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Hey everyone,

So i have started cycling 3/26, on 4/14 I had a hole in my bed and lost over 50% of my H2O after diluting it around 100%. Then I had a long span of low PH, i was not sure if i should wait for it to rebound and i believe my actions may have really disrupted my cycle; I have been adding PH up periodically. on 5/4 i added 1/4 cup of "Earth Ambrosha/Necter" which i purchased from the aquaponic source. since then i lost all my nitrates and nitrites. I don't know whats going on but I was hoping to add fish before the 19th, i don't know if thats possible at this rate. any suggestions or problems with my actions you see?

Some info on my system

its a DWC/raft, around 160-200 gallons

Here are some charts

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and this is the PH

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I would dose with ammonia and see what happens.  If ammonia and nitrite quickly go to 0 then add fish.  It's a lot more trouble if you add fish before you're cycled and you may kill them.  It's interesting to me that your PH went down as much and as fast as it did - did anything other than nitrification cause that?  My PH has barely gone below neutral even after having fish in for 4 months and I suppose that is because my top off water is alkaline.  

what is the alkalinity of your water? the bacteria cycle uses up carbonates and if you have very soft water you may be using up most of the carbonates and need to add more to keep the cycle going, i had this and too experienced large pH drops fairly quickly. dropping the pH will also slow the cycling. 

i think it is cycled now, ive added ammonia and the nitrates and nitrites were at zero. I'm adding more water and ph up perioticly to fix the PH but its slowly on the rise. thanks everyone

So I have added fish! they are all looking nice. My PH is still rather low, I want to refrain from using PH up with the fish in, I have been adding water to dilute and raise the PH.

Does anyone know of any triggers that would cause such a low PH. the only variable i can think of is the foam insulation board, its the DOW boards with the milar, mabey that is causing it to lower?

 it is currently at 5.3, not good for the fish. I am adding 15 gallons a day and i will be putting a couple squirts of PH up. any suggestions?

Nick. I don't know what pH up product you have or what the ingredient is, or the specifics of your set and setting, but I suspect that you might be better off raising pH with something that has some alkalinity in the form of carbonates. Like hydrated lime ( i.e calcium hydroxide), or potassium bicarbonate, or calcium carbonate ( i.e. eggshells, sea shells etc)...that is if you have low KH water...(heck at this point even if you don't).

Triggers that cause pH to lower...well the process of turning ammonia into nitrates comes to mind as a pretty good "trigger"...

pH isn't going to "rebound". You have to intervene. A carbonate buffer would sure seem like the keen choice...

I'm confused by your statement "i think it is cycled now, ive added ammonia and the nitrates and nitrites were at zero"...

Was the ammonia at zero 24 hours after you added it as well?

Could you elaborate?


pH 5.3 is really bad for everything but the plants. You would be very hard pressed to cycle up a bio-filter under that condition.

Ditch the stupid pH up product and listen to Ian about the carbonates (for every 1mg of ammonia that gets converted to nitrates it takes about 4.5mg of carbonate alkalinity and roughly 8mg of oxygen)...So it's pretty important stuff. 

Yeah what he said.  It's time to go to the oyster par and beg for shells.  Put them in a sack and throw them in.  In the mean time dump some pH up in there(baking soda).  No more expensive pH up product for you buddy.

Also I highly doubt the foam board is doing it to you.  Also don't worry about the nitrates you lost, that is never a big deal.

Vlad Jovanovic said:

Nick. I don't know what pH up product you have or what the ingredient is, or the specifics of your set and setting, but I suspect that you might be better off raising pH with something that has some alkalinity in the form of carbonates. Like hydrated lime ( i.e calcium hydroxide), or potassium bicarbonate, or calcium carbonate ( i.e. eggshells, sea shells etc)...that is if you have low KH water...(heck at this point even if you don't).

Triggers that cause pH to lower...well the process of turning ammonia into nitrates comes to mind as a pretty good "trigger"...

pH isn't going to "rebound". You have to intervene. A carbonate buffer would sure seem like the keen choice...

