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Hey Everyone,

Does Lemon juice work to reduce PH in a system?

I bought some rock wool to start some lettuce seeds and the back of the package said to use lemon juice to reduce the water ph to 5.5 to start the seeds. 

I figured this would work in my system as well, which has been consistently coming up with a PH of 8.2, so I squeezed a few lemons into the system and tested the PH the next day and I noticed that the PH went down to 8. So I squeezed a bunch more lemons in. I put about 12 lemons worth of juice into my barelponic system, about 55 gallons of water.

I think the answer to my question is no, because my I tested the levels today, and my PH is still at 8, and all my other levels are weak. I'm about 2 months into cycling my system. My amonia already spiked and was consistently reeding 0.25 ppm, now its at 0. My Nitrites were reading 5ppm now they are 2 ppm and my Nitrates which were at 40ppm are now at 0. Did I just kill all my bacteria? Is all this lemon juice bad for the fish? 

I only have 2 gold fish that have survived the cycling. Should I add more fish? Should I change the water and start again? I have a lot of new growth in my grow beds right now.  is the lemon juice bad for the plants?

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Yep, I think you just witnessed firsthand the 'wonderful' anti-bacterial property of lemon juice. :( Bummer...

You'd be better off treating your top-up water in a separate container ( so as not to needlessly subject your fish to the massive pH roller coaster that will ensue in the process). Hydrochloric acid, Sulfuric acid, Nitric acid would all work well...without killing off your bacteria. Any of the above three acids are the main and usually only ingredient in all those different hydroponic "pH Down" products. I use pure 16-18% HCL from the cleaning supply section of the grocery stores here. Works great.

Say you take a container full of water you plan to top up with (chlorine/chloramine free). Say its pH 8.2 you pour enough acid to bring it down to say 6.8. In a couple hours it's back up to 8.2 (or 8 or whatever). Pour a bit more acid (less than the first time) and test pH after 5 or 6 hours and see where its at. It will take less acid the second and even less the third time to get down to 6.8 (or whatever). The reason this happens (at least with my water) is because as the acid reacts with the carbonates (which is what makes your waters pH high if you have 'hard water') they eat one another up. Unless you super over did it with the acid (not preferred) the carbonates will 'use up' the acid and your pH will rise, sometimes to your original value, other times to slightly below the original pH value (it depends on how much you poured, so experiment a bit). If you over do it a bit its ok, just add more water to balance it out. Or add it (but more sparingly) to your system. (Unless you WAY over did it, and your system is small)

Top up with this water slowly after time as not to lower your systems pH by more than 0.2 or so over the period of a day or two.

The above is a general description of the process. You'll have to experiment with your water and what ever concentration of whatever kind of acid you end up with. Take a 10 gallon bucket and play around a bit. Its easy after you do it a couple times. I've gotten so lazy that I don't even measure the acid anymore and hit my mark on the second pour of acid.

I hope some one else will chime in,...but if it were me, I'd start all over. Change the water...maybe keep the plants going with MaxiCrop and worm tea if you want...IMO

Sorry to hear about your system crashing...

Freeze!  don't go starting over quite yet.

Lets make sure we got all the information correct before we freek out.

If the damage is done, it's already done and nothing gained by dumping to conclusions and you could loose out if things are not too trashed.

If you had said that you added the lemmon juice and the next day the ammonia and nitrite were spiking, then I might say uh-oh.  but if your ammonia and nitrite are still 0 or coming down, then things may be ok.  Nitrates being 0 Just means your plants have used up all the nutrients with all their new growth.

The recommendations about adjusting water pH in a separate container is a good one, do that from now on.

citric acid is antibacterial and lemon juice being high in that acid means that maybe you have set back your cycling but if you are still feeding your goldfish and the ammonia is 0 and the nitrite is still coming down and your water hasn't turned a scary stinky color, then you are probably better off continuing and perhaps adding some more fish in instead of dumping and starting over.

However, if the water has gotten stinky or gone off color and the ammonia and nitrite start rising here immediately after the lemon juice incident, then a major water change will be in order though you may not be starting from scratch.  Do your pH adjustments in a separate container as Vlad suggests.

Thanks TC, Good thinking, That stuff is good to know. I really hope that Adam doesn't have to start over. 

The natural way to bring down the PH is using driftwood from a lake or river.  It really works.  Cut the pieces to the size you want and just let it float around. In our systems we used about 3-4" circumference and about 12" long.  We have 150 gallon tanks.  In our aquariums we used small pieces  3-4 inches long (chunk). The other way we found out about is sorgum moss.  Put this in a piece of nylon hose tie off and hang under your return flow to the tank.  Let it continuely flow over the moss.  This also is suppose to lower the PH.  We have NOT tried this though as we said the driftwood worked wonders.  Have a blessed day. Mary

Andy, 

Should you decide to go the way of using the tannic acid from driftwood, look into it a bit. It is "natrual", but then again so is lemon juice :) So it comes with it's own packet of AP applicable 'right' and 'wrong' ways to do it. In aquarium culture for example, soft woods and especially pinewoods are generally not used. Not so much because they tend to color the water even more, but the pitch that tends to ooze out of those woods over time can mess up your fish's gills and impair their ability to function. Most living things do not react well when they can't breathe. Also, Birch and Aspen drift-wood (probably some others too?), forget it. No tannic acid in those two woods, so no benefit in lowering pH. Also, (yeah I know there's a lot of "also's")...Tannic acid is a natural metal chelator ESPECIALLY plant available iron (Fe2+). So depending, be prepared for the possibility have to go and add some 'un-natural'  chelated iron product (usually Fe-EDDHA or Fe DTPA) to your system to deal with even harder-core iron deficiencies that might ensue. This iron chelating effect has been known (and capitalized by various industries for a looong, looong time now, as far back as the 12th century in Europe, this effect has been taken advantage of, though it wasn't until the 19th century that folks were able to explain through science the exact mechanations). So nothing 'new' or 'fringe' there...

