How can you lower the pH of your fish tank?
About 85% of American homes have hard water with a far too high pH for most aquariums.
Bottles of pH adjusting chemicals abound at every pet store, but a more natural approach is usually better. Natural methods of adjusting pH maintain a more stable pH level that doesn’t rise and fall with each water change.
Sudden changes in pH can be incredibly stressful for all aquarium life, so, for the health of our fish, let’s do it naturally!
How To Lower pH In Aquarium
The perfect pH will be different depending on the types of fish you are keeping.
For example, the best pH for discus fish is 6.5, while the best pH for a saltwater aquarium is between 7.6 and 8.4.
It’s important to know the best parameters for all the fish in your tank. This will prevent you from keeping 2 or more types of fish in a community tank that do not have overlapping pH ranges.
Whatever the case, if you want to lower the pH of your aquarium, here are the 3 best natural methods.
1. Using Driftwood To Lower pH
Does driftwood lower pH?
Fish Tank Driftwood is one of the most attractive, simple, and long-lasting ways to lower pH in the aquarium.
The pieces look lovely in the home aquarium but serve multiple purposes.
Not only do they lower pH, but they also act as a filter, removing contaminants from the water. The more course or porous the piece, the better it will be as a pH-altering agent.
The downside of using driftwood in the aquarium is that it can leave the fish tank water discolored.
The tannin in the wood can discolor your water, but this is also what lowers the water pH naturally. Keep this in mind when deciding how to manage your home aquarium.
A piece of driftwood will lose efficacy over time. While always maintaining some pH lowering effect, it is most potent in those first couple of months after installing it.
Discoloration, as you’ll soon find, is a side effect of most pH-reducing compounds.
With driftwood, the discoloration can be mostly avoided by boiling the piece until the water runs clear. This usually takes a few minutes, depending on size.
The catch-22 is that the longer the piece is boiled, the less effective it becomes at lowering the pH. So be careful not to overdo it!
Be careful when purchasing pieces of driftwood at pet stores: raw wood that’s been boiled or soaked is perfect, as is anything intended for the aquarium.
But pieces that are labeled exclusively for reptiles can be toxic for fish. Driftwood and other porous decors intended for reptile habitats are usually chemically treated.
This makes it easy to rinse clean and allows it to withstand the rays of heat lamps. These chemicals can be deadly for fish, so make sure you choose aquarium driftwood.
Bonsai Driftwood specializes in decorative driftwood for the aquarium with a wide selection of stunning pieces, all with the benefit of Amazon Prime’s shipping and customer service.
2. Peat Moss For Aquarium
Peat moss for aquariums (which includes Sphagnum moss) is extremely efficient at softening aquarium water and bringing pH levels down.
However, like driftwood, it too can discolor the water. To avoid this discoloration, soak the moss in water for a few days, changing it occasionally until it runs clear.
Initially, peat tends to yield a strong yellow color. The results are well worth the preparation, though; just place the peat moss into a filter bag and drop it into your existing filter.
The pH change is long-lasting and gradual enough that fish stress isn’t an issue.
Fluval has a great reputation for its high-quality aquarium products. These granules are ideal for canister filters but can be placed in a hang-on-the-back filter, as mentioned above.
These water softener pillows are also very affordable and easy to use. They achieve the same thing as the Fluval granules, using peat.
3. Almond Leaves
Many aquariums contain what are commonly known as “black water” fish.
The water of their natural environment is a deep brown color created by the tannin and compounds leached from the trees growing along the river and the leaves and debris that fall to the bottom.
The Terminalia cattapa tree, also known as the Indian Almond, has been hailed as nothing less than a miracle in many aquarium communities. It’s commonly used in betta fish aquariums.
Some aquarists insist that these leaves are an absolute necessity for breeding bettas or Angelfish. What’s more, it’s said they can even bring fish back from the brink of death.
Although some of the claims made about them are a little dubious, these leaves definitely excel at improving water conditions.
Adding a few dried Cattapa leaves works to enrich the fish tank’s chemical parameters all around, softening the water and naturally bringing the pH down.
Naturally protective chemical compounds are abundant in Indian Almond leaves. These are said to protect the tree from bacterial and fungal infection in the humid environments of its native Southeast Asian environment.
The antibiotic and antifungal properties have some obvious benefits for the aquarium ecosystem as well.
But the benefits must be balanced with the side effect of not having crystal-clear water. The perfect balance is, of course, entirely up to the individual aquarium keeper.
The best advice with this method is probably just to add one leaf a day until you’re happy with the water clarity (or lack thereof). More leaves will need to be added with future water changes, and it’s best to vacuum up old leaves once they begin to deteriorate.
If the water is still too alkaline, combine this with another method.
Dried Indian Almond leaves are affordable and readily available:
- Leaves by Sungrow – a best-selling product
- Tantora Cattapa – stated as being great for bettas and shrimp
- Matchimaa Almond Leaves – for “better health, vitality, and breeding”
This natural way to lower the pH in an aquarium has been tried and tested and found to be effective by many thousands of people.
Keep an eye on the results in your tank, and if you see your betta fish flaring, investigate further.
Raising Aquarium pH
If you’re one of those lucky few with perfectly soft, slightly alkaline water, raising the pH is very simple, and the ingredients are probably already in your kitchen!
Add 1 tsp of baking soda per 5 gallons gradually over the course of a week or two and with each water change.
Limestone is also extremely efficient at increasing the pH. It’s also a permanent choice that requires little to zero maintenance.
African Cichlids require a high pH and love hard water: one of the many reasons that cichlid tanks are usually filled with limestone décor.
Here’s our API Freshwater Testing Kit review if you’re looking for a new kit – this one isn’t bad.
Good luck in your journey to achieve the perfect aquarium, full of happy, healthy, and long-lived fish!