Woke up to DEAD koi's. 1 still alive. PH crash.


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Let me start by saying that I'm new to all this. 1 have an 1800g pond with 6 big KOI. Yesterday evening I did a water test and the amonia was at 4 and ph was at 9! So I did a water change of about 15%. This morning i wake up and all the fish are dead. The PH is below 5!?! I don't know why? was it the water change? all the other tests were good and the fish were active yesterday.

I've read many articles and posts about ph crashes but none of them say WHY it crashed.... Only that if i see a crash coming, add baking soda. Thanks but with a PH of 9 how could i see it coming so quick (grrrr).

Any ideas?
 
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did you treat the water if it is city water and 9 is not high i keep mine at 9 ,baking soda raises ph and you say yours is at 9 .When you did the change it could have shocked them if the water was colder than the pond at 15 % water change or warmer .With the weather swings I never do anything with my water this time of year fish are spawning or ready to spawn .I see you are in Texas and could be any of these things .I add crushed oyster shells to stabilize ph and lots and lots of activated charcoal
 

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I have 2 3lb bags of activated charcoal in each of my filters and what kind of filter are you using and have you changed anything else .I have only ever heard of a 10% water change and i would never do one this time of year .Even if ammonia was high .Is your pump ok and does your filter smell and what condition is you water in before and after .Did you do a second test after the first one was high .I always do 2 tests if the first one is off just in case something went wrong with the first test .
 

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did you double test to see if test kit is good .I know after awhile they go bad .Baking soda should have raised it .I never worry about ammonia ,if it is high the activated charcoal takes care of that and i just add more .koi like ph at 8 or 9 and goldies are not that fussy .I buy my activated charcoal at pet mountain .com and it is the cheap brand acurel and always keep extra bags handy .Have you had a lot of rain .Is the test kit maybe expired .Temp. changes and water temps are 2 different things .I always go by water temps .
 
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If your PH was at 5 ppm first thing this morning, do another late afternoon and let us know what it is. If it is considerably higher, like yesterday, sounds like a PH crash.

Do you have a KH test kit?

While you dont really want to do a partial water change at lower temps, if you only did a 15% water change, about 270 gallons, I am not buying, even if there was chlorine in the water (typical of town/city water), for this to be the cause of your losses. Possibly, but not my top choice.
 

sissy

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If you have a submerged pump could it be faulty .I know there was some one on here awhile ago who had a faulty pump and shocked the fish so double check that .I have never had a ph crash and not sure why that happens .
 
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Sissy, I thought I read that you used oyster shell in your pond??? If so, it is the buffering agent that keeps your KH up, and prevents the PH swings ...
 

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yes it seems to stabilize everything in the pond .I but the big bag at tractor supply and been using it for years .I keep a couple of pounds in each filter and 2 bags hanging near the waterfalls .I have not lost a fish in 9 years so something is working ,just not sure what or how but i try not to change anything just in case . :razz: It is working so why fix something that is working .
 
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sissy said:
did you double test to see if test kit is good .I know after awhile they go bad .Baking soda should have raised it .I never worry about ammonia ,if it is high the activated charcoal takes care of that and i just add more .koi like ph at 8 or 9 and goldies are not that fussy .I buy my activated charcoal at pet mountain .com and it is the cheap brand acurel and always keep extra bags handy .Have you had a lot of rain .Is the test kit maybe expired .Temp. changes and water temps are 2 different things .I always go by water temps .
Test kit is brand new.
I added 2 cups of baking soda.

We had a huge raid storm 2 days ago that dumped 5 inches into my pond.
then it went form 80 to 40's overnight
 
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This does seem to confuse many people. Let me try a simplified approach for people who really don't like numbers and terms they're not familiar with. There's tons of info via Goggle "pond pH buffering" or more detailed info via "aquarium ph buffering" for people wanting more.

