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Hep with fluctuating water parameters and stressed/sick betta


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Hi! I'm here b/c I'm about at my wit's end trying to figure out what is going wrong with my water and how to fix it. I have a 5g betta tank that I cycled, and has now been home to a betta for about 3 weeks. Starting last week I began to see a rise, and then drop in my tank's Ph, and ever since then things have been off -- now as of two days ago the betta is stressed and his fins all clamped up.

When I added the betta, the tank's parameters were averaging:

Ph 6.8-7, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 5

Initially things looked stable and fine. But a couple weeks ago the Ph went up inexplicably to about 7.2, so I added a small Indian almond leaf. Then last week the Ph dropped suddenly to just below 6.6, and I intervened by doing a water change. Since then, the Ph has been unstable. I got a KH/GH test kit to determine water hardness, and after testing the tank water I got KH 1 and GH 3. I figured there is my problem, my water is very soft. I tested the tap water to compare to my tank water, and the KH was over 15 (I stopped there b/c it was getting tedious), and the GH was 4. Then I tested my reserved water change water: KH 1, GH3. Why is the KH dropping so low when I add my water conditioner?

I've also been struggling with low ammonia and nitrite readings that range from 0-.5 since the Ph crash, and rising nitrates that got up to about 30-40 ppm. I figured my cycle must have been disrupted a bit by the Ph crash, so I've been dealing with that as well by doing 30% water changes daily or every other day, and using Prime.

Yesterday (Saturday) I added some aquarium salt for my little buddy b/c he he began to show signs of stress/illness on Friday, and I also added a small piece of cuttlebone to the tank. I checked the parameters before going to bed last night. They were as follows:

Ph 6.8, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20

This morning I tested again and those readings were as follows:

Ph 7.6 (!), Ammonia .25, Nitrite .25, Nitrate 20 ppm. Tested KH and that was still at 1

So here I am now. I just tested again and my tank's parameters have stabilized as follows:

Ph 6.8, Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 10-20. My KH is still terribly low at 1.

Unless I am missing something, it seems to me the low KH is at the heart of my problems. I'm baffled by why my KH is so low, and when I use a buffer to try to increase it I get higher Ph but the Kh remains the same. Also baffling is the fact that my tap water has such a high KH, but when I add water conditioner to it, the Kh drops to 1. I'm struggling trying to figure this out and am hopeful someone might be able to help. My betta is clearly stressed by these swings by now and I want to get my Kh and Ph stabilized so he can recover.

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35 minutes ago, Colu said:

I would add crushed coral sand in a media bag in your filter to buffer your water can you take a picture of sick fish

Yes, I’ve ordered coral to try that but don’t have it yet. I added the piece of cuttlebone b/c I happened to have it on hand. Woke up and the ph had jumped from 6.8 to 7.6, but kh was still 1.

Pic of the betta is attached and also here: 


Stressed/lost color, and clamped up. I also noticed the fish flashing a few times over the past few days. Other than that, temp has been steady at 78, and the fish has been eating and pooping normally.


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I difficult from the pictures to no what is going on it could be the pH swings stress him out leading to illness I would continue adding aquarium salt 1 table spoon for 2 gallons for a couple of days if no improvement flashing could be a sign of aparasitic infection  treat with paracleanse or general cure

Edited by Colu
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Thanks! That was essentially my plan, so its good to have some validation there. I’ll also try the coral to buffer once I have it, and go from there. I don’t mind if the ph stays steady at 6.8 but i really want to stop it from continuing to swing in a matter of hours or overnight.

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