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PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

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PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by Sbenson11 on Sat Jul 02, 2016 6:47 pm

PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

So first of all this is going to be a little long winded post, but if you have 5 minutes to spare, read on.

First of all let me start by explaining the municipal water that I have to work with. Our city water is very clean, to clean in fact for fish keeping in my opinion. Other than the Chloramines that I have to deal with the water has no measurable alkalinity. Alkalinity is what keeps your PH stable, which is very important to fish keeping. We have all read somewhere about the idea PH for our fish and the millions of dollars’ worth or useless products on the market to help change it. In my opinion it’s better to just work with what you have rather than subject your fish to a yo-yo of PH levels from adding the latest magic potion to your tank. I have tried adding Baking Soda to my tanks in an effort to bring up my alkalinity to a more reasonable level and stabilized the PH in my systems. However here is my catch 22…
For several years now I have been constantly fighting high levels of Ammonia in all my systems, so I let the PH fall to its natural levels of around 5 for my area. At this level the Ammonia has little to no effect on my fish. If I were to raise the PH to 7-8 my fish would probably all die. So each week I do massive water changes to keep the Ammonia at bay and my fish healthy and happy.

Did I mention all of my systems have massive Bio filters? Well they do, so I have always been puzzled by their inability to cope with the bio load that my systems have.

Well it seems that all this may be connected…

I attended a recent meeting of the AKCA and we all got to talking about alkalinity and I brought up my problem. Turns out the consensus is that my Bio filters are probably dead if not close to it. The room full of experts agreed that with water that low in alkalinity the bacteria will not populate my bio filters.

I have never heard tell of this and to honest I was a little shocked and feeling kind of like a beginner in the room. So it was recommended that I slowly raise my alkalinity giving my bio filters a chance to repopulate with nitrifying bacteria. The danger here is that while I raise my alkalinity my PH will rise as well. So I will have to keep an ammonia binder in the water to keep it busy while my filters come to life. Going to do this on a system with not so expensive fish first just in case.

So fellow fish nerds, comments, questions, concerns?

Steve

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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by alexmtl on Sat Jul 02, 2016 7:31 pm

Sbenson11 wrote:PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…
So first of all this is going to be a little long winded post, but if you have 5 minutes to spare, read on.

(Rant Alert. Oh no. Here come the internet experts spouting about what they read on the forums.)
Really we need an expert on freshwater nitrification and the carbon cycle to comment on this one. By expert I mean someone with a biochemistry background. That being said, comments to this should be taken from the perspective of the respondents education level.

My gut tells me that chloramines are more at issues than the alkalinity. Chloramines by definition are long term complexes which by nature will continue to react to form the conjugate. Despite alkalinity and pH, the chemical complex will drive the residual accumulation of chlorine into the system reservoir for a long time, irrespective of pH and alkalinity. The chlorine content is killing your biologic filters.

I am going to ask some of the chemists at work about the relationship of pH to chlorine release of the chloramines. My hunch is that pH 5 is too low for an ambient pH. Raising the pH to 7 to 8 while mean that you have to increase carbonate (alkalinity) to reach the pH. This will drive chlorine out as free chlorine from the chloramine.

Anyone else to comment on this ?
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by Sbenson11 on Sat Jul 02, 2016 8:03 pm

Ah crap lost my post Sad

oh well here's the condensed version...

I treat with Prime so I am ASSUMING the Chlorine is taken care of, might be time to break out the test kit and check for sure tomorrow.

The plan was to use baking soda to slowly raise the Alkalinity and in doing so raise the PH.

Yes please do ask around and see if you can get an informed answer. Inquiring minds want to know Smile

Steve
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by alexmtl on Sun Jul 03, 2016 8:25 am

Well here is a start.

Chlorine will normally dissipate out of water in 48 hours. There are standards for water quality which require chlorine content as well as other parameters. There is a growing number of communities which are using chloramine to replace chlorine in municipal supply. There also are negatives to the use of chloramines and one of them is use of this water for fish aquariums where we have to treat the water before use.

How do you know if you have some form of chloramine treating your tap water ?

First you can ask your water supply treatment plant. Secondly you can test using a basic pool test kit. Thirdly, you can confirm the release of chlorine from solution (largely an academic exercise).

1. Asking your water supply treatment plant. Here in Montreal, GaryE and I share the same source. (No I do not hook up a hose from his tap and vice versa). The Pointe Claire treatment plant has a website that details the use of chlorine. What is common with chlorine is that there is an initial infusion at the treatment plant and then further injections in the distribution pipes in order to keep the chlorine levels at the required levels. This is a key : chlorine needs to be injected in the distribution, whereas chloramine does not. In the chloramine network, ammonium is injected in order to form chloramine.
http://www.h2opointe-claire.qc.ca/qualite_en.php

2. A basic pool kit, the dry strip kind, has indicators for 6 test indicators : total chlorine, free chlorine, total hardness, pH, total alkalinity, a cyanuric acid. (You have to buy the type which includes free chlorine as well as total chlorine). Draw directly some from from your tap and put into a clean jar or cup. When you dip into the water you will get a reading of total chlorine and free chlorine. If you have chloramine, there will be a high level of total chlorine, but lower level of free free chlorine. You will also note that you have a measurement of pH, water hardness and alkalinity.
This is a blunt way of knowing that you have chloramines (the conjugate of ammonia and chlorine).

