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  • Water pH and fish adaptation

    There is a general comment that I have seen a lot of stating that a fish can adapt to a wide range of pH. I know fish can adapt to a wide pH range, within reason, but that does not mean they have evolved to live in that environment permanently just by captive breeding. Seeing how my softwater fish have changed their behavior, coloring, and overall health after I lowered the hardness and pH of the water, I began to wonder about that general comment and how much it comes up. One person with the same pH as another doesn't mean the KH and GH are the same. So, I am curious as to what the thoughts are on this subject in regards to tank bred fish. Let's assume this is based on a question proposed by someone wanting to change their pH slowly for their fish.

    I apologize if this should have been put in general discussions or here, since it is a bit of both.

  • #2
    Re: Water pH and fish adaptation

    Adaptation is something that we all do, not just fish but from single cell organisms up to the most complex ones. Survival in the world rests soley on the ability of an organism to adapt to its environment and survive. While one may not move and survive as well in the area the offspring from that area will survive better. Look at the life span of the human race, it used to be that living to age 40 was considered doing well, now we are making over 100 regularly.
    -Jim-

    Originally posted by Albert Einstein
    If the facts dont fit the theory, change the facts
    Originally posted by Theodore Geisel
    Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind donít matter and those who matter donít mind.

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    • #3
      Re: Water pH and fish adaptation

      I believe there are optimum parameters as well as tolerable ones. Further, just because a creature can survive it does not mean that they are healthy or that they are thriving.

      Consider this.....in the larger cities we humans survive in some barely tolerable conditions. Smog and pollution cause a wide number of health issues for some and others who may appear to be living in said environment but may die at a young age. If they died young were they thriving and healthy? I realize this is nothing more than an example of survival of the fittest, but I believe it makes the point.

      In our aquariums we have to weigh the options. Do we want to strive for optimum parameters? We all know that attempts to change pH cause much stress when the pH bounces back to its natural level. We can use peat, IAL or other natural means to help soften water, which in turn lowers pH, but how stable is this environment? Compared to hard water with a stable pH, how does that affect the inhabitants? Difficult to say! As you've noticed the fish perk up and become more active when striving for those optimal levels. This is something each of us must make a personal/conscious choice and stick with it.
      - Dena

      All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.
      Walt Disney

      The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
      Socrates

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      • #4
        Re: Water pH and fish adaptation

        Good question and good answers too. Personally, I strive for a stable ph as opposed to adjusting to accomodate the fish, mainly for ease of maintenance and not worrying about swings when doing pwcs. As far as a fish being happier and/or acting/looking more natural in a ph range they naturally occur in, I could see how that could occur given they evolved to live in those conditions. As far as them adapting and "thriving" I think its open to enterpretation either way. For an example: How many/much of the changes you noticed can positively be linked to the ph change? It could all be from that but maybe not.

        The first thing that comes to mind when I think of altering PH and how scary it is is that the ph scale is logarithmic so the difference between ph of 8 and 7 is 7 is 10x more acidic but jumps to 100x more acidic from 8 to 6! That is my understanding anyway and makes me want to have as stable a ph as possible!

        ETA: To clarify on my statement about the benefits you're seeing in your fish, Typically people adjust ph and hardness because they think the fish will benefit from it, so, starting with a preconcieved notion that the fish will be happier, add to that the way the human brain works, perception will trump reality every time, and I start to think maybe the fish could've been happily swimming around prior to any adjusting. Just a thought.
        __________________________________________________ _____
        Try not to be a man of success but a man of value. -Albert Einstein

        Wise men speak because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something. -Plato

        Say what you mean and do what you say. -Alot of people
        110G, 65G, 10, 300G Pond

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        • #5
          Re: Water pH and fish adaptation

          I do agree, these are some good answers, and I am glad they are written well to describe the points of this. While the human race is a good example, "survival of the fittest" fits this well, but has led to some horrible occurrences in history using it the wrong way. In the U.S., and other countries, life expectancy has increased because of advances in technology, while other areas do not have this advantage and it shows. That leans more towards availability of resources as opposed to survival of the fittest though.

