The pH level of the aquarium is very important because it can affect the amount of oxygen in the water, which contributes to the well-being of the fish. Most aquariums can be a good habitat with a pH of 6-8. However, if your fish looks sick or lethargic and you've confirmed it's due to the pH of the water, it's a good idea to lower it. Some fish are also more comfortable in an aquarium with a lower pH level. To lower the pH, add natural materials such as driftwood, peat moss, and almond leaves to the tank. You can also purchase a reverse osmosis filter as a long term option. Remember that you will need to clean and maintain the tank to keep the pH low and ensure that the fish are healthy.
Method 1 of 3: Adding Driftwood and Other Natural Elements
Step 1. Use 1-2 pieces of driftwood as a natural option that provides a quick solution
Driftwood releases tannic acid into the water, which naturally lowers the pH of the aquarium. Look for driftwood that is special for aquariums, without dyes, without chemicals or preservatives at your local pet store or online. Choose 1-2 pieces of driftwood that are small enough to be easy to place in the aquarium.
- You can use driftwood sold for reptile cages as long as it's not chemically treated or stained. However, keep in mind that this wood is not designed to be used in water so it will float in the aquarium and you will need to use a ballast to get around this.
- Driftwood can be a good short term solution, but is not ideal for lowering water pH in the long term.
Step 2. Boil or soak the driftwood before adding it to the aquarium
Driftwood can change the color of the water if you put it directly into the aquarium. To avoid this, soak the wood in water for 1-2 weeks before placing it in the aquarium.
- However, keep in mind that water discoloration due to wood is caused by the same tannin content that can lower the pH of the water.
- Another option is to boil the driftwood in water for 5-10 minutes. This step can be a good option, especially if you collect driftwood yourself.
- After soaking or boiling, the wood can be put into the aquarium and will perform its function naturally. Wait until the wood reaches room temperature first if you are boiling it.
- Driftwood can be left in the tank for several years to help lower the pH of the water, but you will notice a drastic change in the first few weeks or months. After that, the effect of wood on the pH will decrease.
Step 3. Use peat moss if you don't mind the hassle of preparing it
Moss works in the same way as driftwood, but you'll need to prepare it beforehand so it can be used safely in the aquarium. Purchase peat moss at your local pet store or online. Make sure you choose moss that is intended for use in an aquarium. That way, you can make sure the moss doesn't contain chemicals or dyes.
If you don't want to add peat moss directly to the tank, you can put it in a separate container of aerated tap water. Then, use that water when you need to change the aquarium water to create an environment with a more stable pH
Step 4. Soak the peat moss for 3-4 days before adding it to the aquarium
If you intend to add the moss directly to the tank, place the moss in a bucket of tap water to soak it in. This will prevent the moss from turning the aquarium water yellow or brown.
However, be aware that this discoloration is associated with the same tannin content that can reduce the alkalinity of the water
Step 5. Put the moss in a filter bag or stocking so it doesn't float
Don't just put it in the tank right away because the moss will float and won't work effectively. You can purchase a special filter bag for your aquarium or make your own by cutting off the legs of the nylon stockings and tying them together. Start by putting a small amount of moss in the bag to gradually reduce the pH.
- If you use this technique, you will need to regularly monitor the pH level of the water. Adding peat moss directly to the aquarium instead of replacing the water with water that has been treated with peat moss will make the water pH less stable.
- You can also place peat moss in the aquarium water filter to lower the pH.
- Monitor the pH of the aquarium as too much moss can cause the pH to drop below 4, which is too acidic for most fish. You may need to increase or decrease the amount of moss from time to time, depending on the pH level in the tank.
- Replace peat moss once its pH lowering ability begins to diminish. Do the test regularly to make sure the pH of the water is still in a healthy range.
Step 6. Use 2-3 pieces of almond leaves to increase the acidity of the aquarium water
Just like driftwood or peat moss, almond leaves help naturally lower the pH of the aquarium by releasing tannic acid. In addition, almond leaves can also serve as decoration and provide a natural hiding place for fish.
- Look for almond leaves at your local pet store or online. These leaves are usually sold in dried form and packaged in long pieces.
- Leaves soaked in the aquarium will turn the water yellow. This discoloration may be less attractive, but it is caused by the same tannins that can lower the pH and soften the water in the tank.
Step 7. Arrange the leaves in several places at the bottom of the aquarium
Place almond leaves at the bottom of the tank to help lower the pH. Leaves also serve as beautiful decorative elements at the bottom of the aquarium for fish.
