I’ve been kind of getting into the whole aquarium thing again. I’ve been testing the ammonia at least daily, and it seems to have settled into the 0.25-0.5 range. Usually, that’s still considered bad. But! Since I really haven’t been paying pretty much any attention to the water for the past few years, the pH has dropped drastically. It’s registering about 6.5-6.8. My tap water is alkaline by default (above 8), and I’ve been adding some pH down drops to get it close to 7 before going in the tank. I’ve been using pretty much the same formula for I don’t know how long. Again, not really testing on a regular basis for a while.

So I know you’re thinking, “The tap water changed and I’ve been actually over acidifying it.” Nope. But one water quality I rarely paid attention to before and absolutely didn’t pay attention to the last few years: carbonate hardness. The tap water essentially doesn’t have any for whatever reason (I tested it). And the whole nitrite/nitrate thing wore down what little I had in my tank. The carbonate hardness acts as a pH buffer. Helps keep water from wild swings in pH as well as keeps it kind of alkaline. I had none. So, as the nitrogen gets processed, it turns the water acidic. And with the carbonate buffer essentially gone, boom, acidic tank.

The positive of this is that the acidic nature of the tank ionizes the ammonia (at least so I’ve read a few places). The ionized form of ammonia is not toxic like “free” ammonia. So, that’s probably why I didn’t see death and destruction.

But, I probably should get the carbonate levels back up to something healthy. So, that’s the next step. I could get some crushed coral or other things. But I’m taking the easy way out and just getting an alkaline buffer in a bottle. I’ll need to slowly start adding and raising the pH so as not to shock the fish. Apparently, the mollies prefer pH in the range of 7.2-7.8, and acidic tank water can actually cause discomfort. Wouldn’t know it by the fact that they’ve multiplied to the point of overcrowding. But anyway, I should get the tank closer to the slightly alkaline pH it should be as well as build up that buffer.

I’m also switching product lines. I had been using API Stress Coat+ as my water conditioner for a while. But the aloe they use really doesn’t do anything based on what I’ve read. Plus the recent bottle from Amazon seemed suspect as it had a different viscosity than the previous bottles. So I switched to Seachem Prime for my dechlorination needs. And got some Seachem stress stuff as well just in case, but I’m not going to use it with every water change. The Seachem Prime is really concentrated. I had to buy an eye dropper to properly dose my 5 gallon bucket. Literally 2-4 drops per gallon. The 500ml bottle should last a long time.

The water is much better than it was a couple weeks ago, though I’m still fighting a little bit of cloudiness. I’m trying Seachem Purigen as of today to see if that does anything. It’s some sort of resin that binds and capture itsy bitsy particles. You’re supposed to be able to “recharge” it once it gets used up/dirty by soaking it in bleach for a while. But there’s a problem with “some” stress coat products. If the stress coat contains amines, then the whole process results in essentially poisoning the entire tank with chloramine. So, if this does work and I decide to use it longer term, I’ll be buying new stuff just in case the API (or Fluval) conditioner/stress coat would result in a toxic reaction. It’s not expensive and lasts longer than carbon, so hoping it won’t be cost prohibitive. It’s been about 8-10 hours, and it doesn’t look to have made any kind of improvement. But we’ll see. I also have some Seachem Clarity if I want to try that. It “binds” the little particles into bigger particles which can be trapped by the sponges/mechanical filtration.

So that’s been all the excitement in my life lately. Aren’t you glad you read this?

Note: After writing this, I discovered more than one report of API's ammonia test never reporting below 0.25, even on just pure water (distilled or whatever). So my 0.25 might actually be 0 in actuality.