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Author Topic: New discus concern  (Read 1462 times)
Tara7
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« on: March 16, 2016, 04:59:50 AM »

My 50g planted has been established for several years and I am about to receive 4 discus, a new adventure...
All is fine In my tank '0' except it seems my pH is high: 7.4 - 7.6 consistently. The breeder has them used to 6.0 to 6.5. Our water here is very hard. Should I do something with the water? These are very expensive fish so l would hate for them to be shocked in the acclimation process. Any comments/advice would be most gratefully received 
Thanks
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TwoTankAmin
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« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2016, 09:55:24 AM »

Its a bit late to be worrying about this. It would have been a lot better to ask this stuff before ordering the fish. As someone who has both kept discus and who also does alter water parameters in a tank or two, I would have suggested you looks for  breeder whose water parameters are closer to yours.

Changing one's water parameters is not a simple matter, this is especially true when one wants to lower pH and hardness. This requires reverse osmosis water, perhaps muriatic acid and for sure a digital monitor for these things. It took me over 8 years of having 15 or so tanks before I even considered trying this. The biggest concern is water changes. You cannot mix your tap water into the tank unchanged. You must pre-prepare your changing water to match what is in the tank. This will be most important in terms of KH which is intimately intertwined with pH.

You cannot acclimate fish in an hour or a day or even in a week to very different parameters. I have read a lot of research on this topic and studies show that the actual physiological changes that show up when fish are moved to significantly different parameters can take a week or two. If a given fish is unable to live in our tank parameters, no amount of short term acclimation we do will matter. Moreover, temperature acclimation is also a waste. If a fish is dangerously out of its temperature range such that it is at risk of dying, the solution is to get it back into its range ASAP. There is no acclimating, there is just fast action. I can confirm this based on a shipping incident I had recently.

I shipped some very expensive fish overnight and the box got lost. the fish normally live in the 80sF and I have had them as high as 90F when simulating the dry season. The fish had a 40 hour heat pack for a trip guaranteed to take 25 hours. Because they lost them along the way, they arrived almost 30 hours late. I emailed the recipient about their having found the package found and that it was on its way. I specifically told him when the fish arrived he must immediately open the bags and dump the fish into the proper temperature water. I told him not to do any form of acclimation at all.

When the 3 bags holding 25 fish arrived he checked the temp in each bag before following my directions. The fish were packed 8/8/9 per bag. In one bag 3 fish were floating. He only tested the temp in each bag before dumping the fish into their tank. The bags were at 59, 60 and 61 F and the heat pack was cold. The three floaters were dead and he asked for a refund, which I always give. But I asked him to wait until the next day so we could be sure no more fish were lost overnight. If there were more deaths they should be refunded as well. Two more fish were dead over night. But since then the rest have done fine.

Had the box arrived an hour or two later I think almost all the fish would have been floating. What saved the 20 fish that made it were his following my instructions. Had he tried gradually to raise the temp by floating the bags or by adding tank water to the bags, he would have lost a lot more fish, perhaps all.

When I started out in this hobby about 16 years ago I used to try to acclimate fish, I even tried a slow acclimation of threadfin rainbows that lasted 14 hours. It did not make any difference. If you talk to people who buy and sell FW fish, almost all of them will tell you when they receive bags of fish which have been in transit for a day or two that they do not do any acclimation but rather they just plop and drop the fish ASAP. However, fish in bags for a day or two present different issues than those we might bring home from the store and are only in the bag a few hours at most.

There is another issue most are not aware of when it comes to acid water. The ammonia converting bacteria that are most commonly found in tanks will stop working as the pH drops to 6.5 and under. Different strains dominate in such water. So if you wanted to drop your pH to match the sellers, you would likely lose your cycle and have to reestablish it.