          In the case of fish, survival of the fittest fits better. If a species of fish is able to adapt to a wider range of parameters it is more likely to survive compared to "sensitive" fish. An interesting example of this, that I came across in school, is an article about the tomcod in the Hudson river. The river became heavily polluted decades ago and the fish population dwindled. While a majority of the tomcod perished, there were those that could handle the pollution because of a different gene. Now this fish thrives in these conditions, but doesn't do well in optimum conditions like other fish. That is just a good example to me on this subject, here's the link if anyone is interested. http://www.npr.org/2011/02/17/133842089 ... -evolution

          From my viewpoint on pH, a softwater fish would need to work harder to be able to cope with the conditions it is in when outside of it natural range. How much of an impact this has on the life of the fish is hard to say, but I do believe it has an impact. A stable pH is far more important, but if someone can achieve a long term stable pH, while slowly lowering it, that would be better, right? So, from my understanding of the responses, while lowering the pH to create a more natural environment could be better, but if someone does not thoroughly think the process through that is when problems arise. A prime example of this is the many chemicals on the market to lower or raise the pH, but only temporarily.

          As a quick insight into my thinking, I had a pair of german blue rams a couple months ago. Matt, I got some of this wrong from what I told you before, I had to read through my notes to get this right. My water parameters at that point were based only on ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, and pH, which was firmly held at 8.0, and the rest was unknown. Within a few weeks, they began flashing and hovering around the surface of the water. My thoughts were parasites (flukes), but those were the only visible signs I had to go on. Soon after I lost both of them, so I gave it more than a month, after cleaning the hardscape and taking care of everything else in the tank, to be sure nothing else came up. No signs, so I tried another GBR who, after proper drip acclimation, was lost to the exact same symptoms within 48 hours. Maybe the fish wasn't as hardy, but I read into it. That led me to test other parts of my water to find KH was 17 dH and GH was 3-4 dH. While the mineral content was acceptable, the carbonate hardness was too high. Anyway, I found the symptoms of fish in water parameters outside what they can handle are very similar to parasites, based only on action.

          So, basically this all seems to come down to personal preference and what works for the keeper. Thank you for the responses, I couldn't really understand the use of that response, but it makes more sense to me now. While I still don't meet optimum conditions for my fish, technically, it is better than it was, but it could all be in my mind. Sorry for the wordy post.

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          • #6
            Re: Water pH and fish adaptation

            Very good information with personal experience. This is why I love forum discussions! Whether or not we agree, everyone has different experiences.

            Maybe this discussion could be a basis for using RO/DI water when our tap is too far outside the chosen fish's ideal environment? Pure water is typically proposed more for the benefit of aquarium plants or in saltwater tanks, but this type of discussion makes me think about this. Plus the fact that wild caught fish cannot survive too far outside their ideal environment.
            - Dena

            All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.
            Walt Disney

            The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.
            Socrates

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            • #7
              Re: Water pH and fish adaptation

              There is always going to be differences in the way each person does things, which is why I am trying to leave as much bias out of my responses as possible. My experience in this hobby is pretty short, so I like learning as much as possible. I do like forum discussions like this though, there isn't anyone I know to have discussions like this with. Most of my friends don't care, and the one that does only has done saltwater. Anyway, RO or RO/DI water seems like something good to add to the discussion. I have often wondered about the benefits of RO or RO/DI water in a freshwater setting, and RO/DI water in a saltwater setting. So, here is my take on it.

              So, if I remember correctly, RO water has around 90-95%, roughly, of impurities removed, and RO/DI, or the DI filter resin, removes most of the residual impurities creating, at most, 99% pure water. With RO/DI water in a freshwater tank, the option to reconstitue water to specific parameters exists. Doing something like that would probably be ideal for wild caught fish, early generations of wild caught parents, and for breeding purposes. For plants, the most sensitive species could be grown. I have come across some, not in personal experience, that will melt in water with a KH above 2 dH. Even for the less demanding plants there would be more control without the unknown water makeup. While KH, GH, TDS, and whatever else may exist, the complete makeup of the water is unknown unless it is analyzed by a lab. Even with analysis done the water parameters aren't set in stone. While parameters could change with RO and RO/DI water, the change may be less significant.

              My three tanks are a mix of RO water and tap water to safely lower the hardness and mineral content while remaining stable. Since the incidences with the GBR's, I do have a GBR in one tank that has been doing well for over a month now. In another tank I have neon tetras that seem like, from what I have read, are very sensitive to their water. With the neons is a single medium size angelfish (the neons are going to be moving) that is also doing well with the current water conditions. That is all only short term though.

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