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Tannins in aquarium (help please)
#1
Hi, I've never used a forum before so I hope I'm doing this right. I'm looking for some advice, I'm thinking of setting up a tannin/blackwater aquarium but I have concerns about how to keep the ph stable when doing water changes. Will I need to alter my tap water ph before adding it to the tank or is that unnecessary? I also heard that these types of aquariums require lighter stocking. I'm planning to use a long 75l tank and stock it with neon tetras, kuhli loaches, glolight tetras and possibly a small gourami. Would this be ok?
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#2
Hello and welcome. Vale! is the guy to answer this question with plenty of good information and details! I've kept aquariums with plenty of tannings, my last one had a HUGE chunk of English oak and with weekly 20% water changes, did not make a dent in the colouration of the water.
[-] The following 1 user Likes fr499y's post:
  • Fishrgr8
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#3
You rang?!

Hello, F8, and welcome.

You omitted to say what your tapwater's like and/or whereabouts you are (we could have discovered the former information from the latter!).  As others on the forum may be only too willing to testify, this omission lays you open to a blunderbuss-volley of Vale! text - since I've got no clear target to snipe! So I'll talk in generalities and you can come back with specific questions later, maybe.

The fish you've listed evolved in soft, acidic waters which are typically stained to a greater or lesser extent with the products of decomposing organic matter. The fact that they represent two different continents is irrelevant for present purposes. In their natural environment all these fish would be subject to rapidly-changing water chemistry at particular points of the year due to floods or monsoons. Although the reaction of some fish to such changes is to spawn and then die, I don't recall having read that any on your list are prone to doing so ; an indication perhaps that their physiologies (actually their kidneys!) can adapt without long-term negative impact.

Further, it's likely that the fish you buy will have been tank-bred. While evolution masters what fish can or cannot tolerate, successive generations of tank-breeding seems to increase tolerance to what might be described as unfavourable water chemistry. And anyway, as a general rule, 'soft water fish' can tolerate harder water much better than can 'hard water fish' that are plonked into soft water. That may make some sense if you read it through enough times!

You'll notice that the above has been concerned with 'hard' and 'soft' water, with no mention at all of pH.

pH is not irrelevant, of course, but it's not the prime consideration : the water chemistry of the fishes' natural conditions automatically generates a low pH.

The kidneys, as mentioned, control the amount of water inside the bodies of the fish ; this is critical to their health. The more energy that has to be expended on this control, the less is available for (relatively) non-critical processes. One of the first, if not actually the first, systems to perform poorly if energy is diverted from it is a fish's auto-immune response. 

The chief chemical characteristics of blackwater are: a very low electrical conductivity (very few, or no, inorganics such as calcium and magnesium dissolved in it) ; and a relatively high concentration of dissolved organic compounds from the decomposing vegetation. Among these latter are acidic tannins and fulvic acid - hence the typical low pH.

Tannins and fulvic acid have antibacterial and antifungal properties (I always forget which way round they are!). Consequent from this, and from an evolutionary point of view, fish in blackwater conditions typically enjoy low exposure to many of the pathogens endemic in our aquariums and therefore haven't developed a natural immunity to them.

So, in theory at least, introducing 'blackwater' fish to typical municipal tapwater serves them a double whammy : the hardness in the water compromises their ability to osmoregulate (that's keeping the right amount of water in their tissues) and depresses their immune systems ; and they have all sorts of pathogens to contend with which they're not used to. As a result, such fish may not live out a natural lifespan, may not behave entirely naturally, may not breed and may be prone to disease. We fishkeepers may not notice some or all of these effects of course ; or, if we do notice, we may not think them significant!

If your tapwater is soft - such as it might well  be if you live in Scotland (I'm not jealous, honestly!) then adding some bogwood and/or peat and/or leaf-litter and/or alder cones is all that may be necessary to make water which is perfect. The harder your water is, the more the fish will be compromised even if tannins etc. are added (which they should be, IMO).  

Again in my opinion, I think it unfair to keep 'soft water' fish in very hard water, no matter how well they seem to tolerate it. I know that filtering hard water through peat can have a dramatic effect on water hardness but there are environmental issues surrounding its use. To assuage my own conscience somewhat, I pass my tapwater through a reverse osmosis (RO) kit, producing water with no hardness, then suspend a small amount of peat in it for a few days before using it for water-changes, and use Catappa and oak leaves in-tank. I bought my most recent bag of peat two years ago and have about a third left ; it's not ideal environmentally-speaking but compared with what the palm oil industry is doing ? Anyway, I digress ...

