Water Balance – pH level

Water Balance – pH Levels

The importance of pH levels in solutions (to inhabitants of the Earth) is such that there is an International Agreement for a Standard way of measuring whether a solution (any solution) is acidic, alkaline or neutral.

The scale of pH readings is from 0 (zero – extremely acidic) to 14 (extremely alkaline) with 7.0 being regarded as NEUTRAL, however, this is when the temperature is at 25° degrees Centigrade.

The symbol for pH is always written with a lowercase p followed by an UPPERCASE H and is a measure of the activity of the (solvated) hydrogen ion which measures the hydrogen ion concentration.

Fortunately all we need to know is the pH number which is easily obtained by using a ph Meter or paper indicator strips (which are dipped into the solution being tested and then by visually comparing the resultant color of the strip against a color chart).

This came from yahoo images

Test strips suitable for dipping into a solution or eco system can usually be obtained from pet shops, aquariums, chemist shops and of course good Aquaponic suppliers.

The Marine Life and Plant Life of all eco systems rely on a stable pH Level so it becomes extremely important for an Aquaponic Eco System to be constantly monitored in order to remain healthy.

As complicated as this may sound we are fortunate that the system will usually monitor and adjust itself – especially if we do not interfere except at the last moment.

The last paragraph does not excuse us from maintaining (at a minimum) charts of temperature, pH, oxygen and ammonia levels so we can know just what is happening at all times inside your eco system.

Apart from an eco system, the pH level is vital to be known for the very water you drink and is used in chemistry, biology, medicine, oceanography, nutrition, forestry and in many branches of science etc.

You would find that Battery Acid would have a pH level of 0 (zero), lemon juice measures about 2pH, and lower readings of pH are regarded as “soft water” which is corrosive over time as it leaches and dissolves its way thru things like pipes (obviously it takes time but this is why rust with the help of available oxygen occurs).

“Hard water” is more alkaline between 7 and 14pH levels and often tastes bitter. Soaps and detergents are more difficult to get a lather with and often a high pH water will leave sediments on tanks and even clothes if washed in a high pH solution.  For this reason home often require water softeners to be installed so salts can be added and mixed into the town supply of water provided as this enables the absorbtion of mineral ions and thus the lowering of the alkalinity of the water.

By now you can easily understand why you need to HOLD water in a settling tank and even then to not make all the water available to the eco system (as discussed in the section on Submersible Electric Pumps).

In Nature, water in lakes and streams will vary in their pH levels because of many factors and this will alter your taste determination of the water.  Things like what did the water have to pass in the stream before it collects and what else also passed into the stream or lake are all considerations that alter the pH level on a daily basis, and minute by minute.

The pH levels (small reading differences) are recorded as naturally dropping at night and rising during the day without any interference. For this reason, it is wise to arrange to take pH reading at the same time every time as this ensure consistencies within your pH reading.

Water that passes through areas of mineral deposits will often be pH “hard”, whilst water that passed through say igneous rocks or peat can be naturally have a  “soft” pH level.

Of course, the bigger danger of pollution with its wide range of foreign substance is a real worry as the environmental damage can be extremely toxic, however, the perpetrators of this damage seem to be totally unconcerned about the damage they cause to local waters and natural habitats as well as the terrible effort on wildlife especially marine life.

So by now hopefully you can understand that there is “no normal pH level” that apply to all fish because their lakes, streams ponds etc all vary and in most cases the fish are able to adapt (or else die). Know that sick and young fish (underlings) are particularly affected by changes in pH levels and that some species of fish will only breed when in a particular range of pH readings (all the more reasons for the use of segregated tanks).

Realize that your own eco system pH levels do change as the biological processes occur – just need to monitor the range of these changes and to not panic as they occur (within the allowable range).

Sudden changes are a different matter as they can prove harmful and even fatal to fish. As the pH rises it increases the toxicity of chemicals such as ammonia (this can particularly occur in the early phases of installing an eco system).

Salt water fish prefer a higher alkalinity level like 8.0 and above, whereas freshwater fish thrive in a range of about 7.5 to as low as about 5.5pH

Be particularly careful when moving fish from one tank (or eco system) to another because any sudden change in pH levels will cause the fish much distress. This is particularly noticeable when new stocks are introduced from a fish stockist to a new eco system, yet even within 2 eco systems you might find the pH levels can vary enough to be a problem. It is often a wise move to swap pH reading with your fish stockist as they can probably assist acclimatize your fish before delivery.

The answer is to move the fish with their existing water into a neutral empty tank and over a period of time (depends on the pH differential) scoop out several bucket full (depends on size of tank) of their original water (back into the original tank) and replace that same quantity of water from the “to be new” tank. This enables a slow acclimatization to occur and after doing this several times should ensure you have no transfer death problems.

Finally, if you notice a trend of ongoing falling or rising pH levels what should you do – should you interfere or not?

The short answer is NO, however, congratulations for noticing the trend. You will need to allow plenty of time before you intervene because sometime Mother Nature has a specific reason for acting in such an extreme reason and you would not wish to interfere.

At best you could take a small selection of fish (in their water of course) and place into an isolation tank, then add some plants (from the same eco system) and then “try whatever you wish to try”. This way you will become better educated and will be able to compare your results against what Mother Nature does.

Over time you might win a few rounds, however, in the longer term Mother Nature will be the Master Winner still your records will become a very important source of information to help determine what is the cause, treatment and result of why these events occur. Please forward your experiences to us so we and our visitor can benefit.