Discus Water

Discussion in 'Discus' started by Peter, Jan 19, 2008.

  1. Peter
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    Peter Algae harvester

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    Discussions like this often left me very confused in the past (my fact or fiction scenarios) that it really betrayed my confidence in what I was doing (which was soul destroying) because there are sooooo? many variations as to what is correct (in their own way, they are). However, what I have found out through correspondence is that ?municipal/tap? water parameters are not always the same for a hobbyist in South Africa compared to England, America Germany and Singapore for example.

    So trying to replicate some one else?s formula ?based? on their success using their municipal water parameters (not ours) was a big mistake and deserved to have my wrists slapped by Dirk?lol. (I say this with up the most respect?thank you)
    So it all depends on the quality of the tap water in your area to begin with

    But the question that I needed to ask was ?What part of the Amazon water do I need to duplicate that my particular wild/strain will be happy and breed in??

    or

    How can I safely change ?my tap? water to these conditions or best suited for my discus.
    I?m sure from reading the you would have discovered 101 ways to make this happen and in my case ?.101 ways to kill a discus


    If one decide to dose with acid to reduce pH (of your target) you will shift the equilibrium towards the ?acidic? side in relation to the amount of acid used, but the calcium and magnesium ?KH? (Ca2+ and Mg2+) does not ?really disappear"? it is still there, maybe less then originally. This shift to a lower pH may trigger them to pair or spawn but with low fertilization thus a low hatch percentage or non, but having said that, if your tap has a KH less than 6 (reading from ones test kits) a higher percentage could be achieved but by using ?less? acid (to reach your target). So in here there can be a few variables to ones formula and this can also get tricky because tap water sometimes change from time to time?

    So in summary, acids will lower your pH, and since ?most? test kits that test for hardness are actually measuring alkalinity, your hardness would appear to decrease when adding an acid but in fact it would have remained the same.

    With an RO (which is necessary), this will remove Ca2+ and Mg2+ ?etc, thus lowering your pH with little or zero KH (buffering) you could get a lot of pH swings which can general make it not safe ?but? near perfect for fertilization, so the birth of a formula (one of millions in the making) for a good criteria, that can work for you but may not work for some one else.


    So my questions I need ask, regarding the usage of a pH meter. How would it measure pH? meaning? does it measure in relation to the amount of Ca2+ and Mg2+ in the water or the alkalinity?

    The second question, the usage of a conductivity meter, here I understand the fundamental basics but the way I understood, is that TDS and Total hardness are not the same but completely different?
    Total hardness refers to the hardness mainly due to calcium, magnesium, (Mg2+, Ca2+) and TDS is a measurement of dissolved solids in water and is normally based on a conductivity measurement which is converted to a value in ppm or Mg/l. So as I understood it, a TDS measurement is incapable of distinguishing between monovalent or polyvalent ions such as sodium, chloride etc??? and is not a reliable measurement of the true water hardness. What would be the best way to measure true KH?
     
  2. City bowl
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    City bowl Noob

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    Hi Peter out of interest, what are your water parameters to start with?
     
  3. Rowland
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    Rowland Algae harvester

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    Hi Guys

    This is a very interesting discussion point and I look forward to especially Dirk's view. As I understand it there are two options
    1. Get your fish to adapt to your water.
    2. Adapt your water to suit your fish

    For generally safe discus keeping option 1 is a must. I say this for two reasons. Firstly most of the fish being kept by hobbyists are hybrids which have over time become accustomed to harder water with a more neutral pH. This type of water is generally more stable and subject to fewer fluctuations in pH caused by changes in hardness.
    I have tried this option initially with my hybrid varieties and for the last year or so with my wilds. They have done well, eaten everything I can find, grown and look good......but they have not bred.
    I came across an Australian Discus Forum where they have a definate view on how to keep wilds:
    Heckels at a pH of 4.5 to 5 (yes you read correctly!) and other wilds between 5.5 and 6. Both of these at a KH around 3 which helps prevent it crashing any further. Some folk use products such as aragonite to buffer the pH by increasing hardness and prevent such crashes.

    Dirk has previously mentioned how water will naturally lower its pH safely. My problem is however that my water comes out of my tap at a pH of 8.2 and 8.5 which was great when I was keeping Rift Lake cichlids, but not ideal for wild discus.