I am familiar with this because I work with wild Altum angels which come from waters in the low 4s and sometime into the high 3s. I have received fish into tanks running at pH 4.2 or so. I had a grand plan at work to precycle filters to work at 6.0 while working the fish up to that level. I took months to execute this. But a funny thing happened, the tank cycled itself with the fish in it. Despite their being a very sensitive fish, the low pH keeps the toxic form of ammonia, NH3, non-exisitent. In water ammonia exists in 2 form NH3 the highly toxic gas and NH4 the much less toxic salt. How much may be in each form depends on the pH and then on the temp. Higher means more NH3. Because my water had such a low pH two things happened. The ammonia present was not toxic and the bacterial strains that can process NH4, rather than the bacteria which usually process NH3 and are normally found in most tanks, had a chance to establish. By the time the tank pH broke over 6.0 the tank was self cycled and the lovely filters I had worked so hard to cycle in a bio-farm tank were not needed.

My point in explaining this is to show that there are more issues involved here than meets the eye. The most important consideration in lowering pH and hardness in a tank are how one can avoid fluctuations. Discus need clean water so you will be doing at least one huge weekly change and perhaps more. That means having the new water already be matched to the tank. If your hardness and especially your KH is hiher, your pH etc. will pop up fast. For the altum tank above I spend about an hour mixing the new water- ro/di + tap, up to temp. and then my additives for making the water stained etc. I move the probes from the tank monitor to the changing can when mixing so I know the parameters are proper. There is tendency for the pH to crrep up towards 6.5 between water changes. Depending on how high that is I adjust the pH of my changing water to bring the tank back towards 6.0 or a tad under.

If this all seems intimidating, then I have gotten my point across. Changing one's tap parameters down is complicated and a slippery slope.it is not something to be done lightly. You have to become a bit of a chemist to pull it off.

I am not sure what to suggest here for you to try. The best solutions as I started out with is to get the discus from somebody with water parameters closer to yours. The next best thing is to explain your dilemma to the seller and ask what he suggests. he knows his fish better than I do. Tank raised discus are hardier than their wild counterparts.

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“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Tara7
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« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2016, 10:57:19 PM »

I am very impressed and very grateful for the tremendous input and experience you describe, and grateful for your long post. I'm sure it will help others too. I have been back and forth with this breeder who is actually very well known in the discus business, a partner in the Wattley discus firm, you probably know the name.We have talked about my water conditions, and except for the pH, which he said was high, my water seems just fine. However he not mention my trying to change the pH, probably for all the good reasons you mention, and he did not say the fish would not acclimate... I have help at times from a lady fish expert who suggested altering the pH with some 'powder' as we prepare the tank, but now I really don't think its a good idea. I will get back the breeder and ask that question. Online I have read about people advising not to worry about pH with discus and theirs do just fine. The important thing is that it remain consistent, which it does. The breeder also advised increasing the temperature to 86 degrees, for a while. So there we are. I have paid for the discus already but will again get in touch with the breeder. I'm sure he would be honest about their life expectancy in my tank, which is, by the way, heavily planted too.
I'll be glad to let you know what happens next, if you would be interested and many thanks for all your trouble.
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Pat Mary
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« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2016, 09:13:56 AM »

Tara, the "powder" she's talking about is probably "pH Down".  Using that is probably the most dangerous thing that you could do because it artificially holds the pH at a certain level and, if you forget to use it with the next water change, the pH will go back to its natural level. 
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When in doubt, do a water change.
TwoTankAmin
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« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2016, 09:18:31 AM »

He is right. If your other parameters are in the proper ranges, then you can ignore pH for the most part.

When I kept discus they did fine in my tap, but I have soft water and almost neutral pH. I did nothing to change my parameters for the discus. For the altums it was a different story. I was putting fish that cane out of 4.0 water, spent a bit of time close to 5+ at the importer and then were in my tank within a few weeks of being in SA rivers.

The thing about pH most do not realize is that usually higher pH levels go hand in hand with harder water and acid pH levels are found in very soft water. there are some exceptions to this rule such as parts of the Sulawesi. What this means is new fish keepers are told to watch their pH nd not so much all the other stuff. But when it comes to fish like discus, it is the other stuff that counts much more.

And that also applies to the constant stuff. I have dropped the pH in some tanks by a full point in under 5 minutes. the fish were fine. the reason was simple- the other parameters barely budged. The acid I used did raise the TDS a tad, as anything added to the water will, but not by a significant amount. If your breeder says your other parameters are fine for their fish, your pH is not all that high.