I think most people probably think pH measures the amount of acid in a pond. It's confusing so below I'll use two different analogies that keeps acid out of it for the most part. Better to have a basic understanding than none, or worst an incorrect understanding.

First of all - Why so we even want stable pH?
If you want a simple explanation you'll just have to accept fish want stable pH. Skip the next section if that's good enough for you.

Bit more complex example... pH isn't directly the issue. pH isn't a chemical, poison or even an acid. It's how other things react to different pH. For example, as pH goes down ammonia becomes less toxic to fish, as pH goes up ammonia becomes more toxic. The amount of total ammonia doesn't change one bit, just how toxic it is. That's true for many other chemicals, so it gets complex.

If you're in a card game and everyone is smoking cigars you probably won't notice how smoky the room becomes. When your wife comes home, opens the front door and gets hit in the face with a cloud of smoke she's going to consider the room to be pretty toxic and be stressed out. A pH swing is like that. You had time to adjust to the slowly increasing smoke, your wife didn't. She experienced a "smoke swing" and was stressed.

Now the two analogies...

Cat on a Bus - pretty simple

Why pH isn't that important.
We put our cat, Tabby, on a Greyhound bus in NYC and send her to LA. Two hours into the trip we call Greyhound and ask where's the bus? They say 80 miles west of NYC. Is that useful? Well, a little bit. At least we know Tabby didn't get on the wrong bus and is heading to Canada.

Lets say the bus can't stop for fuel along the way. By knowing Tabby is 80 miles west of NYC do we know if she's going to make it to LA? Nope. If we call 12 hours later and find out the bus is 700 miles west of NYC we know a little bit more, but still have no idea if the bus has enough fuel to make LA.

pH measures distance. Taking a single measurement only tells you where the bus is right now. Doesn't tell us if the bus has enough fuel to make LA or whether the driver is going to get lost and end up in Canada. Doesn't tell us where the bus is going to be tomorrow or even in the next 5 minutes. Really tells us very little.

It can even horribly mislead us. 80 miles in 2 hours, 700 in 14 hours so total trip will be 55.4 hours, right? Unless they run out of fuel. The 55.4 hours is actually a silly guess based on an assumption the driver made sure they left with enough fuel. You really want to know the amount of fuel and how fast it is used.

Why KH is important.
KH measures the amount of fuel the bus has and tells us if the driver gets lost a lot.

KH is only a measurement - more important is what KH measures.
It's useful to know how much fuel the bus has. What's even more useful is being able to add fuel if we see KH is low. What's still even more useful is being able to pick the kind of fuel. The bus could being burning vegetable oil it collects from restaurants along the way, but the driver would have to refine that oil before the bus can burn it. That's going to be a long, long trip. Way faster if the driver buys diesel that's ready to burn.

Many things will fill up the KH tank, egg shells, oyster shells, concrete, limestone, coral, plaster, baking soda, etc. It's endless. All of these will act as KH, the difference is speed.

When you put a drop of vinegar (acid) on to some baking soda you'll see some bubbling. In a second or two there is no more vinegar. It reacted with the baking soda and became something else, something not acid.

When you put a drop of vinegar on egg shells, oyster shells, concrete, limestone, coral, plaster, etc., it probably won't bubble at all or very slowly. The acid will disappear at some point. Maybe a minute, maybe an hour. It's just slower, but it will get there.

Same deal in a pond. If you have oyster shells in your waterfall and acid being produced (all ponds produce acid, and a fair amount, plus rain is very acidic) the acid can only be neutralized as fast as the shells can be broken down by the acid. If acid is being produced faster than shells break down the amount of acid will accumulate to higher and higher amounts. Luckily as the acid level increases the shells will break down faster. But the problem is still the same, can the shells keep up?

The shells can be made to keep up a few ways. You reduce the amount of acid being produced by feeding fish less. You can add more and more shells. You can break the shells into smaller and smaller bits so there's more surface area the acid can react with. Kind of pain.

