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Hi, new member to the forum. I've had fish my entire life except for the last few years when we sold the 55 that we'd had for over 30 years after the heater plug melted and nearly burned down our house (another story for another time!)

We recently built a bedroom addition and got a used 40g bow front tank setup for in the room. I set it up last weekend and have been letting it run. We were going to do Africans in there, but decided that a community tank of smaller mild mannered new world cichlids was better suited for this tank. We are in the market for a bigger (100 gallon or more) tank to put in our family room to do the Africans in.

We have a whole house water conditioner (Rain Soft). Today my test kit arrived in the mail, and I ran the water thru them all. The hardness is very low as expected, both GH and KH are in good range for the fish we are putting in there. The PH is around 7.4, which surprised me. I tested it out of the tap and it's 6.4. Something in the tank is causing it to increase. I did have several sea shells in there including 1 pretty large conch shell to add hiding places for the Africans, which I removed yesterday morning when we finally decided the SA cichlids were the direction we were going. I used a 50lb bag of well washed pea gravel which we had on hand from some landscaping as substrate, and various river rocks we have around our koi pond that I built up caves and hiding places. The rocks are all granite type, nothing soft like limestone that would dissolve and raise the PH.

My questions are:
1: would the shells raise the PH that much that fast?
2: is there anything in normal pea gravel that would also contribute?
3: what is the best way to gently lower the PH to not affect the fish we put in last night? (2 Blue Acara and 2 Rams, and 3 cory catfish). Partial water changes? Peat moss in the canister filter?

Thanks!
 

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Let the tap water sit on the counter for 24 hours and test again.

It is hard to lower pH.
 
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