    I took two of my wilds in a controlled setup. They were in a 125 litre cube which I isolated from the main system. I have three 220 litre drums which I use to warm the water prior to water changes. To one drum I added 15ml of pool acid. The pH crashed from the normal 8.2 to 4.5 within 2 hours. However measuring it 24 hours later it had moved up to 6.1. I mention this because it is these jumps over a short space of time that have damaged my fish previously. I now allow the water to settle for 24 hours before using it for water change purposes. I must also mention that I have also taken Dirks advice regarding water changes and have cut these back to once per week with syphoning of waste every day.
    The wilds in that control tank showed colours I had never seen before! After two weeks of monitoring them very closely I have opened the taps on the system allowing all of the wilds in that system to be exposed to the more acidic water. I am really happy with the results and colours so far. For the first time also my wilds, although not showing breeding behaviour yet, are squabbling among themselves....hopefully part of pairing up.
     
  4. Rowland
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    Rowland Algae harvester

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    Hi Pete

    Sorry to hijack your thread, but I thought it relevant. I look forward to further discussion by other hobbyists. I know in the past Dirk has mentioned that all measurements need to be performed with proper lab quality tests. As you correctly point out though, are the tests and readings we are getting totally incorrect. I know Dirk has put a table up on another thread which accurately depicts the relationship between hardness and pH. do our pH kits take this into account? In other words should we be expressing pH in relation to hardness also?
     
  5. Peter
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    Peter Algae harvester

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    Hi Rowland

    Not at all, and besides?.you started it ?lol

    I must say, that the lecture Prof Dirk gave (which was brilliant and strongly suggest the Cape Town members do some arm twisting) was an eye opener to their natural habitat and how it evolved and natural triggers for spawning. It definitely gave me a better understanding of what I was ?trying? to do. but too much to absorb in one evening for me and need to attend again?

    With regards to acid usage, this is how it was explained.

    ?As one adds an acid the bicarbonate takes up the proton (hydrogen ion) and forms carbonic acid, which is basically CO2, dissolved in water, (a very weak acid). This uptake of a proton will mean the proton is not available in a free form so will not cause a reduction in pH. However as more and more acid is added there will come a stage where there is insufficient bicarbonate (or buffering capacity) to take up any more protons, so your pH will start dropping.?

    and if I understand this correctly, it would explain the depletion of ?buffering? to a given amount of water.
    When I read this back then, the penny didn?t drop until recently (talk about being slow on the up take) makes sense, but the hardness is still there. As Prof Dirk pointed out, ?look towards what influences pH? (again the penny taking a bit long to drop) and realising that maybe, the ?standard KH? from your ?tap? should be the baseline to work from rather then the pH.?
     
  6. Muz
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    Muz Algae harvester

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    Very interesting info, thanks you for the posts.

    Murray
     
  7. morpheus
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    morpheus Noob

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    If I may throw my hat in the ring on this one. I agree with previous postings that you can either get Discus to adapt to your conditions or make water for them.

    One reason I do not agree with making Discus adapt to our water is due to quality. Now I know what I am about to mention may not happen in other places in the country but it does here. The water quality does not remain constant. In my view, by me making my own water using an RO system, I am sure that regardless of what the municipality does to the water, I am always getting constant parameters that my fish are accustomed to. These fish are not only expensive but with the amount of effort we put into them, losing fish due to something like water quality is not acceptable.

    Perhaps in other areas, water quality from the tap is more stable but I am not prepared to take that chance. So my advice is, make your own water using RO and additives and keep the same recipe for the life of your fish. It makes things a lot easier IMO and you have less risk.

    Morpheus
     
  8. morpheus
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    morpheus Noob

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    As per a response in a previous thread, let me clarify the use of RO water. RO water itself is not suitable to maintain fish for any length of time. When I mentioned making your own water I meant the following;

    One can use an 80% RO and 20% tap mixture, this is a standard used by many keepers but is only a guideline. You need to ascertain what the parameters are you are seeking and adapt the recipe to suit.

    Secondly, one may use bottled additives that can be purchased at fish shops. They have clear directions on the bottle and you add these additves to the RO water, in the measures that will create the water you seek.

    Personally I use method 1 but not using the tap water. I take the waste water the RO unit produces (which has been through 3 stages) as my buffer. It is cleaner than pure tap but still has enough of what I am looking for to create the right balance. I have tried method 2 previously but as most items are imported into SA at such a premium I just found it became too expensive.

    I hope this clarifies the points I made in my previous post.

    Morpheus
     
  9. Dirk B
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    Dirk B Aquascaper

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    Hi Peter, Rowland and others,

    This thread has been discussed without my noticing it because I have so busy, so apologies for not answering. By now, quite a number of issues have been discussed by now, and I will try to touch on as many as possible.

