Asides from water temperature, cleanliness, and proper feeding of your fish, pH levels can determine whether your fishes survive or if they remain healthy. On one hand, low pH levels are acidic and will burn the skin of your fish while high pH levels are alkaline and will poison your fish!
It is thus very important that you maintain correct pH levels in your aquarium at all times, especially as different fish thrive at different pH levels based on their biology.
Since it is so important, what exactly does pH mean?. The pH (power of Hydrogen) of a substance is its acidity or alkalinity level. It is usually graded from low to high on a scale of 0 – 14; where low being acidic is 0 – 6, neutral is 7 and high being alkaline is 8 – 14.
For an aquarium, the pH of freshwater is usually between 6.5 – 8.0, preferably at 7.0 as too acidic (low pH) or too alkaline (high pH) would be disastrous for your fish.
Fluctuations in pH levels are normal and these changes continue to occur. For instance, the pH of tap water put into a bucket today will be lower than the pH of the same water if tested after 24 hours. This is mostly due to gaseous exchange but other factors like interaction with the plants, corals and other substrates in the aquarium also cause changes in pH levels.
For this reason, it is important that you know how to raise the pH in your aquarium when the pH level drops to levels that can be harmful to your fish.
How Do I Measure The PH Of My Aquarium
The baseline pH of the water you’re using in your aquarium must be known first before you can determine if it needs the pH to be raised or lowered. Thankfully, the process of checking pH levels is simple and straightforward and does not require prior training.
- Electronic Tester
- Chemical Tester
- pH Test Kit
You’ll need to use an electronic tester, a chemical tester, or a pH test kit from any store around you.
An electronic tester displays the pH reading on a screen and is the most accurate way to check pH levels, while a chemical tester (usually test strips) requires comparing color changes against a color chart.
The advantage of the chemical test strips over the electronic tester is that they can be used to check for other things such as carbonates, ammonia, or nitrate levels and are relatively cheaper.
It is important that regardless of the method used, you measure the pH accurately to avoid making the wrong adjustments or overcompensating in one direction that might end up leaving your aquarium too alkaline or acidic
When you know the accurate pH of the aquarium, you can now proceed to raise the pH if the pH level was low.
How To Raise PH In Aquarium
To raise pH in an aquarium, there are a number of options available for you to pick from between natural methods, chemical methods, and the use of mechanical devices.
Generally, natural methods are more preferred as they work over a period of time, slowly affecting the pH and aid long term pH balance, as opposed to chemical methods which are fast acting and can cause shock to the fish if introduced immediately, while also requiring regular use as the pH eventually will return to its original value.
Natural Methods to Raise pH in Aquarium
Substrates that can be used to raise pH in aquarium naturally include crushed corals, petrified corals, limestone, crushed shells (e.g. oyster shells), etc. They slowly raise pH levels and care should be taken in using them to prevent raising the pH too high over time. You can either put them directly into the aquarium for aesthetics as well or hide them in the filter.
● Change the Water
This remains the most natural and safe way to return pH levels to the correct value. Although changing the aquarium water should be a part of normal maintenance practices, you can change the water to raise the pH in an aquarium when the levels are low.
Ideally, do not empty the tank completely as this can lead to shock for your fish, instead change the water over a period of time, replacing about 20% every 2 - 3 weeks.
● Remove Driftwood Completely or Boil Regularly
Driftwood releases tannic acid into the water that changes the water colour and lowers the pH in aquarium, so if you absolutely must use it, boil it before introducing it into the aquarium and during aquarium maintenance to reduce the release of tannic acid.
On the other hand, you can simply remove them from the aquarium, alongside other tannic acid producing components like peat moss.
Mechanical Method to Raise pH in Aquarium
● Increase Concentration of Dissolved Oxygen
Increasing the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water is a great way to raise pH levels in aquarium. There are two ways this can be done; either by repositioning the filter or by using air/water pumps.
To use the filter, place the filter outlet above the water surface, it will cause the water to be agitated which aids oxygen movement. For the air/water pumps, they work by increasing the aquarium currents, allowing air to enter the water. Be careful in using the air/water pump so that the currents generated are not too strong for your fish.
Chemical Methods to Raise pH in Aquarium
● Baking Soda
Any brand of baking soda will do and a little usually goes a long way. The recommended quantity for use is 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons and it shouldn’t be directly added into the aquarium as it is fast-acting and the sudden change can harm the fish.
To use, you can either remove fish before adding the baking soda then wait for the pH to stabilize, or you can mix it in about 2 cups of tank water in a separate container then add it in little quantities to the tank every 10 – 12 hours till it is completely finished.
● Company Prepared Reagents
Company-prepared reagents are available in the market as chemicals that have been made to raise pH in aquariums. Before you use any such preparation, make sure that the components are not toxic to your fish and always adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions.
What Causes Low PH In Aquarium
Now that you know how to raise the pH of your aquarium, here are some of the reasons why it might have gotten lowered in the first place.
- Tannins – Tannic acid released over time from aquarium decorations like bogwood, driftwood, peat moss lower pH naturally. Thus, be ready for reducing pH levels if you include one or more of them in your aquarium.
- High Carbonic Acid Concentration – When CO2 dissolves in water it leads to the formation of carbonic acid and increased levels of carbonic acid in the tank will lower the pH. Increasing the concentration of dissolved oxygen is the solution to this.
- Impurities - One of the things that can be corrected by changing the water in the aquarium, impurities that build up in the water whether from decaying food or biological waste released by the fish can all work to lower the aquarium pH.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a perfect pH level?
Keeping the pH strictly at a particular level is not the goal; so long as you have the pH between 6.5 – 8.0, variations are allowed. A perfect pH level is any level that is suitable for your fish. Do not try to correct every little fluctuation in pH as this can cause stress to the fish.
Will low pH kill my fish?
Yes, it will kill the fish as low pH is acidic and can lead to burns, as well as prevent eggs from hatching.
Is it safe to use chemicals in raising the pH in aquarium?
Yes, it is safe to use chemicals. Be sure to adhere to the manufacturers’ instructions, however, and only use trusted brands.
Do all fish need the same pH level in aquarium?
No, different fish need different pH levels as the pH of water in different parts of the world is not the same. Not all fish should share a tank.
How often should I check the pH of my aquarium?
Regularly, especially when you want to change the water. Just make sure you don’t give in to the urge to adjust every little change in pH.
Changes in the pH of your aquarium over time are normal so do not feel like you’ve failed at taking care of your fish if that happens. The important thing is that you know how to handle these changes as they come, and I believe you will be able to effect the proper corrections now that you know how to raise pH in aquarium.
Remember that while low pH levels are dangerous, too high pH can poison your fish leading to sickness and death, so be careful in applying that which you’ve learned here.