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What I found out from an expert....

Posted By: Mr Leadfoot <leadfoot@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Tuesday, 31 December 2002, at 3:28 a.m.

By now, you all know I've been at war with some mysterious ailments, and thought I should share what I was told today by a water quality consultant retained by Aquarium Products as a technician of some sort.

I explained to this gentleman that I treated for ICH, septicemia, and internal worms for more than a month total, and although some symptoms improved, I still had flashing fish in 3 separate tanks.

He asked me some elementary questions regarding the treatments, as well as sneaking in some questions of my general practice of fishkeeping (I suspect it was his way of finding out if I had any sense of fishkeeping), and where I was geographically. After hearing I was in Sacramento, CA, he adamantly stated that he wouldn't be surprised if my water's total alkalinity level was very low. Now, I was stunned by this statement, and asked if I were to test my water's alkalinity and found that it was fine, what should be my next course of action. He explained that my suspicions about flukes are pretty much out the window because QuickCure would take care of the flukes, unless they were of a drug-resistant strain, but he said he'd suspect low alkalinity before even thinking about flukes. He said right then and there to test my levels and call him back. He also said if the levels were NOT low, to call him back and he would devise another plan of action, if necessary. He then rattled off all the symptoms I might see as a result of a low alkalinity level:

Lethargy
Flashing
Not-eating
fin and tail erosion
red streaks
bloat
unexplained deaths

Without me previously telling him all the symptoms I've been experiencing, he pretty much mentioned everything I've been seeing! He also said that some of the treatments I did would in fact help because some fish have worms and parasites anyway, but that they don't become an issue until something stresses their systems, and very often, it's a fallen alkalinity level.

Now, this sounded very weird to me, that he rather have me call him back than give me a bunch of options to get rid of me, so I challenged him a bit. He responded by explaining to me that in his 35 years experience, there are more cases than not where an aquarist is hunting down a disease only to find that the real culprit is a fallen alkalinity level. He went on to say that at this time of year the water in my area is not as good as it normally is because our water doesn't come from the Sierra Nevadas where it should because everything up there is frozen. He spoke with such authority on the subject, I'm thinking this guy's in Florida, how does he know about my water? When I asked how he knew so much about my water, he told me he is a water quality consultant and he actually tests water in all parts of the world! Wow, I thought, that'd be something if what he was telling was true.

He also told me that fish and plants LOVE an alkalinity level of 200ppm, and that if my alkalinity was below 60ppm, I should add between one-half and one tsp. of baking soda for every 10 gallons to raise my levels. I thanked him and promised to test my levels and get back to him.

Well, I tested by water's carbonate hardness (kH), and lo and behold, it was down at 31ppm. I tested the alkalinity coming out of the tap, and it was pretty much the same as the level in the tank. According to the chart in my kit, my tank should should be between 100 and 200ppm. By this time, I'm thinking the guy was right on the money so far. So, starting with the low side of the range he had told me to dose with, I ended up EXACTLY in the middle of his recommended dosage limits and used 3/4 tsp. of baking soda per 10 gallons, and got all my tanks up to 100+ppm.

Within minutes of the change, all fish in all tanks were much more active. Not stressing or freaking out active, but like they had a new lease on life, or something. ALL their appetites also increased, and the live bearer males decided it was mating time! :-)

What worried me was that my pH of 7.0 also increased to 7.4, but over the next few hours, even the colors of the fish seemed to improve!

So far, it seems things are going EXACTLY according to this expert, which has me suspicious, so before I call him back, I thought I'd turn to the one place I've learned to trust, this forum. I would like to hear some of your views on all this, if you would be so kind:

1) Not being an expert by any means with some testers in my kit, why is gH (general hardness) tested separately from kH (alkalinity), yet their levels are supposed to be the same?

2) Why didn't the guy care about my general hardness (gH) levels being low, and specifically repeat that alkalinity was what I was after when instructing me on what to test for?

3) Why didn't he even mention that the pH might change quite a bit, yet everything else I've r