    First of all, Peter, I understand your confusion about the water parameters. When I started keeping discus, and I started reading the literature, I was also confused by the many opinions that were being expressed. At some point I did however realize that many of the persons that were written all sorts of "information" did not really have the background to be able to make comments, and I then decided to use my biochemical common sense. If one does not have a trained background as I do, it is difficult to sift the fact from the fiction. However, you are on the right path by deciding to investigate what your local water parameters are. I am sure that the Rand Water Board can supply an analysis of what as a rough average is in Johannesburg water. I would use this as a general guideline in any decisions with regard to adjusting the water that I keep my discus in. Your comments about your interpretation of total hardness and conductivity are perfectly correct. I would like to suggest to you to go about the water preparation as follows: If Rand Water informs you that the amount of Ca2+ is say 3 Mg/l and Mg2+ is 3 Mg/l then you should decide that the sum of these, i.e. the total hardness needs to be maximally 1. What this means is that you would have to dilute the tap water with RO water in the ratio of 1 part of tap water mixed with 5 parts of RO water. Then I would take a conductivity meter and measure the conductivity. This measurement would then indicate to you what the conductivity would be using your specific tap water, if you diluted your water to the correct total hardness. After this I would then prepare my water using the conductivity meter thereafter and just prepare my tapwater RO mix to that conductivity. I would also not manipulate the pH by acid addition after this, I would just monitor the pH on an ongoing basis to see where it will stabilize. Why I say this is because your dilution of the tap water with the RO water will soften the water considerably thereby also reducing the carbonate hardness and this will decide how low your pH will drop to and eventually stabilize. If your carbonate hardness is too high, the pH will not drop low enough, and then you need to perhaps dilute your tap water more or perhaps use acid to drop the pH. If your carbonate hardness is too low, your pH will drop to lower levels, let us say to pH 4-5 and then you can either decide to increase the amount of tap water relative to the RO water, or use shells in your filter to stabilize the pH. Again these things have the next set of implications, but this is the route I would follow. I would use this for say 2 to 3 months and see what the results would be, how in general the condition of the fish is, and what the influence of this water may be during breeding, in other words on hatchability, and then decide to adjust again. You must however be careful not to chop and change the water all the time, this is actually worse for the fish that consistently too low or too high pH.

    Rowland, I also receive Cape Town water from my tap at pH 8.5, which I use directly in my recirculating setup and I am always battling to keep the pH up and not trying to get it to go down. If I do not adjust the pH with bicarb so that it goes up, it drops to below 4 and then I know that the fish will be unhappy. For this reason, I do not understand why you find it necessary to adjust your pH in the downward direction, as my pH just drops regardless in spite of quite large water changes. I can only deduce that the water that comes from your tap is that coming from Vogel Vlei Dam near Tulbagh as the pH of that water is adjusted by means of the addition of agricultural lime (calcium carbonate) to a pH of 10 so that the water does not corrode the cement pipes from the dam to Cape Town.

    Now to the topic of keeping discus under the conditions which suite them best. In general, wild caughts want softer water (conductivity 60-80 microS/cm) whilst hybrids will manage just as well in slightly harder water (conductivity 120 microS/cm). These are the values for breeding and for maintenance the conductivity can be moved up to 250 microS/cm without negative consequences.

    With regard to adjusting your discus to your water, that will work up to these conductivity levels, but beyond that it will not. Morpheus, what you write about this is confusing and I do not understand what you mean. You may be right, but what you are saying is not clear to me and perhaps also to others. However, the point that you make that discus cannot be kept in RO water only is very important. This fallacy has also been written about on this forum, but this practice is nothing else than cruel, as the kidneys of a discus would have to work very hard to try to hold on the few salts that comes in their food, and would cost the fish a lot of energy, eventually leading to loss of condition. I also agree that additives to RO water are too expensive, and I also think they are too labour intensive. It means that you are spending far too much time preparing water all the time. If you can just let the RO unit run during the day, take the conductivity meter in the evening and add tap water to the RO until you get the right conductivity and then use this water for water changes, it makes the whole lot just about managable.

    I am very spoilt with my tap water. It has a conductivity of 120-150 microS/cm and a pH of 8.5 as I said, and in spite of this, my pH is dropping all the time.

    In conclusion, Rowland, the natural stimulus for breeding of discus is that the pH goes UP, not down, so large water changes that move the pH up will stimulate your fish to spawn, not a drop in pH. Again, I do not quite understand what is going on with the water in your area.

    Finally, I do not bother to measure alkalinity because it is so closely related to measuring pH. As long as you measure your pH with a reliable high quality pH meter (not an el cheapo hand held model), and it indicates low pH, you will be assured that carbonate hardness i.e. alkalinity is low and if you consistently measure high pH you will know that your carbonate hardness if high. That is enough for me, and I use my pH meter all the time to monitor what is going on.