So if you have hard water and are are strongly minded to aim at the best conditions for your listed fish, then my recommendation would be RO water and oak leaves - or Catappa (Indian Almond) if you can afford them. Note that the acidifying property of leaf-litter lasts only a few weeks at most, then they have to be changed or supplemented with new leaves. 

I have more to add - mainly about the pH-stability of very soft water and some thoughts on your stocking-density query - but I'll stop for now and see what you may come back with.  Hot, sweet tea is very good for shock, so they say  Wink
Chocolate Gourami
False Eight-Banded Barbs
Liquorice Gourami
Phoenix Rasbora
Pseudomugil sp. "iriani" Rainbows
Sakura Shrimp
Sparkling Gourami
Spotted Blue-Eye Rainbows
Food : anything that appears in an outside bath, plus: blackworms, daphnia, earthworms, microworms, moina, waterlouse
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#4
Hi Smile thank you so much for your reply. As far as the tap water goes, I haven't tested it in a long time and I can't remember what the results were (I'm getting something to test it hopefully some time this week) but I live in the west of Ireland if that helps narrow down the possibilities at all. I'll definitely look into getting a reverse osmosis kit, it sounds like something pretty handy to have! Also regarding the stocking, I already have the neons, kuhlis and glolights (4 of each) in my other aquariums so was hoping to move them over to the new tank and maybe add a couple more of the tetras so they have a better sized group  (I hoped to get the gourami as an addition to stand out from the other fish a bit) however im not sure if this would be too much. Again, thank you so much for all the information, if I don't end up setting up a blackwater tank I'll definitely use what you've told me to make sure the water hardness  is as suitable for the fish I have as possible. Smile
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  • fr499y
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#5
Any chance we could have some idea of your actual location - nearest town centre, or something like that? Feel free to PM it if you prefer?
Chocolate Gourami
False Eight-Banded Barbs
Liquorice Gourami
Phoenix Rasbora
Pseudomugil sp. "iriani" Rainbows
Sakura Shrimp
Sparkling Gourami
Spotted Blue-Eye Rainbows
Food : anything that appears in an outside bath, plus: blackworms, daphnia, earthworms, microworms, moina, waterlouse
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#6
Your water hardness can usually be found on your water supplier's website as well - look for units like clarke, ppm, German/French degrees. Smile
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#7
It seems not to be included in the detailed water quality analyses provided by Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency's website. Hence my asking for a more accurate location so I can have another go at it! Conductivity's there, though, in the analyses.
Chocolate Gourami
False Eight-Banded Barbs
Liquorice Gourami
Phoenix Rasbora
Pseudomugil sp. "iriani" Rainbows
Sakura Shrimp
Sparkling Gourami
Spotted Blue-Eye Rainbows
Food : anything that appears in an outside bath, plus: blackworms, daphnia, earthworms, microworms, moina, waterlouse
[-] The following 1 user Likes Vale!'s post:
  • Fishrgr8
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#8
In Scotland Scottish Water has a PDF table of every water area and the various average hardness measurements. Looking at Ireland I only see a basic map showing soft, moderate and hard water areas.
[-] The following 1 user Likes Jota's post:
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#9
Further rummaging reveals that there aren't prescribed limits for water hardness in Ireland, therefore they don't test for it! A consumer's query about his tapwater's hardness was met, from an Irish Water representative, with a link to commercial testing services! 

I'm still rubbing my eyes following the sight of a statement (on an official website) that there sre 883 different suppliers of drinking water to the public over there! If we were to have a specific location confirmed we might be able to identify its specific supplier(s) and approach it/them for info. Bit of a long shot, but you never know!
Chocolate Gourami
False Eight-Banded Barbs
Liquorice Gourami
Phoenix Rasbora
Pseudomugil sp. "iriani" Rainbows
Sakura Shrimp
Sparkling Gourami
Spotted Blue-Eye Rainbows
Food : anything that appears in an outside bath, plus: blackworms, daphnia, earthworms, microworms, moina, waterlouse
[-] The following 1 user Likes Vale!'s post:
  • Fishrgr8
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#10
Are they seperate suppliers or the same suppliers with that many service areas? Scotland has 280 (roughly) water service zones all managed by Scottish Water.
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