Baking soda is basically the same thing as oyster shells ground to a fine powder. At least the parts we care about. If you think oyster shells are "natural" and that some how is better...well, that's another issue unrelated to ponds.

Speed is important.
Say you have a thunderstorm and many gals of rain water, which is 2.0 to 4.5 pH (acid), is dumped into the pond. With solid stuff like oyster shells, limestone, etc., that acidic water has to make its way to the pump, to the falls and past the shells where a small amount will get close enough to react. Given enough time pH will indeed stabilize. But in the mean time, stressed fish.

Something like baking soda that is dissolved in water reacts with the acid on the spot, almost instantly. That's a good thing. It's what we should care about, not whether the pH eventually becomes stable.

In the aquarium hobby it isn't uncommon to use solid materials like crushed coral as a buffer (however higher end keepers do prefer dissolved buffer imo). In that environment a small amount of buffer material compared to the small amount of water is a very high ratio. It's a lot of buffer material compared to the volume of water. So it's not too bad a buffer. Plus they don't have rain to deal with.

If the entire bottom of a pond was covered with crushed coral like an aquarium it would be a better buffer. But a sack of coral or shells in the waterfall...no so good, at least in the world of science.

So you'll hear lots and lots of people saying "I use oyster shells and my pH is stable". But from a scientific perspective that can not be true and is even measurably not true. There is a difference between people thinking their pH is stable and actually testing on a continuous basis to show it's stable. Anyone can say and even "feel" their pH is stable.

Also, water can be pH stable with solid buffers like oyster shells, but that doesn't mean the material is responsible. If you put oyster shells into water that's pH stable for other reasons, like high KH source water, the oyster shells are not responsible despite the owner's beliefs.

This greatly adds to the pH buffering confusion. Confusing the opinions of a million people as having some basis in reality is a lot of crap to have to wade through and discard. The info is out there, but it takes some work.


Feather analogy - bit more complex but a little more exact

pH is a feather
Think of pH as a feather in a big jar. If you blow gently into the jar the feather moves. How far depends on how hard you blow and slickness of the jar, say glass vs terracotta. pH is a measurement of how far the feather moves. The further away from 7.0 the further the feather moved. Does it just move across the bottom or actually become airborne.

KH is glue
Now lets pour some rubbing alcohol into the jar. When you blow lightly the feather probably doesn't move, or doesn't move much because it's kind of stuck in the liquid. The rubbing alcohol acts as a glue, but a glue that evaporates, so it disappears over time. As you keep gently blowing the rubbing alcohol is going to evaporate a faster than if it was just sitting there. At some point it's all going to evaporate and suddenly the feather will move a lot, like before.

KH measures how stuck the feather is. A measurement of how long the glue will last given a certain amount of blowing.

No rubbing alcohol...........0-50 ppm KH
A little rubbing alcohol.....50-100 ppm KH
A lot of rubbing alcohol.....100-5000 ppm KH

Acid is the blower.
The harder you blow the faster the rubbing alcohol evaporates and the sooner the feather will move.

So there are two things you have to consider, how long it takes to evaporate alcohol AND how hard you blow. Let's call how hard you have to blow the amount of acid the pond is producing and is being added to the pond in the form of rain and CO2.
 

sissy

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yep i use baking soda and vinegar to clean and freshen my drains .I get lost with all that stuff I just know what works and doesn't and guessing a little knowledge can blow your mind or make you understand .For me I get lost in that stuff hate to say .But I never had fish tank so makes it more confusing .I guess it just works and i can say in 9 years and not knowing much it works for me and I have not lost a fish yet .I use my fathers rule of thumb keep it simple .I guess if I was a pro ponder I would know more .But most of this stuff is over my head .Sorry waterbug no offense as you know a lot but I still get confused by some of the stuff and I know you know a lot but most is over my simple brain .Not the brightest bulb here :lamp5: I just go with the flow .
 

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ShawnC said:
The test this morning revealed amonia of 2 and PH of below 5
If your pH is 5 in the morning and 9 in the evening, then this is allowed to happen by algae or underwater plants plus very low KH.