    In conclusion, Peter, please don't hesitate to ask questions, even if you get the feeling that I am slapping your wrists..... , I will try and have helped many folks in trying to make a success of discus keeping, so why should I not also help you as well!

    So, I hope this will help to clarify and not to confuse...

    Kind regards,

    Dirk
     
  10. Rowland
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    Rowland Algae harvester

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    Hi Dirk
    Thanks for your detailed input. Would I be able to find out the source of my water and if so how?
    I take water from the tap and circulate it in three two hunderd litre drums. After 24 to 48 hours I use this to do my water changes. Prior to doing the water changes I check my pH which generally hasn't changed from the 8.3 to 8.6 (assuming my pH meter is properly callibrated???). What I was trying to achieve was to mimic what my wilds would experience in the Amazon in terms of water parameters and then by means of a water change/series of water change, "bring on the rainy season". I was hoping that this would stimulate some sort of breeding behaviour.
     
  11. Dirk B
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    Dirk B Aquascaper

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    Hi Rowland,

    The water supply in CT is patchy. Some parts get fantastic water from the top of Table Mountain, i.e. the areas in Constantia and Tamboers Kloof and others get much harder and manipulated water from Vogel Vlei, and then in between, water comes from Steenbras Dam, which by the time it reaches CT, has also been messed up. What seems to be particularly crazy, is that the water quality varies all the time and depends very much on whether someone has chucked in twice the amount of chlorine, because the weekend is ahead... So what I am saying is that even if you would receive a water analysis from the Town Council, it is not going to be all that helpful.

    With regard to your water changes, I actually think that it may be important for me to give the lecture that I gave to Peter and Co in Pretoria. In my lecture I explained that spring run-off from the Andes, drops the temp and raises the pH. What I am saying is that dropping the pH by acid addition in actual fact suppresses breeding behaviour, and you should rather try to do some water changes with higher pH and colder water to stimulate spawning.

    Kind regards,

    Dirk
     
  12. Rowland
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    Rowland Algae harvester

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    Hi Dirk

    I would really appreciate the talk here in Cape Town and I'm sure a lot of other folk would too.

    I don't think I explained what I am doing properly.
    I have, on occasion added acid to the water change drums in order to bring the pH down a bit (6.5). Once there, I use heated tap water for all my water changes, trying to maintain the 6.5, but as you commented earlier, the water "wants" to go down, so even with the water I am adding of pH 8+, the pH tends to stay around 6.5.
    I then want to, using cooler water, pH 8+, do larger water changes so as to simulate the Amazon rainy season and subsequent Andes run off. Am I on the right track?

    Regards
    Rowland
     
  13. Dirk B
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    Dirk B Aquascaper

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    Hi Rowland,

    The water in my recirculating system shows pH values that drop to very low (below 4) if I do not adjust it in the upward direction by means of bicarb. Water changes with my pH 8 tap water does little to raise the pH and certainly not enough to get it to be at a level above even as low as 4. However, if I do a major water change of say 50%, I would achieve a rise in pH and then you see that the fish start showing an interest in spawning.

    With regard to your conditions, I must assume that your water has higher carbonate hardness, which then buffers the water better against the natural lowering of the pH by the nitrogen cycle. So, although I am always very careful to recommend this unnecessarily, you may have to resort to a percentage of RO water to get your carbonate hardness down in order to achieve the lower pH.

    What I should also do is to come and visit you sometime, something that I have been threatening to do, but due to my busy schedule have not got around to.

    And yes, if I could give my lecture somewhere in CT, it would be good for me to explain what is going on in the natural systems.

    Kind regards,

    Dirk
     
  14. Rowland
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    Rowland Algae harvester

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    I look forward to your visit and the lecture Dirk.
     
  15. Gertjc
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    Gertjc Algae harvester

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    Me too! Count me in please!
    Gert
     
  16. morpheus
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    morpheus Noob

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    I thought I was quite clear. Unfortunately due to work and study commitments, usually my posts have to be quite abbreviated. My intention is to inform without throwing too much technical information at a person. One is never sure of a persons technical proficiency so being overly so may just have the undesired effect of your post being no help. As far as technical posts go, you are more qualified and I feel it is best to leave these things to people with your technical abilities.

    However I feel I am able to contribute without being overly technical in my responses. I believe our posts had similar content but purely were put differently. Your expertise is appreciated and I am sure I will learn something from your posts in the future. Thank you for taking the time and effort where some of us cannot.

    Regards
     

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