Change leaves after 6 months to 1 year. You can also replace them if the leaves are no longer having the desired effect on the pH of the water or if the leaves start to tear or break
Method 2 of 3: Buying a Reverse Osmosis Filter
Step 1. Purchase a reverse osmosis filter at your local pet store or online
Reverse osmosis (RO) filters purify water using a semipermeable membrane. This filter will retain water and smaller ions in the tank and remove heavier ions, such as lead, chlorine, and other water pollutants. This kind of filter usually costs over $1000, but it's an ideal long-term solution for lowering the alkalinity of the aquarium and keeping the pH level stable.
- You may be able to purchase an RO filter at a lower price online.
- An RO filter is worth considering if the tap water contains minerals (hard water) and you don't want to spend a lot of time adjusting the pH of the aquarium manually. You can determine if tap water is hard by testing it with a test kit or taking a water sample to a trusted veterinarian.
Step 2. Choose an RO filter based on your aquarium size and budget
These devices are available with two to four filtering stages. The higher the stage and size, the more expensive.
- A 2-stage RO filter is ideal if you have a smaller aquarium with limited space. The price you pay will be worth it. The 2-stage RO filter features a carbon block and an RO membrane. This device is best suited for very small aquariums filled with PAM water. You should replace the carbon block regularly as it may wear out or become clogged.
- The 3-stage RO filter is larger and suitable for larger aquariums, but costs more. On the other hand, this 3-stage filter tends to be more durable than the 2-stage filter. The device also features a mechanical filter in addition to the carbon block and membrane. You should replace the mechanical filter 2-4 times a year and the carbon block and membrane 1-2 times a year.
- The 4-stage RO filter provides the highest level of filtration you can buy for an aquarium and is the largest model. This type of filter is usually the most expensive. These devices consist of an additional filtration block, such as a mechanical or chemical block, an extra carbon block, or a deionization block.
- If you don't know which is the best choice for your aquarium, consult a pet store clerk.
Step 3. Pass the water through the RO filter and use it to fill the aquarium
Most RO filters have three tubes. One tube is connected to a water supply, such as the faucet you normally use to run water into the washing machine. Another tube is used to drain water through the RO filter to a container to collect water, for example a bucket or other container. The third tube functions to remove waste water that has accumulated in the filter system.
- Follow the detailed instructions that came with the RO filter to install it properly.
- Use the wastewater that comes out of the device to water the garden or yard.
Method 3 of 3: Cleaning and Maintaining the Aquarium
Step 1. Clean the aquarium every 2 weeks
Cleaning the aquarium will help reduce the accumulation of ammonia in the water, which can increase the pH level significantly. Use a special tool to scrape off the moss on the walls of the aquarium or other surfaces in it. Then, replace 10-15% of the aquarium water with fresh, no-chlorine from the tap. Use a special vacuum cleaner to remove sticky debris from the surface of the gravel and aquarium decorations. Clean at least 25-33% gravel to get rid of fish waste or other food debris.
You don't need to remove fish or accessories from the tank when cleaning, as doing so can make the fish sick or increase the risk of disease
Step 2. Check the aquarium filter to make sure it is working properly
The filter must not be clogged or dirty. If cleaning is necessary, remove the components one at a time so that part of the filter can still continue to work in the aquarium. Rinse the filter components under cold running water to remove any sticky or other debris.
Follow the instructions provided for cleaning and replacing the sponge, container, and carbon bag on the filter
Step 3. Change some of the water every day or every 5 days
Keep the pH at a low level by changing the water regularly. You have the option to change the water daily by removing and replacing 10% of the water, it is recommended to use water that has been filtered using an RO filter. Use a vacuum to remove the water and introduce new, chlorine-free, RO filtered water into the aquarium.
- You can also choose the option of partial water change every 5 days by changing 30% of the water. This option may be better if you don't have time to do it every day.
- Using water that has been filtered with an RO filter will help reduce the alkalinity of the aquarium and lower the pH slightly.
Step 4. Test the pH level in the aquarium once a month
Purchase a pH test kit designed for an aquarium at your local pet store or online.
- Make sure that the pH level is appropriate for the type of fish in the aquarium. Some fish do better in a low pH environment (between 4-6), while others thrive at a neutral pH of 7.
- Make sure the pH doesn't change too quickly as this can have a negative impact on the fish.
- Always test the pH level after you add natural elements or new water to the tank.