I think what killed your fish was....

If your ammonia is 2 and your pH raised to 9 in the evening, then most likely the ammonia burned your koi's gills and killed them. Ammonia becomes extremely toxic at higher pHs. It is best to have zero Ammonia.

An ammonia of 2 tells me your bio-filter is failing. Even during the transition between Winter and Spring, the ammonia should not shoot up this high if your bio-filter was built to perform for your pond.

I think the water changes were done too late to save them. I have never heard of the fish recuperating after being burned like this with this much ammonia at a high pH. The fish were probably going to die anyways. Unless, you are using city water which has chlorine or chloramines, then you did not use a dechlorinator, and this possibly killed the fish.


ShawnC said:
Let me start by saying that I'm new to all this. 1 have an 1800g pond with 6 big KOI. Yesterday evening I did a water test and the amonia was at 4 and ph was at 9! So I did a water change of about 15%. This morning i wake up and all the fish are dead. The PH is below 5!?! I don't know why? was it the water change? all the other tests were good and the fish were active yesterday.

I've read many articles and posts about ph crashes but none of them say WHY it crashed.... Only that if i see a crash coming, add baking soda. Thanks but with a PH of 9 how could i see it coming so quick (grrrr).

Any ideas?
pH crashes are essentially caused by low or zero KH. For advanced hobbyiests, a pond can have a low or zero KH and not suffer from a pH crash, but this involves more maintenance and more water changes and an advance understanding of water chemistry.

Fish only care about a stable pH. Stable pH is a healthy pH. The pH can be 6.5 and still be "ok" or the pH can be 9.0 and still be "ok" as long as the pH is stable. However, a pH below 5.5 can kill koi by burning their gills and cause acidosis, a pH above 10 can kill koi by interfering with the koi's blood and causing alkalosis.

KH is the fuel consumed by your bio-filtration and rain eats KH as well and KH creates a stable pH. A stable pH is a pH that does not "swing", that is change more than .2 or .4 or whatever within 24 hours. Again, healthy fish want a stable pH.

When testing and observing PH, you are being reactive. Treating the problem after it has happened.

When testing and observing KH, you are being proactive. Treating the problem before it has happened.

Shawn, get a KH test kit. You simply put pond water in a vial, count the drops of test solution you put in the water, shake vial after each solution drop... continue this process until the vial's water just noticeably changes color. If the vial's water color noticeably change after one drop of solution, then this means either your KH is zero or your KH is 1 degree (or 17.9ppm).

To ensure a stable pH, the KH must be anywhere between 5 drops (or 90ppm) and 11 drops (or 200ppm). You can make KH go much higher than 11 drops without harming your fish. Quick side note: baking soda will never, chemically impossible to, cause your pH to go above 8.3. If your pH does goes above 8.3, then this is due to other variables and a lack of calcium.

To know more on how to properly raise your KH with baking soda and how to raise your calcium, then read the forum thread, understanding API water test results.

If you really want to learn more about pH, then read the forum thread, High pH level.


ShawnC said:
1) I added 2 cups of baking soda.

We had a huge raid storm 2 days ago that dumped 5 inches into my pond.
2) then it went form 80 to 40's overnight
1) 2 cups of baking soda in a 1800gallon pond would have only increased your KH by 2.6 drops (or 47ppm). This is not enough to stabilize the pH. For 1800gallon pond, to raise the KH from 0 to 5 drops, then you would need 1.8 pounds (or 30 ounces) of baking soda.

There are two baking soda calculators I enjoy using.

CYNKOI - Alkalinity (KH) calculator - Calculates pounds, ounces, and grams of baking soda for X amount of water gallons.

Buffering capacity and pH - Calculates teaspoons of baking soda for X amount of water gallons and it attempts to calculate the potential pH change from adding the baking soda.

