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PH Levels in The Discus Tank

Because it is imperative that discus fish have optimal water conditions, much has been written about this subject, This is the plan put in place to insure proper PH water levels in our hatchery.

Allnut Enterprises' breeder, Nick Lockhart of Noblesville, Indiana, has many ingenious ideas as to how to accomplish things in the hatchery. We begin our experiment with two matched pairs: two red melons, and two leopardskins. They are lovely, friendly fish, and have been getting acclimated to our tanks and the aquarist since the end of June.

Initially, we begin to prepare for the new arrivals by setting up the tanks in this manner: water was tested for PH and nitrite levels, and a proper ecosystem for active bacteria was begin by populating the tank with cichlids that Nick has been raising prior to the purchase of the discus. When we felt that the water/bacteria levels were correct, we set up the meeting with the breeder, and made the trip to Bloomington, Indiana.

Upon arrival at home base with a travel time of about an hour and a half, we immediately begin to acclimate the pairs to their new home. We were advised by the breeder to let them acclimate to the new tank water by "floating" the bags containing the fish for approximately one hour to equalize the temperatures, and to add a cup of water to the bag from the tank to equalize PH levels.

We did not, however, follow this procedure. We took approximately six hours to acclimate by adding a cup of the tank water to the bag each hour, and keeping a close eye on the discus and PH levels, because they were stressed from the trip. A Hanna PH digital meter was used for testing, which gave us a very accurate reading. As large changes in PH in a short period can shock the discus, we were careful in this approach. Our water at the time matched the water in PH levels from the breeder closely.

Because the two pair were bought for breeding purposes, Nick was not comfortable with the PH level, which at that time was at approximately 7.5, high for optimal breeding conditions of 6.5-6.9. What to do?

We had read that hanging a mesh bag of peat moss would help to lower the PH, but were not happy with the idea of having debris from the Peat in our tanks, which are kept scrupulously clean. We knew there had to be a better way to accomplish this goal.

Because Nick lives in town, and has city water, he uses a Reverse Osmosis filtering system to insure that the water is free of chemicals and suitable for the aquarium. Knowing that Peat Moss will lower the PH in an aquarium system, and having a large bag left over from making culture for Grindal and White Worms, he took a 5 gallon pail, and drilled a series of holes around the perimeter of the bottom of the pail, using a 3/32" drill. He then lined the bottom of the pail with a think layer of regular aquarium filter floss, and topped that off with a thick layer of Peat Moss, with the finished pail being about two-thirds full.

The outlet hose from the RO system was then allowed to drain into this pail. Setting the pail over the top of the holding tank, the water slowly drained down through this medium into the holding tank.

Initial test of the recycled water showed a drop in PH to below the base of 7.0. We have been adding the water to the discus tanks slowly through water changes so as to not shock the fish, and at our business meeting this weekend, Nick informed me that the PH levels in the discus tanks are now at approximately 6.6, which is the optimal level for breeding discus.

Cost of the project? If you already are using an RO system, and have a holding tank, you will spend a twenty dollar bill getting the Peat Moss and filter floss. Not bad, considering a breeding pair of dicus can run you $425 dollars!

Alden Smith is CEO of Allnut Enterprises, a diversified company, and is involved with discus breeding. His website is http://www.kingdiscus.blogspot.com

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