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while you're at Petco, bring home your own test kit... when your fish are sick, you need to test your water constantly. Typically, 20% water changes are too small, but you can't say for sure without your own test kit. Most use the API - the one with the drops and the test tubes... Good luck!
 

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cichlid guy - I bet he means some kind of OB peacock... :) Everyone that sees mine refers to them as the "marbled" ones...

Italiiano - +1 on everything cichlid guy says, but to be clear, double-dose that Prime for the entire tank volume. Nitrates over 40 are bad. 20 or less is acceptable.

Just to be clear - are you able to do your own testing now, or are you still having the pet store do it for you?
 

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Well, for starters, what is your tap water pH & kH? (you might want to check your nitrates just for giggles, too...)

Best way to measure that is get a 5 gallon bucket, fill it with water, add some Prime, wait a minute or two, and check your pH. Is that lower or higher than what's in your tank?

There are buffer recipes in the library here on the forum. How much you use will depend on how much buffer you need to raise the pH in your 5 gallon bucket to the desired level.

What is the desired level you want to reach in that 5 gallon bucket? Get out your calculator... there will likely be some math involved...

You have a 40 gallon tank. Your pH is 6.2. You want to do a 50% water change (20 gallons). You want the end result in your tank to be (baby steps here in case we miscalculate some) say, 6.4. Now, back to your 5 gallon bucket. Let's say that from wherever the pH is (assuming your tap is the same as your tank, which may NOT be) you want to get that 5 gallon bucket up to pH 6.6. It might take a 1/2 teaspoon of buffer or it might take much more. This is why you're adding it to the bucket first... :) Mix it in the bucket, wait 30 minutes or so, and then measure the pH. So if we really screw something up, we don't hurt the fish...

So, let's say that you have determined that "x" amount of buffer raises 5 gallons of your source water from 6.2 to 6.6. Then "x times 4" will be the approximate amount needed for a 20 gallon water change. Why do I say approximate? Because kH affects how easily pH can change. At least this will give you a place to start. The higher the kH, the more resistant pH is to change. Yes, black magic & voodoo seem to be involved, which is why you must experiment. I don't think anyone can tell you for sure exactly how much to use.

And to be even safer, use half the amount the first time to be sure.

I never understand people recommending not to do larger water changes if the water is bad... I do two 60-70% water changes per week. Bad water needs to go. 40 nitrates is too high. Although, there are two things that can get you into trouble with bigger water changes - primarily big swings in pH and kH... which can contribute to swings in pH...

But please! BEFORE you take my advice... wait for someone with more experience than me to chime in and verify that this is a sane course of action. Here is the buffer recipe - http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/buffer_recipe.php

Hope this helps!
 

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Italiano - 3 things:

1.) WAIT until someone smarter than me tells you that my plan for you is sane before proceeding.
2.) On the carbon... I don't use it. You'll find that many on the forum do not. There is an interesting article on the forum, however, that says it's not using carbon per se that causes problems, but basically not changing it enough is what causes the problems. Yours is overdue for a change, it would seem.
3.) I don't change the polishing pads until they are nearly disintegrated - bacteria you want lives there, but that's just me.

Read the following article - http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/marineland_carbon.php
 

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API makes the one I use - called Buffer Max. However, if you can use anything Seachem, that'd be my first choice.

Seriously though, you will still have to experiment. But just to be clear... The experimenting I am referring to is to make sure exactly what a certain amount of buffer will do with your water, not experimenting with the buffer recipe ingredients/ratios themselves.

I would imagine that the buffer recipe on the forum is probably the most bulletproof recipe there is, and definitely cheaper.

Let us know!
 

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italiiano said:
I want to thank everybody for the help. I haven't lost any fish in the last two months, although one of the fish hasn't been looking good for the last month or so. But everybody is hanging in there. I've been using the buffer and have the pH around an 8.0. Even with weekly water changes though I'm struggling to get the Nitrates below 100. Any further suggestions? Thanks again guys.
100ppm nitrate is really high. I would be double-dosing Seachem Prime for your tank volume every two days. Now that is not a substitute for water changes! But, you've conquered one issue, and now get to battle the next one... (I am personally struggling with high nitrates and just purchased a de-nitrator, because I am sick of 3 water changes (60%-70%) per week to keep my nitrates below 20ppm. I can PM you if you want details.)

Right now, all I can say is that you need to do more water changes... Purigen and Seachem Stability help some, but in the long run, I figured that with all the Purigen, Stability, and water changes I make, (and the hassle of 3 water changes per week) I am better off adding a de-nitrator.

So glad you haven't lost any more fish!!! That's great news... appreciate letting us know.
 
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