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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just got my water tested, and my PH, Hardness, and Alkalinity are all VERY high. My tank is stocked with SouthAmerican cichlids. I'm wondering what i should do to correct these levels to where it's best for the fish.
I can tell they're having some issues: they'll lay on the bottom of the tank, looking dead, but minutes later they're swimming around fine (is this normal?!?). I have good filtration and heating, so I'm guessing the water is the issue? I also just had one of my convicts die out of nowhere.
Here's a picture of my test levels. I appreciate any help! Thanks!
 

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Why don't you have any nitrate? How did you cycle your tank?
 

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How long has the tank been set up? The hardness and alkalinity would be fine for rift lake cichlids or Central American cichlids like your convict cichlids. What does jump out is the zero on all the nitrogenous compounds that are a a part of the nitrogen cycle. Ammonia is excreted from the fish's gills. Then microbes convert ammonia to less toxic nitrite. Another set of microbes convert nitrite to nitrate which is even less toxic to fish. Each process takes time since a founding colony of each kind of microbe has to increase in population to handle the nitrogenous compounds available. If you were using a Soechting Oxydator, that could account for the zeroes in ammonia and nitrite, but you would still register nitrate. Your readings suggest, perhaps I'm wrong, that this is a very newly set up aquarium. The behavior of the fish could be the result of a new environment and a new mix of neighbors. There may be aggression you have not witnessed. Often fish behave differently when they see a large (to them) aquarist swimming by.

If you are planning to keep soft water or black water cichlids, you could get an RO unit that produces very soft water. Tree leaves like oak and hickory are good for keeping the water slightly tinted and with the tannins these fish are used to.
 

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In addition to DJRansome and Mcdaphnia's comments, what stands out to me is that it says "Petsmart' at the top of that certificate. Those are the same people who regularly put cuttings of house plants that can not be grown under water into their tanks and sell them as aquarium plants. If I estimated the nitrate content of water based on its taste, I would trust that number just as much as what Petsmart puts on a piece of paper. Am I crazy?

The first thing I'd do is invest $10 in a decent test kit and do the testing myself. These things are not analytical laboratory grade, but if you follow the directions, at least you know you have a number of some value. I bet the nitrate won't come out as zero. 9 times out of 10 you see that it's an old test kit or the test hasn't been done properly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My tank has been set up for about 8 months, it's not new. I use a hang back cartridge filter, but it has a bio wheel which i had thought was building up the good bacteria. My fish are fed an average amount, i do average water changes, i haven't done anything with the bio wheel, it's been set up for a while... so why am i still having level issues?

Also, I've been using a 70 gallon filter that is so big it's been in the front of the tank. I bought two smaller filters that actually fit the tank (about 35 gallons each). I have all three going right now since I'm waiting for the good bacteria to grow on the new filters. Is there anything else i should do for this project or to help it cycle?
 

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Right now you don't know what your levels are...we don't believe the test results you provided. That's why fmueller said to get a test kit and why I asked why you don't have nitrate. A cycled tank with beneficial bacteria has nitrate. The beneficial bacteria actually PRODUCE nitrate so it is evidence that they are living.

The levels in the pic are fine except you have no nitrate.
 

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If your tank has been running for 8 months, and you have fish in there, there are beneficial bacteria. It there were not, your fish would be dead.

I assume that Petsmart is using a standard test kit. The nitrate test is particularly time consuming. From memory, it asks to shake the bottle with one of the reagents for 30 sec, then shake the test solution for 1 min, and then wait 5 min for the color to develop. If the kid running the test in the store did not have the time, or the patience, or the necessary understanding of chemistry to realize this is important, it would be very easy to arrive at a reading of zero, even though the level is not zero.

Also, people with little knowledge of the fish keeping hobby, and that includes the notoriously underpaid store clerks in chain stores, have usually heard that ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all bad for fish. It is easy to presume that all three levels should be zero, and that you can make your customer happy by ticking the appropriate boxes.

It is only when you come across somebody a little more experienced that you learn the nitrate level should be as low as possible, but it's not possible for it to be zero in a healthy tank. As you probably appreciate, beneficial bacteria turn ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nitrate. The bacteria work fast, which means ammonia and nitrite levels should always read zero. But nitrate is only removed by water changes, and unless you remove 100% of your water, you can never get the level down to zero.

In short the nitrate test is basically a quality check for the people who did the test. If they arrive at a level of zero in a tank like yours, the test is off. Once the nitrate test is off, one might be skeptical about the rest of the results.

Setting that aside, and assuming the values for pH, hardness, and alkalinity are correct, they are a little on the high side. Certain types of South American cichlids would not be able to breed successfully under these conditions, but it wouldn't kill them. They certainly would not bother a convict. Convicts are incredibly adaptable to water conditions. You can virtually breed these fish in sewerage.

I hate to keep bashing chain stores, but as long as I bought fish from Petsmart, Walmart, and similar chains, I had fish dying in my tanks on a regular basis for no apparent reason. Fish from these stores are often sick or infested with parasites, and are already beyond saving at the time you get them. Personally, I would strongly recommend finding a local fish club and hooking up with breeders in your area. The fish will be much cheaper, and they will be healthy and of good quality.

Best of luck!
 
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