compromised too much on energy conservation then the fish will be stunted or be under-par or simply die from exhaustion.

In this brief comment, the key word that needs to be added is "balance"............ things need balance.
Different fish react to different parameters in different way.

ian

Irish Tropical Fish Society (ITFS) Member.

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19 Sep 2016 11:17 #6 by Damian_Ireland (Damian_Ireland)
as always, super post Ian. I am wondering, how does tank breeding alter these requirements- surely if these are evolutionary traits they are not quickly changed ?

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19 Sep 2016 20:11 #7 by igmillichip (ian millichip)

Damian_Ireland wrote: as always, super post Ian. I am wondering, how does tank breeding alter these requirements- surely if these are evolutionary traits they are not quickly changed ?


That is a good point, but highlights several items.

Firstly it does show that tolerance to specific pHs can be quite flexible in many species if the pHs are within a certain range.
Now, often, though, what have been quoted as ideal pHs are more to do with a safe second guess of optimal based upon natural water conditions.
Acclimatisation of wild caught fish would have best been done using water as close to the fishes natural waters as was possible...........and remember that so many "modern" pieces of knowledge are based upon the keeping of wild caught fish 80 odd years ago !!

The above indicates general adaptability.

Now, the next point is really about genetics........

an individual may be pre-adapted to being able to tolerate varying conditions much more than another individual in the group (that is normal within a population).
When a constraint is placed upon the population, the ones able to tolerate the constraint will be the best survivors (survival of the fittest).

In a captive environment, a constraint will be placed on fish................those that are pre-adapted to tolerate that constraint best and be able to breed under that constraint may survive and do well.
Thus their offspring are more likely to have that pre-adaptation: and so on and so forth until we get to a state of a long line of "!easy to keep widely tolerant" individuals.

Hence, our captive environment has selected the best suited fish for captive keeping.

Now, we know that, no matter what, some fish are going to be easier to keep in captivity than others....................but that is just how things are in nature. Not all can be selected for high tolerance.

ian

Irish Tropical Fish Society (ITFS) Member.

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