I'm confused by your statement "i think it is cycled now, ive added ammonia and the nitrates and nitrites were at zero"...

Was the ammonia at zero 24 hours after you added it as well?

Could you elaborate?


pH 5.3 is really bad for everything but the plants. You would be very hard pressed to cycle up a bio-filter under that condition.

Ditch the stupid pH up product and listen to Ian about the carbonates (for every 1mg of ammonia that gets converted to nitrates it takes about 4.5mg of carbonate alkalinity and roughly 8mg of oxygen)...So it's pretty important stuff. 

K so shells & backing soda. Thanks everyone I'll add those today.
Vlad, my response was to georges suggestion, I have added powdered ammonia, and waited 24 hours, in that time the nitrates and nitrites returned to zero.
Should I see a difference with the shells within 24 hrs?

The baking soda might be best if used as a one time deal...I'd use it in an emergency like yours, but wouldn't make a habit out of it...Builders lime (also called slaked lime,or hydrated lime, or CaOH) should not really be difficult to find nor expensive to buy (hardware store or whatever BigBox store you like)...

No, you might not see a big difference with the shells in 24 hours,but then with the fish in there now you don't want to make pH changes any more drastic than 02-0.4 units per day or two (if you give a crap about the fish).

The lime will be much more "drastic" and fast acting if that's what your after...so be careful. If I were you I'd alternate between using the lime and using potassium bicarbonate. (Google Gardenville Potassium Bicarbonate for an online purchase).

Ok, when you add powdered ammonia what ppm does it bring your ammonia level up to?...and is it at zero 24 hours later?

(Ammonia I'm asking about, not nitrite or nitrates)...besides you should have some nitrates unless your plants are using them all up...

Basically I'm wondering (as you should be) where your bio-filter is at (realistically) after you crashed it by letting the pH plummet.

Contrary to generally accepted scientific thinking (mostly coming from the waste water treatment industry) nitrification can and does go on even at lower pH levels (mid-upper 5's and above) but only in well established bio-filters (new studies that Terri Mikola has turned us on to prove this)...It would be rather amazing (and very cool) if you are effectively oxidizing ammonia in your situation, though at the moment I am doubting that that is the case.

Even looong standing AP rocket scientists/gods do not/cannot consistently run their systems at pH 5.3. The only person I know of who is even close (mid-upper 5's lower 6's) is Nate Storey. And that man has a very unique system with components that he has patented and is working on his PhD. Not your run of the mill hobbyist by any stretch. Nate runs a very tightly controlled and monitored ship...

Such a low pH system would be a plant producing powerhouse...You are testing for ammonia right? Particularly with the fish in there and all...

Yea the ammonia went from 2- 1.0. Within 3 days. It is not bouncing to zero in 24 hours, its lowering though. I'm adding 2T of baking soda to about 250 gallon h20 Just arm and hammer is that alright? I'll be periodically adding eggshells and seashells. Along with more water til its full ~300g.
The basil Is loving it! it's growing at a rediculus rate.

Use the search field to learn about how seashells and eggshells work. (you can leave them in the system full time)...It's a bit different than lime or potassium bicarbonate...(both of which will be much better than the baking soda in the medium to long term, so go get your self some of those shells or lime, just to have on hand).

As long as the 2T aren't jacking up your pH too much too fast it's ok. (It's ok anyways except that big pH swings stresses the fish...the plants and bacteria probably don't mind though)...You have to take a pH reading before you add, then take another reading few of hours afterwards, in order to know. (To me, off the top of my head it sounds reasonable...but you need to check these things out, in your system,  for yourself)...


Hell, if your oxidizing ammonia to nitrates and you have a handle on your un-ionized ammonia that your fish are producing I'd be half tempted to leave the pH 'super' low (mid-upper 5's to lower 6's) but just know that that would be a risky strategy since any un-ionized ammonia you did have present in the system would then be extra-super toxic to the fish than it would be at a higher pH...but would be phenomenal for the plants...you'd have to be processing ammonia very efficiently though, so it might not be worth the potential fish kills...

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