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Hi all, I'm brand new to AP and built a little micro system with a 20 gallon tank, some feeder gold fish and basic garden herbs to get my hands dirty so to speak before attempting a real system. I lost a couple of fish last night to an ammonia spike. I had been using a liquid test for ph that I wasn't real happy with as its hard to tell the exact color gradient, not to mention the levels go in increments of .5. So I bought an electronic tester for comparison (2 days to late I'm afraid). My question is I've read to bring down ph at this and other sources

to not use citric acid. But in the same sentences they recommend using General Hydro's buffer which I have. But on the back of the ph down bottle it clearly says "Contains phosphoric acid, Citric Acid and mono ammonium phosphate." Any help in deciphering this contradiction would be most helpful.


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Hi Vlad,

Yes, that well water is literally "liquid rock". We have a softener that bring it down but it still fluctuates in the 20's and 30's. Bringing in from another source isn't much of an issue since we also have a 3K gal water tank.

I increased my daily dosage of Ammonia to 4oz. Everyday this weekend, the 24hr post readings are at or below 0.25ppm. You brought up an interesting point though about the nitrite readings. I have never gotten a reading above 0.5ppm and that puzzles me. So I am a bit unsure whether to add the fish to the system. Perhaps instead of Talapia, I should take a chance on putting a few comets in their to "test the waters."

Not sure yet really. What do you think?

Hum, double check the test kit and make sure it is the proper nitrite test.  Test plain water and make sure you get a 0 nitrite reading.  Hum, I'm not sure what he should test to make sure the kit will properly read a high nitrite reading.

Normally nitrite has been the harder spike to get past in my experience and the nitrite should have been sky high for a week or so before and after the ammonia started to drop the first time.  Was there a period of time when you were not testing nitrite?  I suppose it's possible you could have missed it but I don't know how?

As to cycling up NEEDING to have a high pH, no so much really but I do agree that for newbies having a pH above 7 is probably best for initial cycle up just to allow one to keep an eye on pH before it bottoms out below the test kit readability range.  At lower pH one must keep the pH stable and lowering the pH slowly to run a low pH system is important.  When one doesn't bother to test pH regularly and they let the pH fall rapidly from somewhere above 7 to down below where the test kit can read, there is often a pH crash bacterial crash sort of thing that happens where the ammonia spikes after the system was cycled and people quit bothering to monitor pH tests.  The sudden drop in pH is what is dangerous.  There are people out there who run systems that are constantly at a lower pH though and they work.  I'm not sure how they do it since my source water so far has not allowed me to keep a stable pH much below 6.8.  If your source water is hard well water, I advise collecting as much rain as you can to allow you to keep the calcium carbonate levels in your system down so you can keep some potassium available to your plants.  Otherwise RO water might be the only way.

It's an API test kit. There was a time when I was not testing for nitrite but it was early on. I am not sure if I missed it or not but I am uneasy about adding fish this week. I'll keep monitoring daily and see. When I started seeing 0.5ppm , I thought it was going to start continuing to go up, but after adding the "poo" water, the nitrites now read 0.25ppm or less everyday...

I feel like I am hijacking Patricks discussion so apologies are in order. I am going to open a new discussion thread. Thanks so much for all the help!

Bryan Acred said:

It's an API test kit. There was a time when I was not testing for nitrite but it was early on. I am not sure if I missed it or not but I am uneasy about adding fish this week. I'll keep monitoring daily and see. When I started seeing 0.5ppm , I thought it was going to start continuing to go up, but after adding the "poo" water, the nitrites now read 0.25ppm or less everyday...

If you can dose to between 1-2 ppm of ammonia one day and have both ammonia and nitrite back down to 0 ppm 24 hours later, then you are fishlessly cycled and you can add fish.  If it will be a while before you can add fish, then keep dosing the ammonia to about 1 ppm per day to keep your bacteria fed until a couple of days before you will get the fish.  Make sure the ammonia and nitrite are 0 or close to it before you get fish.

No worries about hijacking anything Bryan. TCL, thanks for all the knowledge, I bet there's more people learning than we think from each other. It's been a couple of weeks and just in case you are still seeing this I thought I'd give an update. I haven't trimmed anything when it should have just for experimentation, the strawberry which was the runt from the outside bunch is now bigger than all the others but it is not producing fruit which the others outside have a little. The cilantro has grown over and around the light. The levels now are almost 0 across the board. I think it is over-planted by at least 2x and they are consuming all the nitrates. I'm am still unable to post pics into a thread but I put up some new pics. Notice the length of the runners from the strawberry.

If the plants are happy and not showing signs of nitrogen deficiency, then having 0 nitrates just means you are in balance.  It is possible to have a productive system running with ammonia, nitrite and nitrate numbers all reading 0.

If the strawberry is producing runners, I wouldn't expect it to produce berries at this time, it must have gotten confused about the season by being moved and it is now propagating itself with runners, or lower light levels because taller plants are blocking the light could affect it too.

Hum?  have you tried the image button at the top of the post box?  If you can upload the photos to ning you can then place them in the post like this

I just click the image button, then I chose from URL and I used the image location of one of the images in the link above.

Wow, running all the numbers at zero with no deficiencies would seem like the ultimate in efficient systems.

(The image button is to the right of the "Link" button, but to the left of the blue and grey film strip icon button).

I've never managed it myself Vlad, but I know of people who have.  My pH has never stayed low but stable enough for me to have yet managed it.  My well water has been giving me too many issues and not enough rain most of the year.

Hopefully the new farm will change that but I'll be running larger systems so I don't know how likely I am to balance that perfectly.

Well if anybody can do it, I'm sure you can TC...I hope conditions on the new farm allow you to get close enough to "perfect".

Man, we've had non-stop rain for almost 5 days now...and here's me without a catchment tank yet. I'll be sorry when the dry season comes...

Ah I know the feeling.  But I don't think I've seen 5 straight days of rain here well since maybe the hurricane summer in 2004 and maybe not even then, it usually gets sunny a few days after a storm goes through just to make sure everyone realizes how hot and steamy things can really get as the sun starts sucking all that moisture into the air.

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