3. Confirming the release of chlorine from the chloramine conjugate. In theory you can drive chlorine out of the total form into free form by raising pH. As Steve mentioned, his pH is around 5. There are several forms for chloramine, where tri-CA is speciated at less than pH 4, di-CA between pH 4 to 6, and mono-CA at pH 7. In the Steve’s situation by raising pH to 7, he will get increased readings of ammonium and monochloramine.

Disclaimer : I am not a chemist and I am not an internet forum recycler. I hope that the organic chemists in the group will add to this discussion.

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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by Suprd71 on Sun Jul 03, 2016 2:57 pm

I have been under the impression that nitrifying bacteria begins to struggle at Ph 6.4 and cannot survive in under 6. The Seachem conditioners do take care of chlorine and chloramines, as well as bind ammonia to ammonium. Suggestion for you Steve.. switch from the liquid Prime to the powder form Safe. More highly concentrated, and will handle up to 4ppm of chlorine and chloramine, where the liquid is only rated for 2ppm. At 1ppm, just a 1/4 tsp of safe will treat 300US gals of fresh tap water. Way more bang for the buck.
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by Sbenson11 on Sun Jul 03, 2016 4:45 pm

Suprd71 wrote:I have been under the impression that nitrifying bacteria begins to struggle at Ph 6.4 and cannot survive in under 6. The Seachem conditioners do take care of chlorine and chloramines, as well as bind ammonia to ammonium. Suggestion for you Steve.. switch from the liquid Prime to the powder form Safe. More highly concentrated, and will handle up to 4ppm of chlorine and chloramine, where the liquid is only rated for 2ppm. At 1ppm, just a 1/4 tsp of safe will treat 300US gals of fresh tap water. Way more bang for the buck.

I switched to Safe about 6 months ago, I just said Prime as I figured more people would know what I meant. As it seems most people have heard of Prime but not everyone has heard of Safe, myself included until 6 months ago. I used to buy Prime in the one gallon jugs and then one day someone mentioned Safe. I was like What?

Been using Safe ever since, double dosing actually.

Steve
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by alexmtl on Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:14 pm

Sbenson11 wrote:Suggestion for you Steve.. switch from the liquid Prime to the powder form Safe. Been using Safe ever since, double dosing actually.Steve

Most of the water conditioners will contain Sodium Thiosulfate. This is the active ingredient which will occupy the chlorine component of chloramine. There is however the ammonium side of the reservoir, which the biologic filter will handle.

Here is a fairly cheap option from Kensfish

http://www.kensfish.com/aquarium-supplies/water-treatments/sodium-thiosulfate.html
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by alexmtl on Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:18 pm

Suprd71 wrote:I have been under the impression that nitrifying bacteria begins to struggle at Ph 6.4 and cannot survive in under 6.

Zhang et al demonstrated activity of archaea in acidic soils<4.5. Nitrifying bacteria do not do as well. ISME J. 2012 May; 6(5): 1032–1045.
In conclusion, our studies demonstrate a significant and previously unrecognized contribution of thaumarchaea to mediate the autotrophic nitrification in strongly acidic soils. This result will greatly improve the understanding of the nitrogen-transformation processes in widely distributed acidic soils.
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by alexmtl on Mon Jul 04, 2016 6:30 pm

Regarding the question of whether there is biological activity even at extreme pH (ie less than 4.5) :

Yes there is biologic activity. Whether it is archaea or bacteria, there is enough of both types to create the nitrification equilibrium.

Specifically in freshwater, Zhou et al studied archea in inland waters, "On the whole AOB predominate the ammonia oxidation rate over AOA in inland water ecosystems, and AOA play an indispensable role in global nitrogen cycle considering that AOA occupy a broader habitat range than AOB, especially in extreme environments." Zhou et al, June 2015 Nature Species, Abundance and Function of Ammonia-oxidizing Archaea in Inland Waters.

Closer to North America, one recent study demonstrated that the ammonium concentration was one of the major factors regulating abundance and distribution of the AOA. In other words, where there is ammonium there will be archaea. Bollman et al May 2014. Abundance and Diversity of Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea and Bacteria in Sediments of Trophic End Members of the Laurentian Great Lakes, Erie and Superior.

In summary, there will be nitrifying bacteria and archaea working in your biologic filter even at low pH.
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by alexmtl on Mon Jul 04, 2016 6:35 pm

Sbenson11 wrote:
The room full of experts agreed that with water that low in alkalinity the bacteria will not populate my bio filters.


True that bacteria may not populate and survive in low pH. However archaea are recent discoveries and I would suggest that your filtration will be active due to archaea. Archaea are also much better oxidizers than bacteria at low pH and extreme conditions since they fill niche environments.
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by alexmtl on Mon Jul 04, 2016 6:41 pm

Sbenson11 wrote: The danger here is that while I raise my alkalinity my PH will rise as well. So I will have to keep an ammonia binder in the water to keep it busy while my filters come to life. Going to do this on a system with not so expensive fish first just in case.

I am seeing my chemistry friends tomorrow at a meeting. I had discussions with my micro friends today to look into the micro-ecology questions.
You have Safe as a conditioner. It contains both ammonium neutralizer and chlorine conjugators. Raising the alkalinity will drive the pH equation higher and increase reactivity, but to amount I do not know. I will try to determine molar increments of the reaction (ie each increase in pH will cause x and y increase in ammonium and chlorine). No sure I can get a completer answer since there will be conversion to ammonia at neutral pH.
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Re: PH, Alkalinity and Bio filters…

Post by Sbenson11 on Tue Jul 05, 2016 5:43 am

Thanks Alex, appreciate the effort.

Steve
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