2) Is this a water temperature change of 80 degrees to 40 degrees?? Big water temperature swings can harm koi.
 
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I use that and believe it or not I some how put the wrong drop combo together a couple of weeks ago .Scared myself and did a second test and then realized I messed up .Never did that before but things happen i guess .How is your other fish doing and have you tested again .
 
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crsublette said:
If your pH is 5 in the morning and 9 in the evening, then this is allowed to happen by algae or underwater plants plus very low KH.


I think what killed your fish was....

If your ammonia is 2 and your pH raised to 9 in the evening, then most likely the ammonia burned your koi's gills and killed them. Ammonia becomes extremely toxic at higher pHs. It is best to have zero Ammonia.

An ammonia of 2 tells me your bio-filter is failing. Even during the transition between Winter and Spring, the ammonia should not shoot up this high if your bio-filter was built to perform for your pond.

I think the water changes were done too late to save them. I have never heard of the fish recuperating after being burned like this with this much ammonia at a high pH. The fish were probably going to die anyways. Unless, you are using city water which has chlorine or chloramines, then you did not use a dechlorinator, and this possibly killed the fish.



pH crashes are essentially caused by low or zero KH. For advanced hobbyiests, a pond can have a low or zero KH and not suffer from a pH crash, but this involves more maintenance and more water changes and an advance understanding of water chemistry.

Fish only care about a stable pH. Stable pH is a healthy pH. The pH can be 6.5 and still be "ok" or the pH can be 9.0 and still be "ok" as long as the pH is stable. However, a pH below 5.5 can kill koi by burning their gills and cause acidosis, a pH above 10 can kill koi by interfering with the koi's blood and causing alkalosis.

KH is the fuel consumed by your bio-filtration and rain eats KH as well and KH creates a stable pH. A stable pH is a pH that does not "swing", that is change more than .2 or .4 or whatever within 24 hours. Again, healthy fish want a stable pH.

When testing and observing PH, you are being reactive. Treating the problem after it has happened.

When testing and observing KH, you are being proactive. Treating the problem before it has happened.

Shawn, get a KH test kit. You simply put pond water in a vial, count the drops of test solution you put in the water, shake vial after each solution drop... continue this process until the vial's water just noticeably changes color. If the vial's water color noticeably change after one drop of solution, then this means either your KH is zero or your KH is 1 degree (or 17.9ppm).

To ensure a stable pH, the KH must be anywhere between 5 drops (or 90ppm) and 11 drops (or 200ppm). You can make KH go much higher than 11 drops without harming your fish. Quick side note: baking soda will never, chemically impossible to, cause your pH to go above 8.3. If your pH does goes above 8.3, then this is due to other variables and a lack of calcium.

To know more on how to properly raise your KH with baking soda and how to raise your calcium, then read the forum thread, understanding API water test results.

If you really want to learn more about pH, then read the forum thread, High pH level.



1) 2 cups of baking soda in a 1800gallon pond would have only increased your KH by 2.6 drops (or 47ppm). This is not enough to stabilize the pH. For 1800gallon pond, to raise the KH from 0 to 5 drops, then you would need 1.8 pounds (or 30 ounces) of baking soda.

There are two baking soda calculators I enjoy using.

CYNKOI - Alkalinity (KH) calculator - Calculates pounds, ounces, and grams of baking soda for X amount of water gallons.

Buffering capacity and pH - Calculates teaspoons of baking soda for X amount of water gallons and it attempts to calculate the potential pH change from adding the baking soda.

2) Is this a water temperature change of 80 degrees to 40 degrees?? Big water temperature swings can harm koi.
Thanks charles errr ummm mr coyote for the great info. I've ordered the KH test along with some other things.

I agree that my KH must have been low. I lack anything that would fuel it so I'm going to head to the store get the 50 pound bag of oyster shell from tracker supply.

I'll guess i'll add the oyster shell in right between my mechanical filter and bio filter. Should i add charcoal to or will the oyster shell suffice?