Keep in mind there are no exact measurements either. 

So, whatever you do, try to apply it wisely to your particular system and conditions.

To me, Hydrogen and Chlorine and the (HCL acid they combine to produce) are two elements just as natural as tannin.

Adding them (acids) to bring down pH also has the added benefit of releasing plant usable Calcium (Ca2+) that is 'locked up' in hard carbonate (CO3) filled water.

I'm not knocking Mary's method, just whatever you decide to do, look into it a bit and see how/if it applies to your particular setting, to avoid system catastrophic events.

Good luck.

Thanks everyone, 

really appreciate you all weighing in. I don't know how I could do this project without all your help. 

What are your water tests looking like today Adam?

Hey TCLynx thanks for asking, 

My levels are the same as yesterday, PH 8, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 2 ppm, Nitrate 0

Not sure if this is worth mentioning but, except for the ph test, all the colors dont match the chart colors exactly. THis was the same yesterday. The amonnia is a murky pale yellow, the nitrite is a solid purple but its so hard to distinguish whether its 2 or 5 ppm. And the Nitrate is more of a urine yellow than whats on the chart for 0. I'm guessing this means that the levels are in between the two numbers on the chart.

Its been 6 days since I added the 12 lemons to my system. No funky smell. Fish are still alive, though motionless and hiding, but they have been doing that since the beginning. Should I add more fish? Should I try to change the PH or just leave it at 8?  

 

don't try adjusting pH in the system.  Do as Vlad suggests, adjust the pH of your top up water and let it settle before using it to top up the system.

If you have not salted the system, you should get some solar pool salt or solar water softener salt and salt the system to 1 ppt of salt to help the fish deal with those nitrites.  Wait till your nitrites get down to 0 before adding more fish.

Time, once the system is fully cycled and you start pushing the bio-filter a bit, then you will likely see the pH fall naturally.  Especially if you can adjust your top up water (or maybe start using rain water for top ups at least part of the time.)  If after the system is fully cycled and you are not seeing the pH come down a bit, then it might be worth looking into other options but for right now, I wouldn't go messing with the water in the system too much.

Vlad.....I really don't know WHAT TYPE OF DRIFTWOOD I have.  We live by Grand Lake "Lake of the Cherokee" in Oklahoma  and the drift wood we picked looked very smooth and dry.  It was light in weight as well.  MY Tilapia are doing great.  No loss of fins or life etc due to sticky substance or ???since August of 2011.   We must be doing something RIGHT????you think.  The person that blogged on the driftwood also did not say anything about tannin etc.  Just plain ole driftwood from lake or river.  In any case for our particular area.....this wood seems to work just fine.  Hope Adam gets his system working smoothly.  It took us about 1- 1 1/2 months for the system to cycle correctly.  Everything was all over the place.  Murray Callum "Australia guy"  told us to be prepared and some systems really up to 6 months and/or until the beds, water etc are all in sinc.  He was so right!  Happy aquaponics  WE LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!! Mary

Vlad Jovanovic said:

Andy, 

Should you decide to go the way of using the tannic acid from driftwood, look into it a bit. It is "natrual", but then again so is lemon juice So it comes with it's own packet of AP applicable 'right' and 'wrong' ways to do it. In aquarium culture for example, soft woods and especially pinewoods are generally not used. Not so much because they tend to color the water even more, but the pitch that tends to ooze out of those woods over time can mess up your fish's gills and impair their ability to function. Most living things do not react well when they can't breathe. Also, Birch and Aspen drift-wood (probably some others too?), forget it. No tannic acid in those two woods, so no benefit in lowering pH. Also, (yeah I know there's a lot of "also's")...Tannic acid is a natural metal chelator ESPECIALLY plant available iron (Fe2+). So depending, be prepared for the possibility have to go and add some 'un-natural'  chelated iron product (usually Fe-EDDHA or Fe DTPA) to your system to deal with even harder-core iron deficiencies that might ensue. This iron chelating effect has been known (and capitalized by various industries for a looong, looong time now, as far back as the 12th century in Europe, this effect has been taken advantage of, though it wasn't until the 19th century that folks were able to explain through science the exact mechanations). So nothing 'new' or 'fringe' there...

Keep in mind there are no exact measurements either. 

So, whatever you do, try to apply it wisely to your particular system and conditions.

To me, Hydrogen and Chlorine and the (HCL acid they combine to produce) are two elements just as natural as tannin.

Adding them (acids) to bring down pH also has the added benefit of releasing plant usable Calcium (Ca2+) that is 'locked up' in hard carbonate (CO3) filled water.

I'm not knocking Mary's method, just whatever you decide to do, look into it a bit and see how/if it applies to your particular setting, to avoid system catastrophic events.

Good luck.

I tried lemon juice it wont hold it down.  You will need to try part ro water and rain water if you want it to go down.  PH down can be used and it will hold down the ph levels.

Try hydrated lime and potassium carbonate

 

Todd

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