The discus will love the plants and they will be fine at 86. I had to treat a couple of very sick discus many years ago. They ended up in a 10 gal Hospital tank. The temp in that tank was at about 92F and those 10 gallons of water had 2 full cups (yes cups) of salt added. This was done while I was working to find a recommended medication. When I got it I removed the salt but left the temps high for a while. Both fish recovered.

And I always love to see threads get updated over time with relevant information. I have a few on fish threads that span years. I will come back and post updates as long as I am still active on the site. I hate threads where people post something that I know isn't correct because of inexperience or because it is only the start of the story. I know that down the road the poster had issues and I hate that they did not come back and state that. So followup posts are very helpful to people who read a thread. Readers learn what actually happened over time and that is usually more informative than saying nothing more at all.

Things like "My male betta is not aggressive towards anything" are posted and months later we never see the post about how that betta ate all its smaller tank mates or killed them. I wish more people would update their threads when it is appropriate. Please dDon't forget to post pictures of your discus once they are settled in.

One caveat here. Some plants may not be happy in very warm waters. However, fish are much more important than plants. So if you see a particular plant starting to struggle in elevated temps, remove it rather than let it die off. You can use it elsewhere hopefully but this way it wont make a mess in the tank. Then again, you may not have any plants which dislike it warm. It helps to know this can happen.
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“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” Daniel Patrick Moynihan
russ
Whoa. Where did I put all my stuff?
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I know where rasaqua's stuff is.....


« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2016, 07:27:37 PM »

I wish I had more time to facilitate getting threads updated in some way, shape or form.

"Things like "My male betta is not aggressive towards anything" are posted and months later we never see the post about how that betta ate all its smaller tank mates or killed them."

I've used a similar scenario when answering posts about fish compatibility or mixing fish from different international locations. The one I most compare to is the Rift Lake Cichlid and the Tiger Barb. The cichlid, having never seen a fish like that Tiger barb, may actually cower away from the barb for a while.......................then after a while,  the cichlid realizes that it can eat that barb or kill it out of spite.
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"For every difficult question, there is an answer that is clear and simple and wrong."
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Tara7
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2016, 11:15:59 PM »

So many thanks again to you all. Well I contacted my breeder and he says not to do anything about the pH. (7.4-7.6). Leave it as it is, he said, since the other parameters are just fine. So I'm relieved about that. He also said to increase the temperature up 88!! just for a while, and that the shipment will also contain special foods and maintenance items.  Not sure whether I can get it up that high and you are right some plants don't like that and I will follow your advice. So far, so good, but its only 84. I have 2 Rolden LED 200w heaters with plenty of aeration in the tank too. Always good to hear from you too Pat Mary, I believe you have been with me right from the beginning when I was cycling a new tank with some rescued goldfish, not knowing a thing about fish keeping. They all survived, became enormous and now live as they should, in a real pond. I should also mention that the other tank mates are 3 Siamese algae eaters (which I rarely see) one emperor pleco (likes the cave and I hardly ever see him either, sadly because he is beautiful) also 3 sweet cories, and last but not least one enormous gold gourami I've had for several years. I call her Big Mama. She eats everything in her path but I've never seen her aggressive towards any other fish I've kept before. Hope that continues.
I'll be happy to update and attach pictures.
Wish me luck, the big day is next Tuesday.
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Tara7
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Gender: Female
Tanks: 1 55g planted
Posts: 140



« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2016, 02:43:42 PM »

Well dear friends, this is to let you know that I've had my 4 discus since last Tuesday when I picked them up at the airport. I've never seen anything packed so carefully: triple bagging, insulation, food, various bottles (garlic guard, prime etc), a huge box for 4 discus. Anyway I took one hour to acclimate them according to their directions (simple), had the tank up 88 degrees as advised and in the dark, and waited with bated breath to see if they would eat (seems that is the problem sometimes), and, of course my higher Ph, but the next day they did eat and looked fantastic. Today they seem completely at ease, are eating and very sociable. They already know me and the large gourami is having problems, everyone seems peaceful. I am quite thrilled and would love to upload some pictures, but I'm not sure how to that: from my computer?
Thanks again for all your valuable input and interest. party
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