As for my bio filter i'll buy more bio balls i guess... I figured that 25gallons worth of media was cutting it. Guess I'll fill up the rest of my 55g barrel.
 

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I have both in my filters 3 lbs each and I buy acurel charcoal in the bag from pet mountain .com and I buy at least 10 bags so I have it on hand at all times .I put it in dollars store laundry bags
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ShawnC said:
1) Thanks charles errr ummm mr coyote for the great info. I've ordered the KH test along with some other things.

2) I agree that my KH must have been low. I lack anything that would fuel it so I'm going to head to the store get the 50 pound bag of oyster shell from tracker supply.

I'll guess i'll add the oyster shell in right between my mechanical filter and bio filter. 3) Should i add charcoal to or will the oyster shell suffice?

4) As for my bio filter i'll buy more bio balls i guess... I figured that 25gallons worth of media was cutting it. Guess I'll fill up the rest of my 55g barrel.

Yep, that's a good test kit.


1) No problem man. :beerchug:

2) Oyster shells might do the trick for ya to help you maintain a KH level. For oyster shells to dissolve in the water, it takes carbonic acid (which is carbon dioxide dissolved in the water) to dissolve the oyster shells. This carbonic acid is naturally create by algae, aquatic plants, and other stuff in the water. In a lower pH below 8, there will be more carbonic acid present in the water to dissolve the oyster shells. Once your pH reaches around above 8, then oyster shells will not do much for you until the pH lowers again.

In case of emergencies or to prepare your self before a big rain flood, baking soda is used since it more readily dissolves into the water. Just so the pH change from the baking soda does not stress your fish, I would raise the KH about 2 drops every 24 hours until it gets up to at least 11 drops. For a 1800 gallon pond, that's about 12 ounces (little less than 2 cups) of baking soda; so, before a big rain, do this every 24 hours until your KH registers at least 11 drops.

It would be a good idea to test your source water's KH as well. If your source water's KH is high enough, then you might only have to do water changes to raise your pond's KH to the level of your source water.

Difference between calcium carbonate products such as Oyster shells and a sodium bicarbonate product like baking soda is the dissolving point. When you do water changes, you might be removing KH, but, since oyster shells are very slow to dissolve, you will still have the oyster shells in your water to release more KH.

Personally, I only use baking soda whenever my pH starts to swing or before a big rain storm.

Diurnal pH swings, that is pH changes between dawn and dusk, are caused by addition and removal of carbon dioxide by algae and other aquatic plants in low KH water. Once you get your KH up to 11, your pH will be around 8.4 and, at this high of a pH, the pH "locks" the carbon dioxide so that it no longer changes your pH to go up. IF you do see your pH go up to 9 and your KH is at 11 drops, then this is due to an accumulation of carbonates (CO32-) and a lack of calcium. To fix this, simply add a product called calcium chloride flakes, dissolve about half a pound in a 5 gallon bucket, then pour it around the parameter of your pond, wait 24 hours, then test the pH again. A water change might be all that is needed to restore the calcium in your water.



3) Activated charcoal will absorb the excess toxins and tannins from the water. I have not used the stuff, but I have never heard of it helping to raise your KH.


4) Yep, you might just need more bio-balls. Also, if you notice any gunk or debris in the bio-filter, just stir up the bio-balls with a paddle or stick a bit or something and then flush the barrel once a week or so. If you can put an aquarium air diffuser in the bottom of it, then this will make a difference as well.

With a 55 gallon barrel and your present bio-bals, you could convert it into a shower tower by simply making a spray bar on top, let it shower down on the bio-balls, and then let the water exit at the bottom of the barrel. Example: 55g barrel shower with phoam phraxionator. In this example thread, you don't need to build the phoam phraxionator function, but it would not hurt if you had one. Phoam phraxionator (another way of calling a protein skimmer in the aquarium hobby) simply allows the dissolve organic particulates, which is the foam, to exit before it enters your pond water.
 

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